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History > 2008 > USA > Violence, Crime (III)




Murders by Black Teenagers Rise,

Bucking a Trend


December 29, 2008
The New York Times


The murder rate among black teenagers has climbed since 2000 even as murders by young whites have scarcely grown or declined in some places, according to a new report.

The celebrated reduction in murder rates nationally has concealed a “worrisome divergence,” said James Alan Fox, a criminal justice professor at Northeastern University who wrote the report, to be released Monday, with Marc L. Swatt. And there are signs, they said, that the racial gap will grow without countermeasures like restoring police officers in the streets and creating social programs for poor youths.

The main racial difference involves juveniles ages 14 to 17. In 2000, 539 white and 851 black juveniles committed murder, according to an analysis of federal data by the authors. In 2007, the number for whites, 547, had barely changed, while that for blacks was 1,142, up 34 percent.

The increase coincided with a rise in the number of murders involving guns, Dr. Fox said. The number of young blacks who were victims of murder also rose in this period.

Murder rates around the country are far below the record highs of the late 1980s and early 1990s, when a crack epidemic spawned violent turf battles.

“Regrettably, as the nation celebrated the successful fight against violent crime in the 1990s, we grew complacent and eased up on our crime-fighting efforts,” the authors said.

The report primarily blames cutbacks in federal support for community policing and juvenile crime prevention, reduced support for after-school and other social programs, and a weakening of gun laws. Cuts in these areas have been felt most deeply in poor, black urban areas, helping to explain the growing racial disparity in violent crime, Dr. Fox said.

But Bruce Western, a sociologist at Harvard, cautioned that the change in murder rates was not large and did not yet show a clear trend. Dr. Western also said that the impact of the reduction in government spending on crime control would have to be studied on a city-by-city basis, and that many other changes, including a sagging economy, could have affected murder rates.

Conservative criminologists place greater emphasis on the breakdown of black families, rather than cuts in government programs, in explaining the travails of black youths.

Much of the increase, experts say, is a product of gang activity, in midsize and large cities.

“The aggregate national murder rate since 2000 has been impressively flat — not to say there haven’t been fluctuations in individual cities,” said Alfred Blumstein, a criminologist at Carnegie Mellon University. “But when you see a spike in a city,” he said, as in Chicago recently, “it very often involves young black males shooting other young black males.”

Dr. Blumstein said that while federal cuts might have contributed to the rise in murders by black teenagers, “I think there are much more endemic problems going on.”

“In the inner city, you have large numbers of kids with no future, hanging out together with a great emphasis on their street credibility,” he said. “They’ll go to great lengths to avenge an insult.” Many of these teenagers do not stay in school, let alone join the Boys Clubs or other after-school programs.

The heightened attention to security after the 9/11 attacks might, paradoxically, have contributed to a decline in crime-fighting.

“One problem we faced was a disinvestment in policing in the post-2001 environment,” said Chief Edward A. Flynn of the Milwaukee police, who served from 2003 to 2006 as secretary of public safety in Massachusetts. “I witnessed homeland security become the monster that ate criminal justice,” Chief Flynn said, as money went to security equipment and communications and the number of police officers fell.

To fight violent crime, Chief Flynn said, the police must be a visible presence in neighborhoods with high crime rates.

From 2000 to 2007, according to the report, murders in Milwaukee by whites ages 14 to 24 rose by 4 percent, while those by blacks rose by 62 percent.

This year, Chief Flynn’s first leading the department, he deployed new teams of officers to the most violent neighborhoods, having them patrol on foot and bicycles, while federal agencies helped bring down some large gangs. The number of murders this year — 70 as of last Friday — is down one-third from last year and is the lowest since 1985.

Still, Chief Flynn said, “any improvements will be temporary unless there’s more investment in the futures of our young people.”

    Murders by Black Teenagers Rise, Bucking a Trend, NYT, 29.12.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/29/us/29homicide.html?hp






Girl's Remains Offer

Few Clues About How She Died


December 20, 2008
Filed at 3:03 a.m. ET
The New York Times


ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -- Pieces of a tiny skeleton found in swampy woods belong to a 3-year-old who disappeared but provide few clues about what happened to her, a missing link that could make it harder for prosecutors to convince a jury her death was a homicide.

Casey Anthony, 22, has been charged with murder in the death of daughter Caylee, a case that has captivated the Orlando community where they lived.

Authorities said at a news conference Friday that DNA tests conducted on remains found by a utility worker last week less than a half-mile from where the child lived matched Caylee's genetic profile. But the only clue they give about her death is that her bones didn't suffer trauma, said Orange County medical examiner Dr. Jan Garavaglia.

''Bottom line is, folks, no child should have to go through this,'' said Orange County Sheriff Kevin Beary.

Without a definite cause of death, a defense lawyer can suggest to a jury that labeling Caylee's death a homicide is only speculation, said A. Russell Smith, a Jacksonville attorney and immediate past president of the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

''Juries are particularly conscientious in homicide cases because the penalties are so severe,'' Smith said. ''So, to the extent that there are gaps in critical evidence, it makes the prosecutor's job much more difficult.''

The discovery of the child's remains came after months of searches, twists and turns in the investigation. Casey Anthony was indicted in October on first-degree murder and other charges, even though no body was found. She has insisted that she left the girl with a baby sitter in June, but she didn't report her missing until July.

A search team said they did not check the wooded area sooner because it was submerged in water from the summer's heavy rains. But the utility worker who made the tip, Roy Kronk, said he had contacted the Orange County Sheriff's office in August to report that he had seen ''something suspicious, a bag, in the same area.''

The sheriff's office said he first called Aug. 11 to report the bag. A deputy responded but didn't find anything and was unable to locate him. Kronk called a crime hot line the following day and the information was passed on to the sheriff's office criminal investigation division. On Aug. 13, he called the sheriff's office a third time. He met a deputy, but authorities cleared the area as a place of interest in the search a short time later.

Beary said his department was investigating its response.

''If we missed a window of opportunity, we don't know,'' he said. ''I'm not throwing anybody under the bus because we don't know.''

It took authorities several days to analyze the remains since they were found last Thursday, and some are still undergoing tests. Some of the bones were as small as pebbles and had been scattered. Excavators searching on their hands and knees had a hard time finding the fragments.

Garavaglia -- the star of cable TV's ''Dr G: Medical Examiner -- said authorities concluded Caylee was killed through DNA tests and ''circumstantial evidence.'' She said she was certain this was a homicide, not an accidental death, and didn't expect further testing to reveal a specific cause.

''I wouldn't have issued the report if I wasn't sure,'' she said.

A jail chaplain told Casey Anthony that the remains were her daughter at the Orange County jail just before the news conference began. Her attorney, Jose Baez, was with her shortly after.

''This is her private moment,'' Baez said. ''This is her life she's trying to battle through right now.''

Caylee has been a staple on national news as her grandparents pleaded for tips, promising the girl was still alive.

Volunteers and investigators mounted several search through the summer and fall, looking at wooded areas near Orlando International Airport, local parks and even the grounds where the bones were found.

Caylee's grandmother first called authorities in July to say she hadn't seen the girl, whose third birthday passed shortly after her disappearance, for a month. Her daughter's car smelled like death, she said.

Police immediately interviewed Anthony and soon said everything she told them about her daughter's whereabouts was false. The baby sitter was nonexistent and the apartment where Anthony said she had last seen Caylee had been empty for months. Anthony also lied about where she worked, they said.

Other troubling details emerged: Photos surfaced of Anthony partying after her daughter disappeared. Friends said she was a habitual liar, but also a good mother.

Last month, the Orange County State Attorney turned over almost 800 pages of documents showing someone used the Anthonys' home computer to do Internet searches for terms like ''neck breaking'' and ''household weapons.''

Brad Conway, an attorney who represents George and Cindy Anthony, Casey's parents, said they will cooperate with investigators.

''They know now their precious granddaughter is safe and can serve as a guardian angel to protect missing children and their families,'' Conway said.

In mid-March, someone searched Google and Wikipedia for peroxide, shovels, acetone, alcohol and chloroform. Traces of chloroform, which is used to induce unconsciousness and a component of human decomposition, were found in the trunk of Casey Anthony's car during forensic testing, the documents say.

If convicted of first-degree murder, Anthony faces an automatic life sentence as prosecutors have announced they will not seek the death penalty. Her trial is scheduled for March.

    Girl's Remains Offer Few Clues About How She Died, NYT, 20.12.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2008/12/20/us/AP-Missing-Florida-Girl.html






Brooklyn Man Dies From Beating


December 14, 2008
The New York Times


An Ecuadorean immigrant who was brutally beaten with a bottle and baseball bat last week by men said to be shouting anti-gay and anti-Hispanic slurs has died, a family spokesman said on Saturday night.

The victim, Jose O. Sucuzhanay, died on Friday night at Elmhurst Hospital Center as his mother was traveling from Ecuador to see him one last time, said the family spokesman, Francisco Moya. Mr. Sucuzhanay’s family had kept him on life support in anticipation of his mother’s arrival, but on Friday, his heart stopped.

In a statement on Saturday night, Mr. Sucuzhanay’s brother Diego said he was “at a loss beyond words” at his brother’s death, which the police are investigating as a hate crime.

The police were still looking for Mr. Sucuzhanay’s assailants, but said that detectives had been investigating the attack as homicide, a law enforcement official said.

Mr. Sucuzhanay, who suffered skull fractures and massive brain damage, was declared brain-dead on Tuesday, and a death certificate was filed last week.

The attack occurred about 3:30 a.m. last Sunday as Mr. Sucuzhanay, 31, and his brother Romel were walking home from a bar, arms around each other, in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn. Three men jumped out of a maroon or red sport utility vehicle and attacked the brothers at the corner of Bushwick Avenue and Kossuth Place, the police said.

Yelling anti-gay and anti-Hispanic slurs, one of the men broke a bottle over Mr. Sucuzhanay’s head and, when he fell to the ground, another began beating him with a baseball bat, the police said. The men kicked and punched Mr. Sucuzhanay until his brother told them that he was calling the police on his cellphone, the authorities said, and the attackers piled into the S.U.V. and drove away. Romel Sucuzhanay was not seriously injured in the attack.

On Tuesday, the police released a description of one of the men, saying that he is 6 feet tall and thin and that he wore a black leather jacket, boots, dark jeans and a dark baseball cap during the attack. The reward for information was set at $22,000.

Mr. Sucuzhanay, the father of two children who live with their grandparents in Ecuador, came to the United States a decade ago in search of work, family members said. He was a waiter for seven years before he got a real estate license three years ago and started his own agency, Open Realty International, in Bushwick.

Mr. Sucuzhanay was co-owner of the family-run company, and people in the neighborhood praised him for doing whatever he could to help clients find affordable housing.

On Saturday night, a dozen family members gathered outside the Sucuzhanay’s home in Brooklyn, a block away from where the brothers were attacked. They hugged one another and said Mr. Sucuzhanay’s mother, identified in Ecuadorean newspapers as Julia Quintuńa, had landed in the United States but was still at the airport.

“It’s a very difficult moment for my mother,” Diego Sucuzhanay said outside their home.

The family was planning to hold a news conference at 1 p.m. Sunday at Elmhurst Hospital Center, Mr. Moya said.

“We’re going on now a week with no news about his attackers or his killers,” Mr. Moya said. “It’s deeply disturbing.”

The brutal attack on Mr. Sucuzhanay outraged Ecuadoreans in New York and Ecuador, and came four weeks after an Ecuadorean immigrant on Long Island was fatally stabbed by a group of teenagers who, the police have said, had set out to attack a Hispanic.

City Council members, civil rights groups and state officials condemned the assault on Mr. Sucuzhanay, calling it an attack on all New Yorkers.

On Saturday night, Christine C. Quinn, the City Council speaker, released a statement expressing “deep regret” about Mr. Sucuzhanay’s death.

“These cowardly acts are outrageous and will not be tolerated,” she said. “We will not let the behavior of these individuals who committed this horrible, senseless crime go unchecked.”

Kareem Fahim and Karen Zraick contributed reporting.

    Brooklyn Man Dies From Beating, NYT, 14.12.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/14/nyregion/14ecuadorean.html?hp






Dogfighting Subculture

Is Taking Hold in Texas


December 7, 2008
The New York Times


HOUSTON — The two undercover agents were miles from any town, deep in the East Texas countryside, following a car carrying three dogfighting fanatics and a female pit bull known for ripping off the genitals of other dogs. A car trailed the officers with two burly armed guards, hired to protect the dog and a $40,000 wager.

When the owners of the opposing dog, a crew from Louisiana, got cold feet and took off, the men in the undercover agents’ party reacted with fury, offering to chase them down and kill them. The owner of the female pit bull, an American living in Mexico, was merciful. He decided to take the opposing dog and let the men live, the officers said.

Over 17 months, the agents from the Texas state police penetrated a murky and dangerous subculture in East Texas, a world where petty criminals, drug dealers and a few people with ordinary jobs shared a passion for watching pit bulls tear each other apart in a 12-foot-square pit.

Investigators found that dogfighting was on the rise in Texas and was much more widespread than they had expected. The ring broken up here had links to dogfighting organizations in other states and in Mexico, suggesting an extensive underground network of people devoted to the activity, investigators said.

Besides a cadre of older, well-established dogfighters, officials said, the sport has begun to attract a growing following among young people from hardscrabble neighborhoods in Texas, where gangs, drug dealing and hip-hop culture make up the backdrop.

The investigation here led to the indictments of 55 people and the seizing of 187 pit bulls, breaking up what officials described as one of the largest dogfighting rings in the country.

“It’s like the Saturday night poker game for hardened criminals,” said one of the undercover agents, Sgt. C. T. Manning, describing the tense atmosphere at the fights.

In between screaming obscenities at the animals locked in combat, Sergeant Manning said, the participants smoked marijuana, popped pills, made side deals about things like selling cocaine and fencing stolen property, and, always, talked about dogs.

Dogfighting drew national attention in 2007 when Michael Vick, the quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons, was convicted of felony conspiracy after holding dogfights on his property in Smithfield, Va. On Monday, officials in Los Angeles announced the breakup of a dogfighting ring. It was the outcry among animal-welfare groups after Mr. Vick’s arrest that prompted the Texas Legislature to make dogfighting a felony in September 2007. Before that, the police in Texas had largely ignored the phenomenon because the offense was a misdemeanor.

In the Texas case, law enforcement officials described a secretive society of men who set up prize fights between their pit bulls and bet large sums on the outcome. Many of those indicted had long criminal records, but they also include a high school English teacher, a land purchaser for an oil company and a manager at a Jack in the Box restaurant.

The participants generally arranged the fight over the phone, matching dogs by weight and sex, and agreeing to a training period of six or eight weeks.

The training techniques were brutal. One man who was indicted trained a dog by forcing it to run for up to an hour at a time through a cemetery with a chain around its neck that weighed as much as it did. Then he forced dogs to swim for long periods before running on a treadmill. Every day the dogs would be given dog protein powders, vitamins and high-grade food to build muscle.

Then, as the fight date approached, the trainers would starve the dog, give it very little water and pump it full of an anti-inflammatory drug.

The fights were held in out-of-the-way places — an abandoned motel in the refinery town of Texas City, a horse corral in a slum on the Houston outskirts, behind a barn on a farm near Jasper and at a farmhouse in Matagorda County, south of Houston.

The two undercover agents, Sergeant Manning and his partner, S. A. Davis, posed as members of a motorcycle gang who stole automated teller machines for a living. They infiltrated the ring, allied themselves with a group of people who owned fighting dogs and rented a warehouse in Houston, where fights were eventually held.

People came to the contests from as far away as Tennessee, Michigan and the Czech Republic. Every weekend, fights were held throughout the area for purses that usually ran about $10,000. The agents documented at least 50 fights.

“The undercover cops were sometimes invited to three different dogfights in a night,” said Belinda Smith, the Harris County assistant district attorney prosecuting the cases, along with Stephen St. Martin.

The ring members called the fights “dog shows.” The two dogs would be suspended from a scale with a thin cord tied around their neck and torso. If one of the dogs did not make weight, the owner would forfeit his half of the prize money, or the odds would be adjusted. After the weigh-in, the owners washed each others’ dogs in water, baking soda, warm milk and vinegar to make sure their coats were not poisoned.

Then dogs were forced to face off in a portable plywood box two feet tall, usually with a beige carpet on the floor, to show the blood, officials said. At the command of “face your dogs,” the animals were turned toward each other. When the handlers released them, the dogs would collide with a thud in the center of the ring, tearing at each other’s mouths, jaws, necks, withers and genitals, officials said. A referee usually would let the dogs fight until one backed off, then the handlers would take them back to their corners and wash them for 30 seconds.

During the fight, the exhausted animals would sometimes overheat, lock onto each other and lie in the ring. The handlers would blow on them to cool them off and force them to fight.

The fight usually ended when a dog refused to cross a line in the center of the ring to confront the opponent, known as “standing the line.” Such dogs were usually drowned or bludgeoned to death the next day, officials said.

“These guys take it very personally,” Sergeant Manning said. “It’s a reflection on them.”

Most of the dogs seized were kept outside in muddy yards, chained to axles sunk in the ground, with only six feet of tether and no shelter, beyond, in some cases, a toppled plastic 40-gallon barrel. All suffered from multiple parasites, veterinarians said.

“These dogs were kept in more than cruel conditions — they were subjected to torturous conditions,” said Dr. Timothy Harkness, of the Houston Humane Society. “Death was more pleasant than what they had to exist for.”

Many of the surviving animals had battle wounds on their necks and mouths, Dr. Harkness said. Although some were not aggressive toward people, they were all bred to attack other dogs, and officials made the decision to euthanize them last week.

Dr. Dawn Blackmar, director of veterinary public health for Harris County, said that putting down more than 80 dogs in her care was heart-wrenching. “It was absolutely awful,” Dr. Blackmar said. “It’s not the dogs’ fault. It’s that people have taken and exploited this breed.”

The members of the dogfighting ring were careful about who attended a fight, often limiting each side to 10 guests and quizzing people about who they were, who they knew.

The principals would keep the location of the fight secret until the last minute and then go in a caravan of cars to the rendezvous point, making it difficult to collect evidence, law enforcement officials said. They were also secretive about where they kept their dogs, for fear of robbery.

“People would go to the fights and talk about their yards,” said Ms. Smith, the assistant district attorney. “But they were very secretive about where their yards are.”

Ms. Smith said dozens of people who attended fights had yet to be identified, despite photos, because they piled into cars that did not belong to them to go to the events and never used their real names.

“There are a lot of people doing this,” she said. “We could have gone on and on and on with this investigation.”

    Dogfighting Subculture Is Taking Hold in Texas, NYT, 7.12.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/07/us/07dogs.html?hp






Our Towns

Requiem for a Tough Guy

With a Joe Pesci Style


December 7, 2008
The New York Times



For one night, at least, it seemed like the good old days — old virtues, old vices, old wounds, old friends.

Since the scene in question was Thursday night at the S. W. Brown & Son Funeral Home, where the legendary New Jersey mobster Robert Bisaccia was getting his final sendoff before Friday’s cremation, it was not exactly an upbeat affair. But still.

Along with the standard horrific economic news, the front page of The Star-Ledger had the kind of long, knowing obituary that used to be a staple of Garden State news. Mr. Bisaccia, a traditionalist in his line of work, and a man known for his sense of humor, would have found the headline, “Iconic ‘Goodfella’ Robert Bisaccia, 73, Dies in Prison,” hilarious.

The crowd of mostly large, tough-looking men and subdued family members had the solid, no-nonsense look of folks likely to be doing something more respectable than bundling derivatives, shorting stocks or selling mortgage-backed securities. The giant wreaths — red heart, white crosses — the photographs by the casket, one of the deceased, another of a racehorse, all bespoke a sense of tradition.

And people’s memories, both those of enemies and friends, were of a classic old-school guy, either a violent throwback to the glory days of the mighty Gambino family in New Jersey or a man’s man who played tough but always by the rules, whatever they were.

“He always said, ‘Once I get out of here,’ — which he always believed he would — ‘We’re gonna go to the racetrack and you and me are going to have a martini on the finish line,’ ” said his nephew Anthony Margotta Jr., a horse trainer, on Friday.

