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UConn Student Accused of Threatening President Obama


A 32-year-old UConn student has been arrested, accused of making threats against President Barack Obama and his immediate family.

Joshua Phillip Klimas, 32, of Coventry, was arrested yesterday on a federal criminal complaint.
The U.S. Secret Service arrested Klimas at his residence. 

Authorities said Klimas, using the alias John Q Public, sent a message to the whitehouse.gov website on June 1 that contained several threatening statements against President Obama and his family, including “If you do not resign by the end of the year I will kill you!”

Authorities traced an IP address, which ultimately led them to Klimas. UConn police said he had sent threatening e-mails to a professor in February, but no charges were filed.

Klimas had been enrolled at UConn since the fall of 2010. He has been suspended from UConn and is not allowed on campus, according to the criminal complaint.

Members of the U.S. Secret Service interviewed Klimas at the UConn Student Union and he admitted that he created the post, according to the criminal complaint.

During the questioning, Klimas became agitated and threatened that "someone is going to do what I wrote if he doesn't change," according to the complaint.

He also admitted to sending between 10 and 15 angry messages to WhiteHouse.gov and Congress.gov.

Klimas told authorities that he was briefly committed, was being treated UConn's Mental Health Services and uses medical marijuana to treat anxiety, according to the complaint.

He appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Donna F. Martinez in Hartford and has been ordered to be admitted to a local hospital for psychiatric evaluation.

The U.S. Secret Service, with the assistance of the UConn Police Department and the Coventry Police Department, investigated.

Photo Credit: AP

Man Charged With Kidnapping, Sexually Assaulting Teen


Police have charged a man with kidnapping and sexually assaulting a 16-year-old girl in the Moosup section of Plainfield.

Detectives began their investigation in October 2012 after the girl reported she had been kidnapped and taken to the Moosup Little League Fields on Lions Drive. She told officers she was sexually assaulted by several people, including Muhammed Yakubu, according to police.

On Thursday, Plainfield police arrested Yakubu, 27, at Danielson Superior Court while Yakubu was making an appearance on unrelated drug charges.

He was charged with first-degree aggravated sexual assault, conspiracy to commit first-degree aggravated assault and first-degree kidnapping. He was held on $250,000 bond.

Police said their investigation is ongoing and that more arrests are expected.

Southington Walmart Closed Due to Electrical Odor


The Walmart at 2385 Queen Street in Southington was evacuated on Thursday due to an electrical-like smell.

It is believed that the smell came from a blown transformer inside the store, according to fire officials.

Walmart employees were allowed back inside around 2:30 p.m. , but the store was expected to remain closed for several hours while crews investigated and repaired the transformer.

Photo Credit: Dan Lee

Man Faces Judge in Navy Bribe Case


A Singapore-based defense contractor accused of bribing U.S. Navy officials with prostitutes and lavish gifts is now allowed to leave federal jail, but his release comes with unprecedented restrictions.

Leonard Francis, 49, entered a not guilty plea in one of three cases filed against him and appeared in federal court twice Thursday in San Diego. At the second hearing, Francis’ attorney requested his client be released on bond.

Federal Magistrate Judge Jan Adler ordered Francis – also known as “Fat Leonard” – to post a $1 million bond, with an additional $100,000 bond to be posted by Francis’ aunt, who lives in Maryland.

Adler also imposed several conditions in an effort to assure that Francis does not try to flee the country while he awaits trial on charges that he bribed Naval officers to make sure their ships were docked at Asian ports, where Francis’ companies allegedly overcharged the Navy for docking services.

The conditions include:

  • Francis must stay in the top floor of a multi-story apartment or condo, making it more difficult for him to leave the premises without court approval.
  • He will be monitored around-the-clock by a GPS tracking system.
  • His apartment will be outfitted with closed-circuit TV cameras that are monitored by a security company, to help assure that he does not leave the premises without government approval.
  • He must hire and pay for an independent, 24-hour guard service, as a further assurance that he will not try to flee the country.

Francis’ attorney, Patrick Swan, who is a former federal prosecutor, said he has never heard of such stringent restrictions on a defendant’s pre-trial release.

But it wasn’t enough for federal prosecutors, who strongly opposed Francis’s release, during the two-hour hearing.

Prosecutors portrayed Francis as an extreme flight risk; a foreign national, with no ties to Southern California, and a strong motive – and the financial means – to jump bond and flee to a country that does not have an extradition agreement with the United States.

“He can go wherever he wants to,” warned prosecutor Robert Huie. “He can go wherever we can’t find him.”

Huie said Francis faces a potential life sentence for his alleged crimes. The prosecutor also revealed that Francis faces additional felony fraud charges, in addition to the bribery charges now filed against him.

Huie warned the Magistrate that Francis could make his way to Tijuana, where he could buy phony travel documents “for a few hundred” dollars, and get on a plane to a foreign country.

He also noted that Francis, who he said has “tens of millions of dollars” in the bank, controls a fleet of 50 vessels that can take him anywhere in the world to avoid re-capture by U.S. Marshals.

“He will flee, and he will not come back,” Huie warned.

But Magistrate Judge Adler said he is required by law to fashion a bond release package, if he determines that a defendant meets the requirements for bond.

The Magistrate did agree to “stay” or postpone his bond order until prosecutors can appeal his decision to a District Court Judge.

That delay will have little practical effect on Francis’s release, because it will take days, or weeks, for his attorney to arrange the restrictive living conditions, and have them approved by the federal probation office.

According to federal prosecutors, Francis allegedly built an intricate web of contacts within the U.S. Navy providing him access to classified information on ship movements.

Court documents show through text messaging contacts within the U.S. Navy, Francis successfully redirected nuclear-powered destroyers and aircraft carriers along with their support ships to ports his company controlled.

Glenn Defense Marine Asia Ltd., or GDMA, would profit millions from inflated prices for fuel, food and other services it provided, the prosecution alleges.

Francis is accused of offering prostitutes, travel, hotel accommodations and Lady Gaga concert tickets to the Navy commanders in exchange for the business.

Defendants U.S. Navy Commander Michael Vannak Khem Misiewicz and Commander Jose Luis Sanchez face charges of conspiring to commit bribery, which carries a maximum sentence of 5 years in prison.

GDMA general manager of global government contracts Alex Wisidagama and a senior Navy investigator, John Beliveau II, are also charged in the investigation.

The man many call “Fat Leonard” is used to luxury. Every year his 70,000-foot Singapore bungalow draws crowds for its Christmas light display.

Former Navy commanders said Francis' generosity was felt by Navy officials over decades, according to the NavyTimes. It was not unheard of for the businessman to personally delivered Cuban cigars and champagne when ships arrived in port, the news website reports.

On Thursday Francis, who has been held in federal custody since his arrest on Sept. 16, could barely fit his large body in the courtroom chair.

His attorney objected to the use shackles, saying it was not necessary but the judge denied the request.

The criminal probe recently widened to implicate two admirals. Rear Admiral Bruce Loveless and Vice Admiral Ted Branch no longer have access to classified material since they were placed on leave two weeks ago.

Also Thursday, Navy officials suspended Capt. David Haas from his position as deputy commander of the San Diego-based Coastal Riverine Group. The group oversees port security. Haas has been temporarily assigned to a training group and will retain his rank. No formal charges have been filed against Haas according to the Associated Press report.

According to his Navy bio Haas served on USS Thach in 2008-2009 and then moved on to Engineering Assessment Pacific, San Diego in 2009-2010.

The Stars and Stripes reported that another Navy Capt. Daniel Dusek was relieved of his command in connection with the investigation. Dusek, who served as deputy operations officer aboard the USS Blue Ridge from January 2009-February 2011, has not been charged by U.S. prosecutors.

Watch: Tornado Levels House


Countless images and videos have shown the frightening destruction caused by tornadoes that ripped through several Illinois towns on Sunday.

Perhaps none of them shows how instantaneously a home can be dismantled in a powerful tornado, but a video posted to YouTube this week comes close.

Surveillance video at a gas station-Dairy Queen combo in Diamond, Ill., shows cars being spun around in the street as the twister enters the area. Between 29 seconds and 31 seconds, a two-story home is wiped off its foundation and completely destroyed.

The video's description notes the house was a model home and no one was inside at the time.

The phone at the gas station has since been disconnected, and employees there couldn't be reached.

Diamond was one of the towns most heavily hit by Sunday's storms. In all 22 tornadoes touched down in Illinois.

In Washington, Ill., an EF-4 tornado with winds that forecasters said reached 190 mph affected more than 1,000 houses. A man was killed in the storm and 122 people were injured.


Driver Survives Speed Trial Crash


A car's safety equipment is credited with protecting a driver from more severe injuries in a high-speed rollover crash during a speed trial event at a dry lake bed in the Southern California desert.

The crash, captured on video, occurred during a speed trial event Nov. 10. The video was posted Nov. 18 -- two days after driver Brian Gillespie was released from Arrowhead Regional Medical Center, according to the Southern California Timing Association.

Gillespie's modified Hasport Hondata Insight was traveling at about 180 mph when the car veered to the right and rolled several times at the El Mirage lake bed (map), about 35 miles east of the Antelope Valley community of Lancaster. The car was stripped to its protective roll cage -- a strong frame built into the passenger compartment of a car to protect its occupants.

Gillespie suffered a collapsed lung, cuts and bruises, according to the Timing Association.

He previously shattered the 200-mph barrier at the El Mirage lake bed.

Video Credit: John Wylie

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Photo Credit: John Wylie

Norwich Tree Donated in Memory of Man Killed in Tragedy


When Norwich Public Works employees went to Preston last month to inquire about a spruce tree offered as a Christmas tree, they didn't realize they were approaching the family of the victim of the well-publicized stairway collapse in New London the day before.

Raymond Deptulski wasn't home when they knocked on his door, but when he heard what they wanted, "Instantly," he said, he decided to donate the tree to Norwich.

"We've lived here most of our lives," he said, "and it's always beautiful, the tree they have, down in the center, and up at the town hall."

His tree is down in the center, at Franklin Square in Norwich, erected Wednesday in memory of his son Johnathan.

"He loved nature, he loved birds and the trees and liked all things with nature," said Deptulski, "so it really was kind of fitting that it would be donated in his memory and stuff. We were really appreciative that they came this year and took it."

He and his wife, June Deptulski, said they'd attend the lighting of the tree the day after Thanksgiving.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Doctors Admit Taking Bribes


Two New York doctors have admitted they took $100,000 in cash payoffs from a medical lab to order lab tests on their patients.
Dr. Gary Leeds and Dr. Richard Goldberg told a federal judge in Newark, N.J., that they had accepted the bribes, a U.S. attorney spokesman said Thursday. 
The arrest of the two doctors now brings to nine the number of physicians who have pleaded guilty in the growing lab scandal.  
More than a dozen executives and workers with Biodiagnostic Laboratory Services in Parsippany have also pleaded guilty. Several convicted workers admit they visited doctors and paid them cash, and have since been naming names of those who took bribes at medical practices across tri-state area.  
Goldberg, 60, is from Weston, Conn. and ran a family practice in New York with Dr. Gary Leeds, of Greenwich. The FBI said both doctors ordered and sent more than $1.8 million in lab testing orders to BLS in exchange for kickbacks.  
BLS executives admitted they got more than $100 million as a result of bribing area doctors to order unnecessary tests. Law enforcement officials said no patients were put at risk because of the excessive and unnecessary blood tests.
Goldberg is a University of Michigan medical school graduate and completed a residency at Duke University. Leeds got his MD from Brown University and did his residency at Georgetown. Both men face up to five years in prison when they are sentenced for the scam they helped run out of their Family Medical Group on West 15th Street.  
Defense attorney Aidan O’Connor said the doctors "have accepted responsibility for their actions and are looking forward to moving forward."
A receptionist at the Family Medical Group said there was no comment. 


Photo Credit: Stock Image

Marines Killed in Training Mourned


A memorial service was held at Camp Pendleton Thursday morning for four U.S. Marines killed in an accident on base on Nov. 13.

Family, friends, colleagues and senior Camp Pendleton leaders gathered at the Base Theatre to pay respects to Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Marines Gunnery Sgt. Gregory J. Mullins, Staff Sgt. Mathew R. Marsh, Staff Sgt. Eric W. Summers and Sgt. Miguel Ortiz.

According to base officials, the EOD Marines were killed in an explosion during range maintenance operations to dispose of unexploded ordnance in the Zulu impact area at Camp Pendleton.

The four young Marines hailed from all over the U.S. and had each earned a multitude of awards and medals over their respective careers.

Sgt. Ortiz, 27, was from San Diego’s Vista area, while Staff Sgt. Marsh, 28, was from Long Beach, Calif. Gunner Sgt. Mullins, 31, was from Bayou L’Ourse, La., while Staff Sgt. Summers, 22, hailed from Poplar Bluff, Mo.

Thursday’s somber service included eulogies delivered by close friends, EOD personnel, scripture readings, a three-volley rifle salute and a ceremonial final roll call. “Amazing Grace” and Taps were also played.

The Commandant and First Lady of the Marine Corps, General James F. Amos and his wife, Bonnie Amos, attended the memorial service and met with each of the Marines’ families prior to the ceremony.

Camp Pendleton’s Commanding General, Brig. Gen. John W. Bullard, delivered the following statement:

"Today, we pause for a moment to remember our fallen comrades: their lives, service and sacrifice. We, their Marine family, mourn alongside their loved ones. We will always remember their commitment and devotion to duty."

Officials say the cause of the accident remains under investigation. At this point, few details have been released regarding the events leading up to the deadly explosion, but officials say that information will be released as it becomes available.

A Marine official who spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity last week said the Marines were killed during a routing sweep to make a range safer for future training exercises at the base. According to the official, there was no live firing on the range at the time.

Three others – two additional Marines and a Navy Corpsman – were nearby at the time of the blast and sustained minor injuries, but survived. Their names were not released.

Photo Credit: Photo by Cpl. Sarah Wolff Diaz

Veteran Files Lawsuit After Wrong Diagnosis


East Haven veteran William Cowles served with the Army National Guard for more than 20 years.

He joined in 1974 and was discharged in 2003 after what he saw in combat in Iraq led him to suffer a breakdown.

“I was discharged from the active duty Army with AD, Adjustment Disorder, and it was not Adjustment Disorder. I realized that when I got home to the VA when the Army discharged me. It was PTSD,” said William Cowles.

Because it was PTSD, Cowles says there was a lot more than should have been done to help him before he was discharged.

“They're trained to not say that it is PTSD,” said Cowles.

On Thursday morning, Cowles and his attorneys filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging the misdiagnosis and the fact that the Army Board for Correction of Military Records failed to correct his discharge to medical retirement.

“This illegal discharge has had an impact on Mr. Cowles ability to get benefits. He doesn't get Army Retirement benefits, and he doesn't get full education benefits,” said Miriam Hinman, a Yale Law Student Intern with the Yale Law School Veterans Legal Services Clinic.

Cowles' attorneys say he's lost about $18,000 in benefits and are asking for at least $10,000 of that to be reimbursed.

However, Cowles says this was never about the money. It is about bringing awareness to an issue that he believes has affected tens of thousands of other veterans.

“Awareness to other young vets that are out there, that we're struggling, but I think we're getting some headway in this,” said Cowles.

NBC Connecticut reached out to the U.S. Army’s Media Relations Office for comment on the lawsuit, but did not hear back.

Photo Credit: Getty Images North America

Board Angry with Hartford Principal After Tweet


The Hartford Teacher's Union and a group of city leaders want principal Dr. Steve Perry investigated, accusing him of threatening violence.

He tweeted, "The only way to lose a fight is to stop fighting. All this did was piss me off. It's so on. Strap up, there will be head injuries."

The tweet came after a public meeting with the Board of Education.

Dr. Perry says he was upset they shot down a plan to turn over management of an elementary school down the road to Capital Prep. The principal says his tweet was just a figure of speech.

"The term fighting is a metaphor," said Dr. Perry who says he'd much rather fight for his kids at Capital Prep than defend his tweet. "If I said killing them softly…this is not about that."

Perry is the principal at Capital Preparatory Magnet School and is nationally recognized for his educational achievements. He supported the proposal of his board to take over SAND Elementary.

It's something the Board of Education voted down. Perry is still adamant that Hartford's unions have continued to undermine public education.

"Their focus remains on insuring that their members stay employed even in schools where the children are clearly not learning," said Perry.

His tweet though has driven some to ask the mayor and Board of Ed to discipline him including Hartford City Council Minority Leader Larry Deustch

"It's a bad thing for any professional or any person to say," Deutsch added.

Council member Joel Cruz has two kids in the school system and says Perry should be held to a higher standard.

"So I think there's some expectations that should be met and have not been met," Cruz said. "It's not whether it's a metaphor or that he's taken out of context."

Delicia Arnold has three kids at Capital Prep and didn't think anything of the tweet.

"I think it's fantastic that he wants a better opportunity for kids just half a mile down the street," Arnold added. "I don't think he meant violence or anything."

Dr. Perry says he has the graduation rates and numbers as a whole to show that his method at Capital Prep is worth expanding on. It's unclear at this point if the mayor or Board of Ed are going to take any disciplinary action against him

"A football coach did say this and I don't think anyone was calling for his resignation," Perry said.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Cat Recovering After Being Shot


An animal rights group is offering a reward to help find the person who shot a cat in Beacon Falls.

"Oreo" was shot last week. He underwent an expensive surgery to save his life.

Now the Animal Friends of Connecticut are offering $500 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or people responsible for shooting "Oreo."

Anyone with information is asked to call Animal Friends of Connecticut at 860-827-0381.

Photo Credit: Animal Friends of Connecticut

Amazon Bringing More Than 300 Full Time Jobs to Windsor


Amazon.com made it official on Thursday, announcing  it plans to open a 1-million-square-foot fulfillment center in Windsor, Connecticut.

The center will create more than 300 full time jobs, according to the company. 

"Amazon is excited to bring hundreds of great full-time jobs to Windsor that offer competitive wages and programs like Career Choice where we will pre-pay tuition for employees to pursue their education in high-demand fields," Mike Roth, Amazon's vice president of North America operations, said in a release. "We are grateful to the state and local elected officials who have supported Amazon in bringing jobs and investment to the Constitution State."

Workers at the facility will pack and ship large items to Amazon customers, the company said.

“The importance of having a company like Amazon in our town and adding new jobs cannot be overstated. We are proud to welcome Amazon to Windsor,” Windsor Mayor Don Trinks said in the release.

There is no official date for the center's opening.

Photo Credit: AP

Two Crashes Slow Traffic in West Hartford


Two separate crashes on Interstate 84 are causing backups in both directions in West Hartford this morning.

I-84 West is congested between exits 45 and 43 and I-84 East is congested between exits 41 and 43.

The left lane is closed.

Check our traffic map to see if there are delays along your morning commute.

Photo Credit: Connecticut DOT Traffic Cameras

The Kennedy Mystique


The enduring symbol of John F. Kennedy’s presidency, the image that defined America’s romance with its heroic young leader and his star-crossed family, came from his widow, Jacqueline, a couple weeks after his assassination.

Struggling to come up with a literary or cultural analogy for their flash of time in the White House, the grieving former first lady settled on a Broadway musical.

“At night, before we’d go to sleep, Jack liked to play some records,” she told Life magazine in December 1963, “and the song he loved most came at the very end of this record. The lines he loved to hear were: Don’t let it be forgot, that once there was a spot, for one brief shining moment that was known as Camelot.”

With that, the legend was sealed. The Kennedy administration would thereon be remembered as Camelot, with John the king and Jackie the queen, glamorous symbols of a nation’s wealthy new idealism.

The nation honored JFK's legacy Friday on the 50th anniversary of his assassination. Several thousand in Dallas marked the day with a moment of silence and bell-ringing at a ceremony in Dealey Plaza, where Kennedy was shot as his motorcade passed through on Nov. 22, 1963. A planned flyover salute and a performance by the Dallas Symphony Orchestra at the plaza to honor Kennedy were canceled amid rainy conditions. In Boston the JFK Library and Museum debuted an exhibit featuring never-before-displayed items from Kennedy's funeral, while in Washington President Barack Obama was meeting privately with leaders and volunteers from the Peace Corps, the national service program Kennedy started, The Associated Press reported.

Kennedy's portrait remains indelible, even after revelations of adultery, mob ties and bought elections.

“What is remarkable is how durable this image has been surrounding John F. Kennedy all these decades since,” said Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics and author of “The Kennedy Half-Century: The Legacy and Influence of the JFK Presidency.”

America’s adoration of JFK still burns in part because he was cut down so early, at the height of his political and cultural influence. He was the youngest elected president, and the youngest to die. He was also the first president of the television age, and so, thanks to the painstaking curation of his image, he is forever frozen in memory as he was 50 years ago: handsome, charismatic, athletic, virile, inspirational.

“The assassination…converted an impressive but flawed man into a saint—an untouchable saint,” Sabato said.

Kennedy made his share of highly dramatic political decisions—on civil rights, space exploration, the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Missile Crisis—but his cultural contributions were, arguably, more lasting.

Much of that has to do with the time and place of Kennedy’s rise. A decorated war hero, Kennedy related with a generation of GIs returning home to a country exploring new financial, educational and technological opportunities; many of these returning troops became the first in their families to attend college. Kennedy became, in a way, their standard-bearer. His high-society, multilingual wife, regarded as an icon of grace and beauty, completed the picture.

“We’re talking about a country that had come out of the war, that controlled the economy of the world. We were rich by any standards in those days, and people didn’t really know how to act,” said journalist Richard Reeves, author of two books on Kennedy. “I think the Kennedys, with their long hair and European-cut suits and languages, were the role models for a new America.”

JFK, who secretly suffered from debilitating ailments and had been given last rites three times before becoming president, approached politics and his personal life with an impatience that seemed indicative of someone who expected to die young. With help from his powerful and wealthy father, Joseph, and his equally ambitious siblings, he took the White House by storm, leapfrogging over the political establishment.

“He lived life as a race against boredom,” Reeves said. “He would not wait his turn. He was the first self-financed, self-created presidential candidate. He had it won before they knew what happened. If you want it, go after it. No one waits their turn now. That was largely because of Kennedy.”

He was also a torrid womanizer, engaging in several well-documented affairs before and during his presidency.

After his death, his wife, family and inner-circle embarked on a campaign to burnish his legacy, which is a big reason why there are so many schools, buildings, streets, plazas and government facilities around the world named after him. No other modern president has enjoyed such treatment, except for maybe Ronald Reagan, Reeves said.

At the same time, the Kennedy family has been struck by a number of tragedies—accidents, illnesses, murder, substance-abuse problems—that gave rise to the notion of a "Kennedy curse.”

Those who believe in such a thing point to a string of events that began before JFK’s assassination: the wartime death of his older brother, Joseph; the botched lobotomy of a sister, Rosemary; the death of another sister, Kathleen, in a plane crash; John and Jackie’s stillborn daughter; and the death of a prematurely born son.

The family misfortunes continued after JFK died. The first was a June 1964 plane crash in which the late  president’s youngest brother, Ted, barely survived. In 1968, another brother, Robert, was assassinated as he campaigned for president. A year later, Ted drove a car off a small bridge near Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, killing a young woman in the passenger’s seat. Other members of the extended clan have been convicted of murder, suffered cancer, overdosed and died in other horrific ways. That includes JFK’s son, John Jr., who perished while piloting a small plane near Martha’s Vineyard in 1999.

But scholars scoff at the idea of a Kennedy curse. They point out that the family is so large and sprawling that bad things were bound to happen to some of them. Adding to the peril was that many of JFK’s kin lived the way he did: at full speed, at high risk.

The perception of a curse exists because of that Kennedy mystique, which survives unabated to this day. The 50th anniversary of JFK’s death has sprouted another wave of books about him.

Which raises the question: Will the glow over a president who served less than three years ever dull?

Reeves doesn’t think so. If the negative aspects of his presidency and personal life haven’t sufficiently tarnished him, they likely won’t ever, he said.

The main enemy is time. Eventually, the number of Americans who remember watching John and Jackie in the White House — along with the historians and journalists who documented it — will diminish to nothing.

“They are still the king and queen, at least until my generation dies off,” Sabato said. “It will eventually fade into history. And perhaps the view of the Kennedys will become more realistic. But until then, you’re going to continue to focus on the mythology.”

Photo Credit: AP

Gas Leak in New London Over


A few homes in New London were evacuated after a construction accident caused a gas leak in the area of Montauk Avenue and Westomere Terrace in New London this morning.

A construction company struck a valve, which has since been repaired. 

The scene is now clear.

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Fire Destroys Plymouth Barn, Kills 3 Cats


A fire destroyed a barn in the Terryville section of Plymouth, killing three cats, early this morning.

When emergency crews arrived, the barn on South Eagle Street was completely engulfed, officials said. 

The fire was contained to the barn, but Chief Mark Sekorski, of the Terryville Fire Department, said it is a total loss.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Dog Returns Home with Bloody Leash


A Southern California family is asking for the public's help in finding a missing man whose dog returned home from walk alone with a bloody leash, police said.

Darwin Vela, 22, was last seen Tuesday about 9 p.m. in the 2900 block of South Redondo Boulevard in Los Angeles, east of Culver City, according to the Los Angeles Police Department.

Vela took his dog Coco for a walk, and the 3-year-old, 90-pound chocolate Labrador retriever came home without Vela, dragging a bloody leash, police said. Family members said Vela has never gone missing before.

"His tail was between his legs and he was hunched over crying," said Vela's fiancée, Kelly McLaren. "I grabbed the leash and looked down and there was a thumbprint-size spot of blood."

A lab test on Thursday confirmed the blood on the leash was human blood, police said.

Police, bloodhounds and choppers were in full force Thursday night in search of the man.

McLaren said she and Vela are witnesses in a criminal case, which had a preliminary hearing earlier Thursday.

"The circumstances caused us concern and caused his family concern, so we are looking into that," LAPD Deputy Chief Kirk Albanese said.

The family plans to canvass the neighborhood to search for Darwin and tell residents of their missing loved one.

Vela's mother is set to take a DNA test Friday to help police determine if the blood is that of her son.

Vela is described as a Hispanic man with black hair and brown eyes, 5 feet 6 inches tall, about 160 pounds. He was dark green knit cap, a black shirt and blue jeans.

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Va. State Senator Leaves Hospital


Virginia State Sen. Creigh Deeds sent a brief message to his followers on Twitter Friday, just three days after he was stabbed by his son in their Bath County home.

Deeds was discharged from the University of Virginia Medical Center Friday morning, a hospital spokesman confirmed.

Hours later he tweeted this message to his followers:

"I am alive so must live. Some wounds won't heal. Your prayers and your friendship are important to me."

Police say Deeds' own son, 24-year-old Austin "Gus" Deeds, stabbed him before turning a gun on himself Tuesday. An autopsy performed the following day confirmed that Gus Deeds died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

"Based on the evidence we have right now, we are looking into this as an attempted murder and suicide," said Virginia State Police spokeswoman Corinne Geller.

State police have stopped short of confirming what other sources had told News4: That 24-year-old Austin "Gus" Deeds stabbed his father and then killed himself. But state police did confirm that the two had an altercation outside Deeds' Bath County home, and that Creigh Deeds suffered multiple stab wounds to the head and upper torso.

Deeds, 55, was able to walk out of the home and down a hill on his property (seen in the picture below) to Route 42, where he was spotted and picked up by a cousin, who took the senator to his residence. 

Deeds was airlifted to UVa. Medical Center, where he was initially listed in critical condition and was treated in the intensive care unit.

"I'm so relieved he's doing better, but the tragedy is that he'll be living with this for the rest of his life," said Va. Sen. Janet Howell, a friend and colleague of Deeds.

Troopers and first responders attempted to treat Gus Deeds, but he died at the scene. His body was taken to the medical examiner in Roanoke for an autopsy.

Investigators recovered a firearm at the scene. The autopsy indicated that the shot was fired from a rifle.

Police are not seeking any other suspects, Geller said.

Virginia State Police said in a press conference Tuesday that they believe the incident happened shortly before 7:25 a.m., when the Bath County Sheriff's Department received the 911 call. They are not sure who placed the call.

Creigh Deeds has been able to speak to investigators, Geller said. The Bath County Sheriff's Department is assisting Virginia State Police with the investigation.

The incident has raised new questions about the capacity of Virginia's mental health system. Tuesday, it was reported that hours before the attack Gus Deeds was the subject of an emergency custody order -- but a bed at a hospital or psychiatric treatment facility was not available, and he was released home.

The Washington Post reported that  three hospitals within a two-hour drive of Bath County did have beds available, and two of the three say they were never contacted by the Rockbridge County Community Services Board trying to find a placement for Deeds son.

The state inspector general has now launched an investigation to find out what led to Gus Deeds' release after the custody order was issued.

"Regardless of whether or not there were beds, there was not a system to determine if there were beds available," Howell said. "It seems to me we should have a clearinghouse of some kind so that when somebody needs a bed, there is a very efficient way to find out where one is available."

The assault shocked many throughout the commonwealth.

"The news from this morning is utterly heartbreaking," said Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell. "Creigh Deeds is an exceptional and committed public servant who has always done what he believes is best for Virginia and who gives his all to public service."

Four years ago, Deeds, a Democrat, lost badly to Republican McDonnell in the Virginia governor's race, although Barack Obama had carried the commonwealth just a year earlier. Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics, said the loss was a reaction to Obama's election in 2008, and a harbinger of the Tea Party surge.

But Deeds has held strong as a Democrat in a legislative district that encompasses both the urban center of Charlottesville and more rural, typically Republican areas of far western Virginia. Deeds has also been helped by his home turf of Bath County, which is typically Republican but turns out the vote for one of their own, Sabato said.

Colleagues of Sen. Deeds said they've heard of difficulties with his son but never imagined an outcome like this.

Gus Deeds withdrew from the College of William & Mary last month, the college said in a statement Tuesday afternoon. He had been enrolled there since 2007, although not continuously.

He was a music major with "a strong academic record," according to the school.

"Our hearts go out to the entire Deeds family," the school's statement read in part.

The same year his father ran for governor, Gus Deeds, then 20,  was arrested in Bath County for alcohol possession, according to the Virginian Pilot.

"This is a truly sad day for Virginia and for the many people who know Creigh as the fine public servant and friend he is," said Virginia Gov.-elect Terry McAuliffe, whom Deeds defeated in the Democratic primary in 2009. "We join people across the Commonwealth and country in wishing him a full recovery."

Mark Warner, who campaigned for Deeds in 2009, said:

That sentiment was echoed by Virginia Delegate David Toscano, who represents Albemarle County in the General Assembly:

Creigh Deeds has been a Virginia state senator since 2001, representing Virginia's 25th District. He served in the House of Delegates for 10 years prior and ran unsuccessfully for attorney general of Virginia in 2005 before his run for governor in 2009.

Deeds and his first wife, Pam, divorced after nearly 20 years of marriage in 2010. The couple also has three daughters. Deeds married his second wife in June 2012. She was not home at the time of the altercation.



Photo Credit: Getty Images

Attorney: Great Weight Lifted Off Skakel’s Shoulders


When Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel was released from prison yesterday after serving 11-and-a-half years in prison for the murder of his Greenwich neighbor, a “great weight” was lifted off his shoulders, his defense attorney said during an exclusive interview on the "Today Show."

Attorney Hubert Santos sat down with NBC’s Matt Lauer this morning and said his client did not describe his emotions as he walked out of court in Stamford,  but the signs were evident.

“You could see by his conduct that a great weight had been lifted off his shoulders, and the first thing he said to me when we posted the bond, his first remarks, were ‘Thank God.’” Santos said.

In 2002, Skakel was convicted of beating his 15-year-old Greenwich neighbor, Martha Moxley, to death with a golf club in 1975.

He had served 11-and-a-half years of a 20 years to life sentence when Judge Thomas Bishop last month ruled that Skakel's former trial attorney failed to adequately represent him in 2002.

This case, however, is not over. The state plans to appeal the decision.

Santos told Lauer that his client is not worried about the prospects of a new trial.

“He’s not worried because he knows he did not commit the crime, did not murder Martha Moxley, so he would look forward to another trial where all of the evidence would be heard by the jury,” Santos said.

During the bond hearing, the prosecutor stood up and pointed out that Skakel was being granted a new trial because his former attorney acted poorly, not because Skakel is innocent.

Santos also addressed that this morning.

“Well, the judge who ordered the new trial said very, in a 136-page opinion, that the case against Michael Skakel was weak, very weak, and so we anticipate that at a retrial, the jury will finally hear all of the evidence,” Santos said.

Lauer questioned Santos about strategies for a possible retrial.

Skakel’s legal team would present evidence regarding other people who had been suspected, including Skakel’s own brother, Thomas, who was never charged in the case.

“Would you be willing to point a finger at Michael’s own brother Thomas in this case,” Lauer asked.

“Well, we most certainly, if there is a retrial, we not only would present that evidence for the jury to consider, but we also would present other evidence of people who have been suspects over the years,” Santos said.

Thomas Skakel has always maintained his innocence and has never been charged, Lauer said.
Michael has also said he does not think his brother committed the crime, Santos said. 

In the event of a new trial, Skakel would take the stand, according to Santos.

The discussion also focused on whether it is possible for Michael Skakel to get a fair trial.

“Not in Stamford, not in Fairfield County, where … what was not understood at the first trail was the enormous impact publicity had -- the book by Dominick Dunne, the book by Mark Fuhrman and, of course, the great sympathy for Mrs. Moxley, which everyone shares,” Santos said.

Moxley's mother, Dorthy, has said she remains convinced Michael Skakel is guilty.

Moxley's brother, John, said yesterday that the family stands behind the state, that it is a technicality that Michael Skakel is free and that Bishop's decision will be overturned.

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Photo Credit: Today Show
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