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It went straight for me': Otter charges at, bites woman at Florida lake

A woman in Maitland, Florida, said an otter charged at her, bit her calf and scratched her while she was walking her dog last week at Lake Lily Park.

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Ann-Christine Langselius said the encounter happened Jan. 8 while she was walking on a bridge that traces the lake's eastern shore.

She said she visits the park daily, but she had never before seen an otter at the lake.

"I saw an otter coming ... just looking at me. It went straight for me," Langselius said. "It went for the calf and then it bit first; once in my Achilles. And then it got a really good hold a little further down."

>> Photos: 25 ways Florida could kill you

Langselius said she started running and the otter held onto her until she was off the bridge.

"It was so fast," she said, when asked how large the otter was. "Maybe like a dog (in terms of size); short legs and very wet."

On Wednesday, the city of Maitland posted flyers, warning visitors to keep their distance, to not feed wildlife and to call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission if they spotted any aggressive otters. 

The Maitland Police Department said it had received several complaints about an aggressive otter attacking people and pets.

The agency said a police officer fatally shot an otter Thursday near Lake Maitland. The Florida Department of Health said the otter tested positive for rabies.

Langselius said she suspects it is the same otter that attacked her.

The virus is almost always fatal if left untreated.

The health department said it has treated three people for rabies in connection with aggressive otters.

Missing Georgia children found buried endured violent chaos at home

Before the boy died and went into a secret grave by the family dog pen, Elwyn “JR” Crocker Jr.’s dad complained about the 13-year-old to police in Georgia. The father claimed JR stole, fought when told to take a bath and was a “bully,” which was why he was homeschooled, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.

Cpl. Kurtis Smith took the boy aside and asked what was wrong, according to an incident report. JR acknowledged he did get angry a lot. He was upset mostly because he didn’t have many friends. The Rincon police officer advised JR to listen to his family, everything would be fine.

Two and a half years later, this past Dec. 20, Effingham County Sheriff’s deputies found JR and his sister Mary Crocker, who was about two years younger, buried behind their trailer, some 30 miles from Savannah.

They arrested every member of the family who lived there, including Elwyn Crocker Sr., the father who turned 50 on Christmas and until recently played Santa at a nearby Walmart. The suspects, who authorities say don’t have attorneys yet, remain jailed on charges of child cruelty and concealing deaths. The cause of death for the children could remain unknown for weeks or months as medical examiners perform tests on the remains.

The officer’s 2015 encounter with JR was just one of many times when authorities and other got close to the family without realizing something would go terribly wrong, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution found.

Interviews with those who know the family, as well as public records obtained by the AJC, show the children endured a tumultuous home life from an early age. Police were summoned multiple times, responding to fights between the adults around them. Child welfare agencies in South Carolina and Georgia investigated. There were strange punishments — especially for JR. Some witness accounts of mistreatment for one reason or another went unreported to authorities. Viewed together, the information paints an unsettling picture of how isolation and a hesitancy by authorities and neighbors to intervene more forcefully left the kids vulnerable.

Then there was one big alleged lie, a statement that could have changed the course of the children’s lives.

A picture, a reality

There is a picture on Facebook of the family, taken in 2010: Crocker and his wife, Candice Crocker, beaming, crammed onto a loveseat with the man’s three kids, Mary, JR and James, the youngest, who suffers from cerebral palsy. They’re dressed like they just came from church and they look happy. But family portraits don’t tell all.

Two years before, the father was in South Carolina with a different woman. Rebecca Grantham Self gave birth to James on Nov. 1, 2007. (JR and Mary share a mother, who couldn’t be reached for comment.)

Self lived with Crocker and all three kids in the little town of South Congaree, southwest of Columbia.

In Self’s telling, things were mostly fine until April 27, 2008. On that afternoon, she dialed 911 and told police Crocker had just flown into a rage after she woke him while feeding the baby, according to an incident report. He accused her of feeding James the wrong food, snatched the bottle and grabbed her by the throat, pressing her back against a window while she was still holding the infant, Self told an officer.

Crocker had allegedly left a large red mark and a scratch on James’ head. The baby was taken to the hospital to get checked out.

Sgt. Joshua Shumpert called the South Carolina Department of Social Services. A worker came and took the baby from the tearful mother. DSS declined to comment, but records provided to the AJC by Self suggest the agency believed her accusations against Crocker, at least before her alleged lie.

‘Ruined credibility’

The next day, Crocker told a police investigator that he and Self had been in a “verbal” fight and a “physical struggle for the bottle,” which resulted in the marks on the baby. He wasn’t charged and JR and Mary apparently remained in his custody.

