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ABC News(NEW YORK) -- The Southern Plains were hit hard over the past two days with 56 reported tornadoes, 230 damaging storm reports and almost 9 inches of rain in Oklahoma.

There have been three deaths reported due to the storm, including a woman who died in Perkins, Oklahoma, after driving around a barricade and getting washed away by floodwaters.

Flash flood alerts stretch from Montana to Missouri on Wednesday morning with flood warnings mostly in Kansas, Oklahoma and Missouri.

The storm system that brought all the severe weather and flooding to the Plains on Tuesday will not move much, so it could bring more severe weather, including tornadoes, from Oklahoma to Missouri.

Oklahoma City and Tulsa, Oklahoma; Wichita, Kansas; and Kansas City and Springfield, Missouri, are all at risk Wednesday for damaging winds, large hail and tornadoes.

On Thursday, part of the storm system moves into the Northeast and brings a chance for severe weather for New York City, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.

The biggest threat will be damaging winds, but we can’t rule out a few tornadoes.

At the same time, yet another storm system will move into the Plains from the west with more severe weather from Texas to Missouri, including damaging winds, large hail and tornadoes.

More rain is expected in the Plains and parts of the Midwest over the next couple days, with some areas in Kansas and Missouri getting an additional 4 to 6 inches of rain and possible flooding.

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ABC News(NEW YORK) -- A New York man said he was shocked beyond measure when he discovered that his estranged wife, a New York City police officer, allegedly hired a hit man to kill him.

"I can't believe it. I'm still in shock," Isaiah Carvalho told ABC's Good Morning America in an interview airing Wednesday. "I'm still lost over this whole thing and I'm trying to process everything."

"We didn't have like a heated custody battle. We were about to reach an agreement, so I don't see why she would attempt to do this to me, or to my son for that matter," he added.

Carvalho, 32, said five months had passed since he filed for divorce from his wife, New York Police Department officer Valerie Cincinelli, but he never thought the relationship could get as bad as it did.

Federal investigators said Cincinelli, a 12-year-veteran of the force, paid her boyfriend $7,000 to help her hire a hit man to kill Carvalho and the boyfriend's teenage daughter. Instead, her boyfriend reported her to police and agreed to help them gather evidence against her, according to court records.

Authorities broke the news to Carvalho last week, revealing that his wife had allegedly been plotting to kill him since February.

"They told me, 'We don't know how to tell you this, but your wife put a hit out on you.' And my first response was, 'Where's my son?'" Carvalho recalled. "They told me what they told me … and they're like, 'We need your help. We're gonna need you to do something for us in order to further our investigation.'"

"They ended up taking me to an undisclosed location and had me fake my death and took pictures of it," he added.

He said police took gruesome photos of him pretending to be dead -- an act he says took an emotional toll on him.

"It was the craziest thing I've ever had to experience," he said. "They had me sit in my car. They put glass on the floor and all over me, and had me hunch over into the passenger seat."

Authorities used photos of the staged crime scene to convince 34-year-old Cincinelli that her plan had succeeded, court records show.

A Suffolk County detective went to Cincinelli’s Long Island home at around 10 a.m. last Friday -- as a part of an FBI ruse -- to notify her about their investigation into her estranged husband's death.

An undercover FBI agent sent her a text message about an hour later, purportedly from the killer. It included a photo of the supposed murder scene and an instruction to send an additional $3,000 to kill the boyfriend’s daughter.

She immediately began talking about an alibi with her boyfriend, who was cooperating with the FBI, and ordered him to delete their text conversations, according to the records.

That's when authorities moved in to arrest her. She was charged with conspiracy to commit murder and was being held without bail as of early Wednesday.

Cincinelli's family came to her defense earlier this week. Her father said he believes she's being set up by the boyfriend, but he declined to disclose the man's identity.

"I don't know what happened, but I do know my daughter and I knew this was not true when I first heard it," Louis Cincinelli told ABC News. "She was going out with some wacko pathological liar who had her locked up once before, saying that she pulled a gun on him and threatened to kill him, but then he went to court and said in open court, he recanted it and said he had made it up. Now ... she throws this bum out again and two weeks later this happens."

Cincinelli and Carvalho have active restraining orders out against each other -- a matter he declined to discuss.

Carvalho said he doesn't "have anything to say about" about Cincinelli's father's accusations, but does have one question for his estranged wife: "Why?"

"I didn't want to believe it, but apparently it's true," Carvalho said. "I didn't think she would be capable of it, but now I don't put anything past her."

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AWelshLad/iStock(CHICAGO) -- As his family prepared to bury the mother who never got to cradle him, a baby cut from her womb in a heinous Chicago homicide has opened his eyes while in his father's arms, a family spokesman said Tuesday.

In critical condition and on life support, the newborn infant of murdered 19-year-old Marlen Ochoa-Lopez is defying the long odds doctors initially gave him for survival.

"He has opened his eyes," Julie Contreras, a spokeswoman for Ochoa-Lopez's family, told ABC News on Tuesday. "He seems to be a fighter."

She said the baby, named Giovanni Yadeil Lopez, first opened his eyes on Sunday while receiving a visit from his father, Giovanni Lopez, and his 3-year-old brother, Contreras said.

She said the baby opened his eyes again on Monday as his father cradled him, she said.

"He opened his eyes when his daddy held him and his daddy was cooing him. He was telling him, 'My precious, beautiful, handsome little boy. My handsome little prince. I love you. Your dad loves you,'" said Contreras.

But Contreras said doctors at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn are not ready to say if the baby, who police initially said had zero brain activity, will survive. His family, she says, has not given up hope.

"There's been no talk of disconnecting him from life support," Contreras said.

Police said Ochoa-Lopez, who was nine months pregnant, was killed on April 23 when she was lured to the Chicago home of Clarisa Figueroa, 46, a woman she met on a Facebook page called "Help a Mother Out." Police said Figueroa promised Ochoa-Lopez free baby clothes.

When Ochoa-Lopez arrived at the home, Figueroa allegedly strangled her with a cable while her daughter, Desiree Figueroa, 24, allegedly distracted her with a photo album, authorities said.

The baby was then cut from Ochoa-Lopez's body, prosecutors said.

Following Ochoa-Lopez's murder, Clarisa Figueroa took the baby to Advocate Christ Medical Center, where it was admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit, prosecutors said. Clarisa Figueroa then allegedly formed a GoFundMe page in an effort to raise money for the baby, who she was passing off as her own.

Both Clarisa and Desiree Figueroa have been charged with murder. Clarisa Figueroa's 40-year-old boyfriend, Piotr Bobak, was arrested and charged with helping to cover up the alleged crime.

Ochoa-Lopez family reported her missing on the day she went to Figueroa's home, but her body wasn't discovered until May 14, when police executed a search warrant at the suspects' residence.

"What Ms. Figueroa is accused of is nothing short of barbarism," Anthony Guglielmi, spokesman for the Chicago Police Department, told ABC News on Tuesday. "She's a coward who preyed on this young woman and certainly took a life and severely impacted the life of someone who wasn't even given a chance."

According to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, the hospital contacted the agency on May 9, more than two weeks after Figueroa first checked into the hospital with the newborn, ABC station WSL-TV in Chicago reported Tuesday.

Both Oak Lawn Police and Chicago police said they were never contacted by hospital staff and do not know the hospital's policy on such matters.

Contreras told ABC News that she and Ochoa-Lopez's family met with administrators at Advocate Christ Medical Center on Monday to demand answers on why the hospital didn't contact authorities earlier.

"We did discuss protocols and procedures, wanting to know what those were when it comes to any woman that arrives that has given birth in a home," Contreras told ABC News. "But all those legal questions actually were secondary and will be answered in another meeting and time and place because our focus was baby Giovanni to make sure that he's receiving the utmost proper care."

Hospital officials declined to comment on the delay in notifying the Department of Children and Family Services.

"Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with the Ochoa-Lopez family. Our clinical team is committed to meeting regularly with patients and families to ensure there is open dialogue about treatment paths. Out of respect for the family's privacy, we are unable to comment on the specific content covered during our time together," the hospital said in a statement.

Ochoa-Lopez's funeral is scheduled for Saturday at the Mount Auburn Funeral Home in the Chicago suburb of Stickney.

