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Marine Corps Reserve in Ridgefield holding Toys for Tots charity drive

The U.S. Marine Corps Reserve in Ridgefield is currently collecting toy donations for its annual Toys for Tots charity drive, with donations accepted through Sunday. Toys collected will be distributed to those in need through church groups, social services departments and children’s hospitals, among others.  With an estimated 30,000 expected toy donations this year, and more than 34,000 toys distributed last year, State Senator Will Haskell says this drive is slated to make the season special for thousands of children. Donation locations include American Legion Post 86, Wilton Fire, the Wilton WMCA, Greens at Cannondale, Wilton High School, and Middlebrook School.


Hayes has busy week in Congress

The Farm Workforce Modernization Act is being voted on today in Congress.  5th District Congresswoman Jahana Hayes says she will be voting in favor of the measure.  Hayes says farmers in the district have told her about their struggles with labor shortages and this bill aims to address that problem. 

It allows illegal workers to apply for an indefinite legal status and reforms the H-2A guest worker program.  Hayes called it a commonsense way to ensure the hardworking agricultural community will have the support it needs. 

The H-2A guest worker program allows foreign farmworkers to apply for a five-year legal status renewable for as long as the workers remain in agriculture. If they pay a $1,000 fine, workers with at least 10 years farm work experience could receive legal permanent residence, allowing them to work anywhere, after four years. Other legalized workers would have to wait eight years to earn that path.

Congress voted last night on the National Defense Authorization Act.  Hayes touted part of the measure which repealed the so-called ‘widow’s tax’, whereby Gold Star families were losing hundreds of dollars a month in benefits.  Hayes has advocated for it's elimination since coming to Congress.  She introduced legislation to address the offset earlier this year. 

The measure also includes 12 weeks of paid family leave for all federal employees and a pay increase for service members. 

But Hayes says she was disappointed that several bipartisan provisions she supported in the House bill passed in July were not contained in the final package.  Those included repealing the 2002 Authorization of Military Force, preventing unauthorized war with Iran, and ending American support for the war in Yemen.


Skeletal remains found in Ridgefield may date to Revolution

RIDGEFIELD, Conn. (AP) — Human skeletal remains possibly belonging to Revolutionary War soldiers have been discovered in the basement of an 18th-century house being renovated in Connecticut, according to a published report.

The Connecticut Office of State Archaeology was notified by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner about skeletal remains found under the Ridgefield home on Dec. 2, The Ridgefield Press reported Wednesday.

Subsequent excavations by state archaeologist Nicholas Bellantoni yielded two more skeletons.

All three were “robust adult men lying in an east-west orientation in ground that appears to be haphazardly dug,” Bellantoni said.

Their bone size indicates they were probably militiamen, he said. One of the other reasons Bellantoni and his team believe the bones belong to Revolutionary War soldiers is that they found five buttons at the spot. No weapons have been found.

The town is the site of the Battle of Ridgefield in April 1777.

If confirmed, the discovery would be the first time that Revolutionary War-era soldiers from the field of battle have been recovered in Connecticut, he said.

The original house was built around 1790, according to Sharon Dunphy, president of the the Ridgefield Historical Society.

There have been several additions made to the home over the years, one of which was built over the burial site.

Bellantoni told the Press the femur bones show that they clearly walked a lot and and carried a lot of weight like cannons or other artillery.  Bellantoni cautioned that there's compelling evidence, but no direct evidence yet that these were Revolutionary War soldiers. He says their teeth are in pretty good shape and that’s important for DNA forensics. They may be able to figure out their diet, which could determine who's side they were on. 

The homeowner called the Ridgefield Police Department during the basement renovation and police notified the medical examiner’s office after it was determined the bones were more than 50 years old.  Bellantoni will use this dig to apply for a National Parks Service “battlefield grant” to potentially survey the historic area of the Battle of Ridgefield.


