Body discovery near where San Francisco 49ers’ fan went missing

Posted on: November 18th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

(SAN FRANCISCO) — The search for a San Francisco 49ers’ fan who mysteriously went missing during a football game at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California, took a grim turn when fishermen discovered a body in the water near where the man vanished, police said.

Santa Clara and San Jose police have been searching for Ian Powers, 32, a U.S. Army veteran from Spokane, Washington, since Nov. 12 when he got separated from his girlfriend and her two children during a Monday Night Football game between the Niners and New York Giants, police said.

On Saturday afternoon, fishermen discovered the body of a fully-clothed man face down in the water about a mile offshore from a marina near Levi’s Stadium, Lt. John Hutchings, spokesman for the San Jose Police Department told ABC San Francisco affiliate station KGO-TV.

“I believe the body was visible because of the low tide,” Hutchings said.

He said the Santa Clara County Medical Examiner is conducting an autopsy to determine the identity of the body and the cause of death.

Powers’ girlfriend, Chelsea Robbins, said she and her two children attended the game with Powers and that they got separated in the fourth quarter.

“He went to the bathroom and then got lost, or something happened,” Robbins told KGO on Friday.

Surveillance cameras showed Powers walking out of Levi’s Stadium about 8:52 p.m. during the fourth quarter of a close game that the Giants won 27-23. Security cameras showed him walking west through the parking lot before losing sight of him at 9:03 p.m., authorities said. 

Robbins told police she had texted Powers and video chatted with him to coordinate a place to meet, said Santa Clara Police Department Capt. Wahid Kazem.

Police tracked Powers’ cellphone to a parking lot near the stadium and found his car abandoned, officials said.

The body discovered Saturday was found in the water off Alviso Marina, which is more than a 2-mile walk from Levi’s Stadium.

The marina is in the jurisdiction of the San Jose Police Department.

Santa Clara Police Department officials, who are investigating Powers’ disappearance as suspicious and had asked the public for help in finding the man, were immediately notified that a body was discovered, Hutchings said.

Power’s uncle, Sean Powers, said he is baffled by his nephew’s disappearance.

“It’s incredibly unlike him,” Sean Powers, told KGO of his nephew leaving the stadium without his girlfriend and her children. “I’ve said this before, he’s probably the most responsible person in my family.”

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Body discovery near where San Francisco 49ers’ fan went missing

Posted on: November 18th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

(SAN FRANCISCO) — The search for a San Francisco 49ers’ fan who mysteriously went missing during a football game at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California, took a grim turn when fishermen discovered a body in the water near where the man vanished, police said.

Santa Clara and San Jose police have been searching for Ian Powers, 32, a U.S. Army veteran from Spokane, Washington, since Nov. 12 when he got separated from his girlfriend and her two children during a Monday Night Football game between the Niners and New York Giants, police said.

On Saturday afternoon, fishermen discovered the body of a fully-clothed man face down in the water about a mile offshore from a marina near Levi’s Stadium, Lt. John Hutchings, spokesman for the San Jose Police Department told ABC San Francisco affiliate station KGO-TV.

“I believe the body was visible because of the low tide,” Hutchings said.

He said the Santa Clara County Medical Examiner is conducting an autopsy to determine the identity of the body and the cause of death.

Powers’ girlfriend, Chelsea Robbins, said she and her two children attended the game with Powers and that they got separated in the fourth quarter.

“He went to the bathroom and then got lost, or something happened,” Robbins told KGO on Friday.

Surveillance cameras showed Powers walking out of Levi’s Stadium about 8:52 p.m. during the fourth quarter of a close game that the Giants won 27-23. Security cameras showed him walking west through the parking lot before losing sight of him at 9:03 p.m., authorities said. 

Robbins told police she had texted Powers and video chatted with him to coordinate a place to meet, said Santa Clara Police Department Capt. Wahid Kazem.

Police tracked Powers’ cellphone to a parking lot near the stadium and found his car abandoned, officials said.

The body discovered Saturday was found in the water off Alviso Marina, which is more than a 2-mile walk from Levi’s Stadium.

The marina is in the jurisdiction of the San Jose Police Department.

Santa Clara Police Department officials, who are investigating Powers’ disappearance as suspicious and had asked the public for help in finding the man, were immediately notified that a body was discovered, Hutchings said.

Power’s uncle, Sean Powers, said he is baffled by his nephew’s disappearance.

“It’s incredibly unlike him,” Sean Powers, told KGO of his nephew leaving the stadium without his girlfriend and her children. “I’ve said this before, he’s probably the most responsible person in my family.”

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Much-needed rain on the way for California later this week

Posted on: November 18th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

ABC News(NEW YORK) — The fire danger in California continues on Sunday, but firefighters in the region are about to get a needed respite.

A red flag warning is in effect for the Sacramento area, near the Camp Fire, due to low relative humidity and the potential for wind gusts of 30 to 40 mph. This will not only make it difficult to fight existing fires, but could spread new fires if they were to ignite.

But rain is on the way for the West Coast beginning late Tuesday night. This is extremely good news for the firefighting efforts in California. Also, this will help alleviate the widespread air quality issues in the state.

The bad news is too much rain on the scorched ground could cause mudslides and debris flows. It is important to watch the progression of the pattern as some areas could see several inches of rain by the end of the week.

Cold travel outlook for eastern US

Another cold blast is on the way for one of the busiest travel days of the year.

Wind chill values will be below zero in northern Minnesota on Wednesday morning, while 20 degree wind chills extend as far south as Kansas City, Missouri, and Nashville, Tennessee. Boston and New York will feel like the teens and 20s, and a few record-cold values are possible on Tuesday morning in the Plains and upper Midwest.

Though it will be cold in the Plains and Northeast, the weather is looking good overall for both road and air travelers across the majority of the country.

There are select trouble spots due to the threat of rain, including the Pacific Northwest through central California and south Texas along the Gulf of Mexico.

Mild weather will stick to the southern half of the country.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Grim discovery made near where San Francisco 49ers’ fan went missing

Posted on: November 18th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

Police are working to identify body found near where 49ers’ fan went missing.

Relentless California wildfires leave 79 dead, nearly 1,300 others still missing

Posted on: November 17th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

More than 1,000 people are unaccounted for in California as deadly wildfires continue to burn at both ends of the state.

Amid search for North Carolina 13-year-old Hania Noelia Aguilar, authorities ask residents to check properties for ‘anything unusual’

Posted on: November 17th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

FBI Charlotte(WASHINGTON) — Authorities are asking residents in North Carolina’s Robeson County to check their properties this weekend for “anything unusual or out of place” amid the ongoing search for kidnapped 13-year-old Hania Noelia Aguilar.

“If you see something that doesn’t belong or is not normal, do not touch anything (you could damage possible evidence) and call the tip line or 911,” the Lumberton Police Department wrote in a Facebook post Friday night. “You know your property best and can most easily determine if something is worth contacting law enforcement to help us.”

Lumberton Police Chief Michael McNeill told reporters earlier this week that investigators are following “every conceivable lead” to find the eighth-grader.

Hania was kidnapped just before 7 a.m. local time on Nov. 5 outside her home at the Rosewood Mobile Home Park in Lumberton, a city in Robeson County, according to police.

She had grabbed her aunt’s car keys that morning so she could turn on the vehicle before school. That’s when a witness saw a man clad in all black with a yellow bandanna over his face approach the girl and force her into the green, 2003 Ford Expedition, police said.

The suspect then drove away in the family’s SUV with Hania inside, police said. The stolen vehicle was located several miles away on Quincey Drive three days later, but Hania was nowhere to be found.

So far, investigators said there’s no indication to believe Hania isn’t alive.

The FBI, which has named Hania’s disappearance its “Most Wanted: Case of the Week,” announced Tuesday that it had raised its reward to $25,000 for information on the case. The state of North Carolina is also offering a reward of up to $5,000, bringing the total possible reward amount to $30,000.

Authorities also released a handwritten statement in Spanish by Hania’s mother, Elsa Hernandez, pleading for her daughter’s safe return while dismissing the rumors swirling on social media.

“I trust in God that my daughter will return,” Hernandez wrote. “No one knows the pain I have in my heart. Despite all the criticism and speculation against me, I would never use my daughter’s name in order to take advantage of this situation. I thank all those people who have provided me help.

“Please,” she continued, “if you know something, call. I ask everyone not to make absurd comments. For the love of God respect my pain. I only want Hania, my princess, back. I miss her.”

The FBI subsequently posted a statement on Twitter in support of Hania’s mother.

“Social media can be cruel. Hania Aguilar is still missing. Her Mother wrote this note to ask people not to say such mean things on social media. Support this Mother, her daughter was kidnapped,” the FBI’s field office in Charlotte tweeted Tuesday night.

Investigators are still trying to track down a man who was seen in surveillance footage walking in the neighborhood that Monday morning, around the time Hania was abducted. The three videos, which the FBI released earlier this week, show the unidentified man wearing light-colored shoes, a light-colored shirt and a hoodie.

The man is not considered a suspect or person of interest at this time. Rather, he’s someone authorities “want to speak with” because he may be able to help investigators narrow down a timeline of Hania’s kidnapping, according to FBI Supervisor Andy de la Rocha.

Authorities are seeking additional surveillance footage from anyone who lives or owns a business on or near Quincey Drive.

Hania is described as a Hispanic girl who is 5 feet tall and weighs about 125 pounds, according to the FBI. She has black hair and brown eyes and was last seen wearing a blue shirt with flowers and blue jeans.

Authorities have set up a special tip line that anyone can call if they have information to help investigators find Hania: (910) 272-5871.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Devastating California wildfires leave 74 dead, more than 1,000 others unaccounted for

Posted on: November 17th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(SAN FRANCISCO) — More than 1,000 people are unaccounted for in California as deadly wildfires continue to burn at both ends of the state.

The two monstrous blazes that both ignited last week have claimed a total of 74 lives while burning a total area of nearly 400 square miles, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

A vast majority of the deaths were due to the Camp Fire in Northern California’s Butte County, making it the deadliest and most destructive wildland fire in the state’s history. The number of people missing or unaccounted for in Butte County grew to 1,011 on Friday, though that figure may fluctuate as authorities track down the names on the list, according to Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea.

President Donald Trump arrived in California on Sunday to survey the devastation and meet with firefighters, alongside California Gov. Jerry Brown and the state’s governor-elect, Gavin Newsom.

Meanwhile, the smoke from the flames has descended across the Golden State and choked the air in major cities, including San Francisco. Officials have advised residents in the affected areas to remain indoors and wear a protective mask outside.

The National Weather Service issued a red flag warning for California through Sunday as humidity drops and wind gusts could get up to 40 mph in the Camp Fire zone.

The Camp Fire in Northern California

The Camp Fire ignited Nov. 8 near Pulga, a tiny community in Butte County nestled in the Plumas National Forest. The blaze exploded as strong winds fanned the flames southwest, enveloping the town of Paradise, a bucolic community of 27,000 people in the Sierra Nevada foothills.

The fire has virtually decimated the entire town.

Melissa Schuster, a Paradise town council member, said her house was among those leveled by the Camp Fire.

“Our entire five-member council is homeless,” Schuster said in a Nov. 13 interview on ABC News’ “Start Here” podcast. “All of our houses have been destroyed.”

The death toll from the Camp Fire increased to 71 on Friday, after officials found more bodies in the burned-out rubble of homes and melted cars, according to the Butte County sheriff, who has warned that the remains of some of the missing may never be recovered due to the severity of the fire.

Thom Porter, chief of strategic planning for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, said the body count is expected to climb higher as search crews continue sifting through the destruction.

“It is by far the most deadly single fire in California history and it’s going to get worse, unfortunately,” Porter said of the Camp Fire.

Many of the deaths have taken place in Paradise.

“The entire community of Paradise is a toxic wasteland right now,” Schuster said, holding back tears. “In addition to that, and this is the hardest part for me to even talk about, the number of fatalities is [among] things that we don’t know at this moment and that’s something that has to be determined before people can move back in.”

The Camp Fire has laid waste to more than 12,000 structures, including many homes, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

The Camp Fire, which has scorched a total of 148,000 acres in Butte County, was 55 percent contained Saturday morning as thousands of exhausted firefighters work around the clock to quell the inferno, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Two prison inmate firefighters were among a total of three firefighters who have been injured while battling the Camp Fire, officials told ABC News.

Earlier this week, Gov. Brown toured the devastation caused by the Camp Fire along with Brock Long, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), as well as U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.

“This is one of the worst disasters I’ve ever seen in my career, hands down,” Long told reporters at the scene Wednesday.

The Woolsey Fire in Southern California

The Woolsey Fire also ignited Nov. 8 near the city of Simi Valley in Ventura County and rapidly spread south to Los Angeles County. The wind-driven flames jumped the 101 Freeway before sweeping through the celebrity enclaves of Malibu and Calabasas.

The entire city of Malibu and a sprawling naval base near the seaside city of Oxnard were among the areas under mandatory evacuation orders, as officials warned the blaze could potentially spread all the way to the Pacific Ocean.

Evacuation orders have since been lifted for some areas, including parts of Malibu, as firefighters successfully stretch containment levels.

The Woolsey Fire, which has torched a total of 98,362 acres in Ventura and Los Angeles counties, was up to 82 percent containment by Saturday morning, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

But more than 900 structures have already been damaged or destroyed, including many homes and a legendary Hollywood film set.

The blaze burned down a portion of Paramount Ranch in Agoura Hills known as “Western Town,” where hundreds of movies and television shows, including HBO’s “Westworld,” have been filmed, dating back to the 1920s.

The Woolsey Fire has been blamed for the deaths of at least three people, and three firefighters sustained injuries while battling the flames, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

A public health emergency

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar has declared a public health emergency in California, where the wildfires have forced the evacuation of at least two hospitals and eight other health facilities.

“We are working closely with state health authorities and monitoring the needs of healthcare facilities to provide whatever they may need to save lives and protect health,” Azar said in a statement Wednesday. “This declaration will help ensure that Americans who are threatened by these dangerous wildfires and who rely on Medicare, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program have continuous access to the care they need.”

Smoke advisories have been issued for the affected region amid concerns that smoke from the fires could present a “significant health threat” for people with asthma and other lung conditions, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Residents have been urged to stay indoors as much as possible and to wear a properly fitting mask when venturing outside.

