About the author  ⁄ WFIN

Copy

A man claims he was under a sort of exorcism when he confessed to killing a fellow member of a religious group in Kansas City, Missouri, whose death was originally ruled a suicide.

The body of Bethany Deaton was found Oct. 30, 2012, in the back seat of her minivan with the doors locked and a note inside.

“My name is Bethany Deaton. I chose this evil thing,” the note read, according to court documents. “I did it because I wouldn’t be a real person and what is the point of living if it is too late for that? I wish I had chosen differently a long time ago. I knew it all and refused to listen. Maybe Jesus will still save me.”

Deaton, 27, was a member of a religious group called the International House of Prayer, which was led by her husband, Tyler Deaton. A few weeks after her death, Micah Moore, another member of the group, confessed to her slaying.

Tyler Deaton had a cult-like following within the group and controlled virtually every aspect of some members’ lives, according to court documents.

When Moore confessed, he told police Deaton ordered him to kill his wife to stop her from telling anyone about sexual assaults against her in the house, according to police records. The three lived in a communal house with other male members of the group.

“This is a horrible, horrible crime,” Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker said. “A young woman lost her life. She lost her life in a very violent way and today, we do know what happened to her.”

Now Moore claims he only confessed to killing Deaton because he was under the influence of what some have called an exorcism. Moore, who is scheduled for trial next month, has pleaded not guilty.

“They were the statements of a distraught and confused young man,” his attorney, Melanie Morgan, said.

The medical examiner has also changed the manner of Deaton’s death to undetermined.

“We are aware of no evidence that a crime has occurred,” Morgan said.

The International House of Prayer denied any affiliation with Deaton’s group in a statement to ABC News.

Read More →
Associated Press

Jeff and Denise Lagrimas’ single-story home is just across the street from properties where lava from Kilauea volcano is expected to slither past on its way to the ocean.

But they’re moving to another town 14 miles away before they’re able to find out whether this forecast comes true or whether the molten rock oozes into their home instead.

“I don’t want to stick around and just wait for it to come and take it,” Denise Lagrimas said while taking a break from loading kitchen cups and bowls in cardboard boxes. “You just never know.”

Civil defense officials in Hawaii County said late Tuesday the lava was about 370 yards from the main road in Pahoa town, the commercial center of Puna, a sprawling, mostly agricultural and forested part on the Big Island.

The lava entered private property next to the main road and was burning tires and other materials. This prompted authorities to warn downwind residents with respiratory problems to stay indoors. The lava was edging forward at a rate of about 10 to 15 yards per hour.

Earlier Tuesday, the lava burned down an empty shed.

The lava picked up speed last week after weeks of slow, stop-and-go movement. It broke out of forest and pastureland and crossed into inhabited areas for the first time since scientists began warning about lava in August.

Pahoa residents have had weeks to prepare for what’s been described as a slow-motion disaster. Most have either already left or are prepared to go.

At least 50 or 60 structures — including homes and businesses — are in an area civil defense officials are currently warning will likely be hit.

Josiah Hunt, who has farm in a part of Puna that is not immediately threatened, described smelling burning grass, feeling warmth from the lava and hearing “popping and sizzling and all the methane bursts that are happening in the distance … mixed with the birds chirping and the coqui frogs.”

The Lagrimas family decided to move to Kurtistown, a safe distance from Kilauea’s current flow.

“We didn’t want to go anywhere where it’s close enough where we would have to evacuate again,” she said.

The Lagrimases are also worried the lava will block roads leading out of Pahoa and prevent them from commuting to their jobs in Hilo. Then there’s the prospect of subsequent flows gradually swallowing more of the community, which is what happened to the Royal Garden and Kalapana subdivisions in the 1980s and 1990s.

“It’s so surreal, it’s so surreal. Never in my wildest dreams as a kid growing up did I think I would be running from lava,” said Denise Lagrimas.

Some people want to watch the lava destroy their homes as it’s one way to cope with the loss.

“You can only imagine the frustration as well as … despair they’re going through,” said Hawaii County Civil Defense Director Darryl Oliveira.

