Elderly Man Dies After Punch by Burger King Worker

Detroit police say a 20-year-old fast food restaurant employee who punched a 67-year-old customer could face criminal charges after the man fell and later died. Police spokesman Yvette Walker says the older man was reportedly causing a disturbance Thursday afternoon at a Burger King on the city’s east side, tried to hit the employee and the employee swung back. Police say the punch may have caused the elderly man to choke on his dentures.

The man died at a hospital. Walker says an autopsy will determine cause of death. Police say the employee was being held Friday and information would be submitted to prosecutors for review. Burger King spokeswoman Denise Wilson says Friday company officials were aware of the incident and the franchise owner was cooperating with police.

Imam Beat Up In Anti-Muslim Assault

Police have arrested two men for allegedly beating up an Imam in a racially fueled attack on a Lower Manhattan subway train. Investigators said the two men accosted the 49-year-old victim as they all rode the northbound A train at 3:35 a.m. Wednesday morning. For unknown reasons, the men started using anti-Muslim names and slurs. The verbal abuse then turned physical, police said, with the two men, who were apparently strangers to each other, ganging up on the Imam. The fight spilled onto the Canal Street station platform, and the Imam was pushed to the ground. He suffered minor bruises, but refused medical attention. Police arrested 30-year-old Albert Melendez of Harlem and 28-year-old Eddie Crespo of Staten Island. They are charged with assault as a hate crime and related offenses.

15-Year-Old Beaten To Death

Three days after a 15-year-old LaPlace girl was found beaten to death in her bedroom, a 27-year-old neighbor has been apprehended and will be booked with her murder, St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff Wayne L. Jones said Wednesday. Authorities say Earnest Joseph, III, who lived down the street from Taylor Adams, beat her to death early Sunday morning after an intense struggle inside the house. Jones said Wednesday that Adams and Joseph knew each other. However, authorities would not describe a motive for the killing. Jones said tips from the community led them to Joseph as a possible suspect, but he would not say what evidence they have that ties Joseph to the scene.

“Taylor certainly offered resistance, there was a great struggle inside the residence,” Jones said during a news conference on Wednesday. “We have in our possession the murder weapon as well as some other forensic evidence that has been transported to the Louisiana State Police crime lab.”

During a 3 p.m. news conference in LaPlace, the Sheriff’s Office identified Joseph as a suspect and said he was on the run. About an hour later, news broke that Joseph had been arrested about 3 p.m. in Gulfport, Miss., with the help of the U.S. Marshals Service. St. John investigators were en route to Gulfport late Wednesday and expect to bring Joseph back to LaPlace, possibly as soon as Thursday. Jones said Joseph tried to contact a girlfriend Sunday and that authorities knew he was “trying to gather some belongings and get out of town.” However, he said Joseph’s family is cooperating with the investigation.

“I know the Joseph family, they’re good people,” Jones said. “This subject is acting on his own.”

Jones said that Joseph has a “violent” past and has been arrested several times, including for allegedly shooting his brother after an argument over clothing. However, Jones could not say whether Joseph has been convicted of a crime. “He’s a little person by stature, but does have a violent streak in him,” Jones said. Authorities say Adams’ mother, Gaylyn Adams, found her daughter’s bloodied body in the girl’s bedroom shortly before 6:30 a.m. Sunday and called 911. Investigators say the woman last spoke to her daughter around 9 p.m. Saturday and that she expected her daughter to be home alone. The mother worked as a security guard for a private security company in LaPlace and often worked a 12-hour shift.

Authorities have said they think Taylor Adams was killed sometime after 1 a.m., but would not say what evidence lead them to that conclusion. St. John Parish Coroner Dr. Christy Montegut has said preliminary autopsy results confirmed what investigators say they found at the scene, that Adams died from “blunt force trauma to the head.” Montegut said the autopsy, which was performed Monday, indicated that Adams sustained several severe blows to the head which resulted in a fractured skull and jaw and bleeding on her brain. Montegut has said the examination couldn’t determine what caused the trauma, whether it was someone’s fists or another object.

Adams was a sophomore at Riverside Academy in Reserve and friends are planning a candlelight memorial in her memory today. She was the fourth homicide victim in St. John this year. Wednesday evening, as word spread that a suspect had been named and then later arrested, friends of the Adams’ family dropped cards and flowers at a memorial on their doorstep. Melvin Sandle brought a wreath to lay among the other flowers, balloons and teddy bears. Sandle said he worked security details with Adams’ mother, whom he described as a “wonderful lady.” Other neighbors said they are still shocked by the tragedy, but are relieved that an arrest has been made.

Man Murders His Own Children

An Alabama man who told authorities he dumped his two dead children in the woods, then covered them with twigs, was charged Wednesday with two counts of murder after investigators found remains believed to be his 3-year-old son, police said. Mobile Police Officer Chris Levy said the discovery of a boy’s bones about 50 feet off a highway in rural Mississippi gave authorities enough evidence to file the murder charges against John DeBlase, who had been held for child abuse and corpse abuse. Tests are pending to confirm the identity. “We believe at this point that he did in fact kill his son” and daughter, Levy said.

John DeBlase and the children’s stepmother were arrested last week on lesser charges, and authorities searched for the children’s remains in Alabama and Mississippi over the weekend. Neither child had been seen for months. An investigation into their disappearance didn’t start until late last month after their stepmother, Heather Leavell-Keaton, sought a protective order against DeBlase in Kentucky, Levy said. She said in the Nov. 18 filing that DeBlase “may have murdered his children,” and that she feared for her life because he was abusive. The couple just had a child together this summer. “I am afraid that he is going to do something to harm our daughter because of what he has done to the other children,” she wrote.

