Doctor accused of raping two may have victimized more than 12 others: DA

iStock/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) -- California authorities are investigating the possibility of at least a dozen more victims who may have been sexually assaulted by an orthopedic surgeon already being accused of drugging and raping two women.

Investigators have received more than 50 calls since they announced the arrest of Dr. Grant William Robicheaux, 38, and his purported girlfriend, Cerissa Laura Riley, 31, Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas said in a press conference Friday.

The crimes may have taken place over the last two decades — some outside the state of California, Rackauckas said.

Robicheaux met potential victims in person at bars and restaurants but may have also targeted them through dating apps, Rackauckas said, cautioning dating app users to be careful when meeting people online.

"Ladies, please be careful when you meet people on these kinds of apps," he said. "You don't know what's behind that — what appears to be a perfect smile."

Some of the women who have come forward indicated to prosecutors that they felt the need to support the the two women Robicheaux is accused of raping, Rackauckas said.

Rackauckas thanked the people who "reported what happened to them," saying it "must be difficult" to relive the events, as well as the media for circulating the story.

He also asked other potential victims to come forward, promising that their identities will be safeguarded.

"They didn’t ask to have this happen to them," the district attorney said.

The couple was arrested on Sept. 12 at Robicheaux's home and each face multiple felony charges in California, including rape by use of drugs, oral sex using a controlled substance, assault with intent to commit a sexual offense and possession of controlled substances.

Women were at risk up until the arrest, Rackauckas said.

Robicheaux was also charged with possession of an assault weapon and faces a sentencing enhancement related to that weapon possession. Riley will face a sentencing enhancement for being knowingly vicariously armed with a firearm.

While the couple could face additional charges, it is unclear whether they will be re-arrested, Rackauckas said. They are currently free on a $100,000 bond each.

Their attorneys released a statement Tuesday, "unequivocally" denying all allegations of non-consensual sex.

"They have been aware of these accusations for a number of months, and each of them will formally deny the truth of these allegations at their first opportunity in court. Dr. Robicheaux and Ms. Riley believe that such allegations do a disservice to, and dangerously undermine, the true victims of sexual assault, and they are eager to have the proper spotlight shed on this case in a public trial," the statement read. "It must be noted that none of the allegations in this matter relate to or concern Dr. Robicheaux’s medical practice or patients in any way. They both thank their families and friends for their continued support."

On Friday, Robicheaux and Riley's attorneys held a press conference, saying the police had been investigating the case for some time, and if they felt the public needed protection, they would have taken action.

Defense attorney Phillip Cohen said the couple's home was searched in January, with a number of items taken, and there had been no allegations or info regarding victims of rape.

The couple has not fled or gone into hiding since then, Cohen said, adding that Robicheaux even left the country twice and returned voluntarily during that time.

The couple used their "good looks and charm" to disarm the victims, and traveled to festivals like Burning Man in Nevada and events in Palm Springs, California, Rackauckas said.

Robicheaux appeared on the Bravo series "Online Dating Rituals of the American Male" in the past.

Investigators are currently combing through "thousands" of videos on Robicheaux's phone that allegedly show women who "appear to be highly intoxicated, beyond the ability to consent or resists," Rackauckas told reporters earlier this week.

Robicheaux and Riley are expected in court next month.

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Female sailors at highest risk of sexual assault, Defense Department finds

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Newly released data from the Department of Defense shows female sailors are at the highest risk of sexual assault, compared to women serving in the Army, Air Force, and Marine Corps. The risk is highest on U.S. Navy ships, including on a majority of the nation's aircraft carriers, the data shows.

Military installations in the Washington, D.C., region were typically associated with the lowest risk of sexual assault for men and women.

The findings were published on Friday in a RAND Corporation study, commissioned by the Pentagon, that used data collected in 2014 through more than 170,000 surveys of active duty service members. The study identified the 15 lowest-risk and highest-risk installations for men and women in each service.

Although the data is four years old, the report serves as a snapshot of where service members at that time may have been at the most risk of sexual assault.

