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Employees of Kentucky candle factory destroyed by deadly tornado file new lawsuit

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(NEW YORK) -- The owner of a Kentucky candle factory that was destroyed in a deadly tornado last year is facing another lawsuit from workers alleging they were threatened with termination if they left before the disaster struck.

Nine people were killed when a late-season tornado hit the Mayfield Consumer Products candle factory in Mayfield on Dec. 10, 2021.

In a lawsuit filed Thursday in Graves County, several employees who were working that night allege the company "refused" to let them leave "even though it had at least three hours of notice of the danger this tornado posed to its place of business and to its employees."

The plaintiffs include the family members of three workers who died in the disaster.

Several of the workers have also joined a class-action lawsuit against the company that has not yet been resolved.

In the latest lawsuit, the workers allege that Mayfield Consumer Products "repeatedly threatened to terminate" any employee who left due to the expected tornado, did not train the employees in emergency safety protocols and that there was only one hallway and two restrooms for its 110 employees to shelter in during the tornado.

The lawsuit further alleges that the company "defamed the character" of employees who gave interviews to news organizations about their experience.

The lawsuit accuses the company of false imprisonment and intentional infliction of emotional distress and is seeking unspecified damages.

Mayfield Consumer Products' legal counsel did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment. The company has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

A group of workers represented by Elijah Johnson, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, also alleged in a filing with the National Labor Relations Board last month that the company retaliated against them for participating in an Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigation earlier this year by refusing to pay their medical bills, the plaintiffs' attorneys said.

The OSHA probe led to $40,000 in fines for seven violations, the attorneys said.
MORE: Kentucky factory survivor trapped 4 hours under rubble retells ABC News' David Muir his harrowing rescue, thanks first responders

In a statement to WKMS-TV following the filing, Mayfield Consumer Products' legal counsel denied Johnson's allegations and noted that Johnson was told not to leave because a shelter-in-place policy was in effect.

"This confirms that MCP complied with federal and state law, which requires employers to ensure that employees shelter in place during hazardous weather events," the statement said.

 

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


How companies are making single-use period products more sustainable

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(NEW YORK) -- Every year, an estimated 45 billion menstrual products are used around the world, with each person who menstruates generating more than 400 pounds of waste in their lifetime, according to an article from Plastic Oceans International.

It’s an environmental crisis that rarely gets talked about, due to the stigma around periods themselves, August CEO Nadya Okamoto, told ABC News. The New York-based startup claims they are trying to meet consumers' preferences with their line of more sustainable pads and tampons.

“Because of the period stigma, there hasn’t been the same level of accountability,” Okamoto said.

Okamoto said August’s products decompose at faster rates than the standard tampons and pads, but admits they aren’t perfect. The organization's tampon applicators are still made of plastic which, while they may be recyclable, depending on the jurisdiction, often get discarded in the trash.

“Applicators are very much a U.S. thing. I know in Europe and in places overseas, digital tampons, non-applicator tampons, are a lot more of the norm. A lot of this is from embedded fear of touching your own period blood,” Okamoto said.

The company’s tampons and pads are made of organic cotton and fully biodegradable within 12 months, Okamoto said.

But some argue that products ending up in landfills outweighs the potential benefits of using sustainable materials.

“A landfill is intended to entomb these products forever and ever, so it doesn’t really matter if it’s 500 years or three years,” Dr. Susan Powers told ABC News.

Powers studies the life cycle of period products, from extraction of materials to decomposition. She advocates for the use of reusable products over single use.

“Cardboard or no applicator is a far better choice. Plastics are recyclable, and they’ve got their little triangle on them. Well, it’s not recyclable everywhere. In general, the reusable is always going to be far superior to any disposable,” Powers said.

August argues that even in conditions where products aren’t able to degrade, using organic, biodegradable and compostable materials still reduces water usage and overall carbon emissions.

ABC News has reached out to leading tampon and pad manufactures about issues of sustainability and concerns that their products contribute to overflowing landfills and the environmental problems caused by that. They have not responded.

Single-use tampons and pads are by far the most popular choice for Americans today, but alternative options, like period underwear and menstrual cups, are gaining traction. However, the initial cost for these reusable products often sways people from making the eco-friendly switch.

In the meantime, Okamoto wants to bring more awareness to the lack of sustainability in traditional period products.

“How do we brainstorm the most sustainable solution that people will actually use as we push the whole industry to be more sustainable?” Okamoto said.

 

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Officer who knelt on George Floyd's back sentenced

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(NEW YORK) -- J. Alexander Kueng, a former Minneapolis police officer who knelt on George Floyd’s back during the fatal May 2020 arrest, was sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison Friday.

