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Central Jersey News from the Times of Trenton

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    "They have been selling pretty well," Ransom added. "The people here really like them."

    Brian Roe is somewhat of a ballpark food connoisseur.

    The 25-year-old Trenton Thunder fan, who tries to go to at least one game every home stand, has tried many of the foods on offer at Arm & Hammer Park.

    Annmarie Rambo does not eat as much as Roe while at a Thunder game, she does enjoy a burger once in a while

    Tuesday night, as Trenton hosted Harrisburg in the second of a three-game series, the duo tried one of the newest offerings at the stadium: the Beyond Burger.

    Served at the healthy food stand, the burger, from the Beyond Meat company, has made a big debut over the first two Thunder home stands. It tastes, looks, and has a texture much like that of a hamburger, but is made entirely of plant-based protein. Just recently, Yankee Stadium introduced a bratwurst, served on a pretzel bun and topped with pickled jalapenos and caramelized onions, from the same company.

    So what did the fans think of the burger?

    "To be honest with you, I was pleasantly surprised," Roe, who had no idea it was a veggie burger before he was told, said. "After the first bite, it kind of tasted like a burger. It tasted a little like chicken or turkey even though there was no meat in it.

    "I think if you had someone do a blind taste test, they couldn't tell the difference. I thought it was really good. Even with the toppings and condiments, which made it more enjoyable, I think it would be good on its own."

    Roe usually spends a good amount of money on food at the park. Tuesday, he had two double pork roll sandwiches, one order of crab fries from the Chickie's and Pete's stand, a funnel cake, three lemonades, and the beyond burger.

    "I normally get a cheeseburger or pulled pork," Roe said. "I absolutely do not eat heathy, whether I am at the baseball field or not. I am young, and I walk five miles a day at my job, so I burn it off."

    Meet the Yankees prospect you don't know (but should) 

    Rambo had much the same opinion of the beyond burger, although she knew coming in that it was plant-based.

    "I thought it was delicious," Rambo said. "I thought it was really good, and I thought it tasted like a burger. When I come to a baseball game, I don't worry about healthiness.

    "I do want to try more of the items on sale here, but I will definitely try that burger again."

    Greg Daloisio and Tytiana Ransom are the two workers at the stand where the burger is sold, and they say that the item one of the best new sellers at the park.

    "It has actually been selling better than expected," Daloisio said. "We had veggie burgers before, but this burger is probably the best selling burger we have had thus far.

    "I have tried it, and it is not bad. My employees have been eating it. Usually, I don't expect much from a veggie burger, but this one is very good.

    "They have been selling pretty well," Ransom added. "The people here really like them."


    Trenton (9-7) held on for a 1-0 win Tuesday, to take the first two games of the series. Ben Ruta's RBI groundout in the third inning was the difference, as four pitchers combined for the shutout. Brian Keller (1-2) picked up his first Double A win. 

    The Thunder will go for the sweep Wednesday morning, weather permitting, in a 10:30 a.m. start. 

    Contact Sean Miller at Follow him on Twitter @TheProdigalSean

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    New Jersey's Supreme Court finds law requiring lifetime sex offender registration for those convicted of sex offenses as children is unconstitutional.

    New Jersey's highest court has ruled a portion of Megan's Law unconstitutional because it requires juveniles to remain listed on the state's sex offender registry for life.

    The unanimous Supreme Court decision found placing such a lifetime requirement on child offenders violated their due process rights under the state constitution.

    "Indeed, categorical lifetime notification and registration requirements may impede a juvenile's rehabilitative efforts and stunt his ability to become a healthy and integrated adult member of society," Justice Barry Albin wrote in the decision.

    The court reverted to an older requirement that allows juvenile sex offenders to apply to be removed from the registry after 15 years. 

    The ruling concerned a defendant identified only as C.K., who was convicted of sexually assaulting his adopted brother.

    C.K. was 15 and his brother was seven at the time of the offense, which only came to light years later. Prosecutors wanted to try C.K. as an adult but he accepted a plea deal for aggravated sexual assault in juvenile court.

    Megan's Law, landmark legislation creating the sex offender registry, was enacted in 1994. But a 2002 addition to bring New Jersey's version in line with federal law brought new, even more stringent punishments those convicted of certain sex offenses, including the lifetime registry requirement. 

    The court's decision still requires defendants to register as sex offenders, but allows an individual convicted as a juvenile to appeal to a judge who will hold a hearing to determine whether the defendant "has been offense-free and does not likely pose a societal risk" after 15 years. 

    C.K.'s attorney, James Maynard, said his client will be able to make such an application in November. 

    Sex offenders now get branded passports

    Maynard, who runs a Morristown practice dedicated to representing those convicted or accused of sex offenses, said in the decades since Megan's Law, legislators have ratcheted up punishments for sex offenders without acknowledging the problem is largely a mental health issue. 

    "It's good politics, but it's doing a great deal of harm to society," he said. 

    According to court papers, C.K. presented experts during his appeal who testified that C.K. was unlikely to reoffend and pointed to research showing that juveniles generally have a low recidivism rate for sex offenses. 

    His attorney told NJ Advance Media that the registration requirement had made it difficult for C.K. to travel, advance in his career and move past that chapter of his life.

    The justices found the 2002 provision of Megan's Law that prevented C.K. from removing himself from the registry was based on an assumption that such juveniles "will forever pose a danger to society."

    "Those juveniles are, in effect, branded as irredeemable -- at a point when their lives have barely begun and before their personalities are fully formed," Justice Albin wrote in the decision. "They must carry this stigma even if they can prove that they pose no societal threat."

    A spokesperson for the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office, which argued the case for the state, did not respond to a message seeking comment. A spokesman for the state Attorney General's Office, which also argued in favor of maintaining the lifetime registry requirement, declined to comment on the decision. 

    S.P. Sullivan may be reached at Follow him on Twitter. Find on Facebook.

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    He's gone over it in his head countless times -- what he would have done if he had found the the lines of heroin and the rolled up dollar bill in her room, before it was too late Watch video

    It does something profound to you, to lose a child to a drug overdose.

    When Stephen McDonald found his 15-year-old daughter unresponsive in her room the day after Christmas, as he gave her CPR and was shooed from her room by the responding EMTs, he could not conceive of what had happened.

    And at the same time, he knew she was gone.

    He said his waking hours -- of which there are many, because sleep is elusive even months later -- are consumed with thoughts of his daughter Madison: how she had been secretly using drugs, how her dealer allegedly found her at a mall, and what he as a father could have done to prevent it.

    He's gone over it in his head countless times -- what he would have done if he had found the the lines of heroin and the rolled up dollar bill in her room, before it was too late.

    "If I would've had any idea, we would have set up rehab in another state, maybe Wyoming or Utah, across the other side of the country," he said.

    He has all the details worked out: They'd tell Maddie they were going on vacation, fly with her to the location and then check her into rehab whether she liked it or not. "We'd fly out to see her once a month," he said. Send her clothes or anything else she needed while she was getting clean.

    She'd get a fresh, clean start, the Madison in this fantasy.

    It's been nearly four months since Madison McDonald was taken off life support Dec. 28. Stephen McDonald said he wants to tell her story now because the man accused of selling her the drugs that killed her, Austin F. Cooper, 21, has been charged with causing her death.

    McDonald said Cooper preyed on Madison and, a few years previous, a friend of hers too, after he met them at a mall.

    He wants other parents to know what happened so that maybe they think twice before handing their teenager $20 and dropping them off at the mall.

    "What they're doing is going to malls and selling to kids, and that's what happened to my daughter," he said. "They know these kids have money."

    stephen-and-madison-mcdonald58A.JPGMadison McDonald, 15, died from a heroin overdose Dec. 28, 2017.

    'I want to get a girl addicted to heroin'

    McDonald seemed numb to a lot of the tragic moments he recounted in an interview at his home Monday. But when he talked about Cooper, he didn't mince words. He called him a monster and a menace.

    "When I was in court to see him, it gave me chills down my back," he said. "And this guy didn't show no remorse, like he couldn't give a damn."

    Cooper, of Willingboro, has pleaded not guilty to charges including first-degree strict liability for drug-induced death. When he was in Superior Court in Mount Holly last week, his lawyer told the judge that it's possible Madison got the drugs from another person.

    But at the hearing, where a judge ordered Cooper held pending trial, Assistant Prosecutor Jeremy Lackey said that Cooper's messages with Madison and others prove he was supplying her with the drug and kept selling to others even after she died.

    cooper.jpgAustin Cooper 

    Lackey said Cooper's internet search history shows that last October, he googled "I want to get a girl addicted to heroin," and "I want to get people addicted to heroin," as well as how to cut fentanyl with heroin.

    According to the criminal complaint, a friend told police that Madison bought $100 in heroin from Cooper about a week before her death, and detectives found numerous messages between Madison and Cooper confirming he sold her 10 bags of heroin Dec. 11.

    Cooper has no criminal record, but police filed drug charges against him the day Madison died, following the execution of a search warrant at his home.

