Man pays off all students' overdue lunch fees at elementary school

Published: Monday, October 24, 2016 @ 5:20 AM
Updated: Monday, October 24, 2016 @ 5:20 AM

Parents of 89 students don’t have to worry about their child’s overdue lunch balances thanks to the kindness of a stranger.

>> Watch the news report here

Jerry Fenton, a motel owner in Burlington, Iowa, donated about $700 to Grimes Elementary, his former school, to cover all overdue lunch balances there.

“I find it hard to believe that in this day and age there are kids that go hungry. It’s just unfathomable in this day and age,” Fenton told WQAD.

>> Need something to lift your spirits? Read more uplifting news

The outstanding balance was $458, so his donation will help cover future overdue balances, as well.

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55 hours of terror, and a final blast in Austin serial bombings

Published: Wednesday, March 21, 2018 @ 10:30 PM

Austin Package Explosions: Suspect Dead

The trip wire that set off the fourth explosion in Austin’s horrifying March, authorities now chillingly say, was tied to a “caution, children at play” sign that the accused bomber had bought at a Home Depot.

>> Read more trending news 

But the breaching of that wire and the resultant detonation Sunday, which sent two men to the hospital, also set off an increasingly feverish 55 hours of escalating bombing activity and community quaking that ended only with bombing suspect Mark Conditt’s death in yet another blast.

Austin was already reeling after two deaths in three explosions in packages left on doorsteps on March 2 and March 12. A Northeast Austin construction project manager and a promising teenage musician, both part of prominent African-American families in Austin, had been killed, and two others injured by the first wave of bombs. But given the consistent method of those first three bombings, the danger seemed recognizable: Avoid picking up any unexpected package on the porch and perhaps the worst could be avoided.

>> Related: Austin bombings: 25-minute recording left behind by suspected bomber

But the Travis Country bombing on March 18, which was triggered by a trip wire, followed closely by an explosion of a package at a FedEx sorting facility north of San Antonio just over a day later, and then the discovery of another package containing a bomb at a FedEx facility in Southeast Austin, signaled that something more random was happening. The bomber, it now seemed, had everyone in his sights, and any package was now suspect.

And the whole nation was watching.

Common Traits Of A Serial Bomber

By Monday, commentators as diverse as President Donald Trump, University of Texas football coach Tom Herman and Chance the Rapper had weighed in on the run of bombings. Dozens of Texas Rangers and something like 500 agents from the FBI, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the Postal Service had descended on Austin, pouring over physical and electronic evidence with Austin police. Austin and its troubles were now the subject of cut-ins on cable news and prominent coverage in The New York Times and Washington Post.

>> Related: The Austin bomber: Read all of the Statesman coverage

And officials, given the bomber’s new tactics, began to describe his handiwork as “sophisticated.” But even from the outside, the thought occurred that the increasing pace and morphing form of the attacks in fact could be rash and play into the hands of the bomber’s battalion of pursuers.

So, if Austin writ large seemed to hold its composure in the face of the final two frenzied days, perhaps panic was staved off by this sense that the bomber’s increasing boldness would lead to his capture.

FedEx bombs

After a relatively calm Monday, the fifth explosion came just after midnight Tuesday in an unexpected spot: that FedEx plant a few hundred yards west of Interstate 35 in Schertz. The bomb — sent from a FedEx store in Sunset Valley and intended for delivery to an undisclosed address in Austin — instead detonated on a conveyor belt at the Schertz facility. No one was injured.

>> Related: Who is Mark Anthony Conditt, the suspected Austin bomber?

Austinites, awaking to this news Tuesday morning and still trying to put it in context, quickly learned that law enforcement had flocked to yet another FedEx facility near Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. They discovered another bomb in a package intended for somewhere in Austin — this one intact — and confiscated what seemed to be another important piece of evidence.

That package too had been sent from the Sunset Valley FedEx shop, officials said.

>> Related: Austin bombing suspect Mark A. Conditt proposed ending sex offender registry, blog says

That meant that virtually any package or backpack — along the road, at work, arriving at a home — was now suspect. At least one delivery service instructed its couriers to knock on doors rather than merely leave a package for recipients to find later. Calls to 911 in Central Texas for “suspicious” packages swelled to over 1,000 cumulatively. And Austin interim Police Chief Brian Manley took time out from the around-the-clock manhunt to brief a skittish Austin City Council about the effort.

