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Latest from Steven Ponson

    Jacksonville Police say another person has been charged in connection to the westside shooting death of 7-year-old Heidy Rivas-Villanueva. JSO says Kezia Holmes was arrested for tampering with evidence. Homes is the 4th person arrested in connection to the 7-year-old’s death. We told you earlier this month when Heidy was sitting in a car with her family in a parking lot on 103rd street when they were caught in the crossfire during a planned robbery between multiple suspects. Meanwhile JSO says they are also searching for a 5th person in connection to Heidy’s death. Police say they are searching  28-year-old Edward Garcia who has an active warrant for Accessory After The Fact with a 250,000 bond. Last week we told you when JSO arrested 3 others in connection to Heidy’s death.  Police say if you have any information related to this case to give them a call at 904-630-0500.
  • It's an incident she likely never forget.  A Jacksonville woman says a gun was pointed at her in a road rage incident on the southside as she was going to work Wednesday morning.  Victoria Furukawa tells our news partners at Action News Jax the incident started after a guy in an older white car cut her off near I-95 and University.  “He got right in front of me, I’m going 75 he’s going probably 60, gets right in front of me, I have to slam on my brakes so hard my car just locks and it just stops working, like the brakes lock up.” Furukawa says.  She says the man stayed close to her as they went south on the interstate. She says when they were at the Baymeadows Road exit she honked and tried to get around him and that’s when he pulled out a gun. “He’s just straight up pointing a gun at my face just holding it point blank at me like that.” she says. She says the guy kept following her for a while and eventually she was able to lose him at a nearby exit. “It was absolutely terrifying. I’m probably gonna have that image in my brain for the rest of forever, being scared about it.” Furukawa says.  She says she called 911 and filed a police report which we are working to get from the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office to learn more information about the incident.
  • Only hours after the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office announced two arrests in connection to the fatal shooting of 7-year-old Heidy Rivas Villanueva and an active search for a third suspect, the community gathered for a vigil in her honor Tuesday evening.  An estimated 150 people turned out, with family, friends, community members, JSO officers, and even strangers all paying their respects to Heidy.  Heidy’s family got emotional as they arrived to see the massive crowd already waiting. GALLERY: Community gathers for vigil to remember 7-year-old Heydi Rivas Villanueva A priest who addressed the crowd, said, 'It's not goodbye, but see you later.' Heidy was supposed to start first grade this week at Sadie Tillis Elementary School. Her family says she loved to paint and to study English. Her father says they hope to hold her funeral in her home country of Honduras. Heidy 10-year-old cousin was also attending the vigil and was very emotional while speaking to us after we got permission to speak with him from his parents. We’ve received clarification from Heidy’s family on the correct spelling of the 7-year-old’s name. When the incident first happened JSO ID’d her with a different spelling and that’s why you have seen her name spelled different ways.
  • Tuesday is the first day back for Clay County Public Schools. Clay Schools say they are starting the year with 36,404 students and if you include charter schools that number goes up to 36,444.  Clay Schools say there are a variety of times when schools start, but generally the schedule shows senior highs schools will head back first, then elementary schools, and finally junior high schools. As those students head back for their first day the district says they have 210 buses which will take about 4,800 students to school. “There some awesome, awesome people here that do a lot for our kids and just they love what they do.” Says the director of transportation for Clay County Schools Derald Sweatt.  The district says if you have any questions about your child’s bus route you can call 904-336-0001.   Following the Parkland school shooting, there are new state safety standards at schools. At the start of this year Clay County Schools say they will have safety officers at each of their schools on the first day. Clay Schools say there will be 29 total School Safety Officers which will be placed at 24 elementary schools across the county. The district says 2 relief officers and 3 supervisors are included in the 29. Clay County Sheriff Darryl Daniels says those who went through the training to become a school safety officer have gone through training that’s above and beyond whats mandated by the state. “We gave them more, some extra shooting time on the range to make sure that they were proficient in what they were doing.” Sheriff Daniels said. Clay Schools say there will also be 17 total School Resource Officers in place at the junior and senior high schools.  In addition to the School Resources Officers and School Safety Officers Sheriff Daniels said patrol deputies who patrol a school in their area must go and interact with that school while their on duty.  Something else which is new for Clay County Schools is the opening of a new elementary school. Discovery Oaks Elementary school opened its doors for the first time to students today in Oakleaf, off Oakleaf Plantation Parkway. Parents packed the front parking lot as they dropped off their kids at the new school for the first time. “Its exciting because its a brand new school , ya know, kinda got the, got the new new school smell if you will.” said one man dropping off his 4th grader. Some parents wanted to beat the long car lines on the first day. One woman said she showed up in the parking lot around 7 in the morning.  “Any excuse to have the kids out of the house  ya know, of course I’m excited.” She said. Below are helpful maps the schools district provided to help you navigate around the new school and pick up or drop off your kids. For more information on Clay County going back to school you can head to their website at Oneclay.net 
