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Latest from Veronica Waters

    Police are hoping the public can help identify a man who allegedly burglarized a home in Paulding County -- and cut the homeowner’s neck while holding her at knifepoint. Angie Vaughn returned home after a night out on March 28, interrupting a man who was burglarizing her home on Ginnity Drive.  Paulding County Sheriff’s Sgt. Ashley Henson says the man surprised the homeowner, grabbing her from behind and holding a knife to her throat. At one point she was able to break away, but the ‘smelly suspect’ snatched her back and continued to hit her, while hurling vulgar language at her, before he fled the scene and got away with money and credit cards.  “He was just a very grungy, dirty individual -- and just very violent with her,” Sgt. Henson tells WSB Radio’s Veronica Waters. Henson adds that Vaughn noted the suspect was “very soiled and smelled of cigarettes.” The homeowner, Angie Vaughn, chimed in on the Paulding County Sheriff’s Facebook page, correcting those who were assuming that the attack was not harmful to her. “This attack happened against me, so to the ones sharing and offering to pray for me I really appreciate it and to the ones that think this is a joke you should really be ashamed of yourselves,” Vaughn’s post reads. “And for some of you to say well we thought she was just pushed, well how would you like someone to invade your home and push you? But just so you know I wasn't just pushed, he beat me, cut my throat and robbed me. “This sketch wasn't just to help get me some kind of justice it was also to save all of you jokers from the same fate.” “One of the things that she noted in her post was that he was able to cut her throat harshly -- not slice it open or anything like that -- but as a result of having a knife to her throat, she got cut a little bit,” Henson explains to WSB. He adds, “To come home and interrupt a burglary, and to be abused the way she was, is a very unsettling incident.” Henson says that that since posting the suspect’s sketch on their Facebook page, tipsters have posted photos of possible suspects, some of whom appear to be homeless. Police have said they are not counting out anything at this point as to the man’s identity or living situation.   Vaughn described the white male as having a foul odor consisting of a mixture of cigarettes and body odor. He is believed to be in his late 30’s to early 40’s and has brown hair. He was also described as having facial hair covering his top lip and appeared to be very dirty.  Tipsters are asked to call the Criminal Investigations Division of the Sheriff’s Office at (770) 443-3015.
  • A convicted sex offender wins an appeal before the Georgia Supreme Court after contending that his lifetime electronic monitoring was unconstitutional.    Joseph Park was convicted of child molestation and nine counts of sexual exploitation of a minor in Douglas County in 2003. He was classified as a 'sexually dangerous predator,' released from prison in 2011, and finished probation in 2015.   The following year, Park was arrested, then indicted, in DeKalb County for destroying his ankle monitor. He fought back in court, arguing that the GPS monitoring under the Georgia law amounted to an unreasonable search, as he had already completed all of his sentence.   The state's highest court agrees, ruling that the monitoring patently violates the Fourth Amendment which protects people against unreasonable searches and seizures.   'The Court's saying that once someone pays their debt to society, and they're not under sentence, it's unreasonable to require them to submit to electronic monitoring for the rest of their life,' says WSB legal analyst Phil Holloway. 'This is yet another clear indication, I think, that the Georgia court is taking a more libertarian stance when it comes to freedoms of all types, not just in the context of the Fourth Amendment.'    Justices said it's unconstitutional to use a 24/7, warrantless GPS monitoring 'to the extent that it authorizes such searches of individuals, like Park, who are no longer serving any part of their sentences in order to find evidence of possible criminal conduct,” writes Chief Justice Harold Melton.   Georgia Code § 42-1-14 sets up a risk classification system on the ground that “recidivist sexual offenders, sexual offenders who use physical violence, and sexual offenders who prey on children are sexual predators who present an extreme threat to the public safety.” Park was listed in the most severe category, Level III.   Holloway notes, however, that the state Supreme Court made a note that such monitoring could be allowed if the law is changed. The Justices pointed out that some states have made lifetime GPS monitoring allowable when it is instituted as a part of the sentence itself. Justice Keith Blackwell noted this in a concurring opinion, writing that the decision “does not foreclose other means by which the General Assembly might put the same policy into practice.”   'Electronic monitoring of any person--whether or not they're classified as a predator or an ordinary citizen who's never been convicted of a crime does constitute a search,' explains Holloway. 'The Court has invited the legislature to change this, because all they would have to do is say that someone who is such a predator is going to be under sentence for the remainder of their life.'    He adds that there may be criticism of the idea from some corners.   'People who think that criminal sentences are already too long, and groups that do not like mandatory minimum sentencing, will not like this Court's invitation to the legislature to lengthen already-long sentences,' says Holloway.   The Georgia Bureau of Investigation's Sex Offender Registry website lists some 456 people as 'sexually dangerous predators.
