Investigation Launched After Epstein Suicide

 

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Federal investigators are probing the death of 66-year-old accused serial sex abuser and trafficker Jeffrey Epstein after he was found dead in his Manhattan jail cell of an apparent suicide by hanging around 6:30 AM.  Epstein’s death came less than 24 hours after hundreds of pages of court documents were unsealed with testimonies from former employees and new details of sexual abuse committed by Epstein, which also implicated a number of well-known politicians and others in the public eye.  Epstein was facing sex-trafficking and conspiracy charges, which carried jail sentences of up to 45 years.

Others implicated include former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson; former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell; Alan Dershowitz, the Harvard law professor; Prince Andrew; and “a well-known Prime Minister.”  Many have denied the allegations.  Prosecutors say he lured dozens of underage girls into giving him erotic massages and engaging in other sexual acts in the early 2000s at his mansions in New York City and Palm Beach, Fla.  The girls were paid hundreds of dollars in cash for the encounters and, once recruited, were asked to return to his homes several times, where they were abused again, the indictment against him said.

Epstein was reportedly unsupervised in his cell despite being put on suicide watch on July 23rd after he was found unconscious with marks on his neck.  Six days later, prison officials determined he was no longer a threat to himself and returned him to a cell in a special housing unit known as 9 South.  He was supposed to have been housed with a cellmate and to have been monitored every half-hour by the two guards who patrolled the wing.

The night before he was found dead, however, he had been left alone after his cellmate was transferred. The two employees assigned to guard him had not checked on him for about three hours before he was discovered.  The two prison guards were suspended and a warden temporarily reassigned from MCC amid widespread reports that 30-minute checks, required within Epstein’s unit, were not carried out properly.  Officials said the employees, who have been placed on leave, were sleeping for some or all of that time.  One guard was working a fifth straight day of overtime shifts, it was reported, while another was forced to work mandatory overtime that night.

Guards at New York’s Metropolitan Correctional Center had been forced to work overtime to make up for the staffing shortages, according to the union representing the prison guards.  Eric Young, president of the American Federation of Government Employees Council of Prison Locals said in a statement that a hiring freeze has left thousands of staff vacancies across the Bureau of Prisons, creating “dangerous conditions” for both staff and inmates.  The remaining officers are regularly forced to work 70- and 80-hour work weeks, Mr. Young said.

The Department of Justice has launched an investigation into how Epstein was able to die in New York’s highly secure Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC).  Attorney General William Barr said officials have uncovered “serious irregularities” at the jail, which has housed other high-profile detainees such as Mexican drug baron El Chapo and fraudster Bernie Madoff.  Barr has also promised that Epstein will continue to be investigated in order to bring to justice any other possible conspirators.

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Man Charged In Murder of Civil Rights Activist Sadie Roberts-Joseph

 

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Police in Louisiana are releasing new details about the man accused of killing popular Baton Rouge civil rights activist Sadie Roberts-Joseph.  Ronn Jermaine Bell, 38, was arrested on one charge of first degree murder.  According to police, Bell was her tenant and owed her about $1,200 in rent.  Both circumstantial and physical evidence led to his arrest after her body was found in the trunk of her car outside a vacant home about 3 miles away from her home last week. According to the arrest report, Bell admitted to being in the area where her car was abandoned, surveillance cameras place him in the area and his DNA was found on her body.

The death of Roberts-Joseph shocked and saddened the community and sparked a swift and coordinated investigation.  Baton Rouge police credited both the community and detectives in helping find Roberts-Joseph’s accused killer. Police say Bell suffocated the 75-year-old on Friday and then placed her body in the trunk of her own car. According to the East Baton Rouge district attorney, Bell was previously arrested after being accused of raping an 8-year-old girl in 2004. He pleaded guilty to sexual battery and served seven years in prison. He was not on probation or parole but was under indefinite supervision as a sex offender.  Officials say they do not believe Roberts-Joseph knew of Bell’s sex offender status.

Bell was already in jail when he was identified as a suspect in Roberts-Joseph’s murder, for violating sex offender registration requirements.  Bell was booked into jail Monday for not paying the $60 annual registration fee required of all sex offenders. He was then rebooked on Tuesday on the murder charges.  Bell told investigators that the activist had allowed him to stay in the home he was renting as long as he paid her something.  However, in the affidavit, investigators noted that Roberts-Joseph’s own notes suggested that she ” intended to contact the defendant on the day of her murder … in regards to the back payments.”

Roberts-Joseph was considered a local icon in Baton Rouge, where she founded the Odell S. Williams Now and Then African American Museum and hosted the annual celebration of Juneteenth, which she fought to have recognized as a state and national holiday.  She also started the Community Against Drugs and Violence (CADAV), a nonprofit to empower people to combat drugs and street violence in order to create a safer environment for children.

Hundreds gathered in the Louisiana heat at the African American history museum Sadie Roberts-Joseph founded nearly two decades ago to mourn the loss.  Baton Rouge Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome said “Having known her for decades, she was one of the standout matriarchs of Baton Rouge. She was a part of the fabric of Baton Rouge and we will make her legacy a priority in Baton Rouge because of what she gave to so many here.”

Roberts-Joseph’s daughter, Angela Machen, said that although this experience has been heartbreaking and “heinous,” there has been solace in seeing the community unite to solve her mother’s killing and honor who she was as a person.  “All my mother ever wanted was for this community to come together,” she said. “It’s ironic that this happened in death. What she wanted to happen in life came to fruition in death. We will see to it that her legacy continues.”

 

James Fields Sentenced In Federal Court

 

 

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James Fields, the self-described neo-Nazi who killed activist Heather Heyer at an anti-hate rally in 2017, was sentenced to life in prison. Fields plowed his car into a crowd of anti-racist protesters in Charlottesville at a counter-protest of the white supremacist “Unite the Right” rally.  Lawyers for Fields, 22, had pleaded for mercy, citing his difficult childhood and mental health problems.  “I’d like to apologize,” Mr. Fields told the judge before his sentencing Friday, according to one of his lawyers. “I apologize to my mother for putting her through all of this. Every day I think about my actions and how this could have gone differently. I’m sorry.”

 

Mr. Fields had previously admitted he intentionally targeted the counter-protesters.  The sentencing came nearly two years after Fields’ attack killed Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old paralegal who was demonstrating against the hundreds of white nationalists who took to the streets that day.  Susan Bro, Heyer’s mother, asked for a life sentence but said she hoped Mr. Fields “can heal someday and help others heal.”

Fields was among hundreds of white supremacists who swarmed Charlottesville in August 2017 for the rally, in which they shouted anti-Semitic phrases, marched with tiki torches and attacked a racially diverse group of counter-protesters. The rally appeared to be winding down when Mr. Fields drove his car into a crowd of those counter-protesters.  Fields’s lawyers had asked the judge for a sentence that would allow him to eventually be released from prison. Mr. Fields had been trying to leave the rally to return home to Ohio, his lawyers said, but found the street blocked by counter-protesters and made the split-second decision to drive through them.  The incident followed violent clashes that erupted at the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Attorneys for Fields had asked the federal authorities to be more lenient than jurors in his state-court murder trial had been late last year when he was sentenced to life plus 419 years.  Mr. Fields pleaded guilty to 29 federal charges earlier this year, including a hate crime for Ms. Heyer’s death. Federal prosecutors dropped another charge that could have led to the death penalty.  Prosecutors had argued that Mr. Fields’s racist, anti-Semitic beliefs motivated his decision to attend the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville and to attack counterprotesters, killing Heather Heyer and injuring dozens of others.

