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Crime
Omaha woman seeks answers on the slaying of her father in 2000

Over the years, Alyssa Schumacher has wanted to share special occasions with her father, who was shot to death in 2000 near 29th and Q Streets.

“There have been so many opportunities taken away from our family, from my high school graduation to the birth of my daughter,” she said. “I had to grow up pretty quick.”

Todd Schumacher, 35, was killed at his home on Dec. 5, 2000, when Alyssa was just 12. Passers-by flagged down police officers after they found him on the sidewalk in front of his house.

Omaha police detectives say they have been taking a fresh look at the case, hoping to solve it.

“It’s just always been gnawing at me,” Alyssa Schumacher said.

The back door to the Schumacher house had been forced open, according to a World-Herald article from the time that quoted a search warrant. Relatives said a VCR, stereo, compact discs and a handgun were missing.

A neighbor and another man were charged with burglarizing Schumacher’s house on the day he was killed. The burglary case was dropped in 2002, and no one has ever been charged in the slaying.

In April, Alyssa Schumacher met with one of the detectives who investigated the case. She was “blown away” by how much the detective remembered. She learned that the information had been passed along to Omaha Police Detective Dave Schneider.

OMAHA POLICE DEPARTMENT 

Omaha Police Department files on the Dec. 5, 2000, shooting death of Todd Schumacher. The department is asking for information from the public

Schneider recently tweeted a photo of three binders holding information on the case. He’s asking anyone with information to contact the homicide unit at 402-444-5656.

“People change, and there may be someone out there who knows something that can help us,” Schneider said. “They might not have come forward back then, but they might want to do that now.”

One factor that may help the investigation into the case — and other unsolved slayings — is the $25,000 Crime Stoppers reward for information leading to an arrest in a homicide. If a tipster wants to remain anonymous, that person can call the Crime Stoppers line at 402-444-STOP.

Schneider said the two detectives and sergeant in the homicide unit’s cold case squad will review old, unsolved cases if a new lead comes in that provides helpful information. Family members often call to check on the cases on the anniversaries of the homicides or the birthdays of the slaying victims, he said.

The squad reviews six to eight cases at a time, Schneider said.

Some of the unsolved homicide cases, he said, date back to the 1950s.

The Schumacher homicide, Schneider said, “is obviously still really fresh to the daughter. We are appealing to anyone who can help us because (Schumacher’s) family deserves to know what happened.”

Alyssa Schumacher wants people to know that her father was a loving, hardworking family man who worked for an Omaha glass company. Alyssa said her young daughter strongly resembles her dad.

“I know that Roxana would be the apple of his eyes,” she said. “I’ve seen other cold cases solved recently, and I’ve been thinking, ‘Maybe I have a chance, too.’ ”


Plus
What's new with La Vista's indoor/outdoor music venue, expected to open in 2021

Take out your earbuds and listen up, music fans: Plans for an indoor/outdoor music venue in La Vista are moving ahead.

The project, part of the $235 million City Centre development near 84th and Harrison Streets, promises an indoor hybrid club/theater and outdoor amphitheater that organizers say will attract new artists to the Omaha area.

Now two years after the venue was announced, workers should break ground in November, weather permitting.

“It’s been a long road to get here,” said Jim Johnson, co-owner of Omaha’s 1% Productions, which is opening the joint venue with Kansas-based Mammoth Live and Omaha developer City Ventures.

If all goes to plan, the venue will open in the first months of 2021, said Chris Erickson, co-founder of City Ventures.

Erickson updated the La Vista City Council last week on how the project is progressing. Here’s what’s new:

More shows, new artists

Organizers expect to host about 150 events a year, 15 of which will be in the outdoor amphitheater.

Johnson said some artists skip the Omaha area because of the size and setup of available venues. Bands like MGMT, LCD Soundsystem and Arcade Fire may be lured here once the La Vista venue opens, Johnson said.

1% Productions produces shows at The Waiting Room and Reverb Lounge, as well as other venues.

La Vista’s indoor venue is expected to seat up to 2,500, while the amphitheater’s capacity should max out at 5,000. The indoor portion can be altered for various crowd sizes, and while the main area won’t feature fixed seating, temporary seating will sometimes be introduced.

“There’s a void in the entire metro for live performance venues that (are) in the size range that we’re building,” Erickson said. “That’s part of the reason we’ve made it reconfigurable to hit a wide array of staging sizes.”

