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WAPPINGERS FALLS, N.Y. (AP) A Hudson Valley pet store whose owner is facing animal cruelty charges has closed.

American Breeders: Puppies Kittens in Wappingers Falls closed on Sept. 30. That's according to the store's landlord, Frank Buyakowski.

Buyakowski tells the Poughkeepsie Journal that he came to a mutual agreement with the store's owner, Richard Doyle, to close the shop.

The 55-year-old Doyle was charged in July with three misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty following an investigation by state animal control officers from the Connecticut Department of Agriculture.  He is due in Danbury Superior Court on October 14th.

Several Hudson Valley residents told the newspaper they had purchased sick puppies at the business, which was the focus of protests by animal rights activists and customers in August.

American Breeders: Puppies Kittens also has had locations in Danbury, Connecticut, and Mohegan Lake.


One of Doyle’s store managers, 29-year old Kathy Seton of Cold Spring, NY, was also charged with animal cruelty.  Police did not detail the allegations against her.  She is due in court on the October 28th.


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A Sherman man has pleaded guilty to his role in what the FBI dubbed Operation Juice Box.  32-year old Michael Mase pleaded guilty Tuesday to conspiracy to distribute steroids.  The Drug Enforcement Administration, Homeland Security and the FBI launched an investigation into people receiving shipments of steroids from China. 


Mase is a registered nurse and a body-builder.  In pleading guilty, he admitted purchasing anabolic steroids from another member of the conspiracy and distributing them to others including athletes who competed in body-building competitions.  Mase is scheduled to be sentenced December 23rd and faces up to 10 years in prison. 


The steroid distribution ring was allegedly headed by former Newtown Police Sgt Steven Santucci.  Carson says jury selection for Santucci and former Newtown dispatcher Jason Chickos has been postponed from this month to January 12th.  Both Santucci and Chickos resigned after their arrests in April, and have pleaded not guilty. 


12 people in all were charged in the case.


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A Long Island man wanted for murder was found near the Appalachian Trail in the town of Pawling.  New York State Police say the Suffolk County Police Department contacted Troopers on Tuesday night about 49-year old Paul Leitgeb.  The homicide suspect was believed to be in the area and a search was launched around 5:30pm. 


The Lake Grove, New York man was found in a densely wooded area near the Appalachian Trail by State Police bloodhound Darby.  The man was armed with a box cutter and threatened to harm himself and police.  After a prolonged standoff, Leitgeb was eventually taken into custody and turned over to Suffolk County Police Detectives who were on the scene. 


He was transported to the hospital for treatment of self-inflicted cuts and lacerations. 


Metro North Police, the Dutchess County Sheriff's Office and the New York State police Aviation unit helped in the search.


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Two Danbury Police Officers have been promoted to the position of Sergeant.


Officer Amity LaFantano made history when she was sworn in at Danbury City Hall Wednesday morning, becoming the department’s first female sergeant. Sergeant Lafantano joined the Danbury Police Department in 2007, having previously served as a Police Officer in Newtown. LaFantano has served as a Field Training Officer since 2012; a Part Time Evidence Technician since 2011 and a Recruitment Team Member since 2014. LaFantano has several letters of appreciation and commendations including Unit Citations in 2011 and 2012.


(Photo credit: Danbury Police)


Officer Robert Conrad also was sworn in as a Sergeant. Conrad began his career with the Danbury Police Department in 1988.  He was as a member of the ESU Swat team from 1998 to 2010 and served as an Assistant Court Officer since July 2005.  Conrad has received numerous letters of appreciation and commendations including an Exceptional Police Service Award in 1991.


Two firefighters were also promoted Wednesday morning to the position of Fire Lieutenant.


Firefighter Ted Mourges began with the Danbury Fire Department in 2006.  He previously served as a fire fighter/driver for the Newtown Hook and Ladder Department from 1985 through 1993.  Mourges has a number of certifications including, but not limited to, Fire Officer; Rescue Technician; Hazardous Materials Technician; State Tele-communicator; Heavy Vehicle Extrication; Pump Operator and Confined Space Technician.



(Photos Courtesy: Danbury Fire Department)


Firefighter Richard Krekorian was also promoted.  He started at the Danbury Fire Department in 1993.  Krekorian has a number of certifications including, but not limited to, Fire Instructor; CORE Rescue; Trench Rescue; Aircraft Rescue; Incident safety Officer and Pump Operator.  He has received an EMS Award and Unit Citations.


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The Monroe Police Department has helped in the investigation of a number of so-called swatting incidents in Connecticut.  A Wethersfield man was sentenced yesterday after pleading guilty to taking part in a series of hoax emergency calls at UConn and other schools, intended to draw responders, such as SWAT units and bomb squads. 