Earlier in the day, Mr. Margotta, 46, had put an old scuffed softball in his uncle’s hand (he got his nickname, Bobby Cabert — a combination of K, the symbol for a strikeout, and Robert — for his skill as a fireballing softball pitcher) and pushed the button to begin the cremation. “He was one of the most loving uncles in the world — funny, charming, one of a kind — and his advice was always to do the right thing. Always. Don’t do anything shady. Don’t do anything wrong.”

Alas, that’s not the way Mr. Bisaccia is remembered by law enforcement officials in New Jersey who had stalked him since the 1960s. They say he began as a minor figure in the Gambino family who rose to become John J. Gotti’s powerful capo in New Jersey, and was admired and feared for his toughness, ferocity and willingness to do whatever was asked of him.

He was convicted of racketeering in a circuslike 13-month trial in state court.

During the trial, there were near-fistfights in court, and Mr. Bisaccia taunted witnesses and the judge, complaining he was being railroaded. A juror’s car windows were riddled with bullets, another was offered $500 to vote for an acquittal. Four of Mr. Bisaccia’s outbursts got him barred from the court, the last one permanently.

He was later convicted in federal court of a New York killing said to have been ordered by Mr. Gotti and sentenced to life. Prosecutors say Mr. Bisaccia could be charming and funny — his ability to change moods in a moment was said to have inspired part of the performance by Joe Pesci, a longtime friend, in the film “Goodfellas.”

Mr. Gotti, in a videotaped jailhouse conversation, once talked about how Mr. Bisaccia could find humor in a negative biopsy from prison. “He said, ‘Sure, if I was out on the street they’d tell me I got two weeks to live. I’m doing life, so it’s benign.’ ”

But Robert H. Codey, one of the prosecutors in the New Jersey trial, said no one should romanticize Mr. Bisaccia or the violent world he prospered in.

“The adjective for him is ‘ruthless,’ ” Mr. Codey said. “The reason he was picked for the New York murder was because they knew he was not afraid to walk up to someone in broad daylight and put a bullet in his head.”

Mr. Bisaccia contended until he died that he was innocent of the charge and that he had been convicted solely on the testimony of Salvatore Gravano, a mob informant, who is now back in prison and whose veracity has been called into question.

“In my 24 years, I never had a client more involved in his case and more adamant about his innocence,” said John Vincent Saykanic, who represented Mr. Bisaccia in his final appeals. “He had this fury, this fury about it. He wrote me all the time.”

AND though his enemies and friends don’t agree on much, they do agree he was one of the very last of his kind, old-school to the end, a man who would rather swallow glass than inform on an associate.

“There aren’t many left like him,” said Robert T. Buccino, now chief of detectives in Union County, who testified against Mr. Bisaccia for 28 days at the state trial. “You can count them on one hand. And one thing about Bobby Cabert, he never talked. He never would. Which is not happening anymore. They get a wrong sentence, and they turn in a minute. Cabert would have taken a bullet rather than rat out a friend.”

Inside the funeral home there was chatter about the old days, Mr. Bisaccia’s wit, lots of small talk (“You look like a movie star.” “I am.”)

There was a short service and people got in their cars, mostly big American cars like Hummers, Lincoln Town Cars, Cadillacs and Ford Expeditions, for a reception at the Chandelier in Belleville.

The leaders of the Three Families from Detroit were in Washington looking for any offer they couldn’t refuse. Maybe if Mr. Bisaccia and his pals were still going strong, they wouldn’t need a bailout.

    Requiem for a Tough Guy With a Joe Pesci Style, NYT, 7.12.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/07/nyregion/07towns.html?hp






2 Arrested in Alleged Torture of Teen,

Who Escaped


December 3, 2008
Filed at 4:19 a.m. ET
The New York Times


TRACY, Calif. (AP) -- A Girl Scout leader and her husband were arrested after an emaciated, terrified and nearly naked 17-year-old showed up at a gym with a chain locked to his ankle, saying he had just fled his captors, authorities said Tuesday.

Police were also seeking a third suspect and had an outstanding felony warrant against her for an earlier alleged assault against the teen.

The boy, who authorities said ran away from a Sacramento foster home last year, came into the In-Shape Sports Club in Tracy on Monday wearing only boxer briefs and covered in what appeared to be soot, gym manager Chuck Ellis said. Tracy is about 70 miles south of Sacramento.

Ellis said the teen was scared someone was going to come after him and asked to be hidden.

''He said, 'Don't let them get me, don't let them get me,''' Ellis said. ''He was totally terrified.''

The boy said he had been held captive for nearly a year, said Ellis, adding that he looked as if he was only 10 to 12 years old.

Authorities said they believe the boy had been chained to a car seat but picked up a dropped key, unlocked himself and fled when the car stopped.

Police arrested Kelly Layne Lau, 30, and Michael Schumacher, 34, late Monday after questioning the couple. A subsequent search of their nearby home found further evidence implicating them, said Tracy police spokesman Matt Robinson, who would not describe what officers found.

The couple were booked on charges of torture, kidnapping and child abuse, and were set to appear in court Thursday, according to online jail records. They were being held at the San Joaquin County jail in lieu of bail of nearly $1.2 million each. Prosecutors did not know if the couple had attorneys.

Lau and Schumacher's four young children, two of whom were home when police arrived, have been taken into protective custody, authorities said.

Lau started serving as a local Girl Scout leader sometime in September, after a background check turned up nothing to cause concern, said Pam Saltenberger, chief executive of Girl Scouts Heart of Central California.

Police still were seeking 43-year-old Caren Ramirez, who they say might be the boy's aunt, on suspicion of participating in the abuse, Robinson said. Investigators were trying to figure out the connection between the couple and Ramirez, who authorities believe occasionally visited their home.

Ramirez had become the teen's guardian after child-welfare officials took him from his abusive father three or four years ago, Robinson said. After Ramirez was arrested for allegedly abusing the boy, he was placed in another foster home, which he fled in late 2007, police said.

Since then, the boy's whereabouts hadn't been known until around 4 p.m. Monday, when he entered the fitness center, Robinson said.

The family's tidy two-story house was decked with two large Christmas wreaths on the front doors. No one answered Tuesday when a reporter knocked on the front door.

According to neighbors, the couple seemed to lead lives that revolved around their kids. On her MySpace page, Lau describes herself as a stay-at-home mom and says her husband worked as a contractor. She posted many photos of her family, friends and pets.

Jennifer Foster, 33, said she and Lau became acquaintances through their children, who were neighborhood playmates. Foster said she first noticed an older boy with the family about a year ago.

''She told me that he was a nephew that was staying with them because he was having problems at home,'' Foster said. The boy was outside frequently, and his appearance never suggested anything unusual was happening behind closed doors, though the last time she saw him was May, she said.

Another neighbor said that more recently, the boy looked unwell.

''The last time I seen him, maybe two weeks ago, we were both taking our cans in from garbage days and he was really skinny and pale,'' Rachel Portillo said.

Robinson, the police spokesman, said the boy was confused when approached by detectives Monday, unsure where he had come from and how long he had been held. He was taken to a hospital and was in stable condition Tuesday afternoon.

''The victim says he was held against his will,'' Robinson said. ''When you have a 17-year-old boy showing up with a bloody ankle from having a chain wrapped around it, it's one of those things for officers to put one and one together.''

Robinson said detectives would interview the boy more Tuesday when he is a ''little healthier.'' Police wouldn't release details about any conversations they've had with the boy or the couple since the arrests.


Marcus Wohlsen reported from San Francisco. Associated Press writers Sudhin Thanawala and AP videographer Haven Daley contributed to this report.

    2 Arrested in Alleged Torture of Teen, Who Escaped, NYT, 3.12.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/us/AP-Shackled-Teen.html






Mourning a Good Friend,

and Trying to Make Sense of a Stampede


November 30, 2008
The New York Times


Jdimytai Damour was a big man — 270 pounds, by one account — but he was a gentle giant to his friends, who said he loved to chat about movies, Japanese anime and politics. So on Saturday, they were still reeling from the violent and seemingly inexplicable way that Mr. Damour had died — trampled before sunrise on Friday, the police said, by rampaging shoppers running into a Wal-Mart store on Long Island where he was working as a maintenance man for the holidays.

“If you wanted to know about a show, this was the guy, and he had a great sense of humor,” said Jean Olivier, who met Mr. Damour eight years ago in the Rosedale section of Queens, a few minutes’ drive from the store where he was killed. “He was the guy who was always lively. He would have personally gotten out of the way if he knew they wanted that stuff.”

Shoppers started lining up late Thursday night at the Wal-Mart, at the Green Acres Mall on Sunrise Highway in Valley Stream, not far from the Queens border, where DVDs, flat-panel television sets and other entertainment items were discounted to attract crowds on the traditional first day of the Christmas shopping season.

Mr. Damour, 34, who was known to his friends as Jimbo, or Jdidread because of his dreadlocks, got his job at Wal-Mart through Labor Now, an agency for temporary workers. He had been trying to hold back a crush of shoppers pressing against the store’s sliding-glass double doors, the authorities said. Just before the store’s scheduled 5 a.m. opening, they said, the doors shattered under the weight of the crowd. Mr. Damour was thrown to the floor and trampled.

The Nassau County police were trying to determine what happened during the stampede, but said it was unclear if there would be any criminal charges. Michael Aronsen, a Police Department spokesman, said he did not expect the department to announce the results of its investigation this weekend. The department has been looking at videos from the store’s surveillance cameras and sifting through witnesses’ accounts. Another department spokesman said on Friday that it would be difficult to determine who was responsible for Mr. Damour’s death.

The Nassau County medical examiner has not announced a cause of death for Mr. Damour, who died just after 6 a.m. on Friday, about an hour after shoppers burst through the Wal-Mart doors. Four shoppers were injured in the stampede.

Hank Mullany, the senior vice president of Wal-Mart’s Northeast division, said in a statement that the company had hired extra security officers and installed barricades before the store opened, but “despite all of our precautions, this unfortunate event occurred.”

David Tovar, a company spokesman, declined to say how many extra officers had been added on Friday. Each store, he said, made its own security arrangements. Security at the mall is handled by a subcontractor, Securitas, which patrols the parking lot but not inside the Wal-Mart, which opened in 2003 and employs more than 300 workers.

On Saturday, two security guards were posted outside the Wal-Mart, which is next to a Petland Discounts store and a National Wholesale Liquidators outlet. Workers were repairing one side of the metal door frame that was damaged on Friday.

