LOS ANGELES, California — (DMN) – The Los Angeles County Coroners Office says that cocaine was found in Whitney Houston’s system when she died. The report on Houston’s death, released today, determined Houston’s final cause of death to be from drowning, the effects of atherosclerotic heart disease and cocaine intake. The report said that her manner of death was an accident.
A toxicology report found that cocaine and metabolites were identified in Houston’s system and contributed to her death. Other drugs, including marijuana, Xanax, Flexeril and Benadryl were also identified, but did not contribute to Houston’s death, according to the report. No trauma or foul play was suspected, the report concludes. Houston, 48, was found dead in the bathtub of her hotel room at the Beverly Hilton on Feb. 12, the day before the Grammys.
Indiana Senator Richard Lugar needs some help. I like Lugar. I like the fact that he is open to compromise and genuinely works for what he believes is in the best interests of his constituency. The problem is a series of fairly serious campaign gaffes that could derail his bid for a seventh term in the United States Senate. Lugar says he will repay the U.S. Treasury $4,500 to reimburse taxpayers for a series of hotel stays in Indiana over the years. The announcement is the latest to bring attention — surely unwanted by Lugar who is in the political fight of his life — to the fact that Lugar has not had a residence in Indiana since he sold his home here in 1977. He has used the address of the home he sold as his “official” address for voting, his driver’s license and his candidacy filings over the years, citing multiple opinions by Indiana attorneys general.
But the issue has been seized on by Lugar’s opponents — both Treasurer Richard Mourdock, who is challenging Lugar in the May 8 primary election, and Democrats. And the Marion County Election Board recently voted 2-1 on party lines that Lugar and his wife Charlene cannot continue to use the address of their former residence as their voting address. Lugar has filed an appeal with the Marion Circuit Court of that ruling. Andy Fisher, a spokesman for Lugar, said the reimbursements are a result of questions raised by Politico, a Washington news outlet, who asked about an obscure set of Senate guidelines requiring senators to certify their “usual place of residence” in their home state during adjournments. During those periods, a senator is not allowed to use official funds to cover hotel costs in that home area.
Fisher said a review of records back to 1991 — the farthest back they are available — showed some payments, and Lugar will reimburse the Treasury for them. Fisher called it a “bookkeeping” error and said Lugar has “always been a strong steward of the taxpayers’ funds, returning more than $5.4 million in unspent office funds throughout his career.” He said the constant hammering of the residency issue by Lugar’s opponents is “the politics of personal destruction.” “This is a bookkeeping matter that is small in comparison to the issues that we’re trying to talk about in this campaign,” Fisher said, citing such things as health care, the deficit and the Keystone XL pipeline. “The big problem really here is that Lugar’s opponents are running a destructive political attack campaign rather than focusing on important issues.”
Mourdock, at a news conference this morning to tout his endorsement by the Indiana Right to Life political action committee, was asked about the issue by reporters. He said he was only just learning about the reimbursement, and added that if he is elected “I won’t be paying for hotel bills in Indiana because I live here.” The Indiana Democratic Party weighed in as well, calling on Lugar to release the internal audit the senator’s office conducted as it reviewed the hotel payments. “After reimbursing taxpayers for rooms that he improperly billed them for, it is essential that Senator Lugar make public the results of that audit,” said Dan Parker, the party’s chairman. “It’s a shame that it’s come to this. Indiana’s senior senator paying back taxpayers for staying in hotels when he could have just maintained a residence here.”
Lugar is appealing a county election board ruling that he can’t use the address of the Indianapolis home he sold in 1977 for his voter registration. The appeal filed in a Marion County court argues that the Marion County Election Board acted against the Indiana Constitution and state law with its 2-1 decision last week. The Indianapolis Star reports that a court hearing on the appeal has been set for March 30. The appeal argues that the election board decision disenfranchises Lugar and his wife, Charlene. Lugar is seeking a quick decision because April 9 is the voter registration deadline for the May 8 Indiana primary. State Treasurer Richard Mourdock is challenging Lugar in the Republican primary and has made Lugar’s residency a key issue.
As much as I like Lugar…and I do…and as much as I agree that the campaign against him as been one of personal destruction, it does matter. The residency issue bothers me as do his hotel bills. If nothing else, it shows the Senator could be out of touch with Indiana voters and making the argument that he is not is terribly difficult. I don’t like Mourdock and cannot even tell you who the Democratic candidate for Senate is if there is one. This is a terrible dilemma for moderates.
