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Santa Barbara Rampage Killer Acted Alone, Researched Knife Attacks and Nazis

Santa Barbara Rampage Killer Acted Alone, Researched Knife Attacks and Nazis

Students mourn at a public memorial service on the Day of Mourning and Reflection for the victims of a killing spree at University of California, Santa Barbara on May 27, 2014 in Isla Vista, California. Photo by David McNew/Getty Images(SANTA BARBARA, Calif.) -- The Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office released its report on the Isla Vista shooting from May 2014 that left six students at the University of California, Santa Barbara dead.The 64-page report concluded that the suspect, 22-year-old Elliot Rodger, acted alone in planning and acting out his "premeditated, murderous rampage." Rodger stabbed three people to death inside his Isla Vista apartment. He then killed three more people and injured another 14 in a series of drive-by shootings and by striking individuals intentionally with his car on May 23, 2014.The three people stabbed at the apartment were all murdered separately, the report says, as they entered the apartment at different times on the day of the killings. It was hours later that Rodger uploaded a video titled "Retribution" online and emailed an autobiographical manifesto to family members and acquaintances. Minutes later, he began his rampage.An investigation of Rodger's cell phone turned up 24 digital movies, including a clip of blood dripping into a bathroom sink, a clip in which Rodger appears to complain about trash left in the kitchen of his apartment and his roommate being lazyand several other videos in which he expressed disdain for other people and his own life.Rodger had also apparently searched the Internet on the day of the killings for topics including "quick silent kill with a knife." In the months leading up to the rampage, he had searched for information related to a pair of knife attacks in China, as well as numerous searches related to Nazi leaders, in particular Adolf Hitler.Sheriff Bill Brown said in the report that he believes the detectives, forensic teams and coroner's personnel "handled the aftermath of this heinous crime with great ability and compassion," and praised the first responders "whose swift, courageous, skillful and resolute actions...prevented many more deaths."While Brown praised California's strict gun control laws, he acknowledged that "more can and must be done to ensure that those who died were not lost in vain." He specifically mentioned efforts to remove guns from "armed and prohibited" individuals and legislation passed to give law enforcement officers and families the ability to temporarily impound guns in cases where public safety is believed to be at risk.

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Rabbi Accused of Kidnapping, Torturing Husbands Into Granting Divorces Goes to Trial

Rabbi Accused of Kidnapping, Torturing Husbands Into Granting Divorces Goes to Trial

Comstock/Stockbyte/Thinkstock(TRENTON, N.J.) -- The trial of Mendel Epstein, a New Jersey rabbi and alleged ringleader of a kidnapping scheme designed to force husbands into granting their wives religious divorces, entered its second day in court in Trenton Thursday.Epstein, 69, was arrested in October 2013 for allegedly charging undercover FBI agents $60,000 to kidnap a man and coerce him into granting his wife a Judaic divorce decree.Epstein and his son David, along with two other rabbis named in the federal complaint as Jay Goldstein and Binyamin Stimler, face federal charges of conspiracy to kidnap and kidnapping. If found guilty, the men face a maximum penalty of 20 years to life in prison.During Wednesday’s opening statement, prosecutors played a video allegedly showing Epstein discussing a staged kidnapping with two undercover FBI agents, wherein he can be heard openly discussing the use of stun guns on men's genitalia."If it can get a bull that weighs five tons to move," the man on the video identified by the FBI as Epstein is heard telling the undercover agents, "you put it in certain parts of his body and in one minute the guy will know.""Mendel Epstein talked about forcing compliance through the use of 'tough guys' who utilize electric cattle prods, karate, handcuffs and place plastic bags on the heads of husbands," said FBI Special Agent Bruce Kamerman shortly after Epstein's arrest.Epstein's defense claims he was a "champion of women's rights" and employed those methods in order to get a husband's "evil" recalcitrance to "leave his body." According to the strictest interpretation of ancient Jewish law, a religious divorce, referred to as a "get," can only be granted by a husband regardless of the circumstances that may have caused a marriage to break up. Without a "get," a religious Jewish woman cannot remarry or get on with her life and she becomes an ostracized member of the community called an “agunah” or a chained person. Convincing reluctant husbands to grant their wives divorces is a specialty among ultra-Orthodox rabbis.The defense is expected to tell the jury about the oldest interpretation of Jewish law that broadly outlines torture as a legitimate vehicle for convincing recalcitrant husbands to grant their wives religious divorces. Defense lawyer Robert Stahl said during his opening statements that "the process is a legitimate divorce. It's not a criminal conspiracy." He told the jury that ancient Jewish texts endorse the use of coercion and physical torture in an effort to convince men to grant their wives divorces.U.S District Judge Freda Wolfson reminded Epstein's lawyers on day one of the trial that this type of defense is dangerous because the lawyers are essentially asking the jury to overrule federal criminal law.The trial, which is expected to last five weeks, stems from a lengthy investigation that started more than two years ago in an ultra-Orthodox enclave in Lakewood, N.J. After three alleged victims came forward, undercover FBI agents posing as a disgruntled wife and her brother lured Epstein into allegedly describing his methods in incredible detail on audio and video recordings. Also on the video, prosecutors say the rabbis are shown stretching as if they're warming up for a fight.Epstein, who is an internationally known expert in Jewish divorce and author of an authoritative book on the matter, boasts that he has participated in 2,500 divorces.

