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National

    Lori Byrd, a Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department firefighter, was the winner of 'Good Housekeeping' magazine's Hometown Heroes contest. As a result, she was awarded a cover shoot, in which she appears next to WWE superstar John Cena. >> Read more trending news  Lori Byrd always wanted to be a firefighter, she wanted to help people. 'I just never went into it because it's a male-dominated career and I just didn't think it was something women did,' explains Byrd.  Instead, she pursued a career in banking until she had one of those life-changing experiences that put it all into perspective. A woman had crashed into a retention pond with her kid in the backseat right by the bank she was working at.  'I just assumed that they would swim to the edge, you know, it wasn't that far but they just went under and didn't come back.'  It took only seconds until Byrd decided to jump in and try and save them.  'The woman was face down so I immediately grabbed her and took her to the side.'  Both survived, leaving Byrd their hero. 'But I think the main thing that changed my mind there was that one of the firefighters that responded there was a woman, and I was just like you know why, why did I ever care about that?' And after first responders saved her dads life when he suffered a stroke, it was a done deal. At 33, Byrd followed her childhood dream and became a firefighter. 'Life is too short to not do something that you love and really enjoy.'  Now Byrd smiles proudly on the cover of Good Housekeeping Magazine as a woman, a first responder, and an idol. 'It's a huge deal. Not only am I representing first responders, but I think just a new class of first responders you know being a woman.'  Byrd hopes her story inspires others to follow their dreams, especially if any girls want to become a firefighter.  'I think each of us has it in us to do this job it doesn't matter male for female.'  According to the WWE, Cena has been cast as a firefighter who, along with his team, is tasked with babysitting three siblings in the upcoming film, 'Playing with Fire.
  • Police in Mansfield, Massachusetts, are publicly apologizing to a local contractor for telling residents and businesses to avoid his roofing company, but he's saying the apology is too little, too late. >> Read more trending news  Chris Fitzsimons, who owns Easton Roofing, says his company was roped into a post by the police department exposing scam contractors, something Fitzsimons says he's not. 'After I came home from work last night my phone started blowing up,' said Fitzsimons. 'I got a text from a good friend saying, 'Did you look at Facebook?'' The post in question was a picture with eight company logos, saying things like, 'Can anyone recommend a terrible contractor?'  Fitzsimons says he was shocked to see his name listed as one of the contractors to avoid. 'Once that hit social media, it just spread like a virus,' said Fitzsimons. 'It was out there and there was no stopping it. Claiming someone is a criminal and not actually fact-checking it.' The post also said to call 911 if you saw one of the companies operating or advertising their services. 'A lot of our business is referrals and it's through the local town pages, the local mom's page, Easton, Mansfield mom's page and they say, 'Who do you recommend?'' said Fitzsimons. The post has since been removed from the police department's page. Fitzsimons says the department spoke to his company and then launched an investigation, saying that before putting the post out there they hadn't reached out to him or his employees. The local business owner believes he has and will continue to lose business over the ordeal. 'The damage is already done, it's out there now and I'm trying to un-ring that bell,' said Fitzsimons. While he says the damage is done, Fitzsimons hopes this mistake will lead more care in the future with posts that could tarnish someone's reputation so easily, especially for small businesses like his. 'We teach our kids not to put something on social media that you don't want to be there forever,' said Fitzsimons. 'The fact that it's a police department perhaps they should re-look at who is responsible for their social media and that someone else is checking them before it gets posted.' In a statement, Mansfield Chief of Police Ronald Sellon told WFXT:
  • A teenager who killed his grandmother will soon learn how long he will spend in prison. >> Read more trending news  Logan Mott, 17, pleaded guilty to killing his grandmother and trying to cover it up. Mott’s father, Eric, took the stand Wednesday on day one of his sentencing hearing. Investigators say Logan Mott shot and stabbed Kristina French while she lay in bed and then buried her body in the backyard back in November 2017. The prosecution showed the video of his arrest near the Canadian border, where Mott was heard speaking with border patrol agents.  The prosecutor, Joseph Licandro, also showed photos of French’s wounds. A major revelation Wednesday was that Mott was active in what’s being described as a communist online chat room. People in that group even gave Mott advice on how to dispose of a body. Mott’s dad was the final witness of the day. At one point, he described how kind his mom was and how he couldn’t think of any reason Mott would want to hurt her. French’s uncle was also in court. He read a letter that both he and his wife wrote. They said French moved to Florida a few years ago because she didn’t want to “miss Logan growing up.
  • Valerie Lundeen Ely, the wife of 'Tarzan' actor Ron Ely, was stabbed to death Tuesday by their 30-year-old son, who was then shot and killed by sheriff’s deputies. The Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office responded to a report of a homicide in Hope Ranch, California, a few miles west of Santa Barbara. Deputies found Valerie Ely, 62, dead with multiple stab wounds. >> Read more trending news  The deputies talked to Ron Ely and identified his son, 30-year-old Cameron Ely, as the suspect. Law enforcement asked those living in nearby homes to shelter in place while they searched the property for the suspect. 'We wanted to make sure all the residents were safe while we searched the area,' Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office Lt. Erik Raney told KEYT. According to the Associated Press, Cameron Ely posed a threat to deputies, four of whom opened fire and killed him, the statement said. It did not say what he had done that was threatening. Ron Ely, 81, played the title character on the NBC series “Tarzan,” which ran from 1966 to 1968. He was host of the Miss America pageant in 1980 and 1981 and later married Valerie Ely, a former Miss Florida. The couple had three children. There was no report of Ron Ely being injured. Authorities confirmed he was at the home during the stabbing and the shooting, and an earlier sheriff’s statement said an elderly man in the home was taken to a hospital for evaluation. The home where the killings took place is one of two addresses listed in public records for Cameron Ely. It is not clear whether he had been living with his parents. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
  • A mother in Gaston County, North Carolina, opened up to WSOC-TV after she said the assistant principal at her son's high school preyed on him for sex. >> Read more trending news  'I feel betrayed by somebody that I gave my child to because I wanted so bad for him to succeed,' she said. Stuart W. Cramer High School Assistant Principal Lisa Rothwell is facing six felony sex crime charges after police said she confessed to having sex with a 17-year-old student. That student's mom reached out to WSOC-TV to share the pain she feels after she said Rothwell took advantage of her son at one of his most vulnerable moments. WSOC-TV learned Rothwell helped tutor her son. She said he was making great strides and that Rothwell even told her she practiced saying her son's name for the moment he crossed the stage to get his diploma. She said at first, Rothwell, who is known for connecting with students, did something no one else could -- helped get her son interested in school again. Then, the mother said she got a phone call from the school saying Rothwell was doing much more than tutoring her child. 'You have these people here that you think are there for your child to protect your child and come to find out there are preying on your child and it's hard on a mother,' she said. She said at some point Rothwell started texting her son outside of school work and things became sexual. 'It's the worst feeling that I have ever had,' she said. 'It's hard to feel like somebody that you really trusted betrayed you.' She said she later learned the assistant principal gave her son gifts and a promise that 'when he became of age that they could be together, and she would take care of him.' She told WSOC-TV her son bore the weight of a secret no 17-year-old should live with -- feeling pressure in a place where he should feel safe. 'He was working towards something and felt like for once people believed that it mattered and I feel like he lost the innocence of being a teenager,' she said. Things started to spiral out of control when the mother said Rothwell started acting like a controlling girlfriend, monitoring who her son talked to and what he did. According to police, one day a classmate posted a vague tweet about an assistant principal getting too close to students and that's when investigators started questioning the teen. After getting the call about her son, the mother said she went to the school and when she looked her son in the eyes, she said she knew it was true. 'He has got this look of heartbreak on his face,' she said. 'I knew at that point and time that what I had be told. It was just devastation.' The mother said the situation has been traumatic for her son, and that he is struggling to return to the normal life he had before Rothwell began texting him. 'There are moments where he is angry,' she said. 'There are moments where he is confused. Don't quite know how to separate things.' She said she chose to speak out about what happened to her child because she's heard people say boys aren't considered victims in these types of situations. 'This case is being portrayed as he is not a victim and that this is really not that bad because she did so good,' the mother said. 'All the good doesn't erase the bad.' She said her son worries that the administrator who has changed the lives of students and was respected by so many parents will overshadow him, isolating him with the pain he now feels. 'Some even portrayed her as the victim and not him, she said. 'You have to wonder would you feel the same way if it was your child, if it was your son?' At one point, the mother said she was just like the other supporters, but that doesn't excuse the allegations against Rothwell. 'I'm so grateful that she helped so many people, but what had to make mine so different? Where was the help for mine?' the mother said. 'For all the good is it OK to sacrifice this child?' According to the mother, the last time she talked to Rothwell was a week before she was arrested, and they were planning a celebration for her son's graduation together. 'It was all a lie,' she said. 'I will never trust her again around my child.' Rothwell was being jailed under a $1 million bond, but a judge lowered the bond to $100,000, and she bonded out. She has been suspended with pay.
