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Tuesday
Jul232019

4 teens in deadly Michigan highway rock-throwing case to be sentenced as adults, judge rules

Courtesy Aimee Cagle(NEW YORK) --  A judge in Michigan has ruled that four teens who pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the 2017 highway rock-throwing incident that led to the death of Kenneth White will be sentenced as adults.

In July 2018, when the teens' lawyers entered pleas for Mark Sekelsky, Alexander Miller, Trevor Gray and McKayden Payne, they'd included a proposal for juvenile sentencing.

Genesee County Circuit Court Judge Joseph Farah rejected that request during Tuesday's hearing. Instead, he gave the teens and their lawyers until Aug. 20 to accept being sentenced as adults, reject his revision to the plea agreement and try to negotiate a new one or head to trial. The teens could choose their options as a group or individuals.

Farah rejected the advice of every professional juvenile expert who testified at the sentencing hearing in the fall, all of whom had recommended juvenile sentencing. In court Tuesday, he said that while none of the four teens had dropped the fatal rock, Farah repeatedly said that not one had been forced or cajoled to be there.

"The seriousness of the alleged offense is as high as it gets," he said in the court Tuesday. "This is a homicide."

Theresa Simpson, White's mother, said on Tuesday after the hearing that she was pleased with the judge's decision.

"I'm so glad that Kenneth is getting the justice he deserves. ... My prayers were answered," Simpson told ABC News affiliate WXYZ-TV in Detroit. "I'm ecstatic over the decision that was made today. ... It's what we all wanted for him."

On Oct. 18, 2017, at about 8:30 p.m., White and his friend Steve Amthor were driving home from work, heading south on I-75 at about 70 mph in a van. Amthor said he saw a large rock coming toward the vehicle, in which White was the passenger, authorities told ABC News.

The rock, according to Amthor, entered the passenger side through the windshield, hitting White, 32, in the face and then ricocheted from his face to his chest, authorities said. About 20 rocks were found strewn on the highway, police said.

In court Tuesday, Farah referred to two days of exchanged SnapChat messages among the teens in which "the letters 'LOL,' 'LMAO' or 'HAHA' appear ... and many after it was learned that they had killed somebody."

"We could possibly go to prison for life from this," Farah read from the messages in court. "You guys knew what could've happened. And, if we do get caught -- which we won't -- it's our own fault. LOL. We gotta take our punishment. Lay low for a while and everything will be fine."

Farah said that after it was reported in the news that White had died, the conversation between the teens on SnapChat then turned to getting teardrop tattoos to commemorate the crying of White's family.

"Well, maybe, we should (get) tattoos with 'Crip Gang' next to the tattoo," the judge read.

Farah said the rock that killed White was not the only item tossed from the overpass by the teens. He said that tire irons, mufflers and even a shopping cart had been thrown as well though at different times and at different locations.

"What was the purpose? Wait till the road cleared and drop to see it break? No. (It was) to make contact in this (game) called 'Overpassing.' To be able to say aloud 'Dinger!' when a car was hit," he said.

A fifth suspect -- Kyle Anger who was 18 at the time -- is the one accused of throwing the actual rock that killed White. He pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in exchange for other charges being dropped. He is scheduled to be sentenced at a later date.

All five teens had been originally charged as adults with second-degree murder, conspiracy to commit second-degree murder, six felony counts of malicious destruction of property and two misdemeanor counts of malicious destruction of property.

Lawyers for the teens said they were disappointed with the judge's ruling.

"We're back to the drawing board. Each one of the four boys has a mechanism within that plea that they have the option to withdraw the plea should the court not have granted juvenile sentencing. So the court made its decision, not granting juvenile sentencing, and I'm sure all the lawyers are gonna go back to the drawing board," said lawyer Michael Manley.

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Tuesday
Jul232019

Tennessee neighbors form human chain to prevent ICE from arresting father in driveway

Nashville Noticias(NASHVILLE, Tenn.) -- Neighbors in the outskirts of Nashville prevented immigration officials from detaining a man in his driveway, and then formed a human chain to allow the man and his son to return to their home.

