Criminal Cases

Criminal Cases

Indiana Woman On the Run After Attempted Poisoning of Newborn Baby

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On September 28th, Allen County, Indiana authorities issued a warrant for 19-year-old Sarai Rodriguez-Miranda after an investigation was made into text conversations planning an attempted murder of her brother’s newborn baby using poisoned breast milk. Rodriguez-Miranda is charged with one felony count of attempted murder; she fled to Michigan when she got wind that police had begun investigating her and has reportedly been on the run since January.

 

According to police reports, the authorities were alerted by Rodriguez-Miranda’s grandmother, who saw a conversation between Rodriguez-Miranda and her boyfriend; Rodriguez-Miranda regularly used her grandmother’s cell phone apparently. This particular conversation came about after Rodriguez-Miranda’s brother, his fiancee and their 11-week-old child decided to extend what was meant to be a temporary stay at her and her grandmother’s home. In retaliation, Rodriguez-Miranda revealed via text messages to her boyfriend that she would crush acetaminophen and sleeping pills into powder and mix it with the baby’s milk to kill the child.

 

The grandmother then went to verify if those statements were true, and she found two baby bottles, one of which did have notable residue at the bottom. From there, the grandmother confiscated the bottles and took the baby to a hospital emergency room for a check, although the hospital said they found no signs of poisoning. The mother later confirmed that neither bottle had been used to feed the child.

 

Further investigation found that Rodriguez-Miranda had gotten the equivalent of nine Excedrin tablets into the baby bottle, which would have been more than sufficient to kill the child. Other texts from Rodriguez-Miranda were also found, including one that read, “Yeah I thought it was funny that I don’t have an ounce of guilt.” It seems that once she noticed the bottles had disappeared, she thought her plan had come to fruition, texting, “I know I’m excited dude. I’m glad it didn’t happen while I was here because then they wouldn’t suspect it happened at this house and blah blah.”. Some days later, once the baby showed it was still alive, Rodriguez-Miranda texted her boyfriend in disappointment, “Why didn’t that baby die, dude? I hope she dies… I’d never be suspect I know, but I hope it works.” As the days went on, Rodriguez-Miranda did begin to show some worry without guilt, writing such messages as, “My subconscious is guilty but [to be honest] I hope she dies. I don’t feel bad about it [because] she was destined to grow up s**t or be abused.” It is believed she fled to Michigan because her boyfriend’s family is from there; she is still on the run.

Killing of Two Baton Rouge Men Probably “Racially Motivated” According to Police

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23-year-old Kenneth Gleason has been arrested and charged with two counts of murder and two counts of attempted murder after a string of what police called probably “racially motivated” attacks. 59-year-old Bruce Cofield, a homeless man, was shot by Gleason in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, while 49-year-old Donald Smart was shot in a separate incident as he was walking to his workplace, a local cafe near Louisiana State University where Smart washed dishes. In both cases, it is believed that Gleason shot them from a car and then finished the job by getting out and firing subsequent bullets as the victims were already on the ground. In a third incident, police suspect he was responsible for shots fired at a home of an African-American family, although no one was injured in that particular incident.

Baton Rouge Interim Police Chief Jonny Dunnam talked about Gleason’s capture, essentially calling him dangerous and expressing his fear that, had Gleason not been captured, “[he] could have potentially created a tear in the fabric that holds this community together.” The Baton Rouge police specifically charged Gleason with two counts of first degree murder, two counts of attempted first degree murder, aggravated criminal damage to property and the illegal use of a firearm. According to East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore, the prosecution is aiming to have the death penalty brought upon Gleason for his crimes. Tensions are high in Baton Rouge since last year, where Baton Rouge resident Alton Sterling, a black man, was shot dead by police, which led to a retaliatory attack of three police officers two weeks later.

Gleason’s lawyer, Christopher Alexander, has released a statement denying guilt, while saying that they “look forward to complete vindication” as his case goes to court. Gleason had just left jail after posting bail for theft charges when he began his string of attacks. The 23-year-old, whose DNA was found on shell casings at the two major crime scenes, was later discovered to have literature on Nazi leader Adolf Hitler as well as a stash of cannabis. Despite what was found in his apartment, those who knew Gleason were surprised to find that Gleason committed these crimes, as most characterized him as a quiet individual who never really showed anger outwardly. Those who knew him intimately, including Matthew Drago, a former roommate of Gleason’s, did note that he occasionally displayed impulsive behavior. However, Drago also notes that, while his studies of the German language led to accumulation of German literature, Gleason was also a connoisseur of literature relating to Eastern and Buddhist philosophy. As for more recently, he was spotted shoplifting $30 worth of merchandise from a Target in Phoenix, Arizona, although those charges were dismissed. In the last couple of months, local Baton Rouge residents had spotted Gleason intermittently living out of his car, parked outside his parents’ house.

