TIME tragedy

Police: Poison Likely Killed Utah Family of 5

Utah Five Bodies Found
The home where five Utah family members found dead in their home in Springville, Utah, on Sept. 28, 2014 Rick Bowmer—AP

Investigators found empty methadone bottles, 10 empty boxes of nighttime cold medicine and two boxes of allergy medicine in their garbage, along with a red liquid substance in Pepsi cups

(SALT LAKE CITY) — A Utah couple and their three children found dead in their home last month were likely poisoned, their bodies found together in a locked room with cups next to each of them, and empty bottles of methadone and nighttime cold medicine in a trash can.

Police in Springville aren’t saying who killed the family or whether one of the parents might have been involved. Toxicology results have not determined an exact cause of death, but search warrants obtained Wednesday say the family was likely poisoned.

Benjamin and Kristi Strack were in bed, with children ages 11 through 14 lying around them, tucked in bedding up to their necks, according to the search warrants. Kristi Strack had a red liquid coming out of her mouth.

Some of the bodies looked to have been positioned after they died Sept. 27. They were found by the couple’s older son and Kristi Strack’s mother, who said she couldn’t believe “she” would do this to the kids but wouldn’t elaborate, police wrote.

Investigators found empty methadone bottles, 10 empty boxes of nighttime cold medicine and two boxes of allergy medicine in their garbage, along with a red liquid substance in Pepsi cups. They also found a pitcher of red juice, a purple bucket with yellow liquid, a bag of marijuana and other medications, including sleeping pills.

Springville police Lt. Dave Caron said Wednesday he couldn’t comment on the search warrant or speculate about the cause of death until results of a toxicology test come back. That’s expected in late November, he said.

“Until I get those, I really don’t have anything,” he said. “I could come up with all sorts of theories, but it’s not helpful.”

The search warrant says it wasn’t normal for the children to be in their parents’ room because they have their own rooms.

Kristi Strack was last seen alive at 6 a.m. by the older son’s girlfriend, who also lives in the home. The girlfriend went back to sleep after talking with Kristi Strack, and the house was quiet when the older son and his girlfriend left the house that afternoon.

When they returned at 7 p.m. and saw the house was still quiet even though all the cars were in the driveway, they knocked on the master bedroom door. When no one answered, the couple called Kristi Strack’s mother and her friend, who helped them force it open.

Authorities have previously said the five did not die violently.

The five were identified as Benjamin Strack, 37, his wife, Kristi, 36, and three of their children: Benson, 14, Emery, 12, and Zion, 11.

Little is known about the family. A family spokesman has declined to reveal much and, at a vigil, family members declined comment.

Benjamin Strack’s former boss said he worked off-and-on for six to seven years at AK Masonry, a bricklaying company, and had borrowed money in the past. Court records show Benjamin and Kristi Strack pleaded guilty to misdemeanor forgery charges in 2008 and disorderly conduct the following year.

Springville is a city of about 30,000 near Provo, about 45 miles south of Salt Lake City.

TIME Crime

Girl Wounded in Washington School Shooting Dies

Washington Community Mourns After School Shooting Kills One, Injures 4
Members of the community and students grieve during a gathering at Marysville-Pilchuck High School on Oct. 26, 2014 in Marysville, Wash. David Ryder—Getty Images

"Gia is our beautiful daughter, and words cannot express how much we will miss her"

(MARYSVILLE, Wash.) — A 14-year-old girl who was wounded when a student opened fire inside a Washington state high school has died, raising the death toll in the shooting to three.

Gia Soriano died Sunday night, more than two days after she was shot, officials at Providence Regional Medical Center Everett said.

“We are devastated by this senseless tragedy,” her family said in a statement, read at a news conference by Dr. Joanne Roberts. “Gia is our beautiful daughter, and words cannot express how much we will miss her.”

Roberts said Gia’s family was donating her organs for transplant.

Another girl was killed Friday when a popular freshman at Marysville-Pilchuck High School north of Seattle opened fire.

The shooter, Jaylen Fryberg, died at the scene of a self-inflicted wound.

Three other students remain hospitalized, two in critical condition and one in serious condition.

Earlier Sunday, parents and students gathered in a gymnasium at the school for a community meeting, with speakers urging support and prayers and tribal members playing drums and singing songs. Fryberg was from a prominent Tulalip Indian tribes family.

