The body of 19-year-old University of New Hampshire student Elizabeth "Lizzi" Marriot still has not been found — one of the many mysteries surrounding her killing and the couple charged in her death.
Thirty-year-old Seth Mazzaglia told investigators she died with a rope around her neck during a consensual sex act gone bad. Prosecutors are adamant she was murdered but so far won't say what evidence they have to back up their allegations.
Court documents detail the far-fetched alibis Mazzaglia and 19-year-old Kathryn McDonough initially gave to police in October — just days after the college sophomore disappeared.
He is facing first-degree murder and other charges. She is charged with conspiracy and hindering prosecution. Trial dates haven't been set.
The couple's attorneys haven't returned calls seeking comment.
Lawyers for men who sued the New York Police Department are asking for major changes to how the department conducts street stops that could affect policing nationwide.
A policing expert working with the Center for Constitutional Rights says a comprehensive change must be made in order to fix race-based stops. Professor Samuel Walker says changes must be made to training, supervision and discipline. An expert for the city says the changes aren't necessary because they are already done by the department.
About 5 million stops have been made during the past decade, mostly of black and Hispanic men, and the suit alleges many were wrongly stopped solely because of their race.
A federal judge will decide whether changes are needed. She isn't being asked to ban the tactic.
Thousands of athletes joined victims of the Boston Marathon bombings to run and walk the last mile of the race Saturday, reclaiming the triumph of crossing the finish line.
About 3,000 runners and bombing victims gathered in light rain to run the final mile of the world's oldest annual marathon, said Kathleen McGonagle, spokeswoman for those organizing the event known as OneRun. The 1-mile run began at Kenmore Square and ended at the official finish line, where participants hugged and cheered/
Explosions near the finish line killed three people and wounded more than 260 on April 15.
OneRun honors victims and emergency workers and allows runners to reclaim the final mile, McGonagle said.
"For the runner that didn't get the chance to finish the marathon, this is the chance for them to experience the final mile that was taken away from them," McGonagle said.
Although the event wasn't a fundraiser, donations from some corporate sponsors covered OneRun operating costs, McGonagle said. Any leftover funds will be sent to a charity set up to benefit bombing victims.
The National Anthem was sung by the choir from St. Ann Parish, where 8-year-old victim Martin Richard's family worshipped.
Thousands of bridges around the United States may be one freak accident or mistake away from collapse, even if the spans are deemed structurally sound.
The crossings are kept standing by engineering design, not supported with brute strength or redundant protections like their more modern counterparts. The consequence of that risk was evident Thursday on Interstate 5 over the Skagit River, where a large section of the bridge collapsed into the water after officials say an oversized truck load clipped the steel truss.
While the truck's cargo suffered only minimal damage, it left chaos in its wake, with two vehicles catapulting off the edge of the broken bridge into the river below. Three people involved escaped with non-life threatening injuries.
Public officials have focused in recent years on the desperate need for money to repair thousands of bridges deemed structurally deficient, which typically means a major portion of the bridge is in poor condition or worse. But the bridge that collapsed was not in that deficient category, highlighting another major problem with the nation's infrastructure: Although it is rare, some bridges deemed to be fine structurally can still be crippled if they are struck hard enough in the wrong spot.
"It probably is a bit of a fluke in that sense," said Charles Roeder, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Washington.
Major roadways used by thousands of U.S. drivers cross over "fracture critical" bridges -- a term meaning that if a single, vital component of the bridge is compromised, it is at risk of collapse.
Many are not truss-style bridges like the one now in the river. In Boston, a six-lane highway 1A near Logan airport includes a "fracture critical" bridge of a different style over Bennington Street. In northern Chicago, an I-90 pass that goes over Ashland Avenue is in the same category. An I-880 bridge over 5th Avenue in Oakland is also on the list.
