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26-year-old Sacramento police officer shot dead 'gave her young life'

Sacramento Police Department(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) -- The Sacramento Police Department is mourning the loss of a 26-year-old officer who was shot dead while responding to a call Wednesday night.

Tara Christa O'Sullivan graduated from the police academy in December and was hired in January.

"I'm sad to share with you tonight that we lost one of own," acting Police Chief Dave Peletta said at a press conference early Thursday morning. "She gave her young life protecting our community."

O'Sullivan was partnered with a training officer and accompanied by others from the department when she responded to a domestic dispute Wednesday, police said.

At about 5:41 p.m. officers responded to standby at the home of the dispute while a woman gathered some of her belongings, police said, and at approximately 6:10 p.m., O'Sullivan was shot by a "rifle type" gun. The suspect then continued to fire.

Multiple officers fired back in the intense firefight, police said. Officers also evacuated residents in the area.

About 50 minutes after O'Sullivan was shot, officers rushed in with an armed car to rescue her and take her to a hospital, according to police.

The standoff lasted hours, and the suspected shooter surrendered just before 2 a.m. Thursday. The suspect, 45-year-old Adel Sambrano Ramos, was booked on charges relating to the shooting Thursday morning, said police.

The Sacramento Police Department tweeted: "We are devastated. There are no words to convey the depth of the sadness we feel, or how heartbroken we are for the family of our young, brave officer. The men & women of our police department will continue to do our jobs to protect our community, & we will draw strength from the courage of Tara."

O'Sullivan was a member of Sacramento State's Law Enforcement Candidate Scholars' Program, which "allows young men and women to go directly into the academy to serve," Sacramento State President Robert Nelsen said.

"We lost a hero. We lost a leader," Nelsen said at a news conference on Thursday. "We will never forget her... and we will aspire to be as good as she is."

"We all hurt today," he said, overcome with emotion.

"To Tara's parents and family, and Tara's fellow officers, I am so sorry," Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg said in a statement released by the police department. "As Mayor of the city she swore to protect, our city is heartbroken and we are here for you every step of the way."

It had been 20 years since the department lost an officer in the line of duty. She's the 23rd officer killed this year from gunfire.

In January, 22-year-old Natalie Corona of the Davis Police Department was killed in an "ambush"-style attack responding to an accident. After sustaining multiple gunshot wounds at the scene, she died at a trauma center in Sacramento.

"She was just an absolute star in the department and someone that pretty much every department member looked to as a close friend, a sister," Davis Police Chief Darren Pytel said at the time.

Sacramento City Council Rep. Angelique Ashby said there were seven women in O'Sullivan's graduating class and that more women may get shot as more risk their lives by joining the force.

O'Sullivan's death "had nothing to do with her being a woman," Ashby said. "It had to do with her being a hero."

During the standoff in which O'Sullivan was killed, five officers fired their duty weapons, said police. They have been placed on paid administrative leave, police said.

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Supreme Court allows war cross memorial to stand as symbol of 'sacrifice'

Alex/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- The Supreme Court on Thursday said a 40-foot, 16-ton Latin cross war memorial in Bladensburg, Maryland, can stand, upholding the constitutionality of a religious symbol on public land, but stopping short of creating a clear new standard for evaluating similar displays nationwide.

"Although the cross has long been a preeminent Christian symbol, its use in the Bladensburg memorial has a special significance," Justice Samuel Alito wrote in an opinion for the majority.

"Its removal or radical alteration at this date would be seen by many not as a neutral act but as the manifestation of a 'hostility toward religion that has no place in our Establishment Clause traditions,’” Alito said.

The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment says that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion" but the exact meaning and intent of the phrase remain widely debated.

The decision was 7-2. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor dissented.

The cross, erected in 1925 as a memorial to 49 fallen World War I soldiers, was first built on private property using private funds but decades later was incorporated into state parkland maintained with taxpayer dollars.

Three local residents filed suit in federal court in 2014 seeking to have the monument removed from public property or modified into a non-religious memorial.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg took the rare step of reading her dissent from the bench, a sign of strong opposition to the ruling. Her opinion also included an appendix with photographs of non-religious war memorials that could have been alternatives.

