Megachurch pastor criticized for buying wife $200G Lamborghini

A South Carolina pastor defended buying his wife a $200,000 Lamborghini Urus as an eighth wedding anniversary present after coming under fire for the purchase. Pastor John Gray, the leader of Relentless Church in Greenville, S.C., came under fire for presenting his wife, Aventer, with the expensive vehicle. A video that went viral, which has … Continue reading “Megachurch pastor criticized for buying wife $200G Lamborghini”

A South Carolina pastor defended buying his wife a $200,000 Lamborghini Urus as an eighth wedding anniversary present after coming under fire for the purchase.

Pastor John Gray, the leader of Relentless Church in Greenville, S.C., came under fire for presenting his wife, Aventer, with the expensive vehicle. A video that went viral, which has since been deleted, showed the pastor surprising his wife with the keys to the luxury vehicle last week, the Charlotte Observer reported.

The pastor was criticized by social media users questioning how he could afford the car. In a Facebook Live video Thursday, Gray defended the purchase while tearing up at times.

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“Pastor buys his wife this expensive car,” Gray said. “First of all it wasn’t a pastor who bought the car, it was a husband that bought the car. Get that in your spirit.”

He also addressed the speculation that he used some money from the church to pay for the Lamborghini.

“Did this man use any money from the church to do this?” Gray asked. “And the answer is no. Absolutely not. And God, take my life on this live feed if I did.”

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The pastor continued that the car was bought with money he saved from his second book deal and the fourth season of his reality show “The Book of John Gray” which airs on the OWN Channel.

"My wife has pushed for my dreams and my vision and she has toiled with a man who is still trying to find himself," he said. "That carries a weight. I wanted to honor her for how she’s covered me."

Gray said he has put a deposit on the car but has not fully paid it off. In an Instagram post, his wife defended her husband.

“My hubby is a hard worker,” she wrote. “He worked his whole life and he saved to bless his wife.”

Kathleen Joyce is a breaking/trending news producer for FoxNews.com. You can follow her at @Kathleen_Joyce8 on Twitter.

You can own an 80-foot forestry tower in South Carolina, but there’s a catch

Christmas shoppers in South Carolina looking for a gift that towers above the rest may be in luck.

An 80-foot tall fire lookout tower in Paris Mountain State Park near Greenville is up for sale, but with a very specific catch: The buyer has 10 days to move the tons of steel that make up the 72-year-old structure from the date of sale, in this case, Monday. The removal would most likely cost much more than the purchase price.

“These items are for pickup only at the 35 Tower Rd in Greenville, South Carolina,” the state surplus auction site reads. “The winning bidder is responsible for the loading and removal of this property. No assistance available from the agency.”

“Pickup only” could require trucks to haul parts of the tower away to a new location and possibly a crane for bigger sections. Re-erecting it is another story.

David Owen, a property manager with the state Forestry Commission, couldn’t give an exact figure of the tower’s tonnage, the Post and Courier newspaper reported.

A fire lookout tower up for sale this holiday season requires it be moved by the winning bidder.

Instead of selling the steel for scrap, buyers usually bring the towers home and restore them on big plots of land.

By early Saturday, six bidders had the structure on their holiday wish list. The highest bid was $525, according to the auction site.

There's no question the tower's a fixer-upper.

“Inspection recommended,” according to a description of the structure. “The agency is reporting this item is in fair condition overall but needs repairs to the steps, windows and cab floor.”

In years past, winning bids for towers have ranged from $1,000 to $5,000, said David Owen, property manager for the state Forestry Commission.

“It’s quite a view from up there,” Owen said.

South Carolina teen pleads guilty to murdering father, 6-year-old-boy

A South Carolina teen could face life in prison after he pleaded guilty Wednesday to murdering his father and a six-year-old boy.

Jesse Osborne was 14 when he shot and killed his father, Jeffrey, in their home on Sept. 28, 2016. According to a confession he gave following his arrest, Osborne shot his father in the head three times as he sat in a chair.

Investigators said he then drove his father’s pickup truck three miles to Townville Elementary School in Anderson County where he opened fire on a group of students playing outside for recess.

Jacob Hall, 6, was shot in the leg and died three days later.

Osborne, now 16, entered a guilty plea Wednesday with no deal.

