Criminal Cases

Criminal Cases

Shooting in Kentucky Grocery Store May Be Racially Motivated

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A shooting in a Jeffersontown, Kentucky grocery store, which left two people dead, is now under investigation as a potential hate crime. Federal authorities need to determine whether or not federal law has been violated in regard to the victims’ civil rights. Russell Coleman, a U.S. Attorney in Louisville, is concerned these crimes may have been racially motivated.

The shooter, 51-year-old Gregory Bush, and his actions, are under investigation by local authorities and the FBI. He is charged with multiple crimes, including murder, for the shootings at the Jeffersontown Kroger.

According to investigators, before Bush entered the store, he had attempted to gain entry to the Jeffersontown First Baptist Church. The church has a predominately black congregation. Security cameras at the church show Bush attempting to enter approximately 15 minutes before proceeding to the Kroger, according to Chief of Police Sam Rogers.

The arresting officers reported that Bush entered the grocery store. Once inside, Bush opened fire on a shopper, shooting him in the back of the head, then repeatedly shooting him once he had fallen to the floor. Bush then put the gun away and left the story. While in the parking lot, he opened fire again, killing a woman in the parking lot. She, as well, was shot multiple times from short range.

Bush was then confronted by a man in the parking lot who had a concealed weapon. Bush opened fire again, placing everyone in the Kroger lot in danger. Neither Bush, nor the Samaritan were injured in the exchange. Witness video showed Bush trying to flee the parking lot with an on-foot officer giving chase. In moments, multiple officers arrived and converged on Bush, stopping him and making the arrest.

The Samaritan from the parking lot, Ed Harrell, told Louisville’s Courier Journal that he was in the lot waiting for his wife. He heard the shots fired and retrieved his revolver. He watched, crouched by his vehicle, and saw Bush walk by with his gun lowered. Harrell then asked Bush what was happening and Bush said, “Don’t shoot me. I won’t shoot you. Whites don’t shoot whites.”

Chief Rogers said that this remark prompted investigators to look more deeply into the motivation behind the shootings. According to investigations, Bush was married to an African-American woman, who had previously sought restraining orders against him due to violent incidents, including Bush casting racial disparagements on her.

Bush has a previous criminal history that includes threats to his ex-wife, assaulting a deputy sheriff while in a family court proceeding, and assaulting his own parents in 2009. He was ordered to seek treatment for mental health issues, and was also prohibited from owning any firearms for a period of two years. During a 2009 domestic violence case against Bush, his ex-wife says he was diagnosed with paranoia in 2003, but had ceased using medication.

The victims in the shooting were 69-year-old Maurice Stallard and 67-year-old Vicki Lee Jones. No causal links have been made between the victims and Bush or with the grocery store. Bush is currently being held with a $5 million bond and charged with ten felony wanton endangerment charges and two murder charges.

Felony Murder Charges Filed Against Man in Homicide of 7-Month-Old Infant

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Benton County Judge Michael Jesse has set a $1 million bail for James Joseph Robert Wood who is charged with killing the 7-month-old child of his girlfriend. Autopsy reports from the Midwest Medical Examiner show the child had multiple fractures to the skull indicating blunt force trauma, which resulted in his death.

Sheriffs from Benton County responded to a call Saturday morning from the infant’s mother. She reported that her son was dead. When paramedics and deputies arrived at the Rice residence on 108th Street Northwest, they confirmed the infant was in fact dead.

According to his mother, she and her boyfriend, Wood, were at her residence. She told authorities that she had put the boy to bed at approximately 9:30 p.m. on Friday night. After putting him to bed, the couple had drinks in her detached garage before the mother went to bed, alone, sometime shortly after 11:30 p.m. Wood remained awake after she left for bed.

