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Good Samaritans pay off layaways for Walmart customers in Georgia

There are four Walmarts in Forsyth County, Georgia, and now everyone who had items in layaway can take those things home free and clear, thanks to a random act of kindness. 

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It all happened because of a Santa Claus of sorts in Forsyth County this week. One man filled with holiday spirit felt compelled to help others.

"We just felt a tug in our hearts," said Forsyth County resident Greg Dolezal. "To engage our friends to see if we could make it happen."

Dolezal said he was inspired by the kindness of celebrities like Tyler Perry and Kid Rock, who both spent hundreds of thousands of dollars paying off layaways at various Walmarts.

"We don't have the resources of Tyler Perry or Kid Rock, but we know the community does, and the community has massive hearts," said Dolezal.

Dolezal sent some emails to friends, and within six hours, his friends had donated $20,000. He said that's when he knew something special was happening.

"I think that's fantastic," said shopper Ashlie Thompson. "I mean what a great way to give back."

"If you've got the resources and can do it, and make somebody's day a little bit greater, that's a great thing," said shopper Ed Rivers.

Dolezal said within 48 hours, he had raised enough money to pay off layaways at two Walmarts. And on Friday, just six days after sending a few emails, he and his friends and his community, had raised enough money to pay off all layaways at all four Walmarts in Forsyth County.

Just like Santa Claus, Dolezal didn't want to be featured in this story. He only agreed to speak with us because he was so grateful for the support of the community, and he hoped it would inspire giving in others.

"To talk about the wonderful people that are here (in Forsyth County) and what they've done, then we need to tell that story," said Dolezal.

Dolezal said he was thrilled but not surprised by the generosity in Forsyth County.

In all, the community paid off about $40,000 in layaway bills.

Mom of fighter jet pilot who crashed in Hawaii details son's heroic efforts

It's a mother's worst nightmare.

Elaine Regan sat down with WFXT to describe the moment she got the phone call telling her that her son, Matthew Pothier, had crashed his fighter jet into the Pacific Ocean.

>> Read more trending news

“He was one of those kids that knew early on that he wanted to be an aviator, specifically, a jet pilot," said Regan. "He had a wonderful experience with the Andover school systems. He was always, you know, the top 5 percent of his class. He got a full scholarship from Holy Cross as a physics major."

Pothier, an Andover native and Hawaii Air National Guard civilian contractor, is now recovering in a Hawaiian hospital after his plane crashed off the coast of Honolulu during a military exercise.

Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor said a Hawker Hunter jet went down in the ocean around 2:25 p.m. Wednesday after taking off from Honolulu's airport.

Pothier was rescued about 3 miles south of Oahu near Honolulu's Sand Island, the U.S. Coast Guard said. He had been participating in a military exercise called Sentry Aloha, which was temporarily suspended after the crash. 

Just two days ago, Regan said, her heart nearly stopped when her daughter-in-law called her from Hawaii to tell her Pothier's Hawker Hunter jet had crashed and while he had safely ejected from the aircraft, he still suffered serious injuries.

“My heart stopped," said Regan. "It’s that, you know, as a mom, those are telephone calls you don’t want to get about your children. He was critical, at that point. They didn’t know exactly how extensive his injuries would be.”

While waiting to hear just how bad the crash had been, Regan tuned in to local Hawaiian news online and watched the video of the crash on repeat.

“We saw the crash and we saw his body in the air when he ejected from the plane," said Regan.

A former Navy pilot commander living in Honolulu, Pothier now trains military pilots for combat, but Regan said his love for flying started right here in Massachusetts.

Pothier trained in Pensacola and served overseas in combat. Regan said his training saved her son's life and the lives of others on Wednesday.

“He knew that he had to do exactly what he was trained to do and he ejected at the very last moment making sure that his Hawker Hunter wasn’t going to hurt anyone and he did it. He’s a hero to me,” said Regan.

After hours of waiting, Regan finally got a call from Pothier, and was finally able to breathe and relax after hearing her son's voice.

“It was like Christmas morning -- you know, when you get that present that you always wish for, his voice and that happy smile that he always has," said Regan. "He said, 'Hi, ma,' and I knew, I knew that he was going to be OK.”

Pothier has a few compression fractures on his spine, but said he already has plans to fly again as soon as he's out of the hospital and done with therapy.

The cause of the crash was under investigation, the military said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Humane Society investigation leads to discovery of dead puppy in pet store freezer

Dead puppies, including one kept in a plastic bag in the freezer, were allegedly found inside a Petland store in Kennesaw, Georgia, according to a report by the Humane Society of the United States.

