California’s energy policy and planning agency wants to transition new homes away from gas-powered appliances
By Associated Press
May 9, 2021, 12:02 AM
• 1 min read
SAN FRANCISCO — California’s energy policy and planning agency wants to transition new homes away from gas-powered appliances.
The California Energy Commission released a draft building standards code on Thursday that would require new homes to be equipped with circuits and panels that support all-electric appliances for heating, cooking and drying clothes.
The commission is set to adopt the updated code in August, and it would take effect on Jan. 1, 2023, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
While the code doesn’t explicitly forbid gas, the commission hopes it will lead builders to construct all-electric structures as part of a growing effort to eliminate fossil fuels from buildings, which account for about one-quarter of the state’s annual greenhouse gas emissions.
“We’re encouraging the technologies of the future,” energy commissioner Andrew McAllister said.
Pastors and denominational leaders have rallied in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, to call for greater transparency in the investigation into the death of a Black man who was fatally shot in his car by sheriff’s deputies
ByThe Associated Press
May 9, 2021, 12:03 AM
• 2 min read
ELIZABETH CITY, N.C. — Pastors and denominational leaders rallied in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, on Saturday to call for greater transparency in the investigation into the death of a Black man who was fatally shot in his car by sheriff’s deputies.
More than 100 people marched to the Pasquotank County Courthouse, where they posted on its doors a series of demands related to the killing of Andrew Brown Jr., the News & Observer reported.
Brown’s shooting on April 21 has drawn national attention to the small, majority Black city in the state’s rural northeastern corner. The confrontation occurred while deputies were serving a drug-related search warrant at Brown’s home. Brown was shot five times, including in the back of the head, according to an independent autopsy commissioned by his family.
“A warrant is not a license to kill,” said the Rev. Dr. William Barber II, one of the leaders of the march and president of a group called Repairers of the Breach.
The demands of rally participants include the public release of the full videos from the officers’ body cameras and the appointment of a special prosecutor.
North Carolina law gives local courts authority over the release of body camera video, and family members have so far only been allowed to view a 20-second clip from a single camera. A judge has ruled that they will get to view more footage, though only still a fraction of the full amount.
Fifty years ago this week the federal government’s experiment with termination was crushed at the ballot box on the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation in Washington state.
Termination was a policy that was designed to end the U.S. government’s role in Indian affairs. It would have abrogated treaties, eliminated federal funding, and “freed the Indians” from the Bureau of Indian Affairs. And as a bonus, the wealth generated by millions of acres of land and the reward from rich natural resources would be up for grabs.
One side wanted to kick out the BIA and sell at least some of the reservation for a lot of money. The other side wanted to support the tribal government, and to get more financial help from the federal government.
That was the debate Colville voters had to resolve on May 8, 1971.
THE ROOTS OF TERMINATION
“Virtually all federal Indian policy can be analyzed in terms of the tension between assimilation and separatism,” wrote Charles Wilkinson and Eric Bigs in a 1977 Indian Law Review article.
The two legal scholars concluded that “termination was an outgrowth of 150 years of Indian policy preceding the termination movement, and was simply the farthest extension of the fundamental theory underlying Indian policy throughout most of those years.”
“Indeed, the termination movement’s sponsors may have been motivated by sincere concern for the welfare of the Indian people. Nevertheless, most observers have concluded that termination has failed.”
More than 100 tribes were terminated following the enactment of House Concurrent Resolution 108 on Aug. 1, 1953.
That resolution declared a congressional policy as “rapidly as possible to make the Indians within the territorial limits of the United States subject to the same laws and entitled to the same privileges and responsibilities as are applicable to other citizens of the United States, and to grant them all the rights and prerogatives pertaining to American citizenship.”
The first tribes chosen for this experiment were the Flathead Tribe of Montana, the Klamath Tribe of Oregon, the Menominee Tribe of Wisconsin, the Potawatomi Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska, and those members of the Chippewa Tribe who are on the Turtle Mountain Reservation in North Dakota.
A law that gave states criminal and civil jurisdiction over citizens of some tribal nations, Public Law 280, was also enacted and remains in effect today. Another program recruited Native American workers to leave their reservation homes in exchange for jobs in cities, often placing these workers in seasonal jobs such as agriculture or at railroads.
The Colville Tribe had been on the termination list beginning in 1956 when legislation was enacted that put the governing body in an untenable position: To gain title to its own land, the tribe would have to submit a plan to terminate within five years.
“Though most Colvilles were reported to be against termination at that time, groups favoring a sale of the reservation and distribution of assets to members moved to take over the council in 1963,” the American Indian Press Association reported. “By 1965 they had full control of the council, and Sen. Henry M. Jackson, D-Wash., introduced legislation for them in each session of the Congress.”
And in Washington the tide was beginning to turn.
In March 1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson sent a message to Congress on Indians that proposed a national goal to end the “old debate about ‘termination’ of Indian programs and stresses self-determination; a goal that erases old attitudes of paternalism and promotes partnership self-help.”
Yet only a month later, the president signed into law a bill that terminated the Tiwa Indians of Ysleta, Texas, and the law specifically declared that the responsibility “if any” for the tribal community was now up to Texas. The United States was done.
And that was supposed to happen at Colville, too.
CONSIDERING THE COSTS
Colville Chairman Rodney Cawston told Indian Country Today that he remembers as a child the parents arguing about termination.
“I think that was the thing that really brought my attention to it as a child and hearing their discussions back and forth … if we terminate what would happen? If we don’t terminate what would happen? … Because if we do terminate, we’re going to lose all of our reservation lands. We will no longer have a home or children will no longer have the hunting and the fishing and gathering that we are enjoying here today.”
He said the end of tribal government would mean there would have been no mechanism in place for solving community problems.
Even as a child, he said, he recalled thinking that the loss of reservation lands would be too costly. “Well, if I can’t go out hunting, and if I can’t go out fishing, why would I want any amount of money?”
“I was really happy that it was voted down,” he recalled, because Indian people have already lost so much.
But Cawston also said he understood the motivation for those that supported termination. He said people wanted greater autonomy over their own land.
“We are rich in natural resources here and so everything was being extracted off our reservation, especially the timber, which was really damaging the water and the forest itself.”
CEREMONY OF TEARS
In a lot of ways the 12 bands that make up the Colville Confederated Reservation had already gone through multiple terminations. Only 20 years after the reservation was created, Congress took away the north half of the reservation and opened it up to settlement. The government was supposed to pay for that land, but for some 14 years failed to complete its end of the bargain.
Then in 1916 President Woodrow Wilson approved a proclamation that opened more lands for settlement within the “Diminished Colville Indian Reservation.” The North Half of the reservation was never forgotten. And when the land went unused, the tribe asked for that land back. Congress said yes, but the price was the five-year termination plan.
Another practical termination was the construction of the Grand Coulee Dam on the Columbia River that blocked salmon from reaching the tribal homelands.
“I remember a lot of our people talking about that, how devastating that was for us as a people, because we were of a salmon culture,” Cawston said. “One of the largest fishing sites in the Northwest was Kettle Falls, which is right near our reservation. And to have just all of that taken away from us by the federal government and without any consideration of us as Indian people, that that took away our culture or our religious systems, a lot of our ceremonial events.”
“I used to hear our elders talk about how people gathered at what they call the Ceremony of Tears, which was the last time the fish came up the Columbia, and they knew that life was going to change for them forever,” he said. “So this was still fairly recent … and they just couldn’t see where the federal government was making decisions in the best interest of our tribe of our people.”
More than 1,000 people traveled to Kettle Falls in June 1940 for the three-day Ceremony of Tears.
But a lot of the election in 1971 was focused more on the routine. Then-Chairman Narcisse Nicolson Jr. supported termination because he said it was time for the Colville people to end their relationship with Washington. He said the case was clear because “with only a relatively few exceptions, the tribal families of today are self-supporting.”
He added, “Lack of employment, to the degree that it exists, is largely due to character faults which cannot be cured by paternalism.”
