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Central Jersey News from the Times of Trenton

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    Sailor remembered as a "hero with a big heart."

    Services are planned Tuesday for the U.S. Navy sailor from New Jersey who died when he was struck by an airplane propeller aboard the USS George H.W. Bush.

    Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Handling) Airman Apprentice Joseph Min Naglak, a native of South Korea who grew up in West Windsor, was remembered as a hero who wanted to help others.

    "He wanted to join the Navy to give back to a country who gave him so much," his sister, Stephanie Blair Naglak, said in an interview last week. "He was everything that I hope to be one day and he should always be remembered as a hero with a big heart."

    A funeral is scheduled for 1 p.m. Tuesday at the FitzGerald-Sommer Funeral Home, 17 S. Delaware Avenue (River Road) in Yardley, Pennsylvania, with burial to follow at the Washington Crossing National Cemetery in Newtown.

    Family members asked that in lieu of flowers, donations be made in Naglak's honor to the Special Olympics, 1133 19th Street NW, 12th Floor Washington, DC 20036-3604.

    Remains of GHWB Sailor Return HomeIn a photo released by the Navy, sailors carry the remains of Airman Apprentice Joseph Min Naglak to an aircraft aboard the USS George H.W. Bush Sept. 18, 2018  

    The 21-year-old sailor was an "active and energetic volunteer" with the Special Olympics while he served in the Navy, according to his obituary.

    Naglak graduated in 2015 from West Windsor-Plainsboro High School North, where he lettered in varsity football and played basketball. He enlisted in April 2017 and studied homeland security at Monmouth University.

    He was stationed in Norfolk, Virginia, and lived with his fiance, Niki Weber. The couple was planning to marry this coming July.

    "Joe will be greatly missed, but forever remembered as one of the most loving and compassionate persons anyone could wish to have been able to call a son, grandson, brother, fiance, and friend," the obituary stated.

    Navy officials said Naglak died Sept. 17 when he was struck by the moving propeller from a E-2C Hawkeye after securing the aircraft to the flight deck during training exercises in the Atlantic Ocean.

    "The loss of a shipmate is a heartbreaking experience for a crew of a Naval vessel and those aboard USS George H.W. Bush will mourn Naglak's passing and remember him always for his devoted service and sacrifice to our Nation," the Navy said in a statement.

    Noah Cohen may be reached at ncohen@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @noahycFind NJ.com on Facebook.

     


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    David A. Hamilton, Jr. is charged with 12 felonies, and he's been on the run for almost a week

    The Bucks County, Pennsylvania, fugitive charged with raping a child and who's been spotted on foot and bike along the Delaware River since late last week will be charged with assaulting the New Hope police officer he struggled with Friday afternoon.

    Investigators on Monday were in the process of drawing up criminal complaints against David A. Hamilton, Jr. for aggravated assault, resisting arrest and attempting to disarm a police officer, New Hope Police Chief Michael Cummings said.

    The chief said Hamilton, 47, who's on the run from Lower Southampton, Pennsylvania, where he's from, struggled with Officer Steven Gruber at about 3:35 p.m. in the 100 block of South Sugan Road, and tried to take Gruber's gun. 

    Hamilton then fled into nearby woods in Solebury, and disappeared on foot.

    A hunter also spotted Hamilton and took photos of him on foot in the woods, and provided them to police, who confirmed his identity.

    The search in that area and beyond continued over the weekend, and on Monday teams of officers were out in force again - including officers from Philadelphia.

    Solebury police on Monday evening tweeted footage of a K-9 police dog from the SEPTA Transit Police assisting officers in a search.

    Cummings said New Hope police are getting tips about Hamilton's whereabouts, but none have panned out.

    4306634_092118-wpvi-david-hamilton-img2.jpgHamilton walking through a wooded area Sept. 21, 2018, after struggling with a New Hope police officer. (Courtesy photo, WPVI-TV) 

    Hamilton is charged with 12 sexual assault felonies in Lower Southampton, including rape of child, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse with a child, and photographing or filming a sex act involving a child on a computer. 

    Lower Southampton police have not elaborated on the case beyond his charges. The department publicized his case last Wednesday and said they were looking for him. 

