George Zimmerman entered a no contest plea to resolve a misdemeanor charge of stalking a private investigator in the latest run-in with the law for the neighborhood watch leader who killed Trayvon Martin.
Zimmerman will be placed on 12-month probation, during which time he is not allowed to possess a firearm.
The Associated Press reported that Zimmerman entered the no contest plea in absentia, meaning he did not have to be present at the courthouse. Under such a plea, a defendant doesn’t admit guilt, and a conviction is withheld if the conditions of the plea are met.
Zimmerman was accused of sending threatening messages to a private investigator who had contacted him about a documentary series on Martin.
According to court records, the private investigator contacted Zimmerman about the film on Sept. 21, 2017 and mentioned the producer, Mike Gasparro, and left a voicemail with Gasparro’s contact information.
Deputies said Gasparro told the private investigator that Zimmerman was extremely agitated with him and threatened physical harm because the investigator had been contacting Zimmerman’s family.
Zimmerman allegedly told Gasparro, “Help (the investigator’s wife) out and give him a heads-up. I’m going to find him. And I’m bringing hell with me.”
He allegedly texted Gasparro and said, “(The private investigator) is a (expletive) who bothered my uncle in his home. Local or former law officer, he’s well on his way to the inside of a gator as well. Ten-four?”
On Dec. 16, the private investigator said he, too, began receiving threats from Zimmerman. In total, he received 21 calls, 38 texts and seven voicemails in a two-hour time span.
The investigator called deputies to report the alleged threats.
The responding deputy told the private investigator to make a call to Zimmerman and ask him to cease communication. According to documents, Zimmerman told him, “No,” and to go ahead and “pursue charges.”
He also said, “Text me again. I’ll show up at your house,” the documents said.
Zimmerman also sent the victim a website link to a December 2017 news story on celebrity gossip site The Blast, in which Zimmerman was quoted, saying, “I know how to handle people who (expletive) with me. I have since February 2012,” and, “Anyone who (expletive) with my parents will be fed to an alligator.”
According to The Blast, Zimmerman himself said that he was being harassed by production crews working on the documentary about Martin.
In March 2017, Variety reported that JAY-Z was a partner with the Weinstein Company on the project. The documentary series, titled, “Rest in Power: The Trayvon Martin Story,” aired from July to September, examined Martin’s life, the shooting by Zimmerman and the 2013 acquittal.
According to the court documents, Zimmerman continued to send text messages, emails and phone calls.
Court records show the private investigator received 55 phone calls, 67 text messages, 36 voicemails and 27 emails throughout December. The voicemails, deputies said, contained what appeared to be ticking sounds and tones that would slowly increase in frequency.
On Jan. 3, a deputy who was familiar with Zimmerman from a domestic dispute between Zimmerman and his ex-wife, called Zimmerman.
Court documents said he berated the deputy.
Zimmerman fatally shot the black teenager in 2012 in the central Sanford, Florida. Zimmerman, who identifies as Hispanic, was acquitted of all charges.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Four people have been arrested Tuesday in connection to the murders of eight people in Pike County in Ohio in 2016, according to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.
In a media release, the office said four members of the South Webster, Ohio, family -- George Billy Wagner III, 47, Angela Wagner, 48, George Wagner IV, 27, and Edward Jake Wagner, 26 -- were taken into custody.
The Wagners have been charged with planning and carrying out the murders of eight people on April 22, 2016. The victims included a husband, wife, their two adult sons, and the fiance of one of the sons.
Here’s what we know about the suspects:
Edward Jake Wagner is the 24-year-old who fathered a daughter with Hanna Rhoden. He is one of four people investigators wanted more information about after the murders of Rhoden and seven others in Pike County. His grandmother Fredericka Wagner said in April 2017 that he said nothing to do with murders.
“They have nothing,” Fredericka Wagner said in a 2017 Dayton Daily News interview. “Their searches have turned up zilch. Nothing. And they aren’t going to either because Jake had nothing to do with it.”
