<![CDATA[NBC4 Washington - Local News]]>Copyright 2016http://www.nbcwashington.com/news/local http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/WASH+NBC4+BLUE.png NBC4 Washington http://www.nbcwashington.comen-usWed, 25 May 2016 05:20:12 -0400Wed, 25 May 2016 05:20:12 -0400NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Club Bouncers Train to Be New Front Line on Terrorism]]> Tue, 24 May 2016 23:22:34 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/180*120/nightclub+generic.jpg

Anyone who has been to a nightclub knows bouncers are there to keep people safe, check identification and make the evening peaceful. Some bouncers are expanding their duties by keeping an eye out for terror attacks.

Soft targets, like nightclubs, have been hit in places around the world by terrorists. Robert Smith, a nightclub security consultant, is teaching a group of D.C. club bouncers how they can help protect their establishments and the people inside.

The bouncers are taking a 12 hour class over two days to receive National Host Security Certificate training. Smith, a retired member of the San Diego Police Department, said one of the things they look for is a convincing fake identification, usually made in China.

“When a bouncer is checking ID, not many self-respecting terrorists are going to use their own legitimate ID,” Smith said. “They will go get a China fake.”

Last November, terrorists launched an attack at soft targets in Paris, hitting cafes, restaurants and a music venue. The director of the DC Nightlife and Hospitality Association supports the training, hoping it will help keep the D.C. nightlife safe.

“This training program are how we ensure that our member businesses are prepare for any kind of scenario,” Director Mark Lee.

The bouncers believe the training will help them be another front line in the war on terror.

“You don't want to see anyone to sit down a bag or for those things,” bouncer Vincent Andrews said. “It makes me look at it twice.”

Smith told the bouncers to take the fake IDs if they come across them, and tell the person to call the police if they want it back.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Pet Owner Guilty of 66 Counts of Animal Cruelty]]> Wed, 25 May 2016 04:49:23 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/214*120/2016-05-24_2211.png

Authorities arrived at a Rockville, Maryland, home, searching for one dog that bit someone at an adoption event. What they discovered was 5 ½ dozen dogs living in horrible conditions.

Court documents showed officers found 66 dogs of all sizes in plastic airline crates covering nearly every inch of the floor at the house on Glen Mill Road. Choking and gagging as they made their way through the home, officers took photos of the conditions of the canines and their living conditions.

One photo showed a dog with paralyzed legs that had been sitting in its own excrement for some time. Another photo showed a dog whose matted fur weighed an extra half pound from being urine-soaked.

The document showed Katherine Tiong, 46, was the owner of the house and initially lied to officers. She said there were only about 20 dogs in the house before officers decided to look for themselves.

Tiong was found guilty on Tuesday of 66 counts of animal cruelty. They are misdemeanor crimes, but each carries a jail term.

A Facebook page for Forever Homes Animal Rescue, which shares the same address with the house, claims to be "helping dogs in high-kill shelters escape death and find loving forever homes.” The posts, which stopped in August, contain photos of many dogs that match the description of those found neglected inside Tiong’s home.

At least one of the dogs was so sick, it had to be euthanized. Some others have been treated and adopted out.

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<![CDATA[Teen Hit by Car Dies Nearly 3 Weeks Later]]> Tue, 24 May 2016 21:53:27 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/ambulance-shutterstock_112668584.jpg

A teen who was hit by a car in Prince George’s County in early May died nearly three weeks after the pedestrian collision.

Investigators said Keyri Alfaro-Guevara, 16, of Hyattsville, was crossing the street at the intersection of East-West Highway and 23rd Avenue on May 4. She was struck by a vehicle around 9:50 p.m.

Alfaro-Guevara suffered critical injuries, according to police. She was taken to the hospital, where she died on May 23.

Investigators said even though Alfaro-Guevara was in the crosswalk at the time of the collision, she was crossing against the pedestrian crossing signal. The driver of the car remained on the scene.

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<![CDATA[U.S. Capitol Doesn't Meet Federal Standards for New Mothers]]> Tue, 24 May 2016 23:39:26 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/danielsircar-capitol.jpg

The U.S. Capitol does not meet the federal government’s own standards for accommodations for new mothers, an investigation by the News4 I-Team found.

Though the U.S. General Services Administration, a government agency which oversees the management of federal government buildings, requires a minimum number of lactation stations and changing tables, Congress is exempt from the rules and fails to meet those standards.

Congressional leaders are trying to order upgrades to the grounds but must first get official spending approval from a stalemated Congress, which has been unable to approve spending bills in recent years.

The I-Team’s review of congressional records and U.S. Capitol facilities shows the grounds have 12 lactation stations for women members and staffers. Federal building standards issued by the General Services Administration require six lactation stations for every 1,000 women employees at federal buildings. With an estimated 7,000 women employees on Capitol grounds, 42 lactation stations would be necessary to meet the federal standards.

The I-Team investigation also found the U.S. House office buildings do not meet federal standards for “family restrooms,” or restrooms with baby changing tables. Other than those in the newer U.S. Capitol Visitors Center, U.S. House office buildings have nine restrooms with baby changing tables. General Services Administration building standards would require more than 20.

An official with the Office of Compliance, a federal agency that monitors workplace safety at the U.S. Capitol, told the I-Team Congress needn’t adhere to General Services Administration standards.

Capitol office buildings also predate the building standards issued by the General Services Administration. A GSA spokeswoman said the rules only apply to new or renovated facilities.

The U.S. House Subcommittee on Legislative Appropriations noted the need for additional baby changing stations and designated parking for pregnant mothers in a report issued last week. “The Committee recognizes the importance of providing designated baby changing stations for members of the public and Members and staffers who visit the Capitol Complex, including in both male and female publicly accessible bathrooms,” the report said. “The Committee encourages the Architect of the Capitol to take steps to provide baby changing stations at easily accessible locations throughout the Capitol Complex in both male and female bathrooms.”

The subcommittee’s report also said, “The Committee recognizes the value of and supports parking accommodations for Members and Staff during pregnancy. The Committee supports efforts by the Office of the Sergeant at Arms, in conjunction with the Committee on House Administration to provide accommodating temporary parking for Members and Staff during their pregnancy.”

Shea Miller, a 13-year employee of the U.S. House, said maternity parking would have greatly benefited her before the birth of her son Shaw. “I think about when I was pregnant the first time and parking in the garage,” Miller said. “(I was) literally doing 15 minutes of waddling to my office.”

Congressional complex officials said a set of new lactation stations are expected to open within a month in the Longworth House Office Building. A spokeswoman for the Architect of the Capitol said additional lactation areas are available in some of the health units on Capitol grounds.

The House subcommittee requested upgrades to the baby changing stations and parking accommodations for new mothers as part of its formal appropriations bill to fund the legislative branch in 2017. Though the subcommittee formally approved the bill, Congress has failed in recent years to pass all of its appropriations bills into law.

Reported by Scott MacFarlane, produced by Rick Yarborough, and shot and edited by Jeff Piper.



Photo Credit: Daniel Sircar/NBC, File]]>
<![CDATA[Memorial Day Traffic Rush Starts Sooner Than Expected]]> Tue, 24 May 2016 20:37:11 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/beltway_traffic+cam.jpg

With the Memorial Day holiday weekend getting set to start, many will be thinking about hitting the roads for a getaway weekend. But their schedules may be a day off.

Analysts at the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board said Thursday, and not Friday, is the worst day to hit the road. They looked at historical traffic information from the last five years on area freeways in the days leading up to the Memorial Day weekend.

They said Thursday afternoon was worse traffic overall than Friday. On average, it took 50 to 100 percent longer to reach a destination than on a day with no traffic.

According to their data, the Thursday afternoon rush ended around 8 p.m., and traffic didn’t pick up again until around 11 a.m. Friday.

