Nancy Grace

Alleged killers talked about corpse on Facebook?

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!

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!

Missing Isabel’s parents: “We don’t have anything to hide”
May 4th, 2012
06:20 PM ET

Missing Isabel’s parents: “We don’t have anything to hide”

The parents of missing 6-year-old Isabel Celis sat down for an extended interview with several Tucson media outlets on Friday afternoon, addressing some of the questions left unanswered by their “Today Show” appearance Thursday but still holding back certain crucial details.

 

SERGIO & BECKY CELIS.
SERGIO & BECKY CELIS.

Citing the integrity of the investigation, Sergio and Becky Celis would not discuss the results of their polygraph tests or say much about what actually happened on the night Isabel disappeared, but they did strongly defend their handling of the media so far. They said they are private people who are not comfortable in front of the camera, and they do not know how others expect them to act.

“I’m sorry if we did this wrong,” Becky said. “…What I want is her here home having a normal life. This is not what I want.”

Sergio said it is “extremely frustrating” that Isabel is still missing two weeks later and police share that frustration. Becky said they cannot figure out why anyone would have targeted their daughter. They have some family members in Mexico, but none that would have any reason to threaten them or Isabel.

“I don’t know what to say other than that you are wrong,” Sergio said in response to the suggestion that he may have been involved in Isabel’s disappearance.

“We don’t have anything to hide,” Becky said. “Say what you want to say. We are confident we had nothing to do with it.”

The couple said they do not have an attorney and see no reason why they would need one. Sergio told the reporters that he “absolutely” thinks he and his wife should have been eliminated as suspects by now, but they understand that police have to consider everything.

Sergio initially believed Isabel’s bedroom window—which was open with the screen removed when they reported her missing on the morning of April 21—was her abductor’s point of entry, but without going into detail about why, he said he is no longer sure about that.

They denied a rumor that there was a party at the house on the night Isabel disappeared, and they laughed at the suggestion that NBC News paid them for home video used in the “Today Show” segment. That video was released to other news stations later in the day Thursday.

The parents talked a lot about the power of prayer and how the “worldwide chain of prayer” supporting them is helping them through their ordeal. They also thanked the volunteers who are out assisting with the search for Isabel.

Asked whether they have a message for their daughter if she is watching, Sergio said, “We miss you so much, Isabel…We will not stop looking for you.”

“We will always love you too much. Just come home,” Becky said.

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Filed under: Isabel Celis • Missing Persons • Story Updates
May 4th, 2012
03:30 PM ET

Nancy Grace: On the Radar

CALEIGH HARRISON

CALEIGH HARRISON
CALEIGH HARRISON

Police are returning to Long Beach in Rockport Friday to conduct a new search in connection with missing 2-year-old Caleigh Harrison. Massachusetts State Police spokesman David Procopio said the search is focused on a specific area where a private citizen’s dog had a “strong reaction to some type of stimuli.”

Procopio said authorities responded to the area late Thursday, but the incoming tide prevented them from searching more extensively. They plan to resume the search around 3 pm. Although Caleigh’s father told HLN’s Nancy Grace that the girl’s 4-year-old sister claimed she saw a man take Caleigh from the beach on April 19, police say they have found no evidence suggesting an abduction.

 

GABRIEL JOHNSON

GABRIEL JOHNSON
GABRIEL JOHNSON

HLNtv.com has the latest on the trial of Tammi Smith in connection with the December 2009 disappearance of baby Gabriel Johnson. Smith is facing charges of forgery and custodial interference for allegedly helping Gabriel’s mother, Elizabeth Johnson, falsify documents to set up an illegal adoption of the then-7-month-old boy.

Johnson’s trial is set for later this year, but prosecutors played a police interview in court Wednesday where she claimed Smith helped her arrange to give Gabriel away to an unidentified couple in a San Antonio park. The boy has never been found, and Johnson told his father at one point that she had killed him and thrown his body away in a diaper bag.

Gabriel would have turned three Thursday. See a composite image of what he might look like now here, and check out full coverage of the trial at HLNtv.com.

 

LAUREN SPIERER

LAUREN SPIERER
LAUREN SPIERER

Bloomington, Indiana police say a detective is looking into any possible links between the disappearance of an Indiana University student last year and a suspect in the murders of three other women over the last decade. Lauren Spierer, 20, was reportedly last seen walking away from a friend’s apartment building around 4:30 am on June 3, 2011, drunk and barefoot. The male friends who were with her that night have told police they do not know what happened to her from there, but she never made it to her building just a few blocks away.

William Clyde Gibson of New Albany was arrested and charged with two murders last week, and police found the body of a third woman buried in his backyard, according to the Indianapolis Star. Capt. Joe Qualters of the Bloomington Police Dept. said in a news release that authorities are not aware of any connection to Spierer’s disappearance, but “we are certainly interested in anyone who comes to the attention of law enforcement for targeting women as victims.”

In a recent interview with the Journal News, Spierer’s parents begged for anyone with information about her to come forward. “We don’t know how else to say it. But we need your help and, whatever you need, whatever you want, we’ll do to get our daughter back,” father Robert Spierer said.

 

ALEXIS PATTERSON

ALEXIS PATTERSON
ALEXIS PATTERSON

On May 3, 2002, 7-year-old Alexis Patterson disappeared. Her stepfather told police he dropped her off across the street from her school, but that was the last time anyone saw her. 10 years later, her mother told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel she remains hopeful that the missing girl is still alive somewhere. “I never stop hurting,” Ayanna Patterson said. Police questioned Alexis’ mother and stepfather extensively, but neither of them was ever implicated in her disappearance.

Milwaukee Police Dept. Lt. Keith Balash told reporters Wednesday that 5,000 interviews have been conducted in connection with the case and thousands of criminal records have been reviewed. The cold case unit has interviewed and re-interviewed 65 people since taking over the investigation in 2009. “This case is still actively being investigated,” Balash said. Anyone with information is asked to call the Milwaukee Police Cold Case hotline at 414-935-1212.

 

STEPHANIE LOW

STEPHANIE LOW
STEPHANIE LOW

The mother of a Wisconsin woman missing for over a year is holding a rummage sale Saturday to call attention to the case and raise money for the reward fund. 22-year-old Stephanie Low was reported missing on October 10, 2010 after a phone call with a friend ended abruptly. When friends went to her Wausau apartment to check on her, she was gone, and police said they had reason to believe she was taken against her will.

Low’s mother has organized “Rummage-O-Rama For Stephanie” in Kennedy Park in Weston, Wisconsin Saturday. Police told the Wausau Daily Herald that they still consider the case active and the reward fund, currently around $10,000, has helped bring in tips.

 

“BABY KATE” PHILLIPS

KATE PHILLIPS
KATE PHILLIPS

Sean Phillips has been convicted of unlawful imprisonment in the disappearance of his 4-month-old daughter Katherine, a charge that could carry a maximum 15-year prison sentence, according to the Muskegon Chronicle. Baby Kate’s mother, Ariel Courtland, reported her missing on June 29, 2011, telling police that Phillips drove off with the girl in his car after the two argued over a paternity test that was scheduled for that day. Phillips reportedly wanted to put Kate up for adoption, a plan that Courtland had considered going along with but ultimately decided against.

The jury foreman told the Ludington Daily News that they focused on several pieces of evidence during deliberations, including the fact that Kate’s clothes were in Phillips’ pocket when he was arrested and a timeline that showed police could account for Courtland’s whereabouts all afternoon on June 29 but not for Phillips. Jurors were also influenced by a note found in Phillips’ shirt pocket in jail where he had apparently written “I gave her to a guy” that they considered “a confession.”  

Prosecutor Paul Spaniola told the Muskegon Chronicle that the case will remain an open investigation until Kate is found.

 

For all the latest news, go to www.HLNtv.com.


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Isabel’s parents: Police “wasting time” on us
May 3rd, 2012
10:23 AM ET

Isabel’s parents: Police “wasting time” on us

The parents of missing 6-year-old Isabel Celis begged for her return in their first live television interview Thursday, and they said they fear police may be wasting time focusing the investigation on them.

