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32 Group Homes Closing Statewide, 340 Jobs Affected


Financial problems are prompting 32 group homes around the state to close their doors by the end of the year and could leave 340 people unemployed.

REM Connecticut, which operates group homes for the mentally and developmentally disabled, will shutter all its locations between Oct. 31 and Dec. 31, according to an Aug. 19 letter from Executive Director Paul Cataldo to the Department of Labor.

“We have recently learned of several changes that negatively impact our level of reimbursement and as a result we’ve made the tough decision that we can no longer continue to provide the level of service that we believe is in the best interest of our clients,” Cataldo said in a statement released Wednesday.

The layoffs will affect 44 supervisors and support staff members and 298 direct support professionals, according to Cataldo, who said he'll work to find new positions for all of them.

“We are hoping that the transition of the individuals we serve to a new provider will include employment opportunities for REM staff so that employees will experience no gap in employment and relationships will continue uninterrupted,” he said.

Affected employees will not receive severance packages but will be compensated for unused vacation time, according to the letter. Workers currently covered by company insurance can opt for COBRA coverage.

Staff members who aren’t placed at a new provider may be eligible for unemployment, the letter says.

All group home residents will be transferred to other facilities.

The following REM Connecticut locations will close by 2015:

  • 166 Center Hill Road in Barkhamsted
  • 65 Old Windsor Road in Bloomfield
  • 180 Filley Road in Haddam
  • 1480 Saybrook Road in Haddam
  • 4 Millbrook Drive in East Hartford
  • 200 Nutmeg Lane, Apt. 304 in East Hartford
  • 60 Washington Avenue in East Hartford
  • 2068 Exeter Road A and B in Lebanon
  • 93 Summit Street in Manchester
  • 114 Woodland Street A and B in Manchester
  • 51 Vernon Street in Manchester
  • 676 Mansfield City Road in Mansfield
  • 90 Dana Lane in Meriden
  • 249 Bailey Road in Middletown
  • 440 Middlefield Street in Middletown
  • 9 Northwoods Lane, Apt. 9N in Middletown
  • 6 Harvey Drive in North Granby
  • 177 Broadway in Norwich
  • 249 Chestnut Hill Road in Somers
  • 295 Old Stafford Road in Tolland
  • 12 N. Turnpike Road, Apt. C in Wallingford
  • 203 Capital Avenue in Waterbury
  • 145 Holly Street in Waterbury
  • 76 Litchfield Road, Apt. B in Watertown
  • 23 Millbrook Circle in Windsor
  • 656 Windsor Avenue in Windsor
  • 722 Windsor Avenue, Apt. B in Windsor
  • 824C Windsor Avenue in Windsor
  • 5 Elm Street, Apt. 32 in Winsted
  • 42 Maloney Court in Winsted

Great White Attacks Mass. Kayakers


A great white shark attacked two kayakers who were trying to photograph seals off the Plymouth, Massachusetts, coast Wednesday evening at Manomet Point, authorities say.

The shark came up from beneath the two women and took a bite out of one of their kayaks, according to the Plymouth Harbormaster.

Neither of the women kayaking was injured in the attack. Officials say the women, who are in their mid-20s, were trying to take pictures of the seals at the time.

The shark is believed to have been a great white, based on a tooth fragment and the bite mark it left on the kayak, Massachusetts Environmental Police says.

The shark is estimated to be 14 to 16 feet long.

Authorities say this is the second great white shark sighting of the day in the area, after a woman reported seeing one attack a seal around 1 p.m.

The Plymouth Harbormaster searched for about two and half hours but found nothing.

Stay with us as this story develops.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Connecticut

Photo Credit: Brewster Ambulance

Student Carries Bed in Rape Protest


A Columbia University senior is carrying a mattress wherever she goes on campus to protest the way she says the university mishandled her rape complaint. 

“It’s an art piece but also a protest,” Emma Sulkowicz said.

For months, Sulkowicz has accused the Ivy League school of bungling her rape complaint.

The art student says a fellow student raped her in her dorm room bed on Aug. 27, 2012, the first day of her sophomore year. She reported it to campus authorities in April 2013.

Sulkowicz said she waited until the end of her sophomore year to file the report because she was hesistant and scared, and she made her decision after she spoke to other women who said they'd also been sexually assaulted by the same student. 

The university found the accused student "not responsible" seven months later, during Sulkowicz's junior year. Sulkowicz said the school’s investigation and hearing process was slow and insensitive.

She then went to police in May 2014, a year and 9 months after she says she was raped, to file a rape report. 

The NYPD did not make an arrest in the case. 

“It was so late in the game that the police had no evidence to go off of,” Sulkowicz said.

In response to the mattress protest, Columbia University Director of Communications Victoria Benitez said in a statement: 

“The University respects the choice of any member of our community to peacefully express personal or political views on this and other issues. At the same time, the University is committed to protecting the privacy of students participating in gender-based misconduct proceedings. These matters are extremely sensitive, and we do not want to deter survivors from reporting them."  

After Sulkowicz and 22 other students filed a Title IX complaint against Columbia, the school unveiled a revamped sexual misconduct policy this summer. It includes a new office aimed at making sex crime reporting easier for students.

The school has also hired more staff to counsel students and handle sexual misconduct complaints.

Sulkowicz acknowledges the new reforms, but says they aren’t enough. She plans to continue carrying her mattress to every class until the university takes action against the student she says got away with rape.

“I will carry a mattress for every day I go to school with him this next semester, everywhere I go on campus," she said. "The administration can end my art piece at any moment by just expelling my rapist.”

LifeStar Responds to Head-On Collision on Route 7


One person was airlifted to the hospital following a head-on collision at Routes 7 and 128 in Sharon near the Cornwall town line, according to state police.

The intersection was closed for several hours while authorities responded to the scene. Police said two cars crashed early Wednesday evening.

LifeStar arrived to transport a patient to the hospital. That person's condition is unknown, and it's not clear if anyone else was hurt.

No additional information was immediately available.

Check back for updates.

Executed Journalist Attended Connecticut School


The Rumsey Hall School community in Washington, Connecticut, is mourning the death of journalist Steven Sotloff, who was beheaded by members of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham.

"Rumsey Hall mourns the tragic loss of beloved student and classmate Steven Sotloff, a member of the graduating class of 1999. Steven is remembered as a kind, intelligent boy with a natural instinct for connecting people and building relationships. At this time of profound loss the School Community is heartbroken for Steven's family and extends its most sincere condolences," said Headmaster Thomas W. Farmen, in a statement Wednesday.

Rumsey Hall is a boarding school serving students in Kindergarten through ninth grade, according to the school's Web site. The school is located on Romfrod Road in Washington Depot.

Sotloff was one of two American journalists recently beheaded by ISIS militants. Washington Post photojournalist James Foley was executed two weeks ago in response to U.S. airstrikes in Iraq.

ISIS released videos of both beheadings, which have been verified by U.S. officials.

The group has threatened to decapitate a third hostage, a former British soldier.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

UConn to Build Memorial for Slain Football Player


Five years after University of Connecticut cornerback Jasper Howard was stabbed to death in the center of campus, the university is raising money to build a memorial in his honor at Rentschler Field.

Howard was fatally stabbed outside the Student Union in Storrs just hours after the team’s win over the Louisville Cardinals on Oct. 18, 2009.

Eight people have been charged in connection with his death, including John Lomax, who was convicted of murder and sentenced to 18 years in prison.

Now the university is collecting donations to construct a memorial statue in his memory.

UConn hopes to raise between $20,000 and $30,000 and unveil the statue at the homecoming game in November, according to athletics spokesman Michael Enright.

He said the statue will likely be made of stone and will include No. 6, for Howard's jersey. It will be situated on the concourse in front of the scoreboard.

You can donate online through the UConn Foundation.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Connecticut

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Relief Fund Set Up for Victims of 3-Alarm New Haven Fire


A week after the three-alarm fire that destroyed a popular New Haven pub and five apartments upstairs, the city is setting up a relief fund to help those affected by the blaze.

Flames ravaged the historic building at 882 Whalley Avenue in the city’s Westville section, leaving nothing but charred remains set for demolition.

The building housed Delaney’s Taproom and Restaurant and was home to nine adults and one child. Four of the 78 responding firefighters were hurt battling the blaze, but the mayor’s office said all 10 residents made it out safely.

Now the city is collecting money to help the victims rebuild. The Community Action Agency of New Haven will manage the fund and distribute donations.

You can make donations online through PayPal or mail checks to:

Community Action Agency of New Haven
419 Whalley Avenue, Suite 400
New Haven, CT 06511
ATTN: Adrienne Sanders/Delaney’s

For more information on the relief fund, call the CAANH at 203-785-7614.

No Mail Delivered to Meriden Apartments for Weeks


It’s been weeks since mail has been delivered to one Meriden apartment complex, and residents are frustrated.

According to the post office, mailboxes at 32 Cook Avenue have been out of commission for several weeks due to safety issues, and some tenants believe the mailbox may have fallen on a postal worker.

“We have to walk all the way to the post office, either forward our address or pay $30 for a P.O. box,” said Brittany Broussard, who lives in one of more than 70 apartments in the complex.

Broussard said her mail hasn’t been delivered in two and a half months.

Another tenant, who is wheelchair bound, moved out because of it.

“I had to go all the way to North Haven to get my checks and all that,” said Eddie Rodriguez.

The post office said it’s been working with the property management company to resolve the issue. New boxes have been ordered and should be installed within a week.

A spokesperson for the post office said no mail has been returned to the sender.

But 73-year-old Gene Mitchell, who now walks more than a mile to collect his mail, said the post office could do more.

“Let him go door to door,” he said. “It’s supposed to come to me, so let him deliver it to me.”

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Final Hearing Held Over Proposed CL&P Rate Hike


The fight against CL&P’s proposed $231.5 million rate hike entered a third round in New London Wednesday. The Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) hosted its third public forum, to allow consumers to voice any comments and concerns.
“$150 of an increase may be nothing to some people, but to me it’s substantial. It is three weeks of groceries,” said H.L. Chris Chrissos of North Stonington.

Chrissos like many at the meeting highlighted the strain an additional $150 on the average bill would put on seniors and those living on a fixed income.

“It means I’m going to have to tighten my belt even more, and that’s going to be difficult,” said Chrissos.

“We certainly sympathize with our customers, own unique individual circumstances,” said CL&P spokesperson Tricia Taskey Modifica. Modifica explains that the money is needed to improve infrastructure, including poles, wires, transformers and substations to prevent a repeat of the October 2011 nor’easter.

“We are essentially building the electric grid of the future,” said Modifica.

Diane Nadeau, President & CEO of the Chamber of Commerce Windham Region, agrees with Modifica. She says the hike is a necessary evil to guarantee energy at all times.

“It’s more important for us to have reliable energy than to pay 50 cents a day, which is a cup of coffee,” said Nadeau.

The final decision will come from PURA in early December. According to Chairman Art House, there are still weeks of hearings to go, followed by file exhibits and final arguments. He says all the input from tonight’s meeting will also be considered.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Connecticut

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

School Files Complaint Against UConn Coach Over Call to Mo'ne


UConn women's basketball head coach Geno Auriemma said on Wednesday that his call to Little League World Series phenom Mo'ne Davis has been reported to the American Athletic Conference as a recruiting violation.

Davis is the 13-year-old girl who took the LLWS by storm with her 70-mph fastballs as a pitcher for the Taney Dragons of Philadelphia earlier this month. She helped her team reach the semifinals before losing to a team from Las Vegas.

During the tournament, Davis said she hopes to play basketball for Auriemma's dominant Huskies at UConn one day.

Auriemma said he talked to Davis to offer her congratulations on her success after someone from the Philadelphia 76's organization suggested it. He said he called the Little League offices while Davis was there, and they briefly spoke.

"The conversation lasts about two minutes," Auriemma said on Wednesday. He said he was informed after the phone call that another school filed a complaint with the AAC, calling the conversation a recruiting violation.

"That's the world we live in," Auriemma said.

He said the reporting school complained that Auriemma is not allowed to contact Davis before July 1 of her junior year in high school.

The school that filed the complaint can remain anonymous, according to Auriemma.

Photo Credit: AP

Domestic Disturbance Investigation Leads Police to Wanted Fugitive


New London police officers who were investigating a domestic disturbance on Wednesday night ended up finding a fugitive wanted in New York.

Police responded to 324 Jefferson Avenue just after 11:15 p.m. to investigate a disturbance nearby when they noticed a man who fell on the sidewalk, police said.

When officers went to speak to the man, he was agitated and “somewhat combative,” according to police, who arrested him and brought him to the New London Police station.

As they were booking William Robertson, 33, of Reading, Pennsylvania, who is also known as William Bolding, they found out he has an extensive criminal past, which includes several robberies, assaults and weapons violations, according to police.

They also learned that he was wanted for a parole violation in New York.

Robertson was charged with disorderly conduct, assault on a police officer, interfering with police and being a fugitive from justice.

He is being held in lieu of a $250,000 bond.

It's not clear if he has an attorney and no phone number is listed for Robertson's address.

Photo Credit: New London Police

Candle Eyed as Possible Cause of Cottage Fire in Canaan


Firefighters from several towns battled an early-morning cottage fire on Thursday on the grounds of the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center in the Falls Village section of Canaan.

Fire officials said a woman was inside the cottage when the fire broke out, but she was able to run to another cottage to call for help. She was not injured.

The official cause of the blaze is under investigation, but fire investigators believe a candle left on a dresser inside the cottage started the fire.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

At Least One Hurt in Highway Crash in Fairfield


At least one person was injured in a crash at the bottom of the exit 20 ramp of Interstate 95 South in Fairfield, according to police.

State police and Fairfield Police did not have any additional information.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Route 44 Reopens in Canton After Multi-Car Crash


Route 44 was briefly closed in the area of 30 Old Albany Turnpike in Canton because of a crash that involved several cars, according to police.

The road was shut down by  by Cape Cod Fence just before 9 a.m.  It reopened around 9:30 a.m.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Route 12 in Plainfield Reopens After Gas Leak


Route 12 was closed at Route 14 in Plainfield because of a gas leak in the area, but has since reopened.

No additional information was immediately available.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Passenger in "Knee Defender" Fight: I'd Use It Again


A Colorado man whose use of a "Knee Defender” gadget on a plane helped spark a national debate over the right to recline seats on planes said he regrets how he handled himself. But he said he would consider using the controversial device again.

“Who’s right is it? Is it my four inches or is that her four inches,” James Beach asked in a “Today” show interview Thursday. 

Beach, 48, was on a United Airlines flight to Denver from Newark, New Jersey, on Aug. 24., when he deployed the "Knee Defender," a device that attaches to a person's tray table, to stop the woman in front of him from reclining her seat.

He removed the gadget from the seat at the request of a flight attendant. That’s when the other passenger leaned back so fast, she nearly cracked his laptop, he said.

“She just took all the space, and I can’t work now,” Beach said. 

Beach pushed the seat up “pretty hard” to put the “Knee Defender” back in and the woman threw a drink on him and his computer, he said.

Both Beach and the woman were escorted off the plane after it was diverted to a nearby airport.

"I felt terrible when I landed. I'm the first to admit I'm not proud of it," Beach said. Neither flyer was arrested or fined.

The Federal Aviation Administration said the "Knee Defender" is not illegal, but many airlines prohibit its use. Beach said he consider writing a letter to United and was surprised to see the incident trigger a wider debate.

"I did a Google search and saw it was everywhere, and that to me was shocking," he told "Today."

Two more flights were diverted that same week over reclined seats. An American Airlines flight from Miami to Paris landed in Boston after a man angry about a reclined seat allegedly grabbed a flight attendant.

Then on a Delta Air Lines flight from LaGuardia Airport to West Palm Beach, a woman who was knitting tried to recline her seat, angering a woman resting her head on a tray table.

Even though cramped airline seats and too little leg room are among flyers' top complaints, experts say airlines are not likely to provide more space. Some offer more leg room at extra charge.

“I’d rather have plastic stop your seat than my knee cap stop your seat,” said the "Knee Defender's" inventor, Ira Goldman. “That’s why I came up with it.”

Beach said he might try to use the "Knee Defender" again but that he will try to set a better example for his children.

"I said to them, learn from what I just did and don't do the same thing," he said.



Photo Credit: TODAY

Motorcyclist Injured on I-691 in Meriden


A motorcyclist is being taken to the hospital after a crash on Interstate 691 in Meriden this morning.

The crash happened on I-691 East near the Exit 6, the Lewis Avenue exit.

The breakdown lane is blocked and traffic is stop and go traffic from exit 6 to Interstate 84.

To get around the area, use Route 322 or East Johnson Avenue.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Teens Charged in Slaying of 19-Year-Old From Enfield


A 19-year-old man was shot and killed in the Thompsonville section of Enfield on Wednesday night, according to police, and four other teens have been arrested in connection with the case.

The victim's family and police have identified him as Jonathan Torres.

Police said he was shot outside a home on Prospect Street near High Street around 9 p.m. and pronounced dead at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield.

Police recovered a stolen 1999 Toyota Camry that matched the description of a car at the scene of the shooting. They stopped the Camry about 12 miles away, on Interstate 91 South in Windsor.

The car has been stolen in Norwalk in June, according to police. Officers pulled it over at a gas station and found a gun under the passenger seat and a pair of brass knuckles.

Four suspects in the car were taken into custody, arrested and charged with vehicle theft and weapons charges, police said.

Takai Brown, 18, of Bridgeport, and Cheyenne Concepcion, 18, of Enfield, have been charged with third-degree larceny, carrying a pistol without a permit and possession of a weapon in a motor vehicle. According to the case report, Brown was driving the car.

Both waived their rights to be present in court and chose to remain in a holding room and hear the court proceedings.

They are being held on $100,000 and are due back in court on Sept. 18.

The other two teens who were arrested are minors, so their names have not been released. 

One is 17, the other is 16 and both are from Bridgeport, police said. They were taken to the juvenile detention facility in Hartford.

Police said the teens were placed at the scene in Enfield, police said. One witnesses reported that a juvenile had the gun in hand while running from the scene, according to the case report.

No additional charges have been filed, but police said more charges are possible. Police will need search warrants to check the car for DNA.

"We know the car they’re in is stolen and there is a weapon in the car and it matches the description of the car that the witnesses gave us from here," said Enfield Police Chief Carl Sferrazza. 

Photo Credit: Enfield Police

Man Pawned Stolen Landscaping Equipment: Cops


Glastonbury police have arrested a Woodstock man accused of stealing landscaping equipment and selling it to pawn shops.

Coventry Police picked up Kristopher Comerford, 30, and turned him over to Glastonbry police to answer to a fifth-degree larceny and fifth-degree conspiracy to commit larceny charge.

Police said Comerford was involved in stealing and selling landscaping equipment from unlocked sheds. His suspected accomplice, Bryan Avitabile, is at large.

Board of Ed to Meet About Embattled Plymouth Superintendent


The Plymouth Board of Education will hold a special meeting tonight to discuss the future of the school superintendent, who is accused of stealing money from her former school system.

Eleanor Cruz was arrested in August and asked not to report to work while the Plymouth school board investigates.

She’s accused of stealing $15,000 from the town of Hebron while she was serving as the superintendent there. The warrant for her arrest says she charged personal expenses to school district credit cards, including clothing, groceries, gardening supplies and pharmacy purchases.

Cruz is also accused of using taxpayer dollars to pay a private consultant for analyzing Plymouth Board of Education data shortly before she left Hebron for Plymouth, according to an audit conducted by the Hebron school board.

The Plymouth school board moved to terminate Cruz at a meeting Aug. 13, then segued into executive session, during which chairman Raymond Engle was appointed to lead an investigation into her conduct.

Cruz remains on administrative leave and the agenda for tonight’s meeting includes a proposed agreement regarding the Superintendent’s employment and discussion and possible action regarding the appointment of an Interim Superintendent.

Both issues will be discussed during executive session, which is not open to the public, and Engle will be making a statement at the end of the meeting.

Plymouth business manager Michael Santogotta was selected to lead the school district until an acting superintendent is selected.

Cruz us due in court on Sept. 12, according to police.

Photo Credit: Plymouth Public Schools
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