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Sex offender charged with murder in death of Iowa girl, 10

Sex offender charged with murder in death of Iowa girl, 10

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A registered sex offender kidnapped and shot to death a 10-year-old Iowa girl, his son’s half sister, while the two children were staying overnight with him last summer, a prosecutor said Wednesday. Authorities announced that Henry Dinkins was charged with first-degree murder and first-degree kidnapping in the death of Breasia Terrell, a Davenport girl whose disappearance last July prompted an extensive search and investigation.

An autopsy confirmed that human remains discovered by fishermen in March in a rural area north of Davenport were Breasia.

Dinkins, a 48-year-old who has been in and out of prison throughout his adulthood, had long been the only person that investigators had identified as a person of interest in the case. Breasia was last seen in the early hours of July 10 at a Davenport apartment complex, where she was staying the night with her half brother and his father, Dinkins. A criminal complaint released Wednesday alleges that Dinkins removed Breasia from the apartment “without consent or authority, or by deception, to secretly confine and inflict serious injury” on her. “As a result of the kidnapping, (Breasia) was murdered,” the complaint said. It added that Dinkins “shot her with a firearm causing her death.”

Scott County Attorney Michael Walton released few additional details during a brief news conference Wednesday, saying only that the case was developed through “an intensive, nine-month investigation involving numerous agencies.” He said that he had to withhold investigative details while his office prosecutes Dinkins.

“While announcing charges is a significant step in this case, it is important to understand that bringing forth charges is not the end of the legal process but just the beginning,” he said.

Detectives with the Davenport Police Department led the investigation and received assistance from the FBI, which announced a $10,000 reward for information in the case in December on what would have been Breasia’s 11th birthday.

Investigators had asked anyone with information about Dinkins’ whereabouts on July 9-10 to come forward, publicizing photos of a maroon Chevy Impala and other vehicles associated with him.

Davenport Police Capt. Brent Biggs said Breasia’s mother had been “supportive and cooperative” with investigators throughout the case. “We cannot imagine the grief and pain she must experience,” he said.

Biggs also credited several detectives who worked long hours on the case, saying it had been hard on their personal lives. They routinely must look at “the worst of humanity” and carry on, he said.

Dinkins was convicted of third-degree sexual abuse in 1990 when he was 17 for victimizing a female child, according to the Iowa Sex Offender Registry.

He was arrested days after Breasia’s disappearance on charges that he violated sex offender registry requirements by failing to tell authorities that he had been living in the apartment with his girlfriend for weeks. Authorities said he also violated the terms of his parole by having contact with minors. He has been jailed in Clinton County while awaiting trial on those charges.

Dinkins was convicted in 2004 of a sex offender registry violation and has a long criminal history that includes multiple offenses for driving while intoxicated and drug possession. A 2009 murder charge against him was dismissed after authorities said he appeared to be a witness rather than a participant in the crime.

Dinkins was served with an arrest warrant on the new charges Wednesday and did not yet have an attorney in the case. A public defender assigned to represent him on other charges didn’t immediately return a phone message.

Families, advocates mark day of awareness for Native victims: From Washington to Indigenous communities across the American Southwest, top government officials, family members and advocates gathered Wednesday as part of a call to action to address the ongoing problem of violence against Indigenous women and children.

U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and other federal officials commemorated the annual day of awareness as a caravan of female motorcycle riders planned to hit the streets in Phoenix, advocates took to social media, and families prepared for a night of candlelight and prayer vigils.

In Washington, an event hosted by federal officials started with a prayer asking for guidance and grace for the Indigenous families who have lost relatives and those who have been victims of violence. Before and after a moment of silence, officials from various agencies vowed to continue working with tribes to address the crisis.

As part of the ceremony, a red memorial shawl with the names of missing and slain Indigenous women was draped across a long table to remember the lives behind what Haaland called alarming and unacceptable statistics. More names were added to the shawl Wednesday.

Haaland, the first Native American to lead a U.S. cabinet agency and a former Democratic U.S. representative from New Mexico, recalled hearing families testify about searching for loved ones on their own and bringing a red ribbon skirt to a congressional hearing that represented missing and slain Native Americans.

Haaland displayed the red shawl in her office Wednesday to symbolize those who have disappeared and honor the movement that rang the alarm. She believes the nation has reached an inflection point, saying it’s time to solve the crisis.

“Everyone deserves to feel safe in their communities, but the missing and murdered Indigenous peoples crisis is one that Native communities have faced since the dawn of colonization,” she said as she joined the ceremony virtually. “For too long, this issue has been swept under the rug with the lack of urgency, attention and funding.”

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland also issued a statement, saying the Justice Department is “committed to finding lasting solutions to the public safety challenges tribal communities encounter and to protecting them from violence, abuse and exploitation.”

Indigenous women have been victimized at astonishing rates, with federal figures showing that they — along with non-Hispanic Black women — have experienced the highest homicide rates.

Yet an Associated Press investigation in 2018 found that nobody knows the precise number of cases of missing and murdered Native Americans nationwide because many go unreported, others aren’t well documented, and no government database specifically tracks them.

In New Mexico, members of the state’s task force on Wednesday shared some of the findings of their work over the past year, which included combing through public records and requesting data from nearly two dozen law enforcement agencies to better understand the scope of the problem. Only five agencies responded.

Even with such limited data, they pointed to an estimated 660 cases involving missing Indigenous people between 2014 and 2019 in the state’s largest urban center, putting Albuquerque among U.S. cities with the highest number of cases.

New Mexico’s task force will be expanded and its work extended into 2022, with the goal of recommending policy changes and legislation.

Other states also have established task forces or commissions to focus on the problem, with Hawaii becoming the latest through {a href=”” target=”—blank”}legislation{/a} that points to land dispossession, incarceration and harmful stereotypes as reasons for Native Hawaiians’ increased vulnerability to violence.

President Joe Biden issued a {a href=”” target=”—blank”}proclamation{/a} Tuesday on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons Awareness Day. He has promised to bolster resources to address the crisis and better consult with tribes to hold perpetrators accountable and keep communities safe.

Haaland said that includes more staffing in a U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs unit dedicated to solving cold cases and coordinating with Mexico and Canada to combat human trafficking.

The administration’s work will build on some of the initiatives started during former President Donald Trump’s tenure. That included a task force made up of the Interior Department, the Justice Department and other federal agencies to address violent crime in Indian Country.

Advocates have said a lack of resources, language barriers and complex jurisdictional issues have exacerbated efforts to locate those who are missing and solve other crimes in Indian Country. They also have pointed to the need for more culturally appropriate services and training for how to handle such cases.

Over the past year, advocacy groups also have reported that cases of domestic violence against Indigenous women and children and sexual assault increased as nonprofit groups and social workers scrambled to meet the added challenges that stemmed from the coronavirus pandemic.

Bryan Newland, principal assistant secretary for Indian Affairs at the Interior Department, said staffing at the Bureau of Indian Affairs unit will go from a team of 10 to more than 20 officers and special agents with administrative and support staff it previously didn’t have.

He also said the federal government has started distributing funding under the American Rescue Plan Act, including $60 million for public safety and law enforcement in Indian Country.

“We’re really looking to build upon many of the things that have been done, to expand them and bring focus to them,” Newland said.

Haaland on Tuesday told reporters that success would be measured by solving cold cases.

“Right now there are people in this country who don’t know where their loved ones are. They haven’t been found,” she said. “We want to be able to answer that question. We want to make sure that folks can have some closure about their missing loved ones.”

Flood threats persist as storms continue to drench the South: Relentless wind and rain pummeled much of the southeastern United States, spawning tornadoes, sparking a flash flood emergency in Alabama and damaging homes from Texas to Virginia. The storms have prompted boat rescues and toppled trees and power lines. Crews were preparing to continue cleaning up debris and assessing destruction across the region early Wednesday, as some schools canceled classes or moved them online due to damage on campuses and surrounding areas.

The National Weather Service’s prediction center warned Wednesday morning that flash flooding could also now affect the Central Gulf Coast with storms shifting southeast and rain continuing to soak much of the region.

The storms have been responsible for at least three deaths and dozens of injuries this week, and more than 200,000 customers were without power from Arkansas to Maryland early Wednesday, including about 75,000 in Alabama, about 66,000 in Mississippi, about 13,800 in Georgia and about 25,700 in Virginia, according to the website Torrential rains near Birmingham, Alabama, on Tuesday, dumped more than 7 inches of water in a few afternoon hours, causing flooding problems across much of the state’s most populous areas.

Emergency Management officials in the area urged residents to stay off roads because so many were flooded, including some downtown. In the Birmingham suburb of Homewood, fire department rescuers in a small boat paddled past submerged cars in a parking lot, slowly removing more than a dozen people from the waters surrounding an apartment complex.

Strong winds blowing behind a line of storms were toppling trees across central Alabama, where soil was saturated with water, and lightning struck a church in central Alabama, causing extensive damage from a fire. The National Weather Service in Birmingham said late Tuesday it planned to send two crews to Greene and Tuscaloosa Counties to assess wind and possible tornado damage from storms that started Sunday.

Strong winds and heavy rain whipped through Mississippi’s capital city of Jackson late Tuesday while thunder rattled windows. The high winds cracked some limbs off trees and sent them onto nearby houses. The storms left streets littered with branches and leaves.

At least eight people were injured when storms that brought tornadoes to Texas flipped tractor-trailers on an interstate and damaged structures.

In Tennessee, at least 11 counties were hit by possible EF-0 tornadoes, according to an official with the National Weather Service in Nashville. A tornado that struck Virginia’s Northumberland County near the Chesapeake Bay destroyed one home and severely damaged a few others Monday.

On Monday, tornadoes also touched down in South Carolina and southern Kentucky while a possible tornado hit West Virginia.

In Mississippi, forecasters confirmed 12 tornadoes Sunday evening and night, including the Yazoo City twister, which stretched for 30 miles (50 kilometers), and another tornado that moved through suburbs south of Jackson, producing a damage track 1,000 yards (910 meters) wide.

Main stage of Chinese rocket likely to plunge to Earth soon: The largest section of the rocket that launched the main module of China’s first permanent space station into orbit is expected to plunge back to Earth as early as Saturday at an unknown location. Usually, discarded rocket stages are immediately guided into a controlled demolition by friction in Earth’s atmosphere, but the Chinese rocket section was not. China’s space agency has yet to say whether the “core stage” of the huge Long March 5B rocket is being controlled or will make an out-of-control descent. Last May, another Chinese rocket fell uncontrolled into the Atlantic Ocean off West Africa.

Basic details about the rocket stage and its trajectory are unknown because the Chinese government has yet to comment publicly on the reentry. Phone calls to the China National Space Administration weren’t answered on Wednesday, a holiday. However, the newspaper Global Times, published by the Chinese Communist Party, said the stage’s “thin-skinned” aluminum-alloy exterior will easily burn up in the atmosphere, posing an extremely remote risk to people. The U.S. Defense Department expects the rocket stage to fall to Earth on Saturday.

Where it will hit “cannot be pinpointed until within hours of its reentry,” the Pentagon said in a statement Tuesday.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki at a Wednesday briefing said the U.S. Space Command was “aware of and tracking the location” of the Chinese rocket.

The nonprofit Aerospace Corp. expects the debris to hit the Pacific near the Equator after passing over eastern U.S. cities. Its orbit covers a swath of the planet from New Zealand to Newfoundland.

The Long March 5B rocket carried the main module of Tianhe, or Heavenly Harmony, into orbit on April 29. China plans 10 more launches to carry additional parts of the space station into orbit.

The roughly 100-foot-long stage would be among the biggest space debris to fall to Earth.

The 18-ton rocket that fell last May was the heaviest debris to fall uncontrolled since the former Soviet space station Salyut 7 in 1991.

China’s first space station, Tiangong-1, crashed into the Pacific Ocean in 2016 after Beijing confirmed it had lost control. In 2019, the space agency controlled the demolition of its second station, Tiangong-2, in the atmosphere.

In March, debris from a Falcon 9 rocket launched by U.S. aeronautics company SpaceX fell to Earth in Washington and on the Oregon coast.

India’s virus surge damages Modi’s image of competence: India’s hospitals were packed with coronavirus patients, relatives of the sick scrambled to find supplies of oxygen, and crematoriums were running near full capacity to handle the dead. Yet despite those clear signs of an overwhelming health crisis, Prime Minister Narendra Modi pressed ahead with a densely packed campaign rally.

“I have never seen such a huge crowd before!” he roared to his supporters in West Bengal state on April 17, before key local elections. “Wherever I can see, I can only see people. I can see nothing else.”

