The top police force in Kentucky will NOT step in and block a church service featuring the rattlesnake that killed "Snake Salvation" star, Pastor Jamie Coots last Saturday.
TMZ broke the story ... the Middlesboro PD told us they would not enforce a state law prohibiting the handling or displaying of reptiles in religious services. Police Chief Jeffrey Sharpe told us the government has no business meddling in religious affairs.
So we called the Kentucky State Police ... they have the power to step in and take care of business if the local police refuses to enforce state law.
An official from the Kentucky State Police tells TMZ ... they acknowledge the law prohibits snake handling during services, but says unless they get a call from someone with a "legitimate" gripe, they won't barge into the service.
The new pastor, Cody Coots -- Jamie's son -- made it clear ... the same snake will be used in today's service.
Pop Artist Keith Haring
Art Dealers SUE for $40 Million
We Don't Sell Fakes!!!
2/21/2014 9:17 AM PST BY TMZ STAFF
Keith Haring's artwork is among the most recognizable of the 20th century -- but the authenticity of roughly 80 paintings has been called into question ... and now, a group of art dealers is suing for $40 MILLION, claiming it's being falsely accused of peddling fakes.
The Miami-based dealers are suing the Keith Haring Foundation after it accused them of selling bogus Harings at an exhibit in March last year called "Haring Miami."
Days after the exhibit opened, the Haring Foundation sued the dealers, seeking to block the exhibit. The Foundation claimed the vast majority of the 80+ paintings in it were counterfeit.
The "Haring Miami" organizers subsequently pulled all but 8 pieces of art from the exhibit.
Now the dealers who supplied the artworks are pissed, insisting ALL of them are the genuine work of Keith Haring -- who passed away from AIDS in 1990 -- and they're worth between $500,000 and $1 million a piece.
They're suing for defamation, claiming the Foundation's lawsuit not only cost them more than $40 million in sales -- it destroyed their rep in the art world -- and they want payback.
No Mood To Celebrate
Conviction of Stepson's Killer
2/21/2014 6:14 AM PST BY TMZ STAFF
Usher was in no mood to celebrate the conviction of the man who killed his stepson when he arrived Thursday at LAX.
Jeffrey Hubbard was just convicted of homicide for recklessly jet skiing. 11-year-old Kile Glover was riding an inner tube when he was struck by the jet ski and killed. Usher, who was married to Tameka, lived with the boy for several years and considered him his stepson.
Usher -- who has been in a nasty, ongoing legal fight with Tameka -- had words of sympathy for her and Kile's biological dad.
Jet Skier Found GUILTY In Stepson's Death
2/20/2014 1:24 PM PST BY TMZ STAFF
The verdict is in on the man accused of killing Usher's 11-year old stepson, Kile -- GUILTY.
TMZ broke the story ... Jeffrey Hubbard was arrested last March for running over the boy with a jet ski on a Georgia lake in 2012.
As we reported ... Kile Glover -- the son of Usher's ex-wife Tameka -- suffered severe brain injuries when Hubbard's jet ski collided with Kile ... who was on an inner tube that was being towed behind another boat. Kile was vacationing with his father, Ryan Glover, at the time of the accident.
In all, Hubbard was convicted on five counts, including homicide by vessel, reckless operation and unlawful operation of a personal watercraft.
WWE Star Big Daddy V
Dramatic Weight Loss
Before Deadly Heart Attack
2/20/2014 1:16 PM PST BY TMZ STAFF
Ex-WWE superstar Big Daddy V was on the road to getting healthy -- losing about 100 lbs. -- which is why his death by a heart attack this week shocked everyone who knew him ... according to his wife.
Cassandra Frazier tells TMZ ... V started getting healthy last year after doctors said his blood pressure was way too high, and it was affecting his diabetes.
She says the wrestler reacted by removing most salt and sugar from his diet ... losing most of the weight in the last 6 months -- and doctors said his blood pressure dropped to a healthy level.
Obviously, the weight loss came too late ... or it was too much too quickly.
B.D.V. died from a major heart attack Tuesday night.
Cassandra says, "I guess the Good Lord wanted him... I wanted him too, but He won."
Paul Walker's Dad
I'm the Money Man
2/20/2014 11:29 AM PST BY TMZ STAFF
Paul Walker got his dying wish -- at least one of them -- TMZ has learned, his dad is now officially the executor of his estate ... just like Paul requested in his will.
A judge approved Paul's request to make his dad executor this morning in Santa Barbara court.
The entire family was there -- Paul's mom and dad, his 15-year-old daughter Meadow, and Meadow's mother Rebecca Soteros. The issue of Meadow's guardianship was not raised in court.
As we reported, Paul specified in his will that he wanted his mother Cheryl to become Meadow's guardian in the event of his death. He made no mention of Rebecca.
Meadow's guardianship will be determined at a later hearing -- for now, she's living with grandma.
I'm Hurtin' For Cash Because Of Paul Walker's Death
2/20/2014 7:31 AM PST BY TMZ STAFF
Ludacris can't afford to pay thousands of dollars in child support -- and he's blaming his financial woes on the death of his "Fast and Furious" co-star Paul Walker.
Ludacris was in court Wednesday with his baby mama, Tamika Fuller ... who's demanding Luda pay her $15K a month to take care of his 2-month-old baby daughter, Cai.
But Luda went to court and told the judge ... he was counting on "Fast and Furious 7" money to make his payments, and the movie is now on hold so his payday went away.
Luda claims he can only pay $1,800 a month -- confessing he only made around $55K for 2013.
The judge split the baby down the middle, ordering Luda to pay 7K a month for now ... while hizzoner reviews all the financial docs.
