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Aretha Franklin dies at 76

The "Queen of Soul," legendary singer and songwriter Aretha Franklin, died Thursday from advanced pancreatic cancer, her publicist told The Associated Press. She was 76.

>> Read more trending news

In a statement, publicist Gwendolyn Quinn told the AP that Franklin passed at 9:50 a.m. Thursday at her home in Detroit.

>> ‘Thank you, Aretha’: Fans, friends remember the ‘Queen of Soul’

"Franklin's official cause of death was due to advance pancreatic cancer of the neuroendocrine type, which was confirmed by Franklin's oncologist, Dr. Philip Phillips of Karmanos Cancer Institute" in Detroit, Franklin’s family said in the statement. "In one of the darkest moments of our lives, we are not able to find the appropriate words to express the pain in our heart. We have lost the matriarch and rock of our family."

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan mourned Franklin in a statement Thursday, calling the iconic musician “a performer without peers.”

>> The best Aretha Franklin songs: A timeline

“Throughout her extraordinary life and career, she earned the love -- and yes, the respect -- of millions of people, not just for herself and for women everywhere, but for the city she loved so dearly and called home,” Duggan said. “I was honored to present Aretha with the key to our city last year and her last concert in Detroit. While she may have passed, Aretha Franklin will always have the key to our hearts.

Friends, fans and celebrities took to social media to mourn Franklin:

Family members confirmed Monday to WDIV-TV that Franklin, 76, was gravely ill after a report from entertainment site Showbiz411 claimed she was being surrounded by friends and family in Detroit.

Tom Joyner, a nationally syndicated radio host and friend of Franklin’s, said Monday that Franklin has been in hospice care for a week, according to The Detroit News.

Franklin had announced plans to retire from touring in February 2017 to focus on her family and a few select projects, the News reported.

>> Beyonce dedicates Detroit OTR II show to Aretha Franklin

"I feel very, very enriched and satisfied with respect to where my career came from, and where it is now,” Franklin told WDIV in 2017. “I'll be pretty much satisfied, but I'm not going to go anywhere and just sit down and do nothing. That wouldn't be good either.”

Franklin has canceled several concerts this year due to health issues, Fox13Memphis reported. According to The Associated Press, “she was ordered by her doctor to stay off the road and rest up.”

She performed  in her hometown of Detroit in June 2017, the Detroit Free Press reported. She ended the concert with an appeal for those in the crown to, “Please keep me in your prayers,” according to the newspaper.

>> Photos: Aretha Franklin through the years

She last performed in November at Elton John’s AIDS Foundation gala in New York City, the News reported.

Franklin was born March 25, 1942, in Memphis, Tennessee. Her family moved to Detroit when she was young, according to Fox13Memphis.

Franklin started singing when she was young, with encouragement from her mother, Barbara, and her father, the Rev. C.L. Franklin. She started out singing gospel but launched a career in secular music after she turned 18. She rose to fame after signing in 1967 with Atlantic Records.

Franklin’s career, spanning six decades, has spawned hits including “Respect,” “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” and “Chain of Fools.” She’s considered one of the best-selling artists of all time, selling more than 75 million albums worldwide.

Franklin was inducted in 1987 to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. She’s earned 18 Grammy Awards and a Presidential Medal of Freedom for her work. In 2005, then-President George W. Bush described Franklin as “a woman of achievement, deep character and a loving heart.”

Check back for updates to this developing story.

High school principal puts in laundry room to curb bullying

Could clean clothes be the key to stopping bullying? In one high school in New Jersey, the answer is yes.

Akbar Cook, the principal at West Side High School, said that he just wanted to make sure that kids don’t miss school because of being bullied and that some were being picked on because of dirty clothes, WABC reported.

Some students couldn’t afford to keep their school uniforms clean, NJ.com reported.

Cook told NJ.com that students with dirty clothing would be photographed and the photos posted on social media as cyberbullying.

>> Read more trending news 

So instead of punishing the students for missing school, Cook, who has been principal for two weeks, kicked out the football team from their locker room and put in washers and dryers so students can do laundry.

He got a grant for $20,000 to buy five washing machines and five dryers, along with what was needed to change the locker room into a laundry, NJ.com reported.

>> Need something to lift your spirits? Read more uplifting news 

Local businesses and families have donated laundry supplies, NJ.com and WABC reported.

He says being there for his kids will correlate to their grades.

>>Read: High school installs showers, laundry facilities for homeless students

“Because the kids feel that and they’ll fight on that SAT or that test the same way you fight for them,” Cook told WABC. “That’s who I am.”

The laundry room will be open for students Monday, Wednesday and Friday starting Aug. 27, before the school year starts. Then it will be open daily starting Sept. 4.

Exams lost in transit; students may have to retake tests

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) - About 200 Florida high school students may have to retake tests after learning that the United Parcel Service lost a box containing college credit exams they took last spring.

The Palm Beach Post reports Santaluces High School Principal Tameka Robinson broke the news to students and their parents on Tuesday.

The exams were taken by students enrolled in courses designed by the University of Cambridge in England. The newspaper reports the exams in question include International History and some General Paper courses commonly taken by students in ninth and tenth grades.

Cambridge spokesman Thomas Rodgers said in a statement that UPS is investigating the incident and trying to recover the package.

Man who shot cop released from prison by mistake; error unnoticed for 2 years

A judge sentenced a Georgia man to 15 years in prison for shooting an off-duty police officer, but the man served barely one year in prison before he was released – by mistake.

>> Watch the news report here

A representative of the DeKalb County District Attorney’s Office told WSB-TV investigative reporter Mark Winne that last week, the state Department of Community Supervision notified the office that Jermarcus Jordan was not in prison, where he was supposed to be.

This week, the DeKalb County Sheriff's Office arrested Jordan on new charges of aggravated assault and cruelty to children after he had been out of prison for two years.

Chris Smith is the officer who was shot by Jordan. He told Winne that he's no longer a police officer and there are too many holes in the system of which he was once a part.

“It shows that there are a lot of loopholes and different things that really just need to be fixed,” Smith said.

Smith said he was an Atlanta police officer working an extra job in uniform at an apartment complex when a gunman cut loose in 2013 with a shotgun as Smith sat in his pickup truck.

>> Baby found dead in car after man flees traffic stop, police say

“I was shot in the head, a birdshot, and I was shot in my right calf with buckshot. Had it been reversed, I would have been dead on the scene,” Smith told Winne. “I still have six pellets in my head, anywhere from my hairline back.”

Documents and other information suggest the following timeline:

On Jan. 14, 2015, a judge sentenced Jordan to 25 years in prison, with 15 years to serve.

That same day, a probation revocation order was filed against Jordan, involving an old robbery case against him. The sentence for that case expired on May 13, 2016.

A judge this week said it appeared to him that Jordan was released by the Department of Corrections in error on May 13, 2016 -- long before he had served 15 years for the attack on Smith.

“I wish I had an answer for how that happened,” Smith said.

Joan Heath, with the Georgia Department of Corrections, said the department did not release Jordan in error and that there was a problem with the documentation the department received from the DeKalb County Clerk of Superior Court’s Office regarding the sentence for the attack on Smith.

>> Read more trending news 

The documentation was returned, but the Department of Corrections said it never received the corrected paperwork needed to legally hold Jordan past May 2016.

DeKalb County Superior Court Clerk Debra DeBerry told Winne that her office sent everything it was supposed to send.

Heath said that, because of other, similar paperwork issues with clerk's offices, last year the department initiated new follow-up procedures as an additional safeguard.

DeBerry said that a 2015 document Winne found in the records indicates a probation worker told the Department of Corrections she would take care of the problem.

A representative for the Department of Community Supervision said probation is under that department now, but wasn’t in 2015, so the department can’t comment on this case.

Facebook 'like' gets Florida man a return trip to jail

A Florida man is back in jail after clicking "like" on a Facebook photo posted by a witness in a case against him.

West Palm Beach judge Krista Marx revoked Paul Maida Jr.'s bond Wednesday, saying he violated a court order to avoid any contact with his ex-girlfriend Bianca Fichtel by liking a photo on her Facebook page earlier this month.

Assistant State Attorney Laura Laurie says Fichtel is a key prosecution witness in the DUI manslaughter case against Maida.

Maida is accused of leaving the scene of a Boca Raton crash that killed 65-year-old bicyclist George Morreale in April 2014.

Maida, who had been on house arrest, must now remain in the Palm Beach County Jail until his case is resolved.

Report: Man with NC ties confesses to killing wife, 2 daughters in Colorado

Authorities say the husband of a missing family in Colorado has been arrested in connection with the case.

The Frederick Police Department said Chris Watts, who has ties to North Carolina, was taken into custody. Watt's pregnant wife, 34-year-old Shanann Watts, and their two daughters, 4-year-old Bella and 3-year-old Celeste were reported missing Monday.

>> Read more trending news 

The Denver Channel was reporting that two law enforcement officials said Christopher Watts, 34, had confessed to killing Shanann Watts and their two daughters, and that officials believe they know where the bodies are.

The police said on Twitter early Thursday that Chris Watts will be held at the Weld County Jail. He has not yet been charged. It wasn't immediately known if he had a lawyer.

Police have not released any information about when, where or how Shanann Watts and her daughters were killed.

Shanann and her children were reported missing on Monday after a family friend noticed she hadn't heard from her, according to police in Frederick, about 35 miles north of Denver.

Chris Watts spoke previously with The Denver Channel and pleaded for his family's safe return. In that interview, he said his wife’s purse, keys and phone were all left at home before she went missing.

“When I came home and then walked in the house, nothing. Vanished. Nothing was here. My kids are my life. I mean, those smiles light up my life,” he said in the interview, prior to his arrest.

Chris Watts gave interviews to local and national news stations about his wife’s disappearance on Tuesday and Wednesday, asking for his wife to return home with their daughters and saying that if anyone had taken or harmed them, they should come forward.

The FBI and Colorado Bureau of Investigation are also investigating.

Shanann Watts was 15 weeks pregnant and was scheduled to find out the gender of her and her husband's third child in a couple of weeks. She was from Moore County, just outside Fayetteville, and attended Pinecrest High School in Southern Pines. Her family still lives in North Carolina.

Chris Lee Watts was born and raised in North Carolina, according to public records. He lived there when he met his wife and they moved to Colorado in 2013.

According to sources, Shanann Watts returned home early Monday morning from a work trip in Arizona. Her husband told police he came home and his wife and their two children were gone.

"Shanann has a schedule and she goes by that schedule and she does not deviate," high school friend Lauren Arnold told WTVD. Arnold said she moved to Colorado around the same time as Watts.

"The girls are on a schedule," she said. "She has things that she does every day. A dead cell phone is not an option for her. She always has her communication with her."

Chris Watts told ABC affiliate KMGH in Denver that he and Shanann had an "emotional conversation" prior to her disappearance and would not elaborate further.

"There's so many questions that have not been answered. So many what-ifs and things like that. It's really frustrating," Arnold added.

A news conference to provide more information is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. local time

The Associated Press contributed to this report,

Mike Huckabee on board quarantined American Airlines plane in Nashville

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee was among the passengers on board an American Airlines plane that was quarantined in Nashville early Thursday. That plane has since “been cleared” and the passengers allowed to leave, according to WZTV.

Here are the latest updates:

Update 9:10 a.m. EDT Aug. 16: Huckabee thanked American Airlines employees for their professionalism  in a tweet Thursday morning.

“Kudos to @AmericanAir pilot and crew -- handled medical issue on red eye from LAX to Nashville very professionally,” Huckabee wrote. “We were held for a while as medical personnel made sure the person wasn’t Gwyneth Paltrow from Contagion. Seriously, hope the lady is okay -- taken on gurney.”

Airport officials said in a statement released to The Tennessean Thursday morning that American Airlines Flight 1289 was quarantined as a precaution because of fears that a passenger’s recent illness might still be contagious. The plane has since been cleared and all passengers released, according to multiple reports.

Officials did not identify the illness.

Update 8:40 a.m. EDT Aug. 16: Nashville International Airport spokesperson Shannon Sumrall said in a statement released to The Tennessean that passengers were held Thursday morning on American Airlines Flight 1289 as a precaution because of a passenger’s recent illness.

Sumrall told the newspaper that a physician “medically cleared” the passenger ahead of the flight, but that the passenger did not have paperwork to confirm his or her health.

“(The passenger) was talking bout the recent illness and other passengers on board became worried of exposure,” Sumrall told The Tennessean. “For safety, passengers were held by BNA (Nashville International Airport) Police until contact was made with the physician to confirm clearance, which it was.”

Officials did not identify the illness.

Update 7:52 a.m. EDT Aug. 16: The American Airlines passenger who appeared to be ill “has been cleared,” WZTV reports. The passengers are now off the plane, the station said.

Original report: Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee is on board an American Airlines plane that has been quarantined in Nashville, WZTV reports.

Flight 1289, which traveled from Los Angeles to Nashville overnight, was detained at Nashville International Airport after a passenger appeared to be sick, an American Airlines spokeswoman told the news station.

>> Read more trending news 

Huckabee tweeted about the incident early Thursday.

“5 hr red eye flight on @AmericanAir Nashville from LA. On ground for 40 min and now told someone on board is sick & we are being towed to other gate and quarantined until all checked out. Can’t get up to go to bathroom or get off plane. It’s the Russians! I just know it!” he wrote just after 6:30 a.m. EDT Thursday.

“1 hr after landing got to far away gate where @AmericanAir will hopefully get us off this plane! Medical [personnel] at gate. Hope it’s not because I got that straw in CA,” he added.

According to WZTV, “the plane was taken to a remote portion of the airport where emergency personnel were waiting for the plane.” Those on board were instructed to stay put as a Vanderbilt Hospital doctor examined the patient.

Read more here.

Alligator hunting season begins in Florida

Florida’s statewide alligator hunting season started Wednesday with more than 7,500 permits issued this year by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

FWC officials said the annual “alligator harvest” is an effort to help manage the alligator population, which is estimated to be 1.3 million in Florida.

Read: Missing child alert for three Florida children including a one-year-old boy

“For over 30 years, the Statewide Alligator Harvest Program has been providing sustainable hunting opportunities throughout the state.,” said FWC in a news release. “The FWC establishes management units with appropriate harvest quotas based on research and proven science to ensure the long-term well-being of the alligator resource.”

Read: Daytona Beach public works truck strikes and kills woman near pier, then takes off: Police

Alligators were put on the federal endangered species list in 1967 before they were removed in 1987.

In addition to the hunting permits, FWC also manages the alligator population with the Statewide Nuisance Alligator Program (SNAP). 

Anyone concerned about an alligator posing a threat can contact a trapper by calling FWC’s Nuisance Alligator Hotline at 866-392-4286.

Miami Beach offering 6 lifeguard towers in online auction

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. (AP) - The city of Miami Beach is offering six iconic and colorful lifeguard towers in an online auction.

The auction began Tuesday and officials say the towers have sold brought in between $100 and $3,500 in previous sales.

The Sun Sentinel reports the city is replacing the towers with newer ones that are more resistant to hurricanes.

City spokeswoman Melissa Berthier says the vintage towers can be transformed into a treehouse, tiki bar or a big dog house. They are being sold in an "as is" condition. One has a patriotic theme and is listed in "cosmetically very good" condition. Another is accented with yellow, turquoise and purple hues. And a tower splashed with shades of lavender, was damaged during Hurricane Irma,

The auction ends August 28.

Odor diverts Philadelphia-bound flight to North Carolina

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - A Frontier Airlines jetliner has arrived in Philadelphia nine hours after an odor forced it to land in North Carolina.

Flight 1674 landed around 5 a.m. Thursday. Its 230 passengers and seven crew members were scheduled to arrive at 8 p.m. Wednesday from Orlando, Florida, but an odor in the cabin caused the flight to divert to Raleigh, North Carolina.

Frontier says eight people complained of feeling sick from the smell. Three asked to be taken to a hospital as a precaution.

There is no word what caused the odor.

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