In a statement on Friday, the Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN), a nonprofit that advocates for issues related to servicewomen, said military base commanders should welcome the data as a valuable tool to measure the success or failure of their efforts to prevent sexual harassment and assault at their installations.

"SWAN hopes that base commanders at all installations, but especially the highest risk installations, will examine the data and realize that any sexual assault reported at their base represents fratricide within their ranks and a failure in their duty to protect those who serve under them," said retired Col. Ellen Haring, acting SWAN CEO.


Of the 15 highest-risk Naval installations for women, 13 were ships or clusters of ships, including eight of the ten aircraft carriers, RAND found. There are typically about 5,000 sailors aboard a carrier.

"Our model estimates that more than 10 percent of all women experienced a sexual assault at each of these high-risk installations over a one-year period, and more than 15 percent of all women were assaulted at two of them," the study said.

Those two installations where the risk of sexual assault was over 15 percent were Naval Support Activity (NSA) Charleston (South Carolina) and the USS George Washington aircraft carrier.

Ships and clusters of ships also proved to be the highest-risk locations for men, though the percentage was much lower at between 2 and 4 percent.

However, on at least one ship, RAND estimated that close to one in every 25 male sailors was sexually assaulted and "more than 2.5 percent of men were assaulted on all of the ships in the highest-risk list."

There were no ships among the lowest-risk installations for male or female sailors.

Air Force

Female airmen were at the lowest risk of sexual assault compared to the other services with even the highest-risk installations estimated at less than 5 percent.

"The five highest-risk bases for Air Force women are all Air Education and Training Command bases, with the top three focused on undergraduate pilot training," the study said.

The top three highest-risk installations for female airmen were Vance (Oklahoma), Laughlin (Texas), and Altus (Oklahoma).

For male airmen, the highest-risk installations estimated a sexual assault risk at about 0.5 percent and also included Atlus and Laughlin.


Female soldiers were found to be at the highest risk of sexual assault (between 5 and 10 percent) at large Army installations in the U.S., Japan, and South Korea, as well as two large training programs (Fort Huachuca in Arizona and the Presidio of Monterey in California).

Among the U.S. bases that posed the highest risk to women were Fort Drum (New York), Fort Riley (Kansas), and Fort Carson (Colorado). The lowest-risk installations included two Air Force bases with populations of Army soldiers and two medical centers.

For male soldiers, some of the highest-risk installations (between 1 and 2 percent) were located overseas, including in Italy, Germany, and South Korea.

Marine Corps

As the Marine Corps is a much smaller service, RAND only ranked the five lowest- and highest-risk installations, instead of 15.

Female Marines faced a roughly 10 percent risk of sexual assault at the highest-risk installations, which included Air Station Yuma (Arizona), Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms (California), and Air Station Beaufort (South Carolina).

The lowest-risk installations for women ranked between 5 and 8 percent and included Combat Development Command Quantico (Virginia) and the Mobile 3rd Marine Expeditionary Unit (Japan).

Male Marines were at the highest risk of sexual assault (between 1 and 2 percent) at bases in Japan and South Korea, and at the lowest risk in the Pentagon and Camp H. M. Smith (Hawaii).

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Army blames strong economy for missing recruiting goal

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- For the first time in thirteen years the Army has failed to meet its annual recruiting goal and Army officials believe the strong U.S. economy is partially to blame.

The Army failed to meet its recruiting goal of 76,500 new recruits for fiscal year 2018, bringing in 70,000 recruits — an 8.5 percent shortfall from this year's goal.

“About 70,000 Americans joined the Regular Army in FY18, the most to enlist in a single year since 2010 - and every single recruit either met or exceeded DoD standards,” said Hank Minitrez, an Army spokesman. “The Army will fall short of its 2018 recruiting goal.”

The last time the Army failed to meet its recruiting goals was in 2005 at the height of the war in Iraq.

The 70,000 is actually more than the recruiting goals for the three other military services combined, but as the largest service, the Army always has the biggest recruiting challenge.