The man and his 12-year-old son were sitting in a van outside their home in the neighborhood of Hermitage when U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents arrived. The man and the boy refused to get out of the van -- and that's when neighbors stepped in to help, according to video posted on social media.

The neighbors brought gas, food and water, and then formed a human chain so the father and son could get inside their home without being stopped by the ICE agents.

The agents eventually left without arresting the man, according to a statement from the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department.

It was the second incident in just a few days in which ICE agents appeared to try to take people from their cars into custody, even though it is unclear the agency has that authority. In the other incident, on Sunday in Los Angeles, a neighbor also intervened -- taking video of the incident on her cellphone.

Both incidents also come in the wake of an announcement by the Trump administration that it planned to increase the pace of deportations.

In Sunday's incident, a woman was pulled out of her car by ICE agents in unmarked vehicles on a street in the Echo Park neighborhood.

When a neighbor, Alicia Rivera, saw what was happening, she pulled out her phone and began documenting the arrest. At one point, she tried to block the agents' vehicle to stop them from driving away with the woman in the back seat.

"Show me the order," Rivera is heard saying in the video. "...You can't take her. It's not signed by the judge."

The agents then left the woman's car in the middle of the street with its hazard lights on and took the keys, Rivera told ABC Los Angeles station KABC-TV.

Rivera identified the woman as a mother of two and told KABC-TV the woman's partner and children are "devastated" over her arrest.

ICE did not respond to a request for comment from ABC News about either incident. Neither of the two individuals have been publicly identified.

After the Los Angeles incident, the agency told KABC-TV: "Congress has established no process, requirement, or expectation directing ICE to seek a judicial warrant from already overburdened federal courts before taking custody of an alien on civil immigration violations. This idea is simply a figment created by those who wish to undermine immigration enforcement and excuse the ill-conceived practices of sanctuary jurisdictions that put politics before public safety."

A spokesman for the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles told ABC News that the organization has spoken to the woman and evaluating how it might assist her.

CHIRLA attorney Yolanda Martin told KABC-TV that ICE agents cannot pull over a car unless they have reasonable suspicion that the person is undocumented.

 After the incident in Nashville, police there put out a statement, saying officers learned that the ICE agents were trying to serve a detainer on the man, they were instructed to "not be involved in the service of the detainer, but to stand by from a distance to keep the peace if necessary," police said.

Nashville police said when ICE had attempted to pull the van over when it instead pulled into a driveway on Forest Ridge Drive.

"The caller said the driver was sitting in the van and was not getting out," the statement read. "He requested the police department's assistance, but did not specify what he wanted the police department to do."

Video posted by Facebook group Nashville Noticias shows at least a dozen people surrounding the van while holding hands. Soon after the chain was formed, the man's son was seen getting out of the passenger seat to go inside the home.

"We were going to hold it down as long as the police were here," Felishadae Young, neighbor who participated in the human chain, told ABC Nashville affiliate WKRN-TV. "We were going to be out here just as long."

The boy's mother was seen in video thanking the volunteers for helping the family.

Lisa Sherman-Nikolaus, policy director for the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition, told WKRN-TV that people "have to look very closely" at the document when ICE agents say they have a warrant because they are "often signed by an ICE agent," rather than a judge, so it is not legally binding.

The organization responded to the family's home on Monday morning after hearing about what had happened, WKRN-TV reported.

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Tuesday
Jul232019

Bodies of missing North Carolina men found, homicide suspected: Police

Raleigh Police Department (RALEIGH, N.C.) -- Police in North Carolina have found the bodies of two men they believe were killed by two suspects who have been charged with their deaths.

James Daishawn Robinson, 21, and Ryan Craig Veach, 19, were charged on Saturday with two counts of murder in the deaths of 23-year-old Brendan Hurley and 21-year-old Anthony McCall, according to the the Raleigh Police Department.

A third person, an unidentified juvenile, was charged with accessory after the fact to the murder, according to police.

Police have not said how the men were killed or commented on any possible motive.

"Through investigative means, detectives were able to locate the body of Brendan Hurley in Johnston County on Saturday," police told ABC News. "A second body was discovered in Nash County today."

