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Parents of murdered Auburn University student furious killer wants new trial

The parents of a Georgia teenager murdered at Auburn University a decade ago are furious that the man convicted of killing her has asked for a new trial.

>> Read more trending news 

Lauren Burk, from Marietta in metro Atlanta, was a freshman at Auburn University and a graduate of Walton High School. 

Investigators say Courtney L. Lockhart kidnapped Burk from her campus apartment, forced her to undress as he drove her around and then shot her in the back as she tried to escape from a moving car. 

Lockhart was arrested for Burk’s murder in 2008 and sentenced to death in an Alabama courtroom in 2011.

Now, Lockhart is claiming his defense attorneys were so bad he deserves a new trial. 

Burk's parents think it is unfair that he keeps getting appeals. 

Jim and Vivian Burk are still haunted by their daughter's death 10 years after it happened. They recently received a letter from the Alabama attorney general's office alerting them that Lockhart will appeal his death sentence.

This latest appeal infuriates the Burks, who must now endure seeing him back in the same courtroom in which he was convicted. 

The Cobb County couple say they just want to see Lockhart pay for what he did to their daughter. 

>> Trending: Man coughs up blood clot shaped like lung tree, doctors ‘astonished’

"For him to be able to sit in that cell every day and think about one day his life ending like my daughter's, it gives me some sort of comfort," Jim Burk said. 

Vivian Burk said they are both still haunted by the details of the crime that took their daughter's life. 

"He shot her in the back like a coward," Vivian Burk said. "She was trying to escape from a moving car and he made her undress. She was, you know, totally helpless."

Lockhart’s latest hearing is scheduled for Dec. 17 in Alabama. Depending on the outcome, it mark the end of his appeals. 

But the Burks are angry that their daughter's killer gets the chance to appeal at all.

"I just don't understand why a murderer, as heinous as this crime was, as far as how he abducted my daughter, is able to have all these options and Lauren has no options," Jim Burk said. 

Vivian Burk feels like Lockhart is being given chances her daughter never had. 

"So why should he have any more rights than my daughter did?" Vivian Burk asked. "He took her rights away, and he took her life away."

Jim Burk said his grief is more manageable than it was 10 years ago, but it is still there, and so is his anger at Lockhart. 

>> Trending: Operation Grinch Pinch: Texas police going after porch thieves with GPS trackers

"You know, Lauren's not breathing anymore, and there's no reason that he should be," Jim Burk said. "That's just the way I feel."

How to watch the spectacular Geminid meteor shower

 

The Geminid meteor shower is one of the most spectacular light shows of the year.

>> Read more trending news 

The Geminids are visible every December when the Earth passes through a massive trail of dusty debris from a rocky object named 3200 Phaethon, long thought to be an asteroid or an extinct comet. The particle debris burns up when it strikes Earth’s atmosphere, resulting in a heavenly display of shooting stars.

The celestial spectacle peaks in the early morning hours of Dec. 13 and 14.

The best viewing time is around 2 a.m. and no special equipment is needed to see the show, but the darker the viewing area the better with as little light pollution as possible, and clear skies are mandatory. Also give your eyes about 30 minutes to adjust to the darkness and make sure you’re looking up.

Dark skies are the most important aspect for viewing the Geminids or any meteor shower, for that matter.

>> Related: North Taurid meteor shower puts on show in midnight sky for stargazers with patience

The Geminids are visible around the world, but the best viewing areas are in the northern hemisphere away from city lights.

The Geminids first appeared in the early 19th century, shortly before the U.S. Civil War, according to NASA.

 

Operation Grinch Pinch: Texas police going after porch thieves with GPS trackers

As more and more Americans turn to online shopping for everything from gifts to groceries, package theft from porches is a growing problem, especially during the holiday season.

>> Read more trending news 

One Texas police department is taking a different approach in trying to catch porch thieves.

Operation Grinch Pinch is a partnership between the police department and the community in Fort Worth, Texas, according to KTVT-TV.

The police have outfitted packages with tracking devices and recruited volunteers with video home surveillance systems, KTVT reported. Packages are placed on porches and visible from the street. Once the package is snatched, officers begin monitoring its movements and once it stops moving, they hope to move in and make an arrest.

>> Related: Man arrested in porch theft of kidney donor test supplies, police say

The program is scheduled to run through the end of the year, with a decision in the future on whether to continue the program.

Tom Brady sets record for most overall touchdown passes in NFL

Another day, another record for Tom Brady's illustrious career as he set the record for the most overall touchdown passes in NFL history during the Patriots' loss to the Dolphins Sunday.

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Brady's touchdown pass to Julian Edelman put him at 580 overall career touchdown passes, etching his name in history as the new leader in combined touchdown passes in the regular season and postseason.

Brady had previously tied the record held by Peyton Manning when the Patriots beat the Vikings, as he reached 579 touchdown passes when he connected with Josh Gordon last week. The Patriots quarterback also reached another milestone in that game when he reached 1,000 career rushing yards.

The record-breaking touchdown also threw Brady into second place in the record books for career regular-season touchdown passes, as he passed Brett Favre's number of 508. Manning is first on the list, with 539 career regular season touchdown passes.

Now, Brady needs just 30 more touchdown passes in the regular season to tie Manning's record, with 31 putting him as the leader in every category when it comes to career touchdown passes.

Traveler's good deed: Stranger gives first-class seat to Florida mom with baby

Kelsey Rae Zwick has been overwhelmed the past few years. 

She and her husband have twin daughters, Lucy and Eva, who had complications at birth and were born at 29 weeks, Yahoo News reported. The infants spent their first few months in the neonatal intensive care unit, followed by months of treatments.

Lucy and Eva suffer chronic lung disease from the intubation period. Because she had other complications, Lucy had also started treatment at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. 

Zwick was on an American Airlines flight from Orlando to Philadelphia on Thursday with Lucy, who was yelling and yakking away, when a flight attendant came over and told her a man in first class wanted to switch seats with her, Yahoo News reported.

Zwick was stunned. She was not able to thank the stranger when they arrived, so she posted on social media, hoping to pay the act of kindness forward.

“I guess it was his birthday, and he did reach out to us,” Zwick told Yahoo News. “He was thanking me for a birthday to remember. It was the best day. He said it made him and his wife cry, and he said, ‘I am so glad we were on the same flight.’”

Zwick appreciated not only the additional space for Lucy’s oxygen machine and the first class accoutrements, like the cheese plate, but also the gesture.

“Sooo... thank you. Not just for the seat itself but for noticing. For seeing us and realizing that maybe things are not always easy,” she wrote. “For deciding you wanted to show a random act of kindness to US. It reminded me how much good there is in this world. I can’t wait to tell Lucy someday. In the meantime... we will pay it forward.”

YMCA workers help resuscitate woman who collapsed while working out

A young woman is alive thanks to quick-thinking workers at a local YMCA.

Stacie Logan was going about her normal workout routine when the unexpected happened.

>> Read more trending news 

Logan had been running on the treadmill when she suddenly went into cardiac arrest. As she collapsed, the treadmill, which kept running, sent her flying onto the floor.

"I guess I collapsed on the treadmill, and the treadmill actually shot me off of it, and I hit my face on some kind of workout equipment, and nobody really knew what was wrong with me until someone flipped me over and saw I was unconscious," said Logan.

Logan says a few workers at the gym rushed over to help her, along with a couple of bystanders who knew CPR.

She tells Boston 25 News she was out for about six minutes and had to be shocked back to life twice with an automated external defibrillator.

Logan's father says they were shocked to get the call about their daughter's episode, saying she's a healthy 29-year-old woman who has six marathons under her belt, including one in New York just a few weeks ago.

"That was the furthest thing from our minds," said Tom Logan. 

Doctors say they still don't know exactly how this happened, but they did find scarring on one of the chambers of her heart, which could be a genetic condition.

"It was just kinda like a freak thing that happened," said Stacie Logan. "And it was just one of the circuits of my heart bounced off the scarring and caused it to short circuit."

She spent a week in the hospital, undergoing two surgeries to insert a pacemaker and a defibrillator in her chest. According to her doctors, this was an extremely close call.

"They said if I was home I would have been dead. If I was by myself, or they said if I was somewhere else and they didn’t have an AED or somebody didn’t know CPR, I would have been dead," said Stacie Logan.

Now, the family says they are forever thankful for the strangers who jumped in to help Stacie Logan. They also hope her story will inspire others to get trained in these lifesaving skills.

"If it means people learning about CPR and how to use AEDs, that’s our mission is to get it out there. We will both become certified immediately so that we can pass that on," said Tom Logan.

The Logan family now wants to find the other people who helped Stacie Logan that day in the YMCA so they can thank them in person.

Mike Pence’s top aid Nick Ayers won’t replace John Kelly as Trump’s Chief of Staff

Chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence, Nick Ayers, is headed back to Atlanta soon after he declined Sunday to take the job as President Donald Trump’s chief of staff.

>> Read more trending news 

Ayers, 36, was long rumored to be Trump’s top choice to replace outgoing chief of staff John Kelly, a retired U.S. Marine Corps general who the president said will leave the job by year’s end, but the two couldn’t agree on a time frame for the job, with Ayers unwilling to commit to the role deep into next year, according to an Ayers’ associate familiar with the talks.

Ayers did not return messages seeking comment, but said in a Sunday tweet that he will be departing his job with the administration at the end of the year but will work with the Trump campaign “to advance the cause.” He ended the tweet with a Georgia hashtag.

It’s not clear now who will take Kelly’s job as the top West Wing adviser as Trump prepares for his 2020 re-election bid at a precarious time.

>> Related: John Kelly expected to resign as White House chief of staff, reports say 

Whoever takes the job will have to contend with an intensifying probe into Russian election interference and emboldened Democrats who will take control of the U.S. House in January. Kelly’s successor will also have to grapple with a mercurial president loath to take counsel from his advisers.

“Nick has three little kids and that chief of staff job is a nightmare - no matter who the president is,” said Alec Poitevint, a longtime Ayers confidant and influential Georgia GOP donor.

It’s not immediately certain what Ayers will do next in Georgia, but he will have plenty of options.

>> Related: Who is in President Trump's cabinet?

He and his former boss, Sonny Perdue, were the driving forces behind Trump’s surprise endorsement of Brian Kemp, and Ayers helped organize Pence and Trump’s recent visits to Georgia. And he’s built a reputation as a wealthy and well-connected strategist after getting his start in Perdue’s 2002 campaign.

He was still a student at Kennesaw State University then, where he went to school with dreams of being a banker, but got swept up in Perdue’s underdog bid to become the first Republican governor in Georgia since Reconstruction.

“I had no interest in joining the campaign. I had my career planned out. I truly did not believe Governor Roy Barnes could be beat at the time, ” Ayers said at the time. “After 10 minutes of talking to Sonny, I was one hundred percent confident he was the right person to run this state.”

>> Related: Who is Gen. John Kelly, President Donald Trump’s Chief of Staff?

He soon became the Republican’s right-hand man – part assistant, part adviser, part protégé – and got hooked on politics. He also became a part of the family: He married Perdue’s second-cousin, Jamie, in May 2005 and the couple are now raising 6-year-old triplets in metro Atlanta.

Four years after his upset victory, Perdue tapped Ayers to serve as his campaign manager for re-election against Democrat Mark Taylor.

Ayers went on to become the youngest-ever head of the Republican Governors Association during a period of rapid state-level expansion for the GOP. In that role, he and then-Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour helped transform the organization from a bit player to an influential political network.

He later built a consulting business that successfully boosted Republican candidates and made him fabulously wealthy: His federal financial disclosure pegged his worth between $12 million and $54 million. But they also raised questions about how he amassed his fortune in a short period of time, including recent complaints of running afoul of ethics laws.

>> Related: Trump to nominate William Barr to replace Jeff Sessions as attorney general 

Trump’s rapid rise in the Republican world opened up new opportunities for Ayers.

He became a top Pence counselor during the presidential campaign and, last year, briefly flirted with a run for Georgia governor. But he abruptly ruled out that bid moments before news broke that Pence offered him the chance to be his top staffer.

Since arriving in Washington, Ayers won Trump’s admiration for insulating Mike Pence from the chaos that’s frequently engulfed the West Wing and cultivated the support of key Trump family members, including Don Jr. and Ivanka Trump.

He’ll surely lean on those connections with national figures, as well as his ties to a universe of wealthy GOP donors, as he builds his next venture.

>> Related: Who is William Pelham Barr: 5 things to know

Brandon Phillips, a Georgia GOP consultant who was Trump’s state campaign chair, called him a “role model for political operatives who think nice guys can’t finish first.”

“His future in Georgia and national politics is only limited by his imagination,” said Phillips.

Man coughs up blood clot shaped like lung tree, doctors ‘astonished’

Familiar with the phrase “cough up a lung”? It’s not actually possible, but one man stunned doctors when he coughed up a blood clot in the shape of one.

>> Read more trending news  

Researchers published the shocking findings in the New England Journal of Medicine recently. In the report, they shared the story of a 36-year-old man admitted to an intensive-care unit with aggressive end-stage heart failure. 

The patient’s heart was immediately connected to a pump designed to help blood flow through the body, co-author Georg Wieselthaler described in the assessment. However, the machine can cause coagulation, so they used heparin, a blood thinner medication, to prevent them from forming. 

The heparin created another issue though. Thicker blood is needed to prevent blood vessels from developing tiny tears that can cause internal bleeding. Unfortunately, that is exactly what happened to the patient.

>> Related: Study: This common household chore is as damaging as smoking 20 cigarettes a day

Blood leaked from his pulmonary network into his right lung then into his bronchial tree. He began coughing up smaller clots and eventually coughed up a large, oddly shaped, folded one. When doctors unfurled the glob, it was in the exact shape of the right bronchial tree

“We were astonished,” Wieselthaler told The Atlantic. “It’s a curiosity you can’t imagine—I mean, this is very, very, very rare.”

Few similar cases have been documented, including a 34-year-old woman who coughed up a large piece of membrane in the 1920s and a 25-year-old pregnant woman who hacked up a smaller bronchial tree cast in 2005.

So why don’t the casts break apart?

>> Related: Risks of smoking-related lung disease lowered by fruits

As for Wieselthaler’s patient, he believes the answer is related to fibrinogen, a protein in the blood plasma that causes cell fragments to form a mass. The patient’s infection and heart failure possibly led to a very high concentration of fibrinogen, which made his blood rubbery and capable of staying intact as he coughed. 

“Because it was so large, he was able to generate enough force from an entire right side of his thorax to push this up and out,” co-author Gavitt Woodard added. If the pieces were smaller, she said, “he might not have been able to generate the force.”

Although the patient felt immediately better after the clot was out of his system, he died about a week later from complications of heart failure. 

>> Related: Apples, tomatoes could help ex-smokers repair their lungs

Despite the grim ending, the doctors wanted to show a part of the human body. Woodard said, “recognizing the beautiful anatomy of the human body is the main point of it.”

Teen accidentally shoots self in leg with AK-47 she stole hours earlier, police say

A Texas teen shot herself in the leg Tuesday with a gun that was stolen from a home hours earlier, investigators said.

>> Read more trending news 

A 17-year-old girl was with another 17-year-old girl and a 16-year-old boy when she accidentally shot herself in the foot with an AK-47, KTRK reported.

The girl who was shot was taken to a hospital, where she is in critical condition, according to Constable Mark Herman, of Harris County Precinct 4

She and the teen boy are being charged with unlawful carrying of a weapon and burglary of a habitation, ABC News reported. The sheriff also filed charges against the teen boy for tampering with evidence because the gun was thrown down a storm drain, ABC News reported.

“There were two females. The other one, we're still investigating that aspect of it. But if she was involved in the burglary, she'll get filed on, too, eventually,” Herman told KTRK.

Giraffes facing threat of extinction, several species considered ‘critically endangered’ 

The world’s tallest land mammals may be slipping toward extinction, with three of the nine subspecies of giraffes now in serious trouble and considered “critically endangered.”

>> Read more trending news 

That’s according to a new report from the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

While giraffe populations in southern Africa are doing fine, the animal “is under severe pressure in some of its core ranges across East, Central and West Africa,” according to Dr. Julian Fennessy, co-chair of the IUCN Species Survival Commission and director of the Giraffe Conservation Foundation.

Fennessy said even some conservationists were surprised by the declining number of giraffes in some areas in Africa.

“I am absolutely amazed that no one has a clue,” Fennessy told the Telegraph.  “This silent extinction. Some populations less than 400. That is more endangered than any gorilla, or almost any large mammal in the world.”

The report also detailed a conservation success story.

Two giraffe subspecies (the West African and Rothchild’s giraffe) that were previously considered endangered have rebounded with efforts from African governments and conservation groups and have been downgraded to “vulnerable” and “near threatened,” respectively.

“This is a conservation success story and highlights the value of making proactive giraffe conservation management efforts in critical populations across the continent,” Arthu Muneza, the East Africa Coordinator of the Giraffe Conservation Foundation, said.

>> Trending: Mother giraffe dies 4 days after her calf

The IUCN said the northern giraffe and the reticulated giraffe are two of the most threatened species with fewer than 5,200 and 15,785, respectively, remaining in the wild.

The threats facing giraffes include illegal hunting and civil unrest in parts of Africa and habitat loss due to mining and agriculture.

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