Day: July 3, 2017


US Navy weighing options for boosting fleet size, as hostile maritime forces grow – US playing political games with latest South China Sea patrol, Chinese media says – Pentagon sails destroyer near disputed island in South China Sea, officials say

U.S. Navy officials are weighing options for boosting the size of their fleet, which appears increasingly inadequate to handle growing maritime threats from China, Iran and Russia.

The Navy has 276 vessels, but while up to 100 are deployed globally, many are dry-docked for months — or even years —waiting for maintenance, upgrades or certifications. With China, Iran and Russia expanding their navies and taking more aggressive actions on the high seas, there is an urgent need for America’s currently idle ships and submarines to head out to the open sea.

“Our advantage is shrinking,” Adm. John Richardson, chief of Naval Operations, said. “We must reverse this trend.”

There are at least five possibilities of reversing America’s shrinking advantage: Recommission mothballed vessels; extend the service life of currently operating vessels; speed scheduled dock work; build new ones and operate the existing fleet more efficiently.

The option of bringing back retired vessels has its critics.

“The Navy has to consider what it would cost to bring each of these ships back into service, what would need to be invested so they would be capable against today’s threat, and how many more years could we get out of these ships,” said Tom Callender, senior fellow for Naval Warfare and Advanced Technologies at the Heritage Foundation. “We would spend many years and hundreds of millions of dollars to bring them back. We have to find room in the shipyards to do this work, we have to plan it out, and we have to find the money and realize it will be several years in the process.”

Lt. Kara Yingling, a Navy spokesperson, said the Navy is exploring every option to increase the capacity and capability of the battle force, including extending the expected service life of ships and reactivation. 

“Reactivating retired ships will be a challenge because the ships are old and have not been maintained and modernized since deactivation,” Yingling said. “A lot has changed since we last modernized those ships, and there could be significant costs involved with restoring their systems.”

A more strategic plan, Callender said, is to speed up maintenance, repair and certification. Part of the problem is a severe worker shortage of about 2,000 people. 

“Backlog in repairs has been a major issue in the last several years as the Navy has seen their operations and maintenance budget cut with continuing sequestrations,” Callender said. “In 2016, about halfway through the year the Navy was in the hole about $848 million, and that caused them to delay five ships’ availabilities.”

The USS Albany, for example, spent over four years in the shipyard due to continued delays, so while the attack submarine is on the registry, it wasn’t being used.

Our advantage is shrinking. We must reverse this trend.

– Adm. John Richardson, chief of U.S. naval operations

Richardson outlined a plan in May for more quickly designing, building and launching a larger and more powerful fleet that incorporates cutting-edge technologies and new operational concepts. 

“The current security environment is faster paced, more complex, and increasingly competitive,” Richardson wrote in the 2016 Force Structure Assessment, to back the plan. “Time is an unforgiving characteristic of that environment —things are moving faster, including our competitors.”

The Navy is proposing a 355-ship fleet with 12 carriers, 104 large surface combatants, 52 small surface combatants, 38 amphibious ships and 66 submarines over the next 30 years. 

Yingling said that in fiscal year 2017, the Navy currently expects to deliver 13 ships and retire 6 ships, and by fiscal year 2022, is scheduled to raise the size of the battle force from the current 276 ships to 310 ships.

Part of the Navy’s strategy will be to better coordinate its fleet, Richardson said.

Malia Zimmerman is an award-winning investigative reporter focusing on crime, homeland security, illegal immigration crime, terrorism and political corruption. Follow her on twitter at @MaliaMZimmerman

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BELLWETHER: G-20 Ambush: Let's stump Trump

If you think President Trump has enemies in Washington, just wait until he gets to the G-20 economic summit later this week in Hamburg. There, world leaders will be lying in wait to ambush the rogue American.

Unlike most sneak attacks, this one is being well advertised. China’s ambitious president, Xi Jinping, is traveling first to Russia, then to Germany in advance of the G-20, which he will also attend. While Trump and Xi made nice at their April meeting in Washington, the two economic superpowers have wide differences on China’s support for North Korea, its alleged intellectual property theft, and its gaping trade surplus with the U.S.

