ABC News(NEW YORK) — Chris Mumma, the executive director of the North Carolina Center on Actual Innocence, believes her client Mark Carver is sitting in prison, sentenced to life, for a murder he didn’t commit.

Mumma’s organization receives about 600 requests every year from inmates who say they have been wrongfully convicted. But she knows a winning case comes along far less often. In fact NCAI accepts only 2 percent of all the inmate appeals it receives.

“Mark’s case met all the criteria for us,” Mumma, Carver’s attorney, told ABC News 20/20.

Carver was convicted of first-degree murder in 2011 for the murder of 20-year-old UNC Charlotte Ira Yarmolenko.

“We think Mark is innocent, and if Mark is innocent, the family has not received justice, and the true perpetrator is still out on the streets,” Mumma said.

Yarmolenko was found dead on the banks of the Catawba River in Mount Holly, N.C., on May 5, 2008. She was lying beside her car with three ligatures around her neck, which police say asphyxiated her. One was a drawstring that had been taken out of her hooded sweatshirt, and the others were a bungee cord and a blue ribbon that had been ripped from a bag police found in the back seat of her car.

At the time, Carver was fishing on the river about 100 yards away with his cousin, Neal Cassada. Carver said he cooperated with police, voluntarily speaking with them on four different occasions. Both he and Cassada agreed to allow their cheeks to be swabbed for DNA testing.

In December of 2008, seven months after Yarmolenko’s murder, police received the break they had been waiting for. Trace amount of touch DNA were found on Yarmolenko’s car that match both Carver and Cassada.

The men were arrested and charged with first-degree murder but Cassada died of a heart attack the day before the his trial was set to begin.

At trial, prosecutors argued that Carver’s “touch DNA” was found on the outside of Yarmolenko’s car above the rear driver’s side door.

Unlike more traditional forms of DNA found in blood or saliva, touch DNA comes from skin cells. In 2008, when the murder occurred, the ability to lift DNA from an object that had merely been touched was cutting edge forensic science.

Mumma said it was two months before Yarmolenko’s car was swabbed for DNA and only traces of Carver and Cassada’s DNA were found. Carver’s DNA was not found on Yarmolenko’s body, her clothing, the ligatures used to strangle her, nor inside the car.

“Under her fingernails there were two profiles,” Mumma said. “There was hers, which you would expect to find there, but there also was another profile that was unidentified.”

To this day, police have not been able to determine who the “unidentified” DNA belongs to.

Mumma thinks there could be another explanation for how Carver’s touch DNA ended up on Yarmolenko’s car. On the day of the murder a police officer found Carver on the river and spoke to him, who took Carver’s driver’s license and shook his hand. Mumma said that the officer could have transferred Carver’s DNA indirectly to Yarmolenko’s car when he returned to the crime scene. Photos and video from the scene show that some of the officers that day were not wearing gloves, even while they touched the car.

“They’re touching the inside of the car, they’re touching the outside of the car, they’re touching the doors, the handles, it’s contaminated,” Mumma said.

Mumma said she also found a witness, who asked not to be identified for this report, who said he was on the Catawba River the day of the murder and spoke to Carver in the crucial period between when Yarmolenko was killed and when that police office arrive to speak to him.

“We talked about fishing,” the witness told 20/20. “And we talked about his family, and we had a good conversation for about 30 to 35 minutes.”

The man said he didn’t notice anything about Carver that suggested he had just been through a homicidal struggle.

“Mr. Carver wasn’t muddy, he wasn’t wet. He had no scratches on him,” the witness said. “He was just as normal as anybody could be normal, just sitting on the back of his SUV fishing.”

Mumma thinks this witness’s testimony could have been important at Carver’s trial but he was never called to testify.

Mumma says the only way to resolve the questions surrounding Carver’s guilt is for Gaston County District Attorney Locke Bell to release the DNA evidence to be retested. But she says Bell has so far refused her requests. Prosecutors in this case refused to speak with 20/20 but they have always steadfastly defended the touch DNA evidence.

