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Police Start Foot Patrols in Hartford Business District


Hartford Police have taken new steps to fight crime and boost the economy by starting a new police unit assigned to work with business owners.

The goal is respond to quality of life issues that can have an negative impact on the small local businesses on Park Street and to clean up the area so it can be more inviting for shoppers and families.

Community Service Officers will be assigned to cover the business district on Park Street, between Main and Parkview Terrace.

Officials said business owners in the area asked police for help. For the last month and a half, four officers have made their presence known on Park Street. 

They started to walk the blocks day and night, and go into the dozens of businesses to ask about issues, and way to improve this neighborhood.  

Since the extra patrols started, police said they stopped people from dealing drugs and drinking alcohol in front of the store fronts, and playing loud music.

“Just their presence alone gives me a sense of security,” said Ivanis Rivera, the owner of Cool Aid.

She said the new patrols chased away the unwanted crowds that have loitered by her door consistently.  She said more customers are showing up at her clothing store as well. “It makes people feel more welcome and open to see what we have to offer,” Rivera added.

The Deputy Police Chief said the experimental patrols have improved the quality of life too.

 “We want them to feel safe we want them to have an enjoyable environment where they can bring their families,” Deputy Chief Luis Rodriguez explained.  

He also told NBC Connecticut neighbors have gotten to know these officers, and they’ve become more comfortable reporting crimes and suspicious activity.

“They’re coming forward with information,” Rodriguez explained.

The hope was that the change would attract a new crowd to this business district. Right now the Hartford Police Department is only running this experiment along Park Street.  Officials said police could expand the patrols across the city in the next few months.


United Illuminating Customers Object to Rate Increase


It's equal to about a cup of coffee. United Illuminating says the average increase will be about $2-$3 to your average bill.

Connecticut's two largest utility companies want to raise rates and now customers of UI are weighing in. Tonight a public hearing was held in Bridgeport.

Many who suffered so much during Irene and Sandy say they shouldn't be the ones getting hit again.

"It's still half a tank of gas. It's 25-30 bucks a year. It adds up over the course of the month paying bills," said Chris Romano, who lives on Cozy Beach in East Haven and lost power for nearly a week during Irene.

"We pay high enough. We pay some of the highest electric rates in the country."

Those rates might soon be even higher. United Illuminating has filed a request with the utilities authority to hike their rates starting in 2014. UI says it would mean about 2 dollars more a month.

"There's a number of pieces of infrastructure we need to replace in order to maintain the level of reliability our system has now," said Michael West, director of corporate communications for UI.

UI says the recent storms are only a small component of the increase. Thursday a second public hearing about the rate hike was held in Bridgeport.

"It's putting a dent I don't care if it's but two cents. It's two cents coming out of my pocket," said Lillian Ward of Bridgeport.

"Treat us like we're human beings. Then maybe we might agree to a rate increase but right now no," said Tonie Lawrence of Bridgeport

UI says it hasn't asked for an increase since 2008--even after the 2011 Nor'Easter and Irene. The power company is trying to make $95 million in revenue off this increase.

"Our residents should not be the ones who have to disproportionately shoulder the costs of these much needed improvements," said Bill Finch, Bridgeport's mayor.

If approved UI customers won't see that $2 extra on your bill until July of 2014.


Photo Credit: CL&P

Suspended Berlin Priest Sentenced on Child Porn Charges


Michael Miller, a suspended priest from St. Paul’s Roman Catholic Church in Berlin, pleaded guilty to charges including child pornography possession on Thursday and will serve a five-year sentence as part of a plea deal. 

Miller was in court on Thursday and pleaded guilty to risk of injury, obscenity and child porn charges.

His attorney said Miller is "terribly upset" about charges, but wants to get this behind him and took a plea.

Court documents stated that authorities looked through two of Miller’s computer and found numerous files showing obscene pictures of kids and child porn. 

"Now that Miller has pled guilty, he will never function as a priest again," a statement from the Archdiocese of Hartford says.

Rev. Miller was arrested last summer after police said he was having graphic conversations with a 13-year-old boy through Facebook and texting. 

The boy's mother was the one to contact police, officials said.

According to the arrest warrant, Miller confessed to having those conversations but said he never had physical contact with the boy.  That’s when he gave up the computers.

