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West Virginia corrections workers suspended over 'disturbing' Nazi salute photo

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West Virginia Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety (CHARLESTON, W.Va.) — A number of West Virginia corrections employees have been suspended in response to an image of them performing a Nazi salute.

The state’s Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation announced the suspensions in a letter to employees on Wednesday, calling the image “distasteful, hurtful, disturbing, highly insensitive and completely inappropriate.”

The controversial image, which was printed on state letterhead, showed about 30 trainees in uniform displaying the Nazi salute under a sign that read “HAIL BYRD!” The Basic Training Class No. 18 was conducted Oct. 21 through Nov. 27.

ABC News obtained a copy of the photo from the Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety.

“I have seen the photo of Basic Training Class Number 18. I condemn it in the strongest possible terms,” Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety Director Jeff Sandy wrote in the letter. “It betrays the professionalism I have seen time and time again displayed and practiced by our brave correctional employees.”

Sandy did not say how many employees were suspended or explain how the photo came to light.

West Virginia Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation Commissioner Betsy Jividen has ordered that all copies of the image be destroyed, sent to her office or otherwise taken out of circulation “to keep its harm from spreading,” according to the letter.

“We have informed faith and community leaders of this incident,” Sandy said. “We have asked for their help to address it effectively, including with the recommended changes or additions to our training programs.”

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice also condemned the photo “in the strongest possible terms” and called for termination of the officers involved.

“I have directed Secretary Jeff Sandy of the Dept. of Military Affairs and Public Safety to continue actively investigating this incident and I have ordered the termination of all those that are found to be involved in this conduct,” Justice said in a statement. “This will not be tolerated on my watch — within the Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation — or within any agency of state government.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Western storm will cross country and bring snow, rain from California to NY

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ABC News(NEW YORK) — A brand new storm will be moving into Northern California and Southern Oregon later Friday with heavy rain all the way down to the San Francisco Bay area and heavy snow in the mountains.

Storm alerts have been issued from Oregon to California Friday morning.

Heavy rain will move into the northern San Francisco Bay area Friday evening to finish off the rush hour. Flash flooding is possible and there is a threat of mudslides.

Friday night through Saturday night, heavy rain will begin to spread through most of the West Coast from Seattle to San Diego — but these areas will not see a flooding threat like Northern California.

In the mountains, very heavy snow is expected, especially in the Sierra Nevada range where 4 feet of snow is expected.

By Sunday, the storm system will cross the Rockies bringing a chance of heavy snow from Colorado to Montana, where more than a foot is possible.

By Sunday night and into Monday, this storm system will redevelop in the Plains and join another system coming from Canada to produce several inches of snow in the Upper Midwest and the Great Lakes, just in time for the Monday morning commute.

Further south, rain — heavy at times — is expected from Chicago to Atlanta and eventually into Washington, D.C. and New York City by Monday late morning into the afternoon.

Behind this cross-country storm system, the coldest air of the season will invade the northern Plains and the Midwest with wind chills well below zero and actual temperatures falling below zero as well.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Woman found dead inside home of missing 1-year-old identified as child's mother

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Ansonia Police Department(ANSONIA, Conn.) — A body found inside the home of a missing 1-year-old Connecticut girl has been identified as the child’s mother, police said Thursday.

Christine Halloway, 43, was found dead on Monday night in an Ansonia home where she and her daughter Vanessa Morales lived, according to Ansonia Police Lt. Patrick Lynch.

However, the baby was nowhere to be found.

Lynch said the priority of the investigation is bringing Vanessa home safely.

“We just want to know where she is and she is safe and well,” he said in a press conference.

He said authorities are following several leads into both the homicide and missing child.

Vanessa’s aunt, Anna, begged for her niece’s safe return in the same press conference.

“Help bring Vanessa home safely,” she said through tears.

She asked anyone with information on Vanessa’s whereabouts to contact Ansonia police or the FBI.

