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Man Steals Cash Box, Laptop From North Branford Church: Police


Police arrested an East Haven man accused of stealing from North Branford church and he is suspected of ties to other church larcenies.

Francis Casner Jr. is facing larceny charges and is suspected of stealing a laptop and metal cash box from Saint Augustine Church in February. The church is located at 30 Caputo Road in Branford.

Police responded to the church at about 10:26 a.m. on Tuesday after a church employee called 911 to report suspicious activity. A man was seen walking around in the church and then exiting the back parking lot, the caller told police. The church employee recognized him as a man suspected of stealing from the church who police were trying to identify.

The caller said she had reported the theft to police in February and provided police with a description of the man and surveillance video that captured him on camera, police said.

Police identified the man as Casner and he was operating a brown 1999 Chevy S-10 pickup. They found bulletins from area churches on his passenger seat, including Saint Bridget in Cheshire, Saint Mark in Westbrook, Saint Margaret Church in Madison, Saint Rita Church in Hamden and Saint Theresa Church in Trumbull.

Casner admitted to police that he was involved in the Saint Augustine Church larcenies.

Police found a cash box in his truck that belonged to the church, a wooden box with "Box Offering" written on it, a purse stolen from Saint George's Church in Guilford on April 1, Fairfield University car keys stolen from the Jesuit Community Center on the college's campus and an envelope containing donation checks written to other southern Connecticut churches.

Police charged Casner with three counts of sixth-degree larceny and one count of fifth-degree larceny. He is scheduled to appear in New Haven Superior Court on April 22.

He is also suspected in other church larcenies under investigation.

Photo Credit: North Branford Police Department

Office Manager Accused of Posing as Dentist, Performing Root Canals


A 45-year-old dental office manager has been arrested for allegedly performing procedures on unsuspecting, uninsured patients for a cash discount while the dentist was away, and purposely scheduling procedures for them when she knew the doctor would be out of the office.

Authorities said Valbona Yzeiraj, of White Plains, was arrested Thursday following a grand jury indictment earlier this month. The Albanian-born woman pleaded not guilty to charges of assault, unauthorized practice of a profession and reckless endangerment at her arraignment later in the day.

Prosecutors allege the woman acted as a dentist at Ultimate Dental Care of Riverdale in the Bronx, one of three offices within the practice, while the licensed dentist was on vacation or out of the office and offered patients procedures at a discount for cash payments.

Yzeiraj was employed as an office manager at the facility; she is not licensed to practice dentistry in the state of New York.

Authorities allege Yzeiraj performed complex procedures, including root canals, on patients. She also pulled teeth. The alleged fraud came to light when at least four patients complained about complications they suffered after being treated by her, officials say.

Yzeiraj was fired from Ultimate Dental Care when the company found out she had been posing as a dentist from late 2012 to summer 2013, prosecutors said.

She is also accused of stealing $20,000 from her employer.

Neither the company nor Yzeiraj's attorney have returned messages seeking comment on her arrest. 

Gas Leak Closes Road in Westport


Main Street in Westport was closed because of a gas leak near Route 1 and stores were evacuated on Thursday morning, according to police.

The incident was reported around 10:30 am. and Main Street is closed from Route 1 to Elm Street.

Areas of Parker-Harding Plaza were also closed off to all traffic, but it has since reopened.

Main Street has reopened to pedestrians, but but it is still closed to cars until further notice.

People were allowed return to stores along main street around 11:15 a.m., according to police. 

Photo Credit: NBC

2 Charged in 2012 Stamford Murder


Stamford police have arrested two suspects in a fatal shooting almost three years ago.

Randy Francis, 24, Stamford, and Glachan “Lou” Charlestin, 23, of Bridgeport, have been charged with the murder of Darius Jones in 2012. They were arrested between Wednesday evening and Thursday morning.

Police said four men, including Jones, were shot on Custer Street at 12:10 a.m. on July 8, 2012 after leaving a party.

Jones was shot once in the chest and the bullet entered his heart and passed through his body, police said,

He succumbed to his injury.

The three other victims were treated at Stamford Hospital and released.

Police eventually identified Charlestin and Francis as suspects in the shootings, but witnesses did not cooperate.

In the years that followed, police investigated and obtained arrest warrants for both men, charging them with murder.

Bonds are set at $2.5 million for each.

Photo Credit: Stamford Police

SUV Flips Over in Newington


An SUV flipped over near the intersection of Briarwood Road and Main Street in Newington, police said.

Medical personnel are on scene evaluating possible patients and there is no word on any injuries or how the accident will impact traffic.

Police and an ambulance are on scene.

More information wasn't immediately available.

