Alabama police make new arrest in woman’s 1990 murder; husband cleared

Dale County Sheriff’s Office(OZARK, Ala.) — Authorities dropped charges against an Alabama man who was accused of killing his wife 30 years ago, saying another man has confessed to the murder.

Police in Ozark, Alabama, arrested Jeff Beasley, 54, in the 1990 death of Tracy Harris, who was found dead in the Choctawhatchee River with signs of strangulation, authorities announced Monday.

Investigators said Beasley, who they described as a former friend of the couple, admitted to the killing on Sunday, a day before the victim’s husband, Carl Harris Jr., was scheduled to stand trial for her murder. The Dale County District Attorney’s decision to drop charges against Harris was announced on his 55th birthday.

“As district attorney, it is my job to not only seek justice, but to be fair to everyone involved,” Dale County District Attorney Kirke Adams said at a press conference Monday. “This has been an incredible series of events and, undoubtedly, led from above.”

The case was at a standstill until 2016, when police reopened the investigation and charged Carl Harris with murder, citing circumstantial evidence and witness testimony.

Adams credited the county’s assistant district attorney, Jordon Davis, with cracking the case on Monday.

“I want to thank my assistant, Jordan Davis,” Adams said. “While preparing for Harris’ murder trial, she noticed very important information regarding a witness in this case that was last spoken to in 1990. The witness’ statement was very important to this case.”

He did not offer details about Beasley’s confession, but said his office interviewed Beasley’s ex-wife, who shared new information that led detectives to Beasley. Investigators have not revealed a motive.

Ozark Police Department Chief Marlos Walker said Beasley revealed information that only the woman’s killer would know.
 
“The new evidence was information that had never been shared before,” Walker said Monday. “The suspect gave details about the crime that only the killer would know.”

Walker said his department had worked tirelessly to ensure that justice was served, but Carl Harris’ attorney, David Harrison, disputed those claims.

“No one did anything until I filed a motion Friday in my client’s case implicating someone other than my client,” Harrison told local news outlet Dothan Eagle on Monday. “I do thank the district attorney’s office for looking into the witness and dropping the charges against my client. But no one has apologized to my client for what he has gone through since his arrest.”

Beasley, the man who police said admitted to the murder, was being held on $150,000 bond as of Monday evening. It’s unclear if he has retained an attorney.

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Bomb suggests Jewish market massacre suspects had bigger attack plans: Officials

Obtained by ABC News(NEW YORK) — Hate for the Jewish community and law enforcement were the twin motives behind a deadly December attack at a New Jersey kosher supermarket by a pair of suspects who were armed to the teeth and possessed a homemade bomb powerful enough to maim people five football fields away, authorities said on Monday.

Updating the public on its investigation, federal prosecutors and FBI officials said suspects David Anderson and Francine Graham, who were both killed in a gun battle with police, may have been forced to alter their initial attack plans when Detective Joseph Seals recognized their van was wanted in connection with an unsolved homicide in nearby Bayonne, New Jersey, and confronted them, officials said.

Seals, a veteran of the Jersey City Police Department, likely did not know the extent of the danger he was in when he approached the suspects’ U-Haul van in Bay View Cemetery in Jersey City on Dec. 10 and was gunned down, officials said.

By the time Seals was killed, Anderson and Graham had already allegedly murdered a livery driver in Bayonne and shot up a car driven by a Jewish man near Newark Airport, authorities said.

Evidence found in the U-Haul van the suspects had stolen suggests they initially planned to target a Jewish community center in Bayonne until they ran into Seals, who just happened to be in the cemetery meeting an informant, Craig Carpenito, U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey, said at a news conference.

“We believe [Seals] threw off a broader plan,” Carpenito said.

Carpenito said Seals, a 40-year-old married father of five, “probably saved dozens if not more lives.”

After allegedly killing Seals, Anderson, 47, and Graham, 50, drove from the cemetery to the Jersey City Kosher Supermarket, about a mile away, and stormed the business with guns blazing, killing three civilians inside.

Security video released earlier by investigators showed Anderson parking the van in front of the supermarket, exiting the vehicle and immediately opening fire with an AR-15-style rifle as he entered the store followed by Graham who was wielding a shotgun.

