Thousands of young activists challenging lawmakers to act in Global Climate Strike

DisobeyArt/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Hundreds of thousands of young people are gearing up for the Global Climate Strike to raise awareness on climate change and urge lawmakers to create policies to help save the planet ahead of the United Nations Climate Summit next week.

The march is building on a "historic surge" of student protests and strikes for climate action, but adults also are formally invited to participate, according to the organizers behind the movement.

The strike has grown to include more than 1,000 locations across the U.S. and 4,500 worldwide, with more than 2,000 scientists pledging to attend as well, organizers said.

The lead organizer for the New York City march, 19-year-old Shiv Soin, told ABC News that more than 15,000 people have marked that they're interested in attending on the event's Facebook page.

The youth activists are demanding world leaders stop using fossil fuels, transition to a green economy and hold polluters accountable, Soin said.

"We're going to hold them accountable," he said.

Soin, a politics and economics major at New York University, became passionate about the climate fight after returning to New Delhi in 2011 to attend his grandmother's funeral, where he said he was hospitalized due to the poor air quality.

"I ask myself, will this matter in 20, 30 years if we don't have a livable planet?" he said. "The answer is no."

Demonstrators in New York will meet at a rally in Foley Square and march south to Battery Park, where 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg will be among the speakers, Soin said.

On Wednesday Thunberg implored U.S. lawmakers at the House Foreign Affairs Committee to "listen to the science" and take "real action" to curb carbon emissions.

New York City Public Schools will be excusing 1.1 million students from class on Friday -- with parental permission -- so they can participate in the strike.

Activists began posted photos of the posters created for the strike earlier in the week.

Soon, the teenage demonstrators will have the power to vote themselves and plan to vote out the politicians who don't heed their message.

"'We vote next,' is what we have to say," Soin said.

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Prosecutors present chilling scene footage from deadly California synagogue shooting

iStock(NEW YORK) -- Prosecutors presented disturbing surveillance video in a court hearing Thursday related to the deadly shooting at a California synagogue in April. The video shows the gunman storming the house of worship and targeting congregants with an assault rifle, killing a woman and injuring three others.

The video was presented as evidence in a preliminary hearing for 20-year-old John Earnest, who is charged with murder and attempted murder for allegedly killing Chabad of Poway synagogue member Lori Gilbert-Kaye, 60, and shooting other worshipers, including an 8-year-old girl.

Earnest has been charged with a hate crime, which could make him eligible for the death penalty if convicted. The multi-day hearing will ultimately decide if Earnest will face trial or not.

Surveillance cameras from inside and outside of the synagogue near San Diego captured the entire scene on video, starting from the moment the gunman drove up to the church and ending with congregants chasing him away.

In the video, the shooter began to open fire even before he opened the synagogue's doors. Gilbert-Kaye saw him immediately and tried to flee. She barely managed to turn before the bullets ripped into her.

He continued firing, hitting Rabbi Israel Goldstein, who seemed to leap up when shot and sprint into the sanctuary. The gunman's weapon appeared to jam and he struggled with it for a bit before a worshiper, Iraq combat veteran Oscar Stewart, chased him outside.

Stewart testified in court Thursday, revealing that he screamed at the shooter and caused him to drop his weapon and flee. He identified Earnest as the shooter in court.

"He was firing in front of me. ... I was paying attention to the rifle," Stewart said. "I told him I was going to kill him. ... I screamed it out really loud. I kept screaming at him."

"I was trying to throw him off. I didn’t say it very politely. I yelled it and used some profanities also," he added.

Prosecutors also played audio of the suspect's 911 call in which he said he allegedly told dispatchers that he'd been involved in the shooting and was armed. He said he had weapons in his car, but wouldn't use them on authorities.

At one point he was heard on the call saying: “I’m just trying to defend my nation from the Jewish. …They’re destroying our people … we’re not going to go down without a fight.”

Earnest, a former nursing student at Cal State San Marcos, also faces federal arson charges in connection with a fire at a mosque in Escondido. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

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Sheriff reveals deadly realities of illegal immigration across US southern border

iStock(PIMA COUNTY, Ariz.) -- Thousands of miles from Washington D.C. in Pima County, Arizona, Sheriff Mark Napier works on the front lines of the border crisis.

