At least 31 dead in horrific California wildfires, hundreds missing

Massive wildfires sweeping through California have killed at least 31 people and damaged thousands of homes, businesses and other buildings, authorities said.

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

Firefighters were still battling 21 large wildfires in multiple counties as of Thursday morning. Intensified by strong winds, the flames have charred more than 190,000 acres of land, damaged or destroyed at least 3,500 structures and forced more than 20,000 residents to evacuate, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Containment of the fire has increased, and weather conditions are expected to improve overnight, officials said Thursday.

The causes of the fires is still under investigation.

More than 8,000 firefighters and support personnel are battling the fires, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. California Gov. Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency for Napa, Sonoma and Yuba counties in Northern California.

With firefighters stretched thin throughout the state, federal agencies as well as neighboring Nevada and nearby Washington state are assisting with resources. Authorities said 1,000 fire departments from San Diego to Oregon have joined the effort. Requests for resources have also gone out to Idaho, Montana, North and South Carolina, New Mexico, Arizona, as well as Australia, said Mark Ghilarducci, director of California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services.

About 400 people were unaccounted for in Sonoma County as of Thursday morning, according to the sheriff’s office. Out of about 1,000 missing people reports that have been filed since the fires began, about 600 people have been safely located, the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office said Thursday afternoon. Officials said some of the reports of missing persons may be duplicates.

At least 7,000 people were without power Wednesday in Napa County.

In the wake of the fires, the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office announced Thursday morning that it has arrested five people for looting in evacuation areas.

Three of the individuals were Santa Rosa natives who were arrested and booked on a number of offenses. A 28-year-old man was found with two stolen bikes as well as narcotics, police said. A 48-year-old woman and a 49-year-old woman were also arrested, according to the Santa Rosa Police Department.

In the city of Santa Rosa, 2,834 homes had been destroyed. Critical infrastructure was also lost in the blaze, including the fire station, Santa Rosa Mayor Chris Coursey said Thursday afternoon.

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

“Life is more important than property,” Sonoma County Sheriff Robert Giordano said at a press conference Tuesday.

He said he thinks the wildfires will be “one of the worst natural disasters in California history.”

Here’s a roundup of the main fires threatening the state:

The so-called Atlas, Nuns, Patrick and Pressley fires are considered branches of one giant blaze in Napa, Solano and Sonoma counties — collectively known as the Southern LNU Complex — according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Mandatory evacuations and road closures were underway in Napa, Solano and Sonoma counties, the heart of California’s wine country, as the flames threatened thousands of structures.

The Atlas fire has scorched 43,762 acres in Napa and Solano counties since the inferno began Sunday night, and just 3 percent of the blaze was contained Wednesday night. The enormous fire has destroyed 125 structures.

The Nuns fire has charred 14,698 acres in Sonoma County since Sunday night. It was just 3 percent contained Thursday morning.

The Patrick fire has burned 10,817 acres in Napa County since Sunday night, and only 2 percent of it was contained Thursday afternoon.

The Adobe fire has singed 9,004 acres in Sonoma County. Just 1 percent of it was contained as of Wednesday night.

The Norbbom fire has scorched 4,331 acres in Sonoma County, and only 1 percent of it was contained Wednesday night.

Meanwhile, the Pressley fire has charred 473 acres in Sonoma County. It was just 1 percent contained Wednesday night.

The Tubbs and Pocket fires make up another enormous blaze, known as the the Central LNU Complex, in Napa and Sonoma counties, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. More than 16,000 structures are threatened.

The Tubbs fire has burned 34,270 acres in Napa County since Sunday night, and it was 10 percent contained Thursday morning. The fire has destroyed 571 structures. Most of the deaths were due to the Tubbs fire, authorities said.

Meanwhile, the Pocket fire has singed 8,130 acres in Sonoma County since Monday morning.

