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SLU director of Forensic Science weighs in on search for Gabby Petito



SLU director of Forensic Science weighs in on search for Gabby Petito

ST. LOUIS – The FBI searched the Florida home of Brian Laundrie and his parents Monday. Authorities were heard telling the Laundries they were in a “crime scene” and escorted them out of the home temporarily while evidence was collected and taken out of their home. Laundrie’s mustang was also towed away.

“It is definitely a case that has captivated the nation,” said Erik Hall, director of SLU’s Forensic Science Program and assistant founder of Hall Forensic Consulting. “I think it’s probably her social media presence, this cross-country trip that she is documenting step-by-step all along the way, and I think that a lot of younger people can relate.”

Hall said the investigation from a forensics mindset and standpoint, ramps up as soon as a body is found. Which authorities believe they likely found Gabby Petito’s body in Wyoming Sunday. An autopsy is scheduled for Tuesday to begin the confirmation process.

Hall said now the determination needs to be made on how Petito died if this is, in fact, her body that was found Sunday.

“How did she die? Is this a homicide, which I think is the presumption at this point? But was it an accident? was it natural?” Hall said.

Hall said they will also be looking at DNA, performing toxicology reports and they may not have positive confirmation of the identity right away.

“Human remains were discovered consistent with the description of Gabriel “Gabby” Petito. Full forensic identification has not been completed to confirm 100 percent that we found Gabby, but her family has been notified of this discovery,” Chris Jones with the FBI said in a news conference Sunday after the remains were found.

Hall said the forensic investigation will likely focus on the human remains found.

“The body is the best piece of evidence they have, you can potentially pull DNA off of the body, is there clothing there, could the clothing be looked at for trace amounts of DNA,” he said. “They still may be combing through the area looking for evidence sort of tracing the steps of where they think the body may have come into the area.”

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Biden deal in ‘pretty good shape,’ but no breakthrough yet



Democrats unveil billionaires’ tax as Biden plan takes shape


WASHINGTON (AP) — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi declared Wednesday that Democrats are in “pretty good shape” on President Joe Biden’s sweeping domestic plan, but hopes for a breakthrough quickly faded when a pivotal Democratic senator panned a new billionaires’ tax to help pay for the $1.75 trillion package.

Biden and Democrats are racing to wrap up talks before the president departs this week for overseas global summits. One potential new casualty — a paid family leave benefit — was now being reduced to a more narrow program, perhaps for parents to care for new children. Besides pressing for important party priorities, Biden’s hoping to show foreign leaders the U.S. is getting things done under his still-new administration.

The president’s signature package of social service and climate change proposals in the balance, Biden could yet visit Capitol Hill before traveling abroad Thursday. House Democrats are set to meet in the morning. The administration is assessing the situation “hour by hour,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.

“We are on track now to move forward once we get an agreement,” Psaki said.

But Biden’s big proposal ran into stubborn new setbacks, chief among them how to pay for it all.

A just-proposed tax on billionaires could be scrapped after Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia objected, according to a senior party aide, who requested anonymity to discuss the private talks.

The billionaires’ tax proposal had been designed to win over another Democratic holdout, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, but Manchin panned it as unfairly targeting the wealthy, leaving Democrats at odds.

“People in the stratosphere, rather than trying to penalize, we ought to be pleased that this country is able to produce the wealth,” Manchin told reporters.

Manchin said he prefers a minimum 15% flat “patriotic tax” to ensure the wealthiest Americans don’t skip out on paying any taxes.

Nevertheless, he said: “We need to move forward.”

White House officials met at the Capitol with Manchin and Sinema, two senators who now hold enormous power, essentially deciding whether or not Biden will be able to deliver on the Democrats’ major campaign promises.

In the 50-50 Senate, Biden needs all Democrats’ support with no votes to spare.

“Making progress,” Sinema said as she dashed into an elevator.

The quickening pace of negotiations came as Biden pressed to have a deal in hand ahead of the global summits. There’s also a Sunday deadline to approve a smaller, bipartisan roads-and-bridges infrastructure bill or risk allowing funds for routine transportation programs to expire. But that $1 trillion bill has been held up by progressive lawmakers who are refusing to give their support without the bigger Biden deal.

Applying pressure, Pelosi announced a Thursday committee hearing to spur the Biden package along toward a full House. But without Senate agreement, the House panel’s meeting is merely an effort to kickstart the process.

Manchin was also objecting to a new paid family leave program that was already being chiseled back from 12 to four weeks. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., had devised several new options for his review.

Gillibrand told reporters late in the evening: “It’s not out, and it’s not over until it’s over.”

