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Breaking news and the stories that matter to your neighborhood.
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    What to Know

    • A massive fire in Somerset County consumed at least five buildings, forced over 100 residents to evacuate
    • PSE&G reported at least half the town’s customers were without power
    • Despite the extensive damage and the terrifying sight to downtown residents, no injuries have been reported

    A massive fire in Somerset County consumed at least five buildings, forced over 100 residents to evacuate and shut down an NJ Transit station on Sunday night.

    Fire officials say the blaze reportedly started around 8 p.m. at an empty apartment that was under construction near Mountain Avenue and East Main Street in Bound Brook, New Jersey, before it jumped across the street to another apartment building, also under construction.

    Strong, gusty winds helped spread the blaze, which was brought under control several hours later.

    The raging flames then took over two other houses and an electronic store. Despite the extensive damage and the terrifying sight to downtown residents, no injuries have been reported.

    “This is a disastrous fire that is very difficult to contain and has the potential to spread to all nearby structures,” the Bound Brook Police Department initially said on Facebook.

    Over 100 residents in the area were evacuated due to the flames and smoke condition and around 3,000 people, or half of the town, were without power late Sunday as firefighters continued to completely take down the fire.

    It was not immediately clear whether the outage was intentional.

    “We are receiving hundreds of calls to our dispatch centers. Please do not call asking for updates or information. Save the phone lines for TRUE EMERGENCIES!” the police department added.

    NJ Transit had to suspend service between Bridgewater and Dunellen on the Raritan Valley Line because the smoke and flames impacted the rail. The service was resumed Monday morning but the trains will not be stopping at Bound Brook Station.

    The station will be closed all of Monday as the investigation into what caused the fire continues.

    According to the Somerset County Board of Chosen Freeholders, the massive fire that broke out on Sunday evening has caused many road closures in Bound Brook and, “as a result, Somerset County Transportation is adjusting its public transit routes to avoid these areas. The shuttles impacted by the road closures include DASH, CAT1, SCOOT R1 & R2.”

    Officials urge commuters to contact Somerset County Transportation for more information.

    The fire started in an unoccupied complex called the Meridia Downtown, which Bound Brook Borough Councilman Abel Gomez said included 174 apartments and retail space. Gomez said the apartment complex across the street – also under construction – had space for 60 residential units and a restaurant.

    The councilman said the destroyed complexes were developed with private funding and within the downtown redevelopment zone. The area had suffered a series of floods over the past two decades, and the apartments were supposed to be part of a downtown renaissance following the 2016 completion of a flood control project.

    “Bound Brook was in the process of a renaissance,” Gomez said. “After all the floods we’ve had here, and now we have this fire.”

    This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story in your web browser.

    bound brook blaze 3bound brook blaze 3

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    What to Know

    • Cory Booker, the Democratic U.S. senator from New Jersey, has suspended his campaign for president.
    • The former mayor of Newark made the announcement on Twitter Monday morning, saying he shares the news “with a full heart”
    • Booker suspended his campaign less than three weeks before the Iowa caucus

    Cory Booker, the Democratic U.S. senator from New Jersey, has suspended his campaign for president.

    Booker suspended his campaign less than three weeks before the Iowa caucus — sending an email to supporters saying that he leaves the race “with a heart” and citing a lack of money needed to continue scaling his campaign.

    The former mayor of Newark made the announcement on Twitter Monday morning, saying he shares the news “with a full heart.”

    “Our campaign has reached the point where we need more money to scale up and continue building a campaign that can win — money we don’t have, and money that is harder to raise because I won’t be on the next debate stage and because the urgent business of impeachment will rightly be keeping me in Washington,” his email to supporters read.

    Throughout the race, Booker both struggled for money and to gain traction in the polls. Failing to meet key polling metrics left him off Tuesday’s debate stage at a critical point in the race.

    Lagging in polling and fundraising, Booker also came close to ending his run last September. However, he managed to obtain the necessary donations.

    Who’s Running for President in 2020?

    The field of Democratic 2020 presidential candidates is packed, though some have already dropped out. Those still in the race include a former vice president, senators, businessmen, House members, a former governor and a mayor. As for the GOP, a former governor and former congressman are vying to challenge President Trump.

