TIME Crime

$2.5 Million Settlement for Hot Jail Cell Death on Rikers Island

The temperature in Jerome Murdough's cell on New York City's Rikers Island is said to have exceeded 100 degrees when he was found dead in February

The family of a New York City prisoner who died in an overheated jail cell will receive $2.5 million to settle a wrongful-death suit, the city comptroller’s office announced Friday.

“A mother lost a son, the City lost a citizen. It is my hope that this settlement provides some small measure of closure for the family of Mr. Murdough,” said city comptroller Scott M. Stringer in a statement, referring to the deceased inmate.

The Rikers Island prison complex, where Jerome Murdough was found dead this past February in a cell where the temperature exceeded 100 degrees, has been the subject of frequent criticism for the poor treatment of prisoners in recent months. In this particular case, jail officials had received reports of high temperatures but had not fixed acted to solve the problem.

At the time of his death, the 56-year-old prisoner was awaiting trial for trespassing. Murdough, who is said to have suffered from mental illness, was arrested a week prior to his death as he sought shelter from the cold in a public housing building.

“This is a very awful thing I’m going through, and I hope that no one else will have to ever go through anything like this,” said the inmate’s mother Alma Murdough, at a Friday press conference.

TIME Crime

Subway Robbery Suspect Said ‘Jared’ Diet Failed

Zachary Torrance says he didn’t lose weight

The man suspected of robbing a string of Subway sandwich shops in Alabama told authorities he did it because the “Jared diet” didn’t work for him, and he wanted his money back.

Jared is the name of a man who became a spokesperson for Subway after he purportedly lost a significant amount of weight by going on a diet consisting solely of fare from the sandwich chain.

Zachary Torrance, 18, was arrested at a Hueytown, Alabama, Walmart, after a citizen matched his face to surveillance footage. Torrance is suspected in Subway store robberies in Birmingham, Midfield and Adamsville, WVTM Birmingham reports.

[WVTM]

TIME

Fake Clowns Terrorize France

The scary clowns are no Halloween treat for the French

Creepy clowns are freaking out the French. A rash of scary pranks carried out at night by the costumed characters have put police officers on alert. Teenagers dressed as clowns and carrying weapons have spooked many French citizens.

The frightening characters have even led one town to ban the costume altogether for anyone over the age of 13.

Southern California, New York City, and England have all experienced a creepy clown craze like the one in France in recent years.

TIME Terrorism

U.S. Military Ups Vigilance as Fears Mount of Fresh ISIS-Inspired Attacks

William Mayville
Army Lt. Gen. William Mayville, Jr., speaks about the operations to target the Khorasan Group in Syria on Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2014, during a news conference at the Pentagon. Cliff Owen—AP

Defense officials are fearful that their personnel may be targeted after receiving public threats from terrorists operating in the Middle East

The American military is warning service members and their families to be a bit more vigilant amid threatens directed from or inspired by ISIS, according to a report on Thursday.

Law enforcement officers and service members were described by the Pentagon, in an internally circulated memo last week, as “legitimate targets” by the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria, the Military Times reports. The message came days after a lone gunman went on a shooting rampage at the Canadian Parliament in Ottawa, killing one soldier.

The Marine Corps was also reported to send out an announcement that called on troops to report “even the most minor suspicious activity” and to be prudent when posting updates on social media. And officials at MacDill Air Force Base, overseeing the 6th Air Mobility Wing in Tampa, Fla., were said to have instructed troops to keep a low profile and avoid public affiliation with the military.

According to a dossier compiled for the U.N. Security Council, an estimated 15,000 individuals have traveled to Syria and Iraq to fight alongside ISIS and other militant organizations. The large number of fighters receiving training with such groups has raised fresh fears in the U.S. and abroad of domestic attacks should they return home.