Angela Wagner and George “Billy” Wagner are Edward “Jake” Wagner’s parents. George Wagner IV is his brother.
Here’s what we know about the Wagner family:
In 2017, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine had not named any of the Wagners as suspects in the case. But he asked the public to come forward with information about Jake Wagner, Angela Wagner, George “Billy” Wagner III, and George Wagner IV. He believed all lived in Alaska.
DeWine’s request was met with so many calls to Alaska authorities that the Anchorage Police Department asked residents to stop calling.
Life in Alaska
According to interviews and a 2017 Dayton Daily News review of the family’s social media accounts, the family appeared to have settled on Alaska’s mountainous Kenai Peninsula -- roughly half the size of Ohio. The peninsula’s largest city, Kenai, is about three hours southwest of Anchorage and has a population of about 7,100 people.
According to Kelly Cinereski, a friend of the family who lives in Seward, Alaska, a two-hour drive from Kenai, the family has long sought to live in Alaska and made three trips there in the past decade.
Cinereski told the Daily News the Wagners fished during their previous trips to Alaska.
The peninsula is a fisherman’s paradise. The Kenai River, which winds through the peninsula, is the state’s most heavily fished river and is filled with salmon, trout and pike. Fishing and hunting appear to be Wagner family pastimes, as Jake Wagner, George Wagner III and Angela Wagner each possessed either Ohio hunting or fishing licenses over the past decade.
Life in Ohio
While rural, the Adams County, Ohio, is more affluent than much of southern Ohio. Unemployment is lower on the peninsula. Census data show the median household income is $63,684 compared to $42,778 in Adams County, Ohio, where the family lived.
Bernie Brown, who owns an Ohio 41 site where the family lived, told WCPO in 2017 that Jake Wagner sometimes worked for him fixing cars.
In May 2017, investigators also searched property formerly owned by Jake Wagner and George Wagner IV.
Then there was an abruptly arrest of James Manley, the brother of victim Dana Manley Rhoden, on charges of tampering with evidence and vandalism for allegedly destroying a state GPS tracker on his truck.
Manley’s father, Leonard Manley, accused authorities of attaching the tracker on the truck because of text messages allegedly exchanged between Jake Wagner and James Manley the night of the murders.
Days before DeWine’s announcement, Jake Wagner told the Cincinnati Enquirer the text messages “did not happen.”
Four people arrested Tuesday on aggravated murder charges for the 2016 slayings of eight members of the Rhoden family in Pike County include a man who shared a 2-year-old daughter with one of the victims.
A dispute over custody played a role in the homicides, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said, and two other family members are accused of trying to “cover up” the crimes.
Arrested Tuesday were George “Billy” Wagner III, 47; his wife, Angela Wagner, 48; and their sons, George Wagner IV and Edward “Jake” Wagner, 27 and 26.
Rita Newcomb, 65, of South Webster and Fredericka Wagner, 76, grandmothers in the Wagner family, are charged with trying to “cover-up” the crime, DeWine said.
Investigators combed through 1,100 tips, but the final piece of evidence that led to the indictments of the Wagner family and their arrests Tuesday came two weeks ago on Oct. 30, when, DeWine said, authorities confirmed the existence of a homemade silencer the suspects are accused of building.
He described a sophisticated scheme, saying the suspects bought ammunition, a device to catch spent shell casings, a “bug” detector, and specific shoes from Walmart as they prepared to commit the crimes.
DeWine said, “The Wagners were friends with the Rhodens and had been for years. They knew the layouts of the Rhodens’ homes, and they knew the victims’ routines.”
The suspects also are accused of installing “counter-surveillance devices” on the properties of the victims, illegally monitoring various social media accounts and forging custody documents.
“It is our belief that the suspects used this knowledge to meticulously plan these horrendous, cold-blooded murders,” he said.
DeWine, at a news conference Tuesday afternoon, was asked whether the family was killed to prevent survivors from claiming custody of then-2-year-old Sophia, the daughter of arrested Edward “Jake” Wagner and victim Hanna Rhoden.