4 Year Old Shot – Virginia Man Arrested

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In Opal, Virginia, a 26-year-old man and a 21-year-old woman were arrested after being found guilty of child neglect. Isaiah Marshall Davis reportedly left a 2-year-old, a 4-year-old and a third toddler in a car by themselves as he and Destinie Rochelle Beach, the children’s mother, entered Quarles Truck Stop. The 2-year-old, who was a boy, was able to access a gun and shot the 4-year-old, who was a girl. The wound was in the girl’s upper body The situation was worsened by the fact that the adults did not look for medical treatment in the immediate aftermath of the shooting. Instead, according to a clerk at the truck stop, the couple brought the bloodied child in and claimed she had been bitten by a dog. The clerk later witnessed Beach taking the girl to a bathroom with peroxide and bandages. However, they left the scene before authorities could arrive. Eventually, authorities  received a call asking for medical attention from a motel in Colonial Beach, Virginia, about 65 miles away from where the accident occurred; this was where police found the child. The child was later treated and released from the local hospital’s trauma center. The other two children were unharmed from the incident.

 

Davis in particular was charged with three counts of abuse and neglect of children, as well as reckless handling of a firearm and allowing access to a firearm by children. As to the latter charge, it should be noted that leaving any firearm unsecured so that it is accessible by a child 14 years of age or younger is illegal in the state of Virginia. The crimes were made worse by the fact that Davis is a convicted felon, which means that according to Virginia law he was not allowed to own a firearm. Davis is currently waiting for a trial at Northern Neck Regional Jail. Beach turned herself in later, and was charged with abuse and neglect of children, as well as possession/transport of a firearm by a non-violent felon.

 

In the press release announcing Davis’ arrest, the Fauquier County Sheriff’s Office expressed a strong encouragement to the local community to keep their firearms safe at home and in transport. In fact, the Sheriff’s Office has offered to provide cable locks if requested by local residents via their administrative phone line. Other organizations that support child gun safety recommend keeping firearms unloaded and stored in a proper storage case. Gun locking devices are also available, and some gun owners go as far as to disassemble firearms and keep the parts in separate locations during transport.

Female Californian Kidnapping Victim Found After Interstate Manhunt

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According to the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office, 55-year-old Virginia Paris was found safe after a brief search for the missing woman. Paris was thought to have been kidnapped by 52-year-old Joseph Hetzel, an ex-partner of Paris’ who had been threatened with a restraining order following their breakup; the order had not been issued yet when the kidnapping occurred. According to law enforcement, Hetzel dropped Paris off at a casino in Henderson, Nevada so that he could get away; the police were still in search of Hetzel as of September 5, and are relying on aid from the FBI to catch him.

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Official reports say that Hetzel kidnapped Paris when she left her workplace in Solvang, California. Hetzel drove Paris towards Las Vegas as authorities began their search for the pair. Two days later, a sighting was reported in Goodyear, Arizona, about 500 miles away from where Paris was allegedly kidnapped. Police say that Paris went to the bathroom and used the opportunity to seek help from a worker at the coffee shop where they had stopped. Hetzel reportedly saw this act by Paris and dragged her away immediately before getting to drive off at high speed. However, Paris managed to throw out the car registration onto the road, which allowed Goodyear police to track them down easier. The day after their spotting in Goodyear, the two were seen checking out of the Grand Canyon Inn in Valle, Arizona. It appears that Paris was able to contact a family member by that ensuing evening, which led to Hetzel abandoning her at the casino. Paris immediately got in contact with the Henderson Police Department with the help of the casino staff; Paris was taken to a hospital for a check and was later transferred to her relatives.

Paris offered up the possibility that Hetzel may have escaped to Utah, although the car they had been spotted in at the Goodyear coffee shop was last found abandoned in Mesquite, Nevada. Hetzel has a history of abusive behavior towards former partners. For example, in 2004, a different ex-girlfriend accused Hetzel of poisoning her dogs, poisoning her grass and breaking her windows with stones. He has also served jail time for “possession of items used to make explosive devices, using explosive devices with the intent to terrorize, felony vandalism and criminal threats” in addition to other domestic incidents. Due to his dangerous history, those who are currently searching for him are working under the assumption he is armed and dangerous.