“This was calculated, it was coldblooded, it was motivated by this deep-seated racial animus,” Thomas T. Cullen, the United States attorney for the Western District of Virginia, said after the sentence was announced. He said the case set a precedent for future instances of domestic terrorism.  The incident was immortalized in a photo that shows Mr. Fields’ car ramming into the crowd and those hit flying into the air. In addition to killing Ms. Heyer, the attack hurt more than 30 people, whose injuries ranged from fractured skulls to damaged organs to broken arms, Mr. Cullen said Friday.

 

Estranged Husband of Missing CT Mother Released After Posting Bail

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The estranged husband of missing CT mother Jennifer Dulos and his girlfriend have both been released after posting their $500,000 bails.  Fotis Dulos, 51, and his girlfriend Michelle Troconis, 44, were charged with tampering or fabricating physical evidence and hindering prosecution on June 1st.  Jennifer Dulos, who was last seen May 24th, had filed for divorce from Fotis Dulos in 2017 and had sole physical custody of their five children with their father seeing them every other weekend.  They had been embroiled in a contentious divorce and child custody case for the past two years.

Jennifer was last seen May 24th driving a 2017 black Chevrolet Suburban, as she dropped her kids off at school.  Her friends reported her missing around 7 p.m. that day after they had not heard from her for about 10 hours and she had missed multiple appointments that day.  Their children, who range in age from 8 to 13 and include two sets of twins, have been living with their 85-year-old grandmother under armed guard in NYC since Dulos went missing.

Court documents filed in the divorce case say Jennifer Dulos feared Fotis Dulos would harm her in some way in retaliation for her filing for divorce, and she noted he had a gun.  Jennifer Dulos had accused her husband of having revenge fantasies, exhibiting “irrational, unsafe, bullying, threatening and controlling behavior” and saying he would abscond with their five children to another country, according to her custody petition.  Jennifer Dulos lived in a mansion in Farmington, Connecticut, with her husband and family until two years ago. In court documents, she said Fotis Dulos moved his girlfriend and the woman’s daughter into their Farmington house, and Jennifer Dulos moved out in 2017 to a home in New Canaan and filed for divorce, court records show.

Fotis Dulos and Troconis were arrested based on surveillance video that allegedly shows a man and a woman matching both of their descriptions in a vehicle where a man can be seen depositing around 30 trash bags into multiple trash receptacles.  The man can also be seen discarding items that appeared to be stained with a substance that is consistent with the appearance of blood.  Detectives later recovered clothing and household goods from trash receptacles with Jennifer Dulos’ blood on it.

Investigators looking into the woman’s disappearance discovered stains that tested positive for human blood on her garage floor, as well as evidence of attempts to clean up the scene.  Police also found blood spatter and evidence that a “serious physical assault” occurred in her New Canaan home.  State’s Attorney Richard Colangelo Jr., a prosecutor in the case, said that Jennifer Dulos’ blood was also found mixed with her estranged husband’s DNA in the kitchen sink faucet at her New Canaan home.  Fotis Dulos has never lived at that house. He has remained at the couple’s former home in Farmington, Connecticut.

 

US And Mexico Make Immigration Deal Ahead of Pending Tariffs

 

 

 

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Mexico’s government says it will send 6,000 troops to its southern border with Guatemala in a crackdown on the unprecedented surge of Central American migrants hoping to seek asylum in the US. The announcement came ahead of a threat by President Trump to impose 5% tariffs on all Mexican imports starting June 10th unless Mexico further tightens controls on immigration.  The deal was reached at the end of three days of negotiations which saw Washington demand a crackdown on Central American migrants.

The initial announcement of tariffs  warned that if Mexico did not do more to curb the current immigration issue, tariffs would go up to 10% by July, 15% by August, 20% by September and reach a permanent level of 25% by October.  According to data released by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the number of migrants taken into custody reached a 13 year high in May, with more than 144,000 migrants taken into custody after crossing the Southern border.  The threat of tariffs which would have hurt the US economy, would have been more damaging to Mexico’s economy.  According to the Office of the US Trade Representative, US imports of goods from Mexico totaled $346.5 billion in 2018 and includes cars and machinery as well as agricultural products.  If the tariffs had gone into effect any US companies will have to decide whether to eat the cost or pass them on to American consumers.

