Crime and punishment
December 8, 2018

A suspect has been arrested and charged with 10 felonies, including first-degree murder, in connection to the abduction and murder of North Carolina 13-year-old Hania Aguilar last month.

Michael McLellan, 34, is accused of kidnapping Aguilar from her driveway on Nov. 5, forcing her into an idling SUV that belonged to one of her family members. The stolen vehicle was found abandoned in nearby woods three days later, and Aguilar's body was discovered Nov. 27. An autopsy will be performed as part of the ongoing investigation.

Adding to the Aguilar family's anguish is a decision by the State Department to deny a temporary visa to Noé Aguilar, Hania's father, to travel from Guatemala for her funeral. "This hurts," he told CNN. "This is not a visa for sightseeing or staying in the country. I'm fine in my own country. I have work here. I only wanted a day or two to bury my daughter." Bonnie Kristian

October 28, 2018

Following Friday's arrest of Cesar Sayoc, the suspect thought responsible for mailing bombs to Democratic and media figures this past week, federal agents are reportedly still probing the possibility of additional suspects.

Citing law enforcement sources, the Miami Herald reports the FBI is conducting further interviews to determine whether Sayoc had help. One such interview Friday night with someone connected to Sayoc did not lead to any additional arrests.

Sayoc lived in his van and allegedly assembled his homemade bombs inside it as well. Investigators linked him to the case using a fingerprint found on one of the packages and reportedly found additional evidence inside the van. Bonnie Kristian

August 30, 2018

On Wednesday night, after more than five hours of deliberation, a jury in Dallas County, Texas, sentenced former Balch Springs Police Officer Roy Oliver to 15 years in prison for the fatal shooting of unarmed 15-year-old Jordan Edwards in April 2017. Oliver, 38, had been convicted of murder on Tuesday, the first police officer convicted of murder in Dallas County since 1973. Edwards is black and Oliver white.

Oliver and his partner, Tyler Gross, had been sent to investigate underage drinking at a party, and Oliver fired five shots from his AK-15 rifle into the car Edwards was riding in as it left the party. Oliver said he believed Gross' life was in danger, but Gross disagreed at the trial and body-camera footage showed the car driving away from the officers when Oliver shot Edwards. Oliver was fired and arrested days after the incident. He had faced up to life in prison. Peter Weber

August 22, 2018

On Tuesday, police in Iowa arrested Cristhian Rivera, 24, charging him with first-degree murder for the death of University of Iowa student Mollie Tibbetts. Tibbetts, 20, disappeared while jogging on the evening of July 16, sparking a search involving the FBI and state and local investigators. Rivera led police to a body in a cornfield on Tuesday morning, according to court documents, and police believe the body is Tibbetts'. Rivera's motive is unclear, Rick Rahn, special agent in charge at the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, said at a news conference, but the suspect says he got mad and blacked out when Tibbetts threatened to call the police as he was following her on her run. Rivera is an undocumented Mexican national who has lived in Iowa for at least four years. Tibbetts would have been a sophomore this fall. You can learn more below. Peter Weber

Update 3:25 p.m. ET: Rivera's lawyer filed a court document Wednesday morning that disputed the suspect's immigration status. Attorney Allen Richards said the "government is incorrectly promoting the idea that Rivera is not in Iowa legally," the Des Moines Register reported. In fact, Rivera was working legally at an Iowa farm owned by the brother of Craig Lang, a prominent Iowa Republican. Read more at the Des Moines Register.

July 6, 2018

Shoko Asahara, the founder of the doomsday cult Aum Shinrikyo, and six of his followers were executed on Friday, the Japanese government announced.

Six other cult members remain on death row. Aum Shinrikyo was behind the 1995 sarin gas attack inside a Tokyo subway station that killed 13 people and injured hundreds. Contaminated plastic bags were left on five different subway lines, making more than 1,000 others sick, and at least 4,000 people went to the hospital due to anxiety and trauma, NBC News reports.

In 2004, Asahara, 63, was convicted of multiple counts of murder in connection with the sarin attack, as well as the 1989 assassinations of a lawyer who wanted to sue him, the man's wife, and their child. He founded the cult in 1984, and declared himself Christ in 1992. He taught his thousands of followers — at one point, it's believed there were 10,000 in Japan and 30,000 in Russia — that World War III was on its way, and only people who followed him would survive.

The Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey has studied the cult, and determined that the group tested sarin, XV, and other nerve agents from 1990 to 2000, causing at least 40 other deaths and thousands of injuries. There are several splinter groups of the cult still in existence, and the Japanese government considers them "dangerous religions," NBC News reports. Catherine Garcia

April 13, 2018

On Thursday, a federal judge in Arizona unsealed an April 5 plea agreement in which Backpage.com CEO Carl Ferrer admits to charges of facilitating prostitution and money laundering, and Ferrer also pleaded guilty to California state charges of conspiracy and money laundering. As part of the plea deals, Ferrer agreed to testify against former colleagues at Backpage, which the FBI seized and shut down on April 6, calling it a lucrative nationwide "online brothel." Also Thursday, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said that the company, headquartered in Dallas, has pleaded guilty to money laundering conspiracy.

"For far too long, Backpage.com existed as the dominant marketplace for illicit commercial sex, a place where sex traffickers frequently advertised children and adults alike," Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement. "But this illegality stops right now." California Attorney General Xavier Becerra called the plea deal "a game changer in combating human trafficking" and "modern-day slavery" in California and worldwide.

Backpage founders Michael Lacey, 69, and James Larkin, 68, have pleaded not guilty, as have five other executives, and Lacey and Larkin are in prison in Arizona while they await a court hearing. Under the plea deals, Ferrer, 57, would spend no more than five years in prison and could pay up to $250,000 in fines. Federal prosecutors say that Backpage, founded in 2004, took over the business of running racy ads for escorts, massages, and other services after Craigslist shut down its adult section under pressure in 2010. Backpage officials say they tried to remove ads for things like prostitution and underage sex trafficking from their site. Peter Weber

April 11, 2018

An Australian woman has been sentenced to three months in jail after lying about having terminal cancer and using donations from concerned friends and family on vacations, but her attorney says this isn't fair because she only scammed people out of $31,000.

After Hanna Dickenson, 24, told her parents she had cancer and needed to get medical treatment overseas, donations started coming in; Judge David Starvaggi said that in one case, a cancer patient donated to her while undergoing his own treatment. Since Dickenson didn't actually have cancer, the money wasn't spent on medical care, but rather on vacations and going out with friends. A donor turned her in to the police after becoming suspicious of photos she posted on Facebook, BBC News reports.

Starvaggi called the scheme "despicable," and said Dickenson "engaged in conduct that tears at the very heartstrings of human nature." She pleaded guilty to seven charges of obtaining property by deception, but Dickenson's lawyer, Beverley Lindsay, said she shouldn't have to do time because she has "turned her life around," and also, Dickenson didn't pull in as much money as blogger Belle Gibson, who was fined $317,000 last year for falsely saying she survived brain cancer. Starvaggi told Lindsay to stop comparing apples to oranges, and said this should serve as a warning to anyone else planning on carrying out a similar scam. Catherine Garcia

April 6, 2018

A court in Seoul convicted former South Korean President Park Geun-hye of bribery, extortion, abuse of power, and other corruption-related charges on Friday and sentenced her to 24 years in prison and a $16.8 million fine. Park, who maintains her innocence, was not in court to hear the verdict. She has a week to appeal the verdict; she claimed to be ill but has refused to appear in court since October. "It's inevitable that the defendant should be held strictly responsible for her crimes, if only to prevent the unfortunate event of (a president) abusing the power given by the people and causing chaos in state affairs," Seoul Central District Court chief judge Kim Se-yun said in the televised hearing.

Park was impeached in December 2016 and removed from office in March 2017 by the Constitutional Court, and the scandal has also taken down longtime ally Choi Soon-sil, who is serving 20 years, and dozens of other government and business leaders, most prominently Samsung heir apparent Lee Jae-yong, whose five-year sentence was cut in half and suspended. Park is just the latest leader in South Korea to fall to corruption charges, The Associated Press notes. Her predecessor, fellow conservative Lee Myung-bak, was arrested and sent to jail last month on unrelated corruption charges, and the president before him, liberal Roh Moo-hyum, jumped to his death in 2009 as his family came under investigation for corruption. Peter Weber

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