Fellow soldiers, intelligence analyst testify in Bergdahl's defense

After days of emotional testimony about fellow soldiers who were injured or killed in the aftermath of his disappearance, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl‘s defense team brought in its own troops to describe the man who walked off his base and the man who came home.

In its second day of witness testimony, Bergdahl’s lawyers brought in a fellow soldier who talked about the quiet young man who “executed quickly” but had trouble adjusting to deployment, as well as a defense official and an intelligence analyst who argued that Bergdahl had become “completely invaluable” and “a gold mine” to U.S. Armed Forces.

Bergdahl faces up to life in prison after he pleaded guilty to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy for abandoning his Army post in Afghanistan in June 2009. Captured by the Taliban and held for five years, he was freed in a prisoner exchange between the militant group and the Obama administration in May 2014.

The trial is now in the sentencing phase for the 31-year old from Sun Valley, Idaho, who took the stand for the two hours on Monday and described in unsworn testimony his brutal time in captivity. The military judge, Army Col. Jeffery Nance, ruled that morning that President Donald Trump’s disparaging comments about the man candidate Trump called a “traitor” and suggested be executed will be a mitigating factor in his sentencing.

Bergdahl’s lawyers hope that the accounts of their three witnesses today will also help reduce his punishment.

John Leatherman, a U.S. Border Patrol agent who was in Berghdal’s unit in Afghanistan and was stationed with him in Alaska, described an efficient and quiet Bergdahl who was a great squad assault weapon gunner, always had his handbook with him and clearly wanted to “better himself.”

“He didn’t seem to adjust as quickly and smoothly as most soldiers adjust. Something about him was a little bit slower coming to terms with what was happening,” Leatherman said in court today, adding that he mentioned this to their first sergeant and asked about getting help for Bergdahl. But the first sergeant told him to shut up and to not tell him how to handle his soldiers — a sign of the stigma associated with asking for mental health help, according to Leatherman.

Terrence Russell of the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency, or JPRA, was the second witness to take the stand, describing how Bergdahl was very helpful and very anxious to get information out to help other prisoners of war.

Russell spoke about the extreme torture and abuse Bergdahl faced in captivity. “His muscles atrophied to the point he could barely stand up…. He was living in filth,” he said. “It was extreme neglect. They just let him nearly rot inside that cage for four years.”

Bergdahl’s accounts of his time in captivity have been extremely helpful to the military’s training of other soldiers, Russell said, because no other soldier has ever been captured and returned in 16 years of war in Afghanistan.

“Can you give him to me tomorrow? I need him. I need him now. Honestly, I needed him three years ago. I need that information,” Russell said.

A third defense witness — Amber Dock, an intelligence analyst who reported to U.S. Central Command during Berghdal’s disappearance — made the same case.

Dock, who was the lead analyst on Berghdal’s case, said the information he provided “was a gold mine. It reshaped the way we did intel in the area. It confirmed what we knew and what we did not know.”

In particular, it allowed the U.S. military to reconstruct the captors’ network and better identify what a hostage location might look like — “completely invaluable,” Dock said, describing Bergdahl as “very eager to help and seemed to understand the urgency of getting the needed information right away to get back to the battlefield.”

After so many years of following his case, she also described the shock of seeing him in Germany for the first time after his release.

“He was very pale, meek. He walked slowly and with caution. It was actually a bit disturbing,” she told the court, noting his voice was “very weak, disjointed, often could not find the words. He had a hard time with timelines. He couldn’t focus very well.”

The tone and substance of their testimony contrasted strongly with witnesses from the prosecution, who had testified in the days prior about how Bergdahl’s disappearance put soldiers at risk.

Jonathan Morita, whose hand was shattered by a rocket-propelled grenade in an ambush while out on a search mission, described the pain and difficulty in emotional detail last week. On Monday, Shannon Allen described the “minimally conscious state” her husband, Master Sgt. Mark Allen, has been in since he was shot in the head by insurgents during an attack. Doctors had to remove both his frontal lobes, leaving him unable to speak and with extremely limited mobility.

“He lost me as a wife because I have become his caregiver,” she added in tears, noting that he cannot be left alone because he’s prone to seizures. “We can’t even hold hands anymore without me prying open his.”

Bergdahl apologized in the afternoon session of court after Shannon Allen’s emotional testimony.