Hunt watched last week as the lava crept toward Pahoa and saw a woman whose house is near its path put a lei at the front of the flow. “It helps a person come to grips with the reality of the situation,” he said. “I found it to be oddly comforting in a really strange way.”

Terri Mulroy, who runs Kumu Aina Farm with her husband, said the lava flow, while unnerving, has a cleansing quality to it because it keeps development on the lush Hawaiian island in check.

“If it wasn’t for the flow, I wouldn’t be able to live here,” she said. “This land would have been a golf course for the rich.”

———

Associated Press writer Alina Hartounian contributed to this report.

Read More →
Associated Press

Wearing a lapel camera and posing as an Internet repairman, an undercover government agent walked into a luxury villa at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas and recorded everything he saw as part of a major international gambling bust.

Defense lawyers said the FBI shut off Internet access to the suspects’ villas and then agents impersonated repair technicians to get inside and collect evidence in an elaborate ruse the morning of July 4.

Video recordings of the encounters show investigators devising code words to use while they were inside; a back-and-forth about the cover story for an agent, who adopted the name “Sam,” which he had used in other operations in the past; and a brief exchange about how an investigator should dress for the role of Internet repairman.

“If you put on that shirt, you have to look the part. Go all the way,” said Mike Wood, an outside technician working for Caesars, advising Nevada Gaming Control Board Agent Ricardo Lopez before Lopez headed to one of the suites. The AP obtained about 30 minutes of audio and video recordings of the covert reconnaissance.

Inside another Las Vegas villa a day later, Lopez appeared to try to fix an Internet outage for several minutes while glancing around the room and asking more than once to view a laptop screen to verify that Internet connectivity was still down. Defense lawyers said in their filing that Mike Kung, the FBI agent, was sent inside with Lopez because he spoke Chinese.

Still undercover, Lopez appeared to call Wood from inside the villa and asked him to “check the frame,” the code they had previously worked out. In a brief back-and-forth, Wood responded that he would “trace the wire and make sure it’s tied down good.”

Defense lawyer Thomas Goldstein, who is challenging evidence the government collected in what he described as an illegal search, said that was code to turn Internet access back on.

After the agents left the villa, Lopez was recorded saying he saw the Internet address of the website that defendant Wei Seng Phua was operating, adding, “Phua had the odds up on his page the whole time.” Federal authorities described Phua, 50, as a high-ranking member of the 14k Triad, a Chinese organized crime group. Goldstein said Phua denied that allegation, which he said had nothing to do with the criminal case in Nevada.

Phua, his son Darren Wai Kit Phua, Seng Chen Yong, Wai Kin Yong and four others were arrested in July after federal agents raided three high-roller villas at the hotel. All eight face charges of transmission of wagering information, operating an illegal gambling business and aiding and abetting. None of defendants has entered a plea, but Goldstein said they all deny wrongdoing.

Phua also faces charges of running an illegal sports gambling business in Macau. He was arrested in the Chinese gambling enclave on June 18 and flew to Las Vegas a few days later.

The FBI employed the ruse against the recommendation of an assistant U.S. attorney, Kimberly Frayn, according to defense lawyers. They filed a 54-page motion late Tuesday night in federal court in Las Vegas to dismiss evidence in the case. According to a conversation recorded by an investigator for the hotel, the prosecutor told FBI agents “it was a consent issue,” the lawyers said.

Read More →
Associated Press

Madison Bumgarner and the San Francisco Giants succeeded where no team had in 3 1/2 decades, winning Game 7 on the road for their third World Series title in five years.

Punctuating one of the finest October performances in baseball history, Bumgarner came out of the bullpen to pitch five scoreless innings on two days’ rest for his third win of the Series, and the Giants held off the Kansas City Royals 3-2 Wednesday night in a championship pushed to the limit.

A two-out misplay in the ninth almost wrecked it for Bumgarner and the Giants. He had retired 14 in a row when Alex Gordon’s single fell in front of center fielder Gregor Blanco, who let the ball get past him for an error that allowed Gordon to reach third.

San Francisco Giants Pablo Sandoval celebrates after catching the final out in the ninth inning of Game 7 of baseballs World Series against the Kansas City Royals Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2014, in Kansas City, Mo.

