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Thursday
Mar212019

Father and daughter who allegedly blamed panhandlers for his wife's killing extradited back to Baltimore to face murder charges

Baltimore Police Dept.(BALTIMORE) -- A father and daughter who authorities say fabricated a story of a panhandler stabbing his wife to death were extradited to Baltimore early Thursday to face murder charges as newly released documents show the husband allegedly asked his brother to help kill the victim.

Keith and Valeria Smith were brought back to Maryland by the Baltimore Police Department's Warrant Apprehension Task Force after being caught in Texas earlier this month while attempting to make a run for the Mexican border, authorities said.

Arrest warrants for the father and daugther released Thursday show that in the days prior to the Dec. 1 killing of Jacquelyn Smith, Keith Smith allgedly tried to get his brother to help him kill his wife of five years.

'Get rid of Jacquelyn'

Keith Smith's brother, Vick Smith, told police that his brother told him that Jacquelyn Smith was talking about divocing him, according to the arrest warrants. Vick Smith told police, according to the warrants, that he reached out to a close friend of his brother and told him that Keith Smith "asked him to get rid of Jacquelyn, which he interrupted to mean kill/murder her."

Valeria and Keith Smith arrived at the Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport shortly after midnight Thursday and were immediately driven to the Central Booking Intake Facility in Baltimore, police said.

Baltimore police released video and photos of the pair being taken off the plane on the tarmac, put into handcuffs and driven away.

It was not immediately clear when they will appear in court.

They are both charged with first-degree murder.

Story 'was not true'

In the the arrest warrants, Valeria Smith's involvment in the killing is described as being "an accessory after the fact in the murder of Jacquelyn Smith." Keith Smith, 54, according to his warrant, "did assault and murder" his wife, who was stabbed five times in the chest.

The supects initially claimed Jacquelyn Smith, 54, who worked as an electrical engineer at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland, was stabbed by one of two panhandlers she spotted while driving through East Baltimore.

In interviews with homicide detectives and at a news conference shortly after the killing, the pair claimed Jacquelyn Smith was stabbed when she asked her husband to pull over so she could give $10 to a female panhandler who appeared to be holding a baby.

Keith Smith told ABC News shortly after the killing that both panhandlers approached their car and the male panhandler stabbed his wife and snatched her chain as he and the woman were thanking her for the money. He said the woman panhandler reached into the car, grabbed his wife's purse and ran.

"She was trying to help someone out," Keith Smith told ABC News in a Dec. 3 interview. "I think the reality is, we forget about the times that we're living in. You may have the best intentions on helping this person, but when you let a person get into your safe zone, you're actually opening yourself up to whatever this person has intended for you."

Keith and Valeria Smith told police the killing happened as they were returning home from an American Leagon Hall, where they had been celebrating Valeria Smith's 28th birthday, though records show her birthday is on Oct. 30.

On March 3, Michael Harrison, acting commissioner of the Baltimore Police Department, said the story told by Keith and Valeria Smith "was not true."

Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh slammed the suspects for using issues of homelessness as a ruse in an alleged attempt to cover up the killing.

"These individuals took advantage of a situation, a city that is already dealing with its own problems," Pugh said earlier this month. "We're looking forward to this cruel act being brought to justice."

Attempting to flee country

The father and daughter were arrested that day in Harlingen, Texas, which is near the Mexican border. Police said they suspect the pair was attempting to cross the border and disappear.

Since his arrest, Keith Smith's criminal history has come under increased scrutiny. He pleaded guilty in 2001 to robbing the same bank in Timonium, Maryland, three times in nine months, according to reports obtained by ABC News from the Baltimore County Police Department.

He served six years of a 12-year prison sentence for robbery with a deadly weapon and for fleeing the police, according the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services,

Keith Smith was released from prison on Feb. 9, 2007. He married Jacquelyn Smith in 2014.

Baltimore detectives became suspicious of Keith and Valeria Smith after finding inconsistencies and contradictions in their stories of what happened to Jacquelyn Smith, according to the arrest warrants.

The father and daughter claimed the killing happened in East Baltimore, but none of the 27 surveillance cameras in the location they said the stabbing occurred showed the family's car in the area at the time of the homicide, according to the warrants.

Cell phone records showed that at the time of the stabbing Valeria Smith's phone pinged in Druid Hill Park, northwest of where she and her father claim the stabbing happened.

When confronted about the location of the killing, Keith Smith allgedly told investigators that he had gotten lost driving home and ended up in Druid Hill Park, where they stopped for 12 to 16 minutes and looked at photos they had taken earlier that evening, according to the arrest warrants.

When Valeria Smith was confronted about her cell phone pinging at the park, she told detectives they were never in the park, according to the arrest warrants. She then stopped speaking with investigators and asked for an attorney, the warrants state.

Investigators also were granted court permission to wiretap the cell phones of both Keith and Valeria Smith.

In calls detectives intercepted in late February, Keith Smith was heard trying to book one-way flight reservations to Cuba and Canada, but was unable to because he did not have a valid U.S. passport, according to the arrest warrants.

Wiretapped trying to book flight to Cuba

"While on the phone with the reservationist, Keith inquired about traveling to the Virgin Islands without a passport," according to the warrant. "The reservationist advised him that he could travel to the U.S. Virgin Island with just a driver's license."

Computer records seized in the case also showed that Keith Smith conducted a search on whether a passport was needed to travel to Jamaica, and "if there is a way to cross into Mexico without going through the border," according to the arrest warrants.

Keith and Valeria Smith were just 20 minutes from the Mexican border when they were nabbed.

"Based on the results of this investigation and Mr. Smith's attempt to flee the country, the investigation has failed to provide suspects other than Mr. and Ms. Smith," detectives wrote in the arrest warrants.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Mar212019

Treasurer of NYPD charity for slain officers arrested for stealing over $400,000: Prosecutors

Onnes/iStock(NEW YORK) -- When a police officer dies in the line of duty it often prompts an outpouring of generosity from within the ranks to support the officer’s family.

But Lorraine Shanley, a volunteer treasurer for Survivors of the Shield, a nonprofit that helps the families of fallen New York Police Department, "monetized people's generosity" by stealing more than 20 percent of the donations to the organization, federal prosecutors said.

Shanley was arrested Thursday and charged with bank fraud and aggravated identity theft in connection to an alleged scheme in which she rerouted more than $400,000 of the charity’s money into an account for her own use.

Shanley "fraudulently obtained and expended at least approximately $410,000 held in the checking account of a charitable organization for which she volunteered as Treasurer by, among other things, forging the signature of another authorized signatory of the charity's checks, double endorsing the charity's checks and cashing and depositing them into her own personal accounts, writing unauthorized checks and making unauthorized checking account payments to pay for personal expenses and to distribute money to herself and family members," the criminal complaint said.

The criminal complaint said Shanley spent the charity’s money to pay for her grandchild’s private school tuition, landscaping for herself and Barbara Streisand concert tickets.

Shanley was the volunteer treasurer of Survivors of the Shield from at least 2010 to 2017, court records say, and in that time the charity received nearly $2 million in donations, most of which came from NYPD employees.

“Lorraine Shanley violated her position of trust at a charity and victimized families who have already sacrificed so much,” said IRS-CI acting special agent in charge Jonathan Larsen.

Shanley, 68, of Staten Island, faces up to 30 years in prison. She turned herself in and faces an initial appearance in court Thursday afternoon. It wasn’t immediately clear whether she had an attorney.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Mar212019

'There's just snakes everywhere': Pest control removes 45 rattlesnakes from under Texas man's home

Nathan Hawkins/Big Country Snakes(ALBANY, Texas) -- A Texas resident's world was rattled after he learn he was sharing his home with several dozen deadly reptiles.

Last week, the man crawled beneath his home near Albany to fix his cable line because his television was "acting up" due to the high winds in the area, Abilene-based Big Country Snake Removal wrote on Facebook.

While down there, the man saw a "few" rattlesnakes and quickly crawled out and called the professional snake removers, according to the company.

