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Sunday
Oct152017

Winds ease, rain possible, offering hope in California wildfires

David McNew/Getty Images(SANTA ROSA, Calif.) -- For the nearly 11,000 firefighters battling the towering flames from now 15 wildfires around California, there is finally hope in a chance of rain.

Despite one less fire, the bone-dry conditions and gusty Diablo Winds still haven't receded, forcing officials to not downgrade the "high fire danger" status, CAL Fire Deputy Incident Commander Chief Barry Biermann said during a press conference in Napa County on Sunday.

As Bierman gave the fire prognosis for the charred region, he stressed that we are "not out of the woods yet," but settled many questions by saying there's been "tremendous progress."

These low humidity, gusty wind conditions continue to mire first responders engaged in the fight to defeat the blazes that have turned to ash so much of the rolling hills that compromise the state's prized wine country.

Meanwhile, emergency vehicles have since returned to Santa Rosa Police headquarters so crews can recuperate, and forecasters predict that Santa Rosa could get a dose of rain by Thursday.

As Northern California's fires get tamed and weather brings possible precipitation, Southern California is seeing Santa Ana winds starting to gain strength.

As a result, officials have placed the region 300 miles south under extreme fire weather warnings as well.

The glimmer of hope comes after emergency personnel carried out mandatory evacuations in Northern California on Saturday and as firefighters fought what had been 16 large wildfires around the state that authorities say left hundreds missing and leveled entire neighborhoods.

On Saturday night, officials announced the death toll increased from 38 to 40.

The blazes -- among the deadliest in the state's history -- have charred more than 217,000 acres of land, forced about 75,000 residents to evacuate and damaged or destroyed at least 5,700 homes and businesses, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Santa Rosa, a city of 175,000 in Sonoma County, was among the hardest-hit areas, with at least 2,834 homes, businesses and other buildings destroyed there. Critical infrastructure was also lost in the flames, including the city's fire station, according to Santa Rosa Mayor Chris Coursey.

With firefighters stretched thin throughout the Golden State, hundreds of additional fire engines and personnel have been requested from other states to help relieve crews on the front lines and to prepare for the possibility of more blazes, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Most of the fires ignited on the night of Oct. 8 or during the early morning hours of Oct. 9. Since then, several blazes have merged while some have been completely contained. The cause of the wildfires is still under investigation.

Here's a roundup of the largest fires still threatening California:

Central LNU Complex

The so-called Tubbs, Pocket and Nuns/Adobe/Norbbom/Pressley/Patrick fires are considered branches of one giant inferno — collectively known as the Central LNU Complex — in Napa and Sonoma counties. Nearly 34,000 structures are threatened, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Additional mandatory evacuation orders went into effect Saturday and Sunday morning for parts of Sonoma Valley and Santa Rosa.

Altogether, the fires have destroyed 2,017 structures and damaged 63 others.

Tubbs fire: 35,270 acres burned in Napa County; 44 percent contained as of Sunday morning; at least 571 structures destroyed; responsible for a majority of the fire-related deaths this week.

Pocket fire: 11,246 acres acres burned in Sonoma County; 25 percent contained as of Sunday morning.

Nuns/Adobe/Norbbom/Pressley/Patrick fires: 46,104 acres burned in Sonoma and Napa counties; 25 percent contained as of Sunday morning.

Southern LNU Complex

The Atlas fire makes up another huge blaze, known as the Southern LNU Complex, in Napa and Solano counties that threatens 5,000 structures, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Atlas fire: 50,383 acres burned in Napa and Solano counties; 45 percent contained as of Sunday morning; 234 structures destroyed; 30 structures damaged.

Mendocino Lake Complex

The Redwood/Potter fires and the Sulphur fire make up a giant blaze, known as the Mendocino Lake Complex, in Lake and Mendocino counties that collectively threatens 1,000 structures, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Altogether, the two fires have destroyed 544 structures and damaged 40 structures while threatening another 1,000.

Redwood/Potter fires: 34,000 acres burned in Mendocino County; 30 percent contained as of Sunday morning.

Sulphur fire: 2,207 acres burned in Lake County; 70 percent contained as of Sunday morning.

Wind Complex

The Cascade, La Porte and Lobo fires make up one a blaze in Butte, Nevada and Yuba counties, collectively known as the Wind Complex, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Altogether, the three fires have destroyed 365 structures and damaged 57 others.

