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Crashes Close Several Roads


The roads have been a mess on Tuesday morning after snow changed to ice and rain overnight and coated the streets in snow, slush and ice.

Interstate 95 North has been closed on the West Haven-New Haven line since 3:15 a.m. and state police said the road could be closed until around noon.

The Route 9 North ramp to Route 72 in New Britain is also closed after a multi-vehicle wreck. 

There have been crashes all over the state and police responded to a 12-car pileup that closed the exit 7 ramp from Route 25 North  in Trumbull.

Follow Heidi Voight on Twitter for updates.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com
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Woman Charged After DCF Investigation


Police have charged a South Windsor woman after Department of Children and Families investigated how one of her children sustained bruises.

Police charged Huiju Li, 37, of Candlewood Drive in South Windsor on a warrant on Monday and she was released on $80,000 surety bond .

The charges come after a 2015 DCF investigation and police said they felt physical discipline arose to the level of abuse.

Li she was charged with risk of injury to a minor, assault in the third degree, tampering with a witness, breach of peace and reckless endangerment in the second degree.

She’s scheduled to appear at Manchester Superior Court on Feb. 25.

Police said there is a language barrier and the case required an interpreter.

Photo Credit: South Windsor

Clinton to Speak on Race


Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said "America's struggle with racism is far from behind us" as she outlined a $2 billion plan to combat racial inequity Tuesday in Harlem.

The candidate said the money would go toward education and health care for black children during a speech at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem. She also called for reform to the nation's criminal justice system.

"Our country can only live up to its potential if every persons has a chance,” she said.

The speech Tuesday followed a meeting with black leaders at the National Urban League. Clinton talked with several civil rights leaders, including the Rev. Al Sharpton of the National Action Network and Marc H. Morial of the National Urban League. 

She also has a fundraiser with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo ahead of the address. The governor joined Mayor de Blasio to stand on stage with the former secretary of state in a rare shared appearance between the the two.

Sharpton is a talk show host on MSNBC, which is owned by NBCUniversal, the parent company of this site. 

Photo Credit: The Washington Post/Getty Images

Crews Battle Fire on Vine Street in Hartford


The Hartford fire department is battling a working fire at 67 Vine Street.

Officials said the fire is in a two-and-a-half story wood frame structure.

No additional information was immediately available.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Americans Missing in Iraq 'Back Under US Control'


Three Americans held in Iraq for nearly one month were en route to Germany after having been released with just the "bumps and bruises you'd expect," a U.S. military official told NBC News on Tuesday.

The State Department said the Iraqi government was responsible for securing the release of the trio, who were reported missing on Jan. 16.

A senior Iraqi security official told NBC News on condition of anonymity that the Iraqi intelligence service had "liberated" the Americans.

Iraqi authorities had said the three were kidnapped from a "suspicious apartment" in the mixed Shia-Sunni neighborhood of Dora, The Associated Press reported.

They were being taken to the U.S. facility in Landstuhl.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Truck Crash Closes I-95 North in West Haven


An overturned truck shut down the northbound lanes of I-95 in West Haven on Tuesday morning.

The crash happened around 3 a.m. between exits 44 and 46, according to the Department of Transportation.

There are delays, but traffic is getting by with one lane open.

There is no word on injuries.

Special Prosecutor in McDonald Case


Nearly four months after the release of the Laquan McDonald shooting video, attorneys representing a coalition of community activists and relatives of McDonald have called for a special prosecutor to handle the criminal case.

McDonald, 17, was shot 16 times while walking away from a Chicago police officer in October 2014. Dashcam footage showing the shooting was released to the public in November 2015, sparking protests and outrage nationwide.

A petition filed Tuesday in Cook County Circuit Court seeks to have Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez "disqualified from representing the people" in connection with the McDonald case. 

It was announced during a news conference Tuesday.

"We make this request because Anita Alvarez cannot discharge her duties to the people because she is so aligned with the Fraternal Order of Police," said Sheila Bedi, a law professor at Northwestern University Law School and an attorney at the MacArthur Justice Center. "The Cook County justice system regularly, every day, as we speak churns black and brown men through the system, many for minor non-violent offenses. Yet this very system ground to a halt when it came to holding accountable the police officers who were responsible for the death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald."

The group of attorneys — featuring Locke Bowman, the director for the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center, Bedi, and G. Flint Taylor, a founding partner of the People’s Law Office —claimed Alvarez should not be allowed to prosecute Officer Jason Van Dyke or any other Chicago police officers who "participated in the falsification of reports, the destruction of evidence, the manipulation and coercion of witnesses and other possible misconduct in the aftermath of the fatal shooting."

The attorneys were joined at Tuesday's press conference by political leaders including Congressman Danny Davis, former mayoral candidate Jesus "Chuy" Garcia, and a representative for Congressman Bobby Rush, among others. 

Van Dyke, has been charged with first-degree murder in connection with McDonald's death and has pleaded not guilty. 

"State’s Attorney Alvarez has lost the confidence of the public," Garcia said. "She lost the confidence of the public when she delayed the charging of Officer Jason Van Dyke for 400 days. It is clear that any oversight of this case has been mishandled."

Some of those calling for a special prosecutor include supporters of former Cook County Assistant Sate's Attorney Kim Foxx, one of Alvarez's opponents in the upcoming March primary. Bowman denied Tuesday that politics played a role in the filing of the petition, however.

Alvarez has previously defended her actions and said she does not "believe any mistakes were made" during the handling of the case. 

"The State's Attorney's Office has spent over a year working hand-in-hand with the U.S. Attorney's Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, using the full resources of the most professional and respected investigative agency in the nation to build a meticulous case against Jason Van Dyke," Alvarez said in a statement Tuesday. "Moreover, that case has already resulted in an indictment, and has been assigned to ASA Risa Lanier and ASA Lynn McCarthy, two highly skilled prosecutors with vast experience prosecuting violent offenders and complex cases."

Bowman, Taylor and the MacArthur Justice Center made headlines in 2011 when they called for a special prosecutor to determine if police covered up evidence in the case of 21-year-old David Koschman, who was killed in a fight in 2004.

Their request was later approved by a Cook County judge and the prosecutor’s report was unsealed in February 2014.

Danielson Superior Courthouse Reopened


The Danielson Superior Courthouse was evacuated for about an hour on Tuesday as police investigated a bomb threat.

State police responded to the courthouse at 12:05 p.m. and the court reopened just after 1 p.m.

School Street was closed during the investigation. No injuries were reported.

Bernie Madoff Pans 'Absurd' Mini-Series


Convicted Ponzi schemer Bernard Madoff has taken issue with his depiction in a recent mini-series about his life, telling NBC News in an email that there was "absurd mischaracterization in the ABC movie."

Madoff wrote that he never slapped his son Mark, who hanged himself in 2000.

He wrote that his wife Ruth was "never an officer" in his firm.

He also denied that he was having an affair with the chief financial officer of a charity he swindled.

Madoff is serving a 150-year sentence at a prison in North Carolina for swindling his clients out of $17.5 billion.

In his email to NBC News Madoff did not try to absolve himself of his crimes, which he described as a mistake that caused "unforgivable pain to my family, friends and clients."

Delta Passengers Remained on Tarmac for Hours


Passengers on a Delta flight from Bradley Airport to Minneapolis spent around four hours on the tarmac on Tuesday morning for deicing and an equipment problem, according to a passenger.

Eric Loh said he was on a 6:15 a.m. flight and received a notification that his flight would be delayed for half an hour, but then passengers onboard the plane waited for hours for deicing, he said.

After that, the towline broke, which again prevented them from leaving.

Loh said about a dozen people got off the flight and those who remained stayed calm and stayed pretty quiet.

“The mood of the cabin is quiet. Everyone got up really early for this flight and everyone’s napping and/or waiting patiently right now,” Loh said. “The people who are most anxious to get off the flight already did.”

The flight took off around 11 a.m.

Bradley Airport told NBC Connecticut the following:

"As of right now, we have a couple of airlines that are in the de-icing process which may impact flight times. We don't have any information about a broken tow."

Photo Credit: Erif Loh

Yale Student Hospitalized With Likely Bacterial Meningitis


A Yale College student is hospitalized with probable bacterial meningitis, according to a statement on the Yale Health web site.

The student was admitted last night to Yale-New Haven Hospital, where his or her condition is being closely monitored.

As a precaution, the university is working with local and state departments of health to identify people who had close, extended contact with the student so they can offer preventative treatment.

“Only those who have come into close, extended contact with a person with bacterial meningitis are at risk of infection. Additional information on bacterial meningitis can be found on the Centers for Disease Control website,” a statement from Yale Health says.

“I got my vaccination just prior to coming to college," Peter Chung, a Yale sophomore, told NBC Connecticut. “It’s a serious illness but I’m not worried because, you know, there is a vaccine.”