Berkeley Earth, a California-based nonprofit that analyzes air quality in real-time, ranked San Francisco, Stockton and Sacramento as the world’s three “most polluted cities” on Friday morning.

National Weather Service meteorologist Aviva Braun told reporters that light winds have contributed to the poor air quality but, on Saturday, stronger northeast winds mixing in the valley should help improve conditions.

Meanwhile, there has been an outbreak of norovirus at a shelter in Butte County housing evacuees, according to Lisa Almaguer, public information officer for Butte County Public Health.

People who are ill at the shelter have been taken to a separate location, are using separate restroom facilities and are being cared for by public health experts, according to Almaguer, who said the presence of the contagious virus is “not uncommon,” especially at this time of year and “with hundreds of people living in close quarters.”

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Trump visits California as wildfires leave 74 dead, more than 1,000 others missing

Posted on: November 17th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

More than 1,000 people are unaccounted for in California as deadly wildfires continue to burn at both ends of the state.

Smoke blankets San Francisco as residents forced to don masks to breathe

Posted on: November 17th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(SAN FRANCISCO) — Flames from the deadly Camp Fire won’t reach California’s Bay Area, but that doesn’t mean it’s not still wreaking havoc on the region. Smoke from the Northern California fire is leading to record-high levels of air pollution.

Masks have become the fashion statement du jour in San Francisco the past few days.

The air quality index in San Francisco rose to 258 at noon on Friday, a reading that qualifies as “very unhealthy.” That reading had only sunk to 209 by 9 p.m. local time on Friday. Meanwhile, across the Bay, the air quality index in Oakland was 248 Friday night — also in the “very unhealthy” range.

Officials warned that once the index reaches “very unhealthy,” everyone is susceptible to experiencing trouble breathing or coughing. Sensitive groups, such as those with asthma, may experience even more serious issues.

Sacramento, California’s capital, reached a “hazardous” level of 332 at noon on Friday.

For Chico, the region where the Camp Fire continues to burn, the air quality index was an astronomical 450 on Friday night.

The air quality in San Francisco was the worst the region has ever experienced, according to Berkeley Earth. Breathing in air outside all day on Friday was the equivalent of smoking 11 cigarettes.

San Francisco Department of Emergency Management advised people to stay indoors if possible and wear special masks designed to filter the polluted air. The California Department of Public Health shared information on specific masks to wear.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Smoke blankets San Francisco as residents forced to don masks to breathe

Posted on: November 17th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(SAN FRANCISCO) — Flames from the deadly Camp Fire won’t reach California’s Bay Area, but that doesn’t mean it’s not still wreaking havoc on the region. Smoke from the Northern California fire is leading to record-high levels of air pollution.

Masks have become the fashion statement du jour in San Francisco the past few days.

The air quality index in San Francisco rose to 258 at noon on Friday, a reading that qualifies as “very unhealthy.” That reading had only sunk to 209 by 9 p.m. local time on Friday. Meanwhile, across the Bay, the air quality index in Oakland was 248 Friday night — also in the “very unhealthy” range.

Officials warned that once the index reaches “very unhealthy,” everyone is susceptible to experiencing trouble breathing or coughing. Sensitive groups, such as those with asthma, may experience even more serious issues.

Sacramento, California’s capital, reached a “hazardous” level of 332 at noon on Friday.

For Chico, the region where the Camp Fire continues to burn, the air quality index was an astronomical 450 on Friday night.

The air quality in San Francisco was the worst the region has ever experienced, according to Berkeley Earth. Breathing in air outside all day on Friday was the equivalent of smoking 11 cigarettes.

San Francisco Department of Emergency Management advised people to stay indoors if possible and wear special masks designed to filter the polluted air. The California Department of Public Health shared information on specific masks to wear.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

West Virginia fraternity suspended after member critically injured in fall

Posted on: November 17th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(MORGANTOWN, W.Va.) — A student at West Virginia University is in critical condition after a fall at the school’s Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity house — leading to the suspension of the chapter pending an investigation.

David Rusko, 22, remains in the intensive care unit after the fall on Nov. 10. The school said Rusko appears to have fallen down a set of stairs at the home and was knocked unconscious. It then took two hours for his fellow frat members to call an ambulance, the school said.

“Officers have discovered that more than two hours lapsed between Rusko’s fall and the 911 call,” according to a press release from the school.

The senior is a finance major from Uniontown, Pennsylvania.

Eric Dyson, the property manager for the building, told Pittsburgh ABC affiliate WTAE-TV, “It appears that he had taken a misstep on the staircase. There was no organized function or anything like that. A couple of guys were playing pool upstairs.”

WTAE-TV reported that Rusko underwent surgery on Friday.

West Virginia University said Thursday that it had placed “a number of students on interim suspension, and additional students may face disciplinary action” over the incident.

“I am deeply disappointed in the apparent actions and inactions of these students and the decisions that were made,” Dean of Students Corey Farris said in a statement. “As our investigation moves ahead, we remain very concerned about David’s condition. He will continue to be in our prayers.”

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

West Virginia fraternity suspended after member critically injured in fall

Posted on: November 17th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(MORGANTOWN, W.Va.) — A student at West Virginia University is in critical condition after a fall at the school’s Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity house — leading to the suspension of the chapter pending an investigation.

David Rusko, 22, remains in the intensive care unit after the fall on Nov. 10. The school said Rusko appears to have fallen down a set of stairs at the home and was knocked unconscious. It then took two hours for his fellow frat members to call an ambulance, the school said.

“Officers have discovered that more than two hours lapsed between Rusko’s fall and the 911 call,” according to a press release from the school.

The senior is a finance major from Uniontown, Pennsylvania.

Eric Dyson, the property manager for the building, told Pittsburgh ABC affiliate WTAE-TV, “It appears that he had taken a misstep on the staircase. There was no organized function or anything like that. A couple of guys were playing pool upstairs.”

WTAE-TV reported that Rusko underwent surgery on Friday.

West Virginia University said Thursday that it had placed “a number of students on interim suspension, and additional students may face disciplinary action” over the incident.

“I am deeply disappointed in the apparent actions and inactions of these students and the decisions that were made,” Dean of Students Corey Farris said in a statement. “As our investigation moves ahead, we remain very concerned about David’s condition. He will continue to be in our prayers.”

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Snow moves into Northern Plains as Midwest, Northeast brace for arctic cold

Posted on: November 17th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

ABC News(NEW YORK) — Winter weather alerts are in place across nine states on Saturday as a clipper system will deliver snow from the Rockies through the Central Plains into the Great Lakes.

Slick travel conditions are to be expected Saturday morning.

Snow associated with a cold front is being pushed to the south by an arctic high pressure system to the north. The snow will begin in Wyoming and move south through the day, ending in Colorado and northern Kansas. Another area of snow will be working through the Great Lakes region on Saturday.

Snowfall totals in the Rockies will be 1 to 3 inches throughout the area and up to a foot in higher elevations.

Further east, the snow associated with the low pressure will generally bring 1 to 3 inches of snow to parts of Iowa, Wisconsin and Illinois. There will be slippery driving conditions during the early part of the day.

A weak cold front will push across the Great Lakes and bring light snowfall into interior New England through Sunday.

Snowfall accumulations are expected to be low, but roadways will be slick, especially overnight Sunday into early Monday, when there is the risk for re-freezing.

