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El Faro Hearing - Day 4

New day of El Faro hearings include questions on prior inspections
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The Latest News Headlines

  • Shanann Watts’ Facebook profile is one filled with love; love for her family and love for her job. >> UPDATE:  Father charged with murder The pregnant Colorado mother of two was found buried in a shallow grave Thursday, not far from where the bodies of her daughters, Bella, 4, and 3-year-old Celeste, were found hidden inside oil tanks on the property of Anadarko Petroleum Corp., the oil and gas exploration company for which their father worked, Weld County court records show.  The court records, obtained by 9News in Denver, also indicated that the victims may have been strangled. Their autopsy results had not been released as of Monday morning.  >> Related story: Shanann Watts, 2 daughters likely strangled, records show Christopher Lee Watts, 33, of Frederick, was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of three counts of first-degree murder and three counts of tampering with physical evidence in the slayings, which investigators believe took place Monday. That was the day that a friend of Shanann Watts’ reported the mother and daughters missing after she went to the family’s home and found no sign of them. Investigators said the victim’s vehicle and purse were at the house, as were medications for the girls.   In her social media posts, Shanann Watts appeared thrilled to be carrying her third child. In a video she posted June 11, she wore a T-shirt that read, “Oops, we did it again,” her way of telling Chris Watts he was again going to be a father.  In the recording, Chris Watts walks into the room and stops, reading the shirt. He laughs. “I like that shirt,” he says. “Really?” “Really,” his wife responds.  “That’s awesome,” he says. After kissing Shanann Watts, he says, “Guess when you want to, it happens.” Shanann Watts also recorded the moment she told her daughters that “Mommy has a baby in her belly.” Both girls cheer and jump up and down with excitement.  Shanann Watts juggled motherhood with her work as a salesperson for Le-Vel, a health and wellness company that sells nutritional products. Though she and her husband filed for bankruptcy protection a few years ago, her work and his job with Anadarko appeared to rejuvenate the couple’s finances.  Her Facebook feed was dedicated to her family and her work, which allowed for much travel.  “We have qualified for so many amazing trips in two years that we never otherwise would have been able to visit,” she wrote in one post.  Shanann Watts’ brother, Frankie Rzucek, wrote on Facebook Friday that his sister, who he looked up to, was the “hardest working person (he’s) ever known.” In an extensive post describing his only sibling, he revealed that she had lupus, an autoimmune disease that causes a person’s body to attack its own organs.  According to WebMD, it also means that any pregnancy is considered high-risk.  “Lupus can complicate pregnancy with an increased risk of miscarriage, premature delivery and preeclampsia, as well as heart problems in the baby,” according to the medical website. “When our family found out she beat all the odds and became pregnant, I can't even explain our excitement,” Rzucek wrote. “Shanann was born to be a mother and help change lives.” He called her a “picture-perfect” mother. “I was blown away when I moved out there and lived with her for a few months after her first-born daughter, Bella (My Bella Bean),” Rzucek wrote. “I was exhausted by just watching my sister. She made being a parent look easy.” Shanann Watts publicly shared many photos of her girls, along with videos. Bella was often the star of the videos, including one in which she sang a song calling her father a hero.  “My Daddy is a hero, he helps me grow up strong,” Bella sings, a shy smile on her face. “He reads me books, he ties my shoes. You’re a hero, through and through. My Daddy, Daddy, I love you.” “I totally just cried!” Shanann Watts wrote in the caption of the video.  In another video, the expectant mother asks Bella how many babies are in her belly.  “Five!” Bella says, grinning. “Whoa, whoa, whoa,” a male voice says from off camera.  “That’s a lot of babies,” Shanann Watts says.  Bella, who would kiss her mother’s pregnant stomach each night, giggles as Shanann Watts tells her that she needs to grow up quickly because she’ll need a lot of help with all those babies.  In a June post showing a scrape on Celeste’s forehead, Shanann Watts calls the 3-year-old “one of the toughest kids (she knows).” She says that Celeste and her energy is the reason she started using Thrive, one of the products she sold for Le-Vel.  “Lawd, this kid gives me mini heart attacks on the regular,” Shanann Watts wrote.  In an interview with 9News in Denver the day before his arrest, Chris Watts also described the couple’s children.  “Celeste, she’s just a bottle of energy,” he said. “I call her ‘Rampage’ because she's got two speeds: go, or she’s sleeping. She’s always the troublemaker, she’s always the one, like, jumping off things. Bella, she’s the more calm, cautious, mothering type, and she’s more like me -- she’s more calm. Celeste has definitely got her mom’s personality, where she’s all gung-ho, ready to go.” See Chris Watts’ entire interview with 9News below. In a Father’s Day post accompanied by a photo collage of the family, Shanann Watts praises her husband. “Chris, we are so incredibly blessed to have you! You do so much every day for us and take such great care of us. You are the reason I was brave enough to agree to number 3! From laundry to kids’ showers! You are incredible, and we are so lucky to have you in our life! Happy Father’s Day!” Rzucek wrote that he let his anger toward Chris Watts get the better of him in a previous post, in which he called his brother-in-law a “heartless psychopath” and said he wanted just 30 seconds alone with him.  He said he would never delete or regret his comments, however.  “He stole my whole world and treated them like they were trash,” Rzucek wrote. “I’ve never been so mad, sad, enraged, hurt, heartbroken, lost and shocked in all my life. So forgive me for how I went about it. My sister and nieces meant the absolute world to me. They made me strive to be an even better man. I wanted them to be proud of their uncle.” Rzucek wrote that he could go on for days with memories of his beloved sister, who recently visited family in North Carolina with Bella and Celeste, but instead said he was proud and honored to receive the love and well-wishes of those who will miss Shanann Watts.  He also asked people to pray for Chris Watts’ family, who is also mourning. “I'm trying really hard not to hate him because that's not how we were raised, but I just can't find it in my heart. I really don’t know what to say,” Rzucek wrote. “I just thank God that I got to spend the last six weeks loving, laughing,and enjoying what precious time I had with my sister and nieces that I loved with every inch of my soul.  “I wish I could go back in time and be there to keep you safe from harm. Sorry Uncle couldn't save you.”
  • A man is facing charges after nearly colliding head-on with a law enforcement officer, before leading police on a chase - all while a young child sat in the car, according to the Jacksonville Sheriffs Office. JSO says 20-year old Elijah Malik was observed failing to stop at a posted stop sign at Golfair Blvd.  An officer on the scene initiated a traffic stop, but lost sight of the driver as he turned down a street with no outlet. The driver- Malik- then allegedly sped back in the direction of the officer, nearly colliding head-on with the patrol car and forcing it off the road.  According to the police report, the man was then observed driving through a Walgreens and McDonalds parking lot, nearly colliding with multiple vehicles and pedestrians.  Two officers pursued the vehicle, until JSO says the driver crashed at Rowe Ave. Malik allegedly refused verbal commands by arresting officers and had to be pulled from the vehicle.  The two passengers inside - one of who was a young child - were not injured in the crash.  Malik faces charges of child neglect, reckless driving, attempting to elude a law enforcement officer at high speed and more.
  • A pregnant Colorado woman and her two young daughters may have been strangled, according to court documents filed by the defense team for the husband and father accused of killing his entire family.  >> MORE: Father charged with murder Christopher Lee Watts, 33, of Frederick, was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of three counts of first-degree murder and three counts of tampering with physical evidence, for allegedly hiding the bodies of his wife, Shanann Watts, 34, and their daughters, Bella Watts, 4, and Celeste Watts, 3. The mother and daughters were reported missing Monday when a friend of Shanann Watts could not reach her.  >> Read more trending news 9News in Denver reported Friday that motions filed by defense attorney James Merson offered a glimpse into some of the details of the slayings. In one motion filed in Weld County, Merson indicated he’d spoken to a DNA expert, Richard Eikelenboom. Eikelenboom told Merson in the filing that “even though the bodies of two of the decedents have been in an oil well filled with crude oil for several days, DNA would still be present,” the news station reported.  Bella and Celeste Watts’ bodies were found hidden inside oil or gas tanks on the property of Anadarko Petroleum Corp., which employed Chris Watts until his arrest. The company said in a statement last week that he was fired Wednesday.  >> Related story: Bodies of 2 missing Colorado girls recovered as father appears in court Eikelenboom wrote in an email to Merson that it was his “expert opinion that DNA evidence would remain on the necks of the decedent children, in spite of the fact that the remains were in oil for four days,” the court records said. “In my opinion, the presence of oil will not destroy the DNA.” The Coloradoan reported that Merson’s motions focused on having the pathologist swab the children’s necks for DNA during their autopsies, which were scheduled for Friday. He also asked in the motion that DNA samples be taken from Shanann Watts hands and fingernails, along with the fingernails of the couple’s children, the newspaper reported.  