The Wal-Mart was busy on Saturday, with long lines at the registers. Many shoppers were aware of Mr. Damour’s death and said they were appalled that people did not stop to help him as he lay on the ground, and instead surged into the store seeking bargains.

“How do you stomp somebody like that?” asked Kenny Murphy, 30, of Lynbrook, N.Y., who was shopping with his wife, Lara. “It’s disgusting how people acted yesterday.”

Wal-Mart workers interviewed on Saturday said they had been told by their managers not to speak to reporters or give their names. But they said that on Friday morning, when the store was closed for a few hours after Mr. Damour’s death, dozens of workers gathered near the front door to pray. They were led by a woman who worked as a greeter.

“It was crazy,” said a worker in the electronics department who was in the store during the stampede. “The deals weren’t even that good.”

Some of the workers said they were still shaken by Mr. Damour’s death and added that they had mixed feelings about whether the store should have hired more security.

“How could you know something like that would happen?” said one worker, who added that the store was even busier this year than on Black Friday last year. “No one expected something like that.”

Green Acres opened in 1956 on the site of the former Curtiss Wright Airport. One of the first open-air shopping centers on Long Island, it had 1.2 million square feet of retail space and counted Gimbels, J. C. Penney and J. J. Newberry among its first tenants.

In 1968, the center was enclosed and later expanded to accommodate the growing number of shoppers from Queens, Brooklyn and Long Island.

But Green Acres, which is now owned by Vornado Realty Trust, has also seen its share of trouble. In the 1980s, the mall earned a reputation as the “car theft capital” of Long Island. In 1990, four moviegoers were shot — one fatally — when two groups of teenagers opened fire in a crowded theater that was showing “The Godfather, Part III.”

    Mourning a Good Friend, and Trying to Make Sense of a Stampede, NYT, 30.11.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/30/nyregion/30walmart.html






Wal-Mart Employee

Trampled to Death by Customers


November 29, 2008
The New York Times


A Wal-Mart employee in suburban New York was trampled to death by a crush of shoppers who tore down the front doors and thronged into the store early Friday morning, turning the annual rite of post-Thanksgiving bargain hunting into a Hobbesian frenzy.

At 4:55 a.m., just five minutes before the doors were set to open, a crowd of 2,000 anxious shoppers started pushing, shoving and piling against the locked sliding glass doors of the Wal-Mart in Valley Stream, N.Y., Nassau County police said. The shoppers broke the doors off their hinges and surged in, toppling a 34-year-old temporary employee who had been waiting with other workers in the store’s entryway.

People did not stop to help the employee as he lay on the ground, and they pushed against other Wal-Mart workers who were trying to aid the man. The crowd kept running into the store even after the police arrived, jostling and pushing officers who were trying to perform CPR, the police said.

“They were like a stampede,” said Nassau Det. Lt. Michael Fleming. “Hundreds of people walked past him, over him or around him.”

The employee, who was not identified, was taken from the Wal-Mart to nearby Franklin Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 6:03 a.m., the police said. His exact cause of death has not been determined. The police said that three other shoppers were injured and a 28-year-old woman who was eight months pregnant was taken to the hospital for observation.

One shopper, Kimberly Cribbs, said she was standing near the back of the crowd at around 5 a.m. on Friday when people started rushing into the store. She said several people were knocked to the ground, and parents had to grab their children by the hand to keep them from being caught in the crush.

“They were falling all over each other,” she said. “It was terrible.”

Crowds began building outside the Wal-Mart at 9 p.m. Thursday and grew throughout the night, as eager shoppers queued up in a line that filled the sidewalk and stretched toward the boundary fence of the Green Acres Mall.

At 3:30 a.m., store employees called the Nassau police to report that the crowd was growing quickly, the police said. Officers came by to try to organize the line, but were called away to a Circuit City, a Best Buy and a B.J.’s Wholesale Club nearby, to deal with crowds there.

A half-dozen Wal-Mart employees lined up in the entryway trying to hold back the crowd by pushing against the locked sliding doors, but they were overwhelmed by the force of the crowd, Lieutenant Fleming said.

As the doors snapped open and people streamed in, several people fell on top of one another. The 34-year-old employee who died was at the bottom of the pile, the police said.

On Friday, Wal-Mart released a statement saying that the man who was killed had been working for Wal-Mart through a temp agency. The company called the death “a tragic situation,” and said it was working with police.

“The safety and security of our customers and associates is our top priority,” Wal-Mart said in a statement.

Lieutenant Fleming said that the store “could have done more” to prevent the melee.

“I’ve heard other people call this an accident, but it’s not,” he said. “This certainly was foreseeable.”

    Wal-Mart Employee Trampled to Death by Customers, NYT, 29.11.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/29/business/29walmart.html






Father appalled

by virtual audience

to his son's suicide


22 November 2008
USA Today


MIAMI (AP) — The father of a college student whose suicide was broadcast live over a webcam said Saturday he was appalled by the virtual audience that egged on his son and called for tougher regulation of Internet sites.
Abraham Biggs Sr. said those who watched and the website operators share some blame in his 19-year-old son's death.

"I think they are all equally wrong," he said. "It's a person's life that we're talking about. And as a human being, you don't watch someone in trouble and sit back and just watch."

Police found Abraham Biggs Jr. dead in his father's bed Wednesday, 12 hours after he first declared on the website for bodybuilders that he planned to take his own life. He took a fatal drug overdose in front of an Internet audience. Although some viewers contacted the website to notify police, authorities did not reach his house in time.

Biggs, who has said he was at work during the episode, said he had not known about his son's online presence.

"I think after this incident and probably other incidents that have occurred in the past, they all point to some kind of regulation is necessary," Biggs said. "I think it is wrong to have this happen for hours without any action being taken from the people in charge. Where were they all the time?"

The younger Biggs posted a link from the website to Justin.tv, which allows users to broadcast live with their webcams.

A computer user who claimed to have watched said that after swallowing some pills, Biggs went to sleep and appeared to be breathing for a few hours while others cracked jokes. Some users told investigators they did not take him seriously because he had threatened suicide on the site before.

Biggs Sr. said he believes the webcast was a cry for help.

"But rather than get help, he was ignored," Biggs said. "I would not want to see anything like that on the Internet and not try and get help for that young man. I think that's what the average person would do. Any normal person would do. I'm really appalled."

Pembroke Pines Police Department Sgt. Bryan Davis said no new information on the case was available Saturday.

Biggs Sr. said funeral arrangements have not yet been set for his son, who he said loved helping others.

"He was a good kid. Good kid," Biggs Sr. said. "It's a shame I wasn't there to help him. It's a big loss to me. I wish I was there to help him — since nobody else would."

An autopsy concluded Biggs died from a combination of opiates and benzodiazepine, which his family said was prescribed for his bipolar disorder.

"Abe, i still wish this was all a joke," a friend wrote on the teenager's MySpace page.

It is unclear how many people watched it happen. The website would not say how many people were watching the broadcast. The site as a whole had 672,000 unique visitors in October, according to Nielsen.

Biggs was not the first person to commit suicide with a webcam rolling. But the drawn-out drama — and the reaction of those watching — was seen as an extreme example of young people's penchant for sharing intimate details about themselves over the Internet.

    Father appalled by virtual audience to his son's suicide, UT, 22.11.2008, http://www.usatoday.com/tech/news/2008-11-22-internet-suicide-reaction_N.htm






A Killing in a Town

Where Latinos Sense Hate


November 14, 2008
The New York Times


PATCHOGUE, N.Y. — It was an occasional diversion among a certain crowd at Patchogue-Medford High School, students said: Drink a few beers, then go looking for people to mug, whether for money or just for kicks.

Friends of Jeffrey Conroy, a star athlete at the school, say he was known to do it, too. And last Saturday night, after drinking in a park in the Long Island hamlet of Medford, Mr. Conroy, 17, and six other teenagers declared that they were going to attack “a Mexican” and headed to the more ethnically diverse village of Patchogue to hunt, according to friends and the authorities.

They found their target in Marcelo Lucero, a serious-minded, 37-year-old immigrant from a poor village in Ecuador who had lived in the United States for 16 years, mostly in Patchogue, and worked in a dry cleaning store, sending savings home to support his mother, a cancer survivor.

After the boys surrounded, taunted and punched Mr. Lucero, the authorities say, Mr. Conroy plunged a knife into his victim’s chest, fatally wounding him.

The attack has horrified and puzzled many in this comfortable Suffolk County village of 11,700. Prosecutors have labeled it a hate crime and County Executive Steve Levy called the defendants, who have pleaded not guilty, “white supremacists.” And some immigrant advocates on Long Island have described the attack as a reflection of widespread anti-Latino sentiment and racial intolerance in Suffolk County.

Interviews with business owners, students, government officials and immigrants in the area suggest that illegal immigration has been a wellspring for anger and tension in the neighborhood, with day laborers drawing the greatest fire. Indeed, a number of people — adults and students alike — drew sharp distinctions between assimilated immigrants, who they said should be welcomed as friends and neighbors, and newly arrived illegal immigrants, who they said do not belong.

“No disrespect here, but I’m a firm believer that if you want to come to this country, you should have a job waiting for you,” said the co-owner of the Medford Shooting Range, who gave only his first name, Charlie, and is known by the nickname Charlie Range.

He said he was offended by the behavior of some day laborers — throwing trash in the street, urinating in the bushes, hooting at passing women — and complained that illegal immigrants were crowding rental apartments and swelling the ranks of criminal gangs.

“How do you stop the illegal alien influx?” he wondered aloud. “How do you stop the rain?”

Thousands of immigrants from Latin America have flowed into Long Island in the past two decades, attracted by employment opportunities, particularly in the construction industry, which until recently was booming. Patchogue’s Latino population has risen sharply during this time, village officials say, with Ecuadoreans now being the single largest Latino group.

According to the 2000 census, Latinos were 24 percent of Patchogue’s population, up from 14 percent in 1990, and government officials say the percentage has continued to grow. In just the past five years, the Latino student population of the Patchogue-Medford School District has risen to 24 percent from about 4 percent, said Michael H. Mostow, the district’s superintendent.

Anti-immigrant hostility has led to several highly publicized attacks in recent years in Suffolk County, including the near-death beating of two Mexican day laborers in 2001 and the burning of a Mexican family’s house in 2003, both in the nearby town of Farmingville.

