***FINAL UPDATE, 1:45 p.m., 10/24/08***
Ashley Todd made it all up. She’s confessed. From KDKA.com: “Police sources tell KDKA that a campaign worker has now confessed to making up a story that a mugger attacked her and cut the letter “B” in her face after seeing her McCain bumper sticker.”
Ashley Todd will face charges.
Be sure to read the updates at the bottom of this post. I’ve published two more entries about this case:
“Will Ashley Todd’s Story Implode Tomorrow?”
“Putting Ashley Todd’s Story Out With The Trash.”
Police in the Bloomfield area of Pittsburgh, PA say a 20-year-old Ashley Todd may have been viciously assaulted because she had a McCain/Palin bumper sticker on her car. Sounds like it began as a routine robbery; the robber pulled a knife, Todd gave him sixty bucks. Then the criminal saw the McCain bumper sticker on the woman’s car. He beat Todd with his hands and fists. Then, bizarrely, he used his knife to scratch a “B” on her face. Police told local Pittsburgh media that Todd refused treatment.
One Pittsburgh news outlet says only that Ashley Todd had the bumper sticker on her car. Another, the Post-Gazette, described the victim as a “McCain staffer” from Texas. The paper also quoted police spokesperson Diane Richards, who said authorities couldn’t “substantiate” Todd’s story, yet.
The suspect is said to be a 6’4″, 200-lb African-American male. He was wearing dark clothing.
The robbery wasn’t captured on the bank’s security cameras.
According to the Pittsburgh Channel, the Obama campaign has issued a statement about the attack, saying that their “thoughts and prayers are with the young woman for her to make a speedy recovery, and we hope that the person who perpetrated this crime is swiftly apprehended and brought to justice.”
CBS 13 published a report online stating that the Republican candidate for vice president, Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska, “spoke with the victim by phone.” The McCain campaign has issued their own statement about the crime, calling it “sick and disgusting.”
This crime is so bizarre and potentially politically-charged it’s already produced a screaming, bold-red headline at the Drudge Report. Be prepared to hear a lot more about it.
Edited To Add: In the comments below, “Happy” gave this link for the cached MySpace of an Ashley Todd from College Station, TX. She gives her age as 23, but otherwise, she appears to resemble the victim in this case. The headline on this Ashley Todd’s now-private profile reads, “Lying is the most fun a girl can have without taking her cloths off, but its better if you do” — a riff on a song by Panic! at the Disco, but an interesting choice anyway. It may be the wrong Ashley Todd, but the shape of her face and hair seem similar. I’ve also saved a copy of the page. Also, thanks to my fellow crime blogger Chris, we have what appears to be a link to a Twitter account for the same Ashley Todd.
Click the thumbnail of a screen capture of that Twitter account above and read it. It appears to be a narrative covering her arrival in Pittsburgh, her search for an ATM, and an allusion to what happened afterwards. You be the judge as to how believable it is — or not.
ETA II, Electric Boogaloo: If you want to read some of Ashley Todd’s blogging between 2006 and 2008 or so, just click this — copy of blog.myspace.com/rabbitrocker. Based on political views, name, age range, and home town, it seems clear that “rabbitrocker” Ashley is the same Ashley Todd who reported the bizarre mugging in Pittsburgh last night.
Just in case you think it’s only people in the center and on the left of center who doubt this story, read this post by popular, arch-conservative blogger Michelle Malkin. Whatever you think about Malkin’s politics, she is anything but stupid. Malkin writes:
“I’ve reported on the great lengths that warped attention-seekers have gone to in perpetrating fake hate crimes, including beating themselves up, carving swastikas on their dorm room doors and walls, locking themselves in bathroom stalls, and burning down their own houses.
“Which is why I’m not jumping up and down with outrage over Drudge-promoted story of a McCain volunteer claiming to have been attacked by a black man whom she accused of carving a “B” in her face after spotting her McCain bumper sticker.”
Michelle Malkin’s perceptions are dead-on. And Ashley Todd’s contrived Twitters from last night as well as her strange MySpace headline about “lying” all lend support to the idea that she could be, as Malkin put it, one of those “warped attention-seekers.” The other shoe on this story will drop by tomorrow, and any sympathy left for Ashley Todd on the right or the left will dry up immediately. I admit it now — I began doubting the story almost immediately, but I held my fire till now. I knew I might be right when friends who are McCain supporters began to express their own doubts. Malkin’s skepticism seals it, though — this story is hogwash.
**Last Update for this post**
A reader pointed out some interesting things about the Google cache of Ashley Todd’s MySpace:
— She was pulling for Ron Paul at one point. Just look at the page. This may not be significant, but I figured it was worth a mention.