Young people hugged each other and cried and speakers urged people to come together during the gathering Sunday.

“We just have to reach for that human spirit right now,” said Deborah Parker, a member of the Tulalip Indian tribes.

“Our legs are still wobbly,” said Tony Hatch, a cousin of one of the injured students. “We’re really damaged right now.”

Of the wounded students, only 14-year-old Nate Hatch showed improvement, though he remained in serious condition in intensive care at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. Fifteen-year-old Andrew Fryberg also remained in critical condition in intensive care. Both are cousins of Jaylen Fryberg.

Meanwhile, 14-year-old Shaylee Chuckulnaskit remained in critical condition in intensive care at Providence Regional Medical Center.

The girl killed Friday hasn’t been officially identified.

Fryberg died in the attack, after a first-year teacher intervened. It’s unclear if he intentionally killed himself or if the gun went off in a struggle with a teacher.

The makeshift memorial on a chain link fence by the school, which will be closed this week, kept growing Sunday. Balloons honoring the victims and the shooter adorn the fence along with flowers, stuffed toys and signs.

The close-knit community, meanwhile, on the nearby Tulalip Indian reservation struggled with the news that the shooter was a popular teenager from one of their more well-known families.

A tribal guidance counsellor said no one knows what motivated Fryberg.

“We can’t answer that question,” said Matt Remle, who has an office at Marysville-Pilchuck High School, which is 30 miles north of Seattle. “But we try to make sense of the senselessness.”

In the nearby community of Oso, where a mudslide this spring killed dozens, people planned to gather to write condolence letters and cards.

Remele said he knew Fryberg and the other students well.

“My office has been a comfort space for Native students,” he said. “Many will come by and have lunch there, including the kids involved in the shooting.”

They all were “really happy, smiling kids,” Remle said. “They were a polite group. A lot of the kids from the freshman class were close-knit. Loving.

“These were not kids who were isolated,” he said. “They had some amazing families, and have amazing families.”

These factors make the shooting that much more difficult to deal with, “Maybe it would be easier if we knew the answer,” Remle said. “But we may never know.”

Read next: Connected to Both Sides, Relatives in Washington Shooting Seek Answers

TIME shooting

Connected to Both Sides, Relatives in Washington Shooting Seek Answers

Students and community members attend a vigil at the Grove Church, after a school shooting that occurred at Marysville-Pilchuck High School earlier in the day in Marysville, Wash., on Oct. 24, 2014 Matt Mills McKnight—EPA

Compounding the tragedy of the Marysville high school shooting in Washington State on Friday is the fact that many people in the small community are connected to both the attacker and the victims.

And the young relatives of the boy who opened fire at a Washington high school on Friday — killing one student and seriously injuring four before fatally shooting himself — said they just can’t figure out why the shooter decided to do what he did.

“It’s just confusing, a lot of questions aren’t answered, I just don’t know why,” Austen James, who said he’s related to the shooter.

Read the rest of the story at NBC News

TIME Health Care

Terminally Ill Woman Explains Her Decision to Die

"I don't want to die"

A 29-year-old terminally-ill woman in Oregon defended in a new interview Tuesday her decision to forgo aggressive cancer treatment in favor of physician-assisted suicide.

“I don’t want to die,” Brittany Maynard said on CBS.”If anyone wants to hand me, like, a magical cure and save my life so that I can have children with my husband, you know, I will take them up on it.”

In the interview, Maynard’s husband and mother explain how they came to terms with Brittany’s decision.

“The idea of wanting my wife at my side forever—that was the original plan, right?” said Dan Diaz, Maynard’s husband “But the reality that I guess that feeds into the argument of quality of life versus just quantity.”

Maynard said her goal is to make it to Nov. 1 before allowing herself to die. She moved to Oregon because it allows certain types of physician assisted-suicide.

[CBS]

TIME tragedy

Co-Founder of a Refuge for Elephants Is Accidentally Killed by an Elephant

Jim Laurita
Jim Laurita, executive director and foounder of Hope Elephants, feeds a carrot to one of the two retired circus elephants at his not-for-profit rehabilitation and educational facility in Hope, Maine on Nov. 13, 2012. Robert F. Bukaty_AP

Hope Elephants, which cares for two aging former circus elephants, described James Laurita's passion for the animals as "boundless"

A retired circus elephant has unintentionally killed a founder of the shelter where it lived.