Nine days later, Self showed up at the police department with an awful-looking black eye, claiming Crocker had punched her. Shumpert, the same cop who’d called DSS, remembers feeling concern — then suspicion. He got Self a wet cloth and asked her to wipe her eye.

The blackness came off — it was makeup, Shumpert said.

“It ruined her credibility,” Shumpert, who is now the police chief, told the AJC recently.

Crocker was never charged with grabbing Self by the throat or hurting the baby. Shumpert said he isn’t sure why, because he wasn’t involved in the investigation and couldn’t locate investigative records, but he suspected the “black eye” could’ve had something to do with it.

Self was also later convicted of assaulting Crocker, court records show. She maintains today that she actually had been punched by Crocker and was angry that police hadn’t charged Crocker with hurting the baby.

DSS later gave the father custody of the baby.

Fights and long silence

Crocker soon moved to Georgia with his new wife, Candice Crocker, who is 17 years younger.

The Division of Family and Children Services investigated the family around 2012 but the agency has not yet commented or released any records on the case.

At some point, the Crockers ended up in Rincon, on 9th Street, where the two dozen or so trailers in the Brother’s Keeper mobile home park are planted.

Former neighbor Marvin Gills said he knew them well.

Gills told the AJC he thought Elwyn and Candice Crocker were OK people. The kids were great. JR, a professional wrestling fan, would come roughhouse with Gills and help him work in the yard. Mary would spend the night with Gills’ daughter Daniella. After beginning home school at the start of the 2018-19 year, Mary still walked Daniella to the bus stop.

Gills said the family’s home life took a turn when Candice Crocker’s mother, Kim Wright, and brother, Mark Wright II, started coming around more.

Daniella said she saw Kim Wright hit Mary “upside the head.” James was forced to sleep in bathtubs and closets because he’d been “bad.” One day, Daniella saw strange purple marks on Mary’s hands. Mary said it was from swimming, Daniella said.

On 9th Street, the most significant times police were called was when Elwyn Crocker complained about his son and when Kim Wright called about Elwyn Crocker. She said her son-in-law had busted her lip on June 7, 2016, after the family had agitated him by waking him up, according to an incident report.

She told the responding officer she didn’t put up with the man’s “nonsense” like the rest of the family. It was the same officer who’d told JR to listen to his family a year earlier. Kim Wright said she didn’t want to press charges. The cop told them to try and get along.

Later, the Crockers moved in with Kim Wright, her son and her boyfriend in her double-wide on Rosebud Place, outside the city of Guyton. The last known sighting of JR was two years ago, Mary in October. Both were 14 when last seen.

Deputies found them in the dirt on Dec. 20 after someone called 911 concerned about Mary.

In Rincon, the Gills family was brokenhearted by the news and reports that Mary always seemed scared on Rosebud Place. “The sad thing is, people around there never saw her smile,” he said.

On 9th Street, she’d smiled often.

This story was written by Joshua Sharpe for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Dog missing for 9 years reunited with family after canal rescue

A pet missing for 9 years was reunited with its family after being rescued from a slick canal.

The Press-Enterprise reported that animal control officers responded to a call Monday afternoon about a dog stuck in a canal in Riverside, California, according to Riverside County Department of Animal Services spokesman John Welsh.

>> Read more trending news 

Welsh said Officer Denise Westbrook was the first to respond. 

“After locating the dog, Westbrook asked for assistance and officers Mary Salazar and Mike Cox responded,” Walsh said. “Lt. James Huffman arrived shortly thereafter and the four officers were able to lead the dog to a location with shorter banks.”

Officers were ale to get a loop around the dog and bring it to safety.

>> Need something to lift your spirits? Read more uplifting news 

According to KCBS, the dog was reunited with the family because it had a microchip with their information on it. 

“We’re excited that it all worked out,” Huffman said.

State of the Union 2019: What day, what time, who will be there?

President Donald Trump is scheduled to deliver the 2019 State of the Union address to Congress on Jan. 29.

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Newly elected House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, on the first day of the 116th Congress, issued the invitation to Trump to speak before a joint session of Congress, saying in the invitation letter, "The Constitution established the legislative, executive and judicial branches as co-equal branches of government, to be a check and balance on each other. The Constitution also calls for the President to 'from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union.’”

Trump’s speech will be his second State of the Union address. In January 2017, Trump delivered an address before Congress, but it was not billed as a State of the Union address.

The address will be Trump’s first to a Democratic-controlled House chamber.

Here’s what you need to know about the State of the Union:

What day: Tuesday, Jan. 29

What time: The time for the speech has not been announced, but the speech is usually delivered in prime time at 9 p.m. ET.

Where is it held: The speech is given in the U.S. House Chamber.