What’s behind the shortfall? “A strong economy, and a lower propensity among the population of 17- to 24-year-olds to enlist are challenges we face,” said Minitrez.

“Only 1 in 4 [of the] 17- to 24-year-olds in the nation are actually qualified to enlist, and of those, only 1 in 8 have a propensity to enlist," said the Army spokesman. "All of those factors make for a difficult recruiting environment.”

Army officials have cautioned since early this year year that it was possible the service might not make this year’s initial recruiting goal of 80,000 — a significant increase from recent years.

From 2013 to 2017 the Army met lower recruiting goals set that varied from 56,000 to 67,000 as the service downsized its numbers.

But a requirement to increase its total size led to a much larger recruiting goal for 2018. This past spring the goal was lowered from 80,000 to 76,500 after higher than expected numbers of re-enlistments eased personnel requirements.

But the service faced criticism that in order to meet its goals it was increasing the number of waivers granted to some recruits who would normally not be eligible to enter the Army in strong recruiting periods.

Through August, 2018, Army statistics show that the number of waivers for positive drug and alcohol tests had increased to 1.05 percent, up slightly from the .79 percent granted in 2017.

Waivers for major misconduct waivers also increased to 2.88 percent during that same time frame, up from 2.38 percent in 2017.

Army officials have maintained that the service is still committed to recruiting only qualified applicants.

“We made a decision to raise the quality of our recruits despite the tough recruiting environment," said Minitrez. "As we look to 2019 and beyond, we have laid the foundation to improve recruiting for the Army while maintaining an emphasis on quality over quantity."

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'He's gonna kill me if I don't get away': Woman disappears after chilling texts

iStock/Thinkstock(DENVER) --  Erin Vandewiele's last words still haunt her friend.

"He's gonna kill me if I don't get away from him today," she wrote to Stacey Morris in a desperate text conversation on July 8.

That was the last time Morris heard from Vandewiele, who had moved from Wisconsin to Colorado with a man named Joseph Mayer less than a month before that conversation.

A few weeks later, on July 23, after messaging another friend that she was sleeping at a railway station, Vandewiele mysteriously went out of touch from everyone in her life.

Mayer was arrested in Colorado on Aug. 19 for starting a fire in a creek and that was when police realized he was listed on a national database as a dangerous fugitive wanted by authorities in Wisconsin on drug and burglary charges, Capt. Joe Harvey of the Golden Police Department told ABC News.

Mayer was extradited to Wisconsin, where Dunn County Sheriff Dennis Smith confirmed he is currently incarcerated on outstanding warrants.

Family and friends of Vandewiele, frantic with worry, are passing out flyers, setting up pages on social media and traveling across states to meet police in a concerted effort to find the 40-year-old.

"It's killing me that I don't know where she is," Mandi Schmidt, her sister, told ABC News. "She always kept in contact with somebody. It's not like her to not let her kids know where she is. We just really miss her."

The Denver Police Department is also searching.

"Friends, can you help us find Erin Vandewiele?" it wrote in a Facebook post. "If you see her or know her whereabouts, please call 720-913-7867."

Vandewiele's personal belongings were found in a hotel in Denver and her ID and social security card were found on a bus, Schmidt said. In Vandewiele's last text conversation with the other friend, Shane Cook, she told him she had been sleeping in Union Station in Denver for five days by herself, and sent him a picture of herself at the station.

"I am in Denver Colorado and need to get the f--- away from this stupid woman beating a------ and go home," she told him.

"I have $90 to my name ... am so stupid for coming here," she added.

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New Jersey sheriff resigns following racist comments on state's Sikh attorney general

Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The New Jersey sheriff who was purportedly heard in voice recordings making multiple controversial comments — including racist remarks about the state's Sikh attorney general — has resigned.

The Bergen County Sheriff's Office announced Friday that Sheriff Michael Saudino has submitted his resignation after public radio station WNYC published multiple recordings the day before.

Saudino allegedly made the statements during a conversation on Jan. 16 following the inauguration of New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, which he attended, according to WNYC.

