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  • An Alabama man charged with killing his wife, whose slaying last month unveiled her double life as an online exhibitionist, is accused of beating her to death with a bottle of absinthe, court records show. The partially-clothed body of Kathleen Dawn “Kat” West, 42, of Calera, was discovered lying in the road in front of her home just after 5 a.m. on Jan. 18, Calera Police Chief Sean Lemley said in a Thursday news conference. She lived there with her husband, William Jeffrey West, and their 12-year-old daughter.  Jeff West, 44, was arrested Thursday and charged with murder. According to Shelby County Jail records, he was being held Friday in lieu of $500,000 bond.  The couple’s daughter was not home when her mother was killed. Lemley said Thursday that Jeff West was the department’s chief suspect from the beginning of the investigation, though Kat West’s “online professional activities” warranted investigators’ attention.  He declined to specify what evidence pointed them toward her husband.  “Let me say this. We are still restricted, very restricted, on what information that can be given out,” Lemley said. “The case is still under investigation, even though we have made an arrest. But, the case has to go to trial as well.” The West murder case has shone a national spotlight on small-town Calera, due mainly to the more salacious details of Kat West’s life. Though she described herself on social media as a full-time stay-at-home wife and mother, she operated a subscription-only adult website where she went by the name “Kitty Kat West.” The public page boasted a suggestive photo and promised users that, for a monthly $15.99 subscription fee, they could get more risqué material beyond the paywall.  Her Twitter account, also listed under her stage name, directs viewers to the paid adult website, as well. Kat West’s bio on the adult site, which was still live as of Friday, described the site, in part, as “hundreds of pics of ALL me, having some naughty fun.” In the days immediately following the slaying, Kat West’s mother, Nancy Martin, wrote on Facebook that it seemed “impossible for the extreme sadness and grief we feel (over) the loss of our beautiful daughter, Kat, to ever diminish.” She described her daughter as a “cherished wife to Jeff” and a loving mother to their own young daughter.  A fundraiser in Kat West’s name was established, but quickly ended as the case became more public.  On Jan. 24, Martin changed her profile picture to one of her daughter and son-in-law. It remained there as of Friday afternoon.  See Calera Police Chief Sean Lemley’s news conference, recorded by WBRC in Birmingham, below.  Lemley said that investigators interviewed many witnesses in the case, as well as collecting a lot of evidence that needed to be processed. Four detectives were assigned to the case, two of them full-time.  “Evidence takes time to process,” the police chief said. “And we have to wait on that evidence to come in so we can connect all the dots.” Detectives were awaiting analysis on a final piece of evidence from the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences. That final report was issued on Tuesday and, after a thorough review by the Shelby County District Attorney’s Office, a warrant was issued for Jeff West’s arrest, the chief said.  >> Read more trending news  “We know exactly what happened, for the most part, on this case.” Lemley said. “I mean, we can’t tell you verbatim what was being said one way or the other, but we know what happened that night. We do have evidence to support that.” The chief credited neighboring Shelby County law enforcement agencies, state agencies and the FBI with assisting in the investigation.  Lemley again declined to go into detail about the evidence, but Jeff West’s arrest warrant, obtained by AL.com, indicates that Kat West was killed with a bottle of Lucid Absinthe. An autopsy found that the victim died of blunt force trauma to the head.  The court documents state that, when a 19-year-old neighbor left for work Jan. 18, she found Kat West face-down on the ground in nothing but a sports bra, her body half in the roadway and half in the yard of the home across the street. A cellphone was found nearby, along with a green liquor bottle.  Lucid Absinthe is sold in green bottles.  TV news magazine Inside Edition on Jan. 25 aired surveillance footage from R&R Wine and Liquor, in Calera, that shows Kat West, just about eight hours before she was killed, walk into the liquor store with a man who appears to be her husband. In the video, the couple looks happy and playful. “They came in (and) it looked like they were on their date night,” store clerk Stacey Oglesby told Inside Edition. The couple bought two things that night: Lucid Absinthe and Jameson Irish Whiskey, Oglesby said.  Lemley said it was not completely clear what could have happened between the couple’s visit to the liquor store, when they appeared happy, and when Kat West was bludgeoned to death.  “It’s a domestic. Unfortunately, domestics turn bad pretty quickly,” Lemley said. “Anything can trigger it.”  Jeff West, a military veteran, works as an unsworn police officer at Birmingham Southern College, AL.com reported. Officials at the school said they are in the process of terminating his employment.  As of Thursday, Jeff West had not admitted involvement in the crime, Lemley said. 
  • President Donald Trump has called for the arming of qualified teachers in the wake of a deadly shooting that left 17 people dead at a Florida high school, but in Texas dozens of school districts already allow staff members to carry firearms. >> Read more trending news Officials with the Texas Association of School Boards on Thursday told KSAT that they were aware of at least 172 school districts that let staff members carry firearms. Each district individually decides whether to allow staff to carry weapons, board spokeswoman Theresa Gage told the news station. Under state and federal laws, schools are usually considered gun-free zones, but Texas law allows for districts to authorize employees to carry firearms under a pair of programs, the Corpus Christi Caller-Times reported. >> Related: Teachers to Trump: #ArmMeWith funding, supplies and resources, not guns The Guardian Plan, which allows for certain teachers to be designated as “guardians” who are allowed to carry concealed handguns, was created in 2007 as schools were reeling in the wake of a shooting at Virginia Tech that left more than 30 people dead and nearly two dozen injured, Texas Monthly magazine reported in 2014. Four years after the creation of the Guardian Plan, the state legislature passed the Protection of Texas Children Act. The act allows school districts to arm and train one employee as a school marshal for every 400 students, according to Texas Monthly. Agua Dulce Independent School District Superintendent Wayne Kelly told the Caller-Times that his district chose to participate in the Guardian Plan starting in 2016. To participate in the program, teachers and staff members are required to undergo mental health evaluations and 80 hours of training by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement, according to the newspaper. >> Related: Some Ohio school districts arm staff, but don't tell public 'I feel like it would be good because there's a way to stop (school shooters)' under the Guardian and the School Marshal plans, Fabian Crossland, whose son is a kindergartner, told KSAT. Still, the plans have their critics, including Texas State Teachers Association spokesman Clay Robison. “It’s a bad idea. It’s always been a bad idea, and it will stay a bad idea,” Robison told the Dallas Morning News. “Teachers are there to teach, and they will protect their kids as the teachers did their best to do in Florida. Steps need to be taken to reduce the number of guns floating around in the hands of wrong people. Guns in the hands of teachers are not the solution. It’s a cop-out.” >> Related: Florida Gov. Rick Scott calls for reform to state's gun laws, increase in school security Trump on Friday reiterated his call to allow certain teachers and school administrators to carry concealed weapons in school, arguing that such a move would prevent or drastically cut down on the carnage caused by school shootings. He wrote Thursday on Twitter, “If a potential ‘sicko shooter’ knows that a school has a large number of very weapons talented teachers (and others) who will be instantly shooting, the sicko will NEVER attack that school.” “Why do we protect our airports, our banks, our government buildings, but not our school?” Trump asked Friday during a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Maryland. “Our schools are essentially gun-free zones and that makes them very dangerous places.” According to the Los Angeles Times, schools currently allow staff members to carry guns on campuses in about two dozen states.
  • An Orlando, Florida, doctor has been arrested for Medicaid fraud. The Florida Department of Health and the Office of the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit said Friday that Dr. Ishrat Sohail is accused of giving vaccines to patients with private insurance. The vaccines were intended for Medicaid patients and uninsured children as part of the Vaccines for Children Program, or VFC, officials said. >> Read more trending news  Officials said Sohail is accused of giving patients partial doses of vaccines while billing insurance for the full amount, officials said. The partial doses also may not provide sufficient protection from potentially dangerous diseases that can be prevented with a full dose of vaccine. The health department is working with the Agency for Health Care Administration and health insurance companies to notify all potentially affected families. At this time, it is estimated that approximately 500 children may have been affected, officials said in a news release. Read: Florida eye doctor gets 17 years for Medicare fraud Sohail’s license to practice medicine in the state of Florida has been suspended by the state. In 2016, the department determined that Sohail administered two vials of VFC vaccines to non-Medicaid patients and billed private insurance companies, officials said. She was suspended from the VFC program for two months.  Read: Florida doctor facing long Medicare fraud sentence Officials said Sohail was placed on a corrective action plan, which limited the number of doses of vaccines available to her and in January, she was found to be in noncompliance. Any child who received a vaccine from Sohail between 2016 and 2018 should contact a new primary care provider and consider revaccination, officials said. There is also the possibility that Sohail did not follow best practices in maintaining the sterility of the vaccines she administered. Officials say that, if a child experienced a severe adverse reaction or infection at the injection site of any vaccine administered by Sohail or her staff, patients should contact the Epidemiology Department at the Department of Health in Orange at 407-858-1485.
  • A kind-hearted gesture by an Alabama sixth-grader has gone viral after the girl gave up her ice cream money -- 75 cents -- to help fund the funeral for her teacher’s father-in-law. Price Lawrence, an English teacher at Highlands Elementary School in Huntsville, posted about the moment Tuesday on Facebook. He said that his first period students could tell that he was “a little off” that morning, so he explained that his wife’s father had died over the weekend and that he was worried about her. The students offered their condolences, then got busy on classwork. The subject of their teacher’s family’s loss was forgotten, except for one girl.  “While standing at my door giving hugs and high-fives at dismissal to second period, one little girl put something in my hand,” Lawrence wrote. “She told me, ‘This is for your wife. I know it was real expensive when my daddy died, and I don’t really want ice cream today anyways.’” Lawrence posted a photo of what the girl gave him -- three quarters and a note on an index card on which she had written, “Ms. Laerence (sic), I’m sorry,” followed by a frowny face in what appeared to be red colored pencil. “I wish the world would pay more attention to children,” Lawrence wrote. “We could learn a lot from them.” As of Friday morning, Lawrence’s post had been shared close to 260,000 times. More than 31,000 people responded to it.  “That is how children should be raised,” one man wrote. “Kudos to that family.” “God bless her little heart,” a woman wrote.  Other commenters said the girl’s gesture had them in tears. “Amazing how much love children have,” another woman wrote. “God bless this little one. Learn from her.” “If we all had a heart like this sweet child, what a wonderful world we would have,” a third woman wrote.  >> Read more trending news Lawrence’s wife, Jessica Lawrence, posted the image on her own Facebook page, saying that the girl’s heart “affected (her) in the most positive way.” Jessica Lawrence, a high school English teacher, went on to say that the child’s gesture reminded her of the famous quote children’s television icon Mr. Rogers used when discussing tragedy. “My mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping,’” Rogers said. “To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers -- so many caring people in the world.”  Jessica Lawrence had a message for her own helpers. “I see you, I love you and I appreciate you,” she wrote. “Thank you for giving me reason to continue to believe in the goodness of the world.” One commenter wrote that he would not only give the girl a hug, but also make sure she gets all the ice cream she wants. “I might have already paid the lunchroom for her ice cream for the rest of the week,” Price Lawrence responded. “Anonymously, of course.”
  • Rick Gates, a former aide in President Donald Trump's campaign, pleaded guilty to making false statements and conspiring against the United States on Friday, making him the fifth person to enter a guilty plea in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. READ MORE: Paul Manafort, Rick Gates face new charges: report | Mueller investigation: Lawyer pleads guilty to lying to investigators in Russia probe| Who is Rick Gates and why was he indicted by Robert Mueller? | Who is Paul Manafort, the man indicted in Robert Mueller’s Russian investigation? | What are Paul Manafort and Rick Gates charged with? | MORE