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Principal Gambled $10K Stolen From School: City


A Bridgeport elementary school principal has been fired and arrested after stealing $10,000 from a school fundraising account and spending the money at casinos, according to a police.

Online court records show that Dunbar School principal Marilyn Taylor, 46, of Milford, was arrested last Friday and charged with first-degree larceny.

Police said Taylor was placed on administrative leave Nov. 10, about a year after allegedly pilfering money from the student-funded activity account.

Taylor spent the money at the Mohegan Sun casino in Uncasville, according to city communications director Brett Broesder.

City officials said they began investigating after a Board of Education audit found "irregularities" in the school fundraising account.

According to acting superintendent Fran Rabinowitz, Taylor will not be returning to work at the school on Union Avenue.

"She has been on paid administrative leave for over a month while this was investigated," Rabinowitz said in a statement Tuesday. "Assistant Principal Alyshia Perrin has been in the role of acting principal since then."

At the time of the theft, the troubled charter school management group Family Schools for Urban Excellence was running the Dunbar School.

Bridgeport terminated the partnership in July amid controversy surrounding CEO Michael Sharpe, who allegedly lied about his background and qualifications.

According to court records, Taylor was released on $20,000 bond and is due in court Jan. 2.

"We're working diligently to make sure justice is served," Broesder said in a statement Tuesday. "And, our top priority is to ensure that kids at Dunbar School – and kids in schools all across the city – are safe, secure, and learning in an environment that is preparing them to one day compete for 21st century jobs."

An attorney representing Taylor said the former principal has done good things for the school and came highly recommended.

"Marilyn Taylor has dedicated her career to bringing the highest educational standards to schools and neighborhoods where it is needed the most," attorney Edward W. Vioni wrote in an email to NBC Connecticut on Tuesday evening. "Ms. Taylor is known for turning around low performing schools in Louisiana and was highly recruited to come to Bridgeport and change the culture and academic performance at Dunbar Elementary."

Vioni said Taylor "never intended to steal from the school's fundraising account" and "is doing all that she can so that focus can return to making Dunbar Elementary a great place for children to learn."

Photo Credit: YouTube/Google Maps

Good Samaritan Helps Stop Sex Assault


Police are crediting a Good Samaritan with stopping a sexual assault on a woman on her way home in Stamford. It's an attack investigators say they've seen more of lately.

Investigators say a 20-year-old woman was not aware of her surroundings when Augusto Carreras and Ruben Enio Sandoval befriended her as she was walking down Washington Boulevard early Saturday morning

The Stamford Advocate reports that Ruben Enio Sandoval, 35, and Augusto Carreras, 53, were arrested on sexual assault, unlawful restraint and conspiracy charges.

Meanwhile Kerilyn Whitehead and her friend were at a light in their car at the corner of Summer and North Streets. They were heading home for the night but what they saw across the street didn't seem right: an intoxicated woman who couldn't walk being held up by two men.

"They couldn't get her across the street so they kept walking her down the street," said Kerilyn Whitehead, who was worried about this highly intoxicated girl.

She stopped and backed up into the Dairy Queen parking lot to cut the men off.

"The guy just kind of looked at me, one had his head down, the other looked at me and couldn't really speak English," Whitehead added.

She then backed out of the lot again onto North Street to try and catch up to them but the light was red.

"So I backed all the way down this street and down Dolsen Place," Whitehead said.

Even though they were going the wrong way on Dolsen, they had called the police knowing that they had to do something.

"She had been screaming when she was coming across the street so she heard them in one of the windows screaming so we waited there for the cops to come," Whitehead said.

Court documents say an officer saw Sandoval having sex with the woman who passed out on a mattress and police were able to stop the assault.

"At first we didn't think she was actually in danger with these two guys it just looked like she was so drunk she might need medical attention," said Whitehead's friend who didn't want to reveal her name.

But something about it seemed suspicious, according to Whitehead's friend.

"There was just something about the situation that didn't look good," Whitehead's friend added.

Police said Carreras and Sandoval might have drugged her then dragged her through the streets of Stamford back to Carreras' apartment on Dolsen Place. Police admit had it not been for Whitehead and her friend this could've been worse.

