Tombstone takes water fight to canyons, Capitol Hill
Members of the Tombstone Shovel Brigade climbed two miles up a steep canyon to repair a 26-mile water pipeline.
June 8th, 2012
09:12 PM ET

Tombstone takes water fight to canyons, Capitol Hill

Tombstone, Arizona (CNN) – Under an unforgiving desert sun, about 60 determined souls gathered in a high school football field under the banner of the Tombstone Shovel Brigade. They collected shovels and joined a pickup truck caravan across the desert. Then they climbed two miles up a steep, rocky canyon and began to move part of a mountain, one boulder at a time.

Thousands of miles away, in the nation’s capital, Tombstone’s congressman and the city archivist tried to move a bureaucratic mountain, too, during hearings before a subcommittee of the House Natural Resources Committee.

Tombstone, as CNN has reported, is in the midst of a court battle with the U.S. Forest Service. At issue is whether Tombstone can take heavy equipment into federally protected wilderness.

Tombstone is trying to repair a 26-mile pipeline that has brought mountain spring water into the city since 1881. The pipeline was damaged during last summer’s Monument Fire and floods that brought mud and boulders crashing down the denuded mountainside.

The city sued the Forest Service in December, accusing the agency of dragging its feet during a state of emergency. The courts have turned down the city’s request for an emergency injunction, and so the battle has entered a new phase in the court of public opinion.

Frustrated with the slow pace of the repairs, Tombstone’s supporters created the nonprofit Tombstone Shovel Brigade a couple of months ago. They are helped by the organizers of the Jarbidge Shovel Brigade, which used volunteer muscle power to move a boulder and reopen a mountain road on federal wilderness in 2000.

Tombstone has become the poster city for a sweeping resurgence of the Sagebrush Rebellion in some Western states. This time, Utah state Rep. Ken Ivory explained, the rebellion is not fueled by oilmen and cattle ranchers.

Instead, local governments are behind the movement to push back against what they say is the federal government’s treatment of them as “submissive subdivisions.”

U.S. Rep. Jeff Flake has introduced H.R. 5971, the Emergency Water Supply Restoration Act, which proposes to set aside Forest Service restrictions against the use of construction equipment during state-declared water emergencies. Flake and Nancy Sosa, the city’s archivist, were among the witnesses who testified Friday.

“The unforeseen consequences of federal laws and regulations threaten to do something outlaws, economic busts, and the Arizona desert couldn’t: Kill the town too tough to die,” Flake said. Tombstone, population 1,400, is a throwback to the Old West and is famous for the 30-second gunfight at the O.K. Corral, which is re-enacted for tourists twice a day.

“Without water, the most precious commodity in the desert, Tombstone will cease to exist,” Sosa said. She told the committee that Tombstone burned to the ground twice before the waterline was built.

CNN will have more on this developing story Saturday.

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Filed under: Arizona • Congress • Courts • Environment • Fire • Flooding • U.S. • Weather
May 16th, 2012
04:31 PM ET

Federal judge turns down Tombstone's emergency bid to fix water pipeline

The city of Tombstone, Arizona, has lost the first round in its showdown with the federal government over water.

U.S. District Judge Frank Zapata this week shot down Tombstone’s request for an emergency injunction ordering the U.S. Forest Service to step aside and let the city use heavy equipment to repair its 130-year-old pipeline in the Huachuca Mountains.

The pipeline and some of Tombstone’s springs lie within a federally protected wilderness area, requiring a permit from the Forest Service. But Tombstone says it owns the land and doesn't have to ask anyone for permission to make repairs that are critical to its survival.

Showdown at the H20 corral

In a 14-page written decision, Zapata said the evidence showed that the Forest Service had attempted to approve some permits, but that the city did not provide enough information.

Tombstone immediately appealed to the 9th Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals. Tombstone also plans to ask the 9th Circuit court for an injunction.

“We will take it all the way up to the Supreme Court if necessary,” said Christina Sandefur, and attorney with the Goldwater Institute, which represents Tombstone.

Tombstone’s 26-mile water line, which dates back to 1881, was damaged in landslides that followed last summer’s Monument Fire.

The city plans to hold the Tombstone Shovel Brigade on June 8 and 9, hoping hundreds, if not thousands, of volunteers with donated shovels will head into the mountains and work on the pipeline.

“The most desperate part of our work is to try to protect the work we have done from the monsoons,” said Tombstone City Clerk George Barnes.

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Filed under: Arizona
Sandusky waives right to preliminary hearing
December 13th, 2011
08:43 AM ET

Sandusky waives right to preliminary hearing

[Updated at 8:51 a.m. ET] Former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky, who is accused of sexually abusing young boys, surprised a packed Pennsylvania courtroom Tuesday by waiving his right to a preliminary hearing.

