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Mother of missing 11-year-old boy says she can't help having 'bad thoughts'

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ABC News(NEW YORK) — The mother of Gannon Stauch, an 11-year-old Colorado boy who has been missing for nearly a month, opened up about her son’s disappearance, the rumors that have followed, and the desperation she feels for him to be home.

In a sit-down interview with ABC News Thursday, Landen Hiott said that while she has tried to stay hopeful, at times she finds the emotions too much to bear.

“You have anger. You have so many feelings. I have so many feelings I’ve never felt before,” she said.

Hiott said the circumstances of the investigation and the bad weather have made it even more difficult.

“The more time that goes by, if he did wander off, whatever happened, how can you … it’s snowing and you have them looking in snow and sifting through snow, you can’t help but have bad thoughts come in,” she said.

Gannon was reported missing on Jan. 27 by his stepmother, Letecia Stauch, who told authorities he was last seen at home between 3:15 p.m. and 4:15 p.m., according to the El Paso County Sheriff’s Department. He was initially reported as a runaway, but on Jan. 30 his disappearance was changed to a missing/endangered persons case. Since then, there have been few clues as to what happened.

A neighbor says footage captured by his security camera the day Gannon went missing showed Gannon’s stepmother driving away with the boy in the morning, and returning hours later alone. Authorities have said they are aware of the footage and do not dispute the neighbor’s description, but describe it only as “one piece in a very, very, very large puzzle.”

Backlash against Letecia Stauch was swift and rampant, so much so that she had to respond to online rumors. She denied having anything to do with Gannon’s disappearance.

Hiott did not comment on the footage or Stauch, but said that “when you’re trying to hold it together and you hear those stories, you hear people talk about it, it’s hard to hold it in sometimes.”

She said she maintains restraint only because she doesn’t want to hinder the investigation and have “another day added to me not seeing my boy.”

Hiott lives in South Carolina, but traveled to Colorado immediately after getting a call that Gannon was missing.

She said she is confident her son would never run away.

“100% without a shadow of doubt, my boy would not run away,” Hiott said. She also resents the notion that he may have somehow brought this on himself.

“For it to be said that he has behavioral issues, and it to be blamed on him, that’s what makes me sick about this. … It is not Gannon’s fault. He is a child,” she said.

Hiott gets through each day by waiting for the next one, hoping for new information that brings her son home.

“This is the longest time I have not heard his voice. The only thing I can do is keep playing videos back and forth,” she said through sobs.

When her two other children — an 8-year-old and 18-month-old — ask where Gannon is, she wishes she could have answer.

“‘Where’s Bubba? Is he coming home?'” she said her kids have asked her. “Only thing I can say is, ‘I hope so.'”

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Missing Idaho mom arrested in Hawaii, held on $5 million bail

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Rexburg Police Department(KAUA’I, Hawaii) — Lori Vallow, the 47-year-old woman wanted by authorities in Idaho in connection to the September disappearance of her two children, was arrested in Hawaii on Thursday.

Vallow, under investigation by the Rexburg Police Department, was arrested by the Kaua’i Police Department on a warrant issued by Madison County, Idaho.

She’s facing multiple charges, including two felony counts of desertion and nonsupport of dependent children, police said in a statement. Her bail has been set at $5 million.

Her children, 17-year-old Tylee Ryan and 7-year-old Joshua “J.J.” Vallow, have been missing about five months. She failed to comply with a court order to produce them in Madison County by Jan. 30.

“First of all, we wish to thank the public for the massive outpouring of concern regarding this case,” Kaua’i Chief of Police Todd G. Raybuck said in the statement. “We also want to thank everyone for their patience while investigators worked diligently to comprehensively gather everything they needed in order to obtain this arrest warrant.”

Vallow is scheduled to attend a court hearing in Kaua’i and be given the opportunity to waive or contest her extradition to Idaho, where she’d face criminal charges. A date for that hearing hasn’t been set.

Her children were last seen in Idaho.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Terminally ill 20-year-old gifts Dallas school with new fitness center

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Give a Child a Voice(DALLAS) — Eric Erdman is all about helping others, especially children.

The 20-year-old Pennsylvania native founded the Give a Child a Voice foundation in 2016 shortly after being diagnosed with anaplastic ependymoma, a rare form of brain cancer. His foundation is not only dedicated to ending life-threatening childhood illnesses but also works to combat child abuse and bullying, two things Erdman experienced firsthand.

“When I got diagnosed with cancer, I didn’t want to focus on the bad times,” he told “GMA.” “I wanted to go the route of being happy and joyful, and inspire people.”

Erdman first shared his story with “GMA” in September 2019 and it was around that time that medical experts told him he had approximately five months to live.

Putting no time to waste, he has spent the last several months continuing to grow Give a Child a Voice and empower youth. In his most recent philanthropic effort, he launched the Give a Child a Voice Fitness Center Giveaway, offering a school in need a brand-new fitness facility.

The contest drew the attention of hundreds of schools all over the world.

“We had so many amazing submissions from schools,” he said. “We even had one from Australia, which was mind-blowing … I couldn’t believe the amount of people that were in need.”

