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Low-Income Residents May Need to Buy Health Insurance


One of the major cuts to social services contained in Gov. Dannel Malloy's two-year budget is a change in eligibility for some Medicaid recipients who are covered through either HUSKY or Medicaid.

Children on the program would remain covered even though their parents may need to purchase plans on the Access Health CT exchange.

Roughly 34,000 adults could be forced to purchase health insurance.

Malloy's plan banks on the savings worth $120 million over two years to help balance the budget and to keep spending under the statutorily obligated cap.

"It's still very early in the budget process," said State Sen. Gayle Slossberg, of Milford, who serves as vice chair of the Human Services Committee.

She worries whether families with incomes between $27,000 and $40,000 who are targeted in the budget will even be able to afford to pay premiums and copays for the first time.

“That’s really the question we have to ask," Slossberg said. "What is the real world impact for these populations, and how are we going to address that?”

Advocates for the poor say health outcomes could become worse purely because of requirements leading to new out-of-pocket costs.

“Even if the copay is fairly low – and some of these copays aren’t that low – people don’t go to the doctor when they know they’re going to have to come up with that copay and they have other priorities," said Jane McNichol, with the Legal Resource Assistance Center of Connecticut. “This would be a step backwards that we shouldn’t take.”

Malloy said the budget cut decisions were "tough" and lawmakers have said they will work on crafting a budget that's likely to change over the next several months.

A similar proposal failed in the legislature in 2013.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Cold Causes Car Trouble for Connecticut Drivers


The recent frigid temperatures across Connecticut have created car issues for thousands of drivers.

“We’ve seen a huge spike in call volume," said AAA spokesman Aaron Kupec. "Since the beginning of winter, we have received more than 62,000 calls for emergency service in Greater Hartford and eastern Connecticut.”

According to AAA, more than 18,000 calls have been for battery problems, 6,000 for flat tire repairs and 5,800 lockouts.

The cold snap is keeping auto body shops busy as well.

"With these cold temperatures, it’s not only cars, it’s trucks, it’s buses," said Anthony Aniello, owner of the International Auto Service Center in West Hartford. "It’s the whole entire industry. It’s equipment."

Aniello added that his tow truck business has been going nonstop nearly every day.

He said the cold weather fluctuation in Connecticut contributes to battery and engine issues. According to Aniello, a simple winter inspection or tune up won't take more than an hour at most mechanics.

“Make sure that your coolant is at the proper ratio so that your engine won’t freeze or the component parts, brakes and your defrost," he said. "A quick little half hour, hour inspection will alleviate down time, stress and being stranded in that beautiful cold weather during rush hour.”

Kupec recommends drivers check their batteries for any warning signs that could lead to a non-start or a dead battery altogether.

“Some battery warning signs include a grinding or a clicking. If your lights get dim and then get brighter when you rev the engine, and also obvious signs of damage on the battery like cracking or bulging, you want to get that checked out,” he advised.

Photo Credit: NBC Chicago

Keeping Pets Safe in the Winter


Experts are warning pet owners of the dangers a harsh winter can pose to their four-legged friends.

“They can get frostbite on their paws, that can be a very big problem for our pets being outside,” said Dr. Kris Park of the East Side Veterinary Clinic. “Just overall, the extreme temperatures are very dangerous for them.”

An easy place to start, said Alicia Wright with the Connecticut Humane Society, is by examining your surroundings.

“You also want to think about the roadways and your driveway,” said Wright. “There is a lot of salt out there. It's dangerous, so if you do take your pet for a walk down the street, you want to wash off their paws.”

Another simple solution is to safeguard winter supplies. Park said pet owners may not often think about anti-freeze poisoning, which poses a real threat.

“If they lick it, that can be extremely lethal,” said Park.

When it comes to time spent outside, experts emphasize the importance of knowing your breed. Animals of various sizes have different winter needs, and sometimes their fur isn't quite enough to keep them warm on walks.

“We recommend perhaps getting them to wear a coat; some people use booties for the pet’s paws,” said Wright.

Last but not least, both Wright and Park remind owners to treat pets like you would want to be treated yourself. If you're cold, chances are, so is your pet.