The most famous failure of a fracture critical bridge was the collapse of the I-35W bridge in Minneapolis during rush hour on Aug. 1, 2007, killing 13 people and injuring more than 100 others. The National Transportation Safety Board concluded that the cause of the collapse was an error by the bridge's designers -- a gusset plate, a key component of the bridge, was too thin. It should have been an inch thick but instead was a half inch thick. Because the bridge's key structures lacked redundancy, where if one piece fails, there is another piece to prevent the bridge from falling, when the gusset plate broke, much of the bridge collapsed.
Mark Rosenker, who was chairman of the NTSB during the I-35W bridge investigation, said the board looked into whether other fracture critical bridges were collapsing. They found a few cases, but not many, he said.
"Today, they're still building fracture critical bridges with the belief that they're not going break," Rosenker said.
Fracture critical bridges, like the one in Washington, are the result of Congress trying to cut corners to save money rather than a lack of engineering know-how, said Barry B. LePatner, a New York real estate attorney and author of "Too Big to Fall: America's Failing Infrastructure and the Way Forward."
About 18,000 fracture critical bridges were built from the mid-1950s through the late 1970s in an effort to complete the nation's interstate highway system, which was launched under President Dwight Eisenhower, LePatner said in an interview. The fracture critical bridge designs were cheaper than bridges designed with redundancy, he said.
About 8,000 of the fracture critical bridges were on the Federal Highway Administration's list of structurally deficient bridges as of 2009, LePatner said.
"They have been left hanging with little maintenance for four decades now," he said. "There is little political will and less political leadership to commit the tens of billions of dollars needed" to fix them.
There has been little focus or urgency in specifically replacing the older "fracture critical" crossings, in part because there is a massive backlog of bridge repair work for thousands of bridges deemed to be structurally problematic. Washington state Rep. Judy Clibborn, a Democrat who leads on transportation policy, has been trying to build support for a tax package to pay for major transportation projects in the state. But her plan wouldn't have done anything to revamp the bridge that collapsed.
National bridge records say the I-5 crossing over the Skagit River had a sufficiency rating of 57.4 out of 100. To qualify for federal replacement funds, a bridge must have a rating of 50 or below. A bridge must have a sufficiency rating of 80 or below to qualify for federal rehabilitation funding.
Hundreds of bridges in Washington state have worse ratings than the one that collapsed, and many around the country have single-digit ratings.
Clibborn said the Skagit River crossing wasn't even on the radar of lawmakers because state officials have to prioritize by focusing on bridges with serious structural problems that are at real risk of imminent danger.
Along with being at risk of a fatal impact, the I-5 bridge was deemed to be "functionally obsolete," which essentially means it wasn't built to today's standards. Its shoulders were narrow, and it had low clearance.
There are 66,749 structurally deficient bridges and 84,748 functionally obsolete bridges in the U.S., including Puerto Rico, according to the Federal Highway Administration. That's about a quarter of the 607,000 total bridges nationally. States and cities have been whittling down that backlog, but slowly. In 2002, 29.5 percent of bridges fell into one of those two categories.
Spending by states and local government on bridge construction adjusted for inflation has more than doubled since 1998, from $12.3 billion to $28.5 billion last year, according to the American Road and Transportation Builders Association. That's an all-time high.
"The needs are so great that even with the growth we've had in the investment level, it's barely moving the needle in terms of moving bridges off these lists," said Alison Premo Black, the association's chief economist.
There is wide recognition at all levels of government that the failure to address aging infrastructure will likely undermine safety and hinder economic growth. But there is no consensus on how to pay for improvements. The federal Highway Trust Fund, which provides construction aid to states, is forecast to go broke next year. The fund gets its revenue primarily from federal gas and diesel taxes. But revenues aren't keeping up because people are driving less and there are more fuel-efficient cars on the road.
Neither Congress nor the White House has shown any willingness to raise federal gas taxes, which haven't been increased since 1993. Many transportation thinkers believe a shift to taxes based on miles traveled by a vehicle is inevitable, but there are privacy concerns and other difficulties that would preclude widespread use of such a system for at least a decade.
Transportation spending got a temporary boost with the economic stimulus funds approved by Congress after President Barack Obama was elected. Of the $27 billion designated for highway projects under the stimulus program, about $3 billion went to bridge projects, Black said.
States are looking for other means to raise money for highway and bridge improvements, including more tolling, dedicating a portion of sales taxes to transportation and raising state gas taxes. Clibborn, the Washington state lawmaker, has proposed a 10-cent gas hike to help pay for projects, though the effort has been held up by dispute over how to rebuild the Columbia River bridge connecting Vancouver to Portland, Ore.
"We can't possibly do it all in the next 10 years, but we're going to do the first bite of the apple," Clibborn said.
The South Florida man who caught and killed the longest Burmese python ever found in Florida gets to keep the snakeskin.
Jason Leon of Palmetto Bay saw a few feet of the snake sticking out of some bushes alongside a rural Miami-Dade County road on May 11. When Leon pulled the snake out into the open, it turned out to be 18 feet 8 inches long.
Leon killed the snake with a knife when it began to wrap around his legs. He reported his find to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Wildlife officials have returned the snakeskin to Leon. Leon tells WSVN-TV that he plans to have it preserved so that he can mount it on a wall. He says he's awed by its colors and pattern.
A Massachusetts veteran is planning to spend this Memorial Day remembering his Black Hawk pilot wife, who was killed in Afghanistan less than four months after they were married.
Chris Cullen married his wife Sara in November 2012 after resigning from his Army job last March so that they could be together, MyFoxBoston.com reported.
But on March 11, 2013, "basically, my world stopped," Cullen told MyFoxBoston.com. Sara was killed in a training mission helicopter crash that also claimed the lives of three others.
"Someone knocked on the door at a time they shouldn't have been there," he said. "A million things run through your head, you just kind of shut down," he told MyFoxBoston.com.
Sara didn't even get the chance to see their completed wedding photos.
"She was a great American that gave her life for the country, for freedom, for everything the country stands for," Cullen said.
On Memorial Day, Cullen said he hopes "that everyone can remember that they're out there, not always able to celebrate the holidays and get to the beach, but that they remember them."
Cullen will spend the weekend with this family as he continues to heal, MyFoxBoston.com reported.
A Georgia high school graduate received more than her diploma Thursday when her Army Reserve sergeant father traveled half way around the world to be present for the ceremony.
Army Reserve Sgt. 1st Class Dedrick Clark secretly returned from Kuwait after spending eight months away from his family overseas and collaborated with his wife and his daughter Dia's principal to pull off the surprise, MyFoxAtlanta.com reported.
"She has no idea, I talked to her today… and she has no idea. She thinks I'm still over in Kuwait," Clark told MyFoxAtlanta.com before the ceremony.
The moment of surprise came as Dia was crossing the stage to receive her diploma. As she made her way to the podium, the Georgia Dome erupted in applause when the announcer added, "here to congratulate Dia, just returned active duty from Kuwait is her father."
"He's my biggest fan, my biggest supporter through everything and I'm so glad he made it," Dia told MyFoxAtlanta.com.
Clark is scheduled to return to Kuwait in a week. He said he plans to spend the time home to catch up with the rest of the family and just be together.
Dia graduated with honors and is the recipient of the Gates Millennium Scholarship, one of only 1,000 nationwide. She plans to attend the University of Georgia in the fall where she was offered a full scholarship. Dia said her inspiration is her father.
Clark said he plans to return to the United States on a more permanent basis so when she crosses the stage again, he won't have to travel halfway across the world to see it, MyFoxAtlanta.com reported.
For nearly nine months, the people of this small West Virginia town saw the face of missing 16-year-old honors student Skylar Neese everywhere -- beaming at them from fliers on utility poles, in gas stations, even at the local tattoo parlor.