  • Former attorney Michael Cohen testified Tuesday about Donald Trump's involvement in a $130,000 hush money payout to an adult film actress. But that money is only a fraction of how much the testimony is costing American employers.Andy Challenger, vice president at executive outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, says the enormously-anticipated testimony before the U.S. House Oversight Committee is being watched and discussed around the country--including by folks at work. Live-streaming of the testimony can add up to big distractions, he says.
  • Although they remain desperate to see their daughter for the first time in more than two years, JonJelyn and Tim Savage are frozen in Atlanta even after R. Kelly's arrest.  The Savages contend their daughter, Joycelyn, is being held as a part of an alleged sex cult by Kelly. They hoped to reconnect with her as soon as possible after Robert Sylvester Kelly was arrested on 10 counts of sexual abuse in Cook County, Illinois. Instead, their attorney Gerald Griggs says 'very serious death threats' are keeping them grounded in Georgia for now. A manager of Kelly, Don Russell, and former manager Henry James Mason, are under investigation for threatening the Savages ahead of the Lifetime docuseries 'Surviving R. Kelly.' The couple believe Kelly has brainwashed their daughter, who met him at 19 in 2015, and spoke about that in the program. A Henry County police report says an officer overheard Mason's telephone threat last year. Mason surrendered and bonded out on the charge last month in Henry County.  Griggs says Russell was seen with Kelly as the singer, 52, surrendered to police. He tells WSB that they had always planned to have the assistance of law enforcement in traveling to Chicago. The actions of Joycelyn Savage and another alleged sex cult member, Azriel Clary, at Kelly's Saturday bond hearing have delayed those plans.  'Specifically, Joycelyn Savage was asked by numerous reporters if she'd had contact with her parents, when she planned on reconciling and talking to them,' said Griggs. 'She did not respond. She just kept looking straight forward, and kept being whisked off by Mr. Kelly's entourage.'  That concerned her parents even more, because they haven't spoken to her since December 2016. Clary's reaction was similar, yet perhaps even more chilling because her parents were in the courtroom, too, says Griggs.  'They were seated on the same row, and they tried to make direct contact with her. She kept her face and eyes forward. .She did not respond. She did not even look at her parents,' he says, before she was also briskly taken away by Kelly's staff. He likens their actions to those of Patty Hearst, a college student kidnapped by domestic terrorists in 1974 who then went on to commit crimes with her captors.  'It fits into the mental manipulation and the Stockholm Syndrome that we believe they are suffering from,' says Griggs, who also believes that Fulton County prosecutors can bring a case against Kelly for actions targeting both Savage and Clary at Kelly's former home in Johns Creek.  The threats and the women's actions in court caused authorities to urge the Savages to reschedule. Now is the time, contends Griggs, for Kelly's lawyer Steve Greenberg to back up the claim that the women are not being controlled or harmed.  'If your client has nothing to hide, make them available,' he says. 'We'll meet with Mr. Greenberg, and members of Cook County's [state's] attorney's office, and Joycelyn Savage. The ball's in his court. His client's the one that's facing the possibility of never seeing the light of day.
  • A new judge is getting up to speed on the upcoming murder trial of former DeKalb County police officer Robert Olsen. Olsen fatally shot 27-year-old Anthony Hill, an unarmed man and Afghanistan war veteran who had been meandering naked through his Chamblee apartment complex in 2015.  The trial had been scheduled to start February 25, almost two weeks before the four-year anniversary of the March 9 fatal shooting, but was delayed after a recent shakeup involving the judge who had been overseeing the case. Superior Court Judge LaTisha Dear Jackson began a status conference Friday morning acknowledging she is coming into the trial with a blank slate. “I don’t know anything about this case other than it is a defendant that is charged with murder and it happens to be a police officer,” said Dear Jackson.  Earlier this month, Judge J.P. Boulee unexpectedly recused himself from the case in a court order in which he said even the appearance of impartiality should be avoided in trials. He had recently donated money to an anti-domestic violence fun run sponsored by the district attorney. Dear Jackson, who is newly elected to the bench in DeKalb County Superior Court, accepted the case after three other judges recused themselves as well. Assistant District Attorney Pete Johnson filled in the judge on the history of the case, including 2018’s immunity hearing in which Olsen unsuccessfully sought to have the previous judge dismiss the charges on the grounds of self-defense. The lawyers discussed the framework of a giving potential jurors a questionnaire, which had been drafted while Boulee was still on the case, and estimated the trial would take no longer than three weeks from jury selection to verdict.  While Johnson estimated picking a jury would take no more than two days, defense attorney Amanda Clark Palmer thinks jury selection itself could take up to four days. “I think that in large part depends on how many jurors we get who know about the case, but then also there are just some underlying kind of societal issues with this case that people may have strong feelings about,” she says.  The defense says it will have a motion to argue seeking to bar the State from presenting certain facts. The lawyers and judge also discussed scheduling conflicts for potential trial dates. Clark Palmer detailed upcoming trials and travel plans a couple of the defense team have, including an expected two-month federal case beginning in April. “I will get you a date within a week,” said Judge Dear Jackson. “We’ll be ready as soon as the Court is able to schedule it,” said Johnson.
