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13-year-old girl beheaded after seeing grandmother killed in Alabama cemetery

An Alabama 13-year-old found dead in a wooded area last month was beheaded after she saw two men stab her grandmother to death, an investigator testified Thursday. 

The grisly details of Mariah Lopez’s slaying came out during the preliminary hearing of Yoni Martinez Aguilar, AL.com reported. Aguilar, 26, and Israel Gonzalez Palomino, 34, are each charged with two counts of capital murder in the deaths of Lopez and her 49-year-old grandmother and legal guardian, Oralia Mendoza.

Palomino is also charged with possession of methamphetamine. 

Members of the middle schooler’s family wept as Investigator Stacy Rutherford testified about the details Aguilar, who was Mendoza’s live-in boyfriend, gave in a statement following his June 14 arrest. 

Related story: Police: 13-year-old girl dead in ‘brutal’ killing, grandmother’s body also found

According to AL.com, Aguilar told detectives that Mendoza was involved with the Sinaloa cartel, considered to be the world’s most powerful drug trafficking organization. 

Rutherford testified that the defendant told investigators that he, Palomino, Mendoza and a woman named Leticia Garcia traveled June 2 to Norcross, Georgia, where they picked up a quarter kilo of meth for the cartel. Along the way, something went wrong and Palomino became suspicious that Mendoza and Garcia, who was also tied to the cartel, might be setting him up, Aguilar said in his statement. 

WAAY in Huntsville reported that Rutherford testified that sometime after the group returned to Huntsville, Palomino learned that Mendoza had removed the SIM card from her cellphone. He also found a text she sent during the drug run to Georgia, in which she asked an unknown woman to pick up her granddaughter, who was with Palomino’s wife, because she feared that she and her granddaughter were in danger. 

Early on June 4, the men woke Mendoza at their Huntsville home and told her that they were taking her and Lopez, who had special needs, somewhere safe, AL.com reported. Rutherford testified that they were instead taken to Moon Cemetery, located about 15 miles southeast of the city in Owens Cross Roads. 

Palomino and Mendoza argued in the cemetery about the drug deal and Palomino stabbed the grandmother multiple times, leaving her for dead, Aguilar told investigators. 

Lopez, who witnessed her grandmother’s slaying, was taken to a wooded area about 2½ miles from the cemetery, where Aguilar said Palomino forced him to kill the girl.

Rutherford testified that Aguilar told investigators he was holding the knife when Palomino grabbed his arm and moved it back and forth in a “sawing motion,” with which the girl was beheaded. 

Aguilar said he participated in the slayings out of fear. 

“He said he was fearful of Israel,” Rutherford testified, according to AL.com

>> Read more trending news

The men left the teen’s body where she was killed and stopped to clean Palomino’s car, the detective said. 

Mendoza was reported missing two days later by worried relatives, WAFF in Huntsville reported last month. Lopez’s body was found the following day.

Madison County investigators released information describing the items the body was clothed in: red pajama pants with gingerbread men on them, as well as a pink undershirt and black tank top. The news release also indicated that the young victim had a cerebral shunt. 

Lopez’s mother -- who is also Mendoza’s daughter -- showed up at the Madison County Sheriff’s Office a short time after the description was released and told investigators that the body might be that of her daughter, Sheriff’s Office officials said. Dental records provided a positive identification a week later. 

Mendoza’s body was found at the cemetery June 15, after Aguilar gave his statement to investigators. She was also identified through dental records, Sheriff’s Office officials announced June 27

Aside from Aguilar’s alleged confession, investigators have collected physical evidence they say links the men to the slayings -- including the suspected murder weapons. AL.com reported that Rutherford testified one knife was found under Palomino’s mattress and the other was found under Aguilar’s mattress. 

Despite the men’s cleanup efforts, blood was also found in Palomino’s car, the investigator said. 

Both men’s cellphones also “pinged” in the area of the killings during that time frame, the news site said. 

The slayings shocked the community, particularly those at Challenger Middle School, where Lopez was a student. The school’s Parent-Teacher Association last month set up a memorial account to help her family pay for her and her grandmother’s funerals.

