Nation roundup for August 16
Questions in teen’s abduction
SAN DIEGO (AP) — The California man who abducted a teenage family friend and tortured her mother and 8-year-old brother before killing them exchanged more than a dozen calls with the 16-year-old girl in the hours before the slaying.
Exactly how James Lee DiMaggio tortured them or why he and Hannah Anderson exchanged about 13 calls wasn’t immediately clear, but the new details in court papers fueled questions about how and why he targeted his best friend’s family and fled with a girl who has said she felt uncomfortable around him.
Firefighters found the body of Christina Anderson, 44, near a crowbar and what appeared to be blood next to her head. DiMaggio is believed to have shot and killed their family dog, found under a sleeping bag in the garage with blood close to its head.
Investigators found 8-year-old Ethan’s body as they sifted through rubble.
DiMaggio “tortured and killed” the mother and son, San Diego County Sheriff’s Detective Darren Perata wrote, offering no elaboration, in the warrants released Wednesday. Hannah was rescued days later in the Idaho wilderness, where authorities killed DiMaggio in a shootout.
The warrants do not indicate the time, duration or content of the calls that DiMaggio and Hannah exchanged before she was picked up at cheerleading practice Aug. 4, hours before firefighters found DiMaggio’s burning garage in Boulevard, a rural town 65 miles east of San Diego.
Jan Caldwell, a San Diego County Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman, said they may have been discussing pick-up times.
DiMaggio was extraordinarily close to both children, driving Hannah to gymnastics meets and Ethan to football practice.
Soldier shot 12 times in rampage
FORT HOOD, Texas (AP) — One of the soldiers killed during the 2009 shooting rampage at Fort Hood suffered a dozen gunshot wounds that indicate he was trying to charge the gunman, while another victim was pregnant, medical experts testified Thursday.
The two were among 13 people killed when a gunman opened fire inside a crowded medical building at the sprawling Army post in Texas on Nov. 5, 2009.
The accused shooter, Maj. Nidal Hasan, also is accused of wounding more than 30 people as he stands trial for the worst mass shooting ever on a U.S. military base.
Spc. Frederick Greene was shot 12 times during the attack, Lt. Col. Phillip Berran told the judge after reviewing photos of the soldier’s body before jurors were led into the courtroom at Fort Hood. When asked by a prosecutor if his findings were consistent with Greene “charging the shooter,” the pathologist responded: “Yes, it is.”
Prosecutors chose not to introduce the photos as evidence.
Another victim, Pvt. Francheska Velez, was shot once by a bullet that fractured her rib and went through her heart and right lung — a wound that wasn’t survivable, said pathologist Col. AbuBakr Marzouk.
When asked if the 21-year-old Chicago woman had any other significant medical conditions, Marzouk replied: “She was pregnant.”
Witnesses testified earlier in the trial that they would hear Velez crying out, “My baby! My baby!” during the shootings.
NTSB: UPS plane engine didn’t fail
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Federal investigators found no initial evidence that a UPS cargo jet suffered engine failure or was burning before it clipped trees at the end of a runway and slammed into a hillside, killing the two crew members onboard, officials said Thursday.
UPS on Thursday night identified the victims as Capt. Cerea Beal Jr., 58, of Matthews, N.C. and First Officer Shanda Fleming, 37, of Lynchburg, Tenn. In an email, the company said the Jefferson County, Ala., medical examiner had confirmed their identities.
A former Marine helicopter pilot, Beal had been with UPS since 1990. Fanning, described by UPS as an aviation enthusiast who was active and well-known in Lynchburg, had worked with the company since 2006.
Robert Sumwalt, a member of the National Transportation Safety Board, said during a news conference that the findings were only preliminary, and investigators hope to get additional evidence from data and voice recorders that were pulled from the plane’s burned-out tail section earlier in the day.
“They were blackened and sooted,” he said of the recorders, one of which captures voices in the cockpit and the other that records flight information about the plane’s operation. “We are cautiously optimistic that we will be able to obtain good data.”
NASA will not fix planet-hunter
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — NASA called off all attempts to fix its crippled Kepler space telescope Thursday. But it’s not quite ready to call it quits on the remarkable, robotic planet hunter.
Officials said they’re looking at what science, if any, might be salvaged by using the broken spacecraft as is.
The $600 million Kepler mission has been in trouble since May, unable to point with precision at faraway stars in its quest for other potential Earths.
That’s when a critical second wheel failed on the spacecraft. The first of four gyroscope wheels broke in 2012. At least three are needed for precise pointing.
Since it rocketed into space in 2009, Kepler has confirmed 135 exoplanets — planets outside our solar system. It’s also identified more than 3,500 candidate planets.
NASA expects to know by year’s end whether the mission is salvageable. Kepler is already on an extended quest; its prime, 3½-year mission ended in November.
The spacecraft is 51 million miles from Earth, orbiting the sun.
If nothing else, new discoveries are expected from data collected over the past four years.
“This is not the last you’ll hear from Kepler,” promised Paul Hertz, NASA’s astrophysics director.
“Kepler has made extraordinary discoveries in finding exoplanets, including several super-Earths in the habitable zone,” said John Grunsfeld, a former astronaut who heads NASA’s science mission office.
The habitable zone is the distance between a star and planet in which temperatures would permit liquid water and, possibly, life.
“Knowing that Kepler has successfully collected all the data from its prime mission, I am confident that more amazing discoveries are on the horizon,” Grunsfeld said in a news release.
Engineers tried without success, over hundreds of hours, to revive the two disabled wheels. The spacecraft remains stable, with thrusters controlling its pointing with as little fuel as possible.
The costs and benefits of the remainder of this mission will be analyzed; results from a pair of studies are expected this fall, with decisions coming afterward.
Kepler’s principal investigator, William Borucki of NASA’s Ames Research Center in California, said no one knew at the beginning of Kepler’s mission whether Earth-size planets were rare and whether Earthlings might be alone.
“Now at the completion of Kepler observations, we know our galaxy is filled to the brim with planets,” Borucki said at a news conference. A large portion of these planets are small like Earth, not gas giants like Jupiter, he noted.
Hundreds, if not thousands, of more exoplanets are expected from Kepler findings, Borucki said. He said it would take another three years to analyze the remaining data.
“We literally expect … the most exciting discoveries are to come in the next few years as we search through all this data,” he said.
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