<![CDATA[NBC4 Washington - National & International News]]> Copyright 2014 http://www.nbcwashington.com/news/national-international http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/WASH+NBC4+BLUE.png NBC4 Washington http://www.nbcwashington.com en-us Thu, 18 Sep 2014 09:42:20 -0400 Thu, 18 Sep 2014 09:42:20 -0400 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[SD Couple Escapes Hurricane Odile]]> Thu, 18 Sep 2014 09:11:55 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/craig+and+jill+newell.JPG

A San Diego couple say they’ve endured “the life or death Amazing Race” to escape Hurricane Odile's massive devastation in Cabo San Lucas this week.

Craig and Jill Newell thought they would be traveling to paradise when they booked their honeymoon vacation to Cabo.

But what started as heaven quickly evolved into a hellish landscape when the Category 3 hurricane slammed into Baja California Sunday.

The Newells were at dinner when a hotel employee told them they needed to be escorted back to their room.

They walked through tunnels to avoid the storm above ground, and they sheltered in place inside their constantly shaking hotel, holding a mattress against the window to shield them from flying glass.

By Monday evening, most of the storm had passed, but all utilities went down.

"No ATMS, no credit cards, no Wi-Fi, no cellular, nothing,” Craig, a San Diego firefighter, told NBC 7 in a phone interview Wednesday.

Their resort had a back-up generator and water, but food soon began to run low, and Craig knew they would have to leave as soon as possible.

Setting out Tuesday morning, they were not prepared for the destruction outside their hotel.

"Almost every power pole is crushed; all the services are gone,” said Craig. “We saw a lot of looting which is very sad, the big stores, but people mostly taking food items and water because there was nothing."

Their goal was to get to La Paz, a nearly 100-mile trip. The Newells befriended a family who agreed to drive them and another couple three hours to that city’s airport.

Along the way, they saw desperation everywhere.

"People were walking down the street begging for rides,” described Craig. “People were walking for miles with their children through flooded, debris-covered roads.”

When they arrived in La Paz, it was much of the same. The airport had been taken over by the Mexican army and was in chaos, Craig said.

Desperate for any way out, they took a flight to a small town across the Gulf of California called Culiacán on Wednesday.

The improvements were immense. At the calm airport there, they were able to charge their phones and call their families.

NBC 7 talked with the Newells before they caught a plane to Tijuana Wednesday evening, where they could then cross the border into San Diego.

"It's been like the life or death Amazing Race. It's like the real deal. It's not just a game," said Craig.

He said he wants to share his experience with the people at his fire station to encourage them to prepare for a widespread disaster here.

Craig also wants to bring awareness to the plight of those left in the shattered Mexican towns.

"There are so many people down there that are in such trouble,” he said. “I would say thousands of people. They are in a lot of trouble, and they're running out of food and supplies. I don't know what the Mexican government is doing. I'm literally shocked that we as a country aren't doing more.”

More than 26,000 foreign tourists were stranded after Hurricane Odile, the most powerful storm to strike the Baja California peninsula.

The Mexican military and private aircraft stepped in Tuesday to fly many of the tourists to Tijuana. From there, they could arrange travel home.

Photo Credit: Craig and Jill Newell]]>
<![CDATA[Police Search for Man Seen Talking to Missing UVA Student]]> Thu, 18 Sep 2014 09:13:51 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/0917-hannah-graham-.jpg

Authorities in Charlottesville are hoping to locate a man who may have been spotted talking with missing University of Virginia student Hannah Elizabeth Graham just before she disappeared.

Police say they have obtained surveillance videos of Graham, 18, around Charlottesville's downtown mall just after 1 a.m. last Saturday morning. 

A man shown in those surveillance videos has already spoken with police. At 1:06 a.m., a camera at Sal's Restaurant recorded him walking in front of Graham, stopping and then walking behind her, according to NBC29. At 1:08 a.m., a camera at Tuel Jewelers, also on the mall, recorded Graham walking with another woman while the man followed her. Those videos have yet to be released to the media and public.

Police told NBC29 late Wednesday evening they have spoken with that man, who told officers he noticed Graham was disoriented and wanted to help her.

He told police that after he spoke with her, he saw a second man, only described as a black man, speaking to Graham and wrapping his arm around her shoulders. The witness said it appeared as though that man was also concerned about Graham, or possibly that he knew her.

Charlottesvlle police say they will search for more surveillance video from area businesses Thursday in an attempt to get a clearer description of the situation surrounding their encounter.

Wednesday afternoon, Charlottesville Police Chief Timothy Longo and lead investigator Detective Sgt. Jim Mooney discussed the chronology beginning Friday night and showed two surveillance videos of the 18-year-old by herself.

Graham, who is from Fairfax County, was last seen wearing black pants and a gold crop top with black mesh cutouts, according to surveillance photos taken Friday at her apartment around 9:30 p.m.

Police said she met friends for dinner at The Corner, a strip of bars, restaurants and night spots near the university. She left by herself around 11 p.m.

She was spotted outside McGrady's Irish Pub, then walking east along Preston Avenue in Charlottesville at 12:46 a.m. Saturday. 

Investigators say the Fairfax County teen appeared intoxicated but was not injured.

About 10 minutes later, surveillance video shows her outside a Shell gas station on Preston Avenue, NBC29 reported. She broke into a run, but police said no one was behind her on the tape.

By 1 a.m., Graham made it to the downtown mall in Charlottesville where the latest surveillance video was found.

Her friends last heard from her around that time, when she sent a text indicating she was lost.

Longo choked up as he described talking to Graham's parents, John and Susan Graham, earlier in the day. He read a statement from them.

"Hannah is beyond precious to us, and we are devastated by her disappearance,'' the statement read. "It is totally out of character for us not to have heard from her, and we fear foul play."

But police lack substantial evidence of foul play at this point, Longo said.

"Those of us who know and love Hannah know that she would not disappear without contacting family or friends," Graham's family said in a statement released Tuesday afternoon. "She is highly responsible and organized. She embraces life with energy and enthusiasm and has enriched the lives of many. Her empathy is evident in her daily interactions with us and her friends."

Stephen Rice, the band director at Graham's alma mater, West Potomac High School, agreed. "Hannah is not the kind of kid that would just go on a road trip and disappear," he said. "She was always very diligent with everything she did, and always did everything exactly by the book." Graham graduated from West Potomac in 2013.

The FBI has confirmed that it is involved in the search for her, saying only that it is providing investigative resources to local police. Albemarle County's search and rescue teams also lent a hand to Charlottesville Police Tuesday in their search for Hannah.

"We're mostly giving them some extra eyes and feet on the ground to actually cover more area quicker. In these searches, time is of the essence in trying to find someone," said Bobby Shiflett with Albemarle County Sheriff's Office. 

Graham, who is originally from England, is 5-feet-11-inches tall with blue eyes, light brown hair and freckles, according to university officials. Her and her family moved to the U.S. when she was five years old.

Police said Graham's friends reported her missing Sunday after realizing nobody had seen or heard from her since early Saturday morning.

University President Teresa A. Sullivan issued a statement saying the community is "united in our deep concern'" for the second-year student.

Graham's parents left their Northern Virginia home to go to Charlottesville to help look for her earlier this week, and a "Help Find Hannah Graham"' page has been established on Facebook.

"I just want her home safe. I'm scared for her," said Karen Blunk, who lives next door to Graham's parents. "Just from the standpoint of, you hear horrible things."

In October 2009, Morgan Harrington, a 20-year-old Virginia Tech student, went missing after leaving the University of Virginia's John Paul Jones Arena while attending a rock concert. Her remains were found three months later in a rural area. No arrests have been made.

"It's hearbreaking to know that another young woman is missing and that another family is going through the anguish of the missing period," said Harrington's mother.

At least two other young women, both 19 years old, have also disappeared in the area in recent years. Samantha Ann Clarke vanished after leaving her Orange County townhouse in September 2010. DaShad Laquinn Smith disappeared in Charlottesville in November 2012. Neither have been found.

Anyone with information regarding Graham's whereabouts is asked to call a 24/7 tipline at 434-295-3851.

<![CDATA[Doctor Infected With Ebola Expected to Make Full Recovery]]> Thu, 18 Sep 2014 02:01:20 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/214*120/Sacra+1.jpg

A Massachusetts aid worker who contracted Ebola in West Africa is now expected to make a full recovery, according to the doctors treating him at the Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha.

Wednesday night, NECN interviewed Dr. Rick Sacra's brother, Doug Sacra of Wayland. Doug says his brother's appetite is starting to come back, he's mentally sharper and more talkative.

"Oh it's great, we are very pleased," said a smiling Doug Sacra.

Dr. Sacra's wife, Debbie, has been briefing the family from Nebraska, where he's been in isolation since returning from Liberia.

Wednesday, Doug said he spoke with his brother over the phone for a half hour.

"He sounded perfectly normal, Dr. Rick at his best. On the other hand he's just laying there in his bed, so he is totally with it mentally, and now he can talk to you for a while, where a week ago he could talk to you for a minute and a half and then doctor said he has to lay back down."

Just last week, doctors explained how Dr. Sacra has been getting blood transfusions from Dr. Kent Brantley, another Ebola survivor. He's also taking another experimental drug, which doctors refused to identify, saying it's uncharted territory.

Over the past week, Dr. Sacra has done so well that doctors are now working to keep him entertained. They've brought in books, a stationary bike, chess board and Nerf hoop, even Ben and Jerry's chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream.

Doctors are now awaiting results of a second set of blood samples. There must be two negative blood tests done within 24 hours apart for Dr. Sacra to be released.

Photo Credit: SIM USA]]>
<![CDATA[Injured Boy's Dad: I Was in Shock]]> Thu, 18 Sep 2014 05:43:15 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Fabiani-Exclusive-Interview.jpg

The San Diego man who released his son from his seatbelt seconds after a traffic collision, causing him fatal injuries, said he was in a state of shock when he walked away from the scene.

