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ABCNews.com(NEW YORK) --  Three staff members at a Georgia senior-care facility have been indicted on charges that their actions not only caused the death of a resident in their care, but that they also tried to cover up his death.

On Tuesday, almost four years to the day that James Dempsey, 89, of Woodstock, Georgia, died, former nurses Wanda Nuckles and Loyce Pickquet Agyeman as well as aide Mable L. Turner were charged in connection with his 2014 death.

According to police records, in January 2014, Dempsey, a World War II Navy veteran, entered the Northeast Atlanta Rehabilitation Center in Brookhaven, Georgia. His family told Brookhaven police that he had been having liver problems and was undergoing dialysis treatment at the center.

Relatives told ABC affiliate WSB-TV in 2015 that when he expressed concerns about staying at the center overnight, they installed a hidden camera in his room.

After Dempsey's death, his family took the camera home and said they felt "shock" when they watched footage from that day.

"Video surveillance shows the patient suffering in respiratory distress and repeatedly calling out for help. Soon after his distress calls, the victim became unresponsive. The indictment alleges the Defendants, in varying degrees, failed to provide timely and necessary medical assistance, ultimately resulting in Mr. Dempsey's death," the DeKalb County District Attorney's Office said in a news release Wednesday.

The District Attorney's Office said video surveillance of the Feb. 27, 2014 incident was made public in November 2017, after the family filed a civil lawsuit against the center, alleging "wrongful death" and "negligence." The civil suit was settled but the footage prompted a joint investigation between the DA's office and law enforcement.

In the video revealed during a deposition in the civil suit, Dempsey can be seen lying in his hospital bed, gasping for air and calling for help six times.

According to the indictment, on Feb. 27, 2014, Agyeman "failed to call 911" when Dempsey complained about his heart, despite medical instructions in his chart stating that he should be sent to a hospital in the event of chest pain.

It also said that Agyeman and Nuckles had "started performing two-person cardiopulmonary resuscitation approximately one hour" after he'd become unresponsive, "to create the false impression that they were trying to save James Dempsey’s life."

In a 2015 sworn deposition, Nuckles said the staff had administered CPR immediately.

Nuckles of Buford, Georgia, is charged with depriving an elder person of essential services. Turman of College Park, Georgia, faces a charge of neglect to an elder person. And, Agyeman of Snellville, Georgia, is charged with felony murder and neglect to an elder person. Each woman also faces a charge of concealing the death of another.

Grand jury warrants were issued for each woman's arrest, the DeKalb County District Attorney's Office said.

Both Nuckles and Agyeman voluntarily surrendered their licenses in September 2017, according to the state board.

Nuckles told ABC News that she has no comment on what happened and that her lawyer would not allow her to say anything to the media. ABC News was not able to reach Turman or Agyeman. The company that runs the nursing home did not respond to requests for comment from ABC News.

None of the women have entered a plea at this time. A trial date has not been set.

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Rodger Mallison/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/TNS via Getty Images(NEW YORK) --  The governor of Texas decided Thursday to spare the life of a convicted killer who carried out a plot to kill his parents and his brother.

About 40 minutes before the scheduled execution, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced he would grant clemency to 38-year-old Thomas "Bart" Whitaker. The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, in a rare recommendation, voted unanimously Tuesday in favor of the "lesser penalty" of commuting Whitaker's death sentence to life behind bars without the possibility of parole.

“In just over three years as governor, I have allowed 30 executions. I have not granted a commutation of a death sentence until now," Abbott said in a statement. “The murders of Mr. Whitaker’s mother and brother are reprehensible. The crime deserves severe punishment for the criminals who killed them. The recommendation of the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, and my action on it, ensures Mr. Whitaker will never be released from prison."

Bart Whitaker was convicted of capital murder for the shooting deaths of his mother, Tricia Whitaker, and his younger brother, Kevin Whitaker, in an attack he devised at the family's Sugar Land, Texas, home in December 2003. Bart's father, Kent Whitaker, was also shot during the attack, but survived.

Kent Whitaker said he has forgiven his son and became his most outspoken advocate.

"I love him. He's my son," Kent Whitaker told "20/20." "I don't want to see him executed at the hands of Texas in the name of justice when there's a better justice available."

Watch the full story on "20/20" FRIDAY, Feb. 23 at 10 p.m. ET

 On Tuesday, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, in a rare recommendation, voted unanimously in favor of the "lesser penalty" of commuting Whitaker's death sentence to life behind bars without the possibility of parole.

Prosecutor Fred Felcman, who was also the original prosecutor in the case, told ABC's Houston station KTRK-TV on Tuesday that he was disappointed by the parole board's recommendation.

"I guess the 12 jurors' opinion means nothing to the parole board," Felcman said.

"20/20" sat down with Kent Whitaker awhile he awaited the board’s decision on his son’s fate. He said that Bart has learned Spanish in prison and was teaching some inmates English, while helping others earn their high school diplomas.

"I have seen such change in him," Kent Whitaker said of his son. "He's been incarcerated for 11 years. That's 4,000 days. He's done a lot of work himself and he's struggled hard to try to find out what it was that went wrong in his mind."

"There's a mental illness issue here that we still don't quite understand," the father added. "But he has learned how to recognize the danger points and to work around them. I want the opportunity to spend years watching him grow. And there's so much that he can do."

Kent Whitaker said he recognizes the horrible crime his son committed, saying, "I live with it every day... and nobody's denying it."

"Forgiveness is absolutely critical if you want to heal from your loss," he continued. "It is the only way that you can get the bitterness out, and the bitterness is going to stay there and it's going to affect your relationships in ways that you can't even see or recognize. But it's going to negatively affect them. I was able to forgive on the night of the shootings."

