High Profile Cases

HIGH PROFILE CRIMINAL DEFENSE:
YOUR LEGAL TEAM MUST CONTROL THE MESSAGE OR YOU WILL BE CONVICTED

Criminal cases become “high profile” for these reasons: a celebrity defendant; a celebrity victim; or very aggravating facts.  When the media decides collectively to cover a case, for whatever reason, the accused is automatically elevated to higher standards then ordinary citizens accused of the same or similar crimes.  Every action and comment by a “high profile” defendant or his/her attorney are under a spotlight.  A loudmouth, egotistical lawyer can, with one comment, assure his/her client’s conviction, even if innocent.  A lawyers positive demeanor in front of media cameras can sway an entire community and, most importantly, potential jurors.  On the other hand, a lawyer’s egotistical or condescending attitude can ruin an innocent person’s chance for a fair trial.  If a lawyer creates media attention by making unproven claims, unrealistic promises, those actions may very well cause a Judge to deny a request by the defense to change venue.  Every single statement by your attorney needs to be calculated and well planned or dire consequences can result.  Imagine your lawyer making these statements (on your behalf) to the media:
•    “My client is seeking psychological counseling at this time, and needs more time to get his life in order.”
•    “My client has chosen to exercise his 5th amendment right to refrain from speaking with the police.”
•    “My client has offered to pay for the family’s damages.”
•    “My client has decided against a polygraph exam based on the advice of counsel.”

Believe it or not, these comments have been made by some of America’s most famous criminal defense lawyers, and in some cases caused their clients to be convicted.  Even worse, are those lawyers who simply do not know what or when to be proactive with the media.  There are times when a lawyer must act and speak on his/her client’s behalf.  To say or do nothing can lead to assumptions of guilt.  Potential jurors will ask themselves “why isn’t he claiming his innocence if he didn’t do it?”  Bill Cosby’s recent criminal case is a perfect example.  The media will ask its viewers, readers or listeners to ask the same question.  In these situations, the attorney must be prepared to act by issuing a media announcement or scheduling a press conference to speak words of innocence.  For instance, quotes like these are very helpful under the right circumstances:
•    “My client is innocent and will request a speedy trial from the Judge.”
•    “My client has offered to undergo polygraph examination and stands willing to cooperate with police.”
•    “The charges against my client are baseless and he will fight until the end to prove his innocence.”
•    “The prosecutor in this case has brought these charges to enhance his career.  The charges are false and my client looks forward to the truth being told at trial.”

As you can see, the wording and context can make a huge difference.  If you hire an attorney with no media experience he/she may appear nervous or unsure and send the wrong message about the validity of charges against you.  Your attorney needs to have a track record of being comfortable “handling” the media.  The average person will form his/her opinions at the very moment he/she is exposed to media about your case.  It is incumbent on your legal team to control the message.  If nothing is done, the prosecutor or police statements will be taken as true.  Opinions, once firmly established, are nearly impossible to change.  This holds true for both sides of a criminal case.  Because so many opinions are formed by media exposure, you must take charge from the beginning by helping shape the right message.

At Quackenbush Law Firm, we protect our “high profile” clients from the very moment we are hired by doing the following:
•    Issue immediate media announcement proclaiming innocence.
•    Schedule immediate press conferences to refute charges, offer rewards for information (if applicable), and advise of investigatory efforts taking place
•    Hire expert witnesses to assist with defense issues, examine evidence and execute confidentially agreements
•    Collect evidence, witness statements and affidavits
•    Retain image consultants and publicists (if necessary)
•    Advise clients of increased security needs, and controlling friends and family communications including social media usage.
•    Filing immediate motions for discovery of all evidence held by the police or prosecution
•    Background searches on all State witnesses
•    Physical and social media surveillance of all witnesses or other subjects with connection to the case
•    Order independent defense DNA tests, autopsies and/or toxicology examinations
•    Schedule polygraph exams for witnesses (if appropriate)
•    Photographing and preserving all evidence available
•    Subpeoning phone records of witnesses

The latest high profile case at Quackenbush Law Firm involved a young couple from California, accused of murdering their autistic child while passing through Amarillo, Texas.  The family called Attorney, Jesse Quackenbush for help.  We have arranged the media coverage chronologically so you can see the importance of controlling the message.  The parents have not been charged with a crime, their children have been returned and they will probably file civil lawsuits against the police and CPS for violating their civil rights.

AMARILLO LOCAL NEWS: FAMILY SAYS VICTIM FOUND IN LAKE IS MISSING CHILD, ALEXIS WARTENA
Posted on July 22, 2016 by Jesse Quackenbush, Attorney

KFDA – NewsChannel 10 / Amarillo News, Weather, Sports

4:04 p.m.: Relatives of Alexis Wartena confirm that the young female victim found at a playa lake Wednesday morning was their beloved 7-year-old, Alexis Wartena.

The family remained in close contact with police Wednesday as the search for Alexis continued and were notified when officers came across a body at T-Anchor Lake, a shallow body of water near the La Kiva Motel.

Special Crimes only identified the victim as a young female and said an autopsy scheduled for Thursday in Lubbock is expected to reveal more information.

The Amarillo Police Department suspended the search for Alexis Wartena Wednesday afternoon.

Police have suspended the search for a young child who disappeared from an Amarillo motel early Tuesday evening.

Amarillo Police Department’s Jeb Hilton confirmed the decision Wednesday afternoon. The announcement concludes an extensive search for 7-year-old Alexis Wartena, a rescue effort that spanned nearly 19 hours and focused primarily around the La Kiva Motel in eastern Amarillo.

A Special Crimes investigation is ongoing.

The Wartena family informed police that they stopped in Amarillo to rest from travel. Alexis, a nonverbal girl with autism and one of the family’s five children, was able to escape the motel room without detection around 5 p.m.

Police issued a public alert regarding Alexis’s disappearance about an hour later. Personnel from several area agencies quickly responded to the area and began searching buildings next to the motel and a playa lake nearby before moving south of the interstate overnight.

A canine search of the land nearby failed to show any indication of Alexis being there. APD, the Randall County Sheriff’s Office, Department of Public Safety, Hutchinson County Sheriff’s Office, Parks and Wildlife and other agencies continued searching the area on foot, horseback and air throughout the evening.

APD’s Dive Team conducted underwater searches at T-Anchor Lake, a playa lake located just north of the motel.

Dive teams reentered the lake Wednesday morning as the search continued and found a body later identified by Special Crimes as a young female. Investigators did not say the victim was Alexis. An autopsy is scheduled for Thursday in Lubbock.

 

Pictured above: Alexis Wartena. Photo Courtesy News Channel 10. 

Anyone with information is asked to call 806-378-4248

Story provided by Amarillo News Channel 10.  Lubbock Avalanche-Journal also reports on this story.

If you have any questions or need legal advice, feel free to contact me directly at your convenience.

Trial Attorney
Jesse Quackenbush
jesseqlf@gmail.com
(505) 301-9888 (C)
(806) 374-4024
Live Chat, 24/7: www.quackenbushlawfirm.com

AMARILLO ACCIDENTAL DEATH: AMARILLO HAS ‘BROKEN HEART’ OVER DISCOVERY OF MISSING GIRL’S BODY
Posted on July22, 2016 by Jesse Quackenbush, Attorney


Photos provided Amarillo Globe-News

The discovery of a little girl’s body in the waters of T-Anchor Lake behind La Kiva Hotel on Wednesday cast a dark cloud over Amarillo.

Alexis Wartena, 7, went missing from the hotel mid-afternoon Tuesday. Police on foot, horses, boats and a helicopter searched fields, structures, vehicles, parking lots, drainage ditches and lakes for her all night and into Wednesday morning.

Searchers’ and the family’s worst fears were realized Wednesday when police saw something floating in the lake, which divers had searched several times the night before.

Millicent Carlton, the child’s aunt, confirmed that it was Wartena’s body police recovered.

Two police officers held a tarp for privacy as eight others stood in somber silence, heads bowed. Then they carried her to the La Kiva parking lot, where her body was placed on a cart and then into a vehicle.

Alexis’ autopsy is scheduled for Thursday in Lubbock, police said.

She was a child with nonverbal autism, her family told investigators. Alexis’ special situation called for a huge search effort. First responders from Potter and Randall counties employed every means possible, including volunteers, to find the missing child.

According to a missing person notice put out to assist in the search, she could get around “very well,” but didn’t speak. However, she would respond to her name.

Alexis had four siblings, Carlton said, and three of her four siblings also have autism. Along with their parents, Michael and Tiffany Wartena, they were staying on the ground floor.

Carlton, who is Tiffany’s sister, said Tiffany went to use the restroom and Alexis got out of the hotel room.

“She was a beautiful little girl, absolutely beautiful,” Carlton said. “My sister is beyond devastated.”

The family had stopped in Amarillo while driving from Chicago back to Beaumont, Calif.

“They were just trying to do the best for their children,” Carlton said. “They were trying to find a new house, a new life.”

Carlton and her husband Mike were on vacation in Oklahoma when they received a call from Alexis’ mother, breaking the bad news.

“She just called us hysterical, asking how fast can you guys get here,” Mike Carlton said.

The deceased girl’s parents are upset about whether there is sufficient fencing around the lake area, Millicent Carlton told a journalist Wednesday evening.

“You tell me, if that fence was up, would that little girl have gotten out?” she said.

As is often the case with such tragedies, questions linger about how such an event could occur.

Alexis’ vulnerability only augments these concerns.

