New details emerge in deadly high school shooting

New details have emerged about the alleged shooter in last week’s deadly high school attack at a Maryland high school, authorities said.

Suspect Austin Rollins, a student at Great Mills High School, shot himself in the head at the same instant the school’s sole resource officer, Deputy Blaine Gaskill, fired one nonfatal shot that struck Rollins’ hand, according to the St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office.

Rollins has since died from the injuries, after allegedly shooting two other students, one of whom also later died from her injuries. The other student, Desmond Barnes, survived being shot in the leg.

Prior to their investigation, authorities had been unsure whether the officer or the suspect fired the fatal shot.

Authorities also released 911 calls from the incident in which Barnes, 14, told a dispatcher, “I’ve just been shot.” Another call is from a teacher, who says she saw a girl get shot in the hallway, a classmate later identified as Jaelynn Willey, 16,

A timeline created by the sheriff’s office details how the shooting unfolded.

Rollins allegedly shot Willey and Barnes in a school hallway just before classes began last Tuesday, police said. Both were transported to a hospital, with Willey in critical condition.

Willey’s mother Thursday tearfully announced her daughter would be taken off life support.

Authorities later discovered that Willey and Rollins had a prior relationship, which, they said, had recently ended. The investigation is ongoing.

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Founder of the secretive self-help group NXIVM charged with sex trafficking

The founder of the secretive self-help group NXIVM has been arrested for sex trafficking and forced labor conspiracy charges.

Keith Raniere, also known as “The Vanguard” to members within the organization, was charged today in Brooklyn federal court with sex trafficking, sex trafficking conspiracy and conspiracy to commit forced labor. The charges arise from Raniere’s alleged role as the leader of a secret society within NXIVM. According to the U.S. States Attorney’s Office, Raniere was deported by Mexican authorities after he was found Sunday outside Puerto Vallarta, Mexico in a luxury villa.

“As alleged in the complaint, Keith Raniere created a secret society of women whom he had sex with and branded with his initials, coercing them with the threat of releasing their highly personal information and taking their assets,” U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Richard Donoghue said in a statement today. Raniere’s initial appearance is scheduled for Tuesday afternoon at the federal courthouse in Fort Worth, Texas. The U.S. Attorney sent a letter to Judge Steven Gold, who is expected to preside over the hearing, asking that Raniere be denied bail.

NXIVM is a secretive self-help organization based in Albany, New York, that was founded by Raniere and Nancy Salzman. It touts itself as a “professional coaching company” and its website says it offers “Executive Success Programs,” or “ESP,” in New York, California, Canada, Mexico and elsewhere.

ABC News “20/20” did an extensive report on the group last year, including interviews with several former members, including Sarah Edmondson, who said she was a member of the group for over a decade.

Edmondson told ABC News and said in a complaint to the New York State Department of Health that after attending NXIVM seminars for more than a decade, she was approached about an opportunity to join a secret sorority. Then, one night she said she and five other women were summoned to a house in Albany, where they thought they were going to get a tattoo, but once there, found out she and the other women were going to be branded.

“It was a horror movie,” she told “20/20.” “It was the most inhumane, horrific way to treat anybody. But the most horrific thing is that it’s women doing it to women.”

Edmondson said each of the women would lie down naked and then was branded with a cauterizing device, without any anesthesia. When it was her turn, Edmondson said the pain felt “worse than childbirth.”

As outlined in the Department of Justice press release, the complaint, which was unsealed today, alleges that “in 2015, Raniere created a secret society within Nxivm called ‘DOS,’ which loosely translated to ‘Lord/Master of the Obedient Female Companions,’ or ‘The Vow.’ DOS operated with levels of women ‘slaves’ headed by ‘masters.’ Slaves were expected to recruit slaves of their own (thus becoming masters themselves), who in turn owed service not only to their own masters but also to masters above them in the DOS pyramid. Raniere stood alone at the top of the pyramid. Other than the (sic) Raniere, all members of DOS were women.”

In Donoghue’s letter to the judge requesting that bail be denied, he asserts that Raniere has had more than fifty DOS slaves under him, many of whom were recruited from within NXIVM’s ranks.

“As alleged, Keith Raniere displayed a disgusting abuse of power in his efforts to denigrate and manipulate women he considered his sex slaves,” FBI’s New York Field Office Assistant Director-in-Charge William F. Sweeney, Jr. said in a statement. “He allegedly participated in horrifying acts of branding and burning them, with the cooperation of other women operating within this unorthodox pyramid scheme. These serious crimes against humanity are not only shocking, but disconcerting to say the least, and we are putting an end to this torture today.”

After reports started surfacing about DOS, a letter was posted on the NXIVM website, in which Raniere said, “The picture being painted in the media is not how I know our community and friends to be, nor how I experience it myself. However, as an organization and as individuals, we felt it was imperative that we hire experts to ensure there is no merit to the allegations.”