“No one is prepared to lose a child or other relative at such young ages,” a statement from the PTA said. “With the untimely passing of two family members, one can imagine the mounting costs of funeral and burial expenses that the family faces in addition to the unparalleled grief that is felt as well.”

The “Mariah Lopez and Oralia Mendoza Memorial Account” was established at Wells Fargo, with donations set to go directly to the funeral home. 

“Anything in excess of those costs will be given to the immediate family to assist with other expenses and needs,” the PTA statement said

Lt. Donny Shaw, a Sheriff’s Office spokesman, last month credited the community with helping to quickly bring the search for Lopez’s and Mendoza’s killers to an end. 

“For a murder where there were no indications, no witnesses, nothing to lean on when we began with it, the Hispanic community, the partners, the media, we’ve been able to do a phenomenal thing in just a little over seven days by coming to the arrests of two individuals,” Shaw told WAFF

Both Aguilar and Palomino are being held without bail in the Madison County Jail. Palomino is also being detained on a hold for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. 

His preliminary hearing in the case is scheduled for Monday. 

Dad accused of smothering baby, trying to revive her with shock from extension cord

An Arkansas dad has been charged with capital murder after police say he smothered his baby girl, then attempted to revive the 2-month-old with an electric shock.

>> Missing baby found dead near slough after 5-day search

According to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Tyler Buchanan, 19, of Van Buren, first told police that the baby wasn't breathing when he woke up June 12, so he used a severed extension cord to try to resuscitate her. But Buchanan eventually revealed that he had smothered the baby earlier that morning because she wouldn't stop screaming, police said.

>> Read more trending news 

Authorities added that Buchanan never called 911. Police said the girl's mother woke up hours later and called for help after Buchanan told her the child had stopped breathing, the Democrat-Gazette reported. 

Buchanan is being held at the Crawford County jail "in lieu of $1 million bond," the newspaper reported

Read more here.

Marijuana found in Wyoming city's flower pots after pranksters sneak seeds into planters

City workers in Powell, Wyoming, are doing some serious "weeding" after jokesters apparently sneaked marijuana seeds into city planters earlier this year.

>> Read more trending news 

According to the Powell Tribune, employees unintentionally tended to the pot plants until they started seeing the familiar leaves in late June. So far, workers have pulled three cannabis plants from the flower pots.

Powell Police Chief Roy Eckerdt said "somebody's sense of humor" likely inspired the secret plantings.

Read more here or here.

– The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Man describes finding intruder with hatchet in his bed

A man in Middletown, Ohio is facing felony charges after he was discovered in a couple’s bed with a hatchet and his pants pulled down

Michael Robert McClain, 30, was arrested after a woman came home and found him, WHIO reports.

>> Read more trending news 

McClain is charged with aggravated burglary, felonious assault and public indecency.

Officers said they were called to a burglary report to a home on Woodlawn Avenue on July 6.

Investigators said the man was lying in bed “with his pants down” with a hatchet in his hand, according to the police report.

The woman called for her husband to get the man out of the house.

The husband then attempted to wake up the man to get him out of his house.

During a preliminary hearing Friday in Middletown Municipal Court, the husband testified McClain was asleep on his wife’s side of the bed “propped up, covers pulled to one side and all my pillows behind him.” 

He believes McClain entered the home through an unlocked back door.

The man’s wife, children and other family members had just returned home from watching fireworks, he said, noting he was at a home just one minute away.

“He got up with the hatchet in his hand,” the homeowner said. “I hit him on the head with my gun.”

He testified that he and McClain fought and struggled through the house.

He said he attempted to use some boxing skills to keep McClain at arm’s length. Eventually, the man was able to push McClain out the home’s back door.

When McClain made a move back toward the man, he said he fired a shot into the ground. He fired a second shot before McClain left his yard, he said.

During the incident the man said McClain was “swinging the hatchet.”

“I was in fear for my family, not for me, but for my family,” he said, noting his wife and young children were huddled together on the home’s porch during the incident.

The man said he had only seen McClain once before, about a week prior when he was asking his wife for water.

Municipal Court Judge James Sherron found sufficient evidence to bind McClain’s case over to a grand jury.