"I haven't stopped thinking about this poor girl since," Whitehead's friend said. "I wish we could've done something sooner."

"People need to be aware that it goes on all the time and you should be able to help," Whitehead added.

Detectives say they've seen an uptick in these types of crimes as people too drunk and unaware of their surroundings have been taken advantage of. Investigators plan to launch a public service campaign next week.

Photo Credit: Stamford Police Department

Fire Extinguished at Milford Garage


A fire broke out in Milford Wednesday morning at a garage detached from a home.

Residents at 18 River Edge Drive heard a popping noise from their one-car garage and saw smoke rising from the structure.

Flames were shooting from the roof when firfighters arrived.

The garage sustained heavy damage, but no one was injured.

Firefighters put out the flames and are not considering the incident suspicious.

The fire remains under investigation.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Meriden Police Investigate Untimely Death


Meriden police are investigating an untimely death in town.

Medical personnel responded to 292 Tumblebrook Road on Tuesday at 8:23 a.m. and found an unresponsive 48-year-old man in the home. First responders pronounced him dead at the scene.

Meriden police and the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Farmington are investigating the circumstances that led to his death.

Police have not said at this time whether the death seems suspicious.

More information will be provided as it becomes available.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Homeowner Halts Attempted Dirt Bike Theft


Redding police arrested a teenage suspect a homeowner detained in a residential burglary and are looking for another who got away.

Marte Keffry, 18, of Danbury, and another suspect are accused of trying to steal two dirt bikes when homeowners confronted them, police said. Keffry was injured in the hand with a knife during a struggle with the homeowner, who detained him until police arrived.

The other person, who police said might go by Brandon, ran from the scene. Police described him as a 20- to -25-year-old man with a mushroom-style haircut and blonde hair. He was last seen wearing a Boston Red Sox baseball hat, a blue hooded sweatshirt and cargo pants, police said.

Police are also looking for a black two-door pickup with an "extended cab," tinted windows, a black and white checkered flag on the antenna. The exhaust pipes above the cab are "large and loud," police said.

Police said the dirt bikes were not successfully stolen. Keffry's injury was not life-threatening.

Keffry faces charges of first-degree burglary, first-degree trespassing, conspiracy  and attempted third-degree larceny and was also charged with two counts of failure to appear on two outstanding warrants from Danbury police.

He is scheduled to appear in court on Wednesday.

Police ask anyone with information to call Redding police at 203-938-2400. Callers can make anonymous tips.

Shots Fired at Car on Rt. 8 Injure Man


One person was hospitalized with minor injuries after someone opened fire on another vehicle while driving on Route 8 early Wednesday morning.

Someone from a Buick sedan fired multiple shots at another car headed northbound on Route 8, according to state police, one of the victims in a car of five men told state police in a 911 call at about 1:15 a.m. on Wednesday. The car targeted was about to get on exit 22 at the time.

State police notified Seymour police with a description of the involved cars and officers stopped both vehicles. One victim had minor injuries after a bullet grazed his neck and an ambulance transported him to Bridgeport Hospital. He has since been released.

State troopers and detectives are leading the investigation. They conducted interviews and searched for evidence in Seymour and along the northbound side of Route 8. A state police K-9 unit helped with the search.

No one else was reported injured and no arrests have been made at this time.

Dozens of squad cars were also in the area of 425 South Main Street in Seymour for several hours in a connected investigation. The scene has since been cleared.

Police searched a vehicle with an open trunk stopped in the middle of the road on Route 8 on-ramp.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Police Officer Injured in Chase Following Shelton Armed Robbery


A police officer was injured while chasing a suspect after customers flagged him down about an armed robbery in progress at Cumberland Farms in Shelton early Wednesday morning.

Customers alerted the officer while he was doing a routine check at the 819 River Road gas station to alert him that a man wielding a gun was inside robbing the convenience store.

Valentine Rodriguez, 32, of Bridgeport, is facing multiple charges including robbery and gun violations.

Then the police officer saw a man wearing a dark hooded sweatshirt leave the store carrying something. Rodriguez ignored police commands and ran from the scene, leading the officer on a foot pursuit into a wooded area.

The officer heard a gunshot and other patrols arrived on scene, surrounding the perimeters and searching for the suspected robber. They found him hiding in the woods and located a gun.

Rodriguez continued to be combative, but officers successfully handcuffed Rodriguez and took him into custody. Police learned that the gun Rodriguez was carrying had been reported stolen.

The police officer was treated for injuries sustained in the foot chase. He was not shot in the incident, police said.

The Cumberland Farms store clerk working at the time of the robbery was not injured.

Police charged Rodriguez with first-degree robbery, theft of a firearm, criminal possession of a firearm, unlawful discharge of a firearm, interfering with an officer and sixth-degree larceny.

Shelton police are holding Rodriguez in custody on a $250,000 bond and he is scheduled to appear in Derby Superior Court on Wednesday.

Rodriguez is also facing a second-degree failure to appear charge off an outstanding warrant from Bridgeport. He is being held on additional charges from an active warrant out of Fairfield.

State, West Haven and Stratford police also responded to the scene and assisted in the investigation.

Photo Credit: Shelton Police Department

Rollover Crash on I-91 in Enfield


State police are investigating a one-car rollover crash on Interstate 91 in Enfield.

No one was injured in the crash on the southbound side near exit 49.

More information will be provided when it becomes available.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Route 140 Closed in Ellington


Route 140 is closed in Ellington near Buff Cap Road due to an accident.

Emergency dispatchers say around 8:18 p.m. Wednesday, a car struck a pole and took wires down in the area. No injuries were reported, but the road will be closed while crews work to fix the pole.

Check back for updates.

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Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Holiday Decorations Stolen From Newtown Businesses, Homes


Police are investigating several incidents in Newtown of vandals stealing holiday decorations.

Police recovered a snowman decoration stolen from 8 Baldwin Road in Newtown on Dec. 20 and said that Christmas decorations were also taken down on Lincoln Road that same day.

Earlier in the month, someone removed decorations from multiple businesses at 43 South Main Street on Dec. 7.

Police are investigating the incidents and it's unclear if they're related or whether there are any suspects.

Photo Credit: Debbie Szmutko

Volunteers Work to "Make a Christmas"


The stockings are lined up with care and the gifts placed next to Santa's big chair, ready for children who right now don't have a place to call home.

"Happy faces, smiling faces, the kids, that's what Christmas is all about," said volunteer Patty Cuscovitch.

What started out as a simple enough idea, helping those in need, has blossomed into a program that brings Christmas dinner to the homeless and a room full of presents to kids who wouldn't have a Christmas otherwise.

"I want them to feel special, like they're in a five-star restaurant from beginning to end," said RJ Gomes.

Gomes began "Make a Christmas" because he says someone helped him when he was in need, and he wants to do the same for others.

"I just so admire to see a young man do something like this and see how it's spread to so many people. He's touching lives," said Cuscovitch.

On Christmas day 600 people will see the Manchester Country Club decked out just for them. For the last 13 years every bit of it has been made possible thanks to the countless number of volunteers and donations. The volunteers say they know every bit of hard work and preparation is worth it because it's bringing cheer to those who need it most.

If you'd like to learn more about "Make a Christmas" or volunteer or donate, you can head over to http://www.makeachristmas.org/

Community Donates Medical Equipment to Family in Need


NORTH HAVEN -- Hunter Pageau’s Christmas wish list looks a little different from most kids. Next to the gifts that any other nine-year-old boy would want – a Hot Wheels RC Street Hawk, for one – are items like mechanical arms, a portable wheelchair ramp, and a specialized medical bed.

Hunter is one of only dozens of children in the world born with a rare and incurable genetic condition called Spinal Muscular Atrophy with Respiratory Distress, or SMARD. Most never make it past their first Christmas.

“He’s one of ten children living in the U.S. with SMARD,” Hunter’s mom Sharon explains. “He’s completely dependent on life support for breathing, he’s partially paralyzed and utilizes a wheelchair to travel.”

