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Latest from Brandon Hogan

    Some new detours and lane closures are scheduled for our Seminole County commuters. Construction begins at 8:30 PM Friday night and will last until 6:30 Monday morning. As FDOT widens the few miles of 17-92 near Seminole state college from four to six lanes, thru traffic won't be affected. However, Northbound drivers will have to take an early detour if they need to turn left at Ronald Reagan Blvd.  Southbound drivers wishing to turn left into Parks Lincoln of Longwood are asked to make a U-turn farther down the road. Additionally, Westbound drivers on Ronald Reagan Blvd turning left on Southbound 17-92 will not have a detour, but are asked to follow channeling devices to keep traffic flowing smoothly during construction: FDOT reminds drivers to stay alert and use caution while driving, as safety doesn’t happen by accident.
  • Attending the 20th annual Veterans Day parade in downtown Orlando is just one of many ways you can honor the upcoming national holiday in Central Florida. The parade will last from 11 AM to 1 PM, starting at the corner of Robinson Street and North Orange Avenue, marching around the block to the intersection of Robinson and North Rosalind Avenue. The city has provided a map of relevant daytime road closures, all of which should be lifted by 3 PM: The Kissimmee Veterans Day parade also kicks off today at 10 AM in front of the Osceola County courthouse. In Sanford, at 600 East 1st street, a scaled-down replica of the Vietnam Memorial is on display for public viewing until November 11. A Veterans Day celebration in Seminole county is sure to attract a crowd with food and fireworks at VFW Post 10139, 300 Lake Mills Avenue, from 5 to 10 PM. At the American Legion in Casselberry, 2706 Wells Avenue, a flag retirement ceremony will be held at 3 PM for locals to dispose of old, worn-down American flags in a respectful manner. In Maitland, 10 AM on November 10 at 2121 Brook Drive, locals will team up with active service members, cadets, and scouts to place new flags on the graves of military veterans. Apopka’s Veterans Day festival is the first event on this list to fall on the holiday itself, November 11, with live performances and fun at 5th Street and Central Avenue from 5 to 9 PM. Also on the 11th, a Veterans Day tribute will be held at the Winter Springs Town Center from 6 to 7 PM at 150 Tuskawilla Road. Notable local events apart from a Veterans Day theme include the UCF / Prairie View A&M game at the Addition Area tonight at 6 PM, the College Park Jazz Fest tonight at 9 PM, and Maker Faire Orlando, a family friendly showcase of invention and creativity at the Central Florida Fairgrounds on Colonial, November 9 and 10. And of course, the ongoing Electric Daisy Carnival at Tinker field enters a second day; the roads around Camping World stadium, including parts of South Street and Colyer Avenue, are closed all weekend.
  • One person is dead in Cocoa after crashing their car into a utility pole on a residential street, splitting the vehicle in half. Cocoa police say that the driver died at the scene, on School Street near the historic Cocoa Village. Officers have not yet publicly identified the driver at the time of this report, nor have they said what they believe led to the crash.
  • Authorities responded to a call about the fissure at 6:20 P.M., Tuesday evening. Altamonte Springs Police say that the possible sinkhole has since grown in size, threatening the Royal Arms condominium at the 500 block of Orange Drive. Channel Nine reporter Ken Tyndall arrived that night to assess the damage and take photographs. Mobile users see tweet here. The hole appeared to be at least 20 feet wide and just as deep. Deputies say that they don’t yet have an accurate measurement at the time of this report. The entire 16-unit building was evacuated as the ground beneath it was slowly eaten away. As deputies wait for engineers to explain exactly what’s happening, the American Red Cross says they’re arranging temporary shelter for the apartments’ 13 residents. No injuries are reported.
  • Tropical Storm Nestor hit the panhandle so hard October 18 that tornadoes organized all the way down here in Central Florida.  One of them touched down near Seminole, FL; it damaged a mobile home park without injuries, the National Weather Service reports. Hours later, another tornado organized in Hillsborough County and ripped into Polk County, damaging at least 50 homes and businesses. The latter took the roof off of a man’s garage in the Carillon Lakes neighborhood of Lakeland, FL. As he documented the damage to his home, he turned his camera around to find a herd of cows wandering through the street. The video, published by Fun in the Sun Floridian, shows about nine cows following their rancher among houses damaged by the 120 mph winds. Mobile users see video here. The community appeared bemused, the unidentified Lakeland man says that he and his neighbors are thankful no one was hurt. It’s likely that the violent weather destroyed the rancher’s fences, but a definite reason has not been pinned down at the time of this report.
