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The Easton Police Department is hoping people will want to welcome K9 TJ into their home.  A K9 TJ plush toy is being offered for $20 at the Easton Police Department, with proceeds going to support the police K9 program.  Handler Officer Tamra French is TJ's partner and they work together around the clock, both on and off duty. TJ gets groomed regularly and is always exercised to keep him in top physical condition.  While on Patrol, TJ rides with Officer French in a specially designed Police vehicle.

 

(Photo: Easton Police)

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The TJ Lobraico Foundation has joined up with the nonprofit organization Wreaths Across America.  The goal is to provide a wreath to each hero laid to rest at The Sherman North Cemetery.  Excess wreaths will go to other cemeteries in need.  National Wreaths Across America Day is today.  The foundation is named for a New Fairfield native who was killed in action while serving active duty in Afghanistan with the United States Air Force. 

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IMMOKALEE, Fla. (AP) A Florida teacher is marking the fifth year of a pen-pal exchange she began with a teacher who survived the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

The Naples Daily News reports the teachers' students began exchanging friendship letters shortly after the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, that killed 20 children and six adults on Dec. 14, 2012.

Five years later, Immokalee Community School teacher Ann Marie Morgiewicz still runs it. Her fourth-grade students write to pupils in former Sandy Hook teacher Abbey Clements' class. Clements now teaches fourth grade at a different school in Newtown.

Morgiewicz says the exchange ``takes you away from the sadness of the world, and puts the kindness back in.''

Clements says she finds comfort knowing another teacher is using the Connecticut shootings to teach students about gun violence.

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Iroquois Gas has made a donation to the town of New Milford to make repairs at Hidden Treasures Park.  The $8,500 dollar grant will be used to repair the kayak and canoe portage.  New Milford has owned the 16 acre property since 1977, and turned it into a park this year.  The Town Council approved using $45,000 from the Waste Management Fund in October for work to clean up the property and get it ready to open to the public.

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New York State Police troopers are investigating a burglary that happened last month at a North Salem business.  Police released surveillance photos this week of the suspect in the November 23rd incident at Hayfields Market Place.  The person entered the business and stole valuables. Anyone with information is asked to contact New York State Police at (914) 769-2600.

 

 

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A Connecticut man charged for a fatal July crash involving a motorcycle was in court today. 58-year old Louis Maiorino was charged last week by Monroe Police for the July 16th accident.  Police say the West Haven man crossed the double yellow line, striking a motorcycle.  64-year old Daniel Falls of New Milford was killed.  His wife, Betty, was his passenger and suffered serious injuries.  Maiorino and his two passengers sustained minor injuries.  He was charged with failure to drive in the proper lane and assault.

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Phase 1 of the Brookfield Town Center streetscape project met the majority completion date of November 17th, as required by the contract.  The total completion date is today.  The last bit of work was to install the three flashing beacons at the Craft Center turn. It was delayed a bit when the contractor had to change electrical subcontractors. A final inspection must be done by the state. 

 

An audit of the work will then be done by the state DOT, the town's auditor and the Western Connecticut Council of Governments. 

 

Local Transportation Capital Improvement Program funding has been received, the town applied for the Local Capital Improvement Project grants and Brookfield is awaiting three Small Town Economic Assistance Program grants.

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Former Region 9 Board of Education member Sara Sobel and her husband have been ordered not to have any contact with a purported sexual assault victim.  The Newstimes reports that she and her husband were arrested in April for risk of injury to a minor for allegedly failing to comply with a state Department of Children and Families investigation.  The protection order was issued yesterday.  The former Redding Democratic Town Committee member also faces a charge of conspiracy to commit sexual assault.  Stephen Overby lived with the couple last year, when he was accused of inappropriate contact with the victim. Jon Sobel contacted Redding Police about the possibility of the sexual assault.  The charges against Overby are pending.

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Ridgefield residents have approved a livestock ordinance during Wednesday's town meeting.  The regulations apply to the keeping horses, poultry and other animals on properties of 1.5 acres or less.  Most existing horse owners on smaller lots are “grandfathered in”.  Sanitation requirements are included, in addition to fencing, set back regulations and an enclosed area to give animals protection from the elements.

