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    The Pulitzer Prize-winning author, who grew up in Parlin, wrote an essay for The New Yorker about being raped by someone he trusted when he was 8 years old. He said the trauma, which he kept a secret, followed him his whole life and had a destructive influence on his relationships and work, causing rage and depression.

    Junot Diaz has revealed that he was the victim of sexual abuse as a child.

    In an essay for The New Yorker titled "The Silence: The Legacy of Childhood Trauma," the author, who grew up in Middlesex County, details how he spent most of his life keeping that abuse a secret. Suppressing the trauma had a destructive effect on his life, causing problems with intimacy and hobbling him in relationships and his work. 

    "I was raped when I was eight years old," Diaz writes. "By a grownup that I truly trusted." He says that person told him he had to return the next day or he would be "in trouble," then raped him again. 

    He starts the essay by addressing a fan who had once asked him if he had ever been sexually abused, given the fact that the subject comes up in his books.

    "You caught me completely by surprise," he says. At the time, Diaz was too scared -- "too committed to my mask," he says -- to say anything. But he never forgot the disappointment of the person who asked the question after the author brushed it off. 

    "I'm sorry I didn't tell you the truth," says Diaz, who is a professor of creative writing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "I'm sorry for you, and I'm sorry for me. We could have both used that truth, I'm thinking." 

    Diaz, 49, a Pulitzer Prize winner for his 2007 novel "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao," grew up in Parlin with four siblings after moving from Azua in the Dominican Republic in 1974, when he was 6. He says he had just been getting acclimated to his new English-speaking self when the abuse happened.

    His latest book, "Islandborn," published in March, is a children's picture book about Lola, a girl born in the Dominican Republic who lives in Washington Heights. 

    Diaz, who released "This is How You Lose Her," a collection of short stories, in 2012, says touring for his children's book has made him think more about how he's had to tell lies about his own childhood, leaving out the trauma he experienced. 

    The rape "cracked the planet of me in half, threw me completely out of orbit, into the lightless regions of space where life is not possible," Diaz writes. 

    "It f***ed up my whole life," he says. "More than being Dominican, more than being an immigrant, more, even, than being of African descent, my rape defined me. I spent more energy running from it than I did living." 

    Diaz says he never told anyone or got any therapy, and had trouble at school and at home, suffering from rage and depression. At the age of 13, he could not look at himself in the mirror.

    "By 14, I was holding one of my father's pistols to my head," he says. 

    Diaz says he tried to kill himself in senior year of high school by swallowing three bottles of drugs that were left over from his brother's treatment for cancer, but it didn't work. He would've tried again, he says, except he received a college acceptance letter from Rutgers. 

    "At Rutgers I buried not only the rape but the boy who had been raped--and threw into the pit my family, my suffering, my depression, my suicide attempt for good measure," Diaz writes. 

    What he calls "the Silence" -- his inability to tell anyone about the sexual abuse he experienced -- followed him through his life, in his relationships, putting a wedge between him and those he cared about the most, leading to breakups with girlfriends.

    "I was creating model homes, and then, just as soon as they were up, abandoning them," he writes. 

    Later, after he achieved his first successes, Diaz "clamped the mask down hard" and stopped writing. 

    Diaz says he still suffers from depression but now goes to therapy twice a week and mostly doesn't drink, and that his current significant other and his friends know about him being raped as a child.

    A lingering casualty of the trauma's impact on his life, he says, is that coping with the abuse has had a negative impact on his work. 

    "The writing hasn't come back, not really," he says. 

    Amy Kuperinsky may be reached at akuperinsky@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @AmyKup or on Facebook.

     


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    Gov. Phil Murphy eventually wants public pre-school to be "universal" in New Jersey. Watch video

    New Jersey may soon pour more taxpayer money into public pre-school -- and Gov. Phil Murphy calls it "the smartest investment" the state can make.

    The new governor spent Monday touting his plan to expand public pre-kindergarten programs in the state by including a $58 million funding increase in his first state budget proposal. 

    "For every dollar put into a child at this age, you get about 7 bucks back in society, both though their own life ... but also the broader economic benefits," Murphy, a Democrat, said during a visit to John F. Kennedy Elementary School in Jamesburg to promote his proposal.