After Magistrate Judge Robert Scott asked Sandusky if he understood he was waiving certain rights, the former coach said yes, and the courtroom erupted in conversation and laughter. The judge admonished the crowd, and Sandusky and his attorney, Joe Amendola, left shortly afterward.

His arraignment is set for January 11.

Sandusky faces more than 50 counts involving the sexual molestation of 10 boys he met through a youth charity he founded, The Second Mile. He has denied the allegations, and is free on $250,000 bail.

Tuesday's preliminary hearing was to offer the first glimpse of what the accusers have to say beyond what was contained in a grand jury's initial 28-page presentment. Preliminary hearings are held to determine whether prosecutors have enough evidence to take a case to trial.

Defense attorneys often use the hearings as fact-finding missions, probing for botched police work or inconsistencies in the testimony of the prosecution witnesses.

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Filed under: College football • Crime • Football • Jerry Sandusky • Penn State • Pennsylvania • Sports
No fist fights here: A methodical approach to get spectators into Conrad Murray trial
A woman receives a ticket to gain access into the Conrad Murray trial in Los Angeles.
October 5th, 2011
09:32 AM ET

No fist fights here: A methodical approach to get spectators into Conrad Murray trial

At the Conrad Murray manslaughter trial in downtown Los Angeles, there are no all-night lines, no fistfights, no Sharpie system like the one used by would-be spectators during Casey Anthony’s murder trial.

Trial-watching is a more orderly affair in L.A., which has a long history of sensational courtroom drama.

Spectators start showing up around 7 a.m., and it’s all over by 7:30. Unlike the Casey crowd, who were fighting over a hot ticket into the trial, these folks don’t brawl.

Why not? It’s not that Michael Jackson’s fans, who make up the vast majority of the would-be spectators, are peace-loving folks. They’re just as emotional about the case as the Casey clatchers were.

There’s just no point to acting out.

In Orlando, it was pretty much first come, first served for 50 courtroom seats, and conflict often arose over the varying definitions of “first.”

It got downright scary the night one woman showed up and started her own line, declaring herself No. 1. That did not go down well with the 50+ others who’d passed a Sharpie around to brand themselves with their numbers.

In Los Angeles, there are far fewer seats for the public, so you’d think the law of supply and demand would make the competition more intense. Ah, but L.A. has its lottery system. No matter when you show up, you’re given a ticket, and the other half is tossed in a bowl. The winning numbers are pulled out at random – so far six to nine a day.

If only they’d thought about that in Orlando, they might not have had to call the cops so many times.

“We’ve been doing this a while,” said one court spokeswoman, who offered a knowing smile and nod, but not her name.
nys lottery

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Filed under: California • Conrad Murray • Courts
U.S. hit with a weird combination of fire, water and ice
Storm chasers get ahead of a tornado in Mapleton, Iowa, on Friday.
April 11th, 2011
12:32 PM ET

U.S. hit with a weird combination of fire, water and ice

Hailstones covered a beach in Southern California over the weekend; tornadoes tore up a small town in Iowa; residents of Fargo, North Dakota, escaped a flood threat; and West Texas is battling the biggest wildfire outbreak in its history.

Yes, it’s spring in America.

The crazy weather is expected to continue today, with record temperatures predicted along the East Coast. Highs will top 80 as far north as Philadelphia, and it will feel like summer in the South. But an advancing cold front will set off a line of potentially severe storms from Texas to the Great Lakes, according to the National Weather Service. That line will head east into the evening.

Residents of Newport Beach, California, were soaking in a Jacuzzi, enjoying an unseasonably cool night, when the skies opened up, CNN affiliate KTLA reports.

At first they thought they were being pelted by raindrops, but it stung. The hail-snow combo covered the sand with icy pellets - and was the first time many residents had seen snow on the beach.


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Filed under: California • Iowa • North Dakota • Texas • Tornadoes • U.S. • Weather
Police: Nevada councilwoman killed husband hour before her suicide
Police say Nevada councilwoman Donna Fairchild killed herself after killing her husband on January 25.
March 21st, 2011
08:33 PM ET

Police: Nevada councilwoman killed husband hour before her suicide

Mesquite, Nevada (CNN) - Embattled Nevada councilwoman Donna Fairchild killed her husband of 21 years in his sleep at least an hour before she took her own life early January 25, law enforcement officials have concluded.

Douglas Law, police chief in Mesquite, Nevada, where Fairchild served on the city council, said a toxicology analysis revealed no signs of alcohol, narcotics or an anti-smoking medication in the couple's bloodstream.

The couple had stopped smoking and were dieting, leading to speculation that the murder-suicide might be linked to a smoking cessation drug.

Caffeine and an agent found in chocolate were detected, and Bill Fairchild also had taken a mild allergy medication, Law said. He added that the medical examiner's report confirmed his department's findings that the couple died in a murder-suicide.