He showed Nightline a section of the border barrier that “was and still is a major drug trafficking and human trafficking corridor,” he said.

“We know that somebody came here with a kid,” he said, pointing out refuse along the barrier. “There’s children’s clothing, diapers, a small container of baby oil.”

From there, people traversing the desert would have 40 miles to go before “they get to something that would resemble civilization where they can be picked up by somebody else,” Napier said.

For more than three decades, this has been Napier’s home -- the largest border county on the southern border.

On the national stage, what happens here has become a political flashpoint. Just this week, President Donald Trump touted his campaign promise of building a wall at the U.S. southern border while speaking south of San Diego.

“It's a very powerful, very powerful wall, the likes of which probably to this extent has not been built before,” Trump said while showing off a portion of the 30-foot-tall bollard wall. “Plus it's designed to absorb heat, so it's extremely hot. The wall is, you won't be able to touch it. You can fry an egg on that wall. It's very, very hot.”

It’s the latest in a debate that’s dominated headlines and divided the country. But for the lifelong Republican sheriff, the border is much more than a policy dispute.

“The border is clearly a public safety threat to my county because of the drug and human trafficking that comes across that border,” Napier said. “Public safety's not a partisan issue, it's not a political issue. It's quality of life, it's a human condition issue. So partisanship and political ideology should not intersect [with] what I do to maintain public safety in my county.”

Napier said that in Pima County, in “some places, the only way to get to those areas are by air or hiking.”

Within a few miles of the international border, Napier noted that there’s “very undeveloped land -- vast expanses of desert areas that somebody coming to this country between the ports of entry have to navigate.”

“My deputies do recover almost 100 bodies a year in the deserts of this county,” he said. “That taxes our resources, but it also pulls at my strings from a humanitarian standpoint.”

Chief Medical Examiner Greg Hess and his team work to identify remains recovered in the desert -- a grim situation that he said has worsened since the early 2000s.

“So far this date in 2019, we've recovered 92 suspected undocumented border cross remains,” Hess said. “We went from...75 [remains recovered] in the year 2000. In 2001, it was 77. In 2002, it was 145.”

The incomplete remains of an unidentified migrant discovered earlier this year laid on Hess’ exam table.

“That was somebody's father, that that was somebody's brother, somebody's son,” Napier said. “That's a human being, and a human being probably driven by very desperate decisions in their home country to make a very dangerous and illegal ingress in the United States that cost them their lives.”

Napier said Trump was correct in that “we need to secure our southern border.”

“I do understand the desperation,” Napier said of those who cross the border. But he added that it’s not safe. “Do not come into this country illegally because you’re going to [be] victimized by criminals [and] by the environment.”

The vast majority of immigrants have entered the country legally, including asylum seekers like Angel Ramos.

Last year, Ramos and his son Fernando fled Honduras. Like many Central American families, they say they had no choice but to take the risk.

“There, everything is controlled by gangs. And, well, now that you’re older, they want you to sell drugs, to do so many things… I didn’t want to do it,” Ramos told Nightline in June.

“My son is the most precious thing for me [so] I didn’t want to be involved in those bad things,” Ramos said. “You can imagine my son. How is he going to grow up without a father? Because over there, if you do something bad, they kill you.”

The father and son made the perilous three-month journey on foot, bus and train to reach the U.S. border.

Unlike the hundreds of thousands who have crossed into the U.S. illegally, Ramos said he wanted to do it the right way -- petitioning for asylum to U.S. immigration officials at the Nogales Port of Entry.

After a few days, immigration officials released Ramos and his son at a Tucson, Arizona, shelter. The two are allowed to stay in the U.S. as their asylum case makes it through the courts.

But new policies under the Trump administration are making it harder for asylum seekers like Ramos to seek refuge.

Napier says in Pima County, “some places the only way to get to those areas are by air or hiking.”

While immigration dominates headlines, another constant concern on the border is stemming the flow of illegal drugs, the majority of which pass through legal ports of entry.

Sergeant Patrick Hilliker is with the Border Interdiction Unit at the Pima County Sheriff’s Department.

“We are usually directly involved in finding, or assisting other agencies in finding, hundreds of pounds a year,” Hilliker said. “You can imagine how much is probably getting through and how much is actually in this country right now.”

