"Police search former garden of primary school teacher who went missing FORTY years ago"
*Ellen Elizabeth Ruffle disappeared from her family home in Motherwell in 1969 *She left behind a husband and two young children *Police insist search is 'standard procedure' but are using ground penetrating radar on the garden
"2 ex-Argentine dictators convicted in baby thefts
"BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — Former Argentine dictator Jorge Rafael Videla was convicted and sentenced to 50 years Thursday for a systematic program to steal babies from prisoners who were kidnapped, tortured and killed during the military junta's war on leftist dissidents three decades ago.
Argentina's last dictator, Reynaldo Bignone, also was convicted and got 15 years. Both men already were in prison for other human rights abuses.
"This is an historic day. Today legal justice has been made real — never again the justice of one's own hands, which the repressors were known for," prominent rights activist Tati Almeida said outside the courthouse, where a jubilant crowd watched on a big screen and cheered each sentence.
The baby thefts set Argentina's 1976-1983 regime apart from all the other juntas that ruled in Latin America at the time. Videla other military and police officials were determined to remove any trace of the armed leftist guerrilla movement they said threatened the country's future.
The "dirty war" eventually claimed 13,000 victims according to official records. Many were pregnant women who were "disappeared" shortly after giving birth in clandestine maternity wards.
Videla denied in his testimony that there was any systematic plan to remove the babies, and said prisoners used their unborn children as "human shields" in their fight against the state.
Nine others, mostly former military and police officials, also were accused in the trial, which focused on 34 baby thefts. Seven were convicted and two were found not guilty.
Witnesses included former U.S. diplomat Elliot Abrams. He was called to testify after a long-classified memo describing his secret meeting with Argentina's ambassador was made public at the request of the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, a human rights group whose evidence-gathering efforts were key to the trial.
Abrams testified from Washington that he secretly urged that Bignone reveal the stolen babies' identities as a way to smooth Argentina's return to democracy.
"We knew that it wasn't just one or two children," Abrams testified, suggesting that there must have been some sort of directive from a high level official — "a plan, because there were many people who were being murdered or jailed."
No reconciliation effort was made. Instead, Bignone ordered the military to destroy evidence of "dirty war" activities, and the junta denied any knowledge of baby thefts, let alone responsibility for the disappearances of political prisoners.
The U.S. government also revealed little of what it knew as the junta's death squads were eliminating opponents.
The Grandmothers group has since used DNA evidence to help 106 people who were stolen from prisoners as babies recover their true identities, and 26 of these cases were part of this trial. Many were raised by military officials or their allies, who falsified their birth names, trying to remove any hint of their leftist origins.
The rights group estimates as many as 500 babies could have been stolen in all, but the destruction of documents and passage of time make it impossible to know for sure.
The trial featured gut-wrenching testimony from grandmothers and other relatives who searched inconsolably for their missing relatives, and from people who learned as young adults that they were raised by the very people involved in the disappearance of their birth parents.
Prosecutors had asked for 50 years for Videla and four others. Almeida, the rights activist, said that "in some cases we would have preferred longer sentences, but since they're such old men now, it's almost like a perpetual sentence."
Videla, 86, received the maximum sentence as the man criminally responsible for 20 of the thefts.
He and Bignone, 84, already have life sentences for other crimes against humanity, and are serving time behind bars despite an Argentine law that usually permits criminals over 70 to stay at home.
Seven others were convicted and sentenced by the three-judge panel on Thursday: former Adm. Antonio Vanek, 40 years; former marine Jorge "Tigre" Acosta, 30; former Gen. Santiago Omar Riveros, 20; former navy prefect Juan Antonio Azic, 14; and Dr. Jorge Magnacco, who witnesses said handled some of the births, 10.
Former Capt. Victor Gallo and his ex-wife Susana Colombo, were sentenced to 15 and five years in jail, respectively. Their adopted son, Francisco Madariaga, testified against them and said he hoped their sentences would set an example.
Retired Adm. Ruben Omar Franco and a former intelligence agent, Eduardo Ruffo, were absolved.
