ROCKWALL, Texas (AP) — A former justice of the peace in North Texas was sentenced to death Wednesday for killing a district attorney's wife in what prosecutors described as a revenge plot that left three people dead.
Eric Williams was convicted Dec. 4 of capital murder in the 2013 death of Cynthia McLelland, who was slain along with her husband, Kaufman County District Attorney Mike McLelland, in their home east of Dallas.
Williams has been charged, but not tried, in the deaths of Mike McLelland and prosecutor Mark Hasse.
The 47-year-old Williams lost his job and law license after McLelland and Hasse prosecuted him for theft and burglary.
Prosecutors say that conviction pushed Williams over the edge. During his trial, they presented evidence that he paid a friend to rent a storage unit where he kept more than 30 guns, police tactical gear and a getaway car.
Authorities say a masked Williams gunned down Hasse in January 2013 outside a courthouse building in broad daylight.
Prosecutors say a "masked assassin" whom they identified as Williams approached Hasse as he walked to work and the two shoved each other. They said Hasse pleaded and yelled "I'm sorry" before he was repeatedly shot.
Two months later, Williams stormed into the McLellands' rural home and shot both the district attorney and his wife more than a dozen times each, according to evidence at his trial.
Williams' wife, Kim, is accused of helping him carry out the slayings and testified before closing arguments Tuesday that she drove the getaway car in Hasse's death and helped her husband dispose of weapons used in the shooting of the McClellands.
She said Eric Williams had a hit list that included former state District Judge Glen Ashworth and Kaufman County District Attorney Erleigh Norville Wiley.
Prosecutor Bill Wirskye called Williams a "ruthless killing machine."
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama declared the end of America's "outdated approach" to Cuba Wednesday, announcing the re-establishment of diplomatic relations as well as economic and travel ties with the communist island — a historic shift in U.S. policy that aims to bring an end to a half-century of Cold War enmity.
"Isolation has not worked," Obama said in remarks from the White House. "It's time for a new approach."
As Obama spoke, Cuban President Raul Castro was addressing his own nation from Havana. Obama and Castro spoke by phone for more than 45 minutes Tuesday, the first substantive presidential-level discussion between the U.S. and Cuba since 1961.
Wednesday's announcement followed more than a year of secret talks between the U.S. and Cuba. The re-establishment of diplomatic ties was accompanied by Cuba's release of American Alan Gross and the swap of a U.S. spy held in Cuba for three Cubans jailed in Florida.
Associated Press writers Jessica Gresko, Jack Gillum and Ken Dilanian contributed to this report.
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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Los Angeles prosecutors on Tuesday declined to file any charges against Bill Cosby after a woman recently claimed the comedian molested her around 1974.
The rejection of a child sexual abuse charge by prosecutors came roughly 10 days after the woman, Judy Huth, met with Los Angeles police detectives for 90 minutes.
The Los Angeles County district attorney's office rejected filing a misdemeanor charge of annoying or molesting a child under the age of 18 because the statute of limitations had passed.
Days before Huth spoke to police, she accused Cosby in a civil lawsuit of forcing her to perform a sex act on him in a bedroom of the Playboy Mansion when she was 15 years old. Cosby's attorney said that Huth attempted to extort $250,000 from the comedian before she sued and that she'd attempted to sell her story to a tabloid a decade ago.
Cosby is seeking a dismissal of Huth's lawsuit, arguing it is blocked by the statute of limitations.
Huth told police that Cosby molested her and that she had no further contact with him after the incident, according to a summary of her allegations included with the prosecutor's decision.
In rejecting the case, prosecutors evaluated the charge Cosby would have faced in 1974. Prosecutors took into account legislative changes that extend the statute of limitations for certain crimes but found no way that Cosby could be legally prosecuted.
The statute of limitations for filing a misdemeanor case is one year; the statute of limitations for a felony sex crime committed in 1974 was three years, according to the prosecutors' analysis.
"It is our understanding that the decision not to prosecute was based on the statute of limitations and not on the merits of Ms. Huth's claims," Huth's attorney, Gloria Allred, wrote in a statement.
Cosby's attorney, Marty Singer, did not immediately return a message seeking comment.
Huth is one of at least 15 women who have come forward since early November with claims that Cosby sexually assaulted them decades ago. Most of the women say the comedian drugged them before he assaulted them. She is one of two women suing Cosby; a second woman is suing for defamation.
Cosby has never been charged in connection with any of the allegations. A 2005 lawsuit by a Pennsylvania woman was settled before it went to trial.
Since the allegations emerged, Cosby's career has unraveled, with nearly a dozen performances canceled in his ongoing standup comedy tour. NBC has said it will not move forward with a Cosby sitcom that was under development, and Netflix indefinitely postponed a special that was set to premiere last month.
Cosby's attorneys have denied some of the allegations and dismissed others as decades old and "discredited."
Anthony McCartney can be reached at http://twitter.com/mccartneyAP
PENNSBURG, Pa. (AP) — An ex-Marine's suicide ended a violent rampage that left his ex-wife and five of her relatives dead a week after he lost a custody battle.
Bradley Stone was found dead of self-inflicted stab wounds Tuesday following a killing spree in suburban Philadelphia. Residents and officials were relieved it was over but mourned the loss of so many lives.
The disabled 35-year-old spared his two young daughters, but authorities said he broke into three homes early Monday and killed his ex-wife; her mother and grandmother; and her sister, brother-in-law and 14-year-old niece. A 17-year-old nephew survived by barricading himself in the third floor of his home, but not before he suffered a skull fracture.
Stone's body was found the next afternoon a half-mile from his home in Pennsburg, about 30 miles northwest of Philadelphia. The discovery ended a day-and-a-half manhunt that brought back memories of the recent 48-day search in the Pocono Mountains for survivalist Eric Frein, charged with killing a state trooper and critically wounding another during an ambush.
"There's no reason, no valid excuse, no justification for snuffing out these six innocent lives and injuring another child," Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman said. "This is just a horrific tragedy that our community has had to endure. We're really numb from what we've had to go through over the past two days."
Stone's former wife, 33-year-old Nicole Stone, was found shot twice in the face in her apartment Monday after a neighbor heard glass breaking and saw Stone fleeing around 5 a.m. with their daughters. The girls were later found safe with Stone's neighbors.
Her adult relatives were fatally shot. The teenagers were slashed and suffered blows to their heads. Ferman said the nephew was in "very serious" condition.
Stone and his ex-wife had been fighting over their children's custody since she filed for divorce in 2009. He filed an emergency request for custody this month but a judge rejected his petition on Dec. 9, Ferman said.
"It's a relief that they found him," said Nicole Stone's neighbor Dale Shupe. "Now we know he's not out trying to do more harm to anybody else."
As the manhunt dragged on and SWAT teams swarmed through neighborhoods, at least five schools within a few miles of Stone's home closed, and others were locked down. Veterans' hospitals and other places tightened security. The schools were expected to reopen Wednesday.
Candy Rumford, whose family lives near where authorities found Stone's body, described SWAT helicopters "hanging above our house, hovering right over here in these woods."
Neighbor Alyssa Hettrick said the whole town had been on lockdown. She said authorities had tried to evacuate her home but her family has three dogs and decided to stay.
"So, it's kind of a huge shock to know that he was there all night while we were inside," she said.
Neighbors said Nicole Stone would sometimes ask her apartment complex's maintenance staff to go in and check her place first because she was afraid he might be lying in wait.
"She would tell anybody who would listen that he was going to kill her and that she was really afraid for her life," said Evan Weron, a neighbor in Harleysville.
Stone was in the Marines from 2002 to 2008. His specialty was listed as "artillery meteorological man."
At a 2011 child support hearing, he said that Veterans Affairs deemed him permanently disabled and that he was collecting VA benefits, according to court documents. The VA had no comment Tuesday.
Ferman said Stone sometimes used a cane or walker. She said she had no evidence he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. Stone faced several driving-under-the-influence charges, and Ferman said he was undergoing treatment through veterans' court as part of his sentence.
Stone remarried last year and had an infant son. Neither his wife nor the son was injured. Nicole Stone became engaged over the summer, neighbors said.
Associated Press writer Michael Rubinkam in Pennsburg contributed to this report.
LOS ANGELES (AP) — The latest storm in a string of wet weather hammered Southern California overnight, unleashing heavy rain and triggering a mudslide that blocked a freeway and stranded motorists early Wednesday.
Flash flood watches remained in effect for many areas as the system moved inland after bringing fierce thunderstorms to the greater Los Angeles area and several inches of snow to the mountains.
A torrent of mud and rocks covered part of State Route 91 in Orange County before dawn. Cars and trucks were stuck for about 90 minutes, but no injuries were reported.
"It's pretty bad. It's about 2 feet deep," Jeff Dean, a motorcyclist who was stranded, told KABC-TV about the mud on the roadway.
The eastbound lanes near Corona were expected to remain closed well into the rush hour commute.
The second of back-to-back storms prompted temporary evacuations Tuesday night in Camarillo Springs, which was hit by mudslides last week. This time, the wildfire-scarred hillsides held above the community about 50 miles northwest of Los Angeles. Forecasters warned of possible debris flows in areas that had been burned in recent fires.
Late Tuesday, torrential rain in Carson and Torrance flooded streets and left about a half-dozen cars stranded. But the downpour and the danger ended quickly, and there were no reports of injuries.
Rain was expected to taper off later Wednesday after dumping about an inch in the Los Angeles basin, and up to 2 inches in the mountains and foothills. Between and 3 to 6 inches of snow was expected above 6,000 feet.
The state has been hit hard by rain and snow over the past week, but the steady downpours have not ended a three-year drought.
This latest storm moved south after sweeping across Northern California, creating a chaotic evening commute in and around San Francisco.
Up to 7 inches of snow was expected in the Central Sierra, with wind gusts of up to 45 mph possible.
Recent storms have deluged the state. Last week's wind and rainfall caused widespread flooding and power outages in Northern California, including in downtown San Francisco.
Another weather system came through Monday, but forecasters say this week's storms aren't nearly as powerful as the one last week.
ATLANTA (AP) — Atlanta city officials are reminding business owners to renew their licenses before an approaching deadline.
City officials said in a statement Tuesday that business owners have until Feb. 15 to file their renewal applications. Businesses that fail to renew their licenses will be penalized with a $500 fine and city officials say additional penalties are assessed to business owners who fail to renew their licenses by April 1.
Officials say some business owners may renew their licenses online. However some businesses including parking garages, attorneys, legal services, insurance accounts and others are not eligible to renew their licenses online.