World's hottest chile pepper: The Trinidad Moruga Scorpion!

Pepper

This post has been corrected. See note at the bottom for details.

The Trinidad Moruga Scorpion sounds like a lethal beast, and in many ways, it is.

It's just been crowned the hottest chile pepper on the planet, after testing this week by experts at New Mexico State University's Chile Pepper Institute in Las Cruces.

The pepper, which comes from the central south coast of Trinidad, is certifiably potent: Its mean score on the Scoville scale used to grade peppers topped more than 1.2 million heat units, the testing showed. By comparison, a jalapeno logs about 5,000 on the scale.

"You take a bite. It doesn't seem so bad, and then it builds and it builds and it builds. So it is quite nasty," Paul Bosland, renowned pepper expert and director of the chile institute, told the Associated Press.

Researchers were pushed by hot sauce makers, seed producers and others in the spicy food industry to establish the average heat levels for super-hot varieties in an effort to quash unscientific claims of which peppers are actually the hottest.

That's something that hadn't been done before, Bosland said.

"Chile heat is a complex thing, and the industry doesn't like to base it on just a single fruit that's a record holder. It's too variable," Bosland said.

Bosland's team planted about 125 plants of each "super hot" chile pepper variety — the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion, the Trinidad Scorpion, the 7-pot, the Chocolate 7-pot and the Bhut Jolokia, the previous winner certified hottest by Guinness World Records in 2007, beating out the Red Savina.

Peppers were randomly selected, dried and ground until researchers could extract the compounds that produce heat, called capsaicinoids. The capsaicinoids were so strong, they penetrated researchers' latex gloves, which had to be replaced repeatedly.

The Trinidad Moruga Scorpion's new notoriety is already making waves in the industry and among those who love their hot, spicy foods.

"As with all the previous record holders, there will be a run on seeds and plants," Jim Duffy, San Diego chile pepper grower, told the Associated Press. "Like Cabbage Patch dolls right before Christmas or Beanie Babies, it's like the hot item."

What physical effect does the pepper, also known as Brain Strain, cause when it's eaten? Many of those brave enough to try -- who use such names as Firehead Thomas or  Ted the Firebreathing Idiot -- have posted online videos showing the symptoms: The eyes widen and tear. Sweat starts to drip. The subject winces, grimaces and hops. It is said the tongue can be numb for days.    

"Whew, back of my throat, my tongue, it's filling up my tongue," Firehead Thomas says in one video. "It's pretty intense. It really heats your tongue, and it's building. Man, my tongue is on fire! Having trouble talking. Oh, it's bad. ... This is killer."

[For the Record, 4:10 p.m. Feb. 16: An earlier version of this post said New Mexico State University's  Chile Pepper Institute was in Albuquerque. It is in Las Cruces.]

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Photo: The Trinidad Moruga Scorpion. Credit: New Mexico State University. Video: "Firehead Thomas" tastes the hottest chile pepper in the world. Credit: YouTube


Texas man accused of kidnapping, torturing former neighbor

Maxwell
Prosecutors say a North Texas woman's former neighbor kidnapped her, burned down her house, chained her to a bed and tortured her with a deer-skinning device.

Jeffrey Allan Maxwell's trial began Tuesday in Weatherford, about 30 miles west of Fort Worth. Maxwell, 59, of Corsicana faces a possible life sentence if convicted of aggravated kidnapping and aggravated sexual assault.

Apparently the woman, who lives in Whitt, about 50 miles west of Fort Worth, had refused Maxwell's advances when they were neighbors, KWTX reported.

Prosecutor Kathleen Catania told jurors the woman's DNA was found in Maxwell's car and house after he was arrested, according to the Associated Press. Catania said Maxwell kidnapped the woman from her home at gunpoint March 1 and drove her to his house, about 100 miles away and 75 miles southeast of Fort Worth, where he held her for 12 days.