In the recording, Saudino was discussing whether Murphy had made any appointments from Bergen County when an undersheriff mentioned that Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, who is Sikh American and wears a turban because of his religious beliefs, was from Bergen County.

"He didn't do that because of Bergen County," Saudino purportedly said. "He did that because of the turban."

Saudino was also purportedly heard in the recordings criticizing Murphy's remarks on policing at his inauguration on topics such as marijuana and better criminal justice reform.

"Christ almighty. In other words, let the blacks come in, do whatever the f--- they want, smoke their marijuana, do this, do that, and don't worry about it," Saudino purportedly said. "You know, we'll tie the hands of cops."

In another recording, Saudino purports to question whether Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver is gay, asking, "Is she gay? 'Cause she's never been married."

Grewal responded in a tweet Thursday, saying he has developed a "thick skin" after being called "far worse," but denounced the comments on the Black community and the lieutenant governor.

The statement from the sheriff's office did not address whether it was, in fact, Saudino's voice in the recordings.

After the recordings were released, Murphy issued a statement urging Saudino to resign. Now that he has, the state can "now begin the process or restoring faith in the Bergen County Sheriff's Office" and "begin the process of ensuring that the bigoted beliefs by the former Sheriff are not given shelter," Murphy said in a statement.

"I fully intend to appoint an interim sheriff who can rebuild the public’s trust," Murphy said. "The Bergen County Sheriff’s Office is home to countless dedicated officers who no doubt were as horrified and disappointed by their former boss’s comments as we were. This is an opportunity for our Administration to work with them, and with the community, to instill new leadership that upholds our shared New Jersey values of inclusion and respect for all."

Grewal said in a statement that Saudino's resignation is an "important first step in repairing the relationship between the Bergen County Sheriff's Office and the diverse communities it serves" but expressed concern that none of Saudino's subordinates challenged him.

"The fact that a top official could make racist comments about the African-American community – and that no one in the room would challenge or correct him – raises serious concerns," Grewal said.

At least two undersheriffs were also in the room at the time of the conversation, which took place in a county office building after Murphy's inauguration, according to the source who provided the recordings to WNYC.

Four undersheriffs have also submitted their resignations, the sheriff's office said. Bergen County Sheriff's Chief Kevin Pell will serve as officer-in-charge until Murphy appoints an interim sheriff, according to the statement.

Bergen County Executive Jim Tedesco described Saudino's comments as "indefensible," but added that he does not think they reflect the "values of the men and women" of the sheriff's office.

"It was clear he could no longer serve the people of Bergen County effectively," Tedesco said in a statement. "We cannot and must not tolerate discrimination from anyone, let alone our elected officials. Bergen County’s diversity is our strength and my administration works every day to ensure inclusion within county government and throughout our 70 municipalities. "

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Dam breach raises concerns about coal ash flowing into North Carolina river

Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WILMINGTON, N.C.) --  Duke Energy says a dam at a power plant in Wilmington, North Carolina has been breached, raising concerns that water contaminated with byproducts of burning coal could flow into the Cape Fear River.

Duke says ponds that store solid byproducts of burning coal that can contaminate waterways with substances like mercury and arsenic, known as coal ash, are submerged but they believe stable and not releasing ash into the river.

But a spokeswoman also said they cannot rule out that coal ash was released and will continue to monitor the situation.

Duke says flooding at the Sutton Power Plant in Wilmington caused breaches in a dam on a lake to store water for cooling the facility and that the water is overflowing into the Cape Fear River. The water from the cooling lake also overflowed into a natural gas plant, which has been shut down.

The company says another byproduct of burning coal- hollow spheres of silica or aluminum called cenospheres - are flowing into the river. A spokeswoman said they don't yet know how many of the spheres were released.

But Lisa Evans, a senior attorney specializing in hazardous waste for the environmental law firm Earthjustice, said cenospheres are part of coal ash and that its unlikely that part of coal byproducts would spill but not other potentially harmful substances.

She said Earthjustice is concerned the floodwaters have risen above the level of the coal ash ponds which means any water in the lake and flowing into the river could also be contaminated.

