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Man accused of killing woman, saving videos to SD card now charged in 2nd slaying: Police

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nicolas_/iStock(ANCHORAGE, Alaska) — A man accused of killing a young woman and saving videos of the crime to a memory card has now been charged in a second slaying, authorities said.

Brian Smith was initially arrested on Oct. 8 for the September 2019 murder of 30-year-old Kathleen Henry. During that investigation, detectives determined Smith was also responsible for the death of 52-year-old Veronica Abouchuk, Anchorage police said on Thursday.

“After he committed each murder, he dumped the body along the side of a road like unwanted trash,” prosecutors said in a bail request document.

Abouchuk, who was last seen by her relatives in July 2018, was reported missing by family in February 2019, police said.

In April, human remains were found near an Anchorage highway, and on Oct. 11, days after Smith’s arrest, the remains were identified as Abouchuk, police said.

When Smith was interviewed for the Henry case, he confessed to shooting a woman between 2017 and 2018, and he provided the location of her body, court documents said.

A skull with a gunshot wound — later identified as belonging to Abouchuk — was recovered near the location Smith identified, the documents said.

Smith’s attorney declined to comment to ABC News on Friday on the Abouchuk case.

Smith was taken into custody on Oct. 8 for first-degree murder in connection with Henry’s death. He pleaded not guilty and his attorney declined to comment to ABC News last week.

Police were led to Smith when a woman found an SD card labeled “Homicide at midtown Marriott” lying on the ground on Sept. 30, according to court documents.

The memory card contained disturbing videos from early September that showed a woman being beaten, raped and strangled, according to court documents.

Some of the footage showed a naked woman “moaning and struggling to breathe,” and trying to fight back, documents said. In another video, the suspect is seen stomping on the woman’s throat with his foot, documents said, and laughing as he strangles her.

Images also showed the victim, later identified as Henry, in the back of a truck, documents said.

Detectives found that Smith’s phone pinged “to a location on Rainbow Valley Road along the Seward Highway within minutes of the last still image from the SD card of the female in the back of the black truck,” according to court documents. Henry’s remains were found on Oct. 2. near Seward Highway, police said.

Smith had a room registered at the same hotel during that time period and has a car matching the truck seen on the footage, court documents said. His accent also matched the voice heard in the video, court documents said.

A grand jury on Thursday returned a supplemental indictment on charges including murder in connection with Abouchuk’s death, officials said. Smith is expected to be arraigned on Oct. 21 on the second indictment. His attorney did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment on Friday.

At Thursday’s news conference, police would not say if Smith could be connected to more victims.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Tropical storm warnings issued from Louisiana to Florida as storm takes aim

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ABC News(NEW YORK) — Tropical storm warnings have been issued from Louisiana through the Florida Panhandle as a storm takes aim at the Sunshine State.

The system is expected to develop into Tropical Storm Nestor on Friday afternoon.

Nestor will then make landfall along the Florida Panhandle near Panama City sometime Saturday morning.

The biggest threat with this storm will be storm surge, as ocean water could rise up to 5 feet from Apalachicola to Cedar Key, Fla. Water could rise up to 4 feet as far south as Clearwater.

Storm surge warnings have been issued from Apalachicola to Clearwater.

Up to 6 inches of rain is possible in the Florida Panhandle.

Winds aren’t forecast to be too strong, with gusts near 50 mph possible.

The storm is forecast to weaken after landfall as it crosses through Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas.

About 2 to 4 inches of rain could fall in the Carolinas.

By Sunday night, after the storm crosses the Carolinas, it could spread some rain and gusty winds into the Mid-Atlantic and even into the coastal areas of the Northeast, from New Jersey to New York City and into southern New England.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Marine veteran who served in Iraq facing 'imminent' deportation to El Salvador

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Family of Jose Segovia Benitez(NEW YORK) — A veteran who served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps and two tours in Iraq is facing imminent deportation to El Salvador — a country he left when he was 3 years old — over felony convictions despite being a legal permanent resident.

While his lawyer and advocates say they are not trying to excuse his behavior — which includes corporal injury to a spouse, for which he served 8 years in prison — they claim that the injuries Jose Segovia-Benitez sustained while serving in the military, and the failure of Veterans Affairs doctors to properly diagnose him with PTSD for years, helped contribute to his predicament.

According to a government watchdog report, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) placed 250 veterans in removal proceedings from 2013-2018. But the number may be higher because “ICE does not maintain complete electronic data on veterans who have been placed in removal proceedings or removed,” according to the agency, despite the fact that agency is supposed to take additional steps when it encounters a deportable veteran.

Segovia-Benitez, 38, had been held at the at the ICE processing center in Adelanto, California since January 2018, when he was detained by the agency after being released from prison, his representatives told ABC News. He left the facility on Tuesday to start the process of his deportation, but he was unexpectedly pulled off a departing flight in Arizona Wednesday and has been at an ICE facility there ever since, Brandee Dudzic, executive director of Repatriate our Patriots, a non-profit organization that advocates for U.S. veterans who are deported, told ABC News.