Hilliker showed “Nightline” what he said was approximately 14 pounds of heroin that had been seized.

“This one, in particular, you can see they're in vacuum-sealed bags and that's to contain the smell and make it so the dogs don't smell it.”

The southwest border has long been the primary entry point for heroin. In 2017, nearly 1,000 pounds of heroin came through the Tucson sector.

“Nightline” joined Hilliker and some of his team to stake out what they believe is a “stash house.”

“If they see something that looks like there's some smuggling going on, we’ll go try to stop the vehicle and talk with them,” Hilliker said.

“Any way you can think of smuggling narcotics into this country, it’s been done,” Hilliker added. He listed drugs that were found inside of car “radiators, fake battery compartments [and] fake flooring. They’ll take everything out of the vehicle and put in a fake floor, reweld it, put carpet back over it…put the seats back on and it’s very difficult to find.”

Traffickers not only use any method necessary to do business, they also use smugglers from all walks of life.

“They will pay people into bringing this stuff up and it's quick money,” Hilliker said. “Sometimes, there's elderly people that are doing it, younger people, different nationalities, different citizenships.”

“The opiate addiction is a public health emergency,” Napier said. “This is really the front line of a national issue, right here in our counties. But we have to bifurcate the issue of illegal immigration from transnational crime. They're not exactly the same thing, although they intersect one another once in a while.”

For Napier, these aren’t faraway threats but realities in his backyard -- nuances too often lost in the noise.

“We need to secure our border for public safety reasons, national security reasons and human rights reasons,” Napier said. “No one can argue past those three points. Let's get it done.”

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Texas declares disaster as torrential rain wreaks havoc, grounds hundreds of flights 

iStock(HOUSTON) -- Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has declared a disaster in 13 counties as Tropical Storm Imelda brought torrential rain and dangerous flash flooding to the Houston area, stranding residents in their homes, drivers in their cars and canceling hundreds of flights at local airports.

Over 900 flights were canceled into and out of Houston area airports due to the severe rain, which reached over 40 inches in some spots.

The storm claimed its first life on Thursday as well. A man in Jefferson County was "electrocuted and drowned" while trying to move his horse, according to the sheriff's office. The family of Hunter Morrison, the man killed, said he was not trying to rescue any people, as had been reported locally, and wanted to correct false reports.

The town of Hamshire, Texas, saw six months' worth of rain in 48 hours. More than 33 inches of rain has fallen in Hamshire since Tuesday -- and over 2 feet of that rainfall within 12 hours.

In the small town of Winnie, Texas, the conditions are "horrible," with rapidly-rising floodwaters making roads impassable, Chambers County Sheriff Brian Hawthorne told ABC News as the rain pounded down Thursday.

"This is the worst flooding I’ve ever seen," Hawthorne said.

Houses flooded during Hurricane Harvey two years ago are now taking in water again; some homes have 4 to 5 feet of water inside, said Hawthorne.

Anna Avales' home in Winnie is still recovering from flooding during Harvey. She called Thursday's rain "devastating" and is "hoping and praying that it stops."

James Gibson and his wife walked ABC News through their Chambers County home, where the wood floors are now submerged under roughly 8 inches of water.

The rain fell “too fast to do anything” he said.

"Until it quits raining, it's gonna be a nightmare," the sheriff said.

Over 300 people were rescued from homes in Chambers County as the water rose, local officials said.

Dump trucks and airboats were being used to get residents to safety.

The threat isn't over.

The relentless, heavy rain is continuing to slam parts of southeastern Texas and southwestern Louisiana Thursday afternoon. It'll taper off Thursday evening leaving lingering, scattered showers.

But thunderstorms and downpours are possible again on Friday.

Up to 4 inches of rain could still fall in the hard-hit areas from Houston to Beaumont from Thursday afternoon to Friday afternoon.

The remains of Tropical Storm Imelda with then track inland and bring areas of heavy rain -- up to 4 inches -- to east Texas and northwestern Louisiana.

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El Paso shooting victim says his story is 'genuine' after police dispute his heroism 

iStock(EL PASO, Texas) -- The El Paso shooting victim whose story of heroism was disputed by police said he's standing by his recounting of the attack at the Walmart.

