Tag Archives: killer

Authorities investigating whether Pulse gunman had any help

Authorities on June 13 were investigating whether a gunman who killed 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando and declared his allegiance to Islamic State militants had received any help in carrying out the massacre.

The FBI and other agencies were looking at evidence inside and in the closed-off streets around the Pulse nightclub, where New York-born Omar Mateen perpetrated the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history, and the worst attack on U.S. soil since the Sept. 11, 2001.

Mateen, the 29-year-old son of Afghan immigrants, was shot and killed by police who stormed the club early June 12 with armored cars after a three-hour siege.

Law enforcement officials were looking for clues as to whether anyone had worked with Mateen on the attack, said Lee Bentley, the U.S. attorney for the middle district of Florida.

“There is an investigation of other persons. We are working as diligently as we can on that,” Bentley said at a news conference. “If anyone else was involved in this crime, they will be prosecuted.”

Officials stressed they believed there had been no other attackers and had no evidence of a threat to the public.

Mateen’s rampage began about 2 a.m. June 12, when the club was packed with some 350 revelers. Many fled as the gunman raked the crowd with bullets from an AR-15-style semiautomatic rifle and a pistol.

An initial wave of officers charged into the club and trapped Mateen in a bathroom, Orlando Police Chief John Mina told reporters. That action allowed many patrons to flee, although others were trapped in the restroom with Mateen, leading to the standoff.

“We were able to save and rescue dozens and dozens of people,” Mina said. Police negotiated with Mateen for about three hours before breaking a hole in the wall, which allowed hostages to escape.

Mateen also emerged from the hole and was shot dead by officers, police said.

Officials said on June 12 the death toll was 50. On June 13, they clarified that the figure included Mateen. Some 53 people were wounded and 29 remain hospitalized at Orlando Regional Medical Center, the hospital said on Twitter.

‘HAVEN’T HEARD ANYTHING’

By the morning of June 13, all but one of those killed had been identified and about half the families of the dead had been notified, officials said.

Other family members were desperate for news about their missing loved ones.

Julissa Leal, 18, and her mother drove to the Florida city from Lafayette, Louisiana, in search of her brother, 27-year-old Frank Hernandez. They knew he was at the club with his boyfriend, who lost him in the chaos.

“We haven’t heard anything, don’t know anything,” Leal said, fighting back tears. “I’m going to see him again. I’m going to see him again.”

Mateen called emergency services during the shooting and pledged allegiance to the leader of the militant Islamic State group, officials said.

Mateen’s father said his son was not radicalized but indicated the gunman had strong anti-gay feelings.

Mateen’s ex-wife described him as mentally unstable and violent toward her.

Islamic State reiterated on June 13 a claim of responsibility. “One of the Caliphate’s soldiers in America carried out a security invasion where he was able to enter a crusader gathering at a nightclub for homosexuals in Orlando,” the group said in a broadcast on its Albayan Radio.

The group’s claim of responsibility does not mean it directed the attack, as it offered nothing to indicate coordination with the gunman.

CANDIDATES DEBATE RESPONSE

President Barack Obama denounced the attack as an act of terror and hate and said on June 13 that the gunman seemed to have been inspired by extremist ideas.

“It appears that the shooter was inspired by various extremist information that was disseminated over the internet,” Obama told reporters at the White House. “It does appear that at the last minute he announced allegiance to ISIL (Islamic State), but there is no direct evidence so far that he was directed.”

The attack reignited the debate over how best to confront violent Islamist militancy, and immediately became a sharp point of disagreement in the campaign for the Nov. 8 presidential election.

Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, speaking on MSNBC, said the United States should walk a fine line in bolstering security without demonizing Muslims, and also called for tougher gun safety measures.

Wealthy businessman and presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump, in interviews with CNN and Fox News, criticized the U.S. Muslim population for not reporting suspicions to authorities, and reiterated his call for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the country.

The carnage early on June 12 occurred in the heart of Orlando, about 15 miles northeast of the Walt Disney World Resort. The city is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country, drawing some 62 million visitors a year.