He could face anywhere between 30 years and life in prison when he is sentenced at a later date. The U.S. Supreme Court allows a life sentence without parole for suspects who are juveniles when they kill someone only in the most heinous of cases.

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Prosecutors said Osborne talked about the shooting on social media in the days leading up to the killings.

He considered shooting students at his middle school where he had been suspended earlier that fall for bringing a hatchet and machete.

"The middle school has tons of cops," he said in the chat group six days before shooting. "The elementary school doesn't."

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Osborne told investigators he was angry at his father because he would get drunk and berate and try to fight his mother and him. The teen also said in his confession that he was bullied.

Anderson County is a two-hour drive northwest of Columbia.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Paulina Dedaj is a writer/ reporter for Fox News. Follow her on Twitter @PaulinaDedaj.

Dead manatee pulled from South Carolina drainage area

A manatee was found dead near a drainage area in South Carolina this week, an unusual occurrence as these sea creatures typically migrate south in the search of warmer water during the winter.

The manatee, a female that was possibly 3 or 4 years old, was found Thursday in a drainage area near Pawleys Island, The Sun News reported. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials told the newspaper the animal likely “got stuck in a water control structure.”

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The manatee, which was removed from the water by wildlife officials who used a rope to pull it ashore, was later taken by officials with the Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge for a necropsy, or an animal autopsy. The results of the necropsy, which will help to better determine the animal's exact cause of death, have not yet been released.

An animal autopsy was performed on the manatee. (S.C.U.T.E)

“That’s the first time I’ve ever helped with anything like that,” an official with the Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge told The Sun News.

During the summer months when the water is warmer, manatees can be spotted near Hilton Head Island where they typically feed in the local marshes, according to The Sun News. But they migrate south during the winter months when the temperature of the water drops.

It’s not clear why the dead manatee did not migrate south. Melanie Olds, a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said the animal’s smaller size could have prevented it from making the journey.

The creatures do not adapt well to cold water temperatures.

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“Manatees need warm water to survive. In spite of their size, they have relatively little body fat, and their metabolic rate is low compared to other marine mammals. Manatees cannot tolerate temperatures below 20 ° C (68 ° F) for long periods of time. Researchers believe that individuals affected by the cold cannot produce enough metabolic heat to make up for heat loss in the environment,” the organization Save the Manatee explains online.

“You hope they get out of here before the water gets cold,” Jeff McClary, a co-founder of the South Carolina United Turtles Enthusiasts (S.C.U.T.E), said.

Madeline Farber is a Reporter for Fox News. You can follow her on Twitter @MaddieFarberUDK.

South Carolina fisherman hooks 17-foot great white shark: It was a ‘monster’

As a charter fisherman who assists shark experts with their research by hooking and tagging great whites, South Carolinian Chip Michalove has come across a number of impressively-sized sharks throughout the years.

But none were more impressive than the “monster” great white he hooked earlier this week. Michalove told Fox News on Thursday he estimated the massive fish weighed 3,500 pounds and was roughly 17 feet in length.

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Michalove hooked the shark, a female, at roughly 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday off the coast of Hilton Head. He was accompanied by Jon Dodd of the Atlantic Shark Institute at the time.

Michalove, who also tags sharks on behalf of experts at the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, wrote on Facebook the shark “spit the hook after a 15 [minute] battle.”

“After she threw the hook and came partially out of the water twice, she turned and chased the bait back to the boat as we reeled it back in,” he continued. “We dropped the bait back to her, but she wised up. She wouldn’t give us another shot.”

A roughly 10-foot great white Michalove hooked and tagged Tuesday. (Chip Michalove/ Outcast Sport Fishing)

“It was a bittersweet day because we did land and tag a 10-footer, but I can’t help but think about the one I lost,” he said. He also hooked a shark later that afternoon but lost it. He told The Island Packet he and Dodd were too tired from the battles with the two other two sharks, which is why they were unable to tag the third.

Michalove — who is “obsessed with sharks” and has been “ever since [he] was little and watched ‘Jaws’”— told Fox News this was only the second time he has hooked three great white sharks in one outing; the first time being a couple of years ago.

“To get three in one day was pretty surprising; it’s extremely rare,” he said.

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The fisherman, who is the charter captain at Outcast Sport Fishing, said he finds the most great whites off the Hilton Head coast during the winter months. It’s for this reason he’s confident the 17-footer who escaped him Tuesday will return.

