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National Zoo hosts 'Bye Bye, Bei Bei' ahead of giant panda being sent to China

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File photo. (Nuno Tendais/iStock)(WASHINGTON) — Fans of Bei Bei the giant panda at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo got to enjoy a final day of celebration Monday before he’s sent to China on Tuesday.

In anticipation of Bei Bei’s flight to his new home, the zoo has hosted a week of events called “Bye Bye, Bei Bei” so panda fans could enjoy him up close one last time.

“Bei Bei is part of our family,” Steve Monfort, John and Adrienne Mars, director of the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute, said in a statement. “Our team has cared for him, learned from him and, along with millions, loved watching him grow. We’re sad he’s leaving, but excited for the contributions he will make to the global giant panda population.”

The week-long goodbye ended with daily treats and a Q&A session with one of the panda’s keepers — all of which could be seen through the zoo’s “Panda Cams” that ran throughout the day.

According to the World Wildlife Fund, pandas need to eat roughly 30 to 80 pounds of bamboo per day, but even then they have enough space to enjoy all kinds of snacks.

Throughout “Bye Bye, Bei Bei” week, the giant panda got to enjoy a variety of treats including: sweet potatoes, ice cakes and applesauce — among many others.

Currently, giant pandas are classified as a “vulnerable” species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and are only native to China, but thanks to an agreement between the National Zoo and the China Wildlife Conservation Association, cubs are lent to the United States until they reach 4 years old, at which point they must be returned.

Bei Bei’s fourth birthday was on Aug. 22, so his trip home is slightly overdue.

“Our giant pandas represent much of what the Smithsonian does best, from conservation to education,” said Lonnie Bunch, secretary of the Smithsonian. “As we say goodbye to our beloved Bei Bei, our conservation scientists will continue to work in collaboration to prevent these animals from disappearing, giving them the opportunity to thrive in the wild, inspiring and teaching generations to come.”

The week of celebration was full of events that were both educational as well as entertaining for panda lovers.

Along with Q&A sessions and plenty of treats for Bei Bei, visitors could write and design post cards that would be sent with the panda to China, make friendship and luck bracelets to celebrate the conservation collaboration, or enjoy dumplings at a party hosted by the Chinese embassy.

According to a statement released by the Zoo, Bei Bei will fly directly from Washington, D.C., to Chengdu, China, with one panda keeper and one veterinarian — just as his older siblings Tai Shan and Bao Bao did in 2010 and 2017, respectively.

As part of the preparation for his journey, Bei Bei has been acclimating to his travel crate by walking through it every day, spending short periods of time inside with the door closed, and being fed treats while inside.

Bei Bei’s American keeper will stay with the panda for a short while in China to help him adjust to his new home, all in preparation for Bei Bei to reach sexual maturity and enter the giant panda breeding program by the time he is 7 years old.

“Bei Bei is an ambassador for conservation and part of a 47-year program that proves bringing species and habitats back from the brink is possible through global cooperation,” Monfort said.

Although Bei Bei is returning home now, his parents Mei Xiang and Tian Tian will continue to delight National Zoo visitors for at least one more year until the agreement covering them expires in December 2020.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Prosecutor allegedly used his 13-year-old daughter as bait to catch suspected child molester

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San Jose Police Department(SAN JOSE, Calif.) — A prosecutor in Santa Clara County, California, is under scrutiny for allegedly using his 13-year-old daughter to bait a man who is alleged to have molested her, according to police documents, reported The Mercury News.

The suspect, 76-year-old Ali Mohammad Lajmiri, is now in custody, but the prosecutor’s alleged method of catching the suspect is being called into question.

A prosecutor in Santa Clara County, California, is under scrutiny for allegedly using his 13-year-old daughter to bait a man who is alleged to have molested her, according to police documents, reported The Mercury News.

The suspect, 76-year-old Ali Mohammad Lajmiri, is now in custody, but the prosecutor’s alleged method of catching the suspect is being called into question.

After the police department asked for the public’s help identifying the man, the prosecutor allegedly took his daughter back to the scene and instructed her to walk back and forth on the trail until Lajmiri approached her. They stayed in contact with their cellphones and earbuds, as per the police report provided to The Mercury News.

“He stated that they had already done this several times,” San Jose Detective Sgt. Sean Pierce wrote in the police report.

After the police department asked for the public’s help identifying the man, the prosecutor allegedly took his daughter back to the scene and instructed her to walk back and forth on the trail until Lajmiri approached her. They stayed in contact with their cellphones and earbuds, as per the police report provided to The Mercury News.

“He stated that they had already done this several times,” San Jose Detective Sgt. Sean Pierce wrote in the police report.

The Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office declined to comment on the matter or on the prosecutor’s actions, but released a statement saying, “As in all cases of sexual assault, our hearts go out to the victim and her family,” Assistant District Attorney Terry Harman said in the statement. “We have recused ourselves from the handling of any filing decision and prosecution of any matters related to this situation.”

Lajmiri is being held in the Santa Clara County jail on $3 million bail. He is scheduled to return to court on Jan. 29.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Patrick Frazee found guilty of killing missing fiancee Kelsey Berreth; sentenced to life without parole

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ABC News(DENVER, Colorado) — A Colorado man has been convicted of killing 29-year-old Kelsey Berreth, who was his fiancee and the mother of his young daughter, following a dramatic trial that brought bombshell testimony from witnesses, including a fellow inmate and his former girlfriend.

As the trial of Frazee came to a close, prosecutors Monday described the case as a “deliberate, premeditated, cold and cruel murder.”

A verdict was delivered just hours after closing arguments.

Frazee was found guilty on all counts, including first-degree felony murder and three counts of solicitation to commit murder. He was sentenced an hour later to life without parole plus 156 years — the maximum possible sentence.

“Your actions were vicious, senseless, without reason nor explanation. … Kelsey spent her last night caring for you — you repaid that kindness by viciously beating her to death,” Judge Scott Sells said. “After you beat her, you burned her body like a piece of trash. Your crimes deserve the absolute punishment available.”

Frazee was accused of attacking Berreth with a baseball bat at her Woodland Park, Colorado, home on Nov. 22, 2018 — which was Thanksgiving — while the couple’s 1-year-old daughter, Kaylee, sat in a playpen in a back room.

Prosecutors allege Frazee then put Berreth’s body in a black plastic tote and burned it on his property.

His defense attorneys, who did not call any witnesses, stress that a body and a murder weapon have never been recovered.

‘Only one person knows why’

In closing arguments on Monday, prosecutors said Frazee knew Berreth, 29, was dead because he never attempted to contact her after Nov. 25, 2018.

Prosecutor Beth Reid also reminded the jury that Frazee was captured on a neighbor’s surveillance camera outside Berreth’s condo at the same time he claimed he was 40 miles away tending to his cattle.

Reid showed the jury security camera photos that captured Frazee’s red pickup truck driving in Woodland Park on Thanksgiving with a large black tote box in the back.

“Her beaten and battered body is in that box, which he keeps on the back of the truck while he eats Thanksgiving dinner,” said Reid.

Reid told jurors that they did not need to agree on Frazee’s alleged motive in order to convict him of murder.

“The reality is,” Reid told the jurors, “only one person knows why.”

Ex-girlfriend takes the stand

Frazee’s ex-girlfriend Krystal Lee was a star witness for the prosecution, and testified that Frazee called her to come to Berreth’s house to clean up the bloody aftermath.

Lee told jurors that Frazee admitted to tying a blindfold around Berreth’s head and asked her to guess the scent of candles before beating her to death with a baseball bat.

“I saw blood all over the floor and blood all over the wall,” she testified. “There was blood on the front of the stove and the dishwasher, and on the floor there were bloody footprints.”

Lee, who has admitted to disposing of Berreth’s phone, has pleaded guilty to tampering with physical evidence. Records showed Berreth’s phone traveled with Lee’s phone to Idaho where Lee says she destroyed it. She is awaiting sentencing once Frazee’s case concludes.
Notes to an inmate

Last Friday, an inmate testified that Frazee recently asked him to use his connections to a prison gang to kill several witnesses in the case, including Lee.

The inmate says he and Frazee were in jail together from Sept. 26 to Oct. 12, 2019.

“He would pass me notes if his information was too sensitive,” the inmate said, claiming Frazee told him he’d take care of him financially when he got out.

