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Tuesday
Apr162019

Special forces Marine killed in vehicle accident at Camp Pendleton

Bill_Dally/iStock(CAMP PENDLETON, Calif.) -- A special forces Marine was killed over the weekend in a tactical vehicle accident at Camp Pendleton, California, the Marine Corps announced on Monday.

The Marine Raider suffered critical injuries and was medically evacuated for additional care, but died on Sunday night, according to the Marines.

Two other Marine Raiders were also injured in the one-vehicle crash, which occurred during a unit training exercise on Saturday.

The identity of the Marine who died was being withheld pending next of kin notification. An investigation into the accident is underway.

"Our thoughts are with his family and teammates," Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command tweeted on Monday.

Last week, three Marines were killed by a bomb blast outside of Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan. They were identified as Cpl. Robert A. Hendriks, Sgt. Benjamin S. Hines, and Staff Sgt. Christopher K.A. Slutman.

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Tuesday
Apr162019

Student who applied to wrong college gets free trip to visit Utah campus

damircudic/iStock(LAFAYETTE, La.) -- A college senior who applied to the wrong college was gifted a free trip to visit the campus due to her fateful mistake -- and the power of Twitter.

Kaitlynn Lovelady, a senior at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, initially thought she wasted the $40 application fee when she made the blunder and applied for summer classes at Salt Lake Community College in Utah instead of South Louisiana Community College in Lafayette.

 

 

Lovelady's tweet caught the attention of both schools, who then began to compete for her attendance. Salt Lake Community College even offered to refund her the application fee, but she would later find out that it wasn't a waste after all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Utah Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox and the Utah National Guard even got in on the recruiting action.

 

 

 

 

Two days after she alerted the world to her gaffe, Lovelady tweeted that she would consider a trip to Utah if someone was willing to pay for her flight.

Lovelady got her wish when a Utah businessman, who wished to remain anonymous, offered to pay for her flight, ABC Lafayette affiliate KATC reported.

On Friday, she boarded her first-ever flight from New Orleans to Salt Lake City and documented each leg of her trip along the way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photos shared by the Salt Lake Community College show a smiling Lovelady as she tours the campus.

 

 

Lovelady returned to Louisiana on Monday. Still no word on what her plans for summer classes are, but it looks like she has a tough decision to make.

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Tuesday
Apr162019

Severe weather outbreak in South could mean more tornadoes

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- The number of tornadoes confirmed over the weekend has increased to 41, which spanned nine states from Texas to Pennsylvania.

More could strike the South Wednesday as a storm system currently delivering snow and strong winds to the Rockies keeps pushing east.

On Wednesday, the strongest storms will stretch from San Antonio to Dallas and into Oklahoma City. Damaging winds, hail and tornadoes will be the biggest threats.

By Thursday, that system is forecast to produce severe storms from New Orleans up into Memphis, Tennessee, with similar threats -- damaging wind, hail and potential tornadoes.

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Tuesday
Apr162019

University student dies after plunging 100 feet off cliff in Ozark National Forest

Briar Cliff University(SIOUX CITY, Iowa) -- A 20-year-old university student was killed after falling off a cliff in the Ozark National Forest, officials said.

Andrea Norton, a junior at Briar Cliff University in Sioux City, Iowa, was visiting the Arkansas forest Saturday as part of a class activity, the Newton County Sheriff's Office said in a statement.

The group was walking near a cliff called Hawksbill Crag when Norton, attempting to move from one area of the Crag to another, lost her footing and fell approximately 100 feet, according to authorities.

She did not survive the fall.

Newton County Sheriff Glenn Wheeler said police were called at about 9:33 a.m. and worked to recover her body.

Wheeler said the area is known to be dangerous and "one stumble or misstep is all it can take to turn a great day into a tragic one."

"This is the second callout to the area this year that involved a serious fall, and the season is just beginning," Wheeler said.

In a Facebook post Saturday night, the university called Norton "a passionate environmental science major, exemplary student and dedicated athlete. She lived BCU's values in everything she did from the classroom to the court and everywhere she went."

Norton, who was from Hot Springs, South Dakota, was on the university's volleyball team, which took to Twitter to express their condolences for their lost teammate.

Wheeler said he's in contact with Norton's family.

"I told them there are a lot of people in Arkansas praying for them," he said.

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Tuesday
Apr162019

Woman at center of GoFundMe scam involving homeless veteran pleads guilty

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- The woman who conspired with her boyfriend and a homeless veteran to receive thousands in a GoFundMe scheme has pleaded guilty to state charges.

