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    "Rutgers is playing fast and loose with taxpayer money," Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, D-Bergen, said Tuesday.

    State lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are criticizing Rutgers University for spending millions on payouts to former coaches and officials who stepped down early or were booted from their jobs.  

    One influential Democrat said Tuesday she'll call for a Senate hearing unless University President Robert Barchi can give her an explanation for the decisions. 

    "Rutgers is playing fast and loose with taxpayer money," Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, D-Bergen, said Tuesday. "Whose money do they think they're throwing around here?" 

    The criticism comes after an NJ Advance Media analysis found Rutgers has agreed to pay out more than $11.5 million in settlements, contract buyouts and sabbatical payments to more than a dozen top coaches and officials over the past decade. 

    That latest happened last month when Rutgers New Brunswick Chancellor Deba Dutta resigned after one year on the job and received a one-year, $480,000 sabbatical before returning to teaching. The sabbatical was not included in Dutta's contract unless he had worked for five years as chancellor. 

    A week later, NJ Advance Media revealed Rutgers paid former Athletic Director Julie Hermann about $500,000 more than she was owed for being fired without cause in 2015. Hermann was already owed about $1.1 million but got the  additional compensation in exchange for agreeing not to sue the university for wrongful termination, NJ Advance Media learned.

    Weinberg sent a letter to Barchi this week calling such payouts "a gross misapplication of university resources," according to a copy of the letter provided to reporters. 

    She called for transparency, including explanations about why top officials were let go and what payments were or were not contractually obligated. 

    Some of the decisions were made prior to Barchi's arrival at Rutgers in 2012, but the university will be happy to discuss any cases that happened during his tenure, spokeswoman Carissa Sestito said. 

    "We will certainly provide a detailed response to her letter," Sestito said. "The settlements were all entered into with the best interests of the university in mind." 

    Weinberg's criticism echoed complaints from Sen. Joseph Pennacchio, R-Morris, who called Dutta's sabbatical "insane." 

    "Tuition dollars should be spent on students, not boat checks for administrators," Pennacchio said. "It is completely unfair and unjust to ask taxpayers and students to continue to subsidize this kind of reckless spending." 

    Rutgers receives about 20 percent of its funding from the state, according to the university. 

    Staff writer Brent Johnson contributed to this report. 

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


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    An Atlantic County high school principal who just finished his first year on the job was arrested Wednesday on charges of child pornography.

    An Atlantic County high school principal who just finished his first year on the job was arrested Wednesday on charges of child pornography and endangering the welfare of children, Atlantic County Prosecutor Damon G. Tyner said.

    edward bonek.jpgEdward Bonek (ACPO) 

    Pleasantville High School principal Edward Bonek was charged with multiple counts of possession and distribution of child pornography after officials executed a search warrant at his home, authorities said.

    Bonek, 48, was promoted to principal of the high school after serving as interim principal and vice principal, reported.

    Superintendent Clarence Alston did not immediately respond to request for comment.

    The Absecon man is being held at the Atlantic County Justice Facility on Wednesday awaiting a detention hearing.

    Sophie Nieto-Munoz may be reached at Follow her at @snietomunoz. Find on Facebook.

    Have a tip? Tell us.

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    Marlon Peek, 42, of Plainfield, was caught in May 2015 during an armed attempt at a Bank of America in Linden

    A man who pleaded guilty to robbing seven banks before he was caught in an armed attempt to rob an eighth was sentenced to 17 years in prison on Wednesday.

    Marlon Peek, 42, of Plainfield, robbed or attempted to rob these banks in New Jersey:

    • TD Bank, Edison, March 17, 2015
    • Magyar Bank, Edison, March 31, 2015
    • Investors Bank, Dunellen, April 9, 2015
    • Wells Fargo, South Plainfield, April 14, 2015 (aiding and abetting)
    • Unity Bank, Middlesex, April 15, 2015
    • PNC Bank, South Plainfield, April 21, 2015
    • TD Bank, Springfield, April 21, 2015
    • Bank of America, Linden, May 6, 2015

    U.S. District Judge Katharine Hayden in Newark sentenced Peek, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito said in a statement.