After Miller was charged, a church group posted his $300,000 bond and Miller was getting treatment at a rehab center.

The Archdiocese of Hartford issued a statement on Thursday after the plea:

"Michael Miller’s guilty plea to possession of child pornography, publishing an obscenity, and three counts of risk of injury to a minor comes after many months of personal deliberation, reflection and prayer. During this time, Miller has received medical treatment and undergone therapy.
"Two years ago, when the Berlin Police Department contacted the Archdiocese of Hartford and Miller’s Order, the Franciscan Friars Conventual, about the charges, Miller was immediately suspended from performing any priestly duties. Now that Miller has pled guilty, he will never function as a priest again.
"We hope that Miller’s plea will give some solace and closure to the minors he violated -- and their families. We will continue to pray for them so that they will continue to heal from this regrettable experience.

"It is important to note that the Archdiocese of Hartford and the Franciscan Friars Conventual cooperated fully with authorities and are fully committed to protecting the safety and well-being of the children of God. To report abuse of any kind, contact the Victims’ Assistance Office at the Archdiocese of Hartford at:  860-541-6491."



Photo Credit: Bob Mayer/Berlin Patch

Store Owner Traded Groceries for Sex With Girl: Cops


Hartford police have arrested a bodega owner who is accused sexually assaulting a girl and paying the woman who brought her to him in groceries and cash.

Police said Ruffino Fernandez, 55, is accused of sexually assaulting the girl and the alleged assaults happened between four and six times in the fall and winter of 2012.

Wilenlia David, 29, of East Hartford, is accused of bringing the girl to Fernandez and was paid in groceries as well as money, according to Hartford police.

She remains at large and is wanted on charges including two counts or sexually assaulting a victim under the age of 13, one count of fourth-degree sexual assault, three counts of conspiracy, risk of injury to a minor and prostitution.

Fernandez was in jail at the time of his arrest on gun and drug possession charges, according to Hartford police.

Photo Credit: Hartford Police

Federal, State Officials to Tour Sandy-Damaged Area


Federal, state and local officials will visit the Connecticut shoreline on Friday to view storm damage caused during Super Storm Sandy in October and discuss the disaster rebuilding process in the state.

The shoreline area from Fairfield County to East Haven and beyond suffered damage during the powerful storm, which damaged homes, caused flooding and took down trees. Six months later, many property owners are still rebuilding.

"We have finally settled with insurance very recently, and it's pretty much that way with everything. The damage here, the building department is overloaded, everything takes a long time," Frank Petrucci, of Milford, said.

"The two neighbors behind me, they haven't lived in their house since Sandy hit, and they still have a lot of work to do. It's been pretty significant," Tricia Andriolo-Bull, of Fairfield, said.

The Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force will walk around the area and explore ways to improve the federal disaster respond process and systems, as well as ways to be more responsive to local needs and concerns.

President Barack Obama established the task force in an executive order on Dec. 7 to “provide the coordination that is necessary to support” local rebuilding objectives.
Laurel Blatchford, the executive director of the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force; U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal; U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro; U.S. Rep. Jim Himes and local officials will view storm damage in New Haven, Bridgeport and Stamford.
In New Haven, Blatchford will participate in a roundtable discussion at the Sound School with statewide local elected officials to discuss the disaster rebuilding and federal reimbursement process.

The tour begins in New Haven at 11:15 a.m. followed by a roundtable discussion at Sound School.

From there, the tour continues in Marina Village in Bridgeport, then onto Cummings Park Beach/Municipal Marina on Shippan Avenue in Stamford.

Photo Credit: AP

5.5-Months Pregnant Sheriff’s Deputy Saves Drowning Teen


A 17-year-old boy will celebrate his high school graduation month thanks to a 5.5-months pregnant, off-duty Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputy who rescued him from the bottom of a lake.

Deputy Jenna Underwood-Nunez was having dinner with her family in the Silverwood Lake campground in San Bernardino County when she heard screaming coming from the lake. A glance toward the water revealed frantic splashing about 200 yards away from the shore.

Authorities revealed the details of their colleague’s harrowing April 27 rescue on Thursday.

“Placing herself and her unborn child at potential risk, Deputy Underwood sprang into action and immediately ran toward the drowning victim,” Underwood’s department said a statement.

