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Body found inside wall of South Carolina flea market

A man’s body was found inside the wall of an open-air flea market in Clover, South Carolina, WSOC reports.

The man has been identified as 33-year-old William “Eddie” Powers. Police told WSOC Powers had been reported missing for about two weeks.

>> Read more trending news

Police said they went to the Clover Open Air Flea Market Wednesday morning after receiving a report of a strong odor.

It is unclear how Powers’ body ended up inside the wall, but the coroner said no foul play is suspected.

Autopsy and toxicology results are pending.

Restaurant manager accused of enslaving cook pleads guilty to forced labor

The manager of a South Carolina restaurant has pleaded guilty to forcing a black mentally disabled buffet cook to work unpaid for more than 100 hours a week, according to federal officials.

>> Read more trending news

Bobby Paul Edwards, a 53-year-old white man, admitted he used violence, threats and intimidation tactics to force John Christopher Smith, who is black, to work more than 100 hours a week without pay at Edwards’ Myrtle Beach buffet restaurant, J&J Cafeteria.

The United States Department of Justice on Wednesday announced Edwards pleaded guilty to one federal count of forced labor.

In an interview with CNN affiliate WPDE last year, Smith said he started washing dishes and busing tables at J&J Cafeteria at age 12, but the alleged incidents of abuse began when Edwards became the manager in 2009. The abuse continued through 2014. Smith is currently about 40 years old.

“I wanted to get out of there a long time ago. But I didn't have nobody I could go to,” Smith told WPDE. “I couldn't go anywhere. I couldn't see none of my family.”

In 2014, a customer noticed scars on Smith’s body and called authorities. Then came a 2015 complaint, in which Smith alleged that Edwards beat him with a frying pan, burned him with grease-fryer-dipped tongs, beat him with his fists and his belt buckle and routinely used racial slurs while speaking to him, the Post and Courier reported.

The newspaper also said Smith was forced to live in a roach-infested apartment close by and was too exhausted to physically feed himself.

In the Justice Department’s statement, John Gore, acting assistant attorney general, said, “Human trafficking through forced labor can happen on farms, in homes, and as today’s case shows — in public places, such as restaurants. Edwards abused an African-American man with intellectual disabilities by coercing him to work long hours in a restaurant without pay.”

“We deny any allegations of slavery and abuse,” Edwards’ attorney, Scott Bellamy, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 2017, one day after Edwards surrendered to the FBI. “We don’t believe there was any slavery involved. That word — in the climate we’re in in this country, quite frankly — makes it even more of a story.” 

Bellamy pointed out that neither the indictment nor the federal charge contains the word “slavery,” The AJC previously reported.

But the indictment, which identifies Smith by his initials, JCB, said Edwards is charged under the U.S. Code section on “slavery, peonage and trafficking in persons.” 

He faces up to 20 years in prison, a $250,000 maximum fine and mandatory restitution to Smith.

Officials at the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in Conway, South Carolina, had urged the court for tougher charges in 2014.

“We are talking about enslavement here,” Abdullah Mustafa, president of the local chapter of the NAACP, said at the time. 

“This defendant abused a vulnerable victim, and today's guilty plea holds the defendant responsible for his criminal acts,” Sherri Lydon, the United States attorney for the District of South Carolina, told the New York Times.

Edwards’ sentencing date has not yet been scheduled.

Police: Man, woman steal TV from pawn shop – then pawn it back to same shop

New Orleans police investigators are looking for two people accused of stealing a television from an Algiers pawn shop -- and immediately pawning it back to the same shop. 

The pair, identified by police as Don Adams, 32, and Dana Francois-Carter, 38, were spotted by the store’s security cameras during the May 31 heist, a New Orleans Police Department news release said

Police officials said the camera captured Adams and Francois-Carter entering the store around 5:20 p.m. that day, at which point Francois-Carter headed to the electronics section. 

Francois-Carter took the TV from the shelf and removed the price tag from it, police officials said. She then took it to the front counter.

Adams, using his own identification, then pawned the TV for $175, the news release said

>> Read more trending news

Anyone with information on Adams or Francois-Carter is asked to call detectives at 504-685-6040 or 504-658-6045. Anonymous tips can also be submitted to Crime Stoppers at 504-822-1111 or 1-877-903-STOP.

'I feel like my life is starting over,' Alice Johnson says after Trump commutes life sentence

Alice Johnson, the 63-year-old woman released from prison Wednesday after President Donald Trump commuted her life sentence, said that she feels like her life is starting over after she spent more than two decades jailed for nonviolent drug offenses.