Mexican officials have reportedly reached a deal with the White House that would require asylum seekers to seek refuge in the countries they first cross into.  Under a joint agreement released by State Department officials, Mexico will assist the United States in curbing migration across the border by deploying its National Guard troops through the country, especially its southern border.  The deal also imposes a new program called Migrant Protection Protocols, allowing U.S. immigration enforcement officials to send Central American migrants to Mexico as their asylum claims are pending.

Mexico says those migrants will be offered jobs, health care and education, though critics question how safe migrants will be as they await the conclusion of their claims.  The agreement says Mexican authorities will work to dismantle human smuggling operations as well.  Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said the National Guard deployment would start on Monday, June 10th– the same day the proposed tariffs were set to begin. The National Guard force was recently established and has not gotten up and running, with estimates of full operations to be underway by 2021.

In a joint declaration released by the US state department, the two countries said Mexico would take “unprecedented steps” to curb irregular migration and human trafficking.  The US did not get one of its reported key demands, which would have required Mexico to take in asylum seekers heading for the US and process their claims on its own soil.  Both countries pledged to “strengthen bilateral co-operation” over border security, including “coordinated actions” and information sharing.

Mexican authorities have dramatically stepped up law enforcement pressure against Central American migrants in recent days in an effort to stave off a trade war with the United States.  Mexican military police intercepted about 600 Central American migrants walking north on a highway in southern Mexico.  Mexican officials also announced federal charges against two prominent migrant activists and financial penalties against more than two dozen people suspected of helping migrants.

Mexico’s finance ministry announced it had blocked the bank accounts of 26 people who had participated “in the trafficking of migrants and the illegal organization of migrant caravans.”  The efforts are a part of a broad crackdown on illegal immigrants, with detentions and deportations of Central American migrants in recent months up significantly compared with the same period last year.

Twelve Killed In Mass Shooting In Virginia Beach

 

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Twelve people died and six were injured in a mass shooting in Virginia Beach when a gunman opened fire on a municipal building.  Four of the injured were listed in critical condition at an area hospital and one of the injured was a police officer who exchanged fire with the shooter.  The gunman, 40-year-old DeWayne Craddock, who also died from gunshot wounds, had worked at the site of the massacre for 15 years as an engineer.

At around 4pm on Friday, he fatally shot one person in the parking lot of the Virginia Beach Municipal Center before entering the building and shooting people on all three floors.  Police say just days prior to the shooting, Craddock was alleged to have been involved in physical scuffles with fellow city employees and threatened with disciplinary action.  Craddock had emailed his resignation hours before the shooting and still had his ID badge which allowed him access to employee permitted areas of the building.  Authorities say he used two legally bought .45 caliber pistols and they found two more firearms at his home.

Virginia Beach police Chief James A. Cervera said the victims were found on three different office floors, and “It’s a horrific crime scene,” he said.  Police believe employees may not have known there was an active shooter situation until he was already on their floor because the building was undergoing renovations at the time the sound of gunshots were mistaken for someone using a nail gun.  Eleven of the victims fatally shot were city employees and one was a contractor who was in the building to obtain a permit.  Four officers entered the building and located the gunman inside and “immediately engaged” him, police chief James Cervera said. The attacker was then shot dead.  One officer was injured but his vest saved his life.

The area was put on lockdown and the building evacuated.  Survivors described cramming into an office and barricading the doors while others hid under desks.  Two survivors said they made eye contact with Craddock several times but he did not raise his weapon toward them, instead shooting others.  Survivor Megan Banton, an administrative assistant in the building, told a local news station “We just heard people yelling and screaming at people to get down.”