"What we're concerned about is that the floodwaters of the Cape Fear have raised the level of the lake and thus breached or overtopped the dike flooding the ash pond which causes the release of coal ash and cenospheres into the cooling pond or lake which is now being released into the Cape Fear," Evans said.

A wall around one of the coal ash basins is underwater but they believe the ash is still in place, Paige Sheehan, a spokeswoman for Duke said. She also said they are not aware of a public health risk associated with cenospheres.

The small, hollow spheres created as a byproduct of burning coal are used in manufacturing for plastics like kayaks and bowling balls.

The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality said safety officials were notified of the breach Friday morning and that there are no structural issues with the dam. They said in a statement that water from the Cape Fear River was flowing into Sutton lake and then back into the river and that water was close to both coal ash basins on the property but there doesn't appear to be any structural issues.

"DEQ’s dam safety engineers are now coordinating with NCDOT to conduct drone inspections to determine real-time site conditions. While the state is currently in emergency response mode, a thorough investigation of events will soon follow to ensure that Duke Energy is held responsible for any environmental impacts caused by their coal ash facilities," the department said in a statement.

EPA Region 4 Administrator Trey Glenn said in a statement that EPA is monitoring the Sutton site and other sites around the state for potential impacts to the environment and human health.

The Cape Fear River is a source of drinking water in Wilmington, NC. The state has been looking into levels of a chemical used to make non-stick products in the water after it was released into the river last year, according to The News and Observer.

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3 infants, 2 adults stabbed at home-operated daycare; suspect in custody: Police

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Three babies were among five people stabbed at a suspected birthing center in New York City early Friday, police and officials said.

The victims were found just before 4 a.m. inside what police described as a private residence housing what initially appeared to be a childcare facility in the Flushing neighborhood of the city's borough of Queens. Investigators now believe the home may have been a birthing center, which partially served as a place for immigrant women to deliver babies in the United States.

There were nine infants inside the multifamily home, three of whom had been stabbed, including a baby girl who is just three days old, police said.

"Three of the injured were infants ranging from the age of three days to 1-month-old," Juanita Holmes, assistant chief of the New York City Police Department, said at a press conference later Friday morning.

A man and a woman were also found inside the house with stab wounds. All five victims were rushed to local hospitals in critical but stable condition, police said.

"We pray that all of the victims will be fine and will survive these injuries," Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said in a statement Friday. "We are hoping these young babies, small and so very fragile, are also strong enough to overcome this horrible act of senseless violence."

The suspect, identified by authorities as 52-year-old Yu Fen Wang, was found unconscious in the basement of the home with what appeared to be a self-inflicted slash wound to her left wrist, police said.

She was subsequently taken into custody and treated for non-life threatening injuries. She is believed to be an employee of the facility, police said.

Two knives -- a butcher knife and a meat cleaver -- were recovered from the scene, police said.

The investigation into the incident and a motive is ongoing. Authorities are also probing the three-story residence and exactly what type of services it was offering, and whether they were legal and properly licensed. Officials told reporters it may have provided maternity care or hospitality services to new and expecting mothers in the neighborhood's largely Chinese immigrant community.

"There are legitimate business models that are opening up maternity hotels around the country and they're licensed," New York State assembly member Ron Kim said at a press conference Friday afternoon. "In all immigrant communities around the country, where immigrants rely on each other for these type of services because of some economic hardships they're undergoing.

"We're not sure if this place was designed to execute that kind of a service," he added.

This particular facility appears to have been in business for nearly 10 years and was operating without a license, according to Kim.

The location is not listed as a licensed or regulated child care program with New York state’s Office of Children and Family Services, according to agency spokeswoman Monica Mahaffey.

“OCFS is saddened by this horrific situation and investigating it as a possible illegal operation,” Mahaffey said in a statement Friday.

The city Health Department is investigating the facility, too. It said the was no home daycare license at the location.

A source told ABC News there was no history of complaints at the center.

The center is not licensed as a daycare, and it's not regulated by the city or state. It is therefore up to Brown's office to determine its legality.

