National

Severe thunderstorms could bring damaging winds from Great Lakes to Northeast

ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Severe thunderstorms may bring damaging winds from the Great Lakes to the Northeast on Sunday, with a more widespread threat in the Heartland early in the week. Sunday afternoon, strong to severe storms are expected to flare up along a cold front that will sweep across the Great Lakes and into the Northeast. Most of the action looks to be later in the afternoon and into the evening hours.

From Ohio to Connecticut -- including nearly all of Pennsylvania -- the Storm Prediction Center is watching the chance for severe thunderstorms.

Damaging winds remains the biggest concern, but small to moderate hail and an isolated tornado or two are also possible.

On Monday, the severe weather threat really ramps up in the Plains. Cities like Oklahoma City and Wichita, Kansas, are looking at an enhanced risk for widespread severe weather, mainly on Monday evening and into the overnight hours.

So far this year, severe weather reports are lagging slightly behind average, but the gap is closing after all the activity in the past week.

Tuesday brings another day of severe weather, with the focus shifting slightly eastward.

From Texas to Wisconsin, severe weather could cause trouble for millions in the Central U.S. Prior to storms firing up, temperatures will soar well above average across the western half of the country. This wave of warmth will stretch its way east over the weekend into early next week.

Daytime highs rising between 10 to 30 degrees above average -- and possibly higher in some places -- will impact a large swath of the nation over the next few days, with parts of the Plains seeing the biggest departures from normal.

Near record-high temperatures will be possible.

Cooler air will make its way back in over the Rockies Sunday into Monday, dragging temperatures back near and below average there.

Yet, conditions will remain unseasonably warm across the Central U.S. as the warm air spreads farther east, covering the eastern two-thirds of the country. Even though the Plains will still see the biggest departures Sunday into Monday, temperatures will still climb 10 to 15 degrees above normal across portions of the Mississippi River Valley through the Mid-Atlantic and the Carolinas. Temperatures will moderate a bit midweek, but will still remain on the warmer side of normal across the southern U.S., and east of the Mississippi River.

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Pittsburgh bridges reopen after 26 barges break loose, float uncontrolled down Ohio River

John Greim/Loop Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

(PITTSBURGH, Pa.) -- Twenty-six barges broke loose and floated uncontrolled down the Ohio River Friday night, according to the Pittsburgh Public Safety Office.

The West End Bridge was closed in both directions and rail traffic was shut down on the rail bridge to Brunot Island due to the loose barges, before reopening on Saturday.

Of those that broke loose, 23 were loaded with dry cargo, such as coal, and three were empty. The barges are owned or operated by the Campbell Transportation Company.

There are no reported injuries, but Peggy's Marina sustained extensive damage.

Of the barges, 11 were located and pinned against the river bank by Brunot Island, 14 continued down the river and six went over the Emsworth Dam.

The company that owns the barges told ABC affiliate WTAE in a statement that "the incident occurred under high water conditions on the rivers resulting in strong currents due to flooding in the area."

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Lincoln University administrator's suicide spotlights Black women's struggles in higher education

Mireya Acierto/ Getty Images

(JEFFERSON CITY, Mo.) -- When Antoinette "Bonnie" Candia-Bailey, the former vice president of student affairs at Lincoln University in Missouri, died by suicide on Jan. 8, the tragedy brought attention to the difficulties and obstacles that many Black women report experiencing in higher education.

Candia-Bailey, who received a termination letter from the historically Black university on Jan. 3, had previously accused the school's president, John Moseley, of bullying, harassment and discrimination.

"It was shocking," Nikole Hannah-Jones, the Knight Chair of Race and Journalism at Howard University, told "Nightline." "And I think there was a lot of fear that if the experiences that Black women are going through are not being paid attention to, that they can have really devastating results."Moseley was reinstated to his position last month after a third-party investigation found no evidence of substantiated bullying claims by the university president. He’d been on a voluntary paid administrative leave.

In a press release, the board of curators from the university said that an “exhaustive, independent investigation” found that “Dr. Candia-Bailey’s claims that she was bullied by President Moseley were unsubstantiated.”

The press release added, “Specifically, when directly asked in the course of this investigation, no witnesses reported that they had ever witnessed President Moseley engage in bullying – and all denied having ever personally felt bullied by President Moseley.”

ABC News attempted to contact the university but have not received a response.

In a statement, Moseley said “our thoughts and prayers have been and continue to be with Dr. Bailey’s family, friends, and our campus community.”

Moseley added, “There is not a lot I can say about the independent report and its findings, but I am grateful to the Board of Curators for their faith in me and their vote of confidence.”

Candia-Bailey’s loved ones are still grappling with the loss of the woman they affectionately called “Bonnie.”

"My confidence in the thoroughness of the investigation is zero," said Omega Tillman, a close friend to Candia-Bailey. "Bonnie was not a person to mince words or, if she felt bullied, if she felt unheard, unseen, then that's what it was. It's frustrating."

For 20 years, Candia-Bailey had worked to climb the professional ladder in academia. In 2016, she wrote a dissertation on the challenges that Black women face in academia.

Her dissertation is titled, "My Sister, Myself: The Identification of Sociocultural Factors that Affect the Advancement of African-American Women into Senior-Level Administrative Positions."

"Attempts need to be addressed to look at how African American women can increase and advance in higher education," Candia-Bailey wrote in the dissertation. "These factors also link to being treated like the help, the outsider within, keeping them away from the table."

Candia-Bailey’s death brought shock and sadness, prompting social media videos showing Black women sharing their own frustrations and experiences.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Black women and other women of color face harsher evaluations at work due to harmful stereotypes. Inger Burnett-Zeigler, a clinical psychologist, studies how negative stereotypes affect the mental health of Black women. According to her, Black women are often stereotyped as “angry Black women, strong Black women, and hypersexual Black women.”

"The No. 1 thing that I believe Black women can do to protect their mental health is to establish very clear boundaries," Burnett-Zeigler said. “Being a strong Black woman can come with taking on too much, feeling like you just can’t take it anymore and often we don’t recognize it until it’s gone too far,” she added.

Hannah-Jones said it is a concerning trend that despite being highly qualified for leadership positions, Black women are often subjected to intense scrutiny and criticism once they assume their roles.

“It’s a struggle to be respected, it’s a struggle to be heard. There’s so many obstacles, and often the higher you ascend, the lonelier it gets,” Hannah-Jones said.

Recent data from the American Association of University Professors reveals that Black women represent only 2.4 percent of tenured professors in colleges and universities nationwide.

"Tenure is the highest status that you can achieve at a university," Hannah-Jones said. "So Black women get hired, but they aren't getting tenure, and they aren't being moved through that process."

Amidst the tragedy, the next generation of black women academics are forging their own community and advocating for change.

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Librarians say they face threats, lawsuits, jail fears over ongoing book battles

Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images

(BOISE, Id. ) -- Librarians across the country say they’ve become targets in the ongoing battles over books – but the attacks have escalated beyond just calls to remove materials from library shelves.

