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aradaphotography/iStock/Thinkstock(RIVER OAKS, Texas) -- Using an iPad, Valerie McDaniel started an audio diary to record her deepest thoughts. In her entries, the 48-year-old talked about her daughter, her dating adventures as a new divorcee -- and a dark secret.

“I hate the idea that everybody thinks I’m a monster,” McDaniel says in the recording she made on March 15, 2017.

And in her last recording made on March 25, McDaniel says, “I never wanted to hurt anyone.”

McDaniel was a veterinarian living in a two-bedroom condo at a luxury high-rise in the wealthy Houston neighborhood of River Oaks. When she wasn’t treating animals at the veterinary clinic she owned, friends and colleagues said McDaniel spent weekends on Tiki Island near Galveston, where she regularly hosted friends at her beach home.

She had been married to her business partner, Marion “Mack” McDaniel, but the two divorced after 17 years together and agreed to share custody of their now 9-year-old daughter. Friends said she was miserable in the marriage and her husband was never around.

“She would be very hurt by her husband,” said Dr. Brittany King, a veterinarian who worked for Valerie McDaniel. “It would be… a text or a phone call and then she would be in tears, and it’s so hard to watch someone in that much pain.”

She was largely unhappy until she was introduced to Leon Jacob, the now 40-year-old son of her neighbor and divorce attorney.

“I was completely turned off immediately by his attitude,” McDaniel recalled in a diary entry about meeting Jacob for the first time. “I was drawn to him but disgusted at the same time.”

But eventually, Jacob won her over. When they were first intimate, McDaniel recalled in a diary entry that, “it was like a movie moment… It was the most passionate, romantic moment in my life.”

Valerie McDaniel and Leon Jacob are pictured together in this undated photo.

Watch the full story on ABC News "20/20" TONIGHT at 10 p.m. ET

Jacob moved into her condo and the two began living together early this year. In an interview with “20/20,” Jacob said they cooked together, even shared bank accounts and told people they were getting married.

But on March 27, McDaniel jumped off her seventh-floor balcony to her death. She left behind multiple notes detailing her final wishes and recorded her final words on her iPad, saying, “I have two great loves in my life -- I have my daughter, I have Leon.”

“It was just as much of a shock to me as it was to everybody else around her,” Jacob said. “There was nothing wrong.”

McDaniel's friends said they had a bad feeling about Jacob.

"[He was] very arrogant and full of himself," said her longtime friend Maggie Whitley, "I've just never seen anything quite like that... I've got a pretty strong intuition about people, and I did not feel good about it. And I let her know that."

It turns out some of Jacob's past relationships were tumultuous, including the one he had with his ex-wife, Annie Jacob. Leon Jacob recalled that relationship as having many highs and lows.

“We would fight, fight, fight, and love, love, love, fight, fight, fight, love, love, love,” Jacob said of his ex-wife. “It was one of those relationships that people are like, ‘God, they're crazy, but they're their crazy, and we love that.’”

After 11 years of marriage, Annie Jacob filed for divorce in 2013 and later pressed charges against him for aggravated stalking and intimidation. Court documents obtained by ABC News say he made calls, sent texts and emails, threatening to inflict bodily harm. But Jacob said it was blown out of proportion.

“Attempted cyber harassment is what I plead guilty to,” Jacob said. “She went a little overboard with her complaints about me.”

Jacob served probation for attempted cyber stalking and the other charges were dismissed.

His professional life also had its ups and downs. In 2005, Jacob graduated from medical school on the Caribbean island of Grenada. Afterwards, he had surgical training in a series of residency programs at different hospitals, but never received a medical license and was let go from his last program in Texas.

Jacob moved to Ohio and entered another residency program there, but a superior said he lied about patient care following surgery and lacked medical knowledge overall. He was eventually terminated from the program.

Then in 2012, Jacob was arrested for allegedly burglarizing the home of a hospital administrator in Ohio. He pleaded guilty to criminal trespass.

By 2016, Jacob was in financial straits, filing for bankruptcy. He had also moved back to Houston and began dating a woman named Meghan.

This January, police were called to their home after an incident. Meghan claimed that during an argument, Jacob grabbed her face with enough force to wound her lip. According to the police report, Jacob admitted to putting his hand over her mouth.

Once again, Jacob recalled things differently.

“I didn’t put my hand on her physically,” he told “20/20.” “I never touched her, and subsequently, that charge has been dropped because there was no evidence.”

The assault charge was eventually dropped, but in February, Jacob was charged with stalking Meghan at her workplace after she had ended their relationship. He admitted to “20/20” that at the time, he had “kept on pursuing her for a little bit” and claimed he was “waiting” for Meghan when police were called.

At the same time he was being charged with stalking his ex-girlfriend, Jacob was already living with Valerie McDaniel.

If he were to be convicted of the stalking charge, it might very well jeopardize his chances of getting a license to practice medicine. According to authorities, Jacob allegedly came up with a plot to make Meghan disappear in order to have the stalking charge dropped.

Police said Jacob gave $5,000, two Cartier watches and a laptop to a former U.S. Army sergeant and Purple Heart recipient, who went by the alias “Zach,” as payment for a hit on Meghan.

Police say Zach did take the money and disappeared, never carrying out the hit.

When Jacob could not find Zach, police say Jacob reached out to bail bondsman Michael Kubosh for help in locating him. Kubosh had not only gotten Jacob out of jail on bond after the stalking charge, but once put up bond for Zach on an unrelated matter.

