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Urn Found Floating Off North Miami Beach


A South Florida crematorium owner is hoping someone will come forward to claim remains found in an urn floating in the Intracoastal Waterway in North Miami.

"I am expected and hopeful any family will come forward, if for no other reason to bring this matter to a close and have a sense of completion," said Geronimo Mena Jr., owner of Hollywood-based Guiding Light Cremations.

Mena said the remains were found in an urn in the water near the 163rd Street Bridge in North Miami Beach. He offered to keep them in a temporary urn in the hopes relatives will claim them.

He said he is 99 percent sure that the ashes are of human remains because of their color, texture and presence of bone particles.

Mena said when he got the urn, the remains were in a plastic bag tied together by a string.

"It was devoid of any label or customary tag," Mena said.

He said urns usually have identifying features on a stainless steel tag with the name of the crematorium, name of the deceased and tag number.

Mena said under Florida statute he can hold the remains for 120 days. If no one claims them in that time, he can dispose of them legally.  If the family does claim the remains, he will scatter them and give the family a certificate indicating the longitude and latitude of the scattering site, he said.

"I will offer them the opportunity to have the procedure completed legally," Mena said.

Otherwise, he will scatter them at sea himself.

Mena said it's not legal to scatter ashes in the Intracoastal Waterway. The Environmental Protection Agency declares that human remains must be buried at least three nautical miles from land.

Photo Credit: Geronimo Mena Jr., Guiding Light Cremations

Stratford Playground Will be Built to Honor Victoria Soto


Sandy Hook shooting victim Victoria Soto lives on in her hometown of Stratford, where a local road and elementary school will soon bear her name. This Friday, her legacy grows with the construction of the Victoria Soto memorial playground.

The playground construction site, located at Pender's Field in Longbrook Park, will be revealed at 8:30 a.m. on June 16, the six-month anniversary of the massacre that took Soto's life.

The playground is one of 26 being built to honor the shooting victims. The Sandy Ground Project: Where Angels Play is spearheading the initiative and was born from the New Jersey State Firemen's Mutual Benevolent Association.

The association has a history of giving back. It built three Gulf Coast playgrounds in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, then decided to do the same in the Sandy-ravaged tri-state area.

Then came the Sandy Ground Project. So far, the project has constructed four playgrounds, making Soto's the fifth.

The other four, located in Westport, Ansonia, Sea Bright and Union Beach, honor Dylan Hockley, Anne Marie Murphy, Jack Pinto and Catherine Hubbard.

Soto's family plans to participate in the playground building and dedication.

Facebook Finally Gets Clickable Hashtag


Social media's beloved hashtag is finally coming to Facebook.

While many users are already using hashtags on the site, they served no purpose until Wednesday, when Facebook announced in a blog post that they will be clickable and searchable.

"When you click on a hashtag in Facebook, you'll see a feed of what other people and Pages are saying about that event or topic," wrote Greg Lindley, Facebook's product manager.

The feature will allow users to join in on conversations like #NBAFinals and #NSALeaks.

Facebook has been teasing the feature since March, according to The Wall Street Journal, and it's now joining the list of other social media sites with functional hashtags like Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest and Instagram, which Facebook purchased in 2012.

Photo Credit: Getty Images/Tetra images RF

Great White Shark Sighting Off N.J.


A group of Jersey Shore fishermen had an up-close and personal encounter with a great white shark.

Rob Pompilio, Mike Long and another friend left from Little Egg Harbor Township on Sunday afternoon and were about 30 miles southeast of Atlantic City when they spotted the shark.

"Unspeakable. Like nothing I’ve ever seen before," said Pompilio. The great white was about half the size of Pompilio's 28-foot boat.

Long, who says "Jaws" is his favorite movie, was quick to hit "record" on his cell phone to make his own short movie of the great white shark circling the boat.

The friends say the shark hung around for about 10 minutes and seemed more curious than aggressive.

“The teeth were huge,” said Long. The great white left scratch marks from its sharp teeth on the boat. “It came up, just grabbed the boat, saw it wasn’t edible, went back down,” said Pompilio.

The founder of Brigantine's Marine Mammal Stranding Center says great white sightings have become more common off the coast of New Jersey in recent years because of an increase in the number of seals, one of its main prey.

“You should keep an eye out. If you see fins in the water, common sense should tell you to get out of the water," said Bob Schoelkopf, Marine Mammal Stranding Center.