— Her last login was October 17, last Friday. The page has only been made private in the last 6 days, otherwise Google couldn’t have cached it. My guess is that she made it private after reporting the “mugging.”
— Something I noticed, which isn’t related to this at all — I get the impression she either knew or was friends with murder victim Ashton Glover, based on a video embedded in the page dedicated to Ashton. I only noticed this because one of the last articles I wrote for Court TV’s (now TruTV’s) Crime Library was about Ashton’s murder, which took place 2 years ago in Sugar Land, TX.
Also, from reader “ruth G,” there’s this late development: “Police planned to administer a polygraph test to Ashley Todd, 20, because her statements about the attack conflict with evidence from the Citizens Bank ATM where she claims the incident occurred, police said.” Emphasis was added.
[ThePittsburghChannel.com, PittsburghLive.com. Also of interest — related Twitter search.]
Sometimes with missing persons cases there may not be a crime involved, per se. But there still can be a great sense of urgency.
Such is the case with the disappearance of Missouri teens Christina “Paige” Alley, age 14, and her boyfriend, 16-year-old Levi Carlson. Levi and Paige left a football game in Lathrop, Missouri on Friday, October 17, 2008, and no one has seen them since.
Missouri authorities have issued an Amber Alert for Paige Alley. Levi Carlson was originally included as a “victim” in the Alert, but has since been termed a “suspect.”
A website has been set up, as well: http://www.paigeandlevi.com/. From the site’s main page: “Neither Paige or Levi have a Driver’s License or much experience driving a motor vehicle. Levi is known to be bi-polar and off his meds. He has threatened suicide, but is not known to have a weapon.”
The couple apparently left the game in Lathrop after some sort of “altercation with parents.”
If the teens are traveling, they may be headed towards Colorado, eventually California. According to information published on PaigeandLevi.com, Levi “always wanted to be a ‘rock star’ in California.” Levi has also reportedly said in the past “wanting to live in the wild in Colorado to fish and hunt, etc.”
If Levi is truly bipolar and unmedicated, he could be either in a manic, delusional state, or spiralling towards a suicidal depression. And then there’s the Romeo & Juliet aspect of being young lovers on the run. No one can ignore the fact that Shakespeare’s romance ended in death.
It is urgent that someone find these two and get Paige home and perhaps get Levi some help. If you know anything that can help bring Paige Alley and Levi Carlson safely home again, call the Clinton County, MO Sheriff’s Office at 816-539-2156. You can also call 911.
To track developments in the case, keep an eye on PaigeandLevi.com.
Plainville, MA teenager Taylor Meyer drowned the night she disappeared. That’s the conclusion of a Massachusetts ME — there is no evidence of foul play. Taylor, 17, was inebriated on the Friday night she vanished, and drowned in the swamp near the abandoned Norfolk Airport. [turnto10.com]
Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, KY is currently under lockdown. There have been reports of a gunman on campus. One portion of the campus has been evacuated by local police and the Kentucky State Police. The shots were reportedly fired on the main campus at WKU at Pearce Ford Tower. More details as they are available.
From the WKU website: “The South Campus building on Nashville Road was evacuated earlier following reports that one or more persons were observed in the building with weapons. WKU Police, Bowling Green Police and State Police have conducted an extensive search of the building and the premises. At this time, the police have been unable to find any witnesses or evidence to support earlier reports that weapons were present.
“Following this, WKU PD received an unconfirmed report of shots fired in the vicinity of Pearce Ford Tower on the WKU main campus.
“Police have confirmed that there was a physical altercation not involving weapons between individuals that occurred in or near PFT, but the police are interviewing witnesses on the scene to determine if weapons were or are present, or if shots were fired.
“At this time, the campus emergency warning system has been activated. Students and employees have been advised to remain indoors, in secure areas, until an “all clear” is issued.”
A Twitter user with the screen name “RoyaltyGT” says he’s on the campus and he tweeted the following: “Several suspects in custody, still not sure exactly what happened. Official wku statement should be appearing on www.wku.edu soon.” In a later tweet, RoyaltyGT said he’d not heard of any injuries.
Greg, who goes by “RoyaltyGT” on Twitter, tweets that WKU’s head of Media Relations Bob Skipper says, “No one has been shot or arrested at this time.”
WKU’s school paper, the Herald, reports that a man was injured on campus after the reports of shots being fired. The student publication also states that WKU’s main campus is not on lockdown, but classes have been cancelled for the day.
Then there’s this guy’s Twitter: BrianSexton. Check out a tweet he posted 2 hours ago: “Now there’s a riot in front of my dorm!”
