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Accelerant-Detecting Dogs Help Out Local Police


New Haven's had a wave of suspicious car fires so it's only fitting that dogs learning to detect accelerants were working on Tuesday afternoon on burned out vehicles. 

The animals come from state police forces in Connecticut and nearby New England states. 

Thirty years ago this month, the first accelerant-detecting dog in Connecticut was trained here in New Haven. 

"And I was one of the first trainers that was assigned to do that task," Jim Butterworth, a retired state police sergeant, said. "Dogs are amazing. Anything that possesses an odor a dog can find. Our biggest thing was trying to figure out how to apply that to a fire scene. That was the biggest challenge we had." 

Now when local fire marshals face the challenges of an arson case, they can call in the dogs from the state police. 

Say the suspicion is that the owner set the car on fire because it's not worth the loan payments. The dog can help detect if what's supposed to be internal combustion was external. 

"It's a great asset to have, it's another set of eyes, another set of ears and it's definitely beneficial," New Haven Fire Marshal Robert Doyle said.

Besides dogs, Doyle said what's helping in New Haven is the city government's decision to fully staff his office with 11 people. The result is more arrests and closed arson cases. 

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Ansonia Business Analyst Accused of Selling Cocaine: Police


An Ansonia business analyst is accused of selling cocaine, police said.

Bryan Tamburrino, 25, who works as an analyst for the microelectronics company, ASML in Wilton, was arrested following a months-long investigation launched by Fairfield and Stratford police. 

During the investigation, Tamburrino met and supplied undercover officers with cocaine for money on six different occasions within close proximity to a school or daycare, Fairfield Police said. 

Police said they obtained search warrants for Tamburrino's car and home. Tamburrino was stopped while leaving his job at ASML and police found a large amount of cocaine packaged for sale on the passenger front seat of his Audi SUV, according to police. 

Tamburrino is accused of seven counts of sale of narcotics, seven counts of narcotics possession and seven counts of possessing narcotics within 1,500 feet of a school.

His bond was set to $25,000 and he is expected to appear in court on June 8. 

Photo Credit: Fairfield Police

Family Health Care Costs Have Tripled Since '01: Analysis


The costs of providing health care to an average American family surpassed $25,000 for the first time in 2016 — even as the rate of health cost increases slowed to a record low, a new analysis revealed Tuesday.

CNBC reports that the $25,826 in health-care costs for a typical family of four covered by an employer-sponsored "preferred provider plan" is $1,155 higher than last year, and triple what it cost to provide health care for the same family in 2001, the first year that Milliman Medical Index analysis was done.

And it's the 11th consecutive year that the total dollar increase in the average family's health-care costs exceeded $1,110, the actuarial services firm noted in releasing the index.

A significant cost driver identified by the index was the rapid growth in what health plans and insured people are paying for prescription drugs.

Photo Credit: Caiaimage/Chris Cross via Getty Images, File

Hartford to No Longer Subsidize Parades, Festivals


One of the city's expenses that saw the budget ax for the next year is payments for festivals and parades.

Historically, the city had been very generous to organizations that put on music festivals, parades and other large scale events. Hartford has provided police, firefighters, public works and other personnel to make sure the events went smoothly.

“The city’s cost after reimbursements or the portions that the organizers would contribute was $700,000 for the year" said Melissa McCaw, who's in charge of budgeting and grants for the City of Hartford.

“A city that’s facing a shortfall of $10 million and we’re incurring $700,000 in expenses, we had to think differently about how to approach this.”

The groups that put on its respective events will be responsible to pay for the costs that the city would otherwise have to pay for. That's a model used by many other cities around the country because such events require extra police and fire staff to ensure the events are safe.

“We were waiting for that shoe to drop and we realized that we had to start thinking creatively and quickly on our feet because the parade couldn’t just be stopped," said Ana Valentin-Jackson, who chairs the board of the Puerto Rican Parade, slated for Sunday, June 5.

For the 2016 parade, Valentin-Jackson said her group struck a deal with the city to pay for some public works costs like trash collection. In future years, however, she said the event will need help from sponsors and other groups to make the event go smoothly.

She said there is no way the parade in Hartford will go away, even if the costs skyrocket.

“It’s the one staple event for the Puerto Rican community to celebrate our traditions, our culture and where we come from.”

Valentin-Jackson is open to making the parade a shared event among cities that groups from around Connecticut would help coordinate.

McCaw, with the City of Hartford, said that could be an event the city would love support as a region.

“I think we can make it bigger and better. I think there’s a great opportunity and that’s a wonderful example," McCraw said. 

Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut

American ISIS Defector's Unsealed Case Details Escape


A judge has unsealed the case against an American ISIS defector whose identity is still hidden, NBC News reported.

The 27-year-old former Columbia University student, who is identified as Mo, spoke with NBC News last week — with the permission of prosecutors — about why he signed up with the terror group, the violence he saw and his desperate escape. Prosecutors acquiesced to revealing the defector's information after the interview.

Among other things, the case file details Mo's initial contact with the FBI in 2014. He told the FBI, "I just want to get back home. All I want is this extraction, complete exoneration thereafter and have everything back to normal with me and my family…Please help me get back home."

FBI officials have told NBC News that Mo pleaded guilty to two terrorism charges that carry between 10 and 25 years in prison — though he could get less because of his ongoing cooperation.

Photo Credit: AP

Hedge Fund to Receive $22 Million from CT


One of the world's largest hedge funds, Bridgewater Associates, is slated to receive $22 million from the state, in return for job and other investment commitments.

In return for the state's millions, the firm will invest a total of $525 million in Connecticut through jobs and facilities improvements.

The deal is a part of the First Five program, organized by the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development, meant to encourage and spur investment among major employers.

“I still think that if we look at this from a taxpayer perspective and I view myself as a fiduciary of their dollars, that they’re going to get a great return on this investment" said Catherine Harris, the Commissioner of DECD.

The deal includes a low interest $17 million loan, $3 million for renewable energy sources and $2 million for training.

In return for the state funds, which will come in the form of bonds, Bridegwater Associates must retain the 1,402 that are already at the company's Westport headquarters and create an additional 750 jobs by 2021.

The company will also be eligible for $30 million in Urban and Industrial Sites Reinvestment Tax Credits over a ten year period.

“They are absolutely well-paying jobs, well above your average in Connecticut, believe me," Harris said.

Bridgewater Associates did not respond to a request for comment.

Republicans criticized the deal as unnecessary for a company like Bridgewater that manages more than $150 billion in assets around the world.

“People have just had enough with ridiculous decisions that government makes and this is beyond the pale," said Senate Minority Leader, Republican Len Fasano.

Even though GE announced it was leaving back in January for Boston, Fasano said the circumstances now are very different. He said Bridgewater was already going to invest to stay, whereas GE was frustrated with the way that state had been run for a while.

“What you need to do in Connecticut is say, 'What do we need to make people stay here?', so that they want to stay here, so that the business climate overall is good to be here because we’ve got control over our debts, and control over our taxes," Fasano said.

Smith said the state is getting a very high return on investment because the people who will eventually be employed by Bridgewater will pay income and local property taxes.

“The deal more than pays for itself so that $17 million will come back to the state in a different form. If the company doesn’t deliver, they don’t create the jobs, they owe us back that funding,” Smith said

The State Bond Commission will meet Friday where it is expected to approve the funds.

Photo Credit: Bridgewater Associates

Investigation Finds Mislabeled Wine in Several CT Liquor Stores


Consumer Watchdog group Truth in Advertising (TINA) found 26 of 30 Connecticut merchants use shelf talkers, cards indicating a wine’s rating, for bottles they don’t sell.

“They bait you with a vintage and a rating that’s very good, and then they switch it for a different bottle and a different vintage, which can dramatically affect the rating,” said TINA’s Executive Director Bonnie Patten.

For example, Spirts of Madison had a shelf talker for a 2012 Waterbrook Chardonnay. Its placard touts high ratings from Wine Spectator. However, the liquor store doesn’t sell any bottles from 2012—they sell ones from 2014.

Spirit of Madison’s manager said he was not aware of the labeling discrepancy.

Nor were the employees at The Grog Shop in Middletown, according to its manager. NBC Connecticut had questions amid TINA’s findings that The Grog Shop advertised its 2012 Indian Well Merlot as a 2008.

“A consumer would value that bottle of wine that they’re buying differently,” said Patten.

Madison resident Dora Onorati agrees. She and her husband make their own wine every year.

“A 2010 (bottle) would be very different from a 2013 (or) from a 1989,” said Onorati. “I could imagine that would be a problem for somebody who’s going in, who doesn’t know anything about wine and who wants to learn more.”

Those placards are often used as a trusted source of information for such consumer who wants to learn more. Wine Spectator, a magazine that has reviewed more than 300,000 different wines including the two aforementioned, makes shelf talker placards for stores nationwide.

Tom Matthews, Wine Spectator’s Executive Editor, said he’s well aware of the misuse of his critics’ labels and urges stores use them accurately.

