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Ind. Grandma Allegedly Drowned Boy, 4, Telling Cops He’d Be ‘Better Off in Heaven’


A 56-year-old Indiana woman has been arrested and charged in connection with the drowning death of her 4-year-old grandson, allegedly saying he’d be “better off in heaven,” say authorities.

On Saturday, Helen Martin of Kokomo was arrested and charged with murder and neglect of a dependent resulting in death, local station WTHR reports.

Officers were called to Martin’s home where the child was unresponsive and unconscious, local station Fox 59 reports.

Her husband, Brian Martin, allegedly told officers that his wife had drowned the child while he was out running errands, according to court documents obtained by Fox 59.

He said she climbed into the tub while the child was taking a bath and held his head underwater, a probable cause affidavit states, the Kokomo Tribune reports.

When Brian returned home, he pulled the child out of the tub.

The boy was rushed to a local hospital where he later died.

Martin told investigators that she suffers from depression and sometimes has lapses of memory caused by PTSD from a “past abusive marriage, depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder,” the documents state.

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Martin allegedly went on to tell police that she had been “so depressed recently” that she thought her grandson would “be better off in heaven than to be with her,” court documents said.

Martin is being held without bond, according to the Howard County Prosecutor’s Office. Her initial hearing is scheduled for April 2.

It is unclear whether she has retained an attorney who can speak on her behalf.

The district attorney’s office and police did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s requests for comment.

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Man Said Missing Girlfriend Was Quarantined with Coronavirus — But Family Suspects Murder

A North Carolina man grandmother was found dead in her home after her boyfriend allegedly told her family she was sick with Coronavirus and quarantined.

Toni Handy, 46, was reported missing by her family on March 23. The following evening she was found dead inside her Winston-Salem home.

Handy’s family became worried for her safety when they hadn’t heard from her since March 21. She had last spoken to her daughter, Gidget Dunlap, and told her she was on the way to work and that she loved her, according to a GoFundMe page started by Dunlap to help pay for funeral expenses.

But when Handy never called her back and was unreachable, Dunlap reached out to her boyfriend, Christopher Mock.

Mock allegedly told Dunlap her mother wasn’t missing, saying she was just quarantined after contracting Coronavirus. Right away, Hardy’s family knew something was wrong, the Winston-Salem Journal and WXII report.

On Tuesday afternoon, Forsyth County deputies saw Mock, then a person of interest in Hardy’s disappearance, driving his girlfriend’s truck. When deputies attempted to stop him, Mock refused to pull over the vehicle and a pursuit ensued, WFMY reports, citing Winston-Salem police.

During the pursuit, four civilian cars were damaged, injuring one driver, and Mock was fatally shot by deputies, police said.

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Hours later, shortly before 6 p.m., deputies found Handy’s body inside her home as they executed a search warrant. She had been fatally shot, Dunlap writes on the GoFundMe page.

“She left behind four children and seven grandchildren,” Dunlap writes. “She thought the world of her grandchildren and her children. She would help anybody that she could with anything they needed. She would give you the shirt off of her back.”

Handy and Mock had an off-again-on-again relationship for two years, Winston-Salem police Lt. Gregory Dorn told the Journal. 

A cause of death has not been released as of Monday.

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Ala. Girl, 4, Found Safe Days After Going Missing, Sheriff Thanks Search Efforts amid Coronavirus

The 4-year-old Alabama girl who disappeared earlier this week has been found, safe and sound, authorities said.

Evelyn “Vadie” Sides and her hound dog were reported missing on Wednesday, March 25, at 2:45 p.m., prompting a search process that utilized helicopters, K9 units and hundreds of volunteers, according to the Lee County Sheriff’s Office.

On Friday afternoon, the sheriff’s department posted on Facebook that the little girl was found alive, and her dog Lucy was safe as well.

“No words are capable of describing everyone’s relief,” a spokesperson for the Lee County Sheriff’s Office told WSFA. “We are just … ‘ecstatic’ might be a good word. She is in good shape, she is responsive, she is talking, she’s alert. She is in good physical condition, and the best part is she is with her mama.”

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Authorities previously noted in the investigation that foul play was not suspected.

Before being located, Evelyn was last seen outside her home. Police said she was playing with her caregiver and dog when it was believed she and the animal wandered off.

Given the current coronavirus pandemic, authorities took precautions for the volunteers helping in the search efforts, advising helpers to bring hand sanitizer and writing on Facebook that they will be “practicing COVID-19 protocols” amid the search.

“Our thanks just don’t seem like enough,” said the sheriff’s spokesperson of the volunteers, “but they have our sincere and heartfelt thanks for the sacrifices they made — all the volunteers that came with one goal in mind, and that was finding this little girl and getting her back to her mom and dad, which just happened a few minutes ago.”