  • Its that time of year again where students return to school and daily routines change after the long summer break. Monday is the first day of classes for Duval County Public Schools and DCPS says this year about 128,000 students will be enrolled at 196 schools across the county.  First it will be high schools to head back, DCPS says they will start around 7:15 this morning and then get out around 2 in the afternoon, then elementary schools will go back around 8:30 and get released around 3, and finally middle schools start around 9:30 and don’t get out until around 4:15. As students, parents and guardians get back into their routines, the first day had some excited. “Oh, she woke up at 2:45 and said how many hours do we got left?” said one East Arlington woman walking her second grader to school.  Others were having flashbacks as they sent their loved ones off to school.  “It felt good, like,  it felt like I was going to school.” Said one man walking his cousin to Sandalwood High School. Following the Parkland school shooting, school safety standards were raised for districts across the state. Going into this year, Duval County  Public Schools says the district is working to make sure school safety assistants are in place at all elementary schools. The district says they are recruiting, vetting and training people to become school safety assistants at elementary schools, and while they continue to train those assistants, JSO is providing support to schools. DCPS says they already have school resource officers at their middle and high schools. The district has previously said they plan to have an assistant in place by the end of the first nine weeks of school.  In addition to the school safety officers the district has taken other steps to keep your child safe. DCPS says the district has added electronic entry systems at 9 schools with 2 other schools in the process of having them installed. The district says those systems are projected to be installed by the early fall. DCPS says once those systems are in place all schools in the district will have an electronic buzz-in system. In addition, the district says each school has a safety plan and a emergency response team, all classrooms will be locked when students are inside, school plans are reviewed each semester, and all offices have a communications line directly to school police and district leadership who can then get in direct contact with JSO.  This year DCPS says 860 busses will take about 48,000 students to school and if you have any questions you can give them a call at the Transportation Call Center at 904-381-7433 now through August 24th.  If you have any other questions about sending your child back to school in Duval the district has more information below. https://dcps.duvalschools.org/backtoschool2018 
  • The 2017-2018 school year is rapidly approaching and as school districts across the state try and comply with the new school safety standards put in place following the Parkland school shooting, we’ve learned Clay and Nassau County public schools will have some form of armed officers in place by the start of the school year.  Clay County Superintendent Addison Davis tells me the district went through 87 applicants for their school safety officer position and they dwindled down those candidates to 30. “They have been trained rigorously by the sheriff’s office and have over 144 hours of training that’s outlined by the guardianship program.” Davis says.  Davis says those school safety officers will be in place at elementary schools across the county while school resource officers will be in place at junior and senior high schools. In Nassau County, the school districts school safety specialist Al Smith says there will be school resources officers at all of their campuses on day one.  “On the first day of school, there will be an armed SRO in every one of the Nassau County schools.” Smith says.  He says those SROs will be from the Fernandina Beach Police Department and the Nassau County Sheriff’s Office.  Other than having armed officers on their campuses, Clay and Nassau schools are taking other steps to keep your kids safe. Superintendent Davis says the district has received around $926,000 for mental health wellness work. “So with our dollars we’ve added more social workers, school psychologists, mental health counselors, along with identifying and hiring a coordinator of mental health, a coordinator of student engagement and a coordinator of nursing.” Davis says. He says this year the district will also focus on training teachers and administrators to better spot students with possible mental health issues. Davis also says the district is close to launching an anonymous crisis hotline. For Nassau County schools Smith says the district has taken a number of steps to help improve school safety. Smith says they’ve limited entrance points into schools, improved fencing around them, installed electric locks, put in easily lockable door nobs, and secured the lobby areas in schools by having a closed reception desk. Among those physical changes, Smith says the district will also have social workers assigned to every school. While Clay and Nassau schools will have those officers and safety measures in place, Duval County Public Schools has said they won’t have their armed school safety assistants in place by the start of school this upcoming Monday. We’ve learned though, the district is working towards training more assistants, DCPS says they’ve hired a second wave of less than 40 people which started training at the end of July. DCPS has said Duval County School Police and the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office will likely fill in the gaps until the district can get the school assistants in place.  We told you Tuesday when less than have of the schools in the St. Johns County school district won’t have an armed deputy in place on the first day, and Baker County School’s Superintendent Sherrie Raulerson said in July that specifically trained law enforcement officers have been assigned full time to each of the Baker County School Districts schools. According to the director of school safety in Baker County, John Crawford, these school resource officers from the Baker County Sheriff’s Office will be in place on the first day of school. Hear what Superintendent Davis says parents can do to help keep schools safe in my full interview below.
