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Published: Monday, April 16, 2018 @ 12:28 PM
LOS ANGELES — A former producer for television shows including “Divorce Court” and “The Jerry Springer Show” was arrested last week and charged with killing her disabled sister in a 2015 garage fire.
The Los Angeles Police Department reported Thursday that Jill Blackstone was arrested in Baltimore on murder and animal cruelty charges. Blackstone is accused of drugging her sister, Wendy Blackstone, on March 14, 2015, and putting her and the siblings’ three dogs in the garage of their North Hollywood home and setting it on fire.
Wendy Blackstone, 49, and two of the dogs perished in the blaze.
ABC7 in Los Angeles reported that the fire was started by a charcoal barbecue pit left burning in the garage, which filled with carbon monoxide. Wendy Blackstone was found unresponsive next to one of the dogs.
The Baltimore Sun reported that paramedics tried to revive her, but she was pronounced dead at the scene.
Wendy Blackstone was deaf and legally blind, the newspaper reported.
“Homicide detectives believe the motive was Jill’s frustration of being forced to provide Wendy long-term care, as well as the associated financial hardship,” a news release from the LAPD said.
Wendy Blackstone died of the combined effects of Xanax and inhaling the gas that built up in the garage, the Los Angeles County Coroner’s website states. The manner of death was still listed online as undetermined Monday morning.
The Los Angeles Times reported that Wendy Blackstone’s autopsy report indicated that her death was “very suspicious” and “possibly staged.” When she was found, an alleged suicide note was in her hand.
Investigators believed that Jill Blackstone wrote the note.
Near Wendy Blackstone’s feet was a Weber grill and an ash-filled trash can, both of which were considered to be sources of the carbon monoxide, the Times reported. A nearly empty vodka bottle was found nearby, though the autopsy showed no alcohol in Wendy’s system.
Detectives found several other notes near her body with end-of-life instructions, including a “do not resuscitate” order, but none of the notes had been signed by Wendy Blackstone.
Jill Blackstone later told detectives that a friend called her home and she “just ‘came to’ and did not remember what happened,” the Times reported. She also told investigators that the grill was used in the garage to keep it warm.
She also said the charcoal was used to roast marshmallows, the newspaper reported.
ABC7 reported that Jill Blackstone was believed to have set the scene up to look like a suicide or accident. The notes and Blackstone’s inconsistent statements led detectives to suspect her of killing her sister.
She was arrested shortly after the fire on suspicion of murder, but the Los Angeles County district attorney ultimately decided against filing charges, the news station reported.
The district attorney ordered further investigation into the case just days later, the Times reported.
Homicide detectives and arson investigators from the Los Angeles Fire Department conducted separate probes in the case, the LAPD news release said.
“The investigative follow-up required for a successful prosecution included significant travel, research, numerous interviews and additional forensic evidence processing, which added time to this extremely complex and sensitive investigation,” the news release said.
The district attorney filed murder and animal cruelty charges against Blackstone last month. Homicide detectives tracked her last week to a relative’s home in Hoboken, New Jersey.
When they spoke to her lawyer, the attorney told authorities that Blackstone was hospitalized in Baltimore for treatment of a medical condition, LAPD officials said.
Published: Tuesday, July 17, 2018 @ 11:14 PM
COBB COUNTY, Ga. — An Acworth inmate promised $10,000 and two Atlanta Hawks tickets to anyone who would kill his ex-wife and her current boyfriend. Word got around, including to an FBI informant.
Michael Lawrence Dane McEarchern, 29, was sentenced to 10 years in prison Monday, according to federal court documents.
McEarchern was in Bartow County jail during October on drug charges when he started circulating his the word that he wanted to hire a hitman.
The FBI found out from the confidential informant and they had McEarchern send a $800 down payment to a P.O. box in late November to see if he was serious, according to federal court records. His girlfriend at the time sent the money for him.
McEarchern told the would-be assassin where his ex-wife lived in Smyrna, what the best time of day would be to find her, and the name of the barbershop where the current boyfriend worked.
Federal court documents show he’ll have three years of supervised release after prison.
Published: Tuesday, July 17, 2018 @ 10:22 PM
JASPER, Ga. — A bear made a beeline for a picnic table in Pickens County, Georgia. The incident was caught on camera, WSB-TV reported.
Video shows black bear snarfing down family’s picnic in Georgia.
The large female black bear can be seen in the video climbing onto the picnic table and grabbing a package of hot dogs buns at the Big Canoe community in Jasper.
The family was unable to scare the bear off, according to WSB-TV.
“(The bear is) not afraid of people, so the last thing I want is a child sitting there eating a sandwich, and the bear decides he wanted that sandwich first,” community general manager Jill Philmon said.
The bear turned out to be a mother with three little cubs nearby. State wildlife biologists said the bears have probably been fed by people or have gotten used to eating out of the residents’ trash cans.
Published: Tuesday, July 17, 2018 @ 11:01 PM
ATLANTA — Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has spent nearly $12,000 of taxpayer money on limousines in just five months, according to an investigation by WSB-TV and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and AJC.com.
An Atlanta City Hall spokesperson said that you can’t put a price tag on the mayor’s safety, calling Bottoms’ use of a
luxury car service “an expedient solution that had already been assessed for safety.”
Through an open records request into Bottoms’ city-issued credit card statements, the WSB/AJC investigation found 27 separate charges to Carey Limousine during out of town trips. The average bill was $431.
There was a $3,900 charge in April. The city said the limo company billed the city late for services during the Super Bowl in Minneapolis and the company may have mistakenly kept the car on standby status during a day-long event.
“The public will have to be the judge as to whether they think that’s excessive or not,” City Council President Felicia Moore said.
Bottoms’ monthly limo spending is outpacing former Mayor Kasim Reed.
Reed’s bills show more than $28,000 spent with Carey Limousine, but that was over his final three years in office. Reed’s average charge was about $200.
“If Mayor Bottoms wants her administration’s legacy to be a ‘we’re too greedy to care,’ then they’re off to a great start,” said former federal prosecutor Jeff Brickman.
In a written statement, a city spokesperson said, “Mayor Bottoms relied heavily upon the procedures previously used, including the use of a secure and vetted car service. As the use of the service was being examined by the Bottoms’ administration, a significant increase in the trajectory of the costs over the course of those first few months was noted. She immediately began to explore alternative methods of ground conveyance.”
Our review of credit card statements for members of Bottoms’ executive protection unit showed they booked about a dozen far cheaper out-of-town Uber and Lyft trips in April and May.
That’s a trend Brickman hopes will continue.
“If you really want to be transparent, and you really want to separate and distinguish yourself from the previous administration, show us, you know, ways that you are really meaning what you’re saying. Do it. Don’t just say it,” Brickman said.
The city said the best use of ground transportation will be determined on a case-by-case basis.
Published: Tuesday, July 17, 2018 @ 10:29 PM
— The parents of a kayaker who drowned after she was swept over a dam on the Ohio River last year are suing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Brittany Evans and Helene Brandy, both 25 years old, were killed when they went over the Dashields Dam in May of 2017.
More than a year after Brittany Evans died while kayaking on the Ohio River, her parents are filing a wrongful death lawsuit. @DamanyLEWIS has more on what changes they're seeking NOW on 11 News: https://t.co/upqq37mInL pic.twitter.com/eqg21yKxKQ— WPXI (@WPXI) July 17, 2018
The dam is located along the Ohio River, north of Sewickley in Moon Township, Pennsylvania.
Evans' parents have now filed a wrongful death lawsuit.
"Too many people are losing their lives on that river. We wanna be part of the process to correct that," said Helene's uncle, Ken Brandy.
According to the lawyer who filed the federal lawsuit, Evan's parents are echoing those concerns. The couple contends the Army Corps of Engineers has not provided adequate warnings about the dangerous Dashields Dam to boaters and kayakers.
The lawsuit is asking for more warning signs along the river.
Evans' family is also asking for earnings potential and damages for pain and suffering.