Becky Celis said on NBC’s “Today Show” that Isabel is a “girly girl” who loves to put on makeup and paint her nails, but she also likes playing outside in the dirt with her brothers. Becky and Sergio Celis told police that Isabel vanished from her bedroom in their Tucson home after she was put to sleep around 11:00 p.m. on April 20. She was gone when Sergio went to wake her the next morning.

“I was asking her if she was hungry,” Sergio said, describing the last time he saw Isabel, “and she just had that little sleepy look as she was walking by, and she just said, ‘No, daddy. I’m tired.’ She was just walking by. She is so full of life and she is just so wonderful.”

Becky said the level of scrutiny the parents have faced is “nothing we can’t handle,” and they believe police are doing everything they can to solve the case. However, Sergio said it can still be difficult because detectives are only able to share limited information with them and “they keep us at bay.”

“We understand that they can’t bring false hope, but at the same time, you know, we’re desperate. We’re desperate in finding out information. We’re extremely frustrated that it’s taking so long,” Sergio said. “…We do feel sometimes that they’re wasting time with us even though we know we have to be under, you know, scrutiny, absolutely understandable.”

Isabel’s parents urged people to continue praying for their “beautiful baby girl” to be brought back home, which they called “her favorite place in the world.”

Tucson police confirmed to HLN Thursday that both parents have taken polygraph tests, but they would not comment on the results. “Nancy Grace” producer Greg Overzat was on the scene Wednesday afternoon when detectives brought the parents and Isabel’s older brother back into the house separately.

Lt. Fabian Pacheco said at a Wednesday press briefing that the walkthroughs with individual family members are just a method investigators use, they were done with the family’s consent and they do not indicate a focus on anyone in particular. According to Pacheco, police have received about 500 tips in the case so far and they are following up on all of them.

For the latest news on the Isabel Celis case, watch Nancy Grace Thursday at 8 p.m. & 10 p.m. ET on HLN or go to www.HLNtv.com.

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Filed under: Isabel Celis • Missing Persons • Nancy Grace • Story Updates
Missing tot’s dad: Sister saw mystery man on beach
May 2nd, 2012
04:46 PM ET

Missing tot’s dad: Sister saw mystery man on beach

Police say there is no evidence of abduction in the case of missing 2-year-old Caleigh Harrison, but in an exclusive interview with HLN’s Nancy Grace, Caleigh’s father revealed that the girl’s sister may have seen something suspicious.

Caleigh was last seen on a Rockport, Massachusetts beach on April 19, playing with her mother, her sister and their dog. Her mother told police she left her and her 4-year-old sister Elizabeth alone for about two minutes while she went to retrieve a ball that had gone over a wall, and when she returned, Caleigh was gone.

Police devoted a week to an extensive water search for the toddler utilizing divers and sonar equipment, but she was never found. Massachusetts State Police spokesman David Procopio told HLN that while authorities cannot completely rule out abduction, they feel they have thoroughly investigated that possibility and found no signs of foul play.

The thoroughness of the search effort is exactly what makes Caleigh’s father, Anthony Harrison, suspect that his daughter was kidnapped. “It was a pretty big search and they had a lot of resources there, and I don’t think she’s in the water,” he said

Harrison told Nancy Grace Wednesday that, a few days after the disappearance, Elizabeth claimed that she had seen a mysterious man on the beach before Caleigh went missing. However, according to Harrison, the 4-year-old initially said she did not know what happened and she has since offered a couple of different versions of events.

“She mentions a man. It’s a little bit scattered because she is four years old, but she did after a while mention a man on the beach that took her sister,” Harrison said. “…It’s kind of hard to take a 4-year-old’s word for it, but we’re looking into it.”

According to Procopio, police have spoken to several witnesses who were on and around the beach that morning. None of them saw Caleigh go into the water, but they did not see anything indicating a kidnapping either.  

Harrison said police are calling the case a “tragic accident,” but he and his family still think “there is a huge chance that Caleigh was abducted.”

While the search has been suspended at this point, Procopio said police are ready to put divers and boats back in the water or follow any leads if new information surfaces.