It’s hard to tell with college students. I wouldn’t put it past a few of them to just mess with people.
Follow tweets on the subject here: Twitter — WKU.
Western Kentucky University is all clear. The lockdown is over. There will be a press conference at 5 p.m. ET (4 CT).
In other words, nothing to see here. Move along. [WBKO.com, WKU.edu. Additional linkage: WKUHerald.com.]
YouTube vid of a radio interview with “TrainReq,” aka Josh Holly(?), the guy who allegedly hacked Miley Cyrus’s e-mail.
As a son of Nashville, born and raised, I have to ask: why the hell are so many hackers getting busted in the great state of Tennessee, of late?
Okay, I admit — two alleged hackers do not a trend make. And maybe I just notice because I’m from Tennessee. Still…
First there was David Kernell, son of a Democratic Tennessee state lawmaker. The 20-year-old student at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville (one of my alma maters) was, per the Dept. of Justice, arrested “for intentionally accessing without authorization the e-mail account of Alaska governor Sarah Palin…” The DOJ alleges that Kernell “obtained unauthorized access to Gov. Palin’s personal e-mail account by allegedly resetting the account password.”
You can see some of the fruits of that alleged labor here, at Wikileaks.org.
Now Wired tells us about 19-year-old Josh Holly of Murfreesboro, TN, a city about 30-40 miles due south of Nashville. Joshie just had a little visit from The Man, aka the FBI. The Feds think Holly is the dude who, using nicks like “TrainReq,” “Rockz” and “h4x,” posted photos of teen pop star Miley Cyrus (damn, another Tennessee connection) online. Come on, you know about those pics — they garnered major attention from really reputable websites like TMZ.com. And by “reputable” I mean “execrable,” but I digress.
The feds have reason to believe Holly hacked Miley’s e-mail and spread her PG-13 photos all over creation — according to Wired, Holly “repeatedly bragged online about breaking into the Disney star’s e-mail account and stealing her photos.”
Holly told Wired that he “got access to Cyrus’s Gmail account after obtaining unauthorized access to a MySpace administrative panel where he found passwords for MySpace accounts stored in cleartext. He found the password Cyrus used for her MySpace account — Loco92 — and tried it on a Gmail account Cyrus was known to use. The password worked on that account as well, but only for a couple of weeks before it was changed.”
Holly’s own hubris might have been his undoing. Kim Zetter’s post in Wired’s “Threat Level” blog (linked at the foot of this entry) states that “[hours]before the FBI arrived at his doorstep, Holly posted a message online bragging that even though he was a known hacker, federal agents would never find him.”
After the agents left his apartment, Holly told “Threat Level” he was “just kind of shaking.”
Holly’s still a free man and he may stay that way. Miley Cyrus is damned famous, and she’s still underaged (don’t know why that seems relevant here, but it does), but she’s not Sarah Palin, with her Secret Service protection and all.
If both David Kernell and Josh Holly do end up doing time, they shouldn’t worry too hard about life afterwards — just read up a little on Kevin Poulsen, a senior editor at Wired and one of the bloggers on “Threat Level.” Hacking may be serious business to Johnny Law, but in the end, after a gifted or showy hacker has paid his dues, he can make a good living doing big business. Hacking’s weird that way.
I’m starting to think my home state is weirder than I already knew. I don’t know if it’s the Royal Crown Cola, the Jack Daniels, all that trailer-brewed crank, or what.
Cyber-security experts: hit up the computer engineering programs at MTSU and UT for new recruits now, before those kids end up in federal prison! [Threat Level from Wired.com. Additional, pointless link: Josh Holly’s MySpace. Says he’s 17, and gives his “TrainReq” nick on the page. See also: Digg this story.]
Little Rock, AR — The New York Post reports this morning that police in Little Rock are investigating whether or not the assault on KATV reporter and anchor Anne Pressly was “motivated by Pressly’s portrayal of a right-wing pundit in the new Oliver Stone biopic about President Bush.”
I imagine they are — they have to, if concrete leads are few. And according to the Arkansas Times’ “Arkansas Blog,” that’s exactly the problem at the moment. Police still don’t have much to go on.
To me, that in and of itself may be reason to wonder if this was more than a robbery gone wrong. A burglar/robber who perhaps wasn’t experienced with violence would have left some evidence behind.
Anne Pressly remains hospitalized in critical but stable condition. [New York Post]
Broward County, Florida — If there’s one dude in the news cycle today who doesn’t necessarily have a little Captain in him, it has be a 23-year-old fan of low-cost smell-good named David Mlynick. Here’s how Dave’s adventure in a Publix Grocery Store with his buddy Dennis got him in hot water with the po-po.