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

The Redwood/Potter fires have scorched 32,100 acres in Mendocino County since Sunday night. It was just 5 percent contained Thursday morning.

The Sulphur fire has charred 2,500 acres in Lake County since late Sunday night, and 45 percent of it was contained by Thursday morning.

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.

The Cascade fire has burned 10,171 acres in Yuba County since it began Sunday morning. It was 45 percent contained by Thursday morning, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

La Porte fire has singed 6,059 acres in Butte County since the blaze ignited early Monday morning and was 25 percent contained Thursday morning, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

The Lobo fire has scorched 829 acres in Nevada County since early Monday morning. It was 52 percent contained Thursday morning.

Meanwhile, the McCourtney fire has charred 76 acres in Nevada County since early Monday morning, and 89 percent of it was contained Thursday morning.

The Canyon 2 fire has burned 9,217 acres in Southern California’s Orange County since the flames started Monday morning. It was 60 percent contained by Thursday morning, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

At least 3,000 residents were evacuated in and around Anaheim as thousands of structures were threatened by the blaze.

The Cherokee fire has singed 8,360 acres in Butte County since Sunday night and was 60 percent contained Thursday morning, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

The 37 fire has scorched 1,660 acres in Sonoma County since it started Monday afternoon. It was 70 percent contained by Wednesday morning, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

A cold front swept through much of California on Wednesday, bringing more gusty winds and lower humidity, according to ABC News meteorologists.

Winds were expected to continue to be gusty on Thursday, with some up to 50 mph in central California. Relative humidity will be in the teens in central and northern California and in the single digits in Southern California.

These winds will continue through Saturday as a second cold front approaches the region, meteorologists said.

The weather conditions have local authorities concerned about “aggressive” fire behavior.

The National Weather Service has issued red flag warnings for Central and Northern California for Wednesday through Thursday. Fire weather watches were issued for Southern California for Thursday through Saturday. An air quality alert was also issued for central California.

As firefighters work to snuff the raging blazes, Sonoma County Sheriff’s Sgt. Spencer Crum told ABC News officials have asked everyone to “help us out.”

Crum confirmed that the 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,” he said.

The sheriff’s sergeant conceded that it could take a long time for communities to bounce back.

“We have a lot of rebuilding here,” Crum said.

Santa Rosa resident Jeff Okrepkie said he fled his home of five years knowing that it could very well be leveled when he returned.

“All that good stuff, I’m never going to see it again,” he told ABC’s San Francisco station KGO on Monday.

Okrepkie said he and his wife tried their best to gather their most precious documents, photos and mementos, but it was impossible to grab everything in time.

Mike Turpen, 38, said he was at a bar in the Glen Ellen area of Sonoma County when someone stormed in wearing a smoke mask and yelled, “Fire!” He said he drove through the flames in his pickup truck with hopes of saving his home.

Turpen said his yard was scorched and still flaming in some spots, but he managed to keep his home from burning down.

“It was like Armageddon was on,” Turpen told KGO. “Every branch of every tree was on fire.”

Chris Canning, mayor of the city of Calistoga, said that while there has been no fire activity within city limits, residents are still being urged to evacuate.

“Your presence in Calistoga is not welcome if you are not a first responder,” Canning said in a press conference Thursday morning, according to the Napa Valley Register. “Your choice to stay, and there have been very few of them, is a distraction to our first responders. You will not be given life safety support at this point. You are on your own.”

ABC News’ Matt Foster, Max Golembo, Jenna Harrison, Marilyn Heck, M.L. Nestel, Rex Sakamoto and Ginger Zee contributed to this report.

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Boy's body found after 3 adults slain; manhunt underway

A 7-year-old boy was shot dead and his body apparently hidden in a home where three adults were found fatally shot and a fourth was stabbed, a sheriff said Thursday as a manhunt for the suspect focused on a wooded area near Ohio’s southern tip.

