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Crash on I-95 in Westport


Only one lane of Interstate 95 South is getting by after a crash on the Westport-Norwalk line this afternoon and traffic is backed up from Darien.

The crash is in the area of exit 17 and involves a car and a tractor-trailer.

Traffic was backed up on the northbound side back to exit 13 in Darien as of 1:40 p.m. and as of that time there was bumper-to-bumper traffic southbound back to exit 19.

Derby High School Principal Resigns


Derby High School's principal has resigned for personal reasons and a new person has been appointed to take his place.

Greg Gaillard resigned from his position on Tuesday effective Wednesday, according to an announcement on the school website. Martin Pascale has been appointed as acting principal and Deb Almonte and Rachael Artaiz will serve as acting vice principals.

"As of December 9, 2014, Mr. Gaillard, for personal reasons, has resigned as principal of Derby High School," the announcement said. "The interim administration team beginning Wednesday, December 10, 2014, will be Mr. Pascale, Acting Principal, and Deb Almonte and Rachael Artaiz as Acting Vice Principals. We will keep you informed as to any additional information as it becomes available. Thank you for your understanding and have a great day."

The nature of the personal reasons that caused Gaillard to resign are unknown.

A Derby Board of Education meeting is scheduled for Wednesday night at 6:30 p.m. at the Derby Middle School Cafetorium at 10 Nutmeg Avenue, but his resignation is not listed on the agenda.

The board is scheduled to discuss personnel matters in executive session and will vote to approve the latest list of new hires to appoint. A high school guidance counselor's resignation is also listed on the executive session portion of the agenda.

Dad Driving Teen Pulls Gun in Road Rage Incident: Cops


A Bloomfield dad is facing charges after pulling out a handgun during a road rage incident and pointing it at passengers of another car while driving with his teenage daughter, according to police.

Police said Maurice Elijah Butler, 50, of Bloomfield, was driving southbound on Talcottville Road in Vernon heading toward Manchester the evening of Dec. 4 when he grew angry and took out a gun. Butler’s 14-year-old daughter was in the passenger seat.

Butler pointed the gun at a family driving in another car before getting on the highway, according to police.

He was arrested later at his home on Red Oak Hill in Bloomfield and charged with risk of injury to a child, first-degree reckless endangerment, second-degree threatening, second-degree breach of peace and criminal use of a weapon.

He was held on $100,000 bond.

Photo Credit: Vernon Police Department

Man Arrested in Walgreens Armed Robbery


Hamden police have made an arrest in an armed robbery at Walgreens that happened just over two months ago.

Derrell Soulds, 38, of New Haven, is facing multiple charges including robbery.

A man who police identified as Soulds asked a clerk at the Walgreens at 1191 Dixwell Avenue for a carton of cigarettes and then displayed a note that said "Give me all the money or I'll shoot you." He lifted his shirt to show the clerk what looked like a handgun tucked into his pants, police said.

After stealing an undetermined amount of money, the man ran from the store, police said.

Police arrested Stewart on a warrant Tuesday and charged him with first-degree robbery and fifth-degree larceny. He was arraigned in court that day.

Photo Credit: Hamden Police Department

Man Brings 3-Year-Old to Buy Heroin: Police


A Plymouth resident is facing charges after bringing his cousin's 3-year-old child to buy heroin, according to police.

Dillon Thomas Hoadley, 22, of the Terryville section of Plymouth, was arrested in West Hartford on Dec. 3 after police stopped his car.

Authorities found heroin in his possession and learned that he had brought his cousin's 3-year-old along to buy it, according to police.

Hoadley was charged with risk of injury to a child, illegal possession of a narcotic and failure to obey a traffic control signal.

Bond was set at $10,000. Hoadley is due in court Dec. 11.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Stevens' Fate Now in Jury's Hands in Murder-for-Hire Case


Tiffany Stevens' defense and prosecutors gave closing arguments Wednesday in the murder-for-hire trial for charges of attempting to pay someone to kill her ex-husband, Eric Stevens.

Now her fate is in the hands of the jury.

Stevens declined to testify Wednesday, but her attorneys spoke on her behalf. They moved for "judgment of acquittal," but the judge denied that request.

Both sides were granted an hour to present their closing arguments.

State prosecutors based their final arguments predominantly on the testimony of maintenance man John McDaid, the man Stevens is accused of paying thousands of dollars to kill her ex-husband. While McDaid said he took the money, he didn't go through with the deed and instead recorded conversations at the intended victim's request, according to his testimony. The prosecution also referenced the recordings played in court as key evidence in their case against Stevens.

