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Bertha Weakens to Tropical Storm


Less than a day after it became a hurricane, Bertha weakened back to a tropical storm as it continued to head north out over the Atlantic Tuesday.

Bertha had maximum sustained winds of 65 mph as it moved at 22 mph about 475 miles west of Bermuda, forecasters at the National Hurricane Center in Miami said.

There were no coastal watches or warnings in effect and no hazards affecting land.

Bertha became the second hurricane of the 2014 Atlantic Hurricane Season Monday. It's expected to continue to weaken over the next 48 hours as it stays away from the east coast.

Photo Credit: NHC

53-Year-Old Man Dies in Ledyard Crash


A 53-year-old man has died after crashing into a utility pole on Shewville Road in Ledyard Monday afternoon, according to police.

Police said Russell M. Sheppard was driving northbound in the area of Town Farm Road when his car veered across the road and struck a pole on the southbound side.

Sheppard was taken to Lawrence + Memorial Hospital for treatment, where he died of his injuries, according to police.

Shewville Road has been closed for several hours while authorities investigate and utility workers make repairs.

Police initially listed Sheppard's residence as a home on Meadow Drive in Waterford but later sent out a correction indicating that Sheppard's last known address was on Shewville Road, although recently he was not associated with any permanent residence.

The cause of the accident is under investigation.

Photo Credit: Ledyard Police Department

Man in Wheelchair Steals Rolex From Jewelry Store


Stamford police are searching for the man who stole a $27,000 Rolex watch from a jewelry store at the mall Saturday, pepper spraying an employee and security guard on his way out the door, according to police.

Surveillance video at Sidney Thomas Jewelry shows a man sitting in a wheelchair approach a glass case and ask a jeweler for help around 2 p.m Saturday. She shows him a couple different watches, which she hands over for him to try on.

After examining two watches and settling on a third, the man abruptly pushes back his wheelchair, knocking into another employee, then stands and bolts to the door, surveillance video shows.

"Before he runs, he sprays one of the clerks in the face with pepper spray, and as the security guard from outside comes in, he sprays him, knocking him to the ground," Stamford police spokesman Lt. Diedrich Hohn explained.

He said the employee and security guards were taken to the hospital after being sprayed and were later released in good condition.

Hohn said the first two watches were more expensive than the one stolen, valued at around $85,000 apiece. It's not clear why the suspect chose the one he did.

Surveillance footage shows the suspect to be a black man wearing a blue suit over a black T-shirt with a white design on the front. He’s sporting a black fedora-type hat and appears to be wearing glasses.

He left the hat and wheelchair at the scene, which police say will serve as valuable pieces of evidence. Hohn said investigators collected fingerprints from the wheelchair and are sending the hat for DNA testing.

Hohn said the employees were caught off guard and never expected someone who was wheelchair-bound to run off with stolen merchandise.

"It's pretty sad that someone has got to go to that length to try and steal a watch. He could have walked in and probably accomplished the exact same thing, but instead, he used a wheelchair."

Police said the suspect ran out of the mall and into the garage area, where investigators believe he got into a car and drove off, possibly with an accomplice.

Anyone with information is urged to call Stamford police.

Photo Credit: Stamford Police Department

Metro-North Waterbury Line Back to Operating on Normal Schedule


Metro-North trains on the Waterbury line were experiencing 10 to 15 minute delays Tuesday morning, but the trains are now operating close to the regular schedule.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) said that the minor delays on the Waterbury branch of Metro-North were due to mechanical difficulties.

The MTA advises passengers to listen for announcements at your local train station.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Connecticut Fire Crews Head to California


California may be on the opposite side of the country, but Connecticut is still finding a way to help put out the flames as wildfires ravage the countryside.

The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) announced that a 20-person fire crew will be heading to California early tomorrow morning to assist in fighting wildfires in the northern part of the state.

The crew, consisting of 14 DEEP employees and 6 local firefighters, will be in California fighting blazes for up to two weeks. It's the first time this year that a Connecticut fire crew has been deployed to help fight wildfires, according to the DEEP.

The crew members were selected based on their certification to fight forest or wildfires; the DEEP keeps a roster of those who qualify. Crew members must complete a rigorous training program and participate in an annual renewal course.

Connecticut maintains this firefighting service to participate in a reciprocal aid program operated by the U.S. Forest Service, which allows trained personnel from other parts of the nation to assist Connecticut in the event of a fire emergency.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Missing Boater May Be Hiding


A missing skipper, whose salmon boat washed ashore near Ocean Beach, California, may likely be hiding - not dead - according to a prosecutor's investigator who said there's an outstanding warrant for his arrest.

San Francisco District Attorney Investigator Hansen Pang did not immediately disclose more details on why he believed Timothy Lybrand was possibly running from authorities. But he did say that he thought the skipper made it to shore because he only had 25 yards to swim.

However, Santa Clara County Sheriff Sgt. Kurtis Stenderup said that Lybrand, 51, was arrested in 2010 on drug charges, and a $75,000 warrant was issued for his arrest when he failed to appear in court in 2012. He also has a case stemming from Santa Cruz, but those exact charges aren't known.

NBC Bay Area obtained copies of Lybrand's booking photos from Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties. Authorities also said they searched two possible addresses for Lybrand on Monday night - in Morro Bay and Santa Cruz.

Virginia McDermott used to live in the house where Lybrand lived on Escolona Drive in Santa Cruz. She told NBC Bay Area that three police officers came her home on Monday night looking for Lybrand. "It was serious," she said.

The new information came to light on Tuesday, as crews were poised to haul away his boat, the Paloma, from the shores of San Francisco near the Cliff House. The vessel carried a 400 gallon tank of gasoline, and crews were also worried about leaking diesel spilling into the ocean.

Coast Guard officials said Lybrand called a friend on another boat - the Sunrise - about 3:30 a.m. on Monday to say he had just hit rocks and was planning to jump ship about 25 yards from shore.

But after scouring the shoreline and the waters for Lybrand for nearly eight hours on Monday, the Coast Guard suspended the agency's search at noon.

Originally, San Francisco Battalion Chief Denise Newmann said Lybrand could have died of hypothermia if he was still in the water, and the search had become a recovery mission. "It's very cold out there," she said, noting temperatures were in the 50s.

The only way Lybrand could have survived, Newmann said, was if he had somehow swum to shore.

Lybrand's friends stood by, hoping for the best.

"We're all worried," said Larry Collins of the San Francisco Community Fishing Association. "Timmy's good people."

Anyone with information regarding the Paloma or Lybrand is asked to contact the Coast Guard Sector San Francisco Command Center at 415-399-3547.

NBC Bay Area's Mark Matthews and Stephanie Chuang contributed to this report.

Photo Credit: Josh Keppel/Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office

Drunken Man Threatens Coworkers With Gun: Cops


Hamden police arrested a man who they said threatened his coworkers with a gun after going out for drinks.

Someone placed an anonymous call to police around 3 a.m. on Sunday to report a fight in a parking lot on Town Walk Drive in which a man threatened to use a gun, according to police.

Police responded to the parking lot of 12121 Town Walk and learned that the three people had gone drinking in Milford after work and one of the workers, Derek Carman, 22, of Hamden, became drunk and belligerent, police said.

When the men returned to Hamden, Carman was still belligerent and showed a gun to his coworkers, police said.

Carman was charged him with carrying a pistol without a permit, breach of peace in the second degree, carrying a pistol while under the influence of alcohol and threatening. 

He was held on a $100,000 bond, and is scheduled to appear in Meriden Superior Court on August 14.       

It is not clear from online court records if he has an attorney


Case Continued for Mom Accused of Leaving 3-Year-Old in Car


The case against a Shelton woman accused of leaving her 3-year-old child in the car on a hot day while she went grocery shopping in Orange has been continued until September.

Police responded to Trader Joe’s, at 550 Boston Post Road, at 11:17 a.m. on Thursday, July 3 after receiving a 911 call from someone who said a woman walked away from what she believed to be a young child alone in a car the parking lot. 

When police arrived, they found a 3-year-old child alone in the car, police said.

The mother, identified as Nathalie Stonier, came out of the store when she saw police arrive and told authorities she was going grocery shopping and left the child in the car, police said. 

Police noted that temperatures were high, but said the child was not hurt and credited this to the person who called police quickly.

The child's father now has the child, police said.

Stonier was charged with risk of injury to a minor and leaving a child under 12 unsupervised in a motor vehicle. 

She was released on a written promise to appear and the case has been continued to Sept. 10.

Police said the state Department of Children and Families was notified and would be following up.  

Photo Credit: Orange Police Department

Impostor Posed as FAA: Sources


There is more trauma for the pilot of a small plane that crashed last week near Montgomery Field, killing her passenger.

Two sources confirmed to NBC 7 that an unidentified visitor, posing as a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) investigator, questioned the pilot in her hospital bed at Sharp Memorial Hospital.

Those sources said it happened the day after the fatal crash.

The pilot, 52-year-old Devon Logan, only learned about the phony visitor when an actual FAA investigator arrived later to interview her.

An FAA spokesman told NBC 7 that the agency's security division is aware of what happened.

A family member told NBC 7 they do not blame the hospital for what happened, but are upset that anyone would do some like that after a tragedy.

The passenger who died in the crash, 78-year-old Joy Gorian, was Logan's mother.

The fixed wing single-engine Mooney M20L crashed in a parking lot between Target and the Costco Business Center off Convoy Street in Kearny Mesa on July 30.

When asked for comment, a spokesman for Sharp Health said, “We are unable to comment due to patient privacy laws under HIPPA [Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.]”

Photo Credit: NBC 7

Bristol Police Arrest Fugitive Wanted in Puerto Rico, NY


One of three men who police talked to while investigating a possible trespassing incident on Bristol Housing Authority property Monday night turned out to be a fugitive from justice wanted in New York City and Puerto Rico on drug and gang violence charges, police said.

Police arrested Hector Luis Matos, 29, of Landry Street in Bristol, after learning there were outstanding warrants in Puerto Rico and New York City for his arrest. There were two warrants for his arrest out of Puerto Rico on charges of felony distribution of marijuana and in New York he was wanted on a gang assault charge.

Bristol patrol officers encountered Matos when they saw three men sitting on a guardrail near the upper portion of Davis Drive at 6:20 p.m. on Monday. Since Davis Drive is part of the Bristol Housing Authority, police said that people found there who aren't residents or guests of people living in the neighborhood are subject to trespassing charges.

When police ran his name, they discovered the outstanding warrants from Puerto Rico and New York for his arrest The department notified Puerto Rico's Warrant Extradition Unit and an agent there told police that they planned to extradite Matos.

Bristol police charged him with two counts of fugitive from justice and held him in custody on a combined bond of $400,000.

Wolcott Police Search for Car Burglars


Wolcott police are investigating a rash of car burglaries in town and looking for the culprits.

Thieves stole two cars on Evergreen and Sky Hill Drives and burglarized eight other vehicles parked in the Saddle Road, Orchard Lane, Beach Road and Longmeadow Drive areas, according to police. Seven out of eight of the cars burglarized were left unlocked. Car keys were left in the two stolen cars, which police found on Beach Road.

The person who stole one of the cars crashed it into more than 18 mailboxes in the Longmeadow Drive, White Oak and Ivy Lane neighborhood, knocking the mailboxes over, police said.

Wolcott detectives are investigating the burglaries and car thefts. No suspects have been named at this time and no arrests have been yet, police said.

"Remember, do not be a victim," Wolcott police said in a news release. "Please lock your vehicles and do not leave valuables, especially the keys in them."

Police did not release specific details on what was taken.

Bullets Hit Juvenile’s Clothing in Hamden


Police are investigating after bullets hit a juvenile’s clothing in Hamden on Monday night.

Hamden Police responded to the 900 block of Dixwell Avenue around 11 p.m. after getting reports of shots being fired and met with the victim after learning that he’d been found in New Haven.

The victim said he’d left a party in New Haven with a friend and they were hanging out in the 900 block of Dixwell Avenue when three people appeared from the Canal line onto Alling Street and fired shots.

While his clothing was hit by bullets, the victim was not struck and was not hurt, according to police.

Detective William C. Onofrio from the Major Crimes Unit is investigating.    

Photo Credit: William Hook, Flickr

Mosquitoes Test Positive for West Nile Virus in Stratford


Mosquitoes trapped at Beacon Point in Stratford have tested positive for West Nile Virus, according to the Stratford Health Department.

The Culex pipiens and Culex restuans mosquitoes were trapped there July 24, the health department said in a news release.

“It’s that time of year again where we start to see positive mosquitoes,” Andrea Boissevain, director of health, said. “So, we urge residents to take quick and easy steps to prevent exposure and bites. It takes a village to fight the bite!”

According to Environmental Conservation Administrator Brian Carey, the best way to avoid West Nile is to block mosquitoes from getting inside you home by keeping windows and door screens closed tightly and securely and to "get rid of standing water in flower pots," bird baths, trash cans and lids, "anything that collects water" to make less places available for mosquitoes to breed.

Symptoms of West Nile Virus include mild illness, fever, headaches, body aches, nausea, vomiting and skin rashes, according to Stratford's health department. In rare more severe cases, the virus can cause neck stiffness, disorientation, loss of consciousness, tremors, muscle weakness and paralysis, the health department said. Contracting West Nile Virus as an adult results in more severe symptoms.

Carey provided the following tips for how to best ward of mosquitoes and avoid bites:

  • Put recyclables upside-down in your bin so that it won't collect water.
  • Clean swimming pools and pool covers regularly and put chlorine in the water if you're not using them.
  • Clean any clogged gutters.
  • Drill holes in recycling bin bases.
  • Check commercial buildings with flat roofs for water puddles to "reduce mosquito-breeding sites."
  • Spend less time outside at dusk and dawn, times "when mosquitoes are most active."
  • Make sure your door and window screens are tight.
  • When outside for a long time, wear shoes, socks, pants and long sleeve shirts to avoid mosquito bites. Light-colored clothing that are tightly woven help reduce the chance that mosquitoes will bite you.
  • Put mosquito netting up around you if you are sleeping outside or in "an unscreened structure" or around small babies you bring outside.
  • Use mosquito spray when you're outside.

More information on the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station's efforts for "mosquito surveillance control and mosquito-borne diseases," you can visit www.caes.state.ct.us. The Stratford Health Department also has more information on West Nile Virus and mosquito control on its website.

Corn Thieves Strike in Bristol


Thieves deliberately picked and stole 200 dozen ears of corn worth $1,200 from Green Acres Farm on Perkins Street in Bristol over the weekend.

“It is with a very sad heart that we report for the first time in all our years of operation someone has stolen produce from our farm,” the farm posted on Facebook.

Green Acres has been in business since 1950 and said nothing like this has happened before. The stalks are stripped along 20 rows – the criminals left only small ears not yet ready to be picked.

"This is ridiculous how you can steal from a farm," said Green Acres' Whit Betts. "It would be very, very hard for the average person to do that."

It comes at the height of sweet corn season, which runs from July through September.

Farm staff members are asking customers to serve as extra sets of eyes and – naturally – ears when they are traveling by the fields and to report any suspicious activity.

Dozens of people have been sharing the farm's Facebook post, and Betts said the community is showing support and promising to keep a sharp lookout.

He said he doesn't expect the crooks to be caught but promises the corn will keep coming.

"You try not to get too absorbed by this," Betts explained. "I've had 24 hours to get through my anger and now you just look at the future and what we have going."

If you see anything, send a private message through Facebook or call the farm directly at 860-583-5700.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Iwo Jima Memorial Historical Foundation to Host Sixth Annual Candlelighting Ceremony


The Iwo Jima Memorial Historical Foundation is hosting its sixth annual VJ Day Candlelight Ceremony of Remembrance on Aug. 16 in Newington.

The solemn ceremony at the Newington Memorial Funeral Home will commemorate the lives of loved ones lost who served in the U.S. Armed Forces, servicemen killed in action, missing in action or prisoners of war and veterans who have since passed away, according to a news release from the foundation. In particular, the event remembers 100 Connecticut troops killed during the World War II Battle of Iwo Jima.

Singers and bagpipes will provide music for the ceremony and "Taps" will be played. There will be a rifle salute, a riderless horse, invocation and speakers, according to the news release. Following the ceremony, there will be a candlighting at the National Iwo Jima Memorial.

The foundation invites the public to attend the free event and bring photos of veteran loved ones to put on the "Wall of Honor."  You can also email photos for a digital display to the foundation.

The ceremony starts at 5:30 p.m. at the funeral home, located at 20 Bonair Avenue in Newington.

A shuttle will be provided from the funeral home to the memorial and parking at the memorial will be reserved for the elderly, handicapped individuals, presenters and motorcycles.

For more information or to volunteer for the event, you can contact Gary Roy at 860-291-9666 or email SOSIwoJima@yahoo.com. You can also visit the Iwo Jima Survivors website.

Photo Credit: Associated Press

Mystic Aquarium Ranks 15th in Country: Trip Advisor


Mystic Aquarium has snagged a spot on Trip Advisor’s list of best aquariums in the country.

The Connecticut aquarium was ranked 15th out of 25 in the 2014 Trip Advisor Travelers’ Choice awards, according to the list.

California’s Monterey Bay Aquarium earned the top position, followed by the Georgia Aquarium, Tennessee Aquarium, Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, and the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago.

The New England Aquarium in Boston ranks 18th, and Norwalk’s Maritime Aquarium came in at No. 21.

According to a press release from a public relations firm representing Trip Advisor, the Travelers’ Choice Awards use reviews from travelers to identify the best zoos and aquariums worldwide.

The Travelers' Choice Web site allows users to write reviews of destinations they've visited, which will be taken into consideration for future awards.

Photo Credit: Mystic Aquarium

Police Release Video of Store Robbery in Bridgeport


Bridgeport police are asking for help from the public to identify the man who robbed Success Market around 10 p.m. on Monday.

A male entered the store at 536 Success Ave., displayed a handgun, demanded cash and fled with an accomplice in a Honda Civic, police said.

Detectives obtained video from a security system at the business and have released it.

If you can identify the man, call Detective Michael Fiumidinisi at 203-581-5246.

Photo Credit: Bridgeport Police

Sheriff's Daughter Charged


The daughter of Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson has been accused of interfering with the police investigation into a shooting that wounded seven people outside a nightclub in New Bedford, Massachusetts, in her father's jurisdiction.

A not guilty plea was entered on behalf of 29-year-old Michelle Hodgson, who was arraigned on a witness intimidation charge Tuesday.

"I think it's very unfair," said defense attorney Scott DeMello. "This is about her, this is not about the sheriff."

Thomas Hodgson is defending his daughter, telling NECN her behavior was prompted by the actions of an officer that she deemed inappropriate.

"I feel completely confident that the court will exonerate her," he said.

Four men and three women were shot early Saturday morning outside Jalice Cafe. New Bedford Police say Michelle Hodgson was outside the cafe with another woman after the shooting.

Officer Ronald Guerin reported that one of the women kicked a blood-soaked boot belonging to one of the victims. Prosecutor Bill Connolly later told NECN that the unidentified woman with Michelle Hodgson is not accused kicking the boot.

Guerin says he told the women they were disturbing evidence in a crime scene.

In the police report, Guerin wrote that Michelle Hodgson asked, "Do you know that my father's the sheriff?"

"She then asked me for my badge number. She then informed me that she would have my job," Guerin explained in the report.

"Michelle did nothing wrong that night," said DeMello. "She's very confident that once the facts come out, that she'll be completely exonerated. And we're not going to try it in the press, but we do want things to play out, but she will be completely exonerated."

Police believe the incident began when one man walked outside the nightclub, found a drink on his vehicle and slapped it away, hitting another patron with it.

According to authorities, this led to people shoving each other and shots being fired.

None of the injuries were considered life-threatening, but all seven shooting victims were treated at area hospitals.

Thomas Hodgson recently led a delegation of sheriffs to the U.S.-Mexico border in opposition to the nation's handling of immigration.

Photo Credit: New Bedford Police

Couple Accused of Abusing Daughter


A Queens couple allegedly beat and starved their now 12-year-old daughter for two years, depriving her of food and water and hitting her with baseball bats and broom handles so severely that in one case, the little girl was found lying in a pool of blood with a wrist cut so deep her tendons were visible, prosecutors say.

Sheetal Ranot, who is the girl's stepmother, was arraigned Aug. 1 on first- and second-degree assault and child endangerment charges. Her husband, Rajesh Ranot, the child's biological father, was arraigned the same day on unlawful imprisonment and lesser assault charges.

Prosecutors allege the Ozone Park duo terrorized the child from December 2012 to July 2014.

According to a criminal complaint, Sheetal Ranot repeatedly hit her stepdaughter, causing bruising and pain, locked her in her bedroom and starved here for extended periods of time during that two-year span. In one case, the 31-year-old woman allegedly kicked the then 10-year-old girl in the face while wearing shoes.

Six months later, Ranot allegedly repeatedly hit the girl with a broken metal broom handle, leaving her with a cut near her knee and a cut so deep on her wrist that her tendons were exposed and she needed to have surgery.

Rajesh Ranot also allegedly starved the girl for years, and prosecutors say he forced her to take cold showers while he beat her with his fists and other household objects, including a baseball bat.

In April, Sheetal Ranot allegedly hit her stepdaughter in the face with a wooden rolling pin. The girl had to be taken to the hospital, and doctors there saw she was painfully thin -- weighing 58 pounds -- and wearing dirty clothes. It wasn't clear if they contacted authorities.

Over the next three weeks, prosecutors allege Rajesh Ranot continued to beat his daughter with a baseball bat. The girl was taken to the emergency room, where doctors noticed various bruises, marks and scars in different stages of healing all over her body. An investigation was launched and the stepmother and father were arrested shortly afterward.

"Despite the bruising and scarring on her body which served as a silent testament to the violence and cruelty she purportedly endured, it is alleged that for a long time this emaciated child was fearful of disclosing the true nature of her injuries or those responsible for her suffering for fear that her younger step-siblings would be taken away by authorities and placed in foster care," Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said in a statement. "Fortunately, she found the courage to speak up.”

Administration for Children's Services Commissioner Gladys Carrión, whose agency filed an abuse petition against the couple in family court, said, “I am deeply grateful to the Child Protective Specialists and Investigative Consultants whose diligence and professionalism saved the life of this young girl and ensured that she and her siblings were removed from this home and are now safe from further abuse."

It wasn't clear how many other children were in the home during the period of alleged abuse.

Sheetal Ranot is being held in lieu of $60,000 bail. She's being represented by Queens Law Associates; her lawyer could not immediately be reached for comment.

Rajesh Ranot remains in jail in lieu of $25,000 bail. He is being represented by Legal Aid, which does not comment on pending litigation.  

Progress in Quest to Reduce Homelessness in New Haven


New Haven’s 100-Day Challenge to End Homelessness has ended and the results are in.

Workers from different community and state agencies teamed up for the challenge and set a goal of finding housing for 75 percent of the city’s chronically homeless population, or 107 residents.

During a roundtable discussion at the United Way of Greater New Haven, group leaders released the results. They say they found housing for 43 people and have finished the paperwork to get housing for 59 more. That’s 102 total people, which is just five shy of their goal.

“We’re very close and it’s amazing. We are really right up against that goal which is a phenomenal success," said Amy Casavina Hall of the United Way. "Processes that normally take two to three years to happen are now taking two to three weeks.”

As part of the challenge, workers conducted more than 550 surveys of homeless residents across the city to get a better handle on the overall problem.

They were able to accomplish so much in such a short time by simplifying the process, advocates said.

“Taking a very hard look at how we use our existing resources and using those resources better, more effectively, more efficiently to serve more people in urgent need,” said Lisa Tepper Bates of the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness.

While the 100-day time period for the challenge is over, the agencies plan to continue working together until at least mid-September to reach their goal.

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