But Lucy Covington, Frank George, Paschal Sherman, and the anti-termination candidates had a different message. They campaigned saying sovereignty was the ultimate solution to any tribal problem.
Covington worked with author Vine Deloria and Chuck Trimble to produce a newspaper called “Our Heritage,” that made the case against termination.
Covington said it was critical to quiet what she called the “present fever and fervor for termination.”
Deloria would later go on to write about termination in “Custer Died for Your Sins.”
“The Congressional policy of termination … was not conceived as a policy of murder,” he wrote. “Rather it was thought that it would provide that elusive ‘answer’ to the Indian problem. And when it proved to be no answer at all, Congress continued its policy, having found a new weapon in the ancient battle for Indian land.”
Deloria attacked the morality of the termination legislation. He wrote: “Can you imagine Henry Jackson, sponsor of the bill, walking into the offices of white businessmen in Everett, Washington, and asking them to sell him their property, with values to be determined six months after the sale?” Or what happens if the land owners under the law are declared incompetent. “They would then be judged too incompetent to handle their own money, but competent enough to vote to sell their reservation. Is it any wonder that Indians distrust white men?”
A NEW ERA
The vote on May 8 was not close.
“Terminationist Chairman Narcisse Nicholson was rejected by the local Omak district voters who gave him 109 votes against his anti-terminationist opponents Charles Quintasket, who received 228 local votes and Barbara Marchand who received 220,” reported the American Indian Press Association. The election sweep, the wire service said, meant the new tribal council was “poised to develop new programs to take advantage of all available federal projects for the reservation which had previously been turned down by the terminationists.”
No other tribe anywhere in the United States had to deal with the termination policy again. The battle was over.
In July when the new council took office, Mel Tonasket, then 30 years old, was elected as chairman. The council swiftly passed a resolution condemning termination. Other resolutions called for more federal support, closed a reservation lake to outsiders, and voted to take back law enforcement powers that had been ceded to the state of Washington under Public Law 280.
The new council claimed the inherent power of a government through an affirmation of tribal sovereignty.
The shift of policy, while debated in Washington, D.C., took root in the communities of Nespelem, Omak and even Seattle.
Sen. Jackson, a longtime supporter of termination, removed one of the policy’s architects, Senate staffer James Gamble, and replaced him with Forrest Gerard, Blackfeet. The era of self-determination was now the policy in Washington and in tribal communities across the country.
There are also stories to tell.
The Colville Tribe did so when it named its business center for Lucy Covington in 2015. The tribe tells that story in a resolution that honors her. This is extraordinary because the council is honoring dissent from within.
The resolution said the council would not support her trips to Washington to lobby against termination so “Covington & George Friedlander sold their own livestock; cattle, and precious bloodline horses descending from Chief Moses to fund her travels to Washington, D.C., in efforts to protect ancestral lands. Covington’s passion to utilize every effort to save the Colville Indian Reservation landed National recognition for her devotion to protect all tribal lands and rights.”
Eastern Washington University awarded Covington an honorary doctorate in 2015 on what would have been her 105th birthday. Her niece, Barb Aripa, accepted the award on behalf of Covington’s family and the tribal community. “I accept this on behalf of the people of the Colville Tribes, the tribes she fought for all her life until the day she died,” she said at the ceremony. “She fought so hard for everything, for the people. Not only for our tribe, but all the tribes of the United States.”
Another story comes from Laurie Arnold, an associate professor at Gonzaga University, and a Colville citizen. She’s the author of “Bartering with the Bones of Their Dead: The Colville Confederated Tribes and Termination.” She said the topic was so divisive that people really don’t talk about it. The “feelings persisted, and I think that’s part of the reason that I never heard people talk about this when I was growing up.”
The Colville termination story is important to tell because “no community is a monolith.” Yet “one unifying theme for people who sought termination was ironically the restoration of a lost land base,” she said, because “one of the legacies of termination” is that 818,000 acres of the North Half of the reservation were restored to tribal access.
Another legacy might be the story itself. Arnold’s book tells her tribe’s story. This she sees as a turn toward “community centered and informed narratives about termination.”
“When I was in graduate school and I told people, ‘I was writing about policy,’ they said, ‘Oh, why would you? It’s just white guys do that. Why would you do that?’ And I said, ’Well, who better to tell these stories?”
Outsiders might write about how a commission created policies. But they are not “writing about the experiences of it,” she said. “If I had a final word, it would be a plug for more Native students, writing about their communities, more Native scholars, Native people writing about their communities. It’s the best way to create these, you know, these infinities of stories that we have.”
Information from: Indian Country Today, https://indiancountrytoday.com/
State authorities are investigating the case of a man who died after being handcuffed by police in Providence
ByThe Associated Press
May 8, 2021, 6:08 PM
• 2 min read
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Rhode Island authorities are investigating the case of a man who died after being handcuffed by police in Providence.
Officers were called at around 12:30 a.m. Friday on a report of a man who was screaming in the street and possibly under the influence of narcotics, according to an account by Providence police. They found him groaning unintelligibly as he rolled on the ground next to a ballfield.
The officers called for an ambulance from the Providence Fire Department and spent more than 10 minutes trying to talk to the man and calm him down, but he did not answer questions or follow commands. Then the officers had what police described as a “minor struggle” with the man as they handcuffed him to protect rescue workers.
Body cam video released by Providence police shows that the officers eventually held the man down on his stomach for about 90 seconds while cuffing his hands behind his back. An emergency responder joined them, and then he suddenly stopped yelling and appeared to stop moving.
The camera recorded someone telling him to breathe while another officer said “get him off his stomach, man.” He did not appear to move as he was placed on a stretcher moments later.
He was identified as Joseph Ventre, 34. Police said he was taken to Rhode Island Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 1:41 a.m.
The death is being investigated by Providence police, Rhode Island state police and the Rhode Island attorney general, which investigates deaths that occur under police custody.
HOPKINTON, Mass. — Family members and activists are demanding answers in the death of a Black teen whose body was found near her home in a Boston suburb last month.
Authorities said they have not determined how 16-year-old Mikayla Miller died. Her body was found on April 18 in a wooded area roughly a mile from her home in Hopkinton. County prosecutors have said they are awaiting a medical examiner’s report before reaching any conclusions.
Miller’s mother, Calvina Strothers, has blasted the police response, saying officers hastily concluded it was a suicide and failed to complete a thorough investigation. She said her family has faced “disrespect, slammed doors, misdirection, glaring inconsistencies, extreme confusion, and ultimately, silence.”
“The only thing these authorities have proved since April 17th is that they are completely incapable of properly investigating this case,” she wrote in a message on the fundraising website GoFundMe. “We demand an independent investigation. Mikayla and our family deserve so much better.”
The case has ratcheted up tensions in the mostly white town of about 18,000, known for being the starting point of the Boston Marathon. Hundreds of people gathered Thursday at a rally to mourn Miller’s death and demand an outside review.
Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan promised on Thursday to release “every shred of legally releasable information” once the investigation is complete. Until then, she asked for the public’s patience.
“Nothing can bring back Mikayla or console her grieving family,” Ryan said in a statement. “But what we can do — indeed what we owe her — is an accurate and fulsome accounting of what led to her death. You have my word as your district attorney and as a mother, that I will deliver that answer.”
Strothers has challenged the suggestion that her daughter’s death was a suicide. Mikayla was a joy to friends, family and teammates on her basketball team, and she “wasn’t a troubled child,” her mother said.
Instead, Strothers has drawn attention to an alleged attack on her daughter the evening before her body was found. She said Mikayla was attacked by five white teens in Hopkinton. Strothers called the police and filed a report soon after. Mikayla is believed to have died hours after the attack.
According to an account from the county prosecutor, Miller was involved in an altercation with two teens at a residential building in Hopkinton the evening of her death. Two other teens were also in the room, and another was in a car outside. After the fight, police were called to Miller’s home and found she had been punched in the face. Officers went to the homes of the two others involved in the fight and took statements.