"The Constitution demands governmental neutrality among religious faiths, and between religion and nonreligion,” Ginsburg said from the bench. “Today the Court erodes that principle, diminishing precedent serving to preserve it.”

Ginsburg, who a court spokeswoman said has been suffering a cold and laryngitis, sounded much better than she did on Monday, when her voice was raspy and strained.

The case had raised the prospect that hundreds of historic war memorials and government buildings bearing religious imagery could face new restrictions, but the court’s decision affirms that the symbols are part of the fabric of the nation and can pass Constitutional muster.

“The court today applies a history and tradition test in examining and upholding the constitutionality” of the cross, Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote in a concurring opinion. “The practice of displaying religious memorials, particularly religious war memorials, on public land is not coercive and is rooted in history and tradition.”

Alito argued that there should be a blanket “presumption of constitutionality for longstanding monuments, symbols and practices,” a view supported by three other justices, but just short of the majority needed to establish a precedent-setting new rule.

The Supreme Court's years of decisions on the religious symbols and the First Amendment have been highly fact-based, varied and inconsistent.

Does the Constitution only prohibit religious displays that "coerce" obedience to a religion, or those that simply "promote" or "endorse" one religion over another? What amounts to "excessive entanglement" between government and a particular religion? The justices grappled with those questions -- and left them unanswered.

“This is a landmark victory for religious freedom,” said Kelly Shackelford, president of First Liberty, an advocacy group defending the cross. “Our Founders would have been appalled at this attempt to make the government hostile to our religious heritage, history, and symbols. The attempted perversion of our Constitution is now over, and every American now has more freedom than they have had in decades, with a government no longer hostile to people or expressions of faith.”

The Trump administration praised the decision as a "win for protecting religious freedom and American historical tradition."

Opponents of the Bladensburg memorial lamented the court's ruling as discriminatory and wrong.

“The Supreme Court’s misguided decision to allow government to play favorites and prominently display religious symbols as public war memorials dishonors our country’s veterans and the fundamental principle of religious freedom they fought and died for," said Rachel Laser, president and CEO of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. "The towering Bladensburg Cross is an inherently Christian symbol that excludes thousands of non-Christian veterans and ignores the tremendous sacrifices they made."

“Just because something is a tradition doesn’t make it right," Laser added.

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$37,000 reward offered to catch killer of off-duty Wisconsin police officer

Evgen_Prozhyrko/iStock(RACINE, Wisc.) -- A reward to help catch the gunman who killed an off-duty Wisconsin police officer has climbed to $37,000 .

Officer John Hetland, a 24-year veteran of the Racine Police Department, was at Teezers Tavern in Racine Monday night when he saw an armed robbery unfolding, police said. He tried to intervene and was shot, police said.

As authorities continue to search for his killer, Racine Police Chief Art Howell said Thursday that a local business has provided a $15,000 reward.

The FBI has already offered a $20,000 reward, while Racine Crime Stoppers has provided a $2,000 reward, the chief said.

Though tips have been pouring in, Kenosha County Sheriff David Beth said he hopes the large reward convinces more people to come forward.

"Help us catch this person and get him off the streets," Beth urged at a news conference Thursday.

Meanwhile, the shocking slaying has been "extremely traumatic" for Howell's fellow officers, Howell said.

But the chief added, "they are a resilient group of people. They are bruised but they are not broken."

"They are doing what John would want them to do," he said. "They are serving the public."

Hetland is survived by two children, Racine Mayor Cory Mason told reporters on Tuesday.

"I've ordered the flags to be flown at half-staff today and until his burial," said the mayor, who had met Hetland before his death. "I just really can't express how deeply we feel the loss of this officer. It's been more than 40 decades since we've had a loss in this city."

Hetland will be laid to rest on June 26, the chief said.

