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New Orleans PD probes 34-year-old disappearance of toddler after fatal house fire 

Published: Friday, February 09, 2018 @ 6:24 PM

Police Probe Disappearance Of Toddler After Fatal House Fire

Police in New Orleans have opened an investigation into the 1984 disappearance of a 3-year-old girl who vanished in the immediate aftermath of a house fire that killed two of her brothers. 

Investigators opened a missing person case on Remona Brown this week, nearly 34 years after she disappeared. Investigators released a photo of the girl at age 3, along with a composite photo aged to show what Remona might look like today at age 37, the Baton Rouge Advocate reported

An official missing person report has been filed by one of Remona’s sisters, Simona Brown, the newspaper said. No missing person report was filed on the girl at the time of the fire and her disappearance. 

The new search comes eight months after a three-part investigative series by WWL-TV in New Orleans, which looked at the initial probe into the little girl’s whereabouts. 

The news station reported that Remona was one of 10 siblings sleeping in their Algiers home early on the morning of March 6, 1984, which was Mardi Gras that year in the Crescent City. Two of Remona’s sisters and her mother, Johnnie Mae Brown, recently recalled the fire that killed Aubrey Brown Jr., 4, and Kevin Brown, 2. 

“I didn’t hear nothing. I didn’t smell nothing. When I raised up, I saw the fire,” Pam Nickerson, who was 14 when her sister vanished, told WWL-TV

Several of the children were asleep in the dining room, near a furnace, while Aubrey and Kevin slept on a couch in the living room, the family said. Remona and her eldest brother, Joseph Brown, slept separately in two bedrooms of the three-bedroom house. 

Johnnie Mae Brown told the news station that she and her husband were able to jump to safety through their bedroom window after Nickerson alerted the family to the flames. The couple was also able to help Joseph climb out of the window of the boys’ bedroom.

Nickerson helped the children in the dining room escape the fast-moving blaze, but neither she nor her parents could get to the boys sleeping in the living room. Nickerson and another sister, Simona Brown, who was 6 at the time of the fire, fought back tears as they remembered hearing their baby brothers screaming for help.

“All you could hear was, ‘Mom! Dad! Help me, please,’” Simona recalled, according to WWL-TV

Firefighters later found the boys’ burned bodies huddled together, Aubrey holding onto Kevin as though he was trying to protect him from the flames, the news station reported

Investigators found a third set of bones the afternoon of the fire that they initially believed to be Remona’s. They learned the next day, however, that the bones were those of an animal.

“Immediate orders were to return to the scene and bring all the resources I had available to me,” retired New Orleans police Capt. Harry Mendoza, an arson investigator who worked the fire, told WWL-TV. “To do excavation of the scene to determine where that child’s body was.”

Despite four exhaustive searches by firefighters and police officers and additional searches by the Browns, Remona’s body was never found. 

In Mendoza’s supplemental report on the fire, one of the only pieces of the investigative file to survive Hurricane Katrina, the detective wrote that he consulted with a funeral home director to determine if the girl’s body could have been completely incinerated. What he learned was that it would take flames between 1,800 degrees and 2,800 degrees more than two hours to incinerate an adult body. 

Even then, recognizable bone fragments would remain. 

Mendoza and other fire experts contacted recently by WWL-TV agreed. 

“It’s really inconceivable to think that, in a house fire, all that existed of a human being, even a child between the ages of 3 and 4, would be completely consumed by that fire,” said Brant Thompson, deputy fire marshal for the State of Louisiana. 

In addition, firefighters who worked the scene had the blaze under control within 30 minutes of arrival. 

And Simona Brown offered a bombshell claim, one she has given since just days after the fire. She told WWL-TV that she remembers seeing her little sister outside after the survivors escaped the blaze. 

“My little sister Remona, she was with us. She was with us. And this car pulled up,” Simona said. “A bronze-looking old Cadillac just pulled up. An old black man and an old white lady offering to help us out. They’ll watch her for us. I was, like, ‘OK, cool.’ So when (Remona) got in, that was it. Gone.”

Family and neighbors said they do not remember an interracial couple living in the neighborhood in 1984. During Mardi Gras season, however, thousands of visitors pour into New Orleans to participate in the revelry. 

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Simona is the only one of the seven remaining siblings who claims to have seen Remona after the fire. She told the news station that, in her grief over her two brothers who were killed, she never told police about what she saw. 

The children’s maternal grandmother, Dorothy Nickerson, said that, although she never saw Remona again, she believes that the little girl called her a few days after the fire. 

“It’s been so long, but I know. I have a sharp mind,” Dorothy Nickerson said

The grandmother, now 90 years old, said the child on the other end of the line used the name Al, which was Remona’s nickname. Nickerson said as she tried to get the girl to tell her where she was, the phone went dead.

It sounded like someone took the receiver from the girl and hung it up, she said. 

“She didn’t know my phone number,” Nickerson told the news station. “Somebody must have dialed it for her.”

The family believes that person may have obtained Nickerson’s phone number from the newspaper, which published the number three days after the fire so those who wished to help the family could reach them. 

Dorothy Nickerson said she told her daughter about the phone call, but neither woman told police about it. Johnnie Mae Brown said her mind “just wasn’t right or something,” and she admitted seeking psychiatric help in the aftermath of her sons’ deaths and her daughter’s disappearance. 

Mendoza said he was never told about Simona Brown’s claim that she saw her sister being abducted, or about Nickerson’s mysterious phone call, WWL-TV reported. He said if he had been notified, he would have investigated the allegations. 

“I can assure you, I would’ve pursued it. From a professional perspective. From a human perspective,” Mendoza said

Mendoza’s report on the fire indicates that, after a week of officials trying to find Remona, the investigator visited her family and told her parents they could file a missing person report. It was never done. 

Now 66, Johnnie Mae Brown is fighting cancer that she recently learned has spread in her body. She prays for closure before her death.

“If I could just see her before, oh God,” Brown told WWL-TV. “Before God call on me, oh well, that would be so wonderful.”

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4-year-old mistakes gun for toy, shoots, kills little brother

Published: Wednesday, May 23, 2018 @ 7:18 AM

4-Year-Old Shoots, Kills Little Brother After Mistaking Loaded Gun for Toy

A Virginia family is mourning the death of a 2-year-old boy after he was shot and killed by his 4-year-old brother.

Tyson Aponte was shot in the chest when his brother picked up what he thought was a toy. In reality it was a loaded gun, WTVR reported.

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The children’s mother was home when the shooting happened Tuesday morning.

Tyson was taken to the University of Virginia Health System where he died, WCAV reported.

“It’s of paramount importance to make sure your guns are secured and out of the reach of children and everything,” Major Donald Lowe told WTVR. “At least have them unloaded or a safety lock on them, whatever you have to do to keep them from being discharged accidentally.”

Police are investigating.

“Our heart breaks for this family ... they’re devastated, naturally, so we want to do everything we can to help them,” Lowe told WTVR.

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No leads in fatal drive-by shooting of grandmother; police asking for public’s help

Published: Tuesday, May 22, 2018 @ 9:50 PM

Police Catch Suspected Wrong-Way Semitrailer Driver Naked

Ohio authorities have no suspects and few solid leads in their investigation into who shot and killed a 62-year-old grandmother during a drive-by shooting Saturday evening in Dayton.

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Investigators are asking for the public’s help in what they called a “heinous” and “sad” crime.

Dayton police Lt. Gregg Gaby on Tuesday wouldn’t answer specific questions about how many shots were fired and what caliber of bullet killed Sherrell Wheatley as she was walking home after feeding a neighbor’s dogs.

We really have nothing other than at this point the suspect vehicle is possibly a silver-colored (Ford) Taurus or possible (Chevrolet) Impala-type vehicle. We’re not sure of the exact make and model of the vehicle,” said Gaby, commander of the violent crimes bureau.

“What we are asking is anyone in the neighborhood that saw any of this or has any information on this, please contact the Dayton Police Department.”

“At this point, we do not think that they intentionally targeted her, but we don’t know that,” said Gaby, who added that nothing in the investigation has revealed why Wheatley was targeted.

Gaby said witnesses heard gunshots and saw the vehicle, but nothing has tied the suspect vehicle to other crimes. Gaby also said a September 2017 shooting at the same residence does not yet tie in.

>> Related: Innocent bystander grandmother killed: ‘Hit by a bullet that has no eyes’

“This is the type of crime that hopefully the community will be incensed by and come forward and help out with and say, ‘Hey, I’ve got information on it,’” he said

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Veterans Day vs. Memorial Day: When is each, why is it commemorated?

Published: Tuesday, May 22, 2018 @ 11:17 PM

VIDEO: Military Memorials

If you’ve ever wondered what the difference is between Memorial Day and Veterans Day, apparently you’re not alone. No less an authority than the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs says people frequently confuse the two holidays.

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Make no mistake about it: Both are incredibly important holidays, with their common focus on Americans who’ve served in the military. The key distinction: Memorial Day “is a day for remembering and honoring military personnel who died in the service of their country, particularly those who died in battle or as a result of wounds sustained in battle,” the VA says.