Chris Grant was supposed to be one of 11 people honored by the White House for bravery in early September before he was detained by Secret Service over an open arrest warrant.

El Paso police later said video from the shooting did not match Grant's claims of throwing bottles to distract the gunman.

"[His actions] were basically human instincts, survival instincts, but they were not heroic or as he described," police spokesman Enrique Carillo previously told ABC News, declining to answer specific questions.

Grant now wants to tell his version of the events.

His lawyer said on Wednesday that Grant "stands by his statements and his recollections he made to police, to Chris Cuomo and others following the shooting.”

"He is still recovering from his physical injuries, but his recollection of the events on August 3, 2019 are genuine,” his lawyer, Rosana Narvaez, read from a statement.

Grant, a 50-year-old Texas resident, sustained bullet wounds during the shooting and underwent multiple surgeries.

He was released from the hospital by the time of the White House event Sept. 9 and was praised by President Donald Trump, but he didn't attend.

"Chris grabbed -- listen to this -- soda bottles, and anything else in front of him, and began hurling them at the gunman, distracting him from the other shoppers and causing the shooter to turn towards Chris and fire at him,” Trump said in his speech. "Chris suffered two very serious gunshot wounds, but he is recovering well and we wish him the best.”

Grant's mother, who was in attendance, collected the certificate of commendation on her son's behalf. Grant was later released from custody and it's unclear where the case stands.

El Paso police said the video footage they reviewed contradicted Grant's story, but they declined to describe what action, if any, Grant took, or comment on any interaction he might have had with the gunman.

Narvaez said that Grant, nor anyone outside of law enforcement, has reviewed the surveillance video in question.

"Nonetheless, a video cannot begin to capture the entire story of Mr. Grant's and others' plights as the mass shooter rampaged inside Walmart,” she added.

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New Jersey man arrested for allegedly spying for Hezbollah: Feds

iStock(MORRISTOWN, N.J.) -- A New Jersey man was indicted Thursday on charges he supported Hezbollah by scouting possible targets for an attack.

Alexei Saab began training with Hezbollah operatives overseas and surveilled multiple locations in the U.S., the FBI said.

According to the indictment, Saab joined Hezbollah in 1996 in Lebanon where he observed and reported on the movements of Israeli troops. He trained to handle and fire an AK-47, an M16 and other weapons. He also was trained to construct explosive devices, with the federal records showing diagrams of bombs he had built.

Saab entered the U.S. in 2000 and applied for citizenship in 2005. He became a naturalized citizen three years later.

Federal prosecutors said he continued to receive training in Lebanon and surveilled "dozens" of locations in New York City, including the New York Stock Exchange, U.N. building, Statue of Liberty, Rockefeller Center and local airports, tunnels and bridges.

"In particular, SAAB focused on the structural weaknesses of locations he surveilled in order to determine how a future attack could cause the most destruction. SAAB’s reporting to the IJO (Islamic Jihad Organization) included the materials used to construct a particular target, how close in proximity one could get to a target, and site weaknesses or 'soft spots' that the IJO could exploit if it attacked a target in the future," court records said.

Saab also conducted similar scouting operations in Washington, D.C., and Boston, among other cities. Those targets included Fenway Park and the Prudential Center in Boston and the U.S. Capitol and Lincoln Memorial in Washington.

Saab, 42, of Morristown, New Jersey, is charged with providing material support to a terror organization, receipt of military-type training from a designated foreign terrorist organization, unlawful procurement or naturalization to facilitate an act of international terrorism, among other offenses.

The unlawful naturalization charge stems from a phony marriage, with federal authorities saying Saab testified the marriage "was not for the purpose of procuring an immigration benefit."

The complaint also outlines Saab's attempts to murder an Israeli spy in Lebanon in 2003 and 2005. He even approached the man's vehicle and attempted to shoot into the driver's seat, but the gun did not fire.

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Colorado mother puts injured bobcat in car with her child

iStock(COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.) -- A Colorado mother is facing criticism from wildlife officials who said she put an injured bobcat into her car next to her child.

Parks and Wildlife officials in the southeast region of the state issued a warning to the public on Twitter after describing a "lucky" Colorado Springs woman who put the injured predator in her car and escaped unscathed.

