Crime

Williamson County Sheriffs Office

Williamson County sheriff's investigators have arrested Steven Alan Thomas, 53, in the 1980 murder of Mildred McKinney, the agency announced Tuesday.

McKinney was 73 when her daughter found her dead in her Williamson County duplex, where she lived alone. She had been beaten, strangled and raped. The murderer stacked a recliner, end table and vacuum cleaner on her head and chest.

The sheriff's office learned that DNA from the nearly 32-year-old murder scene matched Thomas on June 27, and additional testing of DNA collected from Thomas on July 5 also matched the DNA found at the murder scene. Analysis of a fingerprint from the scene of the murder also belonged to Thomas. 

View Suspicious Death in a larger map

One eastbound lane of W. Cesar Chavez Street  is shut down and part of the Hike and Bike Trail is closed as Austin Police investigate a suspicious death.

APD says a bicyclist called police just after 8 a.m. when he found a man lying near the trail. The man was dead in a sleeping bag with obvious trauma. Officers say he appears to have been homeless.

Senior Police Officer Veneza Bremner says it’s unclear how long the man was there but says the location is noteworthy because it’s very public area.

The sanctions slapped on Penn State football in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal charter a new territory in punishment by the NCAA, a sports author said today.

"I think it is unprecedented in terms of taking away wins. That's a huge blow," says Ted Kluck, author of several books on sports, including Game Time: Inside College Football.

A dazed-looking James Holmes, his hair dyed a reddish orange, made his first court appearance this morning as the state of Colorado began its case against the man arrested at the scene of Friday's massacre in Aurora, Colo., where 12 people were killed and an additional 58 were wounded.

It was a short hearing in an Arapahoe County, Colo., courtroom, starting at 11:30 a.m. ET. He'll be formally charged next Monday, the judge announced.

In a speech from Fort Myers, Fla., President Obama said today was "a day for prayer and reflection."

The President cancelled a planned campaign event and instead addressed the mass shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo. He asked those gathered to pause for a moment of silence to remember the victims.

"Even as we learn how this happened and who's responsible, we may never understand what leads anyone to terrorize their fellow human beings like this," Obama said. "Such violence, such evil is senseless; it's beyond reason."

A midnight screening of the new Batman movie The Dark Knight Rises turned into a horribly real scene of death and destruction in Aurora, Colo., early Friday when a gunman opened fire on the audience killing 12.

Wells Dunbar, KUT News

A new study commissioned by the city shows the Austin Police Department is very busy and “struggling somewhat” to keep up with calls for service.

The study was done by the Police Executive Research Forum, a non-profit law enforcement think tank. And it says the city’s current model of two officers per 1,000 people isn’t working. The study says APD needs more than 250 new officers and staff by 2017.

Wayne Vincent is the president Austin Police Association. He says the effect of short staffing is already having an effect on the city.

“There’s very little uncommitted time for police officers," Vincent says. "They’re going from call to call. There’s no chance to get to know people in the neighborhood, visit with business owners, individuals in the community. So the target is to have that uncommitted time so the officer can be proactive instead of reactive.”

City of Yuma, Arizona

The temperature isn’t the only thing rising this July: So is auto theft.

July is one of the more popular months for car thieves in Texas, according to the Austin Police Department.

This month, police are taking part in a “Watch Your Car” campaign, which aims to educate Austinites on ways they can prevent their cars from being stolen.

APD will be at the Barton Creek Mall today from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. to offer community services designed to curb car thefts.

Update 10:50 a.m.: The San Antonio Police Department says the boy has been found and is "safe and sound."

Earlier: The San Antonio Police Department has issued an Amber Alert for a 3-year-old boy. Police say Gabriel Rivera was abducted by two people in a gold Ford Explorer.

The vehicle has Texas plates with the license plate number: 5-7-R-8-4-5-4.

The missing toddler was last seen yesterday. He is Hispanic with brown hair and brown eyes. He’s about 3-feet tall and weighs about 35 pounds.

Police believe he is in danger.

Governor's Office

No Vote on ‘No Sit, No Lie’

Austin’s Public Safety Commission decided to push back until August a decision on expanding the city’s “No Sit, No Lie” ordinance to the 12th Street and Chicon Street area.

The ordinance bans anyone from sitting or sleeping on streets near businesses, banks, and ATMs. Right now, it’s in effect downtown.

The Blackshear and Prospect Hill Neighborhood Association has been trying to bring the ordinance east of Interstate 35 in hopes of combating drug and prostitution problems.

But the Public Safety Commission isn’t convinced “No Sit, No Lie” is the best option.

Jovita's Hopes to Reopen, Defendants Say

Jun 27, 2012

The Austin American-Statesman reports that the proprietors of Jovita's Mexican Restaurant – currently at the center of an alleged heroin distribution ring – would like to reopen the popular South Austin eatery. (It's unclear how this would occur, since the restaurant was one of several assets seized last week.) Amanda Pardo, wife of alleged ringleader Amado “Mayo” Pardo, was released on bond at a hearing this morning.