Kueng, 29, had pleaded guilty to one count of aiding and abetting in second-degree manslaughter in October as part of an agreement with prosecutors. A second charge of aiding and abetting in second-degree unintentional murder will be dismissed against Kueng as part of his plea agreement.

"We appreciate very much that Mr. Kueng plead guilty," said prosecutor Matthew Frank at the sentencing.

"We hope the conclusion of this case reaffirms that peace officers cannot treat citizens in crisis as non-people, or second-class citizens," Frank added.

The plea was announced just as a joint state trial for Kueng and Tou Thao, another officer, was to begin with jury selection.

"J. Alexander Kueng is now the second officer involved in Floyd’s death to accept responsibility through a guilty plea. That acknowledgement hopefully can bring comfort to Floyd’s family and bring our communities closer to a new era of accountability and justice," Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison said in an October statement on the plea deal.

Floyd’s death ignited protests nationwide against police brutality and systemic racism.

“We must never forget the horror of what we all saw in that 9-minute video, and that there rightfully should be both accountability for all involved as well as deep lessons learned for police officers and communities everywhere,” said the legal team for George Floyd’s family, led by civil rights attorney Ben Crump, in an October statement on Kueng’s plea deal in October.

Both Kueng and Thao, 34, are currently serving federal sentences after being convicted in February on federal charges of violating Floyd's civil rights. Kueng's sentence from today will be served concurrently with his federal sentence.

The two were found guilty of depriving Floyd of his "constitutional right to be free from an officer's unreasonable force when each willfully failed to intervene to stop ... [Derek] Chauvin's use of unreasonable force.”

Derek Chauvin, the officer who knelt on Floyd’s neck, was found guilty on three counts in Floyd’s death: Second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter for pressing his knee against Floyd's neck for more than 9 minutes.

He had been sentenced to 22.5 years.

Chauvin had additionally been sentenced to 21 years on federal civil rights charges in Floyd’s death.

Thao waived a jury trial and his state charges will be decided by a judge. According to MPR, Judge Peter Cahill will review evidence received by Nov. 17 and has 90 days to decide the case, according to MPR News.

A third defendant, former Minneapolis police officer Thomas Lane, was also convicted on federal civil rights charges stemming from Floyd's death. Lane pleaded guilty to state charges of aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter.

Editor's note: J. Alexander Kueng, a former Minneapolis police officer who knelt on George Floyd’s back during the fatal arrest, is set to be sentenced Friday. An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the sentencing had already happened.

ABC News' Bill Hutchinson contributed to this report.

 

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Buffalo supermarket shooter's fate to be decided next year

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(WASHINGTON) -- The Justice Department won't decide until 2023 whether to seek the death penalty for Buffalo supermarket shooter Payton Gendron, but Gendron's lawyer reiterated Friday that he's willing to plead guilty to the federal charges in exchange for a life sentence.

Gendron, who fatally shot 10 Black people at a Tops supermarket in May, pleaded guilty last month to state charges including murder and domestic terrorism motivated by hate. He carried out the attack "because of the perceived race and/or color" of the victims, according to the indictment by the Erie County district attorney.

Gendron is charged federally with hate crime resulting in death, hate crime involving bodily injury, use of a firearm to commit murder and use of a firearm in relation to a crime of violence.

"It is still our hope to resolve this matter short of a trial," defense attorney Sonya Zoghlin said during a hearing Friday. "He is prepared to enter a plea of guilty in federal court in exchange for a life sentence."

In the meantime, Zoghlin asked the judge for extra time to review the "voluminous" discovery material turned over by the government.

But Judge H. Kenneth Schroeder responded, "I don't see the necessity of having a lot of time spent on discovery materials that relate solely to the factual substantive issues to which the defendant pleaded guilty. The issue now for the defense is to focus on mitigation as to why there should not be a federal death sentence."

Schroeder agreed to give the defense until March 10, 2023, to review discovery and, simultaneously, negotiate with federal prosecutors over a possible plea agreement.

"The defendant has entered a plea of guilty to similar but unrelated charges in state of New York proceedings," Schroeder said. "So it seems to me the issue of guilt or innocence on the federal charges is basically moot by reason of the defendant's own admissions in the state court."

Schroeder also questioned whether a federal trial is even necessary if the Justice Department ultimately decides against seeking the death penalty.

"Obviously you can't have two consecutive life sentences because Mr. Gendron only has one life to live," Schroeder said.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Oil spill in rural Kansas creek shuts down Keystone pipeline system

Lucas Oleniuk/Toronto Star via Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- The Keystone pipeline system was shut down by operator TC Energy after an oil spill released an estimated 14,000 barrels into a creek in Washington County, Kansas.