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recep-bg/iStock(HILLSBOROUGH, N.C.) -- A North Carolina elementary school teacher has been arrested after she allegedly threatened to shoot up the school where she taught.

Kristen Thompson abruptly resigned last Friday from Pathways Elementary School in Hillsborough, according to the Orange County Sheriff's Office. But it was only after her resignation that fellow teachers said she had previously "made threats to shoot up the school."

Thompson was arrested on Tuesday and charged with communicating a threat of mass violence, the Orange County Sheriff's Office said.

"This situation is being handled by law enforcement with the safety of our students and school staff as our utmost concern," Sheriff Charles Blackwood said in a statement. "Meanwhile, this situation is also being dealt with by school leadership as a personnel issue as well as a safety one. As such, the principal and other administrators are strictly forbidden by law from sharing information about the case."

"A threat of school violence is understandably unsettling for the community. Please know that the school and law enforcement are working together as a team to ensure the last few weeks of the school year are safe and productive for our students," the sheriff added.

Thompson was held on a $1,000 bond and is next due in court on June 14.

It was unclear whether Thompson had yet obtained an attorney.

Orange County Schools spokesman Seth Stephens told The (Raleigh) News & Observer, "Once school administration was made aware about an alleged threat by Kristen Thompson, law enforcement was contacted immediately."

The threat came just weeks after two people were killed and four injured in a shooting at University of North Carolina at Charlotte, about two hours away from Hillsborough.

Thompson's arrest also comes at a time when lawmakers in the state are pushing to arm teachers as a solution to school shootings.

A bill was introduced in March in the North Carolina state legislature that would make teachers who carried a gun eligible for a raise, according to Charlotte ABC station WTVD-TV.

A similar bill failed to gain traction last year in the wake of the Parkland, Florida, school massacre.

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4nadia/iStock(OLYMPIA, Wash.) -- Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signed legislation on Tuesday making the state the first in the country to legalize human composting.

The law would recognize "natural organic reduction," sometimes referred to as liquid cremation, as an alternative to traditional burying or cremation, which releases harmful chemicals into the air.

The process uses wood chips, straw and other substances to turn the human body into soil, giving families an environmentally friendly alternative to burial or cremation.

The new law, which goes into effect on May 1, 2020, would allow loved ones to keep the soil to possibly plant vegetables, flowers or even a tree.

The bill, titled "concerning human remains," passed with bipartisan majorities in both chambers of the state legislature: 80-16 in the House and 38-11 in the Senate.

State lawmakers said the bill was inspired by Katrina Spade, who came up with the idea for human composting as a graduate student at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She went on to found Recompose, a nonprofit that aims to create the country's first public organic reduction funeral home, according to its website.

"Recomposition allows us to give back to the earth that supports us all our lives," the company said on its website. "In addition to creating a system that will gently return us to the earth, we encourage participation and strive to make the experience transparent and meaningful for everyone."

Inslee, who is currently running for president, has made climate change and environmental concerns the main platform of his campaign.

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YinYang/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- 2020 White House hopefuls opposed to new state abortion bans joined protesters on the steps of the Supreme Court on Tuesday as other abortion rights supporters converged on state capitols, town squares and courthouses nationwide seeking to counter bills sweeping across state legislatures.

Among the 2020 candidates who joined the political battle at the court were Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, California Rep. Eric Swalwell, Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton, New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan, Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

"I don't think anyone thought we were going to have this debate again but we are right in the middle of this debate because these guys think they're going to take women's health care backward and are we going to let them," Klobuchar shouted into a bullhorn as protesters shouted "No!" in response.

"The legislators in Alabama will not have the last word," Booker said when it was his turn to speak. "Those legislators in Georgia will not have the last word. And just as it was in the Civil Rights Movement, a governor from Alabama will not have the last word on our rights.

Ryan, who was once anti-abortion but flipped his stance as he's moved further left over the years, recalled his change of heart on the issue.

"I met women for the first time in my life that had an abortion," he began. "I met women who had to deal with very difficult, complicated circumstances in their pregnancies. And overtime, because of the courage of the women who came into my office and who wanted to help craft legislation, I changed my position. And I came to realize that it is stories of the women, it is the courage of these women, especially in the last couple of weeks, who have stood up bravely and told their stories and told your stories."