Jeff Roberson/AP Photo

San Francisco Giants’ Pablo Sandoval celebrates after catching the final out in the ninth inning of Game 7 of baseball’s World Series against the Kansas City Royals Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2014, in Kansas City, Mo.

Bumgarner calmly retired Salvador Perez on a foulout to third Pedro Sandoval. Bumgarner was immediately embraced by catcher Buster Posey, and rest of the Giants rushed to the mound to join the victory party. Most of the San Francisco players tossed their gloves high in the air as they ran to the center of the diamond.

Three days after throwing 117 pitches in a four-hit shutout to win Game 5, Bumgarner threw 68 more and dropped his record-low career Series ERA to a barely visible 0.25.

He joined Arizona ace Randy Johnson (2001) as the only pitchers in the expansion era to win three games in one Series.

The Giants were dubbed a “Band of Misfits” in 2010 when they beat Texas to win the franchise’s first title since 1954 in New York. Two years later, they swept Detroit for another championship.

And this time, keeping up their every-other-year success, the Giants became just the second NL team with three titles in a five-year span, matching Stan Musial’s St. Louis Cardinals of 1942-46.

Home teams had won nine straight Game 7s in the Series since Pittsburgh’s victory at Baltimore in 1979, including the Royals’ 11-0 rout of St. Louis in 1985. Teams hosting the first two games had won 23 of the last 28 titles, including five in a row. And the Giants had lost all four of their previous World Series pushed to the limit.

But before a pumped-up, blue-and-white-clad crowd of 40,535 that hoped noise and passion could lift the small-market Royals to a title that seemed improbable when Kansas City was languishing two games under .500 in mid-July, the Giants won the second all-wild card World Series, 12 years after losing Game 7 to the Angels in the first.

Both managers promised quick hooks if their starters showed the slightest signs of faltering, and both managers delivered as Tim Hudson and Jeremy Guthrie combined for 15 outs — matching the fewest by Game 7 starters. Hudson, at 39 the oldest Game 7 starter, allowed two runs in 1 2-3 innings. The 35-year-old Guthrie took the loss, giving up three runs in 3 1-3 innings

Jeremy Affeldt followed Hudson with 2 1-3 innings of one-hit, scoreless relief in his longest outing since July 2012, getting help from the first successful replay challenge in World Series history.

With his shaggy hair making him look every bit a gunslinger, Bumgarner entered to boos in the bottom of the fifth, coated his long arms with rosin and groomed the pocked-up mound with his spikes.

Read More →
Associated Press

Copy

Desperate Democrats are rushing to save suddenly vulnerable House incumbents, even in states where President Barack Obama cruised to double-digit victories, amid fresh signs of Republican momentum less than a week before the midterm elections.

The once friendly terrain of New York, California, Obama’s native state of Hawaii and adopted state of Illinois all now pose stiff challenges to Democrats who are determined to limit their losses next Tuesday. Both parties agree the GOP will hold its House majority; the question is whether Republicans can gain enough seats to rival their post-World War II high water mark of 246.

Midterm Madness: Everything You Need To Know About Election 2014

5 Crazy Election 2014 Scenarios That Might Actually Happen

A State-by-State Look at Why the GOP Is Cautiously Optimistic About

The current breakdown is 233-199 in favor of the Republicans with three vacancies.

“We’re in trench warfare. I’m not going to sugarcoat it,” Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said in an interview.

In one sign of Democratic concern, Vice President Joe Biden was heading to Massachusetts on Wednesday for a rally with Seth Moulton, who is trying to hold onto a Democratic seat against Republican Richard Tisei. Then Biden was traveling to California on Saturday to campaign in an open-seat contest east of Los Angeles that surprisingly looks closer than a sure-fire Democratic gain.

“Heck, it’s been so long since a Republican was elected to the Congress in Massachusetts, most Republicans don’t know how to spell Massachusetts,” joked Rep. Greg Walden of Oregon, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee. He said the GOP is spending 78 percent of its independent money in districts that Obama won.

National Democrats are coordinating with local campaigns in Nevada, Hawaii and California in hopes of holding seats.