Fully dressed, Underwood swam about 200 yards into the water to find the teen had already become fully submerged 15 feet below the surface. He was laying on lake bed.

Underwood dove to the bottom, pulled the victim up and then to shore, where she performed four cycles of CPR before the teen regained consciousness.

The boy was airlifted to the hospital and is expected to make a full recovery.

A six-year veteran of the force, Underwood works at the Century Regional Detention Facility.

$12,000 Custom Bike Stolen From Double-Arm Amputee


A Florida triathlon athlete who is a double-arm amputee says someone stole his custom bike early Thursday morning.

“It’s only fitted, it’s modified for me. You can’t sell it. You can’t ride it. You can’t do anything with it,” Hector Picard said. “So by stealing it, they are doing a lot more damage than they really know.”

Picard, 46, who has completed 73 triathlons in the past four years, said his special bike is worth $12,000 – but it’s worthless to anyone besides him. It’s a Seven Axiom titanium road bike, he said.

“It’s definitely obvious. The handlebars are different, the brakes are different,” he said. “The body of the bike, the frame, is completely modified. I mean, a regular person won’t be able to use it.”

Picard was involved in a work-related electrical accident in 1992.

“I received an electrical shock 21 years ago,” he said. “Thirteen thousands volts of electricity went through my body and caused the amputations and the burns.”

The accident left him in a coma for four weeks. His entire right arm and half of his left one were amputated.

Cristián de la Fuente Takes on Triathlon To Help St. Jude's Hospital

But Picard didn’t quit – and now his mission in life is to inspire. Last August he became the first double-arm amputee to start and finish an Ironman race, and he has completed two more Ironman competitions since then.

On June 8 he will set off on a 3,200-mile bike journey to Spokane, Washington to raise money for a little boy with no arms.

But with his bike stolen, Picard has to turn to his old bike. Picard said it is a lot more difficult for him to use – not to mention the hours he will have to spend repairing it.

“I struggle a little more. I’m still going to do it,” he said. “I’m not going to let anything like this stop me.”

NBC 6 Videos

Picard isn’t looking for donations, just his bike. Anyone with information is asked to call Fort Lauderdale Police.

He said he won’t let his latest challenge slow him down.

“I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it,” Picard said. “God willing, as long as I’m healthy, bike or no bike, I’m going to do this, and it would just be nice to have that bike back.”

For more information on Picard and his cross-country ride, see his website, dontstopliving.org.

Photo Credit: NBC 6 South Florida

Paraplegic Man Saved From Burning Van


Walter Vaughn and Kristy Gish are being hailed as heroes for pulling T.J. Griffin from his burning van at DFW Airport.

Future of Sandy Hook Elementary Could Come Today


The task force responsible for deciding where the future home of Sandy Hook Elementary School will be has narrowed it down to two locations.

One is to build a new facility at 28 Riverside Road, just down the street from the now-vacant elementary school where 20 first graders and six staff members were killed in December.

The second option is to renovate or rebuild at the existing site, which has some of the victims' families upset.

“I will chain my body to it and to protest if they try to reopen it,” Erica Lafferty, the daughter of the late Sandy Hook Principal Dawn Hochsprung, said. “It should be knocked down. There should be some type of long-lasting memorial.“

The task force narrowed the options down from 40 different locations and will hold a public meeting on Friday night to discuss the options and ultimately make a decision.

Veronique Pozner, who lost her son Noah in the Dec. 14 shooting, said she and her husband walked the halls at Sandy Hook Elementary School in February.

“It’s not for everybody, but just like I needed to see my son’s body, I needed to see where he died. That’s me, but I could totally understand why a parent would say I can’t do this," Pozner said.

For Pozner, the school is now 'tainted ground'. 

“Then again, I also know life has to go on. If that’s the best site logically, economically for the other children, the ones that are alive … Ya know, who am I to say you shouldn’t build there, you shouldn’t rebuild?,” she said.

Bristol Home Invasion Suspect Nabbed in Florida Traffic Stop


The suspect in a 2011 Bristol home invasion had been on the run for more than a year, according to police, but he is back in custody after being stopped in Florida for a broken license plate light.  

On Dec. 12, 2011, a masked man with a gun entered a home on West Street in Bristol and stole money and cell phones from the residents, according to police. 