Cascade fire: 10,120 acres burned in Yuba County; 75 percent contained as of Sunday morning.

La Porte fire: 6,151 acres burned in Butte County; 80 percent contained as of Sunday morning.

Lobo fire: 821 acres burned in Nevada County; 93=6 percent contained as of Sunday morning.

Other major fires

Canyon 2 fire: 9,217 acres burned in Southern California's Orange County; 70 percent contained as of Saturday morning.

Cherokee fire: 8,417 acres burned in Butte County; 75 percent contained as of Friday night.

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Sunday
Oct152017

Manhunt underway after two 'dangerous' prisoners escape from Missouri jail

ABCNews.com(CARUTHERSVILLE, Mo.) -- A statewide manhunt is underway in Missouri after two prisoners, accused of violent crimes, escaped from jail just before 2 a.m. on Sunday, according to local authorities.

The two escaped from the Pemiscot County Jail through an air duct, arrived at a room to leave and then set off an alarm before jumping over a fence behind the building, Caruthersville, Missouri, Police Chief Tony Jones told ABC News. Surveillance footage in which they were last seen shows the pair heading towards the Mississippi River.

Police are calling the two "dangerous."

One of the escapees, William Carter, 27, is facing first degree murder charges. Investigators allege that he purposely ran down his estranged wife and a man with his car, killing both of them.

The other, Joseph Latamondeer, 41, was being held on several felony charges including an alleged kidnapping related to a violent domestic assault case.

Both were due to appear in court on Monday.

Captain Michael Coleman of the Pemiscot County Sheriff's Office told ABC News that authorities believe the two are still in the area. While the two are still at large, a search team, with dogs in tow, is currently out looking for them.

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Sunday
Oct152017

Family dog found tail wagging after wine country inferno 

Jack Weaver(SANTA ROSA, Calif.) -- When one of Northern California's wildfires began tearing through a Santa Rosa neighborhood Kathy Weaver saw the flames engulfing their house and had to flee with the nothing but a nightgown.

She left behind everything, including her beloved 9-year-old Bernese Mountain dog Izzy.

"In the chaos of trying to escape, my parents' dog Izzy ran from them," Beckyjean Widen, Kathy's daughter, posted on Facebook. "My mom couldn't chase after her without risking her own life."

She added that her mother drove to safety through "walls of flames and across a burning wooden bridge" to stay alive.

The loss to her family's home was nothing compared to leaving behind their other family member.

"They lost everything, but my mom was most devastated about leaving Izzy," Widen added on the Facebook post.

So when her brother Jack Weaver and Widen's husband Patrick returned to the ruins expecting to recover Izzy's remains -- they disregarded police orders to steer clear and breached the barricade to take a three-mile hike, according to the Facebook post.

"There's so much smoke I can't show you the view," Weaver is heard saying in a video on the post.

Their effort reaped an incredible discovery.

Weaver recorded his walk along the paved driveway and showed how rows of vineyards appeared to remain perfectly green and unscathed, while a tractor was also spared.

Then as Weaver's breathing intensified, he and his brother's whistling and clapping became exaltation.

Out of the shrubs and cemented rock steps 30 feet away came a healthy and happy Izzy.

"Izzy here! Izzy," he said in the Facebook video. "Hey baby!"

"We didn’t expect to see her," Weaver said in an interview that aired on "Good Morning America" Sunday.

The find left Weaver grateful.

"[We were] praying she would be there," he said.

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Sunday
Oct152017

Hero dog protected goats, wild deer as wildfire 'decimated' farm

David McNew/Getty Images(SANTA ROSA, Calif.) -- Roland Hendel and his family had just moments to escape the firestorm bearing down on their Sonoma County home.

But despite "exploding propane tanks, twisting metal, and the hot swirling winds," one of their beloved dogs refused to come with them. Instead, Odin, a Great Pyrenees, stayed with the family's eight "bottle-fed rescue goats" as the family and Odin's sister Tessa fled.

Hendel and his family were certain Odin and the goats were gone.

"Hours later when we had found relative safety we cried for Odin and our goats," Hendel wrote on the family's YouCaring crowdfunding page. "I was sure I had sentenced them to a horrific and agonizing death."