The officials stressed to "NEVER PICK UP WILD ANIMALS" and asked anyone who comes in contact with them to contact their department.

The bobcat was mortally wounded, officials said, and was too injured to react to being picked up and placed in the car.

"No one should ever try this. This could have been tragic," parks officials said.

Parks officials throughout the state agreed with that assessment, with the main Colorado Parks and Wildlife Twitter page retweeting the information with one word: "speechless."

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US and Canada have lost nearly 3 billion of bird population in last 50 years: Study

iStock(NEW YORK) -- The bird population in the U.S. and Canada has declined more than 29% percent -- or by nearly 3 billion birds -- in the last 50 years, according to a new study.

The stark losses signals a "widespread ecological crisis," as the bird population is an indicator of environmental health, according to the study, published Thursday in the journal Science.

The decline has affected a diverse group of birds and habitats, including songbirds such as meadowlarks, long-distance migrants such as swallows and backyard birds such as sparrows. Grassland birds were hit especially hard, with a 53% reduction in population -- or more than 720 million birds -- while shorebirds that frequent sensitive coastlines have lost more than one third of their population.

In addition, the volume of birds that participate in spring migration has dropped by 14% in just the last 10 years.

While researchers expected to see a continuing decline in the population, the results of the study showed "pervasive losses among common birds across all habitats," Ken Rosenberg, senior scientist at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and American Bird Conservancy and lead author of the study, said in a statement.

Scientists believe that the habitats in the two countries have been so severely impacted by human activity, such as urbanization and agricultural intensification, that they no longer support robust wildlife populations, which is likely the largest factor driving the declines, the study notes.

While the researchers did not analyze the exact cause of the declines, other studies have pointed to free-roaming domestic cats, collisions with glass, buildings and other structures and the pervasive use of pesticides associated with widespread declines in insects, an essential food source for birds, as potential reasons for mortality rates in birds, the paper stated.

In addition, climate change is expected to exacerbate the problem, according to the study, but more research is needed to pinpoint the primary causes for declines in individual species.

The findings were determined by multiple, independent lines of evidence, Rosenburg said. This included data from weather radar stations across North America spanning more than 10 years as well data collected from the ground over the last 50 years, according to the study.

The data published in the study is "consistent" with what scientists are seeing elsewhere with bird populations elsewhere in the world as well as other living species that have experienced massive declines, such as insects and amphibians, Peter Marra, director of the Georgetown Environment Initiative at Georgetown University and co-author of the study, said in a statement.

"It's imperative to address immediate and ongoing threats, both because the domino effects can lead to the decay of ecosystems that humans depend on for our own health and livelihoods -- and because people all over the world cherish birds in their own right," Marra said.

In order to mitigate the losses, Michael Parr, president of American Bird Conservancy, suggested policy changes such as strengthening the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, working to ban harmful pesticides and to properly fund bird conservation programs.

On an individual level, people can practice making windows safer for birds, keeping cats indoors and doing their part to protect habitats, Parr said.

Some species have rebounded as a result of human efforts -- such as waterfowl, including ducks, geese and swans, whose populations have increased over the past 50 years due to investments by conservation by hunters and billions of dollars of government funding for wetland protection and restoration.

In addition, raptors, such as the bald eagle, have made a comeback since 1970 after the pesticide DDT was banned and legislation to protect it was passed in the U.S. and Canada.

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Murder charges dropped against 5 teens after 14-year-old killed during burglary attempt in Illinois

iStock(CHICAGO) -- Felony murder charges have been dropped against five Chicago teenagers after a 14-year-old who was with them during a burglary attempt was shot and killed by a homeowner, prosecutors announced.

The teens were initially charged with murder after the youngest member of their group died after they allegedly tried to break into a car in front of a home in Old Mill Creek, Illinois, about 47 miles north of Chicago, on Aug. 13, according to the Lake County Sheriff's Office.

When the 75-year-old homeowner went outside to confront the teens, he told deputies that two of the people in the group "quickly approached him," one of whom was "holding something in his hand," prompting him to fire his gun at least three times.

A 14-year-old boy was struck by gunfire and was pronounced dead after the group fled the scene and dropped him off near a Gurnee Police officer who was tending to an unrelated traffic stop about three miles away.

