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Suspect accused in mentally disabled woman's assault was once police chief

Suspect accused in mentally disabled woman's assault was once police chief

Suspect accused in mentally disabled woman's assault was once police chief
Robert Lanier New. (Photo: WSB-TV)

Suspect accused in mentally disabled woman's assault was once police chief

Roughly 20 years before Robert Lanier New became embroiled in assault allegations tied to a mentally disabled woman and her niece, he served as the police chief in Emerson. 

>> Read more trending news

City officials confirmed to WSB-TV that New had two stints with Emerson police. New first served with the department from September 1998 to February 1999, when he left to work for Acworth police, where he remained until November 2000, when he came back to Emerson police. 

He was promoted to police chief three weeks after his return. 

New resigned in 2004 to work as a government contractor, officials told WSB-TV. Shortly after, New joined the Cobb County Police Department in February 2005. 

But as quickly as New climbed up the ranks, his professional life started to fray. 

Cobb County Police Chief Mike Register hinted New’s future with the department could be decided early next week, according to WSB-TV. New has been on administrative leave without pay since allegations surfaced earlier this week that he assaulted a 44-year-old woman who has the mental capacity of a 10- to 14-year-old in his home. He was off duty at the time of the alleged abuse. 

According to an arrest warrant obtained Tuesday by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, New choked the woman and slapped both sides of her face during sex to the point that she cried. The woman told officers that with New’s hands around her throat, she wasn’t able to tell him to stop, the warrant alleges.

The incident happened sometime between March 1 and March 31 at his home in Kennesaw, according to police. New was off duty at the time. 

During her interview, the woman was reportedly “shaking due to fear,” police said.

The victim’s allegations were corroborated through text messages on her phone, according to the warrant.

“The accused made the statements through text messages, ‘I am in charge, I am in control,’” police said. The threatening messages allegedly continued even after the victim attempted to distance herself from New, as recently as March 31, police said.

No decision has been made on whether the department will fire New. 

“The recommendation is in the county attorney’s office for their review,” Register said. “That will be disclosed when we’re in agreement with the county attorney’s office.”

New charges were filed against the 46-year-old Thursday alleging he attempted to solicit the woman and her 12-year-old niece for sex. Police believe New was using the woman to try to get to her niece, Cobb police Officer Sarah O’Hara told The AJC. New met the woman online, but police are still investigating which website the two used. 

New remains in the Cobb County jail without bond on charges of aggravated assault-strangulation, simple battery, criminal solicitation and computer pornography. 

New is also being investigated for an administrative complaint filed with the department. Register said that complaint was not criminal, but involves another woman.

“We are investigating if he adhered to departmental policies,” Register said.

The complaint was filed weeks before the first allegations emerged against New.