  • Police say that new footage has given them a lead in the search for an Orlando-area toddler’s parents. Surveillance video recorded on Monday shows two suspects walking away from a burning car with the three-year-old boy. The Buffalo Police Department now confirms that the boy’s parents, with their child and a family friend, drove that car to New York after renting it in Orlando. BPD Captain Jeff Rinaldo provided commentary as the video was shown to the public for the first time: Mobile users see video here. Rinaldo says that the remains of two bodies were found inside of that vehicle, but the search is still on for the toddler’s parents, 31-year-old Miguel Anthony Valentin-Colon and 24-year-old Nicole Merced Plaud, as well as for the family friend who was with them.   The boy is now in the custody of Child Protective Services.
  • On the same day it was upgraded to Tropical Depression Nine, the nearby Atlantic disturbance has since gained enough strength to become Tropical Storm Humberto. The National Hurricane Center made the announcement with the release of their 11p.m. advisory report, Friday the 13th. At the time of this report, Tropical Storm Humberto is located about 130 miles East-Southeast of Great Abaco Island, and about 225 miles East-Southeast from Freeport, Bahamas. Maximum sustained wind speeds are 40mph with wind gusts of 50mph, just barely surpassing the threshold for a tropical storm. It is the eighth storm to be given a name during the 2019 Atlantic Hurricane Season. Forecast cone as of 9/13/2019, courtesy of the National Hurricane Center (above) Current models show the slow-moving tropical storm making it’s way up through the Bahamas on Saturday, a brush with Florida’s East coast is still expected on Sunday. The NHC has issued two advisory points at the time of this report: 1. Humberto will likely bring tropical-storm-force winds and heavy rainfall to portions of the Northwestern Bahamas on Saturday. Significant storm surge is not expected in the Northwest Bahamas from this system. Residents there should follow any advice given by local officials. 2. Heavy rainfall and scattered flash flooding is possible this weekend in coastal sections of Eastern Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina. The chance of heavy rainfall affecting coastal North Carolina early next week continues to diminish. Stay with us in the coming days for severe weather coverage that you can count on. While you’re here, check out our hurricane guide.
  • This is a timely update to “Watching Tropical Depression Five’s path,” published August 24 at 3:39pm Tropical Depression Five has gained enough strength to become Tropical Storm Dorian, the National Hurricane Center announced Saturday evening. Dorian is the fourth tropical storm of the 2019 Atlantic hurricane season. NHC Forecasters say it could turn into a hurricane by Thursday, August 29. Forecast cone as of 8/24/2019, courtesy of the National Hurricane Center (above)  Current models show a possibility that Dorian could strengthen even further after entering the Caribbean, impacting Puerto Rico and surrounding islands as a hurricane. In the same amount of time, while Dorian is still expected to gain strength as it passes over those warmer waters, there’s also a chance that it won’t amount to much more than heavy rain and winds. The NHC has issued two advisory points at the time of this report: 1. Dorian is forecast to strengthen and could be near hurricane strength when it approaches the Lesser Antilles on Tuesday (August 27). 2. It is too soon to determine the specific timing or magnitude of impacts in the Lesser Antilles, but tropical storm or hurricane watches may be needed for a portion of the area on Sunday (August 25). We’re still days away from learning what will be the case, so we’ll keep an eye on the tropics. While you’re here, check out our hurricane guide.
  • Detectives are asking for tips as they investigate a string of commercial burglaries in Orlando. Four of them occurred during the night of August 4, as well as nine more similar robberies on August 11. The thirteen reports were issued mostly from nail salons and restaurants; in hindsight, deputies now think that these crimes were committed by the same two people. It’s also thought that the suspects used different cars to hide their tracks.  The criminals disguised themselves using bandanas and Halloween masks, but Orlando police have released surveillance images of the suspects’ vehicles in hopes that they will be recognized, leading to arrests. The 4-door sedan used in the robberies on August 4, believed to be a Chevy Cruz (above) An older 4-door car, possibly an Oldsmobile, used in the robberies on August 11 (below) If you know who owns these vehicles or where they can be found, please contact Crimeline with tips at (800) 423-8477.