Lake County State’s Attorney Michael Nerheim said in a statement on Thursday that his office decided to drop the murder charges after reviewing the evidence, consulting with the teens' defense attorneys and considering the wishes of the victim's family.

However, each of the offenders "will be held responsible and face appropriate sentences," Nerheim said.

The sole 18-year-old in the group, Diamond Davis, will be formally charged with felony conspiracy to commit burglary and misdemeanor criminal trespass to a motor vehicle. She is expected to waive her preliminary hearing during her bond hearing on Thursday afternoon and plead guilty to the charges next week, Nerheim said.

A public defender for Davis declined to provide a comment to ABC News on the case.

The four other offenders, who are all 16 and 17 years old, will be tried in juvenile court, but Nerheim could not provide the details of their charges "due to strict laws governing juvenile courtroom proceedings."

The homeowner was in bed around 1:15 a.m. when he saw headlights moving up his "exceptionally long driveway," which sits on a remote property, Nerheim said. He told authorities that as he was getting ready to go outside, he noticed the SUV turn around to face the street before several people inside got out and approached his home.

The man then armed himself with his gun, which he owned legally, and fired it out of fear for his and his wife's safety, striking the 14-year-old, Nerheim said.

After the teens fled the scene, they led authorities on a high-speed chase back to Chicago and only stopped the car once they ran out of gas, Nerheim said.

They then fled on foot but were later caught, telling detectives that they didn't stop the vehicle because "they didn't want to go back to jail," Nerheim said.

A 10-inch long hunting knife and a cell phone with pinned GPS coordinates of other homes near Old Mill Creek were later found on the homeowner's driveway, Nerheim said.

The "sole purpose" of the teens' trip from Chicago to Old Mill Creek "was to commit several vehicle burglaries," Nerheim said.

"The dilemma I have faced for the last five weeks surrounding the Old Mill Creek case has been balancing justice, the safety of our community, and recognizing the ages of the offenders involved," Nerheim said.

Although Nerheim initially charged the teens with felony murder, which "does fit the crime committed," he decided to exercise "discretion in this situation," as he hopes the teens "will learn from this tragedy," and "take this opportunity to be rehabilitated," due to their young ages, he said.

"It is time for these offenders to understand the seriousness of their actions and face the consequences," Nerheim said in the statement. "If they choose to continue to follow the troubled path they are currently on, it will end in only one of two ways -- either with another tragic funeral or with more involvement with the criminal justice system."

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Man allegedly confesses to murder of woman missing since 2003: DA

iStock(PHILADELPHIA) -- A Philadelphia man is in custody after allegedly confessing to the murder of a woman who has been missing for 16 years, prosecutors said.

The arrest of Jade Babcock, 49, came after a tip in the 2003 missing person’s case of Brenda Jacobs, according to the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office.

The tip -- which Lycoming County District Attorney Kenneth Osokow said came Monday -- led to the discovery this week of human remains in a storage facility in Northeast Philadelphia.

The remains are suspected to be of Jacobs, who was believed to be in a relationship with Babcok, said Osokow.

Jacobs, who was about 39 when she went missing, lived in Lycoming County in central Pennsylvania, about 180 miles away from Philadelphia. She had been missing since 2003 but was not reported missing by family until 2013, prosecutors said. Osokow would not comment on why it took so long for the missing person’s case to be filed.

Babcock was interviewed in 2013 or 2014 when Jacobs was reported missing, Osokow said, and has now allegedly confessed to Jacobs' murder, though Osokow would not elaborate.

"When there is no swift resolution to an investigation, perpetrators do begin to believe that they can get away with murder," Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner said in a statement. "With the help of our State Police, that won't be true for Jade Babcock. May those who have been missing and mourning Brenda Jacobs for years know some peace in the very near future."

Babcock was arrested on Tuesday and charged with abuse of a corpse, obstruction of justice and tampering with evidence.

Philadelphia prosecutors said homicide charges are expected. Osokow said homicide charge determinations "will be made shortly."

Osokow would not comment on a motive and said prosecutors have not yet been informed of Jacobs' cause and manner of death.

Babcock, who is being held without bail, has not yet entered a plea. He is set to return to court for a status hearing on Oct. 18. It was not immediately clear if he had an attorney.

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