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Marriage License Issued to Same-Sex Couple in Texas

Marriage License Issued to Same-Sex Couple in Texas

Scott Cramer/iStock/Thinkstock(AUSTIN, Texas) -- Travis County Clerk Dana Debeauvoir issued the state of Texas' first same-sex marriage license on Thursday, in compliance with a court order.According to a news release from the Travis County Clerk's Office, Sarah Goodfriend and Suzanne Bryant received their marriage license Thursday. Earlier in the day, federal judge David Wahlberg signed a court order demanding that Debeauvoir "cease and desist relying on the unconstitutional Texas prohibitions against same-sex marriage as a basis for not issuing a marriage license" in the case of this particular couple. The couple was singled out because one of the women has "severe and immediate health concerns."The news release from the Travis County Clerk's Office said because "this couple may not get the chance to hear the outcome" of the marriage equality debate, the marriage license was issued prior to a final decision from the court system. "It is important to note that this order applies only to the medically fragile couple who brought the court action," the TCCO says.

 

Congratulations to Sarah Goodfriend and Suzanne Bryant on their wedding. pic.twitter.com/R8muzrqw96

— Texas Democrats (@TXDemParty) February 19, 2015

The Texas Supreme Court on Thursday granted a request from state Attorney General Ken Paxton for a stay to block the granting of a marriage license to Goodfriend and Bryant.Paxton released a statement on the state court's ruling, saying that the action "upholds our state constitution and stays these rulings by activist judges in Travis County." He added that the marriage license issued to the couple Thursday "is void, just as any license issued in violation of state law would be.""I will continue to defend the will of the people of Texas, who have defined marriage as between one man and one woman, against any judicial activism or overreatch," Paxton said.

 

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Las Vegas ‘Road Rage’ Shooting: Family Knew Suspect

Las Vegas ‘Road Rage’ Shooting: Family Knew Suspect

ABC News(LAS VEGAS) -- Police took a suspect into custody Thursday in connection with an alleged road rage incident in Las Vegas that took the life of a city mother, and the victim's husband told reporters the family knew the suspect and had tried to help him.The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department surrounded a house only a block away from where the slain woman, Tammy Meyers, had lived with her family, then led Erich Nowsch, 19, away in handcuffs. Meyers' visibly upset husband, Robert Meyers, was standing nearby when the arrest was made and was asked by police to back away from the area.A spokesman for the police had said Nowsh was allegedly involved in homicide of Meyers, but was not necessarily the shooter. The 19-year-old was taken for booking.Robert Meyers told reporters after the arrest that his family knew the suspect and his late wife had had spent "countless" hours trying to help him. "He knew where we lived,' he said. "We knew how bad he was." Meyers said more than one person was involved in his wife's death and the police have done an "awesome" job on the case.Police revealed this week that Tammy Meyers and her armed son, Brandon, got in a car to look for the driver with whom she had a dispute last Thursday. She had been teaching her 15-year-old daughter how to drive in the parking lot of a nearby school.After the incident on the road Tammy Meyers drove home and asked her daughter to tell her 22-year old son, to come to the car. When the mother and son returned home, police said, the suspect's car pulled up. Gunfire erupted and Meyers was fatally wounded.She died Saturday at the University Medical Center of Southern Nevada.The police said the shooter was described as a man in his 20s to 30-years old who's about 6-feet tall with medium build.

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Eddie Ray Routh Believed His Co-Workers Were Cannibals, Doctor Says

Eddie Ray Routh Believed His Co-Workers Were Cannibals, Doctor Says

Kuzma/iStock/Thinkstock(STEPHENVILLE, Texas) -- The defense called to the stand Thursday a psychiatrist who interviewed Eddie Ray Routh, the man accused of shooting and killing former Navy SEAL Chris Kyle and Kyle's friend, Chad Littlefield, at a Texas gun range in February 2013.Dr. Mitchell Dunn, a board-certified psychiatrist at Terrell State Hospital in Texas, interviewed the defendant for six hours last spring -- an abnormally long interview, he said.One month before the shooting, Routh said he believed his co-workers at the cabinet company were cannibals and wanted to eat him, Dunn recalled from his interview.

"Mental illness is not the way it is portrayed in movies," Dunn said.Routh also said he believed his neighbor, a police detective, was a member of the Mexican Mafia, Dunn recalled.Jodi Routh, the mother of the accused killer, was also back on the stand Thursday. When a prosecutor asked if she disclosed to Kyle that her son had been in the hospital just weeks before she arranged their meeting, she said, "it didn't occur to me at the time."Kyle, who was helping war veterans after he retired as a Navy SEAL sniper, had agreed to help Eddie Ray Routh that day at the gun range in February 2013.Earlier on Thursday, the defense called Charles Overstreet, who has a Ph.D. in clinical social work and assessed Routh in jail. Overstreet said he believes Routh suffers from symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia and post-traumatic stress disorder, and that he thinks Routh misinterpreted Kyle and Littlefield's behavior as "threatening."The prosecution objected to Overstreet's testimony, leading to a sidebar. Then, the judge ruled that Overstreet could not testify for the jury.

At the end of the day Thursday, the defense rested. The state is expected to call several doctors to rebut Dunn's testimony. Kyle, who was considered the deadliest sniper in U.S. military history, served four tours in Iraq and helped found a veterans organization.He also wrote a best-selling autobiography, which served as the basis for the film American Sniper, starring Bradley Cooper. American Sniper is up for six Oscars at this weekend's Academy Awards, and its popularity played a role in jury selection earlier this year.