Immigrant advocates have accused some local politicians, particularly Mr. Levy, of helping to fuel anti-immigrant sentiment by promoting tough policies against illegal immigration. But Mr. Levy said this week that the attack on Mr. Lucero “wasn’t a question of any county policy or legislation; it was a question of bad people doing horrific things.”

For all the parsing of motives and rationales in the case, many Latino immigrants here describe Suffolk County as a place where daily life can be a struggle for acceptance in a predominantly white population, particularly in this time of economic crisis. Rocio Ponce, a Brentwood resident and real-estate agent from Ecuador, said that many residents had developed a hatred against recent Latino immigrants “because they think they’re coming to take their jobs.”

Latinos say the attack against Mr. Lucero, if not his murder, was foretold. Some report being threatened and physically harassed in the streets, with bottles thrown at them and their car windows smashed during the night. Anti-immigrant epithets and racially motivated bullying are common in the hallways of the schools, children say.

“They tell us to go get a green card, ‘Go back to your community!’ ” said Pamela Guncay, 14, an Ecuadorean-American born in the United States.

Many Latinos, particularly those who are here illegally, say they would never report such incidents because they do not trust the police and fear deportation.

“We’re here to work, we’re not here to do any damage,” pleaded César Angamarca, 45, who rents a room in a small house where Mr. Lucero lived. “We’re working honorably.”

Friends of Mr. Conroy and the other suspects insisted that the defendants were not racist and said they were shocked that a frivolous escapade by bored, drunken teenagers had quickly turned tragic. They pointed out that one of the defendants, José Pacheco, 17, is the son of an African-American mother and a Puerto Rican father, and that Mr. Conroy counted Latino and black classmates among his closest buddies.

“They were good kids,” said Sean Ruga, 19, who graduated from the high school in 2006 and remained friends with the defendants. “It’s not something I could see them capable of doing.”

Mr. Pacheco’s uncle, Jerry Dumas, said his nephew was with the group because he was looking for a ride home and would not have knowingly joined an attack against a Latino, especially considering his ethnic heritage. He also said that Mr. Pacheco’s parents had themselves been apparent victims of violent racism: When they moved into the Patchogue area in the early 1990s, Mr. Dumas said, their house was burned down twice.

Mr. Conroy was the best known of the defendants and, according to prosecutors, the leader of the group. He was on the school’s lacrosse and wrestling teams, according to his friends, who said he had a lacrosse scholarship to attend the University of Maryland next year. He also coached younger athletes, friends said.

Jeffrey Francis, 18, who is black, said Mr. Conroy befriended him soon after he transferred into the school this fall. They were on the wrestling team together, he said.

Acquaintances of the defendants said it was not unusual for groups of students from the high school to go out looking for people to mug. “It was just for fun, or for money,” said Taylor Fallica, 15, a student at the high school who said he was a friend of Mr. Conroy and the other defendants.

A friend who said he had been hanging out with the seven defendants in the park that night said there had not been much in the way of a plan before the group set out.

“We were just chilling, having a few beers,” said the friend, who requested anonymity because he had also been interviewed by the police and feared making contradictory statements.

Toward midnight, he recalled, “they said they were going to go jump a Mexican,” and they left.

Mr. Lucero had come to the United States to help support his family in Gualaceo, Ecuador, said his brother, Joselo, 34, in an interview this week in Patchogue, where he lives. Their father had died when they were young and Marcelo assumed the role of father figure in the family, Joselo said.

Marcelo Lucero was a hard worker and had little social life, according to his brother and a resident in a house where he rented a room. When Joselo joined Marcelo in Patchogue in the mid-1990s, the older brother frequently counseled him on how to take care of himself and be safe.

“He was a like a protector,” Joselo recalled. “He told me: ‘You have to be a man here. There’s no mom here anymore.’ ”

As the mob descended, Mr. Lucero’s friend managed to escape and contact the police, who rounded up the suspects minutes later.

Mr. Conroy was charged with first-degree manslaughter as a hate crime and first-degree gang assault; the others were charged with first-degree gang assault. They were arraigned on Monday and the case was sent to a grand jury, which began reviewing evidence on Thursday, according to a spokesman for the Suffolk County district attorney’s office.

Joselo Lucero said his priorities were now to get his brother’s body back to Ecuador for burial and to ensure that justice was served. But he said he felt no bitterness or vengefulness toward his brother’s attackers.

“I don’t really feel hate,” he said.

“I feel sorry for the families, in some way, because they have to be responsible for their kids.”

Since Mr. Lucero’s death, local officials have almost universally played down any suggestion that ethnic and racial tension had been prevalent in the community. Nonetheless, local, county and state officials have responded to the killing with various plans, including the introduction of sensitivity task forces, outreach programs in the Latino community and community forums.

“It is imperative that we bridge the divide,” Patchogue’s mayor, Paul V. Pontieri Jr., said on Thursday, “and realize that the things we have in common far outnumber those that divide us.”

Angela Macropolis contributed reporting from Medford, N.Y.

    A Killing in a Town Where Latinos Sense Hate, NYT, 14.11.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/14/nyregion/14immigrant.html






Before Alleged Assault,

a Life of Loss and Missteps


November 9, 2008
The New York Times


LANCASTER, Pa. — In one picture, Michael Mineo is wearing a mullet wig. He seems happy, almost carefree, as he clowns around in a drama sketch at McCaskey High School here. In the other, he looks tortured, pain etched on his face, his tattooed arms visible in the Brooklyn hospital bed where he had gone after being, by his account, horribly assaulted by the police.

Jihan Owens, like Mr. Mineo a member of McCaskey’s class of 2003, looked back and forth between the pictures, one five years old from her high school yearbook, the other taken just last month by a New York City news station.

“It definitely was him,” she said. “You could see he just got a little older.”

Ms. Owens, who was senior class president and homecoming queen, is one of many people here in the city where Mr. Mineo went to high school who have a hard time understanding how the cheerful, well-liked teenager she knew has emerged as the injured 24-year-old at the heart of one of the more unsettling allegations of police brutality in New York in a decade.

The case has not provoked the kind of outrage as the trauma suffered by Abner Louima, who was sodomized with a broomstick by police officers 11 years ago. Mr. Mineo contends that he, too, was assaulted with an object by officers, an assertion that the police say is not supported by civilian witnesses.

But a grand jury and the Brooklyn district attorney are investigating what happened to Mr. Mineo at a Brooklyn subway station on Oct. 15, and additional witnesses have surfaced. Investigators say that medical records support Mr. Mineo’s assertion that he suffered internal injuries, and a transit officer has come forward to say that he saw a colleague jab a baton into Mr. Mineo’s buttocks.

Speaking to reporters briefly on Saturday in Harlem, Mr. Mineo said he was still in physical and mental pain, was having trouble sleeping and was seeking counseling. But he also expressed gratitude to the transit officer, Kevin Maloney, who came forward, and said he believed that the officer’s testimony — or what he knew of it from news reports, since the grand jury proceedings were secret — supported his own account.

“I’m happy,” he said. “I’m real happy he came out and said what he said, because he must have felt bad. I can’t speak for him, but he probably has a heart.”

Interviews with Mr. Mineo’s friends and acquaintances depict a man who has had a rough-and-tumble life, who lost both his parents to drug overdoses while he was young, who more than once lost the roof over his head, who has had a longtime ambition to be a rap artist and who had a series of run-ins with the police.

If Mr. Mineo’s account of abuse is true, these details, these brushes with the law, are expected to be of little consequence in a criminal case against the officers. Victims of crimes can, and do, have complicated pasts, even unflattering ones. But the courts still consider them victims. And the credibility of Mr. Mineo’s account seems only to have grown in the days since he came forward.

Lawyers for the officers deny the most lurid aspects of his account, and it appears inevitable they will make his credibility and background an issue if their clients are charged.

Unlike Mr. Louima, a Haitian immigrant who had no history of breaking the law, Mr. Mineo has had multiple arrests, mostly on minor drug possession charges, but also one on an assault charge. That sprang from an April case in which he is accused of hitting a teenager over the head with a wooden stool in the tattoo parlor where he works as a body piercer.

That case is also being prosecuted by the Brooklyn district attorney, and the coincidence seems to sum up the duality of Mr. Mineo’s life, one that friends describe as a resilient, stoic struggle against a series of hard knocks and one that court records depict as punctuated by repeated missteps.

Friends remember Mr. Mineo as a dutiful baby sitter, someone who could curl up on a futon with his 3-year-old charge, and an ambitious athlete on the track team who was teased when he shaved his legs to gain an aerodynamic edge.

“When you’re in the ninth grade,” said Angel Sanchez, a friend from the team, “that’s just not done.”

Friends also remember the time he traveled to New York, where he lived as a child, and came back to Pennsylvania with presents for people in his life, including the supervisor at a Burger King who had taken him in when an aunt and uncle tossed him out. She received a St. Louis Cardinals jacket.

Pennsylvania authorities say that the money for those presents appears to have come from credit cards he is accused of stealing from the mother of a friend in Lancaster. He is facing two felony counts in that case and is considered a fugitive because he did not show up for his court dates.

“People just don’t understand what he’s been through,” said Jessica Aviles, his former boss at Burger King. “He’s had a hard life. You can’t just say, ‘He’s a bad kid.’ ”

Mr. Mineo declined through his lawyers to be interviewed for this article. But his lawyer Stephen C. Jackson said: “We’re talking about a very young man, a 24-year-old who lived an active life, and he no longer can do that. He walks with a cane. He’s physically not what he was, not to speak of his mental and psychological state.”

The Rev. Al Sharpton, who visited Mr. Mineo when he was in the hospital, said on Saturday that Mr. Mineo never tried to hide his own wrongdoing.

“That’s one of the reasons I said this story was compelling to me, is he never tried to sugarcoat himself,” Mr. Sharpton told members of his National Action Network in Harlem, where Mr. Mineo briefly appeared to thank them for their support. “He said, ‘Reverend, I was smoking a joint.’ He said, ‘I did what I did to the joint, and I ran for a minute, and then I turned around, said I’ll take the ticket, and they violated me.’ He didn’t try to say, ‘I’m an angel.’ ”

It is unclear where Mr. Mineo was born. He told the police in Pennsylvania that he was born in Dallas. Friends here say he lived in New York City as a child before he transferred to Lancaster’s public schools in 1999.

