Crime

DaLyah Jones / KUT

A 41-year-old Austin man has been charged with first-degree murder in the fatal shooting of a black teenager. Jason Roche allegedly shot Devonte Ortiz, 19, after an argument over fireworks in the early morning of July 4. According to an affidavit, Roche claimed the shooting was in self-defense, but witness testimony and cellphone video conflict with that account.

Catmom42/Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

From Texas Standard.

You may not be familiar with the name Jeff Henry, but you almost certainly know his company. Henry is the co-owner of Schlitterbahn, which has four waterparks in Texas. On Tuesday, Henry was arrested in Cameron County. The charge: second-degree murder.

Chris Blakeley/Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

From Texas Standard.

Few modern creations match the convenience of online holiday shopping – that is, unless you’ve had a package stolen from your front porch. Across the country, mail and delivery burglaries are on the rise, but one central Texas Police chief knows just the place place to send packages this holiday season.

Last week, the Round Rock Police Department launched Operation Front Porch, a program aimed at reducing the number of front door burglaries during the holiday season. Residents can ship packages directly to the city’s police department address and pick them up during normal business hours once they arrive.

Austin Police say four people were shot this morning as they drove along I-35 in North Austin. The suspected shooter is in custody, but his name has not been released. One child was among the injured and remains in critical condition.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT News

From Texas Standard.

Two months after the storm, there may be cause to rethink what many of us thought we knew about Harvey. Most folks assume that during times of disaster you do see major spikes in crime, but that’s actually not what happened in Houston.

Robert Downen, a reporter for the Houston Chronicle, has found some surprising numbers that counter a common narrative.

ErikaWittlieb/Pixabay (CC0)

From Texas Standard:

Texas is one of six states that tries 17-year-olds as adults. But a new bill wants Texas to follow the national trend of raising the age of criminal responsibility from 17 to 18.

House Bill 122, authored by Reps. Harold Dutton Jr. (D-Houston) and Gene Wu (D-Houston), passed the House last week and could be on its way to the Senate.


Trainman/Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

Clowns: They're not just for circuses anymore.

Across cities throughout Texas and around the country, police and schools have been on lockdown and high alert over reports of people with a Bozo-like appearance making threats – usually on social media.

But these recent clown sightings aren't the first we’ve seen. In fact, they go back to at least 1981 in Boston and spread across the country. One theory claims that these clown sightings come in waves, mirroring the fears and uncertainties of American society at the time.

 


Pete Szilagyi/Marfa Public Radio

A seemingly average Thursday morning in small-town Alpine, TX turned traumatic after a 14-year-old female freshman student shot and injured another female student before turning the gun on herself.

Brewster County authorities said the shooter was found dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, and the victim suffered non-life-threatening injuries.

The identities of the shooter and the victim have not been released.

Sting of a Music Gear Theft Ring Lands 130 in Jail

Jul 1, 2016
Pixabay/Unsplash (Public Domain)

From Texas Standard:

The Texas Capital claims to be the "live music capital of the world" but another Texas city might be able to lay claim to the "stolen music gear capital of the world."

Kyle "Trigger" Coroneos,  editor of the website Saving Country Music, says over the past few years he'd heard a lot of stories from artists and bands saying their gear was stolen, seeming like an "epidemic" of thefts.

"It became so rampant, it was like, What's going on here?" he says. "There must be some underlying issue to it."

 


Nathan Bernier for KUT News

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has released its annual crime statistics report. Between 2014 and 2013, Austin saw a nearly 15 percent increase in violent crime, plus a slight rise in robberies. But the figure that stands out the most is the number of reported rapes – a number that more than doubled since 2013.


The U.S. is seeing "historic" progress in reducing both its crime and its incarceration rates, Attorney General Eric Holder said, with the federal prison population falling by some 4,800 inmates in the past year — "the first decrease we've seen in many ‎decades."

The Supreme Court on Wednesday put off the execution of Russell Bucklew, a Missouri inmate who has maintained that his rare congenital medical condition would make the lethal injection procedure excessively painful.