Democrats had hoped the unveiling of the billionaires tax Wednesday could help resolve the revenue side of the equation after Sinema rejected the party’s earlier idea of reversing Trump-era tax breaks on corporations and the wealthy, those earning more than $400,000.

Sinema declined to say if she supported it: “I don’t want to comment.”

The new billionaires’ proposal would tax the gains of those with more than $1 billion in assets or incomes of more than $100 million over three consecutive years.

It would hit the wealthiest of Americans, fewer than 800 people, starting in the 2022 tax year, requiring them pay taxes on the gains of stocks and other tradeable assets, rather than waiting until holdings are sold.

A similar billionaires’ tax would be applied to non-tradeable assets, including real estate, but it would be deferred with the tax not assessed until the asset was sold, though interest would have to be paid.

Overall, the billionaires’ tax rate would align with the capital gains rate, now 23.8%. Democrats have said it could raise $200 billion in revenue that could help fund Biden’s package over 10 years.

Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said the billionaires tax remains on the table.

“I’ve not heard a single United States senator — not one —get up and say, ‘Gee, I think it’s just fun that billionaires pay little or nothing for years on end,’” Wyden said Wednesday.

Taken together, the new billionaires’ proposal, coupled with a new 15% corporate minimum tax, are designed to fulfill Biden’s desire for the wealthy and big business to pay their “fair share.” They also fit his promise that no new taxes hit those earning less than $400,000 a year, or $450,000 for couples. Biden wants his package fully paid for without piling on debt.

“I’ve been talking about this for years,” said Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., who campaigned for the presidency on a wealth tax, and backs Wyden’s approach. “I’ve even made billionaires cry over this.”

Resolving the revenue side has been crucial, as lawmakers figure out how much money will be available to spend on the new health, child care and climate change programs in Biden’s big plan.

Republicans have derided the billionaires’ tax as “harebrained,” and some have suggested it would face a legal challenge.

Among Democrats, Rep. Richard Neal of Massachusetts, the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, said he told Wyden the billionaires’ tax may be difficult to implement. He expects Democrats to stick with the approach his panel took in simply raising rates on corporations and the wealthy, undoing the 2017 tax cuts.

“There’s a lot of there’s a lot of angst in there over the billionaires’ tax,” Neal said.

Under the House bill approved by Neal’s panel, the top individual income tax rate would rise from 37% to 39.6%, on those earning more than $400,000 a year, or $450,000 for couples. The corporate rate would increase from 21% to 26.5%.

The House bill also proposes a 3% surtax on the wealthiest Americans with adjusted income beyond $5 million a year, and Neal suggested that could be raised to $10 million to win over the holdouts.

Together, Manchin and Sinema’s objections have packed a one-two punch, throwing Biden’s overall plan into flux, halving what had been a $3.5 trillion package, and infuriating colleagues along the way.

Their opposition is forcing difficult reductions, if not the outright elimination, of policy priorities — from child care assistance to dental, vision and hearing aid benefits for seniors.

The once hefty climate change strategies are less severe, focusing away from punitive measures on polluters that raised objections from coal-state Manchin, in a shift toward instead rewarding clean energy incentives.

Tempers are running short as Democratic colleagues tire of the repeated objections form Manchin and Sinema blocking a deal.

Said Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont Independent: “You got 48 out of 50 people supporting an agenda that works for the American people.”


Associated Press writers Farnoush Amiri and Kevin Freking contributed to this report.

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NFL power rankings, Week 7: Ravens tumble, Bengals and Titans rise in jumbled AFC



50 Colo. Time dealers, Wells are auto fame inductees

Each week of the NFL season, The Baltimore Sun will rank all 32 NFL teams. The rankings will take into account not just weekly performance, but how well each team measures up as Super Bowl contenders, regardless of win-loss record.

Here are the rankings after Week 7:

The top contenders

1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-1; No. 1 last week)

2. Arizona Cardinals (7-0; No. 2)

3. Buffalo Bills (4-2; No. 4)

4. Dallas Cowboys (5-1; No. 5)

5. Los Angeles Rams (6-1; No. 6)

6. Green Bay Packers (6-1; No. 7)

It was a tidy week for the league’s top teams. The Bucs dominated the hapless Bears, 38-3, as Tom Brady threw four more touchdown passes to extend his league-leading total to 21. The Cardinals got three touchdown passes from Kyler Murray, including one to recently acquired tight end Zach Ertz, in a 31-5 rout of the Texans. Matthew Stafford made coach Sean McVay and the Rams look smart after the Jared Goff trade with three touchdown passes in a 28-19 win over Goff and the Lions. Aaron Rodgers threw three touchdown passes of his own in the Packers’ 24-10 win over Washington, spreading the ball around to seven receivers instead of relying on Davante Adams.