Authorities had issued a missing-child alert after the slayings and spent hours searching for Devin Holston only to find the child dead Thursday at the same house trailer where the bodies were found.

The suspect, 23-year-old Arron Lawson, is being sought on warrants for charges including aggravated murder, Lawrence County Sheriff Jeffery Lawless said.

Deputies spotted Lawson around 12:30 a.m. Thursday in a blue truck in Ironton, about 15 miles (24 kilometers) south of where the victims were found, but they lost him after a brief chase when he crashed into a ditch and ran into the woods, Lawless said.

Lawless told the Ironton Tribune that all those involved were somehow related.

Three adults were found dead in a house trailer in an unincorporated area further north on Wednesday evening, and a fourth adult who came upon the scene after work was stabbed there and fled to seek help, the sheriff said. The wounded person was later flown to a hospital in Huntington, West Virginia.

None of the dead adults or injured victim has been identified. The sheriff’s office said releasing further information would compromise the investigation.

Agents from the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, including crime-scene and cybe-unit investigators, are assisting Lawrence County with the case, said Jill Del Greco, a spokeswoman for BCI and the state attorney general’s office.

Lawless said schools in the Rock Hill district were closed Thursday because of the attacks.

The initial report about the slayings — violence against multiple people found at properties of related residents — recalled details from a still-unsolved homicide case that rattled rural southern Ohio last year. But investigators have no indication of a connection between the cases, Del Greco said.

The deaths on Wednesday occurred roughly 40 miles (64 kilometers) southeast of the Piketon area, where eight people from the Rhoden family were found shot to death in four homes in April 2016.

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Associated Press writer Mark Gillispie in Cleveland contributed to this report.

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Find Kantele Franko on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/kantele10 and her work at http://bit.ly/2qEaebN .

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This story has been corrected to show the sheriff now says the boy was 7, not 8.

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This story has been corrected to show the sheriff now says the spelling of the suspect’s first name is Arron, not Aaron.

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At Mandalay Bay, precious minutes passed before first call to police in shooting

The first report from a maintenance man that a gunman was firing down the hall of the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel was not relayed to Las Vegas police until after the gunman had already begun his deadly rampage on the concert audience below, according to a person who has reviewed the records and spoke to ABC News on the condition of confidentiality.

Officials estimate the hotel’s delay in reporting the incident in which a hotel security guard was shot lasted about six minutes. But in a statement, hotel officials say that timeline “may not be accurate.”

The new details of the moments before the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history came as the lawyer for one victim began asking the first uneasy questions as part of what is expected to be a rash of victims’ lawsuits focused on the initial response by Mandalay Bay casino officials.

“Was 911 called? The whole chain of command seemed to be broken down here,” said Mohammed “Mo” Aziz, a lawyer hired by shooting victim Paige Gasper. “For six minutes nothing happened, and then this criminal started shooting at innocent people.”

The lawyer’s questions Tuesday have put a new focus on the still-murky timeline for the moments leading up to the shooting. The shifting accounts from authorities first indicated a casino security guard was the last person to be shot before the shooter took his own life. Then they said he was the first to be injured. Now the sheriff says the timeline is being revised yet again.

Sources close to Mandalay Bay told ABC News Tuesday the response by casino staff was swift and saved lives. The first call from hotel, the sources said, did not go out to police until after the rampage was underway – about six minutes after the initial hallway confrontation. And officers did not reach the 32nd floor suite of retired commercial property owner and frequent gambler Stephen Paddock until after the shooting had stopped.

New audio recordings made public by the hotel’s corporate owner, MGM Resorts, capture the moments when a hotel maintenance man, Steve Schuck, called in the first report of trouble.

“Call the police,” Schuck tells hotel security. “Someone’s fired a gun up here. Someone’s fired a rifle on the 32nd floor down the hallway.”

But neither the police account of the ensuing moments nor publicly transmitted police radio traffic indicate when the hotel security office dialed 911.