Upon waking, the mother could not find Wood, nor could she reach him by phone. Upon checking on her son, she found him cold to the touch with multiple bruises on the face and he was not breathing. She immediately called 911. During the call, the responding deputy heard the mother ask her other son, 4 years old, if he knew anything. The deputy overheard the child tell her, “Oh, James hit him.”

When investigators spoke to the older son, he told them that Wood had been “naughty” because he was punching the infant.

Police attempted to locate Wood and found him at Morrison County Jail. Wood was arrested overnight for driving while intoxicated. When asked where he was going, Wood claimed to be leaving the state. The police report of the arrest states that Wood was belligerent, refusing to comply with a breathalyzer test while being taken to jail. He resisted being booked as well and subsequently struck one of the deputies in the face.

Wood later submitted to a breath test on Saturday and showed a .069 blood alcohol level. Legal driving limits for being under the influence are set at .08, which Wood would have been over at the time of his arrest. The arrest resulted in three charges: second and third degree DWI and a fourth degree charge of assaulting an officer. Wood faced arraignment for these charges on Tuesday. Once completed, Benton County Sheriffs arrested him and took him to their jail.

Wood faces charges for the death of the infant: felony murder in the second and third degree, as well as first degree felony manslaughter. The judge set the $1 million bond with no conditions, or Wood can be fitted with a GPS tracking device and only a $500,000 bond. The GPS stipulation is intended to prevent Wood from trying to leave the state again.

Competency for Gary Murder Suspect to be Determined Before Facing Trial

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Jason Ryan Burgess will undergo a mental exam to determine his competency to stand trial for murder. He is charged with the murder of 57-year-old James D. Franklin of Gary, Indiana. Judge Diane Boswell ordered the examination at the request of Linda Kollintzas, Burgess’ defense attorney. He will be examined by two physicians, whose results must be available for Burgess’ new court date, which is December 11th.

The case stems from the February 15th shooting of Franklin on Kentucky Street, near the home of Franklin and his girlfriend. Police were called to investigate a shooting near the residence. Upon arrival, Franklin was found in the street bleeding from two gunshot wounds, one to the left arm and the other to the right thigh. The gunshot to the thigh severed Franklin’s femoral artery, which resulted in his death. Lake County coroners pronounced him dead at the scene.

According to Franklin’s girlfriend, the two argued when he arrived home and she suspected he had been with another woman. She has stipulated that she may have been wrong to start the argument. She became aggressive, jumping on Franklin, then chased him from the home with a piece of wood with nails sticking out of it. Once outside, she attempted to keep Franklin from re-entering the home, though he did enter in an attempt to get his things, and left with his son.

She claims Franklin put his hands on her, which prompted her to call Burgess. She told him she was “tired of everything.” Burgess is the father of her other children and immediately told her he was on his way. She also admitted to authorities that she expected Burgess’ response to the call would be violent.

Burgess allegedly arrived on a bicycle, following Franklin and son. Witness statements report that Burgess pointed a gun at Franklin, then fell off the bicycle. When he got up, he began to shoot at the two. Franklin’s son ran to a friend’s house to hide, while Franklin was hit twice.

Police were also told by Franklin’s girlfriend that she had deleted text and call records to Burgess, from her phone. It remains to be seen if she will face any repercussions for her part in the incident.

Burgess pled not guilty to the murder charge. Though a December court case has been set for determination of Burgess’ competency, a full jury trial has yet to be scheduled, according to Lake County records.

Suspect in Double Murder on The Loose After Crime Spree in Tennessee

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Tennessee Police and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) are searching vigorously for Kirby Gene Wallace, 53. He is wanted for multiple violent crimes, including the deaths of at least three people.

Authorities allege that Wallace began his rampage on September 23rd in Stewart County. They suspect he killed an older couple after they returned home from church. The two had been tied up, then Wallace set the house on fire, as was reported by The Tennessean.

On the following Monday, in Montgomery County, according to reports from The Tennessean, Wallace allegedly shot and killed a man before stealing his truck. The search for Wallace was ongoing in the area, and he is believed to have been trying to flee.

