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Couple Married 69 Years Die 'Hand in Hand': Report


An Illinois husband and wife, married for 69 years, had a bond so strong they died minutes apart Saturday, hand in hand, at a Skokie hospital, according to their obit.

As both Teresa and Isaac Vatkin, 89 and 91 respectively, lay unresponsive with shallow breath in the hospital Saturday, their family members placed them side by side and hand in hand, the Daily Herald reports. The couple died "peacefully," 40 minutes apart.

"I didn't want them to be scared," their granddaughter Debbie Handler told the newspaper. "I thought maybe if they knew the other was there, it would help."

According to the Herald, the couple met in Argentina, where they were both originally from, and settled in Skokie. They raise three kids in the US — Isaac starting his own kosher meat distribution business and Teresa a homemaker and manicurist.

Isaac learned to use a computer in his 80s and researched Alzheimer’s disease for possible cures when Teresa began to develop the ailment, according to the Herald.

"You didn't want to see them go," their grandson William Vatkin told the newspaper, "but you couldn't ask for anything more."

A joint funeral service was held for the couple Monday in Arlington Heights.

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Greg M. Cooper, File

Norwalk Man Embezzled $800,000 from Employer: Prosecutors


A Norwalk, Connecticut man has pleaded guilty to stealing more than $800,000 from his employer over a three-year span. 

Federal prosecutors say 64-year-old Mark Errico pleaded guilty Monday to embezzlement and tax evasion charges. 

For 20 years, Errico handled finances for two companies owned by the same person, according to prosecutors. 

Between February 2011 and March 2014, Errico transferred funds from the companies' accounts to pay his personal credit card and he also forged the signature of the companies' owner on company checks and cashed them or made them payable to his own company, according to the office of the U.S. Attorney for the District of Connecticut. 

He then failed to pay $265,326 in federal income taxes on the stolen money. 

Errico faces up to 15 years in prison at sentencing scheduled for July 17. He also agreed to partial restitution and must pay the back taxes.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Man Pulls 30 Ticks Off His Dog After West Hartford Run


If you need any confirmation that tick season is here, a photo from a Connecticut man may be it.

Elijah Romer went for a run at the West Hartford Reservoir on Monday night and took his dog along for some exercise.

After 30 minutes, Romer returned home to find his dog covered in ticks. Romer removed 30 ticks from the pooch. He shared a photo of the ticks with NBC Connecticut.

The state is seeing an increase in the abundance of ticks this spring, according to a release by the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, which monitors the tick population in the state.

They have also seen an increase in cases of Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses.

Last week, the state announced a 5-month-old Griswold boy became the first person in Connecticut to contract the Powassen virus.

The illness led to vomiting and seizures and he spent a week in the hospital last November.

Photo Credit: Elijah Romer

Search Underway for Man Accused of Assaulting Woman in Windsor Locks


A woman is in critical condition after she was attacked at work in Windsor Locks last Thursday and police are looking for the man who they say assaulted her. 

The woman was at work at 295 Ella Grasso Turnpike in East Windsor on April 20 when she got into an argument with 23-year-old Clinton Weston, of Hartford, and he punched her in the face, causing her to fall and hit her head on a vehicle, police said. 

Weston left in the victim’s vehicle, which East Hartford Police located. 

The victim was transported to the hospital and police later learned she went through emergency surgery because of complications from the head trauma and is in stable but critical condition. 

Windsor Locks police are looking for Weston and said they have a warrant charging him with second-degree assault.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Police Search for Man Who Robbed Citgo in Cos Cob


A man with what appeared to be a gun robbed a Citgo Gas Station in Cos Cob Monday night and police are trying to identify him. 

Police said a man who appeared to be in his 30s robbed the Citgo Gas Station at 392 Post Rd. in the Cos Cob Section of Greenwich at 9:15 p.m. Monday. 

He pulled what looked like a handgun, demanded money from the register and left after taking cash from the clerk, police said. 

No one was injured during the robbery and police said they are looking for a stocky, 5-foot-7-inch-tall man who tried to cover his face with clothing.

Police said they believe this robbery and one at the Chase Bank in Greenwich are connected. 

Photo Credit: Greenwich Police

Report Lists Best Schools in Connecticut and U.S.


U.S. News & World Report has ranked the best public high schools in the United States and one Connecticut school came in in the top 20. 

Amistad Academy is ranked 20th nationally and first in Connecticut.

The school was lauded for the opportunities students are given to take Advanced Placement courses and exams, as well as for college readiness. 

Connecticut came in fourth overall -- behind Maryland, Florida and California --for the number of gold and silver medals U.S. News and World Report bestowed. 

Here are the top 10 schools in Connecticut, according to the report.

  1. Amistad Academy, New Haven
  2. Weston High School
  3. East Granby High School
  4. Ridgefield High School
  5. Staples High School, Westport
  6. Conard High School, West Hartford
  7. New Canaan High School
  8. Farmington High School
  9. Simsbury High School
  10. Fairfield Ludlowe High School, Fairfield

See the full list here.

“Congratulations to the staff and students at Amistad Academy for ranking 20th in the nation on the list of U.S. News & World Report’s top public high schools, Jeremiah Grace, Connecticut director of the Northeast Charter Schools Network, said in a release. "This is no small feat. The fact that 100 percent of Amistad's students take Advanced Placement coursework and exams helped them earn this spot, and just goes to prove that when given the right tools, all children can learn. Keep up the great work, Amistad!" he said.

Photo Credit: NBC Boston

2 Hit by Car After Fight in New Haven


When a fight started to heat up in New Haven, one person got into a car and hit two other people, a city police sergeant said. 

There was a fight in the area of Chapel Street and Kensington next to the Dux Market around 3: 20 p.m., New Haven police said. 

The fight escalated when one man got into his car and allegedly struck two other men who were standing on the sidewalk.

The two victims were taken to the hospital for non-life threatening injuries. 

The suspect fled the scene in an older model Subaru wagon after hitting the people, according to police.

There were no details released on what led up to the fight. 

Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut

FDA Warns of 14 'Fraudulent' Cancer Cure Companies


The Food and Drug Administration posted warning letters sent to 14 manufacturers, telling them to remove their fraudulent cancer curing products on the internet, NBC News reported. 

The FDA said most of the products are sold websites and social media sites can be harmful and waste money. 

The products that are not tested nor approved by the FDA come in all shapes and sizes, from creams to teas. Some contain ingredients that can be risky or interact dangerously with prescription drugs.

Photo Credit: FDA Photo

Top 10 Connecticut Schools: U.S. News & World Report


Photo Credit: Getty Images/Blend Images RM

Some CT Companies Fear There's Skilled-Worker Shortage


Some Connecticut-based companies looking to hire said there are not enough skilled technical workers to fill open positions.

At a job fair at Norwich Technical High School on Tuesday, instructors told NBC Connecticut they’re training students to walk into skilled trade positions right out of high school. But there aren't enough students to fill a growing demand in the state.

Electrical instructor Jamie Lamitie teaches his students residential and commercial wiring. Lamitie even has his students working in the community.

"I have not enough students for the amount of contractors that are looking for help right now," according to Lamitie.

North Stonington-based A/Z Corporation staff said skilled trade employees are hard to come by, which is why they take full advantage of recruiting students at technical schools, like Norwich Tech.

"By the time they're ready to graduate and have completed the electrical program, we find that's a really good indicator and we end up with really good candidates,” electrical operations manager, Steven Lusi, said.

The company's placement manager, Susan Choquette, said in the last five years there's been a shortage of electricians, welders and other trade workers. What many people don’t realize is the pay for these jobs is on par with many that come with a four-year degree, she added.

Rebecca Novic graduated last year from Norwich Tech and now is part of the apprentice program at A/Z Corporation where she does pipe fitting and welding.

"In high school I was this cheerleader and a captain, and I was kind of cool. And now I'm a construction worker and it's so awesome,” Novic said.

She credits her hands-on education.

Norwich Tech senior, Cameron Crosby, already has a job lined up.

"I work hands-on. I learn better that way. I can't sit in a classroom all day and just read books,” Crosby said.

Electric Boat (EB) even relaunched its apprenticeship program in the midst of the company’s plan to hit peak employment of 18,000 employees by 2030. Dan Barrett, a spokesperson for the company, said it's hard to say if there is a shortage of trade workers now. But EB wants to make sure there are enough as its demand for employees grows.

Brendan M. Cunningham, an assistant professor of economics at Eastern Connecticut State University, told NBC Connecticut via email that many routine and even non-routine jobs are becoming automated.

“This implies that most of the job growth in the future will be in areas with greater educational requirements,” Cunningham wrote.

Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut

'13 Reasons Why There's Hope' Netflix Show Sparks Discussion


A new Netflix series is sparking conversation among teens, parents and schools.

“13 Reasons Why” details what its main character, high schooler Hannah Baker, said lead to her suicide. She leaves behind 13 tapes to the people she said caused her to commit suicide and in the tapes, she explains how each person impacted her to take her own life.

The show’s creators do not shy away from graphically depicting disturbing and sensitive topics-- even showing how the character commits suicide.

The show has become a major topic of discussion on social media because of its raw and graphic depictions of suicide, bullying and rape. Since the show’s debut on March 31, “13 Reasons Why” has been tweeted about more than 11 million times, according to Variety.

Rich Hanley, an associate professor of journalism at Quinnipiac University, said the show has been successful because of the credibility of its sometimes controversial content.

“Netflix hit all the right notes in terms of its show content, show demographic, with the understanding that it would do extremely well on social media because that’s where the conversations take place,” said Hanley.

The show and its dramatic messages are even reaching teens all across the country and in Connecticut. Some high schools in Hartford have posted posters in schools that read, “13 Reasons Why There Is Hope,” which include messages of hope and a suicide prevention number.

New Britain High School student, Anna Stryjewska, said there are lessons to learn from the series for teens like her.

“I’ve started to watch what I do all the time and make sure my actions don’t negatively impact people,” Stryjewska said.

New Britain Consolidated School District Principal Mitch Page, who was a former social worker for 20 years, wants parents to know the show can be a conversation starter with their kids.

“As tough as that might be, or maybe awkward as that might be – watch the show with them absolutely and have those conversations with them ongoing,” said Page.

Page also suggests if your child is interested in watching the show, you could let them know in advance what the contest consists of.

Photo Credit: Bloomberg via Getty Images
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Large Vehicle Fatally Strikes Pedestrian in Greenwich: Police


A large vehicle struck a pedestrian on Interstate 95 in Greenwich on Tuesday morning. 

Connecticut State Police said they are investigating the fatal accident where a pedestrian was struck by an unknown vehicle, "possibly a truck". 

The accident happened in the early morning on I-95 southbound near exit 6.

The victim had no identification. 

Anyone with any information on the accident or the vehicle involved is asked to call troopers at (203) 696-2500. 

1 Dead Following Two-Car Crash in East Hartford


One man died following a two-car collision in East Hartford on Tuesday night.

East Hartford Police said they got a 911 call about the collision that happened on Oak Street at 7:14 p.m.

Two cars going opposite directions collided with one another and one car swerved off into a driveway before ending in the home's backyard, police said. 

Two passengers in one car refused medical attention. The driver of the car in the backyard was transported to the hospital, where he was later pronounced dead. 

The victim's identify has not been released. 

Oak Street is closed near Burnbrook Road and is expected to be open by the morning as police investigate.

The investigation is on-going. 

Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut

Person Killed After Being Hit by Car on I-95 in Greenwich


One person is dead after being struck by a car on Interstate 95 in Greenwich, according to state police.

Connecticut State Police said that a pedestrian was struck on I-95 south near exit 5 Tuesday morning. The southbound side of the highway is currently closed between exits 6 and 5, police said. Traffic is being diverted off the highway at exit 6.

Drivers should slow down and expect delays in the area.

No other details were immediately available. Check back for updates.

Photo Credit: Connecticut Department of Transportation

No Injuries Reported in School Bus Crash in Franklin

Slain Officer’s Child Treats Another Cop to Surprise Dinner


The 8-year-old daughter of a New Jersey police officer killed in the line of duty seven months before she was born stunned a random cop in a local pizza and pasta shop by anonymously buying him dinner last week. 

Mikayla Raji was eating at Villa Borghese II in Helmetta, one of several of the chain's locations in the Garden State, with her mother Friday night when Jamesburg police officer Joseph Quinn stopped by to pick up some food.

When Quinn went to pay, he was told his food had already been purchased. It took some diligent police work, the department said on its Facebook page, but detectives were able to hunt down the person who treated him: Mikayla Raji.

"I asked my mom if we could pay for his dinner, but keep it a secret. I wanted to do it because he works hard and he keeps us all safe," Mikayla told News 4 Tuesday. 

As it turns out, Mikayla had seen Quinn walk into the restaurant and greeted him with a hello and a smile, authorities learned. They say she leaned over and whispered to her mother that she insisted on buying Quinn's food. 

Mikayla's mom, Mimi Raji, gladly picked up the patrolman's $15 tab.

"I smiled, it warmed my heart," said Mimi. "She has a big heart and she's always thinking about other people, and I thought that was so nice.' 

Mikayla had a quick conversation with Quinn before he left -- and it wasn't until later that Quinn knew she was responsible for his delicious free eats. 

Mikayla has a special place in her heart for other officers. Her father, Thomas Raji, was a Perth Amboy police officer killed in the line of duty by a drunk driver on Aug. 22, 2008. Mikayla was born seven months after he died.

"It's not easy but you know what, he left me the best part of him, and for that, I'm grateful," said Mimi, who was also a Perth Amboy cop at the time of Thomas Raji's death. She has since retired.  

Mimi said her daughter's gesture reminds her of her husband's kindness. 

"It says a lot about who she is and it warms my heart because I know I'm doing something right," she said. 

Villa Borghese owner Joe Russo says people occasionally pay for police officers' dinners there, but this was the first time a kid gave the recommendation.

"The fact that she knew to do that was pretty impressive," he said. 

Jamesburg Police Chief James Craparotta said, "Everyone should learn to be so generous and so giving. The world would be a better place if everyone was like Mikayla."

On its Facebook page, the Jamesburg police department thanked Mikayla's mother for her service as a cop, and for that of her late husband. The cops also extended an open invitation to Mikayla Raji to stop by headquarters whenever she wants. 

"This time dinner is on us!" the department wrote on Facebook. "Your dad would be so proud of the person you are. If you ever need us for anything, you can guarantee we will be there for you."

And to thank Mikayla for her generosity, the department says she will lead their town Memorial Day parade, riding in a police car.

Photo Credit: Photos provided by the Jamesburg Police Department via Facebook

Key Things to Know As Trump Tries to Change Tax Policy


President Donald Trump's administration released a broad outline of his tax plan Wednesday, three days ahead of his 100th day in office.

Trump suggested his plan will include "maybe the biggest tax cut we've ever had," prior to the announcement by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Director of the National Economic Council Gary Cohn. The claim would suggest a cut of more than $600 billion a year to exceed former President Ronald Reagan's 1981 action, according to The Associated Press.

Among many changes, the plan seeks a corporate tax rate reduction, but also abandons a so-called border adjustment tax included in a plan released by House Republicans last year.

Here's a breakdown of what to keep an eye on as the White House and congressional Republicans attempt to push a tax bill through Congress this year.

Corporate Tax Rate:
The corporate tax rate is the rate that corporations pay on their net income.

The U.S. now has a 35 percent corporate tax rate, which is relatively high by international standards, said Joe Rosenberg of the Tax Policy Center.

Trump's proposal will seek to reduce the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 15 percent, a policy he set during the campaign, it was announced Wednesday.

The House tax plan included a decrease of the corporate tax rate to 20 percent.

Lowering the corporate rate to 15 percent, critics argue, may make it difficult for the Trump plan to pay for itself with increased revenue elsewhere.

The nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation said in a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan this week that a three-year cut to 20 percent would reduce revenue by a third in those years and lead to a $489.7 billion hole over 10 years, The Washington Post reported.

The Trump administration, however, maintains the decreased rate will spur economic growth and be revenue neutral despite an even bigger tax cut.

"The tax plan will pay for itself with growth," Steven Mnuchin, Trump's treasury secretary, said last week.

Individual Tax Bracket:
The individual tax bracket refers to the amount a taxpayer owes in federal income tax based on their income. The U.S. tax code now has seven tax brackets that range from a high of 39.6 percent to a low of 10 percent.

The tax plan proposed by House Republicans would reduce the number of individual tax brackets to three. Depending on income, taxpayers will be subject to either a 12, 25 or 33 percent income tax rate under the House plan.

The House plan would lower the top tax rate of 39.6 percent to 33 percent, but raise the lowest rate of 10 percent to 12 percent.

The Trump plan would also limit the number of individual brackets to three, but at rates of 10, 25 and 35 percent, Cohn announced Wednesday. 

During the campaign, however, Trump had called for the rates in the three brackets to be lower than his proposal, at 10, 20 and 25 percent.

Border-Adjustment Tax:
The so-called border-adjustment tax is a measure included in the House blueprint under the "destination-based cash flow tax."

The first piece of that policy -- "destination-based" -- is where the border adjustment comes in. The policy would make goods produced in the U.S. that are sold abroad tax-exempt. At the same time, it would tax goods produced outside of the U.S. and sold within the country.

Trump's plan will not include the controversial tax for now, though it might be revisited later, a person briefed on the rollout told The New York Times. This again puts the White House's plan at odds with the House's. The House GOP sought to use the increased revenue from the tax to offset tax breaks elsewhere.

Critics of the policy argue it would hurt retailers and consumers because tons of imported products -- cars, clothing, appliances -- would suddenly become more expensive.

Beyond the border adjustment, the House's destination-based cash flow tax makes other broad changes to the way corporations are taxed in the U.S.

Instead of taxing corporations on income, the current tax scheme, the plan would tax their cash flow.

Revenue-Neutral Tax Plan:
A revenue-neutral tax plan is one that includes a combination of tax changes, but leaves the overall federal revenue constant.

This means if taxes for corporations or individuals are cut, they must be offset by some combination of revenue increases elsewhere.

Trump's proposal for a 15 percent corporate tax rate conflicts with House Republicans, whose plan called for a 20 percent corporate tax. The House rate would be in keeping with a revenue-neutral tax plan, they say.

There's a disparity in the numbers, but the economic theory in both plans is the same: tax cuts will pay for themselves because they spur economic growth.

"I'm not convinced that cutting taxes is necessarily going to blow a hole in the deficit," Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, told the AP. "Now, whether 15 percent is the right figure or not, that's a matter to be determined."

A revenue-neutral tax plan is especially important because tax cuts that add to the deficit may expire after 10 years.

Senate Republicans can use a process called reconciliation, which allows the passage of a bill with a simply majority, to pass a tax bill. Under the rules of the Senate, a tax bill passed through reconciliation cannot add to the federal deficit over 10 years.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Spirit Airlines to Begin Flying From Bradley This Week


Spirit Airlines will begin flying in and out of Bradley Airport this week with service to Orlando and Myrtle Beach.

The airline will begin daily year-round service Thursday to Orlando, Florida and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. On June 15, Spirit will add daily year-round service to Ft. Lauderdale.

Spirit Airlines starts with what it calls "bare fare," which includes no free bags other than a small carry-on and no free drinks.

A representative for the airline said flights begin at $34 each way, with the average one-way fare of $50. There are extra fees for seats customers request, ranging from $1 to $50, while the fee for big front seats ranges from $12 to $199.  

See more on the fees here.

If you print your boarding pass at home, it's free, but it will cost $2 to print it at the airport kiosk or $10 for an agent at the aiport to print it.

Photo Credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Bridgeport Murder Suspect Arrested in Florida


A Bridgeport homicide suspect has been arrested in Florida, according to the Bridgeport Police Department.

Douglas Rivas, 34, was wanted on an arrest warrant charging him with the murder of Cristobal Hernandez, who was shot and killed at the El Paraiso Restaurant at 1026 Madison Avenue on Sept. 29, 2016.

Bridgeport detectives had identified Rivas as a suspect the day after the shooting, but could not locate him. The US Marshal’s Violent Fugitive Task Force assisted in searching for Rivas, and on Tuesday he was taken into custody in Fellsmere, Fla., as a fugitive from justice.

The Bridgeport arrest warrant charges Rivas with murder, criminal possession of a firearm, and unlawful discharge of a weapon. Bridgeport police said that they expect Rivas to be extradited back to Connecticut soon.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Norwalk Man Charged With Manslaughter


A 59-year-old Norwalk man has been charged with manslaughter.

Police said they responded to Unit 17 at 505 Westport Ave. just before 1:30 a.m. Wednesday and found a woman dead in the home.

Officers detained 59-year-old Paul Bjerke, who was inside the residence, and charged him with first-degree manslaughter.

Police later identified the victim as Lisa Zemlock, a 49-year-old who lived in the unit on 505 Westport Ave. 

Police are investigating and ask anyone with information to call Detective Fitzmaurice at 203-854-3180, dial the Norwalk Police Tip Line at 203-854-3111, send an anonymous Internet tip www.norwalkpd.com or text a tip by typing "NPD" into the text field, followed by the message, and sending it to CRIMES (274637)

Bond for Bjerke has been set at $750,000. He is due in court today.

Photo Credit: Norwalk Police
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