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Tracking Homicides Throughout the State in 2017


NBC Connecticut coverage of homicides throughout the state in 2017. Click the dots on the map above for basic incident information and a link to each story.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock
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North Texas Twins Born in Different Years


An Arlington family celebrated the end of 2016 and the beginning of 2017 in an unusual way, with the birth of twin boys in two different years.

Medical City Arlington says Cassandra Martinez was due to deliver her third and fourth babies on Jan. 20, but they came early.

J'aiden Alexander Sanchez was the first to arrive at 11:46 p.m. on Dec. 31 while Jordan Xavier Sanchez arrived at 12:12 a.m. on New Year's Day, making him the first baby born at Medical City Arlington in 2017.

"I definitely was not expecting to spend the holiday, but I am glad they're here and healthy," said Cassandra Martinez, the twins' mother.

In addition to having different birthdays, the Sanchez twins are the third set of twins of this generation in their father's family.

The hospital says twin brothers born on different days in different years, may be as rare as a one-in-a-million occurrence, according to some estimates.

Photo Credit: Medical City Arlington

Prosecutor in Pa. Tackles Heroin Scourge That Claimed Son


The phone at Bruce Brandler's home rang at 3:37 a.m. It was the local hospital. His 16-year-old son was there, and he was in really bad shape.

A suspected heroin overdose, the nurse said.

Brandler didn't believe it. Erik had his problems, but heroin? It seemed impossible.

Nearly 10 years later, the nation is gripped by a spiraling crisis of opioid and heroin abuse — and Brandler, a veteran federal prosecutor recently promoted to interim U.S. attorney, suddenly finds himself in a position to do something about the scourge that claimed his youngest son's life.

Until now, he has never publicly discussed Erik's overdose death. It was private and just too painful. But Brandler, now the chief federal law enforcement officer for a sprawling judicial district that covers half of Pennsylvania, said he felt a responsibility that came with his new, higher-profile job.

"It's easier to cope with the passage of time, but it never goes away," Brandler told The Associated Press in an interview. "And, frankly, this whole heroin epidemic has brought it to the forefront."

Deadly heroin overdoses have more than quintupled in the years since Brandler lost his son. The illicit drug, along with highly addictive prescription pain relievers like oxycodone and fentanyl — a substance more powerful than heroin — now rival car crashes as the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S.

Erik's death proved that heroin doesn't discriminate, Brandler said. He urged parents to "open their eyes" to the threat and talk to their kids.

"I want to evaporate the myth that heroin addicts are just homeless derelicts," said Brandler, who, before his son's overdose, held that impression himself. "This epidemic hits everybody, and I think my situation exemplifies that."

The opioid crisis was already taking root when Brandler began having problems with Erik, the youngest of his three children. The teenager's grades dropped, his friends changed and he began keeping irregular hours. Brandler found marijuana in his room and talked to him about it, figuring that was the extent of his drug use.

Then, in spring 2007, Erik overdosed on Ecstasy and had to be treated at a hospital.

"That elevated it to a different level as far as I was concerned, a much more serious level, and I took what I thought were appropriate steps," Brandler said.

He called the police on his son's dealer, who was prosecuted. That summer, Erik completed an intensive treatment program that included frequent drug testing. Brandler thought his son had turned a corner.

He was mistaken.

On the night of Aug. 18, 2007, Erik and an older friend paid $60 for three bags of heroin. After shooting up, Erik passed out. His breathing became labored, his lips pale. But his companions didn't seek medical treatment, not then and not for hours. Finally, around 3 a.m., they dropped him off at the hospital.

At 5:40 a.m., he was pronounced dead.

Five people were charged criminally, including Erik's friend, who received more than five years in prison.

Brandler still doesn't know why his son, who excelled at tennis, went to a good school and had loads of friends, turned to heroin.

"I thought about that, of course, but it's really a waste of energy and emotions to go down that road because I'll never know the answer," Brandler said from his office near the Pennsylvania Capitol, where a framed photo of Erik — strapping, shaggy-haired and swinging a tennis racket — sits on a credenza.

What he can do is join his fellow prosecutors in tackling the problem.

In September, the Justice Department ordered all 93 U.S. attorneys across the country to come up with a strategy for combating overdose deaths from heroin and painkillers. Brandler released his plan, covering 3.2 million people in central and northeastern Pennsylvania, last month. Like others, it focuses on prevention, enforcement and treatment.

He said his office will prioritize opioid cases resulting in death, and aggressively prosecute doctors who overprescribe pain pills.

Additionally, prosecutors will hit the road — bringing physicians, recovering addicts, family members of overdose victims and others with them — to talk to schools and hard-hit communities.

Parents need to know that "if you think it can't happen to you, it can," Brandler said. "If it happened to me as a federal prosecutor, I think it can happen to anyone, and that's really the message I want to get out."

Federal appeals Judge Thomas Vanaskie said it's a message that needs to be heard.

"Education is the most important thing to me," said Vanaskie, who helps run a court program that gets federal convicts back on their feet and who has been working with a former heroin addict who robbed a bank to feed his addiction. "We've got to prevent people from becoming users."

Vanaskie, who has known Brandler for years, commended him for speaking out.

"Hearing it from him becomes so much more powerful," Vanaskie said. "I know it causes great personal pain on his part, but he personalizes, humanizes this matter."

Photo Credit: AP

Man Wanted on Murder Charges After November Homicide


Hartford police are searching for a suspect wanted on murder charges after a fatal shooting on Maple Avenue in November.

Headley Thomas, 28, is wanted an active arrest warrant for murder and criminal possession of a firearm.

Police allege that Thomas shot and killed Jamie Rivera, 27, while Rivera was sitting in his car in from of 594 Maple Ave. on Nov. 25, 2016.

Anyone with information on Thomas’s whereabouts should contact Hartford Police Sgt. Pedro Rivera at 860-692-2663.

Photo Credit: Hartford Police Department

Rescuers Aid 10 Stranded Dolphins in Massachusetts Harbor


Animal welfare activists began the new year in Massachusetts rescuing 10 dolphins stranded in Wellfleet Harbor. 

International Fund for Animal Welfare spokeswoman Kerry Branon told The Boston Globe that the nonprofit group began receiving calls Sunday morning about three dolphins swimming in the harbor. 

By the time rescue crews arrived, the number of dolphins was up to 10. 

At first, they tried to coax the dolphins into open water using two boats. 

When the tide went out, the rescuers had to adopt more aggressive techniques. 

They used stretchers to move the animals one by one to transport trucks and released them in nearby Truro where the group hoped favorable winds and tides would help the animals make it out to sea. 

Dozens of staff and volunteers participated in the rescue.

Photo Credit: IFAW

Senator Blumenthal Talks About Cyber Attacks, Security


Senator Richard Blumenthal said our nation is engaged in a cyber war with Russia that requires a robust response.

On Monday, Blumenthal said the attacks we have seen so far will increase if the country fails to repsond, but the response may be premature if you ask the president-elect. 

On the eve of being sworn in to his second term in Washington, the senator warns that the recent reported hack on a Vermont utility is part of a more widespread plan by Russia to hit U.S. infrastructure, transportation, power grid, and financial system.

“The average business or homeowner here in Connecticut ought to be very, very understanding even apprehensive about the threat that's represented by potential Russian aggression and cyber attacks,” said Blumenthal.

Eversource addressed concerns about the state of Connecticut. 

In a statement to NBC Connecticut, an Eversource spokesperson said: “We are aware of the reports of an incident involving a laptop at a Vermont electric utility and are staying up to date on any information from authorities as well as other utilities on any safeguards that need to be put in place.”

President-elect Donald Trump’s press secretary says don’t be so fast to jump to conclusions.

On “The Today Show,” Sean Spicer said “I think he does know things, that is why he is the president elect. He is informed of things that Americans aren't clear to get that information and I think what he is trying to get it is there is there is a degree of certainty that this happened.”

Blumenthal said he wants to establish a select committee to investigate how widespread Russian hacking could be, followed by strong sanctions that ban Russian oil exports to the U.S. and impact Russian access to American banks. And he wants to put such legislation before the president-elect as soon as Trump arrives at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Police Search for Suspect Who Robbed Hamden Delivery Man


Police are searching for the suspect who robbed a delivery man in Hamden on New Year's Eve. 

Police said they responded to a reported armed robbery where the victim was delivering pizza on Warner Street at 9:45 p.m.

When the victim went to get the pizza from the backseat of his car, a man with a firearm approached him and punched him in the face, Hamden Police said. 

The suspect is described as being in his 20s, 5'9", thin built. He was wearing a ski mask and took an undisclosed amount of money, polices said. 

Anyone with information on this investigation is asked to call the Hamden Police Department at (203) 230-4040. 

New Drug, Furanyl Fentanyl, More Potent than Heroin: Experts


A deadly new synthetic opioid called furanyl fentanyl is being called more potent than heroin and harder to detect. The drug has already lead to overdoses in the state and experts say it could claim more if something isn’t done.

Dr. Craig Allen of the Rushford Center treats people with substance abuse problems and he said furanyl fentanyl is even more dangerous than regular fentanyl.

"The medical examiner says has been involved in a number of deaths in Connecticut and we're going to continue to see these numbers go higher and higher," Allen said.

He said when people are hooked on synthetic opioids like furanyl fentanyl, treatment is difficult.

“They're not responding to our normal protocol when we try to get someone off of these powerful drugs like in our detox unit, so we've had to adjust our detox program at our center in Middletown to use higher doses of methadone which is one of the medications we used to detox.”

Treatment isn’t the only issue. According to the Drug Enforcement Agency, fentanyl played a role in 188 of 729 accidental overdose deaths in Connecticut in 2015.

Furanyl fentanyl is a new compound and medical experts believe it could be as much as 30 to 50 times more potent than other similar drugs.

According to the DEA, fentanyl may be mixed with white powder heroin or found in pill form.

The DEA said it found 128 confirmed furanyl fentanyl-related deaths from 2015-2016 nationwide, and they’ve now made it a Schedule 1 drug. But that doesn’t stop use – intentional or not.

“Sometimes people know they're getting fentanyl sometimes people don't know they're getting fentanyl,” Allen said.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

7-Year-Old Found Wandering Streets in Meriden: Police


A mother is in custody after her 7-year-old son was found wandering on the streets in Meriden Tuesday morning, according to police.

The police department confirmed the child was found in an apartment building on the 100-block of West Main Street at 5:40 a.m., wet and cold, by an anonymous party who brought the boy to the police department.

According to police, the boy was visibly upset when he was brought to police and said his mother went out shopping and he decided to go looking for her.

The child wandered a few blocks from his home on West Main Street before he was found.

Police located the child’s mother, who told them she had walked to a nearby 24-convenience store and had only been gone 10 minutes. However, police said her son appeared to have been outside much longer than 10 minutes.

The mother, identified as Yadira Morales, 34, of Meriden was arrested and charged with risk of injury to a child and reckless endangerment. She was held on a $5,000 bond. If she does not post bond, she will be arraigned at Meriden Superior Court Tuesday.

Editor's note: Meriden police intially said the boy was 8 years old, but have since determined he is 7 years old. This story has been updated to reflect that.

Photo Credit: Meriden Police Department/NBC Connecticut

Suspect Sought in Woodbridge, West Haven Bank Robberies


Woodbridge police said a female suspect robbed the People’s United Bank on Amity Road Monday afternoon.

According to police, around 3 p.m. a female entered the bank with a coat, hat, and a white scarf wrapped around her face and passed a note to the teller demanding money. Employees handed over a small amount of cash and the suspect fled on foot.

Woodbridge police believe the same suspect also robbed a bank in West Haven last month.

People’s United Bank is offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the identity of the suspect.

Connecticut State police responded to assist with the investigation.

Anyone with information on either incident or who recognizes the suspect pictured above is asked to contact Woodbridge police at 203-387-2512.

Photo Credit: Woodbridge Police Department

Burst Pipe Closes Mill Ridge School in Danbury


Mill Ridge Primary School in Danbury is cancelled for today after a water pipe broken inside building, according to a Tweet from Mayor Mark Boughton.

He said it has caused severe damage.

No additional information was immediately available.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock / maroke

Family, Friends Desperate for Clues in Case of Michigan Woman’s Disappearance


Family and friends are still holding out hope for a 28-year-old Farmington Hills, Michigan, woman who has been missing for a month.

Danielle Stislicki has not been seen since leaving work around 5 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 2, according to police. Stislicki works at MetLife, a life insurance company in Southfield, a northern suburb of Detroit, less than 10 miles from her Farmington Hills apartment.

People who spoke to her earlier that day say she was planning on stopping home after work before meeting her best friend for dinner that evening. Stislicki never showed up to her scheduled dinner, according to police, and concern quickly grew when calls to her cell phone were being forwarded directly to voicemail.

"Danielle would never just disappear on her own," Ann Stislicki, Danielle's mother, told Dateline. "We're terrified that she's been taken and that someone has her, and she can't come home."

Stislicki has worked at MetLife for nearly a decade, her family says. Her mother Ann also has worked for the company for 25 years, but was not in the office that Friday.

Farmington Hills police say Stislicki was wearing a sky blue Eddie Bauer jacket, jeans, a black zip-up shirt and burgundy boots the day that she disappeared. Her car, a 2015 Jeep Renegade, was found by authorities the next day, around 6 p.m. on Dec. 3, parked in front of her apartment building in the Independence Green Apartment Complex.

"Everything was there: her cat, her ID, cash, credit cards," Danielle's mother Ann told Dateline. "We don't think she even made it inside her apartment after work."

The Farmington Hills Police Department issued a statement Dec. 19 that said it is believed the young woman was the victim of a crime.

Authorities are also searching for Danielle's set of keys, according to NBC News, which they say have a distinctive key charm: a smiling yellow figure with a green body and yellow legs. Danielle's cell phone, a Samsung Galaxy Core Prime in a rose-colored case, is also missing.

"It's a tremendously busy street that MetLife is on,” her mother Ann told NBC News. “Someone had to have seen that Jeep or Danielle driving that day. We just need to reach that one or two people who saw something.”

A “Find Danielle Stislicki” Facebook page created by friends has since grown to nearly 30,000 followers. More than $29,000 has been raised in a Go Fund Me campaign set up for a reward for information leading to her whereabouts. After both her employer MetLife and Independence Green Apartments contributed $50,000 to the cause, the total reward amount stands at $129,000. A website, finddani.org, has also been set up that allows volunteers to print fliers to join the effort.

“Danielle is a wonderful human being who has many family and friends who love her dearly,” the Go Fund Me campaign writes. “We want Dani home and need everyone's help.”

Stislicki’s parents, Ann and Richard Stislicki, were among nearly 500 people who gathered in Southfield last month for a candlelight vigil, pushing the message of positivity and perseverance.

“It’s been a month now, so you can imagine what’s in our minds,” Ann Stislicki told the Detroit Free Press of herself and her husband, Richard. “We try not to go to that dark place, but that gets harder the longer this goes on.”

Farmington Hills police have told the Stislickis they are working “day and night” on the case of their missing daughter, according to the Detroit Free Press, but any additional details surrounding the investigation have not been made public.

"Investigators have collected evidence currently under analysis and examination," Farmington Hills police said in a statement. "No information will be released regarding the specifics of the case in order to maintain the integrity of an active investigation."

Authorities searched a home in Berkley, Michigan, in relation to the case, the Detroit Free Press reports, but Farmington Hills Police Chief Chuck Nebus declined to say what the connection is.

“It’s hard to stay positive. ... You cry a lot,” Ann Stislicki told the Detroit Free Press. “She’s strong and can get through this. Everyone wants to give Danielle a hug. We miss her, and we want her to come home.”

The focus is to keep Danielle Stislicki's name and story in the public's eye, her family said in an interview with NBC News.

"We're screaming from the top of the mountain," Ann Stislicki told NBC News. "People have seen Danielle. We will not stop until we have her home with us. It's not even a thought."

Anyone with information regarding the case, or who may have seen Danielle or her Jeep on Dec. 2, is urged to call the Farmington Hills Police Department at (248) 871-2610.

Photo Credit: Facebook/FindDanielleStislicki
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Winkler Road in East Windsor Closed After DUI Crash: Police


Winkler Road in East Windsor is closed after a driver accused of driving under the influence crashed into a utility pole, according to police.

East Windsor police said that around 12:45 a.m. Tuesday officers were called to a single-vehicle crash on Winkler Road. The driver was not injured, but the utility pole snapped and electrical wires and a transformer had come crashing down onto the roadway.

The driver was arrested and charged with DUI, using a cell phone while driving, and failure to drive right, police said.

Eversource reported that the accident knocked out power to seven customers in the area. The company responded to repair the pole.

Winkler Road is closed between Newberry Road and Wells Road and is expected to remain closed for hours.

Photo Credit: East Windsor Police Department

GM Fires Back at Trump Over Mexico Production Claim


General Motors responded to President-elect Donald Trump's Twitter attack that claimed the auto giant is making a Cruze model in Mexico and then sending them to U.S. dealers tax free. 

"Make in U.S.A.or pay big border tax!" Trump said in a tweet Tuesday. 

The company said it makes most of its Chevy Cruze models in the United States and sells only a "small number" of one model made in Mexico in the U.S. GM told CNBC that it sold about 190,000 Cruzes in the U.S. in 2016. About 4,500 of those, or 2.4 percent, were hatchbacks made in Mexico.

"General Motors manufacturers the Chevrolet Cruze sedan in Lordstown, Ohio. All Chevrolet Cruze sedans sold in the U.S. are built in GM's assembly plant in Lordstown, Ohio. GM builds the Chevrolet Cruze hatchback for global markets in Mexico, with a small number sold in the U.S," the company said in a statement.

Photo Credit: File – Getty Images

Ford Cancels $1.6B Plant in Mexico, to Reinvest in Michigan


Automaker Ford is canceling a plan to build a nearly $2 billion plant in Mexico so it can invest nearly half that money into a plant in Michigan, the company said Tuesday.

Doing so will safeguard about 3,500 jobs at a facility in Wayne, Michigan, the company said in a press release, and the investment in a new "Manufacturing Innovation Center" in Flat Rock will add 700 new jobs.

That plant will build a new, electric SUV with a range of at least 300 miles — one of several new vehicles the company announced Tuesday.

The move comes as President-elect Donald Trump insists that companies should focus manufacturing in the United States, rather than outsourcing to places like Mexico. Tuesday morning, Trump took aim at the Chevy Cruze, which he said is manufactured south of the border, though Chevy disupted that.

High-level sources in Ford told NBC News that Trump had nothing to do with the company's decision to expand U.S. production and hire more employees.

But CEO Mark Fields said at a news conference that he feels tax and regulatory reforms espoused by Trump and his party are encouraging.

"We're also encouraged by the pro-growth policies that President-elect Trump and the new Congress have indicated that they will pursue," Fields said. "And we believe that these tax and regulatory reforms are critically important to boost U.S. competitiveness and of course drive a resurgence in American manufacturing and high-tech innovation."

Photo Credit: Getty Images, File

NY Gov.'s Free College Tuition Plan


Gov. Andrew Cuomo has proposed a plan to offer free college tuition to New Yorkers whose families make less than $125,000 a year. 

Hailing the plan as the first of its kind in the nation, Cuomo said Tuesday the "Excelsior Scholarship" would apply to anyone accepted to any two- or four-year city or state university. Nearly a million families would qualify. 

"College is a mandatory step if you really want to be a success ... and this society should say we're going to pay for college because you need college to be successful," Cuomo said. "Other countries have already done it. It's time this country catches up."

Legislators would have to approve the plan, which Cuomo wants to start this coming fall. The plan would be rolled out over three years, and when fully implemented in 2019, is expected to cost about $163 million, according to The New York Times, which first reported the plan.

It was not clear how Cuomo intended to pay for it, aside from tuition assistance programs the state already offers. 

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who appeared alongside Cuomo as he announced the plan, called the program "revolutionary." During the senator's unsuccessful run for the Democratic presidential nomination last year, Sanders pushed for free tuition at all U.S. public colleges.

Programs are already in place to offer tuition breaks to top students who commit to studying certainly fields, but the new initiative would be much broader. The governor called the plan the most aggressive higher education program ever proposed. 

"This is the most important issue this state and nation must address: higher education and its affordability," Cuomo said. "If we can help you do well, we will. Because that's the American Dream." 

New York has the nation's largest public university system, with 440,000 students spread among 64 campuses across the state.

The 2015 American Community Survey found that of the 7.2 million households in New York state, the vast majority had household incomes that would fall under the threshold for Cuomo's proposal.

Photo Credit: Getty Images, File

Connecticut Among Top States People Move Away From: Study


Connecticut residents are headed out.

At least according to the 2016 National Movers Study by United Van Lines, a household goods mover. According to the study, in 2016 Connecticut ranked fourth on the list of Most Moved from States in 2016, with 60 percent of moves being outbound.

Most of those who left - 45 percent – reported leaving for job reasons.

United Van Lines has been tracking which states people move to and from for 40 years and provides services for everything from local to international moves, the company said.

The most moved from state was New Jersey, followed by Illinois and New York.

In general the Northeast continues to see more people leaving than coming, whereas the Mountain and Pacific West see more moves inbound than outbound.

The most popular moving destination in 2016 was South Dakota, followed by Vermont and Oregon.

For more details, check out the study on the United Van Lines website.

Photo Credit: AP

Tot Pushes Dresser Off Brother; Mom Credits 'Twin Bond'


A little boy from Utah is being hailed as a hero for pushing a fallen dresser off his twin brother. 

Both boys are OK, but furniture falling is a persistent threat to climbing children, according to the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission, which encourages parents of young children to secure furniture to the wall. 

"Not all children are that lucky. Tragically, one child dies every two weeks and a child is injured every 30 minutes when TVs or furniture tip over in the U.S.," CPSC Spokeswoman Patty Davis said in a statement.

The nanny-cam video, initially posted to YouTube on New Year's Eve, shows the boys playing on open dresser drawers before the whole piece of furniture tips over. As NBC affiliate KSL reported, Bowdy Shoff crawled out from underneath the dresser, but his brother, Brock, was pinned.

After a couple of attempts to free his brother, the 2-year-old was able to push it off Brock.

"They have that twin bond, and that's just what you do for your brother," mother Kayli Shoff said on MSNBC Tuesday, with her boys tagging along.

She has since secured the drawer to the wall, which the CPSC recommends for large furniture that childen may want to climb on.

The CPSC is investigating this incident, Davis said. She said it was miraculous that Bowdy was able to push the dresser off Brock. 

Shoff also took knobs off all the drawers and added latches to the bottom drawers, so the boys have a harder time scaling the dresser.

"I don't want this to happen to anyone else's child, because I know how I felt in the moment," Shoff said, when asked why she shared the video. "It's just not something that you think about every day."

Last year, Ikea issued a massive recall of 29 million dressers that were blamed in the deaths of six children and the injuries of three dozen more. It also offered wall anchor kits to any owners. 

The CPSC says securing furniture to a wall is quick and easy and saves lives.

Photo Credit: Kayli Shoff

Best Jobs for Recent College Grads in Connecticut


Just having a job is a good thing for a recent college graduate, but Zippia, a career information web site, has put together a list of the best jobs for new grads in the state of Connecticut. 

Several top jobs, including computer engineering, computer repair and “epic consultant,” require expertise in computers.

Counselor also made the list. If you plan to become a school counselor or a career counselor, you might need a master’s degree. 

Here are the top 10 jobs:

The list of the top 29 jobs includes “epic consultant,” which also requires an experise in computers.

Click to see the more extensive list. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images, File

Wethersfield Officer Hit by Car Is Back on Patrol


A Wethersfield police officer who was hit by a car in March is back on patrol. 

Officer Peter McGee was responding to a minor fender-bender on Wells Road, near Wolcott Hill Road, on March 8, 2016 when another vehicle hit him, causing leg and back injuries, according to police.

The police department said McGee worked hard to return to work and is happy to be back on patrol.

Photo Credit: Wethersfield Police
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