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Man’s creepy clown van with serial killer ties has true crime fans cracking up

WQAD News -

LEE'S SUMMIT, Mo. - Some people are fascinated by true crime and murder, especially one Missouri who dedicated his van to it.

"I looked over and I saw this clown on it, and I go: 'No way is that what I think it is. There's no way I saw that on the side of this van,'" true crime enthusiast Samantha Gaither told WDAF.

But it wasn't just any clown, but Pogo the Clown, the alter-ego of serial killer John Wayne Gacy.

So Gaither obviously had to take a picture.

"I put it on the My Favorite Murder Kansas City Page, and it just went crazy," she said. "Everybody was like, 'Oh my God, this is insane.' It's hilarious. It's so funny, and it's just wild."

My Favorite Murder is a comedy podcast. It has hundreds of thousands of fans that call themselves "Murderinos."

"Yeah, these bad things happen, but we're really interested in finding out how and why and how we can keep them from happening," Gaither said.

Gaither posted the pictures, and another "Murderino" in California tracked down the owner.

William Hodson

"Until this 'Murderino' group contacted me nobody had recognized it was Pogo," Gacymobile creator William Hodson said.

Hodson said he made it as a joke to his friend who wanted to drive for Uber.

"I didn't do it to offend anybody, and I would say I'm sorry if you don't get my sense of humor, and it may not be everybody's cup of tea, but that's why we're all different. I personally find it kind of funny," Hodson said.

When the group tracked him down, he couldn't put down his phone.

"It sounded like a railroad crossing. I got 3,500 shares and likes and comments in about three hours," he said. "So it was just, 'Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding!' all during dinner, all in the evening. I finally had to turn my phone off so I could get some rest that night."

"I thought it was fun and crazy and a little piece of 'Murderino' Americana," Gaither said.

So, if you see it around town, Hodson said don't be afraid of the creepy clown.

"No worries. Come up and enjoy it. Get your picture taken, and enjoy it for what it is -- a light-hearted joke," he said.

Lee's Summit police said Thursday they didn't know the van existed and haven't received any complaints about it.

Fifth grader unknowingly passes out medical marijuana gummies at school

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A fifth grader was suspended and her parents are now under investigation after she passed out gummy bears at her New Mexico elementary school, unaware the candy contained THC, a local TV station reported Thursday.

The unknowing fifth grader allegedly handed out the candy to fourth graders at Albuquerque School of Excellence’s cafeteria.

Three students ate a single gummy, and the girl who brought the THC-laced candy ate three or four, KRQE reports.

“I started feeling really dizzy. I felt like the room was going to flip to the side,” an unidentified 9-year-old told the TV station. “She had this box, it had a label on it that said ‘Incredibles.’ We just thought it was ordinary gummies.”

Incredibles brand medical marijuana later told the TV station they do not make gummy bears, and suspect someone counterfeited the logo.

THC gummies can be two to 100 times stronger than traditional marijuana, according to KRQE.

“Pure THC, I mean like that’s more potent than smoking marijuana,” one parents told the station.

Paramedics responded and monitored the students until the effects wore off.

The students later said they know drugs are bad, and the unidentified 9-year-old said she was sad she did them.

“All those lessons I took about not taking drugs were all for nothing,” she told the station.

Curto said she does not believe the fifth grader knew the gummies were laced, but the child was suspended for a week regardless.

The girl’s parents said the gummies were medicinal, KRQE reports. They are now under investigation.

Regardless of what is found, a parent told KRQE whoever owned the gummies is irresponsible.

“The first thing that came to my mind is irresponsible parents because that’s dangerous.”

New Moline police chief plans on tackling juvenile crime, opioid addiction

WQAD News -

MOLINE-- It still hasn't quite hit him.

"I was just speechless. I was just that floored and emotionally drained that I didn't really have any words I could say," says soon to be Chief John Hitchcock.

After a six month interview process, Hitchcock was chosen out of a pool of 49 candidates.

He's barely settled in his office, and Chief is already getting to work.

First thing on his agenda is battling juvenile crime.

"We've had the problem with the youngsters, juveniles getting into cars and taking them," says Hitchcock.

Video after video, you've seen them, kids stealing cars has been an epidemic in the Quad Cities for the last year and a half. Chief says the first step is informing the public to lock up their cars as well as dedicating more department resources to the problem.

Up next is dealing head on with opioid addiction. Chief wants to start programs that focus on treatment instead of incarceration.

"If we can get them to treatment, and we can get people to not use opioids anymore, there's no customer base there's no problem anymore," says Hitchcock.

And finally, he wants to focus on community connections.

"To work together with the public, to show them the human side and get them to help give you information," says Hitchcock.