It’s a condition so rare, Sharon says, that there are no established support groups for SMARD, making it a lonely struggle for the Pageau family. None of the items on Hunter’s Christmas wish list would be covered by insurance, and Sharon – who provides round-the-clock medical care for her son – has struggled to negotiate with utility companies over the energy costs to keep Hunter’s life-saving ventilator powered at all times.

A few weeks ago, however, Hunter was invited to speak at the Christmas tree lighting on the North Haven green.

“I delivered a message of hope,” said Hunter, “and I feel like I really did touch their hearts a lot.”

He did.

So much so, that the North Haven Police Union decided to buy Hunter his mechanical arms. Tobin Family Chriopractic pitched in to buy the portable ramp. And the community is coming together to raise funds for the specialty medical bed, which costs $9,000.

The Pageaus are overwhelmed with gratitude.

“It’s been just amazing,” said Sharon. “We’re just really touched and grateful as a family. For anyone to allow God to love another through them…that’s what Christmas means to me. So Christmas for us has been every day this month.”

“My Christmas wish for the world is for everybody to be positive and to never give up,” said Hunter. “And love each other.”

If you’d like to help the Pageau family, donations can be mailed to People’s Bank, c/o Hunter Pageau Trust, 79 Washington Avenue, North Haven CT 06473.

Christmas Eve Favor


Two women connected by a desire to help others reunited on Christmas Eve to get their hands dirty — literally.

Amanda Heinlein's Azusa home has been punished by mudslides every time rain falls in Southern California — the piles of rocks and mud nearly 6 feet tall.

But help arrived Wednesday morning when Marine Cpl. Priscilla Taylor called to help dig the home out of the dirt.

"She called and said, 'You know, it's Christmas Eve, I have the day off, and I'd like to come and see what I can do to help,'" Heinlein said.

Heinlein and Taylor met earlier this year after Heinlein signed up for the Adopt A Soldier program. Heinlein sent monthly care packages to Taylor, a single mother, and even saw her off when she was deployed to Afghanistan around March.

While Taylor was deployed, the pair corresponded often, and Heinlein went above and beyond her own call of duty.

"She would take my son on play dates with her while I was gone," Taylor said. "It's just the little things she did that really meant a lot to me ... A person like that is very rare to find, so I'm very blessed to have her in my life."

The pair had only met twice before Wednesday — once during Taylor's deployment, and once during her return. Taylor, now based in Camp Pendleton, rolled up her sleeves to return the favor on Christmas Eve morning.

"I just thought, this is your time, this is your freedom and you just got back and you can do whatever you want and you've chose to come here and help me," Heinlein said. "How can you be any more of a servant?"

Photo Credit: Wulff/Li

Police Replace Stolen Xmas Gifts


Police cruisers full of gifts pulled up to a home to surprise a North Miami Beach family on Christmas Eve.

On Tuesday, thieves broke in to Pedro Huanmanchumo's home, stealing all but a handful of presents from underneath the family's Christmas tree.

The family of eight, including four children, were left heartbroken.

North Miami Beach Police Officer Carlos Paretz responded to the burglary call. Moved by the family's plight, he and Sgt. Juan Pinillos reached out to fellow officers to replace the stolen gifts.

"I mean, to be burglarized is devastating alone, toppled that with the fact you have no gifts for your children," Pinillos said. "So this is the least that we could do for the citizens in our community."

"We cannot undo what happened, but we can very much let them know we have a heart," said Chief Scott Dennis.

Officers brought in new toys, games, and hundreds of dollars' worth of gift cards, bringing tears of joy to Huanmanchumo.

"I never think this is going to happen, never," Huanmanchumo said, wiping his eyes. "Thank you."

Photo Credit: NBC 6

Drunk Driver Causes Crash On I-84 West in West Hartford


I-84 West in West Hartford was closed for hours after a drunk driver caused an accident.

State police responded to an accident in the area of Exit 42 on I 84 West in West Hartford around 9 a.m. Thursday morning.

The driver of the vehicle, identified as Hiran Lopez, 32, of New Britain, lost control of the car and struck a guardrail. Both he and a male passenger were ejected from the car and transported to Hartford Hospital with serious injuries. A third passenger was not injured.

Lopez was charged with Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol/Drugs and operating a motor vehcile under suspension. He is being help on a $100,000 bond and is scheduled to appear in court on Friday.

The accident remains under investigation.

Va. Firefighters Save Holiday for Displaced Family


Mom's Bible was replaced, with a new cover. The older sister opened brand-new Nike cleats. And the younger sister slung on her backpack, in the shape of Olaf, from the movie "Frozen."

But this Manassas, Virginia, family was most grateful for the first gift they received: No one was hurt when a fire tore through their rented home Sunday, destroying everything inside, including gifts that had been purchased for the girls.

The Valladeres family was at church Sunday when the fire erupted, sparked by lights on the family Christmas tree.

The family did not have renter's insurance, and is being sheltered in a Best Western hotel by the Red Cross.

Their loss so touched the City of Manassas firefighters who responded to their fire that the firefighters surprised the family on Christmas Eve, bringing gifts to the hotel to replace some of what the family had lost.

The family was overwhelmed. After encouraging 6-year-old Kimberly to open her gifts, 18-year-old Lisbeth could not hold back tears when she unwrapped the cleats.

"This is where family really is at," Lisbeth translated for her mother, Mercedes. "Today it could be us, tomorrow it could be another family, but thanks to you guys we are all together."

The members of the Manassas firefighters and paramedics union didn't have time for a fund-raiser. So they reached into their own pockets to buy the gifts.

"It brings home why we choose to do this, to help people," said firefighter Michael Nazionale.

The firefighters did save one thing from the home: Lisbeth's prized Virginia Tech blanket, from the school she dreams of attending one day. The firefighters said she could keep it if she washed it two or three times to get rid of the smoke.

Man Dies in Custody at U.S. Border


A man died in the custody of U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents after crossing into the U.S. on Christmas Eve, officials said Thursday.

The man, identified only as a 40-year-old, used the pedestrian crossing at the San Ysidro Port of Entry before 7 p.m. Wednesday. A records check revealed the man should be considered armed and dangerous, according to the CBP, so they escorted him to a security office. 

During the secondary inspection, agents say they gave the man a pat down, seized heroin from him and realized he was wanted on a felony warrant.

As the man was left in front of the security desk, he allegedly jumped over a counter and attacked two officers.

Federal officials say they used a Taser to control the man.

When the man became unresponsive and stopped breathing just after 7 p.m., agents say they began CPR and called for paramedics.

Paramedics performed CPR on the patient and took him to Sharp Chula Vista where he was pronounced dead at 7:57 p.m., agents said.

Four CBP agents were injured and treated at a nearby hospital, according to officials.

Attorney Gene Iredale told NBC 7 Thursday that he believes video footage of the incident should ultimately be released to the public.

"That entire area should be covered, should be blanketed with video cameras which will allow government investigators or anyone else who is involved in an investigation to review exactly what happened anywhere in the point of entry," he said.

Iredale represents the family of Anastasio Hernandez-Rojas, whose case garnered national media attention when cellphone video surfaced showing border agents tasing Rojas five times while he was handcuffed, pleading for help. He died shortly after in 2010.

"It's very important when something tragic happens that there be transparency, and that's in the interest of everyone," said Iredale. "That's in the interest of the government." 

Homicide detectives with the San Diego Police Department will investigate the circumstances of the man’s death, as will the CBP's Office of Internal Affairs and the DHS Office of Inspector General. A San Diego County Medical Examiner’s investigation will determine his cause of death.

The man’s name has not been released pending notification of next of kin. The names of the agents involved will not be released at this time, officials said.

Photo Credit: Foto/AP

Two Men Arrested for DUI in the Same Car


The Willimantic police department arrested two people this morning after a one-car crash.

Police responded to Ash St. around 9 a.m. Upon arrival, they found Abimael Ramirez trying to move the crashed vehicle.

Ramirez was arrested for a DUI and operating a vehicle without a license.

While investigating, police learned that a second male had actually been the driver of the car at the time of the crash. That driver, Rolando Meletz, fled the scene at the time of crash.

He was located near the scene of the crash and charged with DUI, Fail to Drive Right and operating a motor vehicle without a license.

Both were released on bond and scheduled to appear in court on January 5.

Christmas Burglar Shot in LA


A Christmas burglar who tried to break into two homes was peppered by shotgun pellets fired by one of the homeowners before he was arrested by police who surrounded the Anaheim Hills neighborhood.

The burglar suffered minor, nonlife threatening injuries from the shotgun blast, said Anaheim police Lt. Bob Dunn.

Officers initially responded to a report of an attempted break-in near the 830 block of Quiet Canyon Way just before midnight. The subject was described as a man with a black ski mask who ran from the property before police arrived. 

Then at 3:30 a.m. Thursday, police received a call about a half-mile away regarding a man with a black ski mask inside a home in the 900 block of Country Glen Way. The homeowner had returned home a few hours earlier from dinner with his family, put his 3-year-old daughter to bed and gone out to the garage to get some holiday gifts from his car.

Nathaniel Blair said he might have left the house door open at that time, explaining how the intruder entered his house. Blair went back inside, then remembered about two hours after retrieving the gifts that he needed to move his truck into the garage.

"I came downstairs to this door right here behind me, opened it up and there was a guy standing right behind the door with a pipe wrench, one of the big pipe wrenches," said Blair. "I opened the door and was like, is this happening right now?

"At that point in time, I'm like, you know what man, you came to the wrong home if you think you're going to come into my house and do that."

The homeowner and burglar grappled, and Blair was hit by the wrench. Blair then ran upstairs, armed himself with a 12-gauge shotgun and fired at the subject, who ran away, Dunn said.

"There was one shot fired by the resident," Dunn said.

Blair did not suffer significant injuries.

"You don't come into my home and threaten my family," he said.

Police set up a perimeter and the bloodied assailant was located by K9 units shortly before 5 a.m. in a garage in the 1000 block of Country Glen Street, according to police. The man was taken to the hospital after being found in a resident's garage, Dunn said. He was expected to be booked on suspicion of residential burglary.

"That's creepy," said Blair's neighbor, Frank Zanganeh. "I would do the same thing. If somebody walks into my house with a wrench or with a gun, the coroner would have to come get him."

Photo Credit: KNBC-TV

"Elves" Deliver Pets to Kids


Unsuspecting children are having an even merrier Christmas thanks to a group of "elves."

In an effort to adopt out as many animals as possible before Christmas, the New Hampshire SPCA made a very special offer to local families. Employees dressed up at Santa's elves and delivered six kittens to five different families.

The SPCA elves hit the road by 7:30 Christmas morning.

Their first stop was the Fernandes home in Stratham, to make a wish come true for 8-year-old twins Georgia and Quinn. The girls have been asking for a new kitten for months and when their mom learned about the SPCA elves, she enlisted their help right away.

"What a fun way to do it and they'll never forget it, you know, the day their kitten came home." said Christian Fernandes.

As the twins started thinking of a name for their first pet, the elves hopped in their sleigh and hurried away to the next delivery in North Hampton. This time a Siamese kitten in a pink case arrived at the Fuller home.

"I was really surprised," Jaeda Fuller said through teary eyes.

Jaeda's mom, Melinda, is in the military and is deploying in a couple of days.

"So we have a new little addition to keep everybody company while I am gone," Melinda Fuller said.

Jaeda tells us the kitten will help her get through when she really misses her mom.

"I wanted it really, really bad," she said.

Jaeda first saw the tiny kitten last month when she dropped off a donation at the adoption center. She had asked for donations instead of birthday gifts and raised $500 for the SPCA.

Her mom has been working on getting her the kitten ever since.

"It all aligned, I don't know how it came together, but it did," Fuller said.

And just like that, Santa's helpers granted another wish. Once they left the Fuller's, they had three more stops to go.

"No matter how young they are, now they're going to remember it and we are excited to be a part of that," Catherine Tobia, a SPCA employee and temporary elf, said.

"the kids are just so overwhelmed and surprised, it's amazing to be a part of," Jen Frey, another "elf," said.

The special deliveries were so successful the SPCA elves are convinced they've started a new Christmas tradition and promise to offer the same service to families next year. 

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