Two South Dakota inmates attacked a 63-year-old prison guard, wrapped his head in plastic shrink wrap and left him to die before using his uniform to sneak past security in an unsuccessful escape attempt, investigators said in court documents released Wednesday.
Eric Robert and Rodney Berget, both 48, are charged with first-degree and felony murder. Both were ordered to be held without bond and to have no contact with each other. Public defenders assigned to the men had no immediate comment on the case, though Robert’s attorney said Robert still was deciding whether he wanted to represent himself.
Attorney General Marty Jackley said corrections officer Ronald Johnson was working alone Tuesday in a part of the Sioux Falls prison known as Pheasantland Industries, where inmates work on upholstery, signs, custom furniture and other projects.
“He was assaulted. His uniform was taken,” Jackley said. Johnson’s son said Tuesday was the guard’s birthday.
Robert put on Johnson’s brown pants, hat and lightweight jacket before approaching the prison’s west gate with his head down, pushing a cart with two boxes wrapped in packing tape, according to an investigator’s affidavit.
Berget was hidden inside one of the boxes.
Another corrections officer opened an inner gate and allowed Robert to wheel the cart into a holding area, but became suspicious when Robert didn’t swipe his electronic ID card. Robert claimed he forgot his badge and said main control was out of temporary cards, according to the affidavit.
The officer then asked Cpl. Matthew Freeburg if he recognized the guard, and Freeburg said no. When theofficer called for a supervisor, Robert started kicking and beating Freeburg and Berget jumped out of the box to join in, the affidavit said.
More officers arrived to find Berget still beating Freeburg, investigators said. Robert had climbed the outer gate, reaching the razor wire on top. Both inmates were apprehended before leaving the grounds and taken to a jail in Sioux Falls.
Jackley said Freeburg was taken to a hospital, but returned to work Wednesday.
Asked whether prison procedures would be reviewed, Jackley said: “As to policies and procedures, that would be up to the Department of Corrections, not the attorney general.”
Corrections officials have declined comment on specifics of the incident other than issuing a news release Tuesday.
Berget has been in and out of South Dakota’s prison system since the mid-1980s and is serving life sentences for attempted murder and kidnapping. He was convicted of escaping from the penitentiary in 1984. In 1987, he and five other inmates again broke out of the same facility on Memorial Day by cutting through bars in an auto shop. He was caught in mid-July of that year.
Robert, of Piedmont, is serving an 80-year sentence for a kidnapping conviction. In that case, an 18-year-old woman told police a man posing as a plainclothes police officer pulled over her car near Black Hawk, told her he needed to search it and then forced her into the trunk. She used her cell phone to call for help, and she was found unharmed.
Johnson, who worked at the penitentiary for more than 23 years, was a father of two and grandfather of six. He died on his birthday, said his son, Jesse Johnson.
“He loved to relax and play with his grandkids,” Jesse Johnson told the Argus Leader. “He never had a bad thing to say about anybody.”
Jesse Johnson said his father, known to friends and family as R.J., had lived through a riot at the penitentiary in 1993 and knew the danger of his job but never dwelled on it.
KENWOOD, OH April 22 2011 – A 12-year-old boy has been charged with trying to steal a car.
Police say it happened around 7 p.m. in the parking lot of the Kenwood Towne Center. A black male carrying a backpack was seen attempting to gain entry into vehicles parked in the lot.
The suspect approached a man in a Jeep Cherokee and told him, “I want your car.” The victim exited the vehicle and confronted the suspect. As the victim approached, the suspect unzipped his backpack and displayed what appeared to be the butt-end of a gun.
The suspect was later observed on mall security cameras walking into the FYE store. Sheriff’s deputies and mall security surrounded him and placed him into custody.
The 12-year-old suspect was found to be in possession of a large kitchen knife. He was taken to the Hamilton County Juvenile Detention Center and charged with aggravated robbery. He is also charged with obstructing official business for giving false information to police.
No one was injured in the incident.
BEND, Ore.April 22 2011 — A body found Wednesday on the property of a woman missing for six weeks is believed to be that of Sandra Meyer, whose husband killed himself shortly after he reported her missing, police said.
Family members and police found the body in a covered underground utility box in the backyard of the home shared by John and Sandra Meyer.
Sandra Meyer, 72, had been missing for six weeks and her husband killed himself shortly after he reported her missing.
Bend Police Captain Jim Porter told KTVZ he believes the body they found is Meyer, but said the state medical examiner must conduct an autopsy before the remains can be positively identified.
Sandra Meyer never showed up for a book club meeting the night of March 9. Her husband reported her missing the next day and her car was found parked in Bend.