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  • Republicans' chances of keeping their majority in the U.S. Senate have become shakier as races in red states like Texas have tightened, but the party's most vulnerable member insists he's bullish about his re-election. The Nevada Republican Sen. Dean Heller has faced tight races before but never lost an election. He's now in the fight of his career to keep his Senate seat in a blue-trending state that Hillary Clinton carried in 2016. 'Oh yeah, oh yeah. I'll win,' Heller told reporters last week in Reno. To win, he's performing political acrobatics, aligning himself with President Donald Trump while trying to keep his distance from the scandals surrounding the president. 'Eighty percent of what this president has done has been very, very good, very positive,' Heller said. He listed the economy, low unemployment, jobs and trade among the president's accomplishments. 'The other 20 percent ... he has a reality show. I get it. It's a reality show,' the senator said. Heller, who once said he 'vehemently' opposed Trump and returned one of his campaign donations, is set to hold his second campaign rally and fundraiser with the president Thursday and Friday in Las Vegas. He's formed an alliance with Trump after drawing the president's ire last year when he held up Republican efforts to repeal former President Barack Obama's health care law. Heller now avoids criticizing Trump and refuses to comment on his tweets, saying if he did, it would be 'a full-time job and I already have one.' When asked if Trump is an asset or liability, Heller simply mentioned Trump's planned visit to Las Vegas and said, 'I'll be there with him.' 'As far as I'm concerned, if he's going to be — any president, any president that comes into Nevada, I'm going to be standing with them,' Heller said. 'I think that's a plus, I think that's a positive with any president when they come into the state.' The president saved Heller from a costly and damaging primary battle earlier this year by persuading a further-right primary challenger, Danny Tarkanian, to drop out of the Senate race and instead seek a House seat. Heller is now in a very tight race with Democratic Rep. Jacky Rosen, a first-term congresswoman who stands to benefit from a wave of Democratic and female activism fueled by opposition to Trump. To win, Heller has to get support from nonpartisans, who make up about 21 percent of the state's active voters, while ensuring that Republicans, including those still resentful over his past criticism of Trump, vote for him. Among the GOP, 'I think everybody was angry with the fact that Dean Heller distanced himself,' said Lisa Mayo-DeRiso, a Republican campaign consultant in Las Vegas. 'But Republicans, whether you are going to hold your nose and vote for Dean Heller, whether you're one of those Republicans, I think at the end of the day, you have to look at those core values.' Heller's last re-election, in 2012, was razor-thin. He had a one-point victory over Democrat Shelley Berkley, a former state lawmaker who spent 15 years in Congress and ran with more name recognition than Rosen. Heller also won that year despite Obama winning the state by nearly seven points. But this year 'is a different environment,' said Greg Ferraro, a Reno-based Republican political consultant and public relations firm owner. 'Voters are probably paying attention more than they have in the past.' Voters on both sides of the aisle know the Nevada race is key for Democrats trying to flip control of the Senate, he said, and the key question will be whether they view the race through a national lens and make it about Trump or whether they consider Heller's record. Heller acknowledged as much in an August interview with the Washington Examiner, saying that if Rosen 'makes it about Washington, D.C., and Donald Trump, she knows she wins.' Rosen has hammered Heller over the president's immigration policies, the senator's eventual support for Republican-led plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act, his role in crafting the GOP tax overhaul and his backing of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. 'He's spent the past year folding to President Trump instead of standing up for Nevada, and that's why he's going to lose,' Rosen spokesman Stewart Boss said in a statement. While he's aligned himself with Trump, Heller has focused his campaign on Nevada veterans, the improving economy and what he's delivered while serving in the Senate since 2011. He's painted his opponent as someone who sought a promotion after only six months in the House. 'She's introducing herself to the rest of the state while he's making the case that he's been hard at work,' Ferraro said. Heller has outraised Rosen so far, with $10.6 million in campaign contributions to her $9.2 million. But outside groups have poured $17 million into the race — about $10 million of which was spent to oppose Heller or support Rosen, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. 'At this point, we're always neck and neck,' Heller said, noting he's won his past nine elections and state and federal offices. 'We get into October, and it has a tendency of breaking. Fortunately, first nine races have broken my way.' ___ Associated Press writer Scott Sonner in Reno, Nevada, contributed to this report.
