Annette Funicello, the ultimate Girl Next Door to a generation of Baby Boomers who first fell in love with her on the original 1955-59 incarnation of The Mickey Mouse Club, died Monday after a long battle with multiple sclerosis. She was 70.
Her family told Extra that Funicello passed away from complications of her illness, and they were by her side when she was taken off life support. Funicello had been in an MS coma for years.
“She’s on her toes dancing in heaven. No more MS,” Gina Gilardi, Funicello’s daughter, tellsExtra. “My brothers and I were there, holding her sweet hands when she left us.”
With her brunette curls and expressive brown eyes, “Annette,” as she was simply known, grew up on the nation’s TV screens in her unquestioned role as the princess of Walt Disney’s daily afternoon syndicated TV show. She embodied the image of wholesome Eisenhower Era youth both on screen and off, even when she graduated to the role of Frankie Avalon’s beach-blanket buddy in the early ’60s.
“You knew she was very attractive, very pretty and voluptuous, but Annette never flaunted it,” Avalon, now 75, told PEOPLE in 1998. “She underplayed everything. She never tried to be sexy. People said to themselves, ‘I could date that girl if I ever met her.’ She wasn’t untouchable.”
Born Oct. 22, 1942, in Utica, N.Y., to auto-repair-shop owner Joseph Funicello and his homemaker wife Virginia, Annette was 4 when she moved to Southern California with her family. One spring day in 1955, Walt Disney, casting his new kids’ TV program, happened to stop by the Burbank Starlite Bowl, where a dance school was giving its year-end recital of Swan Lake. And a star was born.
“Mr. Disney,” as she always called him, guided Funicello’s career for the next 10 years. During and even after leaving the Club, she starred for him on TV’sZorro and in such movies as 1959’s The Shaggy Dog and 1961’sBabes in Toyland.
Last week, Dalene Bowden, a food service worker at Irving Middle School, was placed on leave after she gave a free hot lunch to a 12-year-old girl who said she was hungry and didn’t have any money.
Bowden has now received a registered letter from the Pocatello/Chubbuck School District informing her that she has been fired.
The brief, one-page letter was signed by District 25 Director of Human Resources Susan Petit. It states that Bowden was dismissed due to her theft of school district property and inaccurate transactions when ordering, receiving and serving food.
Bowden’s story garnered hundreds of comments on social media and an online petition was launched Saturday demanding that Bowden be reinstated as a lunch lady at Irving.
Bowden said she offered to pay for the $1.70 lunch, but her supervisor rejected her offer. And she was placed on termination leave last Tuesday pending a meeting with the District 25 School Board.
District School Board member Jacob Gertsch declined to comment on Bowden’s termination Monday, calling it a personnel matter. And administrators could not be reached.
“This is just breaking my heart,” Bowden said. “And they couldn’t even bother to put my check in with the letter.”
The letter states that Bowden will be paid within 10 days.
Raushelle Guzman, of Pocatello, started an online petition hoping to convince the district to rehire Bowden. As of Monday, more than 1,800 people had signed the online petition.
Guzman said she doesn’t know Bowden, but she does have two children who attend District 25 schools.
“I think (Bowden) did the right thing and I think we need to make sure that every child that wants lunch can have lunch,” Guzman said. “I think the district’s policy needs to be changed. We do not need to humiliate or demean any child or worker in that situation. Students must be provided with an adequate meal.”
Bowden has worked for District 25 for the past three years and said she’s never been written up or reprimanded for her job performance. But she said she did receive a verbal warning once for giving a student a free cookie.
She plans to seek legal counsel regarding the termination letter accusing her of theft.
“I broke the rules, but I offered to pay for the meal and I don’t think I deserved to lose my job over it,” Bowden said.
Last week, Interim Superintendent Douglas Howell said District 25 works to make sure children who live in economically disadvantaged homes receive free or reduced hot lunches.
District 25 also participates in the Idaho Foodbank’s weekend backpack program that sends food items home with students in need each Friday.
Shelley Allen, spokeswoman for the district, said last week that students who exceed an $11 charge limit are provided something to eat, such as a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and milk.
Parents are notified once the lunch bill reaches the $11 cutoff.
Bowden said if a child is over the credit limit, workers are supposed to take their tray away and dump it.
“I know I screwed up, but what are you supposed to do when the kid tells you that they’re hungry and they don’t have any money,” Bowden said.
Denver police detectives tracked down a man suspected of raping a 13-year-old girl in 2010 with the help of a DNA profile, but if the case goes to trial an unusual piece of evidence could prove pivotal – the fetus collected by an investigator after the young victim had an abortion.