  • A Marine Corps veteran in Celina, Ohio, said he never expected to have an issue that led to a viral Facebook post about the way a Celina pharmacy handled the reprinting of his boot camp photo. >> Read more trending news  “I just expected to pick up up my photo and leave,” Larry Regedanz told WHIO. The copy of his boot camp photo was for his mom, who wanted to have it posted in downtown Celina to honor him like other veterans in the city. “She and my wife were planning to get one of the banners to hang up on Main Street,” he said. But when Regedanz went to a CVS Pharmacy, he said the manager told him she couldn’t sell him the reprint because of copyright infringement and that it had to be destroyed. “She said, ‘Here it is.’ It wasn’t destroyed. I said, ‘I thought it was destroyed.’” Regendanz said. “At that point, she ripped it up in my face. I couldn’t believe it.” The manager then called police. Celina police responded around 5:30 p.m. Tuesday to CVS Pharmacy after the store’s manager called to report that Regendanz had threatened her. “I had a customer come in here and threaten me,” the manager told Celina police in a phone call obtained by WHIO. “He came back and he started screaming and yelling and threatening to call his lawyer and that he was going to come get me.” Regedanz posted a lengthy message on Facebook two hours after the store called police on him, detailing his experience in the store. “When my mother ... tried to pick up the photo she was told that it belonged to the government and was threatened with a $10,000 fine for copyright infringement,” Regedanz’s post, which had been shared over 6,000 times Wednesday morning, read. According to a Celina police report, the manager told police “she was unable to release the photo due to it being copyrighted.” She also told police Regedanz would have to obtain a letter of release from the U.S. government. Regedanz went to the store later in the afternoon to try to pick up the copy of the picture himself. “When I explained it was my military boot camp picture, the manager wasn't so nice anymore,” Regedanz said. “I tried to explain to her that it was a picture of me that I purchased and owned the rights to, and that I have had several copies made over the years and have used it on social media, and it's even been in the news.” Regedanz said the manager took the photo “held it up to my face and ripped it in pieces, smiling as she did it,” the post read. A CVS spokesperson said they’ve been investigating the incident. “Our employee did not tear up Mr. Regedanz’s original photo,” said Mike DeAngelis, senior director of corporate communications with CVS. “During their conversation, he told our employee to tear up a copy that was printed from his online order.” “We are committed to ensuring that every customer receives courteous, outstanding service in our stores and we apologize to Mr. Regedanz and his mother for their recent experience,” DeAngelis added. “We are fully investigating this matter and contacting him directly to learn more about his version of what occurred.” U.S. Army veteran Donald Ayars said he had his military photo copied at the same CVS store. “His photo, my photo, if there’s a copyright infringement, we both did it. In fact, all of these banners downtown are copyright infringement,” he said. The manager told police after Regedanz posted about his experience on Facebook the store received “over 20 phone calls” and “that all the calls were anonymous and stated anything from she is disrespectful, she should be fired to they hope she dies in a car crash,” the police report read. Celina Police Chief Thomas Wales said his department respects all military members, and that he does not expect any charges to be filed because no criminal activity took place.
