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Racing in Their Bones: Behind Top Jockeys' Dynasties


Javier Castellano would never have been a jockey if his father had had his way.

Abel Castellano had ridden horses for almost 30 years in Maracaibo, Venezuela, and broken ribs and a shoulder along the way. He knew how tough the job was.

But his son Javier would awaken as a child and get out of bed when his father returned from the track. Javier fell in love with racing, and once he finished high school, he followed his father to the track.

"I always looked up to him, because he was a great jockey," said Javier, 37, the top thoroughbred jockey in wins and earnings heading into the Preakness Stakes this weekend.

“It’s very risky, but it’s a beautiful sport,” he said.

On Saturday in Baltimore, he will ride Divining Rod in the second leg of the Triple Crown. The race will take all his concentration, he said, and it's easier when his family understands the pressures he faces.

Many riders in this year's Triple Crown come from long lineages of jockeys, trainers and agents — mostly men, though occasionally women. In families with deep roots in racing, the jockeys grow up around stables, learn from their fathers and uncles and root for their siblings in their races.

Trevor McCarthy, 20, knew by the first grade that he wanted to be jockey like his father, Michael.

As a boy, Trevor would go with his father to the Delaware Park Racetrack in Wilmington, first riding the ponies that led the horses to the post, then the horses themselves. He credits his father with much of his success.

"He’s put a lot of effort into making me the rider I am," McCarthy said.

McCarthy — who will be on Bodhisattva on Saturday, his 21st birthday — said he always looked up to his father, a jockey turned trainer and jockey's agent who also gallops horses in the mornings.

“He loves it, he loves that I ride," he said. "Sometimes he gets a bit nervous watching, a bit nervous and concerned at times, but overall he loves it."

His mother, who competed in barrel races in high school in upstate New York, is just as proud, he said.

Competing against McCarthy, the Preakness' youngest rider, will be Gary Stevens, a racing veteran who at 52 will be the oldest jockey at Pimlico on Saturday and who like his young rival was raised among horses, their trainers and jockeys.

Stevens twice returned to racing after he had retired, and has acted in the 2003 movie “Seabiscuit” and worked as a racing analyst for NBC Sports and other outlets during his time away from the track. Two weeks ago, Stevens rode Firing Line in the Kentucky Derby, finishing second to American Pharoah. He has previously won the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont stakes three times each.

Stevens was raised around horses in Boise, Idaho, the youngest of three boys. His brother Scott is also a jockey, and his brother Craig is a jockey agent and horse trainer. Their father is a horse trainer; their mother was a rodeo queen.

"She could ride, and she’s pretty,” he said.

Only Stevens' wife, Angie, does not ride.

All of the Stevens brothers played sports — football, baseball and wrestling — and they hunted and fished.

“We all wanted to play pro football, except for my middle brother Scott," Stevens said. "He always just wanted to be a jockey.”

He called all of his brothers in the days before the Preakness, and though they did talk about horses, no one brought up Saturday’s race.

"It’s kind of my peaceful time,” Stevens said. “It was more little brother calling his two big brothers, and just getting some free time off of not worrying about the Preakness. Sort of going back to my childhood with my brothers."

The bond of brotherhood also looms large for Victor Espinoza, who rode American Pharoah to victory at the Kentucky Derby and hopes to do the same Saturday. His older brother was also a jockey.

Espinoza, now 42, grew up on a farm in Hidalgo, Mexico, playing soccer, baseball, basketball — every sport but golf. He rode horses, but he was afraid of them.

“I had no clue about racing,” he said. “My family, they never were interested in the races. We are farmers.”

But Espinoza followed his older brother Jose to Cancun, where the two brothers learned to train horses, and eventually moved to California to ride them.

Victor never chose to become a jockey, he said. He rode horses to survive, for what he thought would be a short time.

“For me, it's not just a fun thing,” he said. “It's a job that I have to do.”

It's also a job that has profoundly affected his brother, who suffered a traumatic brain injury when he was thrown from a horse crossing the finish line in Saratoga in 2013. Jose no longer rides, and his brother says his condition is improving.

Though Jose was in Baltimore last year to watch his brother ride California Chrome in the Preakness, he will not travel this year. But he will watch the race, Victor Espinoza said.

"I try not to bring it up at all," Victor said of his brother’s injury. "For me, I just want him to be 100 percent."