Ms. Aviles said that Mr. Mineo lived with her family and worked with her for five months, and that during that time, he told her much about his early life: that he was an only child, half Italian and half Puerto Rican, who lost his mother when he was 9 or 10 and living in Brooklyn, and his father shortly thereafter, both to drug overdoses.

His mother’s parents helped raise him for a time, she said, but they both died by the time he was 14, forcing him to move in with an aunt by marriage and her husband. They lived here, in this city of 56,000 in the heart of Amish country, where they had an apartment at Lancaster Green, a cluster of two-story brick buildings in one of the tougher neighborhoods.

At McCaskey, the city’s public high school, friends and teachers said Mr. Mineo was well liked because of his sense of humor. He ran track for a year or so and enjoyed rapping freestyle, or extemporaneously, each day in the lunchroom.

“He was a funny guy, and because of that, he could hang out with jocks, cheerleaders, skaters, quiz bowlers,” said Marlon Malpica, a classmate who still works in town.

In conversations, he seldom dwelled on his losses, more than a dozen friends and teachers recalled. Many people believed his aunt and her husband were his mother and father, because that was how he referred to them.

During his high school years, Mr. Mineo held an assortment of jobs at a movie theater and fast-food outlets.

He signed one yearbook as “Mike Meezy,” a play on the name of a rapper, Young Jeezy, and seemed to cherish his school ties.

“Don’t forget about the little people and remember high school,” he wrote in Ms. Owens’s yearbook.

As graduation neared, he talked about enlisting in the military, but he was held back at the conclusion of his senior year, and school records show he later dropped out.

That summer, he moved in rent free with Ms. Aviles, her husband and their 3-year-old daughter when he said his relatives had kicked him out.

“My husband and I fell in love with him because he was very well mannered,” she said.

Mr. Mineo baby-sat for Ms. Aviles’s daughter, took the girl swimming and once bought her sneakers to match his own, she said. Ms. Aviles said that despite his hard life, Mr. Mineo seldom showed any sadness, though she remembered he once played a sad song for her and said he would give anything just to have two minutes with his mother.

Ms. Aviles said she had not seen or heard from Mr. Mineo in five years. In the fall of 2003, he lost his job at the Burger King after missing a shift. A few weeks later, he vanished, she said. People here assumed he took off for New York.

“That’s the whole problem with a lot of people in Lancaster: It’s such a small town,” said Ms. Owens, his classmate. “It’s not like New York, where there’s a lot of opportunity. If you’re not in school and don’t have a job or a trade, it’s every man for himself, and a lot of people can’t handle that.”

Just before he disappeared, the police in nearby Manor Township accused Mr. Mineo of going on a binge with credit cards that belonged to a friend’s parents. According to court records, he rang up more than $6,100 on the cards, which he was carrying when he was arrested in Queens on a marijuana charge in the fall of 2003.

Ms. Aviles said Mr. Mineo appeared at her door in late 2003 to ask that she give back the gifts, including her jacket. She was not home, she said, but he later told her in a phone call that he had done something stupid and needed to make restitution.

Extradited to Pennsylvania in April 2004, he spent seven weeks behind bars before his public defender arranged for him to be released on his own recognizance. But he never returned to court, and a judge issued a bench warrant for his arrest on Oct. 29, 2004, that is still in force.

Laron Johnson, a friend with whom Mr. Mineo promised to stay with when he was released in 2004, said that Mr. Mineo had talked about going back to New York, where he said he had a girlfriend. “He said, ‘When I get out, that’s where I’m going,’ ” Mr. Johnson said in an interview.

In New York, Mr. Mineo has lived in several neighborhoods and pursued a career as a body piercer. As a high school student, Mr. Mineo had no visible tattoos. Now his body is decorated with large amounts of ink. Lady Liberty is on one arm, a leaf of some kind on the other.

He never got a city license to give tattoos, though he registered for the training course. But he has earned his high school diploma, according to Mr. Jackson, his lawyer.

Until his injuries, he spent most days in Downtown Brooklyn at the Jiggaman tattoo parlor, which is owned by a friend, Jason Amolsch. He shares a three-bedroom apartment in Prospect-Lefferts Gardens with female roommates who refer to him as their brother.

One of them, Jilma Brown, said Mr. Mineo was too dutiful to get in much trouble.

“He gets up every day, goes to do his piercing, and then comes home and goes to sleep,” she said.

It was at the parlor, though, where Mr. Mineo was accused of being involved in the fight last April, in which two teenagers were hurt.

Before this most recent encounter, Mr. Mineo twice filed complaints with the city’s Civilian Complaint Review Board, which investigates police misconduct. The board has not released details of those complaints, but neither of them vaulted him from obscurity to the front pages of newspapers, as the most recent one has.

In that encounter, police officers chased and grappled with Mr. Mineo, whom they thought they had seen smoking a marijuana cigarette at the Prospect Park subway station. No drugs were found, though Mr. Mineo was given a summons for disorderly conduct.

Mr. Mineo said on Saturday that after three weeks in which he felt most people did not believe him, he thought the tide was starting to turn, especially with the transit officer’s testimony.

“I want these officers put away; that’s what I want,” Mr. Mineo said. “They don’t deserve to be on the street. Because if you have a badge and you’re here to protect us, and you did what you did to me, you don’t deserve to be on the street.”

Reporting was contributed by Al Baker, Alain Delaquéričre, Kareem Fahim and Ray Rivera.

    Before Alleged Assault, a Life of Loss and Missteps, NYT, 9.11.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/09/nyregion/09mineo.html?hp






RI Schools Required to Teach About Dating Violence


October 5, 2008
Filed at 1:22 p.m. ET
The New York Times


NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. (AP) -- Ann Burke saw signs of trouble with her daughter's boyfriend.

He'd incessantly call her at night, keep her from her family, and, ultimately, physically abuse her during a tumultuous relationship that ended with her death three years ago.

Burke's 23-year-old daughter, Lindsay, may not have understood the dynamics of an abusive relationship, but her death is helping to ensure that other young people do.

Beginning with this school year, a new law called the Lindsay Ann Burke Act requires all public middle and high schools in Rhode Island to teach students about dating violence in their health classes.

The initiative was spearheaded by Burke and her husband, Chris, who say schools should be obligated to teach teens the warning signs of abusive relationships and broach the subject head-on so victims feel empowered to get help and leave violent partners.

''If this could happen to her, this could happen to anyone,'' said Ann Burke, a health teacher who runs a memorial fund to raise money for dating violence workshops for parents and educators.

One other state, Texas, mandates unspecified awareness education on dating violence for students and parents, while several other states encourage it. But the Rhode Island measure goes further by requiring the topic be incorporated annually into the curriculum for students in seventh through 12th grade.

Burke says such education would have allowed her daughter to recognize the danger in her relationship earlier. Though her daughter left her boyfriend several times, she didn't change her phone number or have a plan for safely cutting off contact for good.

She also believed she could be friends with her boyfriend if the romance ended.

''I said, `No, he said that to you before, Lindsay. You can't just be friends,''' Burke recalled.

Rhode Island Attorney General Patrick Lynch, who shepherded the proposal through the legislature last year, said domestic violence is a disturbingly common crime, yet education about it is scarce and haphazard.

''You teach sex ed, you teach `don't do drugs,' you teach `don't drink,' you should also be teaching `don't be a victim of domestic violence,''' said Lynch, whose office receives about 5,000 cases a year.

The law is gaining traction around the country, with members of the National Association of Attorneys General unanimously adopting a resolution encouraging the education in their states. Nebraska's top prosecutor said he intends to submit legislation modeled after Rhode Island's law, and apparel maker Liz Claiborne Inc. has helped promote it around the country.

The education focuses as much on nurturing good relationships as avoiding abusive ones.

In a recent sophomore health class at South Kingstown High School, teacher Karen Murphy reviewed communication skills for friendships and romantic relationships, including waiting until you're calm before confronting someone with a problem and openly expressing your feelings.

''You've just found out that somebody spread a rumor about you and you approach them at their locker,'' Murphy told the class. ''Are you going to want to start talking to her when you're extremely angry after you've just found out about it?''

''No,'' the class replied in unison.

Alex Butler, a 15-year-old sophomore, said he didn't think dating violence was a problem at his school but that the education has helped him identify stages of abusive relationships.

''It's nice 'cause then you can warn other people even if you don't know them,'' he said.

Even if the lessons seem obvious, teachers hope students will recognize that some behaviors they may tolerate in their relationships -- obsessive text messaging, for instance, or physical control -- are unacceptable and possible precursors to violence.

Ann Burke said Lindsay fell hard for Gerardo Martinez after meeting him at a wedding, and though he seemed respectful and nice, problems emerged after Martinez began exerting control over her daughter.

Ann Burke became so distraught that she couldn't sleep and she sought the advice of counselors. Fearing the worst, she even told Lindsay she couldn't bear to live without her.

One day in September 2005, after Lindsay had moved in with her brother to get away from Martinez, Burke became concerned when Lindsay didn't answer her phone.

Police found Lindsay in the bathtub of Martinez's home, her throat slashed. Martinez was convicted last year of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Burke believes her daughter would have wanted her to teach others about dating violence.

''You may have killed her physical body, but I'll be damned: her spirit is still living on in her family and friends,'' she said. ''We're going to do what we need to do.''

    RI Schools Required to Teach About Dating Violence, NYT, 5.10.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/us/AP-Dating-Violence-Education.html






Fla. teen accused

of killing woman for beer money


September 29, 2008
Filed at 2:31 p.m. ET
The New York Times


PALM BAY, Fla. (AP) -- Police in Florida say a 16-year-old boy slashed a woman to death and used the $6 he stole from her to buy beer.

Alan Michael Tanguay is facing a first-degree murder charge in the death of 58-year-old Patricia Kaliszeski in Palm Bay, about 55 miles northwest of Orlando.

Kaliszeski was found dead at her home on Friday, and police arrested Tanguay on Monday based on information from at least two witnesses. Police say the teen confessed to the slaying.

The woman was found in her bed with her throat cut and multiple stab wounds in her neck.

A witness told police that because Tanguay is too young to buy alcohol he asked someone to buy him beer with the money he stole.