“I’ll have another shot,” he said confidently. “She’ll be back.”

Madeline Farber is a Reporter for Fox News. You can follow her on Twitter @MaddieFarberUDK.

South Carolina woman kills escaped jail inmate who kicked down her door, sheriff says

Hours after he and another inmate escaped jail after beating up a security guard, a South Carolina inmate was fatally shot after he broke into a woman’s house, officials said.

Bruce McLaughlin Jr., 30, was shot in the head by the woman after he kicked in her back door on Tuesday, according to Pickens County authorities.

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After he entered the home, McLaughlin grabbed a knife sharpening tool from the kitchen and headed toward the woman’s bedroom around 3 a.m. Sheriff Rick Clark said the woman was home alone and had undergone concealed weapons training at some point prior to the incident.

"This was a big guy. If she hadn't had a weapon there's no telling what would have happened," the sheriff said. "I gave her a big hug. I told her how proud I was of her."

Clark said the incident was “a shining example” of why owning and knowing how to properly use a gun is important.

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McLaughlin had been in and out of the county jail roughly a dozen times on charges ranging from drug possession to assaulting a police officer to shoplifting, officials said. He was currently awaiting trial on first-degree burglary and grand larceny charges.

Another inmate, identified as Timothy Dill, also escaped the jail. They allegedly beat up two guards as part of their escape, which they planned for days.

The sheriff said that other inmates tried to help the guards as they were being attacked. McLaughlin and Dill stole the guards’ keys and locked them in a room, but the other inmates broke the door down.

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The guards suffered bruises and one complained of a sore back, but they’re expected to recover.

Dill is charged with escape along with two counts of kidnapping, and first-degree assault and battery as well as other charges. He’s awaiting trial on a criminal sexual conduct with a minor charge.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Nicole Darrah covers breaking and trending news for FoxNews.com. Follow her on Twitter @nicoledarrah.

South Carolina prison escapee shot dead by homeowner, other jail-breaker captured, cops say

One inmate was shot dead by a homeowner and another escapee was captured soon after the pair engineered an ill-fated, early-morning prison break Tuesday from a facility in South Carolina, officials said.

The Pickens County Sheriff's Office told FOX Carolina the two inmates escaped around 2:40 a.m. from the Pickens County Prison, located about 25 miles west of Greenville. The pair had attacked two detention center officers and held them captive before escaping the facility.

"One of the inmates has been captured and is in custody here in Pickens County and the second inmate has been shot by a homeowner and is deceased," the sheriff's office told the Anderson Independent Mail.

The shooting took place in the community a short distance from the prison facility, the sheriff's office added.

Additional details about the escape and the identities of the inmates were not immediately released.

The sheriff's office is expected to hold a news conference at 11 a.m. Tuesday to release more information.

Travis Fedschun is a reporter for FoxNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @travfed

South Carolina battlefield covered in white cotton candy-like substance called ‘hair ice’

A wispy, white substance was recently spotted at a historic site in South Carolina, leading some to believe the objects were pieces of trash. But this cotton candy-looking material was actually an unusual frost formation known as “hair ice,” the South Carolina State Parks announced Thursday.

“This frost occurrence happens during humid winter nights when the temperature drops just below the freezing point. The textures and forms are a result of the fungus Exidiopsis effusa,” the South Carolina State Parks explained on Facebook.

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Photos of the hair ice, also known as “ice flowers,” were captured by a park ranger at Musgrove Mill, the site of a Revolutionary War battle in August of 1780.

The fungus responsible for these odd shapes was only recently determined; a study released in 2015 by the European Geosciences Union announced the fungus Exidiopsis effusa was the “missing ingredient” that gives hair ice its “peculiar shape,” the German and Swiss scientists who made the discovery wrote.

The scientists concluded these silky ice filaments are a result “ice segregation,” and noted “the same amount of ice is produced on wood with or without fungal activity, but without this activity, the ice forms a crust-like structure,” Christian Mätzler, a study co-author, said in a statement at the time.

Mätzler added the fungus helps the ice to “form thin hairs,” which have a diameter of roughly 0.01 mm, or 0.0004 inches, he said. The substance is able to keep its shape “over many hours” with close to freezing temperatures.