Maxwell told an investigator that after he took the woman back to his house, he "strung her up" in his garage on a homemade rack used for skinning deer, according to court records cited by the Associated Press.

When Maxwell would leave to do errands, he would store the woman in a box, Catania told the court.

Strangely, the woman initially said family members were trying to kill her, but later told investigators Maxwell hit her with a rolling pin and pulled a gun on her while taking her from her house, according to court testimony reported by the Weatherford Democrat.

“He forced me in the house so he could tie me up and put me in his vehicle,” the woman said after Sgt. Ricky Montgomery of the Parker County Sheriff’s Office pressed her about what happened.

The woman said she found out her house had burned down while watching the news with Maxwell, who told her the house needed to be burned to get rid of his fingerprints, according to the Weatherford Democrat.

Maxwell has also been investigated on suspicion of involvement in the disappearance of his ex-wife, Martha Martinez Maxwell, missing since 1992. Maxwell first went missing in 1987 and was later found beaten with her throat cut near Ardmore, Okla. She survived and Jeffrey Maxwell was charged with aggravated kidnapping, but a grand jury declined to indict him, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported.

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Photo: Jeffrey Allan Maxwell enters Judge Trey Loftin's Weatherford, Texas, courtroom on Tuesday. Maxwell, 59, is charged with aggravated kidnapping and two counts of aggravated sexual assault. Credit: Ron T. Ennis / Fort Worth Star-Telegram.


Gift for dying husband: Mom induces labor so he can hold child

Aulger

He held his newborn baby for less than an hour before he died.

Mark Aulger, 52, had been diagnosed with colon cancer, and months of chemotherapy had left his lungs badly damaged -- so damaged that by mid-January he only had a few days left to live. Doctors suggested that Aulger's wife, who was eight months' pregnant and due Jan. 29, induce labor. 

“Mark said, 'I'd like to see the baby,' " Diane Aulger, 31, told the Associated Press.

 She gave birth to Savannah Aulger on Jan. 18.

Hospital staff arranged for the Aulgers to share a large labor and delivery room. “Our beds were side by side,” Diane Aulger said.

After the baby was born, Diane Aulger passed the infant to her husband. "He got to be the first one to hold her, [and he] held her for 45 minutes," Diane Aulger told WFAA.

But during the next few days, she said, her husband was so tired he could only hold the baby for minutes at a time. Three days after Savannah was born, Mark Aulger slipped into a coma. Two days later, he died.

“I brought her home the night before he fell into the coma,” Diane Aulger told the Associated Press. “It was just me and Savannah when he passed away.”

Savannah is the couple's third child together, and Diane has two other children from another relationship. The family lives in The Colony, about 25 miles north of Dallas.

“We're living day-to-day as if Dad's still here,” she said. “We know Dad is here with us.”

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Photo: In this Jan. 18 photo, Mark Aulger, 52, holds newborn daughter Savannah for the first time, surrounded by his wife, Diane Aulger, and their other children. Credit: Diane Aulger / Associated Press


Texas judge orders inquiry into wrongful-conviction case

AndersonewnA Texas judge ruled Friday that there was probable cause to believe a former district attorney refused to turn over evidence that contributed to the wrongful murder conviction of Michael Morton, who served 25 years of a life sentence before being exonerated late last year.

Morton, 57, a former grocery store clerk, was ultimately freed thanks to DNA evidence unavailable when his wife was beaten to death in their suburban Austin home in 1986. After he was freed, another man was charged in connection with her killing.

On Friday, Bexar County District Court Judge Sid Harle recommended that the Texas Supreme Court convene a court of inquiry to investigate possible prosecutorial misconduct in the Morton case by then-Williamson County Dist. Atty. Ken Anderson, now a district court judge.

Morton’s lawyers said the ruling illustrated the perils of prosecutors withholding evidence in criminal cases.

