Among the hardest hit was Tennessee, where officials believe hundreds of buildings have been damaged or destroyed as fires burned in Sevier County, just outside Knoxville. The county is home to the popular tourist destinations of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge.
A Jacksonville Sheriff’s Officer working in the construction zone on the Buckman Bridge was hit by a suspected drunk driver early today. According to JSO, the officer sustained non-life threatening injuries and was taken to the hospital as a precaution. The driver who hit the cruiser was arrested for Driving Under the Influence. The officer was working on the Buckman because of lane closures due to ongoing construction.
A young Oklahoma woman found out details of her state’s sex offender laws the hard way, when the man who sexually abused her as a child legally moved in next door. Danyelle Dyer, 21, is now working with her family and state legislators to change those laws. Dyer, of Bristow, was just 7 years old when she was molested by Harold Dwayne English, her stepuncle. Oklahoma Department of Corrections records showed that English was convicted in 2005. Having served his sentence, English, 64, recently moved in with his mother, Dyer’s grandmother, about 100 yards away from the Dyer home. “He’s, like, right there, practically in my backyard, and that kind of makes me nervous and not want to go home ever,” the college student told KFOR in Oklahoma City. >> Read more trending news Horrified by their new neighbor, Dyer and her parents looked into Oklahoma law. The law requires that registered sex offenders live a certain distance away from schools and playgrounds. The law does not require that sex offenders stay away from their victims. Larina Dyer told KFOR that it is “heartbreaking” that her daughter is once again faced with the man who hurt her. “When you have to see it, I can only imagine what it does to my daughter when she’s there and she has to witness it,” Larina Dyer said. “She shouldn’t have to.” Greg Dyer said it is difficult for him and his wife as parents, as well. “Not only is my daughter feeling her past come back to haunt her, but a lot of years of rage and anger that I’ve kept under my collar is sitting right outside my door,” Greg Dyer told the news station. Danyelle Dyer chose to go public with her dilemma earlier this month, posting her story on Facebook. “Meet my abuser and my new neighbor,” she wrote alongside a photo of English on the state sex offender registry website. “He has been asked to leave, but in Oklahoma, he can legally reside there. Surely, Oklahoma can do better than this. My parents and I are out to change Oklahoma law, because surely, he can find somewhere else to live.” Danyelle Dyer urged people to use the Oklahoma sex offender registry to see who is living in their neighborhoods. She said that her hope is to bring awareness to the registry, which is public record, and to make the public aware of the flaws in Oklahoma sex offender laws. “I wish to save other women and children from the pain that this man has put me through and is continuing to put my family through by living next door to my parents,” she wrote. Danyelle Dyer also wrote on Facebook that she is “baffled” that her grandmother has taken English’s side in the situation. “He will never change, and she is foolish to think otherwise,” she wrote. She wrote that her protest is not powered by hate but by the hope that she can make positive change happen. “I’m a force to be reckoned with,” Danyelle Dyer wrote.
A televangelist and so-called “prosperity preacher” with ties to Charlotte has been indicted by a federal grand jury. Pastor Todd Coontz is accused of failing to pay taxes and filing false tax returns, as well as hiding assets that were paid for by donations. The U.S. attorney said, “This is a classic example of, ‘Do as I say, not as I do.’” >> Read more trending news WSOCTV.com reporter Jim Bradley began investigating Coontz nearly five years ago. As a cable TV evangelist, Coontz promised financial miracles for people who sent money to his ministry. “You need to plant the $273 recovery seed. I’m only going to give you two to three minutes to respond,” Coontz once told his viewers. Coontz posted videos on Twitter as recently as Wednesday, promising financial blessings to the faithful. “Suddenly miracles are happening. I want to work with your faith for quick things, swift things,” Coontz said in the video. In February 2013, a Channel 9 investigation revealed some of Coontz’s own “blessings,” which included a $1.38 million condo at a building on the corner of Providence and Sharon Amity roads. In the garage of that building was his Ferrari and his Maserati. A federal criminal indictment on Thursday pointed to those exact same assets in WSOCTV’s investigation. The condo was purchased by Coontz’s Rockwealth Ministries as 'parsonage' for him, according to the indictment. The court documents said the cars were also titled in the name of the ministry. The U.S. Secret Service started looking into Coontz and Rockwealth Ministries as a result of the WSOCTV investigation. The indictment revealed delinquent tax returns from as far back as 2000. From 2010-2013, Coontz owed more than $326,000 in taxes. Investigators said he also hid his income from the Internal Revenue Service by cashing checks he received from churches and ministries for travel and speaking engagements and then claiming that same travel as business expenses. The indictment also revealed he used business funds to pay for personal expenses, such as more than $227,000 for clothes, $140,000 at restaurants and more than 400 charges at movie theaters. Coontz's defense attorney, Mark Foster, said the indictment makes allegations but isn't proof. “He's otherwise is a good man,” Foster said. “He's tried to do the right thing all his life and he has no criminal record. We're going to fight this out.” Foster said Coontz trusted others to manage his finances and taxes for him and was shocked to find out he was under criminal investigation by the IRS. Coontz has been ordered to appear in federal court in Charlotte. Statement from Coontz’s attorney: 'William Todd Coontz has been indicted by a federal grand jury in Charlotte on several criminal tax charges. Coontz unequivocally asserts his innocence of these charges. A grand jury is tasked only with determining whether there is probable cause to believe that a defendant has committed a federal crime. The government presents its evidence to the grand jury in secret and the defense cannot be present. Thus, the grand jury’s indictment of Coontz is not a determination of guilt -- it is merely a preliminary finding that is necessary before the federal government can prosecute someone. The government has chosen to make a statement to the press about Mr. Coontz’s indictment. It must be remembered that Todd Coontz is presumed innocent. Todd Coontz has retained veteran federal criminal defense attorney Mark Foster to represent him in this case and will vigorously defend himself against these charges. Todd Coontz has always endeavored to follow the law and to be a good citizen, father and minister. He trusted others to manage his finances and taxes for him and was shocked to find out he was under criminal investigation by the IRS. We expect that after hearing all the evidence, a jury will fully vindicate Mr. Coontz by finding him not guilty of all charges. - Mark Foster, Attorney at Law
Here's a roundup of news trending across the nation and the world today. What to know now: 1. Senate health care bill: The Senate health care bill was unveiled on Thursday. The bill seeks to roll back much of the Affordable Care Act – or Obamacare. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, (R-Kentucky), will now have to make sure his fellow Republicans will vote for the bill. With a 52-48 advantage in the Senate, McConnell cannot afford to lose more than two votes. On Thursday after the bill was released, four GOP senators said publicly that they could not vote for the bill as it stands. 2. Trump didn’t have any Comey tapes: President Donald Trump admitted Thursday that he has no tapes of his conversations with former FBI Director James Comey. Seven weeks after Trump suggested in a tweet that Comey, “… better hope that there are no 'tapes' of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!” The president posted these tweets on Thursday: 3. Trump: Mueller, Comey relationship is “bothersome”: In an interview with “Fox and Friends” Friday morning, President Trump said the relationship between James Comey and special counsel Robert Mueller is “bothersome.” Comey and Mueller worked together at the Justice Department, and it was Comey who took over leadership of the FBI when Mueller left the agency in 2010. When asked if Mueller should step down, Trump said, “We’re going to have to see.” 4. Travel ban ruling: The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to announce its decision on President Trump’s travel ban soon, possibly on Friday. The issue is whether to let the administration enforce the ban immediately and then hear the appeal of the rulings by the lower courts which blocked the ban on immigrants coming into the country from certain predominantly Muslim countries. 5. North Korea on Warmbier: North Korean officials are denying that they tortured American student Otto Warmbier, saying that North Korea on Friday was the 'biggest victim' in Warmbier’s death. Warmbier died Monday after being returned to the United States in a coma following a year of detention in North Korea. Warmbier allegedly attempted to steal a poster from the wall of a hotel in North Korea. He was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor. And one more Friday is “Take Your Dog to Work Day.” More businesses than ever are finding out that allowing you to bring a pet makes for a better work environment where employees are more productive and stay longer with a company. Or, as your dog would hear it: Sit. Stay. In case you missed it
Investigators are working to solve the 20-year-old murder of a woman killed in her home. Lorrie Smith, 28, was found dead of a gunshot wound at her home on Stonewall Tell Road on May 25, 1997. Her father said he found her body when he went to wake her up for church. “I opened the door and there she was in her blood on the floor. I thought that was the end of me right there,” James Smith said. >> Read more trending news WSBTV’s Nefertiti Jaquez walked through the room with investigators Thursday night. Jaquez also got an exclusive look at the case files and evidence photos taken the day Lorrie Smith was found shot to death. The Fulton County police department’s forensic specialist says it’s clear the victim fought for her life. “We know based on the crime scene itself and the struggle. We know the offender was injured. We know there was evidence that was left that gave us a DNA profile,” Helen Weathers said. Using new technology, investigators developed in image of the suspect in the case. They have photos of what they believe he looked like at the time of the murder as well as what they believe he looks like now. Police said despite the DNA and photos, they still aren’t sure who they are seeking. “He was in prison and released before CODIS (Combined DNA Index System) was mandated for convicted felons. He never committed another crime or he could be dead,” Lt. Roger Peace said. Lorrie Smith’s father just wants closure. “There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about her,” James Smith said. The family has put up an $11,000 reward. If you know something that could help solve this crime, call CrimeStoppers at 404-577-8477. You can remain anonymous and be eligible for a reward.