On the night of June 2, 2013, Angelo Fabiani’s son was hanging out of the window of the family’s Nissan Titan teetering on the edge of a retaining wall.

The truck had veered off Interstate 5 and crashed on its side along the highway embankment near Old Town.

Fabiani made the decision to cut his 4-year-old son’s seatbelt with a tool from the back of the truck. As a result, little Valentino fell 10 feet onto the concrete below.

“When he hit the ground it was nothing like I ever heard before,” Fabiani said. He recalled hearing women shrieking at the same time. “That’s not a sound like I’ve ever heard.”

“I just knew there was no coming back from this,” he said.

Fabiani walked away from the wreckage because, he said he just couldn’t bring himself to see his son like that. He described walking 19 miles to Imperial Beach and sitting alone near the water at a place where he would often play with his son.

On Wednesday, Fabiani and his attorney Allen Bloom spoke to NBC 7 in an exclusive interview about the crash and the trial that’s about to start in a few weeks.

Fabiani faces two to three years in prison if he's convicted of the charges of child endangerment and walking away from an injury crash.

Fabiani said he and Valentino spent the day at Mission Beach building sandcastles and playing in the water.

That perfect day soon turned into a nightmare when Fabiani lost control of his truck near the I-5 and I-8 interchange.

“I blacked out or was knocked out. The next thing I remember I was outside my truck standing below the retaining wall looking up,” Fabiani recalled.

He recalls seeing his son’s head and arm sticking out of the truck window.

“I just saw a lot of blood coming out. Immediately, I just had to get to my son,” he said.

“I knew the amount of blood that was coming out of the window wasn’t going to be just a scrape from the park. I knew that was really bad. So I had to get to him was all I was thinking,” he said.

He tried to climb the wall but when he couldn’t reach him, he climbed over a fence and crawled into the back of the truck.

Fabiani says he broke a window and tried to unbuckle Valentino's seatbelt to get him out.

Once he released the boy and the child fell, Fabiani said he reached for his son.

“All I could see was my hand just inches from his foot. I knew right then every dream I had for my son… places that we wanted to take him, you know all the plans we thought we were going to have for him, you know they were gone.”

Valentino was taken to Rady Children’s Hospital, where he died a week later from a head injury.

CHP investigators arrested Fabiani in Imperial Beach two days after the crash.

According to CHP officials, he took off running immediately following the crash, but then returned to the scene to unbuckle the child from the vehicle. Alcohol didn't play a part in the accident, officials said.

Bloom said Fabiani was in a state shock and wasn't in his right mind.

“The brain simply shuts down. As the psychologist told me, like a computer, it’s frozen,” Bloom said.

Bloom said the DA is basing the endangerment charged on the fact that Fabiani didn’t wait for the ambulance.

Also, Bloom claims, it was an injury from striking a palm tree during the crash, not from the fall to the concrete that likely caused Valentino's death.

Fabiani said he doesn't feel he's to blame for trying to save his son. Intead, he said he feels guilt because his son was in his care when he was fatally injured. 

The case goes to trial at the end of September.

Photo Credit: NBC 7]]>
<![CDATA[Calif. Wildfire Threatens Homes]]> Thu, 18 Sep 2014 04:11:51 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/nws-king-fire.jpg

The King Fire was still raging out of control in Pollock Pines, 60 miles east of Sacramento, on Wednesday evening, as more than 2,500 firefighters battled the blaze, which grew by thousands of acres overnight and has burned through nearly 29 square miles.

The wildfire was threatening 500 homes, with some under mandatory evacuation orders, and was just 5 percent contained.

“It's burning in steep, dense terrain with heavy timber that's posing quite a challenge,'' said Alyssa Smith, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Homeowners are just waiting, hoping to get word that their house is in the clear. Mark Catrambone, along with his wife and dog, were evacuated from their home in Swansboro. They said they’re thankful they had enough time to pack their valuables and get out safely.

“We’re safe and that’s the most important thing,” Catrambone said. “Would hate to lose it all. It’s just property, but still, it’s your life and home.”

Twenty-one families have been evacuated. Fire officials said keeping those houses safe is a top priority, but fire crews are struggling with dangerous conditions.

“It’s risky out there. It’s a fire, moving quickly, and it’s very steep and rugged terrain,” Capt. Michelle Eidam said, adding the low humidity and the wind is making their job tough.

“Our fuels are very dry,” Eidam said. “That’s playing a huge role in helping this fire grow quickly, burn hot and spread fast.”

The King Fire is one of a number of wildfires burning across California. Dozens of homes, churches and buildings were wiped out after a fire roared through the small logging town of Weed, California.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Photo Credit: @NWSSacramento / Twitter]]>
<![CDATA[Lawsuit Over Teen Killed by LAPD]]> Thu, 18 Sep 2014 06:29:21 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/ezell+ford+lapd+ois+victim.PNG

The mother of Ezell Ford, an unarmed black teenager shot and killed by LAPD officers during an altercation, filed a $75 million wrongful death lawsuit against the department Wednesday, arguing her son’s civil rights were violated the night he died.

Ford, 25, was fatally shot Aug. 11 after he allegedly struggled with two Los Angeles police officers from Newton Area Gang Enforcement Detail after he was stopped near 65th and Broadway streets. Police said Ford reached for an officer’s gun when they opened fire.

Family members have contradicted that narrative, and asserted that Ford was mentally ill and the officers should have better known how to deal with him.

“This was a homicide plain and simple,” said Steve Lerman, who is representing Ford’s family. “A disarmed, unarmed, helpless, hapless person who was shot to death for no reason other than two officers were bored on Monday at 8 p.m. and they knew Ezell Ford was handicapped.”

Lerman, who represented Rodney King in his lawsuit against LAPD 22 years ago, did not elaborate on why the family believed the two officers knew Ford was handicapped, but said new evidence and scores of witnesses have come forward in the case who will back up his claims.

Ford’s death has sparked outrage, demonstrations and marches from activists who say they’re fed up with the recurring problem of law enforcement and how they deal with the mentally ill.

Ford battled bipolar and schizophrenia, according to Lerman, the family attorney.

The family’s claim argues officers Sharlton Wampler and Antonio Villegas unjustifiably shot Ford and denied him due process.

LAPD did not comment on the lawsuit because the investigation is ongoing and the department does not comment on pending litigation.

<![CDATA[Stolen Jaguar Found 46 Years Later]]> Thu, 18 Sep 2014 07:56:33 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/214*120/jaguar+xke+stolen+ivan+schneider.jpg

A classic British roadster regarded as one of the most beautiful cars ever made will be returned to its 82-year-old owner nearly five decades after the vehicle was stolen.

The 1967 Jaguar E-type convertible was seized by authorities last month at the Los Angeles/Long Beach seaport. Referred to the XKE in the United States, the car has captured hearts of auto enthusiasts, including Ivan Schneider, since it roared onto the scene in the 1960s with its sporting pedigree, graceful long hood, sleek profile and other timeless design elements. The New York Museum of Modern Art even added an XKE to its permanent design collection in the 1990s.

This particular car's story is not all about looks -- although, most of it is.

The car was stolen 46 years ago in New York City and Schneider, now living in Miami Beach, had no reason to believe he would ever see his beloved sports car again. He was so enamored with it that whenever he bought a new car, Schneider recalled regaling dealers with tales of his lost E-type, which the trial lawyer then in his mid-30s bought for $15,000 after winning a big case. Hagerty's classic car price guide now values the convertible 4.2-liter engine model at more than $112,000.

"I've had a lot of great cars since then, but none of them as pretty," Schneider, a car collector, said Wednesday. "I've had every car you can think of. That was, in looks, my favorite car.

"It's gorgeous. It looks like a bullet almost. It's a car they should make now again."

The theft occurred outside his New York City residence. Schneider walked downstairs on his way to work and realized the car wasn't where he parked.

"I walked up and down Madison Avenue, then up and down 5th Avenue, and it wasn't there," he said. "I was heartbroken."

He filed a police report. Holding out hope that the Jag would be found, he did not buy another car for about four weeks. Eventually, he accepted the possibilty he would never see it again.

Forty-six years later, he found what a U.S. Customs and Border Protection official told him during an August phone call even more difficult to accept. The car had been located in a shipping container at the Port of Long Beach/Los Angeles that was bound for Europe.

"When I got the call, I thought they were kidding me," Schneider said.

The break in the decades-old vehicle theft case came when Customs and Border Protection was notified by the National Insurance Crime Bureau of a vehicle reported stolen. CBP typically cross-references documentation provided by exporters with information, including vehicle identification numbers, in the Crime Bureau's active stolen vehicle reports.

"When we located the vehicle, it was in a container bound for the Netherlands," said Javier Larios, of the CBP.

The agency notified the carrier that the container should be returned to the Southern California port complex. When agents opened the container, they found Schneider's Jag, painted white over its original gray color.

"The outside looks great, the inside looks terrible," Schneider said. "This is just a miracle, a miracle."

Schneider plans to have the car restored in New York before it is shipped to his Florida home. He said he is "very excited" to take it for another ride after only putting 6,000 miles on the car before it disappeared.

Photo Credit: KNBC-TV]]>
<![CDATA[Cases of Enterovirus Confirmed in NY, NJ, CT: Officials]]> Thu, 18 Sep 2014 06:58:07 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/CDC-generic.jpg

Officials Wednesday confirmed cases of enterovirus EV-D68 in New York City, Long Island, New Jersey and Connecticut as the unusual and potentially severe respiratory illness continues to sweep across the U.S.

Officials said that at least one of the 12 confirmed cases of the virus previously confirmed in New York state is in New York City, and another case is on Long Island. Cases have been reported in more than a dozen states nationwide.

The CDC also confirmed a case in New Jersey on Wednesday. That case was identified from a specimen sent to the CDC from a Philadelphia hospital, the CDC said. The child was discharged from a hospital after their condition improved.

On Long Island, a girl from North Hempstead was hospitalized earlier in the month and is now recovering at home, according to the Nassau County Health Department. 

