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Missing Georgia mom found safe 2 weeks after disappearance

A Georgia mother of two reported missing has been found healthy after police searched for her two weeks.

Valerie Maynard, 53, of Smyrna, had last been seen Sept. 3. Her white Land Rover was found Sept. 5 in the Pigeon Hill parking lot on Burnt Hickory Road unlocked with her phone and purse still inside.

Cobb County Sgt. Wayne Delk previously said that Maynard may have been transient due to the number of personal items found in her SUV.

>> On AJC.com: Jury sentences man for shooting father of 3 in back of the head

“Due to privacy concerns, the circumstances leading up to her missing status as well as her current location are not being released,” Delk said on Tuesday.

Court records show Maynard and her husband had recently gone through a divorce. 

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The judge ruled that their two young children live with their father but did allow Maynard limited visitation. She got only the Range Rover in the divorce and was ordered to pay her ex-husband $30,000 in payments, court records indicate.

A judge made a final ruling on her divorce case on Aug. 1, records show. The divorce was first reported by Channel 2 Action News. Maynard’s attorney filed a motion for a new trial on Aug. 30, days before the Cobb mother went missing.

'I'm a Kardashian,' Florida woman claims before pushing neighbor, deputies say

A Florida woman who claimed she was a “Kardashian” was arrested on a battery charge after a confrontation with a neighbor, the Marion County Sheriff’s Office said.

>> See the Facebook post here

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Last week, Crystal Kohler, 35, approached her neighbor and said, “I’m a Kardashian. I’m going to (expletive) you up,” and then pushed the victim with both hands, deputies said

When deputies asked Kohler why she did it, she said the neighbor was too “nosy,” according to an incident report.

>> Read more trending news 

The victim said she has ongoing issues with Kohler, who randomly yells at her for no reason.

Kohler remains in the Marion County Jail on a charge of simple battery.

Police sergeant, firefighter, 22 more arrested in child sex sting

Two dozen men, including a police sergeant and firefighter, have been arrested in an undercover child sex sting, New Jersey law enforcement officials announced Tuesday.

According to state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, the sting, dubbed "Operation Open House," targeted "men who allegedly were using social media in an attempt to lure underage girls and boys for sexual activity."

>> Watch the press conference here

During the investigation, undercover officers posed as underage boys and girls on social media sites such as Grindr, Whisper, Skout and Kik, the Attorney General's Office said in a news release

The release said the defendants "typically initiated contact" with the officers and "are alleged to have made arrangements to meet the 'children' for sex."

>> Read more news stories 

The suspects were arrested from Sept. 5 to Sept. 9 at an undercover house in Toms River, other meetup locations or their own cars, authorities said.

Those arrested include Howell Township police Sgt. Richard Conte, 47, of Farmingdale, and Richard Hoffman, 23, a firefighter and college student from Mays Landing. The following suspects also were arrested:

  • Mina G. Beshay, 27, of Monroe Township
  • Christopher Vargas, 29, of Toms River
  • Joshua Rauter, 31, of Little Egg Harbor Township
  • Joseph Martin, 35, of Seaside Heights
  • Volvi Lowinger, 23, of Lakewood
  • Thomas Graciano, 28, of Brick
  • Thomas Blumensteel, 47, of Manchester
  • Thomas Fuller, 44, Toms River
  • Zachary Vincent, 24, of Forked River
  • William Singleton, 24, of Pemberton Township
  • Jonathan Vece, 22, of Turnersville
  • Lawrence Ivancic, 51, of Toms River
  • Robert Lisicki, 51, of Metuchen
  • Dylan Daffron, 28, of Lacey Township
  • Steven Portnoy, 27, of Egg Harbor Township
  • David Studnicky, 64, of Toms River
  • Anthony Perfidio, 24, of Barnegat
  • Brian Degnan, 33, of Toms River
  • Nabindranauth Nandalall, 24, of Bronx, New York
  • William D. Davis, 23, Bayville
  • Charles Schlottfeld, 26, of Bayville
  • Douglass Walton, 54, of Hillsborough

All 24 suspects are facing charges of "attempted luring or enticing a child with purpose to commit a criminal offense against the child," a second-degree offense, the news release said. Some also face charges of attempted sexual assault on a minor, attempted debauching morals of a child and attempted showing obscene material to a minor. See the full list of the suspects and their charges here.

“It is disturbing that some of the alleged child predators from this operation held positions of public service and authority, but behind closed doors they went through great lengths to avoid detection online, frequenting social media sites with the sole purpose of targeting unsuspecting children,” New Jersey State Police Col. Patrick Callahan said in a statement. “Our troopers and partners on the ICAC Task Force are unfazed by the outward appearances of sex offenders and will continue to turn the tables on predators by luring them out of hiding and bringing them to justice. These arrests serve as a sobering reminder that parents should closely monitor their child’s online activity.”