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Maleah Davis, 4, to be laid to rest in colorful 'My Little Pony' casket

cmannphoto/iStock(HOUSTON) -- Maleah Davis, a 4-year-old Houston girl whose remains were found weeks after she went missing, will be laid to rest in a colorful "My Little Pony" themed casket.

Graphic designer Courtney Sublett said she worked with the little girl's family to design the exterior of the casket, which highlights Maleah's favorite "My Little Pony" character -- Rainbow Dash -- and has lots of pink: her favorite color.

The casket also features rainbows, Sublett said, because "we just kind of wanted to show her being sent off over the rainbow because that's where she is now -- in heaven."

"We really wanted to incorporate her in something beautiful and something that would bring a smile to everybody's face," Sublett told ABC News on Thursday. "In such a tragic situation, it's a little bit of positivity."

Maleah, whose disappearance captured the attention of the nation, was reported missing on May 4. Her remains were found in Arkansas on May 31.

Maleah's mother's ex-fiance, Derion Vence, was arrested in the case, charged with tampering with evidence, said police. More charges are possible, authorities said.

Vence, who was caring for Maleah while her mother was away, had told police the 4-year-old was abducted by three men, including one who knocked him out during a carjacking.

Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo, however, quickly said detectives didn't believe his story.

Investigators found the family's car in Missouri City, Texas, and authorities said cadaver-sniffing dogs detected the scent of human remains inside.

Community activist Quanell X said Vence confessed to dumping the 4-year-old's body in Arkansas. Detectives then raced to the scene and the little girl's body was recovered.

She will be laid to rest at a private funeral on Saturday, reported ABC Houston station KTRK.

"It's really sad, but I was just so grateful that I got to bring a little light to her story," Sublett said.

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Arkansas medical school student missing in Mexico after graduation, family says

KeithBinns/iStock(FORT SMITH, Ark.) -- Authorities in Mexico are searching for an American medical school graduate who went missing over the weekend after one of his friends was found murdered.

Arkansas native Jessy Pacheco, 30, went missing in the city of Guadalajara last week after he celebrated his graduation from the Universidad Autonoma de Guadalajara, his family told ABC News.

He attended the university's medical school for two and a half years but finished his residency in Arkansas, returning to Mexico to retrieve his diploma, said Francine Solis, his cousin's wife.

On Saturday night, Pacheco went out with a group of friends, Francine Solis said. Most of the group ended up leaving early, but Pacheco and another friend stayed a little longer to wait for an Uber they had called.

Authorities believe Pacheco's disappearance and his friend's murder occurred in the Providencia neighborhood of Guadalajara on Saturday, according to a statement from the Jalisco State Prosecutor's Office.

Pachecho's friend, whose name was not released by authorities, was found shot in the head a few blocks from the club they had been at, his family told ABC affiliate KHBS in Fort Smith, Ark. The 26-year-old was a California native and also a student of the university, Mexican newspaper Milenio reported.

Pacheco's family believes he may have been abducted have a set up a GoFundMe campaign to aid in their expenses while they stay in Mexico until he is found. He was set to return to the U.S. on Tuesday, Francine Solis said.

Pacheco planned to return home to Van Buren, Arkansas to practice medicine after graduation, according to the GoFundMe. His mother and other family had traveled to Guadalajara to watch him graduate, Francine Solis said.

On Friday, Pacheco posted photos to Facebook of himself posing with family in his cap and gown, writing that his "dream of becoming a doctor was fulfilled today!!!"

Pachecho's cousin, Jeff Solis, described him to KHBS as an "amazing guy."

"He's a person that gets along with everybody and he's always there for everybody," Solis said. "I'm very proud of him to achieve such a goal and to hear this news is so devastating to me."

Mexican authorities have met with staff at the American consulate to keep them informed during the investigation, according to Jalisco State prosecutors. They plan to hold a press conference Thursday afternoon.

The U.S. Department of State said in a statement that it is aware of the reports of a missing U.S. citizen.

"The welfare and safety of U.S. citizens abroad is one of the highest priorities of the Department of State," the statement read. "We stand ready to provide appropriate assistance to U.S. citizens in need and to their families."

