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Teen girls abducted: Arrest made in 19-year-old cold case

Investigators made a break in the 1999 disappearance of two Welch, Oklahoma, girls.

Officials charged Ronnie Busick in connection with their disappearance, according to KOKI

>> Read more trending news

Ashley Freeman and Lauria Bible were 16 years old in 1999, when they planned a sleepover to celebrate Freeman's birthday. 

The day after the sleepover, firefighters found Freeman's parents, Danny and Kathy Freeman, shot to death in their burned-out home. The girls, however, had disappeared. 

For years, investigators searched for answers, interviewed several potential suspects and pleaded for information surrounding the girls' disappearance. 

KOKI reported in 2017 that "extremely valuable" information was turned over by Craig County Sheriff Heath Winfrey. 

Officials said they charged Busick Sunday in connection with the case. He faces four charges of first-degree murder, two counts of kidnapping and a final count of arson.

Busick is currently in custody in Newston, Kansas, according to investigators.

At least two other people were involved in the case, they said. Those two, identified as Warren Phillip Welch and David Pennington, have since died. 

Members of the victim’s families learned Lauria and Ashley were likely kept alive some time after their disappearance, but they have since died. Their bodies have not been recovered.

An affidavit claimed Welch kept photographs in a leather briefcase that showed the girls bound and gagged at his Picher home during their last days. According to the affidavit, multiple people said they had seen the pictures, but the suspects reportedly threatened them.

The affidavit claimed the girls were tied up, drugged and raped before they were killed. It said the girls were strangled and their bodies were dumped into a pit, which may have been a mine shaft near Picher.

Multiple people told investigators that both Welch and Pennington dealt methamphetamine, according to the affidavit. One person reportedly told investigators that Pennington had said the girls had entered a room where Freeman’s parents were buying drugs on the night of the crime.

Another witness reportedly said that a conversation between Welch, Pennington and Busick had implied that the Freeman parents had been murdered over a debt. That witness said the suspects had also hinted that they had taken the two girls and eventually killed them, according to the affidavit.

The affidavit said an insurance card found near the scene connected to a car that investigators believed to be connected to a vehicle in Welch's possession helped them in the case.

It said that the suspects had threatened the lives of people who may have had information about the crimes.

Investigators said they still need people to come forward about where the girls' bodies may be. Anyone with information is urged to contact the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation at 1-800-522-8017 or via email at tips@osbi.ok.gov.

Officials said a private reward of $50,000 still stands for information related to the location of the girls.

Man with DUI history charged after running over 21-month-old son

An Arizona man who accidentally ran over his toddler son last week faces a charge of negligent homicide in the boy’s death, and prison records show that it isn’t the first time he’s been charged with killing or injuring someone in a drunken driving collision.

Richard Louis Hamilton, 49, of Phoenix, was moving his truck Thursday evening in the yard of his family’s home when he felt a bump under the tire, according to the Arizona Republic. He stopped the truck and discovered that he had struck his son, Samuel. 

Samuel was rushed to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead a couple of hours later, the Republic reported

Hamilton was granted $50,000 bail on the felony charge at an initial court appearance on Friday, but is being held in the Maricopa County Jail on a probation violation. The violation stems from a conviction in a January 2007 hit-and-run crash in which a 5-year-old girl was seriously injured. 

He was released from prison in November 2013 after serving more than six years in that case, according to Arizona Department of Corrections records.

Hamilton’s wife, identified on a GoFundMe page set up for the family as Chelsea Hamilton, pleaded for his release Friday as he stood before a judge and appeared to weep. 

“I wish that he would be released so we could mourn the death of our son together,” Chelsea Hamilton said. “This was a total accident.”

The family’s fundraising page, which sought help with paying for Samuel’s funeral, described the toddler as a “beautiful, vibrant, happy” child. 

“In his short little life, he impacted the lives of all that knew him and loved him,” the page read

Richard Hamilton told officers who responded to the family’s home Thursday evening that he did not realize his son, who was playing in the yard before the accident, had gotten so close to the vehicle he was moving. 

A neighbor told police he had seen Hamilton and his son playing together in the yard before the collision. A probable cause statement obtained by KTVK in Phoenix stated that the neighbor also saw Hamilton behind the wheel of the truck when Samuel was struck.

Hamilton admitted to investigators that he had been driving the truck, but denied that he had been drinking prior to the incident. He claimed he had not had a drink since the night before, when he drank a half pint of vodka, the court document said.

>> Read more trending news

He refused both a field sobriety test and a blood test, but officers obtained his blood after securing a search warrant. 

“The defendant had bloodshot, watery eyes and a moderate odor of alcohol coming from him,” the probable cause statement said

Investigators also found a broken beer bottle a few feet away from the back of the truck, in the path that the truck would have taken when Hamilton moved it. 

“There was a liquid on the driver side rear tire that is believed to be some of the contents of the beer bottle,” the statement said. “Glass fragments from the beer bottle were located in the grass near the bottle, and there were also fragments located in a trash can approximately 30 feet from the area of the collision.

“It appeared someone tried to clean up the broken beer bottle fragments afterward.”

See Hamilton’s first court appearance below. 

Hamilton was processed for driving under the influence and booked into the Maricopa County Jail, where he remained Monday for the alleged probation violation in the 2006 case. 

According to a Republic story written at the time of his sentencing in the previous case, Hamilton’s 5-year-old victim was crossing a street with her mother and two siblings when Hamilton struck her with his minivan. He fled the scene, but turned himself in to police later that day. 

Hamilton also served a four-month prison sentence in 2001 following his first conviction for aggravated DUI, prison records show. Details of that incident were not immediately available. 

Toronto van attack: 10 dead, injuries reported

A van apparently jumped onto a sidewalk Monday at a busy intersection in Toronto and struck down pedestrians before the vehicle was found and the driver taken into custody, Canadian police said.

>> Read more trending news

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

DJ Avicii’s family issues statement on his death, thanks supporters

The family of Swedish dance music DJ Avicii has issued a statement days after his death.

>> Read more trending news 

Variety reported that the family of Avicii, whose real name was Tim Bergling, thanked fans and others for their support.

We would like to thank you for the support and the loving words about our son and brother. We are so grateful for everyone who loved Tim’s music and have precious memories of his songs.  Thank you for all the initiatives taken to honor Tim, with public gatherings, church bells ringing out his music, tributes at Coachella and moments of silence around the world.  We are grateful for the privacy during this difficult time. Our wish is that it continues that way.  With love,  The Tim Bergling Family

Bergling was found dead in Muscat, Oman, a city in the Middle East, April 20. The cause of death is not yet known, but authorities have ruled out foul play.

Kyle Plush case: Body cameras show cops stayed in car during search for teen dying in van

Body camera footage from two Cincinnati police officers’ search for a 16-year-old teen who was crushed to death by a seat in his minivan earlier this month shows the officers never left their patrol car while they looked for the teen.

The footage shows the officers driving past the parking lot where Kyle Plush was dying on their way to search a separate lot on the campus of Seven Hills School, where the teen was a sophomore. 

They do not appear to search all of the parking lots on the campus, and the videos indicate that the officers may have searched the area for less than a third of the time that officials previously said they did. 

Cincinnati police officials, along with Hamilton County prosecutors and the county Sheriff’s Office, are conducting internal investigations to determine what led to Plush’s death, both inside the van and out. That includes a probe of law enforcement officers’ actions and what took place at the city’s 911 center. 

“The event leading up to Kyle’s death are devastating and also raise concerning questions about our city’s emergency 911 system and police response,” Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley said April 12. “While it is unclear if there is wrongdoing by the city in this tragedy, we have a profound responsibility to find out.”

>> Related story: ‘Tell my mom that I love her if I die,’ teen pleads as van seat fatally crushes him

Plush called 911 twice on the afternoon of April 10, screaming and pleading for help as he slowly suffocated inside his gold Honda Odyssey in a parking lot at his school. The teen, a sophomore at Seven Hills School in Cincinnati, was apparently reaching for his tennis gear in the rear hatch of the van when the third-row bench seat tipped backward and pinned him, upside down, in the hatch area with the seat digging into his chest.