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The Brookfield Social Services Department is continuing to take applications for the Connecticut Energy Assistance Program.  Residents who heat their homes with oil or other deliverable fuels and new applicants who use any source of heat can apply.  The income limit is about 34,000 for an individual or a couple making little less than $45,000.  Asset limits are $12,000 for renters and $15,000 for homeowners.

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The Sherman Volunteer Fire Department has a new pickup truck in service, equipped with emergency warning lights, a cap and slide-out bed unit.  During storms, severe car accidents, and down utility wire calls, officials say the truck will be instrumental in closing roads and setting up detour signage.  It can also tow the department's boat, gator, and light tower, as well as transporting members to training courses throughout the region.

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The Western Connecticut Council of Governments is holding their first meeting since new First Selectmen and Mayors were elected last month.  There are six new Chief Elected Officials joining the Board today for the regional planning agency which spans from Sherman down to Stamford.  The new members are Dan Rosenthal from Newtown, Pat Del Monaco from New Fairfield, Pete Bass from New Milford, Don Lowe from Sherman, Chris Spaulding from Weston and Kevin Moynihan from New Canaan.  All other Board members were reelected.

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Former Newtown First Selectman Pat Llodra became the national face of the tragedy at Sandy Hook School.  She called it one of the most impactful events in the history of the more than 300-year old community.

 

Llodra struggled for a long time after 12-14 in figuring out how to be an effective leader, while feeling so hurt for the families and the community.  She says understanding the hurt that families experience is something that she will carry with her for the rest of her life. 

 

She is still trying to develop a full understanding of how the town has had to integrate that experience into everything going forward.  For her, it was a lens through which she views government.  It reminded her of the humanity that leaders need.  She says a community is the people and that the service of leaders is to those people, not the artificial bricks and mortar.

 

Llodra says most people from outside of Newtown that she meets just want to express how deeply they were touched, and she gladly accepts what she calls their grace.  But, she said, there is a delicate balance between honoring the past and being defined by it.  She notes that the town has always been a safe place for families, with good schools.  Llodra has said in the past that the shooting was a defining moment for the town, but what happened doesn't define the town; noting that it has always been a safe and good place to live.

 

Llodra says she has been honored by the confidence of residents during her service, running without opposition after 2012 for two terms. She called it restorative, and helped her through difficult times.

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Former Sandy Hook teacher Kaitlin Roig is working to raise awareness on the importance of active shooter drills.  She teamed up with Armoured One to discuss how teachers and staff can train to slow down an attacker and save lives.  Roig is working to make primary schools, colleges and universities safer. 

 

She is credited with saving the lives of 15 first-grade students by hiding in a small bathroom and building a barrier between the students and the gunman. 

 

Armoured One was founded shortly after 12-14.  The company teaches techniques beyond lockdown drills, instructing staff how to take defensive action.

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A New York woman who was spotted by Bethel police driving erratically is facing a DWI charge, and suspected of stealing the vehicle from Bridgeport. 

 

Bethel Police were dispatched to Walnut Hill Road on Monday and saw the car driving slowly, crossing the center line.  The driver, later determined to be Rebecca Abad Ramirez of Brooklyn, didn't stop for lights and sirens.  She struck the shoulder twice and finally stopped near Old Shelter Rock Road. 

 

The 31-year old didn't have an ID on her and failed Standardized Field Sobriety Tests.

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A driver fled on foot from a car accident in Bethel Sunday.  Police responded to a call of a car versus utility pole crash on Route 58 around 3:30am. 

 

The driver, Grosmade Hermsdorff of Bridgeport, was located after a brief search.  He admitted to drinking before getting behind the wheel.  The 32-year old was charged with driving under the influence, evading responsibility, and traveling too fast for conditions.

 

The utility pole suffered extensive damage, resulting in Putnam Park Road being closed for hours while repairs were made.

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NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) -Out of a senseless tragedy, they have sought ways to find meaning in advocacy.

Many relatives of the 26 children and educators killed five years ago at Sandy Hook Elementary School have dedicated themselves to charity, activism and other efforts to channel their grief and, in many cases, to help prevent violence.

"You have two choices," said Rebecca Kowalski, whose 7-year-old son, Chase, died in Newtown. "I could be in the bottom of a bottle; I could not get out of my bed. Or, I could do what's making us heal a little bit every day."

Some organizations, like the Kowalski's youth triathlon program, honor the passions of the children who were lost on Dec. 14, 2012.

Others have jumped into the policy fray to lobby for gun control or improved mental health care. In some cases, they have traveled the country, and even the world, as recognized experts in their fields, such as Jeremy Richman, a scientist whose Avielle Foundation for the study of brain health is named for his slain daughter.

The Sandy Hook families have created a website to share each of their stories and information about the various projects they have started in memory of their family members.

A look at some of them:

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SEEKING SAFER SCHOOLS

Alissa Parker had Michele Gay's phone number on her refrigerator because Parker's daughter, Emilie, had been invited to a birthday party for Gay's daughter, Josephine.

The day before the party was to be held, both children were killed.

Parker, who had lived in Newtown less than a year and didn't know many other parents, called Gay. The two bonded over their shared loss and eventually teamed to form Safe and Sound Schools, a foundation that provides information and resources about school safety.

They travel, usually separately, to schools around the country, giving talks that detail their personal experiences on the day of the shooting and discussing in detail how their children died. They then talk about what can be done to make schools safer, everything from making sure that classrooms can be locked from the inside to involving first responders in school emergency drills.

"I feel very solid that this is what Josephine wants me to be doing, and Alissa feels the same way about Emilie," Gay said. "We made a deliberate choice to be guided by our children and their spirits. We wanted to be positive. We wanted to avoid the political and some of the hot button issues and be focused on the practical things that everybody can do to make the community safer."

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RUNNING FOR HEALING

Kowalski said her healing has come by organizing a children's triathlon program, Race4Chase , in memory of their son, who loved to race and had competed in a similar event the summer before the shooting.

The free day camps, run in conjunction with the YMCA, teach children the fundamentals of swimming, biking, running, nutrition, strength and flexibility. At the end of six weeks, campers come together for a sanctioned triathlon.

The program has grown to 20 locations in three states.

"We originally wanted a brick-and-mortar place where families could come and work out and be together," Kowalski said. "We knew we were going somewhere, but we didn't know where. Chase provided us with the direction. Now, we have 20 places, and people have really embraced what the program is all about."

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EMOTIONAL LEARNING

While some in Newtown avoid speaking the name of the shooter, Nelba Marquez-Greene freely discusses the social and emotional problems of the man who killed her 6-year-old daughter, Ana Grace.

"I want people to remember that Adam, the person who did this, was also once 6 and in a first-grade classroom and that if we had reached out earlier, then maybe this could have changed," Marquez-Greene said.

Marquez-Greene's Ana Grace Project works with schools in New Britain, a city just west of Hartford, to teach empathy, combat bullying and help socially isolated children.

The foundation's Love Wins campaign, created with a local teacher, builds on the existing curriculum and also brings therapists and interns into the schools to help identify children who need extra help with social skills.

Scarlett Lewis, whose son, Jesse, was killed at Sandy Hook, also has been pushing for more emotional learning in schools. Her Jesse Lewis Choose Love Movement has developed its own social-emotional learning curriculum which began on a pilot basis in four schools in Connecticut, Hawaii, Arkansas and New Mexico and has been downloaded by many other schools and organizations.

"I believe this is an urgent matter," Lewis said. "I believe it would have saved my son's life, as well as the lives of other victims across the United States and reduce bullying."

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TEACHER SCHOLARSHIPS

The family of slain first-grade teacher Vicki Soto decided to hold a 5K race in her hometown of Stratford, Connecticut, annually around her November birthday to celebrate her life.