A 9mm handgun used in the slaying of Seals was found on the suspects after they were killed in the market during an hours-long gunfight with police, Carpenito said.

Also discovered in the van was a homemade pipe bomb powerful enough to send shrapnel flying over 500 yards, or the length of five football fields, and enough bomb-making material to build another explosive just as strong, authorities said.

Prior to killing Seals and attacking the kosher market, Anderson and Graham had already been on a crime spree.

The two first conducted target practice at a shooting range in Austintown, Ohio, on Dec. 1, according to video investigators reviewed, officials said.

Two days later on Dec. 3, the pair fired two shots into a vehicle near Newark International Airport. The targeted car was driven by a man “visibly of the Jewish faith,” who escaped injury, authorities said.

The victim of the car shooting did not report the gunfire right away, and only came forward after the Jersey City shooting, officials said.

Anderson and Graham then targeted livery driver Michael Rumberger, who was bludgeoned and fatally shot in a Lincoln Town car in Bayonne on Dec. 7, officials said. Investigators have yet to learn why Rumberger was killed.

In the days after Rumberger’s death, the suspects Googled “the meaning of the surname Rumberger,” officials said.

“But there is nothing we can see that tied Anderson and Graham directly to Michael Rumberger prior to his murder, and we cannot stand here and say today definitively that Michael Rumberger was targeted,” Carpenito said. “We may never learn the connection between the murder of Mr. Rumberger and the individuals that were killed on Dec. 10, 2019, because the people that we definitely know were involved in this event are deceased.”

Rumberger was killed with the same .22-caliber handgun used to shoot the vehicle near Newark Airport, Carpenito said. Rumberger’s blood was found on a Bible in the suspects’ U-Haul, he said.

The day Seals was killed, Anderson and Graham drove past the kosher supermarket on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard twice — at 9:45 a.m. and 11:03 a.m. — leading investigators to believe they cased the supermarket they eventually attacked.

While there is a yeshiva next to the market, investigators have yet to uncover any evidence that the suspects planned to attack the Jewish school as well, officials said.

Authorities also confirmed on Monday that as shots were being fired in the supermarket, worker Douglas Miguel Rodriguez, 49, was killed as he heroically held the door open for another person to escape.

The suspects killed their three victims — including Mindel Ferencz, 31, who owned the grocery with her husband, and Moshe Deutsch, 24, a rabbinical student from Brooklyn — in the supermarket immediately upon entering, officials said.

From the get-go, law enforcement has investigated the killings as an act of domestic terrorism.

Gregory Ehrie, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Newark field office, said evidence collected so far suggests the motive for the rampage was hatred of the Jewish faith and law enforcement.

“The subjects held biases against the Jewish community and against law enforcement,” Ehrie said on Monday.
 
“And something cues these people off to commit violence,” Ehrie said.

Investigators do not believe there are any co-conspirators.

“We may never truly know all of the facts, all of the events, every detail of the intent behind the incidents that occurred,” Carpenito said.

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Baby found safe after being left in car that was stolen while parents gambled

kali9/iStock(HOUSTON) — A 16-month-old Texas boy has been found safe after thieves stole an unattended vehicle he had been left sleeping in, while his parents face child abandonment charges.

The child had been outside a convenience store late Sunday night while his mother, 21-year-old Kimberley Cook, and her boyfriend, 29-year-old Anthony Blue, were inside playing gambling machines.

Surveillance video from the store from earlier in the evening shows the pair with the child in the store playing the machines. They then left and returned at around 11:30 p.m. to continue playing, and left the child in an unlocked, running car in the parking lot outside to sleep.

Video captures, toddler, mom, and her boyfriend at video game consoles shortly before he was put in the car, and the car was then stolen. More on #abc13 at 5 & 6! https://t.co/udJitKFZha pic.twitter.com/vhJTNiJRiZ

— Miya Shay (@ABC13Miya) January 13, 2020

The pair would periodically leave to check on the infant and around midnight discovered that the car had been stolen and alerted police.

Cook originally told deputies she and Blue left the child in the vehicle as it was running to enter the store, and when they walked back out it was gone, according to a statement from the Harris County Sheriff’s Office.

