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

Aug 042013

ABC News(CLEVELAND) — Kidnapper Ariel Castro has been “calm and cooperative” since being moved to his temporary prison home, where he will stay until Ohio officials determine where he will spend the rest of his life, a Department of Corrections spokeswoman said on Sunday.

Castro was moved to Lorain Correctional Institution at 6:25 p.m. on Friday where he’ll be in solitary confinement, Department of Corrections Spokeswoman JoEllen Smith told ABC News.

Lorain is a “reception prison” where Castro will be evaluated before being moved to his still undetermined permanent prison, she said. He may be at Lorain for weeks.

Castro accepted a plea deal on July 27 that sends him to prison for life plus “not less than 1,000 years” with no chance of parole for abducting three women and keeping them as sex slaves for over a decade.

At his sentencing hearing this week, he shocked a Cleveland court by saying he is “not a monster,” “lived a normal life” and that the sex he had with the three women he held captive for more than a decade was “consensual.”

Castro’s statement came after one of his victims, the petite Michelle Knight, confronted him for the “hell” she endured in his house for 11 years.

Castro showed no reaction to the remarks by Knight. Instead, he gave a rambling speech in which he depicted himself as a person who had “everything going” for himself but was plagued by an addiction to porn.

Castro, 53, also denied that he ever raped Knight or his two other victims, Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus, during the years they were incarcerated in his house.

“Most of the sex that went on in the house, and probably all of it, was consensual,” Castro said.

“These people are trying to paint me as a monster. I’m not a monster. I’m sick. My sexual problem, it’s so bad on my mind,” Castro said.

“God as my witness, I never beat these women like they’re trying to say that I did. I never tortured them,” he said.

He insisted “there was a lot of harmony” in his house among himself and his captives.

Castro had such an emotional attachment to the home that prosecutors said he broke down in tears when he had to sign over the property deed last week, saying it was wrong to tear it down because he had so many happy memories there.

When Castro finished, Judge Michael Russo thanked Knight for her “remarkable restraint” during the statement.

“You’re welcome,” she replied, prompting light laughter.

Castro’s statement came after Knight bravely delivered a victim’s impact statement telling the man who tormented her for more than a decade that “I will live on, but you will die a little every day.”

Knight scoffed at Castro for “going to church every Sunday and coming home to torture us.”

Berry and DeJesus did not appear in court but had statements read in court for them.

As one woman finished her statement she turned to Castro and said in Spanish, “May God have mercy on your soul.”

Castro, manacled at the hands and feet, stared emotionless ahead during the statements.

During the hearing, detectives told how he captured the three women and subjected them to a decade of torture, which one woman wrote in a diary was like being held as a “prisoner of war.”

Prosecutors used a detailed scale model of his house and slides to take the court through his house of horrors, including hidden rooms, chains, motorcycle helmets for his victims and a gun he would use to threaten them.

Knight, 32, the first of the three women to be kidnapped, was in a store asking for directions when she was approached by Castro who offered to give her a ride, said Detective Andy Harasimchuk.

Knight told detectives she accepted the ride because she knew Castro’s daughter. Castro then drove her to his house and invited her to come inside to pick out a puppy for her son, at which point Harasimchuk said Knight was restrained with an extension cord, dragged to the basement where she was restrained with chains, had a motorcycle helmet jammed on her head and raped for the first of many times.

Eight months later, on April 21, 2003, Castro targeted Amanda Berry by offering her a ride home from her job at Burger King. Berry knew Castro’s son and daughter, and Castro took her to his house so she could talk to his daughter, Harasimchuk said.

She was quickly bound with duct tape, put in a motorcycle helmet and chained to a pole in the basement.

Castro’s third victim, Gina DeJesus, now 23, was friends with his daughter. On one occasion in 2004, she got into Castro’s car and he asked her to come in the house to help him carry a speaker to his car, Harasimchuk said. She became uncomfortable and tried to flee in the dark house, she inadvertently ran into a closet and was captured, the detective said.

The home was wired with alarm clocks “in a makeshift manner” to create an alarm system to the house, Harasimchuk said.

The women were kept in two rooms behind a door that could be secured from the outside with a lock, with a circular hole cut towards the bottom of the door that was a source of ventilation, the agent said. The windows were boarded up with very heavy closet doors, he said.

Berry shared one room with her now 6-year-old daughter, who Castro fathered while in captivity. DeJesus and Knight shared an attached, smaller room where a chain was also kept to restrain the women.

According to a sentencing memorandum released Wednesday, the women were restrained by chains attached to their ankles with access only to plastic toilets in the bedrooms that were rarely emptied. Castro fed the women one meal a day and used the “cold of the basement” and the “heat of the attic” as punishment techniques, according to the memo.

The women kept diaries during their incarceration.

“The entries speak of forced sexual conduct, of being locked in a dark room, of anticipating the next session of abuse, of the dreams of someday escaping and being reunited with family, of being chained to a wall, of being held like a prisoner of war,” the memorandum says.

Castro pleaded guilty to 937 counts, including kidnapping, rape, assault and aggravated murder that will send him to prison for life for abducting the three women and keeping them as sex slaves for more than a decade in his Cleveland home.

The prosecution released the memo in an attempt to persuade the judge to give Castro the sentence that the former bus driver has agreed to accept.

The plea deal spared Castro the death penalty because he was accused of the aggravated murder of a fetus after forcibly causing an abortion in one of his victims who he is accused of impregnating. The deal will also spare the three women from having to testify at a trial.

Castro allegedly told the women that he had previous victims and that “some of them made it home, but others had not.” The former bus driver once kept the three women locked in a vehicle for three days while he had a visitor at his home.