  • He lives in north Fulton County, voted for Donald Trump, and is married to an undocumented immigrant. Now, these parents find themselves supporting their son—who has cancer—from both sides of the Mexican border.“The first time I saw her, I thought she was beautiful,” recalls Jason Rochester about Cecilia Gonzalez. “I loved her laugh.” The pair have known each other more than 15 years and will have been married for 12 years this May. They have a five-year-old son, Ashton. But until the past year, he says, even some of their friends didn’t know of Cecilia’s immigration status. She had been in the United States for about 18 years, having immigrated illegally twice, and been caught and sent back to Mexico twice. Rochester was quick to note that she has never been in trouble with the law or had any type of government assistance.
  • A Fulton County judge found probable cause Wednesday to send the case of the Opera Atlanta nightclub sex assault suspect to a grand jury for not just one--but two cases.Dominique Williams, 34, was arrested on a charge of aggravated sodomy in late January, after a woman who had been celebrating her birthday at Opera said that Williams assaulted her sexually twice there--once on the dance floor, and again on a back patio after carrying her limp body off the dance floor. Jasmine Eiland, 30, believes something had been slipped into her drink--an allegation described by her attorney Chris Stewart earlier this week.
  • The Gwinnett County woman accused of starving her stepdaughter to death and burning the 10-year-old’s body in 2013 has learned the date of her death penalty trial. Superior Court Judge George Hutchinson set the first phase of Tiffany Moss's jury selection and orientation for April 8, 2019. That's when the people who received jury summonses will be in hearings as they seek to be excused from the jury pool. The heart of jury selection begins the following week, April 15.  In court Thursday afternoon, Tiffany Moss had little to say in a status conference that lasted barely five minutes. Shackled and wearing a green jumpsuit, she responded politely, with a 'No, sir,' when the judge asked her if she needed anything as she prepares to represent herself in her death penalty case. She told him she had no questions.  Emani Moss, her stepdaughter, weighed only 32 pounds when her burned body was found in a trash bin outside her family's Lawrenceville apartment. The girl's father, Eman Moss, has already pleaded guilty and agreed to testify for the state. He is serving life without the possibility of parole. While Moss says she has received divine guidance to act as her own attorney, lawyers Brad Gardner and Emily Gilbert from the state Office of the Capital Defender remain her legal advisors on standby in the case. The state Supreme Court has essentially said that Moss has made no mistakes representing herself and can continue to act as her own attorney. Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter says he has never tried a death penalty case in which the defendant does not have legal representation.  He's aware of another case--though not in his jurisdiction--in which a death penalty defendant represented himself at trial. Jamie Hood, accused of killing an Athens-Clarke County police officer, did not get himself acquitted but he did get a sentence of life without the possibility of parole instead of being sent to death row. He says Hood did not need help in the case because he seemed to know what he was doing. But Moss, he notes, is not preparing for her death penalty trial in any traditional way.  'There are boxes of discovery out at the jail. She has not requested access to that, and she has not requested access to the law library,' says Porter.  Is it a fair fight?  'I’m going to do everything I can to make sure it's as fair as it can be under the circumstances,' says Porter, “and that’s going to be part of the challenge of the case.” He says it remains to be seen just how much help Moss will need at trial. He already knows that he will have to do certain things and ask certain questions to protect the record, because there’s no defense attorney making tactical decisions. But maybe she’s preparing in another way, he says. 'She's confident. In hearings, she's very confident. She's completely ready to go, is what she says.' 
  • A rookie policeman ousted from the force after he used his squad car to stop a man from getting away is filing suit against his former boss. Robert Taylor Saulters is seeking a jury trial and damages as he sues the Athens-Clarke County former police chief, government, and others. 'Former Chief [R. Scott] Freeman and Athens-Clarke County failed to their job, and in the course of doing that, they sacrificed Mr. Saulters' reputation at the altar of political expediency,' says Saulters attorney, Phil Holloway, who filed the lawsuit Thursday.  Saulters was one of two officers trying to arrest Timmy Patmon on a probation violation for non-violent drug possession offenses on June 1, 2018. As Patmon ran down the street, Saulters used his patrol car to try to block Patmon; the car ultimately ran into Patmon and knocked him down.  Body-cam video shows the chase and its aftermath, when Patmon was then handcuffed while lying on the ground.  The Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council of Georgia use-of-force investigation into the incident determined Patmon changed direction and ran into the path of the patrol car after a series of back-and-forth movements as he tried to duck police.  'The end result of this cat and mouse pursuit was a collision between Patmon and Saulters' patrol car which occurred on the front quarter panel of the passenger side of the car,' wrote PACG's executive director Peter Skandalakis. 'Patmon suffered minor scrapes and the investigating agent found no damage to the patrol car. Based on these factors, Officer Saulters acted within the scope of his duties. His Use of Force in this case was reasonable and, therefore, further investigation and/or criminal prosecution is not warranted.'  Saulters had graduated from the police academy less than a year before the incident, and was fired within two days of it. He was hired a day later by another law enforcement agency, Oglethorpe County's sheriff's office.  Holloway responded to a question about whether Saulters' reputation really suffered, since he had a new job offer within hours of his firing.  'The former chief and the police department effectively accused him of committing a crime. By definition, they have defamed him. By definition, they have harmed his reputation,' says Holloway. [They] owed it to Taylor Saulters to do a thorough investigation before they announced to the whole world--wrongly, I might add--that he intentionally ran over somebody.' 
