Monday, October 26, 2009

First video project

Jam skating group offers youngsters creative outlet, support

Hip-hop beats blared from a stereo as Le Var Maxwell stared at his reflection in a mirror at his in-house studio.

The metal plates on his striped roller skates clanked against the wood floor while he walked through the steps of a routine in his head. At the exact count, he began to react to each musical beat with an arm movement and foot shuffle.

His feet slid smoothly across the floor, and he spun around in circles on his toes.

When he stopped spinning, he looked to the other members of his group and said, “Let’s loosen up and freestyle a little bit.”

Read more and view photos here.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Another round? No thanks.

Yesterday the newsroom had another round of layoffs. This time Greenspun Interactive suspended publication of two community newspapers that work in connection with the Las Vegas Sun. Everyone surrounding my cubicle was let go. Those people helped me and taught me how to cover courts, city council meetings and crime scenes.

I was on assignment at a preliminary hearing, so I didn’t know they had left until I arrived at the office around 5:30 p.m. Their desks were empty and the newsroom was quiet. It’s normally quiet, but not like this. Everyone is walking around like zombies and worrying about their jobs. I don’t blame them. If I wasn’t doing an internship, I would be just as worried.

Having to see amazing journalists let go because of advertising sales is harder than I thought. I’ve been told for the last five years that the newspaper business is in a slump, but I guess I didn’t recognize how bad things actually were. Now I see talented individuals losing their jobs and it makes me scared. Some people in the newsroom have said that the worst is yet to come. I hope it’s already over.

The thing that sets the Las Vegas Sun apart from most newspapers is its online presence. The print edition of the Las Vegas Sun answers the question why, but the online gives you breaking news and answers all of the other questions. My fear is that the economy is going to push the Sun’s Web site to reflect the print edition.

We’re running low on having enough people to update the Web site, and the interns are taking on a more active role. This is a good thing because I’ll learn more by stepping into the shoes of other journalists and trying to keep their beats afloat. I can step into their shoes, but I’ll certainly never fill them.

I have two semesters left until I graduate. I’m determined to find a job in journalism, but I can’t help but ask myself “what if I get fired?” Where will I go? Are you just supposed to pick up and leave? I can’t even imagine the heartbreak some of people who were let go yesterday are dealing with. It’s something you’ll never know until it happens to you.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Stop Child Trafficking NOW

Group rallies to bring attention to child prostitution

Listen to audio here.

Chants broke out on Las Vegas Boulevard late Saturday as community members gathered to raise awareness and money to help stop child prostitution.

Stop Child Trafficking Now organizers walked through residential areas carrying signs with slogans like “Real Men Don’t Buy Sex” and “Stop Buying Our Girls.”

Joseph South, local community organizer for Stop Child Trafficking Now, said the goal of the walk was to raise awareness and thank investigators working to save children from trafficking operations. Stop Child Trafficking Now is a national group that has organized walks in other major cities.

Andrea Pitcher, who walked with the group, said the "24/7" atmosphere of Las Vegas means teenagers can go unsupervised. She said parents work late hours and aren’t always around their children -- a factor that can push them in the direction of prostitution, she said.

“This is a very fast economy,” she said of prostitution. “It’s also very money-driven.”

She said lack of supervision allows children to get on the Internet and look for modeling jobs that aren't always as they appear. Terri Miller, who walked with the group Saturday, said she lost her niece after she responded to a fake modeling job.

“My niece was trafficked from here to Japan,” Miller said. “Luckily, her family made contact with her and got her back home.”

According to Regulated Management, a Las Vegas-based group that says its mission is to "evaluate the problems and effects of the criminal enterprise of illegal prostitution on Las Vegas society," about 1,500 children from 40 states were victims of sex trafficking in Las Vegas over a 13-year period.

“Las Vegas has a reason why it’s called Sin City,” said Bob Fischer, communications director of Regulated Management. “There are all different forms of prostitution, and there’s a great deal of apathy in this city.”

