'True Blood' town evacuated after 6 million pounds of explosives found
by NBC News
Police have evacuated a town in northwest Louisiana while they move out around 6 million pounds of illegally stored explosives.
About half of the approximately 800 residents of Doyline were evacuated Friday after authorities discovered around 1 million pounds of explosive powder stored by Explo Systems Inc. at Camp Minden, a former army ammunition plant.
Authorities moved to evacuate the town of its remaining residents Sunday after discovering up to six times more M6 artillery propellant -- 6 million pounds -- at the site, according to NBC station KTAL in Shreveport.
Police and Explo employees have moved just under 1 million pounds of the explosives into 18-wheelers, and have segregated another 250,000 pounds of the material for future removal, KTAL reported late Sunday.
In a statement, police said the process was “time-consuming” but so far there had been “no unexpected problems, incidents and injuries.”
The explosives had been improperly stored, officials said. The material should have been housed in a bunker approved by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and registered with the Louisiana State Police explosives division.
Webster Parish Sheriff Gary Sexton did not expect the evacuation order to be lifted until Tuesday, KTAL reported.
Doyline has shut local schools on Monday and was considering staying shut on Tuesday as well, according to Webster.
Doyline is situated about 270 miles northwest of New Orleans.
According to the Internet Movie Database, scenes from HBO's popular "True Blood" series have been filmed in Doyline.
Louisiana State Police Col. Mike Edmunson said that the owners of Explo were in South Korea, but were scheduled to return to the United States on Monday, according to KTAL.
State police said the improperly stored materials were discovered during a follow-up inspection to an Oct. 15 explosion at the Camp Minden property.
According to its website, Explo “has been demilitarizing / recovering explosives / propellant for over 15 years” and “has a unique, on-site capability for purifying valuable TNT from tritonal for reuse.”
It has operated for seven years, according to the site.
Phone calls to the Louisiana State Police went unanswered early Monday. The man who answered the phone at the Webster Parish Sheriff's Office said he was not authorized to comment to the media.
Gacy's blood may solve old murders
CHICAGO (AP) — Detectives have long wondered what secrets serial killer John Wayne Gacy and other condemned murderers took to the grave when they were executed — mostly whether they had other unknown victims.
Now, in a game of scientific catch-up, the Cook County Sheriff's Department is trying to be creative: They've created DNA profiles of Gacy and others and figured out they could get the executed men entered in a national database shared with other law enforcement agencies because the murderers were technically listed as homicide victims themselves when they were put to death by the state.
The department's hope is to find matches of DNA evidence from blood, semen or strands of hair, or skin under the fingernails of victims that link the long-dead killers to the coldest of cold cases. And they're hoping to prompt authorities in other states to submit the DNA of their own executed inmates or from decades-old crime scenes.
Three vials of mass murderer John Wayne Gacy's blood recently discovered by Cook County Sheriff's detective Jason Moran are seen in Chicago on Friday. (Photo: M. Spencer Green, AP)
"You just know some of these guys did other murders" that were never solved, said Jason Moran, the sheriffs' detective leading the effort, noting that some of the executed killers ranged all over the country before the convictions that put them behind bars for the last time.
The Illinois testing, which began during the summer, is the latest chapter in a story that began when Sheriff Tom Dart exhumed the remains of unknown victims of Gacy to create DNA profiles that could be compared with the DNA of people whose loved ones went missing in the 1970s, when Gacy was killing young men.
That effort, which led to the identification of one Gacy victim, caused Dart to wonder if the technology could help answer a question that has been out there for decades: Did Gacy kill anyone besides those young men whose bodies were stashed under his house or tossed in a river?
"He traveled a lot," Moran said of Gacy. "Even though we don't have any information he committed crimes elsewhere, the sheriff asked if you could put it past such an evil person."
After unexpectedly finding three vials of Gacy's blood stored with other Gacy evidence, Moran learned the state would only accept the blood in the crime database if it came from a coroner or medical examiner.
Moran thought he was out of luck. But then Will County Coroner Patrick O'Neil surprised him with this revelation: In his office freezer were blood samples from Gacy and at least three other executed inmates. The reason they were there is because after the death penalty was reinstated in Illinois in the 1970s, executions were carried out in Will County — all between 1990 and 1999, a year before then-Gov. George Ryan established a moratorium on the death penalty. So it was O'Neil's office that conducted the autopsies and collected the blood samples.
But there was bigger obstacle.
While the state does send to the FBI's Combined DNA Index System the profiles of homicide victims no matter when they were killed, it will only send the profiles of known felons if they were convicted since a new state law was enacted about a decade ago that allowed them to be included, Moran said.
That meant the profile of Gacy, who received a lethal injection in 1994, and the profiles of other executed inmates could not qualify for the database under the felon provision. They could, however, qualify as people who died by homicide.
"They're homicides because the state intended to take the inmate's life," O'Neil said.
