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Sunday, June 30, 2013

Abducted Toddler Found Safe In Delaware

Abducted Toddler Found Safe In Delaware
 
(Credit: DELAWARE STATE POLICE)
 DELAWARE STATE POLICE
 
DOVER, Del. (AP) — Police say they’ve found a 1-year-old boy but are still searching for his father, who allegedly abducted the child.

Police said Sunday afternoon that 1-year-old Zyron Johnson-Graham was located at a residence in Dover, Delaware. Police say the boy is safe and in good health, and an Amber Alert has been canceled.

For full story go to:  http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/

Pa. Plan To Bail Out Philadelphia Schools Shifts

Pa. Plan To Bail Out Philadelphia Schools Shifts

(The state capitol in Harrisburg.  File photo)
The state capitol in Harrisburg.

 HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — A Philadelphia state senator says a rescue package for Philadelphia schools is evolving and that the latest proposal no longer includes giving the city the power to increase cigarette taxes there.

Democratic Sen. Anthony Williams said Sunday that Gov. Tom Corbett and Republicans who control the Legislature instead are considering allowing Philadelphia to divert up to $120 million in city sales tax revenue to its schools.

For full story go to:  http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/

Kennedy refuses to halt gay marriages in Calif.

Kennedy refuses to halt gay marriages in Calif. 

AP Photo
Cynthia Wides, right, and Elizabeth Carey file for a marriage certificate at City Hall in San Francisco, Saturday, June 29, 2013. Dozens of gay couples have lined up outside City Hall in San Francisco as clerks have resumed issuing same-sex marriage licenses one day after a federal appeals court cleared the way for the state of California to immediately lift a 4-year freeze.

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy on Sunday denied a last-ditch request from the sponsors of California's now-overturned gay marriage ban to halt the issuance of same-sex marriage licenses in the nation's most populous state.


Kennedy turned away the appeal with no additional comment just as San Francisco's gay pride parade was getting underway in San Francisco, where dozens of couples have gotten married since Friday and where the clerk's office was expected to issue more licenses on Sunday.

Same-sex marriage opponents asked Kennedy to step in on Saturday, a day after the federal appeals court in San Francisco allowed same-sex marriages to go forward.

The opponents said the appeals court had acted about three weeks too soon when it cleared the way Friday for same-sex marriages to be legal in California for the first time in 4 1/2 years by lifting a hold it had imposed on such unions while a lawsuit challenging Proposition 8 made its way to and through the high court.

Under Supreme Court rules, the losing side in a legal dispute has 25 days to request a rehearing. While such requests are almost never granted, the high court said that it wouldn't finalize its judgment in the case at least until after that waiting period elapsed.

Proposition 8 supporters could continue their efforts to halt gay marriage by filing their request with another Supreme Court justice. They also have another 21 days to seek a rehearing before the high court.

The Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday that Proposition 8's backers lacked standing to defend the 2008 law because California's governor and attorney general have declined to defend the ban.

Then on Friday, the 9th Circuit appeared to have removed the last obstacle to making same sex matrimony legal again in California when it removed its hold on a lower court's 2010 order directing state officials to stop enforcing the ban.

Within hours, same sex couples were seeking marriage licenses. The two couples who sued to overturn Proposition 8 were wed in San Francisco and Los Angeles Friday.

Organizers of the gay pride parade have invited newly married couples to a VIP reception at San Francisco City Hall on Sunday afternoon.



Saturday, June 29, 2013

Hundreds Attend Anti-Bullying Rally In South Philadelphia


Hundreds Attend Anti-Bullying Rally In South Philadelphia

(credit: Hadas Kuznits)


PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Hundreds of people turned out Saturday in South Philadelphia to see the speakers, dancers and artists performing at an anti-bullying rally.

The event was organized by Michelle Guess of the Boys and Girls Club of Baltimore.
“Seven years ago, my father was murdered to gang violence,” Guess says. “My mother got some bills passed, but it didn’t seem like it was doing much good in the community directly so I began to go around to different cities.”

For full story go to:  http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/

Friday, June 28, 2013

Soul Look To Clinch Division In Cleveland


Soul Look To Clinch Division In Cleveland

Soul head coach Clint Dolezel (credit: Philadelphia Soul)
Soul head coach Clint Dolezel

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – These are good days for the Philadelphia Soul.

They have won three straight and five of six, and this surge has them in position to clinch the Arena Football League’s East Division with a win on Saturday night in Cleveland.

The Gladiators have really struggled this season to the tune of a 2-11 ledger, but they definitely have the Soul’s attention.

For full story go to:  http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/

Report: Sixers May Have Decided On New Coach


Report: Sixers May Have Decided On New Coach

(credit: Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images) 
 
 PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - The Sixers made a franchise altering trade tonight, and may have decided on a new coach.
The New York Daily News is reporting that the Sixers will hire Spurs assistant Brett Brown.

For full story go to: http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/


Thursday, June 27, 2013

New Jersey Mom Charged After 2 Kids Found In Storage Unit

New Jersey Mom Charged After 2 Kids Found In Storage Unit
 
(File photo provided)

EWING, N.J. (AP) — The mother of two children found living in a 5-foot-by-10-foot storage unit in New Jersey has been indicted on child endangerment charges.

Twenty-seven-year-old Sheena Johnson was charged Wednesday.

Johnson is accused of leaving her 5-year-old and 10-year-old sons unattended in an unlit, sealed storage locker in Ewing with no heat or running water.

For full story go to:  http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/

Gay Marriage Proponents Turn Up Pressure in New Jersey

Gay Marriage Proponents Turn Up Pressure in New Jersey










 
TRENTON, N.J. (CBS) — Proponents of gay marriage in New Jersey, buoyed by Wednesday’s US Supreme Court decisions, rallied in Trenton and vowed to pull out all stops to get same-sex marriage legalized in the Garden State Thursday.

The decision comes just as Marsha Shapiro and Louise Walpin are celebrating their 24th anniversary together.

“The only thing that’s standing in the way of us being full citizens in the United States now is New Jersey,” says Louise Walpin.

For full story go to:  http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/

South Africa: Mandela improved overnight

South Africa: Mandela improved overnight

AP Photo
Giant photographs of former president Nelson Mandela are displayed at the Nelson Mandela Legacy Exhibition at the Civic Centre in Cape Town, South Africa, Thursday, June 27, 2013. President Jacob Zuma canceled a trip to Mozambique on Thursday in an indication of heightened concern about Mandela, whose health deteriorated last weekend.
  
JOHANNESBURG (AP) -- Nelson Mandela's health improved overnight and although his condition remains critical it is now stable, the South African government said Thursday. One of the former president's daughters said he is still opening his eyes and reacting to the touch of his family even though his situation is precarious.