Photo Credit: Mike Long

Great White Shark Sighting Off N.J.

Third Worker Arrested For Group Home Abuse


A third former employee is now facing criminal charges for abusing residents at an East Hartford group home.

Stephanie Jones, 43, of 323 Tolland Street in East Hartford, was arrested Tuesday and charged with inciting injury to persons, according to police.

Jones worked as an assistant manager at a group home on King Street in East Hartford when the abuse took place, police said.

search warrant from the case details some of the disturbing behavior Jones is accused of.  

Co-defendant Angelica Rivera, who court documents show was caught on tape abusing a resident and was arrested last July, told police Jones was "the main leader and the worst person responsible for assaulting the residents," according to the warrant.

Rivera told police she saw Jones grab one resident's private parts and also rub his legs until his hair fell out while wearing gloves, the warrant states.

She also reported seeing Jones poke the man's bare feet with tacks and tie him to his bed and chair for long periods of time, according to the warrant.

The warrant says Rivera told police she saw Jones drag another resident by her hair and punch her in the face.

Jones was not home when we stopped by and she did not respond to our request for comment.

Rivera told police Jones encouraged workers to abuse the residents while making sure not to leave visible injuries. She also said Jones recorded the abuse and stored the videos on her home computers, the warrant states.

Police seized cell phones, laptop computers, tablets, camcorders, cell phones, DVDs and other items when they searched Jones' home. Some of the equipment contained the videos that ultimately led to her arrest, police said.

The group home is operated by Options Unlimited of Bloomfield, which now has new management, staff and training procedures, according to Lynn Warner, the company's CEO.

"We're just as horrified as the public by the abuse. We're thrilled with this arrest. I hope justice is truly served," Warner said.

After the abuse was discovered, the state Department of Developmental Services placed the company's homes on enhanced monitoring.

Although the monitoring ended in February, the agency is still keeping a close watch on the company's homes, according to spokesperson Joan Barnish.

In a statement, DDS Commissioner Terrence Macy said, "The vast majority of public and private employees provide the best of care to the thousands of Connecticut citizens with intellectual disabilities. But to the ones that don’t, I hope these arrests send a clear message – abuse of any kind will not be tolerated.”

Besides Jones and Rivera, another former worker is also facing criminal charges.

Jevaun Phillips was caught on tape abusing a resident, according to police. He was arrested in late May and will be in court later this month.

Jones is due in court July 1.

Rivera is currently awaiting a trial in her case.


Photo Credit: East Hartford Police

Prosecutors: Pair Killed Autistic Teen To End Suffering


The mother and caregiver of a suburban Chicago 14-year-old boy found stabbed to death were ordered held without bond a day after they were charged with first-degree murder.

Prosecutors in court Wednesday said Dorothy Spourdalakis, 50, and Jolanta Agata Skrodzka, 44, had been planning for a week to kill Alex Spourdalakis, who has autism. The teen was found Monday with multiple stab wounds to the chest in an apartment above the Forte Plumbing Co. in the 8100 block of West Grand Avenue, in west suburban River Grove.

The state's attorney said the pair first thought they could kill the teen with an overdose of sleep medication, but it was taking too long. Spourdalakis pulled out a kitchen knife and stabbed him four times in the chest, prosecutors said.

The two confessed to the murder, and prosecutors said they worked together to end the teen's suffering from autism.

Skrodzka killed the cat so it wouldn't have to go to a shelter, prosecutors said, then they both took pills to try and kill themselves.

"There was quite a bit of blood and it was pretty messy, like there had been some kind of a struggle," police chief Rodger Loni said this week.

Dorothy Spourdalakis and Skrodzka were found semi-conscious at the scene and were taken to Gottlieb Hospital in Melrose Park.

Alex Spourdalakis was the subject of a big support effort online. A Facebook page was set up for him four months ago to garner help after a hospitalization left him in physical restraints for nearly two weeks. 

"It's terrible," Loni said. "It's a young 14-year-old boy who didn't need to die. I have young boys of my own. It's pretty traumatic."

Photo Credit: Cook County Sheriff's Office

AAA Study Found Hands-Free Devices Distract Drivers


Your hands-free device may not keep you as safe as you want when you're behind the wheel.