 

For Nancy’s full interview with Caleigh Harrison’s father, watch Nancy Grace Wednesday at 8 & 10 pm ET on HLN, and for all the latest news go to www.HLNtv.com.

 

Parents: 'Very good chance' Maddy is alive
May 2nd, 2012
03:24 PM ET

Parents: 'Very good chance' Maddy is alive

On the eve of the five-year anniversary of their daughter’s disappearance, the parents of Madeleine McCann said Wednesday there is a “very good chance” that she will be found alive.

The three-year-old British girl went missing from her family’s rented apartment during a vacation in Portugal on May 3, 2007. Last week, Metropolitan Police in Londonreleased an age-progressed image of what Madeleine might look like now. Her ninth birthday would be May 12.

In new interviews, parents Kate and Gerry McCann have said they are optimistic now that the new image is out there and Metropolitan Police are reviewing the original investigation.

“We’re more hopeful now of finding Madeleine than we have been at any point since the early days after she was taken,” Gerry McCann said Wednesday, according to the Telegraph.

In an interview on ITV Wednesday, Kate McCann said there is a good chance that Madeleine is alive and there is “no evidence to the contrary,” adding that other cases have demonstrated that people missing for a long time are sometimes found.

She cited recent reports about Steve Carter, a Philadelphia man who saw an age-progressed photo of himself on the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children website and discovered that his father reported him missing more than 30 years ago.

Reflecting on the family’s efforts to adjust to “a new normality” in the time that has passed since Madeleine disappeared, Gerry McCann told ITV. “In some ways it’s been the longest five years and the quickest five years of our lives.”

Though authorities in Portugal said last week that they did not plan to re-open the case at this time, the McCanns believe it will happen eventually.

According to BBC News, Gerry McCann said, “The only way everyone will be able to move on is for the case to be solved… Until then, it’s not going to go away. It can’t go away.”

For the latest crime and justice news, watch Nancy Grace weeknights at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m ET or go to www.HLNtv.com

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Bedroom attack could be linked to Isabel Celis disappearance
May 1st, 2012
04:08 PM ET

Bedroom attack could be linked to Isabel Celis disappearance

An attack on three young girls has been reported at a Tucson-area home just 10 miles from the house where 6-year-old Isabel Celis may have been abducted from her bedroom.

Authorities are investigating whether the bedroom assault early Monday morning has anything to do with Isabel’s disappearance. Isabel was reported missing around 8 a.m. on April 21, and her parents told police she was last seen in her bedroom when they put her to sleep the night before.

Pima County Sheriff’s Department Capt. Chris Nanos told HLN’s Nancy Grace that Monday’s incident occurred in a quiet neighborhood north of Tucson where three girls, ages 6, 8 and 10, were sleeping at their grandparents’ home. Nanos said around 1:48 a.m. the family reported that a white man believed to be in his 20s had come into the girls’ bedroom and molested one of them.

“All three reported an individual had walked into the bedroom, assaulted one of the little girls, left the bedroom, then returned to the bedroom and engaged in conversation with one of the little girls who challenged his story to her. He then fled the house,” Nanos explained.

According to Nanos, nobody heard the man enter the home and it was unclear if he came in through an open window or if the front door may have been unlocked. In the Celis case, a window was found open with its screen removed, but police have not said if they believe that was a point of entry for an intruder.

The sheriff’s department has released a composite sketch of the attacker in Monday’s case based on the girls’ descriptions, and Nanos said investigators are now following up on leads gathered during a canvass of the area. They are also checking with local businesses for surveillance video that might be relevant.

Nanos praised the young girls for providing valuable information about the suspect. “I can’t say enough of their courage. They are the heroes in this case,” he said.

Tucson police said Monday that they do not know if there is a connection between the two incidents, but they are reviewing the cases to determine if there are any similarities. The possibility that Isabel was kidnapped from her bedroom by a stranger is one of several that authorities are considering.

 

For the latest on the case, watch Nancy Grace tonight at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. ET on HLN or go to www.HLNtv.com.

