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  • For four days, authorities had been tirelessly combing through country backroads and woodlines across three Middle Georgia counties in hopes of finding a missing Fort Valley State University student. On Tuesday, deputies stumbled across her car’s detached bumper 150 feet off a two-lane Crawford County road. Next to it, partially hidden under an assortment of sticks, was the young woman’s body. DeMarcus Little, the boyfriend of 23-year-old Anitra Lashay Gunn, was arrested late Tuesday and named a person of interest in her death by police. “I think it’s pretty common sense who our person of interest is,” Peach County Sheriff Terry Deese said in a news conference Tuesday afternoon after discovering the body. “It’s the boyfriend. We’ve talked to him three times.” Little was charged with criminal damage to property, but he does not face charges in connection with her death. Fort Valley police added that more charges could be forthcoming. The investigation began after Gunn, who graduated from Westlake High School in south Fulton County, stopped returning her family’s and friend’s calls and texts Friday morning. The last person she spoke to was her father, Christopher Gunn, who called to wish his daughter, a senior agriculture major, a happy Valentine’s Day. Since she rarely went hours without messaging them, her family immediately became worried. A search of Gunn’s apartment initially found no sign of forced entry, but further investigation revealed that her windows had been smashed, police said. RELATED: Search for missing college student from Fulton County enters another day Her friend, India King, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that she would never leave her cat and dog alone without food. “(These are) all red flags that make us more concerned on her whereabouts,” King said in a message Monday as the search continued. Gunn’s case is eerily similar to the October disappearance of Clark Atlanta University student Alexis Crawford. Crawford, 21, was a senior and lived in an off-campus apartment. Family members became alarmed when they were unable to reach her. A week after her family reported her missing, Crawford’s body was found in a DeKalb County park. Her roommate and her roommate’s boyfriend were charged with murder. Jordyn Jones, 22, and Barron Brantley, 21, both remain in the Fulton County jail. Peach County deputies’ first break in Gunn’s case was the discovery of her damaged Chevrolet Cruze that was left abandoned at a house off Belle Street. That’s about 4 miles from where the car’s bumper and her body were discovered. Her cellphone is still missing. The sheriff said shrubbery that was found in the front grill of her car led them to search nearby roads in Crawford, Peach and Taylor counties.  “They’ve been riding here for two days, going down any roadway they could get a car down or truck down,” Deese said of the search. “Like I said, we’d leave no stone unturned, but this was basically just pot luck.” The discovery of her body about 3 p.m. Tuesday raised several questions, which the sheriff pondered out loud. “We’re not saying it is a homicide, but the car shows up in Fort Valley,” he said. “It didn't show up by itself. She couldn’t have driven it there herself.” Deese did not provide further details about what was discussed during interviews with Little.  The sheriff previously said that Gunn was last seen at her boyfriend’s house about 3 a.m. Friday after the couple visited a Waffle House in nearby Byron about an hour earlier. Deese said her vehicle’s bumper was not damaged when they stopped for late-night grub. Her body was turned over to the GBI, which will perform the autopsy. No timeline for the autopsy’s completion was released. The investigation into her death is ongoing, and anyone with information is asked to contact the Fort Valley Police Department at 478-825-3384 or Macon Regional Crimestoppers at 877-682-7463 or 478-742-2330. — Staff writer Alexis Stevens contributed to this article.
  • Singer Harry Styles was unharmed after being robbed at knifepoint Friday night in London, authorities said. Styles, 26, the former One Direction band member, released “Fine Line,” his second solo album in December. He was approached by a man with a knife who “demanded cash,” E! News reported. London police officials confirmed they were investigating a knifepoint robbery in the Hampstead area of London, the BBC reported. Police said no arrests had been made and that an investigation was ongoing, the network reported. Earlier Friday, Styles stopped by “The Zoe Ball Breakfast Show” to cover Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi,” New Musical Express reported.
