Jan. 24, 2013 CNN
Philadelphia -- The unsettling case of a doctor killed and set on fire in her Philadelphia home took another turn Thursday as police identified her alleged killer as an exterminator sent to her home to help clear it of rodents.
Jason Smith, 36, of Levittown, Pennsylvania, was charged Thursday with murder and other counts after detectives, using surveillance video and tips, identified him as the alleged killer of Melissa Ketunuti, a well-liked doctor and researcher at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.
Police say Smith got into an argument with Ketunuti in the basement of her row home in an affluent area of downtown Philadelphia. He knocked her down, then strangled her and then set her body on fire, police Capt. James Clark said at a news conference.
He declined to elaborate on the argument but said Ketunuti and Smith had never met.
"We're glad for the family we're at least able to give some closure with the arrest of this individual," Clark said.
Surveillance video shows Smith approaching her home and going inside at Ketunuti's invitation, he said.
Jan. 24, 2013 CBS/AP
PHILADELPHIA - Federal prosecutors said Wednesday that a Philadelphia woman targeted mentally disabled adults and confined them like "zoo animals," forcing some into prostitution and causing the deaths of two victims, in a scheme to steal their Social Security benefits.
Linda Ann Weston, 52, was indicted on charges including hate crimes, kidnapping, murder in aid of racketeering, and forced human labor. Authorities said this is the first time the federal hate crimes statute has been used to protect the disabled.
"Shocking does not begin to describe the criminal allegations in this case, where victims were tied up and confined like zoo animals and treated like property akin to slaves," U.S. Attorney Zane David Memeger said.
The investigation began in October 2011 after a landlord discovered four malnourished victims locked in the basement of a Philadelphia apartment building, including one who was chained to a boiler. Authorities soon began untangling a complicated web of relationships among victims and their alleged captors in an investigation that spanned several states.
Weston has been jailed since then and pleaded not guilty to related state charges. Her lawyer, George Yacoubian, said Wednesday that federal prosecutors had "over-reached for effect" with the new charges and that Weston maintains her innocence.
The 150-page grand jury indictment describes Weston as the ringleader of a "family" that included her daughter and three men who prosecutors say helped control and subjugate the victims.
Weston used "cunning, trickery, force and coercion" to get mentally disabled people to designate her as their caretaker, allowing her to illegally collect about $212,000 in Social Security payments over 10 years, Memeger said.
Jan. 23, 2013 USA Today
WASHINGTON -- There's a new mystery in a murder case that gripped the nation's capital a decade ago.
Federal prosecutors and lawyers for the man convicted of murdering 24-year-old former congressional intern Chandra Levy have met twice since December for secret court hearings about new information that could undercut the testimony of a prosecution witness. The court has closed off the hearings to public view — on one occasion locking the courtroom doors — and has ordered that legal filings be sealed.
Whatever the problem is, it is serious enough that lawyers for the Justice Department and Ingmar Guandique, the man convicted two years ago of killing Levy, have agreed to put his appeal on hold until it is sorted out. Superior Court Judge Gerald Fisher has summoned Guandique to appear at a Feb. 7 court hearing.
Gannett, parent company of USA TODAY, and three other news organizations — the Associated Press, The Washington Post and McClatchy Co. — asked Fisher on Wednesday to unseal the records. The Levy case records should be open to public inspection under the First Amendment, the organizations' lawyer, Patrick Carome, said in a court filing.
Levy disappeared in 2001. But the mystery of what happened to her became a national spectacle when media reports said she had been having an affair with then-congressman Gary Condit of California. Condit was cleared of any involvement in her death, but he was ousted from Congress in a primary election in 2002.
Jan. 22, 2013 Bloomberg
A federal judge said the New York City Police Department can continue to make “trespass” stops outside of privately owned buildings in the Bronx after previously ruling that the practice may be unconstitutional.
U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin in Manhattan today agreed to halt immediate enforcement of her Jan. 8 ruling ordering the NYPD to cease its “stop-and-frisk” practices while the city appeals. She also denied a request by the city to postpone the trial of a related case scheduled to begin in March.
“Despite my reservations regarding the likelihood of defendants’ success on appeal, however, I recognize that reversal is always a possibility,” Scheindlin said today.
“The opinion acknowledges at the outset that many of the questions raised by stop-and-frisk are not easily answered and that it may be difficult to say where, precisely, to draw the line between constitutional and unconstitutional police encounters.”
The Jan. 8 ruling followed a hearing held by Scheindlin from Oct. 15 to Nov. 7 in a lawsuit filed last year by a group of black and Latino residents challenging police stops of individuals outside buildings enrolled in the city’s Trespass Affidavit Program, or TAP.
Jan 23, 2013 Reuters
SAN ANTONIO - The U.S. House Armed Services Committee will hold a public hearing on Wednesday into sexual assault in the military, prompted by outrage over a sex-with-recruits scandal at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas.
The Washington hearing comes after nearly 60 current and former personnel, including two men, came forward with what the Air Force considered credible reports that they were sexually abused by their drill sergeants at the base in San Antonio.
Six drill sergeants have been convicted and six more Lackland Military Training Instructors are awaiting court martial in the case. The probe also recently expanded to a recruiting sergeant who was charged with sexually assaulting women who were discussing joining the Air Force.
More than 70 members of Congress signed a petition calling for an open hearing into the case and a similar public petition drew more than 10,000 signatures.
Air Force Chief of Staff General Mark Welsh and General Edward Rice, commander of the Air Education and Training Command are both expected to testify on Wednesday.
They are likely to address the completed Air Force internal investigation of Lackland, the Air Force's center for basic training, and the alleged incidents dating back to 2009. The Air Force has extended its inquiry back 10 years.
Jan. 23, 2013 WWLTV
LOCKPORT, La. -- Authorities have made an arrest in the November triple murder of a Lockport mother and her two young daughters.
Lafourche Parish Sheriff's Office announced the identity of the suspect as David Brown at a news conference Wednesday at 9 a.m.
Brown was charged with three counts of first-degree murder, attempted murder, two counts of aggravated rape and aggravated arson.
Jacqueline Nieves, 29, and her two young children, 7-year-old Gabriella and 1-year-old Isabella, were stabbed to death in November. Their bodies were found by firefighters working a fire in the family's apartment.
"Through investigation, detectives learned that during the early morning hours of Sunday, November 4, Brown entered Nieves’ apartment and proceeded upstairs armed with a knife. Detectives believe Brown then allegedly entered a bedroom and sexually assaulted two of the victims before stabbing all three victims several times each. It is believed that he subsequently set the apartment ablaze and fled the scene," said a statement from Sheriff Craig Webre.
According to the sheriff's office, Carlos Nieves Jr., husband and father of the victims, was asleep downstairs in the apartment during the incident. Brown was charged with the attempted murder of Carlos Nieves Jr. because Carlos was asleep when the fire was set. "He eventually awoke and called 9-1-1. Officers and firefighters responded to the scene where they discovered the bodies of the three victims in the upstairs bedroom," said a statement from the sheriff's office.
Brown's DNA was found at the crime scene, according to the sheriff's office. In November, 34-year-old Brown was already in custody as he was initially arrested on separate charges.