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Central Jersey News from the Times of Trenton

older | 1 | .... | 464 | 465 | (Page 466) | 467 | 468 | .... | 528 | newer

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    But why lavish praise on cops for doing the job they are supposed to do? Precisely because so many otherwise routine traffic stops take a turn for the deadly, especially when the encounters involve black or Hispanic drivers. Watch video

    By now you've seen the clip of an arrogant self-entitled former commissioner with the powerful Port Authority mouthing off to two Tenafly police officers.

    At the very least, you've heard her name.

    But if Caren Z. Turner is the star of this particularly appalling road show, the story's real heroes are the self-possessed cops who kept a potentially explosive situation from going completely off the rails.

    You definitely should know the names of Matthew Savitsky and Tom Casper, the cops who are rightly being hailed by colleagues from as far away as Hawaii, Texas and Canada.

    A 68-minute dash-cam video of the incident introduced the world to Turner. It shows her challenging the two officers after they pulled over the Toyota her adult daughter was riding in for a routine motor vehicle stop on a busy highway in the Bergen County community.

    Tenafly chief on cops: They handled it 'perfectly'

    Increasingly belligerent and confrontational, Turner capped her performance by throwing the F-bomb when the officers refused to genuflect before her demands for information - this after insulting their ability to put together a rational sentence.

    This is intolerable behavior for an average citizen, of course. For the chairwoman of the Port Authority's Ethics Committee, it's off the charts.

    Make that former chairwoman - Turner resigned from the agency last week in the heat of public outcry.

    She also issued a bland, sorry-not-sorry interpretation of the encounter, touting her active role in the community and urging the Tenafly Police Department to review best practices "so that incidents like this do not recur."

    If Turner is the poster child for appointed officials behaving badly, Savitsky and Casper are models for staying calm in the face of pressure, of applying the lessons in de-escalation and sensitivity training that their brother and sister officers spend hours learning.

    "The officers handled themselves perfectly and professionally," says Tenafly Police Chief Robert Chamberlain, who personally viewed every minute of the all-too-graphic video. "I stand behind how they handled the incident. Mrs. Turner was excited, and they kept their composure."

    But why lavish praise on cops for doing the job they are supposed to do? Precisely because so many otherwise routine traffic stops take a turn for the deadly, especially when the encounters involve black or Hispanic drivers.

    The phenomenon is so common that the state's Attorney General's Office recently enlisted top sports figures for a series of public service announcements appealing to drivers to use common sense to avert conflict during potentially fraught police-civilian interactions.

    Note to Ms. Turner: Bragging about your closeness with the mayor and correcting the officers when they respectfully refer to you as "miss" - "No, don't call me miss," she demanded. "I'm the commissioner" - doesn't cut it.

    To their credit, Port Authority officials have forcefully rebuked its former commissioner, while apologizing to the Tenafly cops for her "outrageous and abhorrent conduct."

    Bookmark NJ.com/Opinion. Follow on Twitter @NJ_Opinion and find NJ.com Opinion on Facebook.


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    Take a look at the top talent in the Class of 2020.


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    Areen Chakrabarti, 14, who is autistic, ran back into his burning home to retrieve a laptop and firefighters later found him unconscious

    UPDATE: A judge ruled Friday that Children's Hospital of Philadelphia must keep the boy on life support, pending additional hearings or until he can be transferred to another hospital, according to Philly.com.

    A Bordentown mother has taken a Philadelphia hospital to court to stop doctors from removing her 14-year-old son - who suffered brain death from injuries in a house fire - from the hospital's life support systems.

    A judge on Thursday approved Rumpa Banerjee's request for a temporary restraining order stopping Children's Hospital of Philadelphia from taking Areen Chakrabarti off life supports.

    The teenager has been hospitalized since April 14, when he was gravely injured in a fire.

    "The hospital wants him off life support. They're saying he's brain dead and therefore he is dead," the family's attorney, Christopher Bagnato, said Friday.

    Bagnato argued the child still has a heartbeat and that the hospital should not be able to remove him from life-support without parental consent.