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Filed under: Isabel Celis • Missing Persons • Story Updates
April 30th, 2012
07:16 PM ET

Cops: Surveillance video in Celis case from wrong night

Tucson Police announced Monday that surveillance video of a group identified as potential witnesses in the Isabel Celis case was incorrectly dated and was not recorded on the night of her disappearance as they originally believed.

The video, which showed six people walking toward the neighborhood where the missing 6-year-old's family lives, was recorded in the early hours of Sunday April 22, not April 21, according to Lt. Fabian Pacheco. He said police are working to obtain the correct video of the area from Saturday morning, but it is unclear how long that will take to locate.

Pacheco told reporters Monday that Isabel's parents are still cooperating with investigators and have expressed some interest in doing media interviews. He described Sergio and Becky Celis as seeming concerned and overwhelmed, and he said they still have not returned to their home.

Pacheco would not say whether police have a list of suspects or persons of interest in the case.

For all the latest news, go to www.HLNtv.com.

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Filed under: Isabel Celis • Missing Persons • Story Updates
April 30th, 2012
04:54 PM ET

Nancy Grace: On the Radar

TRAYVON MARTIN/GEORGE ZIMMERMAN

HLNtv.com has details on a new website created by George Zimmerman’s defense team. The site, www.gzlegalcase.com, contains a page that will eventually be used to accept donations for Zimmerman’s defense on second-degree murder charges for the shooting of Trayvon Martin. A judge has not yet decided whether to increase Zimmerman’s bond after learning of $200,000 in donations his previous website had collected. 

George Zimmerman
George Zimmerman

In a post on the new site Saturday, the defense team laid out several reasons why they have created the site, along with related Facebook and Twitter accounts. These reasons included discrediting fraudulent sites, disputing misinformation, providing a forum for people to communicate with attorney Mark O’Mara’s firm and “providing a voice for Mr. Zimmerman.”

For full coverage of the Trayvon Martin shooting, check out HLNtv.com.

 

PHYLICIA BARNES

New details were revealed Friday at a bond hearing for the Baltimore man charged with killing 16-year-old Phylicia Barnes. Barnes, who was visiting from North Carolina, was last seen alive at her sister’s apartment on December 28, 2010. Her naked body was found in a river in April 2011. The sister’s ex-boyfriend, Michael Johnson, was indicted for murder last week, and at Friday’s hearing, prosecutors laid out some of the evidence against him.

According to the Baltimore Sun, they alleged that Johnson asphyxiated Barnes in her sister’s apartment, then moved her body using a 35-gallon tub that surveillance video shows him buying at Walmart. A neighbor reportedly saw Johnson struggling to move the tub out of the apartment, but his defense attorneys argued that he was just carrying out his personal belongings because he and Barnes’ sister had broken up.

Prosecutors also claimed that Johnson and Barnes exchanged 500 calls and text messages over the course of a few months earlier in 2010, but Barnes complained to her sister 10 days before her disappearance that she did not like the way Johnson looked at her, WBAL reported. Defense attorneys have maintained that the evidence linking Johnson to the murder is weak and they questioned the timing of his arrest, but a judge denied bond after hearing arguments from both sides.

Speaking to reporters after the arrest, Phylicia’s father Russell Barnes said the family had been suspicious of Johnson from the beginning because he was the last to see her, and he urged Johnson to “tell the truth and give Phylicia’s family some type of closure.”

 

VERNA MCCLAIN

A KHOU reporter was allowed to observe a visit between alleged killer Verna McClain and her fiancé in Montgomery County Jail Sunday. Reporter Rucks Russell said the suspect in the murder of 28-year-old Kala Golden-Schuchardt and the abduction of 3-day-old Keegan Schuchardt sobbed uncontrollably during the visit and repeatedly insisted that she is not a monster. 

VERNA MCCLAIN
VERNA MCCLAIN

Fiancé Kevin Carter also showed KHOU text messages that he said McClain sent him prior to the April 17 shooting. One referred to suffering from post-partum depression—police say McClain had recently had a miscarriage—and local activist Quanell X, who was also present for the jail visit, claimed the texts showed she was “totally unstable” at the time.

KPRC reported that her attorneys might try to use the texts to support an insanity defense.