Castellano, who will ride Divining Rod on Saturday, is reminded daily of the risks, too. His wife Abby, the daughter of the national director of the Jockeys' Guild, grasps the sacrifices he must make, he said.

Castellano loves his sport but appreciates how dangerous it can be. He must watch his weight. He has little time off. He travels in the winter from his home in New York to race in Florida. The first year, his wife moved with him, and they enrolled the children in school in Florida for three months, but the disruption wasn't good for them, he said. So now they stay in New York, and he is separated from them.

"It's a funny business," he said. “You can be in the top right now, and then if I spill, you can die or you can be paralyzed.”

His daughters cared more about the hats at the Kentucky Derby than about riding, he said, but there is also his 2-year-old son.

Would he like his son to follow him to the racetrack?

"I don't want to talk about that," he said, laughing, though he admitted he would support his son if he wanted to be a jockey. How could he not? he asked.

Photo Credit: AP

5 Cats Feared Dead Rescued From Burned Condo Complex


Firefighters have rescued five cats from a burned-out building in Meriden days after flames tore through the complex and forced some 60 residents from their homes.

Fire spread across 22 units of the Crown Village condos Saturday afternoon, according to the fire department. Two firefighters were sent to the hospital, and although no residents were hurt, at least one was forced to jump from a balcony to safety.

Firefighters rescued two cats at the time but several others were missing and feared dead. They returned to the scorched remains Thursday after someone watched a cat run into the burned building, fire officials said.

While they were searching for that cat, they found four others, according to the fire department. Firefighters have now rescued seven cats from the building: two on Saturday and five on Thursday.

It's still not clear what caused the blaze. Fire officials said earlier this week that the building was not required to have sprinklers or fire extinguishers.

Meriden Emergency Services' Spirit of Giving is collecting new clothing, gift cards and household items for the residents who have been displaced. You can bring donations to Hunters Ambulance at 450 West Main Street in Meriden.

Photo Credit: Meriden Record-Journal

Blue Bell to Cut 1,400 Jobs


Blue Bell Creameries says they'll be laying off a third of their workforce due to the extended timeline to return to production after a listeria outbreak forced the company to recall all products and close its plants.

"Due to the extended timeline required to ensure the highest quality and safety of Blue Bell’s products when the company resumes production, and because supply and distribution will be limited for some time to come," Blue Bell Creameries CEO and President Paul Kruse said in a news release Friday.

Kruse announced, "'the agonizing decision' that the company will have to reduce the size of its work force by more than a third and will make other cost-cutting measures, including furloughs and salary reductions," the company said in a statement Friday.

Approximately 1,400 employees will be furloughed, and approximately 750 full-time and 700 part-time employees – or 37 percent of the total Blue Bell workforce of 3,900 – will be laid off, Kruse said.

“The agonizing decision to lay off hundreds of our great workers and reduce hours and pay for others was the most difficult one I have had to make in my time as Blue Bell’s CEO and President,” Kruse said.  “At Blue Bell, our employees are part of our family, and we did everything we could to keep people on our payroll for as long as possible.  At the same time, we have an obligation to do what is necessary to bring Blue Bell back and ensure its viability in the future. This is a sad day for all of us at Blue Bell, and for me personally."

Kruse said employees that are essential to ongoing operations, cleaning and repair will continue to work at a reduced pay. A second group will be placed on partially paid furlough with the expectation being that they'll return to work when production resumes. A third group will be laid off, because there is not a clear timeline for when production will resume.

The company said the process of cleaning and preparing their four plants to resume production is going to take longer than anticipated, especially in Brenham.

There is no firm timeline for when Blue Bell will begin producing ice cream again. When production resumes, it will be limited and phased in over time, the company said.

Blue Bell also made the difficult decision to suspend operations and lay off employees at the following distribution centers: Phoenix (2 branches) and Tucson, Arizona; Denver, Colorado; Indianapolis, Indiana;  Kansas City and Wichita, Kansas; Louisville, Kentucky; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Las Vegas, Nevada;  Raleigh and  Charlotte, North Carolina; Columbia, South Carolina; and, Richmond, Virginia.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News
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Elementary School Vandalized in Orange


Police are searching for the person who spray painted the letters "DX" and images of male genitalia on the side of an elementary school in Orange overnight Thursday into Friday.

