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Memorial service for slain 4-year-old Maleah Davis draws crowd where body was found

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iStock/xijian(HOPE, Ark.) —  Pink-clad mourners gathered near an Arkansas highway early Saturday to pay tribute to a slain 4-year old Texas girl whose body was found after a month-long search.

Pink was the hue of choice for pint-sized Houston native Maleah Davis, who was last seen in surveillance videos sporting a blush tutu on April 30 when she left her apartment with her stepfather, Derion Vence.

Four weeks later, her body was found wrapped in a black plastic bag near the side of a highway in Hope, Arkansas, where Saturday’s memorial took place.

Police say Vence, who has denied any wrongdoing, led them to her body.

“Maleah was her name and she deserved better,” Laura Beth Martin, a writer who was dressed in a pink T-shirt, said in remarks to the crowd. “She deserved to have a life filled with love, hope, peace and community. She deserved a future that has been robbed from her.”

The story of the 4-year old girl, who lived in Houston, has captured the interest of people from both her hometown and the place she was found, as evidenced by the crowd of dozens of people who came to pay tribute to the child in Arkansas.

A week after Maleah was last spotted alive, separate surveillance footage from a neighbor showed Vence leaving the family’s apartment with his son and a laundry basket. Maleah’s mother, Brittany Bowens, said she was suspicious of the laundry basket in an interview with ABC station KTRK-TV in Houston.

“There is no sidestepping what happened to this innocent African American child. It is the definition of horrific,” Martin said. It is unclear what connection she had to the family. “We are embracing her in death as she should have been embraced in life.”

In her hometown of Houston, Sunday will be designated “Maleah Davis Day” in honor of the child.

Sheila Smith, who said she befriended Davis’s family after hearing the tragic story, has also organized a “Walk with Maleah” event with the child’s relatives for Sunday outside of city hall at 7:54 a.m., to coincide with the time Davis was seen alive on surveillance footage.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Feds announce massive bust of Aryan Brotherhood crime ring in California's prisons

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iStock/JANIFEST(LOS ANGELES) — Federal prosecutors Thursday announced a massive operation targeting one of California’s most notorious white nationalist prison gangs, unsealing numerous racketeering charges against 16 alleged members and associates of the so-called “Aryan Brotherhood.”

In a 143-page criminal complaint, an undercover DEA agent maps out an extensive organized crime network alleged to have orchestrated assassinations, weapons smuggling operations and drug trafficking across multiple states

At the center of the investigation are two of the three alleged members of the Aryan Brotherhood’s leadership commission, Ronald Yandell, 56, and Daniel Troxell, 66. When the investigation started, both were already serving life sentences in prison for murder.

The court document, however, chronicles in detail through intercepted calls, texts and the undercover agent’s own recollections after infiltrating the outer circle of the gang — how Yandell was allegedly able to coordinate drug deals and oversee murder plots while still behind bars.

The complaint specifically details five murders allegedly carried out by gang members from 2011 to 2018 targeting inmates staying at Folsom State Prison, High Desert State Prison and Salinas Valley Prison in California, in addition to multiple other murder plots. Nine of the 16 defendants named in the criminal complaint are already serving out sentences in prison for separate crimes.

The DOJ announcement notes that the charges are only allegations and defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. ABC News has attempted to contact the listed attorneys for two of the defendants, Jeanna Quesenberry, 52, of Sacramento and Kristen Demar, 44, of Citrus Heights — but did not immediately receive a response. Two others, Justin Petty, 37, of Los Angeles, and Samuel Keeton, 40, of Menifee, were not reachable by their available phone numbers.

The agent puts partial blame for the gang’s success in an October 2015 court settlement that required the California prison system to release “extraordinarily dangerous” prisoners stationed in strictly isolated cells into less restrictive confinement conditions, including numerous Aryan Brotherhood members like Yandell.

“[As a result of the settlement], Aryan Brotherhood members have recruited new members, indoctrinated new associates, and rapidly asserted their dominance over the white inmate population throughout California,” the complaint reads. “As a result of their resurgence, Aryan Brotherhood members and associates have also committed a number of murders, assaults, and acts of intimidation that preserve, protect and further expand the power of the enterprise.”

Through several confidential informants and the undercover agent’s own recollections, the complaint gives detailed insight into the Aryan Brotherhood’s expansion since its formation in 1964 into its status as California’s most dominant white nationalist prison gang.

The Aryan Brotherhood operates on a “blood-in, blood-out,” policy, according to the complaint, meaning in order to achieve full membership potential members must murder a fellow inmate and “can only leave when they die.”

Though its members traffic in white supremacist ideology and often boast neo-Nazi tattoos, legal experts have observed that the Aryan Brotherhood’s white nationalist motivations morphed mostly out of a desire to consolidate power and recruitment inside the prison system and less on racial animus. For instance, the gang is alleged in the complaint to have engaged with members of the Mexican Mafia, a Latino prison gang.

The DEA agent’s own infiltration into the gang is described in several alleged drug deals with an outside associate, Quesenberry, who phone records showed was in frequent contact with one of Yandell’s contraband cell phones both before and after selling the agent several ounces of heroin on multiple occasions.

Yandell and other Aryan Brotherhood leadership would allegedly rely on increasingly creative methods to obtain cell phones that allowed them to coordinate with associates in the outside world.

Among the associates charged in the case was attorney Kevin MacNamara, 39, who is accused of smuggling a cell phone for one of the defendants in prison by hiding it inside his wheelchair.

MacNamara is also alleged in the complaint to have smuggled other “various kinds of contraband” like tobacco and controlled substances into Folsom prison in previous visits, using attorney-client privilege to shield him from the surveillance that would be placed on other visitors.