Florida Mother Charged With Child Abuse After Driving With .200 BAC

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A mother from Boynton Beach, Florida was charged with child abuse and driving under the influence after being caught driving in a weaving fashion on local roads. Her capture later led to her crazy-eyed mugshot and a video going viral. In the dash cam video released of 31-year-old Brandy Lerma getting placed in the police car after being found too drunk to drive, Lerma screamed from the back of the vehicle, “I will kill you! I will kill you!”. Later, upon the police officer objecting to Lerma kicking the car, she responded, “I don’t care!” In the video, she is also heard screaming, “Who is taking care of my child?!” When Lerma was pulled over, police not only found the intoxicated Lerma, but a three-year-old in the back without a child safety device or seat belt of any kind.

Lerma was first spotted by Juan Martinez, a local tow truck driver. Martinez says he saw the golden Chevrolet Malibu zigzagging along the road, almost hitting four cars in the process. Martinez expressed the logical worry that someone would end up dead due to Lerma’s reckless driving. Martinez also informed police officers that he thought he saw a child in the back seat. According to police reports, during the pullover, Lerma obviously smelled of alcohol and had trouble grabbing her driver’s license or even speaking coherently. As the officer told it, “The odor grew stronger as she spoke.” This event happened during what appears to be the middle of the day.

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During a subsequent 20-minute field sobriety test, Lerma is seen stumbling as she was being asked to follow a pen with her eyes, as well as falling multiple times while trying to walk in a straight line. After initially trying to defend herself by saying she had only drunk “maybe a little,” Lerma later admitted to consuming Percocet, Xanax and at least two shots of Fireball. The Breathalyzer results later came in, marking her at a peak blood alcohol level of .200. For reference, the legal blood alcohol level limit in the state of Florida is .080. Lerma, who reportedly has a history of traffic citations, is currently free after making a bond set at $3,000, and is expected to appear in court sometime in September. According to The Palm Beach Post, Lerma was previously cited for carrying children in her vehicle without a seatbelt.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Florida ranks slightly above the national average in adults who have reported driving after drinking too much. Particularly, more people in the 21-34 age bracket die of drunk driving in Florida per capita than the national baseline (8.0 per 100,000 in Florida, in contrast with 6.7 per 100,000 in the United States overall).

White Nationalist Rally Ends in Deadly Violence – Man Charged

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The latest development in the story of Charlottesville is a report coming from Politico that the Department of Homeland Security gave a confidential warning of potential dangers to local and state authorities three days before the August 12th rally that resulted in casualties. According to the Politico report, the DHS said that recent events resulted in a potential powder keg that could easily become “among the most violent to date”, especially with the involvement of white supremacists and anarchists at the rally. The DHS report mentioned previous incidents in Charlottesville as proof of this, such as a July 7th Ku Klux Klan gathering and a May 13th white nationalist rally. At least two felony charges of assault and battery were handed out at these incidents after protests turned violent. Furthermore, the DHS highlighted several white supremacists and anarchist leaders making calls that could be perceived by their supporters as approving of violent acts.

Of course, three days after the report was released, hundreds of people got engaged in a day of battle once the white supremacist rally at Charlottesville’s Emancipation Park, formerly known as Robert E. Lee Park. The headline coming out of the clash was a neo-Nazi sympathizer killing one and injuring 19 after driving a car through a crowd of aggressive counter-protestors.

Observers are now questioning why the local authorities lost a handle on the August 12th situation if they were given this warning ahead of time. Charlottesville police failed to arrive in riot gear and did not look prepared in terms of numbers to keep the two protesting groups separated from each other. Former FBI SWAT team leader James Gagliano said that, in light of this DHS report, the Charlottesville police department was “woefully underprepared for something they had advance notice of and plenty of actionable intelligence about.” Those who have defended Charlottesville authorities point to their attempt to shut down the rally earlier that week, although a federal court overturned the decision after a challenge supported by the American Civil Liberties Union. However, defense of Charlottesville’s local efforts were undermined by the comments of City Manager Maurice Jones, who said that while the authorities attempted to move the rally because they were aware of these safety concerns, “We hoped that the groups that descended on our community would not engage in violence, but they did,” which now looks short-sighted given the burden of proof that the DHS provided them beforehand.

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The event later became a national political and cultural flashpoint once U.S. President Donald Trump called “both sides” responsible for the violence without condemning the white nationalist movement by name. Since then, a nationwide movement has been organized against the rise of white supremacy in the country, which is expected to be highlighted in a 100-mile march from Charlottesville to Washington, D.C. scheduled to take place on September 6th.

