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Drug kingpin 'La Barbie' gets 49-year sentence for 'despicable' crimes

Edgar Valdez Villareal came from humble beginnings, one of eight children raised by strict, hard-working and God-fearing parents in the southwest Texas border town of Laredo.

But by age 28, Valdez was shipping hundreds of kilograms of cocaine into the U.S. And he ran his drug operation with military precision, using speedboats, submarines and airplanes to secure his cocaine and arming his security detail with automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenade launchers.

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On Monday, Valdez, notoriously known as “La Barbie,” was sentenced to 49 years and one month in prison for crimes that, a judge said, ruined families and took countless lives. Valdez also was ordered to forfeit $192 million — the amount federal prosecutors said he made by shipping 12,000 kilograms of cocaine into the U.S., a good deal of it through Atlanta.

“You have betrayed almost everything that is important in our country,” U.S. District Judge Bill Duffey told Valdez. “There’s not a single person in this courtroom who doesn’t believe what you’ve done is despicable.”

Valdez got his nickname playing high school football in Laredo, where his coach thought Valdez’s green eyes and blond hair made him look like a “Ken” doll. After crossing the border into Mexico, Valdez became the only American to rise to such prominent ranks in a Mexican drug cartel.

“Sitting here today is one of the highest-level drug traffickers ever seen in this district,” which covers north Georgia, Assistant U.S. Attorney Beth Hathaway told Duffey.

Valdez shipped truckloads of cocaine across the Mexican border into the U.S. in the mid-2000s. He instigated bloody turf wars with drug cartels and once ordered a video be taken of the execution of a man from a rival cartel who’d been captured by his security team. Valdez arranged for copies of the video to be sent to media outlets and U.S. law enforcement.

“Mr. Valdez relished the limelight,” Hathaway said. “He wanted the world to know you don’t mess with Edgar Valdez.”

Valdez, 44, faced a life sentence, but prosecutors asked Duffey to give Valdez the chance to walk out of prison alive. That’s because he’d cooperated with authorities and quickly pleaded guilty after his extradition.

Duffey gave Valdez credit for his eight years in custody since his 2010 arrest. With good behavior, Valdez can get more time shaved off his sentence and be eligible for release when he’s in his 80s.

About 20 members of Valdez’s family, including his parents and seven siblings, attended the lengthy sentencing hearing.

“My parents taught me right from wrong and to stay away from drugs,” Valdez said. “Instead of good, I went the other way.”

He then half-turned and looked back to his parents in the gallery. “I’m sorry, mom and dad, for doing things you are against and hate,” he said. “Please forgive me.”

Valdez paused several times and admitted to being nervous. Except for his tan prison clothes, he did not look much different than when authorities paraded him handcuffed in front of the TV cameras after his arrest at his ranch near Mexico City.

“I’m not a bad person,” he said. “I’m a good person who has made bad decisions in his life.”

By turning snitch against other cartel members, Valdez told Duffey, he’s put his life and the lives of his family in danger.

Duffey scolded Valdez for bringing shame on his family and said, pointedly, “There’s no place for us to send your family to protect them.”

Two of Valdez’s siblings begged for mercy.

His sister, Carla Valdez, an assistant district attorney in southwest Texas, said her parents taught their children strong morals and to love and honor God.

“We’re a tight-knit family,” she said. “We’re not career criminals.”

This confounded Duffey.

“Why are you a prosecutor and why is your brother a seriously evil criminal?” he asked.

“Your honor, this is a question we ask each other every day,” she replied.

She said her brother began dealing drugs when he was in high school so he could help his parents at a time they were struggling financially. “I think it just snowballed from there.”

Edgar Valdez’s lawyer, Buddy Parker, said his client should get credit for telling federal authorities a decade ago that Mexican cartels had uncovered the identities of undercover DEA agents in the region. This probably saved the agents’ lives, Parker said.

Duffey agreed that was laudable. But the incredulous judge noted that when Valdez told authorities the agents’ identities were compromised, he was continuing to flood the U.S. with shipments of cocaine.

“I’ve never seen a case like this,” Duffey said.

Who is Gary Wayne Lindsey Jr.? Man accused of shooting Florida police officer, killing 4 children

The man accused of shooting an Orlando police officer and taking four children hostage before killing them and turning the gun on himself had a long history of run-ins with law enforcement, according to records.

>> Read more trending news

Gary Wayne Lindsey Jr. was arrested in Volusia County in 2004 on charges of aggravated assault, but the charges were dropped, records show.

>> 4 children, suspect in police shooting dead after 23-hour standoff in Florida

Records show he was arrested in Sanford in 2007 on charges of larceny and petty theft, convicted and sentenced to community service.