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments and visit our coronavirus hub.

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The Most Shocking Aspects of Joe Exotic Case from Netflix Docuseries 'Tiger King'

Tiger King: Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness, the seven part Netflix docuseries, explores the life and crimes of Joseph Maldonado-Passage, a former country musician, Oklahoma zookeeper and big cat lover.

Maldonado-Passage owned an exotic animal park and boasted of having the largest number of big cats in America.

He was found guilty in 2019 for paying a hitman $3,000 to kill his rival, Carole Baskin, an animal activist who runs a sanctuary called the Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, Fla. (The hit did not occur.) He is now serving 22 years in prison for the attempted murder plot.

This week, Maldonado-Passage filed a $94 million federal lawsuit from the Grady County Jail in Oklahoma against various government entities and his former business partner, accusing them of violating his civil rights, false arrest and causing the death of his mother.

Here are five shocking things to know about the case.

1. The Murder for Hire Plot
For years, Carole Baskin was an outspoken critic of Maldonado-Passage.

Baskin was particularly peeved that although Maldonado-Passage publicly proclaimed to love big cats, he killed five of his tigers, bred them, sold baby lemurs and more in hopes of turning a profit.

Prosecutors alleged that Maldonado-Passage didn’t appreciate her public criticism and tried to silence her by hiring a hitman for $3,000 to kill her. However, his plan backfired and he landed in jail instead.

2. Maldonado-Passage Killed 5 of His Tigers
Among the charges filed against Maldonado-Passage was that he unlawfully killed five tigers in October of 2017. Because tigers are an endangered species, the shooting death of the aging big cats violated the Endangered Species Act, and he was convicted on nine counts of that.

In Maldonado-Passage’s federal complaint, he claims he “humanely euthanized” the tigers, who were shot in the skull, because they had suffered “14 years of painful walking on declawed paws to the point that they were crippled.”

3. Tigers Were Buried Behind His Zoo
According to the Texas Monthly, during Maldonado-Passage’s trial, prosecutors showed pictures of dead tigers that were discovered in graves in the back of the zoo by federal officers. One agent testified that the big cats were jammed together like “hot dogs in a pack.”

During the trial, Maldonado-Passage addressed the deaths of his tigers and seemed surprised that their killing was an issue. “In 20 years, I’ve had 50-plus tigers buried in that back pasture, and nobody gives a damn. Nobody,” the Monthly reports.

4. The Mysterious Disappearance of Carole Baskin’s Husband
Baskin’s 50-year-old husband, Don Lewis, vanished without a trace in August of 1997. The self-made millionaire who helped Baskin transform their 40 acres of Florida land into an animal sanctuary was never seen again, though his car was found at a nearby airport. Some of his relatives speculated that Baskin may have been connected to his disappearance, though she has denied involvement and never been charged. In a 1998 interview with PEOPLE, the oldest of Lewis’ four children, Donna Pettis, then 42, claimed that Baskin feeding his body to big cats would be “a perfect scenario to dispose of someone. We were upset that the cops didn’t test the DNA on the meat grinder.”

5. Maldonado-Passage Hopes for a Presidential Pardon
On Wednesday, Maldonado-Passage posted a public plea on his Facebook page asking President Donald Trump to pardon him or grant a special investigation into his conviction in the murder-for-hire plot.

“My trial was not about the truth, it was about the win for the prosecutors,” Maldonado-Passage wrote. “Why do I say this? Because I can prove every lie and the U.S Attorneys office had that proof.”

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“I know by seeing your passion and conviction regarding our rights as American Citizens that this isn’t what you meant by your belief to ‘Let’s Make America Great Again,’” he said. “Mr. President, I am pleading with you to please have this looked into.”

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Mich. Mom Was Fatally Shot in Front of Kids — and Boyfriend Was Allegedly Seen Running from Home

Police in Michigan continue to search for the boyfriend of a 29-year-old woman who was found slain inside her home Sunday evening.

Adrian Deshawn Hill, 32, has been identified by police as a person of interest in the shooting death of Markia Leggett, who was killed Sunday evening at her residence in Southfield, Michigan, reports WDIV-TV.

Officers have been unable to locate Hill.

According to WXYZ, Hill had been employed as a contract worker with a tree removal company.

Authorities said he has ties to Detroit, Westland and Ann Arbor, reports The Oakland Press.

Neighbors started calling 911 Sunday evening shortly before 10 p.m., saying they’d heard gunfire. Officers located Leggett fatally shot inside her apartment.

Leggett’s two children were witnesses to the killing, according to police. The oldest, who is 13, also called 911 after his mother’s killing.

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Hill is not the father of Leggett’s children.