John Meyer, 71, fatally shot himself a week later.
Police have said their investigation indicates Meyer was responsible for his wife’s disappearance.
WASHINGTON DC April 22 2011 – A computer hacker from Georgia has pleaded guilty to fraud and identity theft after authorities found him with more than 675,000 stolen credit-card accounts on his home computers.
Twenty-six-year-old Rogelio Hackett Jr. of Lithonia, Ga., pleaded guilty Thursday in federal court in Virginia.
Credit card companies have traced more than $36 million in fraudulent transactions to the accounts that were breached by Hackett.
Court documents indicate that Hackett built a reputation for himself as a teenager in the hacking community and had been stealing account information for roughly a decade. Typically, he sold the account data to others, who would use them to make fraudulent charges.
He will be sentenced in July and faces two to 12 years in prison.
Fresno CA April 22 2011 Surveillance cameras capture the action but all too often not the crook.
So is there a better way?
“Yes,” says the CEO of what may be the most effective alarm monitoring company in the world.
“Our technology is totally different from every other alarm company out there. We use audio,” said Tom Patterson, CEO of Kimberlite Corp./Sonitrol.
Patterson says sound and monitors trained to tell the difference between random noise and a real crime gives Fresno-based Sonitrol a winning edge.
“The audio enables us to verify the threatening nature of the alarm in real time. We’ve been doing it that way for 35 years and so when we call the police, they know that it’s not just another false alarm but a real crime taking place,” said Patterson.
It’s also enabled Fresno Police to catch and arrest 103 crooks in Fresno alone. Even more thieves have been caught throughout California.
“Police responding to our alarms apprehended 740 persons burglarizing, vandalizing or trespassing on our customer’s property,” said Patterson.
It’s a record Patterson says his company is proud of and his customers want
“Our customers buy Sonitrol because they want to catch the bad guys, and we’re able to do that for them, and it makes us very happy,” said Patterson.
The company says it will also give Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer a $5,000 check in appreciation.
Sonitrol, a division of the Kimberlite Corporation, has been doing business in Fresno for 45 years.
Philadelphia PA April 22 2011 A Philadelphia police officer with the 14th District, Gary Cottrell, was arrested April 19 for allegedly accepting bribes on- and off-duty.
According to a press release from the Philadelphia Police Department, Cottrell, 44, allegedly used his position as a police officer to direct the victim of car accidents to University Collision Centers for repairs. Cottrell allegedly received cash payments for doing so. The police department calls this practice “wreck chasing.”
In addition to wreck chasing, Cottrell also allegedly filed fraudulent claims for damage to his personal vehicles.
The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office Insurance Fraud Unit launched an investigation into Cottrell’s practices, which resulted in an arrest Tuesday on charges of Corrupt Organization, Dealing in Proceeds of Unlawful Act, Insurance Fraud, Theft by Deception, Conspiracy and Bribery, according to police.
Cottrell has been an officer with the Philadelphia Police Department for 14 years. He has been placed under a 30-day suspension by Commissioner Charles Ramsey, with intent dismiss.
Wednesday, the wounded 24-year-old father to a 7-month-old girl remained hospitalized at Jackson Memorial Hospital in the intensive care unit. That morning, Michael Jones’s family made their plea from Miami Police Headquarters.
Last Sunday night, Jones was shot in the stomach by a man wielding a shotgun who wanted to rob him of his cell phone. The encounter happened in Miami, at Northwest 12th Avenue and 47th Terrace, as Jones walked through Charles Hadley Park. The robber fled the scene before police arrived.
“He didn’t deserve this,” said a tearful Michelle Jones. She said her son was shot on the way to work. “I had woke him up because he said, ‘Mom, wake me up before I go to work,’ and I did exactly what he said.”
Miami Police Detective Keandra Simmons said Jones was shot after “he was approached by a male that asked him for his cell phone and attempted to rob him at gunpoint.”
The victim’s sister, Miesha Jones, said her brother told her from his hospital bed that he got a good look at the gunman that might help detectives. “When he got his consciousness, he told me that he can identify he young man that shot him and that it was a robbery,” she said. “It is no one that he knows.”
Miami Fire Rescue rushed Jones to JMH where, days later, he remains hospitalized. In the meantime, his mother hopes someone can help lead police to the person responsible for shooting the eldest of her four children. “Anybody that knows anything about my son, please come forward, please,” she said.
If you have any information on this shooting, call Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers at 305-471-TIPS. Remember, you can always remain anonymous, and you may be eligible for a reward.
