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Report Says Plan to Widen I-95 is a 'Boondoggle'


A new report on transportation projects describes the proposal to widen I-95 in Connecticut as a "boondoggle."

ConnPIRG, a state watchdog group, contributed to the report and argues that more lanes on Interstate 95-- one of the busiest highways in America--would only add to congestion and not serve as a sort of pressure valve that will make the highway more accessible as supporters of the plan have said.

"If you build it, they will come," said Evan Preston, the Director of ConnPIRG. "Widening highways simply does not reduce congestion. It would be a waste of money to invest those resources there."

The plan to widen I-95 is a key part of Gov. Dannel Malloy's 30 year, $100 billion transportation overhaul.

Last week a panel tasked with proposing methods to pay for the bold proposal came up with the expected ideas to reinstate tolls on state highways, increase the gas tax to a level not seen since the 1990's and increase oil taxes.

Malloy said any criticism that looks at widening at I-95 in a vacuum "is not taking into account the actual plan."

Rep. Jonathan Steinberg, a Democrat from Westport who has previously supported the governor's transportation initiative said that he wants to see the money meant for I-95 to be used on Metro-North.

"To my mind, fixing Metro-North, making sure that we address the state of good repair across bridges, roads, and trains throughout the entire state are much higher priorities," Rep. Steinberg said.

Malloy responded by saying the rail is the priority of the first rounds of investment in infrastructure of the "Let's Go CT" proposal.

"It calls for a full modernization of the rail system. If we’re talking about Metro North it calls for restoration of all four tracks and using two of those tracks for express or long distance coverage," he said.

Photo Credit: AP

NYC Couple Found at Foxwoods Face Credit Card Fraud Charges


A couple out of New York are accused of being involved with using fraudulent credit cards.

Daniel Velasquez is facing 47 charges they include counts of unlawful reproduction of credit cards, larceny and criminal impersonation.

Police said Velasquez used alias name "Anthony Ortiz" to not only check into Foxwood's Fox Tower Hotel but also on fraudulent credit cards.

Tribal police were investigating Velazquez for some time. After he checked into the hotel Friday, police were alerted and went to his room.

Inside the room, officers found a machine that makes credit cards, a laptop computer, two one hundred dollar counterfeit bills, 20 fraudulent credit cards, and 20 packets of heroin.

Velasquez' girlfriend, Christina Decaro of Brooklyn, was charged with conspiracy on all of Velazquez’ charges.

They were both arraigned in a New London courtroom. Velazquez told the judge Decaro had nothing to do with his charges.

"Everything is in my name. Well, my alias I used ‘Anthony Ortiz.’ There was nothing in that woman’s name so I don’t know why she is being held accountable for all of my charges that I’m getting charged for," said Velasquez.

"She had no knowledge towards none of this so I’ll plead guilty now to everything," he said.

Court documents say police found some fraudulent activity in Decaro’s computer, where a hacker website was used to obtain people’s valid credit card information.

Both Decaro and Velazquez’ bonds were reduced.

Tribal Police or Foxwoods officials would not comment on-camera on the investigation.

Both suspects are scheduled back in court February 9.

Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut

PCP Cigarettes Called 'Wet' Suspected of Being Sold


A form of PCP called "wet" is suspected of being sold in Hartford, police said on Tuesday. 

Police have arrested one person in connection to an alleged "wet" lab found in the state's capitol.

Hartford police executed a warrant on Westland Street for the suspicion of "wet" being sold, Officer Brian Foley tweeted. 

"Wet" is used to refer to a marijuana cigarette coated with liquid PCP. PCP or phencyclidine, also known as angel dust, is a sedative and anesthetic with "trance-like" effects, according to the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids organization. 

There was no other information provided.

Please check back for updates on this developing story.

Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut

Accused Dog Killer Hallucinated on Wisdom Tooth Drugs: Documents


A Bristol woman accused of killing her two pit bulls told police she was hallucinating after taking drugs and the dogs told her to hang them, according to paperwork from court.

Police began investigating when they responded to a home on Allentown Road on Nov. 21 to investigate a missing person report and were alerted that the missing woman might have killed her dogs, police said.