  • On the picket lines at a General Motors transmission plant in Toledo, Ohio, passing cars honked and striking workers celebrated a tentative contract deal by munching on 10 pizzas dropped off by a supporter. They had carried signs for 31 days and demonstrated the muscle the United Auto Workers union still has over Detroit's three manufacturers. Details of the four-year pact weren't released, but GM's latest offer to end the monthlong strike included wage increases and lump-sum payments, top-notch health insurance at little cost to workers, promises of new products for many U.S. factories and a path to full-time work for temporary workers. That's a big difference from what GM wanted going into the talks: to slash total labor costs at its factories, which are about $13 per hour higher than at foreign automakers in the U.S. Terry Dittes, the UAW's chief bargainer with GM, said the deal offers 'major gains' for 49,000 union workers who have been walking picket lines since Sept. 16. They'll stay off work for at least a couple more days while union committees decide if they will bless the deal. Then workers will have to vote on it. The deal shows that the union, with less than one-third of the 1.5 million members it had at its peak in 1979, still has a lot of clout with GM, Ford and Fiat Chrysler. 'I think economically the UAW will do just fine in this agreement,' said Art Schwartz, a former GM negotiator who now is a labor consultant in Michigan. 'The union certainly still has power in this industry.' President Donald Trump called UAW President Gary Jones on Wednesday night, but union spokesman Brian Rothenberg said he did not know what the men discussed. The strike immediately brought GM's U.S. factories to a halt, and within a week, started to hamper production in Mexico and Canada. Analysts at KeyBanc investment services estimated the stoppage cut GM vehicle production by 250,000 to 300,000 vehicles. That's too much for the company to make up with overtime or increased assembly line speeds. Analysts say the costs to GM will hit around $2 billion. Workers, on the other hand, lost north of $3,000 each on average, the difference between their base wages and $250 per week in strike pay from the union. 'It's nice to see there's a deal, but without knowing the details I'm a little skeptical because we don't know the highlights or the lowlights,' said worker Nick Kuhlman, who was among the strikers huddled around a burn barrel on a blustery, gray Toledo afternoon. 'I just hope it gets done,' said Toledo worker Mark Nichols, who thought the strike would last only a week or two and was ready to get back to work because his savings are running low. GM apparently was able to close three of four factories that it wanted to shutter to get rid of excess capacity in slow-selling cars and components. The Detroit-Hamtramck plant will get a new electric pickup truck and stay open, but factories in Lordstown, Ohio; Warren, Michigan; and near Baltimore are to be closed. The Lordstown area will get an electric vehicle battery factory, but it won't have nearly as many workers as the assembly plant that for years made compact GM cars. The deal now will be used as a template for talks with GM's crosstown rivals, Ford and Fiat Chrysler. Normally the major provisions carry over to the other two companies and cover about 140,000 auto workers nationwide. It wasn't clear which company the union would bargain with next, or whether there would be another strike. Schwartz said depending on the contents, the GM contract could influence wages and benefits in other industries. But he said foreign automakers with U.S. factories, mainly in the South, will give modest pay raises regardless of the GM contract, and shouldn't be affected much. Clarence Trinity, a worker at GM's engine and transmission plant in the Detroit suburb of Romulus, Michigan, said the deal sounds good, 'but I have to see it in writing or hear from the leaders.' Trinity said he can't figure out why it took 31 days for the strike to end. 'I don't understand what General Motors was expecting to get out of us. Maybe they didn't expect us to strike. Maybe they didn't expect us to strike this long.' If all of the committees bless the deal, it's likely to take several days for GM to get its factories restarted. Matt Himes, a worker at the GM plant in Spring Hill, Tennessee, heard news of the deal in Ohio, where he's trying to help his wife sell their house after the Lordstown GM plant where he used to work was shuttered. He hopes good news keeps coming. If they can sell their house, his wife can finally move south with him. 'I'm proud that we stuck our ground and everybody stuck together,' Himes said of the union workers during a phone interview. 'And I'm relieved that hopefully it worked out, got us a good contract and we can move on and get back to work making cars like we should be.' Wall Street investors liked news that the strike could end. GM shares jumped 2.6% just after the news broke, but eased back to close up 1% at $36.65.  GM and the union have been negotiating at a time of troubling uncertainty for the U.S. auto industry. Driven up by the longest economic expansion in American history, auto sales appear to have peaked and are now heading in the other direction. GM and other carmakers are also struggling to make the transition to electric and autonomous vehicles. Meanwhile, President Donald Trump's trade war with China and his tariffs on imported steel and aluminum have raised costs for auto companies. A revamped North American free trade deal is stalled in Congress, raising doubts about the future of America's trade in autos and auto parts with Canada and Mexico, which last year came to $257 billion. Amid that uncertainty, GM workers have wanted to lock in as much as they can before things get ugly. They argue that they had given up pay raises and made other concessions to keep GM afloat during its 2009 trip through bankruptcy protection. Now that GM has been nursed back to health — earning $2.42 billion in its latest quarter — they wanted a bigger share. The union's bargainers have voted to recommend the deal to the UAW International Executive Board, which will vote on the agreement. Union leaders from factories nationwide will travel to Detroit for a vote on Thursday. The earliest workers could return would be after that. In past years, it's taken a minimum of three or four days and as long as several weeks for the national ratification vote. This time around — with a federal corruption investigation that has implicated the past two UAW presidents and brought convictions of five union officials — many union members don't trust the leadership. But they're also tired of striking and may return before they vote on the deal themselves. The strike had shut down 33 GM manufacturing plants in nine states across the U.S., and also took down factories in Canada and Mexico. It was the first national strike by the union since a two-day walkout in 2007, and the longest since a 54-day strike in Flint, Michigan, in 1998 that also halted most of GM's production. ____ Associated Press writers Mike Householder in Detroit, John Seewer in Toledo, Ohio, and Jonathan Mattise in Nashville, Tennessee, contributed to this report.
