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Central Jersey News from the Times of Trenton

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    Pitcher Nick Nelson was transferred from Tampa to Trenton, while catcher Francisco Diaz was transferred from Scranton to Trenton. Watch video

    It has been a good year to be a Thunder player on the Yankees 40-man roster.

    Just one month since Jonathan Loaisiga made the jump from Trenton to the Bronx, Domingo Acevedo got the call Friday night and was on the roster Saturday, as the Yankees took on the Mets in the Subway Series.

    Ryan Bollinger, who is currently with Trenton, was also called up to New York for a day earlier in the season.

    Yankees manager spoke to the press Saturday about Acevedo, who had been with the Thunder for parts of the 2017 season and for all of 2018.

    "Acevedo is stretched out as a starter, he's built up to 100 pitches and he's on his fifth day, so he gives us that protection if we got into a situation where we needed a lot of length," Boone told NJ Advance Media's Randy Miller. "He's the best option for us right now.

    "Early in spring his velocity was down. He's kind of worked his way back and I think started to gain some momentum and traction. The velocity's been back in the mid-90s. He's got a really good changeup and a slider. He's been throwing the ball pretty well."

    In 50.2 innings of work over 11 appearances in 2018 for the Thunder, Acevedo went 2-2, with a 2.84 ERA and 40 strikeouts. He was 5-1 with a 2.38 ERA last season for Trenton as well, with 82 strikeouts.

    Devyn Bolasky continues torrid run with Thunder


    * Justus Sheffield may be the next pitcher that spent time in Trenton this year to head to the Bronx. The lefty started 2018 with the Thunder before he was called up to Triple A Scranton Wilkes-Barre after his start May 1.

    Any movement would depend on how active the Yankees are over the next week before the trade deadline. 

    * The loss of Acevedo to the majors comes at a time when the Thunder have been struggling.

    Since July 1, Trenton has fallen on hard times in the standings. The Thunder are 8-11 in July, and have fallen behind New Hampshire in the Eastern League Eastern Division standings.

    But even in June, Trenton was not very consistent on the field; the Thunder were just one game over .500, at 14-13 and are now 22-24 since June 1.

    While the pitching has been the backbone of the team for the third year running, the offense has been blowing hot and cold, especially after the All-Star break.

    Trenton was averaging over seven runs a game in the 10 wins prior to the break, but had struggled to score runs in the losses over that period. Since the Thunder got back on the field 11 days ago, they have scored six runs or more three times, and have scored three runs or less seven times.

    With Acevedo in the majors, and Dillon Tate on the 7-Day DL with a quad injury, this home stand could be pivotal for Trenton. Third place Hartford will play the first three games, followed by four with last place Portland, which was 40-58 heading into Monday. 

    Hartford is five games back of the Thunder heading into the series opener Monday night.

    Trenton then hits the road for much of August, with just nine games at Arm & Hammer Park for the whole month, and only eight before August 31. The Thunder end the season with four games at home against Reading.

    * With Acevedo recalled to the major leagues, there were corresponding moves Saturday to the Thunder roster.

    Pitcher Nick Nelson was transferred from High A Tampa to Trenton, while catcher Francisco Diaz was transferred from Scranton Wilkes-Barre to Trenton.

    Pitcher Garrett Whitlock was sent down from Trenton to Tampa.

    Nelson pitched Sunday in the get-away day game with Binghamton.

    Contact Sean Miller at Follow him on Twitter @TheProdigalSean

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    His attorney said the guilty plea would have been a "death sentence"

    The former pastor who pleaded guilty earlier this year to assaulting multiple children wants to withdraw his guilty, his lawyer said in court.

    Harry Thomas, 75, of Medford, was facing a 20-year prison term without parole for the sexual assault of four minors, as well as inappropriate interactions with a fifth child, under a plea agreement with Burlington County prosecutors made in February. 

    Thomas' attorney, Robin Lord, said the guilty plea was a "death sentence," according to The Courier Post.

    Screen Shot 2017-12-07 at 10.27.25 AM.pngHarry L. Thomas, a former pastor at Come Alive Church in Medford

    Lord did not immediately respond to a request for further comment about the plea change.

    He was scheduled to be sentenced this past Friday, but following his decision to withdraw the plea, Thomas is now scheduled to appear in court this coming Friday, the paper reported.

    Superior Court Judge Jeanne Covert apologized to the victims and their families, some of whom were present that day, prepared to read victims impact statements.

    Thomas formerly served as pastor of Come Alive Church in Medford and founded the Creation Festival, billed as the nation's largest Christian music festival. He was suspended from both of his positions after being charged.

    Thomas was first charged in December 2017 for aggravated sexual assault, sexual assault and endangering the welfare of a child.

    The assaults took place in Medford over a period of 16 years, between 1995 and 2015, the Burlington County Prosecutor's Office said.

    He is being held in the Burlington County jail.

    Gianluca D'Elia may be reached at gdelia@njadvancemedia.comFollow him on Twitter @gianluca_delia. Find on Facebook.

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    Although curfews came into being as a way to keep kids and their communities safe from dangerous situations, one study by the Brookings Institute showed that empty streets are more likely to harbor crime than more heavily populated ones.

    For generations, New Jersey's teenagers have grown up in municipalities that forbid them from being on the streets at night unaccompanied by an adult - and for generations they've chafed at the restrictions.

    And so have many adults, who wonder how effectively the laws keep our young people safe, how large a role racial disparity plays in their enforcement, and whether they're even worth the paper they're are written on.

    The evidence is decidedly ... undecided.

    Cities like Newark have had summer curfews on their books since the 1940s, while other large metropolises such - notably New York City - have opted out.

    Although curfews came into being as a way to keep kids and their communities safe from dangerous situations, one study by the Brookings Institute showed that empty streets are more likely to harbor crime than more heavily populated ones.

    The findings also suggested that the drain on public resources and the cost in terms of frayed community relations outweigh any benefits of juvenile curfews.

    Curfews still controversial, but they can pack big fines

    These policies are not necessarily bad in and of themselves, argues Sandra Simpkins, founder and director of the Children's Justice Law Clinic at Rutgers Law School, Camden, but there is proof that they are most heavily enforced in communities of color.

