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Child Abuse

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The partner of a former embattled suburban Denver police chief is accused of falsely reporting that a vocal opponent of the chief was sexually abusing her son. In court documents filed Monday, authorities allege Robin Niceta made an anonymous call to a child abuse hotline on Jan. 28 alleging that she saw Aurora City Councilmember Danielle Jurinsky inappropriately touching Jurinsky’s son. The call came a day after Jurinsky was on a radio talk show and called for the city’s police chief, Vanessa Wilson, to resign, calling Wilson “trash.” Niceta was a county social worker at the time of the alleged tip but resigned after being questioned by investigators. Niceta could not be reached by telephone.

The grandfather and uncle of a 3-year-old girl killed last fall during an exorcism at a Northern California church have been arrested this week in connection with her death. The child died last September after family members performed a ceremony because they believed she was “possessed by an evil spirit,” court documents show. The Santa Clara County medical examiner’s office ruled the death a homicide caused by asphyxiation. The San Jose Police Department said Friday that police arrested the child’s grandfather and uncle on charges of child abuse leading to the death of the victim. The child's mother was arrested and charged in January. It was not immediately known if the girl’s grandfather and uncle have an attorney who can speak on their behalf. 

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The lawyer for a Georgia man scheduled to be executed next week says her client has significant cognitive impairments that likely contributed to his crimes and has suffered horrific abuse in prison. She argues that means his life should be spared. Virgil Delano Presnell Jr. killed an 8-year-old girl and raped her 10-year-old friend after abducting them as they walked home from school in Cobb County, just outside Atlanta, on May 4, 1976. He is scheduled to be executed Tuesday. The five-member parole board, which is the only authority in Georgia that can commute a death sentence, has scheduled a closed-door clemency hearing Monday to consider his case.  

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The winner of a Food Network cooking show competition has been found guilty in the beating death last year of a 3-year-old foster child in her care. News outlets reported the jury deliberated for about an hour before delivering the unanimous verdict Thursday against 30-year-old Ariel Robinson, of Simpsonville. She made no comment before Judge Letitia Verdin sentenced her to life in prison on a charge of homicide by child abuse. Robinson's husband, Austin Robinson, pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting homicide by child abuse last month. He faces up to 20 years in prison. A sentencing date has not been scheduled. He testified that his wife beat Victoria Smith on Jan. 14, 2021. Medical evidence showed she died when blood pooled in her body and could not get to her brain.

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The Texas Supreme Court is allowing the state to investigate parents of transgender youth for child abuse. But in a mixed ruling Friday, the court also handed a victory to one family that was among the first contacted by child welfare officials following an order by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott. In February, Abbott issued a first-of-its-kind order that instructed child welfare officials to investigate reports of gender-confirming care for kids as abuse. State child welfare officials have said they opened nine investigations following the directive. Lambda Legal, which helped bring the lawsuit against Texas on behalf of the parents of the 16-year-old girl, called the decision a win because it put the state’s investigation into their family on hold.

The parents of a 2-year-old Florida girl who died weighing less than 10 pounds are accused of negligent child abuse. Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd says the 57-year-old father and 35-year-old mother were arrested Tuesday. Deputies responding to a call about an unresponsive child found the girl dead in an inflatable pool being used as a playpen. The Department of Children and Families had investigated the case, which was closed after the child gained weight and the parents promised to get medical help. An uncle who lived at the house was also arrested for failing to report child abuse.

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A divorced Indiana couple who prosecutors say shared sexually explicit photos and videos of children with former Subway pitchman Jared Fogle were sentenced Monday to decades in prison. The Justice Department says a federal judge on Monday sentenced 40-year-old Angela Baldwin, of Connersville, to 33 years and four months in prison. A jury convicted her in October of four child porn counts. Her ex-husband Russell Taylor, who ran a nonprofit Fogle founded, pleaded guilty last year to 30 child porn and sexual exploitation counts for his acts against nine children. The 50-year-old Taylor was sentenced earlier Monday to 27 years in prison. Fogle is serving a 15-year sentence on child porn and other charges.

