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Homecoming Prince Identified as High School Shooting Suspect


ABC News(MARYSVILLE, Wash.) --  A high school student in Washington state opened fire in a cafeteria at lunchtime, leaving one person dead and at least four injured before killing himself with a self-inflicted gunshot wound, police said.

Eyewitnesses and law enforcement sources identified the shooter as Jaylen Fryberg, a freshman at Marysville Pilchuck High School. Marysville police administrative commander Robb Lamoureaux earlier declined to identify the suspect, but said he was a male student at the school.

A video on YouTube showed Fryberg as his school's homecoming prince.

Lamoureaux said the deceased victim was a female, but he did not say whether she was a student or staff member.

Two young men and two young women were transported to Providence Regional Medical Center, three with critical head wounds that required surgery, a hospital official said. The fourth, a young man with less severe injuries, was transported to a different hospital.

One of the young women remained in surgery hours after the shooting, while the other two critical cases -- one young woman and one 15-year-old male -- were both out of surgery but still "very critically ill," said Dr. Joanne Roberts, the hospital's chief medical officer.

Because of the extent of the injuries, it has been difficult for Providence Regional officials to identify the two young women in surgery. Officials have been meeting with relatives and asking about birth marks and descriptions of their children's clothing to help make a match.

"I will tell you we will all go home tonight and cry," Roberts said. 

Lamoureaux confirmed that the shooting originated in the cafeteria, but did not specify where the deceased were located.


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Eyewitness Alyx Peitzsch told local ABC station KOMO that she was in the cafeteria when the shooting started and she heard four gunshots.

She estimated that there were perhaps 50 people in the cafeteria but she ran out of the room as soon as she heard the shots.

Peitzsch and many other students ran to a church near the school where her mother picked her up.

Police first heard reports of a shooting when someone on campus called 911 at around 10:40 a.m., Lamoureaux said.

The Marysville Police Department said the FBI also was involved in the investigation at the school, which is about 40 miles north of Seattle.

Police cleared the school's multiple buildings to ensure that the situation was stable and to look for injured students, Lamoureaux said, before transitioning from a dynamic scene to an investigative scene. Several hours after the shooting, several students still were being questioned, he added.


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Elisa Jaffe, whose 14-year-old son, Austin, was being held in a classroom while police finished a second sweep of the school campus, said that he used a friend's phone to call her to say he was alright.

"I won’t feel he’s safe until I actually get to touch him," Jaffe told KOMO.

"This is just one of those things -- it doesn't happen, it isn't real," she said. "It happens other places. I never imagined it would happen in this community. We will never feel the same."

President Obama has been briefed on the shooting incident.

Nathan Heckerdorf, a student at the school, told ABC News that he spoke to the suspected shooter before the first class of the day to see how the shooter was doing because the individual allegedly got into a fight over racial slurs.

The suspect claimed to be alright, and Heckerdorf thought the individual seemed normal.

Heckerdorf spoke to ABC News by phone while he was waiting to be evacuated from a classroom that he ran into when he heard gunshots.

"We were told to get away from the windows," Heckerdorf told ABC News of what he and about 25 other students were doing inside the classroom.

He said the school splits lunch into two periods and the people in the cafeteria at the time of the first shooting would have been there because they had the earlier lunch.

He was headed to the cafeteria but ran away when he heard the gunshots. He said that someone pulled the fire alarm immediately afterwards, causing everyone to scatter.

"Everybody's still shaken up," Heckerdorf said. "Some people are crying. But, as of now, it's a pretty calm atmosphere."

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Two Officers Dead After Two-County Crime Spree in Northern California


iStock/Thinkstock(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) -- Two officers are dead after a two-county crime spree in Northern California, during which three officers and a bystander were shot.

Authorities say 47-year-old Deputy Danny Oliver of the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department was shot in the head after he approached a suspicious vehicle in a motel parking lot.

After carjacking a vehicle, two suspects-- a man and woman-- headed north, where two Placer County Sheriff's deputies were shot. One of the Placer County officers died and the other was injured.