Approximately six minutes after Schuck made the request for help from police, Paddock began pouring rifle fire on concertgoers down on the Route 91 country music festival, 32 floors below. Officers did not reach the 32nd floor until at least 18 minutes after security guard Jesus Campos was shot in the thigh, and they appeared to have no idea he had been wounded at all before finding him.

“They weren’t aware of him being shot until they met him in the hallway after exiting the elevator,” said Clark County Sheriff Joseph Lombardo.

“We have a security officer also shot in the leg on the 32nd floor. He’s standing right by the elevator,” a Las Vegas Metro policeman radioed, in a recorded transmission 20 minutes after Campos was hit by Paddock’s gunfire.

Assistant Sheriff Tom Roberts told reporters Monday that police are still studying the timeline, but he does not think the lag was long under the circumstances.

“I don’t think the delay, or the time lapse is that long — in my opinion,” Roberts said. “I think the security guard saved a lot of lives — he interrupted this guy and sped up his plan, in my opinion.”

In part, the response time may have been slowed by a decision to shut down the elevators, a move by hotel management described by Schuck in an NBC News interview. Some police had to climb an unknown number of flights of stairs carrying weapons and body armor.

At 10:16 p.m., an officer radioed his dispatch to “contact Mandalay Bay and have ’em shut down their elevators so he [the gunman] can’t get mobile and we can take the stairs and block all the stair exits.”

One officer was later heard on police radio traffic breathing heavily and announcing he’d made it up to the same level the gunfire was erupting from. “I’m in a stairwell on the 32nd floor,” he says in a hushed voice.

Sgt. Mike Quick, a retired Las Vegas SWAT team veteran, said the Mandalay Bay is a sprawling property, with a number of impediments. “That’s a 3,000-plus room casino hotel, I mean that’s a major resort eating up acres and acres of property. So just parking and getting through the front doors is going to be an exercise in time.”

Marshalling an elevator could have taken time, he said. But climbing the stairs was an “extreme challenge.”

MGM Resorts spokesperson Debra DeShong issued a statement Tuesday in response to the lawsuit filed on behalf of Paige Gasper.

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At least 23 dead in horrific California wildfires, hundreds missing

Massive wildfires sweeping through California have killed at least 23 people and damaged thousands of homes, businesses and other buildings, authorities said.

Firefighters were still battling 22 wildfires in multiple counties as of Thursday morning. Intensified by strong winds, the flames have charred more than 170,000 acres of land, damaged or destroyed at least 3,500 structures and forced nearly 20,000 residents to evacuate, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

The causes of the fires are unknown.

At least 8,000 firefighters and support personnel are battling the fires, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. California Gov. Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency for Napa, Sonoma and Yuba counties in Northern California.

With firefighters stretched thin throughout the state, federal agencies as well as neighboring Nevada and nearby Washington state are assisting with resources. Authorities said 1,000 fire departments from San Diego to Oregon have joined the effort.

St. Joseph Health said 168 patients have been treated, many for burns and smoke inhalation, at three of its hospitals in Napa and Sonoma counties as of Monday night.

An additional 285 people were missing in Sonoma County as of Wednesday night, according to the sheriff’s office. There have been 600 total missing reports since the fires began, but 315 have those have been located safe.

Meanwhile, at least 7,000 people were without power Wednesday in Napa County alone.

In the wake of the fires, the Santa Rosa Police Department announced Wednesday night that they have arrested three people for looting. The individuals, all Santa Rosa natives, were arrested and booked on a number of offenses. One of those looters, Patrick Daly, 28, was found with two stolen bikes as well as narcotics, police said. A 48-year-old woman and a 49-year-old woman were also arrested.

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

“Life is more important than property,” Sonoma County Sheriff Robert Giordano said at a press conference Tuesday.

He said he thinks the wildfires will be “one of the worst natural disasters in California history.”