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<![CDATA[Metro Changes Policy on Notifying Public About Crime]]> Tue, 24 May 2016 20:16:31 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/20160523+John+Prentice+Hicks.jpg

Metro has changed its policy about notifying the public about violent crime, after a woman was raped on a Metro Red Line train in the middle of an April morning -- and news of the attack was not released for more than a month.

Metro Transit Police tweeted Tuesday that it would now notify the public of any violent crime on the same day that it happens as long as that would not hinder an investigation.

The change was at the direction of Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld. Wiedefeld said he had learned of the April attack on the day it happened -- though news of the rape broke only on Monday.

Then, court documents revealed a Northeast D.C. man assaulted and tried to rape a woman riding on a Red Line Metro train during rush hour.

The suspect, John Prentice Hicks, 39, is accused of forcing the victim to perform oral sex on him as he brandished a knife aboard a Red Line train traveling toward Glenmont at 10 a.m. on April 12.

Hicks is charged with first-degree attempted rape, first-degree sexual offense and second-degree assault.

The grisly incident allegedly occurred one day after a 15-year-old boy was stabbed to death at the Deanwood Station, and weeks after another teen was shot at the Deanwood station, which is along the Orange Line in Northeast D.C.

Hicks was arrested by Metro Transit police hours after the incident. He was also identified last week in an ongoing sexual assault case in Montgomery County, police said.

The quick arrest is one reason that Metro said it did not disclose the rape earlier.

Hicks, of 16th Place in Northeast D.C., is being held without bond.

The suspect, John Prentice Hicks, 39, has been charged with first degree rape, first degree sexual offense and second degree assault after he forced a woman to perform oral sex on him as he brandished a knife aboard a redline train traveling toward Glenmont on April 12.

The grisly incident occurred only one day after a 15-year-old boy was stabbed to death at the Deanwood Station, and weeks after another teen was shot at the same station, which is along the Orange Line in Northeast D.C.

The victim in this case told police she was asleep in the middle section of a railcar as it approached “either the Fort Totten or Takoma stations” about 10 a.m. As the train continued, the man she identified as Hicks approached her and asked her questions such as, “Do you have a boyfriend?” and “Are you going to Glenmont?”
Hicks then displayed a folding knife while the train was at the Forest Glen Station, the victim told police.

He then enveloped the woman in a “bearhug” and forced her to another part of the railcar where he attempted to have sex with her and forced her to perform oral sex all while the knife was in his hand, she told police. At some point, a struggle over the knife left the victim with a cut to her finger, she said.

The victim said she worried Hicks would kill her if she did not comply.

At the Glenmont station, Hicks exited the car but ordered the victim to stay where she was, she said. She told police she saw him re-enter the train on another railcar, and police said cameras appear to show him exiting the station and paying the fare with a SmartTrip card.

A SmartTrip card registered under Hicks’ name shows a charge at Glenmont that day, police said.

Hicks was also “positively identified” last week in an ongoing sexual assault case in Montgomery County, police said.

He is being held without bond.


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<![CDATA[Fairfax County Prepares for Metro Service Disruptions]]> Tue, 24 May 2016 20:07:16 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/WRC_0000000014821613_1200x675_692129859621.jpg Fairfax County leaders talk about ways the county will adapt to issues sparked by Metro service disruptions.]]> <![CDATA[VA Couple's New SUV Repeatedly Shut Itself Down]]> Tue, 24 May 2016 19:21:16 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/George+Vitello.jpg

After a Virginia couple’s brand new SUV repeatedly stalled on them, so did their efforts to get any recourse, they told NBC4 Responds.

Before retiring, George and Joyce Vitello decided to treat themselves to a brand new car: A 2015 Jeep Cherokee Limited with a gas saving feature called engine start-stop (ESS) technology, in which the engine shuts itself at a stop and starts up again when you continue to drive.

But while driving through an intersection, the car stalled, George Vitello said.

“The lights flashed and everything locked up,” he said.

A short time later, it quit again, he said, and it happened multiple times.

“As I made a right turn, the Jeep completely died, everything stopped,” Vitello said.

When he took the car in, service records show that particular issue even happened to one of the technicians "in the service lane." The dealership replaced a fuel pump, but the car continued to have problems, Vitello said.

But the dealership could not duplicate the stalling issue and offered no recourse.

NBC4 Responds contacted Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, which said it would continue to look further into the matter. Days later, the Vitellos said things started happening.

“We stopped getting emails from the dealership,” Vitello said. “Now we got calls from Chrysler headquarters.”

NBC4 Responds found similar complaints on safercar.gov. Other 2015 Jeep Cherokee owners described stalling problems, though the complaints are unverified.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles said it takes seriously its commitment to safety and continuously tracks the performance of its vehicles.

Chrysler said it agreed to provide the Vitellos with another vehicle "despite exhaustive testing." Last week, the Vitellos turned in their car and drove off with a brand new 2016 Jeep Cherokee that doesn't have ESS without spending another dime.

The company said it could not rule out unfamiliarity with the ESS technology as a possibility for the issues the Vitellos were having.

The National Highway Traffic and Safety administration said it is not investigating any stalling issues with 2015 Jeeps.

FCA US LLC provided the following statement:

  1. Despite exhaustive testing by service specialists using high-tech instrumentation, we could not duplicate the customer’s experience. One attempt was made with the customer in the vehicle. We could not rule out unfamiliarity as one possible explanation. Nevertheless, an agreement was reached to provide the customer with another vehicle not equipped with ESS – an advanced technology that saves fuel – and the customer is satisfied.
  2. FCA US LLC takes seriously its commitment to safety. In addition to NHTSA’s website, we use multiple data streams to continuously track the performance of our vehicles in the field. Our 2,607 dealers accommodate more than 20 million service appointments each year – from inspections to routine maintenance to repairs. Service records from each are automatically transmitted to Company headquarters in Auburn Hills, Mich., where quality teams conduct daily reviews to – in the best interests of our customers – identify emerging issues and correct them as quickly as possible. For particularly challenging situations, the Company employs technical service experts who are available to counsel dealership technicians by phone. FCA US engineers also analyze parts returned to the Company by dealers. In addition, FCA US technical advisors often travel to dealerships to provide further insight and assistance.



Photo Credit: NBCWashington]]>
<![CDATA[Considering TSA PreCheck? What You Need to Know]]> Tue, 24 May 2016 21:00:50 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/052416+tsa+security+line+checkpoint.jpg

Airport security lines in the D.C. area are expected to get longer, leaving many people in our region wondering if they should apply for TSA Pre status, which promises to shorten the wait.

More people are applying for TSA Pre. The agency has received twice as many entries since April, doubling from 8,000 to 16,000.

The application can be completed online, but applicants need to appear in person for fingerprinting and to provide documentation. The wait list to apply can be as long as a month. The TSA acknowledged the backlog.

"If appointments are not immediately available at the enrollment center of their choice, travelers are encouraged to schedule appointments at one of the alternate enrollment centers in their area," the agency said in a statement.

There are five TSA service centers in the D.C. area and all have backlogs of about a month. The closest centers without a wait are in Baltimore and West Virginia.

One option is to try a walk-in visit to a service center. The wait could be two to four hours. Jim Barratt chose that option on Tuesday.

"I decided I'd rather wait now then maybe wait in a line when I'm traveling, down the road," he said.

Once you have completed the application, the wait for approval can take another 30 days.

It costs $85 to apply for TSA Pre. The status lasts five years.



Photo Credit: NBC Washington]]>
<![CDATA[Thieves Targeting Wheels from Luxury SUVs]]> Tue, 24 May 2016 18:59:26 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/WRC_0000000014821475_1200x675_692107331722.jpg Montgomery County Police say there have been 35 wheel-related theft incidents since March 1. News4's Pat Collins talked with a woman who had all four wheels ripped off her Cadillac Escalade as it was parked in her own driveway in Potomac.]]> <![CDATA[Police Arrest Man in Connection with Teen’s Overdose Death]]> Tue, 24 May 2016 18:56:15 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/David+Evers+052416.jpg

An 18-year-old man was arrested Thursday and charged with drug dealing after a 17-year-old girl fatally overdosed on a mix of prescription drugs and alcohol, police said.

