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Apr 11, 2012

Your 2 hourly digest for U.S. News

U.S. News
Stories from NBC reporters around the country.
thumbnail Cops: 73-year-old retired state worker busted for huge pot operation
Apr 11th 2012, 20:50

By Miguel Llanos,

A 73-year-old woman in rural Oklahoma faces drug charges after agents tipped off about a large marijuana operation found several pounds of pot, two guns and $227,000 in cash around her property, police said.

"We kept finding more cash and it was so surprising that it was just lying around," Bobby Floyd, police chief in Vinita, Okla., told NBC affiliate KJRH-TV. "It was in closets, underneath the bed. But it wasn't really hidden."

Darlene Mayes, a retired state human services employee, was arrested Monday evening.

Mayes "didn't say much" upon being arrested, the Tulsa World quoted Craig County Sheriff Jimmy Sooter as saying. "She said the money was hers, that it was for retirement. Of course, once we got into it, it was pretty obvious it wasn't hers."

Officials believe she supplied local and out-of-state pot dealers.

"We think we really put a big dent in the drug trade in Northeastern Oklahoma," Sooter told KJRH-TV.

The charges against Mayes include possessing marijuana with intent to distribute and possessing a firearm in commission of a felony.

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Philadelphia-area doctor kills colleague, then self, prosecutor says
Apr 11th 2012, 20:12

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By Miguel Llanos,

Two Philadelphia-area doctors are dead after one opened fire on the other and then killed himself, officials said Wednesday.

Payman Houshmandpour, 32, was leaving his condo in Voorhees, N.J., for work at nearby Virtua Hospital when a former colleague ambushed him in his car, reported, citing the Camden County prosecutor's office.

"The first two shots were like a second after each other, and then he just unloaded like four or five more shots just like instantaneously -- bang, bang, bang, bang, bang," neighbor Ron Gorman told reporters. "The guy just went haywire, that's what it sounded like anyway, you know, he was on a mission."

Police responding to a witness report of the fleeing vehicle stopped Giocondo Navek, 39, a short time later.

When ordered out of his car, he shot himself, police said.

The two had previously worked together at Virtua, though Navek hadn't been employed there for nearly 18 months.

Houshmandpour was married and had a 1-year-old child, reported.

Some neighbors said the two doctors had a falling out months ago, but no details were available. Police had not provided any motive.

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Feds: Soldiers held anti-tank weapon with 'live rocket' off Army base
Apr 11th 2012, 19:20

By Jeff Black,

Five soldiers are under investigation for taking an Army anti-tank weapon loaded with a live rocket home from Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state and passing it around, a federal law enforcement spokeswoman confirmed to

NBC station King-TV in Seattle was first to reveal the probe. The station reported that one of the soldiers smuggled the M-72 LAW (light anti-tank weapon)  -- a shoulder-fired launcher armed with a rocket capable of penetrating armor nearly one-foot thick -- off the sprawling base southeast of Seattle. The weapon was then held in the possession of at least five soldiers.

“It was indeed a live rocket,” Cheryl Bishop, spokeswoman for the federal bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), told on Wednesday.

According to KING-TV, this is how the weapon was discovered:

The soldiers' secret reportedly became revealed when one of the troops was deployed to Afghanistan last year. His girlfriend called police when she found the rocket launcher in their closet.

The weapon was turned over to federal agents by the Pierce County Sheriff’s office, Bishop said.

“There is nothing that we know about to date that there was any intention for it to be used," Bishop said. “They did have it – it was an active and live military LAWs rocket.”

Investigators told King-TV they expect that charges for illegally possessing a military-grade weapon will be filed by federal prosecutors against the soldiers.

The Army has assisted in the investigation, Bishop said. It was unclear if any disciplinary action within the military has taken place against the soldiers.

An Army spokesman at the base told King-TV he wasn’t aware of the investigation.