Escambia County Gang Violence Rising

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After the death of a 22-year-old gang member in a case of friendly fire in Pensacola, Florida in June, a spotlight has been put on the increase in gang violence in Escambia County, the northwestern-most area of the state of Florida. Juston Donson was shot in the head after he and four of his friends confronted an 18-year-old male who had threatened Donson with a gun earlier that night. The 18-year-old, who had been arrested in the month prior to this incident due to illegal carrying of a concealed weapon, holed himself up in his home for hours after the shooting out of fear. Meanwhile, the four friends of Donson were later charged with murder.

According to the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office, a majority of the violent crimes that take place in the county are gang-related. “Whether it’s a petty theft at Walmart… or whether it’s a gang-motivated crime… one gang member shooting a rival gang member… one way or another we can relate 80 percent of the crime in this county to gangs,” Sergeant Jon Pinney says. Local authorities say that the gang system in the community is fairly disorganized compared to national networks, which explains the higher frequency of friendly fire incidents such as that which claimed the life of Donson. This also results in more gruesome outliers, such as rape and kidnapping, due to not having to run ideas through a hierarchy as is commonly done in larger gang networks such as the Bloods and the Crips. It doesn’t help matters that the size of these loosely organized gangs has greatly increased in northern Florida, from 161 gangs and 565 members in 2010 to 201 gangs and 1472 members in 2013. Specifically, in Pensacola, an estimated 20 gangs are currently active, although because of their size they only make up a negligible percentage of the local prison population.

The situation in Escambia County is further exacerbated by the lack of qualified personnel to handle gang-related violence. Only three investigators are assigned to the Sheriff’s Office gang unit, which has been an official division of the department since 2014. The unit is charged with handling these sorts of issues, the highest frequency crime dealt with being illegal possession of firearms. Prevention, which is also a goal of the county police department, is made more difficult by the fact that younger members in disorganized gangs have less fear of arrest and a stronger desire to prove themselves. Pinney says that he’s found that gang initiations have begun as early as 11 years old, usually involving breaking into cars and homes. Gang members as young as 13 years old have been captured with illegal firearms. Currently, the strategy taken by the gang unit is to pursue stricter punishments and hoping that being a member of a gang ceases to be a source of pride in the community.

Group Robbery Quickly Resolved in Bremerton

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On July 26th, four people in Bremerton, Washington were charged by local police after they beat and robbed a man from the neighboring town of Puyallup with a baseball bat. The group reportedly lured the 33-year-old to an area near a Bremerton elementary school with the promise of getting to meet with a prostitute. The victim was found unconscious on Monday, July 24th  in the elementary school’s parking lot, estimated to have been left there for at least seven hours. He was diagnosed with multiple skull fractures once he arrived at Harborview Medical Center.

Devonte Malik Crawford, 21 years old, later told the police that he was the one who kept the baseball bat hidden before pulling it out to hit the victim three times in the head, including two times as the victim laid on the ground. Crawford says the misdirection to get the victim to believe a prostitute was coming was orchestrated by Crawford’s girlfriend, 18-year-old Charis Amanda Guyt. Guyt reportedly communicated with the victim through a dating app in order to arrange the meeting. Crawford and 20-year-old Jordan Donald Nesser would then go on to rob the victim. Guyt was aware of the plan to rob him, but claims she didn’t expect such a level of violence would be necessary in the perpetration of the crime. “Guyt suggested she was expecting [the victim] to be pushed and mentioned him getting tied up as an alternative to what actually happened,” according to police reports. The final suspect here was 19-year-old Kayla Brianne Rishel, who is Nesser’s girlfriend. Rishel’s role was the getaway driver.

More specifically, the meeting was set up for 10:30 PM, and Guyt arrived as the prostitute, with Crawford posing as the pimp. $300 was exchanged between Guyt and the victim before Guyt retreated and allowed Crawford to begin beating the victim. Nesser then jumped into action once the victim was knocked out and helped in extracting the victim’s phone and wallet. They went on to split the $300 in cash among the three primary actors in the robbery, with Nesser also using the victim’s card at local gas stations until it was declined. Nesser says he purchased gasoline, cigarettes and Red Bull energy drinks with his share of the money.

After police pored through security footage from the school and the gas stations, they were able to quickly identify the suspects in the case. Police eventually arrived at Crawford’s residence, where they found the baseball bat used in the attack with traces of blood still analyzable on the weapon. Crawford was charged with first degree assault, while Nesser was charged with first-degree robbery. All four suspects also received accomplice charges.