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A small exhibit delivered a big message in Pennsylvania's Lancaster County, home to the nation's largest Amish community. Thirteen simple outfits from victims of sexual assault hung from a clothesline, attesting to the reality that child sexual abuse is a serious problem among the Amish, Mennonites and similar groups known for their plain dress. The moving display challenged the myth that sexual assault can be blamed on what a victim was wearing. In the words of one organizer and abuse survivor, “It was never about the clothes.” The exhibit was part of a conference in late April raising awareness about abuse. 

A newly released criminal complaint says a boy accused of killing a 10-year-old girl in northwestern Wisconsin lured her off a trail by suggesting they explore the surrounding woods, and that he returned to the scene later to better hide her body. Chippewa County officials released the complaint Friday charging the 14-year-old boy with homicide and sexual assault in Illiana Peters' death. The boy's name is redacted from the document by a judge's order. According to the complaint, the boy told detectives that he and Lily were walking on a trial in Chippewa Falls on April 24 when he asked to step off the trail and explore the woods. The complaint says he then assaulted her. 

Grand Forks police and federal agents seized video discs and other items from the home of North Dakota’s longest-serving state senator after he had traded scores of text messages with a man jailed on child pornography charges. According to a police report, a Grand Forks police detective and two Homeland Security special agents searched Ray Holmberg’s home on Nov. 17.  Holmberg would not comment on the search.  It came about three months after Holmberg exchanged 72 text messages with Nicholas James Morgan-Derosier as Morgan-Derosier was held in the Grand Forks County Jail.   

A Las Vegas man pleaded not guilty to killing his girlfriend’s 4-year-old son and hiding the body in a freezer, where it was found in February after the boy’s sister gave notes to her teacher saying that her mother was being held captive. A prosecutor told a judge on Thursday that a decision hasn't been made yet whether Brandon Toseland will face the death penalty. Toseland remains jailed on murder, kidnapping and other charges. The boy’s mother told authorities that she and her two children moved into his home in March 2021, that Toseland became possessive and controlling, and that she last saw the boy in December. Toseland alleges the mother knew more than she told a grand jury.

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A judge has ruled that a former Maine gubernatorial candidate charged with possession of child pornography can get back online. That's despite Eliot Cutler possessing thousands of videos of children being sexually abused. An affidavit was unsealed Tuesday as a defense attorney attended an initial court appearance on behalf of Cutler, a wealthy attorney. A judge modified Cutler's bail conditions to allow him to have access to the internet for banking and other legal activities. A special monitoring software would produce alerts if sexually explicit images are accessed. Cutler ran for governor twice as an independent, using his personal wealth to bankroll both campaigns. He didn't enter a plea Tuesday.

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The U.S. Department of Justice is challenging an Alabama law making it a felony for doctors to treat transgender people under age 19 with puberty-blockers and hormones to affirm their gender identity. The Justice Department on Friday filed a motion seeking to intervene in an ongoing lawsuit challenging the law and seeking to block it from taking effect on May 8. The Justice Department said the law discriminates against minors by denying them access to medically necessary care. Alabama Republicans who support the law say it's needed to protect children. A spokeswoman for Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey said her office is prepared to defend the legislation. 

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A trial judge has concluded there was enough evidence to convict Ghislaine Maxwell of sex trafficking. But she also gave Maxwell a legal victory by concluding that three conspiracy counts charged the same crime. U.S. District Judge Alison J. Nathan issued a written ruling Friday after Maxwell's lawyers asked her to reject a December jury verdict. Nathan found the jury’s guilty verdicts were readily supported by extensive witness testimony and documentary evidence. The 60-year-old Maxwell was convicted of recruiting teenage girls for financier Jeffrey Epstein to sexually abuse. The reduction of counts wasn't expected to have much effect on the sentencing, when Maxwell could face a sentence ranging from several years to decades in prison.

An Omaha woman accused of sexually assaulting much younger members of her dance team has pleaded no contest to four felony counts, including sexual assault and child abuse, in a deal with prosecutors. Court records show that 24-year-old Brittianee Bates pleaded no contest Thursday, not admitting guilt, but acknowledging that prosecutors have enough evidence to convict her. In exchange for her pleas, four other felony counts were dropped. Police say Bates sexually assaulted three girls who were on the same drill team as Bates and a fourth girl who went to a day care where Bates worked. Prosecutors say the abuse dates back to 2015 and that all of victims were younger than 13.