Jackie Capasso, of Christians Against Sexual Slavery, said while child and adult prostitution are separate issues, many women got into prostitution a young age.

UNLV researcher and assistant professor Alexis Kennedy said homeless children exposed to prostitution are taken to jail instead of receiving counseling.

“We’ve drawn them here with our bright lights and now we have to take care of them,” she said. “An 11-year-old is a child, and we had a 13-year-old arrested last weekend.”

Kennedy urged residents to speak to their legislators about the need for a safe house in Las Vegas.

For now, Las Vegas has Safe Place, a nationwide project that helps children who have been sexually or domestically abused get back on their feet. Safe Place spokesman Larry Lovelett said Safe Place, which has a drop-off center, is a service open around the clock for young people when they need help.

Lovelett said children need counselors who can talk to them about their victimization.

“Pimps have PhDs in human nature,” Lovelett said. “They are playing a psychological game with these kids.”

For more information about Stop Child Trafficking Now, visit

Ancient Times

This was my last event with videographer Denise Spidle. :( View photos here.

Renaissance Festival lures ‘knights’ of all ages to Sunset Park

Knights, fairies and guilds are gathering in Sunset Park this weekend for the 16th annual Age of Chivalry Renaissance Festival.

Participant Sherrie Gibbons said attending the festival is like walking into another world. She said she first became interested in the Renaissance period through her daughter.

"It’s a chance to get away from mundane life, especially with the economy right now," Gibbons said.

Sandra Navarro has a personal tie with the festival. She said she has been bringing her son and daughter to the event for six years.

Her daughter, Melissa, said the festival gives her an excuse to dress up like a pirate. She said she is intrigued by the pirate lifestyle and has a crossbones tattoo on her shoulder.

While the festival offers a chance for locals to show off their Renaissance wardrobes, Scott Fitzpatrick said he enjoys the live steel competition, including heavy armor on Saturday and fencing on Sunday. He said this is the 11th year the festival has offered the competition.

"Anyone can participate as long as they follow our safety guidelines," Fitzpatrick said.

Las Vegas middle schools are joining in on the fun, too. Candy Rutledge, senior program administrator for Clark County Parks and Recreation, said the festival allows schools to bring their students in for free.

Las Vegas Day School teacher Jeff Segel said the school brought sixth-graders to the festival to experience the history they're learning in the classroom.

"Anything you study comes to life more when you do things like this," Segel said. "It’s a lot of fun for them. They get to see the artifacts and it’s a good way for them to learn."

Sixth-grader Romina Montti, 11, said she would rather attend the festival than read her textbook.

"It reinforces what they are teaching us in school," Montti said.

Some children were on school field trips, but others participated in the festival because of their passion for the time period.

Holly Long, 8, said she enjoys working at Age of Chivalry Renaissance Festival. She works at her family’s tent, Dragon Bubbles, and said she chose to be a flower fairy this year.

"My parents got me into this," she said. "It’s an amazing experience."

Besides offering bubble vials, jewels and meat pies, the festival also features various educational programs like the Pirates Parrot show, which focuses on parrots from across the world.

Rutledge said the parrot show is especially popular among children.

"He gets all the kids together and teaches them about the birds," Rutledge said. "He lets the birds fly around and land on kids’ shoulders."

Birdman Joseph Krathwohl was at the festival Friday with his companion and bateleur eagle Sheba. Krathwohl said he has had Sheba for more than 26 years and has learned bateleur eagle territorial calls from her.

"I help to teach people about the use of birds for prey – not only in the Renaissance period but for the last 7,000 years of our history," Krathwohl said. "If you could ride up and have several falcons and one big golden eagle on your arm, then everyone who saw you arrive knew you were a powerful man, not woman. Women were not allowed to touch our birds."

The festival will also have entertainment by comedians, sword swallowers and fire breathers. Mary Evanoff will perform in the "Merrie May Show" by juggling and pole walking, while Mike Foster will perform his spin on the movie and play "Sweeney Todd."

Live music will also be provided by The Wild Celts, The Prodigals and Swagger.