    Lackey said in court that after learning about Madison's death, Cooper messaged friends that he had "caught a body" and implied he needed to get more drugs, so he could sell them and hire a lawyer.

    His lawyer, Jared Dorfman, said Cooper recently got a job at Burlington Coat Factory and lived with his father in Willingboro.

    'My whole life is turned upside down'

    McDonald said that when Madison was born, her older sister, Devon McDonald, now 19, loved to play "mom" to her.

    When she was 3 or 4, she loved to ride the train in Philadelphia with her sister and grandmother, going to a museum or to Dave & Buster's.

    She loved music her whole life. "She had an ear for it," he said. She started with the violin in third grade, then picked up the guitar and the saxophone, which she played in the school band.

    He described her as an energetic teen with a great sense of humor and a passion for animals. It's a jolt every time one of her mailers from a rescue or some other animal group comes in the mail, he said.

    She was vegan for the last three years of her life, and liked to teach others about why it was important to only put "good" things in their bodies. McDonald said that's why he couldn't believe that she would put heroin -- which he repeatedly refers to as poison -- in her body.

    stephen-and-madison-mcdonald57.JPGStephen McDonald, 51, of Evesham holds a photograph of his daughter, Madison, 15, who died from a heroin overdose Dec. 28, 2017. (Rebecca Everett | For 

    Her parents split in 2010. After that, McDonald said, Madison would sometimes live with her mother and sometimes with him and his wife. Madison's mother declined to comment for this story.

    McDonald said Madison lived with her mother in Marlton for about five months last fall before moving back into his house Dec. 23.

    "She actually seemed normal, Christmas Day," he said, recalling her hugging her grandmother and great-aunt goodbye after the festivities. "The next day, my whole life is turned upside down."

    Late on the morning of the 26th, she made herself some rice and beans and then said she was going up to her room. He texted her to see if she wanted to go out to a diner, but she didn't reply. He and his wife went out and ran errands, and only realized about an hour after they got home that they hadn't seen Madison in hours.

    McDonald said that when they opened her bedroom door, she was facedown on the bed. He rolled her over and her eyes rolled back in her head, at which point he told his wife to call 911. He moved her to the floor and started CPR, but he said she had no pulse.

    At some point, he noticed the lines of white powder on a CD jacket, near Madison's bed.

    Emergency responders took her to Virtua Marlton, where she was flown to the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. They took her off life-support two days later.

    A strong message

    The door to Madison's room stays closed. McDonald said it is hard for him to go in.

    It is much cleaner than you'd expect for a teenager's room. McDonald said he gave some of her clothes to her close friends and her mother, and what remains was packed in boxes on a couch. McDonald points out her favorite shoes, a pair of checkerboard Vans slip ons. Her record player and a buddha head figurine still sit on her bedside table.

    On the dresser, among photographs of Madison, sit some of her ashes, in a blue stone box engraved with her name. Standing in front of it, McDonald said he thinks a lot about how Cooper will "see daylight again."

    "I'll never see my daughter again," he said.

    He said he thinks about how the prosecutors and judges who will be involved with Cooper's case probably have kids. He hopes they think of their own when they prosecute him.

    "They need to send a strong message," he said.

    The Burlington County Prosecutor's Office says it already is sending a strong message by charging six people with strict liability for drug-induced death in the last 18 months.

    In a column on last month, Prosecutor Scott Coffina said the statute was a 'powerful tool' to fight the opioid epidemic that's taking too many lives.

    Burlington County had 141 overdose deaths in 2017. One of the youngest was Madison. An "angel" who McDonald said could always put a smile on your face.

    "She'd lift you up," he said. 

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

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    Frank Russo is reinventing The Music Box, and himself -- again Watch video

    One door closes, another one opens - and that's because Frank Russo is making it happen that way.

    The owner of The Music Box in Hamilton, and a beloved fixture on the local music scene for 38 years, is changing with the times.

    It's what he does.

    P1360386.00_04_56_37.Still012.jpgFrank Russo has owned and operated The Music Box for 38 years. (Michael Mancuso | For 

    "I think the reason I've survived is because you have to keep reinventing yourself," he said recently, leaning casually on the counter in a fascinatingly cluttered store he described as "half museum, half junkyard."

    But as brick and mortar retailers give way to the internet, large inventories of merchandise can no longer be supported.

    The Music Box will move on May 1, less than two miles away, to a less-expansive location.

    While still maintaining a showroom and continuing to offer online sales and music lessons, the new iteration will focus even more on education, starting with children.

    So there won't be as much "stuff" but it has never been just about the merchandise.