You may notice Moline PD's social media accounts ramping up in the next few months. Chief wants to use social media to build stronger relationships with the people he serves.

"It's a way to get our message out, show people we're human and get the public on our side," says Hitchcock.

He's hitting the ground running to build a safer and stronger community.

"My door's always open. I'll always answer phones if someone wants to talk to me, I'm always going to be available," says Hitchcock.

Hitchcock will be officially sworn in as chief next Tuesday at Moline's city council meeting.

Woman says dog helped save her life when she fell in icy pond trying to rescue him

WQAD News -

MADISON, Ala. – An Alabama woman was unable to save the life of her beloved beagle after it fell through thin ice into a pond, but she says her dog's last actions may have saved her own life after she, too, tumbled into the frigid water while trying to rescue the pup.

Madison Fire and Rescue rescued Sarah Bailey from icy water at an apartment complex on Continental Drive Wednesday night. She said the entire experience was traumatizing. "I was for sure thinking that I was going to die."

"My dog needed to go out. I didn't have my coat or anything on yet, so I opened the door. He usually just lingers on the porch until I get my stuff on," Bailey said.

Bailey said when she came out Olly was gone.  "I realized he had walked across the ice on the pond and fallen in. He was desperately trying to get out. The whole fight or flight kicked in," she explained.

That's why she decided to go after him. "I was leaning down to get his leash and I fell through," Bailey said it felt like an eternity inside the frozen pond at her apartment complex.

Things got even worse when her 10-year-old daughter tried to help. "She thought I was screaming for her to come help me." Instead, Bailey said she was telling her daughter to "Go get help." "So she starts coming out and starts to go through the ice as well. She was able to hoist herself back onto the ice," Bailey said.

Eventually, neighbors came to her aid and Madison Fire and Rescue showed up and they were able to get both her and the dog out of the water.

She learned afterward Olly helped save her life. "He put himself under the ice that was breaking underneath me and it kept it floating," Bailey said.

But it came at a great price – Olly was under the water for too long and died while doing so, Bailey said.

She knows people may judge her for going in after him, but she said Olly was a special dog and she couldn't sit back and just watch him die.

"When I rescued him, he needed a lot of training to just be able to be around other people," Bailey said. "I was the only person he truly trusted because of the way he was abused and I feel like he was just saying 'Thank you.'"

2 salmonella cases in Illinois linked to Jimmy Johns

WQAD News -

According to a report from WGN, Two salmonella cases in Illinois have been linked to sprouts at Jimmy John’s.

The Illinois Dept of Public Health,  the CDC and FDA are investigating reports of people becoming sick last December.  They believe the most likely source of the infection was sprouts from several different Jimmy John’s locations.

“Based on a review of produce, suppliers, and items consumed, investigators believe the most likely source of the infection is sprouts from multiple Jimmy John’s locations,” state officials say.

The state health department has asked Jimmy John’s restaurants to remove sprouts from their menu until the investigation is complete.

According to state health officials:

Symptoms of Salmonella may include headache, muscle aches, diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal cramping, chills, fever, nausea, and dehydration.  Symptoms usually appear 6 to 72 hours after ingesting the bacteria, but can be longer.  Most illnesses resolve on their own and do not require treatment other than drinking fluids to stay hydrated.  If your symptoms persist or are severe, promptly contact your health care provider.

Bill to ban traffic cams in Iowa may have votes to pass

WQAD News -

DAVENPORT, Iowa -- There's a renewed effort to pass a bill to ban red light cameras in the state of Iowa.

A Senate Judiciary subcommittee advanced Senate Study Bill 3025 this week. The bill would outlaw the use of traffic cameras on July 1st.

State Senator Jim Lykam says he believes the votes are in the Senate to pass the bill.  The Davenport Democrat is not in favor of the legislation.

"I think there's a good shot that the majority party has the votes. I will vote against an all-out ban. If they want to regulate, I could possibly support that," he said.

The American Civil Liberties is lobbying in favor of the ban, saying the cameras don't allow motorists their due process.

Police however say the cameras have cut down considerably on accidents at major intersections in Davenport.

Lykam says the cameras have been a useful, and potentially life saving safety tool.

"The ACLU said it's not due process. What about the due process on an innocent person that gets blasted by a red-light runner or a speeder?",  he said.

There are competing bills sprouting in the Senate as a compromise to an all-out ban.

The debate continues Monday in Des Moines.

Preliminary report on Las Vegas massacre does not reveal motive

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(CNN) — A preliminary report about the October 1 mass shooting in Las Vegas does not reveal a motive for gunman Stephen Paddock’s actions, but does shed a little more light on how he planned the attack.

Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo announced the release Friday, telling reporters that the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department was “going against normal protocols” by issuing the report, due to public interest in the case.

It includes an overview of the incident, a sequence of events leading up to the attack, a brief profile of Paddock, his planning of the attack, scene photography and indicators of intent.

“This report is not going to answer every question or even answer the biggest question, as to why he did what he did,” Lombardo said, referring to Paddock.

Asked about previous comments he made calling Paddock a narcissist and “status-driven,” Lombardo said he was “comfortable” saying those traits could have been factors in Paddock’s decision to carry out the attack.

“I’ve put out in the public space that he had lost a significant amount of his monetary wealth in close proximity to 1 October and that may have a driving factor associated with it.”

The sheriff said it’s still believed Paddock acted alone in the attack, adding that police do not anticipate charges being brought against Marilou Danley, Paddock’s girlfriend. She was questioned in the initial aftermath of the attack.

The FBI does, however, have an ongoing case related to the shooting against an individual of federal interest, Lombardo told reporters.

The report details what Lombardo called Paddock’s “disturbing search history” about SWAT tactics and ballistics. Investigators have also recovered “numerous images of child pornography,” Lombardo said.

Authorities have combed through nearly 2,000 leads and 21,650 hours of video in the inquiry so far, Lombardo said.

In addition to the 58 people Paddock killed, Lombardo said authorities have determined 422 people suffered injuries as a direct result of gunfire, and another 851 individuals suffered other injuries in the attack.

Questions remain months later

Nearly four months after the massacre, the inquiry into the largest mass shooting in modern American history is still mired in questions; chief among them: Why did Paddock do it? But authorities have yet to address many other lingering questions in the case.

Friday’s news conference was Lombardo’s first since October 13, when he altered the department’s timeline of the shooting. Lombardo has spoken about the investigation publicly since then in interviews with various media outlets.

The announcement of the news conference came days after CNN reported that police were potentially pursuing criminal charges against someone other than Paddock, who used high-powered rifles to shoot out of his hotel room window on people attending an outdoor country music festival below. He then killed himself.

Nick Crosby, a lawyer for the city’s police department, told a judge Tuesday that charges could be brought within 60 days. The exchange came during a hearing in which CNN and other media outlets were seeking access to sealed court records about the probe.

Crosby did not identify who could be charged or what charges the individual might face, but he told the judge he had no information the charges pertained to the “actual murders.”

Lombardo appeared to confirm this information at his press conference, saying charges could be brought within the next 60 days.

That development followed another earlier in the month, when hundreds of pages of federal court records, including multiple search warrant affidavits, were unsealed, revealing the inner workings of the early stages of the investigation. The records did not contain information regarding the current status of the investigation.

The affidavits revealed discussions among investigators about email exchanges they believe are related to the shooting.

“Try an ar before u buy. We have huge selection. Located in the las vegas area,” read one message sent to an account investigators believe was controlled by Paddock, the documents state.

Congressman pushes conspiracy theory

On Thursday night, a US congressman told Fox News that “nothing is adding up” in the investigation, before pushing a conspiracy theory without providing evidence to back up his claim.

“Recently, I have been made aware of what I believe to be credible evidence or credible information regarding potential terrorist infiltration through the southern border regarding this incident,” Rep. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania told Tucker Carlson.

Following the attack, multiple ISIS communication channels claimed a “soldier of the Islamic State” carried out the attack, but gave no proof to support the claim. The FBI has said it has found “no connection with an international terrorist group.”

Catherine Lombardo, an attorney for victims of the Las Vegas shooting, also appeared on “Tucker Carlson Tonight.”

“I will ask, with all due respect, congressman, unless you have specific evidence it seems a bit irresponsible to make that allegation or make that assertion,” she said.

“If you do have any evidence of that,” Lombardo continued, “I’m asking you right now to share it with us and tell us what that is.”

“I’m not able,” Perry said, before repeating that he received what he believes to be “credible evidence of a possible terrorist nexus.”

Asked about Perry’s claim on Friday, the Clark County sheriff said, “I’d like to see the evidence.”

Prosecutors to seek death penalty in missing scholar case

WQAD News -

URBANA, Ill. (AP) — U.S. prosecutors have told a judge they will seek the death penalty against a 28-year-old man charged with the kidnapping and killing of a University of Illinois scholar from China.

Federal prosecutors filed a notice Friday with the U.S. District Court in central Illinois. It cites, among other factors, that Brendt Christensen’s alleged killing of Yingying Zhang involved torture.

Christensen is charged in the June kidnapping and death of the 26-year-old. Her body hasn’t been found, but authorities say that have evidence she’s dead.

