WQAD News

Man lied about carjacking to cover up affair, police say

MEMPHIS, Tenn. —  A Memphis man was arrested after police say he lied about being carjacked so he didn't have to tell his wife about his infidelity.

On Monday, officers were called to Barnstable Street where they met 51-year-old Anthony Thomas. The man claimed that two men carjacked him while he was sitting inside his vehicle.

After running the license plate information, police discovered that the vehicle had actually been towed from Summer Avenue several hours before Thomas claimed he was carjacked. Officers confronted him with the information and that's when Thomas confessed to making the entire story up.

He reportedly told authorities that he lied so that his wife wouldn't find out that he was cheating on her.

Thomas was charged with filing a false police report.

Baby missing part of his skull beats the odds, becomes first to survive past birth

GARFIELD, N.J. – Maria Santa Maria was told she would never spend more than a few minutes with her son.

The mother of three girls from Garfield, New Jersey, had previously given birth without complications. But in the first few weeks of her most recent pregnancy, her baby was diagnosed with a rare cranial condition that is almost certainly fatal.

Lucas, seen here with parents Augusto and Maria Santa Maria, is developing much like other children his age, Dr. Tim Vogel said.
(North Jersey Brain &Spine Center)

But now her son is 7 months old and living at home. He’s the only baby known to survive his diagnosis.

Her baby’s condition is rare

The crushing diagnosis came during Santa Maria’s first ultrasound: Part of her baby’s skull was missing. Doctors told her there was no hope for his survival.

“They always said there was no possibility of him making it,” she said. “I did feel like I was losing him.”

Her son has exencephaly, a rare condition in which a child’s skull isn’t fully formed, so the uncovered brain is exposed to amniotic fluid inside the uterus. The brain typically drives skull growth, but with part of the skull missing, the brain often grows in the path of least resistance, which can damage its function.

Previously reported cases of babies diagnosed with exencephaly have ended in death.

Her son defied odds and lived past his birth

Santa Maria’s physicians gave her the option to abort her baby or, if he was born alive, spend a few minutes with him before his death. She chose the latter.

So when her son, who she named Lucas, was born, the Santa Marias braced for grief.

Lucas lived for hours, then days, surprising doctors. He underwent surgery four days after he was born. (North Jersey Brain &Spine Center)

Santa Maria’s three young daughters visited their mother in the delivery room, where doctors explained that the baby brother they just met would soon die. Her husband Augusto called a funeral home to make arrangements.

But hours passed, and Lucas was breathing on his own. He was eating. He’d already been alive longer than any other child born with exencephaly.

The Santa Marias started to consider the possibility that their son might live.

A first-of-its-kind surgery saved him

That’s when Dr. Tim Vogel, director of pediatric neurosurgery at the North Jersey Brain and Spine Center, suggested surgery. If he could stabilize Lucas and what looked like a water balloon on top of his head, the Santa Marias could bring their son home.

“If he goes home and this fluid sac ruptures, that would be unsurvivable,” Vogel told CNN.

Half of Lucas’ basal ganglia, the part of the brain responsible for sensory-motor integration, hadn’t formed correctly, but the other half had, and was protected.

Luckily, young children have a high capacity for neuroplasticity, or the brain’s ability to adapt to change and relearn. If Vogel removed the damaged part of Lucas’ brain, he said, the functioning part could reassign the damaged area’s duties. The procedure would reduce his likelihood of seizures and further brain damage, too.

The procedure had never been done before. But the Santa Marias decided the potential reward outweighed the risk.

After four days of convincing hospital staff to allow the procedure, Vogel was given the OK to operate on Lucas. The surgery went well, and he was sent home a few weeks later — weeks longer than he was expected to survive.

Seven months later, Lucas is eating and cooing

At 7 months old, Lucas has recovered remarkably. He eats cereal and baby food, goes to physical therapy and coos to his mother when he’s awake.

They’re all signs that Lucas is developing on par with other children his age, Vogel said.

“I think he’s exceeded our expectations,” he said. “The fact that when we see him and he’s eating, trying to crawl, getting physical therapy — it’s kind of an unwritten fast-forward.”

Vogel will continue to work with Lucas as he grows to help foster his neurodevelopment and protect his brain.

“Lucas is going to be with me for a long time,” Vogel said. “Every time I see him, it’s just so encouraging.”

For now, Santa Maria is just enjoying the time she’s spent with her son. She never dreamed she’d know Lucas like this. It’s hope, she said, for parents of children who’ve received diagnoses that seem insurmountable.

“Moms always say, ‘Even if we had him for five minutes, it was all worth it,'” she said. “Thanks to God we got so much more than that.”

Aggressor in viral road rage fight arrested

CHICAGO Illinois- The woman who got into a fight with a mom and her daughter has been arrested after video of the incident made the rounds on social media.

Illinois State Police announced they have arrested Sheniqka A. Thomas, 26 years from Matteson, Illinois, for her involvement in a road rage incident.

They say it happened on Thursday, September 26 on I-57 northbound at Halsted Street in Chicago, Illinois.

Police say they responded after receiving reports of a fight in progress. Upon their arrival, officers did find anyone.

The ISP became aware of the video circulating on social media and started investigating.

The investigation revealed a black vehicle, later determined to be driven by Thomas, cut off a silver vehicle who was driving in the left lane. After cutting off the silver vehicle, Thomas exited her vehicle holding a baseball bat and hit the silver vehicle with the baseball bat. A female backseat passenger of the silver vehicle exited the vehicle and a physical altercation ensued. The driver of the silver vehicle also occasionally intervened and participated in the altercation.

During the course of the investigation, all involved parties were interviewed. Thomas was arrested and charged with criminal damage to property (class a misdemeanor), and received traffic citations for improper lane usage, failure to signal and improper parking on the roadway; Thomas posted bond and was released.

Kewanee school district makes lunch a work of art

KEWANEE, Illinois – You may not think of a school lunch program being a work of art, but that’s because you haven’t seen what’s being served to Kewanee students every day.

When you think of high school lunches you think of pizza, chicken tenders, and burgers.  At Kewanee High School they still have that good stuff, but it’s what they add on the side and the way they are presenting it that making student lunches count.

“It catches the kid’s eyes,” says Kewanee School District Head Cook, Trisha Behnke.

She, along with her staff, put fruits and vegetables in rainbow rows, which is a lesson Behnke learned from the head cook before her years ago. That cook is is now the head chef at Wethersfield High School in Kewanee.

“She taught us to do it color coated like not putting greens together, separating it with the reds and purples, and blues so it’s like a rainbow of colors,” explains Behnke. “I think that’s what caught the attention of the picture I submitted.”

One of Behnke’s co-workers submitted a photo of Behnke’s colorful displays to a food beauty contest on Facebook through “TIPS for School Meals that Rock”.  The photo didn’t win, but Behnke’s art is still catching eyes.

“It’s more appetizing that way when it looks beautiful, I mean I want to go eat it myself – it’s gorgeous,” exclaims LeeAnn Carman, a member of the Kewanee High School kitchen staff.

The produce is fueling students, who appreciate the produce, and eat it – down to the last bite.

“Display alone has a lot to do with what you are going to choose I suppose,” says a member of the Kewanee High School staff.

“Kids will come through and like you said, they’ll eat radishes, and they’ll try yellow squash and zucchini,” comments Behnke.

Kewanee High School serves about 400 students every day.  There are 8 schools in the district, two have a full spread of produce, and five have a small array.

The district gets half of its produce for free through a program with the US Department of Agriculture.

This is Behnke's first year as the school district's Head Cook.

YOUR HEALTH: A blood test that speeds up a stroke diagnosis

TAMPA, Florida – Lauren Barnathan wrapped up her workout earlier in the day and was meditating just like this when something horrific happened.

She had a stroke.

"I had no idea what was going on.   I was screaming at my husband not to call 911 as he's doing it.  Just complete denial."

While in Tampa General Hospital, a blood sample was taken.

A blood sample that could help doctors find a way to speed up stroke diagnosis.

More than 140,000 people die each year from stroke in the United States.   Reaction time is critical.

The most recent statistics show a decline in stroke death rates.   But the risk of ischemic stroke in smokers is about double that of non-smokers.

"Acute nature of the disease makes it important to be able to do everything we can to find out everything we can about the patient in a very short amount of time at the beginning as soon as they show symptoms," explained Maha Sallam, president of VuEssence, Inc.

That's why Sallam says blood samples are being tested at the VuEssence lab at the University of South Florida.

"We have worked really hard to reduce amount of time it takes to measure the gene expression in the blood which is what we base our test on."

Researchers are trying to develop a quick molecular genetic blood test that detects blood clot strokes as fast as possible.

Right now doctors rely on clinical assessments, MRI's and CT imaging.

"I think it would be a game changer at a minimum," said Sallam.

ACT FAST: People who present with acute stroke need immediate clinical assessment and treatment. Few people have much awareness of the symptoms of stroke and may delay seeking help as a result; hence the need for the Act FAST campaign.   FAST is an easy way to remember and identify the most common symptoms of a stroke.

  • F stands for face, does one side of the face droop?
  • A is for arms, does one arm drift downward?
  • S is for speech, is their speech slurred or strange?
  • And T is for time, if you see these things, call 911 immediately.

"I still remember the night of my stroke when they were consenting me to be a part of the test and even during my stroke I just remember thinking how cool is that!", said Barhaven.

And the research being done could help in other ways.

"There is actually potential for extending that beyond acute state to where we analyze the patients as they go through the treatment process and maybe as they're assessed as to the reason behind the stroke and how to best manage the patient later on," said Sallam.

Right now, they are in preclinical trials and are hopeful it could be out in a handful of years.

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at jim.mertens@wqad.com or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com.

Public health department says nothing else can be done about roach-infested house until it’s sold

COYNE CENTER, Illinois -- Rock Island County's Public Health Department says they've completed the process regarding the abandoned home in Coyne Center infested with cockroaches.

The department's chief operating officer Janet Hill says inspectors visited the home at least six times to leave notices and letters, since late May 2019, when it received the first complaints about the home.

"There was a lot of trash on the property, which is initially how we got involved. There’s nuisance laws in the county that require homeowners to get rid of trash." Hill says. "That's for health and safety reasons. There could be vermin or insects that could cause health hazards. We take these complaints very seriously." 

After not hearing from the homeowner or occupants, the department filed a complaint with the Rock Island County Municipal Code Enforcement System. The homeowner was sent a summons to attend a court hearing on September 13, 2019, but didn't attend.

The home will now be auctioned off on October 8, 2019. Once the home is sold, the health department will send a notice to the new home owner, giving them ten days to clean up the property before they face fines.

Hill says the neighbors did the right thing by reporting the problem, and says that spraying pesticides are the best way to handle the situation for now.

"We followed the appropriate steps and followed all county and state laws to contact the homeowner and occupants and took it to the court hearing, and the process has been followed," Hill says. "Understandably, it has taken a while and I can certainly sympathize with the neighbors."

Hill expects the home to be sold at the auction next week, October 8, 2019. Its selling price starts at $750.

"It certainly is disgusting, but whether its a health hazard or nuisance, that's still a debate," Hill says. "But we realize that's been a major concern for the neighbors dealing with this since the end of May." 

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