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"Big-Time" Cig Smuggler Busted

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A 67-year-old man, whom prosecutors described as a “big-time cigarette smuggler,” was arrested while attempting to bring more than a half-million untaxed smokes into the state, authorities said Friday.

Michael Zekry, of Staten Island, was stopped by police just after midnight on Nov. 5 in New Springville after a seven-month investigation, Richmond County District Attorney Daniel Donovan Jr. said in announcing the arrest. Investigators found 2,035 cartons of Virginia-stamped cigarettes in his van, he said.

Investigators said they found another 551 cartons in Zekry’s apartment, as well as $40,000 and an electronic cash-counting machine.

“Michael Zekry was a big-time cigarette smuggler who sold his contraband to clients across Staten Island,” Donovan said. “He would do residential drop-offs, as well as deliver to grocery stores and nail salons.”

Zekry said he smuggled cigarettes out of Virginia every 10 weeks and earned as much as $7,000 a load, according to Donovan.

“You’ve got a good one! I’m out of business now,” Zekry told investigators, according to Donovan.

The total haul seized from Zekry came to 517,200 cigarettes. Had he sold the entire stash, he would have cheated the state and New York City out of more than $150,000 in tax revenue.

Any vendor selling cigarettes in the state must be licensed to do so and may only sell packs bearing city/state tax stamps.

Zekry was indicted on felony counts of evading cigarette/tobacco products tax and a tax-fraud charge. He faces up to four years in prison if convicted of the most serious charges.

Zekry's Legal Aid attorney could not be reached for comment. 
 

New Haven Men Assault, Try to Rob Teen: Police

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Two New Haven men are facing charges after pushing an 18-year-old to the ground, punching him and demanding his money, according to police.

Police said 31-year-old Tyrell Justin Terry and 23-year-old Jonathen Tyrese Hollby confronted the teen near the intersection of Blake and Whittlesey streets in New Haven around 5 p.m. Nov. 6.

They knocked him down and punched him, ordering the teen to hand over cash. When they found his pockets were empty, they told him to leave, according to police.

Officers saw two men matching the suspects’ descriptions running into a home at 77 Blake Street. They surrounded the house and found the suspects hiding in a second-floor bedroom, police said.

Terry and Hollby were arrested and charged with second-degree assault and second-degree attempted robbery.

Old Saybrook High Preps for Submarine Race

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Students at Old Saybrook High School are sinking below surface for a special competition. They'll head to the International Submarine Race in Bethesda, Maryland in June.

“They’re a very eclectic group,” said team adviser Gretchen Bushnell. “All ages, freshman through seniors, some kids who want to be pilots, some kids who want to be support staff, some who want to be mechanics.”

The submarine called “Jessie” is pedal powered and built by students like Peter Blank, a junior, who also plans to pilot the sub in the race.

“I have a passion for engineering, I always have since I was a little boy,” Blank said. “It’s been very exciting seeing this all come together. It’s not just the sub it’s our team. We’re all helping each other out.”

Old Saybrook is one of the only high school teams competing in the race. They’ll go up against students from more than 30 colleges and universities from all over the world.

Students must be scuba certified and physically fit in order to push the sub through the water.

The race is held every two years, and last time, Old Saybrook placed eighth.

Whether above or below the surface, students say sub racing is all about teamwork and determination.

“This is definitely something i want to be involved in the future if given the chance,” said senior Alexis Bardos.

Bush Meets Ebola Survivor in Texas

Man Steals $11K Rolex Watch From Clinton Outlets

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Police are searching for the man who stole a Rolex watch with more than $11,000 from a jewelry store at the Clinton Crossing outlets.

According to police, the suspect walked into Kay Jewelers at the outlets around 8 p.m. Friday and asked to see a specific watch.

When a sales associate handed over the watch, the suspect took it and ran from the store. He got away in a red Dodge Caliber with Pennsylvania license plates, according to police.

He's described as a black man in his mid- to late 20s with a round, clean-shaven face and brown-framed glasses. He stands about 6 feet 2 inches tall and was wearing a wool cap, denim jacket and blue-and-white striped tie, according to police.

Anyone with information is urged to call Clinton police at 860-669-0451.



Photo Credit: Clinton Police Department

Three Hospitalized After Fiery Crash

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Three people were hospitalized after a fiery car crash in Hartford at midnight on Saturday.

A car crashed into a pole and burst into flames at the intersection of Nelson and Main streets in the capital city.

Ambulances transported three people to an area hospital to be treated for minor injuries.

Video submitted by viewer Pedro Rivera shows firefighters spraying water  onto large flames engulfing the car to put out the blaze.

It is unknown whether the people in the car got out before the fire started.

More information will be provided when it becomes available.



Photo Credit: Pedro Rivera

Accused Killer a "Quiet" Man

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Friends of the man accused of bludgeoning a young Southern California family to death are having a hard time believing man they know could commit such a brutal crime.

Despite his arrest Friday morning, friends and family of Charles Chase Merritt, 56, of Apple Valley say there's no way he could have murdered anyone.

Merritt appeared in court Friday afternoon, charged with killing his former business partner, Joseph McStay, his wife Summer McStay and their two young children. The family went missing in 2010 and their remains were discovered in a shallow desert grave north of Victorville last year.

Outside the courthouse, the suspect’s brother, Bennett Merritt didn’t want to talk about Charles Chase Merritt.

But another family member, who did not want to be identified, said investigators have arrested the wrong man. She said he would never hurt anyone.

"They're trying to hang Charles,” she said. "He's a good guy he'd never do this."

Allison Moye, an Apple Valley resident, said she’s known Merritt for years and that he never once mentioned anything about the McStays.

"Chase was actually a real pleasant cowboy type,” she said. “He used to love to dance so I'd see him at all the country bars all the girls wanted to dance with him."

Moye played on a billiards team with Merritt in the high desert, just miles from the McStays burial site. She said she never thought he could be capable of killing anyone.

"He was never violent. He never started a fight or anything, ever. Just nice quiet Chase, that's it," she said.

In an interview last year with MailOnline.com, Merritt allegedly said he was previously considered a suspect because he was the last person to see Joseph McStay alive, and the last person Joseph called before the family disappeared.

Merritt also claimed investigators gave him a lie detector test and he passed.

Joseph McStay’s mother Susan Blake was in court, along with other family members including Joseph’s brother Mike, who spent years tirelessly looking for his brother’s family.

Blake says the arrest is a relief, but it’ll never bring back their loved ones.

"I wanted him to see my face,” she said of Merritt. “Just know what the pain he's put us through. I wanted him to look in my eyes.”



Photo Credit: San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department

Silver Alert: Employee Missing from HomeGoods Warehouse

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Police have issued a Silver Alert for 19-year-old New Britain resident who went missing after working at a commercial warehouse in Bloomfield overnight Saturday.

Juan L. Fortuna Jr. was last seen Saturday where he works at 1415 Blue Hills Avenue in town at about midnight, according to Bloomfield police. A HomeGoods distribution center is at that address and the property is owned by HG Conn Realty Corp., according to Bloomfield property assessment records.

Police were able to ping his cell phone at 1 a.m., placing him at a location on Albany Avenue in Hartford, but he has since turned his phone off, police said.

He has several medical conditions, according to police.

Fortuna Jr. has black hair, brown eyes and a beard and is 5-foot-8 and 175 pounds. He was last seen wearing a white T-shirt, jeans and sneakers, police said.

Police ask anyone with information on his whereabouts to call the Bloomfield Police Department at 860-242-5501.



Photo Credit: Bloomfield Police Department

Rt. 32 Closed After Willimantic Crash

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A driver crashed into two poles on West Main Street (Route 32) in Willimantic early Saturday morning after possibly falling asleep at the wheel, police said.

Joel Harris, 23, of South Windham, was not injured in the 4 a.m. accident. After crossing the double yellow line, his car collided head on with a utility pole and spun 180 degrees before the impact propelled him backward into an "aluminum illumination pole" in the Shell gas station parking lot along Route 32. The utility pole was knocked down in the crash.

Police said no charges have been filed against him.

“We are fortunate that the driver was not seriously injured in this crash. He is one lucky man.” Willimantic Police Cpl. Stan Parizo Jr. said in a statement.

Connecticut Light & Power and AT&T are on scene repairing the fallen utility pole.

Route 32 will remain closed in the 1500 block near the Willimantic Plaza until late Saturday afternoon and detours have been set up in both directions, police said.



Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Malloy Praises President's Attorney General Pick

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President Barack Obama nominated a New York federal prosecutor to replace Eric Holder as United States Attorney General and Connecticut's governor voiced support for his pick.

If the U.S. Senate confirms Loretta Lynch, U.S. attorney for New York's Eastern District, she will become the first black woman to head the country's Justice Department.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who was re-elected last week to a second term in a close race with Tom Foley, said that Connecticut has worked closely with the Justice Department to lower crime in the state and praised the president's selection.

“Loretta Lynch is a very well-respected prosecutor not only in the State of New York, but throughout the country, and I congratulate her on her nomination to become our nation’s top law enforcement official," Malloy said in a statement. "Over the last couple of years in Connecticut, my administration, in cooperation with our state’s law enforcement community, has worked closely with the U.S. Justice Department in our efforts to reduce violent crime – particularly when it comes to gun-related crimes within our urban areas."

He said that Connecticut has seen lower crime rates as a result, but stressed there is more work to be done.

"And our efforts have been working, showing a reduction in violent crime that has been more than double the national average over the last year," Malloy said. "But we cannot stop there. I am confident that U.S. Attorney Lynch has the expertise to lead the Justice Department, and I look forward to working as a partner with her to continue these efforts in our state.”



Photo Credit: AP

Naugatuck Gas Leak Closes Water St.

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A gas leak has closed a portion of Water Street in Naugatuck.

Police have the area blocked off to traffic as they wait for the gas to be shut off.

More information was not immediately available. Check back for updates.

Officials Identify Cause of Delaney's Fire

"No Parking" Signs Coming Soon to Streets Near Cosey Beach

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When you visit Cosey Beach in East Haven in the near future, you will no longer be allowed to park in the neighboring streets.

The city is putting up "No Parking" signs around the beach with the hope to alleviate parking problems in the area on summer beach days. Neighbors say cars "clog" the streets, making it difficult to get around.

A subcommittee created to address the issue will become permanent.



Photo Credit: msqrd/Instagram

23-Year-Old Killed in Hit-and-Run

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A 23-year-old Bethel resident was killed in a fatal hit-and-run just after midnight on Saturday.

A dark SUV struck the person and fled the scene near the South Street and Great Pasture Road intersection in Danbury, witnesses told police.

Police found the victim in the road and stopped to try to help the person. Police have not released the name of the victim yet because the department is waiting to notify the family first.

An ambulance took the injured party to Danbury Hospital, where the 23-year-old was later pronounced dead.

No arrests have been made at this time and police are looking for the car and driver.

Police as witnesses to contact Sgt. Rory DeRocco from Danbury Police Department's Traffic Division at 203-797-2157.



Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Father Begs for Navy Wife's Return

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A father is pleading for help in finding his daughter, who went missing on Oct. 13 in San Diego.

"It's still pretty much a mystery,” said Edward Ricks, Elizabeth Sullivan's father.

The Navy wife and mother of two hasn't had any contact with her family or friends and was last seen at her home near Liberty Station on Oct. 13.

"I feel like she's in trouble, and I've come out here from Virginia to look for her and to let her know we're here,” Ricks said.

The missing woman's car was found at home, and her cell phone has since been turned off.

Just days after Sullivan was reported missing, police say she was spotted at the soccer fields at Liberty Station. But since then, there has been no communication or sightings. Police say they have no new leads, but her father says the family still has hope.

“I have hope. I have faith. I walk by faith,” Ricks said.

That faith has brought him thousands of miles to help with the search.

"If in any way she hears this and can get to a telephone or in some way reach out to me, we will come and get her, and that's what I want her to know,” Ricks said.

He’s asking San Diegans to be on the lookout for his daughter.

“It can happen to you. When it does, it gets very personal, and it takes on a whole new light when it happens to you," he said. "You get a strength like you never had before because that's my daughter and I'm bringing her home.”

Sullivan's father and police are asking anyone who has seen her or has any information to call San Diego police. There is now a $1,000 reward for accurate information about her whereabouts. The family has also started a Facebook page and a Go Fund Me account to help support their efforts to find her.

Sullivan is described as an African American woman who stands 5-foot-3 and weighs 130 pounds. She has dark hair and dark eyes.



Photo Credit: SDPD

Border Patrol Agent Kills Man: Cops

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An off-duty Border Patrol agent confronted a man at a Riverside County home early Saturday and fatally shot him, but was later arrested, authorities said.

The officer suspected of the shooting is 40-year-old Hemet resident John Demery, according to the Riverside County Sheriff's Office.

Sheriff's deputies were dispatched at 12:47 a.m. to the 41100 block of Toledo Drive in East Hemet on what initially was an assault call, but when they pulled up to the home they found the victim suffering from multiple gunshot wounds, Riverside County sheriff's Deputy Patty Stoyer said.

The victim, identified as Adam Thomas, 27, of Moreno Valley, was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead, Stoyer said.

Sheriff's deputies arrested suspect Demery in connection with the shooting. He was booked on suspicion of murder and remained in jail on $1 million bail, records showed.

The Department of Homeland Security placed an agent from its Murrieta station on administrative leave after their involvement in the shooting, according to a statement released later in the day.

The release did not identify Demery by name, but referred to the Riverside sheriff's investigation into the Hemet shooting.

"U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Office of Internal Affairs and the U.S. Border Patrol’s San Diego Sector are cooperating with the Riverside Sheriff’s Office, who is leading the investigation," the release said.

City News Service contributed to this report.

CCSU Police Increase Patrols After Reported Assault

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Central Connecticut State University police are increasing patrols after a reported assault near campus early Saturday morning.

Police say a female non-CCSU student was in the area of Biltmore and East Streets when she was approached by two males and assaulted. The suspects are described as wearing dark clothing and having dark hair.

Anyone with information is encouraged to contact Lt. Edward Dercole at 860 832 2394, Det. Densil Samuda at 860 832 2381, or CCSU police dispatch at 860 832 2375. New Britain Police have taken over the investigation.

Students say they think the increased patrols are the right call.

"I think it's a good thing, especially if they're looking around those side streets around those areas because that's where I would expect something like that to happen," CCSU senior Taylor Lewis.

Students were reminded to use caution when walking alone and report any suspicious activity immediately.
 



Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Baby Gorilla Dies in Freak Accident

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She was one of the few gorillas born in captivity in the United States. A baby gorilla captured the hearts of animal lovers in the Bay Area, but now, the San Francisco Zoo is mourning her death. NBC Bay Area's Christie Smith reports from outside the zoo with more.

Photo Credit: Marianne V. Hale

Teen Saves Cop From Burning Car

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A teen volunteer firefighter and his neighbor jumped into action Saturday after a Philadelphia Police officer's vehicle caught fire following a collision with a pickup truck.

Philadelphia Police Officer Mark Kimsey was traveling on 28th and Tasker streets around 5:25 p.m. Saturday when his police cruiser collided with a pickup truck. Kimsey was trapped inside as his vehicle burst into flames. 

A passenger inside the pickup truck was also injured in the crash. The driver however fled the scene on foot and was last seen running on the 2800 block of Tasker streets, according to police.

As Kimsey remained trapped inside the vehicle while the flames grew, Joe Chambers, a 17-year-old volunteer firefighter and his neighbor jumped into action.

"I saw that it was a cop car," Chambers said. "Right then I just started sprinting and did what I had to do."

Chambers and the other man pulled Officer Kimsey from his burning car.

"The door was slammed," Chambers said. "It was dented and wouldn't open. The car caught fire. He said he couldn't feel his legs. We had to drag him through the window and he was ready for it."

As the two Good Samaritans pulled the officer to safety, other witnesses pulled the injured passenger from the pickup truck.

Officer Kimsey and the pickup truck passenger were both taken to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania for treatment. Kimsey is currently in stable condition. Officials have not yet revealed the second victim' condition. 

Chambers also suffered minor injuries and was taken to the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Later Saturday night, he visited Officer Kimsey and the two posed for a photo.

Police have not yet released a description of the driver who allegedly fled the scene. They continue to investigate.


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Ebola Nurse Pham Feels "Blessed"

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Ebola survivor/nurse and TCU alum Nina Pham briefly talked to NBC 5's David Watkins about watching her team win and her health. Pham is one of two nurses treated for Ebola after caring for Eric Duncan at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas.

Photo Credit: Noah Bullard, NBC 5 Sports
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