  • Ricky Leo Davis, who was convicted nearly 15 years ago of the murder of a newspaper columnist, has become the first California inmate to be exonerated by genetic genealogy, the same technology that identified the alleged Golden State Killer in April 2018. Davis, 54, was released Thursday from the El Dorado County Jail in Placerville after the same DNA evidence that proved he did not kill his housemate, Jane Anker Hylton, in July 1985, pointed to another man as the killer. Hylton, a 54-year-old mother and columnist for the Foothills Times, was stabbed 29 times and suffered a bite mark on her left shoulder, according to authorities. Saliva from that bite mark would ultimately solve the case. Davis, who was convicted in the 20-year-old case in August 2005, is the second inmate in U.S. history to be freed using genetic genealogy, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. “Simply put, Ricky Leo Davis did not kill Jane Hylton,” El Dorado County District Attorney Vern Pierson said. Pierson announced the latest development in Davis’ case during a news conference Thursday. He also announced the arrest of the new suspect, who the Sacramento Bee identified as 51-year-old Michael Eric Green. CBS Sacramento reported Green was arrested outside his Roseville home, where neighbors said he’d spent much of his life living with and caring for his parents. Green was one of three young men Hylton’s then-13-year-old daughter told investigators she’d met in a park the night her mother was slain. She identified the boys by first names only: Calvin, Michael and a third boy named either Steve or Brian. Green, who was a juvenile when Hylton was killed, was arrested Tuesday in Placer County. He was booked Friday into the El Dorado County Jail on a murder charge, according to jail records. Pierson said the other two boys Hylton’s daughter named the morning her mother’s body was discovered have also been tracked down. One has since died and the other is cooperating with the investigation. The prosecutor said the new developments in the murder case were “two of the most dramatic extremes” he’d experienced in his 28 years on the job. “On one hand, a person, Ricky Davis, was falsely accused, brought to trial, convicted and has spent the last 15-some years in custody for a crime that I can tell you, in all confidence, he did not commit,” the prosecutor said. “It’s not a matter of we don’t have sufficient evidence to move forward on it or to proceed to a new trial. “In all confidence, he did not commit this crime. He is not responsible.” A brutal crime Davis, who was 20 when Hylton, 54, was killed, called police shortly after midnight July 7, 1985, after he and his girlfriend at the time, Connie Dahl, found Hylton’s body in the home they had just begun sharing, according to the Northern California Innocence Project. The home, located in El Dorado Hills, belonged to Davis’ grandmother, who the day before had allowed Hylton, who was her employee, and Hylton’s daughter to move in because the columnist was having marital trouble. “Davis and Dahl told detectives they had gone to a party the night before and returned home at 3:30 a.m., where they found Hylton’s daughter waiting outside,” the organization’s synopsis of Davis’ case reads. “She told them that she had gone out with a group of boys that night and was afraid her mother would be upset with her for being out too late. The three entered the house together. “Davis saw blood in the hallway outside the master bedroom and found Hylton’s body on the bed. Davis and Dahl immediately called 911 to report the crime.” Hylton’s estranged husband was cleared of the crime and the case eventually went cold. Fourteen years later, in November 1999, cold case detectives with the El Dorado Sheriff’s Office reopened the investigation and brought in Dahl for questioning. “The detectives interrogated Dahl four times over the next 18 months using techniques known to increase the chances of false confessions,” the case synopsis says. “Dahl ultimately changed her story for police and implicated Davis as the killer. She also implicated herself in the crime, telling the police that she bit the victim during the attack.” In addition, Dahl claimed Hylton’s daughter helped the couple move her mother’s body. Based nearly entirely on Dahl’s new claims, Davis was convicted in 2005 and sentenced to 16 years to life in prison, the synopsis states. Dahl, meanwhile, received a sentence of a year in county jail for her purported role in the crime. The Northern California Innocence Project became involved in Davis’ case in 2006, opening its own investigation into Hylton’s murder. With the cooperation of Pierson’s office, Davis’ attorneys sought DNA testing on evidence from the crime scene, including the victim’s nightgown and scrapings taken from under her fingernails. The testing found a man’s DNA on the nightgown in the area of the bite mark, the synopsis says. DNA found under the victim’s fingernails matched the sample from nightgown. “The test results excluded Davis, Dahl and Hylton’s daughter as the sources of the DNA,” according to the case synopsis. “The unknown male DNA profile found on the nightgown indicated that Dahl did not bite the victim, contrary to her testimony at trial.” Innocence Project attorneys went to court with the new evidence, successfully arguing in 2018 that the evidence would have likely resulted in a different outcome at Davis’ trial. Davis’ conviction was overturned on April 15, 2019, but prosecutors initially intended to retry him for Hylton’s slaying. Instead, Pierson’s office teamed up with the Sacramento County Crime Lab to use genetic genealogy to trace the unknown DNA to potential family members who had submitted their own genetic profiles to public websites. The process led detectives and prosecutors to Green. ‘Aggressive confession-driven interrogation tactics’ Pierson on Thursday highlighted the interrogation tactics he said led to Davis’ arrest and conviction more than two decades after Hylton was killed. In a court hearing at which Davis was officially set free, the prosecutor described Dahl’s questioning by two now-retired investigators as “aggressive, confession-driven interrogation.” In a snippet of Dahl’s interrogation transcript shared by Pierson’s office via video, a detective urged her to be the first to talk