>> Read more trending news

An undercover investigator for the nonprofit worked at the Petland from September to November, and the organization released its report Tuesday.

An employee told the investigator she sometimes found puppies who had “passed away” when she came in for work. It allegedly happened about three times during a four-month period.

The investigator also saw a black plastic bag in a freezer, which allegedly contained a dead puppy. The report included video and photos of the alleged dead animal.

Petland spokeswoman Elizabeth Kunzelman sent AJC.com a statement, which said, in part: 

“For over 50 years, Petland’s number one priority has been the health and welfare of its pets ... HSUS’s annual ‘undercover investigation’ of Petland inaccurately portrays information in an effort to boost end of year fundraising efforts and to spread their anti-pet agenda.” 

The Humane Society report also mentions instances of a large breed puppy allegedly being dropped while being taken out of a cage and short of 15-second veterinary examinations performed by kennel staff.

Kunzelman’s statement refuted that kennel staff performed examinations, saying “each Petland store has a licensed consulting veterinarian and that veterinarian establishes the care of the pets and protocols in the store.” 

The Humane Society also accused Petland of getting some of its puppies from an Indiana distributor called Blue Ribbon Puppies, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tied to an outbreak of Campylobacter, a drug-resistant disease that infected more than 100 people. The CDC report alleges that those who got sick mostly contracted the illness through Petland puppies.

Kunzelman’s statement said the report is distorting the CDC report, saying “The CDC never stated Petland over-medicated its puppies; Campylobacter is commonly found in puppies, regardless of source ... An independent analysis of claims of illnesses with Petland puppies showed that less than 1.2 percent of all puppies that went home incurred any sort of severe medical issue requiring medical hospitalization.”

The Humane Society said it placed the undercover investigator at the Kennesaw Petland, and placed another investigator at a Petland in Las Vegas, because, since 2006, it has received more than 1,200 complaints related to sick puppies at Petland stores across the nation. 

Highlighted was a specific complaint from 2017, which involved Dr. Michael Good, a veterinarian who wrote a witness affidavit about many diseases he saw in puppies at the Kennesaw store. 

Kunzelman’s statement said, “Dr. Good’s testimony has been refuted numerous times in court ... We are very disappointed that HSUS did not reach out to us with any concerns as we have always urged them to contact us directly as it relates to the health and care of our pets.”

Trump names Mick Mulvaney acting White House chief of staff

Update 5:23 p.m. EDT Dec. 14: In a tweet Friday, President Donald Trump named Mick Mulvaney, the current Director of the Office of Management and Budget, as acting White House Chief of Staff.

Trump deemed Mulvaney his “acting chief of staff” but it was not immediately clear what that meant for the length of his tenure.

>> Read more trending news

President Donald Trump said Saturday that White House Chief of Staff John Kelly will leave his position by the end of the year.

The president’s first choice was Nick Ayers, the vice president’s chief of staff, who bowed out after being unable to come to an agreement on how long he would serve in the post.

Read the original report below.

Trump announced last week that Kelly, who served in the post for more than a year, would soon be departing.

Rumors have swirled off-and-on for months that Kelly, a retired four-star general, planned to leave his post.

>> Related: Who is Gen. John Kelly, President Donald Trump’s Chief of Staff? 

Sources with knowledge of the inner workings of the West Wing told CNN that President Donald Trump and Kelly have recently stopped speaking.

He reportedly clashed with several members of the administration, including national security adviser John Bolton, the president's daughter, Ivanka Trump, and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, Politico reported. Tension between Bolton and Kelly spilled out into the public earlier this year when The Washington Post reported Kelly stormed out of the White House after getting into a shouting match with Bolton over immigration.

The Wall Street Journal reported in June that Kelly expected to make his exit over the summer, but the newspaper later reported that he agreed to stay on through the 2020 election at the president’s request.

Reports indicate that the relationship between Trump and Kelly has long been fraught with tension. Former FBI director James Comey said in his book, “A Higher Loyalty,” that Kelly was “sick about my firing” in May 2017 and that he intended to quit in protest of Trump’s decision.

Comey said he urged Kelly not to quit.

>> 'A Higher Loyalty:' Here’s some of what James Comey says about Trump

NBC News reported in April that Kelly called Trump “an idiot” who he needed to “save from himself” during a tense meeting on immigration. Kelly later denied making such a statement and claimed he and the president had “an incredibly candid and strong relationship,” according to NBC News.

Kelly faced criticism earlier this year after two of former staff secretary Rob Porter’s ex-wives went public with allegations of domestic abuse. Porter denied the allegations, but submitted his resignation Feb. 7 amid public outcry.

>> White House ‘could have done better’ handling Rob Porter allegations, spokesman says

In a statement released after the revelations first surfaced, Kelly stood behind Porter, who he called “a man of true integrity and honor.” He appeared to walk back his comments in a subsequent statement, amid criticism based on reports that the White House knew of the allegations long before Porter’s resignation.

The allegations held up the security clearance process for Porter, who was only ever issued a temporary clearance. Amid the media furor, Kelly moved to end or downgrade temporary clearances for all staff members, including some, like Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, who had regular access to top secret U.S. documents.

Kelly joined the Trump Administration as the secretary of Homeland Security in January 2017. Six months later, he was appointed as chief of staff after Trump’s first chief of staff, Reince Preibus, submitted his resignation amid tension with Trump.

>> Reince Priebus out: Trump names new chief of staff

Reuters reported in February that Kelly and Trump national security adviser H.R. McMaster were considering leaving their posts because of the way they were treated by Trump in public.

Unidentified sources told Reuters that "Kelly and McMaster have chafed at Trump’s treatment of them in public and in private, which both at times have considered insulting."

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

3 cited for beheading snowman decoration

Three people in Wisconsin have been cited for decapitating a snowman decoration in the front yard of a private residence.

Tony Harper of South Milwaukee was home Saturday evening when he heard a "loud crunch." Looking out at his front yard, Harper noticed his 4-foot snowman decoration was ripped in half.

"I happened to look outside and there was a woman walking down the road with my snowman," he told WISN-TV.

It wasn't the entire snowman, however -- the woman was carrying just the head.

Harper went outside and confronted the woman, who was with two other people.

"I was like so, 'are you going to bring that back or are you taking that as a souvenir?'" Harper told WDJT-TV.

The woman apologized and put the snowman head down, according to a police report. When Harper asked if anyone in the group would pay for the damage, the man got confrontational.

Police responded and identified the trio as having been at a bar earlier in the night. Michael and Melisa Koehler and Sara Alswager were cited by South Milwaukee police for damage to property.

The case took a surprising turn when the three vandals later showed up at Harper's door.

"They came over the next morning, and they apologized, which I was kind of surprised about," he said. "And they gave us $50 to replace it."

Harper said he understands people make mistakes. He's since replaced the headless snowman with one that he hopes stays intact.

Amazon employee accused of stealing $4,000 in items, shipping empty boxes, deputies say

An Amazon employee is accused of taking $4,000 worth of customer’s items and gift cards then shipping empty boxes to them, deputies say. 

>> Read more trending news 

Elvis Edgardo Soto, 20, took items including several iPhone cases, screen protectors, eyebrow pomade and a toy pony, while he worked at an Amazon fulfillment center, according to the Orange County Sheriff’s Office.

An employee became suspicious when gift cards were redeemed six hours after they were issued. Soto was linked to multiple suspicious redemptions. He told investigators he would keep the items he wanted and then send out empty boxes.

Soto was arrested Tuesday and charged with felony third-degree grand theft. He was released after posting $500 bond. 

Amazon said it reimbursed customers who received empty packages. The company also said it no longer employed Soto.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

$300,000 missing after truck spilled money on New Jersey highway

Nearly $300,000 is missing after two bags of cash fell from a Brinks armored truck onto a New Jersey highway Thursday morning, according to East Rutherford. 

>> Read more trending news

An investigation by police determined two plastics bags – one with $370,000 and another with $140,000 – had fallen through an open door. Police said a malfunction caused the door to become unsecured

The bags opened up when they fell off the truck, causing money to rain down on the highway. 

People stopped their cars in the middle of the roadway and got out to stuff their pockets with cash, leading to multiple crashes. Others helped Brinks workers collect the money. 

Police said the Brinks workers were able to recover $205,375 from the highway. 

Five people later helped police recover an additional $11,090.

As of now, $293,535 is still missing. 

Police are asking anyone with video or pictures of people collecting cash on the highway to contact them at 201-435-0165.

Police said they’re not looking to charge anybody, they’re just looking to get the money back to Brinks.

Miss USA apologizes for controversial comments made in Instagram video

Miss USA has apologized for comments she made about fellow Miss Universe contestants that sparked controversy online.

In a live Instagram video posted Wednesday, 24-year-old contestant Sarah Rose Summers can be heard saying that Miss Vietnam, H'Hen Nie, is “so cute and she pretends to know so much English and then you ask her a question after having a whole conversation with her and she (nods and smiles)," reported CNN.