“Saying I’m sorry isn’t enough. My words can’t take away the pain that people have been through,” he said, at times in tears as well. “I was trying to help, and the fact that I did not breaks my heart.”

The defense continues its case Tuesday afternoon and expects to be done with witness testimony on Wednesday. After closing arguments, the case will then be in Judge Nance’s hands, with a decision possibly as soon as the end of this week.

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Border Patrol K-9 sniffs out meth hidden in stuffed toy dog

It took the well-trained nose of a U.S. Customs and Border Protection canine to sniff that something was amiss with a plush toy dog at a California immigration checkpoint earlier this week.

Border Patrol agents on Wednesday at an immigration checkpoint near Blythe, California referred the driver of a Dodge Charger for a secondary inspection after a Border Patrol canine was alerted to an odor it was trained to detect, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) said in a press release.

The agents subsequently found two pounds of methamphetamine — spread across five packages — in a stuffed toy dog during a search of the vehicle. Three small bags of meth were also found in the passenger’s purse.

Combined, the drugs were worth almost $ 6,000, according to the CBP.

Two U.S. citizens were arrested.

The subjects, drugs and vehicle were processed in accordance with Yuma Sector guidelines, the CBP said.

Yuma Sector Border Patrol agents “effectively combat smuggling organizations attempting to illegally transport people and contraband through southwestern Arizona and California,” according to the CBP.

“Federal law allows agents to charge individuals by complaint, a method that allows the filing of charges for criminal activity without inferring guilt,” the CBP said. “An individual is presumed innocent unless or until competent evidence is presented to a jury that establishes guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.”

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Olympic gymnast describes years of alleged abuse by team doctor

Olympic gymnast McKayla Maroney shared the story of her alleged sexual assault at the hands of former USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar in an emotional statement on Twitter late Tuesday night.

Maroney said she was inspired by the #metoo movement on social media, which has encouraged victims to share their personal stories in order to show the widespread problem of sexual harassment and sexual assault. The hashtag was inspired by the allegations of harassment and assault against movie executive Harvey Weinstein. Weinstein, through a spokesperson, has denied all allegations of nonconsensual sex.

“I was molested by Dr. Larry Nassar, the team doctor for the US Women’s National Gymnastics Team, and Olympic Team,” Maroney said in the statement. “Dr. Nassar told me that I was receiving ‘medically necessary treatment that he had been performing on patients for over 30 years.’

“It started when I was 13 years old, at one of my first National Team training camps, in Texas, and it didn’t end until I left the sport.”

Maroney, 21, competed in the 2012 Olympics, where she won a gold medal in the team competition and a silver in individual vault. The photo of her smirking on the medal stand as she received her silver medal became a widely shared meme and increased her popularity.

She retired from competition in 2016.

Nassar was charged in February with 22 counts of of criminal sexual conduct, five of which, according to prosecutors, relate to victims who were under 13 years old. The charges relate to his time working at Michigan State, but he also served as team doctor for the U.S. women’s gymnastics team for 19 years.

“This guy is despicable, this guy is disgusting, and he’s a monster,” Bill Schuette, the attorney general of Michigan, told reporters at Nassar’s hearing on Feb. 24.

Nassar is awaiting trial in Michigan. He has entered a not guilty plea.

“It seemed whenever and wherever this man could find the chance, I was ‘treated,'” Maroney wrote on Twitter. “It happened in London before my team and I won the gold medal, and it happened before I won my Silver.

“For me, the scariest night of my life happened when I was 15 years old,” Maroney continued. “I had flown all day and night with the team to get to Tokyo. He’d given me a sleeping pill for the flight, and the next thing I know, I was all alone with him in his hotel room getting a ‘treatment.’ I thought I was going to die that night.”

Maroney proposed four ideas to change the pattern of assault: speaking out; holding “people, institutions, organizations” and “especially those in positions of power” accountable; education and prevention; and, finally, having “zero tolerance for abusers and those who protect them.”

Maroney’s 2012 teammate Aly Raisman has been very public with her concerns about the sexual assault case. In the wake of the charges against Nassar, Raisman slammed U.S. gymnastics’ handling of the case, telling The Associated Press, “I feel like there’s a lot of articles about it, but nobody has said ‘This is horrible, this is what we’re doing to change.'”