Alexia Springer, who lived in Centreville, Virginia, was found unresponsive at 10:45 a.m. on March 1, when officers were called to a home in the 13800 block of Coleman Court, police said.

Fairfax County Fire and Rescue pronounced Springer dead, police said.

David Evers, a Clifton, Virginia resident and student at Centreville High School, was arrested on drug dealing charges as police investigated the girl's death, police said.

An investigation by the medical examiner revealed on April 15 that Springer’s death was an accidental poisoning caused by a combination of prescription drugs and alcohol, police said.

The drugs in her system included morphine, alprazolam (sometimes sold as Xanax) and oxycodone, police said.

Morphine and oxycodone are both Schedule II drugs. The sale, manufacture or distribution of Schedule II drugs carries a five year minimum prison sentence in Virginia.

Evers turned himself in on Thursday to a Fairfax County detention center. Police say the investigation is ongoing.



Photo Credit: Fairfax County Police]]>
<![CDATA[Former Planet Aid Employees Describe 'Cult-like' Experience]]> Tue, 24 May 2016 19:29:03 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Mogens+Amdi+Petersen.jpg

At first, signing up for Planet Aid’s “Manager In Training” program at its Elkridge, Maryland, headquarters seemed like the perfect job, Meredith Crocker said. She answered a Craigslist ad for the charity in 2013.

“The idea that they were both working for the environment and trying to help people at the same time seemed really cool," Crocker said.

Having just received her master’s degree in international development economics, Crocker said she was initially attracted to Planet Aid’s message of saving the environment by recycling the clothes donated to its bright yellow bins.

Planet Aid makes as much as $42 million a year selling those clothes, according to its financial filings submitted to the Internal Revenue Service, indicating the money goes toward feeding and educating impoverished communities in Africa.

But in a joint international investigation with Reveal at the Center for Investigative Reporting, the News4 I-Team found Planet Aid is connected to a controversial Danish organization called Tvind, also known as the Teachers Group.

Danish court records obtained by the I-Team and Reveal say the group was founded about 1970 by Mogens Amdi Petersen, who required his members to live communally, give over control of their money, their time and decisions like "the right to start a family."

The FBI kept a file on Tvind, which both the I-Team and Reveal obtained, that details how Petersen created dozens of international companies and charities, including Planet Aid.

In the file, investigators state, "Little to no money goes to the charities" with "funds ultimately controlled by" the Teachers Group "who divert the money for personal use."

Petersen is now on the run -- wanted by Interpol -- after the Danish government charged him with charities fraud and tax evasion.

Danish authorities seized more than 80 computers from Petersen and the Teachers Group and, according to the Danish court records, found a document where Petersen instructed his closest followers to ensure funds collected by their charities “are placed so that at any time they are available to us, that they are never available to others, that they are protected from theft, taxation and prying by unauthorized persons” and to “lay down a twisted access path with only ourselves as compass holders.”

In those court documents, Danish prosecutors allege Teachers Group members were instructed to sign documents pledging to “transfer all their available income to joint savings” while also promising to let the Teachers Group decided where they work and to “forgo their personal rights, such as the right to start a family to their own wish.”

"I can definitely see that there are cult-like aspects to it," Crocker said as she explained how, several months into her job at Planet Aid, she was sent to One World Center in Dowagiac, Michigan, for training.

Crocker said she was housed with other employees and, as a requirement of her job, had to give back almost 20 percent of her $28,000 salary to pay for the training sessions.

According to its website and financial statements, One World Center is operated by the Institute of International Cooperation and Development, or IICD, which the FBI file says is also controlled by the Teachers Group.

“They’re like, ‘OK, you have to be on 24 hours,’” Crocker said of her time at One World Center. She recounted how she was told, “’There's not really alone time, and we do everything together.’”

Crocker said she was then told to panhandle for money. “’We're going to send you out in these groups to go on to the street, and all that money is going to come back and be for the group, rather than send you to Africa. You all have to get that money together.’ And I was like, ‘It's starting to get a little weird.’"

Another Planet Aid employee, Zuri Blandon, told the I-Team he also handed over about 20 percent of his salary before he started training at One World Center, where, he said, he was told he needed to ask strangers for money outside of places like grocery stores.

“It was like a big bucket of icy cold water,” he recalled of the feeling he had when he was told he needed to raise $70,000 before Planet Aid would send him to Africa. “You have to find funds somehow. They made it sound like an obstacle course: If you can accomplish this, you can accomplish anything.”

But Blandon said it wasn’t until he actually arrived in Mozambique that he became truly disenchanted with Planet Aid. “I was working at headquarters with students who wanted to be teachers,” he said. “My job was to set up a teacher’s college, and I was trying to find books written in English to put in the library.”

Blandon said he emailed the Planet Aid facility where he had previously worked because he had personally seen thousands of donated books moving through the warehouse there. “No one wanted them, but I wanted them,” Blandon said. “I asked if they could ship a box of books to me. It made sense. It was the whole point of the project.”

But Blandon said he was told, “Planet Aid couldn’t afford to ship any books. I was told to ask friends and family to pay for it. I was livid. At that point I realized it was all a façade.”

Reveal reporter Matt Smith also interviewed Planet Aid employees in Malawi about Planet Aid and its connection to Petersen. “In Africa, the word that was used was he’s the ‘owner’ of the Teachers Group,” Smith said.

Smith said employees paid by Planet Aid showed him “Deeds of Contribution” and other types of contracts they said they were required to sign if they wanted to keep their jobs, promising to donate 20 to 100 percent of their salaries to Teachers Group.

“In the language of the contract, it talked about pledging their time. That's all of their time,” Smith explained. “Pledging their money and pledging their right to live where they want to live over to what they call the Association. And that Association is the Teachers Group."

Smith said some Planet Aid employees in Africa told him they were cut off from their families. “People who have left the Teachers Group describe themselves as having felt trapped.”

But as a reward, a few of the Africans told Smith they were sent to a 494-acre proprety in Baja, Mexico. “By the account of a number of people that have been there that we talked to, it is the home of Mogens Amdi Petersen, the fugitive leader of this organization, as well as his inner circle."

Mexican property records estimate the complex is worth $25 million, and according to the FBI file the I-Team obtained, investigators believe Petersen owned condominiums in Miami worth $10 million and hid potentially millions more in offshore bank accounts.

Several European countries have expelled charities connected with Teachers Group, including Denmark, Great Britain and France, which labeled the organization there a "non-religious cult."

Here in the United States, Planet Aid continues to receive non-profit status, meaning it doesn't pay any taxes.

Planet Aid did not agree to a request for an on-camera interview but told the I-Team in a statement, “Planet Aid has managed projects that improve nutrition, strengthen education and prevent disease in the developing world for nearly two decades.”

Crocker said after just one year with Planet Aid, she secretly packed her belonging, and left.

She was able to eventually get her money back but now tells anyone who asks about donating to a Planet Aid box “to not do it.”

Planet Aid gave the I-Team the following statement:

Planet Aid has managed projects that improve nutrition, strengthen education, and prevent disease in the developing world for nearly two decades. We greatly value our relationship with the U.S. Government, and the success of our work with U.S. Government agencies has been well documented. We will always cooperate fully with official audits and reviews of our projects, but we are unaware of any proposed or pending investigations.

Reported by Tisha Thompson, Matt Smith and Amy Walters with Reveal, produced by Rick Yarborough, and shot by Steve Jones and Jeff Piper.

