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Central Jersey News from the Times of Trenton

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    Aston Villa will host Middlesborough Tuesday, 2:45 p.m. EDT; the two winners will play May 26 12 p.m. EDT for promotion to the Premier League.


    On the final day of the 2017-18 Premier League campaign, there was still a top four position to play for, as well as the final relegation spot.

    But after the midweek matches, and the first half of the games Sunday, the drama was all but gone from both races.

    After Chelsea failed to beat Huddersfield Wednesday, it meant that Tottenham had locked up a top four place. Chelsea had to beat Newcastle Sunday, and have Liverpool lose at home to Brighton & Hove Albion, for the Blues to make the 2018-19 UEFA Champions League.

    But Chelsea, as it has for much of the season under Antonio Conte, never showed up against Newcastle. Blues' fans watched as the Magpies won 3-0, as Liverpool ran riot early to clinch the final Champions League place (fourth place, 75 points) with a 4-0 win.

    Tottenham finished third (77 points), with a 5-4 win over Leicester City.

    Chelsea finished fifth (70 points), and will have to spend next year playing in the UEFA Europa League with sixth place Arsenal (63 points after a 1-0 win over Huddersfield in Arsene Wenger's last game in charge of the Gunners) and seventh place Burnley (54 points), which ended the season with a 2-1 loss to Bournemouth.

    The 0-0 draw midweek for Huddersfield also meant that Swansea was all but relegated to the EFL Championship next season. The Swans needed a miracle (a win, a Southampton loss, and a 10 goal swing in goal difference), but they could not beat already relegated Stoke City at home, losing 2-1. 

    Swansea ended the season with just 28 goals scored, good for joint worst with Huddersfield. The goal drought in the final few months proved to be too much to overcome, as the Swans will join West Bromwich Albion and Stoke City in the Championship next year.


    Burnley 1-2 Bournemouth

    Crystal Palace 2-0 West Brom

    Huddersfield 0-1 Arsenal

    Liverpool 4-0 Brighton

    Man. United 1-0 Watford

    Newcastle 3-0 Chelsea

    Southampton 0-1 Man. City

    Swansea 1-2 Stoke

    Tottenham 5-4 Leicester

    West Ham 3-1 Everton

    Stoke relegated, Southampton heartbreak, on penultimate PL weekend


    Gabriel Jesus' goal at the 90+4 mark gave Manchester City a 1-0 win over Southampton.

    The victory was City's 32nd this year, and gave the Cityzens their 100th point of the league campaign, a first in Premier League history. Manchester City won the league by 19 points and scored 106 goals, both new records, and finished with a plus-79 goal difference.


    When Manchester United club captain Michael Carrick was subbed off for the final time in his playing career Sunday in the 85th minute, it brought to an end a 12-year run with the Red Devils.

    In Carrick's time with United, he won 12 major trophies, and 18 total including F.A. Community Shields. He finished with five Premier League titles, three League Cups, one F.A. Cup, one UEFA Champions League, one UEFA Europa League, and one Club World Cup.

    Carrick's pass in the 34th minute to Juan Mata led to Marcus Rashfor's goal, in Manchester United's 1-0 win Sunday over Watford. The Red Devils have one final game to play, next Saturday in the 2018 F.A. Cup Final (12:15 p.m. EDT Fox and against Chelsea.

    Carrick has joined Jose Mourinho's coaching staff, which will lose Rui Faria after the final next weekend.


    Which team will join Wolverhampton and Cardiff City in the 2018-19 Premier League?

    After the first legs of the EFL Championship Playoff, Aston Villa and Derby County both hold one-goal advantages. 

    Aston Villa beat Middlesborough 1-0 on the road Saturday, while Derby County beat Fulham by the same score at home.

    Fulham, which finished just outside the top two automatic promotion spots, will host Derby Monday (2:45 p.m. EDT). Away goals do not count extra, so a 1-0 result for Fulham will see the match head to extra time and possibly penalties.

    Aston Villa will host Middlesborough Tuesday (2:45 p.m. EDT), and the two winners will play at Wembley May 26 (12 p.m. EDT) for promotion to the Premier League.


    Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah has won another Player of the Year award, to add to his Professional Footballers' Association and Football Writers' Association trophies. He added the EA Sports Player of the Year Saturday to his ever-growing individual trophy haul this season.

    Salah who broke the Premier League record with his 32nd goal this season for Liverpool Sunday in the 4-0 win over Brighton, has one more game left with his club this season, in the UEFA Champions League Final May 26.


