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Woman accused of murdering stepson facing new charges for attempted escape

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BlakeDavidTaylor/iStockBy ANTHONY RIVAS, ABC NEWS

(EL PASO COUNTY, Co.) — The stepmother of an 11-year-old Colorado boy who went missing before his body was found across the country two months later is facing a new charge of solicitation to escape the jail where she’s being held for his murder.

Letecia Stauch sought help from a fellow inmate at El Paso County Jail through both a conversation and letters in which she laid out a plan to break through her cell window with a broom handle, according to a probable cause affidavit.

The inmate who reported Stauch said she was probably asked for help because she was “Italian and kind of the bad boy.” Staunch also offered to give money to the inmate, who had access to a broom, in exchange for help, according to the affidavit.

“You have my word to make sure we are MIA,” Stauch said in the letter, according to the affidavit. “I got us covered!”

The inmate said she wasn’t going to help Stauch because she didn’t want to make “her own situation worse” and because she knows about Stauch’s charges and “doesn’t want to be involved or have anything to do with her,” the affidavit said.

A shakedown of Stauch’s cell uncovered a letter addressed to her daughter saying that if “something comes up on the news like she is no longer in the jail or is missing to not be afraid.” She also urged her daughter to keep normal and focused.

Stauch is being held for first-degree murder in addition to other charges related to the death of Gannon, who went missing Jan. 27 and was found 1,400 miles away near Pace, Florida, on March 20.

Stauch was the last person to have seen Gannon. She told police he had stayed home from school, but that he’d left to go to a friend’s home in the afternoon.

One of Stauch’s neighbors came forward with surveillance footage a few days after Gannon went missing. It appears to show Stauch entering a red pickup truck around 10:13 a.m. and Gannon entering soon after. The video showed Stauch returning with the vehicle four hours later, without Gannon.

Gannon’s father, Al Stauch, was on deployment with the National Guard from Jan. 25 to 28 and has cooperated with authorities. He filed for divorce from Letecia in March. Gannon’s birth mother, Landen Hiott, had spent months pleading for her son’s safe return.

Letecia Stauch faces life in prison without parole if she’s convicted of first-degree murder. She has yet to make a plea, but is set to appear in court for a status conference on Friday.

ABC’s Clayton Sandell contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Ferguson's 1st black female mayor shares how George Floyd's impact can reshape her city

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Oleksii Liskonih/iStockBy TENZIN SHAKYA, ABC NEWS

(FERGUSON, Mo.) — As thousands protest around the country — and around the world — for George Floyd, the black man killed by police who’s become synonymous with a fight for justice and against police brutality and systemic racism, the first black female mayor of Ferguson, Missouri, opened up about the incident — and how it could affect her city.

Ella Jones, a city council member and mayor elect of the city where 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot and killed by a white police officer nearly six years ago, discussed with ABC News’ Byron Pitts the charges against the ex-Minneapolis police officers involved in Floyd’s untimely death.

“He should be charged — even after Floyd telling him he can’t breathe, you continue to put pressure on his neck. And he seemed like he didn’t care because he had his hands in the pocket, so that new charge should fit him very well,” Jones said, referring to former officer Derek Chauvin, whose initial third-degree murder and manslaughter charge was elevated to a count of second-degree murder on Wednesday.

“The other officers, they were just standing around, and they should be charged too, because they had an opportunity to stop it and they did not stop what the officer was doing,” Jones added.

Thomas Lane, J.A. Kueng and Tou Thao each have been charged with second-degree aiding and abetting felony murder and second-degree aiding and abetting manslaughter, according to court documents.

Chauvin was in jail on $500,000 bond. Lane, Kueng and Thao on Thursday were remanded with bail of up to $1 million, which could be reduced to $750,000 if specific conditions are met.

Jones also served as the first black female city council member over the last five years, during which Ferguson residents were protesting in the streets, demanding justice for the killing of Michael Brown, who was unarmed. She was sworn in the following year, 2015. A month after, officials announced no charges would be filed against Darren Wilson, the white officer who killed Brown, due to lack of evidence.