The city’s visibly shaken mayor, Bobby Dyer, called it “the most devastating day in the history of Virginia Beach.”  The employees killed had a combined 150 years of service to the city, with one of them having served the city for 41 years. Six of the employees worked in the city’s public utilities department, which is the same department in which the suspect worked.  The victims were identified as Laquiya C. Brown, 39 Ryan Keith Cox, 50. Tara Welch Gallagher, 39. Mary Louise Gayle, 65. Alexander Mikhail Gusev, 35. Joshua O. Hardy, 52. Michelle “Missy” Langer, 60. Richard H. Nettleton, 65. Katherine A. Nixon, 42. Christopher Kelly Rapp, 54. Herbert “Bert” Snelling, 57 and Robert “Bobby” Williams, 72.

 

Oregon Man Charged With Murder in Disappearance of Young Mother and Son

 

michael-wolfe.jpgAn Oregon man, Michael John Wolfe, 52, was arrested and charged in the presumed kidnapping and murder of a 25-year-old woman and her 3-year-old son.  Karissa Fretwell and the pair’s son, William “Billy” Fretwell were reported missing by relatives on May 17, four days after they were last seen or heard from. Wolfe was charged with two counts of aggravated murder and two counts of kidnapping while police continue to search for Karissa and Billy.

Fretwell’s vehicle is reportedly still parked on the street in front of her apartment with a child’s car seat is in the back.  Karissa Fretwell is described as a white female who is 5 feet 9 inches tall and weighs about 135 pounds. She has blue eyes and naturally blond hair that is dyed red.  Billy Fretwell is described as a white male who is about 3 feet tall and weighs about 30 pounds. He has blond hair and blue eyes.  Police have been searching a rural Yamhill County property in the Hopewell area and Wolfe’s Gaston home he has shared with his wife for 10 years, as part of the investigation.

Wolfe, who is married to another woman, was established as Billy’s biological father through a DNA test in 2018 after Fretwell filed a petition to establish the boy’s paternity.  Wolfe and Fretwell had an affair while working together at a local steel mill and the two were locked in a custody battle.  Court documents state Fretwell and Wolfe were in court as recently as April, and Wolfe was ordered to pay over $900 a month in child support and provide health insurance coverage for Billy.  The court documents state Fretwell believed Wolfe wouldn’t pay child support without a court order.

Two months prior to Fretwell’s disappearance, her neighbor said he heard fighting taking place in her apartment. Neighbor Robert Allen said “We heard a man and woman arguing incredibly loud. The man was swearing a lot and there was a kid crying in the background, and the woman was yelling at him to get out of her apartment.”

A close friend of Karissa’s, Bethany Brown, told reporters she felt some relief that Wolfe is behind bars.  “How could he do that to her and him? Little Billy, that’s his son! God, it hurts,” she said. “She was a good mom. She was just trying to make it through life.  “I hope he rots in prison for the rest of his life,” she said.  Brown said Wolfe was apparently trying to hide the affair.  “He’s married and has another kid and he didn’t want anything to do with Karissa or Billy. He didn’t want his wife finding out about the affair and she did find out, and that’s when everything went sour.  He told her ‘Don’t ruin my marriage,’ and, ‘I can’t afford this $1,100 amount in child support,'” Brown said.

Another friend, Mykeal Moats said Fretwell met Wolfe when she was living in McMinnville and was a delivery driver for a sandwich shop. She made deliveries to Cascade Steel Rolling Mills in McMinnville, where Wolfe worked. Moats said Fretwell subsequently got a security job at the industrial plant but was no longer working there.   Another friend, Bethany Brown, said Karissa had told her she found out she was pregnant three days after finding out he was married and that Wolfe had cosigned on an apartment for her provided he have a key.  Karissa told her she would come home to find him in her apartment which led her to move into a new apartment.  Moats said that Wolfe would not stop calling Karissa or showing up at her work.  She couldn’t get away from him.” Moats said.