Gallery – View photos from the search

A unique challenge

“I feel like many people think either the parents or the hotel are liable,” Amy Simpson, a board-certified behavior analyst and one of the coordinators at Amarillo Applied Behavior Analysis, told the Amarillo Globe-News on Wednesday afternoon. “But that’s just not the case.”

Amarillo ABA has been open for two years, and currently educates and counsels about 18 children with autism. Twelve of those are children with nonverbal autism.

According to Simpson and her colleague Sinci Rios, it is quite common for children with autism to venture out on their own. Any number of factors could contribute to a child with nonverbal autism running away from their parents.

“If they see something very reinforcing, they will work to get to it,” Simpson continued. By “reinforcing,” the behavior analyst meant something the child likes.

“If she was hot and wanted to swim, she could have gone off to do that without being aware of her surroundings.”

Rios added that children with this form of autism often have “tunnel vision” when it comes to getting something they want. Although nonverbal autism is a wide and varied condition, it always entails difficulties with communication. This means that often children will go to great lengths to reach something upon which they are fixated, since it is difficult for them to express their desires, she explained.

Finding a missing child, which is of the utmost importance to officials involved in the search, is already a difficult task. Alexis’ form of nonverbal autism made a search-and-rescue effort even more challenging, but it also made parenting incredibly difficult, according to Rios.

“If you have a child with nonverbal autism, you have to be on high alert all the time,” Rios continued. “You’re always guessing what they want, and if there was something bothering the child … then that also could have motivated her to leave.”

The most recent study offering hard numbers on missing children was completed by the U.S. Department of Justice in 2002. It showed that 797,500 children went missing in 2001. Upwards of 300,000 of these children were abducted, and many more wandered off on their own or suffered other incidents that separated them from parents or guardians.

Simpson stressed it’s too early to point fingers or blame.

“It could have happened to anyone, anywhere. Think about Medical (Center) Park, There are no fences around the water there, either.”

Behind the La Kiva Hotel is a parking lot and hill that slopes downward toward T-Anchor Lake, where the body was found. Adjacent to La Kiva is the Sleep Inn, which has a fence to separate the hotel grounds from the body of water.

Law Digest, a U.S. law specialty site, says that hotels are not legally responsible for the absolute safety of guests. Hotels, they say, “may be found negligent if they knew or should have known, upon reasonable inspection, of the existence of a danger or hazard and failed to take action to correct it and/or warn guests about it,” and that “hotels have an affirmative duty to inspect and seek out hazards that may not be readily apparent, seen or appreciated by patrons and guests.” But it also says, “the law does not protect hotel guests from their own negligence,” and “open and obvious” hazards are not a basis for liability.

According to police, La Kiva did not have any security camera footage of any area other than the guest lobby and check-in desk.

Video surveillance is often taken for granted, and it can greatly assist in investigations such as these, but video surveillance is not required by law.

The Globe-News contacted La Kiva Hotel twice Wednesday for comment, but did not receive a response. Multiple news reports say the hotel has started a GoFundMe care fund for the grieving family.

“No one should be mad at this mom, or this dad, or these siblings,” said social worker and patient advocate Alanna Hepler, who works at ProStep Rehab, which specializes in pediatric, occupational, physical and speech therapy services.

“There’s nothing that the hotel could have done, either,” Hepler said. “The type of attention and monitoring that our children require is demanding. They just slip out. It’s a horrible accident.”

Hepler’s son, Ethan, was diagnosed with nonverbal autism in 2010. She spoke emotionally about the joys and difficulties of raising her son with all the special attention he requires.

“There was the longest time when he wouldn’t even respond to his name,” she said. “Ethan is like Alexis: he hasn’t spoken a word since he was 18-months-old. He loves the water, and will wander. He walks softly, and is small in stature like Alexis. They’re just adorable, but they are quiet.”

Hepler hopes the community will become more aware of the unique circumstances that surround a case like this, she said, and how to appropriately respond to the needs of those with nonverbal autism.

“They don’t have the ability to cry out for help. We as a community have to be aware that children like this aren’t going to respond to many vocal cues,” she said. They also don’t have that safety awareness that is instilled by parents or guardians in most children in a similar age group.

“What happened to Alexis is our worst fear. Not just as parents, but I think our caregivers, our teachers, our therapists … It just takes one moment of inattention, and then you turn around and just like that they’re gone. The autism community in Amarillo has a broken heart.”

Hepler also hopes the citizens of Amarillo will organize to show support for the Wartena family.

Story provided by Amarillo Globe-News.

If you have any questions or need legal advice, feel free to contact me directly at your convenience.

Trial Attorney
Jesse Quackenbush
jesseqlf@gmail.com
(505) 301-9888 (C)
(806) 374-4024
Live Chat, 24/7: www.quackenbushlawfirm.com

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AMARILLO LOCAL NEWS: ALEXIS WARTENA’S FAMILY SPEAKS ABOUT TRAGEDY
Posted on July 22, 2016 by Jesse Quackenbush, Attorney


Photo provided by Amarillo KAMR 4. 

Alexis Wartena’s family members have spoken out after hearing that she was missing last night.

“We were just visiting some family and that’s when my sister called and she was hysterical,” said Millicent Carlton, Alexi’s aunt.

Seven year-old Alexis Wartena and her family were enjoying their summer vacation. But now the immediate and extended families are making funeral arrangements.

“Then this morning they broke the news to us,” said Carlton.

Although Amarillo Police have yet to confirm if the body is Alexis, Carlton tells us that police told the family this morning.

“My mom is very emotional very upset. My other sister lives in upstate New York she’s just waiting to see what she needs to do. Other family has been in contact and we’re just waiting,” said Carlton.

The aunt tells us this isn’t the first time Alexis has gotten out, in fact she says it happened all the time but they always ended up finding her.

That’s why they thought this incident would be different. She tells us she thought her niece would be found in someone’s backyard.

“I wish it was a better ending. Just love your children, keep an eye on your children at all times. I wish Alexis was here with us. It’s heartbreaking,” said Carlton.

Now what the aunt tells us she’s angry about this entire situation is the unfenced part of the lake.

She says if the Kiva Hotel had fenced the entire area, her niece would not have been anywhere near the lake.

We spoke to the supervisor of the Kiva Hotel about why that section wasn’t fenced in and he told us to talk to the city because it was their fence.

We reached out to the city for comment and we were told we couldn’t get a response by today.

Story provided by Amarillo KAMR 4. Kiss FM also reports on this story.

If you have any questions or need legal advice, feel free to contact me directly at your convenience.

Trial Attorney
Jesse Quackenbush
jesseqlf@gmail.com
(505) 301-9888 (C)
(806) 374-4024
Live Chat, 24/7:

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NATIONAL NEWS: BODY FOUND IN SEARCH FOR MISSING 7-YEAR-OLD AUTISTIC GIRL WHO WANDERED FROM TEXAS MOTEL
Posted on July 22, 2016 by Jesse Quackenbush, Attorney


Photo provided by Inside Edition.

Police searching for a missing 7-year-old autistic girl have pulled the body of a “young female” from a nearby lake in Texas, authorities said.

Alexis Wartena disappeared Tuesday afternoon from an Amarillo motel where her family was staying.

Read: 5-Year-Old Missing Autistic Boy With No Shoes And No Coat Found Dead In Canal

Divers searching the lake Wednesday pulled “the body of a young female” from the water, but declined to say whether it was the missing child.

Amarillo Police Department spokesman Jeb Hilton told InsideEdtion.com “I can’t confirm or deny” that the remains were little Alexis.

An autopsy is scheduled for Thursday morning, he said.

Alexis was last seen at about 3 p.m. at the La Kiva Motel, where she was staying with her parents and four siblings.

Read: Driver Arrested In Death Of Boy With Autism Who Was Left On Bus For Entire School Day

Her parents said she disappeared while being out of their sight for just a few minutes.

Police searched every room in the hotel, as well as lodgings at the Sleep Inn Motel next door. Dogs were used by officers combing nearby areas, and volunteers looked in surrounding neighborhoods.

The blue-eyed, blond-haired child did not speak, but did respond to her name, police said.

Watch: Dad Charged With Neglect After Twin Daughter With Autism Dies in Hot RV

Story provided by Inside Edition. NBC DFW also reports on this story. 

If you have any questions or need legal advice, feel free to contact me directly at your convenience.

Trial Attorney
Jesse Quackenbush
jesseqlf@gmail.com
(505) 301-9888 (C)
(806) 374-4024
Live Chat, 24/7: www.quackenbushlawfirm.com

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NATIONAL NEWS: CHILDREN WITH AUTISM ARE NATURALLY DRAWN TO WATER, AND MOST DON’T UNDERSTAND THE DANGERS

Posted on July 22, 2016 by Jesse Quackenbush, Attorney


The scene where 7 year-old Alexis Wartena’s body was found. Photo courtesy Amarillo News Channel 10. 

Alerting the community to the dangerous attraction to water held by many children with autism has become the mission of the Autism Society of the Heartland and Colwich, KS, mother Sheila Medlam.

For five beautiful years, Medlam spent her days and nights with son Mason; laughing, dancing and reading.

“He was amazing. He was absolutely the best son anyone could have,” she said. “He was the other half of my soul.”

Diagnosed with severe autism, Mason was totally non-verbal. But Medlam says that didn’t stop her son from living life. When he saw fun, she says he went for it.

“He would elope a lot. Which would be where we would be with him and if you let go of his hand, he would immediately take off for whatever he saw that grabbed his attention,” Medlam said.

It’s something many children with autism do and experts call it wandering. Jennifer Smith, president of the Autism Society of the Heartland, prefers to refer to it as “kids on a mission”.

