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Police looking for missing bar owner find body

WATERBURY, Conn. (AP) - Police looking for a missing Connecticut bar owner say they have found a body but are not saying whether it's the woman they are looking for.

Waterbury police say a body was found in a wooded area of Wolcott on Tuesday, a few miles from where 26-year-old Janet Avalo-Alvarez was last seen.

Police have called her disappearance "suspicious."

Waterbury Chief Fernando Spagnolo would not comment on the gender of the body but said "information and evidence" led investigators to Wolcott.

Authorities are working to positively identify the body.

Avalo-Alvarez was last seen Nov. 12 at La Guacara Taina, the Waterbury bar she co-owns with her boyfriend, Alfredo Esmerli Peguero-Gomez.

Peguero-Gomez's car was found at a New Jersey airport. Police have called him a person of interest in the case.


Police cite woman who berated Muslim wearing hijab

MANCHESTER, Conn. (AP) - Police in Connecticut have cited a white woman for berating a Muslim woman for wearing a hijab while at a shopping mall.

The Hartford Courant reports 49-year-old Kristen Hitchcock, of Andover, was issued a ticket for causing a public disturbance Monday night at a Macy's store at the Shoppes at Buckland Hills in Manchester.

Video on social media shows a woman police say is Hitchcock telling the other woman that Muslim husbands "are making you wear a head wrap." Relatives of the Muslim woman called it racism.

Manchester police Lt. Ryan Shea says the incident did not rise to the level of a hate crime.


Handyman arrested in death of 93-year-old Connecticut woman

STAMFORD, Conn. (AP) - A handyman has been charged with killing a 93-year-old Connecticut woman who was found dead in September at the bottom of her basement stairs.

Stamford police in a statement Wednesday said 51-year-old Robert Simmons faces murder and other charges in the death of Isabella Mehner.

Simmons was held on $2 million bond pending arraignment. It wasn't clear if he had hired a lawyer.

Police say Simmons had previously been hired to do odd jobs for Mehner.

Police say they found video of Simmons in the area on the day Mehner was killed and used DNA analysis to match blood on his pants to Mehner.

Police did not disclose a motive but said several of Mehner's personal items appeared to be missing.

Police gave Simmons 'address as a Stamford homeless shelter.

Connecticut House Democrats suggest tolling only trucks

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Democratic leaders of the Connecticut House of Representatives are suggesting the governor reconsider tolling just big trucks, a now-defunct idea the Democrat had campaigned on during last year's election.

House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz and House Majority Leader Matt Ritter on Tuesday called on Gov. Ned Lamont to consider truck-only tolls on 12 of the 14 bridges in his latest 10-year, $21.3 billion CT2030 transportation improvement plan.

They estimate the tolls could raise about $150 million annually. That's about half of the revenue generated by 14 tolls on all drivers in Lamont's latest plan, which has been met with opposition by Republicans and some Democrats.

Aresimowicz and Ritter say their proposal avoids potential litigation because only specific bridges are tolled.

Acting chief recommends firing officer for shooting incident

HAMDEN, Conn. (AP) - A Connecticut police official says one of his officers should be fired for shooting his gun 13 times at an unarmed couple's car and wounding a 22-year-old woman.

Acting Hamden Police Chief John Cappiello made the recommendation Tuesday to the town's police commission to fire Officer Devin Eaton.

Eaton has pleaded not guilty to criminal charges of assault and reckless endangerment for the April 16 shooting in New Haven. A message seeking comment was left Tuesday for Eaton.

Authorities say Eaton and a Yale University officer shot at the couple's car while investigating a reported attempted robbery in Hamden. The Yale officer wasn't charged.

Officials said Eaton opened fire when the driver, Paul Witherspoon III, exited the car unexpectedly.

Witherspoon wasn't hurt. His girlfriend, Stephanie Washington, suffered serious injuries.

Gun maker Stag Arms leaving Connecticut for Wyoming

NEW BRITAIN, Conn. (AP) - Gun maker Stag Arms says it's moving from Connecticut to a more "business-friendly" environment in Wyoming.

The company announced Monday that it will be moving all its operations from New Britain, Connecticut, to Cheyenne, Wyoming, over the next several months.