The fungus responsible was discovered in 2015 by scientists in Germany and Switzerland. (South Carolina State Parks)

A scientist named Alfred Wegener was the first to study hair ice in 1918 and, at the time, hypothesized the fungus was a key component in the formation of the unusual shapes. But the reasoning behind the “rare and fleeting” phenomenon was hard to confirm for just that reason, Gisela Preuß, a biologist who contributed to the study, explained at the time.

“Hair ice grows mostly during the night and melts again when the sun rises. It’s invisible in the snow and inconspicuous in hoarfrost,” Preuß said, noting it is typically seen in “broadleaf forest at latitudes between 45 and 55 degrees North.”

The images posted by the South Carolina State Parks garnered thousands of reactions and shares — many writing comments in awe of the icy creations.

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“Lived in SC all my life, 70 years, and have never seen this. Thank you for sharing,” one person wrote.

“So cool! We homeschool and this just gave us some great material to research more for science today!” another added.

“Never heard of this. How cool,” a third commented.

Madeline Farber is a Reporter for Fox News. You can follow her on Twitter @MaddieFarberUDK.

South Carolina megachurch camera caught man performing sex act on 3-year-old: cops

Surveillance video caught a South Carolina church volunteer performing a sex act on a 3-year-old child on Sunday, authorities said.

Jacop Robert Lee Hazlett, 28, a volunteer at NewSpring Church in North Charleston, was charged with first-degree criminal sexual conduct with a minor, South Carolina's WCSC-TV reported. A judge denied bond.

Hazlett was supervising a group of children, ages 3 to 5, in "the Tree House" room, The Post and Courier of Charleston reported.

The volunteer escorted the boy to a restroom in the church and performed oral sex on him before pulling up the 3-year-old's pants, the station reported, citing the affidavit. The act was caught on a camera positioned outside the bathroom, an investigator said.

Suzanne Swift, a church spokeswoman, told the station that there were no cameras inside the bathrooms at the church. The door reportedly could have been open.

A statement from the church said it was made aware of the concern and possibility of Hazlett's "inappropriate interaction with children," according to the station.

A letter was sent to parents of preschool children who attend the North Charleston campus, The Post and Courier reported.

“NewSpring is steadfastly committed to safety and security, and because of this commitment, we have an extensive screening process for all adults before they are allowed to volunteer with children, birth through 12th grade,” the letter said.

Hazlett faces a minimum of 25 years in prison and a maximum of a life sentence if convicted, the paper reported. No probation or parole may be granted for the offense, the report said.

Prisoners stole more than $500G from troops in ‘sextortion’ scam, authorities say

More than 400 U.S. military servicemembers paid over $500,000 in a blackmail "sextortion" scheme orchestrated by inmates in South Carolina correctional facilities posing as women online, authorities said.

On Wednesday, agents from several military criminal investigative agencies served arrest warrants and summonses to those allegedly involved in the scheme as the first phase of "Operation Surprise Party," the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) said in a news release.

In total, 442 troops from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps paid more than $560,000, according to the release.

"This despicable targeting of our brave service members will never be tolerated," NCIS Director Andrew Traver said in the release. "We will not allow criminal networks to degrade the readiness of our military force."

Aided by civilians, the inmates used fake names and online personas to target troops through online dating sites and media forums to engage in romantic relationships with the goal of extorting them for money, officials said.

Once messages and racy photos were exchanged, the prisoners allegedly posed as the girl’s father or a police officer, telling the servicemember the girl was underage and the images were child pornography, before demanding payment.

“With nothing more than smartphones and a few keystrokes, South Carolina inmates along with outside accomplices victimized hundreds of people,” Daniel Andrews, an army investigator focused on computer crimes, said in a news release.

Victims paid out of fear of jeopardizing their careers and repercussions from their command, officials said.

Once the servicemembers wired the cash, a runner received the transfer and deposited the funds into a JPay account, a payment processing system used by inmates, the Military Times reported.

The South Carolina Department of Corrections has petitioned to end inmates' ability to use mobile devices in prison.

More than 250 people associated with the scheme are under investigation and could face prosecution.

It was not clear how the extortion ring grew or how long it went on.

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Other scams involving the military involves compiling photos of military men and using them to start online romances with unsuspecting women before extorting them for money with threats of revealing personal information.