Kidnapping survivor Elizabeth Smart, 24, announced she is engaged and plans to marry later this year. In 2002, Brian David Mitchell snatched the then 14-year-old Smart from her Utah bedroom and held her captive for nine months. Smart has not revealed the name of her fiancé.
A Peruvian court sentenced Joran van der Sloot to 28 years in prison for strangling Stephany Flores in 2010. The murder was exactly five years after Natalee Holloway disappeared May 30, 2005, while vacationing in Aruba. Van der Sloot is believed to be the last person to see her alive. U.S. officials are reportedly working to extradite the 24-year-old Dutch national to Alabama, where he faces charges of allegedly extorting $25,000 from Holloway's mother, Beth, in exchange for information about the location of the girl's body. Last month a judge declared Holloway legally dead.
Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., announced in late January she is resigning to focus on her recovery from gunshot wounds she sustained during a January 2011 shooting rampage that left six people dead. In the months since the incident, Giffords has undergone multiple surgeries and spent countless hours in therapy working to overcome her brain injury. A special election for the conservative-leaning seat will be held in April.
Target and Nordstrom are receiving praise for including Ryan Langston, a 6-year-old New Jersey boy with Down syndrome, in their advertisements. "The greatest thing that Nordstrom and Target are doing is that they're not making any reference to his disability. He's just another cute kid," father Jim Langston told Disability Scoop website.
A Ugandan teen is slowly regaining the use of her legs after her father abused her because she left Islam to become a Christian. Susan Ithungu, 15, spent six months locked in a room receiving very little food or water before neighbors alerted police to her plight. Authorities arrested the girl's father but then quickly released him.
A Louisiana toddler who inspired thousands as he battled a rare genetic skin disorder that covered his body with painful, debilitating blisters died Jan. 14 at the age of 2. Tripp Roth's mother, 26-year-old Courtney Roth, chronicled her life parenting a child with epidermolysis bullosa on her popular "EBing a Mommy" blog. Her musings reflected her conviction that God had a plan for her son's life and that each day spent with him was a blessing.
Longtime Penn State football coach Joe Paterno died Jan. 22 at age 85 after a brief fight with lung cancer. His 46-season tenure, which included winning more games than anyone in major college football, taking the Nittany Lions to 37 bowl games, and winning two national championships, was marred last year after the university fired him amid a child sex-abuse scandal involving a former coach.
Cracker Barrel Old Country Store founder Danny Evins died Jan. 14 at age 76. In 1969, Evins went from working as a middleman for oil refiners and retailers to launching the down-home restaurant chain along U.S. highways. He sparked controversy in 1991 when he defended a company directive urging all of the chain's restaurants to fire gay employees-a policy he later rescinded.