The AR-15 rifle maker had announced in June that it would be leaving Connecticut for somewhere else that offered "significant support for the firearms industry."

New Britain Mayor Erin Stewart has said the move wasn't a surprise, because Stag Arms has been courted by other states since Connecticut passed stricter gun laws after the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.

The company said in a statement that Wyoming is a top destination for hunting and shooting sports, which "reflects its citizens' unwavering support for the Second Amendment."

Man gets 8 years in prison for extorting immigrants

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (AP) - A New York City man convicted in an extortion scheme that involved kidnapping immigrants at a bus station has been sentenced in Connecticut to eight years in prison.

A federal judge in Bridgeport handed down the punishment Monday to 56-year-old Carlos Hernandez, who was one of four people convicted in the case.

Prosecutors say the defendants targeted immigrants after they got off buses in New York City, coerced them into vehicles and refused to let them go until relatives paid a ransom, usually around $1,000.

The victims included men, women and children from Central American countries who did not speak English and were seeking asylum in the U.S.

Some of them were headed to Connecticut.

Two other defendants have been sentenced to prison and another awaits sentencing.

Police: Man had illegal assault weapons, armor-piercing ammo

MILFORD, Conn. (AP) - A Connecticut man has been charged with possessing illegal assault weapons, armor-piercing ammunition and high-capacity magazines.

Milford police said Monday that they arrested 38-year-old Robert Brenner on 31 weapons charges.

Authorities say the arrest came Friday as police executed a search and seizure warrant at Brenner's home following a five-month investigation that was spurred by a request for a welfare check in May.

Brenner was released on a promise to appear in court on Dec. 10.

No one answered a phone listing for Brenner on Monday and it wasn't clear if he has a lawyer who could respond to the allegations.

Police did not release any other details of Brenner's arrest.

An Ivy League protest stirs emotions among military students

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) - A Veterans Day protest in which a Yale University student placed red-painted latex gloves around a display of American flags has stirred some controversy at a school that has been trying to improve its image among military students.

Senior Casey Odesser says her act was meant as a reminder of the death associated with U.S. military conflicts, not to disrespect members of the armed services.

The Yale Daily News reports the display was removed by an Army veteran. Another student who served as a medic in Afghanistan criticized the protest in an opinion piece in the newspaper.

Yale has a growing military community. The school says that as recently as 2010, there were no undergraduate veterans there.

State offers safety tips for upcoming deer hunting season

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Connecticut environmental officials are offering safety tips for the upcoming firearms deer hunting season.

The season begins Wednesday and will add to the list of hunting seasons already under way.

The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection is urging hunters, hikers, bikers and others doing outdoor activities to be aware of their surroundings.

The agency recommends wearing brightly colored clothing, calling out to other people you see to make them aware of your presence, letting others know where you're going and when you plan to return, and watching for damaged trees that could fall.

Deer and turkey hunters hunting on private land are required to carry written permission from the landowner.

Hunting also is allowed in most state forests and wildlife management areas, and some state parks.

10 veterans to be added to Connecticut Veterans Hall of Fame

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Ten veterans will be inducted into the Connecticut Veterans Hall of Fame.

The class of 2019 inductees are scheduled to be honored during a ceremony planned for Dec. 6 at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford. Each inductee or a family member will receive a commemorative medallion and certificate recognizing their induction.

Two of the inductees will be honored posthumously.

The Hall of Fame recognizes distinguished Connecticut veterans who have made significant contributions to their communities after leaving military service. Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz (BY'-suh-wits) says some of the inductees have dedicated their lives to helping fellow veterans, while others volunteered to serve on state boards and commissions, became medical volunteers and mentored youth.

The honored veterans are from Waterbury, Enfield, Stonington, Bloomfield, Simsbury, Bristol and Middletown.


Cab driver to be sentenced for extorting immigrants

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (AP) - A Connecticut cab driver convicted in an extortion scheme that involved kidnapping immigrants at a bus station is facing sentencing.

Carlos Hernandez potentially faces a term of life in prison when he is sentenced Monday in federal court in Bridgeport.

A lawyer for the 56-year-old Hernandez is asking a judge for mercy and a sentence significantly lower than life.

Hernandez and fellow Bridgeport cabbies Francisco Betancourt and Lucilo Cabrera were convicted by a jury last year of kidnapping, extortion and conspiracy crimes.

Prosecutors say the scheme involved tricking immigrants into cabs at the Port Authority terminal in New York and driving them around until they or their relatives paid a ransom, usually about $1,000.

Betancourt was sentenced last week to 14 years in prison and Cabrera awaits sentencing.


2 teenagers arrested after SUV stolen with children inside

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) Two teenagers accused of stealing an SUV with two children inside in Connecticut have been arrested.

New Haven police say a 14-year-old and an 18-year-old have been taken into custody after an SUV was stolen Wednesday night.

WVIT reports the children's mother got out of the SUV and left it running as she walked toward Roberto Clemente Elementary School to pick up another child.

Police say that was when the 14-year-old jumped into the car and took off without realizing the children were inside.

Officials say the teenager eventually took the children out of the vehicle and left them near a baseball field where they were later found by a woman.

The 18-year-old has been arrested related to items stolen from the vehicle.

The case remains under investigation.

Remains dug up, stolen from Connecticut cemetery

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Connecticut police are investigating a grave that was dug up and remains were taken from a Jewish cemetery in Hartford.

Authorities say a 70-year-old grave was dug up at Agudas Achim Cemetery.

Officers say the incident possibly occurred on Halloween and the person or persons dug the grave with a shovel and their hands.

Authorities say they are at the beginning of their investigation and plan to view surveillance footage to see if a vehicle left the area.

WTNH-TV reports that since the family has not yet been notified, the identity of the remains in the grave will not be released.

Woman gave birth the day she was elected to local office

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) - A Connecticut woman running for local office has given birth to her first child - on Election Day.

The New Haven Register reports that Ellen Cupo both gave birth to her son and won an uncontested seat on the New Haven Board of Alders on Tuesday.

Cupo's son Hunter Ian Cupo Dunn weighed 7 pounds and 2 ounces and was 20.25 inches long.

Cupo says she was especially grateful for the "incredibly caring and professional group of providers" at Yale New Haven Hospital, where she gave birth.

Cupo is the first candidate to be elected in Ward 8 in a regular election since former alder Aaron Greenberg left the board in April.

Veterans in Connecticut prison getting help from horses

ENFIELD, Conn. (AP) - A group of Connecticut prisoners is learning to cope with issues such as post-traumatic stress by interacting with horses.

The equine-assisted psychotherapy program is offered in a special Department of Correction unit for military veterans at the Willard-Cybulski Correctional Institution in Enfield.

Daniel Elliot, who suffered a brain injury while in the Navy, is serving time for an arson he committed while trying to kill himself inside his Norwich apartment.

Elliot says the program, run at no charge to the state by the group Healing Hoofbeats, calms him, has helped him open up about his problems and gives him something to look forward to each week.

Elliot is one of six inmates participating in the pilot program, which Correction Commissioner Rollin Cook says he hopes to expand to other prisons.

Lyft partners with city of Hartford to help former inmates

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Ride-hailing company Lyft is offering much-needed free transportation in Hartford to former prison inmates through a new partnership with the city and a nonprofit criminal justice reform group.

Louis Reed, national organizer for the bipartisan criminal justice reform group cut50, announced Wednesday that an initial installment of 60 to 80 codes for free Lyft rides are now available for distribution at the city's Welcome Center.

Mayor Luke Bronin says transit bus routes are limited and the new partnership will help get people to job interviews or health care appointments.

Hartford is the first city to take part in the program, but other cities and organizations around the country are expected to follow including in Chicago, Los Angeles, Oakland, New York City and in rural areas as well.

Lamont new transportation plan focuses tolls on 14 projects

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Gov. Ned Lamont’s latest transportation improvement proposal limits new tolling to 14 specific bridge, interchange and highway projects, and sets in motion a possible fully functioning airport in south-central Connecticut. It also invests millions in new commuter rail cars and public busses.

The 10-year, $21.1 billion plan, known as CT2030, will be unveiled publicly on Thursday. The Associated Press on Wednesday obtained a copy of the proposed executive summary of the initiative, which promises “swift and safe” roads, “fast and functional” trains and faster, safer, more convenient and reliable travel across the state. Unlike previous transportation plans, this one targets new spending to a limited number of specific projects while increasing the state’s investment in preserving the current system.

“CT2030 doesn’t promise the kitchen sink,” the summary reads. “It prioritizes and pays for the most vital improvements for Connecticut residents.”

Some Democratic legislative leaders gave the proposal early, positive reviews on Wednesday, after receiving a closed-door briefing from the Democratic governor’s staff.

“I think this a plan, in its original form, as it is now, that might need a little work,” said House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin. “But it’s something I can entirely embrace.”

Unlike earlier transportation proposals, this plan focuses heavily on addressing the state’s worst traffic chokepoints, an idea welcomed by both Democrats and Republicans. According to the summary, Connecticut has six of the nation’s 100 worst traffic bottlenecks.

“I think no question, commuters in the state of Connecticut complain the most about driving down the highway and all of a sudden you’re slamming on your brakes,” said Rep. Vincent Candelora, R-North Branford, who credited Lamont with “focusing on the right issues.” But Candelora said the GOP questions whether tolls are still needed to accomplish that goal. According to the summary, Lamont’s plan would rely on a combination of borrowing and limited tolls, referred to as “user fees,” ranging from 50 cents to $1 for passenger vehicles and $3.50 to $7 for heavy trucks. There would be 20% discounts for drivers with EZ-Pass transponders.

The proposed tolling, which the summary calls “modest,” would begin in 2023. The administration estimates about 40% of the revenue generated would come from out-of-state drivers. A previous transportation plan that was ultimately disregarded earlier this year would have imposed about 50 overhead tolling gantries on Interstates 84, 91, 95 and parts of Route 15.

“Now that we’re looking at a more realistic, scaled-back plan, we think that there could be ways to fund this program without adding a new revenue stream,” Candelora said.

According to the proposed executive summary, Lamont’s plan relies partly on a special low-cost borrowing program from the federal government, which needs to be repaid with a dedicated funding stream. Candelora said that doesn’t necessarily have to be highway tolls.

Tolling opponents agree.

Cherie Juhnke of Plainville, who stood outside Wednesday’s meeting holding a “no tolls” sign, was unimpressed that this latest transportation proposal would limit the tolls to 14 bridges, interchanges and highway projects — a figure that could change.

“We pay enough,” Juhnke said. “No tolls. They’ll never go away if they go up.”

Besides highway improvements, Lamont’s new plan includes financial investments in rail, buses, ports and airports. It calls for the state to begin working with the federal government on a plan to transform either Tweed Airport in New Haven or Sikorsky in the Bridgeport/Stratford area, into an airport with 25 daily flights. There’s also funding in the plan for new commuter rail cars and other improvements with a goal of reducing round-trip commuter travel times by 20 minutes a day between New Haven and Penn Station in New York City.

It’s uncertain when there might be a vote on the proposal, which could change in future negotiations. Aresimowicz said he’d like to see a vote in a special session. However, he didn’t rule out the issue coming up in the next regular legislative session, which convenes in February.

Republican leader struck, killed by car

MANCHESTER, Conn. (AP) A political leader in Connecticut has died after being struck by a car on Election Night.

John Deeb was the chairman of the Manchester Republican Town Committee. Police say he was struck by the car near the party's headquarters at about 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Authorities say the driver stropped and cooperated with police.

Witnesses say the 75-year-old Deeb was hit when he went to pick up some papers that had fallen onto the street. They say it appeared Deeb was taking clipboards to the Republican headquarters for people to mark down results at the polls.

Deeb had been a Republican leader in Manchester for nearly two decades. He was not a candidate for any office.

Police: Fire marshal stole more than $13K from association

EAST LYME, Conn. (AP) - A former Connecticut fire marshal accused of stealing more than $13,000 from his association has been charged.

The Day reports 45-year-old Christopher Taylor, of New London, was charged last week with second-degree larceny after resigning from his position as the town's fire marshal in October.

Joseph Lombardi, president of the New London County Fire Marshal's Association, brought the accusations against Taylor to state police on Oct. 1.

Lombardi said Taylor, who was the association's treasurer, had made unauthorized transactions that totaled to $13,339 from the association's account between January 2016 and July 2019.

Taylor told police he took the money because he had been financially struggling after making his alimony and child support payments.

He was released on a $25,000 bond and is due back in court on Nov. 13.






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