McClain’s bond is set at $450,000.

Paraplegic zip-ties, shoots stripper with stun gun in his Georgia home, police say

A man paralyzed from the waist down allegedly zip-tied a woman in his home, raped and assaulted her, WSB reports.

Johnnie Thompson, 31, of Decatur, allegedly used a stun gun and shot at a woman who refused his demands, said DeKalb County police detective Chris Tappan.

>> Read more trending news 

Police told WSB another exotic dancer filed an assault report against Thompson three months ago, and police are searching for other potential victims.

Thompson, who uses a wheelchair to get around, allegedly paid an exotic dancer to perform at his home, but turned violent when she arrived.

“(He) pulled out a handgun and a Taser and coerced her to his back bedroom where he had video cameras set up (and) computers,” Tappan told WSB. “He forced her to take her clothes off.”

Thompson allegedly zip-tied the woman’s ankles and demanded sex before she refused.

“He fired a Taser at her, not once, but twice in her chest,”  said Tappan. “She started to struggle with her captor. He pulled out a handgun and fired two shots at her.”

Tappan said the dancer eventually pushed Thompson out of the room, cut herself free, called 911 and escaped from a window.

Officers found her partially nude with the prongs from the stun gun still stuck in her chest.

Thompson was arrested and charged with false imprisonment and aggravated assault, according to DeKalb County Jail records.

Police said Thompson shares the home with his parents. Officers said they recovered more zip-ties and a machete from the home. 

Thompson told police the woman “went crazy,” attacked him and he was forced to defend himself.

Registered sex offender accused of performing sex act on child, police say

A California man, a registered sex offender, was arrested Thursday, accused of performing a sex act on a child at a San Diego hotel, KNSD reported.

>> Read more trending news

Douglas Richard Madruga, 66, of San Diego, is accused of performing a lewd act on a child under 14 years old, police said. 

Officers on Tuesday responded to a call of a man harassing children at the pool of the Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina around 7 p.m., San Diego Harbor Police said.

The suspect fled the scene before authorities arrived and after he was confronted by hotel security, KNSD reported.

Madruga was charged on two felony counts of performing a lewd act on a child under 14 and two felony counts of harassing or molesting a child, police said.

Homeless, disabled Indiana man beaten, robbed of $9

A disabled, homeless Indiana man was beaten and robbed in Indianapolis on Wednesday, with thieves getting away with $9 as bystanders watched, WXIN reported.

>> Read more trending news

Charles Jones, 65, said he was sitting in a wheelchair outside a Circle K convenience store when he was accosted.

“I’m too old to let thugs beat me up,” Jones told WXIN. “I have a lot of health problems. I have had a heart attack, a couple strokes, COPD, and Type 2 diabetes.”

Jones said a man wearing a hoodie and sunglasses walked up to him, punched him in the face and stole his money.

“He hit my nose and hit me on the side of the head,” Jones told the television station. “He beat me up and took the $9.”

Jones said the attacker and his friends, who watched from a nearby car, were amused by the assault. Jones added that nobody at the scene called 911.

“When he hit me, I heard them all laughing. They jumped in the car and went through 25th Street and went out on 25th Street,” Jones said.

Police said the men left in a maroon car. Investigators told WXIN they have access to surveillance video of the attack.

“I hope they catch him because he needs to go to prison,” Jones said.

Stormy Daniels changes plans, won’t return to Ohio strip club where she was arrested

Prosecutors dropped charges against adult film star Stormy Daniels, also known as Stephanie Clifford, after she was arrested early Thursday on accusations of inappropriate touching while performing at a strip club in Columbus.

>> Read more trending news 

Here are the latest updates:

Update 7:30 p.m. EDT July 12: Stormy Daniels has changed her plans and won’t return for an encore performance at a strip club in Columbus where she was arrested early Thursday.

Her lawyer Michael Avenatti says the adult performer is looking for another club in the area where she can perform.

Daniels was arrested early Thursday on charges she let customers at the Sirens Gentleman’s Club touch her inappropriately, which is against the law in Ohio at an adult club. 