Photo Credit: Jenny Martir

Crews Respond to Guilford Fire


Guilford firefighters are responding to a fire at 3199 Durham Road.

Area fire departments have been called for mutual aid.Crews were still on scene as of 6:38 p.m. on Thursday.

No further details were immediately available.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

State Supreme Court Elaborates on Cassandra C. Decision


The Connecticut State Supreme Court has released a 19-page document breaking down every detail leading up to the January 8 decision to allow forced chemotherapy on 17-year-old Cassandra C.

In the opinion, which will be published in the Connecticut Law Journal on April 21, Chief Justice Chase Rogers reviews the timeline from when Cassandra was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma and declared she wanted to deny chemotherapy to the Supreme Court case that found Cassandra was not mature enough to make her own medical decisions.

Cassandra and her mother’s attorneys ultimately wanted to declare a mature minor doctrine, but according to the opinion, “The United States Supreme Court has recognized that most children simply are not able to make sound judgments concerning many decisions.” In short, a minor is presumed not mature unless proven otherwise, and the Court didn’t find any reasons to believe she broke that mold.

Cassandra is finishing her last round of chemotherapy at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center and is expected to return home on April 27.

Click here to read the full Supreme Court opinion.

Puppy Killed in New Haven Fire


A puppy is dead and two cats are missing after a two-alarm fire on Spring Street in New Haven.

A male resident was home when a fire broke out toward the back of a home at 166 Spring Street, but he got out safely, according to Rick Fontana, New Haven's emergency management director.

A puppy was killed in the blaze and two cats are missing from the home.

The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection listed the fire danger for today as high because fuels are dry and can burn readily.

No additional information was immediately available.

Photo Credit: Brad Young @BYounginSig22
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Sex Offender's Bond Set High After Police Find Him With Missing Teen


A registered sex offender was back in front of a judge Thursday on charges of violating his probation after he was found with a missing teen.

State police found a 15-year-old runaway in 23-year-old Johnathan Gonzalez's Hartford apartment.

He was serving a ten-year probation from a 2007 conviction for risk of injury to a minor. A condition of that probation was that he have no unsupervised contact with anyone under the age of 16.

“I believe this person was a runaway and I believe evidence will come out that he was harboring this person, because he felt sorry for her," public defender Robert Famiglietti told the court.

State police said the East Granby teen, reported missing by her family on April 10, went to
Gonzalez’s Hartford apartment voluntarily. Police say their computer crimes unit pinged the girl’s phone to locate her on April 15.

“Technology has come a long way. Our major crime detectives are phenomenal. So, it’s amazing what they can do," said State Police Trooper Kelly Grant.

Police found the teen at 33 Rowe Avenue, where neighbors said Gonzalez has lived for half a dozen years.

“I can’t believe it happened under my roof because, cause it’s really my roof too. So, it’s like unbelievable," said Janicette Reyes, who lives in the same building.

The public defender said the pair knew each other through family.

“This is a person who is allegedly known to him through a stepsister and may even be related to him through the stepsister. So, this is not like a dating relationship or he had any intentions," said Famiglietti.

Reyes said she’d seen the teen’s picture in the news.

“To really find out that they did find her in the building. I’m thinking they’re just gonna do a quick check and she wasn’t going to be here, but to really find her, that really hit hard," said Reyes.

Gonzalez’s attorney pointed out in court that there are no sexual allegations in the case at this time, but with more charges pending, Judge Joan Alexander set Gonzalez’s bond at $750,000.

He is next scheduled to appear in court on May 1.

Photo Credit: Connecticut Sex Offender Registry

Search For Gunman After LA Shooting


A series of shootings at three locations Thursday within a span of 10 minutes in the Palms area of Los Angeles left one man dead and four others wounded, one critically, and police are at the hospital trying to figure out who shot whom.

The shootings prompted two schools to go on lockdown and the LAPD to go on a citywide tactical alert, which allows the department to have extra officers on duty or reassigned to help where needed.

Shots were heard around 3 p.m. near Woodbine Park, at Woodbine Street and Vinton Avenue where dozens of people, including children, were playing. A woman was heard screaming and a vehicle sped off, police said.

When police arrived, they found a man dead and another wounded, according to LAPD Lt. John Jenal.

A second shooting was reported a few blocks away in front of a Verizon Wireless store where a man was taken to the hospital.

A third shooting happened in a 7-Eleven parking lot nearby, where two more shooting victims were struck, Jenal said.

Police were trying to piece together whether the shootings were related. They didn't say whether it was gang related.

Witnesses, who gave police conflicting descriptions of vehicles, were terrified.

"I felt those bullets just flying over my head," said Ralph Rocha. "A whistling sound, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop! After that, boom, boom, boom, boom!"

Nyree Arabian, Conan Nolan and Rosa Ordaz contributed to this report.

Photo Credit: NewsChopper4

Auto Repair Shop: Guns OK, Same-Sex PDA is Not


The owner of a Michigan auto repair shop said Thursday he's received threats of violence after making a social media post indicating he'd refuse service to "openly gay" people, and he refuted claims that his message was intended to drum up attention and secure funding through donations.

"Listen up folks, If you have an opposing view to mine that IS OK, what is NOT OK is threats to kill me, my family, and friends," Brian Klawiter wrote in a Thursday morning post on Facebook.

The drama for Klawiter, the owner of Dieseltec, in Grandville, near Grand Rapids, began early Tuesday when he wrote that he welcomed guns in his shop, but would refuse service to "an openly gay person or persons"

"Enough is enough," Klawiter wrote. "Homosexuality is wrong, period. If you want to argue this fact with me then I will put your vehicle together with all bolts and no nuts and you can see how that works."

Conversely, discounts would be given to customers who bring in a gun, he said. That applies to off-duty officers, as well. 

"On duty" cops are excluded because thats not their gun, thats my gun bought with my money," he clarified.

The comments by the self-proclaimed conservative Christian, the first public ones made on the Facebook page since before Christmas, drew the wide range of responses one would expect. There were words of support: "let him run his business how he wants to," others of condemnation: "Why dont you keep your bigoted thoughts to yourself," and still others intended only to provoke.

Klawiter denied his post was an effort to generate publicity for his business. 

"We are a successful business and are blessed to be able to feed our families. If there is any money raised it will be redistributed to people with greater needs than ours," Klawiter wrote.

The Huffington Post pointed out that an account established on the fundraising website GoFundMe.com was removed after it was created.

An Indiana restaurant owner last month said it would deny a gay couple's request to cater a wedding. A subsequent GoFundMe account had collected more than $800,000 as of Thursday afternoon.

Liberal advocacy group Progress Michigan called for a boycott of Klawiter's shop.

Discrimination based on sexual orientation has not been outlawed in Michigan, though several municipalities have local ordinances on the matter. While Grandville is not one of them, the city's mayor said he's open to discussing that option with citizens.

"There are many people who have deeply held, sincerely held, very conservative religious and political beliefs. But on the other hand, that same group of people is a very kind group of people that does not tolerate bigotry and intolerance, so it would be very interesting to see that debate," Mayor Steve Maas told NBC station WOOD-TV.

Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto
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Inmate Dies, Family Not Told


As a South Florida family walked into a courhouse expecting to see their daughter appear for a hearing, they recieved a phone call from an inmate informing them that the inmate had died in custody, family attorney Sabino Jauregui told NBC 6.

The family says they were told their daughter was screaming for help inside the jail when she had a medical emergency but no one came to her aid.

And the attorney for Nairobis Alvarez Cruz, said he wasn't notified of her death until the hearing had started.

The corrections department issued a statement about the woman's death, saying there was a "medical emergency."

"The Miami-Dade Corrections and Rehabilitation Department (MDCR) would like to extend our condolences to the Cruz Family," the statement read. "MDCR Corrections Officers responded appropriately and timely to a medical emergency to include emergency room transportation. Due to an on-going Miami-Dade Police Department investigation, no further comment can be made at this time."

Cruz was arrested for robbery with a weapon last month.

Jauregui said he saw her last weekend to prepare for Thursday's arraignment and he told us her family had spoken to her since that, but it was on the courthouse steps about 9:30 a.m., just before they went inside, when they got a call from an inmate at the Pre-trial detention Center about what allegedly happened to Cruz overnight.

"Its alleged she was screaming for help for hours... that she was ignored. Until she finally passed away," Jauregui said.

The medical examiner's office indicates Cruz died at 12:19 a.m. Jauregui had no idea Cruz was dead and the state attorney had no idea either until they were inside the courtroom about to begin, and Judge Stacy Glick told them about Cruz, her family downstairs in shock.

"They are hysterical. They are crying. They are in very bad emotional state," Jauregui said. "They can't believe that their daughter is gone that she is passed away... vibrant full of life... 20 something."

One source told NBC 6 Cruz was being held on a floor for women with mental health issues and until two months ago corrections officers were inside the open bay cell with the women, but that was changed and the officers are now outside the unit.

"Corrections holds a duty to everyone in the jail to not be negligent to take care of them to make sure their medical needs are met," Jauregui said.

Corrections told us it has a full investigation underway so it can't say anything about what happened.

When it comes to how this family discovered their loved one was deceased, their lawyer certainly indicated the family first and all of the parties should have been given notice about this woman's death and not be surprised here at the courthouse.

Crews Respond to Hartford Fire


Firefighters are responding to a fire on Lawrence Street in Hartford.

West Hartford and East Hartford firefighters also responded to assist the Hartford Fire Department as firefighters also repond to a third-alarm fire at a residential building on Main Street in the capital city.

No further information was immediately available.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Bond Set at $1 Million for Suspect in Bridgeport Store Owner Murder


As Jose Salgado was laid to rest on Thursday, one of the men accused of killing him during a robbery in a Bridgeport grocery store on Saturday appeared in court for an arraignment.

Leighton Vanderberg, 22, of New Haven, was arrested on Wednesday and charged with felony murder. On Thursday, he stood in a Bridgeport court next to his attorney, where bond was set at $1 million and the case was continued until next month.

Outside the courthouse, his family said he is an innocent man.

“It’s allegedly!," said a woman who identified herself as Vanderberg's sister, but did not want to provide her name. "Allegedly it’s not factual! Therefore it’s a theory. Ya’ll all went to school, ya’ll all know what it means. It’s a theory!”

Salgado, was killed on Saturday night while working at the store he owns with his wife, Sapiao's Grocery at 351 Lexington Avenue in Bridgeport.

Police said he had handed over the cash, but was shot anyway and they identified Vanderberg and Treizy Lopez, 18, of New Haven, as suspects in the murder.

While leaving the courthouse, Vanderberg's wife, Jyne Vanderberg, said the allegations against Vanderberg are untrue.

“My husband, Leighton Vanderberg, is completely innocent! And justice will show that!,” she said.

Police are continuing the search for Lopez, who remains at large and is believed to be in the New Haven area.

New Haven police arrested Lopez on separate charges last Thursday when an officer saw him riding a scooter without face or eye protection.

That scooter was stolen, according to police, and Lopez was charged with third-degree larceny and driving a motorcycle with no face protection.

Bridgeport Asst. Chief James Nardozzi put out a plea on Wednesday, asking Lopez to surrender.

"Do yourself a favor, if you are watching this, and turn yourself in to police. We're going to find you. We're not going to give up," he said. "We're going to find where yo uare and you're going to be brought to justice."

Salgado's family and friends spent the day paying final respects and said what happened is just not fair.

“I mean take the money, don’t shoot the guy. You know what I mean? I mean, everybody is hurt," Heacio Antunes, a family friend, said.

Photo Credit: Bridgeport Police Department

Boy Hospitalized After Fire Spread to Barn, Forest


A boy was taken to the hospital after a lawnmower erupted in flames and spread to the forest and a nearby barn house on Spaulding Road in Plainfield Thursday afternoon.

The blaze started with a lawnmower fire and spread north into the forest, burning for 6 to 8 acres, ravaging a barn at 246 Spaulding Road. The fire left burnt leaves on area driveways.

"It was challenging because we had two fires to deal with. The fire in the barn as well as the fire that was spreading north through the woods and we had to split our crews accordingly, so that left us a little short until we can get some mutual aid companies coming in," Plainfield Fire Marshal Paul Yellen said.

A boy was in the barn house at the time of the fire and was taken to an area hospital as a precaution after the flames singed his hair.

Neighbors saw the fire and immediately knew that their homes could be threatened, so they took steps to prevent the fire from spreading further.

"I moved the vehicles out of the driveway, got my water hose out and started wetting down the leaves on the edge of the driveway and do the thing if it decided to poke its little head up," Plainfield resident Phyllis Bain said.

About 35 firefighters from area departments, including Lisbon, Griswold and Jewett City, responded.

The fire was still active and burning as of 3:25 p.m., dispatchers said.

About seven fire departments have been called in and Spaulding Road is partially shut down as crews respond.

Check back for updates.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Hartford Fire Task Force Meeting Turns Ugly


The dysfunction within the Hartford Fire Department was on full display Wednesday during and following a meeting of the Hartford Fire Task Force.

Fire Chief Carlos Huertas and his most outspoken critic, Deputy Chief of Training Daniel Nolan, were both invited to the meeting to answer questions and identify what they feel are the problems that need fixing within the department.

Sitting at a table right next to his boss, Nolan said there was a lack of communication between them. But, Huertas insisted, he does communicate - "I'm very direct with communications. I give out orders and I want them executed," the chief said.

Nolan responded by saying that the chief giving orders does not work "especially when they're unlawful and they jeopardize the safety of our firefighters." And, Nolan said, the chief must answer to his firefighters and "wearing five bugles doesn't excuse him".

"I take exception with those comments. But that's something I'll have to deal internally with," said Huertas.

After the meeting, new Interim Asst. Chief Scott Brady intensely confronted Nolan asking him to "return to training" and not to speak to the media but the chief and his public information officer whisked Brady away and Nolan continued to speak freely - and to criticize Huertas.

"We need a Mustafa, instead of a Bambi and until that changes we're going to be in trouble", he said.

And Nolan's criticism was not limited to the chief. In his comments after the meeting, he also lashed out at two retired chiefs, Edward Casares and Charles Teale, who was not present at the meeting, saying that the political promotions and hiring that happened under their watch are to blame for a lot of the problems that exist today. Both Casares and Teale sit on the Task Force

"Their credibility is lacking for the most part, in my opinion, and they shouldn't be advising anyone," Nolan said, suggesting Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra should have hired an outside, unbiased panel to investigate the department.

The Hartford Fire Task Force, made up primarily of former Hartford fire chiefs, was put together by Segarra after firefighter Kevin Bell died battling a blaze on Blue Hills Avenue in October. The panel is charged with identifying problems within the department and recommending changes.

Both Huertas and Nolan, who used to be friends, told the panel that the department needs more training and better staffing.

The task force is expected to report its findings to the mayor within 30 days.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Good Samaritan Rescues Man on Track


Surveillance video from inside a Center City Philadelphia subway station shows the dramatic moments after a man fell onto the tracks.

The video released by SEPTA Thursday shows a man stagger to his left and off the platform at the Market-Frankford Line’s 15th Street Station around 6:40 Wednesday night.

Within moments a man in an Eagles coat turns around and darts toward the tracks – jumping off the platform. Other passengers rush forward to help the fallen man – then the Good Samaritan—up onto the platform.

"This was a case where everybody almost in view jumped in and got involved," said SEPTA Police Chief Thomas Nestal.

Less than a minute later, SEPTA officers arrived to tend to the man who fell.

The men who fell is expected to survive his injuries, said SEPTA.

The transit agency commended the fast-thinking passengers but warned that someone could have been seriously hurt if they came in contact with the third rail. The agency suggested that the passengers should have notified the cashier or used the emergency call box to get the electricity shut off.

Photo Credit: Surveillance image released by SEPTA

Mom Leaves Girl, 4, Alone All Day


A Southern California woman was arrested for willful cruelty to a child after she allegedly left her 4-year-old daughter at home and went on a trip to San Diego, sheriff's officials said.

On Monday, neighbors of 28-year-old Bing Chen reported hearing a child crying about 3 p.m. in the apartment complex in the 10900 block of Terra Vista Parkway in Rancho Cucamonga, a town about 40 miles east of Los Angeles, San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department officials said.

Tanner Kurete, a 9-year-old neighbor, heard the girl's screams while he was playing outside with his friends.

"We knocked on the door and she came to the front door and answered, 'Mommy, mommy,' jumping and screaming, 'Mommy, mommy. I want my mommy,'" Tanner said. "I went and told my mom."

When the night manager checked the location, he found the girl in one of the apartments with no adult. The child told deputies that her mother was at work, then later said she thought her mother was sick and went home.

When deputies called the child's father, who was overseas in Taiwan on a business trip, he told them the mother was supposed to be there, taking care of the child.

Two hours later, Chen arrived back at the house.

Through an interpreter, she allegedly told deputies she went to San Diego with her friends and said it was okay to leave the child at home alone because she left food for the child and instructions on when to eat and go to bed.

Officials said the mother had not arranged for someone to care for the child.

"I can't imagine how anybody would ever do that. I wouldn't leave my kids home alone for an hour - 10 years old - let alone 4 years old," said Tanner's mother, Amy Kurete.

The mother was taken to West Valley Detention Center for willful cruelty to a child, a felony. The child is with Child Protection Services.

Anyone with additional information regarding this incident is urged to contact the Rancho Cucamonga Police Department (909) 477-2800. Those wishing to remain anonymous may contact the We-Tip Hotline at 1-800-78CRIME (27463) or you may leave information on the We-Tip website at www.wetip.com.

Photo Credit: KNBC

Police Look For Individuals Entering Vehicles in North Haven


There is a police presence in the Rock Road area in North Haven.

Police are looking for two or three people they say were entering vehicles, according to the department's Facebook page.

No further information was immediately available.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

I-84 West Closed on Hartford/West Hartford Line


Interstate 84 west is closed between the on and off ramps at exit 44 on the Hartford/West Hartford line due to a crash.

The call reporting the accident came in at 9:22 p.m.

No further details were immediately available.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com
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