Several librarians told ABC News they’re facing threats of physical violence, lawsuits and criminal charges for having what some say is “inappropriate” content in libraries and schools where children can access the materials.

“We had people threatening to burn down our building,” said Maegan Hanson, a library director in a small Idaho town.

Hanson’s library had a book on display called “Gender Queer,” a graphic novel by Maia Kobabe. It’s one of the most targeted books in the country because of its LGBTQ content and depictions of sex.

When parts of the book were posted to Facebook, Hanson said the library began receiving online threats. She said fear began to set in among the small crew who work at the library – some of whom are teens and young adults.

“We are in this service because we love the communities that we are a part of and the misinformation and the misrepresentation about what we do hasn't stopped us from doing our jobs – it just makes it harder,” Hanson said.

The Idaho Library Association, which Hanson is a part of, is concerned that tensions and threats will only get worse now that Idaho Gov. Brad Little signed library content restrictions into law on Wednesday.

House Bill 710 bars schools or public libraries from making materials available to children that are “harmful to minors,” “depict nudity, sexual conduct, or sado-masochistic abuse,” or include “detailed verbal descriptions or narrative accounts of sexual excitement, sexual conduct, or sado-masochistic abuse.”

The law states these books would need to be moved to an “adults only section,” and allows anyone to sue if schools and libraries don’t restrict access to books that are believed to be harmful to children.

“For children, libraries open doors to reading and intellectual exploration, helping them become lifelong learners. It’s no wonder the vast majority of Idahoans say they value libraries and trust librarians,” said Little in his letter after signing the law.

“I share the cosponsors’ desire to keep truly inappropriate library materials out of the hands of minors,” said Little, adding that he also has concerns about the content on minors' cellphones.

Little vetoed previous efforts to restrict library content, saying past legislation would have forced libraries to shutter their doors by forcing them to pay $2,500 for damages if they made “obscene” materials accessible.

HB710 will make libraries pay $250, on top of other incurred fees or damages, if they violate the law. Little said he was moved to sign HB710 because it also allowed librarians to avoid legal action and fees if they addressed concerns about materials in a certain time frame.

In Little’s letter, he states that literacy is still a top priority for him: “Libraries play such a crucial role in helping our youngsters to read early on.”

For the small libraries of Idaho, directors say hundreds of dollars in lawsuits over books could come at the expense of some library resources and education programming – including early literacy programs, technology support, access to case workers and more.

Hanson’s library had a total operating income of $279,452 in 2021 for the year’s staffing and programming, according to the Idaho Commission for Libraries.

“We have a high poverty population in Idaho and various rural communities, so for these people who are lacking in resources, this content is important," Hanson said.

Supporters of HB710 argue it’s just a book relocation policy and should not impact libraries that don't have "inappropriate" content or properly move content out of sections for people under 18.

But some librarians fear that a plethora of material could fall victim to this definition of obscene content, including classical pieces of literature and other popular books, and lead to censorship.

“There's absolutely going to be the chilling effect of people being so afraid of ordering or having any sort of book that could possibly offend somebody,” said Huda Shaltry, a library director in Boise, Idaho.

“A well-curated public library has something in it to offend everyone,” she said, explaining that having a diverse collection with a wide range of perspectives and subjects available to all is vital to a public library system that serves all.

“[Book restrictions are] very directed to the LGBTQIA+ community but, ultimately, you can make the argument that the Bible’s offensive. There goes the Bible,” Hanson said. “‘50 Shades of Grey,’ OK, it's offensive. ‘Game of Thrones,’ it’s offensive. Where exactly does it stop? ‘Harry Potter,’ it's offensive because it teaches witchcraft – It really impedes on people's First Amendment rights.”

Several renowned, award-winning books have been added to banned books lists for being “offensive,” including “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee, “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison, “Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck, “The Handmaid's Tale” by Margaret Atwood and more, according to the American Library Association.

What some might find offensive, Shaltry and Hanson argue, could be helpful to someone else – be it about representation, sexuality, experience with abuse, or other topics, they say.

Shaltry, who says “being a librarian is a calling and not a career” for her, said critics have made hurtful claims and accusations about librarians for displaying content that may contain sex education or sexual content.

“I'm trying not to cry,” said Shaltry in an interview. “The words of being a pedophile and a groomer or stuff – I never thought that I would ever hear any of this stuff.”

Idaho librarians aren’t alone in their challenges – local reports show that libraries nationwide have received bomb threats, others say they’ve been fired for not removing certain books from shelves, and others have been defunded because of content and programming.

​​West Virginia libraries are also facing growing challenges.

If the state’s House Bill 4654 becomes law, employees could be charged with a felony, fined up to $25,000, and sentenced to up to five years in a correctional facility if found guilty of allowing a minor to access material that could be what the state considers to be "obscene.”

"What this bill does do is stop obscene and pornographic material, sexually explicit materials from being available to children in public taxpayer-funded spaces," said State Delegate Elliott Pritt, a Republican, in a February hearing, according to The Parkersburg News and Sentinel.

The president of the American Library Association has denounced such legislative efforts, calling it “organized censorship.”

"Falsely claiming that these works are subversive, immoral, or worse, these groups induce elected and non-elected officials to abandon constitutional principles, ignore the rule of law, and disregard individual rights to promote government censorship of library collections," ALA said in a statement objecting to such restrictions.

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Woman dead after bus crashes into pedestrians at Honolulu cruise ship terminal

Kevin Carter/Getty Images

(HONOLULU, Hi.) -- One woman has died and 10 others were injured after a shuttle bus crashed into the transportation area outside a Honolulu cruise terminal Friday, according to police.

The ship, Carnival Miracle, was on a 15-day journey, departing Long Beach, California, on April 6, according to Carnival Cruise Line. Nine of the people hit by the vehicle were cruise ship passengers.

"Sadly, one guest has died from her injuries. She was traveling with her husband, who was also injured and is expected to recover. Members of the Carnival Care Team are assisting the guests. Our thoughts are with the guests affected and their loved ones," Carnival Cruise Line said in a statement to ABC News.

A 57-year-old man was dropping off customers at pier 2 when a bystander told him that his vehicle was moving forward. He then jumped into the drivers seat, trying to stop the vehicle, but he accidentally pressed the gas pedal instead of the brakes, colliding with two concrete barriers and eleven pedestrians, according to the Honolulu Police Department.

Five pedestrians were transported to the hospital -- one of whom was later pronounced dead and four others are in good condition. Six other pedestrians refused treatment on the scene, police said.

According to police, speed does not appear to be a contributing factor in the collision and it is unknown if drugs or alcohol were contributing factors.

The investigation is ongoing.

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This automaker has an answer to electric sports car

McLaren

(NEW YORK) -- Are we entering a "performance arms race" between internal combustion engine and electric sports cars?

Some engineers and top auto executives are beginning to question the superiority of electric sports cars, which have become a contentious topic among enthusiasts.

