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Chris Watts case: Colorado dad to be sentenced in killings of pregnant wife, daughters

The Colorado man who pleaded guilty to first-degree murder charges in the August slayings of his pregnant wife and two young daughters is scheduled to be sentenced Monday.

Chris Watts, 33, pleaded guilty earlier this month to killing his wife, Shanann Watts, and their children, Bella, 4, and Celeste, 3.

Update 12:40 p.m. EST Nov. 19: An attorney for Chris Watts told the court Monday that he is “devastated by all of this.”

“Although he understands that words are hallow at this point, he is sincerely sorry about all of this,” the attorney said.

Chris Watts declined to speak in court.

Update 12:25 p.m. EST Nov. 19: Chris Watts kept his gaze down as Shanann Watts’ parents and her brother addressed the court.

“We loved you like a son, we trusted you. Your faithful wife trusted you. Your children adored you and they also trusted you,” said Shanann Watts’ mother, Sandy Rzucek. “But I know God and his mighty angels were there to bring them home to paradise. Not only did you take the family of four -- your family of four -- you took your own life.”

The Rzucek family asked that the court not hand Chris Watts a death penalty sentence for his crime. In statements given in court, family members said they felt they had no right to take his life.

“I trusted you to take care of them not kill them, and they also trusted you, the heartless monster,” Shanann Watt’s father, Frank Rzucek, said as his voice shook in court Monday. “And then you take them out like trash.”

The sentencing hearing for Chris Watts is ongoing.

Original report: According to KMGH, Chris Watts, 33, of Frederick, is slated to appear in Weld County District Court at 10 a.m. MST (noon EST) Monday. Watts, who pleaded guilty Nov. 6 to nine felony charges, including three counts of first-degree murder with deliberation, likely will be sentenced to life in prison without parole, the station reported. Under Watts' plea deal, prosecutors agreed not to pursue the death penalty.

>> On WSOCTV.com: 'It's horrific': Girlfriend of man who killed family speaks out ahead of sentencing

Watts' parents, who recently told KMGH that their son is not a "monster," could speak at the hearing, the station reported. The parents of his wife, Shanann Watts, also could speak, according to KMGH.

Watts is accused of killing his daughters – Bella, 4, and Celeste, 3 – Aug. 12 or 13 in the family’s home. Prosecutors also said Watts killed Shanann Watts, 34, after she returned home from a business trip about 2 a.m. Aug. 13. She was 15 weeks pregnant with a baby boy, whom she planned to name Nico.

>> ‘He’s not that monster’: Parents of Chris Watts speak out on slayings of wife, daughters

A friend reported Shanann Watts missing the afternoon of Aug. 13. Watts was arrested two days later.

According to an arrest affidavit dated Aug. 16, Watts told investigators that Shanann Watts strangled the girls after he asked for a separation around 4 a.m. Aug. 13. He claimed he then strangled her in a fit of rage, the affidavit said.

The affidavit said Watts admitted to burying his wife's body in a shallow grave at a job site belonging to his employer, Andarko Petroleum, about 60 miles from the family’s home. The bodies of Bella and Celeste were found in two nearby oil tanks, submerged in crude oil. 

At the time of the deaths, Watts had been "actively involved in an affair with a co-worker," the affidavit said.

>> Read more trending news 

In an interview with the Denver Post last week, Nichol Kessinger, 30, said she began dating Watts less than two months before the killings. Kessinger said Watts told her he was at the end of the divorce process, but when his family disappeared, she quickly realized that he had been lying.

“When I read the news, I found out he was still married and his wife was 15 weeks pregnant,” she told the Denver Post. “I thought, ‘If he was able to lie to me and hide something that big, what else was he lying about?’”

She said called the sheriff Aug. 15 and met with FBI investigators about her concerns. Watts was arrested later that night.

“I don’t think there is a logical explanation for what he did,” Kessinger told the Post. “It’s a senseless act, and it’s horrific.”

– WSOC-TV contributed to this report.

Oldest chimp at Kansas City Zoo dies at 55

The oldest chimpanzee at the Kansas City Zoo died Friday, WDAF reported. She was 55.

>> Read more trending news 

Blackie, a mother of eight, a grandmother and a fixture at the zoo since arriving in 1966, was euthanized Friday, the Kansas City Star reported.