    His car was abandoned in Morrisville, Pennsylvania, across from Trenton on Thursday, and he was recorded on a security camera riding a mountain bike in town. And early Friday, he was spotted crossing the Calhoun Street bridge into Trenton.

    Police in Delaware River towns in both states have urged residents and others to dial 911 if they spot Hamilton.

    In addition to dialing 911, police ask anyone with information that may help police locate him to contact Lower Southampton Detective Sgt. Gerald Scott at 215-357-1235, ext. 344, at gscott@LSTWP.org or by responding to Crimewatch via a tip.

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


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    He is also a captain in the Bordentown City volunteer fire department

    A firefighter and Rider University security officer has been charged with posing as a teenage girl online to get a teenage boy to send him naked photos and videos, authorities alleged Monday.

    alan-berman.jpgAlan J. Berman. (Police photo) 

    The arrest of Alan J. Berman, 58, of Bordentown City, came after the Burlington County Prosecutor's High-Tech Crimes Unit received a tip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

    A woman from Arkansas had reported to the center that her teenage son had been contacted by a man who was attempting to engage the teen in inappropriate conversations.

    Investigators arrested Berman Friday.

    He works as a campus security officer at Rider University in Lawrence and serves as captain of Bordentown City's volunteer fire department, the prosecutor's office said. (On his LinkedIn page, Berman identifies himself as a member of the department's fire police.)

    A Rider University spokeswoman said he's been placed on administrative leave. "He was hired in August 2017. All public safety employees at Rider must complete a satisfactory background check as a contingency of their employment," the university said in a statement.

    The prosecutor's office said that Berman was accused of "assuming the persona of a teenage girl in order to convince a teenage boy to send him nude photos and videos of himself through an online video streaming application."

    He also engaged in sexually-explicit conversations with the boy and was found to be in possession of child pornography, the prosecutor's office said.

    He was arrested Friday on charges of four counts of endangering the welfare of a child.

    Police who search his home in the 100 block of Lucas Drive Friday seized his cell phone, tablet and other digital devices to analyze in their investigation, the office said.

    The prosecutor's office said Assistant Prosecutor LaChia Bradshaw will ask that Berman be detained pending trial. He is currently being held in the Burlington County Jail.

    BCPO High-Tech Crimes Unit Detective Kevin Sobotka led the investigation, and the office had assistance from the New Jersey State Police Digital Technology Investigations Unit, United States Immigrations and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations and the Bordentown City Police Department.

    The prosecutor's office said anyone who has information about any inappropriate behavior by Berman should call the High-Tech Crimes Unit at 609-265-5035.

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

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    When the American Boychoir School closed its doors, The Princeton Boychoir opened theirs Watch video

    Fred Meads wasn't going to let August 15, 2017 be the day the music died for young boys who wanted to sing.

    When the world-famous American Boychoir School, founded in 1937, closed its doors last year, former staff member Meads didn't miss a beat.

    The lifelong musician and experienced choral director immediately thought of his other employer, the Princeton Girchoir.

    Perhaps they could help.

    Two months later the newly-formed Princeton Boychoir held its first rehearsal in an upstairs room in Nassau Presbyterian Church.

    The choir has grown.

    Expo preview

    "We had 40 boys to start the (first) year. We're starting our second year now with almost 60 boys in the entire program," Meads said. "We've gained a lot of interest in the community for the boys to come out and sing."

    The Princeton Boychoir consists of three ensembles: the apprentice choir, treble choir and the young men's ensemble.

    After spending time with the choir at their very first rehearsal in 2017, we caught up with them again at the second rehearsal of their now second season, at Westrick Music Academy, in Princeton Junction.

    Even in a generic rehearsal room, the young voices resonate angelically. And no less than while sharply and succinctly executing exercise phrases, like "lips, teeth, tip of the tongue," in descending notes.

    Meads added: "For some of them it's all brand new. For some of them, they are already pros and they feel very confident."

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


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    The details of the assaults were again sealed by a Superior Court judge

    The Trenton police officer charged last week with repeatedly sexually assaulting a minor has been charged with a second, similar set of charges for another victim, the Burlington County Prosecutor's Office said.