Another victim, according to Montgomery County Sheriffs, was returning home from church on the Thursday before the double murder of the older couple. The woman told Sheriffs that Wallace forced her at knife-point into her home. He allegedly threatened her with a loaded rifle and destroyed her phone to prevent her from calling police. She alleges that she was then bound to her bed shortly before Wallace stole her car and fled.

The charges to be brought against Wallace are felony murder, first-degree murder, attempted murder, aggravated kidnapping and arson. Wallace is 5’10” tall, approximately 157 lbs., with hazel eyes and gray hair. He may have facial hair as well. Information that leads to his capture will be rewarded with $7,500 from the TBI.

The area north of Nashville is the primary search area. Montgomery County authorities have shut down intersections in the search area, and school buses in Stewart County are being followed by deputies to ensure the safety of children going to and from school. Currently the TBI has no reason to believe that Wallace has left this immediate area. The are encouraging residents to remain vigilant.

Federal agencies are assisting local and state authorities in the search for Wallace. They are searching from the air and on the ground, as well as door-to-door searches, including abandoned buildings. Authorities have not ruled out the possibility that Wallace is receiving outside help.

Residents in Montgomery and Stewart Counties recommend that residents keep their homes secure, remain inside and to report suspicious activity immediately.

At a Monday news conference, authorities stated, “We do know what his capabilities are. He knows he’s got this area here surrounded, it’s gonna be difficult for him to get out. So I would say that he would do about anything to get out of this area.”

Authorities have vowed to locate Wallace one way or another.

Boy Dies After Being Thrown From Roof by Mentally Ill Brother

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4-year-old Shimron Smith died after a fall from the seven-story Brooklyn building where he and his older brother Shawn were residents. According to police reports, the 20-year-old brother was responsible for Shimron’s death, after tossing his brother from the roof of the building.

Authorities reported that Shawn Smith waved a passing police car down and asked to speak with them, as he needed to tell them something. The officers were occupied with another call and directed Shawn to wait, which he did. When the officers were able to address Shawn’s request, he informed him that his brother was hurt. He told them, “I think my brother’s hurt. Take me there and I’ll tell you more.”

When officers arrived at the apartment building on Nostrand Ave. at approximately 3:30 a.m., they found Shimron’s body in the courtyard. The Medical Examiner’s report showed that he had died from “multiple blunt force injuries.”

What police soon found out was that Shawn was mentally ill. Shawn Smith suffers from schizophrenia. Neighbors told police he could regularly be seen walking pointlessly up and down the steps of the building. One neighbor stated, “You can kind of see when a person is off. [Shawn] was a little off, for the most part.”

In contrast, Shimron, according to the same neighbor, was outgoing and bright. “He was a very playful little boy,” the neighbor said. “He’d play outside, riding a bike. Just playing with family members.”

Some residents at the building told police that they had heard “a loud boom” earlier in the evening. During the investigation of the scene, police spoke to a worker at the building. He claimed that Shimron had been thrown from the roof. Surveillance video reviews showed the brothers heading up a flight of stairs to the top floor of the building. The worker stated that while Shimron cannot be seen being tossed from the building, video shows them heading up, and Shimron when he was falling.

Police immediately took Shawn into custody after discovering Shimron’s body. They asked Shawn if he intended to kill Shimron and he said, “Not really.” When they arrived at the 70th Precinct, reporters recounted Shawn saying, “I’ve finally become a criminal!” Shawn is being held on murder charges in the death of his brother. It remains to be seen if his mental illness will affect the case.

John Okoh, a resident in the building said, “It’s very inhuman. Too inhuman. They ought to have controlled the person who is sick.”

Criminal Husband Charged as Missing Wife is Presumed Murdered

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Federal authorities have brought charges against Lewis Bennett for the death of his wife in 2017. They believe it was an effort to inherit her estate upon her death. Isabella Hellmann, Bennett’s wife, has been missing since May 2017 after a suspicious boating accident involving Bennett.