But a preliminary investigation found that all five of the teens involved were elsewhere later in the evening, according to Ryan’s office. Investigators used cell phone data and witness accounts to confirm the teens’ whereabouts, the prosecutor said.
Authorities say information gathered from a health app on Miller’s phone tracked movement from 9 to 10 p.m. It showed that she traveled about 1,300 steps, which matches the distance between her home and the area she was found, Ryan’s office said.
Her body was found by a jogger the following morning.
Miller’s family disputes some of the details put forward by authorities. Her mother has said Mikayla’s cell phone was not activated and would not have tracked her movement.
Activists have suggested that the death could be a hate crime. Miller was Black and a member of the LGBT community. Some are calling on the FBI to take over the investigation. Authorities have said there is no evidence so far that the death was the result of a hate crime.
Strothers also alleges that Ryan did not contact her until 12 days after her daughter’s death. Ryan said her office reached out to Strothers on April 19.
Family members said they want accountability and transparency, adding that police have refused to answer their questions about the death.
The Hopkinton police department didn’t immediately respond to an Associated Press request for additional comment Saturday. In a statement this week, the agency said the investigation is “open and ongoing, with no final conclusions of any kind.”
“The Hopkinton community mourns the tragic loss of 16-year-old Mikayla Miller,” the department said. “Our most heartfelt thoughts go out to her family and all those who care for her.”
This story has been corrected to show that Hopkinton has a population of about 18,000, not 3,000.
Investigators looking into sexual harassment allegations against New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo interviewed county officials about his “vaccine czar” calling them to assess their support for the embattled governor
ByThe Associated Press
May 8, 2021, 7:14 PM
• 3 min read
NEW YORK — Investigators looking into sexual harassment allegations against New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo interviewed county officials about his “vaccine czar” calling them to assess their support for the embattled governor.
The Wall Street Journal reported Saturday that investigators with the state attorney general’s office interviewed at least three Democratic county executives who say Larry Schwartz called to gauge their loyalty to the governor and whether they would urge him to resign.
One county executive was disturbed by the call and complained to the state attorney general’s office, according to reports published in March in The New York Times and The Washington Post. The executive, who hasn’t been named, feared the county’s vaccine supply could suffer if the executive did not indicate support for Cuomo, the Post reported.
Another county executive, Mark Poloncarz of Erie County, told the Journal he spoke with investigators on March 30 and told them that he didn’t feel Schwartz was trying to pressure him.
Investigators also spoke with Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone. He has said publicly that he told Schwartz he favored an independent investigation into Cuomo’s conduct and that Schwartz did not talk about vaccines during their conversation.
The New York Times previously reported investigators’ interest in the calls.
Schwartz has acknowledged making calls to county executives but said he “did nothing wrong” and denied discussing vaccines during those conversations.
The state attorney general’s office declined comment. Cuomo’s office referred to a statement that Beth Garvey, acting counsel to the governor, issued on the matter in March. In it, she said that allegations Schwartz acted unethically or against the interests of New Yorkers was “patently false.”
“Larry’s conversations did not bring up vaccine distribution — he would never link political support to public health decisions,” Garvey said. “Distorting Larry’s role or intentions for headlines maligns a decades long public servant who has done nothing but volunteer around the clock since March (2020) to help New York get through the COVID pandemic.”
Schwartz, an executive at a company that runs restaurants and other services at major airports, resigned from his volunteer “czar” position last week ahead of a change in state rules that would’ve barred him from lobbying governor’s office for two years if he stayed on.
Schwartz served as secretary to the governor from 2011 until 2015 and remains a member of the board of directors at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the state agency that runs public transit in the New York City area.
Attorney General Letitia James, an independently elected Democrat, hired former Acting U.S. Attorney Joon Kim and employment discrimination attorney Anne Clark in March to lead an investigation into allegations that Cuomo sexually harassed or behaved inappropriately toward several women, including former staffers.
The three-term governor has denied touching any women inappropriately and rejected calls for his resignation from fellow Democrats, including New York’s two U.S. senators, Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand. He has asked New Yorkers to await the results of James’ probe.
James’ office also is investigating whether Cuomo broke the law by having members of his staff help write and promote his book about leadership during the pandemic. James’ office confirmed last month that it received a referral letter from Comptroller Tom DiNapoli regarding the book but declined further comment, citing an “ongoing investigation.”
Law enforcement officials helped capture a loose zebra in middle Tennessee after it escaped from an exotic livestock auction
ByThe Associated Press
May 8, 2021, 4:48 PM
• 1 min read
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. — Law enforcement officials helped capture a loose zebra in middle Tennessee after it escaped from an exotic livestock auction.
According to news outlets, Cookeville Police Department and Putnam County Sherriff’s office assisted Triple W employees capture the “agitated” zebra early Friday morning. Cookeville is about 80 miles (128 kilometers) east of Nashville.
The zebra ran onto Highway 111, but was not hurt due to the lack of traffic. Multiple methods were used to attempt to regain control of the animal. At one point, two police officers made “unsuccessful attempts” to deploy stun guns to redirect or capture the animal.
It took nearly three hours to corner and direct the zebra onto a transport trailer.
A nearby elementary school alerted parents in a Facebook post that “There is a zebra on the loose in the Prescott area. It escaped a truck, was tased, and is mad. Do not approach. (Yes, really.)”
Prescott South Middle School teacher Ashley Danielle Francis told WSMV-TV that she noticed the zebra while driving to work, calling it the “craziest thing I ever think I’ve ever seen in this town.
North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum has partially vetoed a bill aimed at penalizing the state’s 11 colleges and universities for funneling federal grant money to individuals or organizations that promote or perform abortions
By JAMES MacPHERSON Associated Press
May 8, 2021, 5:18 PM
• 3 min read
BISMARCK, N.D. — North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum has partially vetoed a bill aimed at penalizing the state’s 11 colleges and universities for funneling federal grant money to individuals or organizations that promote or perform abortions.
The Republican governor said in his veto message late Friday that the “multimillion-dollar penalties directed toward our public higher education institutions and mandatory criminal charges against state employees” is “problematic.”
Burgum vetoed the portion of the bill that contains the sanctions, citing state law that already forbids “an agency of the state” from funding or supporting programs that do not “give preference, encouragement and support to normal childbirth.” Burgum said the sections he did not veto were intended to clarify that unless institutions abide by anti-abortion policies, they are ineligible to receive challenge grant dollars.
The Republican-led North Dakota Legislature passed the bill, which was primarily aimed at preventing North Dakota State University from funneling grant money to Planned Parenthood for sex education in the state.
The bill says any institution that enters into a contract with “a person that performs or promotes the performance of an abortion” would have its operating budget cut by 2.5%. The school official signing the contract also would face a misdemeanor charge punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $1,500 fine.
The sanction would mean a $2.8 million blow to the Fargo-based research university.
The $250,000 annual grant to the university comes from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NDSU President Dean Bresciani has said the grant expires in September and won’t be renewed, but not because of the Legislature’s threat of sanctions.
Bresciani said that he won’t bow to political pressure or proposed sanctions against the school for having ties to Planned Parenthood. He called it “a matter of academic freedom.”
The bill appropriates $11.1 million from the state’s General Fund for the Challenge Grant program that’s used at all schools for such things as scholarships and research. The money is matched two-to-one with private or other funds.
The Senate passed the bill, 35-11. The GOP-led House passed the measure 66-25.
Burgum cited state law already prevents agencies from funding, endorsing, or supporting “any program that, between normal childbirth and abortion, does not give preference, encouragement, and support to normal childbirth.”
The Legislature adjourned April 30 and is unlikely to reconvene to challenge the veto.
In the veto message, Burgum reaffirmed the highly conservative state’s stance on abortion.
“North Dakota has strong pro-life public policies, and our administration has a strong record of signing pro-life legislation into law,” Burgum wrote. “The North Dakota legislature has made clear, and our administration agrees, that taxpayer funding should not go toward funding abortions.”
