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Updated: 3 min 31 sec ago

Frank Vogel introduction caught up in Magic Johnson comments, ongoing Lakers drama

38 min 44 sec ago

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — Frank Vogel’s determination to build “organizational togetherness” within the Los Angeles Lakers met the reality of the team’s current dysfunction Monday.

Vogel’s introduction as the Lakers’ coach was almost overshadowed by comments made earlier by Magic Johnson. The former Lakers great appeared on ESPN’s “First Take” and said general manager Rob Pelinka “betrayed” him, which was one of the reasons he resigned as president of basketball operations. That put the GM in the position of using most of Vogel’s 26-minute news conference to respond.

Pelinka said he has talked to Johnson several times since his resignation on April 9 and said Johnson’s comments surprised him.

“It’s saddening and disheartening to think he believes things are a misperception,” Pelinka said. “I think all of us in life probably have been through things where maybe there’s third party whispers or ‘he said, she said’ things that aren’t true.”

LeBron James watched the news conference from the back of the gym at the team’s facility, but did not shake hands with Vogel and declined interview requests. He shot baskets on another court while Vogel did one-on-one interviews with television reporters.

Vogel, who replaced Luke Walton, said the news conference took on a different tone than he imagined at the start of the day.

“It was definitely different than I expected and different than I’ve ever been a part of,” Vogel said. “But I understand the line of questioning in light of the events of this morning. So you just roll with the punches.

“The perception about our team is not always the same as reality and you block out the noise.”

Johnson stunned everyone by giving up his role during an impromptu news conference roughly 90 minutes before the regular-season finale. He said he wanted to fire Walton but that others blocked that. Walton did end up being dismissed before being hired by Sacramento.

“I started hearing, ‘Magic, you’re not working hard enough’ and ‘Magic’s not in the office.’ People around the Lakers office were telling me Rob was saying things, and I didn’t like those things being said behind my back,” Johnson said. “So I started getting calls from my friends outside of basketball saying those things now were said to them outside of basketball now, just not in the Lakers office anymore.”

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Pelinka said owner Jeanie Buss has eliminated Johnson’s position and the Lakers chain of command is now clearer.

“When it comes to a basketball decision I collaborate with the staff, many of whom are at this press conference today. Then I make a recommendation to Jeanie and she blesses that or not,” he said.

The 45-year-old Vogel takes over a team that has also struggled on the court. The Lakers have missed the playoffs for six straight seasons, a drought that was expected to end in James’ first season. But injuries to James, Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram, as well as the internal discord, resulted in a 37-45 record. Vogel will be the Lakers’ sixth coach since Phil Jackson stepped down after the 2010-11 season.

Vogel worked for the organization before as an advance scout during the 2005-06 season. He did not coach last season following two years with the Orlando Magic. Vogel went to Orlando following five-plus seasons leading the Indiana Pacers, including trips to the Eastern Conference finals in 2013 and ’14. He has a career record of 304-291.

Pelinka said it was his decision to hire Vogel and that he made that recommendation to Buss. The road to hiring a new coach was not smooth, though.

The Lakers appeared to be closing in on a deal with Tyronn Lue, who played for the Lakers and coached James to the 2016 NBA title in Cleveland. But that deal never got to the finish line, and they quickly moved toward Vogel.

Vogel and Lue share the same agent. He said there were some discussions about joining the Lakers as an assistant if Lue was hired.

Vogel’s reputation has been built on being strong defensively but he said his approach with the Lakers will be analytics-based. He stressed creating space to attack the basket on offense and building a strong defense from the inside.

Vogel and James did not have any public interactions Monday but Vogel said the two have talked since he agreed to take the job May 11.

“I have a good feel for the way I want to use him and hopefully the respect on his end that we were a formidable threat to his teams in Miami each year,” Vogel said. “Hopefully, our past experience together will serve as a foundation for the relationship that we’re going to have here and that we can do great things together here.”

Vogel confirmed Jason Kidd will join his staff as an assistant and said it was something Pelinka brought up during the job interview.

Vogel said he likes having former players on his staff with coaching experience. He said he discussed Kidd’s history with domestic violence.

The Lakers expect to have more than $40 million in salary cap space this summer and have the fourth pick in the NBA draft. When free agency starts on July 1, they will likely try to land Kawhi Leonard and other big names.

“We have a great coach again, a high draft pick and a great young core,” Pelinka said. “I think that people can look at this as an opportunity to come and win a championship, possibly next year. I think being concerned about the outside noise or the opinions of what people may or may not think is really not where our focus is right now.”


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Warriors beat Blazers 119-117 in OT for NBA Finals berth

42 min 28 sec ago

PORTLAND, Ore. — Experience bred confidence for the Golden State Warriors, even when challenged by the upstart Portland Trail Blazers.

No matter how far they were down, they’ve been through too much to ever think they’re out.

“We just really understand what we’re capable of on both sides of the basketball,” Draymond Green said. “We’re never out of the fight. That’s just always our mindset.”

The Warriors swept their way to a fifth straight NBA Finals, getting triple-doubles from Stephen Curry and Green in a 119-117 overtime victory on Monday night.

The two-time defending champions overcame a double-digit deficit for the third straight game against the Blazers, back in the conference finals for the first time since 2000.

Green had 18 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists, and made a key 3-pointer in overtime. Curry added 37 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists. They became the first teammates to have triple-doubles in the same playoff game.

The Warriors will face the winner of the Eastern Conference finals between Toronto and Milwaukee. The Bucks lead that series 2-1 with Game 4 on Tuesday night in Canada.

The Warriors came back from 17 down after erasing an 18-point deficit in Game 3 and a 17-point hole in Game 2.

“We’ve been here before. We’ve seen everything, every experience you can imagine. So we relied on that,” Curry said.

