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    The thieves loaded a tractor-trailer with perfume from an Edison warehouse and drove it south in November 2017, authorities said

    Three more men have been charged for their roles in the theft of $2.3 million worth of perfume from an Edison warehouse last year, authorities said Tuesday.

    Juan Crespo, 41, of Homestead, Florida, and Felix Castillo, 45, and Asnay Fernandez, 28, both of Hialeah, Florida, were charged in a criminal complaint with one count of conspiring to transport stolen property in interstate commerce, according to U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito.

    The three were held pending a hearing in Newark federal court, Carpentino said.

    In June, two others were charged in the case - Yunior Estevez, 33, of Hollywood, Florida, and Carlos Duvergel, 53, of Colorado Springs, Colorado, were charged with conspiracy and interstate transport of stolen property. Their cases are pending, officials said.

    Criminal complaints accuse the suspects of stealing $2.3 million worth of perfume products from a warehouse in Edison in November 2017.

    The men drove on the New Jersey Turnpike into Delaware with at least one tractor-trailer filled with stolen perfume, according to court documents.

    Investigators say they have video of at least one of the suspects taken from surveillance cameras at a Turnpike toll booth. 

    If convicted, the three face five years in prison and a fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss from the offenses, Carpentino said.

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

     

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    Ruddy Custodio, 30, pleaded guilty to driving while impaired in the crash that killed Jessica Montes, 28, on July 4

    A Piscataway man pleaded guilty Tuesday to driving his motorcycle while impaired by drugs when he crashed, causing the death of his passenger in South Plainfield on July 4.

    jessica-montes.jpgJessica Montes 

    Ruddy Custodio, 30, lost control of his motorcycle on New Brunswick Avenue near Carlton Avenue and struck a curb, authorities said.

    Jessica Montes, 28, of Piscataway, was thrown from the bike and died of her injuries at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital.

    Custodio faces eight years in prison when he is sentenced, according to prosecutors.

    Montes was the mother of an 8-year-old boy. An obituary said she was a phlebotomist at Raritan Bay Medical Center.

    "Whenever you needed her, she was there. She had a genuine heart and she loved her son more than anything," her friend, Lauren Cieri, wrote on a GoFundMe page created to raise money for the woman's funeral.

    After the crash, Custodio was charged with several violations, including driving while intoxicated, the prosecutor's office said at the time. He was treated at JFK Medical Center in Edison for minor injuries.

    On Tuesday, Custodio pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide, driving while having a suspended license, and driving while impaired by drugs, according to Middlesex County Prosecutor Andrew C. Carey.

    Under a plea agreement, Custodio will be required to serve 85 percent of his eight-year prison term before becoming eligible for parole, Carey said.

    Sentencing was set for Jan. 2 before Superior Court Judge Diane Pincus.

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

     

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    The lone $1.5 billion Mega Millions jackpot-winning ticket was bought in South Carolina. In addition to two $1 million winners, 15 tickets sold in N.J. won third prize amounts


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    The fire broke out at 4 a.m. in Brookside Mobile Home Park in South Brunswick

    Four cats were killed and three residents displaced when a fire destroyed two mobile homes in South Brunswick on Wednesday morning. 

    It took 50 firefighters about a half-hour to bring the two-alarm blaze at Brookside Mobile Home Park under control, South Brunswick police said. No one was injured. 

    south-brunswick-fire.jpgThree residents displaced by a fire in a mobile park community will be relocated by management. (South Brunswick police) 

    The fire, which started around 4 a.m. in one home and spread to another, was in jeopardy of spreading to five additional homes before it was contained, according to Monmouth Junction fire chief Scott Smith. 

    The residents will be moved to different homes by Brookside management, police said.  The township's fire marshal is investigating, though the fire at the community off Route 1 appears to be accidental. 

    Firefighters from East Brunswick, North Brunswick and Jamesburg assisted South Brunswick's three fire companies. 

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

     


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    The 30-year-old ESL teacher was arrested after an employee found the school damaged, according to authorities.

    A teacher was charged Wednesday with destruction of school property for allegedly damaging utilities and a public address system at the Middlesex borough elementary school where she worked.

    English as a Second Language teacher Kayla R. McDonald, a union representative, was arrested after an employee discovered the damage at Parker Elementary School, according to the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office.