A centuries-old Chinese custom, known as "sitting the month," advises new mothers to stay indoors, rest and restore their energy during the month after childbirth. The tradition has inspired China's industry of maternity residences, where women pay to be confined with their baby at postnatal care centers that often boast an array of luxury services and amenities.

Similar businesses have sprouted up in Chinese immigrant communities across the United States. But there have also been cases of privately-run facilities housing pregnant tourists who allegedly forked over thousands of dollars to give birth there to establish their child's U.S. residency.

"We've seen these type of ads on ethnic papers for a long time," Kim said.

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First test of nationwide 'Presidential Alert' system for cellphones set for Oct. 3

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) --  The federal government is set to conduct the first-ever test of a nationwide system to send emergency alerts to almost all cellphones in the country on October 3.

The "Presidential Alert" system uses the same wireless alerts smartphone users receive on AMBER alerts or severe weather warnings but allows the president, or another authorized official, to send simultaneous warnings to almost every smartphone in the country at the same time.

FEMA officials said that, unlike AMBER alerts or weather warnings that are sent to people in a specific area, the "Presidential Alert" would be triggered if the president, or another authorized official, decides there is "public peril" that merits a national notification. The president or his designee would notify the FEMA operations center to activate the system, and not physically set off the alert.

The "presidential level" message, officials say, could be used to alert the nation if there were a risk of an imminent attack or multiple terrorist attacks.

"If there was public peril and the president or his designee determined the public needed to be notified about these events, then that would be a trigger," a FEMA official told reporters.

FEMA officials said if the nationwide alert is ever used to notify Americans of an emergency, it would be followed by instructions from state and local governments on what action residents should take.

The wireless alert will go out to most cell phone carriers at 2:18 p.m. EDT, followed by alerts to the broadcast emergency alert system at 2:20 p.m. on October 3. Wireless alerts will use the same special loud tone and vibration as other emergency alerts at will read "Presidential Alert: This is a test of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed."

The Department of Homeland Security won't be tracking the performance of the alert but an official said they would ask DHS and FEMA employees to report when they receive it. FEMA expects at least 75 percent of phones to receive the alert. FEMA's website says that smartphone users cannot opt-out of nationwide Presidential messages, even if they can opt-out of AMBER alerts or other alert messages.

The test was originally scheduled for Sept. 20 but was postponed due to the ongoing response to Hurricane Florence.

The federal government has to test its national alert system every three years. The test in October will be the first time the nationwide emergency alert test includes the Wireless Emergency Alert system that automatically sends alerts to cell phones.

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'Our whole entire place was just destroyed': Florence survivors grapple with the aftermath

Sean Rayford/Getty Images(NEW YORK) --  Sara Felton and her husband packed up their car and got out of the path of Hurricane Florence two days before the storm hit. Now, a week after the impact, they’re dealing with the aftermath.

The North Carolina resident got a call from her mother-in-law the morning after the worst of the storm, saying she had driven past their trailer and the “windows were blown out and [the] shed was flipped over.”

Felton, 28, and her husband “hauled butt” to get back home after staying with friends who were more inland. But even the journey back was treacherous.

“The rain was coming down so hard that you couldn’t really see,” she said of their ride back to Beaufort, North Carolina. “The current was dragging our car but I could still see the roads a little bit.”

She told her husband Riley to keep going. When they arrived home, the destruction was obvious.

“I’ve never seen my husband cry before and he was just in tears,” she said. “Everything was under water.”

They had to walk in ankle-deep mud and marshland to get into the trailer. The windows were blown out, the ceiling in the living room had collapsed. The air conditioner “flew through the window and landed in the middle of the kitchen,” she noted.

“Our entire deck -- it’s like it just got lifted up and the sky just swallowed it... there's not even a piece of wood nowhere,” she said.

Felton said when she went to her daughter’s bedroom, “we could just feel the floors, it was about to collapse. We couldn’t even step into the room.”

“Our whole entire place was just destroyed,” she said.