“He has refused to allow the state lab to give us the electronic data. There’s ways to get to the answers in these cases collaboratively,” Mumma said.

On Thursday, Mumma filed a post-conviction motion demanding Carver receive a new trial. One big factor she argues in her motion is that Carver had ineffective counsel at his first trial. She would like another jury to hear the evidence that the first one never did.

“We will certainly be saying … that he should have had a forensic expert of his own testifying,” Mumma said.

Mumma hopes to deliver a second chance for Carver, even though she knows it won’t be easy.

“We’ve been around this block enough to know it’s not good to bet on it. So we’re going to fight for him and, you know, we’re going to hope that the district attorney will work with us,” Mumma said.

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ABC News(NEW YORK) — Chris Mumma, the executive director of the North Carolina Center on Actual Innocence, believes her client Mark Carver is sitting in prison, sentenced to life, for a murder he didn’t commit.

Mumma’s organization receives about 600 requests every year from inmates who say they have been wrongfully convicted. But she knows a winning case comes along far less often. In fact NCAI accepts only 2 percent of all the inmate appeals it receives.

“Mark’s case met all the criteria for us,” Mumma, Carver’s attorney, told ABC News 20/20.

Carver was convicted of first-degree murder in 2011 for the murder of 20-year-old UNC Charlotte Ira Yarmolenko.

“We think Mark is innocent, and if Mark is innocent, the family has not received justice, and the true perpetrator is still out on the streets,” Mumma said.

Yarmolenko was found dead on the banks of the Catawba River in Mount Holly, N.C., on May 5, 2008. She was lying beside her car with three ligatures around her neck, which police say asphyxiated her. One was a drawstring that had been taken out of her hooded sweatshirt, and the others were a bungee cord and a blue ribbon that had been ripped from a bag police found in the back seat of her car.

At the time, Carver was fishing on the river about 100 yards away with his cousin, Neal Cassada. Carver said he cooperated with police, voluntarily speaking with them on four different occasions. Both he and Cassada agreed to allow their cheeks to be swabbed for DNA testing.

In December of 2008, seven months after Yarmolenko’s murder, police received the break they had been waiting for. Trace amount of touch DNA were found on Yarmolenko’s car that match both Carver and Cassada.

The men were arrested and charged with first-degree murder but Cassada died of a heart attack the day before the his trial was set to begin.

At trial, prosecutors argued that Carver’s “touch DNA” was found on the outside of Yarmolenko’s car above the rear driver’s side door.

Unlike more traditional forms of DNA found in blood or saliva, touch DNA comes from skin cells. In 2008, when the murder occurred, the ability to lift DNA from an object that had merely been touched was cutting edge forensic science.

Mumma said it was two months before Yarmolenko’s car was swabbed for DNA and only traces of Carver and Cassada’s DNA were found. Carver’s DNA was not found on Yarmolenko’s body, her clothing, the ligatures used to strangle her, nor inside the car.

“Under her fingernails there were two profiles,” Mumma said. “There was hers, which you would expect to find there, but there also was another profile that was unidentified.”

To this day, police have not been able to determine who the “unidentified” DNA belongs to.

Mumma thinks there could be another explanation for how Carver’s touch DNA ended up on Yarmolenko’s car. On the day of the murder a police officer found Carver on the river and spoke to him, who took Carver’s driver’s license and shook his hand. Mumma said that the officer could have transferred Carver’s DNA indirectly to Yarmolenko’s car when he returned to the crime scene. Photos and video from the scene show that some of the officers that day were not wearing gloves, even while they touched the car.

“They’re touching the inside of the car, they’re touching the outside of the car, they’re touching the doors, the handles, it’s contaminated,” Mumma said.

Mumma said she also found a witness, who asked not to be identified for this report, who said he was on the Catawba River the day of the murder and spoke to Carver in the crucial period between when Yarmolenko was killed and when that police office arrive to speak to him.