But when they got there, they immediately "saw that that wasn't the case."

Several rattlers can be heard in the background of the video Big Country Snake Removal posted to social media.

"You can see there's a baby there, one there, there's one right in front of me here, there's on up top right there, there's several over there, and then ... there's a huge pile of them right there," the brave professional remover says, pointing to several locations with a flashlight.

He continued, "There's some really big snakes over there. There's just snakes everywhere under here."

The removal strategy consisted of retrieving the closest snakes first and then working back to the corner where most of the snakes were located.

The serpents didn't go without a fight. The video shows the men, lying on their torso due to the limited head space, carefully maneuvering the snake traps as the hissing reptiles attempted to squirm and wiggle free from the tool's grasp.

"We just want to make sure that they can't get behind us and we're aware of where they're at at all times," the man said. "We still got a long way to go."

The company removed a total of 45 rattlesnakes from the home.

The residents, who keep their yard "nice and clean," would only see a few rattlesnakes each year.

"Rattlesnakes don’t care how nice your house is or what kind car you drive -- they care simply about survival," the company said.

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Thursday
Mar212019

Three killed when car crashes into New Orleans beauty salon, authorities say

New Orleans Fire Department(NEW ORLEANS) -- At least three people were killed in New Orleans on Wednesday night when a vehicle crashed into a beauty salon, engulfing the car and building in flames, authorities said.

The crash occurred a short time after police began pursuing a vehicle that matched the description of one reported stolen. The car in question sped away and managed to evade police.

Officers then saw billowing smoke in the distance, according to a statement from the New Orleans Police Department.

A vehicle had smashed into a beauty salon at the intersection of Washington Avenue and South White Street, sparking the fire.

Officers on scene were able to help a woman and two children escape from the burning structure. The three were transported to a local hospital and were listed in stable condition, police said.

Crews from the New Orleans Fire Department pulled a woman from the second story of the building, but she died on the way to the hospital.

Two individuals believed to have been inside the crashed vehicle also died, police said.

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Thursday
Mar212019

Heavy rain to fall during both commutes in Northeast; flooding worsens in Plains

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- A coastal storm is forming near the North Carolina coast and is expected to move up the coast Thursday into Friday.

The nor’easter will bring heavy rain, damaging winds and heavy wet snow to the Northeast.

Ahead of the storm, numerous states from Virginia to Vermont, are under flood and heavy snow alerts.

Heavy rain will spread into Washington, D.C., and the Mid-Atlantic area Thursday morning, and then move into Philadelphia and New York City by the afternoon and evening.

Some of the worst flooding is forecast for Washington, Baltimore and Philadelphia later Thursday.

Rain will move into Boston later Thursday evening, but flooding is not expected.

By Friday morning, the storm system will move into northern New England with heavy rain, wind and snow.

Very strong winds are expected on the back side of the storm from Washington, D.C., to New York City. Gusts could exceed 50 mph.

Rainfall totals will be the heaviest in the Mid-Atlantic, where locally 3 inches of rain could fall. This would lead to urban flooding in Washington, D.C., Baltimore and Philadelphia.

Further inland, snow will be wet and heavy in western New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. Some areas could see up to a foot of heavy wet snow.

Flooding concerns continue in Plains

Record flooding is ongoing along the Missouri River, where the town of Craig, Missouri, has been submerged due to a levee failure Thursday. The entire town of Craig has been told to evacuate.

Rivers and streams continue to rise downstream on the Missouri River in St. Joseph, Missouri, and Atchison, Kansas. Some of the worst flooding these cities have seen is expected this weekend.

Further north, snow continues to melt in the Dakotas, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois, where rivers also continue to rise and major flooding is expected next week. Ice jams are also occurring in these areas.

Flood warnings continue all along the central U.S. from the Dakotas to the Gulf Coast.

More rain is expected in the central U.S. as western storms moves east.

Thankfully, the latest computer models show the heaviest rain will move south of the flood zone. Nevertheless, half an inch to 1 inch of rain is possible for the Missouri and Mississippi River valleys this weekend and into early next week.