in the case. “So the train is coming through right now and, in my experience in law enforcement, the first one to jump on the bandwagon always gets the, always gets the easiest ride,” the unnamed detective said. “Right,” Dahl responded. Watch a video about the Jane Hylton case below. Editor’s note: The video contains crime scene footage that may be too graphic for some viewers. The detective then brought up the bite mark on the victim’s left shoulder. “…whether Ricky brings it on you or you bring it on somebody else, have you ever been the type of person that, during a fight, you know, whether you scratch, hit, punch, have you ever bitten someone? Do you ever bite?” the detective asked. “I’ve bitten some,” Dahl responded. “I’ve bitten a couple of times. Yeah.” The next snippet shows Dahl saying she didn’t know if she’d bitten Hylton. “I don’t know if … I don’t believe that I have it in me to help do this,” she said. Eventually, Dahl confessed to biting Hylton and said Davis killed her. Dahl died in 2014, the Bee reported. Watch Thursday’s news conference announcing Ricky Davis’ exoneration below. According to the newspaper, which covered Davis’ hearing Thursday, Pierson told El Dorado Superior Court Judge Kenneth J. Melekian that the DNA evidence exonerating Davis led his office to go over the murder case again as though it had never been solved instead of trying to prove Davis was the killer. When Melekian turned toward Davis a short time later, he declared him “factually innocent.” Davis and his attorneys were emotional following the hearing, the Bee reported. One Innocence Project lawyer, Melissa O’Connell, thanked Davis for his “tremendous strength and resilience, and never giving up hope,” the newspaper said. Davis, who emerged from the jail shortly after 3 p.m., walked into a crowd of about two dozen family members and Innocence Project staff. They hugged him and welcomed him back into the outside world. “God bless the Innocence Project,” Davis said as he held up a T-shirt from the organization. Both his own lawyers and Pierson said Davis will likely be financially compensated for the time he wrongfully spent in prison. According to The Associated Press, that compensation, under California law, would equal $750,000, or $140 for each day he spent behind bars. Pierson talked after the fact about meeting face-to-face with Davis a few nights before his release. “It’s an interesting conversation, to meet with someone as a prosecutor and realize that this person has, in fact, been falsely accused, convicted and incarcerated,” Pierson said. “He said a number of things. He knew that we had made a commitment that we would follow up on it.” He said Davis referenced the amount of time it had taken to free him since the DNA evidence first indicated his innocence in 2014. “I had to tell him, in all candor, if this investigation had moved forward years ago, the technology did not exist, the techniques did not exist that were employed in this case to unwind it the way that we were able to do it now,” Pierson said. “I wish it had occurred sooner, that we could have gotten him out of custody sooner. The practical reality is it’s only been the past year and a half, two years that genetic genealogy to identify someone in these circumstances has been in existence.” O’Connell said she and her colleagues believed in Davis’ innocence since they took on the case, both because of his own claims and what they believe were coercive interrogation methods. She said it was amazing how composed Davis remained in court Thursday. “I asked him, ‘Did you ever think this day would come?’ and he said, ‘Yes.’” O’Connell said. “He never gave up hope, and he trusted that the system would undo this wrongful conviction.” Watch Pierson and O’Connell discuss Thursday’s developments below, courtesy of the Bee. © 2020 © 2020 Cox Media Group
  • A California man is accused of entering a home, where the residents said he was making scrambled eggs and eating flan while not wearing pants, authorities said. Carl Cimino, 61, of Desert Hot Springs, was booked into the Riverside County Jail on a charge of residential burglary Tuesday morning, according to arrest records. According to police, three people woke up at their home around 7:30 a.m. and heard banging and yelling in the kitchen. They found Cimino making scrambled eggs with bologna and ranch dressing and eating flan, The Desert Sun reported. According to deputies, Cimino was not wearing pants and refused to leave the residence, the newspaper reported. Deputies finally were able to remove Cimino after using a police service dog, according to the arrest report. Cimino was placed on a gurney and removed from the home by paramedics, according to The Desert Sun. According to jail records, Cimino was free on bail after being arrested Jan. 23 on a drug-related accusation, the newspaper reported. The home’s residents said they were not hurt and there was no damage. They believe Cimino entered the home through an unlocked door, according to The Desert Sun.
  • Nearly all the employees at Orlando’s religious theme park, Holy Land Experience, will lose their jobs this spring. A document sent to the city of Orlando on Monday shows that the theme park will lay off all its staff involved in its stage shows. The move comes after the park announced it will be “shifting the focus of the park away from entertainment and theatrical productions to focus on the Biblical Museum.” Park officials said the layoffs will take effect April 18. In total, according to the Federal Worker Adjustment & Retraining Notification document sent to the city of Orlando, 118 jobs will be eliminated. The restructuring comes as a result of a “corporate wide ministry reorganization,” according to documents filed with the city.
  • A man with a metal detector made an explosive discovery when he found a live mortar from World War II Monday. Police said the munition was a remnant from when the area was used as a training ground during the war. The bomb squad determined the mortar was too unstable to be moved so it was detonated near where it was found. “The blast was heard from a distance, which caused alarm for many residents,” Lebanon police said on social media. “We appreciate everyone’s concerns and phone calls.” Authorities searched the area for more mortars before deeming it safe.