  • Dangerous drugs, and dozens of people accused of selling them, are now off the street.  Spalding County police are in the process of locking up 60+ offenders for selling and distributing methamphetamine and heroin across metro Atlanta, and out of Georgia into other states.  Investigators say they obtained more than 100 arrest warrants. About 10 of those arrested are affiliated with the Ghostface Gangsters, Sheriff Darrell Dix tells WSB Radio.  “The Ghostfaced are predominantly Caucasian,” Dix adds, and explains, “They have a lot of beliefs very similar to neo-Nazi, Aryan-type beliefs and they are extremely violent.”  Dix says that after three people died of suspected fentanyl-laced meth or heroin, they used wiretaps to track that drug network. “We started getting information about a local dealer here,” Dix explains, adding, “His name is Kevin Pitts.  “We initially went up on a wire on his phone, and then we found his source who was dealing in the metro area.”  A second wiretapping led deputies to their main target – Amanda Pugh.  Dix says that Pugh was the source of methamphetamine that came into Spalding County that police believe could be connected to multiple deaths.  Pugh's drug network had customers as far away as West Virginia, with some arrests also coming in Florida and South Carolina. As the investigation grew, Spalding County investigators found that some of the suspects were already on the radar of other agencies. Other information that was uncovered was turned over to the DEA.  The two-month long investigation was dubbed “Operation Say No More.” Dix tells WSB that was a catchphrase used repeatedly by one of the main suspects. “On the phone, when people were ordering drugs or wanting guns from him, he would just always end the conversation with, ‘Say no more,’” Dix says.  He adds that overall, this is a major blow to this trafficking network. “As I have said before, if you sell narcotics, or are a gang member, you are a criminal,” Dix affirms, saying, “You have three choices. You can stop, you can leave Spalding County, or you can begin counting down your days of freedom because we are coming for you.  “If you choose to be a criminal, thug, or gang member, you’ve made your choice, so get used to seeing us on a regular basis. We are not backing down and we will do everything we can to make our county safer.”
  • Veronica  Waters

    Reporter

    Veronica Waters is an anchor and reporter for News/Talk WSB. She is also the staff expert on legal affairs and the courts. In 2007, the Radio-Television News Directors Association named Waters' series on "Snaring Internet Predators" best in the region with an Edward R. Murrow award for Investigative Reporting.She has been honored by several professional organizations for news and sports feature reporting, and was named in 2003 as the Atlanta Press Club's Radio Journalist of the Year. Waters has covered an assortment of high-profile cases from Mayor Bill Campbell's corruption trial to the murder trials of activist-turned imam Jamil Al-Amin and of former DeKalb County, GA Sheriff Sidney Dorsey.She served as the station's correspondent for the murder trial of accused "Black Widow" Lynn Turner, and the death penalty case of double murderer Stacey Humphreys. One of the biggest legal cases in Atlanta history involved the notorious Gold Club racketeering trial. Waters covered this unfolding drama not only for WSB Radio and radio stations throughout America, but also for a worldwide audience on BBC Radio. Waters joined WSB in 1997 as an anchor and reporter. She began her journalism career at the Southern Urban Network and Mississippi Network in Jackson, MS. Waters attended Alcorn State University and Mississippi State University, and enjoys cheering for the NFL's Tennessee Titans.

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News

  • A California girl managed to avoid a man following her in a car as she walked through a Vacaville neighborhood by hiding behind a parked truck. >> Read more trending news  Home surveillance video captured the incident, which happened earlier this month, and shows the girl being followed by a dark colored Pontiac driven by an adult man. The girl is clearly trying to avoid the man as he repeatedly turns around and tries to approach her. Vacaville police Capt. Matt Lydon said when the girl first noticed she was being followed, she walked to a different neighborhood and the driver followed.  Trending: Children find their lost puppy hanging from noose in woods behind home “As she walked into the adjacent neighborhood, she saw the Pontiac again,” Lydon said, according to KRON-TV. “She hid behind a parked truck on the street as the male went up and down the street a couple of times attempting to get her attention and attempting to have a conversation with her.” The video shows the girl hide behind the truck as the car repeatedly drives by, backs up and stops as the driver tries to engage in a conversation with her. >> Trending: Opossum found living in 7-year-old’s bedroom for 3 days before parents find it  When the car appears to drive off, the girl takes off running. Police are hoping someone may be able to help identify the driver and the car.