The report that the health of the 94-year-old anti-apartheid leader had taken a turn for the better came amid a growing sense in South Africa that Mandela was approaching the end of his life. Well-wishers have delivered flowers and messages of support to the Pretoria hospital where he is being treated, and prayer sessions were held around the country on Thursday.

President Jacob Zuma's office said in a statement that he received the encouraging update from the medical team that is treating Mandela. Zuma had canceled an international trip on Thursday, instead visiting Mandela for the second time in two days.

"I canceled my visit to Mozambique today so that I can see him and confer with the doctors," Zuma said in the statement. "He is much better today than he was when I saw him last night."

In April, Zuma gave an overly upbeat assessment about Mandela's condition. At that time, state television broadcast footage of a visit by Zuma and other political leaders to Mandela's home. Zuma said at the time that Mandela was in good shape, but the footage showed him silent and unresponsive, even when Zuma tried to hold his hand.

Mandela, who was imprisoned for 27 years during white racist rule and became president in all-race elections in 1994, was taken to a hospital on June 8 for what the government said was a recurring lung infection.

Zuma urged people to pray for Mandela, and continue with their work and daily activities even while he is hospitalized.

The president's office said it was disturbed by what it called rumors about Mandela's health and appealed for respect for the privacy and dignity of the former leader. Unconfirmed reports about Mandela have swirled on social media and other forums.

Mandela's condition is acknowledged to be grave. He is on life support systems, according to a few television networks that quote anonymous sources, and presidential spokesman Mac Maharaj has declined to confirm or deny those reports.

Makaziwe Mandela, one of Mandela's daughters, echoed the criticism, saying foreign media coverage of her father's illness had become intrusive, particularly at the Pretoria hospital where many journalists have gathered.

"There's sort of a racist element with many of the foreign media, where they just cross boundaries," she said in the SABC interview. "It's like truly vultures waiting when a lion has devoured a buffalo, waiting there for the last carcasses. That's the image that we have, as a family."

She said: "We don't mind the interest. But I just think it has gone overboard."

In comments posted on the SABC web site, Makaziwe Mandela said "anything is imminent" because her father, referred to affectionately by many South Africans as "Tata," or "Father," is in a very critical state.

"I want to emphasize again that it's only God who knows when the time to go is," she said. "So we will wait with Tata. He's still giving us hope by opening his eyes, he's still reactive to touch, we will live with that hope until the final end comes."

Beginning a trip to Africa, President Obama said in Senegal on Thursday that his thoughts and prayers were with South Africans and in particular the Mandela family. He said he was inspired, as a law school student in the early 1990s, to see Mandela step forward after decades of imprisonment to help deliver democracy in a spirit of reconciliation with his former captors.

"It gave me a sense of what is possible in the world when righteous people, when people of good will, work together on behalf of a larger cause," said Obama, who described Mandela as a personal hero.

"And if and when he passes from this place, one thing I think we'll all know is that his legacy is one that will linger on throughout the ages," Obama said.

Friend: Trayvon Martin encounter racially charged

Friend: Trayvon Martin encounter racially charged 

AP Photo
George Zimmerman, right, speaks with defense attorney Mark O'Mara during his trial in Seminole circuit court in Sanford, Fla. Thursday, June 27, 2013. Zimmerman has been charged with second-degree murder for the 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin.


SANFORD, Fla. (AP) -- George Zimmerman's defense attorney insisted during several testy exchanges with a important prosecution witness Thursday that Trayvon Martin injected race into a confrontation with the neighborhood watch volunteer and insinuated the young woman was not believable because of inconsistencies in her story.

However, 19-year-old Rachel Jeantel stood firm in her testimony about the night Zimmerman shot the unarmed black 17-year-old after a fight that Jeantel said she overheard while on the phone with Martin. Jeantel has said Martin told her he was being followed by a "creepy-ass cracker" - implying Martin was being followed by a white man because of his race.

Zimmerman identifies as Hispanic. Race has permeated nationwide discussions of the case since the February 2012 shooting, which prompted nationwide protests and claims from critics that police took too long to arrest Zimmerman.

The neighborhood watch volunteer has pleaded not guilty and says he acted in self-defense.

Defense attorney Don West also zeroed in on slight differences among three different accounts of what happened before Martin's killing, in an apparent effort to discredit her. Jeantel has described what she heard over the phone in a deposition; a letter to Martin's mother; and an interview with the Martin family attorney. 

Among the differences highlighted by West:
- In some accounts, she said race was an issue but not in others.
- Jeantel testified Wednesday that her friend's last words were "Get off! Get off!" before Martin's phone went silent. But on Thursday, under cross-examination, she conceded that she hadn't mentioned that in her account of what happened to Martin's mother, Sybrina Fulton. She had left out some details to spare Fulton's feelings, and also because neither Fulton nor the Martin family attorney asked her directly about them, Jeantel said.
- After Martin asks why he is being followed, Zimmerman responds, "What are you doing around here?" in one account by Jeantel. In another account, according to West, she says Zimmerman said, "What are you talking about?"

Zimmerman, 29, could get life in prison if convicted of second-degree murder. Zimmerman followed Martin in his truck and called a police dispatch number before he and the teen got into a fight.

Zimmerman has said he opened fire only after the teenager jumped him and began slamming his head against the concrete sidewalk. Zimmerman has denied the confrontation had anything to do with race, as Martin's family and their supporters have claimed.

Jeantel testified Thursday that she thought race was an issue because Martin told her he was being followed by a white man.

But West responded, "It was racial because Trayvon put race in this?"

She answered no.

The exchanges got testier as the day progressed.

When asked by West if she had previously told investigators that she heard what sounded like somebody being hit at the end of her call with Martin, Jeantel said, "Trayvon got hit."

"You don't know that? Do you? You don't know that Trayvon got hit," West answered angrily. "You don't know that Trayvon didn't at that moment take his fists and drive them into George Zimmerman's face."

Later in the morning, West accused Jeantel of not calling police after Martin's phone went dead because she thought it was a fight he had provoked.

"That's why you weren't worried. That's why you didn't do anything because Trayvon Martin started the fight, and you knew that," West said.

"No sir!" Jeantel said. "I don't know what you're talking about."

At one point, West handed her a letter she had written with the help of a friend to Martin's mother explaining what happened. She looked at it but then said she couldn't read cursive handwriting. Jeantel later explained she is of Haitian descent and grew up speaking Creole and Spanish.

Thursday's testimony began with a more subdued tone that it did a day earlier, when Jeantel frequently bristled at West's questions and she at one point told him to move on to the next question: "You can go. You can go."

West took note of her calmer demeanor in the morning. She answered many of West's early questions by repeating "yes, sir," almost in a whisper.

