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Former Wilton Preschool Para Facing Child Porn Charges


A former preschool paraprofessional in Wilton has been arrested on child pornography charges, according to a letter from the school superintendent.

Eric Von Kohorn, 33, of Bridgeport, was arrested Aug. 20 and charged with first-degree possession of child pornography and promoting a minor in an obscene performance, according to state police. Wilton Supt. Kevin J. Smith said Von Kohorn began working for the school system in 2007.

According to a letter Smith sent to parents and members of the school community, police notified Wilton school officials of the investigation into Von Kohorn in June. He was placed on administrative leave and asked not to return to school grounds. Smith said Von Kohorn resigned from his position June 16.

The school district has also notified the Department of Children and Families. Smith said Von Kohorn’s illegal behavior took place at home and not at work. He was not involved in the production of pornography and no Wilton students were involved.

"There are no reports to date of staff members ever observing any behavior that would be considered inappropriate," Smith wrote in a follow-up letter sent to parents Thursday evening.

Von Kohorn underwent a background check prior to being hired, which revealed no red flags, according to Smith.

“We are all deeply troubled by this alarming situation. Please be reassured that the safety of children is our foremost concern and there are many policies and procedures in place to ensure the wellbeing of all our children,” Smith wrote.

A meeting with preschool parents is planned for Monday, Aug. 25 at 7 p.m. at the Middlebrook School auditorium. Mental health and law enforcement professionals will attend.

Dr. Barbara Rickler, a certified child, adolescent and adult psychiatrist, will also be available to support parents at the preschool Tuesday from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.

Von Kohorn was one of six people arrested Wednesday in a state police child pornography sweep.

Photo Credit: NBC10.com

6 Arrested on Child Porn Charges


Six people, including a former preschool paraprofessional in Wilton, were arrested Wednesday on child pornography charges as part of a statewide sweep.

Eric Von Kohorn, 33, of Bridgeport, was charged with first-degree possession of child pornography and promoting a minor in an obscene performance. Von Kohorn, a preschool paraprofessional who worked in the Wilton school system from 2007 until last month, was released on $50,000 bond and is due in court Sept. 3.

Manchester resident James Kyle Bidwell, 20, was charged with second-degree possession of child pornography and promoting a minor in an obscene performance, according to state police. His bond was set at $150,000. Bidwell is due in court Sept. 12.

Jaysen Timothy Puerta, 30, of Norwich, was charged with first-degree possession of child pornography, promoting a minor in an obscene performance and importing child pornography material. He was released after posting $35,000 bond and will appear in court Sept. 4.

Pedro Cambisaca, 20, of New Haven, has been charged with third-degree possession of child pornography and promoting a minor in an obscene performance. He was held on $125,000 bond and appeared in court Thursday.

Eli Echevarria, 56, also of New Haven, was charged with third-degree possession of child pornography and promoting a minor in an obscene performance. He was held on $125,000 and was arraigned Thursday.

Suffield resident Edwin Alton Scotton, 62, was charged with first-degree possession of child pornography and promoting a minor in an obscene performance. He was held on $250,000 and appeared in court Wednesday.

State Police Shoot Man With Taser During Arrest


State troopers shot a 39-year-old Colchester man with a Taser while serving him with six outstanding arrest warrants on Wednesday, according to police.

Police found Dwayne Shippee at Hopeville Campground in Griswold and said he ran off when he spotted the cruisers. According to online court records, he was wanted on numerous charges including assault, breach of peace, disorderly conduct, unlawful restraint, threatening, criminal mischief and harassment.

State police brought in K-9s to track Shippee and pinged his cellphone in an effort to find him. They discovered him several hours later at a home on Stetson Road in Griswold, according to police.

Police said Shippee was “not compliant,” prompting a trooper to shoot him with a Taser. He was taken into custody and brought to Backus Memorial Hospital for treatment of minor injuries.

Shippee was served the outstanding warrants and additionally charged with interfering with an officer. He was held on $25,500 bond and appeared in court Thursday morning.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Police Nab Suspect in Darien Jewelery Store Robbery


Police have arrested one of three men accused of robbing a Darien jewelry store in 2011.

DNA evidence linked 33-year-old Richard Garrison, of the Bronx, to the robbery of David Harvey Jewelers at 995 Post Road in Darien on June 28, 2011, according to police.

Police said three masked men carrying sledgehammers walked into the jewelry store and started smashing display cases. They stole watches valued at more than $422,000 and made off in a stolen Toyota Corolla.

In July of that year, the New York Police Department notified Darien police that officers had recovered the stolen car in the Bronx. The Corolla was brought back to Connecticut. Detectives searched the car and discovered clothing and a watch tag inside, according to Darien police.

DNA testing on a pair of gloves found in the car linked Garrison to the robbery. Police said he has a long criminal history including robbery, assault and burglary charges.

The NYPD found Garrison in New York City on Aug. 8 and took him into custody. He was extradited to Connecticut on Aug. 21 and taken to Darien Police Headquarters, where he was charged with second-degree robbery and first-degree larceny.

Garrison is due in court Aug. 22.

Photo Credit: Darien Police Department

Police Rescue Pit Bull While Responding to Report of Gunshot


Officers in New Britain rescued an abandoned pit bull after being called to Prospect Street, where a gun accidentally discharged at a multi-family home, according to police.

Police surrounded the home Thursday morning after neighbors reported hearing a gunshot. No one was injured and investigators believe the gunshot was an accident, police said.

The person who fired the shot may have fled to a vacant apartment on nearby School Street, and although no one was there when officers arrived, police found a pit bull abandoned in the empty apartment.

Animal Control officers took custody of the dog. Police continue to investigate.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Dad Helps Rescue Residents From Burning New Milford Condo


As fire tore through a condo complex in New Milford on Thursday morning, a North Haven dad who was delivering school supplies to children of soldiers injured in war became a hero for residents and saved lives.

Fire broke out in a ground-floor apartment at 466 Danbury Road in New Milford this morning, damaging eight condos. Everyone made it out safely, but a dog was lost.

Angelo Appi, who had just delivered 110 boxes of school supplies to Operation Homefront, a program to support children of wounded veterans, was driving by on Route 7 and stopped when he saw smoke pouring from the building.

Appi said he spotted an elderly woman trying to get back into her burning condo in search of her dog, so he stopped her from going inside and went after the pooch himself.

"The woman that was living downstairs just fell into my arms and she couldn't breathe. I was holding her," said Nicole Whitaker, who lives nearby. "I had soot all over me. She would not leave her house because of her dog."

Try as he might, Appi couldn't find the woman's pet.

"I went inside as far as I could to try and help the dog," he explained. "Unfortunately, I got overcome by smoke and flames."

Other residents told Appi a woman who lives above the apartment where the fire broke out wasa still unaccounted for. He and another man went up after her.

"We banged on the door numerous times to the point that we were going to break the door down. But then she opened the door," Appi explained. "She actually answered the door and we got her out safely. Not even one minute after we got her off the second floor, it went up in flames."

The three rushed downstairs just in time.

"He's a hero," said Nicole Whitaker, who lives in nearby in a building firefighters managed to shield from the flames.

Photos from the scene this morning show flames shooting through the roof. The fire spread and caused heavy damage, and firefighters had to lay their hoses along Route 7 to connecto to a hydrant.

One person was taken to the hospital for treatment of smoke inhalation but no other injuries were reported, according to the deputy fire chief.

Part of Route 7 North in Danbury was closed as a result, according to state police.

Firefighters are investigating to determine the cause of the fire. The American Red Cross is helping 11 residents affected by the blaze, including a family of three in need of emergency housing.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Death of Baby Left in Hot Car Ruled a Homicide


The death of a 15-month-old boy who was left in a hot car in Ridgefield, Connecticut, on July 7 has been ruled a homicide.

Benjamin Seitz died of hyperthermia due to environmental exposure, the medical examiner has determined. Detectives are in the process of meeting with officials from the state's attorney's office.

"The criminal investigation is ongoing and as such this office will have no comment on the status or details of the investigation including the autopsy report," said State's Attorney Stephen J. Sedensky III, of the Judicial District of Danbury, in a statement.

Police said the child's father, Kyle Seitz, was supposed to drop the little boy off at daycare but instead drove to his workplace, Owl Computing Technologies, at 38A Grove Street in Ridgefield, with the baby still in the car.

According to investigators, Kyle Seitz parked his vehicle at work with Benjamin still inside and left him there for "an extended period of time," on a day when temperatures in the area reached 88 degrees.

Lindsay Rogers-Seitz, Benjamin's mother, said her husband went to the daycare to pick up Ben. When he learned his son wasn't there, he asked the staff if his wife had picked him up earlier in the day.

He was told she had not, and so he went back to his car, found Ben and rushed him to Danbury Hospital, according to Rogers-Seitz.

William Dunlap, associate dean of Quinnipiac School of Law, said "the essence of homicide is that it was caused by another person" but emphasized that Ben's death has not been ruled a murder or criminal homicide.

"Prosecutors could decide to go with a murder charge if they think there's evidence of intent to kill, they could go with recklessness if they think he was aware there was a risk that this could happen but he consciously disregarded it, or they could charge him with criminally negligent homicide if they think he acted negligently, irresponsibly," Dunlap explained.

As she deals with the grief of losing her son, Lindsay Rogers-Seitz said she forgives her husband for leaving their son in the car and has decided to channel her grief into activism.

The couple is spreading the word about hyperthermia in children and Rogers-Seitz started a blog, The Gift of Ben, to raise awareness of heatstroke in children and help others avoid the tragedy she suffered.

According to the NHTSA, hyperthermia is the leading cause of non-crash-related death in children under the age of 15. 

Protesters Demand "Drone-Free LAPD"


Protesters gathered outside LA's city hall Thursday morning, chanting "drone-free LAPD" to demand a halt to what they called an LAPD plan to use drones to spy on citizens.

Demonstrators from the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition pushed up against the City Hall entrance, trying to get a meeting with LA Mayor Eric Garcetti over two silent, camera-equipped drones the police department has recently acquired.

"What's going to happen when they have a drone that you can't ever hear is around, that can come into close radius?" protester Jamie Garcia said. "What are they going to do with this data? They haven't told us."

LAPD got the state-of-the-art Draganflyer X-6 drones for free from the Seattle Police Department in May. Civil rights activists on Thursday said Seattle residents' protests over drone testing in their city got their mayor involved to stop the drone use. They hope they can get Garcetti to do the same.

LAPD spokesman Bruce Borihahn said a federal agency is storing the drones. He said he doesn't know the drones' capabilities.

"We're not even in possession of these things," Borihahn said.

Police will not use the drones in LA before a "lengthy approval process" by the civilian police commission, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck and civil rights groups, Borihahn said.

Protesters said the Draganflyer website and videos posted by other police departments using the drones around the country show the devices are small, indetectable and much less expensive than the manned helicopters currently used by the LAPD.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California applauded the department's transparency about receiving the tool, but questioned whether its use outweighs the potential for invasion of privacy, Hector Villagra, the executive director of the ACLU of Southern California, said in a statement in June.

Beck has promised the public the drones would only be used in tactical situations such as manhunts and standoffs.

"The Los Angeles Police Department will never, ever give up public confidence for a piece of police equipment," he said in June.

Manufacturer Bringing 175 Jobs to Connecticut


A Massachusetts manufacturing company is moving to North Haven – and bringing with it 175 manufacturing jobs.

C. Cowles & Co., founded in New Haven in 1838, is relocating its Carlin Combustion Technology division to the former Marlin Firearms factory in North Haven. There the company plans to consolidate its corporate offices and four other manufacturing divisions.

It’s adding 59 new jobs to its current workforce of 116 employees, in partnership with the University of New Haven engineering program and CONNSTEP, a nonprofit agency that provides consulting to Connecticut businesses.

"By partnering and connecting companies with our educational institutions, we are ensuring that Connecticut manufacturers have the workforce they need to compete in a global market and position our state for a manufacturing revolution," Gov. Dannel Malloy said in a statement Thursday.

The company has received a $250,000 job training grant and has already begun hiring and training new workers, who were chosen from a pool of 400 applicants.

The Department of Economic and Community Development is also providing the company with a $1.77-million loan to help with the cost of relocation.

Photo Credit: Carlin Combustion Technology, Inc.

State Announces Funding for 30 School Districts


It's described as a partnership between struggling school districts and the state, and on Thursday, the Alliance District Program got a major boost in funding.

The state announced that $132 million dollars will go to 30 school districts in the program to help close achievement gaps.

“It's with enormous pride that we move forward with a great number of approvals of Alliance District grants,” said Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor.

In Bristol, the school district will use some of the money to help implement full-day Kindergarten beginning this year.

“We have such a rich curriculum now that are students are expected to know and understand, and to try to try to squeeze that into a half-day program is virtually impossible, so I think students really need access to instruction for a full school day,” said Bristol School Superintendent Dr. Ellen Solek.

The New Britain school district has been concentrating on student support systems by focusing to provide services to students who may need more help in school.

“We realize to adequately perform in our school district we need to change some mindsets, change some direction, and some of that was toward professional development, as was mentioned here, our English Language Development Program,” said New Britain School Superintendent Kelt Cooper.

Teachers and parents say they've already seen a difference.

“Last year, more than 50 percent of my students were able to pass from no English at all, to different levels of English,” said Ana Davila, a teacher at Pulaski Middle School.

They hope this additional funding will build on what the school districts have already accomplished.

Connecticut Fire Crews Return From California


Connecticut firefighters sent to battle a 32,000-acre blaze in California earlier this month returned home Thursday evening.

A group of 20 crew members, including 14 employees of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and six private-sector firefighters, departed Aug. 4 and were sent to fight a wildfire in the area of Burney, California, according to a release from the DEEP.

The crew arrived back at the DEEP Eastern District Headquarters on Hebron Road in Marlborough shortly after 8 p.m. Thursday.

The U.S. Forest Service applauded them for their efforts, according to the DEEP.

Hartford Meets With Potential Ballpark Developers


A team of community leaders assembled to help choose the developer of a new baseball stadium in Hartford met with the three candidates Thursday and is expected to make a recommendation to the city council early next month.

Hartford’s Development Services helped put together the analysis team, which includes current and former city officials who have had a hand in high-profile development projects in the past, according to the mayor’s office.

“We want this development to be the catalyst for economic growth and accelerate the creation of a new neighborhood: Downtown North,” said Mayor Pedro Segarra, in a statement Thursday. “We believed that this could be achieved without burdening taxpayers and that opportunity is before us.”

The team met today with representatives from the three finalists: CV Properties, the Thomas Hooker Brewing Company and Centerplan Development Company in conjunction with Leyland Alliance.

CV Properties has proposed a $217-million project that would include a 6,000-seat baseball stadium, the new home of the Thomas Hooker Brewery, residential and office space and a supermarket with covered parking.

The Hooker Brewing Company proposes a $16-million 40,000-square-foot stadium facility with a beer garden. The brewery has partnered with a nonprofit organization and plans to hire people with disabilities, according to the mayor’s office.

Finally, Centerplan Development Company and Leyland Alliance presented plans for a $350-million development including a 6,000-seat stadium, an elevated Little League park, the Hooker brewery and a supermarket.

“We had a good meeting,” said project development director Thomas Deller, in a statement Thursday. “All the developer gave solid presentations and expressed excitement about investing in Hartford.”

The Hartford City Council expected to receive a recommendation on the ballpark proposal the first week in September.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Connecticut

Woman Saves Dog in SoCal Traffic


A woman who braved getting out of her car during rush-hour traffic on Thursday rescued a pooch wandering a Southern California freeway.

Just after 6 p.m. a black dog could be seen zigging and zagging into lanes of the Long Beach (710) Freeway near Atlantic Avenue, causing motorists to slow down and try to corral the pooch.

At one point, a motorcyclist rode next to the dog, ushering it to the shoulder of the freeway.

The dog was in the far left lane of the freeway, dodging vehicles as it crossed to the shoulder.

Motorists turned on their emergency lights, working like a mobile fence, to keep the pooch corralled on the side of the freeway.

Andie Valerio pulled her car over and was able to rescue the dog, that had climbed an embankment.

"I turned my hazards on and I made sure she was kind of going towards the shoulder," Valerio said.

The female dog was scooped up by Valerio. The dog was wearing a collar, but did not have any tags.

"She's super sweet," Valerio said. "I was sitting with her the whole time and she just licked me and she was just sitting there on the floor, calm."

After Valerio coaxed the dog into her arms and got her off the freeway, she was turned over to the local animal shelter, which will assist in locating the owner or someone to adopt the dog.

Sacramento Patient Tests Negative for Ebola


Health officials said Thursday a patient who was being tested for Ebola in Sacramento has tested negative for the virus.

There are currently no confirmed cases of the Ebola virus in California.

"We are pleased with the negative outcome of the Ebola test and wish the patient a speedy recovery," Dr. Ron Chapman, California Department of Public Health Director and state health officer, said in a statement. "The case in Sacramento County demonstrates that the system is working. This patient was quickly identified, appropriate infection control procedures were implemented, and public health authorities were notified."

State and federal officials earlier in the week said they will not divulge which West African country the patient traveled to or from in order to protect the individual's privacy.

Officials also said they will not be releasing the patient's identity, gender or whether the patient is an adult or minor.

On Tuesday, health officials announced that the patient who was admitted to a South Sacramento hospital may have been exposed to the Ebola virus. The Kaiser Permanente South Sacramento Medical Center worked with the Sacramento County Division of Public Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to test blood samples from the patient.

For more information about Ebola, please visit the CDPH home page's "Other Hot Topics" and the CDC's page on information and updates.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Mom Grieves Over 1-Year-Old Stabbing Victim


A mother is desperate for answers after her 1-year-old daughter was stabbed to death.

“Why would you kill a baby? Why would you kill her?” asked Shakyia Clay. That’s the question ever since her baby Zanaya was stabbed to death in Bristol on Monday night.

“She was one," Clay said. "What possesses you to do something like that?”

Clay told NBC Connecticut she had just dropped off Zanaya at a home on Park Street with a member of her extended family and then had left for a meeting. The girl was stabbed in that home an hour later.

"It was shocking. I just couldn't believe it," Clay said.

Clay told NBC Connecticut her 3-year-old son was also in that home that night. He was not hurt, and it’s unclear if he saw the attack on his baby sister.

Police have accused Arthur Hapgood of killing Zanaya. Clay said Hapgood is her brother’s uncle, and she’s known him for years. She says she saw him at the home when she left Zanaya there.

“I was sitting right there on the couch with him and my brother. We were all just having a good time,” Clay said.

According to Hapgood’s arrest warrant, he was smoking marijuana outside his family’s place that night. Investigators say he then walked inside in a fit of rage, grabbed a kitchen knife and stabbed the 1-year-old in the stomach.

“I’m beyond angry — beyond,” Clay said.

Days later, Clay still doesn’t know why her baby girl was killed. Investigators are still trying to answer that question themselves.

“I want to know what happened. I still don't know what happened,” Clay added.

For now, Clay says all she can do is grieve and pray for justice. “He should not get away with this at all," Clauy said. "He took a life, a baby that didn't even see her life yet."

Arthur Hapgood is behind bars on a $2,500,000 bond. He is scheduled to face a judge on Sept. 9. 

1 Hospitalized After Salisbury Crash


One person was taken to the hospital after a crash at Route 112 and Salmon Kill Road in Salisbury on Friday morning.

Police said a car went off the road around 2 a.m.

No additional information was available.

New York Crash Causes Delays on Merritt Parkway in CT


A crash on the Merritt Parkway northbound just over the line in New York is causing traffic delays in Connecticut.

State police said a tractor-trailer carrying food hit an overpass on Route 15 North.

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area

Police Save Newborn Baby


A 5-day-old New Jersey boy is in critical but stable condition after he stopped breathing suddenly over the weekend, possibly because of a bacterial infection, his parents say.

The boy's grandmother called 911 Saturday afternoon to report the Hopatcong infant appeared jaundiced and "non-reactive," while the child's mother, Andrea Suarez, frantically tried to revive little Maddox.

Suarez said it seemed like a minute later when "Hopatcong police literally kicked my front door open and just took him."

Officer Bob Haffner, who is also an EMT, told NBC 4 New York he couldn't find a pulse. Haffner began to perform CPR and then he and his colleague, Lt. Bob Unhoch, transferred the boy to an ambulance.

Police dispatchers in Hopatcong alerted dispatchers in nearby Roxbury to the emergency, and Roxbury police stationed officers at every intersection on Route 46 on the way to St. Claire's Hospital in Dover.

Maddox's parents say his condition has improved since he was admitted to the hospital, and that doctors are investigating whether he may have a bacterial infection.

Haffner says he was glad to help.

"It's one of those things where you go home that night and you think about it, and you go, 'It worked,'" he said.

Suarez said there are no words to describe her gratitude.

State Officials Investigating Inmate Suicide


Police are investigating the death of an inmate at Hartford Correctional Center and said she appears to have committed suicide.

Sherri Clarke, a 40-year-old New Britain woman who was serving a 25-year-sentence for murder, was found in her cell with a ligature tied to her neck at 10:42 a.m. on Thursday, according to the state Department of Correction.  She was the only inmate in the cell at the time.

Correctional and medical staff began treating Clarke, who was transported to Lawrence & Memorial Hospital and pronounced dead at 11:33 a.m.

Clarke and her boyfriend, Michael LaBarge, were convicted of the murder of Cornell Johnson, who was found dead in 2009.

Johnson was reported missing in September 2009. Police found his body a month later. It had been dismembered into 15 pieces and his genitals were missing.

Police said Clarke and LaBarge killed Johnson when a drug deal went wrong.

Clarke had entered the York Correctional Institution on Sept. 18, 2009. 

The State Medical Examiner’s Office will determine the cause of death and The Department of Correction Security Division and the Connecticut State Police are investigating.

Calif. Woman Fined for Saving Water


A San Ramon homeowner is up in arms over being punished for her efforts to conserve water during California's severe drought.

Fran Paxson recently spent thousands of dollars transforming her front lawn by replacing what used to be dead grass with drought-tolerant landscaping. She now faces fines from the homeowners association, who said the changes to her property were not approved.

Paxson said she presented her plan twice to the homeowners association and got denied.

"The only real reason they could give me for denying the ground cover against lawn was that it would look better," Paxson said, who went ahead with plan anyway because she wanted to save water.

Paxson was told she will be fined $50 a month by the homeowners association until she replaced part of her front yard with grass.

"For all practical purposes I thought they should have applauded her," said Frank Mellon, a board director for East Bay Municipal Utilities District. "Yes, she should have followed the rules. But if she had done something really ugly, I think I could understand it a little bit. But I don't understand this."

EBMUD is giving Paxson a rebate for taking out her lawn, but she said that's not the reason she made the move.

"I feel it was the right thing to do, given the fact that we're in the drought," Paxson said.

The homeowners association did not return requests to comment on the issue. Paxson said a board member told her the association will take another vote on the matter.

Photo Credit: Getty Images
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