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Documents reveal violent, disturbing last moments of homicide victim

Published: Thursday, January 18, 2018 @ 3:00 PM

Jennifer Ayers. (Photo: KIRO7.com)
Jennifer Ayers. (Photo: KIRO7.com)

The following story contains some graphic details.

Seattle police found 63-year-old Jennifer Ayers dead in her Lake City home Monday.

The suspect in her death, Michael Giordano, 23, was wheeled into court to face a judge Wednesday afternoon. 

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Prosecutors charged the suspect with aggravated first-degree murder, and say the crime also included robbery, burglary, arson and rape.

“The facts here are extremely violent and disturbing,” the prosecutor told the judge. 

Prosecuting documents detailed what happened in the horrific final moments of Ayers’ life. 

The documents say someone by the initials of R.H. on 36th Avenue Northeast in Lake City called 911 after seeing Giordano in the street with blood on his hands, and seeing him throw credit cards into the street and bushes. 

The documents say when officers went inside they found the house had been ransacked and was filled with smoke. They also saw "a significant amount of blood," the documents reveal. 

Officers found Ayers lying on the floor, partly on fire, with her hands tied behind her back with what appeared to be Xbox controller cords.

“The officers immediately dragged the woman out of the house and into the backyard. Once clear of the smoke, officers were able to see the woman’s hands were bound behind her back, she was only partially clothed, a large knife handle was sticking out of her right buttock, and her inner thighs and crotch had been severely burned away. She was clearly deceased,” the documents read.

Documents say the victim's throat was slashed. 

“In addition to suffering a multitude of stab wounds throughout her body, the victim had extremely large lacerations on her neck. There was writing on the walls inside the home and it appeared to be written in blood. In the immediate area of the fire where the victim’s body was found burning, detectives found a red plastic gasoline can,” the documents read. 

In court, the prosecutor said Giordano was a stranger to Ayers. 

KIRO7 talked with a friend of Ayers' before learning the details of the crimes. Thom Head says he and Ayers were “two peas in a pod” and walked their dogs together every day for 20 years. 

“I was absolutely stunned that it was Jen. And it was tough. Because I thought about all of her neighbors and her poor little dog and her son,” Head said, his voice breaking. 

He and her neighbors describe Ayers as someone always helping others. 

“She would bend over backwards for her neighbors,” Head said. “She was so smart, on top of it, very well-informed, knew everything that was going on.” 

He said he can’t help thinking about her final moments. 

“Jen was a very small person, she was 4 feet 11 inches tall in her high heels so she probably had a tough time trying to defend herself,” Head said. 

The prosecuting documents say Giordano at first told investigators he had been mugged and had killed a man in self-defense. The documents say, “However, Giordano eventually admitted that those were lies he created to distract police from his real crime.” 

“Giordano admitted to detectives that he picked the victim at random, based primarily on the cars parked outside her residence. He admitted that he snuck in through an unlocked door, tied the victim up with cords, stabbed her multiple times in an attempt to induce her to tell him where her valuables were located, forcibly raped her and eventually killed her. 

“He also explained that he used gasoline and intentionally set the victim’s crotch on fire to destroy evidence of the rape,” the documents said. 

“Additionally, Giordano admitted that the writings on the victim’s wall with blood was done by him with the specific intention of misleading police into believing that the killer was someone with satanic beliefs,” the documents continued.

In court Wednesday, Giordano looked into the KIRO7 cameras and mouthed “(Expletive) you,” and later smiled and mouthed “bye” to the camera as he was wheeled out of court. 

A judge set his bail at $10 million. 

GRAPHIC WARNING: The documents embedded in the tweet below contain graphic details.

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Man accused of beating wife, an online exhibitionist, to death with absinthe bottle

Published: Friday, February 23, 2018 @ 7:01 PM

William Jeffrey
William Jeffrey "Jeff" West(Shelby County Jail)

An Alabama man charged with killing his wife, whose slaying last month unveiled her double life as an online exhibitionist, is accused of beating her to death with a bottle of absinthe, court records show.