The couple had gone on an overdue honeymoon, with the intent to sail from St. Maarten to Cuba and Puerto Rico, before sailing home to Delray Beach, Florida. According to Bennett, the boat was sailing on autopilot. He was below deck asleep, when the vessel hitting something woke him. He claimed that the boat began to sink and he could not find his wife aboard.

The Coast Guard rescued Bennett who was adrift in a life raft. Along with him in the raft was a bag of silver coins. Investigators determined that they were stolen coins and found more at Bennett’s residence. The coins were valued at around $36,000.

Shortly after being rescued and reporting Hellmann missing, Bennett requested a letter of presumed death in order to settle Hellmann’s estate. He also purchased tickets to the UK, two weeks after, for himself and his daughter. Bennett is a dual-citizen, in Australia and the UK. During his time there, he sought citizenship for his daughter. At seven months after Hellmann’s disappearance, Bennet sought to have Hellmann declared dead. Normally this would be determined after five years of having disappeared.

Investigators have reported that Bennett-Hellmann were struggling with finances. The couple was having trouble with property taxes, credit debt, and even their utilities. Their relationship was reported as tense and argumentative. According to a statement from a friend of Hellmann’s, Hellmann was unsure how Bennett generated income. But bank records show over $200,000 in transfers from 2014 to 2017. It alleged that the stolen-coin-smuggling was a hint to how Bennett made his money.

The allegation by investigators is that Bennett planned the trip to transport the coins from St. Maarten. They believe Hellmann discovered the stolen coins and a confrontation with Bennett occurred, possibly due to her concerns about being an accomplice. They believe Bennett struck out at Hellmann, then in order to cover up her death, staged the accident.

The investigation shows that Bennett broke open a hole in the boat. He then sent out an SOS that his wife was gone and the craft was sinking. The prosecution is using this, and other evidence discovered, to make their case against Bennett. Bennett is currently serving a separate sentence involving the stolen coins he had. His conviction was earlier this year.

Prosecutors are hoping to have details from the coin indictment admitted during the murder case. They believe there is sufficient relevance to solidify their current charges. It has also been asked if conversations with family, recorded and texted, be allowed into evidence. Prosecutors believe it would be strong proof in their allegations about the marriage’s volatility.

Bennet is charged with second-degree murder and his trial is expected to start in December.

Anthony Garcia Sentenced to Death for Killing Four People in Omaha

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In a tragic case that begins back in 2001, Anthony Garcia, 45, has received the death penalty for murdering four people. Garcia killed the four victims for revenge relating to his firing from Creighton University School of Medicine in Nebraska. A panel of three judges determined the sentence, after weighing it against life in prison.

The events following Garcia’s firing

Doctors William Hunter and Roger Brumback of Creighton’s residency program fired Garcia in 2001. It wasn’t until 2008 that Garcia lashed out for the first time. Authorities determined that Garcia was responsible for the stabbing of Thomas Hunter, 11, who was Dr. Hunter’s son. He also killed Shirlee Sherman, 57, housekeeper for the Hunters in Omaha.

However, though the killings were fully investigated, and substantial evidence was found, investigators were unable to lock down a suspect. For the next few years, the case went unsolved.

In 2013, on Mother’s Day, Dr. and Mary Brumback were found dead in their home. Omaha police investigated the deaths thoroughly. They realized the 2008 killings at Dr. Hunter’s home were similar. While Dr. Brumback was shot in his doorway, Mary was stabbed to death. Both Thomas and Shirlee were killed similarly in 2008.

By comparing the two cases and investigating deeper into Creighton, Garcia quickly became a suspect. Police arrested Garcia about two months later in Illinois.

