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Man who lost wife, kids, dog in fire: ‘My whole life is over’

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Hours after losing his wife, his two young daughters, his dog and his house in a fire, Brent Patterson returned to his Gwinnett County neighborhood without a coat or shoes.

“They’re dead,” he told WSB-TV as tears streamed down his face. “My whole life is over. My whole life is over.”

The fire that killed Patterson’s wife, Kathy, and the couple’s 9- and 12-year-old daughters appears to have been wind-driven and flames spread rapidly through the home, Gwinnett fire spokesman Tommy Rutledge said Wednesday.

“The fire was so intense,” he said, “firefighters could not immediately enter the structure. They had to battle this blaze from outside.”

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And they did not find the body of one of the children until 5:30 a.m. Wednesday — nine hours after dispatchers received calls reporting the blaze. She was found in debris.

A team of firefighters, investigators and crime scene technicians from the Gwinnett County Police Department worked through the night to find the girl’s body.

They returned to the scene Wednesday to determine what caused the blaze.

‘A loud, popping sound’

Dispatchers received calls reporting the blaze about 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Rutledge said.

“We arrived on the scene (and) found a two-story house on a slab engulfed in flames,” he said.

Firefighters were met outside the home by Patterson. He was screaming, Rutledge said.

Patterson told firefighters his family was on the second floor.

He said his wife and girls were upstairs getting ready for bed when he heard a loud, popping sound.

Patterson went downstairs to investigate and discovered the fire.

“He hollered back up to his wife and two children to get out of the house,” Rutledge said.

Patterson went outside. His wife and children were unable to escape.

“I couldn’t get back in,” Patterson told WSB on Wednesday. “There was nothing I could do.”

"He made attempts to re-enter the home to save his family, but was forced back due to intense heat and flames," Rutledge said "A neighbor tried to assist him with entering from the home, but was unsuccessful."

The home was equipped with one smoke alarm on the second floor. Patterson "did not remember ever hearing the alarm sound during the fire,” Rutledge said.

Neighbor Charles Fleck told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution he and his wife gave Patterson, who was covered in soot, a blanket.

“We had seen the house on fire, amazingly on fire,” Fleck said. “When we went around to check it out, we could see the husband was distraught.”

Preliminary investigation: No foul play suspected

The blaze appears to have started in a first-floor living room, in the area of an electric-powered reclining couch, Rutledge said. The couch was across the wall from the fireplace, which was burning at the time of the blaze. Within the same room, there were lamps positioned on either side of the couch.

The fire quickly extended to the second floor via a heat return vent and a mechanical/HVAC closet, Rutledge said.

“Fire investigators say that burn patterns and witness accounts match their findings and that no foul play is suspected at this point,” he said. “Please keep in mind that the information is preliminary.”

The exact cause of the fire is still unknown and remains under investigation, Rutledge said.

Church to pray for Patterson family

Patterson was treated at the scene for minor injuries.

Crews could not immediately find one of his daughters.

Rutledge said firefighters from the department’s technical rescue team had to be called in during the night to shore up walls on the main level of the home that were believed to be unstable.

Once the walls were secured, firefighters were able to recover the girl Wednesday morning.

The bodies of all three victims were turned over to the Gwinnett County Medical Examiner.

Authorities also found the family’s dog. They buried the dog in the backyard “as a show of respect due to the overwhelming loss sustained by the family,” Rutledge said.

Neighbors said Brent and Kathy Patterson “completely lived for their kids. Halloween, Christmas, all the holidays. Great, great parents.”

“They’re dead,” he told Channel 2 Action News as tears streamed down his face.Posted by AJC on Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Apollo 14 astronaut Edgar Mitchell dies at 85

Astronaut Edgar D. Mitchell, who was part of the Apollo 14 space crew that flew to the moon in 1971, died late Thursday in West Palm Beach, according to his family.

Mitchell, 85, lived in suburban Lake Worth and died at a local hospice at about 10 p.m. Thursday, his daughter, former West Palm Beach City Commissioner Kimberly Mitchell told The Palm Beach Post.

Mitchell’s ex-wife, Anita Mitchell, is a former Republican Party chairman for Palm Beach County and is currently former Florida governor and presidential candidate Jeb Bush’s Palm Beach County campaign chairman.