  • The climbers were closing in on the top of California's second-highest peak when they came upon the grisly discovery of what looked like a bone buried in a boulder field. Closer inspection revealed a fractured human skull. Tyler Hofer and his climbing partner moved rocks aside and discovered an entire skeleton. It appeared to have been there long enough that all that remained were bones, a pair of leather shoes and a belt. The discovery a week ago beneath Mount Williamson unearthed a mystery: Who was the unfortunate hiker? How did he or she die? Was the person alone? Were they ever reported injured, dead or missing? The Inyo County Sheriff's Department doesn't have any of those answers yet. But it retrieved the remains Wednesday in the hopes of finding the identity and what happened. There's no evidence to suggest foul play, spokeswoman Carma Roper said. 'This is a huge mystery for us,' Roper said. The body was discovered Oct. 7 near a lake in the remote rock-filled bowl between the towering peaks of Mount Tyndall and Williamson, which rises to 14,374 feet (4,381 meters). The behemoth of a mountain looms large over the Owens Valley below and overshadows the former World War II Japanese internment camp at Manzanar. Hofer and a friend had gone slightly off the trail-less route as they picked their way through boulders when they stumbled upon the shocking find. 'The average person who was hiking to Williamson wouldn't have gone the route we went because we were a little bit lost, a little bit off course,' Hofer told The Associated Press. 'So it made sense that nobody would have stumbled across the body.' Hofer phoned from the summit to report the finding and went to the sheriff's department the next day after hiking out to speak with investigators. Sgt. Nate Derr, who coordinates the county's search and rescue team, said bodies found in the mountains are typically connected with someone they know who has gone missing. The opposite is rarer: finding the remains of someone who appears to not have gone missing or been reported as missing. They plan to use DNA to try to identify the remains. Because the body was so decomposed, investigators believe it's possibly been there for decades. Authorities have ruled out that it's 1st Lt. Matthew Kraft, a Marine from Connecticut who vanished in February during a nearly 200-mile (320-kilometer) ski trek through the Sierra. Derr also doubts it's Matthew Greene, a Pennsylvania climber last seen in the Mammoth Lakes area — nearly 70 miles (112 kilometers) north — in 2013. Investigators have gone back through decades of reports of people missing in the Inyo National Forest and come up empty, Derr said. Neighboring Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks also don't have reports of anyone missing in that area, he said. Bodies of those who go missing in the mountains are discovered from time to time, but it can take years and even decades. It took five years — after an exhaustive search was called off — before a trail worker discovered the body of Randy Morgenson, a Kings Canyon National Park ranger who vanished in 1996. A World War II airman whose plane had crashed near Mount Mendel on a training flight in 1942 wasn't found until 2005 when a receding glacier gave up his body. Hofer, a church pastor in San Diego, said it appeared to him the body was intentionally buried. The skeleton was laid out on its back with the arms crossed over the chest. 'It wasn't in a position of distress or curled up,' Hofer said. 'It was definitely a burial because it was very strategically covered with rocks.' The death could have occurred in the days before helicopters were used to fly out bodies, Derr said. It's possible that the person perished on the mountain and was buried by a climbing partner. 'I can't say whether it's intentional or not, but it's not an area that would be prone to rockfall,' Derr said. Although the mountain is the state's second-highest, it's not summited as frequently as other high Sierra peaks because it is a forbidding approach. The elevation gain from the trailhead in the high desert to the summit is the greatest of any peak in California. It can take more than a day to hike over Shepherd Pass and then the trail ends, and climbers have to make a tedious scramble over rock fields and sand across Williamson Bowl — where the body was found — before climbing the final 2,000 feet (600 meters) up a chute that includes moments of breathtaking exposure while picking their way up a rock face. Hofer posted about his finding on a mountaineers forum on Facebook that sparked speculation about the death, in part because Hofer described the shoes as the type worn by rock climbers. That seemed unusual because the area is not well known for rock climbing. And, because most climbers work in pairs, it raised questions about what had happened to any partner or whether the death had been reported. Derr said he did not think they were climbing shoes but couldn't rule that possibility out. Hofer said he summited the peak after his discovery and wasn't haunted by the image. He was more excited he might be able to let someone know about a lost loved one as he ran through the various scenarios of how the body got there. 'A couple of times we said out loud, 'This is really crazy that we found a body there that no one knew about,'' he said.