USA Gymnastics released a statement saying, “As we have said, we are appalled by the conduct of which Larry Nassar is accused,” adding, “and, we are sorry that any athlete has been harmed during his or her gymnastics career.”

In a statement to ABC News today, USA Gymnastics said it “admires the courage of those, like McKayla Maroney, who have come forward to share their personal experiences with sexual abuse. Because of their strength in coming forward, predators can be held accountable for their actions. We, like so many others, are outraged and disgusted by the conduct of which Larry Nassar is accused. We are sorry that any athlete has been harmed during her or his gymnastics career.”

“We are strengthening and enhancing our policies and procedures regarding abuse, as well as expanding our educational efforts to increase awareness of signs to watch for and reporting suspicions of abuse, including the obligation to immediately report,” the organization added. “USA Gymnastics, its members and community are committed to working together to keep our athletes as safe as possible.

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Prosecutor grateful for verdict in ex-cop's 4th murder trial

An Oklahoma prosecutor says he isn’t surprised or disappointed that a jury convicted a white former police officer of manslaughter instead of murder in his fourth trial for killing his daughter’s black boyfriend.

Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler said he’s just relieved there was a conviction after former Tulsa officer Shannon Kepler’s three previous murder trials ended with hung juries.

“I’m just grateful that the jury gave us some finality with this verdict,” Kunzweiler said.

The jury convicted Kepler of first-degree manslaughter in the 2014 off-duty fatal shooting of 19-year-old Jeremey Lake, who had just started dating Kepler’s then-18-year-old daughter, Lisa Kepler. It recommended that Kepler get 15 years in prison when he is sentenced, which is scheduled for Nov. 20.

Jurors in the previous three trials deadlocked 11-1, 10-2 and 6-6, leading the judge to declare mistrials. Although they couldn’t agree on the murder charge, the first jury convicted Kepler of recklessly using his firearm.

Kunzweiler said that based on interviews of some of the jurors after the previous trials, he believes some jurors allowed preconceived ideas to influence their verdicts.

“It was very obvious in some of the hung juries we had, some individuals were not doing their sworn job,” to reach a decision based on the evidence presented during the trial, he said without elaborating on the nature of those preconceived ideas.

There was a racial undercurrent to the trials. Kepler killed Lake days before the fatal shooting of an unarmed black 18-year-old by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, fanned the debate over the treatment of minorities by law enforcement.

A single black juror was seated for each of the four trials, and civil rights activists accused Kepler’s lawyers of purposefully trying to exclude potential black candidates. They denied the accusation.

Kepler’s lawyers said the 24-year police veteran was trying to protect his daughter Lisa because she had run away from home and was living in a crime-ridden neighborhood. Attorney Richard O’Carroll said Lisa had been in and out of a homeless shelter since her father forbade her from bringing men into the family’s house.

Kepler, who retired from the force after he was charged, told investigators that Lake was armed and that he had shot him in self-defense, but police didn’t find a weapon on Lake or at the scene.

At his trial this week, Kepler testified that Lake made a move toward his waistband, leading him to believe he was going for a gun.

“He’s bringing it, I’m bringing it,” Kepler said. “It was either him or me. I’m not going to stand there and get shot.”

Prosecutors said Kepler first watched his daughter and Lake from his SUV before approaching them on the street. Lake’s aunt disputed Kepler’s self-defense account and has said her nephew was reaching out to shake Kepler’s hand to introduce himself when Kepler fired.

O’Carroll didn’t reply to phone messages seeking comment on the verdict.

In the first three trials, the juries deadlocked 11-1, 10-2 and 6-6, leading the judge to declare mistrials. Although they couldn’t agree on the murder charge, the first jury convicted Kepler of recklessly using his firearm.

———

Associated Press writer Ken Miller in Oklahoma City contributed to this report.

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Trump didn't know fallen soldier's name, kept calling him 'your guy': Congresswoman

Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Fla., adamantly stood by her characterization of President Donald Trump‘s phone call with the widow of a fallen service member, in an interview with ABC News today, calling his words “terrible” and adding that Trump didn’t even know the soldier’s name.

Wilson said she was with Myeshia Johnson, the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson, who was killed in Niger two weeks ago, and heard the Trump on speakerphone when he called to console her.