>> On WFTV.com: Photos: Scene of standoff where Orlando officer was shot

Lindsey in 2009 pleaded no contest to charges of arson and fleeing or attempting to elude a law enforcement officer after investigators said he set an Orange City home on fire following an argument with his girlfriend, records said.

>> On WFTV.com: 'A very tragic, sad ending': No survivors after family standoff

Records show he received 35 years of community supervision, and while under supervision, he has been picked up for a series of probation violations, culminating in 2012 with an aggravated battery and aggravated assault charge in Orange County, stemming from a fight with another girlfriend.

Lindsey was released when the state couldn't file charges after 30 days.

Florida residents reflect at memorial two years after Pulse attack

Tuesday will mark two years since a gunman opened fire inside the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, killing 49 people and injuring 53 others.

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Several events are being held to honor the victims and survivors on the darkest day in Orlando's history.

Many people came to pay their respects at the Pulse memorial site Monday.

Crews took down the message board that surrounds the Pulse nightclub sign, giving those who come out a blank canvas to fill with their thoughts on the anniversary. 

"It's so fresh in our minds still that we can't believe that two years has gone by. But to know it's only been two years and the way the community has healed after is amazing," said Nicole Rowdean, who came to the Pulse memorial.

Rowden said she moved to Orlando the day after the Pulse tragedy. In addition to showing up at the memorial Monday, she and her girlfriend started a new tradition.

"Actually, our first date was on the date last year. So we sort of did that on purpose to do our own respect toward it. We figured what better way to honor and remember everybody by having our first date? We've been together a year after," Rowden said. 

For some, Monday was the first time they've been to the memorial.

Guy Shaginaw said it's hard to relive the painful memories, but he still wishes the club would reopen to truly embrace the saying, "We will not let hate win."

"They are hurt and you hear things about the bloody shoes and the doctor, and video of cellphones ringing, people looking for their loved ones. I know that's hard; that has to really hurt people. But the best thing, I think, with anything, is to move on," he said. 

On Tuesday, 49 bells will ring at the nightclub in honor of those killed.

Police: Man takes cash register from Walmart, tries to carjack 2 people at knifepoint

Authorities said they arrested a man Friday on suspicion of taking a cash register drawer from a Walmart in Florida and then trying to carjack two people at knifepoint.

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Christopher Raymond Hill, 36, was arrested on charges of strong arm robbery, carjacking with a firearm or deadly weapon, aggravated battery with a deadly weapon and trespassing, according to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office online inmate information search.

Investigators said the incident began when Hill went into the Walmart at the River City Marketplace and asked if he could have change for a $20. A cashier told Hill he would have to buy something and he then bought a pack of cigarettes.

Once the register was open, Hill reached over, grabbed the register and ran out of the store, according to a JSO arrest report.

A witness saw Hill get into a silver Ford SUV, but it did not appear to start, so he got out and ran, according to authorities.

>> Read more Floridoh! stories

Police said Hill approached a man who was sitting in the parking lot near Supercuts. Hill asked the man for a ride and the man refused, according to authorities. Hill put the cash register in the man's truck bed and pulled out a knife, cutting the man on the hands and leg, the arrest report said.

According to the report, the man was able to grab his pistol from his truck and pointed it at Hill, who then ran away toward Starbucks.

Hill next ran to the car of a woman who was in line at the nearby Starbucks drive-through, officials said. She told police she rolled down her passenger's side window to see what he wanted and that he opened her door and got into the car, officials said.

The woman said Hill told her to drive because someone was chasing him, officials said. She told police she tried to push Hill out of the vehicle and that he would not get out. According to the police report, she was in fear for her life, so she got out of her car to get her Ruger pistol out of her trunk.

Hill got out of the car and came toward her, officials said. She said she pointed her pistol at him and he ran away, according to officials.

When police arrived, they found Hill had barricaded himself inside the bathroom at Supercuts, but he came out when officers ordered him to.

According to the report, Hill told police, "The reason I was running and did this was because somebody was after me."

As of Monday morning, Hill was still in the Duval County Jail, being held on a bond of $91,512. His next court date is set for July 2.

Escaped Florida hospital patient accused of stealing, crashing police car 

A judge granted bail to a 30-year-old man who allegedly stole an Orlando police cruiser after escaping Florida Hospital South late Friday.

>> Watch the news report here

>> Read more Floridoh! stories 

Alexander Gonzales was granted more than $3,000 bail for charges of grand theft of a motor vehicle, criminal mischief, resisting officer without violence and driving while license suspended.

Gonzales crashed the stolen police car in the College Park neighborhood early Saturday and refused to come out of the wrecked cruiser for hours, leading to a SWAT response, the Orlando Police Department said.