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<![CDATA[Virginia Torture Attack Suspect Mental State Questioned]]> Tue, 24 May 2016 19:52:03 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Alecia+and+Andrew+Schmuhl.jpg

The third day of testimony in the trial of one half of a couple accused of kidnapping and torturing another couple in the northern Virginia home focused on the condition of the accused man in the case.

Andrew and Alecia Schmuhl were charged abduction and malicious wounding for the 2014 attack on a lawyer, Leo Fisher, and his wife, Sue Duncan, in a McLean, Virginia, home. The Schmuhls are being tried separately with Andrew being tried first. Alecia Schmuhl will be tried later this summer.

During testimony on Tuesday, Fairfax County police officers said they were called McLean home after a panic alarm was sounded inside the home. They found Fisher and Duncan inside, tortured and left to die, around 9:45 p.m. on Nov. 9, 2014.

About 30 later, officers chased a vehicle containing the Schmuhls on the Beltway. One officer testified that Alecia Schmuhl was driving while Andrew Schmuhl was in the passenger seat.

"I could see both passenger and driver talking to one another," the officer said. "It looked like they were arguing. I could see the passenger discarding his clothing."

The officer said the car was pulled over in a parking lot in the 7000 block of Commerce Street, and the two were arrested. Officers testified Alecia Schmuhl was coherent while Andrew Schmuhl appeared to be in and out of consciousness, didn’t seem alert and admitted to officers to taking a handful of prescription pills.

The jury was shown video of Andrew Schmuhl being placed in the back of the police cruiser shortly after he was arrested. Police told the jury that Andrew Schmuhl was taken to the hospital for an evaluation.

Andrew Schmuhl's lawyers are conceding he attacked the couple on that night but are using an "involuntary insanity defense," saying their client was taking too many medications around the time of the attack. They said his wife was the mastermind of the plan, which was poorly executed by her foot soldier husband.

Tuesday’s court proceedings followed two emotional days of testimony when Fisher and Duncan testified about how they were tied up, hit with a Taser, stabbed, shot and Fisher had his throat cut. The trial for Andrew Schmuhl is expected to continue on Wednesday.

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<![CDATA[Metro Suffers Red Line Meltdown -- as GM Appears on Capitol Hill]]> Tue, 24 May 2016 18:41:56 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/2016-05-24_1040.jpg

This is the way that Metro's luck has been lately: As its new general manager appeared on Capitol Hill Tuesday to receive more public shaming for Metro's service levels and safety culture, its busy Red Line suffered an epic bout of single-tracking that left riders waiting on platforms for 45 minutes to an hour.

Among the passengers affected: Rep. Dan Lipinsky, a Democrat from Illinois.

Who sits on the very House committee that was berating Metro.

And chose to ride his bike 17 miles to Capitol Hill Tuesday morning to avoid the mess.

"I said I am getting on my bike to ride the 17 miles down to Capitol Hill because I don't know when I'm going to get in," Lipinsky said during the hearing. "I think Metro in so many ways is unfortunately an embarrassment in our nation's capital."

The tough commute was caused by water that seeped onto tracks near the Medical Center station on the Red Line, leading to sparks and smoke from an arcing insulator, Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld said Tuesday. It's a problem that Metro has known about for some time, and that News4 revealed back in when.

The problems were compounded by speed restrictions outside the McPherson Square station and track work on the Orange and Silver lines. The Red Line single-tracking ended in time for the afternoon commute.

Unfortunately, fixing the problem at Medical Center is expensive and difficult. "In effect you have to build a tunnel within a tunnel to stop that from happening up there," Wiedefeld said. "It does mean that we have to do much stronger maintenance."

Stronger maintenance system-wide is exactly what Metro is trying to do. It's announced a 10-month plan to repair 15 different stretches of track. The SafeTrack plan is designed to get as much work done in as compressed a time as possible.

But it's going to be a almost-year-long nightmare for people who rely on Metro. There are 10 projects that require single-tracking for days at a time. There are 5 projects that will shut down segments of track altogether.

In an earlier interview, Wiedefeld said his plan was a seven on a "severity scale" of one to 10.

To learn more about SmartTrack and how it could affect your commute, click here.



Photo Credit: Angela (@xox_ange)
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<![CDATA[Obamas' New Neighborhood? Signs Point to Sheridan-Kalorama]]> Tue, 24 May 2016 19:13:47 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/498727140-obama-family-white-house.jpg

President Barack Obama and his family are in their final months of living in the White House, and speculation on where they will move is now focused on the Sheridan-Kalorama neighborhood.

Sources tell the National Journal the Obamas will rent a house in the quiet, upscale neighborhood of Northwest D.C.

Knowledgeable real estate agents pointed News4 to 10 Kalorama Circle, which is private and has hidden-away, off-street parking. It was available for lease for $9,500 per month and went off the market last week, agents said.

When News4 called the real estate agency for the house and identified ourselves, the phone went dead. No one answered follow-up calls.

[[380720771,C]]

Neighbors said the Obamas would fit right in.

"There are 30 kids on our street. It's become a very neighborhood-y place to live," historic preservationist and longtime resident Sally Berk said.

The heavily wooded area abuts Rock Creek Park and, filled with embassies, is already heavily patrolled by federal law enforcement officials.

President Barack Obama said in March that his family may stay in Washington "a couple of years" so his younger daughter doesn't have to change high schools.

The president was asked at a lunch in Milwaukee whether his family plans to return to Chicago after his term ends Jan. 20, 2017.

"You know, we haven't figured that out yet," he said. "We're going to have to stay a couple of years in D.C. probably, so that Sasha can graduate. 'Cause transferring somebody in the middle of high school ... tough."

The Obamas officially move out Jan. 20, less than eight months from now.



Photo Credit: File – Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Plane Crash in Orange County, Va, Kills Two]]> Tue, 24 May 2016 19:53:43 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/2016-05-24_1854.png

A small plane has crashed in Orange County, Virginia, Tuesday afternoon, killing two people.

The Virginia State Police said they were alerted to the crash around 4:30 p.m. in the 10000 block of Tinder Lane in Rhodesville, Virginia. They said the plane is a small, fixed-wing aircraft, and it crashed at the intersection on the roadway.

Investigators from the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board have been notified. Police are working on confirming the identities of the people killed in the plane crash.

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<![CDATA[Firefighters Could Wear Ballistic Vests for Protection]]> Tue, 24 May 2016 19:50:16 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/ballistic+vest+bulletproof+vest.jpg

Firefighters in Prince George’s County, Maryland, have been hit by violence while out trying to battle fires recently, including the shooting death of a firefighter last month.

The fire chief is looking at having his firefighters wear ballistic vests to keep them safe. There are details to be worked out, but the need for protection has never been more apparent in the past few weeks.

Two firefighters were shot, killing one, after they forced their way into a home to help a man they believed was in medical distress. Chief Marc Bashoor tried on a shirt-type ballistic vest weighing up to four pounds and said firefighters could begin wearing the protective layer between now and October.

Bashoor said the 2,400 vests needed for the career and volunteer firefighters cost between $400 and $500 each. But there are several questions that need to be answered first.

“Number one, does our member feel safer doing their job with that vest on?” said fire spokesman Mark Brady. “And number two, will it provide them that protection if, in the event, it should happen again? We owe it to our membership, our volunteer and career, to look into the possibility of purchasing and issuing ballistic vests.”

The chief said he will look into what is working and get comments from within the department before moving forward. Other fire departments across the country are already using the ballistic vests to protect their firefighters.

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<![CDATA[Bill to Take Away D.C.'s Budget Power Faces Potential Veto]]> Tue, 24 May 2016 18:53:14 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/dc-flag-shutterstock_206336773.jpg

The White House announced President Barack Obama could potentially veto the congressional measure to take away Washington, D.C.’s ability to spend its own money without approval from Capitol Hill.

House Resolution 5233 would repeal a referendum, approved by D.C. voters in 2013, that granted the District budget autonomy. It allowed Washington to spend local tax collections and non-Federal funds without congressional approval.