Playing without Kevin Durant, Andre Iguodala and DeMarcus Cousins, the Warriors became the first team to reach five straight finals since the Boston Celtics went to 10 in a row from 1957-66.

Damian Lillard, playing with separated ribs, had 28 points and 12 assists for Portland. He missed a 3-point attempt as time ran out in the extra period. Meyers Leonard added a career-high 30 points along with 12 rebounds.

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The Warriors were up 114-113 in the extra period after Green missed the first of a pair of free throws. CJ McCollum’s jumper from out front briefly gave Portland the lead but Alfonzo McKinnie’s basket put Golden State back ahead and Green made a 3-pointer to push it to 199-115 with 39 seconds left.

Lillard made a layup and Curry missed a jumper to give Portland back the ball. Facing stifling defense from both Green and Klay Thompson, Lillard couldn’t get off a shot but the ball went out of bounds in the scramble. The Blazers got it back with 3.3 seconds left but Lillard’s final shot didn’t fall.

Blazers coach Terry Stotts was asked if he was expecting another buzzer-beating winner from Lillard, who had a memorable 3-pointer at the buzzer to clinch the first-round series against Oklahoma City.

“Yeah, I did. I thought it was going to — kind of meant to be,” Stotts said. “When he shot it, it had a good arc. I thought it had a chance.”

The Blazers stretched the lead to 17 points in the third quarter, but the Warriors went on a 12-0 run to close within 95-90 early in the final period.

Green’s long baseline jumper gave the Warriors a 108-106 lead with 3:30 left. Lillard’s 3-pointer put the Blazers back ahead and Leonard’s dunk extended it to 111-108 with just under 2 minutes to go.

After Thompson’s 3-pointer tied it up again both Curry and Lillard missed 3s. Curry made a 3 from the corner with 10.7 seconds left but he was called for traveling first and it didn’t count.

Lillard’s layup bounced around the rim and out and the game went to overtime.

Iguodala was out because of a sore left calf. The veteran swingman, who is averaging 10.1 points in the playoffs, was hurt in the second half of Saturday’s Game 3 victory.

It was not known how long he’d be out, but the Warriors said an MRI Sunday was clear.

Golden State was already missing Durant because of a sore right calf. It’s unknown when the two-time NBA Finals MVP will return. Also sitting is Cousins, who injured his left quadriceps in the opening round.

“We’ve had guys step up all along this entire time and we’re going to look forward to those guys continuing to step up, no matter what happens with the injuries that we have,” Green said. “You know, we’re trying to go win this thing. Never the goal is just to get there.”

Lillard separated his ribs in Game 2 but was playing through the pain. He averaged 33 points in the first-round playoff series against Oklahoma City but struggled against Golden State’s defensive focus on him.

Playing with urgency in an elimination game, Portland pulled in front 30-28 in the opening quarter on CJ McCollum’s layup and free throw, but Curry answered on the other end with a step-back 3-pointer.

Portland went ahead 59-50 after back-to-back 3-pointers from Leonard, who finished with five 3s in the first half.

Curry hit a 3-pointer with 2.6 seconds left in the half to close the Warriors within 69-65 at the break.

Portland pushed the lead to 83-72 on McCollum’s 3-pointer. After he made another 3 to push the lead to 91-78, he gestured to the crowd to make noise. McCollum finished with 26 points.


Warriors: Curry has made a 3-pointer in a playoff-record 106 games. … Quarterback Colin Kaepernick was among the fans at the game, sitting a few seats down from the Warriors bench. … Per Elias Sports and the Warriors, Curry had a streak of 81 consecutive free throws made in the fourth quarter and overtime in the postseason — before he missed one with 9:25 left in the game against the Blazers.

Trail Blazers: Leonard, who didn’t even play in five of Portland’s postseason games, had a playoff-high 16 points in Game 3. After scoring 25 in the first half, fans at the Moda Center chanted his name.


The Warriors are just the sixth professional team from North America to go to five straight championships, along with the Montreal Canadiens (NHL), Boston Celtics (NBA), Cleveland Browns (NFL), New York Yankees (MLB) and New York Islanders (NHL).


Former Oregon wide receiver Keanon Lowe got a standing ovation when he was introduced to the crowd at the Moda Center in the first quarter. Lowe, a coach at Portland’s Parkrose High School, stopped a student who came to the school armed with a shotgun on Friday.

“I saw the look on his face, the look in his eyes, I looked at the gun, I realized it was a real gun and then my instincts just took over,” Lowe, 27, said about wrestling the gun away from the teenager. Lowe spoke to reporters before the game.

The suspect, 19-year-old Angel Granados-Diaz, pleaded not guilty earlier Monday during a brief court hearing.


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Hoover Dam ceremony marks Colorado River drought plan

48 min 41 sec ago

BOULDER CITY, Nev. — Federal, state and tribal water managers are marking completion of a long-negotiated plan for 40 million people and vast irrigated farms to share crucial Colorado River water despite ongoing drought in the arid U.S. Southwest.

Interior Department official Tim Petty, Bureau of Reclamation chief Brenda Burman and representatives from seven states met Monday at Hoover Dam to commemorate an agreement spurred by nearly 20 years of drought and shrinking reservoirs.

President Donald Trump signed the so-called “drought contingency plan” last month.

Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming and Mexico are affected.

The agreement aims to keep the key Lake Mead and Lake Powell reservoirs from getting so low they can’t produce hydropower or deliver water for cities including Los Angeles, San Diego, Denver, Phoenix and Las Vegas.

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Colorado man dies while skiing to backcountry lodge for 21st birthday celebration

55 min ago

VAIL — Authorities say a Colorado man died while skiing to a popular backcountry lodge to meet some friends for a celebration of his 21st birthday.

