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Inmate suicide death in Kings County Jail

HANFORD — A Hanford man sentenced for extortion committed suicide in the Kings County Jail in December, according to jail officials.

Sheriff’s Office officials said deputies and ambulances were dispatched to the jail at around 4:20 p.m. on Dec. 20 for a report of a non-responsive inmate.

When first responders arrived, officials said they began administering first aid to 26-year-old Ethen Carrell of Hanford. Carrell was then transported to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Sheriff’s officials said Carrell, who was convicted of extortion on the same day he committed suicide, used bedsheets to hang himself from the top bunk in his cell.

“I don’t think any mother should ever have to bury their child,” said Venus Donahue, Carrell's mother. “Especially from something that was 100 percent preventable.”

Donahue said although her son made some mistakes, he was a good man who was smart and always willing to give his time and help others. She said he tutored classmates in high school, helped coach kids in basketball and volunteered.

Assistant Sheriff Robert Thayer said Carrell was booked into the jail on Aug. 16, 2017, on suspicion of extortion, making terrorist threats and several other charges.

Thayer said when Carrell was found guilty, he had an outburst inside the court and staff had to restrain him.

Thayer said it’s not uncommon for people to be emotional when they are convicted in court, so prior to going back to his cell when he was taken back to the jail from the courthouse, Carrell was taken to the jail’s behavior health specialist to talk.

Thayer said during Carrell's talk with the specialist, he gave no hint he was thinking about suicide and was then cleared by the specialist to go back to his cell.

Normally, Thayer said inmates are checked on at least once an hour, but he said staff always gives inmates who have recently been convicted a little more attention.

He said Carrell was being checked on about three times an hour and about 20-30 minutes had elapsed between his last check and when officers found him non-responsive in his cell. He said Carrell was in general population and was by himself in the cell at the time.

Kings County Sheriff-Coroner Dave Robinson said the official cause of death was self-inflicted ligature strangulation. He said there was nothing else to report, and said it was a sad situation.

“He was loving, always smiled and had such a passion for life,” Donahue said.

Donahue said Carrell loved everybody he came across and was always telling people to be positive, stay strong and trust in the Lord.

US hits record for costly weather disasters: $306 billion

WASHINGTON (AP) — With three strong hurricanes, wildfires, hail, flooding, tornadoes and drought, the United States tallied a record high bill last year for weather disasters: $306 billion.

The U.S. had 16 disasters last year with damage exceeding a billion dollars, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Monday. That ties 2011 for the number of billion-dollar disasters, but the total cost blew past the previous record of $215 billion in 2005.

Costs are adjusted for inflation and NOAA keeps track of billion-dollar weather disasters going back to 1980.

Three of the five most expensive hurricanes in U.S. history hit last year.

Hurricane Harvey, which caused massive flooding in Texas, cost $125 billion, second only to 2005's Katrina, while Maria's damage in Puerto Rico cost $90 billion, ranking third, NOAA said. Irma was $50 billion, mainly in Florida, for the fifth most expensive hurricane.

Western wildfires fanned by heat racked up $18 billion in damage, triple the U.S. wildfire record, according to NOAA.

Besides Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico, California, Colorado, Minnesota, Nebraska, Missouri, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee and North Carolina all had more than $1 billion in damage from the 16 weather disasters in 2017.

"While we have to be careful about knee-jerk cause-effect discussions, (many scientific studies) show that some of today's extremes have climate change fingerprints on them," said University of Georgia meteorology professor Marshall Shepherd, a past president of the American Meteorological Society.

NOAA announced its figures at the society's annual conference in Austin, Texas.

The U.S. averages six of the billion-dollar weather disasters each year, costing a bit more than $40 billion annually.

The increase in billion-dollar weather disasters is likely a combination of more flooding, heat and storm surge from climate change along with other non-climate changes, such as where buildings are put, where people move and how valuable their property is, said Deke Arndt, NOAA's climate monitoring chief.

"Perhaps it is time to mandate urban development in a more resilient and sustainable manner given the increasing frequency of weather extremes, especially along the nation's coasts," Susan Cutter, director of the University of South Carolina's Hazards and Vulnerability Research Institute, said in an email.

The weather agency also said that 2017 was the third hottest year in U.S. records for the Lower 48 states with an annual temperature of 54.6 degrees (12.6 degrees Celsius) — 2.6 degrees warmer than the 20th century average . Only 2012 and 2016 were warmer. The five warmest years for the Lower 48 states have all happened since 2006.

Arndt said the U.S. — which has had above normal annual temperatures for 21 straight years — is showing the same warming effects as the rest of the world. The burning of coal, oil and gas emits heat-trapping gases that change Earth's climate.

This was the third straight year that all 50 states had above average temperatures for the year.

Five states — Arizona, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and New Mexico — had their warmest year ever.

Temperature records go back to 1895.

AP source: Mueller conveys interest in questioning Trump (copy)

WASHINGTON — Special counsel Robert Mueller's team of investigators has expressed interest in speaking with President Donald Trump as part of a probe into potential coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign, a person familiar with the matter said Monday.

The prospect of an interview with the president has come up in recent discussions between Mueller's team and Trump lawyers, but no details have been worked out, including the scope of questions that the president would agree to answer if an interview were to actually take place, according to the person. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity to discuss the ongoing investigation.

When or even if an interview would occur was not immediately clear, nor were the terms for the interview or whether Trump's lawyers would seek to narrow the range of questions or topics that prosecutors would cover. Trump's lawyers have previously stated their determination to cooperate with Mueller's requests.

It's not surprising that investigators would ultimately seek to interview the president given his role in several episodes under scrutiny by Mueller. Any interview of Trump would be a likely indication that the investigation was in its final stages — investigators typically look to interview main subjects in their inquiries near the end of a probe.

Mueller for months has led a team of prosecutors and agents investigating whether Russia and Trump's Republican campaign coordinated to sway the 2016 election, and whether Trump has worked to obstruct an FBI investigation into his aides, including by firing the FBI director, James Comey.

Comey has said that several months before he was dismissed, Trump told him he hoped he would end an investigation into his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn.

Mueller's team recently concluded a series of interviews with many current and former White House aides, including former chief of staff Reince Priebus and the president's son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

Four people have been charged so far, including Flynn, who pleaded guilty in December to lying to the FBI about his conversations with the Russian ambassador. Former campaign chairman Paul Manafort was indicted on charges tied to foreign lobbying work.

Peter Carr, a spokesman for Mueller, declined to comment, as did Trump lawyers John Dowd and Jay Sekulow.

Trump did not rule out the possibility of being questioned by Mueller when asked about it at a news conference Saturday. He said there had been "no collusion" and "no crime."

"But we have been very open," Trump said. "We could have done it two ways. We could have been very closed and it would have taken years. But you know, it's sort of like, when you've done nothing wrong, let's be open and get it over with."

A White House spokesman pointed to a statement from White House lawyer Ty Cobb saying the White House doesn't publicly discuss its conversations with Mueller but was continuing to cooperate "in order to facilitate the earliest possible resolution."

The Sentinel 

Hanford forward Madison Stewart (6) and Hanford West's (4) Alexis Martinez go after a ball in the first half of Friday's game. Stewart scored in the 67th minute and Hanford won 4-0.

NAACP plans MLK memorial march, breakfast

HANFORD — NAACP Kings County has made a New Year’s resolution of their own — to be more visible and approachable in 2018.

“This year is about activism,” says chapter president, Dr. Gail Crooms. “We want to get our name out there through events in the community.”

The year’s mission statement, as well as details on upcoming events will be detailed at the annual Martin Luther King Day march and breakfast Monday.

Beginning at the Hanford Civic Auditorium at 8 a.m., the march to honor MLK will proceed on Douty Street before returning to the auditorium for a free pancake breakfast, provided by the Lions Club.

The event, featuring Crooms’ address on the organization’s plans for the year, will last until 11:30.

The MLK memorial event will also feature guest speakers and information booths where members of the community can ask questions and pick the brains of local activists and entrepreneurs.

Crooms said the shift to being more active in the community came after she met a man who told her he didn’t know that The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which is dedicated to recognizing civil rights for all, regardless of race, had offices in Kern County.

“I gave him my card and invited him to my office anytime to speak about whatever was on his mind,” Crooms said. “I just want people to know we’re available.”

One of the projects Crooms is excited about for the upcoming year is the “Bridging the Gap” project, the goal of which is to increase communication between local law enforcement and members of the community, as well as seeking alternate means of dealing with crimes that be committed by mentally unhealthy individuals.

“Youths committing crimes may benefit more from mental health services rather than incarceration. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is rampant,” she says. “We’re working with police to come up with a resolution and they’ve been very helpful.”

The year will also see events like fish fries, scholarship dinners and autism-awareness advocacy.

Though some of the events will be new, the message has remained the same: fairness.

“We are about fairness in the community. We want our children to be treated equally.  We’re not here to get anyone out of trouble, or to fight with anyone. We just want to make sure everyone is treated fairly,” Crooms says. “We’re advocating for our children to have a voice without fear of retaliation.”

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