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Chicago Doggy Day Care Theft: Dogs Found Safe

Chicago Doggy Day Care Theft: Dogs Found Safe

Tad Tomita(CHICAGO) -- The dogs and minivan stolen by two armed men in Chicago have been found, Chicago Police confirmed on Thursday.The van was found just before 11 a.m., police said, with all seven dogs safe inside. The dogs "appear to be fine right now," according to police.It remains an open investigation, police said. No arrests have been made.Just before 4 p.m. Wednesday, two armed men stole a running minivan with only dogs inside, according to the Chicago Police Department. The dogs had been en route home from Urban Out Sitters' doggy day care, said Tad Tomita, the owner of one of the stolen dogs -- a miniature schnauzer named Mochi.When a witness tried to intervene, one man drew a gun and pointed it at him, police said. The offenders then fled the scene.The van's driver was uninjured, according to Joseph Giannini, owner of Urban Out Sitters, a company that offers pet boarding, day care and dog walking services.Tomita said his wife texted him saying their 3-year-old dog Mochi had been stolen."I didn't understand what that meant," Tomita told ABC News Thursday. "When I called her and she told me what happened, I couldn't comprehend what was going on. It's so surreal."

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Death Row Inmate’s Last Meal Includes Two Cheeseburgers, Cornbread

Death Row Inmate’s Last Meal Includes Two Cheeseburgers, Cornbread

Georgia Department of Corrections(ATLANTA) -- The only woman on death row in Georgia has ordered up a large last meal.Kelly Renee Gissendaner's final meal will consist of two cheeseburgers, two large orders of french fries, lemonade, cherry vanilla ice cream, popcorn, cornbread and a salad made of boiled eggs, tomatoes, bell peppers, onions, carrots, cheese and buttermilk dressing, according to the Georgia Department of Corrections.In the past, authorities have been angered when inmates requested a large last meal and didn't eat it.In 2011, Texas stopped the last-meal tradition after Lawrence Russell Brewer asked for a large final meal including two chicken-fried steaks, triple bacon cheeseburger and meat-lover's pizza, and refused to eat it.Gissendaner was sentenced to death in 1998 for the murder of her husband. She is scheduled to be put to death by lethal injection on Feb. 25.

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‘Road Rage’ Victim’s Family Returns GoFundMe Money to Donors

‘Road Rage’ Victim’s Family Returns GoFundMe Money to Donors

The Meyers Family(LAS VEGAS) -- The Las Vegas “road rage” victim's family says it is returning its GoFundMe money after donors complained that the family had withheld key information about the deadly encounter.

Police revealed this week that Tammy Meyers and her armed son got in a car to look for the driver with whom she had a dispute last Thursday. She had been teaching her 15-year old daughter how to drive in the parking lot of a nearby school.

The fundraising page's original post read, "The suspects followed Tammy and her daughter home and opened fire."But police revised the timeline to say that Meyers drove home and asked her daughter to tell her son Brandon Meyers, 22, to come to the car. When the mother and son returned home, police said, the suspect's car pulled up. Gunfire erupted and Meyers was fatally wounded. She died Saturday at the University Medical Center of Southern Nevada.Disgruntled donors criticized the fundraising page for not revealing that the mother and son had sought out the other car. Police are still looking for that driver."I'm reporting it to GoFundMe," one GoFundMe user had posted. "So many lies from the family."The campaign had raised about $6,000, but the GoFundMe page is no longer available.The victim's family Wednesday confirmed to ABC News affiliate station KTNV in Las Vegas that Meyers' husband posted a Facebook statement that read in part, "At this time I have shut down the GoFundMe account that I didn't start, a friend did. Everyone will get donations returned. I never said anything different than told. If all you people think I was a fraud and lied about facts, I'm truly sorry. I only ever said what was told to me."

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Arctic Blast Brings Historic Cold Across US

Arctic Blast Brings Historic Cold Across US

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Much of the country faces a deep freeze Thursday morning, with historic cold reported across the eastern United States and Midwest.At this point 27 states are under wind chill advisories or warnings. Some of the coldest weather in decades stretches from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico. In Chicago, the temperature dipped below zero overnight, with a wind chill between -20 and -30.Sections of the south are also facing cold temperatures, with an overnight wind chill in the single digits for Atlanta. In Kentucky, overnight temperatures dipped below zero, with wind chills of -20 and -15 reported.The low temperatures have frozen and refrozen snow and ice, making roadways hazardous due to black ice.The bitter cold is expected to linger through Friday before more moderate February temperatures return.

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Dog on the Run for Three Years Finally Caught by New Hampshire Couple

Dog on the Run for Three Years Finally Caught by New Hampshire Couple

Granite State Dog Recovery(TROY, N.H.) -- A dog that has been on the run in Troy, New Hampshire, for almost three years has been rescued, thanks to the tons of snow that's covered New England recently. Locals Tiffany Bennett and her boyfriend, Courtney Davis, were able to catch the female black Labrador mix with the help of two friends while the dog was trying to swim in more than 40 inches of snow, Bennett told ABC News Wednesday. The cute canine, who they've nicknamed Houdini, is currently in their care at a friend's heated garage, Bennett said. "She's doing well right now, but she needs to be treated for Lyme disease and heartworms," she said. "She's eating and approachable, and she loves to be pet. But she's still scared. She hasn't interacted with humans in a long time." The Troy community has been trying to help find Houdini after the local rescue group, Granite State Dog Recovery, was given a tip a black lab mix had been seen in the area since April 2012, Holly Mockrzecki told ABC News on Wednesday. Mockrzecki is the president and founder of Granite State Dog Recovery. "The dog was in what we call survival mode, which made her so difficult to catch," Mockrzecki added. "Survival mode means you can get within 10 feet of the dog, but when you try to call it, it bolts because it's started thinking humans are predators." An unregistered microchip was found in Houdini, and the manufacturer was able to find the rescue group the dog originally came from, Bennett said. The dog, who is approximately four years old, was originally named Jesse and rescued in North Carolina, she said, adding that she was transported to Rosemont Labradors in Hindsdale, New Hampshire, where she was adopted by a man from Wendell, Massachusetts. The man reported the dog missing after two days, Bennett said. Unfortunately, the man said he does not want the dog back, Mockrzecki said. Houdini will be going to Fast Friends Greyhound Rescue in Swanzey, New Hampshire, where she will be given care and treatment and then be put up for adoption, Bennett added. Bennett, who owns 13 dogs, said she wishes the best for Houdini and hopes she gets adopted by someone who will support her athletic needs since she's a fast runner. She has created a Facebook page to tell Houdini's survival story and keep people updated. "I hope she gets the loving family she deserves," Bennett said. "She can be someone's new best friend. She's very precious."