WALLER, Texas — (DMN) – Authorities in Waller County, Texas believe they have thwarted a planned attack on a local high school by a man in police custody in connection with the murder of his family. Trey Sesler tearfully confessed to killing his family during a jailhouse interview with investigators Wednesday afternoon, authorities said. During that interview, investigators said Sesler admitted to committing other crimes in the Waller County area over the past several years – things like killing animals, shooting at closed businesses and schools in the middle of the night and setting fires.
Investigators said today that Sesler indicated he planned to carry out a “Columbine type” attack on Waller High School. News accounts indicated me have an accomplice but authorities stressed during a midday news conference that they have not found evidence of an accomplice. They also said the investigation is ongoing. Investigators were working Thursday to verify Sesler’s claims of criminal activity. “It is our goal to keep this community safe and continue this investigation for as long as it takes. This will include more interviews and reviewing data that comes in from search warrants issued on computers used by Sesler,” the Waller County Sheriff’s Office said in a press release Thursday.
Sesler posted videos of himself firing weapons on YouTube prior to the triple homicide. “If you come to that point, what do you have on your mind,” Waller County Sheriff R. Glenn Smith said. “I certainly don’t think it was something that just happened, all of a sudden, in one bad argument. These kinds of things, probably something had been going on with his young man for a while.” Sesler was arrested Tuesday night, just hours after police found the bodies of his parents – Lawton Ray and Rhonda Wyse Sesler – and his brother, 26-year-old Mark Alan Sesler, at their home in Waller.
Police are not sure exactly when the victims were shot, but said it could have been as early as Monday afternoon. Police were called to the home by concerned family members around 1 p.m. Tuesday. Investigators described the gruesome scene as a “war zone.” “The best way for me to describe the residence is it looked like a war zone – a tremendous amount of damage inside the residence, the crime scene was not contained to one area of the residence. It was from one end of the residence to the other, front to back, which is unusual,” Waller Police Chief Phil Rehak said.
Texas Rangers quickly tracked Trey Sesler down at a friend’s house near Magnolia after spotting his car outside the residence. They said he had two guns on him at the time—one inside, and one in his car. Family members said the young suspect was suffering from some type of mental illness. But investigators said they have no idea what exactly might be wrong. The FBI was called in Wednesday to assist with the investigation, and officers searched Sesler’s grandmother’s home in Hempstead for evidence. A friend said Trey Sesler’s parents allowed him to live in the grandmother’s home alone, but continued to support him financially.
Sesler appeared to have an obsession with the Colorado tragedy, where two seniors went on a shooting spree, killing 12 classmates and one teacher before taking their own lives in 1999, the source said. His friends seemed to entertain Sesler’s idea, but whether they would follow through was unclear, the source said. Investigators are taking Sesler’s claims about the plot seriously. He seemed to have an interest in guns and, according to police, used recreational drugs and had recently been asking where he could get body armor. Late Wednesday afternoon, authorities continued to search for guns they said they believed Sesler, an online animation critic, may have kept at a home in Hempstead, the police source said. Authorities were also searching Sesler’s computer and YouTube channel.
Security was beefed up today at Waller High School in Waller, Texas 40 miles northwest of Houston.
Sesler was captured Tuesday night after a daylong manhunt. Authorities spotted him in Magnolia and watched for several hours as he sat inside a 2010 black Ford Mustang before taking him into custody. He is being held in the Waller County Jail on a $3 million bail, said Waller County District Attorney Elton Mathis. Lawton Ray Sesler Jr., 58, his wife, Rhonda Wyse Sesler, 57, and their son, Mark Alan Sesler, 26, were found dead at their one-story, ranch-style home. Each had fatal gunshot wounds that appeared to have come from a high-powered rifle, authorities said. Officials had been at the house on Monday, investigating a report of shots fired about 5:30 p.m. They found nothing, police said, but returned on Tuesday afternoon.
In the ransacked home, authorities also found remorseful words written on the walls in black marker that appeared to come from Sesler, said Michael Williams, a crime scene investigator and detective with the Waller Police Department. “He basically said it in the first person, stuff like, ‘I love my family,’ ” Williams said. Williams said that about two weeks ago, Trey Sesler allegedly made a strange call to police. “He just called us one day about something bizarre,” said Williams. “He said he was sitting in the backyard and that a bullet whizzed by his head and that he had gotten his guns and he was ready.”