It was half-past noon on Monday when Publix store manager Vincent Harris and his assistant manager Michael Farrell say they spotted two young punks up to no good in the men’s toiletries. The punks in question were David Mlynick and Dennis Reindel.
Harris corraled Reindel as he exited the store, but he was clean. He’d put whatever the managers thought he lifted back on the shelf. So Vincent Harris headed to the nearby Dollar Store, where he found David Mlynick, who — for all we know — was scouting out his next big caper.
That’s when Harris confronted young Mlynick and told him to give it up. Harris wanted David Mlynick to give up the Tag Body Spray!
But you know, you don’t get in the face of a Tag Body Spray gangsta. Mlynick, according to the police report, became “belligerent.” Witnesses say he whipped out his gat, apparently ready to pop a cap in some polyester-bound Publix store manager ass. Soon Mlynick was done with those fools and (probably) pimp-rolling away through the parking lot.
Well, the 5-0 was roused and they came to the scene, where the store managers were still feeling menaced and Dennis Reindel was ready to help. According to the police report (linked at the bottom of this post), Reindel gave police Mlynick’s name and attested to seeing the handgun. He also said he thought it was real.
Thinking they had a seriously armed fan of Tag Body Spray to contend with, the cops closed off the last place anyone had seen David Mlynick, the Sheridan Lakes Club Apartments, near the Publix. K9s came in. Choppers hovered over. This was serious business. When it comes to Tag Body Spray and gunplay, neither Publix nor the police will play.
A little after 2 that afternoon, Mlynick was spotted and taken into custody. The police report says everyone fingered him as the pistol packing body spray lover in question.
David Mlynick was arrested. Cops rifled his water bladder pack and backpack and turned up the badass’s big, black handgun. The police report indicates that it resembled a .380 handgun.
In keeping with the nature of the entire story, however, it turned out that David Mlynick was actually packing a BB gun all along. Police also found a can of body spray.
If you want to see the kind of MySpace a hardcore dude like David Mlynick might make, look no further than this here link. There you’ll find that in addition to his charming taste in eau de toilette, David Mlynick is “a 23Y/O skateboarder, surfer type,” who likes “to go to [the]beach, movies.” He’s apparently a big fan of Ultimate Fighter Chuck Liddell. His favorite book is the Bible, natch, and his sole hero? It’s God, bitch. (I added the “bitch” part. Seems to fit.)
Mlynick’s headline is “HITONE.” I’m still trying to figure out what that means — “HI TONE” or “HIT ONE.” And if it’s the latter, hit what? The aisle where they keep the body spray? Hit a fool who prefers Axe?
David Mlynick’s bad self is holed up in jail now on a $50,000 bond. It’d probably be more, but the laws governing general stupidity and douchiness are rather vague. Even in Florida. [TSG]
The District Attorney in Norfolk, MA is awaiting the autopsy report on 17-year-old Taylor Meyer, who vanished over the weekend, only to be found dead in a swampy area surrounding an abandoned Norfolk airfield. Taylor was last seen after attending a drinking party. The results of the autopsy on Taylor could be released sometime today. [The Sun Chronicle Online]
CBS News segment about the attack on Anne Pressly.
From the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, September 28, 2008, an article about upcoming movies by Karen and Philip Martin:
“W. Oliver Stone’s take on the life of George W. Bush. With Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Banks, Thandie Newton, Scott Glenn and KATV, Channel 7, reporter Anne Pressly (as Anne [sic]Coulter ).”
Anne Pressly’s Performer Profile on IMDB.com simply says she played a “Female Commentator.” The profile also gives the attractive journalist’s particulars: 5’10”, 120, hair blond, eyes green. At the top of the profile is Pressly’s phone number and GMail address.
Things were going very well for Anne Pressly. There was the brief role in W. Her status as an anchor at KATV was “up and coming.” She was popular with the community. And other ambitions may have been hinted at in her IMDB profile — in small bold letters at the top of the page are the words, “SAG Eligible,” meaning that Pressly is eligible for membership in the Screen Actors Guild.
Anne Pressly was found near death early Monday morning. Her mother had come to her home, concerned after some of her usual wake-up calls to her daughter went unanswered. She found the reporter in bed, bleeding from severe wounds to her head and upper body.
Early reports on Pressly’s condition said she’d been stabbed. Those reports are now in doubt. Police do believe she was badly beaten. Her condition has been described as “critical but stable.”
The reaction to the crime in Little Rock has been pure shock. As far as anyone knew, Anne Pressly had no enemies. She had an active Facebook page with many friends. She lived in a safe neighborhood. Her Sunday night prior to a bloody Monday morning was innocent enough. She had dinner with KARK-TV reporter Mallory Hardin and was home by 9:30 or so. According to a report published online by the staff of the Today Show, Pressly even exchanged “cheery” text messages with Hardin after she made it home.