DeBlase has blamed her for his children’s deaths, and police say they’re both responsible. DeBlase, 27, has been assisting police in the search for the bodies. Remains of his 5-year-old daughter Natalie haven’t yet been located, but DeBlase told police he dumped her body in the woods north of Mobile in June. He told investigators he dumped the boy’s body in March. “Everything we found is absolutely consistent with the information he gave to us on what to look for,” Levy said.

Levy said the bones were found under twigs and brush in an area known to have bears, coyotes and vultures. The same area had been searched over the weekend. Jackson County Sheriff Mike Byrd, whose deputies conducted the search Wednesday, said the bones were scattered over about a 10-foot wide area. No clothing was discovered with the remains. Byrd said DeBlase told authorities his son was wearing just a diaper when he put his body in a black plastic trash bag and dumped it in the woods. “It was concealed pretty well. If you didn’t walk up on it and look, you wouldn’t have seen it,” Byrd said.

Byrd said DeBlase told him he couldn’t remember exactly where he put the body because he was high on sleeping pills at the time. Leavell-Keaton is jailed in Louisville, Ky. on child abuse charges and awaiting return to Mobile, where she, too, could soon be charged in the children’s deaths. Reached Wednesday, DeBlase’s father, Richard, said he had no comment on the grim discovery. “We’re doing all right,” he said. The children’s biological mother, Corrine DeBlase Heathcock, was “devastated” by the news Wednesday, said Rob Willmann, her pastor and a family spokesman. In a statement released by Willmann, Heathcock called Chase “a little gentleman” and said Natalie “loved everyone she came in contact with.”

“I love my children, and I will remember to the day that I die their laughter, love, and smiles,” said Heathcock, who was divorced from DeBlase.

Leavell-Keaton’s mother, Helena Keaton, said Wednesday after the body was discovered that the whole situation is “horrid.” “It pains me for these little kids,” Keaton told The Associated Press. “There is nothing they could have done to deserve this, and to be cast away like this.” DeBlase was arraigned earlier Wednesday on the lesser charges. A judge set a preliminary hearing for Jan. 4. DeBlase’s newly appointed lawyer, Jim Sears, said Wednesday he had only spoken briefly with his client and declined to comment on the discussion. Levy said witnesses have told authorities both suspects beat the kids on numerous occasions.

“We have some incidents where people observed them striking the children with objects,” Levy said, adding investigators are disturbed no one came forward sooner. “The children had some injuries that warranted medical attention which they never properly received.”

DeBlase and Leavell-Keaton had been together since 2008, but they were not legally married. The couple met on the website MySpace while DeBlase and his children were living with his parents and Leavell-Keaton was attending nearby Spring Hill College in Mobile. Her mother said her daughter was legally blind and dependent on DeBlase. “She does not know really what happened to the kids. We suspect he poisoned them,” Keaton told the AP before the discovery of the boy’s bones. “They had the same symptoms. They were not eating, they were not drinking. They were beginning to use the bathroom on themselves although they were potty trained,” she said. “John would not take those children to get medical care.”

In the spring, Keaton said, DeBlase forced Leavell-Keaton to go on a long ride. DeBlase finally stopped and got something out of the vehicle, Keaton said, but Leavell-Keaton — who was pregnant at the time with DeBlase’s third child — was unsure what it was. However, Leavell-Keaton made no mention of this in her filing for protection from DeBlase. Keaton described DeBlase as a controlling, “habitual liar.” “She has tried to get away from John before, and he has tracked her down,” Keaton said. The couple moved to Kentucky without the children this summer, and Leavell-Keaton had DeBlase’s child in August. DeBlase’s parents gave a very different account in an interview before the bones were found. They say Leavell-Keaton controlled the relationship, wouldn’t allow DeBlase to take his children to church and forced him to move out of their home with the kids. The grandparents last saw the children in February when they tracked down their son and Leavell-Keaton at a trailer park in the rural Alabama town of Citronelle. They told the AP they suspect Leavell-Keaton killed the kids during a fit of rage while DeBlase attended night classes to become a personal trainer, then manipulated him into getting rid of the bodies. Still, they’re not excusing their son.

“I can’t believe John is responsible for this, but I know he could have prevented it,” Deblase’s mother, Dorothy, said. “But if Heather told him to go jump off a bridge, he would go jump in a river.”

Smash & Grab Bandits

Police are on the trail of a rash of smash and grab burglaries. The object of the crime: cartons of cigarettes. The latest crime scene: The Clifton Wash and Go in Clifton Heights. The gas station was burglarized Friday. The criminals got away with a stash of cigarettes. That’s been the M.O. in this series of smash and grab burglaries. The criminals bypass the cash and coins and go for the tobacco. The burglars burst through the glass door but flee just as quickly. They stormed the ToGoMart on Edgmont Avenue in Brookhaven on November 1st. Kwang Lee owns the gas station. He watched on surveillance from home as the burglars burst through his business, which is just a half block from the Brookhaven police department. Cameras captured the crooks slowly approaching the front door. They kept an eye out for any traffic or witnesses and then moved in. “First time in 16 years something like this has happened,” Lee said. But it’s not the duo’s first smash-n-grab. They’re suspected of 2 in West Goshen, 1 in Clifton Heights, 1 in Media and 1 in Brookhaven and a job in Lancaster. Investigators believe the two are likely selling the cigarettes on the black market at a discount to score drugs. With a carton valued at $60, 20 cartons is equal to $1,200.