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Mom who killed 4 adopted children, self kept ‘loving home,’ sheriff says

Tennessee officials are struggling to explain why an apparently loving mother shot her four adopted children to death before taking her own life

Cynthia Collier’s adult biological son called 911 shortly after 6 p.m. Monday after he returned home from work and found Collier, 55, and his four youngest siblings dead of gunshot wounds in their Columbia home. Evidence found at the scene indicated Collier committed the killings, officials said Tuesday during a news conference

“There was some information that was left -- it was very brief and vague -- that would indicate that it would be murder-suicide,” Maury County Sheriff Bucky Rowland said

Rowland on Tuesday identified the dead children: Kaileigh Lin, 17, Lia Lin, 15, and 14-year-olds Meigan Lin and Bo Li. Court records indicate the children were adopted from China, The Tennessean reported.

Rowland did not specify where in the house the children were killed, but he said there were multiple crime scenes in the home. Investigators recovered two weapons believed to have been used in the slayings.

>> Related story: Mom, 4 children dead in apparent murder-suicide, deputies say 

The sheriff described Collier as a stay-at-home mother who homeschooled her adopted children. Fox17 in Nashville reported that Collier had properly registered with the state to teach her children and submitted curriculum and attendance records. 

The children did not participate in extracurricular activities in Maury County, and neighbors said the family kept to themselves, the news station said

Rowland said the motive for the shootings remained elusive. By all accounts, Collier was a “very loving mother, with the exception of this one incident.”

“This appears to be a loving home,” the sheriff said. “It’s an immaculate home and a very loving family, so a motive would be very important to know what would lead someone to do this to her loved ones.”

Watch Rowland’s entire news conference below.

Besides her adopted children, Collier had three adult biological children -- two sons and a daughter. The Tennessean reported that Collier and her long-estranged husband, Randall Collier Sr., began divorce proceedings in March after 36 years of marriage. 

They attempted to reconcile in May, according to court records obtained by the newspaper, but it was unclear how the reconciliation was going. Randall Collier did not live in the house where the homicides took place. 

In sworn statements the four youngest children gave during the divorce proceedings, they asked to continue living with their mother, The Tennessean reported. The teens said they barely knew their father. 

>> Read more trending news

The three biological Collier children also gave statements in which they said their relationship with their father had also been a strained one, including their interactions before Randall and Cynthia Collier’s 2007 separation, the court records said.  

Rowland said Randall Collier and other family members were interviewed during the investigation into the shootings, but the department has no evidence that the crime was anything other than a murder-suicide. His department had no record of any domestic calls to the home prior to the son’s 911 call Monday. 

The sheriff asked the public to keep the victims and their family in prayer, as well as the deputies and other first responders who witnessed the crime scenes in the Collier home. 

“We deal with difficult situations, we deal with carnage each and every day, but the magnitude of this, it was more than what we’re used to on a day-to-day basis,” Rowland said

Rowland said it is difficult for law enforcement agencies to deal with potential issues involving mental illness. He encouraged those in crisis to seek help.  

“Don’t be embarrassed,” the sheriff said. “Don’t hesitate. Always try to seek professional help any time that you feel a loved one or yourself may be suffering from that.”

Indiana couple finds drunk man sleeping on downstairs couch 

An Indiana couple found an unwelcome visitor sleeping on their living room couch when they came downstairs one morning earlier this month, WXIN reported.

>> Read more trending news 

The couple, from Lebanon, called 911 around 6:30 a.m. Oct. 3 and waited upstairs for police to arrive, the television station reported. 

A Boone County sheriff’s deputy found Seamus Lyles, 22, lying on the couch. Roused awake, Lyles told the deputy he believed he was in his own apartment, WXIN reported.

Lyles, who sported a black eye, told the deputy he had been out drinking the previous night and must have been involved in a fight, the television station reported.

A portable breathalyzer test showed Lyles’ blood alcohol concentration was at 0.12 percent, according to court documents. The legal limit in Indiana is .08.

Lyles was taken to the Boone County Jail and booked on a charge of residential entry, WXIN reported.

College freshman killed by alleged drunken driver was home for mother’s birthday, family says

A college freshman who was visiting her family was killed over the weekend in a wreck. The driver of the car that hit her has been charged with DUI.

Kennedy Segars, 18, was stopped at a light near her parents’ home in Lithonia, Georgia, on Sunday night when a driver rear-ended her going more than 70 mph, according to police.

“Till the day I die, it will still be a pain,” her father, Marvin Segars, said. “They took my baby at 18. This is just horrible. I don’t want nobody to feel this, at all.”