“Tragic consequences can result when prosecutors put aside their ethical obligations in their zeal to win convictions. Yet far too often their misdeeds go unpunished,” said Barry Scheck, co-director of the New York-based Innocence Project, which championed Morton’s case. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, he added that Judge Harle’s ruling served as a reminder that "no one is above the law.”

Anderson’s lawyer said his client welcomed the court of inquiry as a chance to clear his name.

“We look forward to the opportunity to demonstrate further that the allegations against Judge Anderson are completely without merit,” Austin-based attorney Eric Nichols said in an interview.

Friday's ruling comes after a request by Innocence Project lawyers in December for a court of inquiry, a special Texas legal procedure. The chief justice appoints a judge who conducts the court of inquiry and then appoints a lawyer to represent the state.

In a report filed with their request, Innocence Project lawyers noted that their depositions with key witnesses, including Anderson, showed that he had not turned over evidence that could have helped show that Morton had not beaten his wife, Christine, to death on Aug. 13, 1986.

Anderson, who has apologized for the wrongful conviction, said in his deposition that he could not remember many details about how he handled the Morton case. He contended that he gave Morton’s lawyer everything a judge had ordered him to provide, which he believed was limited to reports by the lead investigator concerning Morton’s initial statements.

But Innocence Project lawyers, through public records requests, obtained  evidence they claimed was exculpatory, or could have helped prove their client’s innocence, including: a transcript of the victim’s mother saying the couple’s 3-year-old son told her Michael Morton was not the attacker, a neighbor’s account of seeing someone staking out the Mortons' house before the killing, and records showing the victim’s Visa card was used after her death.

On Friday, Morton's attorneys also revealed new information about a personal check that they had once argued was evidence of Morton's innocence. The $20 check was cashed after Christine Morton's death. 

Morton's attorneys had surmised the check suggested that others were involved in her death. But Scheck said he and other lawyers only last week discovered deposit slips showing the check was deposited into a joint account for Christine and Michael Morton. 

The discovery removed some of the mystery surrounding the check, but Scheck said Morton's legal team disclosed the information to the court in the interest of transparency.

“We’re doing by example what should have been done in this case” by prosecutors, Scheck said.

But Anderson’s attorney said Scheck and Morton’s other attorneys should have revealed that information long ago.

“It is remarkable to us after all these months and all the things that have been said in filings that they continued to take the position that this was exculpatory,” Nichols said.

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Photo: Williamson County District Judge Ken Anderson faces a court of inquiry after apologizing for the system's failure in the case of a man who served 25 years in prison for a murder he did not commit. Credit: Laura Skelding/Austin American-Statesman/Associated Press.

 


Understatement: 'Why Sara hates Laredo' video annoys Laredo

"This town sucks, and thank God I was not born here or raised here 'cause I would probably be dead by now."

That was the opening salvo from Sara Wells' roughly 8-minute video, "Why Sara hates Laredo," posted earlier this month on YouTube. The video, which appears to have been shot at home with Walls speaking directly to the camera, did not go unnoticed.

Walls, a Colorado native, explains at the start of the video that she moved to the Texas border city of about 230,000 people a year and a half ago, after her husband was transferred there for work. She then begins to rail against Laredo's Latino drivers, crime and life on the border.

"Half the people driving around have Mexican plates and don't know American laws," the young mother says. In the video, Walls wears a hoodie and dangling earrings -- her brown hair pulled back -- with what appears to be a wall of windows and family photos in the background.

Walls, who is white, says in the video that she's encountered "illegal Mexicans" in her backyard three times since moving to Laredo and that half the people in town don't speak English. She bases the statement, she says, on interactions she's had while driving to, among other places, Wal-Mart.

"The Mexican men here are disgusting," she says, and goes on to complain about being hit on. She also has a few things to say about Mexican moms covering their children's cavities with gold caps and feeding babies Pepsi. She even condemns menudo, a traditional Mexican soup, and the annual Laredo menudo festival.