    Fla. teen accused of killing woman for beer money, NYT, 29.9.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/us/AP-Florida-Beer-Killing.html






Telling, Again, of Girl’s Death a Floor Below


September 27, 2008
The New York Times


It was hard living upstairs from Nixzmary Brown’s family.

The screaming and fighting were nearly constant, said one neighbor, Ulbis Rivera. There were the daily visits from Nixzmary’s mother, Nixzaliz Santiago, and her complaints about life with her husband, Nixzmary’s stepfather, Cesar Rodriguez. There was the day, Ms. Rivera recalled, when Ms. Santiago summoned her downstairs and handed her a bloodied wad of toilet paper, explaining that she had just miscarried.

And, Ms. Rivera recalled, there was the horrible night in January 2006 when Ms. Santiago awakened her with a knock on the door of her third-floor apartment on Greene Avenue in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn.

Ms. Rivera, a home health aide and a mother of six, accompanied Ms. Santiago downstairs and became the first person outside the family to lay eyes on Nixzmary’s brutally battered body.

Since then, Ms. Rivera has relived the details of that night several times for the authorities and a jury.

In a Brooklyn courtroom on Friday, nearly three years after the 7-year-old girl’s death convulsed the city, Ms. Rivera, 52, found herself retelling her story again, this time as a witness for the prosecution in Ms. Santiago’s murder trial.

She listened to her own voice on a 911 tape pleading with the operator to send help for a girl who was dead. She examined, again, the evidence photo of Nixzmary’s scrawny, pale body, purpled with cuts and bruises and black eyes.

And once more, she cried. When the prosecutor questioning Ms. Rivera in State Supreme Court handed her the photo, she tapped it several times quickly, shook her head violently no, grabbed her forehead and dissolved into sobs.

Time was called. The prosecutor, Ama Dwimoh, waited patiently for Ms. Rivera to collect herself. Then Ms. Dwimoh continued.

“Does that photograph fairly and accurately show how Nixzmary appeared when you saw her in the bedroom inside of 571 Greene Avenue on Jan. 11 of 2006 at approximately 4:30 in the morning?” she asked.

Ms. Rivera, a slim woman with long blond hair, dressed in a white shirt and a black jacket, waited for the question to be translated into Spanish.

“Si,” she replied, and began to cry again.

The Nixzmary Brown case spawned legions of mourners, advocacy groups and an overhaul of the city’s child welfare system. But outside Nixzmary’s family, perhaps no one has been touched by it like Ms. Rivera. Those who were members of the family downstairs in Apartment 4 are long gone: to jail, to the foster care system, to Cypress Hills Cemetery. But Ms. Rivera remains, still living in the forlorn brick building across the street from a park, to which she moved from a homeless shelter in 2003 or so, and still caught, it seems, in the unending aftermath of Nixzmary’s death.

In January, at Mr. Rodriguez’s trial (he was convicted of manslaughter), Ms. Rivera told the jury about entering Nixzmary’s apartment to see Mr. Rodriguez performing chest compressions on her ice-cold body.

On Friday, Ms. Rivera cast a damning light on Ms. Santiago’s behavior the night Nixzmary died. When Ms. Santiago came to her door, Ms. Rivera testified, she was calm, not crying, and informed her that Nixzmary had drowned. Downstairs, when Ms. Rivera asked Ms. Santiago how the girl had sustained her bruises and cuts, the mother said, “She did it herself,” Ms. Rivera recalled.

When Ms. Rivera was on the phone with 911, Ms. Santiago began to wail and scream — her agonized voice rises up in the background on the 911 tape. But Ms. Rivera testified that Ms. Santiago never cried, and that as soon as Ms. Rivera got off the phone, Ms. Santiago was calm again.

Ms. Rivera said she believed that Ms. Santiago’s wails were fake.

Why, Ms. Dwimoh asked.

Ms. Rivera took a deep breath. “Her daughter was on the floor, she was all disfigured,” she began, speaking in Spanish. “She goes to my house. She tells me that the baby drowned — calmly. I go downstairs, and I come across the girl like that. It went through my head: she’s calm, the girl is dead, she’s acting as if nothing has happened. Then when I’m talking to 911, she starts howling.”

Ms. Rivera’s testimony is considered crucial to the prosecution’s contention that Ms. Santiago, 30, acted with “depraved indifference” to Nixzmary’s life by not seeking medical help for her until after she was dead. The jury must find that she acted with depraved indifference to convict her of second-degree murder, the top charge against her.

On cross-examination, Kathleen M. Mullin, one of Ms. Santiago’s lawyers, confronted Ms. Rivera with an earlier version of her story, one she had given to detectives hours after Nixzmary’s body was discovered.

“Do you remember telling Detective Scandole, ‘She came to my door, banging on my door?’ ” Ms. Mullin asked, pounding on the wall of the jury box in an imitation of urgent, frantic knocks.

“I never said that,” Ms. Rivera said.

In a brief interview at her doorstep on Monday, Ms. Rivera said the apartment downstairs is quiet now.

The most recent tenants, she said, moved out a month ago.

    Telling, Again, of Girl’s Death a Floor Below, NYT, 27.9.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/27/nyregion/27nixzmary.html






Arizona towns hurt as gangs see smuggling profit


Tue Jul 8, 2008
5:43am EDT
By Tim Gaynor


DOUGLAS, Ariz (Reuters) - Walls get tagged with graffiti. Cars get shot up in drive-by shootings. Youngsters flash gang signs and battle with bricks, sticks, bats and pipes in the local park over turf.

Once a sleepy smelter town on the Mexico border, Douglas is one of several cities in southern Arizona that are being transformed into urban battlefields as warring street gangs muscle in from southern California, police say.

A sun-baked backwater of broad streets and bungalows set in vast, high desert ranchland, Douglas is now a patchwork of territories held by the East Side Torrance and the South Side Harbor City, both Los Angeles-area street gangs, as well as lesser home-grown gangs.

A few miles up the road in nearby Sierra Vista, a boomtown in the shadow of the looming Huachuca Mountains, police say various factions of the Crips, also from Los Angeles, are warring for control of new streets, malls and subdivisions with the Bloodlines, a local gang.

The newcomers, many tattooed and wearing colors, are part of a scramble by street gangs to make money from tons of illegal drugs pouring over the border to Arizona from Mexico each month, along with tens of thousands of fee-paying illegal immigrants.

"For the gangs, it's always about the money," said Detective Tony Morales of the Arizona Department of Public Safety's State Gang Task Force, whose members patrol the streets of Douglas, population 17,000, in flak jackets.

"Who has money? The people that move drugs have money, and the people that move illegal aliens have the money, and they end up in our corridor here."


Smuggling is big business in southern Arizona, where last year the Border Patrol seized 440 tons of marijuana in a furiously trafficked corridor south of Tucson and arrested more than 370,000 illegal immigrants.

Police say the gangs, which offer easy money and a sense of belonging to youngsters, are recruiting teens and sometimes children as young as eight, as foot soldiers in the trade worth billions of dollars a year.

Gang members steal vehicles stateside and drive to Mexico where they collect marijuana loads and groups of fee-paying illegal immigrants from Mexican smugglers, as well as consignments of prescription drugs.

Crossing back north over remote stretches of the desert border, they spirit their loads up to the Interstate 10 freeway and on to Tucson, Phoenix and the gang wracked sprawl of southern California several hours drive to the west.

In fast growing Sierra Vista, population 42,000, police say the gangs are also carving up the city's neighborhoods among themselves, and peddling drugs including crack cocaine and methamphetamine to the new residents.

The gangs there include the Maryvale Crips -- a Phoenix affiliate of the notorious Los Angeles street gang -- and the so-called 520 Crips, who take their name from the area code for Tucson and southern Arizona.

"The amount of money being made is unlimited," said Arturo Acosta, a Border Patrol agent assigned to a multi-agency gang taskforce that has been meeting since January to tackle the problem.

"Right now there is no end in sight, they'll just keep on coming."


The gangsters' arrival has been accompanied by increasingly brazen shootings and aggravated assaults as the proliferating street gangs scrabble for territory.

In Sierra Vista, it began with a drive by attack on a home last year, and spiraled to a spate of revenge shootings, resulting in one death and several woundings. as the violence gathered pace.

"It's getting worse, it's getting more public. It's not one-on-one anymore ... it's more in your face," said Lori Burdick, a detective with the Cochise County Sheriff's Office, who tracks the gangs.

To add to the misery, police say more California gangsters are pouring into the corridor each month, many fleeing the "three strike" law that puts repeat offenders behind bars for life on a third conviction.

Police have spotted members of the Fresno Bulldogs, from Fresno, California, in Sierra Vista, and affiliates of the Mara Salvatrucha, a Salvadoran gang originally out of Los Angeles, in Elfrida, a remote farming town nearby.

Then two weeks ago, graffiti for the Rollin 30's Crips, a gang from South Central Los Angeles, tagged a cinder-block wall in the city.

For worried city authorities in the corner of Arizona better known for its county fairs and rodeos, the spiraling problem marks a shocking loss of innocence.

"When I was young, the worst trouble we ever got into was for serenading our girlfriends late at night," said Douglas mayor Michael Gomez, a retired dentist who took office last month.

(Reporting by Tim Gaynor; Editing by Eddie Evans)

    Arizona towns hurt as gangs see smuggling profit, R, 8.7.2008, http://www.reuters.com/article/domesticNews/idUSN0344864020080708






Karate expert Brian Philcox

killed his children after Fathers' Day treat


June 16, 2008
From Times Online
Russell Jenkins


A divorced man murdered his two young children after taking them on a Fathers’ Day treat and then took his own life on a lonely Welsh hillside after an acrimonious split with his wife, it emerged today.

Brian Philcox, a supporter of the pressure group Fathers4Justice, telephoned the children’s mother beforehand to leave a message saying: “I have left you a present — I’ll make the papers, just you wait”.

Philcox, 53, a karate instructor and security guard, had told friends that he feared losing custody of his children, Amy, 7, and Owen, three, and the life savings he had sunk into the family home in Runcorn, Cheshire.

He had the care of the children for Fathers’ Day weekend when he prompted a bomb alert at a four-bedroom maisonette after phoning his estranged wife Evelyn, 37, with the warning.

While bomb disposal experts entered the house in Cheshire, Mr Philcox was thought to have driven the childen in his Land Rover Freelander to a remote spot on an unclassified road just off the A470 between Maenan and Tal-y-Cafn, in Snowdonia, where he killed them and then himself.