>> Read more trending news

“I’m just so thankful,” Johnson told reporters gathered Wednesday outside the Federal Correctional Institution Aliceville in Alabama. “This is a miracle day.”

>> Trump commutes Alice Johnson's sentence after meeting with Kim Kardashian West

Johnson was reunited with her family 22 years after she was convicted of charges connected to a Memphis-based cocaine trafficking operation.

In an appearance Thursday morning on the “Today” show, Johnson said her heart leaped when she saw her family gathered outside the prison.

“We are going to appreciate every single moment we have,” she said. “Sometimes we take family and life for granted. I’ll never do that again.”

>> Reality TV star Kim Kardashian West meets with Trump over prison reform

She added that she hopes to use her newfound freedom to help people still in the prison system.

“I can’t just walk away and forget about those who have been left behind,” she said. “I want to take this chance to try to magnify what has happened with me, so that people will remember there are people just like me who are first-time nonviolent offenders who pose no safety risk to their communities.”

She told CNN on Thursday that even though it had only been one day since her release, she already had a job lined up.

“My plan is to start work,” she said. “And my plan is also to work hard on helping to change some of these laws. Something has to happen, and I believe what has already begun is a good first step with prison reform.”

Trump commuted Johnson’s sentence Wednesday, one week after celebrity socialite Kim Kardashian West pleaded her case in a meeting with the president. Johnson thanked both Trump and Kardashian West in several interviews Wednesday and Thursday.

“Only God could have touched Kim K’s heart like that,” Johnson told CNN. "She said she felt a connection when she saw and heard my story."

The president shared well-wishes for Johnson in a tweet Thursday morning.

The president has issued several pardons since his January 2017 inauguration. Last week he pardoned conservative filmmaker and author Dinesh D’Souza, who pleaded guilty in 2014 to violating campaign finance laws.

Baby dies after eating lethal amount of crack, police say; mom charged

A mother is facing a second-degree murder charge in the death of her baby, who investigators say consumed a lethal amount of crack.

>> Watch the news report here

West Memphis, Arkansas, police said Kadasha Bedford, 34, turned herself in Wednesday afternoon.

>> Man wanted in baby's killing shot, captured by Florida SWAT officers

Police said Bedford's 17-month-old child ate a lethal amount of crack cocaine in the Crown Inn on May 2. Bedford, who had been missing ever since, also has three warrants for endangering the welfare of a minor, police said.

>> Read more trending news 

WHBQ learned the child's father, Anthony Lewis, is facing the same charges. The parents took the baby to Le Bonheur Children's Hospital on May 2, but the baby already had been dead for up to an hour, investigators said.

Read more here.

Teen shot, killed by half-brother after argument over honey bun, deputies say

A Fayette County, Tennessee, teenager was shot and killed after arguing with his half-brother over a honey bun and a small amount of money, according to investigators.

>> Watch the news report here

Officers responded to a report of a victim suffering from a gunshot wound in the 8900 block of Feather Chapel Road about 2:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Investigators said they found 18-year-old Marcus Jones dead from a gunshot wound at the scene.

Deputies took 34-year-old Jerome Howse, the victim's half-brother, into custody.

>> Read more trending news 

After a brief investigation, deputies said they determined the pair had been arguing over a small amount of cash and a honey bun.

Howse was charged with second-degree murder and felon in possession of a firearm.

The sheriff said there is no bond set at this time.

Lawyers for man who ate own eyeball argue he’s too mentally ill for execution

Lawyers representing a Texas death row inmate who killed his estranged wife and her two children, including her 13-month-old daughter, in 2004 are arguing this week that their mentally ill client should be allowed to continue appealing his death sentence in the infant’s slaying. 

Their oral arguments on behalf of Andre Thomas, 35, were held Tuesday before the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. Thomas’ attorneys have for years argued that Thomas is too mentally ill to be put to death. 

Those claims are bolstered by the fact that Andre Thomas plucked out one of his eyes five days after his March 2004 arrest in the slayings, KSAT in San Antonio reported

Five years later, while housed on Texas’ death row, Thomas removed his second eye and ate it, according to prison officials. Texas Department of Corrections information shows that he is currently housed at the Beauford H. Jester IV psychiatric unit in Fort Bend County. 

The Houston Chronicle reported that Thomas suffers from schizophrenia, characterized by psychotic delusions and “hyper-religious preoccupations.” His lawyers have argued he was “actively psychotic” when he committed the crimes for which he was convicted. 