Update 7:00 p.m. EDT July 12: The show must go on. Stormy Daniels is returning to the Sirens Gentleman’s Club in Columbus, Ohio, Thursday night for a follow-up show.

The adult film star was arrested after a performance at the club early Thursday on three misdemeanor counts of illegal sexual oriented activity. The charges were later dropped.

“I'll be going onstage tonight at Sirens in Columbus to perform for my fans and register voters as planned. Can't stop the storm,” Daniels tweeted Thursday afternoon. 

She also said she’ll donate her tips from Thursday night’s performance to two other dancers who were also arrested, but are still facing charges in the case.

Update 3:10 p.m. EDT July 12: Daniels’ attorney, Michael Avenatti, told The Associated Press that his client was “traumatized and rattled” after her arrest. He earlier told MSNBC that female undercover police officers asked if they could put their faces between Daniels’ breasts while she was performing on-stage at Sirens Gentleman’s Club in Columbus.

Avenatti told the AP that Daniels was in her tour bus after Wednesday night’s performance when officers knocked on her door. She was arrested on three counts of illegal sexual oriented activity in a sexually oriented business, but the charges were later dropped after prosecutors determined she was working as a guest at the club and not a regular performer. State law prohibits anyone who isn't a family member from touching a nude or semi-nude regular dancer at adult establishments, according to The Associated Press.

Update 1:30 p.m. EDT July 12: Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein confirmed in a statement Thursday that charges have been dismissed against Daniels following her arrest at Sirens Gentleman’s Club.

Daniels was arrested on three misdemeanor counts of illegal sexual oriented activity in a sexually oriented business. Two other performers, identified by police as Miranda Panda and Brittany Walters, were also arrested.

“I’ve determined that these crimes were not committed, based on the fact that Ms. Clifford has not made regular appearances at this establishment as required under the law,” Klein said. “We’ll do the same inquiry for the other defendants involved, as well.”

Update 12:55 p.m. EDT July 12: Daniels’ attorney confirmed Thursday afternoon that charges were dropped against his client.

Police arrested Daniels early Thursday while she was appearing at Sirens Gentleman's Club in Columbus. She was arrested after she inappropriately touched undercover officers who were at the strip club as part of a long-term sting operation unrelated to Daniels, according to police. She was charged with three counts of illegal sexual oriented activity in a sexually oriented business.

The charges were based on a 2007 Ohio law that prohibits anyone who isn't a family member from touching a nude or semi-nude dancer, according to The Associated Press. However, officials noted in a motion to dismiss the case that the law applies only to regular performers

"In this case, there has been no evidence provided to the State that Defendant appears or has appeared regularly at Sirens," Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein wrote in the state's motion to dismiss.

Daniels was scheduled to appear twice at Sirens, on Wednesday and Thursday night. However, Avenatti announced her second scheduled appearance had been canceled in light of her arrest.

Update 11:10 a.m. EDT July 12: The state law used early Thursday to justify the arrest of Daniels and two other performers at Sirens, a strip club in Columbus, has been used 88 times in Franklin County since 2008, WCMH reported.

The 2007 law was introduced by a conservative religious group and bars dancers from touching customers and vice versa, save for immediate family members, The Associated Press reported. Police said Daniels was charged with three counts of illegal sexually oriented activity in a sexually oriented business as part of a long-term investigation of alleged human trafficking and prostitution in Columbus.

A spokeswoman for Columbus’ city attorney told the AP that the charges carry a maximum penalty of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine per count, should Daniels be convicted.

Update 10:45 a.m. EDT July 12: Police said they arrested Daniels and two other performers early Thursday at Sirens in Columbus "as part of a long-term investigation into allegations of human trafficking, prostitution, along with other vice related violations."

In a news release Thursday, officials said Daniels, also known as Stephanie Clifford, was arrested along with Miranda Panda, of Marion, Ohio, and Brittany Walters, of Pickering, Ohio.

Daniels' attorney, Michael Avenatti, said she will plead not guilty to three misdemeanor counts of illegal sexually oriented activity in a sexually oriented business. In an appearance Thursday morning on MSNBC, Avenatti characterized his client’s arrest as being part of a “sting operation.”

