Friday, May 17, 2013
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Young Nigerian women are usually lured to get pregnant with a promise of money, only for the babies to end up being. (File photo: Reuters)
AFP, Lagos -Nigerian police have found 17 pregnant teenage girls in a raid on a house, and were searching Friday for a woman suspected of planning to sell their babies, a spokeswoman said.
Joy Elomoko of the southeastern Imo state police said all the girls were between 14 and 17 years old and that 11 small children were also found in the house.
Some locals believed the building called the Ahamefula Motherless Babies Home served as an orphanage and shelter for expecting mothers.
“Acting on a tip-off, a special unit of the Imo State police command raided the illegal home in Umuaka on Wednesday and rescued 17 girls, aged between 14 and 17, at different stages of pregnancies,” Elomoko told AFP.
“The girls claimed they were fed once a day and were not allowed to leave the home,” she added.
The girls told police that their babies were to be sold to “willing buyers,” Elomoko said.
It was not clear if the girls were brought to the home by force.
The girls further told police that they had been impregnated by a 23-year-old man who is currently in custody, along with the security guard who worked at the compound.
“The proprietress of the home is at large, but we have launched a man-hunt for her,” Elomoko said.
In a human trafficking report released last month, the European Union identified Nigeria as the African country where the scourge is most common.
The report said the selling of children was widespread and Nigerian police have previously uncovered so-called baby factories.
In May of 2011 in southeastern Abia state, police freed 32 pregnant girls who said they had been offered to sell their babies for between 25,000 and 30,000 naira (191 dollars), depending on the sex of the baby.
Another 17 pregnant girls were discovered in southern Anambra state in October 2011 under similar circumstances.
The United Nations cultural agency UNESCO has previously identified human trafficking as the third most common crime in Nigeria, behind fraud and drug trafficking.
Monday, May 6, 2013
By Laura Smith-Spark, CNN
May 4, 2013 -- Updated 1901 GMT (0301 HKT)
Missing mother was 'far from homeless'
- NEW: Heist has been jailed on a Santa Rosa County warrant
- Brenda Heist disappeared from her Pennsylvania home in 2002
- Heist turned herself in to police in Florida as a missing person
- She was distraught over an impending divorce and finances, a detective says
On Saturday, she remained jailed on a Santa Rosa County warrant for alleged violation of probation, forgery and giving a false name to law enforcement, said Art Forgey, a spokesman for the Alachua County Sheriff's Office.
Heist, who used the assumed name Kelsie Lyanne Smith, is awaiting extradition, Forgey told CNN affiliate WJXT. She turned herself in Friday.
Heist, meanwhile, may not have spent most of those 11 years homeless, as she told police last week when she turned herself in, saying she'd abandoned her family because of stress.
Sondra Forrester says she knew Heist in 2010. At that time, Heist cleaned her Florida home and went by the name Lovey Smith.
"She actually moved in with me, moved in with me about six months after she started cleaning the house," Forrester told CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360" on Friday.
Daughter hopes mom 'rots in hell'
Missing mom's dramatic transformation
Son to mom: We did well after you left
Ex: I don't want to talk to runaway wife
Heist first came into her life through a neighbor, who recommended her when Forrester was looking for a housekeeper.
The neighbor had used her as a babysitter and spoke highly of her, she said.
At first, the two women shared small talk, but little more on Heist's weekly visit to clean.
But over time their conversations took on a different, more personal tone.
"She told me that she had a bad relationship with her boyfriend and I started to kind of feel bad for her," Forrester said. "She described it as sort of an abusive situation, saying that he was maybe an alcoholic and I just let her know that my door was always open for her. I felt bad for her."
Forrester asked more questions about Heist's past when she moved into the house, "but not a whole lot. But when I did ask, she made it clear that she never had kids and she didn't want any."
Heist also claimed to be a widow.
"She said she had been married for, like, 20 years to a man named Lee and he had worked for the Marriott and they had traveled around and visited amazing places and he had died," Forrester said.
After she moved in, bringing some belongings with her, Heist lived with her for 10 or 11 months.
She used the computer and cell phone, had a Facebook page and was on an internet dating site, Forrester said. "She had friends outside of me."
Heist's appearance then was nothing like the worn-down face shown in pictures taken after she turned herself in last week to authorities in Key Largo, Florida.
"I was absolutely shocked when I saw that photo," Forrester said. "She has deteriorated significantly since the last time she was seen around here, which was, you know, the middle of 2012, the end of 2012. That's not been very long, you know, seven months or so."
Another twist in the tale is that Heist had revealed her true last name to Forrester's son, with whom she became close while living in the family home.
He was around the same age as Heist's own son was when she abandoned her Pennsylvania family nearly a decade earlier.
Forrester had taken her son aside to tell him the truth about the woman he knew as "Miss Lovey," so that he wouldn't learn about it on the news. But he told her he already knew her last name was Heist.
"I was stunned that he knew that. But for a little boy, that's kind of a cool last name. I said, honey, how did you know that? 'Miss Lovey told me.' "
No family reunion
But while Heist was making friends and living an apparently normal life in Florida, the husband, son and daughter she'd left behind in 2002 continued to wonder whether something terrible had happened to her.
Police searched for her for years, at one point creating a cold case task force. Her family remain angry over the pain her disappearance caused.