  • Nine explosions hit multiple churches, hotels and other locations in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday, killing more than 300 people and injuring hundreds more, according to The Associated Press and other media outlets. >> Read more trending news  The victims included at least four Americans, State Department officials said Monday. Here are the latest updates:  Update 11:30 p.m. EDT April 23: Police said the death toll in the Easter attacks has risen to 359 and more suspects have been arrested. Police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekara also said Wednesday morning that 18 suspects were arrested overnight, raising the total detained to 58. The prime minister warned on Tuesday that several suspects armed with explosives were still at large. Update 1 p.m. EDT April 23: Sunday’s bombings claimed the lives of 45 children, officials with the United Nation’s Children’s Fund said Tuesday in a statement. “Many children have lost one or both parents, and countless children have witnessed shocking and senseless violence,” UNICEF officials said. More than 320 people were killed and 500 injured in the bombings. Update 7:11 a.m. EDT April 23: The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the deadly Easter Sunday attacks in Sri Lanka, the Guardian and the Washington Post are reporting. The group, which has lost all the territory it once held in Iraq and Syria, has made a series of unsupported claims of responsibility. Update 5:55 a.m. EDT April 23: Sri Lankan officials said the death toll from Sunday’s bombings has risen to 321, the Guardian and the Washington Post reported Tuesday. The news came as Sri Lankan Defense Minister Ruwan Wijewardene said the attacks were “carried out in retaliation” for the deadly mosque shootings in New Zealand last month, according to The Associated Press. So far, at least 40 people have been arrested in connection with the attacks, authorities said. Meanwhile, the country observed a day of mourning, including a three-minute moment of silence Tuesday morning. Mass burials also were held in Negombo, the Guardian reported. Officials have declared a state of emergency in Sri Lanka, giving military officials “enhanced war-time powers,” the AP reported. Authorities also are facing criticism amid reports that a top police official sent a letter April 11 to four security agencies warning that terror group National Towheed Jamaar was planning suicide bombings at churches, the AP reported. Update 9:45 p.m. EDT April 22: Ranil Wickremesinghe, the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, issued a statement in response to the bombings.  “Today as a nation we mourn the senseless loss of innocent lives this past Easter Sunday. I would like to thank the military and police forces, the medical personnel and all those who have worked bravely and tirelessly without concern for their own safety, to ensure the safety and security of our citizens. It is imperative  that we remain unified as Sri Lankans in the face of this unspeakable tragedy.” A three-minute moment of silence for the victims of the explosions will be held at 8:30 a.m. local time, according to BBC reporter Azzam Ameen. Update 8 p.m. EDT April 22: The two Australians who officials said had been killed in the explosions have been identified by a family member. Sudesh Kolonne told Australian Broadcasting Corp. his wife, Manik Suriaaratchi, and their 1-year-old daughter Alexendria were killed in an attack in Negombo, which is north of Sri Lanka’s capital Colombo. Kolonne said he was outside when the explosion happened. “I heard a huge noise and I jumped into the church and I saw that my wife and my daughter were on the floor,” he said. “I just saw my daughter on the floor and I tried to lift her up, (but) she was already dead. And (then) exactly the same… next my wife is there.” Kolonne said he and his family moved from Melbourne to Sri Lanka in 2014 when his wife started a consultancy business.  “I don’t know what to do,” he said. “We used to go to that church every Sunday. We never expected this.” Update 4:50 p.m. EDT April 22: A spokeswoman for the Federal Bureau of Investigation confirmed to The AP that the agency is providing assistance with the investigation into the bombings. She would not provide specifics. Update 3:50 p.m. EDT April 22: In an email to parents, officials at Sidwell Friends, a private school in the Washington-area, confirmed one of their students was killed in Sunday’s bombings, The Washington Post reported. School officials identified the student as Kieran Shafritz de Zoysa, a fifth-grade boy who had been on leave in Sri Lanka for the last year, according to the Post. “Kieran was passionate about learning, he adored his friends, and he was incredibly excited about returning to Sidwell Friends this coming school year,” school officials said in the letter. “We are beyond sorry not to get the opportunity to welcome Kieran to the Middle School.” State Department officials said earlier Monday that at least four Americans were among the nearly 300 people killed in Sunday’s attacks. Officials with the English education management company Pearson confirmed that one of the company’s Denver-based employees had also been killed in the bombings. Update 3 p.m. EDT April 22: Officials with the U.S. State Department confirmed Monday that at least four Americans were among the nearly 300 people killed in Sunday’s bombings in Sri Lanka. The department said that in addition to those killed, several others were seriously injured. Officials gave no details about the identities of the victims, citing privacy concerns. Earlier