“It is with great sadness that we report that one of the Zoo’s beloved chimpanzees ... passed away Friday,” the zoo reported Monday in a news release.

The average life expectancy of a chimpanzee in captivity is 37, the Star reported. Blackie was euthanized “due to her declining health,” according to the zoo’s news release.

Blackie was born in Africa. The zoo’s oldest chimp now is Lucy, 31, born in July 1987.

“Her devoted human caregivers will especially remember Blackie for her feisty but sweet personality,” the zoo said in its release. “She loved snow and bubble baths and was a favorite of the zookeepers who worked with her. She will be deeply missed.”

Houston firefighters rescue horse from septic hole

Firefighters in Houston rescued a horse stuck inside a septic hole near Texas Southern University on Sunday afternoon, KHOU reported.

>> Read more trending news 

The black horse was stuck in a 6-by-6 hole filled with muddy water when firefighters found it, the Houston Chronicle reported.

Firefighters worked for more than an hour to rescue the horse, which has been left in the custody of animal control, according to KHOU. As crews worked, the horse’s owner arrived and became belligerent with emergency responders, KPRC reported. The Houston Police Department was called and the man was arrested, the television station reported.

People reach out to help homeless woman in St. Louis

A homeless woman’s harrowing description of life on the streets of St. Louis has resulted in an outpouring of sympathy and assistance for her and her 1-year-old son, KTVI reported.

>> Read more trending news 

Melena Johnson cried as she described her life over the past year when she was interviewed by the television station Nov. 2. She said she was sleeping in vacant buildings until police boarded them up, forcing her to sleep on the sidewalk. She said she is facing fines for sleeping outdoors.

"I could give up, man. I've been running for a long time. There ain't nowhere to go. They're not helping me,” Johnson told KTVI. “St. Patrick's, you have to call a hotline to get a place to stay out of the cold. Why do they need your identity, Social Security card or birth certificate to stay warm?

"There is nowhere to go. I have a warrant for sleeping on the sidewalk. I didn't have anywhere else to go but the sidewalk. He said that 'if you come back, I'll write you up.' I went back to the heat and sat there to get warm. He wrote me a ticket. I said that before I go to jail for sleeping on the sidewalk, the jail system won't get a dime from me. You'll have to catch me first before I pay you for sleeping on the sidewalk.”

Johnson’s interview has been seen by thousands of people and several have reached out to help, KTVI reported.

One person made a 90-minute drive to pay Johnson’s accommodations for a week at a downtown St. Louis hotel, the television station reported. The man bought her groceries, clothes and other items. 

“He’s been a blessing to me,” Johnson said.

Johnson added that a woman traveled from Chicago and bought her a box of clothes and food, while people from Philadelphia also traveled to help her.

"I never thought that people on this Earth loved me in these 40-something years. It turns out to be something different,” Johnson told KTVI. “I don't think I should think like that anymore when there is someone out there caring for me, and they don't even know me.”

Mom killed while driving cab to pay for daughter’s birthday, baptism, family says

Olivia Florez was not afraid of hard work.

Family members of the North Carolina mother of two young daughters said she worked two jobs to make ends meet and ensure her girls, ages 15 and 2, had what they needed. 

The Winston-Salem Journal reported that Florez, 35, was doing just that Wednesday night when the taxi cab she was driving was struck by a 2006 Infiniti. Winston-Salem police officials told the newspaper Florez died at the scene. 

The driver of the Infiniti fled on foot, the Journal said

>> Read more trending news

Ricky Dean, Florez’s brother, told the newspaper his sister drove for the Universal Taxi Cab Co. to earn extra cash. The money she was trying to earn Wednesday was to help pay for her 2-year-old’s upcoming birthday and baptism.

“She worked her jobs and then came home to (take) care of her kids,” Dean told the Journal

Dean said he refused to believe his sister was dead until he got to the scene of the crash.

“Right now, everyone is in shock,” he said.

That included her co-workers at Universal Taxi, where she had worked since early September, the Journal reported

“It’s just unbelievable,” driver Laura Chavez said. “It could have been me.”

Florez also worked as a meter reader for the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Utilities Division, where she’d worked for about a month. 

“I hope they catch the person who hit her,” agency spokeswoman Gale Ketteler told the Journal. “She will be greatly missed.”

Tammy Woodel, Florez’s half-sister, told Fox 8 in High Point that Florez loved her daughters above all else. Woodel expressed anger at the driver of the Infiniti.