This week, Lawrence Stroll, executive chairman of Aston Martin, told reporters at the company's U.K. headquarters that Aston is delaying its shift to electrics, focusing instead on plug-in hybrids.

"We are going to invest much more heavily in our PHEV program to be a bridge between full combustion and full electric," Stroll said, according to Road & Track.

Stroll noted the "real lack of consumer demand" for electric sports cars. "We speak to our dealers, we speak to our customers -- when you have a small network you can communicate easily. And everyone said we still want sound, we still want smell," he said.

British marque McLaren, known for its seductive -- and fear-inducing -- supercars, recently launched its 750S coupe and spider, successors to its widely successful 720S. The brand has one hybrid on sale, the Artura, which launched in 2022. Customers, however, still demand the palpable acoustics of the raucous twin-turbo 4.0-liter V8 positioned behind the driver's seat. The 750S may be the epitome of internal combustion engine (ICE) ingenuity.

Chief engineer Sandy Holford said his team truly raised the bar on the 750S, making it the lightest and most powerful series production McLaren to date. "It offers more thrills, more power and more torque, as well as improved ergonomics and engagement," Holford said.

The car's stats are also mind-bending, even without an electric motor: zero to 60 mph in 2.7 seconds; 740 horsepower; 590 lb-ft of torque.

ABC News spoke to Holford about the push for electric sports cars and their limitations. The conversation below has been edited.

Q: We're seeing more electric supercars and hypercars. Will the popularity of the 750S be short-lived as more automakers build all-electric sports cars?

A: In the performance figures arms race, there's going to come a point where physics gets in the way. And you can have all the power in the world but if you can't make the rubber stick when you pull away, it's not going to help you. It all depends on what the customers want. You can do naught to 60 mph in an insane time, but you can only do half a lap at pace because of the battery pack. There's a balance to be had -- for us that's road use and track use for the 750S. This car is a different proposition to an EV car.

For people who are thinking about the 750S, get out and try it. We can write about it, we can talk about it, but the proof is in the pudding and getting behind the wheel. It's about trying to be the ultimate engagement car for people.

Q: How long have you been working on the 750S?

A: The 750S development was around two years plus some small amount of refining time at the end, just really validating everything we tested through the development program and real-world customer situation driving.

Q: You benchmarked the 750S against its predecessor, the 720S. What was your objective with this car?

A: The 720S was revolutionary in its time -- from an aerodynamic development point of view but also from a dynamic performance. The target for us was to understand where we can push this further but also to really make this car a driver-centric vehicle. How could we focus on engagement and a sense of connection to the car -- from the way the car responds to you in terms of pedal mapping and gear shifts maps -- to the audio and sound effect of the exhaust.

We moved everything around the cabin to be really focused on where the driver is sitting. Every switch that is commonly used has been moved closer to the steering wheel.

The challenge was to stretch the top end of performance for the 750S without losing any of the comfort and everyday usability. We moved switches and controls to a place that didn't exist in the previous car. For example, putting a dedicated switch for the car's nose lift is one of the pieces of feedback we had. The stalk was harder to find in the 720S. The nose lift is now twice as fast.

All of our cars are designed to be drivers' cars; however, we continue to evaluate and improve based off customer feedback and our own benchmarking.

Q: Racing is at the heart of all McLaren cars. Is this the closest owners will get to driving an F1 car?

A: From a McLaren point of view - no. This is a road car that can be taken on the track. Our Ultimate Product Offering is usually closer to a racing vehicle – like a Senna GTR.

Q: Does the 750S mimic anything that professional drivers experience?

A: We take a lot of cues from our racing colleagues in terms of the way we develop: Our phrase is: "Fail fast, iterate and go again."

The thing about the 750S is the breadth of capability it has. The car will look after you [on a track]. As you gain confidence in it, you can gradually turn things up, you can turn things off. You can get into variable drift control.

Q: Why was it important for drivers to feel engaged at speeds under 40 mph?

A: With the improvements in technology we have, some vehicles can feel really slow at high speeds. And it's really easy to let your speed drift up in a high-performance car because it handles so well.

It was really important to me that customers could experience that real engagement and that sense of exhilaration under [lesser] speeds. You don't want to have a car that only feels fast at 150 mph on a track.

Lots of our customers will use that car on a track but not all of our customers will. I still wanted customers to feel like they have an engaging supercar.

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One dead, 13 injured after man intentionally crashes stolen semi-truck into Texas DPS office: Officials

KTRK-TV

(BRENHAM, Texas) -- One person was killed and more than a dozen injured after a man allegedly intentionally crashed a stolen semi-truck into a Texas Department of Public Safety office in Brenham on Friday, officials said.

A suspect is in custody, authorities said.

"This is a tragic day for us," Texas DPS Regional Director Gerald Brown told reporters during a press briefing Friday.

The incident occurred around 10:30 a.m. local time, when the driver rammed a stolen 18-wheeler into a Texas DPS driver's license office, Brown said.

The suspect -- identified by authorities as Clenard Parker, 42 -- had been informed by the office on Thursday that he was not eligible to renew his commercial driver's license, authorities said.

The suspect then "returned today with intent to harm," Washington County Judge Mark Keough said in a statement on social media.

Six people were transported to area hospitals, one of whom died from their injuries at the hospital, authorities said. Eight victims were treated at the scene and released.

The victims were all inside the building at the time of the crash. It is unclear how many were civilians, authorities said.

Footage from the scene showed extensive damage to the Texas DPS office.

The Texas Rangers are investigating and there is no further threat to the community, Texas DPS said.

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

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Mom accused of leaving 2 young children home alone for days to go on cruise

KTRK

(HOUSTON) -- A Texas mother has been arrested after allegedly leaving her two young children home alone for days to go on a cruise, court records show.

Lakesha Williams, 29, of Houston, has been charged with abandoning a child with intent to return, a felony, according to a criminal complaint.

Neighbors at her high-rise apartment building reportedly saw Williams leave with luggage on April 4 but "never saw her return," according to the complaint.

A woman at the apartment complex reached out to law enforcement to request a wellness check because the neighbors were worried about the children's safety, according to the complaint.

Deputies conducted a welfare check on Tuesday, five days after Williams allegedly left, and found an 8-year-old boy and a 6-year-old girl alone in the apartment, the complaint stated. The apartment was in "complete disarray," with trash and food strewn about and a "very potent smell of urine," the complaint stated.


The children reportedly told police that their mother left them on April 4 "to go on vacation on a cruise and they did not know when she would return," the complaint stated.

It did not appear that any adults had been supervising the children since then, according to the complaint. Williams allegedly used a video camera to watch and talk to the children during that time, and the boy had a phone he was using to text her, according to the complaint.

"These children were definitely left unattended for many days and put in serious harm's way," Keegan Childers, the chief prosecutor of the 209th District Court, told Houston ABC station KTRK.

A Child Protective Services agent responded to the scene to ensure the children were in good health and they were released into the custody of their aunt, according to the complaint.