Tawny Kitaen, the sultry red-haired actress who appeared in rock music videos during they heyday of MTV, has died
By DAISY NGUYEN Associated Press
May 8, 2021, 5:30 PM
• 2 min read
NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. — Tawny Kitaen, the sultry red-haired actress who appeared in rock music videos during they heyday of MTV and starred opposite Tom Hanks in the 1984 comedy “Bachelor Party,” has died. She was 59.
The Orange County coroner’s office said she died at her home in Newport Beach on Friday. The cause of death was not immediately released.
Her daughters, Wynter and Raine, confirmed their mother’s death on Kitaen’s Instagram account.
“We just want to say thank you for all of you, her fans and her friends, for always showing her such support and love. You gave her life everyday,” their statement said.
Kitaen became the rock world’s “video vixen” after appearing on the cover of two albums from the heavy metal band Ratt and starring in several music videos for Whitesnake, including the 1987 smash song “Here I Go Again.” The video, played repeatedly on the burgeoning music television network, featured Kitaen performing cartwheels on the hood of a Jaguar.
She also starred as the fiancee to Tom Hanks’ character in the comedy “Bachelor Party,” and as Jerry Seinfeld’s girlfriend in a 1991 episode of “Seinfeld.” Other TV credits included a stint as co-host of “America’s Funniest People” and on the reality shows “The Surreal Life” and “Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew,” in which she revealed her struggle with substance abuse.
Kitaen had a tumultuous personal life, which included a brief marriage to Whitesnake’s lead singer, David Coverdale, and a rocky marriage to baseball pitcher Chuck Finley, with whom she had two daughters.
“My sincere condolences to her children, her family, friends & fans,” Coverdale tweeted on Saturday.
Authorities say three people are dead, including a suspect, and two others are injured after a shooting and fire in Maryland
ByThe Associated Press
May 8, 2021, 5:31 PM
• 2 min read
WOODLAWN, Md. — Three people were killed, including a suspect, and two were injured in a shooting and fire early Saturday morning in Maryland, according to authorities.
It was not immediately clear what led to the violence on a residential street in suburban Baltimore, and neither the suspect nor the victims were immediately identified.
Around 6:40 a.m., officers responded to reports of both a fire and active shooter in Woodlawn, Baltimore County Police spokeswoman Joy Stewart said at a news conference.
Officers found an armed male outside and shot him, according to Stewart.
Authorities then began fighting a fire that started in a townhouse and spread to two others, Tim Rostkowski, a county fire department spokesman, said at the news conference.
The building where the fire started as well as one adjacent to it collapsed, Rostkowski said, and a third dwelling was heavily damaged. He said during the briefing Saturday morning that the fire was still burning and a utility company was working to shut off the natural gas to the building.
Police said that in addition to the suspect, two others were dead and two were injured, one critically. Besides describing the suspect as male, Stewart said she could not immediately provide more details about the people involved.
“We have this fire that happened. We also have this suspect who was armed. How they’re all related it’s really too early to tell at this point,” Stewart said.
Police initially said two people were unaccounted for but tweeted Saturday afternoon that they had been located.
An investigation and search of the scene for possible additional victims was ongoing.
Local authorities say two separate avalanches in the Savoie region of the French Alps killed seven people
ByThe Associated Press
May 8, 2021, 6:15 PM
• 1 min read
PARIS — Seven people died Saturday in two separate avalanches in the Savoie region of the French Alps, according to local authorities.
The prefecture of Savoie said an avalanche took place around noon in the area of Valloire ski station, killing four hikers between the ages of 42 and 76.
Three people were killed in a second avalanche in the afternoon on Mont Pourri, according to the prefecture.
The prefecture of Savoie, which neighbors Italy, urged hikers, skiers and others to be very careful, saying the kind of mild weather observed at the moment after heavy snowfall in the past week tends to trigger avalanches.
Officers fatally shot an armed suspect outside a burning home, police said.
May 8, 2021, 6:36 PM
• 4 min read
Three people are dead, including a suspected shooter, and two injured following reports of an active shooter and fire at a home in Baltimore County, Maryland, authorities said.
Police officers responding to the Woodlawn neighborhood, west of Baltimore, after 6:40 a.m. Saturday found a man armed with a gun outside a burning residence, Baltimore County Police Department spokesperson Joy Stewart said during a press briefing.
Police fatally shot the suspect, Stewart said. The officer-involved shooting is under investigation and it is unclear at this time how many officers discharged their firearms, she said. The suspect has not been publicly identified.
Two people died, one victim was critically injured and another suffered non-life-threatening injuries in the incident, police said. Authorities have not shared any additional details on the victims.
Two people initially unaccounted for after the incident have since been found.
Police are continuing to search the scene for any other possible victims.
There was no continued threat to the community, police said.
The two-alarm fire destroyed two townhomes and heavily damaged a third, Tim Rostkowski, a spokesperson for the Baltimore County Fire Department, said during the briefing.
The fire was being fed by natural gas, and firefighters were still working to control the gas leak by Saturday afternoon, authorities said. A utility company was working to shut off the natural gas to the home.
“We don’t have any preliminary information whatsoever on the exact origin or cause [of the fire],” Rostkowski said. “That’s part of the ongoing investigation.”
The call for the active shooter and fire came in at the same time, and authorities are investigating if the two incidents are related, authorities said.
“We have this fire that happened, we also have this suspect who was armed,” Stewart said. “How they’re all related, it’s really too early to tell at this point.”
Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski said he was at the scene of the “horrific incident” Saturday morning and will make “all possible resources” available to those impacted.
“This rapidly evolving situation has required a multi-agency response and will take time to fully investigate,” he said on Twitter. “Today, we pray for the injured victims and the families who have lost loved ones.”
Bloody, violent protests have raged on for 10 days throughout Colombia, leaving at least 26 dead and more than 900 reportedly injured, according to local officials and advocacy groups.
Demonstrations erupted in Bogota, Medellin, Cali and other cities on April 28 decrying President Iván Duque’s proposed tax hike that critics say would raise the price of food and taxes for more middle-class workers. The plan was meant to unburden the government from the COVID-19 pandemic’s financial strain, The Associated Press reported.
Following outrage, Duque canceled the proposal Sunday and the country’s finance minister resigned the following day.
But by then, the protest movement had grown, fueled by anger over the violent police response, and now the demands include broad social changes and police reform.
While most of the protests have been peaceful, police have been targeted and several police stations have been burned.
The nation’s Ombudsman Office and Office of the Attorney General reported Thursday 26 deaths in the context of the protests and 145 cases of alleged disappearances, 55 of which have been located and 90 are under verification.
Footage and photos from the brutal clashes show thousands flooding the streets; Colombian riot police firing tear gas canisters at crowds, appearing to shoot protesters point blank; and demonstrators throwing rocks at officers.
Among the dead is 17-year-old Marcelo Agredo who was allegedly fatally shot by a police officer on April 28 in Cali, Colombia. Video from the incident shows Agredo appearing to kick a police officer sitting on a motorbike before the officer opens fire. A government agency is now investigating his death.
The United National Human Rights office told ABC News it received 22 reports of deaths in the protests since the start of the uprising, including 21 civilians and one police officer. The office said all cases are in the process of being verified.
Local advocacy group Temblores reported 37 deaths in connection with demonstrations, 234 injured and 923 detained in the protests.
Ana, a 34-year-old tourism sector employee in Bogota, who did not wish to disclose her last name for privacy reasons, told ABC News, “What is happening in Colombia is a massacre.”
“The government doesn’t want to listen to us and we have simply no choice,” she said. “I have been walking every day peacefully with friends. We can observe undercover cops … they even tried to shoot us on Monday. I was not injured.”
“I was not a militant before. But we need money to live … we need to go back to work … and we are supposedly in a democracy,” she said.
On Thursday, Colombia’s government invited protest leaders to discuss the demands of the people.
Presidential adviser Miguel Ceballos said the government would meet with the National Strike Committee, which represents various groups including indigenous people, unions, environmentalists and students, to discuss key demands of the people on Monday, according to Blu Radio.