    Come out to the Old Town Pub in Bordentown on Saturday, May 26, with myself and the crew of Box to Box Football, to watch the UEFA Champions League Final.

    There will also be another event on Friday, June 15, the first full day of the 2018 World Cup. The Morocco vs. Iran match at 11 a.m. EDT will be lead into the top match of the day, Portugal vs. Spain, at 2 p.m.

    Contact Sean Miller at Follow him on Twitter @TheProdigalSean His weekly podcast, Box to Box Football, can be found on iTunes here

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    See the favorites, contenders and more from each section of the girls lacrosse state tournament.

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    Dogs and cats throughout New Jersey await adoption in shelters and rescues.

    Pet facts:

    * Dalmatians are born without spots. They are born with plain white coats with their first spots appearing after they are 1 week old.

    * Cats spend approximately 30% of their waking hours grooming themselves.

    * Greyhounds are the world's fastest dogs with the ability to reach up to 45 mph.

    * Cat whiskers are so sensitive they can detect the slightest change in air current.

    * Nine percent of dog owners will have a birthday party for their pet.

    * "American Shorthair" is the designation reserved for pedigreed cats, while similar-looking cats of mixed or unknown origin are called "domestic shorthairs."

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

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    This has always been "a totally bogus case," Edward "NJ Weedman" Forchion said. "I'm un-convictable."

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    High schools from New Jersey celebrate prom 2018.

    Photographers from NJ Advance Media are covering proms around the state. Check out the list below with our most recent prom photo galleries from the past week. 

    Be sure to check out our complete prom coverage at

    Lori M. Nichols may be reached at Follow her on Instagram @photog_lori and Twitter @photoglori. Find on Facebook. Have a tip? Tell us.

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    Hungry? Chase after these mobile eateries, which are the best around, according to the website.

    Are you a food truck connoisseur? Then perhaps you've heard of these six legendary N.J. trucks, which the Daily Meal says are among the top 101 in the country.

    Just making the list at number 100 is Aroy-D, the Thai Elephant, out of Verona, which serves up pad thai, drunken noodles, pad see ew, dumplings and more. Aroy-D, which is Thai for "very yummy" claims to be "New Jersey's first and only authentic Thai food truck." 

    "Thailand-born Pupay moved to the United States in 2006 and soon began longing for her native Thai food, which she started making at home. One day she sent food into the office of her husband, Jon, and his co-workers went crazy for it," the Daily Meal says.

    The truck, launched in 2011, was also part of the Food Network's Great Food Truck Race.

    Next on the list at number 95 is Cupcake Carnivale, for the sweets lovers. With a home base in Princeton, this truck cruises through Jersey and Philly. 

    "Cupcake Carnivale's cupcake varieties -- from "That's S'more" to "Not Your Father's Root BEER Float" to "Strawberry Oreo Cookies & Cream" and about 50 others -- are some of the most imaginative creations we've ever seen, and among the most delicious around," the ranking says. 

    Two notches up the list is Mannino's Cannoli Express, number 93, serving Gaby Mannino's famous cannoli for the past eight years.

    "She buys shells baked in Sicily (which are wider than most domestically made shells) and makes the filling in her family's Italian restaurant, in alternate varieties like chocolate and blueberry," the Daily Meal says.

    Then comes the Polkadot Cupcake Shop out of Nutley, which landed at number 51 in the list. The ranking says folks reached out in droves to add the truck to last year's ranking. 

    It scored for "classics like the signature red velvet and birthday cake varieties; specialty creations like "Better Than Sex" (with chocolate cake, mousse, frosting, drizzle, and sprinkles), PBJ, and salted caramel peanut butter pretzel; cocktail cupcakes made with booze; and a monthly special."

    Closer to the top at number eight is the Cinnamon Snail, originally out of New York City (with a brick-and-mortar store in Penn Station), but now serving Red Bank and surrounds with vegan goodies.

    "Try the red curry grilled tofu on a grilled pretzel bun with pickled jalapenos and carrots, curried cashews, arugula, and Sriracha mayonnaise," suggests the ranking. "How about a burger? Go for the smoked sage seitan burger with sage seitan sausage baked ziti, marinated kale, smoked chili coconut bacon, and roasted garlic aioli. Gluten-free? Replace any bun or bread with millet flax bread or have your meal served over greens and red quinoa pilaf."

    And the best of the bunch?