It will be cold on Sunday for a majority of the country due to the arctic air being ushered in by the high pressure in the Plains. Wind chills will be in the 20s Sunday morning in New York City. It will feel like minus-8 degrees in Ely, Minnesota.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Snow moves into Northern Plains as Midwest, Northeast brace for arctic cold

Posted on: November 17th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

Wind chills will be in the 20s and 30s in the Midwest and Northeast Sunday.

More than 1,000 missing, 74 dead in California wildfires: ‘It’s going to get worse’

Posted on: November 16th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

The Camp Fire is now the most destructive and deadliest in California’s history.

Attorney for female GoFundMe suspect claims she, too, was duped

Posted on: November 16th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

An attorney for Kate McClure said she was also a victim of the alleged scam.

Attorney for female GoFundMe suspect claims she, too, was duped

Posted on: November 16th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

ABC News(NEW YORK) — The attorney for the female member of a New Jersey trio charged with launching a GoFundMe campaign that warmed the hearts of millions and generated more than $400,000 in donations for a seemingly selfless homeless military vet claimed in a new interview with ABC News that she herself was victimized by the other two men.

Attorney James Gerrow acknowledged that his client, Kate McClure, was in on the initial plan to concoct a story about allegedly homeless veteran Johnny Bobbitt using his last $20 to help her out of a roadside jam when she ran out of gas but said she was only interested in creating the ruse for a brief time to help Bobbitt.

“The story about the gas was what I refer to — and this is where the prosecutors and I have a disagreement — on Kate’s part. It was puffing, it was exaggeration trying to help this veteran.”

Despite what Gerrow described as his client’s good intentions, he said the fund campaign “just took off.”

‘A bit naive’

Gerrow also claimed that his client was too trusting and unsophisticated to understand what was unfolding.

“She’s a bit naive, and she’s come out of a troubled relationship … and now she was with D’Amico, who [is] 10 or 11 years her senior, and she was under his influence,” he said. “And all of this occurred because of her trust in D’Amico.”

 It wasn’t until McClure and her attorney’s second meeting with New Jersey prosecutors that he claims she pieced the entire scam together and realized that she had been duped.

“At the second conference, the prosecutors were talking about evidence,” Gerrow said. “At that point in time, I turned to Kate and said, ‘Do you understand what they’re saying?’”

“At that point, she became very emotional,” he said. “She was in tears, she was crying, visibly shaking because she realized what they were saying — and that is that she had been being used by D’Amico and by Bobbit. She had been set up.”

An attorney for D’Amico and Bobbitt was not immediately available to respond to Gerrow’s claims on Friday night.

On Thursday, Burlington County Prosecutor Scott Coffina said at a news conference that the entire story of Bobbitt using his last $20 after McClure ran out of gas was “predicated on a lie” designed to dupe thousands of people into contributing to the campaign.

“Less than an hour after the GoFundMe campaign went live, McClure, in a text exchange with a friend, stated that the story about Bobbitt assisting her was fake.”

In one of the texts read by Coffina, McClure allegedly wrote to a friend, “OK, so wait, the gas part is completely made up but the guy isn’t. I had to make something up to make people feel bad. So, shush about the made up stuff.”

McClure, 28, D’Amico, 39, and Bobbitt, 34, were all charged with second-degree theft by deception and conspiracy to commit theft by deception. McClure and D’Amico voluntarily surrendered to authorities on Wednesday, and have since been released, Coffina said.

If convicted, each of them faces five to 10 years in prison, prosecutors said.

Gerrow said that despite her deception, McClure’s initial instinct was to help Bobbitt and that once the campaign reached a fever pitch in the media, she tried without success to end the ruse.

“At $10,000, Kate tried to cut it off with GoFundMe, [but] they told her that couldn’t be done,” Gerrow said. “She also tried to cut it off again at $100,000 because she was very concerned about the amount of money that was coming into the fund.”

A spokesperson for GoFundMe, which has cooperated in the investigation and has agreed to refund money to the 14,000 people who donated to Bobbitt, countered Gerrow’s claims.

“Campaign organizers are in full control of their campaigns, including their ability to turn off donations,” spokesman Bobby Whithorne told ABC News late on Friday.

In fact, on the couple’s GoFundMe page, McClure notes to supporters that “Johnny asked me to please stop accepting donations today. … He asked, instead of donating to his campaign, to maybe take a second to search for another worthy cause that, for whatever reason, hasn’t gotten the attention his has.”

Yet, in a subsequent post, McClure acknowledged closing out the campaign, only to reopen it shortly afterward.

“For the short time that we took it down, though, it is obvious that people still want to donate to his cause… You guys continue to amaze us.”

Earlier this week, GoFundMe released a statement about the case.

“While this type of behavior by an individual is extremely rare, it’s unacceptable and clearly it has consequences. Committing fraud, whether it takes place on or offline is against the law. We are fully cooperating and assisting law enforcement officials to recover every dollar withdrawn by Ms. McClure and Mr. D’Amico,” company officials said in a statement.

‘They hit the casinos hard’

Coffina said the suspected fraudsters might have gotten away with the scam had Bobbitt not filed a lawsuit against McClure and D’Amico in August, accusing them of withholding the funds from him.

The money is all gone, most of it allegedly squandered by McClure and D’Amico on luxury handbags, a New Year’s trip to Las Vegas and a BMW; the couple also used the donated funds to pay back $9,000 they owed to relatives and “hit the casinos hard,” Coffina said. Bank records showed they withdrew more than $85,000 at or near casinos in Atlantic City, Philadelphia and Las Vegas, he said.

They were ordered to appear in court on Christmas Eve.

Bobbitt was arrested Wednesday night by the Philadelphia Police Department on charges of being a fugitive from justice, according to Philadelphia police. He is expected to be extradited to Burlington County to face charges related to the GoFundMe case.

Reached Thursday, an attorney for McClure and D’Amico told ABC News, “We have no comment. Have a nice day.”

Media blitz

In numerous media appearances, McClure claimed she was driving to meet a friend in September 2017 when she ran out of gas around midnight on the I-95 exit ramp near Philadelphia. Bobbitt, who was sleeping under a nearby overpass, came to her rescue, she would say. She claimed Bobbitt spent his last $20 to buy her gas.

“I pulled over to the side of the road as far as I could and I was going to get out and walk to the nearest gas station because it was not that far away, and that’s when I met Johnny,” McClure said last November in a “Good Morning America” interview. “He walked up and he said, ‘Get back in the car. Lock the doors. I’ll be back.’ I was just like, ‘OK.'”

She said Bobbitt used his panhandling money to get her out of the jam.

“I almost couldn’t believe it,” McClure added. “I said, ‘Thank you… I swear, I’ll be back. I promise I’ll be back to give you [the] money back.'”

Hoping to repay Bobbitt for the apparent generous act, McClure said she and D’Amico set up a GoFundMe online. The fund was launched on Nov. 10, 2017, just hours after D’Amico took a photo of McClure posing with Bobbitt near the I-95 exit ramp, Coffina said.

“I just got her gas to help her get back on her way. I didn’t think anything about it. I wasn’t expecting anything in return,” Bobbitt told “Good Morning America.” “That’s how I got the money to start with — from other people. [I had to] return the favor. I can’t constantly take and not give back.”

