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Southington School Competes for New Playground


The parent-teacher organization at Flanders Elementary School in Southington hopes to win a contest to replace the school's 25-year-old playground.

"The company, Terracycle, is a company Flanders has worked with for many years to encourage our children to recycle juice pouches and ink cartridges," said Pam DiMartino, one of the parents active in the contest.

She said recycled toothpaste tubes and toothbrushes will be part of the material in the new $40,000 playground from Terracycle. Town residents are helping out by casting email votes for Flanders.

"The town of Southington has been fantastic, townwide," said PTO president Sue Whitehead. "Every school's on board helping us."

She figured children from every school could use a new playground while their older brothers and sisters use the playing fields at Flanders for sports.

The latest count of the votes has only one school in Little Neck, New York, ahead of Flanders. But Flanders has led before and the PTO leaders say it will lead again before the contest ends June 13.

"They're working every night. They're entering two or three thousand email votes a night, trying to keep up with the school system from New York and to surpass them," said Flanders Principal Patricia Mazzarella.

The PTO is collecting names and email addresses for the contest at FlandersPTO@gmail.com.

Man Sexually Assaulted, Threatened to Kill Kids: Cops


Police have arrested a Hamden man accused of sexually assaulting two children under the age of 12 over a period of several years and threatening to kill them if they told their mother.

Brian Mayo, 28, sexually assaulted the two young victims and showed them pornography on his computer, according to Hamden police. He also threatened to kill them if they told their mother what was taking place.

Police said Mayo fled to New York after they obtained warrant for his arrest. Members of the U.S. Marshal Service Fugitive Task Force and the New York Police Department arrested Mayo in Staten Island on April 6. He waived extradition and was taken to Hamden police headquarters on May 1.

Mayo has been charged with two counts of first-degree sexual assault, two counts of risk of injury to a minor and two counts of threatening. He was held on $300,000 bond and was due in court in Meriden on May 4.

Out of concern for the victims' privacy and protection, police declined to comment on the relationship between them and their connection to Mayo.

Photo Credit: Hamden Police Department

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Newington Mountain Biker Catches Nepal Quake on Camera


Newington resident Miguel Camelo Rosas had a camera mounted on his handlebars while doing some solo mountain biking in Nepal on April 25, and when he felt a tremor, he started recording.

Camelo said he remembers thinking, "You know, this is kind of cool."

"And then all of a sudden I see a rock fall, and I'm like, 'Well, no, this is not cool,'" he recalls.

Camelo was biking in the Himalayas before volunteering with Engineers Without Borders when a deadly 7.8-magnitude earthquake shook Nepal's capital, toppling monuments and prompting landslides in the mountains. The death toll has climbed past 7,000 in the days since.

The video Camelo recorded shows dirt and dust, then boulders and chunks of earth flying through the frame. Though he didn't know it at the time, something broke Camelo's bike helmet.

"I just crouched, getting as close as possible, trying to avoid anything hitting me. And I see huge chunks, huge rocks, boulders flying over, then there's a big slide that goes right over me," he said, after returning home to Newington on Sunday. "Finally it stops, the big shaking stops, and it just becomes aftershocks. But because there were a lot of these aftershocks, I stayed there for about two hours."

Camelo said he then carried his bike over fallen rocks for about an hour, passing bodies on his way to a nearby village. There he found tarps the locals had put up for shelter after the quake destroyed their homes.

They took in a group of tourists, including Camelo, until he found a seat on a helicopter evacuating people from the area.

"Unfortunately, the locals are still there, so they don't have a chance to get helicoptered out," he said.

He set up a youcaring.com account to raise money for the family that did so much for him.

After his brush with death, Camelo knew there was something he had to do – a purchase to make at the airport in New York – before returning home to Connecticut on Sunday.

"I bought a $10 men's size six ring, because it was the smallest thing they had," he said, expecting his girlfriend, Sarah, to welcome him back to the U.S. "Then when I first saw her, we hugged each other and cried and whatnot, then I went down on one knee and proposed and she said yes, so now we're engaged."

