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American Nanny Lauren Mann Died of 'Suffocation': Vienna Autopsy


An American nanny whose half-naked body was found in her Vienna apartment died of "suffocation," police in Austria said Thursday.

Lauren Mann, 25, was found at her home in the city Tuesday night. A large amount of blood was found at the scene.

Police are still treating the case as homicide "because third party involvement cannot be excluded," a spokesman told NBC News. Police have been speaking to Mann's neighbors and friends, but he said "no specific suspect" was being investigated.

American authorities are assisting in the investigation, according to the U.S. State Department, and a police spokesman told NBC News that toxicology testing has been ordered.

Photo Credit: Lauren Mann Via Facebook

Ear, Blood Found in Murder Case


Police investigating the death of a Northern California man believed slain by a co-worker found a severed ear and a "great deal of fresh blood" in a storage room where the suspect's GMC truck had been parked, according to court documents released Wednesday.

Steve Hlebo, accused of killing 28-year-old Kyle Myrick, looked serious and downcast as he shuffled into court Wednesday afternoon to face murder charges, two days after he said in a jailhouse interview he is innocent and part of a plot stranger than a "science fiction novel."

Myrick was reported missing Friday. Police determined a boarded-up shop next door to GP Sports in San Jose, where both Myrick and Hlebo worked, was a homicide scene. They took Hlebo into custody Saturday. 

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A San Jose police report detailing what authorities believe happened to Myrick was filed Wednesday, along with charging documents. According to the report, Hlebo admitted to fighting with Myrick. Hlebo allegedly told a family member he had killed Myrick and disposed of the body in the ocean, the report stated, even though in a jailhouse interview, Hlebo said he was innocent.

Myrick's body has not been found, but investigators discovered fresh blood on the walls and floor of the storage room where police said Hlebo's vehicle had been parked, according to the report, which said "there was also a severed human ear lying in a pool of blood on the floor" and that a "large amount of blood was found in the cab of the truck."

"I believe that Steve Hlebo is responsible for the murder of Kyle Myrick," San Jose Police Det. Jason Tanner concludes at the end of the report.

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Hlebo, however, told NBC Bay Area and other reporters Monday he was framed for the homicide of Myrick, a colleague with whom he had worked for less than a week. Hlebo claimed in the jailhouse interview he had been "hopped up on drugs" and that "four or five individuals" he worked with must have drugged his drink. 

"I think they were putting it in intentionally so they could discredit me and pin the murder on me, essentially," Hlebo said Monday.

He didn't specify exactly who the co-workers were, or why they would want to harm him. He insisted he had no mental illness, was not taking any drugs himself and had no prior arrests other than a past DUI.

A check at the Santa Clara County courthouse showed Hlebo was the subject of five criminal cases from 2000 to 2005, though the records were in storage and a clerk would not detail the charges. Myrick has no criminal record in Santa Clara County.

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Hlebo made no mention in the jailhouse interview of the alleged fight he had with Myrick or the ear that police said they found.

San Jose police have not responded specifically to Hlebo’s jailhouse claims, which NBC Bay Area has not been able to substantiate. Myrick's mother, Kelly Sparry, however, told reporters earlier this week: "I just think he's lying, and he's trying to put the blame on other people."

Meanwhile, Myrick's family has held daily searches in the Santa Cruz mountains and along the coastline. On Tuesday afternoon, search teams used a drone to try to find Myrick. 

The family is still holding onto a sliver of hope, but outside Hlebo's arraignment, brother Rick Myrick said the new details make "all our worst fears come true."

Another brother, Shane Myrick, teared up after court announcing details of Thursday's search, asking for any and all help to "bring Kyle home."

Hlebo remains held without bail in Santa Clara County jail and is due back in court Feb. 16 to enter a plea.

Warning: Some people might find details contained in the police report disturbing.

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NBC Bay Area's Clemence Robineau contributed to this report.

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area
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Gas Prices Sink Below $2 Per Gallon in Connecticut


Gas prices in Connecticut have dropped below $2 per gallon for the first time in seven years.