A spokeswoman for Uber said she did not have any information on the case.

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Virginia dentist gunned down outside his office, suspect at-large: Police

Newport News Police Department(NEWPORT NEWS, Va.) -- A manhunt is underway in Virginia for a gunman who shot and killed a dentist outside his office.

Newport News dentist William Trolenberg, 65, was found shot in a parking lot nearby his practice just after 5 p.m. Wednesday, according to the Newport News Police Department.

His body was found just outside of his car, said police, and no motive has been released.

Police are searching for the gunman and have released photos of a possible person of interest.

Authorities are asking the public to help identify him.

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Fiance of woman killed in Dallas crane collapse recalls tragedy

ABC News(DALLAS) -- It was just like any other Sunday.

Eric Ridenhour was making grilled cheese sandwiches while his fiancee, Kiersten Smith, sat on the couch behind him watching television in their Dallas apartment on the afternoon of June 9.

"Everything kind of just went dark, like this," Ridenhour, 29, told ABC News as he snapped his fingers. "I don't remember hearing a sound."

Suddenly, a thunderstorm with near hurricane-force winds rolled through the area and toppled a construction crane onto their five-story apartment complex. The crane smashed through multiple floors of the Elan City Lights residential building, including theirs.

"It happened so fast, and the first words out my mouth were my fiancee's name," Ridenhour said in an emotional interview set to air Thursday on Good Morning America.

"I don't know how many times I said her name," he continued. "I screamed her name and I could not find her."

Their apartment ripped apart, Smith, 29, was found by firefighters and taken to the hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

Ridenhour described his late fiancee as "a beautiful, caring person" whose humility and positive attitude empowered him.

"She makes it hard to grieve," he told ABC News. "When I look back on my memories, all I can do is smile. I guess that's a blessing and a curse."

Ridenhour, a content creator for applications, and Smith, a human resources specialist who was recently promoted, were planning to get married in September.

Ridenhour said he never wanted to get married, until he met Smith.

"The moment I saw her at work on the elevator, I was infatuated," he recalled. "We clicked."

The crane tore through many apartments and crushed an adjacent parking garage. Five other people were hospitalized for injuries, but all were expected to recover.

"Time is really precious," Ridenhour told ABC News. "In a split second, everything that you love can be gone."

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, an agency of the U.S. Department of Labor, is investigating the deadly incident and will determine an exact cause.

An OSHA official told ABC News that Bigge Crane and Rigging Co., which owns the collapsed crane, has been hit with 17 safety violations since 2013. That year, the California-based company was fined $56,700 for nine "serious" safety violations after a crane collapsed at a nuclear plant in Arkansas, killing a worker and injuring others. The company contested some of the violations and the fine was later reduced to $28,000 in a settlement.

Bigge Crane and Rigging Co. said the collapsed crane in Dallas was not in service during the storm.

"Bigge mobilized personnel to the site and is fully cooperating with the independent, third-party, investigating authority (OSHA) who have yet to determine the cause of this accident," the company said in a statement June 10. "When authorized by OSHA, the tower crane will be removed and examined."

Smith's family said in a statement that they have hired attorneys with the Cox Pradia Law Firm "as legal counsel to assist us as we seek justice in this matter."

"We will get answers for the family," one of the attorneys, Troy Pradia, told ABC News.

Ridenhour said it will take accountability for them to heal from the tragedy.

"I would do anything to have a moment with Kiersten, to tell her I love her," he said. "I feel if someone is at fault, they need to be held accountable."

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Strong storm system moving toward East Coast with more flash flooding possible

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Heavy rain fell overnight, stranding cars in flooded streets in the Philadelphia metro area. The rain was a precursor to another day of wet weather up and down the East Coast.

Areas just south and east of Philadelphia got a whopping 4 to 6 inches of rain since Wednesday. In addition, severe storms caused damage in several parts of the country Wednesday night, including a possible tornado in Greenville, Texas, and damaging winds up to 70 mph in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Finally, the stagnant stationary weather pattern will begin to move on Thursday, with more heavy rain and severe storms moving from the Midwest into the Northeast Thursday.

