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Murder Suspect Back in Custody After Accidental Release


DPSCS(BALTIMORE) -- A murder suspect who was mistakenly released from a Baltimore detention center is back in custody, authorities said.

Baltimore police captured Rodriguez Purnell about 6 p.m. He was accidentally allowed to walk free from the Maryland Reception, Diagnostic and Classification Center on Friday, police said.

Purnell, 30, has been in and out of jail for drugs and robbery over the years. He was recently incarcerated on a first-degree murder charge, accused of fatally shooting T.J. Rheubottom, 27, last year.

Purnell was in custody waiting to be retried for Rheubottom’s murder after his first trial ended in a hung jury, but after corrections officers confused his current case with the old charges, they let him go. Authorities didn’t realize the mistake until two days later when the victim’s family said they called the jail after Purnell was spotted hanging out in the neighborhood.

The Maryland Department of Public Safety and Corrections said in a statement Wednesday that it placed an employee on paid administrative leave for mistakenly releasing Purnell.

“Preliminary results indicate a lapse in release procedures that would otherwise have identified the pending charges at the time of release,” the statement said.

Rheubottom’s mother, Jackie Davis, was stunned by Purnell’s release and worried for the safety of her family and witnesses in the murder case.

“This should have never happened,” Davis told ABC News.

The incident remains under investigation.

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Jodi Arias Trial Hit With Another Juror Issue


ABC News(NEW YORK) -- The Jodi Arias trial ended early on Thursday because of a "juror issue," the latest incident in the four-day-old trial involving jurors.

The jury is not expected to return to court until Monday. The court did not make clear what the issue was.

But so far, the panel has already lost two alternates.

The judge ordered a group of 19 jurors to sit through what is expected to be a two-month trial that will determine whether Arias should be condemned to death for the 2008 murder of her boyfriend Travis Alexander. Arias, 34, was convicted last year of killing Alexander with a gunshot, 27 stab wounds and by slitting his throat. But the jury was split on whether Arias should be executed, requiring a second jury for the sentencing phase of the trial.

The plan to have seven alternate jurors for the sentencing phase was whittled to six on the first day when one juror didn't show up because of a family emergency.

On Wednesday, a second juror was dismissed because of improper contact with a member of the media that the juror mistook for ABC News legal analyst Nancy Grace, and for not wearing her juror badge.

If a third juror gets booted, the trial will be left with four alternates as the lengthy trial is just beginning.

The trial promises to be an ordeal with lots of grisly testimony and photos about the wounds, as well as raunchy photos, texts and phone message between Arias and Alexander. On the first day of the trial prosecutor Juan Martinez showed the jury a photo of Alexander's gaping neck wound.

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Putting New Football Helmets to the Test: What's Safest?


ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Preventing concussions has become a top priority for elite players and anyone with a child sporting a football jersey, and new technology and research is racing to try to make the game safer for all.

Virginia Tech University, which has tracked more than 300,000 impacts on its football team, is the epicenter for research into safer helmets. Their method uses a simple but critical test: lifting a football helmet rimmed with sensors six feet into the air, then dropping it onto a rubber-coated concrete and steel block.

The test mimics what players can face on the field, researchers told ABC News. Then a one- to five-star safety rating is assigned for each helmet tested. Helmets with more stars provide a reduction in concussion risk compared to helmets with fewer stars.

"If you don’t make a five-star helmet, a lot of times you can’t even bid on the sale of helmets. If a school puts out a call for proposals, it’ll say we are only taking bids for 5-star Virginia Tech rated helmets,” Stefan Duma, the director of the School of Biomedical Engineering and Sciences at Virginia Tech, told ABC News. “I think if you are a manufacturer, you can’t be in the business unless you are making 5-star helmets.”

ABC News got an exclusive look inside the Virginia Tech lab, where engineers are doing something not unlike crash testing for automobiles.

“When you go buy a car it’s very clear this is a 4-star car, it’s a 5-star car. A lot of work goes into that. We basically wanted to develop a system analogous for helmets,” Duma said. “So when you go buy a helmet you can look at our website and see an independent way to see which perform better than others.”

Researchers took ABC News into the lab as they tested three new helmets on the market, each boasting new technologies -- two from manufacturer SG and one from Riddell. The SG helmets are lighter, weighing half as much as other helmets.