In one example, the Democratic committee has bought $99,000 in radio ads for eight-term Rep. Lois Capps in her Santa Barbara-area race against Chris Mitchum, the son of the late actor Robert Mitchum. The GOP candidate has relatively little money still on hand for his campaign — $96,108 — but the contest is considered close.

The committee also reserved $360,000 in air time for ads for first-term Rep. Steven Horsford in his central Nevada district north of Las Vegas after the Karl Rove-founded group Crossroads GPS made a late ad buy of $935,000. And In Hawaii, the Democrats are spending $200,000 on television ads and voter outreach for Mark Takai, who is locked in a tight race with former Republican Rep. Charles Djou in an open Honolulu-based district that Obama won with 70 percent of the vote.

In the closing days, the Democratic committee has invested $1.1 million in an effort to protect six incumbents in Georgia, Illinois, Minnesota, West Virginia and California.

With Obama persona non grata for many Democrats, former President Bill Clinton was campaigning in California on Wednesday.

“It’s a tough climate, it’s getting tougher,” Israel said. “It’s the worst climate for Democrats since 2010, but it won’t be 2010. We knew that this was coming and we prepared for it.”

The Democrats lost 63 House seats that year.

Any president’s party typically loses seats at the halfway point of his final term. This time the situation has gotten worse for Democrats — and better for Republicans — as Obama’s unpopularity has dragged down his party, GOP-leaning outside groups have spent freely and some independents have shifted to the Republicans.

“It’s a referendum year on the president and his policies,” Walden said in an interview. “We faced it in ’06, and I know how ugly it can be.”

With George W. Bush in the White House, the Republicans lost 30 seats in the House and six in the Senate in 2006.

Twenty-three incumbent Democrats are seen as in jeopardy compared to just four Republicans. A greater House Republican majority would mean Speaker John Boehner of Ohio would be able to weather more defections on legislation and still get bills passed.

In Iowa, Republican Gov. Terry Branstad’s strength and Democratic Senate candidate Bruce Braley’s struggles are undercutting four-term Rep. Dave Loebsack and Democratic hopes of holding Braley’s open seat.

Three New York Democrats are endangered even though Gov. Andrew Cuomo is widely expected to capture another term. The same is true in California where Gov. Jerry Brown is an odds-on favorite to win again but four Democrats are considered vulnerable. Voters’ matter-of-fact attitude toward those two governors’ races has generated little energy for other candidates.

In all, the Democratic committee has outraised its GOP counterpart, but outside Republican groups have the edge over Democratic-leaning groups $49 million to $31 million since July 1. In a late money appeal, Democratic House leader Nancy Pelosi and Israel convinced Democratic incumbents and candidates to contribute some $500,000 and counting for the final days.

The party is relying on a big get-out-the-vote effort after registering 80,000 new voters in battleground districts.

———

Illinois offers one of the tightest races along Chicago’s wealthy North Shore and northern suburbs. First-term Democratic Rep. Brad Schneider is in a rematch with Republican Bob Dold, who won in the tea party wave of 2010 and lost in 2012.

Republicans are upbeat about reclaiming the seat as Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn struggles to win against Republican Bruce Rauner.

“It’s a unique opportunity the 10th district hasn’t seen in 30 years, comparing one term versus one term,” Dold said at the opening of a new upscale grocery. “This year, you’re talking about Pat Quinn at the top of the ticket versus President Obama, that’s a big difference.”

Miles away, Schneider toured a manufacturing business with Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin, who also faces re-election, and cast the election as a “choice between two very different visions.”

————

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is reviving the “I” word — impeachment — in a fundraising appeal warning about GOP control of the Senate.

“Frankly, a Republican House and Senate could go beyond shutting down the government — they could waste months of our lives on impeachment,” Reid says in an appeal put out by the Progessive Change Campaign Committee.

Read More →
Associated Press

It was an extraordinary ruse. Dramatic new video obtained by The Associated Press, filmed through the lapel camera carried by an undercover government agent, shows how the FBI tricked its way inside a luxury villa at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas as part of a major international gambling bust.

Defense lawyers said the FBI shut off Internet access to the suspects then impersonated repair technicians to get inside and collect evidence.