Plush, who died of positional asphyxia, used his iPhone’s voice commands to call 911. The teen could be heard struggling to breathe as he told a dispatcher that he was trapped in his van.  

“I can’t hear you,” Plush told the dispatcher in his first call, according to The Washington Post. “I’m in desperate need of help. I’m gonna die here.”

Two city police officers were dispatched at 3:21 p.m. to the school to search for the caller in distress, Cincinnati police officials said. They arrived about five minutes later. 

Body camera footage obtained by WCPO in Cincinnati shows the responding officers, Brian Brazile and Edsel Osborn, driving on the school campus but staying in their patrol car. The videos also show that the officers searched for Plush for about three minutes before turning off their cameras, an indication that they had completed the call. 

Information previously released by the Cincinnati Police Department indicated that the officers were on the scene for 11 minutes but could not find the van Plush was calling from. 

The footage, which was released by police officials Friday following a public records request, shows Brazile drive past the Seven Hills School Resale Shop, a thrift store run by the school to help fund various projects on campus, before turning into a parking lot south of the store.  

Plush’s van -- which was found by his father six hours later -- was in a student parking lot located north of the shop. The officers drive by that parking lot, but do not turn in.

The body camera footage shows the officers driving slowly through the south parking lot, searching for the 911 caller.

“Shoot, these kids drive better cars than you do,” Brazile appears to tell Osborn. 

“Uh-huh,” Osborn mutters. 

Brazile makes a U-turn in the lot and they search it again before ducking through afterschool traffic and into another lot across the street, near the school’s tennis courts and baseball field. The second lot they turn into is further south -- and further away from where Plush was still alive, but struggling for breath. 

“I don’t see nobody, which I didn’t imagine I would,” one of the officers can be heard saying as they search. 

“I’m going to shut this off,” Osborn says just before his body camera recording ends. 

Cincinnati police spokeswoman Tiffany Hardy told WCPO that the footage was the entire recording of the officers’ response to Seven Hills. Departmental policy dictates that officers activate their body cameras when arriving on the scene of a call.

They can deactivate the cameras only after clearing the call, according to the policy

Previous information made public by Cincinnati Police Chief Eliot Issac indicated that it was another eight minutes before the officers marked their assignment as cleared. 

Dashboard camera footage from the officers’ patrol car was not released with the body camera footage, WCPO reported. Hardy told the news station that Hamilton County prosecutor Joe Deters’ office has that footage. 

Deters announced shortly after Plush’s death that his office had launched a comprehensive investigation into the tragedy. Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Neil also ordered an investigation into his department’s handling of the calls. 

A deputy working a traffic detail at the school also searched for Plush that afternoon but did not find him. Dispatcher Amber Smith -- who was placed on administrative leave for about a week after Plush’s death -- and the deputy could be heard in dispatch audio debating whether the calls had been a prank. 

Even after Plush’s father found him dead, city police officers thought the calls from the school were a prank, WCPO reported. When a call went out for officers to respond to the school, either Brazile or Osborn responded on the radio, not knowing that the teen was dead.

“I think somebody’s playing pranks,” the officer said, according to radio traffic. “It was something about they were locked in a vehicle across from the school. We never found anything. But we’ll respond and see what else we can find.”

The multiple investigations into the incident seek to determine what kept responding officers from locating Plush in time to save him. In his second 911 call, the teen told Smith exactly where he was located at the school and gave Smith a description of his van.

“I probably don’t have much time left, so tell my mom that I love her if I die,” the teen said, according to the audio. “This is not a joke. This is not a joke. I’m trapped inside my gold Honda Odyssey van in the sophomore parking lot of Seven Hills (unintelligible). 

“Send officers immediately. I’m almost dead.”

Smith was placed on administrative leave two days after Plush’s death because she did not relay to the officers the make, model and color of the van. WCPO reported that internal documents from the probe showed that Smith’s supervisors found her work “unacceptable” in the incident. 

Smith told investigators that, although the recording of Plush’s second 911 call picked up what he said, she could not hear him when he gave the description of his van and his location. Issac previously said that Smith did press a tone indicating she was having trouble on the line. 

