July 15th, 2009
04:14 PM ET

Tonight: Text 360°

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Questions are piling up around the murder of a Florida couple, Byrd and Melanie Billings.

The Billings family, who had 16 children – many with special needs – were shot and killed in their home on July 9. Nine of the children were home and three are reported to have seen the intruders. So far, seven suspects are facing murder charges and local authorities are pursuing an eighth, according to Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan.

Sheriff Morgan will be on our show tonight, giving the latest details of the ongoing investigation. Do you have a question for him?

Let us know!

Send us a text message with your question to Text your question to AC360 (or 22360), and you might hear it on air!

Filed under: T1 • Text 360
July 15th, 2009
03:51 PM ET

'Person of interest' sought in Florida killings

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/CRIME/07/15/florida.couple.slain/art.long.cnn.jpg caption="Pamela Long, also known as Pamela Wiggins and by other names, is a "person of interest" in the Florida case."]

Law enforcement officials in western Florida are looking for a woman they want to question in connection with the killings of a couple known for adopting many special-needs children.

Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan said authorities were looking for Pamela Long, and called her a "person of interest" in the slayings of Byrd and Melanie Billings, who had adopted many developmentally disabled children.

Morgan said Long is a real estate agent and had rented property to one of the suspects arrested in the case.

"We believe Miss Long has significant and substantial information we need to conclude this case," he said.

Long, who has several aliases, gave investigators information early in the case but they have not been able to reach her since, Morgan said.

The sheriff said there was a "gaping hole" in what was otherwise a well-executed crime: "Why was the security system not disabled?"

"The execution was basically flawless," and authorities believe the suspects "entered the compound with the belief that they were not under surveillance," Morgan said.

Keep reading...

Filed under: 360° Radar • Crime & Punishment
July 15th, 2009
03:14 PM ET

Saving the past from the present

Program Note: Joe Johns traveled to South Carolina to do some genealogical research of his own, tracing Michelle Obama's roots to a plantation in South Carolina. To see his process and findings tune in tonight, AC360º, 10PM ET.

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/07/14/art.house.bernice.jpg caption="The main farmhouse in Bernice, Louisiana."]

Allison Davis
AC360° Fellow

The earliest memories I have of Bernice, Louisiana, are through the eyes of a grumpy 10-year old, sick of being shuttled back and forth between Shoney’s, Wal-Mart and an old courthouse near the center of town. It was in that tiny courthouse that my mother spent hours searching through dusty and yellowing papers for a mention of her great-great grandfather’s name.

These images of the town differ greatly from my mother’s. She thinks back to summers spent on her grandmother’s farm, hearing stories of her ancestors and sitting on the very same porches of the houses they built.

Bernice, a town of 1,809 people in northern Louisiana is known for being east of Shreveport and close to Arkansas. It is where my mother proudly grew up and, as I found out, it is more than just a town of box stores and fast food restaurants. It is where my mother’s family owns about 283 acres of land that later turned out to be the key to unlocking our family genealogy.

Thirteen years ago my mother decided to make good on a promise that she made to her grandmother: to document the family history. She set out to trace our family legacy as far back as it would go. She began her search with only a few pieces of information: she knew the names of her great-great grandfather, John Payne, and his son, Allen, and she knew they were both former slaves. Armed with only these pieces of a much bigger puzzle, my mother and I flew back to Bernice to start putting it all together.


Filed under: 360° Radar
July 15th, 2009
02:30 PM ET

Afternoon Buzz: Tracing Michelle's roots

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Eliza Browning
AC360° Associate Producer

Anderson’s interview with President Obama in Ghana this weekend got us thinking a lot about the significance of the first family’s trip to Sub Saharan Africa. Anderson talked to the President how their visit to the Cape Coast Castle, which was once used as a dungeon for enslaved Africans, affected Michelle – who is a descendant of slaves.

Joe Johns went looking for Michelle’s roots and traced them back many generations to a plantation in South Carolina where one of her relatives may have worked. This genealogical research was a little harder than you might imagine, but definitely eye-opening. Watch his report tonight.