"It’s all about our history, and world history is our history," said Las Vegas resident Jim Hartung. "If we don’t know it, we’re doomed to repeat it."

Weekend fun

View more pictures here.

Fundraiser aims to lift spirits of city’s homeless teens

The underlying theme of this year’s third annual H.O.P.E. for the Holidays event was homelessness is not a choice.

Kelly Robson, director of the Help of Southern Nevada Youth Center, said if teenagers leave home to get away from a bad situation, it’s not their choice to become homeless.

“They’re grateful for anything, because one of the hardest things for youths is to be thrown aside,” Robson said.

A fundraiser was held at the Henderson Pavilion Promenade on Saturday with donations and proceeds going to five local organizations that provide resources and housing for homeless teenagers.

Event chair Judy Alewel said last year’s event raised $29,000. She said with today's sour economy, she will be happy to reach that amount again.

“Whatever we make, we will be grateful for anything that is donated,” Alewel said. “The teens want to feel normal and we want to go that extra step and help them feel normal.”

Alewel said more than 4,000 teenagers are living on the streets in Las Vegas. She said it’s important for the Help of Southern Nevada Youth Center, Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth, Street Teens, Living Grace Home and Clark County School District Title 1 Hope to work together and provide the best services possible for each person.

Jazmyn Akins, 18, is a resident at the Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth. She said the organization helped her get into college and pursue her dreams of becoming a commercial photographer and actress.

“My father had a gambling problem and sold our house,” Akins said. “I was living with my neighbors, and I didn’t even know them.”

Akins said her mother works in North Carolina as a teacher and contacted the Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth after Akins was "couchsurfing" for a couple of months.

“They put me in a condo with a housemate and take us grocery shopping every two weeks,” Akins said. “My roommate is in high school and the organization makes sure she leads an actual high school life.”

Nancy Amaya, 19, was in a similar situation before she graduated from high school. She said the Help of Southern Nevada Youth Center took her in because her family wasn’t stable enough to care for her.

“They helped me graduate high school, and I was voted class clown and prom royalty,” Amaya said, smiling.

According to H.O.P.E. statistics, 80 percent of homeless teenagers would like to be able to finish high school. The majority of homeless teenagers living in Las Vegas are 16 years old.

Sariah Johnson, 20, said homeless teens should utilize services offered to them. She said walking into the Help of Southern Nevada Youth Center felt like having a clean slate.

“I grew up in a drug neighborhood,” Johnson said. “Life is about choices and you have the opportunity to have better if you want better.”

The event also featured games, a silent auction, train rides, face painting, hair dying and live entertainment by local bands and singer and impressionist Tom Stevens.

Stevens performs impressions at the South Point Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas and served as the moderator at the event. He said he wanted to participate because it brings awareness to the community.

“I wasn’t aware this many were homeless,” Stevens said. “I have been fortunate enough in my life and it touches me to know that kids out here are living on the streets.”

Quin White, 23, lead singer of the band Amarionette, said he wanted to be involved because the issue of homelessness is often neglected. The band dedicated a song called “Apart From the Same” to all the homeless teenagers.

“It’s a song about being different and not feeling like you’re like everyone else,” White said. “No one is better than anyone else, and these kids are like everyone else."

First preliminary hearing

Woman charged in NLV police standoff to stand trial

The case of a woman accused of holding North Las Vegas Police at bay during a June standoff will proceed to trial after a preliminary hearing today.

Carla Eagleton, 52, is charged with two counts of attempted murder with a deadly weapon, two counts of assault with a deadly weapon, one count of battery with a deadly weapon and assault with a deadly weapon.

North Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Stephen Dahl sent the case to District Court and scheduled Eagleton’s arraignment for 1:30 p.m. Oct. 26. Defense attorney Ronald Paulson said Eagleton would plead not guilty and plans to go to trial.

After Eagleton was arrested in June, a North Las Vegas justice of the peace ordered she undergo a psychiatric evaluation to determine if she is competent to stand trial. Eagleton passed the evaluation.