“I heard him say, ‘Well I guess you know he knew what he was signing up for, but it still hurts,'” Wilson told ABC News.

Earlier in the day Trump called her description a “total fabrication” and suggested that she would issue a correction. Instead, she doubled down on her criticism of him.

“It was the wrong thing to say, but that’s not the worst part,” Wilson said. “He did not even know La David Johnson’s name. He kept referring to him as ‘your guy.’ He never called his name. So that was even more painful.”

She said other family members who overheard the conversation also seemed upset by it.

“He didn’t call her by name. He didn’t call anyone by name. He was just talking. That was so insensitive and so terrible, and I felt insulted, and I’m sure the widow felt insulted, and everyone else in the car was just shaking their heads,” she said.

Trump said in a tweet today he had “proof” Wilson wasn’t telling the truth. White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders later said he was referring to officials who were in the room with him during the call and could corroborate his version of the conversation. Sanders said there is no recording of the call.

Sanders called Wilson’s actions “disgusting” and accused her of politicizing the death of a service member. “I think it’s appalling what the congresswoman has done and the way she’s politicized this issue and the way that she’s trying to make this about something that it isn’t,” she said.

Wilson does not deny politicizing the call. When asked about it by ABC News, she said she’s a politician and acts as a voice for the people. “When I pick up a puppy, I’m politicizing it,” she said.

She also said the ambush in Niger that killed La David Johnson and three other U.S. soldiers leaves so many unanswered questions that “this is going to be Mr. Trump’s Benghazi,” a reference to the 2012 attack in Libya that killed four Americans.

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Killer clown suspect's husband insists she's 'falsely accused' of murder

The husband of Sheila Keen Warren, who’s accused of dressing up as a clown and killing his first wife nearly three decades ago, insists his second wife is “falsely accused.”

“This is very serious and very unfair,” Michael Warren said, speaking only to ABC News’ “20/20.”

Twenty-seven years ago, a person dressed as a clown walked up to the front door of Marlene Warren’s Wellington, Florida, home and fatally shot her.

There had been no arrests in the case until this fall, when police detained Sheila Keen Warren on Sept. 27, in Washington County, Virginia, alleging she was the “killer clown,” as the suspect in the case has come to be known. Prosecutors have charged her with first-degree murder and say they will seek the death penalty.

Michael Warren has denied having any involvement in Marlene Warren’s death.

Watch the full story on ABC News “20/20” this Friday, Oct. 20 at 10 p.m. ET.

A mysterious killing

On May 26, 1990, Marlene Warren was at her home in the luxurious Aero Club community in Wellington with her 22-year-old son, Joseph Ahrens, and several of his friends, according to Det. Paige McCann of the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office.

It was just before 11 a.m., and while they were finishing breakfast, when they saw a white sedan pull into the driveway. Someone dressed as a clown came to the front door with flowers and balloons. One of the balloons said, “You’re the Greatest,” according to police.

When Marlene Warren answered the door, police said the person in the clown costume handed her the gifts, pulled out a gun and shot her. Then police said the clown “calmly” walked back to the car and drove away.

“Never to be seen again,” said Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw.

Marlene Warren was shot in the face and died two days later from her injuries. Police later found the white sedan the suspect used in a parking lot.

Neighbor Bill Kramer was out walking his dog when he heard what he thought sounded “like a nail gun,” the kind “used in construction.”

“Some very excited young people came running out saying something on the order of, ‘They’ve shot Joey’s mother,’” Kramer said. “My wife said, ‘Stay there, I’ll call 911.’”

Marlene Warren’s husband, Michael Warren, who ran a used car lot and a rental car agency, said he was on his way to a Miami racetrack at the time of the shooting.

One year after Marlene Warren’s death, detectives reportedly identified a woman named Sheila Keen as a suspect, but she was not arrested. At the time of the murder, Keen ran a business to repossess cars and often worked with Michael Warren, though police said they both denied having an affair. Marlene Warren’s parents claimed in 2000 in a published report that she had previously told them they were having marital problems, and suspected that Michael Warren may have had a mistress.

Police were also reportedly suspicious of Michael Warren.

“I told him, I says, ‘Mike … I don’t think that you done it. But I know pretty damn well that you know more about it than you’re letting out,’” Marlene Warren’s stepfather, Bill Twing, told “20/20.” “And he says, ‘Honest. Honest, Bill,’ he says, ‘I don’t know,’ and then we changed subject.”