“They know where they want to go,” Smith said. “They want to go down the street. They want to go to that pool. They want to play with that dog. They want to see their friend. But yet, they are not communicating that to us. They also fear no danger.”

On July 27, 2010, Mason went on a final mission. When the air conditioner went out in the family’s Colwich home, Medlam propped small fans in the bedroom window.

“He had pushed the fan and the screen through the window, taken all his clothes off and escaped through an 8-inch opening,” Medlam said.

A short 17 minutes after that escape and 30 emergency crews on the hunt, it was Medlam who found Mason in a shallow pond across the street, only a quarter of a mile from home.

“He was face down in the water,” she remembered. “I’m looking down at my son who has a blue mouth and a blue nose and completely lifeless and I’m thinking to myself, ‘What do I do? How do I get the water out of him?’”

Mason died two days after that discovery.

“It shattered us,” Medlam said.

The Kansas mother learned drownings like this are all too common among children with autism. In fact, it’s the leading cause of death.

“Almost every autistic child is drawn to water. They will play with water for hours and hours and hours,” she said.

According to Smith, “When a child is in water, it is like this big hug that they’re relaxed and comfortable in water.”

In 2012, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that one in 88 is diagnosed with some form of autism. When Smith learned of the drowning deaths of several children with autism across the country early this summer, she decided to take action and partner with the YMCA to offer water lessons specifically designed for children with autism.

Aquatics Director Courtney Meyer designed the one-on-one format being taught.

“Our goal is not to teach them to swim; the stroke development,” Meyer said. “Our goal is to get them oriented to the water to learn safety skills.”

For instance, Meyer says the class focuses on teaching children to blow bubbles to avoid breathing in water.

“Blow it out like a birthday cake. Blow your candles out,” Meyer said.

Kendra Young’s 5-year-old daughter Bianca is enrolled in the swim classes for children with autism. It’s popular with mother and daughter for very different reasons.

“I like swimming,” Bianca said.

After six weeks of classes, Young says the progress her daughter has already made gives her some needed peace of mind for her sometimes wandering ways.

“She’s drawn to water, very much so,” Young said. “We have pond behind our house. So she’s always jumping in water.”

Medlam hopes all parents who can, will take advantage of these lessons.

“You have to layer your child with levels of protection,” she said. “If you can give them water-safety skills, that’s amazing.”

The Autism Society of the Heartland hopes to create a comprehensive campaign on water safety, beyond the swim lessons. They want to train local emergency personnel to react differently when looking for a child with autism; to begin their searches at the closest body of water. The group believes it’s a change that will save the lives of children like Mason.

“Every night I ask God to watch over my son ‘til I can have him again,” she said.

Medlam has a website dedicated to the deaths of children like Mason (www.masonalert.org) and her mission to alert the world to the dangers of wandering and water.

To learn more about the Swim and Safety Program and the Autism Society-The Heartland visit www.asaheartland.org.

Story provided by KCTV 5. ABC Action News Also reports on this story.

If you have any questions or need legal advice, feel free to contact me directly at your convenience.

Trial Attorney
Jesse Quackenbush
jesseqlf@gmail.com
(505) 301-9888 (C)
(806) 374-4024
Live Chat, 24/7: www.quackenbushlawfirm.com

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AMARILLO LEGAL NEWS: SIBLINGS OF ALEXIS WARTENA REMOVED FROM FAMILY BY CPS, PARENTS CONSIDER LEGAL ACTION
Posted on July 22, 2016 by Jesse Quackenbush, Attorney

KFDA – NewsChannel 10 / Amarillo News, Weather, Sports

Alexis Wartena’s parents struggled to keep composure on Friday; their tears told of their grief for their dead daughter and their ongoing effort to get their four other children back from state custody.

“All I want to do is get my kids back so I can go home and grieve,” Alexis’s mother, Michael Tiffany Stewart, said.

Stewart smiled as best she could when she described how having an autistic member of the family was challenging.

“It’s harder. She needed more supervision and care. But we were happy. She was a happy little girl”

Alexis, a nonverbal, 7-year-old girl with autism and one of the family’s five children, escaped from the family’s room at the La Kiva Motel  without detection around 5 p.m. on Tuesday. The Californian family had made a travel stop in Amarillo as a midway point in their drive home from a vacation in Chicago.

Stewart said she went into the bathroom, and when she returned came to the shattering discovery Alexis was missing.

The family called 9-1-1 to report Alexis’s disappearance. The Amarillo Police Department issued a public alert shortly after, which set in motion a widespread search effort by multiple area agencies into the evening hours.

Authorities found her body Wednesday morning in T-Anchor Lake, a shallow body of water located just north of the motel. An autopsy conducted the following morning revealed she drowned.

After Alexis was found, the Wartenas said Child Protective Services removed the other four children from their custody. Per procedure, evidence from the parents was also collected by police as they investigated the young child’s death.

The Wartenas’ first hearing with CPS to get their children back is scheduled for August 2, 2016.

The family, however, is considering legal action and have already hired a lawyer in their pursuit to return home.

Amarillo attorney Jesse Quackenbush is representing the Wartena family in their confrontation with the City of Amarillo, demanding an internal investigation of the police officers that Michael Wartena said had “repeatedly tortured emotionally” Michael Tiffany Stewart.

A copy of the demand letter is below can be found chere.

City Attorney Mick McKamie was unavailable for comment.

The father of the dead child, Michael Wartena, is accusing police of keeping him from continuing his frantic search for his daughter, instead interrogating him and his wife for hours.

“They took the sheets and blankets off our beds in our hotel rooms, so we didn’t even have a place to sleep,” Wartena said.

“Suitcases, toothbrushes, hair brushes, all my kids’ clothes, all my clothes… They left shoes, that was it,” Stewart said. “They went through our truck, took everything out of our truck, one by one.”

RELATED: Body found at lake confirmed as missing child | Police search for missing 7-year-old Alexis Wartena

Story provided by Amarillo News Channel 10.

If you have any questions or need legal advice, feel free to contact me directly at your convenience.

Trial Attorney
Jesse Quackenbush
jesseqlf@gmail.com
(505) 301-9888 (C)
(806) 374-4024
Live Chat, 24/7: www.quackenbushlawfirm.com

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POLICE MISCONDUCT: SIBLINGS OF DROWNED CHILD, ALEXIS WARTENA, REMOVED FROM FAMILY
Posted on July 23, 2016 by Jesse Quackenbush, Attorney

KFDA – NewsChannel 10 / Amarillo News, Weather, Sports

On Friday, July 22, 2016, Quackenbush Law Firm conducted a press conference to give News Channel 10 an exclusive interview with the parents of Alexis Wartena, a 7-year-old girl with autism who was found in a lake behind La Kiva Hotel, where they were staying on their way home from a family vacation.

When Alexis went missing, Amarillo Police responded in the worst way possible: Accusing the parents of murder and tearing their family apart in this time of grief. Despite documented studies confirming that children with autism have a tendency to wander away, Amarillo Police chose to respond with suspicion and removed the other siblings from the home, placing them in state custody.

Video provided by Amarillo News Channel 10.

If you have any questions or need legal advice, feel free to contact me directly at your convenience.

Trial Attorney
Jesse Quackenbush
jesseqlf@gmail.com
(505) 301-9888 (C)
(806) 374-4024
Live Chat, 24/7:www.quackenbushlawfirm.com

POLICE ABUSE: PARENTS OF ALEXIS WARTENA, MICHAEL WARTENA AND TIFFANY STEWART, ALLEGE ‘MENTAL TORTURE’ BY POLICE
Posted on July 23, 2016 by Jesse Quackenbush, Attorney

Photos provided by Amarillo Globe-News

The siblings of Alexis Wartena, the seven-year-old child with nonverbal autism who was found drowned in the T-Anchor Lake behind La Kiva Hotel on Wednesday, have been taken from their parents by Child Protective Services, according to a lawyer who says he represents them.

Amarillo attorney Jesse Quackenbush said four children had been taken from Michael Wartena and Tiffany Stewart shortly after Alexis was reported missing Tuesday evening, before her body was discovered Wednesday morning.

An initial hearing with CPS has been set for Aug. 2, Quackenbush told the Amarillo Globe-News.

Quackenbush said he has filed a formal complaint with Amarillo Interim Police Chief Ed Drain, alleging that after APD officers arrived at the hotel they stopped the parents from continuing their own independent search for their daughter, “and began a six hour investigation designed to mentally torture the mother into a confession,” according to the complaint.

Furthermore, his letter claims, the mother was “repeatedly tortured emotionally” by “accusations of murdering her daughter.”

Quackenbush requested an APD internal investigation into the conduct of the police during their investigation of the event.

The formal complaint goes on to outline alleged threats and intimidation against the parents, including “criminal prosecutions and loss of custody of their children unless they submitted hair, fingerprint and blood samples.”

“All of [the Wartena’s] personal belongs were seized, probably without a warrant, and definitely without probable cause or consent,” the letter said, which is an alleged violation of the couple’s Fourth Amendment Constitutional rights which guard against unreasonable search and seizure.

Quackenbush said that the reason he sent the letter of complaint to Drain was to expedite the process of reuniting the children with their parents, and to send them on their way.

When contacted for comment, Drain told the Globe-News that as soon he received the letter on Friday morning, “I launched an immediate internal investigation. Now that it is an active internal investigation, we cannot comment on it.”

The Globe-News spoke with Quackenbush about the letter Friday evening. He said that he and his legal team hope to have a meeting with relevant city officials on the matter Monday, although nothing is set in stone.

