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Ex-Marine Convicted of Killing 2


A former Marine known to his comrades by the nickname “Psycho” was found guilty Tuesday in the 2008 robbery, torture and execution-style slayings of a fellow Marine and his wife in Southern California.

A Riverside County Superior Court jury found Fallbrook resident Kesaun Sykes, 27, guilty of two counts of first-degree murder in the violent killings of U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Jan Pietrzak, 24, and his wife, Quiana Jenkins-Pietrzak, 26.

Sykes, an ex-lance corporal, is the fourth and final suspect to be found guilty in the case. The three others – also former Marines – were sentenced for the brutal murders in June 2013.

The jury also found Sykes guilty of special circumstances of murder during the commission of a robbery, burglary and rape by an instrument, the Riverside County District Attorney’s office confirmed. The jury deliberated less than two hours before reaching the guilty verdict.

Sykes faces the death penalty or life in prison without the possibility of parole for his crimes. The penalty phase of his trial begins Aug. 11 in which jurors will hear testimony to decide Sykes’ fate.

In October 2008, the Pietrzaks were found gagged, tied and shot in their home near Murrieta, Calif.

Sgt. Pietrzak, a helicopter airframe mechanic at MCAS Miramar near San Diego, was found bloodied and beaten to death. His wife's body was discovered naked. Investigators said she had been sexually assaulted before the couple was murdered.

Both victims were also found bound and shot in the head.

Investigators said racial slurs were found spray-painted throughout the Pietrzak’s home and fires had been set in an attempt to destroy evidence.

Prosecutors said robbery was the motive behind the murders. The four suspects went to the Pietrzak home with the intention to steal and forced their way inside.

Jewelry, including the couple’s wedding rings, as well as Pietrzak's dress uniform were found at the suspects' homes, authorities said.

The three other former Marines sentenced in the killings last summer were Lance Cpl. Emrys John, 24, Lance Cpl. Tyrone Miller, 26, and ex-private Kevin Cox, 26.

John, Miller and Cox all worked with Sgt. Pietrzak at one time as Marines while stationed at Camp Pendleton.

John and Miller were both sentenced to the death penalty, while Cox was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Sgt. Pietrzak, who was born in Poland and raised in Brooklyn, N.Y., joined the Marines in 2003 and served in Iraq from July 2005 to February 2006. Relatives of the victims said Quiana was from San Bernardino and was a 2005 graduate of San Diego State University.

The couple met in San Diego through a mutual friend who also attended SDSU. Quiana was studying to become a doctor.

Driver in Times Square Double-Decker Bus Crash Arrested


One of the drivers of the two double-decker buses that collided in Times Square Tuesday afternoon, injuring 14, has been arrested, police say.

Gray Line bus driver William Dalambert of Irvington, New Jersey, was charged with driving while ability impaired following the crash at Seventh Avenue and West 47th Street. 

Police charge drivers with driving while ability impared if they get behind the wheel after using prescription or illicit drugs or they appear to be impared by alcohol but have a blood-alcohol content lower than the minimum limit for the charge of driving while intoxicated. 

The 58-year-old will be arraigned sometime Wednesday. It's not clear if he has an attorney.

Thirteen pedestrians and a tour guide were hurt when the two buses collided near the famous red staircase of the TKTS booth in the middle of one of the most heavily trafficked areas in the city. It's not clear what caused the collision.

Most of the pedestrians were injured by the falling light pole and flying debris from the pole and the bus, FDNY officials said in a news conference Tuesday afternoon.

A tour guide aboard one of the buses was injured when she was thrown forward and her head smacked the dashboard, officials said. She's expected to be OK.

Neither bus driver was hurt.

A witness said he was walking on the sidewalk near one of the buses when he heard what he first thought was some sort of explosion.

"It was only sound, and a lamppost fell down," said Sanjay Shah of Wayne, New Jersey. "Nobody can imagine a bus going on the sidewalk and hitting the lamppost."

Officials said emergency responders initially had difficulty getting to the scene because of heavy traffic in the area, and some firefighters rushed to the crash site on foot.

All of the injured victims were treated at the scene. Some were later taken to area hospitals in stable condition and were expected to be released this week.

"We are very, very fortunate there weren't many more injuries," said an FDNY official.

Photo Credit: AP

Bullet Lodges in Toddler's Closet After Gun Goes Off By Accident


A Meriden family is counting their blessings after a neighbor's gun accidentally discharged, sending a stray bullet into their 2-and-a-half-year-old daughter's bedroom.

Police said Khaled Elmorsy was cleaning his gun Sunday night when the weapon went off at his condo on North Colony Road.

Elmorsy's downstairs neighbor, Tom Hollowell, said his 2-and-a-half-year-old daughter was sleeping in her room when the bullet flew by her bed and lodged itself in a closet door about three feet away.

Hollowell and his girlfriend noticed the bullet hole the next day and called police in a panic.

"We didn't know what happened," Hollowell explained. "We couldn't even comprehend what went on."

Police said Elmorsy never reported that the gun went off. They arrived on scene to examine the damage and promptly arrested him.

"He could have hurt someone, and no one would have known because people were sleeping," Hollowell said.

Elmorsy was charged with unlawful discharge and reckless endangerment. Hollowell said his neighbor was shaken up and apologetic.

"I'm hopeful this experience will make him take more precautions when he's handling his guns in the future," Hollowell said.

For now, he's just counting his blessings and grateful his daughter wasn't hurt.

Elmorsy bonded out of jail and is due in court Aug. 22. No one answered the door at his condo Tuesday night. Police said they took away his guns after the incident.

Photo Credit: Tom Hollowell

Hartford Officer Arrested by His Own Department


A Hartford officer who was forced to turn in his gun and badge last week has been arrested amid allegations that he stole merchandise while working on a private-duty security job, according to police sources and union president Sgt. Richard Holton.

Holton said Officer Luis Feliciano, 34, turned himself in to police Tuesday and was charged with fifth-degree larceny and possessing a shoplifting device.

Feliciano, who has been a member of the department for two and a half years, was suspended last week and asked to stay away from Hartford police headquarters when the department launched an internal investigation into his actions.

He's accused of stealing from the Walmart on Flatbush Avenue while working a security job there, according to police sources, one of whom told NBC Connecticut some of the questionable conduct was caught on video.

Prior to his work at the police department, Feliciano spent 10 years as a loss prevention officer for a large retailer in Massachusetts, according to the Massachusetts Civil Service Commission.

Hartford police spokesman Deputy Chief Brian Foley said the department was notified of the allegations against Feliciano on July 28.

Feliciano was initially suspended with pay but the terms of his suspension changed following his arrest. He is now suspended without pay, as mandated by the union contract, pending the outcome of the investigation, Holton said.

This incident comes about a year and a half after Hartford police confirm Feliciano’s department-issued gun was reported stolen in Springfield, Massachusetts. Springfield police said Tuesday that Feliciano's weapon was later recovered during a drug raid.

Before he was hired in Hartford, Feliciano applied to the Springfield Police Department and was rejected. He filed a complaint with the Massachusetts Civil Service Commission, saying the department was prejudiced because of a 2006 murder charge against him that was later thrown out, according to the commission's 2012 ruling.

An officer involved in the murder case also said a bag of suspected cocaine was found in Feliciano's Springfield apartment, although no drug charges were ever filed, according to the document.

The commission denied Feliciano's claim, alleging that he hadn't been truthful about all the details of the incident and had lied about his home address, the ruling contends.

Sources within the Hartford Police Department told the NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters they question the decision to hire Feliciano in the first place, and City Council members said they're now reviewing the department's hiring procedures and screening practices.

"I'm very happy with HPD in this instance," said councilmember Ken Kennedy. "They've done what is appropriate. Their actions seem to be appropriate, although a court of law will determine that."

Meanwhile, Holton is urging community members to consider Feliciano's case an isolated incident.

"I ask the public not to judge officers based on one person's actions," he said in a statement Tuesday. "There are still men and women out there doing good work day in and day out."

Feliciano was released on a promise to appear and is due in court Aug. 11. Police said the criminal investigation into his conduct is ongoing.

Walmart has declined to comment on the case.

Car Crashes Into Pole on Route 85 in Salem


Wires are down on Route 85 South in Salem after a one-car crash Wednesday morning.

A car struck a utility pole and wires are down in that area.

No injuries have been reported at this time.

More information will be provided when it becomes available.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Police Seek Suspect in Larceny, Counterfeit Checks Incident


Police are looking for a woman who they believe was involved in an attempted larceny incident and tried to pay with counterfeit traveler's checks at a Stop & Shop in Waterford Tuesday night.

Police said that suspects in the 10:15 p.m. incident have made similar attempts in Groton.

The Waterford Police Department is working to identify a woman in surveillance footage who they believe is involved.

She got into a grey Infinity SUV as a passenger after leaving the store, police said. The car has New York registration plates with GMS-2613. Police are also looking for the owner of the car, but said it is not likely the same person as the woman in the surveillance photos.

Police are looking to identify the woman in the photo.

Waterford police ask anyone with information on the suspect or the vehicle to contact the department at 860-442-9451 or to email Officer Tidd at Otidd@waterfordpolice.org and reference case number 2014-01547.


Fire at House in Killingly


Firefighters are responding to a two-alarm fire at a house on Squaw Rock Road in Killingly.

The fire broke out just after 5 a.m., according to the South Killingly Fire Department.

There's no word at this time whether there were any injuries.

More information will be provided when it becomes available.


Store Owner Fatally Shoots Double Armed Robbery Suspect


A New Haven convenience store owner shot and killed a man suspected of trying to rob his and his brother's stores at gunpoint on the same night, police said.

While New Haven police were interviewing the owner of Congress Mini Market at 750 Congress Avenue on Tuesday night after he reported that a man armed with a rifle tried to rob him at around 11:30 p.m., his 26-year-old brother, who owns Nino's Mini Market at 659 Washington Avenue, called to tell him that a man just tried to rob his store and that he shot him.

Police were dispatched to the second convenience store, where they found a robbery suspect with gunshot wounds in the chest. An ambulance transported the man, who police described as an adult, Hispanic male, to Yale-New Haven hospital, but medical staff pronounced him dead at 12:19 a.m.

Police said that the man killed at Nino's was the same person suspected of trying to rob Congress Mini Market first.

Detectives are interviewing the store owner who shot the suspected robber and said that he has not been criminally charged.

Police are working to identify the deceased individual and the case remains under investigation. The names of the two store owners have not been released. Officers were still at Nino's Mini Market just before 4 a.m.

The stores are owned by the same family.

More information will be provided when it becomes available.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Retired Col. Remembers Gen. Killed in Afghanistan


A retired U.S. Army colonel living in San Diego County is remembering U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Harold Greene, who was killed in an ambush in Afghanistan Tuesday, as someone who deeply cared for fellow soldiers.

“He's always willing to help soldiers and that's what I always liked about Harry," recalled retired U.S. Army Colonel Gregory Fields, of Coronado. "He always wanted the best equipment and systems for them to go into battle with."

Greene, a two-star general, was one of the high-level officials visiting Afghanistan's National Military Academy in Kabul when a lone gunman dressed in Afghan army uniform opened fire with an automatic weapon. The attack killed Greene and injured more than a dozen Western soldiers, including several Americans, officials said.

Greene, 55, is the highest-ranking U.S. Army general to be killed in an overseas combat zone since the Vietnam War and his death marks the highest-ranking casualty in the Afghanistan conflict.

Two Afghan generals were also killed in the shooting. The gunman was killed after shooting his automatic weapon from a window, an Afghan intelligence source told NBC News.

Greene's 34-year career in the Army began at Fort Polk, Louisiana. A native of upstate New York, he earned a reputation as an inspiring leader with a sense of humility. He had been in Afghanistan since January, serving as deputy commander of a support command called the Combined Security Transition Command, in Kabul.

Fields told NBC 7 San Diego that Greene had a significant impact on his career. The two met in 1996 whens Field was assigned to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. Greene was his sponsor and "showed him the ropes."

Fields explained that they were "the guys who wrote the doctrine that determines the type of systems the military would need in future. We managed all the research, development and acquisition of specialized equipment for the military. That's what he did. He was an expert in contracting too.”

Fields said the general had a great sense of humor but was also very professional. Fields believes Greene was in Afghanistan because of his extensive experience with military equipment.

“He was responsible for some of the most sophisticated communications systems that the military has today…first hand,” Fields recalled.

In a 2010 speech at the opening of the Social Cognitive Networks Academic Research Center, a research facility with the mission of improving the Army's understanding of communication networks, Greene said finding patterns in the tactics of insurgents was difficult, so the goal was to discover the patterns and determine how to anticipate and influence the actions of insurgents, according to the Army's account of the event.

"The enemy is every bit as good as we are at using that network to our detriment so this is essential work, this is about defending our country,'' Greene said. "You must know that there is a direct application on the battlefield and we're using it today, but we don't really understand it yet so this is a critical element.''

Greene leaves behind a wife and children in the East Coast. His son, Matthew, also is in the Army and their daughter, Amelia, recently graduated from Binghamton University in New York.

The family said in a statement Tuesday that America has "lost a true hero."

"He believed in what he was doing over there," they said.

Photo Credit: ap

Woman Attacked and Robbed in Bristol


Bristol police are looking for the two men who attacked and robbed a woman early on Wednesday morning.

The victim, a 37-year-old woman, was attacked in the area of Vance Road, according to police.

She told police that she had been walking from her sister’s home on Davis Drive to her uncle’s home on Vance Drive just before 4:30 a.m. when two men who were dressed all in black attacked her.

One man grabbed the victim by the hair and the other punched her in the face several times, police said. She also had a 4-inch cut on her right forearm.

The men stole cash from the woman and ran westbound on Vance Road. 

After victim went to her uncle’s home after the attack and called police to report the robbery.

The victim was taken to Bristol Hospital to be treated for a cut on the inside and outside of her mouth as well as the laceration on her arm. 

Police have not identified the men involved.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Suspected Drug Dealer Had 150 Bags of Heroin: Police


Police arrested a suspected drug dealer in a Bristol park who had marijuana and heroin in his possession Tuesday night, police said.

Andre Allen, 48, of Bristol, had marijuana, 150 bags of heroin and "a considerable amount of cash" on him when patrols on foot found him in Brackett Park.

Police charged him with possession of narcotics, possession of narcotics with intent to sell, possession of narcotics within 1,500 feet of a school, and possession of marijuana and cited him with two park violations of possession of drugs in the park and possession or consumption of alcohol in the park, police said.

Police held him in custody on a $50,000 bond.

Photo Credit: Bristol Police Department

Wife of Man Who Shot Garner Video Accused of Assault


The wife of the man who shot cellphone video of police putting Eric Garner in an apparent chokehold during an arrest last month has been accused of attacking a woman on Staten Island, police say.

Chrissie Ortiz was issued a desk appearance ticket for a third-degree assault charge after she allegedly attacked the woman in front of a store on Bay Street, police say. The victim, 35, was taken to the hospital with bruises and cuts.

Ortiz’s husband, 22-year-old Ramsey Orta, shot widely circulated video of Garner's arrest, which showed officers putting the 43-year-old man in an apparent chokehold.

Garner was being arrested for allegedly selling untaxed single cigarettes and died in police custody. His death was ruled a homicide.

Orta was arrested over the weekend on gun charges, and Ortiz alleged that his arrest was a setup.

"It's not fair," she said Sunday. "And it's obvious. Once they ruled this a homicide, now you all of a sudden find something on him? C'mon. Let's be realistic. Even the dumbest criminal would know not to be doing something like that outside. So the whole story doesn't fit at all."

Attorney information for Ortiz wasn't available.

Animal Rights Vandalism Probed


Two FBI agents visited a family grocery in Berkeley on Monday to investigate a broken window they believe animal rights activists smashed because the market has a butcher shop.

Berkleyside first reported the connection between the smashed window the federal investigation on Tuesday.

The Pappas family has run Star Grocery on Claremont Avenue since 1922. Its front window was smashed around 2 a.m. on July 27, according to owner Nick Pappas. He wasn’t aware of the animal rights connection until the FBI contacted him a few days later, he said.

"We've had burglaries, we've had hold-ups," Pappas said, not thinking much of the vandalism at first. He was "shocked" when the FBI called shortly afterward. "I guess someone didn't like the fact that we sold meat."

Berkeleyside reported that the FBI apparently had been monitoring the website of Bite Back, an animal liberation organization based in Florida. The site posted pictures of the broken windows of Star Market in its “Direct Action” section. The magazine received news about the windows from someone who calls himself “veganarchist lone wolf.”

“On the night of June 26th two windows were smashed at Star Meats in Berkeley CA, a butcher shop that boasts about its organic and locally sourced meat,” the site said. “Cage free, organic, murder is murder and death is death. This is a continuation of last years actions in which windows were smashed out of Waylands Meat Market in Oakland and windows smashed in an East Oakland Burger King.”

Included in the post was a photo of Star Grocery's smashed windows.

Neighbors thought the vandalism was a shame.

"This is a neighborhood treasure," said loyal customer Sandy Friedland. "There is no reason to throw rocks at windows. There are other ways to protest."

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

Razor Blades Found Sticking Out of NJ Parking Meters


Authorities are warning drivers parking in one New Jersey town to watch out for razor blades when they put money in meters.

Rutherford police say eight utility knife blades have been found in borough parking meter coin slots over the last six months, most recently on Monday. 

The blades were found in meters along Park Avenue, Ridge Road, the Kip Garage and The Park and Ride, Rutherford Police Chief John Russo said.

"It may be a disgruntled resident who doesn't want to pay the parking, but it could be someone definitely trying to injure someone," Russo told NorthJersey.com. "Either way someone could really get hurt."

Russo says investigators are processing fingerprints pulled from the meters where the razors were found.

Police posted an alert on the borough's website urging residents and visitors to be "mindful and vigilant when depositing monies into parking meters."

Anyone who discovers a razor blade in a meter or sees someone putting one in a meter is asked to contact the Rutherford Police Department at 201-939-6000.

Photo Credit: NBC 4 New York

Access Health CT Halves Rate of Connecticut Uninsured


Enrollment in the state's health care exchange has cut the number of uninsured residents by 50 percent over the past two years, Access Health CT officials said at a news conference Wednesday afternoon.

Officials said 53 percent of Access Health's nearly 257,000 enrollees were previously uninsured. Access Health has helped lower the state's uninsured rate from 7.9 to 4.0 percent.

Gov. Dannel Malloy, Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, and Access Health CEO Kevin Counihan, announced the milestone at a news conference Wednesday afternoon.

“These numbers highlight Connecticut’s success in coming together to find ways to provide quality, affordable health care to those who previously didn’t have it,” Malloy said in a statement Wednesday.

The state health insurance exchange has been in operation since the fall of 2013. Open enrollment begins again Nov. 15.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Lane Closed After Rollover on I-84 in Newtown


The right lane of Interstate 84 West on the Newtown-Brookfield line is closed after a rollover crash.

State police said the crash is near exit 9 and minor injuries are reported.

A viewer said a van rolled over, bus state police could not confirm that.

Photo Credit: Connecticut Department of Tranportation

Men Threw Customer Off Deck at Middletown Bar: Police


Middletown police arrested two men who threw a patron off a deck at a bar on South Main Street early morning on Sunday and one of them had cocaine in his wallet, police said.

Richard P. Palma, 25, of Durham, and Brian J. Makuch, 24, of Middletown, face assault charges after the incident just before 2 a.m. at Mad Murphy's Bar at 288 South Main Street.

The victim, told police that two men he didn't know approached him from behind and threw him while he was talking to an "old acquaintance" in the parking lot below the deck.

He landed on his head, also using his hands to help break the fall, and was "bleeding from the right side of his head and had a large red swollen abrasion on his cheek," police said. A group of patrons was arguing about the incident and talking to an officer as more police officers arrived.

The victim's friend, who was picking up his girlfriend at about 1:38 a.m., confirmed the story. He told police he witnessed two strangers grab the man and throw him to the gravel below while a "guy" wearing a "fitted hat" on the gravel was "having words" with the victim.

The victim and witness positively identified Palma and Makuch to police as the men responsible, though Makuch declined to comment to police on his involvement in the incident, police said.

Police seized 0.7 grams of a white powder found in Palma's wallet, and it tested positive as cocaine, police said.

Police charged both Palma and Makuch with third-degree assault. Palma was also charged with possession of a narcotic for the cocaine found in his possession, police said.

Police did not say whether Palma had cocaine in his system at the time of the alleged attack. It is unclear at this time what sparked the incident.

Both men are scheduled to appear in court in Middletown on Aug. 18 and were released on $5,000 bonds.

*Ed: An earlier version of this story incorrectly referred to the victim as a minor.  The victim is, in fact, an adult.

East Haven Town Employee Says Town Retaliated Against Her


An East Haven town employee who last month filed a sexual harassment complaint against Mayor Joseph Maturo has filed a new complaint accusing town officials of retaliating against her for taking family medical leave to care for a sick child.

Department of Housing and Urban Renewal secretary Francine Carbone has filed a complaint with the U.S. District Court alleging town officials “intentionally, wantonly and maliciously” retaliated against her while she was on family medical leave.

The four-page complaint says Carbone applied for family medical leave and it was granted, but she was pressured to return to work early.

The court documents include text messages attributed to Carbone's supervisor.

"Fran, you need to touch base with me on a daily basis. I know you have problems but I still have a dept. to run and the Mayor to answer to,” one said.

“What’s the latest? Are we going to see you today? The boss is getting ansy and asking a lot of questions about your situation....Please let me know your plans ASAP,” another says, according to the complaint.

NBC Connecticut reached out to the mayor’s office, but there was no immediate response. 

In late July, Maturo released a statement about the sexual harassment allegations and described Carbone as "a disgruntled employee who was on the verge of being terminated" and suggested that that might have motivated her first complaint.

Carbone has worked for the city since 1997 and remains on family medical leave, according to complaints.

Her complaint said the town has retaliated against her for exercising her rights under the family leave and she suffered emotional distress.

48 Aboard Stuck Dallas Zoo Monorail


An off-site power surge stalled the Dallas Zoo Monorail Safari on Wednesday afternoon, stranding dozens of passengers in mid-air for the third time in as many years.

The passengers were trapped about 12 feet off the ground in the open-air cars for about an hour while zoo officials tried to restart the train and await rescue help from Dallas Fire-Rescue.

Zoo officials handed up water and snacks to the stranded passengers. Once DFR arrived, the 48 passengers and the driver were escorted down the ladder to the ground below.

A power surge caused the slow-moving monorail to unexpectedly stop Wednesday afternoon, Zoo officials confirmed to NBC 5. The cause of the surge is unclear, but zoo officials told NBC 5 that several barns also lost power.

The monorail is expected to be closed through Friday while zoo officials examine the conditions of the track and trains.

The monorail is 24 years old and carries hundreds of thousands of riders each year, according to zoo officials. Long term, the zoo is looking to replace the monorail, but it will need to be privately funded.

This is the third such incident that has stranded passengers on the monorail in as many years.

On Feb. 13, 2013, 93 people were stranded due to a monorail malfunction at the Dallas Zoo. 

And in September 2011, 30 people, babies among them, were rescued from a monorail that carries passengers through a 20-minute tour of the Wilds of Africa exhibit.

No injuries were reported.

Photo Credit: Dallas Fire-Rescue

Cop Accidentally Shoots Son: Police


An off-duty MTA police officer accidentally discharged his weapon at his Long Island home Tuesday, shooting his 3-year-old son in the chest, authorities said.

The child underwent surgery to remove the bullet and was listed in stable condition Wednesday afternoon.

The transit officer was also hit by a bullet when the gun discharged at his Smithtown home; he was listed in stable condition at the hospital.

It wasn't clear if multiple shots were fired, or if the bullet ricocheted. 

Photo Credit: NBC 4 New York
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