A neighbor had reported seeing Veronica Reyes, 22, hang one of her dogs from a tree, so the landlord went to investigate and found a freshly filled in hole and the backyard and discovered that Reyes and the dogs were missing, according to police.

On Dec. 5, Reyes went to the police station to turn herself in and told police that she had been out in Waterbury with friends in November and smoked laced marijuana while she was on prescription pain killers and antibiotics after having her wisdom teeth out, the affidavit states.

When she later returned home, she started hallucinating and thought the walls and her two dogs were speaking with her, according to the affidavit.

It was then that Reyes noticed a hanger on the floor by the cage the dogs were in and asked them, “You want me to hang you?,” police said.

The dogs became hyper and excited and Reyes thought they were telling her to hang them, so she grabbed a leash and chain and hung one dog, according to police.

When the dog was dead, she put it in a garbage bag and buried it, according to court paperwork. Then she killed the second dog in the same manner, according to police.

After killing the dogs, Reyes went back to Waterbury, she told police.

She went on to tell police that she killed the dogs because she was feeling a lot of stress in her life and was depressed after a recent break-up, the affidavit says.

Reyes has been charged with two counts of cruelty to animals and was scheduled to appear in court on Tuesday.

A small group of protesters stood outside the courthouse on Tuesday and one said that charges against suspected animal abusers are too often dropped. 

Officials said Reyes also faces felony charges in Maryland, including car theft, felony escape and assault on a police officer.  

It's not clear from online court records if Reyes has an attorney.

Photo Credit: Bristol Police

Donations Make Body Cams Possible for South Windsor Police


As other towns struggle to cover the costs of body cameras, South Windsor is praising the organization that made it possible for their department to purchase them.

The Hartford Evergreen Lodge of Freemasons donated $26,000 to the South Windsor Police Department, which allowed them to purchase a total of 24 cameras. They have uploaded 500 GB of video since the first shipment of cameras came in July. They received another shipment last week.

"It’s going to capture everything as the officer sees it as it unfolds," Deputy Chief Scott Custer said. "We think they’re a great tool for increasing peoples trust in law enforcement for documenting evidence."

It is a pricey investment because they have to purchase more than just the cameras. They also have to pay for a storage system. It is something Deputy Chief Custer says would not have been possible this year without the help of the Hartford Evergreen Lodge of Freemasons.

The town issued them a proclamation Tuesday night and thanked them for their donation. It is a stark contrast to departments like Berlin who quit using the cameras because of problems with cost and video storage. South Windsor police say knowing that just makes them appreciate the donation even more. The Freemasons say they are reaching out to see if they can help more.

"We spoke to a lot of lodges who are just so impressed by it and they’re trying to find ways to be involved in the community and help out the police as well," Dwaine Clarke, who spearheaded the effort said.

Lawmakers say they plan on discussing the financial burden of body cameras during the next legislative session.

Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut

Ledyard's First Ever Police Chief Sworn In


The town of Ledyard has officially sworn in it's first every police chief.

Chief John Rich was sworn in at Ledyard High School's auditorium. He took the stage with his fellow police officers, the mayor, and other local and state leaders.

Chief Rich was formally pinned in front of hundreds of people, including several law enforcement agencies.
“It’s a big day for the town; it’s a big day for the men and women of the Ledyard Police Department so I'm excited for the opportunity and I'm excited for them,” said Chief Rich, who has been in Connecticut law enforcement for nearly 28 years.

Chief Rich served as the town’s residential state trooper between 2005 and 2009 and most recently served as the commander of the Madison Police Department.

The day marked a historic moment for the town, as well. The appointment of its new police chief begins a new establishment of the town's first independent police department.
"It definitely increases morale of the department, but we already had a very professional police department," said Mayor Michael Finkelstein. "What this does is as mayor, for myself, I have a direct person that is simply in charge."

Finkelstein said it costs about the same to have a residential state trooper as it would to have a police chief (approximately $190,000).

Now that the town has a chief, that means the police department will be able to access certain grants.

Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut

Town, Businesses Prepare For Possible Storms


 As a winter storm moves to the east, people across Connecticut were not waiting to prepare. A spokesperson for New Haven said that the city would be ready for whatever weather comes this way. That was the sentiment all along the shoreline -- and beyond -- on Tuesday.

At Hilltop Turf & Landscapes in West Haven, owner Eric Orzel was in full preparation mode. He said he needed to know that every last one of his plows and snow blowers would be ready to roll.

“Making sure all the equipment is ready, all the fuel is topped off," said Orzel. His snow removal team has been busy, even though the potential for snow is still days away. “We have gotten a lot of phone calls from those who have not prepared themselves for the winter," he said.

In New Haven, preparations for any winter weather started many months ago with an investment in some newer and smaller plows. Officials said snow removal equipment that is more nimble will clear narrow or dead-end streets more quickly.

Further north in Cheshire, most of the customers at R.W. Hine Hardware store were making the same kind of purchases.

“Shovels, ice melt, roof melt, batteries, flashlights, etc.," said Tom Gaetani, store manager. “We've been very busy all day, very busy selling any storm related items.”

“You never know what mother nature is going to dish out," said Orzel.

Sarah Palin Endorses Trump in Fiery 'Stump for Trump' Speech


Former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin on Tuesday endorsed Donald Trump for president in 2016, calling him a "master of the art of the deal" who isn't beholden to business interests in Washington.

"This is going to be so much fun. Are you ready to make America great again?" said Palin, who also served as governor of Alaska, at a rally in Iowa Tuesday night.

The endorsement comes after a day of swirling rumors that she was going to endorse the billionaire real estate mogul, stoking the rumors by sharing her daughter's own endorsement of Trump on social media.

The rumors were so pervasive that Twitter users were on Tuesday scouring flight information between Palin's home state of Alaska and the key primary battleground of Iowa.

Palin spoke for about 20 minutes, touting Trump's ability to lead the country, and its military, and asked the crowd to "stump for Trump." She railed as much against the Republican establishment than Democrats in a speech that, more than anything, decried America's political system.

"(Trump) builds things, he builds big things, things that touch the sky, big infrastructure that puts people to work," Palin said. "He doesn't get his power, his high, off the opium of the people's money, like a lot of dopes in Washington do."

Trump embraced Palin after she finished her speech, saying "This is a woman that, from day one, I said if I ever do this, I have to get her support."

Her endorsement of Trump was first reported by The New York Times.

The announcement was one of several wins for Trump on Tuesday, who is jockeying for position with Sen. Ted Cruz ahead of the Iowa caucuses. Besides the Palin endorsements, the state's governor said a Cruz win at the Feb. 1 caucus "would be very damaging to the state."

Palin's daughter Bristol, 25, said she hopes her mom will endorse Trump for president, she wrote in a blog post on Patheos.com, a religious discussion site. Her mother, the former governor of Alaska and the Republican 2008 vice-presidential candidate, shared her daughter’s post on her Twitter and Facebook.

Years removed from her campaign, Palin still commands the respect of a sizable chunk of the Republican base, and her endorsement may be boost Trump's conservative bona fides.

Palin has spoken glowingly of Trump in the past, saying in a July opinion column that he "tapped into America’s great populist tradition by speaking to concerns of working class voters.”

Earlier Tuesday, when Trump grabbed the endorsement of John Wayne’s daughter, he alluded to another, major endorsement that would come later on Tuesday.

"I think you'll be impressed with the endorsement we get later on," he said, referring to a "tremendous" campaign event. Reporters on the campaign trail were already wondering if Palin was about to offer Trump her support.

The endorsement from the younger Palin came after Rick Tyler, spokesman for Ted Cruz’s campaign, said endorsing Trump would be “a blow” to the former vice presidential candidate. Tyler argued that a Trump endorsement is inconsistent with Palin's conservatism.

Bristol Palin deemed this a “slam” against her mom. Though she said she likes Cruz, her blog post was entitled, "Is THIS Why People Don't Like Ted Cruz?"