    "It's probably the smartest investment we can make," he added. "It's a hard one to convince people of, because it pays off over decades. But that doesn't make it less worthy."

    Democratic leaders of the state Legislature negotiated with then-Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, last year to include a $25 million increase in pre-K funding in the current state budget. 

    Now, Murphy has proposed adding $58 million on top of the $688 million the state already spends on it.

    That includes $32.5 million more to existing programs in 31 low-income -- or so-called "Abbott" -- districts and some other districts. 

    It also included another $25 million to expand pre-K in more than 100 other districts. 

    Here's Phil Murphy's plan for free community college in N.J. 

    The state Legislature -- which is controlled by Democrats -- still must agree to the funding before the June 30 deadline for Murphy to sign a final budget.

    The money is a step toward fulfilling Murphy's campaign promise to make pre-K "universal" across the state. He said funding will be phased in over the next few years until that's accomplished. 

    All of it would reverse how little New Jersey has spent on pre-school over the last decade. Though the state enacted a law in 2008 to phase in pre-K funding over five years, the plan was never funded. 

    Sam Crane, a former state treasurer who now helps run Pre-K Our Way, a nonprofit that has lobbied for more pre-school funding in New Jersey, praised Murphy's plan -- even though it's being phased in gradually.

    "We understand their fiscal problems. Having once been a state treasurer, I kind of have some sympathy for them," Crane said. "But the fact is: There's kind of this commitment to move forward with the phase-in, and we're encouraged by this."

    Phil Murphy Jamesburg.JPGGov. Phil Murphy visits John F. Kennedy Elementary School in Jamesburg on Monday. 

    The Jamesburg school Murphy visited recently implemented a dual-language program for pre-schoolers to learn in English and Spanish thanks to a $950,000 grant from the state in the current state budget. 

    State Sen. Linda Greenstein, D-Middlesex, praised the children at the school for ignoring the politicians who showed up Monday.

    "When we all walked in, they looked at us, and they continued their work," Greenstein said with a laugh. "They weren't that impressed."

    Brent Johnson may be reached at bjohnson@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @johnsb01. Find NJ.com Politics on Facebook.


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    The settlement was reached April 2, the day the case was scheduled to go to trial in Middlesex County.

    New Jersey has agreed to pay $1.4 million settlement to the family of a disabled woman who died while under the state's care, in a case that raised concerns about the Christie administration's rush to close public institutions five years ago.

    Maureen Doran, a 68-year-old resident of the Woodbridge Developmental Center, had received attentive care for 17 years, according to her sisters and co-guardians. But conditions deteriorated inside the facility after the state decided in July 2012 to close Woodbridge and a similar facility in Totowa within two years.

    Death of woman from institution slated to be closed sparks investigation

    A flurry of resident transfers and staff reassignments created a chaotic environment that allowed safety and supervision to decline, according to the family and the wrongful death lawsuit they filed in state Superior Court.

    Doran was assaulted by a cottage mate in May 2013 and spent three days in the hospital recovering from facial fractures. In August of that year, Doran was unsupervised when she fell and broke her leg.

    While recuperating in bed, she developed aspiration pneumonia and septic shock and died Sept. 3 at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in Rahway. The Middlesex County Medical Examiner said Doran died from pneumonia and "septic shock" caused by ingesting food into her lungs.

    The settlement was reached April 2, the day the case was scheduled to go to trial in Middlesex County, said the family's attorney, Bruce Nagel of Roseland.

    "This really tragic situation directly reflects Gov. Christie's decision to reduce the budget for the essential care of our special needs citizens," Nagel told NJ Advance Media Monday. "Unfortunately, Maureen was repeatedly assaulted by other residents of Woodbridge and there was not enough staff to protect her."

    Lee Moore, spokesman for the state Attorney General's Office, which represented the state Department of Human Services that ran the facility, declined to comment on the settlement.

    Nagel called the settlement "a small measure of justice" for Lori Centrella and Kathy DeCicco, "having lost their sister. I would like to think this case will prevent these tragedies from happening again."

