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Central Jersey News from the Times of Trenton

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    See which New Jersey hospitals ranked highest in this high-profile survey.

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    Trenton has reached an agreement with the DEP to start correcting its lead service line issues.

    New Jersey's capital city has to pay the state a $13,000 fine after failing to make mandated improvements to its water system -- an outdated infrastructure that is contaminating the water residents use. 

    The state Department of Environmental Protection reached an agreement with the city's mayor and water treatment agency, Trenton Water Works, to address its aging infrastructure, after test results revealed elevated levels of lead in 12 of 100 water samples taken in the first six months of the year.

    The Administrative Consent Agreement chastises the city for failing to address lead issues earlier, and outlines a plan for addressing the lead issues in the future.  

    The 18-page agreement outlines a host of problems with the city's water utility, including unacceptable levels of lead found in the drinking water. Lead generally seeps into a water supply from outdated piping in service supply lines.

    The city was first found to be in violation of lead levels in 2017, which prompted the start of a lead service line replacement project. However, according to the consent agreement, the city failed to carry out the project as had been planned. 

    The agreement outlines a set of DEP-established guidelines that the city and TWW must follow in order to comply with the Safe Drinking Water Act. The document requires TWW to submit a new corrosion control treatment project plan, complete a lead service line replacement project, and comply with regular monitoring for lead and copper lines, as well as water quality.

    The city must also pay the DEP a $13,000 fine, levied when TWW failed to provide documents about lead service line replacement the DEP had requested, and missed several deadlines for beginning a project to replace the service lines. 

    Trenton Water Works, a city-owned utility that provides water to about 225,000 people in Trenton and parts of Hamilton, Ewing, Lawrence and Hopewell, has been under fire for months, for water quality and a host of other issues. 

    Trenton Mayor Reed Gusciora, who was elected in June and sworn in July 1, campaigned on a platform of more aggressively attacking Trenton's water issues. He signed the consent order July 26.

    Fourteen water samples tested during the first half of 2017 were above the lead action level, compared to 12 samples above the lead action level during the first half of 2018, according to DEP spokesperson Larry Hajna.

    According to the DEP's Drinking Water Watch, TWW lead levels were within acceptable amounts during the second half of 2017. 

    "Generally speaking, a lot of variables can go into individual test results, one of the biggest of which is how long the water has been sitting in the plumbing before it is turned on and the sample is taken. The longer the water sits, the more likelihood there is of traces of lead to leach out of the pipe," Hajna said.

    Results could also differ between the six month testing periods because it is voluntary for consumers with lead and copper pipes to submit samples for testing, according to Hajna. 

    "TWW is concerned about the health of their residents because lead can cause serious health problems if too much enters your body from drinking water or other sources," the mayor said in a statement.

    The DEP recommends that homeowners take certain steps to determine if lead is present in their pipes and reduce exposure to lead in their drinking water. 

    To determine if lead is present in pipes or plumbing, homeowners or tenants can consult with a licensed plumber or their public water supplier. If lead components are found, it is recommended that property owners replace the lines.

    Until the service lines can be replaced, the DEP and the city of Trenton recommend the following water safety tips.

    • Home owners can run faucets that haven't been used for several hours to flush out any lead particles.
    • Use cold water for cooking and preparing baby formula. The DEP says that lead dissolves more in water that comes from a hot water tap. 
    • Use alternate sources of water, such as bottled water, or invest in a water filter. 

    Gusciora said he has no intention of selling the water utility, and will continue to update the public about ongoing projects.

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

    Have a tip? Tell us.

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    NJ Advance Media takes a peek at some of the top New Jersey high school football scrimmages this summer. Here's your guide.

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    The defendant's brother is already in prison for his role in the killing

    A Burlington County jury on Tuesday found Christopher Costello guilty of aggravated manslaughter in the death of his roommate, Justin Dubois, a crime he committed with his brother.