Xi won’t be leading the charge against Trump. That honor will go to the host of the summit, German Chancellor Angela Merkel. She has been scalding in her criticism of Trump, especially since he withdrew from the Paris Climate Accord, and criticized Merkel for admitting tens of thousands of Middle Eastern refugees to Europe.

And that doesn’t even factor in the strategy of Russia’s Vladimir Putin, who will try to align himself with other European leaders, effectively freezing out Trump. Never mind that Russia has drawn strong criticism for annexing the Crimea and propping up Syria’s Bashir Al Assad.  When it comes to Trump, the enemy of my enemy…

“I don’t think the three of them see themselves as a group,” says Sourabh Gupta, a Washington-based policy analyst at the Institute for China-America Studies. “China and Germany both have current account surpluses, and an intensive economic relationship. To that extent, they will find common cause at the G-20 against Trump.”

Gupta says Merkel bears part of the blame for the sour start to her dealings with the American. “Other countries like Japan have gone out of their way to keep a healthy relationship with Trump. But Merkel hasn’t done that. She has been kind of snooty and seems to be waiting for Trump to grow up and act like a mainstream politician.”

For his part, Putin is playing coy about the possibility of meeting Trump one-on-one at the summit. White House advisors are playing down that prospect, in case Putin snubs the American at the last minute. Trump may imagine that he can turn on the charm and sway the Kremlin’s master. Good luck with that. First he’ll have to get past Frau Merkel and Xi, neither of whom seem to have succumbed to the Orange Glow.

John Moody is Executive Vice President, Executive Editor for Fox News. A former Rome bureau chief for Time magazine, he is the author of four books including “Pope John Paul II : Biography.

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Hot air balloon lands in gator-infested Florida pond

A hot air balloon has made an unexpected landing into a Florida pond filled with alligators on Monday, not far from Disney World.

Some 16 people were on board, Fox 35 reported. One boy was rushed to the hospital after swallowing water but nobody else was hurt, according to the news station.

Related stories…

The pilot told troopers that issues with the wind prevented him from landing on a strip adjacent to the pond, investigators said.

The basket tilted into the pond, causing it to fill with water.


A crew spent about an hour removing the hot air balloon from the pond, which contained multiple alligators, WFTV reported.

Traffic wasn’t affected during the incident.

Read more from Fox 35 Orlando.

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Warrior Games: Blind veteran competes in archery as sporting event kicks off

While serving in a U.S. Navy security detail in Iraq, A.J. Mohammed’s vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb. A piece of shrapnel tore through his face, his ear drum and eye socket. Nerve damage left him with facial paralysis and legal blindness. That is in addition to traumatic brain and spinal cord injury.

His combat experience also left him with survivor’s guilt, depression and post-traumatic stress.

“That’s been a big problem with my sleep and also with my day-to-day life in large public places, places I don’t know and loud noises, they tend to startle me a lot,” Mohammed said.


Like many fighting men and women, Mohammed became dependent on a regiment of medication to get to sleep and to get through his day. But they started taking a toll on him. So he decided to take a different path to better health – he became involved in adaptive sports. 

“Athletics definitely has been my saving grace,” he said, “by allowing me to stay active, able to get that shock therapy of doing something new.”

This week in Chicago, he joins 265 veteran-athletes from Great Britain, Australia, the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and special forces competing in the Warrior Games. Adaptive sports in the games involve archery, marksmanship, sitting volleyball, wheelchair basketball, swimming and track and field competitions. 

“The warrior games are important for us,” said U.S. Navy Surgeon General, Vice Adm. Forrest Faison. “Not only does it help us provide a venue for those wounded warriors as a part of their recovery, to have a sense of accomplishment and self-esteem, it’s also a venue to say thank you from a grateful nation. All the folks who turn out to say thank you and cheer them on.”


Of all things for a guy with visual impairment, Mohammed chose to compete in archery.

“A lot of people don’t believe I’m visually impaired because of the way I shoot,” he said.

He is able to shoot with his wife, Grace, spotting the target for him. 

“Trusting her as my eyes and as my wife has allowed me to succeed,” Mohammed said.

His wife downplays the role she plays with her husband’s competition.

“I just let him know if he needs to move up or down a little bit or tilt the bow in a certain direction,” she said. 