The suspect has since been identified as Anthony J. Haynes, 31, of Brooksville, Florida, and the search for him ended on April 17 in Brooksville, Florida, when police stopped him for an inoperative tag light.

When officers checked his identification, they learned that he was wanted in Bristol, where there was a warrant for a home invasion, according to a news release from Brooksville police.

Haynes was arrested, brought to the Hernando Detention Center in Brooksville, Florida, and held without bond.

Bristol Police Department then flew down to the Hernando Detention Center in Brooksville, Florida, took Haynes into custody and flew back to Connecticut.

On Thursday, he was charged with home invasion, first-degree robbery, conspiracy to commit robbery in the first degree, larceny in the second degree and criminal possession of a pistol/revolver.

Police said Haynes is also accused of fleeing to Florida to avoid arrest and prosecution.

He was held in lieu of a $500,000 bond and will be arraigned on Friday morning.

After the home invasion in 2011, police said the victim was targeted and this was not a random act.

Photo Credit: Brookwville, Florida Police

Solar-Powered Plane Kicks Off Cross-Country Tour


A solar-powered plane - energized by the power of the sun - took off just as dawn broke Friday morning from Mountain View's Moffett Field on its first cross-country tour, bound for New York as its final destination.

Considered the world's most advanced sun-powered plane, which only travels about 30 or 40 mph, the Solar Impulse has already taken successful test runs over California's Bay Area.

The point of the powering a plane with 12,000 photovoltaic cells, all powered by the sun, is to show the world that it can be done, and to inspire engineers to look for advances in clean tech.

"We're here to inspire," Swiss creator André Borschberg told NBC Bay Area before an earlier flight, adding that that he hoped this science and technology - and imagination - would trickle down to the "younger generation."

Pilot Bertrand Piccard posted a photo on his Twitter page during the flight.



The plane has the wing span of a 747, but the weight of the mid-sized car. It can only carry one passenger who has to stay awake through the entire flight. On the longer flights, the pilot is allowed to take naps eight minutes at a time. There is no auto-pilot. 

The cockpit seat is the only seat in the plane, but it has a dual purpose and it equipped with a toilet.

The Solar Impulse was designed to show the potential of solar power. Its creators say it will never replace commercial flights.  The plane reaches a top speed of 43 mph and holds the record for  altitude for solar-powered planes at 30,300 feet, according to the company's  website. 

The Solar Impulse will first stop in Phoenix, and then head to Dallas, St. Louis, Washington, D.C.,  and New York. Each flight leg will take 20 to 25 hours, with 10-day stops planned in each city.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Teacher Buys Student "Fifty Shades" for Reading Class


A Philadelphia mother wants her son’s high school teacher fired after he bought the teen the erotic novel "Fifty Shades of Grey" for in-class reading.

Maya Ladson says she was shocked to find a copy of the racy read in her 14-year-old’s book bag back on March 9. That shock turned to outrage when she found out how he got the book.

“The minute I found out about it, it raised concern,” the mother told NBC10.com Thursday. “This is not OK to me. This is major.”

Ladson's son, who is a 9th grade student at Eastern University Academy Charter School in Philadelphia, asked for and was given the book by his teacher and adviser Philip Aidoo.

According to the school, Aidoo asked students for a list of books they would like to read during an independent reading period. Ladson’s son’s requested "Fifty Shades of Grey." Aidoo then went online and ordered the book.

Ladson acknowledges that her son asked for the book.

“It clearly states on the cover, that the book is for mature audiences and has high sexual content,” Ladson said. “This was a 100-percent act of negligence. There should never be pornographic material purchased and distributed to a student by a school teacher.”

Eastern University Academy Charter School Chief Operating Officer Yvonne Turner calls the teacher’s actions a mistake.

“Unfortunately, Mr. Aidoo did not have an awareness of this popular book and ordered it with his own money,” she said. Turner says Aidoo also ordered books for other students, all of which were G-rated.

“I find it highly unlikely that a teacher who teaches reading and has a classroom for sustained silent reading period is unaware of contents of material that he’s giving to the students, let alone the material being pornographic material,” Ladson told NBC10.com.

Once Aidoo’s purchase was brought to the school’s attention by Ladson, officials immediately launched an investigation, according to Turner.

