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aijohn784/iStock/Thinkstock(HARRISBURG, Pa.) -- A member of the U.S. Marshals Service was shot and killed Thursday morning while serving an arrest warrant at a home in Pennsylvania's capital, officials said.

Deputy U.S. Marshal Christopher David Hill was part of a task force executing a warrant on a fugitive in a residential neighborhood of Harrisburg.

The warrant was for the arrest of Shayla Lynette Towles Pierce, who was wanted by Harrisburg police for "terroristic threat offenses," according to a press release from the U.S. Marshals Service.

After locating Pierce inside a residence while serving the warrant, the task force was fired upon by a "male subject" in the home with Pierce, according to the press release. Hill, an 11-year-veteran of the U.S. Marshals Service, and two local task force officers were shot.

The officers returned fire, killing the unidentified suspect. Pierce was taken into custody.

Hill, 45, was transported to a local hospital, where he died. He is survived by his wife and two children, according to the press release.

"We are all extremely saddened by the tragic death of our brother, Deputy U.S. Marshal Christopher Hill, this morning in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania," David J. Anderson, acting deputy director of the U.S. Marshals Service, said in a statement Thursday afternoon. "He was a devoted public servant who dedicated his life to making his community and this nation safer. We will never forget his commitment and courage. The nation lost a hero today."

Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse said earlier that a Harrisburg police officer was among those shot and wounded. That officer "bravely returned fire" and struck the suspect, Papenfuse said.

"Harrisburg mourns the loss this morning of a U.S. Marshal who died protecting our residents," the mayor said in a statement. "An investigation is underway, and Harrisburg police are cooperating with federal and county law enforcement officials."

Neighbors told ABC affiliate WHTM they heard dozens of shots fired.

Harrisburg Police Chief Thomas Carter would not release the names of the injured officers and said he was trying to notify their families.



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Alex_Schmidt/iStock/Thinkstock(PHOENIX) -- A homicide suspect in Arizona is accused of committing nine murders in just three weeks, Phoenix police said Thursday.

Cleophus Cooksey Jr. has been in custody since the last of the nine alleged killings on Dec. 17 when police say he shot and killed his mother and stepfather.

But after he was arrested, police kept "digging," Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams said, and discovered seven other fatal shootings in the area they say are connected to Cooksey.

The nine homicides spanned from Nov. 27 to Dec. 17 in Phoenix and nearby Avondale and Glendale, police said.

Here is the timeline of crimes, according to police:

Nov. 27: Two men -- Andrew Remillard and Parker Smith -- were found dead in a car in a parking lot. A motive has not been determined.

Dec. 2: A man identified as Salim Richards was walking when he was shot dead. Witnesses have told police that Cooksey and Richards knew each other, but that has not been confirmed by investigators. Property was stolen from Richards including a handgun, police say.

Dec. 11: A man named Jesus Real was shot dead in an Avondale apartment complex. Authorities have determined Real's sister had a relationship with Cooksey.

Dec. 13: A man named Latorrie Beckford was shot dead at an apartment complex. Police said Cooksey was in the complex earlier and possibly had contact with the victim. The motive is not clear.

Dec. 15: A man identified as Kristopher Cameron was shot and injured; he was hospitalized and later died. Authorities said Cameron had met Cooksey for a drug deal.

Dec. 15: Police said a woman named Maria Villanueva was confronted by Cooksey when she got out of her car and then left in his car with him. Authorities said she was kidnapped, sexually assaulted and killed.

Dec. 17: Cooksey's mother and stepfather, Rene Cooksey and Edward Nunn, were shot dead at a home. Cooksey was arrested that night and has been jailed since.

Glendale Police Chief Rick St. John said the cases came together thanks to a patrol officer who answered the call and was "doing the right things: Taking a person into custody, recognizing there were abnormalities to his behavior. He was trying to conceal what was going on. The officer very appropriately took the right actions. ... And that all occurred before the agencies really started to collaborate."

He said he is "proud as heck" that the suspect is "off the streets."

Authorities said they expect people in the community to have information to help piece together the relationships and possible motives. Anyone with information is asked to call authorities.

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ABC News(MALIBU, Calif.) -- A three-story home in Malibu, California, was seen teetering near the top of a canyon following recent mudslides.

Photos and video showed the foundation of a multimillion-dollar home crumbling, as its retaining wall had partially collapsed.

"We did find a good amount of water there," Los Angeles County Fire Department Inspector Randall Wright told ABC station KABC-TV in Los Angeles. "We don't know if it was in the earth itself or possibly even a sprinkler."

Engineers continued to investigate the home in the 2800 block of Hume Road on Thursday.

"There's a section of the backyard, about 250 feet long by 60 feet wide, and as that earth slid down, it collapsed a portion of the retaining wall," Wright told ABC News in a telephone interview.

No other homes nearby are threatened by the potential landslide, with the canyon below the property empty, and no injuries were reported, Wright said.

Any risk of the home's plummeting into the canyon was "very small," he added.

The homeowners were said to be out of town, according to several neighbors and fire officials.

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ABC News(PERRIS, Calif.) --  The California parents accused of starving and shackling their 13 children allegedly forced them to shower only once a year, never took them to a dentist, and strangled and beat them routinely, prosecutors said Thursday.

David Turpin, 57, and Louise Turpin, 49, were arrested on charges of torture and child endangerment after their children were found Sunday at their home. The Riverside County Sheriff's Office described the residence as "dark and foul-smelling."

The "depraved" details were shared in a press conference led by Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin Thursday.

The abuse intensified when the family moved from Texas to California, Hestrin said. The victims reported that the punishments started many years ago with their parents tying them up, first with ropes. When one victim was able to escape the ropes, "these defendants eventually began using chains and padlocks," Hestrin said.

The punishments lasted weeks or months at a time, he said.

The victims weren't released from their chains even to go to the bathroom, Hestrin said. They were also not allowed to shower more than once a year, he said.

If the children washed their hands above the wrist, they were accused of playing in the water and were chained up, Hestrin said. None have ever seen a dentist and they haven't been to a doctor in over four years, he added.

The children were not allowed to have toys, although many toys were found in the house in their original packaging, never opened, Hestrin said.

The family would "sleep all day" and be "up all night," typically going to sleep around 4 or 5 a.m., he said.

The children were rescued Sunday after one of the children -- a 17-year-old girl -- allegedly escaped through a window and called 911. Responding officers said the teen was slightly emaciated and "appeared to be only 10 years old."

Hestrin said the 17-year-old worked on a plan to escape for more than two years with her siblings. He said another sibling escaped with her, but that sibling became afraid and returned to the house.

When authorities arrived, three victims were discovered chained up, Hestrin said, adding that the Turpins managed to get two victims unchained before deputies entered. He said a 22-year-old old remained chained to the bed when officials came inside.

All the victims are severely malnourished, Hestrin said, adding that the eldest victim -- a 29-year-old woman -- weighs only 82 pounds. He said another child, a 12-year-old, is the weight of an average 7-year-old.

The victims have since been hospitalized for treatment. Doctors told ABC News the siblings were starved for years.

The children were homeschooled but Hestrin said that at least one of the older victims attended some outside classes. "Louise Turpin would accompany him, wait outside the classroom for him. When he was finished with class, she would take him home," Hestrin said.

Hestin added that prosecutors believe all the children were born at hospitals.

Child Protective Services said it is receiving calls from around the world from people who want to help the siblings financially. Because the agency does not want the siblings to be taxed for the money they receive, it is setting up a fund for them to go through the Riverside County Regional Medical Center Foundation. All GoFundMe campaigns that claim they benefit the siblings are fake, CPS said.