Here’s a roundup of the main fires threatening the state:

The so-called Atlas, Nuns, Patrick and Pressley fires are considered branches of one giant blaze in Napa, Solano and Sonoma counties — collectively known as the Southern LNU Complex — according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Mandatory evacuations and road closures were underway in Napa, Solano and Sonoma counties, the heart of California’s wine country, as the flames threatened thousands of structures.

The Atlas fire has scorched 42,349 acres in Napa and Solano counties since the inferno began Sunday night, and just 3 percent of the blaze was contained Wednesday night. The enormous fire has destroyed 125 structures.

The Nuns fire has charred 8,476 acres in Sonoma County since Sunday night. It was just 2 percent contained Wednesday night.

The Patrick fire has burned 9,523 acres in Napa County since Sunday night, and only 2 percent of it was contained Wednesday night.

The Adobe fire has singed 9,004 acres in Sonoma County. Just 1 percent of it was contained as of Wednesday night.

The Norrbom fire has scorched 4,331 acres in Sonoma County, and only 1 percent of it was contained Wednesday night.

Meanwhile, the Pressley fire has charred 473 acres in Sonoma County. It was just 1 percent contained Wednesday night.

The Tubbs and Pocket fires make up another enormous blaze, known as the the Central LNU Complex, in Napa and Sonoma counties, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. More than 16,000 structures are threatened.

The Tubbs fire has burned 27,363 acres in Napa County since Sunday night, and it was 10 percent contained Wednesday night. The fire has destroyed 571 structures, and is just 10 percent contained, authorities said. Most of the deaths were due to the Tubbs fire.

Meanwhile, the Pocket fire has singed 4,000 acres in Sonoma County since Monday morning.

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

The Redwood/Potter fires have scorched 30,000 acres in Mendocino County since Sunday night. It was just 5 percent contained Wednesday night.

The Sulphur fire has charred 2,500 acres in Lake County since late Sunday night, and 45 percent of it was contained by Wednesday night.

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.

The Cascade fire has burned 12,399 acres in Yuba County since it began Sunday morning. It was 20 percent contained by Wednesday night, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

La Porte fire has singed 3,700 acres in Butte County since the blaze ignited early Monday morning and was 15 percent contained Wednesday night, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

The Lobo fire has scorched 857 acres in Nevada County since early Monday morning. It was 30 percent contained Wednesday night.

Meanwhile, the McCourtney fire has charred 76 acres in Nevada County since early Monday morning, and 65 percent of it was contained Wednesday night.

The Canyon 2 fire has burned 9,214 acres in Southern California’s Orange County since the flames started Monday morning. It was 60 percent contained by Wednesday night, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

At least 3,000 residents were evacuated in and around Anaheim as thousands of structures were threatened by the blaze.

The Cherokee fire has singed 8,360 acres in Butte County since Sunday night and was 45 percent contained Wednesday morning, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

The 37 fire has scorched 1,660 acres in Sonoma County since it started Monday afternoon. It was 70 percent contained by Wednesday morning, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

A cold front swept through much of California on Wednesday, bringing more gusty winds and lower humidity, according to ABC News meteorologists.

Winds were expected to continue to be gusty on Thursday, with some up to 50 mph in central California. Relative humidity will be in the teens in central and northern California and in the single digits in southern California.

These winds will continue through Saturday as the cold front moves through the region, meteorologists said.

The weather conditions have local authorities concerned about “aggressive” fire behavior.

The National Weather Service has issued red flag warnings for Central and Northern California for Wednesday through Thursday. Fire weather watches were issued for Southern California for Thursday through Saturday. An air quality alert was also issued for central California.

As firefighters work to snuff the raging blazes, Sonoma County Sheriff’s Sgt. Spencer Crum told ABC News the county has asked everyone to “help us out.”

Crum confirmed that the 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,” he said.

The sheriff’s sergeant conceded that it could take a long time for communities to bounce back.

“We have a lot of rebuilding here,” Crum said.