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Mitchell was the sixth man to walk on the moon. He was part of a three-man crew, with Alan Shepard Jr. and Stuart Roosa, who took part in the Apollo 14 space mission. It was the eighth manned mission in the United States Apollo program and they became the third ever to land on the moon. Mitchell was the lunar module pilot on the mission.

Apollo 14 launched just over 45 years ago, on Jan. 31, 1971. The nine-day mission ended Feb. 9 when the crew landed in the South Pacific Ocean.

Unlike other astronauts who tend to live reclusive lives, Mitchell remained in the public eye.

In 2011, he turned over the camera he took to the moon to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington. The U.S. government filed a lawsuit against him in that same year, saying he stole the camera. Mitchell denied the allegations and said if it wasn’t for him, the camera would have never made it back to Earth.

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Mitchell was born in Hereford, Texas, on Sept. 17, 1930 but considered his hometown Artesia, N.M., near Roswell. Mitchell was open about his views on the paranormal and psychic, and he founded the Institute of Noetic Sciences, which sponsors research into the nature of consciousness, or studying the unexplained. In his 1996 memoir, “The Way of the Explorer,” he described the experience on his return to Earth as life-changing.

“What I experienced during that three-day trip home was nothing short of an overwhelming sense of universal connectedness. I actually felt what has been described as an ecstasy of unity,” he said.

University requires freshmen to wear Fitbit fitness trackers

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Oral Roberts University now requires all incoming freshmen to wear a Fitbit to monitor their physical activity.

Physical education has been a big part of the university’s curriculum for a long time

“It’s helped a lot of people even though they don’t like it sometimes when they have to work out,” said Christian Monsolve.

The university used to have students manually enter their “aerobic points” but now every step, heartbeat per minute and calorie burned is recorded straight into ORU’s system.

“I’ve gotten mixed reviews. I’ve had some people say it looks like an anklet and others say that they are tracking you,” Monsolve said.

Freshmen are required to take 10,000 steps per day and meet a heart-beats-per-minute standard throughout the week.

This year’s class is the first to use the devices. Professors have access to the information.

Endangered whale, calf spotted by drone during migration along Florida coast

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A rare scene off the shore near Ormond Beach Friday afternoon.

A right whale and her calf were seen frolicking near the shore.

Hundreds of people pulled off the highway to watch the mother and her calf. They were only about a quarter mile from shore, clearly visible from the highway.

A drone watched from high above the water as the two surfaced intermittently for nearly 30 minutes.

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After entertaining the crowd on the beach, the two headed south.

Right whales migrate from December to March.

The pair was spotted in the St. Johns River Monday and the sighting shut down the Port of Jacksonville Monday. Right whales are an endangered species and it’s against federal law to come within 500 yards of one.

Man arrested while wearing 'good at making really bad decisions' T-shirt

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A police officer was thrown to the ground Tuesday night as a man tried to get away in a stolen truck, according to authorities.

Police said they were called to about a retail theft. They said the suspect drove off, prompting a chase that lasted about 15 minutes.

Surveillance video shows an officer getting caught up in the window of the truck as the driver, Michael Emrick, pulled away from the gas station, causing the officer to be thrown to the ground.

The chase ended when Emrick crashed into a shed in Frank Roppos’ back yard.

Emrick, who was wearing a T-shirt with the words "really good at making really bad decisions," was arrested and found with suspected heroin needles and drug paraphernalia, police said.

Police charged Emrick with a number of charges, including retail theft and aggravated assault.

Chief David Christner said the officer was not seriously hurt, but it could have been much worse.

"I was just going down to sleep and then I heard a big boom and looked out and saw it," Roppos said.

PETA plans to turn 'Silence of the Lambs' house into animal empathy museum

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After months of being on the market, homeowners to the movie “Silence of the Lambs” house may have finally found a potential buyer – PETA.

“Turning the ‘Silence of the Lambs’ house into an empathy museum for these victims would serve as a way to point out that all animals are made of flesh, blood, and bone and that just like us, they, too, experience fear and suffering and are capable of joy and love,” read the letter of interest sent to the homeowners, according to PETA’s website.

The organization sent their letter of interest to the RE/MAX Select Realty realtor, expressing that they would like to turn the house into an empathy museum.

“We’re always looking for ways to draw attention to the violence inherent in the production of leather, fur, and other animal skins—which involves processes that would shock all but the most hard-hearted person,” said the letter of interest.

NBC News tried contacting Dianne Wilk of RE/MAX Select Realty, but received no immediate response.

Scott and Barbra Lloyd listed the house last summer originally pricing it at $300,000, but have had to lower the price due to a lack of interest in the home of the fictional psychotic serial killer Buffalo Bill. According to the RE/MAX website, the house is now listed at $249,900.

Experts say the home's location works against it.

It's tucked away in a tiny village about an hour south of Pittsburgh.

It also has only one bathroom to go with its four bedrooms.

New Jersey mom, year-old son die of carbon monoxide poisoning

Information from The Associated Press was used in this story.

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Authorities say a 23-year-old northern New Jersey mom and her year-old son died of carbon monoxide poisoning while sitting in a running car that had its tailpipe covered in snow.

Police say the woman's 3-year-old daughter was also hurt and is hospitalized in "very critical condition."

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Authorities found the three around 8:15 p.m. Saturday. The woman's husband had been shoveling snow for about 20 minutes and when he returned to the car, he found his family unresponsive.

Related: 3-year-old dies after dad shoveled snow off driveway

Residents performed CPR on the three victims before they were taken to a hospital, where the mother and her son were pronounced dead a short time later. Their names have not been released.

No other injuries were reported in the incident.

Shaq surprises teens with basketball game

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Former NBA player Shaquille O’Neal gave some children in Gainesville, Florida, a surprise they never expected.

Shaq, like many others, was touched by the video of Gainesville Police Department Officer Bobby White handling a noise complaint earlier this week. The video shows White responding to a group of teenagers playing basketball after a neighbor reported children playing “loudly” in the street. Instead of reprimanding the teens, White is seen playing basketball with them and reminding them to be considerate of their neighbors.

Shaq was so interested in the story that he reached out to GPD and expressed interest to travel to Gainesville to play basketball with the children. On Saturday, Shaq showed up in the neighborhood and surprised the children and White with a game of basketball.

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The public information officer for GPD kept what would’ve been a media frenzied event to a low-key game at Shaq’s request.

GPD said Shaq told police he wanted it to remain a secret, and he wanted to surprise White and the teens. GPD said Shaq specifically said he didn’t want any media.

Officer Ben Tobias, the public information officer for GPD, said he made the decision to not release information prior to the event for the sake of the children.

"I became a cop to help people, and these kids will never forget the day Shaq rolled up to their neighborhood and played basketball with them,” said Tobias. “Without my choice to keep it a secret, I’m not sure this day would have transpired like it did."

GPD tweeted a picture of the friendly neighborhood basketball game with Shaq, White and the children on Saturday.

Mother turns home into billboard against drinking and driving

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A mother turned her damaged home into a billboard against drinking and driving.

Angela Wells-Coleman says she has spray-painted her home to remind people the dangers of drinking and getting behind the wheel of a vehicle.

"I have painted my house three times and never once has someone come and said 'I don't like the color of your home,'" Wells-Coleman said. "I feel the only people that would be concerned is someone that would drink and drive."

Wells-Coleman says her home was severely damaged back in December when a suspected drunken driver crashed into her minivan then her home.

"Originally when I heard the noise, I thought a robber had busted my door in," Wells-Coleman said.

She says then she heard people talking and saw headlights, realizing it was a crash that had woken her up.

"There was someone sleeping right here," Wells-Coleman says pointing to the corner of the home that the driver had crashed through.

Wires are now hanging out of the corner of her home, and she showed off dozens of cracks throughout the bricks from the crash impact.

She also said she was without water after the crash.

The FHP report said the truck plowed through the yard, into a minivan in their driveway before crashing into the home.

"It's very frightening, his impact got slowed twice, if the impact had not been slowed twice, I don't know what would have happened," Wells-Coleman said.

The report also shows that the driver in the crash was 62- year-old Michael Thompson and suspected of drinking and driving.

Florida Highways Patrol estimates $1,000 of damage to the minivan, $15,000 to the home, and $10,000 to the dark-colored Dodge Ram the driver had struck.

Wells-Coleman says she is having trouble getting her home owners insurance to pay for the damages and the driver was only insured for $10,000.

She says in the meantime she will continue to use her home to remind others what can happen if you drink and drive.

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