The system transfers oil between Canada and the U.S. Crews were able to control downstream migration of the oil as of Thursday night.

The emergency shutdown was issued early Thursday morning after a detected pressure drop in the system.

The affected segment was isolated and booms were deployed to control downstream migration of the spill, TC Energy said.

The Environmental Protection Agency dispatched two regional coordinators to the scene. TC Energy also mobilized a response crew originating from Steele City, Nebraska, to begin containment and source control, according to the the EPA. Washington County is about 20 miles south of Steele City, Nebraska.

According to the EPA, there are no known impacts to drinking water wells or the public but surface water of Mill Creek has been impacted.

TC Energy said it immediately activated its emergency response procedures and has established environmental monitoring, including around-the-clock air monitoring. It's still unclear what caused the spill.

The EPA said it will oversee TC Energy’s response operations to ensure proper cleanup and evaluate the cause of the incident.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Officer who kneeled on George Floyd's back to be sentenced

Jason Marz/Getty Images

(MINNEAPOLIS) -- J. Alexander Kueng, a former Minneapolis police officer who kneeled on George Floyd’s back during the fatal May 2020 arrest, to be sentenced Friday.

Kueng, 29, had pleaded guilty to one count of aiding and abetting in second-degree manslaughter in October as part of an agreement with prosecutors.

A second charge of aiding and abetting in second-degree unintentional murder will be dismissed against Kueng as part of his plea agreement.

The plea was announced just as a joint state trial for Kueng and Tou Thao, another officer, was to begin with jury selection.

"J. Alexander Kueng is now the second officer involved in Floyd’s death to accept responsibility through a guilty plea. That acknowledgement hopefully can bring comfort to Floyd’s family and bring our communities closer to a new era of accountability and justice," Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison said in an October statement on the plea deal.

Floyd’s death ignited protests nationwide against police brutality and systemic racism.

“We must never forget the horror of what we all saw in that 9-minute video, and that there rightfully should be both accountability for all involved as well as deep lessons learned for police officers and communities everywhere,” said the legal team for George Floyd’s family, led by civil rights attorney Ben Crump, in an October statement on Kueng’s plea deal in October.

Both Kueng and Thao, 34, are currently serving federal sentences after being convicted in February on federal charges of violating Floyd's civil rights.

The two were found guilty of depriving Floyd of his "constitutional right to be free from an officer's unreasonable force when each willfully failed to intervene to stop ... Chauvin's use of unreasonable force.”

Thao waived a jury trial and his state charges will be decided by a judge. According to MPR, Judge Peter Cahill will review evidence received by Nov. 17 and has 90 days to decide the case, according to MPR News.

A third defendant, former Minneapolis police officer Thomas Lane, was also convicted on federal civil rights charges stemming from Floyd's death. Lane pleaded guilty to state charges of aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter.

Derek Chauvin, the officer who kneeled on Floyd’s neck, was found guilty on three counts in Floyd’s death: Second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter for pressing his knee against Floyd's neck for more than 9 minutes.

He had been sentenced to 22.5 years.

Chauvin had additionally been sentenced to 21 years on federal civil rights charges in Floyd’s death.

ABC News' Bill Hutchinson contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Accused Club Q shooter's bomb threat case hindered by family's refusal to testify: DA

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(COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.) -- The accused shooter in the deadly mass shooting at a Colorado LGBTQ nightclub was previously arrested over an alleged bomb threat incident last year, though the case was dismissed after the suspect's family refused to testify, the local district attorney said Thursday.

The circumstances around the 2021 arrest have faced much scrutiny after the suspect -- 22-year-old Anderson Lee Aldrich -- was arrested in connection with the Nov. 19 shooting at Club Q in Colorado Springs, which killed five people and wounded more than a dozen others. Aldrich faces 305 charges, including first-degree murder, attempted murder, assault and bias-motivated crimes, in the shooting.

The 2021 case was sealed upon its conclusion, though a judge ruled Thursday that it be unsealed. It is unclear when the unsealed documents will be posted online.

In June 2021, Aldrich was arrested in an alleged bomb threat incident after their mother alerted authorities that they were "threatening to cause harm to her with a homemade bomb, multiple weapons and ammunition," according to a press release posted online last year by the El Paso County Sheriff's Office.