Leslie Boorhem-Stephenson

Editor's note: This story has been updated throughout. 

CARTHAGE — On Tuesday, more than 17 years after Bernie Tiede shot 81-year-old Marjorie Nugent in the back and tucked her body under potpies in a deep freezer, a judge released him on bond, agreeing with lawyers that his life sentence should be reduced.

But his release comes with strict conditions, among them that he live in the Austin garage apartment of his moviemaking benefactor, Richard Linklater, and receive counseling for sexual abuse.

State district Judge Diane DeVasto agreed to allow Tiede's release after she heard evidence that sexual abuse he suffered as a child contributed to his crime and after a psychiatrist said Tiede would not pose a danger to society.

https://flic.kr/p/ayZi8V

For KUT News and Reporting Texas:

This past semester, four Texas State University MBA students worked with the Georgetown Police Department (GPD) to find possible solutions to a persistent problem: senior citizens living in the Sun City retirement community are increasingly being targeted for identity theft and fraud.

Dave Roshan is one of the MBA students working with the GPD to find a possible solution for the issue. 

Most surprising, Roshan said, is “what basic mistakes they are making,’’ including “[c]arrying their social security cards with them, leaving their checkbooks out in plain sight… They’re very trusting.”

DPS 2014 Texas Gang Threat Assessment

The Texas Department of Public Safety released its annual report on criminal gang activity in Texas this week.

This year’s Texas Gang Threat Assessment found that gangs continue to pose a substantial threat to public safety. Central Texas is home to some of the most established gangs in the state. The report estimates that with more than 4,600 gangs, overall gang membership in this state is more than 100,000.

Photo released by Blanco Police Department

Update: An Amber Alert for a 15-year-old Blanco girl has been canceled. Blanco Police say Sianna Gholson was found safe.

Gholson was believed abducted Tuesday morning from Blanco High School.

But, again, she’s now been found and is safe.

Original Story (April 1, 5:53 p.m.): Authorities issued an Amber Alert Tuesday for a 15-year-old girl believed abducted from Blanco High School in Blanco, Texas at about 7:45 Tuesday morning.

Carmen Martinez Fischer, facebook.com/driverfriendly

Update: Looks like Driver Friendly finally caught a break: the Austin-based band had their trailer full of missing gear returned to them this morning. 

"At 8:30 this morning an Austin Police Officer knocked on Jeremi's door notifying him that they had found our trailer WITH EVERYTHING IN IT!!!" the band says on Facebook. "We cannot believe this turn of events, and feel so blessed to not only have everything back, but to have been supported by, you, our fans, through all of this."

All the funds Driver Friendly raised online to cover their missing gear will be returned to fans.  

Original story (March 19): A band that calls Austin home can’t seem to catch a break.

Texas Monthly

In 1982, a grisly triple homicide in Waco shook residents faith in their community. Three teenagers were killed, and local police struggled with the investigation. The murders were just the beginning of a story that spans decades and involves dozens of characters, many of which became obsessed with both the murders and how the case was prosecuted. Now a new story in Texas Monthly by Michael Hall raises troubling questions about how the state handles justice.

"If there's one thing for certain, it's that the Lake Waco murder case does stand on its own," Hall writes in the story, 'Murders at the Lake,' in the April issue of Texas Monthly

Nathan Bernier, KUT News

The Texas Civil Rights Project says law enforcement officers may be violating the U.S. Constitution when they execute warrants without knocking. The organization released a report Tuesday that says 70% of surveyed jurisdictions do not have written “no-knock” policies and that many other counties and cities may have inadequate policies or do not effectively implement those they have. Jim Harrington, TCRP director, says that is putting citizens and officers at risk.

“It’s dangerous both ways. We have to get away from this idea, well, we just don’t [knock]. You know any time we say it’s a narcotics warrant, we just don’t do it,” Harrington says.

Caleb Bryant Miller for KUT News

Texas exonerated more prisoners – 13 – than any other state last year.

A report out today shows a nationwide push by prosecutors to re-examine possible wrongful convictions contributed to a record number of exonerations in 2013. The National Registry of Exonerations says 87 people were exonerated last year.

