<![CDATA[NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth - Top Stories]]>Copyright 2016http://www.nbcdfw.com/news/top-stories http://media.nbcnewyork.com/designimages/NBC+5-KXAS+Logo+for+Google+News.png NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth http://www.nbcdfw.comen-usTue, 06 Dec 2016 11:59:08 -0600Tue, 06 Dec 2016 11:59:08 -0600NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Oakland Warehouse Manager Refuses to Answer Safety Questions]]> Tue, 06 Dec 2016 07:36:18 -0600 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/1205-2016-DerickAlmena.jpg

The man who founded and ran the artists' collective at the Ghost Ship warehouse in Oakland said he is grief stricken and "incredibly sorry" after the tragic fire that took his home and many of his friends. 

But in speaking out about the tragedy he refused to answer questions about safety concerns, telling NBC's "Today" show that he would rather "get on the floor and get trampled by the parents" or "let them tear at my flesh than answer these ridiculous questions." 

Derick Almena is the lease holder of the converted warehouse in Oakland that caught fire Friday night, killing at least 36 people who had gathered there for a dance party. 

"I'd gladly would give my entire life of fortune, of wealth and experence again and again," Almena said first in an interview with NBC Bay Area. "There's nothing more important than the lives lost there." 

Almena, 46, said he did not organize or attend the event, which he described as a fusion of art and culture. Instead, he decided to rent a hotel for the night for his wife and three children. 

City officials said the space was not permitted as a residential building, but Almena said about 20 people lived there. Almena said the group was a collective of young artists called Satya Yuga, and that he was like the group's grandfather.

"The center we all lived there, and was one of creativity, and beauty, and optimism," Almena told NBC Bay Area.

Almena, who was convicted in January of receiving stolen property and is now on probation, said police had been in and out of the East Oakland building through the past few years to respond to break-ins and other concerns of the people who lived there. 

"They'd come in and walk through our space, and they'd always say, 'Wow, what an amazing space,'" Almena said. 

In a follow-up interview on NBC's "Today" show, Almena said he was "only there to say one thing -- that I am incredibly sorry and that everything that I did was to make this a stronger, more beautiful community and to bring people together." 

The interview grew contentious when Almena was asked about allegations that he was more concerned about making profits than safety. Almena said he didn't want to "talk about me." 

"Profit? This is not profit, this is loss," he said on "Today." "This is a mass grave." 

“People didn’t walk through those doors because it was a horrible place," he said. "People didn’t seek us out to perform and express themselves because it was a horrible place.” 

Almena and his wife, Micah Allison, are cooperating with investigators and want to offer their hearts to the victims and their families. 

"We haven't been in any way hiding from this," Allison told NBC Bay Area. 

"We're sorry to the families and all the friends that have lost loved ones," Almena said. 

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area
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<![CDATA[Restaurant Hosts Luncheon to Give Toys to Kids]]> Tue, 06 Dec 2016 10:13:43 -0600 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/joe-t-garcia-luncheon.jpg

Fort Worth’s famous Joe T. Garcia’s restaurant served up more than its tasty Mexican food on Monday.

It added a helping of holiday cheer to boys served in a leadership program.

The Garcia-Lancarte family which owns the restaurant hosted its annual Christmas luncheon benefiting HOPE (Helping Other People Excel) Farm.

Every guest brought an unwrapped toy for the boys supported by the 26-year-old nonprofit.

HOPE Farm was founded in December 1990 by former Fort Worth police officer Gary Randle and former Department of Public Safety investigator Noble Crawford Jr.

Tell Me Something Good, too. Email us at isee@nbcdfw.com.

<![CDATA[Jerry Jones Expects Wilcox, Durant to Return Sunday]]> Tue, 06 Dec 2016 10:00:11 -0600 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-456300366.jpg

The Dallas Cowboys might return key defenders for Sunday night's game against the Giants in New Jersey.

Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones said on 105.3 The Fan Tuesday morning that he's optimistic linebacker Justin Durant and safety J.J. Wilcox will be available Sunday.

Jones also said cornerback Morris Claiborne was doubtful for Sunday's game.

The return of Wilcox and Durant could provide a boost to a defense ranked 26th in the NFL in takeaways with 11 and 25th in yards per play at 5.8.

Wilcox (thigh bruise) and Durant (strained hamstring) had been out since the team's game against Washington on Thanksgiving.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Firefighters Battle Fire at 115-Year-Old Dallas Home]]> Tue, 06 Dec 2016 08:38:07 -0600 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/south-blvd-fire.gif

Firefighters battled a fire at a 115-year-old two-story home in Dallas Tuesday morning.

Investigators said they think the fire started in a fireplace and spread to the walls of the home in the 2900 block of South Boulevard at about 3 a.m.

One firefighter suffered minor burns on his face and was taken to a hospital for evaluation. Another firefighter injured his shoulder trying to break through the fence around the house. He was treated and released at the scene.

No other injuries were reported.

Authorities said two men and two women were inside the house at the time of the fire, but they all made it out safely.

Firefighters said a second crew of firefighters replaced the original responders at about 4:30 a.m.

The homeowner told firefighters the house, which was 80 percent damaged, was under renovation.

