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Wednesday
Oct172018

Pennsylvania authorities warn residents of possibility of more hidden explosives after mysterious booms

Bucks County District Attorney's Office(PHILADELPHIA) -- Amid an ongoing investigation into a spate of mysterious explosions that shook northeastern Pennsylvania earlier this year, authorities warned residents there could still be explosives in the area.

The warning comes after investigators learned some explosive devices allegedly deployed by a couple across a rural part of Bucks County several months ago may have failed to detonate and could still be live.

"This is more an FYI than an SOS," Bucks County District Attorney Matthew Weintraub said in a statement Tuesday. "Nonetheless, we will continue to do our best to protect you by working hard to find any unexploded devices that may remain. If you find something suspicious, please do not investigate it on your own. Call 911."

The Bucks County District Attorney's Office released images of devices that authorities have seized thus far in the investigation, including one that looks like a small, black round bomb with a long, green wick. Others appeared to be contained in white or dark-colored bottles, also with long, green wicks.

The multi-agency probe remains active as authorities, including the Pennsylvania State Police, the FBI and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, continue searching for any and all devices allegedly crafted and distributed by David Surman Jr. and his girlfriend, Tina May Smith.

Surman and Smith, both 31, face a slew of criminal charges stemming from the investigation into reports of about 30 explosions within a five-mile radius of upper Bucks County from early April to late June, many of which occurred near the couple's home in Milford Township, authorities said.

The investigation has largely focused on the greater Quakertown area, especially Milford Township, as well as near Ottsville and Upper Black Eddy.

Upper Black Eddy resident Nick Zangli said he first heard the loud booms on May 12 before dawn, causing him to jump out of bed.

"I happened to be awake and it scared the heck out of me," Zangli told ABC owned-and-operated station WPVI-TV in Philadelphia. "It was definitely a very large explosion."

Surman, who owns a Quakertown-based chemical company, was arrested June 28 and charged with making or possessing bombs, as well as several related offenses, after authorities discovered four bombs at his residence, along with suspected methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia.

Ten firearms and an array of chemicals used in the assembly of bombs were also seized from Surman's home, according to charging documents.

The largest of the bombs "was over 18 inches in length, had four fuses all twirled together and was ready to be detonated," Weintraub told reporters at a press conference that day.

Forensic analysis of the seized materials has since linked Surman to evidence collected at several of the blast sites, according to the district attorney's office.

Surman was released from jail after posting 10 percent of his $750,000 bail, WPVI-TV reported. But he was arrested again on Oct. 10 and charged with possessing child pornography after a search of his seized computer uncovered dozens of illicit images and videos, according to an affidavit of probable cause.

Surman was released after posting 10 percent of his $500,000 bail, WPVI-TV reported.

Last Friday, Surman's girlfriend was arrested and charged as a co-conspirator. Smith allegedly drove while Surman threw the improvised explosive devices out the window of the vehicle. Smith told authorities she was with her boyfriend on three such occasions, according to an affidavit of probable cause.

Smith was released from jail after posting 10 percent of her $1 million bail. She and Surman are awaiting their next court appearance.

A trial date has not been set at this time, according to WPVI-TV.

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Wednesday
Oct172018

Woman defends herself after video shows her refusing to let black man into his own apartment building

Courtesy D'Arreion Toles(ST. LOUIS) -- A white woman in St. Louis dubbed "Key Fob Kelly" by social media users is defending her actions in a new interview after videos of her trying to block a black man from entering his own apartment building went viral.

Hilary Mueller told a local St. Louis TV station that she was merely trying to follow the condo’s guidelines for residents.

“My only intent was to follow the direction I had been given by our condo association board members repeatedly,” Mueller said. “And that is to never allow access to any individual that you do not know.”

D'Arreion Toles recorded his attempts to enter his apartment complex, the Elder Shirt Lofts, after returning home late from work on Saturday. Mueller can be seen standing in the doorway asking what unit Toles lives in and to see his key fob.

"It's not your building, you're not the owner," Toles says in the video before getting past her. Mueller continues to follow Toles up to his fourth-floor loft and demands to find out who he's "going to see" and “why he's there."

Mueller claims Toles was trying to enter the building. She said she had the main door cracked open because she was taking her dog for a walk.

“I do not think that I did anything wrong,” Mueller said. “I upheld the ask of me to its fullest extent.”

Toles asked her to stop following him but she continued as he used his keys to open his door.

Toles told ABC News on Monday that Mueller had called 911 after the encounter. Sgt. Keith Barrett of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department confirmed a 911 call was made but that no report was written.

Toles posted the videos to his Facebook page and they've been viewed almost 8 million times. He wrote that the videos show what it's like "to be a black man in America" and "this is America in 2018."

Mueller has been called a “racist” repeatedly on social media, a claim she vehemently denies.

“That is absolutely false and heartbreaking,” Mueller said. “Those are words that truly cut deep.”

Mueller's employer, Tribeca-STL, which manages real estate properties, said in a statement on its website that the company was aware of the video and that she had been terminated.

"The Tribeca-STL family is a minority-owned company that consists of employees and residents from many racial backgrounds," the statement continued. "We are proud of this fact and do not and never will stand for racism or racial profiling at our company."

This is the latest video that has gone viral of a white person threatening to call the police on a black person for performing daily tasks.

Internet users were quick to link the story line to "Permit Patty," who threatened to call 911 on an 8-year-old black girl for selling bottled water without a permit in California.

ABC News reached out to the Elder Shirt Lofts for a copy of the condo's guidelines. The president of the luxury building responded, "My attorney has advised me to not make any statements or share any documents at this time."

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Wednesday
Oct172018

State trooper, an 11-year veteran, shot dead during traffic stop in North Carolina

NC Highway Patrol(COLUMBUS COUNTY, N.C.) -- A veteran state trooper in North Carolina was shot dead while making a traffic stop early Wednesday, authorities said.

The deadly confrontation unfolded when Kevin Conner, an 11-year veteran, stopped a pickup truck for speeding in Columbus County just after midnight, the North Carolina Department of Public Safety said.

The driver pulled onto the shoulder, and when Conner approached, the driver allegedly fired several shots, authorities said.

The suspected shooter then fled the scene and led police on a car chase, authorities said.

His car became stuck while trying to drive over a railroad crossing, authorities said, so he then fled on foot.

The suspect as found after an "extensive search" and taken into custody without incident, authorities said.

"The Highway Patrol family is mourning the loss of a hero," State Highway Patrol commander Colonel Glenn McNeill Jr. said in a statement.

The department "will forever be changed by the tragic events," he said. “We ask everyone to please keep Trooper Conner’s family and all who knew him in your thoughts and prayers.”

The suspect has not yet been identified, authorities said, adding that charges are pending.

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Wednesday
Oct172018

More flooding likely in Texas as record rains continue to fall

iStock/Thinkstock(DALLAS) -- A weather pattern stalled over Texas has produced the worst flash flooding since 1935 in Llano County in the central part of the state. The area got as much as 13.24 inches of rain in just the past two days.

The Llano River rose from about 10 feet to nearly 40 feet in less than 24 hours.

Also, Dallas broke the record for the wettest autumn on record -- just halfway into the season. The city has received almost 2 feet of rain so far this fall.

More rain is on the way for Texas on Wednesday and Thursday as flood watches and warnings remain in place for a large part of Texas.

Some areas could see an additional 2 to 4 inches of rain in the next several days.

Cold weather moves in

The coldest air of this fall season so far will move into the Northeast on Wednesday night into Thursday morning.

Widespread frost and freeze are expected along the I-95 corridor and 13 states from Missouri to Massachusetts are under alerts for one of the two.

As the cold air moves in, a combination of chilly temperatures and gusty winds from 20 to 40 mph will bring the wind chills down into the 10s and 20s for some areas.

Another, even colder, blast is forecast for this weekend into early next week.