The partially-clothed body of Kathleen Dawn “Kat” West, 42, of Calera, was discovered lying in the road in front of her home just after 5 a.m. on Jan. 18, Calera Police Chief Sean Lemley said in a Thursday news conference. She lived there with her husband, William Jeffrey West, and their 12-year-old daughter. 

Jeff West, 44, was arrested Thursday and charged with murder. According to Shelby County Jail records, he was being held Friday in lieu of $500,000 bond. 

The couple’s daughter was not home when her mother was killed.

Lemley said Thursday that Jeff West was the department’s chief suspect from the beginning of the investigation, though Kat West’s “online professional activities” warranted investigators’ attention. 

He declined to specify what evidence pointed them toward her husband. 

“Let me say this. We are still restricted, very restricted, on what information that can be given out,” Lemley said. “The case is still under investigation, even though we have made an arrest. But, the case has to go to trial as well.”

The West murder case has shone a national spotlight on small-town Calera, due mainly to the more salacious details of Kat West’s life. Though she described herself on social media as a full-time stay-at-home wife and mother, she operated a subscription-only adult website where she went by the name “Kitty Kat West.” The public page boasted a suggestive photo and promised users that, for a monthly $15.99 subscription fee, they could get more risqué material beyond the paywall. 

Her Twitter account, also listed under her stage name, directs viewers to the paid adult website, as well. Kat West’s bio on the adult site, which was still live as of Friday, described the site, in part, as “hundreds of pics of ALL me, having some naughty fun.”

In the days immediately following the slaying, Kat West’s mother, Nancy Martin, wrote on Facebook that it seemed “impossible for the extreme sadness and grief we feel (over) the loss of our beautiful daughter, Kat, to ever diminish.” She described her daughter as a “cherished wife to Jeff” and a loving mother to their own young daughter. 

A fundraiser in Kat West’s name was established, but quickly ended as the case became more public. 

On Jan. 24, Martin changed her profile picture to one of her daughter and son-in-law. It remained there as of Friday afternoon. 

See Calera Police Chief Sean Lemley’s news conference, recorded by WBRC in Birmingham, below. 

Lemley said that investigators interviewed many witnesses in the case, as well as collecting a lot of evidence that needed to be processed. Four detectives were assigned to the case, two of them full-time. 

“Evidence takes time to process,” the police chief said. “And we have to wait on that evidence to come in so we can connect all the dots.”

Detectives were awaiting analysis on a final piece of evidence from the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences. That final report was issued on Tuesday and, after a thorough review by the Shelby County District Attorney’s Office, a warrant was issued for Jeff West’s arrest, the chief said. 

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“We know exactly what happened, for the most part, on this case.” Lemley said. “I mean, we can’t tell you verbatim what was being said one way or the other, but we know what happened that night. We do have evidence to support that.”

The chief credited neighboring Shelby County law enforcement agencies, state agencies and the FBI with assisting in the investigation. 

Lemley again declined to go into detail about the evidence, but Jeff West’s arrest warrant, obtained by AL.com, indicates that Kat West was killed with a bottle of Lucid Absinthe. An autopsy found that the victim died of blunt force trauma to the head. 

The court documents state that, when a 19-year-old neighbor left for work Jan. 18, she found Kat West face-down on the ground in nothing but a sports bra, her body half in the roadway and half in the yard of the home across the street. A cellphone was found nearby, along with a green liquor bottle. 

Lucid Absinthe is sold in green bottles. 

TV news magazine Inside Edition on Jan. 25 aired surveillance footage from R&R Wine and Liquor, in Calera, that shows Kat West, just about eight hours before she was killed, walk into the liquor store with a man who appears to be her husband. In the video, the couple looks happy and playful.

“They came in (and) it looked like they were on their date night,” store clerk Stacey Oglesby told Inside Edition.

The couple bought two things that night: Lucid Absinthe and Jameson Irish Whiskey, Oglesby said. 

Lemley said it was not completely clear what could have happened between the couple’s visit to the liquor store, when they appeared happy, and when Kat West was bludgeoned to death. 

“It’s a domestic. Unfortunately, domestics turn bad pretty quickly,” Lemley said. “Anything can trigger it.” 

Jeff West, a military veteran, works as an unsworn police officer at Birmingham Southern College, AL.com reported. Officials at the school said they are in the process of terminating his employment. 

As of Thursday, Jeff West had not admitted involvement in the crime, Lemley said. 

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New tests, including blood check, could help doctors diagnose autism

Published: Friday, February 23, 2018 @ 8:34 PM

A scientist studies slides under a microscope.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images
A scientist studies slides under a microscope.(Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

A newly developed blood and urine test could potentially detect autism in young children.

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That’s according to new research from scientists in the United Kingdom and Italy who conducted tests in search for damage to proteins previously known to be higher in children with autism spectrum disorders.

The study, published this week in the academic journal Molecular Autism, tested 38 children between 5-12 years old with autism and 31 without, looking for differences in samples of urine and blood between the two groups.

The results revealed that children with autism had greater protein damage when examining plasma in their blood, which causes higher levels of an oxidation marker called ditryosine, as well as sugar-modified compounds known as advanced glycation end-products.

>> Related: Atlanta resources for those on the autism spectrum

"We have found that the power of measuring damaged proteins to the brain may be a cause for a development of autism," Dr. Paul Thornalley, professor of systems biology at the University of Warwick and one of the study’s lead researchers, explained to CNN.

According to Thornalley, previous research has also shown a connection between autism and proteins that were not damaged, the reverse of this study.

"Our discovery could lead to earlier diagnosis and intervention. We hope the tests will also reveal new causative factors," Dr. Naila Rabbani, another lead researcher from the University of Warwick, told The Guardian.

"With further testing we may reveal specific plasma and urinary profiles – or 'fingerprints' – of compounds with damaging modifications. This may help us improve the diagnosis of ASD and point the way to new causes of ASD,” she said.

While the new results appear promising, some researchers have expressed caution about the study’s small sample size and the study’s lack of a concrete diagnosis plan.

"This study may give us clues about why autistic people are different but it does not provide a new method for diagnosis. It is far too early for that," Dr. James Cusack, director of science at the UK autism research charity Autistica, told the BBC.

>> Related: 'Sesame Street' welcomes Julia, new character with autism

"We don't know whether this technique can tell the difference between autism, ADHD, anxiety or other similar conditions. The study also only looked at a small group of people," he pointed out. "The best way to diagnose autism is still through clinical interview and observation."

But despite the criticism, the scientists behind the research are calling it a "first step" toward developing a simple test. They aim to move forward with further research, performing the tests on a larger group including younger children.

"We have the method, we have everything. All we need to do is repeat it," Rabbani said. "I would really like to go forward with younger children, maybe two years, or even one year old. Then the next step will be to validate in a larger cohort. Then the tests will be ready for screening."

>> Related: Girls with autism more likely to have younger siblings with autism 

More than 3.5 million people in the U.S. currently live with autism spectrum disorders, according to statistics from the Autism Society. The development disorder, which mainly affects social interaction and leads to behavioral problems, is estimated to have genetic causes in 30 percent of cases. The other 70 percent of autism cases are believed to be caused by mutations of genetics and environmental factors combined.

Although many individuals with autism go on to live normal productive lives, 35 percent of young adults with the disorder are unable to work jobs or pursue higher education after high school.

Doctors currently rely on a series of behavioral tests to diagnose the disorder. These can take a great deal of time and are not always accurate. If a blood or urine test could provide a faster and more definitive diagnosis, it would go a long way to ensure young children received the treatment and resources they need earlier on.