The Orpheum Theater and the Holland Center hold 2,600 and 2,000, respectively, while Stir Cove can accommodate more than 3,500, though none of those venues are able to reconfigure the spaces in the way the La Vista venue is being planned.

Addressing noise concerns

The music venue will be built on a tract of land nestled between the shops, restaurants and apartments of City Centre and Civic Center Park, which opened last week.

A neighborhood is behind the park. At last Tuesday’s City Council meeting, a man who lives in the area said he has concerns about the level of noise the outdoor amphitheater will produce.

Erickson said the project’s organizers are sensitive to those concerns. The partners involved, he said, are experienced in planning for and controlling noise.

The land where the venue will be built slopes down from 84th Street into Civic Center Park. That decline means the outdoor venue will be below street level, which should protect 84th from noise, Erickson said.

And behind the amphitheater, the park should provide a buffer space between concerts and the neighborhood.

“It’s a pretty good location because of the way it’s situated in the hill and surrounded by the park,” Erickson said.

The group also will consider the angle of speakers and other mechanical solutions to control noise.

Mitch Beaumont, spokesman for the City of La Vista, wrote in an email that a sound study will eventually be necessary as part of the application process for the venue.

The current submitted design also puts the stage lower than original concepts, which will change sound patterns, Beaumont said.

The city will consider updating its nuisance regulations and continue to discuss curfew limitations with the developers.

Erickson said shows will end by 10 p.m. on weeknights and 10:30 p.m. on weekends. Johnson noted that with the limited number of outdoor events, outdoor noise will occur only periodically.

Even with careful planning, Erickson acknowledged that some neighbors may occasionally notice sound; a good rock show can’t end at 9 p.m.

“There’s a delicate balance there,” Erickson said.


Articles
Bahamas hopes its undamaged islands can be a tourism lifeline

HARBOUR ISLAND, Bahamas — In the quaint tropical village of Harbour Island where American celebrities own vacation homes, locals drive golf carts and 18th century houses overlook the harbor, the hotels are unscathed, the restaurants are open and the white and pink sand beaches are still pristine.

Some 90 nautical miles to the southwest in Nassau, the Bahamas' capital, the cruise ships are in port and tourists are out sightseeing. But Sandra Kem, a tour operator, says business has plummeted by half since Hurricane Dorian's Category 5 winds and rains roared through the northwest Bahamas this month, devastating two of the archipelago's more popular tourist destinations: the Abacos and Grand Bahama.

With crews still combing through the storm wreckage, trying to account for the missing and the dead, and evacuees wondering how long the recovery and rebuilding will take, those in areas unscathed by the storm want visitors to know that the best way they can help is by visiting the Bahamas.

Many of the Bahamas' 700 islands and cays, they say, are still receiving visitors and open for tourism.

"We are still a beautiful tourism destination," said June Dean, who is responsible for the Harbour Island Tourist Office. "Unfortunately our sister islands, Abaco and Grand Bahama, were totally devastated in the storm. But we are still open, we are still beautiful."

After several days of promoting the #BahamasStrongmessage along with the country's black, yellow and aquamarine flag on social media and fliers, the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism began promoting a new message: a map of the Bahamas with all of the unaffected islands highlighted in yellow.

"Let us return the love you've shown us by welcoming you the only way we know how — with open arms," the Instagram post said.

Last year, the country received more than 6.5 million visitors, up nearly 8% from the year before, the country's tourism ministry said.

Ellison Tommy Thompson, the Bahamas' deputy director general for tourism and civil aviation, said tourism accounts for half of the Bahamas' $5.7 billion GDP, and is the country's No. 1 industry.

"It's extremely important," he said. "The two islands that were hit, Grand Bahama and Abaco, are second and third in terms of visitor arrivals. We will definitely feel the effects of them being out of commission. But the best way people can assist the Bahamas is to actually come and visit us and spend an extra $20 in the economy to help our reconstruction."

Thompson said getting the public to understand that it's only two islands that were hit by Dorian is challenging.

"It's really a question of the Bahamas versus the rest of the islands," he said. "We stretch 700 miles from Bimini in the north to Inagua in the south, over 100,000 square miles of water. ... The major tourism center of Paradise Island was not hit. The cruise ports were not damaged. But a lot of the news that's going out says 'The Bahamas is devastated.'

"A lot of the journalists are reporting from Nassau and then they show images of Grand Bahama and Abaco, which were devastated. They are not making it clear that they are in Nassau and it's OK," he added. "It's like you're living in Jacksonville but that doesn't stop you from taking a trip to Fort Lauderdale. That is the distance we are talking about."