Deputies subsequently discovered that they had been playing so-called eight-liner gambling machines. Cook and Blue were subsequently charged with child endangerment.

The car was driven off by two men, identified by the Sheriff’s office as 19-year-old Vincent Leon Cannady and 18-year-old Jabari Jonathan Davis.

The pair left the infant in a nearby park where he was discovered shivering in his onesie by a ranger who was locking the park’s gates for the night. Houston police took the child to a local hospital as a precaution.

“It’s pretty chilly out here and a lot of wild animals running around out there. Things could’ve ended very differently had the park ranger not come by here and located the baby,” Kerry Clopton with the Houston Fire Department told ABC News affiliate KTRK-TV.

Police spotted the stolen car on the road around 1 a.m., and the suspects led officers on a chase, before finally stopping and being taken into custody.

Davis was charged with kidnapping, auto theft and felony evading. Cannady was charged with auto theft and kidnapping. Both of them were on deferred adjudication for previous felony offenses, KTRK reported.

According to KTRK, the child’s maternal grandmother said that his name is Franklynn, but police have not confirmed his identity.

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Elderly landlord dead after being violently pushed down stairs in dispute with tenant

carlballou/iStock(NEW YORK) — A 22-year-old man has been arrested after pushing his elderly landlord so violently down the front stairs of his building in a dispute over rent that the man died.

The incident occurred in the Corona neighborhood of Queens, New York City, on Sunday at around 2 p.m. when 71-year-old Edgar Moncayo went to the home that he owned in the 3200 block of 102nd Street to confront his 22-year old tenant, Alex Garces, over missed rental payments.

“The guy pushed my dad so furiously that my dad flew from the front door to the concrete of the sidewalk,” Moncayo’s daughter, Cristina Moncayo, said in an interview with ABC News’ New York station WABC-TV.

“We didn’t expect this to ever happen. It is like a dream, you know, a nightmare,” said Moncayo’s grandson. “He was a great grandfather actually. A hard working man who had three daughters, several grandkids.”

According to the Moncayo family, Garces had been causing problems and threatening to leave the property without paying anything at all. Garces had also allegedly missed paying his rent for at least one month when Edgar Moncayo approached him over the weekend.

Moncayo’s grandson told WABC that his grandfather had even reduced Garces’ rent from $400 to $200 a month to help the tenant.

When authorities arrived on Sunday they found the 71-year-old victim lying at the bottom of the staircase in front of his home unconscious and bleeding from the head.

Moncayo was taken to Elmhurst Hospital in critical condition but was pronounced dead a short time later.

“I was very surprised because I saw him yesterday around 1 o’clock in the afternoon. He was alive after I’d come back from church,” said neighbor Sergio Luna.

Moncayo’s daughter said that her father’s organs will be donated.

Garces is currently under arrest at the 115th precinct and is waiting to be taken to central booking.

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Possible serial killer was behind teen’s 1976 rape, murder: Police

digicomphoto/iStock(DUPAGE COUNTY, Ill.) — A teenage girl’s murder from 1976 has now been solved thanks to DNA and genetic genealogy and investigators believe her murderer was a serial killer.

On the night of Jan. 12, 1976, 16-year-old Pamela Maurer left a friend’s house in Illinois and walked to get a soft drink. She was never heard from again, DuPage County State’s Attorney Robert Berlin said.

The next morning, the teenager was found raped and strangled to death on the side of a road in Lisle, Illinois, Berlin said.

“For 44 years her murder remained a mystery,” Berlin said at a news conference on Monday.

The first turn in the case came in 2001 when “biological evidence” was collected from Maurer’s body, Berlin said. A DNA profile was recovered from her suspected killer, and that was entered into the law enforcement database CODIS — but there were no hits, he said.

The big break in the case was then in 2019, when investigators turned to the novel technique of genetic genealogy.

Genetic genealogy compares unknown DNA evidence from a crime scene to public genealogy databases, which are populated by the DNA of family members who voluntarily upload their DNA.

Genetic genealogy has been called a “game-changer” in cracking cold cases. Since the arrest of the suspected “Golden State Killer” in April 2018, about 100 suspects have been identified through the technology, according to Parabon NanoLabs Chief Genetic Genealogist CeCe Moore, who worked on the Maurer case.