FATHER: ‘I DON’T FORGIVE HIM’

Mateen was an armed guard at a gated retirement community and had worked for a global security firm for nine years. He had cleared two company background screenings, the latest in 2013, according to G4S, the firm.

Mateen’s father, Seddique Mir Mateen, said in an interview at his home in Port Saint Lucie, Florida, that he was angered by his son’s actions.

“Even though he is my son I admit this is terrorist act. This is terrorizing. I don’t forgive him,” the father said. “If you see his wife, what she is going through his poor wife and his son 3-1/12 years old, such a nice son, he should’ve thought about that.”

Mateen’s former wife, Sitora Yusufiy, told reporters near Boulder, Colorado, that she had been beaten by Mateen during angry outbursts in which he would “express hatred towards everything.”

Authorities said on June 12 that Mateen had been twice questioned by FBI agents in 2013 and 2014 after making comments to co-workers about supporting militant groups, but neither interview led to evidence of criminal activity.

Mateen visited Saudi Arabia in 2011 and 2012 for religious pilgrimages, a government spokesman said.

The attack in Orlando came six months after a married couple in California — a U.S.-born son of Pakistani immigrants and a Pakistani-born woman he married in Saudi Arabia — killed 14 people at an office holiday party in San Bernardino. The couple, who were inspired by Islamic State, died in a shootout with police hours after the mass shooting.

The most deadly attack on the nation’s soil inspired by violent Islamist militancy was on Sept. 11, 2001, when al Qaeda-trained hijackers crashed jetliners into New York’s World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania, killing some 3,000 people.

Additional reporting by Barbara Liston and Yara Bayoumy in Fort Pierce, Fla., Zachary Fagenson in Port St. Lucie, Fla., Omar Fahmy in Cairo, Michelle Martin in Berlin and Susan Heavey, Caren Bohan, David Alexander and Jonathan Landay in Washington; Writing by Roberta Rampton and Scott Malone.

People attend a candlelight vigil held in San Francisco. — PHOTO: REUTERS/Beck Diefenbach
People attend a candlelight vigil held in San Francisco. — PHOTO: REUTERS/Beck Diefenbach

Making a phenomenon: Netflix series shines spotlight on Steve Avery murder case

“Did he just reference the O.J. Simpson case?” the armchair juror asked, looking sideways at her co-juror, sunk deep into the couch after hours of binge-watching Making a Murderer, the Netflix series about Wisconsin’s prosecution of Steven Avery for a rape he did not commit and the murder of a woman for which he is serving a life sentence.

The 10-part series, a runaway hit that debuted on the streaming service in mid-December, has Netflix subscribers taking on the roles of juror and judge, prosecutor and defense attorney, cop and criminologist in the State of Wisconsin’s cases against Avery for the rape of a Manitowoc woman in 1985 and the murder of a Calumet County woman in 2005. Avery’s nephew, Brendan Dassey, also was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for the 2005 murder of 25-year-old freelance photographer Teresa Halbach at the Avery’s 40-acre property and salvage yard near Mishicot.

The reference to the Simpson case is apt because, like the televised proceedings in that trial, Making a Murderer leads the audience into deep, disturbing debates about guilt and innocence while questioning the integrity of the criminal justice system. Since the series launched, more than 250,000 people have signed petitions urging the president to pardon Avery and Dassey, which is not even an option in state cases.

The story may be new to Netflix’s audience, but Steven Avery’s trials and tribulations are familiar to Wisconsinites. He’s been known in the state as a small-time thief, a defendant, a convicted rapist, a prison inmate, an exoneree, a freed man, an advocate for the innocence project and, finally, as a convicted killer — as “evil incarnate.”

But now, once again, Avery is becoming known as the possible victim of a corrupt legal system, as a repeat non-offender. On Jan. 11, he filed a new appeal. He claims that prosecutors went after him to retaliate for the $36 million lawsuit he filed against Manitowoc officials.

The case recently settled for $400,000.

Avery, despite having alibi witnesses, was convicted of raping a woman jogging along Lake Michigan in Manitowoc in 1985. He served 18 years, exhausting many appeals, before his release from prison on Sept. 11, 2003, after the Wisconsin Innocence Project proved, using DNA testing, that another man committed the crime.