The female suspect was captured, and later, says Placer County Sheriff spokesperson Dena Irwin, the male suspect was taken into custody in Auburn.

The conditions of the surviving Placer County officer and the carjacking victim are unknown.

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What We Know About the Washington State High School Shooting Suspect


Jaylen Fryberg/Facebook(MARYSVILLE, Wash.) -- The shooter who opened fire at a Marysville-Pilchuck High School in Washington State Friday was identified to ABC News by eyewitnesses and authorities as Jaylen Fryberg.

Fryberg, who was a student at the school, died as a result of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, police said. One girl died and four others were injured in the gunfire.

Rachel Pomeroy, a junior, said she knew the shooter and last spoke with him on Thursday.

"He was fine the day before. He was being sassy, as always, and good," she said.

While Fryberg's motive isn't immediately known, Pomeroy said he had just come off suspension for a fight.

Robert Fryberg, who identified himself as Jaylen's brother, reacted in real-time on Twitter. First there was dismay about the shooting and then shock when he tweeted that he heard the name Fryberg.

"I just heard some news and I pray to God that it is not true," he wrote.

Two hours later: "I'm gonna miss you little bro," he tweeted. "Only God can judge you."

Jaylen Fryberg is seen smiling in many pictures on his Facebook page, hunting, participating in sports and surrounded by friends.

In many ways, he appeared to be a typical teen, liking video games and counting Adele and 50 Cent among his favorite musical artists.

His Twitter account yields some insight into what he was feeling in the days leading up to the shooting.

The messages posted to his account earlier this week were filled with angst.

On October 20, he tweeted: "Alright. You f***** got me.... That broke me."

The next day, he wrote: "It breaks me... It actually does... I know it seems like I'm sweating it off... But I'm not.. And I never will be able to.."

Later, he added: "I should have listened.... You were right... The whole time you were right..."

Another tweet read: "If I just laid down..."

On Thursday, his final tweet read: "It won't last.... It'll never last."

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Ax Attack Against New York City Cops Was Inspired by Terrorists, Police Say


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A man who attacked New York City police officers with an ax had converted to Islam in recent years and the assault appears to have been a lone wolf terror attack, police said Friday.

One officer who was struck in the head with the ax by Zale Thompson on Thursday is in critical but stable condition, Police Commissioner William Bratton said. A second officer was also injured.

Thompson was shot and killed by two other officers as Thompson charged them with the ax, Bratton said.

The commissioner said that Thompson had converted to Islam two years ago.

"The father indicated to us he believed his son several years ago converted to become a Muslim, a self-proclaimed Muslim," Bratton said.

Deputy Commissioner John Miller, who is in charge of counterterrorism for the department, said a review of Thompson's computer showed that he had visited websites affiliated with radical groups, including al Qaeda, ISIS and al Shabaab.

"It appears from the electronic forensic piece of this, this is something he has been thinking about and thinking about with more intensity in recent days," Miller said.

He said Thompson was "self radicalized, self directed."

When asked if the ax assault was an act of terrorism, Miller said, "It appears at this point that it was in his mind."

He also said there was no indication that anyone else was involved.

The ax attack occurred the day after a lone gunman shot and killed a Canadian solider in Ottawa before he was shot dead by the Parliament's Sergeant in Arms.


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Remains of Missing UVA Student Hannah Graham Identified


Charlottesville Police Department(CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va.) -- The remains of University of Virginia student Hannah Graham, who vanished last month, have been positively identified, police said Friday.

The remains were found in a field on Oct. 18 about 10 miles from Charlottesville, Virginia, where the UVA sophomore was last seen.

Surveillance footage recorded Graham walking around the downtown area shortly after 1 a.m. Sept. 13 with a man named Jesse Matthew.

Matthew, 32, was named the suspect in the case a week after she vanished and he was arrested days later in Galveston, Texas. He was charged with abduction with intent to defile, although now that the remains have been identified as Graham's, the charges will likely be increased.

"The focus of the investigation now is to determine what charges will be brought and the appropriate time to make those charges," Lunsford said in a statement.