    Between March and May 2015, Peek would hand a note to tellers demanding cash and indicating that he had a gun and would shoot them. 

    marlon peek 2.JPGPeek seen during two of the robbery attempts. (FBI) 

    The note he handed to s teller at the TD Bank in Edison read: "I have gun will shoot to kill you have 3 seconds."

    Peek was caught on May 6 of that year after attempting to rob a Bank of America in Linden, in which he pointed a gun at a bank teller. While fleeing, he attempted three carjackings before entering a warehouse, grabbing a hostage, and putting the gun to the hostage's head, the statement said. 

    Police arrived and told Peek to drop the gun. He did, and was arrested.

    While at Robert Wood Johnson Hospital in Rahway, he slipped out of his handcuffs but an officer guarding the room tackled him in the hallway.

    In addition to his prison term, Peek will have five years of supervised release and must pay restitution of $21,598.

    Joe Brandt can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @JBrandt_NJ. Find on Facebook.

    Have a tip? Tell us. 

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    You must be taller than this to view this gallery.

    There are certain emotions that are wonderful and almost impossible to put into words. Falling in love for the first time ... holding your newborn child ... your lifelong favorite team winning the Super Bowl for the first time ever.

    Now, close your eyes and try to recapture the feeling from childhood just before you walked through the gates of a carnival, circus or amusement park. It certainly ranks right up there.

    gregferris.jpgAnd try not to trip getting off the ferris wheel. 

    There was a magical feeling of anticipation mixed with a happy mystery. You remembered your favorite rides and games and couldn't decide which was the first you were going to do. And you didn't know what new ones might have been invented, what new things a circus might bring to town.

    The sensory stimulation was almost too much to handle - the sounds, sights, aromas, even the air had a unique quality to it. It was one of the few times in life that having things coming at you from all sides couldn't have been happier.

    MORE: Vintage photos around New Jersey

    I'm one of those people who grows a little melancholy when something happy draws to a close, but at those places, the only thing you felt at the end of the day was a magnificent exhaustion. Kind of like celebrating a Super Bowl victory.

    Here's a gallery of vintage photos from amusement parks, fairs and circuses in New Jersey. Don't see one of your favorite places to visit? Check these links to previous galleries.

    Vintage photos of amusement parks, circuses, fairs and rides in N.J.

    Vintage photos of amusement parks, circuses and fairs in N.J.

    Vintage photos of amusement parks, fairs and circuses in N.J.

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

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    No hard liquor? Bad dorms? Poor profs? How N.J. colleges fare in new Princeton Review rankings.

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    The person was hit near the Metuchen station at 6:30 a.m.

    8:07 a.m. update: NJ Transit service along the Northeast Corridor has resumed with 60 minute delays. 

    New Jersey Transit service along the Northeast Corridor line is temporarily suspended Thursday morning after a person was struck and killed by a train.

    Service remains suspended between Metropark and Trenton as of 7:30 a.m. after train 3701 hit someone in the area of the Metuchen station at 6:30 a.m.. NJ Transit didn't disclose the person's age or gender.

    NJ Transit will spend $3.7B in the next year. Will any of it help commuters?

    PATH is cross honoring NJ Transit train tickets at Newark, Hoboken and 33rd Street in New York City. 

    The train departed New York Penn Station at 5:41 and was originally scheduled to arrive at Jersey Avenue station in New Brunswick 6:33 a.m. 

    The train's engineer was treated for minor injuries, New Jersey Transit spokesman Nathan Rudy said. The 60 passengers aboard were removed and brought by bus to their destinations. 

    Amtrak trains running through the area are also affected. 

    NJ Transit riders have suffered through a week of cancelled trains thanks to engineers calling out of work at the last minute and the installation of a federally-mandated safety system, know as Positive Train Control.