The protests built on previous demonstrations against corruption and inequality in 2019 and against police violence last year. Many of those frustrations were exacerbated during the pandemic as Colombia suffered through waves of the virus that led to lockdowns that strained the economy.
The tax plan aimed to raise $6.7 billion to pay the country’s debts and maintain a basic income scheme for 3 million low-income people that started during the pandemic, The Associated Press reported.
The Colombian economy, crippled by the coronavirus crisis, shrank by 7% last year and the poverty level jumped to 43% from 36%, according to the country’s National Administrative Department of Statistics report. Further, 16.8% of Colombians have been unemployed as of March in 13 major cities and metropolitan areas.
The consecutive days of protests have disrupted supplies of gasoline across the country, the National Federation of Fuel and Energy Distributors (Fendipetroleo) said in a statement, Reuters reported.
“We have seen fuel shortages as a consequence of the national strike,” Fendipetroleo said, listing cities including Cali, Ibague and Pereira, as well as in other municipalities and provinces.
The U.S. has walked a fine line between condemning the loss of life and urging the Colombian government to show restraint — supporting its critical partner in the region reeling from the damage of the coronavirus pandemic, economic collapse and the crisis in neighboring Venezuela.
On Tuesday, U.S. State Department Deputy spokesperson Jalina Porter said the U.S. was “deeply saddened by the loss of life during protests” and defended Colombians’ right to demonstrate.
“All over the world, citizens in democratic countries have the unquestionable right to protest peacefully,” she said.
While “violence and vandalism is an abuse of that right,” she said, the U.S. also urged “the utmost restraint by the public forces to prevent additional loss of life.”
While she stopped short of condemning police and the military’s use of force, Porter said the U.S. recognizes Duque’s “commitment to investigate reports of police excesses and address any violation of human rights” and supports his “government’s efforts to address the current situation through political dialogue.”
The United Nations’ human rights office has accused Colombia’s security forces of using excessive force with protesters.
The United Nations System in Colombia released a statement Friday denouncing the “disproportionate use of force” reported, calling for “the right of peaceful assembly and to protest to be guaranteed.”
“Any action by security forces must fully observe the protection and respect for human rights,” the statement said.
Colombian celebrities have taken to social media to condemn the government’s and police brutality against protesters.
Shakira tweeted, “Bullets will never be able to silence the voice of the one who suffers. And it is essential that we are not deaf to the cry of our own.”
Singer Maluma shared on Instagram, “Care for lives. No more deaths, no more aggressions.”
ABC News’ Conor Finnegan and Aicha El Hammar Castano contributed to this report.
The mysterious health incidents that have affected dozens of U.S. personnel around the globe have also occurred within the United States, the White House confirmed for the first time on Friday.
The source of the illnesses, known as “Havana syndrome” after the first cluster of cases at the U.S. Embassy in Cuba, is still unknown. But there is growing pressure from Congress to figure out what has affected so many U.S. diplomats, spies and other officials — and who or what is behind it.
“At this point, at this moment, we don’t know the cause of these incidents, which are both limited in nature and the vast majority of which have been reported overseas,” said White House press secretary Jen Psaki, acknowledging the newly reported cases in the U.S.
The Biden administration has launched a review of U.S. intelligence to determine if there are other previously unreported cases and if there is a “broader pattern,” a National Security Council spokesperson confirmed to ABC News.
Last month, U.S. defense officials briefed lawmakers on the Senate and House Armed Services Committees on several previously unreported incidents of U.S. personnel falling sick after alleged exposures, congressional sources confirmed to ABC News.
Dozens of Americans have been diagnosed with a range of symptoms, including traumatic brain injuries, with several describing bizarre experiences like strange noises and sensations. The U.S. government has acknowledged cases in Cuba, China, Uzbekistan and Russia — but there are media reports of other countries now, too.
The issue has vexed U.S. officials since 2016, when the first cases were reported at the embassy in Havana. While there’s still no definitive answer, the National Academies of Science in December issued a report, commissioned by the State Department, that concluded the most likely source is “directed, pulsed radio frequency energy.”
Among the possible new cases are also reportedly at least two incidents in the Washington area, according to GQ magazine, CNN and others. ABC News has not independently verified those reports.
“This pattern of attacking our fellow citizens serving our government appears to be increasing,” the top Democrat and Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Mark Warner of Virginia and Marco Rubio of Florida, warned in a statement last week.
While Warner and Rubio praised President Joe Biden’s CIA director, Bill Burns, for his “renewed focus on these attacks,” other lawmakers have become publicly exasperated with the executive branch’s response.
During a Senate hearing last week, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., criticized the U.S. intelligence community’s “clamp down on information that’s available to Congress, that’s available to the public.”
That, in turn, has led to a growing number of reports of alleged incidents without clarity about whether or not they’re related to what’s happened to U.S. personnel in Cuba, Shaheen said.
“It’s not clear whether the information we’re getting is correct or incorrect,” she told Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines. “The horse is out of the barn on this. The information is already out there, and I think it behooves us all to try to make sure that the information that gets out is accurate and that people understand what’s happening.”
Beyond Cuba, the State Department has previously acknowledged incidents in China, Uzbekistan and one redacted country in an internal report that was declassified and released in February. That unknown country is likely Russia, where a former CIA official said he was attacked.
That official, Marc Polymeropoulos, told ABC News in March that he’s now receiving treatment at Walter Reed Medical Center for a traumatic brain injury as well.
But after reports of possible incidents in Syria, the head of U.S. Central Command said he had no evidence that was true.
“I have found no evidence of those attacks” in CENTCOM’s region, which includes Syria, Gen. Frank McKenzie, CENTCOM commander, told a Senate panel in April. During the same hearing, Gen. Stephen Townsend, head of U.S. Africa Command, added he’s “not seen that phenomenon in Africa” either.
One law enforcement source dismissed speculation about one incident in the Washington area, telling ABC News, “There is no credible evidence to support this.”
Biden’s National Security Council is now conducting “a full review of intelligence reporting to ascertain whether there may be previously unreported incidents that fit a broader pattern,” a spokesperson confirmed to ABC News Friday.
While the Trump administration initially said affected personnel had suffered “health attacks,” the spokesperson added that whether the incidents are an attack and whether they’re the work of a foreign actor are still under “active inquiry.”
ABC News’ Mike Levine, Trish Turner and Benjamin Siegel contributed to this report.
The U.S. coalition and Iraq’s military say a drone strike targeted a military base in Iraq that hosts U.S. troops
ByThe Associated Press
May 8, 2021, 7:51 AM
• 2 min read
BAGHDAD — In mid-April, A drone strike early on Saturday targeted a military base in Iraq that hosts U.S. troops, causing only minor damage and no casualties, Iraq’s military and the U.S.-led coalition said.
The pore-dawn attack damaged a hangar, tweeted coalition spokesman Col. Wayne Marotto. He said the attack was under investigation. An Iraqi military statement also said no losses were reported.
No one has claimed responsibility for the attack. The U.S. has blamed Iran-backed militia groups for previous attacks, most of them rocket attacks that have targeted the American presence in Baghdad and military bases across Iraq.
Drone strikes are less common. In mid-April, an explosive-laden drone targeted the military section of the international airport in Irbil, in Iraq’s northern Kurdish-run region, causing no casualties or damages. The base also hosts U.S. troops.
The attacks have been frequent since a U.S.-directed drone strike killed Iranian General Qassem Soleimani near the Baghdad airport last year. Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis was also killed in the attack. The strike drew the ire of mostly Shiite Iraqi lawmakers and prompted parliament to pass a non-binding resolution to pressure the Iraqi government to oust foreign troops from the country.
The Biden administration has resumed strategic talks with Baghdad, initiated under President Donald Trump, in which the future of U.S. troop presence in Iraq is a central point of discussion.
Officials will know where the rocket will land “within hours of its reentry.”