“Additionally, I feel it is important to clarify the sorority is not part of NXIVM and that I am not associated with the group,” the statement continued. “I firmly support one’s right to freedom of expression, so what the sorority or any other social group chooses to do is not our business so long as there is no abuse. Our experts, a forensic psychiatrist of international repute, psychologists and ex-law enforcement, say members of the sorority are thriving, healthy, happy, better off, and haven’t been coerced. Furthermore, the sorority is proud of what they created and want to share their story. I am confident they will be addressing you very soon.”

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Woman marries 100-year-old tree in hopes of saving it from being cut down

A 100-year-old ficus tree that stands as a focal point of a local park in Fort Myers, Florida, has a bride.

Karen Cooper, 60, wed the tree during a community event on March 24 at the Snell Family Park as part of a neighborhood effort to save the tree from being cut down.

“When I heard the city was planning to cut it down, I was like, ‘I don’t think so,'” Cooper, who has been living in Fort Myers for nearly 40 years, told ABC News. “I’m just having fun with something very serious.”

The city approved a request from a developer to have the tree removed, according to a spokesperson from the Fort Myers Public Works Office.

“We lost so many trees in Hurricane Irma and for them to cut one down on purpose is terrible,” she added. “And this tree is fabulous.”

The tree’s 8,000-foot canopy extends into a neighboring lot that’s for sale for $ 1 million.

“The tree is the focal point of a very sweet neighborhood park, and without it, the park would just be a vacant lot,” she said. “People get married at this park… but I married the tree.”

Cooper said she was inspired by stories of women in Mexico who wed trees to protest deforestation.

“The ceremony was meant to encourage residents of the subdivision to come to city hall on Tuesday to show support for saving the tree,” she explained.

As many as 80 people from the neighborhood came out to the ceremony and there was music, flowers, and food, Cooper said.

Cooper was walked down a makeshift aisle to stand in front of the tree by her maid of honor and friend, Ann Cason, and her ring bearer, a dog named Little Bear.

Though there was no actual ring or priest present, the vows were read by the event’s disc jockey and the community celebrated with tree-decorated wedding cake.

“We all stood there, made a vow to protect the tree, then cake and mimosas,” she said about the ceremony. “It was tree-mondous.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Bodies of US family of 4 killed by gas poisoning in Mexico coming home for funeral

The bodies of a family of four from Iowa are expected to be returned to the United States on Wednesday as their loved ones expressed disbelief that they died in their Mexico vacation condo when they were overcome by toxic gas as they slept.

Family members of Kevin and Amy Sharp and their two children — 12-year-old Sterling Wayne Sharp and 7-year-old Adrianna Marie Sharp — were making funeral arrangements today, a day after Mexican authorities informed them that autopsies showed their relatives died as a result of “asphyxiation by inhalation of toxic gases.”

“My mother is holding up, doing the best she can. We’re all supporting her each other,” Amy Sharp’s sister, Renee Hoyt, told ABC News in a telephone interview today. “For my mother, it was just me and my sister. So she feels that she lost half her family.”

Hoyt said she and her loved ones are planning one funeral, which will be held at Southwestern Community College in Creston, Iowa, where the Sharp family lived.

“We definitely have an amazing community. This has had a huge impact on all of us,” Hoyt said.

The family was expected to return home last Wednesday from a seven-day spring break vacation to Tulum, Mexico, a small coastal town on the Yucatán Peninsula, southwest of Cancún.

They rented their vacation condo through VRBO, a website homeowners use to rent their properties to travelers.

“Our most heartfelt condolences go out to the loved ones of the Sharp family. We are monitoring this devastating situation closely and have removed the property from our site for any future bookings while we wait for more details,” VRBO’s parent company, HomeAway, said in a statement to ABC News.

Hoyt said she and her relatives grew worried when the family didn’t return Wednesday and reported them missing on Thursday to the U.S. Embassy in Mexico.

The family was staying at a condominium complex called Residencial TAO. Officials of Residencial TAO’s homeowners association said today that once they were informed of the missing family, they had a security team check their data to confirm the Sharps had been staying there.

Mexican authorities said they went to the condo complex and found the bodies on Friday.

The TAO homeowners association said in its statement that the unit the Sharps died in was sold in November 2013 by developers of the TAO complex to a private owner, who “became the legal representative and also, accountable for its maintenance.”

Hoyt said she and her relatives were given the tragic news about 9 a.m. on Friday.

“They said it’s either the hot water heater or the gas stove,” Hoyt said of the possible source of the toxic gas leak.

She said she and her family members had initially feared foul play.

“We thought the worse. We did get some closure knowing it wasn’t a violent situation,” she said.

“Our main concern right now is getting our family back. We haven’t even thought of any lawsuit or anything like that,” Hoyt added.

On Saturday night, about 150 friends and relatives of the Sharp family held a candlelight vigil at the Adams County Speedway in Corning, Iowa, where Kevin Sharp, 41, raced stock cars and was known on the racing circuit as “The Sharpshooter.”