‘No Good Deed’

Coffina said investigators believe McClure and D’Amico first met Bobbitt about a month before they launched the GoFundMe campaign near the Sugarhouse Casino in Philadelphia, close to the I-95 off-ramp where Bobbitt was living on the streets at the time.

Asked who came up with the idea of the scam, Coffina noted a 2012 Facebook post written by Bobbitt that was “remarkably similar” to the narrative on the GoFundMe page.

“He reported that he helped a woman who had both run out of gas and had a flat tire at a Walmart, spent his last supper money to get her on her way and fix her flat tire,” Coffina said. “I don’t think that’s a coincidence.”

Among the few things about the story that’s true is that Bobbitt served in the Marine Corps and was homeless, Coffina said.

Military records obtained by ABC News show that Bobbit served in the Marines as an ammunition technician from December 2002 to February 2004, and was awarded a National Defense Service Medal.

“He deserves our appreciation for his willingness to serve our country as a United States Marine and he has our sympathy and concern for the homelessness that he’s experienced, as well as his publicized struggle with addiction,” Coffina said.

“But it is imperative to keep in mind that he was fully complicit in the scheme to defraud contributors, promoting the campaign in multiple media appearances and posing with D’Amico and McClure for a Philadelphia Inquirer story in front of a gas station that he did not buy gas from.”

In August, Bobbitt filed a lawsuit accusing McClure and D’Amico of committing fraud by taking more than half of the money they raised for themselves. His pro bono attorney alleged in court papers that the couple treated the donations like their “personal piggy bank to fund a lifestyle that they could not otherwise afford.”

D’Amico and McClure denied the allegations.

In September, the Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office launched a criminal investigation into the missing GoFundMe donations and raided the couple’s home, seizing a BMW and other belongings.

Coffina said that even after burning through most of the money and getting sued by Bobbitt, D’Amico was allegedly thinking of ways to keep the scam going, including landing a book deal.

“He was certain the payday from the book deal they were pursuing would dwarf the money from the GoFundMe campaign,” Coffina said. “A few months later, when the dispute with Bobbitt became public, D’Amico was not dissuaded. Instead, he pitched a title for the book that would encompass the controversy, ‘No Good Deed.'”

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Florida teen accused of killing mom over a bad grade charged as adult with murder

Posted on: November 16th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — A Florida teenager accused of killing his mother over an argument about his school grade has been charged as an adult with first-degree murder.

A Volusia grand jury indicted Gregory Ramos, 15, this week on one count of first degree murder — a crime that could be punishable by a life sentence, according to Spencer S. Hathaway, a spokesman for Florida’s State Attorney’s office.

The grand jury charge appeared to catch the state attorney’s office off guard.

“I’m surprised, I’m shocked, I’m bewildered by the fact we’re in a position to have to prosecute a 15-year-old for murdering his mother,” State Attorney R.J. Larizza said of the decisions in the statement.

“That’s a sad day, and it’s a sad announcement I’m making, and I take no pleasure in the fact that the state attorney’s office will be prosecuting the 15-year-old for the murder of his mother as an adult.”

Ramos’ attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday from ABC News.

Ramos confessed to killing of his mother, Gail Cleavenger, 46, according to Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood.

Ramos later led the police to the body of his mother which he buried in a fire pit at a church, Chitwood said.

Ramos allegedly strangled his mother to death on Nov. 2 after the two had an argument about his D grade while his stepfather was on a business trip in Seattle, Washington.

In previous press conferences, Chitwood has said that during police interrogations, Ramos seemed proud of himself.

“He believed he was the smartest person in the room and he continued to tell us his theories of what he believed and why: what happened to his mom and where we should be focusing our attention,” Chitwood said earlier this month.

Eventually, officials said, the teen changed course, admitted to the murder, and walked investigators through his plot and its execution.

“She was a mom,” Chitwood said of Cleavenger earlier this month. “She was a wife. She was a sister. By all accounts she was an amazing human being.”

After Cleavenger’s killing, Ramos allegedly got two friends to come and help him stage a fake burglary at his home. Ramos and both co-defendants — Dylan Ceglarek, 17, and Brian Porras, 17 — remain confined at the Volusia County jail, according to Hathaway.

Porras’ attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday from ABC News. It was not immediately clear who is representing Ceglarek.

“The co-defendants were charged by information with being accessories after the fact of a first degree murder,” Hathaway told ABC News. He went on saying that the two could be sentenced to 30 years in prison if found guilty.

The trio are set to be arraigned in December and they have not yet entered a plea.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

California wildfires leave at least 66 dead with more than 600 still missing: ‘It’s going to get worse’

Posted on: November 16th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

Marcus Yam /Los Angeles Times via Getty Images(PARADISE, Calif.) — Search crews have found seven more bodies in the burned-out rubble of Paradise, California, as officials there fear more deaths in the destructive wildfires raging at both ends of the state that has already claimed 66 lives.

The deadliest and most destructive of the two massive blazes is the Camp Fire in Northern California’s Butte County, which has killed at least 63 people.

The seven bodies, which were discovered Thursday, were all as a result of the fire, officials said.

There were 631 people still missing in the Butte County fire zones on Thursday night, though authorities were working to track them down. Officials asked residents to go to the Butte County Sheriff’s Department’s website to check the missing persons list to make sure they are not on it.

Thom Porter, chief of strategic planning for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, said the death toll from the Camp Fire is expected to climb higher as search crews comb through more than 12,000 structures destroyed by the flames.

“It is by far the most deadly single fire in California history and it’s going to get worse, unfortunately,” Porter said of the Camp Fire.

California Gov. Jerry Brown toured the devastation caused by the Camp Fire on Wednesday with Brock Long, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, as well as U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. The government leaders visited the firefighters still battling the inferno, which has burned an area of 142,000 acres and obliterated the city of Paradise, ravaging nearly every home in the bucolic community of 30,000 people.

“This is one of the worst disasters I’ve ever seen in my career, hands down,” Long said at a news conference Wednesday in Northern California.

Brown said the destruction “looks like a war zone.” He said he spoke earlier Wednesday to President Donald Trump, “who pledged the full resources of the federal government” to help in the recovery effort.

Trump said he plans to visit the area on Saturday to meet with survivors and firefighters.

A public health emergency

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar on Wednesday declared a public health emergency in California, where the wildfires have forced the evacuation of at least two hospitals and eight other health facilities.

“We are working closely with state health authorities and monitoring the needs of healthcare facilities to provide whatever they may need to save lives and protect health,” Azar said in a statement. “This declaration will help ensure that Americans who are threatened by these dangerous wildfires and who rely on Medicare, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program have continuous access to the care they need.”

A smoke advisory was issued for portions of Los Angeles County amid concerns that smoke from the fires could present a “significant health threat” for people with asthma and other lung conditions, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The best time to venture outside will be in the early afternoon, National Weather Service meteorologist Aviva Braun told reporters Wednesday night, blaming the light winds for the continued poor air quality.

On Saturday, stronger northeast winds mixing in the valley will help improve the air quality, according to Braun.

Lisa Almaguer, public information officer for Butte County Public Health, recommended residents stay indoors as much as possible and to wear properly fitting masks when going outside.

In addition, an outbreak of norovirus has occurred at one of the shelters, Almaguer said, describing its presence as “not uncommon,” especially at this time of year and “with hundreds of people living in close quarters.”