"I don't think she deserves to see me," her 20-year-old daughter Morgan Heist told CNN's "Piers Morgan Live" on Thursday night. "I don't really have any plans on going to see her."
The fact that her mother -- who she last saw when she was 8 -- never even called has left her seething, Morgan Heist said.
The anger is captured in a post on the daughter's Twitter page that reads she hopes her mother "rots in hell."
"That makes me really mad," Morgan Heist said. "I can't believe she would do that because she was a good mom. She was great. But, I mean, I guess something happened. Something snapped in her. "
Her father, Lee Heist, said he is not planning on visiting his ex-wife anytime soon.
They were going through a divorce at the time she disappeared, and he was treated for a time as a suspect in her disappearance, though he was eventually cleared.
In 2010, he filed a petition with the county court to have Brenda declared legally deceased, according to a Lititz police news release. He was seeking closure, he said.
"I don't see where it would do any good for either of us to see her again," Lee Heist said.
He later remarried and said he will learn to forgive his former wife.
But for Morgan Heist, forgiving her mom may not be easy.
"I hope to eventually forgive her one day for myself, not for her," she said.
Left on a whim
Brenda Heist vanished in February 2002 after last being seen dropping off her children at school.
She was applying for housing assistance so that she could get an apartment after the breakdown of her marriage. She worked as a bookkeeper for a car dealer and hoped to receive some financial aid.
However, her request was denied, police said.
"She was very upset, she was sitting in a park crying, thinking about how she would raise her children, feeling sorry for herself," said Sgt. John Schofield, a Lititz Borough, Pennsylvania, police detective. He was one of the many officers who searched for Heist.
By her account, it wasn't long before she was approached by two men and a woman who asked her what was wrong. After she told them what had happened, they invited her to hitchhike with them down to Florida.
"At a whim, she decided at that very moment, she would go along with them," Schofield said.
Schofield spoke to Heist at length after she turned herself in.
"She was very emotional; she hung her head; she's ashamed. She was crying when I met with her. She knows what she did was completely wrong, but all that while, she'd never made one effort to call or contact her family at all," Schofield said.
Heist told police she spent the first two years homeless, living under bridges, eating food thrown out by restaurants after they closed.
For the next seven years, she lived in a camper with a man she had met. They made money as day laborers, cleaning boats and doing other odd jobs for which they didn't have to show ID and were paid in cash.
After that relationship soured, Schofield said, she said she lived on the street again for another two years.
But the revelations made by Forrester raise new questions over the truth of Heist's account.
"I don't think we know the full story yet," Schofield told CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360" on Friday.
"The facts are she left, she turned her back on her family. She started a new life down in Florida ... Whether she lived homeless or whether she lived a wonderful life as a live-in housekeeper, I don't think that was for the 11 years, that was just for the last few years here."
Schofield said Heist is still looking at charges for false IDs, thefts and possession of drugs and drugs paraphernalia in Florida. There also may be false ID and theft charges to face in Pennsylvania, he said.
She never suspected Heist of using drugs, Forrester said -- or she would not have allowed her near her family.
CNN's Laura Ly contributed to this report.
From Barbara Starr and Greg Seaby, CNN
May 7, 2013 -- Updated 0236 GMT (1036 HKT)
- NEW: Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel expresses "outrage and disgust" over the allegations
- The arrest comes as the Pentagon faces scrutiny over sex assaults in the ranks
- The officer was serving as a branch chief but has been removed from duty
- Police said a woman accused him of fondling her breasts, buttocks
Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski, 41, has been removed from current duty, an Air Force official said Monday. The official declined to be named because it is an ongoing law enforcement matter.
Krusinski was placed in charge of a section of the service's sexual assault prevention and response program in February, running a five-person office, the Air Force official said.
He was arrested just after midnight Saturday in Arlington, Virginia, and is accused of grabbing a woman's breasts and buttocks, Arlington County police said. Police said the woman fought off her assailant when he tried to grab her again before she called authorities.
Krusinski was held on a $5,000 bond. Arlington County police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck said the woman did not know her attacker.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel discussed the matter Monday with Air Force Michael Donley, according to the Pentagon.
"Secretary Hagel expressed outrage and disgust over the troubling allegations and emphasized that this matter will be dealt with swiftly and decisively," said George Little, Pentagon press secretary.
Krusinski's arrest comes as the Pentagon has been under closer scrutiny from Congress over its handling of sexual assault cases in the uniformed services.
"Sexual assault and rape are not about the weakness of the victim, they're about power and control," Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-New Hampshire, said at a March hearing on the issue. "In a military context, that becomes an even greater problem."
The Defense Department reported 3,192 allegations of sexual assault involving service members in 2011. It's expected to report an increase in 2012, but officials said that it is not clear whether that's due to an increasing number of incidents or because victims are becoming more comfortable in reporting a crime that is often not reported.
The department has stepped up efforts to hold perpetrators accountable, establishing a "special victims unit" to handle cases, working to improve tracking of reports and speeding transfers for troops who report a sexual assault by a member of their unit.
"Secretary Hagel has been directing the Department's leaders to elevate their focus on sexual assault prevention and response, and he will soon announce next steps in our ongoing efforts to combat this vile crime," Little said Monday. "Sexual assault has no place in the United States military."