A young couple reportedly partied at a bar after allegedly murdering a 19-year-old girl, then argued about how to dispose of her corpse in text and Facebook messages!
Prosecutors filed amended charges Tuesday against the Missouri man accused of killing 3-year-old Breeann Rodriguez earlier this month, along with a notice alleging aggravating circumstances that could enable them to seek the death penalty.
Dunklin County Prosecuting Attorney Stephen Sokoloff stressed in a press release that this does not mean his office has decided to pursue the death penalty for 43-year-old Shawn Morgan, but the Notice of Statutory Aggravating Circumstances is an “initial procedural step” that will keep that option available.
Sokoloff said Breeann’s parents supported his decision to take that step.
According to the Dunklin Daily Democrat, the aggravating circumstances alleged in the notice included that the murder was committed during the commission of a kidnapping and that the killing was “outrageously or wantonly vile, horrible or inhuman.” A jury would only need to find that one of these circumstances existed in order to impose the death penalty, if the state chooses to seek that sentence.
Sokoloff also added a count of child kidnapping to the existing charges of first-degree murder, armed criminal action and tampering with evidence filed against Morgan.
Morgan was arrested after allegedly admitting to police on August 12 that he killed his 3-year-old neighbor, who had been missing since August 6. She was last seen alive riding her bicycle outside her family’s Senath home.
According to court documents, Morgan told investigators that he suffocated Breeann with a trash bag after finding her standing near his pool, and then dumped her body and her dismantled bicycle in a floodway ditch off the highway. The girl’s body was found about eight miles from her home on August 16. The arrest affidavit did not suggest a motive for the killing.
Morgan appeared in court Tuesday morning, but he did not yet have an attorney. Judge John Spielman scheduled a counsel status hearing for September 13, giving him two more weeks to retain one. The Dunklin Daily Democrat reported that Skoloff said if Morgan does not have one by then, he can apply for a public defender or proceed without counsel.
As they launched a new effort to find their missing daughter coinciding with the start of the new school year at Indiana University, the family of Lauren Spierer posted a full-page letter in the campus newspaper Monday promoting student safety.
Nearly three months after the 20-year-old’s June 3 disappearance, family members and friends posted almost 10,000 posters featuring the missing student around Bloomington Sunday, according to the Indiana Daily Student newspaper. The family hoped the poster campaign would draw new attention to the case and create pressure for those who know the truth to come forward.
Spierer was seen on surveillance video returning to her apartment building from a Bloomington bar with a friend around 2:30 am on June 3. They left about 10 minutes later, going to the friend’s apartment after he had a confrontation with some other students. Police say the last confirmed sighting of her was on security video in an alley between the two buildings around 2:50 am. Another friend said he watched Spierer leave to walk home at 4:30 am, but she never got there.
Spierer had reportedly left her cell phone and shoes at the bar, and her keys and purse were later found in that alley.
Robert Spierer, Lauren’s father, told CNN affiliate WRTV, "It's a fact that somebody's responsible for Lauren's disappearance, and somebody knows where she is. They know what happened. They know where she is, and they're just not coming forward."
Spierer’s mother, father and sister reinforced this point in a letter published in the Indiana Daily Student. They also warned other students that what happened to Lauren could easily happen to them if they are not more careful, noting that they recently saw another girl walking down the street at 3 am wearing no shoes.
“You are not invincible,” the Spierers’ letter to returning students said. “Bad things happen to good people. You owe it to yourself to be safe. You owe it to yourself to choose your friends wisely and know that they will do the right thing if you need their help. You owe it to yourself to be the person who does the right thing for a friend.”
Lauren’s parents have often complained that the students who were with her in the early hours of June 3 have not been forthcoming with information. Several of those identified as persons of interest by police have hired attorneys.
Local station WXIN had the first on-camera comments on the case by one of those friends Monday. Jay Rosenbaum was the one who claimed he saw Spierer last, walking away from his building toward her apartment, alone, drunk and barefoot.
"In order to protect this case, nobody wants me to talk. Please stop," Rosenbaum said after a reporter followed him through a parking lot to his car pelting him with questions.
Asked if he had a message for Spierer’s family, Rosenbaum said, “I deal with them privately. I talk to them privately.”
Then he rolled up his car window and drove away.
A nine-day search of a nearby landfill wrapped up last Friday without turning up any evidence connected to the case, WRTV reported. After two months of planning, authorities dug through more than 4,100 tons of trash from the Bloomington area at the Sycamore Ridge Landfill. The garbage collected from Spierer’s neighborhood around the day she went missing had been isolated and preserved for the search.
Anyone with information about Lauren Spierer can contact the Bloomington Police Department at 812-339-4477 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hurricane Irene’s destruction continues: the death toll keeps rising as massive flooding rips away bridges and leaves roads, homes submerged underwater. Irene’s powerful strength has taken many lives, including 20-year-old Celena Sylvestri. According to her family, Celena was driving to her boyfriend’s house when her car was swept off the road and into the Salem River.
Celena desperately called 911, saying she was up to her neck with water, but the storm was too strong for her to hold on. She was overcome by the powerful winds and massive flooding.
Celena was just 1 month away from getting her Associate’s Degree – she was a music education major with a strong love for every instrument: she played guitar, piano, drums, bass, violin & even the banjo! Celena’s family describes her as the “light” in everyone’s life- she was always happy and seemed to go out of her way to make people like her.
