'Grim Sleeper' Serial Killer Lonnie Franklin Dies in California Prison Cell

Convicted “Grim Sleeper” serial killer Lonnie Franklin Jr. has died. He was 67.

Frankin was found unresponsive at 7:20 p.m. on Saturday evening in his prison cell on San Quentin State Prison’s death row.

“There were no signs of trauma,” California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation spokeswoman Terry Thornton tells PEOPLE. “They don’t know why he died.”

Prison medical staff rendered aid and summoned an ambulance. He was pronounced dead at 7:43 p.m.

Thornton says an autopsy will be performed by the Marin County coroner’s office.

“I’m shocked,” Diana Ware, stepmother of victim Barbara Ware tells PEOPLE. “I won’t say I’m pleased he died but at the end there was justice for all the bad things he did in his life. We can now be at peace.”

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In June of 2016, a Los Angeles jury decided that Franklin Jr. should be put to death on all counts for the murders of 10 women during a 23-year killing spree that began in 1984.

Jurors found Franklin guilty of the first-degree murders of Debra Jackson, Henrietta Wright, Mary Lowe, Bernita Sparks, Barbara Ware, Lachrica Jefferson, Monique Alexander, Princess Berthomieux, Valerie McCorvey and Janecia Peters.

He was also found guilty of the attempted murder of Enietra Washington, who testified that Franklin shot her, sexually assaulted her and took a Polaroid picture of her before pushing her out of his car 27 years ago.

Franklin’s victims were all young, vulnerable black women who lived in South Los Angeles and struggled with drug addiction. Their naked or partially clothed bodies were dumped in filthy neighborhood alleyways, left to rot under garbage and debris. They were shot at close range with a .25-caliber pistol, or strangled, or both.

Franklin’s last victim was 25-year-old Peters on Jan. 1, 2007. His youngest victim was Berthomieux, a 15-year-old runaway, who was found strangled in an alley in Inglewood, California, in 2002.

The Grim Sleeper cases remained cold for decades until the Los Angeles Police Department realized that seven of the killings in the ’80s were linked through DNA and ballistics to deaths in 2002, 2003 and 2007.

However, the killer’s DNA profile was not in CODIS, the national database for DNA. Franklin was finally caught in July 2010 through familial DNA testing after his then 28-year-old son, Christopher, was arrested for carrying a weapon in the summer of 2009 and had to give up a DNA swab.

Once it was determined that Christopher was related to the killer, detectives followed the elder Franklin to a pizza place in Buena Park. As Franklin finished his meal, a detective who posed as a busboy collected a fork, two plastic cups, a plate and a pizza slice left by Franklin.
A few days later, DNA taken from the pizza slice came back as a match to DNA.

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Tiger King Subject 'Joe Exotic' Files $94M Lawsuit from Prison, Claims Civil Rights Violations

Joseph Maldonado-Passage (also known as Joe Exotic) has filed a federal lawsuit against various government agencies, as well as his former business partner. In his complaint, the currently imprisoned star of the Netflix docuseries Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness, is seeking $94 million in damages.

According to the lawsuit obtained by PEOPLE, the former Oklahoma zookeeper and country music singer claimed $73,840,000 is for loss of personal property; 18 years of research; and care of 200 generic tigers and cross-breeds for 365 days a year, at a boarding rate of $60/day per animal.

The additional $15 million is for false arrest, false imprisonment, selective enforcement and the death of his mother, Shirley.
The lawsuit, which is filed against the U.S. Department of Interior, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and government agents, accuses them of violating his civil rights.

In the lawsuit, Maldonado-Passage alleges that government entities targeted him by putting a “generic animal” — a tiger — on the endangered species list, which allowed them to file charges against him to promote their alleged “animal rights agenda.”

Maldonado-Passage also alleges that a wildlife agent “knowingly accepted statements he knew were false, allowing his witnesses to lie under oath. Misleading a grand jury and not seeking the truth to further an animal rights agenda. False arrest, entrapment, false imprisonment, all contributing to my mother’s death.”