"I have a list of bad stuff I hate about Laredo, that's how much I hate it," Walls says, glancing down to consult the list. "The whole town is really ghetto, sketchy, scary, unsafe."

"I pray to God that my husband can transfer out of here."

The video ends with Walls casually mentioning that she anticipates negative comments from "haters," but promising to read their comments nonetheless.

"I'm a white girl. How do they say it? They call me guera, gringo," she says. "I was never prejudiced against Mexicans until I moved to this town. So thank you, Laredo, for giving good Mexicans a bad name."

Walls grossly underestimated the potential effect of her video rant.

Overwhelmed by hundreds of negative comments and threats, she removed the video only to later see it posted again by critics, garnering more than 24,000 views and nearly 500 comments as of Friday. Viewers vented their anger on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, prompting a CNN ireport that fanned the flames.

"Get a life. Get a job and stop leeching off our Laredo economy and go back to Colorado," one critic wrote, adding, "By the way Colorado is a Spanish word that means red."

"I have blonde hair, green eyes and im not from here either but i love it here. This chick is stupid!" wrote another.

"Everyone should gather a ton of menudo and dump it on her garden at night," someone suggested.

Soon after, a photo of what appears to be Sara Walls menudo mix was uploaded online.

Earlier this week, Walls' husband came forward to apologize on her behalf, but that failed to contain the controversy.

Michael Walls told Laredo's Pro8 News that his wife struggled with being away from her hometown and adjusting to a very different culture. After she posted the video, he said, he and his kids saw the community turn not just on her, but on them too.

"I'm just sincerely sorry and if there is anything I can do to make it right I mean I would but I didn't do it. So I'm apologizing for my family," Walls said on Monday. He added that the family has moved away from Laredo and has no plans to return.

But the apology didn't satisfy Laredoans outraged by the video, many of whom posted send-up videos of their own on YouTube, including an LMFAO remixWhy Laredo hates Colorado and Sara hates menudo, which dubbed Walls "the meanest whitey you'll ever meet."

The outraged included Laredo's mayor, who spoke out against the video the same days Walls' husband apologized.

"The city of Laredo has been offended," Mayor Raul G. Salinas told KGNS TV.

The mayor made a suggestion of what might help, besides apologizing: He invited Sara Walls to come see him at his office "to talk about the city of Laredo."

He said the video was "not fair to the people of Laredo" and claimed "the monster of racism has awoken."

"On YouTube, Facebook you can say whatever you want, but it does not give you the right to be destroying a great city and speaking ill of our culture and our people," he said, "Just because we happen to be bilingual is not a bad thing. It's a good thing."

The mayor went on to praise the local university and schools, tout the upcoming baseball stadium, golf course and the fact that local unemployment is at 7.2%.

"She's totally wrong," he said, "Laredo is numero uno."

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'Dougherty gang' sister enters guilty plea in Colorado

 

Lee Grace Dougherty

Lee Grace Dougherty, one of the fugitive siblings of the Dougherty gang caught after a nationwide dragnet last summer, has pleaded guilty to reduced charges in Colorado and will have to serve at least nine years in prison, officials said.

 

Dougherty, 29, appeared in Huerfano County District Court in Walsenburg, Colo., about 160 miles south of Denver, on Thursday to plead guilty to one count of attempted first-degree assault and two counts of felony menacing, all felonies, according to court records.

As part of the plea, prosecutors agreed to drop 21 other charges against Dougherty, said Rob McCallum, a spokesman for the Colorado Judicial Department, who spoke with The Times.

Prosecutors had charged Dougherty, a former stripper, with five counts of attempted second-degree murder and other felonies connected with the chase and capture of her and her two brothers in southern Colorado on Aug. 10. The chase proved to be the end of what authorities described as a seven-state crime rampage by the clan dubbed “Bonnie, Clyde & Clyde.”