According to police, students and staff arrived at the Race Brook School at 107 Granniss Road on Friday morning to find the graffiti on the side of the school building, walking track and playground equipment.

Security footage show the suspected vandal walking across the school playground around 12:45 a.m. Friday. He appears to have dark hair and is seen wearing a dark-colored T-shirt. Police said no vehicles were seen traveling through the area.

Anyone with information on the vandal's identity is asked to call Orange Police Officer Kingston at 203-891-2130.

Photo Credit: Orange Police Department

Fire Destroys Garbage Trucks in Canterbury


Three garbage trucks have been destroyed and two more are damaged after fire ripped through the Willimantic Waste site in Canterbury early Friday morning, according to fire officials.

The Canterbury Fire Department said flames broke out at the facility on Packer Road around 3 a.m. Friday. Neighboring departments provided mutual aid.

No injuries were reported, but three trucks were totaled and two others sustained damage.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Photo Credit: Canterbury Fire Department

Police Seize Kilos of Cocaine, Pounds of Marijuana During Bust


Hartford police seized four kilograms of cocaine, five pounds of marijuana and several bags of heroin during a bust on Thursday.

The Hartford and state police drug units set up surveillance after learning about a drug deal planned on New Britain Avenue and detained Michael Kelley, 34, of Plainville, and Eduardo Zayes, 31, of Hartford.

On Kelley, they found 320 grams of crack cocaine and U.S currency, police said, while Zayes had U.S currency.

Police said this also led to investigating several stash houses in the greater Hartford region.

In all, police seized $56,693 in cash, 10 grams raw heroin, as well as 50 bags of heroin, four kilograms of powder and crack cocaine, along with 372 grams of crack cocaine, five pounds of marijuana, a .25-calibre Raven arms handgun, a 2014 Nissan Altima Blue and a 2002 GMC Denali Green.

Zayes was charged with criminal possession of firearm, possession of narcotics with intent to sell, possession of narcotics, possession of narcotics with intent to sell within 1,500 feet of a school and third-degree criminal trespass.

Kelley was charged with possession of narcotics, possession of narcotics with intent to sell within 1,500 feet of school, third-degree criminal trespass and possession of narcotics with intent to sell.

Photo Credit: Hartford Police Department

2 Victims ID'd in D.C. Home


D.C. police identified two of the people found dead in a burning home in the expensive Woodley Park neighborhood Thursday as 46-year-old Savvas Savopoulos and his 47-year-old wife Amy Savopoulos.

Police believe the other bodies are the couple's 10-year-old son Philip and 57-year-old housekeeper Veralicia Figueroa.

Firefighters arrived at the large home in the 3200 block of Woodland Drive NW midday Thursday to find smoke and fire coming out of the roof.

According to investigators, one of the victims was bleeding from the head and had a heavy smell of gasoline when he or she was transported to Georgetown University Hospital. There's also evidence that points to arson.

D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier said the fire is being investigated as "suspicious," and the deaths are being investigated as a homicide arson. ATF agents, evidence collectors and police investigators are working both inside and outside of the house.

Investigators are also looking for information about a 2008 blue Porsche 911 with D.C. license plates DK 2418. The car was seen near the house about 10:30 a.m. Thursday. Police found the car — torched and unoccupied — in the parking lot of St. Christopher's Episcopal Church in Lanham, Maryland, about 5:15 p.m. Thursday.

They want to know more about who was driving it earlier that day. Anyone with information should call police at 202-727-9099.

There is no sign of forced entry into the home, police said. The fire took about 30 minutes to extinguish.

FBI, NTSB Probing Projectile Report


Investigators have asked the FBI to look at whether a projectile, like a rock or bullet, hit Amtrak Regional 188 moments before it sped up and derailed at a curve in Philadelphia Tuesday night.

The latest information comes after NTSB investigators interviewed three Amtrak employees — including 32-year-old engineer Brandon Bostian — on Friday.

Bostian remembers ringing the train's bell as it passed through North Philadelphia station, about 4 miles from the crash site, but that his memory is blank after that point, Board member Robert Sumwalt said. The interview lasted an hour and a half and Bostian was described as "extremely cooperative."

An assistant conductor told the NTSB she heard a SEPTA operator on adjacent tracks radio that his window had been shattered by an unknown projectile. That SEPTA train was one of two trains that NBC10 previously reported were hit by projectiles on the same line around the same time that night.