Merson also requested that Eikelenboom be present during the autopsies.  The Coloradoan reported Sunday that a judge denied Merson’s requests for DNA swabs, saying he would not tell the medical examiner’s office how to do its job. The newspaper also reported that the autopsies were completed Friday, but the cause of the victims’ deaths have not been made public.  Additional court documents obtained Saturday by 9News indicated that Shanann Watts, who was about 15-weeks pregnant when she died, was found buried in a shallow grave near the tanks where her daughters were dumped. Those details were unveiled in a court filing by Weld County District Attorney Michael Rourke, who was responding to the motions filed by Merson.  “The body of defendant’s wife was located earlier this morning after being recovered from a shallow grave near an oil tank,” prosecutors wrote in the motion filed late Thursday. “Later this afternoon, law enforcement recovered the bodies of defendant’s two daughters from inside oil tanks located near the grave of their mother. The Weld County coroner has informed the prosecution that time is of the essence in conducting the autopsies, especially for the children given the period of time their bodies were submerged in oil.” >> Related story: Colorado man who pleaded for return of missing wife, daughters arrested in deaths Shanann Watts and her daughters were reported missing last Monday, Aug. 13, when a friend of hers went to the Watts home and they were not there. That friend, Nickole Atkinson, told ABC News that she dropped Shanann off at the Watts home around 2 a.m. that morning, following a business trip.  She was supposed to pick her friend up again later that day, but when she arrived at the house around noon, Shanann and the girls were gone. Police later determined that Shanann Watts’ vehicle and purse were at the house, as were medications for the children.  Atkinson told ABC News that she “didn’t want to think the worst,” but felt that something was amiss because Chris Watts seemed unconcerned that his pregnant wife and young daughters were missing. “He was just sitting there waiting for something to happen; it just didn’t seem right to me,” Atkinson told the news agency.  Chris Watts gave an interview to 9News the day before his arrest. See his entire interview below. Atkinson said she was not shocked when Chris Watts was arrested, but said she did not know of any trouble in the marriage until the day her friend disappeared. She told ABC News that Chris Watts suggested that day that his wife had left him.  “When I called him and asked him where she was, that’s when he told me and I basically told him that that wasn’t my (concern) at that particular moment, because it wasn’t, and that their business was their business, that they would either work it out or they wouldn’t,” Atkinson said.  Chris Watts spoke out the day before his arrest in an interview with 9News, in which he described the situation as “a nightmare that (he) just (couldn’t) wake up from.”  The young father also addressed those who might think he had a hand in his family’s disappearance. “Everybody’s going to have their own opinion on anything like this,” Watts said. “I just want people to know that I want my family back. I want them safe and I want them here. This house is not the same.” Less than 24 hours later, Watts was in custody. A law enforcement source told 9News that Watts confessed to killing his wife and children.  No suspected motive has been made public by investigators. 
  • Pope Francis has written a letter to Catholics condemning sexual abuse by priests. >> On WPXI.com: Report names 300 alleged ‘predator priests’ >> Read more trending news  “Looking back to the past, no effort to beg pardon and to seek to repair the harm done will ever be sufficient,” said the letter, which the Vatican released Monday. “Looking ahead to the future, no effort must be spared to create a culture able to prevent such situations from happening, but also to prevent the possibility of their being covered up and perpetuated.” >> On WPXI.com: Report: Ring of 'predatory priests' shared, photographed victims He added: “We showed no care for the little ones; we abandoned them.” >> Read the full letter here The letter came less than a week after a grand jury report identified more than 300 priests accused of abuse in six dioceses in Pennsylvania. According to WPXI, a ring of predatory priests with the Pittsburgh Diocese allegedly shared information on victims and exchanged the victims among themselves, as well as made child pornography on Diocesan property. >> On WPXI.com: Cardinal Wuerl moves monthly meeting with council of priests In his letter, Pope Francis said Catholics must “acknowledge and condemn, with sorrow and shame, the atrocities perpetrated by consecrated persons, clerics, and all those entrusted with the mission of watching over and caring for those most vulnerable.” He wrote: “Let us beg forgiveness for our own sins and the sins of others. An awareness of sin helps us to acknowledge the errors, the crimes and the wounds caused in the past and allows us, in the present, to be more open and committed along a journey of renewed conversion.” Read more here.