"You feeling OK today? You seem different than yesterday," West said.

"I got some sleep," she answered.

After Jeantel left the witness stand, a mobile phone manager testified about Martin's cell phone records and a former neighbor of Zimmerman testified she heard yelps for help outside her townhome on the night Martin was shot. Jenna Lauer said she couldn't tell who was screaming.

"They were being hurt," Lauer said, describing the person screaming.

Before court recessed for the day, defense attorney Mark O'Mara asked another former neighbor to recreate for jurors how she reacted when she heard what turned out to be a gunshot and ran out of her town-house to see what was going on. The request had Selma Mora in the unusual position of standing up from the witness stand and pretending to be in her kitchen in front of the judge's bench.



Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Nelson Mandela on life support

Nelson Mandela on life support

Daughter Zindzi Mandela, right, receives a hug from an unidentified woman, left, as she arrives at the Mediclinic Heart Hospital where former South African President Nelson Mandela is being treated in Pretoria, South Africa, Wednesday, June 26, 2013.
Daughter Zindzi Mandela, right, receives a hug from an unidentified woman, left, as she arrives at the Mediclinic Heart Hospital where former South African President Nelson Mandela is being treated in Pretoria, South Africa, Wednesday, June 26, 2013.

The former South African president's condition has worsened over the last couple of days. Well-wishers and supporters continued Wednesday to gather outside of the Pretoria hospital where the former South African president has been receiving treatment for nearly three weeks and the South African president canceled a Thursday trip amid worry about his health.

On Sunday, President Jacob Zuma said the 94-year-old former leader is "well-looked after and is comfortable" but the South African government has been relatively tight-lipped regarding Mandela's health status.

The South African president canceled a Thursday trip to Maputo, the Mozambican capital, where he was to attend a meeting on regional investment.

For full story go to:  http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/

Pro football player Hernandez charged with murder

Pro football player Hernandez charged with murder 

AP Photo
Former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, left, stands with his attorney Michael Fee, right, during arraignment in Attleboro District Court Wednesday, June 26, in Attleboro, Mass. Hernandez was charged with murdering Odin Lloyd, a 27-year-old semi-pro football player for the Boston Bandits, whose body was found June 17 in an industrial park in North Attleborough, Mass.

ATTLEBORO, Mass. (AP) -- New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez was arrested Wednesday and charged with murder in the shooting death of a friend prosecutors say had angered the NFL player at a nightclub a few days earlier by talking to the wrong people.

Hernandez, 23, was taken from his North Attleborough home in handcuffs just over a week after Boston semi-pro football player Odin Lloyd's bullet-riddled body was found in an industrial park a mile away.

Less than two hours after the arrest, the Patriots announced they had cut Hernandez, a 2011 Pro Bowl selection who signed a five-year contract last summer worth $40 million.

Lloyd was a 27-year-old athlete with the Boston Bandits who was dating the sister of Hernandez's fiancee. 

He was shot multiple times on a secluded gravel road, authorities said.

Hernandez "drove the victim to that remote spot, and then he orchestrated his execution," prosecutor Bill McCauley said.

If convicted, Hernandez could get life in prison without parole.

"It is at bottom a circumstantial case. It is not a strong case," his attorney, Michael Fee, said at a court hearing during which Hernandez was ordered held without bail on murder charges and five weapons counts.

Lloyd's family members cried and hugged as the prosecutor outlined the killing. Two were so overcome with emotion that they had to leave the courtroom.

McCauley said the slaying stemmed from a night out at a Boston club called Rumor on June 14. He said Hernandez was upset about certain things, including that Lloyd had talked to some people Hernandez "had troubles with." The prosecutor did not elaborate.

Two days later, McCauley said, on the night of June 16, Hernandez texted two friends from out of state and asked them to hurry back to Massachusetts.

Surveillance footage from Hernandez's home showed him leaving with a gun, and he told someone in the house that he was upset and couldn't trust anyone anymore, the prosecutor said.

The three men picked up Lloyd at his home around 2:30 a.m., according to authorities. As they drove around in their rented car, they discussed what happened at the nightclub, and Lloyd started getting nervous, McCauley said.

Lloyd texted his sister, "Did you see who I am with?" When she asked who, he answered, at 3:22 a.m., "NFL," then, a minute later, he sent one final text: "Just so you know."

Within a few minutes, people working the overnight shift at the industrial park reported hearing gunshots, McCauley said. Surveillance video showed the car going into a remote area of the industrial park and emerging four minutes later, the prosecutor said.

A short time later, Hernandez returned to his house, and he and one of the other men were seen on his home surveillance system holding guns, McCauley said. Then the system stopped recording, according to the prosecutor.

Hernandez had recently installed the system and had 14 cameras inside and out, according to McCauley, who said detectives found footage was missing from the six to eight hours after the slaying.

Investigators did not specify who fired the shots. They did not identify the two other people who were with Hernandez or say whether they were under arrest.

According to McCauley, Hernandez and his friends later returned the car to the rental agency, and Hernandez offered the attendant a piece of blue chewing gum. She found a .45-caliber shell casing and a piece of what appeared to be chewed blue gum in the car and threw them out.

Later, investigators retrieved the items from a trash bin, and the casing matched others found where Lloyd was killed, McCauley said. The two weapons seen on the surveillance footage have not been found, he said.

In arguing unsuccessfully for bail, Hernandez's attorney said the athlete is unlikely to flee, is a homeowner, and lives with his fiancee and an 8-month-old baby. He also said Hernandez had never been accused of a violent crime.

As he was led from his home in the morning, Hernandez was wearing a white V-neck T-shirt, with his arms inside the shirt and behind his back. He spit into some bushes on his way to a police cruiser.

Later, as he was taken from the North Attleborough police station to court, two dozen supporters cheered, some yelling, "We love you, Aaron!"

"Words cannot express the disappointment we feel knowing that one of our players was arrested as a result of this investigation," the Patriots said in a statement announcing he had been cut.

The team added: "We realize that law enforcement investigations into this matter are ongoing. We support their efforts and respect the process. At this time, we believe this transaction is simply the right thing to do."

The Patriots drafted Hernandez, who is originally from Bristol, Conn., in 2010 out of the University of Florida, where he was an All-American.

During the draft, one team said it wouldn't take him under any circumstances, and he was passed over by one club after another before New England picked him in the fourth round.

Afterward, Hernandez said he had failed a drug test in college - reportedly for marijuana - and was up front with teams about it.

In other off-the-field troubles, a Florida man filed a lawsuit last week claiming Hernandez shot him in the face after they argued at a strip club in February.

And The Boston Globe reported that Hernandez lost his temper and threatened a teammate during an argument in the team's weight room shortly after he was drafted.