Deputies tried contacting Williams to have her respond to the scene "but she was not cooperating and was switching up her story on her whereabouts," the complaint stated.


Williams was arrested on Thursday and is scheduled to appear in court on Monday, online court records show. The records do not list any attorney information for her.

ABC News was unable to reach the aunt for comment. She declined to comment to KTRK.

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How 2 teenagers plotted their best friend's murder

Getty Images - STOCK

(MORGANTOWN, W.Va.) -- When 16-year-old Skylar Neese went missing from her West Virginia home after midnight on July 6, 2012, two of her best friends took to social media to express their fears and hopes that Skylar could be alive.

But months later, investigators would find out that Rachel Shoaf and Shelia Eddy were hiding a sinister, deadly plot behind their posts and were ultimately responsible for Neese's death.

"We asked Rachel, 'Why did you guys kill Skylar?' And her only answer to that was, 'We just didn't like her,'" State Police Cpl. Ronnie Gaskins told "20/20."

An all-new "20/20" episode airing Friday, April 12, at 9 p.m. and streaming on Hulu the next day explores the case with fresh insight from investigators, a group of journalists who profiled the murder in a new podcast "Three," and others.


The three high school sophomores, who lived near Morgantown, West Virginia, used to be inseparable, according to Neese's parents.


Neese and the two other girls had their ups and downs; around the time of Neese's disappearance, the three had been feuding, according to investigators.

In the days leading up to her death, Neese's Twitter account showed that something had gone awry.

On July 4, 2012, two days before she was murdered, Neese tweeted, "It really doesn't take much to p--- me off," and, "Sick of being at f------ home. Thanks 'friends,' love hanging out with you all too."

The day before she was killed, Neese tweeted, "you doing s--- like that is why I can NEVER completely trust you."

After Neese went missing, Eddy told Neese's mother that she, Neese and Shoaf had been driving around town that night getting high before Neese went missing. Eddy claimed she and Shoaf had dropped Neese off at the end of the road from her apartment building so that Neese could sneak back in.


The two girls told investigators they picked up Neese at 11 p.m. the night she went missing.

Eddy posted regularly on Twitter about her thoughts and day-to-day activities as authorities searched for her "missing" friend. Eddy also posted about her friendship with Shoaf.

But as the investigation into Neese's disappearance continued, with the FBI ultimately getting involved, suspicion mounted that the girls were harboring a secret.

Upon a review of surveillance video that showed Neese being picked up by a car at 12:30 a.m. the night of her disappearance, law enforcement realized that the victim's two friends lied in their original statements to police.

Video footage from a nearby convenience store as well as cell phone records confirmed holes in the two friends' story. Investigators said they knew they had lied, but had no idea what they were hiding or why.


Suspicions mounted and the community was divided in their support of Shoaf and Eddy's claims.

A few months after Neese's disappearance, Shoaf suffered a nervous breakdown following weeks of probing by investigators. On Jan. 3, 2013, she confessed to investigators that she and Eddy had stabbed Neese to death.


Judge Perri Jo DeChristopher, who helped investigate the case when she was an assistant prosecutor, told "20/20" that her office was skeptical about Shoaf's confession.

"If one co-conspirator gives a statement against another co-conspirator, you really have to use it as a starting point to corroborate the facts," she said.

However, Shoaf gave information that led authorities to Neese's remains, which were found in a wooded area over the Pennsylvania state line, about 20 miles from Star City, West Virginia.


During her January 2013 confession, Shoaf had told authorities how she says she and Eddy had planned Neese's murder.

The plan was to pick up Neese from her house at night and drive to a remote area to smoke marijuana. Once they were in the woods, Shoaf said the plan was to count to three, then stab Neese to death. Authorities say that Neese was found with over 50 stab wounds.

Attempts were made by investigators to get Eddy to incriminate herself, including having Shoaf wear a wire, but they were unsuccessful.

Eventually, investigators conducted a search warrant of Eddy's house and confiscated her computer, phone, and tablet, knives from the kitchen and a car from the residence -- a Toyota Camry.

An FBI analysis of the car found Neese's blood DNA in the trunk of the vehicle. On May 1, 2013, Eddy was arrested in a restaurant parking lot. Both teens were charged with murder as adults.

Eddy pleaded guilty to first-degree murder for her role in the killing.

On Jan. 24, 2014, roughly 18 months after Neese's death, she was sentenced to life in prison.

Shoaf pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, a lesser charge based on her cooperation with authorities, and was sentenced to 30 years in prison the following month.

Only Shoaf apologized to Neese's parents during her plea deal.

"[Eddy]'s not sorry," David Neese told "20/20" in a previous interview. "You don't apologize for murdering somebody in cold blood because she meant to do it."

Shoaf was denied parole last year.

Neese's family, friends and others from the town said they are still numb from the wound left by her murder.

"Nobody wins. Skyler isn't around, the two girls are in jail, the two girls' parents are living through this, and Morgantown still is ripped apart because of this situation," Tom Bloom, a former guidance counselor at the girls' high school, told "20/20."

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Major storm brings flash flooding, damaging winds to East Coast

ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Heavy rain, thunderstorms and gusty winds are moving through the Northeast on Friday as a major storm system lifts into Canada.

The storm system previously brought 11 confirmed tornadoes across six states -- Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida and North Carolina. The worst of the rain is over for the Interstate 95 corridor with just showers on and off into the afternoon.

Behind this storm, a wind advisory has been issued from Maine to Georgia, with gusts near 50 mph for some areas Friday. There are flood and wind alerts for the eastern U.S. from the Great Lakes to the Carolinas and up to Maine.

Gusty winds are expected Friday afternoon and some higher elevations in New England could see gusts up to 55 mph. Gusty winds will last into Saturday.   An EF-1 tornado with winds up to 100 mph caused damage Thursday near St. Augustine, Florida.

In addition to tornadoes, there have been 77 damaging storm reports from Florida to West Virginia in the last 24 hours. Wind gusts were reported to be 58 to 68 mph in North Carolina and Virginia.

A flash flood emergency was issued Thursday evening just west of Pittsburgh, where nearly 4 inches of rain fell in a matter of hours. Numerous water rescues were reported in Pittsburgh metro area Thursday night.

Officially, Pittsburgh, is having the wettest start to any month on record. In the last 11 days, the city has seen more than 7 inches of rain.

In Charleston, South Carolina, dozens of roads closed downtown due to flooding on Thursday. The city had record daily rainfall of 3.23 inches.

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Foreign adversaries could exploit Baltimore Key Bridge collapse: Intelligence report

Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

(BALTIMORE) -- The bridge collapse has rerouted $80 million in maritime cargo and trucking and the document said any disruptions at other ports "could have an outsized impact on the flow of goods that is not easily mitigated."

Baltimore's Key Bridge, a vital transit and shipping route, collapsed last month after being hit by a cargo ship. Following the disaster, which killed six construction workers, the Port of Baltimore suspended operations, resulting in thousands of job losses.