“The interesting thing about this helmet,” Duma said in reference to the Simpson or SG helmet, “is that the shell is carbon fiber or Kevlar, so it’s super light and they use a different padding on the inside.”

And one from Riddell -- the Speed Flex helmet, just released this fall.

“For the first time you've got a company making a non-ridged shell so you see this part right here, it actually deforms, that’s very unusual,” Duma said.

“You can push on that and see how easy it bends in,” Duma explained, noting that the flexibility is expected to be an additional safety feature. “That’s their claim.”

After two straight days of testing, all three helmets tested received a 5-star rating. The helmets they are testing are for kids 14 years and older.

Virginia Tech found Riddell's new flex design reduced head acceleration better than any helmet they've tested.

Click here for a full list of their tested helmets and ratings.

The 5-star rating for both SG helmets came with two significant points: cracking was found in the helmet padding, or liner, in both helmets tested.

SG told ABC News: "The helmets are safe to use through the season" even with some cracking of the liner. “Annual reconditioning of helmets includes replacing liners," a cost SG estimates around $16 per foam liner.

Virginia Tech also noted that SG indicates their helmets have a two-year lifespan -- much shorter than the 10-year lifespan most other helmet companies claim. The company offers the possibility of re-certifying the helmet after two years.

Regarding the two-year lifespan, SG said "the helmets are new technology...and they haven't been available long enough to know if they will last beyond two years."

Virginia Tech researchers said they hope the work done inside the lab to rate and improve helmets will make football a safer sport.

“We want parents to learn that getting out of the old helmets, getting into the new better helmets, that’s gonna reduce [your kid’s] risk,” Duma said.

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Missing Nashville Boy Told Police He Rode Megabus Solo to Atlanta


iStock/Thinkstock(NASHVILLE, Tenn.) -- An 11-year old boy from North Nashville who went missing earlier this week has been found safe in Atlanta after apparently hopping a Megabus near his hometown to make the trip by himself.

Police said Wednesday that they discovered the boy walking in downtown Atlanta early Tuesday morning. He had last been seen the previous day in downtown Nashville.

The fact that the boy, identified as Nathan Long, made it from Tennessee to Georgia has raised questions about how he was able by himself to buy a ticket and board the Megabus.

The policy of Megabus, outlined on its website, states, "All children under 17 years of age must be accompanied by an adult (17 years of age or over) when traveling on Megabus.com. Unaccompanied children under the age of 17 are not permitted to travel on Megabus.com. We recommend that young adults be prepared to produce a photo ID with proof of age to avoid being refused from traveling on our buses."

Sean Hughes, associate director of corporate affairs for Megabus, told ABC News that the bus line is investigating the report. "We're looking into it and we take it very seriously," Hughes said. "Safety is our number one priority."

Asked if Long actually boarded the Megabus in Nashville, Hughes said, "Were not sure. We're actively looking to piece it together."

Hughes said that if the surveillance video, referenced in a Tennessean article, that places Long at 28th Avenue North and Buchanan Street at 7:15 p.m. Monday is accurate, it's unlikely that he actually took a Megabus. The timing would make it incredibly hard for the boy to catch the one bus headed to Atlanta that night. The Megabus website shows only one departure to Atlanta Monday night, at 7:30 p.m.

Long was last seen at about 6 p.m. Monday leaving his home in the Cumberland View public housing complex. Siblings told police that the boy took his backpack, the Tennessean reported.

Metro Nashville Police told ABC News that Long's mother was scheduled to go to Atlanta to pick up her son Thursday.

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Nebraska High School OKs Guns In Senior Portraits


iStock/Thinkstock(BROKEN BOW, Neb.) -- A Nebraska school district changed its policy to allow seniors to pose with guns for their yearbook photos, and the school's superintendent says he's just catching up with the rest of the Midwest.

Students can pose with any type of prop, from rifles to basketballs, as long as what they're wearing meets the school's dress code and the photo is "tasteful and appropriate," according to the new policy introduced this week.

"We are a very rural community right in the center of Nebraska where hunting and other shooting sports are very popular," Broken Bow Public Schools Superintendent Mark Sievering said. "We have something that is known as the One Box Pheasant Hunt that is a hunt attended by people all over the nation."