    Banerjee has said she wants the opportunity to take her son to another medical provider, Bagnato said.

    The fire broke out in the family's Burlington County home two weeks ago, sending mother and son outside to escape the flames.

    But Areen, who is autistic, ran back into the house to get his laptop, Bagnato said.

    Firefighters later found him underneath a staircase, unconscious and suffering from smoke inhalation.

    Areen was first taken to a New Jersey hospital. But doctors suggested he be transferred to Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, where he could get specialized treatment, according to Bagnato.

    "They said he would get better care there, but instead, they did nothing," Bagnato alleged.

    Emily E. DiTomo, spokeswoman for Children's Hospital, said the hospital "has no information we can share" about the case.

    In Pennsylvania, a person who suffers irreversible cessation of brain function is considered legally dead. In New Jersey, death is not limited to neurological criteria, but rather to medical judgement.

    Doctors at Children's Hospital have ruled out sending the child to hospice, saying such a facility would not be equipped to care for someone in Areen's condition, Bagnato said.

    But they have agreed to send the child to a New Jersey hospital, if the family can find one that will accept him, Bagnato said.

    In the order filed Thursday, Bagnato said the child's mother will "suffer immediate and irreparable harm and loss" if the hospital proceeds with measures that would end Areen's life.

    "The public interest favors protecting the right of parents to decide whether to continue life support for their children," Bagnato said in the petition.

    Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Judge Abbe Fletman on Thursday granted Bagnato's motion for a temporary restraining order preventing the removal of Areen from life support.

    The case will now go to the commonwealth's Orphan's Court Division, where it could take weeks to be heard, Bagnato said.

    banerjee1.jpgAreen Chakrabarti, 14, with his mother, Rumpa Banerjee. (Photo courtesy of Christopher Bagnata) 

    Anthony G. Attrino may be reached at tattrino@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @TonyAttrino. Find NJ.com on Facebook.


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    Who is the top junior in N.J.? Have your say!


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    See the players and teams that stood out this week across N.J.


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    The victim, a mother of two, worked as a cocktail waitress in Atlantic City to pay for college and build a better life for her kids

    A Burlington County judge sent Darren Winningham to state prison for 10 years Friday, almost two years to the date after he fired a handgun inside his Riverside home during a party and hit Nikita Cross with a bullet to the chest.

    The 35-year-old Cross died a short time later at local hospital.

    winning.jpgWinningham 

    Officials and witnesses at the April 23, 2016 gathering have said Winningham, 44, grew angry at the party, pulled out a gun and was being reckless when he fired it.

    Partygoers wrestled it away and called police.

    Cross, of Galloway, was not an intended victim. She was studying for her bachelor's degree at Stockton University - which posthumously awarded her the social work degree she sought. 

    She would have been the first in her family to earn a college degree, and was three weeks from the goal when she died, her family said. 

    Winningham, who had a prior convictions for aggravated assault and robbery dating to the 1990s, told officers who took him into custody he knew he "was going to jail for the rest of his life."

    Nikita crossNikita Cross, family photo

    Odds are, he will not. 

    Winningham as originally charged with murder, but pleaded guilty to aggravated manslaughter last month and prosecutors negotiated a 10-year prison term.

    Superior Court Judge Terrence R. Cook made the sentence official Friday in Superior Sourt in Mount Holly. Under the state's No EarlyRelease Act, Winningham has to do eight years and six months behind bars before he's eligible for parole, the Burlington County Prosecutor's Office said.

    Winningham has been in jail since the shooting, so if he makes parole on his first eligibility, he could be free in six and a half years.

    Cross' family has said they called her "Kita" and she worked as a cocktail waitress for 10 years in Atlantic City to pay for college and build a better life for her children. She had an 18-year-old daughter and 10-year-old son when she was killed.

    Kevin Shea may be reached at kshea@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter@kevintshea. Find NJ.com on Facebook.