Officials met with Ladson and Aidoo and made a recommendation of action against the teacher, which the school didn't disclose. Ladson said she was not satisfied with the recommendation and filed a grievance with the school’s board of trustees. They heard the case and decided Wednesday to suspend the teacher for one week without pay.

Ladson says a suspension is not enough and wants Aidoo removed from the school.

“We all agree that it was a very serious mistake, however, it does not warrant a termination,” Turner said.

After Ladson told officials about the Grey incident, the school held a meeting with the parents of all the teacher’s students to notify them about the situation, according to Turner. Aidoo has taught math and advised at the 7th-12th grade school for several years.

“We heard nothing but high praises and support for Mr. Aidoo,” Turner said. “We have to deal with these things in a fair and impartial way which the school has attempted to do.”

Ladson says her son’s education has been compromised. Turner says the school is putting together a plan to move the 14-year-old to another class for the next trimester. The school has also enacted a policy that officials must now approve any purchase intended for students, she says.

The school has been on break for the past month. Ladson says when classes resume on Monday, she plans to protest outside the school with other parents.

Photo Credit: Andrew Matthews/PA

Diplomatic Immunity at Issue in Poss. Human Trafficking Case


A case of "possible human trafficking" at a Saudi diplomatic compound in Virginia is under investigation, the Department of Homeland Security confirmed to News4.

Homeland Security Special-Agent-in-Charge John Torres, who is leading the probe, said Fairfax County Police responded to a tip Tuesday night citing a possible case of modern slavery.

U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement/Homeland Security Investigations were called to a home in the 6000 block of Orris Street in McLean and -- in the words of a source familiar with the investigation -- "rescued" two women. One woman reportedly tried to flee by squeezing through a gap in the front gate as it was closing.

"In this particular case, what we ended up doing is setting up an arranged time to meet some people. They met us at that time and we took them out of that situation," Torres said.

It's not clear if the women, whom sources say are from the Philippines, called investigators to the home themselves or if someone else did.

The women are now in protective custody.

“We ultimately took those potential victims out of that situation,” Torres said. “They’re safe now, being interviewed by our agents and victim witness coordinators.”

The investigation is in its very early stages and complicated by the possibility that some of those involved may have diplomatic immunity, said a State Department spokesperson. 

A 2008 U.S. Government Accountability Office report notes that in previous cases, "...The accused foreign diplomats held full diplomatic immunity and this could not be prosecuted in U.S. courts."

Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) said Saudi Arabia has been faulted in the past for abuse of a special visa program that allows foreign diplomats to bring household workers into the United States.

"They bring them in; they work them seven days a week; they take their passports away," Wolf said.

The compound -- with three security gates, a guard shack and security staff on foot patrol -- is owned by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, according to Fairfax County real estate records.

A man outside the gates who said he works for the embassy told News4 the homeowner was at the embassy Wednesday, and vehicles driven in and out of the gates had diplomatic license plates.

“The U.S. State Department is aware of this matter,” said spokesperson Patrick Ventrell. “Diplomatic security is aware of the matter, and we’re working with the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security, specifically Immigration and Customs Enforcement.”

Follow Jackie Bensen on Twitter at @jackiebensen

Photo Credit: NBCWashington.com

Warrant Issued for Suspect in Southington Fatal Hit-and-Run


Southington police said they have an arrest warrant for a man suspected in a hit-and-run crash that killed one woman and injured two others on Feb. 12.

Yan Qiao "Joanne" Chen, 23, died from injuries sustained in the crash, according to police.

Chen, and her roommates, Huai “Emily” Liu and Yang “Rita” Hong, both 23 and of Southington, were walking on Queen Street when a car hit them near the Outback Steakhouse around 10:30 p.m. on Feb. 12, days after the state was buried in snow from the blizzard, and fled, police said.

Coworkers said all three women worked at Gobi Mongolian Grill in Southington and would walk home together after their shifts.

Normally they would walk through the parking lot, but they apparently could not because of all the snow from the blizzard, a coworker said. 

Police said on Friday that they have an arrest warrant for Edward Fascendini, 46 of Plainville, charging him with misconduct with a motor vehicle and three counts of evading responsibility.

Police said they learned additional information during an informational checkpoint the night after the crash and were able to forensically link Fascendini's white Dodge pickup to the crash.