Crown Market to Undergo Major Renovation


One year after West Hartford's beloved Crown Market nearly closed down for good, business is thriving and the ownership has presented a plan to renovate the kosher store.

The Crown Market posted renderings of its remodeled facility on Facebook late last month, which includes new bakery and produce departments, an expanded deli counter, new dining area and refurbished meat department.

"After listening to your comments and suggestions, we are excited to reveal the plans for a completely remodeled Crown," the owners wrote. "A renovation of this magnitude takes time to plan and coordinate. Construction is expected to begin, subject to all approvals in place, after Passover."

Last year's Passover was a defining moment in the history of the Crown Market. Owner Mark Bokoff, who purchased The Crown in 2009, announced he was closing the market last February due to financial constraints. Two weeks later, a group of new investors breathed new life into the business.

"We are all excited for the new store, and the next chapter at The Crown, and we are doing everything we can to expedite that process," the management team wrote on Facebook.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com
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Homes Evacuated After Car Hits Gas Main in Plainville


Residents were evacuated from a Plainville neighborhood Friday night after a car struck a utility pole and gas main, springing a leak and bringing down live wires, according to Eversource Energy.

Police shut down Route 177/Unionville Avenue at the intersection of Bradley Street around 9 p.m. while first responders and crews from Eversource Energy and Frontier Communications rushed to the scene.

Neighbors were evacuated after natural gas leaked into the air, and Eversource cut power to 755 homes as a precaution until crews could turn off the gas main, according to the utility company.

Eversource said power was restored after 10 p.m. The collision also brought down live power lines, but company officials said the downed wires did not trigger any outages.

The intersection was closed until about 10:30 p.m., according to police. There has been no word on injuries.

Check back for updates on this developing story.

Woman Struck by Plow, Seriously Hurt


A woman has been hospitalized after being struck by a snow plow Friday evening in Fitchburg, Massachusetts.

Police responded to the crash on Upham Street around 6:45 p.m. and found that the 21-year-old victim had suffered serious injuries.

The woman was transported to Leominster Hospital before being airlifted to the University of Massachusetts Memorial Medical Center in Worcester. Her conditon is not known at this time.

No charges will be filed against the driver as Police say the incident has been ruled an accident.

Stay with necn as this story develops.

Photo Credit: necn

Man Shot and Killed in Bridgeport


Detectives are investigating after a man was shot and killed Friday night in Bridgeport's first homicide of 2015, according to police.

Police were called the intersection of William Street and Ogden Street around 6 p.m. Friday and arrived to find Jose Lebron, 28, suffering from a gunshot wound. He was taken to the hospital and pronounced dead, police said.

Investigators found a facsimile gun and the victim's car nearby. They confiscated evidence and working to identify a suspect.

"A man lost his life tonight, and we're asking the community to help us identify who did this. His family deserves justice. As a community, we need to take action against gun violence," Bridgeport police spokesman William Kaempffer said in a statement Friday night.

Anyone with information is urged to call Bridgeport police.

Check back for updates on this developing story.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Medical Emergency Grounds Flight


A passenger on a Southwest Airlines flight was rushed to a New Mexico hospital Friday after having an apparent heart attack after the plane departed Dallas Love Field.

Flight 947 was scheduled to fly to Las Vegas but was diverted to Albuquerque.

Members of the flight crew and fellow passengers provided aid using an on-flight medical emergency kit until the plane landed and was met by medics on the ground in New Mexico.

Laurie Holloway, spokeswoman for the Dallas Zoo and a former EMT, was a passenger on the flight and said a passenger physician and a flight attendant with a medical background were among those who helped.

"They put him on oxygen, monitoring his pulse, using a stethoscope, gave him an aspirin. That was a smart move," said Holloway. "I could tell by the way that [the flight attendant] and the physician were handling things that they knew what they were doing."

According to Holloway, the man was with his wife, and while he was receiving medical treatment the man and his wife said that he was 58 years old and from the Dallas area.

The plane eventually resumed its flight to Las Vegas.

There is no word on the man's condition or identity.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News

No Parole for Calif. Ex-Mafia Boss


California Governor Jerry Brown has blocked the mooted parole of notorious Mexican mafia hitman Rene "Boxer" Enriquez.

In his decision, Gov. Brown said that while the killer had "provided officials with valuable information" in his role as a snitch,  he still poses "an unreasonable danger to society" due to his "decades-long record of violent crime."

Enriquez has been in prison since 1993, and is serving a sentence of 20 years-to life in prison for two murders, multiple assaults and conspiracy to traffic in controlled substances.

Gov. Brown said that, as his address would have to be made public due to his status as a sex offender, his release would pose a damage to Enriquez himself, his family, neighbors and parole officers.

Enriquez' attorney said he would not immediately appeal the decision.

The governor's decision was backed by former Orange County Deputy District Attorney Rudy Lowenstein.

"My reaction to the Governor's decision is that it's spot on. When I cross-examined him on two separate occasions... he was still proud of what he had done with the Mexican mafia," Lowenstein said.

It previously emerged the California Parole Board (CPB) recommended his release after he presented the written gratitude of some of California’s top cops, including the Los Angeles Police Department chief Charlie Beck, for his work as an informant

The deputy commissioner of the CPB was impressed by the amount of letters that were produced supporting Enriquez, saying calling them a few would be "an understatement."

However a letter that actually recommended him for parole, which was sent by someone in the LA County Sheriff’s Department, had not been green-lighted. A department spokesman said any recommendation for Enriquez' release "was done without approval of the sheriff."

In 1989, he pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison. One of his victims was a female drug dealer he suspected was stealing drugs from him, and the second was a fellow gang member who had ran away from a fight.

He was controversially given a SWAT escort to an event hosted by the LAPD in downtown Los Angeles last month, where he gave a crowd of about 125 people a firsthand insight about the inner-workings of the criminal enterprise.

Miami Daredevil Wanted by Police


Miami Police are looking for the daredevil responsible for hanging from a 50-story crane in downtown Miami with just one hand.

Police say he is a threat to himself and potentially others.

"The message from the Miami police department is we don't want anyone else doing it, just imagine a teenager trying to do it," Officer Kenia Fallat said.

The daredevil, who doesn't want his name released, wears a mask and uses a selfie stick to show himself at the top of the construction site. At one point, he shows himself crossing a narrow beam from a dizzying height.

"He's risking his life but what we don't want are others to copy him, and indeed it's not only dangerous but also illegal,” she added.

Miami police are distributing pictures of him taken from his social media videos. In the photos, you can clearly see his face. The man has a GoPro camera strapped to his head.

"We can't release a name right now but we have a picture of him and we believe he is not acting alone," Fallat said.

Police also believe another man is involved in trespassing with the daredevil.

If you have any information, police urge you to call Miami-Dade Crimestoppers at (305) 453-TIPS.

Photo Credit: Youtube

Mom's Lost Necklace Found in NYC


Three days after NBC 4 New York aired the story of a mother's search for a precious necklace from her late teenage daughter, the missing item has miraculously been found and will be returned across the ocean back to Vicky Pyne in the U.K.

It was on Valentine's Day in Times Square that Pyne lost the necklace bearing the fingerprints of her daughters Milly and Alice, the 17-year-old girl who died of Hodgkin's lymphoma two years ago. Alice had made the necklace when she learned her cancer was terminal and given it to her mother before she died in January 2013. 

Pyne, who was visiting from England, was devastated. Alice's necklace had never left her neck since she first put it on. Pyne last remembered touching the fingerprint, as she often did to remember her daughter, at the Applebee's restaurant in Times Square. She continued shopping, walking to Herald Square, and didn't notice it missing until she got to her hotel. 

"I was absolutely horrified when I realized it was missing," she said.

She retraced her steps to no avail.

"I think my only worry was if a snowplow had plowed it up and dumped it in the Hudson or something," she said.

Pyne took to social media, hoping instead the priceless piece of jewelry was lost somewhere on the streets of New York City. 

As it turns out, that's exactly where Freddy and Emelie Ortiz found it. 

After NBC 4 New York aired her story Tuesday, the Yonkers family reached out to Pyne: her necklace had been found. 

Freddy Ortiz was walking with his family on 34th Street Saturday when his 18-month-old daughter kicked off her sock. When he bent down to fix the sock, he noticed a woman staring at a necklace on the pavement. When she kept walking, he decided it looked too important to just ignore. 

He and wife Emelie picked up the necklace and noticed the two girls' names. Coincidentally, they are also the parents of two daughters, as well as an older son. 

"I was going to leave it hanging somewhere, but something told me to just take it with me, and somebody will probably claim it one day," Ortiz told NBC 4 New York Friday. 

"Maybe something made our daughter take her sock off, made us stop right there in that spot," said Emelie Ortiz. 

The Ortiz family said they knew the necklace was Pyne's when they saw her story on NBC 4 New York's Facebook page. 

"Tuesday, I was looking at my Facebook page, and I noticed a necklace with a girl next to it, and I told my wife, 'Look, honey, it looks like the necklace I found,'" said Freddy Ortiz. 

Some 3,000 miles away, Vicky Pyne read an email from Emelie through tears. 

"I have some amazing news for you," the email began. 

"To see the photo of my necklace, I was just like, 'Oh, wow," Pyne told NBC 4 New York Friday from her home in Ulverston, Cumbria, adding that she felt "unbelievably emotional" and that it felt like getting a piece of her daughter back. 

Vicky hopes to meet the Ortiz family on her next trip back to New York. 

She posted an update expressing her thanks on Facebook: "Feeling emotional -- thanks to the most wonderful couple, Emilie and Freddie, along with John Chandler at NBC, Alice's fingerprint has been found in NYC!" 

In 2013, even as Alice wrote on her blog that cancer was gaining on her, the teen tirelessly campaigned to increase the number of potential bone marrow donors. Thousands registered as donors thanks to her push, which was the final task completed on a bucket list that captured the world’s attention.

Vicky Pyne recalled that Friday as she now waits for her necklace to arrive.

"I'd like to think somebody was looking out for us and they knew how important that necklace was between Alice and I. It means the world," she said. 

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Woman Vanishes After Valentine's


The disappearance of an Orange County, California, woman who argued with her ex-boyfriend after a Valentine's Day date and then vanished has a family worried for her life.

"She is my sister and best friend. This is very unlikely for her not to contact us and be gone for so many days," said Patricia Alonso, whose 27-year-old sister Erica went missing after a night out on Valentine's Day.

Erica Alonso, one of six siblings who lives with her parents, was last seen in the early morning hours of Feb. 15 driving away from an Irvine home after an argument with her date, a man her family said was her ex-boyfriend.

Her family spoke Friday morning and said the pair remained friends after splitting up. They had an afternoon lunch together Feb. 14, her sister said.

"I was with her earlier that day, I know that she was meeting up with her date and going out," Patricia said.

Later that night, the pair befriended a couple at the Sutra Lounge in Costa Mesa, where they stayed until 1:30 a.m., Orange County sheriff's officials said.

Erica and her ex-boyfriend then left the bar with the couple in a red Toyota Scion and went to the ex-boyfriend's Irvine residence, officials said.

About 3:45 a.m., the pair argued outside, and the couple left the home, Orange County Sheriff's Lt. Jeff Hallock said. About 10 to 15 minutes later, Erica drove away in her white 2014 Honda Civic.

Erica's social media accounts, cellphone records and bank activity have been silent since that night.

"I know that she is out there somewhere, we have the hope that she is alive," her father Isaac Alonso said Friday morning. "We need all the help that we can get. It's very hard for us."

Investigators said the couple came forward after seeing media reports, and officials said their story lines up. The ex-boyfriend has also been interviewed by deputies, and Erica's case is being considered a missing person case.

"There are no facts to indicate this is a crime," Hallock said.

Hallock said investigators believe Erica is with her car and asked the public to look for a white Honda Civic with license plate #7FSS563.

"We just want her home," Patricia said through tears. "We miss her so much."

Photo Credit: Alonso Family

Mom Escapes Blaze That Kills 2 Kids


A woman escaped a vicious house fire in New Jersey, but her two children - a 1-year-old and a 6-year-old - died in the blaze, authorities said Saturday.

Zion Tony, 1, and Jayda McEachin, 6, were found dead on the top floor of the three-story home on Central Place in Orange, authorities said. Their mother was "very distraught," the Essex County Prosecutor's Office said in a statement.

Firefighters were called to the scene shortly after 8:30 p.m. Friday, and they found the home overtaken by flames, prosecutors said. Aside from the children's mother, six other occupants escaped the blaze, and two people were treated at a hospital, prosecutors said.

People could hear the little girl calling for help, said neighbor Tyrena Simms.

"She was screaming out the window, screaming for help," Simms said of the 6-year-old. "But the fire was too aggressive."

A paramedic on the scene said EMS had transported a woman to the hospital with burns on over 60 percent of her body.

NBC 4 New York cameras captured a man walking into the burning building at one point, prompting family members to start screaming. Firefighters ran after him and quickly pulled him back out.

Authorities are investigating the cause of the fire.

-- Michael George contributed to this report.

Accusations in Nordstrom Rack Trial


A lawyer for one of three men accused of carrying out a violent takeover-style robbery at a California Nordstrom Rack department store made a startling accusation in opening arguments on Friday.

During the January 2013 robbery, one person was stabbed in the neck and another was sexually assaulted while the men held 14 people hostage for several hours in the Westchester store at the Promenade at Howard Hughes Center.

Raymond Sherman Jr., Troy Hammock and Everett Allen have been charged in the crime.

An attorney for Sherman, a former employee of the Nordstrom location, however, said the robbery was part of a plan that was hatched with the help of a victim he is accused of raping.

Prosecutors kept the focus on surveillance video that showed the hours of terror hostages endured.

"What makes this case so terrifying is the manner in which they carried out the crime,” prosecutor Cynthia Barnes told jurors.

Barnes showed security camera video which captured three men storming into the employee exit as workers tried to leave for the night.

“They yelled at them, they pointed a gun at them, terrified them, threw them to the ground,” she said. “But they weren't done yet. They made each victim strip down to their underwear, and bras if they were women."

She showed video of the hostages being forced into one room during the four-hour standoff.

“And then they forced all 14 into the employee bathroom, made them face the wall, told them ‘You turn around you die, you look at me you die.’"

All three defendants face 14 counts of second degree robbery.

Everett Allen is also on trial for stabbing one of the employees who hid in a locker room to call her husband, who then called police.

Raymond Sherman is also charged with kidnapping and several counts of forcible rape, but in a twist, his attorney argued the rape victim was in on the crime.

"They planned to do a robbery at Nordstrom and there would be a sexual assault claim during the robbery and then (one of the women) would file a lawsuit against Nordstrom and the mall for millions of dollars and then split the proceeds with Sherman," defense attorney Arthur Lindars told jurors.

His attorney added that plan did not call for Sherman getting caught.

Witness testimony begins Monday.

Crippling Cold Racks Up Costs at Homeless Shelters


February is on track to become the coldest month on record, and bitter temperatures have placed a financial strain on homeless shelters staying open around the clock.

“We’ve got to continue to provide three meals a day, as we do, and we find a way to do that, even though it’s killing our budget,” explained Paul Iadarola, executive director of St. Vincent DePaul Mission in Waterbury.

Iadarola explained that the shelter is required to keep its doors open 24 hours per day under the state’s severe weather protocol, which Gov. Dannel Malloy has extended through March 1.

Already, the Waterbury shelter is $12,000 over its food budget, and will likely surpass the $20,000 mark if the cold snap continues into March, officials said. Now Iadarola is turning to the community for support.

“I’m the biggest beggar in the city of Waterbury. I go around begging for money,” Iadarola said jokingly. “We send out letters asking people for help.”

The influx of people seeking relief from the cold is also taking a toll on shelter staffing.

“It’s harder because there’s more people, more people want food, more people coming to the door,” said night supervisor Robert Thaier.

Shelter officials said recent snowstorms have resulted in extended hours, with many employees averaging about $4,000 per week in overtime.

Residents can donate to St. Vincent DePaul Mission online.

NYC Teen Catches 1,000-Pound Blue Marlin


Catching a blue marlin weighing over 1,000 pounds is extremely rare but a Brooklyn teenager did just that off the coast of Kona, Hawaii, on Wednesday.

"For my first one to be a grander it's just an unreal experience," sixteen-year-old Kai Rizzuto told NBC News on Thursday.

The fish weighed in at 1,058 pounds and measured longer than 11 feet from its jaw to its tail.

Rizutto, grandson of sport fishing writer Jim Rizzuto, said people from all over the world travel to Kona in hopes of reeling a grand blue marlin (more than 1,000 pounds).

Jim Rizzutto told NBC News on average, only two blue marlins weighing more than 1,000 pounds are caught in Kona each year.

Kai Rizzuto caught the fish aboard the Ihu Nui boat with Capt. McGrew Rice. A GoPro video and photos posted on Ihu Nui Sportfishing's Facebook show Kai Rizzuto wrangling the blue marlin onto the 45-foot boat.

"He was elated," Rice said Saturday. "He’s been fishing with this grandfather since he was 2 years old. Catching a 'grander' is like hitting a grand slam home run."

The biggest marlin ever caught was in 1953, when angler Alfred Glassell Jr. reeled in a 1,560-pound marlin off Cabo Blanco, Peru, according to Marlin Magazine.

Photo Credit: Ihu Nui Sportfishing
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Mom Locked Runaway Teen Outside in Underwear After Assault: PD


Police investigating a report of a teenager running away for the second time Friday night discovered that the mother assaulted her daughter and locked her outside of their New London home in her underwear after she returned the first time, police said.

Lorna Maldonado is facing assault, risk of injury to a minor and strangulation charges after her 15-year-old daughter told police she attacked her with a large electrical cord and her hands upon her return home the first time and then locked her outside in 5-degree temperatures in her underwear, police said.

Maldonado initially told police that her daughter ran away from home wearing just underwear as officers investigated the second report of the teenager running away Friday, nearly two hours since she had been located the first time at 10:15 p.m. The second report came in at 11:41 p.m.

New London police and a Waterford police K-9 team searched for the girl in the neighborhood on Anthony and Michael roads and couldn't find her, so police looked into other possible places she might be. The teenager came home after police left and Maldonado notified the department. The girl told police what her mother had done when they contacted her and said a neighbor gave her light clothing and a ride from the area after she was locked out in her underwear, police said.

Police charged Maldonado with second-degree assault, risk of injury to a minor and third-degree strangulation and held her on a $25,000 cash-surety bond.

Photo Credit: New London Police Department

Mansfield Firefighters Respond to Gas Leak


Mansfield firefighters responded to a gas leak on Royce Circle.

A crew is working to resolve the problem.

No further details were immediately available.

Sprinkler Pipe Bursts at Buckland Hills Mall


A sprinkler pipe burst in Sears at the Buckland Hills Mall in Manchester Saturday afternoon due to freezing temperatures, according to Manchester police.

No one was injured when the pipe burst at about 12:30 p.m.

The store remains open, but the hardware section is closed, police said.

Photo Credit: Manchester Police/Facebook

Willimantic Subway Robber Sentenced: Police


A Willimantic man arrested after opening fire in a Subway restaurant a year ago during an attempted robbery pleaded guilty and has been sentenced to nine years in jail.

Luis Feliciano, 29, pleaded guilty to brandishing a handgun in the Subway on High Street and firing two shots after demanding money on Jan. 4, 2014.

He ran from the store when an employee said he'd call 911. Neither Subway employee working at the time was injured.

Police responded to a panic alarm that went off at the store and spotted him running on High Street. Witnesses identified him as the robber. He led police on a foot chase on Valley Street and behind a house on High Street, police said. He didn't listen to police commands and struggled with officers, so police called a K-9 unit. He was eventually subdued and brought into custody and police held him on a $500,000 bond.

Officers found a small caliber pistol near the sidewalk outside Subway and Feliciano was charged with first-degree robbery, reckless endangerment, interfering with an officer and carrying a gun without a permit. He pleaded guilty to the charges.

Photo Credit: Willimantic Police Department
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