It emerged today that he had taken the children on a promised trip to a countryside steam railway before running a pipe from the car's exhaust and in through the rear window.

He then sat beside his son and daughter on the back seat as they were overcome by exhaust fumes. They were found by a passer-by at 3pm on Sunday afternoon.

Friends on the Windmill Hill estate spoke of a violent and erratic man who was facing the imminent prospect of divorce proceedings. As vice-president of Karate England, he was a leading light in the karate world, achieving the status of sixth dan.

He was also said to be an active supporter of Fathers4Justice. The group confirmed last night that he had contacted them on several occasions but failed to follow up his interest.

Mr and Mrs Philcox were married in Halton, Cheshire, in 2000 — a second marriage for both of them. It foundered about18 months ago when Mrs Philcox, known as Lyne, left the family home with the children.

It is understood that Mr Philcox was facing legal action this week over who should live in the family home.

Neighbours saw him happily playing football with his children on Friday evening on the village green, but one had heard him complain: “I have lost my wife, I have lost my job and I have lost my kids. I am now going to lose my house.

“I would rather burn the house down than give it to that f****** bitch.

One said: “I saw him take the kids away last week. He had a filthy look on his face. It was very tense between them”.

Another neighbour said that Mrs Philcox had complained that she was frightened of her former husband and what he was capable of. “He would come around to where she was staying, banging on the back windows and giving her hassle,” said the neighbour.

“She is a beautiful girl. You never saw her alone. She was always with her chldren. She is one of the most beautiful women you could ever wish to meet."

Others suggested that she had complained to police of his violence, and that he used to beat her son Ryan McAuliffe, 19.

One said: “He was brutal towards Ryan. Lyn could not handle him beating up her own son. She would say, ’You are not treating my kids like that’. She told me he had punched her son Ryan and hurt him”.

This evening police sealed off a park in Runcorn to inspect a suspect package that it is believed Mr McAuliffe had received in the post overnight.

Mr Philcox had picked up his two children from his estranged wife’s home at 7pm on Friday as part of normal access arrangements and was due to return them on Saturday afternoon.

Mrs Philcox alerted police when he failed to return and a full-scale search was mounted after he phoned her. Bomb-disposal experts who went to his home found that Mr Philcox had left a realistic-looking hoax device, which was found not to be viable. More than a 100 residents were temporarily from removed their homes.

North Wales police revealed that Mr Philcox had taken his daughter and son to Llangollen, which they had said they wanted to visit. The three were found 30 miles away.

Detective Chief Inspector Wayne Jones said that all three had died from carbon monoxide poisoning and that there were no signs of any other injuries on the bodies.

A witness had spotted the car at the beauty spot late on Saturday afternoon when Mr Philcox was seen sitting in the driver’s seat smoking a cigarette, he said.

Mr Jones said that police wanted to establish Mr Philcox’s movements from the time that he collected the children until their bodies were found 44 hours later.

He said:”We cannot speculate on the motives. There was no indication that he was going to do anything to harm the children and he had said nothing which would cause relatives any concern.

“We are aware that he was an expert in judo and karate and that is a line we are pursuing but there were no signs of any injury on the children."

He appealed for anyone who may have seen the blue Land Rover Freelander, registration number W537 MNC, to come forward.

“We are keen to establish what time the car was parked at the spot," he said. "We cannot find any information that would link him to that particular scene. It would appear to be a location that was chosen randomly.

“This is a very difficult case , particular for the family members who are receiving support from specially trained family liaison officers. We are professionals who are trying to do the job of uncovering as much information as we can.”

The children’s mother was being looked after and comforted by police and family members, he said.

Matt O’Connor, the founder of Fathers4Justice said: “This is yet another tragic case that demonstrates how family breakdown is an unfolding national tragedy for families and children.

“Fathers love their children. Killing them is against the paternal instinct, but while some people are driven to scaling bridges out of desperation, others see a future so bleak, and fear the living bereavement of losing their children so much, that they turn away from hope.”

    Karate expert Brian Philcox killed his children after Fathers' Day treat, Ts O, 16.6.2008, http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article4151231.ece






F.B.I. Reports Decline in Crime in ’07


June 9, 2008
Filed at 12:24 p.m. ET
The New York Times


WASHINGTON (AP) -- Both violent and property crimes declined in 2007 from the previous year, the FBI reported Monday. But one expert warned the figures could mask a growing murder problem among young black men.

In preliminary figures for crimes reported to police, the bureau said the number of violent crimes declined by 1.4 percent from 2006, reversing two years of rising violent crime numbers. Violent crime had climbed 1.9 percent in 2006 and 2.3 percent in 2005, alarming federal and local officials.

Property crimes were down 2.1 percent last year from the previous year, the largest drop in the last four years.

Because the FBI preliminary figures do not contain the detailed breakdowns by age, race and gender of the final report that comes later in the year, one expert, James Alan Fox, said they may unintentionally mask a growing murder rate among black male teenagers and young adults, particularly with guns.

''We shouldn't be fooled into thinking our problems are over,'' said Fox, a criminal justice professor at Northeastern University. Fox said that from 2002 to 2006, the rate of murder committed by black male teens rose 52 percent.

''Violence is down among whites of all ages and both genders; it's up among black males, not black females,'' Fox said. ''When you blend all the national numbers together you fail to see this divergence. There are many more whites in the population, so their decline can dwarf the increase among young black males.''

Fox said black males are ''feeling the impact of the economic decline and an increase in gangs and illegal gun markets. Gangs and youth crime are a growing problem despite these rosy statistics.''

FBI spokesman Richard Kolko said, ''One preliminary report does not make a trend, but it's going the way we want it to go.'' Kolko cautioned against putting too much significance on any shift that hasn't lasted at least two years.

Justice Department spokesman Peter Carr called the report ''very encouraging'' though he noted the final report could alter the figures.

''The report suggests that violent crime is decreasing and remains near historic low levels, which is a credit to increased cooperation among federal, state and local law enforcement,'' Carr said. ''Some communities, however, continue to face localized violent crime challenges.''

The largest declines were in vehicle theft, down 8.9 percent and in rape, down 4.3 percent and murder, down 2.7 percent.

The crime trends were not uniform. Murders, for instance, were down in cities of more than 250,000, including an enormous 9.8 percent drop in cities of more than a million residents. But murders rose in some small cities -- up 3.7 percent in cities of 50,000 to 100,000, up 1.9 percent in cities of 100,000 to 250,000, and up 1.8 percent in cities under 10,000. Historically, murder trends have begun in the largest cities and moved over several years to smaller ones.

The other violent crimes tracked by FBI statistics -- robbery and aggravated assault -- were both down 1.2 percent.

The other property crimes in the FBI figures also declined, larceny-theft by 1.2 percent and burglary by 0.8 percent.

Arson dropped by 7.0 percent, but it is not included in the FBI's overall property crime figures, because fewer local jurisdictions provide arson statistics.

Violent crimes dropped most in the Northeast, down 5.4 percent with 1.7 percent declines in both the Midwest and West. But it rose 0.7 percent in the South.

Property crimes followed the same pattern: rising only in the South, where they were up 1.1 percent. The West recorded a 4.7 percent decline in property crimes, followed by the Midwest, down 3.6 percent and the Northeast, down 2.9 percent.

The FBI's preliminary crime report each year gives percentage changes rather than crime totals for national figures because not every jurisdiction has completed its reports yet.


On the Net:

FBI crime stats: http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/2007prelim/

    F.B.I. Reports Decline in Crime in ’07, NYT, 9.6.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/us/AP-FBI-Crime.html






Report says

90,000 U.S. infants maltreated a year


Thu Apr 3, 2008
5:23pm EDT
By Will Dunham


WASHINGTON (Reuters) - About one of every 43 U.S. infants is physically abused or neglected annually, and those babies are especially at risk in the first week of their lives, U.S. health officials said on Thursday.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in its first report on maltreatment of babies up to age 1 that 91,278 of them were physically abused or neglected in 2006.

Other new government figures showed that 499 babies up to age 1 were killed in maltreatment cases in 2006.

About a third of the maltreated infants -- 29,881 -- were abused or neglected before they were 1 week old, mostly during their first four days, the CDC said. Many of those cases may be linked to maternal drug use, the CDC said.

Physical abuse included beating, kicking, biting, burning and shaking, and neglect included abandonment, maternal drug use or failing to meet basic needs like housing, food, clothing and access to medical care, according to the report.

The findings were particularly troubling because children who suffer such abuse tend to go on to have numerous health and other problems, officials said.

"The findings do demonstrate a clear pattern of early neglect and physical abuse that is largely preventable," Ileana Arias, who heads injury prevention efforts at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told reporters.

Based on data from child protection agencies in 45 states, the report found that more than 2.3 percent of infants up to age 1 suffered substantiated nonfatal maltreatment in fiscal 2006, which ran from October 1, 2005, to September 30, 2006.

"Unfortunately, the report didn't surprise me," Jim Hmurovich, who heads the Chicago-based advocacy group Prevent Child Abuse America, said in a telephone interview.

"When a child is born, no matter how well the parent has been prepared for the coming of the child, it's a very stressful time. We know that the younger a child is, the higher the rate of victimization," Hmurovich added.

Most cases of maltreatment in the first week were reported by medical personnel, the CDC said. Thirteen percent of those week-old babies had been subjected to physical abuse.

"One hypothesis for the concentration of maltreatment and neglect reports in the first few days of life is that the majority of reports resulted from maternal or newborn drug tests," the CDC report said.

The report said 905,000 U.S. children of all ages were victims of maltreatment in 2006. Maltreatment is the third leading cause of death of U.S. children under 3, Arias said.

CDC epidemiologist Rebecca Leeb said most similar previous research focused on children from birth to age 3. Because this is the first data looking at babies up to age 1, it is unclear whether the problem is increasing or decreasing, Leeb said.

"We looked at some rates in Canada and it looks like the rates are fairly similar to what they're seeing. But we have no idea what the trends are at this time," Leeb added.

Slightly more boys than girls were victims. The CDC report did not provide rates among racial or ethnic groups.

(Editing by Peter Cooney)

    Report says 90,000 U.S. infants maltreated a year, R, 3.4.2008, http://www.reuters.com/article/domesticNews/idUSN0327933820080403



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