Police asked that anyone who saw suspicious activity around Old Lynchburg Road, where the remains were found, around the time of Graham's disappearance to call police.

Graham's parents, John and Sue Graham, said in a statement, "We are devastated by the loss of our beautiful daughter, Hannah... Put simply, Hannah lit up our lives, the lives of our family and the lives of her friends and others who knew her."

"We would like to draw attention to the fact that, although the waiting has ended for us, there are other families both in Virginia and beyond who have not been as fortunate in that their loved ones are still missing. Please continue to hold these families in your thoughts and prayers," the parents said.

"Hannah showed great promise as a student and as a young woman," University of Virginia president Teresa Sullivan said in an email sent to all students and faculty Friday afternoon. "She brought immense energy and delight to her learning at the University, and she was a source of friendship and joy for so many people here at the University and abroad, particularly her friends on the ski team."

Matthew was indicted last week for a 2005 sex assault on a woman in Fairfax City, Virginia. The victim in that case, a 26-year-old woman, survived the assault and has not been publicly identified.

Police have said they found a forensic link between Graham's case and the abduction and murder of Morgan Harrington, a Virginia Tech student who vanished from a concert in Charlottesville in 2009. Her body was found months later.

In 2010, police said they had a forensic link between the Harrington murder and the 2005 sex assault in Fairfax City.

Several other police jurisdictions have opened cases on missing women to see if there is any link to Matthew.

Matthew’s hearing has been pushed back and he has not entered a plea in the Graham or Fairfax case. His lawyer has declined to discuss any possible links to other cases.

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Donations Pour in to Buy Eric Frein Lookalike a Car


The Tully Family(CANADENSIS, Pa.) -- Thousands of dollars have been raised for a Pennsylvania man who said he's continually accosted by cops as he walks to work through the woods where police are searching for suspected cop killer Eric Frein.

Supporters who heard about James Tully's plight raised nearly $14,000 online to buy him a car. Tully said he walks five miles from his home in Canadensis to his job at a metal manufacturing factory, and his path crosses right through the manhunt area in the Pocono Mountains.

He told ABC News affiliate WNEP that he's been stopped by police at least 20 times, and was once even ambushed at gunpoint by authorities who thought he was the suspect.

Since neighbor Dawn DeBiase launched the GoFundMe campaign this week, hundreds of sympathetic people have donated.

"If everyone was willing to walk 10 miles to make a dollar, the world would be a different place," one supporter wrote.

"I am retired now but I can remember times when I had no car to get to work and I found people willing to help me," said another donor. "Just like all these great people helping you. Good luck to you."

DeBiase posted a message from Tully's mother on the fundraising page Thursday night.

"I don't know if James is aware of the present total as he is at work right now," she wrote, according to DeBiase's update. "But I am blown away. I don't have the words to thank each of you for your kindness to my son. To say thank you seems so inadequate, but I don't know what else I could say. Many thanks to everyone who donated and posted encouraging messages. Thank you especially, Dawn for organizing this."

Police have been searching for Frein for six weeks, since he allegedly opened fire at the Blooming Grove police barracks on Sept. 12, killing one state trooper and injuring another, before escaping into the woods.

Frein, a self-trained survivalist, has been spotted several times, but evaded police capture.

Tully has started wearing his employer ID on a lanyard around his neck, and wearing a reflective vest on his walks so police immediately know he is not the suspect.

Pennsylvania State Police declined to make an official comment, but said that if Tully feels he was mistreated, he should file a complaint.

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National Park Service Investigating Vandalism Reports in at Least 10 Parks


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The National Park Service has launched an investigation following reports of vandalism in at least 10 parks in Arizona, California, Colorado, Oregon and Utah, officials said Friday.

“On Tuesday we received a phone call from a reporter who directed us to a web blog called www.modernhiker.com claiming that a person has self-identified as serially vandalizing National Parks in the west,” Jeffrey Oslon, a National Park Services spokesman told ABC News.

“We have verified the images of the vandalized sites and we are trying to locate them, confirm that they exist so we can repair them,” he added.

