National Roundup

Sibling murder takes community by total surprise

ALLEY SPRINGS, Calif. (AP) — A day before a 12-year-old boy was arrested for the stabbing death of his 8-year-old sister, his mother described him as “protective” of his younger sibling.
Leila Fowler’s killing last month shook the quiet community of Valley Springs, southeast of Sacramento, and set off an intense manhunt. Her brother was in the home at the time and told police he saw a man run from the scene.
Days later, the boy appeared with his father and stepmother at a vigil for his sister. On Friday, as speculation in the community built that perhaps the boy was involved, his biological mother told Sacramento television station KOVR her son “could never hurt his sister.”
“I’ve never seen him be mean to her,” said Priscilla Rodriquez.
Less than a day later, police delivered the stunning news: The 12-year-old boy had been arrested and will be charged with homicide.
For a community still reeling from the killing, the news was another blow.
“It’s bad enough to lose a child. I can’t imagine losing a child by one of my own children,” Patti Campbell, a longtime area resident and owner of Campbell’s Country Kitchen, told The Associated Press.
Campbell, a resident of the area for 33 years and the operator of the Valley Springs restaurant for 15 of them, said she had served Leila and her family in her restaurant.
“It’s just shocking. I don’t know what else to say,” Campbell said.
Other residents in the community of about 7,400 people expressed similar feelings of disbelief.
“I did not want to believe it. You kind of thought so, but it’s not something you want to believe,” resident Tammy Ainsworth told Sacramento’s KCRA-TV.
Aaron Plunk, a neighbor of Fowler’s, said the arrest was staggering but he could rest easier now. He said he and his family had been extra vigilant about locking windows and doors, even though the street was being closely guarded by deputies.
“I think we were the safest house in the county,” Plunk told the Modesto Bee.
Plunk’s mother, Carla Plunk, said she had been scared enough to arm herself.
“It the first time I ever held a gun,” she said.
Calaveras Unified School District Superintendent Mark Campbell said counselors will be available Monday at all schools.
The district “stands ready to provide whatever level of support and assistance is necessary to the Fowler family” and the community at large, he said Sunday.
Police released no information about what led them to arrest the unidentified 12-year-old for the April 27 attack. Following the crime, investigators did a door-to-door sweep of homes, storage sheds and horse stables scattered across the oak-studded hills foothills of the Sierra Nevada. Divers also searched two nearby reservoirs in search of clues.
Leila’s brother told police he found his sister’s body and encountered an intruder in the home while their parents were at a Little League game. He described the man as tall with long gray hair. A neighbor told detectives she saw a man flee the home, but she later recanted the story.
Police said there was no sign of a burglary or robbery. As part of the investigation, authorities seized several knives from the Fowler home, where Leila lived with her father, stepmother and siblings.
Calaveras County Sheriff Gary Kuntz said authorities spent more than 2,000 hours on the investigation before they arrested the boy at 5:10 p.m. Saturday.

Landmark EEOC verdict will be slashed to $1.6M

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — A landmark $240 million verdict for 32 mentally disabled workers who suffered years of abuse will be reduced to about $1.6 million because of a law capping their damages.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and Henry’s Turkey Service agreed in legal briefs filed Friday that each plaintiff can recover $50,000 apiece, plus interest, under federal law, compared to $7.5 million a jury awarded each May 1.
Each plaintiff will also be entitled to separate back payments averaging about $50,000. U.S. Senior Judge Charles Wolle will enter a final judgment soon.
Jurors found that Henry’s Turkey Service discriminated against the men, who they hired out to work at an Iowa turkey processing plant. The men lived in a filthy bunkhouse and faced verbal and physical abuse at home and at work.

Court dismisses 1,800 cases as police don’t show 

ATLANTA (AP) — At least 1,800 criminal cases have been dismissed in a metro Atlanta county court since 2010 because police officers failed to show up in court despite being subpoenaed to testify, records show.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported the findings after its investigation of Fulton County Magistrate Court.
The newspaper also found that court officials don’t notify police departments when officers miss court, and prosecutors do so in only a fraction of cases.
“It’s very common,” attorney Ashleigh Merchant, a former Fulton public defender, said of officers missing court. “Fulton County is notorious for not having officers show up . There’s so much apathy, it’s amazing.”
Atlanta Police Chief George Turner said he wants to get the problem corrected, but can’t correct it if he’s not notified.
Fulton County Solicitor Carmen Smith said it’s not standard procedure in her office to inform police when officers fail to appear.
The greatest impact of the dismissed cases is on the victims of crimes that are not prosecuted in the court, which handles misdemeanor crimes, the newspaper reported. Many of the cases involve people who have been victims of violence.
SeAndra Hardy of Jonesboro was knocked unconscious and her 7-year-old son suffered a deep gash on his head when she crashed into a motorist who pulled in front of her vehicle in 2009. Charges against that motorist, who fled the scene, were dismissed because the investigating officer didn’t show up in court.
Though most couldn’t provide numbers, magistrate courts in neighboring counties aren’t dealing with nearly as many officer no-show dismissals, court officials say.
In Gwinnett County, the court administrator called such cases “quite rare.”
In Cobb County, just 13 cases have been dismissed during the past five years because officers failed to appear, the chief magistrate judge said.?


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