He also claims he was targeted “because [he] is an openly gay male with the largest collection of generic tigers and crossbreeds.”

In addition, Maldonado-Passage accused his former business partner, Jeffrey Lowe, of filing false statements to federal agents. “He was the main person in this entrapment scheme to take my zoo for free,” he alleged. “Changed my medicine with illegal drugs, stole my animals under fraudulent reasons.”

Oklahoma Zookeeper ‘Joe Exotic’ Indicted for Alleged Murder-for-Hire Against an Animal Activist

The former zookeeper alleged Lowe “had the most to gain” by his mother’s death and “having her cremated before announcing that she had died, therefor making Jeffery Lowe the sole owner of the zoo land and all assets on the zoo land including [Maldonado-Passage’s] animals.”

Maldonado-Passage was found guilty in 2019 for paying a hitman $3,000 to kill his rival, Carole Baskin, an animal activist and big-cat lover who runs a sanctuary called the Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, Fla.

The hit did not go through, and the former founder of Oklahoma’s Exotic Animal Memorial Park is now serving 22 years for the attempted murder plot.

He was also found guilty of killing tigers to make room for more big cats at his exotic animal park.

In the complaint, Maldonado-Passage claims he “humanely euthanized” five tigers because they had suffered “14 years of painful walking on declawed paws to the point that they were crippled.”

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He is currently in the Grandy County Jail in Oklahoma.

Jeff Lowe’s wife, Lauren Lowe, says she and her husband are not concerned about the lawsuit.

“He has to be approved by a judge in order for it to go through and we have been told that it has a chance of not being approved,” she tells PEOPLE. 

Lowe says she and her husband will continue to take care of the animals from Maldonado-Passage’s zoo, which were left in their care.

“They are our family,” she says. “I wouldn’t trade it for the world. You give up a lot to care for these animals and we are going to keep doing that… We want to make sure they live well. Joe abandoned all these cats. We spend countless dollars just trying to bring these guys back up to health and making sure they get the best food they can get and healthcare too.”

Baskin could not be reached for comment. The U.S. Department of Justice declined to comment.

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Ill. Woman Claimed Boyfriend's Son Fell, Became Unresponsive — But Now She's Charged with Murder

An Illinois woman is accused of beating her boyfriend’s 4-year-old son to death and then claiming he died after slipping on a wet floor.

Lesli Jett, 33, has pleaded not guilty to three counts of first-degree murder with intent to kill a child under the age of 12 and one county of aggravated battery, WMBD, Mix1068 and the Journal Star report. If found guilty on any of the murder counts, she faces up to 100 years in prison.

Jett was accused of murdering her boyfriend’s son, Tate “T.T.” Thurman, after the boy was found unresponsive by first responders on Feb. 18.

Jett had called 911 that day to report the boy was suffering from cardiac arrest. But first responders who came to the family’s East Peoria home called police because Tate’s body was covered in bruises and Jett’s phone call had seemed suspicious to them.

Jett allegedly claimed the boy had “slipped on some water and fell on the floor and immediately became unresponsive,” according to a probable cause affidavit obtained by multiple outlets.

Only Jett and another child, 2, who was sleeping, was home at the time of the incident, according to the affidavit.

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Tate was transported to a hospital in critical condition, where doctors found he was suffering from internal bleeding due to a large intestinal tear. His body was also covered in extensive bruising and lacerations. Doctors believe Tate fell into a coma 30 minutes after the bleeding began.

Two days later, Tate succumbed to his injuries without ever regaining consciousness. Jett and Tate’s father have insisted that the injuries were from his fall and not abuse.

On Thursday, the Peoria County Coroner said Tate’s injuries were “grossly inconsistent” with Jett’s story, WMBD reports.

An autopsy found Tate also suffered from a fractured collarbone, deep muscular bruising and extensive contusions and abrasions across his body, including his buttocks and genital area.

Jett’s bond was set at $3 million. Her public defender could not be reached for comment Friday.

If you suspect child abuse, call the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child or 1-800-422-4453, or go to http://www.childhelp.org. All calls are toll-free and confidential. The hotline is available 24/7 in more than 170 languages.

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Ohio Mom Checked into Miss. Hotel With 3 Sons, Then Allegedly Killed Her 11-Year-Old

An Ohio mother has been arrested by Louisiana authorities on charges out of Mississippi, where investigators have alleged she killed one of her three young sons in a hotel room.

Numerous local reports — including those from the Columbus Dispatch, WLBT and the Clarion Ledger — indicate that Latina Marie Oates, 33, was detained in New Orleans Wednesday morning.

Officials in Mississippi issued an Amber Alert for Oates’ two sons, aged 6 and 9, after finding the body of her 11-year-old son around 11:30 a.m. Tuesday in a room at the Hampton Inn in Laurel, Mississippi.

Laurel Police have identified the deceased son as Joshua Oates, a sixth grader.

Oates has been formally charged with one count of first-degree murder stemming from Joshua’s death.

Police have yet to disclose how the boy was killed.

The two surviving sons have been found and are in protective custody.

Investigators learned Oates had checked into the hotel on Saturday with her children.

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The boy’s body was found by the hotel’s housekeeping staff.

Joshua had been dead for several hours before his body was discovered.

Oates is expected to be extradited back to Mississippi from New Orleans.

She has yet to plead to the murder count against her, and information on her attorney, if she has one, was unavailable.

It is unclear why Oates was in Laurel, or why she went to New Orleans. A motive for the killing is also unknown at this time.


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Mira Sorvino, Rose McGowan & More React to Harvey Weinstein Sentence

Harvey Weinstein‘s sentencing resulted in a swarm of reactions — including from the women who accused him of rape.

Weinstein, 67, was sentenced to 23 years in prison on Wednesday after his February conviction on charges of a first-degree criminal sexual act and third-degree rape.

The disgraced movie producer could have faced up to 29 years in prison. Prosecutors had asked for the maximum while Weinstein’s defense attorneys argued for the minimum sentence of five years.

Although more than 80 women have claimed they were victimized by Weinstein, according to The New York Times, the charges in the Manhattan trial were focused on only two women: former production assistant Miriam “Mimi” Haleyi and aspiring actress Jessica Mann.

Several A-list actresses shared their reactions to Weinstein’s sentencing on Twitter and Instagram, including some of his accusers such as Rose McGowan, Mira Sorvino and Rosanna Arquette.

“23 years. Harvey Weinstein has been sentenced to 23 years in prison for his crimes of rape and sexual assault,” Sorvino tweeted. “I literally cried tears of amazement, gratitude that the justice system has worked on behalf of all of his victims today.”

Arquette tweeted, “Gratitude to all the silence breakers especially Rose and all survivors of weinstein to the brave women who testified and to the incredible investigative reporting of Ronan farrow who uncovered the sabotage and spying and to david Remnick thank you Rich McKuen and ny times.”

In a New Yorker interview with Ronan Farrow, who helped break the news of the Weinstein scandal in October 2017, McGowan expressed relief at the sentencing, saying, “I haven’t exhaled in so long.”

“I was honestly shocked. And I’m still quite shocked, pleasantly, of course, because the other alternative is misery,” McGowan said. “And I know that every woman who has been affected by him and everybody who’s ever been affected by this period had this kind of collected breath held, right? And this is not a referendum on #MeToo, you know, which Tarana [Burke, who created the term] created as a language tool, right? ‘This happened to me, too’ — that’s what it is.”

Ellen Barkin also tweeted, “23 years. God bless you, Jessica Mann, Mimi Hayley and all 108 survivors for your courage and fight. Thank you Ronan Farrow. Thank you Judge Burke. Thank you to the jury. Thank you for believing survivors. Thank you for changing the future for us all.”

Jameela Jamil also reacted on Twitter, writing, “Harvey Weinstein sentenced to 23 years in jail! Congratulations to the incredible women who took this monster on, in spite of how maliciously he retaliated. You have made a huge leap forward for all women with this victory. Also so much love to @RonanFarrow.”

