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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: Tuesday, May 22, 2018 @ 5:30 PM
— Legal drugs, such as tobacco and alcohol, cause significantly more harm to people globally than illegal ones, a new international study suggests. But researchers say that’s not surprising, considering the varying prevalence of each.
The research, which was published this month in the journal Addiction, found that combined tobacco and alcohol use cost more than a quarter of a billion disability-adjusted life-years worldwide. Illegal drugs on the other hand, only accounted for tens of millions. A disability-adjusted life year, according to the study, represents the number of years lost due to ill health, disability or early death.
"These findings are not surprising given that legality of the drugs coincides with social norms around drug use as well as use prevalence," Dr. Carla J. Berg, an associate professor in the Department of Behavioral Sciences and Health Education at the Rollins School of Public Health of Emory University, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Globally, one in five adults reported at least one occasion of heavy drinking in the past month and one in seven smokes tobacco, according to the 2015 data used for the study. Conversely, fewer than one in 20 people worldwide were estimated to use illicit drugs in the past year, including amphetamines, opioids, marijuana and cocaine.
But study co-author Dr. Robert West of University College London pointed out that the United States and Canada had among the highest rates of dependence on opioids (650 cases per 100,000), cocaine (301 cases per 100,000) and marijuana (749 cases per 100,000 people), according to U.S. News and World Report. Overall, the rates of marijuana and opioid dependence were about three times higher than the rest of the world.
"The U.S. has major research agendas moving forward to advance our knowledge-base in order to inform policy and practice regarding how to best address this problem," Berg said. "Surveillance is a key part of monitoring the problem, informing interventions, and evaluating policies and practices that are adopted and implemented."
Berg said that broad international studies, such as this one, help researchers better understand differences in drug use across countries.
Study: The Most Harmful Drugs Are Legal https://t.co/xhJpFt1YSU— Tom Murphy (@tjm9722) May 18, 2018
"Not all countries regulate alcohol and tobacco in similar ways nor have policies or practices in place that aim to address specific aspects of behavior related to alcohol and tobacco use," Berg said.
"Social norms are also quite different in relation to the use of these substances, particularly among different genders within a country or within other sub-populations," she explained. "Understanding these different multilevel factors and their impact on alcohol- and tobacco-related consequences are key to informing how countries like the U.S. should address this critical issue."
Berg adds that this kind of study is "critical" in helping researchers and governments understand the societal and individual costs of substance abuse. It also gives a better picture of how legalization and regulation impact usage and dependence.
"There could be a great deal to be learned from countries or areas of the world with lower prevalence of opioid dependence and areas of the world that have combated opioid dependence successfully," she said. "This speaks to how critical international research is to informing policy and practice."
Published: Wednesday, May 23, 2018 @ 4:09 PM
ELLIS COUNTY, Texas — The attorney for a woman who accused a Texas Department of Public Safety trooper of sexual assault during a traffic stop is apologizing after DPS released body camera video of the full encounter, which appears to refute her claims.
Philadelphia attorney S. Lee Merritt said in a press release Wednesday that the video of the traffic stop early Sunday morning “directly conflicts with the accounts reported to my office.”
Press Release concerning released body-cam footage by Texas DPS pic.twitter.com/ExpbgmJEH5— S. Lee Merritt, Esq. (@MeritLaw) May 23, 2018
According to KWTX, Officer Daniel Hubbard pulled over Sherita Dixon-Cole around 1:30 a.m. Sunday on suspicion of drunken driving.
The Grapevine woman was taken to the Ellis County Jail and booked on suspicion of DUI.
Cole told the trooper she was headed to her fiancee’s home in Waxahachie from downtown Dallas and had one drink, KDFW reports.
Cole said the trooper offered to let her go in return for sexual favors and she accused him of fondling, groping and sexually assaulting her on the way to the jail, KWTX reports.
Hours after her arrest, New York activist Shaun King posted on Facebook and Twitter that Cole had been “kidnapped” and explained in detail Cole’s claims as explained by her and Merritt.
King also claimed the trooper threatened to shoot her fiancee, KDFW reports. The posts were shared thousands of times online, but have since been deleted.
The Texas Department of Public Safety responded late Tuesday night by releasing the trooper’s body camera footage in full after receiving approval from the Ellis County District Attorney’s Office.
According to DPS, the only parts that have been blurred or rendered inaudible are those where personal information is shared.
“The video shows absolutely no evidence to support the egregious and unsubstantiated accusations against the Trooper during the DWI arrest of the suspect,” DPS posted on YouTube.
During the field sobriety test, the trooper in the video pours out two bottles of alcohol he says he found in Cole’s front seat.
He places her under arrest and asks her to sit in the front seat of his patrol car.
Throughout the two-hour footage, the officer is shown helping the woman through the intake process. At one point, he asks her if she’d like for him to turn off her cellphone in order to save the battery so she can use it later.
At one point during the interview, they appear to have a friendly chat about college and Cole talks about getting her master’s degree.
“The Department is appalled that anyone would make such a despicable, slanderous and false accusation against a peace officer who willingly risks his life every day to protect and serve the public,” the department stated.
Today the Texas Department of Public Safety released this body camera footage of the traffic stop, field sobriety test, and subsequent arrest of Sherita Dixon-Cole.— Shaun King (@ShaunKing) May 23, 2018
It does not appear to show any verbal threats, sexual assault, or police brutality.https://t.co/qkz35GtDJd
Published: Wednesday, May 23, 2018 @ 4:09 PM
CARROLL COUNTY, Ga. — Seven young men are facing murder charges in connection with a deadly shooting at a motel in Carroll County, Georgia, southwest of Atlanta.
Villa Rica police found the victim lying on a second-floor landing at the Fairbridge Inn Express on Ga. 61 around 7 p.m. Tuesday, Capt. K.L. Shaddix said early Wednesday in a news release.
Brian Cook, 28, of Villa Rica, was pronounced dead on the scene.
During the course of their investigation, police located and arrested five people. Warrants were secured for two more, Shaddix said.
It appears the victim was shot after an altercation in a motel room.
Police said Ramon Higgs, 29, also of Villa Rica, went to the motel and Cook accompanied him. Higgs was seen on video surveillance entering a second-floor room while Cook remained outside. A confrontation inside the room turned violent, according to police.
Higgs then ran from the room with several men chasing him, Shaddix said.
“As Cook began to run away, he was grabbed by the suspects and shot while on the second-floor landing where he died from the injuries,” Shaddix said in the release. “Higgs was also shot but was able to flee the scene.”
Investigators learned six Villa Rica men were inside the hotel room at the time of the shooting. Khaaliq Sims, 24, Isiah Roberts, 20, Alvin Doby, 20, and Kyron Doby, 23, were all located and arrested.
Two others, Briahious McPherson and Ricardo Joiner, both 19, have not been caught.
All six face two counts of aggravated assault and a single count of murder. Roberts was arrested on an additional charge of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
Shaddix said police also charged Higgs with murder and aggravated assault as well as marijuana and weapons possession. Higgs was treated for a gunshot wound at Grady Memorial Hospital and released.
The investigation resulted in two unrelated arrests, Shaddix said.
Police contacted the occupants of the room next door to the shooting and reportedly located suspected marijuana. Two people, including a 16-year-old boy, were arrested on possession charges.
The other suspect, identified as 24-year-old Jaylon Stanton of Baton Rouge, La., was also charged with first-degree forgery after he was allegedly found in possession of a large amount of suspected drugs and counterfeit cash.
Published: Wednesday, May 23, 2018 @ 2:59 PM
— Monday is Memorial Day, the day set aside to honor those who died in military service to the United States.
In addition to being a day to honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for their country, the last day in May is also seen as the “unofficial start of summer.”
Retailers are not letting that opportunity for a long weekend of shopping pass without offering a few deals.
Here are some Memorial Day deals, freebies and advice: