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Holiday Runners Head Out for Scrooge Scramble 5K


While many were opening presents Christmas morning, more than 200 runners showed up in costume in Rockville for the 23rd Annual Scrooge Scramble 5K.

From Santa to reindeer, they were decked out in their holiday best as they made their way down the route that began and ended on Prospect Street.

“I think I might be dressed as Blitzen,” Nathan Lennon, said. “My grandmother grabbed some yarn and tied this around me. It used to be hanging on the door before the race.”

Adam Edmond, of Farming ton, took the run a little more seriously. He is on a mission to run a race in every town in Connecticut, all 169 of them.

“It takes a lot of commitment, a lot of cold days and a lot of early mornings,” Edmond said.

All of the money raised went to the Cornerstone Foundation, a non-profit based in Rockville.

“It consists of the soup kitchen, the shelter, the clothing bank and the community center,” Cornerstone Foundation President Helen Syriac said.

Even the Governor showed up to support the cause, and organizers say the race is just one way to embrace the true meaning of the season.

“It’s all about giving back especially on Christmas,” organizer Mary Lou White said. “People are here who don’t have family, they want to come out and be with a group of people, there’s no better way to do that than to run.”

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Underprivileged Kids Celebrate Christmas in Style


Many children across Connecticut dreamed of getting their favorite gifts and toys today, but some of them might not have had a happy holiday if not for an event in Hartford that gave a thousand kids plenty reason to smile.

It was all about the kids as Gary Craig's 25th Annual We Are the Children Christmas Party got children and their parents rocking out for the holiday.

“Look around – the smiles, the laughter, the dancing,” said Denise Steves of Hartford. “This is wonderful.” Steves, her son and 2-year-old daughter wore big, bright smiles as they took in all the fun at the event inside the XL Center.

“The song says it’s the most wonderful time of the year,” Steves added. “You get together with family and friends you haven't seen in a long time.”

The dozens of people wearing event shirts helping out at the party are volunteers – 100 percent of them. And all the activities and gifts were sponsored by people and companies from right here in Connecticut.

“ I know kind of what to expect when I walk into the room, but every year I'm just blown away by how many kids are here, how many volunteers, and that we actually can make the party happen after all our work,” said Gary Craig, founder of We Are the Children.

Craig's organization provides a very merry Christmas to nearly a thousand children across Connecticut who truly deserve this holiday cheer and might not have had it without this event.

“I always say if one of these kids grows up and does something for somebody else because of their experience here,” said Craig, “then I've done my job.”

And Denise Steve's children and others seemed to have been inspired by Craig's message for this Christmas and hopefully many years to come.

For more information, visit 96.5 TIC's We Are The Children webpage.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Police Investigate New London Homicide


Police are investigating after a homicide in New London after a man was found dead in his home on Hope Street on Christmas morning.

According to police, a man in his 30s of Guatemalan descent was found unresponsive on the bathroom floor of a second-story residence at 15 Hope Street around 11 a.m. Wednesday. He was pronounced dead on scene.

Police said they have found evidence of foul play but haven't said how the victim died. Investigators believe the crmie was not random.

"I got scared, locked the doors," said neighbor Danny Green, who lives just feet away from today's massive police presence.

Police have not released the victim's name, nor have they identified a suspect. State police processed the scene and searched the home Wednesday evening.

Neighbors said they didn't know much about the victim and had never noticed anything unusual.

"I'm thinking, what kind of neighborhood isthis? What's going on?" said Green, who added he won't feel safe until the person responsible is behind bars.

Anyone with information is asked to contact New London police at 860-447-1481.

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Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

DeStefano Ready for New Career Paths in 2014


New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr. has lined up a couple of new jobs when he leaves City Hall after 20 years.

DeStefano will be executive director at Start Community Bank on Jan. 2, a job he announced last May. He'll begin teaching a political science course at Yale University later in January.

Start Community Bank resulted from a settlement in a battle DeStefano led more than a decade ago over the conversion of the 167-year-old mutual New Haven Savings bank to stock ownership.

The New Haven Register reports that at Yale, DeStefano will teach a course focusing on New Haven as it compares with New York, New Orleans and other cities in the development of transportation, manufacturing and culture.

State Sen. Toni Harp will be inaugurated New Haven mayor on Jan. 1.

Lanes Reopen After Crash on I-84 East in West Hartford


A crash that shut down all lanes of I-84 east in West Hartford has cleared.

The crash happened around 9:30 a.m. near exits 40 and 41.

Traffic was getting by in the shoulder only,  causing major delays back into Farmington.

No one was injured in the crash.

All lanes reopened around 10:30 a.m.

Photo Credit: Connecticut DOT

Police ID "Person of Interest" in Home Invasion


Police have identified a "person of interest" in a Dec. 17 home invasion in West Haven.

Daniel Schebell is believed to have been stabbed during the incident, according to police.

Two men broke into a home at 9 Myrtle Avenue around 1:30 a.m. on Dec. 17.  At least one of the suspects had a semi-automatic pistol, police said.

Resident inside the house fought back.  A man subdued one of the intruders and held him down until officers arrived.  The suspect who was subdued, Roderick Lewis, 25, of New Haven, has already been charged in connection with the incident.

A woman used a steak knife to stab the second suspect multiple times in the head and neck, police said.

Investigators believe Schebell may have injuries and may have signs of treatment of those injuries.

Anyone with information on Schebell's whereabouts is asked to call West Haven Police at 203-937-3905.

Snow Causes Slippery Conditions Statewide


A light snow began falling across most of Connecticut on Thursday morning and it made for slick driving in places.

State Police responded to several accidents on highways, including a crash that closed all eastbound lanes of I-84 near exits 40 and 41 in West Hartford. No one was seriously injured, but the crash caused heavy delays on the highway for about an hour Thursday morning.

State Police are asking drivers to stay off the roads until the highways can be cleaned up.


A coating to 1 inch of snow is expected before it comes to an end sometime after 3 p.m., according to NBC Connecticut meteorologist Darren Sweeney.

Nicer weather is expected for the next few days, but another storm could move in by Sunday night.

See the full forecast here.

Send your weather photos here.

Photo Credit: See It, Share It

Route 185 in Bloomfield Reopens After Crash


Route 185 in Bloomfield was closed for hours Thursday afternoon after a two-car crash.

According to police, the accident involved serious injuries. Officers at the scene said it appeared to be a two-car accident, one of which crashed into the other's side going around a bend in the road.

Multiple people were taken to area hospitals for treatment of serious injuries. It's not clear how many people were injured. They have not been identified.

Simsbury Road/Route 185 was closed from Hall Boulevard to Watkins Road from about 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday.

An accident reconstruction team responded  to the scene to investigate the accident.


Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Despite Tough Year, Eli Still Elite


Giants quarterback Eli Manning has had a tough season, one of the worst of his career, and though that is regrettable for team and player, it is not a bad place for both to be, all things considered.

Manning has a track record, which is earned, not given, and it is a good track record on balance. There is no need to do the accounting here; we know who Eli Manning is, what he’s done, what he is, what he isn’t. In the NFL, that is an accomplishment in and of itself. So many players show flashes of promise only to fade quickly from the stage, replaced by someone else young, cheap and talented. 

On Sunday, Eli Manning will make his 151st consecutive regular-season start for the Giants. No current quarterback has played more games in a row. To put it in baseball terms: he’s never turned down a chance to take the ball.

As the No. 1 overall pick in the ’04 draft, Manning was always going to be given some early-career starts whether he earned them or not. What he did thereafter was going to be on his shoulders. If he were going to make a career in the league, he would need to earn the right to lead a team beyond the training-wheel stage of his professional life.

Well, Manning got there long ago, and at 32, he’s a proven starter. Were he to suddenly hit the free-agent market, he would have another job in a week’s time, maybe less. We can scoff and point to his unsightly 2013 interception tally (26) and his occasional struggles against pass-rush pressure, but more than a few teams would be happy to take Eli Manning, warts and all, for he’s a plug-and-play proven 16-game starter.

Quarterback instability can drive teams crazy. Look at the Vikings. They have started three different quarterbacks this season — Christian Ponder, Matt Cassel and Josh Freeman. In the final month, they turned to the 31-year-old Cassel, who has played the best of the group. But is he a long-term solution for Minnesota, or will the franchise again have to draft a quarterback early in the 2014 draft?

For almost 10 full seasons, the Giants really haven’t had to do much thinking at quarterback. Eli Manning has been there, ready to play, and he has been the best option. That will be the case this Sunday, and that would figure to be the case in 2014, unless the Giants decided to make a change at the position.

With change comes uncertainty. And that’s something the Giants haven’t had at quarterback. We can say a lot of things about Eli Manning, but we could never say he wasn’t reliable. He’s made the Giants’ lives simple in ways other teams can only envy, even in a 2013 season below his standards. He doesn’t deserve a trophy for this, but maybe it earns him a little extra patience.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

"Santa" Soldier Surprises Mom


A 29-year-old Army soldier serving in Afghanistan secretly came home for the holidays to New Jersey and surprised his mother at her company Christmas party by dressing up as Santa.

Travis Ruggiero didn't tell most of his relatives that he was coming home, going so far as to stay with cousins and sneaking around town for two days so as not to ruin the surprise.

He rented a Santa suit and showed up at the work party for his mother, Leslie Ruggiero, a nurse in a maternity ward.

His mother, not knowing she was standing right in front of her son, was handed a card and became emotional as she read it.

"It's from my baby," she exclaimed.

"And where is he?" asked another person at the party, apparently in on the ruse.

"Afghanistan," she said, weeping, and not noticing her son behind her, taking off his Santa hat, hair and beard. 

Then she turned and saw her son. The room erupted as they embraced.

The Ruggieros later appeared on the "Today" show, where Leslie Ruggiero said she was "still in awe that he pulled this off."

"He's been away from home for years but always made that effort to be with family for Christmas," she said.

Travis Ruggiero said he had "a couple of close calls" before the surprise, but was proud to have made it work.

Avalanche Drags Skier Over Cliff


One seasoned skier was no match for an avalanche that overtook him on the slopes in Colorado this weekend, tossing him face-first off a cliff.

Edwin LaMair — who said he had skied on similar mountains for years and taken avalanche safety courses — is now recovering from a torn ACL and some other minor injuries.

LaMair triggered the dangerous snow slide while skiing near Vail, Colo. on Sunday. The 800-foot wide avalanche swallowed up the experienced backcountry skier, and he was thrown over a 20-foot cliff.

"It was my first real turn on the slope, and I saw downhill from me to the left that the snow was kind of cracking up and starting to slide," LaMair told Denver NBC affiliate KUSA.

The snow tore his skis off, then buried his entire body — except for his head, luckily.

"Even though I could breathe, I was still panicky and freaked out, because I still couldn't move any part of my body at all. It was just like being cemented in place with just your face above," LaMair told KUSA.

He would have been trapped had it not been for his brother, Davis, and a friend who came skiing down soon after. Together, they dug him out in just a few minutes.

Hospital Officers Bring Christmas Magic to Hartford Family


A Hartford woman was able to give her grandchildren a Christmas, thanks to some caring public safety officers from Hartford Hospital.

Arthur Bouchard, a public safety officer working at Hartford Hospital on Christmas Day, found a letter that had been torn in two and tossed on the ground. Call it Christmas magic, but Bouchard decided to pick it up and read it for some reason.

The letter was a plea for help, written by a woman whose husband had been sick. Kim Liggins had been too busy taking care of her husband to shop for Christmas gifts for her grandchildren, 5-year-old Amya and 2-year-old Avery, who live with her.

When Bouchard read the letter, he knew he had to help. He told NBC Connecticut he called the family and asked what they needed.

Bouchard, along with his public safety co-workers Ray Brodeur and Miguel Bermudez contacted Connecticut Children's Medical Center, which had some gifts available to bring to the family, according to Hartford Hospital.

The three officers hand delivered the gifts to the family, giving the girls a Christmas after all.

Photo Credit: Hartford Hospital

Man Charged With Kidnapping, Sexually Assaulting Woman


Police have arrested a man in connection with a kidnapping and sexual assault that happened more than a year ago in New Britain.

On December 5, 2012, a 25-year-old woman reported being kidnapped at knifepoint near the intersection of Washington and Lafayette Streets. The victim told officers she was walking when she was approached by a man in a van who pulled a knife and threatened to stab her if she didn't get in.

The man drove her to a different location and sexually assaulted her, according to her statement to police.

Based on the victim's description of the suspect and details she gave officers about the van, police were able to identify a suspect.

Officers arrested Fernando Cruz, 28, on Monday. Investigators used DNA evidence to positively confirm Cruz as the suspect, according to police.

He is charged with first-degree sexual assault, first-degree kidnapping and second-degree threatening.

Photo Credit: New Britain Police

US Man in Pakistan Begs for Help


A 72-year-old Rockville, Md. man who was working as a development worker when he was kidnapped in Pakistan by al-Qaida more than two years ago appealed to President Obama in a video released Thursday to negotiate his release, saying he feels "totally abandoned and forgotten.''

The video of Warren Weinstein was the first since two videos released in September 2012. Weinstein, the country director in Pakistan for J.E. Austin Associates, a U.S.-based firm that advises a range of Pakistani business and government sectors, was abducted from his house in the eastern city of Lahore in August 2011.

In the video sent Thursday to several news organizations, Weinstein called on the U.S. government to negotiate his release.

"Nine years ago I came to Pakistan to help my government, and I did so at a time when most Americans would not come here, and now when I need my government it seems that I have been totally abandoned and forgotten,'' Weinstein said during the 13-minute video. "And so I again appeal to you to instruct your appropriate officials to negotiate my release.''

It was impossible to tell how much Weinstein's statement, made under the duress of captivity, was scripted by his captors.

Attempts to reach Weinstein's family Thursday was not returned.

The video and an accompanying letter purported to be from Weinstein was emailed anonymously to reporters in Pakistan. The video was labelled "As-Sahab,'' which is al-Qaida's media wing, but its authenticity could not be independently verified. The letter was dated Oct. 3, 2013 and in the video Weinstein said he had been in captivity for two years.

In the video, Weinstein wore a grey track suit jacket and what appeared to be a black knit hat on his head. His face was partially covered with a beard.

Weinstein suffers from asthma, at at times in the video he stops to take a breath or cough.

"I am not in good health," he says at point in the video. "The years have taken their toll."

He ends the video by saying that if President Obama doesn't act, he fears he will never see his family again.

Al-Qaida has said Weinstein would be released if the U.S. halted airstrikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen and also demanded the release of all al-Qaida and Taliban suspects around the world.

The White House has called for Weinstein's immediate release but has said it won't negotiate with al-Qaida.

"We're working hard to authenticate this latest report, but we reiterate our call that Warren Weinstein be released and returned to his family," a state department spokeswoman said. "Particularly during this holiday season - another one away from his family - our hopes and prayers are with him and those who love and miss him."

The videos last year showed Weinstein appealing for help from the Jewish community and Israel's prime minister.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

McMath Family Plots Next Move


Children's Hospital Oakland cast doubt Thursday evening whether a 13-year-old girl declared brain dead earlier this month could be transferred to another facility, despite the family announcing earlier that they had found another facility in the Bay Area willing to keep her on life support.

Jahi McMath's uncle, Omari Sealey, said the family is "still hoping for a miracle" and "may have gotten one" by finding another facility to take Jahi and "give her another fighting chance to wake up."

But Children's Hospital shot back a statement an hour later, saying that the family's attorney has said that multiple surgical procedures will be necessary to move Jahi and that he has not specified the facility they hope to transfer her to.

"Children's Hospital Oakland does not believe that performing surgical procedures on the body of a deceased person is an appropriate medical practice,"  said Dr. David Durand, chief of pediatrics.

Doctors at Children's declared Jahi to be brain dead on Dec. 12, three days after she went to the hospital for what her family said was supposed to be a routine tonsillectomy to cure a sleep apnea problem that made it difficult for her to sleep.

A judge earlier this week ruled Children's Hospital Oakland could remove McMath from the ventilator keeping her body functioning. The family has until 5 p.m. Monday to file an appeal.

Chris Dolan, an attorney for Jahi's mother, Nailah Winkfield, on Thursday said they were able to find another care facility willing to keep the girl on life support.

"A Bay Area sub-acute care facility has indicated that they can accept Jahi and provide her with all the nutrition, ventilation support and other care that she needs to stabilize her and to assist her in reaching maximum medical improvement," Dolan said in a statement. "I have been in contact with the plan administrator for Jahi's insurance who indicated that it appears that this transfer could work."

Dolan, however, added Jahi would need additional medical equipment and surgery before she would be accepted into the other facility. He reached out to Children's Hospital to help in the possible move.

"I am hoping that they will cooperate," Dolan said. "It is clear that they want Jahi out of the hospital...the family agrees, they want her out of there too, but they would prefer that she leave while her heart is still beating and she has vent support."

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Evelio Grillo ruled just before Christmas Eve that the hospital could remove Jahi from the ventilator.

Durand, the hospital's chief of pediatrics, on Thursday released the following statement in response to the family's request:

Judge Grillo was very clear on Tuesday December 24. He ruled Jahi McMath to be deceased and instructed the hospital to maintain the status quo. Judge Grillo did not authorize or order any surgical procedures or transfer to another facility.

MORE: Christmas at Children's Hospital for Jahi McMath

Dolan said he plans to ask an outside doctor to perform the surgery.

"If Children's tries to block that physician then we'll be back in court seeking a writ of mandate to make them do that," he said.

Jahi's family, who are devout Christians, said they believe Jahi is still alive, because her heart is still beating. The teen suffered cardiac arrest after bleeding profusely following her Dec. 9 operation to fix her sleep apnea. She was declared brain dead for the first time on Dec. 12.

Grillo based his decision on the conclusions of court-appointed Dr. Paul Fisher of Stanford University and the hospital's Dr. Robin Shanahan. A third doctor at Children's also made the same finding. All the EEGs performed showed there is no sign of brain activity.

Grillo said he had no other choice but to allow the hospital to remove the ventilator.

"I wish I could fix it, but I can't,'' he told the court last week.

The hospital had argued that the teen had no chance of recovery since all brain function had ceased.

"Our sincere hope is that the family finds peace and can come to grips with the judge's decision," hospital attorney Doug Strauss said outside court after Grillo's ruling.

The case is now out of Grillo's court and the decision will be up to the California Court of Appeal if the family decides to pursue its legal case to keep Jahi on the ventilator.

NBC Bay Area's Jean Elle and Bay City News contributed to this report.

Teen Charged With Decapitation


A Chicago teen has been charged with first-degree murder in connection with the decapitated body found on Christmas Day.  

Alexis Valdez, of the 5000 block of West Drummond Place, was arrested and charged with first-degree murder after police allege he murdered and dismembered a 41-year-old whose body was found early Christmas morning in the Northwest Side Hermosa neighborhood, police said.

Officers responding to a homicide call found the headless victim at about 2:05 a.m. inside a basement apartment in the 2500 block of North Kildare Avenue, police said. Police said they also found a knife on the scene.

Valdez was taken into custody the night of the murder, but his relationship with the dead male was not immediately known, police said.

The Cook County Medical Examiner’s office confirmed the death, but were withholding the man’s identity as of press time, pending notification of his family.

Photo Credit: Chicago Police News Affairs

Son Accused of Killing Mother


The man accused of killing his mother in Deep River, Conn., on Thursday, cut her open, removing her intestines and part of her liver, according to a police report.

Troopers responded to a home at 131 Rattling Valley Road around 1 p.m. Thursday after receiving a 911 call from the victim's ex-husband.

Robert Owen Rankin, the victim's 22-year-old son was arrested and charged with murder.  Rankin and his father were at outside the house when police arrived.

According to court documents, Rankin admitted the crime to his father and then to the first state police trooper who arrived on the scene.

"I used the knife to kill my mother," Rankin told the trooper after the trooper asked if he had any weapons on him.  "I killed my mother because she is pretty much responsible for everything that has gone wrong in my life," he allegedly told the trooper.

Rankin continued to tell the trooper in detail what he had allegedly done to his mother.

He said he woke up in the morning with a plan to snap his mother's neck to kill her, but when that didn't work, he stabbed her in the neck with a fire poker, according to the police report.

When Rankin saw she was still alive, he told police he took his clothes off to "gain additional strength," in his words. 

He then used a buck knife to stab his mother in the belly button and cut upwards, the court documents show.  He told police he began to remove her intestines and organs.  Rankin said he was looking for a baby,  but couldn't find one in her stomach, he allegedly told police.

He described to investigators what he did find.

"Just, whatever it was. I don't know exactly what the stuff was, like octopus tentacles," he allegedly told police.

According to court documents, Rankin took his mother's clothes off after she stopped screaming. 

He told investigators he cleaned up, took a shower and decided to take his dog for a walk.  It was then that he saw his father, and allegedly admitted to the crime.

Police who went inside the home found the victim's naked body with several wounds to the abdomen.  They also found what appeared to be the woman's entrails in a wood stove and in a bucket next to the wood stove, according to court documents.

Rankin appeared in Middletown Superior court on Friday morning.  He was held on $1 million bond and put on a suicide watch.



Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Dad Charged With DUI


A 26-year-old Chicago father, who remains hospitalized, was charged early Friday morning in connection with the Christmas Eve crash that killed his 8-year-old daughter.

Jeffery Smith, of the 5600 block of South Wolcott Avenue, faces charges of aggravated DUI leading to an accident or death, in addition to citations for negligent driving, failure to reduce speed and a child restraint violation.

Smith remained sedated at a hospital Friday and was recovering from a broken back. His daughter, Lauren Smith, died of multiple injuries she suffered in the crash, a Wednesday autopsy revealed. Her death was ruled an accident.

First responders found Smith's Chevy Impala on its side against a tree on the 1000 block of West Garfield Boulevard late Tuesday night. It took more than 40 minutes to extricate Smith from the vehicle, authorities said, and it wasn’t until they were inside that they noticed the girl was also pinned inside.

Police immediately believed the crash was alcohol-related and said Smith was speeding when he hit the tree.

"It's going to take a lot to put him back together," the girl's mother, Loressa Hall, told NBC Chicago on Wednesday. "Lauren Jessica Renee Smith was his heart. She was his heart, she was my heart. That is my biggest concern. All those injuries are natural, they will heal, but Lauren Jessica was his heart and soul, and he lived for Lauren Jessica."
Family members said Smith had attended a family Christmas dinner and was headed home to pick up more gifts for his daughter when the crash occurred. The girl planned to spend Christmas at her grandparent's house and open gifts with the entire family on Christmas morning.

Target: Encrypted PINs Obtained


Target says customers' encrypted PIN data was removed during the massive data breach that occurred earlier this month.

Previously Target had said that encrypted data was stolen but stopped short of identifying it as PIN numbers. But the company issued a statement Friday saying that additional forensic work has shown that encrypted PIN data was removed along with customers' names and card numbers.

A PIN number is the personal identification code used to make secure transactions on a credit or debit card.

Data connected to about 40 million credit and debit cards used at Target were stolen between Nov. 27 and Dec. 15. Security experts say it's the second-largest theft of card accounts in U.S. history, surpassed only by a scam that began in 2005 involving retailer TJX Cos. In addition to the encrypted PIN numbers, the stolen data from Target included customer names, credit and debit card numbers, card expiration dates and the embedded code on the magnetic strip on back of the card.

Still, Target said it believes the PIN numbers are still safe because the information was strongly encrypted. The retailer said that PIN information is encrypted within its systems and can only be decrypted when it is received by its external, independent payment processor

"We remain confident that PIN numbers are safe and secure," said spokeswoman Molly Snyder in an emailed statement. "The PIN information was fully encrypted at the keypad, remained encrypted within our system, and remained encrypted when it was removed from our systems."

Minneapolis-based Target said it is still in the early stages of investigating the breach. It has been working with the Secret Service and the Department of Justice.

Photo Credit: AP

Middlefield Teen Killed in Southington Crash


Southington Police have identified the man killed in a one car crash Thursday afternoon.

Police say that  William Mazo, 19, of Middlefield, was driving a Chevy Avalanche on Meriden Ave. just before 3 p.m. when the SUV crossed over the double yellow line.

The SUV left the roadway and traveled for several hundred feet before colliding with a tree.

Mazo was pronounced dead at the scene. David Lanning, 20, also of Middlefield, was a passenger in the car. Lanning was trasported to Hartford Hospital by Lifestar.

Southington Police are investigating the accident. Anyone with any information is asked to call police at 860-621-0101.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock
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