Farrow’s mother, the actress Mia Farrow, tweeted, “Harvey Weinstein Is Sentenced to 23 Years in Prison. Thoughts with every courageous women who, knowing the risks, dared to come forward to speak their truth.”

Farrow, who also wrote the book Catch and Kill which went in-depth on serial abusers, also tweeted his thoughts, writing, “In a letter to the judge this week, Weinstein’s attorneys said that reporting “destroyed“ his life. In fact, it fairly parsed a mountain of evidence suggesting Weinstein’s actions accomplished that. I hope it encourages more people to speak and more outlets to back tough stories.”

“The Weinstein sentence reminds us of the importance of those sources and of leaders at news organizations who refused to kill the story—including the editors at the New Yorker who published the first allegations of rape and assault about Weinstein,” he continued. “A lot of news underlines how hard it is to hold wealthy and connected people accountable. Today’s shows the power of people who speak up, from a position of far less power, at great personal risk.”

 

Weinstein, a producer behind 20 best-picture Oscar nominees — his five winners in the category include Shakespeare in Love, Chicago and The King’s Speech — had fiercely denied the allegations, countering that his sexual encounters with the two accusers in the New York case were consensual.

His fall from grace was swift. His prosecution followed two investigations published separately in October 2017 by the Times and The New Yorker magazine that propelled the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements against sexual assault in the entertainment industry and other workplaces.

In a statement to PEOPLE after the verdict, Weinstein’s lawyers said, “While he was not convicted on the most serious charges, we are disappointed in the verdict and will be filing an appeal. There are issues in this trial that were extremely troubling, and they prejudiced Mr. Weinstein’s ability to have his case fairly judged.”

Weinstein faces additional charges in Los Angeles, where the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office on January 6 unsealed new charges there, accusing Weinstein of raping one woman and sexually assaulting another in separate incidents over a two-day period in 2013.

He has not yet entered a plea to those allegations, which carry a separate penalty of 28 years in state prison if he is later convicted on those California charges.

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Ohio Plastic Surgeon Accused of Drugging and Raping Unconscious Women on Video for Years

An Ohio plastic surgeon has allegedly been using sedatives obtained through his practice to drug and rape multiple women secretly on camera for a number of years, according to federal authorities who have been investigating him.

Dr. Manish Raj Gupta, 49, was arrested and charged on Friday for illegally dispensing controlled substances, aggravated sexual abuse, and sex trafficking by force, fraud or coercion, the Cleveland Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation said in a press release.

Gupta was taken into custody after federal authorities and agents from the Drug Enforcement Agency, the Ohio Pharmacy Board and the Ohio Medical Board conducted an investigation at his two Artisan Cosmetic and Reconstructive Surgery offices in Toledo and Oregon, Ohio and his home in Sylvania, Ohio.

During the search, authorities say they found electronic storage devices containing recordings of Gupta allegedly performing sexual acts on unconscious women in various hotel rooms across the United States, according to the release.

Authorities said they also found recordings taken from “small cameras positioned around the room during the sex acts,” as well as footage showing Gupta’s face and a medical bag that he had employees ship to hotels he would stay at for medical conferences outside of Ohio.

Investigators began looking into Gupta in January 2019 after a woman who worked as a “high-end escort” claimed that the plastic surgeon had “improperly drugged and then performed sex acts” on her in September 2016, according to a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court for Northern Ohio on Friday.

The woman, identified as KB, had arranged to met Gupta at a hotel in Los Angeles while he was in town for a medical convention. At one point in the evening, KB took a sip of Prosecco from a glass poured by the doctor and fell into unconsciousness, the arrest affidavit, obtained by PEOPLE, said.

After leaving the hotel in the morning, KB took an at-home drug test that showed she had a tranquilizer in her system, according to the court document. She then went to a treatment center for a rape test, but did not report the incident to police.