Relatives who live in the area told police they were concerned about the safety of Sesler’s immediate family, Williams said. Whether Sesler was being treated for any mental health problems was unclear. However, Williams said he appeared delusional. Over the last 4½ years, Sesler developed an online following as “Mr. Anime” – an alter ego who was the star and producer of hundreds of videos offering Japanese animation reviews. His YouTube channel, Lens Cap Productions, also features several amateur short films, some of which included his brother as an actor.
TOULOUSE, France — (DMN/BBC) – A police siege in the French city of Toulouse has ended with a man suspected of killing seven people now dead, the French interior minister has said. Police stormed the flat where Mohammed Merah was holed up at 09:30 GMT, after a siege that had lasted 32 hours. Merah fired at officers and was found dead after jumping from a window. The self-confessed al-Qaeda militant was suspected of killing four people outside a Jewish school and three soldiers in three separate attacks.
Merah, 23, said he was acting to “avenge Palestinian children” and protest against French military interventions overseas. President Nicolas Sarkozy, in a televised address, said everything had been done to try to bring Merah to justice but it was decided that no more lives could be put at risk. He also vowed a new crackdown on those who visited “hate or terrorism” web sites or travelled abroad to be indoctrinated in terrorism.
- French citizen of Algerian extraction, aged 23
- Has criminal record in France for non-terrorist crimes
- Has described himself as an al-Qaeda member and has spent time in Afghanistan and Pakistan
Interior Minister Claude Gueant said officers had thrown grenades and entered by the door and windows of the flat. After surveying the scene and finding no sign of the suspect, they proceeded to the bathroom, moving slowly as they were wary of booby-traps. When officers tried to find out if there was anyone in the bathroom, the suspect came out firing several weapons. Mr Gueant said the suspect was “shooting very violently. The bursts of gunfire were frequent and hard”.
Merah then jumped from a window, continuing to fire. He was found dead on the ground. One police source told Agence France-Presse that Merah had been killed by police as he fled through the window. Two officers were reported wounded in the final assault. Mr Gueant said: “A RAID [special police] officer who is used to this kind of thing told me that he had never seen such a violent assault.” Earlier Mr Gueant had said it was unclear whether Merah was still alive, because there had been no contact overnight. He had said the object had been to take Merah alive.
A number of explosions had been set off overnight to intimidate Merah, officials said. They said he was armed with a Kalashnikov high-velocity rifle, a mini-Uzi 9mm machine pistol, several handguns and possibly grenades. Street lights were switched off in the vicinity of the building on Wednesday evening and surrounding areas evacuated. In his TV address, Mr Sarkozy announced an investigation into whether Merah had accomplices and into possible Islamist indoctrination practices in prisons. He also said: “The French should not give rein to anger – our Muslim compatriots have nothing to do with the crazy actions of a terrorist. We should not embark on any stigmatisation.”
Merah claimed to have received al-Qaeda training in Pakistan’s Waziristan area, and also said he had been to Afghanistan. Mr Gueant defended intelligence services for not preventing the attacks, describing Merah as a “lone wolf”. “The domestic intelligence agency tracks a lot of people who are involved in Islamist radicalism. Expressing ideas… is not enough to bring someone before justice,” Mr Gueant said. Christian Etelin, a lawyer who has previously acted for Merah, said his client had violent tendencies. “There was his religious engagement, an increasing hatred against the values of a democratic society and a desire to impose what he believes is truth,” Mr Etelin said. He also denied earlier reports that Merah had been jailed for explosives offensives in Afghanistan, saying his client was in jail in France for robbery with violence at the time – from December 2007 to September 2009.
The killings took place in and around Toulouse in three separate incidents earlier this month. On 11 March, a soldier was shot and killed while waiting to see a man about selling his motorcycle. Days later, two soldiers were shot and killed and a third was wounded while waiting at a cash machine. Then earlier this week, three children and an adult were shot and killed outside a Jewish school. The four Jewish victims were buried in an emotional funeral in Jerusalem on Wednesday. Also on Wednesday, President Sarkozy attended a memorial for the three murdered soldiers at a military base in Montauban near Toulouse.