    Costello, 29, was acquitted of murder in March, but convicted of desecration of human remains and hindering apprehension in the 2016 killing of Dubois in Lumberton. (At that trial, the jury was hung on aggravated manslaughter.)

    In June, Bryan Costello, 26, was sentenced to 15 years in prison for aggravated manslaughter after accepting a plea deal in April with the Burlington County Prosecutor's Office.

    Bryan Costello admitted that he beat the 23-year-old Dubois to death with a baseball bat and buried him in the backyard of his Spencer Court home with the help of his brother.

    Christopher Costello, though, had previously admitted to helping to bury the body, but claimed that Bryan Costello was the one who beat Dubois to death, according to the prosecutor's office.

    "This was a challenging trial, with Bryan Costello trying to take sole responsibility for killing Justin DuBois, but (Assistant Prosecutor Louis Casadia) did an excellent job focusing the jury on the physical evidence, the nature of Justin's injuries, and the discrepancies in the brothers' accounts," Burlington County Prosecutor Scott Coffina said of Christopher Costello's retrial.

    Homicide victim remembered as standout basketball player

    "We appreciate the attention of the jury members throughout the trial and their careful consideration of the evidence in concluding that Christopher was an equal participant in this brutal homicide," the prosecutor said.

    Christopher Costello could get a prison term more than twice as long as his brother's when he's sentenced, the prosecutor's office said. 

    The investigation began as a missing person's case when a family member reported on Oct. 31, 2016 that Dubois, who was from West Windsor, had been uncharacteristically missing for several days, authorities have said.

    Investigators got a search warrant to comb the Costellos' home and noticed a patch of soil in the backyard that appeared to have been recently disturbed. They excavated the site and found Dubois' body. He'd been occasionally staying with the Costello family at the time.

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

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


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    Donnell Perry was implicated in a robbery turned shooting in Trenton's South Ward

    While investigating the 2015 robbery of a grocery store in Trenton, a police detective showed a witness a group of photos that included one of suspect Donnell Perry.

    The witness did not pick Perry out of the grouping, known as a photo array, and which usually include similar-looking mugshots.

    But in a second photo array, the witness identified Perry because of the tattoos on his face.

    It was the only photo in that array of a person with tattoos on his face.

    And the witness testified at a later hearing, which would determine if the identification could be used at trial, that he didn't pick Perry in the first array because that picture showed Perry without tattoos.

    For those reasons, a state appeals court on Monday overturned Perry's robbery conviction, saying the identification was not reliable and should have been suppressed at the trial level.

    After the judge let the identification in, Perry pleaded guilty to robbery and was sentenced to seven years in prison. The now 37-year-old is currently incarcerated with a March 2021 release date.

    The case will now go back to Mercer County Superior Court.

    donnell.jpgDonnell Perry, left in a recent prison photo, and right in 2015, when he was arrested.

    At the trial level, the judge gave weight to the witness picking Perry in the second array because the witness knew Perry and had been with him several times leading up to the identification.

    The appeals court noted that the prosecutor, and later the judge, said the second array was "suggestive."

    If the second array had had photos of people similar to Perry, the witness' knowledge of Perry's appearance from his prior encounters with him, "may have buttressed the reliability of his selection."

    The robbery occurred at a grocery store in Trenton's South Ward in March of 2015. Perry and his codefendant, Hector Roman, were initially charged with attempted murder for allegedly shooting at an employee of the Beatty Street business, who jumped in his own vehicle and chased after the duo that held him up.

    Perry, at a preliminary hearing, claimed to be an innocent victim of the robbery, and said he was wounded in the crime.

    Roman, 45, pleaded guilty to a lesser charge and is currently serving a maximum three-year state prison term for that crime and another unrelated offense. He has a May 2019 parole date.

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


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    Is your college a good investment? Cheaper isn't always better.

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    Summer update on the N.J. boys hoops recruiting front

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    Police found the victim after responding to reports of man screaming that he'd been shot

    A Trenton man was shot multiple times while driving in Hamilton late Tuesday, the Mercer County Prosecutor's Office announced Wednesday morning.