When asked if the family was staying in Amarillo on their own dime, Quackenbush responded that the family “has no dime.” He said that he is trying to gather funds to pay for their lodging and living expenses. At the time of their daughter’s death the family was traveling from Chicago, returning home to California at the end of a vacation. Currently the family has received enough money to stay in Amarillo for another week, Quackenbush said, and that a bereavement counselor is now also working with the family pro-bono.

Even though the preliminary autopsy findings found the cause of Alexis’ death is drowning, there has been no final determination of the manner of death. However, Quackenbush said that police “told the family that this is an accident drowning.” At the time of the search, the hotel parking lot and surrounding area had been cordoned off, suggesting that the search may have turned into a criminal investigation.

See Quackenbush Law Firm’s Complaint against Amarillo Police Department complaint.

Story provided by Amarillo Globe-News. Amarillo KAMR 4 also reports on this story.

If you have any questions or need legal advice, feel free to contact me directly at your convenience.

Trial Attorney
Jesse Quackenbush
jesseqlf@gmail.com
(505) 301-9888 (C)
(806) 374-4024
Live Chat, 24/7: www.quackenbushlawfirm.com



CIVIL RIGHTS VIOLATIONS: SIBLINGS OF DROWNED CHILD REMOVED FROM WARTENA FAMILY, PARENTS MICHAEL WARTENA AND TIFFANY STEWART CONSIDER LEGAL ACTION:
Posted on July 23, 2016 by Jesse Quackenbush, Attorney

KFDA – NewsChannel 10 / Amarillo News, Weather, Sports

AMARILLO, TX (KFDA) – The parents of Alexis Wartena couldn’t hold back the tears Friday that told of their grief for their dead daughter and their ongoing effort to get their four other children back from state custody.

The family of 7-year-old Alexis Wartena, a young child with autism who drowned earlier this week, has now been split apart as investigations into her death continue. Alexis’s parents sat down with NewsChannel10 to talk about the ‘nightmare’ that hasn’t ended since Tuesday evening.

“All I want to do is get my kids back so I can go home and grieve,” Alexis’s mother, Michael Tiffany Stewart, said.

Stewart smiled as best she could when describing how having an autistic member of the family was challenging.

“It’s harder. She needed more supervision and care. But we were happy. She was a happy little girl.”

On mobile? Watch the extended interview here. 

Alexis, a nonverbal girl with autism and one of the family’s five children, was able to escape their room at the La Kiva Motel detection around 5 p.m. Tuesday. The Californian family was stopped in Amarillo as a midway point in their drive home from a vacation in Chicago.

Stewart said she went into the bathroom and returned to the shattering discovery Alexis was missing.

The family called 9-1-1 to report Alexis’s disappearance. The Amarillo Police Department issued a public alert shortly after, which set in motion a widespread search effort by multiple area agencies into the evening hours.

Authorities found her body Wednesday morning in T-Anchor Lake, a shallow body of water located just north of the motel. An autopsy conducted the following morning revealed she drowned.

After Alexis was found, the Wartenas said Child Protective Services removed the other four children from their custody. Multiple family members have attempted to regain custody of the children but have been denied.

Per procedure, evidence from the parents was also collected by police as they investigated the young child’s death. As of Friday, no charges have been officially filed.

The Wartenas’ first hearing with CPS to get their children back is scheduled for August 2.

The family, however, is considering legal action and have already hired a lawyer in their pursuit to return home.

Amarillo attorney Jesse Quackenbush is representing the Wartena family in their confrontation with the city of Amarillo, demanding an internal investigation of police officers Michael Wartena said had “repeatedly tortured emotionally” Stewart.

City Attorney Mick McKamie was unavailable for comment.

The father of the dead child, Michael Wartena, is accusing police of keeping him from continuing his frantic search for his daughter, instead interrogating him and his wife for hours.

“They took the sheets and blankets off our beds in our hotel rooms, so we didn’t even have a place to sleep,” Wartena said.

“Suitcases, toothbrushes, hairbrushes, all my kids clothes, all my clothes… They left shoes, that was it,” Stewart said. “They went through our truck, took everything out of our truck, one by one.”

The parents were able to see their children this morning for a brief time. They say the kids are confused and want to go home.

Story provided by Amarillo News Channel 10. 
Amarillo KAMR 4 also reports on this story.

Click here to read the Texas Department of Public Safety Amber Alert Criteria.

If you have any questions or need legal advice, feel free to contact me directly

at your convenience.

Trial Attorney
Jesse Quackenbush
jesseqlf@gmail.com
(505) 301-9888 (C)
(806) 374-4024
Live Chat, 24/7: www.quackenbushlawfirm.com

Posted in Amarillo Accidental Deaths, Amarillo Attorney Disclosures, Amarillo Legal News, Amarillo Local News, Amarillo News, Amarillo Wrongful Deaths, California Family Being Illegally Detained By APD, Civil Rights Violations, National News, Police Abuse, Police Misconduct,

DANGERS OF AUTISM: BROKEN PARENTS SCREAM, “STOP SAYING AUTISM ISN’T DEADLY”
Posted on July 23, 2016 by Jesse Quackenbush, Attorney


Police in Parker County called off the search for James Charles “Jimmy” Eader, 15, because he was found deceased… reportedly another victim of the deadly wandering trait of autism. Jimmy is said to be the fourth victim of an autism-related wandering death in just a week, and parents within the autism community are demanding that the medical community cease referring to autism spectrum disorder as “non-deadly.”

Jimmy Eader had been last seen at 2:00 in the afternoon on the 100 block of Bluff Heights Drive in Weatherford, according to the Parker County Sheriff’s Office. The teen, like thousands of children with severe autism, was non-verbal. Jimmy, like thousands of other children on the autism spectrum, suffered from seizures. Jimmy’s body, like the bodies of hundreds of autistic children before him, was found in water and was declared a drowning. Jimmy was found on his property in a swimming pool.

The Parker County Sheriff’s Office said there is no indication of foul play. Jimmy, like so many other children with autism, was drawn to water and drowned. He had missed two doses of his medication by Thursday night after he had wandered away, according to the Dallas Morning News. The Sheriff says that the autistic teen’s family is, as we would expect, completely devastated.

Savannah Martin was 2-years-old when she was diagnosed with severe autism. Beth Dilg, Savannah’s mother, constantly watched her daughter.

“I did everything I could for her. I thought she was safe,” Dilg reportedly told America Tonight, after her daughter’s autism also turned deadly. “I was always with her.”

It only takes a second, parents learn, for a child with autism to bolt or wander off. In 2011, 7-year-old Savannah had returned home from church. During the four minutes it took Dilg to heat a bowl of noodles in the microwave, Savannah’s mother used the bathroom. When the toilet flushed, she heard the front door close.

Savannah immediately headed to a pond less than 50 yards from her house, past a barbed wire fence. After Savannah drowned, Child Protective Services found Dilg guilty of neglect leading to her daughter’s death. CPS claimed that the child should have been brought to the bathroom with her. Eventually, Dilg was cleared of neglect, but the charge demonstrates, according to autism experts, a lack of understanding of the deadly nature of autism-related bolting. Some parents are never even warned to expect wandering, nor told how fast it happens.
They will wait for their chance to bolt away,” Lori McIlwain, co-founder of the National Autism Association, explained. “This is a fight-or-flight response. And the unpredictability of it is what makes it so very dangerous.” Lori’s own son, Connor, was seven-years-old when be bolted out of his school.

“Kids with autism, they are fascinated with certain topics, and for him, it was highway signs,” Lori explained. “So, he headed out on foot to the highway to find his favorite exit sign.”

Connor was thankfully rescued by a driver, but the event was so terrifying that McIlwain began tracking how common autism-related bolting, also termed “eloping” or “wandering,” actually is. 35 percent of parents surveyed say their autistic children attempt to wander at least once every week, according to researchers at the Kennedy Krieger Institute and the Interactive Autism Network. Nearly a third of children with autism try to wander multiple times every day. Parents report that their children’s goal destinations are almost always either roads or water.

“Children and adults who cannot speak, recognize danger, or understand ways to keep themselves safe are the most vulnerable people living in the country today,” McIlwain declared at a Capitol Hill briefing autism-related wandering and bolting.

One mother of an autistic child explains how erroneous she feels it is when the medical profession claims that autism is not deadly.

“Our kids have no sense of danger –not in a helpful way. (I have mentioned before that my son’s fear of bees and other flying insects is more likely to kill him as he tries to get away from them). They are wanderers –for whatever reason, they love to go off on adventures…. the problem with these adventures is that they get lost, or they take them when it’s freezing outside and they are under dressed, they find water –they always find water –I’m convinced that the leading cause of death for autistic kids is drowning.””

On Facebook, the same mother was even more candid about the deadly nature of autism, after reading the most recent reports of the 15-year-old Parker County boy found in his family’s swimming pool.

“4 #‎Autism #‎Wandering #‎Deaths This week. Four.
But hey, at least they never got #‎Measles
#‎FUA #‎REALAutismAwareness Autism IS Deadly.
I’m learning to hate summer… we lose 20 or more each year. But there is no epidemic. There is nothing to see here… go get your flu shot.””

Unsurprisingly, drowning actually is the leading cause of death for children with autism, Science Daily reported. The National Autism Association says that “drowning accounted for approximately 90 percent of total U.S. deaths reported in children with autism ages 14 and younger subsequent to wandering/elopement…”

Story provided by Sensory Swim.
http://sensoryswim.com/broken-parents-scream-stop-saying-autism-is-not-deadly

If you have any questions or need legal advice, feel free to contact me directly at your convenience.