Following her encounter with Gupta, investigators said KB visited two websites used by women who date online to report “men who are dangerous,” where she found complaints “dating from March 2013 through September 2016” that “identify Manish Gupta or Dr. G as a plastic surgeon from Toledo, Ohio, as ‘very dangerous.'”

There, another woman claimed that Gupta “drugged me during a date, raped me and recorded all this,” according to the affidavit obtained by PEOPLE.

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The FBI said on Tuesday that Gupta’s employees previously found a medical bag in his office containing sex toys, lubricant, plastic syringes, empty anesthesia bottles among other items investigators believe to have been used to drug these women.

As Gupta has previously traveled to Cleveland, Miami, Chicago, Los Angeles, Detroit and Colorado to attend medical conferences, investigators are now concerned that there may be more victims unknown to law enforcement at this time.

The investigation remains ongoing and those with information are asked to contact law enforcement at [email protected] or call 216-622-6842, according to the FBI.

An attorney for Gupta declined to comment.

If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual abuse, text “STRENGTH” to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 to be connected to a certified crisis counselor.

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Mich. Mom Went Missing and Her Burned Body Was Found Days Later, as Police Search for Answers

Police are searching for answers in the death of a Michigan mom who vanished and whose burned body was discovered days later.

Alison Sargent, a 25-year-old mom of two young daughters, was reported missing by her boyfriend on Thursday evening. The Calhoun County Sheriff Department opened a missing persons investigation.

On Saturday afternoon, a person walking along a street in Emmett Township, Michigan, spotted her badly burned body on the side of the road. The body has been positively identified as Sargent’s, and the medical examiner’s office is performing an autopsy in the hopes of determining her cause of death.

MLive.com reports her death is being investigated as a homicide.

The last known sighting of Sargent was at a Meijer grocery store in the very early hours of Thursday, before she was reported missing. She was caught on surveillance video as she entered and left the store.

Her 2012 Black Dodge Journey is still missing. Police say it has a pink license plate frame and four stickers on the rear window.

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According to the Battle Creek Enquirer, detectives spent the weekend processing the crime scene where Sargent’s body was found. Authorities have not yet named any suspects in her death, and no one has been arrested. The Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office tells PEOPLE that the investigation is ongoing.

A friend of Sargent’s father has organized a GoFundMe to raise money for funeral expenses.

“I could not imagine the pain he must be dealing with,” organizer Jeffrey Kill wrote about Sargent’s father. “Most people don’t plan on burying their kids; it’s something you are never prepared for.”

“RIP ALISON,” Kill continues. “You are deeply missed already. Praying for her family, her kids, and everyone that was close to her.”

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Ala. Man Accused of Murdering Girlfriend with Baseball Bat

Authorities have charged an Alabama man with murder for allegedly bludgeoning his longtime girlfriend to death before wrapping her body up in a tarp, PEOPLE confirms.

The Mobile County Sheriff’s Office confirms Latasha Johnson was killed on Thursday morning.

According to investigators, Christopher Wayne Kern, 26, called 911 seeking help for Johnson, whose age was not released.

“911 received a call from a male party saying that his girlfriend had stopped breathing and was in cardiac arrest,” Captain Paul Burch with the Mobile County Sheriff’s Office told WALA-TV.

“Mobile County EMS responded and quickly assessed that it was much more to it than cardiac arrest,” Burch added, noting Johnson showed signs of “obvious head trauma.”

Police allege Kern struck Johnson in the head with a baseball bat during a domestic argument, killing her.

Later, he allegedly partially wrapped Johnson’s body in a tarp.

“Just a very tragic situation and I can never stress enough to people who may be involved in a domestic violence situation, get out before it’s too late,” Burch continued. “Typically, those situations don’t change.”

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Police confirm that the couple has a child together, and that Johnson had other children.

The Birmingham News reports that last year alone, the Mobile County Sheriff’s Office responded to three domestic calls at the Irvington residence where the homicide took place.

Kern has yet to plead to the murder charge and information on his attorney was not available Friday morning.


