log in to manage your profile and account
- Create your account
- Receive up-to-date newsletters
- Set up text alerts
Published: Monday, January 22, 2018 @ 5:54 PM
DALLAS — Three members of a Texas family were sentenced to prison last week in the brutal 2013 beating and stomping of a 13-year-old relative who authorities said was raped -- and impregnated -- by her own brother.
Sharon Jones, 47, of Dallas, and two of her children, Cedric Jones Jr., 29, and Cecila McDonald, 28, pleaded guilty for their part in the 2013 crime, which caused the girl to miscarry, The Dallas Morning News reported. The newspaper reported in 2016 that the victim and five siblings, including a younger sister forced to help hold her down during the beating, moved from California to Texas to live with Sharon Jones, their aunt, after their grandmother died.
“Most people would treat strangers better,” prosecutor Rachel Burris said during last week’s sentencing hearing, according to the newspaper. “Yet these people did it to someone they promised to love.
“They held her down. They forced her to lay there while people stomped her. It was savage.”
A judge sentenced Sharon Jones to 12 years in prison. Cedric Jones was sentenced to five years in prison and his sister was sentenced to serve seven years, according to the Morning News. The siblings and their mother each pleaded guilty to felony family violence aggravated assault.
A fourth suspect, Lonnell McDonald, was convicted in 2016 of aggravated assault and sentenced to 10 years in prison, the newspaper reported.
The beating, which the now-19-year-old victim reported in 2015, stemmed from a sexual assault case in which the girl’s 24-year-old brother was accused of raping her in 2012, when she was 13. The brother, who relocated to Dallas a year before his siblings, was ordered to not have contact with them, though it was not immediately clear why.
The brother’s name is being withheld to help shield the victim’s identity.
Testimony in Lonnell McDonald’s trial showed that, despite Sharon Jones promising to take in the siblings to keep them out of foster homes, the children were instead sent to live with Lonnell and Cecila McDonald. Their older brother was living at the McDonald home at the time, the Morning News reported.
It was there that the alleged sexual assault took place, according to testimony.
Sharon Jones is accused of telling the girl and her siblings to lie to Texas Child Protective Services caseworkers so authorities would not find out they were living in the same home as their brother.
The 13-year-old victim told authorities that she told Jones and Cecila McDonald about the sexual assault after it came out that their older brother had sexually abused McDonald’s own three young children. The women, who were reportedly worried that McDonald would lose custody of her children, never told authorities about the girl’s allegations.
The brother has since been found mentally incompetent to stand trial and his criminal charges remain in limbo, the Morning News said.
When the teen’s relatives learned that she was eight months pregnant, they tried forcing Plan B birth control pills and cinnamon tablets on her to induce a miscarriage, the Morning News reported. When that didn’t work, they held her down and took turns stomping on her abdomen.
Cecila McDonald screamed during the attack, “(Expletive), you ain’t about to get my kids taken away from me,” the newspaper said.
After beating her for hours, they left the girl in a bathtub, bleeding and drifting in and out of consciousness, as she gave birth to a stillborn baby, the Morning News reported. To combat her loss of blood, they fed her iron pills.
The victim told authorities they took her baby away before she got to see the child.
The girl’s younger sister tried to care for her afterward. The Morning News reported in 2016 that the younger girl, who was 12 during the attack, was granted immunity in the case in return for her testimony.
After the baby was born, Cecila McDonald put the infant’s body in a bucket. She, her brother and her mother then tried to burn the remains on a grill.
Sharon Jones subsequently paid her son $25 to get rid of the portion that did not burn. The Morning News said he hid the remains, which have never been found.
Published: Wednesday, February 21, 2018 @ 3:13 PM
— Researchers from Google and sibling company Verily Life Sciences have developed a new algorithm using artificial intelligence to predict the risk of heart attack, stroke and other major cardiovascular events.
How does it work? Through the eyes.
Scientists studied data from 284,335 patients and found the “deep-learning” AI algorithm could identify risk factors based on age, blood pressure, gender, smoking status and others just by scanning the individuals’ retinas.
“The rear interior wall of the eye (the fundus) is chock-full of blood vessels that reflect the body’s overall health,” the Verge reported. “By studying their appearance with camera and microscope, doctors can infer things like an individual’s blood pressure, age, and whether or not they smoke, which are all important predictors of cardiovascular health.”
Google’s AI was able to differentiate patients who suffered a major cardiac event in the following five years and those who didn’t with a 70 percent accuracy.
"While doctors can typically distinguish between the retinal images of patients with severe high blood pressure and normal patients, our algorithm could go further to predict the systolic blood pressure within 11 mmHg on average for patients overall, including those with and without high blood pressure," lead author Lily Peng wrote in a Google blog.
Medical algorithms are traditionally created to redesign experiments to test hypotheses made from observations. But this algorithm found new ways to analyze existing medical data.
“With enough data, it’s hoped that artificial intelligence can then create entirely new medical insight without human direction,” the Verge reported.
This technology would make it more efficient for doctors to analyze cardiac risk without a blood test, which typically predicts events with 72 percent accuracy. But more tests are necessary before the AI can be used in a clinical setting.
“We look forward to developing and testing our algorithm on larger and more comprehensive datasets. To make this useful for patients, we will be seeking to understand the effects of interventions such as lifestyle changes or medications on our risk predictions and we will be generating new hypotheses and theories to test,” Peng wrote.
The research was published Monday in the journal “Biomedical Engineering.”
Published: Wednesday, February 21, 2018 @ 2:38 PM
— The Rev. Billy Graham, the Christian evangelist known as “America’s pastor,” died Wednesday after battling various health ailments.
He was 99.
Billy Graham’s son, Franklin Graham, posted a tribute to him on Facebook following the news of his father’s death.
“Where is Heaven?” Franklin Graham recalled his father being asked, to which he then replied, “Heaven is where Jesus is, and I am going to Him soon!”
“He will be missed by our family, his colleagues, faithful ministry partners, and, yes, many around the world,” Franklin Graham wrote. “But what joy he has to be welcomed by God the Father, and be reunited with my mother in the presence of Jesus who speaks peace to eternal souls.”
Franklin Graham’s mother, Ruth Graham, died in 2007.
Read Franklin Graham’s Facebook post below:
Published: Wednesday, February 21, 2018 @ 2:31 PM
DELAND, Fla. — A DeLand High School student caused a scare Tuesday when some students thought his cellphone case was a gun, school officials said.
The 15-year-old boy's cellphone case was shaped like a gun, and a student thought it was a real weapon in the teen's back pocket, so the student reported it to a teacher, officials said.
The school was placed on a 30-minute lockdown.
The 15-year-old, whose name has not been released, faces charges of disruption of an educational institute, a misdemeanor, officials said.
“We know that kids will be kids, but in today’s world, we must be vigilant,” DeLand police Chief Jason Umberger said in a news release. “I want to express to all of our young people out there that they should always feel comfortable coming forward with information. Even if you’re not sure, we want to know. We don’t know what we don’t know, so whether a potential threat is made through Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or something else. Take a screenshot and send it over. You never know, you could be saving the lives of your friends."
The school district has reported at least 18 threats – all not credible – since the Parkland high school shooting, officials said.
"You have to have a discussion with your children regarding 'see something, say something' to a trusted adult. You have to monitor your children's cellphone and social media, and third, you need to check their backpack," said Volusia County Superintendent Tom Russell.
Published: Tuesday, February 20, 2018 @ 1:27 PM
GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. — A substitute teacher at Western Guilford Middle School, in Guilford County, North Carolina, was fired after a video surfaced of him body-slamming a student.
The student, Jose Escudero, told WGHP that the altercation started because of a box of chocolates on Valentine’s Day.
Jose said the teacher took the box, throwing it into a sink, WGHP reported.
The 12-year-old said he waited until end of class to ask for the chocolate to be returned.
Jose said he put them in his bag and the substitute teacher tried to grab the candy, WGHP reported.
Jose said the teacher then grabbed him and held him against the wall before throwing him over his shoulder to the ground.
The student said he had bruises on his elbow, shoulder and back.
Jose’s mother shared the video of Jose falling to the floor on Facebook saying she wants justice.
Guilford County Schools spokeswoman Tina Firesheets told WGHP that the teacher is no longer a district employee.
The Escuderos told WGHP that they’re looking into legal action against both the school and teacher, whose name has not been released.