Jordin Sparks looks back 10 years after her ‘American Idol’ win

Ten years ago, Jordin Sparks captured the hearts and imagination of the public when she was crowned the winner on “American Idol.” She was 17, the youngest person to ever earn the title. She also was the first — and only — winner to come from Arizona.Looking back at that time of her life is “actually this really weird type of feeling,” says Sparks, calling from her home in Los Angeles. “It does feel like it was ages ago, but at the same time I feel like it was yesterday. Time flies when you’re having fun, so I must be having fun.”Sparks is someone whose life really flipped around in an instant. Born in Phoenix and raised in Glendale, she always was gifted. She performed at Valley Youth Theatre, won talent competitions and sang the national anthem at sporting events around the Valley. Still, when she became old enough to audition for "American Idol," that got her excited. “I was such a huge fan of ‘Idol' that I was more excited to audition for that than to get my driver’s license,” she says with a giggle. “That’s how a big a fan I was.”She won a Channel 10 competition called "Arizona Idol." As part of the prize, she essentially got to jump the line at an "American Idol" audition. She went to Seattle, made the cut, and never looked back.She was a perfect "American Idol" contestant. Because she has a gorgeous voice that suits many musical styles — her initial goal was to be a country singer — she was tailor-made for the theme weeks that were a part of the show. Then and now, she is ebullient, outgoing, naturally warm and has the kind of big smile that makes you smile back. Some pundits compared her to a Disney princess at the time, which didn't seem far off. As she moved ahead in the competition, she received undying support from hometown fans."It is never lost on me," she says. "It was amazing. People I had never even met were Continue Reading

Red-stained t-shirt, letter to slain UVA lacrosse player Yeardley Love found in George Huguely home

Police seized a red-stained T-shirt from the apartment of accused University of Virginia killer George Huguely, the former boyfriend of slain lacrosse player Yeardley Love  who has been charged with first-degree murder, court documents reveal. Love's mother met with detectives investigating her daughter's death Wednesday.   In addition to the UVA lacrosse shirt - which may have been stained by blood - police also confiscated a letter addressed to Love, two laptop computers, a green notebook, two white socks, a bathroom rug, a shower curtain and a pair of blue cargo shorts. Investigators also took DNA swabs from a bathtub, the kitchen, a trash can and the front door. "There is still a lot of hard work to be done by investigators," Charlottesville police chief Timothy Longo said. "They are not rushing any aspect." In better circumstances, Sharon Donnelly would have come to Charlottesville later in the month to celebrate the graduation of her daughter, Yeardley. But following Love's violent death inside her apartment early Monday morning, her mother came to Charlottesville to meet with police investigators who arrested Huguely, a lacrosse player who once dated Love. In several meetings in the last two days, Donnelly has been in a state of shock and disbelief, Longo said. "She was very gracious and thankful to investigators," Longo said Wednesday in an interview at his office at police headquarters. "The family wants to be left alone to grieve and mourn." Longo said that the autopsy on Love had been completed and that he believed her body had been transported back to her hometown of Cockeysville, Md., Wednesday morning. "I can only imagine what Ms. Love (Donnelly) is going through," Longo said. Funeral services for Love have been scheduled to be held at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen in Baltimore at 10 a.m. on Saturday. The viewing is scheduled for tomorrow afternoon and evening at the Ruck Funeral Home in Towson, Md. Continue Reading

Kidnapped girl found years later: Jaycee Lee Dugard comes home after 18 years

A California mom whose 11-year-old daughter was kidnapped 18 years ago got a call she never expected: On the other end was the child she had long thought was dead.Jaycee Lee Dugard, who was abducted from in front of her South Lake Tahoe home in 1991, was privately reunited with her mom Thursday night. "It's an absolute miracle. Can you imagine this after 18 years?" said Jaycee's stepfather, Carl Probyn. Cops arrested a 58-year-old religious fanatic and convicted rapist, Phillip Garrido, who they say kept Jaycee hidden in a "secret backyard" and fathered two children with her - one the same age as the victim was when she vanished. In their first conversation Wednesday night, Jaycee gave her mother a double jolt, Probyn said. "I have something to tell you. I have babies," Jaycee told Terry Probyn, 50, who asked how many. "Two," she replied. Also arrested was Garrido's wife, Nancy, who police charge was with Garrido when they snatched Jaycee on June 10, 1991, as she walked to her school bus stop. "I gave up hope for 18 years, just went into recovery mode," said Carl Probyn, who witnessed the abduction but was too far away to stop it. "Now, I just won the lotto. It's just unbelievable." Probyn said his estranged wife called him soon after getting word from the FBI that Jaycee was safe and healthy. "She said, 'They found Jaycee. She's alive,'" said Carl Probyn, 60, now of Riverside in Southern California. "We cried for about two minutes." In an interview with KCRA3, Garrido on Thursday night urged people to wait for more details about the case to come out before making a judgment. "What's kept me busy the last several years is I've completely turned my life around," he said. "And you're going to find the most powerful story coming from the witness, the victim - you wait. If you take this a step at a time, you're going to fall over backwards and in the end, you're going to find the most powerful heartwarming story." Lt. Fred Kollar of the El Dorado County Sheriff's Continue Reading