May 7, 2021, 8:35 PM
• 4 min read
Officials are tracking a section of a Chinese rocket expected to plunge down to Earth as early as Saturday — but they aren’t sure where it will land.
“It’s too soon to know exactly where it’s going to come down,” Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said in a briefing Wednesday.
The section is part of a rocket called Chinese Long March 5B, which launched a module of the country’s first permanent space station into orbit last week.
“We’re tracking it, we’re following it as closely as we can,” Kirby said. “It’s just a little too soon right now to know where it’s going to go or what, if anything, can be done about that.”
The U.S. Space Command confirmed it was “aware of and tracking” the location of the rocket, but said “its exact entry point into the Earth’s atmosphere cannot be pinpointed until within hours of its reentry.” The Federal Aviation Administration said it’s “engaged” with NORAD “and will send out an advisory to any facilities that would be potentially affected.”
“Tactical decisions, if needed, will be made based on real-time information,” the FAA said.
According to Aerospace.org, a nonprofit that performs technical analyses and assessments for a variety of government, civil and commercial customers, the current orbital inclination “means that reentry can be as far north as Chicago, New York City, Rome and Beijing and as south as New Zealand and Chile.”
“That places any of those locations within the potential reentry path of this giant piece of space junk measuring 98 feet long and 16.5 feet wide and weighs 21 metric tons,” the group said.
Typically, rockets that plunge back to Earth are brought back in a controlled way into the ocean. One expert said it’s unclear why this rocket’s return to Earth is uncontrolled.
“I heard speculation that that they intended it to be controlled and something broke. Stuff goes wrong in space. Space is hard,” Ted Muelhaupt, principal director of Aerospace’s Center for Orbital Reentry and Debris Studies, said in an interview with ABC News.
The Chinese government has yet to comment publicly on the rocket’s reentry, according to the Associated Press.
“If something’s going to reenter and there’s a risk of more than one in 10,000, then it could cause injury to a person,” Muelhaupt said. “Then you take steps to mitigate that. And the most common way to do it is to control where the vehicle lands. Essentially, you bring the vehicle down where people are not.”
ABC News’ Lizann Robinson contributed to this report.
Dressed up in a Minnie Mouse costume for her son’s school Halloween party, Melissa Fox tried to put on a brave face for her 6-year-old boy and the world.
Just hours earlier, on Oct. 27, 2004, police had made an arrest in the tragic murder of her 3-year-old daughter, Riley Fox, claiming to solve and bring to a close the five-month-long, high-profile investigation.
“On the news, they were telling everybody there was an arrest made. I [knew] who they arrested, but nobody else did yet.” Melissa said.
Riley, an adorable, outgoing and bright-eyed toddler, was found murdered in a creek just 4 miles from her home, shaking the small town of Wilmington, Illinois, about 60 miles southwest of Chicago, to its core.
“In an instant, my life was forever changed and it was devastating,” Melissa told ABC News.
Watch the full story on “20/20” FRIDAY at 9 p.m. ET on ABC.
As Melissa fulfilled her promise to be with her son at school that evening, the Will County Sheriff’s Office was getting ready to announce its suspect: Kevin Fox, Melissa’s then-husband and Riley’s father.
In an exclusive interview with ABC News’ “20/20,” Melissa reflected on how she survived a parent’s worst nightmare, tirelessly defended her husband’s innocence and never gave up fighting for justice for her beloved daughter.
Riley Fox is found murdered
On June 6, 2004, the lives of the Fox family changed forever.
That weekend, Melissa, then 25, and a group of friends participated in the AVON Walk for Breast Cancer in Chicago, where she stayed for two nights — the longest she’d ever been away from her children. Kevin stayed home with the kids.
Melissa adored Riley and cherished her time with her little girl.
“She had this perfect black hair and perfect little round face and blue eyes,” Melissa said. “She was funny. She was silly. Just, so talkative, and she was friendly to everybody she met. She was just a sweetheart.”
“Riley was a lot like Melissa,” Jillian Garrelts, Melissa’s friend, said. “She was a spunky, sassy little girl. She … could be a little princess… But … she was a daddy’s girl, kind of a little tomboy [who] loved to fish … and wasn’t afraid to get dirty.”
While his wife was in Chicago, Kevin, then 27, and the kids spent Saturday afternoon making posters in anticipation of celebrating Melissa’s walk at the finish line, where they planned to meet her the next morning.
But early Sunday morning, Tyler woke up Kevin to tell him that Riley was missing.
Not thinking it was a true emergency, Kevin looked through the house and backyard. Then, after about 30 to 40 minutes, Kevin called the non-emergency number for police. He reported finding his front door open and Riley’s yellow blanket still on the couch, where she had been sleeping.
Meanwhile, in Chicago, Melissa and her friends were nearing the end of their walk when she called her husband to check in.
“He sounded so startled. I knew immediately something was wrong,” Melissa said. “He just said, ‘Riley’s gone,’ and I immediately hit the ground and the phone fell out of my hand.”
The women rushed back to Wilmington, where word of Riley’s disappearance had spread quickly throughout the small town of 5,000. They arrived to see the community mobilized, with dozens of volunteers searching for Riley in ditches, woods and the town’s forest preserves.
“It was something out of a movie… [I] feel like the entire town was out looking for her,” Colleen Hansen, Melissa’s friend, said. “Every area of the town was being canvassed in some fashion.”
For hours after Melissa had arrived, the town continued to search high and low for Riley. Then at one point, Melissa said a police officer placed her and Kevin in separate police cars.
“I didn’t understand what was going on. When we got to the police station, they just started asking questions and I was like, ‘Is someone going to tell me what’s going on?’” she said.
The couple was unaware that two volunteers had found Riley facedown, wearing only a shirt, in a creek. She had duct tape across her mouth and what investigators believed to be duct tape residue on her wrists. Autopsy reports later determined that she had been sexually assaulted and drowned.
“It was just crushing,” Melissa said. “I couldn’t even stand. I couldn’t even think. I couldn’t even imagine what life would be like without her.”
From that moment forward, Melissa said she never stepped foot in the house where Riley had disappeared from again.
Police focus on Riley Fox’s father in her murder
Nearly 6,000 people attended Riley’s funeral a few days after she’d been found.
The attendees wore pink, Riley’s favorite color, and buttons with her picture on it while Martina McBride’s “She’s a Butterfly” played through the speakers. Riley was buried in the white flower girl dress she had worn to her uncle’s wedding just two weeks before her murder and new flip flops that she’d wanted.
Melissa later learned Will County Sheriff’s Office detectives were also in attendance, videotaping Kevin.
“Within an hour of the funeral ending, [the police] came to my house,” Hansen said. “They asked if there was any reason that I would believe Kevin to be capable of doing something like this. … Before the question even came out of their mouth, my answer was, ‘No.’”
Desperate to find out what happened to her daughter, Melissa said she reached out to the detectives every day and that they assured her they were investigating the case thoroughly.
Then, nearly three weeks after Riley’s murder, the detectives asked to speak to her brother, 6-year-old Tyler. Melissa and Kevin agreed.
For over an hour, a forensic interviewer questioned Tyler about Riley’s disappearance. On a videotaped recording, Tyler was seen crouching into his chair, covering his face and crying while the interviewer questioned him.
He told the interviewer 168 times that his father had nothing to do with the disappearance of his little sister, according to Fox’s attorney Kathleen Zellner.
When Melissa was able to view the recording at a later date, she was distraught. She said she allowed her son to be questioned because she trusted the detectives.
“It was really sad to watch,” Melissa said. “Our family had been through so much. I had just lost a child and then to see the way that they decided to treat the one I still had was really terrible.”
Riley Fox’s father is arrested for her murder
Months passed with little movement on the case. On Oct. 26, 2004, the Foxes received a call from the Will County Sheriff’s Office asking them to come to the office as there were new developments in the case.
“I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is it. They found the person,” Melissa said. “We were just grinning from ear to ear like we’re finally going to know what happened.”
But immediately upon their arrival, Melissa said they were separated and Kevin was taken to a backroom for questioning.
“Something just [didn’t] feel right,” she said. “I thought they were going to tell us what was going on. I [didn’t] know what’s happening.”
“I was stunned… For months, [I had been] telling [them], ‘Stop looking at my husband. Kevin had nothing to do with it,’” Melissa said.
About eight hours into Kevin’s interrogation, Melissa said police told her Kevin had agreed to take a polygraph exam and that he had failed. Melissa said she then spoke to her husband.
“As soon as I got in the room … I think they were really upset, that they thought they had me believing their story. And the second … I let Kevin know, ‘I don’t believe them. It’s OK’ … They didn’t want me anywhere near him,” Melissa said.
She said the sergeant overseeing the investigation pulled her out of the room, yelled obscenities in her face and insisted to her that Kevin had murdered their child. The Will County Sheriff’s Office has denied these claims.
At approximately 8 a.m., Will County detectives said Kevin had confessed to killing his daughter. He had been questioned by police for about 14 hours and hadn’t slept in more than 24 hours.
According to the detectives, Kevin confessed that he had accidentally killed Riley when he opened the bathroom door and struck her in the head early Sunday morning and that he then staged her death to look like an abduction and murder. Police said that he sexually assaulted Riley as part of the cover-up and dumped her body in the creek.
DNA evidence proves essential in Riley Fox case
When Chad Fox learned of his brother Kevin’s interrogation, he rushed to the building where he worked and waited outside the door of a neighboring attorney’s office. Chad had suggested months earlier that Melissa and Kevin speak with an attorney, but they felt they didn’t need one.
Little did they know, Chad was not referring to just any attorney. He was talking about Kathleen Zellner, one of the best criminal defense attorneys in the country, who has helped exonerate 20 people.
After speaking to her, Chad and Zellner raced down to the sheriff’s office. When they arrived, they learned Kevin was already being booked into the Will County Jail.
“I went outside and Melissa Fox was standing in the parking lot… She told me, ‘There’s just no way that he did this,’” Zellner said. “I thought … this is a very self-confident, assertive … person that seemed very intelligent to me, and when she told me that, I thought maybe he didn’t do it.”
After meeting Melissa and speaking to Kevin, Zellner took on the case.
The Will County State’s Attorney filed first-degree murder charges against Kevin Fox and announced they were planning to seek the death penalty against him for the murder of his daughter.
Yet, Kevin denied killing Riley, claiming the detectives threatened and coerced him into giving a false confession. The investigators have denied threatening Kevin and coercing him to confess.
Word spread like wildfire throughout Wilmington and the Chicagoland area that Kevin was responsible for Riley’s murder. Chicago media descended upon the small town.
“We went from being the victims of the crime, and having everybody’s sympathy to, all of a sudden, we were bad people,” Melissa said in a previous interview.
While Melissa’s world was falling apart, she said she had to stay strong for her son, Tyler, and her family.
Meanwhile, Zellner sprang into action. She and her team of private investigators traveled to Wilmington and began to reenact the crime to see if it fit Kevin’s confession.
She quickly began poking holes in the Will County Sheriff’s Office investigation and Kevin’s confession. For example, she alleged that the current of the creek wasn’t strong enough at the spot where Kevin said he’d placed Riley’s body to move her to the location where she was found.
However, in spite of her findings, Zellner felt the only way to overcome Kevin’s confession and prove his innocence would be with DNA evidence. In her review of the Will County Sheriff’s Office investigation, Zellner found that there was, in fact, DNA from Riley’s rape kit that had been available all along, but the DNA required sophisticated technology to further test it.
She was able to strike a deal with the newly elected State’s Attorney James Glasgow, who agreed to allow a private lab to test the DNA.
When the results came back, they excluded Kevin Fox, but did not identify the real killer. He was released from jail the next day and the charges against him were dropped.
Kevin spent eight months in jail wrongfully accused of his daughter’s murder.
“[Kevin’s release] was something I had hoped for and I knew would happen, but some days it just felt like … forever, and other days, it just felt impossible,” Melissa said.
“I [was] really happy to have our family back together, but [we were] still missing a piece,” Melissa added. “Still, nothing had helped us understand what had happened to Riley and it felt as if they made it that much more difficult to find the truth because they had so many people believing that it was Kevin.”
“[The Sheriff’s Office] wasted all that time. … They really screwed us over big time and I still don’t know why,” she said.
Fox family files civil rights lawsuit
Upon Kevin’s arrest, Zellner filed a civil rights lawsuit against Will County, the Will County Sheriff’s Office, multiple sheriff’s detectives who investigated the case, the former Will County State’s Attorney, the polygraph examiner and the forensic interviewer who spoke with Tyler, and others.
Zellner’s claims for Kevin Fox included violations of due process, false arrest, malicious prosecution, intentional infliction of emotional distress, false imprisonment, and conspiracy. For Melissa Fox, claims included conspiracy, loss of consortium, and a claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress against one detective.
“This was not about incompetence. This was a case where we had to show that there was some malicious intent,” Zellner said.
Just before the trial, the former state’s attorney who filed charges against Kevin negotiated a resolution with the Fox family without admitting wrongdoing.
Zellner said the lawyers for Will County tried to settle with the Foxes, but Melissa and Kevin wouldn’t agree to it.
“Why settle? We’d had nothing to hide. … They raked us through the mud,” Melissa said.
Melissa claimed the detectives caused more damage to her family while grieving the loss of her daughter.
“The one person … who I needed by my side was Kevin, and they took him from me. So, I was mourning the loss of a child,” she said. “And … now I have to raise my son by myself, who’s just lost his sister. It was just truly a nightmare, and … the civil case at that time … felt like [our] only way to get back at them.”
In court, Zellner and her team argued that the detectives had tunnel vision. She said they presented many possible leads that she said they say the Will County Sheriff’s Office failed to properly investigate.
Zellner argued that the detectives did not properly investigate a possible break-in at the Foxes’ neighbor’s home on the night Riley disappeared, and that they didn’t follow up on a suspicious red Chevy Beretta that had been seen driving through the neighborhood.
The attorneys for the detectives had said one of the reasons they suspected Kevin was that they found no sign of forced entry into the Fox home and that he didn’t immediately call police.
Melissa and Kevin said the lock on their back door had been broken.
The detectives’ attorneys argued the detectives had probable cause to arrest Kevin, and that they did not rush to judgment or coerce a confession from him.
All of the detectives involved in this case declined “20/20’s” requests to be interviewed.
During the trial, one of the detectives, the polygraph examiner, the forensic interviewer, and others settled out of court without admitting wrongdoing.
The jury ruled in favor of the Fox family on a number of their claims, but not all, finding that the remaining four detectives and the estate of a fifth detective were liable for violating Kevin Fox’s right to due process, false arrest and infliction of emotional distress, but not conspiracy or false imprisonment. The jury also held the detectives liable for Melissa’s claim of loss of consortium, but not conspiracy. The jury also found in favor of Melissa Fox’s claim for Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress.
Two of the detectives were found liable for malicious prosecution. The jury awarded the family $15.5 million.
An appeals court later vacated Kevin Fox’s substantive due process claim and reduced damages for his false arrest claim and Melissa’s intentional infliction of emotional distress claim, reducing the payout to about $8 million.
The search for Riley’s killer continues
After the civil trial, the Fox family turned its attention to finding Riley’s real killer. Melissa called for outside agencies to take up the investigation.
Years passed and Melissa grew weary, but never gave up hope that her daughter’s killer would be brought to justice.
In 2009, the FBI took over the case after Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow said it had reached the point where something “drastic” had to happen. Its investigation led them to Scott Eby, a career criminal who eventually confessed to the crime. In his confession, he revealed, among other things, the harrowing details of Riley’s final moments.
A year later, Melissa was on her way to an appointment when she received an unexpected call from Zellner, who told her, “We got him.” She was referring to the FBI, who had caught Riley’s killer.
“I was … crying and smiling and I just couldn’t even believe it,” Melissa said. “It was words that I had longed for, but a lot of days felt like I was never going to hear. … It took my breath away.”
Melissa met Kevin at Zellner’s office to meet with the FBI agents.
“One second we’re sitting there just like, ‘Thank you so much for the work you’ve done,’” Melissa said in a 2010 interview. “And then, the next minute, crying so hard that you couldn’t breathe and just being sad for [Riley].”
”Most people say ‘a dream come true.’ It was like a nightmare come true,” she added.
Melissa said Will County officials and the detectives involved in Riley’s case never directly apologized for what they’d done to Kevin or what they had put the family through. But following Eby’s arrest, a spokesman for the Will County Sheriff’s Office issued an apology to the family.
“I can forgive a mistake. You know, people are human. I get that. But … they almost completely ruined our chances of ever knowing what happened to our daughter, and so, I hate them for that,” Melissa said.
Eby pleaded guilty in 2010 and Melissa finally faced her daughter’s killer in court. She described him as “pathetic.” Speaking directly to Eby in a victim impact statement, Melissa called him a monster, a coward and a “disappointment to his mother, family and society.”
“Although you took [Riley] from me, you cannot take the time I shared with her,” Melissa said in front of a packed courtroom. “I will always treasure those memories and feel so lucky to have [had] the privilege and honor … to have been Riley’s mom.”
“Riley is the one we will all remember,” Melissa said. “She’s our little princess.”
Melissa asked for Eby not to receive the death penalty so that he could spend the rest of his life thinking about what he had done to Riley and their family.
Eby was sentenced to life in prison without parole. For Melissa, justice was bittersweet.
“[There was] definitely some closure, some peace, knowing that … [Eby] was going to pay the price for what he had done, but … could it ever measure up? No,” she said.
Remembering Riley Fox
In the years that passed after Riley’s murder, Melissa and Kevin had another child — a daughter — but their marriage couldn’t survive the trauma their family had endured.
They moved, got divorced and are both now remarried with new families.
“Melissa’s a remarkably courageous, resilient person who had the character to stick with [Kevin] because she knew he was innocent,” Zellner said. “She believed in him. It was an extraordinary story of tragedy, but redemption … and going forward … resiliency,” Zellner said.
Looking back over the past 17 years, Melissa reflected on the lessons she learned fighting for justice for her daughter and trying to protect her family. She thinks Riley would be proud of the way she fought for them.
“I just feel like … you have to be your own advocate. If something doesn’t feel right, just you have to protect yourself,” Melissa said. “Trust your gut.”
She no longer lives in Wilmington, but often visits a memorial garden that was dedicated to honor Riley as well as her grave. Riley would have been 20 years old this year. Melissa said the world missed out on a “bright light,” but that she knows Riley is watching over her.
“I like to think of the day she was given to me, not taken away,” Melissa said, reflecting on Riley’s birthday.
She added that despite the many struggles and heartache her family has endured, she refuses to be defined by tragedy.
“I fight every day to be happy and to … live my life to the fullest for Riley and for my other kids. Just like I did when I put the Minnie Mouse costume on [for Tyler],” Melissa said. “I’m gonna keep living… I’m not gonna let [her daughter’s killer] destroy any more of me or my life.”
Through it all, Melissa said she’s learned to look at life through a different lens, but nothing will be able to replace her little girl.
“Some days are sad. I’ll miss [Riley] forever,” Melissa said. “It’s something I can never really truly recover from, but I’m still blessed beyond belief. It will forever be devastating, and I’ll forever have a hole in my heart,” Melissa said.
“But because I have suffered such great loss,” she added, “I see the world and the blessings and love that I have in such a different way.”
Police in suburban Dallas have released video of officers’ fatally shooting a domestic violence suspect
ByThe Associated Press
May 7, 2021, 11:59 PM
• 2 min read
MESQUITE, Texas — Police in suburban Dallas on Friday released video of officers’ fatally shooting a domestic violence suspect, showing him charging at officers with a club and box cutter and shouting, “Shoot! Shoot!”
The video from a Mesquite police officer’s body camera showed the Tuesday killing of Ashton Pinke, 27, and the moments leading up to it.
At a news conference, Mesquite police Lt. Stephen Biggs said officers had responded to 911 calls before at the apartment from which the Tuesday call came. An audio recording of the Tuesday call played at a Friday news conference captured the sounds of a screaming couple, including a woman repeatedly saying, “Don’t hit me.” A dispatcher is heard advising responding officers that Pinke had a history of depression and bipolar disorder.
The body camera video started with an officer knocking at the front door of the apartment and Pinke opening it slightly, calmly denying that a disturbance had occurred, then closing and locking the door.
The officer, whose identity was not released, knocked again, and a woman emerged with a child, telling the officer that Pinke had hit her and was armed with a knife.
After another officer arrived, Pinke lowered himself from the second floor of the apartment. After the officers repeatedly said, “Don’t do it!” Pinke is heard shouting, “Shoot! Shoot!” He charged at the officers, who shot him five times. He dropped the stick as he fell, then a box cutter as he writhed on the ground. The officers were not injured, police said.
Pinke’s family had said the incident should have been handled as a mental health check instead of a domestic violence call and questioned why the officers didn’t try to deescalate the situation.
Biggs said the woman, who was not identified, told officers that Pinke had told her he would not be taken alive after the initial contact with the officer. He also said that while both officers had stun guns, the fatal confrontation was too close and sudden for their use.
“The suspect was wielding two deadly weapons, and we’re not countering two deadly weapons with a less-lethal device,” Biggs said.
Both officers involved in the shooting, with more than 20 years of experience each, have been placed on paid leave while the department and Dallas County prosecutors investigate.
The suspect, a 23-year-old Fort Jackson trainee, Jovan Collazo, was taken into custody.
Collazo’s Army-issued rifle did not have ammunition, Fort Jackson Commander Brig. Gen. Milford H. Beagle Jr. said at a news conference, adding that the children and driver could not have known that at the time.
When Ke’aundre’s mother, Carolina Esenwein, got her son’s phone call, she said she “went into panic mode.”
Esenwein and her husband jumped in the car and started searching for the bus.
“I was trying to call my son’s phone at this time and I was texting him and he wasn’t returning my phone calls or my texts, so I just started freaking out. I didn’t know what was going on. You hear all of this stuff in the news with people doing random shootings and kidnaping of kids,” she said.
Esenwein was on the phone with the school when Ke’aundre told her all of the children were off the bus. She had Ke’aundre spell a road sign so they’d know where to find him.
The students were taken to school where they received support from counselors and were reunited with their parents, the district said.
“I felt so thankful,” Esenwein said. “Relieved. … It was beautiful.”
The ordeal began when Collazo fled Fort Jackson, officials said. Collazo went to a bus stop where he allegedly stormed the vehicle and “told the bus driver he didn’t want to hurt him, but he wanted him to drive him to the next town,” Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said.
As the bus driver drove, Collazo brought the children to the front of the bus, Lott said.
“The kids started asking lots of questions to the suspect if he was going to hurt them or the bus driver,” Lott said at a news conference.
Six minutes into the alleged hijacking, the driver pulled over and the children and the bus driver got off safely, Lott said.
Collazo allegedly drove the bus for a few miles before abandoning it, leaving the rifle inside, Lott said. Collazo was later booked on charges including kidnapping.
Beagle said it appeared that Collazo, a New Jersey native in his third week of training at Fort Jackson, was trying to get home. Fort Jackson officials issued an apology, saying in a statement, “This was a failure in our accountability procedures that we truly regret and are apologetic to our community.”
After the incident, Ke’aundre said, “Me and my friend were talking about a bunch of things. How the children aren’t supposed to experience that … And after we got off the bus, I let him use my phone to call his mama, and his mama came up to the school to pick him up. “
“I’m just very proud of my son for being strong and being smart enough to know to call me,” Esenwein said. “We have raised him very well.”
ABC News’ Rachel Katz and Isha Battu contributed to this report.