    Click the photos to learn more

    Updated Nov. 20, 2019
    Note: Incorrect information about Michael Bennet’s cancer diagnosis and titles for Joe Sestak and William Weld have been revised on July 29, 2019, 3:17 p.m. ET.
    Credit: Jo Bruni, Emma Barnett, Asher Klein, Dan Macht, Kelly Zegers / NBC;  Photos: Getty Images

    Following news of Booker suspending his campaign, President Donald Trump tweeted: “Really Big Breaking News (Kidding): Booker, who was in zero polling territory, just dropped out of the Democrat Presidential Primary Race. Now I can rest easy tonight. I was sooo concerned that I would someday have to go head to head with him!”

    Booker’s fellow Democrats were more supportive, thanking him for his contributions to the campaign and, in some cases, acknowledging longtime political friendship.

    Booker, who grew up in Harrington Park, served as Newark mayor for more than seven years starting in 2006. Prior to his tenure in office leading New Jersey’s largest city, he founded a nonprofit organization to provide legal services for low-income families and, at age 29, served in the Newark City Council.

    In 2013, he won a special election to represent New Jersey in the United States Senate and was re-elected in 2014 to a full six-year term.

    Booker serves on the Senate judiciary, foreign relations, environment and public works and small business and entrepreneurship committees.

    Booker changed the 2020 debate on tackling the epidemic of gun violence, releasing the most sweeping gun violence prevention plan ever advanced by a presidential candidate. He was the first candidate to call for a federal licensing program, which more than a dozen presidential candidates embraced.

    Booker also ran his campaign focused on issues of criminal justice reform and restorative justice, calling on other presidential candidates to openly acknowledge the failure of the 1994 Crime Bill and the “tough on crime” policies of the 1980s and 1990s. He was also the only candidate pledging to liberate more than 17,000 individuals currently incarcerated in what he said were unjust sentences.

    Additionally, during his run, Booker said he would use the powers of the presidency to secure reproductive rights, writing in an open letter in GQ, asking men “to listen, to speak out, and to take action. Not because women are our mothers, sisters, wives or friends — but because women are people. And all people deserve to control their own bodies.”

    Booker also released a plan to bring environmental justice to communities long left behind.

    This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story in your web browser.

    Cory Booker,Booker ingnites audience at Sharpton event in AtlantaCory Booker,Booker ingnites audience at Sharpton event in Atlanta

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    The installation of nearly three dozen speed cameras will begin in the coming days along Philadelphia’s Roosevelt Boulevard, one of the city and state’s most dangerous roadways, city and state officials said Monday.

    A total of 32 cameras are being installed at eight intersections along the Boulevard, which is officially numbered U.S. 1. They are:

    • Roosevelt Boulevard at Banks Way
    • Roosevelt Boulevard at F Street
    • Roosevelt Boulevard at Deveraux Street
    • Roosevelt Boulevard at Harbison Avenue
    • Roosevelt Boulevard at Strahle Street
    • Roosevelt Boulevard at Grant Avenue
    • Roosevelt Boulevard at Red Lion Road (near Whitten Street)
    • Roosevelt Boulevard at Southampton Road (near Horning Street)

    The speed camera enforcement zone represents a nearly 12 mile stretch of roadway that is dangerous for drivers and too often deadly for pedestrians.

    Drivers who are recorded traveling 11 mph over the posted speed limit will be mailed a violation and slapped with a fine up to $150 per offense. Points will not be assessed to a violator’s driving record. Police officers will review each potential violation before it is issued, officials said.

    There will be signs posted warning drivers that they’re entering a speed camera zone and cameras will cover all lanes. Once the cameras are fully operational, there will be a 60 day warning period where fines are not issued.

    Transportation officials expect the first cameras to be up-and-running by the beginning of March. Similar, mobile versions of the cameras are being deployed at roadwork construction sites across Pennsylvania.

    Roosevelt Boulevard begins as a freeway in East Falls before snaking through North Philadelphia into the city’s northeast neighborhoods carrying drivers to the border with Bucks County. The 12 lane roadway is separated into inner and outer drives with drivers often speeding through pedestrian-heavy intersections in excess of the posted speed limit.

    Red light cameras installed in 2005 are credited with reducing red-light running by 50%, transportation officials said on Monday. Still, that hasn’t been enough to prevent scores of crashes and deaths.

    In 2019, nine people were killed in traffic crashes on the Boulevard, officials said.