The agency also listed the clothes that are needed for the adult patients, which are almost all in children's sizes, a graphic released by Corona Chamber of Commerce showed.

Criminal charges were filed Thursday against the parents, including torture. The Turpins are expected to be arraigned Thursday, where they will be represented by attorneys with the Riverside County Public Defender's Office.

If convicted on all charges, they face up to 94 years to life in prison, officials said.



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ABC News(NEW YORK) -- You might think you know the full story of the so-called alt-right, known for their venomous racism and virulent anti-feminism. But a new documentary is shedding light on what it says is one of the most surprising roots of the movement: Sexual frustration.

Author Angela Nagle spent more than a year exploring the online origins of the current alt-right movement, which she says included communities of single men looking for advice on “picking up” women. She said many of these so-called pick-up artists argued that feminism was part of what made attracting women so difficult.

Nagle’s report can be found in the new Fusion documentary, Trumpland: Kill All Normies.

“It definitely did start out with the picking up women stuff,” Nagle told ABC News’ Nightline.

It’s a world that appears riddled with extensive and seemingly innocuous terminology, like “manosphere,” “men’s rights” and “incels.”

“[Incels] are involuntarily celibate men. And so, the incel kind of forum world was very much about expressing your frustration about being celibate. That was really the place where the endless conversations about essentially, ‘Why am I still celibate,’ turned into civilizational and racial and kind of big questions about the idea that essentially the whole sexual liberation project was a mistake,” said Nagle.

Extreme right wing movement gains momentum in Europe, echoes heard around the world

The documentary traces a community of men who act on their frustrations, which began with their grievances against women but later expanded and found footing on social media.

Twitter, as shown in the documentary, has been particularly useful to help these individuals organize and to speak up when they felt their voice wasn’t being heard.

In the documentary, Nagle explained how the idea of “trolling” on Twitter and other social media channels turned out to be clever on the part of the community. “Internet trolls” are known for their social media posts on divisive issues. Nagle said this tactic may be one of the reasons that people didn’t see the alt-right movement forming.

As Nagle says in Trumpland: Kill All Normies, “There was for years beforehand this idea of trolling and this idea that it's all irony. It's all playful. That was the most clever thing they did because it allowed them to actually kind of hide their politics.”

This guise of irreverence online towards others who didn’t share their views allowed the burgeoning alt-right movement to push back at an increasingly vocal community that seemed to emphasize being politically correct.

“I think what happened ... with millennials essentially, who, you know, came of age online and became political online, [is that] they came into contact with these kind of ultra [politically correct] highly sensitive cultures online, which actually allowed them to be quite funny, you know, and to kind of poke fun at the earnestness of these kind of ultra-sensitive language policing online cultures,” Nagle explained to Nightline.

In a way, the alt-right also gained momentum from its enemies on the left, Nagle said.

“You also had a culture that was on the cultural left, which was about gender fluidity and kind of taking the cultural gains of the left to the next stage,” Nagle said in the documentary. “These kind of online environments, you could say, of the left were both kind of ultra-sensitive and incredibly cruel and inclined towards sort of quite mob like behavior [that] people needed [in order] to show that they were virtuous.”

The alt-right also appeared to receive an enormous injection of energy after Trump’s election.

“And when Donald Trump is nasty ... [he] is a magnificent internet troll,” Tolito said in the documentary. “He is an expert at trafficking and outrage and committing outrage and being outraged himself.”

And some members of the alt-right took their movement from online into real life in at Charlottesville, Virginia, last summer, when far-right extremists gathered for a “Unite the Right” event.

“I think Charlottesville you know revealed the really hard right politics behind it that wasn't ironic and that that wasn't a joke,” Nagle said in the documentary.

Nagle said the alt-right is “quite strategically clever” and knows that they can potentially drive a wedge into where there is already tension on the left.

The solution, Nagle said, lies not on the ideological extremes, but instead with the rest of us, the so-called “normies,” and finding a way to co-exist.

“For generations it has been the countercultures of the left that have assumed the posture of anti-establishment rebellion against the hectoring moralism of the conservative right,” Nagle said. “Today those roles have been reversed. It is now the left that is the gatekeeper of conventional morality the alt right the agent of subversion.”

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iStock/Thinkstock(BOYNTON BEACH, Fla.) -- Two people have died in Florida after being struck by new high-speed Brightline trains on the state's East Coast Railway tracks, sparking concerns about pedestrian safety and calls for a federal investigation.

Brightline, whose trains run across several car crossings in South Florida, has been linked to two pedestrian fatalities since it debuted its passenger service there less than a week ago.

The most recent fatality occurred on Wednesday afternoon when a bicyclist was struck and killed by one of the company’s high-speed passenger trains in Boynton Beach, Florida, about 30 miles north of Fort Lauderdale.

The victim, identified as 51-year-old Jeffrey D. King, of Boynton Beach, was trying to beat the fast-approaching train when he rode around the safety gates, which were down at the time, and attempted to cross the tracks, police said.

Another pedestrian, Melissa Lavell, 32, was fatally struck on Friday while trying to cross the tracks in Boynton Beach, according to police. The gates were down on that occasion as well.

In the aftermath of the fatalities, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., wrote a letter to the Department of Transportation on Wednesday, calling for a federal investigation into the security of the state’s track crossings.

Nelson, the top Democrat on the Senate Commerce Committee, said Palm Beach County, Florida, where the accidents occurred, was “one of the highest counties for such incidents” and said the situation required “urgent attention.”

“In Florida, we have seen the challenges of addressing grade crossing safety, where according to 2016 data the state is in the top ten for fatalities and collisions,” Nelson wrote, according to a copy of the letter obtained by ABC News. “Tragically, this trend is continuing with two recent fatalities in Boynton Beach involving the Brightline high-speed train.

“While these investigations are ongoing, I urge you to examine these incidents and to review the safety of rail crossings, particularly for higher speed trains,” he added.

Brightline, which plans to expand into Miami and Orlando soon, said it was cooperating with the investigation. It currently runs between West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale.

"Brightline continues to reinforce awareness and education," the company said in a statement. "It is critical that the public remains attentive when near any active railroad, always obey the laws and respect the safety devices that are in place to protect the public.

“Never try to beat a train," it added.

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iStock/Thinkstock(DALLAS) -- Passengers on an American Airlines flight suffered some tense moments on Thursday after they were instructed to brace for impact as their plane made an emergency landing due to mechanical issues. The entire frightening incident was recorded by a passenger.

In a video from passenger Steve Ramsthel, a flight attendant tells passengers, “you will need to be seated in a brace position for landing.”

The plane, operated by Mesa Airlines, was traveling from Phoenix and ultimately landed safely at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.

Ramsthel told Phoenix ABC affiliate KNXV that he could smell smoke in the plane.

"There were some people crossing themselves, but I thought the adrenaline was high and everybody just cooperated," Ramsthel said. "It was pretty amazing to be honest with you."

Ramsthel, who is a certified pilot, said passengers remained calm and the captain and crew handled the situation very well.

American Airlines later released a statement, saying, “A flight made an emergency landing on January 17 due to mechanical issues stemming from a broken fan. There were no reported injuries.”

The plane has been inspected, and is now back in service, according to the airline.

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(ABC News) An investigation is underway in Perris, Calif., after 13 siblings ages 2 to 29 were allegedly held captive in a home, some shackled to their beds with chains and padlocks, authorities said.(PERRIS, Calif.) -- The 13 siblings who were rescued from their parents' home, where they had been allegedly held captive, starved and, in some cases, shackled, were seen walking military-style, single-file, according to a former neighbor.

The brothers and sisters -- ages two to 29 -- were found at their parents' home in Perris, California, Sunday, where some were allegedly "shackled to their beds with chains and padlocks in dark and foul-smelling surroundings," the Riverside County Sheriff's Office said. They appeared malnourished and dirty, the sheriff's department said.

The victims have since been hospitalized for treatment while their parents, Louise Turpin and David Turpin, have been arrested.

Louise Turpin’s sister Elizabeth Flores told ABC News she hasn't seen her sister in 20 years, but recalled how the children's lives were extremely regimented when she lived with them two decades earlier. Flores said the children had to ask permission to speak, and said they would look to their mother for cues about whether they could answer her when Flores tried to talk to them.

Flores, who was in her late teens at the time, said her sister wouldn't allow her to invite friends over or allow her to call friends. She also described disturbing incidents involving her sister allegedly watching her shower with her husband, though she stressed that David Turpin never touched her.

Flores emphasized that she never witnessed any abuse of the children while she lived in the home. She added that she cares about her nieces and nephews greatly and hopes to see them overcome what they endured, saying that she wants them to know that she loves them and that family members tried to visit them over the years.

Mike Clifford, a neighbor of the family at their former home in Murrieta, California, works the overnight shift and said he’d come home at midnight and see the children in the upstairs rooms marching from room to room, single-file. The marching would last for hours, he told ABC News.

On the few occasions that Clifford’s wife saw any of the children, she said they answered in unison, in a monotone and robotic way, according to Clifford.

Multiple neighbors said they only saw the children when they would pile in their family van late at night. They would also only return late at night.

The victims were found after one of the children -- a 17-year-old girl -- allegedly escaped from the Southern California home through a window Sunday morning and called 911. Responding officers said the teen was slightly emaciated and "appeared to be only 10 years old."

Seven of the alleged victims were adults and the others were children as young as two.

David Turpin, 57, and Louise Turpin, 49, were arrested on charges of torture and child endangerment, the sheriff's office said, and are expected to be arraigned Thursday. They will be represented by attorneys with the Riverside County Public Defender's Office.

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3drenderings/iStock/Thinkstock(COLUMBUS, Ohio) -- A teenager was shot and killed during what appears to be a scuffle during a juvenile court hearing in Columbus, Ohio Wednesday afternoon.

A 16-year-old was appearing in court for what Franklin County Sheriff’s officials say was a menacing with a firearm charge when a dispute broke out between the teen’s family and a deputy in the courtroom.

Deputies responded to the scene at the Franklin County Courthouse at 400 S Front St. just before 1 p.m., officials said.

Officials said that during the incident the deputy was knocked to the ground when his gun discharged, striking the victim. It was not revealed whether the discharge was intentional or accidental.

The victim was transported to the hospital where he was pronounced dead, officials said. The deputy was also taken to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries.

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aijohn784/iStock/Thinkstock(HOUSTON) -- Three people have been arrested in the killing of a Houston couple who authorities say were ambushed and "executed" at their home in a gated community.

Investigators believe when Bao and Jenny Lam, both 61, came home Thursday night, they were "ambushed" by the suspects as they parked in the garage," the Harris County Sheriff's Office said.

Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez, who called the crime "heinous," said the three arrested were charged with capital murder. One of those arrested confessed to the crime, an investigator said.

Authorities said they received numerous tips as a result of media coverage, which led investigators to the Lincoln Navigator the suspects were seen in near the victims' home.

Two suspects were caught on surveillance video arriving at the subdivision Thursday, parking a Lincoln Navigator near the gate and then crawling under the gate and into the neighborhood, according to the sheriff's office.

Authorities said the suspects "forced" the victims into their home, "where they were bound, robbed, and murdered."

The suspects allegedly fled in the Lams' car before returning and going into the house a few hours later, authorities said. Over the course of those few days, the suspects likely went back into the house several times, the sheriff's office said.

The house appeared to be ransacked with firearms and other valuables were missing, the sheriff's office said.