Fascendini is currently incarcerated on unrelated charges and will be presented in the Bristol Court on May 9.

Liu and Hong are recovering after being released from the hospital. 

Anyone with information is asked to call Southington Police at (860)621-0101, Ofc. Timothy Wilk at (860)378-1600 ext. 2352 or e-mail twilk@southingtonpolice.org.



Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com and Southington Police

Man Solicited 12-Year-Old Boy for Sex: Cops


East Hartford police have arrested a 64-year-old local man accused of offering a 12-year-old boy $20 to have sex with him.

A police officer responded to the area of Glenn and Graham roads in East Hartford to investigate a report of a man offering a teen money for sex and found a man matching the description given, police said.

A school bus driver told police he had let children off the bus and one boy ran back to the bus to report that a man had propositioned him, according to a report from East Hartford police. 

Rodney Hicks was arrested and transported to the East Hartford Police Department and charged with risk of injury to a minor and disorderly conduct, police said.

Police said that Hicks appeared intoxicated and told officers that he's had a few drinks and was "just hanging out in the neighborhood," according to police.

Hicks was uncooperative, mumbled and claimed he was hearing impaired and did nothing wrong, according to police.

When police arrived, several parents approached the area. One woman said Hicks followed her around the neighborhood as she walked her daughter home from school.

"I told him to leave me alone. He was telling us to touch his hand. I'm telling him leave us alone, get out of my face, back up. My daughter's saying mom he's following us, he's still coming," said Kim Jackson, from East Hartfrod.

One, who wished to remain anonymous, reported overhearing Hicks ask a passerby for a ride out of the area and offer $20. The driver refused.

Another child corroborated the victim's story to police.

Hicks was released on a promise to appear and is prohibited from being within 100 yards of anyone under 16 years old.


Photo Credit: East Hartford Police

Two Arrests in Groceries for Inappropriate Contact Case


Hours after Hartford police arrested a bodega owner who is accused of inappropriate sexual contact with a girl and paying the woman who brought her to him in groceries and cash, they arrested the woman suspected as well.

Police said Ruffino Fernandez, 55, is accused of sexually assaulting the girl. The alleged assaults happened between four and six times in the fall and winter of 2012.

Wilenlia David, 29, of East Hartford, is accused of bringing the girl to Fernandez. She was paid in groceries as well as money, according to Hartford police, who identified her as a friend of the victim's family.

She was at large Thursday afternoon, wanted on charges including two counts of sexually assaulting a victim under the age of 13, one count of fourth-degree sexual assault, three counts of conspiracy, risk of injury to a minor and prostitution.

Hartford police arrested David on Thursday night, Hartford police said on Friday. She is due in court Friday to be arraigned.

Fernandez was in jail at the time of his arrest on gun and drug possession charges, according to Hartford police.

State's Attorney Reviewing Investigation Into New Canaan Officer


New Canaan police have completed their investigation into a police officer accused in a physical altercation at Tequila Mockingbird Restaurant in New Canaan while off-duty on Feb. 23 and now the Stamford State's Attorney's Office is reviewing the investigation.

Lieutenant Frederick Pickering was placed on administrative leave in March, according to New Canaan Police.

Police said someone went to the New Canaan police department at 11:45 p.m. on Feb. 23 and reported being involved in a physical altercation with Pickering, an off-duty New Canaan Police Officer at the restaurant at 6 Forest St.

The complainants also told police that someone in the group with Pickering used racially offensive language. 

In March, police said Pickering had been placed on leave, pending the criminal investigation.

No further information has been released.

Photo Credit: NBC Philadelphia

History Awaits in the Kentucky Derby


One jockey hopes to be the first African-American since 1902 to ride to victory at the Kentucky Derby.

Another wants to be the first female to win it.

A favorite colt could break a century-old "curse."

And an acclaimed trainer has stacked the lineup with five thoroughbreds, making it possible for a first-ever sweep of America's most prestigious horse race.

Any of those outcomes would make this year's Derby, to be run Saturday evening, a historic one. But the Derby can just as quickly give birth to new legends. It is the first leg of the Triple Crown, so the winner, no matter who it is, will automatically become a contender for horse racing's biggest prize, which hasn't been captured in 35 years.