The House bill is expected to go to the floor on Wednesday. However, senior advisors to Obama said they would recommend the president veto the bill.

“The residents of the District and their elected leaders deserve to have the same ability as other U.S. residents and elected leaders to determine how to use their local revenues to address their unique needs,” a statement of administration policy read. “Such authority is fundamental to a well-functioning democracy, and the Congress denying the District this authority is an affront to the residents and elected leaders of the District.”

Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) expressed her appreciation to the Obama administration for signaling their intention to veto.

“I am enormously grateful to the White House for strongly supporting D.C. home rule and condemning this latest effort by House Republicans to trample on the will of our voters,” Norton said. “ Budget autonomy has tremendous benefits for the District’s finances and daily operations, and Congress would lose nothing. The White House’s veto threat will give us momentum as we battle to keep the repeal bill from moving in the Senate or being attached to an omnibus later this year.”

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<![CDATA[Snowbirds Fly Over Washington Tuesday]]> Tue, 24 May 2016 18:44:39 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/20160524+Snowbirds2.jpg

They picked the right day for it: The Canadian Armed Forces' Snowbirds flew over the National Mall in Washington, D.C., about noon Tuesday.

The air demonstration team passed over the Mall, then headed to Dulles International Airport, trailing "show smoke" during the flyover. Ten aircraft flew in formation.

The show is meant "to highlight the relationship between Canada and the United States of America," according to the Royal Canadian Air Force.

Guests can learn more at a "Meet the Snowbirds" event at the National Air and Space Museum's Udvar-Hazy Center from noon until 5 p.m. Wednesday.

The Snowbirds' Canadair CT-114 Tutors will be on display, and pilots will demonstrate their maneuvers through presentations and video.



Photo Credit: NBC Washington]]>
<![CDATA[Travelers React to Removal of TSA Security Chief]]> Tue, 24 May 2016 18:39:47 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/WRC_0000000014816500_1200x675_691920963823.jpg Riders at D.C.'s airports react to the removal of TSA security chief Kelly Hogan. "Everybody under the boss does what the boss says -- maybe changing the boss will fix things," said traveler Asa Janney. News4's Kristin Wright reports.]]> <![CDATA[Red Line Single-Tracking; 45-Min. Delays]]> Tue, 24 May 2016 11:28:43 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/2016-05-24_1040.jpg

Metro is warning riders of delays due Tuesday morning due to single-tracking on the Red Line; speed restrictions outside the McPherson Square station, and track work on the Orange and Silver lines.

Red Line

Red Line trains have been single-tracking throughout the morning between Grosvenor and Friendship Heights due to a track problem at Medical Center.

Riders should expect 45-minute delays and crowding, Metro said.

Outbound trains are bypassing the Bethesda station to reduce delays.

In addition, trains originating at Silver Spring are running only as far as Farragut North.

Red Line trains are running every 18 minutes, with additional service between Grosvenor and Friendship Heights.

Metro is recommending Metrobus alternatives: the J1, J2 and J3 lines between Silver Spring and Bethesda, and the 30N, 30S, 31, 33, N2, N3 and N4 lines from Friendship Heights to Foggy Bottom and Dupont Circle.

Earlier Tuesday, trains were also single-tracking between Van Ness and Dupont Circle due to a track problem at Woodley Park. 

Orange, Silver and Blue Lines

On the Orange Line, delays are possible in both directions due to scheduled track work between Federal Center and Eastern Market, Metro said late Tuesday morning.

On the Silver Line, trains are running only between Wiehle and East Falls Church due to scheduled track work. Riders should use the Orange or Blue lines to or from other stations.

In addition, speed restrictions are in place around McPherson Square for the inbound track of the Orange, Silver and Blue lines (in the direction of New Carrollton and Largo Town Center).

A similar speed restriction was in effect around the McPherson Square station last week.



Photo Credit: Angela (@xox_ange)
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<![CDATA[Rain Keeps Local Sports Leagues, Players Off Fields]]> Mon, 23 May 2016 23:46:45 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/214*120/2016-05-23_2253.png

For those keeping track, it has rained 19 out of the last 23 days in the D.C. area. It has made doing outside activities, especially sporting activities, very difficult to schedule and play.

Parents and kids are getting frustrated as the rains keep their fields wet and muddy. Many youth leagues have been forced to cancel practices and games.

CJ Newman plays soccer and baseball in Montgomery County, Maryland, but this season is just about washed away.

“Mostly all my practice have been cancelled and my games have been rescheduled,” Newman said. “It makes me feel upset, because I want to practice to get better.”

As much as he wants to play, his mom wants him to play as well. CJ’s mom, Jen Newman, said there are no refunds for weather cancellations.

“(The league) cancelled a lot of games,” she said. “The practices, they just lose out on. The games, they're trying to reschedule, and at this point, it's like to mid-June. It's really painful.”

The owners of the fields are also lamenting the bad weather. It is playing havoc with scheduling in their leagues.

“Just last weekend, we had to cancel 240 games,” said Trish Heffelfinger, the executive director at the Maryland Soccerplex. “And we won't be able to make those up, because we're in the seventh week of an eight-week season.”

Soccer and baseball leagues aren’t the only one impact by the constant water from the sky. Rockville’s youth track and field meet was cancelled Monday night.

“This rain is impacting everybody, because right now, we're only able to get about half of our sports leagues,” said Duncan Mullis, Rockville’s sports program specialist. “We're three weeks behind schedule.”

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<![CDATA[Former Police Spokesman Pleads Guilty to Child Porn Possession]]> Tue, 24 May 2016 07:24:49 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/budwalker.jpg

A former Fairfax County, Virginia, police public information officer pleaded guilty Monday to possession of child pornography.

A judge accepted the pleas from William "Bud" Walker, who was arrested in April 2015 after Fairfax County police began tracking an account depicting underage children in sexual acts with other children. Walker was arrested and charged with 10 counts of possession of child pornography.

Sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 12. Walker faces one to five years in jail plus a fine of $2,500.

He was immediately taken into custody after the court proceedings.



Photo Credit: NBCWashington.com]]>
<![CDATA[Arcing Insulator Slowed Red Line Near Friendship Heights Metro]]> Mon, 23 May 2016 21:36:49 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/DC+Metro.jpg

Montgomery County firefighters responded to reports of an arcing insulator in the area of the Friendship Heights Metro station Monday night.

Officials said they located an issue with an insulator just south of the station’s platform. There was no smoke or fire associated with the incident.

Metro said riders should expect delays in both directions on the Red Line in the area. They hope to clear up the situation soon.

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<![CDATA[Women Fight to Get Money Back From Dating Service]]> Mon, 23 May 2016 23:39:40 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/DC+Singles.jpg

Several women who had second thoughts about or were dissatisfied with a dating service tried to cancel, but the service wouldn’t let them out of their contracts.

Shelina said she paid $7,000 to sign up with DC Singles, a dating service that uses a "comprehensive search process" to help "thousands of singles find love," according to its website. Within hours, she regretted her decision and immediately called the company to cancel but was told it was non-refundable.

”There’s no way I can believe that if you have not started service on me that I cannot cancel my contract,” she said.

NBC4 Responds learned there many complaints similar to hers with the attorney general’s offices in Virginia and D.C.

Theresa said she paid $3,000 to DC Singles and tried to cancel hours after signing the contract but was told it was too late.

DC Singles’ contract discloses the fee is "non-refundable," however both women said no service was performed because they canceled the same day they signed up.

Although neither attorney general's office would confirm whether or not there's an investigation into DC Singles, D.C.’s consumer affairs office said it's always a red flag when it sees a pattern of complaints with any business.

“If we see a pattern or practice of consumers that feel like they're not being dealt with fairly, then the attorney general is always concerned,” said Philip Ziperman, director of consumer protection at the D.C. Attorney General’s Office.