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‘Road Rage’ Shooting: The Adjusted Timeline

‘Road Rage’ Shooting: The Adjusted Timeline

Courtesy Meyers family(LAS VEGAS) -- As Las Vegas police work to identify a suspect in the apparent “road rage” shooting that left a mother of four dead, authorities are also struggling to draw an accurate picture of what happened. The adjusted timeline of events is largely based on the accounts of the daughter and son who were in the car with the victim, 44-year-old Tammy Meyers, according to Lt. Ray Steiber of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department "What I think everybody wants is an accurate timeline and an accurate depiction of what occurred," Steiber said at a news conference Tuesday. Here is what we know so far: Thursday, Feb. 12: Police now believe that after Meyers and her 15-year-old daughter finished a driving lesson in a school parking lot, Meyers drove home. When a car pulled up aggressively behind Meyers and tried to pass, Meyers' daughter reached over and honked the horn, police say. “Meyers sped past the male, and she continued on her way,” Steiber said. "Mrs. Meyers is scared, she’s upset.” Meyers drove home and asked her daughter to tell her son, 22-year-old Brandon Meyers, who was armed, to come out to the car, Steiber said. Tammy and Brandon Meyers went looking for the "road rage" suspect and found him, before losing track of him again, Steiber said. When the mother and son returned home, Steiber said, the suspect's car pulled up. Gunfire erupted and Meyers was fatally wounded. "All indications ... are that this unknown person had fired shots first," Steiber said, adding that the son returned fire. Saturday, Feb. 14: Meyers died at the University Medical Center of Southern Nevada. Steiber said the homicide division then took over the case from the violent crimes section. Tuesday, Feb. 17: A candlelight vigil was held outside Walter Johnson Junior High School, where Meyers had been giving her daughter the driving lesson the night of the shooting. The daughter said at the vigil, "I was in the car with her. There's so much I can say about my mom. My mom was protecting me that night and she was doing what any mom would do. She was my everything, my best friend. She did everything she could possibly do to protect me and I love her so much." Brandon Meyers said at the vigil, "I did what I had to do to protect my family. And I'd do it for anyone I love.” The suspect, who has not been identified, was described by police as a white male, about 25 years old, who stands at 6 feet tall and weighs 180 pounds. He has "dirty blonde hair worn in a spiked style and has hazel or blue eyes," police have said. The suspect's car is described as a four-door silver or grey sedan. Police are still reviewing the timeline and other aspects of the case.

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Starving Sea Lions Overwhelm California Rescue Centers

Starving Sea Lions Overwhelm California Rescue Centers

ShortnStocky/iStock/Thinkstock(SAN PEDRO, Calif.) -- A record-setting number of starving sea lion pups are packing marine care centers in California.An average of more than 200 sea lions are typically found stranded statewide from January to April. This year, however, more than 900 sea lions have been rescued — and that number was expected to rise.Marine care centers said on Wednesday they’ve gotten so full that they now can handle just three rescues a day. The rest of the pups have to be turned away.“The reality of the situation is many of these animals are going to be left on the beach for observation. We’re going to be working closely with the rescue agencies to bring in the animals that we feel have the best chance of survival and do our best to treat as many of them as we can,” said David Bard, the operations director of the Marine Mammal Care Center in San Pedro, California. “We won’t be able to save all of them.”Bard said resources behind rescuing the animals and then caring for them in care centers were “fairly taxed.”The pups, thin and desperate for food and clinging to life, have been winding up alone on beaches and even in apartment complexes along the coastline.Last week, a young sea lion likely looking for food was found on a major San Francisco roadway, more than 1,000 feet from the ocean.Peter Wallerstein, director of Los Angeles County’s Marine Animal Rescue project, spent Wednesday responding to call after call about stranded sea lions. He said rescuers’ hands were tied.“[Centers are] just so overwhelmed with sea lion pups,” Wallerstein said.  “It’s like a paramedic without a hospital to take a patient. It’s tough for us.”Experts said they believed the warmer-than-average ocean temperatures might be affecting the animals’ food supply.“Most of these animals need to have several more pounds on them than what we are seeing,” Bard said.

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“American Sniper” Trial: The Prosecution’s Case Against Eddie Ray Routh

