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Central Jersey News from the Times of Trenton

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    Authorities contend Scott Mielentz raised a black handgun and pointed it at police before he was fatally shot in the head and upper torso. Watch video

    A man armed with a BB gun who was killed by police inside a Panera Bread restaurant last month raised his gun and pointed it in the direction of the officers before he was fatally shot in the head and upper torso.

    The state's Attorney General's Office emphasized that point in the text edited over a copy of the surveillance video footage from inside the restaurant in Princeton.

    The five-minute video, released to the media on Monday, shows a split screen of two different vantage points from inside the restaurant. One vantage point is from behind an officer, who is clad in black tactical gear and is pointing an M4 rifle at Scott Mielentz. The other angle is a side view of Mielentz.

    Mielentz, 56, was shot after he kept authorities at bay for five hours in the afternoon on March 21. Customers and employees were able to escape the building, and no one else was injured during the incident.

    The shooting remains under investigation by the Attorney General's Office's Shooting Response Team. The office released the video footage, along with 911 calls and CAD reports, in response to requests under the state's Open Public Records Act and common law.

    The video released from the Attorney General's Office starts with a 911 call from a patron inside the restaurant, who tells a dispatcher that "There's a guy with a gun at Panera."

    Police descended on the Nassau Street location, a block from Princeton University's Nassau Hall, around 10 a.m. Police negotiators spent several hours trying without success to convince Mielentz to "surrender peacefully," according to a statement from the Attorney General's Office.

    He was pronounced dead inside the restaurant shortly before 3 p.m.

    The footage released by the Attorney General doesn't have audio, so the negotiating tactics used by police cannot be heard.

    The video shows Mielentz hold a black gun by his waist but pointing it at officers. Authorities later determined the gun was a Crosman PFM BB gun. 

    Around the 31/2 minute mark in the video, authorities say Mielentz raises the gun and points it at the officers.

    An officer crouched behind a trash basket can be seen firing his M4 rifle at Mielentz. Several other officers, who are also decked out in tactical gear with protective shields, can be seen rushing over to Mielentz as he lay motionless on the ground. (NJ Advance Media edited the video above in order to not show the killing).

    Mielentz was a self-described "loner" who suffered from hallucinations, anxiety and depression after a stint in the U.S. Army, according to information found in public records. 

    Alex Napoliello may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @alexnapoNJ. Find on Facebook.

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    His brother was acquitted of murder charges by a jury last month.

    Nearly a year and a half after police dug up the body of his 23-year-old housemate in his Lumberton backyard, Bryan Costello admitted he killed him and buried him.

    justinJustin Dubois 

    Costello, 26, took a plea deal Monday in which he pleaded guilty to aggravated manslaughter in exchange for a recommended sentence of 15 years in prison.

    He admitted to Judge Jeanne T. Covert in Burlington County Superior Court that he beat Justin Dubois with a baseball bat until he was dead.

    He and his brother, Christopher Costello, 29, then buried him in the backyard of their Spencer Court home, he said.

    The investigation into Dubois' death began as a missing persons investigation, as his family reported Oct. 31, 2016 that he had been missing for several days, according to the Burlington County Prosecutor's Office. 

    Police got a search warrant to comb the Costellos' home and noticed a patch of soil in the backyard that appeared to have been recently disturbed. They excavated the site and found Dubois' body.

    Homicide victim remembered as standout basketball player

    His brother was tried for the crime last month, and testified that Bryan Costello was the one who wielded the bat and he only helped bury Dubois. The jury found him not guilty of murder, but could not decide on a verdict on an aggravated manslaughter charge.

    The prosecutor's office plans to retry the brother on that one count in July.

    The jury last month did convict Christopher Costello of hindering apprehension and desecrating human remains.

    Dubois was a 2012 graduate of Life Center Academy in Florence who dreamed of playing in the NBA, according to his obituary.

    He previously lived in West Windsor.

    Rebecca Everett may be reached at Follow her on Twitter @rebeccajeverett. Find on Facebook.

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    Providing a tuition-free community college education should not be considered an expense. It should be considered an investment in New Jersey's future.

    Tennessee, Oregon, Kentucky, New York - these states and others have taken steps toward offering a tuition-free education at community colleges to residents as a proven way to produce a better prepared work force.

    In 2016, the journal Inside Higher Education noted that by the end of this decade, nearly two-thirds of all job openings will require a level of education or training beyond high school.

    Making good on a promise he repeated often on the campaign trail, New Jersey's Gov. Phil Murphy told an audience at Mercer County College last week that his proposed budget includes $50 million to cover the costs of community colleges for some families here.

    His goal, he said, is ultimately to make the colleges free to all residents, which he'd like to see happen in three years.

    It's a lofty ambition, and an admirable one. With the cost of a college education soaring into the stratosphere, a free community college program benefits everyone by turning out informed citizens and a competitive cadre of employees.