The national average is $1.82, but gasoline is $1.96 in the Hartford area and $1.97 in the New Haven area and New London areas, according to AAA fuel gauge. 

“That’s certainly a benchmark that we’ve been looking at and we’ve all been waiting for,” Amy Parmenter, of AAA, said.

The prices are a bit higher in the Bridgeport area, however, at $2.10.

As of Thursday morning, gas prices in Connecticut are cheaper than in Alaska, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Washington or the District of Columbia, where they are all above $2 per gallon. 

The lower prices are the result of crude oil production outpacing demand.

CNBC reported that the United States has stockpiled 1.2 billion barrels of crude oil and analysts have concerns that it will become difficult to store the growing supply, which could send prices even lower

“As long as the market continues to be flooded with the crude oil and the price of oil remains low, gas prices will remain low as well,” Parmenter said.

Connecticut drivers have no complaints about the gas prices.

“More money for groceries. Saving money. I have a college student, so it definitely helps,” Neil Tan, of Milford, said.

Katie Piselli, a mom from Milford, said she’s taking advantage of the savings while she can.

“We live here in Milford and I have to travel to Waterbury and we’re traveling all over the state for sports,” she said. “It’s great that I can fill it up at least once a week and not stress out.”

Not all Connecticut gas stations are below the national average, including one on Boston Post Road, but drivers said they are not going to seek out lower prices when the gas tank is on empty.

“I think that’s unfortunate. But it’s just so convenient, that’s what happens. Something’s when your tank is empty, you have to go where you have to go,” Monica Norris, of Milford, said.

While gas prices sinking below $2 is something to celebrate in Connecticut, gas prices sunk below $1 in Michigan early this month

Find the lowest gas prices in your area on GasBuddy. 

What the lowest price you’ve seen in Connecticut and where?

'Sup Bro': Super Bowl Statue At SF City Hall Vandalized, Again


The Super Bowl 50 statue at San Francisco City Hall has been vandalized — again.

It now reads "Sup Bro 50," according to a photo posted by Twitter user @shanand. The first time around, the statue saw its solar panels ripped off.

Hoodline reports that the statue in Alamo Square also had its lettering altered to read "Superb Owl 50."

Super Bowl statues can now be spotted all across San Francisco — including Crissy Field, Twin Peaks, the Palace of Fine Arts and Fisherman's Wharf — as well as San Jose airport — which just opened a swanky new $82 million executive airport, where the Denver Broncos and the Carolina Panthers will park their planes.

Photo Credit: @shanand via Twitter

Screw-Filled Pressure Cookers Found in Paris Airport Were Training Props


Training props in the form of pressure cookers and screws caused a ruckus Thursday when FedEx workers in France discovered them en route to the U.S. Embassy in Tunisia.

The devices, found at the company's warehouse near Charles de Gaulle airport, were intended to train the Tunisian military in counter-IED tactics, according to a U.S. Defense Department official.

The workers immediately alerted managers and were told there was no danger from the shipment, without explaining further and leaving workers "nervous and abandoned," CGT Union spokesman Frederic Petit told NBC News. 

The CFT union filed a complaint Wednesday to investigate what it called "the serious and imminent danger" in which the workers were placed. It said it was in discussions with FedEx over the incident.

Photo Credit: CGT

Part of Route 190 in Stafford Closed Due to Fire


Part of Route 190 in Stafford is closed as firefighters battle a fire.

The road is closed near Cooper Lane, according to state police.

No additional information was immediately available.

Photo Credit: Connecticut State Police

January to Finish Slightly Warmer Than Average With Little Snow


January is expected to go into the record books with an average temperature over 3 degrees above average.

That's not too exceptional, and would rank roughly 30th warmest on record in the Hartford area.

Only 1.9 inches of snow will be recorded for the month, unless tomorrow's snow showers surprise and accumulate at Bradley International.

One would think this month would be near the top of the least snowiest Januarys on record, but it's not. 1.9 inches of snow would make January 2016 the 13th least snowiest January in 112 years.