As the affected northern islands recover, Bahamian officials are hoping that the untouched islands to the south, including Harbour Island, Eleuthera and Bimini, serve as a lifeline for the country — if travelers understand that most of the Bahamas is OK to visit.

"The challenge the Bahamas is facing is the same one we as a Caribbean region face," said Frank Comito, CEO of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association. "It's very difficult for the public to realize how extensive the Caribbean is."

Kem, who operates the tour company Pieces of 8 Charters out of Nassau, said that before Dorian she was running two boat tours to the Exuma islands each day to see the famous swimming pigs. Now, she's struggling to fill one boat.

"It's gotten very quiet," she said. "I think it's because it's being reported as Bahamas, Bahamas, Bahamas. People are thinking the entire Bahamas are affected. The stories are so horrific that people are just staying away."

This is the first hurricane Kem's company has weathered since it started two-and-a-half years ago. She's offering discounts to attract business, but she's not promoting the deals on social media, she said.

"While business is important, a lot of people are still reeling ..." Kem said. "We aren't trying to say 'Hey come!' People are still trying to find the missing. We aren't saying 'business as usual.' "

Max Devine runs a similar charter tour company out of Bimini called Bimini Ocean Adventures. He said business is slower than usual, especially since the ferry and seaplane companies that normally bring U.S. tourists are focusing on helping storm victims evacuate Grand Bahama and Abaco.

"We obviously understand that's way more important than bringing tourists here so they can have a coconut drink on the beach," he said. "Right now it's really dead."

After Hurricane Irma in 2017, Devine said Bimini saw a boost in tourism as people rebooked their Caribbean vacations to unaffected islands like Bimini. He's hopeful the same will happen after Dorian.

"Everybody who hasn't looked at a map thinks all the islands in the Bahamas are really close together," he said. "A lot of people message me and ask if I'm OK or if there's any damage. They don't realize I'm 200miles away and everything is fine here. The islands are open and ready for business. If people can't physically donate, one of the best things they can do is support tourism to the islands that weren't affected."


Articles
Is there a path forward for the scandal-plagued boy Scouts?

Parents clutched shiny new folders and shuffled 7-year-olds through crowded, brick-walled hallways. Past the booth with the spirit-wear sale and sign-up forms for the PTA stood JulieBostian, tan uniform tucked into army-green shorts, ready to recruit.

"You guys thinking about Scouts?" she said to a mother and her son.

"I can't do Mondays," one mother said apologetically.

"Football," said another, shaking her head while walking past.

"Just come in to visit," said Bostian, 53. "See if it works out."

Here at back-to-school night at Lewistown Elementary School in Thurmont, Maryland, a rural town at the foothills of the Catoctin Mountains, Bostian was building a pipeline for a local Boy Scout troop she continues to support long after her sons, now in their 20s, have aged out of the program.

As the new school year begins, Bostian and Scout leaders across the country are vying for the future of an organization facing unprecedented threats from several corners.

Looming over the Boy Scouts are lawsuits that threaten to tarnish its image, reports of a potential bankruptcy and a struggle to define what it means to be a Scout today. Most recently, a group of lawyers claimed to have uncovered hundreds of previously unreported cases of sexual abuse at the nearly 110-year-old organization.

It has been a tumultuous time for the Boy Scouts of America. Youth membership has declined more than 26% in the past decade. Then, last year, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced that it would be cutting ties with the organization. The church had been the largest participant in the Boy Scouts program in the United States, making up nearly 20% of all youth members.

Over the past decade, victim lawsuits and media investigations have revealed thousands of Boy Scout internal documents detailing generations of alleged abusers accused of preying on vulnerable Scouts. An investigator hired by the Scouts revealed in January that her team had identified 12,254 victims and 7,819 perpetrators in internal documents from 1946 through 2016.

But critics of the organization say that these files are incomplete and that hundreds if not thousands more victims of sexual abuse in the Boy Scouts were never documented by the organization.

In a statement, the Boy Scouts of America apologized to "anyone who was harmed during their time in Scouting."

"We are outraged that there have been times when individuals took advantage of our programs to abuse innocent children," the statement read. "We believe victims, we support them, we pay for counseling by a provider of their choice, and we encourage them to come forward. It is BSA policy that all incidents of suspected abuse are reported to law enforcement."