Records of credit charges and phone usage show Garcia in Omaha the day of the killings. This and a preponderance of circumstantial evidence were produced by the prosecution. There was also evidence of another attack in Omaha the day of the killings. A faculty member from Creighton said Garcia tried to force his way through her back door. The home’s alarm system triggered and he fled. According to prosecutors, it was believed Garcia then sought out the Brumbacks and killed them.

Though the death penalty was given, it is not common in Nebraska. Until a month previously, with the execution of Carey Dean Moore, Nebraska hasn’t carried out an execution in over twenty years. The judges sentencing Garcia showed that it had been a fully deliberated sentence, as life in prison was an equal possibility.

Dr. Clair Hunter, Thomas’s mother, and Jeff Sherman, Shirlee’s son, were at the sentencing hearing. They both expressed the depth of their losses, and relief from the sentencing’s closure. Garcia’s family were also present. His brother Fernando spoke to reporters and expressed the family’s difficulty with understanding Garcia’s uncharacteristic actions. He also expressed sympathies for the victims’ families, hoping they find their peace.

The sentencing hearing was disrupted when Judge Gary Randall experienced a medical issue. Omaha emergency responders took Randall to a medical facility. Judge Rick Schreiner continued in Randall’s stead and explained Randall had suffered from back pain associated with an earlier medical procedure.

 

 

Body of Daniel Theriot Found; Mother and Boyfriend Arrested

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An overnight search for 3-year-old Daniel Theriot has ended after police discover his body near Lake Mead National Recreation Area. He was reported missing by his mother, Cassie Smith, who said he had wandered off in Sunset Park while she was focused on her phone. However, discovery of the body prompted police to arrest 20-year-old Cassie Smith and 40-year-old Joshua Oxford, her boyfriend.

Smith called 911 and reported Daniel missing Sunday morning. Later that day, Metro Police had doubts about the veracity of Smith’s story. Her home was closer to another park, Lorenzi, and instead they were at Sunset park, miles away. This prompted authorities to begin a second investigation into criminal activity, along with investigating the missing child.

While both have been arrested, murder charges have not been filed. The two are being held on charges of child abuse or neglect. These charges are preliminary until a full autopsy is completed, and the cause of death can be determined. Investigators commented on the boy’s condition when found, referring to it as “absolutely disturbing” and were convinced there was “nothing accidental” in regard to the boy’s death.

Reporters reached out to Crystal Kahles, Smith’s cousin. She said upon seeing information about Daniel’s disappearance online, she was skeptical at once. “Just immediately my gut instinct said ‘They did this, this was not an accident. They are covering something up,’” she stated.

According to Kahles, Daniel’s mother was not abusive with him or his younger brother Brandon. However, she did claim that Smith was neglectful. Her report to police claims that apparent abuse began when Smith became involved with Oxford. “It’s when Josh started coming around that’s when the signs of abuse started, the bruises and everything, [the boys] acting out more.” According to Metro police, Brandon also showed evidence of abuse; he was taken to a local hospital for treatment.

Smith had recently relocated to Las Vegas, previously living at the Texas home of Kahles’ mother. Kahles claimed to have visited and cleaned for Smith often, while voicing concerns about the cleanliness of the boy’s environment. She said she told Smith, “Hey, you need to clean the boys after they eat. You have roaches in this house, they can’t live like this.”

Daniel’s father, James Theriot, currently lives in Texas and is in shock over the death of one of his sons. He expects to travel to Las Vegas as soon as possible. He and his family are concerned with finding out more about Daniel’s disappearance and death, as well as to offer care for Brandon.

Mother Arrested for Murder of Her Two Daughters in Alaska

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After a 9-month investigation, police in Fairbanks, Alaska have arrested Stephany LaFountain, 23, for the murders of two of her children. LaFountain was arrested when investigators found incriminating evidence on her computer. Authorities charge that she had searched for ways to commit murder shortly before the second of the two deaths.