Gillibrand took direct aim at President Donald Trump's Supreme Court pick, Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who, she said, "has emboldened state legislatures across the country to do the unthinkable -- to do an all-out attack on women's reproductive freedom -- to not just overturn Roe v. Wade but literally turn back the clock decades -- decades -- on women's basic civil rights."

"This is the beginning of a long march," Gillibrand said. "This is the beginning of President Trump's war on women. If he wants this war, he will have this war and he will lose."

Moulton echoed those sentiments when he spoke, asserting, "Women still are under assault for the basic right to choose and that is wrong... We're here today because of Brett Kavanaugh. That is why we're here. Let's get him out."

But Buttigieg, who did not appear on stage, reinforced his support for reproductive rights during an interview with ABC News at the protest.

"I'm here to stand with the majority of Americans who believe in women's reproductive freedom," he said. "Look I'm a Democrat who lives and governs in Indiana so I understand that people come at this issue differently. Some of my supporters view it differently than I do but most Americans believe that these decisions ought to be left to the woman who is faced with these sometimes unthinkable medical situations."

"When you see the roll back of rights that is happening from Alabama, to Missouri, and I'm sure there's more where that came from, it's a reminder of how important it's been that for as long as I've been alive, the Roe vs. Wade framework established here at the Supreme Court has protected that autonomy and those rights," he added.

Although he did not stand at the podium during the protest, Sanders told ABC News that he believes the best way to push back against the controversial laws is to "educate, organize and bring millions of people together to demand that women in this country on the right to control their own body. That's what this issue is."

Abortion-rights advocates sought to "fight back against this unconstitutional attempt to gut Roe and punish women," according to the #StopTheBans website. The slew of protests were triggered by GOP-led efforts to pass restrictive anti-abortion measures aimed at fomenting a larger battle over Roe v. Wade in the nation's highest court.

Several states are seeking to mount legal challenges to Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide. Those states, include including Missouri, which on Friday passed the most recent ban -- state lawmakers charged ahead with an eight-week abortion ban with no exceptions for rape, incest or survivors of human trafficking. Missouri Gov. Mike Parson is expected to sign the restrictive bill into law in the coming days.

Missouri followed a wave of conservative states passing restrictive abortion bans, including Kentucky, Mississippi, Ohio and Georgia. Lawmakers in those states approved "heartbeat" bills, which ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected -- as early as six weeks into a pregnancy.

Alabama's ban, signed into law by Gov. Kay Ivey last week, imposes the harshest limitations of any state in the country -- a near-full ban on the procedure, not providing for any window of a pregnancy when abortion is legal.

"Across the country, we are seeing a new wave of extreme bans on abortion, stripping away reproductive freedom and representing an all-out assault on abortion access," states the event's website, which hosted by groups such as NARAL Pro-Choice America, Planned Parenthood, All* Above All Action Fund, the ACLU and the Women's March. "This is Trump's anti-choice movement … and it's terrifying, particularly for women of color and low-income women who are most affected by these bans. ... Politicians shouldn't be making decisions best left to women, their families and their doctors."

Amid the toutrage from abortion-rights groups, many among the field of 2020 Democratic hopefuls vying for the White House immediately condemned the anti-abortion efforts last week.

"Access to safe, legal abortion is a constitutional RIGHT. Full stop," Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., said on Twitter.

"The Alabama legislature is ignoring science, criminalizing abortion, and punishing women," Buttigieg tweeted. "Instead, the government's role should be to make sure all women have access to comprehensive affordable care, and that includes safe and legal abortion."

Despite not being in Washington for the rally, former Vice President Joe Biden released a Twitter video condemning the new laws restricting abortion access in Georgia, Alabama and Missouri.

"It’s wrong, it’s pernicious, and we have to stop it," he said. "It’s important that we know and everybody else knows what these guys are about, what they’re trying to do and a woman actually signed one of these piece of legislation. It’s wrong it must be stopped. This is a choice under Roe between a woman and her doctor, and it lays out the circumstances. We must protect that right.”

On Tuesday, as he stood across the street from Capitol Hill, Buttigieg struck a more optimistic tone about his ability to bridge the divide over this issue, signaling his willingness to work across the aisle.