    In an FBI study, African-American youths were 269 percent more likely to be arrested in connection with violating curfew laws than their white peers were, Simpkins notes.

    In Camden, for example, the number of young people charged with violating curfew has been significantly higher than in any other city, although Dan Keashen, the city's police public information officer, says the goal overall is not to single out teenagers for ticketing.

    Meanwhile, elected and police chiefs in many parts of the state insist that limiting the hours that young people can come into contact with criminal activity helps assure their wellbeing.

    "The safest place for children at night is under the mindful supervision of their parents or another trusted adult, and not on the streets," New Public Safety Director Anthony Ambrose said in a statement. "The overnight hours are particularly hazardous for children because fewer family members and neighbors are outdoors to monitor their safety."

    The sentiment echoes that of Bill Clinton, who in 1996 authorized $75 million to help local governments enact curfews and other ordinances designed to fight crime.

    "They help keep our children out of harm's way," the former president said upon signing the federal measure.

    We're far from ready to call for an end to juvenile curfews, at least until more definitive evidence comes our way. But we do echo the call for more equitable enforcement, and we also urge parents not to off-load their primary responsibility as caretakers.

    They, not the cops, need to keep a close watch on their kids during these long summer nights.

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


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    Todd Ritter was a 22-year Piscataway police officer Watch video

    A former police officer who admitted to hitting a handcuffed suspect in a patrol car and trying to cover it up was sentenced to six months probation on Monday.

    Those charges against Todd Ritter ended his 22-year career as an officer in Piscataway. He was suspended without pay in February upon being charged.

    About two weeks before, 19-year-old Isiah Benbow was thrashing in the backseat of Ritter's cruiser kicking the glass between the front and back seats, yelling at and eventually threatening Ritter. The incident was captured on police video.

    "I'm gonna break it," Benbow yells about the glass partition. "... 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.

    He later admitted falsifying a report to indicate that Benbow kicked him in the groin.

    Ask Alexa

    Ritter, a 54-year-old resident of Millstone, Monmouth County pleaded guilty to simple assault in May and agreed to forfeit public employment.

    Judge Joseph Rea, when sentencing Ritter in Superior Court in New Brunswick said he received 33 letters of support for the ex-officer, according to Rea said he could have given Ritter between one and five years probation, but said six months was enough, according to the report.

    "All of us to varying degrees make mistakes. It's very important for you to understand this is a lapse. This does not make you a bad person. Don't forget that," Rea said, the news site reported.

    Ritter's wife also testified, as did two crime victims whom Ritter had helped during his career.

    Ritter joined the force in 1996 and had a salary of $120,948 before he was suspended.

    This article contains information from The Associated Press.

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

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    Acevedo was back on the mound at Arm & Hammer Park Monday night, pitching for the Thunder as they took on Hartford

    It was an exhilarating few days for Domingo Acevedo, a weekend that he would not trade for much.

    Except another chance to head back to the big leagues.

    Acevedo was back on the mound at Arm & Hammer Park Monday night, pitching for the Thunder as they took on Hartford in the first of a three-game series with the Yard Goats. He pitched well, going seven innings and allowing two earned runs, in Trenton's 4-0 loss.

    The Thunder game was the end of a crazy 72-hour period, which saw him travel from Binghamton to the Bronx, and then back to Trenton. The big righty was informed around 11 p.m. Friday night that he was heading to the major leagues for the first time in his career, to join up with the Yankees in their Subway Series against the Mets.

    Acevedo was in a Yankees' uniform Saturday, as they held off a late rally from their cross-town rivals to win 7-6. He was there in case Sonny Gray came out of the game early, but Gray pitched into the sixth inning, and Acevedo was not needed in long relief.

    Sunday night, the finale of the series was rained out, and Acevedo was back on his way to Trenton to pitch Monday night in Double A.

    So how did the weekend whirlwind start for Acevedo?

    He was in his room in Binghamton Friday night when he got a knock on the door, and was not sure at first what he had done.

    "I was in my room watching Netflix, and the manager came to my room," Acevedo said. "It was 11, and I looked at the manager and said, 'Why is the manager here? Why does he need to talk to me?'

    "I saw Norty (Thunder pitching coach Tim Norton) and thought, maybe this is not good. The manager had the translator too. He was talking, and I understood what he was saying. I said, 'Really?' They said ,"Yes.'

    "I felt hot, and had so much energy in my body. I was breathing heavy, and got a big hug from my pitching coach and Jay Bell."

    When he got the news, there was only one person he thought to call first.

    "I had to call my mom," Acevedo said. "That was the first thing I did, because my mother is my hero. She always supports me. I told my mother, father, friends."

    Acevedo got to the Bronx early Saturday, with the game slated to start at 1:05 p.m. He was quickly shown around the stadium, before he made his way out onto the famous turf at Yankee Stadium.

    "The club let me know everything," Acevedo said. "The managers office is here, the cafeteria is here, and I had to go to the field. When I went out there, I checked the grass, because I said, 'This is not a dream, it is real.' 

    "I am not sure how exactly to say how I felt, but I was excited. I didn't take a picture, because I didn't have time. I was ready to get in the game. I asked God to help me, and said, "Let's do this.' 

    "I went to the bathroom though and looked in the mirror, and looked at myself in the uniform. This is my dream, so I was a little excited, and my heart was beating harder."

    MLB scout: Gary Sanchez's laziness could cost Yankees in the World Series

    Monday, Acevedo was back with the Thunder, preparing to make his ninth start of the campaign. For now, he will continue to work hard in Trenton, while he prepares for his eventual call back to the big leagues.

    "I feel great," Acevedo said. "I was on the 25-man roster, and now I am back here. I will keep working hard, will be prepared for anything. I want to keep commanding my pitches, work on my delivery, and be ready for the next opportunity.

    "I don't control that (the next time I get called up). I know that is not my job, so I can just control my hard work, trying to stay healthy, and continue to work on the areas that I need to work on. I have to be ready for the next time.

    "I will continue to work. It doesn't matter whether it is as a reliever, or a starter, I will continue to work. I am more hungry now, and I am going to continue to work harder, and concentrate more on my job. I am 100 percent ready to get back to the big leagues."

