Crime

The U.S. is seeing "historic" progress in reducing both its crime and its incarceration rates, Attorney General Eric Holder said, with the federal prison population falling by some 4,800 inmates in the past year — "the first decrease we've seen in many ‎decades."

The Supreme Court on Wednesday put off the execution of Russell Bucklew, a Missouri inmate who has maintained that his rare congenital medical condition would make the lethal injection procedure excessively painful.

Leslie Boorhem-Stephenson

Editor's note: This story has been updated throughout. 

CARTHAGE — On Tuesday, more than 17 years after Bernie Tiede shot 81-year-old Marjorie Nugent in the back and tucked her body under potpies in a deep freezer, a judge released him on bond, agreeing with lawyers that his life sentence should be reduced.

But his release comes with strict conditions, among them that he live in the Austin garage apartment of his moviemaking benefactor, Richard Linklater, and receive counseling for sexual abuse.

State district Judge Diane DeVasto agreed to allow Tiede's release after she heard evidence that sexual abuse he suffered as a child contributed to his crime and after a psychiatrist said Tiede would not pose a danger to society.

https://flic.kr/p/ayZi8V

For KUT News and Reporting Texas:

This past semester, four Texas State University MBA students worked with the Georgetown Police Department (GPD) to find possible solutions to a persistent problem: senior citizens living in the Sun City retirement community are increasingly being targeted for identity theft and fraud.

Dave Roshan is one of the MBA students working with the GPD to find a possible solution for the issue. 

Most surprising, Roshan said, is “what basic mistakes they are making,’’ including “[c]arrying their social security cards with them, leaving their checkbooks out in plain sight… They’re very trusting.”

DPS 2014 Texas Gang Threat Assessment

The Texas Department of Public Safety released its annual report on criminal gang activity in Texas this week.

This year’s Texas Gang Threat Assessment found that gangs continue to pose a substantial threat to public safety. Central Texas is home to some of the most established gangs in the state. The report estimates that with more than 4,600 gangs, overall gang membership in this state is more than 100,000.

Photo released by Blanco Police Department

Update: An Amber Alert for a 15-year-old Blanco girl has been canceled. Blanco Police say Sianna Gholson was found safe.

Gholson was believed abducted Tuesday morning from Blanco High School.

But, again, she’s now been found and is safe.

Original Story (April 1, 5:53 p.m.): Authorities issued an Amber Alert Tuesday for a 15-year-old girl believed abducted from Blanco High School in Blanco, Texas at about 7:45 Tuesday morning.

Carmen Martinez Fischer, facebook.com/driverfriendly

Update: Looks like Driver Friendly finally caught a break: the Austin-based band had their trailer full of missing gear returned to them this morning. 

"At 8:30 this morning an Austin Police Officer knocked on Jeremi's door notifying him that they had found our trailer WITH EVERYTHING IN IT!!!" the band says on Facebook. "We cannot believe this turn of events, and feel so blessed to not only have everything back, but to have been supported by, you, our fans, through all of this."

All the funds Driver Friendly raised online to cover their missing gear will be returned to fans.  

Original story (March 19): A band that calls Austin home can’t seem to catch a break.

Texas Monthly

In 1982, a grisly triple homicide in Waco shook residents faith in their community. Three teenagers were killed, and local police struggled with the investigation. The murders were just the beginning of a story that spans decades and involves dozens of characters, many of which became obsessed with both the murders and how the case was prosecuted. Now a new story in Texas Monthly by Michael Hall raises troubling questions about how the state handles justice.

"If there's one thing for certain, it's that the Lake Waco murder case does stand on its own," Hall writes in the story, 'Murders at the Lake,' in the April issue of Texas Monthly

Nathan Bernier, KUT News

The Texas Civil Rights Project says law enforcement officers may be violating the U.S. Constitution when they execute warrants without knocking. The organization released a report Tuesday that says 70% of surveyed jurisdictions do not have written “no-knock” policies and that many other counties and cities may have inadequate policies or do not effectively implement those they have. Jim Harrington, TCRP director, says that is putting citizens and officers at risk.

“It’s dangerous both ways. We have to get away from this idea, well, we just don’t [knock]. You know any time we say it’s a narcotics warrant, we just don’t do it,” Harrington says.

Caleb Bryant Miller for KUT News

Texas exonerated more prisoners – 13 – than any other state last year.

