National Roundup

Ohio
Woman pleads not guilty in death of son, 5, buried in yard

CLEVELAND (AP) — The mother of a developmentally disabled 5-year-old boy found buried in the backyard of a Cleveland home has pleaded not guilty to murder and other charges.

Larissa Rodriguez didn’t speak during her arraignment Tuesday. She remains in jail on a $1 million bond.

Authorities on Dec. 19 found the body of Jordan Rodriguez buried in bags in the yard of his Cleveland home.

Police say Larissa Rodriguez showed authorities where the boy was buried. Court documents say she told police she and her boyfriend buried the boy after finding him unresponsive.

Court documents also say the boy’s remains showed multiple signs of abuse.

Police have said Jordan died in September.

Colorado
State authorities were warned about gunman’s mental state

DENVER (AP) — Colorado authorities were contacted with concerns about the mental health of Matthew Riehl over a month before he shot and killed a deputy and wounded four others. But the 37-year-old man was never held for a mental health evaluation.

Authorities say Riehl fired more than 100 rounds in his suburban Denver apartment before he was killed by a SWAT team on Sunday.

Wyoming College of Law students had been warned about Riehl, a former student, because of social media posts critical of professors at the school in Laramie, reported KTWO-AM in Casper, Wyoming.

A Nov. 6 email from Assistant College of Law Dean Lindsay Hoyt told students to notify campus police if they spotted Riehl or his car near campus. In addition, security on campus was increased for several days.

Campus officers called police in Lone Tree, Colorado, in mid-November to warn them about Riehl, suggesting his rants were indicative of mental illness, UW Police Chief Mike Samp told The Denver Post.

Samp said it’s possible that Colorado authorities faced the same issue as Wyoming officials when an apparently mentally ill, dangerous person makes indirect threats.

“Wyoming statutes are pretty clear: If someone is not making an immediate threat, they cannot be held for a mental evaluation. They are very tough cases,” Samp said.

Riehl, an attorney and an Iraq war veteran, had also posted videos criticizing Colorado law enforcement officers in profane, highly personal terms.

Early Sunday, authorities responded to a complaint of a verbal disturbance involving two men at an apartment building in Highlands Ranch, 16 miles (about 25 kilometers) south of Denver. A caller said Riehl was acting bizarre and might be having a mental breakdown, but responding deputies found no evidence of a crime and left.

When deputies were called back to the scene, a man who had left gave them a key and granted permission to enter the apartment.

Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock said deputies came under fire almost immediately after trying to talk with the suspect, who was holed up inside a bedroom.

“They all went down almost within seconds of each other, so it was more of an ambush-type of attack on our officers,” Spurlock said.

The wounded deputies tried to pull the fallen officer, Zackari Parrish, out of the line of further gunfire but were unable to because of their own injuries and only managed to “crawl to safety,” Spurlock said. Two civilians also were injured.

All of the wounded except Deputy Jeff Pelle, 32, have been treated at hospitals and released. The son of Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle was in fair condition.

Hundreds gathered Monday night for a candlelight vigil for Parrish inside Mission Hills Church in Littleton, Colorado — the church he attended with his wife and two young daughters.

“I’ve heard from so many different people that he just loved his community and being a police officer,” Mission Hills Pastor Craig Smith told KDVR-TV.

“Zack didn’t see law enforcement as a job. He saw it as a calling, as a way to serve his community and a blessing.”

Alaska
State changes bail system, with more people to be released

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — Alaska is starting the new year with a change in the way the state handles criminal bail.

People charged with a crime will no longer have to pay money to get out of jail before their trial, the Juneau Empire reported .

Starting Monday, the state will evaluate each individual under a point system that considers how likely they are to show up to court appearances or commit a new crime.

The change means more people will be out of jail with supervision, said Nancy Meade, general counsel of the Alaska Court System to the assembled attorneys.

It also means the state won’t have to pay for jail time.

The individuals who qualify will also be allowed to work.

The change has been the works for almost two years. Lawmakers passed the bill in 2016.

Under the previous system, individuals could be not released from jail prior to their trial until they paid a bail amount set by a judge.

Defendants from poorer areas were more likely to stay in jails, according to a 2015 study by the Pew Charitable Trust and the Alaska Judicial Council.

The study also found that white, Hispanic and Asian defendants were more likely to be released before trial than black or Native defendants.

Further studies determined that keeping nonviolent offenders in jail increases their chances of reoffending.

“This should enhance public safety and fairness and the credibility of the justice system,” said Quinlan Steiner, the state’s top public defender.


Florida
Judge: Woman unfit to care for horse after DUI while riding

BARTOW, Fla. (AP) — A Florida judge says a sheriff’s office must retain custody of a horse whose owner was charged with drunken driving while riding the animal.

In a report by The Ledger , Polk County Judge Sharon Franklin said 53-year-old Donna Byrne was unfit to care for the horse. Franklin also said Byrne must complete treatment for alcohol addiction.

Byrne was arrested Nov. 2 after riding her horse down a highway. Police said her blood-alcohol level twice Florida’s legal limit.

Byrne’s attorney, Craig Whisenhunt, says he will revisit the custody issue at a Jan. 11 hearing regarding additional pending charges of disorderly intoxication, animal endangerment and culpable negligence.

Whisenhunt questions whether the charges applied to Byrne, saying she had not been disorderly and was a pedestrian under the law.

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