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Man Charged in Hamden Home Break-ins


Hamden police have arrested a man accused of breaking into two occupied homes as the residents were sleeping, stealing two cars and attempting to burglarize another home in town in March.

One of the victims was a 95-year-old man who was sleeping and woke to a flashlight shining in his window, according to police.

Joseph Duarte, 21, of New Haven, was arrested on Thursday in front of his home at 850 Winchester Avenue in New Haven. Police said he is a suspect in a crime spree that began in Hamden on March 25 and continued to the end of the month.

Duarte is accused of entering a 95-year-old Armory Street resident’s home during the early morning on March 25.

Police said the victim was in bed and woke to a flashlight shining in his second floor bedroom. His residence was ransacked and electronic equipment, money and personal belongings were stolen, police said.

Duarte is also accused of burglarizing another Armory Street home early on the morning of March 28 as the residents were sleeping.

Police said a motor vehicle, electronic equipment and money were stolen.

Duarte is also accused of stealing a car from a Leonard Road resident on March 2 and an attempted burglary at a Mill Rock Road home early on the morning of March 30, police said.

When Duarte was arrested, he was found with 14 bags of crack cocaine and officers seized it, according to police.

Duarte was charged with two counts of first-degree burglary, three counts of first-degree conspiracy to commit burglary, first-degree criminal attempt to commit burglary in the first degree, larceny in the first degree, conspiracy to commit larceny in the first degree, larceny in the second degree, conspiracy to commit larceny in the second degree, larceny in the fourth degree, conspiracy to commit larceny in the fourth degree, possession of narcotics and possession of narcotics with the intent to sell.

Duarte was detained on a total bond of $305,000 and is scheduled to appear in court in Meriden on April 24.

Photo Credit: Hamden Police

Thompson Middle School Evacuated After Bomb Threat


Thompson Middle School, at 785 Riverside Drive in Thompson, is evacuated after a bomb threat.

Police said school administrators decided to evacuate the building.

No injuries are reported. No additional information was immediately available.

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area

Teen Charged in Deadly Fire


Charges have been upgraded to murder for the 16-year-old boy who allegedly set a mattress on fire in a Coney Island apartment building, sparking a blaze that killed a veteran NYPD officer who responded to the blaze, authorities say.

Teenager Marcell Dockery was charged Friday with second-degree murder; he had already faced charges of assault, reckless endangerment and arson. Detectives say the boy told them he lit the mattress on fire because he was bored. 

Dennis Guerra, 38, and his partner, 36-year-old Rosa Rodriguez, were among the first police officers who responded to the fire Sunday afternoon in the building on Surf Avenue.

The two took an elevator to the 13th floor to warn residents and help evacuate the building, but when they emerged from the elevator they were overcome by smoke.

Both officers, who are members of the force's housing bureau, were found unconscious by firefighters. Guerra, a married father of four and seven-year NYPD veteran, died of his injuries Wednesday morning. He had two daughters, 20 and 14, and two sons, 17 and 7. 

Rodriguez is still recovering.

Five people suffered minor injuries, including two firefighters, authorities said. 
Dockery's attorney, Jesse Young, warned against a "rush to judgment" and said Friday his client is innocent.

--Andrew Siff contributed to this story

2 Hernandez Associates Indicted on Murder Charge


Two associates of former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez were indicted Friday on murder charges, in connection with his alleged fatal shooting of a semi-professional football player last year.

A Massachusetts grand jury charged both Carlos Ortiz and Ernest Wallace with murder in connection with the June 2013 shooting death of Odin Lloyd in North Attleboro, Mass., NECN reported.

Bristol County District Attorney's Office said Ortiz and Wallace, both of Bristol, Conn., will be arraigned on the new charge in Fall River on a date that has yet to be determined.

Ortiz and Wallace had both pleaded not guilty to their previous charge of accessory to murder after the fact.

Hernandez has pleaded not guilty to murdering 27-year-old Lloyd, who was dating the sister of Hernandez's fiancee.

UConn Suspends 2 Additional Greek Organizations


UConn has placed two Greek organizations on interim suspension under suspicion of hazing students in a fraternity off-campus in February, days after suspending a sorority accused of hazing.

On Wednesday night, UConn placed the Sigma Chi fraternity and Delta Gamma sorority on interim suspension in connection with an incident on Feb. 28.

This brings the total of UConn fraternities and sororities on interim suspension to five.

Letters sent to both organizations say members forced men affiliated with Sigma Chi to bob for alcohol nips in a toilet and eat cat food. They are also accused of paddling the students, covering  them with syrup, then flour and forcing them to be partially or fully nude.

"We are aware of the hazing allegations involving our chapter at UConn. We are working closely with the university and chapter to resolve the issues at hand,” Lisa Dodge, assistant director of communications with the International Delta Gamma Sorority, said in a statement. “We care about the health, safety and human dignity of our members. Delta Gamma has a zero tolerance policy on hazing however we cannot comment on an ongoing investigation.” 

Michael Church, executive director of Sigma Chi, also released a statement.

"On April 9, Sigma Chi International Fraternity Headquarters was made aware of the allegations towards the Gamma Omega chapter at the University of Connecticut. We have already instituted our response protocols to address the matter and our own investigation is underway,” Church said. “In the meantime, we are in complete cooperation with the University of Connecticut administration as they conduct a simultaneous and parallel investigation into the matter. Should individuals be found responsible for having engaged in the activities described in the allegations, Sigma Chi will work collaboratively with the University of Connecticut and the men of the local chapter to institute appropriate disciplinary activity."

The interim suspensions were effective immediately. 

The school has issued interim suspensions to five sororities and fraternities since March.

The Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority and Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity have been temporarily suspended since March in connection with an alleged incident that happened March 6 at the Sigma Alpha Epsilon off-campus fraternity house on Route 195, according to the university.

The National Sigma Alpha Epsilon said the minute they learned about the allegations, they placed the chapter on a cease and desist order and are using this time to determine what might have taken place.

They said the fraternity apologized to the student affected and there is nothing that leads them to believe that there is a history of this at this chapter.

They added that this is not what the organization stands for and not what they strive for our

According to school officials, the allegations against Kappa Kappa Gamma and Sigma Alpha Epsilon were reported to UConn police.

Since they took place off-campus, State Police took over the investigation. In March, state police detectives declined to file charges in the case.

UConn Police do not have active investigations into any of the other alleged incidents.

The Delta Zeta sorority has been suspended since April.

A letter written by Kimberly Hill, associate director of community standards at UConn, detailed an alleged incident at Mansfield Apartments on March 7.

"The incident is described as the following: members of Delta Zeta allegedly forcing men involved with a fraternity to consume alcohol, to eat dog treats, to paint their bodies, to wear women's thong underwear and to take shots of alcohol off each other's bodies, among other things," the letter stated.

Jeanine Triplett, national president of Delta Zeta, said the sorority does not condone hazing and is committed to its eradication. 

"These alleged actions are an embarrassment and disappointment not only to Delta Zeta Sorority, but to the entire Greek community," she said.

During an interim suspension, the organizations cannot host or participate in any activities as an organization.

Members are also prohibited from participating in other organizations or activities while presenting themselves as representatives of the suspended organization.

West Haven Could Nix Sandy Hook Playground Proposal


Some members of the West Haven Land Trust appear to be balking at a plan to build a playground to honor one of the victims of Sandy Hook.

In the 16 months since the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, 18 playgrounds have been constructed in communities struck hard by Superstorm Sandy in Connecticut, New York and New Jersey. The playgrounds are named in honor of some of the 26 victims of the tragedy.

There’s a proposal to build one in West Haven in honor of Charlotte Bacon, whose parents have fond memories of taking family trips to the West Haven shoreline.

Some members of the land trust aren't sold on the idea. They feel allowing the playground to be built could open the door to future expansion.

West Haven Mayor Ed O'Brien favors building the playground and says he is in talks with members of the land trust.

“I feel it should be done. It's the perfect fit for it,” said O’Brien. “There has to be some kind of balance. I'm not in favor of large-scale development. I don't think this playground is large-scale development.”

The playground would be built on a 55-by-75-foot grassy area in the Savin Rock section of West Haven. It's not much in terms of development, but business owners say they need all the help they can get.

"If you go to any shorefront communities, towns up and down the coast, the ones that thrive nurture and enhance [their shorelines],” said Paul Gagliardi, Jr. “Beautify it so that everybody gets to enjoy it.”

Gagliardi is a co-owner of Jimmies of Savin Rock, a restaurant that sits near the potential site for the playground. He welcomes the playground, and the economic boost he feels could come from it.

Members of the land trust did not return requests for comment.

Mayor O’Brien says he’ll meet with the land trust over the weekend, ahead of a City Council Meeting Monday evening.

The council will only decide whether to accept the gift of the playground from the Sandy Ground Project. The council will not make a decision on where the playground should go.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Bombing Victim's Parents Recount Heartbreaking Mix-Up


Childhood pictures of Krystle Campbell show nothing but smiles — which is exactly how her family continues to remember the 29-year-old, whose life was stolen by the twin bombings at the Boston Marathon almost one year ago.

Her parents, Patty and Bill, shared exclusively with NECN personal stories about Krystle, from her devotion to her ailing family members in Somerville, Mass., to the heartbreaking confusion of the day she died.

Krystle's grandmother Wilma shared her own memories of her granddaughter's care, remembering the time Krystle turned living with her friends to be closer to her. She was recently widowed at the time and recovering from colon surgery.

"And then she lived with me after I got sick," Wilma Campbell said. "She thought maybe I would need her, so she lived here with me a little over two years."

Patty and Bill saw Krystle every day until April 15, 2013, when she saw a Red Sox game with friends before heading to the marathon finish line.

"My son thought my daughter was at that Red Sox game, and we tried to call her," Patty recalled of the moments after the blasts first rocked the marathon finish line. "My son said to me, 'Mom, I have a funny feeling that Krystle is involved in this.' My son had a sixth sense."

One Error's 15 Painful Hours

When the bombs exploded, Krystle's friend Karen Rand was carrying Krystle's purse — leading first responders mistakenly to identify Karen as Krystle at the hospital.

That meant that for 15 hours, Krystle's parents thought their daughter was alive and in surgery.

"They told us that she was in surgery," Patty said. "A quarter to three that morning, they told us they got the bleeding under control, that we could go in for a brief minute. And then we're just going to leave it at that. We found out there was an error," Patty recalled, her voice faltering.

Karen had endured life-altering injuries but ultimately survived. Krystle had not.

"After thinking for 15 hours that your daughter is going through all of this stuff, but she's not, she's gone..." Bill said. "A parent should never have to bury their child, because it's the hardest thing that any parent has to go through, to lose a child. I don't care if it's a newborn or six years or 30 years or 40 years."

An Unexpected Letter From a Survivor

The Campbells have been sustained by the thoughts and prayers promised by the letters, cards and other tokens of support they've received from people around the world.

But the letter that affected them most deeply came from a woman in California who had stood right by Krystle at the marathon finish line.

Krystle was standing at the barrier with a view of the finish line, and when she overheard that the sister of the California woman behind her was about to cross the finish line, she offered her spot so she could see better, the woman wrote.

"My daughter says, 'Well, you know, our runner is not going to be here for a few more minutes, why don't you step in front of us?'" Bill explained.

"I guess my daughter went out behind her, and less than three or four seconds later, the bomb went off. And the woman from California felt like it was her fault. But it wasn't," Bill said, weeping.

"Why Is Our Daughter Gone?"

It's not easy for Patty and Bill to see Krystle's friends who have recovered from their blast injuries.

Patty recalled how she saw one of her daughter's friends at an event, and the friend asked if she were mad. "I said, 'No, God no, I'm not mad at you at all. I'm not mad at you,'" Patty said.

But Bill said he can't help but wonder: "'Why is our daughter gone and you're still here?'"

That question — a "natural human thought," Patty observes — isn't one the Campbell family will ever be able to answer. But as they try to make peace with Krystle's death, her grandmother Wilma Campbell takes comfort in the belief that Krystle is now reunited with her late grandfather.

"I said that when I first saw her in the casket, I told her, 'Okay, Papa's waiting for you, and you'll be okay,'" Wilma said.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Campbell family

NTSB Won't Speculate on Crash


The National Transportation Safety Board said Friday it would "not be speculating about probable cause" of a deadly bus crash in Northern California that took the lives of 10 people, most of whom were from Southern California.

Investigators said during a press conference that it would be working to collect information for at least the next one to two weeks depending on what they find.

“(We) don’t have a lot of factual information. It’s very, very early in the investigation still," said Mark Rosekind of the NTSB. "It's really important to acknowledge we won't be speculating about probable cause."

The crash occurred about 5:40 p.m. Thursday on Interstate 5 near Orland, when a FedEx truck crossed lanes of traffic and hit the charter bus carrying dozens of LA-area students head-on.

Nine people died at the scene of Thursday's crash, and a 10th victim died at a hospital, California Highway Patrol officials said early Friday.

Those killed included five students and five adults who were traveling to Humboldt State University for a campus visit. Thirty-one victims were hospitalized after the crash. Their injuries ranged from critical to minor, CHP officials said.

Nineteen students from 16 LAUSD schools as well as students from other Southern California school distructs were aboard the bus.

According to NTSB investigators, the FedEx truck crossed a 60-foot medium and struck the tour bus carrying 48 people. The impact stopped the bus followed by both vehicles engulfed in flames.

Rosekind said they're hoping to find data that would have monitored drivers of both the FedEx and tour bus drivers, such as cameras looking forward toward the road and into the interior of the vehicles, but it's not clear if that even exists.

One of NTSB's challenges will be gathering consistent witness information, as details about the crash have been given to numerous different agencies that still need to collaborate, Rosekind said.

Survivors told the investigator the tour bus driver saw the FedEx truck coming toward it and honked the horn seconds before impact.

The side windows of the tour bus would not open as passengers tried to break out; the rear windows did open, investigators said.

A final report on the crash might take up to six months, according to the CHP.

"Since these are such in-depth, detailed investigations, we don't expect to have a final report for a minimum of three months, 90 days," said CHP Lt. Scott Fredrick. "It could take as long as six months depending on what the investigation entails."

Passengers described a "surreal" scene as people kicked out bus windows to escape the fire and smoke after the crash.

Two other buses that were part of the campus trip were not involved in the crash.

An autopsy will determine whether the driver of the FedEx truck had a medical condition or was deceased before the accident. The bus belonged to Silverado Stages, a tour bus company based out of San Luis Obispo.


Cost of Texas Teen's "Affluenza"


The family of a Tarrant County teenager who admitted to drunken driving and killing four people learned how much they will have to pay for his treatment on Friday. 

Ethan Couch, 16, was sentenced to 10 years probation and treatment following his admitted guilt in the deadly crash near Burleson last June.
During a short hearing before Judge Jean Boyd, it was revealed Couch is being treated a state run facility. However, that facility’s name was not identified during the court hearing. Couch has been there since Feb. 19, just a few weeks after it was confirmed he would go to a Texas facility and not a posh California treatment facility as had been suggested during the criminal trial.
Debbie Spoonts, placement supervisor for Tarrant County Juvenile Services, testified during the hearing that treatment at the facility costs $715 a day. However, the facility recommends the Couch family pay $1,170 a month for Ethan’s treatment.
During the hearing, Spoonts testified that the facility has a sliding scale of payment and this is what the facility determined the family will pay. Without any objection by Fred and Tanya Couch’s attorney, Lance Evans, or the assistant District Attorney Riley Shaw or Ethan Couch’s attorney Reagan Winn, Judge Boyd accepted the payment figure.
During the trial Couch’s defense team indicated the family would to pay for the facility in California, costing $450,000 per year. 
After the hearing, Shaw declined to comment on what had transpired in court, with Couch family attorney Evans making a single statement.
“The family respects the decision of the facility and the court and will honor the payment system the court has put into place,” Evans said.
Also in attendance during the hearing was Kevin McConnell and attorney Greg Coontz. The McConnell family is suing the Couch family for the injuries caused to their son Lucas in the crash. Coontz represents the family of Brian Jennings, who was killed in the crash.
Coontz indicated that he, as a taxpayer, didn’t like to hear that the Couch family would pay just a fraction of the actual cost for Ethan’s treatment, but that since this is a public facility and not a private facility likely made a difference.
“It’s our general understanding that this is a sliding and this is the amount the facility set,” Coontz said. “And that this is basically their maximum, no matter what, so that might need to be addressed elsewhere, but it’s probably nothing to do with anybody in this case.”
McConnell said the decision Friday is completely separate from his family’s lawsuit and that it’s just another step in the process.
How long Couch must stay in the facility or how long his parents must pay was not a subject of discussion during the hearing. Evans declined to answer that question afterward and Coontz did not know either.

Police Investigate Untimely Death of Infant in Putnam


State Police are investigating the untimely death of an infant in Putnam.

Putnam Police received a 911 call at 4:07 a.m. reporting an unresponsive infant at a private home on Mohegan Street in Putnam.

Medics started providing emergency care at the scene and the child was transported to Day Kimball Hospital, where the infant was pronounced dead, police said.

Putnam Police secured the scene and requested State Police Major Crime Detectives to investigate.

Police said they are trying to determine whether the death is accidental or is a criminal case.

Major crime detectives conducted interviews with witnesses and examined the scene.

The Office of the Chief States Medical Examiner also responded and will conduct an autopsy to determine what the child died of.

Police have not released the child's name, because family members are still being contacted.

Police are continuing to investigate.

This is the second death of a young child in Putnam in less than three weeks.

At 11:03 a.m. on March 26, police responded to a home on Mechanic Street after receiving a 911 call reporting than the 2-½-year-old boy was unresponsive and not breathing. The child was pronounced dead soon after arriving at the hospital.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Chilling Calls Released in West Hartford Shooting


A bail bond agent has been charged with first degree manslaughter, accused of shooting her boyfriend in the car as he was driving on Prospect Avenue near the Hartford/West Hartford line on Wednesday night.

Police found Jose Mendez, 23, of Hartford, after a crash near Prospect Avenue and Kane Street around 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday. The car went through a fence on the Prospect Avenue side of the property at 27 Park Road.

Police said they received several 911 calls, including one from a woman who was upset and crying.

"My name is Angela and I just shot somebody on Prospect Avenue," she said, in a 9-1-1 call released by Hartford Police.

She was heard screaming and crying before hanging up.

Dispatchers attempted to call back multiple times in the released calls but it went to voice mail or someone would answer and then immediately hang up.

In the calls released, an officer says at one point, "Yeah, he's bleeding out a lot," and "We have the suspect here right now."

Mendez had been shot in the head, according to police and was taken to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Angela Grasso-Cunha, 27, of Plainville, a surety bail bond agent with Capitol Bail Bonds in Hartford, is accused of pulling the trigger, according to West Hartford Police.

Grasso-Cunha's defense team said in court that she was acting in self-defense.

According to court paperwork. Grasso-Cunha told police that Mendez kidnapped her and she shot him in self-defense.

Grasso-Cunha told police she ran into Mendez at a bar in Hartford three weeks earlier, after not having seen him since they were teenagers, and they started dating, according to police.

On April 8, Mendez took Grasso-Cunha to see his sister and then accused her of flirting with his sibling. Back in the car, they argued and Mendez threw her phone out the window, she told police.

On April 9, Mendez accused Grasso-Cunha of cheating and told her she had to give him $600 or he would kill her and her family, according to court documents.
Grasso-Cunha told police she tried to get the money by cashing a check, but the bank was closed.

At that point, Mendez also accused her of cheating and giving him a sexually transmitted disease. He grabbed the back of her head, slammed it into the center console and spit on her, she told police.

He also brought her to a clinic in Bloomfield to get tested for sexually transmitted diseases and said he’d kill her children if she ran, Grasso-Cunha told police.

By the time they got there, the clinic was closed for the day, so they drove back to Hartford and Mendez threatened to kill Grasso-Cunha's family and make her watch, she told police.

While driving on Park Street, Mendez turned to look toward Wendy's and Grasso-Cunha took the opportunity to reach for her purse, grabbed her gun and fire once at Mendez’s head, she told police.

Mendez slumped over, bleeding, and the car continued south on Prospect Avenue until Grasso-Cunha grabbed the wheel and steered the car off the road and into a fence, police said.

She told authorities that Mendez posed no immediate threat or danger, but she feared for her life as well as her family members’ lives and saw this as her only opportunity to stop him from following through on his threats, according to court documents.

One officer reported hearing Grasso-Cunha say, “He beat me, what did you expect?” as she hugged her knees, rocked back and forth and crying.

Mendez's family said they did not know what led up to the shooting.

"He was a good person. He was a great uncle, a great brother, a great friend," Chelly Vazquez, the Mendez family spokesperson, said.

Mendez and Grasso-Cunha had been dating for about a month and they last saw him on Monday, they said.

According to court records, Mendez was a convicted felon with a lengthy criminal past including burglary, assault, and a violation of a criminal protective order.

Grasso-Cunha was charged with first degree manslaughter and was released on $50,000 bond.

"There is a good possibility that it was an actual self-defense claim and not manslaughter. And I don't think they would set a bond this low if they didn't have some doubts and questions, defense attorney Walter Hussey said.

During a hearing on Thursday morning, bond was raised to $750,000.

Grasso-Cunha posted bond and was released, but she is required to wear an ankle monitor. She is due back in court in two weeks.

Doctor Reflects on Saving Lives After Boston Bombing


Surgeon David King crossed the finish line of the Boston Marathon safely before the bombs exploded there. But when he rushed to work in the emergency room of Massachusetts General Hospital soon after, he realized this was no mere accidental explosion that had torn through a crowd.

He began with the Boston Marathon, crossing the finish line in three hours and 12 minutes. Afterwords, the Massachusetts General Hospital surgeon checked his cell phone. The first texts were the usual ones from friends watching his progress online.

"Telling me things like, you know, 'Good race,' 'Strong race,' or some sarcastic friends saying, 'You're so slow,' 'Loser,' 'Go faster,' you know," he told NECN with a smile.

But then new texts started pouring in.

"People asking me confusing things like, 'Are you okay?' 'Heard something went wrong,' and then somewhere in there, somebody put 'I heard there was an explosion,'" he recalled.

Dr. King didn't know about the bombings, since he'd finished an hour earlier, but something told this trauma surgeon to rush to work at Massachusetts General Hospital.

What Dr. King saw in the E.R. told him everything.

"It's a pattern, a set of injury characteristics that I've seen hundreds and hundreds of times before while deployed in the military, and I knew that it wasn't a kitchen fire or some kind of a terrible accident, that it was clearly some kind of improvised explosive device," he said.

Dr. King served as an Army surgeon during multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"When it comes to your own country, it's particularly disturbing, your own state more so, your own city certainly, but there's something very personal about when it happens to your own marathon," he said.

That's when the second marathon began, this time as a surgeon. Dr. King and the rest of the trauma team operated on 15 bombing patients, and didn't stop for 30 hours straight. As those long hours were a blur, Dr. King can hardly believe the one year anniversary is already here.

"You can at look at anybody who got injured and they have a story to tell, and that's what this year's reflection should be about. It should be about them and their stories and their journeys," Dr. King said.

A journey for the survivors and the city that Dr. King spoke of three days after the bombing during a news conference.

"We will rise from the ashes and we will be stronger," Dr. King said April 18.

"I think it's somewhat uncanny that I used those words, and particularly that word about 'strong' because the whole Boston Strong thing really hadn't emerged at that point yet. It's clear that I wasn't the only one thinking that," he said in his interview with NECN.

Dr. King will be running again in this year's race in honor of his patients.

"If those stories of recovery won't make you run faster, I don't know what will," he said.

Photo Credit: AP

Mom Delivers on Road, in Ambulance


A woman pregnant with twins went into labor while waiting at a bus stop early Friday and delivered one of her boys on the side of a Long Island road.
Nassau County police say they were notified of a woman in labor near Meacham Avenue and Rosser Street in Elmont early Friday.
Three officers arrived and helped the 33-year-old mom, Mariejunia Ally, deliver her first baby, police say.
Shortly after that, an ambulance was on scene to take her to the hospital. Her second baby was born in the ambulance, police say.
Mom and both babies are doing well. 

Witness: FedEx Truck Already Ablaze


The couple inside the Nissan Altima who watched the deadly Northern California bus crash said the FedEx truck was already up in flames when it crossed lanes and struck the tour bus head-on.

"It was in flames as it came through the median," Bonnie Duran said, "It was already in flames. It wasn’t coming from the front engine, it was more from behind the cab."

Bonnie and Joe Duran were driving back to home to the Seattle-area at the time of the crash. They were driving in front of the charter bus.

The crash occurred about 5:40 p.m. Thursday on Interstate 5 near Orland, when a FedEx truck crossed a 60-foot median and hit a Duran's Nissan Altima and a charter bus carrying dozens of Southern California high school students.

"Look to the left and there it was, coming through right at me at an angle and I could tell I wasn’t going to outrun him so I just kind of turned to the right and he hit me just like that," Bonnie Duran said.

The truck hit the front door of Duran's Altima and then ripped off the back door and the back trunk, Joe Duran said.

"You just think, 'I’m dead, I’m dead.' And when it swiped us it felt like we floated, we kind of just floated right off to the ditch," Joe Duran said. "We looked at eachother, literally at the same time we go 'we’re alive!"

The pair was expected to interview with California Highway Patrol officials on Saturday. Their account differs from other statements by the CHP that the blaze erupted after the FedEx truck collided with the bus.

Nine people died at the scene of Thursday's crash, and a 10th victim died at a hospital, California Highway Patrol officials said early Friday.

Those killed included five students and five adults who were traveling to Humboldt State University for a campus visit.

Photo Credit: AP

LA Man Admits to 300 Car Break-Ins


A man believed to be responsible for breaking into hundreds of cars in the last four months has been arrested following a joint operation by Broward County and Coral Springs law enforcement officials. 

David Jasinski, 26, was arrested following a tip received Thursday about a "man who made a living out of breaking into cars," authorities said. The Broward Sheriff’s Office Burglary Apprehension Team and Coral Springs Police Department’s Burglary Enforcement And Reduction team tracked down the suspect and followed him as he drove to a Savannah at Riverside condominium complex, where authorities said he broke into at least six cars. Authorities pulled Jasinski over after watching him return to his car with a duffle bag and took him into custody. 

Police said Jasinski admitted to the Coral Springs neighborhood break-ins, as well as at least 30 burglaries in Fort Lauderdale's Las Olas neighborhood and 100 more in Coral Springs. In all, police said, the suspect copped to burglarizing about 300 cars so far this year.

"David leaves his house everyday at the same time, specifically targeting neighborhoods where he thinks people will leave their cars unlocked, breaking into cars each night," Detective Craig Brown said. "We've heard he's done as many as 20 to 30 car a night a few times a week."

Rey Rodriguez is believed to be a three-time victim of the man police are calling a "serial burglar."

"It seems like he needs to get a better job.It's a hassle to go to neighborhood, disturb people, and take their property," he said. 

Police say Jasinski has a decade-long criminal history, with his latest arrest logged earlier this month It was not immediately clear whether Jansinski had an attorney. He did not comment as police led him in handcuffs Friday.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct the spelling of the suspect's name. 

NY Robber Takes $54K in Jewelry


Police are searching for the who robbed a jewelry store in midtown Manhattan Friday, tying up a worker before fleeing with $54,000 worth of jewelry, police say.

The man walked into Margo Manhattan jewelry store at 1202 Madison Ave. just before 2 p.m. and asked to see some pieces, according to police.

When the 53-year-old worker began to help him, the suspect grabbed her by the neck and forced her into the back room where he tied her up, police said. 

He took a key from the worker to open a display case and took several items; he then returned to the back room and swiped more jewelry before running away.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Crime Stoppers at 800-577-TIPS. 

Texas Teen Rescues 4 From Explosion


A Flower Mound, Texas, teen is recovering from severe burns after an explosion during a family hunting trip last weekend.

The Walling family said an unknown gas leak sparked just as the group started cooking dinner.

Fifteen-year-old Andrew Walling helped others escape the explosion, but suffered burns on his face, arms and legs. He was rushed to Parkland Hospital.

"I feel pretty lucky," said Andrew Walling, who has been in the hospital recovering for a week. 

The quick-thinking teen helped his grandmother and three others escape the gas explosion.

The family was turkey hunting near Coleman and returned to a mobile home to make dinner.
One person went to light the stove, his hair caught on fire, flames shot in the air, and then the teen immediately reacted.

"I ran to the door opened it real quick, slammed it against the wall in between the wall, and about a second after that the entire thing exploded," said Andrew Walling.

"I got blown right out of the doorway and into a wooden pole, flipped over and dropped five or six feet," Andrew Walling said.

Because he got that door open, family members said everyone got out, including his grandmother.

The family thanks the staff at Parkland's burn unit for the great care over the last week.

The teen said he looks forward to going home, hopefully in a few days.

"I am very proud," Richard Walling said. "I was proud before, and this only reinforces what I knew about him. He is a great kid."

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News

Arrests Made in Texas Arson Spree


A Fort Worth mother brought her 8-year-old son, teenage daughter and three other teens along with her to set nine vehicles ablaze last weekend, according to an affidavit released Friday.

Nine cars were burned in Fort Worth's historic Ryan Place neighborhood at about 4 a.m. on April 5.

The Fort Worth Fire Department announced Friday afternoon that three men and two women were arrested for the fires.

Sonja Hernandez, 39, and her daughter, Amber Hernandez, 17, were arrested. The teen's boyfriend, Jose Zapata, 19, and his twin brother, Carlos Zapata, 19, and friend Daniel Perez, 18, were also arrested.

Investigators were able to arrest all five thanks to a tip that came in after surveillance video of the suspect's vehicle was released.

A person in the neighborhood approached NBC 5 crews as they were reporting on the story earlier in the week. The information was then passed along to law enforcement officials who said it was key in making the arrests.

Investigators said Perez could be seen in the pick up truck on surveillance video.

"As far as motive goes, it's not going to be totally flushed out yet," said Brad Sims, an arson investigator for the Fort Worth Fire Department. "And we are going to hopefully come to a better understanding of that through our continued investigation."

Sonja Hernandez had her 8-year-old son with her while the fires were being set. The boy is now in the custody of Child Protective Services.

"I truly apologize to them [the victims] from the bottom of my heart," said Yaquelyn Magana, who admits she was there the night the cars were set on fire, but insists she was just a witness. "I really do. I'm apologizing for all of them."

Magana wasn't arrested and blames Sonja Hernandez, the oldest of those arrested, for starting the fire spree. 

"I told them this is messed up," Magana said. "These people don't deserve this. You don't even know these people."

Magana claims she had no way to stop them. Her husband, Carlos Zapata, was one of the five arrested. However, she said her husband was not involved.

"He technically didn't participate because he didn't do anything," Magana said. "People just have the information wrong."

A sister of Carlos and Jose Zapata said even though one brother was not involved in the fires, the other did participate in the arson. 

"And he was like, 'Alright, I'm going to stand up for what I did." And I give him props for that, you know," Lizbeth Zapata said. "He was like, 'What about my kids?' And I'm like, 'Well, you should have thought about that.'"

All five are currently in jail.

"It is absolutely unusual," Sims said. " We don't see this very often. It's something the city takes extremely seriously."

Investigators said they have not ruled out any kind of gang initiation.

NBC 5's Dulce Hernandez and Christina Miralla contributed to this story.

Photo Credit: Fort Worth Fire Department

Couple Killed in Crash


Michael Myvett and Mattison Haywood were identified Friday as two of 10 victims in Thursday's tragic bus crash in Northern California.

The recently engaged couple, who had been dating since 2011, was chaperoning high school students to Humboldt State University.

"She will always be in my heart," Mattison's tearful mother Carla Haywood said.

NBC4 spoke with Mattison's parents Friday at their home in Chino. Mattison, 25, was a high school and college basketball player, an artist and was studying to become a doctor while planning a life with her fiance Michael.

"Had only one of them survived, the other would be an absolute wreck because they were two peas in a pod," Mattison's father John Haywood said. "Rest in peace baby, daddy loves you."

Carla Haywood learned of the crash from Michael's grandmother.

"(She said) 'The bus that crashed was the one they were on.' And I said, 'How do you know that?' She said, 'Cause I took them to the bus station and I know what bus they got on," Carla Haywood recalled.

In a whimsical engagement, Myvett proposed to Haywood on Christmas Day on bended knee in Paris. It was a trip they both were looking forward to for a long time, said Davonna Foy, a friend of the couple.

"Michael loved Mattison since even I could remember, even before their courtship," Foy said.

The happy couple were described as very sweet people whose fairytale romance was "like a movie."

Last week, Mayvett told his cousin, Trinice Sampson, he wanted to have a family with his fiance.

He said that they wanted to wait until Haywood finished the medical program she was in but that it was very important to the both of them to have children, Sampson said.

Haywood attended Concordia University before meeting Myvett at Humboldt State University. Together they built a community of friends who loved them both.

Those friends were in shock Friday and took to their Facebook pages to write messages about the loss in their lives.

"My heart just sank to my feet. We are going to need each other more than ever now. This feels like a dream...," one friend wrote.

Another friend commented on how beautiful of a couple the two were together and that the loss was "truly a tragedy."

An outpouring of messages from people and organizations that knew the pair continued throughout the day.

Concordia University remembered Haywood on its Twitter page.

"Our prayers are with family & friends of alum Mattison Haywood '10, who passed away Thursday in the tragic bus crash in Northern California," the school posted.

Myvett, who  worked with autistic children at the Center for Autism and Related Disorders, was described as, "an extraordinary individual who positively impacted the lives of families with autism spectrum disorder every day," by a spokeswoman for the company.

Myvett's family started a fund-raising site at gofundme.com and was accepting donations to help alleviate the cost of his up-coming services, Sampson said.

The fun-loving pair's journey was cut short Thursday in what friends said was a "devastating" and "tragic" event.

Photo Credit: Facebook

One Run for Boston Heads Through Connecticut


Runners across Connecticut are hitting the road to honor the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings. They’re part of a cross country relay called One Run for Boston.

NBC Connecticut caught up with one of the relay teams on its way through the shoreline. The runners were heading roughly 10 miles from Bridgeport to Milford.

“It feels good to get out there and help any way we can,” said Mike Grant of Norwalk.

So far, the runners in the relay have raised $400,000 for the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings.

The relay started in Los Angeles, California three weeks ago. The baton is currently getting passed through Connecticut, and the relay will end on Sunday in Boston’s Copley Square.

 “I know a spectator that was injured last year,” said Mike Grant.

These runners said they understood why their efforts in this relay were needed, and they wanted to help those victims pay for the recovery.

“It’s important to realize these people are injured they’re going to be injured for the rest of their lives with they're missing limbs and they still need help…we need to keep helping them,” said Kelly Gallagher of Plantsville.

The efforts are actually helping the runners involved too.

Many of them were at last year’s Boston Marathon and said the tragedy has had a great impact on their lives.

“I’ve been running for years and years and years and there’s a sense of violation,” Gallagher explained.

Being together in this relay was a way for these runners to heal. “When that happened in Boston that hurt everybody…all the marathoners,” Mike Grant added.

Many of the runners planned to make this fundraiser an annual tradition. “We're going to keep doing it and it’s really important,” Gallagher explained.

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