A report out today shows a nationwide push by prosecutors to re-examine possible wrongful convictions contributed to a record number of exonerations in 2013. The National Registry of Exonerations says 87 people were exonerated last year.

The Texas Tribune has more:

Thirteen Texans were officially absolved of wrongdoing last year for crimes ranging from murder to drug possession. Some had spent more than a decade in prison, and others a few months. The state with the second-most exonerations was Illinois, with nine, followed by New York, with eight. 

Wednesday's execution of a Mexican national in Texas revived a long-running diplomatic row between the United States and its southern neighbor.

Updated at 10:50 p.m. ET: Execution Carried Out

The Associated Press reports:

"A Mexican man has been executed in Texas for killing a Houston police officer, despite pleas and diplomatic pressure from the Mexican government and the U.S. State Department to halt the punishment.

Joy Diaz, KUT News

The holidays can be prime for home break-ins – after all, that’s when people go out of town for a few days and leave their homes unattended.

But imagine what happens when an entire neighborhood is forced out of their homes – and the vast majority of houses remain uninhabited for almost three months. That’s the situation in flood-stricken Onion Creek in southwest Austin.

Texas Department of Public Safety

The Ellis County Sheriff's Department has discontinued this Amber Alert.

Law enforcement authorities across Texas are looking for a missing 16-year-old girl. Inez Ramirez was last seen in Red Oaks, Texas – south of Dallas.

Ramirez is 5'2" and weighs about 130 pounds. She has brown shoulder-length hair and brown eyes. She was last seen wearing a green shirt and black shorts.

Police believe she may be with 23-year-old Edger Barron. He’s 5'9", weighs about 145 pounds and has black hair and brown eyes.

The annual number of mass murders and attempted mass murders in the U.S. has tripled since 2008, to 15 last year, according to statistics that the FBI and Justice Department have been citing in recent weeks.

In a new study posted online by the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, experts make the case that "police have, generally, done an excellent job responding to active shooter events quickly."

But, they add:

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

The Texas Civil Rights Project is calling on local authorities to investigate a string of suspicious housing deals that could cause seniors to lose their homes.

A company called Castro has been approaching Montopolis residents to see if they qualify for free home repairs paid for by the government. According to homeowners, the solicitors urged them to sign contracts granting Castro full legal rights over their homes.

Texas Civil Rights Project attorney Brian McGiverin says the Travis County District Attorney and the Texas Attorney General must investigate immediately.

DPS

Police across the state are looking for a missing five year-old boy and the woman who they believe took him. She was last seen in North Richland Hills – near Fort Worth.

Five-year-old Jagger Curry is white. He has brown hair and brown eyes. He was last seen wearing a blue shirt, grey-and-white striped pajama pants and cowboy boots.

Police believe he’s with 30-year-old Jennifer Lynne Echeverria. She’s also white with brown hair and brown eyes. She’s about 5-foot-9 and weighs around 140 pounds. She was last seen wearing a black short-sleeved t-shirt and jeans. She has a tattoo of angel wings with eyes on the inside of both arms. The back of her head is shaved.

A new poll released this week shows Texans strongly support reforming how the state punishes non-violent drug offenses. The Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Center for Effective Justice polled over 1,000 people about how Texas currently punishes non-violent drug offenders with prison time vs. drug rehab and probation.  

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Update: Dan Keller walked out of the Travis County Jail this afternoon after 21 years in prison. He was greeted with an embrace from his wife Fran, released from her own imprisonment last week.

As the two left the jail, Dan Keller denied any bitterness over his two­-plus decades in prison. 

“I forgave everybody,” Keller said. “It’s no use to hate somebody … man ain’t supposed to do that. Lord didn’t hate anybody when they put him on the cross. He said ‘I forgive you,’ and I forgave them. It’s an experience I wouldn’t wish on anybody.”

Original story (Nov. 27): A Central Texas woman is now free after spending more than 20 years behind bars.

Fran Keller and her husband Dan were both sentenced to 48 years for so-called “satanic ritual abuse” at their Austin-area day care.

Joy Diaz/KUT News

If you live in Austin, chances are you or someone you know has been the victim of a property crime. 

That’s because Austin is one of the worst cities nationwide when it comes to property crime.

FBI numbers show Austin’s property crime rates are worse than New York, Chicago or even Los Angeles. Property crimes are so prevalent that a couple of years ago, the Austin Police Department created its very first Burglary Unit.

Every month almost 4,000 property crimes happen in Austin.

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