"Additional supply chain disruptions will be more difficult to overcome since the standard procedure of partially rerouting ad hoc cargo through the Port of Baltimore is no longer feasible," the document said.

So far, the rerouting of cargo has not significantly impacted the ability of U.S. Customs and Border Protection to detect and interdict potentially illicit or high-risk materials, the document said. Any enforcement actions initiated prior to the bridge collapse will be handled at U.S. ports of entry that receive the redirected shipments.

If there are logistical setbacks as a result of the bridge collapse, the intelligence analysts warned U.S. adversaries could exploit them.

"We have not seen indications that adversaries are actively exploiting the incident or related disruptions, but foreign adversaries have used an opportunistic approach to advancing a broad range of security, economic, and other strategic interests following similar US disasters," the report said.

The Port of Baltimore ranks as the ninth largest port in the United States by trading volume. Last year, the port managed to handle 52.3 tons of foreign cargo.

President Joe Biden has pledged to fully support Baltimore's rebuilding efforts. He said last week its his "intention that the federal government will pay for the entire cost of reconstruction of that bridge."

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Baltimore bridge collapse has dockworkers in fear for their future

In an aerial view, cargo ship Dali is seen after running into and collapsing the Francis Scott Key Bridge, Mar. 26, 2024 in Baltimore. -- Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

(BALTIMORE) -- Baltimore's Key Bridge, a vital transit and shipping route, collapsed last month after being hit by a cargo ship. The incident has left members of the community fearing for their future.

Following the deadly bridge collapse, the Port of Baltimore suspended operations, resulting in 8,000 job losses. Many dockworkers have not been paid for weeks and are waiting for cargo ships to resume operations so they can start working again.

Some are still working at nearby smaller ports or on the little cargo that remains in Baltimore from before the bridge collapsed. But that's nothing in comparison to the flurry of activity this port once was.

The urgency of the situation is reflected in crews working tirelessly to remove the debris and restore Baltimore's port. However, this is a perilous task that demands immense effort. Commander Bill McKinstry from the U.S. Coast Guard informed ABC News that the divers are grappling with poor visibility due to the water conditions, with only about a foot of visibility.

The enormity of the task ahead for the U.S. Coast Guard and other teams is evident when you consider that the Francis Scott Key Bridge, which was once a crucial transportation link, now lies in the Baltimore Harbor as a massive block of steel and concrete. As a result, most of the harbor is inaccessible to the outside world.

The Army Corps of Engineers is setting an ambitious goal of clearing a channel for smaller cargo ships by late April and reopening the entire port by the end of May.

The port's absence has plunged the dockworkers, who have been the backbone of their families for years, into a state of uncertainty. They are grappling with the question of how long they can hold on before seeking alternative employment.

Richard Krueger, president of Local 953, said this situation is a crisis and it's the fear of the unknown.

"We don't know how long they are going to be off," Krueger said. How long is it going to take them to open the channel? How long do they have to get through this because they have to pay the bills? And nobody knows. And the truth is we don't know, we don't know, we don't know when the channel is going to be open."

The crisis affects not only dockworkers but also residents and workers on the waterfront, leaving them uncertain about meeting basic needs such as food, mortgage and rent payments, car payments and tuition fees. Krueger says hundreds of families are affected.

The Port of Baltimore ranks as the ninth largest port in the United States by trading volume. Last year, the port managed to handle 52.3 tons of foreign cargo, which was worth around $80 billion. This feat made it the ninth-busiest port in the country for handling such goods.

U.S. Maryland Gov. Wes Moore stated last month that the port is the top-performing port in the U.S. for handling heavy farm and construction machinery, imported sugar and gypsum.

"The Port of Baltimore is a key component in Maryland's transportation network," Maryland Department of Transportation Secretary Paul Wiedefeld said in a statement last month.

One of the biggest imports at the port are new cars, but no new shipments have been coming in, leaving Nick Olszewski, a port employee, in limbo. Olszewski's job is to check the batteries in new cars.

He is worried he might lose his job if the channel doesn't clear soon. Olszewski also forecasts that shipping rates will increase for various items and consumers will suffer.

"Some people work week to week," Olszewski said. They're going to really be hurting."

Olszewski works at the port, but plenty of small businesses surrounding the area will suffer because their loyal customers will not show up anymore. One of the small businesses in the area is Herman's Bakery in Dundalk, Maryland, a neighborhood in what was once the shadow of the Key Bridge.

Larry Desantis, the head baker, works at the bakery and claims to have been one of the last individuals to cross the Key Bridge before it collapsed.

"It makes me think, you know, I'm really lucky," Desantis said. "One minute later and I wouldn't be here."

The city of Baltimore is in a state of mourning after the loss of a bridge that played a crucial role in the daily lives of its residents. As the reality of having to navigate the city without this vital infrastructure starts to set in, the community is grappling with the challenges that lie ahead.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


O.J. Simpson, former football star acquitted of murder, dies at 76

Richard Stagg/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- (NEW YORK) -- O.J. Simpson, the former football great who was accused of and ultimately acquitted of the brutal 1994 slayings of his ex-wife and her friend, has died, according to his family. He was 76.

"On April 10th, our father, Orenthal James Simpson, succumbed to his battle with cancer. He was surrounded by his children and grandchildren. During this time of transition, his family asks that you please respect their wishes for privacy and grace," a statement from his family said.

 


In May 2023, Simpson posted a video on X, then known as Twitter, revealing that he had recently "caught cancer" and "had to do the whole chemo thing." He added, "It looks like I beat it." Simpson didn't specify the nature of the cancer.

Then in February 2024, a Las Vegas television station reported that Simpson, then 76, was again undergoing treatment for an unspecified cancer. Simpson himself posted a video on X that day, denying rumors that he was in hospice care, though he did not otherwise confirm or deny reports that he was ill. Two days later in another video update on X, Simpson thanked those people he said had reached out to him, adding "My health is good. I mean, obviously I'm dealing with some issues but I think I'm just about over it."

Simpson, nicknamed "The Juice," broke records as a college and professional football player, and extended his celebrity and fortune as a sportscaster, a movie and television actor, and as a corporate spokesman, most notably for Hertz rental cars.

All that changed on June 12, 1994, when Simpson's ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ron Goldman, were brutally stabbed to death outside of the former's home in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Brentwood. Within days, police announced their intention to arrest the former football star for the murders.

Five days after the killings, 95 million Americans watched as Simpson's white Ford Bronco – with longtime friend Al Cowlings at the wheel and Simpson in the back seat with a handgun, threatening to kill himself – led police on a 60-mile, low-speed televised chase through Los Angeles that lasted some two hours.

Simpson ultimately surrendered to police and stood trial for the murders. In October 1995, after 11 months from jury selection to verdict, Simpson was acquitted in a trial that was televised daily and became an international sensation.