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Mich. Special Ed Teacher Gets Prison for Having Sex with 2 Boys, Giving Victim Xanax

A Michigan teacher who had sex with two students — and gave Xanax to one of them — will go to prison.

On Tuesday, Kathryn Houghtaling was sentenced to at least four years in prison. In January, she had pleaded no contest to six counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct with two boys, ages 16 and 17, and providing a controlled substance, to one of them.

In December 2018, Houghtaling, 26, had sex with one boy in a car while other students watched and also had sex with another student in his home, the Detroit News, News4 and Fox2 report.

Houghtaling was arrested in January 2019 after a parent found a video of a group of students and Houghtaling “partying” with alcohol and marijuana, The Detroit News, WWJ and the The Oakland Press reported.

At the time, Houghtaling was a first-year special education teacher at Rochester High School.

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During the sentencing hearing, both victims spoke before Houghtaling gave a contrite statement.

“I have learned so much about myself and other people through this tough process. I’ve learned to take full responsibility for my controllable actions and seek help for those that I cannot control,” she said in the Oakland County courtroom.

Houghtaling befriended the students by drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana with them after school. At the time of her arraignment, Houghtaling’s attorney told the court that one of the victims was her student.

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2 Charges Dropped in Ronnie Ortiz-Magro's Domestic Violence Case with Ex Jen Harley

Two charges have been dropped in Ronnie Ortiz-Magro‘s domestic violence case with ex-girlfriend Jen Harley.

On Friday, the Jersey Shore star lawyer told PEOPLE that the City Attorney dropped two of the seven charges against Ortiz-Magro.

“As we have been saying from the beginning, the facts and circumstances and relating to the arrest and charging of Ronnie were exaggerated and factually incorrect,” Ortiz-Magro’s attorney said in a statement. “Now, after further investigation, the City’s Attorney agreed with us and dismissed 2 of the pending charges against Ronnie. They agreed that these allegations were baseless and made up. We are hoping further investigation will yield similar results.”

The exes have a volatile relationship history, each having accused the other of abuse and infidelity.

In October 2019, Ortiz-Magro was arrested on a kidnapping charge after an alleged altercation with Harley, 32. A spokesperson for the Los Angeles Police Department confirmed to PEOPLE at the time that authorities responded to a battery report at around 2:40 a.m. “The victim and suspect were involved in some kind of physical altercation,” the spokesperson said. “Officers did have to use a taser on the suspect in which a minor use of force occurred. There was no further incident.” The kidnapping charge was then dropped, but he was charged with domestic violence, brandishing a weapon, child endangerment, resisting arrest, and making criminal threats misdemeanors, to which he pleaded not guilty.

The reality star was ordered to stay 100 yards away from Harley, TMZ first reported. The order was in place until Oct. 11.

According to Harley’s attorney Lisa Bloom, she obtained another restraining order against Ortiz-Magro on Nov. 8.

Last month, Ortiz-Magro, 34, was granted an emergency order for protection against domestic violence after he said Harley attacked him.

“Regrettably, on Saturday night, Ronnie Ortiz-Magro was, again, the victim of a domestic violence incident at the hands of Jennifer Harley,” Ortiz-Magro’s lawyer said in a previous statement. “At that time, Ms. Harley, entered his home while he was sleeping and started viciously assaulting him.”

“Ronnie immediately called the Las Vegas Police Department and filed a domestic violence complaint against Jennifer,” the statement continued. “Then, this morning, a Family Court Judge in the Clark County (Las Vegas, NV) District Court, Family Division granted Ronnie an Emergency Order for Protection Against Domestic Violence. This Emergency Order is in effect until February 25, 2020.

When reached by PEOPLE for comment, Bloom said that Harley had yet to be served with the restraining order.

“Contact that Ronnie Ortiz had with Jenn Harley recently was in violation of the restraining order in effect against him,” Bloom said. “We have not received any restraining order against her, and if Jenn does get served with one, we will oppose it. Jenn just wants to raise her baby in peace.”

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