Smith also told investigators that her computer screen froze, keeping her from properly documenting the call, the news station said. One of the documents indicated that 911 operators’ computers were experiencing problems around the time of Plush’s call. 

>> Read more trending news

An emergency dispatch consultant told WCPO that problems with the computers was not a surprise. 

“Having a computer system within the 911 center freezing up or locking out is not uncommon,” consultant Dave Warner said

Cranley said in his statement that problems have plagued the 911 center for a long time. 

“Separate from his incident, the problems of management, supervision and technology have been reported at the 911 center for years,” the mayor said

He said that he has repeatedly requested solutions and lobbied the Federal Communications Commission on the technology issues but was told the problems were being resolved. 

“This tragedy may ultimately suggest the problems have not been resolved or that not enough changes have been made,” Cranley said. 

Cranley said officials must also determine if “preventable flaws or failures” have worsened emergency situations. 

The internal records show that Smith tried calling Plush twice and sent him a text message seeking the address of his emergency, WCPO reported. He never responded, but his use of voice commands showed that he likely could not reach his phone. 

The dispatcher who took Plush’s first call also used the GPS coordinates of his phone to send Brazile and Osborn to the parking lot near the thrift store, the news station said. Reporters who plugged the coordinates into a Google map found that they were just feet from the spot where Plush’s father found him that night. 

The officers still did not find him. 

Neither Brazile nor Osborn have been placed on leave during the investigation.   

Smith returned to work last week. Any disciplinary action taken against her has not been made public, WCPO reported.

Florida judge does not return to courtroom after berating frail inmate who died 3 days later

A Florida judge who berated a frail inmate who died three days later will not return to the bench, court officials said. 

>> Read more trending news

Circuit Court Judge Merrilee Ehrlich will not return to the bench after her treatment of Sandra Twiggs, 59, who appeared before her last week on a misdemeanor domestic violence charge, Broward Chief Administrative Judge Jack Tuter said Saturday, according to WFOR.

“In light of recent events we have decided Judge Ehrlich will be told not to return to the courthouse as her retirement is effective June 30,” Tuter said, according to The Associated Press. “I will be working this weekend to find a substitute to cover Judge Ehrlich’s (family court) division.”

During the first appearance, Twiggs, who was in a wheelchair, explained to Ehrlich that she suffered from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and needed breathing treatments, according to WFOR

First appearance hearings are streamed online and recorded.

“Ma’am, don’t even say yes. Just listen,” Ehrlich said. “I’m not here to talk about your breathing treatments.”

Ehrlich released Twiggs without bond. Twiggs died Wednesday in her sleep.

“When she came home from being in there she was never the same,” Carolyn Porter, Twiggs’ goddaughter, told WFOR.

Ehrlich who was first elected in 2008 planned to retire June 30. She filed her retirement paperwork two weeks prior to this incident. 

Tuter said he would be calling Twiggs’ family to apologize. 

“I am saddened and disappointed in the way Judge Ehrlich behaved on the video. Her behavior cannot be condoned,” he said.

Atlanta a hot spot for sugar daddies willing to pay college tuition

We’ve known for some time that Atlanta is considered a hub for sex trafficking.

But who knew metro Atlanta is also known for having an abundant number of, ahem, sugar daddies — older men seeking the companionship of college-age women?

>> Read more trending news 

According to SeekingArrangement.com, Georgia ranks sixth in the country, behind places like Arizona, Philadelphia and New York. Over the past few years, the website has touted its growing numbers to news publications around the country.

In Georgia, according to folks at the website, the vast majority of these young women providing companionship to older men attend big state colleges such as Georgia State, the University of Georgia and Georgia Southern (in that precise order), with a few at Spelman College and elsewhere.

“Students are tired of being told by the government that secondary education is important, and then being slapped with outrageous student loans and staggering interest rates,” said Brandon Wade, founder and CEO of SeekingArrangement.com. “The value of a degree is undeniable, but students can’t leave their futures in the hands of officials any longer.”

Today more than 2 million students across the country — 3 million worldwide — have signed up to find wealthy benefactors who can help offset college costs, said Wade.