On Dec. 10, 2003, Bart Whitaker announced to his family that he had finished his final exams at Sam Houston State University and would be graduating. To honor his achievement, his parents presented him with a Rolex watch. That night, the family went to a popular Cajun restaurant to celebrate.

Photos taken from that night show Bart smiling for the camera, but he told "20/20" in a 2009 interview that he knew at that moment that an intruder had entered their home and was waiting for their return. If everything went according to his plan, his brother, mother and father would all be dead within minutes.

"I don't really know a better term for how I was feeling [that night], other than I was on auto-pilot. I wasn't even aware of myself," Bart Whitaker told "20/20" in 2009.

"I wanted them dead," he added. "It was my idea."

When the family arrived home, Bart, knowing what awaited his family inside, ran down the driveway, saying he needed to grab his cell phone out of his car. Kevin Whitaker, 19, was the first one to open the door and was shot in the chest, then his mother followed and was also shot.

Next, his father was wounded, too -- he was shot through the right chest and arm, breaking his humerus bone.

Bart said he then ran into the house and pretended to try and catch the shooter. They wrestled a bit and then Bart was shot in the arm to make him appear to be a victim.

"It was to distance me from the guilt," he told "20/20" in 2009. "But also I think on an internal level it was me realizing that there was no way that I could come out of this physically unscathed."

Kevin and Tricia both died from their gunshot wounds. Kent and Bart both survived. Investigators would later discover that Bart had never graduated Sam Houston State University and was still listed as a freshman on academic probation.

When they were released from the hospital, Bart moved back home to be with his father, where they spent time together reading the Bible.

The investigation made little progress, until a man named Adam Hipp walked into the Sugar Land police station and introduced himself as a former friend of Bart Whitaker's. Hipp told police Bart had hatched a second, previously unknown murder plot that was aborted at the last minute, but Hipp claimed Whitaker had asked him to be the shooter.

Another break in the case came in August 2005, when a man named Steven Champagne, who was Bart’s former co-worker and neighbor, went to police and confessed to assisting in the crime and provided the entire story of what happened on that December 2003 night.

Champagne told investigators that Bart had set up the crime and lured his family to dinner to celebrate his fake graduation from college. As the Whitakers celebrated, Champagne said he watched from a car in the parking lot.

Meanwhile, Bart's roommate, Chris Brashear, hid in Bart's SUV outside the Whitaker home. Champagne told police Brashear entered the house with the key and disabled the alarm with the code Bart had given him. Champagne said he followed the family home and parked on a nearby street and waited.

"[Brashear] said Bart's brother had walked in first," Champagne recalled in his confession. "And, when Chris shot him, he said before he shot him he thought he smiled. And then Chris shot his mom and then shot Bart's dad .... And then, he acted like he wrestled around with Bart and shot Bart."

A minute later, as he told cops, Brashear joined him in the car and they fled the scene.

"Bart said his family was worth a lot of money," Champagne said, explaining his motivation. "He said he would give us some money -- I mean millions of dollars."

He also told police that he and Brashear had thrown a bag full of evidence off of a bridge into a nearby lake. A police dive team later found a soggy duffel bag full of decomposing evidence. Though the bag had spent two years at the bottom of the lake, detectives were able to obtain a DNA profile of Brashear on the mouth of a water bottle. The bag also contained Bart Whitaker’s cell phone.

In March 2007, a jury convicted Bart Whitaker of the capital murder of his mother and his younger brother, and he was sentenced to death. The shooter, Brashear, received life in prison without parole. The getaway driver, Champagne, was sentenced to 15 years for his role in the plot.

 Since then, Kent Whitaker has gotten remarried and has devoted his time to spreading his message of forgiveness as well as fighting to prevent his son’s execution. Kent wrote a book, "Murder by Family," in which he tracks the pain, tears and faith that carried him through it all.

"I think that justice would be the opportunity to spend his life helping others and allowing me the opportunity to walk that road with him," Kent Whitaker said.

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ABCNews.com(NEW YORK) --  Six months before Nikolas Cruz allegedly gunned down former classmates and teachers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, he apparently texted a photo of an assault rifle, among a slew of other weapons, to a student he repeatedly threatened to kill.

In an exclusive interview with ABC News Wednesday night, Enea Sabadini said it was the one time he did not report Cruz to school officials, despite a tirade of threats and insults from him via social media. Sabadini said he didn’t take Cruz’s messages seriously at the time.

"If I was able to go back, I would have gone and reported him to police and told my mother about it," Sabadini told ABC News.

Sabadini, who plays high school rugby, said his first interaction with Cruz occurred in August 2016. Cruz sent him direct messages on Instagram saying to stay away from his ex-girlfriend, whom Sabadini had just started dating.

At that time, Sabadini hadn’t met Cruz in person and didn’t respond to his messages.

"I was confused why, because I hadn’t had any prior problems with this person," he said. "At first, I didn’t answer back at all."

Sabadini said Cruz’s ex-girlfriend told him to ignore the messages, even though they included racial slurs, threats of murder and even of Cruz feeling depressed.

"you know how f------ mad iam (sic) at you," Cruz wrote in one message. "you took my ex i been depressed."

Still, she said Cruz was “misunderstood.” But, according to Sabadini, she added that he had been “violent and abusive” toward her.

Then one morning, a week or two after school started that year, Cruz approached Sabadini at the school to apologize.

"I think he knew where I sat with my friends in the mornings, so as I was walking toward my usual area, he pulled me aside to apologize," Sabadini said. "I accepted his apology and everything was cool."

Just days later, Cruz again sent hostile messages to Sabadini and threatened some of his friends.

Sabadini, who said he was "confused" by Cruz’s hostility, chose not to respond to the messages again. But he and his friends reported the incident to school officials.

It was unclear whether Cruz was ever disciplined for those messages.

