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Family of baby that was cut from slain mother's body still receiving bills for his care

No Comments National News

iStock(CHICAGO) — A Chicago family can’t seem to wake from the nightmare they faced when a young mom was murdered in April and had her newborn — who died about two months later — cut from her stomach.

The alleged suspects — a mother-daughter pair — have been apprehended and now face two murder charges a piece, but the family of Marlen Ochoa-Lopez struggles to move on, not only as a result of the emotional horror of the situation but because what they described as further insults.

Ochoa-Lopez’s husband had now been sent in excess of $300,000 in hospital bills for the costs of caring for his newborn son after the alleged murderers brought him to a suburban hospital, passing the boy off as their own.

Not only that, but the bills don’t refer to the newborn using the name his family gave him — Yovanny Lopez, a tweaked version of his father’s name — and instead refer to him as Figueroa Boy, using the last name of the woman who allegedly killed his mother.

“His belief that his baby is in heaven with the baby’s mother is what’s keeping him through this,” said Frank Avila, the attorney for Yovany Lopez, Ochoa-Lopez’s husband and the father of Yovanny Lopez.

“He’s only 20-years-old, he lost his wife to a gruesome murder… he was not with his baby for the first few weeks of the baby’s life,” the attorney said, referring to the fact that the alleged murderers passed the child off as their own during the initial weeks of the baby’s life.

“It’s like a kick in the gut,” he said. “It’s horrific.”

Yovanny Lopez died in mid-June, after spending about two months in Adovcate’s Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Illinois.

The hospital responded to ABC News’ request for comment but would not address specific details about the case beyond acknowledging that the bills were sent in error.

“Our hearts and prayers continue to be with the Ochoa-Lopez family during this difficult time. We have had discussions with the family regarding inadvertent billing and we regret this error. We take our obligation to patient privacy seriously, and therefore are unable to comment further regarding care, services or billing,” the hospital said in a statement to ABC News.

The horrific case has unfolded over the past two months, with more sordid details being released with every change in the case’s status.

Clarisa Figueroa, 46, and Desiree Figueroa, 26, were initially charged with first degree murder in connection to the death of Ochoa-Lopez, who was 19 years old at the time of her death. On Thursday, state officials confirmed that the pair will face a second murder charge as a result of Yovanny Lopez’s death.

Avila said that his client, the grieving husband and father Yovany Lopez, wanted the second murder charge added.

“He believed that was right,” Avila said, “but every time this comes in the media, it’s very difficult for him.”

“I think that he’s going to have things that haunt him forever,” Avila said of Yovany Lopez, who Avila said is 20-years-old and works in construction.

In addition to the updates in the case, Avila said that his client has also received “less than a dozen” bills from the hospital — even though Avila said that hospital officials had told him that they would not be sending any.

Avila said that “there’s negligence and infliction of emotional distress at certain times” by the hospital.

“This broke my heart,” Avila said of the case. “This is something that will haunt me forever.”

“I’ve held the baby. I was with the baby. I saw the baby in the NICU, and it’s so tragic,” he said, referring to a neonatal intensive care unit.

Avila said that he and his client are in the midst of a probate case “to try and get some more documents because we don’t have all the medical records that were promised.” After that, Avila said that they are planning on filing lawsuits, though none are currently underway.

In May, Assistant State’s Attorney James Murphy said that following Ochoa-Lopez’s murder, Clarisa Figueroa brought the baby to a nearby hospital, where the child was admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit. Clarisa Figueroa then allegedly formed a GoFundMe page in an effort to raise money for the baby, who authorities say she was passing off as her own.

Both women had pleaded not guilty to the murder charge in the death of Ochoa-Lopez, ABC Chicago station WLS reported. They have not entered pleas on the new murder charges.

Yovany Lopez isn’t the only one grappling with the death of his wife and newborn son. Ochoa-Lopez was also survived by the couple’s 3-year-old son. Avila said that the toddler “doesn’t fully understand what’s going on.”

The toddler did visit his brother in the hospital while he was being treated, after it was determined that the Figueroas were not related to the child.

“When he saw the baby died,” Avila said of the toddler, “he said ‘wake him up, wake him up, I want to play with him.’”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

'Manhole' becomes 'maintenance hole' as Berkeley switches to gender-neutral language

No Comments National News

iStock(BERKELEY, Calif.) — Manholes will now be known as maintenance holes and craftsman will be replaced by artisan, after the Berkeley, California, City Council voted unanimously to revise the city’s municipal code with gender-neutral language.

Dozens of terms will be revised and the pronouns “they” and “them” will replace “he” and “she,” according to the new ordinance.

“In recent years, broadening societal awareness of transgender and gender nonconforming identities has brought to light the importance of non-binary gender inclusivity,” Rigel Robinson, a member of the council and a co-sponsor of the ordinance, said in a letter to the mayor and city council.

The ordinance follows the city’s decision in February to allow city employees to add their preferred pronoun to their name badge.

“There is power in language,” Robinson said. “This is a small move, but it matters.”

Other changes include adjusting “sorority and fraternity” to “collegiate Greek residents.” Man-made will become human-made, while pregnant women will be referred to as pregnant employees.

Lori Droste, another co-sponsor, addressed those who objected to the ordinance in a Twitter thread.

“We are not legislating how people talk to us but our message is that we serve people regardless of their gender,” Droste said. “We are forgetting what government service is all about. We are here to help and serve and be inclusive. And yes, Berkeley is a beacon of light in some dark times.”

Two other members of the council, Cheryl Davila and Ben Bartlett, also co-sponsored the ordinance.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

"Play Something Country" and get a free trip to see Brooks & Dunn in Las Vegas

No Comments Country Music News

Country Music Hall of Fame and MuseumIs a Brooks & Dunn song your go-to karaoke tune? If so — and you happen to be pretty good at it — you could find yourself on your way to Sin City.

Nashville’s Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum is launching the Brooks & Dunn: Kings of Neon Karaoke Contest to promote their new B&D exhibit.

To enter, just upload a video of you doing your best version of one of Kix and Ronnie’s classics to your public Instagram account, and add the hashtag #KingsOfNeonContest.

Ten finalists will compete for the grand prize August 28 during a sing-off at Losers Bar and Grill in downtown Nashville.

The lucky winner will get a trip to Las Vegas to see Reba, Brooks & Dunn: Together in Vegas, as well as a chance to check out the new exhibit and record at Historic RCA Studio B in Nashville. You can find out more about the contest online.

Brooks & Dunn: Kings of Neon opens at the Hall of Fame on Friday, August 9 and runs through July 19, 2020.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

DHS warns of Russian efforts to divide America over pineapple pizza — sort of

No Comments National News

iStock(NEW YORK) — The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is warning that Russian agents could seek to further divide Americans by exploiting U.S. passions over whether pineapple belongs on pizza.

It’s a cheesy, playful warning — but it’s trying to deliver a serious message. Posted online Wednesday by the department’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, the tongue-in-cheek warning aims to help Americans identify and protect against propaganda campaigns from Russia and other foreign adversaries.

After all, the DHS warning says, Russian agents are capable of simultaneously insisting online that “Being anti-pineapple is un-American!” while also pushing out posts saying “Millennials are ruining pizza!”

“Foreign influencers are constantly on the lookout for opportunities to inflame hot button issues in the United States,” the new DHS warning says. “They don’t do this to win arguments; they want to see us divided.”

According to the warning, foreign interference usually follows certain patterns.

First, foreign agents identify a divisive issue to target — though likely not an issue as silly as whether pineapple is an appropriate pizza topping.

“No matter how you slice it, Americans disagree on the fruit topping,” the DHS document notes with a pun.

After targeting a controversial issue, foreign agents then make sure social media accounts are in place, often reusing or renaming accounts “to pollute those debates with bad information and make our positions more extreme by picking fights, or ‘trolling’ people online,” according to the DHS warning.

The “most extreme version of arguments on both sides of an issue” often then become framed “as legitimate information sources,” pushing them “into the mainstream” and carrying them to larger audiences, the DHS warning says.

The final step of foreign interference is for agents to take what started in cyberspace and turn it into something “very real, with Americans shouting down Americans because of foreign interference,” DHS warns.

“In the past, Kremlin agents have organized or funded protests to further stoke divisions among Americans. They create event pages and ask followers to come out,” according to DHS.

DHS offered this example: If the “war on pineapple” was a more serious issue, a foreign agent might tell unwitting followers to “JOIN YOUR FELLOW PIZZA LOVERS AT THE TOWN CENTER TO MARCH FOR PINEAPPLE!”

Nevertheless, in its warning on Wednesday, DHS made clear — in jest — that: “To date, we have no evidence of Russia (or any nation) actively carrying out information operations against pizza toppings.”

Russia’s wide-ranging interference in the 2016 presidential campaign, from stealing and releasing thousands of Democratic National Committee emails to waging disinformation campaigns online, has U.S. authorities bracing for what could happen in the run-up to the 2020 presidential election.

Russian President Vladimir Putin not only wants to “weaken” the United States in the years ahead, but he also wants to keep his grip on power, according to Suzanne Spaulding, a former senior official at DHS who helped lead U.S. efforts to mitigate Russian cyber operations.

“He doesn’t want [Russian citizens] to see … the United States and liberal democracy as something they should long for. So what he wants to portray to them is democracy in chaos,” Spaulding said Friday at the annual Aspen Security Forum in Aspen, Colorado.

And when it comes to cyber-operations against foreign adversaries, Russia “is practicing jiu jitsu,” trying to use the First Amendment and American free speech “against us,” Spaulding said.

A DHS spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request seeking comment for this article.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

'Veronica Mars' season four is streaming now, launches one week early on Hulu

No Comments Entertainment News

Hulu(SAN DIEGO) — Here’s a plot twist worthy of the show itself: Veronica Mars season four is now available on Hulu, one week ahead of schedule.

The show’s star, Kristen Bell, announced the surprise news at San Diego Comic-Con on Friday. During the Veronica Mars panel, Bell declared that she wanted Hulu to release all eight episodes of the revival immediately, in honor of her birthday, which was Thursday.

The panel’s moderator, TVLine’s Michael Ausiello, confirmed to the cheering crowd that Hulu had indeed granted Bell’s birthday wish.

Time to start binging, Marshmallows.

The beloved series originally aired on UPN and The CW from 2004 to 2007. A Veronica Mars movie debuted in 2014 after a successful kickstarter campaign. The fourth season was initially set to return on Hulu Friday, July 26.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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