The victims' son, who went to check on his parents Saturday night after not hearing from them since Thursday, called police from the home, the sheriff's office said. When deputies went inside, authorities said they found the Lams bound and shot to death.

The sheriff on Wednesday called the suspects "scumbags."

At Wednesday's news conference, the victims' son, Richard Lam, said he is "relieved to have these three men off the streets, no longer able to harm anybody else."

At a news conference earlier this week, the couple's daughter, Michelle Lam, begged the public to help solve the case.

"We miss them so much," she said. "They were just going home from having dinner."

Richard Lam, a military officer, called his parents his "personal superheroes."

He said Bao and Jenny Lam immigrated to the United States in the 1970s and worked several jobs at once.

"They just made sure we had every opportunity to realize our dreams," he said. They later built successful businesses, the sheriff said.

Richard Lam said his father always wanted to be a military officer and often spoke how great the American military is.

"They were truly amazing people," he said.

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Chad Baker/Photodisc/Thinkstock(NEW HAVEN, Mich.) -- The meteor that lit up the night sky over southeast Michigan and shook the ground Tuesday night did not actually cause an earthquake, researchers say.

In fact, meteors do not cause earthquakes to rupture along a fault, according to William Yeck, a research geophysicist at the United States Geological Survey's National Earthquake Information Center in Golden, Colorado.

The seismic observations associated with the meteor were assigned a magnitude 2.0 by the United States Geological Survey, which said the event was centered about five miles west-southwest of New Haven, Michigan, some 40 miles northeast of Detroit. But Yeck said the magnitude cannot be directly used to compare the meteor's size to an earthquake because the source of the seismic signals are different.

"While the event was reported as a magnitude two, the magnitude scale is used to estimate the size of earthquakes and therefore is not an accurate representation of the observations from a meteor," Yeck told ABC News.

Researchers are still investigating this specific incident, Yeck said. The seismic waves observed from these events are typically not from an impact but instead are sound waves generated in the atmosphere.

Bill Cooke, the lead of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, said Tuesday night's phenomenon occurred when a meteor, measuring about two yards in diameter and traveling at about 28,000 mph, entered the Earth's atmosphere over Michigan.

The pressure difference between the air in front of the meteor and the air behind it caused the rock to break apart and explode in the sky with the force of less than 100 tonnes of TNT, Cooke said. That explosion generated shock waves that traveled down to the ground northeast of Detroit, where residents heard a loud boom and felt the ground beneath them tremble.

The meteor would not have landed intact, Cooke said, but rather tiny pieces weighing only a few ounces would have scattered over the area.

And it's not a rare event.

"It's common with fireballs that produce meteorites on the ground," Cooke said. "When the shock waves hit the ground, it will shake the ground a bit."

Still, the explosive flash, the sonic boom and the ensuing vibrations on the ground both dazzled and startled residents.

"That's probably a little bit disconcerting," Cooke said.

Although meteorites have damaged cars and the roofs of homes, Cooke said no one has been killed by a meteorite in recorded history.

"I would say most folks are pretty safe," he said.


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ABC News(SPRINGFIELD, Tenn.) -- Tennessee authorities are searching for two teenage sisters who are missing and believed to have run away from home.

The Robertson County Sheriff's Office said Kayla Ward, 17, and Brooke Ward, 14, of Springfield, Tennessee, were last seen at their home on Highway 76 just outside of Springfield and are believed to have run away on Jan. 11.

Their mother, Lisa Ward, said she discovered her daughters were gone the following morning and found a goodbye note written in Brooke's handwriting on the window sill, that said in part, "just pray for me. I am going to find some place that will help me, the help I think I need and not your help."

"Please don’t come looking for me," the note continued. "They are be taking good care of me so don’t worry either I love you."

Law enforcement doesn't believe the teens are in imminent danger; however, their family fears they could end up as trafficking victims.