    Police found McDonald "caused damage to the public address system, as well as to the gas, electrical, and water utility systems at the school," the prosecutor's office said in a statement.

    The agency did not detail the extent of the damage.

    The 30-year-old Scotch Plains resident was hired by the district in 2012 and has taught at the Parker school since 2014, officials said. State records show she is paid a $51,414 annual salary.

    Authorities did not disclose a possible motive for the alleged destruction.

    McDonald was also charged with criminal mischief and causing or risking widespread injury or damage in the fourth degree for damages she caused to the school, according to the prosecutor's office. She was scheduled for a Nov. 15 Superior Court hearing in New Brunswick.

    McDonald and school officials could not be immediately reached to comment.

    The prosecutor's office said an investigation was ongoing and asked anyone with information call Detective Daniel McCue 732-356-1900 ext. 312.

    Noah Cohen may be reached at ncohen@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @noahycFind NJ.com on Facebook.

     

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    "Charlie Brown is the one person I identify with. C.B. is such a loser. He wasn't even the star of his own Halloween special." -- Chris Rock

    Channel 12 in Cincinnati presented the results of a poll they took last year of the least-favorite Halloween treats; it's fairly representative of surveys I've seen all over the country, 10 being the least-favorite of all:

    10. Mary Janes ... 9. Good & Plenty ... 8. Licorice ... 7. Smarties ... 6. Tootsie Rolls ... 5. Peanut Butter Kisses ... 4. Necco Wafers ... 3. Wax Cola Bottles ... 2. Candy Corn ... 1. Circus Peanuts

    Some of my personal observations:

    Apparently, children are not big fans of peanut butter candy, because number 10 and 5 contain that flavor. Curiously, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups are not on the list, yet I can't see what the difference would be between them and Peanut Butter Kisses. Children aren't big licorice fans either, it seems. Number 9, Good and Plenty, is pretty much the same thing as number 8, licorice.

    For those who don't remember them or never saw them, Circus Peanuts were marshmallow candy shaped like big peanuts. And I'm kind of curious where in Cincinnati they still sell Wax Cola Bottles. This was a classic penny-candy item, yet I personally haven't seen them in decades ... and I look for things like that.

    04-necco-wafers.w330.h412.jpg 

    Necco Wafers - if there's an item that shows up on every one of these surveys, it's them. Necco Wafers were first produced in 1847 and my experience has been that they always tasted like you'd received one of the original batches.

    The Boston Globe reported in 2011 that "in 2009, Necco changed the formula for its Necco Wafers. Artificial colors and flavors were eliminated. The candy was made softer through the addition of glycerine. The lime flavor was removed due to difficulties in creating an all-natural green coloring, resulting in a 7-flavor Necco Wafer roll."

    Apparently, all these changes weren't enough to keep them from consistently showing up on these lists or even staying solvent; the Globe reported in July of this year that "The Massachusetts plant that made the beloved, but often mocked, candy closed (July 24). Round Hill Investments announced that it had sold the once-bankrupt Necco, purchased for $17.3 million in May, to another candy maker."

    MORE: Vintage photos around New Jersey

    And finally, those kids who don't want their Tootsie Rolls and Smarties can send them all to me.

    Here's a gallery of folks from New Jersey dressed up for Halloween as well as some fun autumn traditions. And here are links to other galleries you may enjoy.

    Vintage photos of costumes and creepy things in N.J.

    Vintage photos of folks from N.J. in costume

    Vintage photos from N.J. that might give you the creeps

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


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    Kiesi Yareli Reyes-Melendez, 14, is 5-feet, 4-inches tall and 120 pounds

    Police are asking the public to help find a 14-year-old girl who went missing from New Brunswick more than two weeks ago.

    keisi-missing.jpgKiesi Yareli Reyes-Melendez 

    Kiesi Yareli Reyes-Melendez was last seen on Oct. 8 in the city, police said.

    She is 5-feet, 4-inches tall and 120 pounds, police said.

    Anyone with information is asked to call 911 or the city police department at 732-745-5200.

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

     

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    A North Brunswick police officer and several good Samaritans rescued two women trapped in a car that caught fire after crashing Wednesday afternoon in Middlesex County. Watch video

    A North Brunswick police officer and several good Samaritans rescued two women trapped in a car that caught fire after crashing Wednesday afternoon in Middlesex County.

    North Brunswick police released 15 minutes of officer Anthony Torres' body camera footage, which showed their heroic efforts as first responders and passers-by combined to aid the injured women along the side of Route 130. 

    WATCH: N.J. cops rescue bride and groom from flooded car

    "There is no doubt that lives were saved by the officer and good Samaritans who chose to pull over and help," Capt. Brian Hoiberg said in a statement.

    Officer Anthony Torres was on patrol along the highway around 3 p.m. when he came upon a smoking SUV crashed into a wooded area near Finnegan's Lane. Torres first raced to check on the woman before he retrieved a knife from his patrol car and cut the disoriented driver from her seatbelt. 

    Then Torres and several motorists who had stopped to help bent the door frame so the women could be pulled from the car.

    As flames shooting from the hood of the SUV grew, the rescuers helped the passenger escape through a window. The group then freed the driver and carried her safely away from the vehicle, which soon became engulfed in flames.  

    Firefighters and emergency workers soon arrived to extinguish the blaze and treat the injured women. 

    Torres, 29, has been a North Brunswick police officer since 2015, Hoiberg said.  

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

     

     

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    Witnesses described a suspect with long dreadlocks. The defense attorney argues that Nathaniel Young cut his hair before the crime was committed.

    In the BTK killer case in Kansas, a bite mark on the victim was crucial in convicting Dennis Lynn Rader, who bound, tortured and killed 10 people between 1974 and 1991. It was ill-fitting Isotoner gloves that helped acquit O.J. Simpson of murder in 1995.

    In the case of Nathaniel Young, a Rahway man accused of robbing and killing Imad Alasmar, a taxi driver and father of 10, in East Orange in 2015, one of the key pieces of evidence is Young's rope-like dreadlock hairdo.

    Prosecutors argued Thursday before the case went to the jury that Young cut his shoulder-length hair after the crime.

    "Why did he cut em? Because he knows when he ran out of that cab, people saw him, and what's the most distinguishing feature about the defendant at this time? His shoulder-length dreadlocks," Albert Cernadas Jr., Union County's first assistant prosecutor, said in his closing argument.

    Young's attorney and his girlfriend, however, said he cut his dreadlocks the day before the crime. Then, his girlfriend, on video, changed her story and said she saw him with his new shorter dreadlocks on Aug. 25, 2015, the day of Alasmar's murder. 

    Young's best friend was also videotaped telling detectives that Young's dreadlocks were shoulder length before the crime, and that Young had the phone number for the taxi company on his phone. 

    Young, 23, faces charges of murder, robbery and weapons possession offenses in the death of Alasmar, a 57-year-old Edison man who worked at Station Cab in Rahway.

    Alasmar was shot and robbed on the 1400 block of Bedford Street in Rahway. After the shooting, his cab kept going and crashed into a parked car where two people were sitting. A woman was thrown from the car and seriously injured.

    Young also faces an aggravated assault charge for injuring the woman in a separate car.

    Witnesses told police they saw a man about six-feet-tall with long dreadlocks leaving the scene.

    In addition to his dreadlock argument, Cernadas told the jury about other critical evidence: cell phone records that put Young near the scene of the crime and fingerprint and DNA analysis of the gun recovered at the scene and of the taxi. 

    Defense attorney Dino Bjelopoljak argued that the prosecution's timeline doesn't add up. Young's phone shows that he was in Rahway at 10:44 p.m. and in East Orange at 11:09 p.m. Detectives estimate the shooting took place at 10:55 p.m. 

    Bjelopoljak argued his client would have had to been "faster than Usain Bolt" to kill the driver in Rahway, go back to his car and drive to East Orange by 11:09 p.m.

    If convicted of the murder charge, Young faces up to 30 years in prison.

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

    Find NJ.com on Facebook

     
     

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    It's a sport many don't know about, but it's gradually making a comeback.


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    The former Edison teacher participated in a "beautifully filthy" group chat with her coworkers.

    A former teacher once suspended 120 days for mocking special education students and making sexual comments in what she called a "beautifully filthy" teacher group chat was hired this summer for a leadership position in the state Department of Education under Gov. Phil Murphy's administration, NJ Advance Media has learned. 