A statement issued by the National Park Service lists the areas affected as Yosemite National Park, California; Death Valley National Park, California; Crater Lake National Park, Oregon; Zion National Park and Canyonlands National Park, both in Utah.

“We are awaiting confirmation in Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona; Sequoia Kings Canyon National Park and Joshua Tree National Park, both in California; Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado; Bryce National Park, Utah,” the statement said.

Vandalism, as described in the Code of Federal Regulations, 36 CFR 2.31(a)(3): Destroying, injuring, defacing, or damaging property or real property.

“Vandalism is a class A misdemeanor and since this act happened on federal land it makes the Federal Class A misdemeanor. It is a penalty of $5,000 and one year in prison,” said Olson.

“National parks exist to preserve and protect our nation’s natural, cultural and historic heritage for both current and future generations. Vandalism is a violation of the law and it also damages and sometimes destroys often irreplaceable treasures that belong to all Americans,” the National Park Service said in a statement.

ABC News tried to access the Instagram and Tumblr accounts where the pictures and comments allegedly have been posted but it appears they were taken down. However, many of the pictures appeared on Modern Hiker’s blog in a story they published called “Art in the Parks.”

“There are forums for artistic expression in national parks because national parks inspire artistic creativity. These images are outside that forum and outside the law,” said Olson.

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Intruder Shot by Golfer's Wife May Have Been Her Ex-Lover: Police


Thinkstock(TAMPA, Fla.) -- The wife of a semi-pro golfer shot an intruder in an August home invasion -- but a police report released this week revealed that the wife and intruder were allegedly having an affair, with authorities declining to bring criminal charges in the case.

Mishay Simpson, 28, the wife of golfer Rhett Simpson, was home alone with the couple’s daughter on Aug. 19 when their home alarm system went off, police said.

Simpson told investigators that someone came upstairs and opened the door, according to the police report.

She saw someone standing in the doorway. "He began to back up, facing her, and she pulled the trigger," the report states.

The man was identified as Andrew Noll, 23, an acquaintance of Simpson's. He took a photo seconds after being shot.

"When she opened the door, we looked right at each other for a few seconds," Noll told investigators. "I turned around, and she shot me."

One week before the shooting, she filed a request for a restraining order, telling police that Noll had been stalking her.

But Noll's story is much different.

“I had the codes and the keys to her house,” he said. “I didn't open the bedroom door. She did, and she shot me from behind.”

The nature of their relationship remains in question. He claims -- in a sworn statement -- that they were having an affair, but had recently broken it off.

On the night of the shooting, Simpson reportedly texted him. But Simpson told police that the two have never been involved sexually.

Simpson and her attorney declined to comment when reached by ABC News.

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Hatchet-Wielding Man Who Attacked Cops 'Just an Angry Guy'


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A hatchet-wielding man who attacked two police officers in New York City before he was shot to death was likely “just an angry guy” and was not connected to any terrorist organizations, a police source told ABC News.

The attack happened at 2 p.m. Thursday, at the intersection of Jamaica Avenue and 162nd Street in the city’s borough of Queens.

Surveillance video released by police shows the man -- later identified as Zale Thompson, 32 -- wearing a heavy green jacket, raising the 18 ½ inch hatchet, prepared to strike as he walked down the sidewalk. The man was unprovoked and did not speak before swinging his hatchet, police said.

Officer Kenneth Healey, 25, is listed in critical but stable condition at Jamaica Hospital with a head wound following the attack, police said. Officer Joseph Meeker, 24, is listed in stable condition with an arm injury.

Additionally, a 29-year-old woman located nearby was accidentally struck by a bullet in her lower back and is recovering from surgery, police said.

Police initially wondered if the attack was terrorism-related, but according to the police source, authorities haven’t been able to connect Thompson to any terrorist organization.

“The initial impression is that he’s just an angry guy who’s ranting about the American government and American oppression of foreign people,” the source said.

Police executed several search warrants and found other axes and hunting knives, the source said.