[Military Times]

TIME Crime

Accused Cop Killer Eric Frein in Police Custody

Handout of Matthew Eric Frein, 31, of Canadensis, Pennsylvania
Matthew Eric Frein, 31, of Canadensis, Pennsylvania, is shown in this undated handout photo provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Transport September 16, 2014. Reuters

Pennsylvania State Police, ending a seven-week manhunt, have captured a man accused of ambushing two troopers, leaving one dead and seriously injuring the other.

Eric Frein, 31, was taken into custody Thursday, state police said. They released no details of his capture.

Frein is charged with opening fire outside the Blooming Grove barracks on Sept. 12, killing Cpl. Bryon Dickson and seriously wounding another trooper.

Police said they linked him to the ambush after a man walking his dog discovered his partly submerged SUV three days later in a swamp a few miles from the shooting scene. Inside, investigators found shell casings matching those found at barracks as well as Frein’s driver’s license, camouflage face paint, two empty rifle cases and military gear.

Saying Frein was armed and extremely dangerous, officials had closed schools and urged residents to be alert and cautious. Using dogs, thermal imaging technology and other tools, law enforcement officials combed miles of forest as they hunted for Frein, whom they called an experienced survivalist at home in the woods.

They pursued countless tips and closed in on an area around Frein’s parents’ home in Canadensis after he used his cellphone to try contacting them, and the signal was traced to a location about 3 miles away. At times police ordered nearby residents to stay inside or prevented them from returning home.

Trackers found items they believe Frein hid or abandoned in the woods — including soiled diapers, empty packs of Serbian cigarettes, an AK-47-style assault rifle and ammunition and two pipe bombs that were functional and capable of causing significant damage. They also discovered a journal, allegedly kept by Frein and found in a bag of trash at a hastily abandoned campsite, that offered a chilling account of the ambush and his subsequent escape into the woods. The journal’s author described Dickson as falling “still and quiet” after being shot twice.

Police spotted a man they believed to be Frein at several points during the manhunt, but it was always from a distance, with the rugged terrain allowing him to keep them at bay. Police said he appeared to be treating the manhunt as a game.

Frein allegedly held anti-law enforcement views for many years and expressed them both online and to people who knew him. But the source of his alleged vendetta remains unclear. His criminal record appears limited to a decade-old misdemeanor case involving items stolen from a World War II re-enactors event in upstate New York, for which he spent 109 days in jail.

Police found a U.S. Army manual called “Sniper Training and Employment” in the suspect’s bedroom at his parents’ house, and his father, a retired Army major, told authorities that his son is an excellent marksman who “doesn’t miss,” according to a police affidavit. Authorities believe he had been planning a confrontation with police for years, citing information they found on a computer used by Frein.

Frein belonged to a military re-enactor’s group, playing the part of a Serbian solder. He had a small role in a 2007 movie about a concentration camp survivor and helped with props and historical references on a documentary about World War I.

The FBI named him to its 10 most wanted list.

His 18-year-old sister, Tiffany Frein, earlier acknowledged that her brother “did something messed up” but told NBC News that he is “not a psycho.”

Frein is charged with first-degree murder and various other offenses, including two counts of possession of weapons of mass destruction filed after police discovered the pipe bombs.

At his funeral, Dickson was called a devoted husband and father and “impeccable” ex-Marine who took his work seriously but also enjoyed making wooden toys for his young sons and finding humor in everyday situations. Trooper Alex Douglass was shot in the pelvis and critically injured in the ambush, which took place during a late-night shift change.

Douglass remained hospitalized until Oct. 16, when he was discharged to a rehabilitation facility.

TIME celebrities

Here’s Jesse Williams Venting About Ferguson and Trayvon Martin Halloween Costumes

Actor Jesse Williams in New York in 2013.
Actor Jesse Williams in New York in 2013. Jamie McCarthy—Getty Images

"We don't reflexively celebrate random or routine white death, make memes of your bleeding corpses"

Grey’s Anatomy star Jesse Williams went on a Twitter tirade this week about the shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and about people who dress up for Halloween as Trayvon Martin, another unarmed black teen who was shot dead.

Here’s just a few of his tweets, some of which were sent in response to the recent release of an autopsy report that seemed to give some weight to the police version of events in the Ferguson shooting, which sparked weeks of sometimes violent protests in the St. Louis suburb.

Read more at Essence

TIME Crime

Jealous Friend Implicates Love Rival in Obama Assassination Plot

U.S. President Obama arrives onboard Air Force One at Westchester County Airport in White Plains, New York
U.S. President Barack Obama arrives on board Air Force One at Westchester County Airport in White Plains, N.Y., on Aug. 29, 2014 Jonathan Ernst—Reuters

The man called 911 and said his former roommate planned to kill the President during a visit to New York State

A jealous man from Yonkers, N.Y., has admitted falsely telling police that a female friend’s boyfriend was planning to assassinate U.S. President Barack Obama during a visit to Westchester County in August.

Juan Medina, 31, called 911 on Aug. 29 when Obama was in Westchester for two fundraisers, USA Today reported. He told them that an acquaintance from New Haven, Conn., was on his way to New York State armed with two assault rifles and intent on killing the President.

Agents from a host of law-enforcement agencies rushed to locate the man he’d named and finally swooped on the town of Hamden, in Connecticut. The man said he suspected his former roommate and girlfriend’s friend of placing the emergency call, leading them back to Medina.

Although Medina denied placing the hoax call on two separate occasions last month, he finally confessed after failing a lie-detector test during a second interview.

The confession was reported by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, who said Medina tried to get the Connecticut man in trouble because he did not approve of his relationship with his girlfriend.

Medina was charged on Wednesday with one count of making false statements to authorities, and has since been released on $25,000 bail.

[USA Today]

TIME Crime

Child Rape Suspect Caught in New York

Gregory Lewis had been spotted in a handful of states since he fled Massachusetts in August

A Massachusetts man accused of raping a child who had been on the run since September was arrested late Tuesday in New York, authorities said.

Gregory Lewis, 26, was also wanted in several states in connection with a series of sexual assaults, kidnappings, and armed robberies, CNN reports. He’s accused of robbing, assaulting, and handcuffing several victims who he met online.

Lewis was arrested Tuesday after fleeing New York state troopers attempting to pull him over for driving with a missing license plate, authorities said. Lewis later crashed his car into a river. The suspect, who had been charged with four counts of felony child rape in August, fled Massachusets after cutting off his GPS-monitoring bracelet. Lewis had been seen in Charlotte, Denver, Portland, Boise, and Salt Lake City since he fled.

[CNN]

TIME Crime

Ferguson Police Chief Denies Resignation Report

Protesters call for resignation of Ferguson police chief
Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson begins to march with protesters before clashes led to arrests in front of the Ferguson Police Department, on Thursday, Sept. 25, 2014. Robert Cohen—AP

Embattled chief Tom Jackson says he isn't going anywhere

The Ferguson, Mo. police department is denying reports that its chief is set to be replaced amid ongoing protests in a community bracing for a grand jury decision in the shooting death of Michael Brown.

“Nobody in my chain of command has asked me to resign, nor have I been terminated,” Ferguson police chief Tom Jackson told CNN, which reported late Tuesday night that Jackson would step down as part of a broad reorganization that would hand control of the department to the St. Louis County police. CNN, citing unnamed “government officials familiar with the ongoing discussions,” reported the move could come as soon as next week.

That was news to the Ferguson police department, which denied the report but left open the possibility that Jackson could vacate the post. “He has not been told to resign. He has not been fired. If he leaves, it will be his choice alone,” the department posted on Twitter.

Jackson did not immediately return a call or an email seeking comment on the report.

Officer Brian Schellman of the St. Louis County Police says his department is unaware of impending changes. “We have no knowledge of any of that,” Schellman says.

The report comes as the aftershocks of the Aug. 9 shooting continue to reverberate in the St. Louis suburb. A grand jury investigating the shooting of Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old, is expected to hand down a decision by mid-November on whether to indict police officer Darren Wilson on murder or manslaughter charges. In recent weeks, the protests have regained steam amid a series of leaked reports that appeared to corroborate Wilson’s claim that the shooting came after Brown assaulted the officer. Local officials say they are worried about the protests that may erupt if Wilson is not indicted.

Jackson has come under withering criticism for his handling of the shooting. As riots roiled the St. Louis suburb in the days after Brown’s death, Jackson resisted the intense pressure to identify the officer who shot him. When he finally fingered Wilson six days later, he did so while releasing a video of an unrelated robbery Brown committed before the attack—which critics considered an attempt to taint the reputation of the dead teen.

The shooting released a wave of mounting frustration between Ferguson’s largely African American population and its heavily white government and police force. Residents have raised questions about what they say is a pattern of racial profiling and the Justice Department has opened a broad civil rights investigation into the Ferguson police department. Outgoing U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, who visited the troubled city in the aftermath of the shooting, has said his department is investigating the Ferguson force’s record of stops, searches and use of force against residents. Statistics indicate the police force has targeted African Americans at a disproportionate rate.

TIME Crime

Why That ‘Dingo’s Got My Baby’ Line Isn’t Funny

Dingo
An Australian wild Dingo dog Russell Mcphedran—AP

Oct. 29, 1982: An Australian woman is convicted of murder after courts reject her claim that a dingo took her baby

For years, whether or not you believed Lindy Chamberlain’s story depended on which nightmarish scenario you found more plausible: that a wild dog snatched her sleeping 9-week-old baby from a tent in the Australian outback, or that Lindy herself slashed the infant’s throat and then invented the farfetched story to cover up her crime.

Thirty-two years ago today, on Oct. 29, 1982, a jury went for the latter interpretation and convicted Chamberlain of murder. She was sentenced to a lifetime behind bars. The case gained international notoriety, inspiring the 1988 film A Cry in the Dark, in which Meryl Streep, as Chamberlain, shouts the words that would become a morbid punch line: “The dingo’s got my baby!”

The couple was exonerated after the baby’s knit jacket appeared in 1986, partly buried next to a remote dingo lair. Chamberlain was freed and the guilt was redistributed to those who had vilified her. A mere two years earlier, 77% of Australians polled had believed she was guilty, and not just because of the outrageous story.

One source of suspicion was her religion. Her husband was a pastor in the Seventh-day Adventist Church, then little-known in Australia. Rumors swirled that the church was a cult that practiced infant sacrifice, and that Azaria — the name of Chamberlain’s late daughter — meant “sacrifice in the wilderness” (it means “blessed of God”). Another strike against Chamberlain was the way she carried herself. Stylish and stoic, she never erupted in hysterics in court. She was called cold and calculating. As journalist Julia Baird wrote in a New York Times op-ed, “She was, we were told, more interested in looking pretty than in the death of her child.”

Compared to Chamberlain, dingoes were viewed more warmly, at least initially. In the early 1980s, TIME reports, dingoes had never been known to attack humans — or at least, such cases hadn’t been publicized.

“On television, footage from the Chamberlains’ trial was often accompanied by images of the wild dogs looking more affable than aggressive,” TIME’s Marina Kamenev wrote. Since then, however, dozens of dingo attacks have made the news, including a 2001 mauling that killed a 9-year-old boy.

Those attacks were considered in the most recent inquest into Azaria Chamberlain’s death — the fourth in three decades — which resulted in a 2012 ruling that a dingo had indeed killed, and likely devoured, the baby. When that final report was released, Australians expressed remorse for having jumped to the wrong conclusions, according to Baird.

“Comedians issued public apologies for using Lindy Chamberlain as a punch line; TV hosts were grave and emotional,” she wrote.

Chamberlain, meanwhile, felt vindicated. “No longer will Australia be able to say that dingoes are not dangerous and will only attack if provoked,” she told the Sydney Morning Herald. “We live in a beautiful country, but it is dangerous.”

Read about the reopened Chamberlain case, here in TIME’s archives: Did a Dingo Really Get Her Baby?

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