Kennedy Segars was a freshman at Alabama State University and an aspiring attorney. She was visiting family on her mom's birthday Saturday.

>> Read more trending news 

The other driver, Reginald Stubbs, 57, survived the crash, but Kennedy Segars was pronounced dead Monday.

“I question that all the time. Why’d you have to take her?” Marvin Segars said.

Witnesses described the wreck as a horrific scene involving at least three other cars.

“By the time he's (Stubbs) coming to, he's waking, he's realizing, like, 'I know I just messed up,'” witness Brandon Parker told WSB

Parker said he was home around 8 p.m. and rushed to pull Kennedy Segars out of her car as smoke came out of it.

“I see she’s breathing, so I’m telling everybody we gotta get her out,” Parker said.

Paramedics rushed her to the hospital, but her brain injuries were too severe.

Her family believes the accused drunken driver made a choice that cannot be forgiven.

"We want him to stay behind bars forever. He took a life, so his freedom should be taken as well,” Marvin Segars said.

Stubbs is due in court Friday for an arraignment on charges of vehicular homicide, DUI and others. A judge denied him bond Monday. 

Caroll Spinney, original Big Bird, retiring from 'Sesame Street'

The man who has played Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch since “Sesame Street” debuted in 1969 is retiring this week, Sesame Workshop said Wednesday in a news release.

>> Read more trending news 

Caroll Spinney, 84, will perform his roles for the final time Thursday. The puppeteer’s roles will be taken by Matt Vogel, who will perform as Big Bird; and Eric Jacobson, who will play Oscar. Spinney has mentored both men for more than 20 years.

“Big Bird brought me so many places, opened my mind and nurtured my soul,” said Spinney said in a statement. “And I plan to be an ambassador for Sesame Workshop for many years to come. After all, we’re a family! But now it’s time for two performers that I have worked with and respected – and actually hand-picked for the guardianship of Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch – to take my alter-egos into their hands and continue to give them life.”

During his 49 years on “Sesame Street,” Spinney appeared on “thousands” of the more than 4,400 episodes of the children’s show, a Sesame Workshop spokesman told the The New York Times.

As Big Bird, Spinney has traveled around the world, visiting China with comedian Bob Hope. He has also performed in the United Kingdom, France, Japan, Germany, Canada and Australia. Big Bird has danced with the Rockettes and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The character also has been featured on a U.S. postage stamp and was named a Living Legend in 2000 by the Library of Congress.

“Since 1969, Caroll’s kind and loving view of the world has helped shape and define this institution,” Jeffrey D. Dunn, Sesame Workshop’s president and CEO, said in a statement. “Throughout his unparalleled career, Caroll Spinney gave something truly special to the world. With deepest admiration, Sesame Workshop is proud to carry his legacy – and his beloved characters – into the future.”

In October 2012, The Atlantic reported that Spinney made about $314,000 a year in his roles on “Sesame Street.” From a personal standpoint, Spinney met his wife, Debra, on the show’s set in 1973, Sesame Workshop said in its statement. They have been married 45 years, the New York Post reported. 

“Before I came to Sesame Street, I didn’t feel like what I was doing was very important. Big Bird helped me find my purpose,” Spinney said in a statement. “Even as I step down from my roles, I feel I will always be Big Bird.”

Spinney had to stop puppeteering as Big Bird in 2015 due to problems with his balance, the Times reported. Since then he has limited his roles to voices for Big Bird and Oscar.

His final recordings will be aired on “Sesame Street’s” 50th anniversary in 2020 on PBS, the newspaper reported. Spinney said he will remain a “Sesame Street” ambassador.

“I’ll be 100 years old, doing Muppet stuff,” Spinney told the Times.

Authorities identify North Carolina state trooper shot, killed during traffic stop

A North Carolina Highway Patrol trooper was shot and killed early Wednesday while conducting a traffic stop in the southeastern part of the state, according to the Department of Public Safety.

North Carolina State Highway Patrol Sgt. Michael Baker said the trooper, Kevin K. Conner, was shot just after midnight while conducting a traffic stop on U.S. 701 near Sellers Town Road in Columbus County.

Update 12:25 p.m. EDT Oct. 17: Following the shooting, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper shared a statement on the loss of Trooper Conner:

"The tragic loss of Trooper Kevin Conner of the NC State Highway Patrol weighs heavily on our hearts. We are forever grateful for his devoted service and selfless commitment to protecting the people of North Carolina. Our prayers are with his family and friends and his colleagues in law enforcement."