Philadelphia PA April 22 2011 On North Fifth Street in Northern Liberties, Louis Bell was known by his nickname, “Joe” – a friendly retired police officer who enjoyed holiday barbecues, admiring his flower-filled front garden, and sitting on his steps swapping jokes and chitchat.
Whenever a neighbor suffered a loss in the family, Bell, 70, who used a wheelchair after falling ill a few years ago, would make sure to personally offer his condolences, residents said.
On Wednesday, those neighbors mourned his loss after a fast-moving fire ripped through his rowhouse. The blaze also injured three firefighters, one critically.
“I am so sad, I can’t even explain it,” said Mary Thomas, who has lived a few doors down from Bell for almost 40 years. “He was such a sweet person.”
The fire likely began in the basement of the home, on a small cul-de-sac on the 800 block of North Fifth, about 11:30 Tuesday night, fire officials said. Responding firefighters were able to save Bell’s wife and another family member, a man who had been trapped in a second-floor rear window. They were treated for minor injuries and released, authorities said.
While searching for Bell, three firefighters were injured when superheated gases and smoke filled the second floor, Fire Department sources said.
These conditions usually are followed by a “flashover,” a fiery eruption that can be caused by the simultaneous ignition of combustibles in an enclosed area, said Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers.
Trapped in the hot smoke, firefighter Joseph Seeger from Ladder Company 3, at Second and York Streets, was forced to jump from a second-floor window, suffering burns and broken bones in his face. He was listed in critical but improving condition at Temple University Hospital, officials said.
Two other firefighters – Lt. Raymond Vozzelli, from Ladder Company 2, and Christine Lardon, from Engine Company 29 – were treated for burns and released.
Bell retired from the Police Department in the early 1990s after 23 years with the force, said John McNesby, president of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5.
He had served in the Anti-Crime Unit, an elite plainclothes squad that dealt with violent crime.
“He was a highly decorated officer and outstanding member of the Police Department,” McNesby said. “To have something like this happen is just a tragic event.”
Bell’s son, Kevin, also is a police officer, a 16-year veteran assigned to the 16th District in West Philadelphia. He was not in the house at the time of the blaze.
“We are going to be there for the family,” McNesby said.
Neighbors of Bell stood on their steps Wednesday morning, taking in the gutted home. Bell’s prized garden was burned and trampled during the blaze. In the backyard were piles of burned family paintings, clothing, and albums filled with pictures and postcards.
After becoming ill, Bell would spend nice-weather days on his porch, said neighbor Dorothy Parker.
Thomas said she would often bring him his favorite order from the corner store: a can of Pepsi and a Tastykake.
On a recent especially warm day, Thomas said, Bell made the short trip to the store himself. She recalled they shared a laugh when she said: “You don’t need me anymore.”
On Wednesday, she sighed in sadness. “He was a good man.”
JACKSONVILLE, Fla.April 22 2011 — A security guard of a Southside charter school was arrested Tuesday, accused of molesting two students.
Ronald Smith Jr., 33, is accused of taking the students to an office at River City Science Academy on Beach Boulevard on Monday, locking the door, turning off the lights and fondling the two students. He also is accused of exposing himself.
The victims told a counselor, who called police. One girl said she recorded the assault on her cellphone, but deleted it because it was dark and didn’t show anything, according to the police report.
Smith is accused of two counts of lewd and lascivious molestation on a juvenile over 12 and one count of battery.
School officials told Channel 4′s Jim Piggott that Smith is suspended with pay while the case is under investigation. He was hired in August.
His job at the charter school was to make sure students were in class and that no one else was around the building causing trouble.
“I don’t believe the charges are true, being that he was in a high position as a security officer,” Loleeta Hudson, Smith’s fiancée, said after Smith appeared in court Wednesday. “He was very friendly with all the kids. I don’t believe he would stoop that low.”
School officials did not comment Wednesday, but did send a letter home to parents.
Parents said they were surprised when they got word about what police said happened.
“Well, you would not think the administration would hire someone like that without giving a background check,” parent Nancy Trahan said.
Cleveland OH April 22 2011 An argument outside a McDonald’s outlet in Cleveland during the chain’s “National Hiring Day” left four people hospitalized, one arrested and another on the run Wednesday.
Witnesses said a physical fight between two girls outside the store at East 105th and St. Clair got out of control Tuesday.
One of the women involved in the fight jumped into her car, with another girl still attacking her, and reversed — hitting at least three people, WJW-TV reported.
“One girl was on top of the driver, beating her. Then the driver went forward, somehow it kicked into reverse and the car went backwards, hitting three people. It was crazy,” said witness Arnecia Patterson, while other witnesses said the car hit up to five people.