Hernandez became a father on Nov. 6 and said he intended to change his ways: "Now, another one is looking up to me. I can't just be young and reckless Aaron no more. I'm going to try to do the right things."


Trayvon Martin's friend describes final phone call

Trayvon Martin's friend describes final phone call 

AP Photo
Rachel Jeantel, the witness that was on the phone with Trayvon Martin just before he died, gives her testimony to the prosecution during George Zimmerman's trial in Seminole circuit court in Sanford, Fla. Wednesday, June 26, 2013. Zimmerman has been charged with second-degree murder for the 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin.

SANFORD, Fla. (AP) -- A friend who was on the phone with 17-year-old Trayvon Martin moments before he was fatally shot by George Zimmerman testified that she heard the Miami teen shout, "Get off! Get off!" before his telephone went dead.

Rachel Jeantel, 19, recounted to jurors in Zimmerman's second-degree murder trial how Martin told her he was being followed by a man as he walked through the Retreat at Twin Lakes townhome complex on his way back from a convenience store to the home of his father's fiancee.

Jeantel is considered one of the prosecution's most important witnesses because she was the last person to talk to Martin before his encounter with Zimmerman on Feb. 26, 2012.

She testified that Martin described the man following him as "a creepy-ass cracker" and he thought he had evaded him. But she said a short time later Martin let out a profanity.

Martin said Zimmerman was behind him and she heard Martin ask: "What are you following me for?"

She then heard what sounded like Martin's phone earpiece drop into the grass and she heard him say, "Get off! Get off!" The phone then went dead, she said.

Zimmerman, 29, could get life in prison if convicted of second-degree murder for killing Martin. Zimmerman followed him in his truck and called a police dispatch number before he and the teen got into a fight.

Zimmerman has claimed self-defense, saying he opened fire after the teenager jumped him and began slamming his head against the concrete sidewalk. Zimmerman identifies himself as Hispanic and has denied that his confrontation with the black teenager had anything to do with race, as Martin's family and its supporters have claimed.

Jeantel's testimony came after two former neighbors of Zimmerman testified Wednesday about hearing howls and shouts for help in the moments before the shooting.

Jayne Surdyka told the court that immediately before the shooting, she heard an aggressive voice and a softer voice exchanging words for several minutes in an area behind her townhome at the Retreat at Twin Lakes.

"It was someone being very aggressive and angry at someone," she said.

During the struggle, she said, she saw a person in dark clothes on top of the other person. Martin was wearing a dark sweatshirt and Zimmerman wore red clothing. Surdyka said she saw the person who was on top get off the body after the shot was fired.

Surdyka said she heard cries for help and then multiple gunshots: "pop, pop, pop." Only one shot was fired in the fatal encounter.

"I truly believe the second yell for help was a yelp," said Surdyka, who later dabbed away tears as prosecutors played her 911 call. "It was excruciating. I really felt it was a boy's voice."

During cross-examination, defense attorney Don West tried to show there was a lapse in what Surdyka saw. 

Defense attorneys contend Martin was on top of Zimmerman during the struggle, but after the neighborhood watch volunteer fired a shot, Zimmerman got on top of Martin.

West also challenged Surdyka about her belief that the cry for help was a boy's voice, saying she was making an assumption.

The other neighbor, Jeannee Manalo, testified that she believed Zimmerman was on top of Martin, saying he was the bigger of the two based on pictures she saw of Martin on television after the fight. Manalo also described hearing howling, but she couldn't tell who it was coming from, and then a "help sound" a short time later.

Under cross-examination, defense attorney Mark O'Mara asked why Manalo had never mentioned her belief that Zimmerman was on top in previous police interviews. He also got her to concede that her perception of Martin's size was based on five-year-old photos on television that showed a younger and smaller Martin.

Martin's parents have said they believe the cries for help heard by neighbors came from their son, while Zimmerman's father believes the cries belong to his son. Both prosecutors and defense attorneys believe they could show whether Zimmerman or Martin was the aggressor in the encounter. Defense attorneys successfully argued against allowing prosecution experts who claimed the cries belonged to Martin.

Jeantel on Wednesday testified that she believed the cries were Martin's because "Trayvon has kind of a baby voice." The defense attorney challenged that, claiming she was less certain in a previous deposition.

Jeantel, 19, also explained that she had initially lied about her age - she claimed to be 16 - to protect her privacy when she was initially contacted by an attorney for Martin's family to give a recorded statement over the telephone about what she knew about the few moments before Martin's encounter with Zimmerman. She was expected to finish her testimony on Thursday.

While being cross-examined, Jeantel had several testy exchange with West, including one moment when she prompted the defense attorney to ask his next question: "You can go. You can go."

Before the February 2012 shooting, Zimmerman had made about a half dozen calls to a nonemergency police number to report suspicious characters in his neighborhood. Judge Debra Nelson on Wednesday ruled that they could be played for jurors.

Prosecutors had argued that the police dispatch calls were central to their case that Zimmerman committed second-degree murder since they showed his state of mind. He was increasingly frustrated with repeated burglaries and had reached a breaking point the night he shot the unarmed teenager, prosecutors say.

Defense attorneys argued that the calls were irrelevant and that nothing matters but the seven or eight minutes before Zimmerman fired the deadly shot into Martin's chest.

Seven of the nine jurors and alternates scribbled attentively on their notepads as the calls were played.


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Michael Vick Surprised At Media Storm Over Starting QB Comments

Michael Vick Surprised At Media Storm Over Starting QB Comments

(credit: Rob Carr/Getty Images)

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – During mini-camp Eagles quarterback Michael Vick started a media firestorm when he voiced his frustrations regarding Chip Kelly’s quarterback competition.

“It’s tough, I have to continue to be a professional and put my feelings and emotions to the side and just continue to compete. But it’s hard. I would be lying if I said it wasn’t. But that’s just what I have to deal with, and I’m going to keep dealing with it until I see otherwise,” he said.

For full story go to:  http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/

Water Department Workers Save Kitten In West Philadelphia

Water Department Workers Save Kitten In West Philadelphia

(Credit: Eric Glinkowski)

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - Officials say a kitten was rescued by water department workers Tuesday afternoon.

According to officials, Philadelphia Water Department employees were working on the side of a drain at 50th and Irvine Streets in West Philadelphia.

For full story go to:  http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/

First Heat Wave Of Summer Underway


First Heat Wave Of Summer Underway

(Credit: Eyewitness Weather Team)

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The first official week of summer is really feeling like summer as our second heat wave of the year is underway.

Monday was day one of the heat wave, with a high of 92 degrees.

On Tuesday, temperatures made it into the low 90s once again, but with the added humidity it feels more like the mid 90s.