    Hamilton police, responding to multiple calls reporting shots fired and a man screaming that he'd been shot around 11 p.m., found Matthew Dukes in his vehicle on Cypress Lane near Chambord Court, the office said. 

    Dukes, 28, who lived on Edgewood Avenue in Trenton, died about 90 minutes later at a Trenton hospital. He was shot multiple times in his chest, the prosecutor's office said.

    No arrests were announced Wednesday morning.

    Dukes' killing is under investigation by the Mercer County Homicide Task Force.

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


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    More hot fun in the summertime.

    This is a photo of the house I grew up in on Chimes Terrace in Vineland. Do you see that strip of sand alongside the street in front of our house?


    Obviously, we didn't have sidewalks. We also didn't have a swimming pool and my sister and I usually were limited to running through the sprinkler or shooting water pistols at each other to keep cool.

    But with regularity, it being summer, a thunderstorm would pass through.

    Thunderstorms are usually over pretty quickly; after it passed, a river of water would be running down the side of our street. That water and that sand became our special summer fun.

    MORE: Vintage photos around New Jersey

    We could form little canals or dam up the water and make a small lake. If it was a particularly hard rain, you could sail little sticks as if they were boats. Even if the rain wasn't quite over, it was a cooling summer rain you didn't mind and the steam rising off the asphalt added to the things you could imagine. Traffic wasn't nearly as dense as it is today, and drivers were aware of us - they weren't staring at cell phones.

    And every time there's a summer shower, even to this day, I think back to that simple summer fun.

    In this gallery of vintage photos from around New Jersey, we can see that summertime fun can be anything anyone wants it to be when the weather's fine. And here are links to other galleries you'll enjoy.

    Vintage photos of taverns and bars in N.J.

    Vintage photos of the 1970s in N.J.

    Vintage photos of a day in N.J.

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

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    Find out which teacher from your county made the cut.

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    "No one is a more passionate advocate for our shelter and our animals than Mayor Yaede," Flynn said.

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    Two men were knocked into the water when a whale hit their boat during a fishing trip Thursday morning. Watch video

    A retired Trenton firefighter rescued two fishermen when a whale capsized their boat off Long Branch Thursday.

    Former Capt. Gary Szabo rushed into action when he heard a "mayday" over the radio while out Fluke fishing on his boat. The caller, Szabo recounted, said a boat was flipped by a whale, launching people into the water.

    "It caught my ear," he said of the unusual report.

    The former fire department diver found two men in the water, clinging to their 25-foot overturned vessel. Video of the rescue shows one man swim toward Szabo's boat and be helped aboard from a dive ladder. A second fisherman, seen sitting on his capsized craft, was also pulled to safety by Szabo.

    "We watched the whale ... and all of the sudden the boat just goes whee and it's gone," one of the just-rescued fishermen explained in the GoPro video after being helped aboard.

    Delightful dolphin pods swim with Jersey Shore paddleboarder

    The area was teeming with baitfish, apparently attracting a whale before the creature flipped the fishing boat about 50 yards from the beach, Szabo added. One man appeared to have suffered a small cut, but they were otherwise not hurt.

    "They were in good spirits," Szabo said. "They're going to be sore in the morning."

    Szabo said it was common to see whales in the area, but he could not recall a similar rescue.

    Rescue crews, including a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter and State Police, also responded to the call. A Coast Guard spokeswoman confirmed the boat was hit by a whale, but the exact kind of aquatic mammal was unclear.

    For Szabo, the instinct to rush to those in distress continued after his career serving on the Trenton Fire Department, including as a SCUBA instructor and rescue captain.

    "I retired about six years ago ... until today," he joked.

    Noah Cohen may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @noahycFind on Facebook.


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    See how the new divisional realignment cycle could alter the boys soccer landscape this season.

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    A woman whose same-sex partner's biological daughter was killed in a traffic accident can seek damages for emotional distress even though she and the other woman weren't married or in a civil union at the time, an appeals court ruled on Friday.

    A woman whose same-sex partner's biological daughter was killed in a traffic accident can seek damages for emotional distress even though she and the other woman weren't married or in a civil union at the time, an appeals court ruled on Friday.

    The 2-year-old girl was killed in 2009 when a firetruck and a pickup truck collided while she was waiting with her family to cross a street in Trenton to see a "Disney on Ice" show at the facility now known as CURE Insurance Arena.

    A lower court had ruled that Valerie Benning couldn't sue for infliction of emotional distress because she hadn't shown she had a sufficient familiar bond with the girl, despite the fact she had been romantically involved with the girl's mother for more than a year before the accident and the girl had called her Mommy.

    "Ms. Benning was part of a very small child's life for 17 months at most," the lower-court judge wrote. "There's no evidence that there was any permanent bond or that the relationship that she shared with the decedent was one that was deep, lasting, and genuinely intimate."

    Benning appealed and claimed the judge focused erroneously on the lack of a formal civil union or a domestic partnership between the women, which were the only avenues available to them at the time. The two women married in 2014.

    In Friday's ruling, the appeals court cited a 1994 case in which the state Supreme Court ruled the fiancee of a man killed in an accident on Interstate 80 could sue for negligent infliction of emotional distress.

    "A rational jury can find that Benning was a de facto mother to this child, and felt her loss as deeply as any parent facing that horrific event," the appeals court panel wrote.

    Benning sued several entities and people. The appeals court's ruling didn't say what damages she sought.


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    That stint ended on July 3, and four days later, the right-handed starter was placed on the 7-Day DL with Scranton Wilkes-Barre. Watch video

    Jonathan Loaisiga made a huge splash in the Bronx during his first three weeks with the Yankees.

    That stint ended on July 3, and four days later, the right-handed starter was placed on the 7-Day DL with Scranton Wilkes-Barre. Loaisiga went to Tampa August 11, to begin his trek back to New York.

    Friday night, he was transferred to Trenton, and he got the ball to start the Thunder's four-game series with Eastern Division leader New Hampshire.

    With Trenton reeling, coming into the series with the Fisher Cats on a five-game losing streak and four and half games back in the race for first place, manager Jay Bell was excited to get Loaisiga back on the mound.

    "He has had some success," Bell said. "He has pitched in the big leagues, and pitched well in the big leagues. It is certainly a boost of confidence. But he is coming off the DL, and he has a pitch limit.

    "It is not like he is going to go out there and shove for nine."

    Loaisiga has thrown just 63 innings this year, so he will have an innings' limit Friday. He will then be stretched out over the coming weeks, in the hopes that he can get back to the Bronx once the rosters expand on September 1 and help the Yankees in their quest to lock up a playoff berth.

    "He is going to go out there with limited pitches, and we a trying to build him back up so he can go help New York compete for a playoff run the next month and a half," Bell said. "It will be about three innings or so; that will be about it.

    "It will be Loaisiga to Jordan Foley, and then work back into the bullpen if we have to."

    Loaisiga threw 41 pitches, and exited in the the top of the second inning with one out, making way for Foley. He gave up one hit, and struck out two, and left with the game tied 1-1.

    The plan for Loaisiga will come into focus more over the coming weeks.

    "I don't know yet," Bell said. "He will go through a progression. We have to get past this start. He just got here. We are going to see what he does this start, and then we will go from there."

    Loaisiga has been dominant in his career. He is 17-3 overall, and 8-1 in 2018. That record this season includes a 3-1 record with Trenton, but more importantly, a 2-0 mark with the Yankees in four starts (3.00 ERA).

    Mackenzie Gondek beats Boomer the mascot again; Sunnybrae LL honored

    * Bell gave an update on another Thunder pitcher who has been in up with the Yankees this season.

    Domingo Acevedo was placed on the 7-Day DL on July 28 with a right bicep injury, after four-plus innings against Portland.

    "Acevedo is on track to come back," Bell said. "He is probably going to do a rehab start in the next few days. Probably one or two starts, and more than likely come back here and finish the season with us.

    "I would assume that he would go closer (than Tampa), maybe Staten (Island). I don't think that has been determined totally. We will see what the need is. I would assume Staten.

    "It would be kind of nice to have some of those guys on the DL back working at full strength again. We don't have enough time to get them back up to the pitches he was back at before, but it will be nice to have him back."

    Various reports on Twitter stated that Acevedo will start Monday night with Staten Island Yankees, in the New York-Penn League.

    Contact Sean Miller at Follow him on Twitter @TheProdigalSean

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    As it has for much of the season, Trenton is still dominating the Eastern League team pitching statistics.

    It has been a rough start to the month of August for the Trenton Thunder.

    With most of their games on the road this month (only nine home games all month), the Thunder came into Friday night's six-game home stand just 5-9 since August 1, and on a five-game losing streak.

    A 3-1 win over New Hampshire Friday night has alleviated some of the concerns that Trenton would slide back into a race for the third playoff spot, much like is happening at the major league level with the Thunder's parent club.

    The struggles this month come after Trenton went 14-13 in July, although it won six of its last seven in the month to open up a huge gap between the club and the pack of teams chasing for the second spot in the Eastern Division Playoff Series.

    Thunder manager Jay Bell spoke before the series with New Hampshire about the recent road form.

    "I will give you the good," Bell said. "The guys continue to work, they continue to do their best to get after it. The pitching was pretty good. We were in games, but we didn't get many big hits.

    "Hitting was down a little bit. We had some games where we scored some runs, but for the most part, it was low scoring games, against some pitchers that I thought we could have managed pretty well.

    "Again, we go back to the situation where hitting is hard, and pitching tends to beat hitting. But we just didn't pay well.

    "Defensively, there was nothing that really jumped out, where we made a bunch of errors. It wasn't that; there were some balls that could have been caught that weren't caught. Just little things, when you add them up.We situations where we ran ourselves out of innings.

    "Overall, it is not from a lack of effort. This is what happens when you start to lose a few. Guys will try to do a little more than they need to do. They will try to carry the burden themselves, when they just need to do their part. If they all do their part collectively, they will be fine."

    Jonathan Loaisiga back with Thunder, on path back to Bronx

    * As it has for much of the season, Trenton is still dominating the Eastern League team pitching statistics.

    The Thunder lead the league in ERA (3.29), hits allowed (902), runs allowed (448), earned runs allowed (390), home runs allowed (72), strikeouts (1,072), and WHIP (1.23).

    The stats on the hitting side are not as pretty. Trenton is in the bottom four of the 12-team league in average (.248, ninth), runs (503, 10th), home runs (91, ninth), RBI (456, 11th), total bases (1,509, 10th), slugging percentage (3.79, 11th), and OPS (.702, 10th).

    * While the Thunder were on the road last week, Ryan Bollinger was named the Eastern League Pitcher of the Week for the week ending August 12.

    The big lefty, who is on the Yankees 40-man roster and has been called up twice to the majors without an appearance this season, was 1-0 last week with a 0.00 ERA.

    * The Eastern League announced Wednesday that it has a new logo, as well as a new secondary logo.

    "We are very excited to introduce our new logo, which provides an updated and modern look that fits better with the league moving forward," said Eastern League President Joe McEacharn.

    It is the first redesign to the logo since 1998.

    * There were numerous roster moves for the Thunder over the past week.

    Pitcher Nick Green was transferred from Tampa on Wednesday, while Jonathan Loaisiga came back Thursday, on his way back to the Bronx for the playoff run in September.

    Also on Thursday, infielder Mandy Alvarez was placed on the 7-Day DL with a quad injury. He was replaced on the roster by infielder Danienger Perez, who came to Trenton from Short Season Class A Staten Island.

    Contact Sean Miller at Follow him on Twitter @TheProdigalSean

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    The Clarets will take on Olympiacos (Greece), which beat Luzern 7-1 on aggregate last round, over two legs.

    While the second weekend of the Premier League season got underway with a scoreless draw, there were many talking points as newly-promoted Cardiff City celebrated its first point back in the top flight against Newcastle.

    There was a red card, a possible second red card that may come this week due to a retroactive ban, and a last second penalty save that saved the point, and the clean sheet, for the Bluebirds.

    In the 10 a.m. EDT kickoffs, Everton's new signing Richarlison looks like more of a bargain with every goal, Eddie Howe's Bournemouth is off to a flying start (at the expense of struggling West Ham), and Harry Kane finally scored in August, after so many years of trying.

    Finally, the 12:30 p.m. London derby kicked off with the two teams that finished just outside of the top four last season. Chelsea and Arsenal both showed attacking intent, while the defenses looked like EFL Championship sides at times.

    In a week where Arsenal told the former Arsenal Fan TV (now AFTV) Youtube channel that it had to change its name, the product on the pitch looked much better than it did last week against Manchester City, but it was still not enough to save the Gunners from dropping their first two Premier League matches for the first time since 1992.

    skysports-kenedy-newcastle_4393473.jpgNewcastle's Kenedy regrets his penalty miss in the 0-0 draw with Cardiff 


    Cardiff 0-0 Newcastle

    Spurs 3-1 Fulham

    Everton 2-1 Southampton

    Leicester 2-0 Wolverhampton

    West Ham 1-2 Bournemouth 

    Chelsea 3-2 Arsenal


    Real Madrid 2-4 Atletico Madrid, A.E.T.


    Steve Cook, Bournemouth

    Down by a goal with a half hour to play, the Cherries came to life away to West Ham. Callum Wilson drew Bournemouth even in the 60th minute, while Cook's header six minutes later gave the Cherries all three points.

    Neil Etheridge, Cardiff City

    The Bluebirds keeper stood tall all match, but it was in the final seconds of the match where Etheridge earned his Man of the Match (8.41 rating).

    Etheridge saved a penalty with the last kick of the match against Newcastle, to preserve a point, and the clean sheet, for newly-promoted Cardiff City. He made six saves throughout the match.

    Marcos Alonso, Chelsea

    The left back had the game winner in the final 10 minutes of Chelsea's 3-2 win over Arsenal.

    He also rated out the highest all day on with an 8.72 score, to pick up Man of the Match honors.

    Just as it looked like the teams would share the points, Alonso popped up at the near post and scored in the 81st minute.

    Manchester City gets Premier League title defense underway with win


    Burnley vs. Watford, 8:30 a.m. (NBC Gold and

    Manchester City vs. Huddersfield, 8:30 a.m. (NBC Sports, Universo, and

    Brighton vs. Manchester United, 11 a.m. (NBC Sports and


    Both Manchester clubs are in action Sunday, but it is their northern neighbors that will play one of the early matches after one of the biggest weeks in its history.

    Burnley needed added extra time Thursday, but the Clarets got a 97th minute goal from Jack Cork to beat Istanbul Basaksehir 1-0 on aggregate in the UEFA Europa League third round of qualification.

    Now, Burnley has one more hurdle to climb, to get into the Europa League group stage.

    The Clarets will take on Olympiacos (Greece), which beat Luzern 7-1 on aggregate last round, over two legs starting Thursday, August 23 in Piraeus. The return leg will come at Burnley on Thursday, August 30.

    So once again, Sean Dyche has a decision to make with his squad Sunday. With Watford in town, off a 2-0 opening weekend win, Burnley will want to try and win the match. But will Dyche have one eye on the midweek trip to Greece?

    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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    Assailants on dirt bikes targeted a group of people standing on a street Saturday night.

    Four people were wounded and a child was struck by dirt bike during a Saturday night shooting in Trenton, police said.

    At least one of the shooting victims is in critical condition, police said.

    A group was gathered at the end of Union Street around 8:30 p.m. when several people on dirt bikes and possibly ATVs pulled up and opened fire, according to Trenton Police Lt. Stephen Varn.

    Police said they believed some in the group on the street may have returned fire.

    Two men and a woman were struck by gunfire and transported to Capital Health Regional Medical Center. The woman was listed in stable condition, but information on the men wasn't available.

    Art All Night shooting suspect appears in court

    A fourth victim was found a few blocks away on Centre Street and he was also transported to Capital, where he was listed in critical condition and underwent surgery, Varn said.

    As the assailants fled, one of them struck a 7-year-old boy with a dirt bike, police said. The child suffered minor injuries and was treated at St. Francis Medical Center in Trenton.

    There was a gathering taking place near Cooper Pool, which is adjacent to the shooting scene, but the people targeted by the shooters were standing on the street itself, Varn said.

    Police have recovered two dirt bikes and a gun.

    Varn said the investigation is ongoing.

    Matt Gray may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @MattGraySJT. Find the South Jersey Times on FacebookHave a tip? Tell us:


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    Danienger Perez bunted the runners over to second and third, and Caldwell was walked intentionally to load the bases. Watch video

    The fans at Arm & Hammer Park do not often get the chance to see a double header.

    Saturday, not only did they get to see their hometown Thunder play a twin bill with Eastern League Eastern Division leaders New Hampshire, they also got to see bonus baseball in the first game.

    Trenton came into play Saturday 3.5 games behind the Fisher Cats in the Eastern League. But heading into Sunday's series finale, the Thunder are now just 1.5 back, after they swept the double header Saturday night Trenton got walk-off walks, the first in the second inning of extras, and the second in the bottom of the seventh of the second contest, to walk away with two wins.

    In the first game, the Thunder came into the bottom of the ninth trailing 4-3. Gosuke Katoh, who started the inning on second as the extra-inning tiebreaker runner, scored the tying run on a single to left by Jorge Saez. Jeff Hendrix was then hit by a pitch to load the bases, and Bruce Caldwell drew a four-pitch walk to force home the winning run in a 4-3 victory.

    In the second contest, the score was tied 2-2 heading into the seventh. Jhalen Jackson walked to leadoff the inning, while Hendrix was again hit by a pitch.

    Danienger Perez bunted the runners over to second and third, and Caldwell was walked intentionally to load the bases. It set the stage for Wendell Rijo's big at-bat, which ended with the hitter trotting down to first base with the game-winning RBI walk, and gave the Thunder a 3-2 win.

    Thunder notebook: Trenton rights ship Friday, after tough road trip

    Rashad Crawford struggled mightily to start the 2018 campaign.

    The player started the season in Triple A Scranton Wilkes-Barre, but was returned to Trenton on April 16 once the injury crisis throughout the organization abated.

    For two months, Crawford found his average under .175 with the Thunder, before he was eventually sent down to High A Tampa June 25.

    After a month with the Tarpons, Crawford returned to Trenton on July 27, and it seems like he is a different player. Since August 1, he has five multi-hit games, and Crawford is hitting .306 over his last 10 games (August 8-18).

    The hot streak has his average up to .200 with Trenton, and .223 on the campaign. He is getting hot just in time for the playoffs, which could be good news for Thunder fans.

    "I am starting to get the feeling back, and starting to get in a little groove," Crawford said. "Especially with the playoffs coming. I want to be the best I can for the team. I had to work on my consistency, and really engaging my legs. I had to just not think so much at the plate, and go out and compete.

    "It was more mental. When you are in the box, you can't think too much. You have to have a plan, and stick to the plan."

    While Crawford has not always been able to help with his bat, his defense has always been there. He made a stunning catch Friday night to save a run, and the game, which put the Thunder in position to possibly win the division.

    "I just knew the situation of the game," Crawford said. "We were up by one, and they had men in scoring position. I saw it go up, and wanted to go all out for it.

    When did he make the decision to go all out for the ball?

    "Really, in the first two steps," Crawford said. "That will dictate whether I have a shot or not. I was probably going to layout anyway, just because of the circumstances.

    "I know that defense wins a lot of games. If the offense is not going well, sometimes you can't control that. But I feel like defense you can control that, and give yourself a better chance to succeed." 

    Contact Sean Miller at Follow him on Twitter @TheProdigalSean

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    The ruling is a win for LGBTQ equality, and the law, a lawyer says

    Nearly 10 years ago, toddler I'Maya Moreland waited to cross Route 129 in Trenton with her family on the way to see a "Disney on Ice" show at the city's arena.

    The 2-year-old held the hand of Valerie Benning, a woman who was in a romantic relationship with her mother, I'Asia Moreland, who was with them that day in January 2009.

    So was I'Maya's 5-year-old brother (I'Asia's biological son), and Benning's godson. They all lived together as a family.

    I'Maya called Benning "mom," or "mommy."

    Moments later, a collision between a Trenton firetruck and a pickup truck careened their way and I'Maya was ripped from Benning and fatally flung down the highway.

    Moreland and Benning later married, and sued several entities over I'Maya's death - including the arena, the city and county, and the ice show. But Benning's claim for emotional distress for seeing I'Maya killed in front of her was removed the suit.

    Benning was not an "intimate family member" to I'Maya, as existing case law required, a Mercer County Superior Court judge ruled.

    On Friday, a state appeals court reversed that, finding Benning is entitled to rejoin the ongoing civil suit. Social and moral forces change, and so does the law, the appellate panel found.

    Old N.J. laws still hinder LGBTQ rights | Opinion

    In a published decision, an appeals panel of judges wrote: 

    "The evidence shows that at the time of the accident, Benning and her now wife I'Asia Moreland, had cohabitated for at least seventeen months, sharing the responsibility for the care of three young children, one of whom was I'Maya," the decision said.

    And, "A rational jury can find that Benning was a de facto mother to this child, and felt her loss as deeply as any parent facing that horrific event."

    Robin Lord, one of the couple's lawyers, said it was a win all around, for the law and LGBTQ rights.

    "It's a big win that should have not have had to be a big win," Lord said.

    Lord said, and the decision notes, that an earlier appeals panel decided against hearing the arguments, since it was during an ongoing suit, but the state Supreme Court intervened, and basically told the Appellate division courts to hear it.

    "It's a shame that it took three separate court proceedings to get where we are, but we're here now," Lord said.

    Lord said the trial judge's earlier comments in his decisions were insensitive at times, and now have been rebuffed. And the appeals court revisited them. The judge's name is not in the decision.

    In one, the trial judge said, "Ms. Benning was part of a very small child's life for 17 months at most. ... There's no evidence that there was any permanent bond or that the relationship that she shared with the decedent was one that was deep, lasting, and genuinely intimate." 

    In another, while examining case law, the judge said: "There is a requirement that they have to be family ... (case law) talks about familial relationship but it didn't say family-ish or something similar to a family."

    Joining the appeal in amicus curiae, or "friend of the court," were the Garden State Equality, Inc. and the New Jersey State Bar Association.

    Like Lord, the organizations argued in favor of Benning, saying the lower court should have considered the quality of I'Maya's relationship with Benning, not if they were linked by biology.

    The appeals court agreed. It found that the applicable state case law was decided in 1980, and did not protect the gay community.

    "No one can reasonably question that the social and legal concept of 'family' has significantly evolved since ... 1980. Thirty-eight years ago, gay, lesbian, and transgender people were socially shunned and legally unprotected against invidious discrimination in employment, housing, and places of public accommodation," the decision says.

    Back then, "The notion of same-sex couples and their children constituting a 'familial relationship' worthy of legal recognition was considered by a significant number of our fellow citizens as socially and morally repugnant and legally absurd."

    The court went on: "The overwhelming number of our fellow citizens now unequivocally reject this shameful, morally untenable bigotry; our laws, both legislatively and through judicial decisions, now recognize and protect the rights of LGBTQ people to equal dignity and treatment under law."

    The full decision can be read by clicking here.

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


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