  • Orlando police hope that this cell phone video will help them track down a group of men who assaulted two people downtown, using their skateboards as weapons. The attack happened in May, but deputies still haven’t made any arrests. That’s why footage filmed by a bystander was just released. Brett Thompson, the most injured of the two men who were attacked, says that he was trying to stop a fight between the skateboarders and his friend. The video shows the moment that he was blindsided by a skateboard to the face by one of the 6 to 8 attackers. Be advised that the video contains violence and foul language. Mobile users see video here. During his tenure at Orlando Regional Medical Center, Thompson stated that he did not give anyone permission to hit him, and desires prosecution. If you recognize anyone in the video, please contact Crimeline with tips at (800) 423-8477.
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The Latest Headlines You Need To Know

  • Police in Oklahoma are investigating after a fatal triple shooting Saturday afternoon in Jenks. Investigators told KOKI-TV that a man and his two sons are dead after what they believe is a case of murder-suicide. Police said the children’s mother was at work at the time. The shooting happened in the Country Woods neighborhood near West 106th Street South and South Madison Street South. Officers responded to a call around 12:50 p.m. regarding a domestic incident at the home. Police said others living in the home called 911. No one else in the home was injured.
  • Federal prosecutors say that two men in Las Vegas have plead guilty to running one of the nation's biggest illegal TV and movie streaming services. They say 36 year old Darryl Polo and 40 year old Luis Villarino, who ran the site iStreamItAll, told the Justice Department that their service provided over 100,000 television episodes and movies to all of its subscribers all without consent from the copyright owners. That equals more than Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime put together.  They reportedly got their content from pirate and 'torrent' web sites, stored them, and then distributed them to servers in Canada for all their subscribers. Polo says he made more than $1 million running the site.  Prosecutors also say the two used their programming skills to run another similar operation called Jetflicks, which also used automated software to find, download, and distribute the content to servers in the U.S. and Canada.  Polo and Villarino face charges of money laundering and copyright infringement. They are due to be sentenced in a Virginia federal court in March.
  • A controversial plan has been unanimously approved by the Central Florida Expressway Authority to extend Osceola Parkway. The nine mile extension would connect State Road 417 to new developments with a portion cutting through Split Oak Forest, which houses a variety of endangered species. This would impact 160 out of the 1,700 acre forest, which is home to state protected animals such as sand-hill cranes, gopher tortoises, and even wild turkeys.  However, if the route through the forest would not have been chosen, an alternate route would affect nearly 20 homes just south of Split Oak in the Narcoossee area. Expressway leaders say the toll road is needed to accommodate the next 50 years worth of projected population growth in the area.  Some approvals are still needed at the state level before it goes into effect, but the plan is on its way to commissioners in Orange and Osceola counties for their approval as well.