    PTC uses computers and radios to stop a train if the operator fails to obey signals or speed limits. NJ Transit and other railroads face a Dec. 31, 2018 deadline to have PTC installed.

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


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    The hissing object floated to the ground in Central Jersey, leading to a response from authorities. Watch video

    A hissing object that parachuted to the ground in South Brunswick with a handwritten message to President Trump was found to be a harmless weather experiment after a security scare, officials said Thursday.

    A worker reported the device floated to the ground at a New Road solar panel field Tuesday with a message scrawled on it saying "Research Instrument. NOT a bomb."

    "If this lands near the President, we at NASA wish him a great round of golf," according to the note, which was first reported by NBC New York.

    Law enforcement officials, apparently not amused, responded to make sure the item was safe. Extra precautions were taken because Trump was vacationing at his Bedminster golf club, according to South Brunswick police.

    "The weather researchers were apologetic for any concerns they had raised by the handwritten note on the device," police said in a statement. "There are no charges related to the incident."

    The device, a weather balloon instrument that measures ozone, was part of a multi-agency air quality study being conducted in the northeast, according to NASA, which is a partner in the Long Island Sound Tropospheric Ozone Study.

    "Because the instruments are often found after they float back to Earth, they include notes informing the public of their research purpose," according to a statement from NASA spokesman Allard Beutel, who said the device was launched from a site owned by Rutgers, but the school was not part of the research.

    A summer student employee added the extra message to the object in what NASA's statement called a "misguided attempt to be lighthearted."

    "After a brief investigation, authorities determined that the instrument posed no threat and cleared operations to resume," the spokesman said. "The student, who appended the note, was removed from the project, and we are taking steps to standardize the labeling on these scientific instruments."

    Noah Cohen may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @noahycFind on Facebook.


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    A train became disable near the Metuchen station

    Another day, more problems for beleaguered NJ Transit passengers. 

    On Friday morning, riders on the Northeast Corridor are facing 45 minutes because a train became disabled near the Metuchen station. 

    Eastbound trains were skipping Metuchen as of 8:35 a.m. so passengers who wanted to get off there had to continue to Metropark and then board a westbound train for one stop. Stops at Metuchen resumed around 9 a.m., NJ Transit said in an update.

    On Thursday service was suspended for a couple of hours after a passenger was struck and killed by a train near the Metuchen station.

    There have been dozens of cancellations across all lines for more than a week as NJ Transit races to install a federally mandated safety system ahead of an end of year deadline.

    NJ Transit also blamed engineers for calling out of work at the last minute.

    As  result, commuters have had longer, more frustrating commutes all week aboard trains that are severely overcrowded

    At a press conference Thursday, Gov. Phil Murphy said he underestimated the extent of New Jersey Transit's problems but promised to fix them.

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



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    Joseph Corcoran of Washington Township and Suzanne Laliberte of Middlesex face drug and child endangerment charges

    A New Jersey couple was arrested Thursday after Hackensack police say they were using heroin in a car with their children present.

    laliberte.jpgSuzanne Laliberte in a 2014 police photo. Joseph Corcoran's photo was not available. (Hackensack PD) 

    Joseph Corcoran, 35, of Washington Township, and Suzanne Laliberte, 35, of Middlesex, were arrested after police received a report of people using drugs in a vehilce, police said in a report.

    Narcotics officers arrived about 5:20 p.m. to find Corcoran and Laliberte sitting in a car parked near Blauvelt Place. In the back seat were two 3-year-old children, according to police.

    On the ground near the passenger side, officers found several empty envelopes containing suspected heroin and stamped in blue ink with "Captain American," police said.

    Inside the car, police said they saw a hypodermic needle and several empty envelopes on the floor mat.

    Officers said Laliberte handed over two more hypodermic needles with suspected heroin residue inside and a bottle cap containing heroin.

    Corcoran allegedly told police the drugs and paraphernalia were his, police said.