According to Argentine judicial procedure, the basis for the convictions and sentences won't be revealed until Sept. 17, said the president of the judicial tribunal, Maria del Carmen Roqueta."
The disappearance of two friends has baffled authorities, who have searched by air, water and in wooded areas for the men, who seemed to have disappeared without a trace.
Zachary Wells, 21, and Prescott Wright, 23, were last seen hanging out at home in Kennebunkport, Maine., on Thursday, police chief Craig Sanford told ABC News affiliate WMTW-TV.
Both men are students at The Landing School in Arundel, Maine., where they were learning boat building and yacht design.
When the men failed to show up for classes on Thursday and Friday, administrators at the school contacted police.
Authorities found no signs of a disturbance at the home, Sanford said, and searches of the nearby area did not turn up any clues. Only one of the men owns a vehicle, and it remained parked in the driveway of the house, according to ABC affiliate WCVB-TV in Boston.
"There's no one area to pinpoint because we don't know where they might have gone," Sanford said, calling it one of the strangest cases he has ever seen.
Anyone with information is asked to call the Kennebunkport Police Department at 207-967-2454."
"Shootings in Texas, Wisconsin kill two police officers
Two on-duty police officers were shot and killed in separate incidents in Wisconsin and Texas on Monday, according to police and media reports, a deadly Christmas Eve for first responders across the United States.
The shootings in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, and in Houston came the same day that a gunman shot dead two firefighters and wounded three at a house fire in upstate Webster, New York.
Wauwatosa Police Officer Jennifer Sebena, 30, was found shot and killed early on Monday, according to police in the Milwaukee suburb.
Sebena was on patrol between 3 and 5 a.m. when she was shot several times, police said. She was found by a fellow officer after she did not respond to calls from dispatch.
An officer with the Bellaire Police Department in Houston died following a shootout at around 9 a.m. that also killed an innocent bystander, according to local media reports.
A spokesperson for the Houston Police Department was not immediately available for comment. An officer answering the phone confirmed what was in local media, but would not comment further.
The suspect is in the hospital, according to local media.
A representative for the Bellaire Police Department said only that an officer had been shot at the end of a pursuit.
Before Monday's deaths, the Washington-based National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund reported that a total of 125 federal, state and local officers had died in the line of duty this year.
Forty-seven deaths were firearms-related, 50 from traffic-related incidents and 28 from other causes, it said."
"Vegas police investigate discovery of girl's body
NORTH LAS VEGAS, Nev. (AP) â€” Police investigating the week-old disappearance of a 10-year-old Las Vegas girl said Thursday they think they found the child's body in an undeveloped housing tract in North Las Vegas.
Authorities couldn't immediately confirm the body was Jade Morris pending positive identification and notification of family members by the Clark County coroner, Las Vegas police homicide Capt. Chris Jones said.
But, "I can tell you that the likelihood is that this is our victim," Jones said.
He also said that the body belongs to a black girl.
Coroner Michael Murphy said he did not expect positive identification until Friday.
Jade was last seen by her family at about 5 p.m. Dec. 21 when Brenda Stokes picked her up for a shopping outing, police said. Police said Stokes was a trusted friend of the girl's father, and family members have told reporters that the two dated for several years.
Stokes, who also uses the name Brenda Wilson, was later arrested after she was accused of slashing a co-worker with razor blades at the Bellagio resort casino.
Stokes, 50, is now in jail and Jones said she has not cooperated in the investigation about the girl's whereabouts.
A passer-by called 911 about noon Thursday, and North Las Vegas police found a girl's body in unkempt brush near palm trees in a small traffic circle near Dorrell Lane and North 5th Street.
The location is a short distance from the northern 215 Beltway and about 10 miles from the downtown Las Vegas outlet mall off Interstate 15 where Stokes was to have taken the girl shopping.
Attempts by The Associated Press to reach family members on Thursday were unsuccessful.
Stokes picked up the girl about 5 p.m., and two hours later returned to another friend the red 2007 Saab sedan that she borrowed for the shopping trip, Jones said.