  •  Last week, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said President Donald Trump was revoking the security clearance of former CIA chief John Brennan and was considering revoking several others over national security concerns. One of the other security clearances Trump was said to be considering revoking was that of Bruce Ohr, a Department of Justice employee. >>Trump revokes former CIA director John Brennan's security clearance Who is Ohr and why is he on the president’s list? Here’s a look at how Ohr fits into the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and has drawn Trump’s ire. First, some background. In 2015, the conservative website the Washington Beacon hired a company called Fusion GPS to investigate Trump after he announced he was running for president. Fusion GPS is a commercial research firm started by a group of former Wall Street Journal reporters. Fusion GPS hired former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele to do that work, and Steele eventually produced a dossier on Trump. Steele claimed that in addition to salacious situations that Trump had supposedly engaged in, the then-candidate also had ties to various Russian businessmen and officials in the Russian government. Once Trump appeared to be a certainty for the Republican nomination for president, Fusion GPS’ assignment for the Beacon ended, but in April 2016, the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign hired Fusion to continue that investigation into Trump’s dealings. In the summer of 2016, Steele took his dossier to the FBI. The FBI began an investigation into possible Russian meddling in the election on July 31, 2016. How does Ohr figure into the story?  Ohr knew Steele and had discussions with him about the dossier. Ohr discussed what Steele had told him about Trump with people at Fusion GPS, according to The Washington Post. Fusion GPS founder, Glenn Simpson, testified before the House Intelligence Committee in November that both he and Steele had known Ohr previously. Simpson said he knew Ohr through organized crime conferences Ohr held when he was in charge of that unit at the DOJ. Simpson also testified before the House Intelligence Committee, that Steele suggested he speak to Ohr after the “very surprising” victory by Trump. “It was not clear to us whether anyone at a high level of government was aware of the information that Chris had gathered and provided to the FBI,” Simpson told legislators. “Chris suggested I give some information to Bruce, give him the background to all this.” Former FBI agent Peter Strzok testified before Congress that Ohr 'gave the FBI documents, which included material that I believe originated from Mr. Steele.'Strzok was fired from the FBI earlier this month after it was discovered that he exchanged text messages disparaging the president while he was heading up an investigation into Russian meddling in the election. Ohr’s wife, Nellie, worked for Fusion GPS, and was involved in gathering information on Trump. How did Ohr’s name become public? Ohr was named in a memo prepared by Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee headed by Rep. Devin Nunes, (R-California). The memo claims that Ohr misled a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court that had been asked to issue a warrant to monitor Carter Page, a Trump campaign operative. He misled them, Republicans say, by not disclosing what he knew about Steele. The Post reported, however, that Ohr “is not thought to have played a direct role in obtaining or renewing the warrant to monitor Page.” “Mr. Ohr is a career employee of the department. He was there when I arrived. To my knowledge, he wasn't working on the Russia matter,” Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein told the House Intelligence Committee in June. “When we learned of the relevant information, we arranged to transfer Mr. Ohr to a different office.” The FBI interviewed Ohr about his interactions with Steele. Those interviews are classified. What did the memo say about Ohr? According to the memo, Ohr and Steele communicated with each other both before and after Steele became an FBI source. Steele told Ohr that he was 'desperate that Donald Trump not get elected and was passionate about him not being president.' The memo claimed that while Ohr recorded Steele’s bias toward Trump, that information was “not reflected in any of the Page FISA applications.”  >>What is a FISA warrant? According to the memo, Ohr 'later provided the FBI with all of his wife's opposition research,” which was funded by the DNC and Clinton’s campaign. Ohr also said he and his wife’s relationship with Steele and Fusion were 'inexplicably concealed' from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the memo said. How is his wife Nellie involved? Nellie Ohr a former professor at Vassar College who became an independent research contractor working on projects having to do with Russian technology. Nellie Ohr worked for Fusion GPS during the 2016 election. According to Simpson in a court filing last year, Nellie Ohr worked for Fusion on 'research and analysis of Mr. Trump.” What happens next? Ohr, who was demoted from his job after it was discovered that he had communicated with Steele, is set for a closed-door hearing with the House Judiciary Committee on Aug. 28. Rep. Bob Goodlatte, (R-Virginia), chairman of the committee says he wants to talk to Nellie Ohr, as well. 

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