“Draw your own conclusions,” DeWine said.
Edward “Jake” Wagner also is charged with unlawful sexual conduct with a minor. He’s accused of engaging in sexual contact with Hanna Rhoden when she was 15 and he was 20.
Sophia is in the care of children services, DeWine said.
Sophia wasn’t there when her mother was killed. There were three children – ages 3, 6 months and 4 days – found alive in two of the three mobile homes where the eight bodies were found in rural Pike County.
Also slain were Hanna’s parents Dana and Christopher Rhoden Sr.; her brothers, Christopher Rhoden Jr. and Clarence “Frankie” Rhoden; Frankie’s girlfriend, Hannah Gilley; Christopher Rhoden Sr.’s brother, Kenny Rhoden, and cousin Gary Rhoden.
Dana Rhoden’s father, Leonard Manley, previously has said Jake Wagner and his granddaughter were in a custody dispute over Sophia.
George Washington “Billy” Wagner III, arrested in Lexington, Ky., remains in the Lexington Fayette County Jail as a “fugitive from another state” according to jail records. An extradition hearing will be scheduled for him.
The rest of the family members were arrested in Ohio and are being detained in four county jails -- Pickaway, Franklin, Ross, and Delaware counties.
George Washington Wagner III, Angela Jo Wagner, George Washington Wagner IV and Edward Jacob Wagner are each indicted on the following charges:
Jake Wagner also faces one count of unlawful sexual conduct with a minor involving the relationship he had with Hannah Rhoden.
Rita Jo Newcomb is indicted on:
Fredericka Carol Wagner is indicted on:
John Kearson Clark, the Wagner family attorney, issued the following statement: “The Wagners eagerly look forward to their trials and to have their day in court so they can vindicate their names. The Wagners are also ever so hopeful that in the ensuing months there will be a thorough vetting of all the facts.
“We look forward to the day when the true culprits will be discovered and brought to justice for this terrible tragedy.”
The Wagner family moved to Alaska in 2017, but didn’t stay long, said Kelly Cinereski, a pastor and friend of the family who lives in Seward, Alaska.
“They were trying to run from the story so they could live a normal life, but everywhere they went it wasn’t normal,” he said.
Cinereski, who knew the Wagners in Ohio before he moved to Alaska, said they were “just a down-to-Earth, good wholesome family.
“These people wept over dogs, I can’t imagine them taking people’s lives,” he said when told of the charges.
“If they did it, I hope they get tried to the max. If they didn’t, I hope they get pleaded,” Cinereski said.
Pike County Prosecutor Robert Junk cautioned that Tuesday’s arrests are just the beginning of a very long process that could take years.
“There is a lot of hard work ahead of us,” he said, “I cannot emphasize that enough.”
A black Chicago-area church musician who was moonlighting as a security guard was killed by police Sunday morning as they responded to a call of shots fired at the bar where the man worked.
Jemel Roberson, 26, had already subdued the alleged assailant in the initial shooting at Manny’s Blue Room Lounge, in Robbins, when police arrived, witnesses told WGN-TV.
“He had somebody on the ground with his knee in his back, with his gun in his back, like, ‘Don’t move,’” Adam Harris told the news station.
An officer arrived on the scene a short time later. That officer shot Roberson, killing him.
“Everybody was screaming out, ‘Security! He was a security guard!’ Harris said. “And they still did their job and saw a black man with a gun and, basically, killed him.”
Though law enforcement officials have not confirmed the race of the officer who shot Roberson, witnesses told WGN that the officer is white.
NPR reported that Roberson was in uniform, wearing a hat with the word “Security” emblazoned on it. He had a license to carry the weapon he was holding when he was killed.
Four other people, including the suspected shooter from the initial incident, were injured, but none of their injuries were life-threatening, NPR reported.
Midlothian police officials said in a statement Sunday afternoon that their department received a call for assistance from the nearby Robbins Police Department. The call, which came in around 4:05 a.m., stated that someone was shooting people at Manny’s.