At the preliminary hearing Friday, Eagleton appeared alongside Paulson and listened to testimony given by her husband, Kenneth McDede, and North Las Vegas police officers Jason Olson and John Thomason.

McDede said at about 9 p.m. on June 4, he and Eagleton had an argument that escalated to a physical altercation when Eagleton grabbed an aluminum bat. He said Eagleton began to chase him and swung the bat, trying to hit him. While running from Eagleton, McDede said he called 911 and ran out of the house.

He said he ran to a convenience store and waited for police to arrive. McDede said he met police at the house in the 3500 block of Coleman Street and explained what happened. He said he saw Eagleton drive off with his 10-year-old grandson before police arrived.

After filing a domestic battery report, officers and McDede left the residence, McDede said during cross-examination. He went to work and returned home at about 5 a.m. He parked across the street and kept receiving phone calls from Eagleton that said, “Don’t come home. I’ll shoot intruders,” he said.

In court today, he said he had given Eagleton the gun, but said she wasn’t trained on how to use it properly. McDede said Eagleton had asked him to train her, but he never got around to it.

Afraid to go home, McDede then called police again to update them on the situation. Three patrol units and four police officers, including Thomason and Olson, arrived at the residence at about 6 a.m.

Olson testified today that he wasn’t involved in the domestic dispute altercation the night before, but because of Eagleton’s threatening phone calls, his supervisor called for backup. Olson said the officers parked three houses south of the residence and approached on foot with their guns drawn.

He said he and Thomason went through the back yard to the backdoor, while officers Brian Wheeler and Derek Fellig positioned at the front entrance. Olson said Wheeler and Fellig knocked on the front door asked Eagleton to come out.

“Over radio, we were told that Eagleton was knocking back and challenging officers to come in and get her,” Olson said. “She was yelling and screaming. It was inaudible.”

She said, “the house was set up to kill police officers,” Olson testified.

Olson said he looked through a window and saw Eagleton standing in what appeared to be a kitchen, holding a silver handgun.

“I looked in the window and saw her pointing a handgun at me,” Olson said. “I was fearful for my life. I yelled ‘gun’ and ducked. I saw Thomason dive out of the corner of my eye and that’s when I heard two shots fired.”

Thomason said he felt debris hitting him when he dove. After the incident, he said he found a bullet fragment lodged in his boot.

“I’ve never been so scared in my life,” Thomason said.

Shortly after firing two gunshots, Thomason said Eagleton came out of the house with nothing in her hands. He said he pointed his gun at her and told her to put her hands up. Eagleton ran back into the house screaming, he said.

McDede said in court today that his wife is on medication. Her medical condition is unknown at this time.

The standoff lasted more than five hours, according to police reports. The report said Eagleton released her 10-year-old grandson after an hour, unharmed.

Prosecutor Michelle Fleck said the grandson might be called to testify if the case proceeds to trial.

No one was injured during the standoff, but Olson said his supervisor called in SWAT team officers as a precaution. Eagleton was taken into custody after the standoff and booked at the Clark County Detention Center. She is being held on bail set at $140,000 for all charges, according to jail records.

Golfing with Pros, Celebrities

Celebs hit the links at Justin Timberlake charity tourney

Instead of hitting the red carpet, celebrities stepped onto the golf course today for the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospital for Children Pro-Am competition.

The event was broken into morning and afternoon tee-offs with 36 groups participating, including professional golfers, amateurs and celebrities.

Timberlake kicked things off around 11:30 a.m. with professional golfer Anthony Kim and amateurs Sal Masekela and David Bomar. Crowds swarmed the course to get a look at Timberlake as he greeted his mother, Lynn, before teeing off.

Gina Cochran, visiting from Georgia, arrived at the course three hours before Timberlake was scheduled to show up. She said she missed last year’s event and didn’t want to miss the action this year.

“I enjoy the PGA and Justin,” Cochran said. “This is such a good cause. I would love to see more celebrities come out and support this.”

Wayne Lachut, board chairman for Shriners Hospitals for Children, said the event has been held for three years, and each year the turnout is better.