Days later, when it was safe for the Hendels to return to their charred home, they found "a burned, battered, and weakened Odin surrounded by his eight goats, and several small deer who had come to him for protection and safety," Hendel wrote.

Odin's now on the mend after his ordeal, but challenges remain for the Hendel family.

The blazes engulfing the area are among the deadliest in the state's history according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, charring more than 214,000 acres, forcing 100,000 residents to evacuate and damaging or destroying at least 5,700 homes and businesses -- including the Hendel's property.

All of the family's structures "were decimated, including the barn we had lovingly rebuilt," and the pumphouse, meaning no shelter or fresh water supply for the animals.

The Hendels are now racing to rebuild before winter hits so that Odin’s “bravery and sacrifice are not in vain.”

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Sunday
Oct152017

27-year-old victim of Las Vegas shooting wakes up from coma, fundraiser held

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A fundraiser was held Saturday night in Maryland to help pay for the mounting medical bills for a 27-year-old woman who on Friday night woke up and took her first steps after being in coma since being injured in the Las Vegas mass shooting earlier this month.

A family spokesperson wrote on a Go FundMe page Friday set up for Tina Frost, that she had taken three steps to a chair, and three steps back to bed, with the assistance of nurses. The spokesperson also wrote that Frost breathed on her own for six hours.

Frost, a certified public accountant with Ernst & Young now living in San Diego, was shot in the head while attending the Route 91 Harvest festival in Las Vegas with her boyfriend and co-workers, when gunman Stephen Paddock fired into the crowd of festival-goers from a room at the Mandalay Bay. The bullet pierced the frontal lobes of her brain before ricocheting, landing in her right eye. Fifty-eight people were killed in the massacre, and nearly 500 people were injured.

"Today has also been a big day for our TT - she is now waking up!" the spokesperson wrote. "She opens her left eye just a lil and looks all around the room at us, taps her feet whenever music is playing, continues to squeeze our hands, and even gives [boyfriend] Austin [Hughes] a thumbs up when asked. She sometimes taps to music and also took her first steps today with the assistance of the nurses - 3 steps to the chair and 3 steps back to the bed."

The Go FundMe post continues, "She's obviously anxious to get her wobble back on. She also breathed on her own for a full 6 hours! We are so proud of our Tina, and everyone is amazed at every single movement she makes. EY San Diego sent a colorful RARE Science teddy bear that she hugs and pats on the back to show us she likes him :). The Jabbawockeez (won America’s Best Dance Crew) paid her a special visit today in her room and they also put on a little show for the hospital."

In terms of Frost's next steps, the spokesperson writes, "The doctors have been talking about Tina's next steps and are discussing other hospitals that will have all the specialists she'll need during her long road to recovery. She will be moving ICU to ICU, so the whole team will be on track with her recovery. Dr. Blum, Tina’s Neurosurgeon here at Sunrise is making sure that the facility Tina will be at next meets all the requirements she will need, both short term and long term and all the surgeries she will have over who knows how long. We'll know more soon about where we will be next. Thanks for all the thoughts and prayers!"

The Go FundMe campaign as of Sunday morning had raised nearly $540,000, far surpassing its goal of $50,000.

According to ABC affiliate WJLA, dozens of people attended the fundraiser Saturday at Molly's Irish Pub in Crofton, Maryland, organized by Frost's high school friends Tara Beavers and Ali Shomper.

As part of the fundraiser, a golf bag and several other items were auctioned off.

"We just love her. She's a great person. We want to her help her out any way we can. We can't wait for her to get better," Beavers said, reported WJLA.

"Were happy with the turn out tonight," Shomper added at the fundraiser. "Every little bit counts. You know the bills are going to high. This is a great for us to pitch in."

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Saturday
Oct142017

Alumni collecting Halloween costumes for students affected by Hurricane Irma

Stephenie Fenton(MARATHON, Fla.) -- Former Marathon, Florida, residents are returning to their community after it was ravaged by Hurricane Irma in hopes of ensuring children there are able to celebrate Halloween.

Five alumni from Marathon High School -- Krystal Langley, Stephenie Fenton, Philip Augustine, Vivi Mira-Culmer, Johnny Moses and Tracy Garcia -- have banded together to create MM50 Relief Project, Inc., a non-profit organization dedicated to helping rebuild the town.

It began with Langley, class of 1990, who started collecting supplies and toiletries the day after Hurricane Irma made landfall last month, the Coconut Creek, Florida resident told ABC News.

"Since the hurricane missed us, I realized that my neighbors and my surrounding communities had probably gone out to buy hurricane supplies that they weren't going to use," she explained.

She then told neighbors and friends via social media that she'd love to "collect all those unused hurricane relief supplies" to give to whose who really need them in Marathon.

After Langley, 44, began her efforts, her classmates from Marathon High School, who had also thought about ways to give back to their hard-hit community, wanted to join her.

They then "joined forces," Fenton, 43, told ABC News.

"It's better for the five of us to work together instead of doing competing efforts," she said.

With Halloween coming up, the alumni didn't want students in their childhood community to feel left out. Especially since Halloween is celebrated so widely in Marathon.

The annual Stanley Switlik Annual Halloween Carnival, held in the elementary school of the same name, kicks off the Halloween season every year. And this year, despite the hurricane, it will kick off festivities on Oct. 22, parent teacher organization president Ashley Keeney told ABC News.

"Halloween is huge down here," she said.

Keeney, whose daughter attends Switlik Elementary School in Marathon, is now partnering with the MM50 Relief Project to ensure every student has a Halloween costume this year.

"The reason why so much emphasis was put on [the Halloween festival] is those kids have been through so much and they really need a sense of normalcy at this point," Langley said.

"You get kind of emotional thinking about it, but it really is our home," Augustine added. "Once the storm went through and we had a chance to digest what really went on down there, there wasn't a question in my mind ... that we had to do what we could do to help."

So far, the organization has collected nearly 200 costumes and more than 650 pounds of candy to hand out to children.

Keeney, whose home was also damaged at the hands of Hurricane Irma, said this year they won't be charging residents to attend the festival. Previously, the festival was the school's biggest fundraiser, used to support teachers and offset costs for field trips and student activities, she said.

"However this year, since everyone's been severely impacted by Irma we didn’t want to charge anybody," she said. "We just want people to take a break from cleaning up and rebuilding."

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Saturday
Oct142017

Puerto Rico raises Hurricane Maria death toll to 48

Mario Tama/Getty Images(SAN JUAN) -- Hurricane Maria has been blamed for the deaths of at least 48 people in Puerto Rico since it roared ashore last month and knocked out power there, officials said.

Authorities there raised the death toll by 3 on Saturday based on a review of medical records. The number could increase as the medical examiner continues to review all deaths that occurred in hospitals on the U.S. island territory around the time that the powerful hurricane hit, according to Puerto Rico's Secretary of Public Security Hector Pesquera.

"We are reviewing each and every case to see if the storm was a direct or indirect cause," Pesquera told reporters, following a news conference in the San Juan. "I doubt seriously that we will have any direct at this juncture."

Maria made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane in Puerto Rico on Sept. 20, turning roads into rivers and ripping roofs from homes.

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello said about 85 percent of the island was still without power Saturday. Meanwhile, 42 percent of cell phone customers in Puerto Rico don't have service and 36 percent of residents still don't have access to safe drinking water.

The goal is to restore electricity for half the island by mid-November and for 95 percent by mid-December, Rossello said.

"These are aggressive goals," the governor told a news conference Saturday.

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Saturday
Oct142017

Girl dies after falling from cruise ship's interior deck to one below in Miami

Photodisc/Thinkstock(MIAMI) -- An 8-year-old girl died Saturday after falling from one deck in a cruise ship's interior atrium to a lower deck, officials said.

The girl, whose name has not been released, fell on the Carnival Glory cruise ship while it was docked at the Dante B. Fascell Port of Miami on Saturday morning, police said.

Miami Fire Rescue personnel responded to the scene around 8:15 a.m. ET and provided emergency care to the child. The girl was subsequently taken to the nearby Ryder Trauma Center, where she died from her injuries, according to the Miami-Dade Police Department.

Erika Benitez of Miami-Dade Fire Rescue told ABC News the girl was in critical condition when she arrived at the hospital.

It's unclear what led the child to fall. Homicide detectives are investigating the incident, police said.

Carnival Cruise Lines said the ship's command immediately contacted police after she fell, and transported her to the ship's medical center.

“Our most heartfelt care and concern is with the family at this very difficult time,” Carnival Cruise Lines spokesperson Jennifer de la Cruz said in a statement Saturday.

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Friday
Oct132017

Dazed Californians brace for more 'extreme fire behavior' as death toll rises to 34

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(SANTA ROSA, Calif.) -- Firefighters are facing dry and windy conditions as they battle California’s deadliest wildfires that authorities say have killed at least 34 people, left hundreds missing and devastated entire neighborhoods in California.

Intensified by strong winds and low humidity, the 17 wildfires as of today have charred more than 221,754 acres of land, forced more than 20,000 residents to evacuate and damaged or destroyed at least 3,500 homes and other structures, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

The decreased number of blazes from 21 Thursday reflects the merging of several fires while three have been completely contained.

Santa Rosa, a city in Sonoma County known for its wineries, was among the hardest hit areas, with at least 2,834 homes destroyed. Critical infrastructure was also lost in the flames, including the city's fire station, Santa Rosa Mayor Chris Coursey said at a news conference Thursday afternoon.

The cause of the fires is still under investigation.

More than half the deaths from the fires occurred in Sonoma County alone, authorities said. Taken together, the death toll exceeds the number of fatalities in the 1933 Griffith Park Fire in Los Angeles, the deadliest wildfire in California's history, killing 29.

Authorities said an alert system put in place gave residents ample time to evacuate and likely prevented many deaths.

"We have a subscription service where we can alert our residents, and we did that right away, trying to notify everybody where the fire was, where it was going and how fast it was going, and I think it saved a lot of lives," Sonoma County Sheriff's Sgt. Spencer Crum told ABC News in an interview Tuesday.

About 400 people, most of whom are elderly, were unaccounted for in Sonoma County as of Thursday night, according to the sheriff's office. Out of about 1,100 missing person reports that have been filed since the fires began, about 745 people have been safely located. The sheriff's office said some of the reports may be duplicates.

With mandatory evacuation orders and road closures still underway, many residents in the affected areas have been warned not to return to their homes until further notice.

California Gov. Jerry Brown has declared states of emergency for Napa, Sonoma and Yuba counties in Northern California.

"Life is more important than property," Sonoma County Sheriff Robert Giordano said at a news conference Tuesday.

Another round of gusty winds and dry air

While overall containment of the flames has increased, a large weather system moving into the region today will bring another round of gusty winds and low humidity to the state over the weekend. Gusts could reach up to 60 mph in some areas late tonight into Saturday, while daytime humidity could be as low as 10 percent.

The combination of strong winds, dry air and warm temperatures will create "critical fire weather conditions" and "contribute to extreme fire behavior," the National Weather Service warned.

Red flag warnings for gusty winds and low humidity remain in effect across the fire areas and much of northern California. The conditions will challenge the more than 8,000 firefighters working to snuff the flames and prevent new wildfires from igniting.

With firefighters stretched thin throughout the state, hundreds of additional fire engines and personnel have been requested from other states to help relieve crews on the front lines and be prepared for the possibility of more blazes, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Most of the flames ignited on the night of Oct. 8 or during the early morning hours of Oct. 9.

Here's a roundup of the largest fires still threatening California:

Central LNU Complex fires

The so-called Tubbs, Pocket, Nuns/Adobe/Norbbom, Pressley fires are considered branches of one giant inferno — collectively known as the Central LNU Complex — in Napa and Sonoma counties. Nearly 34,000 structures are threatened, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Altogether, the four fires have destroyed 1,063 structures and damaged 48 others.

  • Tubbs fire: 4,770 acres burned in Napa County; 25 percent contained as of Friday morning; at least 571 structures destroyed; responsible for a majority of the fire-related deaths this week.
  • Pocket fire: 9,996 acres burned in Sonoma County; 5 percent contained as of Friday morning.
  • Nuns/Adobe/Norbbom fires: 44,381 acres burned in Sonoma County; 5 percent contained as of Friday morning.
  • Pressley fire: 473 acres burned in Sonoma County; 10 percent contained as of Friday morning.


Southern LNU Complex fires

The Atlas and Patrick fires make up another huge blaze, known as the Southern LNU Complex, in Napa and Solano counties that collectively threatens 5,000 structures, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Altogether, the two fires have destroyed 181 structures and damaged 27 others.