“We talked about fishing,” the witness told 20/20. “And we talked about his family, and we had a good conversation for about 30 to 35 minutes.”

The man said he didn’t notice anything about Carver that suggested he had just been through a homicidal struggle.

“Mr. Carver wasn’t muddy, he wasn’t wet. He had no scratches on him,” the witness said. “He was just as normal as anybody could be normal, just sitting on the back of his SUV fishing.”

Mumma thinks this witness’s testimony could have been important at Carver’s trial but he was never called to testify.

Mumma says the only way to resolve the questions surrounding Carver’s guilt is for Gaston County District Attorney Locke Bell to release the DNA evidence to be retested. But she says Bell has so far refused her requests. Prosecutors in this case refused to speak with 20/20 but they have always steadfastly defended the touch DNA evidence.

“He has refused to allow the state lab to give us the electronic data. There’s ways to get to the answers in these cases collaboratively,” Mumma said.

On Thursday, Mumma filed a post-conviction motion demanding Carver receive a new trial. One big factor she argues in her motion is that Carver had ineffective counsel at his first trial. She would like another jury to hear the evidence that the first one never did.

“We will certainly be saying … that he should have had a forensic expert of his own testifying,” Mumma said.

Mumma hopes to deliver a second chance for Carver, even though she knows it won’t be easy.

“We’ve been around this block enough to know it’s not good to bet on it. So we’re going to fight for him and, you know, we’re going to hope that the district attorney will work with us,” Mumma said.

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Ingram Publishing/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — As locals near Washington, D.C.’s Comet Pizza restaurant know too well, fake news headlines can have real-world implications.

Edgar Welch allegedly fired three shots at the local hotspot after driving 350 miles from North Carolina in order to investigate a fake news story that the pizzeria was home to a child slavery ring. That story was not true.

“The intel on this wasn’t 100 percent,” Welch told The New York Times after his arrest. “I just wanted to do some good and went about it the wrong way.”

But the incident has prompted questions and criticism of the “fake news” phenomenon. As journalists and social media networks grapple with how to respond, public figures from Hillary Clinton to the pope have warned of its potential repercussions.

George Washington University senior fellow Kalev Leetaru recently penned a Forbes article called “Why Stopping Fake News Is So Hard.”

“Much of this reporting is not necessarily an attempt at deception, but rather interpretation of available facts in a way that differs from the mainstream,” he writes, teasing out different reasons it can be so difficult to label fake news. “Perhaps the best approach might be to recognize that instead of ‘fake’ and ‘true’ news, we have a hundred shades of gray in between.”

A study from Stanford University released recently showed that more than 80 percent of middle school students couldn’t tell the difference between a news story and sponsored content on a popular website. And only one in four high school students could identify a fake Twitter account as lacking a blue checkmark, a signal to users that an account is legitimate.

“In every case and at every level, we were taken aback by students’ lack of preparation,” the researchers wrote.

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Bettmann/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — The death of legendary astronaut John Glenn sparked an outpouring of tributes, including from President Obama, who said the space pioneer “lifted the hopes of a nation.”

“With John’s passing, our nation has lost an icon and Michelle and I have lost a friend,” Obama said. “John spent his life breaking barriers, from defending our freedom as a decorated Marine Corps fighter pilot in World War II and Korea, to setting a transcontinental speed record, to becoming, at age 77, the oldest human to touch the stars.”

Obama called Glenn, who died at 95, the “last of America’s first astronauts.”

“John always had the right stuff, inspiring generations of scientists, engineers and astronauts who will take us to Mars and beyond — not just to visit, but to stay,”

The president said the nation has “lost an icon” and that he and Michelle Obama have “lost a friend.”

Tributes to Glenn, who was the first American to orbit the earth and also served as Ohio senator, began pouring into social media immediately after news of his death broke today.

The U.S. Marine Corps called Glenn a U.S. hero and one “Marine Corps Aviation’s legendary trailblazers.”

“Colonel John Glenn Jr. led a monumental life from his time serving as a fighter pilot in WWII and the Korean War to becoming the first American to orbit the Earth and fifth person in space,” the Marine Corps said in a statement.

Several public figures took to social media to pay tribute to the space pioneer.

Astronaut Community

NASA

We are saddened by the loss of Sen. John Glenn, the first American to orbit Earth. A true American hero. Godspeed, John Glenn. Ad astra. pic.twitter.com/89idi9r1NB

— NASA (@NASA) December 8, 2016

Retired Astronaut Scott Kelly

Saddened by the loss of my former astronaut colleague John Glenn. Was very honored to have known him. #Godspeed, John Glenn. pic.twitter.com/IRKGJNqYJQ

— Scott Kelly (@StationCDRKelly) December 8, 2016

The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

We mourn the passing and celebrate the life of Senator John Glenn. His legacy of friendship and discovery will live in our halls forever. pic.twitter.com/1zMNriqEcz

— SmithsonianAirSpace (@airandspace) December 8, 2016

Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson

Aren’t many Heroes left: WWII & Korean War Fighter Pilot. Marine Colonel. NASA Astronaut. Senator. Married 73 yrs. John Glenn RIP 1921-2016

— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) December 8, 2016

Public Figures

President-elect Donald Trump

Today we lost a great pioneer of air and space in John Glenn. He was a hero and inspired generations of future explorers. He will be missed.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 8, 2016

Vice President-elect Mike Pence

Saddened to hear of the passing of a US hero/astronaut/statesman. His courage inspired a generation to explore & serve. Godspeed John Glenn

— Mike Pence (@mike_pence) December 8, 2016

House Speaker Paul Ryan

“John Glenn was an American hero. As a military pilot, astronaut, and U.S. senator, he never lost his passion for exploration and public service. On behalf of the House, I extend my deepest sympathies to Annie and the entire Glenn family. May his memory live on every time we look up at the stars.”

Educator Bill Nye

Space exploration brings out our best. John Glenn served his country in space, in Congress, and inspired a generation. Onward, John Glenn. pic.twitter.com/KLtzuXn9eP

— Bill Nye (@BillNye) December 8, 2016

House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)

John Glenn’s humility and grace made his life achievements even more moving. Our hearts go out to his entire family. pic.twitter.com/GjzAogv6Gy

— Nancy Pelosi (@NancyPelosi) December 8, 2016

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio)

Last year, I had the honor of joining John & Annie Glenn for the official ribbon cutting of the new John Glenn College of Public Affairs. pic.twitter.com/WzkFxiCOsl

— Rob Portman (@senrobportman) December 8, 2016

U.S. Marines

The Corps lost a legend today.

Col. John Glenn— an astronaut, a senator, a Marine— died at the age of 95.

Semper Fi, Sir. pic.twitter.com/xUShqC9JaZ

— U.S. Marines (@USMC) December 8, 2016

Ohio Gov. John Kasich

pic.twitter.com/XRN1DDMVqO

— John Kasich (@JohnKasich) December 8, 2016

Ohio State

Today, we join the world in mourning the passing of legendary astronaut, senator and Ohioan John Glenn. https://t.co/L66WmMJgHi pic.twitter.com/ny3NPpm0nk

— Ohio State (@OhioState) December 8, 2016

Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio

Saddened by the passing of John Glenn. My thoughts are w/ his wife Annie & family. He was a hero. His life & legacy will never be forgotten https://t.co/KKCPRUmx5s

— Congressman Tim Ryan (@RepTimRyan) December 8, 2016

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin

With sadness, we bid farewell to John Glenn, a true American hero…May he rest in peace…

— Governor Matt Bevin (@GovMattBevin) December 8, 2016

Rep. Jim Renacci (R-Ohio)

Sadden by the loss of Ohio’s American hero, politician & aviation icon. Thank you for your service to our state, nation & planet. #johnglenn

— Rep. Jim Renacci (@RepJimRenacci) December 8, 2016

Dan Rather

John Glenn, one of the truly great explorers passed into the great unknown. May his spirit, whose restlessness expanded our horizons, RIP.

— Dan Rather (@DanRather) December 8, 2016

Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.)

For every Baby Boomer, John Glenn captured our imagination and was a hero of our youth. https://t.co/PUwaH9M3R2

— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) December 8, 2016

Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio)

We lost a true American hero today. My heart goes out to Former Ohio Senator John Glenn’s family, friends and loved ones. pic.twitter.com/xW3i9iKbG3

— Joyce Beatty (@RepBeatty) December 8, 2016

Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio)

Astronaut. Engineer. Statesman. Pioneer. Frmr Sen. John Glenn Jr committed his life to innovation, discovery, collaboration, & diplomacy.

— Rep. Marcia L. Fudge (@RepMarciaFudge) December 8, 2016

Columbus Blue Jackets

“I’m not interested in my legacy. I made up a word: ‘live-acy.’ I’m more interested in living.”

Godspeed, John Glenn. And thank you. 🇺🇸 pic.twitter.com/Ehu09JDQNn

— ColumbusBlueJackets (@BlueJacketsNHL) December 8, 2016

Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-Ohio)

“I’m not interested in my legacy. I made up a word: ‘live-acy.’ I’m more interested in living.”

Godspeed, John Glenn. And thank you. 🇺🇸 pic.twitter.com/Ehu09JDQNn

— ColumbusBlueJackets (@BlueJacketsNHL) December 8, 2016

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.)

“I’m not interested in my legacy. I made up a word: ‘live-acy.’ I’m more interested in living.”

Godspeed, John Glenn. And thank you. 🇺🇸 pic.twitter.com/Ehu09JDQNn

— ColumbusBlueJackets (@BlueJacketsNHL) December 8, 2016

Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.)

Sad to hear of the passing of ex-Ohio Sen. John Glenn, who trained @NASA_Langley in #HRVA prior to 1962 Earth orbit. True hero. pic.twitter.com/UaNnTS4pjH

— Mark Warner (@MarkWarner) December 8, 2016

Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.)

“John Glenn is the last of the original seven American astronauts who truly had the ‘right stuff.’ On top of paving the way for the rest of us, he was also a first-class gentleman and an unabashed patriot. He leaves his wife Annie, who always stood by him as he ventured into the unknown cosmos.”

Buzz Aldrin, former NASA astronaut and Apollo 11 pilot

“With the news today I’m saddened again to hear that we have lost the pioneer of space flight for the United States, second only to Yuri Gagarin, and he will always go down in history as certainly one of the most influential officers in the Marine Corps and of course as one of the original Mercury 7 astronauts. I am very sorry that he has departed us with his wisdom. I join that crowd of people and the entire nation and the world in paying homage to his service.”

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter

“In service to his country as a Marine, in space, and in the Senate, and throughout his life, Senator John Glenn embodied ‘the right stuff.’ Our military in particular benefited from his dedication and courage, first as a combat pilot in World War II and Korea, and later as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. But just as important as what John Glenn accomplished is how he accomplished it: with a combination of fierce determination and profound humility, and always with integrity. I am deeply saddened by his loss, and I join all Americans inspired by his heroic example in expressing my condolences to his wife, Annie, and the Glenn family.”

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Here are the latest scores and winners:

NATIONAL BASKETBALL ASSOCIATION

Toronto 124, Minnesota 110
Washington 92, Denver 85
Memphis 88, Portland 86
Philadelphia 99, New Orleans 88
Golden State 106, Utah 99
Chicago 95, San Antonio 91

NATIONAL HOCKEY LEAGUE

NY Islanders 3, St. Louis 2
Philadelphia 6, Edmonton 5
Colorado 4, Boston 2
Montreal 5, New Jersey 2
Vancouver 5, Tampa Bay 1
Pittsburgh 5, Florida 1
NY Rangers 2, Winnipeg 1
Dallas 5, Nashville 2
Calgary 2, Arizona 1 (OT)
Carolina 3, LA Kings 1

NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE

Kansas City 21, Oakland 13

TOP-25 COLLEGE BASKETBALL

Texas-Arlington 65, (12) Saint Mary’s (Cal) 51
Iowa 78, (25) Iowa St. 64

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Georgia Bureau of Investigation(AMERICUS, Ga.) — The Georgia Southwestern State University police officer who was critically injured Wednesday while responding to a domestic dispute call has died from his injuries — one of two officers killed in the incident, the university announced.

“We have just received word that GSW Public Safety Officer Jody Smith has succumbed to his injuries and has passed away,” said Georgia Southwestern State University Interim President Charles Patterson. “We offer our deepest condolences to his family during this very difficult time. Officer Smith was a bright, young and energetic officer, and he will be sorely missed.”

Americus Police Officer Nicholas Ryan Smarr, 25, also was killed in the incident.

“It’s a tragedy beyond words,” Americus Police Department Chief Mark Scott said of the shooting. “It’s one of our family members [who] has been taken from us.”

Smith had been with the Georgia Southwestern State University Police Department since August, the university said. In a statement, the university commended Smith for showing “extreme bravery in the line of duty as he responded to a call for backup.”

Smith was enthusiastic about joining the department since it offered him an opportunity to pursue a college degree while working in law enforcement, according to the university.

The man who allegedly shot the two police officers in Georgia is now dead, police said.

After a manhunt that lasted more than 24 hours, police said they received a tip Thursday morning that the suspect, identified as 32-year-old Minquell Kennedy Lembrick, was inside a residence on Allen Street in the city of Americus.

Officers heard a gunshot while setting up a security perimeter around the home before attempting to enter. They opened the house door with a robot and found Lembrick inside, dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, according to police.

Scott said the tip came from someone who was near the property where the suspect was found. Lembrick’s precise location after the shooting and up until he was found dead remains unknown, Scott said.

“The caller actually knew the gentleman and was there when he came to the house,” the police chief told reporters at a press conference Thursday afternoon.

Investigators said Lembrick was wanted in connection to a shooting that happened Wednesday morning around 9:40 a.m. local time at an apartment complex in Americus, near the Georgia Southwestern State University campus.

Officers Smarr and Smith were simultaneously responding to a 911 call regarding a domestic dispute at the complex on South Lee Street when they encountered the suspect and shots were fired, according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

Scott said the slain officer was wearing a police body camera during the shooting, but the footage will not be released at this time.

The two officers exchanged gunfire with the suspect, but it’s unknown whether Lembrick was also struck. The man remained at large and was considered to be armed and dangerous until Thursday afternoon when authorities confirmed his death.

Prior to Wednesday’s domestic dispute call, police said Lembrick was wanted on kidnapping charges and others from a previous domestic incident.

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Gregory Shamus/Getty Images(CHICAGO) — Center fielder Dexter Fowler has agreed to a deal with the St. Louis Cardinals, sources told ESPN.

Fowler will reportedly travel to St. Louis for a physical on Friday.

Fowler was on the National League Central Division rival World Series champion Chicago Cubs He hit .278 with 13 home runs and 48 RBI last season with Chicago.

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iStock/Thinkstock(DETROIT) — At least three people have been killed in a series of snow-related car accidents that involved about 40 vehicles in Michigan, according to the Livingston County Sheriff’s Office.

The major car pileup occurred around 9:47 a.m. today, in the westbound lanes of the interstate I-96 in Livingston County, according to Michigan State Police. Authorities said 11 other injuries had been reported, but were not life-threatening.

The identities of those killed have not yet been released.

Sudden whiteout conditions, as well as black ice on the roads have been cited by police as contributors to the deadly crash.

Police said crashes had occurred in the eastbound lanes of I-96, as well.

Westbound lanes remained closed as an investigation continued; however, eastbound lanes were scheduled to reopen around 2:50 p.m. CT.

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Image Source/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Winter is officially here to stay for many states across the nation.

Gusty winds, whiteout conditions and heavy snow are impacting thousands of commuters. Winter advisories have been issued for nearly 20 states.

The Great Lakes region, especially Michigan and New York, is experiencing heavy lake-effect snow that could lead to an accumulation of 2-3 feet.

#wutv Lake effect snow in effect. Syracuse pic.twitter.com/Bu5PUU2nSp

— vbdenny (@VBDenny) December 8, 2016

A snow storm and cold temperatures in Michigan have caused roads to ice, resulting in multiple highway accidents Thursday morning.

At least two people were killed and others were injured following a 30-vehicle pileup on I-96 near Fowlerville, Michigan.

A video posted by the Michigan Department of Transportation shows the scene where a motorist lost control on a snowy highway. There were no reported injuries.

The first snow of the season fell in a few unlikely areas. A winter weather advisory was in effect Thursday morning in Midland and Odessa, Texas, with around an inch of snowfall.

Redding, California, was blanketed in snow overnight. Portland, Oregon, is also experiencing snow that is expected to continue into the night.

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Bettmann/Getty(NEW YORK) — John Glenn, the first American astronaut to orbit the earth and a legendary figure in the American space flight program, has died, the Ohio governor has said. He was 95.

pic.twitter.com/XRN1DDMVqO

— John Kasich (@JohnKasich) December 8, 2016

Glenn was one of America’s first and most celebrated astronauts and had a long public career that included two space flights, 24 years as a U.S. Senator from Ohio, and a run for the presidency. He was born July 18, 1921.

Glenn will go down in history as the first American to orbit the earth, one of the original seven Mercury astronauts. On Feb. 20, 1962, he climbed into his Friendship 7 capsule, lifted off from Cape Canaveral in Florida, circled the earth three times in five hours — and became a national hero.

“Zero-G and I feel fine,” he said from his spacecraft. “Man, that view is tremendous.”

It was a troubled world he saw from orbit. The Cold War was at its most chilling. The Soviet Union had launched the first satellite, Sputnik, in 1957, and the first cosmonaut, Yuri Gagarin, in 1961. The United States was anxious to catch up.

“We hadn’t really thought that any nation could even touch us technically,” Glenn said in a 1998 interview with ABC News. “And all at once, here was this bunch of Soviets over there, for heaven’s sake, outdoing the United States of America in technical and scientific things.”

Ohio Native, Marine Corps Pilot

Glenn Herschel Glenn Jr. was born in 1921 in Cambridge, Ohio, and grew up in nearby New Concord, the son of a plumber and a former teacher. He married his childhood sweetheart, Annie Castor, and studied at nearby Muskingum College.

He found his calling in the air. In World War II he served as a Marine Corps pilot, flying 59 combat missions, and 90 more in the Korean War. He rose in the ranks as a test pilot.

In 1957, he set a transcontinental speed record from Los Angeles to New York, flying across the country in 3 hours and 23 minutes. In 1959, when the newly-formed National Aeronautics and Space Administration went looking for its first astronauts, it looked at military test pilots. Glenn was in the select group of seven men who were chosen.

He was passed over for the very first Mercury space flight; that job went to Alan Shepard, and Glenn was his backup pilot. But Shepard was only slated for a 15-minute up-and-down test of the Mercury capsule, scheduled for May 1961 — and three weeks before launch, he was upstaged by Gagarin, who circled the world.

The Mercury Seven

Three weeks later President John F. Kennedy, looking for something at which America could beat the Soviets, committed the United States to landing a man on the moon by the end of the decade. Glenn later said he wondered at the time how NASA would pull it off. After one more 15-minute test — in which astronaut Gus Grissom flew safely but nearly drowned when his spacecraft sank in the Atlantic after spashdown — it fell to Glenn to get America into orbit.

It was a fearsome assignment. The Atlas rocket that would launch him was famously unreliable. Glenn would make three orbits of the earth. His launch was scheduled and scrubbed no fewer than ten times in four months.

And then it was launch day — Feb. 20, 1962. Glenn woke early, had breakfast, put on his silver pressure suit, and climbed into Friendship 7 before dawn. The countdown moved toward zero. In the control center Glenn’s fellow astronaut, Scott Carpenter, keyed a microphone and said, “Godspeed, John Glenn.”

Glenn did not hear him; Carpenter was not on his radio link. Instead, he felt a jolt as the rocket left the launch pad.

“Roger, liftoff, and the clock is running. We’re under way.”

The Atlas did not fail. Five minutes later he was in orbit.

The Flight of Friendship 7

The nation hung on every moment of his flight — one man, alone in the void, in a capsule so small (six feet in diameter at the base) that he could not stretch out his arms. He reported that weightlessness was very pleasant. He marveled at the “fireflies” — later determined to be flecks of frost — that drifted away from Friendship 7 when he rapped on the hull of the spacecraft.

Glenn was having a wonderful time. But then there was trouble. As he began his second orbit, Mission Control received a signal suggesting that the heat shield, designed to prevent the capsule from burning up during reentry, had come loose. Worried controllers feared they might lose Glenn. They ordered him not to jettison the capsule’s retro rockets, strapped on over the heat shield, after he fired them to descend from orbit.

John Glenn, First American to Orbit the Earth

The outside of the capsule heated to 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit as the atmosphere slowed it. Glenn watched as chunks of debris flew past the window and wondered whether it was the retro pack — or the heat shield breaking up.

It held. He splashed down safely in the Atlantic Ocean, and was greeted as perhaps America’s greatest hero since Charles Lindbergh.

Crowds mobbed him at a ticker tape parade in New York. President Kennedy, who saw Glenn’s star power, welcomed him at the White House. He returned to work at NASA and lobbied for another flight, but the Kennedy administration had quietly let his bosses know he was too much of a national icon to risk in space again.

Life in Politics

So he left NASA in 1963 and went into business, investing, among other things, in Florida hotels around what would soon become Disney World. He ran for the Senate as a Democrat from Ohio and made it, on his third try, in 1974. He was reelected three times, spending 24 years on Capitol Hill.

“I guess I’ve looked at my whole life as being a service to my country,” Glenn said in 1976.

That year he sought the Democratic nomination for vice president but lost out to Walter Mondale.

In 1984, he sought the Democratic Party’s nomination for president, but did poorly in early primaries and withdrew, $3 million in debt.

In 1989. he and four other senators were accused of improper interference in an investigation of Charles Keating Jr., chairman of a struggling savings and loan association who had donated $200,000 to his campaign efforts. The senators became known as the “Keating Five.” Two of them — Glenn and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) — were exonerated by the Senate Ethics Committee, but the panel found Glenn had exercised “poor judgement” in trying to help Keating.

He remained in the Senate for another decade, rising in seniority. He focused on foreign affairs and national defense.

Return to Space

But over all those years, he said, he was still restless to return to space. Finally, 36 years after Friendship 7, he got his chance.

Glenn approached NASA with the argument that the degenerative effects of weightlessness were remarkably similar to what happens to the human body as it ages — and that as a healthy man in his 70s, he would make an ideal test subject.

Outsiders scoffed that a senior senator was trying to get a joyride, but NASA managers were intrigued. If there were medical experiments worth doing, that was fine with them — and there would be something poetic about having Glenn, who helped begin the space age, close out his career with a return to orbit.

On Oct. 29, 1998, Glenn and six other astronauts — all of them young enough to be his children — boarded the space shuttle Discovery and lifted off from Pad 39B at the Kennedy Space Center. Over the next nine days, they circled the earth 134 times, released and retrieved a small satellite, did astronomy and biology experiments, and — mostly because of Glenn’s presence — got worldwide attention. Glenn, the first American to orbit the earth, now became the oldest. He was 77.

In his later years he and his wife retired to their native Ohio, lending his name to a school of public affairs at Ohio State University and making occasional appearances to promote human exploration of space.

“One thing I promised Annie the day we were married,” he once said, “is I would do everything I could to keep life from being boring.”

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