People who are ill at the shelter have been taken to a separate location, are using separate restroom facilities and are being cared for by public health experts, according to Almaguer.

Battle rages on

Thousands of exhausted firefighters battling the Camp Fire in Northern California and the Woolsey Fire in Southern California appeared to be getting a handle on the two massive blazes this week.

Chief Ken Pimlott, director of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, said weather conditions at both fires have improved and the strong winds firefighters were seeing over the past three days have started to dissipate.

But Pimlott said “critical fire conditions” still existed with an abundance of dry vegetation in both fire zones that could flare-up with the slightest spark.

“We’re not keeping our eye off this ball at all,” Pimlott said Wednesday, adding that 9,000 firefighters were working on the front lines of both blazes.

Firefighters, with the help of out-of-state fire crews, were showing progress in their twin battles to subdue the widely destructive blazes that have blackened a combined acreage larger than the size of New York City.

The Camp Fire showed “continued activity” on its northeast side, along the Feather River drainage basin, as it pushed toward the community of Big Bar, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection announced Tuesday night.

The lower part of the area continued to be a challenge because of the “extremely steep, extremely rocky” terrain, fire officials said.

Dry conditions will continue this week but precipitation is expected next week, Braun said.

Camp Fire

The Camp Fire ignited Nov. 8 in Northern California’s Butte County and has since burned an area of 142,000 acres. The flames were 45 percent contained on Friday morning.

The death toll from the monstrous blaze now stands at 63, making it the deadliest single wildfire in California’s recorded history. Officials have tentative confirmation of the identities of 53 of those found dead but are awaiting DNA confirmation, Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea told reporters Thursday night.

The sheriff warned that the remains of some of the missing may never be recovered due to the severity of the fire.

Two prison inmate firefighters were among three injured battling the Camp Fire, fire officials told ABC News.

Many of the deaths from the Camp Fire have taken place in Paradise, which has been virtually destroyed by the flames.

“The entire community of Paradise is a toxic wasteland right now,” Paradise City Council Member Melissa Schuster, who lost her home in the calamity, told ABC News’ “Start Here” podcast. “In addition to that, and this is the hardest part for me to even talk about, is the number of fatalities is [among] things that we don’t know at this moment and that’s something that has to be determined before people can move back in.”

Schuster said teams from the Butte County coroner’s office are combing through thousands of destroyed homes and burned cars in Paradise.

“We will rebuild our homes, we will rebuild our town stronger, better, safer and more beautiful than ever,” she told ABC News’ “Start Here” podcast.

Woolsey Fire

The Woolsey Fire, which also started on Nov. 8, rapidly spread from Southern California’s Ventura County to Los Angeles County, jumping the 101 Freeway before sweeping through the celebrity enclaves of Malibu and Calabasas.

Authorities had warned the flames could potentially spread all the way to the Pacific Ocean.

It has burned 98,362 acres and was 69 percent contained on Friday morning, as firefighters successfully stretched containment lines. But the blaze has already damaged or destroyed nearly 800 structures, including many homes and a legendary Hollywood film set.

The fire burned down a portion of Paramount Ranch in Agoura Hills known as “Western Town,” where hundreds of movies and television shows, including HBO’s “Westworld,” have been filmed, dating back to the 1920s.

The blaze has been blamed for the deaths of at least three people, and three firefighters sustained injuries while battling the flames, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

On Tuesday, fire crews quickly smothered a flare-up in the Lake Sherwood and Hidden Valley areas of Ventura County that was threatening to take off in the gusty weather.

“We are not out of the woods yet. We still have tough conditions,” Ventura County Fire Chief Mark Lorenzen told reporters at a news conference Tuesday afternoon.

Los Angeles County Fire Chief Daryl Osby said the Woolsey Fire, which has spread to an area larger than the size of Denver, was the biggest his department has battled in 100 years.

Despite Tuesday’s flare-up, Osby said, “We are getting the upper hand” on the blaze.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

More than 600 missing, 66 dead in California wildfires: ‘It’s going to get worse’

Posted on: November 16th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

The Camp Fire is now the most destructive and deadliest in California’s history.

California wildfires leave at least 66 dead with more than 600 still missing

Posted on: November 16th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

Marcus Yam /Los Angeles Times via Getty Images(PARADISE, Calif.) — Search crews found seven more bodies in the burned-out rubble of Paradise, California, as officials there fear more deaths in the destructive wildfires raging at both ends of the state that has already claimed 66 lives.

The deadliest and most destructive of the two massive wildfires is the Camp Fire in Northern California’s Butte County, which has killed at least 63 people.

The seven bodies, which were discovered Thursday, were all as a result of the blaze, officials said.

There were 631 people still missing in the Butte County fire zones on Thursday night, though authorities were working to track them down. Officials asked residents to go to the Butte County Sheriff’s Department’s website to check the missing persons list to make sure they are not on it.

Thom Porter, chief of strategic planning for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, said the death toll from the Camp Fire is expected to climb higher as search crews comb through at least 11,862 structures destroyed by the inferno.

“It is by far the most deadly single fire in California history and it’s going to get worse, unfortunately,” Porter said of the Camp Fire.

California Gov. Jerry Brown toured the devastation caused by the Camp Fire on Wednesday with Brock Long, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, as well as U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. The government leaders visited the firefighters still battling the blaze, which has burned an area of 141,000 acres and obliterated the city of Paradise, ravaging nearly every home in the bucolic community of 30,000 people.

“This is one of the worst disasters I’ve ever seen in my career, hands down,” Long said at a news conference Wednesday in Northern California.

Brown said the destruction “looks like a war zone.” He said he spoke earlier Wednesday to President Donald Trump, “who pledged the full resources of the federal government” to help in the recovery effort.

Trump said he plans to visit the area on Saturday to meet with survivors and firefighters.

A public health emergency

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar on Wednesday declared a public health emergency in California.

“We are working closely with state health authorities and monitoring the needs of healthcare facilities to provide whatever they may need to save lives and protect health,” Azar said in a statement. “This declaration will help ensure that Americans who are threatened by these dangerous wildfires and who rely on Medicare, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program have continuous access to the care they need.”

The best time to venture outside will be in the early afternoon, National Weather Service meteorologist Aviva Braun told reporters Wednesday night, blaming the light winds for the continued poor air quality.

Lisa Almaguer, public information officer for Butte County Public Health, recommended residents stay indoors as much as possible and to wear properly fitting masks when going outside.

On Saturday, stronger northeast winds mixing in the valley will help improve the air quality, according to Braun.

In addition, an outbreak of norovirus has occurred at one of the shelters, Almaguer said, describing its presence as “not uncommon,” especially at this time of year and “with hundreds of people living in close quarters.”

People who are ill at the shelter have been taken to a separate location, are using separate restroom facilities and are being cared for by public health experts, according to Almaguer.

The wildfires forced the evacuation of at least two hospitals and eight other health care facilities. A smoke advisory was issued for portions of Los Angeles County amid concerns that smoke from the fires could present a “significant health threat” for people with asthma and other lung conditions, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Battle rages on

Thousands of exhausted firefighters battling the Camp Fire in Northern California and the Woolsey Fire in Southern California appeared to be getting a handle on the two massive blazes.

Chief Ken Pimlott, director of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, said weather conditions at both fires have improved and the strong winds firefighters were seeing over the past three days have started to dissipate.