The Vail Daily reports Paul Cuthbertson, an accomplished skier and lifelong resident of Eagle and Summit counties, left late Friday afternoon and was headed up the usual route to the Polar Star Inn, which is part of the 10th Mountain Division Hut Association.

He apparently deviated from the normal route at some point, and his friends started looking for him early Saturday morning.

Friday night’s weather was snowy and windy, especially in the area where Cuthbertson was skiing. The Polar Star Inn is just below timberline on the west side of New York Mountain.

Eagle County Coroner Kara Bettis has not released a cause of death.

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Information from: Vail Daily,

Boulder man who died free solo climbing Eldorado Canyon identified

1 hour 9 min ago

The Boulder County Coroner’s Office on Monday identified the man who died Saturday after falling roughly 100 feet while climbing in Eldorado Canyon State Park as Robert Dergay, 48, of Boulder.

Witnesses reported that Dergay was free soloing — a form of rock climbing without the use of any ropes, harnesses or other protective equipment — the popular Bastille Crack alone when he fell. Emergency responders were first called around 7:49 p.m. Saturday, according to Boulder County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Andy Smith.

Eldorado Canyon, southwest of Boulder, has cliffs as high as 700 feet, according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife. The American Alpine Institute rates the formation as one of North America’s 50 classic climbs. In 2012, a 41-year-old man died after falling an estimated 250 feet from the top of the Bastille rock formation.

The coroner’s office said the cause of death is pending further investigation.

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Trump tells ex-counsel Don McGahn: Defy subpoena, don’t testify

1 hour 21 min ago

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump directed his former White House Counsel Donald McGahn to defy a congressional subpoena Monday, citing a Justice Department legal opinion that maintains McGahn would have immunity from testifying about his work as a close Trump adviser. A lawyer for McGahn said he would follow the president’s wishes and skip a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Tuesday.

Trump’s action, the latest in his efforts to block every congressional probe into him and his administration, is certain to deepen the open conflict between Democrats and the president. Democrats have accused Trump and Attorney General William Barr of trying to stonewall and obstruct Congress’ oversight duties.

The House Judiciary Committee had issued a subpoena to compel McGahn to testify Tuesday, and the committee’s chairman, Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., has threatened to hold McGahn in contempt of Congress if he doesn’t. Nadler has also suggested he may try and levy fines against witnesses who do not comply with committee requests.

McGahn’s lawyer, William Burck, said in a letter to Nadler that McGahn is “conscious of the duties he, as an attorney, owes to his former client” and would decline to appear.

Still, Burck encouraged the committee to negotiate a compromise with the White House, saying his client “again finds himself facing contradictory instructions from two co-equal branches of government.”

McGahn was a key figure in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, describing ways in which the president sought to curtail that federal probe. Democrats hoped to question him as a way to focus attention on Mueller’s findings and further investigate whether Trump did obstruct justice.

“This move is just the latest act of obstruction from the White House that includes its blanket refusal to cooperate with this committee,” Nadler said in a statement. “It is also the latest example of this Administration’s disdain for law.”

Separately on Monday, a federal judge in Washington ruled against Trump in a financial records dispute, declaring the president cannot block a House subpoena for information from Mazars USA, a firm that has done accounting work for him and the Trump Organization.

Also, a hearing is planned in New York on Wednesday in another case, this one involving an effort by Trump, his business and his family to prevent Deutsche Bank and Capital One from complying with subpoenas from two House committees for banking and financial records.

If McGahn were to defy Trump and testify before Congress, it could endanger his own career in Republican politics and put his law firm, Jones Day, in the president’s crosshairs. Trump has mused about instructing Republicans to cease dealing with the firm, which is deeply intertwined in Washington with the GOP, according to one White House official and a Republican close to the White House not authorized to speak publicly about private conversations.

Administration officials mulled various legal options before settling on providing McGahn with a legal opinion from the Department of Justice to justify defying the subpoena.

“The immunity of the President’s immediate advisers from compelled congressional testimony on matters related to their official responsibilities has long been recognized and arises from the fundamental workings of the separation of powers,” the department’s opinion reads. “Accordingly, Mr. McGahn is not legally required to appear and testify about matters related to his official duties as Counsel to the President.”

The Judiciary Committee still plans on meeting even if McGahn doesn’t show up and McGahn “is expected to appear as legally required,” Nadler said.

Trump has fumed about McGahn for months, after it became clear that much of Mueller’s report was based on his testimony. The president has bashed his former White House counsel on Twitter and has insisted to advisers that the attorney not be allowed to humiliate him in front of Congress, much as his former personal legal fixer Michael Cohen did, according to the official and the Republican.

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The Justice Department has long held the opinion that close presidential advisers have “absolute immunity” from being compelled to testify before Congress about their work for the president.

A federal judge rejected a similar argument in 2008 in a dispute over a subpoena for Harriet Miers, who was White House counsel to George W. Bush. U.S. District Judge John Bates said it was an unprecedented notion that a White House official would be absolutely immune from being compelled to testify before Congress. Miers had to show up for her testimony, but still had the right to assert executive privilege in response to any specific questions posed by legislators, the judge said.

But in 2014, under the Obama administration, the Justice Department issued an opinion arguing that if Congress could force the president’s closest advisers to testify about matters that happened during their tenure, it would “threaten executive branch confidentiality, which is necessary (among other things) to ensure that the President can obtain the type of sound and candid advice that is essential to the effective discharge of his constitutional duties.”

The House Judiciary Committee voted earlier this month to hold Barr in contempt after he defied a subpoena for an unredacted version of Mueller’s report.