Police say eyewitnesses reported seeing Hill sprinting from the apartment building soon after the shooting. He allegedly fled in either a maroon or white Dodge Ram 1500 pickup truck bearing Michigan license plate DWC9109.

The vehicle sped off, according to police, and during an immediate search of the area, officers failed to find any trace of the truck.

He remains at large and may be armed and dangerous.

The Oakland Press spoke to Southfield Police Chief Elvin Barren about the murder.

“This was a senseless murder of a loving mother of two, senselessly gunned down as a result of a domestic dispute,” Barren said.

Police have yet to disclose a possible motive for the violence.

Hill is described as a black male standing 5 feet 9 inches and weighing around 190 lbs. He was last seen wearing a white jacket.

Anyone with information about Hill’s whereabouts is urged to call either 911 or the Southfield Police Department at (248) 796-5500.


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Fla. Man Told Wife He Had a Vast Fortune — and Allegedly Killed Her When She Learned He Was Lying

Shanti Cooper-Tronnes and David Tronnes had been married for just a year when she was found dead in her upscale Florida home in April 2018. Police soon focused on Tronnes, 52, who initially told police that Cooper-Tronnes slipped and fell while in the a bathtub.

But an autopsy revealed Cooper-Tronnes died from blunt force trauma to the head and strangulation. Moreover, crime scene investigators noted that the woman’s body was completely dry, which contradicted her husband’s claim that she had been in the partially-filled tub.

Four months after the body was discovered, Tronnes was arrested and charged with first-degree murder. He pleaded not guilty and was ordered to be held without bond.

So why would a man kill his new wife after just one year of marriage?

Authorities allege Tronnes had predicated the entire relationship on a lie. After the couple met on Match.com, he allegedly told her that he had inherited between $4 million and $6 million from his father — a claim that turned out to be untrue.

Friends started noticing that Tronnes paid for very little of the couple’s bills — and that he expected Cooper-Tronnes to keep them afloat financially. “He always talked about how he had a ton of money, but she couldn’t figure out why he was such a miser,” Cooper-Tronnes’ friend Melissa Burzinski told police after her death.

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Authorities allege Tronnes killed his wife after she learned the truth about his finances — and also about the fact that he was going to bathhouses for anonymous sex with men.

“We all thought we knew David Tronnes,” Shanti’s friend, Laurie Holt, tells PEOPLE in its latest issue. “Come to find out, what we knew was a facade. He was living a total lie.”

Interrogation footage released last year show Orlando Police detectives were unconvinced by his story — and accused him of faking weeping.

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“You’ve fake cried for about seven or eight hours today,” Detective Teresa Sprague told David Tronnes after his interview. “Not one tear came out of your eyes — not one. You have fake cried over this woman’s death since we made contact with you. There is not a lick of remorse for what you did to this woman.”

Tronnes has claimed that he is indigent, and will now be represented by a public defender. His trial is scheduled to begin later this year.

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10-Year-Old Alaska Girl Is Found Dead, and Family Says She Was Abducted and Murdered by 'Monster'

A family in Western Alaska says they’re searching for the “monster” who abducted and killed their 10-year-old daughter.

When Ida “Girlie” Aguchak, 10, didn’t return to her Quinhagak home on March 15, her family immediately began to search for her. The following day, her family found her body in a dumpster.

“Girlie was abducted by someone in our community, murdered and then thrown into a dumpster,” her family said in a statement on a GoFundMe page. “We are in shock at the evil brutality and heartlessness of this. We want justice.”

They continued: “Our community is devastated, trying to cope with the horrific reality that one of our own suffered at the hands of a monster.”

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Alaska State Troopers are working with local police to search for Girlie’s killer, according to the Anchorage Daily News.

PEOPLE could not reach either agency for comment on Monday.

“There is nothing we can do to change the circumstances of this event, but we are reaching out to you to ask for prayers for comfort and to find who did this to Girlie,” the family’s statement said. “Thankfully, though, we belong to a caring community that comes together to help our friends and neighbors when they need it most. We can all help.”

Quinhagak is a community of about 700 people, according to the Daily News.

In honor of their loved one, Girlie’s family is asking people to help those in need, saying in their statement: “Girlie loved helping others and at whatever expense it was to her own family. For someone so little, she had a big heart that truly cared for others. Your assistance to others will help her loving spirit live on in all communities by your acts of kindness.”

Anyone with information is urged to contact local police at 907-556-2202 / 8314 or the Alaska State Troopers at 907-543-2294.

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Gannon Stauch’s Father Issues Statement After Son’s Remains Are Found as Estranged Wife Sits in Jail

The father of Colorado Springs boy Gannon Stauch released a statement Sunday expressing his gratitude and appreciation for the support he received during the long search for his 11-year-old son.