“Did they even check on her?” Woodel said, according to the news station. “Did she say anything? Did she have any last words?

“We don’t think they done it on purpose, but you know, they need to make it right.”

Besides her daughters, Florez was also stepmother to two boys, ages 10 and 11, Fox 8 reported. 

“Nothing will bring her back, and her kids won’t have a mom anymore,” Florez’s stepsister, Maria Ramirez, said tearfully.

“(They’re going to) have plenty of mamas,” Woodel told her. “Just like we did.”

Rapper Tekashi69, former manager arrested on racketeering, firearms charges

Rapper Tekashi69 has been arrested after a joint investigation of the New York Police Department, Homeland Security and the Justice Department’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The arrest was made Sunday in New York on racketeering and firearms charges.

>> Read more trending news 

TMZ reported that the rapper, who stylizes his name as 6ix9ine and whose real name is Daniel Hernandez, is in custody with his ex-manager and two other former associates, including his bodyguard Faheem “Crippy” Walter.

On Friday, Hernandez said on Instagram that he fired his manager, Kifano “Shottie” Jordan, and his entire team. He also canceled his North American tour.

Hernandez is set to release his debut album “Dummy Boy” Nov. 23.

This is the rapper’s latest run-in with the law. Rolling Stone reported he was sentenced to four years probation in October after he admitted he used a 13-year-old child in a sexual performance. He was sentenced to one year of probation after he pleaded guilty to a disorderly conduct charge in connection with an assault on a police officer in May.

Fire department warns space heater users: Don’t plug heaters into power strips

Those multi-outlet power strips may be able to handle your big screen TV, cable box and Roku, but they can’t handle the drain of only one space heater. 

And if you’re thinking you’ll be OK and just plug it in for a little while, fire departments across the country are once again reminding people not to do it. You’ll risk a fire. 

This time it’s the Morgan County Fire and EMS in Morgan, Utah, that has issued the warning on Facebook, complete with a melted and charred power strip, joining the ranks of firefighters trying to keep families safe once the chilly weather starts creeping in. 

>> Read more trending news 

Firefighters told WTHR that space heaters can get to between 500 and 600 degrees Fahrenheit and to plug them in directly to the wall outlet. 

David’s Bridal files for bankruptcy: How it will impact brides

David’s Bridal has voluntarily filed for bankruptcy under Chapter 11 of the United States Bankruptcy Code in the District of Delaware. 

The bridal retailer announced last week it reached an agreement with its senior noteholders and equity holders on the terms of a restructuring support agreement that will reduce the company’s debt by more than $400 million. The company said its 300 David’s Bridal stores and online marketplace will continue operating without disruption.

>> Read more trending news 

Orders will arrive on time and bridal appointments will not be impacted, according to Scott Key, chief executive officer of David’s Bridal. 

“For more than 60 years, David's has delivered beautiful, high-quality dresses and accessories for our customers' most special occasions, and the actions we are taking will enable us to build on that tradition,” Key said in a statement, according to CNBC. “Our team is laser focused on providing brides and their families with the five-star service and experience they deserve and have come to expect from us.”

“We are, and will continue to be, open for business,” Key said in a message to customers on the David’s Bridal website.

The company’s financial woes do not come as a surprise. David’s Bridal missed an interest payment on $270 million in unsecured notes in mid-October. The missed payment sets into motion a 30-day grace period with debtholders before the retailer is in default.

The retailer has struggled for the past year to reduce its debt while reporting weak operating performances. Analysts have predicted that the retailer could restructure its debt within six months.

It’s not the only bridal retailer to struggle due to industry disruption.

Bridal retailer Alfred Angelo abruptly closed its stores in 2017 without notice, leaving brides and wedding parties scrambling to pick up their dresses. The company had more than 60 stores across the U.S.

Couple headed to their wedding killed in crash on Pennsylvania interstate

A New Jersey couple headed to their wedding in Pittsburgh were killed in a fiery crash on a Pennsylvania interstate Wednesday, WPVI reported.

>> Read more trending news 

Kathryn Schultz, 35, and her fiance, Joseph Kearney, both of Jersey City, were killed in a multiple-vehicle crash on I-78 in Berks County, NJ.com reported.

Pennsylvania State Police said a tractor-trailer crashed into the back of the car Schultz and Kearney were riding in, setting off a chain reaction of wrecks that affected five commercial vehicles and the passenger car, WPVI reported.