Update 10 a.m. EDT July 12: Daniels’ attorney, Michael Avenatti, told MSNBC on Thursday that female undercover officers asked his client to allow them to put their faces between her breasts before her arrest in Columbus early on Thursday.

“Unbeknownst to her, the police had set up a sting operation in the strip club with multiple officers,” Avenatti said. “I think it’s an absurd use of law enforcement resources.”

Update 7:38 a.m. EDT July 12: Daniels issued a statement saying her Thursday performance in Columbus has been canceled.

>> On MyAJC.com: Stormy Daniels headed to Atlanta in July

Meanwhile, WSYX’s Mike McCarthy tweeted that police also arrested two other performers on illegal touching charges at the Sirens strip club overnight.

>> On DaytonDailyNews.com: Status of Stormy Daniels’ Dayton, Ohio-area appearance unclear after Columbus arrest

Update 6:52 a.m. EDT July 12: Daniels’ attorney, Michael Avenatti, tweeted that his client will plead “not guilty” to the charges.

Update 6:41 a.m. EDT July 12: WSYX’s Mike McCarthy reports that Daniels was released from jail on $6,000 bond. 

WCMH reporter Matt Edwards tweeted that “Daniels was picked up minutes ago by a sedan with WV plates.”

Update 6:03 a.m. EDT July 12: WCMH reporter Hattie Hawks tweeted that Daniels’ “bond has been posted by Denver Nicks.”

Update 5:49 a.m. EDT July 12: The charging documents reveal more information about the allegations against Daniels. 

>> See an image of the complaint here (WARNING: Discretion advised.)

Update 5:16 a.m. EDT July 12: WSYX’s Mike McCarthy tweeted that Daniels “is accused of touching three @ColumbusPolice officers during her appearance at #Sirens.”

According to WBNS, Daniels fondled patrons and undercover officers, police said. 

Daniels’ attorney, Michael Avenatti, told WBNS that his client’s arrest “was politically motivated.”

He added: “There's no question these officers were undercover at that strip club. They knew my client would be performing there, and I find this to be a complete waste of resources.”

WBNS reporter Tino Ramos also shared a video of Daniels walking into the Jackson Pike Correctional Facility.

Update 4:33 a.m. EDT July 12: WCMH’s Matt Edwards just tweeted a photo that appears to show officers leading Daniels into the jail.

Update 4:22 a.m. EDT July 12: WCMH is reporting that Daniels’ arraignment is scheduled for Friday morning at Franklin County Municipal Court.

Daniels is being charged with “illegally sexually oriented activity in a sexually oriented business,” a first-degree misdemeanor, according to WCMH’s Olivia Fecteau.

Meanwhile, comedian Kathy Griffin took to Twitter to call out Columbus area law enforcement.

Update 3:28 a.m. EDT July 12: According to WCMH reporter Olivia Fecteau, Daniels “has not yet been booked into jail.” Jail workers said Daniels will be booked at the Franklin County Correctional Facility II on Jackson Pike, Fecteau tweeted.

Update 2:52 a.m. EDT July 12: Daniels was performing at a club called Sirens when she was arrested, WCMH reporter Olivia Fecteau tweeted early Thursday. When Fecteau called the club, the person on the line declined to comment, she said.

According to Fecteau, “Ohio Revised Code 2907.40 outlines charges against either a patron who touches an employee (or vice versa) who is nude or semi-nude. Depending on what happened, the charge can be a first- or fourth-degree misdemeanor.”

Original report: Porn star Stormy Daniels has been arrested in Columbus, Ohio, her attorney tweeted early Thursday.

“Just rcvd word that my client @StormyDaniels was arrested in Columbus Ohio [while] performing the same act she has performed across the nation at nearly a hundred strip clubs,” wrote Michael Avenatti, Daniels’ lawyer. “This was a setup & politically motivated. It reeks of desperation. We will fight all bogus charges. #Basta.”

>> Trump acknowledges he reimbursed Cohen, lawyer who paid Stormy Daniels

In a second tweet, he added: “She was arrested for allegedly allowing a customer to touch her while on stage in a non sexual manner! Are you kidding me? They are devoting law enforcement resources to sting operations for this? There has to be higher priorities!!! #SetUp #Basta.”