“He [Jacob] said, ‘I’ve paid him [Zach] a lot of money to take care of a matter,’” Kubosh told “20/20.” “And I said, ‘To take care of what?’ He said, ‘I want her out of the picture.’ … and he wanted to send her out of town.”

“The way he talked to me, I felt like I was talking to Satan himself,” Kubosh added. “All of this alarmed me.”

Kubosh, who is also a city councilmember in Houston, said he immediately called his police contacts and Meghan was taken to a safe house.
Police tracked down Zach, who they said admitted that Jacob hired him to kill Meghan, and they convinced him to cooperate with their investigation. With police listening in and instructing him on what to say, Zach called Jacob and -- following a storyline provided by police -- told him he had outsourced the hit job to another hitman. That so-called hitman was actually an undercover officer named Javier.

“The reason that we wanted Zach out of the picture and for me to replace Zach as the "hitman" was just to … collect evidence and be able to capture the conversation on audio and or video,” Javier told “20/20.”

But as Zach was talking with Jacob on that phone call, authorities say Jacob raised the stakes.

“When they’re talking on the phone, Leon says, ‘Are they going to take care of both issues?’” said Harris County Assistant District Attorney Nathan Moss.

That’s when police say it was first revealed to them that a second hit was being requested -- one that targeted Valerie McDaniel’s ex-husband, Mack McDaniel.

“Upon hearing that, I was shocked that Leon wanted two people killed, and that his girlfriend Valerie would also be involved,” Javier said.
According to Moss, Jacob and Valerie McDaniel met up with Zach and Javier at an Olive Garden restaurant to finalize the plan.

“This is where I first get to meet Leon and Valerie,” Javier said. “This is where I get to read Leon, what type of person he is, and it was very obvious to me during that first meeting that Leon was serious about killing Meghan and Mack.”

“Leon told me that he believed that Valerie's ex-husband was a really bad person, he mistreated Valerie. He was bringing a lot of pressure on Valerie by attempting to take their daughter away,” Javier added.

At one point during the meal, authorities say Zach and Jacob stepped outside for a cigarette break, leaving McDaniel and Javier, the undercover officer, alone together at the table.

“He finally gets her to say that she does, in fact, want him [Mack] to be killed,” said prosecutor Samantha Knecht. “She actually turns over what kind of car he drives, where he can be found, where he lives, and gives some pretty personal details so that Javier knows where to find him.”

“And that's when he said, ‘Well, if you want that done, it's going to be another $10,000,’” she continued. “And Valerie said, ‘Ok, I have to pay you out in installments of it, but I'll pay you $10,000.’”

Prosecutors say Valerie McDaniel had taken out a $1.2 million loan to buy out her ex-husband’s share of the veterinarian clinic as part of their divorce settlement so money was tight for her at the time.

Police tipped off Mack McDaniel about the alleged hit. Working with authorities, Mack McDaniel agreed to pose for photos that would make it appear like he had been murdered in a carjacking gone wrong. A fake bullet wound was fashioned on his head and he was photographed slumped over the wheel of a car.

Authorities asked Jacob’s ex-girlfriend Meghan to pose for similar photos. She agreed and was photographed by officers as if she had been kidnapped -- tied up to a chair with zip ties binding her wrists and ankles with duct tape over her mouth.

“Leon would tell me he wanted Meghan kidnapped and scared to the point where she would leave town and never come back,” Javier said. “Leon kept using the word ‘disappear.’ He would say, ‘I want her gone. I want her to go away forever.’ And I took that to understand he wanted her dead.”

The photos were taken to prove to Jacob and Valerie McDaniel that the "hit" on Mack McDaniel had taken place. Javier said he called Jacob to tell him he had “news” for him. He said Jacob asked him to come over to Valerie McDaniel’s condo. Upon arriving, Javier said, “She [Valerie] gave me a hug and a kiss on the cheek. I did find it a little unusual.”

After hearing from the "hitman" that Mack was “gone”, Javier says, “I then ask Leon if he wanted to see a picture and he told me he did not want to see anything.”

But then, police say Leon handed over $1,800 in cash to Javier – partial payment for the job.

Later that same night, Javier said he got back in touch with Leon to tell him that Meghan was dead as well.

The charade continued with officers showing up at Valerie McDaniel’s condo later that day to tell her that her ex-husband had been found dead. Jacob was also in the apartment at the time.

The officers were armed with body cameras to capture the couple’s reaction.

Body cam video shows police telling woman her ex-husband was found dead

According to police, the two feigned shock over the news and Jacob offered up an alibi about the couple’s whereabouts -- even before officers asked them. Having seen enough, they arrested McDaniel and Jacob on solicitation of capital murder charges.

Before Valerie McDaniel was taken into custody, officers allowed her to retrieve her daughter, who was in her bedroom at the condo at the time, and hand her off to her ex-husband waiting in the hallway, who, she had just been told, was in fact very much alive.

Three days after she was arrested, Valerie McDaniel was released on $50,000 bond. She visited some friends but mostly confined herself to her apartment, recording her final thoughts on her iPad.

“I didn’t wake up one day and just say, ‘Hey, I want to kill my ex-husband,’” McDaniel says in an entry. “I didn’t really want to do it.”

But prosecutors say McDaniel did want to go through with having her ex-husband killed and confessed to hiring the hitman after her arrest when she was with officers in the hallway of her condo.

“They keep having to tell her to speak up,” Moss said. “And they say things like, ‘So you wanted your husband killed? You can't nod. You have to say yes,’ and she'd be like, ‘Yes, that's what I wanted.’”