Connecticut health officials also said that a child in that state also contracted the virus. The child was being treated at Yale-New Haven Hospital, but it's not clear what town that child was from..

Enteroviruses, which usually cause mild cold-like symptoms that last about a week, are common, afflicting up to 15 million people in the U.S. each year, but the CDC says this particular strain of the virus is unusually severe.

Infants and children are at particular risk, and though most affected people recover on their own and have no future problems, those with weakened immune systems or underlying medical conditions such as asthma may need to be hospitalized.

There is no vaccination. Prevention involves hand-washing, disinfecting surfaces and any usual steps to prevent the spread of flu.

There are more than 100 types of enteroviruses. EV-D68 was first identified in California in 1962.

Health officials urge anyone who has trouble breathing, or notices a child does, to call a doctor immediately.  

Copyright Associated Press / NBC4 Washington

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Middle Schoolers Hospitalized]]> Thu, 18 Sep 2014 06:01:44 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/sawgrass+springs+middle.jpg

Six eighth-grade students in Florida were transported to a local hospital after taking another student's diabetes medication, and two others are being evaluated, officials said.

The incident happened at Sawgrass Springs Middle School at 12500 West Sample Road in Coral Springs.

Coral Springs Fire Division Chief Mike Moser said the students, all female, took Glipizide, a medication that treats type 2 diabetes.

Students said they saw the girls taking the pills in the bathroom. One girl took two or three of the pills, said a student.

"They looked like they were in a trance," said another student.

Officials said it appears one student brought the medication to the school and shared it with six or seven friends.

The students were taken to Broward Health Coral Springs for treatment. Moser said that while the girls were stable, the medication requires 24-hour hospital monitoring.

Side-effects include altered blood sugar levels and entering a diabetic coma.

Stay with NBC6.com for updates on this developing story.

Photo Credit: NBC 6 South Florida]]>
<![CDATA[Burglars Steal $70K From NYC Home]]> Thu, 18 Sep 2014 08:21:24 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/196*120/woodside+queens+burglary+fake+con+ed.JPG

A man and a woman in New York City posing as utility workers got into an elderly Queens man's home and stole $70,000 in cash before running away, police say.

The suspects went to the 78-year-old victim's home on 74th Avenue in Woodside at about 12:15 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 10 and pretended to be Con Edison workers, according to police.

The suspects told the elderly resident they needed to check the fuse box and went into the basement with him, police said. There, they checked the fuse box, plugged a light into a receptacle and told the victim to wait for the light to change color.

As the woman waited with the victim in the basement, the man went upstairs and took $70,000 from the victim's dresser, according to police.

The thieves then fled.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Crime Stoppers at 800-577-TIPS.

<![CDATA[Drag Queens Will "Mobilize" if FB Doesn't Change Policy]]> Thu, 18 Sep 2014 09:11:14 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/drag-city-hall.jpg

Some Bay Area drag queens say they are "disappointed" with the lack of progress made at Wednesday's meeting with Facebook over concerns raised about the social networking site's "real names" policy.

Speaking to reporters at San Francisco City Hall, the group said they would boycott Facebook if they could, but the site is "a part of their lives."

The meeting came after the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence and their supporters vowed to protest messages some users received saying that their account had been "temporarily suspended" because "it looks like you're not using your real name." 

Facebook's stance is that the "real names" policy is designed to "keep the community safe."

But "Lil Miss Hot Mess," who recently had to reluctantly identify herself as Harris David on her Facebook page, said that policy was backfiring.

"Their policy is to provide a safe environment, but we feel that by requiring people to use their legal names it makes people more unsafe by opening them up to attacks," she said.

Lil Miss Hot Mess said that as one of the most important social public forums, Facebook's policy is an issue that affects the transgender and LGBT community, social workers, teachers, victims of domestic violence and people who want anonymity for any number of reasons.

Facebook says it will temporarily reactivate hundreds of recently-disabled accounts but those who had been deactivated will have to use their real names or change their profile to a page.

“Facebook is discriminating by basically not allowing a large part of the community access to a public forum because of this policy,” she said.

"Heklina," a 47-year-old drag queen from San Francisco, said that Wednesday's one-hour meeting didn't result in any decisions, but that the group hopes to keep meeting with Facebook until there is a resolution.

"Facebook's 'real names' policy is unsafe and unfair to performers," she said. "Facebook knows we are mobilized and ready to protest this policy. There are people who work at Facebook who oppose this policy. Facebook has their heart in the right place but their policy is misguided."

Heklina said she got one of those messages last week, after registering on her original Facebook account as "Heklina Heklina." Then she changed her name to "Heklina Grygelko," but was again kicked off Facebook until she registered with her birth name of Steven Heklina Grygelko — a name she doesn't identify with.

Heklina said she doesn't perform under that name and doesn't want to start a new fan page, because all of her followers now use her personal one, which is more interactive than a fan page.

Facebook's "real name" policy stipulates that "people use their real identities" and "provide their real names, so you always know who you're connecting with." Nicknames can be used if they're a variation of your real name, and an alternative can be listed on an account by adding an "alternate name" to your profile. "Pretending to be anything or anyone isn't allowed," the rules state.

Facebook spokesman Andrew Souvall confirmed that Facebook employees, and not an algorithm, began emailing users recently to verify names that didn't appear to be legitimate, and that some users were blocked recently. "We pulled some down last week," Souvall said, adding that the reason is to hold users accountable for their actions, namely nameless bullying in cyberspace.

The unusual gathering — between the social media giant and a group that bills itself as a "leading-edge Order of queer nuns" that aims to protect and promote human rights for "those on the edges" — was organized by San Francisco Supervisor David Campos, who last week called on Facebook to meet with the drag queens. One of them started a Change.org petition with more than 18,000 signatures from New York to Georgia. The movement is growing on Twitter with supporters using the hashtag #MyNameIs.

Heklina said Campos would reach out to Facebook to set up more meetings in the future. "Next time we hope to meet with people who can directly influence the policy," she said.

Souvall told NBC Bay Area Wednesday morning, ahead of the discussion at Menlo Park headquarters, that the company is "open to talking with them." "We'll see from there. We're open to hearing their suggestions," he said.

Still, Souvall stopped short of saying Facebook would changes its longstanding rule that people must register with their legal names to open an account.

Souvall didn't comment on whether Facebook would follow Google Plus' move in July, when it ended its "real name" policy. In a blog post, the company said by forcing users to use their real names, "it also excluded a number of people who wanted to be part of it." The company added that it hoped the change would make Google Plus a more "welcoming and inclusive" place.

Facebook's policy on famous people, such as Lady Gaga, allows for "real name" exceptions because the company feels the world knows them by that name.

NBC Bay Area's Bob Redell and Scott Budman contributed to this report.

Photo Credit: Scott Budman]]>
<![CDATA["Played Out": Final Moments as Latest Atlantic City Casino Folds]]> Wed, 17 Sep 2014 13:41:30 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/blackjack+final+hand.JPG

The last blackjack hand dealt before the Trump Plaza casino closed its doors in Atlantic City Tuesday morning was a 21, for the house.

That luck came too late for the casino, which shut for good just before 6 a.m.

The floor was mostly empty, the chandeliers lighting vacant gaming tables and workers clustered together. Only a handful of players were left, loyal customers and determined gamblers to the end.

Ruth Hardrick’s last shift had ended at 4 a.m. but she returned a few hours later for the final moments. For 26 years, the casino had been her second home, she said.

“You see it coming but you never think it’s going to get to this point because you always try to stay optimistic that it would come out of the slump somewhat,” said Hardrick, who lives nearby in Mays Landing, New Jersey. “I had a good run here.”

The two men playing blackjack left as security guards escorted people from the building at 5:59 a.m.

Ruth Modrell set her alarm for 4:30 a.m. to play the slot machines one last time.

“This is a great place,” said Modrell of Bridgewater, New Jersey. “I feel like I’m a favorite daughter in the family and so does everybody else. The people here are just wonderful. You can’t win but that’s true at all casinos.”

The retired communications engineer had been visiting Trump Plaza for about 10 years, and on this final night, she was trying her hand at one or two more slot machines before heading out.

With no drinks to serve, 30-year-old Marilyn Solis was gathering up empty ash trays as the minutes ticked down. This was her second casino closing, she said. She had worked at the Sands Casino Hotel before it shut in 2006.

“I never thought it was going to happen again,” she said.

She has been filling out applications for another job, but was not optimistic.

“It’s been very hard,” she said. “You have to know somebody now to get in.”

At the front of the casino, 60-year-old Rich Everett complained that the owners had not even tried to make the casino successful. He hopes to work for himself instead by buying a limousine to take customers between the casinos, he said.

“They didn’t promote the place at all,” he said.

Soon after the doors closed, workers could be seen inside the lobby pulling up the fake plants.

The day before Linda Winsett stopped in to say goodbye to the workers she'd come to know over her decades playing the slot machines.

 “I know everyone here,” said Winsett, who was visiting Monday with her husband, Jon, a retired Wildwood, New Jersey, police officer. “They’ve always been good to me. Sad. Everyone’s out of work.”

Winsett had known the casino was failing. It had become run-down, and there were fewer employees on the casino floor. Its imminent closure was no surprise to her. “I could see it coming,” she said.

When the Trump Plaza shuttered its doors early Tuesday morning, it became Atlantic City's fourth casino to close this year, following the Atlantic Club in January and Showboat and Revel over the Labor Day weekend. Trump Entertainment Resorts is threatening to shut down a fifth, Trump Taj Mahal, if it cannot cut costs there.

On Tuesday, Donald Trump hinted that he might jump back in the game.

In August, Trump sued Trump Entertainment Resorts, formed after his casino empire emerged from a  bankruptcy and in which he retains a stake. In the lawsuit, Trump demanded that his name be removed from the Trump Plaza and the Trump Taj Mahal casinos because the company had allowed them to fall into disrepair.

Still, the march of casino closures comes as New Jersey casinos' revenue lags, and as state leaders scramble to turn the tide. New Jersey casinos' August revenue was down $3.65 million compared with last year, state gambling figures out Friday show. Last week, Gov. Chris Christie held a special summit to help the troubled casino resort community, and issued a directive to let casinos begin sports betting.

