Wilmington Police on Howard student's death: No charges this week

By Amy Cherry 1:55pm, April 29, 2016 - Updated 5:14pm, April 29, 2016
VIDEO: Wilmington Police Chief Bobby Cummings said an investigation into the death of Amy Joyner-Francis is taking longer than initially expected.
Wilmington Police held a status update on the death of a Howard High School student Friday, but there was little new to add outside of the fact that authorities would not be issuing any charges this week.

Officials hosted a news conference at 3 p.m. Friday at Wilmington Police headquarters and announced simply that an investigation into Amy Inita Joyner-Francis' death would take more time than initially expected and

"At a town hall meeting earlier this week, I stated that I was hopeful that charges would be filed against the persons of interest, who we identified in this investigation," said Wilmington Police Chief Bobby Cummings. "We are actively investigating the circumstances surrounding the death of Amy Joyner-Francis and working around-the-clock in full cooperation with the state of Delaware Attorney General's office and the state of Delaware Division of Forensic Science."

Amy Joyner-Francis was brutally attacked and killed in the bathroom at Howard High School.

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Cummings said detectives have scores of interviews, re-interviews, cellular and electronic data and forensic medical reports to review.

"All of these pieces go into making a strong case," he said. "Unlike TV, these things absolutely do take time. There are over 3,000 printed pages of data, alone, that must be painstakingly reviewed."

Mayor Dennis Williams stood alongside Chief Cummings at the news conference, but declined to speak. Neither Cummings nor Williams took any questions at Friday's news conference.

"We are obligated to Amy--as in any death investigation regardless of the means of death--to conduct a thorough complete investigation to ensure a successful conclusion as it comes to investigating this case and prosecuting it," he said.

The Howard High School sophomore was brutally beaten to death in a school bathroom last week during an assault police said was caught on video. Police reiterated Friday there were no weapons used in the bathroom attack, a detail WDEL reported previously.

"We all have an obligation to Amy's family, to her classmates at Howard High School, and to the community to present information to the public that is based on facts and not rumors," he said. "As such, I wanted to confirm that there were no weapons used in this attack."


Contact Amy Cherry at acherry@wdel.com or follow her on Twitter at @acherry13.

Guilty verdict for mastermind behind Edgemoor's Paladin Club murders

By DJ McAneny 4:08pm, April 29, 2016
Christopher Rivers, left, and Dominique Bensen
A 33-year-old Wilmington man has been found guilty in connection to the 2013 killing of his business partner and his partner's wife, officials announced Friday.

According to Department of Justice officials, Christopher Rivers was found guilty of acting as the mastermind behind the killing of Christopher and Olga Connell, both 39-year-old Wilmington residents.

Rivers was found guilty of two counts first-degree murder, two counts possession of a firearm during commission of a felony, first-degree conspiracy, and first-degree criminal solicitation.

Rivers's co-defendant, Dominique Bensen, 25, of Wilmington, was found guilty of first-degree conspiracy, but officials said Bensen--charged as one of the alleged hitmen--will need to be retried on charges of murder and possession of a firearm during commission of a felony after a jury could not reach a verdict on those during a previous trial.

"We are gratified that this jury found Christopher Rivers responsible for the heinous murders of Joseph and Olga Connell, and hope the verdict brings some measure of closure to their family members," said State Prosecutor Kathleen Jennings. "We're also grateful the jury found that Dominique Benson conspired with Mr. Rivers to commit these murders, and we will most certainly retry him on the remaining counts."

A 32-year-old Wilmington man, Aaron Thompson, was recently charged in connection to the case.

The Connells were killed outside their home in the Paladin Club Condominiums on Paladin Drive in Edgemoor. Authorities said the pair was killed by Rivers in order to collect on a life insurance policy Rivers and Christopher Connell took out on each other in order to protect their shared business.

Ex-soldier gets double life sentence for brutal rape, murder of North Wilmington woman

By Amy Cherry 12:09pm, April 29, 2016
Dwight Smith
A former soldier, who said he became addicted to killing while in Iraq and Afghanistan, will spend the rest of his life behind bars.