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    The West Windsor-Plainsboro North baseball team, which has struggled mightily this season with numbers in the program, forfeited a game Thursday to Nottingham. With just 12 players healthy heading into the day, and with the NJSIAA pitching rules hampering the Knights, the decision was made by Athletic Director Ken Mason to forfeit the Valley Division game to the Northstars. The...

    The West Windsor-Plainsboro North baseball team, which has struggled mightily this season with numbers in the program, forfeited a game Thursday to Nottingham. With just 12 players healthy heading into the day, and with the NJSIAA pitching rules hampering the Knights, the decision was made by Athletic Director Ken Mason to forfeit the Valley Division game to the Northstars.

    The two teams had played Monday, an 8-0 win for Nottingham. WW-P North then played Tuesday against Notre Dame, and then had two more games lined up for the rest of the week: the Nottingham game forfeited Thursday, and another Valley Division game Saturday with Allentown.

    "I have 12 players available, and no pitching," Mason said. "The forfeit to Nottingham came off the back of games we played Monday and Tuesday. So when you don't have any pitching due to the pitch counts, and then the injuries, safety plays a factor.

    "I am not going to put kids out there that have never pitched, especially in our league. The league is pretty competitive. So it is really a safety issue, that is why we didn't play Nottingham. They were nice about it, and the forfeit was approved by our league and the state. It is basically a game-to-game thing.

    "I have a game Saturday at Allentown, and I am going to play that game. That will be my third game this week, but the kid that pitched Monday will be able to pitch Saturday.

    CVC realigns, goes back to two divisions for all sports but football

    Next week, the Knights have five games on the schedule, due to the terrible April weather, which may lead to more problems. WW-P North is scheduled to play Monday (Trenton), Wednesday (Robbinsville), Thursday (Hamilton West), Friday (Princeton), and Saturday (Hightstown).

    "To be honest with you, we are taking it day-by-day," Mason said. "Especially now, when you have all these rainouts, and games start getting condensed. There is nowhere to put stuff now, so rather than reschedule that game, and put myself up against the same thing later, we did that.

    "I already have five games next week. So will this situation come up again next week? Yes, it might. I am supposed to get my number one pitcher back, Ben Goldstein. He broke his nose, and he is our best pitcher, and shortstop. Hopefully, he will be back next week. 

    "If he comes back, that changes everything. He has been out, and when you lose your number one pitcher among everything else, that is what happened. The parents have been good about it, the league has been good about it, and the state.

    "So do I think it may happen again? Yes, it might. But we want to stay out in front of it. The worst thing we want to do is tell them the day of the game."

    The Knights will not participate in the 2018 Mercer County or the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group 4 Tournaments. They are still not sure about their plans for 2019. With six seniors on the roster, and no JV team, there may be similar struggles to field a squad next season.

    "We opted out of the Mercer County Tournament, and we opted out of states," Mason said. "We are not sure what we are going to do next year, because the state doesn't allow other teams to co-op yet. If that doesn't change, then we might be looking at a JV schedule next year."

    WW-P North is 0-7, and the six games played on the field have seen the Knights outscored 68-2. The game Monday with 0-11 Trenton may prove to be the lone chance this season to pick up a victory for the Knights.

    They were 8-14 in each of the last two seasons, and last had a winning record in 2014, when they went 12-9. WW-P North won a NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group 3 title in 2009, when it went 21-4 led by the dominant pitching duo of David Bachner and Kyle Reed.

    Contact Sean Miller at seanmillertrentontimes@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @TheProdigalSean


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    New Jersey lawmakers came together with one voice to declare that the gender-wage gap in New Jersey is dead.

    There are precious few things all the members of the state Senate - Republicans and Democrats alike - can agree on.

    But these lawmakers came together with one voice to declare that the gender-wage gap in New Jersey is dead.

    Their legislation assuring that women will take home a salary equal to that of her male counterparts who do comparable work passed the Senate by a vote of 35 to 0, and the Assembly by a margin of 74-2.

    Gov. Phil Murphy drove in the home run this week, signing the bill into law and giving our state the distinction of having one of the country's most robust pay-equity laws on the books.

    Hooray and hallelujah. This is a hard-fought victory for working families, not just for women.

    Disturbing facts about how much more men earn than women

    The new law allows women to sue for and collect triple damages if they have been unfairly compensated. It also bars companies from punishing workers who discus their salaries with colleagues, and it extends the so-called "look-back period" from two years to six.

    We particularly relish the fact that the bill bears the name of Diane B. Allen, a former Republican state senator from Burlington County who fought fiercely for its passage before retiring from office last year.

    Allen, a former TV news anchor who experienced wage discrimination on the job first-hand, was back in Trenton for the bill signing. Also at the ceremony was Lilly Ledbetter, whose name is on a federal pay-equity law that grew out of a court case against her employer, Goodyear Tire and Rubber.

    In fully endorsing the bill on his 99th day in office, Murphy moved the state forward in a way Chris Christie refused to do during eight years in office.

    Rather than seeing it as a threat to business owners, the Democratic governor hailed the bill as a tool to make the Garden State more competitive in the work world, one that has the potential to strengthen our economy in the coming years.

    Dena Mottola Jaborska, associate director of New Jersey Citizen Action, an advocacy group that lobbied for the legislation, predicted that women will now have "strong tools to combat pay discrimination and recover lost wages."

    For Assemblywoman and long-time supporter Pamela Lampitt (D-Burlington and Camden counties), the bill capped a 12-year effort to ensure that justice prevailed.

    Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen County), who sponsored an early pay-equity bill that failed to pass Christie's muster, also has earned the right to rejoice in a battle well fought, as has the advocacy group New Jersey Working Families Alliance.

    Easing the economic burden on families, putting New Jersey at the forefront of labor practices and creating a more equitable environment - all with the stroke of a pen and a decade of sweat.

    Bookmark NJ.com/Opinion. Follow on Twitter @NJ_Opinion and find NJ.com Opinion on Facebook.

     

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    Trees designated 'champions' are scattered throughout the Garden State in yards and fields, even cemeteries.


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    The top 60 juniors pitchers from across the state


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    It looks to be West Brom, Stoke, and Huddersfield that could be relegated, but any of the bottom six could go down.

    SOUTHAMPTON, STOKE BRING RELEGATION BATTLE TO LIFE

    All it takes is a result.

    Saturday, the three teams in the relegation zone all picked up at least a point, while Southampton and West Bromwich Albion each got a huge win.

    With the teams directly outside the bottom three losing, the battle to avoid the drop to the EFL Championship has all of a sudden sprung into life. Southampton was the biggest winner of the weekend, with a 2-1 win over Bournemouth.

    Mark Hughes took over late in the season from Mauricio Pellegrino, and the move has finally looked to have sparked the Saints into life. Southampton sits on 32 points, in 18th place in the table, but with a vastly better goal difference of minus-19 than the two teams directly ahead of it.

    That may prove to be a blessing for the Saints. Taking a look at their final three games, and Southampton visit Everton next Saturday, take on 17th place Swansea City Tuesday, May 8, and host champions Manchester City on the final Sunday, May 13.

    Stole City has just two matches left: home to Crystal Palace next Saturday, and away to Swansea City on the final Sunday. The Potters sit on 30 points, and need two wins to stay in the league.

    For the two teams currently outside of the drop zone, Swansea is in the best position to continue its stay. The Swans, sitting on 33 points, play both teams directly below them at home the final two games, with a visit to Bournemouth next Saturday.

    Huddersfield Town could be in trouble. With 35 points, the Terriers have to visit champions Manchester City, travel to Stamford Bridge to face a Chelsea team still trying to chase down a top four spot, and host Arsenal in Arsene Wenger's final Premier League match.

    West Ham United is not safe yet, either. The Hammers sit on 35 points as well, and have matches with Leicester away, and Manchester United and Everton at home. 

    It looks to be West Brom, Stoke, and Huddersfield that could be relegated, but any of the bottom six could find themselves in the relegation spots come 12 p.m. May 13.

    One more thought: do the owners of West Brom, watching the job Darren Moore has done over the last few weeks, wish they sacked Alan Pardew earlier?  

    PREMIER LEAGUE RESULTS

    Liverpool 0-0 Stoke 

    Burnley 0-0 Brighton

    Crystal Palace 5-0 Leicester

    Huddersfield 0-2 Everton

    Newcastle 0-1 West Brom

    Southampton 2-1 Bournemouth

    Swansea 0-1 Chelsea

    West Ham 1-4 Man. City

    Man. United 2-1 Arsenal

    Monday, April 30

    Tottenham vs. Watford, 3 p.m.

    Wenger steps down at Arsenal; Man. United makes 20th F.A. Cup Final

    PALACE SAFE, AFTER 5-0 DRUBBING OF FALTERING LEICESTER

    Crystal Palace started the 2017-2018 Premier League campaign with seven straight goal-less losses, a new record for futility.

    But take a look at the Eagles now, as they soar towards a spot in the top 10. Palace sits 11th, six points ahead of the bottom three, after its 5-0 rout of a Leicester City side that has been dreadful for months. The two teams are now just six points apart, after the Eagles spotted every other team in the league a massive head start to the season.

    The injury crisis is starting to abate for Roy Hodgson, and the team looks set to go into the summer on a high. But can Crystal Palace carry this momentum over into next season?

    WENGER VISITS OLD TRAFFORD FOR FINAL TIME WITH ARSENAL

    For the first eight years after Arsene Wenger took charge in 1996, Arsenal and Manchester United battled back and forth for Premier League supremacy. The two clubs won every league title from 1997-2004, with United winning five of the eight. 

    Over the years between the teams, there was the missed penalty from Ruud Van Nistelrooy that keep the dream of a unbeaten season alive, then the redemption the next season that stopped the 49-game unbeaten run, in the "Battle of the Buffet" match. There was John O'Shea's chip at Highbury, in a 4-2 win for United. 

    The two teams played an epic UEFA Champions League semifinal in 2009, during which Cristiano Ronaldo scored one of the best free kicks in history. Then who could forget the 8-2 pasting from the 2011-12 season?

    Sunday, Wenger brought the Gunners to Old Trafford for his 60th and final time in charge, and it was Manchester United, powered by a Marouane Fellaini 91st minute winner, that pulled out a 2-1 win.

    In Wenger's final 11 Premier League matches since September 2006 at Old Trafford, the Gunners went winless, with eight losses and three draws. 

    CHAMPIONS LEAGUE SEES REAL MADRID, LIVERPOOL IN GOOD SPOTS

    Tuesday, Real Madrid will head home to the Santiago Bernabeu with a 2-1 lead over Bayern Munich. The Spanish side is looking to advance to a fourth final in five years, with three titles already under its belt in the period. Wednesday, Liverpool will head to Rome with a 5-2 lead over Roma. 

    Can Roma repeat the comeback from the last round? Can Bayer stun the two-time champions? 

    LIVE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE FINAL PARTY MAY 26

    Join the Box to Box Football team live for the 2018 Champions League Final Saturday, May 26, at the Olde Town Tavern in Bordentown.

    The game starts at 2:45 p.m.

    Contact Sean Miller at seanmillertrentontimes@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @TheProdigalSean His weekly podcast, Box to Box Football, can be found on iTunes here https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/box-to-box-football/id1208561351?mt=2


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    Pets throughout New Jersey await adoption from rescues and shelters.

    Here is this week's collection of some of the dogs and cats in need of adoption in New Jersey.

    We are now accepting dogs and cats to appear in the gallery from nonprofit shelters and rescues throughout New Jersey.

    If a group wishes to participate in this weekly gallery on nj.com, please contact Greg Hatala at ghatala@starledger.com or call 973-836-4922.

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


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    Not every candidate supports marijuana legalization


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    A look at this week's can't-miss games from across the state


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    A closer look from the top games covered from the previous week.


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    A 50-foot marine reptile and a 'New Jersey's dinosaur' take over the State Museum's Natural History Hall Watch video

    These two New Jersey natives may not be on the most famous person from each of N.J.'s 21 counties list, but they've certainly been around longer than anybody.

    And unlike many of the celebrities, they are both very approachable and well-behaved at all times.

    They are now appearing at the New Jersey State Museum. Don't be intimidated by their commanding size and imposing appearance.

    Step into the museum's popular, "Written in the Rocks: Fossil Tales of New Jersey," exhibit and discover two new life-size, complete fossil cast additions, a 50-foot marine reptile (Mosasaurus maximus), and "New Jersey's dinosaur" (Hadrosaurus foulkii).

    The two enormous but extinct individuals hail from the southern region of the state.

    P135fttttttttttttttttttttttttttt.jpgA Mosasaurus maximus, a 50-foot marine reptile discovered in southern New Jersey. (Michael Mancuso | NJ Advance Media) 

    In speaking of the mosasaur, Dr. Diane Watson, assistant curator of education at the museum, says this true lizard (not a dinosaur), "has an incredible kinetic jaw, meaning it has flex points that our jaws do not, allowing it's jaw to open wider and catch larger prey."

    First discovered in the 1800s in southern Jersey, the Hadrosaurus foulkii, is widely known as the Hadddonfield dinosaur. But according to David Parris, the natural history curator at the state museum, there's more to the story.

    "The hadrosaur is one of the most common types of dinosaur and this (the casting on display in the museum) is actually a representation of America's original dinosaur, not just New Jersey's," he said.

    "It was America's first mountable dinosaur, one of the first in the world."

    You can walk right up to the dinosaur, but you'll have to look up to see the marine reptile. That one's in a swimming position, suspended from the ceiling.

    The exhibit had been closed temporarily to prepare a place for the two prehistoric stars among the other exhibits designed to highlight "clues about how the past shapes the present and future."

    G0070409lrrrrrrrrrrrrr.jpgBrett Crawford, of Research Casting International, unpacks dinosaur bones in the museum's exhibition, "Written in the Rocks: Fossil Tales of New Jersey." (Michael Mancuso | NJ Advance Media) 

    The installation was completed in three days by veterans in the business, Jeff Haworth and Brett Crawford, of Research Casting International, based in (coincidentally) Trenton, Ontario.

    See more photos of the installation

    The museum says the specimens will be on long-term view thanks to support from NJM Insurance Group and the New Jersey State Museum Foundation. The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday, 9 a.m. to 4:45p.m. p.m. and is closed on Mondays and state holidays.

    Suggested admission is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors and students with ID, and free for children 12 and under.

    Michael Mancuso may be reached at mmancuso@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @michaelmancuso Find NJ.com on Facebook



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    Highlighting big games around the state, from playoff races to crucial county tournament matchups.


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    The infant was the third abandoned baby found in the state this month

    Authorities located the mother of an infant found abandoned in a vacant building in Trenton last week and charged her with causing the newborn girl's death, Mercer County prosecutors said Monday. 

    Yardis Perez-Perez, 27, of Trenton, was charged with second-degree manslaughter and second-degree endangering the welfare of a child, prosecutors said. 

    Yardis Perez-Perez mug.jpgYardis Perez-Perez (Police photo) 

    Police found the deceased baby girl inside a vacant building on the 800 block of South Broad Street on April 23. She was a day or two old, officials said. 

    Prosecutors say Perez-Perez allegedly gave birth to the child and abandoned her shortly after. It appears she did not provide any care for the child. 

    The baby was the third abandoned infant found in the state this month. 

    New Jersey has a Safe Haven Infant Protection Act, which allows parents, or someone acting on their behalf, to surrender a child less than 30 days old at hospital emergency rooms, police stations, fire houses and rescue squads - with no questions asked.

    Perez-Perez was charged Friday and is being held in Mercer County Correction Center. She will appear in court for a detention hearing this week. 

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

     

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    The delay has snarled traffic on the New Jersey Turnpike ahead of the evening rush hour on April 30, 2018.

    A crash with at least one serious injury has shut down several southbound lanes on the New Jersey Turnpike on Monday, snarling traffic in a miles-long backup before the evening rush hour. 

    The crash happened at milepost 60.6 in Robbinsville at 2 p.m., Trooper Alejandro Goez, a spokesman with the New Jersey State Police, said. 

    Two vehicles collided, leaving the driver of an SUV with serious injuries. A driver and passenger in the second vehicle sustained injuries that weren't considered to be life-threatening, Goez said. 

    The SUV's driver was taken to Capital Health Regional Medical Center, while the other two people were taken to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, he said. 

    All of the lanes in the inner roadway were closed just after 3 p.m., and the left and center lanes in the outer roadway were also closed, Goez said.

    The delay was about three-and-a-half miles long, according to a traffic advisory. 

    Investigators remained at the crash scene. 

     Amanda Hoover can be reached at ahoover@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @amandahoovernj. Find NJ.com on Facebook


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    Tell us. nj.com/tips


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    He told a witness, "Help my girlfriend," as he fled the scene, police said. Watch video

    The man accused of leaving his girlfriend to drown in the car he crashed into the icy Delaware River in January has rejected an 18-year plea deal on his first-degree vehicular homicide charge.

    In Burlington County Superior Court Monday, Jacob T. Garrett, 24, stood in handcuffs, his thumbs hooked casually over the chain around his waist, as Burlington County Assistant Prosecutor Thaddeus Drummond said he could be looking at more than 20 years in prison on the most serious charge against him.

    Garrett's calm demeanor was a far cry from his last court appearance, when Garrett broke down, yelling that he couldn't "do this" and demanded to leave the courtroom.

    Authorities say he was under the influence of drugs and alcohol when he caused the crash and abandoned his girlfriend of a year, Stephanie White, 23, of Burlington City, in the freezing water.

    'She hadn't even started her life,' mom says

    According to the Burlington County Prosecutor's Office, Garrett was driving fast near the river wall in Burlington City on the afternoon of Jan. 14 when his car struck another car and launched into the water.

    The vehicle was stuck fast in the ice, but the front-seat area was submerged, according to photos of the crash scene.

    Garrett got himself out of the car and was helped up onto land by at least one of the occupants of the vehicle he had just struck. But then he took off, telling the man, "Help my girlfriend," authorities allege.

    By the time emergency responders arrived, White, still belted into her seat, could not be saved. She died of hypothermia and drowning, according to the prosecutor's office.

    A police dog tracked Garrett's scent to the RiverLine train platform, and he was arrested on board at a nearby station, authorities said.

    He was ordered held pending trial on charges of vehicular homicide, leaving the scene of a fatal accident, causing death while driving with a suspended license and endangering an injured victim.

    His attorney, John Cirrinicione, entered not guilty pleas on Garrett's behalf.

    Vehicular homicide is usually a second-degree crime, with the potential for up to 10 years in prison. But Garrett faces a first-degree charge because the crash site was within 100 feet of a school, Drummond said in court Monday.

    Drummond said the state offered Garrett the 18-year deal before he was indicted, but it's no longer on the table. The offer now is 23 years, Drummond said.

    Typically, first-degree crimes are punishable by terms of 10 to 20 years, but Drummond said Garrett could get a longer term. State law says that if a defendant has certain past convictions or other qualifiers, the prosecutor can seek a "discretionary extended" sentence.

    Garrett, who worked as a forklift operator, has two previous indictable convictions for aggravated assault on a police officer and criminal sexual contact, plus two disorderly persons offenses, according to the prosecutor's office.

    White, a graduate of Freehold Boro High School in Monmouth County, loved her job at FedEx. She was helping her mother raise her foster kids. Nicknamed Birdy, she was soft-spoken, smart and always willing to help, her family said.

    Rebecca Everett may be reached at reverett@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @rebeccajeverett. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

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