WCSU seeks fellows for summer biology research program

West Conn is opening applications for undergraduate students at all colleges across the country to compete for a fellowship grant to conduct a biology research project with a WCSU faculty member during the summer.  West Conn is offering two $4,000 grants.  Students will work on an intensive research project requiring a minimum of 30 hours' field and laboratory work per week over an eight- to 10-week period next summer.  Academic requirements and prospective mentors in the West Conn Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences faculty are listed on the university's website. Applicants are required to contact the faculty member to discuss specific research interests and seek the assistance in developing and writing a project proposal. The deadline for submission of applications is March 10.


Brookfield Police investigate armed robbery, assault

An armed robbery and assault is under investigation in Brookfield.  Police received a call in the early morning hours Tuesday reporting that two white males wearing bandanas as masks, and dressed in black clothing, entered a room at a Brookfield motel.  The suspects allegedly hit another man with a hand gun. 

The two suspects took items of value and fled. 

Witnesses were able to identify one of the suspects only as "Tammy". “Tammy” is reported to be a white male with black hair and is approximately 20 years of age. “Tammy” is described as having a thin build and hid height is between 6' 5" and 6' 7". 

Anyone with information is encouraged to call Detective Michael Zezza at 203-740-4123.


Public Hearing to be held on draft Bethel Plan of Conservation and Development

A public hearing is being held in Bethel tonight about the proposed 10-year plan of Conservation and Development.  The Planning and Zoning Commission is looking for comments from residents tonight on the draft plan.  Planners say the goal is to preserve quality of life in town by managing housing, open space and regulations for commercial development.  The plan was last updated in 2007 and has been under review for about two years.  State statute requires part of the plan address affordable housing.  Tonight's meeting is at 7pm.


New Fairfield officials remind residents of sand/salt mix available for home use

As the snowy season gets under way, New Fairfield officials are offering some reminders to residents. 

Sand/Salt mixture is available at the Drop Off Center. Residents may fill two 5 gallon buckets with sand per storm. The Drop Off Center is open on Saturdays and Tuesdays 8am to 3:45pm, and Thursdays 4pm to 7pm. 

During storms, cars should not be parked on town roads so the plows can clear streets completely.

Mailboxes and posts that receive direct contact from snow removal equipment will be replaced with a standard mailbox and post by calling the Public Works Department at 203-312-5628. The Public Works Superintendent will inspect the damage and replace the mailbox accordingly. 


Sandy Hook lawsuit against gun-maker set for trial in 2021

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A Connecticut judge said Wednesday a lawsuit by families of Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victims against Remington Arms will go to trial in September of 2021.

A survivor and relatives of nine victims of the 2012 massacre filed the wrongful death lawsuit against Remington in 2015, saying the company should have never sold such a dangerous weapon to the public and alleging it targeted younger, at-risk males in marketing and product placement in violent video games.

Remington, based in Madison, North Carolina, made the Bushmaster AR-15-style rifle used to kill 20 first graders and six educators at the Newtown, Connecticut, school on Dec. 14, 2012.

The Hartford Courant reported that Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis in Waterbury set the court date after nearly two hours of discussions with attorneys for Remington and the families.

The Connecticut Supreme Court ruled 4-3 in March that Remington could be sued under state law over how it marketed the rifle. The decision overturned a ruling by a state trial court judge who dismissed the lawsuit based on a federal law that shields gun-makers from liability, in most cases, when their products are used in crimes.

Remington appealed that ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court, which declined to hear the case.


New Fairfield officials sign off on Fire Department tanker replacement

The New Fairfield Board of Selectmen recently signed off on the purchase of a new fire truck.  Leaders from Volunteer Fire Department Company A attended the meeting last month to explain the process to chose the Tanker 7 replacement.  It's on the Reserve Fun replacement schedule for the 2019-20 fiscal year. 

They were able to use the cooperative buying program that the town is enrolled with to save both time and money on this purchase.  Initially estimated to cost $450,000, the replacement came in under budget.  A 2020 Freighliner, Pierce built tanker, with a pump and carrying 1,800 gallons of water, the price is $416,000.  $353,600 will come from the Reserve Fund, and the remaining 15-percent will be paid for by Company A. 