“The bigger the names, the better we are,” Lachut said. “We’re happy if we break even, but it would be nice to raise $5 million.”

Lachut said the Shriners Hospitals for Children spend $2 million a day and $28.60 a second to improve pediatric care for children. He said Timberlake was brought in last year to try and spread awareness among the younger generations. Alice Cooper and Kenny G will bring in the older crowds and Timberlake will bring in younger crowds, he said.

Timberlake’s former band mate Chris Kirkpatrick was also putting his golf skills to the test at the competition. He said he’s glad Timberlake got involved with the cause.

“It’s great they brought Justin in because he’s a young guy and will bring in new people,” Kirkpatrick said. “I love coming here and meeting people and getting out on the golf course to play golf and have fun.”

Comedian and actor George Lopez certainly had fun on the course. He joked with fans, kicked a clown and even made technical sergeant Jerard Waymer do push-ups.

“I try to compete in all the tournaments I can with the people I have posters of on my wall,” he said. “It’s tough to raise money because of the economy, but this raises the money.”

Accompanying Lopez in Group 20 was former boxing champion Oscar De La Hoya.

Tom Sailers, from San Diego, said he attended the event to watch De La Hoya play golf.

“I’ve heard Oscar is a very good amateur golf player,” Sailers said.

While watching Lopez and De La Hoya putt, Laurie Houck of Charlotte, N.C., said the Pro-Am is the best part of the event.

“What other sport can you get this close to the athletes?” she said.

Rock singer and songwriter Alice Cooper didn’t mind getting up close and personal this morning with fans. He signed autographs and posed for pictures while sporting a grin on his face.

Cooper said he wanted to participate in the event because he had three days off from his Theatre of Death Tour and wanted to help out.

“When you see these kids, you want to play every day for them,” Cooper said.

He said he’s been playing golf for 28 years, and it has helped him quit drinking.

“I quit drinking and started playing golf,” Cooper said. “I traded one bad habit for another one.”

Some of the other Pro-Am attendees were PGA professional Davis Love III, professional poker player Phil Hellmuth and “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” actor Alfonso Ribeiro.

Natalie Gulbis, of the LPGA and a former employee of Donald Trump on the TV show “Celebrity Apprentice,” said the special guest list of professional golfers and celebrities help increase knowledge about the event.

“Every single time it gets mentioned, it only does more to get the awareness out about Shriners Hospitals,” she said.

View photos here.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Expect the Unexpected

Today I got a wake up call from reality. The Las Vegas Sun shut down and let a lot of people go.

I’m not sure whom all they let go, but I know my friend and videographer Evelio Contreras is no longer working here. :(

He was teaching me about visual storytelling and how to piece together a video. We were working on a jam skating video and story package together. It’s just hard to believe that he’s gone now.

It’s been a sad day all around, and really woke me up. I really love my job and what I do, but there’s no guarantee that jobs in journalism will exist in a few years. We all know the economy is bad right now, but what if it doesn’t get any better?

I know I’m supposed to remain optimistic but it’s a serious question. I’ve never had to deal with a staff member leaving not by choice, mainly because I’ve never worked in a professional newsroom.

Advertising is a big part of the reason why newspapers are failing, but there are other factors as well. I know I’m on an internship, so I feel pretty stable right now but what happens when I graduate? If I was a full-time employee it could have been me who was let go today.

It’s a terrible feeling and I hope no more employees have to experience it in the near future. I wish I could say NEVER but that’s unrealistic right now.

To all the employees who were let go today, I hope you find quality paying jobs because you’re all good at what you do and should pursue your dreams.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Las Vegas Tall Club


I know it's been a while since I've posted anything, but I wanted to post one of my recent stories about a Tall Club. My editor Cara McCoy pitched me the idea and I thought it was interesting and unique. I had no clue that the local chapter was part of an international organization.

After talking to the members and hearing their stories growing up and feeling out of place, I felt really bad that people have to endure that kind of discrimination.