“American Sniper” Trial: The Prosecution’s Case Against Eddie Ray Routh

Paul Moseley/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/TNS via Getty Images(STEPHENVILLE, Texas) -- The defense attorneys representing Eddie Ray Routh have not disputed that Routh killed Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle and Kyle's friend Chad Littlefield when they took him to a gun range in February 2013 as a way to help him work through his alleged post-traumatic stress disorder. The question that the jury has to answer is whether or not he was sane when he pulled the trigger. Routh's defense team has said that he is not guilty by reason of insanity and while they have begun this week to make that argument, the first five days of the trial were dedicated to the prosecution's case. Interest in the trial has been heightened by the fact that it began just weeks after the release of the movie American Sniper, which details Kyle's life and his tours of duty in Iraq. Here is a review of the evidence and witnesses that the prosecution put forward in its case against Routh. Day One: Wednesday, Feb. 11 The prosecution previewed its case during the opening statements by saying that Routh, a then-25-year-old former Marine, used marijuana and drank whiskey the morning of the shooting. Erath County District Attorney Alan Nash then detailed how he shot Kyle five times in the back and side and once in the top of the head, and shot Littlefield four times in the back, once in the hand, once in the face, and once in the top of the head. "He admits [later to his sister] that he murdered these two men, that he used drugs and alcohol that morning and he knew what he was doing was wrong," Nash said. In the defense's opening statements, Routh's attorney Tim Moore called the shooting "a tragedy" but made it clear that he would be using an insanity defense, saying Routh thought "that he had to take their lives because, in his psychosis, he thought they were going to take his." Moore went on to reveal that his odd behavior was even evident to Kyle and Littlefield, telling the jury that Kyle texted Littlefield while they were in the car with Routh, writing "This dude is straight up nuts." Kyle's widow Taya Kyle was the first witness called to testify, and she gave an emotional description of her husband, their family and their life together. She testified that her husband had never met Routh before the day of the shooting and she sensed that something was wrong when he seemed tense on a phone call from the gun range. Judy Littlefield, Chad’s mother, was the second to testify and described how her son was a caring father who met Kyle while they both watched from the sidelines at a children’s sports game. She learned that something had happened to her son when Taya called her to say there had been an accident. Day Two: Thursday, Feb. 12 More logistics about the weapons and timing were presented on the second day of the case, with a crime scene expert talking about the locations of the shell casings in relation to Kyle and Littlefield’s bodies. He also noted that the two men's weapons were found fully loaded, suggesting that they did not have time to fire their guns. The prosecution entered into evidence a receipt for two bean burritos that was found in Kyle’s car, with the 6:50 p.m. time-stamp indicating that Routh went for fast food hours after the shooting. Dramatic dash cam and body cam footage showing the standoff between Routh and police was played for the court. The first run-in occurred at his parent’s house in Lancaster, Texas, where he was staying and Routh is heard communicating with officers but refusing to get out of the car before driving off and being stopped shortly after on the interstate. The prosecution argued that his decision to flee from police indicates that he knew what he had done was wrong, and was therefore sane at that time. Day Three: Friday, Feb. 13 The prosecution called on the Texas Ranger who searched the home where Routh was staying. The prosecution also called on Routh's uncle, who was with Routh that morning, to give some insight into his mood ahead of the shooting. Photos from inside the home were shared in court, showing a nearly-empty bottle of whiskey and prescription pill bottles above the fridge. They also found a small amount of marijuana as well as a bong.

 

#snipertrial Def Atty Tim Moore says medicine, on fridge, primarily for schizophrenia. pic.twitter.com/RBzjoYNTrH

— Jim Douglas WFAA (@wfaajdouglas) February 13, 2015

The prosecution also entered a glass vial into evidence at this point, but later in the trial it was revealed that had been a mistake and accidentally added by crime lab workers. The defense tried to use this as grounds for a retrial on day 5 but the judge dismissed the motion. Routh’s uncle, James Watson, testified that he had smoked marijuana with his nephew on the morning of Feb. 2. Watson said that his own high lasted about three hours, which was right about the time that a man he believed was Kyle came to pick Routh up to go to the gun range. In one point that would likely help the defense, Watson said that Routh seemed to “find less joy” in his life after returning from a humanitarian mission in Haiti. But in a point that might help the prosecution, he described their family as a “God-fearing” people and noted the Routh “knew right from wrong.” Watson saw his nephew later in the day when he arrived at Watson’s home driving Kyle’s car, saying "Check out my truck. ... I'm driving a dead man's truck." Day Four: Monday, Feb. 16 Call logs showed that Kyle and Routh spoke a few times before meeting, but all of the calls lasted between two and 15 minutes. Four voicemail messages were played for the court, and while most were perfunctory, one that Routh left for Kyle was bizarre. "Kind of a sad day when it rains. It's a good sad. Rain will come and rains will leave. I guess that's what they do," Routh was heard saying on the tape. The Texas jailer who transported Routh after the slaying of Kyle and Littlefield said the suspect was irritated during the drive. "I would call him under the influence maybe," Sgt. Kenny Phillips of the Erath County Jail said in court, noting that Routh's attitude changed “a great deal" during the ride. In the afternoon session, the court was shown a recording of Routh’s police interrogation where he is shown with his hands cuffed behind his back. In a move that will likely help the defense, he described how he believed he was under threat in language that suggests he was having paranoid thoughts. "I knew if I didn't take his soul, he was going take mine next,” Routh said to the police interrogator on the recording. “I'm just tired of playing chess with my life.” That said, Routh made it clear that he believed he knew the difference between right and wrong -- which is the point that the prosecution needs to make to win the case. When directly asked by the Texas Ranger whether he knew what he did was wrong, Routh said: “Yes, sir.” Day Five: Tuesday, Feb. 17 On the final day of the prosecution’s case, they called the police officer who initially transported him to the police station who described how his mood changed. They also presented footage from inside the police car, arguing that Routh began setting up his defense shortly after the incident with his bizarre behavior. He varies from lying across the back of the seat and appearing panicked to sitting up straight and seeming relaxed. At one point on the recording, Routh is heard saying: "I've been so paranoid and schizophrenic all day. I don't know if I'm insane or what's going on in the world right now.” They concluded their case by having a sheriff’s department representative describe how Routh appears calmer than he first was when he arrived in jail since he has been put back on his earlier medication plan as prescribed by the Veterans Affairs hospital, and then playing a recording of an interview Routh granted to The New Yorker from behind bars. Follow @ABCNewsRadio Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