“The whole industry is played out,” said Linda Winsett's husband Jon, 59, who does not gamble. “If you put six McDonald’s on one intersection, not all six are going to do good.”

"I'm going to pick up the pieces"

At mid-day Monday, a smattering of gamblers dotted the Trump Plaza's cavernous casino floor, most of them at the slots. As the day wore on, visitors streamed up the escalators to games whose dazzling names — "Dozens of Diamonds," "Invaders from the Planet Moolah" — belied the casino's future.

That future was on casino employees' minds Monday, as nearly 1,000 workers prepared to lose their jobs. Some said they said they would apply for unemployment benefits or maybe return to college, and a dealer was overheard discussing competition from casinos in neighboring states.

Theresa Volpe, 56, a cocktail server who has worked at Trump Plaza for 26 years, is looking for a job in one of the other casinos, and hopes the city can rebound to thrive again. She lives just outside Atlantic City in Northfield with her disabled sister and her mother, who is recovering from a fall. Both rely on her, but Volpe said she wasn't worried.

"I’m going to pick up the pieces," she said. "I’ll be good. We’ll work it out."

The closing of Trump Plaza has also left uncertain the future of its boardwalk restaurant, EVO. Waiter Elgun Alakbarov, 25, is applying for jobs at other restaurants, but he may leave Atlantic City instead.

"It’s time to do something different. But I'm young," he acknowledged. “People who have a family — it’s hard."

The union representing casino employees, Unite Here Local 54, will host a resource center in Boardwalk Hall from Wednesday through Friday where union and non-union workers can learn about unemployment benefits, health care, rent assistance and other resources, said Donna DeCaprio, the secretary treasurer. "It's kind of one-stop shopping," she said.

"There's already enough poverty"

On a sparklingly sunny Monday on the Atlantic City boardwalk, Janice and Malcolm Blalock had their photograph taken in front of the casinos. Retired government workers from Clayton, North Carolina, they were on a motorcycle trip and were on their way to Philadelphia.

“It’s a little bit sad,” Malcolm Blalock said of the casino closures. His wife, who described herself as a small gambler, said the casino closures reflect the ongoing struggles of a still-rebounding economy.

The pair was only briefly stopping in Atlantic City en route to Philadelphia.

Derek Ljongquist, 31, and Jennifer Cote, 33, stopped at the Starbucks in the Trump Plaza, but they had no plans to stay, either. The couple from Naugatuck, Connecticut – he a computer technician, she a health-care administrative assistant – was headed for a swim and then shopping at the Tanger outlet mall, during a visit for Cote’s birthday.
And though not gamblers, they thought the Atlantic City casinos paled in comparison with their home state's Mohegan Sun casino, though they called the Trump Plaza's closure "a shame."

“It's a shame, because there are a lot of jobs to be lost,” Cote said. “There’s already enough poverty in the city.”

"The whole vibe is different"

Like many others, longtime Trump Plaza patrons Ed Heron Jr., 68, and his wife, Marge, 67, had come to their old haunt Monday to say goodbye to longtime employees.

“This used to be our place,” Ed said. “We used to be here at least two or three times a month."

The retired couple, who live in Philadelphia, recalled steak dinners they had eaten and performances they'd seen by Cher and Diana Ross there. But what was once a fabulous casino now looked desolate, Marge said, and the couple blamed its owners for its failure.

“Ten years ago, the place was hopping,” Ed remembered.

That wasn't the case Monday, another worker at the Trump Plaza's restaurant EVO conceded. Andrea Gant, 29, is moving to Boca Raton, Florida, to waitress in another of the owner’s restaurants for the winter. "It’s hard to get a job here in the winter," she said.

It wasn't just during the winter that business had lagged, though, she said. With fewer patrons to serve, she could tell the casinos were suffering.

"You can feel it," she said. "The whole vibe is different."

Copyright Associated Press / NBC4 Washington

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[CDC Confirms Case of Enterovirus in Connecticut]]> Thu, 18 Sep 2014 07:34:49 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/yale+new+haven+children+hospital+2.jpg

A mysterious respiratory illness that has hospitalized children in several states has surfaced in Connecticut, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed.

The state Department of Public Health received confirmation from the CDC on of a case of Enterovirus D68 infection involving a Connecticut child. The child, a 6-year-old girl, was treated at Yale-New Haven Hospital, according to a hospital spokesperson.

Doctors at Yale-New Haven Hospital's children's emergency department said the girl was treated there last week and discharged.

A statement from the state Department of Health said it is likely the virus is already causing respiratory illnesses in many places across Connecticut because of this confirmed case and reports of suspected cases involving children at four other Connecticut hospitals, and confirmed EV-D68 cases in New York State and New Jersey.

"As per the CDC recommendation, we are testing children who experience severe respiratory symptoms difficulty or fast breathing, who are admitted to the hospital and there has been several cases at our hospital and others that we have sent to the CDC to be tested," said Dr. Paul Aronson, of Yale-New Haven Hospital.

Five Connecticut hospitals are still waiting on results from the CDC, including Danbury Hospital.

Officials from Connecticut Children's Medical Center said last week that they were treating suspected cases of Enterovirus D68.

As of Sept. 17, the CDC was reporting 140 lab-confirmed cases in 17 states since mid-August. The states affected at this point include Connecticut, New York, Alabama, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Montana, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

Most people who are infected with non-polio enteroviruses do not get sick, or they only have mild illness, according to the CDC. Symptoms of mild illness may include fever, runny nose, sneezing, cough, skin rash, mouth blisters, and body and muscle aches.

DPH is working with health care providers and local health departments to closely monitor for increases in respiratory illnesses in hospitals across the state.

Laboratory specimens from patients with respiratory illnesses that could be due to EV-D68 at four other Connecticut hospitals are in the process of being sent to the CDC for confirmatory testing.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com]]>
<![CDATA[Groundwater Levels Plummet in LA]]> Thu, 18 Sep 2014 01:37:05 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/colorado+river+basin+copy.jpg

New laws intended to safeguard California's dwindling groundwater largely exclude crucial basins in Los Angeles and Orange counties, on the grounds that local monitoring systems for them are already in place.

But that is not keeping their water levels from descending to historically low levels, NBC4 has learned.

"The system has worked until now," said Anthony Zampiello, executive director for the watermaster overseeing the main San Gabriel basin, historically replenished by runoff from the mountains.

What has changed things is this third year of drought.

"Now it's stressing all the safeguards put into place," Zampiello said.

The court order that established the San Gabriel watermaster four decades ago also specified an "operating range" for groundwater levels.

Water as measured at the key well in Baldwin Park fell below the operating range in February and has continued to drop to the point it is now 18 feet below. "It's never been this low," Zampiello said.

Groundwater levels are also plummeting in the central groundwater basin which underlies much of the southern end of Los Angeles County.

At one test well checked Wednesday in Pico Rivera, the water level had dropped to 102 feet, 17 feet lower than recorded just half a year ago. Similar drops have been recorded across the basin.

"One more foot, and it will be at the lowest level in 57 years," said Ted Johnson, chief hydrogeologist for the Water Replenishment District.

The state legislature created the WRD in the 1950s after the post World War II population boom led to rapid drawdown of groundwater, both in the Central Basin and to the west in the coast basin beneath the South Bay. With both the San Gabriel Watermaster and the Replenishment District, the goal was to apportion allocations in order to stablize the basins so they could meet ongoing demand.

Dealing with prolonged drought was not part of the original vision for either entity.

The original source of replenishment for both the San Gabriel and Central basins was runoff from the mountains, captured in giant spreading basins so the water could percolate through the soil and into the basins. Later, after the completion of the California Aqueduct in the 1970s, the entitites purchased water sent south by the California Water Project.

Both those sources have been severely curtailed by the drought. During the drought, recycled and treated waste water has proven to be the most reliable replenishment source for the WRD, and it is moving to expand its recycling capability with the goal of achieving independence from imported water. But a major increase in recycling capacity may not go online before 2018.

The Orange County Water District has been a longtime proponent of water recycling. Its groundwater basin has dropped to the lower one-third of its operating range, according to the district. Groundwater rights in some other basins have also been "adjudicated," but much of the state has lacked grounwater monitoring, and the absence of statewide regulation had made California unique among the western states.

The package of groundwater bills signed Tuesday by Gov. Jerry Brown creates a framework for reporting groundwater pumping and replenishment, and ultimately calls for development of local sustainability plans. Apart from reporting requirements, the existing overseers of basins such as San Gabriel, Central, and Orange County are specifically exempted from the other provisions of the bills. The overseers have not attempted to order cuts in pumping from wells.

"We can't dictate," said WRD Board Director Sergio Calderon.

Whether the watermaster could do so is yet to be explored. For now, the watermaster hopes to the drawdown can be slowed by its member water districts taking more from the Colorado River, which has been less affected by the drought.

Perhaps as soon as a month, the WRD board will consider proclaiming a Drought Emergency, Calderon said. Neither sees the need for mandatory curtailment of deliveries in the months ahead, but that could change if another dry winter propels California into a fourth year of drought.

Photo Credit: U.S. Bureau of Reclamation]]>
<![CDATA[HS Queen Shares Crown After Prank]]> Thu, 18 Sep 2014 07:58:48 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/vlcsnap-0000118.jpg

Two friends at a North Texas high school vowed to make up for their classmates' cruel prank by awarding the Grand Prairie High School homecoming crown to one of their best friends.

Lillian Skinner, 17, is described by friends as "just an amazing girl" and "one of the nicest people I've ever met."

"She's so sweet," said 17-year-old Anahi Alvarez, a senior at the North Texas school. "We need people in this world like Lilly."

"My mom tells me, and I remember to tell my friends, 'Look inside [to see what] counts. Not the outside. Look inside your heart,'" Skinner told NBC 5 about her life motto. "If you judge people's skin, that's bad. But look inside their heart, to who they are."