In court, a state investigator read from a number of those notes, which were written on paper towels and napkins. The notes, the investigator testified, contained hit lists, along with detailed instructions on where to find the witnesses. The list included Lee, her parents and her ex-husband.

“They all need to disappear, unseen until 11/22 after the trial,” said a note, which the investigator testified appeared to be in Frazee’s handwriting. “I’d really like to see Krystal with a bullet in her head.”
‘Patrick Frazee is not guilty’

Defense attorney Adam Steigerwald questioned the credibility of Lee and the evidence, saying in his closing argument Monday, “This case has been built on a foundation it cannot support. Patrick Frazee is not guilty.”

Steigerwald argued that the case against Frazee is circumstantial and based on a story “made up” by Lee, adding she didn’t cooperate with investigators until the district attorney agreed to a deal to not prosecute her for more serious crimes.

“There is not one word from Krystal Lee until she has a signature on the dotted line,” Steigerwald said. “There is nothing she talked about that is believable.”

Steigerwald also pointed out that neither Frazee nor Lee’s DNA were detected anywhere in Berreth’s condo, despite the prosecution theory that her condo was where Frazee killed Berreth and where Lee cleaned up the aftermath.

Steigerwald also attacked evidence provided by a neighbor’s security camera, saying it did not show Frazee going onto Berreth’s home — or coming out — carrying a baseball bat or a tote.

In addition, Steigerwald said none of Berreth’s neighbors heard or saw anything suspicious on Thanksgiving, which Steigerwald called an unlikely day to plan a murder.

“Is there a day of the year when people are less likely to be alone? To be missed? To speak to your family than Thanksgiving Day?” Steigerwald asked the jury.

Frazee was arrested in December 2018 on charges including first-degree murder. Judge Scott Sells told the jury they can also consider finding Frazee guilty of second-degree murder or manslaughter.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Shooting outside Oklahoma Walmart leaves 3 dead including suspect

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Google Maps Street View(DUNCAN, Oklahoma) — Three people are dead, including the suspect, from a shooting in the parking lot of an Oklahoma Walmart Monday morning, state police said.

At least nine shots were fired during the incident in Duncan, about 80 miles south of Oklahoma City, authorities said.

One man and one woman were found dead inside a car and a man, the suspect, was found dead outside of the car, said Duncan police.

It appears the shooter died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, said Duncan Police Chief Danny Ford.

A semi-automatic handgun was found at the scene, police said.

A motive is not clear, Ford said at a news conference, but added it appeared the victims and suspect knew each other.

The suspect never was inside the Walmart, officials said, but the two victims, who died in the car, had been in the money center in Walmart before coming back to the car.

Walmart said no employees were injured in the shooting, described by the company as an isolated incident.

“As this is an active police investigation, we are currently referring additional questions to Law Enforcement and assisting however possible,” Walmart said in a statement:

Police have interviewed witnesses and are working on obtaining surveillance video, said Ford.

Just last week, a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, reopened months after a mass shooting there. The El Paso store was temporarily closed following the Aug. 3 shooting where 22 people were killed.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Police body camera captures heart-stopping moment officers find kidnapped 8-year-old girl

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ABC News(FORT WORTH, TX) —  From the moment that Crystal Merrill arrived for her overnight shift on May 18 at the 911 call and dispatch center in Fort Worth, Texas, the phone would not stop ringing.

Police were more than four hours into a manhunt for a suspect in the area and an 8-year-old girl he was accused of kidnapping. Her mother said he’d snatched the girl out of her arms during an early evening walk and thrown the child into his car. The suspect was now on the run with the little girl.

As Merrill fielded call after call, tip after tip, she said, her nerves started to get to her. A 30-year-old mother with two kids herself, ages 10 and 5, she said she couldn’t help but feel a strong connection to this particular missing-child case.

“I had heightened senses because…I’m trying to get every piece of detail and see, ‘OK, how should we process this?’” Merrill said. “’Do I just let our officers know or do we actually send a call up and we need to go check this out?’ Every call was like that.”

A few hours later, however, at 2 a.m., a 911 call from a good Samaritan gave Merrill pause. She didn’t know then that it was a tip that would play a key role in the case.

Merrill connected the call to the closest police department in the suburb of Forest Hills. Normally, after connecting the caller with law enforcement, Merrill would hang up, but something made her stay on the line and listen.

“I asked the [the caller], I said, ‘Do you have the license plate of that car?’ And I got the license plate from him,” Merrill said.

 She said she thought the call sounded like something Fort Worth police should also check out. She got the alert out to the Fort Worth police and within minutes, she was tracking officer after officer as they arrived on the scene.

Then, all she could do was wait and hope that her instincts had been right.

Every second counted.

Watch the full story on “Nightline” tonight at 12:35 a.m. ET on ABC

Fort Worth Police Sgt. Amelia Heise was the detective on call that Saturday night when the report came in about a child being abducted.

“I was a detective before I was a mother,” Heise said. “After I became a mother, that protective sense just grew and I could really relate more to the cases and how the parents were feeling. And it really hits home a little bit more after you become a parent.”

Earlier that day, at 6:30 p.m. when the kidnapping was first reported, officers had arrived at a neighborhood tucked into the Fort Worth area. They found the distraught mother and a critical piece of evidence: A man’s doorbell camera had captured the abduction. On the footage, police could see the mother falling onto the street as a car drives away.

“The stranger abductions, they’re rare,” Heise said. “You don’t really get a lot of them, and when I was hearing the details, the seriousness and the unusual nature of it was setting in. And I just knew that this case was different.”

When they interviewed the mother, police said, she told them a man had approached her and her daughter twice. The mother said when the stranger had returned, he’d grabbed her daughter and shoved her into his car.

The mother had fought back and at one point, police said, she told them that she had tried to jump in the kidnapper’s lap to stomp on the brake, but he’d managed to throw her out of the car and speed away.

“The Ring doorbell video was the only piece of video that was available for this particular case. It was absolutely critical,” said Chris Thompson, a special agent with the FBI’s Crimes Against Children and Human Trafficking Task Force.

“The person who owned the home, essentially, accidentally activated the Ring doorbell at that time. It wasn’t supposed to go off just from a passing car or from a person being observed in the street, as was seen in the video,” he said. “It was accidentally enabled by the homeowner and still captured the critical piece of information we needed.”

The mother was able to give the police a rough description of the suspect and they had images of his car on the door cam surveillance footage. Based on that, police were able to quickly get in touch with vehicle experts to determine the car’s make and model.

“As the officer … was telling me the details that he had at the time… I knew that we had to go, that time was against us and that we just could not move fast enough,” Heise said. “I realized we had 100 things we needed to do, and we needed to do them all at once because we just don’t have time.”

News of the abduction quickly spread in local media and some members of the community also joined the search. Heise said her department reached out to its federal counterparts at Homeland Security and the FBI, which also showed up to help.

Nevertheless, each passing moment weighed heavily on her.

“It felt like time was flying by and that I was moving so slow, and that I just could not move fast enough,” Heise said. “Because I knew we needed to move fast, and it just felt like I just couldn’t get it done.”

As word spread, a tip call came in around midnight to the police in Forest Hill, a suburb just south of Fort Worth. Someone reported a man and a child at a hotel there.

Forest Hill police officers responded to Woodspring Suites, an extended-stay hotel about 7 miles from the street where the girl had been taken. They spoke to a man in Room 333 and even went inside, but reported that they had not seen a child and left.

Around 2 a.m., about eight hours into the manhunt, a new 911 call came in. This time, though, it went into the Fort Worth call center and Merrill answered.

During that call with her, a good Samaritan reported seeing a car that matched the police description parked at the Woodspring Suites in Forest Hill.

Body-camera footage, obtained exclusively by ABC News from the Fort Worth Police Department, shows officers racing to the hotel. As the squad car approaches the hotel, the officer driving cuts the lights out at the last second. His partner is heard asking why.

“If this guy’s looking out the window, I’m not trying to let him see that we’re rolling around,” the officer says in the video.

The officers located and checked out the car in question. An employee provided them with a copy of the driver’s license belonging to the man who’d rented Room 333. Officers were able to determine that the motel patron matched the description of their suspect.

Once they had enough information, a group of police officers and task force agents prepared to enter Room 333.

