Court Digest

South Carolina
Fatal crash gets man 6 years; biker gave him middle finger

YORK, S.C. (AP) — A man who caused a motorcyclist to crash and die after the biker gave him the middle finger has agreed to deal to spend six years in prison, prosecutors in South Carolina said.

After the gesture, Joseph Anthony Rufo passed the biker on U.S. Highway 21 near Rock Hill in July 2019, then swerved in front of him slammed on his brakes, investigators said.

Dedrick Strain, 25, died after his motorcycle hit Rufo’s truck and his body then slammed into a guard rail, authorities said.

Prosecutor Matthew Shelton said a witness to the wreck would have testified that after the crash Rufo said “‘You didn’t see what he did, he had it coming,” The Herald of Rock Hill reported.

Rufo, 45, was originally charged with murder, but took a deal to plead guilty to voluntary manslaughter Friday and accept a six-year prison sentence.

Rufo told troopers investigating the crash that Strain gave him the middle finger and patted the saddlebag of his motorcycle like he had a gun after they tangled in traffic, prosecutors said.

Rufo said he had to brake suddenly for traffic when Strain hit him, but other drivers disagreed, prosecutors said.

Rufo will be sentenced next week. He didn’t speak at his guilty plea.

Convict who eluded police for 20 years arrested

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — A man who eluded authorities for 20 years after skipping his Indiana trial on sex charges was arrested in Alabama, police said Monday.

Larry Albert Flake was taken into custody Friday after the FBI and police located him in Birmingham, Alabama, police in Richmond, Indiana said.

He was living under the assumed name of Larry White and was pastoring at a nearby church, FBI spokesman Paul Daymond told

Flake, now 75, failed to appear for his August 2001 trial on rape and sexual misconduct charges, according to police and Richmond police had received a report that he attacked a 15-year-old girl in 1999.

A jury convicted him of sexual misconduct in his absence, but a mistrial was declared on a rape charge, reports. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

Investigators received a new lead in January. Flake was taken into custody on suspicion of unlawful flight to avoid prosecution and will face extradition to Indiana, Richmond police said.

Police: Man charged with killing wife, family dog

HARRINGTON, Del. (AP) — A Harrington man has been charged with killing his wife and the family dog, Delaware State Police said.

Richard Nelson, 69, called 911 to report that he killed his wife and dog Sunday morning, police said in a news release on Monday. A responding Harrington police officer who arrived first at the home on East Lucky Estates Drive, entered through a partially open garage door and found a woman dead in a pool of blood on the floor, police said.

While the officer waited for responding troopers, police said Nelson came out of the garage and was taken into custody without incident. Troopers and detectives confirmed that the woman, identified as Sandra Nelson, 74, had been stabbed multiple times and was pronounced dead, police said. An autopsy will determine the exact cause and manner of death. Police also found the family dog stabbed to death in a bedroom.

Richard Nelson has been charged with first-degree murder, possession of a deadly weapon during the commission of a felony, and cruelly or unnecessarily kills or injures any animal. He’s being held on $522,000 cash bond.

It’s not known whether Nelson has an attorney.

Livingston County
Man charged in killing of his grandparents

LIVINGSTON COUNTY, Mich. (AP) — A man accused of killing his grandparents whose bodies were found in their Livingston County home last week has been charged with murder, the Michigan State Police said.

According to mlive, Chance Raymond Hallam was arraigned on Sunday on two counts of open murder in the slayings of his grandparents, Dale Dormanen, 75, and Joan Dormanen, 79.

The bodies of the two were found by police in the couple’s Oceola Township home after they were called to the address by the 22-year-old Hallam.

Hallam, who was living with his grandparents at the time, told officers that he was involved with the deaths, police said. He was arrested without incident.

Police have not said how or when the two were killed or what Hallam told them.

Hallam is being held without bond in the Livingston County Jail.

Man accused of killing one person in front of three children

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — A man has been charged with murder after he allegedly shot and killed another man in a Baton Rouge apartment with three children present, officials said.

Officers were called to the apartment complex on the eastern side of the city around 9 p.m. on Saturday and found a man dead in a bedroom, according to the East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office. They also found three children in the bedroom, The Advocate  reported.

Police escorted the children out of the apartment through a back door. They were not harmed, local news reports said.

One of the children told investigators that the victim and the suspect, 46-year-old Erron Joseph, exchanged gunfire in the doorway of Joseph’s apartment. The victim then ran to his own apartment and Joseph allegedly retrieved a rifle from his car.