Flash flood watches remain in place Thursday morning from Illinois to New Jersey.

There are over 52 million people at risk for more severe storms Thursday, including along the East Coast from New York to Georgia and Alabama. The area will see damaging winds, hail and even a few tornadoes.

Severe storms are also possible in the Plains Thursday, from Colorado to Iowa, where damaging winds and hail will be the biggest threat, but a tornado is possible.

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Man threatens to 'kill every gay person' he can at St. Louis Pride, officials said

Missouri Department of Corrections(ST. LOUIS) -- A Missouri man was charged with making terrorists threats on Tuesday after he allegedly vowed to kill as many gay people as possible during one of the state’s largest Pride Month events.

Edward Terry, 49, allegedly sent an email to an organizer with the Pride St. Louis (PrideSTL) organization, saying he would "come to pride fest with my guns to kill every gay person I can before I kill myself."

PrideSTL, which organizes the city’s annual LGBTQ pride festival, said it notified the authorities, who then reportedly tracked the email to Terry using cellphone data.

Matt Harper, the organization’s president, said the organization would take extra steps to keep the parade area safe as Missourians flock to the festival to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots in New York -- an event that helped spawn the modern LGBTQ civil rights movement.

"An event the size of PrideFest requires a full year of planning and we work hard to produce an event that is safe for all participants," Harper told ABC News on Wednesday. "There are a number of on-duty and off-duty police that Pride St Louis hires for extra support, that patrol the festival grounds and parade route."

PrideFest events are scheduled for June 29 and June 30.

Harper said security officers would be posted at all entry points into the festival to check bags and purses for banned or dangerous items. He also commended the city’s police force for its ongoing support.

"We have a very great partnership with local and national law enforcement," he said. "The planning of the event and security for the event is a year-long ongoing process. We work in conjunction with several agencies to insure the safety of everyone attending PrideFest and the PrideParade."

Members and supporters of the LGBTQ community have expressed safety concerns in the wake of recent threats and reported incidents of pride flag burnings and other hate-fueled crimes in major cities like New York City.

Jeff Graham, executive director for Georgia Equality, said incidents like the ones mentioned, coupled with a rash of murders involving transgender, highlight a broader trend of increased hate crimes nationwide.

"We’ve seen in the last few years an uptick in bias-motivated crimes in the U.S. increase across the board," Graham told ABC News earlier this month. "FBI crime stats show an increase [of hate crimes against any minorities] across the board."

On Monday, a pair of Utah high school football players found themselves at the center of a police investigation after video surfaced of a teen allegedly burning a pride flag while laughing and yelling "all gays die."

Police are also investigating a similar incident in Burlington, Vermont, where Christopher Vaccaro and Jimmie Searle, a gay couple, said a person torched a pride flag on their front porch earlier this month.

"Pride month started very tragically. This is part of the challenging times in which we live," Graham told ABC News earlier this month. "We know that the acceptance of LGBT folks discrimination is at an all-time high and visibility is especially high this month."

Terry, the suspect in the St. Louis case, was being held on a $20,000 bond as of Wednesday evening.

ABC News' efforts to reach his attorney were unsuccessful.

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72 Philadelphia police officers 'removed from the street' over social media posts

rustythedog/iStock(PHILADELPHIA) -- Several dozen Philadelphia police officers were placed on administrative duty in the wake of an investigation into claims of racial bias levied by a civil rights watchdog, officials said Wednesday.

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross said 72 officers were “removed from the street” after the Plain View Project, a database that collects public Facebook posts and comments from current and former police officers, claimed it had uncovered more than 300 racist, sexist and/or biased social media posts by the city’s police officers.

“Internal affairs has already begun to investigate each of these officers identified,” Ross said Wednesday. “The law department has contracted with the law firm Ballard Spahr to review each post to determine if the speech is constitutionally protected.”

Researchers with the Plain View Project said they examined more than 3,100 posts and comments on Facebook that were allegedly authored by current and retired officers of the Philadelphia Police Department.