  • It has been 17 years since FBI analyst Linda Franklin was gunned down outside a Virginia Home Depot, one of 12 people killed in a sniper-style shooting spree that terrorized residents in Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C., for nearly six weeks in 2002. Lawyers for one of her killers, Lee Boyd Malvo, argued Wednesday before the U.S. Supreme Court that Malvo, who was 17 when the killings took place, should be resentenced for his Virginia crimes. See the Supreme Court case, Mathena v. Malvo, here. Malvo, now 34, is serving four life sentences without the possibility of parole in Virginia, according to The Associated Press. Virginia Department of Corrections records show he is currently housed at the Red Onion State Prison, a supermax facility in Wise County. >> Related story: Beltway sniper Lee Boyd Malvo granted new sentencing hearing in Virginia killings  He was sentenced in 2006 to six life sentences, without parole, for the murders that took place in Maryland. Malvo is currently appealing a ruling denying him a new sentencing hearing in the Maryland killings, the AP reported. Altogether, Malvo and his mentor and co-conspirator in the crimes, John Allen Muhammad, were linked to about two dozen shootings, both fatal and nonfatal, across the country. The pair became known as the D.C. snipers or, alternately, the Beltway snipers, due to the geographic area where most of the crimes to which they were tied took place. Muhammad, 48, was executed by lethal injection in Virginia in November 2009. ‘A monster’  Malvo told The Washington Post in 2012, 10 years after the shootings, that he was “a monster” when the crimes took place. “If you look up the definition, that’s what a monster is,” Malvo said. “I was a ghoul. I was a thief. I stole people’s lives. I did someone else’s bidding just because they said so. “There is no rhyme or reason or sense.” Listen to audio of Malvo talking to the Post via telephone interviews here. Malvo’s case is on the Supreme Court’s docket this week following a series of appeals by prosecutors. The Virginia Attorney General’s Office last year was shot down by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which upheld a lower court’s ruling that Malvo’s Virginia sentences must be vacated and reconsidered. The appeals court ruled that Malvo’s sentencing did not abide by the Supreme Court’s new rules for sentencing juveniles. The high court in 2012 banned life sentences without the possibility of parole for murder defendants under the age of 18. The ban was applied retroactively. >> Read more trending news  “To be clear, the crimes committed by Malvo and John Muhammad were the most heinous, random acts of premeditated violence conceivable, destroying lives and families and terrorizing the entire Washington, D.C. metropolitan area for over six weeks, instilling mortal fear daily in the citizens of that community,” U.S. Circuit Judge Paul Niemeyer wrote in last year’s ruling. “But Malvo was 17 years old when he committed the murders, and he now has the retroactive benefit of new constitutional rules that treat juveniles differently for sentencing. Because we are bound to apply those constitutional rules, we affirm the district court’s grant of habeas relief awarding Malvo new sentencing. “We make this ruling not with any satisfaction but to sustain the law. As for Malvo, who knows but God how he will bear the future.” Read the entire appeals court ruling in Malvo’s favor below. Lee Boyd Malvo 4th Circuit Court of Appeals Ruling by National Content Desk on Scribd ‘Under the influence of a predator’  Prosecutors argued that Muhammad’s ultimate goal in the sniper attacks was to include among his targets his ex-wife, Mildred Muhammad, and regain custody of their children. Witnesses testified during the penalty phase in his Virginia trial that his trajectory toward the shooting rampage began when he lost all custody of the children in September 2001. The very first shooting to which Malvo and Muhammad were tied was the Feb. 16, 2002, shooting of Keenya Nicole Cooks, 21, who was shot as she opened the door of her aunt’s Tacoma, Washington, home. Cooks’ aunt, Isa Farrington Nichols, was good friends with Mildred Mohammad and had reportedly encouraged her to file for divorce from her domineering and abusive husband. Nichols, who later said she believed that bullet was meant for her, wrote earlier this month in a piece published by Newsweek that she supports resentencing for Malvo. Neither he nor Muhammad were ever charged with killing Cook. “I left on the morning of Saturday the 16th and said I would be back in an hour, not knowing it was the last time I would ever see Keenya alive,” Nichols wrote. “A few hours later, a boy knocked on the door and she opened it for him. The boy, 16-year-old (Malvo), shot her point-blank in the face and killed her. Her body was discovered by my then 14-year-old daughter, and our family was changed forever.” Nichols, who said she worked as John Muhammad’s accountant for a while and was at the custody hearing in which he lost access to his children, wrote that Malvo killed her niece under the influence of his much older accomplice, who she