A study released this week from AAA and the University of Utah says using those hands-free features behind the wheel is more distracting and dangerous than talking on the phone while driving. In fact, the study says dictating speech to text is the most distracting of all.

“Just because the device is hands-free doesn’t mean it’s risk free,” says Aaron Kupec from AAA Connecticut.

Kupec says the study looked at drivers’ cognitive activity while doing certain tasks behind the wheel.

NBC’s Tom Costello put the driving simulator to the test on the Today show Wednesday morning. He found his reaction time was delayed by 10 percent when concentrating on talking to the car’s computer.

“The key message here is just because your eyes are on the road and your hands are on the wheel doesn’t mean you’re not distracted,” Kupec says. “You also have to keep your mind on the drive.”

Connecticut drivers we talked to agree. They say drivers should ditch the distractions.

“When it comes to driving you really need to pay attention to the road,” said Virginia Lanese from Thomaston.

“I typically do not answer calls when I’m in the vehicle driving, certainly not text,” says Miguel Prado from West Hartford.

Prado has two young children. His SUV can talk to the driver through its speakers, but he doesn’t find it helpful.

“For me it’s just a distraction trying to stay focused on the response or what the person is telling me.”

Automobile makers don’t want to jump to a conclusion. They’re not yet convinced their technological efforts to keep drivers safe on the raid have been in vain.

In a statement, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers says they’re concerned the study could mislead because it suggests that hand-held and hands-free devices are equally risky. They also noted that other studies are underway and road safety will be enhanced in the end through the complete body of research.

Still, Aaron Kupec with AAA says one thing is for certain.

“The key is to use [these features] responsibly.”

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Domestic Violence Victim Fired From Teaching


A San Diego teacher was fired by Holy Trinity School following a domestic violence incident involving her ex-husband.

Second-grade teacher Carie Charlesworth is out of a job, but not for anything she did in the classroom. Her school district considers her a liability and too unsafe to have around following a domestic violence dispute that happened earlier this year.

A letter sent to Charlesworth
said that school officials are concerned about her ex-husband's "threatening and menacing behavior," and as a result they "cannot allow" her to continue teaching at the Holy Trinity School.

"They’ve taken away my ability to care for my kids,” said Charlesworth. “It’s not like I can go out and find a teaching job anywhere.”

The mother of four children didn’t think this would ever be her story to tell, but she is using her name and showing her face in hopes of bringing attention to a larger problem.

It’s a story that has domestic violence advocates outraged, fearing it will only reinforce an age-old problem where victims stay silent — but equally concerned are the school's parents, not wanting their kids in the middle of it.

“Basically, we’d had a very bad weekend with him, we’d called the sheriff’s department three times on Sunday with him,” said Charlesworth, referring to an incident in January that put her leave of absence in motion. 

She went to her principal at Holy Trinity School in El Cajon the following morning and told the principal to be on the lookout for her ex-husband.  As many domestic violence cases go, this one has a trail of restraining orders and 911 calls. When Charlesworth’s ex-husband showed up in the school parking lot, the school went into lockdown. 

Charlesworth and her four kids, who also attended Holy Trinity School, have not been back since the January incident. A letter was sent home to parents the following day, explaining the situation and noting Charlesworth and her children were being put "on an indefinite leave.”

While Charlesworth’s husband went to jail on two felony charges, she says she felt like a criminal too.

“And that’s what it felt like, the kids and I were being punished for something we didn’t even do,” she told NBC 7 San Diego.

Three months later, another letter arrived in the mail delivering a crushing blow.  Charlesworth was fired for good, and after 14 years in the district not allowed to teach at any other Diocesan school.

The letter stated:

"We know from the most recent incident involving you and Mrs. Wright (the principal) while you were still physically at Holy Trinity School, that the temporary restraining order in effect were not a deterrent to him. Although we understand he is current incarcerated, we have no way of knowing how long or short a time he will actually serve and we understand from court files that he may be released as early as next fall. In the interest of the safety of the students, faculty and parents at Holy Trinity School, we simply cannot allow you to return to work there, or, unfortunately, at any other school in the Diocese."

When asked for a response, Tom Beecher, Director of the San Diego Diocese Office for Schools wrote in an email to NBC 7 San Diego: “The diocese does not make public comment about personnel issues.”

Several parents at Holy Trinity, not disclosing their names out of safety concerns, said the district did the right thing in a no-win situation because they feared for the safety of their own children. Several parents mentioned being part of a movement to “pull kids out of the school” if Charlesworth returned. 