While Veterans Day also honors the dead, it is “the day set aside to thank and honor all those who served honorably in the military - in wartime or peacetime.”

Here’s a guide to each holiday:

MEMORIAL DAY

When it is: This year, it is on May 28.

Its original name: Decoration Day. Initially, it honored only those soldiers who’d died during the Civil War. In 1868, a veteran of the Union Army, General John A. Logan, decided to formalize a growing tradition of towns’ decorating veterans’ graves with flowers, by organizing a nationwide day of remembrance on May 30 (Logan also served in Congress from Illinois and in 1884, unsuccessfully ran for vice president on the Republican ticket). During World War I, the holiday’s focus expanded to honoring those lost during all U.S. wars.

When it became official: In 1968, Congress officially established Memorial Day (as it had gradually come to be known) as a federal holiday that always takes place on the last Monday in May.

Its unofficial designation: Memorial Day is still a solemn day of remembrance everywhere from Arlington National Cemetery to metro Atlanta, where a number of ceremonies and events will take place on Monday.   On a lighter note, though, many people view the arrival of the three-day weekend each year as the start of summer.

One more thing to know: In 2000, Congress established the National Moment of Remembrance. It asks all Americans to pause at 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day each year to remember the dead.

VETERANS DAY

When it is: November 11 every year. 

Its original name: Armistice Day. The “armistice” or agreement signed between the Allies and Germany that ended World War I called for the cessation of all hostilities to take effect at 11 a.m. on the eleventh day of the eleventh month of the year in 1918. One year later, on Nov. 11, 1919, the first Armistice Day was celebrated in the U.S. 

When it became official: In 1938, a Congressional act established Armistice Day as an annual legal holiday. In 1945, World War II veteran Raymond Weeks first proposed the idea of expanding the holiday to one honoring veterans of all U.S. wars. In 1954, the holiday legally became known as Veterans Day (In 1982, President Ronald Reagan presented Alabama resident Weeks with the Presidential Citizenship Medal in recognition of his efforts in creating Veterans Day).

Its temporary relocation: In 1968, the same Congressional act that established Memorial Day moved Veterans Day to the fourth Monday in October every year. That law took effect in 1971; just four years later, in 1975, President Gerald Ford -- citing the original date’s “historic and patriotic significance” -- signed a bill that redesignated Nov. 11 as Veterans Day every year.

One more thing to know: Despite much confusion over the spelling, it’s Veterans Day, plural, and without any apostrophes. That’s according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, which explains on its web site: “Veterans Day does not include an apostrophe but does include an "s" at the end of ‘veterans’ because it is not a day that ‘belongs’ to veterans, it is a day for honoring all veterans.”

(File photo)

   

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Man charged with murder in chase, crash that killed North Carolina trooper

Published: Wednesday, May 23, 2018 @ 6:30 AM

Authorities had been looking for 22-year-old Dakota Kape Whitt (pictured) after Trooper Samuel N. Bullard, 24, of Wilkes County, died late Monday in a crash.
North Carolina Highway Patrol
Authorities had been looking for 22-year-old Dakota Kape Whitt (pictured) after Trooper Samuel N. Bullard, 24, of Wilkes County, died late Monday in a crash.(North Carolina Highway Patrol)

A man wanted following a fatal crash involving a North Carolina Highway Patrol trooper has been captured.

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Authorities had been looking for 22-year-old Dakota Kape Whitt after Trooper Samuel N. Bullard, 24, of Wilkes County, died late Monday in a crash along Interstate 77 in Yadkin County during a chase.

WGHP-TV reports that during the chase, one trooper noticed he did not see a second patrol car behind him. When his attempt at contacting the other trooper failed, he turned around and found the patrol car engulfed in flames.

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“Our SHP family is devastated by the loss of Trooper Bullard. We are struggling to find words that describe the hurting we feel right now,” said Col. Glenn M. McNeill Jr., commander of the State Highway Patrol. “Trooper Bullard died as he was fulfilling his promise to the people of North Carolina, protecting and serving his community.” 

It happened around 11:30 p.m. on I-77 southbound near NC-67. The area is about 70 miles north of Charlotte and due west of Winston-Salem.

>> No leads in fatal drive-by shooting of grandmother; police asking for public’s help

Chris Knox with the NCSHP said Bullard was a three-year veteran assigned to Surry County.

Troopers said the incident started with a license check. A black BMW did not stop and troopers went after it. Trooper Bullard was involved in a collision at Mile Marker 80.

Whitt was taken into custody without incident around 3:30 a.m. Wednesday. He's charged with murder, felony fleeing to elude arrest in a motor vehicle and driving with a revoked license. 

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