  • A Virginia mother is wanted on abduction charges after authorities say she took her four children on vacation six months ago and never brought them home. The woman alleges she is saving the children from sex trafficking by their father and grandfather. Along with four misdemeanor abduction charges, Melody Bannister, 34, of Stafford, is charged with felony violation of a court order and filing a false police report, a news release from the Stafford County Sheriff’s Office said. A warrant was issued for her arrest Aug. 23, according to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. Her children are identified as Genevieve Bannister, 13; Janelle Bannister, 12; Vivienne Bannister, 11; and Peter Bannister, 7. Genevieve is described as 5 feet, 3 inches tall and 110 pounds with brown hair and hazel eyes, according to the NCMEC. Janelle is described as 5 feet, 1 inch tall and 115 pounds. Like her older sister, she has brown hair and hazel eyes. Vivienne is listed as 4 feet, 11 inches tall and weighing 95 pounds with brown hair and blue eyes. Peter is described as 4 feet, 1 inch tall and 90 pounds. He also brown hair and blue eyes. Bannister is described as 5 feet, 2 inches tall and 110 pounds. Like her two youngest children, she has brown hair and blue eyes. The children and their mother were last known to be traveling in a blue-green 2002 Honda Odyssey with Virginia license plate number VBH7123, Stafford County Sheriff’s Office Detective James Wright said during a segment about the case on “Live PD” on A&E. Finding Bannister and the children has become more urgent after “recent developments in the investigation have led investigators to believe the children may now be in danger,” the Sheriff’s Office’s statement said. Wright, who is lead investigator on the case, said on “Live PD” that authorities believe the missing family might be in danger due to the “clandestine nature” of the religious organization they belong to. “We’re concerned about the welfare because they are unable to take care of themselves. They don’t have any means to take care of them. Melody doesn’t have means to take care of them,” Wright told host Tom Morris Jr. Sheriff’s Office spokesman Amanda Vicinanzo said investigators believe Bannister has had help along the way from members of a religious group of which she is purportedly a member, according to the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg. The newspaper reported that the family’s pets, a white Great Pyrenees dog and white ragdoll cat, were left at one of the stops Bannister has made since leaving Virginia. “After months on the road, we had to say goodbye to our beloved pets: Our giant, bounding bundle of puppy-faced joy and our fluffy cat, whose soothing whirr often assuaged our soreness of heart,” Bannister wrote on her blog. “It is a comfort to know they are in good, loving hands, since they can no longer be in ours.” “Live PD” pointed out that Bannister has written about her religion previously, describing it as a “cult.” According to a blog she began in 2016 called Lady Adelaide’s Realm, Bannister grew up in a Quiverfull household. Followers of the Quiverfull movement believe that the men with the most children will earn the most favor from God. They shun all forms of contraception, believing that it is only God who “opens and closes the womb,” follower Kelly Swanson told NPR in 2009. The movement advocates stringent gender roles, and women are not allowed to question their husbands’ authority. They cannot work outside the home, wear pants or cut their hair. According to some of Bannister’s friends -- and a second blog the missing woman appears to have written since going on the run with her children -- the danger toward the children lies not with their mother, but in their father’s home. Bannister’s blog devoted to the allegations is subtitled “American Outlaws: The Plight of Child Sex Trafficking Victims Living Underground.” Her most recent blog post on Lady Adelaide’s Realm, dated June 28, names six men, including her father-in-law, as her children’s alleged abusers. The men are not being named because they have not been charged with a crime. ‘Will justice triumph over lawlessness this Christmas?’ A Change.org petition begging for help from Virginia and Alabama officials claims that the children’s father “conspired with (Bannister’s) father-in-law to perpetuate some of the most horrifying sexual and physical abuse imaginable upon her children.” “When local law enforcement failed to protect these children, ordering them back to live with their abuser, Melody chose to live on the wrong side of the law. What else could a truly desperate mother do?” the petition reads. Bannister has accused her husband of “deliver(ing) the children up for torture to the barn of his father.” She has accused her father-in-law of not only sexually abusing the children, but of offering them up for abuse by his friends. “The children have spoken of being given strange substances in the barn that made the world swim before their eyes and caused the taunting faces of their abusers to converge together in a dizzying blur,” Bannister wrote. She wrote on the blog that her only crimes were “believing (her) children when they disclosed a lifetime of ongoing abuse” and “reporting (it) to the Stafford, Virginia, police.” Stafford County officials said that an investigation into the allegations brought to them by Bannister in June found no evidence of abuse against the children. “A joint investigation with Stafford County law enforcement and Child Protective Services determined the allegations were unfounded,” according to the statement from the Sheriff’s Office. “Shortly after the conclusion of the investigation, Bannister left Virginia with the children on a planned vacation and never returned.” Bannister wrote on her blog that she and the children left town for a vacation June 14, the day after she reported the abuse, in part out of fear of reprisal from the accused. She said she called the Sheriff’s Office detective, Wright, a few days later to check up on the investigation. “We spoke briefly once, when he told me that he had interviewed my husband and would soon interview my father-in-law,” Bannister wrote. “After that, he stopped answering my phone calls.” She wrote that Wright and a CPS caseworker chalked the sex abuse claims up to children’s “vivid imaginations.” She described fleeing Virginia with the “rancid hot breath of child predators” on her back. “We left home with barely a week’s worth of summer clothes and are practically penniless, living off the kindness of friends who, one by one, have taken us under their wings,” Bannister wrote. She said her husband drained their joint bank account and cancelled her credit cards when she did not bring the children back to Virginia. Read Bannister’s entire, five-part blog here. Warning: It includes graphic details of alleged child sex abuse. Stafford County’s Juvenile, Domestic and Relations Court granted sole custody of the children to their father the following month, Stafford County authorities said. Their father, identified in court records as William Joseph Bannister, filed for divorce last month. “(Melody) Bannister refused to return the children and subsequently petitioned the courts in Alabama requesting custody be issued to her there,” a Sheriff’s Office spokesperson said. “The courts in Alabama heard the case and also ordered Bannister to return her children to their father back in Virginia. “Bannister absconded from the state of Alabama with her four children and has not been seen since.” Bannister and the children were last seen Aug. 20 in Moulton, a small city in northwest Alabama. “We set up residence in Alabama and made it our new home, where we obtained a protective order against the man formerly known as Daddy,” Bannister wrote on her blog. “This was swiftly snatched away when the judge deferred to the Virginia ruling, which ordered me to return the children to him.” Bannister wrote that a family court hearing was held in Virginia without her presence Aug. 19, with a judge ruling in her husband’s favor. She claimed she was never served with a summons for the hearing. She and the children vanished from Alabama the next day. US marshals issue alert Aside from Alabama, potential sightings of the family have been reported in Wisconsin, Colorado, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky and Texas. The U.S. Marshals Service and the NCMEC have been involved in the case over the past few months, the Sheriff’s Office said. The Marshals Service issued an alert this week seeking help from the public in finding Bannister and the missing children. A friend of Bannister, Julie Lampkins, shared a story on Facebook about the missing family, saying it was “with a heavy heart” that she shared the link about the mother’s alleged abduction of her children. “We all have questions, but no answers,” Lampkins wrote. “Help the authorities find her and her (four) kids.” Meanwhile, Bannister is appealing for help on the state and federal levels, according to the Change.org petition. It quoted additional portions of Bannister’s blog. “The mental health and credibility of my children and me have been assessed and verified by two of the most prestigious forensic psychiatrists in the country: Dr. Michael Stone and Dr. Carole Lieberman,” Bannister wrote on her blog. “Naturally, the abusers did not take kindly to such a development and are seeking to have the reports stricken from the record. ‘Eliminate all threats’ seems to be their motto. Hence our position of living underground.” Followers on her blog wrote this week that they believed her and her children. “Many people believe you and are praying and sharing the news and asking God to vindicate and protect. Praying that true justice will be served,” Carrie Brownell wrote. A friend, identified as Lana, told Bannister she was praying for her, as well as sharing her story and contacting a list of law enforcement officers listed on the blog on Bannister’s behalf. Another friend named Rachael offered similar well wishes. “Oh Melody…my heart is so broken for you and your sweet kids,” the woman wrote. “I will be keeping you in my prayers and doing what I can. Locally.” A third friend named Petra Carden wrote that Bannister and her children have a place in her home “any time, day or night, no questions asked” if Bannister has to return to Virginia. Others who read her story offered her help in other locations throughout the country, including Alabama, where she and the children were last seen. Many people who believe Bannister’s allegations of abuse urged caution in reporting the family’s whereabouts. “If the news articles released regarding Melody Bannister’s children being in danger is all people know, they will report them when they see them and put them back in danger,” one woman wrote on Twitter. A cult? Bannister’s Facebook profile lists her as manager of a website called Recovering Daughters. The description of the site on its corresponding Facebook page states it is about “healing from Vision Forum, authoritarianism and the Quiverfull Movement.” The Recovering Daughters website is no longer available because the domain has recently expired. Vision Forum was a Texas-based ministry that promoted a patriarchal lifestyle, in which the husband rules the family, and home-schooling its children. The ministry was shut down by its board in 2013 after leader Doug Phillips admitted to an extramarital affair, the Huffington Post reported. Phillips has been a friend of and influence on Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, whose TLC show “19 Kids and Counting” focused on their beliefs against birth control and that large families are a gift from God, the news site said. The Duggars, who lost their show after their eldest son, Josh Duggar, was publicly accused of sexually molesting multiple young girls, including some of his sisters, have also been associated with the Quiverfull movement, though the Huffington Post reported in 2015 that the couple does not formally consider themselves members of the movement. The Quiverfull movement gets its name from a Bible passage: “Children are a heritage from the Lord, and the fruit of the womb is His reward. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.” Hännah Ettinger, a young woman raised in the movement who had left that world behind, told Cosmopolitan in 2015 that her first big break from the religion came when her father told her she “didn’t have the spiritual discernment” to choose her own boyfriend, a man she met at her Christian college. “Later, I got utterly fed up with the churches I’d grown up in because I kept finding out that they’d protected child abusers, rapists, and men who’d beaten their wives, all in the name of redemption stories, ‘biblical’ male headship and complementarian theology,” Ettinger told the magazine. Vyckie Garrison, another former Quiverfull member, told Vice in 2016 that, with no central leader, the movement isn’t a cult, per se. It’s more of a mindset “in which each family becomes a cult unto itself with Daddy enshrined as the supreme patriarch,” Vice reported. Garrison founded a website called No Longer Quivering, which is designed to help other women in her situation escape the movement. In April 2015, the American Atheists Convention named her its 2014 Atheist of the Year. Anyone with information on the whereabouts of Bannister and her children is asked to call the Stafford County Sheriff’s Office at 540-658-4400, the U.S. Marshals Service at 877-WANTED2 or the NCMEC at 800-THE-LOST.
  • Some new detours and lane closures are scheduled for our Seminole County commuters. Construction begins at 8:30 PM Friday night and will last until 6:30 Monday morning. As FDOT widens the few miles of 17-92 near Seminole state college from four to six lanes, thru traffic won't be affected. However, Northbound drivers will have to take an early detour if they need to turn left at Ronald Reagan Blvd.  Southbound drivers wishing to turn left into Parks Lincoln of Longwood are asked to make a U-turn farther down the road. Additionally, Westbound drivers on Ronald Reagan Blvd turning left on Southbound 17-92 will not have a detour, but are asked to follow channeling devices to keep traffic flowing smoothly during construction: FDOT reminds drivers to stay alert and use caution while driving, as safety doesn’t happen by accident.

Washington Insider

  • The U.S. Supreme Court announced on Friday that it will hear arguments on an effort by President Donald Trump to prevent Congress and investigators in New York from using subpoenas to access his tax, banking, and other financial records, items which the President has fought to keep from being released. Lower courts had ordered Mazar's, the President's accounting firm, and two major banks, Deutche Bank and Capital One, to turn over financial records - those orders will stay on hold until the cases are resolved before the High Court. Attorneys for the President have lost at every level in state and federal court in all three cases, making the argument that Congress does not need Mr. Trump's financial information for any legitimate legislative purpose, casting it as a fishing expedition. The subpoenas were not to sent to the President - but rather to Mazar's, Deutche Bank, and Capital One - making the case somewhat different than a simple subpoena to Mr. Trump. 'Having considered the weighty interests at stake in this case, we conclude that the subpoena issued by the Committee to Mazars is valid and enforceable,' a three judge panel of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals wrote earlier this year in the Mazars case.  'We affirm the district court’s judgment in favor of the Oversight Committee and against the Trump Plaintiffs,' the judges added. With the arguments in March of 2020, that timing would suggest that a final decision could be one of the biggest cases to be decided in the 2019-2020 term - possibly being saved for late June, when the Court ends its work before a summer break. That would put the results squarely into the midst of the 2020 campaign for the White House. As for why the U.S. Supreme Court intervened, a number of legal experts said the Justices could have done that as a favor to President Trump - not necessarily indicating that Mr. Trump is going to prevail. 'These cases involve the President and his tax returns, and they may have felt no choice but to take the cases and decide them on the merits given their political importance,' said Aswin Phatak, a lawyer with the Constitutional Accountability Center.