“It’s the kind of evidence, much like all the biological evidence that’s collected, if you don’t get it at the time it’s available you’re never going to get another opportunity to collect it,” said Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey.
Gabino Otero-Labra, now 30, faces two counts of sexual assault on a child in the wake of the alleged attack, which occurred at a North Denver home.
Otero-Labra, who was arrested in November after he was required to provide a DNA sample following a Minnesota drug conviction, is being held on $100,000 bail and is due back in Denver County Court Feb. 4.
At the time of the alleged assault, Otero-Labra was 24.
And while collecting a fetus to be used as evidence is not unheard of, it was still a first for one veteran Denver attorney.
“I’ve never seen it before,” said defense attorney Dan Recht, who has handled more sexual assault cases than he can remember. “It’s certainly unusual. And in the same breath let me say I don’t believe there’s anything inappropriate about it.
“It will help the police and the prosecution establish who the father is through DNA, and so it seems reasonable to me even though it seems highly unusual.”
The story begins in late March 2010 when the girl made up a story about where she planned to spend the weekend and instead went with a friend to a home in the 3900 block of Kalamath Street. While they were there, the girl later told police, she drank orange soda that “tasted funny,” according to court documents. At some point, she passed out on a staircase before later awakening in a bed and concluding that she had been sexually assaulted.
Her mother took her to a hospital, and a rape kit led to a DNA profile of a suspect.
Within weeks, the girl learned she was pregnant and she ultimately decided to have an abortion at a Denver Planned Parenthood clinic. After the procedure, according to court documents, a Denver detective went to the clinic and obtained the fetus, which was frozen for later testing at the department’s crime lab.
Marie Logsden, senior vice president of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, declined to be interviewed by 9NEWS but issued a statement in response to questions from 9Wants To Know:
“While we cannot comment on specific cases, at times, law enforcement officials ask for our assistance in their investigations of sexual assaults. This can include preserving the products of conception that result from an abortion procedure.”
Although detectives had the first name of a potential suspect and a DNA profile obtained from the rape kit, they did not know with certainty who they were looking for until earlier this fall. That’s when Otero-Labra had his DNA entered into a national database after being convicted in a Minnesota drug case. Once his sentence was completed there, he was transferred to Denver to face charges in the 2010 sexual assault.
Meanwhile, the fetus remains frozen in the Denver police evidence vault, awaiting testing. The DNA that it could yield once it is tested could make or break the case, said Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey.
“We’re looking for sources of DNA from our suspect, sometimes from the victim,” Morrissey said. “Obviously when you’re talking about the offspring or a fetus, you’re talking about DNA from both, potentially. So it’s important evidence to be collected.”
So, just how often does a detective attempt to obtain an intact fetus – as opposed to fetal tissue – for use as evidence in a sexual assault case?
The Denver Police Department currently has three fetuses in its evidence vault, said Division Chief Matt Murray. To put that in perspective, the department has more than 500,000 individual pieces of evidence in its vault.
Murray called it “an incredibly rare occurrence.”
A 9Wants To Know check with area law enforcement agencies did not find another case in which a fetus was taken as evidence.
And it’s equally rare for that kind of evidence to find its way into a courtroom.
Lynn Kimbrough, the spokeswoman for Morrissey’s office, said she knew of one other instance in which fetal tissue was used as evidence in a sexual assault case. In that case, a man was accused of sexually assaulting a teenager and getting her pregnant. She, too, had an abortion, and fetal tissue was used in an effort to establish that the suspect was responsible.
However, the man was acquitted after questions arose about the actual age of the victim – she was from another country and documents differed on her birthdate.
Recht, the defense attorney, said that DNA evidence can be critical to prosecutors and suspects alike.
“Absolutely,” Recht said. “You know, DNA evidence gets to the heart of who did a crime, and so it is good for the innocent because it shows they didn’t do it, and it’s good for the police when they have the right suspect because DNA generally doesn’t lie.”
He said he saw no reason why DNA taken from the fetus wouldn’t be admissible if the case goes to trial.
Morrissey pointed out that state law requires that DNA be kept for the life of the suspect in sexual assault cases but said he hopes to work out an agreement with the defense that would allow for a respectful disposal of the fetus.
“Obviously, this kind of sample really pulls on people’s hearts for a lot of different reasons when you’re talking about a fetus,” Morrissey said. “But it is something that hopefully, at the end of the case, we can come to an agreement with the defense that a sample would be kept, but just a sample. And then we’d have a cremation – that type of thing for the fetus.”