But Skinner's sweet and innocent nature also made her the target of a recent prank in which some unnamed girls told her she had been nominated for the homecoming court alongside her longtime best friends, Alvarez and Naomi Martinez, also a GPHS senior.

After learning of the prank, Alvarez and Martinez, who have been friends with Skinner since 7th grade choir, hatched a plan to pass their crown to Skinner should either of them be named homecoming queen.

"We promised each other and we were like, 'No matter what, no backing down. If one of us wins we're giving Lillian the crown,'" Martinez said.

On Friday night, in front of thousands of friends, family members and fans at the Gopher-Warrior Bowl, that is exactly what happened.

Principal Lorimer Arendse, now in his fourth week at the helm of Grand Prairie High School, was let in on the plan shortly before halftime and the planned announcement of the homecoming winners.

"In all my time in school, this is probably the greatest moment I've ever experienced as a principal," said Arendse, who has five years of prior experience in school administration.

It was Arendse's job to escort Skinner onto the field, under the guise of helping to take pictures of the homecoming court's procession. So Skinner had front row seats for when her friend, Anahi Alvarez, was named 2014 homecoming queen.

"When she won the queen, I took a picture and she told me to come over. And I said, 'It's OK. It's OK. It's your crown,' you know? My name is not on the list,'" Skinner said.

Slowly it dawned on Skinner what was really happening, according to the others in attendance.

"That's when it was just, the moment itself took over," Arendse said, still smiling four days after the fact.

"Seeing the look on her face and the way she reacted toward it, it was priceless," said Martinez. "I knew it was the right decision."

Skinner did not know what to think as Alvarez placed the crown on her head.

"I was like, 'Wow, really? Like, wow! Like, is this a dream or something?'" Skinner said Tuesday, pinching her arm as she did.

As for the girl who got the most votes Friday, she said she would gladly do it all again.

"Well, for me, I want to say, and I always say, Lilly won. I just ran in her place, in her position," Alvarez said. "When they ask me, 'Were you homecoming queen?' I say, 'No, Lilly is homecoming queen.'"

Photo Credit: Anahi Alvarez]]>
<![CDATA[9th Circuit Appeals Court American Flag T-Shirt Case]]> Wed, 17 Sep 2014 18:48:27 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/LIVEOAK3.JPG

A federal appeals court in San Francisco on Wednesday refused to reconsider a ruling that found a Morgan Hill high school had the power to tell students to turn their American-flag clothing inside out during a holiday important to many Latinos, who comprise roughly 40 percent of the student body.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals let stand its February ruling in favor of Live Oak High School Principal Nick Boden and Vice Principal Miguel Rodriguez, who argued that they asked a group of boys to change or conceal their red-white-and-blue clothes out of concern about violence that might break out on Cinco de Mayo in 2010. Both Boden and Rodriguez are no longer at the school.

Morgan Hill Unified School District Supt. Steve Betando said in a statement the “judgment in favor of the school confirms that there is a delicate balance that must be achieved in protecting students’ First Amendment rights within the operational and safety needs of schools.”

The ruling means the students' parents, John and Dianna Dariano, Kurt and Julie Ann Fagerstrom, and Kendall and Joy Jones, can now appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court if they choose. None of the parents could be immediately reached for comment on Wednesday.

But William J. Becker Jr., the parents' lawyer, who is the president and CEO of Freedom X, a group that protects "conservative and religious freedom of expression," vowed to appeal the decision.

"Freedom X will not allow the politically correct judiciary (to) insult our flag," he wrote on his website, citing Colossians 3:17 in his online comments. "Americans have fought and died to protect that flag, and now we are told to conceal it so we don’t offend Mexican aliens, some of whom entered this country illegally. The liberal judges on the court were forced to do rhetorical backflips to come to this outrageous decision.”

Becker Jr. writes he is an "unapologetic warrior for Christ," who also used to report and anchor in the 1970s and '80s for the Las Vegas NBC affliate and well as the Las Vegas Sun.

The original three-judge panel did weigh the Free Speech argument the parents and students had presented. But Presiding District Judge James Ware wrote the court ultimately concluded that there were "minimal restrictions" asked of the students, and that the administrators' request was made out of legitimate safety concerns. "We affirm the district court’s holding that the policy is not unconstitutionally vague and does not violate the students’ right to due process," Waring wrote.

The judges noted that the high school documented at least 30 fights on campus during a six-year span between gangs and "between Caucasian and Hispanic" students, court documents state. One of those fights occurred a year before the day in question, when mostly white students hung an American flag on campus, chanted "USA," and cussed at Mexican students, the judges noted.

“The Court recognized that the protection of student safety must be an administrator’s primary responsibility,” Betando said.

The families had been backed by 20 Republican congressmen, and asked the 9th Circuit to rehear the case with a special 11-judge panel, according to the Mercury News. Three 9th Circuit judges dissented, saying they disagreed with both the court's ruling in the case and its decision to not grant a new hearing. The 9th Circuit decision, the Mercury News reported, relied heavily on the U.S. Supreme Court's 1969 precedent on when schools can cite safety concerns to justify taking action that might violate student free speech rights.

The case at the time drew national attention where many of of the boys were asked for interviews on conservative talk shows and Fox News. And the interest in the story, still hasn't died down completely. This May, a small group of Tea Party patriots picketed in front of the high school with American flags, who were arguing in support of the "restoration of American values and ideas."

As a preemptive strike, the school released a three-minute video asking students to be proud of their heritage without "beating on other people's opinions."

Photo Credit: Bob Redell]]>
<![CDATA[Police Defend Actress Detainment]]> Wed, 17 Sep 2014 14:28:11 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/actress+daniele+watts+detained+lapd.jpg

Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck is defending the actions of officers who briefly detained and questioned an actress who had a part in the film "Django Unchained" following reports that she was "involved in a lewd act" in a parked car.

Daniele Watts wrote on her Facebook page that she was “humiliated” and forced into handcuffs by two LAPD officers for publicly showing affection to her significant other, Brian James Lucas. Her post, which went viral along with video and photos of the incident, suggested that she was racially profiled.

"Daniele Watts was stopped for kissing while black," activist Najee Ali said.

But Beck said the officers did what they were supposed to do – respond to a report of indecent exposure.

"The officers made no selection, the officers were directed to that location because a citizen observed what they believed to be a crime and called the police department,” Beck said.

Watts told NBC News Sunday that she and her partner were kissing inside their car at the CBS lot when they were approached by a man in a suit who asked them to leave because "employees were distracted." The couple stopped after a few minutes and police arrived shortly after, Watts said.

An audio recording of the incident reveals that Sgt. Jim Parker told Watts that someone called police, and that gave him the right to be there and identify her.

The dispatch call described a black female, wearing a white shirt and floral shorts, “involved in a lewd act” in a vehicle with the door open. Police approached Watts because she matched the description. 

When asked for identification, Watts refused and walked away. She was then detained.

"The decision to detain, investigate further, and then release, is well within the bounds of a policing and the authority of police in the state of California,” Beck said.

Watts has formally filed a personnel complaint.

Photo Credit: Facebook]]>
<![CDATA[NY Dog Turns Up in Florida]]> Wed, 17 Sep 2014 11:36:38 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/nika+dog+missing+found.jpg More than two years after a New York man's dog disappeared from its home, it mysteriously turned up in Florida. Brynn Gingras reports.]]> <![CDATA[Connery, Beckham Join Scottish Independence Debate]]> Thu, 18 Sep 2014 07:04:37 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/seanconnery_1.jpg

Celebrities are having their say in an attempt to sway Scottish voters who go to the polls Thursday to decide whether Scotland will continue its 307-year-old union with the United Kingdom or become an independent country.

Paul McCartney, Patrick Stewart, Judi Dench, Sting and David Beckham are in favor of Scotland remaining within the union, which also includes England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Former 007 Sean Connery, Gerard Butler, members of the band Franz Ferdinand and "Trainspotting" author Irvine Welsh are among those who believe Scotland should chart its own course as an independent nation.

Scottish tennis star Andy Murray made a late show of support for independence.

In a show of bold-faced names in the lead-up to Thursday's historic vote, more than 200 celebrities (the majority of English nationality) signed a letter titled "Dear Voters of Scotland" in which they state how much they value their bonds of citizenship with the Scottish people, and to express hope that those bonds will be renewed. The letter forms part of the "Let’s Stay Together Campaign," a U.K.-wide drive to give "a voice to everyone who doesn't have a vote in the decision to break up Britain."

Other entertainment and sporting luminaries joining McCartney, Dench, Sting, Beckham and Stewart on the list supporting "Stay Together" include Helena Bonham Carter, Tom Daley, Simon Cowell, Mick Jagger, Michael Douglas and Bobby Charlton.

As early as February, David Bowie weighed in on the debate when he was awarded Best British Male at the Brit music awards. In his absence at the ceremony in London, Bowie had Kate Moss read a statement saying, "Scotland, stay with us."

"Harry Potter" author J.K. Rowling, who was born in England and has a Scottish husband, has been especially active on Twitter and her website.

Pope Francis and President Obama are also in favor of continuing unity.

In the opposing corner are actor Butler, author Welsh and Connery. The latter, long a vocal Scottish nationalist, wrote: "As a Scot and as someone with a lifelong love for both Scotland and the arts, I believe the opportunity of independence is too good to miss." Connery, 84, now resides in the Bahamas and is ineligible to vote in the referendum.

Actor and comedian Russell Brand took to Twitter to show his support for Scotland independence:

Veteran British fashion designer Vivienne Westwood expressed her solidarity with the Scots during her Red Label fashion show at London Fashion week on Sunday and said she is “very unpatriotic about England because it is completely ruined.” The designer added a "Yes" button of support to all the ensembles she sent down the catwalk.