In 2013, about 500 runners took part, many wearing outfits adorned with Soto's favorite animal, the pink flamingo. Last month's race had more than 4,000 runners and walkers.

With the proceeds, the Sotos have given out more than $90,000 in scholarships to students pursuing careers in education.

Emily Mackay, of Stratford, received one of the first scholarships in 2014. She expects to graduate this spring from the University of Massachusetts with a degree in communications disorders and plans to get a master's degree so she can pursue a career in an elementary school as a speech pathologist.

"Being a part of Vicki's legacy has really motivated me throughout school. I will forever be grateful and honored that the Soto family believed in me to carry on Vicki's legacy and will always teach my students with her in mind," Mackay said.

The Sotos also have established a literacy campaign at the local library that involves such things as after-school tutoring, and the creation of mentor-text learning programs.

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SANDY HOOK PROMISE

Sandy Hook Promise, one of the best-known organizations to form in the shooting's aftermath, was co-founded by several Newtown families, including the parents of first-grade victims Dylan Hockley and Daniel Barden.

The group lobbied for mental health care changes and gun control legislation in the months after the shooting, successfully advocating for state laws limiting sales of some guns in states such as Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois and New Jersey.

The group also was heavily involved in a failed effort in 2013 to get a federal law banning some semi-automatic weapons and expanding criminal and mental background checks for gun purchases.

The group says it had 17 families from Sandy Hook who lobbied 49 senators over 7 days.

Sandy Hook Promise then switched its focus from legislation to community-based prevention programs, education and public service campaigns designed to change "gun violence acceptance attitudes and behaviors," said Nicole Hockley.

Among other things, the organization teaches people to recognize those who exhibit warning signs such as a bullying victim who has a fascination with firearms, has threatened to hurt themselves or others, has access to guns and has become disinterested in school.

They point to events such as one in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 2015 where a counselor trained by the organization was able to identify a threat to a middle school that resulted in the arrest of a student who had told others he was planning to bomb the school and had recruited others to help shoot children.

"We absolutely know it's making a difference because we've trained over 2 million children and adults in the last 2 1/2 years," Hockley said.

The group this week launched its latest public service announcement, depicting a newscast covering a school shooting the day before it actually takes place to illustrate how knowing warning signs can prevent such tragedies.

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A cease and desist letter has been sent to Redding First Selectman Julia Pemberton from an attorney representing Police Chief Doug Fuchs.  The letter, obtained by the Redding Pilot through the Freedom of Information Act, calls for Pemberton stop discussing Fuchs' employment status in public, other than as required by law.  The Chief was was placed on paid administrative leave October 31st pending an investigation into complaints about his handling of cases.  The Pilot reports that his attorney doesn't believe Pemberton handled his client's employment status in a professional manner, laying out several reasons.

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A retrial is underway for a Danbury restaurant owner convicted of killing his uncle, who was his business partner.  Marash Gojcaj is in Danbury Superior Court this week.  He was found guilty in 2010 and sentenced to 50 years in prison for murdering Joseph Vulevic  and dismembering his body after an argument at Gusto Restaurant in 2004. 

 

The Newstimes reports that Gojcaj’s attorney is arguing that the state’s key witness, a former waiter, was offered a deal for his testimony.  Danbury Det. Dan Trompetta wrote a letter to the Board of Pardons on the witness's behalf, which was discovered during a tampering case. Gojcaj was found not guilty in that case. 

 

The published report says the waiter had been interviewed by police, but after being arrested on drug charges in 2007 he provided a written statement to investigators. He received a suspended sentence on two felony narcotics charges.

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The Brookfield Superintendent is proposing a nearly $43.5 million budget for the next school year.  It's a 6.4 percent increase over the current year, and mostly due to an increase in special education costs.  A mobile world language lab and a consultant to look at school start times have also been proposed.  Costs of hiring another English Language Learner teacher and high school science teacher would be offset by eliminating two teaching positions at Center Elementary School and a custodian job.  A public hearing will be held by the Brookfield Board of Education on the budget on January 3rd.

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