The woman, who was working in the fourth car that is a cafe car, said she believed she heard Bostian tell the SEPTA engineer say their train had also been hit by something.

Moments later, the train careened off a curve at Frankford Junction in Port Richmond as it traveled more than 100 mph in a 50 mph zone. Eight passengers were killed and more than 200 people were hurt, including Bostian, in the violent crash.

"We have not independently confirmed this knowledge. We rely on the FBI for their expertise in such areas," Sumwalt said.

Bostian, who suffered a concussion, head and leg injuries and doesn't remember the crash, did not tell investigators the train was hit by a projectile. An outward facing video feed on the locomotive also did not record a strike, according to Sumwalt.

The FBI will be looking at a damaged windshield on Amtrak 188. Sumwalt said the windshield was shattered in the derailment, but there's one area, in the lower left point, that they will be focusing on and analyzing the fracture pattern.

SEPTA Regional Rail train 769 heading northbound toward Trenton, New Jersey was hit by something at 9:05 p.m., the transit authority told NBC10 Wednesday. The impact of the unknown object shattered the engineer's windshield and forced the train out of service.

About 10 minutes later, Amtrak Acela 2173 traveling southbound on the same line was also hit by a projectile. Passenger Madison Calvert was sitting next to the window that was damaged.

“I’m like ‘Oh my God, my window’s shattered,’” he told NBC10 Thursday. A photo he shared showed a large circular fracture in the glass.

City officials said earlier this week they didn't believe the incidents were connected.

Sumwalt said investigators have retrieved video from the SEPTA regional rail train and were listening to radio communication recordings. The regional rail employees will be interviewed by the NTSB.

Whether or not the locomotive was hit by a projectile, it still doesn't explain the train's quick acceleration. The train does not have an automatic throttle — meaning a person must move the throttle to control the speed. Sumwalt said investigators are working to rule out all possibilities including a "mechanical anomaly."

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Photo Credit: NTSB

Senators Fire Back at Boehner Over Amtrak Spending


Connecticut's U.S. senators didn't hold back with their comments when it came to Amtrak spending approved by the U.S. House of Representatives.

"No matter what Speaker Boehner says, a cut for Amtrak jeopardizes lives," said Sen. Chris Murphy.

When asked about whether increased funding for infrastructure and technology upgrades for Amtrak would have prevented Tuesday's fatal crash in Philadelphia, Boehner, a Republican from Ohio, responded by calling the question "stupid" and added that he saw a different reason for the crash.

"Obviously, it's not about funding. The train was going twice the speed limit. Adequate funds were there. No money's been cut from rail safety and the House passed a bill earlier this spring to reauthorize Amtrak and authorizes a lot of these programs, and it's hard for me to imagine that people take the bait on some of the nonsense that gets spewed around here," Boehner said.

Murphy and Blumenthal criticized a $250 million cut for Amtrak from Congress. They argue that the train line could see vast improvements with investments just north of $100 million, which they say is a paltry sum when one considers that the line is responsible for billions in commerce.

"Saving billions of dollars is worth the money we would spend to invest," said Blumenthal. "The approach of the United States has been to patch and pray."

On the issue of positive train control technology, which uses satellites, track sensors and remotes inside the engine of the train, both senators said the technology is vital for saving lives.

Amtrak tracks from New York to New Haven do not currently have PTC, but the technology will be installed by the end of the year. The stretch from New Haven to Boston does have PTC installed and the new stretch of commuter railroad from Springfield to Hartford and New Haven, which is set to be ready by 2016, will also have PTC installed.

Blumenthal sides with NTSB investigators in that he believes that, had PTC been installed and more money been devoted to the line, the derailment in Philadelphia could have been avoided.

"This tragedy never would have happened and eight people would be alive today had positive train control been in place on that section of the Amtrak route," Blumenthal said.

Photo Credit: AP

Murphy Wants More Oversight for College Spending


U.S. Senator Chris Murphy says the College Affordability and Innovation Act of 2015 will provide more accountability for all colleges across the United States.

The proposal would monitor spending and federal aid in relation to the success of students once they graduate from an institution.

"If you have students that can’t pay back their loans at 30 to 40 percent of their graduates, then you should have some penalties applied," said Murphy.

Murphy said the measure would create a list of institutions that aren't living up to the promise of a degree that leads to a job and in turn the student being able to pay back loan debt.

"If they don’t get better then they’ll get a little bit of their federal aid docked. That will get their attention," he said.

Murphy said his bill is mainly targeted at "for-profit" colleges. Institutions like Corinthian and the University of Phoenix are governed by federal law that does require graduates to earn a certain salary in relation to their debt.

Murphy wants to see a more strict bill with more accountability.

"A lot of these colleges that have popped up are really defrauding students and kids are graduating with hundreds of thousands of dollars of loans and degrees that are worthless," he said.

An issue that has hit Connecticut in recent weeks is the fact that UConn, the state's flagship institution, doesn't accept about 20 percent of all state community college credits.

In a statement, a UConn spokesman said the university goes to great lengths to tell students which classes will get credit and which don't. UConn says the responsibility is on community college advisers to explain to students which credits transfer.

Murphy and state senators in Connecticut said that has to change.

"It’s a real problem when the average transfer from a state community college to the University of Connecticut is losing one semester worth of work because their credits are being rejected and that shouldn’t happen and Connecticut should fix that," said Murphy.

Higher Education Committee Chair Sen. Dante Bartolomeo said she's working with the Board of Regents to streamline the process for credit transfers and even said the system will develop particular courseloads for students.

"We’re working on getting these pathways for these community college students if they select a pathway, 100 percent of those credits will transfer from their two years at the community college to their university," Bartolomeo said.

National Safe Boating Week Kicks Off Saturday


Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial start of the boating season, and National Safe Boating Week begins Saturday.

Lyme resident Robert Sutton, a veteran of the seas, knows one of the most important things to have on board is a life jacket. It could be a key to saving your life if you fall in the water.

But forget the clumsy, sweat-inducing life preservers of the past. Mark Chanski with the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection's boating division, says newer life jackets, which can inflate, are lighter, although though more expensive.

"This time of the year, especially in the spring, the waters are still cold. So even though people think they might be able to swim, the onset of hypothermia kicks in and it doesn’t take long before somebody can’t move their arms or legs," Chanski explained.

Officials are also warning of the dangers of drinking while boating. Boaters are urged to be on the lookout for debris in the water and be careful around docks, which might have been damaged by ice during the winter.

"Make sure your boat is ready to go. A lot of times people rush the spring launch and they forget to check this or that. And those simple things can lead to hassles or maybe an accident," said Chanski.

DEEP urges boaters to pay attention at all times. Robert Sutton seconds that.

"You've got to protect yourself at all times when you’re on a boat and be aware of your surroundings too," said Sutton.

Events will take place around the state in recognition of National Safe Boating Week.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

New Haven Fire Department Makes Promotions


After 14 years of fighting with the city over denied promotions, the New Haven Fire Department is promoting 26 captains and 34 lieutenants Friday night.

The city is also adding 25 new firefighters, and New Haven Fire Chief Allyn Wright believes it's history in the making.

"This is somewhat of a unique situation that’s going to happen tonight because we’re going to have half of our recruit class graduate along with the lieutenants and the captains who are going to be promoted," Wright explained.

New Haven has been denied firefighter promotions several times over the past few years. In the 2009 Ricci vs. New Haven case, a court found that the city was guilty of reverse discrimination after failing to promote white firefighters.

"Over time, it’s been out of control and the only way you can start taking care of that as far as declining is adding people," said Wright.

With fewer employees, firefighters racked up overtime.

An amendment was added to save the city the $6 million in overtime costs and cover 13 lieutenant and 12 captain vacancies.

Wright said filling the positions will boost morale at the department.

"They want to grow, they want to become officers, with that said, they also take on more responsibility as being officers," said Wright.

More responsibility means the officers will be in charge of at least four people. Wright also plans to have battalion chief and deputy chief exams to have those slots filled.

6 Gowns Deemed Inappropriate for Shelton High Prom


Six Shelton High School students’ prom gowns have been rejected amid a prom dress code crackdown at the school.

The prom is on Saturday and Dr. Beth Smith, the school's headmaster, announced over the intercom last Friday that backless dresses and those with slits or cutouts wouldn't be allowed at prom this coming weekend.

Then, a committee made up of seven female staff members reviewed more than 150 dresses and determined that six are inappropriate. Earlier this week, seven dresses had been deemed inappropriate.

School officials had been contacting the students whose dresses were under review and two of the girls whose dresses were flagged previously told officials they arranged for different dresses, while another student planned to have a tailor add more material to fit the criteria.

Earlier this week, students and parents said the crackdown comes too late because prom is days away and they've already spent money on their dresses.

Supt. Freeman Burr said the student handbook, which all students receive at the beginning of the school year, outlines the guidelines for appropriate dress.

"Those guidelines were announced over the PA system, again, last Friday following concerns raised by some faculty and staff, and even some of our male students, who had some serious concerns about some of the prom dresses that were being shown," Burr said.

He went on to say school officials understand that prom attire differs from school attire, but administrators want only prom attire that is considered appropriate.

"We want all students attending the prom on Saturday evening to have a memorable night," Burr said. "We know that all of our students want a great prom. We want all of our young female students to be dressed beautifully. Obviously, we want them to enjoy themselves. However, we also want them to be dressed appropriately – appropriately with class and dignity, and also dressed in a tasteful way."

A statement from a representative of the school said 549 students will be attending the junior, senior prom on Saturday at the Oakdale Theater in Wallingford.

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Starbucks Worker Yells at Customers


A New York City Starbucks employee has been fired after cellphone video showing her ranting at customers in a Queens store went viral shortly after being posted online. 

Customer Ruby Chen, the main target of the employee's tirade, complained about the interaction on Starbucks' Facebook page and posted the video, provided to her by another customer in the store who filmed the entire incident on Tuesday. 

She said she'd placed an order for a Frappuccino at the store on Broadway in Elmhurst, Queens, and was pulling up the Starbucks app on her phone to pay. The Starbucks employee asked her name for her order -- but Chen said she didn't hear her.

That's when the worker began shouting at her, Chen said. 

The worker yanked away the app scanner when Chen tried to pay, and then "told me to leave and never go back" to the store, Chen said. 

The worker then accused her of trying to steal the cookie straw she was holding. 

"You're talking to the manager," the worker told Chen when asked who the manager was. "You're not going to be served here. Bye. Bye. Bye." 

"Do you not get it?" the worker continued when Chen remained.

The worker was a shift supervisor, not a manager, according to a spokeswoman for Starbucks.

When other customers in the store began to speak in Chen's defense, the supervisor began yelling at them. 

"Excuse me, nobody's talking to you. Get out of here. Bye," the supervisor said. 

A spokeswoman for Starbucks told NBC 4 New York the employee was fired as soon as they learned of the incident. 

"This customer's experience is not reflective of the service our partners provide to customers every day," the spokeswoman said in a statement. "Our leadership team is reaching out to the customer to apologize and make this right." 

Chen confirmed that Starbucks reached out to her in a follow up comment on her Facebook video, saying that the district manager apologized and promised "the leadership team would do everything to prevent terrible customer service of this kind from happening ever again." 

Chen said she was offered a $100 gift card and assured that the company was taking her complaint seriously. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images
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Rescuers Save Baby Owl Who Fell From Nest


A wildlife rehabilitation agency in Killingworth has saved baby barred owl who fell from his nest Friday.

Rescuers with A Place Called Hope on said they plan to put the owlet in a new nesting box with his siblings tomorrow afternoon.

The non-profit agency, founded in 2007, serves to rescue and rehabilitate birds of prey in Connecticut and "teach the public how to protect and respect wildlife," according to its website.

Photo Credit: A Place Called Hope
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Fisher Cat Attacks Family Dog in Ledyard: Family


Ledyard residents are on the alert after a fisher attacked a family dog last week.

A Ledyard family says its dog suffered a horrible attack by a fisher.

"It’s extremely difficult for me to see him like this because he’s my baby," said Tracey Wenke, whose 13-year-old Schnauzer-Jack Russell mix needed several emergency surgeries after the attack.

Wenke said a fisher went after her dog Buca in the family's backyard last Wednesday.

"That whole night I didn’t know if he was going to make it. I really didn’t. I was petrified. I was afraid I was losing my best buddy," said Wenke.

Fishers are part of the weasel family and have been seen across the state. Last year in Madison, a man recorded video of a fisher running through his front yard.

Ledyard Mayor John Rodolico said it’s rare for one to attack a dog because fishers usually go after smaller animals.

"We certainly caution people as always to keep their animals either in a fenced in area or to keep them on a leash," said Rodolico.

Wenke said she had always kept a close eye on Buca when she lets him outside. She’s not sure how the attack happened.

"I need to be continuously grateful and thankful he’s OK for now," said Wenke. "Hopefully he’s going to continue to get stronger and pull through."

Wenke said the family believes the fisher is still in the area and will not let Buca outside for more than a couple minutes.

Stamford to Fire 3 Administrators Over School Sex Scandal


The Stamford school district has moved to terminate three high school administrators and the assistant superintendent has offered to resign in connection with a sex scandal that rocked the school last December.

Stamford High School principal Donna Valentine and assistant principal Roth Nordin have been suspended since officials began investigating a sexual relationship between former English teacher Danielle Watkins and a male student. Watkins is now serving a five-year prison sentence.

Officials said the two knew about the inappropriate relationship and failed to report it.

Supt. Winifred Hamilton is now in the process of terminating both Valentine and Nordin and said the school system is actively searching for a new high school principal.

A second assistant principal, Angela Thomas-Graves, is also facing termination, according to Hamilton. Thomas-Graves was briefly suspended when the allegations first came out but returned to work after a week.

"Angela Thomas Graves has received notification this afternoon of my intent to move for her termination, and she has been placed on administrative leave as required by law, effective immediately," Hamilton said in a statement Friday afternoon. "I assure you, each and every decision related to this incident has been made with safety of children and the best interest of the district in mind."

Assistant superintendent Michael Fernandes has offered to resign, according to an announcement posted on the Stamford Public Schools website Wednesday. He is the most senior school official involved in the case.

Stephen Falcone, executive director of human resources for Stamford Public Schools, has been suspended for one month. Head of security Curtis Tinnin, security guard James Jordan and high school social worker James Cooney have received letters of warning, the superintendent said.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Teen Flees Hospital, Barricades Self With Machete


Police swarmed Union Street in Vernon after a young man undergoing treatment at Rockville Hospital escaped from the emergency department and locked himself in a bedroom with a machete Friday evening.

Someone spotted the young man, who is in his late teens, running into the house at 93 Union Street just prior to 6 p.m. Friday, according to police. Officers responded to the neighborhood and members of the Captial Region Emergency Services Team were called in.

Police said the teen had barricaded himself inside a bedroom with a machete. Authorities feared he may have been suicidal.

A Vernon officer trained in crisis intervention tried to contact the teen but was unsuccessful, so a state police K-9 team entered the apartment and took him into custody around 7:15 p.m. Vernon police said the teen suffered superficial injuries while police were detaining him. He was taken to Connecticut Children's Medical Center for treatment.

No charges have been filed. Police have not released the name of the teen.

Check back for updates on this developing story.

Photo Credit: Vernon Police Department

Woman Tries to Abduct Boy at Central Park: NYPD


Police are searching for a woman who allegedly tried to abduct a 2-year-old boy from a Central Park playground in front of his nanny Tuesday morning. 

The boy was seated on a swing at Heckscher playground while his 27-year-old nanny stood next to him, pushing his brother on an adjacent swing, police said. 

A woman picked up the boy and tried to leave the park before the nanny stopped her and removed the boy from her arms, police said.

The suspect fled. 

No one was hurt, according to police. The incident was reported Thursday. 

Nasthasja Gregoire of Bushwick, Brooklyn often takes 4-year-old Michaela to the playground and said her heart "just stopped" when she heard the news. 

"That's really bold, especially the nanny's right there," she said, adding that she's being extra cautious about staying close to the girl.

Police in both uniform and plain clothes walked around the playground Friday as an added precaution. 

The suspect is described as about 32 years old, 5 feet 2 inches and 140 pounds with short curly black hair. Anyone with information is asked to contact Crime Stoppers at 800-577-TIPS. 

-- Brynn Gingras contributed to this report. 

1 Seriously Hurt After Car Fleeing Police Crashes in West Haven


A driver fleeing police Friday night in West Haven slammed into a utility pole and another vehicle, seriously injuring the other driver, according to police.

West Haven police said officers tried to stop a car in the area of Main Street and Second Avenue. The car sped off and struck a utility pole, then another vehicle, in the area of Main Street and First Avenue.

Mansa Bethea, 38, of West Haven was arrested and charged with Attempted Assault on Police, Reckless Driving, Failure to Obey an Officer and numerous other motor vehicle charges. 

He is being held on bond. Mansa was also wanted on a warrant for Violation of Probation.

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