Avery’s wrongful conviction led Wisconsin lawmakers to champion new legislation meant to help the exonerated.

Still, Wisconsin Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager, in an investigation of how Avery ended up in prison, did not find cause to bring criminal charges or ethics violations against the Manitowoc County Sheriff’s Department, which arrested Avery and ignored information that should have led to the arrest of the actual rapist, or against the Manitowoc District Attorney’s Office. In October 2004, Avery filed a federal suit for his wrongful conviction, seeking $36 million in compensation.

A year later, and shortly after several key players in the 1985 case were deposed in the lawsuit, Avery was arrested for the murder of Halbach. In her professional capacity, she had visited the Avery property on Halloween. Her burned remains were found behind Avery’s trailer. Her SUV was found in the Avery salvage yard. And the key to that vehicle eventually was found in Avery’s bedroom.

Months later, investigators obtained a confession from Dassey, 16 at the time, who said he participated in the rape and murder.

It was DNA evidence, which led to Avery’s exoneration in the 1985 crime, that sent Avery back to prison in the 2005 homicide.

Making a Murderer makes a compelling case that Avery was framed by at least two officers at the Manitowoc County Sheriff’s Department, who allegedly planted Avery’s blood and other evidence. The series also contends that Dassey was coerced and tricked into making the confessions he later recanted.

The filmmakers, Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos, say the 10-part series took nearly 10 years to complete and is solid.

Wisconsin authorities say the series is slanted. They warn that viewers are seeing just 10 hours of film about a story that spans 30 years. They point out that testimony in Avery’s murder trial lasted 19 days, with more than 50 witnesses taking the stand.

Manitowoc County Sheriff Robert Hermann, who said justice was served in the Avery murder case, called Making a Murderer “a film. It’s missing a lot of important pieces of evidence.”

But for many viewers, the evidence trail isn’t ending with the conclusion of the series. Old news stories and clips are recirculating on the Internet as fans-turned-investigators are creating reddit and wiki pages.

In the first week of January, the Manitowoc County Clerk of Courts office announced a flood of requests for transcripts, exhibits and other records that fill six banker boxes. One Australian woman requested copies of the entire Avery trial transcript, which cost her $6,000.

‘MAKING A MURDERER,’ MAKING A HIT …

WHAT DOES THE SERIES CLAIM?

The documentary strongly suggests the possibility that Manitowoc County sheriff’s deputies planted evidence against Steven Avery, including a key found in his bedroom and blood found in the vehicle of homicide victim Teresa Halbach.

 

WHAT ABOUT THE VICTIMS?

Teresa Halbach’s brother Mike declined comment since releasing a statement from the family before the documentary became public. “Having just passed the 10-year anniversary of the death of our daughter and sister, Teresa, we are saddened to learn that individuals and corporations continue to create entertainment and to seek profit from our loss,” the statement read. “We continue to hope that the story of Teresa’s life brings goodness to the world.” Other relatives have claimed the series is one-sided.

 

WHAT HAS THE REACTION BEEN LIKE?

It’s been all over the map. Celebrities have tweeted about how into the series they are, late night talk show host Seth Meyers spoofed it and fake Twitter accounts have been set up for some of the main players in the case. However, Manitowoc County sheriff’s officers have received threats in emails and voicemails.

Dan Auerbach, lead singer of the rock bands The Black Keys and The Arcs, posted a song on The Arcs’ website inspired by the documentary series. Proceeds from the sale of the song will go to the Innocence Project, a legal organization that uses DNA evidence to exonerate prisoners. The song, called “Lake Superior,” includes several lyrics that reference the case, such as: “Your alibi will never do when the whole town’s got it out for you.”

 

WHAT ABOUT AVERY?

Steven Avery filed an appeal to overturn his conviction on Jan. 11. His attorney is confident that the appeal will succeed based on new evidence.

 

 

— from AP and WiG reports

 

Wisconsin sheriff defends hiring convicted killer

A Wisconsin sheriff has defended his decision to hire a man convicted of killing and dismembering his girlfriend nearly 40 years ago in Texas.

