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New Haven Dad to Serve 14 Years in Triple Fatal Fire


The father of a convicted arsonist will spend more than 14 years in prison after driving his son from the scene of a fire in New Haven that killed three people in 2011, then trying to hide the evidence and lying to a federal grand jury, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.

Federal prosecutors said Hector Morales, 51, of New Haven, enabled his son’s drug dealing habits, driving him around the city to sell cocaine, crack cocaine, pills and marijuana.

Morales’ son, 29-year-old Hector Natal, set fire to a home in the city’s Fair Haven neighborhood in March 2011 “in retaliation for a customer’s failure to pay a small drug debt,” according to federal prosecutors.

Three people – a 41-year-old woman, her 8-year-old son and 21-year-old niece – were killed in the blaze. They were among 17 residents home when the house on Wolcott Street went up in flames, prosecutors said.

According to the U.S. attorney’s office, Morales drove his son from the scene, then painted his van black in an effort to hide his involvement in the crime. He also schemed with family members to lie to a federal grand jury and tell a story that would absolve Morales and Natal.

Both father and son were found guilty on 11 counts in April 2013. Morales, who has been in custody since July 2012, was sentenced Thursday to 14.5 years in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release.

Natal is also currently behind bars and will be sentenced Feb. 10.

Photo Credit: Family Photos

2 Hurt in Head-On Branford Collision


Two people, including a 72-year-old woman, were hospitalized after a head-on crash on Main Street in Branford, according to the fire department.

Fire officials said two cars collided near the intersection of Main Street and Home Place around 2 p.m. Thursday. Firefighters used "Jaws of Life" to pull the 72-year-old woman from her car, where she was trapped.

"The extremely cold weather presented a unique challenge for us today," acting Asst. Fire Chief Ron Mullen said in a statement. "We had to move quickly to extricate the patient and get her out of the elements."

The woman and another person were hospitalized for treatment, according to the fire department. Their conditions are unknown.

Police are investigating the crash.

Photo Credit: Branford Fire Department

State Board Approves Concussion Guidelines


The state Board of Education has just approved the first guidelines to regulate the way Connecticut schools handle student-athletes displaying concussion symptoms.

The 32-page handbook came as a mandate from the General Assembly which approved concussion protocols during the spring.

Among other requirements, coaches must pull any student-athlete who shows signs and symptoms of a concussion.

"The first thing that happens, the coach is required to remove them from the field of play and then they need to be looked at by a health care professional, an athletic trainer is usually on site right there,” explained John Frassinnelli, the head of Health and Nutrition at the Connecticut Department of Education.

The guidelines are contained in a public document that’s meant to be seen by all parents so they will know what to do in the event of their son or daughter experiences symptoms of a concussion.

Frassinnelli said parents must know the guidelines in order to make sure their children are ready for play and to ensure that they don’t take the field until they’ve been cleared.

"The child should be seen by a healthcare provider,” Frassinelli said. “They can do a complete assessment to determine the effects of the concussion and talk about what treatments need to be put in place to give that student-athlete both cognitive and physical rest."

As a general rule, health professionals recommend erring on the side of caution when it comes to concussions and removing a student-athlete from the game, even if it’s just as a precaution.

Vandals Damage 100 Headstones


The number of headstones knocked over or broken at the Hamilton Avenue Cemetery in Norwich reached the triple digits after vandals desecrated the burial grounds, causing $20,000 in damage.

Police went door to door through the area Thursday, hoping neighbors would be able to provide insight into case as they work to track down the people responsible.

Members of the Norwich Public Works Department discovered the damage Jan. 7 while conducting a periodic check of the cemetery. Police said the vandals struck sometime within the past three weeks.

"I've been working for 30 years, and in my 30 years, that's never been hit hard," explained Angelo Yeitz, who oversees the city-owned cemetery. "It came as a shock to all of us."

Since the stones can weigh up to 600 pounds apiece, Yeitz speculates that the vandals worked in a group. He said the city will begin making repairs right away, but some of the damaged headstones will have to wait until the spring.

"The repair process is a tedious process, because of the base of them gets tilted and the stones get knocked over," he said. "You can't just put the stones back on."

Anyone with information is urged to call Officer First Class Harrison Formiglio at 860-886-5561 ext. 6, or the department’s anonymous tip line at 860-886-5561 ext. 500.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

2.3 Earthquake Rattles Eastern Connecticut


A small earthquake rattled residents of eastern Connecticut on Thursday morning.

Residents of Plainfield reported hearing loud booms on Thursday morning. Police said the National Weather Service and the Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security confirmed a 2.0 to 2.2 magnitude earthquake centered 1.8 miles south of Danielson, in the northern part of Plainfield.

The U.S. Geological Survey later listed the quake as 2.3 magnitude, according to its website.

Seismographs at the Weston Observatory at Boston College registered the earthquake just before 9:30 a.m. and Dr. John Ebel, of Boston College, said a 2.0 earthquake would cause a loud boom, followed by some shaking, but no damage.

Plainfield police said they received more than 50 calls to 911 reporting a loud explosion, followed by shaking, which match Ebel's description of a 2.0 earthquake.

While this is not a common occurence in Connecticut, it is not unheard of. Ebel said there are, on average, six earthquakes per year in New England.

Before confirming that the calls were reports of an earthquake, police said they, as well as the fire marshal’s office, ruled out any active blasting in the area, incidents on Interstate 395 or with the Providence and Worcester Railroad.

Weston Observatory also had two reports of earthquakes in the area of Danielson on Nov. 9. 

Photo Credit: Weston Observatory at Boston College

Air Quality Concerns Shut Down Clark School in Hartford


Concerns about air quality after tests revealed low levels of PCBs at the John C. Clark, Jr. Elementary and Middle School in Hartford has prompted class cancellations on Thursday and Friday, according to officials with the Hartford school system.

Supt. Beth Schiavino-Narvaez said in a letter to parents dated Jan. 7 that students will likely also be relocated from the facility at 75 Clark Street while maintenance crews work to fix the issue.

"Testing done in preparation for the installation of a new sprinkler system at Clark school revealed results that raised concerns about the air quality," Schiavino-Narvaez wrote in the letter. "Additional air samplings and treatments that were conducted to address the issue have not returned the results we were expecting, so we are conducting further testing to determine the source of the problem."

A spokesperson for Hartford Public Schools said tests revealed low levels of PCBs, which are known to "cause a variety of adverse health effects" and have been proven to cause cancer in animals, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Schiavino-Narvaez said the school system will keep parents apprised as the situation unfolds.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Police Find 83-Year-Old Man Missing From Rocky Hill


The 83-year-old man reported missing from Rocky Hill on Thursday has been found and is being evaluated at a local hospital, according to police.

Police issued a Silver Alert for Henryk Ronewicz on Thursday afternoon and said Ronewicz was considered endangered due to health concerns.

Prior to about 9:30 p.m. Thursday, Ronewicz was last seen around 3 p.m. Wednesday at his home in Rocky Hill. Police said he may have been driving a gray 2001 Toyota Tacoma with Connecticut license plates reading 937-13C.

Ronewicz stands 5 feet 6 inches tall, weighs 150 pounds and has gray hair, blue eyes and a Polish accent. Police said he was wearing a black leather coat, dark jeans and a dark shirt when family members last saw him Wednesday afternoon.

Anyone with information is urged to call Rocky Hill police at 860-258-7640.

Photo Credit: Rocky Hill Police Department

Boston Olympics Rivals Vow to Fight


Not everyone is happy that Boston was selected as the United States' bid city for the 2024 Summer Olympics.

Opponents of Boston's bid for the 2024 Summer Olympics say they'll keep fighting efforts to bring the Games to Boston and could even seek a ballot initiative.

Liam Kerr, co-chair of No Boston Olympics, says his group has a team in place he's confident could handle a ballot initiative, should that be the best tool. "Everything is on the table," he said.

Kerr also said he's confident public opposition will grow more vocal as residents get more specifics about the proposal to host in 2024.

"I think people will certainly coalesce against it, even more strongly than they already are," he said, adding that polling showed public opinion against hosting the 2024 Games.

No Boston Olympics co-chair Chris Dempsey says Boston is a great sports city already, but doesn't need the investments in stadiums to prove it.

"We think that the reason that Massachusetts is great is because we've always made investments in education and health care. We've invested in our people, rather than stadiums," he said.

Dempsey says his opposition won't be viewed as raining on the region's parade.

"We love Boston, we're from Boston," he said. "We just think this is really bad public policy. We don't think the people of Massachusetts support it." 

Stay with necn as this story develops. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images/Steve Powell/Allsport

Bristol Braces for Murder Trial of Hometown Hero


He was once a star member of the New England Patriots, but tomorrow, Aaron Hernandez goes on trial for murder.

Jury selection gets underway Friday morning in Fall River, Massachusetts, not far from North Attleboro, where the former tight end took up residence after moving from his hometown of Bristol, Connecticut.

Hernandez is on trial for the 2013 murder of semi-professional football player Odin Lloyd. He has also been charged in a 2012 double murder in Boston. That trial is expected to start at the end of the year.

The first group of potential jurors will gather at the courthouse at 9 a.m. Friday, marking the start of a highly anticipated case that has garnered attention both in Massachusetts and across the country.

Back in Bristol, interest has piqued. Hernandez was a hometown hero during his standout days at Bristol Central High School. In a 2006 NBC Connecticut profile, a teenage Hernandez showed off the athletic prowess that would eventually secure him a scholarship to the University of Florida, then lead him to the New England Patriots.

“His reputation was very well respected. He was a great athlete. He was captain of the teams he was on,” explained Bristol Mayor Ken Cockayne. “He came from a very respected family, mother and father both working – actually, both in the school systems, working.”

Others who knew him on a personal level spoke similarly of Hernandez, explaining that the charges cast a dark shadow on the legacy he left behind.

“Things around here haven’t been the same, I guess you could say,” said Bristol resident Dustin Cianci. “People looked up to him, for the most part.”

Adam Dellabianca, who grew up with Hernandez, said the man he knew was “a good guy” and a “role model for the kids.”

“But, like I said, people change,” Dellabianca said.

With the start of Hernandez’s first murder trial just hours away, the city of 62,000 is bracing for some negative publicity.

“We have a lot of great things in our city,” said Cockayne. “One person does not define a city.”

Cockayne said above all, his thoughts are with the Lloyd family, and the city is already moving forward after the initial shock of the allegations against Hernandez.

Hernandez has pleaded not guilty to murder charges in both the death of Lloyd and the 2012 double homicide.

Masked Man Robs Cromwell Bank at Gunpoint


Police are searching for the man who robbed a Cromwell bank at gunpoint Thursday.

According to police, a man clad in all black entered the Season's Federal Credit Union at 28 Shunpike Road just before 6 p.m. and pulled a handgun, demanding money.

Police said his face was covered with a black mask and a hood covered his head. He was wearing a black jacket, black pants and black-and-gray sneakers and spoke with a thick European accent.

The robber got away with an undisclosed amount of money and got away around the front of the building. No one was hurt, according to police.

Anyone with information is urged to call Cromwell police at 860-635-2256.

Photo Credit: Cromwell Police Department

Schools Decide on Closings, Delays


As wind chills dipped well below zero Wednesday night, many schools around the state opted to open late and give students and staff a slight reprieve from the dangerous cold.

But not all school systems made the same call. Paul Salina, chief operations officer for New Britain Public Schools, said the city held off until Thursday morning and ultimately decided to start school on time.

Salina said the bitter cold was the district's primary concern but not the only one.

“A lot of things were taken into consideration,” he explained.

According to Salina, student safety is top priority, but school officials also take parents and guardians into account.

“Any change in the regular day of school for families is taxing on them,” Salina said.

In the end, Salina said, it comes down to the district and each must decide for what works for their schools. They do, however, give consideration to their neighbors.

“I'll talk with Southington’s superintendent, Plainville, Meriden, and so forth, and we kind of come to a consensus,” Salina said.

He said had snow or ice been factors, the outcome may have been different. The school district will continue to make weather-related decisions on a day-by-day basis.

1 Arrested After New Britain Standoff


An hours-long police standoff in New Britain that prompted a lockdown at the high school and evacuations in the neighborhood drew to a close after two people holed up in a home on South Street surrendered Thursday evening.

One of those people is now facing charges.

Police said the situation began unfolding around 11:30 a.m. when authorities received the report of a domestic dispute and gunshots fired on the east side of the city, in the area of Dwight Street.

"There was a report of a male that discharged a firearm from a moving motor vehicle as part of that complaint," explained New Britain police Chief James Wardwell.

Two hours later, investigators found the suspect's empty car in the South Street area and locked down New Britain High School as they zeroed in on the neighborhood, according to police.

The man they were looking for, New Britain resident Greg Davis, turned out to be hiding with a friend on the first floor of a home at 20 South Street. Police said Davis had been involved in a domestic dispute with his girlfriend.

"He does know somebody that lives there," Wardwell said. "He went there to try to hide with that party."

After hours of failed attempts to communicate, police shattered a window to hand Davis a phone so they could speak with him from outside the house.

"Those pops you heard was the window being breached so the phone could be delivered," Wardwell explained. "No forced entry was made when the Special Response Team breached the window. For whatever reason, the individuals inside decided to come out, and they did."

Davis and his friend surrendered to police around 6:30 p.m.

Police served Davis with an outstanding arrest warrant for felony drug charges. He's also facing new charges in connection with today's gunfire and domestic dispute. Police said Davis' girlfriend was not hurt.

Davis' friend has not been charged.

Investigators are obtaining search warrants for the house and continue to block off portions of South Street and South Main Street while they investigate.

Earlier Thursday, police said a dozen neighbors had been evacuated from their homes. Others agreed to shelter in place, according to Wardwell.

New Britain High School and the Northern School were placed on lockdown Thursday afternoon, pushing back the dismissal time at the high school.

"We got an announcement and they said we [were] on lockdown, and that it was real," explained high school student Josean Gonzalez. "We had to turn off the lights, and we got dismissed at 3, and we were supposed to be dismissed at 2:15."

Check back for updates on this developing story.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com/New Britain Police Department
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Injuries Reported in Hamden Crash


Injuries are reported in a two-car crash on Whitney Avenue in Hamden.

The crash happened near 3697 Whitney Ave. a few minutes ago and ambulances have not yet arrived.

Check back for updates.

Firefighters Battle Barn Fire on Elm Street in Enfield

Fire Destroys Home in Sherman


Fire has destroyed the house at 15 Anderson Road in Sherman, according to state police, and there are road closures on Route 39 and Route 55.

Dispatchers for Litchfield County said emergency crews are bringing in water from the Housatonic River, located nearby, via the Route 55/Route 7 interchange at the river.

Crews have also called for sander trucks for Route 39, or Gaylordsville Road, and Route 55.

Anderson Road is also closed.

Snow Causes School Closings and Delays


There are several problems on the roads this morning as snow falls, causing whiteout conditions in parts of the state.

The weather is also affecting school, with several districts opening late or not at all today.

As of 8:15 a.m. there are almost 150 closings and delays. Check the list here.

The afternoon will be sunny. Skies clear later, but cold temperatures will linger with highs in the low- to mid-20s on Saturday.

Is it snowing where you are? Send photos to us at shareit@nbcconnecticut.com.

If you do not get our school closing alerts, sign up here.

For updates on traffic, check our traffic map here and follow Heidi Voight on Twitter.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com
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School Bus Involved in Crash on I-84W


A Dattco school bus was involved in a crash on Interstate 84 West in West Hartford.

A minivan struck the back of the bus. The NBC Connecticut crew did not see any ambulances at the scene.

The crash was at exit 41, the exit for South Main Street.

Police did not have any additional information.

Check back for updates.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Interactive: Who's Who in Hernandez Cases


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Man Stole $3,600 from Glastonbury Restaurant: Police


Police have arrested a man accused of burglarizing a Glastonbury restaurant in November.

Police said Hector Deras, 51, of East Hartford, turned himself in to East Hartford Police on Thursday in connection with a burglary at Maggie McFly’s on Nov. 9.

Police said Deras is accused of breaking into the restaurant while it was closed and stealing around $3,600 in cash.

He was charged with third-degree burglary, first-degree criminal mischief and third-degree larceny.

Deras was unable to post the $50,000 bond and was held in police custody. He is due in court today.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Teen Dad Bit Baby to Stop Her Crying: Police


Stamford police have arrested a teenage father who is accused of biting his infant daughter in an attempt to get her to stop crying.

Police started investigating when the state Department of Children and Families contacted them to say a baby had been abused and said the father, Felipe Deaquino, 18, confessed that he was having trouble with the infant because she kept crying and bit the side of her face to try and get her to stop.

The Connecticut Post reports that the baby is 6 weeks old and was taken to the hospital with a large bruise on the side of her face.

Doctors also found what could be a burn mark on the baby’s palm and police are trying to determine whether it was caused by a cigarette, the Post reports.

Deaquino was arrested on Thursday and charged with two counts of third-degree assault, risk of injury to a child and disorderly conduct.

He was held in lieu of $25,000 bond and was arraigned Thursday at state Superior Court in Stamford.

He was released from custody, according to online court records, and is due back in court on Feb. 10.

Photo Credit: Stamford Police
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