The cause of the fire has not yet been determined.

Photo Credit: Metro NBC 5 News
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<![CDATA[DCS School Bus Provider Needs Drivers]]> Tue, 06 Dec 2016 08:27:16 -0600 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/dallas+county+schools+bus1.jpg

Dallas County Schools, the school bus provider for 12 North Texas school districts, needs immediate help to fill 154 vacant bus driver positions.

In an effort to increase interest in the positions, which start at $15.50/hour, DCS is offering bonuses to current drivers if they can recruit qualified candidates, in addition to hiring bonuses to the new drivers.

“DCS especially needs drivers who care about children, have a commercial license already and want to go to work in a job that has many benefits,” said Carey Marin, a DCS spokesperson. “If you live in the area, are a teacher, a coach, or retired, we need you.”

Marin said the on-boarding process takes about two to three weeks and involves approximately 100 hours of training.

For months, NBC 5 Investigates has reported on safety concerns surrounding Dallas County Schools, including the discovery of nearly 500 tickets issued to bus drivers for running red lights.

Those tickets, as well as other moving violations, resulted in approximately $80,000 in fines that DCS paid for using taxpayer money.

NBC 5 Investigates also uncovered that Dallas County Schools never followed up with any of the bus drivers after the violations, even those who had committed multiple infractions, which means they were never held accountable for their mistakes, despite a policy that said they should be suspended for first and second offenses and fired for the third offense.

That changed following the NBC 5 Investigates reporting – 13 drivers were fired and an additional 229 drivers were suspended.

The union that represents the Dallas County Schools drivers puts the blame for the drivers’ mistakes on DCS management.

Union organizer Kenneth Stretcher said DCS runs a thinly-staffed school bus operation where schedules are so tight drivers are forced to speed.

"The drivers are put into a situation where they have to be at a certain place at a certain time," Stretcher said. "If you want these drivers to drive carefully you can't put them in a situation where you have to speed or where they have to take short cuts like that."

In addition to offering hiring bonuses for new drivers, Dallas County Schools is taking part in four job fairs in the next two weeks:

Wednesday, December 7

  • TWC-Job Fair, 801 S State Highway 161 Suite 500, Grand Prairie, TX 75051

Thursday, December 8

  • The Job Opportunity, 1610 Malcolm X Blvd, Dallas, TX

Wednesday, December 14

  • Southwest Workforce, 7330 S. Westmoreland Rd, Dallas, TX

Thursday, December 15

  • The Job Opportunity, 1610 Malcolm X Blvd., Dallas, TX

The job fairs run from 9 a.m. to noon, according to DCS.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Syrian Girl Chronicling Aleppo Siege Back on Twitter]]> Tue, 06 Dec 2016 11:18:27 -0600 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/AP_16340488013303-Aleppo-Shelling-Syria-rebels.jpg

The seven-year-old girl from Syria who has recounted on Twitter her family's struggle in the nation's conflict is back online, after the account went dark amid an attack nearby.

Bana al-Abed lives in beseiged Aleppo, and says she is fine, despite a recent bombardment. Her Twitter account disappeared from the internet on Sunday, sparking speculation online that the mother and daughter had been captured.

The account's last tweet before the account was deactivated read, "We are sure the army is capturing us now," and was written by Bana's mother, Fatemah.

Some worried that the Syrian army had found the family's hiding place and deleted the account. The hashtag #WhereIsBana surfaced, as users wondered why the account disappeared. Author J.K Rowling, who has spoken with the girl before, tweeted messages with the hashtag.

But a spokesperson for humanitarian group Syria Charity told NBC News that the family was not captured, and the Twitter account returned Monday, though with Bana and her family apparently still in danger.

"Under attack. Nowhere to go, every minute feels like death. Pray for us. Goodbye," Fatemah al-Abed said.

Tuesday brought better news and direct word from Bana, though bombing was still on her mind. She said she was fine in her slightly more up-beat tweet, and that she is "getting better without medicine with too much bombing."

The al-Abed family has chronicled the horrors of living in Aleppo as the Syrian conflict continues. Their account has garnered 213,000 followers.

Relieved users sent positive messages to the family once the account resurfaced, urging them to stay safe and offering prayers.

Photo Credit: AP
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<![CDATA[UN Human Rights Office Ready to Take on Trump: Report]]> Wed, 23 Nov 2016 06:26:46 -0600 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/United-Nations-Human-Rights-AP.jpg

U.N. human rights officials, whose boss famously likened U.S. President-elect Donald Trump to ISIS, are reported to be gearing up for a four- or even eight-year battle with the new administration over Trump's "ghastly campaign pledges," NBC News reported.

With Trump now elected president, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein, has spread the word to the U.N. human rights office that it will have to lead international opposition to the United States, U.N. officials told the respected journal Foreign Policy.

"We are going to speak up," Foreign Policy quoted one of the officials as saying in an article published Tuesday. "It'll be rough, but if [Trump] puts any of those ghastly campaign pledges into action, we will condemn."

This is not the first time Ra'ad al-Hussein spoke out against Trump. "If Donald Trump is elected, on the basis of what he has said already, and unless that changes, I think it's without any doubt that he would be dangerous from an international point of view," he said in October.

