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Mom accused of putting toddler sons in oven enters not guilty plea

A Georgia woman accused of killing her two young sons and putting them in an oven entered a not guilty plea during her arraignment Monday. 

>> Watch the news report here

Lamora Williams was silent while prosecutors read the 14 charges against her. Prosecutors believe she may have burned 2-year-old Ke’Younte Penn and 1-year-old Ja’Karter Williams to make it difficult to determine how she killed them. The boys were found dead in October inside their southwest Atlanta apartment. 

>> 911 call: Mom accused in sons' oven deaths says, 'I don't want to get locked up'

Family members previously said Williams, a single mother of four, suffered from mental health disorders. Williams initially claimed she had left her children with a caregiver. 

In February, a Fulton County grand jury indicted Williams on charges that included murder, aggravated assault and concealing a death. Through her attorney, she pleaded “not guilty” to four of those charges Monday. The remainder of the charges will be addressed at her next hearing, scheduled for March 30. 

>> Read more trending news 

Williams remained late Monday in the Fulton jail, where she has been held without bond since her arrest. 

Photos: Inside $550K Lion Gate Estate, whimsical home with carpeted ceilings, vintage cars

In the market for a whimsical $550,000 home with carpeted ceilings, vintage cars and statues lurking around every corner? No? You'll still want to check out the now-viral listing for Detroit's Lion Gate Estate. Trust us.

Spring 2018: 5 things to know about the vernal equinox

Spring is finally here with the arrival of the vernal equinox, as determined by people who base their seasons on the Earth’s position relative to the sun and stars. Here are five things to know:

1. What is it? During the vernal equinox, the sun shines directly on the equator, and the northern and southern hemispheres get exactly the same amount of rays. Night and day are almost equal length.

>> Spring 2018: What’s the difference between meteorological spring and astronomical spring?

2. What does equinox mean? The Earth spins on a tilted axis, which means its northern and southern hemispheres trade places in receiving more light as it orbits the sun. The axis is not inclined toward or away from the sun at the equinox, which is derived from the Latin words for equal (aequus) and night (nox).

3. Why is it important? For ancient societies, the vernal and autumnal equinoxes marked when winter turned to spring and when summer turned to fall, respectively, and helped people track time-sensitive things, such as when to plant crops.

>> Read more trending news 

4. Didn’t spring start already? Meteorological spring started March 1. Forecasters like to start the season on the first day of March because they prefer a calendar in which each season starts on the same day every year. It helps with record keeping, among other reasons. But the Earth, sun and stars don’t quite conform to the Gregorian calendar – thus the vernal equinox doesn’t fall on the same day every year.

5. What's next? The summer solstice is June 21, but meteorological summer begins a few weeks earlier on June 1.

– The Cox Media Group National Content Desk contributed to this report.

Ohio lawmaker's bill to name Labrador retriever state dog gets 'ruff' response from PETA

Ohio State Rep. Jeff Rezabek wants to name the Labrador retriever as the official state dog, but People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals would rather that the American mutt get the special designation.

>> PHOTOS: Official state dogs

PETA, an animal rights group with 6.5 million members, fired off a letter to Rezabek, R-Clayton, to tell him that his well-intentioned legislation could end up hurting Labradors.

>> Read more trending news 

Puppy mills would cash in on the demand, while Ohio’s animal shelters would see an uptick in Labradors when new owners discover that they’re expensive, time-consuming and in need of training, according to PETA.

>> On Patio pooch? Bills would let restaurants decide whether to allow dogs

“The last thing that Ohio’s already severely crowded animal shelters need is a deluge of yet another type of dog,” said PETA President Ingrid Newkirk in a written release. “If Ohioans’ hearts are set on naming an official state dog, PETA suggests the humble, healthy and 100 percent lovable all-American mutt.”

>> On Vicious dogs: Ohio moves to change laws on dog owners

Rezabek introduced the Labrador bill earlier this month, and it has yet to receive a hearing. He said he had not yet seen the letter from PETA.

Claire's mall jewelry chain files for bankruptcy

Claire’s Stores Inc., a fashion accessories chain, has filed for bankruptcy.

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The retailer and its affiliates have filed for bankruptcy in United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware. The move could help with Claire’s $2 billion debt load. “Claire’s is growing, not shrinking, its business. The company expects its concessions business to grow by more than 4,000 stores in 2018,” the company said in a statement.

>> On Toys ‘R’ Us reportedly preparing to close all stores

Apollo paid more than $3 billion to acquire Claire’s from Rowland Schaefer, and began expanding the business, adding about 350 stores from 2010 to 2013. Claire’s expects to reduce debt by about $1.9 billion, after reaching an agreement with creditors including Elliott Management Corp. and Monarch Alternative Capital, which will give the company some $575 million in new capital.

>> On Jewelry store company expects to close 200 stores

Claire’s isn’t the only retailer to file bankruptcy recentlyToys ‘R’ Us also filed for bankruptcy and plans to liquidate all of its stores in the U.S. Toys ‘R’ Us Inc. voluntarily filed for relief under Chapter 11 in September 2017. The retailer was $5 billion in debt as of April 29. At the time of bankruptcy, the company said it would close about one-fifth of its store locations. Closing sales are expected to conclude in April.

Many students misbehaved this St. Patrick's Day, university president says

University of Dayton students who ignored orders and acted out against police during St. Patrick’s Day activities Saturday were called out in a letter sent this morning from University President Eric F. Spina to the student body.

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“Today I am deeply disappointed in the behavior of many of you. I witnessed groups of students assault police officers, shoot fireworks into crowds, and put themselves and their friends in danger,” Spina wrote. 

Police responded to the report of a large crowd that had gathered on Lowes Street. Bottles, rocks and firecrackers were reportedly thrown at officers, which forced them to retreat. Additional officers from the UD and Dayton police departments were called. By 6:30 p.m., police dressed in riot gear cleared the streets and ordered students to go inside their homes.

“The large gatherings that block streets, the disregard for the safety of others, and the disrespect for the police who were there to keep people safe in no way constitutes community,” Spina’s letter reads. “This police response was appropriate and necessary because this behavior presented significant danger to the safety of students and police.

One person was hurt by a thrown object during the police action on Saturday, according to the university.

Dayton officers dressed in riot gear and holding shields were also struck by thrown objects, but no injuries were reported, according to UD spokeswoman Cilla Shindell.

Shindell said there were a few other minor injuries, “a few misdemeanor arrests and student disciplinary referrals” reported during the day, but full reports were not immediately available.

Some minor damage to university property — lawns and landscaping — was reported and a few private vehicles were reportedly damaged during the day, Shindell said.

“No one has been arrested as yet for activities related to dispersing the crowd,” she said.

Shindell said, in terms of how police respond to large disturbances such as what happened on Lowes Street, each situation is assessed for the best response.

“In general, it is good practice to get everyone off the street as peacefully as possible and keep them out of harm’s way until the street is cleared,” Shindell said. “This helps police identify those who are involved in disorderly behavior and those who are not. After the street was clear, police went to each of the houses to let them encourage those who were not residents to leave the property and let residents know they were free to leave their houses.”

Keyless ignitions may be contributing to deaths across the United States

Constance Petot didn't think twice about the push button starter on her car until it almost killed her and her toddler last Valentine's Day.

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"He just went completely limp in my arms. It's the most terrifying moment in my entire life," said Petot.

The busy mom was ending her work day with a conference call as she was pulling into the garage of her parents' Florida home, where she was staying.

"As I came in I wanted the garage door to be closed when the conference call started so I went ahead and pushed the button to close the door," Petot said. "And I think in my head I just told myself I had pushed this button instead of that button."

The mistake sent carbon monoxide, an odorless, colorless gas, flooding through their home as she got 13-month-old Parker ready for bed.

The car was still on after Petot left the garage.

"My son woke up around 12:30 a.m. and was screaming," Petot recalls.

She got out of bed to pick him up.

Petot thinks her son, Parker, may have had a headache because she now knows the level of carbon monoxide at the time was high enough to have killed them within about 20 minutes.

"Once I got dizzy, I knew I needed to get out of there," Petot said. "And walked down the stairs, opened the garage door and saw that the taillight was on."

A WSB-TV investigation has tracked more than two dozen injuries and deaths around the country connected to cars with keyless ignitions being left on, with families left wondering how this could happen.

Cars with keyless ignition have no key and are designed to start with the push of a button. But it is also easier to forget to turn off the car.

The family of Bill Thomason and Eugenia (Woo) Thomason say the couple likely never realized their mistake. Their Toyota Avalon ran inside their closed garage for 32 hours as they slept.

"We know that they went to bed that night and didn't wake up the next morning," said Will Thomason, who now lives in Atlanta.

His brother Dave Thomason also lives in the metro area, and they both rushed to Greenville, South Carolina, to get to their parents, but it was too late.

"By the time they were found they were essentially brain dead," said Will Thomason. "You can't prepare for something like this."

The sons say the active retirees had just renewed their wedding vows after 50 years and adored their five grandchildren, who they won't get to see grow up.

"Oh, it's been just absolutely terrible," said Dave Thomason. "We all know that people can get killed in car accidents due to different things, but a car sitting alone, basically doing nothing but running?"

The brothers said their pain is worsened by the number of times they've now heard the same story, with reported deaths and injuries connected to running cars around the country.

The Thomason family has filed a lawsuit against Toyota, which has already settled with several of the other families.

"Hell yeah, that makes me angry. I mean, we've lost our parents," said Will Thomason.

"Nobody is in the car, it's been running for however long. The car should have an automatic cutoff. I mean, to me that's a very easy fix," said Dave Thomason.

Records show since 2011 the federal government has been studying the need for an external alert to be placed on cars that have button ignitions, but has yet to require car companies to do anything to include an external alert.

"There's probably 25 other things that car makers do ... for safety. Well, this is a life and death safety thing and it seems to me that this is an easy thing for them to address, and they aren't addressing it," Will Thomason said.

WSB-TV tested more than a dozen of the most popular cars to see what happens when you leave them running and walk away with the key fob.

Most of the cars had a dashboard display that notes that the key fob has left the vehicle. Some even emit a low interior sound, similar to the one that reminds drivers to fasten their seat belts. 

However, if a driver has left the vehicle, he or she wouldn't see that display or hear that warning. Very few of the cars made an exterior noise.

The loudest warning came from the Chevy Impala, which utilizes the car's horn.

Petot didn't hear the three low beeps her car made and she's lived with the guilt ever since.

"I absolutely take responsibility for what happened," she said. "And I think that it could happen to anybody."

But she said the price for being distracted or forgetful should not be death.

"We were incredibly lucky. We absolutely wouldn't be here," Petot said while watching Parker play in their new Marietta home. "He is definitely my little hero Valentine."

Petot said the day they moved in to their new home she purchased carbon monoxide detectors for each of the rooms.

Country music personality Hazel Smith has died at the age of 83

There are many who have played a part in the landscape of country music, many who have added their talents to the tapestry of the music genre that has had an impact on so many lives. many who have affected the history of Nashville and country music and many who have left us sooner than we would have liked.

>> Read more trending news 

One of those people is Hazel Smith.

According to “The Tennessean,” the longtime Nashville media personality passed away at her home on March 18 following “a period of declining health.” She was 83.

Declaring herself country music’s mother hen, Hazel was a fixture on Nashville’s Music Row for decades. She was a journalist when female journalists weren’t a common thing. She was also a songwriter, a publicist, a cookbook author and a television personality as host of CMT’s “Southern Fried Flicks.”

>> Related: Country treasure Willie Nelson releases new video for a song we all can relate to

Yet, one of her most meaningful and lasting contributions to country music is the fact that she coined the term “outlaw music” while she was working as a publicist back in the early 1970s for the Glaser Brothers’ Hillbilly Central office and studio.

“Now, it doesn’t say this in mine or any other dictionary I’ve seen, but it said that ‘outlaw’ meant virtually living on the outside of the written law,” Hazel told “The Nashville Scene” in 1997, as reported on by “The Tennessean.” “It just made sense to me, because [record producers] Owen Bradley and Chet Atkins were doing marvelous music, but this was another step in another direction.”

Soon after the news of her death was released, many in the country music community headed to their social media accounts to express their sadness over the news, including producer Buddy Cannon.

>> Related: Thomas Rhett’s little one couldn’t be more adorable in this picture

Very sorry to hear of the passing of Hazel Smith,” Buddy said.

Hazel was a wonderful lady who was a great friend to many of us. She was a colorful, tell it like she saw it kind of a person, and you never had to wonder about her stand on something. Willie Nelson credits Hazel with connecting the term ‘outlaw music’ with himself, Waylon, Tompall [Glaser] and all the musical renegades that broke out of the Nashville music factory prison back in the 1970s. We all loved Hazel, and her presence will not soon be forgotten. Rest easy Hazel Smith,” Cannon said.

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