Police suspect Pressly was robbed. They say her purse and other personal items are missing. Police say the attacker didn’t force entry into Pressly’s home. They don’t know the motive for the nearly-fatal beating, though. That’s not typical burglar behavior.
Mallory Hardin told Matt Lauer on Today that she didn’t know about her friend having “any type of stalker.” Hardin indicated that Pressly had never mentioned any weirdness from fans at all, but Little Rock police are still trying to find out if Pressly did, in fact, have a stalker.
The answer to what happened to Anne Pressly may be simple. A burglar was afraid he’d be caught and decided to eliminate a witness. But it may be more complex. It only makes sense to examine the possibility that the reporter was stalked in some manner. No one has mentioned the possibility of an angry ex-boyfriend, either.
One weird aspect of this story has been the fact that even if Pressly wasn’t stalked before, she is being stalked now, in a way. Publications in London have picked up on the story of “The glamourous American TV anchorwoman discovered brutally beaten in her own home.” Gossip blogs are following the story. This tall, beautiful journalist’s star has risen worldwide overnight for the worst imaginable reason.
The attention has led to some odd theorizing, as well. This Daily Kos diarist, pointing out Pressly’s movie role with the title of their post, alludes to what I’m talking about: “It would be inappropriate to connect conspiratorial dots but then again there’s something that seems strange about this.” A commenter on that Kos post expanded on the idea: “She wasn’t just a ‘bit part in a random movie.’ She played Ann Coulter (and not flatteringly) in the movie ‘W.’, a movie which is highly offensive to the extreme right wing […] It’s just a big DUH that it might be a hate crime. It’s also a big DUH that it might be a random robbery.”
There is certainly something strange at the heart of this story. Anne Pressly is an improbable victim — she lived in a safe area, she was a well-known face about town. Could it be that the attack on her somehow relates back to that September 28 notice in the Arkansas paper naming the character she so briefly played in W? I personally find it difficult to believe such a thing. I’m too skeptical after covering crime for a few years — the motives of those who try to murder another person are usually a little more straightforward than that. They’re trying to eliminate a witness. They’re angry, jealous, even suicidal but not afraid to get some homicide in before they’re done. But even a site as popular and well-known as Gawker.com isn’t afraid to wonder about such a thing, referring to Pressly’s role in the Stone film in a post titled “Ann Coulter Doppelganger Mysteriously Attacked.” (Thanks to Gawker blogger Hamilton Nolan for linking TCR’s first post about this crime.)
Speculation on who might have wanted to kill Anne Pressly — and why — is all well and good, but at the moment, it’s still fruitless. The sad thing is that if the attack remains unsolved, the speculation will continue, and in other parts of the blogosphere, the Pressly-Coulter connection will be magnified beyond reason — if that hasn’t already happened.
Anne Pressly’s family issued a statement today. It’s worth ending with some portions of that statement:
“We are appreciative of the outpouring of love we’ve received – obviously out of your love for Anne. We are overwhelmed by your affection; the care Anne’s physicians and nurses have given her, the diligence of the Little Rock Police Department in this investigation and local and national reporters who have respected our privacy. […] Now our family needs private time. Please respect our wishes and give us time to heal as a family – privately – without visitors. We will issue statements as Anne’s condition improves…”
[Today Show, MSNBC.com]
AP report about the bus driver who found Cole Puffinburger on a Las Vegas street.
Six-year-old Cole Puffinburger, the Las Vegas boy allegedly abducted by a Mexican drug cartel, has been found alive and well. That doesn’t mean the investigation is over, though. It looks as though it’s just beginning.
A 42-year-old woman named Terri Leavy was arrested today in Fontana, California. Fox 5 Vegas reports that the feds picked Leavy up on a “federal material witness warrant.”
Leavy is allegedly a “companion” to Cole’s grandfather, Clemens (some reports spell it Clemons) Fred Tinnemeyer. The 51-year-old Tinnemeyer — first publicly named in connection with this case by the True Crime Report — is also in custody in California awaiting extradition while police search for yet another person of interest in this case, Jesus Gastelum. Gastelum is a Mexican national. He may be the link between the drug cartel and Clem Tinnemeyer.
Police won’t talk about any possible charges against Cole’s mom, Julie Puffinburger (Tinnemeyer), but she is being investigated as well.
Call Las Vegas Crime Stoppers if you think you have information relevant to this case: (702) 385-5555. [KVVU Las Vegas]