Two other DC Singles customers who filed complaints said they paid thousands of dollars and gave the service a try but said the company fell short and didn't match its criteria as promised. Both asked for refunds and were denied.

NBC4 Responds found the owner of DC Singles runs similar dating services nationwide with numerous complaints of dissatisfied customers.

The company said it makes no guarantees of a match that meets all the criteria and it will, if warranted, provide a refund, although it has no legal obligation to do so.

After carefully reviewing the circumstances involving each of the four women who spoke with NBC4 Responds, the company resolved each of their complaints for a total of more than $14,000.



Photo Credit: NBCWashington]]>
<![CDATA[Fairfax County Parents Hit by Virtual Kidnapping Scam]]> Mon, 23 May 2016 20:21:53 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/244*120/2016-05-23_2020.png

Fairfax County, Virginia, families are being warned about a potential scam that preys on fear about the kidnapping of a loved one.

Fairfax County police said several parents with children in Fairfax County Public Schools have received calls saying their child has been kidnapped. Called virtual kidnapping, this scam has hit several areas in Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C.

A virtual kidnapping is an extortion scheme, in which a criminal demands money from a victim by phone while pretending to hold captive a victim’s loved one. The callers threaten to harm or kill the victim’s loved one if a ransom isn’t immediately wired. Sometimes, screaming can be heard during the call to simulate the victim’s relative being harmed in some fashion.

Fairfax County police said the child in each case in the school system was safe at their respective school at the time the calls were made.

The scam has also hit the Archdiocese of Washington, Prince William County, Virginia, police and George Mason University. The FBI is involved in the ongoing investigation.

The News4 I-Team spoke with victims in Maryland in April about the virtual kidnapping scam and how the crime made its way into the area from New York and Texas.

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<![CDATA[VA Begins Bold Moves to Fight Zika Virus]]> Mon, 23 May 2016 20:13:22 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/ZikaMosquitoes-AP_16127497121865.jpg Virginia mounts an aggressive campaign to prevent Zika virus from spreading.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Victim in Brutal VA Home Invasion Attack Thought Wife Was Killed]]> Mon, 23 May 2016 20:04:01 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Alecia+and+Andrew+Schmuhl.jpg

A lawyer almost killed in a bizarre and brutal attack in his Virginia home testified Monday he thought the intruder killed his wife.

Leo Fisher took the stand for the prosecution Monday in the trial of Andrew Schmuhl, the lawyer accused in the Nov. 9, 2014, attack on Fisher and his wife, Sue Duncan. Fisher is a partner in an Arlington law firm that fired Schmuhl's wife, Alecia, two weeks prior to the attack.

Fisher told the jury that once inside their McLean home, Schmuhl used a Taser on him, tied him up and tied up his wife. Schmuhl never identified himself but questioned Fisher about Alecia Schmuhl for hours until, "The next think I know, he knocked me over backwards, he puts the pillow on me, he cuts my throat and starts stabbing me," Fisher said.

Fisher said his wife started screaming and Schmuhl shot her.

"He brought up a gun and he shot her, and I saw her hair go 'boom' and I thought he killed her," Fisher said. "She fell to the floor."

The bullet grazed her scalp.

Fisher said he was in and out of consciousness but remembers his wife covered in blood while they struggled to call 911.

Fisher told the jury that his life has significantly changed since the night of the attack.

"My tongue now bends to the left,” he said. “I can't feel or move the left side. It's very difficult for me to move food around and chew it."

Fairfax County Police officers described the gruesome scene they found. They testified that Fisher and his wife were suffering from multiple stab wounds and were struggling to stay alive.

Duncan testified Friday that Schmuhl came to the door of their home flashed a badge and said he was going to arrest Fisher. When asked why he was there, he said Fisher had a hit out on a Mexican drug cartel, Duncan testified.

She testified tearfully that during the attack, she thought her husband had been killed and she played dead so it would stop.

Schmuhl's lawyers are conceding Schmuhl attacked the couple that night but are using an "involuntary insanity defense," saying their client was taking many medications around the time of the attack. They say his wife was the mastermind of the plan, which was poorly executed by her foot soldier husband.

A judge ruled last month the Schmuhls will have separate trials. Andrew Schmuhl's lawyers asked for separate trials when they learned his wife might use the defense that she's been a victim of years of spousal abuse and was programmed to do whatever her husband asked.

Alecia Schmuhl will go on trial in the fall.

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<![CDATA[Student Attacked Outside Georgetown Day School Amid Crime Spike]]> Mon, 23 May 2016 19:25:55 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/WRC_0000000014806838_1200x675_691332163894.jpg A teenage boy was beaten and robbed outside the selective Georgetown Day School in Upper Northwest D.C. Crime in the Metropolitan Police Department's Second District has risen in several categories. News4's Mark Segraves reports. ]]> <![CDATA[Which Mosquito Repellents Work Best?]]> Mon, 23 May 2016 18:23:03 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/WRC_0000000014806061_1200x675_691264067699.jpg With Zika concerns increasing -- and given all the rain the D.C. area has seen this spring -- you will need a good mosquito repellent. News4 consumer reporter Susan Hogan tells you which repellents work best.]]> <![CDATA[TSA Turns to Technology, Training to Improve Airport Screening]]> Mon, 23 May 2016 18:16:54 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/WRC_0000000014806134_1200x675_691267139816.jpg Near Washington, D.C., the Transportation Safety Administration has replicated an airport luggage screening operation -- complete with bag systems and lifelike dummies -- to experiment with ways to make airport screening safer and faster. News4 transportation reporter Adam Tuss goes behind the scenes.]]> <![CDATA[Man Accused of Attempted Rape Aboard Metro Train]]> Mon, 23 May 2016 23:23:33 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/20160523+John+Prentice+Hicks.jpg

Police said a Northeast D.C. man assaulted and tried to rape a woman riding on a Red Line Metro train during rush hour last month.

The suspect, John Prentice Hicks, 39, is accused of forcing the victim to perform oral sex on him as he brandished a knife aboard a Red Line train traveling toward Glenmont at 10 a.m. on April 12.

Hicks is charged with first-degree attempted rape, first-degree sexual offense and second-degree assault.

The grisly incident allegedly occurred one day after a 15-year-old boy was stabbed to death at the Deanwood Station, and weeks after another teen was shot at the Deanwood station, which is along the Orange Line in Northeast D.C.

The victim in the Red Line case told police she was asleep in the middle section of a rail car as it approached "either the Fort Totten or Takoma stations" about 10 a.m., according to court documents.

As the train continued, the documents say, the man she identified as Hicks approached her and asked her questions such as, "Do you have a boyfriend?" and "Are you going to Glenmont?"

Hicks then displayed a folding knife while the train was at the Forest Glen Station, according to the victim's statement.

He then enveloped the woman in a "bearhug," the statement reads. He forced her to another part of the rail car where he attempted to have sex with her and forced her to perform oral sex all while the knife was in his hand, she told police. At some point, a struggle over the knife left the victim with a cut to her finger, she said.

The victim told police she worried Hicks would kill her if she did not comply.

At the Glenmont station, Hicks left the car but ordered the victim to stay where she was, she said in her statement. She told police she saw him re-enter the train on another railcar, and police said cameras appear to show him exiting the station and paying the fare with a SmartTrip card.

A SmartTrip card registered under Hicks' name shows a charge at Glenmont that day, police said. A Metro Transit officer who reviewed the security camera video recognized Hicks as a man suspected of exposing himself on a Metro train 10 days earlier.

Hicks was arrested by Metro Transit police hours after the incident. He was also identified last week in an ongoing sexual assault case in Montgomery County, police said.

Hicks, of 16th Place in Northeast D.C., is being held without bond.

The suspect, John Prentice Hicks, 39, has been charged with first degree rape, first degree sexual offense and second degree assault after he forced a woman to perform oral sex on him as he brandished a knife aboard a redline train traveling toward Glenmont on April 12.