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Red Hot Lava Flow Edging Toward Hawaiian Town


iStock/Thinkstock(PAHOA, Hawaii) -- A lava flow threatening homes and a town on the Big Island of Hawaii has gained speed in recent days, advancing more than five football fields in just the last 48 hours.

Hawaii civil defense authorities and scientists are closely monitoring the lava’s progress, which is steadily encroaching on the small town of Pahoa and several Big Island subdivisions. The flow is now less than a mile from Pahoa, Civil Defense Administrator Darryl Oliveira said Thursday.

Oliveira said changes in topography may help slow or change the path of the red-hot lava flow, which emerged from the Kilauea volcano East Rift Zone on June 27 and has traveled roughly 11 miles since then.

Authorities now say they are preparing for the inevitable. About 10,000 residents on the island could be affected, Oliveira said. When the lava gets too close -- and Oliveira says he doesn’t yet know when that is -- the plan is to give residents three to five days warning before they need to evacuate.

“We’d like to allow people adequate time to make whatever plans they need to make on a comfortable timeline,” Oliveira said.

Authorities said the lava traveled 425 yards from Wednesday morning to Thursday morning. The lava devoured another 130 acres of terrain by Thursday afternoon, officials said.

Emergency roads are already being constructed in case the lava cuts off people living in the lower Puna area. Power company officials began efforts Thursday to protect electrical transmission lines.

Big Island residents are used to living with one of the world’s most active, and sometimes destructive, volcanos. Since the current eruption began in 1983, unstoppable lava flows have added 500 new acres to the island and destroyed at least 181 homes, a visitor center, a church and a community center, according the National Park Service.

Oliveira says past efforts to slow or divert lava flows simply don’t work, and can create more problems.

“Any redirecting of the flow would likely push it into another subdivision in another area, basically putting new properties at risk that would not have been at risk before,” Oliveira told ABC News.

“If we divert it, we are going to push it into someone else’s backyard,” he said.


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Retracing the Steps of Craig Spencer, Doctor Who Tested Positive for Ebola


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Officials are retracing the steps of a doctor who tested positive for Ebola on Thursday, with the doctor in isolation at a New York City hospital and three others under quarantine, city and state officials said.

Dr. Craig Allen Spencer, 33, was placed in isolation at Bellevue Hospital on Thursday after reporting a 100.3 fever and gastrointestinal symptoms. He had been treating Ebola patients in Guinea -- one of the West African countries battling an outbreak of the deadly virus -- for Doctors Without Borders, officials said. Spencer left Guinea on Oct. 14 and traveled through Brussels, Belgium, and arrived at JFK Airport on Oct. 17.

Spencer had contact with four people -- his fiancée, two friends and an Uber driver, according to New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett. His fiancée, identified by a family friend as Morgan Dixon, is under quarantine at Bellevue Hospital while his two friends are quarantined at home, Bassett said. None of the people under quarantine are showing Ebola symptoms. The Uber driver isn't considered to be at risk for contracting the virus.

Health officials say Spencer took the A, L and 1 subway trains on Wednesday. He also went for a jog and visited The Gutter, a bowling alley in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn. The Gutter was closed Thursday "out of an abundance of caution," Bassett said.

The New York City Health Department will check the bowling alley on Friday, Bassett said.

Spencer's apartment was sealed off after it was cleared. Since he tested positive, a team will decontaminate his apartment in the Harlem section of New York, officials said.

Neighbors were saddened to learn about Spencer's diagnosis.

"I really hope the odds are in his favor in regards to his recovery," neighbor John Roston said.

The chances of the average New Yorker contracting Ebola, which is spread through direct contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person, are slim -- "close to nil" that the subway rides would pose a risk, Bassett said.

Still, the news rankled some New Yorkers.

"Oh my gosh!" said Charles Kerr, 60, as his friends gathered on a Harlem sidewalk murmured. "This changes the situation. The guy must be coughing, sitting against people. Now you've got to think."

Kerr said he wasn't afraid, but he wants a stricter approach to anyone coming from the Ebola-affected countries.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, speaking at a Thursday press conference, expressed their confidence in the staff at Bellevue Hospital to treat Spencer.