Colorado Springs resident Leslie Bowman told ABC News that she was renting a room to Aldrich's mother, Laura Voepel, at the time of the bomb threat incident, and that Aldrich livestreamed a "shocking" video via Voepel's Facebook account from inside Bowman's home while authorities were outside. The footage showed Aldrich with a gun as well as a helmet and vest that resembled body armor. Security cameras at Bowman's home also captured Aldrich entering the residence that day and surrendering to authorities hours later.

No explosives were found. Aldrich was booked into the El Paso County Jail on two counts of felony menacing and three counts of first-degree kidnapping, according to the sheriff's office. A judge ultimately dismissed the case.

El Paso County District Attorney Michael Allen defended his office's handling of the 2021 incident, telling reporters Thursday that his office pursued the case but were not able to subpoena Aldrich's mother or grandmother -- whom he said had previously made concerning statements to police about Aldrich -- to testify against the suspect. Since the prosecution could not put forward victims in the timeframe for a speedy trial, the judge dismissed the case, Allen said.

"The court did not act inappropriately in that regard," Allen said during a press briefing Thursday, arguing that the victims not cooperating "led to the dismissal of that case."

"This office absolutely prosecuted it. We prosecuted it until we couldn't prosecute it any longer. And it would not have prevented the Club Q shooting," he said.

The records in the 2021 case were previously sealed at the request of the defendant, Allen said. The sealed records have led to "confusion" for the public in the wake of the Club Q shooting, he said.

"That confusion then leads to frustration and anger," Allen said during the briefing, which he said was to "provide truth" on the prior investigation.

Before the 2021 case was dismissed, two guns were confiscated from Aldrich and remain in evidence, according to Allen.

Aldrich was able to legally purchase the assault-style rifle allegedly used in the Club Q shooting, officials briefed on the investigation told ABC News.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Texas court dismisses case against doctor who violated state's abortion ban

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(BEXAR COUNTY, Texas) -- A Texas court dismissed a lawsuit Thursday against a doctor accused of providing an abortion to a woman despite the state's strict ban on the procedure.

Dr. Alan Braid performed the abortion for a patient in early September 2021, just five days after S.B.8 went into effect, which bans abortion after six weeks' gestation. The patient's pregnancy was further along than six weeks.

However, Bexar County Judge Aaron Haas said he was throwing out the case, dealing a major blow to the Texas law that allows citizens to sue anyone who aids a patient in receiving abortion care, including physicians. Federal courts -- including the U.S. Supreme Court -- had previously declined to block S.B. 8, saying they were powerless to block the law.

Several overlapping Texas laws ban nearly all abortions, including in cases of rape or incest. The only exception is if the mother's life or health is in danger.

S.B.8 allows any private citizen to sue anyone who performs an abortion or assists a pregnant person in obtaining the procedure. The law awards a minimum of $10,000 to any citizen who successfully sues an abortion provider, healthcare worker or anyone who helps someone get access to abortion care.

In an op-ed written for The Washington Post last year, Braid said he acted despite the ban because had a "duty to care."

"I acted because I had a duty of care to this patient, as I do for all patients, and because she has a fundamental right to receive this care," he wrote.

Braid had three lawsuits filed against him -- one by disbarred Illinois attorney Felipe Gomez in Texas, one in Arkansas and a third in Illinois -- but only the Texas case was taken up.

On Thursday, the court announced it was dismissing the suit and ruled that Gomez does not have the legal right to sue because he was not been directly affected by the abortion care being provided. A written order is expected to come within a week.

It is the first and only active lawsuit against a provider to be resolved by a court since S.B.8 went into effect.

Additionally, the court said it would make a ruling in the next week about whether the part of the law that allows citizens to sue violates the state's constitution.

"This is a significant win against S.B. 8's bounty-hunting scheme because the court rejected the notion that Texas can allow a person with no connection to an abortion to sue," Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, which is co-representing Braid, said in a statement.

"But this dismissal did not provide the opportunity to strike down S.B. 8 overall, and in the wake of the Dobbs decision, Texas is enforcing multiple abortion bans. As a result, pregnant Texans with life-threatening obstetric emergencies are being turned away from hospitals. No one should have to be near death just to get the health care they need," the statement continued.

In a press call on Thursday, the Center's senior counsel, Mark Hearron, told reporters that Braid has been forced to close his practices in Texas and Oklahoma and is providing care in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and in Illinois.

Since the Supreme Court's decision to reverse Roe, at least 12 states have ceased nearly all abortion services.

According to the Center for Reproductive Rights, Texans face the longest travel times in the country to get access to abortion care. They are forced to travel over seven hours each way for access.

"When I provided my patient with the care she needed last year, I was doing my duty as a physician," Braid said in a statement. "It is heartbreaking that Texans still can't get essential health care in their home state and that providers are left afraid to do their jobs. Though we were forced to close our Texas clinic, I will continue serving patients across the region with the care they deserve at new clinics in Illinois and New Mexico."

