Geer Services, Inc.
Claude Nolan
Geer Services, Inc.
Geer Services, Inc.
Charles Parish
San Marco Properties
Geer Services, Inc.
Oct 042013

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW ORLEANS) — A Louisiana man freed from jail less than a week ago after 41 years in solitary confinement has died, according to his attorney and a close friend.

Herman Wallace, 71, died early Friday morning in New Orleans at the home of close friend and program director at Tulane’s School of Medicine Ashley Wennerstrom.

“He was surrounded by a whole lot of friends and family in the last few days of his life,” Wennerstrom told ABC News. “He was definitely aware that he was no longer incarcerated and he was happy to be free.”

On Tuesday Wallace was taken from a correctional facility to a New Orleans hospital for treatment of advanced liver cancer. Wallace, who was serving time for an armed robbery conviction, was one of three inmates who were convicted in the 1974 slaying of a prison guard.

The men became known as the “Angola 3″ and were moved to solitary confinement, where Wallace spent more than four decades until a federal judge overturned his conviction on Tuesday and ordered his immediate release.

Wennerstrom said that Wallace was “relatively alert” in the last few days and recognized all of the people who visited him.

U.S. District Chief Judge Brian Jackson in Baton Rouge ordered a new trial in the case because he said women were unconstitutionally excluded from the grand jury that indicted Wallace in the stabbing death of the guard, which “violated the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of ‘the equal protection of the laws.’….thereby rendering his conviction and resulting sentence unconstitutional.”

“Herman Wallace has been afforded some measure of justice after a lifetime of injustice,” his attorneys said in a statement.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Jul 282013

Lake County Sheriff’s Office(SACRAMENTO, Calif) — A missing 15-year-old girl was held captive in a metal box on a California marijuana farm, where she was forced to work and used as a sex slave, according to a federal complaint filed this week.

Ryan Balletto, 30, and Patrick Pearmain, 25, are charged with conspiracy to distribute marijuana and using a minor in a drug operation. Balletto also faces a charge of possession of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking, according to the complaint.

Federal authorities said the alleged marijuana-growing operation had been under investigation for 18 months, according to the complaint.

In April, after conducting a flyover of property owned by Balletto and detecting what was believed to be two greenhouses full of marijuana plants, authorities from the Lake County Sheriff’s Office began preparing a search warrant.

The case became more complex when, on April 29, according to the complaint, the Los Angeles Police Department contacted the Lake County Sheriff’s Office for “urgent assistance” after detectives received information a missing teen was being held against her will on Balletto’s property.

Police visited Balletto’s home the same day, but found nothing, according to the complaint.

The next day, the missing teen called authorities on a cellphone to say she was doing “OK” and was with Balletto in Sacramento, Calif., according to the complaint.

Police traced the called to West Sacramento, Calif., and located the teen at a hotel with Pearmain, where, according to the complaint, they found condoms, a pregnancy test, and an apparent script for the teen to use when she called authorities to say she was safe.

Pearmain was arrested and the minor was taken into protective custody.

On May 1, while executing a search warrant on Balletto’s alleged extensive marijuana operation, authorities said they located Balletto inside a camp trailer and took him into custody.

A 4-foot-long metal box with air holes and human hair found inside was located on the property and appeared to have been “altered to imprison a human,” according to the complaint.

Various contraptions that appeared “consistent with sexual bondage and sadomasochism” were also found during the search, the complaint said.

The teen told authorities she was kept in the box for three days and was given water through a hose, according to the complaint. The box was hoisted into the air and tilted, according to the authorities, so the water would “wash her off and rinse human waste from the inside of the box without letting her out.”

A poem about life inside the box that appeared to have been written by the teen was found in Balletto’s office during the search, the complaint said.

The teen described the marijuana operation as a “mission,” according to the complaint, and said one of the reasons she was locked in the box was to protect the “mission.”

According to the complaint, Pearmain told the teen they wanted to “help her” because she could “help them” because she was “good with trimming” the marijuana buds.

More than 1,000 marijuana plants were destroyed and a cache of weapons was seized from the property, according to the complaint.

The pair pleaded not guilty last week to the federal drug charges and were expected to appear again in federal court on July 31.

“Some in our community believe that marijuana grow operations are run by compassionate caregivers interested only in supplying medicine to the sick,” U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag said in a statement.”Unfortunately, this case illustrates what we in law enforcement see — marijuana grow operations that include heavily-armed, violent individuals, motivated by profit, carrying out abuses of vulnerable victims.

“In light of the details alleged in the complaint, we fear additional victims may have been subjected to similar treatment by the defendants, and we urge anyone with information about other such victims to come forward.”

It was unclear whether Balletto and Pearmain have attorneys at this time.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Jul 272013

Thinkstock/Comstock(HIALEAH, Fla.) — Seven people are dead in Southern Florida after a gunman went on a rampage Friday night through an apartment complex in the city of Hialeah.