    If you're like most of the GOP members of the Legislature, and even some of the Democrats in Murphy's own party, you're going to need a lot of convincing.

    As state Sen. Tom Kean Jr. (R-Union) pointed out in a statement, "No government-funded program is free. Taxpayers always pay the price ..."

    Here's Phil Murphy's plan for free community college in N.J.

    Yet count us among the supporters of Murphy's plan, which in its first year would provide grants to families with incomes below $45,000. If the governor's budget is approved, some 15,000 students could be enrolled tuition-free as early as January.

    New Jersey should learn from the experiences of other states that have forged ahead with these programs. Eligibility requirements and funding sources vary; while in most states the tuition money comes from the taxpayers, for example, Tennessee's state lottery covers the full cost of the initiative.

    In places such as Arkansas, South Dakota and Minnesota, there is no tuition fee for students pursuing fields where there is a high demand for workers, such as computer science or welding.

    And at Rhode Island Community College, students receiving free freight must maintain a 2.5 grade point average, and are required to either live, work or continue their education in the state after earning their degree.

    This would go far to address New Jersey's notorious "brain drain."

    It's still very early in the process of making this tuition-free dream a reality. We hope the governor and the Legislature make time to educate themselves on what has worked - and what hasn't - for our neighbors.

    A post-high school education shouldn't be a luxury only the rich privileged can afford. With a little luck and a lot of planning, in the Garden State it won't be.

    Similarly, a tuition-free community college education should not be considered an expense. It should be considered an investment in our future.

    Bookmark Follow on Twitter @NJ_Opinion and find Opinion on Facebook.


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    Katoh brought a 12-game streak into the series opener Monday night with New Hampshire. Watch video

    Fans of the Thunder will get a chance to see many new faces at Arm & Hammer Park this season.

    One of the new arrivals, Gosuke Katoh, is already off to a hot start to the 2018 campaign.

    Katoh, who played three of the four infield positions in Trenton's four game series split with the Richmond Flying Squirrels, has at least one hit in each game this year. He ended the 2017 campaign with Tampa on an eight-game streak, so Katoh now has a 13-game streak after he had two hits in his first two at-bats Monday night against New Hampshire, in the 11-1 loss to the Fisher Cats.

    He is hitting .392 (20-for-51) over that run spanning almost eight months.

    After he finished 2017 with a slash line of .293/.376/.440, Katoh came into the new season, at a new level, trying to settle in as quickly as possible.

    "It is pretty good," Katoh said. "I am just trying to get accustomed to everything: the atmosphere, the new environment, my new team mates, and especially the weather. But everyone has been welcoming here. The fans have been nice, I love the coaches here, and all of my team mates that I have played with for many years."

    Still just 23, Katoh was selected in the second round of the 2013 MLB Amateur Draft out of out of Rancho Bernardo High School in San Diego, California. he has slowly progressed up the chain to Trenton, after his solid season in High A. 

    Despite the quick start out of the gate, Katoh knows that the baseball season is long.

    "As we all know, this is a long season," Katoh said. "This is only game four of 140, so you never know how the season is going to end up. I just try to take it one day, one at-bat, one pitch at a time. That is what keeps me focused in the moment."

    With so many of the players and staff coming up from Tampa with him, including manager Jay Bell, the time to acclimate to the new league should be minimized.

    "We have been playing through the spring and last year with the Tampa Yankees," Katoh said. "I have played for Jay last year. I love playing with the same team mates, but I also love playing with different team mates.

    "We are all one organization. I love all the guys in my organization. We all play for each other, to play at a better level. It is awesome."

    Thunder bullpen gets a chance to shine early in the 2018 seaso


    Sunday brought a first for the Trenton organization. 

    With the new extra innings rules in place for 2018, the Thunder fans got a chance to see a test run for a rule that may soon be coming to the major leagues in some fashion.

    For all extra innings games, the top of the 10th will begin with a runner on second base. That player will be the player in the batting order previous to the leadoff batter of the inning.

    Richmond took advantage immediately Suday afternoon, as an Aramis Garcia double off Andrew Schwaab gave the visitors a 3-2 lead. The Flying Squirrels could not score an insurance run, and it gave the Thunder a chance to win the game in the bottom of the 10th.

    With Ben Ruta on second base to start the inning, Bell called on Vincente Conde to lay down a sacrifice bunt, which was successful. With a runner on third and one out, Richmond reliever Ray Black came in and struck out Chace Numata and Katoh to quell the rally.

    Monday night, the Toronto Blue Jays affiliate came into town. The Fisher Cats boast two of the top 13 prospects in all of minor league baseball, and each is the son of a major leaguer.