Camelo hopes to return to Nepal in the fall to work on the water project that brought him there in the first place, and to do what he can to help rebuild the ravaged country.

Flames Engulf Porch of Bridgeport Home


Firefighters were called to a home on Wilmot Avenue in Bridgeport after flames engulfed the porch Monday evening.

It's not clear if anyone was inside when the fire broke out or whether anyone was hurt. Firefighters asked residents to avoid the area.

No additional information was immediately available.

Check back for updates on this developing story.

Photo Credit: Bridgeport Fire Department

Ex-Cop Not Charged in Subway Death


The retired New York City correction officer who fatally shot a man in a Brooklyn subway station in March won't be charged in man's death, the Brooklyn district attorney's office announced Monday.

The officer, 68-year-old William Groomes, fatally shot Gilbert Drogheo inside the Borough Hall subway station on March 10 after the two got into an argument that turned physical on board a No. 4 train.

District Attorney Ken Thompson said in a statement that he's determined criminal charges are not warranted in the matter.

"Based on interviews of multiple eyewitnesses to the events leading up to the shooting, our review of video tapes of the shooting itself and other evidence, I have decided not to put this case into the grand jury and will not bring criminal charges against Mr. Groomes," he said. "While the death of this young man was indeed tragic, we cannot prove any charge of homicide beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Norman Seabrook, the president of the city Correction Officers' Benevolent Association, told NBC 4 New York in March that they believe the retired officer was acting in self-defense when he shot Drogheo.

Groomes got into an argument with two men after he boarded a Brooklyn-bound No. 4 train at the Bowling Green station in Manhattan on March 10. The altercation turned physical, and one of the men pushed Groomes into an empty subway seat, a source told NBC 4 New York at the time.

Groomes and the two men got off the train at the Borough Hall stop and started fighting on the platform, the source said. That’s when Groomes allegedly identified himself as an officer and told Gilbert Drogheo and Joschelyn Evering that they would be put under arrest.

The source says that the men ran away, with Groomes following. As the men tried to walk out of an exit gate, Drogheo and Groomes began scuffling again. Then, the source says, Groomes pulled out a gun and fired one round, which fatally hit Drogheo in the abdomen.

The retired officer and Evering stayed at the scene. They were not hurt and no bystanders were injured, police said.

Grooms was questioned by police and released. Evering, 28, of Brooklyn was charged with assault and menacing.

In a statement Tuesday, Groomes' attorney Peter Troxler said his client was gratified the Brooklyn district attorney's office opted not to pursue charges.

"Mr. Groomes cooperated with authorities at all stages of this investigation and is thankful that the criminal justice system afforded him an opportunity to provide his evidence and be given a full and fair opportunity to defend himself," Troxler said. 

Man Sexually Assaulted Woman in Parking Garage: Cops


Police have arrested a 21-year-old man who they say waited for a woman to get out of her car in a Stamford parking garage, then sexually assaulted her as she tried to get into the elevator.

Surveillance footage shows Tyub Mohammed, 21, watching a 34-year-old woman pull into the parking garage for her apartment on the west side of Stamford around 12:30 a.m. Friday, April 24, according to police.

Police said Mohammed got out of the car and approached the woman as she was walking from her car. He followed her into the vestibule area and started talking to her, then lunged at her and tried to kiss her as the elevator doors opened.

Mohammed also groped the woman's genital area, bit her lip and made inappropriate comments to her, according to police. The woman pushed him away and forced him out of the vestibule, at which point he ran.

Mohammed, who works in the area, was arrested and charged with third-degree sexual assault and third-degree assault. Police said he "made some admissions to the sexual assault."

Bond was set at $250,000.

