Math teacher disappears: A beloved high school math teacher vanished while jogging last week, triggering a massive search by more than 1,000 volunteers. Sherry Arnold, a 43-year-old mother of two, was reported missing by her husband after she failed to return home from her early-morning jog. Searchers did find a single running shoe in a ditch along her usual route, but no other trace of Arnold. The FBI has joined local police in the investigation, which is centered in this town of 6,000. Some residents speculate that the popular
and athletic Arnold may have been abducted and taken across the Canadian border, about 100 miles north. But local Police Chief Frank DiFonzo believes she’s still in Sidney, and has investigators going from door to door. “I’m going to be optimistic that we are going to find Sherry,’’ he said. “I want us to find Sherry.”
Giffords speaks at vigil: With her immobile right hand held to her heart, U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords led a crowd of 3,500 supporters in the Pledge of Allegiance at a vigil marking the anniversary of the day six people died and she and 12 others were wounded by gunman Jared Loughner. Speaking loudly and with purposeful enunciation, Giffords emphasized the final words of the pledge, “and justice for all,” at a candlelight rally that capped a full day of events at the University of Arizona. Mark Kelly, Giffords’s astronaut husband, asked the crowd to join the couple in looking toward the future. “The sun still rises over the Rincon Mountains every morning,” he said, naming a nearby mountain range. It is not yet clear whether the three-term congresswoman, who spent the past year undergoing physical and speech therapy, will run for re-election. She has four months to decide.
BB gun tragedy: A 15-year-old boy, brandishing a BB gun that resembled a Glock semiautomatic pistol, was shot dead by police after a confrontation in the hallway of a Texas middle school. Police officers confronted Jaime Gonzalez Jr. outside the principal’s office at Cummings Middle School and repeatedly ordered the boy to drop the weapon. Their shouts of “Put it down!” and “Put it on the floor!” could be heard on 911 tapes released by police. Gonzalez responded by pointing the realistic-looking weapon at the officers, according to police officials. Two officers fired their weapons, striking the teenager in the chest and abdomen. From a distance, the BB gun looked “absolutely real,” said Carl A. Montoya, the superintendent of the Brownsville Independent School District. The boy’s motive remains unclear.
Barbour pardons killers: In his last days in office, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour has pardoned four convicted murderers, including a man who was denied parole less than two weeks ago. David Gatlin, Joseph Ozment, Charles Hooker, and Anthony McCray received full pardons and were released this week without supervision, said the Mississippi Department of Corrections. All four convicts were serving life sentences and all worked as trustees at the governor’s mansion. The families of several of the men’s victims told local reporters that they were outraged by Barbour’s decision. Gatlin, who was convicted of murdering his estranged wife and wounding her friend, has served 18 years—not nearly enough time, said Tammy Gatlin’s sister, Tiffany Ellis Brewer. “She was 20 years old when she died and had her child laying in her arms when he shot her in the head.”
Alleged terror plot foiled: Federal authorities this week charged a Florida man with plotting a terror spree around Tampa, including bombing nightclubs, destroying bridges, and shooting police officers in the name of radical Islam. Sami Osmakac, 25, an American citizen born in the former Serbian province of Kosovo, first came to the attention of the FBI in September, when an informant reported that Osmakac had entered his store seeking an al Qaida flag. When Osmakac later told the informant he wanted firearms and explosives, he was put in touch with an undercover FBI agent. In late December he allegedly put $500 down toward an arsenal including machine guns and grenades. Shortly before his arrest, federal authorities said, Osmakac recorded an eight-minute video saying he sought “payback” for wrongs done to Muslims. Osmakac allegedly told a federal agent, “We all have to die, so why not die the Islamic way?”
Daley steps down: White House Chief of Staff William Daley resigned abruptly this week and will be replaced by Jacob Lew, head of the Office of Management and Budget. Daley’s departure, which comes after only a year in the post, signals a dramatic shift in President Obama’s strategy for dealing with Congress in an election year. Daley, a banker and former commerce secretary, had been recruited to repair White House ties to Congress and the business community, but he failed to bring about significant bipartisan legislation. Still, the staff shake-up comes at a crucial time, as Obama gears up for a challenging re-election bid. John Podesta, who ran the president’s transition team after the 2008 election, said Daley’s departure did not mean the president was giving up on compromise. “He’s just giving up on the Republican leadership in the House and Senate.”