Kate McClure, 28, appeared in court Monday where she pleaded guilty to second-degree theft by deception. She faces up to four years in prison at her June sentencing.

McClure, along with her then-boyfriend Mark D'Amico and homeless veteran Johnny Bobbitt, was accused of fabricating a feel-good story about Bobbitt coming to McClure’s aid when she ran out of gas along the highway and gave her his last $20.

In November 2017, McClure and D'Amico allegedly created a page on GoFundMe's website detailing how Bobbitt acted as a "good Samaritan" and rescued McClure.

The website said that any donated funds would be used to get Bobbitt off the street and provide him with living expenses. The New Jersey couple set a goal of $10,000.

But in truth, McClure's entire story was bogus and Bobbitt never spent "his last $20" helping McClure, prosecutors said.

Instead, McClure and D'Amico allegedly conspired to create the false story, authorities said. After the story went viral, approximately $400,000 was donated from more than 14,000 donors in just a matter of weeks, officials said.

Bobbitt was informed of the scheme in mid-November 2017, when the donations had reached approximately $1,500, officials said. The following month, McClure and D'Amico deposited $25,000 of the proceeds into Bobbitt's account, authorities said.

While all of the money was supposedly going to help Bobbitt, prosecutors said the majority of the donated funds was quickly spent by D'Amico and McClure on personal expenses including purchasing a BMW, expensive handbags, vacations and other personal items.

Their tale inspired thousands, but things began to unravel when Bobbitt accused McClure and D’Amico of stiffing him out of the money, causing an investigation to be launched.

All three were later arrested for the scheme.

Bobbitt, 36, pleaded guilty to one federal count of conspiracy to commit money laundering in March. He faces up to 10 years in prison on that charge. Bobbitt also received five years' probation as part of a plea deal for state charges related to this incident.

McClure has already pleaded guilty to one federal count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and faces up to 20 years in prison on that charge. She will be sentenced in the federal case on June 19.

D'Amico, who was not charged with any federal crimes, has pleaded not guilty to state charges of theft and conspiracy. He has denied the allegations.

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Monday
Apr152019

Texas authorities identify 2 victims in decades-old 'Killing Fields' murders using genetic genealogy

KTRK-TV(LEAGUE CITY, Texas) -- Investigators in Texas have identified the remains of two women in a decades-long cold case by using genetic genealogy .

The murders of the women, named Jane Doe and Janet Doe, were part of a larger murder mystery known locally as the "The Calder Road Murders" or "The Killing Fields," involving four women in total, according to authorities.

The first body was found on April 6, 1984, when the family dog of Heidi Fi brought her skeletal remains to her home on Ervin Street in League City, Texas, League City Police Chief Gary Ratliff told reporters at a news conference Monday. Fi had been reported missing on Oct. 10, 1983, when she was 25 years old. The rest of her remains were located in a wooded area near the home, Ratliff said.

The second body was found on Feb. 2, 1986, by two juveniles who were riding bikes in the same area where Fi's body was discovered on Calder Road, Ratliff said. As investigators processed the scene, another body was found in close proximity but they were in "vastly different stages of decomposition," Ratliff said.

The second body was unable to be identified, so the medical examiner named the remains Jane Doe, Ratliff said. Officials were able to identify the other body as Laura Miller, who was reported missing on Sept. 24, 1984, when she was 16 years old. Officials used dental records to identity her remains.

Sometime after 1986, an area nearby was leased for recreational horse riding, Ratliff said. Two people riding horses in the area in September 1991 found the fourth body, which was given the name Janet Doe by the medical examiner, Ratliff said.

A connection between all four murders has not been determined yet, other than the location of where their remains were found, said League City Police Lt. Michael Bluffington.

Authorities are now seeking the public's assistance to find out more information about the women before the time of their deaths. Several persons of interests have been identified but authorities currently do not have enough to officially name anyone as a suspect, Bluffington said.

"We want to compete the investigation," Bluffington said. "At this time, we really just want to focus on these girls, who they were, the people that knew them and that’s kind of where we wanna steer this today."

Jane Doe identified as Audrey Lee Cook

Audrey Lee Cook was born on Nov. 25, 1955, in Memphis, Tennessee, and lived in Houston and Channelview, Texas, between 1976 and 1985, Ratliff said. She was estimated to be about 30 years old at the time of her death.