    Maryellen Cervenak was hired as the acting director of the department's Professional Learning Network, a $70,000 position that involves visiting schools as a representative of the state and coordinating trainings, the state confirmed.

    Cervenak was terminated Friday, the same day NJ Advance Media asked state officials if they were aware of her prior suspension. 

    The state decided to terminate Cervenak on Thursday, said Mike Yaple, a spokesman for the Department of Education.

    Yaple provided no further explanation for the decision.  

    Cervenak, who resigned from her teaching job in Edison at the end of last school year, did not respond to request for comment. Yaple did not say whether the department knew about Cervenak's past, only that she provided her new last name when she got the job. 

    The 41-year-old Cervenak began working for the state in July and is in the process of legally changing her last name, according to court records. 

    Cervenak did not return multiple messages left by NJ Advance Media seeking comment Friday. 

    A spokesman for Murphy's office deferred comment to the Department of Education.

    The termination comes as Murphy, a Democrat, is already facing scrutiny for controversial personnel decisions in his education department. That includes hiring a former public official jailed for accepting bribes and abruptly firing an assistant education commissioner just hours after she was approved by the state Board of Education. 

    Until recently, Cervenak used the name Maryellen Lechelt and taught elementary school in Edison Public Schools, according to court records and district documents. The district unsuccessfully tried to fire her for taking part in what it called a "disgusting and unbearable" group chat during a school training session in 2014. 

    The case generated widespread outrage at the time. 

    "i like the group name 'morons,'" Cervenak, then a teacher at Lincoln Elementary School, wrote about her students, "they take the tart cart home." 

    Cervenak also added that she would label her lowest performing students "jesus christ, why the (redacted) did they place you with me?" according to a transcript of the chat. 

    She and another teacher also made numerous sexual comments, ridiculed the presenter, joked about their superintendent's sex life and suggested the district's hiring practices were based on good looks and sexual favors. 

    "i will be a supervisor soon -- I'm cute and blonde," Cervenak wrote.

    Cervenak began teaching in Edison in 2011 and earned tenure just one month before the training session. The teachers were chatting on district-owned computers and the messages were publicly accessible to anyone who knew the name of the group conversation, according to state documents. 

    A teacher who was sitting behind Cervenak reported the group chat to school officials. 

    One of the four teachers resigned rather than face discipline, and the district filed tenure charges against the others. An arbitrator determined Cervenak was "guilty of serious misconduct" but allowed her to keep her job, in part because her record was otherwise clear. 

    Cervenak was suspended for 120 days and also stripped of a scheduled pay increase. She argued then that the comments were taken out of context and she was mocking terminology someone else had used about "low groups" of students.

    One of the other teachers was fired and another, who said less during the chat, received a shorter suspension. 

    State Sen. Troy Singleton, D-Burlington, confirmed that he was the one who introduced Cervenak to Murphy's administration as "someone I thought could help."

    "Obviously, I was not fully aware of the backstory," Singleton told NJ Advance Media. "Obviously, I am disappointed in that regard." 

    He said he met Cervenak through events they both attended.

    "I just wanted to hopefully bring someone with talented to the administration," Singleton said. "I'm disappointed it ended this way. But I think the administration made the right call."

    NJ Advance Media Research Editor Vinessa Erminio contributed to this report. 

    Adam Clark may be reached at adam_clark@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on twitter at @realAdamClarkFind NJ.com on Facebook.  

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

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    He unleashed a series of service attacks, which crashed Rutgers' websites and cut off internet and Wi-Fi access to thousands of students

    Two years ago, 22-year-old Paras Jha helped create a malicious computer code that just about took down the internet.

    Closer to home at Rutgers University where he was a computer science major, Ja also used those coding skills to also knock out the university's internet network -- all the while taunting school officials on social media.

    Last month Ja was sentenced in Anchorage, Alaska with two others to probation after they agreed to help the FBI with cybercrime in connection with their hatching of the "botnet" that virtually paralyzed chunks of the internet.

    And on Friday, a federal judge in Trenton sentenced him to six months of home confinement and ordered him to pay $8.6 million in restitution for his role in the separate attack on Rutgers.