The couple were driving to Kearney’s hometown of Pittsburgh for the wedding, the television station reported.

According to her obituary, Schurtz was employed as the head of platform partnerships for Oracle Data Cloud in New York City. She attended George Washington University, where she received her liberal arts degree and went on to earn her MBA from Notre Dame.

She was the daughter of Karen Schurtz, a former councilwoman in Fanwood, New Jersey.

The Council of the Borough of Fanwood offered condolences on its Facebook page.

New Jersey police rescue dachshund trapped in pipe for 20 hours

A dog that chased a rabbit into a drainage pipe was rescued after a hairy, 20-hour ordeal, NJ.com reported.

>> Read more trending news 

Khaleesi, a miniature long-haired female dachshund mix, was rescued by Secaucus firefighters shortly after noon Sunday, News12 New Jersey reported. The dog became stuck in the pipe around 5 p.m. after chasing the rabbit in a Secaucus park, according to Kristie Ann Ramos and Emilio Ramos, the animal’s owners.

“We had to dig around the pipe a good 6 feet, and at that point we were breaking the pipe little by little, using caution of course for the dog, cause the dog's tail was sticking out,” Capt. Guido Bravo, of the Secaucus Fire Department,told the television station.

Firefighters were unable to free the dog Saturday night and returned Sunday, NJ.com reported.

Officials were able to locate Khaleesi because she was wearing a transmitter collar, WNBC reported.

"Once I got near, I started hearing her bark," Emilio Ramos told the television station. 

“After a while, that bark turned into a crying noise."

After responders cut away several feet of pipe, they were able to rescue the dog, who was shivering but unhurt.

“Those men are incredible. … I was so grateful that’s she’s not hurt,” Emilio Ramos told WCBS

“It’s a really happy ending. It’s a good ending, that’s what it’s about,” Secaucus Mayor Michael Gonnelli told the television station.

Homeless woman in NYC steals car with girl, 2, in backseat, police say

A homeless woman stole an idling car with a 2-year-old girl in the backseat Sunday afternoon, hitting a bicyclist and crashing into three parked cars during her brief joyride, the New York Daily News reported.

>> Read more trending news 

Adrea Aronald, 52, was charged with kidnapping, reckless endangerment and grand larceny, WNBC reported.

According to police, the toddler’s 29-year-old mother left the child strapped in a car seat in the back of her Honda Accord while she went into a Brooklyn store to get some food, the Daily News reported.

That’s when Aronald allegedly jumped into the driver’s seat of the unlocked car and drove away.

She hit a bicyclist two blocks away, continued driving and crashed into three parked cars, the New York Post reported.

Police arrested Aronald, while the 36-year-old bicyclist suffered minor injuries, the newspaper reported. The child was not hurt.

Which restaurants are open on Thanksgiving? Here’s a list

If putting together a Thanksgiving feast isn’t in the cards for you this year, don’t worry, there are plenty of restaurants that will be happy to help with your holiday meals.

Several restaurant chains across the country will be open on Thursday, offering dine-in Thanksgiving dinners or meal packages you can take with you to share at home.

Below are a few restaurants that will be open on Thanksgiving.

(Note: Not every restaurant in a chain may be honoring the deals, so be sure to check with local restaurants to confirm which deals are available before you go. Some offers are dine-in only and can’t be used with any other discount or coupons. Prices and times may vary with location.) 