The grisly incident occurred only one day after a 15-year-old boy was stabbed to death at the Deanwood Station, and weeks after another teen was shot at the same station, which is along the Orange Line in Northeast D.C.

The victim in this case told police she was asleep in the middle section of a railcar as it approached “either the Fort Totten or Takoma stations” about 10 a.m. As the train continued, the man she identified as Hicks approached her and asked her questions such as, “Do you have a boyfriend?” and “Are you going to Glenmont?”
Hicks then displayed a folding knife while the train was at the Forest Glen Station, the victim told police.

He then enveloped the woman in a “bearhug” and forced her to another part of the railcar where he attempted to have sex with her and forced her to perform oral sex all while the knife was in his hand, she told police. At some point, a struggle over the knife left the victim with a cut to her finger, she said.

The victim said she worried Hicks would kill her if she did not comply.

At the Glenmont station, Hicks exited the car but ordered the victim to stay where she was, she said. She told police she saw him re-enter the train on another railcar, and police said cameras appear to show him exiting the station and paying the fare with a SmartTrip card.

A SmartTrip card registered under Hicks’ name shows a charge at Glenmont that day, police said.

Hicks was also “positively identified” last week in an ongoing sexual assault case in Montgomery County, police said.

He is being held without bond.


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<![CDATA[Metro Slowdowns Preview Larger SafeTrack Work to Come]]> Mon, 23 May 2016 18:02:54 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/DC+metro+train+front.jpg

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority is slowing down Metro trains in an effort to reduce problems and comply with recent safety directives from the Federal Transit Administration.

The directives deal with specific zones, including the entire east-west tunnel shared by the Blue, Orange and Silver lines. They limit the trains’ maximum speed to 45 mph, and they affect the trains’ rate of acceleration out of the stations in an effort to limit the rate trains draw power from the third rails.

Speed restrictions for Metro trains also remain in place for a section of track near McPherson Square along the Blue, Orange and Silver lines. This work was supposed to be wrapped up last week but has proven to be more challenging than first thought. The problem has to do with a section of rail around a tight curve at McPherson Square, and that means another week of working on the problem.

Metro riders are starting to feel the pangs of frustration, but it could be a precursor to the larger SafeTrack works starting next week. However, some people were frustrated by the current slowdown, because Metro didn’t post an advisory until Monday morning.

“I think Metro needs to get it together,” said Metro rider Tara Bellinger. "Like yesterday."

Typically, Metro trains shoot out of the station and hit cruising speed pretty rapidly. Trains coming out of the McPherson Square station on Monday were doing a slow roll and stopping before resuming another slow roll as part of the speed restrictions.

There’s just so much maintenance that has to be done,” said Metro rider Carol Silverberg. “I'm not sure how they are ever going to catch up. And I'm not sure they have the money."

Metro's General Manager Paul Wiedefeld said to the upcoming huge SafeTrack maintenance plan starting next week will be the first steps to get all maintenance up to the right level.

“The key is once we do this, we cannot slip back to where we were,” Wiedefeld said. “We have to continue to do this."

For this week, there will be more slowdowns near McPherson Square on top of the slowdowns that were already in place along the downtown system of the Blue, Orange and Silver lines.

The SafeTrack work is scheduled to begin on June 4 and will be among the most disruptive in all 15 projects of the entire 10-month rebuilding plan.



Photo Credit: NBC4 Washington]]>
<![CDATA[Corporate Logos May Appear in National Parks]]> Mon, 23 May 2016 23:55:59 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/052316+washington+monument.jpg

Will the logos of corporate donors appear near the Washington Monument and National Mall? The National Park Service says maybe.

The park service is considering a plan that would allow private and corporate donors to display corporate logos on portions of park properties. 

Any signage displaying the company names or logos would be discrete, park service spokesman Jeffrey Olson said. He said the funds would support badly needed projects.

"This effort is to move us into the 21st century with philanthropy, donations and partnerships," Olson said.

The National Park Service oversees more than 400 sites across the country, drawing 300 million visitors per year. But budgets from Congress are tight. The plan is expected to boost donations.

But some groups say the plan risks dangerous intrusion of private interests onto public lands, which they say should remain free of commercialization or corporate influence.

"This isn't about philanthropy. It's about marketing and merchandising," said Jeff Ruch of the nonprofit Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.

"It changes what people see in the parks and who the parks are operated for," Ruch continued. "That amount of corporate dependence is going to bring with it influence over park management policies."

The park service contends the critics are wrong and that the program will create nothing like the flashy naming rights for a ballpark.

"We're trying to join the world of philanthropy that I think people are familiar with at universities, with zoos [and] with libraries," Olson said.

The official public comment period on the plan has ended. The new policy would likely be put in place by late this year.

Editor's Note: This story has been updated to clarify that the National Park Service is considering the sale of naming rights to portions of properties, not entire monuments or parks. 



Photo Credit: NBC Washington]]>
<![CDATA[Jewelry Store Owner Describes Armed Robbery]]> Mon, 23 May 2016 19:48:42 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Dubai+Jewelry.jpg

A Springfield, Virginia, jewelry store owner described the frantic moments when a masked man ran into his shop Saturday, brandishing a handgun and stealing nearly everything.

Muhammad Rayaz, the owner of Dubai Jewelry, said the robber held a gun to the owner’s head while he went from case to case, taking everything inside. Rayaz said for eight minutes, the robber systematically clean out the showcases, stuffing the loot into a duffle bag.

“All that time, his one hand was on me, and with his other hand, he was taking out all the jewelry stuff,” Rayaz said. “I kept shouting, ‘Hey, don’t shoot me. Don’t shoot me. Please, don’t take. Please don’t take.’ And he said, “I’ll shoot you if you don’t, I’ll shoot you if, just stay quiet.’”

Security cameras recorded the incident, but they have not been released. Rayaz said the man was wearing brown clothes that looked like a UPS uniform, but it appeared to be a costume, with other clothes underneath.

“It was a UPS vest, but it was kind of fluffy,” he said. “I realized later, he might be wearing (the outfit) on top of something else.”

A Fairfax County police officer arrived at the scene as the robber was leaving the store. The man fired shots at the officer, and the officer returned fire, police said.

A bystander was injured during the exchange, but the injuries were considered non-life-threatening, police said. They said it appeared the bullet striking the bystander was fired by the robber.

The robber fled the scene, carjacking two cars before fleeing on foot. Patrol officers, K-9 units and the helicopter and troopers from the Virginia State Police searched the area Saturday but were unable to find the robber.

Police released have not released a detail description of the robber. It is unknown if the masked man was hit by the police gunfire.

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<![CDATA[Summer-Like Temps to Follow Stormy Monday]]> Mon, 23 May 2016 21:11:47 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/20160523+Weather.jpg

A stormy Monday afternoon will bridge a March-like weekend with July temperatures by midweek, according to Storm Team4.

Storms quickly moved through the area late Monday afternoon, prompting a few severe thunderstorm warnings. There were reports of hail and wind gusts up to 50 mph. 

The rain delayed the start of the Washington Nationals game Monday evening.

Monday marked 19 days with at least a trace of precipitation at Reagan National Airport in May, according to Storm Team4. 

But the skies should clear Monday night, with a huge break in the cold, wet weather by the middle of the week that may have us feeling like it’s summertime.

Last weekend’s damp weather, with temperatures hovering in the mid-50s, felt more like early March than late May. Temperatures will skyrocket into the low-to-mid-80s by Wednesday, which we’re used to seeing in July.