Read more here.

Man accused of taking wife with dementia to fair on leash, 'yanking' it when she wandered

A Maryland man was arrested Saturday at a Pennsylvania fair after witnesses said he yanked a leash attached to his mentally impaired wife’s neck so hard it caused her head to snap back and left red marks around her throat, police said. 

Walter William Wolford Sr., 66, of Hagerstown, is charged with simple assault. He was released Sunday on $5,000 unsecured bail, court records show

The York Daily Record reported that Wolford went to the York Fair Saturday with his wife, who he said suffers from dementia. While there, Wolford led the woman around on a dog-type leash about 8 feet long, charging documents obtained by the newspaper stated

A witness told West Manchester Township police officers, who were called to the fair shortly before 4 p.m. Saturday, that Wolford “had yanked that leash when all of the slack had gone out of it, causing her head to move backwards and for her to sustain red marks around her throat area,” the Daily Record reported the documents stated

Paramedics were called to check Wolford’s wife out, at which point police officers observed her, the Daily Record reported. 

“She was very disoriented, did not know where she was (or) her own name, and spoke gibberish,” the charging documents stated

>> Read more trending news

Wolford told officers that his wife has suffered from dementia for about five years, three years longer than doctors had expected her to live. According to the Daily Record, he said she wandered off at last year’s York Fair and was missing for about 90 minutes before she was found trying to leave the fairgrounds. 

Wolford said he decided to use a leash to keep her from wandering away this year, the newspaper said. 

“Walter told me that he originally placed the leash around her waist, but somehow it had moved up around her neck and when she walked away from him and (when) all of the slack became taut, he ‘gently tugged on the leash so she would stop,’” an officer wrote in the charging documents

Investigators wrote that they spoke to the couple’s son, Walter Wolford Jr., who “did not offer much info in this case” but said his father was not abusive to his mother, the Daily Record reported

The annual York Fair, billed as “America’s First Fair,” is held every September in York. It began in 1765, 11 years before America’s founding, as a two-day agricultural market on the town commons, the fair’s website states

Day care owner charged after children found bound by necks, strapped into car seats

A Texas day care owner was arrested Saturday after police searched her home Friday and found several of her charges bound by the neck and strapped into car seats.

Investigators also said in an arrest affidavit that Rebecca Anderson, 60, of Mesquite, drugged the children to keep them quiet, NBC 5 in Dallas-Fort Worth reported

Anderson, who owns Becky’s Home Child Care, is charged with nine counts of endangering a child through criminal neglect -- one count for each child in her home Friday -- and one count of injury to a child, Dallas County Jail records show. She is being held in lieu of $45,000 bail. 

The affidavit obtained by NBC 5 said that Anderson came under suspicion Thursday after the father of a 6-month-old boy she cared for reviewed footage from a small video camera mounted on the baby’s car seat. The footage showed Anderson yanking the infant from the car seat by his ankle and picking him up off the ground by the bib tied around his neck, investigators said.

The recording also showed Anderson feeding the boy an “unknown substance using a plastic liquid syringe,” the affidavit said

The man brought the video to Mesquite police officials, who obtained a search warrant for Anderson’s home, the news station reported. When the search warrant was executed Friday, Anderson claimed that she had just five children in her care at the time.

Officers searching the home found another four children, three of them strapped into plastic car seats in a dark closet in the master bedroom and the fourth child restrained in the master bathroom, NBC 5 reported

“Shoelace-like ligatures” were found tied around the children’s necks, the arrest affidavit said. Some of the ligatures had to be cut to free the children. 

Anderson admitted to officers that she used the ligatures to limit the children’s movements and sometimes kept them strapped into car seats for as long as seven hours at a time, the document said, according to the news station. She also admitted she “had likely given Tylenol to all of the children,” investigators said.

>> Read more trending news

Neighbors told ABC 13 in Houston that they sometimes heard children screaming from Anderson’s home. 

“It just kind of concerned me, the way the kids sounded when the parents dropped them off, where it alarmed me,” one neighbor told the news station

Becky’s Home Child Care could not be found among the database of licensed day care centers approved by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. 

Google search for her facility shows it as permanently closed. 

Robbery victim shot after online date set him up, police say

A man was shot multiple times Tuesday morning in Atlanta when his online date set him up to be robbed, according to police

An Atlanta police officer was flagged down just before 1:30 a.m. after the man drove to a gas station seeking help. He had several gunshot wounds to the chest, police spokesman Officer Jarius Daugherty told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The shooting victim told police he planned to meet a date he contacted online, but when he arrived at their meetup spot, she was with another man who she said was her brother.