"It's a career maker," retired jockey and television analyst Richard Migliore said. "The Triple Crown's other two races, the Preakness and the Belmont, are extremely important in their own right, but the Derby blazes the path. After the Derby, there's always the hope for a Triple Crown."

The competition at this year's Derby is so tight that the official oddsmaker at Churchill Downs, Mike Battaglia, waited until the last minute to decide which of the 3-year-olds to name as the morning-line favorite.

In the end, Battaglia chose Orb, a colt on a four-race winning streak, including the Florida Derby, as the favorite before the race was opened to betting Friday morning. He'll be ridden by Joel Rosario.

Orb's trainer, Shug McGaughey, said he was happy to be the early favorite, but said there was a possibility that betting activity could change that image.

Battaglia's close second was Verrazano, who for many weeks was considered the Derby's top contender. Verrazano is one of trainer Todd Pletcher's five horses in the Derby and will be ridden by Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez, who won the 2011 Derby atop Animal Kingdom. Verrazano's handlers have taken an unorthodox approach, running him only as a 3-year-old. No horse since Apollo in 1882 has won the Derby without racing first as a 2-year-old. Since then, "Apollo's curse" has been blamed for other horses' inability to duplicate the feat. Moreover, only two horses have won the Derby with as few races as Verrazano has run. That may be part of the reason why the buzz over him has faded in recent days.

Behind Verrazano in the early odds-making was Goldencents. The bay colt is part-owned by Rick Pitino, coach of the national-champion Louisville men's basketball team, and is trained by Doug O'Neill, who handled last years Derby and Preakness winner I'll Have Another. He'll be ridden by Kevin Krigger, 27, who has a good shot at becoming the first African-American in more than a century to win the Derby.

Another jockey who will be closely watched is 25-year-old Rosie Napravnik, who'll be aboard Mylute in her quest to become the first female jockey to win the Derby. Napravnik is the winningest female jockey in racing's history, and was the top jockey this year at Fair Grounds Race Court in New Orleans.

Other horses considered top contenders include Revolutionary, Normandy Invasion, Overanalyze, Itsmyluckyday, Java's War and Vyjack.

The total purse for the Derby, assuming all 20 horses start, will be more than $2.1 million, with $1.4 million for the winner.

The 6:24 p.m. race will be broadcast on NBC, with coverage starting at 4 p.m. ET. A livestream will be available on nbcsports.com (Note: You must log in with your cable company's username and password to access the live video).

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Groton Road Improvement Project Begins


The first phase of a state-funded roadway project began on Friday morning, in Groton.

The state provided bond funds to Groton to buy an approximately 1 acre parcel of land and the town tore down an old, abandoned building along Crystal Lake Road to make way for major roadwork construction.

The former Fusconi Dry Cleaning business, on the corner of the Crystal Lake Road and Military Highway intersection, has been abandoned for more than 10 years and it’s deteriorating, according to a news release from the Naval Base.

After the demolition and remediation of the site, Groton will use the property to reconfigure the intersection as part of a major upgrade of Crystal Lake Road. 

"The end of the Military Highway will be completely reconstructed with a boulevard at the end so that the roadway more appropriately aligns up with the main gate," Groton Town Manager, Mark Oefinger said.

After everything is cleared out, the town plans to next work on the designing aspect of the project, which will include widening the road and improving the Crystal Lake Road and Military Highway intersection, town officials said.

Navy officials said they mainly welcome the aesthetic changes the project will bring to the area near the Naval Submarine Base.

"Make it more friendly for bicycles and commuters and, at one point, turn this into some sort of park," Capt. Marc Denno said.

Business owners in the area said they too look forward to the enhancements.

"Very happy. Very excited about that. I think it's going to look great when it's done," Jeff Karns, who owns Karns Automotive, said.

The Town of Groton expects to have the project completed by 2016.


Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Alert Issued for New Haven Teen


A Silver Alert has been issued for a 15-year-old New Haven girl who was last seen around 4:45 p.m. on Wednesday.

Leah Jackson was last seen at 856 Townsend Ave. in New Haven, according to police.

The alert lists Leah as an endangered runaway.

She was wearing a blue T-shirt, gray yoga pants and gray sneakers at the time, according to the alert.
If you have information about Leah’s whereabouts, call New Haven police at 203-946-6316.  

Photo Credit: Silver Alert
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