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<![CDATA[GenHERation Aims to Empower Young Women and Girls]]> Mon, 23 May 2016 14:47:27 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/WRC_0000000014801760_1200x675_691063363756.jpg Katlyn Grasso talks to Barbara Harrison about her project GenHERation, which connects young women and girls with female leaders.]]> <![CDATA[What Did Planet Aid Do With Your Taxpayer Dollars?]]> Tue, 24 May 2016 14:17:44 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Planet+Aid+Donation+Bins.jpg

You've probably seen Planet Aid's bright yellow bins around town, asking for your clothing donations. But what you might not realize is the federal government is also giving millions of dollars to the charity, headquartered in Elkridge, Maryland, despite receiving warnings for more than a decade about the organization's possible connection to an international fugitive named Mogens Amdi Petersen.

Planet Aid brings in as much as $50 million a year, according to its financial filing with the Internal Revenue Service. As much as $42 million comes from selling your clothing donations. But a joint investigation with Reveal at the Center for Investigative Reporting found the U.S. Department of Agriculture has allocated at least $133 million to Planet Aid in the past 12 years.

The grants come from the USDA's Foreign Agricultural Service, which supports food programs outside the United States. "A lot of what they do is distribute food around the world on the condition it will be sold to finance schools, to finance programs to educate farmers," Reveal reporter Matt Smith said.

But internal emails obtained through an open records request show USDA officials have been repeatedly warned about Planet Aid's connection to a controversial Danish organization which some European countries have label a "non-religious cult."

Originally called Tvind and often referred to as the Teachers Group, it was founded by Mogens Amdi Petersen, who is currently on the run from Interpol after being charged with charities fraud and tax evasion in Denmark.

The USDA emails show staffers growing increasingly concerned about Planet Aid's relationship with Petersen, with some asking for "an in-depth investigation" in 2012 because of hints of "potential fraud and abuse" and "the number and frequency of complaints that we have been receiving."

But the records show the USDA kept awarding Planet Aid money even after the group's main fundraiser, a woman named Marie Lichtenberg, acknowledged to USDA staffers that she was a member of Teachers Group, according to an internal USDA memo.

Lichtenberg has never been charged with a crime. Court records obtained by Reveal show she is closely tied to Petersen, named as a possible character witness in his extradition trial and listed in Danish court records as one of "The Six," or a high-ranking member of Teachers Group.

"If they are really sending all that money to Africa, I think that the results would be better," said Meredith Crocker, who said she worked for Lichtenberg at Planet Aid headquarters for a year in 2013.

She explained how she made a 2013 promotional video as part of her job at Planet Aid that shows one of the USDA officials who privately worried about Planet Aid publicly applauding the group's work.

Crocker said she left about a year later after becoming uncomfortable with Planet Aid's grant-writing process, when she asked Lichtenberg for proof of results but never received any.

"My greatest concern when writing the grants was to notice that as we were writing them, we needed up-to-date information, the actual numbers," Crocker said, explaining how the USDA and other funders "need to see that there's some sort of improvement, or where the money is going and they're just going off the numbers from two years before."

Crocker said she does not believe the "results" reported by Planet Aid to the USDA are "accurate or truthful" and accuses the organization of "making up" and "exaggerating" the numbers it reports in its grant applications.

According to a 2015 report, Planet Aid told the USDA it installed "500" water "pumps," distributed more than 5,600 pigs and goats and created 195 "model fields" in Malawi.

Reveal's Matt Smith and Amy Walters went to Malawi and said they interviewed some of the same people featured in Planet Aid's reports and promotional videos. "What little livestock was there had died," Smith said. "The demonstration plots that were supposed to be revolutionizing their local agriculture were quickly abandoned after everybody left."

The villagers Smith interviewed told him they were totally embarrassed that they had been part of what they said was a totally fraudulent piece of propaganda.

Villagers told Smith Planet Aid only provided a single, substandard pump to each community and made them buy the rest at prices they couldn't afford. "They felt like what was supposed to be a benefit turned into a money making scheme for the organization that was supposed to be helping them," Smith said.

No one from the USDA would talk on-camera, but in a statement the USDA told the I-Team, "While none of the formal compliance reviews, ad-hoc reviews, site evaluations or audits ... yielded significant findings or concerns," the agency admitted it did "not have the authority or the means to conduct background investigations into individuals who work for" private organizations like Planet Aid.

But as a result of what Reveal found in Africa, the USDA told the I-Team, "We take these allegations of illegal activity very seriously and have asked USDA's Office of the Inspector General to investigate" Planet Aid.

Marie Lichtenberg and Planet Aid declined our request for an on-camera interview as well, but did provide a statement through their public relations firm that said, "Planet Aid has managed projects that improve nutrition, strengthen education and prevent disease in the developing world for nearly two decades. We greatly value our relationship with the U.S. Government, and the success of our work with U.S. Government agencies has been well documented. We will always cooperate fully with official audits and reviews of our projects, but we are unaware of any proposed or pending investigations."

Tuesday on News4 at 6, we'll take a look at the millions of dollars Planet Aid makes using clothing donations, why some call Teachers Group a cult and we will show you where Petersen may be hiding in plain sight.

The USDA gave the I-Team the following statement:

The USDA Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) takes very seriously its duty to spend taxpayer dollars wisely and to conduct food assistance programs that not only provide nutrition and educational opportunities to vulnerable children around the world, but also help developing countries modernize and strengthen their agricultural sectors in order to help prevent future food insecurity.

FAS has policies and procedures in place to evaluate proposals by private voluntary organizations (PVOs) for funding through its food assistance programs, including Food for Progress and the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program. Once funding has been awarded, FAS conducts ongoing monitoring and oversight to ensure successful program implementation and to prevent waste, fraud and abuse. However, FAS does not have the authority, or the means, to conduct background investigations of individuals who work for the PVOs that receive program funding.

None of the formal compliance reviews, ad-hoc reviews, site evaluations or audits FAS has conducted of Planet Aid projects have yielded significant findings or concerns. As far as oversight of the Planet Aid Food for Progress project in Malawi, in addition to regular review and auditing of required performance and financial reports, FAS conducted four site visits: Three were by FAS Washington-based staff, in June 2011, May 2013 and April 2015. Reports from those visits were provided in response to the Center for Investigative Reporting's FOIA request. A fourth visit was conducted in November 2012 by staff from the FAS office in Nairobi, Kenya, which covers Malawi.

While our own oversight did not identify any major issues with Planet Aid's implementation of the FAS-funded project in Malawi, we take these allegations of illegal activity very seriously and have asked USDA's Office of the Inspector General to investigate further.

Planet Aid gave the I-Team the following statement:

Planet Aid has managed projects that improve nutrition, strengthen education, and prevent disease in the developing world for nearly two decades. We greatly value our relationship with the U.S. Government, and the success of our work with U.S. Government agencies has been well documented. We will always cooperate fully with official audits and reviews of our projects, but we are unaware of any proposed or pending investigations.

Reported by Tisha Thompson, Matt Smith and Amy Walters with Reveal, produced by Rick Yarborough, and shot by Steve Jones and Jeff Piper.



Photo Credit: NBCWashington
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<![CDATA[Man Found Shot Outside Va. Apartments]]> Mon, 23 May 2016 07:37:39 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/WRC_0000000014798421_1200x675_690907203954.jpg A man is in critical condition after he was found shot outside the Fields apartment complex in Falls Church late Sunday night.]]> <![CDATA[Trial Begins in Hazing Lawsuit Against Fraternity in Md.]]> Mon, 23 May 2016 07:36:06 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/1229-bowiestate.jpg

A trial begins Monday in a hazing lawsuit that a former Bowie State University student filed against Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity.

The former student, Kevin Hayes, filed the lawsuit in 2014, saying the fraternity should have made sure its chapters and members followed its anti-hazing rules.

The $3 million lawsuit claims Hayes was beaten, body-slammed and spanked with a wooden paddle on a daily basis between September 2013 and December 2013, and was instructed not to tell anyone.

"[They said] it makes you stronger," Hayes has said. "They said, 'If you tell, you're a snitch.'"

Hayes said he hired an attorney because he couldn't take the continued harassment.

Bowie State University is not named in the lawsuit.

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