His statement was released two days after human remains were found in Florida and tentatively identified as Gannon. Gannon’s stepmother, Letecia “Tecia” Stauch, has been charged in connection with the boy’s death.

“As you can tell from the initial missing child report, to the arrest and charges in early March, and now the wonderful, yet gut-wrenching news that Gannon’s body has been recovered, this has been a heartbreaking and absolutely devastating time period in my life,” Al Stauch wrote in a statement posted on the Facebook page of Restoration Church in Colorado Springs, where he attends.

On March 18, the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office announced they had been contacted by the Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office about remains found in Pace, Florida.

“An autopsy was performed by the District One Medical Examiner and the deceased male has been tentatively identified as Gannon Stauch,” according to a sheriff’s office press release obtained by PEOPLE. “We would like to extend our deepest sympathies to the friends and family of Gannon.”

According to Sgt. Rich Aloy of the Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office, the remains were found by a work crew from the Florida Department of Transportation working Highway 90, near the Escambia River Bridge.

“They found a body and contacted us,” Sgt. Aloy told PEOPLE. “It is a long bridge — [the body] was along the side of the bridge, but not in the water. We don’t know when the body was placed there.”

The remains were found between 9 and 10 a.m. on March 17.

The cause of death is still undetermined.

In early March, Letecia Stauch was charged with murder, child abuse and tampering charges in connection with Gannon’s death. On Friday, the 4th judicial district attorney filed additional charges against Stauch, which included one count of first-degree murder after deliberation and eight counts of committing a crime of violence, the Denver Post reports.

More than 107 search warrants have been filed in the case, the Post reports.

Gannon was reported missing on Jan. 27 by his stepmom. Initially, the sheriff’s office described Gannon as a “runaway,” but on January 30, his status changed to missing and endangered.

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Authorities have not revealed details about what evidence they allegedly have against Stauch, and a motive has not been publicly discussed.

The press release indicated Stauch may have been in Florida from Feb. 3 to 5.

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New Orleans Woman Was Fatally Shot and Put in Car’s Trunk — But Police Don’t Know Who Killed Her

Police are continuing to search for a suspect in the case of a missing woman who was found dead inside the trunk of her car, according to Nola.com.

Huong Nguyen worked at an insurance office and her boss allegedly saw her leave work in her silver Toyota Camry at about 5 p.m. on March 11.

Her boss reported her missing the following day after she didn’t show up for work and her family was unable to reach her, according to Nola.com.

She was reported missing from the 7th District of New Orleans, officials told the website in an earlier story. The New Orleans Police Department released her photo and asked for the public’s help.

At 8 p.m. on March 13, a woman’s body was found in the trunk of a silver Camry about seven blocks from the home Nguyen shared with her mother, the website reported.

In an update from FOX8 reporter David Bernard’s Facebook page, he confirmed Nguyen’s death.

“I’m sorry to report that Huong was found dead today in New Orleans East,” he wrote. He didn’t have any additional details.

Police told the site that the woman died from “at least one bullet wound” and her death was being investigated as a homicide.

Nguyen’s best friend Linda Cao said a funeral was planned but was unsure how many people would be able to attend due to the government’s restrictions on crowds intended to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

“I want everyone to remember that she celebrated life,” Nguyen told the website, “and her life was taken so suddenly.”

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New Orleans City Councilwoman Cindy Nguyen told nola.com that she was a cousin of the slain woman.

“The family is dealing with this as best they can,” Nguyen told the site. “We would love to find out what happened to her to provide some closure to her for the family.”

Police have not named any suspects or discussed a possible motive in the case. Anyone with information can call Crimestoppers at (504) 822-1111.

 


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Woman Claimed Boyfriend Killed Her Baby — Then Admitted Fabricating Tale for 'Attention, I Guess'

A Tennessee woman is accused of lying to police by telling them she buried her fabricated 1-year-old daughter in a park after the baby was fatally shot. The woman allegedly invented the story for attention.

Glenna Brook Pinkerton, of Donelson, has been charged with making a false report to police for “concocting a story” about the death of her 1-year-old daughter, who never existed, according to a Nashville Metro Police Department news release.

Authorities began to investigate Pinkerton after a relative called police to report that she had spoken about burying her daughter in a park after the baby was shot in the head by Pinkerton’s ex-boyfriend.

During an interview with detectives, Pinkerton allegedly said she buried her daughter in a shallow grave in March 2018. She then allegedly brought detectives to the alleged gravesite in the park.

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However, when authorities began to attempt to locate human remains with the help of cadaver dogs, nothing was found.

Pinkerton then allegedly admitted to fabricating the story and said she had never given birth.

When asked why she lied, Pinkerton allegedly replied, “Attention, I guess.”

Pinkerton was released from jail after posting a $3,000 bond. Attorney and plea information was not available Thursday.

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