- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 11, 2014
Woman accused of taking nephew has criminal past

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - A woman accused of kidnapping her 5-day-old nephew and leaving him outside an Iowa gas station as police closed in on her has a long criminal history with frequent moves and multiple names, but nothing in her past indicates why she might have taken a child.

The woman who was arrested in Iowa has been charged as 31-year-old Kristen R. Smith, of Denver. But court documents and warrants obtained by The Associated Press show the same woman faces other charges elsewhere as Kristen L. Pearson, who is 32.

Even Smith’s family appears confused by her identity. She is accused of taking her nephew from a Town of Beloit home where she had been staying with her half-sister and the child. In a 911 call released Monday, Brianna Marshall, the baby’s 18-year-old mother, told police after she discovered her son missing that she wasn’t sure of her half-sister’s last name. Police quickly tracked Smith to Iowa, and the baby was found the next day and returned to his mother.

Police have refused to speculate on a possible motive, though court documents say Smith had written emails saying she gave birth on Feb. 5. She also wrote Facebook posts about being pregnant and had a prosthetic pregnancy belly in her car when police arrested her.

She faces active warrants relating to fraud, false representation and document tampering in unrelated cases in at least three states. In Texas, she has been charged as Smith. But in Indiana and Wisconsin, she is charged under the name Pearson.

Smith appears to have changed her last name after marrying last year, a move that’s not unusual for women. But the use of different middle initials and two different birthdates seems to have tripped up law enforcement and may have led to Smith being released from a Colorado jail while she was wanted for felony crimes in other states.

A spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office in Tarrant County, Texas, said her office confirmed the two women were the same person using fingerprints and photographs.

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Concertmaster relieved Stradivarius OK after theft

MILWAUKEE (AP) - Violin virtuoso Frank Almond had spent years learning the nuances of the 300-year-old Stradivarius violin that its owner had loaned to him. So when the $5 million instrument was stolen last month and recovered nine days later, he was worried it might have sustained serious damage in the process.

Fortunately it turned out to be fine, he said Tuesday.

“One would expect that there would be some huge problem after something like this, but happily … I played it a little bit and it was clearly in good shape,” he said. There are some cosmetic issues but it is otherwise fine, he added.

Almond, the 50-year-old concertmaster of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, had just finished a performance Jan. 27 and was putting the violin in his vehicle when someone shocked him with a stun gun, grabbed the violin and fled in a waiting van. Almond said the shock immobilized him for about 5 seconds but caused no lasting injury.

The violin eventually was recovered from the attic of a Milwaukee home. Two men, including one with a history of art theft, have been charged with being party to robbery.

Almond said he hadn’t taken any special security measures with the instrument. He said if he’d been accompanied by an armed guard or had the violin handcuffed to his wrist, it only would serve to draw more attention to the instrument.

He said he was always more worried about being careless with it - maybe leaving it on top of his car and driving away, for example, or leaving it in a cab or having it stolen from under a cafe table during a meal.

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Wis. gov doesn’t know if emails will be released

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Gov. Scott Walker says he doesn’t know if any of his emails will be included in thousands of messages prosecutors collected from a former Milwaukee County aide that are set to be released next week.

Prosecutors seized the emails from Kelly Rindfleisch, who pleaded guilty in 2012 to doing campaign work at her Milwaukee County government job. She was one of six people convicted following a secret John Doe investigation into Walker’s former aides and associates when he served as Milwaukee County executive.

A state appeals court has agreed to release the emails on Feb. 19 at the request of The Associated Press and other media organizations.

Walker said Tuesday he’s not sure if any of his emails will be included in the release.

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Wis. Indian group asks schools to drop mascots

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - The Wisconsin Indian Education Association is asking schools to drop American Indian mascots and nicknames.

The organization sent a letter Tuesday to the 31 school districts it says still retain race-based Indian mascots, logos and team names asking the districts to change them out of respect for tribal nations.

Republican Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill in December making it harder to force public schools to drop tribal nicknames.

Until Walker signed the measure, it took only a single complaint to trigger a state review of the mascot. The school district had to prove the mascot didn’t discriminate.

Under the new law, it takes a petition to trigger the review and the burden of proof falls on the complainants to prove the nickname or mascot is racist.


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