Who will be there: All members of Congress are invited, as are the members of the Supreme Court and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In addition to the attorney general, the heads of executive agencies and guests of members of Congress are invited. Usually, the president or first lady invites guests to sit with the first lady during the speech.

Who won’t be there: The “designated survivor” will not attend the speech. The designated survivor is a member of the president’s Cabinet who does not attend the speech and is kept in a secure location in case something catastrophic happens and the president, vice president, speaker of the House and others are incapacitated or killed. The designated survivor would assume the reins of government in such a situation. Agriculture Secretary David Perdue was last year’s designated survivor.

How long will the speech last: Trump’s 2018 speech lasted one hour and 20 minutes, the third longest State of the Union. There is no time limit for the speech. They tend to run about one hour long.

What will he talk about: The White House has not released any possible subjects for the speech, but a wall along the southern border and the government shutdown are likely topics.

What about the Democratic response: The person who will give the Democratic rebuttal to the State of the Union Speech has not yet been named. The Democratic response will take place immediately following the State of the Union Speech. Last year, Rep. Joe Kennedy, D-Massachusetts, gave the rebuttal.

Cotton sprouts are the first plant to grow on the moon, Chinese space officials say

China may have grown the first-ever plant on the moon, as cotton seeds on a Chinese lunar probe have sprouted.

>> Read more trending news 

The sprouts can be seen in photos released Tuesday by the China National Space Administration.

"This (mission) has achieved the first biological experiment on the moon of human history, to sprout the first bud on the desolate moon. And with time moving on, it'll be the first plant with green leaves on the moon," said Xie Gengxin, dean of Institute of Advanced Technology at Chongqing University, and the chief designer of the experiment, CNN reported.

While humans have grown plants in space before, no one has tried to grow plants on the moon, according to CNN.

China’s Chang’e 4 lunar probe made headlines earlier this month when it became the first to land on the far side of the moon Jan. 3.

Chang’e 4 is intended to accomplish a range of tasks, including conducting the first lunar low-frequency radio astronomy experiment and exploring whether there is water at the moon's poles, CNN reported.

The mission took several seeds to the moon as part of its biosphere experiment, meant to show how life develops in low gravity and strong radiation environments. In addition to cotton, Chang’e 4 brought oilseed rape, potato, Arabidopsis, yeast and fruit flies, The Guardian reported. More plants are expected to sprout in the next 100 days, CNSA said.

'Jersey Shore' star Mike 'The Situation' starts 8-month prison sentence for tax evasion

Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino started his 8-month jail sentence today for tax evasion.

People reported that the MTV star, best known for his tan and abs in the reality series “Jersey Shore,” was booked Tuesday at the Otisville Federal Correctional Institution in Otisville, New York.

>> Read more trending news 

The sentence stems from a September 2014 indictment for conspiring to defraud the United States and tax offenses. Sorrentino, 36, and his real estate broker brother, Marc Sorrentino, 39, allegedly failed to pay property taxes on $8.9 million income from 2010 to 2012, People reported. They were incited on more charges in April 2017, according to the Department of Justice.

Mike Sorrentino pleaded guilty to tax evasion. In addition to eight months in jail, Judge Susan D. Wigenton ordered Mike Sorrentino to serve two years of supervised release and pay $123,913 in restitution and a criminal fine of $10,000, according to the justice department. People reported he has already paid the restitution fees and was also ordered to complete 500 community service hours.

The department said Marc Sorrentino previously pleaded guilty to aiding in the preparation of a false and fraudulent tax return. He was ordered to serve one year of supervised release and pay a criminal fine of $7,500. He will serve a 24-month sentence at Federal Correctional Institution Fort Dix in New Jersey.

Before going to Otisville FCI, Mike Sorentino tweeted, “The comeback is always greater than the Setback,” followed by a GIF of Ray Liotta’s “Goodfellas” character saying, “Now take me to jail.”

Man wants $150K donation returned after church leader charged with molestation

A man who donated $150,000 to build a new church school in Kansas is suing for his money after the church founder was charged with fondling three childrenThe Kansas City Star reported Tuesday. 

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Joseph Layne filed suit Monday in Johnson County District Court against the Oaklawn Christian School in Shawnee and its founders, Dennis Creason and his wife, Robin Creason, the newspaper reported.

Layne is seeking the return of his money, along with interest and attorney’s fees, the Star reported.

Dennis Creason was arrested in August and remains jailed in Johnson County. He faces nine counts of aggravated indecent liberties with a child.

The criminal charges stem from alleged incidents involving children at the school run by the church, the Star reported.

According to the newspaper, Layne was a member of the church in June 2017 when Dennis Creason asked for money to help construct a new building for the school. Layne then donated $150,000.