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Thursday
Mar212019

Powerball jackpot climbs to $625 million as no one wins again

LPETTET/iStock(NEW YORK) -- The largest Powerball jackpot of the year rose to over half a billion dollars on Wednesday. But if you were hoping to take it home, you'll have to wait another few days.

For the 24th time in a row, no one hit the winning numbers on Wednesday night.

The drawing on Saturday will be worth $625 million, with a cash payout of $380.6 million.

The winning numbers for Wednesday were 10-14-50-53-63 with a Powerball of 21.

The jackpot was worth $562.1 million on Wednesday, or a cash payout of $330 million. That is the eight-largest jackpot in Powerball history.

There was no big winner again on Wednesday, but one person in South Carolina matched all five balls and chose the Power Play option to take home $2 million. There were winners of $1 million in four states: Florida, Kentucky, New Jersey and South Carolina.

The $625 million drawing is the seventh-largest in U.S. lottery history, and the fourth-largest in Powerball history.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Mar212019

YouTube star arrested for allegedly abusing seven adoptive children

v777999/iStock(MARICOPA, Ariz.) -- A YouTube star is accused of physically abusing her seven adoptive children, who told authorities they were pepper-sprayed, beaten and deprived of food and water if they didn't participate in her videos.

Machelle Hobson, 48, whose YouTube channel "Fantastic Adventures" has garnered almost 800,000 subscribers and 250 million views since 2012, was arrested last Friday following a welfare check at her home in Maricopa, Arizona, about 35 miles south of downtown Phoenix, according to the complaint filed in Pinal County Superior Court.

A 19-year-old woman told the Maricopa Police Department on March 13 that her younger adoptive stepsister disclosed being abused by her mother, Hobson.

Officers then conducted a welfare check at Hobson's residence, where they found seven children "who appeared to be malnourished, due to their pale completion, dark rings under their eyes, underweight, and they stated they were thirsty and hungry," according to the probable cause statement.

All seven children were removed from Hobson's custody.

Police interviewed two of the children and attempted to speak with a third but "she was visibly nervous, shaking, and it appeared she was too scared to answer any questions," according to the probable cause statement. The four other children were not questioned.

One child told police Hobson locked her in a closet for days at a time without food or water and made her wear a pull-up diaper, not allowing her to use the bathroom.

The child alleged her adoptive mother would spray her and her six siblings with pepper spray, spank them and force them to take ice baths. She allegedly would further punish them if they resisted, according to the complaint.

The child told police she was once pepper-sprayed between her legs and was in pain for several days.

Another child told police, "I either get beat with a hanger or belt," "or a brush," "or get pepper-sprayed from head to toe," according to the probable cause statement. He also alleged Hobson would grab his "privates" and, on numerous occasions, pinched him with her fingernails until he bled.

Hobson denied the allegations, saying the only forms of punishment she uses are grounding, spanking and making the kids stand in the corner, according to the complaint.

All of the kids mentioned having to partake in their mother's YouTube series, which featured the adopted children in different scenarios, according to the complaint. The kids told police they were punished if they forgot their lines or didn't follow Hobson's directions.

"This is one of the reasons their mom took them out of school, so they can keep filming their series and they mentioned they have not been in school for years," the probable cause statement reads.

The YouTube channel was still up on the video-sharing site as of Wednesday morning but later appeared to be taken down. YouTube will terminate accounts upon discovery of repeated violations of its community guidelines.

"We work closely with leading child safety organizations and others in our industry to protect young people. When we're made aware of serious allegations of this nature we investigate and take action," a YouTube spokesperson told ABC News in a statement Thursday morning. "We immediately suspended monetization when notified of the arrest. In cases where there are Community Guidelines violations, we may take additional actions, including terminating the channel."

The Pinal County Attorney's Office called the allegations "highly disturbing and alarming."

"Children are our community's most precious resource, and this office is committed to holding those individuals who choose to harm them fully accountable for their actions," Pinal County Attorney Kent Volkmer said in a statement Wednesday afternoon.