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena, File]]>
<![CDATA[Texas Honors Girl, 9, for Making Playgrounds Accessible]]> Tue, 06 Dec 2016 10:43:27 -0600 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Jayci-friend-wheelchair.jpg

A 9-year-old Aledo girl who believes "every kid deserves a chance to play" headed to Austin Tuesday to accept a statewide award.

Jayci Stubblefield, a student in the Aledo Independent School District, decided to take action after seeing that one of her best friends, Rylea Lambert, couldn't join her on the playground to swing during recess. Rylea has cerebral palsy and gets around in a wheelchair.

Soon after, Jayci launched a campaign to get a wheelchair accessible swing at the McCall Elementary School playground. She lobbied her principal and the Aledo Education Foundation, selling t-shirts and bracelets to raise money.

And it all worked!

McCall Elementary School got the new swing and playground materials a few months later. Coder, Vandagriff and Stuard Elementary Schools followed suit.

For all her work, Jayci was named to receive the J.C. Montgomery Jr. Child Safety Award.

A website for the award states that “the award recognizes and celebrates the accomplishments of individuals in Texas and organizations in the state that exemplify innovation, efficacy, community involvement, and dedication to the safety of all children."

"This ceremony acts as a bridge to connect these people and organizations to build upon one another's strengths and create a comprehensive knowledge around best-practices to improve child safety in the state,” the statement said.

Jayci’s mom, Charlisa Stubblefield, said Jayci "got pretty emotional and cried happy tears after a big smile. She said, ‘Mamma, these are happy tears.’”

The 2016 Award will be presented at the sixth Annual J.C. Montgomery Jr. Child Safety Award ceremony at the state capitol in Austin, Texas.

<![CDATA[1 Hurt After Crash Involving Loaded School Bus]]> Tue, 06 Dec 2016 09:37:06 -0600 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/school-bus-crash5.jpg

Authorities said one person was injured in a crash involving a school bus operated by Dallas County Schools Tuesday morning.

Firefighters were called to the scene on eastbound Interstate 20 near Bonnie View Road at about 8:30 a.m.

A spokesman with Dallas County Schools told NBC DFW a truck had struck a car, which then slid into a loaded school bus heading for Skyline High School.

None of the 28 students on board were hurt, officials said.

One person was taken to a hospital, according to Jason Evans, Dallas Fire-Rescue spokesman.

No further information was released.

Dallas County Schools operates buses for 12 school districts across North Texas. The bus system had been the subject of safety concerns in recent reports by NBC 5 Investigates.

Check back for the latest on this developing story. As details unfold, elements may change.

<![CDATA[Cowboys Give Back Through Charity]]> Tue, 06 Dec 2016 06:35:46 -0600 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/cowboys-hospital.jpg

The Dallas Cowboys took some time off from preparing for the New York Giants by giving back to the community.

Fresh from clinching a playoff berth, Cowboys players visited local hospitals and spent part of the morning with children and their families.

“It's always unbelievable to come to the hospital and be huge heroes, you know to these kids and also those kids [become] heroes to us,” Dez Bryant said.

"The players are very fortunate to do what they do and also have the opportunity to use that platform to give back to various charities whether it is their own or something through our team effort,” Cowboys spokeswoman Emily Cruz Robbins added.

Many of the players have their own personal charities and the organization gives back as a whole.

“That's within our hearts," Bryant said. "It's just something that we feel that we should do and you know we enjoy it and when the opportunity presents itself, we take advantage of it."

The Cowboys work with the Salvation Army every year to raise money for those in need.

“We have helped raise, in 20 years, over $2.1 billion in the red kettles that we kick off at Thanksgiving,” Cruz Robbins said. “That's just one part of what we do."

Photo Credit: NBC 5 Sports]]>
<![CDATA[Homeless Adults Use Music Therapy]]> Tue, 06 Dec 2016 07:16:40 -0600 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/vlcsnap-2016-12-06-06h11m52s209.jpg

Homeless men and women in Dallas are healing and working through mental and physical trauma using music.

Music therapy is the use of song and sound to address mental or physical illnesses. Kamica King, a certified music therapist, leads a group of homeless adults through several music and lyrical sessions at The Bridge Recovery Center in downtown Dallas.

“Music therapy is a huge benefit for someone who is experiencing homelessness,” said Kamica King, who is also studying to receive her Masters at Southern Methodist University.

“There’s a lot of stress that comes along with homelessness. Their past may include some trauma as well,” said King.

Using songs, rhythm, and sound is different than traditional therapy. It can help the client relax and begin to address their pain.

“It can allow them to, just for that moment in time, to be focused on something that is positive and something that can bring them joy,” said King.

Music therapy can be implemented in the mental health sector, the school system, and the hospital system to help people rehabilitate from injuries.

In the last year, the homeless population increased 24 percent and the homeless veteran population increased 21 percent, according to the Dallas Homeless Coalition Mental health.

“I come heavy, but I leave light,” said Alvin Johnson, a homeless veteran. Johnson was born in McKinney, TX but was later raised in Dallas.

