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Central Jersey News from the Times of Trenton

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    If the 1918 Great Flu Pandemic has shown us anything, it is that we can't let our guard down.

    With solemn ceremonies, countries around the globe have been marking the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, the bloody war to end all wars. But it is also the centenary of another frightful milestone, the Great Flu Pandemic of 1918.

    It is estimated that the war claimed the lives of 8.5 million combatants, but that number is dwarfed by the 50 million to 100 million people who died as a result of the worldwide plague. And millions more were infected but survived the then mysterious disease that mistakenly was dubbed the Spanish flu even though it did not originate there.

    Philadelphia was at the epicenter of the outbreak in October 1918. Corpses could not be buried fast enough and packing crates had to be used because there were not enough coffins, according to the National Archives.

    The pneumonia-inducing virus also was virulent in New Jersey, home to then Camp Dix and other military installations where crowded conditions provided a perfect breeding ground for the disease.

    Ocean County measles outbreak continues to spread

    By the time the pandemic petered out in 1919, roughly one fifth of the world's population was infected by the influenza.

    The confounding characteristic of this rapidly spreading illness is that it struck down many normally healthy young people who would normally be the least likely to get sick.

    It was only much later that researchers came to pin the blame on a virus designated as H1N1.

    Here it is 100 years later, and the pandemic is still a part of our collective memory because so many of us had a family member who contracted the deadly disease.

    What was so terrifying about this outbreak is that no one really knew what caused it or how best to treat it.

    We see similar situations today when we are confronted by such epidemics as the human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, that can lead to AIDS, the most advance stage of the HIV infection.

    When the AIDS epidemic hit the United States in the late 1970s and early 80s, it caused panic, with people shunning anyone suspected of having it.

    Today we know AIDS is caused by a virus and, while there is no cure, there are now effective treatments.

    If there is a positive legacy from the 1918 pandemic, it is that we can lick these diseases if we put our minds and wallets to it.

    Unlike 1918, today we have a better understanding of virus-born illnesses. That comes from years of painstaking research, which has yielded new treatments and even vaccines.

    Because of our dealing with these outbreaks, we have a more robust infrastructure in place to deal with epidemics. In the United States, we have the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and internationally we have the World Health Organization. We also have better trained first responders and health-care workers.

    Will we be subjected to new viral outbreaks in the future? That seems to be almost a certainty given the vast number of viruses out there and their ability to mutate.

    If the 1918 pandemic has shown us anything, it is that we can't let our guard down in combating the next outbreak. Public-health programs need adequate funding and our support.

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


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    Dogs and cats throughout New Jersey need homes.

    Thanksgiving is coming. And as with any holiday - and the celebrations that go along with a holiday - the festivities and pets may not necessarily mix.

    Here are some reminders to help keep your pet from becoming a medical emergency:

    * It's not unusual for emergency veterinarians to treat dogs for a chicken or turkey bone they have swallowed. Dogs getting a hold of bones can lead to major problems. Make sure to keep them and finished plates where pets can't reach them.

    * Dogs are naturally going to want to participate in the vittles at a gathering and some folks give them as treats, but be aware of things a pet can't eat. Foods that can sicken dogs include: avocados, apple seeds, caffeinated beverages or alcohol, onions, potatoes, grapes, tomatoes and chocolate.

    * Comings and goings are a natural part of parties, whether its guests arriving or perhaps people stepping outside for a smoke. Pets that live indoors may be excited by all the company ... and bolt out an open door. If your pet isn't supposed to go out, make sure you and your guests don't leave doors open for very long.

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

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    Some gripping videos of police officers caught in action

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    He was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital.

    A Philadelphia man died Sunday night in Trenton after being shot and discovered suffering from his wounds in a car near Trenton Central High School. 

    Police responded to a call that shots had been fired near the intersection of Walnut Avenue and Monmouth Street around 10:30 p.m. Sunday, the Mercer County Prosecutor's Office said.

    Officers found Eric Severino, 27, of Philadelphia, inside a white SUV with a gunshot wound to his chest. 

    Authorities said Severino was transported to St. Francis Medical Center, but succumbed to his injuries and was pronounced dead a short time later. 

    Prosecutors did not detail why Severino was in the Trenton area. 

    Sunday's shooting was the second shooting incident in the area in the last week -- two men were shot Tuesday morning a few blocks over on East State Street. 

    This incident is also the second fatal shooting in Trenton in the last week. A 28-year-old Ewing man was killed Wednesday afternoon in broad daylight.

    No arrests have yet been made and the investigation is ongoing. Anyone with information is urged to contact the Mercer County Homicide Task Force at (609) 989-6406 or or

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


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    The portrait will hang in the Statehouse along with New Jersey's 54 governors before him.

    It's a part of former Gov. Chris Christie that will never leave the New Jersey Statehouse.

    The former governor is slated to unveil his official portrait Monday night. The painting will eventually join the 54 other images of New Jersey governors that hang along the hallways of the Statehouse oil Trenton nce the building reopens in mid-2022.

    Christie's portrait will be unveiled during a private event in Princeton at the Morven Museum and Garden, which served as the governor's residence before Drumthwacket.

    These events used to be joined with fanfare, with the former governor returning to the Statehouse to be joined by the state's sitting governor and other well-wishers. 

    But the tradition ended in 2010, when Jon Corzine took his portrait unveiling out of the Statehouse and to Morven.

    Christie didn't attend that year. He was away on vacation with his family at the time.

    Similarly, Gov. Phil Murphy won't be there to deliver remarks at Christie's event. Murphy will be doing his monthly "Ask the Governor" program at the same time.