Twelve years later, Simpson was arrested in September 2007 after he led a group of men into a Las Vegas hotel and casino to steal, at gunpoint, what he claims was his own sports memorabilia. Simpson was charged with a number of felony counts, including kidnapping and armed robbery. The following year, he was found guilty and sentenced to up to 33 years in prison. Simpson was released on parole on Oct. 1, 2017.

O.J. Simpson is survived by four children: Arnelle and Jason, from his first marriage, and Sydney and Justin, from his marriage to Nicole Brown Simpson.

Kato Kaelin, a houseguest of Simpson's at the time of the murder who became a key witness during the trial, expressed his condolences Thursday to Simpson's children and his "love and compassion" to the families of Brown Simpson and Goldman.

"Nicole was a beacon of light that burned bright. May we never forget her," he said in a video statement posted on X.

A football hero

Simpson was born on July 9, 1947, and raised in Potrero Hill, a low-income neighborhood near San Francisco. His mother, Eunice, worked as an orderly at a psychiatric ward, and his father, Jimmy Lee, worked as a cook and custodian in a private club. When Simpson was just a toddler, his father left the family, leaving Simpson's mother to raise and support their four children on her own.

Despite being bow-legged and pigeon-toed from a bout with rickets in infancy, according to ESPN, Simpson developed a strong interest in sports as a child. In the spring of 1967, he enrolled at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, and that same year he married his high school sweetheart, Marguerite Whitley, with whom he eventually had three children.

Playing for USC as a running back, Simpson soon became college football's leading rusher. By the time he left the school, he had set 13 college football records and had won the 1968 Heisman Trophy.

The charismatic young star athlete's television career took off like a rocket. On the night he won the Heisman, Simpson signed a television contract with ABC Sports. The following year, Simpson was the first pick in the 1969 draft, signing with the Buffalo Bills for a then-record $650,000, five-year contract. By 1973, Simpson had scored an NFL-record 23 touchdowns in a season. He also set the most rushing yards in a single game, with 250, and broke the record for the most rushing yards in a season, with 2,003.

Simpson's football prowess made him a star off the field as well. In 1975, Hertz signed Simpson as the first Black man hired for a major national corporate advertising campaign, with soon-familiar commercials of him, smiling and clad in business suit, running through airports and leaping over obstacles to get to his rental car. The success of the ad campaign led other corporations to sign endorsement contracts with Simpson, increasing both his wealth and name recognition.

The Buffalo Bills traded Simpson to the San Francisco 49ers prior to the 1978 season, prompting him to move with his family to the West Coast, though after two seasons with the team, physical problems prompted Simpson to retire from pro football as the highest-paid player in the NFL.

Simpson had acted during his pro football years, notably appearing in the TV miniseries "Roots," as well as the films "The Towering Inferno," "Capricorn One" and others. Around the same time he retired from the NFL, he created his own production company and dove into the entertainment business full time. He continued acting, including as a regular in the "Naked Gun" film comedy series, and also served as a TV football commentator.

Meeting Nicole Brown

While still married to Marguerite, Simpson met Nicole Brown, then 18, while she worked as a nightclub waitress in Beverly Hills in 1977. It was the same year Simpson and Marguerite celebrated the arrival of their daughter, Aaren, and moved into a Tudor-style mansion in the Brentwood neighborhood of LA. Two years later, tragedy struck when Aaren died in the swimming pool at the family home. Around that same time, Simpson and Marguerite finalized their divorce, and Nicole Brown moved in.

Simpson and Brown were wed in 1985, a union that produced two children. However, the marriage was marred by accusations of Simpson's physical abuse of his wife. Simpson was arrested in 1989 for beating her as he reportedly threatened to kill her. He pleaded no contest to the charges and was sentenced to probation, counseling and community service. Though the couple attempted to reconcile, Nicole Brown Simpson filed for divorce, which was finalized in 1992.

'Trial of the Century'

On the night of June 12, 1994, after Brown Simpson and her family dined at one of their favorite Los Angeles restaurants, Mezzaluna, she returned to her condominium on Bundy Drive in LA's Brentwood neighborhood, according to court records. Later that night, Ron Goldman, 25, a waiter at Mezzaluna, drove from the restaurant to Brown Simpson's home to return eyeglasses her mother had left at the restaurant that night.

Around midnight, Brown Simpson and Goldman's bodies were found stabbed to death outside of her home.

Simpson was in Los Angeles that evening, according to court records, but took a late flight that night to Chicago. When he returned to Los Angeles the next day, he was interviewed by police but was not immediately arrested.

Five days after the murders, on June 17, 1994, prosecutors ordered Simpson to surrender to be charged with Brown Simpson and Goldman's deaths. He instead fled in the Ford Bronco with Cowlings, leading police on a slow-speed chase lasting some two hours that brought Southern California freeways to a standstill and was televised live, watched by an estimated 95 million Americans.

News helicopters hovered overhead, documenting the chase, and Angelinos raced from their homes and gathered along area highways and on overpasses to watch the extraordinary drama unfold in real time. Simpson eventually surrendered and was taken into custody. During his arraignment, he pleaded "Absolutely, positively, 100 percent not guilty" to all charges.

Simpson's 1995 televised trial, dubbed the "trial of the century," was an international sensation, with the private lives of the participants – including witnesses, attorneys and the presiding judge – as much news as the trial itself, which sparked controversy and racial tensions from the time the jury was empaneled in November 1994, to the October 1995 reading of the verdict.

Defense attorneys claimed Simpson had been wrongly accused of the murders, but prosecutors argued that Simpson was a controlling husband who abused Brown Simpson. Prosecutors also presented blood from the crime scene found in Simpson's car and home, and the fact that he went unaccounted for more than an hour on the night of the murders.

One of the most memorable moments of the trial came when prosecutors asked Simpson to try on a pair of black leather gloves in front of the jury and an international television audience. One glove had been discovered at the crime scene and the second had been found at Simpson's home. The gloves didn't appear to fit properly, which the prosecution later attributed to shrinkage from their original size caused by their having been soaked in blood. Regardless, when Simpson struggled to don the gloves, defense attorney Johnnie Cochran issued the trial's most memorable declaration during his closing argument: "If it doesn't fit, you must acquit."

An unprecedented 150 million people watched on Oct. 3, 1995, as the verdict was read and Simpson was acquitted of the murders. Following his acquittal, Simpson publicly vowed to spend the rest of his life searching for what he called the "real" killer or killers.

Despite the acquittal, Simpson soon found himself shunned in many of his previous social circles. His longtime agents dropped him and many corporations no longer wanted his endorsement. Simpson's credibility and earning power disintegrated virtually overnight. By 2000, Simpson had moved from Los Angeles to Miami, Florida.

Though he was acquitted of criminal charges, the families of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman filed a civil suit against Simpson – the former for battery, and the latter for battery and wrongful death. Unlike the criminal trial, no cameras were allowed in court during the civil trial, which lasted just over three months and ended in February 1997 with the jury unanimously finding Simpson liable as alleged.