Dwight Smith, 28, was sentenced to two life terms without parole for the rape and murder of 65-year-old Marsha Lee, of North Wilmington, the Delaware Department of Justice said.

Lee was out walking her dog one morning in December of 2011 at Lowell Road and Matson Run Parkway when Smith struck her with his red Hummer, raped, and beat her to death in 2011. Lee's unclothed body was found in a Delaware Department of Transportation lot off Talley Road.

An arrest affidavit, obtained by WDEL at the time, said Smith told police he suddenly got the urge to kill someone and chose Lee at random.

Smith was on leave from the military in Fort Drum, New York, when he killed Lee. Prosecutors had intended to seek the death penalty in the case, but Smith was ordered to undergo a psychiatric evaluation. He pled guilty but mentally ill to charges of first-degree murder last year.


Contact Amy Cherry at acherry@wdel.com or follow her on Twitter at @acherry13.

Renovation work to begin at Conaty Park in Wilmington

By Tom Lehman 5:38pm, April 29, 2016 - Updated 6:13pm, April 29, 2016
Conaty Park. (WDEL/File)
Long-needed renovations are expected to begin in the coming weeks at Conaty Park in Wilmington, a step residents hope will rejuvenate a park that's fallen into disrepair in recent years.

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The upcoming changes to the park are the culmination of a months-long fundraising effort to collect about $250,000 in grants and money from government agencies and private entities for new playground equipment and landscaping.

The state of the park, located adjacent to the Trolley Square shopping center, had been the subject of controversy, with residents and city officials accusing the Wilmington Housing Authority of reneging on a lease agreement because of higher-than-expected costs during the construction of Lincoln Towers. The building overlooks the park and is frequented by residents.

Councilman Bud Freel spearheaded the collection of funds. He said a contractor has been selected for the project and work will begin once a permit is approved by the city.

"I'm very excited about the fact that we're going to rehabilitate this park and make it something that we can be proud of," he said.

The park is dedicated to Detective Thomas Conaty, the last Wilmington police officer to be killed in the line of duty.

Residents think replacing the rusted and worn playground equipment will be a boon for the Trolley Square area.

Rob Keesler, president of the Delaware Avenue Community Association, said the neighborhood has been shifting toward being more family friendly and the renovations will help improve quality of life.

"Families can use that park again," he said. "It's going to be cleaner and more modern and updated and will look great. I think it's an asset to the community and it fits in with what we're trying to do."


You can contact Tom Lehman at tlehman@wdel.com. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

Wilmington Councilman Bud Freel seeking re-election

By Tom Lehman 6:13pm, April 29, 2016
Wilmington Councilman Charles "Bud" Freel. (WDEL/File)
Citing his desire to continue working on issues in his district and the city, Wilmington Councilman Charles "Bud" Freel said on Friday that he'll seek another term on council and plans to run for his district seat in this year's elections.

Freel, a Democrat first elected to an at-large seat in 1996 and then a district seat 2012, currently serves as the chairman of the council's finance committee. He is one of the longest tenured members of the council and works for the Delaware Department of Transportation as a legislative liason.

"I gave it a lot of thought and I talked to family. I wanted to make sure if I ran again and was fortunate to get re-elected that I give it 100 percent and we decided to move forward," he said.

If he's re-elected, Freel said he hopes to continue efforts to streamline city government from his position atop the finance committee and advocate for solutions to vacant properties in the city.

He'd also provide veteran presence on a council that is likely to look very different, with several seats set to be vacated by incumbents who seeking new offices or not running for another term.

So far, only three council members, Nnamdi Chuckwoucha (D-District 1), Loretta Walsh (D-At Large) and Robert Williams (D-District 7), have confirmed to WDEL that they already filed for re-election or plan to file.

Six other council members are seeking a new elected office, including Council President Theo Gregory (D), who is running for mayor. Council members Hanifa Shabazz and Justen Wright are running to replace him.

Councilwoman Maria Cabrera (D-At Large) is also running for mayor.

Additionallly, Sherry Dorsey Walker (D-District 6) is running for lieutenant governor and Darius Brown (D-District 3) is seeking the city treasurer post.

Freel said he and members like Walsh, also a longtime city lawmaker who has served two stints on council, can help provide some stability since several seats will be vacated and filled with newcomers in this year's elections.

"I think new people are good. You want new people on council," he said. "My thought was to have a good balance of some folks who would be new and some folks who would have experience."


You can contact Tom Lehman at tlehman@wdel.com. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

Wilmington man who brutally beat Windsor Hills woman gets 44 years in prison

By DJ McAneny 12:09pm, April 29, 2016 - Updated 3:28pm, April 29, 2016
Jermaine Booker
A 21-year-old Wilmington man found guilty of, during a home invasion, beating a woman unconscious and leaving her in the garage for her husband to find, will spend 44 years in prison, officials announced Friday.

Jermaine Booker, sentenced the morning of April 29, 2016, was found guilty in January of beating a 61-year-old woman and leaving her bleeding in a small room off a garage in the 100 block of Cambridge Drive in Windsor Hills, then stealing her car in January of 2014.

He was
arrested in Newark, New Jersey, two days after the incident, while driving the victim's car, with shoes in the vehicle covered in the victim's blood. He was 19 at the time.

He was found guilty of first-degree assault, home invasion, first-degree robbery, possession of a deadly weapon during commission of a felony, second-degree burglary, and misdemeanor theft.

A special condition of Booker's sentencing is, on the anniversary of the attack for the next 20 years, he will be placed in solitary confinement as a reminder of the violent actions inflicted upon the victim.

Ogletown convenience store robbed at gunpoint for 2nd time in 3 weeks

By DJ McAneny 5:49pm, April 29, 2016
The scene from the last robbery/WDEL file
An Ogletown convenience store was robbed at gunpoint for the second time in about three weeks.

According to Delaware State Police, the Books & News Plus at 756 Chestnut Hill Road was robbed at gunpoint on Thursday, April 28, 2016, and 11:45 a.m.

A man armed with a gun confronted three male clerks and demanded cash, making off with an undisclosed amount.

The last time this store was robbed was April 12, 2016, when a man robbed two employees at gunpoint.

The most recent suspect was described as a white male, 21 to 30 years old, 6'1" to 6'3", and weighing around 175 to 185 lbs. He was wearing a black hoodie and black pants.

Anyone with information is urged to contact Delaware State Police at 302.365.8566 or Delaware Crime Stoppers at 1.800.TIP.3333.

Biden meets with Pope Francis at cancer forum, Premier Renzi at Palazzo Chigi while in Italy

By Associated Press 11:37am, April 29, 2016
Biden boarding to leave Italy following a circuit of visits with the Pope, Premeir/(Gardiner Harris/White House Pool)
A grand welcome party was organized for Vice President Joe Biden for his stop at the Palazzo Chigi--the Rome residence of the prime minister of Italy.

Biden was received by an honor guard and military band, which played both the American and Italian anthems, while he stood with Premier Matteo Renzi.

Biden met earlier in the day, privately, with Pope Francis and then secretary of state at the Apostolic Palace Cardinal Pietro Parolin during a stop at the Vatican.

Biden was in Vatican City to speak about cancer research at a conference on regenerative medicine. He and Francis privately met between their speeches, and exchanged small tokens.

The Vice President said the world is on the cusp of unprecedented scientific discoveries and medical breakthroughs, but it's critical not to forget that real people's lives are behind that work.

During the conference, Biden reflecting on the death of his son, former Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden, who succumbed to brain cancer in 2015.

The Pope stressed that research advances, both academic and industrial, for curing diseases must be available to all people, to "safeguard human life and the dignity of the person."

"An economy of exclusion and inequality," must be opposed, the Pope said, because that would mean "the mechanism of profit prevails over the value of human life."

Vice President Joe Biden meeting with Cardinal Pietro Parolin/(Gardiner Harris/White House Pool)

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Biden met with Parolin following the cancer conference appearance, and the pair exchanged jokes, glad to see each other again as they prepared to start their meeting.

The details of that meeting were undisclosed, as were the details

regarding Biden's meeting with Renzi, the Vice President's last stop in Italy.

Italy, the U.S., and other countries have been struggling to deal with instability in Libya which has fueled the growth of the Islamic State group in the North African nation.

3 Dover businesses on same road burgled, damaged in one evening

By DJ McAneny 4:26pm, April 29, 2016
Between 11:30 p.m. Thursday and 5:43 a.m. Friday, three businesses along the same street in Dover were burglarized, city authorities announced Friday afternoon.

According to Dover Police, the following businesses were burglarized:
  • China King, 760 Walker Road: Front door pried open, cash and $350 worth of frozen shrimp were stolen, $800 in damages sustained
  • Romano's Italian Pizzeria, 768 Walker Road: Front door pried open, undisclosed amount of cash stolen, $600 in damages sustained.
  • Coin Laundry, 772 Walker Road: Rear door pried open, undisclosed amount of cash stolen, $800 in damages caused.

  • Anyone with information regarding this incident is urged to contact Dover Police at 302.736.7130 or Delaware Crime Stoppers at 1.800.TIP.3333.

    Homeless man charged weeks ago with strangling woman at Dover motel now charged with burgling, damaging another

    By DJ McAneny 11:04am, April 29, 2016
    Xavier Spady/Courtesy Dover Police
    A 25-year-old homeless man who, just over two weeks ago, was charged in an assault and robbery at a Dover motel, was charged this week with burglarizing another city lodge.

    According to Dover Police, Xavier Spady was charged Thursday, April 28, 2016, with forcing his way into an unoccupied room at the Super Lodge at 246 North DuPont Highway on April 27 at 12:05 a.m.

    While in the room, he allegedly stole several items and caused damage to the bathroom.

    Surveillance footage led police to identifying Spady, who had, with a female accomplice on April 14, 2016, forced his way into a Dover Inn motel room and strangled a 32-year-old woman while taking her cash to fund a trip to Kohls, according to police.

    For that incident, Spady had been committed to the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in lieu of $6,000 secured bond.

    Spady was taken into custody in the 1000 block of White Oak Road and charged in this most recent incident with third-degree burglary, criminal mischief, and theft under $1,500. He was committed to the Howard R. Young Correctional Center in lieu of $1,600 secured bond.

    New Castle County Police plead for witnesses to come forward in shooting death

    By DJ McAneny 11:52am, April 29, 2016
    New Castle County Police homicide detectives are "pleading to the community for information to help solve the death of Tymere Bailey."

    Bailey, 25, of New Castle, was engaged in a physical altercation in Surratte Park, and officers responding to the Minquadale scene found him dead with a gunshot to the upper body.

    According to authorities, a large crowd gathered when the fight began. But no witnesses have come forward to help investigators.

    Anyone with information regarding this incident is urged to contact New Castle County Police at 302.395.8110 or 302.573.2800, or Delaware Crime Stoppers at 1.800.TIP.3333.

    Marshallton gas station robbed by man implying he was armed

    By DJ McAneny 5:30pm, April 29, 2016
    A Marshallton gas station was robbed at gunpoint late Thursday night, Delaware State Police said Friday.

    According to authorities, a man entered the Dash In at 4598 Kirkwood Highway, and approached the teller, implying he was armed with a gun.

    The clerk turned over an undisclosed amount of cash at the suspect's demands, and then the man fled.

    The suspect was described as a white male, about 6'1" to 6'3", weighing 160 to 180 lbs., and last scene wearing a grey hoodie, sweatpants, sneakers, and mask.

    Anyone with information regarding this incident is urged to contact Delaware State Police at 302.365.8566 or Delaware Crime Stoppers at 1.800.TIP.3333.

    Witness catches man in a lewd act outside of Rose Hill Community Center

    By Andrew Sgroi 8:28am, April 29, 2016 - Updated 10:29am, April 29, 2016
    A composite sketch, developed from details provided by the witness, of the indecent exposure subject (New Castle County Police)
    A man seen exposing himself in public is now in hiding.

    New Castle County Police are asking for the public's help identifying the individual, who was spotted performing a lewd act inside his car just outside of the Rosehill Community Center earlier this week.

    A woman visiting the center noticed the man acting suspiciously, police said, before she eventually realized what exactly he was doing.

    The man--who was described to be 50 to 60 years of age--drove away after the woman shouted at him.

    The red vehicle in which the subject was spotted performing the lewd act, as taken by the witness (New Castle County Police)

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    Anyone with information about this incident was asked to call New Castle County Police at 302.395.8110. Tipsters could also call Delaware Crime Stoppers at 800.TIP.3333.

    Racially-charged cartoons prompt outrage at Wesley College

    By Amy Cherry 4:48pm, April 28, 2016 - Updated 10:44am, April 29, 2016
    Racist cartoons cause controversy on Wesley's campus. (Photo/Tiffany Griffin)
    Controversial comics published in Wesley College's independent student newspaper caused an uproar on campus.

    "It was very offensive," said senior Tiffany Griffin.

    The comics were drawn by black student Bryheim Muse and published in Wesley College's independent monthly student newspaper The Whetstone. Kristen Griffith, The Whetstone's editor, didn't respond to an email message seeking comment.

    A cartoon published in Wesley College's independent newspaper is drawing ire among students. (Photo/Tiffany Griffin)

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    Griffin, who's with the college's black student union, was outraged.

    "Black Lives Matter and abortion are two separate issues--women have the right to choose if they want an abortion--and then people were offended, as black women, (because) that picture put us back as black women and as women, in general," said Griffin.

    "I was trying to make a point, showing the hypocrisy behind the Black Lives Matter--in one way we're saying 'Black Lives Matter', but in another way, we're aborting our children and we're saying it's OK," said Bryheim Muse, the cartoonist, who's a senior at Wesley.

    Muse said the original cartoon he drafted depicted two men in Black Lives Matter T-shirts hurting themselves. He said statistics showed abortion was the leading cause of murder among black people, and that's why he changed the comic.

    "The small amount of number of blacks dying from cops compared to the large amount of blacks dying from abortion--these are real issues that our people need to address," said Muse.

    Muse said his second cartoon was based off a Bible scripture that said, "A man is known by his attire."

    "I was making a point that the way you dress defines who you are, and what we call in society today as a hoe--a lot of women don't like to call themselves that--but that's how a lot of them dress today," he said.

    He said the man depicted in a purple suit wasn't meant to be a pimp.

    "My main point of all of this was to show Black Lives Matter is not the solution to our problems, protesting, begging other people to fix our problems, the solution to our problems is keeping God's commandments," he said. "Black-on-black crime, if we kept the law on 'love thy neighbor as thyself,' we wouldn't have that."

    Griffin said the comics show what she called a clear racial divide on-campus. She pointed to an instance last year where the college held an annual block party on the last day of classes with a theme of "family reunion."

    "Only African American students came out, and then we heard that the white students had a cookout across the street," said Griffin.

    "I don't see any racial divide on-campus," said Muse.

    Following backlash from the comics, the college held a forum Monday night that Griffin said was "emotional" and "heated."

    "For years now, they've just been putting band aids on, I guess, situations, different things that have been going on on-campus, and I feel like the forum and the cartoon just put everything on the forefront," she said. "A lot of students were kind of frustrated about the way the administration handled, I guess, the forum, and the cartoon as well, because we thought that there was really no consequence for the cartoon."

    Muse said he stood his ground when he spoke at the forum, and said he would publish the same cartoons again despite the backlash.

    "The students weren't really trying to get why I made the cartoons, they just wanted to basically tell me why they hated it," Muse said. "They didn't show up for solutions, they showed up to argue, basically."

    She said the administration seemed shocked by the reaction to the cartoon, signifying a disconnect between them and the student body.

    "I don't know if (President Richard Clark II is) aware how big the cartoon has an impact," she said. "I think there's a disconnect, so, one: just realizing this cartoon really offended a lot of people, and also: the fact that it was bigger than The Whetstone and the cartoon, because of the issues on-campus that are going on."

    Griffin, Shaylynn Bivens, and Damyra Price created a list of "demands" to Clark, who is in his first year as college president.

    Clark responded with an apology that was sent to the entire student body Tuesday night.

    "(The cartoon) was in no way reflective of the beliefs or values of our college," said Clark. "I was disappointed by depiction, and, as the president of the college, I apologize to everyone in our family, as well as anyone else who viewed (and was) offended by the depiction."

    In the letter, Clark said he hoped to hold an open dialogue to address challenging and controversial issues on campus so that students learn first-hand how to exercise freedom of speech and the impact it can have on others.

    "They must take take responsibility for the ideas and opinions that they express," said Clark.

    Muse said the president hasn't reached out to him regarding the cartoons, and, regarding Clark's apology, Muse said:

    "The students got a gun to his head, so that's my stance on that...the students are demanding things, they're just emotional right now."


    Contact Amy Cherry at acherry@wdel.com or follow her on Twitter at @acherry13.

    Eagles get quarterback Carson Wentz at No. 2 overall

    By Rob Maaddi, AP Pro Football Writ 8:40pm, April 28, 2016 - Updated 10:29am, April 29, 2016
    North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz poses for photos after being selected by the Philadelphia Eagles as second pick in the first round of the 2016 NFL football draft, Thursday, April 28, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
    The Eagles selected North Dakota State quarterback Carson Wentz with the second overall pick in the NFL draft Thursday night.

    A potential franchise quarterback was Philadelphia's goal after the team traded up twice to get the second pick from Cleveland. The Eagles moved from No. 13 to No. 8 to No. 2 to get in position to select Jared Goff or Wentz on April 28, 2016, despite signing Sam Bradford to a $36 million, two-year contract in March.

    The 6'5" Wentz led the Bison to their fifth consecutive FCS title last season. He passed for 1,651 yards and 17 touchdowns during his senior year that was shortened by a wrist injury. Wentz only started his final two seasons and didn't face big-time competition.

    Bradford did not report for voluntary workouts this week and agent Tom Condon has requested a trade. The Eagles also signed Chase Daniel to a $21 million, three-year deal to be the backup.

    Laborers union protests at Wilmington's Rodney Square against right-to-work zones

    By Amy Cherry/DJ McAneny 3:10pm, April 28, 2016
    Protesters against Right-To-Work zones, rallying at Rodney Square in Wilmington/(DJ McAneny/WDEL)
    Rain didn't get in the way of dozens of workers rallying on Rodney Square against right-to-work zones.

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    The workers from Laborers Local 199 used Workers' Memorial Day to protest against legislation which would create right-to-work zones.

    "Not only is bad for the working class, but it definitely drives down the economy of the entire state," said Mario Corea. "Right-to-work is just meant to dismantle entire unions...all of the benefits that we have, it diminishes tremendously."

    Matt Martin said right-to-work would minimize their bargaining power.

    "I think unions have their place," he said.

    Wayne Holmes said he wouldn't be a member of the middle class without his union.

    Protestors against Right To Work legislation act out a skit during a Rodney Square rally

    A video posted by WDEL (@wdel1150am1017fm) on

    "Without the union, I would probably be working three or four jobs, trying to make it, trying to take care of my kids," he said. "I probably would've have benefits, I probably wouldn't have a pension or anything else."

    Union members were also pushing for more local hiring of veterans--a goal of House Bill 283.

    "We definitely want more local hiring--within local hiring--we definitely know we have veterans here...which definitely don't get much opportunities especially in construction--so we definitely want to make a push for it," said Corea. "They deserve to come home and have good-paying jobs...and benefits."

    Under legislation proposed last year, the state economic development director would be allowed to create a right-to-work zone when at least 20 new employees are to be hired by a manufacturing business. The manufacturer also would be exempt from having to pay the state gross receipts tax on businesses for the first five years of operations.

    Supporters of Senate Bill 54 said the right-to-work zones would boost economic development and revive manufacturing in the state, but the measure failed in a Senate committee last April.

    "I do not have any plans to put another one in," said state Senator Greg Lavelle, who noted he had no idea what other legislators or counties may be planning.


    Contact Amy Cherry at acherry@wdel.com or follow her on Twitter at @acherry13.

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