Reached by phone by ABC News on Friday, MacNamara declined to comment and hung up when asked about the allegations.

While it’s unclear what effect the arrests and new charges will have on the Aryan Brotherhood’s network, U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott told reporters Thursday they expected the operation would amount to “a very significant setback for one of California’s most notorious prison gangs.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Texas police chief, Army veteran, missing after being knocked overboard from boat

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iStock/Thinkstock(GALVESTON, Texas) — Authorities spent Friday afternoon and evening searching Galveston Bay for one of their own after a local police chief was knocked overboard from a fishing boat.

Chris Reed, who serves as police chief for Kemah, Texas, located on the Gulf Coast just southeast of Houston, was knocked off the boat by a larger passing vessel near Texas City, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

“The initial report is, they caught a wake from another vessel passing through the area and became off balance and fell overboard,” said Texas Emergency Management Coordinator Tom Munoz.

Reed’s wife called 911 to report her husband had fallen overboard at about 4 p.m. local time, authorities said.

He was not wearing a life jacket.

“Chief Reed is a big, big part of Galveston County law enforcement,” Texas City Police Chief Joe Stanton said at a press conference Friday night. “I want to thank all of the agencies that have responded — the response has been overwhelming — and our hearts and prayers go out to the family.”

“We’re a tight-knit group here and he’s one of ours, and we’re out there and we’re going to find him,” Stanton added.

On Saturday morning, the city released a statement on Facebook sending “prayers and thoughts” to Reed’s family as the search continued.

The Coast Guard mobilized both sea and air search-and-rescue units, but had not found Reed as of late Friday night.

“We will continue our search efforts through this evening and into tomorrow morning and the Coast Guard will continue its search efforts as long as we feel that he is viable on the surface,” Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Caren Damon told reporters Friday evening.

Reed also serves on the board for the Clear Creek Independent School District.

“Chris Reed is a champion for children and a beacon of light for CCISD,” the district said in a statement. “He is a strong man and we remain hopeful he will return to his wife and children.”

Reed is a former Army paratrooper who took over as Kemah police chief two years ago. He has three adult children.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Missing Arkansas hiker Josh McClatchy found alive after 6 days in woods

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Facebook/Miranda Balduf(LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas) — Searchers in rural Arkansas are celebrating Saturday after missing hiker Josh McClatchy was found alive one week after he went missing in the woods of Polk County.

McClatchy, 37, was reported missing on June 1 after he went on a hike in the Caney Creek Wilderness area, but ended up getting lost. The Texas native texted his mother to say he needed help, but cellphone service was spotty at best and he was unable to give much help as to his location.

Those texts a week ago were the last anyone had heard from McClatchy until Friday night.

After weather and timing issues, search-and-rescue crews finally had a good window for a National Guard helicopter, equipped with infrared technology, to locate McClatchy, according to Polk County Sheriff Scott Sawyer.

Sawyer said McClatchy is in good shape and good spirits, but he is dehydrated.

He was transported to Mena Regional Health System in Mena, Arkansas, for further evaluation. McClatchy’s parents and sister, who regularly posted search updates on a Facebook page, are with him at the hospital.

The crew spotted McClatchy from the chopper within 30 minutes of beginning the search, but it took the search team an hour by foot to reach his location about 3 miles into the Caney Creek Wilderness area. He was off the trail when he was located, according to Sawyer.

It took about four hours for the rescuers to carry him out on a one-wheeled rescue cart

The rescue team consisted of about 35 people in total, Sawyer said.

He went missing on the mountainous Buckeye Trail, which is in the wilderness area east of Mena, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office said. His car was found at the Buckeye trailhead, authorities said.

Lost hikers are common in that area, but they are usually found within a few hours, according to the sheriff.

McClatchy did have protein bars and bottled water with him, though it’s unclear how much he consumed before getting lost. He also had a filter straw that could help him drink potentially unclear water, his family said.

He had been planning the hike for the last month, but it was his first time undertaking a trip alone.

McClatchy’s rescue comes a few weeks after Amanda Eller was rescued in Maui after she went missing on a hike for 17 days. McClatchy’s mother, Jen, invoked Eller’s name in an interview with ABC News on Thursday.

“Out here the towers are 40 miles apart and not accurate in getting location, as opposed to Hawaii where Amanda Eller was getting rescued,” Jen McClatchy said. “Their towers were much closer and so it’s harder out here to track that kind of thing.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

2 young children killed when drunk driver hits Amish buggy, police say

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iStock/David Arment(MARSHALL, Michigan) — Two young children were killed Friday when a drunk driver plowed into a horse-drawn buggy on the side of a Michigan highway, authorities said.

A 2-year-old and 6-year-old died when the pickup truck rear-ended the carriage in Marshall, Michigan, just outside Battle Creek, in the central part of the state. Both children died on the scene, Michigan State Police Sgt. Todd Price told ABC News.

There were seven people — two adults and five children — in the buggy at the time of the crash. All of them were thrown from the carriage, police said.

In addition to the two children who died, another child, age 4, was transported to the hospital with life-threatening injuries.

A 3-year-old child and adult woman were also injured, according to CBS affiliate WWMT.

The driver, whose name has not been released, was intoxicated at the time of the accident, Price said. He is being held in Branch County Jail.

The Amish population in Michigan is about 15,465, according to a study by Elizabethtown College’s The Young Center. The school, in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania, is located in Lancaster County, which has one of the highest concentrations of Amish people in the country.

Michigan has the sixth-highest Amish population in the country, behind Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin and New York.

Last month, a car hit a horse-drawn carriage in California Township, Michigan, about 40 minutes south of Marshall. The driver fled, but no one in the buggy was seriously injured, state police said.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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