Her brother, later identified as 21-year-old Jordan Williams, asked for a ride home in the victim’s red Chevrolet Camaro, the victim told police. When they reached another street a few miles away, he said Williams jumped out of the car and pulled out a gun from his waistband. 

>> Read more trending news 

“The male then started to fire upon the vehicle, striking the victim,” Daugherty said. “At that time, the victim produced his own weapon and returned fire.”

Investigators believe robbery was the motive behind the shooting. According to WSB, a large amount of cash was found in the Camaro.

While they were speaking with the man at the gas station, another call about a shooting came in, police said. Officers found Williams “bleeding profusely from the leg” and the girl, WSB reported.

“Officers were able to determine that the male and female were the suspects in the shooting of the victim,” Daugherty said.

Both men were taken to Grady Memorial Hospital to be treated for gunshot wounds, and both were in stable condition Tuesday, according to WSB. 

Williams was later arrested on charges of aggravated assault, aggravated battery, possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony and criminal attempt to commit robbery. 

The date, who is not being named because she is a minor, faces a charge of criminal attempt to commit a robbery.

Texas 4-year-old finds, fires AK-47 after parents argue, dad stabs family cat to death

A Texas man is accused of killing his family’s pet cat and threatening to kill his girlfriend during a domestic disturbance in which the couple’s 4-year-old son found an AK-47 rifle and fired it, police said. 

Mario Eduardo Salinas, 27, of Galveston, is charged with animal cruelty, making a terroristic threat to a family member and tampering with physical evidence, according to Galveston County Jail records

The Galveston Daily News reported that police officers were called around 8 a.m. Sept. 10 by Salinas’ girlfriend, who told investigators Salinas had threatened to kill her and the family’s pets, which also included a dog, and take the couple’s two children. A criminal complaint obtained by the newspaper said Salinas found out the victim wanted to leave him. 

He threatened to chop her up and kill the animals, the complaint said. 

The woman, afraid to go home, called the report in from work, the Daily News reported. Salinas was at the couple’s home with the children and the animals at that time, police investigators said. 

Around 9:45 a.m., police received a call about a gunshot that came from inside the home where the couple and their children live. No one was home when officers responded to the home.

Salinas showed up a short time later, with blood on his clothes and boots, the Daily News reported

He told the officers his son had found the AK-47 and fired it, killing Snowflake, the family’s cat, the police complaint said. A family friend who was at the house when the cat died, however, told investigators that Salinas had stabbed the cat and threw the animal’s body away in an alley.

When the cat’s body was found by animal control officers two days later, a veterinarian who examined the feline found 12 stab wounds, police officials said. 

>> Read more trending news

Investigators said in the criminal complaint that Salinas got several guns out of a safe and placed them on a bed during the argument with his girlfriend. The guns were left out after she left for work.

The couple’s son later climbed onto the bed and fired the loaded rifle, sending a bullet through a dresser and out the back wall of the home, the Daily News reported. No one was injured by the gunshot.

Police and Texas Child Protective Services workers were still investigating the incident Friday, the newspaper reported.

Salinas remained in custody Tuesday. His bail had been set at $47,500, but jail records showed he was also being held on an emergency protective order. 

11 former FedEx workers, 2 ex-USPS contractors accused of stealing mail

A federal grand jury indicted 11 former FedEx Express employees and two former contractors for the U.S. Postal Service on allegations of mail theft.

>> Watch the news report here

The indictments were announced Monday in a news release from the U.S. Department of Justice.

All 13 people from Memphis, Tennessee, are facing federal charges of mail theft

According to the indictments, the defendants targeted mail – such as gift cards and greeting cards – since “there was a strong likelihood that they contained U.S. currency.”

The employees would search through the mail, remove some of the contents, and smuggle items off the premises, authorities said.

The news release identified each of the former employees. They were indicted on charges of “obstruction of correspondence or theft and receipt of stolen mail matter.”

>> Read more trending news 

Each person is facing up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine:

  • Braylon Butler, 25
  • Posely Jones, 25
  • Florence Guy, 23
  • Shamika Coleman, 39
  • Jamal Johnson, 39
  • Ronald Carter Jr., 32
  • Katrina Dunlap, 27
  • Yukelia Brown, 31
  • Tekesha Henderson, 26
  • Craig Johnson, 26
  • Yolanda Barbee, 22
  • Jerome Pope, 26
  • Cortez Spencer, 28

FedEx issued a statement regarding the indictments and mail theft charges facing the former employees:

"FedEx Express does not tolerate the use of its network for illegal activity," the company said. "We fully cooperated with authorities in this investigation, and the individuals named in the indictments are no longer employed by FedEx."