"What else could she possibly be attempting when you look at the evidence of this case?" the prosecution said.

But the defense for Stevens argued in closing that even though it probably looked like Stevens committed the crime, "probably" was not enough to convict someone and that there was evident reasonable doubt. While her attorney admitted his client has not lived a perfect life and that she has made bad judgments, the defense said "let he who is without sin cast the first stone."

"You want to hire a hit man and give him $5,000.... that's a discount," the defense said. "....If he (McDaid) really believes this was an attempt to kill Eric Stevens, he would have gone to the police."

Her attorney called McDaid and Eric Stevens liars.

"Eric Stevens degraded, mocked and threatened Tiffany. All of this impacted her mind," Tiffany Stevens' attorney said. "....Eric Stevens and John McDaid should be sitting where my client is."

But the state said it's Tiffany Stevens who has used men and money to accomplish everything in her life and this time the money was for murder.

"Whether she followed up well or hired the right person or she paid him enough isn’t the question the question is did she intend to have him killed," state prosecutors said.

Now that the jury has heard the closing arguments, jurors will deliberate the case and determine whether or not they believe Stevens is guilty.

The jury will return to court on Thursday to discuss the case behind closed doors. It is unknown when a verdict will be reached.

Man Due in Court for Newtown Threatening Phone Calls Case


A Venezuelan man accused of making 96 threatening phone calls to Newtown residents two days after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting massacre two years ago is due in court on Thursday.

In some of the threatening calls, Wilfrido A. Cardenas Hoffman, 30, of El Hatillo, Venezuela, pretended he was shooter Adam Lanza, according to a criminal complaint filed on May 20, 2013 and cited in a release posted on the website for the United States Attorney.

The complaint said that in one call he stated "This is Adam Lanza. I’m gonna [expletive] kill you. You’re dead. You’re dead. You hear me? You’re dead" and “This is Adam Lanza. I’m gonna kill you. You’re dead. With my machine gun. You’re dead [expletive]" in another.

He was charged with "transmitting threats in interstate or foreign commerce to injure the person of another" that May and arrested on June 21 of this year in Miami on federal criminal charges in the case, according to the office of U.S. Attorney Deirdre M. Daly.

“This complaint charges that Cardenas Hoffman made dozens of threatening telephone calls to residents of Newtown when they were suffering from one of the worst tragedies in our nation’s history,” Daly said in June.

“Threatening such vulnerable people is reprehensible and inhuman criminal conduct. Further, it inappropriately stressed law enforcement resources at a critically demanding time. This case demonstrates the resolve of our office and the FBI to arrest individuals who believe that international boundaries will protect them from prosecution in the United States,” Daly added.

If convicted, Cardenas Hoffman faces as much as five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000, according to Daly.

Cardenas Hoffman last appeared in court in New Haven, waiving his "right to a probable cause hearing for 60 days," according to Daly. A judge also ordered that he undergo a psychiatric evaluation.

He has been in custody since June.

The FBI is investigating the case and the U.S. Attorney's Office is prosecuting. Any Newtown residents who have received a threatening phone call are asked to call Lori Vernali, victim/witness coordinator for the U.S. Attorney's office, at 203-821-3818.

Driver Hits Other Driver With Crowbar After Crash


Police are investigating a car crash in Hartford and a related altercation.

There was a car crash on Harold Street Wednesday evening, police said. One of the drivers got out and struck the other driver with a crow bar, police said.

Police have made an arrest.

The investigation is ongoing. More information will be provided when it becomes available.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Protester Punched 2 Cops: NYPD


A 22-year-old demonstrator has been accused of punching two police officers during last week’s protests of a Staten Island grand jury’s decision to not indict a police officer in the chokehold death of Eric Garner.

Yotameli Sayer was charged Wednesday with resisting arrest, obstructing governmental administration, disorderly conduct and multiple counts of assault after officers in Union Square and at the Staten Island Ferry terminal in lower Manhattan were both sucker-punched Thursday night, authorities say.

Sayer, of Bushwick, was arrested after the officer in Union Square was punched at about 10:30 p.m., the NYPD says.

After arresting the man, officers were able to link Sayer to the punching at the ferry terminal about two hours earlier, the NYPD says.

Police officer Daniel Pantaleo, the NYPD cop seen in widely circulated amateur video wrapping his arm around Garner's neck as the heavyset, asthmatic 43-year-old yelled, "I can't breathe!", nearly a dozen times while gasping for air during the July 17 confrontation in Tompkinsville, met Wednesday with the department's internal affairs investigators looking into the case.

Pantaleo's attorney Stuart London told NBC 4 New York the investigators questioned Pantaleo for about two hours as they probe whether department policy was violated in the case. Pantaleo and the police union have said he did not use a chokehold, which is forbidden under NYPD policy, while taking Garner into custody, but a takedown tactic taught by the department.

The meeting comes one week after a grand jury decided not to indict the officer on criminal charges in Garner's death. The deliberative body delivered a vote of "no true bill," which determined there was not probable cause that a crime of criminally negligent homicide or manslaughter -- the two charges NBC 4 New York was told the jury was given to consider -- was committed by Pantaleo. 

Metro-North Fares to Increase Slightly in New Year


As the new year rolls around, the price of train tickets on the Metro-North New Haven Line will increase by 1 percent to finance new rail cars, according to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

The hike takes effect Jan. 1 and will affect travel between Connecticut and New York.

According to a list of new rates posted to the Metro-North website, off-peak trips from New Haven to Grand Central Terminal will cost $16.25, while peak trips will be $21.75 for adults.

It's the fourth of seven rate increases intended to help pay for new M8 rail cars and comes at the request of the state Department of Transportation, the MTA said.

The new rates will minimally affect most riders. Metro-North officials said not all one-way fares will change, since rates are rounded according to 25-cent intervals.

A full list of current fares is available online.

Case Dropped Against Hartford Teen Shot by Taser


A Hartford courtroom has opted not to prosecute a local teen who was arrested in a highly publicized incident during which police shot him with a Taser in August.

According to the clerk's office, Hartford Superior Court has dropped the case against 18-year-old Luis Anglero, who was charged with second-degree breach of peace and interfering with an officer while police were breaking up an unruly crowd on Aug. 19.

Anglero's injuries sent him to the hospital, and the detective's use of a Taser sparked public outrage. Surveillance footage from the scene shows Anglero dropping to the ground when the Taser discharges.

Just prior to the decision on Wednesday morning, protesters rallied outside the courthouse on Lafayette Street in Hartford to urge the court to drop all charges against Anglero.

It seems the judge heard them.

The charges were nolled and will remain on Anglero's record for 13 months before being erased altogether, according to the state.

The Hartford police department launched an investigation into the conduct of Det. Shawn Ware, who tased Anglero, and cleared him of misconduct allegations in late September. The 77-page report found that "the force used by Detective Ware was within policy and permissible."

Community members have lined up "victory" celebrations in response to the court decision, including one slated for 11 a.m. Sunday at the Urban Hope Refuge Church on Westland Street in Hartford.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Fraternity Sanctioned at Second Local School in Matter of Days


Days after the Psi Upsilon Fraternity chapter at Wesleyan University was suspended over sexual assault allegations, Trinity College has imposed similar sanctions on its Psi Upsilon chapter, citing "serious alcohol violations."

As of Dec. 9, the Psi Upsilon chapter at Trinity is not allowed to host any social events or have alcohol at the fraternity house until further notice. The house is also off limits to anyone other than fraternity members, according to a statement from Trinity College.

The sanctions will remain in place indefinitely while school officials investigate the complaints.

Just days ago, Wesleyan University placed its Psi Upsilon chapter on probation until the end of next year in light of the recent report of a sexual assault that occurred at an unregistered fraternity event in the spring of 2011.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Snow Falling in Parts of State


The drizzle that has been coming down statewide since this morning has transitioned to scattered snow showers in parts of the state and will leave behind a trace to 2 inches between tonight and tomorrow.

Snow is falling in western Connecticut, as well as parts of norther Connecticut, and will become steadier this evening and overnight.

Torrington and Monroe schools have canceled all evening activities as snow comes in, and more cancellations are trickling in. See the closing list here.

A coating to 2 inches of snow is likely and 3 inches of snow are not out of the question in the northwest hills.

Overnight, travel will become tricky.

This is a complex weather set up and some towns will possibly get nothing, while others will have school delays, according to NBC Connecticut meteorologist Bob Maxon.

This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story on our mobile site.

1 Dead After Being Struck by Car in Suffield


One person is dead after being struck by a vehicle on Mapleton Avenue in Suffield, according to police.

Police said the crash occurred around 6 p.m. Wednesday and have not identified the victim.

Mapleton Avenue is closed between Route 159/East Street North and Thompsonville Road in Suffield while authorities investigate.

Check back for updates.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Feds "Beef up" LA Fire Probe


Los Angeles fire officials have "beefed up" the team of investigators looking into what may have caused a massive fire at an under-construction apartment building in downtown Los Angeles.

Investigators from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms joined Los Angeles Fire Department and LAPD teams on Wednesday to begin looking into the cause of Monday morning's fire, which is estimated to have caused tens of millions of dollars in damage.

LAFD Fire Chief Ralph Terrazas said the investigation, which could take weeks or months, is not being treated as a criminal investigation, but officials are "have not ruled anything out yet."

"Upon (firefighters) leaving their corridors which is literally across the street, this structure was heavily involved in fire," Terrazas said. "That's unusual, to have that much fire all at the same time."

A specially trained Labrador named Major will help investigators by searching in the destruction for ignitable liquids that may have spread the flames. Officials are hoping a rainstorm approaching the region won't hamper their efforts.

Flames consumed the seven-story, wood-framed structure and radiated enough heat to shatter the windows of office towers on Figueroa Street, reaching inside to melt computers onto desks. The LADWP building had cracks in at least 160 of its 10-by-4-foot windows.

"We beefed up the team a little bit as a result of the magnitude and size of the scene," ATF Special Agent in Charge Carlos Canino said during a news conference Wednesday.

"You can see, it's a city block burned to the ground," Canino said. "With that, we're all in ... All hands on deck."

Canino said response teams called the fire a "seven to an eight" on a scale from one to 10.

"If we need to bring people in from all over the country, we will," Canino said. "We will spare no expense. We will leave no stone unturned in there. We want to get to the bottom of this."

Grandmother, Mom, Son, Friend Dead in Enfield Fire


Friends and family of the four people who died in an early morning house fire in Enfield have identified the victims as a grandmother, mom, grandson and close family friend.

Although police have not released the names or ages of those who were killed, Bill Stone identifies himself as a family member and said the victims were well known around town.

According to Stone, 59-year-old grandmother Orise Handfield and her adopted daughter, Cathy Armes, 34 or 35, are among the four who died when flames broke out at 38 South River Street and the second floor collapsed.

“She always took care of all of them. She tried her hardest and her best. She was a woman who didn’t have a lot, but if she did, she would give it to you. So they will be missed,” Stone said, of Handfield.

Armes’ son, 20-year-old Joshua Johnson, also died in the fire, according to Stone, who said Johnson was expecting a child in a few months. The child’s mother was not home at the time of the fire, according to Stone.

“His fiancée, his girlfriend, she assumes he’s dead,” Stone said.

Neighbors have identified the fourth victim has been identified as a friend of the family.

Friends and family members said Johnson’s brother, Richie Handfield, is being treated for burns. Three other people, including Orise's other daughter Lori, made it out safely and ran to a neighbor's house.

A close friend said the family had recently moved from a home on Spring Street in Enfield, where they lived for more than 15 years.

Officials have not released any information on the cause of the flames, but neighbors said a small Christmas tree fire broke out yesterday and suspect it may have also caused the blaze today.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com/Portrait Innovations/Family Photos

4 Killed in "Unprecedented" Enfield House Fire


Investigators have found the bodies of four people killed in an Enfield house fire that officials have described as "unprecedented" and "horrific."

"With a heavy heart and sadness, I have to report this evening that we've uncovered four bodies in the house at 68 South River Street," Thompsonville Fire Chief Frank Alaimo said during a press conference Wednesday evening.

Although authorities have not released the names of the people who died, friends and family members identified three of the victims as grandmother Orise Handfield, her adopted daughter Cathy Armes, Armes' son Joshua Johnson and a close family friend.

Five residents made it out alive after flames broke out at the duplex around 6:15 a.m. Wednesday, one of whom has been taken to a facility in Boston for treatment of burns. The other three, who all fled from the south side of the building, escaped on their own and ran to a neighbor's house, officials said.

Firefighters arrived at the scene to find the home engulfed in flames and said the second floor collapsed onto the first, making it too dangerous for rescue crews to enter the building, according to fire department spokesperson Mark Zarcaro.

"They made a valiant effort at every opening to at least get their heads in and try to locate anybody that might be trying to escape this fire, but it was just an impossible situation," Zarcaro said.

He added that footage from the first few minutes of the rescue effort shows "there's not an opening that isn't flowing with fire."

Zarcaro said investigators are expected to remain at the scene until at least midnight. Earlier today, authorities obtained an administrative warrant allowing the fire marshal's office to take control of the property and investigate.

A contractor assessed the building and brought in an excavator to remove parts of the home in danger of toppling down onto investigators. Zarcaro said the roof of the building is hanging by a flap and the home is "pretty much completely gutted."

Officials have not released any information about the cause of the fire, but a survivor said it's possible a Christmas tree might have sparked the blaze on the right side of the home, where a family of six lives. Witnesses said a small tree fire broke out there yesterday.

Fire officials made a public service announcement warning residents of the potential for fires when mixing Christmas trees, supplemental heating devices, extension cords and household wiring.

While there have been several arson fires in Enfield, officials said this does not appear to be connected to those cases. Fire officials said there is no criminal investigation into the blaze.

This morning, officials said three people lived on one side of the home and a family of six lived on the other side. Firefighters expect to release the victims' names on Thursday.

In the meantime, the American Red Cross has provided housing, food and clothing for an adult and two children who survived the fire. Volunteers have also been working to connect survivors with emotional support services.

"This has been a difficult and tragic fire. We have been available throughout the day to help the affected families and will continue to work with them in partnership with the Town of Enfield to meet their needs after this fire. Our hearts and thoughts are with the loved ones and friends of those who lost their lives today," Red Cross officials said in a statement Wednesday night.

Pair Spent Thousands With Stolen Credit Card Info: Cops


Two people are facing charges after police found them with more than a dozen counterfeit American Express gift cards re-encoded with stolen credit card information.

According to Wallingford police, 26-year-old Michael Smith, Jr. and 24-year-old Cheyenne Sharpe, both of New York, raised suspicions when they tried to use one of the cards at a Cumberland Farms gas station on North Colony Road in Wallingford earlier this month.

Police searched their car and found thousands of dollars’ worth of items purchased with the counterfeit cards at department stores around the state.

Sharpe and Smith were both charged with 14 counts each of second-degree forgery, third-degree identity theft and credit card theft, along with credit card fraud, conspiracy to credit card fraud, sixth-degree larceny, conspiracy to commit sixth-degree larceny, illegal use of a credit card and conspiracy to commit illegal use of a credit card.

Smith was also charged with criminal attempt to obtain goods by illegal use of a credit card and criminal attempt to commit sixth-degree larceny.

Both were held on $75,000 bond and are due in Meriden Superior Court on Dec. 16.

Photo Credit: Wallingford Police Department

7 Hurt in NYC Storefront Crash


A 34-year-old Brooklyn woman allegedly had a crack pipe on the floor of her Ford Mustang and was drunk when police say she drove into a Forever 21 store in midtown and hit several pedestrians Wednesday night.

Stella Mednik was charged Thursday with criminal possession of a controlled substance and driving while intoxicated, among other offenses, hours after her vehicle slammed into the Herald Square store in what police say was an attempt to flee from a crash with another car. Police allegedly found a second crack pipe in the trunk of her vehicle following the 9 p.m. crash Wednesday.

Mednik, a passenger in her car, a Forever 21 employee and four other pedestrians were all injured.

Police say Mednik, who law enforcement sources tell NBC 4 New York is an ex-lawyer with a suspended license, was driving her Mustang on West 34th Street when it rear-ended an SUV. She allegedly put the car in reverse in an apparent attempt to flee and hit a second car. After the second impact, police say the Mustang jumped the curb and plowed into the store and pedestrians.

Six people were seriously hurt and one had minor injuries; it wasn't clear how badly Mednik was hurt. All seven people were taken to Belleveue Hospital and were listed in stable condition Thursday.

Mednik's blood alcohol level was nearly twice the .08 threshold for drunk-driving charges, police said. She remained in custody at the hospital Thursday evening and it wasn't clear if she had an attorney.

A man who answered the doorbell at Mednik's last known address in Brooklyn said she no longer lived there. .

The crash startled pedestrians at one of the city's busiest intersections. Shopper Rockelle Grenee said Thursday she was shocked more people were not hurt.

"With all the people out here shopping she could have done a lot of damage," Grenee said.

The store reopened Thursday despite minor damage. A message for patrons hung near shredded wood in the front that read, "Sorry for the inconvenience, please use revolving doors."

-- Katherine Creag and Tracie Strahan contributed to this report. 

Photo Credit: @MATBKNYC

21-Year-Old Man Charged With Prostitution


Police have arrested a 21-year-old East Hartford man accused of soliciting sex for money in Manchester under the name "Tiffany."

According to police, Ronaldo Bouchard arranged to meet with an undercover officer and trade a half hour of sex for $150 cash. Other members of the East Central Narcotics Taskforce arrested Bouchard while he was making the deal with the officer.

Police said Bouchard had also helped a 16-year-old girl post prostitution advertisements.

Bouchard was charged with prostitution and promoting prostitution and was held on $25,000 bond.

Photo Credit: Manchester Police Department
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