Austin Police Department

Regional officials alleged today that Amado Pardo, the owner of Jovita’s Mexican Restaurant in South Austin, led a prison-gang connected heroin ring that moved between $3,400 and $6,250 worth of drugs daily.

Officials from the Austin Police, the FBI, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s Office of the Inspector General and other agencies announced 18 arrests and the seizure of over $1.5 million in assets in a press conference this afternoon, “including a well-known restaurant on South First Street, Jovita’s,” said APD Assistant Chief Sean Mannix.  

Patrick Loll, an FBI assistant special agent for Central Texas, said Pardo lead a “heroin distribution network that has operated here for over a decade.”

Andy Uhler, KUT News

Assistant Austin Police chief Sean Mannix today said officers followed proper protocol in a high speed chase Friday – but added that the chase would have been “terminated in a matter of seconds” had the suspect not crashed into another car, killing an innocent motorist.

32-year old James Williford was hit and killed by a Ford F-250 allegedly driven by Reynaldo Victor Hernandez Jr. Hernandez was running from police when he raced through a red light and crashed into James  Williford’s Mitsubishi Lancer.

“This happened in a manner of seconds – less than a minute and a half from the time the officer got behind the vehicle until the crash occurred,” said Mannix.

aisdpolice.wordpress.com

After an 11 year career on the Austin ISD police force, Buddy’s career as a canine detective has concluded.   

The 13 year-old English Springer spaniel, who is trained to detect marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamines and powder used in firearms, will now spend his days as a house dog.  But he leaves behind some big paw prints. 

“He has quite the resume,” says Detective Travis Pickford, Buddy’s handler. "Over the past 11 years, Buddy has located murder weapons and helped on numerous felony narcotics investigation." 

flickr.com/joegratz

Some of the seven people in federal custody on charges of an alleged money laundering scheme for Mexican drug cartel Los Zetas are scheduled to appear in an Austin courtroom today.

Officials say the defendants hid millions of Zetas drug money in the horse racing business.

Forty-eight year-old horse trainer Eusevio Maldonado Huitron was arrested in Austin on Tuesday. He’s schedule to appear before U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrew W. Austin at 2:30 p.m. for arraignment and a detention hearing.

mirsasha via flickr

A former psychiatrist at the Austin State Hospital has been indicted on multiple felony charges, including child sexual assault, according to reports.

The Austin American-Statesman writes that Charles Fisher, who was fired from the facility last year amid charges he sexually abused two teen patients in 2003 and 2006, has been accused of abusing a total of five patients over a similar time period, from 2001 to 2005.

United States Marshals Service

Texas financier Allen Stanford was sentenced to 110 years in prison today, reports Agence France Presse.

Stanford was recently convicted on several charges, including fraud, after prosecutors proved he was running a Ponzi scheme with his Stanford International Bank:

by KUT News; Photo courtesy Harris County Sheriff's Department; Photo courtesy AISD

STAAR Retesting Costing School Districts

Hundreds of Texas students will spend time in summer classes, preparing to retake their STAAR exams.

The STAAR exams replaced the TAKS tests this year. As students and districts adjust to the new tests, performance standards and requirements are being phased in. The results of this year’s scores did not affect students’ final grades, but students still have to retake tests on subjects they didn’t achieve a minimum score in.

Our reporting partner The Texas Tribune writes that the summer classes and retakes are leaving schools with hefty bills, as districts have to hire teachers to conduct these classes.

KUT News

Crime rates in Texas, and particularly in Austin, have been in decline over the past few years.

Most Texas jurisdictions saw declines in reported violent and property crime in the first six months of 2011 compared to 2010.

The decline comes despite a faltering economy and rising wealth disparity; despite increased gun ownership; despite lofty drop-out rates in high schools; despite depopulating Texas youth prisons, reducing their inmate numbers from 5,000 to 1,100 since 2007; despite Texas releasing more than 70,000 adult inmates per year from prison back into their home communities.

To the surprise of some criminologists, none of these factors have prevented crime rates from going down nearly across the board.

Image courtesy Texas Court of Criminal Appeals

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled today to stop the scheduled execution of a convicted killer because of his mental health issues.

The state's highest criminal court gave a reprieve to 49-year-old Steven Staley. Staley’s execution was set for Wednesday. He was convicted of the 1989 shooting death of a Fort Worth restaurant manager during a botched robbery.

Staley's attorney argued that the prisoner's IQ of 70 likely meant he was mentally impaired and therefore ineligible for execution. 

A fund used to compensate victims of violent crime is not meeting its benchmarks, lawmakers learned today.
Image courtesy Office of the Texas Attorney General

The state fund used to compensate some crime victims is facing major financial problems.

That's what members of the Texas House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee heard today. Lawmakers learned that court fees going into the fund have fallen in the past three years – creating a short term deficit and threatening the long-term survival of the fund, according to the Associated Press.

The Crime Victims' Compensation program assists those affected by violent or traumatic crimes, offering up to $75,000 in cases of “catastrophic injuries resulting in a total and permanent disability.” 