    The state's first lady, Tammy Murphy, and Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver will attend instead.

    Christie on short list to be Trump's next attorney general

    Christie's portrait made headlines earlier in the year after it was reported it would cost $85,000, which is more than taxpayers shelled out for paintings of his three predecessors combined.

    The money comes from a taxpayer-funded account of $250,000 that goes to every exiting governor. The money is used to pay for office space, staff and other services, including the official portrait.

    The job went to Australian artist Paul Newton, who's won awards for his portraits.

    The last former governor to have a portrait unveiling at the Statehouse was Richard Codey, who took Jim McGreevey's spot after he resigned from office in November 2004, three years into his term.

    Corzine spoke at McGreevey's unveiling in 2003. It was the first time McGreevey returned to the Statehouse since he resigned.

    Where Christie's portrait will ultimately hang is unclear.

    The Statehouse is in the midst of a renovation. It's not slated to reopen until 2022.

    Currently, the portraits of New Jersey governors dating back to Gov. Brendan Bryne hang on the first floor of the governor's temporary office down the block from the Statehouse. 

    It'll be up to Murphy to decide whether Christie will join them.

    Matt Arco may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @MatthewArco or Facebook.

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    The latest group of U.S. Rhodes Scholars has more women than any other class.

    Two college students from New Jersey are among 32 Americans picked for one of the world's most prestigious scholarships.

    Nicolette D'Angelo, a Princeton University student from Hewitt, and Margaret Dods, a U.S. Naval Academy student from Linwood were named Rhodes Scholars on Sunday.

    They were selected from a pool of 880 applicants who had been nominated by their colleges and universities. Both will receive full scholarships for post-graduate studies at Oxford University in England next fall.

    "I immediately called my mother and cried with her after sharing my unreal, euphoric news," D'Angelo said. 

    D'Angelo is majoring in classics at Princeton and pursuing certificates in creative writing, humanistic studies, and gender and sexuality studies. She plans to pursue the M.St. in Classics at Oxford and show "the relevance of antiquity" to today's world, eventually becoming a classics professor.

    "We prize concepts like democracy, columned architecture and philosophy from the ancient past, but we also can trace back to this time some of our most unsavory societal norms today: for example, the exclusion of women and other marginalized voices from power," she said.

    Dods majors in English and Arabic and has maintained a perfect grade point average. She serves as a Battalion Commander, leading 750 other students at the Naval Academy.

    They are part of the latest group of U.S. Rhodes Scholars, which has more women than any other class. Almost half of this year's recipients are either immigrants or first-generation Americans. 

    More than 2,000 Americans have received Rhodes Scholarships since the program was created in 1902 by British philanthropist Cecil Rhodes.

    Adam Clark may be reached at Follow him on twitter at @realAdamClarkFind on Facebook

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    All five New Jersey dioceses will review their files and release the names of priests accused of abuse early next year, Cardinal Joseph Tobin announced.

    The names of every priest and deacon "credibly accused" of sexually abusing a child will be made public by New Jersey's five Catholic dioceses early next year, church officials announced Monday.

    The dioceses -- Newark, Camden, Paterson, Metuchen and Trenton -- are also establishing a victim compensation fund and counseling program for victims of sexual abuse by clergy and other church employees, said Cardinal Joseph Tobin, the head of the Archdiocese of Newark.

    "The dioceses will undertake this action in coordination with the attorney general of New Jersey's ongoing task force examining the issue of clergy sexual abuse. It is hoped that these steps will aid in the process of healing for victims, who are deserving of our support and prayers," Tobin said in a statement.

    Tobin did not give a date for the release of the names or indicate how many priests and deacons may be on the list.

    The announcement comes as the Catholic Church has been under increasing pressure in New Jersey and worldwide to be more transparent about its efforts to address clergy sexual abuse.

    Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal announced in September that a state task force will investigate how the Catholic Church in New Jersey handled sexual abuse claims. The grand jury investigation is modeled on a Pennsylvania grand jury investigation that found more than 300 priests sexually abused more than 1,000 children over several decades as many church leaders covered up the problem.

    The New Jersey task force's hotline-- (855) 363-6548 -- set up in September was immediately flooded with calls from victims. The Archdiocese of Newark has also received what is expected to be one of multiple subpoenas to Catholic dioceses to turn over records of abuse allegations to state investigators.

    New Jersey's five dioceses will review decades of records before releasing the names of the accused priests and deacons next year, Tobin said.

    The details of the new compensation fund for victims will be released when they are finalized, the archdiocese's statement said.

    "This program will provide the resources to compensate those victims of child sexual abuse by clergy and employees of the dioceses in New Jersey whose financial claims are legally barred by New Jersey's statute of limitations," Tobin said. "This will give victims a formal voice and allow them to be heard by an independent panel."

    The new fund will expand the church's current compensation program, which has already paid about $50 million to victims who filed lawsuits or complaints in the five New Jersey dioceses, church officials said.

    "The program also will be a resource to provide permanent funding for necessary counseling to those who have been victimized. Such counseling so often is needed to help in the healing of those who have been harmed," Tobin's statement said.

    The statement did not say how the Catholic Church will pay for the new fund for New Jersey victims.

    Much of the money for the $50 million already paid out to victims in New Jersey came from the dioceses' insurance policies and self-funded insurance reserves, church officials said.

    In a separate statement, the Diocese of Metuchen said it will pay for its share of the new compensation fund with self-funded insurance reserves.

    At least 19 Catholic dioceses nationwide have filed for bankruptcy to help cover the cost of sexual abuse settlements. But none of New Jersey's dioceses have run out of money.

    In New Jersey, there is no statute of limitations in rape cases, meaning victims can go to police at any time to try to pursue criminal charges.

    However, victims who want to file civil lawsuits have just two years to come forward under New Jersey's laws. Some lawmakers are trying to remove that statute of limitations.

    New Jersey's dioceses signed an agreement in 2002 to report any allegations of clergy sexual abuse to law enforcement. The dioceses were not required to publicly name accused priests.

    New Jersey is one of several states, including New York, where officials have recently launched statewide investigations into how the Catholic Church handled sexual abuse allegations.

    In the Archdiocese of Newark, Tobin promised reforms after the resignation of former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick earlier this year.

    McCarrick, the former Archbishop of Newark and Bishop of Metuchen, was accused of sexual abuse and harassment of a string of altar boys, seminarians and fellow priests. He is awaiting a church trial.

    Kelly Heyboer may be reached at Follow her on Twitter @KellyHeyboer. Find her at KellyHeyboerReporter on Facebook.


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    Meanwhile, a warrant has been issued for Mark D'Amico's arrest because he missed a court date on a trespassing charge

    On Good Morning America Monday, an attorney for Kate McClure, the woman charged with conspiring on a fraudulent GoFundMe scheme with her then-boyfriend and a Philadelphia homeless man, said she was set up to take the fall for everything.

    Her ex, Mark D'Amico was "calling the shots," McClure's attorney told the national television audience.

    But Mark Davis, the Hamilton attorney representing D'Amico, said he guesses a lot of people are having a hard time picturing McClure as the innocent victim.

    "I join most of the world in saying it's laughable," Davis said. "She seems to be on a crusade to save her ass at the moment, I assume because her name is on everything."

    That includes the GoFundMe campaign that claimed to be raising money for Johnny Bobbitt, the homeless veteran who supposedly spent his last $20 to get her gas when she was stranded -- which the Burlington County prosecutor alleges was a complete fiction that successfully bilked donors out of over $400,000.

    The case has captured the nation's attention.

    At first, in November of 2017, because it seemed like a too-good-to-be-true story of altruism.

    Then this summer, when news broke that Bobbitt was homeless again and accusing the couple of spending all of the money meant for him. And now, as the Burlington County Prosecutor's Office has filed charges accusing all three of plotting from the beginning to swindle good-hearted donors to make a buck.

    They were charged Thursday with theft by deception and conspiracy. Bobbitt remains held in a Philadelphia jail awaiting extradition. McClure and D'Amico turned themselves in and were released.

    However, D'Amico failed to appear in Florence Township Municipal Court Monday on a trespassing charge from October, and a bench warrant has been issued for his arrest.

    Prosecutor Scott Coffina has painted all three as co-conspirators, but court documents used to support the charges detailed backstabbing and suspicion as it became clear as early as March that all of the money had been spent on travel, luxury handbags, a BMW, and more. The couple also said Bobbitt blew some of the money on drugs.

    But McClure's attorney, James Gerrow, released recordings to 6ABC Monday he claims show that McClure knew she was being set up. In the recordings, McClure is heard saying, "I had no part in any of this and I'm the one (expletive) taking the fall."

    But Davis said the only thing the recording proves is that McClure is trying to avoid responsibility for what went down.

    "It's the most self-serving record I've ever heard," he said. "You don't go in prepared to record unless you're going to stage something."

    In fact, prosecutors described part of the recording -- one of many they obtained when they seized her phone in September -- in their probable cause statement. It included D'Amico's response to McClure claiming she wasn't involved.

    mcclure-damico.jpgAn excerpt from the affidavit of probable cause filed against D'Amico, McClure and Bobbitt.

    Davis said other evidence in the prosecutor's probable cause statement that points to McClure's role in the GoFundMe campaign is her text to a friend that included, "I had to make something up to make people feel bad."

    Davis said that he believes the state will have a tough time proving their case against D'Amico because they would have to prove he created the fake GoFundMe with the intention to enrich himself. He said D'Amico and McClure initially intended for the GoFundMe campaign to help only Bobbitt -- even if the story wasn't true.

    "They wanted to help him get back on his feet," he said. It wasn't until after the campaign exceeded it's $10,000 goal that the three made a deal to share the money, he said.

    "Any money spent by Katelyn or Mark D'Amico was by agreement of the parties," he said.

    Davis said his client, since being charged, has been "handling this perfectly fine."

    "He understands he never had any intent to hurt or harm or defraud anyone. He was only involved with it because Kate McClure came to him with it and he believed Johnny Bobbitt was someone to be helped," he said.

    Davis was unaware about the trespassing charge against D'Amico.

    Florence Municipal Court records show the it was a citizen complaint filed Nov. 7 relating to an alleged incident Oct. 1 of this year.

    D'Amico has other outstanding municipal court offenses from traffic violations to destruction of property in other towns as well. When he failed to appear in court Monday, Florence Judge Corey E. Ahart said he was issuing a new bench warrant, but there was already an active warrant regarding a traffic offense.

    Rebecca Everett may be reached at Follow her on Twitter @rebeccajeverett. Find on Facebook.

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    Gov. Chris Christie's official portrait was unveiled Monday night at a private ceremony in Princeton.

    Here it is.

    Former Gov. Chris Christie unveiled his official state portrait Monday night at a private event in Princeton, where more than 100 of his friends, former staffers and officials were on hand.

    The portrait shows Christie standing at the large wooden lectern he would use to address reporters in the governor's outer office.

    "It feels great," Christie said of the event.

    The Republican chose to be portrayed at the lectern because he thinks it'll "be the way I'll be remembered." Christie is wearing the tie in the painting that he wore during his first inaugural and etched into the side of the lectern are the letters "STTS," for "stronger than the storm."

    The slogan refers to Hurricane Sandy, which Christie said he wanted memorialized in some way in the portrait.

    It will eventually hang in the New Jersey Statehouse in Trenton for generations to come.

    The event not only attracted some of the former governor's top staffers. Some of New Jersey's most powerful Democrats were also there to praise Christie and celebrate, including state Senate President Stephen Sweeney, Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo and South Jersey powerbroker George Norcross III.

    "This is one of the greatest honors," said Sweeney, D-Gloucester, who often locked horns with the GOP governor despite coming together on a series of bipartisan compromises during the eight years they worked together.

    "We actually did some amazing things in the state and history will show that," Sweeney said. "It's a great honor to be here and reflect on your time as governor. You were able to do a lot of great things."

    Sweeney added: "He's a great leader. A great governor and a great friend."

    Sweeney was among the half-dozen officials and former top Christie staffers and confidantes who spoke for nearly an hour in the build-up to the unveiling.

    Like Corzine, Christie unveils portrait at Morven

    Christie was quick to return the kind words after sharing laughs about his first big brawl with Sweeney after a particularly bad budget fight. He said he looked at "the front page of The Star-Ledger," and it said, "Sweeney: Christie a prick. I'm going to punch him in the head," Christie recalled.

    "I looked at this and said, 'This can't be real, right?'" Christie said. "I tried to call him and he didn't pick up, and I said, come on Steve, this is the prick calling.'"

    Christie ended the story with recalling how he and Sweeney mended fences shortly thereafter when Christie was rushed to the hospital after an asthma attack.

    "At that moment, I remember saying to (my wife) Mary Pat that's what I knew what a great friend he was," Christie said.

    Christie added: "We had an understanding the understanding was we were going to try to do the best for the people of New Jersey."

    Christie's Democratic successor, Gov. Phil Murphy, wasn't here when Christie pulled back the curtain on his portrait. Instead, First Lady Tammy Murphy attended the event.

    Murphy didn't attend because he was on his call-in radio program.

    "He and I don't see everything eye to eye," Murphy said of Christie during the show. "But tonight is a very special night for the governor. ... I wanted to give him a shout-out on a very special evening."

    Christie's portrait made headlines earlier in the year after it was reported it would cost $85,000, which is more than taxpayers shelled out for paintings of his three predecessors combined.

    The money comes from a taxpayer-funded account of $250,000 that goes to every exiting governor. The money is used to pay for office space, staff and other services, including the official portrait.

    The job went to Australian artist Paul Newton, who's won awards for his portraits.

    It was unveiled at Morven Museum and Garden, which once served as the governor's residence before Drumthwacket.

    The portrait will eventually hang in the Statehouse, which is in the midst of multi-year renovation and not scheduled to reopen until mid-2022.

    Currently, the portraits of New Jersey governors dating back to Gov. Brendan Bryne hang on the first floor of the governor's temporary office down the block from the Statehouse at the governor's temporary office.

    It'll be up to Murphy to decide whether Christie will join them.

    NJ Advance Media staff writer Brent Johnson contributed to this report.

    Matt Arco may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @MatthewArco or Facebook.

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    A jury found him guilty on charges of murder, weapons possession and eluding police

    The man accused of the brutal killing of 37-year-old Laura Perez last April in Hopewell Township was found guilty by a jury Tuesday on all counts relating to the crime and fleeing police after the fact. 

    Brian Sheppard, 54, was first charged with leading police on the chases in his landlord's stolen black 2010 pickup truck in May 2017. Further investigation lead to officials charging him for Perez's killing a week later.

    On Tuesday morning, after about two days of deliberations, a jury of nine women and four men found Sheppard guilty on all charges. 

    "It felt like there was a lot of evidence, a pretty diverse variety of evidence," Assistant Prosecutor Michael Grillo told NJ Advance Media after the verdict was announced. "But when you ask twelve people to agree on anything, and then to agree that someone committed a murder, that's a difficult ask." 

    Sheppard was lead away by court officers in handcuffs, awaiting a sentencing in the new year.

    Sheppard, who was renting a room in Hopewell Township at the time of the killing, was indicted in July 2017 on five charges: first-degree murder, two counts of weapons charges and two counts of eluding police.

    During the trial, Grillo described the harm done to Perez during her murder, calling her "unrecognizable" when she was found by police in Sheppard's bedroom.

    "This is an unfortunate scene, without question" Sheppard's attorney, Malaeika Montgomery, told jurors during opening statements.

    "But the presumption of innocence is a blanket. It covers him now, during deliberations, witness testimony, during deliberations. It does not leave him unless you find him guilty," she said.

    Montgomery looked disappointed Tuesday when speaking about the verdict. 

    "All I can say is, the jury made their verdict," she said.  

    Sheppard is scheduled to be sentenced in January. 

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

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    The house the then-couple was living in was raided by police in September

    Mark D'Amico, the 39-year-old Burlington County man wrapped up in the GoFundMe story turned alleged hoax, will not vacate the home where he once lived with his ex, Kate McClure, which was raided by police in September, a criminal complaint shows. 

    A judge in Florence issued a warrant for his arrest on a trespassing charge after he did not show in court Monday to answer it.

    D'Amico.jpgMark D'Amico

    The charge was brought by Leslie DeAngelo -- McClure's grandmother -- who also filed a criminal complaint against him saying he won't leave her property on Cedar Lane Extension.

    D'Amico and McClure were renting the home from her grandmother when it was raided by police in September.

    McClure is also charged in the alleged scam, which revolved around the $400,000 they purportedly raised via GoFundMe for homeless veteran Johnny Bobbitt. All three are charged with theft by deception for what authorities say was a scam from the start.

    The story started unraveling in August and September with accusations and a lawsuit. 

    Woman charged in GoFundMe scam is blaming ex 'to save her ass,' man's attorney says

    On Oct. 2, court records show, DeAngelo served D'Amico with a notice to leave the property. 

    "The police have on bodycam footage when he was given the notice to quit and he said he would be out on Nov. 1," DeAngelo wrote in her criminal complaint. 

    DeAngelo said after promising he'd leave, D'Amico instead changed the locks and remained living there.

    "He is staying there without our consent," she wrote. 

    DeAngelo filed the criminal complaint with Florence Municipal Court on Nov. 7, and D'Amico was due for an appearance Monday. When he didn't show, the judge issued a bench warrant for his arrest. 

    It's unclear if he's currently in the house. On Monday, his new lawyer was unaware of the municipal, trespassing case.

    D'Amico also has a warrant out for outstanding municipal court offenses from traffic violations to destruction of property in other towns, as well as facing criminal charges for theft by deception over $75,000 and conspiracy.

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


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    Police say she left her children alone for over 24 hours

    A Bucks County, Pennsylvania woman has been charged with endangering the welfare of her children after police tracked her cell phone to locations in New Jersey and Delaware while the kids were home alone for over 24 hours.

    Falls Township, Pa. police announced the charges against Sarah Grace, 28, on Tuesday for an incident in August.

    At about 8:15 p.m. on Aug. 3, police were called to an apartment complex on Mill Creek Road by a resident who had taken in one of her children. The child had knocked on the person's door carrying three backpacks, police said.

    Police searched for Grace and later determined she'd left her two young children alone and unsupervised since the day before.

    Grace's cell phone records show she was at her home at on August 2, at approximately 12:00 p.m., when she left and traveled to Trenton and then Princeton, and then to Delaware, police said.

    The records show she did not leave Delaware until August 3, 2018, at approximately 10 p.m. and as of 11:59 p.m. that night still had not returned home.

    Falls detectives later found her and arrested her on the endangering charges. They did not say why she allegedly left her kids alone, or where exactly she traveled in New Jersey and Delaware.

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



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    A contract issue caused security guards to walk off the job in Trenton schools on November 15.

    Days after a contract mix-up left kids in Trenton's public schools without the protection of security guards, Mayor Reed Gusciora held a press conference Tuesday saying school safety is a paramount concern for the city. He stopped short, however, of calling for the district's superintendent to resign -- a demand some community members made at a heated school board meeting Monday night.

    The city's police officers will patrol Trenton's 21 schools for the time being, Gusciora announced at the event Tuesday. 

    The school's security guards are employed by Patriot Security Group, which was awarded a $2.5 million dollar contract by the Board of Education in August, according to meeting minutes. That company has been entangled in a legal battle with another one, Motivated Security Services, over the legitimacy of the contract it was awarded.

    The back-and-forth legal battle resulted in the board being restrained from making payments to the Patriot Security Group, and as a result Patriot was unable to pay its employees, according to court documents.

    As a result, security guards walked off the job last Thursday. The gap in security coverage meant schools were left without in-house security for a few hours until Trenton police officers arrived.

    In a Friday press release, Gusciora said he was "disappointed" that he was not made aware that there were problems with the school security guard contracts sooner, and that his administration was not given the opportunity to work with the school board "to rectify the situation before it became problematic."

    As of Friday, at least 21 Trenton police officers were pulled from their normal duties and placed at each of the 21 schools within the district. The cost of covering those officers' shifts was not immediately clear, but Gusciora said the school district will have to pay for the officers placed in school buildings.

    The security transition has not been an entirely smooth one.

    Six district elementary schools were without security again Tuesday morning, after Gusciora said district officials told the city those schools would be covered by security guards. After receiving calls from parents and school staff, the city dispatched police officers to the schools, he said.

    In a video recording of Monday's night's board of education meeting, President of the Trenton Education Association Twanda Taylor called out Superintendent Fred McDowell and school board president Gene Bouie to step down amid earlier chants of "move Fred, get out the way," from members of the public.

    "It is time for the district to be liberated, clean it up," she shouted into the microphone at the standing-room only meeting.

    At-large city councilman Jerell Blakeley also called for McDowell to resign, and said that the security guards that worked in the district schools were victims of legal mess.

    "This is not the best we can do. This drama is something that is untenable, is unacceptable," Blakeley said.

    The superintendent's office did not return NJ Advance Media's request for comment on the matter. A message for the security company was not immediately returned. 

    The mayor Tuesday called for better communication between the city and the school board, and on the superintendent and board to create a plan of action, which would include giving the city advance notice of any future problem with third party security firms.

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

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    Offering ex-convicts a second chance rather than locking them up - again - is well worth the time, money and effort New Jersey is putting into it. Watch video

    All the training, all the job coaching, all the help with housing - these go down the drain if an ex-felon winds up back in prison.

    The welcome news in New Jersey is that the rate of recidivism has dropped by 19 percent in the last six years, testimony that these investments in giving prisoners a second chance are paying off.

    Fewer than three in 10 people in the Garden State who are released wind up behind bars again within three years, according to a new report by the National Reentry Resource Center and the Council of State Governments Justice Center.

    The study examined 10 states with significant declines in the number of former offenders who return to prison within three years.

    Changes in the state's parole system are certainly a huge element in the state's rosy statistics. But Roseanne Scotti, state director of the New Jersey Drug Policy Alliance, is convinced additional factors are at work.

    She cites among other things increased residential and community-based programs for parolees to help them make the transition to post-prison life, as well as projects addressing substance abuse, mental illness and general rehabilitation.

    The efforts have obviously paid off. The New Jersey Reentry Corp., which has eight locations up and down the state, has helped nearly 2,400 clients get jobs. It reports a recidivism rate of less than 20 percent among the people it serves.

    Similarly, NJ-Step, a consortium of eight two- and four-year colleges and universities in the state, provides courses for eligible prisoners while they are behind bars, then helps them make the adjustment to college life when they return to their communities.

    Trump tries compassion. Grab it, Democrats | Editorial

    Mercer County Community College, Princeton, The College of New Jersey and Rutgers are among the partners in this laudable program.

    But as much progress as we've made over the last decade or so, there's more to do - and that includes moving forward with the so-called the "Earn Your Way Out Act."

    The bill is aimed at helping model prisoners earn release earlier and give them access to assistance to reintegrate into society - a proven way to keep them out of prison again.

    The measure passed the Legislature in the last session but was vetoed by former Gov. Chris Christie. We're hoping it will find a more receptive ear with a new administration.

    Meanwhile, while the research is admittedly limited, some studies suggest a link between the ability to vote and lower rates recidivism.

    As more states begin restoring voting rights to certain ex-felons - a move Florida voters supported enthusiastically in mid-term elections earlier this month - it's a connection worth pursuing here.

    All of which is to say that offering ex-convicts a second chance rather than locking them up - again - is well worth the time, money and effort we put into it.

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

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    The vehicle was seen near the BB&T branch on Route 33 in Hamilton

    A woman who robbed a bank in Mercer County at gunpoint earlier this month might have fled on a shuttle bus, authorities said. 

    Hamilton police on Tuesday released surveillance photos of what they describe as an older model white E350 or E450 shuttle type bus with a handicap access door. The vehicle's license plate is not visible in the surveillance video. 

    hamilton-bank-robbery.jpgA vehicle in which a woman who robbed a bank in Hamilton earlier this month might have fled. (Hamilton police)  

    Witnesses saw the vehicle in the area of the BB&T bank on Route 33 after a woman wearing a red knit hat, dark blue sweatshirt and gray sweatpants robbed robbed the bank branch on Nov. 2. 

    She had a blue bandana covering her face and was seen near the drive-up teller windows after exiting the bank, police said. 

    Anyone who can identify the vehicle or the woman is asked to call Det. Matthew Donovan at 609-689-5824. He can be reached by email as well. Information can also be left on the department's crime tip hotline at 609-581-4008.

    Jeff Goldman may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @JeffSGoldman. Find on Facebook.


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    Ivy League keeps unbeaten Tigers from playoffs

    So where does the undefeated Princeton University football team go now that it's finished a 10-0 regular season? Ranked this week No. 8 in the FCS Coaches Poll, the answer is simple.


    That's not the case for 24 teams around the country, who this week kick off the FCS playoffs. That includes No. 1 North Dakota State, the only other unbeaten team in what used to be called Division 1-AA.

    The Ivy League, which competes in postseason tournaments in everything from field hockey and soccer to basketball and baseball, does not condone postseason football.

    For Princeton football coach Bob Surace, the time is overdue for the Ancient Eight to come out of the dark ages.

    "You don't have closure,'' he said Tuesday. "When you win (a league title) and are expected to go to the playoffs and others don't allow that, for whatever reasons they have, you have this empty feeling. How would we have done? It's an unknown answer. We could lose in the first round, we could win a national title, or everything in between.

    "But we'll never know. And that hurts our players and our coaches to the core. We're not a school that should ever limit opportunities.''

    Lovett_HarvardPT66.jpgPrinceton QB John Lovett scampers for yardage against Harvard. (Patrick Tewey photo)

    The long-time posture of halting the football season in mid-November falls on university presidents of the eight Ivy League members. This season, not only would Princeton likely play into December, but so could Dartmouth, an Ivy member ranked 15th in the country with a 9-1 record.

    The last time Princeton had an undefeated football season was 1964. Surace wasn't even born. The names that led that team to a 9-0 record were coach Dick Coleman, All-American running back Cosmo Iacavazzi and first-round NFL place kicker Charlie Gogolak.

    Fifty-four years ago the New York Yankees that fall had lost the World Series to St. Louis, Jim Brown and Gary Collins led the Cleveland Browns to the NFL championship and Jack Kemp led the Buffalo Bills to the AFL title.

    Alabama was voted No. 1 in college football, but that was when rankings were named prior to bowl games. Bama would lose the Orange Bowl game, and Arkansas, which won the Cotton Bowl, finished as the only unbeaten team in the country; causing yet another rankings controversy.

    There was no postseason for Ivy football teams back then either, but no one complained about the Princeton basketball team, when the 1964-65 squad went all the way to the Final Four.

    Shed no tears for this season, but then again there was no absence of emotions for this group. As someone once said, tears are words the heart can't say.

    "We had our banquet Sunday afternoon, and as tough as these players are, as tough as these coaches are, there were tears. You wouldn't believe the emotion,'' Surace said. "The last few days you've never seen grown men cry. Because it's over. The season's over.

    "This was the easiest team to coach,'' said Surace, this being the ninth at his alma mater. "It wasn't because of their talent, though believe me this was a talented group. They were the easiest group to coach because they loved football. They're accountable, they play together as team, they work hard, they prepare.

    "From our best player on our team, John Lovett, to the freshman walk-on, they all had those traits, and that made it for me very rewarding; because eventually football is going to be over and they have to get in the real world. And these guys are gonna attack life that way. The leadership and culture is huge.''

    Statistics reflect the blood, sweat and tears.

    The team averaged 47 points per game, tops in the nation. They gained an average of 537 yards per game, 6.5 on every run and 12.5 on every completed pass. By halftime, when all but two games were decided, Princeton scored 288 points and allowed 70. It committed just six turnovers and not many penalties.

    Defensively they came up with 15 interceptions, caused eight fumbles and recorded 29 sacks.

    Lovett ran for 894 yards and threw for 1833, scoring 13 touchdowns running and throwing for 18. Receiver Jesper Horsted, who scored three TDs in the 42-14 win over Penn Saturday, set a program record with 28 touchdown receptions and is second all-time with 2,703 receiving yards. Charlie Volker, Collin Eaddy and Ryan Quigley combined for 22 touchdowns and each averaged seven yards per carry.

    Defensively they allowed an average of 13 points per game. Five opponents were held to single digit scoring.

    "Many of those points weren't scored against the starters. They probably gave up an average of three-four points per half; something incredible '' Surace said. "Nobody stood out statistically. They played together, were always in the right position and played physically. They were reminiscent of the unbeaten (1972) Miami Dolphins, known as the, 'No Name Defense.'"

    Many of those Tigers, as well as those from their prolific offense, will be gone next season. Gone with them a chance of even greater accomplishment.

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    Kate McClure, one of three charged with deceiving the public in the viral GoFundMe campaign for a homeless vet that prosecutors allege was a lie, has been suspended from her job with the state.

    Kate McClure, one of three charged with deceiving the public in the viral GoFundMe campaign for a homeless vet that prosecutors recently alleged was all a lie, has been suspended from her job with the state of New Jersey.

    McCLure.jpgMcClure, police booking photo

    A spokeswoman for the Department of Transportation confirmed Wednesday McClure was suspended. The spokeswoman could not comment on whether she'd been suspended with or without pay.

    McClure, 28, is a receptionist within the state Department of Transportation. State records show she started working for the state in 2014 and currently makes a little over $43,000 annually.

    Her lawyer, James Gerrow, said Wednesday they knew the suspension was likely.

    "I told Kate this was inevitable once the charges had been made public by the Prosecutor," he said. "Unfortunately, it is standard operating procedure for a governmental entity. Yet, it adds to the traumatizing impact this case has had on Kate."

    The alleged $400K GoFundMe scam. Your questions answered

    McClure is charged along with her former boyfriend, Mark D'Amico, and Johnny Bobbitt, a homeless man living in Philadelphia, with theft by deception involving a GoFundMe campaign that raked in over $400,000 last fall.

    The story took off nationally, and virally. It was called "Paying it Forward," and had its genesis in McClure, from Florence, in Burlington County, running out of gas on her way to Philadelphia and Bobbitt, using his last $20 to get her gas.

    The GoFundMe, which McClure and D'Amico prompted in the media, was aimed at getting Bobbitt back on his feet.

    The story started unraveling in August and September of this year with accusations and a lawsuit by Bobbitt.

    Last week, the Burlington County Prosecutor's Office alleged it was a giant scam from the start, predicated on a lie.

    Gerrow responded earlier this week by laying blame with D'Amico, saying he was the one "calling the shots."

    Mark Davis, representing D'Amico, shot back, saying, he suspects people are having a hard time picturing McClure as a victim. "She seems to be on a crusade to save her ass at the moment, I assume because her name is on everything," he charged.

    In the midst of the saga, McClure and D'Amico split, and her grandmother has been trying to get him to leave the Florence home where they once lived together.

    The grandmother, Leslie DeAngelo, owns the home and filed a trespassing charged against D'Amico earlier this month, alleging in a criminal complaint he changed the locks and won't vacate the home.

    McClure and D'Amico were renting the home from her grandmother when it was raided by police in September.

    D'Amico did not show in Florence Municipal Court Monday for a hearing on a trespassing charge in that case and a judge issued a warrant for his arrest.

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


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    Holiday shopping never used to start so early.

    It's an unfortunate fact that many of the traditions of Christmas shopping are fading away.

    For decades, the holiday selling season began with decorations and lights ... but it wasn't usually until after Thanksgiving. It's not considered unusual anymore for holiday decorations and items to begin appearing in stores in October.

    MORE: Vintage photos around New Jersey

    Window shopping was once a magical time for children, strolling past stores with intricate displays of the season's new toys. And there were always the Sears and Montgomery Ward Christmas catalogs to set children dreaming of what might be under the tree Christmas morning.

    There simply aren't as many retailers as there once were, and online shopping takes a bigger bite from them each year. Here's a look at stores -- large and small -- where New Jerseyans shopped in years past.

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

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    They bring folding chairs, a table and order turkey bowls. Talk about a friends-giving!

    For 13 years, a group of friends have celebrated every Thanksgiving together, sharing a warm meal around a long, decorated table -- on the front lawn of a Wawa in Columbus.

    What started as a spontaneous breakfast adventure has turned into a legendary tradition based on friendship, turkey and Wawa.

    "I never thought I'd have to remember the details of the first Turkey Bowl," laughed 40-year-old Denart Ifurung, who has attended since the beginning. 

    The tradition began in 2005 when four friends went to get breakfast at Wawa and browse the Columbus Flea Market on Thanksgiving morning. That breakfast was Wawa's seasonal menu item, the Hot Turkey Bowl -- a savory mix of mashed potatoes and stuffing topped with turkey and gravy -- and they've been back ever since. Now, more than 20 friends look forward to the event each year.

    Their Columbus Market visit turned into a scavenger hunt for odd items. One year they searched for a monocle, and another, a walking cane. This year, who knows? 

    "It's definitely evolved and will continue to evolve to be as goofy and out-there as possible," said longtime Turkey Bowler, Tim Whitaker, 30, of Burlington.

    The antics have snowballed into years of jokes and even an afternoon with a real turkey.

    "Let's rewind 10 years -- to when the turkey named Gravy was here," said 29-year-old Turkey Bowl Veteran Joe Mozdzen, of Cherry Hill.

    The turkey arrived in a dog harness that, as it turned out, did not fit turkeys.

    "He fell out of it like Houdini," added Whitaker.

    This caused a group of untrained, grown men to safely try to catch a turkey. They did, eventually. Now, they bring a dog instead.

    Despite rain or snow, gusty winds or freezing temperatures, the Turkey Bowl maintains a high turnout. Each year, they wake up around 5 a.m., put on their warmest clothes, pack up tables and chairs, and make it to Wawa by sunrise. You don't want to wake up with Turkey Bowl regret, like 47-year-old Jason Sink did one year, after sleeping through his alarm.

    He thought about what he missed out on all day. Not even an Eagles win could cheer him up, he said.

    This year will be 25-year-old Donald Chandler's first Turkey Bowl, and not just the event. Chandler refused to eat the menu item for 12 years until he could experience it with his friends.

    Turkey Bowl1.jpgFriends set up tables and chairs to eat turkey bowls at Wawa in Columbus, N.J. every Thanksgiving. (Photo provided)

    Silliness aside, the Turkey Bowl is what Thanksgiving is all about: a tradition of appreciating loved ones and creating those lifelong memories to feel nostalgic about, said Whitaker. 

    Wawa recognized the group last week in a Facebook post captioned "Friendsgiving goals," and will post a video of their tradition on Wawa's YouTube channel for Thanksgiving.

    The convenience store has a unique fandom, said Wawa's Director of Digital Marketing, Todd Miller, who helped with the video.

    He's seen everything from intricate Halloween costumes of signature menu items like mac and cheese and classic hoagies to Wawa tattoos. Some newly weds even make Wawa their first stop after tying the knot, he said.

    "People say Wawa is a culture and it's true. Wawa is like pork roll," you can't have Jersey without it, said Columbus Wawa General Manager, Michael Heisig.

    Simply put, locals love Wawa. It's a staple for morning coffee and late-night cravings, he said.

    Original Turkey Bowler, Darren Ifurung, a Jersey native now living in Queens, New York, said Wawa "is like coming home."

    Every time he returns to New Jersey, the first thing he does is stop at Wawa.

    His favorite convenience store and the Columbus Market are "two things that I love about this area and two things that can't be replaced, apparently," he said.

    "I think it's an incredible thing that they've been doing. I hope they have 30 more years" of celebrations, said Heisig.

    He may be right.

    These friends have no intention of stopping the tradition any time soon. Even if some friends move away or have families of their own, they have faith it'll continue. 

    "I'll be 95 when I stop," said Whitaker.

    By then, he'll need a cane. Luckily, he's got one.


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    The mid-term elections earlier this month clearly reflected a referendum on the presidency.

    The four freshmen Congress members from New Jersey will be carrying more than their briefcases and their shiny new ID cards into the Capitol when the new session starts in January.

    They'll also carry the dreams of hundreds of volunteers who worked with single-minded intensity to have their voices heard in a capital bogged down in animosity, distrust and rancor.

    The mid-term elections earlier this month clearly reflected a referendum on the presidency. The electorate was fed up with the lies coming out of the White House almost hourly.

    But the rookies - Andy Kim (Third District), Tom Malinowski (Seventh District), Mikie Sherrill (Eleventh District) and Jeff Van Drew (Second District) - defeated their GOP opponents by promising to deliver more for the Garden State.

    Maps show how a Democratic 'blue wave' washed over N.J.

    More in terms of health care, in terms of transportation infrastructure, and in terms of a work-around on the Republican tax plan that strikes hard at the state's middle class, among other things.

    "They don't just want us to argue and investigate and have hearings," Van Drew said on his first trip to Washington with his new colleagues. "Some of that might be necessary, but that shouldn't be the only function we have."

    When the new representatives roll up their sleeves and settle in, their first order of business will be to install a Speaker of the House to replace Paul Ryan, the man whose top two priorities apparently were shredding Obamacare and securing tax breaks for the 1 percent.

    But already there are signs of dissent within the Dems as sentiment grows against California's Nancy Pelosi, who served in the post from 2007 to 2011.

    Earlier this week, Van Drew joined 15 other House members in a letter challenging the longtime legislator, whom many have lauded as one of the most effective Speakers in generations.

    Sherrill, who has also come out against Pelosi's re-election as Speaker, did not sign on.

    The rebels want fresh leadership, and we respect that emotion. But we also know Pelosi is smart, savvy and powerful - she can whip her caucus into shape and deliver the votes.

    The seasoned lawmaker helped push through the Affordable Care Act, as well as important bills dealing with credit card reform, equal pay for women, Wall Street reform and dozens of other issues progressive Democrats hold dear.

    There's a reason Pelosi has been a target of Republican venom: She gets things done.

    Now, as the 116th Congress gets under way, that steady-handed leadership is needed more than ever.

    Meanwhile, New Jersey's retiring or defeated GOP congressmen leave behind coveted seats on the House's Armed Services, Transportation and Infrastructure, and Natural Resources committees.

    These committees and others will need a Garden State presence going forward. We hope the new members of the state delegation and the veterans will work together to make it happen.

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

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