What’s the common thread that ties these teams together? Great quarterback play. The Cowboys’ Dak Prescott and the Bills’ Josh Allen, who enjoyed their bye weeks, have already inserted themselves into the Most Valuable Player conversation. Murray has been especially great, securing the second-highest passing grade in the league, according to Pro Football Focus.

In case you didn’t notice, nearly all of the league’s elite teams reside in the NFC. The AFC is a muddled mess at the top, thanks to the stunning decline of the Chiefs and the emergence of some exciting, yet unproven contenders. That brings us to one of the most surprising results of the week, which calls into question the Super Bowl hopes of one of the conference’s best teams.

On the cusp of contention

7. Baltimore Ravens (5-2; No. 3)

8. Cincinnati Bengals (5-2; No. 12)

9. Tennessee Titans (5-2, No. 11)

10. Los Angeles Chargers (4-2; No. 8)

11. Las Vegas Raiders (5-2; No. 14)

The Ravens’ 41-17 loss to the Bengals isn’t a knock-out blow by any means, rather a stiff shot to the jaw that leaves Baltimore stumbling heading into its bye week. The Ravens couldn’t handle the Bengals’ passing attack Sunday, as Joe Burrow threw for a career-high 416 yards and receiver Ja’Marr Chase racked up 201 yards, giving him the most receiving yards by a rookie through seven weeks in NFL history. Lamar Jackson wasn’t his usual self, as Cincinnati’s athletic defense pressured him on nearly half of his drop-backs and covered well downfield.

The Ravens are still a threat to emerge in the AFC when playing at their best, but more injuries along the offensive line, this time to starting right tackle Patrick Mekari, have severely depleted their once-unstoppable rushing attack. The Ravens need Jackson to play at an MVP level to not only mask their weaknesses on offense, but cover for a defense that has allowed a franchise-worst 2,073 passing yards over its first seven games. Sunday’s loss showed that the Ravens’ old reliables might not even be enough to cut it in the AFC North anymore.

While Baltimore is slipping, the Titans and Raiders are showing they shouldn’t be overlooked when handicapping the AFC race. Tennessee dominated Kansas City, 27-3, on Sunday, with Derrick Henry throwing more touchdown passes than Patrick Mahomes. A Titans defense that struggled mightily early in the season held the Chiefs to their lowest scoring output with Mahomes at quarterback, picking up four sacks and an interception. FiveThirtyEight only gives Kansas City a 43% chance of making the playoffs, and that might be generous given their issues on both sides of the ball.

The Raiders, meanwhile, continue to thrive after the resignation of coach Jon Gruden. Las Vegas rolled to a 33-22 win over the Eagles behind a nearly perfect day from Derek Carr, who completed more than 90% of his passes on 30 or more attempts (31-for-34 for 323 yards, two touchdowns and one interception) for the second time in his career.

With the Chiefs and Ravens failing to reach their previous heights, it’s time to consider the Bengals, Titans and Raiders as more than just plucky contenders. Behind Buffalo, it’s a wide-open race in the AFC.

The wild cards

12. Cleveland Browns (4-3; No. 10)

13. New Orleans Saints (4-2; No. 13)

14. Kansas City Chiefs (3-4; No. 9)

15. Indianapolis Colts (3-4; No. 20)

16. Pittsburgh Steelers (3-3; No. 15)

17. Minnesota Vikings (3-3; No. 16)

18. New England Patriots (3-4; No. 19)

19. Atlanta Falcons (3-3; No. 25)

After seven weeks, the Browns remain an enigma. With starting quarterback Baker Mayfield severely limited by an injury to his non-throwing shoulder, backup Case Keenum came in and looked steady in a 17-14 win over the Broncos on Thursday night. Keenum’s ceiling might be lower than Mayfield’s, but he should be able to keep Cleveland’s ground-based attack moving under coach Kevin Stefanski. If the defense can get healthier and play up to its potential, that might be enough for the Browns to remain a playoff contender in the AFC.

The Colts could be a playoff contender, too, after Monday night’s 30-18 win over the 49ers. Indianapolis has won three of its past four games thanks to improved play from quarterback Carson Wentz, who has thrown just one interception through seven weeks after leading the league with 15 picks in 12 games last season in Philadelphia. The Patriots have shaken off some early struggles to get back into the mix, too, rolling to a 54-13 win over the Jets on Sunday. The defense remains one of the league’s best, so week-to-week improvement from rookie quarterback Mac Jones might keep New England in the playoff conversation for quite awhile.

