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Texas woman sentenced to 40 years for trying to sell 2-year-old for sex

A Texas woman was sentenced last week to 40 years in prison for trying to sell her 2-year-old daughter for sex. 

Sarah Marie Peters, 25, of Houston, pleaded guilty Thursday to attempted human trafficking, promotion of prostitution of a child and sexual performance of a child, according to the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office. She received a 40-year sentence on the sexual performance charge and 20-year sentences on each of the two other charges. 

All three charges are to run concurrently, a news release from the district attorney’s office said. Peters will not be eligible for parole until 2038. 

>> Read more trending news

The Houston Chronicle reported that court documents said the investigation, completed by the Montgomery County Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, began when a detective on the task force received information about a woman who was “into incest.” The detective made contact with the woman, later identified as Peters, through a social media website. 

Investigators said that Peters sent the undercover investigator inappropriate photos of naked young girls and, according to court documents, sent a message to the detective asking, “Know of any guys that would pay to have fun with (her daughter)?”

“The detective advised they would pay $1,200 for Peters to travel to Conroe with the child for an alleged sexual encounter,” Peters’ arrest report said, according to the Chronicle

Peters agreed.

Task force members followed her Feb. 22 to the Greyhound bus station in Houston, where they watched her get onto a bus with her daughter, the newspaper reported. They tailed the bus to Conroe, where Peters and her daughter got off the bus. 

Peters was arrested, and her daughter was placed in the custody of Child Protective Services. 

“The events of this case are hard to believe -- that a mom would willingly expose her own daughter to this type of danger,” Tyler Dunman, chief of the district attorney’s Special Crimes Bureau, said in a statement

Without the proactive work of the task force investigators, the child “would have become a victim (of) the worst type of abuse,” Dunman said

He urged members of the community to be vigilant and report to police any activity they see or hear about that could put a child in danger of sexual abuse or exploitation.

Shooting deaths at mattress stores in Houston are linked, police say

A man found dead at a Mattress One store in Houston has been linked to two other area shooting deaths, including a woman who was discovered Saturday at a Mattress Firm and a 62-year-old woman who was killed Friday, the Houston Chronicle reported.

>> Read more trending news  

Houston police and the Harris County Sheriff’s Office named Jose Gilberto Rodriguez, 46, as the suspect in the murders, KTRK reported. Rodriguez is a parolee who was released from prison last year, authorities said.

Since 1989, court records show that Rodriguez has been convicted on burglary, attempted aggravated sex abuse, auto theft and criminal trespassing charges, KTRK reported. He is also a registered sex offender, the television station reported.

Monday afternoon, police received a call to a Mattress One store in north Houston, the Chronicle reported. When they arrived, police found an unidentified man who was shot to death, Houston Police Department spokeswoman Jodi Silva said.

Saturday night, a store manager for a Mattress Firm near the Willowbrook Mall found Allie Barrow, 28, dead and positioned between two mattresses,  KTRK reported.

Barrow had a gunshot wound to the head, according to the Harris County Institute of Forensic Science.

Friday, 62-year-old Pamela Johnson was found dead in her home, KTRK reported. Authorities said the woman's vehicle was seen being driven by a man.

“All three cases appear to be related,” Houston police Lt. Humberto Lopez said at a news conference.

>> Mattress Firm hiring ‘Snoozetern’ to test out mattresses

Both mattress companies released statements Monday. 

Mattress One “is deeply saddened and would like to offer its deepest condolences to the family, friends and loved ones of its deceased associate.”

“We're deeply saddened to learn that one of our team members was found deceased at a store in Houston,” Mattress Firm CEO Steve Stagner said in a statement. “We send our sincere condolences to this team member’s family, friends and loved ones. We are cooperating fully with law enforcement. Out of respect for the person involved, her family and the ongoing investigation, we will offer no further comment at this time.”

3 suspects in beating, stabbing of Applebee’s waitress in police custody

UPDATE, July 17:

A third woman wanted in connection with the beating and stabbing of a waitress at a Henry County Applebee’s has been arrested.

Lakisha Boyd, 36, surrendered Monday night, according to McDonough police. She is expected to be booked into the Henry County Jail.

