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Mom Urges Parents to Slow Down and Take Their Vacation Days After One of Her 8-Year-Old Twins Passed Away

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Dr. Jessica Brandes said being a mom to her 8-year-old twins, Oliver and Wiley, is who she is, among other things.

And because of that, when one of her sons passed away, so did a part of her. As Brandes wrote in an article shared on her LinkedIn account after her son Wiley’s passing, she encouraged people to ask her about his death.

She explained that while it’s often considered “rude” to do such a thing, talking about Wiley helps her and her husband heal a little each time. Which is why Brandes decided to write about her son’s life and share it with the world:

In general, he was happy and healthy and had been to his pediatrician, eye doctor and dentist all within one month of his death. He was smart, artistic, ambitious and funny, an incredible dancer, excellent taste in music and movies. He had the most gorgeous blue eyes; was tall with huge feet and seemed to be outgrowing everything within 2 weeks.

On top of that, Brandes writes that her son was mature. He understood concepts like religion and politics. In Wiley’s short time on earth, he lived an incredibly fulfilling life. The 8-year-old had visited 10 countries and lived in London for 18 months.

Not only that, but Wiley had the chance to drive a car, kiss girls, and even fall in love once:

He never knew heartbreak and while we will forever know that pain, I think it’s incredible that he loved and never experienced the pain of romantic rejection.

Brandes said that their first and only clue they have that could explain his passing was the seizure he suffered nine months ago.

The mom continued:

We were traveling and he was sleeping in a strange bed in an Airbnb. My mother in law and I heard a significant thud and rushed into the room to see what had happened. He had fallen out of the bed and was actively having a tonic-clonic seizure. To our knowledge, this was the first of it’s kind and certainly the first one we had ever witnessed. He recovered, as most people do from a seizure with no memory of the event whatsoever and we immediately visited his pediatrician who subsequently ordered an EEG.

his appointment with his pediatrician, Wiley was diagnosed with Rolandic Epilepsy.

Brandes explained that doctors described his prognosis as “incredibly good.” And when it came to medicine, they believed that the side effects “would be worse than the condition we were treating”:

This specific form of nocturnal epilepsy is a “childhood” form and “benign”. We consulted with 2 neurologists in the US and in the UK. These highly trained physicians, told us he’d suffer no cognitive deficits, that he would outgrow his condition… Since he was incredibly unlikely to have his life disrupted by this epilepsy, there was no reason to alter his life with side effects. His seizures were related to his sleep cycle and we vowed to keep his quantity of sleep as regular as possible so as not to trigger seizure activity.

Brandes continued, adding that after receiving Wiley’s diagnosis, she and her husband put plans in place. They explained his condition to Wiley, they talked to every parent in the event of a sleepover, and they notified his school and his babysitters.

And for the next nine months, they never saw Wiley have another seizure.

Then came the morning Wiley slept in later than usual:

I found him later in the morning after I became suspicious that “sleeping in” had lasted too long. Oliver had been playing on an iPad next to Wiley and I found it strange that Wiley had not woken up and started playing as well. He was under a blanket and his feet appeared mottled. That was the moment. The moment I knew what was coming next. My eyes tracked up his legs as I pulled the blanket back and I traced the deep purple color of lividity. This extreme color change indicated to me my son had been dead for at least 8 hours. I felt for a pulse and somehow felt surprised by the cold skin I touched. There was no emergency, no opportunity for intervention where I could have changed the outcome. He was gone and I knew events would move very quickly.

Before calling 911, Brandes called her husband. She asked him to come home.

After hanging up with him, the mom called 911 then she used the time she had before first responders arrived to “explain to Oliver that his best friend had died and 15 people were about to swarm our home. I asked him to pick a location where he would feel safe. Then, sirens.”

After the firefighters, EMTs, and police officers all finished their protocol, Brandes explained that they took their final moments with Wiley before her husband walked their son out of their home with the medical examiner by his side and before they knew it, it was just the three of them:

We believe Wiley died of a phenomenon called SUDEP (Sudden Unexplained Death of Epilepsy). If you think of brains as being the computers of the body, Wiley’s just turned off. No known trigger, no warning. It just shut down and without a brain, there is nothing.

However, as Brandes explained, everything else will need to be ruled out before his cause of death is made official because there is no proof of SUDEP.