called a predator. She argued that Malvo should be resentenced so he, at some point down the road, has a chance to demonstrate if he has truly changed. “I say this as someone who has suffered unimaginably at Malvo’s hands. It’s one thing to have a loved one killed, but it is quite another when you are the one intended to receive the bullet,” Nichols wrote. “Despite my heartbreak, I recognize that Malvo was acting under the influence of a predator who trained him to kill me.” Now a national speaker on trauma reconciliation, Nichols and other family members of victims in the case, along with some of Malvo’s surviving victims, have joined an amicus brief on his behalf in the Supreme Court case. ‘A paroxysm of fear’  According to federal court documents, Muhammad and Malvo’s Washington, D.C.-area shooting spree began on Sept. 5, 2002, in Maryland, where Malvo ran up to a Paul LaRuffa’s car in Clinton and shot him six times before stealing his laptop and cash. The laptop was later found in Muhammad’s car after the duo’s capture. Malvo shot another man 10 days later outside a Clinton liquor store, the appeals court ruling states. The pair’s string of crimes then moved south, where Muhammad used a high-powered, long-range Bushmaster rifle on Sept. 21 to kill Claudine Parker, 52, in Montgomery, Alabama, as she and a coworker closed the liquor store where they worked. The coworker, Kellie Adams, survived but was left with lasting injuries. Malvo was spotted fleeing the scene. Two days later, Hong Im Ballenger, 45, of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, was shot in the head and killed with a Bushmaster rifle. Evidence found at the Montgomery crime scene -- Malvo’s fingerprint on the page of a discarded magazine -- would later lead to the pair’s identities and subsequent arrests. Before their eventual capture, however, the bloodshed continued. “Muhammad and Malvo returned to the Washington, D.C., area and, from Oct. 2 until their capture on Oct. 24, embarked on a series of indiscriminate sniper shootings with the Bushmaster rifle that left 10 more people dead, three seriously wounded and the entire region ‘gripped by a paroxysm of fear,’ convinced that ‘every man, woman, and child was a likely target,’” last year's appeals court ruling states. They killed a man outside a grocery store Oct. 2 in Montgomery County, Maryland. The following day, they killed five more -- four that morning in Montgomery County and a fifth that night in Washington, D.C They killed a man Oct. 9 as he pumped gas in Prince William County, Virginia, and a second man was killed outside a gas station two days later in Spotsylvania County. The shocking crimes had people terrified. Patrons hurried through parking lots to avoid becoming targets and people hid behind tarps at gas stations as they filled their tanks with fuel. Franklin, a 44-year-old breast cancer survivor, was killed Oct. 14 as she and her husband loaded their purchases into their red sports car outside a Home Depot. According to media reports during Muhammad’s 2003 trial in the Virginia killings, the couple was having trouble getting their purchases into the small car. The Baltimore Sun reported that Franklin’s husband, William Franklin, testified that they were trying to get a 6-foot-long shelf into the car when his wife was shot through the head. “I said, ‘Why don’t we switch places?’” Franklin testified. “When I was trying to put the shelf in the car, I heard a loud noise, like a piece of wood smacking concrete. “I felt something hit me on the side of the face. I didn’t know at the time, but afterward, I found out it was her blood.” Malvo confessed to shooting Franklin, but prosecutors argued that it was instead Muhammad who fired the rifle from a nearby hilltop as Malvo watched with binoculars from Muhammad's blue 1990 Chevrolet Caprice. Several of the shootings were committed from a makeshift sniper’s nest Muhammad had built in the trunk of the car. A hole had been cut into the trunk lid, just above the license plate, through which the rifle barrel could be extended. The rear seat of the car was also altered to allow access to the trunk, where a gunman could lie down in a sniper’s position. Court records show the shootings continued after Franklin’s murder, with the last fatal shooting taking place Oct. 22, two days before the gunmen were captured. Bus driver Conrad Johnson, 35, was shot as he stood on the steps of his bus in Aspen Hill, Maryland. He later died of his injuries. Muhammad and Malvo were caught two days after Johnson’s shooting as they slept in the Caprice, which had been spotted by witnesses near multiple crime scenes, at a Frederick County, Maryland, rest stop. The loaded rifle was found in the car with them, court records say. ‘He could not have chosen a better child’  After his arrest, Malvo told detectives he and Muhammad, his “father,” had committed the crimes to extort $10 million from the “media and the government,” court documents say. The teen claimed he had pulled the trigger in 10 of the shootings. He also took credit for most of the shootings at Muhammad’s Virginia trial, but at Muhammad’s Maryland trial, Malvo testified that he had