>> Stormy Daniels Day: West Hollywood honors adult film star with key to city

He continued: “We expect her to be released on bail shortly. We also expect that she will be charged with a misdemeanor for allowing ‘touching.’ We will vehemently contest all charges. #Basta.”

>> Read more trending news 

Daniels, born Stephanie Clifford, claims that she had sex with Donald Trump in 2006, more than a decade before he became president. Daniels is now suing Trump and his former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, and seeking to invalidate a nondisclosure agreement that she signed days before the 2016 presidential election. Cohen reportedly paid her $130,000 after she signed the agreement.

– The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Child molester beaten to death 5 days after prison arrival, authorities say

A convicted child molester in California was beaten to death by a fellow inmate just five days after his arrival at the prison where he was to be processed into the larger prison system. 

Agustin Duran, 66, was attacked Saturday in a day room of Wasco State Prison, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation officials said Wednesday in a news release. Wasco is a short-term prison where incoming inmates are processed, classified and evaluated, both physically and mentally, to determine the appropriate prison requirements to serve out their sentences. 

Duran was booked into the facility July 2 from Los Angeles County, where he was sentenced to 55 years to life for lewd and lascivious acts with a child under 14 years old, the news release said.

>> Read more trending news

Prison officials said correctional officers responded around 7:20 p.m. Saturday to the day room after an inmate, identified as Andres Donicio Ayon, 19, began beating Duran in the face and upper body with his fists. 

“An alarm was sounded and all inmates got down on the ground with the exception of Ayon, who continued to strike Duran,” the CDCR news release said. “Responding staff utilized a pepper spray grenade and Ayon complied and got down on the ground in a prone position.

“Staff placed Ayon in handcuffs and escorted him to a temporary holding cell.” 

Duran was taken to a triage area for treatment and was airlifted to an outside hospital about an hour after the attack, the news release said. He died there the following afternoon.

Ayon was treated for minor injuries in the prison’s infirmary before being placed in the Administrative Segregation Unit. Duran’s slaying is being investigated as a homicide, officials said. 

Ayon, who was booked into Wasco June 22 from Kern County, is serving a six-year sentence for second-degree robbery and use of a deadly weapon, the news release said. Kern County District Attorney’s Office investigators are assisting in the probe of Duran’s death. 

The case that put Duran at Wasco was apparently not his first involving sexual molestation of a child. California’s Megan’s Law website, which tracks registered sex offenders, lists him as a registered offender since at least 2013. 

Duran was previously convicted of sexual battery, lewd or lascivious acts with a child under 14 years old and annoying or molesting a child with a prior conviction for a specified sexual offense, according to the website. Details of his previous cases were not included in the information. 

Man accused of pushing girlfriend through restaurant window

A South Carolina man is accused of pushing his girlfriend through a window at a fast-food restaurant during an argument.

Quakentric Octavius Pendergrass, 24, of Blackstock, is charged with first-degree assault and battery, according to Spartanburg County jail records. He was booked into the jail Wednesday and released on bond early Thursday morning. 

>> Read more trending news

WSPA in Spartanburg reported that Pendergrass and his girlfriend were at Bojangles’ when they got into an argument outside the restaurant. Spartanburg County Sheriff’s Office officials told the news station that the couple went inside the restaurant, at which time Pendergrass is accused of pushing the unidentified woman into one of the large glass windows at the front of the building. 

The victim went through the glass, which responding deputies said appeared to have been broken by “substantial force,” the news station reported

When the deputies arrived, they found the victim with cuts to her arms and head. She was taken to Spartanburg Medical Center for treatment. 

Pendergrass was gone -- but while deputies were at the scene, he called the restaurant to ask if his girlfriend was OK, WSPA reported

A deputy who spoke to Pendergrass on the phone said he claimed his girlfriend tripped and fell through the window, which was double-paned, the news station reported. Though he initially agreed to return to the restaurant to talk to deputies, he never showed up. 

He was arrested the following afternoon on a warrant in the case, WSPA reported

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