James Laurita, a veterinarian and co-founder of Hope Elephants, died on Tuesday when one of the Maine-based refuge’s elephants stepped on him, the Portland Press Herald reports. His death has been ruled a tragic accident.

“The elephant was not aggressive in any way,” Mark Belserene, administrator for the state medical examiner’s office, told the Associated Press. “It was clearly an accident.”

Officials said Laurita, 56, was found unresponsive in the nonprofit’s barn in Hope, some 87 miles northeast of Portland, Maine. He appeared to have fallen down and hit his head before the elephant stepped on him, officials said.

Laurita first worked with elephants as a juggler and elephant handler in the Carson & Barnes Circus in the 1970s and ’80s, according to the Portland Press Herald. He later opened a veterinarian practice in Camden, Maine, but in 2011 sold it to found Hope Elephants with his brother, who had been a ringmaster in the same circus. The center tended to two elephants, Rosie and Opal, with whom Laurita had worked in the traveling circus and who suffered from a range of medical problems related to their big-top careers.

Laurita lived with his family in the Portland area.

“Jim’s passion for all animals, but especially elephants, was boundless,” wrote the Hope Foundation in a statement posted to their Facebook page. “It was Jim’s ability to share that passion with all around him that not only helped to make our organization a reality, but also enriched and enhanced the lives of all those who had a chance to know Jim.”

The refuge has one other elephant handler on staff and an emergency plan is in place to ensure that the animals are cared for, according to the Portland Press Herald. Meanwhile, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration has been called to investigate the center, the newspaper said.

Hope Elephant’s Twitter account, last updated in December 2012, described the two elephants as acclimating well to their new home in Maine, munching on hay and lounging in the sunshine.

“Opal is throwing sand and trumpeting,” reads the last post. “Seems like joy from where I stand.”

TIME Accident

Chicago Church Sorry for Falling Gargoyle That Killed Mom

Chicago Cityscapes And City Views
The Second Presbyterian Church in Chicago, Illinois on April 1, 2011. Raymond Boyd—Getty Images

Second Presbyterian Church remains open

A historic Chicago church apologized Friday to the family of a woman who was killed Thursday when she was struck by crumbling pieces of a gargoyle that fell off the church steeple.

The church said it is “deeply sorry at the death,” Reuters reports. Sara Bean, 34, was walking to lunch with her fiancé Thursday when the gargoyle pieces fell on her. She was a nurse’s aide and a mother of two boys, ages 10 and 14. The fiancé, her longtime boyfriend, is the children’s father.

Second Presbyterian Church, located in the South Loop neighborhood near downtown Chicago, dates from 1873 and is one of the oldest buildings in the city. It moved quickly to put protective scaffolding around the structure, Reuters reports.

The building has no outstanding complaints but in 2011 failed an inspection due to problems that included a failure to maintain exterior walls. After repairs were made that case was dismissed. The church was made a historic landmark last year and will remain open despite the tragedy.

[Reuters]

TIME tragedy

Steven Sotloff’s Parents Deliver Statement in Wake of Son’s Killing

Arthur Sotloff, father of slain journalist Steven Sotloff, leaves their family home in Pinecrest, Florida on Sept. 2, 2014.
Arthur Sotloff, father of slain journalist Steven Sotloff, leaves their family home in Pinecrest, Florida on Sept. 2, 2014. Andrew Innerarity— Reuters

“He was no hero. He was a man who tried to find good in a world full of darkness.”

The family of Steven Sotloff released a statement Wednesday, breaking silence for the first time since the journalist was brutally murdered by militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS).

“Steve had a gentle soul that this world will be without,” said representative Barak Barfi, reading remarks from Sotloff’s parents before crowd of reporters in Miami. “But his spirit will endure in our hearts.”

The statements read by Barfi revealed intimate details about Sotloff, who wrote for TIME among other outlets. He was a fan of South Park, junk food and the Miami Dolphins, who always found time to Skype his dad about his golf games. He was also a passionate journalist who “merely wanted to give a voice to those who had none.”

“He was no hero,” Barfi said. “He was a man who tried to find good in a world full of darkness.” The family also offered condolences to the family of James Foley, another American journalist killed by ISIS terrorists. Barfi said Sotloff’s family has asked for privacy in the wake of his death before delivering an additional statement in Arabic.