Hurley and McCall were last seen on July 16 and were reported missing the following day.

An unidentified man who called police said that Hurley went over to a friend’s house the night before but hadn’t been seen since, according to a recording of the call.

“He was supposed to pick me up at 9 p.m. He has not. He’s gone and he didn’t show up for work,” the caller said.

He called Hurley a “very responsible young man.”

“I need to make a report that he’s missing and something is wrong,” he added.

Hurley left behind a 2-year-old daughter.

“It's so sad too because she's not going to see her dad by a choice that wasn't given to her," Laura Hurley, the victim’s mom, told Raleigh ABC affiliate WTVD Monday. "She's two and now it's going to be up to us to make sure that she knows who he was and how much he loved her. And it's so unfair. It's so unfair what everybody is feeling, friends, families.”

McCall’s father, Mark, told the station that Hurley picked up his son around 6:30 p.m. on July 16 to head to McCall’s mother’s house to let her dogs out.

It was the last time the two men were seen.

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Tuesday
Jul232019

Driver indicted exactly 1 year after 3-year-old boy died from being left on scorching hot bus: DA

ABC News, FILE(HOUSTON) --  Exactly one year after a 3-year-old boy died from being left on scorching hot bus outside a Houston day care, the driver of the bus was indicted, prosecutors said Tuesday.

Former bus driver Maurice Mitchell, 62, was indicted Friday and arrested Tuesday for injury to a child by recklessly causing serious bodily injury or death -- a second-degree felony -- according to the Harris County District Attorney's office.

On July 19, 2018, 3-year-old Raymond "R.J." Pryer Jr. was left on a hot bus for several hours after the bus returned to a day care from a field trip.

When R.J.'s father went to pick him up from day care that day, he found the 3-year-old unresponsive in the 113-degree bus, authorities said at the time.

Mitchell had allegedly "disengaged a passenger safety alarm, which was to safeguard young passengers from being left behind," without first looking through the bus to make sure kids weren't left there, prosecutors said in a statement.

R.J.'s parents filed a lawsuit against the day care which has since had its operating license revoked, according to ABC Houston station KTRK-TV.

A memorial bench dedicated to R.J. was unveiled on Saturday at Doss Park, where the 3-year-old had been on the field trip the day he died, said prosecutors.

Hot car deaths reached a record level last year with at least 52 children killed, including R.J., according to national nonprofit KidsAndCars.org.

"As the summer heat intensifies, we should honor R.J.'s memory by ensuring no more children are left in hot vehicles," Harris County Assistant District Attorney Michele Oncken said in a statement.

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Tuesday
Jul232019

Classmate in custody for allegedly killing Ole Miss student Alexandria 'Ally' Kostial: Officials

iStock(OXFORD, Miss.) -- A 22-year-old Texas man is in custody in connection with the killing of an Ole Miss classmate whose body was discovered over the weekend, authorities said Tuesday.

Brandon Theesfeld was arrested Monday for the murder of Alexandria "Ally" Kostial, 21, according to the Lafayette County Sheriff's Office.

Theesfeld "was a student in the School of Business Administration and has been suspended from the university," school spokesman Rod Guajardo told ABC News via email.

Deputies were on a routine patrol Saturday at 10:30 a.m. when they found Kostial's body in Harmontown, Mississippi, about 30 miles from Ole Miss, according to the sheriff's office.

Her cause of death has not been released.

It was not immediately clear how Theesfeld allegedly knew Kostial, if at all.

Theesfeld, shackled and wearing an orange jumpsuit, made an initial court appearance Tuesday.

He did not enter a plea.

Kostial was from St. Louis and was studying marketing at the University of Mississippi's School of Business Administration, according to the sheriff's office and the university.

She had been attending summer school, according to her father.

Kostial was also a fitness instructor at the campus recreation center and a former member of the Alpha Phi sorority, said Kassidy Desnoyer, her friend from high school and college.

"She spent her summers going on mission trips. She cared about people and just wanted to help," Desnoyer told ABC News on Tuesday. "She was the brightest light I've ever came across."