Atlanta, meanwhile, might finally be hitting its stride under new coach Arthur Smith. In a 30-28 win over the Dolphins on Sunday, rookie tight end Kyle Pitts exploded for 163 receiving yards, giving Matt Ryan the valuable weapon he’s sorely needed since the offseason trade of Julio Jones.

Fading fast

20. Chicago Bears (3-4; No. 18)

21. Carolina Panthers (3-4; No. 21)

22. Denver Broncos (3-4; No. 22)

23. Seattle Seahawks (2-5; No. 23)

24. San Francisco 49ers (2-4; No. 17)

25. Washington Football Team (2-5; No. 26)

All the optimism about Justin Fields’ rookie season has seemingly evaporated after the first-round pick threw three interceptions in the Bears’ embarrassing 38-3 loss to the Buccaneers on Sunday. Coach Matt Nagy’s seat only grows warmer, with the offense struggling to move the ball effectively through the air or on the ground. If Chicago can’t show any improvement behind its franchise quarterback in the coming weeks, it’s hard to see this regime coming back again next season.

The Panthers might be facing similar tough questions about their leadership after yet another rough performance by quarterback Sam Darnold, who was benched in favor of P.J. Walker in Sunday’s 25-3 loss to the Giants. Four straight losses have called into question the wisdom of the trade for Darnold, who isn’t consistent enough to be a franchise quarterback. Whether that leads to Carolina looking toward the draft, free agency or a trade for Deshaun Watson to upgrade at the position remains to be seen, but it’s clear the Panthers aren’t a playoff team with the former first-round pick under center.

For the Seahawks, 49ers and Washington, there are just too many questions at quarterback to have any hope of playoff contention in a loaded NFC. Unless Russell Wilson, Jimmy Garoppolo and Ryan Fitzpatrick can be healthy and/or effective relatively soon, it’s hard to see a path forward for these teams.

The basement

26. New York Giants (2-5; No. 29)

27. Philadelphia Eagles (2-5; No. 24)

28. Detroit Lions (0-7; No. 30)

29. Houston Texans (1-6; No. 28)

30. Miami Dolphins (1-6; No. 27)

31. New York Jets (1-5; No. 30)

32. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-5; No. 32)

Say what you want about Dan Campbell’s 0-7 record, but the Lions coach has kept his team competitive nearly every week. Detroit had a legitimate chance to take down the Rams on Sunday before a back-breaking interception by Goff late in the game. Campbell isn’t interested in moral victories, but the team’s play is at least somewhat encouraging in the first year of what should be a long rebuild.

The Dolphins won’t be afforded that kind of sympathy, however. A 30-28 loss to the Falcons puts them at 1-6, a far cry from what the team expected after a 10-6 season under coach Brian Flores. Rumors continue to swirl about the team’s interest in a trade for Watson, which shows just how desperate they are for an answer at quarterback given Tua Tagovailoa’s struggles.

©2021 Baltimore Sun. Visit Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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Mike Preston: With blowout of Ravens, Bengals now the hunted in AFC North race | COMMENTARY



50 Colo. Time dealers, Wells are auto fame inductees

A year ago, defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale was critical of the Cincinnati Bengals after they kicked a late field goal to ruin the Ravens’ shutout in a 27-3 victory.

On Sunday, the Ravens’ coaching staff was saluting the Bengals after a 24-point win that put Cincinnati (5-2) in first place in the AFC North after seven weeks.

There was much discussion about whether there was a shift in power brewing in the division before the season started, but the Bengals made it official Sunday. They crushed the Ravens, 41-17, and made Baltimore (5-2) appear as lifeless as the Los Angeles Chargers, who the Ravens whipped, 34-6, last week.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh has always been reluctant to wave the white flag. He has traditionally played his starting quarterbacks to the bitter end in almost every game, regardless of the score. But once Cincinnati went ahead 41-17 with about seven minutes remaining, Harbaugh pulled starter Lamar Jackson.

It was no más.

“They came into a division game on the road and played great, and they won and beat us,” Harbaugh said. “We were beaten soundly, and that’s what happened.”

It was a statement game. For the Ravens, this could be a preview of what happens when they play a defensive team with an athletic front four and Jackson can’t control the pace of the game. Without Jackson’s dominance, the Ravens’ weak running game and poor pass coverage are exposed.

As for Cincinnati, it was a coming-out party. They have one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL in second-year player Joe Burrow and a great complement on the outside in rookie receiver Ja’Marr Chase, who toasted the Ravens’ top cornerback, Marlon Humphrey, on the way to 201 yards. Not only do the Bengals have Burrow and Chase, but they have some other highly skilled offensive players in running back Joe Mixon and tight end C.J. Uzomah.