But her friend Maggie Whitley said she believes McDaniel never would have ordered an alleged hit without Jacob’s influence.

“It's something that happened to her. I truly believe that,” Whitley said. “This was not something that she would've ever done.”

According to Whitley, during Jacob and McDaniel's roughly eight weeks of dating, Whitley only saw her friend one time. She also said McDaniel told her there was a “constant barrage of hatred” from Jacob about McDaniel’s ex-husband. McDaniel’s former colleague Dr. Brittany King said Jacob used to answer McDaniel’s phone for her.

Jacob denies keeping McDaniel from her friends.

“When you’re first in a new relationship… you kind of isolate yourself… with each other,” he said.

Jacob has now been in the Harris County Jail in Houston for almost seven months, awaiting trial on charges of stalking and hiring a hitman. He has pleaded not guilty. He refused to talk about the details of the case during a jailhouse interview with “20/20” but denied all wrongdoing.

“I am innocent of these charges. I still maintain that throughout,” Jacob said. “I find them to be atrocious in manner because I'm not some monster that wanted my ex-girlfriend killed and her ex-husband… I’m a healer by nature.”

Jacob said he does not feel responsible for McDaniel’s suicide, saying “That was a decision she made on her own.”

“She had so much pressure on her,” he added. “And I wasn’t there to help support her.”

Jacob asked a judge to allow him to attend McDaniel’s funeral but his request was denied. His request to be released on bond was also denied.

Jacob’s defense attorney George Parnham say the police overstepped their bounds and accuses them of entrapment.

“They [the police] were active players in this whole solicitation of capital murder,” Parnham said.

Parnham also said Valerie McDaniel was to blame and that if it weren’t for her, his client wouldn’t be behind bars.

“Valerie was extremely instrumental in the… situation that lands my client in jail,” he said.

As for Jacob, he plans to keep fighting, as he has done all his life.

“I’ve been knocked down a bunch in my life, and I always got back up,” he said.

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HsinJuHSU/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Following months of controversy, the Education Department said on Thursday it would end Obama-era guidance on campus sexual assaults.

In a "dear colleague" letter, released in 2011, the Obama administration instructed schools to use a "preponderance of evidence" standard, rather than the more stringent "clear and convincing evidence standard, to prove sexual assault.

But the Trump administration argues using a lower standard of proof in sexual misconduct cases "suggests a discriminatory purpose."

Quoting a recent court decision, the newly-released interim guidance said the Obama administration policy represents "a deliberate choice by the university to make cases of sexual misconduct easier to prove -- and thus more difficult to defend, both for guilty and innocent students alike."

Under the new guidance, schools can choose which standard of proof they use, but it should be "consistent with the standard the school applies in other student misconduct cases," according to a document released on Thursday.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos first broadcast her intent to withdraw the "failed" Obama-era guidance in a press conference earlier this month, saying it was unfair to alleged perpetrators.

"One rape is too many ... And one person denied due process is too many," she said at George Mason Law School. "Every student accused of sexual misconduct must know that guilt is no predetermined."

"It's no wonder so many call these proceedings kangaroo courts," she said, referencing the lack of due process for both victims and the accused in on-campus sexual assault proceedings.

Academic studies put the prevalence of false allegations between 2 and 10 percent.

Thursday’s announcement comes just months after DeVos sparked a controversy by meeting with so-called "men's rights" groups like the National Coalition for Men and groups that speak out on behalf of the accused, like Families Advocating for Campus Equality.

Volunteers for these groups say they just want to make sure all involved get a fair process.

"Victims for a long time weren't taken seriously, and President Obama tried to correct that -- but some of us think that he over-corrected, to the point where those who haven't committed any crimes, like myself, are at a risk of losing their futures, losing their lives, and being destroyed, essentially," Jonathan Andrews, a 23-year-old volunteer who says he was falsely accused of rape after he himself was sexually assaulted, told ABC News in July.

But survivor's advocates, with whom the secretary also met, say the groups push harmful, blame-the-victim stereotypes.

"She's meeting with groups and individuals today who believe that sexual assault is some sort of feminist plot to hurt men," said Mara Keisling, Executive Director of National Center for Transgender Equality.

In response to today's announcement, the National Women's Law Center called the move "devastating."

"It will discourage students from reporting assaults," the group said in a statement, adding the standards set forth today represent "a huge step back to a time when sexual assault was a secret that was swept under the rug."

The American Association of University Women went even further, saying in a statement, "today’s announcement confirms our suspicions: the U.S. Department of Education’s intent is to roll back critical civil rights protections for students."

Obama Education Secretary John King tweeted that the move is "shameful and wrong" and "undermines student safety."

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ABC News(SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico) -- In Puerto Rico, nursing home caregiver Maria Ortiz is trying desperately to get ahead of the suffering her patients may face if she doesn't get aid and supplies quickly for them.

"We can't let them die. We can't let them die. And we need all the help we can get," said Ortiz as she stood in line for water. "We need help. We need diesel for the generator. We need electricity. We need water."

Hurricane Maria came ashore as a catastrophic Category 4 hurricane on Wednesday, hitting the island with devastating winds and torrential rains. At least six people have been reported dead so far in the most powerful storm to strike Puerto Rico since 1932.

Ortiz brought ABC News to the nursing home, situated in a residential neighborhood. The grounds were still wet and littered with debris and flattened, dead trees. Ortiz also pointed out the lone generator, droning loudly, on the side of the home.

"This is terrible," she said.

Puerto Rico's emergency management agency said Wednesday that 100 percent of the island had lost power, noting that anyone with electricity was using a generator. Authorities said telecommunications throughout the island had also collapsed.