For full story go to:  http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/

Mich. farmer with 8,000 pot plants gets probation

Mich. farmer with 8,000 pot plants gets probation 

AP Photo
This undated booking photo released by the Lenawee County sheriff’s department in Adrian, Mich., shows farmer Edwin Schmieding, 61, who was arrested on a marijuana growing charge after authorities found 8,000 plants at his farm in 2011. On Tuesday, June 25, 2013, U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman in Detroit decided not to order Schmieding to prison and instead placed him on probation. The judge said the decision was based partly to many handwritten letters from supporters who described him as a modest, selfless man who helps others at every turn.

DETROIT (AP) -- A southeastern Michigan farmer recovering from throat cancer was sentenced to probation instead of prison Tuesday for growing thousands of marijuana plants, due partly to many handwritten letters from supporters who described him as a modest, selfless man who helps others at every turn.

"This is one that most screams out: This man deserves a break," U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman said.

Edwin Schmieding, 61, was caught growing 8,000 marijuana plants at his Lenawee County farm and greenhouse in 2011. His wife told police that they were trying to tap the state's medical marijuana market, although production that large is illegal.

Schmieding's attorney, Sanford Schulman, noted that most plants were small and of low quality.

"I take full responsibility for my actions," Schmieding told the judge as relatives wept in the courtroom gallery. 
"I've lived a hard-working life. I give you my word: I'll be a responsible citizen."

Schmieding began growing marijuana in 2010 after years of growing cut flowers and other plants. He and wife Linda lived in a home built with their own hands and warmed by firewood during winter.

Friedman was influenced by letters from relatives and friends, even Schmieding's former wife, in the rural area. A neighbor said Schmieding regularly lent tools and helped him pour concrete. Family members said they were inspired by his modesty and independence as well as his courage during cancer treatments.

"Because of this farming that will someday be legal ... his family lost everything. He has suffered enough," brother-in-law Arthur Radabaugh wrote.

Michigan voters in 2008 approved the use of marijuana to relieve the side effects of certain illnesses. But only licensed caregivers and users can grow it in relatively small quantities.

Assistant U.S. Attorney C. Barrington Wilkins didn't object to a departure from the sentencing guidelines. He said Schmieding "wasn't intending to be Pablo Escobar," a notorious Colombian drug lord. Friedman gave Schmieding credit for a day in custody and placed him on supervised release, or probation, for two years.

"It's a bad thing that's happened to you but you've lived a good life," the judge said.

Schmieding still is likely to lose his farm because of the drug conviction. Wilkins recently dropped charges against Linda Schmieding.


Judge in Trayvon Martin case weighs police calls

Judge in Trayvon Martin case weighs police calls 
AP Photo
George Zimmerman enters the courtroom for his trial in Seminole County circuit court in Sanford, Fla. Tuesday, June 25, 2013. Zimmerman has been charged with second-degree murder for the 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin.

SANFORD, Fla. (AP) -- Several times in six months, neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman called police to report suspicious characters in the gated townhouse community where he lived. Each time, when asked, he reported that the suspects were black males.

On Tuesday, the judge at Zimmerman's murder trial in the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin listened to those five calls and weighed whether to let the jury hear them, too.

Prosecutors want to use them to bolster their argument that Zimmerman was increasingly frustrated with repeated burglaries and had reached a breaking point the night he shot the unarmed teenager.

The recordings show Zimmerman's "ill will," prosecutor Richard Mantei told Judge Debra Nelson.

"It shows the context in which the defendant sought out his encounter with Trayvon Martin," Mantei said.

Defense attorney Mark O'Mara argued that the calls were irrelevant and that nothing matters but the seven or eight minutes before Zimmerman fired the deadly shot into Martin's chest.

The prosecution is "going to ask the jury to make a leap from a good, responsible, citizen behavior to seething behavior," O'Mara said.

The judge did not immediately rule on whether to admit the recordings.

Prosecutors played the calls with the jurors out of the courtroom at the beginning of a day in which a former Zimmerman neighbor testified about what she saw of the confrontation.

Also, prosecutors presented graphic photos of Martin's body, a police officer described trying to revive Martin as bubbling sounds came from his chest, and a police manager described how she helped Zimmerman set up the neighborhood watch.

In the calls, Zimmerman identifies himself as a neighborhood watch volunteer and recounts that his neighborhood has had a rash of recent break-ins. In one call, he asks that officers respond quickly since the suspects "typically get away quickly."

In another, he describes suspicious black men hanging around a garage and mentions his neighborhood had a recent garage break-in.

Zimmerman, 29, could get life in prison if convicted of second-degree murder for gunning down Martin as the young man walked from a convenience store. Zimmerman followed him in his truck and called a police dispatch number before he and the teen got into a fight.

Zimmerman has claimed self-defense, saying he opened fire after the teenager jumped him and began slamming his head against the concrete sidewalk.

Zimmerman, whose father is white and whose mother is Hispanic, has denied the confrontation with the black teenager had anything to do with race, as Martin's family and its supporters have charged.

On Tuesday, Day 2 of testimony, prosecutors called to the stand a former Zimmerman neighbor, Selene Bahadoor, the first witness to say she saw part of the struggle.

She described the sound of movement from left to right outside her townhouse and said she heard what sounded like someone saying, "No" or "Uh."

She said that when she looked out a window she saw arms flailing in the dark. She said she left to turn off a stove and then heard a gunshot. The next time she looked out, she saw a body on the ground, she testified.

In cross-examining her, O'Mara accused Bahadoor of never mentioning the left-to-right movement in previous interviews.

Zimmerman contends he lost track of Martin and was returning to his car when he was attacked. But Bahadoor's testimony appeared to suggest Zimmerman was moving away from his vehicle.

O'Mara later confronted her with a post she made on Facebook in which she "liked" a petition that championed the arrest of Zimmerman following the shooting.

A Sanford police sergeant who was the second officer to arrive on the scene also testified. Sgt. Tony Raimondo said he tried to seal a bullet wound in Martin's chest with a plastic bag and attempted mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

Bubbling sounds indicated air was escaping the teen's chest, Raimondo said. Martin was pronounced dead a short time later.

During Raimondo's testimony, prosecutors showed jurors a photo of a dead Martin face-down in the grass, another of Martin's body face up with his eyes slightly open, and a third of the bullet wound. Martin's father, Tracy Martin, walked out of the courtroom during the testimony.

Wendy Dorival, former coordinator of the Sanford Police Department's neighborhood watch program, testified how she had worked with Zimmerman to set up a watch in his neighborhood.

When asked by prosecutor John Guy if neighborhood watch participants should follow or engage with suspicious people, she said no.

"They are the eyes and ears of law enforcement," Dorival said. "They're not supposed to take matters into their own hands."