All three fire companies have approved bringing this request forward.


Mother, child attacked by rabid raccoon

WESTON, Conn. (AP) — A mother and her young child who were attacked by a rabid raccoon at a school bus stop in Connecticut last week are undergoing rabies treatment, an animal control official says.

The child was getting out of a vehicle last Thursday when the raccoon “came out of nowhere” and started grabbing at the child’s legs, Weston Animal Control Officer Mark Harper told the Connecticut Post Wednesday.

The mother went around the vehicle and grabbed the raccoon, he said.

Both were taken to Norwalk Hospital with bite wounds to the arms and hands.

The raccoon was already gone by the time police arrived at the scene, but after getting a tip from a neighbor, Harper tracked the animal down to a swampy area and euthanized it.

It later tested positive for rabies.

Harper said it’s been 10 to 15 years since a similar incident happened in town.


As Newtown students grow up, some turn to activism

NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) — They were children themselves when they lost siblings, friends, and schoolmates in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. Too young to comprehend the massacre, they spent years in shock and denial.

Seven years later, some young people in Newtown, still struggling with the trauma, are emerging as new voices for school safety and gun violence prevention. The activism, they say, has been a way to turn something horrific into something positive.

Twenty first-grade students and six educators were killed inside the school on Dec. 14, 2012, by a gunman in one of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history.

Some stories from victims' siblings and students were in the school at the time of the shooting:

NATALIE BARDEN

Natalie Barden was 10 when her brother, Daniel, 7, was killed. She attended a different school that went into lockdown as word of the shooting spread. She remembers being annoyed that morning as Daniel hugged her while they got ready for school.

Her favorite memories are of sleeping on Daniel's bed with Daniel and their older brother, James, because it was the biggest, and watching television, playing board games and wrestling.

Her father, Mark Barden, became an activist with the Sandy Hook Promise group he helped create after the shooting. Natalie disliked the media attention and interviews in their home because they brought back the pain of losing Daniel.

“When you're that young, it's really hard to wrap your mind around it," said Natalie, now a 17-year-old senior at Newtown High School. “Your sibling is such a big part of your life, and to know your brother for only seven years is gone — I still can't wrap my mind around it. When I got to high school, it really hit me."

As she entered school, the shock was wearing off. Then 17 people were killed in the February 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. She was inspired by the Parkland teens who demanded action on gun control.

“That just kind of pushed me to become more involved with the whole youth movement,” Natalie said in an interview.

Her sophomore year, Natalie joined the Junior Newtown Action Alliance, the youth arm of the Newtown Action Alliance, a local group dedicated to promoting gun control measures.

She has called the offices of federal lawmakers, urging them to pass gun control bills, including an assault weapons ban. She began going on speaking engagements with her father.

An article she wrote for Teen Vogue last year sparked positive feedback from others affected by mass shootings, she said. She also wrote about her brother, feelings of loss and hope for the future in a chapter of a book published earlier this year, “If I Don't Make It, I Love You: Survivors in the Aftermath of School Shootings."

“I lost my brother, so I know how life-shattering a gun can be," she said. “I think it’s just human nature to want to prevent others from feeling that way. We’ve kind of lost our innocence. We can’t sit back and ignore it.”

J.T. LEWIS

J.T. Lewis also lost a brother in the shooting, 6-year-old Jesse Lewis. He was a 12-year-old seventh grader at the time. Their relationship was like those of many brothers — lots of fighting and lots of making up, he said.

“As a kid, you grow up really fast when something like that happens to you," he said. “Most 12-year-olds wouldn’t be able to comprehend it. It changes the trajectory of your life."

Lewis, 19, is a political science major at the University of Connecticut and a Republican running for the state Senate.

He never imagined becoming involved in activism. But shortly after the shooting, he found comfort in forming Newtown Helps Rwanda, which has raised college money for relatives of victims of the 1994 Rwanda genocide.

Unlike many relatives of mass shooting victims, he isn't a gun control supporter. Instead, he favors improving school security and boosting mental health programs.

“I’m tired of watching my politicians fight for gun control to no avail," he said. “Right now, we need to look at other things. You're seeing a lot of shootings now where the measures they wanted to pass wouldn't have prevented anything."

Last December, Lewis was among those invited to the White House as President Donald Trump discussed the findings of a federal school safety commission.

Lewis said there is an extra sadness surrounding this year's anniversary of the shooting, because this is the first year most of the child victims have been dead longer than they were alive.

“The pain is still there," he said. “The lost person is still not there. Nothing is very different between now and last year."

RAYNA TOTH AND OLIVIA DOSCHER

Friends Rayna Toth and Olivia Doscher were third graders at Sandy Hook Elementary School, in different classrooms, when the shooting happened. Their classes gathered on carpets as teachers closed their doors and covered the door windows with paper.

“I knew when I was sitting in the classroom that I was in danger," Rayna said. “I think ... not knowing if I was going to be OK or if others were going to be OK was ... terrifying."

Olivia remembers one of her friends was crying. Then the school intercom came on with hysterical crying. They huddled in their classrooms until police with big guns came to lead them out of the school.

“At that point in my life, I didn’t know what a shooting was because I was little," Olivia said. “I obviously knew something bad was going on."

For a long time after the shooting, the two girls talked little about their experiences. But when they became sophomores at Newtown High School this fall, both joined the Junior Newtown Action Alliance out because they wanted to prevent others from having to experience what they did.

“I knew I wanted to do it," Rayna said. “I was very young when the shooting happened, so I don’t think I got to use my voice and say what happened to me."

Both have urged federal lawmakers to pass gun control bills. Rayna also has written to families in Santa Clarita, California, where two students were killed and three injured in a high school shooting last month. She told them that it is OK to cry and that help is available to help them cope with their pain.


Suspect sought in larceny from Target

Bethel Police are looking to identify a man who is a suspect in a larceny from the Bethel Target store yesterday. The suspect left the scene in a beige or off-white Hummer H3 with ski racks on the passenger side roof.  Anyone with information is asked to contact Bethel Police Officer Jason Broad at 203-744-7900 x670.


SHeriff Deputies investigate phoned in bomb threat at Southeast retailer

A general bomb threat was called into the Home Depot call center in Utah leading to a search in Putnam County.  The Sheriff's Office was notified on Sunday about the threat, which did not target a specific retail location.  Based on certain information, it was believed by the Home Depot call center that the threat came from the Putnam County area. 

The Southeast store was notified and several deputies responded. 

Brewster Fire Department helped with an evacuation and closure of certain areas while the sheriffs conducted an investigation.  The MTA police responded with two Bomb detection K9 units and Westchester Police responded with three Bomb detection dogs. 

All units were on scene for about 90 minutes. 


Bethel Police remind drivers to clear car of snow and ice

The Bethel Police Department is offering a friendly reminder that officers will be enforcing the removal of ice and snow from vehicles that are traveling through town this winter.  Not only is the obstruction of vision a significant danger to drivers, but Police say ice and snow that dislodges from a vehicle can result in property damage or hazardous driving conditions for other motorists.  Drivers should clear ice and snow from not only the front and rear windshields, but the body of the car as well.  Bethel Police say that could save you from an accident or receiving a $120 infraction.


Routine traffic stop leads to arrest for heroin possession

A traffic stop on Interstate 684 led to heroin arrest.  Troopers pulled a vehicle over in Southeast on Friday morning.  The 2019 Nissan Sentra was operating as a taxi service and Troopers had probable cause to search the vehicle.  95 decks of heroin belonging to the passenger, 26-year old, Thomas King, was located.  The Waterbury man was charged with Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance and Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance with intent to sell.  King was arraigned in Patterson Court, and ordered held at the Putnam County Jail in lieu of bond.  He is due back in Court on the 19th.


Ridgefield parent under investigation for alleged verbal, physical abuse

A Ridgefield parent is under investigation for allegedly verbally abusing and forcefully grabbing a six-year-old autistic student.  Ridgefield Police and the state Department of Children and Families launched an investigation into the incident that happened in late September during the Veterans Park Elementary School annual spirit run. 

According to statements from eyewitnesses, the alleged abuser yelled at the victim, grabbed her by the arm and pulled her onto her feet, pushing the student into a timeout.  A deep bruising patterns was photographed, and provided to Ridgefield Police and DCF. 

The mother's attorney is quoted in the Ridgefield Press as saying the school district claims they can’t get involved at all because it was a PTA event.  The parent is supposed to be on probationary status, but has reportedly volunteered for the classroom holiday party. The attorney for the school said someone from the PTA who was using the account of the accused.


Ex-officer, restaurant, settle suit brought by crash victim

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (AP) A Connecticut restaurant and a former police officer who pleaded no contest to charges connected to a drunken driving crash have agreed to settle the lawsuit filed by the woman injured in the collision. The Connecticut Post reported the settlement Monday. Terms were not disclosed. John Carrano, a former Bridgeport officer, pleaded no contest last week to assault with a motor vehicle. He crashed into a car driven by 19-year-old Elizabeth Bucci of Monroe just before Christmas in 2017 after a night of drinking. According to the lawsuit, restaurant employees continued to serve alcohol to Carrano even though he was visibly intoxicated.


Danbury Railway Museum adds vintage train rides to visit with Santa

Due to a basement flood at the Danbury Railway Museum, last weekend's Santa train events were cancelled.  The nonprofit has added rides this Friday and next Friday at 4:30pm, 5pm  and 5:30pm.  This is in addition to the regularly scheduled rides on the Saturdays and Sundays leading up to Christmas.


Putnam County Sheriff responds to Legislature rebuffing overtime funding transfer

Putnam County Sheriff Robert Langley is responding to the County Legislature calling his request for a funding transfer to cover overnight 'budget manipulation."  Langley commended the members for publicly questioning the proposed budget transfers as being fiscally responsible, as they should with all County departments. 

Langley noted that budgets are estimates because no department can determine unanticipated costs a month or a year in advance.  He added that his Department held off purchasing various budgeted items until the end of the year to make sure money was available to purchase them.  Langley instead chose to transfer other funds to Patrol overtime, which he says has been substantially underfunded for many years.

The Sheriff's Department has renegotiated the daily housing rate they charge the United States Marshall’s Service to board in prisoners, generating an estimated additional $350,000 in revenue. The rate had not been renegotiated since it was established in 1992.  The Civil Division increased its revenue by over 60% in 2019 by updating its policies and procedures to be consistent with existing laws.


6 locations sell to minors during Danubry liquor compliance checks

During recent liquor sales compliance checks, 6 locations were found to sell to minors in Danbury.  On Saturday, Police and the Liquor Control Division of the state Department of Consumer Protection visited 47 liquor stores, grocery stores and other points of sale.  Police Explorers tried to buy alcohol and 12-percent of the locations checked sold to the underage volunteers. 

The Liquor Control Division will be continuing an investigation into the 6 locations not in compliance, which will likely end with fines and administrative penalties at a later date and time.

Non-compliant locations were Grade A Market of Danbury, S&D Liquors, both on on Padanaram Road, Bevmax on Backus Avenue, J&B Wines and Spirits on Newtown Road, Edwin & Julia Liquor Store on Westville Avenue and Pague Meno’s Supermarket on Triangle Street. 

Danbury Police say 50 retailers took part in a seminar in June, which is believed to have contributed to the low number of non-compliant points of purchase.  Dichello Distributors, Inc presented training for intervention procedures and Liquor Control Division fielded questions regarding the state Liquor Control Act.


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