Ortiz told ABC News that she had no way to even communicate with her family on the island, though she said she could see her relatives' house from the nursing home.

As she walked through the nursing home checking on residents, Ortiz said she was worried about them and felt responsible for their livelihood.

"We're giving them what they need. ... We're taking care of them," she said. "All they have now is me and my personnel here. That's all they have."

Ortiz said that while no patients were suffering at the moment, the nursing home could face dire conditions eventually, especially if the generator went out or she couldn't get more fuel.

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A pair of sinkholes have opened up in a central Florida neighborhood after hurricane Irma hit the state earlier this month.

Tuesday morning, a huge sinkhole swallowed part of a home in Apopka, Florida, a city 18 miles northwest of Orlando.

Luckily, the residents, Ellen and Garry Miller, were not injured in that sinkhole.

"We made it through the hurricane. We were really, really lucky, and then this," Miller told ABC-affiliate WFTV. "This is the only home I know. It's the only home my kids know."

Unfortunately, the Millers are not alone in their plight, as just down the street from them, another sinkhole formed yesterday.

The newest sinkhole is about 30 feet wide, according to an Orange County Fire Rescue spokesperson, and is about 100 feet from a house. Officials told WFTV the residents are not being asked to evacuate and should simply monitor the sinkhole situation.

 Dave Carpenter lives near the newest sinkhole and told WFTV he's distressed by it.

"You'd have to be crazy not to be worried about it if one opens right next door to you," Carpenter told WFTV.

It's not yet clear if Irma can be blamed for the sinkholes, but a local expert said they tend to show up after hurricanes.

“When you have heavy rains, the chances of sinkholes [appearing goes] up quite a bit,” Dr. Manoj Chopra, a University of Central Florida engineering professor, told WFTV.

Chopra told WFTV he expects more sinkholes will form throughout the state in the coming weeks.

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artolympic/iStock/Thinkstock(OKLAHOMA CITY) -- An Oklahoma City man was fatally shot by police as neighbors shouted that the man could not hear officers' commands to drop a metal pipe he was holding, police said.

The incident occurred Tuesday evening after an accident led officers to a house where Magdiel Sanchez, 35, was outside on the porch, Oklahoma City Police Capt. Bo Mathews said at a press conference Wednesday.

The pipe Sanchez was carrying had been fashioned into a fairly large weapon, resembling a club, Oklahoma City Police Chief Bill Citty said in a press conference Thursday afternoon. The pipe had been tied to Sanchez's wrist so that it wouldn't come out of his hand when used, Citty said.

Officers were acting on information from a witness who told police where they could find a green truck allegedly involved in the accident, in which the truck hit something and drove off. No person was struck in the collision.

Sanchez's family has hired Oklahoma City lawyer Melvin Hall, who represented the family of police-shooting victim Terrance Crutcher in 2016, to represent them, according to local ABC affiliate KOCO-TV. Hall plans to hold a news conference with the family, as well as local Catholic and Hispanic organizations, Friday afternoon to bring more attention to the incident.

The shooting took place after police Lt. Matthew Lindsey arrived at the location identified by the witness and found a green truck allegedly matching the description from the accident parked there.

Sanchez was on the porch of the home when he advanced to the front yard holding what Mathews said was a pipe in his right hand.

The police officer called for backup, and another officer, Sgt. Christopher Barnes, arrived, after which both officers shouted to Sanchez to drop the pipe he was carrying as he proceeded forward, Mathews said.

The officers didn't hear neighbors at the scene yelling to them that Sanchez couldn't hear them, Mathews said.

"As he started going toward these officers with a pipe in his hand, the officers discharged their weapons," Captain Mathews said.

Lindsey fired his taser at the suspect, and Barnes shot his gun, hitting Sanchez.

Mathews said Sanchez received medical attention after he was shot, but was pronounced dead at the scene.

Sanchez’s father, who had allegedly been the driver of the green truck in the accident, confirmed after the shooting that his son was deaf, Mathews said. The son was not involved, he said.

Barnes, the officer who used the gun, is on paid administrative leave while the shooting is investigated, Mathews said.

KOCO-TV obtained cellphone video from a neighbor of Sanchez who said the footage was taken moments after the shooting. The neighbor, Julio Rayos, told the station that he screamed at officers that Sanchez was deaf. Rayos said he believes Sanchez may have been confused by the encounter with police.

Rayos told The Oklahoman on Wednesday that in addition to being deaf, Sanchez was developmentally disabled and didn’t speak, communicating mainly through hand movements. Rayos said he believes Sanchez became frustrated by trying to communicate with the police.

“The guy does movements,” Rayos told the newspaper. “He don’t speak, he don’t hear; mainly it is hand movements. That’s how he communicates. I believe he was frustrated trying to tell them what was going on.”

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Chalabala/iStock/Thinkstock(FREDERICK, Md.) -- A Maryland girl could face charges for allegedly helping plot an acquaintance's rape, police said.

Just after midnight on Sept. 2, an 18-year-old woman was opening the door to her home when she was grabbed from behind by three males, the Frederick Police Department said in a press release.

The suspects struck the victim, pulled her hair, put her in a vehicle and transported her to an unknown apartment in the area, where they proceed to rape her for several hours, police said.

The attack was not random, Frederick Police Sgt. Andrew Alcorn told ABC News.

A younger girl -- an acquaintance of the victim -- may have been involved in planning the crime, police said, referencing messages sent by the girl on social media before and after the alleged attack. She could later be charged with accessory before the fact as a co-conspirator to the crime, Alcorn said.