<![CDATA[WATCH: Bear Swims in Backyard Pool ]]> Wed, 17 Sep 2014 16:24:51 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/web_bear_pool_2_noaudio_1200x675_329672259605.jpg A bear takes a dip Sunday Sept. 14, 2014 in Sierra Madre.]]> <![CDATA[Wildfire Devastates Calif. Town]]> Wed, 17 Sep 2014 23:02:27 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/160*120/catholicchurch.JPG

A fast-moving wildfire ripping through the small Northern California town of Weed has destroyed more than 150 homes, churches and structures, injured three and charred 375 acres, Cal Fire crews said.

As of Wednesday night, the devastating Boles Fire along Siskiyou County's Boles Creek was 60 percent contained. Cal Fire officials said any information as to the cause of the fire could be worth a $10,000 reward.

Evacuation orders were still in place, and residents were asked to temporarily find shelter at the Mt. Shasta Armory. Highway 97 also remained closed.

Mary Niblock was one of the nearly 3,000 people forced to flee. Despite the major loss, she was thankful to the almost 970 fire personnel were battling the fire, which was reported on Monday. Firefighters received a standing ovation Tuesday night during a community meeting.

"There aren't enough brownies in the world," she told NBC Bay Area. "You can't thank them enough. They saved the town."

Much of the town, however, suffered major damage. That includes many homes, a Catholic Church and the Grace Community Evangelical Presbyterian Church, and part of the elementary and high schools. Their scorched remains were reduced to gray ash and rubble. Burned out vans, cars, stoves and other residential belongings were littered throughout residential neighborhoods.

Much of the challenge to fighting the fire was due to the weather, including gusting winds and low humidity. Winds gusting at up to 40 mph were pushing the flames toward the city of Weed, which sits at the base of Mount Shasta, halfway between San Francisco and Portland.

The city is known for its funny jokes about "weed" and more historically, as a lumber town.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

 Anyone with information should contact 1-800-468-4408.

Photo Credit: Jodi Hernandez]]>
<![CDATA[NY Man Charged in ISIS Plot: FBI]]> Wed, 17 Sep 2014 09:13:57 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/mufid-elfgeeh.jpg

A Rochester-area man has been charged on terror-related counts after the FBI said he allegedly tried to buy guns to support the terror group ISIS and talked about wanting to kill American soldiers in the U.S.

Investigators said Mufid Elfgeeh also allegedly boasted that he wanted to kill Shiite Muslim residents in his city and find others who would travel to join ISIS fighters in Iraq and Syria.

Elfgeeh was first arrested in May, and the firearms charges were made public in June. The recruitment charges were contained in a grand jury indictment handed up Tuesday.

The Justice Department said in addition to posting tweets with photographs and captions like "fighting the American invasion," they said he tried to buy two handguns and silencers to carry out an attack. But the FBI had been watching him for months and said it was unlikely that he could have carried out his alleged plans.

Officials said they arrested Elfgeeh after he allegedly began seeking financial help to carry out an attack. In a sting, they said he tried to buy the weapons from undercover agents.

Elfgeeh came on the radar after an informant who was paid $21,000 for information tipped them off. A second undercover agent was paid $4,000 for his assistance as well, officials said.

Federal officials said they have Elfgeeh on tape boasting that he hoped to kill 10 to 15 soldiers or former soldiers before releasing a video claiming responsibility.

In one online posting, Elfgeeh allegedly said,”Every Iraqi Sunni jihadist is defined as a terrorist in international society; what they don’t know is that the State of Iraq and Sham (ISIL) will one day rule the world with the will of Allah.”

“We will remain aggressive in identifying and disrupting those who seek to provide support to ISIL and other terrorist groups that are bent on inflicting harm upon Americans,” said Attorney General Eric Holder.

Elfgeeh, 30, is a naturalized American citizen of Yemeni descent. In addition to allegedly contacting the informants for help buying guns, they say he also sent $600 to a Yemeni man to help him get to Syria to join ISIS fighters there.

Elfgeeh is currently being held behind bars without bail. Phone calls and emails to his attorney, with a Rochester public defender's office, were not returned Tuesday evening. 

Follow Jonathan Dienst on Twitter @jonathan4NY

<![CDATA[Continental Recalls 8,070 Motorcycle Tires]]> Wed, 17 Sep 2014 09:56:26 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/161616958.jpg

Continental Tire the Americas, LLC is recalling several types of Continental motorcycle front wheel tires.

The recall is due to a possible separation between the tread, belt and carcass, which could result in a loss of tire inflation pressure, increasing the risk of a motorcycle crash.

The affected tires include: ContiAttack SM, ContiSportAttack, ContiSportAttack2, ContiRaceAttack Comp. Soft, ContiRaceAttack Comp. Medium, ContiRaceAttack Comp. Endurance, and ContiRoadAttack 2 GTW motorcycle tires, in sizes 120/70ZR17 and 120/70R17.

The recall covers about 8,070 tires sold in the U.S. and Canada between 2007 and 2014, Continental said. It's part of a worldwide program affecting 170,000 tires.

Continental has not received any reports of accidents or injuries, but the safety recall is to avoid any potential risk to road-users, the company said on its website.

Continental said it willy notify owners and dealers will replace the recalled tries with new ones free of charge.

For more information on the recall, visit Continental’s website or call 1-800-847-3349.

Photo Credit: Fast Bikes Magazine]]>
<![CDATA[Sunbathing Woman Run Over by Lifeguard Truck]]> Wed, 17 Sep 2014 00:52:33 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/217*120/venice+beach+surf+lageneric.jpg

A 25-year-old woman sunbathing on Venice Beach was hospitalized after she was run over by a lifeguard truck Monday, the Los Angeles Police Department said.

The woman, identified as Lorae Bermudez, was on the beach with her husband near the 1500 block of Ocean Front Walk around 4:20 p.m, the LAPD said.

The lifeguard specialist driving a Ford Escape was coming back from a rescue. The driver did not see the woman and immediately stopped, according to police.

Because the lifeguard was not en route to an emergency, the vehicle did not have lights or sirens on, according to LA County lifeguard Capt. Steve Moseley.

The county, which is now investigating, will be looking into whether the vehicle was working properly at the time of the incident. Each lifeguard vehicle is equipped with four detectors, which helps lifeguards navigate while driving in the sand, according to Moseley.

Bermudez spoke with NBC4 from the hospital Tuesday and said she is feeling OK, but was advised by her lawyer not to comment further.

She is recovering from lacerations and fractures, according to the LAPD, which handled the initial accident report.

This was not the first time something like this has happened on Southern California beaches.

In May, a woman sunbathing at Venice Beach was injured when she was run over by a county maintenance truck. The accident was the first of its kind for LA County in 25 years.

In 2006, a woman was killed when an Oxnard Police officer, who was patrolling the beach, ran over her with his SUV.

Beachgoers at Venice Beach Tuesday were in disbelief something like this could happen again.

Vivianne Robinson, who runs the "Name On Rice" store on the boardwalk took photos of the huge emergency response following the incident.

"There wasa whole bunch of fire department lifeguards," she said. "I go, 'This doesn't look like the every day accident.'"

"You're laying on the beach trying to get a tan enjoying yourself and the next thing you know you get run over? Pretty scary," said Theresa Gutowski, who was visiting from New Hampshire.

Lifeguards must complete a safe sand driving course before being able to operate vehicles on the sand, according to LA County Fire officials.

Still, some beachgoers feel more needs to be done.

"Either (have) a designated area for them to drive or designated areas for people to be laying out," said Gutowski. "Or having something to protect yourself like a chair or something!"

"That's the last thing you think about when you come to the beach!" said Mary Moreno, visiting from the San Francisco Bay Area. "To have to worry about putting up posts, or flags or umbrella to let people know you're here? You just want to come to the beach to relax!"

NBC4's Jonathan Lloyd and Oleevia Woo contibuted to this report.

Photo Credit: KNBC-TV]]>
<![CDATA[WATCH: Pickpocket Steals From Woman]]> Wed, 17 Sep 2014 22:21:37 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/165*120/times+square+pickpocket.JPG EXCLUSIVE: Police arrested a thief in the Times Square subway station Tuesday after they watched him pickpocketing a sleeping woman on live video, the NYPD said. Checkey Beckford reports.]]> <![CDATA[Times Square Elmo Cuffed After Asking for Bigger Tip: NYPD]]> Wed, 17 Sep 2014 08:04:39 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Times-Square-Elmo-Cuffs.jpg

Police say they cuffed a woman dressed as Elmo in Times Square for allegedly demanding a bigger tip from a tourist after posing for a picture Tuesday afternoon.

The 36-year-old woman was charged with aggressive solicitation after the exchange near the New York Marriott Marquis on Broadway, according to the NYPD.

Police say that officers patrolling the area saw the tourist pose for a photo with the woman in the fuzzy red suit.

The tourist tipped the costumed character, but Elmo stepped in front of the person as they tried to leave and allegedly demanded more money. That's when Elmo was arrested.

The NYPD's Midtown South precinct tweeted a photo of the costumed woman in handcuffs after the arrest.

“Just another day in Midtown South,” the precinct said in the tweet. “Elmo arrested in Times Square.”

It's the latest in a string of arrests for costumed characters in Times Square.

On Saturday, men dressed as Batman and Spider-Man were arrested after allegedly fighting with men who were heckling them. Earlier this month, Woody, Minnie Mouse and the Statue of Liberty were all arrested after police said they allegedly asked tourists to pay for pictures.

The arrests come amid calls to regulate the costumed characters in Times Square. One city lawmaker recently proposed licenses for the characters, and police have begun handing out fliers and posting signs in five languages telling visitors that tips are optional.

Last month, many of the buskers who don the costumes held a news conference where they argued they deserved the right to earn a living.

Photo Credit: NYPD / AP File Photo]]>
<![CDATA[Thousands in SoCal Without Power]]> Wed, 17 Sep 2014 11:06:16 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/lafile-ladwp-power-outage-ladwp-2.jpg

Thousands of Southern Californians were without power Wednesday morning as a scorching heat wave fueled record-breaking energy demand, utility officials said.

