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Published: Saturday, December 23, 2017 @ 2:32 AM
LIVE OAK, Fla. — A 5-year-old Florida boy had a special request in a letter he wrote to Santa Claus: a new heart for his baby sister.
Isaac Vargas left his note for Santa at the Christmas on the Square celebration in Live Oak, WCTV reported. His 2-month-old sister, Ray Lynn, was born with a rare heart condition and is in the hospital, waiting for a transplant.
Workers cleaning up after the event found the letter from Isaac, WCTV reported, and decided to organize a special visit from Santa for the boy.
Suwannee County first responders and local businesses surprised Isaac’s family with gifts and well wishes, WCTV reported.
Suwannee Fire Rescue shared photos of the special surprise to Facebook:
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: Monday, January 22, 2018 @ 9:33 AM
Updated: Monday, January 22, 2018 @ 1:04 PM
LAKE WALES, Fla. —
Lake Wales police are searching for those responsible for igniting two marine flares Sunday evening near the entrance of the JC Penney at the Eagle Ridge Mall Sunday evening.
Firefighters responded to reports of an explosion at the mall on 451 Eagle Ridge Drive around 5:20 p.m.
Firefighters initially said that an improvised explosive device had been detonated in a corridor located next to the mall entrance of JC Penney.
Improvised explosive device detonated near JC Penney at Lake Wales mall https://t.co/4lXFZKQkr6— WFTV Eyewitness News (@WFTV) January 22, 2018
The FBI later determined that there was no explosion and no pipe bombs were discovered. Officials also said that the incident didn’t appear to be terrorism-related.
"It appears two items, believed to be marine flares, were ignited in a mall hallway, creating a large amount of smoke, and a backpack was located at the scene," said Andrea Aprea, an FBI spokeswoman. "Bomb technicians examined the contents of the backpack and determined it did not contain any incendiary or explosive devices."
A witness who called 911 told WFTV that she heard a fire alarm sound and saw orange smoke billowing from an object.
The mall was evacuated. No one was injured, but a ceiling and a wall were damaged by the flares, officials said.
After speaking with witnesses, police said they are looking for a person of interest described as a stocky, middle-aged white man wearing a gray shirt and a hat.
Detectives said they will review surveillance footage recorded at a jewelry store in the mall.
Published: Monday, January 22, 2018 @ 9:33 AM
— The story of an Ohio woman who allegedly died during a trip to Graceland has taken another surprising twist.
Phillip Snider, the husband at the center of the investigation, told investigators in Benton County, Tennessee that he dumped his wife’s body in the Tennessee River, according to WBBJ.
Phillip and his wife, Roberta, left their Ohio home to visit Graceland, but she never came home. He told police his wife was in poor health and this was supposed to be their last trip.
Phillip Snider originally told police his wife died of natural causes in a hotel parking lot across from Graceland. He said they found an ambulance nearby and emergency workers told him they were taking her to a hospital.
However, there is no record of her body in Tennessee, according to the Akron Beacon Journal.
Phillip didn’t know the name of the ambulance company or the hospital. As he returned home to Ohio, his story was brought into question.
Investigators in both Tennessee and Ohio have been trying to piece together the mystery.
In an interview with WBBJ, Benton County Sheriff Kenny Christopher revealed a conversation between Phillip Snider and investigators.
“He says he put her body in plastic and disposed of her body over this bridge,” Christopher told the Jackson-based TV station.
The sheriff said Phillip claims his wife had cancer and died “somewhere in Kentucky.” He allegedly continued to Memphis, stayed the night and dumped her body in the Tennessee River on the way home.
Roberta Snider’s body has not been recovered.
Published: Monday, January 22, 2018 @ 12:08 PM
FAYETTE COUNTY, Pa. — Fayette County funeral home director is facing charges for allegedly stealing $284,000 from clients -- mostly seniors -- who pre-paid for their own funerals.
Stephen Kezmarsky, III, 50 was arrested and charged with taking the money from 51 clients for funeral expenses at the Kezmarsky Funeral Home, officials said.
HAPPENING NOW: AG @JoshShapiroPA announces 84 felony charges against Fayette Co. funeral home director Stephen Kezmarsky, who allegedly stole $284K in prepaid funeral expenses from clients. #WPXI pic.twitter.com/TFI7P7Uc09— Aaron Martin (@WPXIAaronMartin) January 22, 2018
Instead of putting the money in escrow accounts as required by law, Kezmarsky is accused of misappropriating the money by mixing the funds with his business and personal accounts, officials said.
Investigators said Kezmarsky used the funds for business expenses and for personal use, including purchasing airline tickets and alcohol.
Kezmarsky is also accused of filling out applications for funeral insurance policies for clients, but never sending the money or applications in for processing.
Kezmarsky and the funeral home filed for bankruptcy in 2017 and the funeral home has since been sold.