>> On WFTV.com: Child hospitalized after car possibly struck by stray bullet on I-95, deputies say

Police said they were called shortly before 11:30 p.m. Friday about a suspicious person at Princeton Street and North Orange Avenue after security officers reported a man had escaped from Florida Hospital South nearby. 

>> Woman arrested after video shows children traveling in pet kennels

"When officer made contact with the subject, he jumped in OPD vehicle and took off, crashing a short time later," the agency said in a tweet.

Gonzales crashed at Elizabeth Avenue and West Princeton Street near Princeton Elementary School, flipping the cruiser onto the driver's side, investigators said.

>> Read more trending news 

Gonzales remained inside the car, repeatedly refusing to come out, according to police. 

Despite the vehicle crash, the weapons in the car remained secured and locked up, police said. 

OPD SWAT, Crisis Negotiation Team and Emergency Services Unit were called out. SWAT members ultimately removed the suspect from the vehicle and he was placed under arrest at about 2:30 a.m.

No one was injured, police said. 

According to the arrest report, Gonzales, who lives in Largo, Florida, had been admitted as a patient to Florida Hospital South earlier Friday before fleeing the hospital

 

Sex-trafficking sting rescues nearly 160 children, authorities say

A sting on the sex-trafficking trade in metro Atlanta netted dozens of arrests and the rescue of dozens of children forced into sexual servitude, the FBI announced this week.

>> Watch the news report here

Operation Safe Summer was a collaborative effort between the FBI’s Atlanta field office and 38 law enforcement agencies in six metro counties, assistant Special Agent in Charge Matt Alcoke told WSB-TV’s Mike Petchenik.

“They are crimes of special concern to the FBI and to law enforcement generally,” Alcoke said. “Because the victims are so vulnerable as children and because the offenders could be from just about any walk of life, from a gang member all the way up to someone who is highly successful and wealthy.”

The sting ended with nearly 160 children rescued, including one as young as 3 years old, and nearly 150 arrests, convictions or sentences, officials said.

Alcoke said the operation was scheduled before the summer months as a way to put a dent in a trade that preys on children at a time when they have more freedom.

>> Read more trending news 

“It’s important for those of us who are responsible for the children, the parents, the guardians, the older siblings, to not let children fall away (from) those strongly centered circles of importance,” Alcoke said.

Among those charged, Alcoke said Trevey Parks was a convicted sex offender out of prison who forced a juvenile to work in the sex trade for him.

“Trevey Parks is one of the worst of the worst,” Alcoke said. “He enticed a child to travel for sex with him. He was ultimately arrested in a joint effort by us and the local police."

In Alpharetta, Georgia, police told Petchenik they arrested several suspected pimps and prostitutes and rescued one teenager who’d been forced into sexual servitude.

MORE ON WSBTV.com:

>> Feds shut down controversial classified ad website on prostitution, sex trafficking charges>> 'See something. Say something': Atlanta mayor rolls out plan to combat human trafficking>> 3-month-old girl among 84 rescued in sex trafficking sting

“A lot of people don’t realize these things happen here,” department spokesman Howard Miller told Petchenik.

Miller said detectives scoured the internet for evidence of prostitution and then moved in to make arrests, but he said it’s been getting more difficult.

Backpage has been taken down. A lot these pages will pop up and be available for a few days. They’ll have the types of information and the people available on it, our agents will take a look at that and start their investigation and before they know it, the page is down,” Miller said.

Woman struck, killed after trying to chase friend on narcotics near Charlotte, police say

A woman was struck and killed by a car Saturday morning in east Charlotte, North Carolina, WSOC reports.

The woman, identified as Agnes Amponsah, was with her brother and a friend reportedly using illegal narcotics at the time of the crash around 2:30 a.m., police told WSOC.

Once police arrived, Amponsah was lying unresponsive in the roadway near a 2012 Hyundai Sonata with damage to the grill, hood and windshield.

>> Read more trending news 

Amponsah ran into the path of the Hyundai, was struck and thrown to the pavement, where she was pronounced dead, police said.

Police said Amponsah's friend, Hilda Amoah, left the residence where all three were reportedly using drugs, and Agnes Amponsah and Francis Amponsah followed her on foot.

That's when Agnes Amponsah stepped in front of the moving Hyundai.

“Everything is so confusing because the car ended up here, the lights, music and then the body was here,” neighbor Yadi Montiel said. “It was very confusing.”

Authorities said the driver stopped immediately to help Agnes Amponsah, but Amoah forced her way into the backseat of the vehicle, grabbed the neck of the front-seat passenger and ordered the driver to drive away.