  • A glass bong taller than a giraffe. Huggable faux marijuana buds. A pool full of foam weed nuggets. Las Vegas' newest attraction — and Instagram backdrop — is a museum celebrating all things cannabis. Nobody will be allowed to light up at Cannabition when it opens Thursday because of a Nevada ban on public consumption of marijuana, but visitors can learn about the drug as they snap photos. It's a made-for-social-media museum where every exhibit has lights meant to ensure people take selfies worthy of the no-filter hashtag. The facility — whose founder says has a goal of destigmatizing marijuana use — will likely land among the talking points officials and others use to try to draw gambling-resistant millennials to Sin City. It will welcome its first visitors almost 15 months after adults in Nevada began buying recreational marijuana legally, with sales far exceeding state projections. 'Our goal when people come out of this is that they don't fear the cannabis industry if they are not believers in the industry,' founder J.J. Walker told The Associated Press. 'Cannabition is not about just serving people that like marijuana, it's about serving the masses that want to learn about cannabis and or just have fun and go do a cool art experience.' Guests will wander through 12 installations with rooms like 'seed,' where people can lie down in a bed shaped like a marijuana seed, and 'grow,' which features artificial plants in sizes ranging from inches to feet tall placed under bright lights to represent an indoor cannabis grow facility. Photo ops are also available under a glow-in-the-dark tree, next to a giant marijuana leaf meant to represent an edible gummy and by a 24-foot-tall (7.32-meter-tall) glass bong that's dubbed 'Bongzilla' and billed as the world's largest. There is a space with taller-than-you faux buds representing different strains and another room with gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson's famous 'Red Shark' Chevrolet Caprice. This museum in Las Vegas' downtown entertainment district is not the Smithsonian of marijuana, but it has some educational components. Guests get an introduction from museum guides and some graphics on walls explain how concentrates are made and the differences between indica and sativa cannabis strains. Museums always evolve with the times to remain relevant, and audience engagement is an important goal for the facilities today, said Gwen Chanzit, director of museum studies in art history at the University of Denver. For those who remember very traditional, no-photography-allowed museums, she said, 'that ship has sailed.' 'Once cellphones became ubiquitous, the culture of museum visiting changed,' Chanzit said. Many of the facility's exhibits are sponsored by cannabis companies, with their logos prominently displayed. It is common for museums to receive the support of corporations and to place their logo on a wall. Only adults 21 and older will be allowed at Cannabition. The tour is designed to last up to an hour. Walker, the founder, has invited reality TV stars, models and other influencers to Las Vegas for the weekend with the charge of spreading the word about the facility. As for those who buy a ticket but their Instagram followers are only in the dozens or hundreds, Walker said, 'you're still an influencer to your friends.' ___ Follow Regina Garcia Cano on Twitter at https://twitter.com/reginagarciakNO
  • We’ve heard this song before, but it seems genuine that KISS’ upcoming “End of the Road World Tour” will be exactly that. The band announced the decision to pack up the pyro after a performance on Wednesday’s finale of “America’s Got Talent.” 'All that we have built and all that we have conquered over the past four decades could never have happened without the millions of people worldwide who've filled clubs, arenas and stadiums over those years. This will be the ultimate celebration for those who've seen us and a last chance for those who haven't. KISS Army, we're saying goodbye on our final tour with our biggest show yet and we'll go out the same way we came in... Unapologetic and Unstoppable,' the band said in a statement. >> Read more trending news  KISS hasn’t yet announced dates for this final run, but will update fans in the next few weeks on www.kissonline.com.  In 2000-01, KISS embarked on “The Farewell Tour,” which, in fairness, turned out to be the final tour with the original lineup of Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons, Peter Criss and Ace Frehley. But the band returned in 2003 for a co-headlining tour with Aerosmith and has remained steady road warriors. The band’s current members are Stanley, Simmons, Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer. Read more here.
  • Janelle Ortiz dreamed of becoming famous. Melissa Ramirez imagined a day when the street wasn't home and drugs not her preoccupation. Claudine Luera just ached to see her children do better than she had. All of these women, bound by difficulties in life, met an eerily similar death: They were shot in the head and left on rural Texas roadsides, allegedly by a Border Patrol agent who has been described as a serial killer. Relatives of the dead are now grieving for loved ones who, they say, were more than the troubles they endured. 'They had families. They were loved. They were someone. They were human,' said Colette Mireles, a sister of Luera. The suspect's motive remains unknown. Authorities said the three women and a fourth woman, Guiselda Alicia Cantu, whose name was released Wednesday, were sex workers, and that Border Patrol supervisor Juan David Ortiz knew some of them. Each lived a life littered with hardship. Gracie Perez remembered her sister-in-law, 29-year-old Ramirez, telling her she was raped when she was 13. She dropped out of high school, experienced depression and eventually began living on the streets. Her five children were left in the care of others. She struggled with a drug habit. Despite all of that, her relatives remembered someone always trying to make others laugh. Ramirez liked pulling up funny videos on YouTube, devouring whatever food was before her and enjoying TV at full blast as she fell asleep on the couch. Perez said her sister-in-law frequently returned home to her mother's house, where two of her children live, typically staying a few days, vowing to get off drugs and improve her life before returning to the streets. 'She wanted to be a better mom, a better person,' Perez said. 'She didn't want to be running the streets anymore.' Janelle Ortiz, 28, envisioned a future where her personality and gift for talking with nearly anyone transformed her into someone famous. Rosenda Ortiz, her younger sister, remembered the difficult childhood they shared, with them constantly being thrust into new homes. She said her sister was strong and had a big heart, always asking what others needed. Rosenda Ortiz hoped that one day she'd be able to get a home of her own and invite her sister to come live with her. 'He was not known as a prostitute or a sex worker,' she said, using pronouns she knows her transgender sister would have chided her for. 'He was just a human being like the other victims. He was just living his life.' Mireles last talked to her 42-year-old sister two days before her body was found. She was 'over the moon' upon hearing that one of her sons was doing well in school and was already ironing out plans for prom with his girlfriend. As children, the sisters were at each other's throats. But Mireles marveled at her sister's ability to smile through her pain, even as her life spiraled downward the past few years. She always knew she might get a call with news of Luera's death, but she figured it would be an overdose. To hear she was found shot, clinging to life on the side of the road, was harrowing. The suspect told police that Luera questioned him about being the last person to have seen Ramirez before her death, authorities said. Mireles takes some comfort thinking of her sister's bravery in confronting him. 'My sister was feisty, so I'm sure she put up a hell of a fight,' she said. Joey Tellez, the attorney for the 35-year-old suspect, released a statement saying he would not be commenting on the case. Ortiz is a Navy veteran who had been in the Border Patrol about 10 years. Back at the modest home Ramirez frequented, an American flag is tied to a front window of a faded green trailer, and toys are strewn across the yard. Her mother, Maria Cristina Benevidez, steps haltingly as she places a photo of her daughter beside the wooden box that holds her ashes, hanging rosary beads and a gold cross necklace from the frame. Roosters are crowing, a Chihuahua named Mia is barking and Benevidez stands solemnly, her head bowed. Two weeks before Ramirez was found, she sat at the kitchen table in this home and shared a frightening premonition. 'I'm going to get killed. I'm going to be dead in less than a month,' her brother Cesar Ramirez remembered his sister saying. 'Stop saying nonsense,' he said his mother responded. 'Stop saying those stupid things.' She persisted, insisting she would be shot in the head. 'They're going to kill me. They're going to kill me,' she said. Ramirez was drunk, her sister-in-law said, and she didn't offer any more details of her vision. Later, Perez said, her sister-in-law pressed her to join her for a night of partying. Ramirez called her over and over, but she didn't answer. Now, she thinks she should have done something more, and she's haunted by Ramirez's parting words. 'This is the last time you're going to see me,' she warned. ___ Sedensky reported from New York.
  • A staple of summer — swarms of bugs — seems to be a thing of the past. And that's got scientists worried. Pesky mosquitoes, disease-carrying ticks, crop-munching aphids and cockroaches are doing just fine. But the more beneficial flying insects of summer — native bees, moths, butterflies, ladybugs, lovebugs, mayflies and fireflies — appear to be less abundant. Scientists think something is amiss, but they can't be certain: In the past, they didn't systematically count the population of flying insects, so they can't make a proper comparison to today. Nevertheless, they're pretty sure across the globe there are fewer insects that are crucial to as much as 80 percent of what we eat. Yes, some insects are pests. But they also pollinate plants, are a key link in the food chain and help decompose life. 