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Doctors Monitor Spread of Mystery Illness


An unusual virus that’s spreading across the country has hospitalized more than 1,000 children with severe respiratory problems. While it has yet to hit in Connecticut, local doctors are monitoring its progress and expect it to arrive here soon.

At Connecticut Children’s Medical Center in Hartford, Dr. Nicholas Bennett, an expert in infectious diseases, has been in contact with doctors in cities and states where the outbreak has already occurred.

“Their main concern is how quickly the kids seem to have gotten sick and how many of them have gotten sick," said Bennett. "About 15 percent of the kids that they’ve been taking care of in the hospital have been in the intensive care unit.”

The virus is believed to be Enterovirus D-68, a cousin of the common cold that can cause breathing problems like wheezing in children. It seems to most severely affect children with asthma, doctors say.

Enterovirus is rarely seen in the United States and so far doctors in 12 states, including Georgia and North Carolina, have reached out the Centers for Disease Control for help.

Bennett and other physicians in Connecticut are closely monitoring the spread of the virus to be prepared for when it hits.

“I’m worried about what our winter’s going to look like," Bennett said. "If this virus persists and comes across the country, we’re going to be dealing with flu, and RSV [respiratory syncytial virus], and this Enterovirus now, so it could be pretty busy here.”

Symptoms typically last about a week and most children recover without lasting problems, according to doctors.

At this point, no deaths have been linked to the virus.

Grandma Was Drinking With Grandchild in Car: Police


A 60-year-old grandmother was drinking a beer while driving her grandson around in Naugatuck, according to police.

Police said an officer spotted Deborah Jaffer, 60, of Oxford, drinking from a can of beer while driving on Rubber Avenue just after 5:30 p.m. on Friday.

When police stopped her, they saw her grandson in the vehicle as well. He is under the age of 10, according to police. 

Jaffer was charged with drinking while operating a motor vehicle and risk of injury to a child.

She was released on a $2,500 bond and is due in court on Sept. 18.

It is not clear if she has an attorney and no phone number is listed online for her home address. 

Photo Credit: Naugatuck Police

Man Charged in Connection With Monroe Suspicious Death


Police have arrested a 48-year-old former Trumbull resident in connection with the suspicious death of his girlfriend, who was found bleeding in the road late last month in Monroe.

Police said the charges stem from a domestic violence arrest earlier this year in Virginia, after which 41-year-old Jennifer Sredzinski obtained a protective order against Thomas Fischer.

Fischer was arrested Monday in Milford and charged with violation of a protection order "based on information obtained during the investigation into the untimely death"of Sredzinski, according to police.

Sredzinski, 41, was found with a severe head injury in the middle of the street at the Windgate Circle in the Hills of Monroe condominium complex on Monday, Aug. 25. She died of her injuries Thursday, Aug. 28, authorities said.

The town first selectman said she was the ex-wife of town council member J.P. Sredzinski, who is also running for state representative.

According to the Connecticut Post, Fischer was questioned in Sredzinski's death but denied involvement.

Police said they continue to investigate Sredzinski's death and that "all leads and information are being pursued."

Fischer's bond was set at $100,000. He's due in court Tuesday, Sept. 9.

Information on an attorney for Fischer was not immediately available.

Anyone with knowledge of Sredzinski's death is urged to call Monroe police detectives at 203-261-3622.

Photo Credit: Monroe Police Department/NBCConnecticut.com

Officials Stepping in After Fatal Crashes on I-84


Drivers heading eastbound on Interstate 84 in West Hartford are going to see some new signs and new patrols after two fatal crashes in the area last month.

“They can expect that there'll be additional traffic enforcement," said State Rep. Joe Verrengia, who is also a police sergeant in West Hartford, "so my message to the drivers going through there is, slow down."

He emerged from a meeting with Department of Transportation officials who told him there was nothing wrong with the banks of the curves or the anti-skid surface of the road, and that there had been no pattern of crashes there in recent years.

DOT officials also told him they had begun work on new signage for the South Main Street overpass he said would look like "a video game" to warn drivers about the curves and about the 50 mph speed limit observed now only at risk of being rear-ended.

"This is about speed," said state DOT Commissioner James Redeker, after the meeting Verrengia had called for in August.

He also said the DOT will reach out to the trucking industry to educate truck drivers about safety on the roadway.

Man Struck by Lightning: "The Pain Was Phenomenal"


A Lawrence, Massachusetts, man described the agony of being struck by lightning during Saturday's storm as unbelievable.

"The pain was phenomenal," said Eric Ibell, who was trying to beat the storm when he was putting trash in a metal bin outside the North Andover coffee shop where he works. "It felt like an electric current restarting my heart. It was just unbelievable pain."

A bolt of lightning struck Ibell, travelling from his left thumb, through his shoulder, down his left side and out his left foot, bringing with it a pain he had never felt before.

"I got hit here," he said, pointing to a mark the bolt left behind on his thumb. "They say I was struck by 128,000 volts."

The lightning strike sent him flying off the ground, crashing into the windshield of a parked car about 15 feet away, his shirt on fire.

A bystander called 911 and paramedics came to his aid.

Monday, the feeling has started to return to his left arm.

The only visible wound is the burn mark on his thumb, but tissue in his shoulder is burned internally.

It's a small price to pay, he says, for something that could have been much worse.

"The chances are one in a billion, and to be that one who's struck and live, I thank God," he said. "I thank God to be alive."

Photo Credit: NECN

Community Comes Together for Missing Hartford Teen


Dozens gathered Monday night in a show of solidarity and support for the family of 14-year-old Jillian Burgos, who went missing two weeks ago from her Hartford home.

Tonight’s vigil at Dillon Stadium on Huyshope Avenue featured the Two Rivers Magnet School choir, of which Jillian was a part. Deacon Arthur Miller said a prayer and called on community members to rally around Jillian’s family.

Many carried candles and wore white shirts with her photo printed on the front.

Her parents and extended family members have been searching relentlessly, and the FBI has also gotten involved.

“They’re canvassing the neighborhoods, posting pictures everywhere, doing social media,” said Nivia Avila.

Family members are frustrated that law enforcement didn’t issue a Silver Alert for Jillian until a few days after she went missing. Jillian was last seen in her backyard on Natalie Street around 2 p.m. Aug. 25.

Police said she is not a habitual runaway and they don’t believe she was abducted, but family members said she left them a letter prior to her disappearance. They wouldn’t discuss its contents but said they’re uncertain she left of her own free will.

While Jillian is the priority right now, tonight’s vigil was meant to represent a larger effort.

“We’re doing everything we can just to bring awareness, not just for Jillian but for all the children that go missing and nobody really cares for them,” Avila explained.

Hartford Areas Rally Together, the group that organized Monday’s event, says racial inequality is evident when it comes to missing children.

“When children, especially children of color in an inner city, go missing, that we respond with the same sense of urgency to bring them home from the onset,” said HART Executive Director Mayra Esquilin.

Jillian stands 5 feet 7 inches tall and weighs 285 pounds. She has black hair, brown eyes and a beauty mark on her neck, according to police.

Anyone with information about her whereabouts is urged to call Harford police Sgt. Sonia Watson at 860-757-4482 or Det. Ivys Arroyo at 860-757-4236.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com/Hartford Police Department

Hernandez Wants Evidence Tossed


Aaron Hernandez is looking to have his personal cell phone, and all text messages and evidence found on it, thrown out of the Odin Lloyd murder trial.

Attorneys for the former Patriots tight end says that police did not have the proper authority or search warrant to take his cell phone from their law office, only from Hernandez's North Attleboro, Massachusetts, home.

The defense team says that Massachusetts State Police should have returned to the clerk's office to get a new search warrant before seizing the phone.

"The defense in this case is trying to exclude the cell phone of Aaron Hernandez by alleging that the government mislead Aaron Hernandez's lawyer Michael Fee into giving them the cell phone even though they didn't have the authority to seize it," NECN legal analyst Randy Chapman said. "This motion as compared to any other motion goes to the heart of the government’s case. If the defense is successful in excluding evidence, it will have a very devastating effect on the government's case." 

Bristol County Prosecutors had no comment citing the ongoing gag order, but will file a written response sometime soon.

Just recently, the judge threw out cell phones and iPads from the same trial.

Hernandez has pleaded not guilty to Lloyd's 2013 murder.

He has also pleaded not guilty to the 2012 double murder of Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado in Boston.

NECN will have more as this story develops.

Photo Credit: AP

Cab Driver Sexually Assaults Sacred Heart Student: Police


Police have arrested a Bridgeport cab driver accused of sexually assaulting an 18-year-old Sacred Heart University student in his taxi Friday night.

According to police, 45-year-old Yves Pierre picked up the victim and her friends to drive them to a party on Wood Terrace, then began inappropriately touching the victim, who was sitting in the passenger seat.

Police said Pierre locked the passenger door after the victim's friends got out at their destination and continued to touch the student.

The victim was able to unlock the door and get out of the taxi, according to police.

Police responded to the Yellow Cab Co. after they were informed of the incident.

Employees called Pierre back to the station, where he was arrested and charged with third-degree sexual assault and unlawful restraint.

Photo Credit: Bridgeport Police Department

Teen Brings Dad's Gun to School, Gives it to Friend: Police


Two 13-year-olds from Hamden are facing charges after one stole her father’s handgun, brought it to school and gave it to the other, according to police.

Police said a 13-year-old girl stole her father’s Ruger 9mm handgun from a locked glove compartment in his car on Friday and brought it to Hamden Middle School in her backpack.

She held onto it throughout the school day, then gave it to a male acquaintance, also 13, at the Church Street School playground, according to police.

Police said the girl’s father reported the theft. Officers were able to track down the 13-year-old boy and found the gun in his backpack, loaded.

Both teens were arrested.

Police charged the 13-year-old girl with carrying a pistol without a permit, possession of a firearm on school grounds, theft of a firearm and illegal transfer of a pistol. She was released into her father’s custody and is due in juvenile court on Sept. 12.

The 13-year-old boy was charged with theft of a firearm and illegal transfer of a pistol. He was released to his mother and is due in juvenile court Sept. 12.

Hamden Supt. Jody Ian Goeler said she was notified Saturday and addressed the incident in a statement on the school system's Web site.

"I believe a strong security plan involves the community in an effort to ensure everyone’s safety and security. I assure you that we are continuing to work with Hamden Police, School Resource Officers, security staff, administration and teachers to assist with the investigation and remain vigilant in implementing safety procedures and strengthening infrastructure," Goeler wrote.

Goeler said the gun "remained concealed and no threats were made to any members of the school community," adding that school officials are working with Hamden police to "ensure safety" in all schools.

Nonetheless, parents are worried.

"It makes you very concerned for the safety of your kids," said Jeff Vita, the parent of a Hamden student. "Where did the girl get access to the gun?"

Town officials said the female student was not allowed at school Monday, but it's not clear if she has been suspended or otherwise disciplined at school.

Police are actively investigating the incident.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Residents to Vote on Controversial Building Plan for Park


Newington residents are heading to the polls Tuesday to decide if a portion of Mill Pond Park with soccer fields and trees should become the new home to Town Hall and a community center.

Protestors flocked to the park on Monday to fight the construction of a community center ahead of the Tuesday town-wide referendum.

Town officials have proposed a $30-million project on the protected land. Critics say it would “disrupt wildlife, ruin a beautiful and tranquil vista and raise Newington taxes,” according to a release from Save Mill Pond Park, a grassroots organization opposing the plan.

People against the plan also say it will take up too much open space. Newington resident Patty Foley said that the town buildings don't belong in a park.

"Across the street from a park where it is now is perfect," she said.

Supporters, on the other hand, say building a new community center will be more cost effective than renovating the current town hall. They also said the current town hall is in poor condition and that the new buildings are needed.

Newington Building Committee Chairman Clarke Castelle said that of all the town-owned properties, it makes sense to put the town hall and community center there "because it is currently an under-utilized section of the park."

Town officials said that if residents don't pass the proposal in the referendum, they'll have to go back to the drawing board.

Newington resident Jen Win-Johnson said that the town is trying "to find the most cost-effective solution" to expand town hall "and also be able to expand the community center."

Polls are open today from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Truck Rollover Closes Ramp from Route 8


The exit 33 off ramp of Route 8 South in Waterbury is closed after a tractor-trailer overturned and the ramp will likely be closed for most of the day, according to state police.

A truck carrying mulch or topsoil flipped over around 6:30 a.m., spilling debris on the highway.

No injuries are reported.

An NBC Connecticut crew is heading to the scene.

Check back for details.

Suit Settled in Death of Obese Woman Denied Plane Seat


The husband of an obese Bronx woman who died in Hungary after three airlines refused to let her board a plane to return to the U.S. has settled a $6 million lawsuit with the companies, according to NBC News.

Vilma Soltesz, 56, traveled with her husband, Janos Soltesz, to her native Hungary in October of 2012 to see family. Vilma Soltesz, who weighed more than 400 lbs. and was diabetic and in a wheelchair, became more sick while overseas and her doctor told her to return to New York immediately.

But at the airport, the skylift -- a machine airlines use to transport people onto the plane -- was broken. KLM Airline said she couldn't board. Two other airlines, Delta and Lufthansa, told her the same thing. 

"He just look at her and said, 'No, I'm not taking her,'" said Janos Soltesz after the ordeal. "I was crushed."

The couple searched for other ways to get home to her doctor but Vilma Soltesz died in Hungary.

"She just went to sleep. She never woke up," he said. "She was my life." 

In November 2012, Janos Soltesz filed a $6 million lawsuit against the airlines, alleging recklessness, wrongful death and gross negligence. The case was settled out of court on Aug. 27., NBC News reports. 

Teen Charged in Shooting of New Haven High School Student


Police have arrested a 19-year-old accused of shooting a New Haven teen as he walked to school last summer.

Terrell Cooper, who has moved from New Haven to West Haven since the shooting, was arrested Monday evening.

Cooper tried to rob 17-year-old Kevin Quintero, a student at Hillhouse High School, then shot Quintero in the thigh as he ran away, according to police. It happened on Dixwell Avenue the morning of Sept. 17 – almost exactly a year ago.

Police said the bullet lodged in Quintero’s abdomen. He was taken to Yale-New Haven Hospital for treatment and has fully recovered.

The shooting was the second shooting of New Haven teen in a matter of days last year. New Haven Police Chief Dean Esserman said that the department's shooting task force made arresting the shooter a top priority and never stopped pursuing the case.

Quintero now lives in Philadelphia and identified Cooper as his attacker, according to police.

Cooper is charged with first-degree assault, first-degree reckless endangerment, first-degree criminal attempt to commit robbery, unlawful discharge of a firearm and carrying a pistol without a permit.

At the time of the shooting, police said two young men fled the scene. It’s not clear if they have identified a second suspect.

Photo Credit: New Haven Police Department

Connecticut Universities Rank in Top 20 for U.S. News & World 'Best Colleges' Report


U.S. News & World Report  ranked some Connecticut colleges in the top 20 for its 30th "Best Colleges" report.

The United States Coast Guard Academy in New London ranked first for Regional Colleges in the northern part of the country. Yale ranked third in the "National Universities" category for schools that offer undergraduate, master's and doctorate's programs.

Fairfield University tied for third in the "Regional Universities" in the North with the College of New Jersey and Loyola University Maryland and Quinnipiac University ranked 9th in that category, tying with Ithaca College. QU was also named the top "Up-and-Coming School" in the northern regional category.

Wesleyan ranked 15th for "National Liberal Arts Colleges."

UConn, originally called the Storrs Agricultural School, was ranked 19th for Top Public Schools, according to U.S. News and World.

The 30th edition of the U.S. News & World report determined the rankings based on "16 measures of academic excellence, including graduation rates, selectivity and freshmen retention," according to U.S. News & World's website.

Click here to read the full rankings.

Photo Credit: U.S. Coast Guard Academy Facebook page

Home Evacuated After Gas Line Break


A Meriden home has been evacuated after an excavator hit a gas line and broke it.

The gas line break happened at 15 Akron Street.

The Meriden Fire Department is on scene and Yankee Gas has also been called to respond.

It's not clear at this time if other homes have been evacuated.

Mars Issues Twix Recall in CT


Mars Chocolate North America has issued a recall of some of its Twix candy bars, including in Connecticut.

The company announced a voluntary recall of its TWIX Brand Unwrapped Bites Stand Up Pouch with the code date 421BA4GA60.

Approximately 25 cases of the stand-up pouches with that code might hold candy prducts containing peanuts and eggs, which are not listed on the ingredient label.

People who have allergies to peanuts and eggs run the risk of serious or life-threatening allergic reaction if they consume these products.

No adverse reactions have been reported at this time.

The specific code date mentioned above was shipped and distributed to warehouses in Connecticut as well as Texas, Indiana, Oregon and Tennessee.

The TWIX Brand Unwrapped Bites product comes in a seven-ounce, metallized-golden package marked with lot number 421BA4GA60 and with an expiration date of '03/2015' on the back.

Mars Chocolate states it will work with retail customers to ensure that the recalled product is not on store shelves.

Customers who think they have purchased this item and have allergy concerns can return the product to the store where they purchased it for a full refund or call Mars Chocolate at 800-551-0907.


Photo Credit: Flickr

Mexican Cops Accused in US Killing


The FBI arrested three Mexican citizens, including a father and son who worked as police officers, in the 2013 execution-style murder of drug-cartel lawyer Juan Guerrero-Chapa in Southlake, several law enforcement sources told NBC 5.

Jesus Gerardo Ledezma-Campano Jr., 30, his father, Jesus Gerardo Ledezma-Cepeda, 57, and his father’s cousin, Jose Luis Cepeda-Cortes, 58, were arrested in McAllen, Texas the sources said.

The father and son were arrested after crossing into the United States from Mexico. Cepeda had been living in McAllen, according to the sources.

Guerrero was gunned down in broad daylight near the Victoria’s Secret as he and his wife returned to their car from shopping.

The FBI and other federal agencies joined Southlake's Department of Public Safety in the search for the killers.

"I think the arrests actually show the federal agencies are working very effectively with local and state law enforcement officials in order to arrest individuals that have caused a great deal of harm or fear of crime to society," Tarleton State University criminal justice professor Alex del Carmen said.

Investigators said from the beginning the murder had all the markings of a professional hit.

NBC 5 reported soon after the shooting that Guerrero had been an informant for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Investigations.

According to his indictment, Ledezma stalked Guerrero for more than two years before he was murdered. Ledezma was indicted on a charge of interstate stalking. Details of the charges against the other two men were not immediately released.

The father and son were police officers in San Pedro Garza Garcia, Mexico, which is a suburb of Monterrey, the third-largest city in Mexico, according to Mexican news reports and records obtained by NBC 5.

Guerrero and his family were also from the same city.

In September 2012, the Monterrey newspaper Reporte Indigo reported that Jesus Gerardo Ledezma-Cepeda was in charge of internal affairs for San Pedro Police and ran an intelligence operation which included eavesdropping on telephone calls. The article also claimed that he was suspected of sharing secret information with the Beltran Leyva drug cartel.

Payroll records obtained by NBC 5 also show Jesus Gerardo Ledezma-Campano Jr. was a police officer in San Pedro Garza Garcia as recently as March 2010.

Southlake police and federal agents plan to release more information at a news conference at 2 p.m. Tuesday.

3 Accused in TV Deal Scheme


Police have arrested three people accused of posing as Sears employees and running a scheme under the guise of selling televisions at a discount.

One of the victims was at work in March when someone posing as a Sears employee called him at work and claimed to have excess televisions for a great price, police said.

The victim set up a meeting at the Shoppes at Buckland Hills, met with someone wearing an identification lanyard and handed the fake Sears employee $8,800 for 11 televisions, police said.

The person took the money, handed the victim a receipt, then walked back into the store, claiming to “retrieve the televisions,” but never came back, police said.

As the victim was speaking with a friend on Sept. 8, the friend received a similar phone call from a man individual identifying himself as the same person who had posed as the Sears employee, so the men contacted police and a sting operation was put in place, police said.

Another meeting was set up at the Sears at the Shoppes at Buckland Hills, where the same events transpired again, according to police.

Police made three arrests.

William Hilliard, 21, of Arlington, Massachusetts, was charged with third-degree larceny, criminal impersonation, third-degree forgery, third-degree conspiracy to commit larceny and third-degree conspiracy to commit forgery.

Keith Ryan, 35, of Woburn, Massachusetts, was charged with third-degree conspiracy to commit larceny, conspiracy to commit criminal impersonation and third-degree conspiracy to commit forgery.

Ashley Donofrio, 22, of Somerville, Massachusetts, was charged with third-degree conspiracy to commit larceny 3rd degree, conspiracy to commit criminal impersonation, third-degree conspiracy to commit forgery and possession of PCP.

Each of the suspects was held on a $500,000 bond and were arraigned this morning.

Police said they expect to make more arrests.

Photo Credit: Manchester Police

Cos Cob Train Switching Center Rebuilt After May Fire


Metro-North Railroad has rebuilt a switching control house destroyed in a May fire in the Cos Cob section of Greenwich, completing the project four months ahead of schedule.

“I commend all of the employees who have been involved in the effort to work around the loss of
our control house and rebuilt it using an innovative approach,” Metro-North Railroad President Joseph Giulietti said. “From the employees stationed by the wayside operating switches
manually, to those who worked tirelessly throughout the weekend to restore OCC control of the
switches, to those who conceived of and implemented this thoughtful and expedited approach, restoring full control took a safe, coordinated team effort with the involvement of many divisions
of the railroad.”

The new switch control house ensures that "a nine-mile section of the New Haven Line's tracks" between Port Chester, New York and Stamford is "fully operational for the first time since May 10," when the fire happened, according to a press release from the MTA. The fire eliminated the control center's ability "to switch trains from one track to the next," so Metro-North "had to lock switches into place through a procedure known as blocking and spiking," the news release said. That left only two tracks available for trains headed in both directions.

Trains typically use three of the four tracks on the line "to travel in the peak direction during rush hours," and the reduction to two tracks caused several bottleneck situations and delays during rush hour due to the congestion. Train workers did have the ability to manually switch trains to another track, which would take up to 20 minutes and was a "cumbersome process," according to the MTA.

Train dispatchers can switch trains between tracks in the control house. Metro-North expedited the process by utilizing re-purposed equipment previously intended for another facility that had a similar layout, according to MTA. The equipment, coupled with "the most modern technology," uses less "complicated wiring" than there was before the fire, the news release said.

“This is great news for New Haven Line commuters," Connecticut DOT Commissioner James P. Redeker said. "Metro-North is to be commended on a very creative solution to a complex problem. In addition, getting the job done ahead of time gives us more operating flexibility and improves reliability on the busiest train line in the country.”

Otherwise, building a new control house would have taken 18 months. The final step to transfer "shifting control" from a temporary location to Metro-North's New York City control center happened Sept. 6 and 7.

Road Work to Affect I-95 Traffic on New Haven


Drivers should expect delays on Interstate 95 in New Haven during the evenings next week because of roadwork.

The Department of Transportation is warning that weeknight traffic will be affected from Tuesday, Sept. 16 to Thursday, Sept. 18, as traffic from Interstate 95 South to Interstate 91 North is shifted into a new alignment on the New Bridge to I-91 North.

Drivers traveling on I-95 South to I-91 Northbound at exit 48 should expect a new alignment beginning on Friday, Sept. 19.

Ramp/Detour Information:
Tuesday, Sept. 16, from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m.

  • Closure and detour of I-95 South off-ramp to I-91 Northbound (Exit 48)
  • Closure and detour of I-95 Southbound off-ramp to Hamilton Ave

Lane Closure Info

Thursday, Sept. 18

  • 8 p.m. to 10 a.m.:  Single right lane closure on I-95 South between the off-ramp to Frontage Road (Exit 51) and the Woodward Avenue on-ramp to I-95 Southbound.
  • 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.: Single lane closure on I-95 South between the off-ramp to Frontage Road (Exit 51) and the I-95 Southbound off-ramp to Route 34 Westbound (Exit 47). Exit 47 will remain open. 

In the case of rain, the work planned for Tuesday, September 16 will be rescheduled to Wednesday, Sept. 17, and the work planned for Thursday, Sept. 18 will be rescheduled to Friday, Sept. 19, 2014.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock
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