“The police are supposed to be supposed to protect and serve. And then when you get to the point that you stop protecting and serving the people, then it’s time for you to move on,” she said.

As the country calls for healing and rooting out racial injustice, even years after Brown’s death, Jones’ community is still on the road to recovery.

“Ferguson is still in the healing process, and so it’s going to take time, it’s going to take a lot of conversation,” she explained. “It’s going to take the police officers having the opportunity to talk to the protesters — the police officers, they must make the first step.”

When asked if the U.S. has reached a tipping point, she explained that “we can reconcile our pasts” but reiterated that law enforcement needs to engage first.

Jones said the George Floyd incident has transcended Minneapolis, and she sees it as a teachable moment.

“The lessons that we learned here is that we started with courageous conversations — people, neighbors coming together, trying to figure out how we can bridge the gap. And it’s very important that you continue the work on race relations,” Jones said. “The police should get out of their cars and start talking to the people and treating them with respect.”

Jones said Ferguson is still hopeful and will continue to move forward, and that her election is an example of that.

“It is a part of the healing process. The African American community decided that enough is enough and that they will go on to work together and make a difference in their community,” she said. “You have to elect leaders who care about the people and not about to title. It makes a difference.”

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Ahmaud Arbery was struck by vehicle before he was shot dead; suspect yelled racial slur: Investigator

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iStock/Rawf8(BRUNSWICK, Georgia) — BY: BILL HUTCHINSON

Saying the evidence shows three white suspects “chased, hunted down and ultimately executed” Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, a prosecutor on Thursday laid out in detail how the 25-year-old black victim tried to run for his life before he was struck by a vehicle and called a racial slur by one of the suspects after being gunned down.

The preliminary hearing for Gregory McMichaels, his son Travis McMichaels and William “Roddie” Bryan unfolded with graphic details describing the last moments of Arbery’s life.

At one point, testimony from the lead investigator in the case became so graphic Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper, walked out of the courtroom.

After hearing hours of evidence from the prosecution, Glynn County Chief Magistrate Judge Wallace E. Harrell rejected requests from the defendants’ attorneys to dismiss the charges. Harrell ordered the McMichaels and Bryan to stand trial on the charges in superior court.

Travis and Gregory McMichael were arrested on May 8, about three months after the killing, and charged with murder and aggravated assault. Bryan, 50, who claimed through his attorney in media interviews that he had no involvement in the incident, was arrested on May 22 and charged with felony murder and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment.

All three have pleaded not guilty.

Thursday’s hearing occurred at the Glynn County Courthouse in Brunswick, Georgia. Present in the courtroom was Gregory McMichael, 64, a former Georgia police officer, and Travis McMichael, 34. Bryan was not in the courtroom during the hearing.

“We’re here essentially on behalf of the citizens of Glenn County to talk about the fatal shooting of the Feb. 23 incident involving victim Ahmaud Arbery, who was chased, hunted down and ultimately executed we believe the evidence will show based on what’s about to be presented to the court,” said Jesse Evans, an assistant district attorney for the Cobb County District Attorney’s Office, who was appointed special prosecutor in the case.

The only witness called on Thursday was Richard Dial, a special agent for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, who cited video and direct statements from the suspects in the presentation of the case to the court.

Under direct examination from Evans, Dial said that Bryan told investigators that during the fatal confrontation, he heard Travis McMichael, who allegedly fired the three shots that killed Arbery, yell a racial slur to the victim as he lay dying on the ground.

Dial said that the investigation uncovered other instances in which Travis McMichael used racial slurs in social media posts and in text messages to describe black people.

Arbery was out for an afternoon jog through the Satilla Shores neighborhood of Brunswick when he stopped and went into a house under construction, Dial said. He said a surveillance video showed Arbery, who lived in another neighborhood of Brunswick, inside the unsecured house looking around, possibly for a water source and then leaving.