The video shows investigators devising code words to use while they were inside, a back-and-forth about the cover story for an agent, who adopted the name “Sam,” which he had used “for other stuff” in the past, and a brief exchange about how another investigator should dress for the role of a technical repair nerd.

“If you put on that shirt, you have to look the part. Go all the way,” said Mike Wood, an outside technician working for Caesars, advising Nevada Gaming Control Board Agent Ricardo Lopez before Lopez headed to one of the suites the morning of July 4.

The AP obtained about 30 minutes of audio and video recordings of the covert reconnaissance recorded over two days.

On another visit to a villa on July 5, Lopez appeared to try to fix an Internet outage for several minutes while glancing around the room and asking more than once to view a laptop screen to verify that Internet connectivity was still down. Defense lawyers said in their filing that Mike Kung, the FBI agent, was sent inside because he spoke Chinese.

Still undercover, Lopez appeared to call Wood from inside the villa and asked him to “check the frame,” the code they had previously worked out. In a brief back and forth, Wood responded that he would “trace the wire and make sure it’s tied down good.”

Defense lawyer Thomas Goldstein, who is challenging evidence the government collected in what he described as an illegal search, said that was code to turn Internet access back on.

After the agents left the villa, Lopez was recorded saying he saw the Internet address of the website that defendant Wei Seng Phua was operating, adding, “Phua had the odds up on his page the whole time.” Federal authorities described Phua, 50, as a high-ranking member of the 14k Triad, a Chinese organized crime group. Goldstein said Phua denied that allegation, which he said had nothing to do with the criminal case in Nevada.

Phua, his son Darren Wai Kit Phua, Seng Chen Yong, Wai Kin Yong and four others were arrested in July after federal agents raided three high-roller villas at the hotel. All eight face charges of transmission of wagering information, operating an illegal gambling business, and aiding and abetting. None of defendants has entered a plea, but Goldstein said they all deny wrongdoing.

Phua also faces charges of running an illegal sports gambling business in Macau. He was arrested in the Chinese gambling enclave on June 18 and flew to Las Vegas a few days later.

The FBI employed the ruse against the recommendation of an assistant U.S. attorney, Kimberly Frayn, according to defense lawyers. They filed a 54-page motion late Tuesday night in federal court in Las Vegas to dismiss evidence in the case. According to a conversation recorded by an investigator for the hotel, the prosecutor told FBI agents “it was a consent issue,” the lawyers said.

Under U.S. law, a person whose property is inspected generally must waive his constitutional protections against unreasonable searches unless authorities obtain a warrant. Evidence collected improperly is not supposed to be used at trial.

The FBI in Las Vegas referred questions about the practice to the U.S. Attorney’s Office there. Natalie Collins, a spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Daniel Bogden, said prosecutors were aware of the allegations being made by defense lawyers but declined to comment, citing a pending trial.

The gambling case was at least the third to surface in recent weeks raising questions about tactics by federal agents pursuing criminal investigations.

The Drug Enforcement Administration set up a fake Facebook account using photographs and other personal information it took from the cellphone of a New York woman arrested in a cocaine case in hopes of tricking her friends and associates into revealing incriminating drug secrets.

In another case, the FBI sent a fake news story it attributed to The Associated Press to trick a suspect in a bomb-threat case into clicking on the website link and revealing his location. The AP objected that the FBI’s practice was “unacceptable” and “undermined AP’s credibility.”

———

Associated Press writers Eric Tucker in Washington and Ken Ritter in Las Vegas contributed to this report.

Read More →
Associated Press

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Oct 29, 2014, 8:25 PM ET

Oops, another national anthem stumble at the World Series.

Opera star Joyce DiDonato did just fine singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” before Game 7 Wednesday night at Kauffman Stadium.

Then, as the longtime Royals fan from Kansas was walking off the field, she tripped in the batter’s box and managed to catch herself. But after regaining her balance, the Grammy Award-winning mezzo-soprano took another step or two and fell to the dirt, as dramatically as she might on the stages of the world’s greatest opera houses.

The 45-year-old DiDonato laughed at her misstep and the Kansas City crowd cheered her effort.

Before Game 5 in San Francisco, county singer Aaron Lewis messed up the lyrics to the anthem. Lewis, acclaimed as the lead singer of the metal band Staind, later apologized for the mistake.