    In targeting the Rutgers network, Jha had admitted he had unleashed a series of "distributed denial of service," or DDoS attacks beginning in 2014, which crashed Rutgers' websites and cut off internet and Wi-Fi access to tens of thousands of students, faculty and employees.

    After the university announced it planned to spend $3 million to upgrade its computer security system, it was taunted by someone on Twitter using the screen name "exfocus."

    "where internet go?? 3m dollar gone?" asked one tweet.

    Jha also taunted the school's IT department. "The Rutgers infrastructure crumpled like a tin can under the heel of my boot," he wrote.

    Prosecutors said Jha, of Fanwood, who had once described himself as "the untouchable hacker god," had conspired with Josiah White, 21, of Washington, Pennsylvania, and Dalton Norman, 22, of Metairie, Louisiana, to create a botnet known as "Mirai" that would later be used to virtually paralyze large parts of the internet.

    A botnet is essentially the hijacking of hundreds or even thousands of computers through that infected with malicious software and controlled as a group without the knowledge or permission of the computers' owners, which can then be used to flood the internet connection of a targeted server or computers. Such an attack generates a barrage of so many fake requests for information that the server crashes under the assault. At its peak, prosecutors said Mirai consisted of hundreds of thousands of compromised devices.

    According to prosecutors, Ja later hired out his code to others, and ultimately published it on hacker websites, where it was used to launch a massive cyber attack that crippled much of the internet in October 2016, crashing Twitter, Netflix and other websites around the world.

    While he was not charged with orchestrating that attack, he pleaded guilty to computer fraud charges in December.

    Jha, White, and Norman, who prosecutors said had cooperated extensively with the FBI on cybercrime investigations and broader defensive efforts, were sentenced in Alaska last month to five years of probation and more than a year of community service, after pleading guilty to computer fraud charges tied to the Mirai code. The were also were ordered to pay $127,000 in restitution and gave up a "significant amount of cryptocurrency."

    The terms of their sentences include the expectation they will keep helping the FBI.

    In the case in New Jersey, Ja alone pleaded to violating the Computer Fraud & Abuse Act in connection with the Rutgers University attack. U.S. District Judge Michael Shipp, in addition to the home confinement, sentenced him to five years of supervised release and ordered him to perform 2,500 hours of community service.

    Ted Sherman may be reached at tsherman@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @TedShermanSL. Facebook: @TedSherman.reporter. Find NJ.com on Facebook.


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    The robbery may be connected to incidents at banks in Flemington, Bridgewater, Franklin and Bensalem, Pennsylvania this month. Watch video

    Middlesex Borough police are looking for a man who robbed a bank in town who may have robbed four other banks this month.

    The man, described as a heavyset white male who was wearing sunglasses, a black knit cap and a black sweatshirt, robbed Unity Bank at 1230 Bound Brook Rd. in the borough on Thursday, Middlesex police said in a Facebook post.

    Police were called to the bank at 3:43 p.m. and an employee told them that the robber passed a note demanding money to a teller, who then then handed over an undisclosed amount of cash. The man then fled the bank on foot.

    "The suspect is believed to be responsible for several other bank robberies in the area," the Middlesex Police said.

    He strikes a close resemblance to a man who robbed a Northfield Bank branch on Main Street in Flemington Wednesday morning at about 9 a.m. The man wore a long-sleeve blue hooded sweatshirt, knit cap and dark sunglasses.

    A man with a similar description wearing a gray hoodie, sunglasses and knit cap also robbed the Peapack-Gladstone Bank in Bridgewater in neighboring Somerset County on Tuesday afternoon. 

    SerialBankRobber2.jpgBank security photos of a man who robbed banks in Flemington, left, on Oct. 24, and Bridgewater on Oct. 23, right.

    Somerset County detectives said this week that the Bridgewater bandit bears a resemblance to the man who robbed a Financial Resources Federal Credit Union branch in Franklin Township on Oct. 1.

    In that robbery, a man entered the bank, located on Easton Avenue, around 9:30 a.m. and approached a teller and demanded money. The teller turned over cash and the man fled on foot.

    He was wearing a blue shirt, a Chicago Cubs baseball cap and sunglasses, surveillance photos showed.