Similarly, Donald O'Brien, president of Zimmerman's homeowners association, said it was his understanding that neighborhood watch members are supposed to "stay at a safe distance" and "let the police handle it."

But Dorival said she was impressed with Zimmerman's professionalism and dedication to his community.

"He seemed like he really wanted to make changes in his community, to make it better," she said.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Bill Clinton To Return To Philly For Event Closed To Public

Bill Clinton To Return To Philly For Event Closed To Public

(Credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Former President Bill Clinton will deliver a lunchtime speech Tuesday at the National Constitution Center. This will be his first visit there in more than 12 years.

Clinton’s only other visit to the Constitution Center was when he led the Pledge of Allegience at its groundbreaking ceremony in the last year of his presidency. This time, he’ll deliver the keynote address at a private event organized by the State Budget Crisis Task Force, a group that works to find solutions to the fiscal problems states are facing in a time of shrinking budgets and revenues.

For full story go to:  http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/

Blackhawks stage late rally to win Stanley Cup

Blackhawks stage late rally to win Stanley Cup 

AP Photo
Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Johnny Oduya (27), of Sweden, hugs Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford (50) after winning Game 6 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Finals 3-2 against the Boston Bruins, Monday, June 24, 2013, in Boston.
  
BOSTON (AP) -- An NHL-record unbeaten streak to start the lockout-shortened season.
Three straight victories to clinch the title.

From beginning to end, the Chicago Blackhawks skated away from the rest of the league.

Bryan Bickell and Dave Bolland scored 17 seconds apart in the final minutes and the Blackhawks rallied to win Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final 3-2 on Monday night to clinch their second NHL championship in four seasons.

Jonathan Toews returned from injury to add a goal, and Corey Crawford made 23 saves for Chicago. But Crawford was off for an extra skater for the most important goal of the season, when Jonathan Toews fed it in front and Bickell scored from the edge of the crease to tie it 2-2.

Perhaps the Bruins expected it to go to overtime, as three of the first four games in the series did, because they seemed to be caught off-guard on the ensuing faceoff. A shot deflected by Michael Frolik went off the post right to Bolland, who put it in the net and started the Chicago celebration with 59 seconds left in the game.

"It's huge," Bolland said. "Just seeing that puck bounce around there, I knew I just had to tap it in. So it was a huge goal."

The Blackhawks on the ice gathered in the corner, while the Blackhawks bench began jumping up and down. It was only a minute later, when Boston's Tuukka Rask was off for an extra man, that the Hawks withstood Boston's final push and surged over the boards, throwing their sticks and gloves across the ice.

"I still can't believe that finish," Crawford said. "Oh my God, we never quit."

The Bruins got 28 saves from Rask, who was hoping to contribute to an NHL title after serving as Tim Thomas' backup when Boston won it all two years ago. The sold-out TD Garden began chanting "We want the Cup!" after Milan Lucic's goal put the Bruins up 2-1 with eight minutes left, but it fell silent after their team coughed up the lead.

The arena was almost empty - except for a few hundred fans in red Blackhawks sweaters who filtered down to the front rows - when the Chicago players passed the 35-pound Cup around the ice.

Patrick Kane, whose overtime goal in Game 6 beat Philadelphia to win the 2010 championship, was voted the Conn Smythe Trophy winner as playoffs MVP.

"It was the best year of my life, just playing with these guys," Kane said.

Toews scored his third goal of the playoffs to tie it for the Blackawks at 4:24 of the second of Game 6 - exactly two minutes after teammate Andrew Shaw was penalized for roughing.

"In 2010, we didn't really know what we were doing," Toews said. "We just, we played great hockey and we were kind of oblivious to how good we were playing.

" This time around, we know definitely how much work it takes and how much sacrifice it takes to get back here and this is an unbelievable group. We've been through a lot together this year and this is a sweet way to finish it off."

Boston, needing a win to extend the series to a deciding Game 7, came out aggressively and led 1-0 after one period on Chris Kelly's second goal of the playoffs. The Bruins outshot the Blackhawks 12-6 in the first period but the margin dropped to 18-15 through 40 minutes.

Each team got one of its best players back when Toews and Boston alternate captain Patrice Bergeron returned to the lineup after leaving the Blackhawks' 3-1 win with injuries on Saturday.

Toews scored when he got past Boston defenseman Zdeno Chara along the boards in the neutral zone. Chicago's captain skated up the right side and fired a hard shot from the right faceoff dot that beat Rask between his pads.

It was Toews' second goal in three games. Of Chicago's last 10 goals, Chara was on the ice for nine.

Boston right wing Jaromir Jagr was shaken up in the first period. He returned for the second but left the bench, and Tyler Seguin replaced him on the second line with left wing Brad Marchand and center Bergeron.

The play that led to Kelly's goal began after a faceoff that rookie defenseman Torey Krug rushed in to tip toward a teammate. The puck went to Daniel Paille, standing about 40 feet on the left. He passed to Seguin, who caught the puck with his right glove in the slot and dropped it.

Seguin then passed to Kelly, who scored his second goal of the playoffs 7:19 into the game.

It came just seven seconds after a whistle stopped a scrum in front of the net that followed an extended period of pressure by the Bruins.

Just two minutes after the goal, Chicago had one of its best chances of the period when Frolik skated in with the puck behind the defense and fired a 15-foot drive from the left, but Rask made the save.

Boston had another solid chance at 12:24 when Lucic took a 15-foot shot from the slot that Crawford stopped.

After having no power plays in Game 5, the Bruins had four failed advantages in the first two periods.

With 4:01 left in the first, Shaw was struck in the face by a puck when it deflected off the shaft of his stick after Boston's Shawn Thornton shot it. He lay on the ice before getting up and skating off slowly.

Toews was on Chicago's first shift of the game. Bergeron had left Game 5 with an undisclosed injury after playing just 49 seconds in the second period.

Five of the last nine Cup finals have gone seven games, including in 2011 when the Bruins overcame a 3-2 series deficit and won their first championship since 1972 by winning Game 6 in Boston and Game 7 in Vancouver.

In 2010, Chicago won its first NHL title since 1961 on Kane's overtime goal. As they did this year, the Blackhawks won Game 5 to take a 3-2 series lead.

This year's finals have been extremely tight, with three of the first five games going to overtime. Chicago won the opener in three overtimes, then Boston won 2-1 in one extra period and 2-0. The Blackhawks regained home-ice advantage with a 6-5 overtime win in a wild Game 4 in Boston before returning home for Saturday night's win.

Teams that have won Game 5 after splitting the first four have won the Cup 15 of 22 times since the best-of-seven format began in 1939. But the loser of Game 5 the past six times has won four championships, including the Bruins against the Canucks.