Read More →
PHOTO: Nurse Kaci Hickox is on her way back to her hometown of Fort Kent, Maine (pictured).

Copy

As Maine officials said they were preparing to get a court order to enforce a mandatory quarantine, Ebola nurse Kaci Hickox said tonight she is not willing to “stand here and have my civil rights violated.”

“You could hug me, you could shake my hand, I would not give you Ebola,” she said outside her Fort Kent home.

Her comments came hours after Maine officials said they would seek to force Hickox, 33, to obey a 21-day quarantine, although the order would first need to be approved by a judge before it could be enforced.

“When it is made clear by an individual in this risk category that they do not intend to voluntarily stay at home for the remaining 21 days, we will immediately seek a court order to ensure that they do not make contact with the public,” Maine Health Commissioner Mary Mayhew said during a news conference this evening.

But legal experts say it’s not clear whether such an order would be approved by a judge.

“The state has the burden of proving that she is infected, or at least was credibly exposed to infection, and also that by her own behavior she is likely to infect others if not confined,” said public health lawyer Wendy Mariner, who teaches at Boston University School of Law.

“The state is not likely to have any evidence of that,” Mariner said, adding that Hickox should be able to prove that she isn’t infected and plans to take precautions to not expose anyone to her bodily fluids.

Michelle McPhee

PHOTO: Nurse Kaci Hickox is on her way back to her hometown of Fort Kent, Maine (pictured).

Earlier today, Maine’s governor and other officials said they were are seeking legal authority to enforce what started out as a voluntary quarantine. They also said state police were monitoring Hickox’s home “for both her protection and the health of the community,” according to a statement today from the Maine governor’s office.

“We are very concerned about her safety and health and that of the community,” Maine Gov. Paul LePage said. “We are exploring all of our options for protecting the health and well-being of the healthcare worker, anyone who comes in contact with her, the Fort Kent community and all of Maine. While we certainly respect the rights of one individual, we must be vigilant in protecting 1.3 million Mainers, as well as anyone who visits our great state.”

Hickox was treating Ebola patients in Sierra Leone for Doctors Without Borders. She returned to the United States on Friday, landing in Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey, where she was questioned and quarantined in an outdoor tent through the weekend despite having no symptoms.

Hickox registered a fever on an infrared thermometer at the airport but an oral thermometer at University Hospital in Newark showed that she actually had no fever, she said.

After twice testing negative for the deadly virus, Hickox was released and returned home to Maine on Monday. The following day, the state’s health commissioner announced that Maine would join the handful of states going beyond federal guidelines and asking that returning Ebola health workers self-quarantine.

PHOTO: Kaci Hickox is seen in a Skype interview from her home in Fort Kent, Maine, Oct. 29, 2014.

ABC News

PHOTO: Kaci Hickox is seen in a Skype interview from her home in Fort Kent, Maine, Oct. 29, 2014.

“Our true desire is for a voluntary separation from the public. We do not want to have to legally enforce an in-home quarantine,” Main Health Commissioner Mary Mayhew said in a statement. “We are confident that the selfless health workers, who were brave enough to care for Ebola patients in a foreign country, will be willing to take reasonable steps to protect the residents of their own country. However, we are willing to pursue legal authority if necessary to ensure risk is minimized for Mainers.”

Hickox said she doesn’t think it is reasonable.

“I will go to court to attain my freedom,” Hickox told “Good Morning America” today via Skype from her hometown of Fort Kent. “I have been completely asymptomatic since I’ve been here. I feel absolutely great.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention doesn’t consider health workers who treated Ebola patients in West Africa to be at “high risk” for catching Ebola if they were wearing protective gear, according to new guidelines announced this week. Since they have “some risk,” the CDC recommends that they undergo monitoring — tracking symptoms and body temperature twice a day — avoid public transportation and take other precautions. But the CDC doesn’t require home quarantines for these workers.

Someone isn’t contagious until Ebola symptoms appear, according to the CDC. And even then, transmission requires contact with bodily fluids such as blood and vomit.

Get real-time updates as this story unfolds. To start, just “star” this story in ABC News’ phone app. Download ABC News for iPhone here or ABC News for Android here. To be notified about our live weekend digital reports, tap here.

Read More →
Associated Press

The deaths of five members of a Utah family found last month do not appear to be accidental or natural, according to search warrants obtained Tuesday.

The five members of the Strack family, including three children, were found covered in bedding in a single bedroom with cups of liquid next to them, according to the warrant filed in Utah court.

It appears someone positioned the bodies after they died, according to the warrant.

Benjamin and Kristi Strack were in the bed when they were found in their Springville home on Sept. 27. Three of their children were lying around it, the bedding pulled up to their necks.

Police found a red liquid coming out of Kristi Strack’s mouth.

“It is probable that these deaths were not accidental or natural in any way,” Detective Jeff Ellsworth wrote in the search warrant affidavit.

Bob McGee, a spokesman for rest of the Strack family, declined to comment on the case until after the report is complete.

The bodies were discovered by an older son and his girlfriend, both of whom also live in the home. Kristi Strack was last seen alive at 6 a.m.

The house was quiet when the couple left the house after noon, but when they returned at 7 p.m. they realized all the cars were still at home. They knocked on the master bedroom door, but after no one answered they called Kristi Strack’s mother and her friend, who helped them force it open

The search warrant says it wasn’t normal for the children to be in their parents’ room because they have their own rooms.

Investigators removed 14 drinking cups and bottles from the home, a pitcher of red juice and a purple bucket with yellow liquid.

They also seized a bag of marijuana, three cellphones, an iPod, a laptop computer, pill bottles, a bag of medications and empty boxes of sleep aids. One pair of slippers with a spot of blood and a towel with a red substance on it were also removed.

On Wednesday, Springville Police Lt. Dave Caron said he can’t comment on the search warrant or speculate about the cause of death until results of a toxicology test come back. That’s expected in late November, he said.

“Until I get those, I really don’t have anything,” he said. “I could come up with all sorts of theories, but it’s not helpful.”

Authorities have previously said the five did not die violently, and that they were not ruling out anything.

The five bodies were identified as Benjamin Strack, 37, his wife, Kristi, 36, and three of their children: Benson, 14, Emery, 12, and Zion, 11.

Little is known about the family. A family spokesman has declined to reveal much and, at a vigil, family members declined comment.

Benjamin Strack’s former boss said he worked off-and-on for six to seven years at AK Masonry, a bricklaying company, and had borrowed money in the past. Court records show Benjamin and Kristi Strack pleaded guilty to misdemeanor forgery charges in 2008 and disorderly conduct the following year.

Springville is a city of about 30,000 near Provo, about 45 miles south of Salt Lake City.

Read More →

A day after an unnamed Obama administration official was quoted calling Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “chickens**,” administration spokespeople said today that they were just as surprised as Netanyahu was to read the comment.

Obama spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters that the comment, published by Jeffrey Goldberg in The Atlantic, was “counterproductive” and “inappropriate,” and that he would be surprised if President Obama knew who said it to Goldberg.

At the State Department, spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Secretary of State John Kerry believed it wasn’t productive for either side to lob insults at the other.

“He certainly feels strongly that a war of words is not productive from either side. Obviously, we believe that moving forward it’s in the best interest of both sides to address any issues that may arise appropriately and respectfully, and not through personal attacks,” she said.

Psaki’s remarks were an allusion to comments from the Israelis in recent days criticizing Kerry for seemingly linking the rise of ISIS to Muslim frustration over the lack of progress between Israelis and Palestinians over peace talks.

Psaki added that while the administration would likely not spend time searching for the official who made the remark about Netanyahu, Kerry would tell the Prime Minister the next time they talk that it did not reflect the administration’s view of him.

President Obama’s national security adviser Susan Rice also sought to tamp down the idea that tensions are running high between the United States and the Israelis.

“The relationship is not in crisis. The relationship is actually fundamentally stronger in many respects than it’s ever been,” Rice said, speaking at the Washington Ideas Forum, also noting that she would be dining with her Israeli counterpart that evening, before they both convened a meeting of national security officials from their respective nations on Thursday.

Read More →