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Thousands of Protestors Rally in Middletown


More than a thousand protesters rallied in Middletown on Monday afternoon and held a solidarity march, adding their voices to the national movement protesting the deaths Michael Brown and Eric Garner. Grand juries decided not to indict police officers for causing either man’s death.

“We are preparing for finals, writing exams, grading them…. These are important things. But all around the country people are speaking out against the outrageous injustices that people of color face on a regular basis. We must acknowledge these issues. The time to speak out is now,” Wesleyan University president Michael Roth wrote in a post on the Wesleyan University’s Web site.

The protestors blocked traffic along Main Street and Route 66 around 3 p.m.

“On Monday, December 8th, at 3 pm, students of Wesleyan University will be marching in response to the police brutality and systemic racism that led to the deaths of Mike Brown, Eric Garner, and countless other people of color in recent times. The state must be held accountable for the prejudicial treatment of these individuals. Our movement must start from the ground-up. I am emailing you to ask for your support and solidarity, and invite you to march alongside us students for this cause. We will be gathering at Exley Science Center at 265 Church St,” a notice on the faculty list-serv said, according to the post from President Roth.

The crowd began to disperse around 4 p.m.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Teen Runs from DCF Custody


Police have issued a Silver Alert for a 16-year-old girl who they said ran from the State Department of Children and Families in while she was being transported to Litchfield.

Celeste Hunter, 16, was last seen wearing, purple pants and a black NorthFace jacket. She was reported missing from Waterbury, according to the Silver Alert.

No photo was released.

If you see here, call Waterbury police at: 203-574-6911.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Police Investigating Death of Norwalk Cab Driver


Police are investigating the death of a Norwalk cab driver who was stabbed several times early Monday morning.

Police found Jackson Pierre-Louis, 51, of Bridgeport, in a Norwalk Yellow Cab minivan after he called 911 at 12:16 am., soon after he was stabbed.

Police said Pierre-Louis's cab had crashed into a parked vehicle on Grove Street. An ambulance transported him to Norwalk Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 1:05 a.m.

An autopsy will be performed later today to determine the cause of death.

Detectives ask witnesses or anyone who rode in the cab last night to call the Norwalk Police Department tip line at 203-854-3111, leave an anonymous Internet tips at www.norwalkpd.com or text by sending "NPD" it to CRIMES (274637).

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Monroe Police Make Burglary Arrests


Monroe police arrested two people after searching a home in town for stolen property on warrants, police said.

Drew Russo, 28, and Heidi Mayhew, 37, are facing burglary charges after police searched their 50 Walnut Street home in Monroe for stolen property. They were arrested on outstanding warrants for charges from a prior home burglary, police said.

Russo and Mayhew are facing third-degree burglary and third-degree larceny charges. Russo was also charged with second-degree criminal mischief and second-degree criminal trespass.

They are both scheduled to appear in court on Dec. 16 in Bridgeport. Russo and Mayhew were released after posting $25,000 and $15,000 surety bonds, respectively.

Route 9 North Closed in Berlin


A serious crash has closed the northbound side of Route 9 in Berlin.

The accident happened by Exit 21, according to state police.

There is no word on how many vehicles are involved.

Police do not know how long the highway will be shut down.

Police Investigate Violent Home Invasion in Pompret


Police are investigating after intruders smashed the door of a Pomfret home to get inside and attacked a resident with a metal bar.

Police responded to 18 Woods Hill Road just before 7:30 p.m. on Saturday when they received a 911 call reporting a home invasion.

A resident told investigators that a large glass section of his back door was smashed and three masked men in dark clothing broke in.

One of the men had a metal bar and hit the victim in the head with it, the resident told police, then the men ran from the house.

The victim was hurt, but did not sustain life-threatening injuries, police said, and was released from Day Kimball Hospital.

Police are continuing to investigate and ask anyone with information to call Connecticut State Police at 860-779-4900.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Police ID Man Found Dead in Meriden


The man whose body was discovered in Meriden early Sunday morning has been identified as Luis Charneco, 52, of Meriden, according to police, who said he might have died of hypothermia.

Police received a call around 6 a.m. from someone who had been out walking a dog on Cooper Street and found a man's body on the ground near the train tracks behind the Giacco Oil building.

Police believe Charneco fell asleep and died from hypothermia and don't think foul play was involved.

Jurors in Murder-for-Hire Trial Hear from Suspect’s Father


The father of a Bloomfield, Connecticut woman who is accused of trying to hire a hit man to kill her ex-husband gave an emotional testimony on his daughter’s behalf on Monday and said Eric Stevens  put strain on the entire family.

Tiffany Stevens, 39, of Bloomfield, is accused of paying John McDaid $5,000 to kill Eric Stevens in 2012 during a child custody dispute with $50 million reportedly at stake, but her father, Edward Khalily, denied that a trust fund even exists.

Police started investigating after McDaid accepted money from Tiffany Stevens, but went to Eric Stevens with a recording of the conversation, according to police.

On Monday, a computer and technology expert testified that she could not tell if the tape given to police was edited.

Monique Ferraro, a computer and technology expert, testified that the audio recording was garbled and “low-quality,” which would allow for easier editing because the edits would not be as obvious.

Khalily has traveled from New York every day to be with his daughter and Monday testified about a history of violence in her marriage.

"Every time he was having a losing day in gambling. he would be breaking all chinaware and my daughter and grandchild would run into the bedroom and hide there," Khalily said.

The rage amplified when Tiffany was given custody of the couple's daughter, her father said.

He said his daughter sought treatment, was clean until 2012 and decided she did not want to be in a relationship with Eric because of abusive behavior.

While prosecutor claim that a fund worth millions is the reason Tiffany Stevens tried to hire a hit man, Khalily denied that there has ever been a $50 million trust fund for his granddaughter.

He also said his daughter is a great mother and he stands behind her 100 percent.

The closing arguments are scheduled for Wednesday.

Start of Nor'Easter Could Cause Morning Problems


Winter weather advisories have been issued for Hartford, Tolland and Windham counties Monday evening into Monday morning, according to the National Weather Service.

The advisory will be in effect from 7 p.m. Monday night to 10 a.m. Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service.

Flooding is a main concern, with a flood watch issued for Tuesday morning through the afternoon in coastal areas of the state. There could be minor flooding in vulnerable shore point areas.

With the cold air overnight and rain and wind in the forecast for Tuesday morning, that could cause slippery roads on the morning commute, especially from about 3 to 6 a.m., according to NBC Connecticut Chief First Alert Meteorologist Brad Field.

There is the possibility of minor accumulation and wind gusts could reach 35 miles an hour inland and 45 miles an hour along the coast.

The areas that will likely be hit the hardest are along the Massachusetts border and north of Interstate 84.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

NFLer Hill Probed for Sex Assault


The Tennessee Titans say they are aware police are investigating a sexual assault allegation involving defensive lineman Sammie Hill.

"We will let the police investigate the allegation, and we will provide any assistance they need," the Titans said in a statement Monday. "We have discussed the matter with Sammie, and we will continue to gather facts."

Atlanta Police Department spokesman John Chaffee wrote in an email that a woman told police she had been sexually assaulted by Hill and they are working with the woman for more information.

The woman apparently contacted Houston police first. Spokesman Victor Senties confirmed to The Associated Press that Houston police took a report Friday from a woman alleging she had been sexually assaulted in Atlanta and forwarded that to police there.

Hill, who played at Stillman and a West Blocton, Alabama, native, is a six-year veteran in the second year of a three-year deal with Tennessee. The 6-foot-4, 328-pound Hill has started 12 games this season.

Photo Credit: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

NASA's Orion Returns to Land


San Diego-based USS Anchorage arrived in San Diego Monday carrying the Orion spacecraft back to U.S. soil.

NASA’s new spacecraft test mission made a successful splashdown in the Pacific Ocean Friday after a 3,600-mile journey through space.

The crew aboard USS Anchorage, a San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship, worked for several hours Friday to recover the spacecraft, which landed 600 miles off the San Diego coast.

A team of specially trained Navy drivers worked in small boats and used tending lines to guide Orion to the Anchorage.

The Navy trained for months for the mission. Navy divers worked with NASA to orchestrate the recovery.

“This is a little bit more critical on how we recover it. Typically, if we’re recovering something for a salvage job, the condition in which we bring it up isn’t that important, but here, that’s the most critical factor," said Master Diver Tim Roff with the Navy.

Six Navy units participated in the recovery, according to Navy spokeswoman Lt. Chelsea Irish

An amphibious ship like USS Anchorage was picked for the mission for a number of reasons, ranging from its well deck to its strong radar used to track the capsule, Irish said.

The spacecraft will be at Naval Base San Diego before it’s sent to a NASA location.

Friday's test flight of Orion ushered in a new era of human exploration. NASA is counting on future Orion spacecraft to carry astronauts beyond Earth's orbit, to asteroids and ultimately the grand prize: Mars.

I-84 Reopens in Tolland After Vehicle Spinouts


Interstate 84 east has reopened in Tolland after several vehicle spinouts.

State police have closed down all lanes at the stretch near exit 68 until crews put salt on the roads.

There were no injuries reported.

Obama Hijacks "The Colbert Report"


President Barack Obama may be the leader of the free world, but on Monday night he took a stab at hosting Comedy Central's "The Colbert Report," temporarily unseating host Stephen Colbert for a segment.

"You've been taking a lot of shots at my job, I've decided to take a shot at yours," Obama said before taking over for Colbert on the "The Word" segment, a regular fan-favorite feature of the program that was renamed "The Decree" in honor of the president.

"Nation," Obama began, referring to his audience as Colbert famously does. "That guy is so arrogant, I bet he talks about himself in the third person."

The president also spoke about Republicans trying to repeal Obamacare, and their ability to pass a bill now that they control both the House and the Senate.

"But the president still has the veto, and if I know that guy, he is willing to use it," Obama said to a cheering audience. 

"And let's face it, even if Republicans somehow did repeal it, they would have to replace it with their own health care plan," the President said before making a joke about a future with "Mitch McConell-care," as "Walk-It-Off.gov" flashed next to the president.

He wrapped up the segment by taking a stab at the failed rollout of Obamacare, claiming that it is "Where Disney got the idea for "Frozen."

After returning from break, Colbert talked to the President about the underwhelming turnout of young voters in the midterm elections.

"I think they felt discouraged with what's happening in Washington," the president said regarding the congressional gridlock in D.C., adding: “At a certain point, people say, ‘You know what? It’s just not going to make a difference. Part of my job for the next two years, and hopefully part of the job of Mitch McConnell and John Boehner, is to convince people that even in divided government, we can still put the American people ahead of politics.”

Colbert then moved on to the state of the economy where the President defended his record by highlighting steady job growth numbers regular pushed by the White House.

"You have employed a lot of people — mostly as secretary of defense," Colbert joked, referring to Obama recently nominating his fourth top civilian at the Pentagon.

"That's boosted our numbers a little bit," Obama replied.

Colbert then commented on Obama's move on illegal immigration, adding that the President is now an emperor. "Everything we have done is scrupulously within the law and has been done by previous Democratic and Republican presidents," Obama said.

The interview was not all politics. The president opened up about his home life, and revealed that his wife and two daughters keep him humble by mocking his "big ears and suits."

It was Obama's third appearance on "The Colbert Report," his second as president. It marked the beginning of the final two weeks for the Comedy Central show. Colbert will take over for David Letterman on CBS' "Late Show" next year.

Photo Credit: Bloomberg via Getty Images
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Crews Put Out Basement Fire


A building on Claudia Drive was briefly evacuated Monday night due to smoke as crews responded to a basement fire, according to West Haven Mayor Ed O'Brien.

The fire happened in an apartment at 79 Claudia Drive at about 8 p.m.

People were briefly evacuated, but residents have since been permitted back inside.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

MDC Warns of Water Company Impersonator


A man impersonating a water company employee used the ploy to try to get into a Farmington home on Monday and the Metropolitan District Commission warns people to be cautious.

The man told the resident that he had to enter his house to change a water meter, but that he was unable to get inside.

MDC gives residents the following tips to avoid falling victim to such imposters:

  • Employees for MDC wear uniforms and drive cars with the commission logo.
  • Ask people coming to your door for identification. MDC employees carry photo IDs and badges, so if the person doesn't have an ID, don't let them inside.
  • Don't let someone claiming to be a water company employee to come inside if you don't have a scheduled appointment. You can call MDC's command center at 860-278-7850, extension 3600, to confirm they're supposed to be there.

MDC is a non-profit corporation that the Connecticut General Assembly established in 1929 to provide "water, sewer and household hazardous wast collection services" to customers in Bloomfield, East Hartford, Hartford, Newington, Rocky Hill, West Hartford, Wethersfield and Windsor, which are all member towns, according to a news release. MDC also provides "treated water" to parts of Glastonbury, South Windsor, Farmington, East Granby, Unionville and Portland.

Student Pleads Not Guilty in Fatal Hit-and-Run


A 21-year-old Boston man has been charged in the fatal hit-and-run killing of  a woman in Massachusetts.

Nicholas A. Rivas-Vasquez pleaded not guilty Monday after being accused of hitting 54-year-old Jean Heppler with his Ford Escape in Dedham and leaving the scene. He was ordered held on $5,000 bail. 

Rivas-Vasquez will return to court on Jan. 8, 2015 for a pre-trial conference. He is required to stay in Massachusetts. 

Rivas-Vasquez, originally from Hamden, Connecticut, is a student at Mount Ida College in Newton.

Police responded around 10:45 p.m. Friday to the crash at the intersection of Washington Street and Lower East Street, near the town's border with Boston's West Roxbury neighborhood. She was taken to Norwood Hospital, where she died.

"She was a kind, good-hearted person," Theresa Szczesny, a friend of Heppler, said.

"You don't leave a dog on the side of the road, let alone a human being," Heppler's friend Laurie Poltanova said. "That woman was horrible hurt. My God, I just don't think it's right."

Officials believe Heppler was crossing Washington Street when she was hit in the southbound travel lane. People who live nearby tell NECN drivers often try to make illegal turns or try to beat the red light at the busy intersection.

Domino's Pizza delivery driver Cindy Cardillo says she was 50 yards from where Heppler was struck and says she never saw the driver turn back.

"I heard this awful, awful thud," she recalled. "I went to the light on Curve Street to take a left on Washington, and I saw an umbrella and I saw a sneaker in the middle of the road."

Heppler's friends say they hope justice is served for her and her 14-year-old daughter, who is now left without a mother.

"Jeanie was the sweetest person you ever could have met ever, anywhere, and everyone misses her," her coworker Eric Randlov said.

Massachusetts State Police and the Norfolk District Attorney's office are assisting in the investigation, which is ongoing.

A GoFundMe page has been set up for Heppler's family.

Photo Credit: NECN
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Crews Respond to New Haven Fire


Firefighters responded to a fire at 22 Judson Avenue in New Haven Monday night.

No further details were immediately available.

Check back for updates.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Car Crashes Into Tolland Barn


Emergency crews responded to Mile Hill Road in Tolland on Monday night after a car hit a barn.

No one was hurt, but there is significant structural damage and a building official will be inspecting the barn.

Photo Credit: Tolland Alert

Truck Hit Gas Line in North Haven


A truck hit a gas line at AAA Car Center on Dodge Avenue in North Haven this morning and the gas company has been called in.

No injuries are reported and police called it a minor crash.

Blaze Kills Female Firefighter


A female firefighter has lost her life in the line of duty for the first time in Philadelphia's history.

Joyce Craig-Lewis, a decorated 11-year-veteran of the department, died after being trapped fighting a blaze in the basement of a West Oak Lane home early Tuesday morning, city officials said.

"This brave firefighter gave her life trying to save the life of an elderly, frail woman this morning," Mayor Michael Nutter said. The woman was safely rescued during the fire.

The 36-year-old mother of two was one of only 150 women serving in the Philadelphia Fire Department, which is made up of more than 2,100 firefighters, paramedics and officers.

“She had a strong work ethic. She prided herself in working at busy engine companies,” said Fire Commissioner Derrick Sawyer, who knew Craig-Lewis personally.

Craig-Lewis, along with several other crew members, was part of the initial attack group that entered the rowhome that went up in flames around 3:15 a.m. along the 1600 block of Middelton Street, Sawyer said.

A "chimney effect" caused smoke and flames to pour up the basement steps and at the firefighter, he said. At some point conditions worsened and fire command ordered crews out of the home, but Craig-Lewis became trapped, Sawyer said.

She radioed for help and crews went back into the basement, officials said.

"After the withdrawal, they realized that firefighter Craig-Lewis was missing. They went back in to search for her and they were not able to get her out before she passed," Sawyer said.

Once out of the house, she was given CPR and rushed to Albert Einstein Medical Center. Doctors pronounced her dead around 4 a.m.

Craig-Lewis is survived by two children — 16-year-old Mahki Donte Green and 16-month-old Laylani Lewis — as well as her parents and three siblings.

She worked at Engine 64 in the city's Lawncrest neighborhood. She was moved to that company three years ago. But, Tuesday morning, the woman was working an overtime shift with Engine 73, colleagues said.

"We suffered a tragic loss here this morning," said Mayor Michael Nutter. "This is still under investigation, there are some details we just don't have."

Firefighter's union president Joe Shulle said it's possible that a flashover happened, which is where an entire room bursts into flames. In seconds, he said, the room's temperature could climb to more than 1,000 degrees and that there could be zero visibility.

The Philadelphia Fire Marshal is investigating the fire and Craig-Lewis' death.

Fire officials have collected Craig-Lewis' equipment and are sending it to the National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health for inspection. One specific area officials will be focusing on is whether her safety alert device was activated.

The PASS — or Personal Alert Safety System — device, attached to a breathing tank, sends out an audible distress signal, similar to the sound a smoke detector makes. It can be manually activated by a firefighter in distress or will automatically turn on if a firefighter is horizontal and motionless for 20 seconds, Sawyer said.

Crew members learned their colleague died as they stood along Middleton Street, just outside the home where she died. 

Authorities held drivers around 8:45 a.m. Tuesday on the southbound lanes of the Roosevelt Boulevard as traffic entered Interstate 76 to allow a procession, which transports the woman's body, to pass.

A firefighter and police officers could be seen saluting the passing emergency vehicles. Flowers now sit over her locker at Engine 64 and black bunting is draped over the firehouse's garage.

The last firefighter killed in the line of duty was Capt. Michael Goodwin, who died on April 6, 2013.

Goodwin, a 29-year fire department veteran, was on the roof of a building near 4th and Fitzwater streets when it collapsed. He was pronounced dead at the scene of the Fabric Row blaze.

Photo Credit: Philadelphia Fire Department
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