The university has activated its emergency response protocol and set up a telephone hotline staffed by healthcare professionals for those seeking additional information. The hotline number is 866-924-9253.

Photo Credit: File -- Bloomberg via Getty Images

Old Saybrook Teen Lies About Where He Was Shot: Police


 An Old Saybrook teen lied to officers about where he was shot after being sent to a hospital on Sunday, New Haven Police said. 

A 19-year-old was transported from the Shoreline Medical Center in Westbrook to Yale-New Haven Hospital by ambulance for a gunshot wound to the pelvis, police said.

When police interviewed the man, he said he had been out with friends at Toad's Place nightclub on York Street in New Haven. He said when he and his friends went to go look for his parked car with a mobile locator app, they were approached by three or four men and heard a gunshot. The group ran to the car and took off before the victim noticed he had been shot, according to New Haven Police. 

When officers came to interview the victim at Yale-New Haven, he said he didn't remember the street where the shooting occurred. Police went to search around the presumed crime scene during sub-zero temperatures and found nothing, they said. 

On Monday, when police went to speak to the victim again, he admitted that the shooting took place at a friend's house in Madison.

New Haven Police had notified Madison Police who are now investigating. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Senators Urge German to Purchase Connecticut-Based Helicopters


U.S. Senator Chris Murphy and U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal sent a letter to Germany's defense minister today urging the country to replace its existing helicopter fleet with new Sikorsky aircraft models.

"We strongly believe that maintaining interoperability between German and American equipment is essential, as Germany is one of our most important allies,” the senators wrote in a letter to Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen.

The senators recommend that Germany replace its aircraft with Sikorsky-made CH-53K "King Stallion" aircraft, the announcement said. 

The Stratford-based Sikorsky helicopters are used by all five branches of the U.S. armed forces and are the "most reliable, low maintenance and survivable aircraft in the world," the senators announced. Sikorsky also serves 40 nations for commercial purposes. 

By the end of the year, German plans to replace its existing fleet of 70 CH-53K helicopters. 

Photo Credit: Sikosky

2 Tornadoes in South Florida


National Weather Service officials said two EF-1 tornadoes hit South Florida Tuesday morning, downing trees and causing damage to homes and vehicles in Miami-Dade and Broward counties.

One tornado touched down in Pompano Beach, while the other landed in northeast Miami-Dade, officials said.

Residents of Miami-Dade said they woke up to the pounding storm on 191st Street, where trees were uprooted, power lines were downed and roof shingles were scattered on the ground.

Miami-Dade Fire Rescue officials said a 37-unit apartment building at 1000 Northeast 191st Street sustained a partial roof collapse. All residents were evacuated and no injuries were reported.

On Northeast 16th Street, the tornado was powerful enough to pull up some concrete.

The storm likely caused a crash between at least three vehicles and a tractor-trailer on I-95 by Ives Dairy Road, officials said.

And in North Miami Beach, officials said the damage looked like the aftermath of a hurricane.

"I'm driving around with our public works manager and this looks like the aftermath of a Wilma or Katrina, except with no notice," City Manager Anna Garcia said.

A second tornado touched down in Pompano Beach, where more trees were found uprooted and an auto parts store had its roof taken off.

"It took the roof off, rain, ceiling tiles, it's just a mess," said Ted Gerstenslager, manager of Murray's Speed and Custom.

The tornado also ripped up the roof of the warehouse next door. A block away, a woman said she had to stay in her car while it passed.

"I saw the things flying in circles, around, I started praying for my life," Carol Santana said.

In Miramar, residents reported heavy winds at the Tequesta Cove neighborhood. Palm trees were ripped out of the ground and debris was scattered throughout the neighborhood.

"I wasn't sure whether I should run back in or continue, I stopped and when I got to the corner I noticed all the falling trees by the gate," said Evelyn Ross.

"It just sounded like a big freight train coming through," resident Burt Albalat said. "It was just pounding, I heard things falling, things bouncing off things, things hitting my windows."

In Fort Lauderdale, heavy winds sent beach chairs into the ocean and were responsible for overturning two boats, sending one person to the hospital.

According to Florida Power & Light (FPL), 2,461 customers in Broward were without power, while 2,208 customers in Miami-Dade were without power, as of 9:30 p.m.

Photo Credit: Steve Litz/NBC6.com

Man Suspected in Bank Robberies Was in Debt, Addicted to Drugs


A financial advisor suspected in two bank robberies in East Granby was addicted to pain killers and was $120,000 in debt, according to the court documents.

Kevin Baker, 45, of West Hartford, is accused of robbing the First National Bank of Suffield on Turkey Hill Road in East Granby on Jan. 27 and again Feb. 8.

“I don’t want to hurt anyone,” he said while brandishing a serrated knife during the first robbery, according to the arrest warrant application. “Give me your 100s.”

He walked away with $15,867 and was hunched over in a possible attempt to disguise himself, a witness said.

During the second robbery, he jumped over the counter, held a knife near the tellers and demanded money, according to police documents.

“Let’s do this again, you know the drill,” he said. “All large bills.”

He then made off with $14,539 in cash, police said.

As he fled on Route 10 in Simsbury, police broadcast a description of the vehicle used, a state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection officer pursued him and Baker back up, nearly hitting him, according to police. He almost hit two people as well.

Police said they reviewed the surveillance video and reached out to the state Department of Motor Vehicles about the vehicle and determined similar vehicles were registered to Baker.

An internet search revealed that Baker was listed as being with 4D Private Wealth Strategies and was the regional director for WealthVest, police said. Websites also said he has worked for MetLife, SunAmerica Financial Group and American Skandia Marketing, police said.

According to police, Baker owes back car taxes in West Hartford and people who know the Baker family told police they were having financial problems.

Baker started a financial planning company around three years earlier, after being laid off, and the family had received shut off notices, according to court documents.

People police talked to said Baker was addicted to oxycodone. He’d had four spinal surgeries, was prescribed suboxone and he obtained prescription pads and wrote out prescriptions for oxycodone. A family member also told police that Baker had a problem with oxycodone.

When police spoke with one of Baker’s family members, she said they were “deeply in debt,” Kevin has sold his wife’s diamond for a cubic zirconia and Baker had left the house the day of one of the robberies, saying he needed to pay bills.

Baker also told another family member that he robbed the bank because of financial trouble and used a disguise, so police would not be able to prove he was in the bank, according to police.

Baker, who does not have a criminal history, said he did not want to talk to investigators, according to police.

NBC Connecticut tried to speak with Baker’s wife, but she chose not to comment.

Baker has been placed on medical and detox watch and he is scheduled back in court March 8.

Photo Credit: Connecticut State Police

Middletown Man Pleads Guilty to Robbing 7 Banks


A Middletown man has plead guilty to robbing seven banks in central Connecticut towns last summer, the prosecutor's office said. 

Matthew Dragone, a 31-year-old man who was living in a home for recovering substance abusers, was suspected of robbing banks in Berlin, Cheshire, Deep River, Durham, Killingworth, Rocky Hill and Wethersfield, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

He was arrested in September after several people identified him as a suspect.

During the robbery at Liberty Bank, at 357 Main Street in Durham, on Sept. 3, he was dressed in dark sunglasses, a blue-striped long-sleeve dress shirt and a white baseball cap with a “Coors Lite” logo, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Dragone held a cellphone to his ear when he approached the teller at the counter and handed over a bank bag with a note attached to the front that demanded money and ordered the bank employee not to include a dye pack or GPS, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

The teller placed around $1,490 in cash in the bag and handed it to Dragone, who drove off with the cash, federal officials said.

Investigators who responded to the scene found a "Coors Lite" baseball cap and a blue-striped shirt on the side of the road about 50 yards from the bank and laboratory DNA analysis eventually led investigators to identify Dragone as the suspect.

Dragone is also suspected of robbing the Webster Bank, at 145 Highland Avenue in Cheshire, on Aug. 12; the TD Bank at 1127 Farmington Avenue in Berlin, on Aug. 13; the Liberty Bank, at 151 Main Street in Deep River; on Aug. 17; the TD Bank, at 25 Wells Road in Wethersfield, on Aug.31; the Webster Bank; the TD Bank, at 184 Clinton Road in Killingworth on Sept. 11; and the attempted robbery at 377 Cromwell Avenue in Rocky Hill, on Sept. 9.

During the robbery at Webster Bank in Cheshire on Aug. 12, the robber handed the teller a note that said "(G)ive me all your money quickly, no dye packs or you'll regret it," according to the criminal complaint. The teller handed over $73 during that robbery.

During the robbery on Aug. 13, the robber held a cell phone to his ear and handed over a note that read "(A)ct normal and don't move fast, put all the 20's, 50's, 100's (sic) in this envelope and do no dye packs or GPS." The teller handed over $2,200 in that robbery.

The man who robbed the Liberty Bank on Deep River on Aug. 17 was also holding a cell phone against his ear and handed over a note in purple ink that said," I want 20's, 50's (sic) and hundreds, no dye pack s, you have 15 seconds," the complaint says. The teller handed over $2,320 during that robbery.

During the Aug. 31 robbery at TD bank in Wethersfield, the robber also used a note. It said, "Fill this bag with money," and the robbery stole $500 before leaving in a green Honda Civic with heavy front-end damage, passenger side damage and a loud exhaust.

A note was also used in the robbery at Liberty Bank in Durham on Sept. 3.

"(R)emain calm (sic) place 10's, 20's. 50's, 100's (sic) in bag, no dye packs, no GPS, I will check," he wrote, according to the complaint. The robber left with $14,900 in a getaway car described also a greenish Honda Civic.

When the man robbed the Webster Bank in Cromwell on Sept. 9, he handed over a note with identical writing, according to the complaint.

Officials said they found the clothing and sunglasses matching those worn during the Durham robbery and a bank-style bag consistent with the one used during several of the bank robberies in Dragone’s home during a search on Sept. 16.

Dragone has been released on a $50,000 bond and is scheduled to be sentenced on May 13, 2016. He faces a maximum of 20 years in prison.

Photo Credit: FBI

30 Students Displaced After Pipes Break at Quinnipiac


Two pipes burst in Village Six dormitory at Quinnipiac University's Mount Carmel campus in Hamden, and now 30 students are being assigned temporary housing.

Hayden Byrd, Quinnipiac senior, said, "To see such a big university like that have such a problem like this and not take care of it prior, that's a little disappointing."

"I definitely think it's really inconvenient for the students," said Katherine Koretski. a sophomore. "Just trying to find a new place to live and moving everything but I think with just the weather it's hard to situate things so just do the best they can."

One student suggested where Quinnipiac was finding the temporary beds.

"A lot of people have gone abroad so there's definitely some vacant rooms but to find 30 people new rooms, that's definitely gonna be a big inconvenience," said Rachel Antos, Quinnipiac sophomore.

The university spokesman said no further details of repairs are available.

Silver Alert Issued for Missing 81-Year-Old Stratford Man


 A silver alert has been issued for an 81-year-old Stratford man.

Anthony Petitte went missing on Tuesday and was last seen wearing a grey flannel jacket, green and white striped shirt with blue jeans and white sneakers.

Anyone with information is asked to call Stratford Police at (203) 328-4128.

Sprinkler Malfunction Destroys Thousands of Library Books


The Wallingford Public Library is drying out after a sprinkler system malfunctioned over the weekend, destroying thousands of books in the Children’s Room. Now the community is coming together hoiping to help re-stock the empty shelves.

The library director says roughly 12,000 items were ruined in the picture book section of the library that looked more like a lake Sunday. The sprinkler head is believed to have been damaged by the ice and extreme cold.

Firefighters helped drain the water and save the book train, but the collection cannot be dried out.
“A lot of times the glossy pages will stick together once they’ve gotten this wet,” Sunnie Scarpa, head of children’s services at the library said. “The mildew will eventually cover this completely so unfortunately they are not salvageable at all.”

While they assess the damage and air quality concerns, the room is off limits. They have set up a makeshift desk out front where children can browse the books that were returned after the incident. They are also helping them locate books at other libraries.

“It’s sad because we love coming here. It’s just our place to go,” Melanie Carante said.

So many parents feel the same way, which is why the library is welcoming donations online here.

Insurance will cover most, but not all of the cost.

“They give a present day value which doesn’t always cover some of the books that are hard to find,” library director Jane Fisher said.

They welcome the financial support as they dry out, but they are urging patrons not to run out and donate their books from home just yet.

“A lot of families have the same favorite books so we could potentially end up with 100 copies of Goodnight Moon,” Scarpa said.

They do not yet know when the Children’s Room will be back open, but all of their children’s programs are going on as scheduled in different parts of the library.

Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut
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Body Found on Watertown Sidewalk


A body was found on the sidewalk in Watertown, police said.

An "untimely" death investigation is underway after the body was found on the sidewalk area of the Hemingway Park Road and Main Street intersection, Watertown Police confirmed. 

There was no immediate signs of traumatic injuries or foul play, police said. 

This story is developing. Check back for updates.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock
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