UMass Amherst Reverses Controversial Ban on Iranian Students in Engineering, Sciences

UMass Amherst Reverses Controversial Ban on Iranian Students in Engineering, Sciences

Brian Church/iStock/Thinkstock(AMHERST, Mass.) -- The University of Massachusetts Amherst has overturned a controversial ban that would have prohibited all incoming Iranian students from participating in certain graduate engineering and natural sciences programs. "This approach reflects the university's longstanding commitment to wide access to educational opportunities," Michael Malone, vice chancellor for research and engagement, said in a statement on Wednesday. "It is now clear, after further consultation and deliberation, that we can adopt a less restrictive policy." The reversal comes just days after the school announced the ban to comply with a 2012 federal law -- part of sanctions against Iran to prevent it from acquiring nuclear weapons. The 2012 law denies visas for Iranian students in the U.S. if they want to work in the energy sector, nuclear science, nuclear engineering or related field in Iran. The concern was that those students would return to Iran and help advance the country's nuclear program. But UMass Amherst's broad prohibition caused an outcry from student groups and advocates. Jamal Abdi, policy director of the National Iranian American Council, said his group was surprised by how many programs and students the ban would have affected at UMass Amherst. "The scope is definitely surprising," Abdi said in an interview with ABC News before the ban was overturned. "This is the problem with a university attempting to implement a law that the State Department is in charge of." Abdi later said his group members "welcome UMass's reversal. We think they've done the right thing." Shirin Hakim, the former leader of the Persian Students Association at UMass Amherst, said she was overjoyed that the ban had been overturned and that she felt it was the result of a "misunderstanding" on the part of the school administration. "We always felt welcomed and we're very pleased with the results," said Hakim, adding that she thought "the administration is aware that they mistakenly released a policy that did not align with the support on campus." Amir Masoumi, a former graduate student who helped form the Iranian Graduate Student Association at UMass Amherst, said students he talked to thought the ban was "discriminatory interpretation of the law." He said he was still concerned that news of the ban, despite the quick reversal, would deter prospective Iranian applicants. "We hope that this ban and removal of this ban isn't going to affect those applicants," he said. Abdi said the council knew of only one other school, Virginia Commonwealth University, with a similar ban, but that it was not as expansive as the UMass Amherst ban. The State Department clarified in a statement that student visas would continue to be decided on a case-by-case basis and "reviewed individually in accordance with the requirements of the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act, and other relevant laws." "U.S. law does not prohibit qualified Iranian nationals coming to the United States for education in science and engineering," a State Department official said in a statement to ABC News. The department noted there has been no recent change in U.S. policy or guidance regarding Iranian student visas.

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500-Pound Fireball Illuminates Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York Pre-Dawn Skies

500-Pound Fireball Illuminates Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York Pre-Dawn Skies

NASA(NEW YORK) -- A 500-pound fireball meteor going 45,000 miles per hour, caught by NASA Meteor Watch cameras, illuminated skies above Pennsylvania, Ohio and New York early Tuesday. The dense space rock, which was actually only about 2 feet in diameter, flared brighter than the full moon, NASA Meteor Watch wrote on Facebook. The American Meteor Society received 96 reports of sightings of the meteor from eyewitnesses. A security camera in Robinson, Pennsylvania, caught the burning space rock lighting up the sky, and video from it was uploaded to YouTube by user Ron Shawley. The event took place at around 4:50 a.m., NASA said. "It lit up the sky (and all it the snow of course) bright blue," Pennsylvania resident Karen Rayner Bierbauer wrote on Facebook. "Very neat." NASA Meteor Watch also released an animation showing the orbit of the fireball and its perspective as it approached Earth. The celestial visitor came a "mighty long way" from an asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, the agency added. Fragments known as meteorites could be scattered on the ground east of Kittanin, Pennsylvania, where cameras lost track of the fireball, NASA Meteor Watch said.

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Westminster Dog Show’s Miss P Taking Applications for ‘Suitable Mates’

Westminster Dog Show’s Miss P Taking Applications for ‘Suitable Mates’

Andrew Toth/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- After Westminster Kennel Club winner Miss P enjoyed a steak on a silver platter, she'll follow the route of her grand-uncle and 2008 "Best in Show" winner Uno: retirement.Uno was the first beagle to win "Best in Show" in 2008. After hitting the top, Uno is living "happily in retirement," Westminster director of communications David Frei said."He’s the king of a 200-acre ranch in Austin, Texas," Frei said, adding that he last saw the nine-year old beagle and his owner in October."He’s living with a bunch of dogs, pygmy goats and longhorn cattle," he said.Uno had four owners in 2008, but now he is cared for by Caroline Dowell, who could not be reached for comment.Uno's grand-niece, Miss P, has already had a photo shoot on top of the Empire State building. She then headed to Sardi's for the traditional winner's meal in Manhattan. She will leave New York Thursday.At 4 years old, Miss P is of average age in the dog show world, Frei said of the 20-time competition winner."After you win at Westminster, there’s nothing more for you to win. She retires from the dog show world, will have a litter or two and contribute to the health and well-being of the breed," he said.The last time a "Best in Show" dog returned for another win was the 1970s, which was unsuccessfully attempted again in 1993.Frei said he didn't know whether Uno sired puppies, the typical path of winners."That's what dog shows are all about: identify breeding stocks and find us the next generation of healthy, happy dogs. I think we've well identified her [Miss P] as a superior breeding stock," he said. "We’ll hopefully bring some great puppies in the world not only for the show world but someone’s couch at home."Frei said Miss P's handler and owner will take applications for "suitable mates" for Miss P, based on bloodlines and pedigrees. But for now, Miss P fell asleep Wednesday on the way to Sardi's."I’ve had her since 6:30 and she’s crashed on her way to the press conference,” Frei said. “She’s pacing herself.”On Wednsday night, she will have a walk-on role in the musical Kinky Boots.