Thomas was found guilty of the March 27, 2004, slayings of Laura Christine Boren, 20, the couple’s son, Andre Lee Boren, 4, and Boren’s infant daughter, Leyha Marie Hughes. According to KSAT, the three victims were stabbed to death and their hearts ripped from their chests. 

In Boren’s case, Thomas missed her heart and removed a portion of her lung instead, according to a 2013 profile of Thomas in Texas Monthly. Thomas, then 21 years old, stabbed himself in the chest multiple times, laid on the floor next to his wife’s body and waited to die, the magazine said. 

When he didn’t, he pocketed the organs he had cut out and walked five miles to his home. He went to the Sherman Police Department a few hours later and confessed, Texas Monthly reported. 

“I thought it was what God wanted me to do,” Thomas told investigators, according to the magazine

After he plucked out his eye while awaiting trial in the Grayson County Jail, Thomas repeatedly asked hospital personnel to let him see his wife and beg her forgiveness, which he said he had already obtained from the children. 

“I love her, and I need her to forgive me,” he told them of Boren, Texas Monthly said

Court documents filed before Tuesday’s oral arguments said Thomas’ mental illness went undiagnosed and untreated “until after the delusions it caused led him to commit the crime here,” KSAT reported. One of his attorneys, Catherine M.A. Carroll, also argued that her client’s trial lawyers failed to challenge a judge’s ruling that found him competent to stand trial. 

Carroll also claimed Thomas’ trial lawyers did not request a competency hearing and that jurors were not given enough information on the defendant’s long history of mental illness, the news station said

Texas Monthly reported Thomas began telling classmates about the voices in his head when he was as young as 10 years old. By the age of 13, Thomas had made his second suicide attempt, the magazine reported. 

>> Read more trending news

Carroll also alleged that the jury in the case was racially biased against Thomas, who is black. Boren, his estranged wife, was white. 

The Chronicle reported that the jury that convicted Thomas was all white. Four of the jurors were allowed to serve, despite expressing opposition to interracial marriage.

One juror said it was not “what God intended,” and another said white people “should stay with (their) bloodline,” the newspaper reported

Prosecutors are contesting the appeal, according to KSAT. They have argued that, while mentally disabled people are barred from being executed, the courts have not extended that same prohibition to the mentally ill. 

“The Fifth Circuit has consistently refused to find a connection between the intellectually disabled and the mentally ill, repeatedly rejecting arguments like the one Thomas makes now,” Assistant Texas Attorney General Fredericka Sargent wrote, according to the news station

A federal judge in 2016 rejected Thomas’ appeal, prompting this week’s oral arguments seeking the ability to keep the appeal going. 

Fired gym worker accused in hatchet killing of ex-boss nabbed in Kentucky

A Nashville man accused of using a hatchet to kill the gym owner who fired him last year has been caught by troopers with the Kentucky State Police, authorities said. 

Domenic Micheli, 36, was arrested Tuesday night in Bowling Green after an alert motorist on Interstate 65 recognized the Toyota Prius the fugitive was driving, the Tennessean reported. Micheli had been on the run since the slaying of Joel Paavola, 46, early Monday morning. 

“Due to the media coverage of out Nashville, the caller was able to ID the car and the subject,” Lt. Jeremy Smith, a Kentucky State Police spokesman, told the newspaper

Troopers were able to catch up with Micheli and pull him over about 25 minutes after the call from the motorist. Micheli was arrested without incident. 

Metro Nashville police officials said that Paavola, the well-known owner of Balance Training, in Belle Meade, was helping clients with a workout routine just before 7 a.m. Monday when a man, later identified as Micheli, walked in with a hatchet and another bladed weapon, described as either another hatchet or a large knife. 

Paavola fired Micheli from his job at the gym 14 months ago, the Tennessean reported

>> Read more trending news

Witnesses told police that Micheli struck Paavola with the weapons multiple times before leaving, police officials said in a statement. Paavola died on the way to Vanderbilt University Medical Center. 

“Just a senseless, brutal, violent attack this morning on Mr. Paavola as he was there in the business,” Metro Nashville Police Department spokesman Don Aaron told the Tennessean Monday

Surveillance footage from the parking garage underneath the strip mall where the gym is located showed that Micheli was driving an older model silver Yaris or Prius, the police statement saidThe Tennessean reported that the footage showed Micheli pacing in the garage before the attack on Paavola. 

The suspect was next spotted less than 90 minutes after the attack at a Gallatin urgent care facility, where he limped in and asked for a suture kit, the newspaper reported. He refused to wait or provide his personal information and left. 

Surveillance footage obtained by investigators next showed Micheli around 9:15 a.m. Monday, approaching the counter of a drugstore in Gallatin, which is about 35 miles northeast of Belle Meade. In the video, he appears to be purchasing first aid items.