    Local musicians are fiercely loyal to "Frankie" and have been since the beginning. Household names in the music scene of Mercer County heap lavish praise on him.

    Ernie White -- well known local musician, teacher and the founder of the annual Ernie White Band & Friends Christmas Benefit Concert -- said: "The Music Box was a different situation than any other music store. You could come in. You could hang out with him (Frank) and he was always very congenial and helpful."

    P1360386.00_00_11_23.Still001.jpgPaul Plumeri, left, gets a kiss on the cheek from fellow musician Ernie White. (Michael Mancuso | For 

    Paul Plumeri -- aka "The Bishop of the Blues" and formerly with Duke Williams and the Extremes -- remembers back 38 years ago when Russo opened his first store in Hamilton. "I saw a black Les Paul (guitar) up on the wall." 

    Needing a backup for the road, he purchased it.

    He says, "It might have been the first guitar he ever sold out of this place."

    Calling him "an integral part of the community" Plumeri adds, "Frank's just one of those guys that has a warm nature that everybody gravitates toward."

    The Music Box is scheduled to officially move in early May from it's old location in Clover Square off Quakerbridge Road to 100 Youngs Road, about two miles up the road.

    More photos from The Music Box here

    Michael Mancuso may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @michaelmancuso Find on Facebook.

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    NJ Advance Media has put together a list of the top girls lacrosse seniors. Vote for the No. 1 player at the bottom.

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    There may be an opening in the rotation at Scranton, and manager Jay Bell thinks that his pitcher is ready to make the jump.

    When the 2018 season began for the Trenton Thunder, many people thought it would be a matter of time before Justus Sheffield would find his way to Triple A Scranton Wilkes-Barre.

    Wednesday, as the Thunder took to the field to play Harrisburg in the final game of the home stand, the Yankees number three prospect took the hill. While the Senators won 4-2, with Sheffield (1-2, 2.86 ERA) tagged with the loss, the phenom allowed just one earned run in his six innings of work, with eight strikeouts. 

    Despite the two losses this season, Sheffield has gotten much better from a rough outing opening weekend. Wednesday's game may be the last time fans at Arm & Hammer Park get to see the lefty live. There may be an opening in the rotation at Scranton, and manager Jay Bell thinks that his pitcher is ready to make the jump.

    "I think he is," Bell said. "I am such a huge fan. I got to see him pitch for six weeks with me in the (Arizona) Fall League, and to have the opportunity to manage him in Double A this year, I would love to see him move.

    "I would love to see him touch the big leagues this year, if at all possible. He is a guy that has a really high ceiling, and hopefully he will continue to improve, and pay attention to the little details that will allow him to have success at the higher levels against consistently better players.

    "He is facing good players now. But whenever you get to the higher levels, as you guys know, you are going to face more of those guys in the lineup. I think he is ready."

    Beyond Burger gives Trenton Thunder fans another tasty option

    In his last three starts, Sheffield has thrown 17.2 innings, and allowed 11 hits, four earned runs, and struck out 25. He has been more economical at times with his pitches, which has allowed him to work deeper into games this season.

    "I feel good, and healthy," Sheffield said. "I am progressing. My back door slider has been working, and I have been working deeper into games, and lowering the walks. It has been good, and I just have to keep it going.

    Sheffield has a devastating arsenal, which includes a potential for three plus pitches (fastball, slider, and changeup). He is still working on getting better with his control each time he takes the hill. At just 21 years old, it is something that has been a big improvement in his 21 starts with Trenton, dating back to the playoffs in 2016. It was on show Wednesday, as he got better as the game moved into the middle innings

    "For sure, especially when early on I did not have that command," Sheffield said. "I was falling behind hitters a lot, and then having to get myself back into the counts. So that was one big thing that I did not like about my outing today.

    "But other than that, I just stuck with it. My defense helped me, and I just got back in attack mode."

    Sheffield is at the point where he can make in game adjustments on the mound, which is another thing that has him moving in the right direction.

    "For me, it is a feel thing," Sheffield said. "If I throw a pitch before, maybe I have to adjust myself, my release point, or take deeper breaths. It is hard to explain, but when you are out there, you can feel it. It is definitely a feel factor for me.

    "I am aways ready (to be challenged at the next level). But I will pitch wherever. On the mound, it is me versus the hitter, no matter if it is here, Triple A, or the big leagues. No matter what, it is the game of baseball. It is one v one, you versus the hitter, and you want to come out on top."