While hunting is huge, the city of Broken Bow is small. In fact, the district only has one high school, so the new policy doesn't affect many students.

"We're a town of about 3,500 people," Sievering said. "On any given year, we might have 60 to 70 seniors. We're not talking about hundreds of kids or several schools in a district."

Still, when news of the new rule broke in the Omaha World-Herald, Sievering said he got calls from people across the nation who pictured "a fourth-grader coming into school and having their picture taken with a gun."

"That is not what this is about," he said, adding that students take the senior photos off campus. Sievering said he realizes that it could be easy for people who live in other parts of the country, where yearbook photos are taken at school, to "misconstrue" his policy.


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There was never a ban on weapons in senior photos at Broken Bow High School, but the district generally didn't allow it, the superintendent said. Last year when a yearbook adviser asked about the policy, Sievering realized there wasn't one, and he and the school board decided hunting was an important hobby to many students, and should be represented in the yearbook if students choose.

"I'm confident that students across the country are already taking photos like this. This is not a new thing," he said.

Photographer Brian Baer said he takes yearbook photos for students throughout the state of Nebraska, including in Broken Bow, and has never heard of anyone banning weapons in photos.

"I've been in business for 20 years doing senior portraits, and this is the first time it's been called to attention," he said. "And I think it was addressed because of some sensitivity of school shootings that are becoming more common across the country, unfortunately."

"When we do senior portraits, we ask our students to consider an activity that they're interested in, that they're passionate about," Baer added. "Sometimes it's dancing, sometimes it's basketball, sometimes hunting is the activity they're interested in."

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Toddler Slams SUV into Virginia Automotive Shop


iStock/Thinkstock(CHESTERFIELD, Va.) -- A 2-year-old girl in Virginia escaped with no injuries after she put her mother’s car in neutral, cruised through four lanes of traffic and crashed the car head-on into an automotive shop.

“I was just sitting behind my desk and all of a sudden heard a tremendous boom and jumped up to check and an SUV had hit the wall of the building,” Tony Price, the manager of Adam’s Automotive, told ABC News Thursday.

The crash happened around 1 p.m. Wednesday after the toddler’s mother, who was not identified, went in to pay at a gas station across the road from the auto shop.

“As soon as I looked out the window, the mom was at the vehicle and was scooping the daughter out,” Price said.

The road that the toddler crossed in her mom’s Ford Expedition includes four lanes of traffic that, miraculously, did not have any traffic at that time.

“Nobody hit it. No one had to avoid it. It was amazing,” said Price.

The mother told police officers and Price that her daughter managed to get out of her car seat and put the car in neutral, which then caused the Expedition to drift across the usually busy road.

No charges were filed in the incident according to both Price and local ABC News affiliate WRIC.

Calls placed to the Chesterfield Police Department by ABC News were not returned as of this writing.

The toddler emerged from the crash with only a slight bruise on her face, according to Price.

His business, however, received what he described as “extensive damage.”

“We’re getting estimates on it today,” Price said.

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Statue of Liberty to Get Dressed Up for Halloween


Courtesy of Nick Graham(NEW YORK) -- Even for her 125th birthday, Lady Liberty didn't get this dressed up. But this Halloween, the Statue of Liberty will be decked out, sporting snazzy bow ties to promote the launch of a new menswear brand from designer Nick Graham.

"I was just thinking of something that would be fun to do, dressing up something very large," Graham said. "Mount Rushmore is too far from here, so the next best thing is the Statue of Liberty."

So even if the polka-dot bow ties don't match Lady Liberty's robe, they'll have to do, he joked.

Graham isn't really planning on wrapping the ties around the statue because that would require permission from the National Parks Service.

Instead, helicopters will dangle massive, 35-pound nylon bow ties in front of the statue for a few minutes on the morning of Oct. 31 so it will appear to spectators on Manhattan that she's dressed up.

The National Park Service told ABC News it doesn't have a say in Graham's project because the Federal Aviation Administration controls the airspace around the statue -- but if it did, it wouldn't let it happen.

"We have not been asked for a permit and, if we were, we would not permit such activity within our property," NPS spokeswoman Mindi Rambo told ABC News.

Graham, known as the creator of Joe Fresh but who has since launched a namesake line, said his plan is meant all in good fun.

"Let's dress up America," he said. "That's what I'm really all about!"

After getting a snapshot of Lady Liberty "wearing" the bow tie, the helicopters will fly up and down the Hudson and East Rivers to promote Graham's new line of neckwear and dress shirts.

A third-party company will handle the banners and helicopters and is working with the Federal Aviation Administration, Graham said.

The FAA did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment.

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Neuroscientist Faces Trial in Wife's Cyanide Poisoning Death


iStock/Thinkstock(PITTSBURGH) -- Opening statements are expected to begin Thursday at the trial of a University of Pittsburgh neuroscientist accused of poisoning his neurologist wife with an energy drink laced with cyanide.

Dr. Robert Ferrante, 65, allegedly gave his wife, Dr. Autumn Klein, 41, the drink on April 17, 2013, telling her that it would help her get pregnant. That same day, the couple exchanged text messages about how a creatine regimen could help them conceive.

According to a criminal complaint obtained by ABC News, Klein wrote, “Will it stimulate egg production too?”

Ferrante allegedly responded with a smiley face.

Klein collapsed in her home. She died on April 20, 2013, at UPMC Presbyterian, where she was chief of the division of women's neurology and an assistant professor of neurology, obstetrics and gynecology.

Police documents allege that Ferrante did not want an autopsy performed, and instructed that Klein’s body be cremated. Despite those instructions, an autopsy was performed, revealing a lethal amount of cyanide in her system.

Ferrante -- considered a leading researcher of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS -- allegedly had a bottle of cyanide shipped overnight to his lab at the University of Pittsburgh two days before his wife collapsed, using a university credit card.

Additionally, hours after a police interview following Klein’s death, Ferrante allegedly performed a Google search, writing, “Would ECMO or dialysis remove traces of toxins poisons?”

Police say Ferrante suspected his wife was having an affair. He was arrested in July 2013, charged with one count of criminal homicide. He has pleaded not guilty.

ABC News Chief Legal Affairs Anchor Dan Abrams said the trial will likely become a battle of medical experts.

“How much cyanide was in her body is the crucial piece of evidence,” Abrams said. “The defense is expected to dispute the reliability of the blood tests. That will be a big part of the case.”

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Polo Mogul Blames Faulty Brakes for Fatal Crash


iStock/Thinkstock(WEST PALM BEACH, Fla.) -- Polo mogul John Goodman took the stand in his own defense Wednesday, blaming faulty brakes -- and not alcohol -- for a fatal 2010 crash.

Goodman, the owner of the International Polo Club Palm Beach, insisted that the brakes on his $200,000 Bentley weren’t working properly, causing the car to slam into a Hyundai driven by Scott Wilson, 23. The crash sent the Hyundai into a canal, where Wilson drowned.

“I went to grab my gear shift, and that’s the last thing I remember,” Goodman said.

Goodman testified that he was on his way to the fast-food restaurant Wendy’s to buy a Frosty frozen dessert when the accident happened.

“The first thing I remember after that was, I was seeing white everywhere,” Goodman said.

“Stars?” his attorney asked.

“Yes, and not really knowing where I was,” Goodman said.

Prosecutors have claimed that Goodman was drunk at the time of the accident after working up a $272 tab partying at The Players Club in Wellington, Florida, later registering a blood-alcohol level of 0.177, more than twice the legal limit to drive.

Goodman admitted ordering 18 drinks at the club -- but he said he only had three of those drinks.

The rest were for others, he said.

He also claimed he didn’t get drunk until after the crash, when he left the scene and stumbled upon a friend’s home, where, he said, he drank heavily.

“I drank it out of the bottle,” he said.

Goodman’s defense also called Dr. David Delonga, a medical specialist, to testify that Goodman was disoriented -- not because of the amount he had to drink, but because the crash likely gave him a concussion.

“That would have been consistent in the range of a mild traumatic brain injury, or concussion, to put it in layman’s terms,” Delonga told the court.

This is the second trial for the multimillionaire, who was convicted in 2012 for Wilson’s death and sentenced to 16 years behind bars. But that verdict was thrown out because of juror misconduct.

Goodman has pleaded not guilty.