But Pimlott said “critical fire conditions” still existed with an abundance of dry vegetation in both fire zones that could flare-up with the slightest spark.

“We’re not keeping our eye off this ball at all,” Pimlott said Wednesday, adding that 9,000 firefighters were working on the front lines of both blazes.

Firefighters, with the help of out-of-state fire crews, were showing progress in their twin battles to subdue the widely destructive blazes that have blackened a combined acreage larger than the size of New York City.

The Camp Fire showed “continued activity” on its northeast side, along the Feather River drainage basin, as it pushed toward the community of Big Bar, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection announced Tuesday night.

The lower part of the area continued to be a challenge because of the “extremely steep, extremely rocky” terrain, fire officials said.

Dry conditions will continue this week but precipitation is expected next week, Braun said.

Camp Fire

The Camp Fire ignited Nov. 8 in Northern California’s Butte County and has since burned an area of 141,000 acres. The blaze was 40 percent contained on Thursday night.

The death toll from the monstrous blaze now stands at 63, making it the deadliest single wildfire in California’s recorded history. Officials have tentative confirmation of the identities of 53 of those found dead but are awaiting DNA confirmation, Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea told reporters Thursday night.

The sheriff warned that the remains of some of the missing may never be recovered due to the severity of the fire.

Two prison inmate firefighters were among three injured battling the Camp Fire, fire officials told ABC News.

Many of the deaths from the Camp Fire have taken place in Paradise, which has been virtually destroyed by the blaze.

“The entire community of Paradise is a toxic wasteland right now,” Paradise City Council Member Melissa Schuster, who lost her home in the calamity, told ABC News’ “Start Here” podcast. “In addition to that, and this is the hardest part for me to even talk about, is the number of fatalities is [among] things that we don’t know at this moment and that’s something that has to be determined before people can move back in.”

Schuster said teams from the Butte County coroner’s office are combing through thousands of destroyed homes and burned cars in Paradise.

“We will rebuild our homes, we will rebuild our town stronger, better, safer and more beautiful than ever,” she told ABC News’ “Start Here” podcast.

Woolsey Fire

The Woolsey Fire, which also started on Nov. 8, rapidly spread from Southern California’s Ventura County to Los Angeles County, sweeping through the celebrity enclaves of Malibu and Calabasas.

The blaze has burned 98,362 acres and was 52 percent contained on Thursday night, as firefighters successfully stretched containment lines. At least 504 structures, including many homes, have been destroyed by the flames.

At least three firefighters were injured battling the Woolsey Fire.

Firefighters quickly smothered a flare-up Tuesday in the Lake Sherwood and Hidden Valley areas of Ventura County, which was threatening to take off in the windy weather.

“We are not out of the woods yet. We still have tough conditions,” Ventura County Fire Chief Mark Lorenzen told reporters at a news conference Tuesday afternoon.

Los Angeles County Fire Chief Daryl Osby said the Woolsey Fire, which has spread to an area about the size of Denver, was the largest his department has battled in 100 years.

Despite Tuesday’s flare-up, Osby said, “We are getting the upper hand” on the blaze.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

California wildfires leave at least 66 dead with more than 600 still missing

Posted on: November 16th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

Marcus Yam /Los Angeles Times via Getty Images(PARADISE, Calif.) — Search crews found seven more bodies in the burned-out rubble of Paradise, California, as officials there fear more deaths in the destructive wildfires raging at both ends of the state that has already claimed 66 lives.

The deadliest and most destructive of the two massive wildfires is the Camp Fire in Northern California’s Butte County, which has killed at least 63 people.

The seven bodies, which were discovered Thursday, were all as a result of the blaze, officials said.

There were 631 people still missing in the Butte County fire zones on Thursday night, though authorities were working to track them down. Officials asked residents to go to the Butte County Sheriff’s Department’s website to check the missing persons list to make sure they are not on it.

Thom Porter, chief of strategic planning for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, said the death toll from the Camp Fire is expected to climb higher as search crews comb through at least 11,862 structures destroyed by the inferno.

“It is by far the most deadly single fire in California history and it’s going to get worse, unfortunately,” Porter said of the Camp Fire.

California Gov. Jerry Brown toured the devastation caused by the Camp Fire on Wednesday with Brock Long, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, as well as U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. The government leaders visited the firefighters still battling the blaze, which has burned an area of 141,000 acres and obliterated the city of Paradise, ravaging nearly every home in the bucolic community of 30,000 people.

“This is one of the worst disasters I’ve ever seen in my career, hands down,” Long said at a news conference Wednesday in Northern California.

Brown said the destruction “looks like a war zone.” He said he spoke earlier Wednesday to President Donald Trump, “who pledged the full resources of the federal government” to help in the recovery effort.

Trump said he plans to visit the area on Saturday to meet with survivors and firefighters.

A public health emergency

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar on Wednesday declared a public health emergency in California.

“We are working closely with state health authorities and monitoring the needs of healthcare facilities to provide whatever they may need to save lives and protect health,” Azar said in a statement. “This declaration will help ensure that Americans who are threatened by these dangerous wildfires and who rely on Medicare, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program have continuous access to the care they need.”

The best time to venture outside will be in the early afternoon, National Weather Service meteorologist Aviva Braun told reporters Wednesday night, blaming the light winds for the continued poor air quality.

Lisa Almaguer, public information officer for Butte County Public Health, recommended residents stay indoors as much as possible and to wear properly fitting masks when going outside.

On Saturday, stronger northeast winds mixing in the valley will help improve the air quality, according to Braun.

In addition, an outbreak of norovirus has occurred at one of the shelters, Almaguer said, describing its presence as “not uncommon,” especially at this time of year and “with hundreds of people living in close quarters.”

People who are ill at the shelter have been taken to a separate location, are using separate restroom facilities and are being cared for by public health experts, according to Almaguer.

The wildfires forced the evacuation of at least two hospitals and eight other health care facilities. A smoke advisory was issued for portions of Los Angeles County amid concerns that smoke from the fires could present a “significant health threat” for people with asthma and other lung conditions, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Battle rages on

Thousands of exhausted firefighters battling the Camp Fire in Northern California and the Woolsey Fire in Southern California appeared to be getting a handle on the two massive blazes.

Chief Ken Pimlott, director of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, said weather conditions at both fires have improved and the strong winds firefighters were seeing over the past three days have started to dissipate.

But Pimlott said “critical fire conditions” still existed with an abundance of dry vegetation in both fire zones that could flare-up with the slightest spark.

“We’re not keeping our eye off this ball at all,” Pimlott said Wednesday, adding that 9,000 firefighters were working on the front lines of both blazes.

Firefighters, with the help of out-of-state fire crews, were showing progress in their twin battles to subdue the widely destructive blazes that have blackened a combined acreage larger than the size of New York City.

The Camp Fire showed “continued activity” on its northeast side, along the Feather River drainage basin, as it pushed toward the community of Big Bar, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection announced Tuesday night.

The lower part of the area continued to be a challenge because of the “extremely steep, extremely rocky” terrain, fire officials said.

Dry conditions will continue this week but precipitation is expected next week, Braun said.

Camp Fire

The Camp Fire ignited Nov. 8 in Northern California’s Butte County and has since burned an area of 141,000 acres. The blaze was 40 percent contained on Thursday night.