    Contact Sean Miller at Follow him on Twitter @TheProdigalSean

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    The Garden State is known to have the highest rates of autism in the nation: One in 41 of our 8-year-olds have been diagnosed, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

    Six Flags Great Adventure is giving parents of children on the autism spectrum a gift more precious than gold: a day when their youngsters can fully participate in the joys an amusement park can bring.

    The Jackson facility is planning its first Autism Day at Six Flags on Thursday, May 3.

    On that occasion, the sights and sounds at the park will be toned down to accommodate the needs of children who often grapple with sensory overload.

    Autism Spectrum Disorder, a developmental disorder an estimated one in 68 children nationwide lives with, affects a person's social communication and interaction, among other things.

    Many youngsters on the spectrum have trouble processing too many sights, sounds and tastes - a reality that turns a visit to an amusement park into a terrifying nightmare for child and parent alike.

    Great Adventure aims to be world's biggest all-solar theme park

    What can parents expect when they visit Great Adventure next Tuesday?

    For one thing, the park will be open only to families with at least one child on the autism spectrum, making for shorter lines and more accessible accommodations.

    Lighting and music levels will be muted, while designated "decompression areas" will be loaded with sensory-friendly items.

    The Gersh Academy, a Huntington, New York school for children on the autism spectrum, is sending more than 100 staff members to lend a hand to families if needed.

    Six Flags is not the first amusement park to recognize that a theme park can pose seemingly insurmountable challenges to families with autistic members.

    Legoland Florida, in Winter Haven, offers several quiet rooms where visitors can take a break from sensory stimulation. Comfort items on hand include weighted blankets, fidget toys, noise-controlling headphones and stress balls.

    A designated calming room at Dollywood, in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, features oversized beanbag chairs and a darkened tepee for brief respites.

    Similar facilities are available at Edaville Family Theme Park in Carver, Massachusetts, which also hires a special-needs rep to answer calls from parents planning visits and to interact with families when they visit.

    More and more museums and movie theaters are recognizing the need to provide comfortable spaces for their autistic patrons.

    We're grateful to the folks at Six Flags for bringing these innovations to New Jersey, if only for a day.

    The Garden State is known to have the highest rates of autism in the nation: One in 41 of our 8-year-olds have been diagnosed, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

    It's laudable that Six Flags has observed a need and is responding to it.

    If the day proves successful, maybe the park's corporate owners will consider making it a regular fixture? If only ...

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

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    Leisure time activities can range from archery to Zumba.

    Merriam-Webster defines pastime as "something that amuses and serves to make time pass agreeably" and leisure time as "taking place during time not used for gainful employment."

    We all have our favorite things to do when we have "down time." Some people garden, some people jog, others read. In my case, down time often consists of no activity whatsoever.

    MORE: Vintage photos around New Jersey

    Here, we've compiled a collection of pictures of people in New Jersey enjoying time away from work, school and chores. And, whether you have a predilection for physical activity or you enjoy a sedentary lifestyle, we think you'll find a photo or two that speaks to you.

    And here are links to past galleries on games and pastimes.

    Vintage photos of fun and games in N.J.

    Vintage photos of games people played in N.J.

    Vintage photos of N.J. games and pastimes

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

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    The New York-based religious organization is part of the Black Hebrew Israelite movement, which believes black people are among the lost tribes of Israel

    A Mercedes-Benz van, trips to Disneyland and private school tuition were just some of the gifts Jermaine Grant lavished on his family -- all ostensibly paid for with income from his entertainment company.

    In reality, the U.S. Attorney's Office has alleged, all were ill-gotten gains of a scheme by Grant, 43, and Lincoln Warrington, 48, to siphon millions from the Israelite Church of God in Jesus Christ. The New York-based religious organization is part of the Black Hebrew Israelite movement, which believes black people are among the lost tribes of Israel.

    Grant, who has led the organization under the name "Chief High Priest Tazadaqyah," has preached that a black Jesus will return to earth to enslave and kill white people. The Southern Poverty Law Center has previously cited his comments in classifying the church as a black nationalist hate group.

    Both men were arrested Wednesday on a grand jury indictment charging them with conspiring to defraud the United States, and Grant with an additional five counts of personal income tax evasion.

    While leading the church between 2007 and 2016, prosecutors allege, Grant and Warrington, a Teaneck resident and treasurer for the church, used Black Icon Entertainment -- a phony company reliant almost entirely on church funds -- to siphon off more than $2.4 million from the organization.

    Grant, of Burlington Township, himself spent another $2.9 million of church funds on personal expenses that included the van, trips and school tuition, in addition to luxury items, real estate and a chauffeured luxury car service to take his kids to school, prosecutors said. The U.S. Attorney's Office said none of the $5.3 million of income was reported by either man to the IRS.

    The arrests come almost two years after DNAinfo reported FBI agents had raided the group's headquarters in Harlem as part of an investigation into its bookkeeping.

    The church and Grant made headlines five years ago when they filed a lawsuit against a Connecticut toy company, claiming action figures of Grant the church had ordered were made with pointed features and lightened skin.

    Grant and Warrington were expected to make their initial appearances in U.S. District Court Wednesday afternoon in Newark.

    Grant's attorney, Gerald Lefcourt, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

    Reached by email, Warrington's attorney Richard Levitt declined to comment.

    Thomas Moriarty may be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @ThomasDMoriarty.

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    There was plenty of movement after half the teams in the rankings suffered a defeat last week.

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    The buzz is just starting around the guys on this list.

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    Who are the best alums playing college lacrosse? We break down the Top 50.

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    NJ Advance Media has put together a list of the top girls lacrosse seniors. Vote for the No. 1 player at the bottom.

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    The project is a partnership between TCNJ and the East Trenton Collaborative. Watch video

    "Now we have something to look at."

    Easy Trenton resident Evelyn Hawthorne said that to her neighbor Clarissa Vereen-Holt, standing in a community garden at Poplar and Taylor Streets that they both tend.

    They were watching a group of students' from the The College of New Jersey's Arts and Interactive Multimedia students install a three-panel mural they created for the garden - led by assistant professor of art education Carolina Blatt.

    "We've worked with some really amazing residents and the students have really come together to create something that they think will be meaningful for the community," Blatt said.

    tcnj10668.00_05_20_15.Still020.jpgA student documents the installation. (Michael Mancuso | For 

    The project, which also includes colorful garden markers, is a partnership between the college (TCNJ) and the East Trenton Collaborative that's designed to emphasize the human connections that foster community gardens.

    The mural depicts a number of anonymous figures, representing the many people who work together to make community gardens prosper.

    East Trenton Collaborative's Iana Dikidjieva said: "We work closely with residents in the community to improve their neighborhood which includes supporting Miss Hawthorne and her awesome garden."

    Click here for more photos from the event

    On Saturday, April 28, the East Trenton Collaborative will host a community cleanup and festival. The event begins with a cleanup of the Assunpink Creek in Hetzel Park from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and continues with a festival on Taylor Street and in Hetzel Park from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. More information is available from Elena Peeples at

    Michael Mancuso may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @michaelmancuso Find on Facebook.

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    Supreme Life and Antoine Ketler got in a fight with two men from New York City outside a Lumberton home

    A grand jury has brought murder charges against a father and son accused of stabbing two New York men during a fight in February.

    Supreme Life, 56, and son Antoine Ketler, 33, got in a fight outside their home on Coriander Drive in Lumberton on Feb. 4, the Burlington County Prosecutor's Office announced.

    They fought with Moriah Walker, 26, of Brooklyn and Raheem Williams, 23, of Queens. Walker died from his injuries at Cooper University Hospital, while Williams was released after surgery.

    Prosecutors say Life wielded the knife and stabbed Walker and Williams.

    In addition to the murder charge, the grand jury charged the men with attempted murder and added multiple weapons charges for Life.

    The men will be arraigned "soon" in Superior Court in Mount Holly, officials said.

    Joe Brandt can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @JBrandt_NJ. Find on Facebook.

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    Get you guitar restrung through Playback, D'Addario's free, national string recycling program

    Russo Music in Hamilton will celebrate "Earth Month" and International Guitar Month simultaneously this Saturday with a free recycle and restring event.

    Sponsored by D'Addario, musicians can bring any old instrument strings for recycling and get their electric or acoustic guitars restrung with D'Addario NYXL or Nickel Bronze Acoustic strings.

    Old strings collected during the event will be recycled through Playback, D'Addario's free, national recycling program.

    Store manager Jeff Lacour said the event will help "make the world a better place for all musicians" while helping to reduce wasteful landfill.

    Playback is the world's first instrument string recycling program, launched through a partnership between D'Addario and international recycling company TerraCycle, in Trenton.

    The program is a part of D'Addario's Players Circle loyalty program, and allows registered users to recycle their used strings in exchange for extra Players Circle points.

    Musicians attending the recycle and restring events will receive a code at the event, redeemable for extra Players Circle points.

    Points can be used towards merchandise or donated to the D'Addario Foundation, the company's nonprofit organization supporting music education in underserved communities.

    D'Addario says they are consistently committed to the environment, working to reduce their company's packaging waste and use the most environmentally responsible packaging available on the market.

    Their partnership with TerraCycle allows them to further reinforce their role as an environmental leader in the music industry, the company touts.

    More information about the guitar strings program is available by clicking here, through TerraCycle. Musicians interested in recycling through Playback can do so here:

    The event will begin at 11 a.m. Sat. April 28, at Russo Music, 1989 Arena Drive in Hamilton. Russo Music Hamilton can be reached at 609-888-0620.

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    The goal of the Safe Haven Infant Protection Act is to protect unwanted babies from being injured, or killed, when their mother or father can no longer care for them.

    The discovery of three abandoned babies in a six-day period - two newborns and an infant - reinforces the urgency of getting the message out to all corners of the state: New Jersey has an option for parents who are completely at the end of their rope.

    It's called the Safe Haven Infant Protection Act, and its goal is just that - to protect unwanted babies from being injured, or killed, when their mother or father can no longer care for them.

    The process of surrendering a baby through the act is legal, safe and anonymous. In the 18 years since state law authorized its establishment, the program has received 64 babies who might otherwise have faced a far grimmer future.

    Parents, or someone acting on their behalf, can surrender a child who is younger than 30 days old at hospital emergency departments, police stations, fire departments or rescue squads, as long as there's someone on staff around the clock.

    If a mother drops off a baby, say, she will be offered medical treatment and social services, but these are totally optional. She also can fill out an anonymous medical questionnaire, which will help health-care workers and others care for the child down the road.

    3rd infant abandoned this month in N.J.

    At the drop-off site, the infant is examined and given medical attention if needed. Then the Child Protection and Permanency unit will take custody and find a foster or pre-adoptive home for the baby.

    Police were still investigating the three separate abandonments that made headlines recently - one each in Jersey City, Trenton and Highland Park. All took place between April 11 and April 16. Two of the babies died.

    What we do know is that as tragic as these cases are, it's even more horrifying that when they took place, the state's Department of Children and Families was gearing up for its first Safe Haven social media campaign, designed to get the word out to those who most need it.

    The department is using a $100,000 federal grant to help underwrite the campaign, as well as to place digital ads at train platforms and signs at surrender sites.

    Since 2008, all 50 states have had some version of a safe-haven legislation on their books. The laws recognize that poverty, homelessness, lack of resources and mental/physical illness are powerful forces that can lead new parents to desperate measures.

    Until societies create a more robust safety net for these families, with beefed-up post-natal services, mental-health screening and other forms of communal support, these laws are our best defense against this type of tragedy.

    The challenge is to spread that message far and wide.

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

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    An international pipeline. A scandalous photograph. Racial taunting. See which New Jersey sports scandals over the past decade have resonated the most.

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    These districts aren't getting anywhere close to what they should from the state.

    It's springtime in New Jersey, which means the annual fight over school funding is already in full swing. 

    Though Gov. Phil Murphy's budget increases school aid by $283 million, school officials are calling for more, and some districts can make a stronger case than others. 

    Districts with major enrollment booms over the past decade, significantly changing demographics or weakening tax bases have been especially shortchanged as the state routinely underfunded it formula for allocating school aid. 

    Check out the list below to see the 10 districts who are cheated the most, according to an NJ Advance Media analysis of state data. 

    The ranking is based on how much state aid each district received this school year compared to how much it would be owed if the state fully funded its formula, including abolishing all limits and caps on annual increases.                         

    Top 10 underfunded by percentage 

    1. Chesterfield Township School District

    Percent funded: 19.8 percent 

    2018 state aid: $821,188

    Full aid owed: $4.1 million 

    2. Atlantic City School District 

    Percent funded: 22 percent 

    2018 state aid: $24.3 million

    Full aid owed: $110.6 million

    3. River Edge Public Schools 

    Percent funded: 22.6 percent 

    2018 state aid: $752,750

    Full aid owed: $3.3 million

    4. Elmwood Park Public Schools 

    Percent funded: 24.9 percent 

    2018 state aid: $4.7 million

    Full aid owed: $19 million

    5. Atlantic County Vocational School District 

    Percent funded: 25 percent 

    2018 state aid: $4.9 million

    Full aid owed: $19.8 million

    6. Robbinsville Public School District  

    Percent funded: 25.8 percent 

    2018 state aid: $3.1 million

    Full aid owed: $12 million

    7. Rockaway Borough School District

    Percent funded: 27 percent 

    2018 state aid: $584,221

    Full aid owed: $2.2 million

    8. Little Ferry Public Schools 

    Percent funded: 29 percent 

    2018 state aid: $2.1 million 

    Full aid owed: $7.4 million

    9. Absecon Public School District 

    Percent funded: 32.1 percent 

    2018 state aid: $1.7 million

    Full aid owed: $5.3 million

    10. North Brunswick Township Public Schools

    Percent funded: 32.6 percent 

    2018 state aid: $14.6 million 

    Full aid owed: $44.8 million

    Largest dollar differences 

    Another way to look at getting shortchanged is by the total dollar amount.

    These large districts already receive substantial state aid but would be in line for the biggest dollar increases if the formula is eventually fully funded. 

    1. Newark Pubic Schools 

    Gap in state funding: $167.5 million

    2. Elizabeth Public Schools 

    Gap in state funding: $114.6 million 

    3. Paterson Public Schools 

    Gap in state funding: $92.6 million

    4. Atlantic City School District 

    Gap in state funding: $86.3 million

    5. Plainfield Public School District 

    Gap in state funding: $63.9 million 

    6. Trenton Public Schools 

    Gap in state funding: $54.9 million

    7. Woodbridge Township School District 

    Gap in state funding: $52.4 million 

    8. Bayonne School District 

    Gap in state funding: $46.5 million 

    9. Clifton Public Schools 

    Gap in state funding: $44 million 

    10. New Brunswick Public Schools 

    Gap in state funding: $42.5 million 

    Adam Clark may be reached at Follow him on twitter at @realAdamClarkFind on Facebook


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    Nearly a half million dollars in federal funding is on the way to support expanding the preservation of a key Revolutionary War site.

    It's a revered piece of land steeped in American history.

    And preservationists just got a lot closer to being able to protect a piece of it.

    Earlier this month, the National Park Service announced that it was awarding nearly a half million dollars for the preservation of a disputed New Jersey battleground that had for years been a point of contention between developers and preservation groups.

    The National Park Service is giving more than $490,000 to the Civil War Trust and the municipality of Princeton. The money, a grant from the NPS's American Battlefield Protection Program, is meant to help pay to acquire nearly 15 acres land that American and British troops fought over during the American Revolution.

    Princeton Battlefield is eligible for the funding because in 2007 it was listed as a battlefield threatened by development in a report that the NPS prepared for Congress. Victoria Stauffenberg, a spokeswoman for the NPS, said that the Princeton grant was part of a batch of nine grants awarded in five states totaling $3.1 million. Stauffenberg described the NPS's role in battlefield preservation as limited to providing funding and technical assistance.

    "We're helping with preservation on the community level, preserving these amazing sites in people's backyards," Stauffenberg said.

    Since the NPS's American Battlefield Protection Program began in 1998, money has been provided to help protect more than 29,500 acres at 110 battlefields in 10 states, according to Stauffenberg. This new grant is the second to be awarded in New Jersey; the first was awarded last year.

    On January 3, 1777, George Washington led American troops into battle against the British at the Battle of Princeton. The specific land that the grant will help protect, known as Maxwell's Field, is thought by some historians to be the site of Washington's counter attack, which broke the British lines and secured an American victory.

    Jim Campi, a spokesman for the Civil War Trust, calls the count erattack one of the most pivotal moments in American history.

    "If that hadn't happened, most of our history would be dramatically different," Campi said.

    Today, the land is owned by the Institute for Advanced Study, which disputes the specific location of the battle. For years, a plan by the institute to build new faculty housing on the land has been fought by preservationists.

    Truce called in Princeton Battlefield dispute over housing development

    In December 2016, the Civil War Trust, a preservation group dedicated to protecting American battlefields and historic sites, reached a deal with the institute to buy the land for $4 million. The nearly 15 acres agreed to is not the entirety of Maxwell's Field, and the institute will still be able to build the housing it needs.

    Campi said that the Civil War Trust hopes to close on the property soon. Once the group officially gains ownership, Campi says it plans to restore the land to its war-time state before transferring ownership to the state so in can be incorporated into the neighboring Princeton Battlefield State Park.

    "After years of controversy over this property, the community has really come together over the last year now that there's a positive path forward," Campi said.

    The NPS grant money, the only government funds that have yet been contributed to the preservation effort, represents about 12 percent of the cost. Campi said the large grant underscores just how important the preservation of Princeton Battlefield is to the NPS.

    Campi said the rest of the money that the Civil War Trust has collected so far has come from private donations, including a single $1.1 million donation from investor and philanthropist Richard Gilder. The Civil War Trust has now raised $3.5 million of the necessary $4 million, according to Campi.

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

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