Trial Attorney
Jesse Quackenbush
jesseqlf@gmail.com
(505) 301-9888 (C)
(806) 374-4024
Live Chat, 24/7: www.quackenbushlawfirm.com

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CALIFORNIA FAMILY BEING ILLEGALLY DETAINED BY APD: CHILD’S DEATH RULED ACCIDENTAL. FAMILY CRITICAL OF APD GIVING UP SEARCH BECAUSE OF DARKNESS
Posted on July 22, 2016 by Jesse Quackenbush, Attorney

Photo courtesy Amarillo Globe-News. 

The California parents who tragically lost their 7 year-old daughter, Alexis Wartena, in a drowning accident in Amarillo earlier this week, are now confronting almost unimaginable obstacles in their effort to get home and heal.

The family has reached out to the legal community for help in their nightmarish struggles with Amarillo Police and Child Protective Services. According to the family’s attorney, Jesse Quackenbush, the family has been illegally detained, and their Fourth Amendment rights have been violated.

“APD was called minutes after the child went missing. When they showed up, they immediately started accusing the mother of murdering her child; then, they separated the parents and questioned each for six hours. The mother and father both explained that their daughter suffered from severe autism and regularly wandered off. Neither parent had a history of child abuse or used drugs; neither had a criminal history. The father is a physical therapist, and the mother stays home caring for the children. They were on a family vacation. The parents begged to be released from custody so they could help with the search, but their pleas were refused. Instead, all of their belongings were confiscated. Clothing. Toothbrushes. Everything. The parents were then forced to give hair and blood samples. Finally, CPS showed up and confiscated their children. These heartbroken parents were treated like murderers,” Quackenbush said.

Autopsy results were returned today that proved the drowning was accidental. The parents repeatedly called CPS and APD, begging for the return of their children. They were ignored.

According to each parent, they attempted to explain to the police the nature of their daughter’s severe autism, including her dangerous attraction to water. The police ignored this information and wasted valuable time, time which could have been spent searching for Alexis rather than a Gestapo-like interrogation of the parents.

Attraction to water is a well-documented phenomenon with severely autistic children. As police have reported, Alexis was found the next morning face-down in the lake — just 100 yards from the room where they wasted time interrogating the parents.

The parents are critical of Amarillo Police Department for their idiotic decision to stop searching for Alexis because of darkness. Amarillo Police Department has issued conflicting statements about the search — claiming that they continued the search throughout the evening, and then claiming to local Amarillo TV station, KAMR 4, that they discontinued the search when it became too dark.

The family called Quackenbush Law Firm for assistance. Attorney, Jesse Quackenbush, agreed to represent the family in any criminal matters brought in the future, which are related to the death of their daughter. Mr. Quackenbush contacted family law specialist, Tim Pirtle, who has also agreed to represent the family pro bono in their struggle with CPS. Pirtle and Quackenbush are urging members of the community to call county attorney, Scott Brumley, to dismiss and refuse to prosecute the completely baseless complaint filed by CPS against the parents.

A hearing has been scheduled for August 2, 2016, but the family has no financial resources or housing accommodations to allow them to stay in the area and be with their children until the hearing. Quackenbush Law Firm is requesting any assistance from the community to aid this family in their effort to regain custody of their children and return to their home in California. Call 806-374-4024 to help out today.

Tonight, the family was allowed visitation with their deceased daughter for the first time. This took place at Cox Funeral Home in Amarillo. Tomorrow, attorney, Jesse Quackenbush, intends to file a formal complaint with the Chief of Police at the Amarillo Police Department and request an internal investigation of the extremely insensitive, unethical and constitutionally violative conduct of the homicide detectives and officers handling this case. According to Quackenbush, the Amarillo Police Department has violated his clients’ constitutional rights under the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution, and he intends to file a claim against the City of Amarillo pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 of the Civil Rights Act.

Quackenbush also commented, “I thought that Amarillo Police Department was making great efforts to get rid of its thugs, but apparently, a few still remain. What’s happening to this family is a governmental atrocity, and the community needs to stand together against this type of police behavior.”

If you have any questions or need legal advice, feel free to contact me directly at your convenience.

Trial Attorney
Jesse Quackenbush
jesseqlf@gmail.com
(505) 301-9888 (C)
(806) 374-4024
Live Chat, 24/7: www.quackenbushlawfirm.com

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AMARILLO POLICE ABUSE: COPS ARE GUILTY OF EXCESSIVE FORCE AND TUNNEL VISION IN BOTCHED INVESTIGATION OF GIRL’S DEATH
Posted on July 22, 2016 by Jesse Quackenbush, Attorney

Pictured above: Police confiscating Alexis family’s possessions. Alexis Wartena, and Alexis Wartena’s parents grieving

Photos provided by: Inside Edition 

UPDATE: Yesterday, Attorney Jesse Quackenbush put a stop to APD’s further torture of two California parents who tragically lost their 7 year-old autistic daughter in a drowning accident.

As reported earlier, APD arrived at the La Kiva Hotel within minutes of the 7 year old girl’s disappearance. Instead of allowing her panicked parents to continue their frantic search for their daughter, the police separated the parents and began a six hour investigation designed to mentally torture the mother into a confession. The thug cops berated her as a parent and repeatedly accused her of murdering her daughter. At that point, there wasn’t even a body! Instead of focusing efforts and resources on a desperately needed search, the bungling cops resorted to tunnel vision and focused on interrogation. Sometime during that six hour period, the 7 year old drown in the small pond just a few feet away. Once the terroristic tactics ended, APD’s “finest” decided to confiscate all of the family’s possessions including clothing, toiletries and cellphones. Finally, they called in CPS to step up the pressure and take their kids away.

Lost and confused, stricken with unbearable grief, the parents called Quackenbush Law Firm for help. Within hours, attorney Jesse Quackenbush ordered the police to stay away from his clients and return their possessions. The police, with rolling eyes and sarcasm, returned the family’s possessions and left the parents alone.

This morning, Quackenbush filed a formal complaint with Amarillo Police Department’s Chief of Police, Ed Drain requesting a formal investigation of the police conduct. The children are still in CPS custody and the family is being denied reasonable visitation. The parents are now forced to wait for a child abuse hearing scheduled for August 2, 2016.

Story provided by: Jesse Quackenbush 

If you have any questions or need legal advice, feel free to contact me directly at your convenience.

Trial Attorney
Jesse Quackenbush
jesseqlf@gmail.com
(505) 301-9888 (C)
(806) 374-4024
Live Chat, 24/7: www.quackenbushlawfirm.com

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AMARILLO LOCAL NEWS: AMARILLO OFFICIALS INVESTIGATE FENCING AROUND LAKE AFTER DROWNING OF ALEXIS WARTENA
Posted on July 25, 2016 by Jesse Quackenbush, Attorney

Photo courtesy Amarillo Globe-News.

An attorney has leveled allegations of misconduct by police during their interrogation of the mother of a missing girl who was found dead in a playa lake. Meanwhile, concerns about proper safety measures continue as the city looks into the matter.

In question is a chain-link fence between La Kiva Hotel, where 7-year-old Alexis Wartena and her family were staying, and T-Anchor Lake.

Wartena’s aunt, Millicent Carlton, pointed out a gap in the fence during an interview on the day the child’s body was found. “You tell me, if that fence was up, would that little girl have gotten out?” she said.

According to Potter-Randall Appraisal District, the City of Amarillo owns the 100-acre plot of land that T-Anchor Lake occupies. City spokeswoman Sonja Gross acknowledged Friday that the city owns the lake and said the city is still looking into where exactly the property boundaries fall and if the fence is on city land.

“I don’t know who is responsible for that fence,” Gross said. “I don’t know who put that fence up, when it was put up, why it was put up.”

Amarillo Mayor Paul Harpole told the Amarillo Globe-News on Friday that he planned to let city administrators investigate and report back to the City Council before the council potentially gets involved.

“It’s a sad, terrible situation,” Harpole said, “but we still need to investigate what happened and how it happened.”

“Just from a humanitarian standpoint, we want to be sure we’re doing what is possible or what is necessary to protect people,” Harpole added.

Alexis, who was autistic and nonverbal, had reportedly slipped out of a hotel room Tuesday while her mother was in the bathroom. After a massive search by law enforcement, her body was discovered the following morning.

Steve Pollard, the manager of La Kiva Hotel, was tight-lipped when contacted Friday. “The fence is not ours,” he said, declining further comment.

Earlier, Pollard told a local news television station that the fence has had a gap for years.

T-Anchor is one of 29 lakes that are part of the city’s drainage system, according to November 2013 city documents. Some of the lakes are privately owned. Gross said she did not know if there were any city rules or regulations regarding maintaining fences around such lakes.

The only mention of fencing as it relates to playa lakes in Amarillo’s municipal code is found in a section about excavation plans, a Globe-News examination of the code revealed. The section places restrictions on the steepness of lake embankments. If the slope exceeds the restrictions, the embankment perimeter must have at least a 6-foot chain-link fence with three strands of barbed wire.

“The fencing and slopes shall be maintained in good condition, free of defects, at all times,” the code reads.

What is not clear is whether the code requires that a fence must be maintained after excavation is complete.

Jesse Quackenbush, an attorney representing Wartena’s parents, said the parents — who had stopped in Amarillo while traveling from Chicago to California — do not have plans to sue the city and are more focused on retrieving their four children. The siblings were taken into custody by Child Protective Services during the investigation.

“The family’s sole concern is to get back to California with their family and heal,” said Quackenbush, who sent a complaint letter Friday to the Amarillo Police Department on behalf of the family, alleging that police inflicted emotional torture upon Wartena’s mother by accusing her of murdering her child and not allowing her to independently look for her daughter.