All of the members were really nice and even wanted me to pose for a picture. Needless to say, I was the shortest one there, and I'm 5-foot-8. I have posted the picture of me and the tallest member John Allen, who is 6-foot-11.


Some say life is short, but 6-foot-11 John Allen isn't.

Allen is the social co-chair of the Las Vegas Tall Club, and the tallest member in the organization.

“It’s become a way of life,” Allen said. “For the most part it doesn’t bother me, but when people ask me how tall I am, I say 211 centimeters or 83 inches. If they want to know that badly they can figure it out.”

The Las Vegas Tall Club chapter of the international organization started in 1983 and has been recruiting members ever since. It's one of about 65 such clubs in the United States and its 50 or so members meet on a regular basis for everything from bowling to bikes rides to picnics.

This past weekend the group met for its semiannual garage sale to raise money for a scholarship it offers to a Las Vegas-area high school student.

The $1,000 Tall Awareness scholarship is given each year to one high school student who has applied to colleges and meets the height requirement.

Scholarship chair Lydia Garza said last year’s scholarship went to a student at Valley High School who also received a second scholarship from the international organization.

“We want to award someone who is tall and can express themselves well,” Garza said. “With the way the economy is we’re getting more and more interest.”

Garza said the club eventually hopes to award two scholarships per year.

The scholarship has no grade point average requirement, but does involve writing an essay about Marfan Syndrome, a genetic disorder that affects the body’s connective tissue. Garza said most people who are diagnosed with Marfan Syndrome are tall, therefore, writing the essay allows students to do research and become more aware of the disorder.

Pat Blanchard is a founding member of the Las Vegas chapter. She said the basic premise of the club is for tall people to form friendships among other tall people.

The club specifies tallness as 6-foot-2 for men and 5-foot-10 for women. Anyone who meets the height requirement and is 21 or older can join the group.

Blanchard said she was 5-foot-11½-inches when she graduated from high school. Social co-chair Debbie Prince said she was 5-foot-11½-inches when she was 13.

“I felt like I didn’t fit in,” Prince said. “It was kind of hard to take pictures with your friends because your head would get cut off.”

Prince said finding clothing that fit her has been a problem over the years, so she started her own clothing line called Tall Dolls Rule. She said she created the clothing line to cater to tall women’s needs.

“If you go to JC Penney or Sears, all they’ll sell is the basic talls,” Prince said. “They won’t take a risk.”

She said she travels to international Tall Club meetings on the weekends and sells her clothes to pay for her travel expenses. Las Vegas club Vice President John Morath, who is 6-foot-3, said clothing is typically harder to find for tall women.

Allen said men also have trouble shopping for clothes because "big and tall" stores cater more to big than tall.

“Their sign says Big and Tall, but their sizes only go up to 6-foot-2 or 6-foot-3,” Allen said.

Morath said the international Tall Club has also raised awareness of other concerns it has, such as the need for a king-size bed in hotel rooms and more legroom in airplane seats.

Prince said the group continues to target younger members to join its ranks.

“We’re trying to get younger people, but at the age of 46 I’m one of the youngest,” Prince said. “We think it’s because being taller isn’t such a big deal anymore.”

Gaining more members is important to the growth of the international organization, she said. She said club members are like family.

“It’s like living in a small town with the bad and the good,” Prince said. “We bicker and fight like family, but if someone is sick then someone else is cooking for and taking care of that person.”

Friday, October 2, 2009


I didn't even know it at the time, but I scooped the Associated Press today!

This morning I went to cover Roger Mayweather's arraignment for battery-strangulation and felony coercion charges. Mayweather didn't show up and the judge issued a bench warrant for his arrest. I wrote the story and submitted it as soon as I could.

Later I found out that I scooped the AP and The Review Journal.

Needless to say, it was an awesome day. :)

Click here to read the full story.

I also want to plug an unfolding story on our Web site right now. Check out the story of an 18-year-old who killed his best friend's parents for him. Denise and Mary did a good job, so be sure to watch the video. It's pretty creepy.