A Georgia man convicted of killing an 8-year-old girl and raping a 10-year-old girl more than 45 years ago is scheduled to be executed next month. Georgia Department of Corrections Commissioner Timothy Ward announced Wednesday that Virgil Delano Presnell Jr. is set to be executed on May 17 at the state prison in Jackson. Presnell, who's 68, is accused of abducting and attacking the two girls as they walked home from school on May 4, 1976. He was convicted in August 1976 on charges including malice murder, kidnapping and rape and was sentenced to death. His death sentence was overturned in 1992 but was reinstated in March 1999.

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A prosecutor says a 14-year-old boy accused of killing a 10-year-old Wisconsin girl knew the girl and planned the attack. The teen, identified at a bond hearing Wednesday only by his initials, faces charges including first-degree intentional homicide in the death of Illiana Peters, who went by the name Lily. Her body was found Monday in the town of Chippewa Falls, a day after she went missing after a visit to her aunt's house in that city. Chippewa County District Attorney Wade Newell said the boy punched the girl, knocked her to the ground, hit her with a stick and strangled her before sexually assaulting her. A judge granted the district attorney's request for $1 million cash bond in the case. 

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Members of a Texas House committee repeatedly pressed a prosecutor to stop the April 27 execution of a woman whose conviction is being questioned amid growing doubts about whether she fatally beat her 2-year-old daughter.  But during a sometimes contentious hearing Tuesday, Cameron County District Attorney Luis Saenz resisted calls from lawmakers to ask a judge to recall the death warrant for Melissa Lucio. Saenz later declared his belief an appeals court would stop the execution.  Lawmakers on the committee expressed frustration during the meeting in Austin that Saenz would not “push the pause button” himself.  The lawmakers and others believe there are questions about whether Lucio is guilty of fatally beating her daughter Mariah in 2007 in Harlingen. 

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Seven Texas lawmakers who traveled hundreds of miles to update death row inmate Melissa Lucio on their efforts to stop her execution were able to connect with her through embrace and prayer. State Rep. Joe Moody said that although they were initially told the visit would have to be non-contact, the lawmakers ultimately were allowed in the same room with Lucio on Wednesday during their 40-minute visit. The lawmakers say they are troubled by Lucio’s case and believe her execution should be stopped as there are legitimate questions about whether she is guilty of fatally beating her 2-year-old daughter in 2007.

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A group of bipartisan Texas lawmakers visited a death row inmate whose execution they are trying to stop amid doubt about whether she fatally beat her 2-year-old daughter.  State Reps. Jeff Leach and Joe Moody on Wednesday led a group of lawmakers to the Mountain View Unit in Gatesville, Texas, where the state houses women on death row, and visited Melissa Lucio. Lucio was convicted of capital murder for the 2007 death of her daughter Mariah. Prosecutors say Mariah was the victim of child abuse and there is no evidence that would acquit Lucio of her daughter’s death. But her attorneys say she's innocent and jurors never heard evidence that would have acquitted her. Leach described his visit with Lucio as “very powerful." 

A Wagner woman has pleaded guilty to felony child abuse in connection with the death of her 2-year-old son. Twenty-seven-year-old Calarina Drapeaux agreed to a plea deal and appeared in Charles Mix County court Monday. The felony charge carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison and a $30,000 fine. In exchange for Drapeaux’s guilty plea, the prosecution dropped three counts of aggravated assault. Drapeaux had previously pleaded not guilty to all the charges and was scheduled for an August trial. Judge Bruce Anderson has set a June 6 sentencing.

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Nearly half of the jurors who sentenced a Texas woman to die for the 2007 death of one of her 14 children called for her execution to be halted and for her to get a new trial before the state’s top criminal court delayed her lethal injection. Fifty-two-year-old Melissa Lucio had been set to be executed Wednesday for the death of her 2-year-old daughter Mariah. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on Monday granted her lawyers' request for a stay of execution so a lower court can review new evidence. The lawyers say the evidence shows Mariah was injured in a fall.

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North Dakota’s longest-serving state senator says he'll resign following a report that he had traded scores of text messages with a man jailed on child pornography charges. Republican Ray Holmberg already had stepped down as head of a powerful panel that oversees the Legislature’s business between sessions after a published report that he had exchanged scores of text messages with a man jailed on child pornography charges. Holmberg's resignation is effective June 1. He had risen to become one of the state’s most powerful lawmakers in a career that spanned 46 years.

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