The analysis revealed that at least 328 active-duty officers allegedly posted troubling content, including posts that celebrated acts of violence against Muslims, immigrants and black people accused of committing crimes. Some posts captured long, hate-filled exchanges that appeared to involve multiple officers, according to the database.

The organization, founded by Philadelphia-based lawyer Emily Baker-White, said it analyzed the Facebook accounts of thousands of police officers across eight U.S. cities, including New York, Pennsylvania, Dallas, St. Louis and Phoenix.

"We found a very high and concerning number of posts that appear to endorse, celebrate or glorify violence and vigilantism," Baker-White told ABC News in an interview earlier this month. "We included posts that we thought could affect public trust and policing."

Local news outlets, including The Philadelphia Inquirer, attributed some of the posts to high-ranking members of the department, including a police inspector, six captains and eight lieutenants.

ABC News could not independently verify the posts in question, but the project said it went through a vigorous process to authenticate the profiles. Some users reported specific police departments as their employers, while others posted pictures of themselves in uniform, according to its website.

The department said it was working to independently verify that officers referenced in the project actually made the comments. Ross, who said most of the comments were made while officers were off-duty, had previously called the comments “deeply disturbing and upsetting.”

“But to be clear, those officers that we have identified that appear to have engaged in explicit bias against any protected class of individual or who advocated any form of violence, will be immediately removed from street duty during the course of these investigations,” Ross said in a statement earlier this month. “When a police officer’s expression of his or her opinions erodes the police department’s ability to do its job and maintain the public’s trust, the department is permitted to act, including disciplining officers when the circumstances allow for it.”

The Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police issued a statement calling the decision "premature" and "irresponsible."

“It’s premature and irresponsible for the Commissioner to tell the public that police officers will be fired without a complete investigation into officers’ social media use," said FOP Lodge #5 President John McNesby. "Our officers are entitled to due process just like any other citizen."

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Two dead in fiery Wisconsin crash involving two tractor trailers

Courtesy Katelynn Planka(RACINE, Wis.) -- At least two have died in a fiery crash in Racine, Wisconsin, that involved two tractor trailers and two cars.

At 11 a.m. on Wednesday, the Racine County Sheriff’s office responded to multiple calls on Interstate 94 after reports of fire and explosions.

Racine County Sheriff Christopher Schmaling said a semi-tractor trailer was traveling south on I-94 near 50th Road when that driver made a lane change and hit a construction barrier.

The driver then over-corrected, hitting the concrete median wall separating the north and southbound traffic lanes.

The truck pushed the median into the northbound lane, causing three passenger vehicles to crash into one another, into the barrier and the wall.

Another semi-tractor trailer made an evasive maneuver, turning east, going off the road and bursting into flames.

Schmaling noted the reports of explosions may have been caused by the tires heating up and exploding.

Both trucks were in flames and both drivers died in the crash, officials said. Their names were not released.

Schmaling said the second truck driver "undoubtedly" saved others’ lives by his evasive maneuver and called him a "hero."

In the passenger vehicles, one person walked away with no injuries. Two others were immediately treated and transported to nearby hospitals with serious injuries, police said.

Earlier, the medical examiner for Racine County, Michael Payne, said those injured were in critical condition with burn and fracture injuries.

I-94 has been under "extreme construction," Schmaling said. He asked that drivers "slow down, pay attention, allow enough distance to stop."

Schmaling said it is “the worst accident I’ve ever been a part of" in his 24 years on the force.

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NC woman tried to spike fiance's soda with eye drops, police say

Rowan County Sheriff’s Office(SALISBURY, N.C.) -- A woman in North Carolina looked to the movies for inspiration as she tried to poison her fiance with eye drops, authorities said.

Jaymee Lynn Cruz, of Salisbury, about 40 miles northeast of Charlotte, was arrested on Saturday after her fiance noticed her putting eye drops in his soda, according to the Rowan County Sheriff's Office.

Cruz told deputies she got the idea to spike his drink from watching the movie Wedding Crashers. There's a scene in the 2005 film where John, the character played by Owen Wilson, puts eye drops in the drink of his rival, Sack Lodge, played by Bradley Cooper. The "prank" makes him violently ill, though the intention was not death.

She told deputies she only planned to make her fiance sick, as well.

Upon seeing his fiancee spike his drink, he took the couple's child and hid in the bathroom and called 911, according to authorities.

The couple was arguing over the custody of their child, and she wanted to move out of the home with her daughter, deputies said.

She has been charged with distributing noxious or deleterious food, a class H felony in North Carolina, and punishable by up to 25 months in jail.

The eye-drop method of poisoning has been used before.

Lana Clayton, a woman in South Carolina, admitted to killing her husband by putting eye drops in his drinks over the course of several days in July 2018, according to the York County Sheriff's Office. She was charged with murder and granted a public defender in October, despite previously owning a million-dollar estate, and is still awaiting trial, according to the Rock Hill, South Carolina, Herald.

Tetrahydrozoline, the chemical found in eye drops, constricts blood vessels and can cause difficulty breathing, slowed heartbeat and the possibility of slipping into a coma if consumed in larger-than-directed quantities.

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Feds arrest Syrian refugee accused of plotting terrorist attack on Pittsburgh church

vmargineanu/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- The Department of Justice announced the arrest of a Syrian refugee on Wednesday in connection with an Islamic State-inspired terrorist attack on a Christian church in Pittsburgh.

Mustafa Mousab Alowemer, 21, was accused by federal prosecutors in court documents filed on Wednesday of planning to attack a church on the north side of Pittsburgh, the Legacy International Worship Center, "to support the cause of ISIS and to inspire other ISIS supporters in the United States."

According to the criminal complaint, Alowemer was born in Daraa, Syria and was admitted to the U.S. as a refugee in August 2016.

He allegedly provided "multiple instructional documents" on how to build improvised explosive devices, referred to as IEDs, to an undercover FBI agent who he believed was a fellow ISIS supporter, according to the DOJ.

The complaint also alleges that Alowemer further detailed his plans and support for ISIS and jihad in social media communications.

"Alowemer also distributed propaganda materials, offered to provide potential targets in the Pittsburgh area, requested a weapon with a silencer, and recorded a video of himself pledging an oath of allegiance to the leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi," the DOJ said in a statement.

The DOJ also said Alowemer had drafted a "10-point handwritten plan" related to a plot to bomb the church, and printed out copies of satellite maps from Google which he provided to a source working for the FBI as well as an undercover FBI employee.

According to prosecutors, Alowemer also recently bought a number of items that could be used in making a bomb including —nails for shrapnel, batteries and consumer products that contained chemicals that could be used in bomb-making. He allegedly planned to carry out his attack in July 2019.

The arrest comes on the heels of a meeting hosted by the FBI at their headquarters in Washington, D.C. in which faith leaders and law enforcement discussed recent attacks on houses of worship.

Alowemer is expected to make his first court appearance Friday for a hearing on the conditions of his detention.

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NXIVM founder Keith Raniere convicted of all charges in sex cult case

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- NXIVM’s founder Keith Raniere was convicted on Wednesday on all seven counts against him, for creating what prosecutors described as a sex cult in which female members were branded with his initials and kept in line through blackmail.

Raniere, 58, was convicted after a six-week trial of charges including racketeering, racketeering conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy, forced labor conspiracy, sex trafficking, sex trafficking conspiracy and attempted sex trafficking. He will be sentenced Sept. 25.

Raniere, also known as "Vanguard" to members within NXIVM, and Allison Mack, who is best known for her role on the TV series "Smallville," were both indicted by a grand jury in April 2018 on charges arising from Raniere and Mack’s alleged roles in a secret society within NXIVM.

Rainere did not testify at trial and his defense attorney did not call any witnesses, but contended in court that the relationships were consensual, not forced.

According to the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Richard P. Donoghue, Mack recruited women into what they believed was a "female mentorship group that was, in fact, created and led by Keith Raniere."

Raniere was portrayed as a leader, a mentor, guru, humanitarian but prosecutors called him "a conman, a predator, a crime boss."