Rafael George Macias has worked as a radio technician for the Sheboygan County Sheriff’s Department since 2011 after performing similar duties as a contract employee for 10 years.

Macias was a 20-year-old airman at Carswell Air Force Base in North Texas when he pleaded guilty to killing and dismembering his live-in girlfriend, Julia Adams, in 1977. Macias was sentenced to 40 years in prison, but released after 13 years.

While at the Texas State Penitentiary at Huntsville, Macias earned an associate degree as a radio technician. He eventually moved to Wisconsin and ended up working at his cousin’s radio shop.

Macias told The Associated Press on Thursday that he never lied about his past and was upfront with Sheriff Todd Priebe when he wanted to bring him on as a regular employee. Details of the case resurfaced when an anonymous letter was sent recently to media outlets, including the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, questioning why Sheboygan County employees had to work with someone who committed such a horrible crime.

Macias said he’s not sure what the motivation was in bringing up his crime to the media, but knows he has Priebe’s support.

“You can’t change what happened. It happened,” Macias said. “What you can do is change what you do in the future and don’t put your life to waste.”

Priebe said Macias has proven himself as a trusted employee and is a rehabilitation “success story.”

Macias said through faith, anger management counseling and maturity he has become a better man.

“As far as I’m concerned, that guy is dead,” Macias said referring to his younger self, adding, “It was a fit of rage.”

Priebe said he will meet with the county board’s law committee at its request to discuss the hiring, but the committee does not have the authority to overrule his decision.

Unintended result: John Wayne Gacy probe clears 11 unrelated cold cases

His task was to solve a cruel mystery decades after a serial killer’s death.

Sgt. Jason Moran’s work began in a graveyard, his first stop in his quest to identify the eight unknown victims of John Wayne Gacy. More than 30 years had passed since Gacy had murdered 33 young men and boys.

Investigators now had more sophisticated crime-solving tools, notably DNA, so the Cook County sheriff’s detective was assigned to find out who was buried in eight anonymous graves.

Moran quickly helped a family confirm Gacy killed their brother.

Since then, though, Jason Moran’s search has led him down a totally unexpected path: He’s cleared 11 unrelated cold cases across America. After eliminating these young men as Gacy victims, he’s pored over DNA results, medical and Social Security records, enlisted anthropologists, lab technicians and police in Utah, Colorado, New Jersey and other states — and cracked missing person’s cases that had been dormant for decades.

Most recently, Moran identified a 16-year-old murder victim in San Francisco who’d been buried 36 years ago.

He’s brought comfort to some by proving, through science and dogged research that their missing loved ones are dead.

He’s brought joy to others, finding long-lost brothers and sons still alive.

Marveling at this remarkable detour from the ghastly Gacy trail, Moran says he recently told his boss:

“Is it possible that an evil serial killer has done some good?”

Moran’s work began four years ago after Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart publicly urged anyone who thought a relative was an unidentified Gacy victim to submit to a DNA test.

Moran prioritized about 170 tips from more than 20 states, representing some 80 missing young men.

He focused on those similar in age (14 to 24) and background to Gacy’s victims: Many had troubled families or substance abuse problems. Some were gay. Others had worked construction for Gacy, a building contractor. He was executed in 1994.

Authorities had long ago removed the jaw bones and teeth of the eight unknown victims, hoping for eventual identification. Decades later, they were buried, only to be exhumed in 2011. Moran took them to the University of North Texas Center for Human Identification, where lab workers developed solid DNA profiles for four victims. For the other four, the entire remains had to be exhumed.

Within weeks, Moran cracked one case.

William Bundy’s mother had suspected Gacy killed her son, but the case was stymied because his dentist had destroyed his patients’ records after retiring.

Three decades later, Bundy’s mother was dead, but his sister and brother provided DNA, resulting in a match to the unknown victim. It wasn’t enough for a firm identification.

Moran then studied the man’s dental records, noticing empty spaces where his upper canine teeth had been removed. Bundy had those same teeth removed, saved them — and his sister kept them all those years.

Case cleared.