More details are being released about the shooting deaths of a Florida couple known for adopting special-needs children. Seven people have been arrested – including a 16-year-old, who will face murder charges as an adult in the deaths of Byrd and Melanie billings. At a press conference earlier today, police said they know the name and location of the eighth suspect. What kind of motive would there be to murder this couple? Drew Griffin and David Mattingly are digging deeper and will have more tonight.


Filed under: Eliza Browning • The Buzz
July 15th, 2009
01:06 PM ET
July 15th, 2009
12:41 PM ET

Financial Dispatch: Key inflation measure jumps

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Andrew Torgan
CNN Financial News Producer

Consumer prices shot up in June by the largest amount in 11 months, reflecting the biggest jump in gasoline prices in nearly five years.

The Consumer Price Index, the Labor Department's key measure of inflation, rose 0.7% in June due mainly to higher energy and automobile prices. But the core CPI, which excludes food and energy prices, rose a modest 0.2%.

And on a year-over-year basis, prices have fallen 1.4%. That’s the largest drop since 1950, when Harry Truman was president.


Filed under: Andrew Torgan • Finance • Gas Prices
'Mad Men'
July 15th, 2009
12:17 PM ET

Photo Gallery

Filed under: 360° Radar
July 15th, 2009
12:14 PM ET

Cricket, Ivy League classmates startled student Sonia Sotomayor

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/US/07/15/sotomayor.college/art.sotomayor.princeton.jpg caption="Sotomayor won the Moses Taylor Pyne Prize, the highest honor given to an undergraduate at Princeton. "]

Elizabeth Landau

Sonia Sotomayor spent her first week at Princeton University obsessing over the sound of a cricket. Growing up in New York City, her only notion of this insect was Jiminy from "Pinocchio." She tore her dorm room apart looking for the critter every night.

Finally, her then-boyfriend and future husband visited and explained that the cricket was outside the room, where she had been holed up most of that week in 1972.

"This was all new to me: we didn't have trees brushing up against windows in the South Bronx," Sotomayor recalled in a speech to the Princeton Women's Network in 2002.

The freshman who was so taken aback by a cricket's chirping now has a more public challenge: Senate hearings on whether to confirm her as a Supreme Court justice, potentially the first Latina to hold such a post.

At one time, being different may have been difficult - for it wasn't just Princeton's crickets that startled Sotomayor. The academics and the students on the leafy Gothic campus, with its ivy-covered dormitories and castle-like towers, also made her feel out of place.

Keep reading...

Filed under: 360° Radar • Sonia Sotomayor • Supreme Court
July 15th, 2009
11:43 AM ET

Small drinks promise big energy, but experts say effects unclear

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/HEALTH/07/14/energy.drink.ingredients/art.energy.drink.ad.ho.jpg caption="The makers of 5-Hour Energy call it a "no-nonsense drink,"]

Danielle Dellorto
CNN Medical Producer

From supermarkets to the office supply store, it's hard to miss those tiny bottles of 5-hour Energy.

"It would be easier for me to tell you where we didn't sell them in the U.S. than list all the places we do," said Carl Sperber, spokesman for Living Essentials, the Detroit, Michigan-based manufacturer of 5-hour Energy shot.

The small, shot-glass size bottles promise to provide energy and alertness without jitters to fatigued Americans. Unlike other popular energy drinks that market to college students, 5-Hour Energy's audience is multitasking, working professionals. The market demand has skyrocketed since the product hit store shelves in 2004. The company expects to move more than 350 million shots this year, Sperber said, up from 174 million in 2008.

"This is a no-nonsense drink," Sperber said. "It is not a fashion statement. It doesn't have a cool name; it is just a simple grab-and-go product to help busy adults when they can't afford a letdown."

Each 2-ounce bottle contains zero grams of sugar, 4 calories and about the same amount of caffeine as a small coffee. It also contains about a dozen ingredients that are broken down into B vitamins (B3, B6, B9, B12) and what the manufacturer lists as an "energy blend."

Filed under: 360° Radar • Dr. Sanjay Gupta • Health Care
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