    Vlad Guerrero Jr., son of recently inducted Hall of Famer Vlad Guerrero, is the third ranked prospect. Bo Bichette, son of Dante Bichette and brother of former Thunder player Dante Bichette, Jr., is ranked 13th.

    Cavan Biggio, the 22-year-old son of Hall of Famer Craig Biggio, is also on the roster.

    Guerrero Jr. is just 19-years-old, while Bichette is 20. Both are expected to be in the major leagues next season. Guerrero Jr. was 3-for-3, with a single, double, and home run, plus six RBI Monday, while Bichette was 3-for-5 with three runs scored.

    Contact Sean Miller at Follow him on Twitter @TheProdigalSean

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    Two of the weapons - purchased in Bucks County, Pa. - have surfaced in recent arrests by police officers in Trenton

    For several months in late 2017 and earlier this year, Clifford Bright bought two dozen firearms at three Bucks County, Pa. gun shops - businesses that are operated by federally licensed dealers.

    Two of the weapons surfaced during arrests in Trenton a short time later.

    Authorities later found one at his grandmother's house in Trenton.

    And he'd just bought three when he walked out of Tanner's Sports Center on March 1 and into federal ATF agents, who had plenty of questions.

    The rest of the guns - handguns, mainly 9-millimeters - are unaccounted for.

    Bright, 29, whose full name is Clifford Riheem Elisah Bright, was indicted last week on 26 federal crimes for allegedly trafficking the guns across state lines, from Pennsylvania to New Jersey.

    Authorities allege he lied on the federal forms buyers must fill out as part of a handgun purchase, and he fraudulently used a relative's Pennsylvania address, when it appears he was actually living in Trenton.

    Court documents describe - down to the serial number - the guns Bright bought in just a few months, and how he allegedly dealt them on the illegal gun market in New Jersey.

    Murphy issues order to let you know where N.J.'s guns come from (and 'shame' other states)

    It's unclear if a certain incident or arrest tipped off authorities to Branch's alleged gun running, but the first one linked to him is a Springfield model XD95C, a 9-millimeter pistol.

    New Jersey State Police seized it during an arrest in Trenton on Nov. 28, 2017. It had an obliterated serial number, but forensically, police were able to raise it and traced it to Bright buying it at Tanner's 17 days earlier.

    Investigators found no evidence of a legal transfer, a Bensalem police detective working on an ATF task force wrote in a probable cause affidavit in the case.

    On Feb. 28, another gun surfaced in Trenton, this time it was tossed from a moving car by Dione Lucas, 29, who Trenton police say was leading them on a chase through the city. A woman and young child were in the car.

    The Taurus model PT111 also had a defaced serial number, which investigators again were able to raise. Bright bought it on Jan. 20, 2018, at Tanner's.

    The short time between the guns' purchase and discovery by police, as well as no evidence of a legal transfer, led authorities to pull his prior gun purchases, suspecting illegal activity, the affidavit said.

    The ATF agents confronted him on March 1 at Tanner's, in Jamison, Pa., an unincorporated town a little over 20 miles from Trenton. They took the three guns he just bought, and told him he was under investigation.

    He said he liked guns, did nothing wrong, and wanted to cooperate. He told the officers he had 22 guns at his apartment in Morrisville, Pa., just across the Delaware River from his native Trenton, and one at his grandmother's house in the city.

    7 arrests in gun link that put 17 firearms from Ohio onto N.J. streets

    So they all went to the Morrisville apartment - the address he used on the federal paperwork at three gun stores. (Bright also made purchases at Surplus City Guns in Feasterville, and The Bunker Shop Guns in Warminster.)

    Bright said detectives could search the place, but he didn't have any keys, even though he said he lived there with his cousin for three years. He said he sleeps on the couch.

    The apartment manager was there, too, and he did not know Bright, the affidavit says. He would know if Bright was a resident, he told the agents.

    Nonetheless, Bright said the 22 guns should be inside the front door, all together. Detectives were let in. 

    No guns.

    Bright "feigned" surprise, then said, "Either my cousin moved them or they were stolen," the affidavit says.

    A detective then asked where his clothes and personal items were. "They must have been stolen, too," Bright responded.

    The cousin later said Bright did not live there, and never had. Another ATF officer went to the grandmother house, on South Hermitage Avenue, and she allowed  them search her home.

    There, they found a Sig-Sauer pistol in Bright's room, in its original packaging, as well as items that appeared to be Bright's clothes and possessions.

    They also found a Dremel tool, a small oscillating power tool, which the affidavit says is a common device used to obliterate serial numbers from guns.

    Bright is currently detained in a federal facility in Philadelphia. His next court date is not scheduled, and some of the documents in his case are sealed.

    The ATF did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the case.

    Kevin Shea may be reached at Follow him on Twitter@kevintshea. Find on Facebook.


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    See the April 10th edition of the girls lacrosse Top 20.