She had been missing since she slipped out of her bedroom window one night last summer, but some in this town of fewer than 2,000 people never believed she had run away.
Police chased numerous leads with no luck. The break finally came when one of Neese's friends admitted plotting with another girl to kill her -- shocking even the investigators working the case.
The two girls were charged with luring the straight-A student at University High School out of her family's apartment in the middle of the night, stabbing her to death at an agreed-upon moment and hiding her body under branches in a Pennsylvania township about 30 miles away from her house, according to court documents.
The pair -- one of whom has now pleaded guilty -- had spent time with Neese's mother after the slaying and even helped with the search.
The cold calculation and brutality of the plot shocked a community already frustrated by the slow pace and secrecy surrounding the case. Investigators have said little since announcing the charges three weeks ago. Court documents offer no insight into the motive.
People sit in the chairs at John's Barber Shop, gaze at Neese's photo on a bulletin board and wonder: How could anyone so young plot to kill a classmate and friend?
"They look as normal as any other kid that you could ever see," said barber BJ McClead. "Not kids you would think would have anything to do with anything like this."
A newly released transcript of a secret plea hearing reveals that 16-year-old Rachel Shoaf said she and the second girl carried out a plan to kill Neese.
Shoaf, a red-haired student actress and singer with sparkling blue eyes, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in Monongalia County Circuit Court on May 1 and awaits sentencing in a juvenile detention center.
The other girl's identity is, for now, shrouded by the confidentiality of juvenile court. Though McClead says most people in town have figured out who it is, it's unclear how long the three girls had been friends or just how close they were.
It's also unclear whether prosecutors will try to have the second suspect charged as an adult, as Shoaf was.
"People are confused. They're like, `What is taking so long?"' said McClead, whose daughter Hayden had been friends with Neese since junior high.
"It's ridiculous. Who's protecting these girls?" said the barber, who still hands out red-and-yellow bracelets bearing the victim's name. "Three families' lives are now ruined because of this heinous crime that these girls committed."
Monongalia County Prosecutor Marcia Ashdown has refused to return repeated calls seeking comment.
The mystery began July 6, 2012, when Neese climbed out of her bedroom window. Surveillance video showed her getting into a car at the end of her street in a quiet residential neighborhood near West Virginia University. With no sign of fear, no money and no contact lenses, she apparently expected to return.
When she didn't, Dave and Mary Neese worried. Police initially suspected their daughter was a runaway, but they knew better. They walked up and down Crawford Street with Neese's photo, then plastered fliers everywhere.
"You couldn't go 5 feet without seeing her," said 24-year-old Brittany Crouse, who moved in around the time of the disappearance. "Everybody really, really wanted her to come home."
For months, police chased down tips to no avail. The transcript from Shoaf's hearing shows the break came Jan. 3, when she finally told investigators the truth -- and where to find the body.
But it wasn't until March that authorities confirmed it was Neese, and silence followed until the day of the plea hearing.
"I think police who were involved in the front lines of that interview and that part of the investigation were stunned at Rachel Shoaf's confession," Ashdown told Judge Russell Clawges that day. "She confessed to a plan and conspiracy with another juvenile to kill Skylar Neese. A plan carried out."
The three girls drove to Wayne Township, Pa., got out of the car and the suspects pretended to socialize with Neese.
"And, at a planned and agreed upon moment," Ashdown said, the girls "attacked and stabbed Skylar to death, and they left her there."
They tried to bury Neese, she said, but covered her with branches when they couldn't.
Crouse, who lives a block from the Neeses' apartment, was horrified by the revelation.
"I can't imagine my friends deceiving me like that," she said. "Tragedies happen. Accidents, things like that. But not predetermined murder of a 16- or 17-year-old.
"It baffles me that somebody so young could do something like that," Crouse said. "All of their lives were just starting out."
In the five-page court file on Shoaf, prosecutors say they plan to recommend a 20-year prison sentence. But she could get as many as 40 years under the law.