Brooke and Kayla were adopted by Ward and her husband Todd Ward in 2010. Their biological mother had a long history of drug abuse and prostitution and both girls suffer from reactive attachment disorder.

The sisters were featured in the Diane Sawyer 20/20 special report "Generation Meds" in 2011, about the overmedication of children in foster care. Brooke was at one point on 13 different psychotropic drugs.

"Kayla and Brooke suffered years of trauma and neglect, followed by five years in foster care. They have had many trauma struggles to overcome in their young lives," Lisa Ward told ABC News. "Please help us find our girls, to get them help for this time, and remind them they have a family now that loves them more than words. They don’t have to search for strangers to 'show them the way,' their family is here waiting to. No tip is too small, please share and be on the lookout for them. We won’t give up, please help us find them."

Lisa Ward told ABC News she wanted her daughters to know they are loved and cared for, and said she will "never give up" on them.

The Robertson County Sheriff’s Office is asking anyone with information about the teenagers' whereabouts please contact local law enforcement or the Robertson County Sheriff’s Office tip line at 615-382-6600.

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WBAY(BELLEVUE, Wis.) -- Authorities in Wisconsin believe a missing teen is the victim of human trafficking.

Kasey Vang, 15, was reported missing from Bellevue, Wisconsin, Jan. 11, according to the Brown County Sheriff's Office.

Vang was last seen Saturday with her younger sister in Milwaukee, more than 100 miles from her hometown. Vang's sister has since returned home and is speaking with investigators.

"Kasey is believed to be a victim of human trafficking by an unknown adult male," the sheriff's office said in a news release Monday.

Lt. Jim Valley of the Brown County Sheriff's Office said the girls "weren't necessarily kidnapped or taken."

"We believe that they possibly knew this individual through some means and went with him down to that area," Valley told ABC Green Bay affiliate WBAY-TV.

Investigators believe Vang and her sister left together and were separated at some point. Both are believed to be victims of human trafficking.

Investigators are working to determine the identity of the man.

Anyone with information on Vang's whereabouts is asked to contact the Brown County Sheriff’s Office at (920) 448-6192.
 
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Orange County Sheriff's Department (LOS ANGELES) -- Prosecutors haven't ruled out hate crime charges in the fatal stabbing of University of Pennsylvania student Blaze Bernstein, Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas said Wednesday.

"We are continuing to investigate, looking through all matters of the communication," he said. "We have an obligation to file charges only if there's sufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt. A hate crime of special circumstance allegation requires that level of proof ... if and when we find it, we will amend the charges."

Bernstein, 19, who was gay, was at home in Southern California for winter break when he went missing on Jan. 2. After an extensive search, his body was found on Jan. 9 in the brush surrounding Borrego Park in Foothill Ranch, the Orange County Sheriff's Department said.

The Bernsteins said in a statement earlier this week, “Our son was a beautiful gentle soul who we loved more than anything. We were proud of everything he did and who he was. He had nothing to hide. We are in solidarity with our son and the LGBTQ community. There is still much discovery to be done and if it is determined that this was a hate crime, we will cry not only for our son, but for LGBTQ people everywhere that live in fear or who have been victims of hate crime.”

Samuel Woodward -- Bernstein's former classmate at the Orange County School of the Arts -- was arrested on Jan. 12 and has been charged with murder.

Woodward, 20, allegedly picked up Bernstein from his home the night he went missing, the district attorney's office said.

Woodward -- who is 50 pounds heavier than Bernstein -- is accused of stabbing him to death and burying his body in the dirt in the perimeter of the park, the district attorney's office said.

The exact time and place of the murder is under investigation, prosecutors said, adding that a motive has not been determined.

Prosecutors accuse Woodward of visiting the crime scene days after the murder. They also say Woodward cleaned up the car he used to pick up the Ivy League student.

Prosecutors allege Woodward later gave authorities a "false explanation" about abrasions on his arms and dirt on his hands. According to a search warrant affidavit that was obtained by The Orange County Register and later sealed, Woodward allegedly told investigators the abrasions on him were from a "fight club," the affidavit said.