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Multiple people injured in explosion at Iowa plant

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(MARENGO, Iowa) -- Multiple people were injured in an explosion at a plant in Iowa on Thursday, hospital officials said, as crews continue to battle a massive blaze in the incident.

No fatalities were reported following the explosion at the facility in Marengo, located about 25 miles southwest of Cedar Rapids, Iowa State Trooper Bob Conrad confirmed to ABC News. All 30 people who were in the building at the time have also been accounted for, he said.

Ten to 15 people were injured in the incident, with most in the "mild to moderate injury category," Dr. Theresa Brennan, chief medical officer for University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics, told reporters.

Only one of the patients was in what they consider to be the most serious injury category for a mass casualty incident, Brennan said.

Drone footage showed emergency responders battling a large fire with black billowing smoke at the plant, which based on property records is a soybean crushing facility, according to ABC Cedar Rapids affiliate KCRG.

The local sheriff's office advised anyone who had been evacuated due to the fire to go to the Iowa County Transportation building, or otherwise stay indoors.

"A large fire is being fought," the Iowa County Sheriff's Office said on social media. "PLEASE, NO SIGHT SEEING!"

City officials also urged residents to avoid the 800 block of East South Street amid the fire.

Residents in the area reported hearing a loud "boom" Thursday morning.

"I'd seen all the ambulances and stuff going, and the fire trucks, and I'd seen the smoke right away," Sam Murphy told KCRG. "So I went down to the Big G and got some water and stuff for them."

Anthony Schropp told KCRG he was among those in the immediate area of the plant ordered to evacuate. He was working three blocks from the plant at the time.

"It shook our building. We heard the explosion," he told the station. "We thought someone drove into our garage door at the shop."

Trooper Conrad said Thursday evening that the fire is not yet out, but is "down" from where it was. Once the fire is extinguished, the state fire marshal can begin an investigation into the cause.

ABC News' Victoria J. Arancio and Matt Foster contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Good news: 'Murder hornets' haven't been seen in Washington this year

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(NEW YORK) -- For the first time since 2019, the northern giant hornet hasn't been found in Washington State.

The Washington State Department of Agriculture's (WSDA) Pest Program announced on Wednesday that it hasn't trapped or confirmed any sightings of the hornets this year.

The hornets, once known as the "murder hornets," are an invasive species that can ravage honeybee populations.

It's not known how the killer hornets, native to Asian countries including China and Japan, arrived in the Pacific Northwest -- but a plausible theory is that they came in via international cargo.

"While not detecting any hornets this year is promising, the work to ensure they are eradicated is not over yet," Sven Spichiger, WSDA managing entomologist, said in a press release. "Research to develop a better trap continues and public reports – which account for half of all confirmed detections – remain critical."

WSDA etymologists discovered and destroyed the first northern giant hornet nest in the U.S. in 2020 in Blaine, Washington, located north of Seattle, near the Canadian border, collecting over 500 hornets.

After eradicating the nest, during which the crew vacuumed out nearly 100 hornets, the entomologists removed the portion of the tree with the nest and opened it the following week to collect any hornets that had remained. The crew had pumped carbon dioxide into the tree during the nest removal to kill or anesthetize any remaining hornets, and many were still alive, officials said at the time. Last year, state officials found and destroyed three additional nests.

Federal guidelines demand three consecutive years without the hornets being detected to declare they're eliminated, according to WSDA.

ABC News' Meredith Deliso contributed to this report.

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Atatiana Jefferson trial: Prosecution rests its case officer charged in fatal shooting

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(DALLAS) -- The prosecution rested its case late Wednesday, three days into the trial of now-former police officer Aaron Dean in the 2019 fatal shooting of Atatiana Jefferson.

Dean is charged with murder in the death of Jefferson, a Black woman who was allegedly fatally shot by Dean inside her Fort Worth, Texas, home on Oct. 12, 2019.

His trial began on Monday, Dec. 5. Court will resume Monday, Dec. 12.

Opening statements

Prosecutors began their opening statements Monday by telling jurors about who Jefferson was. She was a 28-year-old woman who was living with her mother to take care of her, as well as address her own "severe health issues with her heart," according to prosecutors. In that house, she helped raise Zion Carr, her then-8-year-old nephew who was present when she was fatally shot by police. She was "helping raise Zion, teaching him the responsibilities, day-to-day chores," prosecutors said.