WRAL-TV reported that Conner was credited with helping save lives after a 2011 fiery head-on crash in Columbus County. The station reported Conner used an extinguisher to put out flames and that he and another trooper provided first aid while waiting for paramedics.

Update 9:50 a.m. EDT Oct. 17: Baker said that at around 12:15 a.m., Conner stopped a white GMC pickup truck for a speeding violation on rural U.S. 701. The driver of the truck pulled over onto the shoulder and fired several shots as the trooper approached, Baker said.

The suspect fled and Conner was taken to a hospital, where he died.

Baker said the driver then headed about 20 miles west to Fair Bluff, near the South Carolina state line, where he was pursued by police. The suspect’s truck became disabled on railroad tracks and the suspect fled on foot. Authorities said the suspect was arrested around 4 a.m. after an extensive search.

The suspect's name has not been released and charges are pending, authorities said.

“The Highway Patrol family is mourning the loss of a hero and will forever be changed by the tragic events that have occurred,” said Col. Glenn McNeill Jr., commander of the state highway patrol. “We ask everyone to please keep Trooper Conner’s family and all who knew him in your thoughts and prayers.”

Conner was an 11-year veteran assigned to Troop B, District 5, in Columbus County.

“We extend our deepest sympathy to Trooper Conner’s family,” said Public Safety Secretary Erik A. Hooks. “Trooper Conner was killed while protecting and serving his community. We mourn our loss and will continue to support his family. We are grateful for his service and honor the men and women who serve in harm’s way, each and every day.”

Condolences for the trooper poured out from a number of law enforcement agencies on social media. Baker said the patrol was asking that people keep the trooper, his family and the entire organization in their prayers.

"We are definitely grieving as a result of our loss," he said.

Original report: Authorities said the trooper, whose name has not been released, was shot just after midnight while conducting a traffic stop on U.S. 701 near Sellers Town Road in Columbus County, just south of Whiteville.

>> Read more trending news 

The trooper was taken to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

After an extensive search, authorities were able to find the suspect in nearby woods and take him into custody.

The suspect's name also has not been released.

– Visit WSOCTV.com for the latest on this developing story.

Mega Millions jackpot reaches record-breaking $900 million; Powerball jackpot is $345 million

Two national lottery games – Mega Millions and Powerball – are sporting huge jackpots, topping a billion in total combined winnings.

Update 12:10 p.m. EDT Oct. 17: The Mega Millions jackpot has swollen to $900 million ahead of  Friday’s drawing. If a person wins the jackpot, he or she will also have the option of taking the jackpot as a $513 million cash payout, according to the Mega Millions website.

The next Mega Millions drawing is set to take place Friday at 11 p.m. EDT.

Update 12:59 a.m. EDT Oct. 17: No tickets matched all six numbers in Tuesday’s Mega Millions drawing. Friday’s estimated jackpot has climbed to a record $868 million, with a cash payout of $494 million, according to the Mega Millions website.

Update 11:15 p.m. EDT Oct. 16: Mega Millions numbers drawn Tuesday night were 69-45-61-3-49 and the Mega Ball was 9. It is not yet known if there is a winner.

Original report: If you have a few dollars and dreams of riches untold, the coming week could be a game-changer for you.

Two national lottery games – Mega Millions and Powerball – are sporting huge jackpots this week, now topping a billion in total combined winnings.

>> Read more trending news 

The Mega Millions drawing set for Tuesday has the second largest jackpot in the game’s history, worth $667 million (or $372 million with the cash option). That breaks the game’s previous record jackpot of $656 million.  

Related: 7 biggest lottery jackpots in US history

Add to that a hefty $345 million Powerball jackpot, and you’re looking at nearly a billion dollars in lottery money being up for grabs this week.

The Powerball jackpot is the 17th largest in the game’s history. The cash payout on the $345 million would be $199 million.

Related: 7-time lottery winner shares tips for winning Powerball

How did we get the chance to play for such jackpots? You can thank all those who played and didn’t hit the jackpot. The Mega Millions jackpot has been building since July 24, the last time the grand prize jackpot was won.

The Powerball game has not seen a grand  prize winner since Aug. 11. 

The Mega Millions numbers drawn Friday were 04-24-46-61-70. The Megaball was 07. The Megaplier was 3. 

Related: Which Powerball numbers have hit most often? Will choosing them improve your odds?

One ticket sold in Arkansas matched all five numbers, but did not match the Megaball number. That winning ticket is worth $3 million because the person who purchased the ticket purchased the “Multiplier” option which tripled the $1 million prize.