As of 10:30 p.m., Southern California Edison crews were dealing with 84 power outages, which affected 7,426 customers, including 3,990 in San Marino, 1,400 in Los Angeles and 777 in Orange County. By Wednesday morning, SoCal Edison reported 1,800 customers without power.

Meanwhile, 3,000 Los Angeles Department of Water and Power customers were also without power Tuesday night, including 2,000 in the Encino area and 1,000 in the LA metro area, utility officials said. Crews were working around the clock to get the power back on. The utility reported about 630 customers without power Wednesday morning.

Updated Article: Outages Continue in Heat Wave

The DWP reported an all-time record energy demand of 6,396 megawatts Tuesday, a day after the record had been set at 6,196 megawatts. The usage taxed power lines and triggered transformer fires.

“This actually started Saturday, the heat, so we’ve been busy all the way through,” said Juan Esparza, LADWP district superintendent. “We have crews coming in working 16 hours and going home and coming back at midnight.”

At mid-day, about 4,000 LADWP customers were without power. That figure is down from 11 p.m. Monday, when about 6,000 customers were without power. Most of those outages were in the Valley Glen, North Hollywood and Sherman Oaks areas.

An LADWP spokesperson said the outages extend from valleys to metro areas. An estimate regarding restoration time was not immediately available.

LADWP has increased its staffing and added more people to handle phones.Call times in the last six days of the heatwave have been between five and 20 minutes.When LADWP switching billing systems a few months ago and some customers were overcharged, wait times were sometimes two to four hours long.

"Use the interactive voice response system, report the outage, it then registers in our system, our crews are dispatched when they’re available to get your power restored," LADWP spokesperson Joe Ramallo said.

An excessive heat warning was in effect for parts of Southern California through 7 p.m. The region was also under a red flag fire weather warning through 9 p.m.

The record high for Sept. 16 in downtown Los Angeles is 103 degrees, set in 1909. Other Sept. 16 record highs include 99 (1966) in Long Beach; 105 (1984) in Burbank; 104 (1951) in Lancaster; and 91 (1958) in Camarillo.

Annette Arreola, Mekahlo Medina and Willian Avila contributed to this report.

<![CDATA[Metal Sheet Ignited 1,000-Acre Silverado Brush Fire: Authorities]]> Wed, 17 Sep 2014 11:40:23 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/212*120/firenight.JPG

The four-day-old Silverado Fire, which has burned 1,500 acres, was apparently ignited by the sun reflecting off metal sheeting put up by someone trying to keep rodents out of a vegetable garden, a fire official said.

The fire was started by pyrolytic decomposition. In this case, the metal sheeting around a vegetable garden to keep rodents out reflected the sun for so long it dried out the wooden base and caught fire.

"At some point, when conditions were right, the comibnation of fuel, air, and heat -- we have ignition," said Jim Wilkens, a United States Forest Service spokesman.

The fire broke out Friday about 10:30 a.m. in the 30500 block of Silverado Canyon Road. About 1,059 firefighters, with help from five helicopters making water drops, battled the fire, which blackened nearly 1,000 .

Six firefighters were treated for heat-related injuries.

The fire blackened a remote area on the western flanks of Santiago Peak, south of Corona.

The fire was not a threat to any cross-mountain routes, firefighters said.

Mandatory evacuations ordered for residents east of 30311 Silverado Canyon Road were lifted Sunday evening.

Jonathan Graham is grateful his house was spared.

But he's left wondering if his yard has any hidden fire hazards.

"Makes you double check about piles of trash ... anything that can produce heat," he said.

Firefighters say anything that reflects light can act like a mirror, amplifying the sun's power in the wrong direction.

It's why Jim Fainer said he stops whenever he sees a broken bottle.

"If I'm hiking and I see broken glass, I'll pick it up and put it in my pocket," he said. "Because it can start a fire. And fires move really fast here."

City News Service contributed to this report.

<![CDATA[Find Hannah: Police Continue Search for Missing U.Va. Student]]> Wed, 17 Sep 2014 11:00:59 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/1486824_711449072258677_4131817656415730404_n.jpg

Police are studying new video that shows a missing University of Virginia nursing student, hoping that the sighting outside a pub in Charlottesville will help them narrow their search for her.

Hannah Elizabeth Graham, 18, from Fairfax County, has been missing since Saturday.

The new video shows her outside McGrady's Irish Pub, then walking east along Preston Avenue in Charlottesville at 12:46 a.m. Saturday. 

"Those of us who know and love Hannah know that she would not disappear without contacting family or friends," Graham's family said in a statement released Tuesday afternoon. "She is highly responsible and organized. She embraces life with energy and enthusiasm and has enriched the lives of many. Her empathy is evident in her daily interactions with us and her friends."

Stephen Rice, the band director at her alma mater, West Potomac High School, which she graduated from last year, agreed. "Hannah is not the kind of kid that would just go on a road trip and disappear," he said. "She was always very diligent with everything she did, and always did everything exactly by the book."

Police have started searching in the area of Grady and Preston avenues in Charlottesville. Previously, they had used a bloodhound to search a large area northeast of the university on Monday and found no trace of Graham.

The FBI has confirmed that it is involved in the search, saying only that it is providing investigative resources to local police. Albemarle County's search and rescue teams also lent a hand to Charlottesville Police Tuesday in their search for Hannah.

"We're mostly giving them some extra eyes and feet on the ground to actually cover more area quicker. In these searches, time is of the essence in trying to find someone," said Bobby Shiflett with Albemarle County Sheriff's Office. 

Graham, who is originally from England, is 5 feet 11 inches tall with blue eyes, light brown hair and freckles, according to university officials. She was last seen wearing black pants and a gold crop top with black mesh cutouts, according to surveillance photos taken Friday at her apartment.

Police said Graham's friends reported her missing Sunday after realizing nobody had seen or heard from her since early Saturday morning, when she sent a text message to a friend after leaving a party around 1:20 a.m.

University President Teresa A. Sullivan issued a statement saying the community is "united in our deep concern'' for the Fairfax County second-year student.

Graham's parents have left their home in the Alexandria section of Fairfax County to go to Charlottesville to help look for her, and a "Help Find Hannah Graham"' page has been established on Facebook.

"I just want her home safe. I'm scared for her," said Karen Blunk, who lives next door to Graham's parents. "Just from the standpoint of, you hear horrible things."

In October 2009, Morgan Harrington, a 20-year-old Virginia Tech student, went missing after leaving the University of Virginia's John Paul Jones Arena while attending a rock concert. Her remains were found three months later in a rural area. No arrests have been made.

"It's hearbreaking to know that another young woman is missing and that another family is going through the anguish of the missing priod," Harrington's mother said.

At least two other young women, both 19 years old, have also disappeared in the area in recent years. Samantha Ann Clarke vanished after leaving her Orange County townhouse in September 2010. DaShad Laquinn Smith disappeared in Charlottesville in November 2012. Neither have been found.

Anyone with information regarding Graham's whereabouts is asked to call a 24/7 tipline at 434-295-3851.

<![CDATA[Thousands Lose Power in San Diego]]> Wed, 17 Sep 2014 04:40:34 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/palm+tree+on+fire.jpg

A surprise storm wreaked havoc on central San Diego, its coastline and downtown on Tuesday afternoon, prompting a Sig alert, leading thousands to lose power and causing extensive damage.

More than 6,000 customers were without power Tuesday afternoon, and State Route 163 was shut down in both directions after a Sig alert was issued just after 6 p.m.

All northbound and southbound lanes of 163 south of Interstate 8 were closed due to downed eucalyptus trees. The Robinson Avenue and Washington Street exits off SR-163 were also shut down, but crews were able to clear them around 9 p.m.

As of 9:30 p.m., three SR-163 lanes remained closed because trees along the side appeared ready to fall over at any moment. California Highway Patrol and CalTrans officials wanted to investigate the vegetation to make sure it is safe before reopening the freeway.

Meanwhile, San Diego Gas & Electric was reporting on its website that 4,683 customers were in the dark in Mission Valley, Kearny Mesa and Tierrasanta. Another 2,552 lost power in the areas of North Park, Hillcrest, Normal Heights, Mission Hills, Old Town and University Heights.

The lights went out for several hundred others in Escondido, Pala, Santee, Carlton Hills, Fallbrook, Rancho San Diego, Spring Valley, Casa De Oro, Mount Helix and La Mesa.

In the North Park area, crews had most electricity restored by 8:30 Tuesday night, according to SDG&E’s website.

In Mission Valley, only 141 people were still without power by 9:30 p.m.

As for the other areas, power was estimated to be back up between 9 p.m. Tuesday to Wednesday at 2 a.m.

The storm caused extensive damage throughout San Diego, as numerous downed trees were reported as well as lightning strikes. In the Pacific Beach area, many spectators on social media captured a palm tree on fire following one lightning strike.

Photographer Kit Corry tweeted these photos:

At Montgomery Field, winds caught up small planes and flipped them over onto the runway. One even went flying unintentionally over a fence and onto two cars.

A downed tree in Serra Mesa sent hundreds of pounds of branches crashing into another two vehicles.

Viewer sent in pictures of uprooted trees, cable lines knocked down and blocked roads across the county.

Inside a bar called Live Wire on El Cajon Boulevard, winds sent a tree shooting through their roof. One branch broke through the main room and decimated a trophy case inside.

Another long branch poked straight down from the roof into the bathroom, just inches from the toilet. Thankfully, no one was there at the time.

San Diego's storm is unrelated to the microburst that hit East County earlier in the afternoon, bringing high winds and heavy rains, said NBC 7's Dagmar Midcap. It was a pop-up thunderstorm brought on by an unstable atmosphere, she said.

Photo Credit: Kit Corry]]>
<![CDATA[Boy Found With Gun in Backpack]]> Wed, 17 Sep 2014 00:42:50 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Schmid_Elementary_school.jpg

An elementary school student in Chicago charged with a felony Monday after he was allegedly found with an unloaded gun in his backpack claims he carried the weapon because of bullying.

School security reportedly found the weapon on the 12-year-old at about 11 a.m. during a search of the student's bag at Schmid Elementary School, on the 9700 block of South Greenwood Avenue.