Police are still trying to piece together exactly what happened, but say they first received reports of shots fired in the apartment complex at 6:30 p.m.

The gunman, who has not been identified by officials yet, is believed to have fatally shot six people during the shooting spree. He allegedly first shot the couple that managed the apartment complex then went upstairs shooting another man across the street. Police spokesman Sgt. Eddie Rodriquez told ABC News that they aren’t sure if the victim in the neighboring building was targeted or killed by a stray bullet.

Then he went up another flight of stairs, kicked open a door, shot three people in that apartment, and went upstairs again.

The gunman then took two or three hostages, resulting in a lengthy standoff with authorities. Rodriquez said that about 40 residents remain evacuated, though the entire block was cleared at one point.

Police negotiators tried to talk the gunman down but after a several hours they realized he was most likely not going to surrender quietly. The 8-hour standoff ended when a SWAT team was sent in to subdue the gunman to rescue the hostages.

The SWAT team attempted to subdue the gunman with flash grenades, but Detective Carl Zogby said they were forced to shoot him.

“At his last moments he was holding at least two hostages at gun point. SWAT members of the Hialeah Police Department knew there was no more time to negotiate and the gunman was shot and killed by Hialeah police.”

Including the gunman, seven people in total were killed in Hialeah overnight.

Police are working on identifying the gunman, who is believed to have acted alone, and are trying to determine a motive. Three of the victims still need to be identified, and officials are working on informing the next of kin.

“The most important part is over,” said Zogby. “The bad guy is down, he’s dead, he cannot hurt anybody anymore.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Jul 212013

Comstock/Thinkstock(EAST CLEVELAND, Ohio) — Police in East Cleveland arrested a man Friday suspected of killing three people, and authorities say he was inspired by the acts of a convicted serial killer.

Michael Madison, 35, was taken into custody after a standoff. He lives with his mother in the same neighborhood where police discovered his first alleged victim on Friday wrapped in trash bags. Two more bodies were discovered over the weekend, and East Cleveland police, the FBI and other agencies will comb the neighborhood Sunday for additional remains.

The three victims were all women. They have not been identified by officials yet.

A neighbor said they can’t believe it took police two days to find all three victims, saying that it was “kind of amazing that they kind of missed the other bodies that were discovered.”

Madison may have been influenced by another notorious killer, Anthony Sowell. One man who says he spent time in prison with Madison says Madison looked up to Sowell, who was convicted in 2011 of killing 11 women and hiding their remains in his Cleveland home.

East Cleveland Mayor Gary Norton says so far no charges have been filed against Madison, who is also a registered sex offender.

“This is very, very upsetting,” said Bernadette Bass, another resident. “Something like this is very upsetting, not only for me but for my children and grandchildren.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Jul 212013

KABC(SANTA ANA, Calif.) — A 10-year-old Santa Ana, Calif., boy is in protective custody after his mother allegedly shackled chains around his ankles as a way to keep him inside the house and out of trouble, police said.

Irma Navarro, 37, was arrested and faces charges of child abuse after neighbors found her son lying on the ground next to a tree outside the family’s apartment with a chain wrapped around his legs.

Two women walking by the apartment complex saw the boy crying on the ground with a chain around his ankles and both of his legs crammed into one leg of a pair of shorts Thursday morning, Santa Ana Police Department spokesman Cpl. Anthony Bertagna told

When he told them his mother had shackled his legs, they called the police.

Bertagna said the boy was able to free himself from the apartment and had hopped out to the front courtyard of the complex to get help.

“He was on the ground and could definitely see a lot of fear in him, and he was crying,” neighbor Jose Salinas told ABC Los Angeles station KABC-TV. “He had the chains around his ankles. I even noticed his pants when they were on, it looked like one pant leg.”

Bertagna said Navarro was concerned her son was getting involved with gangs in the neighborhood. She left the 10-year-old in the apartment with food and a game to play at 8 a.m. Thursday morning, he said.

“She was having a problem with her 10-year-old, who takes off and doesn’t come back until 9 or 10 at night. She’s afraid he’s getting tied up into gangs,” he said. “It was a matter of frustration on her part, but it doesn’t justify committing a crime. That doesn’t justify shackling your kid.

“My understanding is that she bought the chains about a week ago,” Bertagna said. “A couple of days before, she tried it around his wrists but it didn’t work, so she tried it around his ankles.”

Bertagna said Navarro is a single mother of three. Her older child was in school, while her younger child was with a babysitter at the time of the incident, he said.

Navarro, who works as a house cleaner, told police she couldn’t afford to get a babysitter for two kids, Bertagna said.

Navarro was booked into custody at the Santa Ana Jail on a charge of willful cruelty to a child. Her bail was set at $100,000, Bertagna said. She is expected to be arraigned in court on Monday.

All three children were taken by child protective services to the Orangewood Children’s Home in Orange, Calif., Bertagna said.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio