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Officers to be charged after 2 patients drowned in van

Charges are expected Friday against two South Carolina law enforcement officers who were transporting two mental patients who drowned while locked in the back of a van during Hurricane Florence, according to a prosecutor's statements to several media outlets.

Stephen Flood will be charged with two counts each of reckless homicide and involuntary manslaughter, Solicitor Ed Clements told news outlets late Thursday. Joshua Bishop will be charged with two counts of involuntary manslaughter, he said.

Flood and Bishop were fired from the Horry County Sheriff's Office in October as part of an internal investigation. Authorities said the two deputies were driving 45-year-old Wendy Newton and 43-year-old Nicolette Green through Marion County to a mental-health facility as part of a court order when their van was swept away by rising floodwaters caused by torrential rains brought to the state by Hurricane Florence.

The powerful tropical system smashed into the Southeast coast as a hurricane Sept. 14, triggering severe flooding as it weakened yet nearly stalled over the Carolinas for days.

Green and Newton drowned in the back of the locked van on Sept. 18. Horry County officials have said that the deputies tried unsuccessfully to rescue the women from the van, which was on its side, blocking the door the deputies would have needed to unlock with a key. When rescue crews finally arrived, the van was underwater, and the deputies were plucked from its roof.

Working numbers for Bishop and Flood could not be found Thursday night. It is unclear whether they have attorneys.

Many roads in the northeastern part of the state were flooded out and blocked off in the days following the powerful storm. Authorities with the sheriff's department have said that the deputies, in a marked sheriff's department vehicle, were waved through a barricade near the Little Pee Dee River by National Guardsmen charged with keeping motorists out of the area.

The Little Pee Dee was one of several rivers officials watched closely in the days following the storm.

In the months since, a legislative committee has opened hearings into the incident, discussing potential changes to the laws on how patients who are committed to mental hospitals are handled by police.


Meg Kinnard can be reached on Twitter at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP

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  • A 93-year-old woman in the United Kingdom was “arrested” Saturday after police in Greater Manchester found out that it was one of her wishes as her health begins to fade.  The Guardian reported that the gesture from police officers came to light after Josie Birds’ granddaughter, Pam Smith, tweeted a thank-you to the officers involved.  “A big thank you to @gmpolice for ‘arresting’ my Gran Josie today,” Smith tweeted. “She is 93 years old and her health is failing, and she wanted to be arrested for something before it’s too late.” Photos accompanying the tweet show an obviously delighted Birds being handcuffed and transported to the station in the back of a vehicle. Another photo shows her sitting at a table in what looks like an interrogation room.  >> Read more trending news Smith later tweeted that her grandmother had never done anything bad.  “She thoroughly enjoyed the whole thing and they even gave her tea and cake afterwards,” she wrote.  Smith’s initial tweet was retweeted hundreds of times as of Tuesday afternoon, and thousands of people liked it. A representative of the Greater Manchester police force also responded to Smith’s message.  “I’m glad our officers could help out. (It) looks like she got the full experience!” the response read. “Give our best to Josie and I’ll try and pass your message back to the officers who kindly helped out.” Smith wrote in the thread of comments that followed the tweet that her grandmother is well-known in her community, many members of which were on hand with their cellphones to grab shots of the elderly woman in cuffs. “(She) has never put a foot wrong all her life,” Smith wrote. “She is quite poorly now and wanted to do something ‘naughty’ while she still has the strength to enjoy it. This has definitely put a (big) smile on her face.” The commenters on Smith’s tweet enjoyed the photos nearly as much as Birds’ family did. One person wrote that he was “glad to see this menace taken off the streets,” before sending his love to Birds and her family. One woman wrote, “Kinda wish she’d actually gone out and done something illegal.” Another woman tagged a loved one and told them, “This is what I want for my birthday.” A man wrote that the photo of Birds being taken into custody was “brilliant” because it looked “like she is going down for something big.” “Bloody nonagenarians causing trouble,” another man wrote. “Bring back national service.” “Can’t believe she’s never been arrested before,” another Twitter user wrote. “She looks like a wrong ‘un.” Smith wrote that she was “gobsmacked” over the international attention her grandmother is receiving. “I’ve been passing on everyone’s good wishes to her, and she is thrilled,” Smith wrote. “She didn’t expect this level of response and, to be honest, neither did I!”
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  • A month after Connecticut mother of five Jennifer Dulos vanished from her home, her estranged husband’s lawyer is presenting a novel theory about her disappearance.  Defense attorney Norm Pattis has released a statement in which he suggested Dulos, 50, of New Canaan, may have staged her death in an attempt to frame her husband for murder, as the supposed victim did in the best-selling Gillian Flynn novel “Gone Girl.” The 2014 movie based on the book, starring Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike, earned more than $368 million worldwide.  >> Read more trending news Monday marked a month since Jennifer Dulos was last seen alive. Fotis Dulos, 51, and his girlfriend, Michelle Trononis, 44, both of Farmington, have been charged with tampering with evidence and hindering prosecution in Jennifer Dulos’ disappearance. Both are free on bail of $500,000 each.  The pair are accused of getting rid of several items, including clothing and cleaning supplies, stained with Jennifer Dulos’ blood. According to the Hartford Courant, a mixture of blood from both Jennifer and Fotis Dulos was also found on Jennifer Dulos’ kitchen faucet.  Jennifer Dulos, who filed for divorce in 2017, and her estranged husband were in the middle of a contentious custody battle over the couple’s children, who range in age from 8 to 13. Jennifer Dulos claimed in family court documents that Fotis Dulos was verbally abusive, and she said she feared he might try to abscond with the children to his native Greece.  >> Related story: Bloody clothes, camera footage leave trail of evidence in case of missing mom of 5 NBC Connecticut reported that Pattis’ statement brought to light a novel Jennifer Dulos wrote years ago. 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In surveillance footage from outside his neighbors’ homes, he is seen checking his mail as he arrived.  He was wearing clothing similar to that seen on the man who dumped the evidence in Hartford, the document says.  Fotis Dulos and Troconis were arrested June 1 at a hotel in Avon, the New York Times reported.  The Courant reported earlier this month that investigators do not believe Troconis was in New Canaan the day Jennifer Dulos vanished. Pattis said during a court appearance that Fotis Dulos could account for his whereabouts during the time frame in which investigators believe Jennifer Dulos was attacked in her home.  She dropped her children off at school around 8 a.m. the morning of May 24, the newspaper reported. A cleaning woman who entered the home around noon that day found no one there.  Jennifer Dulos missed appointments at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., the paper reported. 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Investigators have also searched a Hartford trash facility for any evidence related to the woman’s disappearance. 
  • First lady Melania Trump announced Tuesday that her director of communications, Stephanie Grisham, has been named as the new White House press secretary. >> Read more trending news  'I can think of no better person to serve the Administration & our country,' Trump said in a statement posted on Twitter. The first lady said Grisham will also serve as White House director of communications, a position that's been vacant since former Fox News executive Bill Shine left the role in March. Grisham will replace the current press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders. President Donald Trump announced two weeks ago that Sanders, plans to step down at the end of June. '(Grisham) will be an incredible asset to the President and the country,' Sanders said in a statement posted on Twitter. 'I’m sad to leave the WH, but so happy our team will be in such great hands. Stephanie will do a phenomenal job.' Axios reported President Trump wanted Grisham in the position and that he's said he likes and trusts her. The news site noted she's one of the few officials who has been with President Trump since his campaign. She will continue to serve as the first lady's spokeswoman as well, CNN reported. Grisham will become the fourth woman to serve as White House press secretary. Before serving as the first lady's spokeswoman, Grisham worked under Trump's first press secretary, Sean Spicer, The Washington Post reported. She also previously worked on Republican Mitt Romney's 2012 presidential campaign, according to the newspaper. “During the campaign, she developed a good relationship with the president, and that’s carried through,” Sanders said of Grisham in an interview late last year, according to the Post. “She has developed a great amount of trust from both the president and the first lady, which is a pretty high commodity here. There aren’t a lot of people who have a lot of regular interaction with both of them.”
  • A death investigation is underway in Seminole County after deputies said a man's body was found in a pond in front of the county’s courthouse Tuesday morning. Deputies said the pond is along U.S. Highway 17-92 in front of the Seminole County courthouse. The department tweeted about the incident just before 10:30 a.m. The Seminole County Sheriff’s Office said daily courthouse operations are not being impacted as the investigation continues.

Washington Insider

  • On the eve of the first major gathering of Democratic Party candidates in the 2020 race for President, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) drew over a thousand interested Democrats to a town hall gathering at Florida International University on Monday, pressing the case for the federal government to do more to help working Americans find economic security in the future. 'I don't want a government that works for big corporations, I want one that works for families,' Warren said to applause, making the case for a higher minimum wage for workers, major ethics reforms for government officials, voting reforms, major tax changes, and more. 'Let's start with a wealth tax in America,' said Sanders, as she called for 'big structural change in this country,' rattling off a number of her policy ideas, getting big cheers for new limits on lobbying, action on climate change, and better wages for all workers. “A full time minimum wage job in America will not get a momma and a baby out of poverty,” Warren said.  “That is wrong, and that is why I am in this fight.” Of the ten Democrats on the debate stage Wednesday night, Warren is by far the strongest candidate in the first group, as she has been gaining momentum in recent weeks in a variety of polls. The four other top Democrats in the race will be on stage together on Thursday - Biden, Buttigieg, Harris and Sanders. Along with Warren, two other Democrats attracted press attention in south Florida before the Wednesday debate, as Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington State talked about his signature issue of climate change, and ex-Rep. Beto O'Rourke of Texas rallied with teachers in Miami. 'It's a great opportunity for me to listen to you, to have the chance to introduce myself,' said O'Rourke, who is one of the better known names on the first night of the Democratic debate. The first debate night in Miami features three Democratic Senators (Booker, Klobuchar, Warren), two House members (Gabbard, Ryan), two former House members (Delaney, O'Rourke), one current mayor (DeBlasio), one former mayor and Cabinet member (Castro), and one Governor (Inslee). While some like Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) arrived in Florida on Tuesday afternoon - getting unsolicited advice along the way from fellow passengers on her flight to Miami - Inslee was for a second day hammering away at his main issue of climate change. 'Today we're announcing a new freedom in America, and that's freedom from fossil fuels,' Inslee said at an event in the Everglades. Inslee followed up his Everglades visit with a Tuesday evening event where he took shots at Big Oil. For most of the Democrats over the next two nights, there is a simple game plan.  'Our goal,' a memo to reporters from Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) said, 'Introduce Cory to Democrats tuning in for the first time,' noting that when you do the math, each candidate is only going to get between seven and eleven minutes of total speaking time. 'I can’t wait to share with you my vision for a more just and fair nation,' Booker said. But on Tuesday evening, Booker was doing more mundane things - helping people put their bags in the overhead bin on his flight to Miami.