According to the affidavit, Woodward allegedly told investigators that that night at the park, Bernstein left the car and walked off.

In the affidavit, Woodward said he waited for an hour for Bernstein to return to the car and then tried to reach him on Snapchat. When that failed, he said he went to his girlfriend's house and then returned to the park a few hours later to look for Bernstein.

Police said, according to the affidavit, during their questioning, Woodward couldn’t remember his girlfriend's last name or where she lived.

Rackauckas said Wednesday the family is "very distraught."

"This was a treasured young man," he said.

The Ivy League student's mother, Jeanne Pepper Bernstein, tweeted after the arrest, "Revenge is empty. It will never bring back my son."

"My only hopes are that he will never have the opportunity to hurt anyone else again and that something meaningful can come from the senseless act of Blaze's murder," she said.

Bernstein's parents later said in a statement, "We are heartbroken."

"When we stop crying we will start doing positive things to affect change," they said. "We ask that everyone work toward something good. Stop being complacent. Do something now.

"In the months to come, as part of our healing process, we too will act to heal the world. That is what Blaze would want," the Bernsteins said. "We still believe that people are good. We have seen this first hand in the tremendous amount of support we received from people everywhere."

Woodward, charged with murder, is set to appear at a bail hearing later Wednesday. If convicted, the maximum sentence is 26 years to life in state prison.



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ABCNews.com(NEW YORK) -- Former Today anchor and NBC News correspondent Ann Curry spoke out Wednesday morning about her former co-host Matt Lauer, who was abruptly fired last year following alleged inappropriate sexual behavior.

In an interview on CBS This Morning, Curry fielded a handful of very pointed questions. She said she did not want to "do harm" or cause more pain, but she did address the atmosphere at NBC News she said she experienced while working there.

"I can tell you that I am not surprised by the allegations," she said of Lauer. "I can [also] say that I would be surprised if many women did not understand that there was a climate of verbal harassment that existed. I think it would be surprising if someone said they didn't see that. It was verbal sexual harassment."

Curry added that the movement that is taking place is overdue and has been a long time coming.

"We clearly are waking up to a reality and injustice that's occurred for some time," she said. "This is about power and power imbalance where women are not valued as much as men."

The interview on CBS This Morning comes a day after the appearance was teased on Twitter.

Curry left Today in 2012 after a year as a co-anchor and 15 years with the show. She eventually left NBC News a few years later and is currently promoting her PBS docuseries, We'll Meet Again.

When Lauer's termination from NBC News was announced in November, Curry wouldn't speak specifically to Lauer, but did tell People magazine, "I'm still really processing it," adding more generally that "we need to move this revolution forward and make our workplaces safe."

She also offered support to all women who have come forward with allegations of sexual misconduct.

"I admire the women who have been willing to speak up both anonymously and on the record. Those women need to keep their jobs, and all women need to be able to work, to be able to thrive without fear. This kind of behavior exists across industries, and it is so long overdue for it to stop," she said. "This is a moment when we all need to be a beacon of light for those women, for all women and for ourselves."

Lauer, 60, was fired late last year after the network received "a detailed complaint from a colleague" involving "inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace by Matt Lauer."

As more stories of harassment allegedly involving Lauer began to circulate, he spoke out later in November, saying, "There are no words to express my sorrow and regret for the pain I have caused others by words and actions. To the people I have hurt, I am truly sorry. As I am writing this, I realize the depth of the damage and disappointment I have left behind at home and at NBC."

He continued, "Some of what is being said about me is untrue or mischaracterized, but there is enough truth in these stories to make me feel embarrassed and ashamed. I regret that my shame is now shared by the people I cherish dearly. Repairing the damage will take a lot of time and soul-searching, and I'm committed to beginning that effort. It is now my full-time job."

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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