  • The St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office says foul play is not suspected after the discovery of a body near Wildwood Drive in a retention pond early Tuesday morning.  Deputies believe it is 20-year-old Arthur Wagner III, who was previously reported missing. The medical examiners office is working to confirm the identity of the body found.  The Sheriff’s Office says while their air unit was searching for Wagner, they found what appeared to be a petroleum based film on a pond near Wildwood Drive late Monday evening.  Deputies say when investigators went to the site they found what appeared to be motorcycle tracks that ended at the edge of the pond. Divers have also recovered a yellow motorcycle from the pond, matching the description of the motorcycle that Wagner was last seen driving on Saturday. During the original missing persons notice,  Deputies say Wagner had recently made threats to harm himself.  The sheriff’s office says its investigation is ongoing. 
  • The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office along with the Duval County Public School Police Department and Jacksonville Fire and Rescue will be at First Coast High School all day Friday conducting an active shooter exercise. JSO says there will be an increased emergency official presence around the campus on Duval Station Rd. so don’t be alarmed.  JSO says the point of the exercise is to improve emergency official’s responses if there was an active shooting situation on any Duval County school campus, improve coordination between officials, and improve management planning and response management operations after a potential incident has happened.  Before the exercise Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams said it was the right time to conduct this type of training.  “We want to be prepared here. We want to make sure that again were making sure the parents in Duval County feel safe.” Williams said. Williams said he feels comfortable emergency officials have covered all their basis. New Duval County Superintendent Dr. Diana Greene said these types of exercises help the district become more proactive rather than reactive.  “Unfortunately, this is our new normal and our administrators need to be fully prepared.” Greene said. Sheriff Williams said logistics is the main reason why they are holding the exercise at First Cost High School. JSO says the exercise is not open to the public.
  • It’s the second biggest shopping “holiday” behind Black Friday in Florida.  The Back-to-School sales tax holiday is back and runs from Friday through Sunday. James Miller with the Florida Retail Federation says eligible items include clothing, shoes, and bags costing $60 or less and school supplies $15 or less.  “Unfortunately there’s no technology component included this year, so anybody, out, going out to get a new laptop or a new iPad unfortunately will have to pay the full price including sales tax.” Miller says.  Miller says the state needed to move some money around with in the state budget and that’s why the technology component isn’t around this year. Miller says the Florida Retail Federation will be trying to get that tax break into the state budget for next year. Miller says early Friday is most likely the best time to take advantage of the sales tax holiday.  “Only because, uh ya know, Saturdays people have off, Sundays people have off, but regardless of when you go it’s defiantly going to be crowded.” Miller says.     Miller says before you go to the store, you should have a plan in place for the items you want and the stores you want to go to so your shopping experience is as pleasant as possible. Miller says even if you don’t have children who are going back to school you can take advantage of the sales tax holiday.  “Its for people of all ages. If you’re a retiree looking to get some new shirts or shorts or shoes or a business professional looking to get a new shirt or shoes, it’s a great opportunity to go out and do that.” Miller says. He says make sure you double check your receipt to make sure you are saving money.  School gets going again for St. Johns, Baker and Nassau Counties on August 10th, Duval County gets going again on August 13th and Clay County schools return on August 14th.
  • The Jacksonville Transportation Authority is moving forward with a new route from Yulee in to downtown Jacksonville starting in December. JTA Spokesperson Leigh Ann Rassler says they are working to figure out specifics on the new route, for instance where the pick-up spot for passengers will be at in Yulee. “We do know that we’re planning to be able to provide 2 trips in the morning and then 3 trips in the afternoon, evening.” Rassler says.  Rassler says the new route will be non-stop from Yulee to the Rosa Parks bus station in downtown Jacksonville.  As JTA works to finalize plans they need your feedback, Rassler says they will have a public hearing for those interested in the new route at the FSCJ Nassau Center on August 23rd.  Rassler says the vehicles will have wifi on them, so passengers will be able to get more done on their ride.  In addition to this new route, Rassler says there could be more routes in the future in to Jacksonville from surrounding counties. Rassler says JTA already serves those in Clay County in the Fleming Island area.  The service is set to start on December 3rd.
  • Steven Ponson

    Reporter

    Steven Ponson is the morning reporter for Jacksonville’s Morning News. He has been with Cox Media Group since the summer of 2015, and been living in Florida for over 20 years. Steven is an alumni of the University of Central Florida where he received his Bachelor’s degree in Radio and Television and a minor in Sociology. It’s a dream come for him to work in the radio business and has a family legacy in Florida radio. When he is away from WOKV, he likes to spend time with family and friends and is an avid football and hockey fan.

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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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