A statement from Alpha Phi said: "The Alpha Phi community is grieving the loss of Ally Kostial, and we send our deepest sympathies to her family during this incredibly difficult time. We hope that the Alpha Phi sisters who knew Ally best can find peace and comfort as they reflect on the lasting impact she made on the lives of her family members and friends."

"We are truly saddened by the death of Alexandria Kostial," University of Mississippi Interim Chancellor Larry Sparks said in a statement on Monday.

"Ally was a valued member of our campus community," Sparks said. "We extend our deepest sympathy to her family, friends, and classmates, and stand ready to support them during this time."

Before attending Ole Miss, Kostial graduated in 2016 from Lindbergh High School in St. Louis, according to the school district.

"Our hearts are broken for the Kostials, and we extend our deepest sympathies to her entire family during this time," Lindbergh Schools spokeswoman Beth Johnston told ABC News via email on Monday.

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Tuesday
Jul232019

Pregnant woma shot, killed in Genorgia while with her young child Police

kali9/iStock(ATHENS, Ga.) -- A pregnant woman was shot and killed Monday night in Georgia while she was with her toddler, police said.

The woman was identified as 24-year-old Auriel Callaway, Athens-Clarke County Police Department spokesman Geof Gilland said at a press conference Tuesday.

Her child, believed to be 2 or 3 years old, was not injured, Gilland said.

However, Callaway’s unborn child did not survive.

The shooting broke out at 9:37 p.m. at the Clarke Gardens apartment complex in Athens, according to police. Callaway, who was four months pregnant, was a resident of the apartment complex, Gilland said.

Upon arrival, officers found her wounded at the scene. She was rushed to a local hospital, where she died, officials said.

Gilland said “multiple individuals” have been detained in the case for “investigative purposes.”

He noted that those detained were not all necessarily suspects, but could also be witnesses or persons of interest.

Jermaine Arnold, who knew Callaway and says she witnesses the shooting, remembered her as a "beautiful soul."

"She really wasn’t out here as much ... God took her away from us too early," Arnold told ABC Atlanta affiliate WSB-TV.

The investigation into Callaway’s death is ongoing.

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Tuesday
Jul232019

10 years after he disappeared, Iowa man is found dead at vacant store where he used to work: Police

aijohn784/iStock(COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa) -- Ten years after an Iowa man mysteriously disappeared, his body was discovered wedged behind a cooler in a vacant grocery store where he used to work, police said.

In 2009, Larry Ely Murillo-Moncada was a 25-year-old working at a No Frills Supermarket store in Council Bluffs,Iowa, said Council Bluffs police officials.

On Nov. 28, 2009, Murillo-Moncada's parents reported him missing, telling authorities that their son "became upset and ran out of their home," said police.

He was never seen alive again.

A decade later, on Jan. 24, 2019, crews were removing shelving and coolers at the now-vacant grocery store and discovered a body, said police.

Last week Council Bluffs police learned from the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation that the body was identified as Murillo-Moncada, police officials announced Monday.

Investigators believe Murillo-Moncada left home, went to the grocery store, climbed on the coolers, and then fell into a roughly 18-inch gap between the back of the cooler and the wall and became trapped, said police.

The death has been classified as accidental, police said. His autopsy indicates no signs of trauma, said police.

Former employees said it was common for workers to be on top of the grocery store's coolers because the space was used for storage, according to police.

The grocery store closed in 2016, according to Omaha ABC affiliate KETV.

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Tuesday
Jul232019

Former friend to fake heiress Anna Sorokin talks about falling under her spell, losing over $60K 

ABCNews.com(NEW YORK) -- A former friend of fake heiress Anna Sorokin says she has wondered how she missed all the red flags from the convicted con-woman, who she now calls a "sociopath."

Rachel Williams wishes she never met Sorokin, she told ABC News. Williams was among many others who Sorokin -- a globe-trotting, high-life scammer -- betrayed for over a year. Now, Sorokin is in prison, convicted of several counts of grand larceny. Prosecutors said she defrauded luxury hotels, banks and even a private jet company out of more than a quarter-million dollars.