Cook moved to the Houston area with her girlfriend at the time to establish "a new life," Bluffington said. She regularly communicated with her parents via letters and phone calls and when they hadn't heard from her in a while, they traveled to Houston to search for her, Bluffington said.

In 1979, she was working as a mechanic for a golf cart company in Houston, later getting a job at the Harrison Equipment Corporation, a construction equipment company, Ratliff said.

At some point she started working for National Rent-A-Car but the dates of her employment are unknown, Ratliff said.

Associates of Cook also reported to authorities that she possibly sold and used cocaine, Ratliff said. She and her girlfriend had broken up at the time of her disappearance, Bluffington said.

Janet Doe identified as Donna Prudhomme

Donna Prudhomme was born on April 23, 1957, in Port Arthur, Texas, and was estimated to be about 34 years old at the time of her death, Ratliff said. Between 1982 to 1985 she lived in the Beaumont-Port Arthur area, moving to Austin in 1986, Ratliff said.

In 1988, she moved to the Seabrook, Texas, area, where she lived in several apartment complexes. She also lived in Nassau Bay, Texas, in 1991, Ratliff said. She was last seen in July 1991.

Authorities currently do not have any information about Prudhomme's employment, Bluffington said, adding that she was a "frequent patron" of several of the local bars in the Seabrook and Nassau Bay areas.

Prudhomme "just kind of fell out of contact with her family," Bluffington said. Her sister knew she was living in the Seabrook area and the two had communicated a few times by mail. But "they just kind of lived different lives," Bluffington said.

The purpose of one of Prudhomme's moves was to escape an abusive relationship and she arranged for her two sons live with their grandparents, Bluffington said.

Only one of her sons is still living. When investigators spoke to him, he told them he "kind of thought his mom just moved on."

How they were identified

League City Police detectives "worked diligently" since the bodies were discovered to identify Jane Doe and Janet Doe, Ratliff said.

In 2016, the department learned of Parabon NanoLabs, a Virginia-based company that provides DNA phenotyping for law enforcement, Ratliff said. The skulls of the unidentified victims were taken to Texas State University, where 3D composites were printed.

After the phenotyping was completed, investigators began working with GenMatch to use genetic genealogy to compose family trees for both of the victims.

Once the family trees were completed, authorities were able to locate the son and sister of Janet Doe and coordinate DNA collections for family members of Jane Doe that were out of state.

After the DNA comparisons were conducted from family members, positive matches were made, Ratliff said. The medical examiner agreed with the results and is now in the process of amending the death certificates, Ratliff said.

The families are now undergoing a "formal grieving process" now that they know "that their loved one is actually deceased, not just missing or living a new life somewhere," Bluffington said.

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Monday
Apr152019

Suspected arsonist facing hate crime charges over Louisiana black church fires

Chalabala/iStock(NEW YORK) -- The man who was arrested after a string of fires left historically black churches gravely burned is now facing hate crime charges.

Holden Matthews was arrested Wednesday after investigators tied him to three church fires that spanned a 10-day period in Louisiana's St. Landry Parrish.

Matthews, the 21-year-old son of a sheriff's deputy, appeared in court in Opelousas on Monday. He entered a not guilty plea via his court-appointed lawyer.

Matthews was denied bond on Monday, which law enforcement officials pushed for because they view him as a continued threat.

"In my mind, I felt another fire was imminent," Louisiana Fire Marshal Butch Browning siad in court on Monday.

Browning made similar sentiments shortly after apprehending Matthews. During a news conference on Thursday, Browning said officials were still working to determine his motives, but added they found that Matthews had ties to "black metal and its association and history with church burnings in other parts of the world."

Black metal, a distant genre of devil-worshipping death metal music, has roots in the Norwegian heavy metal scene that reportedly was the inspiration for several church burnings in the country in the early 1990s.

Matthews' father, who works for the local sheriff's department, was present at Monday's hearing.

The three fires investigators tied Matthews to were all near the town of Opelousas, and no one was hurt as no one was inside any of the structures at the time of the blazes.

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Monday
Apr152019

Small plane crashes in Long Island, all passengers survive

ABC News(VALLEY STREAM, N.Y.) -- A plane carrying three people, a pilot and two tourists from Korea, crashed into the front lawn of a home on Long Island, N.Y.

The small, single-engine Cessna plane crashed into power lines around 10 p.m. Sunday. The wires suspended the aircraft about a foot from the ground, preventing it from actually striking the lawn or damaging any homes in the Valley Stream residential area.