On that night, "[Zion] sees his aunt Tay -- which is what he calls her -- still playing video games and she's up so, 8-year-old says 'I want to play too.' So, he gets up and he starts playing video games with her so they're laughing, having a good time. Tatianna and Zion had no idea what was coming," prosecutor Ashlea Deener said.

The defense began Monday's hearing arguing for a motion to change the venue in which the trial is held because almost all of the potential jurors during jury selection had heard of the case. Judge George Gallagher denied the motion.

During opening statements, the defense focused on the gun in Jefferson's hand in the moments before she was shot. The prosecution argued that Dean shot Jefferson before Dean could see a gun and before Jefferson could follow his commands.

"As soon as Aaron enters into the backyard, he sees a silhouette at the window," Dean's defense attorney Miles Brissette said. "Aaron sees that silhouette in the window and that silhouette has a firearm. That silhouette has a firearm with a green laser mounted on the front rail of that firearm pointed directly at Aaron, closer than me to you to the window."

"The evidence will support he did not see the gun in her hand," Deener said. "This is not a justification. This is not a self-defense case. This is murder."

There were concerns the trial would be delayed after Dean's lead attorney, Jim Lane, died on Nov. 27, according to Dallas ABC affiliate WFAA, just one day before the jury selection in the case began. Lane had been ill and two other lawyers took over as lead attorneys in May, according to WFAA.

Monday's court proceedings only lasted half a day because of Lane's funeral.

Jefferson's nephew testifies

On the stand, now-11-year-old Zion told the court that he and Jefferson burned the hamburgers they were making that night, which is why they opened the door. They left the screen door open to let the smoke out, according to Zion and prosecutors.

He was the first and only witness to take the stand on the first day of the trial.

Police said they received a call just before 2:30 a.m. to respond to Jefferson's home on East Allen Avenue after a neighbor called to say the front door was open.

Two officers arrived at the house shortly after and parked near Jefferson's home, but not in front of the residence, according to officials.

The front door appears open in the body-camera footage, but a screen door looks to be closed in front of it. The officer doesn't appear to knock.

Officials said the officers walked around the back of the house and that one of the officers observed a person through the rear window of the home and opened fire.

Zion said his aunt heard a noise, asked him about it and went to get a handgun from her purse. She walked toward the window, and then he said he saw her fall to the ground.

"She started crying and then two police officers came and got me," Zion said.

Zion said his aunt did not raise her gun when she approached the window, however the defense attorney kept asking Zion questions about his recollection of an interview he did the night after his aunt was shot.

Zion had allegedly said during that interview that Jefferson had at one point raised the gun from her side, but Zion said he didn't remember the details of what he did or said during the interview in response to the questions, visibly frustrated on the stand.

Other officer on the scene testifies

Officer Carol Darch, Dean's former partner in the Fort Worth Police Department, took the stand Tuesday for cross-examination.

In her testimony, Darch said messiness inside the home made it look like there had been a home invasion of some sort, "like someone had methodically gone through that house looking for something."

She said she and Dean didn't announce themselves because of their own safety, as well as based on "open structure" procedure that trains officers to reduce the possibility that they might give an intruder into the home a chance to escape by alerting them of their presence.

Darch described the call as an "open structure" call, which refers to a call about a structure with an open door or window.

She later was asked to describe the "pyramid" style "Use-of-Force Continuum," which calls for deadly force to be the last resort in addressing a threat. However, training does not require officers to take all steps before using deadly force if met with a deadly force.

"Deadly force is always met with deadly force," Darch said. "We're trained to stop the threat."

Darch told the jury that she never saw Jefferson's gun on the scene and never heard Dean announce that he saw a gun on Jefferson himself.

"I heard him give commands, I started turning. I was halfway through my turn and I heard the shot," Darch said.

She later added, "The only thing I could see [through the window] was eyes, really. I couldn't make out if it was a male or a female. I just saw someone in the window and I saw their eyes -- as big as saucers."

Darch got emotional on the stand when Zion came up in questioning. She said she was concerned about his well-being, as she said she tended to Zion's care following the shooting.

Body camera footage released by the department shows the officer approaching a rear window of the home with his gun drawn. The officer shouts, "Put your hands up, show me your hands," and fires one shot through the window.

The video seems to confirm the officer never identified himself as police before he opened fire.

Police officials said Jefferson was within her rights to protect herself and her nephew when she heard noises in her backyard and went to the window to investigate.

The 911 call

Abriel Talbert, the call center employee who took the 911 call from Jefferson's neighbor, told the jury that she included details about the house for police answering the call.

In her description to police, she included information that the caller shared that "both neighbors' vehicles are in the driveway … and neighbors are usually home but never have a door open."

She included those details "so the officer knows what's supposed to be at the address, nothing out of the ordinary, other than the open door."

She classified the call as an open structure call because of the open doors.

James Smith, who made the call to the city's non-emergency line, had asked responders for a "welfare check" on Jefferson's home because he was concerned about his neighbors with whom he's friends with. However, they responded to the call instead as an open structure call.

3rd day of testimony

Richard Fries, the deputy medical examiner in Tarrant County, took the stand to describe the process of examining Jefferson's body at the scene. He described the gunshot wound to her chest and the glass fragments that had embedded in her skin from the window she was shot through.

He said the bullet pierced Jefferson's heart and that he would not "expect somebody to survive" her wounds.

On the third day of witness testimony, jurors also heard from Fort Worth officer James Van Gorkom, Fort Worth major case unit detective Doug Rohloff and another Fort Worth police officer to describe the aftermath of the shooting and their analysis of the scene.

ABC News' Amanda Su contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Parents of Michigan high school mass shooter Ethan Crumbley seek lower bail

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(OAKLAND COUNTY, Mich.) -- The jailed Michigan parents charged with involuntary manslaughter stemming from a high school mass shooting committed by their teenage son, Ethan Crumbley, is asking a judge to lower their bail, claiming they have evidence proving they did not attempt to evade arrest, according to court documents.

James and Jennifer Crumbley have been held in an Oakland County jail in Michigan for more than a year on bonds of $500,000 each. They were arrested in a friend’s art studio after an hours-long manhunt that began when the couple failed to appear for a scheduled arraignment.

"The Crumbleys were terrified that someone would figure out who they were and hurt them," the couple’s lawyers said in a motion filed Wednesday. "They made no effort to evade police."

 In a February court hearing, Oakland County prosecutors alleged that in the hours after the November 2021 shooting carried out by their then-15-year-old son at Oxford High School in suburban Detroit, the parents withdrew thousands of dollars and slept in hotels -- proof, prosecutors alleged that they were avoiding arrest.

But the couple’s lawyers say they needed the money immediately for legal fees and wanted to avoid entering banks and showing identification following the shooting. The defense attorneys claimed the couple feared being recognized by community members "who were rightfully emotional and angry." They also allege family members in the area refused to house them because of concerns for their own safety.

The lawyers, Mariell Lehman and Shannon Smith, argue that if the Crumbleys wanted to flee, they would have left the state. Instead, they settled in a Detroit warehouse that housed the art studio.

The couple is set to stand trial next year. They have pleaded not guilty to four counts each of involuntary manslaughter after allegedly making the gun used in the shooting accessible to their son and failing to recognize warning signs about him before the shooting.

They have pleaded not guilty.

The shooting at Oxford High School unfolded on Nov. 30, 2021, and left four students dead and seven others injured.

Ethan Crumbley, now 16, pleaded guilty in December to 24 counts, including four counts of murder, multiple counts of attempted murder and terrorism charges. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 9 and faces life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Crumbley admitted in court that he asked his father to buy him a specific gun. The teen confirmed he gave his father money for the gun and that the weapon wasn’t kept in a locked safe.

He used the semi-automatic handgun to carry out the shooting rampage. Crumbley did not know the students he shot, according to his attorney.

Days before the shooting, a teacher allegedly saw Crumbley researching ammunition in class, prosecutors said. School officials contacted his parents, but they didn't respond, according to prosecutors. His mother, Jennifer Crumbley, texted her son, writing, "lol, I'm not mad at you, you have to learn not to get caught," according to prosecutors.

Hours before the shooting, according to prosecutors, a teacher saw a note on Ethan Crumbley's desk that was "a drawing of a semi-automatic handgun pointing at the words, 'The thoughts won't stop, help me.'" In another section of the note was a drawing of a bullet with the following words, "Blood everywhere."

Crumbley’s parents were called to the school to discuss the note, according to prosecutors. The parents told school officials that they would put their their son in counseling but did not take him home.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


DEA agent involved in Viktor Bout investigation says he's 'disgusted' by Bout's release after Brittney Griner swap

U.S. Department of Justice via Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- "I'm very disgusted," Derek Maltz, who oversaw the Drug Enforcement Administration's investigation of Viktor Bout, told ABC News after Bout was traded for Brittney Griner. "It's really upsetting to me."

On Thursday, the WNBA star was swapped for Bout -- a Russian convicted arms dealer who spend 15 years in U.S. prison -- in an international prisoner exchange. Griner was serving a nine-year sentence in a Russian prison for possession of vaping cartridges containing hashish oil, which is illegal in Russia, before the exchange.