“I like the music therapy because it takes my mind off from everything else. I’m learning some different things from it,” said Johnson.

It’s estimated 10,000 people are waking up every morning on the streets of Dallas without a place to live. Of that number, 3,700 of them are children.

The Dallas Commission on Homlelessness surveyed a group of homeless families, adults, and children regarding their needs. The group says their number one urgent need is affordable housing, and the second need is mental health care.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Dak Spotted Shopping for Salvation Army/NBC 5 Angels]]> Tue, 06 Dec 2016 04:07:45 -0600 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/196*120/dak-shopping.jpg

The Dallas Cowboys quarterback just keeps getting better and better.

Dak Prescott was spotted in a Frisco Target on Sunday night. But this was no ordinary shopping trip.

When employee Stuart Newton approached him to see if he could help, Prescott said he was shopping for gifts for several angels he adopted from The Salvation Army/NBC 5 Angel Tree program.

How great is he?

First, he's led the Cowboys to win after win after win - so far, with an 11-1 season.

Then, he was caught on camera picking up trash on the sidelines during a game.

And now, he's buying Christmas gifts to donate to children and seniors in need across North Texas.

Newton's wife, Brooke, posted a photo of him with Prescott during his shopping trip on Facebook.

We can't get enough of Dak!

Photo Credit: Stuart Nelson via Facebook
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<![CDATA[Little Sleep Bad for Drivers: Study]]> Tue, 06 Dec 2016 10:30:57 -0600 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Blurry-cars-generic.jpg

Not getting enough sleep every night doubles the risk of crashes on the road, according to a new study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

The study, released on Tuesday, states that drivers who get one to two hours less sleep than the recommended seven hours every night nearly double their risk of being involved in a crash.

“You cannot miss sleep and still expect to be able to safely function behind the wheel. Our new research shows that a driver who has slept for less than five hours has a crash risk comparable to someone driving drunk,” said Dr. David Yang, executive director for the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 35 percent of drivers sleep less than seven hours. Also, one in five fatal crashes every year involves drowsy driving, AAA said.

The research also reported that sleeping only four to five hours more than quadrupled the crash risk—getting less than four hours of sleep, the risk went up 11.5 times.

Signs of drowsy driving include drifting from lanes and having trouble keeping eyes open, AAA said.

AAA Foundation recommends giving yourself a break every two hours on long drives, not eating heavy foods, traveling with people and taking turns driving.

The data used by the study was taken from the NHTA’s National Motor Vehicle Crash Causation Survey.

Photo Credit: NBC 6 South Florida]]>
<![CDATA[Oakland Mayor Shouted Down at Vigil for Fire Victims]]> Tue, 06 Dec 2016 10:26:51 -0600 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/AP_16341216327258.jpg

A vigil in honor of victims of the deadly Oakland, California, warehouse fire briefly turned into a political confrontation Monday night as saddened, angry participants shouted down the city's mayor with obscenities and boos, NBC News reported.

Several hundred people showed up at the Oakland Pergola and Colonnade at Lake Merritt for speeches and remembrances three days after at least 36 people were killed as flames engulfed the converted warehouse during a concert and party.

Amid an emotional outpouring from people who knew the victims, some speakers urged the city to protect "nontraditional warehouse residences" and "fringe places" where some Oaklanders have sought shelter as the city's housing costs skyrocket.

Boos and calls to resign greeted Mayor Libby Schaaf, whom some have criticized as emphasizing the warehouse's code violations in the hours immediately after the fire, instead of the shortage of affordable housing.

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez
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<![CDATA[Biden Emotional at Cancer Funding Bill Partly Named for Son]]> Tue, 06 Dec 2016 05:34:15 -0600 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/AP_16341007670452.jpg

A bipartisan bill to speed government drug approvals and bolster biomedical research cleared its last procedural hurdle in the Senate on Monday in an emotional moment for outgoing Vice President Joe Biden, NBC News reported. 

The overwhelming 85-13 vote put the measure on track for final legislative approval by the Senate as early as Tuesday. President Barack Obama has promised to sign the measure, one of the last for the president and the 114th Congress, whose leaders hope to adjourn by week's end after a two-year session that has seen them clash frequently with the president. 

The bill envisions providing $6.3 billion over the next decade, including $1.8 billion for cancer research. Obama had placed Biden in charge of a "moonshot" to find ways to cure and treat the disease, which killed his son Beau, 46, last year. 

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., sought approval for renaming a portion of the bill after Beau Biden. The Senate agreed, and lawmakers of both parties applauded and lined up to share quiet words and pats on the shoulder with the vice president, who sat teary-eyed in the presiding officer's chair of the chamber where he served as senator for 36 years. A clerk handed Biden a tissue.

Photo Credit: Senate TV via AP]]>
<![CDATA[More Victims From Oakland Fire ID'd]]> Tue, 06 Dec 2016 10:17:54 -0600 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/oakfire+victims.jpg

The Alameda County Coroner’s Bureau positively identified 10 more victims of the Oakland warehouse fire late Monday night.