In March 2018, Dennis Creason told church members that Oaklawn had spent $75,000 of the donation to buy lumber for the new building. But according to the lawsuit, no lumber was ever delivered. Creason was arrested and charged before any major construction had begun, the Star reported, citing court records.

According to the lawsuit, the school did not open for the 2018 fall semester and does not intend to continue operating or build the new school, the newspaper reported.

FAA inspectors, engineers called back to work amid shutdown

More than 3,000 Federal Aviation Administration engineers and inspectors who were furloughed during the partial government shutdown that started Dec. 22 will be back on the job this week. They will not be paid for their work until the shutdown has been resolved.

The FAA made the announcement after unions representing inspectors and air traffic controllers said earlier this month that their not being on the job was putting the public in danger, according to The New York Times

>>FDA restarts inspections during shutdown, inspectors working without pay

Workers held a rally last week at the Capitol demanding an end to the partial government shutdown, The Washington Post reported.

>> Read more trending news 

The federal government has already adjusted the status of workers in both the Internal Revenue Service and the Food and Drug Administration, putting them back to work, but not paid on time, during the shutdown, the Times reported.

>>Click here for the latest from our Washington Insider, Jamie Dupree

The latest FAA plan will put 3,113 aviation safety positions employees qualified as essential. The original furlough had only 216 aviation safety positions filled, according to the Times.

>>Government shutdown: Federal workers compelled to work without pay sue Trump

Last week the House passed a bill that will pay workers retroactively after the shutdown ends. The measure passed 411-7, CNBC reported. The Senate approved it unanimously before it went to the president’s desk for his signature. He is expected to sign it.

Rose McGowan agrees to plea deal, avoids jail for 2017 drug charge

Actress and activist Rose McGowan has avoided jail time, pleading no contest for a reduced for a drug charge stemming from her arrest at Dulles International Airport in January 2017, WTOP reported. McGowan left some personal items behind when she got off of a United Airlines flight from Los Angeles to the D.C.-area airport.

>> Read more trending news 

Plane-cleaning crews found cocaine in her wallet, which was found under her seat. A warrant for McGowan’s arrest was obtained by authorities Feb. 1, 2017.

McGowan turned herself in to authorities months later, in November 2017. She told The New Yorker in November 2017 that she avoided turning her self in out of fear and doubt, having said Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein had people following her after she accused him of raping her months before.

“I was going to asap, but then things started to get really weird.” McGowan told Ronan Farrow in The New Yorker, “I knew I was being followed and that I wasn’t safe. I even hired a private investigator to investigate whether the warrant was real.”

WTOP reported that, since her arrest, McGowan and her team have indicated that someone working for Weinstein may have planted the drugs on her personal items. Her attorneys have not provided independent proof of that claim.

Weinstein has denied sexual assault and abuse allegations. He is facing five felony charges in New York, including predatory sexual assault and rape, for allegedly assaulting two women, CNN reported. Weinstein has said any sexual relationships he’s had have all been consensual.

McGowan agreed to pay a $2,500 fine plea deal to possession of a controlled substance, a misdemeanor charge. She was given a 12-month suspended sentence.

“Sometimes you have to lose the battle to win the war, and I’m in it for the long haul and that’s what’s going on,” she said. “Once you get tangled in the legal system, it’s very hard to get out of it, and sometimes you just take what you can get, and hope for the best. It’s caused a lot of stress and I just wanted it to be over … however it ended.”

Wisconsin man arrested in connection to missing men, burned bodies, police say

Policesaid they have arrested a Wisconsin man in connection with the disappearance of two people whose burned remains were found in a rural area.

>> Read more trending news

Matthew Neumann, 43, is charged with first-degree reckless homicide and hiding a corpse.

Thursday, police found the remains of two men in a burn pit in rural Walworth County, Franklin police Chief Rick Oliva told WISN-TV. The men were both in their 40s and had worked for Neumann at his business, Spot Free Cleaning.

Milwaukee police had been investigating a car fire earlier this month and found evidence that a dead body had been in the car, Oliva said. Milwaukee PD’s investigation led them to the property with the burn pit.

A trailer for Spot Free Cleaning was found on the property.

According to a criminal complaint, Neumann’s wife told police that the morning of Jan. 2, she went to Neumann’s black Ford F-150 and found a man slumped over in the passenger’s seat, bleeding and showing no signs of life, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. Neumann's daughter told police that later that morning she overheard him telling his wife he shot a man "over a pack of squares," a reference to a pack of cigarettes.

The complaint said Neumann was assisted in buying burning materials from the roommate of one of the victims, the Journal Sentinel reported.

A Facebook account appearing to belong to Neumann shows a public image of a Nazi SS symbol, described by the Anti-Defamation League as a symbol of white supremacy, WISN-TV reported.

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