Monday, officials with the English education management company Pearson confirmed that one of the company’s Denver-based employees had been killed in the bombings. Pearson CEO John Fallon said Dieter Kowalski died shortly after arriving at his hotel in Sri Lanka for a business trip. Update 2:10 p.m. EDT April 22: President Donald Trump said he spoke Monday to Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe after a series of bomb attacks in the country. In a tweet, Trump said he told Wickremesinghe “the United States stands by him and his country in the fight against terrorism.” “(I) also expressed condolences on behalf of myself and the People of the United States,” Trump wrote. Earlier Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo vowed the government would provide “all possible assistance” to help in the investigation. Update 1:50 p.m. EDT April 22: Sri Lankan President Maithrpala Sirisena declared April 23 a national day of mourning in a statement obtained Monday by The Associated Press. In the statement, Sirisena said he planned to meet with foreign diplomats to seek international assistance. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said earlier Monday that the U.S. would provide “all possible assistance” to help in the investigation. Officials said nearly 40 foreign tourists from 11 countries were killed in Sunday’s attacks on churches and hotels in Sri Lanka.  Update 11:20 a.m. EDT April 22: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday mourned the victims of Sunday’s bomb attacks in Sri Lanka and promised the government would provide “all possible assistance” to Americans and Sri Lankans alike. Related: Sri Lanka attacks: Who are the National Thowheed Jamath? “We urge that any evil-doers be brought to justice expeditiously and America is prepared to support that,” he Pompeo said. “We also stand with the millions of Sri Lankas who support the freedom of their fellow citizens to worship as they please.” Pompeo confirmed that Americans were among those killed in Sunday’s attack, though he didn’t specify the number of American victims. “It’s heartbreaking that a country which has strived so hard for peace in recent years has been targeted by these terrorists,” he said. Related: Sri Lanka attack: Danish billionaire loses three of his four children in bombings Update 9:50 am. EDT April 22: A Denver man has been identified as one of the nearly 300 people killed Sunday in bombings in Sri Lanka, his employer confirmed Monday. Dieter Kowalski worked as senior leader of the operation technical services team for Pearson, an education management company. Though the company is based in England, Kowalski worked in Pearson’s Denver office, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported.  “Colleagues who knew Dieter well talk about how much fun he was to be around, how big-hearted and full-spirited he was,” Pearson CEO John Fallon said in a statement shared with company employees and posted Monday on LinkedIn. “They tell of a man to whom we could give our ugliest and most challenging of engineering problems, knowing full well that he would jump straight in and help us figure it out. Dieter, they tell me, was never happier than cheer-leading for our customers and our company and inspiring people in the best way he knew how – by helping them to fix things and doing it with joy, happiness and grace.” Fallon said Kowalski died shortly after arriving at his hotel Sunday for a business trip. Update 7:55 a.m. EDT April 22: Three children of Anders Holch Povlsen, who owns Bestseller clothing, were killed in Sunday’s attacks, The Associated Press is reporting. The 46-year-old Danish billionaire, who is also the largest shareholder in ASOS, and his family were on vacation in Sri Lanka, the AP reported. Authorities said 39 foreigners were among the 290 people killed in Sunday’s attacks.  Meanwhile, a vehicle parked near St. Anthony’s Shrine, one of the churches that was bombed Sunday, exploded Monday as police tried to defuse three bombs inside, according to the AP. At least 87 bomb detonators have been found in Colombo, officials said. Police have detained at least 24 suspects in connection with Sunday’s bombings. Update 5:15 a.m. EDT April 22:  Government officials said the National Thowheed, a Sri Lankan militant group, was responsible for Sunday’s deadly attacks, the Guardian is reporting. However, a government spokesman said an “international network” helped the attackers. Seven suicide bombers caused six of the nine explosions Sunday, a forensic analyst told The Associated Press. Authorities also said a second Chinese citizen and two Australian citizens were among those killed in Sunday’s attacks. So far, the dead include citizens of the United States, India, Britain, China, Australia, Japan and Portugal, the AP reported. Meanwhile, a Sri Lanka military official said crews defused a homemade pipe bomb discovered late Sunday on a road to the airport outside Colombo, the AP reported. Update 12:10 a.m. EDT April 22: The death toll in the bombings has increased to 290 and more than 500 people have been wounded, according to police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekara. Among those killed are five Indians, who were identified in tweets from India’s external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj and the Indian High Commission in Sri Lanka, The AP reported. China and Portugal also said they lost citizens, and the U.S. said “several” Americans were also killed in the bombings. The AP reported Sri Lankan officials said they would examine reports that intelligence failed to heed or detect warnings of a possible suicide attack.  “Some intelligence officers were aware of this incidence,” Telecommunications Minister Harin Fernando said in a tweet, according to The AP. “Therefore there was a delay in action. Serious action needs to be taken as to why this warning was ignored.”  Update 9:50 p.m. EDT April 21: Japan has confirmed at least one citizen death and four injuries from the bombings. The country has issued a safety warning to Japanese people in the country, telling them to avoid mosques, churches and public places like clubs, malls and government offices, The AP reported. Foreign Minister Taro Kono expressed solidarity with Sri Lanka and sent his condolences to victims of the explosions. He also said Japan was committed to “combating terrorism.” Update 5:40 p.m. EDT April 21: The Associated Press reported that, according to internet censorship monitoring group NetBlocks, social media has been blocked across the country after the attacks. Most services, including YouTube, WhatsApp, Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook have been temporarily blacked out to curb false information spread, according to Sri Lankan officials. According to NetBlocks, such blackouts are usually ineffective. Related: Sri Lanka explosions: Sri Lanka shuts down social media in wake of Easter attacks “We are aware of the government’s statement regarding the temporary blocking of social media platforms,” Facebook, which owns Instagram and WhatsApp, said in a statement to The AP. “People rely on our services to communicate with their loved ones and we are committed to maintaining our services and helping the community and the country during this tragic time.” Update 3:28 p.m. EDT April 21: Police have 13 suspects in custody, impounded a vehicle they believed was used by suspects and located a safe house used by the attackers.  Related: Photos: Easter Sunday blasts at Sri Lanka churches, hotels kill dozens No one has claimed responsibility for what Sri Lankan officials have described as a terrorist attack by religious extremists. Update 9:28 a.m. EDT April 21: Police have so far arrested three people in connection to the blasts, The Guardian reported. A motive for the bombings is still unclear, investigators said.  Update 8:46 a.m. EDT April 21: At least 207 people were killed and 450 hurt in Sunday’s attacks, The Associated Press is reporting. Officials said eight blasts targeted three churches, three hotels, a guesthouse and an area near a Dematagoda overpass, the AP reported. Authorities reportedly have arrested seven people in connection with the incidents. Update 8:07 a.m. EDT April 21: Sri Lankan officials say at least 190 people, including at least 27 foreigners and two police officers, were killed in Sunday’s attacks, The Associated Press is reporting. Seven people have been arrested in connection with the eight explosions, which rocked at least three churches and three hotels, as well as a guesthouse, officials said. Update 7:35 a.m. EDT April 21: President Donald Trump tweeted condolences to the Sri Lankan people Sunday morning. “The United States offers heartfelt condolences to the great people of Sri Lanka,” Trump tweeted. “We stand ready to help!” Update 7:19 a.m. EDT April 21: Hours after explosions at Sri Lankan churches and hotels left dozens dead and hundreds more injured, Pope Francis prayed for the victims during his annual Easter message at the Vatican. Related: Sri Lanka explosions: Pope denounces attacks during Easter blessing “I wish to express my heartfelt closeness to the Christian community (of Sri Lanka), wounded as it was gathered in prayer, and to all the victims of such cruel violence,” Francis told the crowd in St. Peter’s Square, according to Vatican News. He later added: “I entrust to the Lord all those who have tragically perished, and I pray for the injured and all those who suffer as a result of this tragic event.” Every year after leading Easter Mass, the pope delivers an “Urbi et Orbi” (“to the city and the world”) message, which addresses global issues and conflicts. Update 5:32 a.m. EDT April 21: Two more blasts have been reported in Sri Lanka. A seventh explosion hit a hotel in Dehiwala, and an eighth blast was reported in the capital, Agence France-Presse is reporting. Update 4:20 a.m. EDT April 21: At least 156 people were killed in blasts at three churches and three hotels in Sri Lanka, Agence France-Presse is reporting. The dead include 35 foreigners, officials said. Update 3:34 a.m. EDT April 21: At least 137 people were killed in blasts at three churches and three hotels in Sri Lanka, Agence France-Presse is reporting. The dead include 45 people in Colombo, 67 in Negombo and 25 in Batticaloa, officials said. At least nine of the people killed were foreigners, the news agency reported. More than 500 people were hurt in the explosions, according to The Associated Press. Original report:  Explosions hit three churches and three hotels in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday, killing dozens of people and injuring nearly 300 more, news outlets are reporting. According to The Associated Press, blasts occurred Sunday morning at St. Anthony’s Shrine in Colombo, St. Sebastian’s Church in Negombo and a church in Batticaloa. Explosions also rocked the Kingsbury, Cinnamon Grand and Shangri La hotels in Colombo, the BBC reported. The Agence France-Presse news agency said 52 people died in the blasts. At least 283 people were taken to the hospital, the AP reported. Suicide bombers may have caused at least two of the church blasts, a security official told the AP.  The Associated Press contributed to this report.
