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Mother, son found dead along interstate highways in Southeast identified after 20 years

More than two decades after the bodies of a woman and 10-year-old boy were found in separate states, each discarded along the side of a highway, officials announced Tuesday a DNA analysis identified the victims as a mother and son — and helped authorities to elicit a confession from their killer.

The identity of the woman was revealed Tuesday to be Myoung Hwa Cho. Cho was suffocated before her nude body, bearing ligature marks around the wrists, was discovered dumped in the woods along Interstate 85 in South Carolina in May 1998, The Spartanburg County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release.

In September 1998, 215 miles away from where Cho’s body was dumped, the remains of a young boy were found under a billboard by workers mowing grass along Interstate 85 in Mebane, North Carolina.

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The Orange County Sheriff’s Office in North Carolina said its own news release that, after trying other forensic analysis techniques — including even creating a bust of the child — the department used the analysis of an online DNA database to identify the child, who was a first-generation, biracial Caucasian and Asian.

Robert Adam Whitt's body was identified using a DNA database.

Robert Adam Whitt’s body was identified using a DNA database. (Orange County Sheriff’s Office)

“I always kept the case file box under my desk, where it was purposefully in my way. Every time I turned, I hit it with my leg. I did this so the little boy couldn’t be forgotten,” Orange County Sheriff’s Maj. Tim Horne, who worked the case from the beginning, said in a statement.

After identifying the race of the boy, the agency enlisted the help of a consultant, Dr. Barbara Rae-Venter. Rae-Venter, whose work led to an arrest in the Golden State Killer case, matched the child’s DNA to DNA from a close relative who had submitted information to an online DNA database. After contacting the relative, investigators learned the boy’s name: Robert “Bobby” Adam Whitt. They soon found out Whitt’s mom — who had disappeared the same year as her son — was also dead.

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With help from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, authorities in North Carolina said an unidentified female matching the search criteria was located in Spartanburg County, South Carolina. After contacting officials there, the DNA of the victims were compared and soon proved to be mother and son.

Authorities in South Carolina used fingerprints, with the help of the Korean National Police and INTERPOL, to identify the woman as Myoung Hwa Cho.

Myoung Hwa Cho is shown on a poster provided by the Spartanburg County, South Carolina, Sheriff's Office.

Myoung Hwa Cho is shown on a poster provided by the Spartanburg County, South Carolina, Sheriff’s Office. (Spartanburg County, South Carolina, Sheriff’s Office via AP)

“This case is an example of dogged determination of investigators who refused to give up,” Orange County Sheriff Charles Blackwood said. “The efforts of Major Tim Horne and the entire investigation division were exemplary.”

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Investigators then were led to Cho’s husband and Whitt’s father who is currently serving federal time for unrelated convictions, according to FOX Carolina.

The husband confessed to the murder of both victims within several months of each other in 1998, according to police.

Officials said that it does not appear that either killing took place in Spartanburg County or Orange County, so the man’s identification is being withheld until authorities can determine where the mother and son were killed and a prosecutorial decision can be made.

Authorities commended the work of both offices in utilizing new technology to finally crack the cold cases. Last year, detectives across the country said they were able to locate suspects in 28 cold cases after uploading crime scene DNA to GEDmatch.com, a public genealogy website.

“With technology what it is today, crimes that have gone unsolved before are now ripe for resolution,” Blackwood said.

Fox News’ Robert Gearty contributed to this report.

Winter storm in the Southeast may make travel ‘impossible’

Winter storm targets Carolinas with heavy snow

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    Winter storm targets Carolinas with heavy snow

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Winter storm targets Carolinas with heavy snow 02:16

(CNN)A winter storm tearing through the Southeast threatens to keep residents stuck at home with days of dangerous driving conditions, canceled flights and power outages.

Sunday will bring more than 12 inches of snow to the southern and central Appalachians, the National Weather Service said. Snowfall could total 12 to 20 inches over the Appalachians and into the Carolinas by Monday when the storm is expected to move off the coast, the agency said on Saturday.
“Snowfall amounts in some locations will likely exceed a foot and result in several days of difficult or impossible travel, extended power outages, and downed trees,” the agency said.
More than 1,000 Sunday flights into and out of North Carolina’s Charlotte Douglas International Airport have been canceled, according to flight tracking website FlightAware.
    The airport is the second-largest hub of American Airlines, which has “reduced its operations” because of the weather, the airport said.
    American Airlines and its regional partners canceled 225 flights Saturday, 1,100 for Sunday and 300 for Monday, the airline said in a news release.
    The Charlotte airport said it expects scattered cancellations through Monday morning, with the majority expected to be of small, regional planes.
    About 13 million people remain under winter weather alerts in Arkansas, Tennessee and the Carolinas. The governors of Virginia and North Carolina have declared states of emergency.

    Rain, snow, ice and flooding

    Before moving east, the moisture-heavy storm walloped Texas causing downpours and flash flooding along the southern edge of the state and snow and ice in the north. As the moisture moves eastward, it is colliding with a high-pressure system over the Ohio Valley that is funneling cold air into the region.
    “It’s kind of a big deal,” CNN meteorologist Allison Chinchar said. “It’s December. This is not the time of year that they would typically get this stuff.”
    Houston experienced flooding after 4 to 6 inches of rain fell on Friday night, with some drivers forced to abandon their cars on major highways, reported CNN affiliate KTRK.
    After the heavy rain in Lubbock, Texas, many community activities were disrupted. The city holiday parade was postponed and Texas Tech rescheduled all Saturday final exams until Sunday, CNN affiliate KCBD reported.
    Lubbock also saw 10 inches of snow — 2 inches more than the city usually gets in a whole year.
    “They crushed their yearly average in 24 hours,” CNN meteorologist Ivan Cabrera said.
    The Lubbock Police Department tweeted late Saturday that black ice and freezing fog were beginning to form on areas of Interstate 27. Police said they were “working about 20 wrecks due to these dangerous conditions.”

    North Carolina

    North Carolina authorities declared a statewide emergency on Friday ahead of the storm.
    “Snow may be beautiful but it can also be treacherous and I urge North Carolinians to take this storm seriously and get ready for it now,” Gov. Roy Cooper said in a statement.
      Many churches in the Charlotte area have preemptively canceled Sunday services, CNN affiliate WSOC reported, and the city of Charlotte is prepping emergency shelters. Grocery store shelves have been cleared of bread, milk and other staples.
      “This storm comes at a time of year when North Carolinians are usually hearing carols about snow, not actually seeing it. But this time, the real thing is headed our way and North Carolina is getting prepared,” Cooper, the North Carolina governor, said, according to WSOC in Charlotte. “A winter storm’s not a Christmas carol snow. It’s serious, and you need to take steps now to get your family ready.”

      State TV says suicide car bombing kills 2 in southeast Iran

      A suicide car bomber attacked a police headquarters in the southeastern Iranian port city of Chabahar on Thursday, killing at least two people and wounding 15, state TV reported. No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, though a semi-official news agency blamed a Sunni jihadi group for the assault.

      State television broke into its regular broadcast to report the attack as such assaults are rare in the Islamic Republic.

      Rahmdel Bameri, a provincial official, told state TV that a suicide attacker driving a vehicle loaded with explosives drove up to the police headquarters. He said police officers blocked the vehicle and started firing at the driver, who then detonated his explosives.

      State TV also aired footage of smoke rising over the city. State television said two police officers were killed, lowering an initially reported death toll of three without explanation.

      State authorities did not identify who was behind the attack. No militant group immediately said it was behind the bombing. However, the semi-official Tasnim news agency, believed to be close to Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, blamed the attack on Ansar al-Furqan, a Sunni jihadi group.

      Ansar al-Furqan is known to operate in Iran’s southeastern Sistan and Baluchistan Province, which sees occasional attacks by Baluch separatists and drug traffickers. A year ago, the group claimed to have blown up an oil pipeline in Iran’s southern Khuzestan province.

      Chabahar, near Iran’s border with Pakistan on the Sea of Oman, is home to a new port recently built and is an economic free zone for the country.

      The attack comes as Iran’s economy reels in the wake of the U.S. re-imposing sanctions lifted by Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers. While Iran still complies with the accord, President Donald Trump withdrew America over the deal in part due to Tehran’s ballistic missile program, its “malign behavior” in the Mideast and its support of militant groups like Hezbollah.

      While rare, Iran has been targeted in recent years by militant attacks.

      In September, gunmen disguised as soldiers opened fire on a military parade in Ahvaz, killing at least 24 people and wounding over 60. Arab separatists and the Islamic State group both claimed the assault. Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, blamed Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for the attack, allegations denied by both countries.

      A coordinated June 2017 Islamic State group assault on parliament and the shrine of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the leader of Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution, killed at least 18 people and wounded more than 50.