Colorado weather: Denver under winter weather advisory as Front Range gets May blast of snow

1 hour 38 min ago

Snow fell hard in parts of Colorado on Monday, including in Kiowa, where the National Weather Service reported 9 inches of new snow just before 9 p.m., and a short time later the Palmer Divide area was under a “winter storm warning.”

Other snow total reports in Colorado on Monday included: Silverton, 8.4 inches; Black Forest, 7 inches; and Monument and Peyton, 6 inches.

In Denver, just before 9 p.m., a light snow was falling in misty and foggy skies, according to the National Weather Service. The humidity in the city was at 100 percent and the temperature had dropped to 32 degrees. The weather service also upgraded Denver to a winter weather advisory.

The weather service said heavy, wet snow is expected overnight with accumulation of 2 to 6 inches, with the heavier amounts in the southern and eastern sections of the Denver metro. Denver’s winter weather advisory is posted through 9 a.m.

Denver upgraded to a Winter Weather Advisory. Palmer Divide upgraded to a Winter Storm Warning.

— NWS Boulder (@NWSBoulder) May 21, 2019

The wet, heavy snow is expected to break tree branches, possibly leading to scattered power outages.

Sections of roads in the Denver area became snow-covered and slushy on Monday night. Planes taking off from Denver International Airport late Monday were delayed for deicing operations, airport officials said.

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Winter driving conditions have returned to I-25 and Monument Hill. Crews are out in force. Motorists are urged to not travel during this spring storm. If you must be out, use extreme caution and #knowbeforeyougo check

— CDOT (@ColoradoDOT) May 21, 2019

The Colorado Department of Transportation said that “winter driving conditions” returned to Interstate 25 and Monument Hill and that plow crews “are out in force.”

At 10:20 p.m., CDOT reported that multiple crashes shut down eastbound lanes of the highway in Vail. Multiple sections of I-70 in the mountains were closed and reopened earlier on Monday by weather-related collisions, including an eastbound stretch east of the Eisenhower Tunnel.

In Denver on Tuesday, patchy fog is expected before 7 a.m. and snow should change to rain between 10 and 11 a.m., the weather service said. Thunder is possible and the high temperature will be about 45 degrees.

PHOTOS: 2019 Regional Air Guitar Championships at 3 Kings Tavern

1 hour 49 min ago

At the 2019 Regional Air Guitar Championships, performers took the stage to show off their air skills at 3 Kings Tavern in Denver on May 18, 2019.

Colorado snow totals for May 20, 2019

1 hour 56 min ago

The following Colorado snow totals have been reported by the National Weather Service for May 20, 2019, as of 10:32 p.m.

Aspen Springs — 4.3 inches at 8:25 p.m.

Black Forest — 7 inches at 9:09 p.m.

Calhan — 2 inches at 2:03 p.m.

Castle Pines — 2.4 inches at 9:16 p.m.

Colona — 1.3 inches at 7 a.m.

Colorado Springs — 1 inch at 7:53 p.m.

Cortez — 2.5 inches at 7 p.m.

Denver Intl Airport — 1 inch at 8:31 p.m.

Denver — 0.3 inch at 8:57 p.m.

Kiowa — 9 inches at 8:47 p.m.

Manitou Springs — 1.2 inches at 8:34 p.m.

Monument — 6 inches at 8:42 p.m.

Mount Crested But — 1 inch at 7 a.m.

Nederland — 2.5 inches at 6:52 p.m.

Palmer Lake — 5 inches at 8:08 p.m.

Parker — 3.8 inches at 9:04 p.m.

Peterson Afb — 4 inches at 8:49 p.m.

Peyton — 6 inches at 9:20 p.m.

Ponderosa Park — 5 inches at 7:19 p.m.

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Rockwood — 4.1 inches at 7 a.m.

Schriever Afb — 5.3 inches at 8:10 p.m.

Silverton — 8.4 inches at 1 p.m.

Skyway — 5.5 inches at 8 a.m.

Cherry Creek claims 5A state lacrosse title in unusual May snowstorm

2 hours 21 min ago

Heavy precipitation was an understatement. A steady light rain led to a full-on rainstorm, and when the second half began Monday night, the entire field was the same color as the white ball, and players were drenched.

It was a Class 5A state lacrosse championship game to remember for the Cherry Creek Bruins, who appeared to handle the May snowstorm better than the Kent Denver Sun Devils in front of a frigid crowd at All-City Stadium.

After a 5-5 tie at halftime, the Bruins dominated as the conditions worsened, and they strutted off with a 12-7 victory for their seventh state title and third in the last five years. A yellow game ball was introduced early in the second half — a stretch in which Cherry Creek outscored Kent Denver 7-2.

“It’s the same for both teams. I think our guys just really enjoyed being out here and getting after it in this weather,” Cherry Creek coach Matt Bocklet said. “It seemed to actually loosen us up in the second half, when we played with more energy. Who expects snow like this on May 20? I’ve certainly never played in a blizzard. Testament to CHSAA for making sure that they were shoveling the lines and making sure we could get the game in.”

Senior Connor Terrell had four goals for the Bruins, and juniors Dante Orlando and Aiden Burke each had three. Cherry Creek senior goalie Chandler Nayman outperformed the Sun Devils’ tandem of Benjamin Shapiro (first half) and Henry Caulkins (second).

“We came out really confident. It was 5-5 at half, but we knew the whole game we would come out strong in the second half,” Terrell said. “Whole year we’ve been a second-half team. That’s how we do it.”

Footwork wasn’t a problem on a drenched field in the first half. But as the snow intensified, the game slowed down.

“It was getting tough. It was sticking to the cleats,” Terrell said. “But they had to play with it too.”

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Kent Denver dominated early and went ahead 2-0 on goals by Maxwell Hewitt and Josh Melvin. But the Bruins responded, scoring the next three goals and five of the next six. Terrell and Burke each had two apiece during that stretch.