A preliminary autopsy report obtained by the Globe-News shows Wartena’s died from drowning, but the manner of death is pending investigation. Quackenbush, however, has said the police indicated the drowning was accidental.

The lawyer’s letter also claims the police made “false accusatory statements of neglect” and “acted as a catalyst” for CPS to take the parents’ four remaining children into custody.

“This whole thing is not about suing people; it’s about getting their family together and getting out of here,” Quackenbush said.

Nonetheless, Quackenbush said, “if there’s fingers of blame to be pointed,” they should likely be directed at the hotel instead of the city.

“If you’re attracting people and children, and you’ve got a cliff in the backyard that leads to water, common sense tells you that you need to do something to keep your guests’ children safe,” he said.

Stuffed animals, dolls, flowers and signs of support have grown into a makeshift memorial near an electrical pole on a dirt hill behind La Kiva Hotel, overlooking the lake.

The placement of the display — in the middle of a roughly 75-foot gap between two fences that separate the hotel parking lot from the playa lake — seems to carry some significance for visitors.

“Maybe they’re trying to say, hey, it’s open right here, this is where this poor baby lost her life,” said Monica Salazar, who stopped by the memorial Friday afternoon with four of her children.

“It is upsetting that the fence doesn’t go all the way across,” Salazar said as one of her young daughters placed a doll and a candle at the site. “It looks pretty dangerous down there.”

Story provided by Amarillo Globe-News.

It has been shown that water safety courses are particularly beneficial for children with autism spectrum disorder, given that accidental drowning accounts for roughly 90% of deaths in children with ASD. Autism Speaks has reported that certain police departments, like NYPD, are incorporating Autism Safety Training into their law enforcement curriculum. For a U.S. publication on how a search for missing children with special needs is different from non-affected children, click here. 

If you have any questions or need legal advice, feel free to contact me directly at your convenience.

Trial Attorney
Jesse Quackenbush
jesseqlf@gmail.com
(505) 301-9888 (C)
(806) 374-4024
Live Chat, 24/7: www.quackenbushlawfirm.com

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POLICE MISCONDUCT: WARTENA FAMILY TRAGEDY COMPOUNDED BY POLICE IGNORANCE OF AUTISM
Posted on July 26, 2016 by Jesse Quackenbush, Attorney


“What does it sound like when you strangle someone to death?”

Those were the words spoken to the mother of Alexis Wartena after nearly 12 hours of accusatory interrogation by members of the Special Crimes Unit in Amarillo, Texas. She hadn’t slept for nearly 24 hours, and her 7-year-old autistic daughter was still missing after wandering away from their hotel room the day before.

Despite repeated pleas to be released from police custody so she could continue assisting with the search, Special Crimes officers forced Alexis’ mother to stay and submit to the mental torture of repeated, baseless accusations that she murdered her daughter. The parents were subjected to this abuse based on just a hunch by a cop that “foul play” was involved — no body, no blood, no evidence of death.

When finally released from custody at 5:00 a.m., she and her husband were dropped off at the front of their hotel, without even a courtesy update on the progress of the search. Upon opening the door to their hotel room, they realized all of their belongings had been confiscated by Amarillo’s “finest.” They had no clothes, no cell phones, no toiletries — not even sheets, blankets or pillows. Everything they owned had been taken by Amarillo police.

It was 5:30 a.m. when Alexis Wartena’s parents finally laid down to try and get some sleep. That’s also when the police decided to pull their motorcycles up close to their room and rev their engines — over, and over, and over — purposely depriving the parents of sleep and prolonging the mental torture. Why not? After all, they were “murderers,” at least in the minds of a few cops handling the investigation. If the cops had their way, there wouldn’t be an investigation, an arrest, a trial, or an appeal. They would just “get it over,” right then and there, the “West Texas” way.

At 10:30 a.m., the police arrived at the Wartenas’ room with news that they had located Alexis’ body; she was found lifeless in the pond, just a few feet from the hotel. Two days later, the preliminary autopsy report confirmed accidental drowning as the cause of death — not strangulation, not murder. Alexis Wartena’s parents, devastated with grief, prayed they could gather the strength to make it home to California with their four other children, who had been taken from them by CPS at the direction of Special Crimes.

The police had promised the parents that the children would be returned once the autopsy was completed and murder was ruled out. They lied. Instead, CPS filed a lawsuit requesting that the children be taken from the Wartenas’ custody permanently. These parents have been allowed just 1 hour with their 4 children and may never see them again, depending on the decision of a judge at the formal hearing on August 2, 2016.

In 2012, the National Autism Association published the Big Red Safety Toolkit for law enforcement and first responder training to assist with locating autistic children. Cities throughout America have prioritized training of their police departments to avoid common mistakes which have led to preventable deaths of autistic children. They’ve learned that police and first responders who do not understand autism, almost always lose valuable time necessary to locate autistic children when they go missing. In the case of Alexis Wartena, it is apparent that the Special Crimes officers were clueless about autism. Had they known even basic statistics, perhaps Alexis would have been located in time to save her life. Instead, a Nancy Grace-style, child murder scenario developed, and innocent parents became the focus of a tunnel vision criminal investigation.

According to Big Red Safety Toolkit, children with severe autism, like Alexis, frequently attempt to “elope” from safe environments. In the United States, accidental drownings account for 91% of total reported deaths involving autistic children under the age of 14. Why? Because the overwhelming majority of these children had a documented fascination with water. This fact is precisely why the National Autism Association trains police and first responders to “search water first” and “dispatch personnel immediately to nearby bodies of water . . . pools , rivers, ponds, etc.” Association training also instructs that children with autism develop very sophisticated techniques for “eloping” and “bolting” from their homes, without detection from even the most vigilant of caregivers. Even more important, training instructs officers to listen to parent’s histories, as they are the best chance of determining the child’s past patterns when wandering alone.

Alexis Wartena’s parents told first-arriving, uniformed officers from Amarillo Police Department that Alexis was severely autistic, non-verbal, attracted to water, and had a long history of “eloping” and “bolting.” The parents begged officers to let them continue their search of the pond, which they weren’t aware of until police arrived. The parents’ pleas were ignored, and the police wasted valuable time.

For Amarillo Police officers to act this way, they must have either been completely ignorant of national standards for locating missing autistic children, or they ignored their previous training. In either event, it’s obvious that in the future, there needs to be more supervision to prevent this sort of tragedy from occurring again. Andrea Yates, who intentionally drowned her 5 children in Houston, was treated with more respect than the Wartena parents. Somebody from the Amarillo Police Department should have the decency to offer these grieving parents an apology. Everyone living in the Panhandle of Texas should call CPS and Potter County Attorney, Scott Brumley, and demand that they allow the family to go home and heal.

If you have any questions or need legal advice, feel free to contact me directly at your convenience.

Trial Attorney
Jesse Quackenbush
jesseqlf@gmail.com
(505) 301-9888 (C)
(806) 374-4024
Live Chat, 24/7: www.quackenbushlawfirm.com

Posted in Amarillo Accidental Deaths, Amarillo Legal News, Amarillo Local Politics, Amarillo News, Amarillo Police Department, California Family Being Illegally Detained By APD, Discrimination,

WARTENA FAMILY NIGHTMARE CONTINUES: CHILDREN ABUSED IN CPS CUSTODY AFTER BEING TAKEN FROM PARENTS
Posted on July 26, 2016 by Jesse Quackenbush, Attorney

UPDATE: This evening at approximately 5:30 p.m., the Wartena family was reunited. Unfortunately, the release of the children was due to physical abuse one of the children experienced at a local foster home. Apparently, CPS will begin investigating itself in the morning.

Amarillo News Channel 10 also reports on this story.

If you have any questions or need legal advice, feel free to contact me directly at your convenience.

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Jesse Quackenbush
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(505) 301-9888 (C)
(806) 374-4024
Live Chat, 24/7:

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WARTENA FAMILY: REUNITED AFTER DEATH OF 7-YEAR-OLD GIRL
Posted on July 26, 2016 by Jesse Quackenbush, Attorney

Photos provided by: Amarillo Global News

The four children of Michael Wartena and Tiffany Stewart, whose daughter was found drowned behind the La Kiva Hotel on Wednesday, were returned to their parents Monday after Child Protective Services said their decision to take custody of the children was based on what police initially told them.

“We are happy that we are back together and can start on the right direction and can go to mourn my little girl,” said Michael Wartena, her father. “We are thankful for all the support and the people who continue to support us.”

Citizens Bank of Amarillo donated payment for Alexis’ cremation and funeral costs, family lawyer Jesse Quackenbush said. He also said Amy Simpson, the executive director of Amarillo ABA who is an autism counselor, donated the cost for the last week of the family’s hotel lodging.

Alexis, 7, went missing from the hotel mid-afternoon on July 19. Police on foot, horses, boats and a helicopter searched for her well into the night, then the following morning.

Searchers’ and the family’s worst fears were realized the next day when police saw something floating in the lake, where divers had searched several times the night before.

Alexis’ mother said Monday, “Her brother keeps asking for her (Alexis) and we keep telling him she went to heaven, but he doesn’t understand. They were best friends.”

The family said they were returning to their home in Beaumont, California, after visiting Michael Wartena’s father in Chicago. They stopped in Amarillo because they didn’t want the kids in the car for too long, they said.

After swimming in the hotel pool the family went back to their room to change, they said.

“We were watching cartoons and the kids took all the sheets off the bed and were being crazy, tearing into the chips, and Tiffany got up to go to the bathroom,” Michael Wartena said. “When she came out and said, ‘Where’s Alexis?’ I jumped up and went tearing down the hall to the front to look for her.”