Dial said Arbery continued jogging past the McMichaels’ home, where Gregory McMichael, who was in front of his residence working on his boat, spotted him and believed he matched the description of a burglary suspect seen on a surveillance video posted online by his neighborhood association.

The investigator said Gregory McMichaels armed himself with a .357 Magnum revolver, which had been issued to him when he worked for the Glynn County Police Department, and called his son, who armed himself with a pump-action shotgun. Dial said the father and son got into a pickup truck and chased after Arbery, initially stopping him in front of Bryan’s home in the same neighborhood.

The McMichaels ordered Arbery to stop, but the victim kept running, Dial said.

The father and son chased after him in their truck as Arbery tried to evade them, Dial said.

Bryan also got into his vehicle and attempted to use it to block Arbery’s path several times, Dial said. He said Bryan allegedly struck Arbery during the pursuit hard enough that it left a dent in his vehicle.

Eventually, Arbery found himself trapped between the McMichaels’ truck and Bryan’s vehicle, Dial said. He said Travis McMichael got out of the truck with his shotgun and that he and Arbery began to fight in the street.

Part of the confrontation was caught on a cellphone video taken by Bryan. The footage showed the first shotgun blast hitting Arbery in the chest and showing Arbery’s white T-shirt immediately soaked in blood.

Arbery was shot two additional times, once in the upper left chest and in the right wrist.

After being shot, Arbery attempted to run but collapsed and died at the scene.

In their closing arguments to Harrell, the suspects’ defense attorneys asked that the charges be dismissed.

Travis McMichael’s attorney, Jason Sheffield, said his client only wanted to speak to Arbery about the burglaries in the neighborhood.

“That escalated and Mr. Arbery attacked him in an aggressive way that caused Travis McMichael to fear for his safety,” Sheffield said. “Mr. Travis McMichael used self-defense when he was attacked by Mr. Arbery.”

Franklin Hogue, Gregory McMichael’s attorney, argued that his client should not be charged with murder since he didn’t shoot Arbery. And Bryan’s attorney, Kevin Gough, said his client did not know the McMichaels were allegedly “acting unlawful” when he saw them chasing Arbery and decided to help out.

“He does, with all due respect, what any patriotic American citizen would have done under the same circumstance,” Gough said of Bryan. “The fact that Mr. Bryan does not know what’s going on is his legal defense.”

Evans bristled at Gough’s comments, describing them as “asinine assertions.”

“Any American would have picked up the phone and called 911,” Evans said.

As for Gregory and Travis McMichael’s requests for charges to be dropped, he said, “The blood of that man is on two of these defendant’s hands.”

Evans added, “But for the actions of Gregory McMichael walking into this home and asking his son to arm-up with him, Ahmaud Arbery might very well be alive today.”

ABC News’ Rachel Katz contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Virginia and Indiana joining others in taking down Confederate monuments

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ABC News(NEW YORK) — BY: MEREDITH DELISO

After years of civil rights activists calling for the removal of Confederate monuments, they’re falling like dominoes amid nationwide protests in the wake of George Floyd’s death in police custody.

Politicians on Thursday announced Confederate monuments will be removed from Indianapolis and from Richmond, Virginia. The news follows removals earlier this week in Alexandria, Virginia, and Birmingham, Alabama.

The statues, which honor soldiers and leaders on the losing side of the Civil War, are seen by many as symbols of racism and oppression.

That’s why the statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee in Richmond, the capital of the Confederacy, will be removed, Gov. Ralph Northam said Thursday.

“The legacy of racism continues, not just in isolated incidents,” Northam said. “The legacy of racism also continues as part of a system that touches every person and every aspect of our lives.”

Those protesting Floyd’s death and police brutality had gathered at the statue this week, chanting, “Tear it down!”