'You have total ecosystem collapse if you lose your insects. How much worse can it get than that?' said University of Delaware entomologist Doug Tallamy. If they disappeared, 'the world would start to rot.' He noted Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson once called bugs: 'The little things that run the world.' The 89-year-old Wilson recalled that he once frolicked in a 'Washington alive with insects, especially butterflies.' Now, 'the flying insects are virtually gone.' It hit home last year when he drove from suburban Boston to Vermont and decided to count how many bugs hit his windshield. The result: A single moth. WINDSHIELD TEST The un-scientific experiment is called the windshield test. Wilson recommends everyday people do it themselves to see. Baby Boomers will probably notice the difference, Tallamy said. Several scientists have conducted their own tests with windshields, car grilles and headlights, and most notice few squashed bugs. Researchers are quick to point out that such exercises aren't good scientific experiments, since they don't include control groups or make comparisons with past results. (Today's cars also are more aerodynamic, so bugs are more likely to slip past them and live to buzz about it.) Still, there are signs of decline. Research has shown dwindling individual species in specific places, including lightning bugs, moths and bumblebees. One study estimated a 14 percent decline in ladybugs in the United States and Canada from 1987 to 2006. University of Florida urban entomologist Philip Koehler said he's seen a recent decrease in lovebugs — insects that fly connected and coated Florida's windshields in the 1970s and 1980s. This year, he said, 'was kind of disappointing, I thought.' University of Nevada, Reno, researcher Lee Dyer and his colleagues have been looking at insects at the La Selva Biological Station in Costa Rica since 1991. There's a big insect trap sheet under black light that decades ago would be covered with bugs. Now, 'there's no insects on that sheet,' he said. But there's not much research looking at all flying insects in big areas. THE EVIDENCE Last year, a study that found an 82 percent mid-summer decline in the number and weight of bugs captured in traps in 63 nature preserves in Germany compared with 27 years earlier. It was one of the few, if only, broad studies. Scientists say similar comparisons can't be done elsewhere, because similar bug counts weren't done decades ago. 'We don't know how much we're losing if we don't know how much we have,' said University of Hawaii entomologist Helen Spafford. The lack of older data makes it 'unclear to what degree we're experiencing an arthropocalypse,' said University of Illinois entomologist May Berenbaum. Individual studies aren't convincing in themselves, 'but the sheer accumulated weight of evidence seems to be shifting' to show a problem, she said. After the German study, countries started asking if they have similar problems, said ecologist Toke Thomas Hoye of Aarhus University in Denmark. He studied flies in a few spots in remote Greenland and noticed an 80 percent drop in numbers since 1996. 'It's clearly not a German thing,' said University of Connecticut entomologist David Wagner, who has chronicled declines in moth populations in the northeastern United States. 'We just need to find out how widespread the phenomenon is.' THE SUSPECTS Most scientists say lots of factors, not just one, caused the apparent decline in flying insects. Suspects include habitat loss, insecticide use, the killing of native weeds, single-crop agriculture, invasive species, light pollution, highway traffic and climate change. 'It's death by a thousand cuts, and that's really bad news,' Wagner said. To Tallamy, two causes stand out: Humans' war on weeds and vast farmland planted with the same few crops. Weeds and native plants are what bugs eat and where they live, Tallamy said. Milkweeds, crucial to the beautiful monarch butterfly, are dwindling fast. Manicured lawns in the United States are so prevalent that, added together, they are as big as New England, he said. Those landscapes are 'essentially dead zones,' he said. Light pollution is another big problem for species such as moths and fireflies, bug experts said. Insects are attracted to brightness, where they become easy prey and expend energy they should be using to get food, Tallamy said. Jesse Barber of Boise State is in the middle of a study of fireflies and other insects at Grand Teton National Park. He said he notices a distinct connection between light pollution and dwindling populations. 'We're hitting insects during the day, we're hitting them at night,' Tallamy said. 'We're hitting them just about everywhere.' Lawns, light pollution and bug-massacring highway traffic are associated where people congregate. But Danish scientist Hoye found a noticeable drop in muscid flies in Greenland 300 miles (500 kilometers) from civilization. His studies linked declines to warmer temperatures. Other scientists say human-caused climate change may play a role, albeit small. RESTORING HABITAT Governments are trying to improve the situation. Maryland is in a three-year experiment to see if planting bee-friendly native wildflowers helps. University of Maryland entomology researcher Lisa Kuder says the usual close-crop 'turf is basically like a desert' that doesn't attract flying insects. She found an improvement — 70 different species and records for bees — in the areas where flowers are allowed to grow wild and natural alongside roads. The trouble is that it is so close to roadways that Tallamy fears that the plants become 'ecological traps where you're drawing insects in and they're all squashed by cars.' Still, Tallamy remains hopeful. In 2000, he moved into this rural area between Philadelphia and Baltimore and made his 10-acre patch all native plants, creating a playground for bugs. Now he has 861 species of moths and 54 species of breeding birds that feed on insects. Wagner, of the University of Connecticut, spends his summers teaching middle schoolers in a camp to look for insects, like he did decades ago. They have a hard time finding the cocoons he used to see regularly. 