Last year, authorities in Florida created a DNA profile from the blood of executed serial killer Ted Bundy in an attempt to link him to other murders. But officials there, where the law allows profiles of convicted felons be uploaded into the database as well as the phase-in of profiles of people arrested on felony charges, don't know of any law enforcement agency reaching back into history the way Cook County's sheriff's office is.
"We haven't had any initiative where we are going back to executed offenders and asking for their samples," said David Coffman, director of Florida Department of Law Enforcement's laboratory system. "I think it's an innovative approach."
O'Neil said he is still looking for blood samples of the rest of the 12 condemned inmates executed between 1977 when Illinois reinstated the death penalty and 2000 when then-Gov. George Ryan established a moratorium. So far, DNA profiles have been done on the blood of Gacy and two others; the profile of the fourth inmate has not yet been done.
Among the other executed inmates whose blood was submitted for testing was Lloyd Wayne Hampton, a drifter executed in 1998 for his crimes. Not only did Hampton's long list of crimes include crimes outside the state — one conviction was for the torture of a woman in California — but shortly before he was put to death, he claimed to have committed other murders but never provided details.
So far, no computer hits have linked Gacy or the others to any other crimes. But Moran and O'Neil suspect there are investigators who are holding DNA evidence that could help solve them.
That is exactly what happened during the investigation into the 1993 slayings of seven people at a suburban Chicago restaurant, during which an evidence technician collected a half-eaten chicken dinner even though there was no way to test it for DNA at the time.
When the technology did become available, the dinner was tested and it revealed the identity of one of two men ultimately convicted in the slayings.
Moran says he wants investigators in other states to know that Gacy's blood is now open for analysis in their unsolved murders. He hopes those jurisdictions will, in turn, submit DNA profiles of their own executed inmates.
"That is part of the DNA system that's not being tapped into," he said.
Ohio hospital shows how to make toys for disabled
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Toys with small switches and buttons can be a challenge for a lot of children and impossible to operate for many with disabilities.
So far the past two years, the staff at Nationwide Children's Hospital has worked with families to teach them how to modify toys so that they can be used by all children.
They showed about 25 families on Saturday how to take apart a Talking Elmo, a dump truck that moves, and a drum. They also demonstrated how to add a wire so that buttons of varying sizes can be attached by a cord, allowing children to play without holding the toy.
A big button added to a bubble making toy will allow 9-year-old Emma Buchwald to use it by herself. She has cerebral palsy and would need help otherwise.
"I think it will be rewarding for her," her mother, Heather Buchwald, told The Columbus Dispatch (http://bit.ly/VdXDEh).
The hospital's biomedical-engineering staff and occupational and speech therapists showed the families how to adjust the toys.
Parents can use the modified toys to help their children develop skills they'll need as they get older, therapists said.
"If they start young, and if they start with toys, they will be capable of moving on to more-advanced technology," said Angela Meyer, an occupational therapist at the hospital.
A Chicago organization that helps families with disabled children and works with manufacturers to adapt toys says one in five children has a disability or special need.
"I think all children's hospitals should be doing this," said Macy Kaiser, director of the National Lekotek Center.
The center hosts play sessions for families that include toys that focus on cognitive, sensory, communicative and other skills. Families can borrow toys too.
"Of course, the child wants the cool toy that every other child gets," said Ahren Hoffman, the center's manager of industry relations and partnerships.
Julie Shrider, who attended the hospital's program in Columbus, said it's tough to find toys for her 3-year-old son and that she often has to put his hands on a toy so he can play with it.
"He doesn't play with what a typical 3-year-old plays with," she said as her husband took apart a truck and adjusted it.
Cities set to meet on community policing
The Marionville Board of Aldermen and the Aurora City Council will meet in a joint session at 6:30 p.m., December 4, in the meeting room at the Aurora Fire/Police Station, to discuss the idea of community policing. The meeting is open to the public.
The two boards met on September 20 to discuss the topic. While it is a new idea to this area, both groups voted to pursue and investigate the idea. They agreed that once more information is available, they will decide whether or not it is feasible to combine police departments.
According to a memo issued jointly by police chiefs Richard Witthuhn (Aurora) and Mark Webb (Marionville) and dialog at the meeting, the joint venture could be done on a two- to three-year trial basis, if the respective boards agree. The chiefs suggested, as well, that an independent board evaluate the continuance of the program.
One idea voiced at the meeting involved creating a police district for funding purposes. However, by the September 25 meeting of the Aurora City Council, City Manager Tony Stonecypher had investigated further. He reported the state of Missouri does not allow for the creation of a police district.
Likewise, John Woodard, city attorney, reported the municipal courts cannot be combined.
At the meeting, Jeff Schatz, an alderman from Marionville said, “We are here to ask questions. The whole group is saying it likes the theory of this moving forward. We can get answers to some of our questions before going to the public -- we only have a theory now."