Ted Kennedy’s impression on a young medic in Vietnam recalled after Senator’s death

The grunt from Brooklyn was 18 when 35-year-old Ted Kennedy came to visit him in Vietnam. Spec. 4 John Hamill, my brother, was a medic serving with the 173rd Airborne in the Central Highlands in 1968, about a month after the ferocious Tet offensive in which his unit saw very heavy action. "I was working sick bay that morning in our fire support base in a very remote place called Plei D'Jereng," John says. "Then the company commander walked in and asked me, 'How the hell do you know the Kennedys?'" John had never met a Kennedy but his Brooklyn street smarts told him there could be a day off involved here. "Friends of the family," John said. The officer told him to get ready, that Sen. Ted Kennedy wanted to have lunch with him at the nearest base camp in Pleiku. Word spread, and soon other Airborne Rangers who'd been in the boonies for long, grueling months were handing John money and their PX cards, asking him to pick up goodies. "The biggest request was for cartons of Kools," John remembers. Within the hour, John was on a Huey chopper for the 40-minute flight to Pleiku. The meeting came about because unbeknownst to John, our oldest brother Pete was working for Bobby Kennedy's newly formed presidential campaign. "I must have mentioned to Bobby that John was over there," Pete says. "And he must've told Teddy to look him up on a Senate fact-finding mission." Whatever way it happened, John's chopper was met by a colonel in a jeep in Pleiku. "I was whisked to a barracks where a sergeant told me to shower and shave," John says. "They gave me a brand new uniform. It was like winning a 'King for a Day' contest." Then as they awaited Kennedy's chopper, John shopped in the PX. "I filled a waterproof laundry bag with cartons of Kools, candy, cookies, pipe cleaners and other treats," John says. Then he was led to an officer's mess, a tin shack with a wooden floor. "There were flowers on the table and I met two grunts from Massachusetts Continue Reading

Jaycee Lee Dugard, girl found after 18 years, ‘bonded’ with accused kidnapper Phillip Garrido

The California girl who was rescued after 18 years in captivity "bonded" with her kidnapper to survive, her stepdad said Friday. Jaycee Lee Dugard "didn't try to get away," Carl Probyn said on NBC's Today show. "And it probably kept her alive. If she would have been really spunky and fight and tried to escape, maybe she would have been killed." Jaycee, who was kidnapped from in front of her South Lake Tahoe home in 1991, had two kids with her accused abductor, a religious fanatic and convicted sex offender named Phillip Garrido. Probyn said his step-daughter, whom he described as a "mellow girl" when she was kidnapped at age 11, appears to be physically fine. "My wife said she looks almost like she was when she was kidnapped," he said. But Jaycee, who is now 29, has been damaged by the ordeal. "My wife says that Jaycee is really feeling guilty for bonding with this guy," Probyn said. "So she's really having a problem with that." Ed Smart, whose daughter Elizabeth was rescued in 2002 after nine months in the clutches of yet another religious nut, said he doesn't believe Jaycee bonded with Garrido. He conceded, however, that Jaycee's giving birth to two daughters by Garrido "complicates it more because certainly she had concern for her children." "I think that in many cases, these children do try to escape, and after numerous attempts they feel it's hopeless, and so they try to survive," Smart said on CBS's The Early Show. "And that's not necessarily bonding with these monsters." Jaycee was reunited with her parents on Thursday night after cops arrested Garrido, 58. They said the convicted rapist kept Jaycee hidden in a "secret backyard" and that one of the two children he fathered was the same age as the victim was when she vanished. Garrido and his wife, Nancy, were being held on $1 million bail each. He was expected to be officially charged Friday with rape and kidnapping. She faces conspiracy charges. Cops say Nancy Garrido was with her Continue Reading