The restaurant’s owner and a manager were among four people who were taken the hospital Tuesday, at least three of whom sustained injuries in the car accident. Initial reports showed that those injured did not have life-threatening injuries.
Police were still looking for the driver of the car late Tuesday, but passenger Natasha Grayer, 22, of Cleveland, was arrested on a charge of felonious assault. The fight started over a boy, police said.
The eatery was closed and all further interviews were suspended after the incident, upsetting Patterson, who was waiting patiently for the chance to get a job.
“You know, we are trying to get people jobs, and this is the way people act? It makes it bad for people like me who can’t get a job,” she said.
McDonald’s, which has 1.7 million employees worldwide, said Tuesday’s “National Hiring Day” was the largest hiring effort in the company’s history.
The chain was looking to fill 50,000 jobs across the US, offering positions from cashiers to managers and planning to have everyone hired, trained and ready to work in one week.
San Francisco CA April 22 2011 Inmates at California’s San Quentin prison helped rescue two boaters — one of whom later died — who had fallen into frigid San Francisco Bay early Wednesday, authorities said.
A San Quentin officer alerted the prison’s inmate-staffed, in-house fire department around 1 a.m. after hearing faint calls for help and seeing a man and a woman in the water near the facility’s shoreline, prison spokesman Lt. Sam Robinson said.
Prison staffers and 10 fire department inmates went into the water and grabbed the man, who was without a life jacket, and lifted him over a retaining wall to get him on land, Robinson said. San Rafael Fire Department personnel arrived and helped rescue the woman, who was wearing a life jacket.
The man, who was breathing but apparently unconscious when he was rescued, went into cardiac arrest on shore, Robinson said.
“A staff member and inmates then began CPR and other life-saving measures” until an ambulance took him to a hospital, Robinson said.
The man, James Laurel, 44, of Larkspur, was pronounced dead at Marin General Hospital, Marin County sheriff’s Lt. Barry Heying said in a press release. The woman, whose name wasn’t announced, was treated at a hospital for exposure and released, according to the sheriff’s office.
Deputies determined that the pair had been in a small boat, leaving a dock on Corte Madera Creek at about 10 p.m. Tuesday, the sheriff’s office said.
The boat had engine trouble in the bay, and Laurel fell overboard while trying to restart the engine. He then capsized the boat while trying to get back onboard, according to the sheriff’s office.
The pair drifted from the boat and toward the prison, Robinson said. Officials estimate they were in the water for up to 90 minutes, he said.
Deputies believe alcohol was a factor in the incident, and Laurel’s death is being investigated by a coroner’s office, the sheriff’s office said.
The inmates in the prison’s fire department are trained paramedics who were not convicted of violent or sexual offenses, Robinson said. He said they almost exclusively respond to emergencies inside the facility, and that this is the only water rescue involving the unit that he’s aware of.
“Ninety-nine percent of what they do happens inside the facility,” he said.
LITTLETON, Colo. April 22 2011– Investigators want to question a person of interest about a pipe bomb and propane tanks found after a fire at a Littleton mall, a discovery that raised the possibility of a connection to the Columbine massacre anniversary.
Firefighters found two propane tanks and the bomb near the Southwest Plaza Mall’s food court after a small fire broke out Wednesday that was quickly squelched. The mall was evacuated around noon. No one was injured and the bombs didn’t explode.
Wednesday was the 12th anniversary of the shooting rampage at nearby Columbine High School and officials expressed concern that the mall incident could be somehow linked.
“The fact that has happened on April 20, 12 years later, near the school and with similar devices is very disturbing,” Jefferson County sheriff’s spokeswoman Jacki Kelley said.
A possible connection to Columbine will be explored.
“It’s something that can’t be ignored and won’t be ignored,” Kelley said.
The mall is about two miles from the school, where two student gunmen killed 13 people and themselves on April 20, 1999 in a rampage that stunned the nation.
Unexploded pipe bombs and a propane tank with explosives attached were found in the school after the shootings.
“If it’s kids, they’re crazy not to know what this means in this town,” Margie Hecht, who lives near the mall, told The Denver Post. “I remember that day and they wouldn’t think this is funny if they did.”
Through the years, students across the country have been accused of threats and incidents modeled after Columbine.
FBI spokesman Dave Joly said authorities have identified a person of interest seen on surveillance video entering a stairwell he said isn’t typically used by the public.
The man could be a witness or a suspect, Kelley said.
He is described as a white male with graying hair and a silver mustache. Photos taken from surveillance show him in a dark cap, gray and white striped shirt, dark jacket, blue jeans and dark shoes. He is seen entering a stairwell and carrying a white plastic bag.