  • Britney Spears appeared on Instagram on Tuesday evening to tell her fans that “all is well.” >> Read more trending news In the very brief Instagram video, Spears checked in, saying she “just needed time to deal,” but promised that she would be back very soon. “I wanted to say hi, because things that are being said have just gotten out of control!!! Wow!!! There’s rumors, death threats to my family and my team, and just so many things crazy things being said. I am trying to take a moment for myself, but everything that’s happening is just making it harder for me. Don’t believe everything you read and hear. These fake emails everywhere were crafted by Sam Lutfi years ago... I did not write them. He was pretending to be me and communicating with my team with a fake email address. My situation is unique, but I promise I’m doing what’s best at this moment 🌸🌸🌸 You may not know this about me, but I am strong, and stand up for what I want! Your love and dedication is amazing, but what I need right now is a little bit of privacy to deal with all the hard things that life is throwing my way. If you could do that, I would be forever grateful. Love you” Earlier this month, Spears checked herself into a mental health facility as her father, Jamie Spears, continues to have health issues, according to TMZ. The celebrity news site reported that, according to unnamed sources, the singer has been distressed over her father’s illness, which the site claims is not getting better. In January, Spears announced that she was putting her planned Las Vegas residency — and the rest of her career — on hold for the sake of her father. The 37-year-old Spears has sons aged 13 and 12. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
  • Children as old as 12, and even 13, may find themselves back in car booster seats under new legislation signed into law by Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee. >> Read more trending news  The new law updates children’s car seat regulations, requiring all children under 4 feet, 9 inches tall to ride in car booster seats.  According to House Bill 1012, children are required to sit in booster seats in vehicles “until the vehicle lap and shoulder seat belts fit properly, typically when the child is between the ages of eight and twelve years of age, as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, or must be properly secured with the motor vehicle's safety belt properly adjusted and fastened around the child's body.” The new law also requires all children under 13 to ride in the back seat and requires children under 2 to ride in rear-facing car seats. “Children aged 2 to 4 can be forward-facing in a car seat until they reach the specifications for a booster seat,” according to the new law. >> Trending: Opossum found living in 7-year-old’s bedroom for 3 days before parents find it  People in violation of the law can be ticketed.
  • An Ohio 9-year-old boy performing in drag at a Lancaster bar prompted an Ohio lawmaker to introduce a bill to expand the definition of child endangerment. State Rep. Tim Schaffer, R-Lancaster, introduced House Bill 180 to prohibit a performance in a bar where a child simulates sexual activity. The business could lose its liquor license and the parent could face misdemeanor criminal charges, if the bill becomes law. >> Read more trending news “Given our heightened focus on human trafficking and the role money plays in trafficking children, I knew I had to take action to make sure this activity does not occur again,” Schaffer said. “We can do better to protect innocent children and we must do better.” Related: Video of the boy’s performance Jacob Measley has been performing as Miss Mae Hem for several months, according to The (Toledo) Blade. His performance includes cartwheels, high kicks, splits and dancing in costume. He got interested in drag queens while watching RuPaul’s Drag Race, a reality TV show, with his mom, Jerri Measley, The Blade reported. She could not be reached for comment on this story. Video of a Dec. 1, 2018 performance at JD Hendersons bar in Lancaster led to complaints and an investigation by Lancaster police and state agencies, said Lancaster Mayor David Scheffler. No law violations were found, he said. After the investigations ended, a “social media outbreak” occurred when a website purporting to be the city of Lancaster made it sound like it was an ongoing issue, Scheffler said. “It was all dead, gone, over. Investigation found no violations. Then someone anonymously on this site posted inaccurate information.” The posting led to threats of violence and demands to close the bar from people across the country, the mayor said. “It got really nasty.”
  • A Georgia woman has pleaded guilty to fatally stabbing her husband and four children, and stabbing a fifth child, who survived, the Gwinnett County District Attorney’s Office said. >> Read more trending news Isabel Martinez, 35, entered guilty pleas to five counts of murder, one count of aggravated assault and one count of cruelty to children Tuesday. Martinez's defense attorney, Don Geary, said she pleaded guilty, but mentally ill. Martinez called 911 on July 6, 2017. When paramedics arrived at her Loganville home, they found Martinez with her wrists slashed. Martinez’s husband, Martin Romero, 33, was found stabbed to death, along with 10-year-old Isabela Martinez, 2-year-old Axel Romero, 7-year-old Dacota Romero and 4-year-old Dillan Martin-Romero. Diana Romero, then age 9, was found with stab wounds, but survived. Diana Romero told a DFCS worker that Martinez began stabbing the children first; when Martin Romero tried to stop her, Martinez stabbed him, according to a DFCS report. Martinez was not crying or screaming as she killed her family members, and told Diana Romero that she was “going to the sky to see Jesus,” Diana Romero told a DFCS worker. Martinez confessed to the killings in the following hours and was arrested, according to the DA’s office. Later, she claimed a “family friend” committed the stabbings in her Loganville home, but she did not give police the name of that alleged friend.  The Gwinnett County District Attorney’s Office declined to seek the death penalty in this case in part due to Martinez’s “apparent mental issues,” District Attorney Danny Porter said in 2018. Family and neighbors said Martinez was depressed in the weeks before she killed her family. Her father had died and Martinez was unable to attend the funeral in Mexico. She worried that he would go to hell because he practiced witchcraft, her brother-in-law, Orlando Romero, told the AJC. She told a Department of Family and Child services worker after her arrest that she felt a “devil-like spirit” was trying to take her children when they were playing in the ocean near Savannah shortly before the killings.  Martinez was sentenced to five life sentences with the possibility of parole plus 21 years after entering her plea Tuesday, according to the DA’s office.