A year after Alex Rodriguez debacle, Scott Boras still rules the game

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. - The hum of vibrating Blackberries started in the press box at Coors Field just before the eighth inning of Game 4 of the 2007 World Series, just as the Boston Red Sox were getting ready to sweep the Colorado Rockies to claim their second title in three years. The baseball writers working on their game stories let out a collective sigh as they realized they suddenly had one more story to write that night: Sports Illustrated was reporting on its Web site that Alex Rodriguez would opt out of his 10-year, $252-million contract with the Yankees to become a free agent and pursue greater riches elsewhere. Worse yet, his superagent, Scott Boras, was confirming the report. Baseball fans and executives were furious; headline writers were gleeful. A-Rod and Boras were immediately decried as selfish barbarians who put their own egos above the Fall Classic. Major League Baseball chief operating officer Bob DuPuy spoke for a lot of baseball fans when he publicly chewed out player and agent a few days later. "There was no reason to make an announcement last night other than to try to put his selfish interests and that of one individual player above the overall good of the game," DuPuy said. Nearly a year has passed since Boras was cast as the devil who polluted the World Series with the announcement, the man who hijacked the most sacred part of the season and who would surely have to pay a heavy price. But a funny thing happened on the way to the hanging - Boras escaped the noose unscathed. ***The superagent sits in the kitchen on the first floor of the metal-and-glass headquarters of the Boras Corp., a sleek, otherworldly building that sits just off the Pacific Coast Highway, enjoying a late lunch. Boras looks younger than his age (54) and is famously fanatical about exercise and nutrition, but he does have his vices: He's addicted to talking about baseball, his players and, especially, his role in the game. In between sips of chicken soup, he Continue Reading

Red Sox blast Chien-Ming Wang for seven runs in second inning

FORT MYERS, Fla. - Friday night's Yankees-Red Sox game didn't exactly have the feel of a typical game in this heated rivalry, especially when you consider that Xavier Nady, Brett Gardner and Cody Ransom were the biggest names in the Bombers' lineup. The other big name on hand was Chien-Ming Wang, although he wasn't around long after the Red Sox tagged him for seven runs in the second inning of a game won by Boston, 8-4. Six of those runs were unearned thanks to Juan Miranda's throwing error, but Wang was knocked around for six hits - including titanic home runs by Mike Lowell and David Ortiz - in the frame, his first subpar outing in three spring starts. "My control was off," Wang said. "My slider was flat. Everything was flat." Wang had allowed just one run over five innings in his first two spring starts, and after getting three straight ground-ball outs in the first, it looked like business as usual. But Lowell homered leading off the second, setting the tone for Boston's big inning. Wang allowed four singles in the inning before Ortiz's first homer of the spring - a two-run blast - ultimately sent the righthander to the showers after he recorded just five outs. "I'll go to the bullpen and work," Wang said. "It should be fine. I'm not worried about it. The more I throw, the better." FAMILIAR FEEL: Jorge Posada, who will be the designated hitter Saturday against the Pirates in a split-squad game in Bradenton, is slated to make his debut behind the plate tomorrow to catch Andy Pettitte at home against the Twins. Mariano Rivera will only be throwing batting practice Saturday before the Yankees' home game against the Astros, but assuming all goes well during that session, the closer will make his spring debut Tuesday night at Steinbrenner Field against the Pirates. Joe Girardi said Posada would catch three or four innings, then catch CC Sabathia on Tuesday and A.J. Burnett on Thursday, allowing him to get some game action with the two new Continue Reading