The father said that he first looked for Alexis in the front because he was worried about her walking into the street. The hotel faces Interstate 40.

He says that after Alexis was reported missing and police showed up, he and his wife were separated and interrogated by officers from the Special Crimes Unit, first for six hours at the hotel and then for another six hours at the police station.

Quackenbush said that they explained to detectives that the door bolt at the hotel was broken, but the police debated the lock with them and that they lost valuable minutes searching for Alexis by “getting caught up in blaming the parents.”

The couple told the Amarillo Globe-News that SCU detectives asked them if they “knew what it sounds like to be strangled,” and they were accused of lying.

“They said, ‘Let me help you find your daughter — tell me where she is,’” Stewart said. “They told me our stories didn’t match.”

In the meantime their remaining four children were taken from their parents and delivered to the Bridge Children’s Advocacy Center where they were questioned by a forensic interviewer. The children are three boys ages 6, 5, and 4, and a girl who is 2.

CPS filed an affidavit in support of removing the children from their parents, citing in the filing the “neglectful supervision of [the children] due to the events surrounding a missing child” and “recounts of the events leading up to the disappearance of Alexis Wartena are inconsistent with the children’s statements in their forensic interviews,” and “Amarillo law enforcement is concerned due to the inconsistent statements of the parents as well as the deceased body of Alexis Wartena being located and has opened a Special Crimes Investigation.”

“In all removal cases we must have evidence that it is contrary to the child’s welfare to remain in the home,” said Paul Zimmerman, media specialist for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. “We can confirm an investigation and say that four kids are in foster care and we are seeking appropriate relative placement.”

Regarding the children being taken away from them, Stewart said Monday night, “She (the CPS officer) said she had to base her decision on what the police were telling her” on the night Alexis disappeared and during the time the parents were being interrogated.

“A CPS worker said that she was not allowed to talk to us that night, that they were going off what the police department was reporting to them,” Michael Wartena said Monday.

He also said that one of his sons had marks on his neck and bruises down his spine when he was returned from CPS custody and was not sure where they came from.

Quackenbush, the family’s lawyer, raised questions about how police behaved on the night of the disappearance and whether questioning tactics allegedly used by SCU detectives went well beyond standard interrogation techniques and were especially abusive. On Monday, Quackenbush accused SCU officers of “torturous” and “abusive” questioning techniques.

The lawyer believes that officers’ “tunnel vision” led them to interrogate the parents, wasting crucial time that could have been spent searching. He says he will be submitting a letter to Amarillo Interim Police Chief Ed Drain this week asking for the officers to be fired or disciplined.

Quackenbush said the family “wanted their kids back and they wanted to leave,” and that when police confiscated all of their clothes and toiletries, it became an unreasonable search and seizure.

A criminal defense expert agrees that police may have made some missteps during questioning.

“I believe the details of the parents’ detention, custody, and even the tactics used in question would be sufficient enough to file a federal civil rights case and get past any pre-trial dismissals to reach a jury,” criminal defense attorney Paul Cambria said Monday.

Cambria, of Buffalo, NY, is a member of the bar in California and New York, and during his 42 year career he’s handled a number of federal civil rights cases under the U.S. Civil Rights code.

“From a federal standpoint I think they have a case that they were unlawfully detained,” Cambria said. “Without a warrant they really have no right to make them stay there [at the police station]. Whether or not their line of questioning is unlawful, that’s another question. But if they were detained and separated from their children, that probably violates their civil rights. Of course the police are always going to say, ‘Oh, they were free to go at any time.” But whether or not a jury is going to believe that is another story.”

Story provided by: Amarillo Global News

If you have any questions or need legal advice, feel free to contact me directly at your convenience.

Trial Attorney
Jesse Quackenbush
jesseqlf@gmail.com
(505) 301-9888 (C)
(806) 374-4024
Live Chat, 24/7: www.quackenbushlawfirm.com

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PARENTS OF ALEXIS WARTENA: PARENTS GET CUSTODY OF CHILDREN FROM CPS AND ARE GOING BACK HOME TO CALIFORNIA

Parent’s of Alexis Wartena: Parents get custody of children from CPS and are going back home to California
Posted on July 26, 2016 by Jesse Quackenbush, Attorney

Photos provided by: My High Plains

It’s been close to a week since seven year old Alexis Wartena drowned at T-Anchor Lake.

Since then her parents lost custody of their four kids to Child Protective Services, hired a lawyer and filed a complaint against the Amarillo Police Department.

“Today was a day I’ll never forget,” said Michael Stewart, Alexis’ Mom.

After several days of being separated from their parents, the four Wartena kids are now back with mom and dad.

“It’s been very hard. I’m basically kind of numb right now; I haven’t been able to mourn my daughter cause of everything else that’s been transpiring,” said Michael Wartena, Alexis’ Dad.

Even though the kids were in CPS custody, the parents still had visitation rights.

It was during one of the visits that the mom says she noticed something on her son’s body

“We noticed a couple of marks on my son Robert’s neck and I lifted up his shirt and turned him around and he had bruises on his back,” said Stewart.

A CPS spokesman tells us that’s because the son had been physically abused at the foster home. The mom says she doesn’t know who or why this was done to her son and she says her son won’t talk about it. Because of that incident the CPS spokesman says there was no need to keep the kids from their parents.

Stewart says if she had not noticed the bruising on her son’s body she wouldn’t have had her kids today. She says they were going to release them tomorrow.

“It’s a celebration but in a way it’s not. Because I still, we still got a long way home and now I gotta start thinking about my little girl. So it’s just almost overwhelming of what we’ve had to go through and endure,” said Wartena.

Jesse Quackenbush, the lawyer for the Wartenas, tells us the family is going back to their home in California tomorrow.

Quackenbush says the scheduled August 2nd custody hearing is still up in the air even though CPS released the kids to their parents.

The Wartenas say whether a lawsuit comes out of this incident is up to Quackenbush.

Story provided by:  My High Plains

If you have any questions or need legal advice, feel free to contact me directly at your convenience.

Trial Attorney
Jesse Quackenbush
jesseqlf@gmail.com
(505) 301-9888 (C)
(806) 374-4024
Live Chat, 24/7: www.quackenbushlawfirm.com

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WARTENA CHILDREN RETURNED TO PARENTS: “WE CAN FINALLY GO HOME GRIEVE”
Posted on July 26, 2016 by Jesse Quackenbush, Attorney

Photos provided by:  ABC 7 News 

AMARILLO, Texas (KVII) — The Wartena family is back together and heading home to California. Last week the four young children were separated from their parents by Child Protective Services after the body of seven-year-old Alexis Wartena was found in T-Anchor Lake.

Michael Wartena said his four children look playful and happy on the outside, but it’s a mask. He said in reality they are confused, broken about the loss of their older sister, Alexis.

“They are really hyper I know that,” Wartena said. “I don’t think they know which way is up and I think it’s only going to get worse as we plan the service.”

Wartena said the tight-knit family does everything together, that’s why the kids were in shock when they were taken away, forced into a foster home provided by CPS. The Wartena’s said it was during a short, supervised visit that they noticed something was off about their middle son, Robert.

“We noticed a couple of marks on his neck and we turned him around and noticed he had bruises on his back,” said the mother, Michael Tiffany Stewart. “I believe that helped with the release.”

The wartena’s said now their children are left asking questions. They parents said they wanted to tell the kids the horrifying news about Alexis together, but CPS told them, leaving them confused.

“My oldest son and her used to ride the bus together everyday and go to school,” Wartena said. “They were best friends and that’s the one that keeps asking me ‘Where’s Alexis, did you find Alexis?’”

The family said now that they are reunited, it’s time to go home to try to pick up the pieces.

“Right after the autopsy results came back they sent her body to the mortuary,” Stewart said. “We are going to pick up her ashes so we can go home and grieve.”

“I have to take my little girl home in a box, a box,” Wartena sobbed. “That’s horrifying. I came here with five children, and I’m leaving without my little girl.”

They family said they are leaving with a hole in their hearts. Alexis was autistic and nonverbal, but the family said she touched their lives in so many way. They said she was full of joy and life, something they’ll never forget.

“She was just happy all the time,” Wartena said. “She would just come and pet me. I keep a beard just for her because she would always come and pet me and I’m going to miss that.”

Click hereto see Jesse Quackenbush’s guest letter to Amarillo Globe-News.

Story provided by: ABC 7 News

If you have any questions or need legal advice, feel free to contact me directly at your convenience.

Trial Attorney
Jesse Quackenbush
jesseqlf@gmail.com
(505) 301-9888 (C)
(806) 374-4024
Live Chat, 24/7: www.quackenbushlawfirm.com

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AMARILLO POLICE DETAIN WARTENA FAMILY: THEY CALLED FOR HELP INSTEAD OF SEARCHING FOR MISSING AUTISTIC GIRL WHO LATER WAS FOUND DROWNED
Posted on July 26, 2016 by Jesse Quackenbush, Attorney


Photos provided by: Photography is Not a Crime

Texas Police Detain Family who Called for Help Instead of Searching for Missing Autistic Girl who Later was Found Drowned

A California family filed a formal complaint against a Texas police department last week for being illegally detained and accused of murder after they called 911 upon learning their autistic daughter had gone missing.

Last Tuesday’s detainment by Amarillo police ended up costing the family valuable search time that could have saved her life.

Instead, 7-year-old Alexis Wartena, a non-verbal girl with autism, was found drowned in a nearby lake, a death that possibly took place during the moments of the family’s illegal detainment.

During that time, the complaint alleges the girl’s mother, Tiffany Stewart, was “repeatedly tortured emotionally” by “accusations of murdering her daughter.”

