Shocking News Stories of 2009
(Dec. 30) -- In the process of sifting through 12 months' worth of news to assemble year-end lists, certain stories stand out. They were not the most important ones of 2009. The events directly affected only a small number of people. But an inordinately large number of readers clicked on these headlines, even as many sent feedback demanding more uplifting stories (which we happily provide on Good News Now
.) These were among the year's worst news stories. They made us gasp and wonder whether reports so horrible could be true. The only consolation in reviewing these shocking stories is that they made news because, even in what can seem like an increasingly cruel world, they were uncommonly awful.
Christmas Eve Shooting:
A Salvation Army worker was shot to death on Christmas Eve
in front of his three young children outside the charity's community center in North Little Rock, Ark. Police said Salvation Army Maj. Philip Wise was gunned down by one of two armed men who demanded money and fled on foot into a nearby housing development. Wise's wife, Cindy, also a Salvation Army major, was inside the center and called 911. The children -- ages 4, 6 and 8 -- were standing beside their father when he was shot. The couple adopted the siblings who came from an abusive family last year.
Needles in Child:
A Brazilian man admitted in a television interview that he shoved nearly three dozen sewing needles into his 2-year-old stepson
. Bricklayer Roberto Carlos Magalhaes, 30, told Globo TV he was trying to kill the boy because he wanted to "get back at" his wife. He admitted that he repeatedly used wine mixed with water to sedate the child, then inserted needles up to 2 inches long while his lover held the boy down. Surgeons removed some of the needles from around the child's heart and lungs but said he would likely need two more surgeries.
A 4-year-old boy was found wandering around his Chattanooga, Tenn., neighborhood at night, drinking beer and wearing a little girl's dress taken from under a neighbor's Christmas tree. He was treated at a hospital for alcohol consumption. The child's mother, 21-year-old April Wright, told WTVC-TV the boy "wants to go to jail because that's where his daddy is
." Wright said she and the boy's father are going though a divorce.
Aborted Fetus Under Tree:
Police checking out an anonymous tip discovered an aborted fetus in a box under a Christmas tree
in a San Juan, Texas, woman's trailer home. Ruby Lee Medina, 31, was charged along with Javier Gonzalez, 37, of Mission, with abuse of a corpse and tampering with evidence. Investigators say the couple hid the 7-month-old fetus in a gift box after they were unable to flush the remains down a toilet.
Witnesses accused two New York City emergency medical technicians of ignoring pleas to help a pregnant woman
who collapsed at a Brooklyn coffee shop. Eutisha Revee Rennix, 25, went into cardiac arrest during a seizure and was pronounced dead at a hospital. Her baby girl was delivered but died about two hours later. People in the shop told the New York Post the EMTs seemed more concerned about buying breakfast than assisting the woman. Some said the medics told shop workers to call 911. Mayor Michael Bloomberg later called the incident "unconscionable."
ER Death and Robbery:
A community activist and school counselor who apparently suffered a heart attack died after waiting nearly 80 minutes for help in a Philadelphia emergency room -- and was robbed
. Security camera video showed Joaquin Rivera, 63, passing out about an hour after he arrived at the hospital and one of three homeless drug addicts nearby stealing his watch instead of seeking aid, police said. He was pronounced dead just after midnight Nov. 29. Rivera, a musician and activist in the city's Latino community, had spent more than 30 years working as a bilingual counselor at an inner-city high school.
The Plain Dealer / AP
Cleveland police searched for bodies under the porch of Anthony Sowell's home Oct. 30
House of Horrors:
Police who went to Anthony Sowell's Cleveland home with a warrant to arrest him for rape found two bodies on the living room floor. In the days that followed, investigators discovered the remains of 11 women at the house of horrors
and caught Sowell. The registered sex offender had been released from prison in 2005 after serving 15 years for attempted rape. A grand jury indicted Sowell on 85 counts, including aggravated murder, rape and kidnapping. Sowell pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.
A San Francisco suburb was stunned when a 15-year-old girl was gang-raped, beaten and robbed outside a homecoming dance while about 20 people watched -- and nobody did anything to help her
. Seven suspects have been arrested in the Oct. 24 attack, which went on for more than two hours in a dimly lit corner of the Richmond High School campus. Investigators believe as many as 10 people ranging in age from 15 to the mid-20s took part in getting the girl drunk and raping her. The others allegedly stood by and egged on the attackers, according to police.)
Nursing Home Killing:
Elizabeth Barrow, 100, was found dead in her room at a Massachusetts nursing home with a plastic shopping bag tied around her head. An autopsy revealed Barrow had been strangled. A grand jury indicted Laura Lundquist, Barrow's 98-year-old roommate
at Brandon Woods Nursing Home in Dartmouth, on a charge of second-degree murder in December. Prosecutors said Lundquist killed Barrow after an argument over a table at the foot of the centenarian's bed.
MCT / AP
The family photo on the left shows Jaycee Dugard as she looked when she was abducted in 1991. On the right is the first picture released of her after the 18-year ordeal ended.
Kidnapped for Two Decades:
Eighteen years after she was snatched from a school bus stop in South Lake Tahoe, Jaycee Dugard walked into a Northern California police station. With her was Phillip Garrido, who was charged along with his wife, Nancy, of kidnapping Jaycee when she was 11 and holding her as a sex slave
inside a squalid backyard compound in Antioch. Garrido fathered two children with Dugard -- girls who are now 11 and 15 -- authorities said. The girls grew up isolated from the world, believing Dugard was their older sister, according to reports.
Rats Chew Baby:
Sheriff's deputies arrested three people who allegedly let rats chew off an infant's toes
. Officers responding to an anonymous tip went to a cluttered mobile home near Piketon, Ohio, and discovered the maimed 6-week-old girl. The toes on one of her feet were gone. A married couple and the 18-year-old boyfriend of the baby's mother were charged with felony child endangerment.
The coroner's office in Allendale, S.C., said it had found "undesirable evidence" and opened a criminal investigation after James Hines' body was exhumed. A macabre rumor had been circulating ever since the 6-foot-7, 300-pound preacher and funk musician died five years ago. His widow said investigators told her Hines' legs had been cut off
between the ankle and calf, and his feet had been placed inside the casket to make the extra-large body fit.
Neighbor Mavis Phillips looked on in shock as police entered the Milton, Mass., house where a man killed two of his sisters.
A little girl was decapitated by her brother
on the day after her birthday. A Milton, Mass., police officer who burst in on the horrific scene saw 5-year-old Bianca Revelus beheaded. Kerby Revelus, 23 -- who had already stabbed his 17-year-old sister Samantha to death -- was fatally shot by police as he went after a third sister, 9-year-old Sarafina, with a knife. The police chief said he had never seen such an atrocity. The cake for Bianca's birthday party was still on the table when the carnage erupted.
A Texas death row inmate blinded himself by gouging out his only remaining eye and eating it
. Prison officials said Andre Thomas, who has a history of mental problems, had plucked out his other eye before his 2004 conviction for murdering an infant.
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