The victims were discovered in Castro’s home in May.

The documents also addressed Berry’s 6-year-old daughter, saying her time in captivity started the day she was born Dec. 25, 2006.

Cleveland police Wednesday also posted a picture on Facebook of a handwritten note by Knight, thanking the authorities for collecting gift and cards from well-wishers.

“Life is tough, but I’m tougher! Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, she became a butterfly,” Knight wrote.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Apr 212013

iStockPhoto/Thinkstock(FRESNO, Calif.) — The judge who sentenced a Fresno, Calif., man to jail for his role in a deadly drunk driving accident, defied the wishes of the victim’s family who had asked that the driver not receive jail time.

Judge Alan Simpson sentenced 25-year-old Brian Cappelluti to a year in jail after Cappelluti pleaded guilty to gross vehicular manslaughter and DUI charges on Thursday.

In 2011, Cappelluti was arrested after driving drunk with a blood alcohol level of .21 and crashing into a traffic light. The accident took the life of passenger 23-year-old J.W. Pardini, a close friend of Cappelluti’s.

Before Cappelluti’s sentencing, the Pardini family wrote a letter to the judge asking that Cappelluti not be given jail time.

“JW is gone forever. Brian has to live with the thought of this accident every day for the rest of his life,” the family wrote in a statement. “We suggest that probation for Brian is the proper corrective action.”

Another passenger in the car, Marion Walker, was severely injured during the crash. But she also spoke out for Cappelluti and asked the judge for leniency in his sentencing.

“All of us will pay for this accident for the rest of our lives,” Walker said. “We all understood what could happen and it did. I ask you not to take away my surviving support.”

While Simpson’s sentence of one year in jail is more than the defense wanted, it is far less than the five years in prison the prosecutors had asked for.

“I think the outcome was fair and just and everybody can feel that justice was done,” defense attorney Rick Berman told ABC News affiliate KFSN-TV in Fresno after the sentencing.

An earlier plea bargain fell apart in February after Cappelluti refused a deal that could have resulted in his spending six years in prison. During that hearing, Judge Houry Sanderson chided Cappelluti for relying on the kindness of Pardini’s family.

“If he was not related at all to these victims at all, total strangers, I am very sure that the position of these families would have been very different,” Sanderson said.

Cappelluti could be released from jail after eight months.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Mar 242013

(NEW YORK) — David Ranta has suffered a massive heart attack just two days after being exonerated of murder and leaving prison for the first time in 23 years, his attorney told

Lawyer Pierre Sussman said that Ranta, 58, was being treated in a New York hospital after suffering a severe heart attack Friday night. He did not provide further details.

Ranta was freed from prison Thursday after serving 23 years of a 37.5 year sentence for the murder of Brooklyn rabbi Chaskel Werzberger in 1990.

Ranta left a Brooklyn courtroom Thursday after a judge said he was free to go and his family cheered. On the way out he told reporters that the sensation of walking freely out of the courthouse was “overwhelming.”

“I said from the beginning,” Ranta said. “I had nothing to do with this case.” When asked what he was going to do next, he responded, “Get the hell out of here.”

Ranta had been spending time with his family after his release. Sussman declined to provide details or to identify the hospital to protect Ranta’s privacy.

The rabbi was killed after a botched jewelry heist and Ranta was convicted of the killing despite his protests of innocence.

Over the last two decades the case against Ranta began to crumble. In 2011 an eyewitness, who was a child at the time of the murder, came forward to say he had been coached to pick Ranta out of a line up. A subsequent investigation by the Conviction Integrity Unit of the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office determined Ranta’s case had been mishandled by police.

On Thursday Ranta’s family, including siblings and his pregnant daughter who was just 2 when he was arrested, were on hand when Judge Miriam Cyrulnik cleared his name. Ranta’s parents died while he was in prison.

“It’s clear that the effects of this case have been devastating,” Cyrulnik said. “To say I’m sorry for what you have endured would be an understatement.”

Prosecutors say they now suspect the murderer is a man who died two months after Werzberger was killed. They did not name him.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Feb 032013

Photodisc/Digital Vision/Thinkstock(SEATTLE, Wash.) — A Washington man was sentenced to two years in prison for shooting his terminally ill wife in what his family said was a mercy killing.

Donald McNeely, 55, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder on Thursday. His adult children asked a judge for mercy and insisted their father killed their mother, who had an inoperable brain tumor, out of compassion.

“I think that was his only option,” said Nikki Bryant, McNeely’s daughter.

“He loved my mother,” she told ABC News affiliate KOMO-TV in Seattle. “He still loves her very, very much.”

On March 14, 2012, McNeely sat with his wife, Linda, who had just returned from hospice care. He watched her for two hours as she slept before he delivered one shot to her ailing body.

McNeely called 911 around 3 p.m. that day and told the operator he “could not stand it anymore,” according to the police report.

He then called his two adult children, who rushed to the scene as he surrendered to police.

The body of 52-year-old Linda McNeely was found draped with a blanket in the home, with a pistol lying nearby, according to the report.

McNeely told police his wife had asked him several times over the course of her illness to shoot her.

Washington is one of two states that has a “Death With Dignity” Act. The law allows terminally ill adults who are of sound mind and have been given six months or less to live the right to obtain prescription drugs that will speed up their deaths. Oregon is the only other state with a similar law.

The McNeelys had considered the option, but Linda McNeely was not a candidate because of her cognitive deterioration, the Everett Herald reported.

Donald McNeely had faced a maximum of 18 years in prison.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio