National News

1 dead, 7 injured in shooting at off-campus party near Georgia university


(GEORGIA) -- One person is dead and seven others injured after a shooting at an off-campus party near a Georgia university.

The incident occurred early Saturday morning in Fort Valley, near Fort Valley State University, authorities said.

Several students suffered non-life-threatening injuries, the university said.

Georgia Bureau of Investigation, which is investigating the shooting, shared a photo from the "active scene" on Twitter Saturday morning, showing a house located several blocks from the campus.

GBI also confirmed the deceased was not a Fort Valley State University student, though did not share further details.

The university's campus was temporarily placed on lockdown "until campus police determined there was no threat to the campus community," school officials said.

The lockdown has since been lifted.

The shooting occurred during the state university's homecoming weekend.

School officials announced that its Saturday morning alumni breakfast and homecoming parade had been canceled. There will be "increased security protocols" at the homecoming game, scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday, it said.

"Our thoughts are with the students and their families as they recover," the university said.

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Howard University students protest housing conditions with on-campus tent city


(WASHINGTON, D.C.) -- Dozens of Howard University students are sleeping outdoors in a tent encampment on campus grounds to protest what they describe as "poor" and "unlivable" conditions in the college dormitories.

Students told ABC News that portions of the university living quarters have mold and insect and rodent infestations, as well as leaky ceilings and flooding -- all of which they say put their health at risk.

Lamiya Murray, an 18-year-old freshman currently living in one of the tents, believes the mold that she said she spotted in her dorm room was responsible for a respiratory infection she battled earlier this year.

"I'm not going to say that I expect a lot more, I expect the bare minimum. I expect decent housing," Murray told ABC News. "I expect to be in a space where I will feel safe and secure, but the dorms became a health hazard. I was waking up every morning with a cough that I didn't go to sleep with the night before, and struggling to breathe at night."

Murray said her reports to campus maintenance have often gone unresolved.

One day after the protest began, on Oct. 13, the Howard University Division of Student Affairs issued a warning to protesters occupying the Blackburn University Center, citing the demonstrators for multiple violations of the university's student code of conduct.

"You will proceed through a student conduct hearing and face consequences up to and including expulsion from the University. The judicial process will be conducted within the procedures of the Student Code of Conduct," Cynthia Evers, vice president for student affairs, wrote in an email to students, obtained by ABC News.

"We take great pride in Howard students leading the nation in public and private fights for justice and equality in all corners of the nation and, in fact, the world," the email continued. "However, there is a marked delineation between historic protests and what we witnessed yesterday [Oct. 12] . The University looks to fully preserve the integrity and authenticity of students' constitutionally guaranteed rights of free speech and assembly while protecting against the weaponization of these rights as false representations of the Howard student experience at large."

Outside the building, a banner draped across the sidewalk reads: "Enough is enough." A number of students told ABC News they would rather sleep outside than in their dorm rooms.

Fellow student protesters took turns guarding the door of the center, where some demonstrators inside could be seen through the window resting in sleeping bags, studying or eating food donated by alumni and local civil rights groups who visited them in support of their cause.

"All of our Blackburn family is allowed in and out of the building," Murray said, telling ABC News they are not allowing administrators or press into the building. "It's the outsiders that we're worried about. We're trying to keep students safe and keep everybody in an atmosphere where they feel comfortable to express the things that are happening on campus."

Annual border arrests hit record high despite trending down in recent months


(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. Border Patrol arrested migrants more times in the past year than in any other fiscal year in recorded history, according to Customs and Border Protection data released Friday.

Authorities encountered unauthorized migrants along the southwest border more than 1.73 million times in budget year 2021, according to the data. Of those, about 1.66 million arrests were made by Border Patrol.

The prior record was set in 2000 at about 1.64 million, according to Border Patrol data.

However, migration experts caution that the data has become complicated to track over several decades.

The estimated number of migrants who evaded Border Patrol custody in 2000 was pegged at more than 2.1 million by the Department of Homeland Security. That number declined by about 92% between 2000 and 2018 as Border Patrol funding increased. For 2021, reports analyzed by the Migration Policy Institute estimate the number of successful unlawful entries to be about 540,000.

In recent months, more than a quarter of encounters involved migrants who had previously tried to cross at least once before in the past year. That's compared to a re-encounter rate of 14% between budget years 2014 and 2019.

Despite the surge of Haitian migrants seen in Del Rio, Texas, last month, overall enforcement actions declined for the second month in a row from 209,840 in August to about 192,000 in September. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has pointed to the declining numbers as evidence the administration's migration strategy is working.

"Tragically, former President Trump slashed our international assistance to Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, slashed the resources that we were contributing to address the root causes of irregular migration," Mayorkas said in August as anticipated seasonal migration declines failed to bear out over summer. "Another reason is the end of the cruel policies of the past administration and the restoration of the rule of laws of this country that Congress has passed, including our asylum laws that provide humanitarian relief."

Immigrant advocates, and some immigration officials, have pointed to the rapid expulsion protocols carried out under Title 42 of the U.S. health code by both the Trump and Biden administrations as the reason behind the elevated rate of repeat offenders attempting to cross illegally.

Biden administration officials have also blamed the Trump administration's hardline measures at the border, saying it resulted in pent up demand for humanitarian relief. Critics of the administration consider the record-high number of overall encounters to be the product of Biden's moves to roll back some of Trump's aggressive policies.

Asked at a CNN town hall event if he planned to go to the border himself, President Joe Biden said, "I guess I should," but did not provide certainty.

"I've been there before and I haven't -- I mean, I know it well," Biden said. "I guess I should go down. But the whole point of it is, I haven't had a whole hell of a lot of time to get down."

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Justice Department says Utah school district ignored racial harassment, abuse


(DAVIS COUNTY, UT) -- The Davis School District in Utah intentionally ignored widespread racial harassment, according to a scathing new report from the U.S. Department of Justice.

School officials have been accused of failing to respond to hundreds of reports from Black students who said they've been called racial slurs, including the N-word, been threatened or even been physically assaulted. Asian American students also were subject to widespread harassment in the district, according to the DOJ.

"White and other non-Black students routinely called Black students the N-word and other racial epithets, called them monkeys or apes and said that their skin was dirty or looked like feces," the DOJ said students reported to them.

"Peers taunted Black students by making monkey noises at them, touching and pulling their hair without permission, repeatedly referencing slavery and lynching, and telling Black students, 'Go pick cotton' and 'You are my slave,'" the report said students told the DOJ.

The Justice Department said the school district deliberately showed indifference to race-based student harassment, violated Black students' equal protection rights and violated the equal protection clause when it refused to allow Black students to form student groups.

The two-year-long investigation also found students frequently were harassed and abused verbally and physically, and that even when such behavior was witnessed by faculty or staff, nothing was done to halt it.

Investigators also found that some staff members directly targeted students with racially abusive remarks.

Black students said the harassment was pervasive and consistent, and many students said they'd concluded faculty and staff effectively condoned the behavior because reporting it felt useless. Several students told investigators they "disliked attending school and at times missed school because of racial harassment."

Other students said they feared retaliation for reporting the racial harrasment.

Davis School District has signed a settlement agreement with the Justice Department in connection with the district's alleged mistreatment of students of color.

The agreement outlines steps required of the district to strengthen its procedures, training and practices in investigating and resolving allegations of racial harassment and discrimination, district representatives told ABC News in a statement. A consultant will be hired to review and help revise potential policies for the district, which serves tens of thousands of students across 91 schools, the district said.

District officials said they'll work to correct its issues over the next few years and that they'll soon share plans for doing so with students, parents and staff.

"During the investigation, the district was made aware of serious incidents of racial harassment and discrimination and instances where those incidents were not handled appropriately," the statement continued. "The district takes these findings very seriously. They do not reflect the values of this community and the expectations of the district. The district pledges to correct these practices."

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Robert Durst charged with murder of former wife

Myung J. Chun-Pool/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- Robert Durst has been charged in Westchester County with the murder of his former wife, Kathie, who disappeared in 1982, according to the district attorney's office.

A criminal complaint was filed Tuesday of this week.

"The Westchester County District Attorney's Office can confirm that a complaint charging Robert Durst with the murder of Kathleen Durst was filed in Lewisboro Town Court on Oct. 19, 2021. We have no further comment at this time," a statement from a spokesperson for Westchester DA Mimi Rocah said.

The single-page complaint from New York State Police Investigator Joseph Becerra charges Durst with second degree murder. It offers no new evidence but is based on "the files" of the state police, the Westchester DA's office and the Los Angeles DA's office, along with "conversations with numerous witnesses and observations of defendant's recorded interviews and court testimony."

The complaint follows last week's sentencing in Los Angeles of Durst to life in prison for the 2000 murder of Susan Berman, an associate whom prosecutors said Durst killed because he feared she would have revealed details of Kathie Durst's death.

It wasn't immediately clear whether Durst had retained an attorney in New York. A call to his longtime attorney Dick DeGuerin was not immediately returned.

Durst, 78, recently tested positive for COVID-19 and was put on a ventilator, DeGuerin has said. He appeared frail during his murder trial in Los Angeles and sat in a wheelchair during his sentencing.

Kathie Durst's body has never been found, though authorities have periodically searched over the years. There was never an established crime scene.

"Robert Durst has now been formally charged with the murder of Kathleen McCormack Durst. We are very happy with this development. At this time, however, we will not be making any further comments until the Grand Jury process is completed," said Robert Abrams, attorney for Kathie Durst's family.

Robert Durst, eldest son of Seymour Durst, has long been estranged from his wealthy family. He was acquitted of a second murder in Galveston, Texas.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

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Baby goes home from hospital 5 months after mom stabbed while pregnant

Amorn Suriyan/ iStock

(ATLANTA) -- A infant who was born at 25 weeks, after his mom was stabbed while walking on a trail in Atlanta, went home this month after spending nearly five months in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).

The baby, Theodore Jude, was released from the Children's Hospital of Atlanta at Egleston on Oct. 8 with a farewell parade from nurses, who lined the halls with rattles to say goodbye.

"We're obviously super grateful and praising that he's alive and with us," said Theodore's mom, Valerie Kasper. "It's been a long journey and it's already been exhausting and like a rollercoaster, and now that he is home, this is the start of a new thing."

Kasper, 34, was walking near her car with her 3-year-old son, Benjamin, on June 5, when she was stabbed multiple times by a homeless man who later admitted to the stabbing, according to the Associated Press. Police said they believe "mental illness played a role" in the case.

While Benjamin sustained no physical injuries in the attack, Kasper was transported to a local hospital, where she underwent an emergency C-section.

"The trauma of the attack was pretty intense obviously and the moment of going into surgery was just as scary," said Kasper. "When I went into surgery I was crying, saying, 'Save my baby and save my uterus,' because I thought if he didn't make it, I would want to have another baby."

Theodore weighed just two pounds when he was born, and was immediately whisked away to the NICU, according to Kasper.

While they were performing the C-section, doctors also repaired Kasper's colon and liver, which she said were both damaged in the attack.

She was not able to see her newborn son until 24 hours after giving birth, when she went in a wheelchair to visit him in the NICU.

"I was in so much pain that I couldn't handle sitting in the wheelchair and I almost passed out in the NICU," recalled Kasper, who was also not able to hold her son because he was still so fragile. "It was really hard."

Kasper spent the next week in the hospital recovering from her injuries and from giving birth. Shortly after she was discharged on June 12, Kasper received a call from the NICU that Theodore was not doing well and would have to be transferred to another hospital for surgery.

"That was devastating," she said. "I was thinking, 'This is it. This is the life of the NICU. How am I ever going to fall asleep waiting for these phone calls?'"

Theodore survived what would be the first of four surgeries following his birth.

Kasper and her partner, Steven Barkdoll, both teachers, spent the next several months traveling back and forth between the NICU and their home, where they stayed with Benjamin.

Kasper was only able to hold Theodore for the first time during a visit to the NICU on June 28, three weeks after his birth.

"It took like three people to help me into the chair, to help the baby in my arms, and he was still intubated so it was just extremely fragile moving him," she said. "I was sitting there kind of in pain, wanting to enjoy the moment but also having to be aware of my own limitations."
After several more months of treatment, doctors discharged Theodore from the NICU on Oct. 8.

It was then that he met his older brother, Benjamin, for the first time.

"Benjamin just like ran over to the stroller, so excited to see his brother," Kasper said of the meeting, five months in the making. "That was a big day."

Though the family is now home under one roof for the first time in months, the recovery continues for both Theodore and Kasper, who still has limited mobility and pain from her wounds.
Theodore remains on oxygen and a feeding tube, as well as a heart monitor, according to Kasper. He also takes several medications and has frequent appointments with doctors and specialists.

"It's like bringing home a newborn baby that needs lots of attention, and he needs a little even more attention," said Kasper. "He's a cutie pie and we love all the snuggles, but it's still a stressful situation to be in."

"We're just monitoring him as he grows and supporting him the best we can to try to get him off all the machines and let him be a big boy," she said of Theodore, who now weighs 11 pounds.

Kasper said she and her family have been touched by the outpouring of support they have received, from a GoFundMe account that has raised over $100,000 to friends and family offering support and the nurses and doctors who helped she and Theodore recover.

"It's definitely a big motivator and relief, in a way, to know that evil can happen, or bad things can happen, and the love shines through," she said. "I just get overwhelmed by that."

"I feel that once we're back on our feet, we're going to have to be giving back for sure," Kasper added.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

COVID-19 live updates: Pfizer vaccine highly effective in children 5-11

Bill Oxford/iStock

(NEW YORK) -- More than 731,000 Americans have died from COVID-19 while over 4.9 million people have died from the disease worldwide, according to real-time data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.

Just 66.9% of Americans ages 12 and up are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to data from the CDC.

Oct 22, 5:22 pm
Your guide to booster eligibility 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have now signed off on boosters for all three COVID-19 vaccines authorized in the U.S., after Thursday's recommendation for the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson shots.

Oct 22, 2:32 pm
Delta doesn't cause more severe illness than prior variants: CDC 

A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that although the delta variant is significantly more transmissible than prior variants, it is not more likely to lead to hospitalization.

Instead, the dramatic uptick in hospitalizations seen during the summer's delta surge was fueled by the highly transmissible variant spreading easily among mostly unvaccinated people, the CDC said.

The report, which analyzed COVID-19 hospitalization data from 14 states, also found that the proportion of people aged 18 to 49 hospitalized with delta increased "significantly" in July and August to 35.8% of all hospitalizations compared to 24.7% from January to June of this year. This was likely due to lower vaccination rates among younger people, the CDC said.

-ABC News' Sony Salzman

Oct 22, 8:56 am
Pfizer vaccine highly effective in children 5-11

The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is nearly 91% effective against symptomatic illness in children ages 5-11, according to new data posted Friday ahead of a major FDA advisory committee meeting on Tuesday.

The vaccine also appeared safe, with none of the children experiencing a rare heart inflammation side effect known as myocarditis. If authorized in children 5-11, the Pfizer vaccine will be given at a smaller, one-third dose.

This efficacy estimate is from the company's clinical trial of 2,268 children in which some children got a placebo, and some children got the Pfizer vaccine. During the trial, 16 children who got the placebo shots developed COVID-19. Only three children who got the real vaccine developed COVID-19.

A small number of the children who were vaccinated and later developed COVID-19 experienced symptoms far fewer and milder than the children who were unvaccinated. For example, none of the vaccinated children developed a fever, while a majority of the unvaccinated children developed a fever along with other symptoms.

None of the children experienced serious adverse events. Many experienced typical symptoms like pain at the injection site, fatigue and headache.

The FDA's advisers will meet Tuesday to vote on whether to authorize the vaccine. From there, the FDA itself and the CDC will need to sign off -- a process that can take several days -- before shots could become available to children nationally.

Oct 21, 8:39 pm
CDC signs off on Moderna, J&J boosters

Hours after the unanimous vote from its independent advisory committee, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has signed off on recommending booster shots for the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines for certain populations.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky recommended boosters for Pfizer and Moderna recipients with no preference on the brand, leaving that decision up to the individual.

People who are 65 and older, or individuals as young as 18 who have underlying medical conditions or live in high-risk or long-term care settings, are eligible to receive either a Pfizer or Moderna booster at least six months after their second shot, the CDC said.

The one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine is eligible to anyone aged 18 and up, at least two months after their initial dose, the CDC said.

Oct 21, 5:44 pm
CDC recommends Moderna and J&J boosters

An independent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory committee voted unanimously Thursday evening to recommend booster shots for both the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines for certain populations.

The panel recommended a third dose of the Moderna vaccine at least six months after a person’s initial course for those 65 and older, as well as those as young as 18 who are at higher risk due to underlying health conditions or where they work or live.

A second dose of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine was recommended for anyone aged 18 and older, at least two months after the first dose.

The panel also cleared the way for allowing mixing and matching of booster doses.

The recommendations fall in line with the Food and Drug Administration’s authorization of the boosters Wednesday.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky must now sign off on the panel's recommendations. A decision is expected within a day.

Oct 21, 3:14 pm
Hospital admissions on the decline

COVID-19 hospital admissions in the U.S. have dropped by about 9.7% in the last week, according to federal data.

Death rates are also falling, though they remain persistently high, with an average of just under 1,250 Americans dying from the virus each day, according to the data.

Alaska currently has the country's highest infection rate, followed by Montana, Wyoming, Idaho and North Dakota.

The U.S. is currently averaging around 76,000 new cases per day, down from 160,000 in early September. Despite boasting high vaccination rates, several Northern states continue to see cases tick up as the weather gets colder.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Winter weather outlook: California drought could worsen, what else to expect

ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- The devastating drought in Southern California is expected to continue or worsen this winter, with drier-than-average conditions forecast for the hard-hit Southwest, including Southern California, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Thursday in its winter weather outlook.

NOAA predicts drought conditions to continue in the Southwest, Plains and Missouri River Basin. But drought improvement is possible in Northern California, the Pacific Northwest, the upper Midwest and Hawaii, NOAA said.

Drier-than-average conditions are also forecast for the Southeast this winter. Wetter-than-average conditions are forecast in areas including the Pacific Northwest, Great Lakes and Ohio Valley, NOAA said.

NOAA predicts a warmer-than-average winter in the Southeast and much of the eastern U.S.

Temperatures may fall below average from the Pacific Northwest through the northern Plains.

But more-than-normal snow and rain is forecast for the Ohio Valley and some of the inland Northeast, from western Pennsylvania to western New York to parts of Vermont.

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USC suspends fraternity after reports of 'possible drug-facilitated sexual assaults'


(LOS ANGELES) -- The University of Southern California in Los Angeles has suspended a fraternity following reports of an alleged sexual assault and "possible drug-facilitated sexual assaults" at its house, school officials said.

"The university has received a report of sexual assault at the Sigma Nu fraternity house," the school said in an alert posted on its Department of Public Safety website Wednesday. "The university also has received reports of drugs being placed into drinks during a party at the same fraternity house, leading to possible drug-facilitated sexual assaults."

The university reported the information to the Los Angeles Police Department, according to the alert, which encouraged anyone with information "relevant to the crimes" to contact the school's Department of Public Safety and police.

An LAPD spokesperson told ABC News Thursday the department is aware of four alleged victims, none of whom have reached out to police yet. The LAPD opened an investigation on Thursday, the department said.

The alleged assaults occurred on Sept. 25 at a fraternity party and involved unlawful administration of a controlled substance, possibly through an alcoholic beverage, police said. There is no suspect information at this time.

The Sigma Nu fraternity has been placed on interim suspension and is barred from hosting parties, social gatherings or any other activities at its house, the school said.

The national Sigma Nu Fraternity said in a statement Thursday that it is "concerned by these serious allegations" and aims to work with USC on investigating them.

"The Fraternity will determine its further actions based upon the investigation," the statement said. "Sigma Nu Fraternity remains committed to responding appropriately to all matters of confirmed misconduct."

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Husband charged in Maya Millete's killing, pleads not guilty in court


(SAN DIEGO) -- Larry Millete made his first court appearance Thursday, two days after he was arrested on one count of unlawfully killing his 39-year-old wife and mother of his three children, Maya Millete. Millete was also charged with illegal possession of an assault weapon.

He has plead not guilty and will continue to be held without bail until a review hearing on Nov. 4.

The whereabouts of Maya Millete, who disappeared in January, are still unknown. San Diego District Attorney Summer Stephan said at a press conference Tuesday that California law allows for murder charges to be filed despite the absence of a victim's body.

"The law is so crystal-clear that we cannot let someone murder someone and gain a benefit by hiding the body in a way that we can't recover it," Stephan said.

Investigators from the Chula Vista Police Department said that Maya wanted a divorce after a year of marital issues, and her husband was against it.

Stephan said Millete is believed to have been unwilling to accept that his wife was seeking to end their marriage and he killed her after she contacted the attorney.

Investigators say family and friends described Millete's behavior as "controlling" and "stalker-like" as Maya began taking steps to separate herself from her husband.

The investigation also found that Millete made multiple searches online for drugs that can be used to incapacitate people. He then tried to get help from "spellcasters," who claim to sell spells that could salvage the relationship. In later emails to the spellcasting companies, he asked them to "punish May and incapacitate her enough so she can't leave the house."

Detectives found that the couple had an argument shortly before she was reported missing by her family members.

The last call recorded from Maya's phone was to a divorce attorney on Jan. 7.

According to court documents, Larry Millete was seen moving his Lexus on Jan. 8 at 5:58 a.m., repositioning the car so that the rear was in the garage and not visible to cameras in the area.

Millete then left the home for 11 hours and 21 minutes. He left his phone behind, so investigators were unable to track the GPS or location of his vehicle at the time.

The nine-month investigation included 66 search warrants, 87 witness interviews and more than 100 tips, authorities said.

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How the search for Brian Laundrie, boyfriend of Gabby Petito, unfolded


(NEW YORK) -- A massive search for Brian Laundrie, the boyfriend of slain 22-year-old travel blogger Gabby Petito, took a dramatic twist Thursday with the announcement that human remains found in a Florida nature preserve are those of the wanted fugitive, according to the FBI.

The remains were recovered Wednesday, nearly five weeks after Petito's body was recovered in the Bridger-Teton National Forest in Wyoming. The Teton County Coroner ruled her death a homicide by strangulation.

The search for the 23-year-old Laundrie was centered around North Port, Florida, where investigators said he returned to his home on Sept. 1 without Petito but driving her 2012 Ford Transit.

Laundrie had been named by police as a "person of interest" in Petito's disappearance and a federal warrant had been issued for him alleging unauthorized use of Petito's credit card.

He refused to speak to the police and vanished on Sept. 13. His parents told investigators they believed he was headed to the Carlton Reserve in North Port.

The case grabbed national attention as Laundrie and Petito had been traveling across the country since June, documenting the trip on social media. Petito's parents reported her missing on Sept. 11 after not hearing from her for two weeks.

Here is how the weekslong search for Laundrie unfolded:

Oct 21, 5:06 pm
'Skeletal remains' recovered at Florida nature preserve

Apparent human "skeletal remains" were recovered Wednesday in a Florida wildlife preserve where the search for Brian Laundrie has centered, police told ABC News on Thursday.

“We have confirmed skeletal remains," said Josh Taylor, spokesman for the North Port, Florida, Police Department.

Asked of media reports describing portions of the remains recovered, Taylor said, "We have not said anything about a skull.”

Oct 21, 3:08 pm

ID of remains could take several days: Medical examiner

Dr. Russell Vega, the chief medical examiner for Florida’s 12th District, confirmed to ABC News that he is working on trying to identify the apparent human remains found Wednesday in a nature preserve along with Brian Laundrie's backpack and notebook.

Vega said it could take several days to identify the remains. He declined to confirm media reports that the remains discovered at the Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park in North Port, Florida, were bones.

Early in the search for Laundrie, FBI agents collected samples of Laundrie's DNA from his parents home in North Port, according to the Laundrie family attorney.

Oct 20, 6:06 pm
Laundrie family attorney reacts to discovery of apparent human remains

Steven Bertolino, the family attorney for the Laundrie family, spoke with New York ABC station WABC Wednesday evening after law enforcement found human remains and items belonging to the fugitive at a Florida park.

The attorney said the area where investigators found Brian's belongings was shown to police two weeks ago when Laundrie's father, Chris, aided in the search.

"I can't say for certain that Chris showed this particular area to police at that point in time, but I can say that this is an area that we initially notified the FBI that Brian liked hiking," Bertolino said.

The attorney said the family is waiting for a proper identification before making any comments.

"As you can imagine, the parents are very distraught. ... At this moment in time they're grieving," he said.

Oct 20, 4:42 pm
Police find apparent human remains, personal items belonging to Laundrie

Police have recovered apparent human remains that have not been identified in the search for Brian Laundrie, the FBI said Wednesday.

Authorities also found items belonging to Laundrie, like a backpack and notebook, officials said.

FBI Special Agent in Charge Michael McPherson said the area where the items were found had previously been underwater. McPherson said a team would be on site for several days processing the scene.

Oct 20, 2:55 pm
Remains found at park, not clear if human

A law enforcement source told ABC News remains were found at a Florida environmental park. The source said investigators are working to determine whether the remains are human and whether the remains and other discovered articles are linked to Laundrie.

Oct 20, 2:19 pm
FBI confirms 'items of interest' found

The FBI said "items of interest" in connection to the search for Laundrie were found at the Carlton Reserve Wednesday morning and an evidence response team is processing the scene.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Brian Laundrie's remains found after monthlong search


(NORTH PORT, Fla.) — Remains found Wednesday during the search for Brian Laundrie, the boyfriend of slain travel blogger Gabby Petito and a person of interest in her death, have been confirmed to belong to Laundrie, according to the FBI.

The skeletal remains were found in the Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park in North Port, Florida, a nature park that's been the center of the search for Laundrie. His parents led authorities to the scene, where they said their son was known to frequent. Laundrie's backpack and notebook were found near the remains, which authorities said had been underwater until recently.

Dental records were used to identify the remains, FBI Denver said.

"On October 21, 2021, a comparison of dental records confirmed that the human remains found at the T. Mabry Carlton, Jr. Memorial Reserve and Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park are those of Brian Laundrie," Amy Jewett Sampson, public affairs specialist for the FBI, said in a statement.

The Laundrie family's lawyer, Steven Bertolino, released a statement on behalf of Brian's parents: "Chris and Roberta Laundrie have been informed that the remains found yesterday in the reserve are indeed Brian's. We have no further comment at this time and we ask that you respect the Laundrie's privacy at this time."

Petito, 22, had been on a cross-country road trip with Laundrie, 23, when Petito went missing. Laundrie returned from the road trip without Petito, arriving home in Florida on Sept. 1.

"Gabby's family is not doing interviews or making a statement at this time," Rick Stafford, a lawyer for Petito's family, said after the identification of Laundrie's remains. "They are grieving the loss of their beautiful daughter. Gabby's family will make a statement at the appropriate time and when they are emotionally ready."

Laundrie was named by investigators as a person of interest and was the subject of a massive nationwide search. He refused to speak to investigators and disappeared on Sept. 14.

He was never charged in his girlfriend's death, but was being sought for illegally using her debit card to withdraw money after she had died.

Petito's body was found in the Bridger-Teton National Forest in Wyoming on Sept. 19. Teton County Coroner Dr. Brent Blue announced last week she had died by strangulation.

ABC News' Alondra Valle and Kristin Thorne contributed to this report.


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New twist in the tale of those escaped zebras: animal cruelty charges


(WASHINGTON) — There's a new twist in the tale of those zebras -- still on the loose in Maryland since escaping two months ago.

Earlier this week, authorities filed criminal charges of animal cruelty against Jerry Lee Holly, after three of the zebras got away from his 300-acre farm back in Prince George's County outside Washington.

The charges included depriving the zebras of "necessary sustenance," inflicting "unnecessary suffering or pain" and a failure “to provide [a] Zebra with nutritious food in sufficient quantity, and proper shelter while said animal was in his charge and custody,” according to legal documents obtained by ABC News.

The charges come after one of the escaped zebras was found dead in a field after getting caught in an illegal snare trap, within feet of the enclosure where Holly’s 36 other zebras are held, according to the documents.

"The animal should have been seen or heard while it was dying from being caught in the snare if the caretaker had attended to the zebras in the fenced enclosure," the court filing said.

Earlier this week, another zebra was found dead, this time within Holly’s zebra enclosure, authorities said. It had been dead long enough to develop rigor-mortis before authorities were called, the documents said.

These instances are "sufficient circumstantial evidence of neglect to warrant a criminal charge," the filing said.

It noted that the zebras pose a threat to the community and themselves.

“The zebras at-large are a public nuisance. The animals are dangerous, and serve a risk to persons approaching them, and a risk to drivers on the public roadways. Zebras running at large are by County code declared a nuisance and dangerous to the public health, safety and welfare," the filing said.

ABC News reached out to Holly for comment but got no immediate response.

The saga of the escaped zebras has been bewildering. Originally, five zebras were reported to have escaped, but then the number was corrected to three.

Now, after the tragic snare trap incident, the number of escaped zebras is down to two. The latest effort to capture the two remaining zebras adds yet another twist to the story.

Two zebras have been placed in a corral, which is supposed to attract the two fugitive zebras with food and companionship.

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Reward grows to $75,000 in deadly ambush of 3 Texas deputies

Houston Police

(NEW YORK) — The reward for information leading to the arrest of a gunman who investigators said ambushed and killed a Texas constable deputy and wounded his two colleagues outside a Houston sports bar has grown to $75,000.