The Fairchilds were found dead before dawn in the bedroom of their home in a newer subdivision in the hills overlooking Mesquite, a desert community of about 15,000 about 80 miles north of Las Vegas.

At about 4:20 a.m. Donna Fairchild emailed two friends, and then called 911 and summoned police to her home. "I'm so very sorry,"  she said, according to Law.

Police found Bill Fairchild, a former Denver homicide detective who worked part-time at Mesquite's recreation center, lying under the covers with a gunshot wound to the side of his nose. Gunshot residue was found on his eyelids, indicating he never woke up, Law said.

Donna Fairchild, also retired from the Denver police force, was found fully clothed, lying on top of the covers with a 9 mm gunshot wound to the temple.

Police discovered a note on the telephone stand in the kitchen, signed by "Donna."

"I am so sorry for the disappointment I have caused all of you," the typed note said. "I know this makes no sense. It never will."

The bodies were found hours before Donna Fairchild was to attend a City Council meeting and face possible sanctions over a $94.30 travel expense voucher and public comments she made about a state agency.

She was one of three candidates who had announced they were running against incumbent Mayor Susan Holecheck, who along with the city attorney placed the agenda items seeking sanctions against Fairchild on the city council's meeting agenda.

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Filed under: Crime • Nevada
Tough times for men and women in blue
Law enforcement officials hug each other Monday before a memorial service for two slain Miami-Dade police officers.
January 24th, 2011
01:51 PM ET

Tough times for men and women in blue

As police in Florida prepared for the funeral of two Miami-Dade County police officers gunned down in the line of duty, shots rang out Monday in St. Petersburg, on the other side of the state. Two other officers fell dead and a federal marshal was wounded. Follow updates on CNN and affiliate WFTS-TV.

On any given day, such violence against police officers would be disturbing. But the fatalities capped a particularly violent 24 hours in the United States for the men and women in blue. Eleven police officers were shot.

“It is a very disturbing trend for all of us,” said Hal Johnson, general counsel for the Florida Police Benevolent Association. “Florida has never seen a streak like this. I don’t think anybody has.”

It is natural to search for answers, Johnson said, even if there aren’t any. The shootings do not appear to be related, and the motives may never be known. Declaring it to be open season against police officers seems dangerously simplistic, he added.

He sees the shootings more as acts of desperation.


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Filed under: Crime • Florida • Indiana • Michigan • Washington state
November 17th, 2010
10:51 AM ET

Smart's story: Months of what ifs, near misses

Maybe Elizabeth Smart wouldn't have spent "nine months in hell" if her mother hadn't burned the potatoes.

Maybe she wouldn't have been stolen in the night if she and her father had closed the kitchen window and set the alarm as they made their nightly rounds after family prayers.

And maybe her ordeal wouldn't have lasted so long if somebody - anybody - had just spoken up after seeing a veiled teenager who didn't seem to have a will of her own.

There are so many maybes in Elizabeth Smart's story.


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Filed under: Elizabeth Smart
November 9th, 2010
01:39 PM ET

Elizabeth Smart discusses her months in captivity

Testifying in the trial of her alleged kidnapper, Elizabeth Smart recounted before jurors Tuesday an encounter with a Salt Lake City detective that could have brought her home months earlier.

The homicide detective encountered Smart and her alleged abductor, Brian David Mitchell, along with Mitchell's wife, Wanda Barzee, at the city library in the fall of 2002, several months after she was snatched at knifepoint from her family's home in June, she testified Tuesday.

The three had gone to the library to research California and San Diego, Smart said. Mitchell was already considering moving her there, and the encounter with police spurred him to do so.


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Filed under: Crime • Elizabeth Smart
November 8th, 2010
02:23 PM ET

Smart's mother said younger daughter told her: 'Elizabeth is gone'

Looking "like a scared rabbit," Elizabeth Smart's younger sister awakened her parents early in the morning of June 5, 2002, with alarming news.

"Elizabeth is gone," 9-year-old Mary Katherine said, according to testimony Monday in the federal kidnapping trial of Brian David Mitchell, the man accused of abducting Smart eight years ago.

Lois Smart, the girls' mother, was the first witness to testify at the trial. She spent less than an hour on the witness stand, recalling how the family hired Mitchell to do odd jobs.


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Filed under: Crime • Elizabeth Smart
March 12th, 2010
01:45 PM ET

Police chief: No signs of 'Baby Gabriel' in landfill

Gabriel Johnson was last seen in San Antonio, Texas, with his mother, Elizabeth Johnson.

A month-long search of a Texas landfill has ended with no signs of 8-month-old Gabriel Johnson, police said Friday.

“This case leaves us with somewhat of a bittersweet conclusion,” said William McManus, chief of the San Antonio Police Department. “The good news is we have no homicide. The bad news is the case is still open.”


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Filed under: Justice