As another deadly wave of COVID-19 infections was swamping India, Modi’s government refused to cancel a giant Hindu festival. Cricket matches, attended by tens of thousands, carried on, too. The catastrophic surge has badly dented Modi’s political image after he drew praise last year for moving quickly to lock down India’s nearly 1.4 billion people. Now, he’s been called a “super-spreader” by the vice president of the Indian Medical Association, Dr. Navjot Dahiya.

With deaths mounting and a touted vaccine rollout faltering badly, Modi has pushed much of the responsibility for fighting the virus onto poorly equipped and unprepared state governments and even onto patients themselves, critics say.

“It is a crime against humanity,” author and activist Arundhati Roy said of Modi’s handling of the virus. “Foreign governments are rushing to help. But as long as decision-making remains with Modi, who has shown himself to be incapable of working with experts or looking beyond securing narrow political gain, it will be like pouring aid into a sieve.”

The 70-year-old, whose image as a technocrat brought him deep approval from a middle class weary of corruption and bureaucratic dysfunction, has been accused of stifling dissent and choosing politics over public health.

When the official COVID-19 death toll crossed 200,000 — a number experts say is a severe undercount — Modi was silent.

His government says it is on a “war footing,” ramping up hospital capacity, supplies of oxygen and drugs.

“The present COVID pandemic is a once-in-a-century crisis,” Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar told The Associated Press. “All efforts are being made to overcome the situation by the central government in close coordination with the state governments and society at large.”

When Modi won national elections in 2014, he presented himself as someone who could unlock economic growth by merging business-friendly policies with a Hindu nationalist ideology.

Critics saw him as craving power over the national welfare and catering to his Hindu nationalist base. They blamed him — although courts exonerated him — in the bloody 2002 anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat state, where he was chief minister.

The economy tumbled after his government overhauled India’s cash supply and introduced a goods and services tax. Yet, he easily won reelection in 2019 on a wave of nationalism following clashes with archrival Pakistan.

Despite a second term marred by a souring economy, widening social strife, and deadly clashes with neighboring China, “Modi has proven to be incredibly politically resilient,” said Milan Vaishnav, director of the South Asia program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

When the coronavirus hit, Vaishnav said Modi took an approach different from former President Donald Trump and current Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.

“He never called the virus a hoax. He took it seriously. He encouraged mask-wearing, social distancing. He encouraged the sorts of things health authorities everywhere have been calling for,” he added.

The strict lockdown, imposed on four hours’ notice, stranded tens of millions of migrant workers who were left jobless and fled to villages with many dying along the way. But experts say the decision helped contain the virus and bought time for the government.

Cases rose when the country started reopening in June 2020, and the government developed emergency infrastructure plans. When the wave receded and reported cases plummeted over the winter, many officials saw it as a triumph. States dismantled makeshift hospitals and delayed adding ICU beds and ventilators.

The government had sought to create 162 oxygen plants earlier, but has only built 38. It says 105 more will be built this month.

The fragile health care system was not upgraded enough, said Gautam Menon, a science professor at Ashoka University, “and with the current surge, we’re seeing precisely the consequences of not doing this.”

When cases ebbed in January, Modi crowed about India’s success, telling the World Economic Forum that the country “has saved humanity from a big disaster by containing corona effectively.”

His ruling Bharatiya Janata Party hailed his “visionary leadership,” making India a “proud and victorious nation in the fight against COVID.”

In mid-March, tens of thousands attended cricket matches against England at Narendra Modi stadium in Gujarat, an event that swelled national pride even amid warnings that infections were climbing.

On March 21, advertisements on the front pages of newspapers read, “Beautiful Clean Safe,” as Modi and a political ally welcomed Hindu devotees to the Kumbh Mela, a pilgrimage to the Ganges River that drew millions throughout April.

By contrast, in March 2020, his government blamed a Muslim gathering of 3,000 for an initial spike in infections in a move that triggered violence and boycotts, even as courts dismissed the accusations.

Critics have blasted the BJP for holding election rallies packed with tens of thousands of unmasked supporters, particularly in West Bengal. Other parties also campaigned to large crowds. Bowing to criticism, Modi began appearing over video instead of live, but the crowds remained.

Though his party was defeated in the state, analysts say he still enjoys popularity nationwide.

Meanwhile, India’s vaccination campaign begun in January has sputtered amid perceptions the virus was defeated. Only 10% of the population has received one shot and fewer than 2% have gotten both since it began in January.

The latest effort to inoculate those between 18 and 44 has been left to states and the private sector — an approach that critics say will make it easier for the government to pass blame when problems arise. Already, several states have said they don’t have enough vaccine to even start.