ORIGINAL STORY, July 16:

A judge has granted bond to two women charged in connection with the recent beating and stabbing of an Applebee’s waitress at a McDonough, Georgia, restaurant.

Lasondra Boyd, 38, and Keterah Boyd, 30, were arrested Friday in Wilkinson County near Macon, Georgia, after McDonough police identified the women after posting a lookout alert, McDonough police Maj. Kyle Helgerson told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Monday.

“Deputies received a tip of their whereabouts, and they were apprehended at a party down there,” Helgerson said.

The women were booked into the Henry County Jail Friday night and granted $35,000 bond Monday morning, officials said.

Two of their relatives, Lakisha and Demetrius Boyd, are still at large. All four women -- three sisters and a cousin -- face charges of aggravated assault and robbery in the July 10 attack on an Applebee’s waitress.

According to police, the waitress was beaten and stabbed with a steak knife after she accidentally brushed against one woman’s leg. 

The woman was sitting with her leg out in the aisle, Helgerson said. The server, who is in her 20s, apologized after the first accidental contact and left to get the table’s food and drinks when the women reportedly complained about slow service.

The second time she brushed against the woman while serving the food, it “infuriated the suspect,” Helgerson said.

“All four of them got out of the table and began to assault the waitress,” he said, adding that one of them grabbed a steak knife.

Related: Applebee's waitress stabbed after brushing up against diner's leg, police say 

Fellow diners stepped in to stop the attack. Police said they were seen leaving the restaurant parking lot in a white Infiniti SUV.

The waitress required 15 stitches after she was stabbed in her forearm. She was treated at Piedmont Henry Hospital and returned to work the next day, according to a statement from an Applebee’s spokesperson.

The women allegedly took the waitress’s tip money before they skipped out on a $62.57 bill, police said. 

The Boyds were identified after McDonough police posted surveillance images from the restaurant’s parking lot to Facebook. The initial post was shared 3,500 times. 

A preliminary hearing for Lasondra and Keterah Boyd has been scheduled for Aug. 20. They also face misdemeanor charges of battery, criminal damage to property and theft of service.

Police are still asking for the public’s help to locate Lakisha and Demetrius Boyd. Anyone with information should call 911 or the McDonough Police Department 770-957-1218.

DNA helps Indiana police make arrest in 1988 murder of 8-year-old girl

Aided by DNA testing, Indiana police arrested a man in connection to the 1988 rape and murder of an 8-year-old girl, WXIN reported.

>> Read more trending news

John D. Miller, 59, of Grabill, Indiana, was arrested Sunday by Fort Wayne police and charged with the murder of April Tinsley, according to court documents. The girl was abducted from her Fort Wayne neighborhood on April 1, 1988, according to the FBI. Her body was recovered three days later in a ditch 20 miles from her home, according to court documents.

The arrest came hours before the cold case was to be featured in a prime-time crime documentary, The Indianapolis Star reported.

Authorities extracted DNA evidence out of Miller’s trash earlier this month and returned to his residence Sunday, according to a probable cause affidavit.

When police asked Miller if he knew why they were there, he answered “April Tinsley” before he admitted to committing the crimes, the Star reported.

Miller was charged with murder, child molesting and confinement , WXIN reported.

The alleged killer wrote a note on a barn door in 1990, that said, “I kill 8-year-old April Marie Tinsley. I will kill again."

In 2004, the man allegedly left threatening notes, photos and used condoms on three girls’ bicycles. DNA in the condoms matched what was found on April’s body, the Star reported.

"Hi honey. I been watching you," said one note, which was released by the FBI. "I am the same person that kidnapped, raped and killed April Tinsely. You are my next victim."

In May, a detective arranged for DNA testing at a laboratory. On July 6, the DNA sample was narrowed to two brothers, one of whom was Miller, the Star reported.

While checking Miller’s trash on July 6, investigators found three used condoms, the newspaper reported. Three days later, results from DNA testing matched the used condoms found in Miller’s trash to the condoms found in 2004 and DNA found on April, the Star said.

The arrest was made hours before Investigation Discovery's "On the Case with Paula Zahn" was scheduled to air an episode about the case.

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.

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