    Philadelphia averaged 40 hit-and-run crashes a day citywide between 2017 and 2018, according to data analyzed by the NBC10 Investigators. The vast majority of those crashes happened along Roosevelt Boulevard. The data showed that 17 hit-and-run crashes were reported in the same time period at F Street and Roosevelt Boulevard, one of the intersections were cameras are being installed.

    Cars and trucks travel southbound along Roosevelt Boulevard in Northeast Philadelphia
    Cars and trucks travel southbound along Roosevelt Boulevard in Northeast Philadelphia

    Another intersection getting speed cameras, Roosevelt Boulevard at Banks Way, saw the deaths of 28-year-old mother Samara Banks and three of her young sons. They were struck while crossing the road in 2013 by a street racer. A fourth son survived the crash. The pedestrian crosswalk is named in the family’s memory.

    City officials say saving lives is the goal of the cameras. They point to data from New York City which saw reduced speeding at camera locations by 63% and fatal crashes by 55% between 2014 and 2017.

    “We hope that there is never a citation that is issued. We just want [drivers] to slow down,” Pa. Rep. John Taylor, who authored legislation to usher in the camera’s installation, said during a news conference Monday.

    Mayor Jim Kenney said the speed cameras will help his administration achieve Vision Zero: the goal of eliminating traffic fatalities by 2030. He said his administration will be focused on improving pedestrian and children’s safety in his newly-begun second term.

    roosevelt boulevard camaras 13roosevelt boulevard camaras 13

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    Firefighters battled a fire at an abandoned home in West Philadelphia. The fire started at a home on the 900 block of South Alden Street late Monday afternoon.

    Responding firefighters were able to bring the flames under control and no injuries were reported. L&I officials identified the abandoned property as an unsafe structure.

    No one was injured in the fire. Officials have not yet revealed the cause.

    West Philadelphia House FireWest Philadelphia House Fire

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    Three masked men tied up and blindfolded an elderly woman’s granddaughter during a home invasion and robbery in West Philadelphia, police said.

    The three unidentified men knocked on the front door of a home on the 5400 block of West Montgomery Avenue shortly after 3 p.m. Monday. They then forced their way inside when the elderly homeowner opened the door, according to investigators.

    The men asked the woman where the money was and then walked upstairs where they forced a locked bedroom door open. They then tied up and blindfolded the homeowner’s 20-year-old granddaughter and stole an unknown amount of cash, police said.

    The men then fled out of the front door toward Upland Street where they entered a gray or silver Chevrolet Malibu which drove off, according to investigators.

    A witness told NBC10 they saw the woman and her granddaughter on the roof of the home and screaming for help. Neither woman was injured, police said.

    No arrests have been made and police have not released a detailed description of any of the suspects.

    “It’s a damn shame,” Charles Rambert, a neighbor, said. “But I hope they come in here. I got something for them. I’m a light their a—s up.”

    If you have any information on the incident, please call Philadelphia Police.

    Montgomery Avenue Home Invasion West PhiladelphiaMontgomery Avenue Home Invasion West Philadelphia

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    What to Know

    • A total of 16 homicides have been reported in Philadelphia so far in 2020.
    • Last year, the city recorded 356 homicides, the highest total since 2007.
    • No arrests have been made in any of Monday’s shootings.

    Philadelphia’s violent start to the new year continued Monday with two people dead and four others hurt in five separate shootings.

    The most recent shooting occurred Monday at 5:29 p.m. on the 2600 block of West Cumberland Street. A 26-year-old man was shot once in the neck. He was pronounced dead at the scene at 5:49 p.m.

    Earlier in the day, around 11 a.m., a 19-year-old man on the 1900 block of Georgian Road in West Oak Lane was shot multiple times in the head. He was pronounced dead at the scene at 11:07 a.m.

    “I am shocked,” the victim’s grandfather, James Hughes Jr., said. “My one and only grandson.”

    Hughes told NBC10 his grandson was an aspiring architect who was attending community college.

    “He was an excellent student,” Hughes said. “He didn’t roam the street at all. We made a point of protecting him.”

    In addition to the two homicides, three other shootings occurred within an hourlong span in Philadelphia Monday afternoon.

    A 20-year-old man was shot on the 4400 block of Holden Street shortly after 4 p.m., a 28-year-old man was shot four times on the 5100 block of Catherine Street at 3:15 p.m. and a 33-year-old man as well as a 24-year-old man were both shot multiple times on the 900 block of North 11th Street. The 20-year-old and 28-year-old victims are both stable while police have not yet revealed the conditions of the two men who were shot on North 11th Street.

    No arrests have been made in any of the incidents.

    “You think about things like this and everybody viewing [thinks] it doesn’t happen to you,” Hughes said. “It does happen to you. It’s going to happen to all of us. It doesn’t stop. I don’t have a remedy for any of it but it’s got to stop.”

    Monday’s shootings follow a violent weekend in the city in which seven people, including a child and a teen boy, were killed. Sunday night, prior to Monday’s two additional homicides, the city had 14 reported slayings in 2020, twice the amount of homicides in the city at the same time last year. In total, the city recorded 356 slayings in 2019, the highest amount since 2007.

    “Children are dying,” Christian Soltysiak, Interim Executive Director of CeaseFire PA, told NBC10. “All the kids that we’re working with. They know where they can get a gun. The ability of people to get guns easily does not help a violence problem in a city like Philadelphia.”

    Across the river in Camden, New Jersey, the murder rate dropped from 67 in 2012 to 25 in 2019. Officials in Camden believe officers getting involved and working with the community has played a major role in the decreasing violence.

    Mayor Jim Kenney said Philadelphia needs a change in the way police interact with the neighborhoods they serve.

    “People say, ‘Get tough on crime and go crack down and stop everybody in every neighborhood in the city and throw guys on cars and frisk them,’” Kenney said. “Then they don’t want to talk to police. So we have to have a relationship with our communities that people trust.”

    Kenney also blamed lawmakers in Harrisburg for not allowing cities like Philadelphia to make their own laws regarding gun control.

    “A lot of this has to do with long-term poverty and a lack of opportunities for people to work, to have jobs that pay living wages,” Kenney said. “And also the availability of guns that the federal government and the state government refuses to curtail.”

    New Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw has said gun violence will be a top priority in her administration. She takes office next month. Acting Police Commissioner Christine M. Coulter spoke on the violence while addressing reporters over the weekend.

    “I don’t know what people are thinking but people who are firing guns on our street and hitting anybody belong in jail,” Coulter said.

    There are additional resources for people or communities that have endured gun violence. Further information can be found here.

    Philadelphia Gun ViolencePhiladelphia Gun Violence

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    A popular Bucks County wedding venue that recently shut down is under investigation after some clients who booked events there were never refunded.

    The Barn at Forestville, located at 1493 Forest Grove Road in Buckingham Township, Pennsylvania, recently closed. The venue was a popular location for weddings, wedding receptions and other large events. Within the past two weeks, at least four people reported to police they made deposits at the venue and never received a refund.

    The property owner told NBC10 he plans to give clients their money back. Anyone who never received their refund for an event they booked at the venue for 2020 or 2021 should still call the Buckingham Township Police Department’s Criminal Investigations Unit at 215-794-8812.

    Photo Courtesy of Martin Reardon Photography

    The Barn at Forestville Lead PhotoThe Barn at Forestville Lead Photo

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    State police are looking for a man who they say raped a 13-year-old girl — and had inappropriately touched her on multiple occasions over two years.

    Pennsylvania State Police have a warrant for Erick Becerril-Perez’s arrest.

    The rape happened Dec. 28, police said. After that, Becerril-Perez fled, police said.

    Then, on Jan. 7, the girl and her mother walked into the state police barracks at Avondale to report the incident.

    Anyone with information about where Becerril-Perez is now should contact the Criminal Investigation Unit at the Avondale barracks at 610-268-2022. Or, they can contact the Pennsylvania Crime Stoppers at 1-800-4PA-TIPS (8477). Crime Stoppers callers remain anonymous and could be eligible for a cash reward.

    20200113 BeccerilPerez20200113 BeccerilPerez

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    The New Jersey Senate has passed legislation that would prohibit flavored vaping products, with the Assembly set to vote as well.

    The Democrat-led Senate passed the bill 22-15 on Monday, while the Democratic-controlled Assembly had also scheduled a vote on the measure that bans e-cigarettes flavors, including any fruit or candy among others.

    Lawmakers say the flavors are meant to hook young people, who are using the products in increasing numbers.

    Opponents of the legislation, who crowded part of the statehouse complex on Monday, say officials should better enforce the smoking age instead of barring adults 21 or over from buying products they enjoy using.


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    A Southwest Philadelphia woman was stabbed to death in her kitchen by her ex-boyfriend overnight Tuesday, police said.

    The killing happened around 2:45 a.m. at a rowhome on the 6200 block of Upland Street near 60th Street.

    The 50-year-old suspect broke into the home and got into an argument with the victim, who was also 50 years old. Police said he was armed with a knife and stabbed her once in the neck.

    The victim’s adult son came running to her defense and subdued the man until police arrived. Unfortunately, she died in the kitchen. She is the city’s 17th homicide victim of the new year.

    “He had to watch his mom die in cold blood, in her own home. That’s crazy,” said Shaney Reid, a friend of the victim.

    The 27-year-old son was distraught as he answered detectives questions during the initial investigation.

    Reid and other friends said the victim was a kind woman who dealt with abuse for years and recently began sticking up for herself — kicking the suspect out of the home.

    “These weak men out here, who just can’t take no. No is no. Go about your business, if they don’t want you they don’t want you, you don’t gotta take their life this is crazy,” Reid said.

    Police and friends said the man came to the home a few days ago and broke the front window. Police plan to review 911 calls made from the home.

    The suspect remains in police custody after a short hospital visit related to the scuffle with the son. He has not yet been charged. It’s not clear if he has retained legal counsel.

    DOMESTIC VIOLENCE HELP: The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233 or 800-787-3224 (TTY) provides people in distress, or those around them, with 24-hour support.

    Upland Street Homicide 1-14-20 GyllenhaalUpland Street Homicide 1-14-20 Gyllenhaal

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    New Jersey Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy on Tuesday will deliver his second State of the State speech before a joint-session of the Democrat-led Legislature, sketching his agenda for the year.

    Murphy, a progressive and former Wall Street executive, took office in 2018 succeeding Republican Chris Christie.

    Along with the Democrat-led Legislature, Murphy has signed a number of bills fulfilling campaign promises, including a phased-in $15 minimum wage and tax hikes to pay for transit and education.

    But despite Democratic control of state government, Murphy and Senate President Steve Sweeney have clashed prominently, leading to the delay in enacting at least one of the first-term governor’s policy proposals: a tax hike on incomes over $1 million.

    Murphy has given no indication that he’ll walk away from his push for the tax hike.

    Republicans balked at the proposal, arguing that it would lead to residents fleeing the state. Sweeney is also opposed.

    Legislative leaders and Murphy do agree, however, on legalizing recreational marijuana, which will be on the ballot in November for voters to decide.

    If voters approve the question, Murphy and lawmakers would still have to come together on legislation to regulate the new industry.

    Governor Phil Murphy Delivers Fiscal Year 2020 Budget AddressGovernor Phil Murphy Delivers Fiscal Year 2020 Budget Address

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    A man is dead after being stabbed multiple times, including at least once with nail clippers, at a Millville, New Jersey, mobile home park, police said.

    Axel Torres, 35, was found in the front yard of a home at Country Meadows Estates along the 2300 block of S. 2nd Street just after 1 a.m. Sunday, police said.

    Torres was unconscious when officers arrived, suffering from several stab wounds including one to his leg that investigators later determined to be inflicted by nail clippers.

    Torres was taken to Cooper University Hospital in Camden where he later died.

    Millville police arrested 30-year-old Kathleen Ayala in the stabbing. Police said they both lived at the same address.

    Ayala is charged with murder. She’s being held in the Cumberland County jail. It’s not clear if she has retained an attorney.

    Country Meadows Mobile Park MapCountry Meadows Mobile Park Map

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    A home was leveled after an apparent explosion rocked a Buckingham Township, Pennsylvania, neighborhood Tuesday morning.

    The blast happened at 9:35 a.m. along the 4200 block of Biddeford Circle.

    The two-story single family home was reduced to a pile of splintered wood and insulation in the wake of the explosion. Authorities said they had reports of the blast being felt and heard from two miles away.

    No one was at home at the time of the explosion. There are no reports of injuries.

    “It’s gone. That house is gone, man. It’s unbelievable,” neighbor Chris Dennis said. He was in his driveway when the explosion happened.

    First responders outside a destoryed home
    This home in Buckingham Township, Pennsylvania, was destroyed in an apparent explosion on Tuesday, January 14, 2020.

    Homes in the neighborhood have individual utilities and use freestanding propane tanks for gas heating and cooking.

    Craig Wurst, another neighbor, told NBC10 that a fuel company just filled the tank at the home around 8 a.m.

    Investigators said they are looking at whether the tank was the source of the blast. The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives sent investigators to lend expertise to the probe, which they are not classifying as criminal in nature.

    This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

    Buckingham Township House Explosion FriedmanBuckingham Township House Explosion Friedman

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    What to Know

    • A former Penn State football player claims in a lawsuit that Nittany Lions players hazed him and other younger teammates by imitating sexual acts in the shower and invoking Jerry Sandusky’s name.
    • The player, who The Associated Press is not identifying because he hasn’t spoken publicly on the matter, filed the lawsuit Monday in Pennsylvania federal court against the university, head coach James Franklin and one former teammate.
    • The school’s own investigation found the ex-teammate had committed “prohibited behavior,” the complaint said.

    A former Penn State football player claims in a lawsuit that Nittany Lions players hazed him and other younger teammates by imitating sexual acts in the shower and invoking Jerry Sandusky’s name.

    The player, who The Associated Press is not identifying because he hasn’t spoken publicly on the matter, filed the lawsuit Monday in Pennsylvania federal court against the university, head coach James Franklin and one former teammate.

    The school’s own investigation found the ex-teammate had committed “prohibited behavior,” the complaint said.

    University police turned over results of their investigation to the local district attorney, who declined to prosecute, Penn State said in a statement.

    The allegations include that older players said to younger ones, “I am going to Sandusky you.”

    Sandusky was the team’s retired longtime defensive coordinator when he was convicted in 2012 of sexual abuse of 10 boys, including physical attacks on university property. He is serving a 30- to 60-year state prison sentence.

    Sandusky’s arrest prompted the firing of Hall of Fame head coach Joe Paterno, and the university subsequently paid more than $100 million to people who said they had been abused by Sandusky.

    The lawsuit claims some of the older players would physically restrain younger players, taunt them and engage in mock sex acts. It further claims that starting in January 2018, several players “collectively orchestrated, participated in, directed and or facilitated a campaign to harass and haze lower classmen members of the Penn State football team,” including the former player who sued.

    A message seeking comment was left for the plaintiff’s lawyers, Steven F. Marino and Joseph Auddino of Philadelphia. The AP does not generally name people who say they are victims of sexual abuse or similar crimes unless they consent to being identified.

    Penn State’s statement issued Tuesday said its Office of Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Response and the Office of Student Conduct investigated, and that Penn State police turned over results of its own investigation to Centre County District Attorney Bernie F. Cantorna.

    “The DA reviewed the case and decided that no charges would be pursued,” the school said. A message was left seeking comment from Cantorna.

    The teammate who was sued did not return a message that was sent to his university email account.

    The lawsuit claims the plaintiff and his father both reported harassment and hazing in the football team locker room, but “no substantive action was taken” in response by Franklin or the team.

    The former Penn State player alleges he was retaliated against for making the reports, including scorn from coaches, “irrational and inappropriate censure” by the team’s academic adviser and denial of medical accommodations to treat anxiety and narcolepsy. He believes he was also shunned by other players and said he received threats.

    The plaintiff is seeking damages on claims of negligence against Penn State, Franklin and his former teammate, as well as assault and battery, conspiracy and intentional infliction of emotional distress against the former teammate.

    The plaintiff has since transferred out of Penn State and attends a different school.


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    Philadelphia police discovered a body in a trashcan Tuesday afternoon after a student described a murder she witnessed last year, investigators said.

    Police told NBC10 they were first notified by the Philadelphia school district about a student who told them she witnessed a homicide in December on 6th and Rockland streets. Police checked the location around 1:30 p.m. Tuesday and found the body of an unidentified man inside a trashcan.

    Police have not yet released a cause of death.

    This story is developing. Check back for updates.

    6th and Rockland Streets Body Found6th and Rockland Streets Body Found

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    The former head of Drexel University’s Electrical and Chemical Engineering Department has been arrested and charged with theft for stealing $185,000 in research grant money and spending it at strip clubs, at sports bars and on iTunes.

    Chikaodinaka Nwankpa’s spending was first discovered by a Drexel audit in October. Drexel reported it to the agencies that had given the grants, including the Department of the Navy, the Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation.