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thumbnail Trayvon Martin timeline: Key events in the Sanford, Fla., shooting case
Apr 11th 2012, 19:07

Mary Altaffer / AP

Demonstrators pray during the Million Hoodie March in Union Square Wednesday, March 21, 2012 in New York. The march was in memory of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teen shot and killed in Florida in February.

By Kari Huus,

Feb. 26, 2012: Fatal Shooting
Trayvon Martin, 17, is shot and killed while walking through a Sanford, Fla., community where he is visiting family. Neighbors call police to report hearing a scuffle and a gunshot. Martin is found dead by police. George Zimmerman, neighborhood watch captain, is taken to the Sanford Police Department for questioning about the shooting, which he says was in self-defense. No charges are filed and he is not arrested.

March 16: 911 tapes released
Martin’s parents gain access to 911 calls made to police on the evening of the shooting and portions of those tapes are made public. One recording indicates that Zimmerman says he is following Martin and a dispatcher tells him that's not necessary. In another, there are audible cries for help in the background. Martin's family demands an arrest and petitions calling for the same gain tens of thousands of signatures within a matter of hours.

March 19: Investigation launched
The U.S. Justice Department announces it has launched an investigation into the shooting.

March 21: Million hoodie march
Martin’s parents join hundreds of protesters in New York City demanding justice in what is dubbed the "Million Hoodie March," a tribute to Martin, who was wearing a hooded sweatshirt at the time of his death. It is the first of what will become large protests across the country.

March 22: Police chief steps aside
Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee announces he will step down "temporarily" amid accusations that he has mishandled the Martin case and after a vote of no confidence by city commissioners. Thousands of people join a rally in Sanford organized by the Rev. Al Sharpton demanding Zimmerman’s arrest. (Sharpton is a host on the msnbc cable television show Politics Nation.)

March 23: White House mention
President Barack Obama raises the Martin case at the end of a White House press conference in which he names Jim Yong Kim as his nominee for the World Bank president. In response to a reporter's question about the case, Obama says: "If I had a son, he would look like Trayvon."

March 24: Threats against Zimmerman
At a protest in Florida, leader of the New Black Panther Party Mikhail Muhammad announces a $10,000 bounty for the capture of Zimmerman, who is in hiding.

April 10: Lawyers quit
Craig Sonner and Hal Uhrig, lawyers for Zimmerman, announce they will no longer represent him because he has stopped communicating with them.

April 11: Charges pending
A law enforcement official tells NBC News that the Florida prosecutor will file criminal charges against Zimmerman.

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thumbnail NBC: George Zimmerman to be charged in Trayvon Martin case
Apr 11th 2012, 18:09

According to officials, authorities will pursue some type of criminal charges against George Zimmerman in the Trayvon Martin case. NBC's Pete Williams report.

By Pete Williams, NBC News, and M. Alex Johnson,

Updated at 4:43 p.m. ET: The special prosecutor in the Trayvon Martin case will announce criminal charges against George Zimmerman on Wednesday, a law enforcement official told NBC News.

The nature of the charges wasn't immediately known, the official told NBC News Justice Department correspondent Pete Williams, speaking on condition of anonymity. But because Angela Corey — the special prosecutor appointed by Florida Gov. Rick Scott to re-examine the case — previously announced that she wouldn't take the case to a grand jury, first-degree murder is not an option.

Corey's office confirmed that a news conference would be at 6 p.m. ET in Jacksonville, Fla.

Authorities in Sanford, Fla. — where Zimmerman, 28, a neighborhood watch volunteer, shot Martin, 17, on Feb. 26 — began preparing for public reaction to the announcement from Corey. Several counties in the region activated their emergency operations centers and were on heightened alert, NBC News' Kerry Sanders reported from Sanford, while Seminole County sheriff's deputies spent Wednesday morning setting up barricades along the booking area for new inmates at the county jail, NBC station WESH of Orlando reported.