The Hyundai fled the scene and continued to a nearby traffic circle when the driver refused to drive any further and returned back to the scene, police said.

Police said Amoah jumped out of the vehicle and ran into the wooded area.

Officials said a short time later, police found Amoah near the intersection of Cambridge Commons Drive.

Amoah assaulted an officer and she was tasered and taken into custody, according to police.

Officials said excessive speed and alcohol are not factors for the driver of the Hyundai.

Police are still investigating.

Florida woman gets 18 years for 1998 baby kidnapping 

A Florida judge imposed an 18-year sentence for Gloria Williams on a charge of kidnapping and five years for a second charge of interfering with custody. Both sentences will run at the same time and Williams is getting credit for 511 days of time served.

>> Read more trending news 

However, law and safety expert Dale Carson said it’s possible Williams could get out of prison sooner depending on her behavior.

“Typically in a circumstance like this, she’ll serve 85 percent of the time -- or roughly 15 years. Still that’s a long time to be in custody,” said Carson.

Williams’ supporters sat motionless after the hearing ended. They stared at the judge’s bench as people filed out of the courtroom.

The entire hearing lasted less than five minutes.

Williams raised Kamiyah Mobley as her own child in South Carolina under the name Alexis Manigo. In January 2017, the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office announced Mobley was found in South Carolina. Williams was arrested, jailed, and eventually extradited to Jacksonville. 

Mobley’s biological father spoke about moving on and healing. His mother Velma Aiken, Mobley’s grandmother, also spoke with the media.

“Thank God and we’re glad it’s over with where I can start my grandmama days and love my grandbaby,” Aiken said.

It’s unclear if Mobley will be able to contact Williams while she’s incarcerated. Prosecutor Alan Mizrahi said he doesn’t believe there’s any legal prohibition for their contact.

Carson said Williams waived her right to appeals after she pleaded guilty to both charges back in February.

11 a.m. update: Kamiyah Mobley's father Craig Aiken thanked God for the safe return of his child and the Jacksonville community for its support after Kamiyah's kidnapper was sentenced to 18 years in prison.

The judge said Gloria Williams' sentence reflects how long Kamiyah's parents were without their child after the 1998 kidnapping.

Aiken said there are no winners in this case. He said he wants to focus on mending his family and supporting his daughter.

Georgia attorney drugged employee during meal, police say 

Georgia attorney was arrested following allegations he drugged a female employee while they were out to eat, police said Friday. 

>> Read more trending news

Police believe Anthony O. Van Johnson has possibly drugged other people over the course of their nine-month investigation, Gwinnett County police Cpl. Wilbert M. Rundles said in a statement. 

Authorities had been investigating Van Johnson since September, when the alleged drugging occurred. 

The woman, who worked as an interpreter for Van Johnson, told police the two were out for a meal at a Bahama Breeze in Duluth after work when she ordered a drink and excused herself to the restroom. 

“When she returned, the drink was waiting for her and she noticed there was a powder at the bottom,” Rundles said. “She assumed this was extra salt that she had ordered with her drink.”

The woman consumed the drink. She did not remember what happened until hours later when she woke up, police said. 

A sexual assault exam was performed, but police told Channel 2 Action News they are waiting on the results. Police later determined the woman had Gamma-Hydroxybutyrate in her system. 

Van Johnson was arrested Monday and faces a charge of administering a Schedule 1 drug. He is out of jail on a $11,200 bond. 

According to Van Johnson’s LinkedIn page, he is a managing attorney for Trial Lawyers USA. Until February 2018, he owned his own firm, specializing in traffic incidents.

“It is believed there may possibly be other victims that have yet to come forward in reference to this case,” Rundles said. 

Those victims should call Gwinnett police detectives at 770-513-5300 or 770-513-5355. 

Ohio man indicted in stabbing death of 22-month-old son

An Ohio man was indicted by a grand jury Friday on seven charges related to the stabbing and killing of his 22-month-old son.

>> Read more trending news

Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael O'Malley said Jason Shorter, 41, of Parma, is facing three counts of aggravated murder, and one count of kidnapping, murder, felonious assault, and endangering children.

"This individual viciously took the life of his son, apparently to spite the child’s mother,” O’Malley said. “We are reviewing the case for capital murder specifications."

Investigators say Shorter, 41, went to the Parma Police Department on May 12 and said he wanted to turn himself in for attempted murder and suicide. Shorter was bleeding from self-inflicted wounds to his wrists.

Police searched Shorter's vehicle, which was in the police station's parking lot, and discovered his son, Nicholas Lawrence Shorter, in the trunk with multiple stab wounds to his chest.

Nicholas was pronounced dead at a hospital.

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