Two officers responded.
“Upon arrival, officers learned there were several gunshot victims inside the bar,” the statement said. “A Midlothian officer encountered a subject with a gun and was involved in an officer-involved shooting. The subject the officer shot was later pronounced deceased at an area hospital.”
Video posted on Facebook by witnesses showed the aftermath of the fatal shooting. In one video, a police officer can be seen performing CPR on Roberson as other officers mill around and hold back the distraught crowd.
Watch the video recorded by witness Adam Harris below. Warning: Images and language may be too graphic for some viewers.
The Cook County Sheriff’s Office and the Robbins Police Department are investigating the criminal aspect of the initial shooting, the statement said. The Illinois State Police’s Public Integrity Task Force is investigating the officer-involved shooting.
The police shooting was the subject of widespread criticism on social media.
“The only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. Unless the good guy is black, then he gets killed, too,” Wendy Osefo, a Johns Hopkins professor and political commentator, wrote on Twitter.
Michael Skolnik, a civil rights activist and board member of the Trayvon Martin Foundation, pointed out that Roberson had stopped a potential mass shooting inside the bar.
“While he was holding the suspect down, cops arrived and shot him,” Skolnik wrote.
Roberson, the father of a 9-month-old son, is described on a GoFundMe page set up to raise funds for his funeral as a person who was loved by all who knew him.
“He was the light of his mother Beatrice’s life, and was a devoted, loving son,” the fundraising page said. “Jemel was a gifted basketball player and musician, and his love for God and his family were at the forefront of his life.”
The GoFundMe page had raised more than $46,000 of its $50,000 goal by Tuesday morning. A candlelight vigil was held Monday night for Roberson outside the bar where he was killed.
Roberson played keyboard and drums at several area churches, friends told WGN. He also planned to become a police officer.
“Every artist he’s ever played for, every musician he’s ever sat beside, we’re all just broken because we have no answers,” Rev. Patricia Hill of Purposed Church told the news station. “He was getting ready to train and do all that stuff, so the very people he wanted to be family with took his life.”
Another pastor at Purposed Church, Rev. LeAundre Hill, expressed disbelieve on Twitter, saying that Roberson played music at the funeral for Hill’s grandmother just two days before his death.
Hill told WGN that Roberson’s death follows a pattern seen all two often in the United States.
“Once again, it’s the continued narrative that we see of shoot first, ask questions later,” Hill said.
Roberson’s mother, Beatrice Roberson, has filed a federal lawsuit in the shooting, which the filing describes as unprovoked, unjustified, excessive and unreasonable, court documents show. The lawsuit seeks damages of more than $1 million.
A 29-year-old woman was arrested after she allegedly set a mattress on fire inside a Dayton, Ohio, home that reportedly belonged to her ex-boyfriend Monday night.
Carla Lanier was arrested at a Malden Avenue address and booked into Montgomery County Jail on suspicion of aggravated arson, jail records show.
According to a witness to the incident, Lanier was attempting to enter the home by banging on windows before she reportedly kicked the door in to gain access.
Once inside, she allegedly got into an altercation with the ex-boyfriend, who also had another female visitor inside the home, the witness said.
“While it was all happening, the other girl ended up hiding in the bathroom," the witness said.
Lanier then reportedly told the male resident that she had set a mattress on fire inside one of the bedrooms, according to the witness.
The resident was able to extinguish the fire, which was contained to the bedroom, before crews arrived just before midnight, police said.
No one was injured in the blaze, but the bedroom did sustain damage, the witness said.
A Tennessee father is angry after someone allegedly assaulted his son while the boy was walking his dog.
The father also told WHBQ in Memphis that the person stole his son’s rare dog.
John Black said someone assaulted his son, Brandon, while walking his white American bulldog, Diamond, in the 7000 block of Hedgington in Shelby County.
The 12-year-old told Black that before he could make it back home, a man in a Chrysler PT Cruiser "pushed my son down, grabbed the leash, took the dog and drove off,” Black said.