    Doran's death, first reported in The Star-Ledger in 2013, sparked legislative hearings and a call to halt the closure of Woodbridge -- a campus dotted with large cottages that were home for decades to hundreds of people with autism, cerebral palsy and other developmental disabilities.

    But with the backing of some advocacy groups, Gov. Chris Christie moved ahead to diminish's New Jersey's reliance on large institutions and to shift more people and funding into supervised group homes and apartments.

    An advisory group in 2012 recommended two of the seven facilities should close by 2017. Christie closed both Woodbridge and North Jersey developmental centers by 2014.

    "I understand why some people are upset about that, but I cannot allow a vocal minority to stop progress," Christie said in a town hall meeting in 2014. "I cannot sleep at night knowing I'm institutionalizing people by my hand as the governor."

    Susan K. Livio may be reached at slivio@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @SusanKLivio. Find NJ.com Politics on Facebook.  


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    The Edison native is the second past colleague of the former governor to earn a nod for a top federal legal job in recent months.

    President Donald Trump on Tuesday will nominate New Jersey attorney Paul B. Matey, a longtime colleague of former Gov. Chris Christie, to the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, an administration official confirmed.

    The court, based in Philadelphia, hears federal cases appealed from U.S. district courts in New Jersey, Delaware and Pennsylvania, as well as the U.S. Virgin Islands.

    Matey, a 47-year-old Edison native who spent four years under Christie at the U.S. Attorney's Office before joining him in Trenton, is the second ally of the governor to be named to a high-profile legal position by the administration in recent months.

    Craig Carpenito, who was tapped in January to serve as the interim U.S. attorney for New Jersey, also previously worked under Christie during the latter's own stint in the same office. 

    Matey's nomination, like those for Supreme Court justices and district court judges, will require confirmation by the U.S. Senate.

    After joining the governor's office in 2010, Matey rose over just two years to the post of deputy chief counsel to the governor, a position he held for another three years until leaving to become general counsel and senior vice president at University Hospital in Newark. He became secretary of the hospital in 2016.

    "When I was in the governor's office, he and I worked shoulder to shoulder," former state attorney general Christopher Porrino said Monday of Matey.

    Porrino, now a partner and chair of the litigation department at Lowenstein Sandler in Roseland, called Matey "perhaps the smartest lawyer I've ever known."

    "He is a really quick study and his judgment is really, really solid," he said.

    After working in sales for comic book powerhouse Marvel Entertainment early in his career, Matey attended and graduated in 2001 from Seton Hall University School of Law, where he was a student of now-Dean Kathleen Boozang.

    "He just evidenced a great ability for breadth and depth of the law, and his whole career has reflected that," said Boozang, who got to know Matey when he was editor-in-chief of the Seton Hall Law Review.

    Boozang said Matey's "great intellect and his equanimity" make him well-suited for a role on the region's highest federal court.

    After graduation, Matey spent two years clerking first for U.S. District Judge John Lifland in New Jersey and then for U.S. Appeals Court Judge Robert Cowen in Philadelphia.

    He then spent two years at what was then Kellogg, Huber, Hansen, Todd, Evans and Figel, where he was co-counsel with now-Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch on three cases. He left the firm in 2005 for the U.S. Attorney's Office, where he worked until 2009. 

    Matey, a married father of one, joined Christie's staff as assistant counsel in 2010, and was promoted the same year to senior counsel, a role he held until 2012 when he replaced Kevin O'Dowd as the governor's deputy chief counsel. He left the governor's office in 2015.

    He was one of 75 gubernatorial staffers and state officials interviewed by attorneys from Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher as part of an internal review commissioned by Christie in the wake of the Bridgegate scandal. The law firm's report ultimately cleared the governor of wrongdoing, but was criticized by Democrats in the Legislature.

    Thomas Moriarty may be reached at tmoriarty@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at @ThomasDMoriarty.

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    South Brunswick Mayor Christopher Killmurray, 55, had been battling brain cancer.

    Family members of the late South Brunswick Mayor Christopher J. Killmurray, who died on Sunday, are asking admirers to support local organizations and "just have a beer and relax" in his memory.

    Killmurray, 55 -- a married father of four, partner at his law firm and mayor for the past year -- had been battling brain cancer.

    SBDEMS19 CONLONChristopher J. Killmurray 

    A funeral Mass will be held Thursday at St. Cecelia's Church in the Monmouth Junction section of South Brunswick, according to his obituary.

    "He will always be in our hearts as his legacy lives on in the many lives he has touched during his time with us," his family said.

    Killmurray was elected to the South Brunswick Council in 2003. He was named mayor on April 12, 2017, following the death of Mayor Frank Gambatese -- the longest-serving mayor in the township's history -- and was elected to fill out the remainder of Gambatese's term last November.

    Though Killmurray had missed recent meetings, South Brunswick Manager Bernard Hvozdovic said he regularly visited him at his home to update him on municipal matters, up until about a week ago.

    "He was still interested ... right up until the end really," Hvozdovic said.

    A native of Woodbridge, Killmurray is being remembered as a champion of his adopted hometown.

    In an obituary that mixed sorrow with pride and playfulness, his family described him as "everyone's favorite Irish person," a dedicated attorney and booster of local youth sports.

    Though not a natural at camping, he became an assistant leader in the Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts and was facetiously dubbed 'The Great Outdoorsman' after he "learned how to delegate putting up his own tent," his family said.

    "As mayor, Chris Killmurray always strove to try his best for those around him and help them reach their potential," his obituary read.

    In lieu of flowers, the family is requesting donations to the South Brunswick Public Library or South Brunswick Food Pantry -- in addition to the suggestion of a relaxing beer.

    Tuesday's meeting of the South Brunswick Council has been cancelled.

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


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    The NJ.com baseball staff unveils its first conference pitchers and hitters of week for games played March 31-April 8, 2018.


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    Check out the second set of conference players of the week.


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    John Mingo was taken into custody last night in Brooklyn and faces a murder charge in the slaying at the Loop Inn Motel

    Nearly 10 months after one man was killed and another was seriously injured during a robbery at a Woodbridge couples motel, a fourth person from New York been arrested and charged with murder.

    John Mingo, 29, was taken into custody Monday night in Brooklyn, by U.S. Marshals Service, the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office said in a statement. 

    Mingo awaits extradition to New Jersey, where is he charged with one count of murder and two counts of conspiracy to commit murder. He was only recently identified as a suspect, authorities said.

    1 of N.J.'s most wanted fugitives picked up in Middlesex County

    He had been sought for a "few months" and was picked up in the evening, but additional details about how Mingo was found were not immediately available, a spokeswoman for the prosecutor's office said. 

    Mingo, Chelsey Mendoza, Cynthia Rivera and Martin Martinez Jr. plotted to rob a 24-year-old man after he posted on social media about possessing a large sum of money and jewelry, prosecutors said.

    During the robbery, the man was shot and another man, Andrew Torres, 21, was killed, authorities said.

    Mendoza, Rivera, Torres and a 24-year-old man who has never been identified rented a room June 21 at the Loop Inn Motel off Routes 1 & 9 in the Avenel section of Woodbridge, authorities said.

    While they were in a hot tub, Martinez and Mingo arrived armed with handguns and fatally shot Torres when he answered their knock on the door, prosecutors said.

    The 24-year-old, who had posted about the money, was shot multiple times and taken to University Hospital in Newark in critical condition. Before undergoing surgery, the man told authorities he had never met the women before that night, prosecutors said.

    Mendoza pleaded guilty in September to conspiracy to commit robbery and agreed to testify against Rivera and Martinez.

    Authorities continue to investigate the killing. Anyone with information is asked to call Anyone with information is asked to call Woodbridge Det. Santiago Tapi at 732-634-7700, or Detective David Abromaitis of the prosecutor's office at 732-745-4436.

    Jeff Goldman may be reached at jeff_goldman@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @JeffSGoldman. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

     


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    Previous Rutgers graduation speakers include former President Barack Obama, musician Steven Van Zandt and author Toni Morrison.

    Apparently, former Vice President Joe Biden is busy.

    Six months after Rutgers University asked Biden to speak at its graduation ceremony, school officials announced PayPal president and chief executive officer Dan Schulman will be the commencement speaker.

    The Rutgers Board of Governors voted Tuesday to award an honorary degree to Schulman at the May 13 ceremony on the New Brunswick-Piscataway campus. Schulman, who grew up in Princeton, was previously a member of the Rutgers board.

    Rutgers officials privately asked Biden to serve as commencement speaker before he appeared on campus in October to give a speech about his campaign to raise awareness about sexual assault.

    Biden told students waiting to take selfies with him after the speech that he had been invited to be the commencement speaker in May, but wasn't sure if he could attend.

    He later turned down the Rutgers invite.

    "Former Vice President Joseph Biden was unable to attend the May 13 commencement ceremony. We are thrilled he came to Rutgers in October to rally students around the It's On Us campaign aimed at ending sexual assault on college campuses," Dory Devlin, a Rutgers spokeswoman, said Tuesday.

    Schulman will speak at the Rutgers football stadium in Piscataway, which hosts the main commencement ceremony for the New Brunswick campus.

    Rutgers previously announced Queen Latifah, the Newark-born actress and hip-hop star, will speak at Rutgers-Newark graduation ceremony. Anita Hill, the law professor who accused Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment, will speak at Rutgers-Camden's ceremony.

    Previous Rutgers commencement speakers include former President Barack Obama, musician Steven Van Zandt and author Toni Morrison.

    Rutgers has paid some of its previous commencement speakers, including Van Zandt, a $35,000 honorarium. Schulman will not be paid an honorarium for this year's speech, Devlin said.

    Schulman, 60, reportedly earned more than $19 million in stock and compensation from PayPal in 2016.

    The veteran business executive has deep Rutgers ties. His mother was an associate dean at Rutgers.

    He began his career at AT&T and later went on to leadership roles at Priceline, Virgin Mobil and Sprint Nextel. 

    Schulman will receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree during the ceremony. Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, president emerita and former CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, will receive an honorary Doctor of Science degree.

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


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    A woman was injured after her vehicle crashed into a Trenton building that is home to the state's Motor Vehicle Commission headquarters. Watch video

    A woman was injured after her vehicle crashed into a Trenton building that is home to the state's Motor Vehicle Commission headquarters. 

    The crash took place at 10:10 a.m. on Tuesday at 225 East State Street, said Trooper Alejandro Goez, a spokesman with the New Jersey State Police.

    A Honda CRV driven by 40-year-old Jennifer Rosa of Plainsboro crashed into the building. 

    The building is also home to Blimpie Subs & Salads and The Renaissance Grill, among other offices and businesses. 

    Rosa was taken to a local hospital with injuries that weren't considered life-threatening, Goez said. No other injuries were reported. 

    Expo preview

    Trenton Fire Battalion Chief Todd Willever said the vehicle caught fire after crashing through the plate glass window and was partially extinguished by the building's sprinkler system. Firefighters took care of the rest.

    The building was briefly evacuated, Willever said. The driver was removed from behind the wheel by good Samaritans, before first responders arrived.

    Mairin Bellack, a spokeswoman with the MVC, said operations at field offices around the state were not interrupted Tuesday. 

    The cause of the crash remains under investigation. 

    - Kevin Shea contributed to this report.
    Amanda Hoover can be reached at ahoover@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @amandahoovernj. Find NJ.com on Facebook


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    From gold in California to a handful of N.J.'s top times, these were N.J.'s top performers for Week 2.


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    The officer Joseph Reiman has been indicted in the beating of a teenager in Carteret last spring.

    The lawyer for a Carteret police officer accused of beating a teenager after a brief car chase last May has asked the court to move the officer's trial to a different county.

    In a brief filed in state Superior Court, defense attorney Charles Sciarra argues the publicity generated by NJ Advance Media "has inflamed and prejudiced the potential jury pool," making it unrealistic for his client, Joseph Reiman, to receive a fair trial in Middlesex County. "The crusade against Reiman has been relentless," Sciarra wrote.

    Reiman has been indicted on charges that include third-degree aggravated assault, second-degree official misconduct and fourth-degree falsifying or tampering with records. The officer, who has pleaded not guilty in the criminal case, also faces a civil lawsuit brought by the family of the teenager.

    Sciarra claims reporter Craig McCarthy's stories on NJ.com -- several of which feature police dashcam video obtained under the state's Open Public Records Act -- have repeatedly made unsupported statements about the facts of the encounter between Reiman and his alleged victim, and that McCarthy has never disputed the Middlesex County prosecutor's allegations "as they support his publicized opinion."

    The defense attorney argues the reporter has selectively highlighted Reiman's prior use of force without context, quoted comments by anonymous fellow officers and declined to publicize the inadmissibility of the prior use-of-force incidents as evidence in the criminal case. 

    The officer's attorney argues McCarthy's online promotion of his work on social media, coupled with coverage by other outlets and "inflammatory" allegations of involvement in the case by Carteret Mayor Daniel Reiman, the defendant's brother, leaves the court without a way to "adequately ensure Reiman will receive an impartial assessment of his guilt or innocence in Middlesex County."

    Sciarra sent a copy of his notice to seek a change of venue to NJ Advance Media and invited this reporter to review the dozens of documents, including a 60-page brief, that he is using to support the motion.

    Kevin Whitmer, VP of Content for NJ Advance Media, said the organization stands behind McCarthy's vigorous reporting. "Craig has carefully used sources to complement smart and determined street reporting that was fueled by what everyone can see and hear on bodycam and dashcam recordings."

    In a statement, Middlesex County Prosecutor Andrew Carey said it is "inappropriate for the attorneys involved in this case to publicly comment at this time."

    "The prosecutor's office will be abiding by the rules of ethics and will litigate this case in court," Carey said.

    The motion has yet to be argued in front of a judge.

    Thomas Moriarty may be reached at tmoriarty@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at @ThomasDMoriarty.

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    The victim told police a man in an SUV with a woman and two young children robbed him.

    UPDATE: Rutgers University Police now say the incident was a "consensual interaction" and that there was no robbery.

    A Rutgers University student said he was robbed in New Brunswick early Tuesday by an armed man who pulled up to him in a car with a woman and two young children as passengers, according to police.

    The student told officers he was walking about 12:30 p.m. near Campbell Hall on George Street when the driver of a dark Toyota Highlander asked him for gas money.

    "As the victim retrieved cash from his wallet he observed a handgun on the lap of the driver who then told him to get into the vehicle," Rutgers Police Chief Kenneth Cop said in a statement.

    The student said he complied and realized there was a woman in the car and two young children ages 3 or 4 in the back seat, Cop said.

    The robber drove the student to a bank on Somerset Street and ordered him to withdraw cash from an ATM, the student told police.

    "The victim exited the vehicle, walked into the bank alone where he withdrew cash, and then walked back to the waiting vehicle where he turned over the withdrawn cash," Cop said.

    The driver then took the student back to Campbell Hall and dropped him off before leaving campus, according to the student's account.

    The student was not hurt.

    The robber is described as around 40 years old, with a full black beard, short black hair, and wore a short sleeved T-shirt with khaki pants. The woman wore a purple dress and head covering.

    The incident is under investigation. Anyone with information or who may have been in the area at the time is asked to call Rutgers Police detectives at 848-932-8025.

    Anthony G. Attrino may be reached at tattrino@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @TonyAttrino. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

     

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    Goals, assists, saves and ground balls. Who's setting the pace so far this season?


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    Federal health officials say the E. coli strain is among the most severe.

    New Jersey has now become part of a seven-state investigation into outbreaks of a severe strain of E. coli, which nationwide has caused a half-dozen people to be hospitalized and one person to experience kidney failure, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

    The federal probe -- which also includes Connecticut, Idaho, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Washington -- comes just days after New Jersey health officials confirmed multiple E. coli cases in four counties in the state, which they said could possibly be linked to a restaurant chain.

    The CDC, however, said in a statement on Tuesday that the source of the E. coli outbreaks still remains a mystery.

    "A specific food item, grocery store, or restaurant chain has not been identified as the source of infections," the statement said.

    Last week, however, the New Jersey Department of Health said the E. coli cases in the state had "a possible association with a chain restaurant," but did not name the specific chain.

    The Warren County Health Department confirmed that Panera Bread restaurants were part of a "regional investigation" into the E. coli outbreak, which could also involve other chain restaurants.

    State and local public health officials are continuing to interview ill people to determine what they ate and other exposures in the week before their illness started, the CDC said.

    As of Monday, 17 people nationwide had been infected with a potentially severe strain of E. coli -- the Shiga toxin-producing E. coli, according to the CDC. The strain can potentially cause people to become dangerously ill.

    New Jersey currently has six confirmed E. coli cases -- the most of all seven states, according to the CDC's case count map.

    CDC E coli case count mapThe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's case count map of the U.S. states experiencing outbreaks of E. coli. 

    New Jersey health officials on Wednesday said the six confirmed cases in the state match the strain impacting the other six states. However, officials noted that there are two additional people who tested positive for E. coli, but it is still unknown whether the strain matches the other cases.

    The illnesses in all seven states were reported between March 22 to March 31. The ages of the people who became ill in all seven states range from 12 to 84 years old, according to the CDC.

    Six ill people had been hospitalized, "including one person who developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, a type of kidney failure," according to the CDC's website.

    No deaths have been reported, the CDC said.

    The investigation is still ongoing. 

    Spencer Kent may be reached at skent@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @SpencerMKent. Find the Find NJ.com on Facebook.

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    The New Jersey man has been awarded a total of $117 million.

    A state jury on Wednesday ordered Johnson & Johnson and its talc supplier to pay an additional $80 million in punitive damages to a New Jersey man who sued the companies, claiming he developed cancer from asbestos in talc-based baby powder, Reuters reported.

    Johnson & Johnson and its talc supplier, Imerys Talc America, was already ordered by the jury last week to pay the man, Stephen Lanzo III, and his wife, $37 million in compensatory damages, bringing the total award to $117 million.

    Lanzo, a 46-year-old investment banker from Verona, had filed a lawsuit after contracting mesothelioma, a cancer of the tissue that lines the lungs, stomach, heart and other organs.

    The decision is the first to find Johnson & Johnson's baby powder with talc led to a person being diagnosed with mesothelioma.

    After the ruling on Wednesday, Johnson & Johnson said in an emailed statement, "Johnson's Baby Powder has been used for more than 120 years and it does not contain asbestos or cause mesothelioma."

    The company added that it plans to "immediately begin our appeal, and we believe that once the full evidence is reviewed, this decision will be reversed."

    N.J. couple awarded $37M in Johnson & Johnson baby powder cancer case

    Lanzo's attorneys had argued during the trial -- which began in late January -- that Lanzo contracted mesothelioma as a result of applying the company's products to his skin for more than 30 years. His suit claimed Johnson & Johnson knew its products contained asbestos but didn't properly warn its consumers.

    Lawyers for Johnson & Johnson, however, argued Lanzo grew up in a house in Montclair with basement pipes wrapped in asbestos. They also argued that schools in Montclair that Lanzo attended have also been treated for asbestos.

    Johnson & Johnson is responsible for 70 percent of the damages while Imerys Talc America is responsible for the rest.

    Spencer Kent may be reached at skent@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @SpencerMKent. Find the Find NJ.com on Facebook.

    Have information about this story or something else we should be covering? Tell us. nj.com/tips

     

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    See which players are atop the statistical standings so far this season in girls lacrosse.


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    A Rutgers University student's account of how he was robbed by an armed man on Tuesday is not credible, according to the Rutgers University Police Department.

    A Rutgers University student's account of being robbed by an armed man on Tuesday is not credible, according to the Rutgers University Police Department.

    The student allegedly told officers he was walking at 12:30 p.m. near Campbell Hall on George Street when the driver of a dark Toyota Highlander asked him for gas money.

    The student reportedly retrieved cash from his wallet and told police he saw a handgun on the lap of the driver, who then told him to get into the vehicle.

    The student said he complied and the man drove him to withdraw cash from an ATM.

    "Subsequent investigation has revealed that this incident is unfounded and did not occur as originally reported," an alert from the Rutgers Police Department stated.

    Rutgers Police say that there was no handgun on the driver's lap and called the incident a "consensual interaction" between the student and the driver which resulted in "theft by deception."

    Police described the driver as a man about 40 years old with a full black beard, short black hair, and wearing a short sleeved t-shirt with khaki pants. He was with  a woman wearing a purple dress and head covering, as well as two young girls.

    The Rutgers Police Department is asking anyone with information on the incident to call them at 848-932-8025.

    Chris Sheldon may be reached at csheldon@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @chrisrsheldon Find NJ.com on Facebook.

     

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    "Sprung from cages out on highway nine, chrome wheeled, fuel injected, and steppin' out over the line ...."

    I recently had to buy a car for my son after the camshaft failed on his previous vehicle. It needs to be said that no matter how poorly the car with the bad camshaft treated my son, he was sad to say goodbye to it because "Doug" -- as he had named it -- was his first car.

    chevelle.jpg*sigh" 

    My first car was a 1972 Chevelle. Admittedly, it had the family 307 V8 instead of the 350 or 402, but it LOOKED fast. It topped out at 97 mph, not a fraction faster.

    MORE: Vintage photos around New Jersey

    The affinity my son and I had for our first cars is in no way unique. Who doesn't have a soft spot in his or her heart for that "first set of wheels?"

    And, guys aren't the only ones who get soulful about their cars; gals are just as likely to have fond memories of former vehicles (as referenced by a recent insurance company commercial: "You LOVED Brad ... and then you totaled him!").

    Some guys, however, seem to take it to an extreme. A 2008 survey by the Daily Mail revealed that their first set of wheels ranked higher in young men's memories than their 18th birthday, first girlfriend and first kiss. I recognize that the Daily Mail survey was taken a decade ago, but it speaks to a love affair we have with our cars that shows no sign of waning in the 21st century.

    Chevrolet referred to its cars as being "the heartbeat of America" and Chrysler made it is simple as possible when it told us that "driving = love." Some may not be quick to admit it, but I think it's obvious that we all have an emotional attachment to our cars.

    Enjoy this collection of classic car photos from the past in New Jersey, as well as these links to previous auto-related galleries.

    Vintage photos of cars and racing in N.J.

    Vintage photos of hot wheels and cool cars in N.J.

    Vintage photos of a long history of auto racing in N.J.

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


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    This is the second book for Laurie Hernandez after her best-selling memoir 'I Got This.' The story follows a young girl who is inspired to become a gymnast after seeing one on TV, mirroring the Old Bridge Olympian's own experience as a young girl.

    The Human Emoji just inked a deal for her second book. 

    Olympic gold medalist Laurie Hernandez, 17, of Old Bridge, has written a children's picture book titled "She's Got This," which will be published by HarperCollins on Oct. 9. 

    The Olympic gymnast's first book, "I Got This: To Gold and Beyond," a memoir published in January of 2017, was a New York Times best-seller.

    The book took its title from the message Hernandez she whispered to herself before her balance beam routine in the women's team all-around at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, when the United States won gold. 

    Hernandez, who was nicknamed The Human Emoji because of her winks and facial expressions, also won a silver medal in individual competition on balance beam.

    "She's Got This," illustrated by Nina Mata, features a girl named Zoe who is inspired by a gymnast she sees on TV. The story takes its cue from Hernandez becoming a gymnast as a young child because she wanted to feel like she was flying. 

    "My earliest memory was watching gymnastics on live TV, and wanting to do what the 'big girls' did," Hernandez told NBC in 2016. She started gymnastics when she was 5 after dance class failed to hold her attention

    "I am so excited to be able to share Zoe's story with young children," Hernandez said in a statement. "As with my first book, I want to inspire people to go after their dreams and do what they love -- and not fear failure. That's what Zoe's story is all about, and I am thrilled that 'She's Got This' will inspire a whole other generation of readers."

    Despite her initial aversion to dance class as a child, Hernandez emerged in 2016 as a champion on "Dancing with the Stars" alongside partner Val Chmerkovskiy. 

    Amy Kuperinsky may be reached at akuperinsky@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @AmyKup or on Facebook.

     

     


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