Hobson and her two adult sons, Logan and Ryan Hackney, were taken into custody by local law enforcement at their residence on March 15, according to the complaint.

Logan Hackney allegedly admitted to police that the children would be locked in the closet for long periods of time as punishment and that he had knowledge of the alleged pepper spray and ice baths. He also told police he observed physical injuries on the kids and heard them scream and cry, according to the complaint.

Logan Hackney claimed he had a discussion with his brother about reporting the child abuse, and the children told police Ryan Hackney would sneak them food when they were locked in the closet.

Hobson and her two sons had their initial court appearance on Saturday. Hobson's bond was set at $200,000 secured and she remains in custody, according to the Pinal County Attorney's Office. She was booked on two counts of child molestation, seven counts of child abuse, five counts of unlawful imprisonment and five counts of child neglect.

Hobson has a preliminary hearing scheduled for March 26. The attorney appointed to Hobson did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment Thursday morning.

Hobson's last name was listed as "Hackney" in the initial complaint by the Pinal County Attorney's Office, which later changed it.

Logan and Ryan Hackney, Hobson's biological children, were booked into Pinal County Jail on seven counts each of failing to report child abuse. They were released on their own recognizance on Tuesday and are due back in court April 8.

Logan and Ryan Hackney have hired a private attorney, who did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment Thursday morning.

Zeb and Tawny Schnorr, a couple in Scottsdale, Arizona, run their own YouTube channel starring their 10-year-old and 6-year-old sons called "Extreme Toys TV," which has amassed over 4.1 million subscribers and over 2.1 million views since 2015.

The Schnorrs told ABC News they have never met Hobson but her two adult sons contacted them about a year ago for help with filming and editing content. And just a few weeks ago, Logan and Ryan Hackney brought over Hobson's seven adoptive children to the couple's house to film a collaboration.

The Schnorrs told ABC News they didn't notice anything out of the ordinary with the seven children, who appeared to be well-behaved and playing normally with their two kids. The parents said they were shocked to learn of the allegations.

"I just wish that there was something I would've seen," Tawny Schnorr told ABC News in an interview Wednesday. "I was one-on-one with these kids, and there was no sign they were in danger."

"I had those kids in my house, twice they were here, and I just feel like it was my responsibility as a mom to help them and I feel like I could've saved them," she added, in between tears. "The things those kids had gone through and were going through, my heart breaks for them because nobody deserves that."

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Thursday
Mar212019

Harvard sued for 'shamelessly' profiting from images of slaves, claim says

Roman Babakin/iStock(BOSTON) -- A Connecticut woman filed a lawsuit against Harvard University on Wednesday, claiming it has "shamelessly" profited from images of two 19th-century slaves and ignored requests to turn the images over to the slaves' descendants.

Tamara Lanier, of Norwich, Connecticut, said the images depict her family's ancestors, two South Carolina slaves identified as Renty and his daughter, Delia, who were forced to pose shirtless and photographed by a Harvard professor to support his theory that Africans and African-Americans were inferior to whites, according to the lawsuit.

"For years, Papa Renty's slave owners profited from his suffering -- it's time for Harvard to stop doing the same thing to our family," Lanier, who says research proves her to be Renty's great-great-granddaughter, said in a statement. "Papa Renty was a proud and kind man who, like so many enslaved men, women and children, endured years of unimaginable horrors."

"Harvard's refusal to honor our family's history by acknowledging our lineage and its own shameful past is an insult to Papa Renty's life and memory," Lanier added.

Lanier is seeking an unspecified sum in damages for "wrongful seizure, possession and expropriation," according to the suit. She is also demanding that the university turn over the photos and acknowledge her lineage.

The images were captured by former Harvard professor Louis Agassiz and used "to justify both the ongoing enslavement of black people prior to the Civil War and their segregation afterward," Lanier's attorneys said in a statement.

"These photographs make it clear that Harvard benefited from slavery then and continues to benefit now," civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump said in a statement. "We cannot erase the wrongs of the past or the legacies of slavery within higher education, but we can forge a new path of respect, dignity and equality moving forward."