Celena’s family set up a memorial fund for her, if you would like to donate, all proceeds are going to benefit music education.
Celena J Sylvestri Fund
(Donations can be made to any bank in NJ or PA)
The fiancé of a missing Ohio woman defended himself and maintained his innocence on Nancy Grace Thursday night.
John Carter, who had been engaged to 22-year-old Katelyn Markham for almost a year when she vanished earlier this month, told Nancy Grace that he took and passed a polygraph test early in the investigation. Police would not comment on that claim Thursday, but Carter said he had been asked if he knew where Markham was or anything else about her disappearance during the test.
Markham was last seen by Carter between 11:00 and 11:30 pm on August 13 when he says he left her Fairfield, Ohio townhouse. He received a text message from her phone containing a picture of a picture of herself at 12:52 am. She has not been heard from since that time, and police have said her phone was turned off around 12:45 am.
“She likes to send me pictures all the time,” Carter said, indicating that the message itself did not seem odd to him. He added that she had also sent him a series of regular texts after he left about how she wanted him to burn some documents for her.
Carter called 911 around 8:00 pm on August 14 after going to Markham’s home and finding her car outside, her purse and keys inside the townhouse and her cell phone missing. Her dog was locked in the bedroom, which Carter said was unusual. Other than that, the apartment looked exactly as it had when he left the night before.
A judge set a date Thursday for a final hearing on the competency of Elizabeth Johnson to stand trial for allegedly kidnapping her infant son in December 2009.
Judge Paul McMurdie set a September 16 date for the hearing. In court in Phoenix, Arizona on Thursday, he also rebuffed defense efforts to have Johnson—who has been in jail since her January 2010 arrest—released on house arrest and to have Maricopa County prosecutors removed from the case.
Concerns about Johnson’s competency have already delayed her trial in the disappearance of Gabriel Johnson, who was 8 months old when he was last seen alive at a San Antonio, Texas motel on the day after Christmas in 2009. The boy has never been found. Johnson was previously deemed competent but a second review was ordered earlier this year.
Johnson is charged with kidnapping, child abuse and custodial interference in the case. She initially told Gabriel’s father Logan McQueary that she killed him and threw his body in a dumpster, but after her arrest she maintained that she gave him to a couple in a San Antonio park.
Much of the legal wrangling in the case has surrounded an interview conducted with Johnson in jail by a San Antonio detective without her attorneys present. The attorneys who represented her at the time withdrew from the case late last year claiming she no longer trusted them. According to the Arizona Republic, current attorney Dan Raynak argued in court that the incident damaged her so badly that she could not cooperate with her lawyers and that the prosecutors who did not prevent that interview should be taken off the case.
Saying that “she’s been in custody way too long,” Raynak insisted Thursday that Johnson be released on house arrest with an ankle monitor.
McQueary, who attended the hearing, expressed outrage outside the courthouse at the idea of Johnson getting out of jail.
“I don’t see why they think that she has the grounds to get released when Gabriel’s still missing,” he told a reporter for CNN affiliate KNXV. “We still don’t know where he is. Why should she be able to get out of jail and do what she wants and, you know, be happy?”
Judge McMurdie denied both defense motions. The outcome of September’s competency hearing will determine whether the case proceeds to trial.
Of five doctors who have examined Johnson, four concluded that she was not competent to stand trial, the Arizona Republic reported. However, three of them believed she could be restored to competency through medication and therapy.
McMurdie ordered Johnson, who has refused to leave jail for several hearings in the past, to appear in court on September 16.
“When I say you need to be here,” he explained, referring to the sheriff’s deputies in the courtroom, “if you wake up that morning and don’t want to come, those gentlemen will bring you.”
“Yeah, that’s made clear to me,” Johnson responded.
Outside, McQueary expressed doubt that Johnson is truly incompetent.
“I just think she’s playing games right now and so is her lawyer,” he said.
Casey Anthony had her first meeting with her probation officer at 6:00 pm on Wednesday, according to a Department of Corrections spokesperson.
DOC public affairs director Gretl Plessinger told reporters Thursday that Anthony's probation officer's name and the location where she reported are being kept confidential due to security concerns. All she would confirm was that the meeting took place in Florida and that Anthony's one year of probation began last night.
Whatever county Anthony is now in, though, she will need to request a travel permit from her probation officer if she wants to leave. If she attempts to move out of the state, she will need to request an interstate transfer and the receiving state would have to approve it. She has not made such a request at this point.
Plessinger said Wednesday's meeting lasted for about an hour as Anthony's probation officer explained the terms of her supervision to her. This may include a requirement that Anthony either actively seek a job or go to school, although she added that because of the “unique issues” in this case other solutions may need to be worked out.
“She told the probation officer that she intended to do well on probation,” Plessinger said. “She was polite and cooperative.”
Anthony must report to her probation officer by the fifth day of each month. She also must make monthly $20 payments for her supervision. Her officer may make random checks on her residence during the month. She cannot possess firearms or drink excessively, and she cannot have contact with the victim in her check fraud case, Amy Huizenga.
The agency is trying to ensure that Anthony is treated like any other probationer, aside from taking some additional security measures. If she violates any of the conditions of probation, the court will be notified.
Plessinger said the DOC is being very diligent about maintaining the secrecy of Anthony's location both for her safety and for the safety of their staff.