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Storm Alberto weakens as it nears Florida

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       Subtropical Storm Alberto weakened as it neared landfall on the Florida Panhandle on Monday, a day after flooding from another storm tore through a               historic Maryland town and swept away a would-be rescuer, officials said.

Forecasters said Alberto could bring life-threatening high water to southern coastal states when it slams an area from Mississippi to western Georgia with up to 12 inches (30 cm) of rain and possible tornadoes.

Alberto’s top winds fell slightly to 60 miles an hour (96 km per hour) with the storm about 50 miles (80 kph) south of Panama City, Florida, the National Weather Service said. It was expected to reach land Monday afternoon or evening as it headed north at about 8 mph (13 kph).

“The basic idea is that it’s going to run out of real estate for it to strengthen” by picking up energy from the warm Gulf of Mexico waters, said Dan Petersen, a forecaster with the National Weather Service’s Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland.

Alberto, the first named Atlantic storm of 2018, spun up days before the formal June 1 start of the hurricane season.

Authorities in Florida’s Franklin and Taylor counties issued mandatory evacuation orders for thousands of coastal residents. Florida, Alabama and Mississippi are under states of emergency.

Deadly hurricanes in the United States and the Caribbean last year caused hundreds of billions of dollars in damage, massive power outages and devastation to hundreds of thousands of structures.

The storm will bring powerful winds and heavy rains as it moves into the Tennessee Valley on Tuesday and Wednesday, the hurricane center said. The storm, coming on the last day of the Memorial Day weekend, was expected to scramble holiday travel.

A storm surge warning was in place from the Suwannee River to Navarre, Florida, and a tropical storm warning covered the area from the Suwannee River to the border of Florida and Alabama.

Authorities in Howard County, Maryland, said a 39-year-old man was missing after flash flooding from a separate storm tore through the historic downtown of Ellicott City on Sunday. The man was swept away as he tried to help rescue people from floodwaters.

The area had barely recovered from a devastating flood about two years ago that killed two people and damaged dozens of buildings.

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Police arrest stepfather of 4-year-old girl he claims was kidnapped

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The stepfather of missing 4-year-old Maleah Davis was arrested and charged in connection to her disappearance, one week after he told Texas police that she was kidnapped by three men who assaulted and knocked him unconscious.

Derion Vence, 26, was arrested by the Houston Police Department at a relative’s home and charged with tampering with evidence, human corpse, in the disappearance of his stepdaughter on the night of May 4.

Although a police source told ABC News that the young girl was still missing, they would not say whether she was believed to be dead or alive.

Police said in a statement on Saturday that they had obtained blood evidence linked to Maleah from Vence’s apartment and that he was seen leaving his apartment with a full laundry basket, which was found Thursday along with a gas can in the trunk of the silver Nissan Altima that he reported missing following the kidnapping.

At a late night hearing, the district attorney said cadaver dogs reacted to scents in the trunk and the laundry basket.

Vence reported the abduction on May 5, nearly 24 hours after it occurred, claiming that he had been unconscious for much of that time, according to the statement.

He told police that he was driving with Maleah and his 2-year-old son on the night of May 4 to George Bush Intercontinental Airport in north Houston to pick up the girl’s mother, Brittany Bowens, who was returning from a trip to Massachusetts, police said.

He said that on the way there, he heard a popping noise coming from his car that made him believe he had a flat tire, so he pulled over to check on it. When he got out of the car, he said that a blue pickup truck pulled up behind him and two men got out, police said during a news conference on May 5.

He told police that one of the men commented on Maleah’s appearance as the other hit him in the head, knocking him out, police said.

Vence told police that he kept going in and out of consciousness, but at one point realized that he was in the back of the pickup truck where there were actually three men and that he also saw Maleah and his son in the truck, police said.

He said that he regained consciousness the next day with only his son in Sugar Land, nearly 22 miles southwest of central Houston, and walked to Houston Methodist Sugar Land Hospital where he received treatment and reported Maleah missing, police said.

Although he told police that his car was taken during the kidnapping, surveillance footage showed someone in the Nissan dropping Vence off at Methodist Sugar Land Hospital on May 5, police said.

Vence’s public defender asked for a $5,000 bond, while the district attorney proposed $500,000.

Instead, the judge ruled Vence be held on $1 million bond since the ongoing investigation “is likely to result in a significant upgrade to this second-degree felony.”

Houston police are asking anyone with information about the case, the whereabouts of Maleah Davis or the person who sold the gas can to Vence to contact the department’s Homicide Division at 713-308-3600.

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In Mexico, 35 bodies found in mass graves

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Local authorities have discovered the remains of 35 people in mass graves in violent Jalisco state, on Mexico’s central Pacific coast, officials said Saturday.

Prosecutor Gerardo Octavio Solis said most of the bodies were located at a ranch in the town of Zapopan.

Among the dead, “27 of the bodies had been tied up when killed. And we have two people identified at this time,” Solis told a news conference.

The number of dead could still rise as the forensics team wraps up processing of the site, he warned.

“We are digging more than three meters deep. We are also using heavy machinery, with engineers to do structural calculations as we don’t want to weaken some of the perimeter walls,” he added.

Solis said the skulls of seven other people and other human remains were discovered on the premises of a house located in Guadalajara, Mexico’s second most populous city.

 

Families with missing kin have rushed to authorities in Jalisco asking for details on the exhumations.

More than 40,000 people have gone missing and are presumed dead since Mexico’s war on drugs was militarized with federal troops in late 2006.

More than 250,000 people have been killed in violent crime in Mexico since then, according to government data. The data does not say how many cases were linked to organized crime.

Last year in Jalisco state alone there were 2,418 homicides.

From January to March this year there were 720 murders in the state, official data show.

 

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Special Mother’s Day Edition of ‘LIVING BY DESIGN WITH JAKE AND JAZZ

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Just in time for Mother’s Day, Jake and Jazz makeover the home of single mother, Shay, who recently relocated to Los Angeles from the Midwest. Her parental duties and daily grind leave her with little time for redecorating, so she enlisted the help of Jake and Jazz. The duo turn Shay’s quaint home into a “mommy and me” wonderland with refurbished, multipurpose furniture and rose gold accent pieces. For the post-reveal meal, Jake cooks up Vegetable Fried Rice with Garlic Soy Fried Shrimp and Jazz bakes a Vanilla Rose Pound Cake decorated with dried rose petals.

Tune into the next episode for a special Mother’s Day edition where Jake and Jazz give a deserving mom a sprinkle of design magic and a gift of a lifetime.

LIVING BY DESIGN WITH JAKE AND JAZZ is a hot new home design show with a culinary twist featuring Jake and Jazz Smollett. The sibling duo team up to transform the living, work, and play spaces of millennial families and create simple solutions to everyday home design dilemmas. Each episode features inspirational stories of participating guests, an exciting reveal of the new space and a shared meal with recipes curated by Jake and Jazz.

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