“I mean that’s why women of domestic violence don’t come forward, because they’re afraid of the way people are going to see them, view them, perceive them, treat them,” said Charlesworth.

A 2011 study by Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center shows Charlesworth isn’t alone: Nearly 40 percent of survivors in California reported being fired or feared termination because of domestic violence. 

Charlesworth’s attorney Kenneth Hoyt, who intends to file a lawsuit on her behalf, said it may be an uphill climb because of something called "Ministerial Exception.” As part of her duties Charlesworth taught religion, and even though it was a small part of her daily lesson plan, there's legal precedence showing she can be fired without cause just like a priest or pastor.

“I have not been back to a Catholic church since this happened” said Charlesworth, who admits her life has been turned upside down because “everything I thought I had, I don’t.” 

She is being paid through August, but doesn’t know where she’ll turn next.  Her ex-husband is scheduled to be released from Jail at the end of June.

To learn about more resources that help domestic violence victims, visit the YWCA website Becky's House.

Suspect Shot By Police, Arrested in Cromwell


A 21-year-old man was arrested Wednesday after leading Cromwell police on a car chase that resulted in an altercation during which the suspect was shot, state police said.

Police said this started with reports of erratic driving and a driver trying to crash into greenhouses early Wednesday morning in Cromwell.

Joshua Beaston, of Vicki Lane in Cromwell, spun his truck around and went over an embankment when police tried to stop him. Beaston's truck hit the building that houses Suburban Physical Therapy at the corner of Washington Road and West Street in Cromwell, according to police.

Beaston got out of the truck and attempted to flee, police said. During an altercation, police fired gunshots and struck Beaston at least once, according to police.

The officer, whose name is being withheld, called for EMS and performed emergency care on Beaston until the ambulance arrived. Beaston was transported to Hartford Hospital and is in stable condition, police said.

Beaston was charged with second-degree larceny, first-degree criminal mischief and second-degree criminal trespassing. Police said he is being guarded at the hospital and will held on $500,000 bond.

Beaston will be arraigned in Middletown Superior Court, police said.

State police and the major crimes unit are investigating.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

More Rain Ahead, Flood Warnings Issued


Flood warnings and watches are in effect and another 2-to-4 inches of rain could fall in Connecticut on Thursday.

A storm center will move through the Ohio Valley and roll toward the New Jersey shoreline Thursday into Thursday night, bringing another round of moderate to heavy rain to Connecticut. 

Computer models show the potential for 2-to-4 inches of additional rain possible.

If this rainfall does occur, more poor drainage, urban-street and river/stream flooding is likely. 


Seven-day rainfall totals would approach 6-to-12 inches of rain in most communities, which equals three to four months’ worth in a week.

Winds will increase to 20 to 30 miles per hour, with the potential for higher gusts over 40 miles per hour.

With the saturated ground, trees might be toppled by this wind. In some cases, downed trees could create power outages. If you have a generator, it might be wise to gas it up and be ready for anything.


Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

New Haven Police Looking to Hire 100 Officers


Members of the police academy were on the streets of New Haven looking for new recruits Wednesday afternoon.

"We're the New Haven Police Department. We're actually hiring until the end of the month," said Garry Monk, who's been in the academy for 24 weeks.

Monk and more than 40 rookies walked the streets not to patrol but to recruit as the department is looking to hire 100 officers.

"I actually like it. We're actually out in the community and new haven's key thing is community policing," said Monk.

"Who would know better what the academy is about and what being a police officer is about than the people in the academy right now," said Sergeant Anthony Campbell, the Police Academy's Executive Officer.

The newest men in uniform walked through every neighborhood--including in Wooster Square and Dixwell--passing out fliers and door hangers.

"You get them outside. You get them talking with people," Campbell added, noting that the majority of their job is dealing with people, not equipment. "It involves the equipment that god gave you. Your mouth. Your intelligence."

Recruitment officials tell us residents throughout the city have been receptive to this effort.

"It's good for people who live in the neighborhood, seeing police actually caring and coming and talking and recruiting people just off the street," said Racquel Sherwood, who works in New Haven.

Garry Monk is from the Elm City originally but says this recruiting helps him get to know the city even better, while still trying to find a new rookie.

"People are enjoying talking to us…saying we need more of you guys out here," said Monk.

If you want to apply you can go down to the academy on Sherman Avenue and pick up an application. You can also download it online. Police tell us they're continuing their recruiting efforts the next three days weather permitting.

Final Words of Building Inspector Who Committed Suicide


The lead inspector of a Center City building that collapsed last week is dead after committing suicide, Philadelphia city officials confirmed Thursday.

"I was just astounded to find this out," Mayor Michael Nutter said. "We're really talking about a city in pain right now and trying to recover."

Ronald Wagenhoffer, 52, was found dead around 9:30 p.m. Wednesday night of an apparent suicide, Deputy Mayor Everett Gillison said at a news conference Thursday morning.

NBC10 Philadelphia learned that Wagenhoffer left a final video message for his family before killing himself, where he admits he was at fault.

"It was my fault. I should have looked at those guys working, and I didn't. When I saw it was too late. I should have parked my truck and went over there but I didn't. I'm sorry."  On the cell phone video, Wagenhoffer said he couldn't sleep because six people died and 13 others were injured in the collapse.

Law enforcement sources say Wagenhoffer shot himself once in the chest inside his pickup truck along a wooded section of the 100 block of Shawmont Avenue in the Roxborough neighborhood of Philadelphia. That's less than a mile from his home.

"I think what you have here is a 16-year-employee who cared very deeply about his job," said Nutter. "We don't know all the things that may have been going through his mind."

Wagenhoffer did not leave behind a note, but a source close to the investigation who did not want to be named because they aren't authorized to speak publicly about the case, said he had been grieving for days and felt responsible. They said Wagenhoffer did not take any time off after the collapse because he thought sticking to his work routine might help him deal with the tragedy.

Mayor Nutter, who is in Chicago, was asked if Wagenhoffer should have been placed on leave after the building collapse.

"Each of us deals with our grief and sorrow and any sense of responsibility in a different way. I'm not going to second guess his judgment to keep working," Nutter responded. He said Wagenhoffer had been in constant contact with his supervisor and was offered time off, but declined.

City officials said Wagenhoffer visited the demolition site of an adjacent building, 2134 Market Street, on May 14 after a citizen expressed safety concerns. During his inspection, no violations were found.

L&I records also show Wagenhoffer completed and passed an initial inspection at 2136 Market Street on February 25.

L&I Commissioner Carlton Williams called Wagenhoffer an outstanding employee.

“He was a dedicated civil servant who did his job," he said. "He started in the Department of Public Property and moved his way up through the ranks as one of our top code officials in the Department of Licenses & Inspections."

Last Wednesday, the four-story outer wall of 2136 Market Street crumbled onto the Salvation Army Thrift Store next door. Six people were killed in the collapse -- three employees and three patrons. The wall also buried 13 others who were in different areas throughout the store, including the basement. They were eventually rescued by citizens and first responders.

Excavator operator Kane R. Robert, also known as Sean Benschop, stands charged in the collapse. Investigators with the District Attorney's homicide unit say he tested positive for the pain killer Percocet and marijuana on the day of the collapse. They allege he was in no condition to operate heavy machinery. A grand jury has been convened to investigate the circumstances surrounding the collapse.

City officials said that fellow employees and Commissioner Williams reached out to Wagenhoffer in the days after the collapse.

"This man did nothing wrong," Deputy Mayor Gillison said. "The department did what it was supposed to do under the code that existed at the time."

Nutter said the city is also encouraging other employees to get emotional support if they need it.

"Obviously I don't know why this happened, but we've tried to send a message out certainly to all of our public employees who are deeply affected by this, especially those who worked with Ron," Nutter said.

Wagenhoffer leaves behind a wife, Michele and 7-year-old son.

Deputy Mayor Gillison added there are five investigations underway regarding the collapse and that the city is "proud" of L&I's work.

Griffin Campbell was the contractor overseeing the demolition. In a statement released by his attorney Kenneth Edelin, he said "heartfelt condolences go to the family of the inspector."

"We also continue to pray for the families of those that were lost, and for the health and speedy recovery of those that were injured," the statement continued.

River Floods Willimantic Softball Fields


From miles around, softball players go to Willimantic for games at Rec Park, close to the Willimantic River - but not with two to three inches of rain Tuesday pouring into the river on Wednesday. 

River water covers one of the fields and makes the outfield of the other field too soggy for play.

"Once the river goes down," said Brad Wojcik, public works supervisor, "then the water will go away.  Right now the river is backing up into the ballfield."

That is not likely to happen too quickly. Another storm coming through on Thursday is expected to bring another 2-to-4-inches of rain.

Wojcik said that, in his 40 years of working in Willimantic, the field has flooded often.

"We'll see how it goes. Hopefully they'll get some games in on Saturdays," he said.

Jen McNeal of the Women's Softball Association of Greater Willimantic said there's not much the public works people can do. 

Her league plays softball two nights a week, the men's league three nights, but both have had to postpone play because of the water.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Mud and Crud Follow Rains


The rains of Tuesday led to the sun of Wednesday, which leads to the rain of Thursday, and on and on goes the month of June in Connecticut.

At Rose's Berry Farm's pick-your-own patch on Hebron Avenue in Glastonbury, pickers were happy with the produce, happy enough to ignore any mud.

"We're gonna go home and make strawberry salsa for my sister's birthday," Nina Lombard said as she gathered her children.  "And we're gonna make chocolate-covered strawberries when we get home."

Winny Contreras, of the farm, said the weather had been good for the strawberries, though ripe berries are susceptible to fungus after rain, he said.

At Gay City State Park, a few minutes away in Hebron, the pond failed the most recent water quality test.

State parks workers who were putting up a "No Swimming" sign on the shore said the heavy rains washed runoff into the pond from farms upstream and waste from animals in the park also lowered water quality.

Two other swimming areas were closed because of water quality at Chatfield Hollow State Park in Killingworth and Day Pond State Park in Colchester.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Weather Postpones Search for Missing Cyclist


Emergency crews are postponing the search a missing 33-year-old New Milford man today because of the forecast for heavy rains.

The search for Eric Langlois started after a jogger called 911 around 8 p.m. on Tuesday and reported seeing a man fall from some rocks at Lovers Leap State Park and go into Lake Lillinoah, which is connected to the Housatonic River.

She told emergency crews that the man was by himself and was yelling for help.

Police said they also received a report that Langlois had a bike accident on Tuesday did not return home on Tuesday night.

His wife reported that he had fallen off his mountain bike on Monday. His bike had gone into the lake, she said, and Langlois had gone back to the lake on Tuesday to see if he could retrieve it, but did not return home.

“There was a gentleman who, the day before yesterday, went mountain biking on Lovers Leap State Park and apparently had an accident with his bike. The bike went into the water. He went into the water, suffered a minor injury. He was picked up by a family member and supposedly he had returned yesterday. He was searching for his mountain bike,” Capt. Raul Camejo, of the Environmental Conservation Police, said. 

On Wednesday, Langlois' family and friends lined a bridge, hoping for good news.

"We have boats that are going in the water. We had dive teams in last night from state police and Newtown underwater search and rescue and they used sonar and couldn't find anyone in the bottom," Camejo said.

Several agencies from across the state searched for him, sifting through the lake and looking for any sign of that man, but nothing turned up.

The search continued until about 11 p.m. on Tuesday, but was called off because conditions were too dangerous.

“You never want to leave something. You just have to look at the big picture and we have to look at the safety of our crews,” Lt. Lawrence Ash, of the New Milford Police Department, said.

A state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection resumed the search around 8 a.m. on Wednesday in hopes of finding Langlois before more rain comes.

“We’re treating this as a search and rescue. We don’t know whether he managed to make it to the shore or not,” Camejo said. “We have boats that are going in the water. We had dive teams in last night from state police and Newtown underwater search and rescue and they used sonar and couldn’t find anyone in the bottom. … Our hope, at this point, is that we will be able to find somebody on the shoreline.”


Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Residents Along Farmington River Prep for More Rain


Simsbury residents are already dealing with flooding from recent storms, so more rain is not welcome news for the flood-prone area along the Farmington River.

Water levels here have been rising and more rain could mean a significant overflow.

Some parts along the river are already blocked off because the water’s so high and residents are concerned.

Recent downpours have affected some properties with river water making its way into some people’s backyards and homeowners are worried that another storm could cause major damage to properties.

“It looks like we have a lake in our backyard,” Susan Eblin, of Simsbury, said. “We probably can handle, my husband, thinks about two more inches.”

Businesses are also concerned about the storm and some are moving their merchandise to protect it from the rain.