Williams recounted her experience in an interview with ABC News' Deborah Roberts as well as in her new book, "My Friend Anna: The True Story of a Fake Heiress."

In some ways, Williams said, she was seduced by Sorokin's behavior.

"I was captivated by it," she said. "I was sort of fascinated by her willingness to just...challenge boundaries."

Sorokin's inconceivable life as the so-called "SoHo scammer" began when she moved to New York City in 2014 and assumed the name Anna Delvey. She claimed to be a German heiress with a $67 million trust fund, and eventually used that fake identity to talk herself into exclusive New York parties and nightclubs, prosecutors said. It was in one of those clubs that she met Williams, then a 28-year-old photo editor at Vanity Fair magazine.

Williams said her first impression of Sorokin was that she was "slightly offbeat."

"She had curious mannerisms; she kind of fidgeted a lot," she said. "She was quirky."

Williams said that Sorokin often picked up the tab at first, treating her to fancy dinners, $300 private fitness sessions and infrared sauna treatments.

Williams said her late 20s was a period of "major transition for me and my friends."

"A lot of them were getting married or having babies or leaving the city...and I felt a little bit isolated," she said. "I kind of wanted a diversion. And I was so glad to have this person who was available and seemed really excited to be my friend."

Then, in spring 2017, Williams said Sorokin offered her an all-expenses-paid trip to Morocco. On the trip, however, Williams said Sorokin's credit cards mysteriously stopped working.

"I'm frustrated...at the disorganization," Williams recalled. "But at this point, I still trust her."

Fearful of being stranded in a foreign country, Williams said she offered her credit cards as a temporary backup, even though she could not afford it.

"I leave before Anna does," she said. "When I land...I get a text message that the whole villa's being charged to my cards."

The amount: $62,000.

Williams described seeing that charge as a "complex, paralyzing moment for me."

"She owed me more money than I made in a year," she added.

While Sorokin allegedly kept saying that bank transfers were supposed to be coming through, Williams said, "It was starting to eat at me."

"I am late with my rent," Williams said. "I'm late with my credit card payments."

But soon it became clear to Williams that she had been duped, she said, so she went to the police and then the Manhattan District Attorney's Office. When Sorokin couldn't be found, Williams turned to social media to smoke her out, aiding investigators with a sting operation that eventually led to Sorokin's arrest in summer 2017 in Malibu, California.

Williams said she helped authorities apprehend Sorokin not only because of the money she had lost but also because "what was really upsetting to me was sort of this riddle that needed to be solved."

Williams soon learned the painful truth: her "friend" was no heiress, but rather, a con artist. The Russian-born daughter to middle-class parents who prosecutors said faked financial records, wrote bad checks and scammed her way through New York City's high society even showed up for her court date in designer clothes.

"I wasn't sure what to expect in seeing Anna after all that time," Williams said of coming face-to-face with her former friend in court. "When I did look...at her, she was smirking at me."

Williams said that the smirk didn't work to unnerve her. "At that point, understanding her for who she was...it caused her to lose her power. ... And she became no longer scary to me."

Sorokin was convicted in May on eight counts including grand larceny, but she was found not guilty of defrauding Williams. She was sentenced to four to 12 years in prison and ordered to pay nearly $200,000 in restitution. Her attorney still insists she meant no real harm.

"I don't believe a criminal act occurred," Todd Spodek, Sorokin's attorney, said. "She [Williams] made a voluntary choice to put this debt on her credit card, she didn't have to, she wasn't forced to do it, she chose to do it, and that was a mistake."

Williams said that looking back, she believes she "wanted to see the good in [Sorokin]."

"I think it's also important," she said. "To see reality and to understand what's right in front of you."

Now, Williams said her philosophy is to always "trust your gut."

Spodek told ABC News that they had filed a Notice of Appeals, but are still reviewing the appellate options.

Following the trial and an investigation into the Moroccan resort charges, Williams' credit card company forgave a bulk of her debt -- she was still required to pay back some of the expenses incurred.

HBO purchased the rights to Williams’ story and is currently working on an adaptation to be helmed by Lena Dunham.

Sorokin sold the rights to her story to Netflix and Shonda Rimes. However, she will not legally be able to profit from the deals and the money will instead help pay back those she was convicted of scamming.

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Tuesday
Jul232019

Man whose daughter, grandkids were murdered says bullies are harassing him online

tommaso79/iStock(DENVER) -- Frank Rzucek, whose daughter and grandchildren were killed by son-in-law Chris Watts, says "heartless" bullies are trolling his grieving family online.

"There's a lot of ugly out there," he said.

Chris Watts is serving life in prison for the August murders of his pregnant wife, Shanann; his 4-year-old daughter, Bella; and his 3-year-old daughter, Celeste.

"For the past 11 months, piled on top of pain and the grieving of this devastating loss, our family has been subject to horrible, cruel abuse, outright bullying, on a daily basis," Rzucek told reporters Monday in front of the Watts' former Colorado home.

"I don't want to draw more attention to the viral material that has been posted online," he said, "but I will say that our family, including Shanann and her children, our grandchildren, have been ridiculed, demeaned, slandered, mocked in the most vicious ways you can imagine."

Rzucek alleges that the attacks includes threats, fake Facebook accounts and a "constant stream of ugly, evil insults."

"Every time we turn around there's someone trying to capitalize on our tragedy by spreading false rumors and outright lies about Shanann and our grandchildren. We have been subject to threats on our lives all because we are victims in painful tragedy," he said. "It is cruel, it is heartless."

Rzucek said he's reported the abuse to social media platforms but there's been no change.

He had a message for social media companies: "We are calling on you again to do the right thing, to take some responsibility for your platforms and stop this despicable conduct."

And to the trolls, Rzucek pleaded, "please stop."

Rzucek acknowledged that his family isn't the first to be victims of online bullying.

Families of those killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut in 2012 have for years been the target of conspiracy theorists, online harassers and those pushing unfounded claims about the tragedy.

"Families like ours should have the right to be safe ... the right to mourn in peace," Rzucek said. "To Congress or to any person in position of power, we are calling on you to do something to pass laws that will protect victims of unspeakable crimes from this kind of abuse."

In August, right after Shanann Watts, Bella and Celeste disappeared, Chris Watts lied to reporters, saying his family went missing.

"When I came home and then walked in the house, nothing. Vanished," he told ABC Denver affiliate KMGH. "My kids are my life."

Within days, Chris Watts was arrested and the bodies of his wife and children were found.

Chris Watts pleaded guilty to all charges against him, and in exchange, prosecutors did not pursue the death penalty. Chris Watts was sentenced in November to life without parole.

He told investigators he strangled his wife at their home then put his children into the car -- along with his wife's body -- and drove to the oil site where he worked.

There Chris Watts said he strangled both children with the 3-year-old's blanket.

He confessed to burying his wife's body and ditching his children's bodies in oil tanks.

At the time of her death Shanann Watts was pregnant with a boy she planned to name Nico.

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Tuesday
Jul232019

Heavy rain drenches Northeast; tropical depression to soak Carolinas

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Severe storms moved through the Northeast late Monday and into Tuesday morning, producing damaging winds of 75 to 80 mph from Virginia to New Jersey.

Heavy rain came with these storms, including up to 4 inches in Westchester County, just north of New York City, in only a few hours. Flash flooding was reported from Pennsylvania to Connecticut.

There was a total of 480,000 people without power from Wisconsin to New York at 5 a.m. Tuesday.

Flood alerts remain in effect for 12 states from Tennessee to Massachusetts on Tuesday.

Severe storm threat shifts south Tuesday into the Carolinas and southern Virginia from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina to Norfolk, Virginia.

The biggest threat with these storms will be damaging winds, heavy rain and frequent lightning.

Tropical depression No. 3 is lingering off Florida’s east coast on Tuesday, but most of the heavy rain is offshore.

The tropical cyclone will move north, parallel the Southeast coast, throughout the day Tuesday and could bring heavy rain -- up to 3 inches -- to the Carolinas.

The National Hurricane Center is not forecasting this cyclone to strengthen and get a name.

It is expected to weaken and die out sometime on Wednesday.

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