It is unclear why his deportation to El Salvador was interrupted, Dudzic said. ICE did not immediately confirm those details to ABC News.

Segovia-Benitez arrived in the U.S. with his parents when he was 3 years old and settled down in Long Beach, California, Dudzic said. He enlisted in the Marines in 1999, a week after graduating high school, after years of wanting to serve his country.

“There’s photos of him at high school and track practice with dog tags around his neck,” Dudzic said. “This was something he wanted to do for a long time.”

In 2002, Segovia-Benitez was promoted to corporal and he deployed to Iraq in April 2003, at the start of the Iraq War, Dudzic said. Segovia-Benitez then re-enlisted in July 2003 after his four-year contract ended and returned to Iraq later that year, advocates said.

Segovia-Benitez suffered a traumatic brain injury in December 2003 after an explosion occurred near his vehicle, his immigration attorney, Wayne Spindler, told ABC News. He returned to the U.S. in July 2004 and was honorably discharged in September of that year, his representatives said.

However, his PTSD was not diagnosed until 2011. As a result, he was given a 70 percent disability rating, which qualified him for a range of services that he would not have been able to receive without that designation, Dudzic said.

A spokeswoman for the Marine Corps confirmed the details of Segovia-Benitez’s rank and his dates of service. But the information in Segovia-Benitez’s file did not include his re-enlistment, which included his second tour in Iraq, or that he was honorably discharged, the spokeswoman said.

His military awards included the Combat Action Ribbon, the National Defense Service Medal, three Sea Service Deployment Ribbons, the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, according to his Marine Corps file.

Trouble with the law

Segovia-Benitez’s convictions include DUI, assault with a deadly weapon, false imprisonment, narcotics possession and corporal injury to a spouse in 2010, for which he received an 8-year sentence — his lengthiest term in prison, ICE spokeswoman Lori Haley told ABC News. The details of those cases were not immediately available. Segovia-Benitez served time for all of the convictions concurrently, Spindler said.

A judge ordered Segovia-Benitez to be removed to El Salvador in October 2018. According to an ICE official, his “extensive criminal history,” which includes “an aggravated felony,” allows for him to be removed, despite his military service and length of time he resided in the U.S., under the Immigration and Nationality Act.

According to his lawyer, Segovia-Benitez committed all of the crimes he was convicted of before his PTSD diagnosis. Even before he was diagnosed, Segovia-Benitez knew he was “not OK” and was seeking one-on-one treatment and attending support groups on his own, Dudzic said. She alleged that the VA mismanaged his case, which led him to self-medicate as a means of coping. A representative for the VA referred ABC News to the Department of Homeland Security when asked for comment, which did not immediately respond.

Dudzic said Segovia-Benitez’s representatives aren’t trying to “excuse his behavior” but rather provide context to the his underlying medical condition that may have contributed to the crimes.

According to the VA, there is a link between PTSD and “an increased risk of violence.”

But the agency cautions that when other factors are controlled, the risk of violence with PTSD as a factor alone decreases. “When other factors like alcohol and drug misuse, additional psychiatric disorders, or younger age are considered, the association between PTSD and violence is decreased,” the VA says.

The process of deporting veterans who have committed felonies is “common practice,” Spindler said.

According to a report from the American Civil Liberties Union, “Congress in the span of less than a decade vastly expanded the grounds for deportation and whittled away the available avenues for relief.”

Under the 1988 Anti-Drug Abuse Act, any non-citizen who completed their prison sentence for an aggravated felony was subject to detainer by immigration authorities. Over the years, the definition of “aggravated felony” expanded from murder and weapons trafficking to “crimes of violence, racketeering, theft or burglary for which the term of imprisonment was five years or more, money laundering, trafficking of any federally controlled substance, additional weapons offenses, prostitution related offenses, tax evasion, and certain categories of fraud,” the ACLU wrote.

And in 1996, “Congress eliminated all forms of discretionary relief for people with convictions falling within the expanded aggravated felony definition,” the ACLU said.

For the report, the ACLU interviewed 59 veterans, many of whom were deported because of “aggravated felony” convictions. A number of those crimes would not have been considered aggravated felonies before changes in the 1990s, including theft with sentence of a year or more, the report said.

Segovia-Benitez first started the process to apply for citizenship in 2002, while he was still enlisted, and was finger-printed for the purposes of naturalization in 2004, Dudzic said. However, when he missed an interview appointment, his application was administratively closed, and requests to reschedule his interview and hold it at the Adelanto facility have been denied, Dudzic said. DHS did not immediately respond to ABC News request for comment.

Segovia-Benitez’s case is before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, Spindler said, adding that he could very well be in El Salvador when the decision is made. The details of the appeal were not immediately available as the documents are under seal.

In addition to the appeals process, Segovia-Benitez’s representatives have filed a pardon application with California Gov. Gavin Newsom, Spindler said. Segovia-Benitez is also one of 19 plaintiffs suing ICE over “extreme medical neglect” they have allegedly received at the Adelanto facility, Dudzic said.

The suit alleges that immigrants in ICE custody are “subjected to horrific, inhumane, punitive, and unlawful conditions of confinement” and specifically that Segovia-Benitez was not given proper care for cardiac issues. It also alleged that his combat PTSD had become “unmanageable” since being detained by ICE.

“Jose, as a disabled combat veteran, has the right to be treated by the VA and credentialed VA doctors,” Dudzic said. “Whomever they’re bringing in has no idea how to treat a combat veteran.”

Vicky Waters, a spokesperson for the California governor’s office, said she was unable to discuss individual pending applications for pardons but “can assure that each application receives careful and individualized consideration.” Haley said she was unable to comment on the pending litigation against ICE.

‘They’ll execute you’

Dudzic emphasized that she and Segovia-Benitez’s family believes his case is more of a veterans’ issue — and the failure of the government to properly care for him after his service — rather than an immigration issue.

“Deporting veterans is the most unpatriotic thing I have ever heard of,” she said.

Her organization has taken such an interest in Segovia-Benitez’s case because of the potential danger that awaits him in El Salvador, Dudzic said. Due to his military training, Segovia-Benitez is a “very high-valued target for the gangs.”

“You either join the gang, or they’ll execute you,” she said.

Dudzic also worries about his tattoos — which include the letters “USMC” on one of his biceps and a “very large” Statue of Liberty on his rib cage — and the message they will send.

“In countries like El Salvador, your tattoos are very much affiliated with what gang you are with,” she said. “They don’t take kindly to United States Marines.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Chicago teachers strike enters its second day

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maroke/iStock(CHICAGO) — Chicago Public School teachers took to the streets for the second day of their strike on Friday.

Negotiations between teachers and the city’s school district are still underway, and while there appeared to be some progress, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) said they’re not close to reaching a deal.

“They’re talking about class size. [Chicago Public Schools] is offering some discussion and that’s a first,” Chris Geovanis, spokeswoman for CTU, told ABC News Friday. “It’s very inadequate but it’s a start.”

Teachers are fighting for smaller class sizes, more staffing and better wages. More than 25,000 thousands teachers hit the picket lines on Thursday after months of failed negotiation attempts.

Classes in the nation’s third largest school district were canceled Thursday and Friday due to the strike.

Chicago Public Schools (CPS) submitted a written proposal on reducing class size after all-day negotiations Thursday, according to ABC Chicago station WLS-TV. The details of the proposal were not immediately clear and CPS did not respond to ABC News’ request for comment.

More than 1,300 classrooms are overcrowded, according to CTU, despite the district’s cap. Almost 25% of elementary school students were placed in overcrowded classrooms, with some kindergarten classrooms topping 40 students, according to the union.

The union said despite “some progress,” some issues have not been discussed. Others issues, such as staffing shortages, have been discussed but not put “in writing in an enforceable contract,” according to CTU.

Teachers are asking for ELL (English-language leaner) educators and more bilingual social workers.

“Bilingual education services are chronically short of both educators and resources,” the union said in a statement.

More than 300,000 students were enrolled in the city’s public school system in the 2018-2019 school year. Almost half are Latino, according to CTU.

Teachers are also pushing for more school nurses, as most schools have only one nurse one day a week.

CPS said their written offer would provide a nurse in every school by 2024 and double the social workers in schools.

“Teachers and staff are invaluable to our schools, and our offers recognize that,” according to a statement from Mayor Lori Lightfoot, CEO of CPS Janice Jackson and Chief Education Officer of CPS LaTanya McDade. “Although we wish we could offer more to our teachers and support staff for their hard work and dedication, we believe our offers are fair deals that meet the needs of teachers, paraprofessionals and students, and keep the district on a path of success.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Two critically hurt, high school swim team OK after plane overshoots runway: Reports

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Ryan Burnias(UNALASKA, Alaska) — A twin-engine Alaska Airlines flight from Anchorage to Unalaska Island overshot the runway and stopped just short of plunging into the waters of the bay Thursday evening.

Two aboard were critically hurt and 10 others were treated for injuries, according to reports — but members of a high school swim team aboard the flight were said to be OK following the harrowing incident.

Alaska Airlines Flight 3296, operated by Peninsula Airways, ran off the runway while landing at Alaska’s Unalaska/Dutch Harbor Airport, airline officials said in a statement.

The plane, a Saab 2000 turboprop, had three crew members and 39 passengers aboard, including members of the swim team at Alaska’s Cordova High School.

“At present, all students and chaperones are accounted for and are OK, albeit a bit shaken up,” read a statement posted by superintendent Alex Russin on the school district’s website Thursday night.

The statement said that “the team was together, seemed fine, and were eating pizza.”

Interim Police Chief John Lucking said there were no casualties, according to Unalaska TV station KUCB.

Photos taken afterward showed the plane resting at about at 30-degree angle on a rocky embankment, with its nose just feet from the water.

Unalaska Island is part of the Aleutian Island chain to the west of the Alaskan mainland.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

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