    Contact Sean Miller at Follow him on Twitter @TheProdigalSean

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    This is the third of five trip reports in our search for N.J.'s best hot dog joint.

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    Nearly 100 years of rain took its toll on the foundation, and it succumbed to the decades of water damage in an instant Monday morning, killing a woman and trapping her daughters. Watch video

    A pile of rubble now takes up most of one corner of a busy Hamilton Township intersection where a tall, slender home stood for a century. 

    The nearly 100 years of rain and snow took its toll on the foundation of the house, and it succumbed to the decades of water damage in an instant Monday morning, killing a woman and trapping her daughters.

    That was the conclusion of an inspection of the home by Hamilton engineers, who found that the "catastrophic collapse was from the failure of deteriorated concrete block due to long term water penetration."

    Engineers said disintegrating block gave way, and the floor joists slipped off their supports, causing the three-story home to come crashing down, ending the life of a caring mother and forever changing the lives of her daughters and her family.

    hamilton-house-collapse-google.jpgThe house on South Broad Street is shown in a Google Street View image. 

    The pile of rubble where Tika Justice's home once stood is ringed by a temporary fence, the kind one might expect to see at a construction site. The fence is adorned with flowers, crosses and candles, placed in honor of Justice, 38, who died in the collapse while shielding her 16-year-old daughter from falling debris as the South Broad Street home caved in on itself.

    Justice's oldest daughter, 20, was rescued as she tried to escape out of the back of the collapsing house, which came down just before 7 a.m. Monday. 

    Dozens of neighbors and passersby stopped Tuesday to get see the destruction first hand, as an eery smell of dust rode on wind that whipped strips of caution tape from the fencing. 

    Some drivers pressed their brakes to slowly gaze at what was left of the three-story home, while others got out of their cars to try and put together the pieces of how the tragedy happened -- many of whom didn't know Justice. 

    Hamilton Township Mayor Kelly Yaede, who was on the scene of rescue efforts a day prior, among dozens of firefighters and other responders whom dug through rubble, following screams to find Justice's youngest daughter, said she is focusing on how to help the daughters move forward.

    "They have absolutely nothing. No bank cards, no keys, no clothing. So the next phase is how we can help these two daughters get just what they need," Yaede said. 

    Yaede's office has partnered with Saint Phillips Baptist Church and the John O. Wilson Neighborhood Service Center in Hamilton to start a clothing drive for people to make donations to Justice's two daughters.

    The drive will begin Thursday and continue until Friday August 4.

    In the meantime, some of Justice's closest family members had to get up and return to work just a day after learning they lost someone who was known for bringing them all together.

    "She always made sure the family was straight and would help out if she could," said Turia Justice, Tika Justice's niece. "She was the one who brought all the family together when there were any family issues or for family gatherings."

    Turia Justice said Tika Justice was a caring mother who pushed her daughters to go to college. Tika also has an older son who lives with his father, according to Turia Justice. 

    IMG_2510.jpgTuria Justice (left) and her aunt Tika Justice (right) who died when her home collapsed in Hamilton Township (courtesy of Turia Justice) 

    "Aunt Tika was a wonderful person inside and out and I'm torn that she is gone to so soon. But, I know she wanted to save her beautiful daughter and risk her own life to save her baby," she said. 

    Tika Justice worked as a receptionist for John Pavlovsky, a CPA in Bordertown, up until February of this year, who said his employees are all in shock to hear about the tragedy.

    "People in town knew her because she would walk up and down the street and talk to them during her lunch break," Pavlovsky said, adding that he has been in contact with local businesses in Hamilton and Bordentown to help raise funds for Justice's family. 

    Justice's family also set up a GoFundMe to raise money towards her brother who is left to look after his two nieces, while the rest of her family still comes to grips with tragedy. 

    "We will all miss her so much because she was so loud mouthed when she walks into the room to make her presence know," Turia Justice said. "Who I'm gonna go out with now? When you seen her out, you seen me right beside her."

    Cassidy Grom may be reached at Follow her at @cassidygrom. Find on Facebook.

    Alexis Johnson may be reached at Follow her on Twitter @alexisjreports. Find on Facebook.

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    The trial for a Trenton man, indicted for the murder of another teenager when he was 16, began Tuesday

    When Alberto Lopez and a masked, unidentified male named "Mooch" got into a car with two teenage girls in December in 2013 in East Trenton, the girl behind the wheel had a knot in her stomach.

    Her concerns were realized a short time later.

    That was the night Lopez shot Shamere Melvin in the head, robbed him and left his body against the fence of a house on the 300 block of North Clinton Avenue, authorities have alleged.

    smelvinShamere Melvin with his sister in this undated family photo 

    The girl, then 17, recalled that night on the stand Tuesday in the murder trial of Lopez, which saw its first day of testimony.

    She testified she saw Melvin's body fall to the ground through her rear-view mirror, while her friend, who was 16 at the time, saw Lopez standing nearby with a gun.

    Melvin was also 17 when he died.

    Five years later, the shooting is still stuck in the young woman's mind, she admitted as she testified. (The witnesses are now adults, but NJ Advance Media is not naming them because they were juveniles at the time.)

    Lopez, who was 16 at the time of the shooting, is being tried as an adult. After he was waived up to adult court, he was indicted in January 2015 on charges of murder, felony murder, robbery and weapons offenses.

    "This defendant murdered his victim over two ounces of marijuana," Assistant Mercer County Prosecutor Michael Grillo said in his opening statement.

    "Shamere is the victim of a pointless murder," he said.

    Lopez's lawyer, Jason Matey, argued the man responsible for the shooting is the masked man, not Lopez, and that he was just mixed up in a botched drug transaction. 

    "The wrong man is on trial," Matey said. "This was a drug deal gone bad, where teenagers got into a car with a masked man. Alberto had no idea a murder would occur."

    Family mourns 'lovable, silly' 17-year-old gunned down in Trenton

    The tragic evening began when Lopez sent a Facebook message to one of the girls asking her if she knew anyone selling weed. The girl knew Lopez from middle school and went to high school with Melvin, she testified.

    Soon after, she posted a Facebook status, asking her friends to suggest dealers.

    After she reached out to about 10 different people, Lopez and the one female witness arranged to meet with Melvin, who was selling two ounces of marijuana for $700. Grillo also confirmed that Melvin was dealing drugs at the time.

    The drug deal was corroborated through phone and social media records, which Grillo showed on a projector and read out loud in court Tuesday.

    The witness who drove the car recalled that the other girl offered her $30 for gas money to give her a ride, but didn't specify where they would be driving.

    It wasn't until they got on the road that the driver knew she was being directed to Trenton for the drug deal. The girls picked up Lopez and another male - the man wearing a mask known as "Mooch" - on Walnut Avenue.

    Authorities never identified "Mooch."

    When the group of four first met Melvin and another unidentified male near Poplar Street, Lopez called off the deal because "there were too many people around," the witness recalled.

    Lopez then said he would only go through with the transaction if Melvin came alone, one of the girls said.

    The two girls waited in the car near the street corner while he walked farther down the block to meet Melvin, who had two bags of marijuana, one in each of the pockets of his Champion sweatshirt, one of the witnesses recalled.

    The girl driving the car said she saw Lopez shoot Melvin, and that Melvin's body fell against a white metal fence outside a nearby house. Melvin's family began to cry in court as Grillo pulled up a picture of the crime scene on the projector.

    Right after the shooting, the girl slammed on the gas pedal of her Mitsubishi coupe and fled the scene, stopping briefly in a parking lot to calm herself down.

    The girls left without Lopez, who stood in the street waving his arms, angry that they'd left him behind.

    Both girls recall feeling panicked and confused, and the driver recalled her acquaintance "screaming, crying and saying Shamere's name over and over."

    Both girls spoke to investigators shortly after the crime, but neither of them mentioned that Lopez was the killer.

    It took the witnesses a little over two years to confirm with authorities that Lopez was the killer, Grillo said.

    "I was scared, I was 17, I wasn't sure if he'd threaten me or my family," one of the teenage girls said in her testimony. "I didn't know what to do."

    Matey, the defense attorney, also claimed that prosecutors "rushed to judgment" by believing the witness's stories.

    "They were teens, after all," Matey said. "Like all kids, they tell stories to get out of trouble."

    Both witnesses insisted that they came to court seeking justice for Melvin when they testified.

    During her testimony, the second female witness said she was "16 and didn't want to be involved" in the shooting.

    "It's been five years," she said. "For this to linger that long, it's a lot."

    Gianluca D'Elia may be reached at gdelia@njadvancemedia.comFollow him on Twitter @gianluca_delia. Find on Facebook.

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    While Tate had just returned Tuesday from the 7-Day DL, by the end of the night, the reason for Tate's late removal became much clearer.

    Just minutes before his scheduled start Tuesday night for the Thunder, right-hander Dillon Tate was scratched and replaced by Brian Keller.

    While Tate had just returned Tuesday from the 7-day disabled list, by the end of the night, the reason for his late removal from the lineup became much clearer.

    During Trenton's game with Hartford, Tate was traded to the Baltimore Orioles for two-time All-Star closer Zach Britton.

    The trade was announced by the Yankees a few minutes before midnight.

    Tate was included with two Triple-A pitchers, reliever Cody Carroll and left-handed starter Josh Rogers.

    "They just called me into the office, and told me I wouldn't be starting tonight because of a trade potentially happening," Tate said. "At the moment, when I was getting called into the office, I thought it was a possibility. Before that, no, I wasn't really thinking about the whole thing.

    "At the time, when you are going in there around this time of month, you realize it is a possibility."

    It is the second time that Tate has been traded in his career, after he came over August 1 to the Yankees from the Texas Rangers as part of the Carlos Beltran deal.

    "I wouldn't say I was ill equipped last time I was traded (to deal with it)," Tate said. "But I would say I am a little bit more prepared this time through, because I understand the process. I honestly didn't have any challenges the last time, other than just being around the new atmosphere, and around different people.

    "The guys welcomed me in as soon as I got traded the first time, and it only went up from there."

    Tate also spoke about the Orioles organization trading for him.

    "Everybody always tries to mention that you are going to a place that you are wanted, and that is a good thing," Tate said. "That is always a good thing to stress that, and they always try to get the person to understand that it is not a negative thing. Yes, it is a business, and it is a positive thing to look at.

    "They get you to shy away from the negative stuff, which is actually pretty good. Going somewhere you are wanted is always a good thing."

    Domingo Acevedo back in Trenton after trip to major leagues

    Tate was 5-2, with a 3.38 ERA this season for the Thunder. He went 7-2 at two levels last season, with a 2.81 ERA, and is 16-7 in his minor league career.

    The 24-year-old former number four pick in the 2015 draft pitched well over his final 10 starts for Trenton, going 4-0 with a 2.69 ERA since a May 8 loss to Reading.

    "Yeah (I feel like I have been improving)," Tate said. "But just more so battling. I feel like the use of my fastball has gone up some, which is cool to see. But I feel like the thing that I have improved on the most this year is probably just being out there grinding away, even though the outing doesn't necessarily look great at some point and time. 

    "But just flipping it around and making it go a more positive direction than what it seemed to be from the start. Just kind of that grinding aspect is something that I have gotten better at this year."

    Tate will now head home and wait to see if the trade is completed.

    "The next step for me is to just wait and hear about what is actually going to happen for me personally," Tate said. "I will continue to keep doing what I do, and play hard."

    Britton is a two-time AL All-Star, in the 2015 and 2016 seasons. He was 36-for 40 in save opportunities during the 2015 campaign, while he was even better the following campaign.

    In 2016, Britton was 47-for-47 in save opportunities for the Orioles, and won the Mariano Rivera AL Reliever of the Year. He was 15-for-17 in save opportunities in 2017.  

    Britton had right achilles surgery in February, and returned July 11. He has four saves in five chances this season.

    Contact Sean Miller at Follow him on Twitter @TheProdigalSean

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    "Trenton does not let anything stop us. We still keep on going."

    A month after the Art All Night shooting, hundreds of residents continue to come out for events in Trenton, saying that they will not let that incident stop them from enjoying the city's arts.

    The community has been enjoying events indoors and outdoors, such as the weekly Levitt AMP Trenton Music Series - the 10, free Thursday night concerts in Mill Hill Park that runs until Aug. 30.

    This 2018 Levitt AMP concert series started a few days after the Art All Night shooting and was one of the first major events that would attract a sizable crowd.

    "I think every concert we have had, a little more people came out," said Tom Gilmore, executive director of Trenton Downtown Association (TDA), which organizes the concerts.

    Gilmore explained that they have increased security measures at the concert events since last year -- prior to the Art All Night incident.

    "We reviewed our security plan that we had for last year, and last year we even upped it because there were some situations where people where driving cars into public events," he said.

    Nevertheless, Art All Night also impact on security improvements at the music concerts, Gilmore said.

    "I think everybody here feels relaxed," city police Sgt. Bethesda Stokes said at a recent concert. "The police presence definitely helps. That other event is not gonna stop the good things from happening in Trenton."

    Trenton also has First Fridays, music, vendors, and art at Front and Warren streets, and attendees at these events have also been saying they do not want to live in fear.

    "I don't have fear of anything," Tim Johnson said at a recent event. "This is a much more mature crowd. I think people need to stop letting fear kinda parlay and take away from them enjoying themselves."

    Jeffrey Augustin, who was vending at First Fridays, said business is good, and that "Trenton does not let anything stop us. We still keep on going."

    Follow on Twitter @njdotcom. Find on Facebook.

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    Michael Van Hise, 28, will spend about six additional months in prison on top of the 51/2 years he already has served

    A New Jersey car mechanic was sentenced to seven years in prison on Tuesday in a plot to kidnap, torture and kill women and girls, bringing an end to a criminal case that shed light on cannibalism and other fetishes circulating in dark corners of the internet.

    van-hise.jpgMichael Van Hise

    The sentence means Michael Van Hise will spend about six additional months in prison on top of the 51/2 years he already has served.

    U.S. District Judge Paul G. Gardephe's sentence was less than half of what federal sentencing guidelines recommended.

    The Manhattan jurist noted that Van Hise, 28, had cooperated with the FBI and had suffered a difficult childhood that included learning disabilities, parents who abandoned him and impediments that left him playing with little trucks and cars in his room at age 23 as if he were a child.

    He also said Van Hise, of Hamilton Township in Mercer County, was less culpable than his co-defendants: a school librarian and a former Massachusetts police chief who were sentenced to 15 and 10 years in prison respectively for their roles.

    But Gardephe said Van Hise earned his prison time by turning to the internet to recruit others to kidnap, rape, torture and murder his wife as well as his sister-in-law and her four children. No one was ultimately harmed.

    Defense lawyers insisted that the prosecution stemmed from sexual fantasies explored in an online underground where people shared macabre fetishes.

    Pair of $1M Mega Millions tickets sold in N.J. as $522M jackpot is won in Calif.

    A jury rejected those arguments, convicting Van Hise at a 2014 trial. The sentencing was delayed for years as Gardephe considered whether to uphold the verdict.

    A year before the conviction, Gardephe presided over the headline-grabbing related trial of a police officer accused of plotting abductions and cannibalism.

    The officer, Gilberto Valle, was labeled by tabloids as the "cannibal cop" before he was convicted at trial in 2013 on charges that carried a potential life sentence.

    Gardephe later rejected the jury verdict and sentenced him to time served on a misdemeanor charge of using a restricted law enforcement database to secretly look up personal information about women he knew.

    The New York Police Department patrolman was arrested in 2012 after his wife discovered disturbing material on his computer and reported it to the FBI.

    Valle's "depraved, misogynistic sexual fantasies about his wife, former college classmates and acquaintances undoubtedly reflected a mind diseased," the judge wrote in his decision to throw out Valle's kidnapping conviction. But, he added, prosecutors failed to prove he had entered into genuine agreements to kidnap the women and taken concrete steps to carry them out.

    In the conspiracy that resulted in Van Hise's arrest, Gardephe said concrete steps were taken to carry out gruesome acts, including identifying locations where bodies could be buried and purchasing tools that could be used in the kidnap and torture of victims.

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    Shipt, a same-day delivery service from Target, will begin in New Jersey on Thursday, July 26. Watch video

    Starting Thursday, Target will roll out a same-day delivery service of more than 55,000 store products - including groceries - to New Jersey residents with its new online service "Shipt."

    Target customers from around the state can enroll in Shipt, which promises to give more than 2.6 million households across the state access to products delivered in one hour, the company said in a statement.

    Target said it's offering a special membership rate of $49, compared to the regular rate of $99. The Shipt customers who pay for the membership get free, unlimited delivery on all orders of more than $35. The service will rival Amazon Prime, which costs $119 per year.

    The service will operate much like ride-sharing apps Uber and Lyft, with Target hiring more than 400 shoppers across the state who will be paid to go to their local Target stores and deliver the items, the company said.

    The service will be available from stores in Atlantic City, East Brunswick, Mercer County, Monmouth County, Tom's River and Vineland, the company said.

    Hackettstown, Morristown, Edison, Jersey City and Newark Target stores will begin delivery on Aug. 2. The company has more than 40 stores in New Jersey.

    Shipt customers will also be able to order from Morton Williams Supermarket beginning on Aug. 9.

    "Both Morton Williams Supermarket and Target provide families with the essential products that power their lives, and Shipt is making those trips to the store easier than ever before as we continue to expand throughout the East Coast," said Bill Smith, founder and chief executive officer of Shipt.

    Ask Alexa

    The company announced the service will be available in New York City on Aug. 9.

    "Through our app, our members have access to everything they need, when they need it, right at their fingertips," Smith said.

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


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    He was a regular in the stands as a Yankees' fan, all the way up to the time he was taken by the Yankees in the sixth round of the 2015 draft Watch video

    Brandon Wagner leads all Yankees minor league players with 20 home runs this season.

    So it made sense that at some point, the infielder was going to get a chance to show what he can do at the next level above High A Tampa.

    Monday, Wagner got his chance, as he was transferred from Tampa to Double A Trenton.

    The move meant even more for the newest Trenton player, who is a native of Hopewell, and grew up coming to Waterfront Park to watch the Thunder play.

    Wagner made his debut for his hometown team Wednesday, as Trenton took on Hartford in the rubber game of the series. He played first base, and hit in the third spot in the lineup.

    "I still live in Hopewell in the offseason," Wagner said. "I drove up from Tampa, and pulled and all nighter. I got here Tuesday morning, so tonight, I will get a home-cooked meal. Whatever my mom wants to make is good."

    Wagner hit 20 home runs in 87 games for the Tarpons this season, and drove in 57 runs while slashing .270//376/.510. In his fourth minor league campaign, it is the first time he has hit double digit dingers. Wagner hopes he can continue his development with the Thunder.

    "I think it has been not missing the fast ball," Wagner said. "I think in previous years I was a little timid to swing early in the count, making an early out. I think this year it has been a little more of an attacking approach. 

    "The approach has been a little more intent to do damage. I always thought I was able to drive the ball. This year in Tampa, the team mates in front of me were getting on base a lot, and pitchers were forced into fastball counts. I was able to take advantage of that.

    "I think the pitchers are a little more consistent, and a little more around the zone. So I have to stick to my approach. It will be fun. I am excited to start playing at Double A, and we will see what happens"

    Dillon Tate reacts to being traded by Yankees to Orioles

    While he grew up in Hopewell, Wagner attended Immaculata High School, so he never got a chance to play at the stadium. But he was a regular in the stands as a Yankees' fan, all the way up to the time he was taken by the Yankees in the sixth round of the 2015 draft out of Howard Junior College.

    "I was (a Yankees' fan)," Wagner said. "I came to a bunch of Trenton Thunder games as a kid. It is going to be fun playing. I actually remember the game Jeter was rehabbing, and we came to the game. It stood out, even though I was young.

    "I was eight. That really stood out. I came here when Judge was here in 2015, after I just got done with my second year of Junior College. It was Judge, Gary (Sanchez), (Greg) Bird, and (Luis) Severino. That was the last game I was here."

    Wagner is also looking forward to playing in front of his family and friends, who should be ever present over the final 17 home games.

    "I never played here," Wagner said. "But it is really special. It has always been something I have been looking forward to since I was drafted by the Yankees. Double A is 20 minutes from my house.

    "I worked hard to get here, and it is going to be fun, with family always in the stands, and friends, super close to home. It is going to be special. I am sure there are going to be family and friends at the games. Family probably every home game, friends probably more on the weekends."

    Contact Sean Miller at Follow him on Twitter @TheProdigalSean

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    A bill introduced in the New Jersey Senate aims establish a safe limit on the number of patients one nurse can care for in a hospital, ambulatory surgical facility, developmental center and psychiatric hospital.

    Spend any time in a hospital and you soon come to realize that nurses are the true heroes of the place, and not just because they bring you an extra pillow or deliver much-needed pain meds.

    Nurses do more, much more. They stand guard against the risk of infections, dangerous falls and the probability of your being readmitted to the hospital once you go home.

    But what if there aren't enough nurses on your floor to do the job properly?

    What if the hospital you've landed up in is short-staffed, creating undue demands on the nurses on duty and creating unnecessary risks for the patients who so urgently need their practiced hands?

    A bill introduced in the state Senate earlier this year aims to avert such a crisis by establishing a safe limit on the number of patients one nurse can care for in a hospital, ambulatory surgical facility, developmental center and psychiatric hospital.

    N.J. must bring safe staffing levels to nursing homes

    The measure, sponsored by state Sen. Joseph Vitale (D-19th District), addresses the reality that hospitals all too frequently sacrifice patients' health for their own bottom lines.

    The American Nurses Association sums up the dangers in a blog dedicated to political action and advocacy.

    "Inadequate nurse staffing levels by experienced RNs are linked to higher rates of patient falls, infections, medication and even deaths," the professionals warn.

    Substantial cuts in nursing budgets, together with an ever-increasing nursing shortage, mean fewer nurses are working longer hours taking care of sicker people.

    This unhealthy situation feeds on itself, driving nurses to leave their jobs - and, ultimately, the profession they love.

    Under the proposed measure, minimum nurse-to-patient ratios will vary according to the type of facility, ranging from one registered professional nurse for every five patients in a behavioral health or psychiatric or medical/surgical unit to one registered professional nurse for every patient under anesthesia in an operating room.

    Ann Twomey, president of Health Professionals and Allied Employees, the largest union of registered nurses and healthcare professionals in the state, says if hospitals respected and valued their nurses, they would heed the voices of those nurses.

    In an op-ed she wrote with two colleagues for NJSpotlight, Twomey noted that the direct link between safe patient care and safe staffing limits is clear.

    Referring to a staffing law already in place in California, she said, "More than a decade of studies and almost 15 years in California make clear that having too few nurses increase patient complications ... (and) sends nurses from the bedside, into other jobs, or into retirement, something we cannot afford as our population ages."

    The goal of optimal hospital staffing is within reach in New Jersey. Both our nurses and the patients whose lives are in their hands stand to benefit if Vitale's bill advances.

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


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    So many things taste that much better with summer in front of them.


    A couple of years ago, I wrote in a caption to this photo that was a part of this gallery about how my friends and I would hold little naval battles in the stream behind the Dairy Queen in Vineland with the boat-shaped plastic dishes banana splits came in.

    Some people expressed a level of disbelief; you actually did that, Greg? Of course we did.

    MORE: Vintage photos around New Jersey

    Frozen custard on a hot summer evening; a boat-shaped container holding the tasty treat; a convenient stream a few feet away that boats would float in; and a trash can to put them all in after the 'battle' was over.

    If that doesn't define 'serendipitous,' nothing does.

    Here's a gallery of vintage photos of summer eats and treats from around New Jersey and links to other galleries you'll enjoy.

    Vintage photos of summer eats and treats in N.J.

    Vintage photos of ice cream and candy stores in N.J.

    Vintage photos of ice cream parlors in N.J.

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

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    Frank Perlstein & Son, Inc. began on South Broad Street in 1908 Watch video

    "A plumbing story's not supposed to be emotional," Susan Perlstein Tavares said, holding back tears.

    But this is far more than a plumbing story.

    It's the story of family, and a family-owned business with a 110-year legacy in the city of Trenton that is about to come to an end - for good.

    With it will go hard-to-find parts, and a century of memory and history

    Frank Perlstein & Son, Inc. began on South Broad Street in 1908, where they are today, just south of Hudson Street.

    An apt name at the start, it could later have changed to "Frank Perlstein & Son...and Granddaughter", because it's Susan who has kept the legacy alive for these past many years, along with longtime colleague Carl Mathews.

    When Susan - then just Susan Perlstein - was in college, her father Lester suffered a slight heart attack. 

    "I came home from school and never left. And I'd been working here with my dad until he died in 1986. And I've been working here steadily since 1974. I enjoy what I do very much."

    What she does is help people solve their plumbing puzzles, dispensing hard-to-find parts along with expert guidance.

    Susan finds parts faster than a Google search. 

    Expo preview

    Customers are professional plumbers and do-it-yourselfers alike. These days, most come in showing pictures on their phones of the problem, sometimes looking for replacement parts for vintage fixtures that may be 50 or more years old.

    One recent Friday morning, without the least prompting, more than one customer was happy to launch into a sermon and sing her praises.

    "See that whole wall with all the valve stems? Nobody has that stuff. You can't get that stuff anymore. Ask any plumber and they're gonna tell you," said one customer, who wished to talk Perlstein, not give his name.

    Richard Szymanski, of Hamilton, who came in with his grandson, 6-year-old Dylan Scullion,, added: "As a non-professional, you come in here and you're not intimidated. (Susan) talks to you like an individual and she will help you out, finding what you need."

    "110 years is a good run and I'm proud of that," Tavares said of her family's legcay in the city.

    Moving forward, ideally she would like to take her inventory and expertise to another supply house and continue to help people. But Perlstein is done on South Broad Street.

    "It's time for a change. It's emotional, but it feels right."

    Michael Mancuso may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @michaelmancuso, Instagram @michaelmancuso and Facebook @michaelmancuso

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    Officer convicted at troubled women's prison claimed he had "never been inappropriate with any inmate."

    A former state corrections officer convicted of sexually assaulting inmates at New Jersey's women's prison -- where federal investigators are probing accusations of widespread abuse -- was sentenced to 16 years on the other side of the bars on Thursday.

    Jason Mays, 46, had been accused of sexually abusing five inmates at the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women. Prosecutors said he coerced some of the women into sexual acts with threats of disciplinary action. 

    jason_mays.jpgJason Mays.  

    He was convicted on charges related to the abuse of two of the inmates in May following a month-long trial and a week of jury deliberations. 

    Mays, a Hillside resident, is among seven Edna Mahan employees accused of sexually assaulting inmates at the prison over the last two years. He was ensnared in an ongoing criminal probe by the Hunterdon County Prosecutor's Office. 

    Under a sentence handed down by Judge Angela Borkowski on Thursday, Mays will also be subject to lifetime parole supervision and will be required to register as a sex offender.

    The sentence is by far the stiffest sanction levied against an employee found by the spiraling criminal inquiry to have abused their authority and preyed on women at the prison. 

    Three other employees who admitted abusing inmates instead of going to trial pleaded guilty to official misconduct charges. Under plea deals, they will not have to register as sex offenders, and one has already received parole, public records show. 

    Sex abuse suit revived as feds' investigation heats up

    At his trial, Mays took the witness stand to deny the charges against him, telling jurors "I have never been inappropriate with any inmate at any time."

    He was acquitted on charges related to three of the five inmates prosecutors argued were victims of his abuse. Under state law, any sexual contact between an inmate and an officer is a crime because prisoners cannot legally consent. 

    Mays' attorney, Leslie Sinemus, said the former officer submitted 37 letters of support from former coworkers, supervisors and friends and family attesting to his character. 

    "He maintains his innocence, I still believe in his innocence, and I'm devastated by this sentencing," she said in a telephone interview. "There are people who are guilty of this stuff. I get it. But to this day I do not believe Jason Mays was one of them." 

    Hunterdon County Prosecutor Anthony Kearns said following the sentencing that  the letters of support were "subjective opinions" about who the officer was "as a man outside the walls" of the prison. 

    "Objectively the abuse of his authority over the women in the prison is especially heinous and cruel because the women prisoners were both powerless and helpless while subject to his ultimate authority," Kearns said. 

    Sinemus said her client planned on appealing his conviction. 

    Three other officers at the prison -- Brian Ambroise, Joel Mercado and Ronald Coleman -- still face trials. 

    The Union Township prison is now the subject of multiple inquiries into the treatment of inmates, including a civil rights probe being conducted by the Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney's Office in Newark.

    A person familiar with the matter told NJ Advance Media that federal investigators have began interviewing corrections staff as part of their inquiry. That person was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly. 

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

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    Congress has finished writing legislation setting defense policy for the 12 months beginning Oct. 1.

    WASHINGTON -- The final bill setting U.S. defense policy protects Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, the state's second largest employer, from a new round of base closings has cleared the House. 

    The House on Thursday passed the annual National Defense Authorization Act, which sets Congress' defense priorities for the 12 months beginning Oct. 1 and includes $716 billion in military spending. The final bill was negotiated with the Senate, which is expected to clear the legislation.

    It ensures that the first group of new refueling tankers will arrive on schedule.

    The bill "allows the joint base to continue to play a major role in our national security and local economy," said Rep. Tom MacArthur, R-3rd Dist., whose district includes the facility. 

    House votes to protect N.J.'s joint base

    The vote was 359-54, with only two members of the state's congressional delegation voting no: Reps. Frank Pallone Jr., D-6th Dist., and Bonnie Watson Coleman, D-12th Dist.

    The legislation authorizes spending for 15 KC-46A refueling tankers, which will replace the KC-10s now housed at the joint base. The Air Force announced last year that the joint base's 305th Air Mobility Wing eventually would get 24 of the new KC-46 tankers by 2021.

    "These refueling tankers will bring new jobs and growth to our state and make our base an indispensable starting point for national security missions on the East Coast," said Rep. Donald Norcross, D-1st Dist., a member of the House Armed Services Committee.

    Lawmakers pushed the Air Force to accept delivery of the KC-46A planes as quickly as possible and to speed up the number of planes that will be stationed at the base to more than the planned three per month.

    There also is $10.2 million to replace a refueling system at the base.

    The measure prevents the president from proposing a new round of military base closings, which local officials have worried could target the joint base.

    Rep. Chris Smith, R-4th Dist., called the provisions "an essential boost" for the base.

    The joint base employs 42,000 people, second only to the state government, lawmakers said.

    The higher Pentagon spending reflected the higher levels negotiated in February by President Donald Trump and congressional leaders, which removed the spending caps earlier agreed to by congressional Republicans and President Barack Obama.

    White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders praised the House for "taking action on the president's request that it carry out his commitment to our military."

    This year's bill was named for Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz., who has been absent from the Senate due to brain cancer.

    Jonathan D. Salant may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @JDSalant or on Facebook. Find Politics on Facebook.

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    That deal worked out pretty well for the defending World Series champions.

    With the major league non-waiver trade deadline coming up quickly on July 31, the Yankees may be involved once again trying to strengthen their team for the pennant race.

    But next week is not a hard deadline to improve at the big league level. Teams can still trade up until August 31, and have the player eligible for postseason play, as long as the player passes through waivers. That happened last season, as the Houston Astros picked up Justin Verlander on August 31, sending three prospects to the Detroit Tigers.

    That deal worked out pretty well for the defending World Series champions.

    So while there may be many moves before Tuesday, the month of August may see some teams active as well.

    The Yankees, and by extension the Trenton Thunder, could see some pieces change places over the next five weeks. With the upcoming offseason Rule 5 Draft roster crunch that could play a role, the organization may try to move some prospects for major league players.

    Dillon Tate was the first Trenton player to depart, as the pitcher left Tuesday night as part of the Zach Britton deal. 

    Thunder manager Jay Bell is no stranger to deadline day deals, from his 18-year major league career. The first time he was traded came on August 1, 1985. 

    There is an initial struggle that sometimes comes with any deal that sends a player from one organization to another, but Bell said that any trade is a new opportunity as well.

    Brandon Wagner comes home to Mercer County to play with Thunder

    "It was out of the blue when I got traded the first time," Bell said. "I was traded at the deadline the first time. I was traded in the Blyleven trade in 1985. I had no idea. I was shocked. I was a number one pick, and I felt like I was going to be there.

    "It is always an interesting feeling. There is that doubt in your mind. 'Why did they trade me? How come they don't like me?'

    "It is not so much that. It is that the other team wanted you. The vast majority of the time, it is more about that team wanting that player than it is not wanting that player. Somebody in that organization really likes them.

    "Guys go, and they miss their friends, but it is a new adventure. And it is, it is a new adventure. I got traded three times, and it was an amazing adventure. You get to make mew friends, and figure out new things from different organizations. 

    "Not that I ever wanted to be traded. I wanted to be a Twin for the rest of my career. A lot of the guys here want to be Yankees for the rest of their careers."


    * Bell was a first round pick (eighth overall) of the Minnesota Twins in 1984 out of Gonzalez Tate High School (Cantonment, Florida).

    He was traded the next season to the Cleveland Indians organization, as part of the deal for Hall of Famer Bert Blyleven. In a strange twist of fate, Bell homered off Blyleven in his first major league at-bat.

    * The second time Bell was traded came just before the 1989 season, when the Pittsburgh Pirates got him as a player to be named later from the Indians. Bell went on to be one of the cornerstones of the early 1990's Pirates juggernaut that won three straight National League East titles.

    * The final time Bell was traded came in December of 1996, when he moved to the Kansas City Royals.

    He played one season with the Royals, before he joined the Arizona Diamondbacks for the 1998 season as a free agent.

    That move worked out pretty well for the Diamondbacks, who beat the Yankees in the 2001 World Series. Bell scored the winning run for Arizona in the bottom of the ninth of Game 7, to give the Diamondbacks their only title.

    Contact Sean Miller at Follow him on Twitter @TheProdigalSean

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    The collapse of a building is a rather rare occurrence in Hamilton and it would be impossible to predict where other structures in the township face an imminent threat of falling down.

    Sometimes bad things happen to good people. A case in point is the tragic collapse of a nearly 100-year-old house in Hamilton on July 23. A 38-year-old woman was killed and her two daughters were seriously injured.

    Buried in the rubble was Tika Justice, who died while trying to shield her 16-year-old daughter from the falling debris of their three-story home on South Broad Street, according to news accounts. Justice's 20-year-old daughter was rescued as she tried to escape out of the back of the collapsing house that Monday morning. Both daughters were hospitalized.

    The Justice family probably never realized that they were living in an unstable house. After engineers examined the ruins, they concluded that the "catastrophic collapse was from the failure of deteriorated concrete block due to long term water penetration."

    The engineers said the disintegrating block gave way and the floor joists slipped off their supports, causing the structure to come crashing down.

    The collapse of a building is a rather rare occurrence in Hamilton and it would be impossible to predict where other structures in the township face an imminent threat of falling down. But similar conditions may exist in other dwellings, particularly in old structures in the immediate area that have been exposed to water erosion.

    A century of rainstorms collapsed Hamilton house in an instant

    It would be wise to inspect other nearby buildings of a similar age and condition. The catastrophe should be a warning to other towns to keep a sharp eye out for buildings that show obvious signs of structural deterioration.

    But if there is a silver lining to this tragedy, it is that a community has come together to help the victims.

    Hamilton Mayor Kelly Yaede, who visited the house shortly after it collapsed, committed her office to helping the Justice family in their time of need. The township has partnered with Saint Phillips Baptist Church and the John O. Wilson Neighborhood Service Center in Hamilton to start a clothing drive for people to make donations for Justice's two daughters.

    "They have absolutely nothing," Yaede said.

    Meanwhile, Justice's relatives have set up a GoFundMe page to raise money for the stricken family.

    By all accounts, Tika Justice was a caring mother who was devoted to her family. The tragedy of her loss opens a void that will never go away for those who knew her and loved her. But at least it is some measure of consolation that friends and strangers are coming to the family's aid.

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


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