The Bruins took a 5-3 lead with Terrell’s goal with 1:29 to play in the second quarter, but the Sun Devils struck twice in the final minute (Payton Lester and Hewitt).

Cherry Creek finished 17-2, avenging its 9-8 overtime loss to Kent Denver in the regular-season finale. The Sun Devils ended 15-4.

Kent Denver 2 3 2 0 — 7

Cherry Creek 2 3 4 3 — 12

Goals — KD, Melvin (2), Hewitt (2), Wells, Lester, Bowler. CC, Terrell (4), Orlando  (3), Burke (3), Olson, Stein. Assists — KD, Lester. CC, Minisini (2), Burke, Stein, Atwell.

A jewelry box led police to revisit hundreds of deaths. They may have found a serial killer

Mon, 05/20/2019 - 22:38

Phyllis Payne’s family thought that she had died of natural causes.

There was no reason to be suspicious when the spunky Texas grandmother, who had been spending the last years of her life in a retirement community in Dallas, passed away in April 2016 at the age of 91.

Police believe Billy Chemirmir murdered at least a dozen elderly women.

“When they discovered her, they said she looked like she had just died in her sleep,” her daughter, Loren Adair, told WFAA.

Years later, an unexpected call from a police detective would change everything. As Payne’s family learned, authorities now believe that she was murdered by Billy Chemirmir, who had been posing as maintenance worker at senior living facilities across the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area.

The 46-year-old was indicted on numerous homicide charges last week. Police believe he murdered at least a dozen elderly women, which would make him one of the state’s most prolific serial killers, according to The Dallas Morning News.

Officials have said that Chemirmir smothered his victims with pillows before making off with their jewelry or other valuables. Because his victims were elderly women who lived alone, their deaths were not considered suspicious and initially did not get investigated.

“That was heart-wrenching to find out that she had not died peacefully,” Adair told WFAA. “It was heartbreaking.”

Chemirmir has insisted that he is innocent. “They have circumstantial evidence that puts him in the area but that’s as far as the evidence goes,” Phillip Hayes, his attorney, told The Associated Press last week.

Officials began re-evaluating the deaths of hundreds of elderly women in the Dallas-Fort Worth area last year, suspecting that they might have overlooked a pattern of homicides. The investigation began in March 2018, not long after a 91-year-old woman was attacked and robbed in her Plano, Texas, apartment.

The nonagenarian told police that a man had forced his way in, telling her to lie down in bed and not fight him. When she obeyed his commands, he placed a pillow over her face to smother her. Before long, she lost consciousness, according to court records obtained by the Morning News.

Miraculously, the woman, whose name has not been released, survived. A friend happened to stop by in time to call paramedics, who revived her. But by the time the 91-year-old regained consciousness, her assailant was long gone. So was her jewelry box.

Police began investigating. Earlier that month, someone had reported a suspicious vehicle at the Plano apartment complex. The license plate traced back to Chemirmir, and detectives began staking out his home. As they watched from a distance one night, they saw him tossing a jewelry box into the trash.

Inside, they found a name written on a piece of paper, which they linked to Lu Thi Harris, an 81-year-old living fewer than 10 miles away in Far North Dallas. No one at her home answered the door, and when police made their way inside, they found Harris dead in her bedroom with lipstick smeared around her mouth. A pillow lying on the bed also had lipstick stains on it, leading investigators to conclude that she had been suffocated.

The gruesome discovery was the key break detectives needed in another case that had been puzzling them for months.

In October 2017, a 93-year-old woman had been attacked and robbed at an assisted living facility in Frisco, fewer than 20 miles away from Plano. She told police that a well-dressed man knocked on her door and identified himself as a maintenance worker, asking if she needed anything done. When she declined, he forced his way into the apartment and knocked her to the ground.

The man picked up a pillow and tried to smother the 93-year-old before taking her wooden jewelry box and leaving, according to the Morning News. When he was gone, the victim, whose name has not been released, used her emergency alert button to call for help. Detectives in Frisco began investigating, but the woman couldn’t describe her attacker in enough detail for them to pinpoint a suspect.

When they learned that Chemirmir had been arrested, police in Frisco checked his phone records. His cellphone had connected with a cell tower roughly a half-mile from the woman’s apartment on the day of the attack, according to the Morning News.

The striking parallels between the three cases led authorities to charge Chemirmir with capital murder in Harris’ death, and attempted capital murder in the attacks on elderly women in Plano and Frisco. After his March 2018 arrest, police found a cache of women’s jewelry, cellphones and medical scrubs in his apartment, according to WFAA.

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For police in Plano, Frisco and Dallas, the discoveries raised one major question: How many elderly women had their deaths chalked up to natural causes or existing health problems when, in fact, they had been murdered?

At a news conference in March 2018, officials pledged to take a closer look at hundreds of deaths that, up to that point, hadn’t been considered suspicious. Payne’s body was exhumed so that the Dallas County Medical Examiner’s office could conduct an autopsy for the first time.

The initial results of that investigation were revealed to the public last week, when Chemirmir was indicted on an additional six capital murder charges in Dallas County and five capital murder cases in Collin County, where Frisco and Plano are located. In Dallas County, where he already faced charges for the March 2018 murder of Lu Thi Harris, he is accused of killing an additional six women who ranged in age from 76 to 94, and who died in 2016 and 2018. The names and ages of the five victims in Collin County haven’t been released.

Police are continuing to look for more potential victims, the Morning News reported, and haven’t revealed how the 11 new homicides were linked to Chemirmir.