Officials held a press conference Monday to provide more details about the indictments and the charges against the former employees. 

Man who huffs spray paint, beat mom with spatula, police say

A West Virginia man well-known to police for huffing spray paint was arrested last week after he was accused of beating his mother in the head with a spatula. 

Glenn Allen Casdorph, 30, of St. Albans, is charged with malicious wounding, according to WCHS in Charleston, West Virginia. He is being held at the South Central Regional Jail in lieu of $10,000 bond. 

St. Albans police officers responded around 10:45 p.m. Thursday to a domestic disturbance, where they found Casdorph sitting on a bench in the front yard of his family’s home. Casdorph’s mugshot shows him with his face covered in silver spray paint.

The officers also found him with a large steel bar in his hands, WCHS reported. After detaining him, they went inside to check on his mother, who had her head wrapped in gauze and blood on her shirt and the back of her neck.

The criminal complaint against Casdorph said his mother’s head wound was inflicted when he beat her with a spatula, the news station reported. She declined to be taken to the hospital for her injuries. 

>> Read more trending news

The Smoking Gun previously reported on Casdorph’s criminal history, which includes battering a police officer after getting caught huffing spray paint in a Kanawha County field in March 2015. 

“Mr. Casdorph was located with large amounts of gold spray paint on and around his nose and mouth, and his breath smelled like fresh spray paint,” the criminal complaint obtained by The Smoking Gun read

The criminal complaint in the 2015 case also included Casdorph’s unique alias -- “Casdorph the Destroyer.” 

The origin of the nickname was not clear. 

Border Patrol agent arrested in serial killings of 4 women

A veteran U.S. Border Patrol agent was arrested over the weekend, suspected of being a serial killer responsible for the deaths of at least four women and the kidnapping of another in a two-week span. 

Juan David Ortiz, 35, of Laredo, is charged with four counts of murder, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, unlawful restraint with exposure to serious bodily injury and evading arrest or detention, according to Webb County jail records. His combined bail on the charges was set at $2.5 million. 

Ortiz, a Border Patrol agent since 2009, worked in intelligence, authorities said. He was off-duty at the time of the killings. 

Webb County Sheriff Martin Cuellar and District Attorney Isidro “Chillo” Alaniz held an impromptu joint news conference Saturday near the rural site where one victim’s body was recovered. All four slain women, including a transgender woman, were shot in the head.

All five victims, including the kidnapped woman, were sex workers, authorities said. Officials said Monday that Ortiz targeted the victims because of their work. 

“We do consider this to be a serial killer,” Alaniz said. “He meets the qualifications or definition of being a serial killer.”

Though the case remains under investigation, detectives believe Ortiz acted alone, Cuellar said.

The Laredo Morning Times reported that an arrest affidavit in the case alleged that Ortiz confessed to the killings, which began with Melissa Ramirez, 29, on Sept. 3. The court document indicated that Ortiz picked Ramirez up in Laredo and drove her outside the city limits. 

When she got out of his truck to urinate, he shot her multiple times in the head. Her body was found the next day. 

“I hurt a lot. All I want is justice,” Ramirez’s mother, Maria Cristina Benavides, told the Times. “I want that guy to die in jail for taking the life of my daughter.”

Ramirez, who got caught up in drugs, is also survived by a 7-year-old daughter and a 3-year-old son. Benavides had been awarded custody of the children, but Ramirez stayed with them in Rio Bravo several nights a week. 

“She loved her children and when she was here, she took good care of them,” Benavides told the newspaper

The second victim, Claudine Anne Luera, 42, was found clinging to life Thursday along the same stretch of rural road, about two miles from where Ramirez was found. Luera died later that day at a hospital, the Times reported. 

The Washington Post reported that Ortiz told investigators Luera, a mother of five, accused him of being the last person to see Ramirez alive. 

Luera’s sister, Colette Mireles, described her as a “happy-go-lucky” girl growing up, the Times said. A free spirit, she, like, Ramirez, became an addict as an adult, Mireles said.

A GoFundMe page was set up by a friend of Luera’s daughter to help pay for her funeral.  

The case came to a head Friday night, when Ortiz picked up a third woman, whose name is being withheld to protect her identity. The Post reported that the woman went with Ortiz, who she knew only as David, to his home, where she spoke of Ramirez, who had been a friend of hers. 