    "That's all mine, I gave it to her to hold," police quoted Corcoran in their report.

    Corcoran and Laliberte were arrested on child endangerment and drug charges, police said.

    The children were taken into state custody and later released to their grandparents, according to police.

    Hackensack police said they arrested the couple on outstanding warrants in 2014 but did not have further details of about the arrests on Friday.

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

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    The Plainfield resident was hit near the Metuchen station

    Authorities have identified the person struck and killed by a New Jersey Transit train on Thursday morning as 25-year-old Union County man.

    Paul Fair, of Plainfield, was hit by a Northeast Corridor train near the Metuchen station around 6:30 p.m, according to NJ Transit.

    The engineer of the westbound train was injured and taken to Robert Wood Johnson Medical Center in New Brunswick, where he was treated for facial injuries including a broken orbital bone, said an NJ Transit spokesman. Service was suspended between Metropark and Trenton for about 90 minutes before resuming with heavy delays.

    I underestimated the NJ Transit mess, but I'll fix it, Murphy says

    Fair is the 20th person to be stuck and killed by a New Jersey Transit this year, including the third in less than a week, a spokeswoman said. On Wednesday morning, a man was killed by a near the Plainfield station

    On Saturday morning, a 39-year-old man died after being hit Saturday morning in Perth Amboy.

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


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    A New Jersey man who thought he had set up a sexual encounter with a 14-year-old boy showed up to find state troopers waiting for him, authorities say.

    A New Jersey man who thought he had set up a sexual encounter with a 14-year-old boy arrived at a Sayreville convenience store Wednesday planning to take him home, authorities say.

    Instead, a team of state troopers took Craig M. Dimonda to jail.


    State officials say they had been tracking Dimonda, 37, since he crossed paths with an undercover state trooper online. Dimonda spent months exchanging messages with the detective, whom he believed to be an underage boy, expressing desire to "engage in various sexual activities" and watch pornography with the teen, authorities claim.

    On Wednesday, the undercover cop arranged to meet up and when Dimonda showed up, he was arrested on a single charge of second-degree attempted luring of a child, according to the state Attorney General's Office.

    "Most of us have an image of sexual predators lurking around playgrounds or in dark alleys seeking out their potential victims," Col. Patrick Callahan, the acting head of the State Police, said in a statement announcing the arrest. "But the reality is that children who meet and 'chat' with strangers online are easy prey for internet predators who have ready and anonymous access to children online, where such predators roam without limits."

    On Friday, Dimonda was still being held pending a detention hearing, authorities said. It was not clear whether he had hired an attorney.

    S.P. Sullivan may be reached at Follow him on Twitter. Find on Facebook.

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    The plea deal calls for a possible 6-month jail term

    A veteran Trenton police officer pleaded guilty Friday to possessing child pornography as part of a plea bargain in which he faces jail and will lose his job.

    Paul Marinelli was in his 23rd year as a police officer when he was arrested in September 2017. He was charged as part of a state Attorney's General's Office investigation into child porn called Operation Safety Net.

    Paul Marinelli.jpgPaul Marinelli. 

    The 53-year-old South Brunswick resident appeared in in Middlesex County Superior Court Friday, the attorney general's office announced.

    His plea agreement calls for state prosecutors to recommend a 180-day sentence in the county jail, and a term of probation. And he loses his police job, from which he's been suspended since his arrest.

    His lawyer, David Schroth, said Marinelli took responsibility for something that was "clearly wrong."

    For 31 years, he's served publicly, first in the U.S. Army, including a tour in the 1991 Gulf War, and then as a police officer. "He has literally spent his entire adult life on the front lines," Schroth said.

    "And he deeply regrets the mistake he made," Schroth said.

    State authorities said Friday that investigators found child pornography in an iCloud email account belonging to Marinelli

    Detectives seized three laptops and USB flash and thumb drives from his home and an analysis of them later found numerous images and three videos of child pornography.