The latest victims names released were Em Bohlka, 33, of Oakland; Micah Danemayer, 28, of Oakland; Chelsea Dolan, 33, of San Francisco; Justin Fritz, 29, of Berkeley; Alex Ghassan, 35, of Oakland; Michela Gregory, 20, of South San Francisco; Edmund Lapine, 34, of Oakland; Jennifer Morris, 21, of Foster City; Benjamin Runnels, 32, of Oakland; and Jennifer Kiyomi Tanouye, 31, of Oakland.

The fire's death toll stood at 36 on Monday, with about 75 percent of the building searched. Officials say they've identified a total of 22 victims and notified their families. They've released 17 names.

An 18th name, Draven McGill, 17, was confirmed Monday by officials at McGill's school in San Francisco. He is the son of an Alameda County Sheriff's deputy.

The seven victims previously identified are Donna Kellogg, 32, of Oakland; Cash Askew, 22, of Oakland; David Cline, 35, of Oakland; Nick Gomez-Hall, 25, of Coronado; Sara Hoda, 30, of Walnut Creek; Travis Hough, 35, of Oakland; and Brandon Chase Wittenauer, 32, of Hayward.

The death toll in the warehouse fire may rise in the coming days, officials said.

Kellogg, one of the first people to be confirmed dead, was going to culinary school and worked at High Wire Roasters coffee shop in Berkeley. Her coworkers learned Sunday night that she was killed in the fire.

Kellogg was a former resident of Chico who graduated from Chico High. One friend described her as a freewheeling, free-spirited, candid person.

Wittenauer, better known by his stage name Nex Iuguolo, was an electronic music artist and vocalist for the band Symbiotix Fungi.

Hough was a musician with the Oakland-based electronic band Ghost of Lightning. Hough often went by the stage name Travis Blitzen.

Askew, another musician, was a member of the Bay Area dream pop band Them Are Us Too.

Gomez-Hall was an administrative assistant at Counterpoint Press who called himself a decomposer of music.

Cline was a UC Berkeley graduate, having earned degrees in cognitive science and computer science.

Hoda's friends on Facebook said she was a teacher, gardener and a hardworking person who loved children.

Hoda taught a first through third-grade class at the Urban Montessori in East Oakland. On Monday, Hoda's family attended a small meomrial on campus where students shared stories about their teacher and presented them with cards and art work.

The victims' families have been notified. Other names are expected to be released in the coming days. Some of the victims are non-citizens, officials said.

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<![CDATA[FBI Moves to Seize $5 Million Linked to Colleyville Murder]]> Tue, 06 Dec 2016 04:06:38 -0600 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Colleyville-Murder-Gormans-.jpg

The FBI has filed court papers to seize $5 million in life insurance benefits linked to a group of Irish Travelers and the bizarre murder of a 72-year-old housekeeper in Colleyville two years ago.

In a court document filed in Tarrant County District Court, an FBI agent claims the beneficiaries, which include the victim’s son and daughter, are suspects in insurance fraud or the murder itself.

The victim, Anita Fox, of Alvarado, was murdered while she was cleaning a house in Colleyville on Sept. 23, 2014.

Police said the motive was insurance fraud; Fox had several life insurance policies worth $5 million.

“The beneficiaries are suspected of engaging in fraud and/or the murder,” an FBI agent wrote in a motion seeking to seize the insurance proceeds.

Fox's daughter and son-in-law, Virginia and Mark Buckland, were beneficiaries. Fox's son, Al Fox III, has also claimed the money.

None of them has been charged with any crime.

Family's Response

Mark Humphries, the attorney for the Bucklands, of Mansfield, said his clients had nothing to do with the murder, have fully cooperated with police and have passed lie detector tests.

Asked about the allegations in the seizure document, Humphries said, “The FBI considers the insurance company to be a victim in this case, so they're trying to protect their victim.”

He said if the federal government is successful in seizing the money, the couple will continue to fight to get it.

“Seizing it and holding it are two different things,” Humphries said.

Matthew McCarley, an attorney for Al Fox III, said his client believes the Bucklands were somehow involved.

"(The FBI document) mirrors what we've alleged," McCarley said. "They took out $5 million in life insurance on a lady who was a housekeeper. She didn't want that insurance. That's our position."

McCarley said the Bucklands sold one of the policies to an Irish Traveler.

Joe Gorman, a member of the Irish Travelers, committed the murder, police said. He died of natural causes near Houston after detectives had zeroed in on him but before any charges were filed.

His son, Bernard Joseph Gorman Jr., previously identified in a report as Gerard Gorman, was later charged with Fox’s murder. Police said he drove the getaway vehicle while his father walked up to the house where Fox was working and stabbed her.

The younger Gorman has pleaded not guilty and is out on bond awaiting trial.

The Irish Travelers are a nomadic group that travels the country doing odd jobs and is sometimes linked to crimes including insurance fraud, according to law enforcement officials.

A dispute involving the beneficiaries and the insurance companies led to several lawsuits.

The cases – now consolidated into one -- is still pending.

FBI Investigation

Last week, an FBI agent based in Columbia, South Carolina, wrote in the court document that he started investigating insurance fraud involving Irish Travelers in North Augusta, South Carolina, two months before Fox’s murder.