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    The baseball staff unveils its first conference pitchers and hitters of week for games played March 31-April 8, 2018.

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    The Trenton Thunder's culinary concoction, called the "Sticky Pig" has taken Case's pork roll, combined it with bacon, egg and cheese, slathered it with red pepper jam, and put the whole thing on a glazed doughnut.

    Move over, Milwaukee Brewers! We're going to outdo your 18-inch bratwurst on a roll with fried jalapenos, fried kraut, chives, sour cream, cheese sauce, gravy and ... cheese curds?

    Bow down in fear, Baltimore Orioles! We've got something even better than your humdrum sausage topped with crab dip.

    Chew on this, Cleveland Indians! Your Thomenator - named for retired player Jim Thome - may feature a hot dog, fried onion, kraut and three pierogies on a bun, but get a load of what Kelly Kromer of the Trenton Thunder has in store for those of us who come out to the ball game hungry this spring.

    Behold the "Sticky Pig."

    Kromer, director of food services for the Double A team, has taken Case's pork roll, combined it with bacon, egg and cheese, slathered it with red pepper jam, and put the whole heavenly concoction on a glazed doughnut.

    With or without a side of Pepto Bismol.

    A newcomer to Arm & Hammer Park, Kromer says she's eager to start hearing reviews, and is hoping for positive feedback on her culinary masterpiece.

    "The previous menu had a couple of fun things, but we really kicked it up a notch, really made it interesting and different," she says.

    Although tells us Americans consume more than 20 billion hot dogs every year, not to mention 600 million pounds of peanuts, the trend in ballpark eating in the past decade or so has been for more ... shall we say, "adventurous" fare.

    Trenton Thunder home opener delivers Sticky Pig

    At one point or another in recent times, you could have chowed down on a Frito-Pie Dog at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles (chili, cheese, and ... well, you know), or downed a College Daze Bloody Mary at the Minnesota Twins' Target Field (spicy bloody Mary garnished with a slice of pizza - all the essential food groups).

    And don't even get us started on those Milwaukee Brewers.

    In addition to that foot-and-a-half long brat, visitors to Miller Park also witnessed the arrival of "The Beast:" a grilled brat (are you seeing a theme here?), stuffed with a hot dog, wrapped in bacon and served on a pretzel roll with sauerkraut, onions and a side of chips.

    We're not suggesting that all of this food is of questionable health benefit, but those ambulances aren't hanging around the parks' entrances for nothing.

    Seriously though, as the Thunder rolls into its 25th season, after two years of killing it in the Eastern League Championship Series, fans have every right to be excited. That goes not just for the plays on the field, but also for the exotica in the stands.

    Count among the goodies fried peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, waffle and donut ice cream sandwiches, and the 1911 Smoke House Bar-B-Cue.

    Hey, you only live once. Batter up.

    Bookmark Follow on Twitter @NJ_Opinion and find Opinion on Facebook.

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    The heroin had been coming up from Philadelphia to Ewing for at least six months.

    Authorities charged five men and seized nearly $200,000 worth of heroin after New Jersey and Pennsylvania investigators discovered a trafficking operation that was bringing opioids from Philadelphia to the Trenton area for at least the last six months.

    County detectives identified Daquan Baylor, 26, of Ewing as receiving large quantities of heroin and distributing it throughout the area, the Mercer County Prosecutor's office said Tuesday. 

    On April 3, officers observed Cristian Baez-Belliard, 25, leaving his North Philadelphia home, concealing a large item underneath his jacket. He drove in a silver Nissan Sentra to Suburban Plaza in Ewing, just outside Trenton, where he met up with Baylor in a white Sentra, prosecutors said.

    Authorities observed the men exchanging the suspected drugs, and moved in.

    Officers with the Mercer County Narcotics Task Force, Ewing police and New Jersey State Police detained Baylor and Baez-Belliard and obtained warrants to search their vehicles, prosecutors said.

    Officers located 150 bricks of heroin in Baylor's Sentra and a plastic bag with nearly $21,000 in cash in Baez-Belliard's vehicle.

    Baylor also had $2,800 in cash and seven Percocet pills in his Country Lane home in Ewing.

    The Pennsylvania Bureau of Narcotics Investigation and Drug Control then obtained a warrant and searched Baez-Belliard's Tampa Street home in Philadelphia, where they found 819 grams and about 15 bricks of suspected heroin, about 12 grams of fentanyl and items for packaging and distributing heroin, prosecutors said.

    At the Philadelphia home, officers also arrested Jonathan Nunez-Cordero, 25, Armando Santos, 20, and Yoncarlo Nunez-Cordero, 21, who were then charged with various narcotic-related offenses.

    Baylor and Baez-Belliard were each face possession and intent to distribute charges, prosecutors said. The office added it filed a motion to detain Baylor until trial.

    Mercer County Prosecutor Angelo Onofri estimated the street value of the seized heroin is about $196,800, the prescription pills at $210 and the fentanyl at $720. The office also seized nearly $24,000 in cash.

    "As the opioid addiction crisis continues to escalate across the country, I want these drug dealers to be on notice that we are going to fight in Mercer County," Onofri said.

    Paige Gross may be reached at pgross@njadvancemedia.comFollow her on Twitter @By_paigegross. Find on Facebook.

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    In Trenton, New Jersey science supporters will demonstrate in solidarity with the March for Science in Washington, D.C.

    Scientists and concerned citizens will take to the Trenton streets on Saturday to stand up for science.

    "There has been a war on science in this country," said Jeff Tittel, the director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, during a conference call previewing the march. "We're having this march to not only stand up for science but to stand up for the foundations of our society."

    The demonstration will be held in conjunction with the national March for Science in Washington, D.C., marches in New York City and Philadelphia and other marches around the world. More than 230 demonstrations are planned for the day.

    The Trenton event will start at 10 a.m, with organizers and community leaders speaking about the importance of science based policy in government. After the speakers, demonstrators will march from the war memorial to the Statehouse Annex. On the grounds of the Statehouse Annex, organizers will hold a "science fair" that will include two panel discussions, one on climate change and one on the science behind gun control.

    "Putting a march on is a lot of work, but we believe this is an important thing to be doing," said Matthew Buckley, a Rutgers physics professor and one of the demonstration's main organizers.

    Organizers of the New Jersey march stress their fear that the Trump administration is trying to undermine the scientific community to support efforts to rollback a variety of regulations.

    For Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker, D-Mercer, speaking out in support of science's place in governing is not trivial. Zwicker, a physicist at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, is the only scientist currently serving in New Jersey's state legislature. He said that unbiased, scientific study of the world informs good policy.

    "Science, as we know, knows no political party," Zwicker said. "We have to come together and make sure our voices are heard."

    Trenton March for Science strikes political tone

    The first New Jersey March for Science occurred last year with nearly 1,000 people assembling on the steps of the War Memorial. Doug O'Malley, the director of Environment New Jersey, said that last year's demonstrations were the first time many people "came out of the lab and marched," and he hopes that this year will be the same.

    The March for Science comes amid a scientific debate at the federal level. At the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, for example, a proposal to change the way the agency assesses scientific work is being touted by EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt as a boost to transparency but is being criticized

    by scientists as a move that would restrict the amount of hard facts available to policymakers.

    Michael Sol Warren may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @MSolDub. Find on Facebook.

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    A woman was injured after crashing her vehicle into a Trenton building that is home to the Motor Vehicle Commission headquarters.

    A woman was injured after crashing her vehicle into a Trenton building that is home to the Motor Vehicle Commission headquarters. 

    The crash took place at 10:10 a.m. on Tuesday at 225 East State Street, said Trooper Alejandro Goez, a spokesman with the New Jersey State Police. A Honda CRV driven by 40-year-old Jennifer Rosa of Plainsboro crashed into the building. 

    The building is also home to Blimpie Subs & Salads and The Renaissance Grill, among other offices and businesses. 

    Rosa was taken to a local hospital with injuries that weren't considered life-threatening, Goez said. No other injuries were reported. 

    Mairin Bellack, a spokeswoman with the MVC, said operations at field offices around the state were not interrupted Tuesday. 

    The cause of the crash remains under investigation. 

     Amanda Hoover can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @amandahoovernj. Find on Facebook

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    The boys of summer are back and, boy, are we glad to see the Trenton Thunder start a new baseball season at Arm & Hammer Park.

    The boys of summer are back and, boy, are we glad to see the Trenton Thunder start a new baseball season at Arm & Hammer Park.

    The umpire's cry of "PLAY BALL," the crack of the bat, a trophy foul ball whizzing by, a ballet-like double play executed to perfection, a runner crossing home plate - all are part of the sights and sounds of the nation's pastime.

    And the aromas! Just smelling the popcorn, the hotdogs, the fragrance of the warm breezes off the Delaware River (which hopefully will come soon) - they all add to the sensual memories many of us will carry for a lifetime.

    Added to the ballpark fare this season is the "sticky pig" sandwich made of pork roll, bacon, egg, cheese and red pepper jam on a glazed doughnut. That's a belly-buster that is bound to blot out any sensations of hunger. So far, the reviews have been positive.

    The food, the entertainment, the parking and the baseball all come at a reasonable price compared to what it costs to attend a Major League Baseball game.

    The Yankees' Double-A team is a great lure for kids as well as adults who enjoy baseball and maybe even have aspirations of becoming big league players themselves.

    Trenton Thunder home opener delivers Sticky Pig

    Here they can witness young novice players hone their baseball skills that one day may take them to the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.

    The Thunder team has produced some standout players such as Nomar Garciaparra and Tony Clark.

    It's no fluke that the boys of Trenton have made the Eastern League Championship Series in the past two years. The Yankees' system has the wherewithal to sign talented prospects and big things are expected from the pitching staff that includes Justus Sheffield, Domingo Acevedo and Dillon Tate, who all have big-league potential.

    Another tradition of the Trenton Thunder is a strong coaching staff.

    We would like to welcome Jay Bell to his first year as the Thunder's manager. He comes to the team with years of baseball experience as a player and coach. Bell replaces Bobby Mitchell as skipper. Mitchell, who did yeoman's work in Trenton, has moved up to manage the Yankees' Triple-A Scranton Wilkes-Barre RailRiders - a well-deserved promotion.

    Of course, baseball is not everyone's cup of tea. For some, it's like watching grass grow. Even so, a slow-paced day at the ballpark can have its own rewards. It's a great way to unwind on a summer's day or night.

    Ted Quann is a member of the Times of Trenton editorial board.

    Bookmark Follow on Twitter @NJ_Opinion and find Opinion on Facebook.

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    Diaz was limited to just 17 at-bats in the spring and one game with Tampa due to injury. Watch video

    Injuries throughout the Yankees' organization saw two players make their Double A debut Tuesday with Trenton.

    The Thunder, hosting New Hampshire's phenom filled lineup for the second of a three-game set, saw catcher Ryan Lidge and outfielder Cesar Diaz slot right into the lineup. Lidge was behind the plate, in the eighth spot, while Diaz was in right field, and betted ninth.

    Diaz, who was limited to just 17 at-bats in the spring and one game with Tampa due to injury, arrives in Trenton in his fifth season with the Yankees. 

    "I just played the one game in Tampa, and came here," Diaz said. "In spring training, I did not play a lot. I had an injury to my glute. I think I got 17 at-bats, and I did well. 

    "I am excited now, because I am here. I will just try to do whatever I can do, and control what I can control. I want to do things to help my team. I am excited to get in the lineup right away, and I have to give thanks to the Yankees for this opportunity. Also to the manager, because he trusts me."

    Diaz takes the place of Rashad Crawford, who moved up to Triple A in the wake of the injuries in the Bronx.

    Gosuke Katoh is one of many new faces with 2018 Thunder

    Lidge comes in from extended spring training, to replace Jorge Saez, who went on the 7-Day DL with a hand injury.

    He was a 20th round selection last year out of Notre Dame University, and is the cousin of former Phillies closer Brad Lidge.

    "I am really excited," Lidge said. "But the only things that change are the field, and the atmosphere. Everything else is from the same game I have been playing since I was three or four years old.

    "But I am definitely excited to be here with the guys, and try to get the win today."

    Lidge hit .313 last year in 23 games split between Rookie League Pulaski and Class A Charleston. He tore up the higher level, slashing .383/.500/.404, with 18 hits in 47 at-bats.

    "Last year, I flip-flopped between Pulaski and Charleston, and ended in Charleston," Lidge said. "I played with Ben Ruta, and Mandy (Alvarez) I was with these guys in spring training, and got to know a couple of them. I am looking forward to getting to know all of them.

    "It definitely helps. It is one thing to come in here if you don't know anybody, and that was kind of what it was like last year, a little bit. So it is an easier transition knowing the guys, and knowing that they are all pulling for you. I am really excited getting to know all the guys, going out on the field, and having some fun with them."

    Lidge ended the night 1-for-3, with an RBI and a run scored, as Trenton beat the Fisher Cats 10-4. Diaz was 0-for-2, with two walks, and a run scored.

    Gosuke Katoh extended his Double A hitting streak to six games, and overall one to 14, with two more hits. He is hitting .391.

    Contact Sean Miller at Follow him on Twitter @TheProdigalSean

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    Goals, assists, saves and ground balls. Who's setting the pace so far this season?

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    The suit alleges school officials knew about the years of physical and verbal abuse from other students, and didn't intervene

    The mother of a middle school student is suing the New Hanover Township School District alleging school staffers knew that her daughter was being verbally and physically harassed for years and did nothing to stop it.

    After years of reporting incidents of harassment to school officials, the suit outlines, the mother has removed both of her daughters, and is home schooling them. The suit was first reported by the site, Random notes on NJ government.

    The suit describes how the girls, identified as M.S., started attending New Hanover Township schools in 2013 as a third-grader, and classmates called her "whitey," "white bitch" and "lesbian."

    That school year, M.S. was hit in the face with a ball, assaulted and physically dragged across the playground during recess and kicked in the stomach in front of lunch aides. 

    The girl and her mother, identified in the suit as J.H., complained of these incidents to the school principal, Scott Larkin, but nothing was done.

    In February 2014, the mom attended a meeting with Larkin and a state trooper, but again, behavior did not change.

    Email correspondence shows that in March 2014, the mom reached out to Larkin again, saying other parents had approached her and "stated they were concerned about the safety of their children because of the harassment," the suit says.

    In February 2015, the mom J.H. reached out to the school's superintendent at the time, Cassandra Brown, but the harassment went on.

    "After each incident of harassment, J.H. would make a complaint to either the principal, Dr. (Cassandra) Brown, or anyone else at the school that would listen," the suit alleges. "But nothing was done to stop the harassment."

    The suit also says the abuse was also directed at J.H, the mother. When the mother of another student who had been making verbal threats to M.S. visited their home and called J.J. a "white bitch and "white trash."

    In June 2017, J.H. met with Larkin again to explain a recent incident when a teacher entered the office and saidthe daughter, M.S., had physically threatened them.

    When J.H. asked if Peterla had heard the threat, she said she had not.

    The teacher responded with: "If your daughter would just keep her mouth shut, we could avoid all of these problems," the suit alleges.

    When J.H. told Larkin that her children would "never set foot in the school again," he replied that she should just "shut up and let us deal with the problem."

    The plaintiff is now being homeschooled, as is her younger sister.

    Drake Bearden, J.H.'s attorney, did not have a comment and a request for a comment from school administrators was not immediately returned.

    Paige Gross may be reached at pgross@njadvancemedia.comFollow her on Twitter @By_paigegross. Find on Facebook.


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    Erik Swanson (2-0, 0.00 ERA) has been lights out in his two wins, one out of the pen on opening night, and one Tuesday as a starter.

    After a rough start to the series with New Hampshire Monday, the Thunder bats came alive Tuesday night to even the series.

    That is one of the good things about the game of baseball; a team is never as bad as it is at its worst, or never as good as it is at its best.

    The first two games of the series with the Fisher Cats proved that saying to be true. After the Thunder struggled mightily in all facets of the game Monday night, in an 11-1 loss, they came back Tuesday and won 10-4.

    Trenton manager Jay Bell saw the same thing last season with his Tampa team. The lineup struggled early to keep up with the pitching, but once the bats got rolling, the campaign turned into a winning one for the High A Yankees (now the Tarpons).

    "We had kind of this same scenario last year," Bell said. "We started out slowly offensively, and the pitchers picked them up. We just kind of held our own, and treaded water, until the guys started to hit a little bit.

    "The top of the order is doing really well right now. Gosuke (Katoh) is swinging the bat really well. Gitty (Chris Gittens) is swinging it pretty good. Trey (Amburgey) hasn't hit his stride yet, but it is a matter of time."

    The temperatures at Arm & Hammer Park, as well as the rest of the Northeast, have not been conducive to baseball. But the games have gone on, and players have to find a way to get it done in the cold, possibly for another week or two.

    "It is a hard enough task anyway. No excuses, and we have talked about it before; if you are going to play in the big leagues, you are going to have to play in cold weather situations. You better figure it out, and deal with it mentally.

    "But as a team, sometimes you have to go out there and win 1-0, 2-0, or 2-1 games, whatever it is. Monday was not a really good game. We had too many walks, three hit-by-pitches, and gave up 11 hits. Combine all that, and it is going to be tough to win those games.

    "It is not from a lack of effort. These guys are putting their work in, and they are getting after it during their workday."

    But the Thunder rallied Tuesday, and now have a chance to send New Hampshire packing with its first two losses of the season.

    "We talk about it all the time," Bell said. "The sooner these guys understand it is about the journey, and not the destination, that is when they are going to get it. It is about trusting the work you put in, and trusting that is enough. You go out there and compete to the best of your ability, and you live with the results one way or another."

    Paul Pogba rains on Man. City parade, as Man. United takes derby


    Coning into Wednesday night, Jhalen Jackson has five hits in 22 at-bats for the season.

    Amazingly, four of the five hits are home runs.

    Jackson hit round-trippers in three straight games over the weekend, then hit another on Tuesday night, in Trenton's 10-4 win over the Fisher Cats. His slash line right now is interesting: .227/.320/.864.

    Gosuke Katoh (.391) and Ben Ruta (.353) are both off to hot starts at the plate.

    Erik Swanson (2-0, 0.00 ERA) has been lights out in his two wins, one out of the pen on opening night, and one Tuesday as a starter. He has allowed just five hits, in 8.2 innings, with three walks and 11 strikeouts. Swanson was 7-3, with a 3.95 ERA, in 20 games last year with Tampa.

    Wednesday night might be the final time fans can see two of the top prospects in baseball play in Trenton this season. New Hampshire does not return to Arm & Hammer Park until June 29-July 3, and Vlad Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette might be in Buffalo, with the Triple A team.

    If both players are here, expect to see them in the 2018 All-Star Game, hosted by the Thunder, July 11. Guerrero Jr. can emulate his father, Hall of Famer Vladimir Guerrero, and participate in the Case's Pork Roll Home Run Derby.

    Contact Sean Miller at Follow him on Twitter @TheProdigalSean

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    The deprived the victim of food, gave her marijuana to smoke and prevented her from calling her family

    A Trenton couple accused of forcing a 17-year-old girl to perform sex acts with men at a local hotel have been indicted on sex trafficking charges. 

    A grand jury indicted Ashley Gardener, 30, and Breon Mickens, 26, on first-degree charges of conspiracy, human trafficking, promoting prostitution of a minor, promoting organized street crime, and advertising commercial sex abuse of a minor.

    They were also indicted on second-degree charges of facilitating human trafficking and endangering the welfare of a child. 

    For three days before the teen escaped the couple and was found on the side of Interstate 295, Gardener forced her to have sexual intercourse with approximately four to 15 men per day, authorities have said.

    The suspects deprived the girl of food, gave her marijuana to smoke, and prevented her from calling her family.

    Gardener and Mickens are accused of forcing the victim to engage in prostitution on several other occasions between Dec. 27 and Jan. 11 at various hotels in the Mercer County area, refusing to let her leave the hotel for a period of two to three days and forcing her to have sex with multiple men each day, the New Jersey State Police said in announcing the indictments.

    Gardener allegedly used to place sexually suggestive ads with photos of herself and the victim to advertise sexual services. 

    And Gardener would allegedly would arrange by telephone for the sexual services and a price to be paid by the client. When a client arrived, Gardener would collect cash from the man and tell the 17-year-old victim what sex acts she had to perform.

    Authorities say Gardener sometimes would stay in the room, but other times she would leave. 

    Mickens allegedly acted as the "muscle" for the operation and would be inside the hotel room when clients arrived. He would leave after the clients paid. 

    The victim never received any of the money from the clients, authorities said.

    On Jan. 11 the victim was picked up state trooper who were investigating a call about a woman walking along Interstate 295 in Lawrence Township.

    She told police she had escaped from a hotel where she was being forced to perform sex acts.

    Olivia Rizzo may be reached at Follow her on Twitter @LivRizz. Find on Facebook

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    "Sprung from cages out on highway nine, chrome wheeled, fuel injected, and steppin' out over the line ...."

    I recently had to buy a car for my son after the camshaft failed on his previous vehicle. It needs to be said that no matter how poorly the car with the bad camshaft treated my son, he was sad to say goodbye to it because "Doug" -- as he had named it -- was his first car.


    My first car was a 1972 Chevelle. Admittedly, it had the family 307 V8 instead of the 350 or 402, but it LOOKED fast. It topped out at 97 mph, not a fraction faster.

    MORE: Vintage photos around New Jersey

    The affinity my son and I had for our first cars is in no way unique. Who doesn't have a soft spot in his or her heart for that "first set of wheels?"

    And, guys aren't the only ones who get soulful about their cars; gals are just as likely to have fond memories of former vehicles (as referenced by a recent insurance company commercial: "You LOVED Brad ... and then you totaled him!").

    Some guys, however, seem to take it to an extreme. A 2008 survey by the Daily Mail revealed that their first set of wheels ranked higher in young men's memories than their 18th birthday, first girlfriend and first kiss. I recognize that the Daily Mail survey was taken a decade ago, but it speaks to a love affair we have with our cars that shows no sign of waning in the 21st century.

    Chevrolet referred to its cars as being "the heartbeat of America" and Chrysler made it is simple as possible when it told us that "driving = love." Some may not be quick to admit it, but I think it's obvious that we all have an emotional attachment to our cars.

    Enjoy this collection of classic car photos from the past in New Jersey, as well as these links to previous auto-related galleries.

    Vintage photos of cars and racing in N.J.

    Vintage photos of hot wheels and cool cars in N.J.

    Vintage photos of a long history of auto racing in N.J.

    Greg Hatala may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @GregHatala. Find Greg Hatala on Facebook.

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    The man collided with a pickup truck Wednesday night Hamilton, Mercer County

    A 38-year-old motorcyclist was killed Wednesday night when he collided with a pickup truck in Mercer County, authorities said. 

    Eladio Duran was thrown from the motorcycle after it stuck a pickup truck driven by a 67-year-old Burlington man near the intersection of Arena Drive and Toronita Avenue in Hamilton, police said in a statement.

    Duran, of Hamilton, was taken to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead following the 8:42 p.m. collision. 

    Anyone who witnessed the crash is asked to call Hamilton police at 609-581-4000. Anonymous tips can be called into 609-581-4008.

    Jeff Goldman may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @JeffSGoldman. Find on Facebook.



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    There were plenty of changes from the opening rankings.

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