Shoaf's family issued a public apology through a lawyer but has made no further statements.
"There is no way to describe the pain that we, too, are feeling," they said. "We are truly sorry for the pain that she has caused the Neese family, and we know her actions are unforgivable and inexcusable. Our daughter has admitted her involvement and she has accepted responsibility for her actions.
"Our hearts are broken for your loss," they told the Neese family, "and we are still trying to come to terms with this event."
Mary Neese has declined interview requests.
But the family has tried to spare others their agony, persuading legislators to pass "Skylar's Law" earlier this year.
Under the law, Amber Alerts are no longer limited to kidnappings in West Virginia. Even when authorities suspect a child is a runaway, information is turned over to Amber Alert officials.
But BJ McClead says his family knew the girl they'd taken to amusement parks and had in their home for sleepovers hadn't run away.
"When school went back in session and she wasn't there, we knew something was wrong because she wouldn't miss school," he said. "She was a really, really smart kid."
The transcript of Shoaf's hearing shows other students also had suspicions, chattering on social media about all three girls.
A few overheard a conversation between the suspects about the plot but waited to report it. The teenagers thought it was a joke, Ashdown told the judge, "but only later decided and believed it was all too true and all too prophetic."
McClead marvels that two teenage girls could maintain their deception from July to January.
"Some of the criminals that are locked up for life aren't that hard."
One evening last Labor Day weekend, 15-year-old Audrie Pott walked up the driveway of a classmate's home alongside other teenagers. She'd told her parents she was spending the night with a friend. The friend claimed she was sleeping at Audrie's. Instead, the girls were having a party. A classic teenage ploy.
By all accounts, Audrie was a gorgeous girl. Her lush brown hair framed a heart-shaped face. Light makeup outlined her sharp brown eyes, but round cheeks gave her a childlike charm. She was a soccer player, a painter, a girl who at age 4 had the gumption to stand in front of 1,000 people in church and belt out a solo.
On that Sunday night, she was just another kid pushing the limits as she celebrated the last days of summer, getting drunk with her friends on vodka and Gatorade.
Police and a civil lawsuit outline allegations of what happened next: Three boys came into a room where Audrie had passed out. When she awoke the next morning, her shorts were off. Pictures were doodled on her body with a Sharpie. On one leg was the name of a boy, followed by the words "was here."
"My life is ruined," Audrie would tell a friend in a Facebook message over the coming days. "I can't do anything to fix it."
Soon Audrie learned about a photograph apparently making the rounds -- of an intimate part of her body, taken, a family lawyer says, while she was passed out. "I have a reputation for a night I don't even remember," she wrote in another Facebook message, "and the whole school knows."
Eight days after the end-of-summer party, the sophomore who dreamed of traveling the world took her own life, hanging herself in a bathroom at home. Now the three boys, only 16 themselves, stand charged with sexual battery.
If the story of Audrie Pott rings familiar, it's because, tragically, it is. The federal government last year released data showing a rise in cyberbullying and youth suicide, including cases such as the 2010 death of Phoebe Prince, a 15-year-old Irish immigrant who hanged herself after bullying by classmates in South Hadley, Mass. Five students later accepted plea deals.
In Ohio, the rape of a 16-year-old girl last year was recorded on cellphones and gossiped about online. Two high school football players were convicted in the incident. And last month police in Canada reopened the case of Rehtaeh Parsons, a Halifax, Nova Scotia, teen whose family said she was photographed while being sexually assaulted in 2011 and bullied after the photo circulated online. Parsons died in April after hanging herself.
"How can our society provide a safe haven for young girls? Why do young men feel that young girls are but objects for their sexual fantasies and pleasure? Why do teenagers avoid seeking help when they are depressed and suicidal?" asked the pastor who delivered the eulogy for 17-year-old Rehtaeh.
Such questions come easily in the wake of these cases. Answers? Less so.
Now another community is left grappling with the loss of another girl, and Saratoga is asking its own questions. About blame and morality -- but also what, if any, lessons can be learned from losing Audrie.
Saratoga is a bastion of calm tucked on the western edge of the Silicon Valley against the redwood-studded Santa Cruz Mountains. Baskets of geraniums dangle from streetlamps in the historic town of 30,000. Electric car-charging stations are installed in front of 130-year-old limestone buildings.
It is a community with some of the highest housing costs and incomes in the country, and it is known for its parks, its wineries -- and its highly rated public schools. It is not a community that typically grapples with crime, let alone teen suicide.
"So many of us have lived here for years, and nothing like this has ever happened here before," said Mayor Jill Hunter, whose four sons graduated from the same school Audrie and the three suspects attended, Saratoga High. "We're terribly sad. We're having to bide our time to find out what the courts say, what justice says."
Today sorrow flows in a quiet undercurrent through town. Friendly conversations and noisy cafes grow silent at the mention of Audrie's name. But at the high school and online, teenagers are speaking out -- calling for more dialogue about what's right and wrong, and for more kindness among peers.
"Things have got to change," junior class president Anup Kar said in a story published by the Saratoga High student newspaper. "Students need to start helping other students. Someone needs to step up, and it can't just be the same people. It has to be every single student on our campus, making an effort to make our campus a better safer place."
Like so many schools in a cyber-saturated age, Saratoga High was trying to tackle these difficult topics.
Six months before Audrie committed suicide, a psychologist spoke about cyberbullying at the Saratoga High library. Earlier this year, the school held a "Just be Kind" week to encourage respect among classmates. And in March, art teacher Leah Aguayo gathered 85 girls for an empowerment workshop, at which teal-colored balloons -- Audrie's favorite color -- were released in her memory.
School Superintendent Bob Mistele said student assemblies and parent-staff meetings are held regularly to address bullying, and that his staff receives training about mandated reporting requirements when a student brings a complaint.
"Keeping our schools safe and free from bullying is a high priority for all of us," Mistele said in a statement last month in response to Audrie's case. "We share a common responsibility to stand up to and speak out about inappropriate, harassing behavior whenever we see it, hear about it, or view it on the Internet."
Mistele's office declined further interview requests, citing privacy and legal concerns.
Nationally, anti-bullying statutes and programs have proliferated since Georgia became the first state to pass a measure in 1999. Forty-nine states now have bullying laws on the books, while documentaries about tragic cases and national campaigns such as Stop Bullying Now! have brought increased attention to the problem.
In Audrie's case, like the incidents in Ohio and Canada, a sexual assault is also alleged, however -- something experts said mothers and fathers must talk to their children about, just as they might discuss drug and alcohol use.
"Parents, when they sit down and talk to their kids, it's about drinking, not sexual assault," said Rosalind Wiseman, an author of books focusing on the lives of teenagers and an expert in bullying. Wiseman suggested that parents reinforce the idea that it's OK for children to go to them when they think something inappropriate has occurred.
"I would like for parents to include when they talk to their kids, `If something bad happens to you or one of your friends, please know that is more important to me than if you got drunk or did something else you shouldn't have,"' she said.
Cyberbullying expert Nancy Willard said adults need to focus on positive norms, "recognizing that the vast majority of teens ... have an extremely low regard for anyone who distributes a nude image of a peer," she said.
Teens also need to know that if they are involved in a bullying situation -- or something worse -- it's safe to tell an adult, Willard said.
"Even if an image has been distributed, this is something that they can recover from," she said. "So let an adult they trust know what is happening. If a friend is being exploited in this way, they should reach out to let their friend know they are there for support and advise their friend to tell a trusted adult."
Audrie, it seems, confided in few. In the week following the alleged assault, she instead did what so many young people do: She shut down and suffered in silence -- reaching out to only a few friends with increasing desperation.