At this Utah desert spa, you’re happy to see red

It's the red that really gets you, as in the red rock mountains and canyons and formations of the Mojave Desert landscape. The setting of the Red Mountain Spa in St. George, Utah, about a two-hour drive through the desert from Las Vegas, is simply spectacular. New arrivals at the spa may find themselves standing with their jaws open as they take in the red mountains reaching into blue sky. Some of the surrounding terrain may look familiar. Many a western movie was filmed in these parts - the spa is adjacent to Snow Canyon State Park, where they shot the final scenes of "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid." Given the scenery it's not surprising that Red Mountain, as a destination spa, is known foremost for its comprehensive hiking program, which includes daily hikes at three experience levels - from beginner to advanced - to explore the red limestone rocks and spires, lava flows, caves and desert flora of Snow Canyon. There are also excursions to hike or mountain-bike to see the amazing towering cliffs of Zion National Park and the stunning sandstone pinnacles of Bryce Canyon National Park - both parks are located within an hour's drive of the spa. In fact, Red Mountain began in 1983 as a few rustic huts designed for hikers who wanted to tackle the desert landscape. It expanded in 1999 into a destination spa and more recently in 2006 into a fancier destination spa combining outdoor adventure and luxury pampering - with the addition of a gorgeous spa facility, Sagestone, located in a striking three-story geodesic dome. The property adopted the slogan, "Find yourself between a rock and a soft place," which is just about right. You can hike and bike and do other outdoor adventure activities such as horseback riding in Snow Canyon, kayaking and rock climbing. Or you can choose to spend your time relaxing your mind, body and spirit at the 55-acre resort. The Native American Card Reading ($150) caught my eye on the extensive menu of daily Continue Reading

After beating Patriots, repeat already has nice ring to champion Giants

CHANDLER, Ariz. - The red, white and blue confetti was still swirling around the stadium, and most of the newly crowned champions were still in their pads when Michael Strahan told the world this was only the beginning. The Giants, he said, "were trying to start their own dynasty." In other words, winning a Super Bowl championship was nice. But what they really want is to do it again. "That's what you want to do," Giants GM Jerry Reese said Monday, as the Super Bowl champs began checking out of their team hotel. "You want to get to this game and you want to win it, but we have a really young team. We just don't want to go away. Hopefully we can stay on top and not have a Super Bowl and then just disappear." It's a bold goal, since only three teams in the last 14 years have managed to even reach consecutive Super Bowls, but it was a goal the Giants set almost immediately after they knocked off the previously unbeaten Patriots, 17-14, in Super Bowl XLII. Justin Tuck talked of how he and Michael Strahan discussed repeating during their postgame shower. And it was brought up several times yesterday morning by bleary-eyed players who partied all night and hardly slept at all. "Just because you have success and you win a championship doesn't mean you stop for a year, or you become content with what you've done," said Eli Manning, the Super Bowl MVP. "If anything, I think it should make you strive even harder to try and get here again. You've had this feeling, you've had this taste and you don't want it to leave. "But we're going to have to work even harder and better, and that's our goal, to become a better team. Once we get back to working in March or April, it's going to be about, 'What can you do this year?' Last year is behind you, and we've celebrated for that month or two that you have off, and now it's back to work to see if you can do it again." One reason there have only been two repeat champions in the last 14 years is because it's easy to lose Continue Reading

Dino Gaudio carries on after death of Skip Prosser

Also see: Dick Weiss' Top 25 capsules Calipari takes aim at Far East GREENSBORO, N.C. - It's finally basketball season for Wake Forest, finally time to exhale. The entire community at this Baptist university in Winston-Salem on the southern tip of the ACC's Tobacco Road, has been mired in grief since July 26, when popular coach Skip Prosser died at 56 of a heart attack in his office after jogging on the campus track in 90-degree heat. No one on this team has been affected by Prosser's death more than new coach Dino Gaudio. The two had been best friends for 27 years, dating back to 1981 when Gaudio took a job as Prosser's assistant at Wheeling (W.Va.) Central Catholic. The 50-year-old Gaudio was on Prosser's staff at Xavier and later, after two brief, unsuccessful head coaching stints at Army and Loyola-Baltimore, at Wake for the past six years. Wake AD Ron Weltman promoted Gaudio from assistant head coach 13 days after the tragedy, giving him a five-year contract after several players publicly lobbied for him. Weltman is hopeful Gaudio can create a measure of stability at a program that has been picked to finish near the bottom of the ACC. "The only solace I find is I really believe he would have wanted me to be the head coach," Gaudio says. "When I went in to talk to Ron Weltman, I told him, 'Nobody in America is going to do a better job than me and we have a tremendous cause. Those kids and I have a great drive to complete what he started.' He thought we could take this program to a Final Four and win a national championship, and I believe that." Gaudio has penned a script for this season. "We've got to make this thing like a Shakespearean play," he says. "At the end of the season, they'll be writing books about what happened, from the bad to the good. And I believe that can happen to us." Gaudio gets emotional whenever he speaks of Prosser, the way he did at ACC media day when he mentioned the section devoted to Prosser in the Wake media guide. Continue Reading