RELATED | Many Georgia students feel overburdened by rising college costs

Each year, almost 44 million Americans rack up student loan debt or they graduate with no full-time jobs in their chosen careers.

>> Read more trending news 

Among them are Jessica and Stephanie, local college students introduced to me through an email exchange arranged by SeekingArrangement.com. Both agreed to talk about their experience, but neither wanted to use her last name because their parents are not aware of the arrangement. I met Jessica in person. Stephanie and I spoke by phone.

I found them both to be articulate, ambitious young women. Neither saw their arrangement as anything out of the ordinary — just an agreement between two consenting adults. There was a line, however, that both said they were unwilling to cross: marital infidelity.

Stephanie, 21, was working at a popular sports bar when a colleague told her about Seeking Arrangement, and they posted their profiles to the site.

“I really didn’t think I was going to follow through, but I actually met someone,” said Stephanie, who is enrolled in an online program at the University of South Carolina. She eventually matched with a 46-year-old cybersecurity expert, who takes her on vacation trips and shopping sprees and makes weekly deposits to her bank account.

“I know a lot of people think it’s prostitution, but it’s totally different,” she said. “This is a real relationship. We communicate every single day. I care about him. He takes care of me like men are supposed to. He thinks I’m funny. He tells me I’m beautiful. What girl wouldn’t want that?

“I’m going to college, and I’m making money,” she added.

RELATED | Why Women’s March hat moniker strikes me wrong

Ironically, Jessica, a 22-year-old theater major who had her pick of six colleges, including the University of Pennsylvania, Florida A&M, and Spelman, first heard about the site while overhearing her mom tell a friend about a magazine article she’d read about Seeking Arrangement. But the concept itself, Jessica said, came to her in a song titled “Suga Mama” by R&B singer Beyonce.

“That you could have a mutually beneficial relationship with someone of high status that would help with expenses intrigued me,” Jessica said.

In the scheme of things, that hardly matters. Language and naming have power and are symbolic.

“Even the terms sugar daddies and sugar babies have an incestuous and infantilizing echo,” said Deborah Cohan, a professor of sociology at the University of South Carolina-Beaufort. “Young women can try to convince themselves that they are calling the shots in these situations, but is this the way women want to become empowered?”

It’s unfortunate, Cohan said, when women perceive few options for economic freedom.

“The owners and operators of these sites and the participants want to make the case that this is a choice, and a viable one, but it strikes me as the epitome of a choiceless decision,” she said.

RELATED | Prosecutors: Backpage.com made millions in prostitution ads

As a professor at the University of South Carolina-Beaufort, Cohan sees this firsthand. USC’s main campus is near Hilton Head, home to the annual Heritage golf tournament. “Every year I have students who tell me that as exotic dancers this is their big week to make money to pay for tuition and that as a result they want to be excused from classes,” she said. “Is this the way we want young women to have to exist in their earliest employment and earliest intimate relationships and connections?

“And moreover, what does this mean for men, for how they think about power, control, and sexuality and women in general?”

Jessica went on a half-dozen dates before she settled on an arrangement with a 45-year-old Atlanta business consultant, who pays her tuition and gives her a biweekly allowance of $2,000.

She says they dated six months before they ever touched. One of those dates was to get the results of an HIV test before beginning a sexual relationship.

On average, Jessica sees her benefactor three times a week, mostly on weekends. In that time, she’s discovered she likes the fact that he grew up in a two-parent home like herself and attends church.

“He’s kind of an introvert,” Jessica said. “He really treats me like a lady.”

Find Gracie on Facebook (www.facebook.com/graciestaplesajc/) and Twitter (@GStaples_AJC) or email her at gstaples@ajc.com.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers will use parrot to deliver 4th-round pick in NFL draft

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be winging it during the latter stages of the NFL draft.

>> Read more trending news

The NFL announced Monday that the Bucs will have a parrot deliver its fourth-round selection from the pirate ship at Raymond James Stadium to an announcer during Saturday’s televised Day 3 draft show.

The parrot, a Catalina macaw named Zsa Zsa, is based at the Florida Exotic Bird Sanctuary in Hudson, Florida.