Santa Rosa resident Jeff Okrepkie said he fled his home of five years knowing that it could very well be leveled when he returned.

“All that good stuff, I’m never going to see it again,” he told ABC’s San Francisco station KGO on Monday.

Okrepkie said he and his wife tried their best to gather their most precious documents, photos and mementos, but it was impossible to grab everything in time.

Mike Turpen, 38, said he was at a bar in the Glen Ellen area of Sonoma County when someone stormed in wearing a smoke mask and yelled, “Fire!” He said he drove through the flames in his pickup truck with hopes of saving his home.

Turpen said his yard was scorched and still flaming in some spots, but he managed to keep his home from burning down.

“It was like Armageddon was on,” Turpen told KGO. “Every branch of every tree was on fire.”

ABC News’ Matt Foster, Max Golembo, Jenna Harrison, Marilyn Heck, M.L. Nestel, Rex Sakamoto and Ginger Zee contributed to this report.

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Vegas gunman's note contained figures for wind, trajectory and distance: Officials

A note containing handwritten numbers for wind, trajectory, and distance was discovered by Stephen Paddock’s body inside the Las Vegas hotel room where he took his life last Sunday after slaughtering 58 people and injuring hundreds, officials have confirmed.

Law enforcement officials briefed on the investigation confirmed to ABC News on Sunday that the note found on Paddock’s hexagon-shaped nightstand contained such numerical figures.

The note’s details, first reported by 60 Minutes, were revealed by Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Officer Dave Newton, who said he spotted it resting by Paddock’s “shooting platform.”

“I could see on it he had written the distance, the elevation he was on, the drop of what his bullet was going to be for the crowd,” Newton said in a clip from the the episode, which will be televised on Sunday night. “So he had had that written down, and figured out so he would know where to shoot to hit his targets from there.”

Pressed about what the meaning of the numbers were, Newton said, Paddock “must have done the calculations online or something, to figure out what his altitude was going to be, and how high up he was — how far out the crowd was going to be, and what — at that distance — and what the drop of his bullet was going to be.

“He hadn’t written out the calculations — all he had was written out [was] the final numbers that were on the sheet,” he added.

The note’s contents give a clearer picture of Paddock’s planning before he starting firing on 22,000 concertgoers attending the third day of the Route 91 Harvest Festival along the Las Vegas Strip last Sunday.

Sources have told ABC News that Paddock, a 64-year-old retiree, likely had severe mental illness which appears so far to have remained undiagnosed.

Authorities who have logged hundreds of interviews suggest that though Paddock was a successful businessman, he struggled interacting with people.

The property owner and high-stakes video poker player is described as standoff-ish, disconnected, and a man who had difficulty establishing and maintaining meaningful relationships.

He reportedly was exhibiting many antisocial traits that are typical of past mass shooters, according to one source who spoke to ABC News anonymously.

In addition to killing 58 people in his attack, Paddock injured at least 489 others before taking his own life.

Paddock was known for playing gambling games in casinos for hours at a time, with little or no human contact.

Profilers and behavioral scientists this week were brought in to examine witness interviews and investigative summaries to better understand what drove the Mesquite, Nevada, man to execute and injure so many in such a calculated and detached fashion.

They are particularly focused on the period of September to October 2016, when Paddock began buying 30-plus guns, in concentration — most of which were rifles, ABC News has learned.

Sources also said that the gunman’s gambling wages went up during that time, and he completed computer searches where he was looking at a lot of different hotel venues — some apparently just to research, some of which he actually traveled to.

Police, according to multiple law enforcement officials, still have found no definitive evidence to prove Paddock had an accomplice, and have not nailed down a definitive motive.

ABC’s Pierre Thomas, Josh Margolin and James Hill contributed to this report.

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Trump's first wife takes 'full credit' for raising their children

President Donald Trump’s first wife, Ivana Trump, said she has a “direct number” to the White House, turned down the U.S. ambassadorship to the Czech Republic and takes “full credit” for raising the couple’s three children.