"There are a lot of pro-choice Republicans, and even people who maybe view themselves as more conservative, who are pretty shocked by for example, the law passed in Alabama...reasonable Republicans are as shocked by some of these extremist actions as Democrats who have been concerned about protecting choice all along. And it's one more opportunity to build on the American majority that we have for progressive causes, ranging from women's reproductive rights to raising wages in this country."

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Fedorovekb/iStock(PHILADELPHIA) -- A man has been arrested for allegedly gunning down a transgender activist in Philadelphia, though police say the killing is not being investigated as a hate crime.

Michelle Washington, 40, was shot in the head and torso on Sunday morning and pronounced dead at a hospital, according to the Philadelphia police.

The fact that Washington was transgender was not a factor in the crime, Philadelphia police homicide Capt. Jason Smith said at a news conference on Tuesday.

He added, "She did not deserve to die in this manner."

Troy Bailey, 28, was arrested Monday night for murder and gun-related charges, police said.

It's believed Bailey knew the victim, Smith said.

Bailey gave a statement to police, admitting to shooting Washington, Smith said.

"The truth as to why Mr. Bailey murdered Ms. Washington may never be fully known," Smith said. "According to Mr. Bailey, it was over a dispute that the two had pertaining to the sale of a firearm from Mr. Bailey to Ms. Washington."

"We don't necessarily believe that's the case," Smith added.

Bailey had gone to police on his own, saying he was a witness to the murder, Smith said. Police later zeroed in on him as a suspect.

Washington was "a brilliant and outgoing member of Philadelphia's transgender community, known for her advocacy and mentorship," Amber Hikes, executive director of Philadelphia's Office of LGBT Affairs, told ABC Philadelphia station WPVI-TV. "She will be profoundly missed."

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Penn State(PITTSBURGH) -- A Penn State professor with a side job as a Pittsburgh Uber driver who was arrested this month for allegedly kidnapping two women is now accused of kidnapping a third woman that same night.

The third woman spoke with police on May 16, saying that on May 11, she was outside at a nightclub when she saw a car with an Uber decal and jumped in the front passenger seat, according to a criminal complaint filed on Monday.

She hadn't used the Uber app but gave her address and $10 cash to the driver, later identified as 36-year-old Richard Lomotey, according to the criminal complaint.

As he drove, the woman said Lomotey kept asking about her relationship status. She said she replied that "she was engaged and did not want to participate in any sexual activities with him," but claimed Lomotey held and grabbed her wrist during the ride, according to court documents.

The passenger said every time she unlocked the car doors, Lomotey would lock them, the documents said.

"They began tussling because she wanted to leave the vehicle," the documents said, and "during the tussle her shirt and bra were ripped."

She told police "she was so afraid she opened the door and jumped from the moving vehicle at an unknown location" and the car sped off.

Lomotey was first arrested on May 11 in a similar incident.

According to the criminal complaint, two women told police that, early that morning, they were getting an Uber ride home when their driver, Lomotey, ignored his GPS, instead driving an indirect route.

Lomotey allegedly asked the passengers if they were single and complimented their appearances. At one point he allegedly pulled over, locked the car and told the victims, "you're not going anywhere," according to the criminal complaint.

The victims leapt from the car, later showing police a photo of the suspect and his license plate from the Uber app, the criminal complaint said.

Lomotey is an assistant professor of information science and technology at Penn State University, according to the school website.

Lisa Powers, a spokeswoman at Penn State, told ABC News, "These allegations are deeply troubling and while we gather more information, he has been put on leave and will not be in the classroom. This is a criminal matter and we cannot comment further."

Lomotey, who faces charges including kidnapping and false imprisonment, posted bail on Monday. He is next due in court for a preliminary hearing on May 23.

It was not immediately clear if he has retained a defense attorney. Lomotey could not immediately be reached for comment.

A spokesperson for Uber told ABC News via email: "What's been described is unacceptable. The driver's access to the app has been removed and we stand ready to cooperate with law enforcement to support their investigation."

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ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Across Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri and Kansas on Monday there were 18 reported tornadoes among 124 damaging storm reports that also included grapefruit-sized hail in Texas.