There's nothing in the deal that requires Dougherty to testify against her younger brothers, Ryan Dougherty, 21, and Dylan Stanley-Dougherty, 26.

The three are accused of shooting at a police officer in their native Florida, and later robbing a Georgia bank on their way to Colorado.

The most serious charge in Colorado, attempted first-degree assault, was for pointing a gun at Walsenburg Police Chief James Chamberlain, who watched Thursday’s plea hearing from a back bench, McCallum said. Chamberlain shot Dougherty in the knee after she and her brothers rolled their car at the end of a lengthy high-speed chase and she emerged pointing a gun at him.

At Thursday’s hearing, the judge asked Dougherty if she was taking any pain medication for the wound that could cloud her judgment in entering a guilty plea, and she assured him she was not, that it was just a scar, McCallum said.

Dougherty appeared before Huerfano District Court Chief Judge Claude Appel on Thursday in a yellow jail jumpsuit, hands shackled at her waist, her blond-brown hair darker than it was in August and pulled back in a ponytail, McCallum said.

McCallum said the judge took his time in reviewing the plea with Dougherty.

“He was very methodical this morning with Lee Grace — he wanted to make sure she understood,” McCallum said.

In response, Dougherty said of the plea: “This is really what I want to do.”

McCallum described Dougherty as “very quiet, very respectful to the court.”

At one point, when the judge asked Dougherty if she was satisfied with her attorney, court-appointed public defender Patrick McCarville, Dougherty described him as “the best lawyer ever,” McCallum said.

 “She seemed to be in a good mood,” McCallum said.

Dougherty’s attorney could not be reached for comment Thursday. The prosecutor handling the case did not return calls. The judge has imposed a gag order because of the pending cases against Dougherty’s brothers, McCallum said.

Dougherty faces a maximum of 28 years in prison when she is sentenced April 30, McCallum said. The judge agreed to let Dougherty serve her Colorado sentence at the same time as any other sentences she may receive stemming from charges filed against her in Georgia and Florida.

She was being held at the Huerfano County Jail on Thursday, McCallum said.

Her two brothers are next scheduled to appear at plea hearings in Colorado on Feb. 16, but it was not clear Thursday whether their cases will go to trial, McCallum said.

Ryan Dougherty was being held at the Huerfano County Jail on Thursday, but brother Dylan Dougherty had been moved to Pueblo County Jail and now faces additional charges after he allegedly attempted to escape and was caught with contraband, McCallum said.

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Photo: Lee Grace Dougherty is shown in August at the Pueblo County Sheriff's Office detention center in Pueblo, Colo., the day after she was arrested along with her two younger brothers. Credit: Mike Sweeney / Pueblo Chieftain


Great ball of fire: Fiery meteor wows Oklahoma and Texas

This post has been corrected. Please see note at bottom for details.

Great balls of fire indeed.

Folks from Oklahoma City to Houston reported having seen a fireball shoot across the sky at about 8 p.m. Wednesday, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. Astronomers said the fiery display was likely caused by a meteor or some other space matter hurtling through the atmosphere.

Texas observers blogged about the show and described it as a blue-green object trailing sparks.

In central Texas, Little River-Academy Police Chief Troy Hess said he had just pulled over a driver when he managed to capture video of the fireball from his cruiser.

"It kept getting bigger, and the color kept changing," he told the Austin American-Statesman.

No damage was reported from the fireball.

It was not clear whether any of the remnants fell to earth. Meteor sightings are common, with most burning up in the atmosphere and leaving scant debris, according to astronomers.

Anita Cochran, assistant director of the McDonald Observatory at the University of Texas, told the American-Statesman that Wednesday's fireball was most likely small space debris. 

"The rare case is when it is something big," she said.

"It looked like a sparkler, almost," Lisa Coleman, who lives outside College Station, Texas, told local TV station KBTX.

"There was just this huge meteor-like rock falling across the sky and I thought, 'Wow, that's really huge to be a shooting star,' but it lasted about 12 to 15 seconds and it had a sparkling, flaring tail," Coleman said.

Texas A&M astronomy professor Nicholas Suntzeff told KBTX the meteor was not as huge as it appeared -- probably only about the size of a fist. He attempted to dispel some other meteor myths.

"If they do hit the earth, they are not hot, they are cold. ... There is the fire around them, but ... the meteor itself remains cold," Suntzeff said. "It almost never produces a fire when it hits the earth."

Suntzeff said the type of meteor that residents spotted, likely a bolide meteor, is both bright and rare -- most people will probably never see one again in their lifetime.

"Usually it's just a fraction of a second; here it was like five seconds or so. Again, I've only seen a few of those in my life. I wish I'd seen it," he said.

Another odd fact about this week's fireball: The sighting occurred on the ninth anniversary of the space shuttle Columbia falling to earth over east Texas.

[For the Record, 1:05 p.m., Feb.3: An earlier version of this post -- and its headline -- referred to the meteor as a meteorite. A meteorite is a portion of a meteor that reaches the Earth intact.]

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Video: A Texas police officer's dashboard video camera caught a fiery meteorite streaking across the sky this week. Credit: YouTube



Oklahoma lawmaker wants to ban fetuses in food

Based on something he read online, an Oklahoma state senator has introduced a bill that would ban the use of aborted human fetuses in food.

Yes, you read that correctly.

No, he's never heard of any instances of this happening before, Sen. Ralph Shortey told the Associated Press.

But Shortey read that it might be happening, so he thought the bill would, at the very least, give any food companies toying with the idea an "ultimatum."

The legislation, known as SB 1418, is only a couple of paragraphs long. It states:

"No person or entity shall manufacture or knowingly sell food or any other product intended for human consumption which contains aborted human fetuses in the ingredients or which used aborted human fetuses in the research or development of any of the ingredients."

Shortey, a father of two who worked as an oil and gas production consultant, told the Associated Press that he found online evidence that some companies outside of Oklahoma use embryonic stem cells to develop artificial flavors.

Shortey did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday, but the Daily Oklahoman reported his motivation for the bill:  "Shortey said he filed the bill after reading last fall that an anti-abortion group, Children of God for Life, had called on the public in March 2010 to boycott products of major food companies that partnered with a biotech company that produces artificial flavor enhancers, unless the company stopped using aborted fetal cells to test their products. The company has denied the allegation."

Federal food safety officials have never heard of such a thing. A U.S. Food and Drug Administration spokeswoman told the Associated Press that the agency has never gotten any reports of fetuses being used in food production.

Shortey, elected in 2010, has introduced a spat of controversial bills including denying Oklahoma citizenship to children of illegal immigrants born in the state. Another bill he wrote would have allowed police to confiscate the homes and cars of illegal immigrants. He also tried to advance a bill that would have required presidential candidates to provide proof of citizenship before being allowed on Oklahoma's primary ballot. 

None of Shortey's controversial bills have become law.

As news began circulating of his latest legislative priority, the Twitterverse responded with disbelief and amusement. 

One person wrote: "This may conflict with my dream of eating aborted fetus dumplings, but Sen Ralph Shortey is hilariously delusional."

Another: "Today in Oklahoma crazy: Sen. Ralph Shortey (R) proposes banning "human fetuses in food." Didn't know it was a thing."

Combing through all the tweets, finding one in support of the bill was as likely as finding fetus fries as a side order at your nearest fast-food joint.

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Oral Roberts' son, a former university president, accused of DUI

RobertsRichard Roberts, former president of Tulsa's Oral Roberts University and son of the school's namesake Pentecostal televangelist, was arrested early Tuesday on suspicion of DUI and speeding, officials told The Times.