A citizen of Kenya, Chemirmir has lived in the greater Dallas area for more than a decade and had a history of DWI and assault charges, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. In 2016, he had also been charged with trespassing at a retirement community in Dallas where one of his victims reportedly lived. He is being held on $9.1 million bail. Because he is in the country illegally, federal immigration authorities have additionally placed a jail hold on him.

The case has led to multiple lawsuits against senior living facilities and retirement communities in the area, the Star-Telegram reported. Families of three victims allege the facilities didn’t have adequate security, which allowed Chemirmir to pose as a maintenance worker or caregiver without being detected. One suit was settled for an undisclosed sum in September, while the other two are still pending. None of the facilities have admitted wrongdoing.

Officials haven’t said whether autopsies were performed on the 11 victims when they first died. But being smothered by a pillow would leave little evidence of foul play, one expert told the Morning News. If the deceased person was elderly and had existing medical conditions, that would further decrease the likelihood that investigators would look for red flags such as fibers on the victim’s body.

That has raised concerns for some advocates, who worry that the deaths of older people aren’t being fully investigated because authorities draw certain conclusions based on age.

“Maybe it’s easier to say, ‘This person is over 70 so they had a heart attack,’ but we don’t know that,” Dee Wadsworth, a retired gerontologist, told the Morning News. “If that person has no history of a heart condition, then further investigation is warranted by the medical examiner.”

STEM School Highlands Ranch students graduate, reflect on classmate who died saving others

Mon, 05/20/2019 - 22:05

Graduation ceremonies were held Monday night for STEM School Highlands Ranch students, who two weeks ago experienced a school shooting which took the life of a classmate.

Graduation was held indoors at the Denver Broncos’ UCHealth Training Center in Dove Valley. Students, dressed in blue gowns and mortar caps, took their seats to the familiar sound of “Pomp and Circumstance.”

STEM School Executive Director Penelope Eucker, the first speaker to address the gathering, said graduates will be attending 44 colleges or universities in 19 states and two foreign countries. Four graduates will be entering the military and eight will go directly into the workforce having completed high-level apprenticeships. STEM graduates completed 14,000 hours of community service and earned $1.9 million in scholarships.

“We are all so proud of you,” Eucker said to applause.

On May 7, 18-year-old senior Kendrick Castillo was fatally shot at the school as he and two classmates stopped the attack. Eight students were injured. Castillo would have graduated Monday.

“We lost our innocence when we lost one of our own, Kendrick Castillo,” Eucker told the gathering. “The painful void is being filled with strength, fortitude and purpose to continue our quest to never stop innovating, just as Kendirck did every day of his young life.”

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The graduation was livestreamed Monday night on Vimeo. The ceremony wasn’t open to the media, as organizers said they wanted to keep it “as close to normal as possible.”

Eucker described Castillo, a robotics aficionado, as a “best example of STEM character traits.” She said his parents, John and Maria, will always be members of the STEM family.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Colorado weather: Winter returns with another blast of snow in … late May?

Mon, 05/20/2019 - 21:35

Less than two weeks from June, the Front Range received another dusting of snow Monday night.

From the mountains out to the plains, flurries made yet another appearance less than a week after 80-degree temperatures graced the Denver metro.

The winter weather led to a brief closure of I-70 in the mountains and prompted Colorado Spring police to enact accident alert status within the city.

At 8:43 p.m., the Colorado Department of Transportation reported multiple crashes on I-70 near Copper Mountain shut down the eastbound lanes. There were no immediate reports of injuries. At 9:35 p.m., CDOT reported that the eastbound lanes reopened.

Here’s a few of the scenes from around Colorado:

Frankly that stretch of 80-degree days last week was getting old

— Matt Sebastian (@mattsebastian) May 21, 2019

And here’s a look at the side roads in Castle Rock. It’s a white-knuckle type of drive. @DenverChannel

— Meghan Lopez (@Meghan_Lopez) May 21, 2019

And goodbye tree branches

Joe Brock leads Golden rally as Demons defeat Cheyenne Mountain for 4A lacrosse title

Mon, 05/20/2019 - 20:59

Senior midfielder Joe Brock had a hand in Golden’s final three goals, scoring the game-tying and game-winning tallies to propel the Demons to their first Class 4A lacrosse state title Monday at rain-soaked and frigid All-City Stadium.

In overtime, Brock unleashed a shot from the high slot that bounced in off Cheyenne Mountain goalie Liam Hybl, giving Golden a 10-9 triumph 1:00 into sudden death. Brock forced OT with a goal with 1:05 remaining in the fourth quarter and also assisted on the Demons’ eighth goal that got them within 9-8 with 2:50 left in regulation.

Cheyenne Mountain led by five goals in the first half and took an 8-6 lead into the fourth quarter. The teams traded goals before Brock took over, assisting on Broderick Calley’s goal before scoring the last two.

Golden (13-6) was playing in its first state tournament since 2015 and had never previously made it past the third round. Cheyenne Mountain finished 16-3.

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Medical care for detainee who died in ICE custody in Colorado fell short of federal standards, reports says

Mon, 05/20/2019 - 20:26

A 64-year-old man who died while in ICE custody under the care of a private Aurora detention facility in 2017 did not receive proper medical care in compliance with ICE and federal standards, according to an investigative report obtained by Rocky Mountain PBS.

Kamyar Samimi, who immigrated from Iran to the United States, died on Dec. 2, 2017, after being taken into custody by ICE on Nov. 17, 2017. He was held in a medical unit for his 16 days in detention at the Denver Contract Detention Facility (DCDF) in Aurora.

Samimi, who was in jeopardy of being deported based on a June 9, 2005, cocaine possession conviction in Arapahoe County, was taking methadone when he was taken into custody. The Adams County coroner determined his cause of death as “undetermined,” but chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (emphysema) and gastrointestinal bleeding were contributing factors, the report said.

The Office of Professional Responsibility, External Reviews and Analysis Unit (ERAU) found that the DCDF “did not full comply” with multiple standards, including:

  • The medical team was short-staffed and several key positions had been vacant for months.
  • Nurses administered fewer than half the withdrawal medications ordered by a doctor for Samimi.
  • The facility’s medical staff failed to seek emergency care for Samimi’s life-threatening symptoms.
  • The facility failed to complete a comprehensive health assessment during Samimi’s first two weeks in detention as required by policy.
  • ICE requires an on-call physician to be available 24 hours per day, but nurses could not reach the physician the day Samimi died and nurses reported difficulty reaching the doctor outside his work hours.

“This was wild medical negligence for a longtime Colorado resident who had no real reason to be there,” Liz Jordan, director of the Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center (CREEC) Immigration Detention Accountability Project, told RMPBS. CREEC is suing ICE for records related to Samimi’s death.

The lack of care for Samimi before his death is part of a pattern, some security staff at the facility told investigators, RMPBS reported. Facility officers told investigators medical staff was unresponsive at times to their concerns about the health of detainees and a staff doctor told investigators that nurses were overworked and unable to respond to every complaint from officers.

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Inmate population has grown from around 800 at the time of the Samimi’s death to about 1,365 currently, RMPBS said.

While in custody, Samimi attempted suicide on Nov. 28, 2017, according to the report. There were also times when he refused to eat and drink. There were also reports that the detainee “purposefully” fell to inflict self injuries. The day he died, Samimi was taken by ambulance to the University of Colorado Hospital, where he was pronounced dead about 17 minutes after arriving, according to the report.

Samimi on April 19, 1976, entered the United States as a student in New York City. A green card holder, Samimi was a permanent resident of the U.S. He had a pending court date to appear before a federal immigration judge when he died in custody.

Last month, Colorado immigration advocates filed a federal lawsuit demanding that ICE release more information about his death. ICE released the review to RMPBS in response to a Freedom of Information Act request submitted last summer. A summary letter attached to the report indicates the investigative report has been complete for nearly a year.

CU Buffs’ payout from Pac-12 went up but still trails Big 12, Huskers

Mon, 05/20/2019 - 20:06

On the plus side, the CU Buffaloes got 5 percent more from the Pac-12 in 2018 distributions than in the previous fiscal year. But the Buffaloes’ per-school payout from the Pac-12 still trailed their former Big 12 compatriots — and trailed what old rival Nebraska reportedly took in from the Big Ten by almost $23 million.

The Pac-12 announced Monday that it provided to CU and other member schools an actual cash distribution of $31.3 million for 2018. That’s an increase over 2017’s $29.9 million, but it also included money held over from the league’s Rose Bowl reserves, which the Pac-12 withholds from league members two out of every three years.

The league reported a total revenue at $497 million in 2018, a drop of $12 million over the previous fiscal year, and a per-school distribution of $29.5 million before Rose Bowl income was factored in.

Even with the Rose Bowl bonus, CU and other Pac-12 schools sit fourth out of the four Power 5 leagues whose earnings have been reported. Fully vested Big Ten schools, including the Cornhuskers, reportedly received $54 million apiece in 2018; the SEC distributed $43.7 million per member; the Big 12, CU’s home from 1996-2011, distributed $36.5 million per member before local TV rights tiers. Commissioner Larry Scott received compensation of $5.3 million in 2017, reports said, up $500,000 from 2016.

The Pac-12 CEO group also announced they had voted to eliminate the “loss of a season penalty” for all student-athletes who transfer within the conference. And administrators continued to clamp jumper cables on the postseason outlook for men’s basketball, this time on the scheduling front.

After having voted this month to move to a 20-game men’s hoops conference slate, the CEO group debuted more restrictive standards for future nonconference scheduling starting in 2020-21. CU and other Pac-12 peers henceforth must:

• Not schedule non-Division I opponents in the regular season;

• Not participate in road “buy” games;

• Not schedule road games with nonconference opponents who fail to meet a minimum “five-year trailing average” NET rating of at least 200.

• Meet “a nonconference five-year trailing average” for all nonconference opponents that comes out to 175 or less.

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The NET ranking debuted in the 2019-20 season, replacing the RPI as the NCAA’s standard of choice, and Pac-12 officials told The Post on Monday that data will be used for previous years until enough NET seasons have been accumulated.

CU (23-13) finished with a 65 NET rating but missed the NCAA Tournament for a third straight year because of a middling nonconference slate and the overall weakness of the Pac-12, which only sent three members to the tourney in each of the last two seasons. The Buffs last winter hosted five nonleague opponents who finished with a NET rating greater than 175: Omaha (178), Portland (326), Colorado State (193), South Dakota (230) and Illinois-Chicago (211). CU played on neutral or road courts three times against teams with a 200 NET rating or higher, visiting Air Force (244) in Colorado Springs and taking on Indiana State (204) and Charlotte (266) in the Diamond Head Classic Dec. 22-25 in Honolulu.

Native leaders join climate activists targeting BP’s Denver HQ over plans to drill in Arctic

Mon, 05/20/2019 - 19:22

Native Gwich’in leaders joined climate activists in Denver, London and Aberdeen, Scotland, on Monday to demand the fossil fuels giant BP back off plans to drill for oil and gas in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Trump administration officials are pushing for a lease sale to exploit this fragile coastal refuge in northeastern Alaska that long has been held sacred by the Gwich’in Nation as “the place where life begins.”

“We pray for our way of life. This is a disaster in the making,” Aleta Ketzler, of Fort Yukon, Alaska, told Sierra Club and demonstrators who marched through rain from Commons Park to BP’s Lower 48 headquarters on Platte Street in Denver.

“Please stand with us, fight with us… and oppose any efforts to develop oil and gas in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge,” Ketzler said.

Congress has given green lights. Proponents say arctic drilling would generate jobs and revenues. But conservationists contend the refuge may not contain that much oil and that drilling would hurt wildlife habitat and people. Gwich’in lives revolve around hunting caribou that come from the Arctic coastal plain.

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In Scotland, activists gathered at a BP meeting where executives faced a shareholder resolution to make sure new oil and gas drilling is consistent with the Paris agreement to limit global warming to no more than 2 degrees Celsius. In London, Greenpeace blockaded BP offices.

In Denver, about 36 demonstrators marched under a banner that said “Arctic Drilling is Bad Business” as trucks bearing digital ads drove past BP’s shiny glass “BPX Energy” headquarters for onshore operations.

Bruce Finley, The Denver PostProtesters march together during a climate demonstration in Denver May 20, 2019. The group is opposing planned oil and gas drilling by BP in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

“We welcome discussion, debate, even peaceful protest, on the important matter of how we must all work together to address the climate challenge,” BP spokesman Brett Clanton said. “We review access and exploration possibilities worldwide and consider participating only if they are consistent with our business strategy, competitive with opportunities we have elsewhere and we are confident that we can operate safely and responsibly, meeting regulatory requirements and our own high standards.”

If BP moves ahead with drilling in the refuge, the industrial impact will kill lichen and other sensitive plants that caribou eat during calving, said Donald Tritt, a Gwich’in hunter and teacher from Arctic Village, Alaska, just south of Brooks Range mountains.

“We don’t want the caribou to get sick. That’s our greatest worry. Their migration routes would change,” he said. “We depend on that caribou herd for 80 percent of our diet. If it goes away, we have to depend on store-bought meat, which is super expensive.”

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Traditional life “gives you a sense of peace and humility,” he said. “Everybody in the world now feels climate change. We all have the goal of making the Earth better. Drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is not the answer.”

Sierra Club campaigner Ben Cushing, in Aberdeen, Scotland, cited the human rights issue along with a climate science consensus, saying activists will show up wherever BP holds meetings until drilling is dropped.

“We need to keep fossil fuels in the ground, especially when it comes to extreme energy projects like Arctic drilling,” Cushing said in an interview. “Shareholders of BP should be incredulous if BP makes the claim they can be both consistent with the Paris agreement and also drill in the Arctic.”

The Denver Zoo’s new baby sloth is a boy, and you can help help name it

Mon, 05/20/2019 - 19:08

The Denver Zoo recently received a new addition this spring with the birth of a Linne’s two-toed baby sloth.

Denver ZooNow that Denver Zoo officials have finally been able to determine that their new Linne’s two-toed baby sloth is a boy, they’re calling upon the public to help them name it.

Now that zoo officials have been able to determine that it’s a boy, they’re calling upon the public to help them name it — following a strict “Star Wars” theme. The three names voters are asked to choose from:

  • Wookiee
  • Lando
  • Kylo

(Yes, we’re well aware “Wookiee” is a species, not an actual character name.)

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Here’s how you can vote: Visit the Denver Zoo anytime between now and June 9. Make a donation either before visiting, at the ticket window, 4D theater or train/carousel to receive a token. A minimum donation of $1 is required, but you can donate more to receive additional tokens. Choose your favorite name and place your token in a voting booth located at the welcome plaza.

The winning name will be announced in the zoo’s June 14 newsletter and on social media June 17.

The baby sloth was born in April at the Denver Zoo to the Linne’s sloth’s parents, 23-year-old Charlotte Greenie and 28-year-old Elliot. Charlotte and her baby can be viewed at the Bird World exhibit.

Zookeepers say the best time to visit is late in the afternoon when Charlotte is more likely to be moving around. And please use your inside voices. The wee babe is still adjusting to life in his new world.

Construction crews dig up dinosaur fossils in Highlands Ranch

Mon, 05/20/2019 - 18:19
Denver Museum of Nature & ScienceWorkers on a construction site in Highlands Ranch came upon a prehistoric find when they unearthed bones belonging to a dinosaur.

Workers on a construction site in Highlands Ranch came upon a prehistoric find when they unearthed bones belonging to a dinosaur.

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Crews uncovered the fossils Friday near Wind Crest retirement community, according to a release from the Denver Museum of Nature & Science.

The museum said a limb bone and several ribs from a horned dinosaur were the first fossils uncovered.

Paleontologists will work for the next several days to weeks at the secured construction site to determine the size of the bone bed, the release read.


A near decade-old restaurant closes in Denver’s Santa Fe Art District

Mon, 05/20/2019 - 17:59

Interstate Kitchen & Bar closed Sunday after almost a decade in business on Santa Fe Drive.

The retro restaurant that opened in 2009 at Santa Fe and West 10th Avenue announced its closing via Facebook earlier this month.

“It is a point of pride that we have achieved nearly a decade of service at Interstate Kitchen & Bar,” the post read. “We have been honored to contribute in that time to all the wonderful lives we’ve been able to witness.”

Interstate became a late-night destination in the arts district for comfort plates and American whiskeys (there were more than 100 behind the bar).

“We’ve literally been a staple in the district for 10 years,” Jenny Lustig, a longtime restaurant employee, told The Denver Post on Monday. “We’re all a family and we’re heartbroken about it.”

Lustig attributed the closure to rising rents and increasing competition. Interstate’s owners, Aaron and Andre Lobato, were not immediately available for comment.

Pistol Whip is the latest restaurant to open in the neighborhood known for galleries and longstanding eateries like El Noa Noa and El Taco de Mexico. It serves New American food alongside wine and cocktails.

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