    The AG's office said their investigation did not reveal any evidence Marinelli distributed child pornography.

    Marinelli has been free pending the outcome of his case. He's scheduled to be sentenced in October.

    When he was arrested and suspended from his job last year, Marinelli was earning an annual salary of about $103,000.

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

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    The man jumped into Lake Carnegie from a dock

    A man died in a local hospital about an hour after Princeton police pulled him from Lake Carnegie Friday afternoon, the Princeton Police Department said.

    The department received a 911 call at 2:52 p.m. reporting a man jumped off a dock near the boat launch and swam for a few moments, then went under and hadn't surfaced.

    Three officers got the lakeside at 2:55 p.m.

    Two went in to search and one stayed on the dock and probed the water with a pole, police said.

    The officers saw bubbles surface and dove down in that area one was able to grab the man's arm and pull him to the surface

    The three officers pulled the man out with Princeton First Aid and Rescue Squad members, and they started CPR at 3:03 p.m.

    The man - who police did not immediately identify - was pronounced dead at 3:54 p.m., at Princeton Medical Center in Plainsboro, the department said.

    The incident remained under investigation Friday evening, Princeton police said.

    Lake Carnegie's west shores are in Princeton, while it's eastern side is in West Windsor and Plainsboro in Middlesex County.

    It's also the home training water for USRowing, the governing body for the country's national and Olympic rowing teams.

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


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    The boy was found not breathing at the park late last month and was listed in critical condition.

    A 7-year-old boy found not breathing at an East Brunswick water park late last month has died, the township mayor's office said Friday.

    Officials released few details on the incident at Crystal Springs Family Waterpark though Mayor Brad J. Cohen said the death stemmed from a "swimming accident" at the park.

    "I share the sentiments of the entire community in offering our prayers and condolences to the family as they enter this very difficult time," a statement from the mayor said.

    Authorities were called shortly before 4 p.m. July 30 to the town-owned park for reports of a child not breathing, according to police. CPR was performed on the child and he was rushed to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick, where the child was initially listed in critical condition.

    Officials did not disclose the boy's name, specify when he died or release any possible cause of death. A police spokesman referred an inquiry to the town statement. The mayor could not be immediately reached.

    The park includes water slides, recreational and kiddie pools.

    Noah Cohen may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @noahycFind on Facebook.


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    As of Saturday morning, flash flood warnings have already been issued for parts of seven counties as thunderstorms are starting to move into the state

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    The fire broke out around 7:20 a.m.

    Saturday morning storms brought heavy rain, flash flood warnings and for one Edison home, fire. 

    Lighting hit a home causing a fire on the attic and roof around 7:20 a.m., according to a release from the Edison Division of Fire.

    38918501_250023998972799_4419605473108426752_n-2.jpgLightning strike fire at 5 Sarah Court.  

    The two-story home located on Sarah Court was left  temporarily uninhabitable because of the blaze, Edison Fire Capt. Andy Toth said.

    The family later told authorities they would make their own temporary living arrangements during repairs, authorities said. 

    Family members told firefighters that after smelling smoke upstairs they quickly left the house.

    Tooth said firefighters used thermal imaging cameras to detect and extinguish the fire inside the roof, attic walls and second-floor ceiling 

    Taylor Tiamoyo Harris may be reached at Follow her on Twitter @ladytiamoyo.

    Find on Facebook.  


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    Those on the bus were returning to Newark from a picnic in Millstone, officials said. Watch video

    A school bus carrying families returning from a picnic was involved in a crash late Saturday afternoon on the New Jersey Turnpike, according to state police.

    New Jersey State Police said 42 people, both adults and children, were taken to area hospitals. Their injuries were not life-threatening, police said. 

    The accident took place in the northbound lanes of the highway at Mile Post 79.9 around 5:30 p.m.

    The bus was not being used for a school-related event.