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Former Blackwater Security Guards Guilty in Shooting Deaths of Iraqis


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Four former guards of a U.S. security company hired to protect diplomats were found guilty Wednesday in the September 2007 shooting deaths of 14 Iraqi civilians and the wounding of 17 others.

The men, who were on trial for a second time after their case was dismissed in 2009, claimed their convoy came under attack in Baghdad and were returning fire.

However, federal prosecutors successfully argued that the former Blackwater guards were the aggressors in the incident and showed "grave indifference" to bystanders who were killed or injured by their actions.

A jury convicted Nicholas Slatten of first-degree murder, punishable by a maximum of life in prison. Paul Slough, Evan Liberty and Dustin Heard were found guilty of lesser charges, including multiple counts of voluntary manslaughter.

Following the verdicts, all the defendants were ordered jailed while their lawyers said they would appeal.

Meanwhile, even after deliberating for a month, the jury still has to decide on the remaining counts in the case.

Blackwater has since been renamed Academia and bills itself as a private military company.

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Huge Academic Scandal at UNC Involved Athletes


Stockbyte/Thinkstock(CHAPEL HILL, N.C.) -- The University of North Carolina admitted Wednesday that about 3,100 students took so-called "paper classes" with no faculty oversight and no actual class attendance from 1993 through 2011.

The school estimates that half of the students were athletes, mostly from the UNC's basketball and football teams.

Wednesday's report goes much further than when the scandal first came to light in 2011, which initially stated that it was only about academics.

This revelation, however, drags the UNC's vaunted athletic program into the morass.

According to the investigation conducted by the college, two employees in the African and Afro-American Studies department organized fake classes that doled out As and Bs to students who never showed up, presumably to maintain eligibility for sports.

The employees were Julius Nyang’oro, the department's chairman, and Deborah Crowder, the department’s administrator. It was up to Crowder, the report alleged, to give out grades on single papers turned in by students, hence the term "paper classes."

The investigation does not directly implicate any high level administrators at the school. However, it does suggest they missed obvious signs of improprieties and "failed to conduct any meaningful oversight."

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Little League Champ Mo'ne Davis Stars in New Chevrolet Commercial


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) --  Little League star Mo'ne Davis is back in the spotlight, starring in a new Chevrolet ad that aired during Game 1 of the World Series.

And the pint-sized pitcher is still out to prove that throwing like a girl is a good thing.

Davis said she had "the best summer of my young life" as the star of Philadelphia's Taney Dragons. She led the team to the Little League World Series and made history as one of the few girls to play in the series, and the first Little Leaguer ever to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

"I stand for girls who want to play sports with the boys and to be a role model for people young and old," Davis, 13, says in the commercial, directed by Spike Lee. "I throw 70 miles per hour -- that's throwing like a girl."

Chevrolet posted a longer version of the commercial, which aired Tuesday night, on YouTube that includes interviews with her family, coach and other people who have come in contact with the young star.

"There's this little girl that I'd never seen before and she's throwing these effortless, perfect spirals, once after another," said coach Steve Bandura, who spotted Davis on the field when she was only seven years old. "And she's throwing them like twenty yards and it just looked like it was computer-generated."

The NCAA says Davis' appearance in the Chevy ad won't affect her eligibility to someday play college sports.


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World Series Wish Comes True for 6-Year-Old Cancer Patient


Rob Carr/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- A six-year-old Kansas boy who suffers from a painful tumor on his spine was in the stands when the Kansas City Royals threw their first pitch in a World Series game since 1985.

On Tuesday, cancer was the last thing on young Noah Wilson's mind.

"It was amazing," his dad Scott Wilson told ABC News on Wednesday. "We walked away with a loss but the energy in that place was phenomenal." 

Wilson, his wife and their two sons, including Noah, were at the game thanks to a neighbor who launched a campaign last week to send Noah, a lifelong Royals fan who has a rare bone cancer called Ewing sarcoma, to see the team play in the World Series. They have tickets to Wednesday night's game, too.

"Noah had a blast last night and he got home and was still excited," Wilson said. "He fell asleep pretty quick because it was a late night, and he got up this morning already wearing his Royals hat and ready to go." 