Black said he got the expensive, rare dog from a Sacramento, California, breeder in September for his son.
The Shelby County Sheriff’s Office confirmed it is investigating the incident.
Officials could not release any other information regarding this incident.
"I'm glad Brandon didn't fight back,” Black said.
Black said he’s hopeful his son will get his dog back.
He said the obvious blue patch on the left side of the dog’s face will help people identify the dog.
"I've already had one young lady inbox me and tell me they saw the dog in Millington. So he could be in that area,” Black said.
Black said he is encouraging whoever is in possession of the dog to bring in to the vet.
If you have any information regarding the dog's whereabouts, call the Sheriff's Office at 901-222-5600 or 901-379-7625.
Gracie Triblett, the grieving mother of a man shot and killed by police in Clarksdale, Mississippi, is speaking out.
Before the deadly shooting, officers got a call about a prowler in the area. Patrick Bryant was shot and killed Saturday night by responding officers.
WHBQ in Memphis, Tennessee, also found out that the officer's body cameras were rolling during the shooting. Multiple sources say the footage has already been reviewed.
Now, Triblett, Bryant's mother, wants answers.
“Somebody tell me the truth: They killed my son. ... They act like they didn’t know nothing,” Triblett said.
WHBQ met with Triblett as she was leaving the Clarksdale Police Department. She said she was there looking for answers.
Investigators said Bryant was killed a 15-minute walk away from his house. Family members said he was walking to the store to buy a cigarette.
He also had his 10-year-old son with him.
“My little grandson ran away by himself. ... He told his mother they killed his daddy,” Triblett said.
The police chief of Clarksdale would only tell WHBQ that their officers do wear body cameras. She would not talk about the investigation.
A neighbor wouldn’t go on camera, but he told WHBQ that he heard Bryant threaten police.
Triblett said Bryant carried a gun because he was licensed as a security guard.
The Mississippi Bureau of Investigation told WHBQ that a weapon was found near Bryant’s body in the backyard of the home.
“I want to know if my son was inside the house or outside the house – or around the corner. If you shot him in both hips, why would you shoot him in his heart?” Triblett said.
Bryant’s body has been sent to the crime lab in Pearl, Mississippi, for an autopsy.
Thieves in Texas took nearly $15,000 worth of electronics from a homeless center Saturday night, WFAA reported.
Gary Wilkerson Jr. who runs the nonprofit When We Love in Fort Worth, said surveillance cameras showed two men and a woman taking computers, television sets and other electronics over a three-hour period.
"They were very methodical," Wilkerson told WFAA.
“This makes the pain of what happened even greater as I really believed in this man,” Wilkinson wrote. “Please keep us in your prayers.”
Wilkerson estimated at least eight laptops were stolen, along with computer monitors, a 50-inch plasma television set and a sound system worth at least $2,500, WFAA reported.
Anyone with information on the burglary is encouraged to contact Fort Worth police at 817-392-4222 and reference report No. 18-100679.
An 89-year-old New York psychology professor and scholar who survived the Holocaust by fleeing the Nazis died Thursday, 12 days after he was pushed to the ground on a busy subway platform and suffered a devastating head injury.
Dr. Kurt Salzinger and his wife, Dr. Deanna Chitayat, were on their way to Macy’s for some Saturday shopping on Oct. 27 when they disembarked from a train at the No. 3 platform the 34th Street-Penn Station, according to The New York Post. As the elderly couple made their way through the crowd, they were violently jostled.
“A guy rushing, running to meet the train swiped Kurt, like, pushed him and me,” Chitayat told the Post.
Salzinger fell to the platform and lay motionless. The man who pushed him aside did not stop to help.
“He stopped and looked at Kurt and saw him laying there, and then (he) jumped into the car,” said Chitayat, who was also knocked down that day.
Other commuters rushed to Salzinger’s aid and he was rushed to a hospital. The fall caused bleeding on his brain and, as he lay in a coma, he developed pneumonia. He ultimately succumbed to his injuries and illness, the Post reported.