  • Applebee's: The restaurant will be offering a special entrée, for dining in or taking out, that includes turkey breast with gravy, mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce and green beans. The chain will also offer its full menu.
  • Bahama Breeze: Think Thanksgiving with a tropical twist. 
  • Bob Evans: You can get a $15 dine-in special Thursday ($7 for the kids' meal version) that includes a main course, three sides, endless bread and a slice of pie. The to-go meals include three options: Ham Farmhouse Feast, Turkey Farmhouse Feast or Premium Farmhouse Feast. They serve four to eight guests depending on your choice and start at $50.
  • Boston Market: The restaurant offers dine-in or take-out meals for Thanksgiving. 
  • Buca di Beppo: The Thanksgiving feast menu includes sliced white meat turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, spicy Italian sausage stuffing, green beans, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie. 
  • Capital Grille: Capital Grille is offering a prix-fixe Thanksgiving dinner ($42 for adults, $15 for children) that Includes slow-roasted turkey with brioche stuffing, French green beans and mashed potatoes. Desserts are available for $11.
  • Chart House: The Chart House will be open on Thanksgiving. 
  • Chevy’s Fresh Mex: Chevy’s is offering a three-course Thanksgiving dinner at participating locations. 
  • Cracker Barrel Old Country Store: Cracker Barrel is offering both a dine-in and takeaway prepared Thanksgiving dinner. The meal includes turkey with gravy, sugar-cured ham, sweet potato casserole, cranberry relish, a slice of pumpkin pie, a choice of biscuits, corn muffins or another side and a beverage.
  • Denny’s: You can get a Thanksgiving dinner delivered in some locations – you have to pick it up in others. The dinner includes carved turkey breast served family-style with stuffing, turkey gravy and cranberry sauce. Served with your choice of two sides. The meals serve 4-5 and cost $35.99.
  • Fleming’s: Fleming’s is offering a three-course Thanksgiving feast for $49 (kids’ meal $19). The meal features either a mixed herb-roasted turkey breast or sliced beef tenderloin.
  • Fogo de Chao: Get the Thanksgiving feast at Fogo de Chao for favorites like roasted turkey breast, homemade cranberry relish, sweet potato casserole and Brazilian sausage and apple dressing. Reservations are needed.
  • Golden Corral: The restaurant’s $17 dine-in Thanksgiving buffet includes turkey, ribs, ham, cornbread stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole, desserts and other choices. Kids meals are between $7 and $9, depending on the child's age.
  • McDonald's: Some locations are open, but not all. Call ahead for hours.
  • HomeTown BuffetYou can order a Thanksgiving dinner pack through Tuesday for pickup. It costs 89.99. You can also get a whole pecan or pumpkin pie to take home for $8.99.
  • Hooter’s: Most Hooters locations will be open on Thanksgiving.
  • IHOP: The restaurant will be open on Thursday in most locations, though hours may vary.
  • Legal Sea Foods: Legal Sea Foods is offering a Thanksgiving dinner for $25 a person and $9 for children 12 and under. 
  • Luby’s: Get a Thanksgiving dinner for $11.49 that includes roast turkey, cornbread dressing, two sides, bread and dessert.
  • Macaroni Grill: The Macaroni Grill is offering a prix fixe menu for $25 per person. It includes turkey, buttermilk mashed potatoes, fresh apple-cranberry chutney and a slice of pumpkin pie topped with amaretto mascarpone cream. 
  • Maggiano's Little Italy: Get a four-course family-style dinner you can dine in or take out. The meal includes bruschetta, salad, your choice of entrée, two classic Thanksgiving sides, two types of pasta and dessert. 
  • Marie Callender's: You can pre-order holiday meals for pickup between Tuesday and Thursday. The restaurant offers whole meals that serve from four to eight guests, depending on the meal package chosen, from $109.99 to $159.99. 
  • McCormick and Schmick's: Get a turkey dinner with mashed potatoes, gravy, butternut squash bisque, vegetables, apple squash casserole and more. Click here to make a reservation online.
  • Mimi's Cafe: Mimi’s is offering a dine-in or take-out three-course meal that includes a soup or salad, turkey with all the fixings and a slice of pumpkin or pecan pie for $20. Kid’s meals are $10. 
  • Morton’s The Steakhouse: Reservations are required at the locations open on Thanksgiving. Click here to check if a location will be open.
  • Old Country Buffet: You can order a Thanksgiving dinner pack through Tuesday for pickup. It costs $89.99. You can also get a whole pecan or pumpkin pie to take home for $8.99.
  • Ruby Tuesday: Participating restaurants will be open for business on Thursday.
  • Ruth's Chris: The steakhouse will offer a three-course dinner that includes turkey, sausage and herb stuffing, a choice of a side and a dessert duo. 
  • Ryan’sYou can order a Thanksgiving dinner pack through Tuesday for pickup. It costs 89.99. You can also get a whole pecan or pumpkin pie to take home for $8.99.
  • Ted's Montana Grill: Ted’s will offer a Thanksgiving roast meal turkey, garlic mashed potatoes, carrots, herb dressing, squash casserole, cranberry sauce, and a slice of apple crisp for $29.
  • TGI Friday's: The chain is offering a feast for two for $20-$25. You get two appetizers, two entrees and two desserts.
  • Waffle House: Always-open Waffle House will be serving its regular menu on Thanksgiving. 