Those are just a few of the revelations Ivana Trump, 68, made in a sit-down interview with ABC News’ Amy Robach to promote her new memoir, “Raising Trump.”

The book, set to be released Tuesday, documents Trump’s journey from growing up under Communist rule in the former Czechoslovakia to marrying a future U.S. president and raising their three children together — Donald Jr., Ivanka and Eric Trump.

Below are seven key revelations about Trump’s life as a mother and the first of President Trump’s three wives.

When Donald and Ivana Trump divorced in 1992, she told him that when it came to raising their three children together, “There can be only one chef in the kitchen.”

“I would go and call Donald, I said, ‘Ivanka is going to Chapin, or she’s going to go to the Georgetown University. Eric is going to go to Hill School,’ and he said, ‘OK,'” she recalled. “I was in charge.”

She continued, “I just told him where they’re going to go, and he said, ‘OK.’ He trusted my judgment, because I know the personality of my kids.”

During the formative years of their children’s childhoods, Donald Trump was “on the telephone making the deals,” she said. She takes “full credit” for raising Donald Jr., Eric and Ivanka, she added.

“He was a loving father, don’t get me wrong, and he was a good provider, but he was not the father which would take a stroll and go to the Central Park or go play to baseball with them or something,” she said, adding, “It was only until they were about 18-years-old [that] he could communicate with them, because he could start to talk business with them.

“Before, he really didn’t know what conversation to strike with the little kids.”

President Trump could have accomplished his political ambitions much earlier had it not been for the scandal that engulfed his marriage to Ivana Trump, she said.

“Donald got [a] letter from President Reagan, and he said, ‘You should run for president,’ and that was 20 years ago,” she said. “And I think he could do it if there would not be a scandal.”

She added, “You know, because every American woman hated him, and every American hated him. There was no way he could run during the scandal time.”

Ivana Trump was married to Trump from 1977 to 1992, when their marriage dissolved amid revelations that he was having an affair with Marla Maples, who later became his second wife.

Ivana Trump has forgiven her former husband, but said she will never forgive Maples, whose affair with her husband was splashed on the New York tabloids.

“I never accepted her apology,” Ivana Trump said. “She ruined my family and my marriage.”

Ivana Trump said she speaks to her former husband about once every two weeks, and she has a “direct number” to the White House.

“I [don’t] really want to call him there, because Melania is there,” she said, referring to first lady Melania Trump. “And I don’t want to cause any kind of jealousy or something like that, because I’m basically first Trump wife. OK? I’m first lady.”

Ivana Trump said she has no desire to change places with the current first lady.

“I think for her to be in Washington must be terrible,” Ivana Trump said of Melania Trump. “It’s better her than me. I would hate Washington.”

She continued, “Would I straighten up the White House in 14 days? Absolutely. Can I give the speech for 45 minutes without [a] teleprompter? Absolutely. Can I read a contract? Can I negotiate? Can I entertain? Absolutely. But I would not really like to be there. I like my freedom.”

She said that keeping her freedom also meant declining when the president of the Czech Republic wanted her to be the U.S. ambassador.

When asked by Robach what President Trump said about the offer, Ivana Trump replied, “Well, Donald called me and he said, ‘If you want to take the position, I [will] give it to you.’ I said, ‘Donald, no. I want my freedom.'”

Speaking of her advice for his presidency, Ivana Trump said, “Sometimes I tell him to just, not to speak that much, and tweet are the tweets. I don’t disagree with him because he has so much press against him, so if he says something his words are going to be twisted immediately.”

“If he tweets, the whole world can really get his mind and what is his in mind, and he can tell it in his own words.”

When asked whether she believes Donald Trump is sexist, she spoke about her own experience while married to the real estate mogul.

