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A cease and desist letter has been sent to Redding First Selectman Julia Pemberton from an attorney representing Police Chief Doug Fuchs.  The letter, obtained by the Redding Pilot through the Freedom of Information Act, calls for Pemberton stop discussing Fuchs' employment status in public, other than as required by law.  The Chief was was placed on paid administrative leave October 31st pending an investigation into complaints about his handling of cases.  The Pilot reports that his attorney doesn't believe Pemberton handled his client's employment status in a professional manner, laying out several reasons.

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A retrial is underway for a Danbury restaurant owner convicted of killing his uncle, who was his business partner.  Marash Gojcaj is in Danbury Superior Court this week.  He was found guilty in 2010 and sentenced to 50 years in prison for murdering Joseph Vulevic  and dismembering his body after an argument at Gusto Restaurant in 2004. 

 

The Newstimes reports that Gojcaj’s attorney is arguing that the state’s key witness, a former waiter, was offered a deal for his testimony.  Danbury Det. Dan Trompetta wrote a letter to the Board of Pardons on the witness's behalf, which was discovered during a tampering case. Gojcaj was found not guilty in that case. 

 

The published report says the waiter had been interviewed by police, but after being arrested on drug charges in 2007 he provided a written statement to investigators. He received a suspended sentence on two felony narcotics charges.

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The Brookfield Superintendent is proposing a nearly $43.5 million budget for the next school year.  It's a 6.4 percent increase over the current year, and mostly due to an increase in special education costs.  A mobile world language lab and a consultant to look at school start times have also been proposed.  Costs of hiring another English Language Learner teacher and high school science teacher would be offset by eliminating two teaching positions at Center Elementary School and a custodian job.  A public hearing will be held by the Brookfield Board of Education on the budget on January 3rd.

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Two Brewster men have been arrested and a large quantity of heroin has been seized.  Putnam County Sheriff deputies and federal law enforcement had been investigating drug trafficking by 18-year old Francisco Osorio Sagastume and 21-year old Eduardo Paiz-Ortega, who were arrested Friday. 

 

(Eduardo Paiz-Ortega and Francisco R. Osorio Sagastume)

 

Sagastume was pulled over in Brewster, and K-9 Kato reportedly found about one kilo of heroin in the car.  A search of Paiz-Ortega's apartment reportedly yielded approximately another kilo of heroin. 

 

The heroin has an estimated street value of $200,000.  It is one of the largest seizures recorded in Putnam County.  A tip to the Sheriff’s Office Drug Hotline is credited for initiating the investigation, which is continuing. 

 

Additional charges are expected.

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Plans have been announced by Newtown officials about how the the town will honor and remember the victims of the shooting at Sandy Hook School on the anniversary of the tragedy on Thursday. 

 

In a coordinated effort with the families of loss, the gallery in the Municipal Center will be the site of a photographic Wall of Remembrance.  A welcome message advises community and staff who pass through the halls this week to take a moment to be reflective, to recollect and remember in kindness the children and educators who died five years ago. 

 

All municipal offices, departments and agencies will be closed Thursday from 9:30am to 9:45am for a brief period of silence and reflection in honor and remembrance.  First Selectman Dan Rosenthal asked that people join in the brief respite top honor those who were lost that day. 

 

There will be an interfaith service at Trinity Church beginning at 7pm.  St. Rose Church will hold a mass at 7:30pm.  

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The Brookfield Board of Finance is slated to discuss proposals for a new library at their meeting tonight.  The $14.77 million project is proposed for the Municipal Center horse statue athletic field. 

 

The library faces a March deadline because a million dollar state grant will expire at that time.  If the Board of Finance advances the project, a special town meeting will be held at Brookfield High School on the 21st. 

 

The current Library on Whisconier Road opened in 1975.  Among the issues are limited parking and meeting room space.  

 

Brookfield Patch reports that state Representative Steve Harding wants the town to consider building a new library in the Town Center.  He acknowledged that land acquisition would be costly, but that he could help secure state funds.  A referendum would likely be held February 27.

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On Monday, a Kia Sedona MPV full of toys and gifts will be delivered by Danbury Kia staff to the patients of the Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital to fulfill the Christmas wish of Zoey Seferi.

 

A Newtown mother whose daughter has an autoimmune disorder came to the Kia showroom to purchase an all-wheel drive vehicle recently.  Amanda Seferi explained that her 5-year-old is susceptible to frequent lung infections and they need to travel frequently to a Valhalla hospital for treatment.  Sales consultant Jake Green asked Zoey what she wanted for Christmas. All she wanted was for her friends in the hospital to get presents. 

 

Maria Fareri hospital serves children from birth to 21-years with compromised immune systems.

 

Dealership owner Bill Sabatini and General Sales Manager Sal Sinardi Sr. are coordinating with Amanda to have the staff deliver the gifts.  A list of needed items can be found below, for anyone wishing to drop off unwrapped items for the patients.

 

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The Candlewood Lake Authority is meeting today and will take up a recommendation not to rehire 6 Marine Patrol officers.  Senior staff of the patrol filed a vote of no confidence in CLA chairwoman Phyllis Schaer at an earlier meeting over alleged meddling in the hiring process and the vote on recommendations taking too long.  Schaer chairs the committee making the recommendation not to rehire the officers.  The Marine Patrol said the officers, whose contracts recently expired, were taking minimal shifts and showed a lack of interest in progressing through the ranks.

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$25 million in assets of a Connecticut man charged in connection to an alleged Danbury sex trafficking ring will be held in trust.  63-year-old Bruce Bemer agreed yesterday to the settlement in Bridgeport courts, pending the outcome of a civil case.  Bemer is awaiting trial on criminal charges in Danbury.  The trafficking ring was allegedly operated by Robert King of Danbury, who is also awaiting trial.  King is accused of plying the victims with drugs and money in exchange for sex.  72-year-old William Trefzger of Westport was also charged in the case for patronizing a trafficked person.

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HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Five years after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, mental health care providers are waiting for promised boosts in funding and many families are still battling with insurance companies to cover their children's services.

While advocates say the quality of mental health care varies widely by state, they also see reason for optimism in a push for more early intervention programs and changing public attitudes.

 

The 21st Century Cures Act, which was signed into law by then-President Barack Obama in December 2016, was inspired in part by the tragedy and included what proponents touted as the first major mental health reform package in nearly a decade. The measures that were included in the law but still await funding include grants for intensive early intervention for infants and young children showing signs of mental illness.

"There were a lot of things people took credit for passing," said U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty, a Democrat whose district includes Newtown. "If they're not funded, it's a nice piece of paper and something hanging on somebody's wall, but it's not going to help save lives."

 

Sen. Chris Murphy said he expects it will be difficult to secure funding for the new programs in the Republican-controlled Congress. But, he said, there are other recent reforms that are also making a difference.

The creation of an assistant secretary position at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services dedicated to improving behavioral health care has put pressure on insurance companies to cover the cost of mental health conditions equally as physical health, he said.

The 21st Century Cures Act also created a committee to advise Congress and federal agencies on the needs of adults and young people with serious mental illness. It is scheduled to meet Thursday, the fifth anniversary of the Sandy Hook massacre, to discuss the group's first report to Congress.

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NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) -- Suzanne Davenport still wears a memorial bracelet and has a green ribbon with a "Be Kind" magnet on her car to honor the 26 children and educators killed at the local elementary school. A resident of Newtown's Sandy Hook section, she knew some of the victims, and she knows survivors.

But like many of her neighbors, Davenport often avoids telling strangers she is from Newtown.

"I was recently at a wedding shower, and a woman saw my bracelet and said, 'Oh, you're from Sandy Hook?" Davenport said. "And she started in. I said, 'This is a shower, let's just let it be a happy occasion.' She started in again and I had to say, 'I really don't think this is the time or the place to be discussing this.'"

Five years into the town's recovery, residents have adopted various strategies to deal with being from a place whose name has become synonymous with horrifying tragedy. A young man gunned down 20 first-graders and six staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary on Dec. 14, 2012.

When they travel into the world beyond the otherwise bucolic bedroom community of 28,000 people, some Newtown residents keep their roots to themselves to avoid debates over gun control and mental health. Others have found themselves dealing with awkward silences, or accepting condolences on behalf of an entire town.

It can be just as difficult to get no reaction when telling people they are from Newtown, said Eileen Byrnes, a yoga instructor who has lived in town for 30 years.

"I want to say to them, 'Did you forget? Do you not remember what happened? How can you not know that this happened?" she said. "So, when you are outside of Newtown, it's a very interesting dance of how to react or how not to react."

It's a familiar burden to people from other communities that have become known to the world through mass shootings, including at Columbine High School and Virginia Tech, and more recently in San Bernardino, California, and Sutherland Springs, Texas.

Jane Hammond, who was superintendent of schools for Jefferson County, Colorado, at the time of the 1999 shooting at Columbine, said the connection to the massacre became inescapable for the entire district.

"We had 144 schools in our district, and people decided the name of the district was Columbine," she said.

"I don't think the pain goes away. You learn to live with it," Hammond said. "But anniversaries are hard. The only tears I shed at the time were at the children's funerals and a staff member's funeral. On the fifth anniversary, I sobbed."

At Virginia Tech, where a gunman killed 32 people in April 2007, the tragedy will always be identified with the university - but so will the way the school responded, spokesman Mark Owczarski said.

"I think people saw the true character of Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, Orlando; more recently Las Vegas and Sutherland Springs," he said. "It's what people see in that time that defines you. People saw our community coming together and standing together."

Pat Llodra, who led Newtown through the tragedy as the head of its governing board, said most people she meets just want to express how deeply they were touched, and she gladly accepts the grace of the outside world.

But, she said, there is a delicate balance between honoring the past and being defined by it. The town has always been a safe place for families, with good schools, she said.

"This is something that happened to us; we didn't cause it," said Llodra, who recently retired. "It's part of our history, but it is not who we are."

The tragedy is still present for residents in different ways, said Mary Ann Jacob, who was a library clerk in the school the day of the shooting and hid students in a supply closet.

"Some days it sits quietly by your side, and you acknowledge it and know it's there and move on with your day," she said. "Other days it's a really hard, difficult burden to bear."

Robin Fitzgerald once took a group of older Newtown kids to Michigan to compete in an international problem-solving competition. The reaction to her team - with coaches and parents constantly trying to acknowledge the Sandy Hook shooting - became a problem.

"Our kids just wanted to go and be just who they were," she said. "We felt like we had to get between our kids and people who were legitimately just trying to give them love. They would burst into tears, and our kids had no idea what to do, what to say."

Some improvements have come from the town's trauma, Jacob said. Neighbors have gotten to know one another, and many have become involved in charities or community projects.

It's a lesson, she said, the outside world can learn from Newtown.

"Stop telling me how bad you feel, and do something," said Jacob, who became the chair of the town's legislative council in 2013. "Make a difference."

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Several teachers at Rogers Park Middle School in Danbury have received requested items through a nonprofit called “Donors Choose.”  The teachers wanted to enhance students’ experiences in their classrooms, but rather than compete for limited school budget dollars, they put their names on a “wishlist.”

 

School officials say the website has been a tremendous boon for learning.

 

To date “Donors Choose” has mobilized more than two million citizen donors and dozens of corporate and foundation partners to donate more than $600,000 in classroom project funding impacting more than 25 million students. Rogers Park has 930, more than 70 percent of whom receive reduced or free lunch.

 

Fifty-one Rogers Park teachers have posted 40 projects on Donors Choose and have been funded by 400 supporters, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, for a total of $147,100 raised to date.

 

School counselor Sonia Rivera and Cindy Abbott requested technology and warm clothing through the non-profit site that collects donations for public schools across the country.  Sixth-grade social studies teacher Brian Betesh recently received the four beanbags chairs, four stools, four chairs and a large screen television he needed for classroom projects and activities.  Chris Purdy, an eighth-grade science teachers, has used the website since 2014. He has a 50-inch television monitor and 25 chrome books through the site, and recently added a dozen chairs, lamps and six bean bag chairs to facilitate science talks and student collaboration. Eighth-grade teacher Patty Tracey has been requesting items on the website since 2015. She now has 21 chrome books and a cart to store and charge them.

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A Monroe man has been arrested for allegedly sexually assaulting his children's teenage babysitter.  39-year old Jose Perez was charged with two counts of sexual assault and public indecency.  Police say a 17-year-old girl admitted to Bridgeport Hospital after trying to kill herself by drinking bleach told authorities that she was sexually assaulted by Perez when he drove her home after babysitting.  She said Perez called several times to ensure she would not tell anyone.

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Police have arrested a man they say threw a victim 45 feet off a bridge because he intervened in an argument between the suspect and his girlfriend.  25-year-old Gregory Rottjer of Derby was charged with attempted murder today in connection with the incident on Thanksgiving morning that left the Monroe man seriously injured.

 

Rottjer's girlfriend was charged with lying to police and their friend, 27-year-old Matthew Dorso of Ansonia, was charged with assault.  Police say the suspect and Jennifer Hannum were arguing as they walked across the bridge over the Housatonic River between Derby and Shelton.

 

The 30-year old victim and his brother asked the 22-year-old Derby woman if she was OK, which prompted Rottjer and Dorso to start a fight that ended with the victim in the water. 

 

The victim, who hasn't been identified, was pulled form the water by a police officer.

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A special book sale has been planned by The Mark Twain Library in Redding to honor former First Selectman and Redding Land Trust founder Mary Anne Guitar.  The Library trustee died in July. The sale will be from noon to 4pm on Sunday.  Dozens of books from Guitar’s personal collection will be offered for $5 each.  She wrote that it would be a relief to know one's books are going to end up in the stacks or at the Book Fair, noting that Mark Twain helped stock the first modest library by giving away his own books.

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A routine traffic stop in New York has led to drug charges for two Connecticut residents.  State police stopped a car on I-84 in Southeast early Saturday morning. 

 

The driver, 35-year old Noval Baez of Danbury, smelled of alcohol.  His passenger, 49-year old Scott Craigue of Brookfield, had what appeared to be cocaine residue on his nose, lap, and vehicle seat. 

 

  

(Baez, Craigue)

 

9.3 grams of cocaine was found during a search of the car.  Baez and Craigue were each charged with felony Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance. 

 

Baez also got a DWI.  Craigue was charged with Obstruction of Governmental Administration after refusing to get out of the police cruiser and threatening to kick Troopers in the head.  Both were arraigned and ordered held at Putnam County Jail on bond.  They are each due in court on January 9th.

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A Putnam County man has been arrested on hate crime charges.  New York State Police arrested 29-year old Jeevan Abraham of Southeast last Wednesday for Aggravated Harassment as a Hate Crime.  Troopers conducted an investigation which found Abraham threatened a victim due to sexual orientation.  He was ordered to appear at Southeast Court at a later date.  An order of protection was issued from the court requested on behalf of the victim.

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Danbury's Emergency Homeless Shelter is underfunded for the current fiscal year, according to the City's Health and Human Services Department Director.  Lisa Michelle Morrissey says that's because state funding to support shelter operations did not come through. 

 

The shelter's funding will run out at the end of the month. 

 

During the winter, up to 40 adults seek shelter from the cold each day and every night of the year all 20 beds are full.  In order to continue to serve the city's most vulnerable community, the City Council approved $75,000 for operations expenses. 

 

The Department has applied for grant funding to make updates to the City's Emergency Shelter.  Danbury is applying for $5,000 from the Home Depot Foundation's Community Impact Grant, so in order to meet award guidelines, work will be completed by community volunteers through the United Way.  

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Sandy Hook Promise has launched a 90-second PSA showing some warning signs and signals that someone might hurt themselves or someone else.  The goal is to stop tomorrow's shooting by recognizing the signs today.  Sandy Hook Promise has trained 2-and-a-half million students and adults in a no-cost "Know the Signs" programs, which the organization says has been credited with helping to avert a couple of school shootings. 

 

 

Sandy Hook Promise released a PSA last year, which has been viewed more than 150-million times.

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ATLANTA (AP) -- It can sometimes seem as though mass shootings are occurring more frequently. Researchers who have been studying such crimes for decades say they aren't, but they have been getting deadlier.

In the five years since a gunman killed 20 children and six adults at a Connecticut elementary school, the nation has seen a number of massacres topping the death toll from Newtown and previous mass shootings, many of them involving rifles similar to the one used in Sandy Hook.

But Americans wanting to know why deadlier mass shootings are happening will get few answers. Is it is the wide availability of firearms? Is it the much-maligned "assault weapon" with its military style? Is it a failing mental health system?

"We're kind of grabbing at straws at this point in terms of trying to understand why the severity of these incidents has increased," said Grant Duwe, a criminologist who has been studying mass killings since the 1990s.

The federal government does little research on the matter, because a measure dating to the 1990s had the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention retreat from firearms research. Instead, a handful of academics, like Duwe, have toiled sometimes for decades with limited funding trying to better understand why these shootings happen and how to prevent them.

While mass shootings happen with regularity, they still remain so rare that there isn't enough information to draw conclusions with any certainty.

The profile of mass shooters - loners, depressed individuals, people who rarely smile or those who take to the internet to rant about a perceived insult or gripe - is so broad and common that it's impossible to pinpoint who might turn that anger into violence.

"There are lots of people who are isolated, don't have lots of friends, who don't smile and write ugly things on the internet and blame others for their misfortunes and don't want to live anymore and talk about mass killers and maybe even admire them," said Northeastern University professor James Alan Fox, who began studying mass shootings in the 1980s and has written six books on the topic.

Five years ago this week, Adam Lanza, a troubled young man in Newtown, Connecticut, shot and killed his mother in their home and then drove to Sandy Hook Elementary School with an AR-style long gun and a handgun. He fatally shot 20 children and six educators, then himself.

In the years since, the nation has witnessed even deadlier attacks: the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando in 2016 in which a gunman killed 49 people and this year's shooting in Las Vegas, where a man in a casino hotel fired on concertgoers on the ground below, killing more than 55. This year's shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, by an Air Force veteran who shot up a church sanctuary, killing more than two dozen, also is now among the 10 deadliest mass shootings in modern U.S. history.

Mass shootings are widely defined as one in which four or more people are killed in a public place, excluding both domestic violence and gang-related violence. The rate has remained steady at about 20 per year for the past three decades, Fox said. Still, five of the 10 deadliest have occurred since Sandy Hook, he said.

"Some years are worse than others, and bad years tend to be followed by not-so-bad years," Fox said. While two of the deadliest took place this year, "you can't take the actions of one or two people and call it a new phenomenon. That's abberational. You can't make any pattern or trend based on that."

It's also unclear whether the higher death tolls are the result of more firearms being available or firearms being more effective. Stephen Paddock, the Las Vegas shooter, used bump stocks to allow a number of his guns to mimic fully automatic weapons, but his perch high above the outdoor concert also made the shooting more effective and deadly. That's the tactic the gunman in the 1966 University of Texas at Austin shooting used when he took to a tower overlooking the campus, shooting down for more than 90 minutes.

In half of the deadliest mass shootings, the perpetrator used at least one AR-style firearm. In one, the massacre at a McDonald's in San Ysidro, California, in 1984, the shooter used an Uzi submachine gun. The others were carried out with handguns, the weapon used in the majority of mass shootings.

"Contrary to what some folks may think, the incidence of mass public shootings has not increased since Sandy Hook or even the five years before that," Duwe said. "What has changed - and this is certainly true around the time of Sandy Hook and even since then - the severity of mass public shootings has certainly increased. That is one genuine change we've seen."

Jillian Peterson, an assistant professor at Hamline University and a forensic psychologist who previously worked in New York crafting psychological profiles of convicted murderers facing the death penalty, recently helped launch a project designed to catalog and analyze mass shootings dating back to the 1960s. The project is being done jointly with James Densley, an associate professor of criminal justice at Metropolitan State University.

They have no financing and are relying on about a dozen students to gather research based on public documents and media reports.

The reason why someone carries out a mass shooting has been elusive, and it's a question she hopes the research will help answer. Are mass shooters of today and future bent on outdoing previous slayings by inflicting higher death tolls? That, too, is unclear. She cautions that such questions and answers continually evolve.

"This is ever-changing," Peterson said. "Just because we understand it today, we might not understand it tomorrow. That part gets hard. This is changing as society changes."

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