Before that Labor Day weekend, Audrie was a bright girl dealing with normal teen challenges. She spent summers at horse camp, played viola and piano. On winter slopes, her parents recalled, she sang as she skied. On hikes in the local hills, she marched her friends until they had blisters. At 11, Audrie beamed as she strode, without gloves or jacket, on a frigid day with her middle school color guard in President Barack Obama's first inaugural parade.
When Audrie started Saratoga High as a freshman, the school paper interviewed her. She was excited about playing soccer, eager to go to a dance, concerned about homework. Her optimism was palpable.
Question: "Would you rather fly or be invisible?"
Audrie: "Fly any day."
But as freshman year got underway, Audrie was picked on by some classmates, her parents said, prompting them to ask for a meeting with school officials. Her parents said they raised concerns about Audrie being bullied. School officials have countered that "the issue of bullying was not the subject covered in those conversations."
"She was picked on because she was pretty, because she was popular, because she was nice," her father, Larry Pott, told the San Jose Mercury News. "It was: You're not as good as you appear to be. We're going to drag you down a bit."
Her stepmother, Lisa Pott, said in the same interview that Audrie was neither depressed nor on medication.
"She had no more teen drama than I did," Lisa Pott said.
One week after the Labor Day party, Audrie called her mother from school and asked to be picked up. "She said, I can't deal with it, please take me home," recalled Sheila Pott, who brought her daughter to their Los Altos home and begged her to share what was going on. But Audrie couldn't put words to her pain. That same day, she hanged herself.
As they buried Audrie, her parents had no idea about an alleged assault, let alone that school officials, alerted by students about the party and the picture, had already gone to the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office, which launched an investigation.
Then the Pott family began getting phone calls. "There was information some of the children had that they felt would be vital for us to find out," Larry Pott said.
The three boys accused in the case were charged in the fall but remained in school (one transferring elsewhere) until April 11, when sheriff's deputies arrested them on charges of sexual battery and distribution of child pornography. Attorneys representing the teens, whose names have not been released because of their ages, urged the public to withhold judgment.
"Much of what has been reported ... is inaccurate. Most disturbing is the attempt to link (Audrie's) suicide to the specific actions of these three boys," said a statement from attorneys Eric Geffon, Alan Lagod and Benjamin Williams. "We are hopeful that everyone understands that these boys, none of whom have ever been in trouble with the law, are to be regarded as innocent."
The Pott family has sued the boys and their families, and filed an administrative claim against the Los Gatos-Saratoga Union High School District, alleging that administrators were slack in responding to bullying against Audrie. "With no assault, with no cyberbullying, Audrie is in art class right now," Larry Pott said at a news conference last month, his voice breaking.
The Potts also have launched the Audrie Pott Foundation to support local music and art scholarships in Audrie's memory, as well as youth counseling. And they are pressing for a change in state laws to stiffen penalties for cyberbullying and assault.
At Saratoga High, meantime, students went through an all-too-common cycle of grieving: A candlelight vigil and counseling sessions were held. Flowers piled up outside the library. Students wore clothing in Audrie's favorite color.
Now, months later, questions remain, but their young lives go on. Springtime at the high school means prom, college acceptances, final exams. There are track meets and pancake breakfasts.
This week the students have Memorial Day off, a rare three-day weekend before the rush of finals. If Audrie were alive she probably would have celebrated on that school-free Monday. It would have been her 16th birthday.
Seven months after Hurricane Sandy ravaged the New Jersey Shore, destroying homes and dramatically upending lives, the tourist towns dotting the coast have ramped up repairs which are nearly complete as the summer tourist begins. But for many of the residents in surrounding areas, still embroiled in a morass of loss and red tape, it has been their neighbors and ordinary citizens who have stepped in to provide vital help and support.
From a "bucket brigade" offering food from repurposed shipping containers to an operation that returns treasured photos blown away by the storm to a movement to overturn last year's Flood Insurance Reform Act, people have stepped up to help each other as well as themselves.
Some were not even living in New Jersey when Sandy ripped through October 29. Cassandra Vitale, 26, who had lived along the Jersey Shore as a child, was at her home in Melbourne, Fla. when the epic storm hit.
"I think people in this [N.J.] area didn't realize what could happen," Vitale, who had weathered Hurricane Wilma in 2005, said in an interview with FoxNews.com.
As she reached out to old friends in New Jersey, one mentioned that she was stranded far from home due to a flat tire, Vitale posted a message on Facebook to see if anyone could help. Before she knew it, Vitale was posting and reposting messages of people along the Shore and appealing for help.
"I just started posting things that I thought would be relevant information, like where to get gas. Then I wound up coordinating things," she said.
"I just couldn't imagine sitting by and not doing something while this was happening."
Within days, she was on a flight to Atlantic City.
Once Vitale arrived at the Jersey Shore, she borrowed an SUV and started filling it with supplies left at churches and other makeshift relief centers and headed for Bayhead. Once there, she handed out buckets filled with cleaning materials, toiletries, and other supplies for homeowners. Her creative delivery method soon earned her the nickname "The Bucket Lady."
Before she knew it, Vitale's relief project grew and she began receiving surplus items from the Red Cross and other response agencies. Her efforts quickly became known as the Bucket Brigade.
Now she is at the helm of a makeshift command center in an Ortley Beach parking lot. The outpost, made from repurposed shipping containers, serves as an office and storage for thousands of items and a core team of five volunteers who help with daily duties.
"I thought I would be home by Thanksgiving," Vitale said. "Six months after the storm and I have no intention of leaving anytime soon."
Other hero volunteers were New Jersey residents who saw past their own devastating losses to aid others.
Jeannette Van Houten, whose home in Union Beach was destroyed, is a memory keeper.
In the days after the storm, as she walked through what had once been her hometown, she began finding photographs strewn around the rubble and began collecting them.
Each day she discovered more, bringing hundreds to the relief center set up in the town hall.
"It's a piece of their home and that's all that matters," Van Houten told FoxNews.com a week after the storm hit, "People have been very grateful to have their family photos returned. It's their life, so you have to give them hope."
Six months later, with Union Beach on the mend, Van Houten is still collecting precious photos.
"We're still finding (them)," she recently told FoxNews. "As the real clean-up has gotten underway, people are finding more and more photos in the wetlands or under debris.
"Many of them are little more damaged, but some actually look brand new."
Van Houten estimates that in all, more than 20,000 photos have been found and returned to their rightful owners.
"It gives (residents) hope that things will get better," she said. "When you connect with a photo it's more than a piece of paper. All these memories come back with it and how you now have something from the past to move forward with."
Other residents have turned to grassroots organizing to improve things for themselves and their neighbors.
George Kasimos, 46, of Toms River, has taken on a goliath opponent: FEMA.
Due to FEMA's recent remapping of flood zones, he said, he and many others face a costly decision: elevate their homes or face costly insurance premiums for years to come.
"We had already started to rebuild when we found out that we had to raise our homes," Kasimos said to FoxNews.com. "But they are releasing new flood zones this summer. Right now I would have to spend $150,000 to raise my home ten feet and bring it up to code. But why would I do that if they will change it again in the summer?"
Frustrated with a lack of answers, Kaisimos started what has become a growing movement along the Jersey Shore called Stop FEMA Now.
"The main reason I started was because I needed info," he said, "You cannot get a straight answer. This is something FEMA should have been ready for 20 years and they act as if they just started last week."
By last January, Kasimos had gathered nearly 4,000 supporters on his Stop FEMA Now Facebook page and obtained 3,500 signatures on an online petition calling for overturning the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012, which required changes to flood insurance, flood hazard mapping and grants.
"I personally have lost $300,000 in value on my home not because of Sandy but because of the flood insurance premiums," he said.