Mayor Joe Hogsett also acknowledged the current protests in the decision to remove a monument dedicated to Confederate soldiers who died at a prison camp in Indianapolis.

“Our streets are filled with voices of anger and anguish, testament to centuries of racism directed at Black Americans,” he wrote on Twitter Thursday. “We must name these instances of discrimination and never forget our past — but we should not honor them.”

The grave monument was commissioned in 1912 and relocated to Garfield Park in 1928 following efforts by public officials active in the Ku Klux Klan to make it more visible, Hogsett said.

“Whatever original purpose this grave marker might once have had, for far too long it has served as nothing more than a painful reminder of our state’s horrific embrace of the Ku Klux Klan a century ago,” the mayor said. “For some time, we have urged that this grave monument belongs in a museum, not in a park, but no organization has stepped forward to assume that responsibility. Time is up, and this grave marker will come down.”

Northam acknowledged that many residents won’t support removing the Robert E. Lee statue, which was erected in 1890.

“I believe in a Virginia that studies its past in an honest way,” said Northam, who signed legislation authorizing localities to remove Confederate statues in April. “When we learn more, when we take that honest look at our past, we must do more than just talk about the future — we must take action.”

The Rev. Robert Wright Lee, a descendent of Robert E. Lee, said he fully supports the monument’s removal.

“We have a chance here today … to say this will indeed not be our final moment and our final stand,” Lee said at a press conference Thursday. “There are more important things to address than just a statue, but this statue is a symbol of oppression.”

Northam said the monument will be removed as soon as possible and go into storage, with the community involved in determining its future.

The Richmond monument will join the fate of an Alexandria monument honoring Confederate soldiers that came down earlier this week.

“Some said this day would never come,” Alexandria City Councilman John Chapman said on Facebook Tuesday. “The confederate statue at Appomattox is starting to be taken down. We, our community made this happen.”

Also this week, a Confederate monument damaged in weekend protests was removed from a Birmingham park, local ABC News affiliate WBMA reported.

Confederate monuments in Bentonville, Arkansas, and Rocky Mount, North Carolina, also will be taken down, it was reported this week.

In Philadelphia, a target of protesters also came down this week. The controversial statue of former mayor Pete Rizzo near City Hall was removed on Wednesday, following vandalism. Many saw the statue of the former police commissioner as a symbol of police brutality.

“The statue represented bigotry, hatred, and oppression for too many people, for too long,” Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said on Twitter Wednesday. “It is finally gone.”

ABC News’ Dee Carden and Whitney Lloyd contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

"Where are you?" In viral post, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson calls for leadership after George Floyd's death

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Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/FilmMagic(LOS ANGELES) — While he doesn’t mention President Donald Trump by name, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, is calling out the president, looking for leadership in the wake of the death of George Floyd at the hands of cops in Minneapolis. 

“Where is our leader at this time when our country is down on its knees, begging, pleading, hurt, angry, frustrated, in pain with its arms out, just wanting to be heard?” he asks

“Where is our compassionate leader who’s going to step up to our country who’s down on its knees, and extend a hand and say, ‘You stand up, stand up with me because I got you. I hear you, I’m listening to you. And you have my word that I’m going to do everything in my power, until my dying day, my last breath, to do everything I can to create the change that is needed, to normalize equality because Black Lives Matter?'”

“Where are you?”

The box office star adds, “Of course, all lives matter, but in this moment right now — this defining, pivotal, explosive moment where our country is down on its knees –…we must say the words: Black Lives Matter.”

Johnson, who has flirted with the idea of someday running for public office, offers, “We must become the leaders we are looking for…I’ll tell you what, we’re here. We’re all here. The process to change has already begun. You can feel it across our country.”

“Change is happening…We’re going to get beat up. We’re going to take our lumps. There’s going to be blood, but the process of change has already begun.”

He concludes, “You would be surprised at how people in pain would respond when you say to them, ‘I care about you…I’m listening to you. Together we’re going to make that change.'”

By Stephen Iervolino
Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

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