By the way ... Tyrese also claimed relative poverty in his child support case because of Walker's death.
Philip Seymour Hoffman's Will
Keep My Son Away from Hollywood
2/19/2014 10:29 AM PST BY TMZ STAFF
Philip Seymour Hoffman's dying wish was to keep his children far, far away from Hollywood -- this according to the actor's will.
TMZ obtained a copy of PSH's will -- drawn up in 2004 -- and according to the document, Hoffman requested that his son Cooper (back then his only child) be raised in Manhattan ... in order to be surrounded by the culture, arts, and architecture of the city.
If NYC turned out to be impossible, Hoffman asked for his son to be raised in Chicago or San Francisco. And if that didn't work out either, Hoffman wanted his son to visit these cities at least TWICE per year ... for cultural purposes.
The glaring omission on his list is obviously Los Angeles -- interesting because Hoffman was a big time Hollywood actor who spent lots of time in L.A.
Clearly, he didn't think it was a suitable city to raise a kid in.
As for the entirety of his estate, Hoffman left the whole shebang to his longtime partner and the mother of his 3 children, Mimi O'Donnell.
WWE Star Big Daddy V
Dies from Heart Attack
2/19/2014 6:21 AM PST BY TMZ STAFF
WWE superstar Big Daddy V -- real name Nelson Frazier Jr. -- died Tuesday night after suffering a major heart attack.
The WWE issued a statement confirming Frazier's death -- saying, "Our deepest condolences go out to Frazier's family, friends and fans."
During his run in the WWE, Frazier -- who also went by the name Mabel -- was a World Tag Team Champion, Hardcore Champion and the 1995 King of the Ring.
Big Daddy V's friend MVP tweeted out his condolences after learning of his death -- writing, "I'm going to put one in the air for my fallen colleague Big Vis. This sh*t always sucks but some suck more than others."
Frazier Jr. was 42.
Shayne Lamas, Nik Richie
We Named Our Son
After He Died
2/19/2014 1:00 AM PST BY TMZ STAFF
Shayne Lamas and husband Nik Richie not only tragically lost their 20-week-old unborn baby last week ... Nik was put through one of the most heart-wrenching moments a father can bear -- having to name and hold the baby after it died.
TMZ broke the story ... Shayne suffered a rare pregnancy complication last week and underwent an emergency hysterectomy to save her life and stop the massive bleeding. In the process, she lost her baby.
Nik tells TMZ ... a few days after the baby died, a social worker from the hospital, along with someone involved in the religion affiliated with the hospital, came to him and asked if he wanted to know the gender of his baby. He said yes, and they told him the baby was "a beautiful boy."
But then Nik says, he was asked if he wanted to view his son to get closure. Nik says he nervously obliged and was taken to a room where his son lay. Nik says they asked him to hold the baby while they prayed.
But it wasn't over. Nik was then told he needed to name his child so they could fill out a birth certificate. Nik, who was overwrought with emotion, told them he always wanted a son named Rex, so he named the boy Rex Jagger Lamas-Richie. He chose Jagger because of Mick.
Nik says he's glad he got to see his son but it was the hardest thing he's ever done.
As for Shayne ... Nik says she doing better but -- after a medically-induced coma and a cardiac arrest scare -- she's still in ICU and in danger.
Nik wrote a letter to his son, that he asked us to share.
Confessed Craigslist Killer
ZERO Evidence She's A Serial Killer ...
2/18/2014 11:27 AM PST BY TMZ STAFF
Self-confessed killer Miranda Barbour SAYS she left a deadly trail of bodies -- between 22 and 100 -- during a serial murder spree ... but so far there's NO evidence she's telling the truth.
The District Attorney in Northumberland County PA tells TMZ ... "As of this date there has been no verification of any of the information that has been the subject of media coverage regarding prior acts of the defendant."
So short story ... Barbour's claim that she has murdered between 22 and 100 people so far is unsupported.
Nonetheless ... the D.A. says any info he gets will be forwarded on to the FBI and other law enforcement agencies.
But the D.A. clearly thinks Barbour has committed one murder -- the man who she says she met on Craigslist and stabbed 20 times. And the D.A. indicates he may well ask for the death penalty.
Barbour's lawyer has already asked a judge to block any bid for execution.
'Whip It' Guitarist
Dead at 61
2/18/2014 8:55 AM PST BY TMZ STAFF
Devo Guitarist Bob Casale -- known for the hit 1980 song "Whip It" -- has died, TMZ has learned.
Bob's brother Gerald -- also a founding member of the band -- tells TMZ, Bob passed away suddenly on Monday from health complications that led to heart failure.
Gerald tells us, "As an original member of Devo, Bob Casale was there in the trenches with me from the beginning. He was my level-headed brother, a solid performer, and talented audio engineer, always giving more than he got."
Bob was 61.
Devo was formed in 1972 and hit the Billboard charts in 1980 with "Whip It" ... one of the first music videos to make a huge splash on MTV back in the day.
Craigslist Murderer is Hilarious
There Should Be More Like Her
2/18/2014 8:25 AM PST BY TMZ STAFF
RJ Mitte thinks mass murder is really funny ... because he got a good laugh over the woman who claims she murdered between 22 and 100 people.
The "Breaking Bad" star was leaving Pinz Bowling Center in the San Fernando Valley Monday night when our photog asked him about the Craigslist killer. He genuinely thinks Miranda Barbour is "hilarious" -- a real-life Dexter he says.
But wait ... there's more. RJ says even though it's messed up, there should be more killers like Miranda.
RJ seems to have been influenced by his fake dad ... he's a nice guy, but man this is weird.