'The kids I'm teaching right now are going to think that scarce insects are the rule,' Wagner said. 'They're not realizing that there could be an ecological disaster on the horizon.' ___ Associated Press video journalist Federica Narancio contributed to this report. Follow Seth Borenstein on Twitter: @borenbears . His work can be found here . ___ The Associated Press Health & Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.
  • As South Carolina rivers overflowed from Florence's torrential rain, deputies taking two women to a mental health facility drove into floodwaters that engulfed their van and trapped the women inside, officials said Wednesday. The two deputies worked to free the women, who were being transported Tuesday night as part of a court order, but were not able to save them from the back of the van, Horry County Sheriff Phillip Thompson told reporters. 'I'm not sure if it was the way the van was positioned, against a guardrail, or if it was pressure from the water, but unfortunately they were not able to get the van doors open and get the ladies out,' Thompson said. Rescue crews needed about 45 minutes to find the van, which was underwater at that point, and plucked the Horry County deputies from the roof, the sheriff said. Officials said the van was in Marion County near the Little Pee Dee River, one of the bodies of water state officials are watching closely after Florence. Because of darkness, responders decided trying to retrieve the women's bodies from the van Tuesday night wasn't safe. That effort resumed Wednesday morning, and Thompson said a specialized crew was being flown in from Charleston to assist. At nearly 7 p.m. Wednesday, State Law Enforcement Division spokesman Thom Berry confirmed the bodies had been recovered. Thompson identified the women as Windy Newton, 45, and Nicolette Green, 43. Earlier Wednesday, Marion County Coroner Jerry Richardson had identified Newton with a different last name. Thompson told reporters that deputies appear to have driven around a barrier blocking the road but the investigation is ongoing. 'It hasn't been confirmed to me that they did, but here's my question: There's barriers there. It could be assumed that he did,' Thompson said Wednesday. Justin Bamberg, a state lawmaker and lawyer who has represented the families of several people injured or killed by law enforcement officers, said he's perplexed by the decision to transport anyone in such uncertain weather conditions. 'If that road is in an area where it is a flood risk, and waters were rising, why were they driving on that road anyway?' he said. 'People need to know exactly how it happened. It makes it seem like someone took a very unnecessary risk in creating the problem in the first place.' The incident has spawned investigations by the State Law Enforcement Division and Highway Patrol. Thompson said he has also begun an internal investigation and put the deputies involved — Joshua Bishop and Stephen Flood — on administrative leave. A woman who answered the phone at a number listed for Flood told a reporter he didn't want to talk to anyone. There was no answer at a number listed for Bishop. Thompson said he did not think the women were in restraints in the back of the van, noting that restraints are used for combative patients 'and I understand they were not.' The women had been involuntarily committed by a physician, authorities said. Under South Carolina law, people who have been certified by a physician as posing an imminent risk of harm to themselves by virtue of mental illness and are the subject of an involuntary emergency admission must be transported by law enforcement to whichever designated hospital has agreed to admit them, according to officials with the state's Department of Mental Health. According to statute, the documents authorizing the admission require 'a law enforcement officer, preferably in civilian clothes and preferably with crisis intervention training, to take into custody and transport the person to the hospital designated by the certification.' The sheriff said his agency acts as a courier in such situations, to follow a judge's wishes. Neither woman has an arrest record in South Carolina, according to documents obtained from state police. Their names also yielded no records in the Horry County jail and court index systems. Newton had posted on her Facebook page that she previously had been hospitalized for mental illness. She posted multiple times about her struggles. ___ AP photographer Gerald Herbert in Conway and AP writer Jeffrey Collins in Columbia contributed to this report. ___ Kinnard can be reached on Twitter at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP . Read her work at https://apnews.com/search/meg%20kinnard .