“Nothing I can say tonight can make any sense of this,” the Rev. Andrew Bardole, pastor of the Corning United Methodist Church, told the crowd. “We’re wary and we want to shout out in anger. Lives that we love have been torn from us.”

My sincere condolences.

Kevin Sharp was a big fan of professional NASCAR champion racer Brad Keselowski, and, like Keselowski, raced in a No. 2 car.

“So sorry to read about the Sharp family’s passing,” Keselowski tweeted on Saturday. “They were proud supporters of the #2crew and will be missed dearly by friends, family and the community; Very sad story. My sincere condolences.”

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16-year-old Maryland school shooting victim dies after being taken off life support

A 16-year-old girl shot at her Maryland high school on Tuesday died Thursday night after she was taken off life support, officials said.

Great Mills High School student Jaelynn Willey, 16, and a classmate were shot, allegedly by Austin Rollins, 17, in a school hallway just before classes began on Tuesday, police said. The school’s resource officer engaged Rollins and the two exchanged gunfire; Rollins was hit and later died at a hospital.

On Thursday Willey’s mother tearfully announced her daughter would be taken off life support.

“On Tuesday this past week, our lives changed completely and totally forever,” Willey’s mother, Melissa Willey, said at a press conference Thursday. “My daughter was hurt by a boy, who shot her in the head.”

“She will not make it,” her mother said. “We will be taking her off life support this evening.”

She died at about 11:30 p.m. on Thursday, surrounded by her family, the St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office said today.

Jaelynn Willey was the second-oldest of nine siblings and a member of the Great Mills High School swim team, her mother said.

“It is with terribly broken hearts that we learn of the tragic news regarding Jaelynn Willey,” Maryland Governor Larry Hogan said in a statement Thursday. “No parent should ever be faced with a decision like this.”

“There are no words adequate to express our compassion for her loving family and the entire Great Mills community,” he continued. “All of Maryland grieves with them, and they will remain in our thoughts and prayers.”

Ryan Deitsch, a high school student who survived the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last month that took 17 lives, tweeted this morning: “One death every fifteen minutes from a bullet in this country doesn’t mean much till you put a name to it. Thoughts and actions going out to #GreatMillsHighSchool after their tragic losses and injuries this week. Jaelynn Willey, age 16, did not die in vain.”

The second Great Mills victim, a 14-year-old boy, was treated for a gunshot wound in the thigh and released on Wednesday.

Jaelynn Willey and Rollins “had a prior relationship which recently ended,” the St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office said. “All indications suggest the shooting was not a random act of violence.”

St. Mary’s County Sheriff Tim Cameron called the shooting “our worst nightmare.”

“This is what we prepare for,” he said. “And this is what we pray we never have to do.”

This shooting came four days before Saturday’s March for Our Lives in nearby Washington, D.C. Thousands of students are expected to descend on the nation’s capital to rally for gun control and safer schools in the wake of the deadly Feb. 14 school shooting in Parkland, Florida.

Less than one week before Great Mills High School faced its own shooting, its students were among the thousands participating in the National School Walkout, according to local news outlet

The walkout, which marked a month since the Parkland massacre, was organized as a call on Congress to tighten gun laws.

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Bumped United passenger walks away with $10,000 voucher

A United Airlines passenger bumped from a flight and walking away with a travel voucher isn’t terribly surprising — but for one flyer, it was worth $ 10,000.

For Allison Preiss, a communications director from Washington who began tweeting Thursday morning from Dulles International Airport after she was asked to deboard, her travel experience ended much better than it began.

“Well,” she later told ABC News, “I can say it was the best flight delay ever.”

United oversold the flight and asked Preiss, the lowest-fare passenger, to deboard. Thus began her tweetstorm:

“United is offering $ 1K in travel credit for an oversold flight. If nobody bites, they will kick off the lowest fare passenger by pulling them out of the boarding line. For a flight that THEY oversold. Unreal.”


“They are kicking me off this flight.”

“They can’t board me on this plane because there is a broken seat.”

“.@united IS THE WORST.”

“United tried to get me to sign a document that says I volunteered my seat on this plane when I was involuntarily denied boarding. Sketchy af.”

“On the upside, I wasn’t physically dragged off the plane and my dog wasn’t killed on board, so I’ve got that going for me … which is nice.”

“They really do not want to give me cash. They just offered me $ 10,000 in travel credit. TEN THOUSAND.”

Preiss posted a photo of the voucher on Twitter with the comment, “This is how badly United didn’t want to give me cash.”

She added: “I also got two $ 10 meal vouchers. I am going to go INSANE at Pizza Hut.”

United raised its payment cap to $ 10,000 last year after a passenger was literally dragged off a flight.

In a statement obtained by ABC News, United confirmed Preiss’ account and that the flight was oversold.

“Yes,” the airline said, “we issued this voucher per our policy.”

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