Images courtesy Austin Police Department

Funeral for Slain Officer

The public is invited to salute fallen Austin Police Officer Jaime Padron.

Padron was shot to death on Friday while responding to a call at a North Austin Wal-Mart.

Visitation is tomorrow from 6 to 8:00 p.m. at Cook-Walden Funeral Home at 6100 North Lamar Blvd. The funeral will be held this Wednesday at 11 a.m. at Shoreline Church on Burnet Road. Austin Cops for Charities, a local group that provides aid and support for the family of Austin officers, has created a donation fund for Padron’s family.

Photo Courtesy of National Weather Service

Governor Perry to Tour Tornado Damaged Areas

Governor Rick Perry is scheduled to take an aerial tour of the Dallas-Fort Worth area damaged by tornadoes today. Perry plans to tour Lancaster, one of the hardest hit areas by the storms, according to the Texas Tribune.

The National Weather Service estimates up to a dozen tornadoes touched down in North Texas on Tuesday—one of those tornadoes was rated an E-F-3 with winds of up to 165 miles-per-hour.

Photo courtesy flickr.com/thetime-line

Austin Shoplifting Ring Busted

The Associated Press reports an Austin shoplifting ring has been caught selling stolen goods and smuggling them to Mexico. The list of stolen goods includes multiple household items: detergents, shampoos, batteries, cosmetics and razors.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

Michael Morton has experienced a harrowing, remarkable journey .

Morton served 25 years in a Texas prison, convicted of the murder of his wife in 1987. It wasn’t until 2011 that DNA testing, unavailable at the time of his conviction, proved the innocence he had long maintained.

Morton came to the KUT studios yesterday for an extended interview covering his time in prison, the justice system and wrongful convictions. (An Austin resident before his incarceration, Morton was at UT to discuss the latter topic that day.)

Photo courtesy of Raymond Thomas

Students and activists assembled outside the offices of The Daily Texan this afternoon, demanding answers about the controversial Trayvon Martin editorial cartoon the student newspaper ran Tuesday. What editorial process vetted the cartoon? Will the firestorm result in any changes at the Texan? And is the cartoon’s publication symptomatic of a broader problem on campus?

About 40 people engaged in a tense discussion with members of the Texan’s editorial staff. Staff members apologized for running the cartoon, promising a formal apology to supplement a terse statement the paper released yesterday and another the cartoonist sent today.

Discussion dwelt on the editorial process that oversaw the comic’s publication. Viviana Aldous, Texan Editor in Chief, said at least five editors at the paper vetted the cartoon before publication – the five members of the editorial team, plus copy editors.

Photo by Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Close to three hundred protesters donned hoodies and gathered at the gates of the State Capitol Tuesday night in remembrance of slain Florida teenager Trayvon Martin. It was a silent protest. It’s one in a series of rallies across the country this week that expressed anger over Martin’s killing by a neighborhood watch volunteer. 

Austin attorney James Nortey helped organize the event. He says the group spread the word about the protest almost exclusively through social media and word-of-mouth. Nortey says he's pleased with the Austin community for showing up.

Image courtesy yassineenterprises.com

The local drug and money laundering bust of Yassine Enterprises has taken an international turn, as authorities allege proceeds from the organization’s nightclubs, drugs, and money laundering operations went overseas to fund militant Lebanese group Hezbollah, an organization designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S.

KEYE reports on the arraignment of the Yassine Enterprises defendants this morning:

During bond hearings in federal court in Austin Tuesday, an Internal Revenue Service investigator said Hussein "Mike" Ali Yassine and Mohammed "Steve Austin" Ali Yassine sent money in $2,500 increments to their uncle, Mohammed Ishmael in Lebanon.  Authorities say he is associated with Hezbollah, a militant group and political party in Lebanon. 

Photo by Divya Darsi for KUT News

Pounds of pot, kilos of cocaine and bundles of bills were on display at an Austin police station today.

The department’s organized crime division was showing off what it obtained from three major drug seizures over the past month. APD Assistant Chief Sean Mannix said officers also captured more than six-and-a-half pounds of tar heroin.

"In talking to the other officers and detectives, supervisors in the room, none of us in our memories can remember a seizure of heroin that large in the city of Austin,” said Assistant Chief Mannix. “It’s a tremendous amount of heroin."

Image courtesy Hays County Crime Stoppers

Authorities have released information on a brutal assault and attempted murder of a teen lured from an Austin bus stop, including a sketch of the suspect.

From Hays County Crime Stoppers:

On Thursday, March 15, 2012 at approximately 9:45am, a 17-year-old female was lured into a white vehicle in the area of 51st Street and Manor Road in Austin, Travis County, Texas.  At 11:45am, Hays County Sheriff’s Deputies responded to Highway 290 in the area of CR 165, west of Dripping Springs near the Blanco County border, where the victim had been found on the side of the road by a passing motorist.  The victim was transported to the hospital and treated for injuries she sustained during the incident.  The subsequent investigation revealed that the female victim had been physically and sexually assaulted.

Pages