A North Augusta insurance agent who wrote Fox’s policies, Charles Mercier, told the FBI that he had lied to insurers to get Fox’s policies approved and in one application, falsely claimed she owned a mobile home park, made $300,000 a year, had a net worth of $2 million, and had $900,000 in the bank, the FBI agent said.

Mercier, who has not commented on the case publicly and has not been charged, could not be reached for comment. Court documents do not list an attorney for him.


<![CDATA[McKinney Police Train Officers to Deal With Mental Health Issues]]> Tue, 06 Dec 2016 04:12:21 -0600 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/McKinney+police+car.jpg

Police officers are often on the front lines when it comes to dealing with mental health issues in the community.

That is one reason McKinney’s Police Chief Greg Conley is requiring every officer to undergo crisis intervention training through a week-long program at Collin College, offered only several times a year.

Officer Terry Qualls is McKinney PD’s crisis intervention coordinator. He said calls for crisis situations have continually increased in recent years – with no signs of slowing down.

“It is actually up by about 20 percent from last year,” Qualls said. “It could be the economy. It could be family issues.”

Qualls said that in 2016 so far, they have received approximately 450 calls for someone dealing with a mental health issue.

“That’s why we focus a lot on the de-escalation skills,” Qualls said, which include taking time and plenty of talking.

NBC 5 Reporter Homa Bash and Photojournalist Lyle Davis were able to get a behind-the-scenes look at the final crisis intervention training class of 2016, during which law enforcement officers go through various scenarios – sometimes with real people.

One of those people is John Gaglione, a Vietnam War veteran who suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. It is an illness he did not realize he had until years after returning from the war.

Gaglione was a machine gunner, sometimes spending 30 to 40 days in the bush.

“It was very hard,” Gaglione said. “I didn’t realize I had depression, so I started drinking, turning to other things.”

These days, Gaglione is turning to help law enforcement by playing a role he knows all too well.

“Because you don’t know what the person is going to do. If they’re with PTSD, you definitely don’t know what they’re going to do,” Gaglione said.

Which is why the only thing police can do is train – and train again.

“Especially with mental health issues, we’re not taking a bank robber down, we’re taking someone who has called us to help them,” said Professor Richard Rossman. “We want officers to know how to help them.”

Rossman said they are also hoping to re-train the community to call resources that can better help than police. 

Many Collin County law enforcement personnel also must be re-trained because on January 1, the county will be run by a new mental health authority, LifePath. 

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Audit Faults $2.3 Million Research Study for Vets With PTSD]]> Tue, 06 Dec 2016 04:09:37 -0600 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/chair+spin+ptsd+va.jpg

Texas taxpayers spent $2.3 million to spin veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder in a chair for a research study that wasn't valid and may have put the vets at risk, according to an audit.

The review, by the inspector general of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, was highly critical of the contract with an Irving health clinic called Carrick Brain Centers. It has since been renamed to Cerebrum Health Centers.

The contract was the focus of an investigation by NBC 5 and The Dallas Morning News last year.

The audit found the agency failed to properly oversee the contract, that the clinic billed for services it did not provide and "put the health and safety of participants at risk" by doing human research without scientific safeguards.

The agency is asking the company to refund $278,000 for items that it said were clearly in violation of the contract, including billing for patients who were not from Texas.

In a statement, Cerebrum president Jimmy Matthews noted the audit found no evidence of fraud.

"Our success and reputation with veterans speaks for itself and we remain committed to care for those who have served our nation," he said.

For a full report on the audit, read more from NBC 5's media partners at The Dallas Morning News.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[New Program to Serve Needs of Foster Care Children]]> Mon, 05 Dec 2016 17:45:05 -0600 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/foster+care+center.jpg

Children's Health has opened its new, state-of-the-art Rees-Jones Center for Foster Care Excellence in Dallas.

The 15,000 square-foot facility is the only integrated foster care program of its kind in North Texas, and officials say it brings together experts in pediatric medicine, behavioral health, research and child welfare to deliver rehabilitative, recovery-focused care.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott was on hand for the ribbon cutting.

According to the hospital system, more than 46,000 children in Texas are in foster care each year, with the vast majority entering due to substantiated or high risk for serious abuse or neglect.

National studies indicate that up to 80 percent of children in foster care have at least one chronic medical condition, while 25 percent have three or more chronic conditions.

Foster parent Melinda Nelson shared her story at the event Monday.

She adopted two brothers who dealt with post traumatic stress disorder from their past.

She says because the state foster care children are on Medicaid, few providers offer the special services for foster children, some of whom suffer from severe mental health illnesses.

"There are a lot of foster families out there that struggle with that, and trying to get the help that these children need – as well as the love that they need and the attention that they need – it's daunting at times," Nelson said.

At the Rees-Jones Center for Foster Care Excellence, children will have access to doctors and nurses, who will manage their medical needs and work with Child Protective Service as they go from foster home to foster home.

Children's Health says it is actively working with legislators to influence foster care policy in the state of Texas.