Bundy is the only Gacy victim Moran has identified. But he’s helped other families who feared their loved ones died at Gacy’s hands.

In every case involving DNA, Moran told families the results would be entered in CODIS, the federal Combined DNA Index System. If a genetic link emerged, he’d call.

It took almost four years for Willa Wertheimer to get that life-changing call.

In 2011, she’d told Moran about her half-brother, Andre Drath. Their mother died when both were very young.

When the grief-stricken little boy began getting in trouble, his stepfather turned him over to the state. Drath was abused in foster homes. Then one day he disappeared.

“I used to fantasize about finding him,” Wertheimer says. “I just wanted to hold him and tell him I love him and say I’m sorry about everything that had happened.”

Her DNA eliminated any link to Gacy victims, but last fall, a Texas lab worker notified Moran it was associated with an unidentified body found in San Francisco in 1979. That DNA hadn’t been submitted to CODIS until late 2014.

Moran reviewed the San Francisco police and medical examiner’s reports, which showed the man had been shot multiple times. It also disclosed an all-important detail: A tattoo — Andy — on his right shoulder.

Moran found more evidence in files from the Illinois agency that supervised Drath as a state ward — including dental records matching those of the teen buried in Ocean Beach.

It was bittersweet news for Wertheimer.

“I was relieved that he wasn’t hurting,” she says, “but knowing how he died … I felt awful.”

San Francisco police have reactivated their investigation. Moran hopes to soon have Drath’s remains exhumed from a California cemetery.

“I brought her to this point,” he says, “now I’d like to help bring him home.”

___

Jason Moran cradled an urn as he arrived at the North Side home.

It had been 36 years since Edward Beaudion left that house, a 22-year-old heading to a wedding. Now, the detective was delivering his cremated remains to his sister, Ruth Rodriguez, and elderly father, Louis.

DNA and old-fashioned police work brought this mystery to a frustrating end.

The case had a suspect: A petty criminal named Jerry Jackson told police in 1978 that he’d fought with Beaudion in downtown Chicago, dragged his body into a car, then dumped him in a suburban forest preserve, according to Moran.

Jackson was arrested in Caruthersville, Missouri, with the car Beaudion had been driving. It belonged to his sister; she found a bullet inside.

A search of the woods, though, turned up no body. Jackson was convicted only of stealing the car and items inside.

Decades later, Moran started investigating. “I really felt the sadness and desperation in their voices,” he says.

Last year, their DNA was linked to skeletal remains that had recently arrived at the Texas lab. Some kids had spotted a leg bone in the woods where Jackson said he’d dumped Beaudion’s body.

That discovery was in 2008. Unfortunately, the remains sat in the Cook County medical examiner’s office five years before being sent to be tested. Studying the autopsy report, Moran noticed the leg bone contained a surgical screw in one knee. Beaudion had one, too. 

That was enough to confirm his identity — yet that five-year delay thwarted Moran’s bigger plan: While preparing to go to Missouri to arrest Jackson in Beaudion’s death, he discovered: Jackson had recently died.

Still, Moran sensed the family was relieved.

“His father told me when he dies, he’ll have Edward’s ashes in his casket and said, ‘All of three of us will be together in perpetuity.””

Thousands of miles away, a 75-year-old Army vet had his own lingering questions.

Ron Soden contacted Moran about his younger half-brother, Steven, who’d vanished in 1972.

He’d run away during a camping trip organized by the New Jersey orphanage where he lived with his sister, April. Their mother had placed them there.

Steven’s father lived in Chicago. Could he have traveled there looking for him? Moran thought it possible, and teamed with New Jersey State Police to work the case. 

April’s DNA was ultimately linked with skeletal remains found at New Jersey’s Bass River State Forest, about a mile from where Steven was last seen. That discovery was in 2000, but it wasn’t until 2013 — and more DNA tests from another half-brother — that Steven was identified. Hypothermia is suspected as the cause of death.

“We always held out that hope … then all of sudden you find out and it’s not there anymore,” says Ron Soden, who lives in Tacoma, Washington. “To realize he probably died at 17 … it’s just a shame his life had to be that way through no fault of his own.”