Christensen’s trial is slated to begin Feb. 27. He has pleaded not guilty.

Galesburg’s Sandburg Mall braces for change with pending JCPenney closure

WQAD News -

GALESBURG, Illinois -- There are still some bright lights at Sandburg Mall on Friday, Jan. 19.  Mostly, there are dark corridors once filled with shoppers at long-gone stores.

"Seeing what's happened to the mall is kind of a shame," said Terry Stegall, a shopper from nearby Abingdon.

Sandburg Mall will be evolving slowly in coming years.  That's as national retail changes force a rethinking of the 1974-era property.

"The days of these malls are coming to an end," continued Stegall.

The latest evidence of that coming as JCPenney announces it will close its Galesburg location in early May 2018.  The store had a presence in Galesburg for nearly a century.

On Friday, shoppers were stopping by to look for bargains and reminisce.

"I was pretty disappointed," said Rita Interial, a Galesburg shopper.  "I was disappointed because I knew they were going to close some stores, but I didn't think they were going to hit our city."

Once JCPenney departs, Bergner's will be the last anchor store at the mall.  There are talks of redevelopment, but that could take years to become reality.

"There's a lot of things that could happen with that property," said Ken Springer, president of the Knox County Area Partnership for Economic Development.  "It sits on some extremely valuable commercial real estate."

While JCPenney made extensive renovations at the store in 2016, the upcoming closing reflects national trends more than local shopping preferences.

"It's one of my favorite stores to go to," continued Interial.  "Stop by and get what you need really quick."

The bright lights fading to black in coming weeks, as bare hallways offer a silent farewell.

"I think people have pretty well seen that the end is in sight," Stegall concluded.

An end that leaves the future of Sandburg Mall very much up for grabs in Galesburg.

The weekend’s brightest will lead to the weekend’s wettest

WQAD News -

The mild weather that we enjoyed today is still expected to linger right through the weekend.

Highs both Saturday and Sunday with once again climb into the 40s.. a few spots will likely reach 50 on Sunday.  During this period, a system tracking just to our west and north will increase the cloud coverage as early as Saturday night followed by an increasing chance for rainfall on Sunday going into Monday morning.

Temperatures will slowly fall Monday afternoon as colder as spills in behind the departing system .  Enough moisture will still be present to change any light rain showers to some light snow.  However, little to no accumulation is expected across the area.

Chief meteorologist James Zahara

Download the News 8 Weather App — for iOS, click here and for Android, click here

Download the free News 8 App — for iOS, click here and for Android, click here


‘Mine’s Real’ Viral video shows security guard shooting two would-be robbers who used fake gun

WQAD News -

Warning: Video contains graphic content and language. 

GARDENA, Calif. – An armed private security guard recently thwarted a robbery by shooting two would-be thieves, and surveillance video of the incident quickly circulated on social media, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said Thursday.

The security guard was sitting outside a convenience store in Gardena on the night of Dec. 30th when two teenagers entered the business, according to a sheriff’s news release.

One of the male suspects jumped over the counter and began rummaging through a store employee’s pockets, according to the release.

The security guard then entered the store and saw one of the teens pointing what appeared to be a firearm at the cashier, which prompted him to take out his weapon and shoot both suspects, authorities said. He detained them until deputies responded.

The Sheriff’s Department released this photo of the replica weapon.

Investigators confirmed they recovered a replica semi-automatic handgun at the scene.

The teens, both about 16 years old, were treated for non-life-threatening injuries at a local hospital before being booked and charged with robbery, the release stated.

Nearly two weeks later, according to the L.A. Times, dramatic surveillance video of the incident was posted on YouTube and subsequently went viral, having garnered more than 1.5 million times in the span of a week.

In the footage, two males can be seen entering the convenience store. One of them goes to the front counter with both hands in the pockets of his bright blue hooded sweatshirt. He is soon joined by a second male, who is dressed all in black and also has his hands in his sweatshirt pockets.

Seconds later, the teen in blue attempts to jump over the counter, tripping and falling in the process, before landing on the other side near the cash register. He appears to be pointing a gun at the employee.

The other suspect jumps over the counter with a backpack and begins taking money from the register.

At that point, the security guard walks in and opens fire, hitting both teens.

“It’s fake,” one of the suspects yells, apparently talking about the weapon.

“Oh, well. Mine’s real,” the guard replies.

Still holding his gun, the security guard instructs the pair to put their hands behind their backs and tells the employee to call 911. He proceeds to hold the suspects behind the counter until authorities arrive.

Detectives state in the news release they are aware that surveillance video of the robbery is making the rounds on social media, but did not provide further comment.

The two teens are being held without bail, and an investigation into the incident is ongoing.



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