The woman told investigators that Ortiz reacted strangely to the discussion, making her so uneasy that she vomited in his front yard before they drove to a gas station. At the gas station, she continued talking about Ramirez’s slaying, at which time Ortiz pulled out a pistol and pointed it at her, Ortiz later told detectives. 

As they struggled inside the truck, Ortiz grabbed the woman’s shirt. She pulled away -- and out of her shirt, which allowed her to escape. She ran to another nearby gas station, where she found safety with a state trooper fueling up his patrol car, the Post reported.   

“The evidence then collected by the law enforcement investigators indicates that there is probable cause to believe that this individual is responsible for this series of murders,” Alaniz said during Saturday’s news conference

Ortiz was captured around 2:30 a.m. Saturday, hiding in the bed of a truck in a hotel parking lot, Alaniz said. In the five hours between the third victim’s escape and his capture, however, he killed two more women. 

Watch Webb County officials speak Saturday about the arrest of Juan David Ortiz, a Border Patrol agent, in connection with the serial killings of four women. 

Ortiz told detectives he picked up the first woman, identified as Jane Doe in the affidavit, and drove out of the city limits on Interstate 35, where he told her to get out of the truck, shot her multiple times in the head and left her to die. 

The transgender woman, identified by investigators Monday as 28-year-old Humberto Ortiz, was next. Juan Ortiz told investigators he picked up the victim -- who, according to family and friends, went by the name Janelle -- along the same roadway as Jane Doe and drove to a spot on I-35 about 5 miles from where he’d left Jane Doe’s body. 

After shooting Janelle Ortiz once in the back of the head, Juan Ortiz hid the body behind gravel pits nearby, the Times reported

Jane Doe’s body was discovered Friday night. Janelle Ortiz’s body was found Saturday after Juan Ortiz told investigators where to look, the Times reported. 

Janelle Ortiz’s mother, Elva, told KPRC in Houston that she did not think her child was the killer’s final victim because news reports identified the victim as male. Now, she is preparing to travel to Laredo to make funeral arrangements. 

“I want justice done,” the distraught mother told the news station. “That is what I want: For that man to get justice, to get what he needs (and) deserves.”

Juan Ortiz left cryptic messages for his family on Facebook after the third victim escaped and before he was captured, the Post reported. The messages seemed to indicate he may not have expected to live much longer. 

“To my wife and kids, I love u,” one message read. Another stated, “Doc Ortiz checks out.”

Alaniz told the Post that Ortiz, who was a U.S. Navy corpsman, went by “Doc” while in the service. 

Cuellar said that the case was resolved through the cooperation of multiple agencies, including U.S. Customs and Border Protection. 

Agency officials issued a statement regarding Ortiz’s arrest. 

“While it is CBP policy to not comment on the details of an ongoing investigation, criminal action by our employees is not, and will not be tolerated,” Andrew Meehan, a spokesman for the agency, said in a statement obtained by the Post. “Our sincerest condolences go out to the victims’ family and friends.”

Webb County officials give an update Monday on the case against Juan David Ortiz.

>> Read more trending news

The string of slayings shocked the community in Laredo, a border town situated on the north bank of the Rio Grande River, across the river from the Mexican city of Nuevo Laredo.

“Laredo’s not the sleepy town that we all grew up in,” Alaniz said Saturday. “These are crimes that are consistent with bigger cities -- Laredo is a big city. We’re seeing more and more serious crimes, (so) it can happen.”

Ortiz is the fourth Border Patrol agent arrested in Laredo so far this year, the San Antonio Express-News reported. David Villarreal, 32, was arrested April 6 on charges that he threatened to deport a woman unless she had sex with him.

Villarreal, who was arrested on suspicion of sexual assault, tampering with physical evidence and official oppression, claimed that the woman had become “affectionate” toward him and that the sex was consensual, the Express-News reported

Three days after Villarreal’s arrest, a supervisory Border Patrol agent, Ronald Anthony Burgos-Aviles, reported finding the bodies of Grizelda Hernandez and her 1-year-old son, Dominic Alexander Hernandez, in the brush near a park in Laredo.

Investigators in the double homicide learned that Burgos-Aviles, 29, not only knew Hernandez, but that he was the father of her son. Identified as the prime suspect, was indicted in June on two counts of capital murder. He faces the death penalty, the Express-News said.

A third agent, 24-year-old Luis Enrique Aranda, was arrested in April on allegations that he pawned his government-issued night vision equipment and reported it to his supervisors as stolen. The newspaper reported that he was charged with felony theft. 

Alaniz said Saturday that residents need to take precautions and watch out for one another.

“Report suspicious vehicles (and) suspicious behavior,” he said. “Help each other out. Protect one another.”

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