However, although experts see the new research as promising, they are still cautioning that such a test is still a long way from being viable.

>> Related: Possible autism breakthrough using children’s own stem cells 

"This is a promising area; however, this is a very long way indeed from a 'test for autism,' " Dr. Max Davie, spokesman for the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said. "It is important that it is not adopted with too much enthusiasm."

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Kentucky bill would terminate parental rights of women after birth of drug-addicted babies

Published: Friday, February 23, 2018 @ 3:39 PM

Law Would Terminate Parental Rights Of Babies To Mothers Who Are Drug Addicts

The opioid epidemic in the U.S. has claimed millions of victims and has spread into even remote corners of American society. 

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While critics have accused states and the federal government of being slow to act in addressing the crisis, there has been a recent spotlight on the pharmaceutical companies’ role in the epidemic, and Kentucky, in particular, is taking steps to try to protect babies born to drug-addicted mothers.

A new bill in the state’s Legislature would terminate the parental rights of mothers of babies born addicted to drugs, classifying the newborns as “addicted and abused at birth,” according to The Associated Press. The new mothers would lose their babies unless they are enrolled in drug treatment programs. The state would be required to begin the process of terminating parental rights within 60 days of the birth of a drug-addicted baby.

>> Related: Pregnant inmates have local jails scrambling to provide care

The Republican Kentucky House Majority Caucus Chairman David Meade introduced House Bill 1 to address extensive problems in the state’s adoption and foster care system, the website KYForward.com reported, but he also included an effort to try to address the opioid crisis, which has hit the Bluegrass state hard.

“Many issues have led to the epidemic of children lingering in the state system, including an oversized bureaucracy, the opioid epidemic, and a lack of attention in the past to these issues. House Bill 1 is the first step in putting Kentucky on a different track for adoption and foster care, and truly putting children and families first,” Meade said, according to KYForward.com.

>> Related: Kentucky teacher arrested after allegedly snorting crushed pill in class

The legislation, which was unanimously approved Thursday and is now headed to the House floor for debate, has bipartisan support among lawmakers. 

Gaylord Lopez, a doctor of pharmacy and director of the Georgia Poison Center, shares a few facts about the opioid epidemic in Georgia and around the nation. An investigation by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution found that opioid-related overdoses in the state of Georgia claimed the lives of 982 people last year. The AJC also found that doctors aren't being held accountable when they behave more like dealers than healers. Video by Ryon Horne, Carrie Teegardin and Curtis Compton

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Dogs separated at adoption randomly find each other at crowded market

Published: Friday, February 23, 2018 @ 7:38 PM

(Via KIRO7.com)
(Via KIRO7.com)

A couple strolled through downtown Seattle’s iconic, bustling Pike Place Market food stands on a clear winter Saturday when their dog started running through the booths

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"We noticed a puppy who looked very similar in age and appearance to [our dog] Maui, and once they saw each other they got really excited and started playing together," owner Kaitlyn Hawkins told KIRO 7. "After chatting with the other owners we realized that the dogs are siblings."

The 11-month-old dogs rolled around, embracing each other in their coincidental reunion. 

Maui and her sister Juniper were adopted from Russia. They were flow to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport last May as puppies.

The two dogs recognizing each other nearly a year later has made them an internet sensation. With more than 15 million visitors exploring the historic district annually, people find the encounter quite remarkable. 

A worker at the Pike Place Market captured the moment in a video, and nearly 3 million people have watched it on Facebook

"I witnessed the coolest thing," the Facebook post said. "They even had identifying tattoos that confirmed it. This joyful reunion went on for over a half an hour, in fact they were still at it when I left the market." 

After the two families chatted, they realized they briefly met while picking the dogs up at the airport. They've exchanged phone numbers and plan to meet again soon for a play date at a dog park. 

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