Investigators traced Maurer’s unknown killer’s family tree and identified Bruce Lindahl as a possible suspect, Berlin said.

Lindahl died in 1981 at the age of 29, when he apparently accidentally slashed himself while stabbing an 18-year-old man to death, Berlin said.

In November 2019, Lindahl’s body was exhumed and his DNA was found to be a match to the suspect DNA on Maurer’s body, Berlin said.

Shortly before the holidays, detectives flew to visit Maurer’s family to tell her father and brother the identity of her suspected killer, Berlin said.

“We finally put a name and face to this monster,” Lisle Police Det. Chris Loudon said Monday.

But Maurer was not Lindahl’s first victim. Loudon said he suspects Lindahl was a serial killer.

In 1980, Lindahl allegedly kidnapped and sexually assaulted Debra Colliander, forcing her into his car and taking her to his house in Aurora, Ill., where he allegedly threatened her with a gun and took nude photos of her, said Berlin. Colliander managed to escape by fleeing naked to a nearby home, said Berlin.

Lindahl was charged with aggravated kidnapping, rape and deviant sexual assault. He was released on bail pending trial, said Berlin.

Later that year, Lindahl allegedly told a friend that “a girl had pressed charges against him for rape, and that if the girl did not appear in court, he would get out of it,” Berlin said.

On Oct. 7, 1980 — two weeks before the trial was set to start — Colliander disappeared, Berlin said.

Later on, “the friend of Lindahl reported that Lindahl offered him $2,000, a handgun, whiskey and pills to get rid of the victim,” Berlin said.

But the case against Lindahl had already been dismissed, he said.

In 1982, Colliander’s body was found buried in a shallow grave in Oswego Township, Ill., and her death was ruled a homicide, Berlin said.

By that time, Lindahl was already dead, he said.

Numerous photos of young women were found in Lindahl’s home after his death, including photos of a woman last seen alive in 1979, Berlin said.

Lindahl’s DNA is now being used to investigate unsolved cases, Berlin said in a statement Monday.

Berlin said, “I urge anyone with any information about Bruce Lindahl, any crimes involving Bruce Lindahl or any possible victims of Bruce Lindahl to please contact us via our tip line at 630-407-8107 or Detective Chris Loudon of the Lisle Police Department at 630-271-4252.”

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Missing Ohio teenager Harley Dilly found dead inside a vacant home’s chimney

LPETTET/iStock(PORT CLINTON, Ohio) — Almost four weeks after 14-year-old Harley Dilly disappeared while walking to school, officials in Port Clinton, Ohio, said his body was found trapped inside the chimney of a vacant home.

Dilly left his home on Dec. 20 to go to his last day of school at Port Clinton High School before the holiday break. He never arrived.

Port Clinton Police Department Chief Robert J. Hickman tried not to break down in tears during a press conference on Tuesday where he announced that Dilly was dead. “This appears to be an accident, no foul play expected,” said Hickman.

Investigators re-canvassed the area on Monday and decided to search the summer home that was under renovations. “There is no evidence of forced entry. Since there is a lockbox and anyone can go in and out of the house, we went inside to check the house,” said Hickman.

When they entered the second floor of the house, they found Dilly’s jacket and glasses next to a brick chimney and his body caught inside.

“The chimney is between the second and third floors and is 9 by 13 inches,” said Hickman.

The hunt for Dilly began on Dec. 22 and the Port Clinton Police Department has provided daily updates on its social media account.

Investigators released a surveillance image of the last known sighting of Dilly crossing the street in front of his home on the 500 block of E. 5th Street wearing a thin maroon puffy jacket.

An Amber Alert was issued. Approximately 75 law enforcement agencies including the FBI, K-9 search and rescue teams and helicopters scoured over 150 acres to find Dilly.

Members of the community banned together to raise $18,095 in reward money for information leading to Dilly’s safe return and assisted with the search efforts.

On Saturday, over 100 members of the community volunteered to conduct their own search, according to the “Search Party of Harley Dilly” Facebook group.

On Tuesday the Amber Alert was cancelled because the “child has been recovered,” according to the Ohio Attorney General’s office.