The bird is not the first animal to participate in an NFL draft. Last year, an orangutan aided in the Colts announcing their fourth-round selection of offensive lineman Zach Banner, the NFL reported on its website. 

Reaction on the Buccaneers’ upcoming pick ranged from humor to squawks of surprise. One website, JoeBucsFan, posted a video of The Three Stooges’ 1936 comedy short, “Disorder in the Court,” where a parrot is figured prominently in the climactic court scene.

Undoubtedly, some fans will post the iconic parrot sketch from “Monty Python’s Flying Circus.”

Regardless, the Bucs will be giving the NFL the bird on Saturday.

Video shows Alabama police wrestle woman, expose her breasts at Waffle House

graphic video showing police officers wrestling a black 25-year-old woman before arresting her inside a Saraland, Alabama, Waffle House restaurant Sunday is making the rounds on social media, sparking outrage across the country. The incident allegedly escalated over 50 cents’ worth of plastic cutlery.

Chikesia Clemons was arrested around 2:45 a.m. on charges of “disorderly conduct and resisting arrest,” her mother, Chiquitta Clemons-Howard, told AL.com. She paid her daughter’s $1,000 bond Sunday morning.

>> Read more trending news 

In the cell phone video, captured by Clemons’ friend, Canita Adams, Saraland police officers are seen speaking with Clemons and then pulling her off a chair and onto the floor of the restaurant.

“What are you doing?” Clemons asks the officers in the video.

“I’ll break your arm, that’s what I’m about to do,” an officer responds.

Two officers are then seen wrestling with Clemons, grabbing her neck and wrist and trying to flip her over to arrest her. The altercation turns graphic as Clemons’ clothes are pulled down “to reveal her breasts as white patrons continue to eat in the background,” AL.com reported.

Related: Philadelphia Starbucks arrest: Men say manager called 911 minutes after they arrived

In the video, when the officer placed his hand around her neck, Clemons cries, “You’re choking me!”

Clemons-Howard told AL.com the incident arose after Clemons refused to pay an extra 50 cents for plastic utensils and the employee canceled the order. According to AL.com, Clemons and Adams said they were not charged for utensils when they ordered from the same Waffle House the night before.

“They didn’t even ask her to leave, she was waiting for them to give her the district manager’s card so she could file a complaint on one of the waitresses,” Clemons-Howard told AL.com. “When they went to go get the card, that’s when the police showed up. The officer should’ve come in and said we need you to leave.”

Chance the Rapper weighed in on Twitter.

“Protect our women. This is wrong, this is unjust and this happens to alot (sic) of women when there are NO cameras around,” he wrote. “Stand with our women. Defend their voice, and their right to ask why they’re being handled, being removed, being CHOKED. Be infuriated. Be willing to fight.”

The altercation and arrest come 10 days after two black men were arrested at a Starbucks in Philadelphia on trespassing charges.

Mobile, Alabama, NAACP President David Smith said in a statement Sunday that the organization is looking into the episode. 

“In light of the current situation in our country -- such as the arrest of two young black men at a Philadelphia Starbucks coffee shop -- we felt it was important for our members to get a firsthand account of the incident, which has now gone viral on social media locally and across the country,” Smith said.

A spokesman with the Saraland Police Department also said the department is investigating. The department also said that Saraland’s public safety director, Chief J.C. West, and Mayor Howard Rubenstein are aware of the situation.

“The Saraland Police Department is aware of the arrest at Waffle House and the accompanying video on social media,” the department said in a Facebook post. “The situation is being thoroughly reviewed and is under active investigation right now. Our department strives for transparency and we encourage our community to be aware of current events.”

Read more at AL.com.

Waffle House shooting: Man accused of killing 4 in Tennessee arrested

Authorities on Monday afternoon arrested a man suspected of stripping at a Waffle House in Antioch, Tennessee, early Sunday before opening fire on customers and employees, killing four people.

>> Read more trending news 

Nashville police confirmed that authorities arrested suspected shooter Travis Reinking, 29, on Monday afternoon. He was earlier identified as the man suspected of killing Taurean C. Sanderlin, 29; Joe R. Perez, 20; Akilah Dasilva and DeEbony Groves, 21

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