Later, Stokes got a ride with a friend to the Bellagio resort on the Las Vegas Strip, where she was arrested after allegedly attacking a female co-worker, Joyce Rhone, with a razor in each hand as Rhone dealt blackjack about 9:30 p.m.
Rhone, 44, was hospitalized with deep cuts on her face, including one from her ear to the edge of her mouth. A police arrest report said Rhone also had several smaller cuts around her right eye.
Records show that Stokes was being held Thursday on $60,000 bail at the Clark County jail on felony battery with a weapon, burglary and mayhem charges that could get her decades in prison.
She told a judge Wednesday that she had not obtained a lawyer. She was due again in Las Vegas Justice Court on Friday.
The arrest report says casino video shows Stokes attacking Rhone before a casino patron and security officers intervene. Officer Marcus Martin said the video is evidence that may be shown by prosecutors in court but will not be made public by police.
Police said Stokes later told investigators that she attacked Rhone over harassing phone calls and an unspecified betrayal that ended their seven-year friendship.
Stokes also told police she visited her doctor last week, seeking to be admitted to a hospital "due to feeling like she wanted to hurt someone."
She is reported to have told investigators she hadn't taken a prescription anti-anxiety drug on Friday, and that, "Sometimes people just snap."
"Calif. home searched in 1984 disappearance of boy
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — It has been nearly 30 years since 10-year-old Kevin Collins disappeared while waiting for a bus after basketball practice. His mother, now 72, said she felt numb as she watched police search a San Francisco home in connection to the decades-old cold case.
"To see them digging in a building so close to where he disappeared was shocking," Ann Collins said.
The search Tuesday of a backyard and garage of a home near the city's Haight-Ashbury district has renewed interest in the high-profile disappearance in 1984. Photographs of the freckled-face boy, plastered on milk cartons and posters throughout San Francisco, turned it into one of the first child disappearances to garner national attention.
The home search was a "follow up to the cold case investigation," police said in a statement.
A law enforcement official, speaking on condition of anonymity because the search warrant was sealed, said a "person of interest" in the disappearance lived in the house at the time. That person has since died, and police said the current residents were not suspects.
Police didn't disclose what prompted investigators to seek a search warrant and renew the probe into the case. The FBI and the Alameda County sheriff's department contributed to the search.
During the search, cadaver dogs indicated remains were under the concrete in the garage. Police said a preliminary review showed them to be animal bones, but the San Francisco medical examiner's office was conducting tests.
Collins, Kevin's mother, said she felt mostly "just numb" as the search took her on an emotional roller coaster ride, especially after the remains were reported to be from an animal.
Since her son's disappearance, Collins and her husband divorced, and she moved to the San Francisco suburb of Concord.
"It would be nice to have closure," she said. "But then a part of me, you know, doesn't want to find him like that."
Kevin was last seen waiting for a bus after basketball practice at St. Agnes School in the Haight. The search for him went citywide, and his photograph was on the cover of Newsweek in 1984."
"Seven California children missing, believed abducted by father
FRESNO, California (Reuters) - Seven children from northern California, who have been missing for five days, are believed to have been abducted by their estranged father while their mother was out grocery shopping, police said on Thursday.
The children's mother and stepfather left their 12-year-old son to mind the other six siblings while the couple went grocery shopping on Saturday evening, Fresno police spokesman Sergeant Jaime Rios said in a telephone interview.
When the couple returned, the children were missing and their clothing and luggage were gone, police said.
Investigators believe the children's biological father, Xa Yang, took them, Rios said, adding that Xa Yang was divorced from the children's mother and was believed to be living in Sacramento.
Police in Sacramento and Fresno were working jointly on the case."
"New Orleans Schoolteacher Missing After Leaving Bar
New Orleans police and family members are frantically searching for an elementary school teacher who has been missing since last Saturday.
Twenty-six-year-old Terrilynn Monnette was last seen with friends at a bar in the Lakeview section of the Crescent City last Friday evening. She left the bar around 4 o'clock Saturday morning with a male acquaintance, reported ABC's New Orleans affiliate WGNO, telling her friends that she was going to take a nap in her car before driving home because she'd had a few drinks.