 

For all the latest news, go to www.HLNtv.com.

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Will a surveillance tape help find Isabel?
April 30th, 2012
02:15 PM ET

Will a surveillance tape help find Isabel?

Tucson Police released surveillance video Friday of several potential witnesses who they want to speak to regarding the disappearance of six-year-old Isabel Celis.

The video shows a group of five people - two men and three women - walking through a parking lot headed in the general direction of the Celis house after Midnight on April 21, the morning Isabel was reported missing. As of Sunday afternoon, police said they had identified and interviewed three of those people.

There is a sixth person seen on the video, but Lt. Fabian Pacheco said investigators’ main focus is on the group of five and finding out what they may have seen.

Isabel’s parents reported her missing around 8 a.m. on April 21, telling police they had not seen her since putting her to bed around 11 p.m. Pacheco said the parents, Sergio and Becky Celis, have been cooperating and they speak to police daily but he did not know why they have refused to talk to the media, aside from delivering a brief statement last week. He added that the parents appearing on camera could be crucial to maintaining public interest in the case.

The couple attended a mass for Isabel Sunday night, along with about 300 supporters,according to the Arizona Daily Star, but they did not speak to reporters. Pacheco said the parents have not gone back into the home where Isabel was last seen, although they have been free to do so for several days.

According to Pacheco, investigators are looking into information provided by a next-door neighbor who claimed she heard two male voices outside on the morning of the disappearance.

Pacheco said police have been working with Mexican authorities and border control officials, but the possibility that Isabel has been taken into Mexico is just one of many they are considering. Police have received more than 350 tips so far, and detectives spent much of the weekend reviewing the information that they gathered over the last week, Pacheco added.

He told reporters Saturday that police are still holding out hope that Isabel will be found alive, but he warned that the investigation is going to take time.

“This isn’t CSI: Tucson where we’re going to solve this in an hour,” he said.

For the latest on this case, watch Nancy Grace Monday at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. ET on HLN or go to www.HLNtv.com for the latest news. 

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Filed under: Isabel Celis • Missing Persons • Story Updates
Police: Isabel Celis investigation not scaled back
April 26th, 2012
07:27 PM ET

Police: Isabel Celis investigation not scaled back

Tucson, Arizona police say it is “absolutely not true” that they are losing interest in the investigation of the disappearance of 6-year-old Isabel Celis.

While Lt. Fabian Pacheco acknowledged there is less searching being done at this point, he told HLN’s Nancy Grace Thursday that officers are working hard on the investigative phase of the case and reviewing information gathered during four canvasses of the area around the Celis family home.

Isabel’s parents reported her missing around 8 a.m. Saturday, telling police she was last seen when they put her to bed around 11 p.m. Friday. A neighbor,Alicia Stardevant, said she heard two male voices outside and the Celis family’s dogs barking around 6:30 a.m.

According to Pacheco, police and FBI officials are reviewing 8-page questionnaires that they passed out at homes in the area and developing leads based on those. Physical searches are still being conducted, but they are targeted to specific areas like washes and alleys that authorities feel still need to be checked out.

Pacheco said the public statement made by Isabel’s parents on Wednesday night was helpful to the investigation and could generate new tips. However, he disputed reports that police had kept the family from doing it sooner.

“We never discouraged the family from speaking to the media,” he said.

Asked whether any polygraph tests have been administered during the investigation, all Pacheco would say is, “I can assure you that we’ve done everything possible up to this point.”

Pacheco declined to comment on what evidence technicians removed from an inoperable Acura Integra on the family’s property earlier this week, but he said the vehicle was included in the overall search warrant for the house. He explained that investigators obtained the warrant rather than conducting a consensual search because they do not want to risk having evidence thrown out in court later if the consent is challenged.

According to Pacheco, police have interviewed Stardevant and they are going back over recorded statements made by her and other neighbors to ensure that they did not overlook anything. He would not speculate about who the two men Stardevant believes she heard may have been.

 

For Nancy Grace’s full interview with Lt. Pacheco, watch HLN Thursday at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. ET, and for all of the latest news on the case, head towww.HLNtv.com

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