Police are searching through a donation center in Hamden, located about 13 miles west of Ansonia, according to Lynch.

Evidence is being recovered, he said, but he would not go into details.

Lynch said Vanessa’s father is cooperating.

He made a point to note that police are not looking to arrest anyone.

“Whatever circumstances that they have Vanessa, just bring her back,” Lynch said.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Mom pleads guilty to murder of 5-year-old son: Prosecutors

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The Office of McHenry County State’s Attorney (CHICAGO) — An Illinois mother has pleaded guilty to murder for her role in the beating death of her 5-year-old son, prosecutors said Thursday.

Joanne Cunningham and Andrew “Drew” Freund Sr. were both charged with murder for the death of their son, Andrew “AJ” Freund, whose body was found in a shallow grave in April.

Cunningham pleaded guilty on Thursday and faces between 20 and 60 years in prison, according to a statement from the office of McHenry County State’s Attorney Patrick Kenneally. She will not be eligible for parole and must serve all of her sentence, prosecutors said.

AJ’s father still faces charges including first-degree murder, aggravated battery and concealing the death of a person.

After Freund was arrested, he told authorities that when AJ “lied about soiled underwear,” the 5-year-old “was subjected to a cold shower,” according to court documents.

After being in the shower for about 20 minutes, Freund said he “put AJ to bed ‘cold, wet, and naked,'” the affidavit said.

Freund said Cunningham checked on her son at their Crystal Lake home and “that was when she got Drew and she used Drew’s phone to search for child CPR,” the document said.

“Drew advised at some point that he believed that AJ had died,” according to the affidavit. “Drew said the next day he took AJ’s body to the basement and stored him in a tote.”

Freund said on the night of April 17, he put his son’s body in several trash bags and put the body in the trunk of his car, according to the documents. Freund said he drove to Woodstock, Illinois, where he buried AJ in a shallow grave, according to the documents.

AJ was reported missing by his mother the following day and his body was found six days later, on April 24. The little boy died from head trauma due to multiple blunt force injuries, according to the McHenry County coroner’s office.

Cunningham’s sentencing is set for Jan. 30, 2020.

In July, Freund was found mentally competent and deemed fit to stand trial, reported ABC Chicago station WLS-TV.

It is “too early to say” if Cunningham will testify against Freund at his trial, Kenneally told reporters on Thursday.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Texas police use drone to nab burglary suspect

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KTRK-TV(HOUSTON) — It used to be that police departments needed to have a helicopter to identify and locate fleeing suspects from the air.

But not anymore. The advent of drone technology is putting that capability into the hands of even small law enforcement agencies.

“It took a helicopter to chase bad guys in the past, and it was very expensive to do that — something that an agency our size could never possibly afford,” Lt. Russell Brown of the Bellaire Police Department in Texas told Houston ABC station KTRK-TV.

Now, Bellaire police have three drones at their disposal, and officers say they’re helping save lives. When police in the nearby town of West University were trying to locate a fleeing burglary suspect, the call went out to Officer Aarob Lysack, one of four licensed drone pilots with the Bellaire Police.

Lysack, who was patrolling in his police cruiser, put his drone in the air and sent it in search of the suspect.

“That drone was able to locate the suspect before the officers could, and basically lead officers to the suspect,” Brown told KTRK.

The drone located the suspect running through a backyard, and it recorded him as he tried to get rid of a backpack.

When officers recovered it, authorities say the backpack was filled with the stolen items — as well as a gun.

“The drone was able to see that, document that on film, and have that video ready for court if needed,” Brown said.

For Lysack, drone technology represents a giant leap forward for law enforcement.

“It goes about 50 miles an hour. It’s got a range of about three miles, as long as we can see it visually. It can go up to 400 feet high,” said Lysack. “The thermal camera on it can see a human walking down the street or even a warm vehicle that was recently parked. The zoom goes up to 30 times optical and 180 times digital.”

“I think this is a big game changer,” he said.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

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