The bar's general manager told WGNO that the two talked in the parking lot "for a little while," but the bar's video surveillance showed they left in separate cars. "He went one way, she went the other," the bar manager said.
An eyewitness has told police that he saw the missing teacher with an unidentified man in the bar's parking lot, according to information on the missing person's flyer that Monnette's family has been distributing.
Police detectives are searching for Monnette's car - a three-door black Louisiana-registered Honda Accord with license plate number WUN494, according to the missing person's flyer.
They are also looking at area surveillance tapes, including one from an adjacent bank, reported WGNO.
Thursday morning a handful of people fanned out in the area near the bar, where the 5 feet 8 inch 180-pound woman was last seen. Monnette's longtime friend and sorority sister Lezette Montion, a sergeant in the U.S. Army, has taken time off to help with the search.
"I have the experience to deal with land navigation and hunting - and that's kind of in a sense what we are doing," Montion told ABC News. "We're hunting for clues. Anything that will kind of tip us off, because all we have to go off is the video from the bar."
"We've already found a calculator and brief case," said Monnette, items friends hope will help police in their investigation. "And, you know, we woman … carry our whole world in our cars sometimes, and none of us know what she had in her vehicle. "
It is not clear whether the located items belonged to the missing teacher.
"It's a huge area to cover in the search," said Montion. "I would just like as many people as possible to come help us look."
The search was to continue for the next couple of days, but, according to Montion, the detectives investigating the case asked her team of volunteers to stop the search out of fear that it would "contaminate" evidence. According to Montion, police told her they would resume the search Saturday - a full week after Monnette disappeared.
"New Orleans is huge and it's surrounded by water. How could you stop searching for a loved one?" Montion told ABC News.
Calls to the New Orleans Police Department by ABC News were not immediately returned.
A native of California, Monnette had been teaching in the New Orleans area for two years, and recently became a second-grade teacher at Woodland West Elementary school in Jefferson Parish. Woodland West Principal Amy Hoyle said Monnette showed outstanding promise.
"She came after the school year started, which is usually hard for teachers. But she handled it great, and she emerged quickly as a teacher leader," Hoyle told ABC News.
"She took the lowest-performing classes, and in a matter of four months, she turned those students into some of our highest achievers."
Hoyle said Monnette's colleagues and second-grade students were "all very aware that this is going on." Woodland West Elementary has provided grief counselors, Hoyle said."
The search for a Brown University student who left home without his wallet and cellphone has expanded across the Northeast after authorities found no signs of him in the Providence, R.I., area.
Sunil Tripathi, a 22-year-old philosophy major, was last seen by his housemate on the morning of March 16.
His sister, Sangeeta Tripathi, said her brother had "no exceptional plans" that weekend and that it was "completely atypical" of him to disappear without contacting anyone.
"Between family and friends, we are in constant contact with him," Tripathi, 30, said. "We became worried when he didn't respond to many missed calls."
Tripathi's bicycle, which he used as his main form of transportation, was also at the apartment he shared with several other Brown University students, his sister said.
The search has focused in the past week on hospitals, stores, parks and other public spaces where Tripathi could be, but authorities have found no signs of him.
The search, which has been spearheaded by the Providence Police Department and the Brown University Department of Public Safety, has now expanded to Boston, Connecticut, New York and Philadelphia, according to a statement from the school.
The FBI has joined the search.
"[It's] on the small hope he just decided to go somewhere and is OK. People have been posting fliers and visiting places a young person without an ID or money would go," Tripathi said.
Sunil Tripathi grew up in Radnor, Pa., as the youngest of three siblings, who have all attended Brown University, his sister said.
"He's just a really quiet smart kid. All three of us went to Brown and he outscored us in all of our grades," Sangeeta Tripathi said.
"We're a very, very close family and when we heard [he was missing], we were trying to frantically look for photos. We had trouble finding a photo [where] we all weren't so physically close in the image," she said."