Authorities found the three survivors sitting on the curb across the street from where the plane had crashed. The pilot , Dongl Kim, 27, and passengers Hong Joo-Na, 29, and Jung Woo, 26, rented the plane at Republic Airport in Farmingdale, N.Y., in association with a local flight school, officials said.

The three were on their way back from a trip to Niagara Falls and encountered dense fog. The National Weather Service had issued an advisory before the crash. The fog made Kim miss the runway a total of six times after he attempted to land at both Republic Airport and John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens, according to Nassau Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder.

The plane eventually ran out of fuel and clipped a local church before nosediving into the lawn of a single-family home. Nassau Police confirmed Hong was the only passenger injured and left the scene with a sprained finger.

Valley Stream resident Lucila Hernandez, 20, said the crash knocked out the power in her home as well as her neighbors'. Everyone gathered at the scene to inspect the damage, she said.

"It was panic," Hernandez told ABC News. "It was the last thing I expected to see when I turned the corner. I thought people had gotten hurt or died."

Ryder denied any possibility of substance abuse issues related to the crash.

"They all appear to be fine at this time," he said.

The Federal Aviation Administration confirmed to ABC News it is investigating the incident.

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Monday
Apr152019

Man arrested after aggravated assault of transgender woman caught on video

BlakeDavidTaylor/iStock(DALLAS) -- A man has been arrested in connection to the beating of a transgender woman in Dallas.

Dallas police announced on their blog that Edward Thomas, a 29-year-old black man, was charged Sunday with aggravated assault.

Thomas is in custody at the Dallas County Jail. His bond was set for $75,000, according to the jail's website, and it is not clear if he has obtained a lawyer.

The Dallas Police Department said the incident is being flagged to the district attorney as a possible hate crime.

Thomas' arrest comes two days after the alleged assault, which was captured on video and spread widely over social media.

The video shows the woman in a parking lot near the apartment complex when a man in a white long-sleeved T-shirt and white shorts runs up to her and slings her to the ground. He then pins her to the ground and starts raining left and right punches on the woman's head. Several other men join in the assault, stomping and kicking the woman while she's down.

The woman told police her attackers used homophobic slurs during the incident.

The woman told Dallas ABC station WFAA she suffered facial fractures and a right arm injury in the attack. She declined an on-camera interview.

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said he was "extremely angry" about the attack.

"Chief [Renee] Hall alerted me this morning to the assault at the Royal Crest Apartments and I have seen a video of what happened," Rawlings said in a statement Saturday. "I am extremely angry about what appears to be mob violence against this woman. I am in contact with the chief and she assured me that the Dallas Police Department is fully investigating, including the possibility that this was a hate crime."

He added, "Those who did this do not represent how Dallasites feel about our thriving LGBTQ community. We will not stand for this kind of behavior."

Dallas police thanked the public for its assistance and asked for anyone with information to call authorities.

Twenty-six transgender people, the vast majority women, were killed in 2018, according to tracking by the Human Rights Campaign. One of those women, 26-year-old Karla Patricia Flores-Pavón, was strangled in her apartment in Dallas on May 9.

Eighty percent of trans women killed in the past six years were women of color, HRC reports.

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Monday
Apr152019

Actress Lori Loughlin intends to plead not guilty to charges stemming from college entrance scam

Pat Greenhouse/The Boston Globe via Getty Images(BOSTON) -- Actress Lori Loughlin and her husband intend to plead not guilty to charges stemming from a nationwide college entrance cheating scandal, according to a document filed Monday in Boston federal court.

Loughlin and her husband, the fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, are attempting to waive their right to appear in court to enter their pleas to a new charge of conspiracy to commit money laundering filed last week, federal officials said.

It’s unclear whether a judge will accept her request or require her to show up in person to enter her plea.

Loughlin, 54, best known for her role as Aunt Becky on the ABC sitcom Full House, and Massimo were already charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud along with 35 other parents, including actress Felicity Huffman.

A new superseding indictment unsealed last Tuesday alleges that Loughlin and Giannulli disguised their bribes to the ringleader of the scam as donations to fund programs for "disadvantaged youth."

The new charges came a day after federal prosecutors said actress Huffman and 13 other defendants charged in the probe dubbed "Operation Varsity Blues" had agreed to plead guilty.

This is a breaking news story. Please check back for updates.


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