“He died because of that guy,” said Chitayat, now an 85-year-old widow. “I don’t think he meant to kill him, but he killed him.”
The New York Times reported that police and Salzinger’s family await a final ruling from the medical examiner, but they believe his death was accidental. Investigators are looking for the man who pushed Salzinger so they can question him, however.
Salzinger, his parents and an older brother fled Austria in 1938 as the Nazis invaded the country, the Times reported. It took more than two years for them to reach the United States, where they settled in New York when Salzinger was 12 years old.
Salzinger later told his children that he never felt afraid because he knew his father would protect the family, his daughter, Leslie Salzinger said.
“That security that he had, he passed on to us,” Leslie Salzinger said, according to the Times. “It allowed him to do amazing things.”
Kurt Salzinger is described in his obituary as a “deeply thoughtful, humane and passionate man.”
“A loving father and husband, a brilliant and prolific scholar, a talented leader, and an inveterate punster, he will be profoundly missed,” the obituary read.
Kurt Salzinger attended the Bronx High School of Science before studying at New York and Columbia universities, receiving his doctorate in psychology from the latter, his obituary said.
“As a committed behaviorist, Dr. Salzinger held positions at the New York State Psychiatric Institute, Poly-technic University, the National Science Foundation, the American Psychological Association (APA), and Hofstra University,” the obituary said. “He was president of the New York Academy of Sciences, where he initiated dialog with the Soviet Academy of Sciences. He was executive director of science at the APA, among other roles, as well as president of the Association of Behavior Analysis and the Eastern Psychological Association.”
Over his career, Salzinger wrote 14 books and 200 journal articles, many of which continue to be cited in the science community, his obituary said.
At his memorial service on Sunday, his family tried to focus on his life and not how he died. His stepdaughter, Mara Chitayat, told the Times, however, that his fall was emblematic of problems within the crowds of residents who use the city’s subway system.
“It just shows a complete disregard for the elderly,” Mara Chitayat told the newspaper.
The couple’s children described them as inseparable over their 38-year marriage, including during their time as Hofstra professors. When Deanna Chitayat was diagnosed with cancer, her husband took a semester off to care for her.
“He was my mother’s right arm and she was his,” stepdaughter Aimee Chitayat told the Times.
A photo Salzinger posted to his Facebook page in 2013 shows him beaming with his wife.
“Am I a lucky guy!!” he wrote.
When Salzinger woke briefly during his final days, the first thing he did was pull his wife close and talk about how the couple met. He also gave his family a glimpse of his sense of humor, the Times said.
“Hey, what are you doing down there?” he asked a nurse who was adjusting his blankets, his daughter Meryl Salzinger remembered.
Told that the nurse was not trying to peek, he said, “I just don’t want her to be disappointed.”
“We cracked up and he sat back with a satisfied smile,” Meryl Salzinger said. “It was a testament to his magic that in the middle of the night, he could turn that drab hospital room into a joyous space.”
A Florida woman eating breakfast on her porch died Sunday when she was hit by a stray bullet, WFLA reported.
Aesha Kendrick, 38, a mother of five, died after a drive-by shooter who was firing at another target hit the St. Petersburg woman instead, the Tampa Bay Times reported.
Police arrested Jamel Walker, 29, who allegedly fired at a passing truck, WTVT reported. Kendrick was not the intended victim, police told the television station.
Walker faces charges of second-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder, the Times reported. He was being held without bail in the Pinellas County Jail, the newspaper reported.
Kendrick was preparing to start a new job Monday as a nursing assistant, according to the Times.
"It's a very sad situation. On a Sunday morning, a woman just having breakfast on her porch and the house was full of children," police spokeswoman Yolanda Fernandez told WTVT. "No one else was injured, at least that's a good thing, but it's very, very sad for the family now."
“Because of a stupid, silly drive-by shooting, my daughter is dead,” Kendrick’s father, Paul Lucas, told the television station. “I have no other kids, but I've got five grandkids that I have to now find a way to take care of."
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