Simpson was ordered to pay a total of $21 million to the Goldman family and $12.5 million to the Brown family, for a total of $33.5 million in compensatory and punitive damages. Despite years of efforts, the families were only able to collect from Simpson a fraction of the damages the jury awarded.

In 2006, a ghostwritten book titled "If I Did It," described by the publisher as a "hypothetical" confession and said to be based on interviews with Simpson, was scheduled to be published in conjunction with a TV special that would also feature Simpson. The special was cancelled following widespread criticism, and the family of Ron Goldman – still pursuing the unpaid monetary damages awarded them in Simpson's civil trial – was awarded the rights to the book, which they retitled and published as "If I Did It: Confessions of the Killer."

Kim and Fred Goldman released a statement on Thursday, reading: "The news of Ron’s killer passing away is a mixed bag of complicated emotions and reminds us that the journey through grief is not linear. For three decades we tirelessly pursued justice for Ron and Nicole, and despite a civil judgment and his confession in If I Did It, the hope for true accountability has ended."

It continued: "We will continue to advocate for the rights of all victims and survivors, ensuring our voices are heard both within and beyond the courtroom. And despite his death, the mission continues; there's always more to be done. Thank you for keeping our family, and most importantly Ron, in your hearts for the last 30 years."

Conviction for robbery and kidnapping

The night of Sept. 13, 2007, Simpson led a group of men – one of whom was armed with a handgun – into a Las Vegas hotel room to recover what Simpson claimed was sports memorabilia that had been stolen from him. He was arrested three days later and charged with 12 felony counts, including kidnapping and armed robbery. After a trial that lasted less than a month, Simpson was found guilty of all charges on Oct. 3, 2008 – 13 years to the day after he was acquitted in his Los Angeles double murder trial.

"Earlier in this case, at a bail hearing, I ... said to Mr. Simpson [that] I didn't know if he was arrogant or ignorant or both," Clark County District Court Judge Jackie Glass said during sentencing the following December. "During the trial and through this proceeding, I got this answer – and it was both."

Simpson was sentenced to up to 33 years in prison.

A free man

In July 2017, Simpson was granted parole. Simpson sought to reassure the parole board that he would be successful in meeting the conditions of his parole.

"I'm not a guy who lived a criminal life," he said. "I was always a good guy, but could have been a better Christian, and my commitment to change is to be a better Christian."

"I had some problems with fidelity in my life, but I've always been a guy that pretty much got along with everybody," Simpson added.

On Oct. 1, 2017, 70-year-old Simpson walked out of Nevada's Lovelock Correctional Institute as a free man. He moved from Miami to Las Vegas and commenced a lifestyle focused on golf, friends and regular posts to social media.

In the 1994 letter Simpson's lawyers read to the nation while the former football star fled police during the Bronco chase, Simpson expressed satisfaction with the life he'd lived until that point.

"I've had a good life. I'm proud of how I lived. My mama taught me to do unto others. I treated people the way I wanted to be treated," Simpson wrote, according to his attorneys.

"Don't feel sorry for me," the letter went on. "I've had a great life, great friends. Please think of the real O.J. and not this lost person. ... Thanks for making my life special. I hope I helped yours."

Sheila Marikar and Christopher Watson also contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Buttigieg visits predominantly Black Alabama community following ABC News investigation about neighborhood flooding

ABC News

(SHILOH, Ala.) -- An unlikely visitor made his way through rural Alabama last Wednesday to visit the community of Shiloh, a place usually far from the public eye. U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and two of his top officials came to Shiloh at the request of local landowners who say they've experienced frequent flooding ever since the state widened a highway alongside their homes.

Many of the Black families that make up the Shiloh community have owned their land since the end of slavery. Now, as they watch their properties flood, they tell ABC News they fear the generational wealth they’ve built over 150 years will be destroyed by the water.

Pastor Timothy Williams, whose family has lived in Shiloh for generations, has been speaking out about the flooding and damage to his home since 2017, during the highway construction. But until last week, Williams said he did not feel heard by those in power.

“It feels promising just to be able to reach the top of the DOT and for them to listen,” Williams told ABC News on the eve of the visit. “I believe help is on the way.”

Buttigieg's visit followed an ABC News investigation last October and a meeting between Shiloh residents and officials in Washington last month. It came amid a civil rights investigation, too – a probe by the Federal Highway Administration into whether the Alabama Department of Transportation discriminated against the predominantly Black Shiloh community.

ALDOT denies any discrimination in the highway widening or its aftermath. The agency maintains that the flooding in Shiloh was not caused by the project and says it has been working with the FHWA "to provide facts about the Highway 84 widening project and the concerns expressed by residents of the Shiloh Community."

However, the ABC News investigation uncovered electronic diaries that showed ALDOT contractors were aware of the flooding in Shiloh and residents’ complaints as they were expanding the highway.

Last week, the feds got to see the situation on the ground and evaluate it for themselves.

Buttigieg walked on the eroded muddy ground that fills with water when it rains. He saw the cracks in the brick exterior of Williams’ house, which the property’s insurer determined were caused by frequent flooding. He heard from residents who said it took longer for first responders to help them during emergencies because the flooding had prevented firetrucks and ambulances from reaching their homes.

“There’s no way I’m going to forget what I just heard,” Buttigieg said.

‘There’s no more lynchings and hangings. It’s coming after your finances.’

Timothy Williams’ daughter Melissa Williams said she does not feel safe in her family’s home when it rains.

“You’re going to bed, you don’t know if you’re going to wake up the next morning,” she told ABC News.

The water isn’t the only force the Williams family says threatens their life in Shiloh. Since the original ABC News investigation aired in October, Timothy Williams said he’s lost customers at his two businesses, a cleaning service and a restaurant.

“In Alabama, there's no more lynchings and hangings,” Timothy Williams said, but instead, “they come after your money, your finances, and try to drain it.”

Still, Timothy Williams said, he does not regret speaking up about Shiloh’s plight.

“They want us to shut up,” he said. “When they say shut up, you scream.”

But the state has seemed to listen to some voices more than others, residents said.

When Timothy Williams brought his concerns to ALDOT, he felt the agency tried to silence him: Instead of addressing the flooding, the state signed settlement agreements with Timothy Williams and some of his neighbors, paying them each no more than $5,000 to give up their rights to ever sue for flood damages.

Down the road from Shiloh, a day care center saw unprecedented flooding after the highway widening and had to close. The owners – a white mother-daughter duo – were devastated to lose their family business. In their case, ALDOT bought a portion of their land for $165,000, also preventing them from bringing future claims against the state.

Day care owner Ronda Robinson said she feels for the Shiloh families, “’cause the fight was hard.”

Her mother Peggy Carpenter said the $5,000 some Shiloh residents received was like a drop in the bucket.

“You get tired of fighting,” she added.

Robinson and Carpenter said while they don’t know whether the difference between the deal they got and what was offered to Shiloh homeowners had to do with race, they “don’t put it past” the state.

After years of Shiloh residents advocating for additional help, the nation’s top infrastructure official heard their call.