Miss Colombia, Valeria Morales, and Miss Australia, Francesca Hung, appear alongside Summers in the video. The three are in Thailand for the Miss Universe pageant, set to take place Sunday in Bangkok.

"Can you imagine? Francesca (Miss Australia) said that would be so isolating, and I said yes and just confusing all the time," Summers said in the same video. "Poor Cambodia."

Summers' comments drew criticism on social media, with some calling her "xenophobic" and "ignorant."

"U don’t deserve to represent miss USA," wrote one Twitter user, @yuthnita.

"You are a lame image of bigotry," tweeted user @AlexisBetito.

Summers posted an apology Friday to her Instagram account.

"In a moment where I intended to admire the courage of a few of my sisters, I said something that I now realize can be perceived as not respectful, and I apologize. My life, friendships, and career revolve around me being a compassionate and empathetic woman. I would never intend to hurt another. I am grateful for opportunities to speak with Nat, Miss Cambodia, and H’Hen, Miss Vietnam, directly about this experience. These are the moments that matter most to me," Summers said.

The post was accompanied by a photo of Miss Universe contestants hugging each other.

Miss Cambodia, Rern Sinat, posted the same photo to Instagram on Friday. The post included the caption: "My friendship and sisterhood in Miss Universe will forever be kept in my heart. Our experience have given us the opportunity to show and learn different cultures. I speak the language of love, respect and understanding. I love you my sisters."

Johnson & Johnson stock tanks amid report company knew since ‘70s its baby powder contained asbestos 

Johnson & Johnson has promoted its baby powder as a safe and gentle product for use on babies and adults even as the company knew for decades that the product contains carcinogens, according to an investigation by Reuters.

>> Read more trending news 

Company reports, internal memos as well as trial and deposition documents indicate that at least from 1971 to the early 2000s, Johnson & Johnson’s raw talc and finished powders sometimes tested positive for small amounts of asbestos, Reuters reported.

The documents were released as part of a lawsuit by plaintiffs claiming the product can be linked to ovarian cancer. Some documents indicate consulting labs found asbestos in the company’s talc as early as 1957 and 1958.

The scathing report drove stock in the company to fall more than 9 percent Friday, its worst sell-off in 16 years, the Associated Press reported

Johnson & Johnson called the report “one-sided, false and inflammatory.”

“Studies of more than 100,000 men and women show that talc does not cause cancer or asbestos-related disease,” the company said in a statement. “Thousands of independent tests by regulators and the world’s leading labs prove our baby powder has never contained asbestos.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Mueller investigation: Special counsel files rebuttal to Michael Flynn sentencing memo

Special counsel Robert Mueller urged a judge to reject arguments made by attorneys for President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn ahead of his sentencing next week, writing Friday in a court filing that, “the seriousness of the defendant’s offense cannot be called into question.”

>> Read more trending news

“The Court should reject his attempt to minimize it,” Mueller wrote in a reply to a sentencing memo filed Tuesday by attorneys for Flynn. "Nothing about the way the interview was arranged or conducted caused the defendant to make false statements to the FBI on January 24."

>> Who is Michael Flynn? Things to know about Trump’s former national security adviser

In a memo filed Tuesday, Flynn’s attorneys said that unlike other defendants in the Russia probe, he wasn't warned in advance that it was a crime to lie to the FBI. The filing stopped short of saying FBI agents were looking to trap Flynn, but it did highlight that they went into the interview with a plan not to correct him if he strayed from what they knew of his calls with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

>> Mueller investigation: Report recommends little to no jail time for Michael Flynn

Mueller said Friday that Flynn “chose to make false statements about his communications with the Russian ambassador weeks before the FBI interview, when he lied about that topic to the media, the incoming Vice President, and other members of the Presidential Transition Team.”

Flynn resigned from his post in the Trump administration in February 2017, after serving just 24 days in office. White House officials said at the time that Flynn misled Vice President Mike Pence about conversations he had with Kislyak.

He pleaded guilty in December 2017 to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russian officials and agreed to fully cooperate with Mueller’s team. 

>> Mueller investigation: Michael Flynn requests no jail time in court filing before sentencing

Flynn’s attorneys asked a judge to sentence him to probation and community service in lieu of a prison sentence in the 178-page memo filed Wednesday. Prosecutors for Mueller’s office last week asked that Flynn serve little to no jail time in light of his cooperation with authorities. Prosecutors said Flynn has met with investigators 19 times in relation to three separate investigations, including Mueller’s probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

Flynn is scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 18 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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