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Former Federal Judge Regrets 55-Year Marijuana Sentence

Former Federal Judge Regrets 55-Year Marijuana Sentence

Paul Cassell (R) talks with "Nightline" co-anchor Byron Pitts. (ABC News)(SALT LAKE CITY) -- Weldon Angelos was just 24 years old when he was sentenced to 55 years in federal prison for three marijuana sales. He is one of the hundreds of thousands of federal prisoners serving decades-long sentences for non-violent crimes, thanks to mandatory minimum sentencing laws created in the 1980s during America’s war on drugs.As a result, Angelos may not live long enough to experience freedom again. His case has haunted the federal judge who put him there."I do think about Angelos,” said Paul Cassell, a now-retired federal judge in the Utah circuit. “I sometimes drive near the prison where he’s held, and I think, ‘Gosh he shouldn’t be there. Certainly not as long as I had to send him there. ... That wasn’t the right thing to do. The system forced me to do it.”Back in 2002, Angelos was an aspiring music producer and a father of two young boys living in Salt Lake City. Determined to make it big, he founded his own record company, eventually collaborating with big names like Snoop Dogg. But Angelos told ABC News he also started dealing pot on the side.Federal authorities caught wind of Angelos’ dealings and set up three stings, using a criminal informant to buy about $1,000 worth of marijuana from him. But one critical detail made this case extraordinary -- during the deals, the criminal informant claimed Angelos had a gun in his possession.The case went to federal court and Angelos was convicted of selling narcotics while in possession of a firearm. These offenses fall under mandatory minimum sentencing laws, and prosecutors treated each of the three marijuana deals as its own individual offense. This is what is called “stacking” the charges, and it means Angelos was facing three prison terms, stacked on top of each other. All together: 55 years in prison, with no possibility of parole."A mandatory minimum is a sentence that says a judge has to impose a particular minimum number of years,” Cassell said. “It ties the judge’s hands… mandatory minimums can be used to send a message, but at some point the message gets lost.”As many as 210,000 prisoners like Angelos are serving decades behind bars for non-violent crimes. The group Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM) has complied hundreds of cases of non-violent offenders serving out what they call extreme prison sentences.“The drug war totally drove the mandatory minimums that we’re still dealing with today” said Julie Stewart, founder of FAMM. “We have escalated punishments to the point that it’s crazy… Why does any non-violent offender need to spend more than ten years in prison? Even that is a huge amount of time.”Cassell, who was appointed by President George W. Bush, now teaches law at the University of Utah. But he says the Angelos case still weighs on him, which is the reason he agreed to speak to ABC News' Nightline about his ruling, something federal judges rarely do.When Cassell delivered his ruling in the Angelos case, he was quick to point out how severe the sentence seemed compared to other, violent crimes.“If he had been an aircraft hijacker, he would have gotten 24 years in prison. If he’s been a terrorist, he would have gotten 20 years in prison. If he was a child rapist, he would have gotten 11 years in prison. And now I’m supposed to give him a 55-year sentence? I mean, that’s just not right,” he said.“I think that most of the time, our federal justice system succeeds,” Cassell continued. “But there are some cases where it fails and the Angelos case is a prime example of that.”Keeping offenders like Angelos in prison for virtual life sentences is also a heavy burden on the taxpayer -- Angelos' alone will cost an estimated $1.5 million by the time his sentence is through.“I thought the sentence was utterly unjust to Weldon Angelos, but also unjust to the taxpayer,” Cassell pointed out. “I think it’s just a waste of resources to lock him up for 55 years, I don’t really think anyone believes that’s an appropriate sentence."Since Utah has no federal prisons, Angelos was sent to serve his time at a prison in California, thousands of miles away from his family.Lisa Angelos remembers vividly the day when her brother was sentenced.“The one thing he did say to me was that we’ll never forget, he said, ‘Please, please help save my life,’ and I told him for as long as it takes, I will,” she said.Lisa has made good on that promise, writing petitions, filing appeals, even testifying against the use of mandatory minimums in Congress. She’s partnered with Families Against Mandatory Minimums to campaign for her brother’s release. But after years of trying, the only way Weldon Angelos will leave prison early is if he receives a commutation from President Obama.“The president has to say, you have served enough time. It’s time to let you out,” says Julie Stewart, the president of FAMM, “And I’m optimistic that he will do that. Because Weldon’s case is an outrage.”Lisa Angelos knows getting a presidential commutation is no easy task, but feels like her brother’s case may be strong enough.

“I look at it and it doesn’t make sense. It’s like pennies worth of marijuana, how can somebody be doing life for that?” she said.Weldon Angelos is now 35 years old. He’ll be 78 by the time his 55 years are up.His two young sons, Anthony and Jesse, are now teenagers, and haven’t seen their father for seven years -- the last time they were able to buy a trip out to California.“Being around them you can feel their heartache, even though their laughter, and watching them play and do the fun stuff, you can still feel it,” Lisa Angelos said. “Seeing what they have gone through by losing their father, it just emotionally destroys me.”Nearly every week, the boys talk on the phone with their father. During one such phone call, Weldon Angelos was able to talk to Nightline briefly.“I mean it’s difficult to understand. I thought my sentence was definitely unnecessary,” Angelos said. “A 55-year sentence is not going to do any more than a five- or 10-year sentence would have done, except take more of my life.”Lisa said she will continue to fight for her brother’s freedom.“To think that he will be in there until he is nearly 80 years old, I can’t give up on him, I just can’t do it,” she said.