Saying he was "frustrated and angry" over the Saturday morning attack, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner pleaded with the public to help authorities bring the "person or persons responsible for these shootings" to justice.

"These persons are still out there, and I'm a firm believer that somebody knows or has information that can lead to their arrest and conviction," Turner said at a news conference Wednesday afternoon.

Tilman Fertitta, the billionaire owner of the Houston Rockets NBA basketball team, joined Turner to announce that he is adding $40,000 to the reward fund. Fertitta said another $25,000 had been offered by an anonymous donor while Crime Stoppers of Houston and the 100 Club, a nonprofit city police support group, combined to put up $10,000.

"We're going to come after you if you commit a deadly crime in this city," said Fertitta, directing his words at the killer or killers. "You pull that gun out and you shoot somebody, you are going to spend the rest of your life in prison because we are going to catch you and we are going to do whatever it takes in this city not to be like other big cities.”

Killed in the triple shooting was deputy Kareem Atkins, 30, a married father of two children, ages 2 years and 6 months, who had just returned to work from paternity leave. Deputy Darrell Garrett, 28, was shot in the back and critically wounded, authorities said. The third deputy, Juqaim Barthen, 26, was discharged from the hospital on Wednesday after he sustained a non-life-threatening gunshot wound.

The Harris County Precinct 4 constable deputies were working an extra job around 2:15 a.m. on Saturday at the 45 Norte Sports Bar in the Independence Heights neighborhood of north Houston when they were called outside to intervene in a possible robbery in progress, according to the Houston Police Department.

Atkins and Garrett entered the parking lot and began to arrest a possible suspect when a second suspect emerged and opened fire with an AR-15 rifle, striking both, according to police. Upon hearing the gunshots, Barthen rushed to help and was shot in the foot.

The suspected gunman was described by police as a heavy-set, bearded Hispanic man in his early 20s who was wearing a white T-shirt and blue jeans.

"They were slaughtered," Constable for Precinct 4 Mark Herman said of his deputies. "The way this happened should have never happened anywhere."

Herman said Garrett, who's engaged to be married, remains in critical condition and described his status as "touch and go."

"His body is devastated," Herman said. "He's had three long surgeries.”

Houston Police Chief Troy Finner said investigators are pursuing leads that have come in from the public but acknowledged no suspects are in custody.

"But I stand here strong with our community members," said Finner, whose agency has mourned four officers killed in shootings in the past 21 months. "We're not going to stand by while somebody is murdering police officers and anybody else."

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Freshman fraternity member at Kentucky dies from 'presumed alcohol toxicity'



A freshman at the University of Kentucky has died from alcohol toxicity after he was found unresponsive at his fraternity house, officials said.

University police officers were called to FarmHouse Fraternity at about 6:22 p.m. Monday where Thomas Lofton Hazelwood, an 18-year-old fraternity member, was unresponsive, the university said.

The agricultural economics major was taken to a hospital where he died Monday night, the university said.

Hazelwood's cause of death was "presumed alcohol toxicity" pending investigation, and the manner of death was ruled an accident, the Fayette County Coroner's Office said.

"Foul play is not suspected, but police are investigating the circumstances of his death," the university said in a statement Tuesday.

University President Eli Capilouto and Vice President for Student Success Kirsten Turner in a statement Tuesday evening vowed to determine "what happened, how it happened and why."

The university has launched two investigations: one through the university police and another through the school's Office of Student Conduct, said Capilouto and Turner.

"Both of these investigations will be made public including any findings and recommendations, subject to necessary redactions to protect the privacy of students," they said. "But we will understand better what happened and we will communicate with Lofton's family and our university family."

Activities have been suspended indefinitely for new members of all of the university's fraternities, University of Kentucky officials said Thursday.

The university is also looking to "increase awareness and education" regarding "hazing, alcohol use and bystander intervention," officials said.

FarmHouse Fraternity CEO Christian Wiggins said in a statement, "We are deeply saddened to learn of the loss of Thomas 'Lofton' Hazelwood, a new member of the University of Kentucky chapter of FarmHouse Fraternity. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends, and loved ones as well as the entire community. We have encouraged all members and new members to cooperate with any investigation prompted by Mr. Hazelwood's death."

Counseling and other services will be offered, the university officials added.

ABC News' Henderson Hewes contributed to this report.

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