The surge has sparked assistance from overseas, a reversal of India’s earlier success at “vaccine diplomacy” when it exported 64 million doses. Some say Modi’s flagship self-sufficiency campaign, known as “Make in India,” is being undermined.

“India has long sought to project itself as a strong nation that need not be dependent on any other. Its immediate need for international assistance flies in the face of that image,” said Michael Kugelman of the Asia Program at the Washington-based Wilson Center.

Some Modi supporters are lashing out. When BJP lawmaker Kesar Singh Gangwar died of the virus in Uttar Pradesh state, his son said Modi’s office didn’t help.

“What kind of government is this? What kind of PM is Modi?” said Vishal Gangwar. “If he cannot provide treatment to a lawmaker of his own party, what is happening to a common man is anybody’s guess.”

To circumvent such criticism, the government ordered Twitter to remove posts criticizing his pandemic response. In BJP-run Uttar Pradesh, authorities recently charged a man over a tweet pleading for oxygen for his dying grandfather, accusing him of “circulating a rumor,” as top officials deny widespread oxygen shortages.

“To blame social media or users for either critiquing or begging for help is just — I mean, what are their priorities? To help people or silence criticism?” said digital rights activist Nikhil Pahwa.

The level of urban and middle class anger at Modi is unprecedented, political analyst Vaishnav said, although it is blunted by supporters who believe he can do no wrong.

“He shouldn’t be expected to solve all problems by himself. The government machinery which existed before him, full of corruption, is to blame,” said Sunil Saini, a driver in New Delhi. “My vote will go to Modi the next time too.”

Comic strip artists band together for a silly and good cause: Fans of newspaper comics will instantly notice something missing in many of the strips this Friday — pants. More than 25 cartoonists behind strips from “Blondie” to “Zippy the Pinhead” are celebrating the quirky holiday No Pants Day in a way that helps charities get clothing to those in need. Participating artists are drawing their characters without trousers and urging readers to donate clothing to thrift and second-hand stores hard-hit by COVID-19.

“This was a great way to help bring communities together but also have a little bit of a laugh,” said Tea Fougner, comics editor at King Features Syndicate. “Just the idea of No Pants Day, I think, is something that everybody can feel a little bit closer to this year than in previous years.” No Pants Day, held on the first Friday in May, is believed to have been started by a group of students at the University of Texas who thought leaving the pants at home on the first Friday in May would be a fun way to end the semester.

— Associated PressA winter spin-off was created called No Pants Subway Ride.

Comics creators have noticed that the COVID-19 pandemic has effected people’s ability to get clothing and charities have not gotten as many donations as typical. In a gracious move among comic strip distributors, King Features reached out to fellow syndicators Tribune Content Agency, Andrews McMeel Universal and Washington Post Writers Group to pull off Friday’s event.

“We may be business competitors, but we’re all part of the same family,” said Fougner. “We all love comics and we love our communities. And, at the end of the day, that’s really what cartooning is about. So we want as many cartoonists as possible to take part in initiatives like this.”

Cartoonists were contacted in February about the project, and the finished comics started to come in by March. In some cases, artists needed a quick brainstorming session to figure out ways to approach the request.

Not Bill Griffith, the artist behind “Zippy the Pinhead.” “He emailed me back right away and he said, ‘Well, not wearing pants is Zippy’s thing,’” said Fougner.

Organizers left it up to the individual cartoonists — some other participating strips include “Shoe,” “Arctic Circle,” “Hi and Lois,” “Rhymes with Orange,” “Mallard Fillmore” and “Sally Forth” — how to incorporate the message. The strips range from medieval knights to modern office workers, all sporting underwear.

“You’ll see a variety from some cartoonists who took a really direct approach where they have their characters in the comic donating clothing to people,” said Fougner. “And some folks just depicted the characters not wearing pants or put a little happy No Pants Day message in the comic.”

Olive Brinker’s “Rae the Doe” has a character donating clothes at an LGBT center while “Dennis the Menace” urges readers: “Give to a charity that helps people in need of clothing, like {a href=”” target=”—blank”}Room to Grow.”{/a}

The event is the latest attempt by the comics community to help society. Last year, more than 70 comic strips and panels banded together {a href=”” target=”—blank”}to hide six symbols in the artwork{/a} to honor workers on the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic.

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