    According to the Daily Meal, the top food truck in Jersey is ... drum roll ... Oink and Moo BBQ, at number five in the country, which has "operated in New Jersey since 2012, enjoying its status as a well-kept Garden State secret in towns like Hoboken and Asbury Park."

    The Daily Meal says that after the truck expanded to serving Philly, it won a "Vendy award" for Rookie of the Year: "The concept is simple: beef brisket or pulled pork barbecue done well (not well-done) in the form of sliders, chili, tacos, quesadillas, and ribs."

    What's your favorite Jersey food truck? Tell us in the comments.

    Jessica Remo may be reached at Follow her on Twitter @JessicaRemoNJ. Find on Facebook.

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    See the favorites, contenders and more from each section.

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    Victim Gregory Wright Jr., of Lawrence, was known as 'Lil Greg'

    Authorities do not suspect Eric Prescott set out to kill Gregory Wright Jr., when he pushed him during a fight in Trenton last year.

    But he did not help him out either.

    Prescott, 30, was charged last week with second-degree manslaughter and endangering an injured person for the death of Wright, 27, the Mercer County Prosecutor's Office said Monday.

    wright.jpgGregory Wright Jr. 

    Police found Wright behind the wheel of his 2010 Lexus on Spring Street near Kafer Alley on the night of Nov. 28, 2017. 

    He was pronounced dead at a city hospital and authorities initially said they considered his death suspicious. Earlier this year, a medical examiner ruled his death a homicide following testing.

    The prosecutor's office alleges Prescott and Wright got into an argument, outside of Wright's car, and Prescott pushed him.

    Wright fell and hit his head and face on the street, and Prescott picked him and put him in the driver's seat.

    Prescott then left the area and did not call for any medical help.

    The prosecutor's office will not be seeking to detail Prescott pending trial, an office spokeswoman said.

    Wright was known as "Lil Greg.

    He graduated from Nottingham High School in Hamilton in 2008 and attended Mercer County Community College for performing arts. He formerly worked at Shop-Rite and Sonic, his obituary said.

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


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    The zip code listed is from California

    A resident of Haddon Court in Hopewell Township found a parking ticket on their car Monday that township police say is fake and not issued by the nearby town of Pennington.

    Anyone who received one - others in the Hopewell Grant Development might have - should not make any payments on them, police say.

    The ticket is titled, "Notice of Delinquent Parking Violation" and lists a $40.10 penalty due before May 25. The notice lists a Pennington postal box and phone number listed for making payments.

    And it has a the seal of New Jersey.

    But there are some clues that the notice is fraud: Pennington is listed as a city, when it's a borough, and the zip code that accompanies the Pennington mailing address is 90030, which is in California.

    Police made public a copy of the fake notice for residents to compare in case they find one on their vehicle.

    Anyone who can provide information about the notices is asked to contact the Hopewell Township Police Department at 609-737-3100 ext. 0.

    Other towns in New Jersey have dealt with similar ticket scams in recent years.

    Parking Violation Scam Alert.jpgA purported parking violation from Pennington that police say is fake 

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


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    Thunder pitcher Jonathan Loaisiga, who 1-0 with Trenton this year (4-0 overall), was placed on the 7-Day DL with a blister. Watch video

    Both Greg Bird and Billy McKinney have came through Trenton over the last few years, on the way up to the Bronx to play for the newly named "Baby Bombers".

    Monday night, both players were back with the Thunder, as they rehab their way back to fitness to help the Yankees.

    The duo came up from Tampa, to join Trenton as it took on Akron in the first of a three-game series, before Bowie comes in for four. Bird played first base and hit third, in his seven innings, while McKinney batted second and played left field.

    Bird, who was last with the Thunder in 2015, has 348 plate appearances with the Yankees since he made his debut at the end of that season. But his time in the majors has been fraught with injuries (he missed all of the 2016 season and much of the 2017 campaign), something that has already reared its head again in 2018. He had a second bone spur removed this spring, following the same procedure last year.

    "It is good to be back in games, and get my feet back under me," Bird said. "All in all, last week (in Tampa) was a good week, and I am just looking forward to carrying that over into this week, and getting more reps and more playing time.

    "For me, it is consistency. At-bat to at-bat, inning to inning, and then a day to day kind of thing. I am getting used to playing every day again, and be able to go out and play back to back nights, and keep that going.

    "Ultimately, that is the goal, to be able to play every day, and be productive every day. So just having positive at-bats, and playing good defense, and carrying that over every single day."

    McKinney was here last year with the Thunder, as part of the Eastern Division title team. He went 1-for-4 on March 30 against the Blue Jays, then was injured the next day and placed on the 10-Day DL.

    "I am feeling pretty good," McKinney said. "It has been a long process, but I am excited to get back. I am just taking it day to day, and just trying to do better and feel better.

    "For me personally, I am just trying to go out there and not have to think about anything. I just want to think about playing, and not have to worry about injury. I just want to feel good, and go out there and help the team."

    Both players will be here for the rest of the home stand, but neither will play Wednesday for the 10:30 a.m. getaway day contest with the RubberDucks.

    Scouting reports on Yankees prospects from Trenton manager Jay Bell


    Bird went 0-for-3 in his seven innings, while McKinney was 0-for-4 with a walk, as the Thunder won 3-2 in 10 innings on a walk off sacrifice fly from Chris Gittens.

    The Yankees made two other moves Monday. Brandon Drury, who rehabbed in Trenton last week before he moved back up to Triple A Scranton Wilkes-Barre, was activated from the 10-Day DL.

    He was optioned to Scranton.

    Thunder pitcher Jonathan Loaisiga, who 1-0 with Trenton this year (4-0 overall), was placed on the 7-Day DL with a blister.

    Outfielder Jeff Hendryx was activated from the 7-Day DL Saturday, and played in the Thunder's 3-2 win over Richmond. Trenton spilt the four-game series with the Flying Squirrels.

    The Thunder (22-13) have taken over first place in the Eastern League Eastern Division by a game over New Hampshire, coming into Monday's three game series with Akron (21-15). The RubberDucks lead the Western Division by 1.5 games over Altoona.

    Contact Sean Miller at Follow him on Twitter @TheProdigalSean

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    Statistics show that as many of one in 10 of our high school students has tried to kill himself or herself.

    Lawmakers are considering a variety of approaches to stem an epidemic that makes suicide the third leading cause of death among New Jersey's young people:

    • Training school workers to recognize the signs of bullying before they get out of hand.
    • Assembling a panel of experts to study ways to relieve the burdens too many teenagers grapple with on every day.
    • And, boosting schools' ability to provide mental-health services.

    Whatever action they arrive at, it can't come fast enough. Statistics show that as many of one in 10 of our high school students has tried to kill himself or herself.

    The relentless noise of social media, the fragmentation of family life, the constant striving to get into a good college or find a good job - parents and teachers can only shudder when they imagine what's going on in young people's minds.

    It's of little comfort that in the Garden State, the rate of death by suicide by that peer group remains below the national norm.

    Nearly 800 of our youngsters died by their own hand in 2015, meaning the adults in the room need to recognize the enormous toll these pressures take on a vulnerable population.

    One advocate for mental-health awareness is leading an effort to reduce the depression and bullying that are often suicide's silent companions.

    State Sen. Richard Codey (D-Livingston) is backing a plan that would enhance schools' capacity to provide mental health services, as well as create a statewide Teen Suicide and Depression Task Force to study prevention methods and come back to legislators within a year with a well-developed strategy.

    Coalition needed to address rising rates of teen suicide

    Another of his suggestions involves offering workshops for school employees who might not have received the same training as teachers -- secretaries, security guards and teachers' aides -- but who interact daily with students.

    These people might be the first to notice the signs that all is not right with a lonely freshman or an alienated senior.

    Codey is also set to introduce a measure that would appropriate $1 million to fund a grant process within the state Department of Education that would help schools expand their mental health services.

    To our credit, the state has already put in place a variety of support services for people of all ages who are in crisis, including the New Jersey Suicide Prevention Hopeline, 1-855-654-6735, for adolescents who want to connect with a trained peer counselor or a mental health professional.

    The state also provides the funding for Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care to run a network of Traumatic Loss Coalitions, which train school professionals and coordinates counseling and support services when schools experience traumatic events.

    If tuberculosis or polio were killing our youth, we'd take immediate steps to rein in the monster. We need an equally robust and coordinated effort to stare down the monster that is suicide.

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

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    See the May 15th edition of the girls lacrosse Top 20.

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    After Garden State voters backed a measure to legalize sports betting in 2011 to prop up struggling casinos, New Jersey challenged the ban. Watch video

    Let the wagering begin.

    The multibillion-dollar sports industry entered a new era Monday, when the U.S. Supreme Court tossed out a longtime federal ban on sports gambling -- a ban New Jersey has been opposing for years.

    The move clears the way for fans to bet on college and pro sports games, horse racing, golf, and even non-American sporting events. And to do so legally.

    The now-defunct law, which Congress enacted in the 1990s largely at the urging of sports leagues such as the National Football League and the National Basketball Association, pertained to all states but Nevada, Montana, Oregon and Delaware.

    Supporters of the ban argued that if fans were allowed to bet on a match's outcome, coaches, officials and players would all too easily succumb to the temptation to throw games to win a bet.

    After Garden State voters backed a measure to legalize sports betting in 2011 to prop up struggling casinos, New Jersey challenged the ban; 18 other states eventually joined the Supreme Court case, now known as Murphy v. NCAA.

    Will sports betting save Atlantic City and N.J. horse racing?

    In his opinion for the court, Justice Samuel Alito - a native of New Jersey - wrote of the ban, "A more direct affront to state sovereignty is not easy to imagine."

    New Jersey comes out a winner with this ruling. Our coffers stand to benefit handsomely from the increased jobs, tourism and tax revenue, with Atlantic City's casinos among the biggest potential winners.

    The American Gaming Association estimates that Americans shell out nearly $150 billion on illegal sports wagers every year.

    Former state Sen. Raymond Lesniak, D-Union, termed Monday's decision "a savior for casinos and racetracks," predicting that a younger generation will look to the Jersey Shore as a destination to watch sporting events, dine, shop and rent rooms.

    "Atlantic City has seen major growth over the past year, with two new casinos opening next month and online gaming revenues rising," Assembly Majority Leader Louis Greenwald, D-Camden and Burlington counties, said in a statement Monday.

    "Thanks to today's ... decision, we can add regulated sports betting to the list of Atlantic City attractions fueling a comeback."

    Notice the assemblyman's use of the word "regulated," and note it well. While we enthusiastically embrace the revenue-making potential of the Supreme Court's action, we're aware that as with any other "vice," sports betting requires strict oversight - and abundant caution.

    Gov. Phil Murphy tacitly acknowledged that reality when he said, "I look forward to working with the Legislature to enact a law authorizing and regulating sports betting in the very near future."

    While we're as eager as the next Yankees or Phillies fans to put our money down on the next game, we hope our lawmakers take their time in crafting a bill that covers all the bases, from supporting people with gambling addictions to protecting the integrity of the games themselves.

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


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    Three of the Yankees top pitching prospects are currently on the DL, and all of them have ties to the 2018 Trenton Thunder.

    Three of the Yankees top pitching prospects are currently on the DL.

    All of the starting pitchers have ties to the 2018 Trenton Thunder, and are on the Yankees 40-man roster.

    Number three prospect Justus Sheffield, who started the campaign in Trenton before he was called up to Triple A Scranton Wilkes-Barre, left the RailRiders game Friday night with shoulder stiffness.

    In Trenton, number 12 prospect Jonathan Loaisiga (1-0, 1.80 ERA in two starts with the Thunder), who was called up from Tampa to replace Sheffield, went on the 7-Day DL Monday with a blister. Domingo Acevedo (0-1, 2.61 ERA in two starts), the number eight prospect, is working his way back to form from a blister as well, one that sent him to the 7-Day DL on April 13.

    Thunder manager Jay Bell gave an update on the two Thunder pitchers Monday night, after Trenton's 3-2 10 inning win over Akron to start the seven-game home stand.

    "Acevedo pitched a sim game today," Bell said. "He pitched really, really well. He threw about 25 pitches. He left this afternoon, headed down to Florida.

    "He will pitch in extended. I don't know how many starts. I am not privy to that. But he is going to go down there and make as many starts as they decide. Once he gets ready to come back, he will be back."

    Yankees Greg Bird, Billy McKinney rehab Monday with Thunder

    Loaisiga should not be out nearly as long as Acevedo. Bell thinks he could miss just one or two starts.

    "I don't think so," Bell said when asked if it would be awhile. "I think it is maybe one or two starts. It is retroactive, so we get to go back to the date of the 10th. It was necessary because I think in Triple A they made a move to option (Brandon) Drury down.

    "With that, they had to make a subsequent move. I don't know if it is announced yet whether someone is coming down here from Triple A, or someone is going to come up from A ball. Nonetheless, we had to make a roster move, so it just kind of made sense."


    Greg Bird and Billy McKinney will continue their rehabs for the Thunder home stand, which runs through Sunday, weather permitting.

    Both players will be given off Wednesday for the 10:30 a.m. start, although if the impending weather forces a cancellation Tuesday night, and makes Wednesday a double header, the duo could make an appearance Wednesday.

    "I think they will be here through this home stand," Bell said. "Bird will play first base tomorrow (Tuesday). "For the 10:30 a.m. game, I think we are going to work them out, Billy and him, after the game on Wednesday

    "They will play three games after that, and then maybe that fourth game, the day game Sunday, they will go back to New York or wherever. We will have them through the home stand.

    "Neither will DH Wednesday, unless something happens with the weather (Tuesday). Then if we play the double header, then they will probably do something the second game."

    Bird was 0-for-3 Monday night in the win over the RubberDucks, while McKinney was 0-for-4.

    Contact Sean Miller at Follow him on Twitter @TheProdigalSean

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    The 18-year-old was reportedly on her way home from work when she was hit by a car

    An 18-year-old high school student was struck and killed by a car while attempting to cross a busy highway in Burlington County on Monday night, authorities said.

    Angelica Volcy, of Bordentown Township, was hit at the intersection of Route 130 and Crosswicks Road in Bordentown, police said. 

    An Infiniti G35 driven by a Woodbury woman was traveling southbound on Route 130 around 10:15 p.m. when it struck Volcy, police said. The driver had a green light at the intersection at the time of the collision, police said.

    Volcy was taken to Capital Health Regional Medical Center and pronounced dead just after 11 p.m. 

    Volcy was a junior at Bordentown Regional High School. The district brought in grief counselors Tuesday, and planned to make the services available as needed throughout the week. 

    "This student's loss is being felt deeply within our school and our community," a letter from the high school's principal, Robert Walder, said in a letter to students and their families.

    "We have asked our students and staff to look after one another as we deal with the loss of our student, classmate and friend," he wrote. 

    A Facebook post from Volcy's aunt said the teen was walking home from work when she was struck. 

    The road has become notorious for pedestrian-involved crashes, and ranks as the deadliest in the state. Another high school student from Burlington City, Antwan Timbers, was killed while walking along the road two years ago. 

    The crash remains under investigation and police ask that anyone with information contact them at 609-298-4300, ext. 2130.

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

    Have a tip? Tell us.


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    A third man is in stable condition

    Three men were shot in Trenton on Monday night, and two remain hospitalized in critical condition.

    The men were shot on Middle Rose Street around 7 p.m., Trenton Police Lt. Steve Varn said.

    A 23-year-old and a 26-year-old were each shot in the back, and a 21-year-old was shot in the thigh. All three were taken to Capital Health Regional Medical Center in Trenton.

    There, the men who were shot in the back went into emergency surgery, Varn said. They were still listed in critical condition Monday. The third man is in stable condition.

    The Trenton police Shooting Response Team is investigating the incident.

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

    Have a tip? Tell us. 


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    30 N.J. softball alums and their prospects in the tournament

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    Todd Ritter, 54, of Millstone (Monmouth County), who was facing charges of tampering with public records, falsifying and tampering with records and assault, will get non-custodial probation. Watch video

    A Piscataway cop who punched a handcuffed man in the back of his police cruiser earlier this year has cut a deal in to avoid prison and potentially still get his pension. 

    Todd Ritter, 54, of Millstone (Monmouth County), who was facing charges of tampering with public records, falsifying and tampering with records and assault, will get non-custodial probation, eliminating any possibility of jail time, after accepting a plea deal from the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office.

    IMG_1722.JPGPiscataway officer Todd Ritter, 54, of Millstone (Monmouth County) 

    Ritter pleaded guilty Tuesday to falsifying records and a reduced charge of simple assault before Superior Court Judge Joseph Rea and a courtroom filled with other of police officers, family and friends.

    The deal will also force Ritter to forfeit his position in the department after nearly 22 years on the job and bar him from holding any public positions in the future.

    In exchange for the deal, though, the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office will not take a position when his pension review goes before the state board. 

    "(The state) will not petition the board to not give him his pension, but we will work with them to provide evidence," Middlesex County Assistant Prosecutor Christine D'Elia said.

    As the room emptied in the afternoon following a brief hearing, one of the women called the event "a travesty of justice" but would not say who she was or how she knew Ritter. The group of people declined to comment. 

    The February encounter between Ritter and Isiah Benbow occurred after the 19-year-old was arrested on obstruction and resisting charges. Benbow was thrashing in the backseat of the cruiser kicking the glass between the front and back seats, yelling at and eventually threatening Ritter, according to the police video from the car. 

    "You think it's funny?" Benbow asks in the recording after telling the story of his arrest. "He got mad because I said something, and he gone and slammed me. ... I said I can't breathe, then he threatened and said he was going to f--- me up and everything."

    "I'm gonna break it," Benbow yells. "... Why you gotta lie? ... I'm gonna kill all you all (expletive), watch!"

    Ritter then gets out of the car, opens the back door and punches Benbow in the face.

    The officer, who had been suspended without pay after the incident, admitted Tuesday that he lied on his police report in which he said the man had kicked him in the groin. 

    In the video of the encounter, Ritter says to one of the other officers afterward "This a--hole just kicked me in the nuts."

    "He's lying! I swear to God, he's lying! He punched me in my face!" Benbow yells.

    "Shut up," Ritter responds as he wrestles the man out of the cruiser.

    Benbow was yelling that he'd been roughed up when he was arrested. A cell phone video obtained by NJ Advance Media corroborated some of his narrative in which he said that Ritter's partner, officer Christopher Mahaley, slammed him to the ground and threatened him. 

    The cell phone video also showing Ritter trying to pick the 19-year-old up by his hair, but dropped him when he's about halfway up. 

    Ritter, who had applied for pre-trial intervention, withdrew his application as part of the plea deal.

    His sentencing is set for July 6.

    Craig McCarthy may be reached at 732-372-2078 or at Follow him on Twitter @createcraig and on Facebook here. Find on Facebook.

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    Ed Forchion kicked off his latest trial kneeling, an ode to ex-NFL quarterback and national anthem kneeler Colin Kaepernick Watch video

    At the start of Ed "NJ Weedman" Forchion's second witness tampering trial, he wanted jurors to know what he's all about.

    Clad in a bright green marijuana print suit, the marijuana activist told the 11 women and four men on the jury that he was "a peaceful, patriotic pothead" who wasn't guilty of third-degree witness tampering.

    He said he was just exercising his First Amendment rights when he sent packages containing letters and photos to the family of a confidential informant in the marijuana dealing case against him, calling him a "snitch" and a "rat."

    During opening statements, Assistant Mercer County Prosecutor John Boyle and Forchion -- who is again representing himself -- explained in front of Mercer County Superior Court Judge Anthony Massi that in the fall of 2016 and winter of 2017, Forchion identified the informant, posted about him on social media and sent packages to his family.

    "You're going to evaluate if this conduct would cause someone to not want to come in, to avoid testifying," Boyle told jurors. "Of course, it's going to rattle you."

    When Forchion first addressed the jurors, he did so on his knee.

    "Not to beg," he said. "But in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick."

    Forchion acknowledged that he did send items to the informant's family, but he wasn't breaking the law. He said a motion to protect the identity of the informant had been filed, but a judge had not signed it.

    "I think you'll see this is a bull@#$% case," he told jurors. "You have to commit a crime to be convicted and I did not commit a crime."

    Forchion said arguments from the prosecution that that he wanted to prevent the informant from testifying are not true.

    "I've always wanted him to testify to the truth," he added. "Nothing I did was ever designed for him not to testify to the truth."

    Expo preview

    The informant's parents testified before the jury after opening statements, detailing the packages they received and how it made them feel.

    In October of 2016, prosecutors allege, Forchion sent threatening mail to the informant's family from various return addresses.

    In one package was a copy of a civil suit Forchion had added the informant's name to, and copies of a newspaper article about it, where he wrote "rat" and called him a drug addict. Other paperwork included photos of the informant, with the caption "I am a rat fink" and accused the informant of trading sex for drugs.

    A handwritten note to the informant's father instructed him to give the documents to his son. 

    "I thought, 'there's a person trying to scare me, this is a sick person,'" the informant's father testified. 

    The informant's mother testified about a message she received, a flyer from a Bordentown Drug Watch that named her son as being "involved in illegal opiate painkiller activity." She said her research shows no such group exists.

    After they alerted local police about the packages, the informant's mother said the couple changed their behavior after receiving the packages. They don't go out shopping alone and are cautious of receiving mail.

    The informant's father said they installed a security system in their home.

    Forchion and his consulting counsel, Christopher Campbell, did little cross-examination during the first day of trial.

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

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    Of the 47 hospitals in New Jersey that deliver babies and submitted data for analysis, only 9 met Leapfrog's standard of an acceptable number of c-sections.

    New Jersey hospitals' longstanding problem of unnecessarily delivering babies by Cesarian-section got worse last year, a practice that puts mothers and their infants at a greater risk of complications, according to a new report released Tuesday.

    New Jersey, Florida, Kentucky, New York and Texas recorded the highest number of C-section deliveries in the nation, according to the Leapfrog Group, a nonprofit organization that issues biannual report cards on hospital safety. 

    Of the 47 hospitals in New Jersey that deliver babies and submitted data for analysis, only nine met Leapfrog's standard of performing no more than 23.9 percent C-sections, according to the report. In last year's report, 11 hospitals met that standard.

    C-sections put mothers at risk of infection and blood clots, prolong the recovery process, create chronic pelvic pain and may cause problems in future pregnancies. For infants, C-sections put them at greater risk of developing breathing problems, such as asthma, and diabetes, according to the report.

    Linda Schwimmer, president and CEO of the New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute, a research and consumer advocacy group, said the report provides critical information the public needs to know when choosing a hospital.

    "At the Quality Institute, improving maternity care is an essential part of our over all mission. The Leapfrog findings show the absolute need for our work," Schwimmer said. 

    "New Jersey can and must do better to reduce C-section rates, which vary widely among hospitals. There are times when a C-section is needed. But, the hospital where an expectant mother delivers her baby should not be the determining factor of whether or not she has a surgical birth, Schwimmer said.

    "Now is the time for hospital leadership to prioritize maternal and child health throughout New Jersey."

    N.J. among the worst states for high numbers of C-sections

    The warnings about unnecessary C-section deliveries are not new. The medical community has been trying for years to reduce the frequency of the procedure if it is not medically recommended.

    The Leapfrog Group, a non-profit group that focuses on hospital safety has taken on the issue with health benefits consultant Castlight by issuing these periodic reports.

    "Childbirth is the number one reason for hospitalization among all populations and age groups," Castlight Chief Product Officer, Maeve O'Meara said in a statement.

    "That alone tells us how critical it is to provide this information not just to consumers but to employers as well, who have a high stake in the care their employees receive. Employers should understand how hospitals are performing and we're pleased to partner with Leapfrog to bring this information into the sunlight."

    The Leapfrog survey looked solely at births among first time mothers of single babies - not twins - that were in the conventional head-down position. The findings are based on data from calendar year or fiscal year 2017.

    Christ Hospital in Jersey City reported the lowest C-section rate, at 14 percent, according to the report. CentraState Medical Center in Freehold recorded the highest C-section rates, at 42.1 percent.

    "CentraState readily acknowledges our current C-section trends and we are working with our physicians and clinicians on improving processes to lower the number of c-sections performed at CentraState," Abbey Dardozzi, a hospital spokeswoman, said in an email. "We are also very proud of our low infant and maternal mortality rates."

    In addition to Christ Hospital, the other hospitals that met the safety standard were:

    Capital Health Medical Center, Hopewell;

    Hoboken University Medical Center;

    Cooper University Hospital, Camden;

    Holy Name Medical Center, Teaneck;

    Inspira Medical Center, Elmer;

    Trinitas Regional Medical Center, Elizabeth;

    University Hospital, Newark;

    Virtua Voorhees Hospital.

    Atlantic Regional Medical Center in Atlantic City and Meadowlands Hospital Medical Center in Secaucus, which recently changed its name to Hudson Regional Hospital, did not supply data and are not included in the findings.

    Health Commissioner Shereef Elnahal praised Leapfrog for focusing attention on this important public health issue. 

    "A number of hospitals perform quite well," Elnahal said. "Our goal is to create a maternal care quality collaborative to spread the best practices that the highest performing hospitals are achieving and make sure that as many hospitals as possible can replicate them."

    The report also highlighted the need to cut down the number of early deliveries they perform, defined as delivering a baby before 39 weeks without medical necessity. Babies delivered too early are at risk of pneumonia and other respiratory diseases, and in rare cases, death.

    Only two hospitals exceeded the 5 percent maximum: Hackensack University Medical Center, at 7.1 percent, and Englewood Hospital and Medical Center, at 10.3 percent. 

    Susan K. Livio may be reached at Follow her on Twitter @SusanKLivio. Find Politics on Facebook.

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