At one point, he is seen examining his clothing and his arms.

Before Micheli’s arrest, investigators were searching for him as far away as Oregon and Washington, D.C., where he was known to have previously spent time. Metro Nashville police officials said Monday that Micheli was arrested by the U.S. Secret Service on April 27 for driving his car to a checkpoint near the White House and refusing to move it. 

A GoFundMe page set up to help Paavola’s family collected more than double its $75,000 goal in one day. As of Wednesday afternoon, it had amassed close to $200,000. 

“Joel Paavola was a phenomenal man, father, husband and role model,” the fundraising page read. “He was bright, happy-go-lucky and never ceased to make you smile.”

The fundraising team said that Paavola always prioritized his wife and five children, who “were the most important and loved people in his life.”

“He always put his family first, and we want that to carry on after his unfortunate passing,” the page read

Tyson Ford, a family friend who created the page, told the Tennessean that he grew up with Paavola’s oldest son. He said the trainer was a father figure to him. 

“He took in a lot of his children’s friends,” Ford, 23, told the newspaper. “You just knew you could count on him. It was humbling to feel that from someone else.”

Ford said the goal of fundraisers was to “wrap (their) arms around (the family).”

Christina Burks, a former Nashville resident, told the Tennessean that she felt compelled to donate to the cause. 

“He was more than a trainer. He was one of my best friends in Nashville,” Burks, 30, told the newspaper. “He was there for me when my grandmother passed away and when my now-husband and I started dating.

“I can’t say enough good things about him.”

Belle Meade, which gets its name from Belle Meade Plantation, has the highest per capita income in Tennessee and one of the highest in the nation. It was named by Forbes as one of the 25 top places to retire rich.

Former Vice President Al Gore is just one of the prominent residents of the city.

Man on LSD thought he was in 'Grand Theft Auto' game when he stole car, fled cops, deputies say

An Oregon man took LSD, then believed that he was playing the popular video game "Grand Theft Auto" as he stole a car and fled deputies, law enforcement officials said Monday.

According to the Jackson County Sheriff's Office, Anthony Joseph Clark, 23, of Grants Pass stole an impounded vehicle Saturday night as deputies were waiting for it to be towed. During the ensuing 40-mile chase, Clark "crashed through multiple industrial gates" and drove in the wrong direction, deputies said

>> Read more trending news 

Authorities eventually stopped Clark in Medford by bumping into the stolen car, making it spin out, according to the Oregonian. Clark reportedly tried to strike a police car before running away on foot into the Glenwood Mobile Home Park. There, he tried to steal a second vehicle before he was arrested, deputies said.

Clark "admitted to taking LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide), a hallucinogenic drug, earlier in the day" and "told deputies he believed he was in the video game 'Grand Theft Auto,'" the Sheriff's Office said in a news release.

Clark faces numerous charges, including possession of a stolen vehicle, driving under the influence, attempting to elude an officer, reckless driving and reckless endangerment, deputies said.

Read more here or here.

Teacher pleads guilty to sex trafficking teen boy

A former criminal justice teacher at a Georgia high school has pleaded guilty to one federal count of sex trafficking a minor.

Former Ware County High School teacher Tracy Wayne Crosby, 42, of Waycross, now faces no less than 10 years of imprisonment and up to life imprisonment, according to a release from the U.S. Department of Justice.

>> Mom who sold young daughters for sex sentenced to 30 years

If released from federal custody, Crosby will be required to register as a sex offender and will be under the court's supervised release for no less than five years up to life.

Crosby, who was also a part-time deputy with the Pierce County Sheriff's Office, used his cellphone to communicate with a 16-year-old boy online, according to the DOJ release.

Crosby agreed to meet with the boy to have sex in exchange for $10, according to the release.

ActionNewsJax previously reported that on Nov. 29, 2017, deputies from the Camden County Sheriff's Office were dispatched to the Waterfront Park in Woodbine regarding an incident with a 16-year-old boy.

Deputies said they spoke with the mother of the teen, who told them she witnessed Crosby having a "a sexual relationship" with her son at the park. 

>> Read more trending news 

The minor had left home and wouldn't tell his mother exactly where he was going, police said at the time.

Crosby admitted to federal agents that he had sex with the boy more than once, according to the DOJ release.

Crosby is now awaiting his sentencing hearing.

Anyone who suspects instances of child sexual exploitation is encouraged to call 1-800-843-5678, which is operated by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in partnership with HSI, the FBI and other law enforcement agencies.

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