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The "Worst Day" Of Obama's Presidency

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Official White House photographer Pete Souza released this week his favorite images from 2012, some depicting the happier times of President Barack Obama's year, others the worst.

A Dec. 14 photo showing the president bowing his head and closing his eyes depicts what Obama has described as the worst day of his presidency. It was the moment he learned of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn.

"Our hearts are broken today," he said in an address to the country following the shooting that left 26 people dead including 20 children.

"We have been through this too many times. Whether it's an elementary school in Newtown or a shopping mall in Oregon or a temple in Wisconsin or a movie theater in Aurora or a street corner in Chicago, these neighborhoods are our neighborhoods, and these children are our children."

Other moments in Souza's collection showed the lighter sides of Obama's tenure.

The images capture Obama jumping into the surf in Hawaii while on vacation and having frozen yogurt spilled on him while working a rope line.

Michelle Obama is shown in other images participating in potato sack race with Jimmy Fallon, getting ready to deliver a commencement address at Virginia Tech’s Lane Stadium and viewing her hometown of Chicago with the president from the edge of Lake Michigan.


See the full collection here.



Photo Credit: Official White House Photo

Memorial Concert to Honor Newtown Victims

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More than 200 singers and orchestra members will be coming together at St. Joseph’s Church in Willimantic on Jan. 13 to perform a memorial concert in honor of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy.

The singers and musicians come from more than 20 ensembles across Connecticut, including Eastern Connecticut State University’s Concert Chorale and Chamber Singers.

David Belles, professor of music at Eastern, organized the concert.

Members of Guilford High School Chamber Singers, Willimantic-based Renaissance Revival, Norwich Diocesan Choir, Concert Choir of Northeastern Connecticut, Vernon Chorale, Mystic River Chorale, Greater Middletown Chorale, E.O. Smith High School, Hartford Gay Men's Chorus, Hartford Chorale, Hartford-based CONCORA AND VOCE, Storrs Congregational Church, St. Mark's Chapel and the Storrs and the Putnam Congregational Church will perform.

The concert will begin at 5 p.m. at St. Joseph’s Church at 99 Jackson St. in Willimantic. Admission is free, but donations will be collected at the door.

Eastern Performing Arts Professor Anthony Cornicello will compose a work for organ to be dedicated and premiered during the concert, and the Willimantic-based Thread City Brass Quintet will perform prelude music.


 



Photo Credit: Eastern Connecticut State University

3 Charged in Staged Burger King Robbery: Police

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An armed robbery reported at a Hamden Burger King last month was staged, according to police, and the restaurant manager and a former employee are among three people who have been charged.

When police responded to the Burger King at 937 Dixwell Ave. on Dec. 6, 2011, they were told that a robber with a firearm approached an employee who was leaving the building, forced the employee to open the door and the safe, then stole money, police said.

The Hamden Police Department Detective Division investigated and determined that the robbery was staged, police staged.

Detectives had earlier arrested Rootshell Antoine, 21, the on-duty manager and Matthew Harris, 25, a former Hamden Burger King employee, who was employed at the North Haven Burger King and charged them with burglary and larceny. Antoine was also charged with falsely reporting an incident.

On Jan. 3, 2012, Hamden Police arrested Cedrick Braswell, 24, of New Haven. Police said he is suspected of committing the alleged staged robbery.

Braswell was charged with burglary in the third degree, conspiracy to commit burglary in the third degree, larceny in the fourth degree and conspiracy to commit larceny in the fourth degree.

Braswell was released on a written promise to appear and is scheduled to appear in court in Meriden on Jan. 18.
 

FBI: Second Suspect Arrested in NYC Cannibal Cop Case

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A second man has been arrested in connection with the case of an New York City police officer who allegedly threatened to kidnap, cook and eat women in a bizarre plot where he fantasized about how "tasty" one victim looked and said it would be easy to roast a person in his oven, federal officials said.

The FBI confirmed 23-year-old Michael Vanhise, of Trenton, N.J., was arrested early Friday. The agency would not provide additional details on his alleged involvement in the case until after his Manhattan court appearance later Friday. No information on an attorney was available.

According to court papers, Vanhise and 28-year-old Gilberto Valle, who was arrested in October, may have plotted via e-mail to kidnap and eat women.

Valle, of Queens, N.Y., was previously charged with two counts of attempted kidnapping in the shocking case that includes online transcripts of his alleged plans, at one point telling a co-conspirator that his oven is "big enough to fit one of these girls if I folded their legs."

"I was thinking of tying her body onto some kind of apparatus ... cook her over a low heat, keep her alive as long as possible," he is accused of saying in the July conversation.

"She does look tasty, doesn't she," he added, according to the complaint.

According to the criminal complaint, Valle had files on his computer that referred to at least 100 women, including photographs, addresses and physical descriptions.

Ten of those women were interviewed by the FBI and confirmed that they know Valle, the complaint said.

Defense lawyer Julia Gato had said in court Valle's online chats were "just idle talk," pointing out no ropes, chemicals or other suspicious material were found in his home. 

"We're talking about someone with a fantasy, in a deviant world where people talk about unreal things," said Gato. "At worst, he has sexual fantasies about people he knows." 

Gato said Valle was a respected officer in the NYPD, with six and a half years on the force. He was suspended from the NYPD pending the outcome of the case.



Photo Credit: Myspace

Glastonbury Schools Add Security

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Entries that weren't locked three weeks ago are locked now at public schools in Glastonbury, and more enhancements to security are in the works, according to the superintendent of schools.

"Security is something you want to keep quiet," said Alan Bookman, declining an on-camera interview.

He said the board of education will meet with the Glastonbury Town Council for "financial support" for measures he wants taken after the Dec. 14 murder of 20 students and six staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.

Bookman said he doesn't want to wait until September to review who's coming into the schools and to post guards.  He wouldn't say whether guards would be armed.

Reaction from parents was positive. 

"Kids' safety is obviously the utmost priority," said Derek Januario. "I've got three kids at Hebron Avenue Elementary School, so anything that would increase their safety'd be fine with me."



Photo Credit: Getty Images

It's Time for the Giants to Take Their Own Advice

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It's a rare day when it seems like a good idea for the Giants to follow the Jets' lead, but that's just where we are. 

The Jets have decided to go radio silent since the end of the regular season, a decision that has brought them nothing but ridicule from a vengeful media corps that's gone so far as to send paparazzi to the Bahamas to see what kind of tattoos Rex Ryan is sporting on his arm. Perhaps Tom Coughlin has something even more embarrassing than his wife in an Eli Manning jersey on his person because the man who once loved to say that talk is cheap has a problem keeping his mouth shut. 

Coughlin did an extended interview with Mike Francesca on WFAN Thursday in which he said that missing the playoffs was an "indescribable" before proceeding to talk about it for more than an hour. It's hard to imagine why the feeling would be so hard to put into words for a coach who has missed the playoffs in three of the last four years, but it's obviously not from a lack of trying. 

Much of what Coughlin had to say came back to the well-worn befuddlement about the team's performances that he's been selling for the last three weeks, something that's started to come across as a coach who wasn't quite on the same page with his team this season. The writing was on the wall for months -- the really bad Giants losses this season weren't the blowouts to the Falcons or Ravens, but the close losses to the Eagles and Redskins because those revealed correctable problems at a point when something could still be done -- and the Giants never even tried to adjust what they were doing to correct the obvious flaws that teams continually exploited. 

Coughlin kept going back to injured players like Ahmad Bradshaw and Hakeem Nicks instead of letting rookies Rueben Randle and David Wilson, whose first game fumble was treated like he did it on purpose instead of shrugged off like the poor play of veterans, learn on the job. The defense kept doing the same thing and expecting different results, which some people use as the definition of insanity, while the coaching staff didn't bother preaching urgency until it was too late. 

This isn't all on Coughlin. General manager Jerry Reese decided to say this week that it probably would have been a good idea to rest Nicks long enough for him to actually heal as if he were the first person to ever think of not sending players out onto the field when they are clearly shells of who they are when healthy. 

When you contrast that to the way the Giants talked about Nicks, Bradshaw and other injured players -- variations on them being tough-minded enough to overcome physical ailments -- it merely adds to the sense that the Giants brass just sat back and watched this season secure in the false belief that things just go their way because of the name of the franchise. The truth is that things went their way last season because of hard work and fevered dedication that simply wasn't in evidence this year. 

Perhaps that's an inevitablity after winning a Super Bowl, but it doesn't do anyone much good to keep making it obvious that the effort level (both physical and mental) was lacking during the regular season. That's all the Giants are doing by continuing to talk about what went wrong in 2012 when they should be focused only on 2013. 

Josh Alper is also a writer for Pro Football Talk. You can follow him on Twitter.



Photo Credit: Getty Images

Facebook Boast of Drunk Hit-and-Run Lands Teen in Jail

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Don't drink and drive and Facebook.

A teenager from Astoria, Ore., was arrested after he apparently posted a Facebook status update about a drunken hit-and-run he allegedly committed Wednesday, The Daily Astorian reported.

He was caught the next day after the Facebook post was reported to authorities, according to the paper.

"Drivin drunk ... classsic ;) but to whoever's vehicle i hit i am sorry. :P," Jacob Cox-Brown, 18, reportedly wrote on his Facebook page.

On Thursday, local authorities, thanks to the Facebook message and phone calls to two officers, got a tip linking Cox-Brown to the accident.

"Astoria Police have an active social media presence," police said in a press release Wednesday. "It was a private Facebook message to one of our officers that got this case moving, though. When you post ... on Facebook, you have to figure that it is not going to stay private long."

After the tip, authorities matched the damage at the scene with that on a car at Cox-Brown's home, the Daily Astorian reported.

Cox-Brown was arrested and charged with two counts of failing to perform the duties of a driver.



Photo Credit: Astoria Police Department

White House Spiderman Is Son of Wethersfield Native

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One of the White House photos getting attention on Friday is of a little boy in a Spiderman Halloween costume and President Barack Obama pretending to be caught in Spidey’s Web.

White House photographer Pete Souza has shared his favorite photos of 2012, including the one of 3-year-old Nicholas Tamarin. The president said it is his favorite of the year, Souza said.

Amy LaPenta Chodorowski brought it to our attention via Facebook that the little boy has ties to Connecticut.

Nicholas’ dad is Nate Tamarin, a White House aide who is originally from Wethersfield.

"The President pretends to be caught in Spider-Man's web as he greets the Nicholas Tamarin, 3, just outside the Oval Office. Spider-Man had been trick-or-treating for an early Halloween with his father, White House aide Nate Tamarin in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. I can never commit to calling any picture my favorite, but the President told me that this was HIS favorite picture of the year when he saw it hanging in the West Wing a couple of weeks later," Souza said.

In 1996, Nate Tamarin, then 19, was part of a feature story in the Hartford Courant about vendors selling Clinton-Gore paraphernalia at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago.

At the time,  Tamarin was a George Washington University student working a summer job with Political Americana, according to the Courant.

It's now clear that that was just the beginning of a long career in politics.

 



Photo Credit: Pete Souza

State Police Investigating Home Invasion in Colchester

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State Police are investigating after a home invasion in Colchester on Thursday night.

The incident happened at 7 Ivy Court just after 8 p.m. and a person inside the home was struck over the head with an unknown object, authorities said.

According to police, a manhunt was underway for two intruders who fled on foot.

Neighbors feel unsettled by what occurred at the home.

"A bunch of cops came up to our apartment and they said go inside and lock your doors. There was a break-in and somebody had a gun and they came into that house," said a resident.

The investigation is ongoing.

Connecticut Cities Among the Drunkest

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Boston is the drunkest city in the United States, according to a recent Daily Beast poll, but two Connecticut cities are not far behind.

The Hartford and New Haven metro areas rank sixth among the drunkest, according to a study Experian Marketing did for the Daily Beast.  

The rankings are based on the average number of boozy beverages residents drink each month and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics on binge and heavy drinkers.

The CDC found that 16.5 percent of people in our metro areas were classified as binge drinkers, while 3.6 percent were classified as heavy drinkers and the average number of drinks adults consumed per month was 15.2.

Other local cities on the list are Springfield, which ranked 14th, and Providence, which ranked 10th.

To view a slideshow on the 25 drunkest cities and to see how they compare to Hartford and New Haven, see the Daily Beast.
 

Churches Fight to Allow Licenses for Undocumented Immigrants

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To obtain a drivers’ license in the state of Connecticut, you must be a U.S. citizen or your legal status must be verified. However, a group of almost 30 congregations in Connecticut wants to change that.  

On Sunday, Congregations Organized for a New Connecticut will launch its campaign for legislation to expand access to driver’s licenses so all residents, regardless of their immigration status, have the opportunity to legally obtain one.

The proposal would allow immigrant residents of the state to apply for and obtain a driver’s license and register their vehicles by proving their identity and residency, but not legal immigration status.

A news conference will take place at St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church, 115 Blatchley Ave. in New Haven at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 6, which happens to be Three Kings Day.

New Haven was the first city in the United States to offer municipal identification cards to residents, regardless of their immigration status.

“Denying driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants solely because of their immigration status allows criminals to victimize immigrant communities with impunity, since people without identification are reluctant to report crimes to the police or come forward to testify,” Father James Manship of St. Rose of Lima Church in New Haven said in a news release. “It also deprives the state of $2 million each year in badly needed revenue from registration fees.”

According to Congregations Organized for a New Connecticut, an estimated 54,000 Connecticut immigrants are not eligible to obtain drivers’ licenses and unlicensed, uninsured drivers increase insurance premiums in Connecticut by $20 million each year.

“This self-defeating policy is blind to reality,” Father David Blanchfield of St. Jerome Church in Norwalk said in a news release. “It does nothing to solve our immigration problems. All it does is make our roads less safe, our immigrant families less secure, and car insurance more expensive – by $20 million each year.”

The organization of congregations believes that witnesses to crimes will be more comfortable reporting crimes to the police and cooperating in investigations if they have identification and drivers would be more likely to stay at the scene of a crash to aid police and emergency workers and exchange insurance information with other motorists.

The legislation would not be unprecedented.

A bill moving through the state Legislature in Illinois would allow undocumented immigrants to obtain licenses, according to the Associated Press.

According to the church group, Washington also has a law that allows immigrants to drive, regardless of citizenship status.

But, law expanding rights to drive is not without controversy.

The Washington Times reports that the governor of New Mexico is trying to repeal the state’s law that allows undocumented immigrants to have driver’s licenses because of concerns about security and fraud.

 

Esty Named to Gun Violence Prevention Task Force

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Elizabeth Esty was sworn in as the new U.S. Representative for Connecticut’s 5th Congressional District on Thursday and has been named vice chair of the Congressional Gun Violence Prevention Task Force.

As Esty took the office, just weeks after the rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School,  thoughts of the community were at the forefront of her mind.

“The recent tragedy in Newtown has irrevocably changed the lives of people in that community, and it’s been felt across the state and across the country. I’m committed to ensuring that the community of Newtown has the support it needs to heal, and that, moving forward, we take comprehensive action to help keep families safe in every community and to prevent such horrific tragedies from occurring in the future,” Esty said in a statement.

Esty joins 60 other women serving in the House and is filling the seat that now-U.S. Senator Chris Murphy held for three terms until becoming the state’s junior Senator.

“I’m honored that the people of the 5th District have given me the opportunity to serve them as their Representative in Congress, and I’m humbled by the responsibility they’ve entrusted me with, particularly during this challenging time,” Esty said.

She said she will work to promote economic growth throughout the district and plans to do so by “reinvigorating manufacturing, helping small businesses, improving education, and making investments in our transportation and infrastructure.”

Congresswoman Esty lives in Cheshire and was elected to office on November 6, 2012. She succeeds three-term Congressman Chris Murphy who took office today as Connecticut’s junior Senator. She will serve on the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee.


 



Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut

130 Guns, Ammo Found in Foreclosed Farmington Home

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Police have responded to a vacant home under foreclosure in Farmington after 130 guns, mortar rounds and two possible grenades were found.

Officials from a bank went to the home at 36 Fairview Drive on Friday because they were foreclosing on it, went inside and found the weapons and ammunition, police said.

The bank did not want the liability of removing the guns, so it called police. 

The bomb squad was called in after motar rounds and two grenade-like devices were found in the house.  The bomb squad determined the devices were not dangerous.

It appears from assessor’s records that a bank based in Florida owns the property.
 
 



Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut

Hartford Renames Street for Bob Steele

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The City of Hartford renamed a street to honor Connecticut radio legend Bob Steele.

Grove Street was renamed Bob Steele Street Friday in memory of the long-time WTIC-AM announcer.

Steele started at WTIC in 1936.  He hosted the station's morning shor from 1943 until 1991. He passed away in 2002 at the age of 91.



Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut

Former State Senator Ernest Newton Arrested Again

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Former Bridgeport State Senator Ernest Newton was charged with campaign finance fraud Friday.

According to the Chief State's Attorney's Office, Newton, 56, obtained thousands of dollars in public funds to finance his unsuccessful state Senate campaign last year. Newton won the endorsement of Bridgeport Democrats last May, but lost in a primary to Andres Ayala.

Newton was arrested Friday by Inspectors from the Office of the Chief State's Attorney.

According to the arrest warrant, Newton was $500 short of the $15,000 he needed to raise in private contributions to qualify for public funds from the Citizens Election Program grant. Newton had five campaign workers sign cards falsely stating they contributed to the campaign, the warrant said.

Believing Newton had raised the needed amount, the State Elections Enforcement Commission released $80,550 in grant money to Newton's campaign in July. When one of the five campaign workers was contacted by SEEC investigators, Newton told her not to talk to them, according to the warrant.

The former Bridgeport lawmaker spent five years in federal prison after his 2005 conviction on bribery and tax evasion charges.

Newton was charged Friday with one count of first-degree larceny, five counts of illegal campaign practices and one count of tampering with a witness. He was released on a written promise to appear and will be arraigned in Hartford Superior Court on Jan. 17.

Office of Higher Ed to Help Sawyer School Students

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Students from The Sawyer School breathed a sigh of relief, after learning the state’s Office of Higher Education was stepping in to help them out.

The announcement was made weeks after The Sawyer School shut down, leaving many of those students in debt and without enough job training.

“Where do we go from here?”

Rosalie Santana told NBC Connecticut she was blind-sighted when she found out the trade school she was attending to become a medical assistant, was closing.

“I really wanted that degree. I had a lot of plans. That was my goal.”

Santana was months shy of graduating when she was told The Sawyer School was shut down and given no other information. This is after she took out a $20,000 loan to go there.

“I have debt. I have two kids. I have a lot of my plate that I’m losing because of this situation.”

Other students felt the same way.

Amanda Wisnieski graduated from the medical assistant program recently, but hasn’t been able to find a job because she can’t get her records from the school.

“I’m a mess right now, like my future went out the window,” said Wisnieski.

Students from The Sawyer School demanded answers from the facility since the school was closed late December.

On Friday, Connecticut’s Office of Higher Education announced it was planning to recover all student records from the school’s three branches in Connecticut. That would make it easier for students like Santana to transfer to other trade schools and continue their education.

NBC Connecticut reached out to Paul Kelly, President of The Sawyer School, to see if he could shed light on the situation. We have yet to hear back.

Santana said until students get answers, the issue is far from over.

“Whoever’s responsible for this, they need to tell us the truth.”

The state’s Office of Higher Education hopes to recover most of the students’ records by Monday.
 



Photo Credit: Todd Piro

Cromwell Police Seize Drugs, Guns, and Cash

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Cromwell police responded to a routine medical call and ended up seizing drugs, guns, and cash from the home.

When officers arrived at 4 McDonald Avenue on Thursday afternoon, they discovered Michael Marotta, 28, was in possession of prescription medication that did not belong to him.

After obtaining a search warrant, authorities also found $34,000 worth of cocaine, $2385 in cash, three handguns, three shotguns, two rifles, a taser and thousands of round of ammunition, according to police.

Authorities also found supplies used for the manufacturing, packaging, and transportation of narcotics, according to police.

"It's really disturbing.  I mean, you don't know who lives near you," said one neighbor who asked not to be identified.

Police arrested Marotta and charged him with operating a drug factory, illegal possession, possession with intent to sell, possession of a controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia, and possession of marijuana.

He was arraigned on the charges Friday in Middletown Superior Court, according to police.

 

Controversial Gun Show This Weekend

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A gun show will go on this weekend in Stamford despite cries from around the state that it is just too close, and too soon after, the Sandy Hook shootings. Newtown is 40 miles away.

The East Coast Firearms Show at the Stamford Plaza Hotel is organized by Westchester Collectors which is a Mahopac Falls, NY based promoter. The flyer says the show offers the "best of the best of vendors, offering 250 tables of antique and historical arms."

Opinions in and around Stamford were mixed, but organizers were setting up at the hotel all day Friday. Signs around the lobby indicate the show is still happening Saturday and Sunday.  Similar ones by the same promoter in Waterbury and Westchester County were cancelled.

"It seems insensitive to have the event continue," Stamford Mayor Michael Pavia said.  He feels the timing of the event is just not right, just over three weeks after the Sandy Hook School shooting. Stamford Police Captain Richard Conklin says he understands that some aren't happy about it. But since it's being staged staged at a private facility they can't cancel the event.

"When you think of gun shows this is not your typical gun show," Conklin said. He adds that this is a show for weapons collectors and nothing dangerous.  He says he's dealt with the organizer before and never had an issue. "We're going to maintain a presence there to ensure that they continue to be compliant with state, local and federal laws."

The police captain says the track record of Westchester Collectors has been good. They've had this show for seven of the past eight years in the community, noting they'll be there in at the hotel to make sure every law is followed to a tee.

Stabbing Outside Plainfield Gentleman's Club

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The Plainfield Police are investigating a stabbing that occurred after a fight outside of a gentleman’s club early Saturday morning.
 
Police responded to a report of a group fighting outside the Stars Gentleman’s Club, 94 Norwich Road,  around 2 a.m. on Saturday morning.
 
Upon arrival, police discovered that a man, Edward Ruiz, had been stabbed during the fight. Ruiz was transported to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries.
 
Police are still looking for a suspect. Anyone with any information is being asked to call the Plainfield Police Department at 860-564-0804 or 860-564-7065.
 


Photo Credit: Getty Images / Scott Olson

Police Investigate Death of Man in West Haven

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Police are investigating after a man was found dead Saturday morning.

Neighbors were surprised to learn that James McCabe, 65, who lived on the second floor of the apartment building at 228 Main St. was found unconscious from an apparent assault.

 “It’s just crazy,” said Mark Knowlton.

“We didn’t hear a thing…next thing you know, they say the guy upstairs had gotten stabbed through the eye,” said Myron Lohman.

Police confirmed it was a homicide, and said they spoke with a person of interest in the case. However, investigators released few details about what led to McCabe’s death.

The crime stunned neighbors, who claim it’s a quiet area.

“It’s a very quiet building, and there’s never really been any incidents here. To the people in the building, it’s very shocking,” said Lohman.

“When it’s this close to home, it’s weird,” said Knowlton.

Anyone with information is urged to contact West Haven Police at 203-937-3905 or 203-937-3900. Anonymous text tips can be sent to police at 847-411.

 

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