These poignant stories, Moran says, motivate him.

“You’ve got these young kids who struggle through their short lives,” he says. “Now they’re anonymous. They don’t have a headstone saying they were ever on this earth. I want them to have some dignity and respect so the world knows they once lived.

“I mean, everybody deserves a name.”

There are happy endings in Moran’s work.

Amazingly, he’s located five living men who’d vanished in the 1970s. “I scold them and say, ‘Why would you do this to a loving family?””

In 2013, Moran reunited Edyth and Robert Hutton — after 41 years.

Edyth had made numerous attempts to find her brother, including mailing about 300 postcards to various Robert, Rob, Bob and Bobby Huttons nationwide. 

A relative who is a private investigator thought he’d located Hutton in Colorado. But when Edyth and her father wrote letters to that address, they were returned as undeliverable. 

In a last-ditch effort she searched NamUs, a website featuring missing and unidentified people, narrowing her list to seven. She contacted the respective law enforcement agencies. One person replied: Jason Moran.

Using Hutton’s vital statistics, Moran thought he’d tracked him to Colorado but when police arrived, the man was gone.

Moran waited several months and when the sheriff’s analysts checked updated databases they found a match in Montana.

“Your brother is alive,” Moran told Hutton’s sister. The siblings re-connected the next day.

“I felt like a hole in my heart had been filled,” she says. 

Her brother, she says, told her he’d gotten involved with drugs, straightened out and returned to the family’s hometown in California but everyone had moved. He declined to be interviewed for this story.

Robert Hutton recently moved to Nevada to live near his sister.

“We see each other almost daily,” she says, “and we love it.”

Cecil the lion’s killer to return to dentistry on Sept. 8

The Minnesota dentist whose killing of Cecil the lion fueled a global backlash emerged on Sept. 6 for an interview in which he disputed some accounts of the hunt, expressed agitation at the animosity directed at those close to him and said he would be back at work within days.

Walter Palmer, who has spent more than a month out of sight after becoming the target of protests and threats, intends to return to his suburban Minneapolis dental practice on Sept. 8. In an evening interview conducted jointly by The Associated Press and the Minneapolis Star Tribune that advisers said would be the only one granted, Palmer said again that he believes he acted legally and that he was stunned to find out his hunting party had killed one of Zimbabwe’s treasured animals.

“If I had known this lion had a name and was important to the country or a study obviously I wouldn’t have taken it,” Palmer said. “Nobody in our hunting party knew before or after the name of this lion.”

Cecil was a fixture in the vast Hwange National Park and had been fitted with a GPS collar as part of Oxford University lion research. Palmer said he shot the big cat with the black mane using an arrow from his compound bow outside the park’s borders but it didn’t die immediately. He disputed conservationist accounts that the wounded lion wandered for 40 hours and was finished off with a gun, saying it was tracked down the next day and killed with an arrow.

An avid sportsman, Palmer shut off several lines of inquiry about the hunt, including how much he paid for it or others he has undertaken. No videotaping or photographing of the interview was allowed. During the 25-minute interview, Palmer gazed intensely at his questioners, often fiddling with his hands and turning occasionally to an adviser, Joe Friedberg, to field questions about the fallout and his legal situation. 

Some high-level Zimbabwean officials have called for Palmer’s extradition, but no formal steps toward getting the dentist to return to Zimbabwe have been publicly disclosed. Friedberg, a Minneapolis attorney who said he is acting as an unpaid consultant to Palmer, said he has heard nothing from authorities about domestic or international investigations since early August.

Friedberg said he offered to have Palmer take questions from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service authorities on the condition the session be recorded. He said he never heard back.

“I’m not Walter’s lawyer in this situation because Walter doesn’t need a lawyer in this situation,” said Friedberg, who said he knew Palmer through previous matters. “If some governmental agency or investigative unit would make a claim that he violated some law then we’d talk about it.”

Ben Petok, a spokesman for U.S. Attorney Andy Luger, declined comment about conversations with Friedberg and referred questions to Fish and Wildlife. An agency spokesman didn’t immediately return a call and an email Sunday evening.