Last season, the Los Angeles Kings beat the New Jersey Devils in six games. This season, the Blackhawks beat the Kings in five games to reach the Cup finals, clinching the series on Kane's goal in overtime.


Rights case ruling favors Colo. transgender girl

Rights case ruling favors Colo. transgender girl 

AP Photo
FILE -In this Monday, Feb. 25, 2013, file photo, Coy Mathis, left, plays with her sister Auri, at their home in Fountain, Colo. Coy has been diagnosed with Gender Identity Disorder. Biologically, Coy, 6, is a boy, but to her family members and the world, Coy is a transgender girl. The New York-based Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund plans to explain a ruling by the Colorado Civil Rights Division that allows Mathis a 6-year-old to use the girls' bathroom.

DENVER (AP) -- Colorado officials say a suburban Colorado Springs school district discriminated against a 6-year-old transgender girl by preventing her from using the girls' bathroom, in what advocates described as the first such ruling in the next frontier in civil rights.

Coy Mathis's family raised the issue after school officials at Eagleside Elementary in Fountain said the first-grader could use restrooms in either the teachers' lounge or in the nurse's office, but not the girls' bathroom. 

Coy's parents feared she would be stigmatized and bullied.

On Monday, the Mathis family and its lawyers celebrated the ruling on the steps of the state capitol. Coy, dressed in a glittering tank top, jeans and pink canvas sneakers, ran around a towering blue spruce tree as her mother spoke to reporters.

"Her future will be better if we get to this place where this is nothing to be ashamed of," Kathryn Mathis said, noting the family hadn't sought a civil rights battle but was happy for the Colorado Division of Civil Rights' ruling.

As the gay rights movement has won mounting legal and electoral victories in recent years, advocates hope the latest decision will lend momentum to the struggles of transgendered people.

"This is by far the high-water mark for cases dealing with the rights of transgendered people to access bathrooms," said the Mathis family's attorney, Michael Silverman of the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund. He and other advocates said the case is one of several potentially ground-breaking transgendered civil-rights cases winding their way through the nation's courts.

The Maine Supreme Court is considering the case of a 15-year-old transgendered girl who was forbidden from using her school's girls' bathroom.

Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel, which focuses on religious and family litigation, said transgender cases are "a mockery of civil rights." He said his group got involved defending a department store employee who was disciplined for ordering a person who was obviously male to leave the women's changing room.

"How do you know if someone is really thinking this way or not," Staver said, adding that Coy is too young to decide on such a different identity. "How do you know if someone just wants to go in the restroom and be a peeping Tom?"

Coy was born a triplet with two sisters and identified as a girl before she began attending elementary school in Fountain-Fort Carson School District 8, an area heavy with military personnel near an Army base. Her father, Jeremy, is an ex-Marine.

At 5 months, she took a pink blanket meant for her sister Lily. Later, she showed little interest in toy cars and boy clothes with pictures of sports, monsters and dinosaurs on them. She refused to leave the house if she had to wear boy clothes. After her parents accepted her identity, they said, Coy come out of her shell.

Coy was diagnosed with "gender identity disorder" - a designation the American Psychiatric Association removed last year from its list of mental ailments. The removal reflected the growing medical consensus that identification as another gender cannot be changed.

The Mathises said they feared the district's decision would stigmatize Coy, who was reduced to tears when her teacher briefly put her in the boys' line. When she came home, according to legal records, she cried to her parents: "Not even my teachers know I'm a girl!" When Coy rose to first grade, the district forbade her from using the girls' restroom.

The Mathises filed their complaint in February. The civil rights board's director, Steven Chavez, found in a legal determination issued June 18 that the district's solution of letting Coy use staff bathrooms smacked of "separate but equal" and clearly violated her rights.

Since they filed their complaint, the Mathises have moved to the Denver suburb of Aurora because of health problems suffered by another daughter. They said they hope the ruling will make it easier for Coy to start at a new school without worrying about which bathroom she can use.

Fountain-Fort Carson School District 8 declined to discuss the case Monday. The district, however, can seek arbitration or a public trial, said Cory Everett-Lozano, a spokeswoman with the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies.

Silverman said transgendered civil rights are largely where gay rights were in the 1980s. He said progress in gay rights has made it easier for transgendered people to dare to fight in court.

Coy, he said, is such an example. Her parents grew up during a more tolerant era for sexual rights and recognized that they should not try to force her to be a boy. "That has allowed children like Coy to make their voices heard," Silverman said.

Last year, Vice President Joe Biden called transgendered rights "the civil rights issue of our time." Sixteen states, including Colorado, and the District of Columbia expressly outlaw discrimination against transgendered people. In 2011, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta overturned the firing of a Georgia state legislative employee who was dismissed after telling her boss she was about to undergo sex change surgery.

"We're at a crisis point" on transgendered rights, said M. Dru Levasseur, director of the Transgender Rights Project Director at the Lambda Legal Defense Fund, adding that 44 percent of hate-motivated murders in 2010 were of transgendered women. "Transgendered people don't always fit in binary boxes so there has been more difficulty in social acceptance" compared to gay people.

Peter Sprigg, a senior fellow at the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C., said there is clearly "a new social movement," which his group opposes, to protect the rights of transgendered people in court and state legislatures.

"In many places, the activists have already succeeded in having sexual orientation" protected, Sprigg said. But expanding those rights to transgendered people may be tougher because that population's behavior is more overtly different, he said.

"Sexual orientation is largely invisible," Sprigg said. "In this case, you're dealing with something that's manifest visibly."


Sunday, June 23, 2013

Man Charged With Murder Of 18 Year-Old Rapper "Lil Snupe By Rayan "Playboii Pain" Blackwood frontpagenews1@yahoo.com

Man Charged With Murder Of 18 Year-Old Rapper "Lil Snupe By Rayan "Playboii Pain" Blackwood frontpagenews1@yahoo.com




















According to Louisiana's Winnfield City Police Department, the alleged shooter in the recently signed Dream Chaser rapper Lil Snupe's murderer is a 36-year-old man named Tony Holden. He was taken into custody and charged with 1st Degree murder for the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Addarren Ross (also known as "Lil Snupe.")


Cool Beingz... "Playboii Pain" reporting for Phila. Front Page News.

Meek Mill Pays Tribute To Lil Snupe With This New Video



The video shows intimate moments with Lil Snupe on and off stage. 

Lil Snupe Feat. Meek Mill – ‘Nobody’ (Tribute)

Rayan "Playboii Pain" Blackwood: Photos Of The Week Adarren Ross aka ( Lil Snupe ) of Philadelphia

Rayan "Playboii Pain" Blackwood: Photos Of The Week  Adarren Ross aka ( Lil Snupe ) of Philadelphia





















Lil snupe (left) Meek Mill (right)

Rising young rapper Adarren Ross aka ( Lil Snupe )
of Philadelphia own Meek Mills Dream Chasers label
is dead at age 18, shot twice in the chest in his hometown
of Louisiana. He was shot over an argument that broke out
at a friends apartment allegedly over a video game .
The rapper was found dead early morning on June 21st.