The complaint, which you can read here, states that Amarillo police intimidated the parents by threatening them with criminal prosecution and losing custody of their other children unless they submitted fingerprint, blood and hair samples.

Amarillo police also allowed the state’s Child Protective Services to seize Michael Wartena and Tiffany Stewart’s four other children in what their attorney calls a “Nancy Grace-style murder investigation.” The children remained in custody for almost a week until one little boy was injured in the hands of the state.

When the children were returned to the family Monday, the injured boy had “marking around his neck and bruising along his spine,” according to News Channel 10.

The grief-stricken parents were also prevented from conducting their own independent search even after they begged Amarillo police to let them continue.

“The parents begged to let them continue to search, instead of sitting there and answering stupid questions,” said family attorney Jesse Quackenbush in a telephone interview with Photography is Not a Crime.

The family was on their way back to California from their vacation in Chicago last week when they decided to stay another night at the La Kiva hotel in Amarillo after Michael Wartena began feeling ill.

They had just gotten back from swimming at the hotel pool for the second time and the children were playing inside when Tiffany Stewart came out of the bathroom and asked, “where is Alexis?”

At that point, Alexis had only been gone for a couple of minutes.

Michael Wartena immediately woke from his sleep and began frantically searching for his daughter, who he presumed had most likely “eloped” again, a wondering-behavior typical in autistic children, and ran to the front of the building hoping to prevent her from being injured by traffic on I-40.

Tiffany Stewart was not far behind when she yelled for the front desk to call 911.

Five minutes later, police arrived and the parents began describing Alexis as 7-years-old, autistic, non-verbal and attracted to water, which is also common among children with autism.

But the police didn’t assist the family to help find their missing daughter.

“The police, instead of listening to them, and without understanding anything about autism, jump to the conclusion that the parents are probably involved in the murder of this child,” Quackenbush told PINAC.

“They start questioning them like some Law and Order program.”

Alexis went missing on July 19th. Michael Wartena and Tiffany Stewart were taken to the police station that day at 4:30 pm and were not released until 5:30 am the following morning, only to learn their daughter had been found five hours later, face-down in the same lake they pleaded with police to search while they were being questioned.

When they returned to their hotel room, they found all of their belongings had been seized without their knowledge or consent and were left with no pillows, no toiletries, no phone and no clothes.

“They’re thinking this is a Nancy Grace murder case of a child,” Quackenbush said. “I’m critical of the police because they trampled on my clients’ Fourth Amendment rights.”

Quackenbush said police are supposed to be trained to deal with autism and should have listened to the parents instead of accusing the of murder and detaining them.

“They lost precious time,” he said.

The National Autism Association advocates for those with autism and worked on Federal legislation that could help provide first-responders much needed training for dealing autistic people.

“The first thing they say is listen to the parents, they’re the best chance you’re going to find this child quickly. Number two, go to water. Three, gather all of you personnel and go to the nearest pond or stream. Number four, don’t question the parents,” Quackenbush said. “Had they bothered to go online to read that, they might be a little bit better equipped to handle this situation.”

Amarillo residents created a growing memorial at La Kiva Hotel in remembrance of Alexis placing cards, flowers, stuffed animals and notes of sympathy for her family.

Story provided by: Photography is Not a Crime 

If you have any questions or need legal advice, feel free to contact me directly at your convenience.

Trial Attorney
Jesse Quackenbush
jesseqlf@gmail.com
(505) 301-9888 (C)
(806) 374-4024
Live Chat, 24/7: www.quackenbushlawfirm.com

The following “high profile” defendants are great examples of cases which were handled well by their attorneys.  All either got off the hook or received slaps on the wrist.

SNOOP DOGG

“Snoop Dogg was arrested and put on trial in connection with the death of Philip Woldermariam, a member of a rival gang, after his bodyguard McKinley Lee shot and killed him back in 1993.  Even though the rapper had been driving the vehicle from which the shooting commenced, Snoop and his bodyguard were acquitted of murder charges on the grounds of self-defense.

JUSTIN BIEBER

Bieber has been charged repeatedly and needs to be punished.

MARK WAHLBERG

Mark Wahlberg was arrested for beating up a blind man and nearly killing him.  He was able to escape the charge without doing any jail time and recently sought a pardon.

ROBERT BLAKE

On May 4, 2001, Actor Robert Blake and then wife Bonnie Lee Bakley were having dinner at Vitello’s, a favorite Italian diner.  They parked several blocks away in a dark area near a dumpster.  After dinner, Blake escorted Bakely back to the car.  According to Blake, he realized that he left a handgun he was carrying back at the restaurant.  When he returned to the car, he says he found her shot in the head.

PARIS HILTON

Model and Actress Paris Hilton has had her fair share of run-ins with the law.  One of the most memorable is the time she backed her Range Rover into a Honda Civic and drove away without leaving a note.  In California, it is a crime to damage a parked car and drive off without leaving a note.  A misdemeanor crime that is punishable by a maximum of six months in jail and a $1,000.00 fine.  Paris didn’t have to do any jail time or pay a fine.  Paris did the same thing a few years later with her Bentley.

R. KELLY

Kelly was able to beat child pornography charges and supposedly urinating on the victims.

DON KING

Boxing promoter Don King killed two men in separate incidents.  King killed the first man in self-defense when the man was trying to break into his gambling operation.  King was charged with second-degree murder for the second incident, in which he stomped to death an employee who owed him $600.  Despite being convicted of second degree murder in 1966, King only ended up serving 4 years in prison.

ROBERT DOWNEY, JR.

Robert Downey, Jr.’s was let off very lightly on more than one occasion for crimes that would see most non-celebrities spending some serious time in the slammer.  After spending almost a year in a substance abuse treatment facility and state prison, Downey Jr. was released early due to the fact that he had served times based on his original 1996 arrests.  On a later occasion in 2000, Downey Jr. was apprehended after he was discovered in possession and under the influence of controlled substances following and anonymous tip-off and was put on parole.  In 2001 he was discovered wandering around Culver City barefoot under the influence.  Tests showed he had cocaine in his system but was released and absolutely no charges were filed.

REBECCA GAYHEART

Rebecca Gayheart hit and killed a 9 year old boy in 2001, was found not guilty of murder and paid a $2,800.00 fine.

BRITNEY SPEARS

Britney Spears was caught driving with her 4 month old son, sitting on her lap, without a child restraint.  California law requires drivers to secure children sitting in the front seat who are under a year old or under 20 pounds.  A violation is punishable by a fine of $100.00.  She did not have to pay a nickel.  Also in 2007 Britney Spears was charged with a hit and run accident after hitting a parked vehicle and driving without a valid license.  No fine or punishment.

50 CENT

50 Cent turned snitch and transformed a nine year sentence into a six month stay for selling drugs.

LAWRENCE TAYLOR

Rape allegations beat.

MEL GIBSON

On July 28, 2006, Gibson was arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) while speeding in his vehicle with an open container of alcohol.  He then started yelling racial slurs to the officer.  This was his 2nd incident involving drinking and driving.  Fine and a slap on the wrist.

CHARLIE SHEEN

On May 20, 1998, Sheen overdosed while using cocaine and was hospitalized.  Sheen, already on probation in California for a previous drug offense, had his probation extended for an extra year and entered a rehab clinic.  On December 25, 2009, Shen was arrested for assaulting his wife, Brooke Mueller in Aspen, Colorado.  Sheen was charged with felony menacing, as well as third-degree assault and criminal mischief.  Sheen pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault as part of a plea bargain that included dismissal of the other charges against him.  Sheen was sentenced to 30 days in a drug rehab center, 30 days of probation, and 36 hours of anger management.

BRANDY NORWOOD

Driving home on December 30, 2006, Norwood was involved in a fatal automobile accident on the LA Freeway.  The accident claimed the life of 38 year old Awatef Aboudihaj, the driver of the Toyota that was struck by Norwood’s Range Rover.  Aboudihaj died from her injuries at the L.A. Holy Cross Hospital the following day.  Norward was neither arrested nor charged with vehicular manslaughter due to insufficient evidence.

TED KENNEDY

In 1969, a 36 year old Ted Kennedy drove his car off a bridge at Chappaquiddick Isand in Massachusetts.  Kennedy escaped the car and left the scene, leaving a passenger, Mary Jo Kopechne, to die.  He didn’t even admit the crime until the car was discovered by fisherman the next day.  He was only convicted of leaving the scene, and got a two month suspended sentence.

SID VICIOUS

Sid Vicious was the bassist for the punk rock group called the Sex Pistols.  Nancy Spungen, Sid’s girlfriend, was found dead in the bathroom of a hotel room where the couple was staying.  She was stabbed once in her stomach and bled to death.  The weapon belonged to Sid who admitted that the two had a falling out the night before.  He did not remember the details as he was heavily drugged up at the time.  He gave the police conflicting statements, claiming that he did stab her, but didn’t mean to kill her before later stating that she fell on the knife.  He then later claimed to have no memory of the incident whatsoever and attempted to maintain innocence.  All the evidence pointed to Sid, but he never ended up serving time for his alleged crime.

VINCE NIEL

Vince Neil was charged with vehicular manslaughter.  In 1986,  he was sentenced  to only 30 days in jail.

OJ SIMPSON

In 1995, former NFL football superstar OJ Simpson was acquitted of the 1994 murder of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and Ronald Goldman after a lengthy and internationally publicized criminal trial, the People v. Simpson.  In 1997, a civil court awarded a judgment against Simpson for their wrongful deaths; as of 2007 he had paid little of the $33.5 million judgment.

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