    William Sanchez-Monllor copy.jpgWilliam Sanchez-Monllor 

    William L. Sanchez-Monllor, 36, of Burlington Township, is charged with six counts of first-degree aggravated sexual Assault and one count of endangering the welfare of a child.

    As with the first set of allegations, the prosecutor's office did not indicate the age or gender of the minor victim, or the nature of any relationship the victim may have had with Sanchez-Monllor. 

    The details of the assaults were again sealed by a state Superior Court judge, the office said.

    The office did say, as with the prior victim, the alleged abuse occurred on multiple occasions in Burlington County. Sanchez-Monllor lives on Neck Road in Burlington Township.

    Last week, the office charged Sanchez-Monllor with two counts of first-degree aggravated sexual assault, two counts of second-degree sexual assault and an endangering charge.

    With that victim, court documents showed that the abuse started as early as 2014. 

    Sanchez-Monllor has been a Trenton officer since 2010 and has worked as a detective. His base salary is currently about $102,000 annually, state records show. 

    He was taken into custody last Tuesday at the Burlington Township Police Department, and remained jailed Monday awaiting a detention hearing in Superior Court.

    His exact status with the Trenton Police Department was unclear Monday.

    Prosecutor's Det. Tony Luyber and Burlington Township Det. Ruben Ortiz-Cruz are the lead investigators.

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

     

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    New Jersey has awarded almost $400,000 to communities to to help urban and community trees and forests.

    Living in a metropolis can be tough, what with densely populated streets, traffic jams and the incessant car horns, jackhammers and other industrial machinery that make up the daily soundtrack of city life.

    Fortunately, nature has provided a readily available - if surprising - antidote: Planting more trees.

    When strategically placed, trees not only help cool the surrounding air by up to 14 degrees Fahrenheit, but they also filter out pollution, regulate water flow, and help reduce carbon emissions by helping to conserve energy.

    For all those reasons and more, we are happy to hear that the N.J. Department of Environmental Protection will be awarding almost $400,000 in grants to allow 20 municipalities and two counties to encourage the growth and maintenance of urban and community trees and forests.

    The N.J. Forestry Service's Urban and Community Forestry Program has been providing these Stewardship Grants since 2000.

    The money can be used for a variety of projects, including conducting community tree inventories, planting new trees, or managing the damage inflicted by the emerald ash borer, an invasive beetle that is killing ash trees not only in New Jersey but in widespread swathes of the entire country.

    "Proper management [of the tree borer] is essential because infested trees can eventually become a public safety concern," warns State Forester John Sacco.

    Meet some of N.J.'s beautiful 'champion' trees

    Money for the 2018 round of grants is coming from the sale of state license plates bearing the motto "The Treasure of Our Trees," as well as from a program called No Net Loss Compensatory Reforestation.

    Under the state's No Net Loss Reforestation Act, developers who remove tress from state-owned or state-maintained land measuring a half acre or more must set aside funds to replace those trees on a roughly one-to-one basis.

    Among beneficiaries of the Stewardship Grants this year are Highland Park, Hoboken, Moorestown, Mount Holly, Pennington Borough and Red Bank.

    For the first time in history, more than half the world's population lives in towns and cities, a number that's expected to increase to 66 percent by 2050.

    That forecast comes from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, which notes that in many cases, rapid expansion of cities takes place without the benefit of strategic planning.

    As a result, the agency adds, forests, green areas and well-designed landscaping too often get short shrift.

    Yet research continues to tell us that living near or among trees can go a long way toward improving physical and mental health, by reducing stress and high blood pressure.

    Clearly, the folks at the Department of Environmental Protection know a good thing when they see it. And they're right to keep those stewardship grants coming.

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

     

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    Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson ordered Burlington County to release body-worn camera footage.

    A Superior Court Judge has ordered Burlington County to release a partial police body camera video the county sought to keep private and exempt from public record.

    Kevin Lewis, who had requested footage of his interactions with sheriff's officers who responded to a courthouse altercation in which he was involved, will receive most of one recording, and a second recording will be withheld out of privacy concerns, Judge Mary Jacobson said in an order she handed down Thursday. 

    The order provides a narrow window into a single incident, but it could have far-reaching implications.

    Jacobson's ruling that body camera footage can be released under the state's Open Public Records Act comes on the heels of a state Supreme Court decision that found dashboard camera footage is not subject to disclosure under that same law.

    Court: police can keep dashcam videos secret

    The order, which will likely be appealed, could set up another high-stakes legal fight over how much access members of the public can have to body-worn cameras, which have been adopted by police departments across the state in recent years but come with a host of new privacy and transparency concerns.

    Jacobson found earlier in this case that the records custodian could not simply deny a request to release body camera footage by declaring it a criminal investigatory record. 

    "It is hereby declared that the body worn camera audio and video recordings in this matter do not fall within OPRA's criminal investigatory exemption," she wrote in her Aug. 24 order.

    Walter Luers, Lewis's attorney, said open records law defines a criminal investigatory record as any record that police are not required to make or maintain. 

    Luers said he furnished the court with guidelines issued by the New Jersey Attorney General's Office in 2015 on when the cameras must be on, when they can be shut off and who can view the film.

    And he successfully argued the existence of this directive means body-worn camera footage falls outside the scope of the criminal investigatory record exception.

    The court's decision does not mean that the public will always receive access to body cam footage. But it does mean that police can't fall back on this major exception, at least in cases that end up before Jacobson, Luers said.

    Records custodians can claim other exceptions, if, for instance, the footage would violate personal privacy or reveal investigatory techniques of raise security concerns, he said.

    Ultimately, a determination of whether footage should be release will require a more fact-sensitive analysis, Luers said.

    Burlington County "has not made any decisions as to where to go from here," said attorney Evan Crook, declining further comment.

    Samantha Marcus may be reached at smarcus@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @samanthamarcus. Find NJ.com Politics on Facebook.


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    The results from The Mountains vs. The Seas showcase twist up the rankings.


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    Gov. Murphy, as a candidate, had pledged to stop the hunt. He's only restricted it, and people on both sides are unhappy.

    Three pro-hunting groups say they plan to challenge Gov. Phil Murphy's executive order barring the bear hunt from state land.

    The New Jersey Outdoor Alliance (NJOA), Safari Club International and Sportsmen's Alliance announced Tuesday that they are seeking hunters as plaintiffs in a lawsuit to be filed in state court.

    NJOA trustee Cody McLaughlin said Murphy's Aug. 20 executive order "was just mind-boggling to New Jersey sportsmen for a variety of reasons."

    "This is both a legal and scientifically sound hunt. Caving to public pressure was just the wrong move here," McLaughlin said.

    This year's hunt begins Oct. 8.

    Murphy, as a candidate in December 2016, had pledged to halt the bear hunt. While banning the hunt from state land, he is otherwise allowing it to proceed, and has stated he lacks the legal authority to stop it altogether.

    His spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the impending lawsuit.

    The impact of Murphy's executive order on the hunt is unclear. About 40 percent of the 3,429 bears killed in the eight hunts under former Gov. Chris Christie were located on state land.

    However, the state Department of Environmental Protection is selling just as many bear hunt permits -- 11,000 -- as in 2017, and New Jersey Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel has said hunting on private property is expected to increase.

    Some bear hunt opponents also are unhappy with Murphy. Protesters gathered across the street on Saturday from the governor's official residence in Princeton, urging an end to the hunt.

    Murphy, who lives in Middletown, was not around during the protest.

    This year's bear hunt is scheduled to last for 12 days -- from Oct. 8 through Oct. 13, and from Dec. 3 through Dec. 8 -- in eight northern counties.

    The three hunting groups did not say when the lawsuit will be filed.

    Rob Jennings may be reached at rjennings@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @RobJenningsNJ. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

     

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    No injuries were immediately reported Watch video

    The heavy rains that doused the greater Trenton area Tuesday afternoon caused flooding that disabled cars and led police and firefighters to free some trapped motorists.

    The Trenton Fire Department was dispatched to several locations around the city, many which flood regularly in downpours, for motorists needing help out of their flooded cars.

    The Mercer County library system announced at about 7 p.m. they were closing all branches for the evening at 7:30 p.m. due to the flooding.

    Expo preview

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    Sgt. Teddy Cerra was suspended without pay after the incident.

    A police sergeant has been indicted on charges he chasing another officer down a highway at high speed -- before pulling a gun on him during a roadside encounter.

    Sgt. Teddy Cerra, of the Franklin Township police in Somerset County is charged with second-degree possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, and two counts of aggravated assault: one third-degree and the other fourth-degree. Burlington County Prosecutor Scott Coffina announced the indictment, dated Sept. 20, in a news statement Tuesday.

    Cerra, a 43-year-old Southampton resident, is suspended without pay from the department after the Nov. 1 incident last year.

    That all started, Coffina said, when an off-duty Lumberton police officer was driving his personal car in Southampton.

    That officer noticed Cerra driving "in an erratic manner," notified police dispatch and tailed Cerra in his car. The two stopped on the shoulder of Red Lion Road, where Cerra got out of his car, pulled a gun and pointed it at the Lumberton officer, Coffina said.

    Prosecutors said at a detention hearing that Cerra told the Lumberton officer about his law enforcment status, saying "I'm blue."

    "I'm blue, too," the Lumberton officer said, getting on the ground when he saw Cerra's gun. 

    He showed Cerra his police ID before getting back in his car and driving away. This time, Cerra was chasing him. At the detention hearing, prosecutors said the vehicles broke 100 mph in parts of the chase.

    The chase ended when Cerra struck a vehicle and mailbox. New Jersey State Police apprehended him and took the gun from his waistband.

    Cerra also received summonses for reckless driving and operating a motor vehicle under the influence of liquor or drugs.

    Joe Brandt can be reached at jbrandt@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @JBrandt_NJ. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

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    Compensating commuters for delays or poor service would certainly be an incentive for transit agencies to do a better job.

    Transportation in New Jersey can be a challenge, as many travelers can attest to.

    Long suffering NJ Transit rail riders were recently told to brace for reduced service as the agency plays catch up to complete federally-mandated safety improvements on its hundreds of miles of track.

    Next, we learned that Newark International Airport yet again earned the distinction of being rated dead last in customer satisfaction among major U.S. airports.

    As the most densely populated state in the country, New Jersey needs a reliable mass transportation system as an alternative to clogged highways that waste time and money and contributes to pollution.

    Complaints about delays on NJ Transit trains are nothing new. NJT has a notorious track record when it comes to infrastructure maintenance. Documents obtained by NJ Advance Media earlier this year revealed that federal regulators found scores of NJT train cars riddled with fire risks, faulty brakes and electrical hazards.

    These rail problems are in addition to the safety upgrades that are causing the latest round of service cutbacks necessitated to install an emergency braking system known as positive train control that became a requirement for rail lines in response to a 2008 train crash in California that killed 25 people.

    NJ Transit's go-to excuse for canceling trains is not the whole story

    NJT is under the gun to complete the safety system by the end of the year. To meet that deadline, the agency announced it will discontinue 18 trains starting on Oct. 14. Commuters are advised to check NJTransit.com for schedule changes that will affect trains on the Northeast Corridor, North Jersey Coast, Morris & Essex, Montclair-Boonton and Main/Bergen lines.

    But here's the novel twist to all this: Since riders are getting less service, NJT is giving commuters a 10 percent discount on all rail tickets from November to January.

    Imagine if other agencies offered similar performance-based rates.

    The Newark airport, for example, might do well to consider giving frustrated customers some kind of relief to assuage their anger as they deal with check-in delays or baggage claim problems or less the welcoming terminal facilities.

    Heaven knows that passengers complain about these and other problems at Newark Liberty enough to give the airport the lowest customer satisfaction rating among similar-sized mega airports in the United States, according a study done this year by J.D. Power.

    It's the second year in a row that Newark has claimed this dubious last-place title.

    Here's another suggestion: The New Jersey Turnpike Authority could offer reduced rates to drivers when road work causes traffic backups.

    Compensating commuters for delays or poor service would certainly be an incentive for transit agencies to do a better job.

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

     

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    If you see David Allen Hamilton, you are asked to call 911.

    A 47-year-old Bucks County man, who is charged with 12 counts of child sexual assault and has been on the run for days, may be driving a white Toyota Avalon with the Pennsylvania license plate PD3759P, Solebury Township police report.

    David Allen Hamilton Jr., of Lower Southampton Township, was last seen Friday, the same day he assaulted a Solebury officer, police said.

    Hamilton was initially driving a white Toyota Corolla, but that was recovered days ago in Morrisville, police said.

    If anyone sees Hamilton or the Avalon, they are asked to call 911, police said.

    Search for child rape suspect ongoing

    Hamilton is charged in Lower Southampton, which less than 20 miles from Solebury, with two counts of rape of a child, two counts of aggravated indecent assault on children younger than 13 and 16, one count of photographing, filming or depicting on a computer a sex act with a child and seven related counts, court records show.

    The arrest warrant is dated Sept. 19, but the charges stem from Jan. 1, 2013, records show.

    At one point on Friday, Hamilton was seen crossing a bridge into Trenton, police said. But he was back in Pennsylvania later in the day, police added.

    Tony Rhodin may be reached at arhodin@lehighvalleylive.com. Follow him on Twitter @TonyRhodin. Find lehighvalleylive.com on Facebook.


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    Frank Theatres, which also owns a mall were one of its cinemas is located, recently announced plans for a new theater and bowling alley near Princeton

    A movie theater chain with four locations in New Jersey -- and a big entertainment complex planned near Princeton -- has filed for bankruptcy. 

    Frank Theatres, based in Jupiter, Florida, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection under four entities: Frank Entertainment Companies, Frank Theatres Management, Frank Investments and the Rio Mall shopping center in Rio Grande. All filings were based in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in the Southern District of Florida and made between June and September.  

    According to its website, Frank Theatres operates two cinemas in New Jersey; the Rio Stadium 12 at the Rio Mall in Cape May County, and South Cove Stadium 12 in Bayonne. The company also owns the Rio Mall.

    Other Frank Theatres in New Jersey include the Tilton 8 in Northfield and the Towne Stadium 16 in Egg Harbor Township. Local radio statio 107.3 reported a sign declaring the Tilton cinema closed for technical problems had been posted to the door since last week, and phone calls to the cinema went unanswered. A representative at the Egg Harbor Township theater said they were open. 

    Listen to NJ.com on Alexa, or via a daily podcast

    It was not immediately clear why the theaters were not listed on the corporate website with the others. 

    Documents list assets at the Rio Mall between $1 and $10 million, and between $100,000 and $500,000 at the Tilton theater. Both have liabilities between $1 and $10 million. 

    The three other entities listed assets between $10 and $50 million, and two have liabilities in the same range. One entity, Frank Theatres Management, LLC, only has $50,000 to $100,000 in liabilities. 

    The company was expected to open a 60,000-square-foot entertainment complex with 11-screens, an IMAX theater, a 12-lane bowling alley and a sports bar at the Montgomery Promenade in Somerset County. 

    Frank Theatres operates other cinemas in Florida, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia.  

    Calls and emails to the company seeking comment were not returned Wednesday. 

    The filings show the company is three months behind on rent at its Northfield property, owing more than $700,000 to Tilton Properties LLC for June, July and August.

    Frank Investments, Inc., owes some taxes in the state, listing $330,751 to the Egg Harbor Tax Collector, $19,252 to the City of Absecon Tax Office, $10,412 to the City of Cape May Tax Office and $5,764 to City of Ventnor Tax Office. 

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

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    Authorities also announced the arrest of a woman accused of aiding the fugitive, 47-year-old David A. Hamilton Jr.

    Authorities stressed the importance Wednesday afternoon of finding a stolen car they believe a fugitive charged with child rape may be using, as he continues to elude investigators.

    David Allen Hamilton Jr., 47, of Lower Southampton Township in Bucks County, is a 20-year veteran of the U.S. Army and was a Cavalry scout who served two tours in Iraq, township police Chief Ted Krimmel revealed. He said the information on Hamilton's background came anecdotally from friends and family of the suspect.

    Local and federal investigators described the car reported stolen Wednesday morning in the New Hope area of Bucks County as a white Toyota Avalon with Pennsylvania license plate PD3759P

    The car was stolen from the 200 block of Bobwhite Road in the Fox Run Preserve neighborhood of Solebury Township in Bucks County. It belonged to a neighbor of a woman accused of helping Hamilton to hide out from Friday night or early Saturday through Tuesday night. 

    The woman, Meredith Custodio, was arrested Wednesday on charges of hindering apprehension and conspiracy, police announced at a news conference. Familiar to Hamilton, Custodio was the caregiver to a 78-year-old woman living in Fox Run and is believed to have sheltered Hamilton in the elderly woman's home. 

    Detectives developed information Custodio knew Hamilton and visited the house two times, Friday and Tuesday. She denied knowledge of Hamilton's whereabouts, police said, but she was charged after police investigated the stolen car report next door. 

    Authorities on Wednesday also released a surveillance photo that shows Hamilton purchasing a white tent with red top Sept. 15 from the Oxford Valley Target, according to Robert Clark, a supervising deputy with the U.S. Marshals Service based in Philadelphia.

    "He's got clean clothes, obviously some money and a vehicle so he's mobile and he can go anywhere," Solebury Township police Chief Dominick Bellizze told reporters Wednesday at the township building. "I don't know if he's still in the area or not."

    On the run from authorities since last Wednesday, Hamilton is believed to be hiding out in woods along the Delaware River separating Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

    "He has the tent, he's camping out, he has the Army background," Bellizze said. "We believe he may be down by the river in a wooded area like he was before. That's why we're concentrating a lot of our efforts there."

    Hamilton is charged with the rape of two young girls, described as relatives of each other but not of him. Law enforcement has been watching the victims and their family, including visiting their school daily, as Hamilton continues to elude investigators.

    "We're confident they're going to be OK" while Hamilton remains on the loose, said Kimmel, the Lower Southampton chief. 

    Investigators ask anyone who sees the stolen Toyota sedan or the white tent with red top to call the U.S. Marshals tip-line at 866-865-8477 (TIPS) or 911.

    The Marshals Service is offering a $1,000 reward for information leading directly to Hamilton's arrest. 

    "It's imperative for us right now to find that vehicle," Clark said. "It gives us a starting point of where Mr. Hamilton may be. And it's just important for the public to be vigilant to try and locate that vehicle and also if they've seen that tent any time in the last week ... I'd ask the public to be vigilant in reporting that tent if they've noticed that."

    Fugitive facing child sex assault charges fought off cops

    Police described Hamilton as dangerous and possibly armed. In addition to raping two children, he fought with a New Hope police officer on Friday and tried to steal the officer's firearm before fleeing, authorities said.

    An archery hunter spotted Hamilton in the woods Friday and supplied photos of him to investigators.

    Authorities do not anticipate having to limit recreational activities in the search area, and say hunters may be of assistance if they see Hamilton, the stolen car or the tent. A heavy law enforcement presence aims to keep the public safe during the manhunt.

    "I don't think it's unsafe to be out and about," Bellizze said. "As I said, I'd keep my eyes open."

    David Allen Hamilton Jr.David Allen Hamilton Jr., 47, of Lower Southampton Township, is seen Sept. 15, 2018, leaving a store. Hamilton, who may be camping along the Delaware Canal in the New Hope/Lambertville area, is sought on 12 child sex abuse charges. (Courtesy photo | For lehighvallleylive.com) 

    Marshals on Friday wrapped up a three-month manhunt that led to the arrest in Ohio of Shawn Christy, the New Jersey native and Pennsylvania resident accused of threatening President Donald Trump and other officials.

    "We're well-versed in rural searches, long-term searches," Clark said. "The Marshals Service specializes in finding sex offenders. So we believe we're prepared and we're up to the task and we hope to bring Mr. Hamilton into custody as soon as possible."

    Kurt Bresswein may be reached at kbresswein@lehighvalleylive.com. Follow him on Twitter @KurtBresswein and Facebook. Find lehighvalleylive.com on Facebook.


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