On September 15th, 2015, the 4-month old daughter of LaFountain died from breathing difficulties. Then, on November 24th, 2017, emergency services were called to the LaFountain residence at Fort Wainright. LaFountain’s 13-month old daughter was having a breathing emergency. First responders immediately had the child airlifted to a nearby hospital, where she passed away.

The investigation into the death was in the hands of the Army’s Criminal Investigation Command. However, Fairbanks police requested the case be handed over. LaFountain, herself, is not in the military, thus jurisdiction was given to local authorities. From that point, the investigation went dark publicly. Fairbanks detectives pursued the investigation for nine months, including seizing and searching LaFountain’s computer.

Based on her computer use, LaFountain had been researching ways to commit murder and get away with it. Internet searches by LaFountain included instructions on suffocation, killing someone without being caught, and “How to: Commit the Perfect Murder.” Not only was the search material important, but the timing as well. According to police reports, LaFountain had been searching for these things within the hour before calling emergency services in November.

At this time, it is not known if any search history supports evidence in regard to the 2015 death of LaFountain’s 4-month old. However, charges are being brought against LaFountain for both first- and second-degree murder.

Purposely unidentified, LaFountain’s husband is in the US Army. At the time of their 13-month old’s death, he was deployed. Upon hearing of the tragedy, he immediately returned to the states. Investigators do not believe her husband had previous knowledge of his wife’s actions.

LaFountain has a court date set for September. She is held on a $2 million bond. Her first court appearance was via video on Friday, where her bail was set, but she entered no plea at the time.

Chief Eric Jewkes of the Fairbanks Police Department expressed sorrow for the loss of the children. “We have two infants, we have two babies, that were killed by their mother,” he said, “We have a family of a baby that has suffered in obscurity, in silence. How do we make this right? This is just an unimaginable tragedy.”

Mollie Tibbetts’ Body Found by Police a Month After Going Missing

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Investigators working on the disappearance of Mollie Tibbetts, have discovered the missing girl’s body and taken a suspect into custody. Cristhian Bahena Rivera has been arrested on first-degree murder charges. Rivera is responsible for leading investigators to the cornfield where her body had been hidden.

On July 18th, Mollie Tibbetts went jogging near her boyfriend’s Brooklyn, Iowa home. She was dog sitting for him while he was out of town. This was her typical routine, but she did not return from the run. When Tibbetts did not arrive to work the following day, co-workers contacted her boyfriend, and thus began the month-long search. Tibbetts was a psychology student at the University of Iowa.

What Rivera told police

According to Rivera’s account to investigators, he spotted Tibbetts while she was jogging. He approached her in is vehicle and followed her. He then proceeded to get out of the vehicle and run behind and alongside her while she jogged. This obviously disturbed Tibbetts, prompting her to get her phone and threaten to call the police.

Rivera says this angered him and he doesn’t remember what happened next. According to his statement, he “gets mad” and blocks out memories because of being “very upset.” He claims to remember nothing until he regained cognizance at an intersection, driving the vehicle again. Rivera turned the car around and entered a driveway leading to a cornfield.

He then realized that Tibbetts was in the trunk of his Chevy Malibu. He stopped and took Tibbetts out of his trunk and discovered blood on her head. He then dragged her away from the vehicle to a secluded area, picked her up and carried her deeper into the cornfield, then covered her body with cornstalks.

Investigators determined that Rivera was a potential suspect after obtaining security cam footage from a local in the area of the abduction. Both Tibbetts and Rivera’s car are seen in the video, which is how investigators tracked Rivera down. According to authorities, he did not fight or struggle and was compliant during his interview.

Police are working diligently to verify the remains found are in fact Mollie Tibbetts.

Rivera is being held under a substantial bond. He is a local worker in the area. He was currently employed by Yarrabee Farms, and in good standing. According to authorities and ICE, Rivera is potentially an illegal immigrant. ICE placed a detainer on Rivera after his arrest.