“After hearing what Cruz is now saying about my mom, in a negative knee-jerk reaction, makes me hope my mom does endorse Trump,” Bristol Palin wrote.

Her mother, she wrote, was a supporter of Cruz in his senate campaign, and Cruz has spoken positively about Palin before. But the younger Palin has decided that Trump's message of American strength is what the country needs.

"We need someone who has a vision for economic prosperity, who won’t let us get kicked around in the world, and who will fight for our future," Palin said.

In an effort to diffuse the tension over being bashed in the post, Cruz responded to the situation via Twitter. The Texas Republican said he loves Sarah Palin.

"Without her support, I wouldn't be in the Senate," Cruz wrote. "Regardless of what she does in 2016, I will always be a big fan."

Photo Credit: CQ-Roll Call,Inc.
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Man Sentenced for Stomping Man to Death Outside of Walgreens


A man with autism has been sentenced for the murder of a 58-year-old man during a brutal attack inside a Walgreens in East Hartford.

According to the Hartford Courant, Anthony Henry has autism and was sentenced to 20 years with the state Psychiatric Security Review Board after being found not guilty by reason of mental defect. 

Police said Henry, 24, and Robert Boulay, 58, both of East Hartford, were both shopping at the Walgreens at 20 Connecticut Boulevard in East Hartford on Aug. 3 when they got into an argument inside the store.

Then the fight turned physical and Henry punched Boulay in the face, then either kicked his head or stomped on it as many as 15 to 20 times, police said.

When police arrested Henry shortly after the assault, he was initially charged with assault in the first degree and breach of peace, police said.

On Aug. 8, Boulay died at the hospital from the head injuries he sustained during the assault and police added a first-degree murder charge to the list of charges against Henry.

Henry was found not guilty by reason of insanity, according to the Hartford Superior Court clerk's office.


Photo Credit: East Hartford Police

Snowstorm Likely to Deliver Accumulating Snow Saturday


The season's first sizable snowstorm is likely on Saturday in Connecticut.

As of Tuesday, there are still four days to go before the storm hits – a long time in the world of meteorology. That's a fancy way of saying things can change.

While several inches are likely to fall across Connecticut, the most snow from this storm will probably fall in the Mid-Atlantic states.

Still, even with a storm well offshore, gusty winds would force the snow sideways and make for difficult travel. Snow shovels, blowers and plows will be needed this weekend.

This storm needs close monitoring, as it will be loaded with moisture.

A slight change in the storm track could mean the difference between 6 inches and 12 inches of snow.

The major model runs on Tuesday did little to increase confidence; in fact, confidence in track has gone down. The vaunted European model and its ensemble members overwhelmingly show light amounts of snow.

Meanwhile, the American GFS model shows a direct hit.

Stay with the First Alert weather team for the latest on the track of the storm.

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Alleged Suspect in Fatal CT College Student Hit-and-Run Arrested


Police have arrested the person who may have hit a Connecticut College student before fleeing in December.

An arrest warrant was issued for James Sposito, 25, of Quaker Hill, New London Police said.

On the morning of Dec. 18, police received a 911 call about a body on the side of the road of Route 32 just after 2 a.m. The driver had fled the scene.

Officers found the student, identified as Anique Ashraf, unresponsive on the northbound side of the road.  He was rushed to the hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Ashraf, who was from Lahore, Pakistan, was a member of the class of 2017 at Conn College, according Katherine Bergeron, the school's president.

"He was a person with deeply held convictions who lived life to its fullest. We mourn the loss of this gifted young life, and send our deepest condolences to Anique’s family and to his many close friends in our community," Bergeron said in an email to the Conn College community.

Sposito is being held on a $150,000 bond. He faces charges that include manslaughter, misconduct of a motor vehicle, tampering with a witness, tampering with physical evidence and evading responsibility in operation of a motor vehicle. 

Photo Credit: New London Police

Scene Clear After Crash in Front of Bristol Eastern High School


Three cars crashed in front of Bristol Eastern High School on Friday morning, but the scene is now clear.

The crash was on Route 229, or King Street.

No additional information was immediately available.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Convicted Killer: Amanda Knox Was at Murder Scene


The man convicted of killing a British student in the Amanda Knox case broke his silence Thursday, insisting the American was at the scene of the crime on the night of the murder, NBC News reported.

Rudy Guede, who is serving a 16-year sentence for killing Knox's roommate Meredith Kercher, protested his innocence from an Italian jail in his first television interview.

The 30-year-old insisted he saw Knox, now 28, and her then boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito, in the apartment when he rushed to investigate Kercher's screams and repeated his claim that he was in the bathroom when the 21-year-old was fatally attacked. 

"I clearly recognized her voice," Guede said, adding: "101 percent."

Photo Credit: AP

Man Stole Woman’s Shoes: Police


Hartford police have arrested a man suspected of stealing his neighbor’s shoes while she was walking her dog.

Hartford police responded to the 500 block of Wethersfield Avenue at 12:20 a.m. to investigate a burglary and met with the victim, who said she left her apartment door unlocked when she walked her dog and returned home to find several pairs of her shoes were missing.

She said she suspected her neighbor had stolen her shoes and officers spoke to the neighbor, who admitted to stealing them, police said.

He was also seen on video leaving the building with the shoes, police said.

Justin Dube, 26, of Hartford, was charged with third-degree burglary and fifth-degree larceny.

WATCH: Toddler Rescued From Oregon Highway


A sheriff's deputy rescued a 2-year-old boy from an Oregon highway after spotting the toddler running down the middle of the dark roadway.

Sheriff’s Deputy Jeremy Gautney was driving on U.S. 101 in the coastal city of Newport on Jan. 9, when he noticed the boy running towards his patrol car, the Lincoln County Sheriff's Office said.

Dashcam video shows Gautney's vehicle coming to stop before the officer quickly exists his patrol car and scoops up the toddler.

A tractor-trailer on the oncoming lane zooms passed them seconds later, the video shows.

"Shortly after removing the child from the highway, Deputy Gautney was alerted to the child’s frantic parents who were searching for him," Lincoln County Sheriff's Office spokesman Deputy Rene Lopez said in a press release. "The child was returned to them unharmed."

According to Lopez, the family said the boy escaped during a gathering at a nearby community center. The incident was determined to be accidental and no charges were filed.

The sheriff’s office said it released the video "not to ridicule or question those involved” but as a warning to the "danger and potential result of of distracted driving."

"Refrain from texting, cell phone use and other distractions in your vehicle while in motion, as dangers present themselves when least expected," Lopez said.

Photo Credit: Lincoln County Sheriff's Office

Blizzard Safety Tips: How to Prevent Injury While Shoveling


Millions on the East Coast are bracing for a blockbuster snowstorm and some serious snow shoveling this weekend. It's time to begin stretching those muscles to help protect your back, one of the most common snow shoveling injuries. 

According to Adam Bornstein of Born Fitness, most back issues stem from one problem: poor core strength, Today.com reported. Don't round your lower back, he said. "Once you round your back you shut off the powerful muscles that make shoveling easy and instead shift the stress onto small muscles that cause all of your pain," according to Bornstein. Instead, he said, concentrate on "pushing your hips backward while slightly bending your knees. You want your core and abs, as well as your hips and hamstrings to provide stability for your lower back.

Pace yourself, shoveling for 15 to 20 minutes at a time. Be aware of heart attack warning signs: increased heart rate, shortness of breath, more sweating, and tightness in the chest. Finally, wear layers, making sure noses, toes, and fingers are well covered and dry. 

Photo Credit: AP

Man Found at Motel With Missing Teen Arrested


Officers from the Milford Police narcotics unit found a missing teen at a local motel and arrested the man she was with on drug and promotion of prostitution charges.

Police said one of the vehicle’s parked in the lot of Howard Johnson’s at 1052 Boston Post Road on Wednesday was connected to a recent out-of-state missing person report for an endangered 15-year-old girl, so officers checked it out and found the teen in the room with Keontrae Lawrence, 27, of New Jersey, police said.

They also noticed bags of cocaine, crystal meth, cash and evidence of prostitution in the room, according to police.