The Powerball numbers drawn Saturday were 11-14-32-43-65 and the Powerball was 15. The Power Play was 3. Two players – one in Nebraska and one in Michigan – matched the five numbers, but not the Powerball number. Each of those tickets is worth $1 million.

Photos: Meghan Markle, Prince Harry begin royal tour of Australia

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex began their 16-day tour of Australia and the South Pacific with a visit to Sydney’s Opera House and Taronga Zoo.

Florida toddler fighting polio-like disease in Jacksonville ICU, mom says

3-year-old Florida girl is being treated at a Jacksonville children's hospital for a polio-like virus that's been spreading in states across the country.

>> Read more trending news 

Since Sunday, little Aamira has been in the Intensive Care Unit.

“It’s nerve-wracking. It’s stressful. She can’t understand. She can’t get out of bed and do things for herself,” said her mother, Reba Faircloth.

Faircloth said doctors believe her daughter has acute flaccid myelitis, or AFM.

It’s a rare paralyzing illness that health officials are investigating following a spike in cases mainly affecting children.

Doctors said the illness comes in clusters and more cases are expected in our area.“They told me it’s a polio-like strand, but it’s not per polio. It hit me hard,” Faircloth said.

Faircloth said her daughter started showing signs of some sort of illness Thursday and it only progressed.

By Sunday, Faircloth said, her once-energetic toddler couldn’t walk.

“It was just like how a baby learns to walk, and she collapsed and fell to the ground,” Faircloth said.

She said doctors have been running tests on the girl since then.

“They told me they have no per se cure or how to get rid of it, they are just going by books, and she had to get plasma infusions,” Faircloth said.

A doctor at the hospital said the illness affects the nervous system and can leave patients paralyzed.

“Some of the symptoms may slowly decrease, but often they are permanent or there is residual permanent damage,” said Jose Irazuzta, of Wolfson Children’s Hospital, who is also a professor of pediatrics at the University of Florida.

Faircloth now has a message for other parents: “If you start to see weakness and everything, go to the hospital,” she said.

Faircloth said her daughter could be in the hospital for up to three weeks.

Doctors said this disease usually affects young children and they are working with researchers to learn more about AFM to find a cure. 

Georgia boy, 12, dies when he touches fence electrified by live wire

A 12-year-old Georgia boy died Monday when he touched a fence at an athletic complex that had been electrified by a live wire, The Augusta Chronicle reported.

>> Read more trending news 

Melquan Kwame Robinson, of Augusta, was at football practice when he climbed over a chain-link fence, Richmond County Coroner Mark Bowen told the newspaper.

The boy was retrieving a football when he was electrocuted, WRDW reported. Five feet of fencing on either side of a light pole had a live current of electricity running through it when Robinson touched it, the television station reported.

The boy was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 9:56 p.m. Monday, the Chronicle reported.

>> Girl electrocuted while trying to rescue kittens, officials believe

The athletic complex is owned by the city of Augusta. In a statement, city officials said three other people were injured. Two were juveniles and one was an adult, according to the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of all involved in this accident,” Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis said in a statement. “We ask Augustans to stand together to extend our condolences and embrace the family of Melquan Kwame Robinson with love during this sudden and unexpected loss.”

City Commissioner Marion Williams told WDRW that questions about the incident need to be addressed.

“A lot of parts that have to be answered on this, but before we make any rash decisions I want to be sure that we hear everything,” Williams told the television station Tuesday. “I want to make sure we look at every possible means over this happening and find out who's at fault.”

Couple wants to hit 6 parks in Walt Disney World, Disneyland in one day

Your marathon trips to Disney are nothing compared to what one couple from Tennessee has planned. 

They want to hit six Disney parks on both coasts within 24 hours Wednesday, The Associated Press reported.

>> Read more trending news 

Clark and Heather Ensminger are planning to start their day at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, have breakfast, then walk over to Epcot. After hitting that park, they’ll go to Magic Kingdom and finish their Florida day at Animal Kingdom. 

>>Read: Walt Disney World's new ticket pricing structure takes effect

Then they plan to leave Walt Disney World in Florida and grab a direct flight to Los Angeles at 4:30 p.m., the AP reported.

Using the time zones to their advantage, they will hopefully be in California Adventure by 8 p.m. and in Walt Disney’s first park Disneyland before it closes at midnight. 

So how do they plan to stay on schedule? The Ensmingers have a spreadsheet with all of their times mapped out for where and when they have to be, the AP reported

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