Then, one day after school when Sabadini was leaving school with friends, they noticed Cruz was following closely behind. A brief confrontation between Cruz and Sabadini ensued, in which Cruz yelled at Sabadini to stop talking to his ex-girlfriend.

"We almost get into a fight, but I decide it’s not worth it and I walk away," Sabadini said.

Suddenly, Cruz starts running toward Sabadini with pencils in each of his hands, holding them like daggers, “in a stabbing stance,” Sabadini said.

Sabadini took off running and Cruz chased him down the street, Sabadini said. He eventually outran Cruz and reported the incident to school officials, he said.

Another day at school, Cruz started a fight with Sabadini during lunch. The fight was captured on cell phone video and led to the brief suspension of both students.

"I don’t know why he came up behind me and decided to fight me that day," Sabadini told ABC News. "I was tired of all the things he had been doing to me and my friends."

 Sabadini said Cruz continued to send him threatening messages for a few weeks afterward and would occasionally give him the middle finger at school during lunch. The harassment finally stopped only when Cruz was expelled in December 2016, but "out of the blue" in the early morning hours of Aug. 17, 2017, the messaging attacks resumed, Sabadini said.

Eventually, the harassment stopped completely -– until the early morning hours of Aug. 17, the following summer.

In screenshots of the series of Instagram direct messages provided to ABC News, Cruz apparently curses at Sabadini, uses a slew of derogatory insults and threatens multiple times to "kill" him.

"You underground hispanic wall jumper ill (sic) will f------ destroy you," Cruz writes to Sabadini, who is Italian and African American.

After sending the image of guns laid out on his bed, Cruz writes: "Don’t f--- with me!!!!!"

 In further direct messages to Sabadini, Cruz says he "stole my ex" and that she meant "everything to me." Cruz writes that he’s been "depressed" and "drinking" ever since, and all he can think about is "hurting" Sabadini.

This time, Sabadini responds to Cruz’s messages, saying he and the girl "broke up" in December 2016. But Cruz continues to threaten him.

"you have no idea what iam (sic) capable of," Cruz writes.

"Iam (sic) going to f-----g kill you."

"Iam (sic) going to watch ypu (sic) bleed.”

Sabadini responds, "F—-- off I’m trying to watch YouTube."

Cruz writes, "I will kill you !!!!!"

"I am going to shoot you dead."

Most of Sabadini’s responses appear nonchalant with a sarcastic tone. He writes, "Hey man you should take a cold shower to calm down, I here (sic) they are refreshing."

Sabadini told ABC News he didn’t take Cruz’s threats seriously at the time. Cruz had been expelled from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School unspecified disciplinary reasons, authorities said.

"I did not really think much because he was no longer going to our school," Sabadini said. "I just thought nothing of it at the time."

 Months later, on Feb. 14, Cruz allegedly opened fire inside the school, killing 17 people and wounding dozens of others, with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle authorities say he legally purchased a year ago.

When Sabadini heard there was an active shooter on campus, he said he and his friends immediately knew it was Cruz.

"I wasn’t surprised," he told ABC News.

He added that everyone who had interacted with him knew that "if anything was really to happen at the school, like a shooting, that he probably was the only one with enough hate to do so."

Sabadini said he personally knew three of the students who were killed, and that he feels lucky to be alive.

Cruz was arrested and charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder in the aftermath of the attack.

The Instagram account associated with Cruz that directly messaged Sabadini appears to have been taken down.

Sabadini’s mother, Mayi Sabadini, told ABC News she believes it’s important for her son to share his story.

"Even though Nikolas wanted to kill my son, I believe he’s the 18th victim. His life is over, too. He is obviously very, very troubled," she told ABC News in a separate interview.

Mayi Sabadini became emotional when talking about the loss and suffering of so many families, and said she can’t believe her son was sucked in by Cruz's obsession and rage over the ex-girlfriend.

"Kids have to tell their parents about any threat, every single threat. We know that now," she said. "There are many other troubled, sick kids like Nikolas at other schools. I feel very lucky my son is alive."

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Mike Stocker-Pool/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The suspected gunman in the Florida school massacre was questioned by a police officer in November after a woman he was living with at the time called 911 to report he had threatened to use a gun on her 22-year-old son, according to records obtained by ABC News.

The report from the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office is just the latest in a string of red flags concerning Nikolas Cruz' volatility that law enforcement, school officials and mental health experts were notified of prior the Valentine's Day attack at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland that left 17 people dead, including 14 students.

The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s offense report from Nov. 29 shows that a woman who initially took Cruz in after his mother's death in November, called 911 to complain that Cruz had gotten into an altercation with her son in her Lantana, Florida, home and threatened to get a gun and come back.

“[He] bought a gun from Dicks last week and is now going to pick it up,” the woman told a 911 dispatcher, according to a log of the call contained in the report.

“[He] bought tons of ammo…[and] has used a gun against [people] before,” the dispatcher’s log states. “He has put the gun to others heads in the past.”

While the name of the 911 caller was redacted in the report, ABC News has learned that, at the time, Cruz was living with Rocxanne Deschamps, a family friend who took him and his younger brother in after their 68-year-old adoptive mother, Lynda Cruz, contracted pneumonia and died on Nov. 1.

After police arrived at Deschamps' home just after 3 p.m., her son told an officer that he had gotten into a physical altercation with Cruz, who became “upset and began punching walls and breaking items inside the home.”

The son said Cruz punched him in the left side of his jaw as he attempted to calm Cruz down, according to the report. He told the officer he punched Cruz back in "self-defense" and attempted to restrain him before Cruz bolted from the residence, the report says.

The officer found Cruz in a nearby park and described the 19-year-old as being “nervous and calm," according to the report. Cruz told the officer he had become upset and punched a wall after losing a picture of his late mother.

“He said he was sorry for losing his temper,” according to the officer’s report.