shot Johnson, as well as a 13-year-old boy who survived being shot Oct. 7, 2002, outside his Prince George’s County middle school, but that Muhammad had pulled the trigger on the rest. At his own trial in November and December 2003, Malvo’s defense team asserted an insanity defense “based on the theory that he had been indoctrinated by Muhammad during his adolescence and was operating under Muhammad’s control,” the appeals court ruling states. More than 40 witnesses testified about Malvo’s troubled upbringing, during which he was “physically abused and largely abandoned” while growing up in Jamaica and Antigua. At age 14 or 15, Malvo met Muhammad, a U.S. Army veteran who had taken his children to live in Antigua without their mother’s knowledge. Jurors at Malvo’s trial heard “how Muhammad became a surrogate father for Malvo and brought him illegally to the United States in May 2001; how Malvo briefly reunited with his mother in the United States but then moved across the country in October 2001 to rejoin Muhammad, who had recently lost custody of his children,” court records show. Malvo said in his 2012 interview with the Post that his indoctrination at Muhammad’s hands began early on. “The groundwork was laid in Antigua because I leaned on him, I trusted him,” Malvo said in the interview. “I was unable to distinguish between Muhammad the father I had wanted and Muhammad the nervous wreck that was just falling to pieces. He understood exactly how to motivate me by giving approval or denying approval. It’s very subtle. It wasn’t violent at all. It’s like what a pimp does to a woman. Malvo told the newspaper Muhammad chose him because he “knew he could mold” him. “He knew I could be what he needed me to be,” Malvo said. “He could not have chosen a better child.” Jurors at Malvo’s trial also heard how Muhammad spent almost a year training the boy in military tactics. He told Malvo “that he had a plan to get his children back and force America to reckon with its social injustices,” the appeals court ruling states. Mildred Muhammad testified at her ex-husband’s sentencing hearing of the times he threatened to kill her. As their marriage crumbled in 2000, he took her into the garage of her home in Washington state. “(He said), ‘Just know this: You have become my enemy and as my enemy, I will kill you,’” Mildred Muhammad testified, according to the Sun. It was shortly after that when John Muhammad took the children under fake names to Antigua. Mildred Muhammad took him to court and regained custody of the children after he brought them back to the United States in August 2001. Mildred Muhammad, who has since become an anti-domestic violence advocate and public speaker, told an audience last fall that her ex-husband blamed her for his crimes, the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Virginia, reported. “The detectives asked him, why did he do it, and he told them, ‘It was Mildred’s fault,’ Everything was my fault,” she said, according to the newspaper. “I can’t be held accountable for someone else’s actions.” Since his imprisonment, Malvo has taken responsibility for the things he has done. He told the Post in his interview seven years ago that he recalls each crime in detail, but that the image that sticks with him most is the devastation he saw in the eyes of Linda Franklin’s grieving husband. “It is the worst sort of pain I have ever seen in my life,” Malvo said in the Post interview. “His eyes. Words do not possess the depth in which to fully convey that emotion and what I felt when I saw it. You feel like the worst piece of scum on the planet.”
  • A man facing murder charges for allegedly killing four relatives took their lives over the span of a week across two Northern California counties, prosecutors said Wednesday. Shankar Hangud, 53, killed two relatives Oct. 7 and a third one the next day in the city of Roseville, according to a complaint filed by prosecutors in Placer County. The fourth killing happened Sunday about 260 miles (420 kilometers) to the north in Siskiyou County, according to investigators. On Monday Hangud drove to a police station in Mount Shasta with the body of a man in his car, prosecutors said. They said he confessed to the killings and was arrested. Hangud's arraignment will resume Oct. 25. At a hearing Wednesday, Hangud initially sought to represent himself and repeatedly refused a lawyer before accepting an attorney with the Public Defender's Office to represent him. Martin Jones, his appointed attorney, said Wednesday that it was too early for him to comment. The bodies of two children and an adult were found at Hangud's Roseville apartment, Capt. Josh Simon said Tuesday. Officials were working to identify the victims. An autopsy will determine how they died. Detectives have interviewed Hangud, but they have not determined a motive, Simon said. Tax records showed that Hangud faced an IRS tax lien of $178,000. Hangud's only prior interaction with law enforcement in Placer County was for speeding in 2016, the Sacramento Bee reported. Hangud's LinkedIn profile shows he is a data specialist and had worked for several companies in Sacramento and the San Francisco Bay Area.