If you’re waiting for the Bengals to fall apart like they have in previous years, you might be waiting a while. Cincinnati had only one penalty for 5 yards on Sunday. The Bengals converted one of two fourth-down situations, which doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it is when you’re the Bengals. With Cincinnati up 27-17 with 11:43 remaining in the fourth quarter, the Bengals actually made a stop on a fourth-and-7 at the Ravens’ 38-yard line.

They would have folded in previous years. These Bengals are for real.

“It’s a different team,” Bengals coach Zac Taylor said. “We’re allowed to build and improve, and we just have a different mentality right now. We’ve done a lot of different things to get to this position, and I’ve given out a lot of tough speeches over time about great things to come and [to] keep working. And you hope and pray that the team believes in that. That’s the foundation of what we’re building, and this is the result. This is their moment.

“Everything we’ve talked about, we’ve earned. We’re starting to earn respect, but we still have a long way to go. Just winning one road game against a divisional opponent, that’s what you have to do if you want to compete in this league. We have a long way to go, but I’m really proud of the collective team effort. This was a complete game today by all three phases, and that’s what we need to come on the road to Baltimore with and beat them.”

Like Cincinnati, the Cleveland Browns have an athletic front four, and the Pittsburgh Steelers’ can be just as active. It’s not as if any of these division rivals have developed a special formula to stop Jackson, but they get off blocks and run to the ball. The Ravens’ offensive line is effective when they can make quick contact and Baltimore’s running backs get through the hole in a hurry.

But starting halfback J.K. Dobbins and top backup Gus Edwards are both out for the season with knee injuries. With the backs the Ravens have on their roster, they can still win 10 to 12 games, but it’s going to be tough to win in the postseason.

It’s not the Ravens’ fault. They were forced to sign aging players such as Latavius Murray, Devonta Freeman and Le’Veon Bell, who don’t have the speed to be a threat off tackle or the consistent acceleration to pop a big run up the middle. With this running game, Jackson has to be the top threat outside the tackles.

With this offensive line, Jackson has to improvise and make plays in the pocket, which is why he often held onto the ball too long Sunday. Jackson rushed 12 times for 88 yards and completed 15 of 31 passes for 257 yards, but this wasn’t the Jackson we’d all come to expect in 2021.

Jackson never found his phone booth to become Superman. The Bengals, with five sacks, didn’t let him. Neither did the Ravens’ running game.

“We always have to have two guys on him, one inside shoulder [and] one outside shoulder,” said Bengals defensive end Sam Hubbard, who had 2 ½ sacks. “So, you always have to have two people on the ball.”

Harbaugh doesn’t have many options with the running game. The Ravens are caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place. But it’s the defense that has been so puzzling.

The Ravens allowed 520 yards of total offense as Burrow completed 23 of 38 passes for a career-high 416 yards and three touchdowns and finished with a passer rating of 113.5. He threw touchdown passes of 55, 32 and 82 yards, and the Bengals had touchdowns runs of 21 and 46 yards.

The Ravens again had the tackling blues. They spent a lot of time tackling air or laying on the ground appearing to look for gophers.

“I guess I’ll look at the film and kind of figure it out,” Humphrey said of the poor play. “I think things just didn’t go our way early. So, as ‘Wink’ says, it’s not as bad as it seems; but right now, it seems pretty bad.”

Oh, it was bad. Ugly.

Instead of looking at the video, maybe the Ravens want to burn the film and move on. They’ve already proven they can play at a high level in last week’s rout of the Chargers. After Sunday’s game, Harbaugh tried to find the words to sum up the loss.

He said the NFL is a week-to-week and game-to-game league. Basically, it comes down to which team is hot at the end of the regular season and can carry that momentum into the playoffs.

“There never is any running narrative, it just doesn’t exist,” Harbaugh said.

But we do know that the AFC North race is going to be hard-fought. If Cleveland quarterback Baker Mayfield ever steps up his game, the Browns have as much talent as any team in the league. Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has seen his best days and his arm will tire before the end of the season, but you can never count out Steelers coach Mike Tomlin.

As for the Ravens, they have issues with their running game. The defense seems to have a personality disorder. One week they play like the 1985 Bears, and the next week they play like the Bad News Bears.

Regardless, the Ravens can’t be as bad as they played Sunday. In fact, they looked like the Chargers last week, who were also headed into their bye week.

The Ravens just waved bye-bye and took a break a week early.

©2021 Baltimore Sun. Visit Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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