The victim told police she was held captive for several hours and raped by two of the males, whom she identified as high school classmates Edgar Chicas-Hernandez, 17, and Victor Gonzalez Gutierres, 19, police said.

She could not identify the third suspect, who had his face covered while he filmed the events, police said.

Before releasing her, the suspects threatened the victim with additional harm if she reported the crime to police. The victim reported the rape to police three days after she was kidnapped, police said.

Both Chicas-Hernandez and Gutierres were arrested last week without incident, police said. They were each charged kidnapping, first-degree rape, sodomy, and first- and second-degree assault, according to case documents.

Chicas-Hernandez is being charged as an adult, Alcorn said. They have both had their initial court appearances but did not enter pleas, Alcorn said. It is unclear if either of them has retained an attorney.

Authorities are still searching for a third suspect, whose identity remains unknown.

Police are working with prosecutors to decide whether to charge the acquaintance, who is a juvenile and younger than the suspects and victim, Alcorn said, describing the case as "sensitive" and "serious."

"It's just as important to rule her out of investigation as it is to bring her in," he said.

Alcorn said he didn't know the exact extent of the conversation the younger girl had with the suspects.

The attack does not appear to be gang-related at this point, Alcorn said.

Alcorn said situations like this rarely happen in the city of Frederick and that authorities are "taking it very seriously."

Police did not release the identities of the victim or the acquaintance who may later be charged.

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mj0007/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- For the first time in its nearly 250-year history, the United States Marine Corps will have a female infantry officer, after she graduates from an infantry officer course on Monday, a U.S. official confirmed.

The Marine's completion of the course was first reported by The Washington Post. Her identity is not yet public.

In 2015, then–Defense Secretary Ash Carter made the decision to open all combat roles to women, ending a ban on their service on the front lines. At the time, the Marine Corps formally advised that women should continue to be prevented from working in combat units.

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John McCall/South Florida Sun-Sentinel/TNS/Getty Images(HOLLYWOOD, Fla.) -- A 10th person has died after a Florida nursing home lost its air conditioning in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, subjecting the residents to sweltering heat.

Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills resident Martha Murray, 94, died Wednesday, the Hollywood Police Department announced in a press release.

Florida officials have suspended the nursing home's license in the wake of the deaths. The facility is now the subject of a criminal investigation.

More than 100 residents were evacuated from the nursing home, which is affiliated with the Larkin Community Hospital, on Sept. 13 after the facility's air conditioning system failed.

Medical staff from Memorial Regional Hospital in Hollywood, which is near the nursing home, described a chaotic scene of evacuating the patients from the nursing home after three came into the emergency room with "extraordinarily high temperatures."

Some of the patients who were admitted to the hospital had temperatures of up to 106 degrees, hospital officials told ABC News. Once hospital staff realized something was amiss at the nursing home, they went into a mass casualty incident mode and began wheeling patients from the nursing home to the hospital on stretchers.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott has vowed to hold those responsible for the deaths accountable.

On Friday, a Miami law firm filed an emergency complaint against the nursing home requesting that a judge grant an order to protect evidence. The complaint alleges that the center became aware that its air conditioning had "ceased to operate effectively and appropriately" days before several residents died.

Nursing home administrator Jorge Carballo said in a statement last week that the facility was evacuated Wednesday "due to a prolonged power failure to the transformer, which powered the facility's air conditioning system as a result of the hurricane."

"Facility administration is cooperating fully with relevant authorities to investigate the circumstances that led to this unfortunate and tragic outcome. Our hearts go out to the families and friends of those who were affected," he added.

In a later statement, Carballo said, "The center and its medical and administrative staff diligently prepared" for the hurricane.

"We took part in emergency management preparedness calls with local and state emergency officials, other nursing homes and health regulators," he said. "While our center did not lose power during the storm, it did lose one transformer that powers the air conditioning unit. The center immediately contacted Florida Power & Light and continued to follow up with them for status updates on when repairs would be made. Outreach was also made to local emergency officials and first responders.”

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iStock/Thinkstock(SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico) -- A woman and two children have been rescued after they were spotted perched atop an overturned ship off the coast of Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria.

A fourth family member, an adult man, was reported deceased inside the ship, which the Coast Guard said was "inaccessible" to search and rescue crews.

The Coast Guard -- alongside the U.S. and British Royal Navies -- first launched a search for the vessel after receiving a distress call on Wednesday morning, while Maria was battering the area.

The ship, "Ferrel," reported it was "disabled and adrift" amid 20-foot seas and 100-knot winds near Vieques, an island off Puerto Rico's eastern coast, the Coast Guard said. They later lost contact with the vessel due to the weather.

After a Coast Guard C-130 located the capsized vessel, a Royal Navy rescue chopper was dispatched to assist.

Authorities described the ship as "a research vessel that the family was using as a recreational vessel." Records show the ship was built in 1968.

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KABC-TV(LOS ANGELES) -- The back of a house in western Los Angeles exploded Wednesday, blowing debris across multiple backyards and significantly damaging the home and surrounding area.

Two people were inside the West Hills home at the time of the incident, but according to the Los Angeles Fire Department, no one was injured.

The official cause of the blast is not known at this time, but police told ABC Los Angeles station KABC-TV that they believe a natural gas leak could be to blame. The Los Angeles Police Department told KABC-TV that they have ruled out narcotics activities as the cause of the explosion.