"There is no reason for New Yorkers to be alarmed," de Blasio said. "We've been preparing for months for the threat posed by Ebola. We have clear and strong protocols, which are being scrumptiously followed and were followed in this instance."

Earlier this week, a team with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention determined that Bellevue’s hospital staff had proper protocols and was prepared to treat Ebola patients, CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden said.

Cuomo said he had spoken with Ron Klain, who was appointed by President Obama as his "Ebola czar." A CDC team was also en route to New York, said Frieden.

New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center described Spencer as a "dedicated humanitarian...who went to an area of medical crisis to help a desperately underserved population."

Spencer is the fourth patient to be diagnosed with Ebola in the United States. Thomas Eric Duncan, a Liberian national, tested positive for the virus at the end of September in Dallas, where he infected two nurses who cared for him: Nina Pham and Amber Vinson.

Duncan died on Oct. 8, shortly before the nurses tested positive for the virus.

Vinson has been declared virus-free, her family announced Wednesday. Pham's condition has been upgraded from "fair" to "good."

Health officials decided to test the New York City patient for Ebola because of the patient's work, symptoms and travel history, according to a statement from Bellevue Hospital. Bellevue is the designated hospital for the diagnosis and treatment of Ebola patients in New York City.


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US Taking a Tougher Stance Against Animal Cruelty


iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- People who hate animal cruelty should be happy about an important change in federal law that will go into effect next year.

Beginning in 2015, the FBI will consider animal cruelty as a crime against society, falling into the same category as homicide, kidnapping, burglary and arson. Animal cruelty crimes will also be included in the Uniform Crime Report -- National Incident Based Reporting System.

The change should help law enforcement authorities get a better handle on understanding the motivation behind these crimes as well as stopping future ones from occurring.

Animal cruelty crimes will be reported to the UCR under the following classifications: simple/gross neglect; intentional abuse and torture; organized abuse; and animal sexual abuse.

Besides protecting animals from some unspeakable acts, the FBI also believes that the new system will help prevent violent crimes against humans since studies have shown that people who commit heinous acts such as serial killing often abused, hurt and killed animals during their adolescence.

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Murder Suspect Back in Custody After Accidental Release


DPSCS(BALTIMORE) -- A murder suspect who was mistakenly released from a Baltimore detention center is back in custody, authorities said.

Baltimore police captured Rodriguez Purnell about 6 p.m. He was accidentally allowed to walk free from the Maryland Reception, Diagnostic and Classification Center on Friday, police said.

Purnell, 30, has been in and out of jail for drugs and robbery over the years. He was recently incarcerated on a first-degree murder charge, accused of fatally shooting T.J. Rheubottom, 27, last year.

Purnell was in custody waiting to be retried for Rheubottom’s murder after his first trial ended in a hung jury, but after corrections officers confused his current case with the old charges, they let him go. Authorities didn’t realize the mistake until two days later when the victim’s family said they called the jail after Purnell was spotted hanging out in the neighborhood.

The Maryland Department of Public Safety and Corrections said in a statement Wednesday that it placed an employee on paid administrative leave for mistakenly releasing Purnell.

“Preliminary results indicate a lapse in release procedures that would otherwise have identified the pending charges at the time of release,” the statement said.

Rheubottom’s mother, Jackie Davis, was stunned by Purnell’s release and worried for the safety of her family and witnesses in the murder case.

“This should have never happened,” Davis told ABC News.

The incident remains under investigation.

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Jodi Arias Trial Hit With Another Juror Issue


ABC News(NEW YORK) -- The Jodi Arias trial ended early on Thursday because of a "juror issue," the latest incident in the four-day-old trial involving jurors.

The jury is not expected to return to court until Monday. The court did not make clear what the issue was.

But so far, the panel has already lost two alternates.

The judge ordered a group of 19 jurors to sit through what is expected to be a two-month trial that will determine whether Arias should be condemned to death for the 2008 murder of her boyfriend Travis Alexander. Arias, 34, was convicted last year of killing Alexander with a gunshot, 27 stab wounds and by slitting his throat. But the jury was split on whether Arias should be executed, requiring a second jury for the sentencing phase of the trial.