The death toll from the monstrous blaze now stands at 63, making it the deadliest single wildfire in California’s recorded history. Officials have tentative confirmation of the identities of 53 of those found dead but are awaiting DNA confirmation, Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea told reporters Thursday night.

The sheriff warned that the remains of some of the missing may never be recovered due to the severity of the fire.

Two prison inmate firefighters were among three injured battling the Camp Fire, fire officials told ABC News.

Many of the deaths from the Camp Fire have taken place in Paradise, which has been virtually destroyed by the blaze.

“The entire community of Paradise is a toxic wasteland right now,” Paradise City Council Member Melissa Schuster, who lost her home in the calamity, told ABC News’ “Start Here” podcast. “In addition to that, and this is the hardest part for me to even talk about, is the number of fatalities is [among] things that we don’t know at this moment and that’s something that has to be determined before people can move back in.”

Schuster said teams from the Butte County coroner’s office are combing through thousands of destroyed homes and burned cars in Paradise.

“We will rebuild our homes, we will rebuild our town stronger, better, safer and more beautiful than ever,” she told ABC News’ “Start Here” podcast.

Woolsey Fire

The Woolsey Fire, which also started on Nov. 8, rapidly spread from Southern California’s Ventura County to Los Angeles County, sweeping through the celebrity enclaves of Malibu and Calabasas.

The blaze has burned 98,362 acres and was 52 percent contained on Thursday night, as firefighters successfully stretched containment lines. At least 504 structures, including many homes, have been destroyed by the flames.

At least three firefighters were injured battling the Woolsey Fire.

Firefighters quickly smothered a flare-up Tuesday in the Lake Sherwood and Hidden Valley areas of Ventura County, which was threatening to take off in the windy weather.

“We are not out of the woods yet. We still have tough conditions,” Ventura County Fire Chief Mark Lorenzen told reporters at a news conference Tuesday afternoon.

Los Angeles County Fire Chief Daryl Osby said the Woolsey Fire, which has spread to an area about the size of Denver, was the largest his department has battled in 100 years.

Despite Tuesday’s flare-up, Osby said, “We are getting the upper hand” on the blaze.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

More than 600 missing, 66 dead in California wildfires

Posted on: November 16th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

The Camp Fire is now the most destructive and deadliest in California’s history.

More than 600 missing, 66 dead in California wildfires

Posted on: November 16th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

The Camp Fire is now the most destructive and deadliest in California’s history.

Chris Watts, who killed pregnant wife and young daughters, ‘lied about everything,’ girlfriend tells newspaper

Posted on: November 16th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

Weld County Sheriff(DENVER) — The girlfriend of a Colorado man who pleaded guilty to killing his pregnant wife and two young daughters has spoken publicly about the affair for the first time.

“He lied about everything,” Nichol Kessinger, 30, told The Denver Post.

Chris Watts pleaded guilty last week to all charges against him in the August murders of his pregnant wife, Shanann Watts, 34, and their daughters Celeste, 3 and Bella, 4.

One month before the killings, Chris Watts, 33, started dating Kessinger, she told the newspaper.

They met through work in June, she said.

Chris Watts told Kessinger he had two daughters and was going through a mutual divorce, which was almost finalized, Kessinger said.

“I believed him,” she told the newspaper.

Their physical relationship started in early July and the two saw each other up to five times a week, Kessinger told the Post, though she said she never met any of his family or friends.

At the end of July, Chris Watts told her that his divorce was final, Kessinger said in the report, which was published online Thursday evening.

In mid-August, Chris Watts spoke out to reporters, saying his wife and daughters disappeared without a trace.

“My kids are my life,” he told ABC Denver affiliate KMGH. “I mean, those smiles light up my life.”

Chris Watts texted Kessinger that his wife took the girls to a play-date and never returned — but he appeared nonchalant and emotionless, she told the newspaper.

When the media started reporting on the missing persons’ case, Kessinger said she was shocked to find out her boyfriend was still married with a wife who was 15 weeks pregnant.

“I thought, ‘If he was able to lie to me and hide something that big, what else was he lying about?’” she told the Post.

Kessinger told the paper she peppered her boyfriend with questions but said he would try to change the subject.

Kessinger said she ultimately called investigators about her relationship with Chris Watts.

“I just wanted to help,” she told the newspaper. “With a pregnant woman and two children missing, I was going to do anything that I could.”

Within days of the disappearance, Chris Watts was arrested and the bodies of his wife and children were found.

Kessinger told the newspaper that since his arrest, she has had no doubt that he committed the crimes.

Chris Watts is set to be sentenced Monday after he pleaded guilty to all charges against him: five counts of murder in the first degree; three counts of tampering with a deceased human body; and one count of unlawful termination of pregnancy.

In exchange for the guilty plea, prosecutors will not pursue the death penalty, the Weld County District Attorney’s office said. The victims’ family agreed to those terms, the district attorney’s office added.

Watts faces up to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Chris Watts, who killed wife and daughters, ‘lied about everything,’ mistress says

Posted on: November 16th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

Chris Watts pleaded guilty in the deaths of his wife and young daughters.

Chris Watts, who killed wife and daughters, ‘lied about everything,’ mistress says

Posted on: November 16th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

Chris Watts pleaded guilty in the deaths of his wife and young daughters.

At least 7 dead as snow wreaks havoc on East Coast

Posted on: November 16th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

More than 300,000 people were without power Friday morning.

At least 7 dead as snow wreaks havoc on East Coast

Posted on: November 16th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

More than 300,000 people were without power Friday morning.

Nor’easter leaves some students stranded at schools overnight

Posted on: November 16th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(WEST ORANGE, N.J.) — Some students in New Jersey were forced to sleep in their schools overnight as the first snowstorm of the season crippled the Tri-state area.

Treacherous conditions on snow-covered roads in New Jersey’s Essex County left some kids stranded at public schools in the suburban township of West Orange on Thursday, as school buses and parents were unable to get them home.

The West Orange public school district ordered its buses to “shelter in place” on Thursday afternoon as car crashes jammed up traffic on the icy highway nearby.

“When the West Orange Police Department provides the all clear, those buses will begin their route,” the school district said in an update on its website Thursday evening.

Faculty stayed to supervise the students who remained. As the hours ticked by and snow continued to fall, the school district ultimately decided to follow a “shelter in place protocol” for the students still in their care.

“Elementary, middle and high school students who remain in the schools have eaten dinner and are safe with familiar teachers and staff,” the West Orange public school district said in another update Thursday night.

The dozens of students stranded at Liberty Middle School were treated to plenty of snacks, activities and entertainment throughout the night. The school principal provided updates via Twitter, posting photographs of the kids eating ice cream, watching the movie Frozen in the auditorium, playing basketball in the gymnasium, falling asleep on gym mats and faculty serving French toast for breakfast in the cafeteria.

Meanwhile, the pre-winter storm raging outside had dumped several inches of snow.

On Friday morning, the kids at Liberty Middle School were returned home safely while buses were en route to pick up students who had stayed overnight at a few other schools.

All West Orange public schools will be closed Friday.

“Thank you to our AMAZING faculty and staff for going above and beyond, staying overnight, caring, cooking, reading, singing and making sure our students were safe during this crazy snowstorm,” the school district wrote in a statement on Facebook.

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