Now, as the mom explained, her family is still learning how to function as a family of three. And these are some of the things she’s learned since Wiley’s passing:

If we’ve learned anything at all, it’s that life is fragile and time really can be so cruelly short. We wish a lot of things were different, but mostly we wish we’d had more time. If you are a parent and have any capacity to spend more time with your kids, do. When it ends, there’s just photos and leftover things and time is no longer available to you. It is priceless and should not be squandered. Take your vacation days and sabbaticals and go be with them. You will not regret the emails you forgot to send. From now on, if you email or text me and my reply takes longer than expected, know that I am with the people I love sharing my time, creating my new identity and I encourage you to do the same.

Shortly after sharing her family’s story, Brandes article went viral, garnering the attention of thousands. And many thanked her and her husband for being so open and honest.

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Maryland newspaper gunman gets more than 5 life prison terms

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A man who killed five people at a Maryland newspaper more than three years ago is scheduled to be sentenced on Tuesday for one of the deadliest attacks on journalists in U.S. history.

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — A man who killed five people at a newspaper in Maryland was sentenced on Tuesday to more than five life sentences without the possibility of parole — with 345 additional years added on to ensure he is never released from prison.

Anne Arundel County Judge Michael Wachs ordered the sentence for Jarrod Ramos, whom a jury previously found criminally responsible for killing Wendi Winters, John McNamara, Gerald Fischman, Rob Hiaasen and Rebecca Smith with a shotgun at the Capital Gazette’s office in June 2018.

The assault was one of the worst attacks on journalists in U.S. history.

Before announcing the sentence, the judge heard survivors and family members of the slain describe the pain and loss they have experienced. He emphasized the courage of family members who spoke.

“The defendant did not get the final say,” Wachs said. “The First Amendment and the community got the final say.”

Wachs also pointed out that Ramos showed no remorse for the crimes and had said he would kill more if he were ever released. He described Ramos’ actions as a “cold-blooded, calculated attack on the innocent employees of a small-town newspaper.”

“The impact of this case is just simply immense,” Wachs said. “To say that the defendant exhibited a callous and complete disregard for the sanctity of human life is simply a huge understatement.”

Survivors described the shooting as an attack on journalism. Selene San Felice, a former reporter at the paper, said that while Ramos killed five of her colleagues, he could not stop the newspaper.

“Remember this: You cannot kill the truth,” San Felice said.

Ramos had pleaded guilty but not criminally responsible to all 23 counts against him in 2019, using Maryland’s version of an insanity defense. The case was delayed several times before and during the coronavirus pandemic.

In addition to the five life sentences without possibility of parole, Wachs ordered another life sentence for the attempted murder of photographer Paul Gillespie, who had said that Ramos narrowly missed him with a shotgun blast as he ran out of the newsroom. The judge also sentenced Ramos to 345 years in prison on the other charges.

“The judge was crystal clear that Jarrod Ramos should never be allowed to walk out of prison — ever,” said Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney Anne Colt Leitess.

Family members of the slain cried in court as they described the anguish they have endured and the impact the attack had on the community of Maryland’s state capital.

“We lost the storyteller of our family, and as a community we lost the storyteller for everyone that is an Annapolitan,” said Montana Winters Geimer, Winters’ daughter.

San Felice, who survived by hiding under a desk during the attack, told journalists outside the courthouse that it felt good to see authorities “take him away forever.”

“It felt really good to be able to look the judge in the eye and also to be able to look the shooter in the eye,” San Felice said. “It meant a lot to me to be able to tell him to his face that he failed.”

Ramos, who sat in court wearing a black mask, declined to make a statement in court when asked by his attorney, Katy O’Donnell.

After a 12-day trial in July, a jury took less than two hours to reject arguments from Ramos’ attorneys that he could not understand the criminality of his actions.

Prosecutors contended Ramos, 41, acted out of revenge against the newspaper after it published a story about his guilty plea to a misdemeanor charge of harassing a former high school classmate in 2011. Prosecutors said his long, meticulous planning for the attack — which included preparations for his arrest and long incarceration — proved he understood the criminality of his actions.

Prosecutors also emphasized how Ramos called 911 from the newsroom after the shooting, identified himself as the gunman and said he surrendered — evidence he clearly understood the criminality of his actions.

___

This story has been edited to correct the spelling of McNamara.

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© 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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Arlington Co. plans to change rules on how it interacts with ICE

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Arlington County, Virginia, has released a framework for updating policies around undocumented immigrants in hopes to sow trust in the county government.

Arlington County, Virginia, has released a framework for updating policies around undocumented immigrants in the hopes of sowing trust in the county government.

County Board President Matt de Ferranti said the new policies look to reaffirm access to county services for undocumented immigrants. They will also likely change how local law enforcement works with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

De Ferranti told WTOP that the framework covers three areas.

The first is protecting the information of immigrants. “Unless legally required to, which is very limited,” de Ferranti said, “we’re not requesting immigrant status.”

Second, the framework reaffirms that all residents, regardless of immigration status, will have access to county services.

Most notably, the board could change the policy of when county police contact ICE.

The current code says that Arlington police should only contact ICE under the following circumstances:

  • The subject has been arrested for a felony.
  • The subject has been arrested for a terrorism-related offense or is suspected of involvement in terrorism.
  • The subject has been arrested for suspected trafficking of other undocumented immigrants.
  • The arresting officer finds through a check that there is an active ICE detainer; that officer must notify a supervisor of their intention to make an arrest.
  • The subject is suspected of criminal street gang activity, which must be be confirmed by the Gang Unit.

Under the proposed framework, ICE would not be contacted after a non-violent felony charge.

“If it’s minor shoplifting that could reach the level of a felony — because the felony threshold is still too low, in my view and in our view, in Virginia — that might be a case where we would not raise it to the level of Immigrant and Customs Enforcement,” said de Ferranti. “That issue is really about focusing on guardianship and safety for everyone in our community, rather than distracting or catching up individuals who might have shoplifted.”

The board president said the aim of the framework is to “make sure that we’re not in the business of enforcing, in any cases, federal immigration law, which is the responsibility of the federal government. We want to … be even tighter and more narrow, so that we’re not inadvertently, through our processes, getting any individuals caught up with our system unless federal and state law require that we do so.”

De Ferranti said he and the board decided to look at updating these policies after speaking with immigrant advocacy groups and Arlington Police Chief Charles Penn, who de Ferranti said “wants to tighten up and really focus our processes on guardianship.”

The board president will likely use Fairfax County’s Trust policy as a model moving forward.

The Arlington County Board will accept feedback over the next month, with plans to update the rules by the end of the year.

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Crime

‘Devious licks’ social media challenge prompts vandalism in DC-area schools

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Vandalism inspired by a TikTok trend called “devious licks” is leaving a bad aftertaste among school administrators nationwide, including some in the D.C. area.

The latest back-to-school trend, courtesy of TikTok, is leaving school administrators across the country frustrated, including some in the D.C. area.

The “devious licks” challenge recently went viral on social media, inspiring students to steal or vandalize school property and post their exploits on TikTok.

Much of the vandalism and thefts have occurred in school bathrooms — a trend that prompted the principal of a Prince William County, Virginia, high school to warn that students will be disciplined for their actions.

“Last Friday, we experienced significant vandalism in our boys’ bathrooms, which included removing soap bags from soap dispensers to place them in the toilet, stuffing the toilets with paper towels, throwing trash throughout the bathroom, and stealing items from the bathrooms,” Lisamarie Kane, principal of Osbourn Park High School in Manassas, wrote in a letter Monday.

She said the school had to close some of the bathrooms but will reopen them Tuesday “with an extensive monitoring plan to help prevent this vandalism from occurring.”

Diana Gulotta, spokeswoman for Prince William County Schools, told WTOP that any students involved would be disciplined according to the county’s code of behavior.

Damage has also been reported at Falls Church High School and Rocky Run Middle School in Fairfax County.

“We are aware of several incidents of damage to school property related to a troubling TikTok challenge. Disciplinary action has and will be taken against those who participate in this behavior as part of our Students Rights and Responsibilities,” Fairfax County Public Schools spokeswoman Julie Moult said in an email.

Loudoun County Public Schools said it had some minor incidents related to the challenge but that there was no substantial damage.

D.C. Public Schools told WTOP that it has not seen any incidents. WTOP has contacted Montgomery and Prince George’s County schools in Maryland for comment.

Across the country, some students have been arrested and charged in connection to the challenge. Administrators are also warning that students could be suspended or forced to pay restitution for any damage they cause.

A spokesperson for TikTok said the social media platform was removing “devious licks” content and redirecting hashtags to its guidelines to discourage the behavior and that it doesn’t allow content that “promotes or enables criminal activities.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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