    The FBI is involved in the Oct. 1 Franklin robbery, and their wanted poster connects that robbery with another one in Bensalem Township, Pennsylvania that occurred on the same day. 

    In the Pennsylvania incident, the man approached two tellers at the First Bank on Old Street Road and handed them a demand note, the FBI and Bensalem police said. However, this time, he came away empty handed as the teller refused to hand over any funds.

    Bensalem Police said the man had a black car that may have been a Dodge Dart, and described him as 50 to 60 years old, heavyset and about 5 feet 5 inches tall.

    He also wore a hat and sunglasses, and a sweatshirt.

    The Pennsylvania robbery was captured on video and was made public by Bensalem Police.

    Anyone with information on the Middlesex bank robbery is asked to contact Middlesex Police Detective Paul Steffanelli at 732-356-1900 ext. 311 or call the department's anonymous tip line at 732-356-1900 ext. 847.

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


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    The seal depicts the murder of Hannah Caldwell in 1780 by a British soldier during the Revolutionary War.


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    He is charged with murder in the Friday night shooting of another man.

    Christopher ThompsonChristopher Thompson (Courtesy photo) 

    A 26-year-old Edison man is charged with murder and related offenses stemming from the fatal shooting of another man Friday night in New Brunswick.

    But authorities have yet to track down Christopher "C-Dub" Thompson, who in addition to murder also faces charges of attempted murder and possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office said in a Saturday night statement.

    Authorities said they were alerted to a shooting about 8 p.m. Friday in the area of Robeson Village. They arrived and found Larenz Ogarro, 23, of New Brunswick, lying in a parking lot on Van Dyke Avenue. He was suffering from multiple gunshot wounds and was rushed to Robert Wood Johnson Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

    "The Middlesex County Medical Examiner determined that the cause of death was multiple gunshot wounds - manner of death was homicide," the prosecutor's office said.

    An unidentified 19-year-old North Brunswick man was also assaulted in the incident in which Ogarro was shot. The prosecutor's statement did not indicate the nature or severity of the 19-year-old's injuries.

    An investigation revealed Thompson's involvement and also implicated a second suspect - Eric "E-Z" Inman, 25, of New Brunswick - in the incident. Inman is in custody and faces charges of aggravated assault and possession of a weapon for unlawful purposes.

    He is being held at the Middlesex County Adult Corrections Center in North Brunswick, pending his first court appearance. 

    Anyone with information is asked to call Detective Kenneth Abode of the New Brunswick Police Department at (732) 745-5217 or Detective David Abromaitis of the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office at (732) 745- 4436.

    Nick Falsone may be reached at nfalsone@lehighvalleylive.com. Follow him on Twitter @nickfalsone. Find lehighvalleylive.com on Facebook.

     

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    About 11,000 dogs and cats were euthanized in 2017, records show.


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    Consider adopting a pet from a shelter or rescue group.

    Halloween is filled with light-hearted tricks and treats, and it's important to keep safety in mind for every member of the family--including your pets. Halloween can pose a number of potential safety hazards for pets, who tend to experience high levels of stress due to the hustle and bustle of the holiday.

    Here are a few tips from americanhumane.org to keep you and your four-legged family members safe and happy this Halloween:

    -2e494a9b757a636d njadvancemedia.JPG 

    Costumes, while cute, can be dangerous for pets. If you choose to dress your pet up in costume, make sure they can move in it comfortably and most importantly, safely. Avoid costumes that require tying anything around your pet's neck that can choke them, or costumes that hang to the ground that they may stumble over.

    Keep your pet away from harmful Halloween candy and food. Before you give in to your pet's pleading eyes and feed them that Halloween candy bar, be aware of the harmful consequences of feeding human food to any animal. To reduce temptation, feed your pet before any guests arrive so they will be less likely to beg and steal food. Tell your guests of any house rules regarding your pet, such as not feeding them scraps from the table.

    If nicotine and alcohol will be consumed in your home this Halloween, be extra vigilant to keep these items out of your pet's reach. These substances can be highly toxic--even deadly--to animals.

    Keep your home a safe space for your pet. Animals can get stressed with the hustle and bustle of guests and trick-or-treaters. It's best to keep your pets indoors and provide them with a safe, quiet, escape-proof room where they can be removed from the energy and excitement of the holiday.

    As trick-or-treaters come to your door, there will be many opportunities for your pets to slip out unnoticed. Make sure that your pets always wear current identification tags, consider having your pets microchipped if you haven't already--and watch the door!

    Follow these tips, and your pet will have just as much fun as you and your kids this Halloween.

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

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    The $687.8 million Powerball lottery jackpot was won Saturday by two tickets sold in New York and Iowa. Two tickets sold in N.J. won $1 million second prizes


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    He hit banks in West Windsor and North Brunswick

    The bank robber with a trademark beanie cap and sunglasses struck twice on Monday, police said, bringing his total to a possible eight branches robbed.

    A man demanded money from a teller at a Santander Bank in West Windsor around 10:14 a.m. Monday, the department said on Nixle, a law enforcement alert app.

    The man entered the bank at 44 Princeton-Hightstown Road wearing a red windbreaker with a blue shirt underneath. Police called the hold-up an attempted robbery. It was unclear if he left with any cash.

    West Windsor police Lt. Robert Fow said police are aware the man is connected to several prior robberies in the area, and police suspect he struck later in the morning at a bank in North Brunswick. No details on that robbery were immediately available.

    The man is described as heavyset and in his 50s. The FBI in Trenton and West Windsor detectives are investigating.

    Man who robbed Middlesex bank may have struck at 4 others this month

    A man with a similar description robbed a North Trenton bank on Saturday. 

    And last week banks in Hunterdon and Somerset counties were robbed by a man with a very similar description, some which were connected to a heist in Bucks County, Pennsylvania on Oct. 1.

    Anyone with information or who recognizes the man in the picture can reach Lt. Fow at fow@westwindsorpolice.com or Detective David Jelinski at jelinski@westwindsorpolice.com

    Tipsters can also call 911, 609-799-1222, or the department's anonymous tipline 609-799-0452.

    - Reporter Kevin Shea contributed to this story.

    Joe Brandt can be reached at jbrandt@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @JBrandt_NJ. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

    Have a tip? Tell us. nj.com/tips 


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    Nathaniel Young, a 23-year-old man from Rahway, faces spending decades in prison at sentencing.

    A 23-year-old Rahway man is facing life in prison after a jury convicted him Monday of murdering a taxi driver in 2015. 

    The Union County jury found Nathaniel Young guilty of first-degree murder, robbery, possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose and aggravated assault after deliberating a little over a day. 

    Young's victim, Imad Alasmar of Edison, was a father of 10 who had immigrated to the United States from Jordan to find opportunity and a safer life. A former high school English teacher in Jordan, he worked mostly as a cab driver in the U.S. He had worked for Station Cab in Rahway for four years at the time of this death. 

    According to First Assistant Prosecutor Albert Cernadas Jr., Young called for a taxi on Aug. 25, 2015. Alasmar arrived and Young robbed him in the 1400 block of Bedford Street in Rahway, then shot him in the neck and cheek and took off, prosecutors said. 

    Alasmar's taxi kept going after he was shot, until it crashed into a parked car. Stacey Lopez, then 22, of Rahway, was sitting in that parked car and was seriously injured in the crash. A 19-year-old man in the car with Lopez received less serious injuries, prosecutors said.

    Eyewitnesses described the suspect as a man with long dreadlocks. Young's public defender, Dino Bjelopoljak, said his client had shoulder-length dreadlocks but that they were cut the day before the murder.

    Prosecutor's argued at his seven-week trial before Superior Court Judge Lisa Miralles Walsh that Young cut his hair after the murder to avoid being identified.

    Bjelopoljak also argued that the prosecution's timeline didn't add up. Young's phone shows that he was in Rahway at 10:44 p.m. and in East Orange at 11:09 p.m. Detectives estimate the shooting took place at 10:55 p.m. 

    Bjelopoljak argued his client would have had to been "faster than Usain Bolt" to kill the driver in Rahway, go back to his car and drive to East Orange by 11:09 p.m.

    Other evidence in the case centered around cell phone records and DNA from the taxicab and gun.  

    Young is scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 7. 

    Taylor Tiamoyo Harris may be reached at tharris@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @ladytiamoyoFind NJ.com on Facebook.

     

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