The aim is to improve long-term health outcomes for this vulnerable population of youth.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Bars Celebrate 'Repeal Day' That Ended Prohibition]]> Tue, 06 Dec 2016 04:08:49 -0600 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/birdcafe.jpg

If you enjoy the occasional cocktail, beer or glass of wine, then you have this day in history to thank for it. Prohibition was repealed 83 years ago Monday, on Dec. 5, 1933. Now, many bars are marking the date with special "Repeal Day" celebrations.

Flappers and bootleggers crowded into a makeshift speakeasy at the Bird Café in Fort Worth's Sundance Square Monday night and they fit in perfectly in the space. The building was built in 1889, and managers believe it actually was a speakeasy for a time during prohibition.

But this night was all about the repeal and everything was on-theme – from the food, all of the era, to the cocktails, all classics from the 1920s and 1930s.

That is a trend that's made a strong comeback. Lots of local bars are putting a focus on crafting their drinks just as carefully as they do food, sourcing natural ingredients. And at Bird Café, they are even making their own liqueurs and syrups in the kitchen for just the right taste.

"We opened up here three years ago, and we put craft cocktails really forward on our menu and we're noticing that people are asking for them by name and asking for ones that we don't necessarily have that are classics and almost challenging us to make something that they'll like," said Bird Café bar manager Amber Davidson.

The party Monday included a jazz band and drink specials, including 33-cent champagne pours in honor of the year of the repeal: 1933.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Missionaries Share Personal Journey About Mentally Ill Teen]]> Tue, 06 Dec 2016 04:05:42 -0600 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Thomas-Johnson-scene.jpg

A North Texas couple is on a crusade to help those in need share their very personal story about mental illness.

Dave and Lisa Stephenson took in a troubled teen who would later be accused of murder.

The uplifting photos in their home represent the chronicle of people who have been helped by the couple.

However, not all of the images have a happy resolution.

Two years ago, they first met Thomas Johnson.

"The high school football coach saw us on the sideline, came up afterwards and said, 'Can y'all help one of my former players?'" recalled Dave Stephenson.

They thought their rural Farmersville home would be the perfect setting for a troubled South Dallas teen.

Thomas had been a standout football player at Texas A&M until the day he mysteriously walked away from campus and never returned.

In short order, he was arrested for car theft and jailed.

Even so, the Stephensons were more than willing to help.

"Without much of a background and never going into a jail and never knowing much about what to do, we just trusted God and said 'if this is where you want us and we'll to the best of our abilities try to help him in wherever he wants to go in life,'" said Dave Stephenson.

His wife, Lisa, described Johnson as gentle, mild-mannered and polite, but says at times he would exhibit odd behavior.

"He would either stare into space and not be engaging or looking at us or he would just laugh about something when there was nothing funny," said Lisa Stephenson.

Looking back, Lisa Stephenson says she questions if that could have been a sign. What was Johnson thinking about?

She says about eight weeks in, Johnson abruptly left and returned home to Dallas.

His father said Johnson complained of hearing voices, so he took his son to a psychiatrist.

Johnson was diagnosed with schizophrenia.

Two months later, while under psychiatric care, the unimaginable happened.

Johnson was accused in one of the most brutal murders in recent memory.

Police say Johnson used a machete to kill a perfect stranger, David Stevens, whose wife was so consumed by grief, that she then took her own life.

"He wasn't capable of that. The Thomas we knew was not capable of bludgeoning somebody like that," Dave Stephenson said.

The couple watched the news coverage on Oct. 12, 2015.

Three days after the murder, the Stephensons visited Johnson in jail.

His mental state at that time still haunts them.

"He was just like he was sitting in our living room, 'how are you doing?' that he liked her haircut," said Dave Stephenson. "That's when we knew for certain that he was mentally ill."

"I mean, he was completely normal as if he didn't even remember that it had happened," Lisa Stephenson said.

But it did happen.

His family says beneath the calm surface of his outward behavior, there was an escalating turbulence that resulted in tragedy.

"They could hear a voice telling them to do things or even a voice commenting on how they're behaving or even several voices conversing with each other," said Dr. Hicham Ibrahim, a psychiatrist with the O'Donnell Brain Institute at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

Ibrahim has been treating patients who have mental illnesses for nearly two decades.

Although he has no affiliation with Johnson's case, he tells NBC 5 that there are warning signs with a delusional patient and some can be easy to miss.

"Behaving inappropriately, reacting inappropriately, particularly change in how it used to be and how it is now. This is kind of the stuff that families can really point to," said Ibrahim.

He says increased awareness and proper treatment from the onset is key.

"They're really able to lead productive and fulfilling lives. We've seen patients who are treated well, have done really well in their lives," he said.

After months of silence in jail, Johnson was transferred to a mental health facility in Vernon, Texas, and has been writing to his missionary family.

The letters give Dave and Lisa Stephenson hope and healing.

"That's really all we wanted was for him to get help. We don't expect him not to pay for what he did. That's not what it's about," Lisa Stephenson said. "We want him to have a shot at having as normal of a life as he can have. That may be in prison for the rest of his life, but at least he's not going to be in prison in his brain, as well," she said.

Johnson was declared mentally incompetent to stand trial for the murder.