Police said the student was processed at the District 5 police station, charged with unlawful use of a weapon, and turned over to his parents. Officials said the weapon was an unloaded .38 Special with a 2.5 inch barrel. It had a five-shot capacity and a defaced serial number.

Parents were shocked to hear about the incident.

"For a kid to feel he was bullied that much to bring a gun is shocking," parent Tamika Jean said.

"How hard is this fear that you need to resort to a gun other than your fist?" parent Bridgette Villanueva said.

School officials sent a note home to parents informing them about the incident and issued a statement saying an "investigation was initiated immediately following the student's allegations of bullying."

"The school has a big no-bullying policy. They have assemblies about bullying for the kids," Jean said.

Police declined to comment as to whether the claim of bullying would be investigated.

<![CDATA[Dog Found Nearly 3 Years After Disappearance]]> Wed, 17 Sep 2014 11:36:16 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/nika+dog+missing+found.jpg

More than two years after a New York man's dog disappeared from his home, the pooch mysteriously turned up in Florida. 

Giuseppe DiBella says he was mowing his lawn in Newburgh about two and a half years ago when he suddenly realized his toy fox terrier Nika was missing.

"I was sitting in the backyard, there was no dog to throw the ball," he said. 

DiBella thinks Nika was stolen right from his yard. He posted fliers, and called the local vet practices and animal shelters, all to no avail.

A few days ago, he received an email from an animal shelter in Marion County in Florida, telling him a microchip scanned on a recently found pet turned up his information.

In a follow-up phone call, shelter workers told DiBella that Nika was left on the doorstep of a Florida home. 

"It was shocking," he said. "I never believed a 5-pound dog -- two pounds at the time -- would end up in Florida." 

DiBella hopes to be reunited with Nika in time for Thanksgiving, and Marta -- the dog he bought after Nika disappeared -- will have a new playmate.

"They will get along perfectly," he said. "They are both sweet dogs." 

Follow Brynn Gingras on Twitter @Brynn4NY

Copyright Associated Press / NBC4 Washington

<![CDATA[Woman Admits She Stole Grave Statue]]> Wed, 17 Sep 2014 09:21:30 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/middletown+cemetery+angel+grave.jpg

The woman who was caught on camera stealing an angel statue from a Middletown, Connecticut, grave site over the weekend has turned herself in, police say.

The woman's friends saw her photo in a news report and urged her to confess, according to police. She showed up at police headquarters Tuesday evening and turned over the statue, which depicts an angel holding a puppy.

According to Middletown police Capt. Gary Wallace, the woman was driving through Calvary Cemetery on Bow Lane thinking about her own ailing loved ones on Saturday when she spotted the grave site and pulled over.

"She had an ill friend and another family member that wasn't doing well, and then decided when she saw the statue... that it just reminded her of her ill family," said Wallace. "And when she saw the statue, she just decided to take it."

The statue is now at the police department and will soon be returned to its rightful place alongside the headstone of 19-year-old Brandon Reeve, a Middletown High School graduate who died in a motorcycle crash in 2004.

According to police, the family set up a hidden camera after Reeve's headstone was defaced a couple years ago.

"It was vandalized once before," said James Reeve, Brandon Reeve's father. "The stone was tipped over once. Things were stolen. Somebody had the nerve one time to take one of the bigger statues and then the following week take the second one."

James Reeve said the camera has been in place for more than two years – and on Saturday, it finally came in handy.

"We're just keeping his name and memory alive," James Reeve explained. "I don't know why anyone would want to do this to us."

Video footage shows a woman, who has shoulder-length blonde hair with bangs, driving up the grave site in a white SUV, stopping to pick up the statue and driving off with it, police said.

Although the statue is valued at $100, police said “the sentimental value is priceless.”

James Reeve said this angel watched over his son's grave for nearly 10 years.

Now the family is struggling to make sense of the crime.

"It's sacrilegious to do that to gravestones," James Reeve said. "I don't get it. I really don't understand it. If you've got a problem with me, come see me."

Police said the woman, who has not been charged, is apologetic. Wallace said she didn't realize a camera was rolling.

"She was very surprised, from what I understand, when they talked to her, but she was very remorseful," he said. "She wants the family to know it was a huge mistake and she just wasn't thinking."

Brandon Reeve graduated from Middletown High School in 2002. A scholarship fund has been set up in his honor and golf tournaments are held every summer in his memory.

Photo Credit: Middletown Police Department/NBCConnecticut.com]]>
<![CDATA[Police "Zero in" on Evidence in Lyon Sisters' Disappearance]]> Wed, 17 Sep 2014 21:01:36 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/168*120/lyon+sisters.JPG

Detectives have been searching a Virginia property for the past week in connection with the infamous disappearance of two young Maryland sisters decades ago.

The Lyon sisters -- Sheila, 12, and Katherine, 10 -- vanished March 25, 1975, from a Wheaton shopping center.

Montgomery County, Maryland, authorities have been searching a property located in Bedford County, Virginia, between Lynchburg and Roanoke since last week. It was once owned by the family of Lloyd Lee Welch, Jr., who is also known as Michael Welch. 

In February, Welch, 57, was named a person of interest in the Lyon sisters' disappearance. During a news conference Wednesday, police announced Welch's family members are also being investigated in connection with the Lyon girls' disappearance. They've zeroed in on Taylor Mountain, where they are looking to recover evidence "that will hold those that harmed those girls responsible in a court of law."

Detectives have not found any remains, sources said, though neighbors in the area think police are searching for remains at a nearby cemetery. 

The Bedford County Sheriff's Office confirmed that officers were assisting Montgomery County Police "with a homicide investigation."

They've said they're "very confident" they're close to finding out exactly what happened to the sisters.

The Bedford Sheriff's office also said cold case investigators had traveled to the area last week to meet with Bedford County authorities and Virginia State Police.

The Lyon sisters' case is etched into the memories of several generations of Washington-area families. It shattered a sense of safety in the D.C. suburbs and made parents afraid to let their children out of their sight.

On March 25, 1975, the Lyon sisters had a planned a day at a local shopping center. They were on spreak break, and wanted to get some pizza for lunch and see the Easter decorations at Wheaton Plaza, now known as Westfield Wheaton mall.

With less than $4, they left their home in Kensington, Maryland and walked the half-mile or so to Wheaton Plaza.

There, a friend saw the girls outside the Orange Bowl restaurant with an older man who had a tape recorder and a briefcase, according to news and missing persons reports.

The girls were later spotted walking home, but by their 4 p.m. curfew, they hadn't arrived. By 7 p.m. that night, police had been called.

Later, a composite sketch was distributed of the man who seen talking to them. Tips flowed in, but to no avail.

Sheila and Katherine were never seen again.

In February, police identified a person of interest in connection with their disappearance. Lloyd Lee Welch Jr., aka Michael Welch, is a convicted sex offender who has been in prison in Delaware since 1997 on a rape conviction. Welch was noticed paying attention to the sisters the afternoon they vanished, investigators said.

"Even though so much time has passed, we have not forgotten that those young girls deserve justice, and their family deserves closure," said Montgomery County Police Chief Thomas Manger in February.


Welch is originally from the D.C. area. Between the 1970s and the mid-1990s, he traveled extensively through the United States while working for a carnival company with his girlfriend Helen Craver, police said.

Welch was charged with raping juveniles in Virginia and South Carolina. He was also arrested in a burglary not far from Wheaton Plaza. He was known to hitchhike throughout the D.C. area.

Many people who grew up in the area remember the disappearance of the sisters, and how deeply it shook their sense of safety.

"It was just stunning. It could have been anybody's kids," said Charleen Merkel earlier this year while shopping at Westfield Wheaton.

"It brings back a lot of memories of being scared growing up," said another shopper, who did not give her name.

In an era when children frequently walked to school and elsewhere alone, parents started keeping their children inside.

"The Community Just Held Its Breath"

In 2005, 30 years after the girls' disappearance, police spoke about the frustration of never being able to solve a case that struck such an emotional chord for the community and for themselves.

The Lyon sisters' older brother, Jay, became a police officer.

"It's a hit-home case," Philip C. Raum, a longtime law enforcement officer in Montgomery County who headed the police's Major Crimes Unit for four years, told Montgomery County's Gazette newspaper in an article on the 30th anniversary of the disappearance.

The girls' father, John Lyon was a popular radio personality on WMAL in Bethesda and performer. 

Radio personality Chris Core had just started working with him at WMAL when the girls disappeared.

"It's in that group of moments where the community just held its breath," Core told the Gazette in 2005.

"Partly because John was a well-known celebrity and partly because here are two innocent little girls going to the mall and disappear off the face of the earth, never to be heard from again."

Baltimore author Laura Lippman wrote a 2007 novel, "What the Dead Know," after being inspired by the Lyon case.

"The story... happened when I was a teenager, not much older than the girls who disappeared (the Lyon sisters) and living in a similarly 'safe' suburb," Lippman wrote in a chat on GoodReads.com. "It resonated very deeply with me."

Copyright Associated Press / NBC4 Washington

Photo Credit: FBI]]>
<![CDATA[Man Pickpockets Woman on NYC Subway]]> Wed, 17 Sep 2014 13:43:03 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/165*120/times+square+pickpocket.JPG

Police arrested a thief in the Times Square subway station Tuesday after they watched him pickpocketing a sleeping woman on live video, the NYPD said.

The thief apparently saw the woman sleeping on a bench on the subway platform just after 12:30 a.m.  and went to sit behind her, according to police.

Video shows a man slowly and deliberately reaching into the woman's pocket and pulling out a cellphone.

An officer monitoring the department's closed-circuit camera system at the subway station saw the theft in progress and alerted a patrol officer nearby.

That officer arrived on the scene and arrested the suspect, identified as Juvian Rodriguez.

Police said Rodriguez has 38 prior arrests on charges including grand larceny, assault and drugs. He was on parole for grand larceny at the time of his arrest, police said.

It wasn't immediately clear if he had an attorney.