“Donald gave me all the opportunity to go and prove myself,” she said. “I built the Commander Hotel. I built the Trump Tower. Then Donald [sent] me to Atlantic City, and I was flying at 8 in the morning after breakfast with the kids to Atlantic City on the helicopter.”

She continued, “I think that Donald supports the woman. He loves the woman. Always did. He definitely respected women.”

Ivana Trump said she has “not really” spoken to the president about the “Access Hollywood” tape that was released during the presidential campaign. In the 2005 video, Trump, then the star of NBC’s “The Apprentice,” brags about his ability to grope women because he’s “a star.”

“He was not really disrespectful. He just jokes. Sometime he said things which are silly,” she said.

When asked by Robach whether she thought he was joking about grabbing women, Ivana Trump added, “OK, well, that was one instance, and I just wouldn’t, I don’t want to go into it.”

Ivana said she could see both her daughter, Ivanka Trump, and her son-in-law, Jared Kushner, becoming future presidents. They serve as senior advisers in the Trump White House.

“I think they both could do it,” she said of her daughter and Kushner, who moved their three children to Washington, D.C., from New York.

“[The] only thing which I regret [is] that Ivanka moved to Washington, so I don’t see the grandkids that often, I don’t see her that often,” she said. “But everything else they do, it’s their destination, you know. They do what they want to do and, like I said, they don’t cheat, steal and lie and as long as they do that, it’s OK with me.”

Ivana Trump revealed it is her 35-year-old daughter who can best voice a difference of opinion to the president.

“Oh, absolutely. Ivanka is number one,” she said. “All my kids are, you know, they’re not afraid of him. A lot of people, they’re afraid to criticize him and they sort of stay behind. But my kids tell him exactly, you know, how they feel, and you take it or leave it.”

Ivana Trump said she was taken by Donald Trump’s looks and his mind when they met in the 1970s.

When it came time to propose, Trump tried to woo her beforehand by warning her of what her life would be without him.

“For months before, you know, he said, ‘If you’re not going to go marry me, you’re going to ruin your life,'” she recalled.

The couple wed in what Ivana Trump described as a wedding with six of her friends from Montreal, where she lived before the nuptials, and 600 people from New York.

“I did not know anybody,” she said.

Once she was a Trump, Ivana encountered the patriarch of the family, her husband’s father, real estate developer Fred Trump.

“Fred Trump was [a] really brutal father,” she said. “We went to Tavern on the Green for the brunch one Sunday and [Trump’s] father ordered a steak. So all the, you know, the sisters and brothers, they ordered a steak.”

“And I said, ‘Waiter, can I have a filet of sole? And Fred looked up at the waitress and, ‘No, she’s going to have a steak.’ I look up at the waiter, I said, ‘No, Ivana is going to have a filet of sole,’ — because if I would let him just [roll] right over me, it would be all my life and I would not allowed it.”

When Ivana Trump was pregnant with the couple’s first child, she said her husband told her they could not name their son Donald Trump Jr. because of a specific concern.

“I said, ‘Why not?'” she recalled. “He said, ‘How about if he’s a loser?'”

She continued, “So I said, ‘This is going to be what it is. I carry my kid for nine months, and this is what’s going to be. And the same was with Ivanka. He wanted to call Ivanka Tiffany, because we got the heir rights for the Trump Tower from [luxury retailer] Tiffany.”

Donald and Ivana Trump named their only daughter Ivanka. Donald Trump would go onto have another daughter, named Tiffany, with Maples.

Donald Trump, Jr., now 39, found himself at the center of a political firestorm involving his father’s presidency earlier this year when it was revealed that he met with a Russian lawyer during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Ivana Trump said her three children have not yet read “Raising Trump,” though they each contributed writings.

The president has also not read the book, she said.

“It’s about my life and raising my kids,” she explained. “And he’s in the book because he was father of the kids, but I did not ask him for permission.”

ABC News’ Jennifer Pereira contributed to this report.

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