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Crews Share Safety Tips Amid Fatal Fires


The holiday season has not been without tragedy in Connecticut. Several people have lost their lives in fires around the state, and firefighters are emphasizing the importance of staying safe.

Investigators spent the day in Wolcott on Monday at the scene of the state's latest fatal fire. Flames broke out at a home on Bungee Hill Road in Wolcott on Sunday night.

One of the residents, Caroline Alley, was able to escape, but her husband Jan didn't make it out. Now fire crews are trying to determine what went wrong.

Just three days ago, two people died in a Bristol house fire, and earlier this month, four were killed when flames tore through a home in Enfield.

"Each one if those is a lesson for people who live in a community that looks like that or lives in a home that looks like that," said East Hartford Fire Chief John Oates. "What do I need to do to be better prepared to make sure that doesn't happen to me or in my community?"

Oates said firefighters are reported more frequently this time of year and are often caused by cooking problems, Christmas trees, candles and alternative hearing sources like space heaters and wood stoves.

"Fires can start in a variety of ways and the best preparation that people can have is have a good exit plan, make sure it's communicated among the family," said Oates.

Firefighters recommend having working smoke detectors in every bedroom, one in the hallway outside the bedrooms, and at least one on every floor of your home.

"If you look at the value of what you're trying to protect, you're trying to protect your life, you're trying to protect your family. It's an $8 smoke detector," said Oates.

Oates also advised residents to unplug Christmas trees as night and when you're not home, blow out all candles when you leave the room and check over your stove and heating sources.

"Just that little extra margin of safety and paying attention to the things we do every day can make a difference," he explained.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Panel Finds Voting Irregularities in Hartford


During the first meeting of the Committee of Inquiry into Hartford's Registrars of Voters on Election Day, members examined evidence of voting irregularities across the city, and not just individual precincts.

A Committee of Inquiry probing problems at the polls in Hartford met for the first time Monday and examined evidence of voting irregularities across the city.

The committee came about after issues on Election Day caused major delays at some city polls, resulting in extended voting hours at several polling stations.

But committee members said Monday that the problems weren't limited to individual precincts. What they found were serious issues with reported figures that came from the Registrars of Voters.

According to the Secretary of the State's office, the city reported that 15,668 people voted in the Nov. 4 election, but that 17,207 votes were cast in the governor's race.

Now the committee is picking apart the disparity and trying to figure out what went wrong.

"We're going to get to the bottom of this," said Joel Cruz, Jr., a member of the Hartford City Council and a co-chair of the Committee of Inquiry. “I think it’s a perfect example of that, when something goes wrong, it’s not just one thing. We’re starting to see that there are many parts of the puzzle that did not fall into place."

With regards to the Election Day delays at polling places, a lawyer with the Secretary of the State testified that the Hartford's Registrars' office did not provide key information to the Secretary of the State, as is required by law, ahead of the election.

Av Merrill, a spokesperson for Secretary of the State Denise Merrill, said the office was supposed to have the locations of polling places and the names and addresses for poll moderators, but never received that information.

Harris said he doesn't think the Registrars of Voters were properly prepared on Nov. 4.

“That was quite evident from the early hours on Election Day that the city of Hartford’s Registrars of Voters office were basically unprepared to conduct an election, and they were not prepared for the relatively large numbers of voters that came in on Election Day,” Harris said.

The Committee of Inquiry will meet again tomorrow and must submit a final report to the city council by Dec. 31.

Frontier Faces State Regulators


For the first time since thousands of Connecticut customers began reporting service disruptions, executives with Frontier Communications faced the state Public Utility Regulatory Authority to take a look at what went wrong.

“I think what we feel good about is how we reacted," Paul Quick, the company's general manager for Connecticut, told the board on Monday.

The meeting came at the request of Connecticut Consumer Counsel Elin Katz in the wake of massive service problems during the changeover from AT&T U-Verse to Frontier Communications in October.

The discussion was a "technical meeting" to examined what happened to when Frontier officially transitioned hundreds of thousands of former AT&T customers at the cost of about $2 billion.

What followed were thousands of calls to Frontier's customer service centers reporting service delays and missed appointments by Frontier technicians. Customers complained of Internet outages, malfunctioning on-demand service, and changes to channel lineups.

Quick said the company has responded appropriately.

"We increased the number of people taking calls. I don’t think we imagined that the call center would get that many calls. We reacted. We’re getting more people in place. We’re getting them trained. We think we’re going to be better there,” he explained.

One customer, Carla MacKay, testified that the Internet in her house went out on Nov. 24 and said she still has "terrible service" despite multiple visits from technicians and calls to Frontier.

“It was very, one hand didn’t know what the other hand was doing," she said.

Quick said Frontier conducted mock transitions in the weeks and months leading up to the changeover. He also said that certain protocols that worked in other Frontier markets turned out not to work here.

He said the company is working to improve the way it responds to customers in Connecticut.

“Ninety-nine percent of the people had a good experience, but the reality is for that one percent," Quick said. "Many of the people that wrote you, many of the people who wrote us, said it’s not good enough. It’s because we needed to read and react. I think we’ve done that in the call center. I think we’ve done that with some of the TV issues.”

According to the Office of Consumer Counsel, more than 2,000 official complaints were reported. Since being submitted to the state, many issues have been resolved. Katz said the public hearing would serve only make things better for Connecticut Frontier customers.

"I’m hoping that this will go pretty far toward getting those issues resolved but also shed some sunlight on what has happened so far,” Katz said.

Bomb Threat Evacuates Southington High School


Students were dismissed early from Southington High School and the building was evacuated Monday afternoon after a bomb threat was posted to a social media app, according to police.

Police said the threat was discovered around 2 p.m. Dec. 22 on the app "Yik Yak," which allows users to post anonymous messages visible to all other users in the immediate area.

The school building was evacuated and all after-school activities were canceled as police and fire officials arrived to investigate. Authorities are searching the school and checking for threats.

School administrators sent a letter to parents notifying them of the incident.

"Buses were already arriving on campus for regular dismissal and therefore administration used the opportunity to dismiss the students at that time," Supt. Tim Connellan wrote in the email to parents and guardians. "Students staying for extra curricular activities are safe and are being supervised by staff members."

Connellan said students and staff will be allowed to re-enter the building after police give the all-clear. In a second email sent around 3:30 p.m., Connellan said all afternoon activities were canceled.

"Nothing suspicious has been reported at this time. The Southington Police Department will secure and lock down the building this evening," he wrote.

According to Connellan, school will be held as scheduled tomorrow and extra police will patrol the area as a precaution.

Putnam Man Vandalizes 9/11 Memorial in New Jersey: Police


A Putnam resident is facing charges after spray painting a 9/11 memorial in New Jersey and causing $2,500 worth of damage, according to police.

Police said the vandal struck at the 9/11 memorial at the Ronald R. Rogers Arboretum in West Windsor, New Jersey, sometime during the afternoon or evening hours of Nov. 2.

According to NBC10 in Philadelphia, Cyrillic letters were sprayed in red across the memorial, which honors seven West Windsor residents who lost their lives in the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

Detectives identified 27-year-old Daniil Strukov, of Putnam, Connecticut, as the suspect. He was taken into custody in Georgia on Dec. 21 and charged with criminal mischief and desecration of a venerated object, according to police.

Strukov is being extradited to New Jersey.

Photo Credit: NBC10.com

Man Calls 911 When "Babbling" Wife Keeps Him Awake: Cops


All he wanted was a good night's sleep, but instead, this Middletown, Connecticut, man found himself in trouble with the law.

When first responders arrived at Peter Recchia's home on Traverse Drive the night of Dec. 17, they expected to find his wife in need of medical help.

But, as they soon realized, Recchia was only upset because his wife was talking too much, according to police.

Recchia, 54, admitted that he had only called 911 because his wife "babbles" when she's off her medication. Police said he'd been gone for 10 days and suspected she wasn't taking it.

Firefighters and EMTs showed up to find Recchia's wife sitting in a chair and smoking a cigarette. Because he had a court date the next morning and wanted to get to bed early, Recchia called for help and exaggerated his wife's condition, police said.

Now he's going back to court, but for a different reason. He was issued a misdemeanor summons for falsely reporting an incident and will face a judge Jan. 2.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

East Hartford Police Arrest Murder Suspect


Police have arrested the Hartford man accused of shooting and killing an East Hartford resident over the summer.

Larry Williams, 18, of Hartford was arrested Dec. 22 and charged with murder. According to police, Williams shot and killed 44-year-old Michael Mikulske in the driveway of a home on Main Street in East Hartford the night of July 2.

With the help of Hartford police, officers from East Hartford took Williams into custody on Barbour Street in Hartford.

He was charged with murder, criminal attempt at first-degree assault, criminal use of a firearm, first-degree reckless endangerment and second-degree threatening.

Photo Credit: East Hartford Police Department

6-Year-Old Stops Breathing on School Bus and Dies


She seemed fine when her parents put her on the bus, but by the time she got to school, a 6-year-old from Bridgeport had stopped breathing.

She later died.

According to Bridgeport Supt. Fran Rabinowitz, the child, who was severely disabled and rode in a wheelchair, took the bus to the Jettie S. Tisdale School last Monday, which Rabinowitz said is equipped with resources for special-needs students.

The child's parents said the day began like any other, according to Rabinowitz.

"They did not feel that that particular morning there was any indication that she wouldn't be with us later in the day," she explained.

But when the girl's teacher met her at the door, it became apparent something was very wrong.

"As she came into school, the teacher noticed that she was not breathing," Rabinowitz said.

School staff rushed her to the nurse's office and called an ambulance.

"They tried resuscitation," Rabinowitz said. "She was then taken to the hospital and pronounced at about 9:30 in the morning."

Now the Bridgeport Police Department and school system are investigating. Although funeral services were held today, the girl's cause of death has yet to be determined.

Bridgeport police and school officials have both said their thoughts are with the child's family.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Driver Hits Fireman After Trying to Steal Tree


Authorities are investigating after a woman tried to steal a Christmas tree from a fire station in Ansonia, then struck a firefighter in the parking lot as she drove off, according to police.

Police said the suspect headed to the Hilltop Hose Company and tried to make off with a tree around 4:30 p.m. Friday. While she was driving away, she hit a firefighter who was in the parking lot and sped off.

The woman continued onto Pulaski Highway, where she crashed into a large truck. She left the crash scene and was found sitting in her car on Macintosh Lane, according to police.

Police said the car was heavily damaged but no one involved was seriously hurt. No charges have been filed but police said they expect to make an arrest soon.

Photo Credit: Chiot's Run/Flickr

Dazzling Holiday Display Causes Traffic Trouble


A dazzling display of lights in Southington is turning heads this holiday season, but with increased attention comes increased traffic, and drivers trying to catch a glimpse of the festive exhibit could find themselves facing a fine.

The Burke family on Lovely Lane began crafting its display in 2008. The lights have since become tradition, and the Burkes aim to outdo themselves year after year.

The lights have drawn admirers from around the state, and the home’s popularity has surged this year, with 50,000 lights twinkling to a musical medley from the popular children’s movie “Frozen.”

But “Lights on Lovely” isn’t just about the view. Homeowner Howard Burke is asking anyone who stops by to bring along non-perishable food items to donate to a local food pantry.

“I love it. Most all our neighbors love it, families love it, kids love it, and they do a great job and donate to a great charity,” explained neighbor Delina Coviello.

As a result of its popularity, the quiet neighborhood is now dealing with heavy traffic, and the Southington Police Department is stepping in to help.

Police are asking drivers to move slowly past the house instead of stopping, and they’ve implemented an emergency parking ban in the area that could bring about tickets for those who don’t heed the request.

“It’s good to hear the reaction, but it’s also a little stressful with the traffic and inconvenience it causes the neighbors,” said Burke. “We definitely appreciate the support of the neighbors still with us on this.”

Residents interested in checking out the display can head to Lovely Lane until New Year’s Day, when the lights will come down. Drivers are asked to enter the neighborhood through Cobblestone Court.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Toys "R" Us Open 39 Hours for Last-Minute Holiday Shoppers


In the mad dash to finish Christmas shopping, you'll have more time to buy toys for the kids as Toys "R" Us will remain open for 39 continuous hours at every store nationwide. 

The toy store opened at 6 a.m. this morning and will remain open until 9 p.m. Christmas Eve, extending its hours in the final stretch of holiday shopping.

Are you a last-minute shopper? There might be a payoff as retailers offer deep discounts from buy one, get one free deals to half off the entire store.

If your list doesn't include toys, several other stores have extended hours, including Kohls, JC Penney, Macy's, Best Buy and Target. Some, like Kohls, are open 24 hours up to the holidays.

For those who can't make it to the store and want to make final orders online, Amazon is offering one-day delivery on Tuesday and same-day delivery on certain items on Christmas Eve.

Photo Credit: NECN

Lebanon Man Dead After Hitting Tree


A 39-year-old Lebanon man is dead after crashing into a tree on Monday night.

State police said Robert J. Previti, 39, of Lebanon, was driving south on Leonard Bridge Road, near Meadow Ridge Drive, around 11:20 p.m. on Monday when he went off the road at a turn and hit a large tree.

Previti was taken to Windham Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

State police are investigating.

Anyone with information about the crash is asked to call state police at 860-465-5411.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Slain Officer Was to Become Chaplain on Day of Ambush


One of the two NYPD officers slain by a man who posted on Instagram that he was "putting wigs on pigs" was set to become a volunteer chaplain on the day of his death, officials say.

Rafael Ramos had finished a 10-week course with the New York State Chaplain Task Force and was scheduled to attend a graduation ceremony at 4 p.m. Saturday, said the Rev. Marcos Miranda, the non-profit organization's president.

An hour before the ceremonies began, Ramos and fellow officer Wenjian Liu were ambushed and fatally shot by 28-year-old Ismaaiyl Brinsley, who then ran into a nearby subway station in Brooklyn's Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood and took his own life.

Miranda said he didn't know if Ramos had planned to attend the graduation ceremony but said his group plans to present Ramos' widow and sons with a certificate of completion and his chaplain's credentials at the man's funeral on Saturday.

Miranda said that he met Ramos shortly after the man began his coursework. He said they spoke several times and described him as an "amazing" person who was always seen with a smile on his face. Miranda said Ramos did very well in the course and told him that he wanted to become a full-time minister when he retired from the NYPD.

"You could see the kindness radiating in his eyes," Miranda said. "He had very kind eyes."

The New York State Chaplain's Task force is not affiliated with the NYPD, but it trains people to provide emergency spiritual and emotional services. 

Ramos was very active at his church, Christ Tabernacle in Glendale, Queens, where he served as an usher, and was part of the marriage and life group ministries.

"Ralph was definitely a family man," said the church communications director, Janice de Castro, in a statement. "He always talked about his kids and how well they were doing athletically and academically. He loved his family and his church."

A wake for Ramos will be held from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday at Christ Tabernacle Church. The funeral will be held there at 10 a.m. Saturday.

The White House said Tuesday that Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden will be attending the service at President Obama's request. 

Photo Credit: AP
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Driver Hospitalized After Veering Up Embankment


A woman was hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries after veering across traffic and up an embankment near Route 7 in Norwalk Monday night.

A Mazda 3 headed northbound toward the end of the Route 7 connector crossed Grist Mill Road, went up a 40-foot embankment and landed 25 feet from the road, Norwalk fire officials said.

Firefighters extricated the female driver, 20, from the car. She was transported to Norwalk Hospital after complaining of neck and back pain. Her injuries aren't life-threatening, firefighters said.

Norwalk fire officials said that it was fortunate that the state Department of Transportation removed a rock wall in that area in 2008 due to multiple fatal crashes.

"The gradual inclining hill" developed to replace the wall "prevented this accident from being more serious," Norwalk fire officials said.

The accident happened at about 9:22 p.m.

Photo Credit: Norwalk Fire Department

Traffic Slow on Route 8 in Shelton


Traffic is slow on Route 8 in Shelton after several crashes.

There was one crash on Route 8 South at exit 11, another at exit 13 and traffic is backed up from exit 19.

The northbound side of the road is also backed up because of disabled tractor-trailer. There are delays between exits 20 and 22.

Photo Credit: Christina @mommyoftwoct

Ansonia Police Investigate Car Fire


Ansonia police are investigating after a car burst into flames in the area of Linnett Park on Monday evening and said it was suspicious.

Police responded to Linnett Park, on Crowley Street, just after 6 p.m. on Monday to investigate a car fire and found a 2012 Nissan Altima that had been stolen from Fifth Street. It was fully engulfed in flames.

Witnesses said they saw someone drive the car erratically into parking lot, then heard a loud bang and saw the vehicle on fire.

People, who they have not yet identified, were seen running from the vehicle, police said.

Police and the fire marshal said the fire was suspicious. The car is a total loss.

Anyone with any information is asked to contact the Detective Division at (203) 736-2040.

Teens Charged in Stolen Car Incident


Two teens were arrested on charges of tampering with a vehicle outside a West Haven home on Rockefeller Avenue early Tuesday morning.

Police found Jesse Fitzmaurice, 18, and a 17-year-old on Jones Hill Road and the person who reported the incident to police identified them, police said.

Officers located a stolen car on View Street and discovered Fitzmaurice had the car keys on him.

Police charged Fitzmaurice with several larceny charges and conspiracy to commit larceny and held him in custody. The juvenile, whose name wasn't released because the person is under 17, was also arrested and released to his parents.

Photo Credit: West Haven Police

Rep. Michael Grimm Pleads Guilty to Tax Fraud


New York Rep. Michael Grimm pleaded guilty to a single count of tax fraud Tuesday in Brooklyn federal court.

The guilty plea comes one month after the congressman, a Republican who represents Staten Island, was elected to a third term.

In April, Grimm was named in a 20-count indictment that accused him of under-reporting the payroll and earnings of his Upper East Side restaurant, Healthalicious, which he ran from 2007 to 2010. He pleaded not guilty in federal court and was released on bond.

Prosecutors alleged Grimm employed a number of immigrant workers who did not have legal status to work in the U.S., and paid them in cash -- wages that were not reported to the government. He also allegedly "substantially under-reported" the restaurant's gross receipts, lowering its taxes.

Grimm said at the time he was being wrongly accused but asked House Speaker John Boehner to take him off the House Financial Services Committee until his federal case was resolved.

Asked during an October whether he would resign if found guilty, Grimm responded, "Certainly, if I was not able to serve, then of course I would step aside."

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California) called on Boehner to demand Grimm to step down from office in light of the guilty plea. Other Democrats have echoed Pelosi's call.

"Now that the election is over, Congressman Grimm is finally admitting the truth to his constituents," Pelosi said in a statement Tuesday. "Clearly, Speaker Boehner must insist that Congressman Grimm resign immediately."

Boehner, who has forced out other lawmakers for lesser offenses, doesn't plan to comment on Grimm's situation until the two discuss it, Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said. A felony conviction does not disqualify a person from serving in Congress, other than under the 14tth Amendment or for certain treasonous acts.

If he refuses to resign, it would take a rare vote by his fellow lawmakers to expel him from the House. The last member to be expelled was James Traficant, D-Ohio, who was kicked out of Congress in 2002.

Grimm, 44, made headlines in January after telling a NY1 reporter he wanted to throw the journalist off a balcony in the Capitol for asking about the campaign finance inquiry.

An independent advisory office recommended that the House Ethics Committee investigate the balcony incident. The ethics panel deferred its investigation into Grimm while the Justice Department case was ongoing.

If Grimm doesn't resign, the panel is sure to address the case next year.

He is scheduled to be sentenced June 8.

Photo Credit: Marc Santia
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Vigil in Hartford Honors Fallen NYPD Officers


A vigil will be held at City Hall in Hartford at noon in response to the deaths of two New York police officers who were shot and killed in Brooklyn.

Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos were ambushed on Saturday afternoon by 28-year-old Ismaaiyl Brinsley after a rampage that began when he shot and wounded his ex-girlfriend at her home outside Baltimore, then made threatening posts online, including a vow to put "wings on pigs" and references to high-profile cases of police officers shooting unarmed black men.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

1 Transported After Falling from Tree in Simsbury

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