The Feltons are like so many others who are rebuilding their lives in the wake of Florence, which made landfall as a hurricane before being downgrading to a tropical storm. The damage from the impact was one threat but the days of continued rain and flooding had disastrous implications as well.

The Feltons have accepted that they'll need to find a new home.

“It’s a complete loss. The only thing we could really save were some clothes that we had in the dresser. They were all soaking wet but that's something you can throw in the washer machine,” said Felton, who works at two convenience stores in the Beaufort area.

She said that for now, she, her husband, her 10-year-old daughter and their two pit bulls will likely be moving in temporarily with her mother-in-law who has a spare bedroom.

Felton said that they’ve contacted FEMA and “they even said [their trailer] was unlivable.” She hopes to get some kind of assistance.

“We both work – we can pay our own stuff – but we just need to get our foot in the front door,” she said of receiving some form of aid.

She continued, “We think that everything happens for a reason. The lord … he's telling us something. He got us out of there for a reason. We're moving on, we're excited about the future. We'll see what happens.”

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Wisconsin and Maryland shooters both had history of mental illness

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Two workplace shootings in two days. Two different attackers -- one, a middle-aged man who fired at his coworkers at a software firm in Wisconsin -- the other, a young woman who shot dead three employees at the Maryland warehouse where she worked.

But on Friday, a common thread emerged between both shootings: mental illness.

Snochia Mosely, 26, the Maryland shooter who fired at the 65 other employees who were present Thursday at a Rite Aid distribution center, had been diagnosed with a mental illness in 2016, Harford County Sheriff Jeffrey Gahler said at a press conference Friday.

"Friends said she was increasingly agitated over the past few weeks and they were concerned for her well-being," the sheriff said.

She used a Glock 17 9mm handgun that she had legally purchased in March 2018 and had a valid license for. Gahler said her mental illness didn't bar her from obtaining a gun.

The Wisconsin gunman, 43-year-old Anthony Tong, had "contact" with police in South Dakota in 2004 that involved a mental health issue, Middleton Police Chief Chuck Foulke said Friday. Tong's concealed-carry permit had been revoked and he was unable to legally purchase a firearm, said Foulke, who cautioned against using Tong's illness as an excuse for the shooting.

Mosely, a temporary employee who had worked at the Rite Aid center for two weeks, had reported for work as usual at 6:30 in the morning on Thursday, Gahler said. While entering, she had a minor altercation with another co-worker who had exchanged words with her about "butting in line," although Gahler said that disagreement wasn't major enough to explain her actions. Less than an hour later, she left for home, returning at 9:05 a.m. in a hooded shirt, armed with her handgun, three magazines, pepper spray and a pair of handcuffs.

"She was moving pretty quickly, not taking a lot of time to aim," Gahler said. "You don't have to be highly accurate when you're in close quarters."

Three people -- Sunday Aguda, 45, Brindra Giri, 44, and Hayleen Reyes, 41, died from their gunshot wounds. Three others -- Hassan Mitchell, 19, Wilfredo Villegas, 45, and Acharya Purna, 45 -- were critically wounded but are expected to survive. Mosely was killed by the self-inflicted gunshot wounds to her head.

"We learned yesterday no community is immune from this kind of heinous violence," Gahler said. "What makes a person capable of taking a weapon and using it against unarmed, defenseless people? It's senseless. We're never going to understand it."

In the Wisconsin shooting, Tong shot and seriously wounded three coworkers before police killed him in a shoot-out at WTS Paradigm, a software firm in Middleton, located about six miles outside of Madison.

Foulke said police still don't know what motivated the attack.

"He came to work that day on a normal basis and was working when this happened," Foulke said. "I just don't know. Motive is the huge thing that everybody wants to know."

The police chief said the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives was trying to track down the origin of the 9mm semiautomatic pistol used in the attack.

"There's something unique about that weapon that they're having trouble finding out where it came from and what hands it passed through," Foulke said.

Wisconsin authorities also said Friday that the conditions of the three seriously wounded workers had improved. The woman and two men have been upgraded from serious to fair condition at University Hospital in Madison, according to UW Health.

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