Cool Beingz... By "Playboii Pain"
















Rapper "Jimme Wallstreet" real name James Davis the 4th,
was shot in the groin at 12:47 p.m. in the 900 block of East
Church Lane. That morning when discovering the murder of
18 year old rapper Lil Snupe Wallstreet put up a r.i.p. tribute
expressing remorse for the young rapper. Later that day he
was gunned down and died at Einstein hospital.

These are pics from Jimmie instagram page prior to his murder.































































Thousands Turn Out For The Philadelphia Triathlon


Thousands Turn Out For The Philadelphia Triathlon
 
(Credit: CBS 3)

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Three-thousand athletes and their fans took over the city for the TriRock Philadelphia Triathlon this weekend.

“Competitors will be swimming just under a mile in the Schuylkill River, they’ll be biking 24.8 miles through Fairmount Park and they’ll be finishing a 10K run which is 6.2 miles,” says Molly Quinn of TriRock Philadelphia.

For full story go to:  http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/

Arrest Made In Murder Of Man Responding To Craigslist Ad In West Oak Lane

Arrest Made In Murder Of Man Responding To Craigslist Ad In West Oak Lane
 













 PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Philadelphia police have made an arrest in the shooting death of a New Jersey man who was responding to a Craigslist ad in the West Oak Lane section of the city.

Police say 23-year-old Thomas Coffee of Willow Grove has been arrested and charged with the murder and related offenses.

The incident happened around 11 p.m. Friday near the intersection of Walnut Lane and Hollis Street.

For full story go to:  http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/

Ohio air crash shows risks, thrill of wing walking

Ohio air crash shows risks, thrill of wing walking 

AP Photo
A stunt plane loses control as a wing walker performs at the Vectren Air Show just before crashing, Saturday, June 22, 2013, in Dayton, Ohio. The crash killed the pilot and the stunt walker instantly, authorities said.

CINCINNATI (AP) -- Risking death every time they go to work, wing walkers need courage, poise, a healthy craving for adrenaline and, most importantly, they need to be meticulously exacting with every step they take on the small planes that carry them past dazzled crowds at speeds up to 130 mph.


Jane Wicker fit that bill, her friends and colleagues in the air show industry said Sunday.

Wicker, 44, and pilot Charlie Schwenker, 64, were killed Saturday in a fiery plane crash captured on video at a southwestern Ohio air show and witnessed by thousands. The cause of the crash isn't yet known.

Jason Aguilera, the National Transportation Safety Board investigator leading the probe into the crash, said Sunday that it was too early to rule anything out and that the agency would issue its findings in six months to a year.

Wicker, a mother of two teenage boys and recently engaged, sat helplessly on the plane's wing as the aircraft suddenly turned and slammed into the ground, exploding on impact and stunning the crowd at the Vectren Air Show near Dayton. The show closed shortly afterward but reopened Sunday with a moment of silence for the victims.

The crash drew attention to the rarefied profession of wing walking, which began in the 1920s in the barnstorming era of air shows following World War I.

The practice fell off the middle of the 20th century but picked back up again in the 1970s. Still, there are only about a dozen wing walkers in the U.S., said John Cudahy, president of the Leesburg, Va.-based International Council of Air Shows.

Teresa Stokes, of Houston, said she's been wing walking for the past 25 years and does a couple of dozen shows every year. The job mostly requires being in shape to climb around the plane while battling winds, she said.

"It's like running a marathon in a hurricane," Stokes said. "When you're watching from the ground it looks pretty graceful, but up there, it's happening very fast and it's high energy and I'm really moving fast against hurricane-force winds."

Stokes, an aerobatic pilot before becoming a wing walker, said she was attracted to performing stunts because of the thrill.

"It is the craziest fun ride you've ever been on," she said. "You're like Superman flying around, going upside-down doing rolls and loops, and I'm just screaming and laughing."

John King, pilot and president of the Flying Circus Airshow, where Wicker trained, said the most important qualities of wing walkers are "strong nerves, a sense of adventure and a level head."

He said they tell people who are interested that it'll take a year of training before they'll be allowed to walk on the wing of an airplane in flight.

"We give them an opportunity to walk on a wing down on the ground without the engine running," he said. 

"Then we start up the engine. And if that doesn't spook them, OK, we taxi around the field and that's when it gets bumpy. If they do that successfully, the next time they do it is in the air."

He described Wicker, of Bristow, Va., and Schwenker, of Oakton, Va., as "ultimate professionals."

"I don't know of anyone who could have done any better than what they were doing," he said.

In one post on Wicker's website, the stuntwoman explains what she loved most about her job.

"There is nothing that feels more exhilarating or freer to me than the wind and sky rushing by me as the earth rolls around my head," says the post. "I'm alive up there. To soar like a bird and touch the sky puts me in a place where I feel I totally belong. It's the only thing I've done that I've never questioned, never hesitated about and always felt was my destiny."

She also answered a question she said she got frequently: What about the risk?

"I feel safer on the wing of my airplane than I do driving to the airport," she wrote. "Why? Because I'm in control of those risks and not at the mercy of those other drivers."

An announcer at Saturday's event narrated as Wicker's plane glided through the air.

"Keep an eye on Jane. Keep an eye on Charlie. Watch this! Jane Wicker, sitting on top of the world," he said, right before the plane made a quick turn and nosedive.

Some witnesses said they knew something was wrong because the plane was flying too low and slow.

Thanh Tran, of Fairfield, said he could see a look of concern on Wicker's face just before the plane went down.

"She looked very scared," he said. "Then the airplane crashed on the ground. After that, it was terrible, man ... very terrible."

From 1975 to 2010, just two wing walkers were killed, one in 1975 and another in 1993, Cudahy said. But since 2011, three wing walkers have died, including Wicker.

In 2011, wing walker Todd Green fell 200 feet to his death at an air show in Michigan while performing a stunt in which he grabbed the skid of a helicopter. That same year, wing walker Amanda Franklin died after being badly burned in a plane crash during a performance in South Texas. The pilot, her husband, Kyle, survived.

FAA spokeswoman Lynn Lunsford said the agency is often asked why wing walking is allowed.

"The people who do these acts spend hours and hours and hours performing and practicing away from the crowd, and even though it may look inherently dangerous, they're practiced in such a way that they maintain as much safety as possible," he said. "The vast majority of these things occur without a hitch, so you know whenever one of them goes wrong and there's a crash, it's an unusual event."



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