Shortly after midnight Tuesday, an Oklahoma Highway Patrol trooper caught Roberts driving a black 2006 Mercedes at 93 mph in a 65 mph zone on a highway west of U.S. 169, according to an arrest report officials provided to The Times that was also referred to by the Tulsa World.

After stopping Roberts, 63, the trooper noted that he smelled strongly of alcohol, according to the report.
Roberts failed two coordination tests and his blood-alcohol level was tested at .11%, well above the legal limit of .08%, according to the arrest report.

Roberts was booked into the Tulsa jail and released a few hours later on $1,100 bail, officials told The Times.

Roberts resigned as president of the Tulsa-based university, known for its towering sculpture of praying hands, in 2007 after he and his family were accused of abusing university and ministry resources. Faculty and students at the university have been required to sign an honor code promising not to drink alcohol.

He received the honorary title of president emeritus of the university in 2008.

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Photo: Richard Roberts, former president of Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Okla., shown in file photo was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of drunk driving. Credit: John Clanton / Tulsa World


Gabrielle Giffords: Poignant meetings mark final days in office

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords greets Arizona rancher Gary ThrasherA day after announcing her intention to resign from Congress, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) on Monday completed the "Congress on Your Corner" event that was cut short more than a year ago when a gunman opened fire on her and her constituents in a Tucson parking lot. She and a dozen others were injured in the attack; six people were killed.

The congresswoman, who was shot in the head and has been struggling to recuperate, announced in a video posted online Sunday that she planned to resign this week to focus on her recovery, making Monday's gathering all the more poignant.

Among those who met with Giffords was Pat Maisch, who wrestled a gun magazine from the shooter and was hailed as a hero.

"I thanked her for her service, wished her well, and she just looked beautiful," Maisch told the Arizona Star.

Maisch, who was not injured in the shooting, said she was touched that Giffords returned to finish the meeting at the Safeway store, and was sad to see her leave public office.

"I've always said I would love for her to continue to be my congresswoman, but I want her to do what's best for her," Maisch said. "She's got to take care of herself."

On Monday, Gifford’s Facebook and Twitter feeds showed images of her meeting with survivors and others in her hometown of Tucson, the heart of her 8th Congressional District.

Giffords appeared holding the hand of Suzi Hileman, who brought 9-year-old Christina Taylor Green to meet the congresswoman outside the supermarket that fateful day. Christina was among those slain in the shooting. Hileman was shot three times.

In another picture, Giffords is shown embracing her former intern, Daniel Hernandez, who helped save her life by stanching her bleeding until paramedics arrived.

Giffords smiled and shook hands during the event, once again wearing the glasses she has sported during her recovery (but which she did not wear in the video released Sunday).

As reported in a tweet, Arizona rancher Gary Thrasher said after meeting with Giffords on Monday: "She had true grit then & she has true grit now."

Giffords has said she plans to travel to Washington to attend President Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday.

There, Giffords plans to sit between Reps. Jeff Flake, a Republican, and Raul Grijalva, a Democrat, according to a statement released by her office to The Times on Monday.

At last year’s State of the Union speech, held shortly after Giffords was shot and wounded, Flake and Grijalva flanked an empty seat reserved for her.

Giffords has invited Brian Kolfage to attend as her guest. Kolfage is a triple amputee who was injured during a mortar attack in Iraq in 2004 and serves on the congresswoman’s Veterans Advisory Council.

Obama has also invited Giffords’ husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, to attend the address, at which he will sit with the first lady, according to Monday's statement.

Jared Lee Loughner was later charged in connection with the Jan. 8, 2011, shooting outside the Safeway. He was diagnosed with schizophrenia and remains in federal custody as officials attempt to restore his competency to stand trial.

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Photo: Rep. Gabrielle Giffords greets Arizona rancher Gary Thrasher during a "Congress on Your Corner" constituent event in Tucson on Monday. Credit: Twitter


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Rene Lynch has been an editor and writer in Metro, Sports, Business, Calendar and Food. @ReneLynch

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