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Michigan considers adding non-binary option to driver’s licenses

asbe/iStock(LANSING, Mich.) — Michigan is exploring the possibility of adding a new driver’s license option for people who identify as non-binary.

“The state is exploring the feasibility of adding a non-binary option when we upgrade our technology in 2021,” Jake Rollow, a spokesman for Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson’s office, told ABC News.

Michigan residents who do not identify as exclusively masculine or feminine have apparently voiced the desire for an option that would better reflect the full spectrum of gender expression.

“We are doing so after hearing from communities and people across the state who desire a way to identify themselves that reflects their reality,” Rollow said. “At this preliminary stage, we don’t have additional information.”

Although the move is still in an exploratory phase, it would be the 14th state, along with Washington, D.C., to create this option.

New York City has a similar choice that allows drivers to select an “X” instead of “M” for male or “F” for female.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment.

Last November, Benson announced a policy that would make it easier for people to change existing sex designations on state-issued driver’s licenses and ID cards, according to a press release.

Together with transgender advocates, Benson announced the revision to the policy would “make it easier for transgender people to obtain identification.”

“Studies show that nearly 81 percent of the transgender population in Michigan lacks proper identification,” the release stated.

“One of my goals is to reduce barriers for marginalized communities to participate fully in our society. The transgender community has faced both marginalization and violence without proper identification,” Benson said in a statement. “This change returns to a policy that was in place before the issue was politicized, and that was utilized by both a Republican and Democrat secretary of state.”

Currently, individuals who wish to correct the sex designation on their license or ID card have to fill out a form, go to a branch office for their photo and pay a $9 fee for a driver’s license or $10 for a state ID.

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Flood alerts in South as new major storm crosses country

ABC News(NEW YORK) — Part of the same cold front that brought all the severe weather over the weekend is stalled in the South and brought an EF-1 tornado and winds of 90 mph to South Carolina Monday, where cars were flipped in a parking lot.

This front is also bringing flash flooding to the South Tuesday morning and six states from Louisiana to Georgia are on alert for flooding.

Locally 4 inches of rain are possible through the end of the day Tuesday and flooding is forecast through the day.

In the West, we are watching heavy wet snow that is causing mayhem on the roads around Seattle with accidents and road closures overnight.

A new storm will move into the West Coast Wednesday and into Thursday with more heavy snow and heavy rain all the way down to southern California.

Seven states Tuesday morning in the West are on alert ahead of the storm.

By Friday, this storm system will move into the Heartland with heavy snow and ice to the north and heavy rain and thunderstorms to the South.

By the weekend, this storm will move into the East Coast with snow for the Northeast and heavy rain from the Deep South into the Carolinas. More flooding is possible in the South with this storm.

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14-year-old girl installs cameras to record proof of alleged abuse when no one would believe her

Okalossa Department of Corrections(DESTIN, Fla.) — A 14-year-old girl resorted to installing cameras in her bedroom and recording the alleged physical abuse she endured because no one believed her, her mom and police said.

The girl provided video evidence of the alleged assaults to the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office in Florida, prompting the arrest of 47-year-old Damon Becnel on Jan. 2, according to an arrest report obtained by ABC News.

In the two videos the girl showed authorities, Becnel could be seen head-butting her, grabbing her by the hair and throwing her head against the bed, according to the arrest report.

He also could be seen pulling a knife on a dog and yelling “I will cut this f—— god—- dog’s f—— eyeballs out” while the girl is in the room and pleading with him to stop, the report stated.

Becnel was charged with felony child abuse and tormenting an animal, according to the sheriff’s office.

The girl’s mother, who was not identified to protect the identity of her daughter, told ABC Pensacola affiliate WEAR that the girl had tried to report the alleged abuse for years, but no one believed her. Her daughter then installed cameras to provide proof, her mom said.

The mom does not have custody of the girl, who is now living with Becnel’s best friend, according to WEAR.

The sheriff’s office declined to tell ABC News if, or how, the girl and Becnel are related, citing a state law that protects the identities of child abuse victims.

Becnel was released on Jan. 3 after posting $4,000 bail and is due before a judge on Feb. 4. He could not be reached by ABC News for comment.

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