Though the Sotloff family’s statement clearly expressed their grief, they noted that they will “emerge from this ordeal.”

“Our village is strong,” Barfi said. “We will not allow our enemies to hold hostage the sole [thing] which they possess, fear.”

 

TIME Crime

Boston Bombing Suspect Requests Trial Delay

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev FBI/AP

The trial is currently scheduled to begin in November

Lawyers for Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev filed a petition Friday asking a federal judge to delay the start of his bombing trial to September 1, 2015 or later. The defense argues that it needs more time to prepare given the volume of evidence to sort through and the severity of the charges.

“The trial in this case is currently scheduled to begin just 16 months after the defendant was indicted,” the petition said. “It is critically important that any trial be fair, which means giving both sides, not just the government, enough time to uncover and present all relevant evidence.”

Earlier this month defense lawyers argued that media coverage in Boston would unfairly harm Tsarnaev’s defense and asked that the trial be moved from Boston.

Tsarnev is accused of carrying out the April 15, 2013 bombing of the Boston Marathon with his brother Tamerlan. Three bystanders were killed and hundreds were injured during the bombing. A police officer died in subsequent shootings, and Tamerlan died after he was shot in the head during a manhunt for the two brothers.

The trial on charges of using a weapon of mass destruction and malicious destruction of property resulting in death is currently scheduled to begin in November.

TIME States

Woman Dies at Burning Man After Being Hit by Bus

This is a DigitalGlobe satellite image "overview" of the Burning Man Festival in Black Rock City Nevada.
This is a DigitalGlobe satellite image "overview" of the Burning Man Festival in Black Rock City Nevada. DigitalGlobe/ScapeWare3d—DigitalGlobe/Getty Images

Some 60,000 people are in the Nevada desert for the festival.

A woman died at Nevada’s Burning Man Festival after she was run over by a bus early Thursday, event organizers said.

According to a statement posted to a website affiliated with the festival, local officials say the woman is believed to have died after falling under a bus carrying festival participants. The woman has not been identified, and the Pershing County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the incident.

“This is a terrible accident,” Burning Man co-founder Marian Goodell said in a statement. “Our thoughts and prayers are with her family, friends and campmates. Black Rock Rangers and Emergency Services Department staff are providing support to those affected.”

Some 60,000 people are converging on the Nevada desert this week for the annual arts and culture festival.

TIME celebrities

Robin Williams Hanged Himself, Police Say

Robin Williams before his performance at the Ted Constant Convocation Center in Norfolk
Robin Williams before his performance at the Ted Constant Convocation Center in Norfolk, Va., on Oct. 28, 2009 Jay Paul—The New York Times/Redux

Confirming reports he committed suicide

Robin Williams died because of asphyxia from hanging himself in his California home, police said Tuesday, confirming a day after the actor’s death that he had committed suicide.

The Marin County Sheriff’s Office also said Williams, who was 63, suffered “acute superficial” cuts to his wrist, and that a pocket blade was found near his body. A forensic examination showed no signs of a struggle, and toxicology results for Williams, who had long struggled with substance abuse and depression, won’t be available for about two to six weeks, police said.

Williams was last seen by his wife at 10:30 p.m. local time on Sunday when she went to bed. Williams’ personal assistant became concerned the next day when the actor failed to respond to knocks on his bedroom door. Upon entering, the assistant found Williams “clothed in a seated position, unresponsive, with a belt around his neck,” Lieutenant Keith Boyd told reporters during a news conference. He was pronounced dead shortly after noon on Monday.

Fans of the late comedian and actor gathered near the news conference in San Rafael, Calif., on Tuesday.

“It surprises me that someone who was so loved felt so alone,” said Leigh Carliglio of Contra Costa County. “He was loved, he was wonderful. This is devastating.”

She particularly remembers Mork & Mindy and then quickly adds Mrs. Doubtfire and Aladdin. “All of them.”

She was surprised to find out how he died. “We need more care for mental-health patients. We don’t understand how deep depression runs.”

Other fans filmed the news conference with their cell phones, lamenting how “a whole generation” grew up with Williams’ character in Mork & Mindy.

Outside Williams’ home in nearby Tiburon sat flower bouquets and notes address to “Robin.” A few fans lingered. “Anything he was in, I would go see it,” one said. “It’s just devastating. I have depression in my family.”

— Katy Steinmetz reported from San Rafael and Tiburon, Calif.


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