    On board were families returning to Newark after a day out at the Mayor's Family Reunion Picnic in Black Bear Lake Camp in Millstone, said Frank Baraff communications director for the City of Newark.

    The annual picnic is held for residents of his city by Newark Mayor Ras Baraka.

    Newark officials said there were 33 people on board, including the bus driver, a number which differs from what state police reported. 

    Baraff said the accident as a "hit-and-run" with a car striking the bus and speeding off.

    "There was a lot of kids crying and mostly everyone that got off the bus was bleeding," said Josh Keys, a witness. "The scene was a mess. But mostly everyone was able to walk out. Some people had to be carried out. I helped a few people out then I left because it started to get really hectic. When I left there was no police or ambulance on the scene. After driving North on the turnpike for five minutes I saw the police on the way."

    State police had no details on what caused the crash.

    Passengers were taken to Robert Wood Johnson Hospital in New Brunswick and JFK Hospital in Edison where their injuries were being assessed, Baraff said. He said Baraka was at Robert Wood Johnson Hospital visiting the injured.

    Photos taken by witnesses at the scene show the bus overturned on its side with police and rescue workers aiding those on board.

    Officials said they would provide further updates when they become available.

    It was not clear whether the rain weather played any role in the accident.

    Sophie Nieto-Munoz contributed to this story. Bill Gallo Jr. may be reached at Follow Bill Gallo Jr. on Twitter @bgallojr. Find on Facebook. Have a tip? Tell us.


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    Dogs and cats throughout New Jersey patiently await adoption.

    This information on dog safety was compiled by members of the Dog Bite Prevention Coalition -- the U.S. Postal Service, American Veterinary Medical Association, American Humane Society, Insurance Information Institute and State Farm Insurance.

    If a carrier delivers mail or packages to your front door, place your dog into a separate room and close the door before opening the front door. Parents should also remind their children not to take mail directly from letter carriers in the presence of the family pet as the dog may see handing mail to a child as a threatening gesture.

    People often assume that a dog with a wagging tail is a friendly dog, but this is far from the truth. Dogs wag their tails for numerous reasons, including when they're feeling aggressive. A tail that is held high and moves stiffly is a sign that the dog is feeling dominant, aggressive, or angry.

    Dogs, even ones you know have good days and bad days. You should never pet a dog without asking the owner first and especially if it is through a window or fence. For a dog, this makes them feel like you are intruding on their space and could result in the dog biting you.

    ALL DOGS are capable of biting. There's no one breed or type of dog that's more likely to bite than others. Biting has more to do with circumstances, behavior, and training.

    Dogs have a language that allows them to communicate their emotional state and their intentions to others around them. Although dogs do use sounds and signals, much of the information that they send is through their body language, specifically their facial expressions and body postures. You can tell how a dog is feeling (sad, tired, happy, angry, scared) by looking at the position of a dogs' ears, mouth, eyes, and tail.

    Dogs are social animals who crave human companionship. That's why they thrive and behave better when living indoors with their pack -- their human family members. Dogs that are tied up or chained outside are frustrated and can become aggressive because they are unhappy. They can also become very afraid because when they are tied or chained up, they can't escape from things that scare them.

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

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    The policy allows judges to continue working until their 80th birthday, in some cases.

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    A 31-year-old Woodbridge man was killed

    A 31-year-old pedestrian was killed by a hit-and-run driver while trying to cross Route 1 in Woodbridge early Monday, authorities said. 

    John Kukuch Jr. was struck at 1:23 a.m. in the right lane on the southbound side of the highway near CloverLeaf Memorial Park, just past the exit for Route 35, Woodbridge police and the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office said. The driver of the vehicle fled without stopping.

    14-year-old hit-and-run victim suffered skull fractures, family says

    The Woodbridge resident was pronounced dead at the scene.

    Anyone who witnessed the crash or has information is asked to call Woodbridge police officer Stephen Botti at 732-634-7700, extension 6516 or prosecutor's office Det. Donald Heck at 732-745-8842.

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



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