Watch the full story on Nightline Wednesday night at 12:35 a.m. ET

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“American Sniper” Trial: Sister Says Eddie Routh ‘Traded His Soul for a Pickup’

“American Sniper” Trial: Sister Says Eddie Routh ‘Traded His Soul for a Pickup’

Kuzma/iStock/Thinkstock(STEPHENVILLE, Texas) -- Accused killer Eddie Ray Routh seemed confused when he arrived at his sister's home a few hours after allegedly shooting Chris Kyle and Chad Littlefield, Routh's sister said Wednesday."He was talking about pigs sucking his soul," Laura Blevins testified during the trial.Routh's sister and her husband Gaines Blevins were two of the witnesses the defense called to testify Wednesday morning in the double murder case. Kyle was a former Navy SEAL and the focus of the book and the movie American Sniper.Laura and Gaines Blevins called 911 after Routh came to their Texas home on Feb. 2, 2013, and admitted killing the famed sniper and his friend at a gun range.Laura Blevins said that she knew something was awry when her brother pulled up in a truck rather than his normal car, a Volkswagen Beetle that he had gotten painted to look like a ladybug.The car he was driving on the evening of Feb. 2 was Kyle's SUV that he allegedly stole while fleeing from the scene."He said he traded his soul for a pickup," Laura Blevins said on the stand. "The person who came to my house is not who I know as my brother."Gaines Blevins said that Routh "said he took two souls before they could take his." That claim is the same one Routh made again later that night to Texas Ranger Danny Briley, whose interrogation video was showed in court on Monday.Wednesday marks the first full day of the defense's case, and while they have never disputed that Routh killed Kyle and Littlefield, they are arguing that Routh was insane at the time of the shooting.Under Texas law, that means that they will have to prove that Routh did not know what he was doing was wrong. He faces life in prison if found guilty.

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‘Ash and Dash’ Puts Ash Wednesday in the Express Lane

‘Ash and Dash’ Puts Ash Wednesday in the Express Lane

Lori L. Fehr(NEW YORK) -- Early Wednesday morning in the parking lot of Islands Shopping Center, near Ace Hardware, the Rev. Bruce Fehr of St. Francis of the Islands Episcopal Church in Savannah, Georgia, placed ashes on the foreheads of 52 people who didn't even have to leave their vehicles."It was cold, by our standards," said Fehr, who stood in the 37-degree weather with his wife and a parishioner who leases office space nearby.The church called Wednesday morning's service, "Ashes to Go," and it is part of a trend in which churches hope to meet the needs of the faithful with what might be called an "ash and dash.""The feedback we've had was incredible," Fehr said.The service was the first of its kind for his church, which has about 160 people in its congregation, though all 52 who received ashes Wednesday morning were not parishioners. There was to be another "Ashes to Go" service at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday and traditional services at noon and 7 p.m. inside the church.In Pontiac, Michigan, 40 people stopped by All Saints Episcopal Church's Ash Wednesday drive-thru from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. The process to receive ashes took all of 30 seconds.The Rev. Linda Northcraft and the Rev. Chris Berg said they were surprised by the attendance at the church's first-ever drive-thru service."We were both out on the parking lot and we had teenagers who had signs at the corners," said Northcraft, who braved a temperature of 9 degrees."We were just dressed warmly," she said.A number of Episcopal churches in the U.S. are hosting drive-thru services or similar events on Wednesday. With the encouragement of her bishop, Northcraft said about 20 churches in her diocese around Detroit were hosting mobile services. Her church's 250-member congregation could also attend a traditional service indoors at noon and 7:30 p.m.Northcraft said she would "absolutely" hold an unconventional service like Wednesday's again."If you have 40 people coming, that’s wonderful," she said, adding that with the exception of three parishioners, "They were people we had never seen before."Most had heard about the service through the radio, including three elderly women who said it would have been difficult to leave their car."It made it possible to get ashes because they were handicapped, which I thought was just wonderful," Northcraft said.

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#BostonBlizzardChallenge: Boston Mayor Says Stop Jumping Out of Windows

#BostonBlizzardChallenge: Boston Mayor Says Stop Jumping Out of Windows

Fuse/Thinkstock(BOSTON) -- Not-so-wicked-smaht Bostonians are stripping down to their underwear and jumping out of their windows into piles of snow to take the #BostonBlizzardChallenge spreading on social media.Though clips of half-naked residents plunging into the snow have social media users amused, Boston's mayor isn't laughing."This isn't Loon Mountain," Mayor Martin Walsh said in a news conference on Monday, referring to a New Hampshire ski resort. "This is the city of Boston, where we're trying to remove snow off of the street, and it becomes very dangerous."

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"The last thing we want to do is respond to an emergency call where somebody jumped out of the window because they thought it was a funny thing to do," he added.

The latest blizzard this past Sunday has officially made this February the snowiest month the city has seen in its entire history. It's also left Boston struggling to remove more than seven feet of snow that has accumulated over the past three weeks.But some folks are not only making use of the seven feet to do daredevil jumps, but also to go swimming.

 

#bostonblizzardchallenge 😂😭😂😭 3rd floor edition !! It's a costume

A video posted by Kiara Gomes (@kiki_gomaj) on Feb 15, 2015 at 1:34pm PST

 

"These four storms we've had in a row are doing a tremendous wear and tear on our streets," said Walsh.The snow seems to be driving the entire city crazy -- and some to the point of jumping off of roofs three stories high and into snowbanks.

“I’m asking people to stop this nonsense right now. These are adults jumping out windows," said Walsh.World News Videos | US News Videos

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