Their neighbor Ryan Zimmerman set up a GoFundMe page last week, and supporters raised more than $11,000 to send the cancer patient to Wednesday night's game. MLB and StubHub ended up donating tickets, and Zimmerman said the money raised would be used instead to pay off Noah's hospital bills.

But the Wilsons had a better idea.

"Noah is one of many kids battling cancer. We've always felt kinda weird about this whole thing, so many families are deserving of this," he said. "So we took the money and we bought 16 tickets on StubHub for the game, plus the [extra] tickets donated and gave them to other families going through cancer, that we've met at the hospital or through friends."

"There's no better way to spend it, in our opinion," he said.

On Monday, when Wilson went to pick up the tickets for Wednesday's game, an MLB employee who had heard about the campaign offered up her tickets so the family could also attend Game 1 Tuesday night.

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Wife Discovers Trove of Letters From Husband After His Death


iStock/Thinkstock(LONGVIEW, Texas) -- Even after his death, Mitchell Whisenhunt has found a way to surprise and bring comfort to his wife and young daughter, with a trove of letters he designated to be opened on certain dates.

Whisenhunt, who would have turned 27 next week, lost his battle with Marfan syndrome last Saturday. The rare genetic disorder affects the body's connective tissue, which is used to hold together organs, cells and tissue.

Ashley Whisenhunt, 22, cared for her husband until his death, but said she was astonished when she discovered the 30 letters he left for her and their 18-month-old daughter, Brynleigh.

The little girl will grow up with a letter every year from her second to 18th birthday from a man she didn't get to spend much time with but who left no doubt that he loved her unconditionally.

"Through his testimony, there is so much she is going to learn," Whisenhunt told ABC News.

One letter was also addressed to their Longview, Texas, community, thanking them for their support.

"It just blows my mind," Whisenhunt said of her husband's secret gesture. "He thought about everybody else instead of himself."


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Whisenhunt said she would respect her husband's wishes and open each letter as he planned. However, there was one special surprise left for her that she said hit her the hardest.

In a spiral notebook that Whisenhunt used before she dropped out of college to care for her husband, he wrote a letter to her asking that she publish a book of poetry he had had written.

"He is all I ever had," Whisenhunt said of the man she fell in love with as a teenager. "We have been together since before we knew what love and life was about."

Mitchell Whisenhunt planned his own funeral, and as his wife raises money to pay for it, she said she can't help but wonder what other surprises her husband has in store.

"There are ones we still don't know about," she said. "The funeral director said he couldn't tell me. It was Mitchell's plan and secret."

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Indiana Serial Killer Suspect Refuses to Speak in Court


iStock/Thinkstock(CROWN POINT, Ind.) -- The accused serial killer who police say confessed to murdering at least seven women in Indiana refused to speak to a judge in court Wednesday, forcing her to cancel the arraignment.

Suspect Darren Vann was silent as Judge Kathleen Sullivan asked him to swear to tell the truth at the Lake County Jail in Crown Point. Instead of speaking, Vann stared straight ahead.

Sullivan postponed the hearing until next week.

Vann's silence comes after he cooperated with police, confessing to seven murders and showing police where to find the bodies.

Vann, 43, was arrested in the Friday murder of a 19-year-old woman at a motel in Hammond, Indiana. She was later identified as Afrikka Hardy, who had recently moved to Indiana from Aurora, Colorado. Police say she was involved in a prostitution ring and Vann met her, along with other alleged victims, through listings on Backpage.com.

Vann helped authorities locate the bodies of six other victims, all stashed in abandoned homes in Gary, Indiana, because "he was looking for a type of deal with prosecution," Hammond Police Chief John D. Doughty said at a press conference this week.

Vann indicated to police that his murders date back two decades, and police suggested there could be additional victims.

The Lake County coroner said Wednesday that they have identified four of the women and are seeking the public's help in identifying the remaining three. Seventeen families have called the coroner's office to make missing persons reports to see if the victims were their family members.

The coroner said at least one other woman was strangled, and the cause of death of the remaining five was not yet determined.

At least three of the victims were skeletonized by the time they were found, a process that could take between two weeks and months depending on the environment, a spokeswoman for the coroner's office said. Two of the skeletonized bodies were found together.

The office asked that anyone with information about the victims to call 219-755-3267.

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