Lawrence, who police said has an extensive out-of-state criminal history, was taken into custody and held on a $250,000 bond and the teen was taken to the hospital for a medical evaluation.

Lawrence was charged with possession of narcotics with intent to sell, possession of narcotics, possession of crystal meth, promoting prostitution and risk of injury to a minor

Photo Credit: Milford Police

Migrant Crisis: 42, Including 17 Kids, Drown off Greek Coast


At least 42 refugees and migrants, including 17 children, drowned Friday off the cost of Greece while crossing the Aegean Sea from Turkey, NBC News reported.

Officials blamed the drownings in two separate incidents on overcrowded boats. More than three dozen others survived the crossing, coast guard officials told NBC News.

Since January 2015, 1,084,625 migrants, mostly from the Middle East, North Africa and Afghanistan, are reported to have arrived to Europe by land and sea routes, of which 1,048,268 have arrived by sea," according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

Photo Credit: AP

Laquan McDonald Cops Off Streets


Fourteen months after 17-year-old Laquan McDonald was gunned down by Chicago police officer, two officers involved the case have been taken off the city's streets.

Chicago police confirmed Friday that David March, who was lead detective at the time of McDonald's shooting death in October 2014, and Officer Joseph Walsh have been placed on administrative leave.

In late December, Interim Police Supt. John Escalante ordered both officers to be removed from the field pending the investigation into events surrounding McDonald’s death.

Walsh was the partner of Officer Jason Van Dyke the night Van Dyke fired 16 shots at McDonald, killing him. Throughout the investigation, Walsh gave conflicting accounts about the events leading up to the shooting, which was captured on dashcam video. Van Dyke has since been charged with murder, to which he pleaded not guilty.

Walsh told investigators "repeatedly" that McDonald was ordered to "drop the knife," claiming the teen approached them swinging the weapon before he was shot dead, the Chicago Tribune reports. Walsh also said he kicked the knife away from a lifeless McDonald after the teen "attempted to kill them," records show.

None of the events Walsh explained could be seen in dashcam footage released by the city.

"Officer Walsh is currently assigned to desk duties within the 8th District and Detective March has been removed from all current investigations within the Bureau of Detective," police department spokesman Frank Giancamilli said in a statement Friday morning.

Though Walsh and March will no longer will be dispatched as responding officers, both are still able to carry a weapon and make arrests, according to the Chicago Tribune.

"While these officers are listed in an active status — meaning their police powers are not formally suspended — they are no longer serving in operational capacities," Giancamilli said.

The exact dates of the officers’ status changes were not made available.

Photo Credit: Chicago Police Department

Drunken Man With Fake Gun Arrested After Police-Involved Shooting: Police


A drunken man who is accused of pulling a fake gun on a police officer in Stamford has been arrested and the officer is on modified duty after shooting at the suspect, according to police.

The patrol officer, identified as Steven Estabrook, was on routine patrol around 8:52 p.m. on Thursday when he noticed a vehicle, with hazard lights flashing, in the middle of Grove Street, just south of Forest Street and went to investigate.

The driver of the car, 29-year-old Elias Garcia-Ramirez was passed out, but came to and pointed what appeared to be a gun at the officer, police said.

Officer Estabrook then fired several rounds at Garcia-Ramirez, but did not hit him, police said.

Garcia-Ramirez was taken into custody and did not need medical attention, according to police.

Officers at the scene found what appeared to be a real gun in the car, but it was fake, police said. They also found a bottle of whiskey.

Ramirez, who appeared drunk, was taken to the Stamford police department, where he failed field sobriety tests and refused a breathalyzer, police said.

Garcia-Ramirez was charged with driving under the influence, motor vehicle offenses, interfering with police and possession of a facsimile firearm, police said.

Bond was set at $100,000 and Garcia-Ramirez will be arraigned today at Stamford Superior Court.

Police are investigating and have reached out to the States Attorney’s Office.

Officer Estabrook has been placed on modified duty, according to the Stamford Police Department policy, during the course of the investigation.

Photo Credit: Stamford Police
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