Body camera footage of what happened next had never been made public before, until now.

The footage shows officers making their way up flights of stairs and getting into position outside of the room. An officer warns the man inside to open the door.

“I’m trying to get dressed,” the suspect inside shouts back.

Officers break open the door and pull the suspect out of the room. The team rushes in, searching for the little girl. At first, they don’t see her.

Then, the officer’s body camera captures the moment when the little girl they had been searching for all night pops her head out of a storage bucket full of dirty clothes.

“Hey, here she is! We got her! We got her!” an officer says.

Cheers and sounds of relief could be heard ringing out among the officers and over their radios as they scooped up the little girl and carried her out of the hotel room.

She told officers that the suspect had forced her to hide and threatened to kill her family if she made a sound, police said. She had stayed quiet the first time officers had come to the door, but this hadn’t worked the second time.

“I was in a state of shock,” Heise said. “I was working as hard as I could to find this little girl. And I just couldn’t believe that we had done it. And in that moment, I just felt a great sense of gratitude to the community, because they did this. They did this. It wasn’t us. You know, they’re the ones that were out there doing it.”

The man who had made that crucial 911 call was a pastor who knew the family. He was on the scene when the rescue happened and delivered the good news that the girl was alive and safe to her father on the phone.

Back at the call center, Merrill could hear her colleagues cheering.

“It was like a ton of bricks had been knocked off of me when I found out that they had found her,” she said. “I did cry at work. … I think it was just because my adrenaline was so high and my nerves [were] so bad, and [there was] a sense of ‘We found her,’ like, no more worrying.”

At the end of her shift, Merrill said, she drove home, woke up her two children and hugged them tight.

“I went straight in and I just hugged my babies,” Merrill said. “It was just a lot because like I said, you could just [keep] thinking, ‘Oh, that could’ve been me.’ And it was good to know my babies were at home.”

In a different part of town, another mother who had grappled with the intense weight of the situation was also holding her children tight.

“I went home, and I sat down at the breakfast table, and everything that I wouldn’t allow myself to feel that night, it hit me, and I felt it,” Heise said. “It was so strange. I knew [the abducted child] was, I knew we had her, but I was still experiencing the fear and the stress, but that I wouldn’t allow myself to process, and it was pretty intense.”

The suspect — 51-year-old Michael Webb — was charged with federal kidnapping. He pleaded not guilty.

U.S. attorney Erin Nealy Cox picked up the case instead of delegating it to an attorney in her office.

“I’m a mother of three children, all girls, one of whom is an 8-year-old, just like the victim in this case,” she said. “So I decided that we need to send a message to this community, to everyone living in our community that we would, at the highest levels, be responding to this and ensure that justice was sought and had.”

Meeting with the family of the abducted child, Cox said, she couldn’t help but imagine what the mother had gone through.

“We met with the family, who is just so courageous and inspirational to me personally about how they were dealing with this,” she said.

At the end of the trial, it took the jury just 14 minutes to convict Webb on the charges. He was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole.

Cox said the case has had a profound impact on not just her but everyone involved, especially the officers who rescued the girl.

“I mean, it was just an amazing moment. And you can hear it when you hear the patrol officer saying, ‘We got her. We got her. We got her.’ I mean, and you could hear it all over everyone’s radios,” Cox said. “There was such a sense of relief. And then there was such a sense of worry and concern for the girl to make sure she was OK. How they dealt with her. How they told her she was safe. How they told her that she wouldn’t be put in harm’s way again.”

“They really dealt with it like they would their own child. … And it was really, it was an encouraging (thing) to hear all of that, see how connected they were to this case, even though none of them had ever met this family or knew this little girl before that evening,” she said.

Now the next step is to make sure the little girl who was terrorized and kidnapped can not only survive, but also thrive as she and her family move forward.

“This victim is a profile in resilience, in strength and courage, and she’s definitely the hero of this story,” Cox said. “She’s doing great. I mean, she’s incredibly resilient. She’s got love of a strong family… (They are) just as brave as she is.”

For Heise, this is one of those cases that she said is going to stay with her for the rest of her life.

“I look forward to seeing her grow and to see her experience all the wonderful things that life can give to her from here on out,” she said.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

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