Marlene’s parents told “20/20” they were shocked by the news that Marlene was killed and they didn’t know anyone who would want to hurt their daughter. They describe their middle child of three daughters as “outgoing, friendly, [and] loving.” The Twings say Marlene was a hardworking business woman. They estimated that she owned around 20 rental properties and also worked as a cargo ship inspector.

“[She would] do anything for anybody,” said Marlene’s mother, Shirley Twing.

Cold case unit reopens investigation

Michael Warren was eventually charged in a separate case. He was convicted of racketeering and odometer tampering and served three-and-a-half years in prison before he was released in 1997.

The case of Marlene Warren’s murder ran cold until Palm Beach County authorities reopened it in 2014. The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office said witnesses were re-contacted and more DNA analysis was conducted on evidence collected at the time, including on orange fibers possibly from a clown wig.

In the nearly 30 years that had passed, Sheila Keen had married Michael Warren in a Las Vegas chapel wedding in 2002. The two had moved to Abingdon, Virginia, where they had built a home and ran a fast food restaurant called The Purple Cow in nearby Kingsport, Tennessee, according to authorities.

Neighbors Brook and Rocky Blevins said they knew the Warrens as “Debbie” and “Mike,” a sociable, hard-working and friendly couple. But the Warrens’ other neighbors, Vicki and John Chittester, said they had a nasty run-in with Michael Warren once, and said he could have a temper. Neither couple said they knew of the Warrens’ previous lives in Florida.

As the 27th anniversary of Marlene Warren’s death approached, Palm Beach Post reporter Barbara Marshall was working on a feature about the case when she said her researcher discovered that Michael Warren and Sheila Keen had gotten married and were now living in Virginia.

“It was like an urban legend… the fact that it was never solved it just went on and on and on,” Marshall said. “In May, which was… the 27th anniversary of the killing, my editor said, ‘Well, let’s, let’s re-look at this.'”

Then, in August of this year, Washington County, Virginia, Sheriff Fred Newman said he received an unexpected call from his counterpart in Palm Beach County, Florida, in regards to the infamous “killer clown” murder case. Newman said he and his deputies then began looking into the whereabouts of Sheila Keen Warren.

On Sept. 27, Sheila Keen Warren was arrested in Abingdon, Virginia, and charged with first-degree murder for the death of Marlene Warren.

Joseph Ahrens, Marlene Warren’s son, declined to speak with “20/20” but told ABC affiliate WPBF at the time of Sheila Keen Warren’s arrest that the news was a “big shock” but the arrest has made him “happier than I’ve been in many years.”

Marlene Warren’s mother, Shirley Twing, said Sheila Keen Warren’s arrest confirmed their decades-old suspicions.

“I turned angry when I heard … Mike had married Sheila,” she said. “Remembering that she killed my daughter, and he marries her? … There’s got to be something there.”

Prosecution seeks the death penalty

Sheila Keen Warren was extradited to Palm Beach County and appeared at a bond hearing on Oct. 4. The judge set no bond in the case.

“There was actually an excellent job of collection of evidence at the time in 1990,” said prosecutor Brian Fernandes. “And because of that collection, we’re able to now use advances in DNA technology.”

Defense attorney Richard Lubin declined to comment to “20/20,” but told The Associated Press that “Sheila Warren ‘vehemently denies’ killing Marlene Warren and will plead not guilty.”

State Attorney Dave Aronberg, whose office is prosecuting Sheila Keen Warren for murder, said that his office is seeking the death penalty.

“I can’t speak specifically to Michael Warren or any of the specific facts of this case,” he said. “I can just say … we’re going to investigate anyone who may be culpable and we’ll make a decision on prosecutions as appropriate.”

But even with a looming trial, after all these years, emotions are still raw for Marlene Warren’s parents.

“She [Sheila] got away with it for so long,” Shirley Twing said. “You can’t tell me that he [Mike] didn’t know. No way in heck … if there’s a hell, I hope she rots in it.”

“Marlene was a good person,” Bill Twing added. “And it’s just a shame that somebody took her away from us … Nobody deserves that.”

Watch the full story on ABC News’ “20/20” this FRIDAY at 10 p.m. ET.

ABC News’ Emily Shapiro contributed to this report.

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