>> Related: How was Mark Anthony Conditt caught? ‘Exotic’ batteries and cell-site analysis

Interim Austin Police Chief Brian Manley, right, stands with other members of law enforcement as he briefs the media, Wednesday, March 21, 2018, in the Austin suburb of Round Rock, Texas. The suspect in a spate of bombing attacks that have terrorized Austin over the past month blew himself up with an explosive device as authorities closed in, the police said early Wednesday. (Eric Gay/AP)

A timeline of the Austin bombings

Net closing

Perhaps the best illustration of the public’s waxing anxiety came Tuesday evening in what at first seemed like the bomber’s next strike, at a Goodwill Industries store on Brodie Lane in South Austin. An injured man was rushed to St. David’s South Austin Medical Center. Flashing lights and reporters swarmed the area.

But, were all told soon after that what had detonated was an “artillery simulator,” a tube-like device used in military exercises that gives off a loud report and a flash of fire when activated. Someone other than Conditt, it appears — whether with dubious judgment or ill intent is not known at this point — had left a box of donated items at Goodwill, officials said, including the dangerous hardware. A worker’s hands were burned when the device went off.

>> Related: Serial bomber Ted Kaczynski kept feds at bay for 17 years before capture

What the public could not know at this point was that law enforcement had identified Conditt as the sole suspect behind the run of bombings, and in fact Tuesday evening filed federal criminal charges for unlawful possession and transfer of a destructive device against the 23-year-old Pflugerville man. The net was closing.

Suspected Austin serial bomber, 23-year-old Mark Conditt.(Austin Community College District)

His end, and soon thereafter something like a community-wide release of breath and thankfulness, came somewhere around 2:45 a.m. Wednesday. Police had staked out Conditt, who was parked at a hotel on I-35’s west side in Round Rock, and were waiting for S.W.A.T. officers to arrive. But Conditt, perhaps perceiving their presence, pulled out onto the southbound frontage road lane.

But he soon swerved to a stop in the grass median. Moments later, what would be Conditt’s seventh known bomb exploded, this one in the cab of his red Nissan Pathfinder.

>> Related: Photos: Austin police investigate explosions

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20 bullets fired: Police kill unarmed black man holding cellphone in own backyard

Published: Wednesday, March 21, 2018 @ 3:56 PM

Unarmed Black Man Killed In Own Backyard By Police While Holding Cellphone

Family, friends and the Sacramento community are demanding answers in the death of an unarmed black man killed by police in his own backyard Sunday night, holding nothing but a cellphone in his hand.

Sacramento Police Chief Daniel Hahn told Fox40 that officers fired on Stephon Alonzo “Zoe” Clark a total of 20 times. Clark, 23, died at the scene, leaving behind two young sons. 

Hahn was on hand Tuesday night at a City Council meeting, where several residents of the community protested the officer-involved shooting. 

“To hell with Sac PD,” resident Rebecca Person said, according to the news station. “I’m sick of them always murdering black youth.”

“What is the police’s job to do? To shoot people that are unarmed in their own backyard?” another resident, Robert Copeland, asked. 

Fox40 reported that the Sacramento Police Department is under fire for its morphing story of what Clark was carrying. 

“They put one story out that he may have been armed. They put out another that he had a toolbar, whatever that is,” Tanya Faison, a member of the Sacramento chapter of Black Lives Matter, told the news station. “Then they put out that he had a wrench and then they put out that he just had a cellphone. 

“They need to get it together.”

The two officers involved in the shooting are being criticized for waiting five minutes, until additional officers came to the scene, to handcuff Clark and begin rendering first aid.

Department officials are also facing criticism for not promptly informing Clark’s family, including the grandparents and siblings he lived with, that he was the one gunned down in their yard. 

Fox40 reported that Clark’s family called 911 for help after hearing gunshots right outside their window. 

Sequita Thompson, Clark’s grandmother, told the Sacramento Bee that she was sitting in her dining room when she heard the shots.

“The only thing that I heard was, ‘pow, pow, pow, pow,’ and I got to the ground,” Thompson told the newspaper

Thompson described crawling to where her 7-year-old granddaughter slept on a couch in an adjacent den, where she got the girl onto the floor. She then made her way to her husband, who uses a wheelchair, and he dialed 911. 