The Texas Tribune has more:

Thirteen Texans were officially absolved of wrongdoing last year for crimes ranging from murder to drug possession. Some had spent more than a decade in prison, and others a few months. The state with the second-most exonerations was Illinois, with nine, followed by New York, with eight. 

Wednesday's execution of a Mexican national in Texas revived a long-running diplomatic row between the United States and its southern neighbor.

Updated at 10:50 p.m. ET: Execution Carried Out

The Associated Press reports:

"A Mexican man has been executed in Texas for killing a Houston police officer, despite pleas and diplomatic pressure from the Mexican government and the U.S. State Department to halt the punishment.

Joy Diaz, KUT News

The holidays can be prime for home break-ins – after all, that’s when people go out of town for a few days and leave their homes unattended.

But imagine what happens when an entire neighborhood is forced out of their homes – and the vast majority of houses remain uninhabited for almost three months. That’s the situation in flood-stricken Onion Creek in southwest Austin.

Texas Department of Public Safety

The Ellis County Sheriff's Department has discontinued this Amber Alert.

Law enforcement authorities across Texas are looking for a missing 16-year-old girl. Inez Ramirez was last seen in Red Oaks, Texas – south of Dallas.

Ramirez is 5'2" and weighs about 130 pounds. She has brown shoulder-length hair and brown eyes. She was last seen wearing a green shirt and black shorts.

Police believe she may be with 23-year-old Edger Barron. He’s 5'9", weighs about 145 pounds and has black hair and brown eyes.

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Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

The Texas Civil Rights Project is calling on local authorities to investigate a string of suspicious housing deals that could cause seniors to lose their homes.

A company called Castro has been approaching Montopolis residents to see if they qualify for free home repairs paid for by the government. According to homeowners, the solicitors urged them to sign contracts granting Castro full legal rights over their homes.

Texas Civil Rights Project attorney Brian McGiverin says the Travis County District Attorney and the Texas Attorney General must investigate immediately.

DPS

Police across the state are looking for a missing five year-old boy and the woman who they believe took him. She was last seen in North Richland Hills – near Fort Worth.

Five-year-old Jagger Curry is white. He has brown hair and brown eyes. He was last seen wearing a blue shirt, grey-and-white striped pajama pants and cowboy boots.

Police believe he’s with 30-year-old Jennifer Lynne Echeverria. She’s also white with brown hair and brown eyes. She’s about 5-foot-9 and weighs around 140 pounds. She was last seen wearing a black short-sleeved t-shirt and jeans. She has a tattoo of angel wings with eyes on the inside of both arms. The back of her head is shaved.

A new poll released this week shows Texans strongly support reforming how the state punishes non-violent drug offenses. The Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Center for Effective Justice polled over 1,000 people about how Texas currently punishes non-violent drug offenders with prison time vs. drug rehab and probation.  

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Update: Dan Keller walked out of the Travis County Jail this afternoon after 21 years in prison. He was greeted with an embrace from his wife Fran, released from her own imprisonment last week.

As the two left the jail, Dan Keller denied any bitterness over his two­-plus decades in prison. 

“I forgave everybody,” Keller said. “It’s no use to hate somebody … man ain’t supposed to do that. Lord didn’t hate anybody when they put him on the cross. He said ‘I forgive you,’ and I forgave them. It’s an experience I wouldn’t wish on anybody.”

Original story (Nov. 27): A Central Texas woman is now free after spending more than 20 years behind bars.

Fran Keller and her husband Dan were both sentenced to 48 years for so-called “satanic ritual abuse” at their Austin-area day care.

Joy Diaz/KUT News

If you live in Austin, chances are you or someone you know has been the victim of a property crime. 

That’s because Austin is one of the worst cities nationwide when it comes to property crime.

FBI numbers show Austin’s property crime rates are worse than New York, Chicago or even Los Angeles. Property crimes are so prevalent that a couple of years ago, the Austin Police Department created its very first Burglary Unit.

Every month almost 4,000 property crimes happen in Austin.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

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