Asked about the path forward for the organization, given the threats it is facing, the Boy Scouts of America pointed to studies showing that Scouting "helps young people become more kind, helpful and prepared for life, and as long as those values remain important to our society, Scouting will continue to be an invaluable partner to families."

Now, in cities across the country, troops are ramping up for a new school year, and leaders such as Bostian are tasked with convincing ever-busier parents and youths that, in 2019, it is still worthwhile to be a Boy Scout.

A lifelong Girl Scout, Bostian became involved with the Boy Scouts when her two sons were young. Sixteen years later, she is still the committee chair for her local boys troop and girls troop. Her fellow Scouting parents are some of her closest friends. Her uniform is covered in pins for the six Eagle Scouts she has mentored — not including her two Eagle Scout sons.

She has traveled and camped with her Scouts across the country, showing them "parts of the United States they wouldn't otherwise see." She worries that the national organization's lawsuits and financial fears could jeopardize all of that. But until then, she said, she is going to "Scout till they tell me I can't Scout anymore."

"It's unsettling, but I don't dwell on it," Bostian said. "Does it make it harder? Sure. Are we going to stop? Absolutely not."

The Boy Scouts past with sexual abuse is no secret to the organization or the public, but in the #MeToo era, a wave of allegations from decades ago is coming to the forefront.

Several states, including New York and New Jersey, are changing their statute-of-limitations laws to allow victims of child sexual abuse an opportunity to seek justice, opening the door to hundreds of potential lawsuits against the Boy Scouts. Last year, the Washington Post reported that the organization had hired lobbyists in several states to push back against potential statute-of-limitations changes.

Michael Pfau, a lawyer who specializes in abuse cases and who has litigated against the Boy Scouts for more than 17 years, said he was representing dozens of victims in New York state, which has just opened a yearlong legal window that allows victims of childhood sexual assault to sue long after the state's original statute of limitations has passed. Pfau and his colleagues have already filed six lawsuits in the state and were preparing more in New Jersey, which opens its own legal window on Dec. 1.

In addition, a December report in the Wall Street Journal that the Boy Scouts were considering filing for bankruptcy, which could give potential victims a limited amount of time to come forward for compensation, prompted lawyers to gather new cases in earnest.

The Boy Scouts would not confirm the bankruptcy reports. But regarding a potential "financial restructuring," the organization said it was "working with experts and exploring all options available so we can live up to our social and moral responsibility to fairly compensate victims ... while also ensuring that we carry out our mission to serve youth, families and local communities through our programs."

In response to the report, a coalition of lawyers known as Abused in Scouting began gathering clients earlier this year by airing television ads across the country.

Hundreds of people responded to the commercials.

Across the country, other troops paint a much healthier portrait. The Boy Scouts of America is still among the largest youth organizations in the United States, and in many counties, troop membership continues to thrive — buoyed even more by the inclusion of girls in the namesake program.

As of last year, 2.18 million youth members were registered in the organization. More than 77,000 girls ages 5 through 10 have joined the Cub Scouts, and nearly 23,000 older girls have signed up for troops through the namesake program, now rebranded as Scouts BSA.

"We're booming," said Michael Perkins, scoutmaster for Troop 162 in Arlington, Virginia.

So many new members have joined his troop in recent years that he might have to hold back in recruitment, he said. About 60 boys are registered in his troop, and about 30 girls have joined the affiliated girls troop. The troop has one of the highest retention rates, at more than 81%.

Aaron Chusid, chief communications officer for the council, attributed this success in large part to parents and volunteers in the region.

For those troops that are successful at retaining members, incentives are key, Chusid said. Signing Scouts up for summer camp or high-adventure trips is essential to keeping teenagers interested in the program. "When they start hitting 13, 14 years old," Chusid said, "they're saying, 'Why should I stick around?' "

Over the years, the Boy Scouts of America has enacted extensive youth protection policies to prevent abuse, including mandatory youth protection training and criminal background checks for leaders.

At a meeting for two troops in Thurmont, Maryland, the scandals felt far away as a group of about 12 boys and girls saluted an American flag outside a brick "Scout House," where troops have been meeting for more than half a century.

Alex Contreras, 14, taught two girls, Ellen Hossain, 11, and Charlotte Young, 9, how to tie a clove hitch knot around a long wooden stick.

As the sun lowered, the troop circled up around the flagpole as one of the Scout leaders, Chris Nield, 15, gave the group a pep talk.

"Take that same energy that you guys had today ... into every day," Chris said at the center of the circle. "Just keep on trucking."