Wind gusts exceeded 90 mph north of Oklahoma City as damage from strong storms was reported in western Oklahoma and southwestern Missouri.

A flash flood emergency was issued early Tuesday morning north of Tulsa when as much as 8 inches of rain fell. Flood alerts Tuesday morning stretch across seven states, from Texas to North Dakota.

On the back end of the system, snow is falling, including in areas south of Denver that saw 9 inches this morning. Parts of Interstate 70 were closed because of multiple accidents due to snow on Monday.

The massive storm that's ravaged the Plains is moving east Tuesday, with additional flash flooding and tornadoes possible in the mid-Mississippi Valley, from Little Rock into St. Louis. Large hail and damaging winds will be possible.

Over the next 24 to 48 hours, an additional half foot of rain is possible for parts of Missouri and Illinois.

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igorkov/iStock(KETCHIKAN, Alaska) -- A pilot and a passenger were killed in southeastern Alaska on Monday when a floatplane crashed into a harbor, officials said.

The victims were the only occupants on the Taquan Air floatplane when it crashed near Ketchikan at around 4 p.m., marking the Alaska-based airline's second fatal incident in a week.

Federal transportation authorities said the flight was a commuter flight, but didn't offer any other details on the crash.

Ketchikan officials declined to release the circumstances of the crash.

"The names of the deceased will not be released until next of kin have been notified," Ketchikan Gateway authorities said in a statement Monday. "Both individuals were brought to the Annette Island Service Unit. Good Samaritans have the aircraft in tow and are bringing the Beaver to the beach until it can be secured."

Taquan Air directed all inquiries about the incident to the National Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating the crash along with the Federal Aviation Administration.

The crash came exactly one week after a Taquan Air sightseeing plane collided with another aircraft over Alaska on May 13, killing six people. The FAA is investigating the cause of that crash as well.

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toddarbini/iStock(MELBOURNE, Ark.) -- Authorities in Arkansas are investigating a tractor accident that killed a 3-year-old boy.

Police responded to a call in northern Arkansas on Monday afternoon and said they found the toddler unresponsive at the scene.

First responders fought to administer life-saving efforts, but the child died a short time later, according to the Izard County Sheriff's Department.

The department said he died in a logging accident on a property in Melbourne, Arkansas, about 125 miles north of Little Rock. It did not disclose the circumstances of the accident, but it said he'd been ran over by the tractor.

Authorities have not released the boy's identity because his family has yet to be notified.

The toddler and his family received an outpouring of love on social media as county residents rushed to the sheriff's department's Facebook page to offer condolences.

"Please remember to send up prayers for the ambulance crew and first responders while remembering the family, these calls deeply affect them also, thanks," one Facebook user wrote.

"I couldn't even imagine having to respond to such a scene. Prayers for all responders, and prayers for the precious souls family," another user added.

The department's post racked up nearly 1,000 comments, reactions and shares in just a few hours.

Police did not offer details about the child's connection to the property, and the investigation is ongoing.

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Lance Cpl. Benjamin McDonald/U.S. Marine Corps(NEW BERN, N.C.) -- A Marine Corps AV-8B Harrier jet crashed in Craven County, North Carolina, on Monday evening. The pilot ejected and was said to be unharmed, according to a Defense Department official.

The incident was under investigation.

Emergency crews were called to the crash about 6:15 p.m., Craven County Emergency Services Director Stanley Kite told ABC News affiliate WCTI-TV. He added that a fire from the crash was extinguished.

The pilot was taken to CarolinaEast Medical Center in New Bern, North Carolina, for evaluation, according to the Marine Corps statement. There were no reports of civilian casualties or property damage.

The plane was from the 2nd Marine Air Wing, which is based at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point in North Carolina. Personnel from the air wing and the Havelock County Sheriff's Department initially responded to the scene, according to a statement from the Marine Corps.

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Matt Seyler/ABC News(ANNAPOLIS, Md.) -- The U.S. Naval Academy freshmen scaled the Herndon Monument in the annual climb Monday.

The event was part of a tradition in Annapolis, Maryland, where the freshmen or "plebes" build a human pyramid and climb a 21-foot monument to replace the "dixie cup" hat with an upperclassman's hat. Finishing in one hour and five minutes, they beat last year’s time of two hours and 21 minutes.