"We heard this giant, like, boom," neighbor Jordan C'Dealva-Lenik told KABC-TV, adding that he at first thought it was an earthquake. "So me and my mother, we ran out of the house because we didn't know. The whole house was shaking. We didn't feel any more tremors after that, so we said, 'OK, it's not an earthquake.' "

When a news helicopter flew over the damage, wrecked appliances, furniture, bricks and wooden beams could be seen scattered over multiple properties. Six homes within the blast zone were marked as damaged by the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety. One woman reportedly lost all of her home's windows in the explosion, according to KABC-TV.

Her brother, Harvey Aingworth, told KABC-TV that "she was extremely upset. She was crying. She said, 'The house across the street exploded.' "

Aingworth said he saw the fire department picking pieces of glass out of nearby trees because the force of the blast had shattered debris that far.

Footage also showed a pickup truck in the driveway with a damaged hood and blown-out windows.

The explosion was so strong that it blasted through a brick partition between homes, collapsing an entire section.

Authorities told KABC-TV that they will continue to investigate the cause of the incident.

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Tamilisa Miner/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Miles off the coast of California, a Customs and Border Protection aircraft armed with high-powered surveillance cameras locked in on a tiny object glimmering in the horizon. Suspicious, authorities zoomed in closer and observed a triangular submarine-like vessel operating almost completely underwater to avoid observation and radar.

The Coast Guard Cutter Steadfast was dispatched to intercept the suspected smuggling boat.

It’s been a record year for high seas drug seizures like these -- 50,000 pounds of cocaine and heroin valued at more than a half-a-billion dollars have been confiscated since August.

A record $6 billion dollars in drugs have been intercepted this year and nearly 600 suspected traffickers were arrested and turned over to federal authorities for prosecution, according to the U.S. Coast Guard and Department of Justice.

On Wednesday, the Coast Guard offloaded 50,550 pounds of cocaine and heroin worth an estimated $679.3 million in San Diego, CA. Wednesday morning's offload, which was attended by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, was the result of 25 separate seizures conducted by four Coast Guard cutters and a Navy ship, which began on Aug. 2, 2017.

"We are facing a challenge in this country with drug abuse, addiction like we've never seen before," said Sessions.

Sessions credited this rise to the availability, purity and low price of illicit drugs.

Including Wednesday's offload, more than 455,034 pounds of cocaine, worth over $6.1 billion, has been intercepted by the Coast Guard in Fiscal Year 2017, which topped the 2016 record of 443,000 pounds.

Nearly 600 suspected smugglers were apprehended by the Coast Guard and turned over to federal authorities for prosecution in the U.S. during the year. That's up from 465 suspects in 2016 and 373 in fiscal year 2015.

Commandant Admiral Paul Zukunft said Wednesday that while the Coast Guard is "getting better" at intercepting these drug boats, there is also increase in cultivation and production, particularly in Colombia.

Most of the cocaine consumed here in the United States originates in Colombia, according to the Coast Guard.

"Last year, we had 60,000 fatalities due to drug usage [in the U.S.] and that number will only go up next year," said Zukunft while making the case for the need for a bigger Coast Guard.

Back on that August day, out at sea, the camera picked up four passengers who glow as if radioactive. Soon teams of heavily armed members of the Coast Guard surrounded the semi-submersible or so-called narco submarine and the suspects raised their hands in the air -- the result of a joint Coast Guard, CBP and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigation.

On board the suspected smuggler’s vessel, more than three tons of cocaine —- millions of dollars worth -- is found, allegedly bound for the U.S.

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ABC News(SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico) -- Puerto Rico in dark, curfew set after island 'destroyed' by Hurricane Maria, officials say

The island of Puerto Rico has been "destroyed" after Hurricane Maria made landfall there as a Category 4 storm Wednesday morning, according to emergency officials.

Puerto Rico's office of emergency management confirmed that 100 percent of the U.S. territory had lost power, noting that anyone with electricity was using a generator.

A spokesperson with the Puerto Rico governor's office confirmed one person has died in the storm. They were killed in Bayamon, just southwest of San Juan, after being hit in the head by a wooden panel.

Multiple transmission lines sustained damage from the storm, said Ricardo Ramos, director of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority. Ramos said he hopes to begin launching helicopters by this weekends to begin inspecting the transmission lines.

Telecommunications throughout the island have "collapsed," Abner Gomez Cortes, executive director of Puerto Rico's office of emergency management and disaster administration agency, told ABC News.

As of 11 p.m. ET, Maria had weakened to a Category 2 hurricane with maximum sustained wind of 110 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center. It was located about 55 miles northeast of Punta Cana, a popular tourist destination in the Dominican Republic.

The hurricane warning for Puerto Rico was officially discontinued at 11 p.m., according to the National Weather Service, but heavy rain continued overnight.

Conditions on the eastern side of the Dominican Republic were further deteriorating overnight Wednesday into Thursday.

Some strengthening is possible now that the storm is back over the ocean, so Maria has potential to become a Category 3 hurricane again. Maria is forecast to churn past off the eastern shore of the Dominican Republic into Thursday before moving near Turks and Caicos and the southeast Bahamas Thursday night through Friday.
The latest track has Maria curving north and eventually north-northeast. Forecast models currently show the storm continuing to weaken next week as it travels far offshore, staying away from Florida and the Southeast coast. The only impacts the storm will have on the east coast at this point will be dangerous surf and rip currents.

Cortes described Maria as an unprecedented storm, adding that the island had not seen a storm of that strength since 1928.

A hurricane task force for the U.S. Department of State is monitoring Maria's path in the Caribbean and will coordinate evacuations for U.S. citizens and provide aid on the ground, a State Department official told ABC News.