‘There’s still good people out ‘there:’ Secret Santa pays off layaways in Vermont Walmart

Secret Santa has struck again, this time at a Walmart in Vermont near the Canadian border. A total stranger has paid off the layaways at the Walmart in Derby, not for one or two families, but for every single account that was being stored for pickup closer to Christmas, WCAX reported.

The good fortune came as a surprise for those who were at the store over the weekend to pay a portion of their presents or put them on hold, paying a bit at a time.

Julie Gates said she was at the store last week when a man came up and asked if she was putting items on layaway. 

“He said why don’t you run and get what you want now and come back here. So I came back and he was standing there waiting. There was no one left,” Gates told WCAX.

>> Read more trending news 

The unidentified man paid the bill. 

Gates said she asked who can pay everyone’s layaway. She said he told her “Santa Claus can.”

Gates had overheard the man tell another shopper who was putting items on layaway, “Either I am going to pay for it now or I’m going to pay for it later,” WCAX reported.

Another woman, who also benefited from the goodwill, had a word for what had happened.

“It was kind of like surreal when they said no balance due, then it was really a reality,” Tammy Desautels told WCAX.

Walmart didn’t say how much the total of all the layaways was, but Gates said there were some that totaled $800 or $900, WCAX reported.

“Really have a feeling that there’s hope for mankind or whatever. There’s still good people out there,” Desautels said.

Which grocery stores are open on Thanksgiving Day 2018?

Even the best of cooks can end up missing an ingredient on Thanksgiving morning. 

If you find yourself short on nutmeg or minus a few potatoes, there is a good chance a grocery store near you will be open on Thanksgiving for at least for part of the day.

Here is a list of Thanksgiving Day openings, closings and store hours for national grocery store chains. Reminder: Some stores do not follow national opening/closing hours. Some state laws prohibit stores being open on a holiday. Be sure to check with your local stores for times. 

If you are simply abandoning the idea of that Martha Stewart Thanksgiving in favor of a good buffet down the street, here is a link to a list of restaurants open on Thanksgiving.

  • ALDI: All stores are closed on Thanksgiving.
  • AJ's Fine Foods: Open 6 a.m. - 2 p.m. on Thanksgiving. 
  • Albertsons: Open from 6 a.m.-5 p.m. on Thanksgiving. 
  • Bashas': Open until 3 p.m. on Thanksgiving. 
  • BJ's Wholesale Club: BJ’s is closed Thanksgiving.
  • Costco: All stores will be closed on Thanksgiving.
  • Food Lion: Most stores will be open until 3 p.m. (depending on the store).
  • Fresh Market: Open until 3 p.m. on Thanksgiving.
  • Ingles: Open regular hours on Thanksgiving.
  • Kroger: Stores are open regular hours on Thanksgiving.
  • Publix: All stores and pharmacies will be closed on Thanksgiving; regular hours resume on Friday.
  • Safeway: Most stores will be open from 6 a.m. until 6 p.m.
  • Sam's Club: All stores are closed on Thanksgiving.
  • Sprouts Farmers Market: Open 7 a.m. - 4 p.m. on Thanksgiving.
  • Target: Stores open at 5 p.m. on Thanksgiving and close at 1 a.m. Friday.
  • Trader Joes: All stores closed on Thanksgiving.
  • Walmart: Stores will be open on Thanksgiving.
  • Wegmans: Most Wegmans locations will close at 4 p.m. on Thanksgiving.
  • Whole Foods: Hours: 9 a.m.-2 p.m. on Thanksgiving.

Reports: Brenda Snipes to resign as Broward County elections supervisor

Brenda Snipes, the embattled supervisor of elections in a South Florida county that came under intense scrutiny during the 2018 elections, submitted her resignation late Sunday, the Sun-Sentinel reported.

>> Read more trending news 

Snipes, who has been the elections supervisor in Broward County since 2003, ends a tenure that was marred by legal disputes, voting discrepancies and withering criticism. She submitted her resignation hours after finishing an election recount, the newspaper reported.

“It is true. She did send it,” Burnadette Norris-Weeks, an attorney who works as counsel to the Supervisor of Elections Office, told the Sun-Sentinel.