Meanwhile, counsel for TINA has filed a complaint with the Department of Consumer Protection. The DCP said it is in the process of reviewing that information.

“It’s not just going to be these 26 out of 30 stores,” said Patten. “There are many stores in Connecticut that probably have similar bait and switch tactics.”

The DCP, TINA and Wine Spectator all have the same suggestion—read labels and ratings carefully, and when in doubt, go to the source. Every wine rating magazine has a website where you can learn about any bottle in question.

Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut

Police Investigate Fatal Crash in Middlebury


A man is dead after hitting a tree in Middlebury on Tuesday, according to police.

Late Tuesday morning, police said one man, Robert Graham, 45, was taken to the hospital to be treated for serious injuries after his car hit a tree at South Street and Longmeadow Road around 9:15 a.m.

The 45-year-old was pronounced dead at Waterbury Hospital. 

Wet roads were likely a factor in the crash, according to police. 

The accident is under investigation by the Naugatuck Valley Collision Investigation Team. 

Photo Credit: MIddlebury Fire Department

'I Don't Know Who To Watch My Back From': NYC Student Locked in Fridge


A Manhattan high school student who was locked in a refrigerator by classmates told NBC 4 New York on Tuesday "I don't know who to watch my back from."

The 16-year-old boy, who asked not to be identified, was locked in the commercial fridge at Food and Finance High School on West 50th Street on May 6.

Three students were arrested after the incident, and students at the school said last week that it was a prank. But the boy who was locked in the fridge said he doesn't see it that way and that he's been ostracized since the incident.

"I feel like it's me against everybody at this point," he said. 

The boy said no teacher was in the classroom when fellow students locked him in the fridge. He said they then pounded on the door with large chef's knives and threatened to kill him.

"They're real knives," he said. "I was thinking, 'What if they opened the door and they really wanted to kill me?'" 

He added, "It was was pitch black, I just started freaking out."

After about 10 minutes, the boy said he called his mother. She in turn called the school. The boy was let out and three of the students were later arrested. 

The boy missed several days of school after the ordeal and said that he can't sleep because he fears retaliation. He also said his doctor diagnosed him with post-traumatic stress disorder and that students and teachers have mocked him.

"There are faculty that will say to me, 'Stay frosty,'" he said. "They think it's a joke. It's not a joke."

The boy's mother told NBC 4 New York she was outraged that students had access to chef's knives without supervision. She also said the Department of Education initially tried to downplay the incident, claiming students didn't have weapons because the knives are tools.

"Children were in danger if children were running around with knives and no supervision," the boy's mother said. "There was imminent danger."

The DOE again maintained that there were no weapons involved on Tuesday , however. 

"The safety and security of students and staff is our top priority. The school followed protocol in responding to an incident that was reported and the students involved were disciplined appropriately," the DOE said in a statement.

Photo Credit: NBC 4 New York

Family Offers Reward on I-91 Billboard for Cold Murder Case


The family of a Windsor man killed in 2013 is pleading for the public’s help after they offered a $250,000 reward leading to an arrest and conviction of the man’s killer.

The reward can be seen on a billboard on I-91 North and South near Jennings Road in Hartford. On the billboard is John Chakalos face – the 87-year-old man found shot in the head and murdered inside his Overlook Drive home in December 2013 with no word on who committed the crime.

The Chief State Attorney’s office Cold Case Unit told NBC Connecticut Chakalos family put up the billboards and are offering the reward.

“Maybe it’ll lead to something," Said Joe Zotter, a neighbor and friend of Chakalos for the last 20 years. “(He) always had a nice word to say about everything so you know it’s tough, it was really a shock to have something like that happen not only to John, but a neighbor across the street.”

Since the murder, the home has sat vacant and hasn’t been put up for sale, according to neighbors.

Now Windsor Police and the state’s cold case unit are hoping somebody knows answers as to why and who killed John Chakalos.

“I hope they solve it because I mean it’s just awful to think he’s just an old man living by himself and to think that happened is just awful. You never imagine that happening in your neighborhood,” Said Megan Connelly, another neighbor.

If you have any information, you’re asked to call Windsor Police or the State’s Cold Case Unit.

Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut

DOJ to Seek Death Penalty in Charleston Church Shooting


The Department of Justice will seek the death penalty against accused church shooter Dylann Roof, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced Tuesday.

Lynch said in a statement that her department came to that decision after a "rigorous review process," NBC News reports.

"The nature of the alleged crime and the resulting harm compelled this decision," she said.

Roof, 22, will stand trial for the massacre of nine people last June at the historically black Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. He was charged with nine counts of murder, three counts of attempted murder and possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime.

Photo Credit: Charleston County Sheriff's Office via Getty Images

Black Bear Found Dead in Roxbury Was Shot


A bear found dead at a nature preserve in Roxbury earlier this month was shot and likely dumped on Roxbury Land Trust Property, according to the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

Officials at Roxbury Town Hall started receiving complaints around 8 a.m. on May 18 about a dead black bear on the property, so officers from State EnCon Police responded and found the animal.

A necropsy was performed on May 19 and determined that the bear was shot. 

Officials are still trying to determine who shot the bear and anyone with information is asked to call (860) 424-3333.

A bear found dead at a nature preserve in Roxbury earlier this month was shot and likely dumped on Roxbury Land Trust Property, according to the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.
Officials at Roxbury Town Hall started receiving complaints around 8 a.m. on May 18 about a dead black bear on the property, so officers from State EnCon Police responded and found the animal.
A necropsy was performed on May 19 and determined that the bear was shot. 
Officials are still trying to determine who shot the bear and anyone with information is asked to call (860) 424-3333.

Photo Credit: Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection

Body Found in Connecticut River in Middletown


A couple fishing called police when they found a body in the Connecticut River in Middletown on Tuesday evening, police said. 

Middletown Police are investigating who the person may be and how they may have died after retrieving the body from the river in the Harbor Park area. 

The Medical Examiner's Office has been called to assist in the investigation.

Please check back for updates on this developing story. 

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Hacker Who Says He Breached Clinton Server Pleads Guilty


A hacker known as Guccifer, who claims he broke into Hillary Clinton's private e-mail server, pleaded guilty Wednesday, NBC News reported.

Marcel Lehel Lazar, who's Romanian, entered guilty pleas to charges of identity theft and unauthorized access to protected computers before a federal judge in Alexandria, Virginia. He could face up to seven years in prison. 

Prosecutors said he broke into the e-mail and social media accounts of about 100 Americans, including members of the family of former presidents George W. and George H.W. Bush.

Lazar served time in a Romanian prison and was brought to the U.S. in late March to face federal charges.

Photo Credit: NBC News

2 Charged After NY Doctor's Death


The producer of an HBO series and another man are facing federal narcotics charges in the drug overdose death of a Long Island dermatologist who was found unconscious in the vestibule of a Manhattan apartment complex last fall, according to a criminal complaint.

Marc Henry Johnson, who was a producer on an HBO series called "The Deuce," and James Holder were arrested at their homes in Manhattan Wednesday by a team of Drug Enforcement Administration, NYPD and New York State Police investigators, sources said.

Their arrests come eight months after the death of Dr. Kiersten Cerveny, a Manhasset dermatologist who was found in the vestibule of Holder's apartment building on West 16th Street in Chelsea on Oct. 4.

Sources have previously said Cerveny and Johnson were in a relationship at the time of her death.

According to the complaint, Johnson, 51, met Cerveny and another individual at a bar on the Lower East Side after texting about meeting Holder, 60, for "a pickup." While at the bar, he allegedly told Cerveny, who had been using cocaine before he arrived, he had more of the drug and offered to share it with her and the other person. 

Later that night, Cerveny and Johnson left the bar together in a taxi and went to Holder's apartment, according to the complaint. They went upstairs and weren't seen again for hours. 

The complaint alleges that Holder and Johnson emerged four hours later and dragged the unconscious Cerveny along the hallway to the first-floor vestibule. Holder left afterward and Johnson called 911.

Johnson allegedly refused to give the dispatcher his identity and didn't say what had happened to the 38-year-old. He left after paramedics got to the scene, according to the complaint. 

Emergency medical technicians attempted to resuscitate Cerveny as they loaded her into the ambulance and took her to the Lenox Health emergency room in Greenwich Village. She died at the hospital.

Medical examiners ruled her death resulted from acute cocaine and alcohol intoxication. 

According to the complaint, Holder -- who went by the nickname "Pepsi" -- had allegedly sold drugs out of his apartment since about 2013. He generally sold "hundreds," bags of cocaine costing $100, the complaint says.

"We believe Mr. Holder has been selling drugs in this city for a long time," said NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton. 

According to multiple media reports, Johnson stepped away from "The Deuce" after Cerveny's death. The show's executive producer, "The Wire" creator David Simon, called the death a "greivous tragedy."

"As evidence has yet to be presented it would be irresponsible to say more at this point," he said. 

Cerveny, originally from Washington Township in Gloucester County, New Jersey, had been an assistant professor of clinical dermatology at Weill Cornell Medical College, according to a Dec. 12, 2009 announcement of her marriage to Andrew Cerveny Jr., also a dermatologist, in The New York Times. She graduated magna cum laude from Duke University and earned her medical degree at Tulane University.

She met her husband in 2004 while both were residents at the Medical Center of Louisiana at New Orleans. They had three children together. 

Information about whether the men had obtained attorneys who could comment on the charges wasn't immediately available. 

Photo Credit: NBCNewYork.com/Facebook
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Home Health Care Aide Stole $22K from Client: Police


A home health care aide is accused of stealing $22,000 from a Milford resident she was working for.

Police took Violet Thomas, 52, of Bridgeport, into custody on Tuesday.

She is accused of fraudulently taking $22,000 from a checking account she had access to while working as an in-home health care aide and has been charged with first-degree larceny and conspiracy to commit larceny in the first degree.

Bond was set at $50,000 and she is due in court on June 21.

Photo Credit: Milford Police

Waterbury Elementary School Evacuated Over Bomb Threat


Driggs Elementary School in Waterbury has been evacuated after someone phoned in a bomb threat around 10 a.m.

Students spent about 40 minutes outside and then were moved to Kennedy High School, according to police.

State police responded to the school and determined there were no explosive devices. The students will be returned to Driggs Elementary to finish out the day, school personnel said.

Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut

Police Rescue Fawn in East Lyme


Police rescued a fawn that kept running into a fence at an East Lyme school this morning. 

The fawn was trying to get out of a fenced-in area at Lillie B Haynes School on Wednesday morning, but kept running into the fence, according to a post on the police department’s Facebook page.

Officer Langman came to the rescue and was able to get the fawn safely across the road to a wooded area.

Photo Credit: East Lyme Police
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Whole Foods Opens 1st 365 Store


Southern Californians will be the first in the nation to check items off their grocery lists at Whole Foods' new 365 market, which opened in Los Angeles' Silver Lake neighborhood Wednesday with the promise of lower prices and a "streamlined customer experience."

The high-end grocery chain's smaller quality-meets-value store at 2520 Glendale Blvd. will feature product selections from Whole Foods Market's 365 Everyday Value brand and a curated mix of products from Friends of 365 including Allegro Coffee Company, teaBOT and by CHLOE, plus partners Loomstate and Instacart.

"It's an awesome thing," Silver Lake resident Joseph Tan said. "If they actually have lower prices, well see."

Doors opened at 9 a.m. following a cake-cutting ceremony celebrating the opening of the Austin-based company's first 365 store in the nation. Grand opening deals, including discounted food items, will be offered.

The 365 store boasts a different look than typical Whole Foods stores. The space is airy and accented with blues, reds and yellows. All price tags are digital and fewer printed signs are displayed.

A loyalty program offering personalized offers and deals will also be launched.

More locations are planned for Southern California, including in Long Beach, Santa Monica, North Hollywood, Claremont and Los Alamitos. Two locations in the Bay Area — San Francisco and Concord — are also planned.

The company says two more stores are slated to open this year in Lake Oswego, Oregon, and Bellevue, Washington, and up to 10 more are expected to open next year.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of 365 by Whole Foods
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Hartford to Consider Action Against Ballpark Developer


The Hartford Stadium Authority will be holding a special meeting on Thursday afternoon to discuss whether to call the bond for the new baseball stadium in Hartford, which is behind schedule on construction, so the city will not have to finance any more of the project, according to sources inside City Hall.

Construction on Dunkin’ Donuts Park, the future home of the Hartford Yard Goats, was supposed to be “substantially complete” by May 17, but that did not happen and the most recent estimate for stadium completion is July Fourth weekend.

If city leaders decide to "call the bond," it could delay the construction of the ballpark by several weeks.

The bonding company would immediately assess the stadium construction project and decide whether to replace Centerplan Construction as the general contractor or keep them on the job with oversight.

In either case, the bond is secured by the assets of the developer, DoNo Hartford, LLC and its principles.

Neither the City of Hartford nor the Yard Goats would be required to spend additional money to finish the stadium.

The city of Hartford created the Hartford Stadium Authority to help finance construction on the park and the stadium authority said in February that they planned to borrow $62.4 million, including $39 million from the sale of tax-exempt bonds and $23.4 million in taxable bonds.

The stadium authority will meet at 1 p.m. and the only item on the agenda is to empower the executive director and corporation counsel to pursue bond and other actions necessary to complete project without further financial outlays by the city or the Hartford Stadium Authority.

Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut
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