Two Teens Killed in Montgomery County Day Before Graduation

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Montgomery County, Maryland police have arrested and charged three Hispanic males with the murder of two local teenagers. 17-year-old Shadi Adi Najjar and 18-year-old Artem Ziberov were shot the night before their high school graduation as they found themselves in a parked car in Montgomery Village. One teen was shot 10 times and the other four times, although the police did not specify which victim was which in that statistic.

The men charged were later identified as 19-year-old Roger Garcia, 24-year-old Edgar Garcia-Gaona and 25-year-old Jose Canales-Yanez. All three were charged with two counts of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder. According to Montgomery County Police Chief Tom Manger, it is believed that Najjar may have robbed the girlfriend of Canales-Yanez in December of last year. The girlfriend claimed in a police report that a blue Honda Civic approached her as she was walking and forcibly removed her iPad from her hands. Therefore, it’s possible that this killing was retaliatory in nature. As for Ziberov, they are still trying to determine whether he was also involved in the previous incident or if this was just a case of being “in the wrong place at the wrong time”, as Manger put it.  According to a police report, one person with knowledge of the situation said that they were together in a trip to sell graduation tickets to Garcia; Garcia later claimed to not even know who Najjar or Ziberov were and the he attends Northwest High School, the same school Najjar and Ziberoy were graduating from. After the fact, police found that ammunition similar to that found on the crime scene was scattered across the residence of Garcia-Gaona, who lives in Gaithersburg.

Despite this story, Adi Najjar, father of Shadi Adi Najjar, has been vocal calling this version a “big lie”. “He is such a sweet person. Loving, lovable person. He would never try to harm anybody,” is how he responded to the allegations that Shadi Adi Najjar was involved in a robbery. The theory that the father has been espousing was that this was random gang violence. “I know there is more than three because I believe this is a gang… I believe this is a gang and there’s a lot to the story than we know,” Adi Najjar said. He speculated that it could’ve been a situation where they were trying to recruit his son into the gang and he refused. Police are still investigating to confirm motives.

The day after the murder, Northwest High School in Germantown held a moment of silence for Najjar and Ziberoy before the graduation ceremony. The diplomas the two would have received at the ceremony were delivered to their respective families.

17-year-old Virginia Muslim teen killed after leaving Ramadan service

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17-year-old Nabra Hassanen of Reston, Virginia was found dead on June 18th after having been reported missing several hours earlier when she never returned from a mosque in the neighboring suburb of Sterling. Police officers said that they did not consider the murder a hate crime, and immediately charged a 22-year-old man identified as Darwin Martinez Torres with the killing. Upon the news, fundraising for Hassanen’s family quickly gained momentum, and by 10 PM that day $25,000 had been raised for supporting the family in these tough times.

According to reports, a group of several teens, including Hassanen, were leaving IHOP, where they ate breakfast following an early gathering at the local mosque. During the last 10 days of Ramadan, the mosque has extra prayers at midnight and 2 AM, and some who attend the mosque partake of McDonald’s or IHOP before sunrise to keep their fast as long as the sun is out; it is believed Hassanen and her friends were doing just that. The local Muslim community was particularly shaken by this killing because of how common the circumstances in which the assault occurred are due to the holidays. Rizwan Jaka, chairman of the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS), said that “it is a time for us to come together to pray and care for our youth.”

While leaving, they were confronted by a motorist, and while the rest of the teenagers ran back to the mosque, Hassanen was left behind, and from there she was reported missing. Loudoun County and Fairfax County authorities then began their search for the 17-year-old. The police eventually found her remains at 3 PM that same day in a pond in Sterling. While the search was being done, police noticed Torres driving around suspiciously, found some pieces of evidence, and promptly arrested him. While the police has declined to publicly reveal what evidence led to the arrest, Hassanen’s mother told reporters that detectives informed her they had reason to believe Torres used a metal bat to strike the teenager.

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Fellow mosquegoers say they saw the group of teenagers leaving the night service talking about going out to eat and dressed in abayas, a common full-length dress sported by Muslim women. Because of their dress and how closely the attack was made to their religious service, initial worries that this was a hate crime were beginning to surface before police assured the community it was not considered as such based on currently known evidence. In fact, the ADAMS mosque in Sterling has a paid armed security guard, which was placed shortly after six Muslims were killed at a Quebec mosque earlier this year. Arsalan Iftikhar, an international human rights lawyer who attends the mosque regularly, expressed the general feelings of the local community: “People are petrified, especially people who have young Muslim daughters.”