Norris-Weeks said she saw an early draft of the letter. In the version she saw, she said Snipes said she wanted to spend more time with her family, the newspaper reported.

>> Who is Brenda Snipes?

Snipes did not respond to requests for comment by several media outlets.

The date Snipes’ resignation goes into effect is not clear, the Sun-Sentinel reported. Norris-Weeks said she believes it was effective Jan. 2. 

If the resignation becomes effective in January, it is likely that Florida Gov.-elect Rick DeSantis will appoint her replacement.

Snipes, 75, has lived in Broward County since 1964, according to the official Broward County Supervisor of Elections website.

In November 2003, Gov. Jeb Bush appointed Snipes to replace Miriam Oliphant, who was removed from the post after accusations of mishandling the 2002 gubernatorial primary, CNN reported in 2003. She was elected in her own right in 2004 and was re-elected in 2008, 2012 and 2016.

Snipes' tenure has been fraught with controversy. 

In the latest flap, her office submitted the results of a machine recount two minutes past the deadline and also lost more than 2,000 ballots for the 2018 midterm elections, WFOR reported.

A court ruled Snipes had broken election law when she destroyed ballots from the 2016 election 12 months after it, instead of the 22 months required by federal law, the Sun-Sentinel reported.

Election results in the 2016 primary were posted on the election office’s website before the polls closed, the newspaper reported.

In 2012, nearly 1,000 uncounted ballots were discovered a week after the election, according to the Sun-Sentinel.

In 2004, approximately 58,000 mail-in ballots were not delivered to voters, the newspaper reported.

FDA reminds parents not to give honey to babies

The Food and Drug Administration is reminding parents of babies that it is not safe to give children under the age of 1 honey.

The FDA sent out the warning after four children were admitted to hospitals in Texas, diagnosed with botulism. All four babies used pacifiers that had honey in them. The binkies were bought in Mexico, but online retailers sell them across the country.

>> Read more trending news 

Honey can contain clostridium botulinum spores. The spores can multiply in a baby’s digestive system and has been connected to some cases of infant botulism.

Botulism is a serious illness, caused by clostridium botulinum, clostridium butyricum and sometimes clostridium baratii bacteria  that attacks the body’s nerves and causes difficulty breathing, muscle paralysis and potentially death.

The FDA says that parents should not only not give the honey-filled pacifiers to babies, but also don’t dip them in honey and give to infants and young children. Experts recommend parents throw away any pacifier filled or dipped in honey, to stop using it immediately and throw them away.

Prime member perk: See Jason Momoa in ‘Aquaman’ a week before release

We all know the perks of being an Amazon Prime member: Free two-day shipping, free same-day shipping in some cities, discounts at Whole Foods, photo cloud storage and Prime Video.

But now, the online shopping giant is giving a little extra to those Prime members who are also fans of the DC universe. Amazon is allowing its Prime customers an early opportunity to see the latest DC Comics flick “Aquaman” a week before its general release.

>> Read more trending news 

At select theaters across the country, Prime members can see an exclusive showtime of the Jason Momoa-helmed superhero movie. 

It’s a one time viewing - on Dec. 15 at 7 p.m. at select theaters. 

For those who are not Prime members, the movie is released a week later on Dec. 21.

To get tickets, click here.

Florida man gunned down next to vigil for 2016 double homicide victims

Deputies with Florida's St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office are investigating a deadly shooting in West Augustine.

>> Watch the news report here

Lavert Durden, 28, was killed after an argument on Christopher and Aiken streets, according to the Sheriff's Office.

Deputies are now looking for 30-year-old Brandon Calloway and have located 20-year-old Traevon Watson in connection with the shooting.

>> On ActionNewsJax.com: Witnesses remain silent while St. Augustine double homicide remains unsolved

The men are wanted for questioning.

They were involved in a heated argument with Durden just minutes before the shooting, according to Detective Gene Tolbert, sergeant of the Major Crimes Unit.

Watson was located Saturday evening and is speaking with detectives, according to the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office. 

Anyone who might know where Calloway might be is urged to call 824-8304 or 911.

ActionNewsJax reporter Courtney Cole spent the evening on the scene, speaking to neighbors and the aunt of the victim.

“What happened today and then for it to happen on the anniversary of my son’s death — you know, the family is torn to pieces,” said Annette Durden.

On Friday evening, she was gathering with family to remember the lives of her son Charles “Juvie” Durden and his friend, Stefon Larry.