Doctors at UT Southwestern will soon be opening an early psychosis clinic to address the problem of not identifying people with schizophrenia early enough.

MORE: DMN: Couple who once lived with jailed A&M star is fighting to reach him again DMN: Patti Stevens, wife of slain White Rock runner killed self, authorities say

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Mosque Wants to Thank Stranger Who Left Signs of Support]]> Mon, 05 Dec 2016 22:37:34 -0600 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/160*120/homamosque2.JPG

Leaders at the Islamic Association of Allen are searching for a woman who anonymously posted signs around the mosque with filled words of kindness.

They read, "You are loved," "You are welcome here," "You are a beautiful thread in the fabric of America," and "We love you."

Those simple words have made a big impact.

"This is the true face of this country," said Imam Arsalan Haque. "It shows not everybody thinks the same way, not everybody out there hates us."

For mosque outreach coordinator Ali Subhani, it is a mystery he is dying to solve.

"We played detective for a couple of hours," Subhani said, trying to track down the kind stranger to say thank you.

They reviewed surveillance video and found footage of the woman quickly pounding the signs into the ground Friday morning.

"But we haven't been able to identify her," Subhani said. "There were a lot of smiles on people's faces."

It is not the only mystery mosque members have on their hands.

They're also trying to track down a woman who penned a heartwarming handwritten note and dropped it off recently.

It reads, in part, "I am white suburban middle-aged lapsed Catholic. I am your neighbor, I am not your enemy. I do not view you as suspicious."

She signed it simply, "Peace, Peggy."

"There are a lot of Peggy's in Texas, I can tell you that much," Subhani said, laughing.

Haleh Banani is a psychologist who attends the Allen mosque. She said the note and signs brought tears to her eyes.

"I've seen a lot of clients feel anxiety. People who are nervous about going outside, considering taking off their hijab – the head covering – because they feel that there's hate. They feel they might be targeted," Banani said.

But the simple acts of kindness show words can heal as much as they can hurt.

"The number of people who are kind outnumber those who are filled with hate," Banani added.

The mosque, built just last year, is on Allen Central Drive.

Subhani said it is always open to any members of the community who wish to learn more.

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<![CDATA[North Texas Lawmakers File Gun Legislation]]> Mon, 05 Dec 2016 22:08:41 -0600 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/texas+capitol+building1.jpg

Open carry and campus carry were among the most heated battles in the last legislative session, but Texans can now carry openly with a license and public universities must allow guns on campus, though schools can create gun free zones.

Now, Texas lawmakers are again submitting bills on both sides of the issues for the upcoming session.

State Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, has already proposed two pieces of legislation. One bill calls for public universities to be able to opt out of campus carry completely.

He is also working to limit open carry as well. Anchia has proposed a bill that says cities with more than 750,000 people can pass an ordinance prohibiting open carry.

Plus, Anchia is trying again with a bill that has failed in the past. The proposal requires the seller of a gun in a person-to-person sale to get a background check on the buyer.

Meanwhile, State Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Hurst, is again trying with a gun bill that didn't get passed in the last session. His bill says Texans who are legally permitted to carry handguns would not need a license.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[String of Car Burglaries Reported Saturday in Weatherford]]> Mon, 05 Dec 2016 17:11:39 -0600 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/weatherford-surveillance-video-car-burglaries.jpg

Weatherford police are looking for at least two people who they say are responsible for nearly 20 vehicle burglaries Saturday night.

Just after 8:30 a.m. Sunday, Weatherford police said they began receiving reports from residents on the city's southwest side of vehicle burglaries.

In all, 19 reports were received including 16 vehicle burglaries, one home burglary, one theft of a firearm and one stolen vehicle. According to reports, most if not all of the burglarized vehicles were left unlocked.

“The majority of all vehicle burglaries are crimes of opportunity. Approximately 70 percent of all vehicle burglaries in the City of Weatherford occur because the vehicle has been left unlocked either in a driveway, street or parking lot," said Interim Deputy Chief Chris Crawford. "We are actively working these cases and we hope that with the public’s help, we can identify the suspects involved and recover the property taken from these innocent victims.”

Police believe, due to the proximity of the incidents and the time frame involved, that the cases are all related.

"Among the items stolen from one of the burglaries was a gray in color Kel-Tec .32 caliber semi-automatic handgun. In addition, a silver two-door 2001 Cadillac Eldorado passenger car was stolen from a residence on Westbriar Drive. The Cadillac displayed a temporary license plate of 23C9067 on the rear of the vehicle," Weatherford police said in a news release.

Surveillance video recorded at one of the homes shows at least two people breaking into a car. Despite the video evidence, detectives said they still have no solid leads and they're asking for the public's help in identifying the people involved.

Parker County Crime Stoppers has also designated these burglaries as the Crime of the Week. Crime Stoppers is offering up to a $1,000 reward for any information that leads to the arrest or indictment of the individuals that perpetrated this crime. If you have any information please contact Parker County Crime Stoppers at 817-599-5555 or 1-800-942-STOP, or visit the Parker County Crime Stoppers website at www.pccs.tips to learn more ways to submit a tip. Your information and identity will remain anonymous.

Photo Credit: Weatherford Police Department]]>