Photo Credit: Stamford Police Department

Sergeant, Dispatcher, State Employee Facing Federal Drug Charges


A Newtown police sergeant, civilian dispatcher and shift supervisor at the Bridgeport Juvenile Detention Center are among eight people arrested on federal charges for illegally selling steroids and prescription drugs, according to the U.S. attorney's office.

They were arrested April 29 and 30 as part of "Operation Juice Box," an investigation into steroid and prescription pill distribution. Federal prosecutors said investigators used wire and electronic surveillance for almost two months and found that members of the group imported steroids from China.

Authorities found hundreds of vials of steroids, about 600 grams of raw testosterone powder, 350 grams of powder cocaine and four long guns as part of the investigation, federal prosecutors said.

Newtown police Sgt. Steven Santucci, 38, of Waterbury, is accused of selling steroids to four other people, including Newtown police dispatcher Jason Chickos, 46, of Bridgeport. The affidavit identifies Santucci as "the head of a steroid drug trafficiking organization."

The Newtown Police Department said Santucci was hired in 2000 as a probationary police officer and promoted to sergeant in January 2012. Chickos began working as an emergency communications dispatcher in April 2002.

Federal prosecutors said Santucci had been receiving wholesale steroid shipments from China since 2011. He allegedly processed raw powder and liquid steroids and repackaged them for sale in Connecticut.

According to the U.S. attorney's office, Santucci used the phone app WhatsApp to communicate with his clients, including Chickos, the police dispatcher.

Prosecutors said Chickos bought steroids from Santucci and re-sold smaller quantities, along with Santucci's other customers, Alex Kenyhercz, 28, of Ansonia; Michael Mase, 32, of Sherman; and Steven Fernandes, 54, of Southington.

Federal prosecutors said Kenyhercz sold steroids to Mark Bertanza, 33, of Shelton, who was also arrested. Kenyhercz also allegedly sold prescription pills, including Roxicodone, oxycodone, Suboxone and Opana.

The following eight people were arrested as part of the bust:

  • Newtown police Sgt. Steven Santucci, 38, of Waterbury,  charged with conspiracy to distribute steroids and released on bond
  • Newtown civilian police dispatcher Jason Chickos, 46, of Bridgeport, charged with conspiracy to distribute steroids and released on bond
  • Juvenile detention center shift supervisor Jeffrey Gentile, 33, of Ansonia, charged with conspiracy to distribute steroids and released on bond
  • Alex Kenyhercz, 28, of Ansonia, charged with conspiracy to distribute oxycodone and released on bond
  • Mark Bertanza, 33, of Shelton, charged with conspiracy to distribute steroids and released on bond
  • Frank Pecora, 53, of Derby, charged with conspiracy to distribute oxycodone. Pecora remains in federal custody ahead of a detention hearing May 5.
  • Steven Fernandes, 54, of Southington, charged with conspiracy to distribute steroids, released on bond
  • Michael Mase, 32, of Sherman, charged with conspiracy to distribute steroids, released on bond

Santucci, Bertanza, Gentile, Mase, Fernandes and Chickos could each face up to 10 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.

Pecora and Kenyhercz could face 20 years in prison apiece and a fine of $1 million.

The U.S. attorney's office listed Gentile as a judicial marshal, but a spokesperson for the state judicial branch said he works as a shift supervisor at the juvenile detention center in Bridgeport.

She declined to comment on the investigation but said Gentile, who was hired in July 2004, has been placed on unpaid administrative leave as the department investigates the allegations against him.

The Newtown Police Department said it "cooperated fully with authorities" when informed of the investigation into Santucci and Chickos.

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2 Killed in Waterbury Motorcycle Crash


Community members are mourning the loss of a young man and woman who died in a motorcycle crash in Waterbury.

Waterbury police said Matthew Szyndlar, 19, and Kerri Rogoz, 20, of Prospect, were pronounced dead around 6 a.m. Monday.

"A passing motorist spotted a motorcycle and two victims on the side of the road," explained Deputy Chief Christopher Corbett of the Waterbury Police Department.

It's not clear how long they had been there. Police believe they may have been speeding before their motorcycle crashed into a utility pole just after a curve on Captain Neville Avenue.

All that remains at the scene now are motorcycle parts and a cross bearing the victims' names. Friends and family have visited the site throughout the day to pay their respects and write messages to the loved ones they lost.

Szyndlar's cousin, David Luciano, said Szyndlar would have given anyone the shirt off his back. Those who knew Rogoz called her a sweet person with a big heart.

Police are conducting a toxicology report as part of their investigation into the crash. They expect the report to take several weeks.

Officials Nab Bear That Chased 2 Joggers in Granby


Residents were asked to stay away from a nature and wildlife preserve in Granby, Connecticut, after "an unusually aggressive bear" chased two people Monday afternoon.

Officials said a 62-year-old man and 25-year-old woman were jogging minutes apart when a black bear chased them in separate incidents along Barndoor Hills Road at McLean Game Refuge just before 1 p.m. Monday.

Neither person was badly hurt, but the encounter left them startled and shaken up.

While the female jogger was not injured, the man had a cut on his chest. Officials with the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection said it's not clear whether the bear scratched him or he was scraped by bushes while running through the woods to get away.

He declined to go to the hospital and was treated at the scene.

Granby police officers and DEEP Environmental Conservation Police searched the woods for the bear, believed to be a yearling that weighs between 140 and 160 pounds.

They trapped the bear around 9 p.m. are removing it from the area, according to Granby police.

Authorities said earlier that they planned to euthanize the animal due to its aggressive behavior.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com
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Urns End Up on Thrift Store Shelf


Authorities are trying to figure out how urns containing what could be human ashes ended up on the shelf of a thrift store in Connecticut.

Angela Dupree, of Shelton, said she found them by chance while shopping at the Savers store on Route 1 last Thursday.

"I was actually looking for bakery pans for my friend's bakery," she said.

Dupree said she spotted the urns on a shelf in the housewares department. Both containers were sealed and marked with $3.99 price tags.

"I went down the home decor aisle and I noticed two marble – they looked like urns to me," Dupree said. "I tried to even pull the top off, because this can't be what I think it is."

But, she said, it was. One of the urns had a name on it – Bonnie Throp – and the dates 1966-1983.

Dupree brought the urns to store employees and explained what she had found.

"They were totally surprised too," Dupree said. "They had no idea that's what it was."

Store management in turn alerted the Orange Police Department and the local health department.

The urns and their contents are now being held in a secure vault at a nearby cemetery until someone can explain what – or who – might be inside.

"Because we are no longer in possession of the urns, I'm hoping the cemetery can help. I'm sure they will do whatever they can to help find the owner," Savers communications director Sarah Gaugl said, adding that she will "make sure they are handled in a respectful manner."

The urns lack the metal markings that cremation experts say are typically used to identify urns. One expert said families often divide ashes into various containers to be dispersed among family members.

It's not clear how the urns ended up at Savers. A spokesperson for the company said it's possible the urns were mistakenly donated, then listed for sale by someone who didn't realize what they were.

"I'm sure that was not done intentionally," Dupree said. "I'm sure the family wants it back."

So far, NBC Connecticut has not been able to locate death or cremation records for Bonnie Throp from any of the state's 19 certified crematories.

There are no immediate plans to test the contents of the urns, according to the manager of the cemetery where they're being held.

EDITORS NOTE: An earlier version of this story stated the location of the thrift store as Southern California. It is located in Orange, Conn.

Man Dies After Suffering Medical Emergency, Falling Into Pond


The 20-year-old man who fell overboard into Merriman Pond in Watertown while fishing with a friend Monday has died, according to the police department.

Police have identified the man as James Donahue, 20, of the Oakville section of Watertown.

According to police, Donahue was out fishing with a friend when he apparently suffered a medical emergency, causing him to fall from the boat. They have classifed his death as a drowning but said authorities are still investigating to determine how it happened.

Emergency responders were called to the scene on Northfield Road around 2:20 p.m. Monday. Fire officials said a boat passenger reported that Donahue had fallen overboard.

Watertown police and firefighters rushed to the area, along with the Thomaston Regional Dive Team and other neighboring agencies to search for the missing man.

About 45 minutes later, a diver found him in about 10 feet of water. First responders immediately began CPR and continued medical treatment on the way to Waterbury Hospital, where he was prounounced dead, acording to police.

The fire chief said Donahue's friend kept the boat anchored near the place Donahue fell in, which helped emergency responders track him down. He does not believe Donahue was wearing a life preserver.

Police and the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection are investigating.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Family of Murdered Woman Hopes New Break Brings Closure


Family members of three unsolved homicides hope a new search in New Britain leads to answers and closure.

Police have been searching acres of woods behind a strip mall at 593 Hartford Road since April 21. Remains of three murdered women have previously been uncovered, and additional remains found last week are waiting for identification at the chief medical examiner's office.

"We want to find the rest of my mom because we don’t want to close the case until we have all of her remains so we could do a proper burial," said Tiffany Menard, whose mother, Mary Jane Menard, disappeared in 2003.

Investigators found the partial remains of 40-year-old Mary Jane Menard, along with those of Diane Cusack and Joyvaline Martinez, behind the New Britain strip mall in 2007. Police said all three disappeared in 2003 and believe the same person is responsible for their deaths.

Although they were discovered in 2007, it took until 2014 for DNA tests to identify Menard’s remains. The family allowed police to keep them temporarily to help with the investigation.

"We knew that there would be a sweep someday. We knew, you know, that it wasn’t over, that they weren't just going to leave us in limbo," said Mary Jane Menard's sister, Anna Santiago. "You hope that there are people out there that don’t forget that want answers just like you."

Menard was last seen going to buy cigarettes in Waterbury, according to her family.

"She used to the light up the room. She was amazing with a beautiful voice," said Tiffany Menard.

The family hopes the new search brings some closure and justice.

"We will see her in heaven, you know, and be with her, and God knows that you know whoever did this they will have their day, you know. They will have their day," said Santiago.

Police expect the search to last about another week and at its conclusion will release more information about what they found.

Forest Fire Danger High in Connecticut


Firefighters have responded to several brush fires statewide in the past few days and the forest fire danger has been downgraded to from very high yesterday to high on Tuesday.

As temperatures climbed into the 80s on Monday, officials from the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection warned of very high fire danger. Brush fires have broken out near 188 Central Avanue in Wolcott, 1217 Weed Road in Torrington, 303 Shenipsit Lake Road in Tolland, and on East Rock Peak in New Haven.

Several acres also burned in a brush fire in Harwinton on Monday afternoon at a property belonging to the Bristol water company after logging equipment sparked a fire. Gusty winds spread the blaze quickly.

Crews also fought fires at the Inn at Mysic and a home in Newtown that collapsed on Monday.

Residents are reminded that open burning is prohibited, even with permits, when the forest fire danger is rated high, very high or extreme and you are burning within 100 feet of a grassland or woodland.

There's not much green on trees yet this spring after a long winter, meaning dry leaves that can ignite very quickly.

Brush fire danger is listed as high after being very high on Monday. Part of what goes into determining that ranking is measuring things like humidity and wind speed.

The state can experience high fire danger between mid-March and May.

If you spot a forest fire, DEEP advises remaining calm and calling 911 to report a fire as soon as possible to the local fire department.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Animal Might Be Lost in Terryville Fire: FD


A fire broke out at a house in Terryville early Tuesday morning and an animal might be lost due to the blaze.

The fire started in the back of the 34 Prospect Street house and spread to the attic, causing significant damage to the second floor.

The older home with several additions is now condemned, but it had working smoke detectors and everyone made it out safely.

There were about five occupants, according to the fire chief.

Firefighters said that an animal might be lost in the fire.

The Thomaston Fire Department helped cover the Terryville fire house while firefighters battled the blaze.

The scene was clearing just after 2 a.m. and no firefighters were injured.

Elderly Driver Critically Injured After Entrapment During Fairfield Crash


An elderly driver is in critical condition after he was trapped in his car in a collission with a tractor-trailer on Black Rock Turnpike (Route 58) Tuesday morning in Fairfield.

Firefighters extricated an unconscious driver from a heavily damaged vehicle using the Jaws of Life to get into the car to rescue him.

“The driver of the passenger vehicle was in extremely critical condition at the time emergency crews arrived on scene," Fairfield Assistance Fire Chief George Gomola said. "Police, Fire, and EMS worked together to provide lifesaving emergency medical treatment and rapid extrication. Excellent work delivered with the highest level of professionalism was done by all.”

American Medical Response paramedics initiated life support procedures with the help of Fairfield firefighters and transported him to St. Vincent's.

The road was closed between Burroughs Road and Tunxis Hill, but it has since reopened.

The crash remains under investigation.

I-95 north has also reopened in Fairfield after a fatal two-car crash.

Photo Credit: Fairfield Fire Department

Crews Responding to Fire in Tolland


Firefighters are responding to a house fire on Cook Road in Tolland.

Dispatchers received several 911 calls, according to Tweets from Tolland Alert, and the caller got the occupant out.

Mutual aid is being brought in to fight the two-alarm fire, according to Tolland Alert.

Photo Credit: Douglas A. Racicot, Assistant Director of Public Safety, Assistant Fire Chief and Fire Marshal in Tolland

Periscope Eyed Over Pacquiao Fight


This weekend’s fight between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao was hyped as the fight of the century. Now, a new fight begins.

It cost viewers at home about $100 to order the pay per view event, but several hundred people used live streaming video apps like Meerkat and Periscope to broadcast it for free. They simply held the phone up to the TV. Now, those people could face legal action.

“The technology as a whole, I think, is going to be beneficial to consumers and broadcasters,” said attorney Mitch Stoltz.

Stoltz is an attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which fights for consumer digital rights.
He believes live streaming companies shouldn't suffer when users rebroadcast licensed material.

“The makers of the technology, whether it's Sony in the case of the VCR, or Periscope with this new technology, isn't going to be responsible unless they were encouraging people to use it in illegal ways,” he said.

Saturday night after the boxing match, the Twitter CEO Dick Costolo tweeted:

“And the winner is…@periscopeco.”

Twitter recently acquired the live-streaming company.

Monday, Periscope issued a statement:

"Periscope operates in compliance with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, we respect intellectual property rights and are working to ensure there are robust tools in place to respond expeditiously. Unauthorized broadcasts of content that is protected by copyright is a clear violation of our content policy. It’s not the kind of content we want to see in Periscope."

A company spokesperson said of the 66 live streams red flagged by those who own the rights to the fight, Periscope shut down 30 of them within minutes. The remaining broadcasts had already ended and were no longer available.

As for why those broadcasters and advertisers would object? San Jose State University Advertising Professor John Delacruz said it’s not just about the lost money.

“I think the biggest problem that comes from allowing just anybody to broadcast live is that you can be damaging the brand itself," Delacruz said. "You can really leave yourself open to abuse."

Photo Credit: AP

Fire Breaks Out in Bantam Garage


Crews are responding to a garage fire in Bantam.

The blaze broke out at 202 Maple Street on Tuesday morning.

It's unknown whether the flames have spread to the main structure of the home.

No further information was immediately available.

Firefighters Extinguish Bolton Garage Blaze


Crews responded to a garage fire at 344 West Street Tuesday morning.

Firefighters extinguished the blaze and no one was injured.

No further information was immediately available.

Photo Credit: Getty Images
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