Farmers, however, don’t have much of a choice because excess rain could put their crops underwater and ruin them.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Horses Rescued After Barn Collapses In Storm


As severe storms downed trees and cut power to thousands of Chicago-area homes Wednesday night, firefighters tunneled into a collapsed barn in south suburban Manteno to rescue a group of trapped horses.

Neighbors, family and friends lent a hand to dig through the rubble after powerful winds tore through the structure. Covered in mud, the barn's owner said the group kept digging until nine of the 10 horses were rescued.

"You could hear them crying for help," Allanna Smith said, "just crying and crying for help, and it's such a heart-wrenching sound coming from an animal, especially when you're such an animal lover." 

Smith said she heard the wind ripping down the barn as she rode out the storm in her home's basement. She was relieved her home wasn't damaged, but the sight of the barn and the sound of her trapped horses wounded her.

"I looked out that window, and I just screamed," Smith said. "I'm not a panicker, but I looked out the window and I just screamed. And I ran out the door and it was still pouring down rain and there were a couple ponies running around outside so my son started to help catch them."

A church nearby was also destroyed, and thousands in Kankakee County including Smith remain without power.

At the peak of the outages, nearly 40,000 Chicago-area customers were knocked offline. Another 35,000 were without electricity in northwest Indiana, officials said.

Through the rest of the area, the National Weather Service reported at least one tornado on the ground, near Somonauk, during the evening rush hour. Large hailstones -- some half-dollar in size -- were reported in Aurora.

A trail of debris was seen Thursday morning scattered for hundreds of yards from the barn in Manteno. Much cleanup needs to be done, but Smith says she's relieved her horses made it through the wreckage. 

Fourth Day of Jury Selection in Zimmerman Trial


The jury that will eventually be selected to hear the George Zimmerman case will be sequestered for the duration of the trial, the judge said Thursday.

The announcement from Circuit Judge Debra Nelson was made during the fourth day of questioning of potential jurors in the trial at the Seminole County courthouse in Sanford Thursday.

"Juror K-80, before Mr. West goes ahead and does his questioning of you, this is for your benefit and for the benefit of the future potential jurors that the parties have, both sides have stipulated that they anticipate that this trial will last between 2 and 4 weeks. Based upon that approximate stipulation, I will be sequestering the jury. Mr. West, you can now inquire of K-80," the judge said.

Five hundred people have been summoned for consideration as possible jurors. On Thursday, 10 potential jurors were dismissed for various reasons.

Zimmerman is charged with second-degree murder in the shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in February 2012. He has pleaded not guilty, saying it was self-defense.

Shellie Zimmerman, George Zimmerman's wife, was in the courtroom during the Thursday morning session, as were Trayvon Martin's parents.

On Thursday, the public seating area was about 25 percent full. The case is expected to last more than a month.

Longtime Sanford resident Myra Hall has watched the proceedings from the public seating area since the beginning.

“I just want to be there. I want to be able to say I am a witness, I’m there, I heard it all, I've seen it all, I heard the whole story, I'm getting all the testaments from this person, that one,” she said.

Also Thursday, there was a lighthearted moment, when a prospective juror commented on Zimmerman's appearance.

“Can you describe for me the photos of George Zimmerman that you remember seeing?" said defense attorney Mark O’Mara.

“He was a little less in weight, a little smaller man at the time,” said the potential juror.

The comment prompted a smile and a chuckle from Zimmerman.

Judge Nelson has ruled that the identities of potential jurors will be kept confidential but potential jurors won't be sequestered, as defense attorneys requested. Potential jurors are only being referred to by their jury numbers in court.

Jury candidates who move on from the initial round of questioning about their knowledge of the case will face additional rounds of interviews with the attorneys.

Man Had Drugs Next to Child in Car


A 31-year-old West Haven man has been charged with risk of injury and drug violations after police found drugs on the back seat of car, near a 3-year-old.

West Haven residents called police yesterday to report a suspicious vehicle at Peck and Leete streets, so police responded.

According to Sgt. David Tammaro, officers found three men in the parked vehicle.  

The driver, Henry Daniels, 31, admitted to having drugs in the car, according to police.

Police said they found crack cocaine, marijuana, a scale and packaging material on the back seat next to a 3-year-old child in a booster seat. 

Daniels was charged with multiple drug charges and risk of injury.

Photo Credit: West Haven Police
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