She said she’s just proud of her husband and how far he’s come.

“The fact that he got on the plane and went to the first camp is a huge victory. Just seeing how far he’s come in the first two years that he’s been doing this is huge,” she said.

Unlike veterans who are depressed, anxious and homebound, Mohammed is now out training and competing. He has come away with some medals and has cut the medications he consumes in half.

“These competitions bring back that sense of self-worth, that sense of pride [felt by] every Marine, soldier, airman and sailor when he graduates boot camp,” Mohammed said. “You are now part of a family, part of a team, part of a brotherhood.”

Michael Tobin joined FOX News Channel (FNC) in 2001 and currently serves as a Chicago-based correspondent.

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Rogaine thief in Michigan may strike again because 'consistent use' is needed to see results, police say

Michigan police said they fear a bald-headed man who shoplifted Rogaine will strike again “as 12-14 months of consistent use is needed to see results.”

Dearborn police say the thief boosted seven boxes of the hair-growth product from a Walgreen’s June 22.

“While this is not the most hair-raising crime, we must protect our retailers as these crimes drive up the retail costs for honest consumers,” Police Chief Ronald Haddad said.

Police posted on Facebook images from surveillance video showing the shoplifter in the store wearing an “Air Force Dad” tee-shirt.


“The Dearborn Police Department is asking for the public’s assistance in identifying the suspect responsible for this crime as it is suspected he will continue committing this type of crime as 12 – 14 months of consistent use is needed to see results,” the Facebook post says .

The shoplifter jumped in an older model Chevrolet carrying the stolen Rogaine in a shopping bag, the Detroit Free Press reported.

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ISIS gunned down pregnant women, babies, former Navy SEAL recalls – ISIS preacher executed for suggesting Baghdadi's dead, report says

Iraqi forces, supported from the air by the U.S.-led coalition, on Monday closed in on the last part of Mosul still under ISIS control. Despite an imminent military victory by Iraqi forces, scores of civilians were slaughtered in a final stand by the terrorist group. Some made it more than three years through the brutal occupation of the nation’s second-largest city only to die in its final days; others, including small children, have known nothing but the reign of savagery in the span of short lives.

“ISIS was just gunning down civilians in the middle of the night as they ran – women and children. We were trying to treat as many people as we could,” Ephraim Mattos, a former Navy SEAL, recalled to Fox News of the deadliest day in the “Battle for Mosul,” which started at the beginning of June. “But bodies were all over the streets. An entire family lay dead right there – an old man, young parents and their baby between them.”

Only the newborn didn’t die from the same gunshot wounds that had befallen the child’s parents, its little head had been cracked open in the fall of that fatal flee for safety. For Mattos, such a sight was only the start of what he was to witness in the coming hours.


The United Nations confirmed that hundreds of residents have been shot and killed by ISIS this month alone, with the most calamitous day being on that June 1 and June 2 as more than 160 were massacred while running from their West Mosul homes.

“We saw two young girls, about 11 or 12, lying down. One had been shot dead in the back, the other in the head – her face was totally gone,” Mattos said. “Where her face used to be, was just a big black hole.”

Just a few days after officially retiring from the military in early April, Mattos, 25, boarded an Iraq-bound flight as a medic and aid volunteer with global humanitarian group Free Burma Rangers (FBR). The group aims to bring life-saving relief to innocent civilians caught up in violent conflicts around the world. On May 4, he was with Iraq’s 9th Armored Division when it was ordered to assault Mosul and, in his words, “the insane bloodshed” began.

In the ensuing weeks, Mattos treated the injured, delivered aid to the needy and documented human rights abuses with other volunteers – including David Eubank, a former U.S. Army Special Forces fighter and founder of FBR, Sky Barkley, a former U.S. Marine turned full-time missionary, Mahmoud Darweesh, an FBR interpreter and Syrian refugee wanting to immigrate to the U.S., and the FBR cameraman known by his nickname “Monkey”.

But what specifically happened on that date was like nothing the experienced combat veteran had ever been exposed to in his seven years as a SEAL. As Mattos and his team surged through another sea of up to 70 bodies in the early hours of Sunday, signs of life emerged.

“We started to see children alive, buried underneath the dead. They were in shock. These little kids would get up and poke the bodies of their parents – confused, trying to wake them up from their sleep,” Mattos remembered. “One little boy, no older than 6 or 7, laid down next to what appeared to be his sister. He covered her in a scarf to shield her from the hot sun. It was absolutely heart-breaking. We all knew then, we had to do something to get those kids out.”


That something was a quick call from Iraqi Army associates to a U.S. aircraft to drop something of a smoke screen to provide cover, as they were less than 200 yards from an ISIS hospital being used by the jihadists as a headquarters. Sniper rounds bounced off the tank operated by Iraqi soldiers while Mattos and his U.S. counterparts ran behind the tank. He said they knew then there was no way they were “getting out without a scratch.”

“I was terrified. I had to will myself to go forward,” he admitted. “But I had decided that I was prepared to die to get that little girl out of there… What ISIS was doing was just unreal. How do you shoot a little girl in the back of the head?”

As the fighters and volunteers maneuvered to avoid hitting the dead, they were faced with corpses of pregnant women slaughtered by ISIS, an old man with his brain hanging from his skull, a little girl – miraculously alive – hiding beneath her mother’s blood-soaked hijab, not even blinking at the ferocious sound of a canon being fired.

Bullets sprayed over Mattos’ head from all directions, with an estimated 100 fighters believed to be in that vicinity at the time – and at least a dozen snipers, obscure on rooftops and from the dark hollow rooms of mortar-gashed houses. As he ran back to his position behind the vehicle, one of those bullets struck his right calf – entering one side and exiting the other.

“As a SEAL, we are taught that our job is to take care of ourselves until the battle is over,” Mattos said.

Sometime later, the former sailor made it to a nearby mosque being used by Iraqi forces as a makeshift clinic. A few minutes after he arrived, that little girl – the one who cloaked herself in her dead mother’s hijab – was brought in and placed two beds over, deeply traumatized but alive. For more than a week after that, the bodies of the murdered lay decomposing, their dignity stripped, in the blistering summer streets as authorities were not able to immediately clear the ISIS-riddled zone.

Mattos was subsequently taken to the Kurdish capital of Erbil for medical care and spent another two weeks in the hospital. Last week, he arrived home to Wisconsin to heal. The gunshot wound, he notes, is “no big deal.” Mattos, along with his brother Zebulun, a devoted humanitarian, recently launched their own media group The Fireside Journal (TFJ) as a hub to share content about various lessons learned in life, the beauty of creation and to inspire others by example.

But for now, his mind remains more than 6,000 miles away.

Although Iraqi forces have only a small part of Mosul to liberate, the so-called Old City, what is left are burned-out homes and a booby-trapped wasteland. Who will live long enough to return to ever see the city they once called home free from the black flag, remains a waiting game.

Hollie McKay has been a staff reporter since 2007. She has reported extensively from the Middle East on the rise and fall of terrorist groups such as ISIS in Iraq. Follow her on twitter at @holliesmckay

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BIAS ALERT Trump voters fear 'brown people': MSNBC pundit

The author of “What’s the Matter with White People?” may have found her answer: “fears of brown people.”

Joan Walsh, the National Affairs correspondent for The Nation and an MSNBC political analyst, used a weekend spot on MSNBC’s “AM Joy” to say “really good research” had essentially proven voters who cast a ballot for President Trump were simply racists.

“The really good research that’s taken place since the election shows that fear of a changing America is the number one factor that you can see drive really the divides, a white Trump voter from a white non-Trump voter, that it’s fears of brown people, fears of losing the majority,” Walsh said.

Walsh went on to suggest that Irish Catholic working class voters who chose Trump were no longer patriotic because they didn’t support the investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the presidential election – which has so far yielded no indictments nor hard evidence of Trump collusion.

“But you know what’s also sad to me is that this cohort, I wrote about my Irish Catholic working class family, this cohort used to be so patriotic, and so much America—love it or leave it, things that I didn’t like about it, but that was just so stirred by this country’s—what they perceived as its values and much of the same cohort is with Donald Trump—dismissing the Russia allegations, doing nothing to support the people who are trying to get answers, and I find this kind of relative, this relativity about well, you know, if my guy doesn’t think it’s important or if my guy might even be threatened by it, then I don’t care either,” Walsh said. “That is not patriotism. That is something else entirely.”

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'We are very much at war here,' NJ attorney general says about Opioid crisis

The corridors are bright. Sparkling clean.

The windowed walls of the many rooms at the sprawling building in the suburb of Hamilton, N.J., provide a glimpse of the intensity of the mission here – investigators in white coats and protective gloves hunch over drug samples that are pouring in at a higher rate than ever before, and cutting thousands of lives short.

These days, it is a race against time as the men and women who work at New Jersey’s Office of Forensic Sciences conduct tests to identify ever-changing combinations of substances that often are lethal.

The accidental drug overdoses claimed about 1,600 lives in New Jersey in 2015, the last year for which data is available. That’s four times the number who died from homicide, three times the number killed in automobile accidents.


A majority of them involved prescription painkillers. State officials say that number is certain to be higher for 2016, and perhaps this year, as well.

Opioids can be so addictive that many people develop a desperate need for them even after the pain has subsided, or disappeared. So when they’re turned away by doctors and pharmacies, they look for a fix on the streets, where illicit opioids increasingly are tainted with deadly substances.

At the lab the pressure is on to identify those substances and find another piece to the ever-changing puzzle of the killer epidemic in time to save lives by putting out warnings to the public, and giving law enforcement the data to trace the drugs to a dealer, and possibly his or her source.

“We’re very much at war here,” says state Attorney General Christopher Porrino as he walks through the lab and stops to talk to the men and women working there. “We’re trying to attack it on a number of fronts.”

In one room, forensic scientist Deborah Cole studies markings on pills and compares them with legitimate, pharmaceutical ones. She takes a sample and extracts from it and applies a color test to see what substance is in it.

“Sometimes pills are not what the markings indicate,” Cole said. “A Percocet might have fentanyl or heroin in it.”

“If it is an opioid it could [contain] heroin, it could be a fentanyl, it could be a clandestine pill – we just don’t know,” Cole said, exasperated. “We don’t know where it came from because it wasn’t purchased from the pharmacy.”

Even carfentanil, a type of opioid that is so strong it’s been used to put down elephants, is making its way to the streets, unbeknownst to many of its victims.

“It’s a game of Russian roulette any time you take any type of drug on the street,” Cole says. “They are … from a drug dealer who only wants to make money. He doesn’t care about you.”

No sooner do they identify a new drug and classify it, when more appear. It’s an unrelenting revolving door.

The lab has seen its workload rise perceptibly over the years. Some of the newest substances to appear in New Jersey are tetrahydro fentanyl and acrylfentanyl. 

The first quarter of this year, state officials say, there were 11,000 drug submissions to the state’s four labs. At that pace, the total will easily reach roughly 44,000 by the end of the year. State labs received about 38,000 in 2016.

New Jersey had one of the highest rates of emergency room visits for opioid-related reasons, according a report by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

While the state by no means has the worst rate of opioid overdoses in the nation, it is at the forefront of combatting the epidemic.

This is in no small part because, to Gov. Chris Christie, the crisis is personal.

One of his best friends from law school became addicted to prescription painkillers and was found dead of an overdose in a New Jersey motel.

“On the personal side,” Porrino says, “this is heart-wrenching. Every one of us knows someone – family, friend, friend of a family member — who suffered from this disease.”

Earlier this year, Christie signed legislation that limits first-time opioid prescriptions to five days, and establishes strict guidelines for doctors to prescribe more. The measure also requires state-regulated health insurers to cover at least six months of substance abuse treatment.

New Jersey is also taking a hard line against doctors who do not exercise caution in prescribing opioids – since data shows that many people who overdose develop an addiction after getting prescription painkillers.

An analysis by the Star-Ledger, a New Jersey newspaper, found that doctors in the Garden State received roughly $1.6 million from 2013 to 2015 from pharmaceutical companies that marketed fentanyl. At the same time, fentanyl-linked deaths soared — from 42 in 2013 to 417 in 2015.

While the substance originally was presented, validly, as a source
of relief for people dealing with cancer-related pain, it was made available to the public in a far less structured manner, the news outlet found.

It used to be, Porrino said, “that you could go in and have a wisdom tooth removed, and you could walk out with a 30-day supply of prescription painkiller that was an opioid derivative.”

“We were the first [state] to take the prescribing limit down to five days,” Porrino said. “That reduces the number of pills that are available for people to take and become addicted to.”

In the last year, New Jersey has pursued criminal charges against some doctors and imposed sanctions, including suspension and taking away the license to practice. The crackdown on unscrupulous doctors is part of a concerted effort, as Porrino notes, in New Jersey to fight the opioid epidemic on multiple fronts – law enforcement, medical and a preventive educational campaign.

“When I first learned that eight out of 10 heroin addicts walking the street here in New Jersey and across the country became addicted from prescription pills, I knew we needed to do something,” he said. “That was among the [most] shocking statistics I heard.”

For Cole, as for many of the investigators painstakingly toiling to identify the next killer drug, the task is exhausting but vital.

“If you’re a drug user, what you may have taken last week, the dosage you have taken, the tablet, may be laced with something different, more potent than what you are used to,” Cole says. “And that one pill, that one injection, could kill you. It is all an unknown.”

Elizabeth Llorente is Senior Reporter for, and can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @Liz_Llorente.


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Major Swedish musical festival cancelled after sex assaults rekindles fears of migrants, anger at police

The decision by organizers of a major Swedish musical festival to cancel it next year because of sexual assaults at the event has intensified debates about whether the government has not acted more forcefully to avoid an anti-immigrant backlash.

The Bråvalla music festival, which has featured famous artists such as Kanye West and Iron Maiden, announced over the weekend that despite taking steps such as bolstering security, sexual assaults and rapes had occurred in this year’s event, forcing the cancellation of next year’s show, according to The Local.

The organizers, FKP Scorpio, said in a statement that “some men – because we are talking about men – apparently can’t behave. It’s a shame.”

“Words cannot describe how incredibly sad we are about this, and we most seriously regret and condemn this. This is not…okay. We do not accept this at our festival.”

Reports of rapes and sexual assaults at the festival in 2016 prompted one musical group, Mumford and Sons, to boycott indefinitely future performances at the event.

“We won’t play at this festival again until we’ve had assurances from the police and organizers that they’re something to combat what appears to be a disgustingly high rate of reported sexual violence,” the group said in a statement.

Sexual assaults have plagued festivals worldwide, but in some European countries blame has been placed in part on immigrants from places such as Afghanistan and North Africa.

Swedish police have been accused in past years of covering up sexual assaults at musical festivals because they were committed by foreign nationals, and they did not want to stir up tensions. Media outlets that obtained access to police reports about the alleged crimes said that they mentioned young Afghans as the perpetrators.

At a festival last year in Karlstad, which is roughly 190 miles west of Stockholm, six of seven suspects were identified as foreigners, according to the New York Times.

While many have pushed for authorities to be more transparent about the identity of the suspects in sexual assaults and rapes at the music events, others have expressed opposition to the idea, saying that it stereotypes whole groups and does not address the underlying problem.

The Guardian last year published an editorial titled: “Blaming the Swedish festival rapes on migrants isn’t just wrong – it’s dangerous.”

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Detroit dad cleared of sexually assaulting, murdering 8-month-old daughter

A Detroit man initially accused of sexually assaulting and murdering his baby daughter in April was cleared of the charges last week after an investigation found he actually smothered her on accident.

James Saltmarshall, 22, was accused of murder, first-degree criminal sexual conduct and first-degree child abuse in the death of his 8-month-old daughter, Janiyah, at a hotel in suburban Inkster, Mich., Fox 2 reported.

The Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office conducted an investigation and found that the infant died of asphyxia and ruled the death an accident.


Saltmarshall, who was being held on a $2 million bond, was released Thursday on house arrest.

Kym Worthy, a Wayne County prosecutor, initially said the girl was killed by head trauma and rectal tearing was also discovered on the infant, according to WXYZ.

A comprehensive investigation was carried out and found that the infant was sleeping next to her father on a large bed before he accidentally rolled onto his daughter, smothering her. When he woke up, he found her unresponsive and called emergency services.


About 3,500 children die each year in the U.S. due to sleep-related incidents, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Click for more from Fox 2.

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