Puerto Rico was still experiencing tropical-storm force winds Wednesday afternoon, forcing emergency services and search and rescue teams to wait before heading out to assess the damage, Cortes said.

More than 12,000 people are currently in shelters, and hospitals are now running on generators, Cortes said. Two hospitals -- one in Caguas and one in Bayamon -- have been damaged.

No deaths have been reported so far, but catastrophic flooding is currently taking place on the island. Multiple rain gauges have reported between 18 and 24 inches of rain, with some approaching the 30-inch mark over the last 24 hours.

Flooding is the danger "that will take lives," Cortes said, advising residents not to venture out of their homes until Thursday because "it is not safe to go out and observe."

"We will rebuild our island with federal and state funds, hard work and the spirit of all Puerto Rican citizens," Cortes said.

ABC News correspondents observed widespread destruction in the town of Guaynabo, about 10 miles south of San Juan.

Trees and power lines were downed, and storefronts and building facades had crumbled. Neighborhoods in Guaynabo were filled with waist-deep floodwaters and destroyed homes that were clearly not built to any kind of code.

A Guaynabo resident who huddled in a bathroom with her family of six said told ABC News, "The winds took my home."

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello announced via Twitter that a curfew was in effect starting at 6 p.m.

Storm surge was predicted to be 6 to 9 feet in coastal Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Rainfall totals for Puerto Rico were projected at 12 to 18 inches, with as much as 35 inches in isolated areas.

Felix Delgado Montalvo, the mayor of Catano, some 7 miles southwest of San Juan, told ABC News on Wednesday there are hundreds of people in shelters and over 1,000 homes were damaged or destroyed in the communities of Juana Matos, La Puntilla and Puente Blanco. Most of the homes are flooded and are missing roofs or have collapsed walls, he said.

About 80 percent of residences in the Juana Matos community were destroyed from storm surge and flooding. Homes there are filled with at least 3 to 4 feet of water, according to Montalvo.

By Friday, Maria will pass to the east of Turks and Caicos, but the storm is not expected to make a direct hit.

From there, the hurricane is forecast to pass by the southeast islands of the Bahamas.

Maria leaves behind trail of death, destruction in Caribbean
Maria did severe damage to multiple Caribbean islands over the past 36 hours, including Dominica, Guadeloupe and the Virgin Islands.

The U.S. Department of State sent a message of solidarity Wednesday to the people of Dominica and all across the Caribbean who were affected by Maria.

Hartley Henry, an adviser to Dominica's prime minister, told reporters via WhatsApp on Wednesday that several people have died and the death toll "will rise" as officials continue to assess the widespread damage on the tiny island. Dominica has suffered a "tremendous loss of housing and public buildings" since the storm hit, ripping off roofs and tearing doors from hinges. The island's main general hospital "took a beating" and "patient care has been compromised," he said.

"The country is in a daze -- no electricity, no running water," Henry said via a WhatsApp message. "In summary, the island has been devastated."

The Ross University School of Medicine, based in Portsmouth, Dominica, announced on Facebook that it is attempting to make contact with all of its students. More than 1,400 students and faculty have signed the registration sheet so far, and the school has reached out to the family members of more than 700 others, who informed them that they are safe.

Officials in Guadeloupe announced Wednesday that two people were killed and two others were missing due to the storm.

France's Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said some 80,000 people in Guadeloupe -- around 40 percent of the population -- were without electricity Wednesday. Many roads there are impassible due to flooding and French Navy planes have not been able to assess the damage on the island due to bad weather conditions.

In Martinique, about 70,000 homes were without electricity and 50,000 homes did not have access to safe drinking water Wednesday. Fallen trees and downed power poles have blocked many roads there, Collomb said.

Police and soldiers have been deployed in both Martinique and Guadeloupe to ensure security. More than 3,000 first responders are on the French Caribbean islands, according to Collomb.

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PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The Navy has identified the two corpsmen who were removed from their posts after they allegedly posted a video and photos of a newborn to Snapchat that drew outrage on social media.

The video, filmed at the Naval Hospital in Jacksonville, Florida, shows a female corpsman holding the infant by the armpits while rocking the baby to rap music playing in the background, while one of the photos shows another female corpsman flipping the middle finger at the newborn with the caption "how I currently feel about these mini Satans."

The two women allegedly involved in the incident have been identified as Allyson Jeanette Thompson and Joan Hunter Barrett Fender. Neither woman could immediately be reached by ABC News for comment.

"The individuals have been removed from patient care meaning they will not be providing direct patient care," said Capt. Brenda Malone, a spokesperson for the Navy's Bureau of Medicine.

Thompson of Alabama enlisted in the Navy three years ago in August 2014, according to a biography provided by the Navy. She served a tour of duty on the U.S.S. Mason, a Navy destroyer, before attending Hospital Corpsman School and reporting to the Naval Hospital in Jacksonville in February. Fender of Pennsylvania has served less than two years in the Navy, according to a biography provided by the Navy. She attended Hospital Corpsman School before starting at the Naval Hospital about two months ago.

A Navy official said the posting of the photos was being investigated by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) and that only one newborn had been involved in the photos posted online by the corpsmen.

The images are no longer on Snapchat, but screengrabs have been shared on Facebook by concerned users.

The Navy's surgeon general has ordered a stand down for all Navy medical personnel over the next 48 hours to reaffirm service commitments to patients and review social media policies after photos emerged on social media.