  • Atlas fire: 8,228 acres burned in Napa and Solano counties; 27 percent contained as of Friday morning; at least 125 structures destroyed.
  • Patrick fire: 12,379 acres burned in Napa County; 18 percent contained as of Friday morning.


Mendocino Lake Complex fires

The Redwood/Potter fires and the Sulphur fire make up a giant blaze, known as the Mendocino Lake Complex, in Lake and Mendocino counties that collectively threatens 1,000 structures, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Altogether, the two fires have destroyed 369 structures and damaged another 43.

  • Redwood/Potter fires: 34,000 acres burned in Mendocino County; 10 percent contained as of Thursday night.
  • Sulphur fire: 2,500 acres burned in Lake County; 55 percent contained as of Thursday night.


Wind Complex fires

The Cascade, La Porte, Lobo and McCourtney fires make up one huge blaze in Butte, Nevada and Yuba counties, collectively known as the Wind Complex, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Altogether, the four fires have destroyed 366 structures and damaged 13 others.

  • Cascade fire: 10,120 acres burned in Yuba County; 55 percent contained as of Friday morning.
  • La Porte fire: 6,139 acres burned in Butte County; 45 percent contained as of Friday morning.
  • Lobo fire: 821 acres burned in Nevada County; 65 percent contained as of Friday morning.
  • McCourtney fire: 76 acres burned in Nevada County; 95 percent contained as of Friday morning.


Other major fires

  • Canyon 2 fire: 9,217 acres burned in Southern California's Orange County; 65 percent contained as of Friday morning.
  • Cherokee fire: 8,417 acres burned in Butte County; 70 percent contained as of Friday morning.

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Friday
Oct132017

Five arrested in 1983 'racially motivated' murder of 23-year-old black man in Georgia

iStock/Thinkstock(ATLANTA) -- Five people in Georgia have been arrested in connection with a "racially motivated" murder that occurred more than 30 years ago, authorities said.

The victim, Timothy Coggins, was found dead in Sunnyside, Georgia, on Oct. 9, 1983, the Spalding County Sheriff's Office said in a press release Friday. Coggins' body was found near a power line in Sunnyside Georgia after he was "brutally murdered" and abandoned, officials said.

Coggins died as a result multiple forms of trauma, according to the sheriff's office.

After his death, investigators began conducting interviews and gathering evidence in their search for Coggins' killer, but the search "went cold" until March of this year, when the new evidence came to light, causing the sheriff's office and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to re-examine the case, authorities said.

In July, investigators met with Coggins' family to brief them on the new leads. Shortly after the meeting, authorities decided to release information on the reopened case to the public to generate new leads. Original witnesses were re-interviewed, which led to the finding of new information as well.

Many of the witnesses stated that they had been "living with this information since Coggins' death but had been afraid to come forward or had not spoken of it until now," police said.

On Friday, more than 34 years after Coggins was killed, authorities arrested five people in connection with his murder. Two of the five suspects face murder charges.

The Griffin Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office has charged Frankie Gebhardt, 59, and Bill Moore Sr., 58, with murder, felony murder, aggravated assault, aggravated battery and concealing the death of another.

Sandra Bunn, 58, Lamar Bunn, 32, and Gregory Huffman, 47 were charged with obstruction. Huffman, a detention officer with the sheriff's office, has also been charged with violation of oath of office, according to authorities.

Sandra Bunn and Lamar Bunn, who works for the Milner Police Department, are mother and son, Spalding County Capt. Dwayne Jones told ABC News.

Coggins’ family thanked authorities for re-opening the investigation into his murder.

"We know that there's been tireless nights and we know that you guys have put in so many hours making sure that these people were brought to justice…'” said Coggins’ niece, Heather Coggins, according to ABC Atlanta affiliate WSB-TV. “The only unfortunate part in this is that our grandparents, Timothy Coggins’ parents, are not able to see this today."

All of the suspects who were arrested in connection with Coggins' death are white, according to authorities.

"Based on the original evidence recovered in 1983 and new evidence and interviews there is no doubt in the minds of all investigators involved that the crime was racially motivated and that if the crime happened today it would be prosecuted as a hate crime," the sheriff's office said.

The suspects are currently being processed at the Spalding County Jail, Jones said. It is unclear when they will be arraigned.

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