The attorneys said Harvard "celebrated" Agassiz as recently as this year and have never sufficiently repudiated his work. They also accused the Ivy League university of running a "decades-long campaign to sanitize the history of the images" and exploiting them "for prestige and profit," according to the lawsuit.

"To Agassiz, Renty and Delia were nothing more than research specimens," the suit, filed in Massachusetts state court, says. "The violence of compelling them to participate in a degrading exercise designed to prove their own subhuman status would not have occurred to him, let alone mattered."

Harvard has buildings named after Agassiz, including the Louis Agassiz Museum of Comparative Zoology.

When asked to comment on the claims, a Harvard spokesperson said the university "has not yet been served, and with that is in no position to comment on this lawsuit filing."

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Wednesday
Mar202019

'Worst incident in my 45 plus years': Sheriff's deputy gunned down leaving behind wife, 3 kids

Evgen_Prozhyrko/iStock(KITTITAS, Wash.) -- A Washington state sheriff's deputy was gunned down and another officer was injured Tuesday night in what the sheriff called the "worst incident in my 45-plus years in law enforcement."

Kittitas County Sheriff's Deputy Ryan Thompson, 42, a Washington state native, leaves behind a wife and three children, Sheriff Ryan Dana said at a news conference Wednesday.

Kittitas County, about 90 minutes east of Seattle, is a low-crime rate county. The last fatal officer involved shooting was 92 years ago, Dana said.

The Kittitas Police Department is an agency of three, including the chief. The department relies on state patrol, Ellensburg police and the sheriff's office for help, Kittitas Police Chief Chris Taylor said.

Authorities on Tuesday responded to a "road rage event." When the suspect refused to stop, officers pursued the suspect into the small city of Kittitas, officials said.

The suspect then stopped his car, got out and exchanged gunfire with Thompson and Kittitas police officer Benito Chavez, the sheriff's office said.

Thompson was shot and killed.

Chavez, 22, who was sworn in in July, was also shot and was airlifted to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle where he underwent surgery, officials said.

Chavez and his wife are expecting their first child, authorities said.

The suspect, whose name was not released, was shot and has died, said Ellensburg Police Chief Ken Wade.

The shooting led to an outpouring of sympathy from law enforcement departments throughout the state and country.

Thirteen law enforcement officers died in gun-related incidents this year -- down from 18 over the same time period last year, according to the National Law Enforcement Memorial Fund.

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Wednesday
Mar202019

Riot police to patrol Miami Beach for remainder of spring break due to rowdy crowds: Reports

travelview/iStock(MIAMI) -- The Miami Beach Police Department is beefing up the number of officers to patrol crowds for the remainder of spring break after several incidents involving alcohol-induced revelers have caused chaos in the city, according to reports.

On Tuesday, Miami Beach officials held an emergency meeting to address the alcohol-induced antics the partiers have brought to the city, the Miami Herald reported. The meeting was filled with resident, who expressed anguish at the disarray, that they said is particularly egregious this year, according to the local newspaper.

Incidents have included a driver on the MacArthur Causeway serving alcohol to passengers in another vehicle, a brawl on the beach and a woman, who was knocked unconscious, near Ocean Drive.

In another incident, Mariah Michelle Logan was killed by a hit-and-run driver on her way to the airport, according to the Miami Herald. Logan, 23 of Chicago, reportedly yelled "Bye, Miami" while hanging out of the car window on the Airport Expressway before she flew out of the car, landed on the road and was struck. The driver stop, then took off, police said.

In addition, numerous videos showing drunk teens and 20-somethings stumbling throughout the city's sidewalks have appeared on social media, according to the Miami New Times.

The police department announced that starting this weekend, it will deploy about 25 officers, who will be wearing riot protective gear, in front of Ocean Drive to seize alcohol and drugs to prevent spring breakers from getting too intoxicated. Barricades and all-terrain vehicles will also be used to disperse crowds. Goodwill ambassadors are also being used to clean up the trash left on the beaches.

The plan will bump the cost of dealing with spring break crowds from $1.1 million to $1.5 million, the Herald reported.

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