Upperclassmen slathered the monument in nearly 50 pounds of vegetable shortening and freshmen were required to remove their shoes before they started.

"We call it the culminating event for the end of their freshmen year," said Jenny Erickson, a U.S. Naval Academy spokesperson.

The first recorded climb was in 1950, without grease. The greasy climb is a rite of passage for "plebes," or freshmen, to mark officially becoming Midshipmen 4th Class. Christian Schwein, 19, from the 27th Company, had the honor of placing the hat atop the monument this year.

According to tradition, the midshipman who gets the hat on top will become the first admiral in the class.

The Herndon Monument is named for Navy Cmdr. William Lewis Herndon, who "possessed the qualities of discipline, teamwork and courage."

Much like the monument, the climb represents the teamwork, and perseverance freshmen have to endure in the first year at the academy. In addition to their academic responsibilities, they undergo military-style training including six weeks of "Plebe Summer" which is similar to basic training in the military.

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KABC-TV(LOS ANGELES) -- Two horses died at Southern California's prominent Santa Anita racetrack over the weekend, marking 25 thoroughbred fatalities there in the last six months.

A pair of 3-year-old geldings sustained fatal injuries in separate incidents on Friday and Sunday as the embattled racetrack works and employ reforms to stem a rash of unprecedented horse deaths.

One of the horses, a male called Spectacular Music, sustained a rare injury to the pelvis while racing near the half-mile pole on Sunday, according to the track.

"The horse did not fall, but was pulled up at about the half mile pole at the discretion of Jockey Jorge Velez and vanned to receive a comprehensive evaluation by on-site world-class veterinarians," Santa Anita said in a statement Monday.

"Equine pelvic injuries are rare," it added, "and further evaluation is being conducted by the California Horse Racing Board, per protocol, to understand what could have caused this uncommon injury."

The other gelding, Commander Coil, died after sustaining a shoulder injury in a training session on Friday morning, the racetrack revealed Saturday.

"Equine shoulder injuries are rare, especially for a horse that is galloping as opposed to breezing or racing," a spokesperson for Santa Anita said in a statement to ABC News. "A comprehensive evaluation will be completed to understand what might have caused this uncommon injury."

Santa Anita Park, owned by the Canadian-based Stronach Group, postponed several races earlier this year and hired respected trackman Dennis Moore to help assess the condition on its main track.

Some experts attributed the cluster of thoroughbred deaths to inclement weather. Southern California had an unusual amount of rain this past season after many years of drought or near drought, which would have impacted the quality of the track the horses can run on safely.

"Every time it rains you seal the tracks as hard as it can get. So the water runs off of it," Clifford Sise, a veteran horse trainer currently working with 15 horses at Santa Anita and other tracks, told ABC News Saturday. "It would stop raining only three days, where you can really work on it. You need at least seven, eight days to dry out. To go to the bottom of it and the cushion and work on it. It was nobody’s fault."

At least 25 horses have died while racing or training since the track opened for the winter season on Dec. 26. The horse deaths prompted several investigations earlier this year, including a task force convened by the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office and the California Horse Racing Board.

The most-recent deaths were the first ones reported since track officials introduced a new reforms last month, track officials said.

"Before this catastrophic injury, unprecedented health and safety reforms were introduced at Santa Anita Park. From April 1 to May 18, there have been 698 starters on the main track and 651 starters on the turf course without fatalities," Santa Anita said in its statement Monday.

"The Stronach Group is committed to advocating for the health and safety of horses and riders and will continue to work with stakeholders in California and nationally to drive further progress,” it added.

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Whitepointer/iStock(NEW YORK) -- A great white shark measuring nearly 10 feet long has been spotted in Long Island Sound off the Connecticut shore for the first time ever, researchers said on Monday.

The great white was being tracked Monday by the ocean research group Ocearch, the organization said on Twitter.

"Be advised! For the first time ever, we are tracking a white shark in the Long Island Sound," Ocearch researchers tweeted.

The group said the shark measures 9-feet-8-inches and was spotted off the shore of Greenwich, Connecticut.

This is a breaking news story. Please check back for updates.

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