"Me and my family, we still haven’t forgotten. It’s just like yesterday to us,” Annette Durden told ActionNewsJax.

They were shot, killed and burned inside a SUV in November 2016.

But just minutes before they could walk to the memorial, her nephew, Lavert Durden, was shot and killed in West Augustine.

>> Read more trending news 

The St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office said deputies responded to a shooting call at 5:03 p.m. at Herbert Street and Christopher Street.

Deputies arrived on the scene at 5:08 p.m.

Lavert Durden was already dead when officers arrived. The Sheriff’s Office said he was shot multiple times.

Neighbors poured into the streets, in disbelief.

“[I] lived in this community all my life, this is not something that we’d normally have going on in our community,” said the Rev. Ronald L. Stafford. He’s the pastor at New Mt. Moriah Christian Ministry, on the corner near the location of the deadly shooting.

Stafford not only lives in this community but also works in West Augustine.

“A bad situation to see a young man shot down like this,” Stafford said.

He told ActionNewsJax that it's normal to see St. Johns County deputies in his church parking lot.

“Years ago, you had drugs and things is this community, and the Sheriff’s Department worked very hard and cleaned it up,” Stafford said.

The Sheriff's Office says right now, this deadly shooting is not tied to drugs or gangs.

They believe it was an argument that got out of hand.

Annette Durden says their family needs answers — and closure — now more than ever. 

“There’s just a big hole in my heart. I really don’t how to really put it into words,” said Annette Durden.

Leonid Meteor Shower 2018: 9 must-see photos of the celestial light show

The annual Leonid meteor shower peaked this weekend, offering a stunning natural light show.

>> On AJC.com: Leonid Meteor Shower 2018: How to see this weekend’s celestial spectacle

Skygazers took to social media to share their photos of the celestial phenomenon. Here are some of our favorites:

>> Read more trending news 

1. Llyn Padarn, Snowdonia, Wales, United Kingdom

Photo by @gareth_mon_photography, Instagram

2. South Stack, Wales, United Kingdom

Photo by @bigolivesphoto, Instagram

3. Cannon Beach, Oregon

Photo by @lestertsaiphotography, Instagram

4. Coleman, Alberta, Canada

Photo by @bound_for_mountain, Instagram

5. Blauen, Germany

Photo by Stephane Vetter, Facebook

6. Lone Mountain, Big Sky Resort, Montana

Photo by @davepecunies, Instagram

7. The Rumps, Cornwall, United Kingdom

Photo by @chrisfletcherphotography, Instagram

8. Oregon

Photo by @thezachhayes, Instagram

9. Llyn y Dywarchen, Snowdonia, Wales, United Kingdom

Photo by @_belial, Instagram

Nearly 100,000 pounds of ground beef recalled over E. coli fears just before Thanksgiving

Utah-based Swift Beef Co. is recalling 99,260 pounds of raw ground beef products over possible E. coli contamination just in time for Thanksgiving, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

>> Read more trending news 

The meat products were produced late last month and the potential contamination was confirmed last week.

The products under recall include bulk ground beef products produced on Oct. 24:

  • 2,000 pound - bulk pallets of Swift Ground Beef 81/19 (81% lean) Fine Grind Combo bearing product code 42982.
  • 8-10 pound - plastic wrapped chubs of “blue ribbon BEEF” Ground Beef 81/19 (81% lean) Coarse Grind bearing product code 42410.
  • 8-10 pound - plastic wrapped chubs of “blue ribbon BEEF” Ground Beef 93/07 (93% lean) Coarse Grind bearing product code 42413.
  • 8-10 pound - plastic wrapped chubs of “blue ribbon BEEF” Ground Beef 85/15 (85% lean) Coarse Grind bearing product code 42415.
  • 8-10 pound - plastic wrapped chubs of “blue ribbon BEEF” Ground Beef 73/27 (73% lean) Coarse Grind bearing product code 42510.

 

The potentially contaminated meat products were shipped to California, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Washington. 

There’s been no reports of illness so far.

>> Related: Ground turkey recall: 90K pounds recalled days before Thanksgiving

E.coli is a possibly deadly bacteria that can cause dehydration, diarrhea and abdominal cramps.

Those with more questions about the recall or E.coli, can call the JBS USA Consumer Hotline at (800) 727-2333.

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