According to The Advocate, the victim asked Joseph not to shoot him in front of the children before Joseph allegedly killed him.

Investigators found physical evidence that suggests Joseph fired eight bullets at the victims, the sheriff’s office said. Detectives retrieved numerous rifle casings from the apartment but there was no evidence that the victims fired his gun inside.

Joseph was booked on charges including one count of first degree murder.

It was not immediately known if Joseph had a lawyer who could comment on his behalf.

New Jersey
Man in GoFundMe scam pleads guilty to federal charge

A New Jersey man who conspired with his girlfriend to concoct a feelgood story about a helpful homeless man and then used the lie to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations online pleaded guilty on Monday in federal court.

Mark D’Amico pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Noel Hillman in Camden to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. An indictment unsealed in January 2020 charged D’Amico with a total of 16 counts of conspiracy, wire fraud and money laundering.

The 42-year-old man had already pleaded guilty to charges in state court last year. His former girlfriend, Katelyn McClure, and homeless veteran Johnny Bobbitt Jr. previously pleaded guilty to state and federal charges. Bobbitt was sentenced to five years’ probation on state charges in 2019. Both are scheduled to be sentenced on the federal charges in early 2022.

The trio made up a story in late 2017 about Bobbitt giving $20 to help McClure when her car ran out of gas in Philadelphia, according to prosecutors. D’Amico and McClure solicited donations through GoFundMe, purportedly to help Bobbitt, and conducted newspaper and television interviews. Investigators said D’Amico was the plot’s ringleader.

The scam eventually raised more than $400,000 in donations in the space of a month, according to investigators, who said almost no part of the tale was true and that instead, the group met near a Philadelphia casino in October 2017 shortly before they told their story.

Authorities began investigating after Bobbitt sued the couple, accusing them of not giving him the money. The federal criminal complaint alleged all of the money raised in the campaign was spent by March 2018, with large chunks spent by McClure and D’Amico on a recreational vehicle, a BMW, and trips to casinos in Las Vegas and New Jersey.

D’Amico is scheduled to be sentenced in March. A message seeking comment was left with his attorney Monday.

New Hampshire
Man pleads not guilty to fatally shooting cousin

NORTH HAVERHILL, N.H. (AP) — A New Hampshire man has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder charges in connection with the shooting death of his cousin.

Lance Goodrich, 35, of Lyme, appeared at Grafton County Superior Court in North Haverhill on Monday. He remained jailed without bail. A public defender indicated the matter would be addressed in the future.
Police responding to a home on Route 10 in Orford on Saturday found the victim, identified as Brooke Goodrich, 25.

Lance Goodrich was taken into custody later that day in Newport.

No motive for the killing was disclosed and a police affidavit was sealed.

An autopsy on the victim was scheduled.

Woman charged for allegedly killing her children

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — A Montana woman accused of stabbing her two small children was kept behind bars Monday on a $10 million bail by a judge who called her a great risk to the community and also ordered a mental health evaluation.

Leannah J. Gardipe, 34, is charged with two counts of deliberate homicide after police found her 3- and 5-year-old children dead Friday in their Missoula house.

Detectives found a note inside the house that said, “it was the only way that we all wouldn’t burn, now I’m the only one of us that will,” the Missoulian reported.

Gardipe’s mother first reported the crime when she called 911 to tell police her daughter said she had “saved her babies.” Gardipe called 911 herself soon after to report a murder and said her mom would be calling too.
Gardipe told dispatchers the incident happened that morning in her bedroom, and that “(she) was supposed to die” that day.

The children were dead on the bed when police arrived Friday night. No one else was in the house beside Gardipe, police said.

Gardipe, who appeared in court Monday, is represented by public defender Ted Fellman, who asked for a significantly lower bond.

North Carolina
Missing man found dead; woman charged

SHELBY, N.C. (AP) — A North Carolina man reported missing more than two weeks ago has been found dead, and the woman he lived with is charged in his death, police said.

Kings Mountain police reported finding Keith Adams, 60, on Thursday off a road in Cleveland County. On Friday, police charged Darlene Black, 63 with first-degree murder in Adams’ death, the Gaston Gazette reported.

Police found Black in South Carolina and she now awaits extradition to Cleveland County, Kings Mountain Police Chief Lisa Proctor said.

Adams and Black lived together, but police did not offer any details about their relationship.

Adams, who worked as a truck driver, was reported missing on Nov. 5 after not showing up for work. Police are awaiting an autopsy by the Medical Examiner’s Office. to determine a cause of death.