1980 takes the cake with only 0.2 inches of snow in January of that year.

1 Dead in New Haven Crash


Police are investigating a fatal crash at Townsend and Forbes avenues just after 10:30 a.m. on Thursday in New Haven.

A man involved in the crash went into cardiac arrest and died, according to police, who said he had narcotics in his car.

Investigators are still working on the case, but witnesses said the other driver was speeding, went through a red light before the crash and struck the other car.

Police have closed the intersection, which is off of Interstate 95, and the accident reconstruction team has been called. The road is expected to be closed for hours.

No additional information was immediately available.

Police have not released the names of anyone involved in the crash.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

URI Settles Lawsuit With Family of Athlete Who Died During Training


A wrongful death lawsuit brought against the University of Rhode Island after a student athlete died during training in 2011 has been settled.

Joseph P. Ciancola III, of Orange, was a URI baseball player who collapsed during "strength and conditioning" training. Three days after the collapse Ciancola died in the hospital at 20 years old.

Michele Ciancola, the man's mother, brought a wrongful death lawsuit against the university late 2012. 

URI settled the lawsuit on Friday, Jan. 8, before going to court by paying the family $1.45 million. 

Ciancola's lawyer said in addition to the settlement that the university will sponsor a scholarship in Joe Ciancola's name. 

"Joe was, and with this scholarship, will continue to be part of the University of Rhode Island Athletics family," URI's athletic director, Thorr Bjorn, said. 

Mayor of West Hartford Steps Down After Promotion at Lego


The mayor of West Hartford has announced that he is stepping down after getting a promotion at Lego.

West Hartford Mayor Scott Slifka said he will step down from the West Hartford Town Council, as well as his role as mayor after being promoted to deputy general counsel of The LEGO Group.

Slifka made the announcement at the end of his “State of the Town” address on Thursday at Wampanoag Country Club.

Slifka’s promotion at Lego was announced on Monday. His new role as deputy general counsel will be a global and he will report directly to LEGO’s general counsel in Denmark and oversee a team of lawyers with operations based in London, Denmark and Asia.

“As exciting as the role will be, it will also be very demanding – and I’ve concluded that it won’t be compatible with running a similarly demanding town in one’s spare time while trying to be a good husband and father,” Slifka said.

“And the current mayoral salary doesn’t make it much of a debate,” quipped Mayor Slifka, referring to the volunteer position he has held since 2004.

Slifka plans to step down later this spring after the town budget, according to a statement, but he intends to remain politically active.

“I suspect that in the coming years my state and my party may benefit from someone with my skills, perspective and voice. And I leave with pride in knowing that we helped make a great community even better and the firm belief that my record is as strong as anyone’s,” Slifka said in a statement.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

LifeStar Called to Ledyard Crash


A 22-year-old man was badly injured in a crash in Ledyard on Thursday morning when a guardrail went into the cabin of the truck, according to police. 

A 19-year-old woman was driving a pickup in the 500 block Shewville Road, between Town Farm and Wolf Neck, just after 8:30 a.m. when she went off the road and hit a guardrail.

Police said the guardrail "penetrated the cabin area of the truck," and seriously injured the 22-year-old man.

Lifestar flew him to Hartford Hospital. An ambulance transported the driver to Pequot Medical Center and she has since been released.

Police are investigating and the road remains closed.

West Haven Police Investigate Shots Fired Into Home


West Haven Police are searching for the person who fired multiple gunshots into a house on Baldwin Street near the shoreline.

Two adults and four children were inside the house but no one was injured, Sgt. David Tammaro said.

The shooting happened Wednesday night around 8:30.

“We heard three loud bangs, in a sequential order and we just thought someone was banging on our door,” said Jim Donegan, who lives a few doors down from the home hit by bullets. “Totally, totally unheard of, even police said they’ve never had anything like this happen in the west shore area.”

Neighbors said the family that lives in the home that was hit moved in last summer.

As part of their investigation, police are reviewing surveillance video Donegan shared with NBC Connecticut. It shows two out of place cars passing by his home around the time of the shooting, Donegan said. One car pulls into his driveway to turn around.

“None of the neighbors have those cars,” Donegan said, “they were dark, but you could pretty much tell four door with tinted windows.”

Before the shooting, Donegan said he has always been on the look-out for suspicious activity.

“I’m very proactive as far as patrolling the streets and doing neighborhood block watch,” Donegan said, “so it just means we need to step up our game and try to protect each other a little bit more.”

West Haven Police have not released a suspect description. They are asking for anyone with information to call 203-937-3900 or contact any of their anonymous text a tip or social media apps.

Intoxicated Man Shoots Self in Hand While Buying Firearm: Police


A man tried to purchase a gun while intoxicated and accidentally shot himself in the hand, Hartford police said.

On Jan 1., Martin Maldonado, 27, of Hartford, told police he attempted to buy a firearm on Park Street. police said. At around 1 a.m., Maldonado shot himself by accident. 

Maldonado was dropped off at the emergency room and police said they responded a little after 10 a.m.

Possession of a pistol without a permit, criminal possession of a firearm and unlawful discharge are the charges Maldonado--who is a convicted felon--face.

Photo Credit: Hartford Police

Indian-American PAC Forms To Support Donald Trump


There’s a new political action committee that aims at gaining support of Indian-Americans for Donald Trump, NBC News reported.

The group “Indian-Americans for Trump 2016” was registered with the Federal Election Commission on Jan. 21. Discussions for the group began in December.

A.D. Amar, the group’s president and a business professor at Seton Hall University, told NBC News Trump’s stances on illegal immigration and the economy as key factors for the group’s support. He also said the group iliked the fact that Trump said he would not take money from PACs or other groups.

Amar believes the perceived difference between Trump's style and his management will translate to a change after the election.

Photo Credit: AP

People Fall Ill on Plane


An American Airlines flight from London to Los Angeles doubled back Wednesday after two passengers and "some" crew members fell ill, according to an airline spokesperson.

American Airlines flight 109 departed Heathrow shortly after midnight local time and returned to the airport around 5 p.m. after a "medical emergency" occurred on board, the airline said.

"Two passengers and some of our flight attendants complained of lightheadedness during the flight," an airline spokesperson said in an email Thursday.

The airline did not specify how many crew members were affected, but The Telegraph in Britain reports five flight attendants felt sick and one collapsed. American Airlines could not confirm a flight attendant fainted.

According to The Telegraph, the crew asked passengers if a doctor was on board.

The captain decided to land in London, and paramedics evaluated the passengers and crew. No one needed further medical attention.

It's not clear what caused them to feel sick. According to The New York Times, similar symptoms have been linked in the past to contaminated cabin air, known as aerotoxic syndrome.

A maintenance team inspected the Boeing 777 and conducted a test flight, according to the airline, which said no issues with the plane were identified.

"Out of an abundance of caution, all of the air filters on the aircraft were replaced," the airline said.

American Airlines apologized to passengers Wednesday.

Ari Mason contributed to this report.

Photo Credit: Getty Images/File

CT Could Be First State to Raise Youthful Offender Age to 20


Gov. Dannel Malloy proposed Connecticut become the first state to raise the age limit of a youthful offender in order to reform the state's criminal justice system

“What I’m trying to do, because I can give you the statistics that show that this will make us safer is to prevent people from becoming permanent criminals because of basically how they are treated on minor offenses" said Malloy during a press conference at a church in Hartford.

At the heart of the proposals is a plan to raise the age of a youthful offender in Connecticut from 17 to 20 by July 2019. Under the governor's proposal, the age would increase each year up to 2019.

Connecticut would become the first state in the nation to take such a step.

Malloy said there's data that backing the idea of a higher age limit.

“We know that the human mind has not reached its full point of maturation until age 25,” the governor said.

Malloy added that other areas of society and law accept that some behaviors and products should only be participated in by people of certain ages like the smoking age of 18 and the drinking age of 21.

"Let’s extend that to youthful offenders or young offenders with the hope that that’s the springboard to avoiding a life of crime,” Malloy said.

The other significant part of the governor's announcement was to eliminate bail for misdemeanors.

Judges would maintain discretion on a case-by-case basis but for such cases, bail would no longer exist under the governor's proposal.

The motivation behind the idea is that bail, for many people in Connecticut, is a burdensome requirement that could cripple someone's home and professional lives.

“People make $20,000 bail with as little as $250 dollars and generally not more than $2,000, so in essence, we’ll have 550 people in jail for a lack of 2,000," he said.

In a statement, Drew Bloom with the Bail Association of Connecticut wrote:

"The proposals announced today should be made part of the review process that the Governor recently requested the State Sentencing Commission to conduct. Bail reform will have broad ranging impact on many segments of society and comprehensive changes in this area should be carefully vetted so as to avoid serious unintended consequences."

Photo Credit: AP

Biden Confident Democrats Will Retake Congress


Vice President Joe Biden said he was confident the Democrats will win the Senate and also the House, NBC News reported.

Biden, speaking at the annual House Democratic retreat on Thursday, referenced the Obama administration over the past seven years — including saving the economy, the Iran nuclear a dal and auto sales.

While he avoided discussion of the race on the Democratic side, he believed the divisive Republican primary gave Democrats a chance for success.

"And by the way we may be given a gift from the Lord in the presidential race here," Biden said to laughter.  

Photo Credit: AP

Hartford Boat Show Showcases 140 Exhibitors


The Hartford Boat Show opened the hatches this afternoon at the Connecticut Convention Center, showcasing an industry that depends on fair winds from the economy.

With about 140 exhibitors there's more to see than ever before. A salesman for A & S Boats in South Windsor, a company that has a powerboat posed pointing sky high, says business has been getting better the last three years.
"This year, with the fuel prices down it'll definitely have an impact," said Mark Passeri.

For darker days, there's safety gear on display as well. The Autotether Marine Landfall is touting can be a lifesaver.

Capt. Mark Bologna of Landfall explained, "It uses a radio signal just like a garage remote control. If you were to fall out of the boat, it will cut and kill the engine and shut the motor down so you can get back on the boat."

There are sailboats upstairs, sailing craft of all sizes. And captains and their mates can pull up a chair at the dock bar.

The center fin goes in on a stand up paddleboard. Kevin Gallagher teaches people how to do it out of Black Hall Outfitters in Old Lyme. A demo pool, new this year at the Boat Show, lets instructors such as Kevin show just what's "sup".

"You can do it!" he said. "I get people that do not believe that they can do it, I get them standing up within ten minutes in my lessons."

The Hartford Boat Show is open tonight til 9, then Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Showing the NBC CT app at the door gets $2 off admission.

Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut

Wife of Preacher Released From Iran Seeks Separation


The wife of a Christian preacher freed from an Iranian prison filed for separation the same day he came home to Idaho, according to records.

Naghmeh Abedini, the wife of Saeed Abedini, apologize in a Facebook post for hiding "from the public the abuse I have lived with for most of our marriage." Although she did not give specifics, she did say she was open to reconciliation, according to NBC News.

NBC News confirmed that the petition for legal separation was filed — and sealed — in Boise, Idaho, on Tuesday.

Abedini worked tirelessly for her husband’s freedom. He was released with four other Americans on Jan. 16. 

Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images

Ammon Bundy Urges Protesters to Surrender


Ammon Bundy, the leader of the armed occupation at an Oregon wildlife refuge again called on protesters to turn themselves in to police, NBC News reported.

"My message still remains: turn yourselves in. Do not use physical force. Use the national platform that we have to continue defend liberty through our constitutional rights in an Article III court, with an Article III judge," Bundy said in the statement made through his lawyers.

Bundy was arrested with his brother and six others on Tuesday.

It was unclear how many protesters remain, but videos posted claim there were four people still there.

Photo Credit: AP
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