Thompson said neither she nor her husband heard officers issue any commands prior to firing the fatal gunshots. 

The grieving grandmother told the Bee that investigators interviewed her for hours about what she heard, but never told her it was her grandson who had been killed. She finally looked out a window and saw his body.

“I opened that curtain and he was dead. I started screaming,” Thompson said

Sequita Thompson points to the white area on her family's patio where she said her grandson, 23-year-old Stephon Clark, lay dead after being shot Sunday, March 18, 2018, by police in Sacramento, Calif. Relatives, activists and Sacramento officials are questioning why officers shot at an unarmed black man 20 times, killing him, when he turned out to be holding only a cellphone in his own backyard.((Renee C. Byer/The Sacramento Bee via AP))

Hahn said he and his investigators initially had no idea Clark was related to the homeowners. 

“We found out they were related because the family told us so,” the chief told Fox40.

Hahn said in a news release Monday that officers were called to the family’s neighborhood around 9:15 p.m. Sunday on a report of a man breaking several car windows. The suspect was described as a thin man, just over 6 feet in height and wearing a black hoodie and dark pants. The caller said the man was hiding in a backyard.

Dispatchers sent officers to the scene, where the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department also had a helicopter searching for the suspect from the air, the news release said. About 12 minutes after the 911 call was made, the crew in the helicopter told officers on the ground they saw the alleged suspect in a backyard, where he picked up what looked like a toolbar and broke the sliding glass door of the home before running south toward the front of the house. 

That house was next door to the Thompsons’ home.

The officers on the ground, directed to his location by the helicopter crew, confronted Clark as he came up along the side of his grandparents’ home, the news release said. When they ordered him to show his hands, he fled to the backyard, officials said. 

“Officers pursued the suspect and located him in the backyard of the residence,” the news release said. “The suspect turned and advanced towards the officers while holding an object which was extended in front of him.”

Believing the object was a gun, the officers opened fire, the news release said. Clark was struck multiple times, though the exact number of gunshot wounds was not immediately known.

A follow-up news release issued later Monday stated that no weapon was found near Clark’s body.

“After an exhaustive search, scene investigators did not locate any firearms,” the news release stated. “The only item found near the suspect was a cellphone.”

Homicide investigators and crime scene technicians said they found three vehicles with damage they believe Clark caused, as well as the shattered sliding glass door that the helicopter crew said they witnessed him break, the news release said

The only items investigators found that could have been the toolbar described by the helicopter crew included a cinder block and a piece of aluminum that may have come from a gutter. Both were found near the broken sliding glass door, the Bee reported

Both officers involved in the shooting have been placed on administrative leave, the newspaper said. One of the officers has eight years of law enforcement experience, half of it with the Sacramento department. 

The other officer has six years total experience, two of those in Sacramento. 

Sacramento city policy requires any body-camera footage of an officer-involved shooting to be made public within 30 days, the Bee reported

Hahn said he plans to release the officers’ body camera footage, as well as footage from a camera aboard the helicopter, after it has been shared with Clark’s family, Fox40 reported. He anticipated having the footage released by week’s end. 

The Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office, the city attorney’s office and the city’s Office of Public Safety Accountability are investigating the shooting, as is the department’s homicide and internal affairs units. 

The Bee reported that Clark was at least the 17th person to die in confrontations with law enforcement in Sacramento County in the past two years. Besides the young father, three others were unarmed. 

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Could skeletal remains found in home’s basement solve missing woman’s case from 1966?

Published: Wednesday, March 21, 2018 @ 4:17 PM

Skeletal Remains Found In Home’s Basement Could Solve Missing Woman’s Case From 1966

A cold case could soon be solved if the skeletal remains found in the basement of a Long Island home turn out to be the woman who has been missing since 1966.

Police recently reviewed the case of Louise Pietrewicz, after The Suffolk Times published a special report in October that brought the case back into view. 

Pietrewicz disappeared more than half a century ago, WPIX reported. At the time she was in a relationship with William Boken, a police officer in the area. She had recently left her husband, who was accused of physically and mentally abusing her, the Times reported, and had started seeing Boken, who was married at the time. 