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Wednesday
Oct172018

Wisconsin community holds vigil for missing girl Jayme Closs

ABC News(BARREN, Wisc.) -- Community members in western Wisconsin gathered for a candlelight vigil on Tuesday, bringing together family members, friends and neighbors who are all praying for a missing girl's safe return.

Attendees were given blue and green ribbons to honor 13-year-old Jayme Closs, a day after the teen vanished from her home in Barron, Wisconsin, where her parents were found dead.

Blue is Jayme’s favorite color and green is a symbol for missing children, organizers said.

“Everyone is feeling very helpless right now,” Melissa Salmonson, a family friend who attended the vigil, told Madison ABC affiliate WKOW. “I think being able to come together as family and friends and being able to pray together, and maybe just feel like those prayers are helping in some way will maybe just make us feel a little better.”

Police issued an Amber Alert for the girl on Monday evening after discovering the bodies of her parents, James Closs, 56, and his wife, Denise Closs, 46, earlier in the day.

Authorities made the horrifying discovery at around 1 a.m., while responding to an unusual 911 call from the family’s home. Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald said no one communicated during the phone, but dispatch could hear noise in the background.

He didn’t say how the couple died, but the FBI office in Milwaukee said the teen was likely abducted from her home early Monday morning by an unknown person with a gun.

There were no leads or suspects of interests in the case as of early Wednesday morning and community members said they’ve been praying for clues about the young girl’s whereabouts.

Fitzgerald said he was struggling to deal with all the unanswered questions about the case.

“I’ll be honest, I’m struggling. I don’t have some of the answers that I want to give you, that I want to give the family,” Fitzgerald said at a press conference Tuesday. “I’ve never seen anything like this in rural Wisconsin. We just don’t see this.”

He said his office has received more than 200 tips so far that they are following up on—but at this point, still no sign of Jayme.

The girl's grandfather, Robert Naiberg, told The Associated Press he saw Jayme at a gathering Sunday: "She was quiet as always. She was a quiet girl."

The vigil was held at St. Peters Catholic Church, the family’s place of worship in Barron. Some attendees shared heartwarming stories about the family and vowed to wear their blue ribbons until Jayme is home.

At one point, a representative from the young girl’s school district stepped forward to share a story about a time when students were asked to discuss what they would do if they were given $1 million, according to Minneapolis ABC affiliate KSTP.

Jayme said she would "feed the hungry and give the rest to the poor," the representative said, calling it a perfect representation of the teen's kind spirit.

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Wednesday
Oct172018

Family of woman killed in 'cold medicine murder' filled with regret

Courtesy Lauren Hugelmaier family(RALEIGH, N.C.) -- The family of Lauren Phelps, who was brutally murdered by her husband last year, spoke out in an exclusive interview with Good Morning America on Wednesday to warn other families about the signs of domestic violence.

Matthew Phelps, an aspiring pastor, told police that he’d taken too much cold medicine when he fatally stabbed his wife inside their North Carolina home on Sept. 1, 2017, but her family offered a more sinister explanation for the murder.

“He planned the whole thing from the get-go in my opinion, right from day one to the end,” the slain woman’s father, Dale Hugelmaier, told Good Morning America on Wednesday. “The last time I saw my daughter, she came over looking for a three-ring binder. She was nervous and a little edgy and it didn’t look Lauren at all. ... She looked a mess.

“I regret it now -- that I didn’t ask questions about what was going on,” he added.

Sitting alongside his wife, Laurie, and his older daughter, Beth Anger, Dale Hugelmaier said his 29-year-old daughter was being abused by her husband and was too afraid to tell anyone. Now, he’s haunted by memories from her last days and constantly wondering whether he could have saved her, he said.

“I think about it everyday. What I did wrong. What I missed. Till this day I just regret not knowing or keeping my eyes open and watching,” Dale Hugelmaier said. “I just took everything as is.”

Matthew Phelps, who called 911 to report the murder, apologized to the Hugelmaiers in court earlier this month after pleading guilty to first-degree murder. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole, but the family says they’re still not satisfied with the result.

When asked about forgiving Matthew Phelps, Dale Hugelmaier replied: “No. Never. I mean, I'll take him to my grave. And I'll still hate him.”

Two months before her death, Lauren Phelps revealed horrifying details about her husband’s previous marriage, including claims that he assaulted his prior wife and lied to her about the nature of their separation, according to the family.

“He was so good at manipulating the situation,” her mother, Laurie, said before breaking down in tears. “They told us that he had killed her and that he had stabbed her. And he had stabbed her so many times that they would have to count the stab wounds in the autopsy.

“She was laying on her stomach on the floor. He was sitting on her back stabbing her,” she added.

The couple had been married for 10 months at the time of the murder, but the family said Lauren Phelps was ready to end it.

“I think, that night when he left with another woman, she just said, ‘I’m done. I can’t do it,’” Anger said. “That was the night he killed her.”

Anger said she’d spoken to her sister just a few hours before she died. She said the couple had been arguing over Matthew Phelps’ alleged cheating and Lauren Phelps said she notified him about her plans to leave.

“I think that he made a decision that day that Lauren was not gonna leave him, even if that meant he had to kill her,” Anger told “GMA.” “The police called him a monster. And we're talking about homicide detectives who see homicides every day.”

Investigators said Lauren Phelps was found lying in the fetal position on the couple's bedroom floor, suffering from 123 stab wounds, including some to her head, neck and arms, according to an autopsy report.

"I have blood all over me and there's a bloody knife on the bed," Matthew Phelps, said in a 911 call. "I think I did it."

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Wednesday
Oct172018

Pregnant postal worker goes missing outside home, USPS offers $25K reward

WLS(CHICAGO) -- The U.S. Postal Service is now getting involved in the search effort for one of their own.

Kierra Coles, 27, disappeared after being seen on video two weeks ago outside her home. She has not been heard from since, authorities said. On Tuesday, the U.S. Postal Service Inspection Unit announced it was offering a $25,000 reward for help in her safe return.

Coles is 3 months pregnant and has a boyfriend, officials said.

The postal worker was last seen on surveillance video from outside her apartment in Chicago's South Side on Oct. 2. Police said she called out of work that morning saying she was sick, but was seen on the video wearing her uniform and her car was found outside her apartment.

Police said they are treating the case as a non-suspicious missing person.

Coles' mother, Karen Phillips, said it's possible she became overwhelmed by everything that was going on in her life. Phillips told Chicago ABC station WLS her daughter recently moved out of her home and into the apartment.

"Maybe something did happen where she was overcome with a lot, you know when you are pregnant you are emotional," she said. "I want to say she just went somewhere and didn't want to tell nobody and then she will just come home but I don't feel that."USPSThe $25,000 offered by the USPS Inspection Unit is in addition to $3,500 offered by her postal union, WLS reported.

"Whoever it might be knows something," her father Joseph Coles told WLS. Joseph lives in Wisconsin, but has been in town for two weeks handing out flyers and said he "would not leave" before finding her.

"We're not going to sit idly by and we're not going to rest until we find our sister," Mack Julian, from the Letter Carrier's Union, said.

Cole is 5-foot-4 and about 125 pounds with black hair and brown eyes.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Oct162018

At least 1 dead in Texas flooding that caused bridge collapse, breached dam 

iStock/Thinkstock(MARBLE FALLS, Texas) -- Massive floods swept through Central Texas on Tuesday, and rushing waters are expected to rise overnight and into Wednesday morning.

But despite flood operations in several counties already being in place in anticipation of more swift and high waters, the damage, it seems, has already begun.

Burnet County Sheriff's Office Captain Tom Dillard reported an unidentified body that was found in the Colorado River but could not provide more information.

Across the Colorado River, the Llano River experienced major historic flooding, with waters rising to just under 40 feet on Tuesday morning. The catastrophic waters rose so high, in fact, that they caused a traffic bridge to collapse.

Llano County emergency management coordinator Ron Anderson reported roughly 105 people being evacuated on Tuesday.

The Llano County Office of Emergency Management is warning residents of hazardous conditions, especially on the roads, and officials told residents to stay off the road if they could.

"One inch of rain can produce a flooded roadway within minutes," Ron Anderson, Llano County emergency management coordinator, told ABC News affiliate KVUE in Austin. "Any rain that falls right now, it’s pretty much running off into the creeks, streams, roadways, causing flash flooding and river flooding."

As flash flooding can occur instantly, Anderson said their biggest concern is people traveling around road barriers.

"People can be swept off the road, out of their cars, or just people standing by trying to sightsee can often find themselves in trouble a lot faster than they imagine that they would."

Texas Governor Greg Abbott ordered the State Operations Center to be ready to respond to severe weather and flooding on Tuesday morning.

“When severe weather strikes, Texas will ensure our responders and local officials have what they need to respond and protect those in harm's way,” Abbott said in a statement.

He added, "I also urge all Texans to take their safety into their own hands by closely monitoring changing weather conditions and heeding warnings from local officials.”

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Tuesday
Oct162018

Hurricane Michael death toll climbs to 26 including 16 people in Florida

@DukeEnergy/Twitter (MEXICO BEACH) -- Hurricane Michael's death toll has climbed to 26, with 16 people dying in Florida, according to state officials. Twelve of those deaths were in Bay County, which was hit hard by the monster Category 4 storm.

Michael made landfall near Mexico Beach in Bay County Wednesday with winds around 155 mph, decimating nearly every home and business in the small seaside community, including the Mexico Beach Police Department.

"We don't have a building -- from my understanding, the water surge moved it off its foundation," Police Chief Anthony Kelly told ABC News on Friday.

When Emily Mitchell returned on Saturday afternoon to see what was left of her family's Mexico Beach home, she found the roof ripped off and the walls blown in. She called it a "total loss."

As Michael barreled up the coast, it brought death and destruction with it, leaving 10 people dead in Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia.

Among the victims were an 11-year-old girl in Georgia and a firefighter in Virginia.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Oct162018

Officer responds to gun call, realizes it's kids with a BB gun: 'I could have killed you'

Columbus Police(COLUMBUS, Ohio) -- Newly released body cam footage from the Columbus Police Department shows the tense moment an officer realized he had pulled his weapon on a couple of kids with a realistic-looking BB gun.

Officer Peter Casuccio received a call that there were "two young male blacks" that had "just flashed a gun" while he was driving on Saturday. When he arrived at the scene, one of the boys "freaked out and started pulling the gun out of his waistband," according to Casuccio, before dropping the gun quickly on the sidewalk.

"This is getting kids killed all over the country," Cascuccio said to the boys.

The two boys, who turned out to be 11 and 13 years old, sounded shaken up after understanding the gravity of the situation and apologized to the officer.

"You should be sorry and you should be scared," Casuccio said.

The 11-year-old boy then turned to his friend, "I didn't want him to shoot."

"I know you didn't want me to shoot," Casuccio responded. "Do you think I want to shoot an 11-year-old? Do you think I want to shoot a 13-year-old?"

Afterwards, Casuccio drove to the 11-year-old boy's home and explained what had happened to his mother.

"Regardless of what people say about the dudes wearing this uniform," Casuccio said. "We care, we legitimately care, and the last thing I want to do is shoot an 11-year-old because your life hasn't even gotten started yet."

Casuccio urged the boy to think about the idea before he went to bed.

"I could've killed you," Casuccio said. "You could be gone. Everything you wanted to do in this life could be over."

In the last few years, officers in Ohio have fatally shot young, black men saying they mistook toy or BB guns for real weapons. In 2014, 11-year-old Tamir Rice was shot and killed at a Cleveland park after touching a fake gun at his waist. In 2016, a Columbus police officer killed 13-year-old Tyre King after the boy pulled a BB gun from his waistband.

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