Joly said it was too early to speculate whether the incident was an act of terrorism.
Sheriff’s officials said there are usually about 6,000 to 10,000 people in the mall around noon each day. Shoppers and about 300 mall employees left after the fire.
A daylong search didn’t turn up any other explosive devices in the mall, which was expected to be open for business Thursday.
About 25 schools were on lockout as a precaution, meaning access is restricted to one point, according to the Post. Classes had been canceled at Columbine High School in remembrance of those killed in the shootings.
Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold wounded several students and killed 12 and one teacher before shooting themselves.
Tommy Adams, county sheriff for a little more than two years, was arrested earlier this month after giving meth to an informant at his cabin on a remote and hilly gravel road, according to a court document. He also allegedly snorted the drug himself with a straw. Authorities would not detail the extent of Adam’s alleged meth involvement, but charged him with meth distribution. He is being held in Cape Girardeau County jail on $250,000 bond.
Now, a county once seen as an exception has become the latest example of how deeply meth has saturated every corner of rural Missouri life. Other rural law enforcement officers have been linked to drugs over the years, but Adams is one of the first arrested for meth.
“I think it’s pretty sad,” said Vicki Babbs, 46, of Van Buren. “You’ve got someone who’s sheriff riding around high on meth with a gun. It’s pretty scary.”
County residents hope the case sheds light on the extent of the local meth problem as well as other crimes. Days after the sheriff’s arrest, his chief deputy, 23-year-old Steffanie Kearbey, was charged with burglary and receiving stolen property — a gun taken from the department’s evidence room.
No state has been hit harder by the meth epidemic than Missouri, which led the nation in meth lab busts every year for a decade before Tennessee took over the top spot in 2010, dropping Missouri to second. Missouri has reported more than 13,000 meth lab incidents in the past seven years. The highly-addictive drug, made by cooking common chemicals, has caused countless fires and explosions, along with severe health problems among users.
Carter County sits in the Ozark Mountain foothills, surrounded by the Mark Twain National Forest. Thousands of visitors come each year for float trips and to visit Big Spring State Park, just outside of Van Buren, where crystal-clear water bubbles constantly into a meandering stream.
Just more than 6,000 residents live here. Good jobs are hard to come by.
Adams, 31, worked as a laborer around Ellsinore, his hometown, before getting his law enforcement certification about four years ago, and was soon hired as an Ellsinore city officer, Mayor David Bowman said. “I never had any trouble with him,” Bowman said. “He was outgoing, friendly.”
After just two years of law enforcement experience, Adams, a Republican ran for sheriff in 2008 against favored Democratic incumbent Greg Melton. But just weeks before the November election, Melton died in what was ruled a suicide. It was too late for the Democrats to replace him, and Melton’s name remained on the ballot.
Adams won by a single vote — 1,424-1,423 — and took over the $37,000-a-year job.
Other southern Missouri counties have had dozens of meth lab busts in recent years. But Carter County had just five since Adams took over as sheriff — two in 2009, three in 2010.
“I think meth is out there and maybe he knew what was going on,” Carter County Presiding Commissioner John Bailiff said. “I think a lot of people just turn a deaf ear to it, including maybe the sheriff.”
Lloyd Parsons, 37, a member of the Van Buren Fire Department, never figured Adams for one of the bad guys. He described Adams, the married father of an infant son, as professional and knowledgeable.
“I’ve worked several accidents with the guy and he knew his stuff, even the medical part,” Parsons said.
But Richard Stephens, who was a Van Buren officer before being appointed as temporary sheriff until a special election can be held this summer, said he had concerns about Adams.
“I had a suspicion that things weren’t being handled effectively and professionally,” said Stephens, 42. He would not elaborate, citing ongoing state and federal investigations.
Mark Alan Kennedy, attorney for chief deputy Kearbey, said his client had no law enforcement experience before the sheriff paid for her certification training, then hired her for the $20,000-a-year job.
He said Adams was the “instigator” of the crimes alleged against Kearbey. She is accused of selling a gun that had been stolen from the sheriff’s department’s evidence room and taking a duffel bag of coins from a house.
“We’re hoping that an eventual jury will understand that this young woman was under a lot of pressure from the sheriff,” Kennedy said. “She was new in law enforcement, and acted under threats of loss of her job or physical threats.”
Adams and his attorney declined several interview requests. The Missouri Attorney General’s office has taken over prosecution of the case.
Stephens and county commissioners are trying to ease the minds of residents left angry and disappointed.
“They’re upset about the breakdown in trust,” Stephens said. “We need to be bending over backward to try and regain that trust with the public.”