There were no references to guns in the officer’s narrative, but the dispatch notes indicate that Cruz told police there were guns inside the home.

Ultimately, the son told police he did not want Cruz arrested and signed a "refusal to prosecute" form, according to the officer's report. But the son expressed that he wanted Cruz to leave the residence until he calmed down, according to the report.

He said Cruz "has been going through a lot with his loss” and he “did not want him to go to jail” the report states.

The officer’s report concludes that the son and Cruz hugged to reconcile their differences, and the case was cleared with no arrest or charges filed.

Cruz moved out of Deschamps' home around the time of the altercation and went to live with James and Kimberly Snead, the parents of a friend.

In an earlier police report obtained by ABC News, officers were called to Deschamps' residence on Nov. 24 by her son, who claimed Cruz had possibly hidden a gun in the back yard. There is no indication in the report that a gun was found and the incident was declared "domestic unfounded," according to the document

In documents filed in Broward County probate court the day after the Feb. 14 mass shooting, Deschamps' attorney, Audra Simovitch, petitioned to have Deschamps appointed a personal representative of Lynda Cruz's estate, claiming an interest in the estate "as a family friend ... who is caring for a 50% minor beneficiary," meaning Cruz's younger brother.

Simovitch declined to comment on the probate motion. But in a court document filed Thursday, she asked a judge to allow her to see Cruz in jail and that she was retained by Cruz on Dec. 13 to represent him in the probate matter. Deschamps also signed the retainer agreement and was named as the "proposed personal representative" for Cruz and his brother, according to the document.

The Sneads claimed that Nikolas Cruz told them he stood to inherit in a few years at least $800,000 from his deceased parents' estates, the couple's attorney, Jim Lewis, told ABC News. Cruz's adoptive father, Roger Cruz, died in 2004 at the age of 67.

As investigators dig into Cruz's background, more and more instances have emerged in which state and federal officials had been in contact with Cruz or were alerted of his violent behavior prior to the mass shooting.

The growing list of warning signs either detailed by public statements from officials or public records, includes an admission by the FBI that a tip it received on Jan. 5 warning that Cruz might be planning a "school shooting" and detailing his guns, was not passed on to its Miami field office and was never investigated.

Records show the Broward County Sheriff's Office also received 39 calls for service in the last few years regarding Cruz for a variety of disturbance complaints, including fighting with his mother. In a police report from Sept. 28, 2016, a therapist who went on one of the calls cleared Cruz, concluding he was “no threat to anyone or himself.”

A report in August 2016 by the Florida Department of Children and Family shows the agency investigated a Snapchat post in which Cruz was seen cutting his arms and was told by Cruz that he "plans to go out and buy a gun." The agency determined Cruz "to be stable enough not to be hospitalized," according to the DCF report. DCF said in a statement it "relies on the expertise of mental health professionals and law enforcement and these records show that DCF took the steps to involve these partners in investigating this alleged abuse."

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ABCNews.com(WASHINGTON) -- A Texas same-sex couple has sued the federal government, alleging they were denied the chance to be foster parents to a refugee child because they do not “mirror the holy family.”

According to a complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Tuesday, married couple Fatma Marouf and Bryn Esplin expressed their interest in February 2017 in fostering a refugee child to an official with the Catholic Charities of Fort Worth (CCFW). The group is an affiliate of the United States Conference of Bishops, which the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) contracts for some of its federal child welfare duties.

The lawsuit alleges that during a phone conversation with Donna Springer, chair of the executive committee of CCFW’s board of directors, they were told that foster parents must “mirror the holy family,” and they would not “qualify” to foster a child.

“We were both completely shocked,” Marouf told ABC affiliate WFAA-TV.

“It was hurtful in realizing there was no overcoming that barrier,” Esplin added.

The lawsuit says the couple also asked if any of the refugee children in the program might be lesbian or gay and were told that none of the 700 children served by the program are members of the LGBT community.

Marouf immediately reported to the Office of Refugee Resettlement via email that CCFW had discriminated against her and her wife, the complaint says, but she did not receive a response for nearly two months. The couple claims they haven't received any further communication from them since, leading to this week’s lawsuit.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and HHS are named in the lawsuit.

HHS told ABC News, “We do not comment on pending litigation.” The USCCB has not immediately responded to ABC News’ request for comment.

Catholic Charities Fort Worth denies to the Dallas Morning News that the couple ever spoke with Springer — saying she "never had any contact with the couple" — but acknowledged the then-director of child welfare services talked to them over the phone. The organization also denied allegations in the lawsuit that the couple was told the agency did not have any LGBT kids among the refugee children in its care at the time.

"We do not screen or otherwise ask the children we serve to self-identify if they are LGBT," said Katelin Cortney, Catholic Charities Fort Worth's communications director told the local news outlet. "We train our foster families to accept children from all cultures and walks of life so they can be as prepared as possible to welcome someone new into their home."

The couple hopes the lawsuit will allow them to apply to be foster parents to a refugee child, as well as prevent sexual orientation-based discrimination against other prospective parents, according to the lawsuit.

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Mike Stocker-Pool/Getty Images(NEW YORK) --  A Marjory Stoneman Douglas school resource officer has been suspended without pay after Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said video shows him taking up a defensive position during the shooting but never entering the school.

Israel announced Thursday that the decision to suspend Scot Peterson was made after reviewing video from the shooting and taking statements from witnesses and Peterson himself, Israel said.

“He should have went in, addressed the killer, killed the killer,” Israel said.

Peterson was armed and on campus during the shooting Israel said. Since he met the requirements for retirement, Peterson opted to resign after he was told he was being suspended, Israel said.

Israel said that the video shows Peterson arrived at the west side of Building 12, where most of the killing happened. He then took up a position but "never went in."

The video shows that Peterson remained outside the building for upwards of four minutes during the shooting, Israel said.

When the shooting started, Peterson was in an office dealing with a "school-related issue," Israel said.

When asked by reporters to describe how the video made him feel, Israel responded, "sick to my stomach" and "devastated."

Two other deputies were placed on restricted duty while the sheriff's office investigates whether they "could've" or "should've" done more while dealing with suspect, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, during the 23 calls they received involving Cruz or his brother since 2008, Israel said.

Cruz was arrested shortly after the shooting and is charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder. He is being held in a Broward County jail.

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Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images(ATLANTA) -- Police are asking the public for help finding a missing Centers for Disease Control and Prevention employee who went home sick 10 days ago and hasn't been seen or heard from since.

Timothy Cunningham, 35, went to work on Feb. 12 and left sick, the Atlanta Police Department said. Cunningham, who studied at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, works as an epidemic intelligence service officer and has been sent to respond to public health emergencies including the Ebola virus and the Zika virus, according to the CDC.

Police said it's unusual for Cunningham not to contact his family.

Cunningham's parents said they found his phone, wallet, car and keys, as well as his dog, at his home, reported ABC affiliate WSB-TV in Atlanta.

"It's not the type of news you want to hear," his father, Terrell Cunningham, said, reported WSB. "Thirty-five years old, but always your child.

"This is an appeal to the public," Terrell Cunningham added. "We're seeking your help in bringing Tim back safe."

The CDC did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment.

Anyone with information is urged to call 911 or the Atlanta Police Homicide/Adult Missing Persons Unit at 404-546-4235.

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Mark Wilson/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The students of Marjory Douglas Stoneman High School have had to spend the past week grieving and burying their friends and school staff who were shot during the mass shooting on Feb. 14.

They've also had to endure accusations that their subsequent movement is part of a larger gun-hating conspiracy.

In the days following the shooting, when the teenage students were regularly making television appearances and recounting their experiences during the shooting, some naysayers online started raising questions about the students and how polished they appeared.

Some questioned if the students actually attended the school, or if they were actors shipped to the site of the tragedy afterward at the behest of a shadow organization or Democratic groups.

Another strain of the conspiracy theories cited one of the students' father's former position at the Federal Bureau of Investigation as an indication that the students' calls for gun reform were part of an effort to distract from the agency's failures in preventing the shooting.

Student David Hogg and his father, appearing together on CNN, have since denied the claim.

"I am not an actor in any sense way shape or form," Hogg told CNN.

"I'm not a crisis actor. I'm somebody who had to witness this and live through this and continue to have to do that. It's unbelievable to me that these people are even saying this," he said.

One Twitter user who raised some of these questions was Kambree Kawahine Koa, who identifies herself on Twitter as a political news contributor and has written opinion articles for the conservative news site The Daily Caller.

"It’s quite interesting that the children survivors haven’t even buried their friends, grieve, get over shock but have had the time to plan for a march, come up with a creative hashtag, get their story to all media outlets all in such a short amount time..... Democrats have planned this all. This is what they have done for decades. They think we are stupid in how they operate but actually them using children as pawns will BACKFIRE in Nov like it did in 2016. Game over," she wrote in two tweets on Feb. 18, adding the hashtag for the event that the students are spearheading, #MarchForOurLives.

Her tweets have been retweeted thousands of times.

Former Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke, who has been a vocal supporter of President Trump, tweeted a similar accusation on Feb. 20, pointing to liberal billionaire George Soros as the alleged mastermind.

"The well ORGANIZED effort by Florida school students demanding gun control has GEORGE SOROS’ FINGERPRINTS all over it. It is similar to how he hijacked and exploited black people’s emotion regarding police use of force incidents into the COP HATING Black Lives Matter movement," he wrote in a tweet that included a picture of Soros and destructive demonstrators standing on a car.

The president's eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., also showed some virtual support for the conspiracy theories, liking two tweets with links to stories promoting the conspiracy theories about Hogg allegedly speaking out to deflect attention from the FBI's failures.

One government official has lost his job after suggesting that the teenagers are part of a conspiracy. Benjamin Kelly, who was an aide of a Florida state representative, told a Tampa Bay Times reporter that two of the most outspoken students, Hogg and Emma Gonzalez, "are not students here but actors that travel to various crisis when they happen," according to a screen grab of the email that was shared by the reporter.

The Tampa Bay Times reported that Kelly was first put on leave and then fired.

ABC News' efforts to reach Kelly Thursday were not immediately successful. The Tampa Bay Times reported Kelly released a statement on Twitter before making his account private, reportedly saying he "made a mistake" and "I meant no disrespect to the students or parents of Parkland."

The conspiracy theories were picked up dark corners of the web, including on the neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer. At the end of a lengthy post detailing the various aspects of the conspiracy theories, the site's creator, Andrew Anglin, reached his conclusion.

"The most likely thing that has happened, in my view, is that this shooting happened, various lobbies were ready to use it for their own purposes, they picked out the kids who were best suited to play the roles they needed them to play and got them together and coached them for the show we are now witnessing play out across television," he wrote.

The mounting online conspiracies prompted some, including Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, to speak out against the accusations. 

"Claiming some of the students on tv after #Parkland are actors is the work of a disgusting group of idiots with no sense of decency," Rubio tweeted.

And the students themselves have continued to deny that they are so-called "crisis actors."

"If you had seen me in our school's production of Fiddler on the Roof, you would know that nobody would pay me to act for anything," student Cameron Kasky told CNN's Wolf Blitzer.

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The “avid” gun-owning South Carolina man who posted a video documenting his step-by-step purchase of a semi-automatic AR-15 rifle wanted the world to see how easy it is for the sake of transparency, he told ABC News today, a week after the deadly shooting at a Florida high school with a similar weapon.

“Just trying to shine a flashlight,” Coley Brown said today of gun purchases in his home state. “If you have nothing to hide then you shouldn’t mind having a little light shed on what you’re doing.”

After deadly Parkland shooting, deputies will now carry AR-15 rifles on school grounds, sheriff says

Brown, 49, posted the video on his Facebook page Feb. 16, detailing his transaction with a seller he found on a private Facebook group. He “didn’t get a receipt, nobody checked my driver’s license, nothing,” he said on the video.

Brown, who calls himself as pro-gun as someone can be, has a concealed weapons permit, he told ABC News. He has been hunting since he was a teenager, he added, and has a teenage son who hunts deer and ducks.

Brown is always troubled by school shootings, he said, but this one, in which 17 people died, really resonated with him because he has kids in high school.

Brown starts the video by finding a Facebook group with people looking to sell weapons. After picking the one he wanted, he sent a private Facebook message to the seller, before negotiating the price.

South Carolina gun laws state that “a resident of any state may purchase rifles and shotguns in this state if the resident conforms to applicable provisions of statutes and regulations of this state, the United States, and of the state in which the person resides.”

Facebook prohibits the actual purchase, sale or trade of firearms on its pages so Brown and the seller had to discuss price in a private Facebook message.

In less than 20 hours, Brown found the gun he wanted, negotiated with the seller and drove to meet the person and purchase the AR-15 with over 30 rounds of ammo.

Brown said his goals in posting the condensed video were to share the facts about gun purchases in his state and provide people with as much information as he could.

“I just wanted to show the truth,” Brown told ABC News. “I just saw all this misinformation on how to acquire a gun and what the laws are on guns.”

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Joe Raedle/Getty Images(PARKLAND, Fla.) -- National Merit Finalist Carmen Schentrup would have turned 17 years old on Wednesday.

Instead, one week earlier, she was one of 17 people gunned down at her Florida high school in a Valentine's Day massacre.

 In honor of her birthday, her friend Carmen Lo tweeted a personal message along with a series of powerful photos: notes to Schentrup on balloons, messages on a coffee mug and a birthday cake.

"Carmen Schentrup was a 16 year old senior. She had one week until it was her birthday," Lo tweeted. "She was a National Merit Finalist and had her whole life ahead of her. She was my classmate and she was my dear friend. Happy birthday. This is for you." 

Schentrup "was dedicated and accomplished" and "was going to change the world," her parents said in a statement according to a post on her brother's Facebook.

"She was quite literally a 'straight A' student and a National Merit Finalist (Carmen never knew this. Her award letter arrived the day after she died)," the statement said. "Earlier this month, she was accepted into the University of Florida Honors program and was exuberant to begin her college experience. She wanted to become a medical scientist and discover a cure for horrible diseases, like ALS."

"While many people considered Carmen mature beyond her years (she recently joked people had been asking her how she liked college since she was a freshman), she was still a kid at heart," the family said. "She was silly, playful, and huggable. As parents, we loved that she never outgrew our hugs and would hug us before she went to bed. We miss her hugs."

"Carmen was funny, in witty and novel ways. When she got on a roll, we’d laugh until tears rolled down our cheeks," they said.

"Carmen was strong," they added. "When she was 12, she had major surgery that resulted in four metal rods sticking out of her leg for months. She never once complained about it and never attempted to hide the scars."

The teen "devoured books" and also loved art and music, the family said. She played piano, violin and guitar and also sang in the church choir.

"Carmen was a dreamer," her parents said. A few years ago, they said their daughter dreamed of visiting Germany, so she taught herself the language.

"Last summer, she planned our family vacation to Germany and played the role of translator and guide," wrote Schentrup's parents. "We miss seeing her make her dreams come true."

"Carmen was blessed to have great friends," they continued. After the shooting, the family said her friends "scoured the local hospitals searching for our little girl and stayed with us until our worst fears were confirmed. Their kindness is beyond measure."

"To our dear Carmen, you are a bright, beautiful, young woman bursting into the world," the grieving parents wrote. "You are an amazing daughter, sister, and friend. You fill our lives with loving memories that we will always cherish. You are a gift from God and into His arms you return. May His divine embrace now hug you so very tenderly where we cannot. We love and miss you dearly."

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The stepmother of a 5-year-old boy who's been missing since Saturday has a turbulent relationship with the boy's father, as documented in a series of police reports obtained by ABC News.

Lucas Hernandez disappeared from his Wichita, Kansas, home around 3 p.m. on Saturday, police said. His stepmother, Emily Glass, was arrested on two charges of child endangerment Wednesday. Lucas has not been found.

Police reports show repeated instances of physical clashes between Glass and Lucas' father, Jonathan Hernandez.

In February 2016, police were called to an apartment Hernandez was sharing at the time with Glass during an argument over a bar tab that Hernandez had paid, the report shows. Hernandez said Glass hit him in the face, but told officers he did not want to press charges because he didn't want her to go to jail, according to the report.

After police left, the couple started fighting again, resulting in officers returning to the residence after Hernandez threatened to throw out Glass’ possessions, the report says.

Nearly two months later in April 2016, according to a police report, Glass allegedly held an ax handle while arguing with Hernandez after telling him she had been sexually assaulted by a male friend. The fight started when Glass threw a shoe at Hernandez, the report states. Hernandez had a bloody nose and Glass had bruises on the side of her head, according to the report. Police couldn’t determine the primary aggressor.

In November 2016, police responded to the couple’s apartment after a report of a loud disturbance. A report filed at the time said an officer saw injuries on the side of Hernandez's face, which he explained by saying Glass had slapped him. Glass admitted to pushing him, according to the report, but denied trying to hurt him. In the report, police noted that a child’s table, "looked like a Ninja Turtle table," had been knocked over in the kitchen.

In a report from December 2017, Glass told police she was supposed to pick up someone, but said she had fallen asleep with Hernandez. The identity of the person she was supposed to pick up at the location is redacted in the report. When the couple woke up, they went to the location. Hernandez’s ex -- Lucas’ mother -- Jamie Taylor was there and was upset, according to the report.

Glass told police she didn’t know why Lucas’ mother was at the location because Hernandez has full custody of the boy.

Glass accused Taylor of punching her, but police found no visible injuries, the report said.

Sedgwick County jail records indicate Glass was booked at 3:27 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon on two counts of child endangerment. Police confirmed that Lucas and another child were involved, but did not identify the other child.

The search for Lucas is ongoing.

Lucas’ great-aunt Sally Rasmussen told ABC News that Hernandez’s family had concerns Lucas was being abused and reported it to authorities in Kansas and New Mexico, where the family members live.

Both the Kansas Department for Children and Families and the New Mexico Children, Youth, and Families Department told ABC News they are legally prohibited from discussing any history they may have with a particular family.

Hernandez spoke to ABC affiliate KAKE-TV about the allegations of abuse earlier this week.

“That really pisses me off. Only because it seems like it's about something else and it's not happening now," Hernandez said. "Now, if you want to bring that up later that's fine. That's a whole separate issue. I think it's taking away from what's happening and I don't appreciate it. Not from my family, not from strangers."

He said he still believes his son is somewhere alive and he is focused on finding him.

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Win McNamee/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) --  A Texas woman was brought to tears at the Justice Department Thursday, as she recalled how her 82-year-old grandmother committed suicide after being scammed out of her life's savings.

"These individuals preyed on her and on her good heart. What should have been some of the best years and the last chapter of her life was taken from her. She was robbed in every sense," said Angela Stancik of Houston, her voice cracking as attorney general Jeff Sessions, acting FBI deputy director David Bowdich and other top U.S. officials listened beside her.

Stancik came to Washington to highlight what Bowdich called a "serious and growing threat" across the United States: the theft of millions of dollars from America's seniors, who are targeted and tricked by fraudsters around the world.

"That has happened far too often in this country. It is a despicable crime these people are doing. They laugh about their ability to defraud people," Sessions said at a news conference in Washington.

In the past year, more than 200 people have been charged inside the United States for committing elder fraud schemes and dozens more have faced civil actions, according to Sessions.

"These defendants allegedly robbed more than one million Americans of more than half a billion dollars," Sessions said.

Stancik pleaded with the public to "say something to anyone" if they suspect they are being victimized or know someone who is.

"It's not too late. It's not your fault," she said. "Don't be afraid to ask for help."

Stancik said her grandmother, Marjorie Jones of Lake Charles, Louisiana, "had a heart of gold, and she was everything you'd expect a grandmother to be."

Her family didn't realize that their beloved grandmother had been ensnared by a big scam until 0 days before Jones killed herself in 2010.

"When she realized that she had been defrauded, she was extremely devastated, she felt humiliated, and she had literally lost everything," Stancik said, holding back tears. "It pains me to say this, but she took her life because of this incident. The events leading to my grandmother's death have scarred my family and left us all in shock. The pain and the loss from her tragic death surrounds us all daily."

Pretending to represent a sweepstakes, scammers told Jones that she had won a big prize, and all she had to do was send in money to cover taxes and fees.

In many cases, scammers send letters in "attention-grabbing envelopes designed to lead a person to believe they actually won," said Guy Cottrell, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service's chief inspector. Millions of such letters are sent around the world, according to Cottrell.

"However, no prize is ever delivered. No prize ever existed," he said. And "once the scammer starts, the demands are relentless. ... These fraudsters don't limit themselves to just lies anymore. Their efforts to keep victims in line become increasingly ruthless. They don't hesitate to threaten, coerce or resort to psychological intimidation."

Jones ultimately sent all of her money to scammers - she later had to borrow money from family members, took out all of her life insurance, and then tragically committed suicide.

She had $69 in her bank account when she died.

Last month, the Justice Department ordered all 94 U.S. Attorneys' offices across the country to each designate an "elder justice coordinator," charged with trying to "customize" a strategy to protect seniors in their districts, according to Sessions. Since then, the Justice Department’s Consumer Protection Branch, along with U.S. Attorneys’ offices, have filed cases against more than 40 defendants for their alleged role in defrauding hundreds of thousands of Americans, Sessions said.

And over the past week alone, more than 100 inspectors from the U.S. Postal Inspection Service executed search warrants in 14 locations across the country, according to Cottrell.

Now, the Justice Department is going after not just the scammers themselves but also what authorities called the "enablers," the people who help write text for the letters, the people who help print the letter, and the people who provide mailing lists for scammers to target.

The FBI and its partners are targeting a "wide range of crimes" against seniors, including Ponzi schemes, romance and lottery scams, and mass-marketing schemes, according to Bowdich.

"This is an incredibly important issue for all of us in government, and everyone in this room has family members that could be taken advantage of through these types of schemes," Bowdich told the reporters and government officials gathered inside the Justice Department.

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iStock/Thinkstock(BRANDYWINE, Md.) -- An off-duty Maryland police officer was gunned down when he "stood his ground" to protect his neighbor from her estranged husband and "saved her life by giving his own," according to police.

The estranged husband allegedly fired five times outside the woman's home in Brandywine, killing Cpl. Mujahid Ramzziddin, who was a husband, father of four, military veteran and 14-year veteran of the Prince George’s County Police, the police department said.

The female neighbor wasn’t hurt, police said.

Ramzziddin "stood his ground" and "saved her life by giving his own," Stawinski said at a news conference Wednesday.

Stawinski added that Ramzziddin, 51, was "an officer who was selfless throughout his career. Today was not the first day he demonstrated his heroism."

About 24 hours before the killing, the woman had gone to Ramzziddin for help; she knew he was an officer because he parked his marked police car at his home, police said. She had sought protection from her estranged husband through the courts for his alleged violent behavior, and the court order was in process, but meanwhile she was trying to move her belongings out of this home, Stawinski said.

On Wednesday, the officer noticed the female neighbor across the street and "approached her asking if she was OK," Stawinksi said, citing witnesses.

"She had some concerns," and the officer offered to go into her home, according to Stawinski.

Afterward, they came back outside, and that's when Ramzziddin was shot, Stawinksi said.

After the shooting, the suspect, 37-year-old Glenn Tyndell, allegedly took the officer's weapon and fled in an SUV, police said. That launched a police pursuit, after which Tyndall was killed in a shootout with police, according to cops.

Tyndell had three open warrants for second degree assault, according to police.

Stawinski called the suspect "cold and callous" and said the officers "who intervened [during the chase] are to be credited," because more lives may have been lost.

Meanwhile, a community is in mourning.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan in a statement called the officer's death "an unspeakable tragedy."

Hogan ordered state flags to fly at half-staff.

"Corporal Ramzziddin was a military veteran and a distinguished law enforcement officer who made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of his neighbors and community," Hogan said.

Ramzziddin had received a Silver Medal of Valor Award in 2006 for his courage engaging an armed suspect, police said.

"His memory and service will never be forgotten," the governor said.

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ABC News(CLAIBORNE COUNTY, Tenn.) -- As the nation continues to deal with the aftermath of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Florida, one elementary school student in Tennessee is pleading for action.

Abigail Daniels, a fourth-grade student at Tazewell-New Tazewell elementary school, wrote the Claiborne County sheriff a letter asking for additional protection at her school.

"Dear Mr. Sheriff, I've heard about the school shootings, and I've felt sad and scared. Please, I am begging you, please let us have more protection at our schools. I don't want anyone coming into our schools and hurting kids," Daniels wrote in the letter.

Deonna Daniels, Abigail’s mom, said the family was watching news coverage of the shooting when her daughter came up with the idea.

“It's heartbreaking to see her thinking about that at her age,” the mom told ABC News. “She said she wanted to write a letter and I told her as long as she was polite that it was OK.”

The 9-year-old also asked the sheriff for security officers at her school along with better doors and windows for the school's buildings.

Sheriff David Ray said he was surprised to get the letter but disgraced by the idea of kids not feeling safe in their schools.

“I was teary-eyed. I almost cried,” Ray told ABC News.

He posted a message to Abigail on the Claiborne County Sheriff’s Facebook page on Feb. 16, thanking her for the letter. He also reassured her that police officers already monitor students at her school.

“Hopefully, one day we can place a police officer in every school to make it safer for you and others,” Ray wrote in the Facebook post.

Only three schools out of the 12 in Claiborne County have full-time security officers, according to ABC affiliate WATE-TV. Officers patrol the schools during their shifts in the day, and there are precautions in place in the event of an active school shooter, according to Ray. However, he says, he wants to implement more security measures, such as adding a security officer to every school in the county.

There have been no threats on Claiborne County schools, Ray said, but for safety measures, there were officers posted at the school last week after the shooting in Florida.

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Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post/Getty Images(PARKLAND, Fla.) --  At the funeral Thursday for the Florida football coach gunned down while protecting students in a mass shooting, the sheriff said, "Before you even heard how he died, you knew he died putting himself in harm's way to save others. That's who he was."

Aaron Feis, 37, a father and husband, was one of the 17 people killed in the Valentine's Day massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Feis died "running toward danger while others were correctly running away from danger," Broward Sheriff Scott Israel said at Thursday's funeral.

"Feis had no gun, no rifle. And yet he ran toward helping students," the sheriff said. "He was just such a great individual."

The sheriff last week told reporters Feis was a beloved coach, calling him "a phenomenal man" and "one of the greatest people I knew."

"I coached with him. My two boys played for him," Israel said. "The kids in this community loved him, adored him."

At Thursday's funeral, family friend Brandon Corona said Feis was his mentor during his four years at Stoneman Douglas High School, describing him as loving, strong, kind and patient.

Feis gave rides home to students who needed it and "he was a counselor to those who had no father figure," Corona said.

Feis fell for his wife in high school and is survived by his wife and daughter, Corona said. The football coach worked two to sometimes three jobs, he added.

"He always wanted to be the best dad he could be," Corona said. "He was the epitome of what a hardworking husband and father should be."

The school's football team wrote on Twitter, "He died a hero and he will forever be in our hearts and memories."

Ryan Mackman of West Palm Beach said he graduated with Feis from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 1999.


"I never thought something like this could happen," Mackman, now 37, told ABC News. "The whole community is just stunned."

Mackman said he heard from other former classmates who were close to Feis that he was apparently shot while shielding students from the spray of bullets.

"He was always a really good guy," Mackman said. "But the fact that he died saving lives, the guy's a hero. There's no two ways about it. He was always a giving guy, he was always there for people, he had a big heart. That showed all the way to the end."

Head football coach Willis May told "Good Morning America" last week, “I didn't want to believe it, I didn't want it to be true. I love him ... things are going to be real hard to go back to school and not see my buddy.”

May called Feis a “hero” even before the deadly shooting.

“He didn't need to get shot to be a hero," May said. "He was a hero every day because people looked up to him, respected him."

"It's not a high-paying job,” May said, “but if you can change somebody's life, you know, and make him into a better person, that's what it's all about.”

Football player Robbie Rodriguez called Feis “one of the best guys I know. Just open-hearted, open to anyone, always there for people."

“Say someone messed up, he wouldn't come over screaming at you,” sophomore Gage Gaynor told GMA last week. “He'd come over, tell you what you did wrong, tell you how you could do it right.”

Teammate Patrick Scullen added, “He always put a smile on my face every single day.

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