>> Read more trending news 

In October 1966, Pietrewicz took more than $1,000 from her bank account, and closed it. The next day, she “disappeared in the company of a man friend,” a court document filed 10 years later stated. Pietrewicz left behind an 11-year-old daughter, the Times reported.

Boken died in the 1980s, but his former wife told police investigating Pietrewicz’s case that there was a body buried in a burlap bag in the basement of the Bokens’ former home, WPIX reported

The house was searched in 2013, but nothing was found. 

Last week, spurred on by the paper’s report, another search of the home was conducted. After Suffolk County police homicide detectives, along with Southold Police, used ground-penetrating sonar, they found skeletal remains in the home, WPIX reported. The remains have been taken to the medical examiner’s office to determine whose remains they are and to find a cause of death.

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Vigorous exercise in middle age could help prevent dementia, study finds

Published: Wednesday, March 21, 2018 @ 9:25 PM


A high level of physical fitness during middle age may significantly reduce the risk of dementia, new research suggests.

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The findings, which were published this month in the scientific journal Neurology, showed that women with a high level of cardiovascular fitness during middle age had a nearly 90 percent lower risk of dementia than women who were just moderately fit.

"[The results] indicate that negative cardiovascular processes may be happening in midlife that could increase the risk of dementia much later in life," lead study author Dr. Helena Hörder, a professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Neurochemistry at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, told Forbes.

>> Related: Have trouble sleeping? Research says that may be an early sign of Alzheimer’s

"These findings are exciting because it's possible that improving people's cardiovascular fitness in middle age could delay or even prevent them from developing dementia," she said.

Researchers studied a group 191 women between 38 and 60 years old in Sweden over a 44-year period of time (1968-2012). The participants were initially asked to complete an ergometer cycling test to evaluate their cardiovascular fitness.

"The level that you are so exhausted that you have to interrupt the test is a measure, in watts, of your work capacity," Hörder told CNN. "Cardiovascular fitness or endurance can also be tested in a submaximal test where you don't push the person to maximal capacity."

>> Related: Alzheimer’s disease fueled by gut bacteria, new study finds 

Based on their performance in the initial testing, the women were divided into three groups: 59 were classified as "low fitness", 92 were "medium fitness" and 40 were "high fitness." The researchers then tracked the women until 2012, closely examining which groups developed symptoms of dementia and which did not.

In total, 23 percent developed some form of dementia in the proceeding decades. However, the percentage was significantly higher in the low and medium fitness groups when compared to those in the high fitness category.

"I was not surprised that there was an association, but I was surprised that it was such a strong association between the group with highest fitness and decreased dementia risk," Hörder said. "Many of those who interrupted the test at submax, very low watt level, probably had indications for a poor cardiovascular health status. This might indicate that processes in the cardiovascular system might be ongoing many decades before onset of dementia diagnosis."

» RELATED: Inability to smell peppermint linked to dementia, study says 

Although the results are significant and appear to align with previous research, there were some limitations, such as the relatively small number of subjects, the fact that fitness level was only measured once, and the lack of filtering for other risk factors for dementia.

Future research, the scientists said, should look at a larger and more diverse sample, analyze physical fitness more often and also address other potential factors.

"One of the missing pieces of a study like this – and really the weakness in the literature to date – is that the kinds of studies that we have mostly seen are association studies. These are studies of correlations, and they can't necessarily talk about causality," Keith Fargo, director of scientific programs and outreach for the Alzheimer's Association in Chicago, who was not involved in the new study, said.

>> Related: People with dementia: Atlanta police being trained to empathize

"The picture that is really emerging from the literature is a picture about the importance of fitness in midlife, not just old age, when it comes to protecting your brain health and preventing or delaying Alzheimer's disease and other dementias,” he added.

Approximately 5.4 million Americans are currently living with Alzheimer's disease, the most common form of dementia. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it is sixth leading cause of death among American adults.

Globally, the World Heath Organization estimates that nearly 50 million people suffer from dementia, with 10 million new cases every year.

The Alzheimers Association suggests people should quit smoking, eat a healthy diet, get enough sleep, stay socially engaged, challenge their minds by reading or playing games and take care of their heart health to reduce their risk of cognitive decline.

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