Matthew Tollis was sentenced to a year and a day in prison for conspiring to engage in the malicious conveying of false information, primarily a bomb threat hoax, and participating in "swatting" incidents in Connecticut and other states. 


Federal prosecutors say the 22-year-old Tollis was a member of a group of online gamers, which placed the hoax emergency call to UConn's admissions department in April 2014.  The investigation revealed that one of the founders of the group was responsible for at least five additional swatting incidents in Connecticut and Massachusetts in 2014. 


Tollis pleaded guilty in June.


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A local lawmaker is again calling for the UConn Foundation to provide more information about their operations.  Danbury State Senator Mike McLachlan says he was disappointed the UConn Foundation would not provide him a list of employees, their salaries and their duties.  The President of the UConn Foundation said in a letter to McLachlan that they are a private non-profit and not subject to the Freedom of Information Act.  McLachlan says he will try again this Spring, for the 4th time, to make the foundation subject to the law because it's the state's flagship university's fundraising arm.  The UConn Foundation says it already provides more information than other non-profits in the state.


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The 2015 Western Connecticut Police K-9 Challenge was held over the weekend as a benefit for the Newtown Kennel Club and the Friends of Second Company Governor's Horse Guard.  More than 30 teams of handler and active duty police and military K-9's from area towns, along with the MTA K-9 unit in New York City and the 928th Military Police Army National Guard participated at the event. 


K-9 Czar apprehending his "suspect," Newtown Police Officer Matt Hayes

(Photo credit: David S. Woo)


Based on cumulative points earned in the individual events of obstacle course, article find, obedience, and suspect apprehension, the Norwalk Police Department K9 Czar won first place overall.  Czar is trained on narcotics and patrol.  Second place overall went to Ridgefield Police K9 Loki, who is trained in patrol.  The 3rd place award went to Naugatuck Police K9 Vane, who is patrol certified. 


Ridgefield Police OfficerShawn Murray, K9 Loki (Photo credit: Ridgefield Police)


Loki also  placed 1st in the obstacle event and 3rd for best K9.


K-9 Saint Michael (with Officer Felicia Figol from the Newtown PD) shows off his skills in an Obedience demonstration (Photo credit: David S. Woo)


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PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) -- The deadly shooting last week at an Oregon community college has an eerie parallel with the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School that killed 20 pupils and six adult staff members in 2012.


Like the gunman in the Connecticut massacre, Christopher Harper-Mercer was living a mostly solitary life with a mom who shared his fascination with firearms.


Both stories illustrate the struggles parents face caring for a deeply troubled child, struggles that can inadvertently lead to a volatile outcome made easier by ready access to weaponry.


"When you begin to bring guns into the home environment where you have that dangerous cocktail of behavior, that's pretty unbelievable," said Mary Ellen O'Toole, a former FBI profiler who directs George Mason University's forensic science program.


Harper-Mercer bears similarities to other school shooters: a young male focused on mass lethality and carrying out the killings in a military-like mission destined to end in the killer's own death, O'Toole said.


He was a loner in his 20s like James Holmes, who killed 12 people in a cinema in Aurora, Colorado, in 2012; Jared Loughner, who seriously wounded Rep. Gabby Giffords and killed six in Tucson, Arizona, in 2011; and Elliot Rodger, who killed six people near the University of California, Santa Barbara, campus last year.


Like Rodger, he left behind a note that complained about not having a girlfriend.


But the comparison to the gunman at sandy Hook extends to the relationships both shooters had with their mothers and guns.


Both women were long-time gun enthusiasts, not uncommon in many parts of America where gun ownership is prevalent and encouraged. The two mothers amassed weapons and took their sons to shooting ranges, according to the investigation into the Sandy Hook shooting and the Daily Breeze newspaper in Torrance, California, where Harper lived for years with her son.


It's easy to judge them in hindsight, but deeply strained and complicated relationships often lead to bad or desperate parental decisions with tragic consequences, said psychologist Peter Langman, author of two books on school shooters. Many troubled young people are so impaired they're incapable of living on their own.


"In some cases, (parents) don't recognize there's a problem," Langman said. "In other cases, they're aware of their child's mental health issues, but they don't see any evidence of violence, so they don't see any reason not to take their kid target shooting."


Parents may also use guns to bond with a mentally troubled, isolated child who is obsessed with weapons and violence, he said.


Laurel Harper's online postings don't indicate she knew her son had violent tendencies, but it is clear she relished her weapons.


Investigators found eight guns in the apartment she shared with her son near the North Umpqua River and another six at the school where he killed eight students and a professor before killing himself last week.


She wrote enthusiastically about assault rifles and pistols and derided gun-control efforts in "lame states" on Yahoo! Answers using an account that is linked to an email address associated with her.


"I keep two full mags in my Glock case," she wrote in a three-year-old posting. "No one will be 'dropping' by my house uninvited."


Harper could not be located for comment and has not returned messages left by The Associated Press at her home.


The nurse, who moved to rural Oregon with her son from the Los Angeles area two years ago, speaks frankly in the postings about her son's Asperger's syndrome, a mild form of autism. Investigators said she told them he had mental health issues.


Social profiles linked to her son suggested he tracked other mass shootings and was fascinated by the Irish Republican Army. Neighbors in the Los Angeles-area suburb of Torrance, where the mother and son lived before moving to Oregon, recalled him as uncommunicative, having child-like tantrums and loud fights with his mother, who was overprotective of him.


The mother of the shooter at Sandy Hook also struggled with her son, who had developmental issues from early childhood, according to a report released last November by the Connecticut Office of the Child Advocate.


The report said the man's mother, like Harper-Mercer's, was doting. She attempted to eliminate disruptions to her son's life "entirely through hypervigilance and management of his symptoms." In emails to her son, she wrote she loved him and wanted him to be happy, according to the report.


But the Newtown woman isolated her son from the world. And while she sought some treatment for him, she rejected other help and was in denial about her son's illness. The teen became increasingly preoccupied with mass murder and engaged in a cyber-community of mass murder enthusiasts. Before the shooting, he lived in virtual social isolation, spent months in his bedroom with the windows blacked out, and communicated with his mother only through email.


The report says access to assault weapons with high capacity magazines "did play a major role" in the Sandy Hook massacre, alongside inadequate and uncoordinated mental health services and the gunman's extreme preoccupation with violence. His mother, it notes, "seemed unaware of any potential detrimental impact of providing unfettered access to firearms."


While most young men who commit mass shootings show evidence of mental problems, the vast majority of mentally ill people aren't violent.


Liz Long, an instructor at the College of Western Idaho, understands what Harper was up against. Her then-13-year-old son, who suffered from mental illness, pulled a knife on her and threatened to kill her and himself.


Long said services for severely mentally troubled children are inadequate, and insurance carriers often won't pay them. Before getting diagnosed and treated for bipolar disorder, her son was misdiagnosed multiple times and she struggled to find residential treatment for him.


"From a mom's perspective, we end up living in shame and silence," said Long, who wrote a book about her experiences. "You're basically hiding, because you're isolated."


Police have not announced a motive for Harper-Mercer's deadly rampage. That is likely to be based on what they recovered from the note he left behind and what his mother has revealed.


Investigators in the Sandy Hook shooting were never sure what drove the man to kill. He destroyed his computer and his mother was his first victim.


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Monroe is among the municipalities being awarded state funding in the next round of Small Town Economic Assistance Program.  Monroe will receive $500,000 STEAP grant to build a headquarters for the volunteer emergency medical services. 


The EMS is housed within the Fire Department complex and has grown to need a dedicated space.  Officials say the current situation has structural and operational deficiencies including a leaky roof, cracks in the walls and water damage inside the building. 


The new headquarters will include garages for emergency vehicles, storage for equipment, training facilities and sleeping quarters.


Monroe Representative JP Sredzinski says these funds will go a long way to pay for a new facility for these public safety volunteers.  State Senator Kevin Kelly says when taxpayer dollars are invested, they should be for projects improving key functions of government, such as public safety.


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A Bethel polling location has been randomly selected for an audit of the primary vote.  Secretary of the State Denise Merrill randomly chose 15 voting precincts from the September 16th primary to have their machine totals audited.  There were also five alternate precincts chosen in case the chosen precincts cannot be audited for any reason. 


State law mandates that 10% of all voting precincts have their machine totals audited following any election or primary.  There were a total of 143 voting precincts where primaries were held. 


The machine at Stony Hill Fire House was selected for audit.  The first alternate polling precinct chosen was the Berry Elementary School machine. 


Bethel Republicans voted that Will Duff would be the First Selectman candidate to challenge Democratic incumbent Matt Knickerbocker in November.  


Duff, the GOP candidate two years ago, defeated Planning and Zoning Commission chair Pat Rist by 39 votes.  In the Stony Hill District 2, the vote was 61 for Duff and 83 for Rist.  At the Berry polling location, the tally was 116 for Duff and 92 for Rist.


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The Schlumberger Citizens Committee has released a summary of survey findings, and set up a date for an interactive planning workshop about the future of the town-owned site.  Vision for 30 acres planning charrette will take place on October 21st with an open house at 6:30pm and a workshop at 7pm at the Ridgefield Recreation Center. 


More than 1,400 people responded to the online survey.  More than half were aged 35 to 55. 


A majority of respondents said they want to keep the property as open space or to increase cultural offerings.  Of those aged 55 and older who responded to the survey, increasing the diversity of Ridgefield's housing stock was identified as an important objective.  That age group preferred more commercial development, while those under age 55 want the town to pursue more retail and restaurant development. 


The survey then came up with specific uses within general topics.  When asked about Active Open Space, athletic fields was tops.  Walking trails garnered the highest response for Passive Open Space while an outdoor stage was the preferred Civic and Cultural use.  If there were to be commercial development, nearly half said it should be niche retail.  Single family housing earned the highest support if the property would be developed for housing. 


Responses to 'other suggested uses' included a bowling alley, community pool, biking trails, open space, community/teen center and corporate headquarters. 


Concerns for the site included traffic.  Many of the comments suggested the housing is not a desirable use for the site.


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A local lawmaker has received the Children's Champion Award from the Connecticut Early Childhood Alliance.  The presentation was made Monday to Wilton State Senator Toni Boucher during a visit to the YMCA Children's Center in Bethel.  The Alliance is a statewide advocacy group that works toward improving outcomes for children from birth to age 8 in the areas of learning, health, safety and economic security. 


YMCA President and CEO Marie Miszewski says Boucher is an important member of the Bethel community and has always fought for the needs of children in Connecticut.


This is Boucher's fifth time receiving the honor.  In accepting the award, Boucher said children and educational quality and access have always been top priorities in her public service work.


Among the legislation passed, a bill that gives early childhood educators additional time to obtain their degrees, a bill that addresses safe sleeping practices for infants, a bill that implements a comprehensive mental, emotional and behavioral health plan; a bill that expands School Readiness seat eligibility by allowing programs to serve children who don’t live in the district; and a bill that would require law enforcement agencies to inform child care centers in emergency conditions.


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A Connecticut man is due in court on Friday following his rearrest for not appearing in court when he was supposed to.  23-year old Dennis Marques of Shelton was arrested in May by Monroe Police for allegedly stealing several case of Red Bull energy drink from Big Y in Monroe.  Police say surveillance video also showed him at Stop & Shop carrying out a similar theft.  He was charged at that time with failure to appear in court on charges from previous arrests in Connecticut, but last Friday he failed to show up for court.  Marques was re-arrested and is being held on bond.


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20 non-profits are sharing in state funding for cultural and historic sites.  The Department of Economic and Community Development is doling out nearly $2 million from the Good to Great Program. 


Among those sharing in the funding is the Bethel Historical Society.  The group is receiving little more than $69,000 in state funding.  The Wilton Historical Society will receive $125,000. 


Department Comissioner Catherine Smith says 46 applicants submitted projects that demonstrate a clear vision of how individual sites can improve the customer experience and promote more visitors.  They also demonstrated how they tie together local, regional or statewide cultural assets.


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The new Sandy Hook School is on track to open at the start of the next school year. 


The contractor building the new Sandy Hook Elementary School says work is progressing at the Newtown site.  The mid-September update shows work has started to close interior walls of Wing A, the membrane roof of Wing B was completed and started on Wing C.  Interior wall framing in those sections continue.  The exterior wall framing of Wings C and D was completed.  A retaining wall has also been installed. 




(Photos courtesy:


Site Work began in October 2014.   


The new school building is a different shape and size than the former school and will not be located in the exact same area of the school site, but has the same address on Dickinson Drive.


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One of Connecticut's two U.S. Senators is calling on Congress to act on a bill that overhauls the nation's mental health care system. 


Senator Chris Murphy introduced a bill that would strengthen and reform the mental health care system earlier this year.  He says the measure would make critical changes to address a lack of resources, enhance coordination and develop meaningful solutions to improve outcomes for families dealing with mental illness. 


Murphy says while there's no inherent link between mental illness and gun violence, increasing the capacity of the mental health care delivery system will make it more likely for intervention to happen before someone makes the decision to turn violent. 


The Cassidy-Murphy Mental Health Reform Act will do the following:


Integrate Physical and Mental Health

·         Encourages states to break down walls between physical and mental health care systems by requiring states to identify barriers to integration. States would be eligible for grants of up to $2 million for five years, prioritizing those states that have already taken action. States taking part are eligible with additional federal funds to treat low-income individuals who have chronic conditions or serious and persistent mental illness.


Designate an Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use

·         Elevates the issue of mental health by establishing an Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services who will be responsible for overseeing grants and promoting best practices in early diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation. The Assistant Secretary will work with other federal agencies and key stakeholders to coordinate mental health services across the federal system and help them to identify and implement effective and promising models of care.


Establish New Grant Programs for Early Intervention

·         Establishes a grant program focused on intensive early intervention for children as young as 3 years of age who demonstrate significant risk factors recognized as related to mental illness in adolescence and adulthood. A second grant program supports pediatrician consultation with mental health teams, which has seen great success in states like Massachusetts and Connecticut.


Establish Interagency Serious Mental Illness Coordinating Committee

·         Establishes a Serious Mental Illness (SMI) Coordination Committee under the Assistant Secretary to ensure documentation and promotion of research and treatment related to SMI and evaluate efficiency of government programs for individuals.


Establish New National Mental Health Policy Laboratory

·         New entity will fund innovation grants that identify new and effective models of care and demonstration grants to bring effective models to scale for adults and children.


Reauthorize Successful Research & Grant Programs

·         Reauthorizes key programs like the Community Mental Health Block Grants and state-based data collection. The bill also increases funding for critical biomedical research on mental health.


Strengthen Transparency and Enforcement of Mental Health Parity

·         Requires the U.S. Department of Labor, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the U.S. Department of the Treasury to conduct audits on Mental Health Parity implementation and issue guidance on how determinations are made regarding comparability mental health services and physical health services.


Improve Mental Health Services within Medicare/Medicaid

·         Makes critical reforms to allow for patients to use mental health services and primary care services at the same location, on the same day. Repeals the current Medicaid exclusion on inpatient care for individuals between the ages of 22 and 64 if the CMS actuary certifies that it would not lead to a net increase of federal spending.


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Wilton police have arrested a New York man for sending inappropriate photos to two teen girls via Facebook.  A New York man has been arraigned on a charge of enticement of a minor by computer for sex.  28-year old John Hurley of Highland Falls was arrested September 24th by Wilton Police and was in court Monday to also face two counts of impairing the morals of a child. 


Wilton Police say Hurley used Facebook to talk with two 15-year old girls, sent them pornographic photos of himself and asked that they send him pictures of themselves.  He allegedly also tried to have one of the girls meet him for a sexual encounter. 


Wilton Police say Hurley turned himself in after learning of a warrant for his arrest.  He is free on bond.


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Danbury officials have gathered to call on the state to fulfill their financial obligation to the schools.  The Danbury Board of Education, City Council, state lawmakers and others held a public information session Monday night about the district being underfunded by some $30 million. 


Information provided by the schools says that funding to districts is being given out in lump sums now with the state having suspended the Education Cost Sharing Formula in 2013.  School officials say the grants are calculated in a way that higher mill rate towns get more money, and districts with lower costs for special need students or English Language Learners also receiving more funding. 


School officials say new funding proposed under the ECS formula, to be reinstated in 2016, cuts what Danbury is entitled to by 50 percent, or $30 million.


The state is being called on by Danbury officials to come up with a more fail-safe funding method for school districts based on students' learning needs.


The School District says Danbury has the 7th lowest per student spending in Connecticut at $12,684, relying heavily on local funding.  Danbury contributes $9,061 per student, or 70 percent.  The schools say that's nearly twice that of a similar district.  Superintendent of Schools Dr Sal Pascarella says the taxpayers need relief, and the state needs to help make sure every child is reaching his or her fullest potential.


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A lawsuit has been filed against the Ridgefield Planning and Zoning Commission's approval of the contractor's yard development on Route 7.  The Ridgefield Press reports that 24 neighbors at the Regency at Ridgefield condominiums, located near the proposed facility, filed the suit on Friday challenging the approval.  The lawsuit says that the proposed contractor's yard will "negatively impact their property including but not limited to its fair market value...and use and enjoyment of the property."  The developer who proposed the facility and its owner were named as defendants in the suit.


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A Southbury Training School Employee has been charged with Workers Compensation Fraud.  45-year old Carol Griffin of Waterbury is accused of illegally collecting workers' comp benefits while earning thousands of dollars working as a bail bond agent. 


According to the arrest warrant, Griffin suffered a work-related injury in July of last year and received $68,000 in benefits through this August.  The warrant alleges that Griffin wrote bonds that allowed her to earn more than $126,000 while denying that she had other employment and was collecting workers comp. 


She turned her self in on Friday and was released on a written promise to appear in court on the 14th.



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