After reviewing the submissions, the foundation was announced on Feb. 20 that Life School Oak Cliff in Dallas would be the recipient of the new fitness facility.

A recent shooting in the community and a student’s death by suicide stood out as reasons why Erdman thought the school would benefit from a fitness center.

“I’m so happy that they are the winners,” he said.

Erdman was unable to be at the announcement because of medical appointments, but he visited Life School Oak Cliff in January of this year, where he was welcomed with open arms by the students and faculty.

Life School Oak Cliff will be the third fitness center built by Give a Child a Voice, following Erdman’s first project at his own high school and a second at his high school’s rival’s campus. The first project was funded through the wish Erdman was granted by the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

“When I was being bullied and abused, I felt alone,” he said. “When I went to the weight room, it built courage up inside of me to talk about it.”

“I hope that one day a little kid going through a hard time finds their courage through the weight room like I did, to speak up and tell their story.”


Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

New York City taxi commission accused of $810 million fraud

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PeskyMonkey/iStock(NEW YORK) — New York Attorney General Letitia James announced plans to sue New York City for allegedly fraudulent practices by its Taxi and Limousine Commission, accusing the agency of running a scheme on taxi drivers that created a “trapdoor of despair.”

A taxicab medallion, often seen bolted to a vehicle’s hood, is a numbered plate required to operate a yellow cab. James is alleging that the TLC played a role in inflating the price of thousands of medallions over a 14-year period, 2004 to 2017, sometimes by more than 200%.

“Government should be a source of justice, not a vehicle for fraudulent practices,” James said in a statement, announcing a notice of claim for $810 million. She’s alleging the city profited by that same amount selling medallions and by collecting a 5% tax on third-party transfers.

“These taxi medallions were marketed as a pathway to the American Dream, but instead became a trapdoor of despair for medallion owners harmed by the TLC’s unlawful practices,” she added.  

The government, instead of creating a fair marketplace, “engaged in a scheme that defrauded hundreds of medallion owners, leaving many with no choice but to work day and night to pay off their overpriced medallions,” James alleges.

The TLC’s actions affected “some of the city’s most financially exposed immigrant families,” she added.

The TLC promoted medallions as investments with greater returns than the stock market, a statement from James’ office alleges. It also set up an artificial floor for bids and permitted taxicab brokers and large owners to “bid up” medallion prices.

The price of an individual taxi medallion sold at an auction skyrocketed 240% from 2004 to 2014, from $283,300 to $965,000.

Even when the TLC knew medallions were overvalued, it failed to disclose that to buyers, according to James’ office.

Freddi Goldstein, press secretary at New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office, told ABC News in a statement that they have been “working tirelessly” to clean up the crisis.

“We have spent the last six years putting money back into the pockets of drivers, and attempting to curb the harm from Uber, years before anyone else wanted to recognize the threat,” the statement said. “If the Attorney General wants to launch a frivolous investigation into the very administration that has done nothing but work to improve the situation, this is what she’ll find.”

James’ legal action comes after the taxi medallion industry has been embroiled in controversy for months.

In May 2019, The New York Times published a multi-part investigation that put a spotlight on the allegedly predatory lending practices that trapped hundreds of low-income cab drivers with millions of dollars in debt.

In August, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and New York City lawmakers wrote a letter to several federal financial and banking regulators demanding tighter oversight of lending in the taxi medallion industry.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Florida's Dixie Highways renamed in honor of Harriet Tubman

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Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images(MIAMI) — The highways flowing through Miami are swapping their Confederate identity with one that recognizes the iconic leader of the Underground Railroad.

Miami-Dade commissioners unanimously voted Wednesday to change the name of parts of the Old Dixie Highway to the Harriet Tubman Highway. The change was made to honor the abolitionist who led countless numbers of slaves to freedom.

The renaming took “a staunch, proactive stance on the necessary eradication of the lingering markers within Miami-Dade County and the State of Florida which continue to celebrate a painful history of systemic racism,” the resolution said.

The renaming affects portions of the Old Dixie Highway and West Dixie Highway that are under the city jurisdiction, including the section between Southwest 304th Street and Southwest 146th Street, and the section between Northeast 163rd Street and Northeast 215th Street.

The commissioners also sent a resolution to the Florida Legislature to rename the portions of the West Dixie Highway that are under its jurisdiction.

The commissioners noted that the term “Dixie” has racist roots that trace back to blackface minstrelsy, and was the name of the Confederacy’s unofficial anthem.

“It is only fitting that Dixie’s current nomenclature be replaced by the matchless legacy of a warrior whose heroic and selfless fight for freedom and justice has served the best interests of Miami-Dade County, the state of Florida, and the nation,” the resolution said.

Several Harriet Tubman memorials have been created around the country, including one in her home state of Maryland and a museum that’s slated to open this year in Cape May, New Jersey.

In 2016, the U.S. Department of Treasury announced it would put Tubman’s face on the $20 bill, replacing President Andrew Jackson, but those plans were delayed by the Trump administration.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

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