Hopes fading of finding more survivors in Taiwan earthquake

An official inspects the failed rebar foundation pillars during a continued search operation at an apartment building, which collapsed after a strong earthquake in Hualien County, eastern Taiwan. (AP)
Updated 09 February 2018
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Hopes fading of finding more survivors in Taiwan earthquake

HUALIEN, Taiwan: Hopes of finding additional survivors from this week’s earthquake in Taiwan were fading Friday after two more bodies were found in a partially collapsed hotel and no signs detected of a missing family of five.
Rescuers broke through to a room in the Beauty Inn where the couple — Canadian citizens originally from Hong Kong — were found, Taiwanese broadcasters reported. No signs of life were found, they said.
The hotel, located on the lower floors of the 12-story Yunmen Tsuiti building, had almost entirely collapsed. The building itself was leaning at a 45-degree angle, forcing crews to stabilize it with steel beams.
The others missing in the hotel are five members of a family from China, including parents, grandparents and their 12-year-old son.
The Yunmen Tsuiti building was one of several damaged by the magnitude 6.4 temblor that struck Tuesday in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Hualien county, whose economy is heavily dependent on tourism.
The deaths of the couple, both 49, raises the death toll to 12, including four tourists from China and a 27-year-old Filipino employed as a household helper. Taiwan’s National Fire Agency listed 273 people as injured.
Hundreds of rescuers were on the scene, including a team from Japan deploying cutting-edge equipment that can detect a heartbeat within a 15-meter (49-foot) range.
Taiwanese broadcasters said earlier indications that signs of life had been detected turned out to be false. Efforts to drill into the hotel rooms where the missing were thought to be trapped was made more difficult by the angle of the building’s lean and the collapsed state of the interior.
TV stations also reported rescuers had detected the smell of decaying corpses.
Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen visited Thursday with people sheltering in schools and other sites as a safeguard against repeated aftershocks.
Taiwan has frequent earthquakes, most of them minor, but a 1999 quake killed more than 2,300 people and was Taiwan’s worst recent natural disaster.


Man who killed newlywed during robbery executed in Texas

Alvin Braziel appears in a booking photo provided by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice in Austin, Texas, US, December 10, 2018. (REUTERS)
Updated 12 December 2018
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Man who killed newlywed during robbery executed in Texas

  • The Whites, who had only been married 10 days, didn’t have any money on them but told Braziel they could get him some and they started walking back to their truck

HUNTSVILLE, Texas: A Texas inmate was executed Tuesday evening for fatally shooting a newlywed during a robbery more than 25 years ago.
Alvin Braziel Jr., 43, received lethal injection at the state penitentiary in Huntsville for the 1993 slaying of 27-year-old Douglas White, who was attacked as he and his wife walked on a jogging trail.
Braziel became the 24th inmate put to death this year in the US and the 13th executed in Texas, the nation’s busiest capital punishment state. He will be the last Texas inmate executed this year.
The execution was delayed about 90 minutes after the six-hour window defined by the warrant began at 6 p.m. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals rejected a last-minute appeal from Braziel’s attorneys.
As Douglas and Lora White walked along a community college jogging trail in the Dallas suburb of Mesquite, Braziel jumped out from behind some bushes with a pistol in his hand and demanded money.
The Whites, who had only been married 10 days, didn’t have any money on them but told Braziel they could get him some and they started walking back to their truck. But Braziel became angry with the couple and ordered them to the ground.
“Doug ... was praying, asked God to forgive him and Lora their sins because they both knew that this was it,” said Michael Bradshaw, the lead detective on the case for Mesquite police. “The last thing Doug said before Braziel fired the first round, he said, ‘Please God, don’t let him hurt Lora.’“
Braziel shot White once in the head and once in his heart.
Bradshaw said he believes Braziel would have also shot then-24-year-old Lora White but his gun malfunctioned. Braziel instead took her to bushy area near the trail and sexually assaulted her.
Douglas White’s murder was featured on the television show “America’s Most Wanted” and a $20,000 reward was raised by the chiropractic college he had worked for as an electrician. Bradshaw said more than 40 potential suspects were interrogated and had their blood drawn for testing.
But White’s murder remained unsolved for over seven years.
“I really didn’t know that I would ever be able to solve it. But I really did not give up hope,” said Bradshaw, 63, who retired from Mesquite police in 2012.
Braziel was eventually tied to the killing in 2001 after he was imprisoned for sexual assault in an unrelated case and his DNA matched evidence from Lora White’s assault.
At his trial, Braziel said he wasn’t near the college during the killing.
Braziel’s attorneys didn’t immediately reply to emails and calls seeking comment on Tuesday.
Last week, his lawyers asked the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals to stop his execution, arguing in part he should not receive lethal injection because he is intellectually disabled.
The Supreme Court held in 2002 that people convicted of murder who are intellectually disabled cannot be executed.
Braziel’s attorneys later withdrew their request.
Courts had previously turned down Braziel’s appeals that have focused on claims of mental illness and that he had suffered a childhood brain injury, saying Braziel refused to be examined by a mental health expert during his trial and that his family declined to help his defense attorneys obtain evidence of any mental health problems in Braziel’s family.
His attorneys also filed a last-minute appeal Tuesday, arguing that an emotional outburst at the 2001 murder trial from Lora White was unfairly elicited by prosecutors when she was shown on the witness stand a photo of her husband’s autopsied body.
Bradshaw said he still keeps in contact with Lora White and that she started a new life and is doing well.
“Lora wants it known that she’s prayed for Alvin Braziel and his family,” Bradshaw said.