After Palmer was named in late July as the hunter who killed Cecil, his Bloomington clinic and Eden Prairie home became protest sites, and a vacation property he owns in Florida was vandalized. Palmer has been vilified across social media, with some posts suggesting violence against him. He described himself as “heartbroken” for causing disruptions for staff at his clinic, which was shuttered for weeks until reopening in late August without him on the premises. And he said the ordeal has been especially hard on his wife and adult daughter, who both felt threatened.

“I don’t understand that level of humanity to come after people not involved at all,” Palmer said.

As for himself, he said he feels safe enough to return to work — “My staff and my patients support me and they want me back” — but declined to say where he’s spent the last six weeks or describe security steps he has taken.

“I’ve been out of the public eye. That doesn’t mean I’m in hiding,” Palmer said. “I’ve been among people, family and friends. Location is really not that important.”

Palmer, who has several big-game kills to his name, reportedly paid thousands of dollars for the guided hunt but wouldn’t talk money.

Theo Bronkhorst, a professional hunter who helped Palmer, has been charged with “failure to prevent an illegal hunt.” Honest Ndlovu, whose property is near the park in western Zimbabwe, faces a charge of allowing the lion hunt to occur on his farm without proper authority. 

Asked whether he would return to Zimbabwe for future hunts, Palmer said, “I don’t know about the future.” He estimated he had been there four times and said, “Zimbabwe has been a wonderful country for me to hunt in, and I have always followed the laws.”

In addition to the Cecil furor, Palmer pleaded guilty in 2008 to making false statements to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service about a black bear he fatally shot in western Wisconsin outside of the authorized hunting zone. He was given one year probation and fined nearly $3,000 as part of a plea agreement.

Cecil’s killing set off a fierce debate over trophy hunting in Africa. Zimbabwe tightened regulations for lion, elephant and leopard hunting after the incident, and three major U.S. airlines changed policies to ban shipment of the trophies.

Florida man charged with 2 deaths in Tampa’s LGBT community

Authorities say a southwest Florida man charged in the shooting death of a transgender woman has been charged in a second killing.

Keith Lamayne Gaillard, 18, is currently being held on a first-degree murder charge in the death of 25-year-old India Clarke. Officials say Gaillard’s DNA was found under Clarke’s fingernails. Detectives also reported finding a condom with Gaillard’s DNA inside Clarke’s car, which was found nearby. Her body was found July 21.

About a week later, Tampa police say Gaillard shot 46-year-old Tyrone Sean Davis in the back of the head. Davis’ family said they think he was gay.

Gaillard was charged late last week in the second slaying.

Police said they found the suspect’s fingerprints in Davis’ car.

The Tampa Bay Times reports a witness told police that Gaillard admitted killing Davis.

Witness says alleged killer was upset when gay student called him ‘baby’

Brandon McInerney said he planned to bring a gun to school a day before he shot and killed an openly gay student in a Ventura County junior high school classroom, a friend testified at his murder trial.

The student, identified only as Keith L., took the stand July 7 in the Los Angeles trial. He said McInerney’s face turned red after 15-year-old victim Larry King called him “baby” in a crowded hallway at E.O. Green Junior High in Oxnard.

“That’s how he gets when he’s mad,” the friend said. “Both embarrassed and mad.”

Prosecutors have said that King actually said, “I love you, baby.”

After class, the friends met again.

“He told me he was going to bring his gun the next day,” Keith L. said, adding that he did not report the comment because he thought his friend was joking.

On Feb. 12, 2008, McInerney was sitting behind King in computer class when he pulled a .22-caliber handgun and shot him twice in the head.

McInerney, now 17, is charged as an adult with murder and a hate crime. He could face life in prison if convicted. Prosecutors contend he was a white supremacist who shot King, in part, because he was gay.

The defense claims McInerney snapped after King repeatedly propositioned him and should face voluntary manslaughter rather than murder.

Keith, who is black, said his friend never showed any sign of racism. He and others testifying also said that King repeatedly made flirtatious or taunting comments to McInerney.

King had taken to wearing makeup and effeminate clothing and often was insulted, tripped or avoided by other boys, students testified.