Review Category : Top Stories

Arrest made in deaths of 2 Colorado teens

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) – A 19-year-old man was booked on first degree murder and kidnapping charges in the deaths of two teens who were found dead on the side of a Colorado road, authorities said.

Gustavo Marquez, 19, was also charged with aggravated robbery and child abuse resulting in the deaths of Derek Benjamin Greer, 15, and Natalie Partida, 16, according to the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office.

The victims’ bodies were found on the side of a road about 15 miles from their Colorado Spring High School.

“I am so happy there is finally justice for my son and Natalie,” said Greer’s mother, Heather Ferguson. “The case is still ongoing so it’s not over yet.”

The deaths were ruled homicides but the cause was not clear.

“They had a whole life to live,” Greer’s cousin, Hannah Ortega, told ABC News Friday. “They don’t get to have kids, they don’t get to graduate high school, they don’t get to work their dream jobs, they don’t get to live anymore. Nobody deserves to get their life taken.”

Marquez is scheduled for a court appearance on April 5, according to records.

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Dad of missing Tennessee teen who was allegedly abducted by teacher: ‘Please come home to us’

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation(CULLEOKA, Tenn.) — The father of the Tennessee teenager whom authorities believe was abducted by her teacher spoke out in an interview with ABC News, pleading with her, “please let us know you are all right and please come home to us.”

“I don’t think she is responsible for what has happened, she is 15 years old, she is not responsible for this happening,” Anthony Thomas, the father of Elizabeth Thomas, said.

Tennessee authorities are asking for the public’s help in their hunt for Elizabeth’s former teacher, Tad Cummins, 50, who is accused of kidnapping Elizabeth last Monday, according to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said. Neither Elizabeth nor Cummins has been in touch with their families, authorities said. Cummins is believed to be armed and authorities say the teen is “in imminent danger.”

Cummins is also accused of having an inappropriate relationship with Elizabeth while he was a teacher at her Culleoka, Tennessee, school. Cummins has denied the claim, but nearly two months before Elizabeth and her former teacher went missing, one of Elizabeth’s schoolmates reported seeing the pair kissing in Cummins classroom, according to a Jan. 30 school district investigative report.

Thomas told ABC News that he warned his daughter to stay away from Cummins, whom he had heard her talk about at home.

“She was very enthusiastic about his class,” Thomas said, “and I heard his name an awful lot.”

“When I heard about the situation,” he said, “I told her, ‘You can’t have any contact with him at all.'”

“‘You can’t call him, you can’t talk to him, you can’t wave at him if you even see him,'” the father said, “I’m not sure she really understood it, she seemed to think that nothing was a big deal with it, and I kept telling her, whether you think it is a big deal or not, this is real, you cannot have any contact with this person.

“I am very angry. Someone who is that old should know better than to pull something like this,” he added. “But he had no business being around my child at all.

“I did not see this coming at all. You send your kids to school you trust they are going to be all right there,” Thomas said.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said that Cummins “may have been abusing his role as a teacher to groom [the teen] … in an effort to lure and potentially sexually exploit her.”

Authorities are asking that anyone with information call 1-800-TBI-FIND and that anyone who sees a car with a Tennessee license plate 976-ZPT call 911. A $1,000 reward is available for information leading to Cummins’ arrest.

NEW PICTURES: Various shots of Ted Cummins in the past few weeks, including the vehicle he’s believed to be driving. TN TAG: 976-ZPT. pic.twitter.com/mlrPPlcXoQ

— TBI (@TBInvestigation) March 17, 2017

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Chicago family fighting to stop the deportation of veteran who served 2 tours in Afghanistan

iStock/Thinkstock(CHICAGO) — A lawyer is fighting to keep a U.S. Army veteran who served two tours of duty in Afghanistan from being deported to Mexico.

Army Private First Class Miguel Perez, Jr., 38, says he has been fighting deportation for roughly five years after mistakenly believing his service in the military made him a U.S. citizen by default. Perez, who was born in Mexico and moved to Chicago when he was 8, first came to the attention of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) while serving a prison sentence after pleading guilty to selling cocaine in 2008, according to his attorney, Christopher Bergin.

Last week, a judge ruled against Perez, who had filed a request for relief against deportation orders under the United Nations Convention against Torture on the grounds that his military background would make him vulnerable to attack from drug cartels in Mexico, Bergin said. He explained that drug cartels frequently seek to use people with military experience for their own ends.

Bergin has filed a motion to appeal the judge’s ruling, buying about a month of time for his client, who is currently in the custody of ICE, before the appeal is reviewed, he said.
In July 2002, President George W. Bush signed an executive order (https://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/news/releases/2002/07/20020703-24.html) clearing the way for noncitizens who had served in the Armed Forces on or after Sept. 11, 2001, to immediately file for expedited citizenship. Perez’s mother, Esperanza Medina, told ABC News her son never formally filed for citizenship because he misunderstood the rules.

“[The decision] is not fair to us because my son fought for this country,” Medina, 60, who became a U.S. citizen in 2005, said of the judge’s ruling. “He has a nation and it’s the USA.”

ABC News reached out to ICE regarding the most recent developments surrounding Perez’s case and was referred to the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR). EOIR did not immediately return a request for comment.

A spokesperson for ICE released a statement (http://abc7chicago.com/news/army-veteran-faces-deportation/1624548/) to ABC-owned station affiliate WLS in Chicago this past December regarding Perez’s case, saying the agency “respects the service and sacrifice of those in military service, and is very deliberate in its review of cases involving U.S. military veterans.”

“Miguel Angel Perez-Montes, 38, from Mexico, was convicted in February 2010 in Cook County, Illinois, for manufacture/delivery of more than two pounds of cocaine and sentenced to serve 15 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections. He was encountered by ICE while serving his prison sentence and placed into removal proceedings in 2012,” the statement said. “On Sept. 23, 2016, Perez-Montes was turned over to ICE custody from the Hill Correctional Center in Galesburg, Illinois. He will remain in ICE custody while his removal proceedings are pending in federal immigration court.”

The next steps Bergin is plotting for his client, beyond the appeal, will likely involve Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth, whom he is asking to take his client’s case to Washington, D.C.

Bergin is hoping that Duckworth will use her political clout to get U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to backdate Perez’s recent application for citizenship filed by his lawyer to an earlier date — starting on the day he first served his country in the Army.

ABC News reached out to the Illinois branch of USCIS for a comment on whether this would be possible but did not immediately receive a response.

Duckworth, Bergin hopes, will see aspects of herself in Perez: She was born in Thailand and has served in the Army Reserve and Army National Guard.

ABC News reached out to Sen. Duckworth’s office for a comment about Perez’s case but did not immediately receive a response.

Bergin and Perez’s family attribute his conviction to a period when Perez was self-medicating for pain related to his time in the service, they said.

Bergin added that Perez “was blown out of his Jeep in Kandahar,” and that he suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of the blast. Perez told The Chicago Tribune last month that grenade and roadside bomb explosions during his tours led him to lose much of his hearing and suffer headaches.

After returning home from Afghanistan, Perez told the Tribune he longed for the adrenaline rush from combat and eventually turned to cocaine. He ultimately opted for an early discharge from the Army after failing a drug test, he told the Tribune.

Sara Walker, who works at Perez’s family’s church, Lincoln United Methodist Church in Chicago, told ABC News that Perez told her he turned to drugs for relief. Lincoln United Methodist Church helped connect Perez’s family to Bergin, who is handling the case pro bono.

“He told me that when he made that mistake he was drinking and doing drugs 24/7,” Walker said.

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North Carolina couple moves up wedding so dying newborn son could take part

Christopher and Patricia Armstrong(NEW YORK) — One North Carolina couple moved up their wedding unexpectedly so that their dying newborn son could take part in the ceremony.

Christopher and Patricia Armstrong didn’t plan to wed inside Hospice of Davidson County in North Carolina, but when their son was given only weeks to live they decided to so that he wouldn’t miss it.

Conner Armstrong was born Feb. 2 with a genetic disorder called trisomy 18, which kills about 90 percent of children before or during birth. He was diagnosed in the womb, his father told ABC News.

“When they saw the signs, it was pretty hard on both of us,” Christopher, 30, recalled.

Although the couple — who also have two young daughters — didn’t have a wedding date set, when doctors told them that Conner’s diagnosis wasn’t improving, they decided to get married in the hospice on March 11 so that he could be there.

“I was so excited to be marrying the love of my life and happy that everyone was there to see and witness the love that we shared,” Christopher gushed, “and having the baby there was even more special.”

“We planned the mini-wedding in like two days,” Patricia told ABC News. “[We] gathered up a couple of family and friends and made it happen. The wedding … was last minute, but it was one of the best days of my life.”

In fact, the family trekked to Walmart to buy dresses along with Christopher’s shirt and tie.

Conner died five days later on March 14, his father announced on Facebook.

He told ABC News he’s appreciative for the time he had with his only son.

“I would say one of the best months of my life was getting to know him,” Christopher said, “and every day he’d do something new like the smile he’d give, or the way he looked at us. He knew that we loved him and I could tell that he loved us too.”

His mother said she’s sharing their story to raise awareness of the disorder in hopes of doctors’ eventually finding a cure.

“Maybe one day,” she added.

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Weeks before a student and teacher went missing, another teen reported seeing them kiss

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation(CULLEOKA, Tenn.) — Nearly two months before a high school student and her former teacher went missing, they were alleged to have been seen kissing by another student in the teacher’s classroom.

The school district investigated the allegation, removed student Elizabeth Thomas from teacher Tad Cummins’ class and said the teacher would be reprimanded. But the district said it was unable to confirm from available evidence that the kiss occurred.

Tennessee authorities are now asking for the public’s help in their hunt for Cummins, 50, who is accused of kidnapping 15-year-old Elizabeth last Monday, March 13, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said. Neither Elizabeth nor Cummins has been in touch with their families, authorities said. Cummins is believed to be armed and authorities say the teen is “in imminent danger.”

It was Jan. 23 when one of Elizabeth’s schoolmates reported that as she was walking into Cummins’ classroom she saw Elizabeth and Cummins kissing, according to a Jan. 30 school district investigative report.

“It wasn’t like a make-out kiss, just a peck on the lips,” the student said in a written statement quoted in the school district’s report.

The student told another schoolmate about what she said she had seen that day. The schoolmate said the student was “freaked out” by the alleged incident, according to the school district report.

The next day, the student took a different schoolmate with her to confront Cummins about what the student said she saw, the report said. Cummins allegedly told the students that he was “a father figure to Beth” and that he “saw her as a close and best friend,” the report said.

The student reported what she said she had seen to school administrators.

The school district’s investigative report said Elizabeth said Cummins had never kissed her nor made her feel uncomfortable.

“She looks at him like a friend and counselor who knows how to calm her down when she is experiencing anxiety,” the district report said. “She stated students hang out in his classroom a lot.”

Elizabeth also said that “she has gone to church with [Cummins] a few times but mainly hung around his wife,” the report said.

Cummins also said no kiss took place, according to the district report. Cummins said Elizabeth is “a really good friend” who would go to see him “when she needs someone to calm her down,” the report said. He said he loves his wife and would never cheat on her, the school report said.

The Jan. 30 school report determined that it “could not be confirmed” the alleged kiss happened. The report said, however, that Elizabeth would be removed from Cummins’ class and that “Cummins will be reprimanded in regards to his duty to uphold his professional responsibility and behavior.”

An attorney for Elizabeth’s family claimed in a Feb. 6 letter to the district superintendent that the teen’s father was never alerted by the district about the alleged incident and found out about it on Jan. 31, more than a week after the kiss allegedly happened, when sheriff’s deputies called to ask him questions.

The lawyer’s letter also suggested that the teen was communicating with the teacher through her cellphone. “Upon inspection of her cellphone the two are also having telephone communications,” the attorney’s letter said.

Although the district said it couldn’t confirm the alleged kiss happened, the report said Elizabeth would be removed from Cummins’ class and that she should be “instructed to bring anxiety issues to the school administration and guidance counselors.”

The report also said “Cummins will be reprimanded in regards to his duty to uphold his professional responsibility and behavior as a teacher.”

A subsequent letter from the district to Cummins on Feb. 3 stated that Elizabeth was in the teacher’s classroom that day, which the letter said violated a previous order by the district.

Three days later, on Feb 6., the district wrote a letter to Cummins telling him he was suspended without pay immediately “pending an investigation.”

Cummins was fired Tuesday, one day after he and Elizabeth went missing.

The school district did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment.

Today Cummins is wanted on allegations of aggravated kidnapping and sexual contact with a minor.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said that Cummins “may have been abusing his role as a teacher to groom [the teen] … in an effort to lure and potentially sexually exploit her.”

It’s been a week, but we’re not giving up hope. Stay vigilant, stay alert, and let us know if you spot these individuals or this vehicle. pic.twitter.com/jDACuW1iUg

— TBI (@TBInvestigation) March 20, 2017

The teacher’s wife, Jill Cummins, made an emotional plea to her husband at a news conference Friday, urging him to turn himself in.

“I had no idea my husband was involved with anything that has led to all this. My heart breaks for the family of Beth Thomas,” Jill Cummins said. “Please do the right thing and turn yourself into the police and bring Beth home.”

An Amber Alert has been issued for Elizabeth, and Cummins has been added to the state’s “Top 10 Most Wanted” list, authorities said.

The TBI said Saturday it has received about 250 tips from 24 states, which it called a low number.

“Cummins may have taken her, frankly, anywhere,” the TBI said in a news release Saturday.

“Nothing investigators have learned about Cummins or his intentions for the young girl since issuing the AMBER Alert calms the imminent concern for Elizabeth’s well-being. In fact, it only heightens it.”

Elizabeth’s family said in a statement, “We ask that you continue to share Elizabeth’s story and to immediately notify law enforcement if you think you may have seen her. You can be Elizabeth’s eyes, her ears and her voice. Your information or tip may be what leads to get this child home. As a family, we are focused on one thing and one thing only — Elizabeth’s safe and quick return.”

Cummins is described as a white man with brown hair and brown eyes. He is 6 feet tall and weighs about 200 pounds. He may be driving a 2015 silver Nissan Rogue with a Tennessee license plate number 976-ZPT.

NEW PICTURES: Various shots of Ted Cummins in the past few weeks, including the vehicle he’s believed to be driving. TN TAG: 976-ZPT. pic.twitter.com/mlrPPlcXoQ

— TBI (@TBInvestigation) March 17, 2017

Elizabeth is described as a white girl with blonde hair, hazel eyes. She is 5 feet, 5 inches tall and weighs 120 pounds. She was last seen wearing leggings and a flannel shirt.

Authorities are asking that anyone with information call 1-800-TBI-FIND and that anyone who sees a car with Tennessee license plate 976-ZPT call 911. A $1,000 reward is available for information leading to Tad Cummins’ arrest.

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Brother makes plea to missing teen allegedly kidnapped by her former teacher

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation(CULLEOKA, Tenn.) — The older brother of a Tennessee teenager who was allegedly kidnapped by her former teacher is pleading with his sister to come home.

James Thomas, 26, told ABC News he’d like to send a message to his 15-year-old sister, Elizabeth Thomas, who has not been seen since last Monday, March 13: “If you’re listening, I do really wish you’d just call someone. It doesn’t have to be me, it can be anyone. Just let us know you’re OK.”

“We really miss you,” he said. “Please, please come home.”

Tennessee authorities are asking for the public’s help in their hunt for Tad Cummins, 50, who is accused of kidnapping Elizabeth, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said. Neither Elizabeth nor Cummins has been in touch with their families, authorities said. Cummins is believed to be armed, and authorities say the teen is “in imminent danger.”

The Bureau of Investigation said Saturday it has received about 250 tips from 24 states, which it called a low number.

“Cummins may have taken her, frankly, anywhere,” the investigative bureau said in a news release Saturday.

Cummins is accused of having an inappropriate relationship with Elizabeth while he was a teacher at her Culleoka, Tennessee, school; he has denied the claim.

A Maury County School District investigative report said a student walking into Cummins’ classroom on Jan. 23 saw the teacher kissing Elizabeth. The district completed its report on its investigation of the incident a week later, on Jan. 30.

But the Thomas family attorney said Elizabeth’s father was never alerted by the school and that he found out about the alleged incident on Jan. 31, more than a week after the event purportedly happened, when sheriff’s deputies called to ask the father questions, according to a letter from the family’s attorney to the school district’s superintendent.

From the date of the alleged incident to the issuance of the Jan. 30 district report, Cummins was still teaching at the school, and Elizabeth was still in one of his classes, according to the district report.

The district said in its report the kissing allegation “could not be confirmed from the evidence presented.” It said Cummins and Elizabeth denied a kiss took place and that the teacher said Elizabeth is “a really good friend” who comes to see him “when she needs someone to calm her down.”

Although the district said it couldn’t confirm the alleged kiss happened, the report said Elizabeth will be removed from Cummins’ class and she should be “instructed to bring anxiety issues to the school administration and guidance counselors.”

The report also said “Cummins will be reprimanded in regards to his duty to uphold his professional responsibility and behavior as a teacher.”

A subsequent letter from the district to Cummins on Feb. 3 stated that Elizabeth was in the teacher’s classroom that day, which the letter said violated a previous order by the district.

Three days later, on Feb 6., the district wrote a letter to Cummins telling him he was suspended without pay immediately “pending an investigation.”

Cummins was fired last week on the day after Elizabeth was allegedly kidnapped, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said.

The school district did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment.

James Thomas said the allegations of the teacher’s kissing his sister had left him in disbelief.

“It was something that surprised me greatly because a lot of my friends went [to that school] and spoke highly of Mr. Cummins,” he said.

James Thomas said his father “is devastated … He’s not been himself ever since.”

James Thomas said he is protective of his little sister, Elizabeth. He describes her as vocal, athletic and social.

“She kind of kept us all together,” he told ABC News. “It’s hard to live without her; she was such a vocal part of the family.”

An Amber Alert has been issued for Elizabeth, and Cummins has been added to the state’s “Top 10 Most Wanted” list, authorities said.

Your RT may just get this information in front of the one person who needs to see it. Help us spread this across the country! Thanks! pic.twitter.com/c5jI8ER816

— TBI (@TBInvestigation) March 17, 2017

Cummins is wanted on allegations of aggravated kidnapping and sexual contact with a minor, authorities said.

Cummins’ wife, Jill Cummins, made an emotional plea to her husband at a news conference Friday, urging him to turn himself in.

“I had no idea my husband was involved with anything that has led to all this. My heart breaks for the family of Beth Thomas,” Jill Cummins said. “Tad, this is not you. This is not who you are. We can help you get through this … Your family wants their poppy back. Please do the right thing and turn yourself into the police and bring Beth home.”

Cummins is described as a white man with brown hair and brown eyes. He is 6 feet tall and weighs about 200 pounds. He may be driving a 2015 silver Nissan Rogue with a Tennessee license plate number 976-ZPT.

NEW PICTURES: Various shots of Ted Cummins in the past few weeks, including the vehicle he’s believed to be driving. TN TAG: 976-ZPT. pic.twitter.com/mlrPPlcXoQ

— TBI (@TBInvestigation) March 17, 2017

Elizabeth is described as a white girl with blonde hair, hazel eyes. She is 5 feet, 5 inches tall and weighs 120 pounds. She was last seen wearing leggings and a flannel shirt.

Authorities are asking that anyone with information call 1-800-TBI-FIND and that anyone who sees a car with Tennessee license plate 976-ZPT call 911. A $1,000 reward is available for information leading to Cummins’ arrest.

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Baltimore police search for suspect in firebombing that killed two and injured six

iStock/Thinkstock(BALTIMORE) — Authorities are searching for a suspect who is wanted in connection to the firebombing that devastated a home, leaving two people dead and six others injured, according to the Baltimore Police Department.

The fire occurred early Saturday morning, and police said that the two who were killed were both teenagers, and among the injured are a 4-year-old and an 11-year-old. One adult is also in serious condition after jumping from the top floor of the home in an effort to escape the fire, police said.

“We know that this was a deliberately set fire,” Baltimore P.D. Public Information Officer T.J. Smith said Saturday. “And the individuals that were inside the home were apparently targeted.”

Smith added that there was a non-fatal shooting in the area on Thursday, two days before the fire broke out. Smith said investigators believe the two incidents are connected.

Smith said that five of the six who were injured have been released from the hospital, including the 4-year-old and 11-year-old.

The suspect has been identified by Baltimore police as Antonio Wright, 26. Wright, described as 6-foot-1, 190 pounds, with black hair and brown eyes, is wanted for murder.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is assisting the BPD with the search and offering a reward of up to $10,000 for information leading to Wright’s arrest. Combined with the BPD’s reward of up to $2,000, authorities are offering a total reward of up to $12,000 as a part of their effort to arrest Wright.

“Bad guys on the street will tell you,” Smith said, “they will tell you kids, elderly, women are off limits. … The suspect didn’t care who was in that house.”

“We could be here talking about eight dead people, including a 4-year-old and an 11-year-old,” Smith said.

BPD Commissioner Kevin Davis said at a news conference Sunday that, “for a person to plan to commit this act it takes pre-meditation, it takes planning.

“Then he has to have the fortitude to go ahead and throw two Molotov cocktails inside an occupied row home in our city,” Davis added. “That’s absolutely unacceptable to Baltimore.

“Antonio Wright is public enemy number one,” Davis said. “We’ve caught every other public enemy number one and we intend to catch Antonio Wright.”

Davis said they don’t have any “hard set criteria” for what classifies a criminal as “public enemy number one,” but added that they use that term for “acts that shock the conscience.”

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Colorado wildfire 50 percent contained, hundreds evacuated

iStock/Thinkstock(BOULDER, Colo.) — A Colorado wildfire that forced hundreds out of their homes on Sunday has been 50 percent contained, authorities said.

The fire near Sunshine Canyon in Boulder, Colorado — just west of the downtown area — scorched about 63 acres of land and forced the evacuation of 426 homes as authorities worried that erratic winds could cause the fire to spread further, the Boulder Office of Emergency Management said Sunday.

As a precaution, another 836 homes were placed on a pre-evacuation list amid worries that the blaze could flare up due to strong wind gusts overnight, emergency officials said.

There were no known injuries or homes lost as of early Monday morning, the Boulder Office of Emergency Management said.

Boulder County Sheriff’s Cmdr. Mike Wagner said the area has “a very social trail network,” leading authorities to speculate the fire could be “human-caused.”

“At this point, we’ve been able to rule out things like lightning strikes or weather related, downed power lines, things like that. That causes us to speculate that it’s human caused, manmade,” Wagner said during a press briefing on Sunday. “In the general area where that fire was reported to us by Sunshine Canyon and Timber Lane is a very social trail network. A lot of people are in and out of there.”

The fire began before early Sunday morning near Sunshine Canyon and Timberlane, emergency officials said.

Wagner said fire officials would remain at the scene overnight to attack hot spots and possible flare-ups.

He said people in the pre-evacuation zones should be prepared and ready to go at any time as the fire’s status could change due to windy weather overnight.

“The plan is to keep the mandatory evacuation zone in place,” Wagner said in a video posted on the Boulder Office of Emergency Management’s Facebook page late Sunday.

“The forecasts is a little concerning. There’s a potential wind event at around midnight. It is very volatile there and there’s a lot of complicating factors that go into a fire operation overnight,” he said.

The Boulder Regional Communications Center said it received a call from a man at around 2 a.m. local time who said he noticed flames on the side of a mountain, according to the Boulder County Sheriff’s office.

Multiple fire departments, including the Boulder Rural Fire Protection District, the Boulder Fire Department, and the Sheriff’s Fire Management Program, fought to contain the fire.

Officials said a shelter at the East Boulder Community Center would remain open overnight in case of additional evacuations.

Mark Sandercott, who was forced to evacuate, told ABC News affiliate KMGH that he feared of losing his home.

“I thought, for sure, we were probably going to lose the house,” he said. “I grabbed my backpack, grabbed the most essential things that I thought I needed, and some water and just left.”

The blaze is currently moving south, according to KMGH.

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Girl battling cancer granted wish of seeing ‘A Dog’s Purpose’

iStock/Thinkstock(VOORHEES, N.J.) — A 12-year-old battling cancer was granted her wish of seeing the inspirational film, “A Dog’s Purpose.” Brooke Mulford also got a visit from the golden retriever who stars in the film.
Mulford has been battling cancer since she was diagnosed on January 5, 2009, which just so happened to be her mother’s 40th birthday.

Amy Mulford, a single mother from Voorhees, New Jersey, initially knew something was wrong with her daughter when she began limping.

“I asked her why she was limping and she said, ‘[Our dog] Bailey jumped up on me and hurt my knee,'” Amy Mulford recalled to ABC News. “It made sense.”

But after a three-hour road trip, Brooke Mulford couldn’t straighten her legs and couldn’t stand when getting out of the car, her mother added. So she was rushed to the emergency room where doctors diagnosed her with stage four neuroblastoma.

Despite six rounds of chemotherapy, surgery, two stem cell transplants, and radiation, Brooke Mulford’s cancer spread to her spine, which doctors discovered December 5, 2012, her mother said.

And although her prognosis at times improved, in January it took a turn for the worse. “She had a massive spread throughout her whole body,” Amy Mulford, 48, detailed.

Since having surgery on January 30 to remove a tumor that had grown in her brain, Brooke Mulford has been hospitalized at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Mulford said.

“She was admitted for the pain. It was just getting worse and worse,” her mother said. “It’s just about trying to get her comfortable. She’s not been able to walk for three weeks now. She can’t stand anymore.”

Brooke Mulford was granted wish of seeing inspiration film “A Dog’s Purpose” and even got a visit from screenwriter Cathryn Michon and the film’s star dog, Trip.

But Brooke Mulford recently got a break in her painful days after she was granted her wish of seeing “A Dog’s Purpose,” a film adaptation of W. Bruce Cameron’s 2010 novel of a dog who finds his purpose by being reincarnated.

After her mother shared her wish on Facebook, many people contacted the film’s production company, Amblin Entertainment. Still, one of her social media friends, Marcie Aron, was connected to Cathryn Michon, the screenwriter for the film and Cameron’s wife.

The two not only sent a personalized copy of the novel and T-shirts promoting the film, but Michon visited Brooke Mulford in the hospital on March 11.

“Bruce and I admire Brooke for having such grace for all she has had to endure,” she wrote Saturday on Facebook of why she visited the hospital. “She is brave and kind and the world is better for her being in it. That’s why everyone was so inspired to grant her request.”

But there’s more. Brooke Mulford along with her family were able to screen the film complete with movie popcorn.

“She was just so excited,” her mother told ABC News of her daughter’s big day. “We watched the movie and it was so beautiful. She was just so moved by it, we all were.”

And Trip, the golden retriever who stars in the film, along with his handler Jennifer Henderson surprised Brooke Mulford.

“The fact that so many people came together to make this happen for her was just incredible to me,” her mother said. “She’s gone through so much in the last eight years, but really in the last couple months.”

Amy Mulford noted that since her cancer spread, her daughter has suffered from nightmares and panic attacks.

“It’s been really hard to see her that way. She’s in so much pain,” she continued, “and then we get to see this movie that she wanted to see so badly and then to get to meet the dog from the movie … it was the best day we’ve had in so long.

“It’s what my heart needed,” Amy Mulford added.

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Former teacher may have planned alleged abduction of teen: police

iStock/Thinkstock(COLUMBIA, Tenn.) — The Tennessee teacher accused of kidnapping a 15-year-old former student may have planned the abduction in advance, according to police.

The student, 15-year-old Elizabeth Thomas was last seen around 7:30 or 8 a.m. Monday at a Shoney’s restaurant in Columbia, Tennessee, where she had been dropped off by a friend, according to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

Her former teacher, Tad Cummins, 50, is allegedly shown on surveillance footage from a gas station near the restaurant at about 8:30 a.m. filling up his silver Nissan Rogue, the car in which authorities believe he is traveling in with the teenager.

Cummins, of Columbia, Tennessee, is wanted on allegations of aggravated kidnapping and sexual contact with a minor, authorities said.

He is believed to have two handguns, and Elizabeth is considered to be “in imminent danger,” the state investigative bureau said.

“What scares us about Mr. Cummins is he’s sort given up his life at this point,” Maury County Sheriff Bucky Rowland told ABC News. “The girl is just 15.”

Rowland said the teacher may have decided to take Elizabeth and leave in the wake of his being spotted earlier this year allegedly kissing the teen student.

Jason Whatley, an attorney for Elizabeth’s father, Anthony Thomas, told media this week that another student saw Cummins kissing Elizabeth on Jan. 24.

Both the Maury County Public Schools and the Maury County Sheriff’s Department investigated the incident.

School officials said in a statement that the health sciences teacher at Culleoka Unit School was initially suspended and then dismissed as a result of the district investigation.

“The district does not tolerate any manner of behavior that is alleged in this incident and will take swift action to remove parties from school campuses who are involved with investigations of this type,” the statement said.

Sheriff Rowland said his department’s investigation of the incident is still pending.

The sheriff said Cummins may have begun plotting to leave with Elizabeth after he was suspended from his teaching job.

“That’s how it started,” Rowland said.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation also said in a news release that Cummins “potentially planned this abduction prior to Monday.”

He “may have been abusing his role as a teacher to groom this vulnerable young girl for some time in an effort to lure and potentially sexually exploit her,” the bureau said.

Sabrina Gallup, a manager at the Shoney’s, where Elizabeth was dropped off Monday morning told ABC News by phone that Thomas had no connection to the restaurant beyond that of a potential customer.

She said the girl’s disappearance has left people in the community of Columbia, Tennessee, unsettled.
“Everyone’s keeping an eye out,” Gallup said. “The entire town is looking out for her right now.”

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