"I have directed immediate mandatory all-hands stand downs within 48 hours at all Navy Medicine commands to review our oaths, our pledges, our reasons for serving, as well as Navy Medicine's policy regarding use of personally owned phones and other recording devices," Vice Adm. C. Forrest Faison III, the surgeon general of the Navy, in a blog post to Navy medical personnel.

The admiral also prohibited the use of personal cellphones by medical care personnel in patient care areas until further notice.

Faison also directed commanding officers at Naval medical facilities to contact mothers and expectant mothers to reassure them, inform them of the actions being taken and to address any of their concerns.

"Unprofessional and inappropriate social media behavior is inconsistent with both our core values of honor, courage and commitment as well as our medical ethics, violating the oaths we took for our profession and office," said Faison.

"In an age where information can be shared instantly, what we say and post online must reflect the highest standards of character and conduct, in both our personal and professional lives," said Faison. "As health care professionals, we are entrusted with the lives and well-being of all those who have volunteered to defend our freedom, including their families. We owe them the best care and compassion our nation can offer.

"We also owe them our unqualified respect," he added. "Any behavior that falls short of this expectation will be dealt with appropriately."

Faison also ordered commanders to make sure "no additional patient photos exist on social media and to take immediate action to remove such content."

A Navy official said stand downs for Navy medical personnel will take place in a staggered fashion over the next two days to ensure there is no impact to providing patient care.

"We are also contacting patients to address any questions or concerns they may have," said Malone.

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iStock/Thinkstock(SAN JUAN) -- Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico as a Category 4 storm on Wednesday morning, according to the National Hurricane Center.

While the storm's maximum sustained winds had dropped to 145 mph by 9 a.m. ET, it still threatened to do severe damage to the U.S. territory. A Category 4 storm has not hit the island since 1932.

Hurricane Maria was moving at 13 mph, and the storm's eye was located about 15 miles away from San Juan, Puerto Rico's capital, as of 9 a.m.

A weather station near Arecibo, some 43 miles from San Juan, recently reported a sustained wind of 71 mph and a wind gust of 91 mph.

"This is an extremely dangerous and life-threatening situation," the National Hurricane Center warned.

Storm surge was predicted to be 6 to 9 feet in coastal Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Rainfall totals for Puerto Rico were projected at 12 to 18 inches, with as much as 25 inches in isolated areas.

Maria is forecast to cross Puerto Rico on Wednesday and then approach the Dominican Republic, where conditions will deteriorate Wednesday evening as Hurricane Maria passes just north of Punta Cana around midnight.

Forecast models currently show the storm traveling east of Florida and the Carolinas.

The storm did severe damage to multiple Caribbean islands over the past 36 hours, including Dominica, Guadeloupe and the Virgin Islands.

Guadeloupe confirmed two people were killed and two others were missing due to the storm.

There was widespread damage across Dominica, as could be seen in the first aerial video from the tiny island taken Tuesday.

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iStock/Thinkstock(ST. LOUIS) -- The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department is investigating reports that one of its officers posted a meme on Facebook that referred to Black Lives Matter protesters as "domestic terrorists," according to a local newspaper.

The announcement came earlier this week amid protests in St. Louis over a judge's decision to acquit a white former police officer in the 2011 shooting death of a black man.

Lisa Clancy, a participant in the protests, said a St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department officer posted the meme in the comments section of a Facebook post she wrote on Saturday, explaining why she attended the protests, according to the Belleville News-Democrat.

Clancy alleged that the officer commented on her original post with a photo from a Black Lives Matter rally with “the Klan with a tan” and “domestic terrorists” superimposed on it.

Clancy also posted a screenshot of the interaction on Twitter on Sunday, tagging both the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department and St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson.

The controversial comment has since been deleted, and ABC News was unable to reach the owner of the Facebook account in question.

A spokesperson for the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department told the Belleville News-Democrat on Monday that the department had launched an internal investigation into “the matter,” but they did not confirm if the person was indeed one of its officers.

Monday morning march

More than a thousand peaceful demonstrators carrying "Black Lives Matter" signs and ones that read "No Justice, No Profits" took to the streets in St. Louis last week after St. Louis Circuit Judge Timothy Wilson found Jason Stockley, 36, not guilty of first-degree murder and armed criminal action. On Dec. 20, 2011, the then-police officer shot 24-year-old Lamar Smith five times after a high-speed chase and crash.

Some 160 people have been arrested since the demonstrations began on Friday, according to figures released by the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department Tuesday as the protests carried on into a fifth day.

Leaders of multiple faiths on Tuesday called for peace and justice amid the chaos that followed Friday's acquittal. Speakers at the service included Roman Catholic Archbishop Robert Carlson, black church pastors, and Jewish and Muslim leaders.

"Let us remember that we are not a divided humanity, but a human family," Carlson said. "Let us show love instead of hatred."

Protesters gathered outside the jail in downtown St. Louis for more than two hours on Monday to show solidarity with those who remain behind bars, but there was no repeat of the vandalism that occurred over the weekend, according to reports.

Organizers of the peaceful protests said they were frustrated with the demonstrators getting unruly at night, saying they could make it harder for them to spread their nonviolent message. Krewson on Tuesday said she's planning to meet with protesters.

“Today we saw again that the vast majority of protesters were nonviolent,” Krewson said during an early morning briefing on Monday. “But, for the third day in a row, the days have been calm and the nights have been destructive.”

The St. Louis Police Department also tweeted images of confiscated knives, guns, masks and other types of protective gear from a “rioter” who police said was arrested.

Local organizer Anthony Bell said he understands why some act out, but he urged people to remain calm.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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