“He listened to the people,” Timothy Williams said of Buttigieg. “He heard us out and he got involved.”

Buttigieg’s visit came during one of his department’s busiest weeks, following the bridge collapse in Baltimore and disruptions to port operations.

Yet here he was, in a tiny community far from any major population center and unknown to most Americans.

“The experiences of a homeowner here in this Shiloh community matter just as much as anybody else in the wealthiest ZIP code in America,” Buttigieg said. “It is one thing to be on the radar, it is another to actually be seen.”

Journey to Justice Tour

Timothy Williams led the group of officials and residents from house to house, passing a loudspeaker to each Shiloh resident and giving them a chance to share their experiences with the flooding – and this time, to be heard.

Timothy Williams led the crowd across the highway to see the drainage system, which funnels water directly onto Shiloh properties, and to the ditches ALDOT contractors dug to hold the runoff, which frequently overflow into the Williams’ front yard.

On their trek around the neighborhood, the officials saw a water moccasin – one of the snakes and frogs that have become a frequent sight in Shiloh – and a gas pipeline that was moved next to the Williams’ home as part of the highway project.

Together, the community’s experiences formed a narrative of fear, loss and disproportionate burden.

Another prominent member of the tour was Dr. Robert Bullard, an area native and Texas Southern University professor who helped coin the term “environmental justice” and has written 18 books on the topic. He helped bring Shiloh to the national stage after joining forces with Timothy Williams last year. Bullard called the situation “a textbook case” of environmental racism.

“They survived slavery. They survived Jim Crow segregation,” Bullard said of the Shiloh community. “But now they’re fighting a highway, an infrastructure, that is somehow stealing their wealth, their inheritance. That’s not right.”

After the tour, Buttigieg met several Shiloh residents and spoke with them individually. He assured them he would bring their concerns back to Washington.

Addressing the crowd gathered near the Williams’ home, Buttigieg said, “[I] want you to know that not only are you seen, but this is being worked at the highest levels of our department.”

He told the Shiloh residents that none of them are responsible for the flooding and its impacts, and that nobody should have to live with what they are going through right now.

In an exclusive interview following his address, Buttigieg told ABC News Senior National Correspondent Steve Osunsami that his department has “a significant and substantial concern about the impact of the highway on this community and about what members of this community are going through.” He said that concern is why there is an ongoing investigation and “active engagement with the Alabama DOT.”

The road ahead

Although it received a rare visit from top brass, Shiloh is not the only community that is the focus of a FHWA civil rights investigation. The agency’s Office of Civil Rights aims to complete these investigations in 180 days. But the people of Shiloh have been waiting more than three times that long – nearly 600 days without an answer to their claims of discrimination or a solution to their flooding.

In a statement to ABC News, an ALDOT spokesperson wrote that the agency has partnered with an engineering firm to “develop plans for further controlling stormwater runoff from ALDOT’s right of way.”

But in a statement to ABC affiliate WDHN, ALDOT denied any unfair treatment and asserted the agency’s belief that Shiloh property owners had been “adequately compensated for any inconvenience caused by ALDOT’s Highway 84 project.”

ALDOT’s statement to WDHN presented two options the agency plans to offer Shiloh residents: selling their properties to ALDOT or having the agency implement a project to retain additional water.

“The choice will be theirs,” the statement read.

To Timothy Williams, this isn’t a choice at all: To sell his property would be to end a multigenerational legacy of community and wealth building. And he says ALDOT’s previous attempts to retain the runoff have not solved the flooding.

Instead, Timothy Williams wants money to rebuild his family home with better protection from flooding, including a higher foundation on drier ground. He wants to create a house as resilient as his community.

“We’re here for the long haul,” Timothy Williams said. “Whatever it takes, I’m down for it, but we’re not going nowhere.”

For the Shiloh community, some said this struggle is about much more than compensation for an inconvenience.

“When people are fighting a road and the flooding, they're not just fighting that elevated highway,” Bullard said. “They're fighting for their inheritance, for their children and their grandchildren and future generations, so that's why this is an important fight.”

Buttigieg hopes to turn that fight into federal action.

“I want to make sure we take that back and engage our sister agencies to get results,” he said. “People who live here need to be taken care of.”

The Williams family saw last week’s visit as a step in the right direction.

“It still doesn’t fix what we’re going through,” Melissa Williams said, “but it does make it a tad bit better.”

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


School bus aide arrested after allegedly abusing children with severe autism

Rathod | Mohamedbhai LLC

(ENGLEWOOD, Colo.) -- A school bus aide has been arrested by police in Englewood, Colorado, for allegedly physically abusing three children with severe autism, at least one instance of which was allegedly caught on video, according to a law firm representing the families.

The three students endured "extreme physical and mental abuse" over the course of six months while on a Littleton Public Schools special needs bus, the Rathod Mohamedbhai law firm said in a press release Wednesday. All three children are non-verbal, and could therefore not report the abuse, the law firm said.

Kiarra Jones, 29, faces felony assault charges for crimes against at-risk children, according to police.

"It was determined that more than one non-verbal autistic student was assaulted by the suspect on a moving school bus while en route to school," the Englewood Police Department said in release Tuesday. "It was also determined that the suspect was the victims’ assigned paraprofessional employed by Littleton Public School District at the time of the incident."

Jones allegedly subjected the children to "unfathomable abuse," the law firm said.

Starting in September 2023, the parents said they "saw significant shifts in their child’s behavior and noticed physical injuries on their child, including unexplained scratches, bruises, a lost tooth, a broken toe, a black eye, and other deep bruises on their bodies and feet," the law firm's press release stated.

The parents contacted the school with their concerns in January. The school then reached out to the school district. But according to Ciara Anderson, an attorney with the film, the school district "utterly failed" to take action.

"They did a sham investigation in which they looked at one ride," Anderson said in a press conference Tuesday. "They did no other investigation, they asked no other questions and they provided no other monitoring. Because of these horrific failures by the school district, the bus aide was emboldened to continue her abuse — and she did."

The school district has not responded to ABC News' request for comment.

Jones was arrested April 4 after a video recorded in March, which was released by the law firm on Tuesday, allegedly showed her "repeatedly hitting, punching, and stomping on a fragile 10-year-old boy."

She was arraigned on the morning of April 5 and bonded out on a $5,000 bond, police said. A public defender is representing Jones, according to the district attorney.

Jones and her attorney have not responded to ABC News' request for comment.

She was fired the same day she was arrested, Todd Lambert, the district's superintendent, said in a letter to the school community Friday. Jones was hired in August 2023 "after satisfactory reference checks and after passing a thorough background check," and "had very limited access to students during her employment," he added.

"This kind of behavior cannot be and is not tolerated," Lambert wrote. "As parents, you trust us with the well-being of your children and you should never have to worry about them being harmed when they are in our care."

In the press conference, the parents of the boy seen in the video spoke of their horror at learning how their son had been treated.

"How could someone that I trusted, someone that I was so friendly with, do this to my little boy?" the mother said.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


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