Prosecutors say many of the female victims were branded and forced to participate in sex acts with Raniere.

Outside court, Donoghue called Raniere a "Master manipulator, a conman and crime boss of a cult-like organization involved in sex trafficking, child pornography…branding…and humiliation."

According to the criminal complaint from the Department of Justice, "in 2015, Raniere created a secret society within Nxivm called ‘DOS,’ which loosely translated to ‘Lord/Master of the Obedient Female Companions,’ or ‘The Vow.’ DOS operated with levels of women ‘slaves’ headed by ‘masters.’ Slaves were expected to recruit slaves of their own (thus becoming masters themselves), who in turn owed service not only to their own masters but also to masters above them in the DOS pyramid. Raniere stood alone at the top of the pyramid. Other than the (sic) Raniere, all members of DOS were women."

Prosecutors asserted that Raniere had more than 50 DOS slaves under him, many of whom were recruited from within NXIVM’s ranks.

"As alleged, Keith Raniere displayed a disgusting abuse of power in his efforts to denigrate and manipulate women he considered his sex slaves," FBI’s New York Field Office Assistant Director-in-Charge William F. Sweeney Jr. said in a statement in March. "He allegedly participated in horrifying acts of branding and burning them, with the cooperation of other women operating within this unorthodox pyramid scheme. These serious crimes against humanity are not only shocking, but disconcerting, to say the least, and we are putting an end to this torture today."

After reports started surfacing about DOS last year, a letter was posted on the NXIVM website, in which Raniere said, "The picture being painted in the media is not how I know our community and friends to be, nor how I experience it myself. However, as an organization and as individuals, we felt it was imperative that we hire experts to ensure there is no merit to the allegations."

"Additionally, I feel it is important to clarify the sorority is not part of NXIVM and that I am not associated with the group," the statement continued. "I firmly support one’s right to freedom of expression, so what the sorority or any other social group chooses to do is not our business so long as there is no abuse. Our experts, a forensic psychiatrist of international repute, psychologists and ex-law enforcement, say members of the sorority are thriving, healthy, happy, better off, and haven’t been coerced. Furthermore, the sorority is proud of what they created and want to share their story. I am confident they will be addressing you very soon."

ABC News' "20/20" did an extensive report on NXIVM last year, including interviews with several former members, including Sarah Edmondson, who said she was a member of the group for over a decade.

Edmondson told ABC News and said in a complaint to the New York State Department of Health that after attending NXIVM seminars for more than a decade, she was approached about an opportunity to join a secret sorority. Then, one night she said she and five other women were summoned to a house in the Albany area, where they thought they were going to get a tattoo but once there, found out she and the other women were going to be branded.

"It was a horror movie," she told "20/20." "It was the most inhumane, horrific way to treat anybody. But the most horrific thing is that it’s women doing it to women."

Edmondson said each of the women would lie down naked and then was branded with a cauterizing device, without any anesthesia. When it was her turn, Edmondson said the pain felt "worse than childbirth."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Heavy rain brings flash flooding threat for Midwest, Northeast

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Heavy rain has fallen over much of the eastern half of the country the last few days, a pattern that will continue on Wednesday.

Since the weekend, 5 to 10 inches of rain has prompted widespread flooding issues over an area stretching from the Central Plains through the Ohio River Valley.

There were also 114 damaging storm reports Tuesday from west Texas through the Northeast, including three reported tornadoes in Kansas and Texas.

The stationary front remains in place over the eastern U.S. prompting a continuing risk for widespread rains from the southern Gulf states through the Northeast.

Flash flood watches remain in effect for a large portion of the Ohio River Valley and into the Mid-Atlantic region with more rain expected.

A new storm system moving east will bring a threat for severe storms to Dallas; Little Rock, Arkansas; Memphis, Tennessee; Louisville, Kentucky; and St. Louis. The threat includes tornadoes, damaging winds and huge hail.

At least another 4 inches of rain is expected through the start of the weekend over some of the same areas already under flash flood watches.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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