Stephanie Gosk, Dave Forman, Roxanne Garcia, Michael Kosnar, Mariam Masri and Kerry Sanders of NBC News; Miranda Leitsinger of; and NBC station WESH of Orlando, Fla., contributed to this report by Pete Williams of NBC News and M. Alex Johnson of Follow M. Alex Johnson on Twitter and Facebook.

Martin's father, Tracy Martin, said he was looking forward to Corey's announcement.

"It's 44 days later, and George Zimmerman is still walking free," Martin said at a news conference during a meeting of the National Action Network in Washington. "It's 44 days later, and my son is in a mausoleum."

(The National Action Network is a project of the Rev. Al Sharpton, host of MSNBC-TV's "PoliticsNation," who has played a prominent role in advocating for charges against Zimmerman.)

Tracy Martin, Trayvon Martin's father, thanks supporters and vows he won't let his son's death "be in vain."

Benjamin Crump, the attorney for Martin's parents, urged people to "remain peaceful" after the expected announcement.

Martin's mother, Sybrina Fulton, told The Associated Press later that news of the expected charges would help start a healing process.

Zimmerman, whose father is white and whose mother is Peruvian, says he shot Martin, who was black, in self-defense after following him in a gated community in Sanford. Police questioned Zimmerman but decided against pressing charges.

The lack of an arrest or charges has sparked protests nationwide, with critics alleging that Zimmerman confronted Martin because of his race. Zimmerman's supporters deny that.

Corey said Tuesday that she wouldn't convene a grand jury probe. Zimmerman's former attorneys, who said Tuesday that they had lost touch with their client and were withdrawing from the case, had no comment Wednesday.

A federal civil rights investigation is also under way, but U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said Wednesday that the Justice Department had to meet a "high bar" to bring any charges.

The main federal role is to "support the state in its ongoing investigation," Holder told reporters Wednesday morning in Washington. At the same time, he said, the Justice Department is conducting its "own thorough and parallel investigation" to try to resolve the case "in as fair and complete a way and as quickly as we can."

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thumbnail Connecticut boy brings heroin to kindergarten; stepdad arrested
Apr 11th 2012, 07:56

A 5-year-old Connecticut boy found bags of heroin inside a jacket he had taken to school and showed them to his kindergarten classmates, the school superintendent said Tuesday. The boy's stepfather, 35-year-old Santos Roman, was later arrested after he went to the school to retrieve the jacket. WVIT-TV's Amy Parmenter reports.

By staff and news services

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. -- A 5-year-old boy found dozens of bags of heroin inside a jacket he had taken to school and showed them to his kindergarten classmates, the school superintendent said Tuesday.

Bridgeport Superintendent Paul Vallas said he believes the boy took his stepfather's jacket to school on Monday without knowing the drugs were inside it.


"Children bring to school what they find at home," he said. 


Citing police, the Connecticut Post reported the boy took 50 packets of heroin out when it came time for a show-and-tell presentation. But Vallas told The Associated Press the boy only waved the heroin around after finding it in his jacket and didn't formally present the packets to the class.

The boy's stepfather, 35-year-old Santos Roman, went to the school and recovered the jacket, but police had already seized the drugs, officials said. He was arrested when he returned to the school after apparently discovering the heroin was missing, Vallas said.

The Connecticut Post reported that the boy was in custody of the state's Department of Children and Families while authorities looked for other family members.

Bail set at $100,000
Roman was arrested on risk of injury to a minor and drug charges. He appeared Tuesday in Bridgeport Superior Court and was ordered held on $100,000 bail. He wasn't available to comment from jail, and there was no phone number listed for his home address.

The Department of Children and Families placed the boy in the custody of his grandmother, even though his mother went to the school to take him home, Vallas said.

Vallas praised the reactions of the teacher who initially noticed the drugs, worth about $500 on the street, and of others involved in the response.

"I think everybody operated like clockwork," he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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