The plan to have seven alternate jurors for the sentencing phase was whittled to six on the first day when one juror didn't show up because of a family emergency.

On Wednesday, a second juror was dismissed because of improper contact with a member of the media that the juror mistook for ABC News legal analyst Nancy Grace, and for not wearing her juror badge.

If a third juror gets booted, the trial will be left with four alternates as the lengthy trial is just beginning.

The trial promises to be an ordeal with lots of grisly testimony and photos about the wounds, as well as raunchy photos, texts and phone message between Arias and Alexander. On the first day of the trial prosecutor Juan Martinez showed the jury a photo of Alexander's gaping neck wound.

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Putting New Football Helmets to the Test: What's Safest?


ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Preventing concussions has become a top priority for elite players and anyone with a child sporting a football jersey, and new technology and research is racing to try to make the game safer for all.

Virginia Tech University, which has tracked more than 300,000 impacts on its football team, is the epicenter for research into safer helmets. Their method uses a simple but critical test: lifting a football helmet rimmed with sensors six feet into the air, then dropping it onto a rubber-coated concrete and steel block.

The test mimics what players can face on the field, researchers told ABC News. Then a one- to five-star safety rating is assigned for each helmet tested. Helmets with more stars provide a reduction in concussion risk compared to helmets with fewer stars.

"If you don’t make a five-star helmet, a lot of times you can’t even bid on the sale of helmets. If a school puts out a call for proposals, it’ll say we are only taking bids for 5-star Virginia Tech rated helmets,” Stefan Duma, the director of the School of Biomedical Engineering and Sciences at Virginia Tech, told ABC News. “I think if you are a manufacturer, you can’t be in the business unless you are making 5-star helmets.”

ABC News got an exclusive look inside the Virginia Tech lab, where engineers are doing something not unlike crash testing for automobiles.

“When you go buy a car it’s very clear this is a 4-star car, it’s a 5-star car. A lot of work goes into that. We basically wanted to develop a system analogous for helmets,” Duma said. “So when you go buy a helmet you can look at our website and see an independent way to see which perform better than others.”

Researchers took ABC News into the lab as they tested three new helmets on the market, each boasting new technologies -- two from manufacturer SG and one from Riddell. The SG helmets are lighter, weighing half as much as other helmets.

“The interesting thing about this helmet,” Duma said in reference to the Simpson or SG helmet, “is that the shell is carbon fiber or Kevlar, so it’s super light and they use a different padding on the inside.”

And one from Riddell -- the Speed Flex helmet, just released this fall.

“For the first time you've got a company making a non-ridged shell so you see this part right here, it actually deforms, that’s very unusual,” Duma said.

“You can push on that and see how easy it bends in,” Duma explained, noting that the flexibility is expected to be an additional safety feature. “That’s their claim.”

After two straight days of testing, all three helmets tested received a 5-star rating. The helmets they are testing are for kids 14 years and older.

Virginia Tech found Riddell's new flex design reduced head acceleration better than any helmet they've tested.

Click here for a full list of their tested helmets and ratings.

The 5-star rating for both SG helmets came with two significant points: cracking was found in the helmet padding, or liner, in both helmets tested.

SG told ABC News: "The helmets are safe to use through the season" even with some cracking of the liner. “Annual reconditioning of helmets includes replacing liners," a cost SG estimates around $16 per foam liner.

Virginia Tech also noted that SG indicates their helmets have a two-year lifespan -- much shorter than the 10-year lifespan most other helmet companies claim. The company offers the possibility of re-certifying the helmet after two years.

Regarding the two-year lifespan, SG said "the helmets are new technology...and they haven't been available long enough to know if they will last beyond two years."

Virginia Tech researchers said they hope the work done inside the lab to rate and improve helmets will make football a safer sport.

“We want parents to learn that getting out of the old helmets, getting into the new better helmets, that’s gonna reduce [your kid’s] risk,” Duma said.

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