Maltz, in 2008, was the special agent in charge of the DEA's special operations division which took down Bout in a sting operation in Thailand.

"DEA was asked to help take this guy down because he was such a national security threat," Maltz said. "We at the DEA were just trying to step up to the plate and do the right thing for national security."

In November 2007, Bout agreed to sell DEA informants posing as FARC rebels in Colombia millions of dollars in weapons, including: 800 surface-to air-missiles; 30,000 AK-47s; 10 million rounds of ammunition; 5 tons of C4 plastic explosives; and ultra light airplanes outfitted with grenade launchers to attack U.S. helicopters in Columbia, according to Maltz.

"Viktor Bout was ready to sell a weapons arsenal that would be the envy of any small country," Maltz said.

Maltz said he has no issue with bringing home Americans and called this "a great day for Brittney Griner and for America" but he said the exchange for Bout would make things less safe for Americans traveling internationally.

"To make that exchange, all Americans are at greater risk with international travel," Maltz said, fearing it would promote taking American citizens captive.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Suspect in fatal UVA shooting of 3 football players makes court appearance

The Henrico County, VA Sheriff's Office

(CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va.) -- The student accused of opening fire on a loaded charter bus, killing three University of Virginia football players and wounding two other classmates, made a brief appearance in court on Thursday.

The suspect, Christopher Darnell Jones Jr., 22, appeared in court in Charlottesville for a status conference in the triple-murder case. It was his second court appearance since his arrest in the deadly November attacks.

Jones was represented at the hearing by a public defender.

A judge scheduled a preliminary hearing in the case for March 30, according to ABC affiliate station WSET in Lynchburg, Virginia.

Jones is charged with three felony counts of second-degree murder, two felony counts of malicious wounding and five felony counts of using a firearm in the commission of a felony. He has yet to enter a plea to the charges.f

The shooting unfolded on Nov. 13 when Jones allegedly opened fire with a handgun on a charter bus packed with students returning to the UVA campus in Charlottesville from a field trip to Washington, D.C., officials said.

Killed in the attack were UVA Cavaliers football players Devin Chandler, Lavel Davis Jr. and D'Sean Perry. The shooting also wounded students Mike Hoins and Marlee Morgan.

Jones was a walk-on member of the school's football team in 2018, but never played in a game, UVA officials said.

A possible motive for the shooting has not been disclosed by prosecutors or investigators.

As law enforcement continues to investigate the killings, Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares is conducting an external review of the circumstances leading up to the attack. Miyares has yet to announce any findings in his probe.

Prosecutors said a witness told police Jones targeted specific students on the bus and that one of the victims, Chandler, was shot to death as he slept on the bus.

Jones was arrested a day after the attack following a massive search for him.

Virginia State Police confirmed that multiple guns and ammunition were seized from Jones' home.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


'Boy in the box': Victim finally ID'd in Philadelphia's oldest homicide case

WPVI

(PHILADELPHIA) -- A little boy killed more than 60 years ago has finally been identified thanks to police work and DNA analysis, the Philadelphia Police Department said.

The case, known as "the boy in the box," is Philadelphia's oldest unsolved homicide.

On Feb. 25, 1957, a naked, emaciated boy between 4 and 6 years old was found dead in a box in a wooded area in northeast Philadelphia. He had been severely beaten, Philadelphia Police Capt. Jason Smith said.

No one ever came forward to claim him, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said.

The boy has now been identified as Joseph Augustus Zarelli, born on Jan. 13, 1953, Smith said.

Genealogists used the boy's DNA to research possible relatives and eventually established the identity of his birth parents, Smith said, adding that detectives learned no Social Security number was ever issued for Joseph.

It is not clear who is responsible for Joseph's death, Smith said.

"We have our suspicions as to who may be responsible, but it would be irresponsible of me to share these suspicions," Smith said, citing the ongoing investigation.

Smith also did not release the names of Joseph's parents. Both parents are dead, he said.

"Joseph has a number of siblings on both the mother's and father's side who are living. And it is out of respect for them that their parents' information remain confidential," he explained.

It's believed his family was from west Philadelphia, Smith said.

Smith said he hopes this news conference prompts an "avalanche of tips" from the public.

"In that avalanche, there might be a diamond in the rough," he said. "I'm hopeful there is somebody ... who remembers that child."

"I want to thank all who have worked tirelessly since 1957 to give Joseph Augustus Zarelli his voice back," Outlaw tweeted. "However, the search for justice continues. If you have any information on his homicide, please call 215-686-TIPS(8477). As with all homicides, there is a standing $20k reward for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of a suspect. We will NEVER stop seeking justice for victims."

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


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