    A mugshot of Chikaodinaka Nwankpa.

    “Mr. Nwankpa inappropriately and criminally diverted tens of thousands of dollars that were allocated for research purposes toward his own private enjoyment. He betrayed Drexel University and tuition-paying students he was paid to educate,” District Attorney Larry Krasner said Tuesday.

    More than $96,000 of Nwankpa’s unauthorized spending was at at Philadelphia adult entertainment venues and sports bars, including Cheerleaders, Club Risque and Tacony Club, the audit found. Nwankpa made multiple “no receipt” purchases between 2010 and 2017 and tried to get reimbursement, according to the audit.

    Nwankpa attempted to hide adult entertainment expenses by claiming that the items were for catering and food, despite the fact that almost half of the 114 separate charges he made were done on weekends, and more than half were processed between the hours of midnight and 2 a.m., Krasner’s office said.

    Drexel University has already paid a $190,000 settlement after a federal investigation. Nwankpa was arrested by Drexel University Police Tuesday; he was released on $25,000 bail. He had to surrender his passport.

    Nwankpa has repaid $53,328 to the university, resigned in lieu of termination and was debarred from federal government contracting for six months, according to officials.

    Low Section Of Dancer On Strip ClubLow Section Of Dancer On Strip Club

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    One person was killed and several others were hurt following a crash in South Whitehall Township, Pennsylvania.

    Two vehicles collided on Mauch Chunk and Overlook roads Tuesday evening. At least one person died while six others were injured and taken to the hospital. Four of the surviving victims are in critical condition while two of the survivors suffered non-life-threatening injuries.

    The road is shut down at the scene of the crash as police investigate.

    South Whitehall Township Deadly CrashSouth Whitehall Township Deadly Crash

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    What to Know

    • Tiffany Reed, 29, was struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver on Broad Street and Lehigh Avenue in North Philadelphia early Sunday morning.
    • Reed was set to be married next month.
    • Police released surveillance video of the hit-and-run vehicle and said it should have extensive front-end damage.

    Tiffany Reed’s family was getting ready to celebrate her wedding next month. Now however, they’ll have to plan her funeral after a hit-and-run driver left her to die in North Philadelphia over the weekend.

    “They said, ‘Mom, she’s gone,’” Reed’s mother, Terdell Wees, told NBC10. “And I said, ‘No. No. God, no. Why?'”

    Reed, 29, was walking along Broad Street and Lehigh Avenue Sunday around 3:45 a.m. after finishing work. Suddenly she was struck by a dark-colored vehicle which then continued north on Broad Street before traveling east on Glenwood Avenue.

    Reed was taken to the Einstein Medical Center where she was later pronounced dead.

    “When you have something for 29 years and it goes, it hurts,” Wees said.

    Police released surveillance video of the hit-and-run vehicle driving off though it did not give a clear shot of the car. Police said the vehicle should have extensive front-end damage.

    Reed’s family also released a video of her younger brother breaking down in tears while mourning her in the hopes that it would inspire someone to speak up.

    “I just want them to come forward for my little sister and my little brother,” Nyimah Debose, Reed’s sister, told NBC10.

    If you have any information on the hit-and-run, please call the Accident Investigation Division at 215-685-3180/3181/3182. You can also submit a tip by calling 215-686-8477 or texting PPD TIP or 773847.

    Tiffany ReedTiffany Reed

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    All aboard! SEPTA riders, this time you’re in control.

    Please take NBC10’s new survey about SEPTA, the new Key fare card and what your commute is like. We’ll use your answers in an upcoming series of stories on riding public transportation in southeastern Pennsylvania.

    The survey is found HERE, and takes less than 5 minutes to complete.


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    Authorities are investigating after the 65-year-old mother of a police officer was found stabbed to death in the bathroom of her East Germantown home.

    Police were called to the house on the 300 block of Mechanic Street around 3:30 a.m. Wednesday after family members discovered the woman’s body. Homicide detectives called the death “suspicious” and said they could not find the weapon used in the slaying.

    The woman was the mother of a Philadelphia police, officer, according to authorities.

    There were no signs of a break-in, Acting Philadelphia Police Commissioner Christine Coulter said. Detectives also said the woman’s car, a black Nissan Rogue, was missing and that the murder may have been committed by someone she knew.

    The woman had foster children, according to police, but it was unclear if they were inside the home at the time of the slaying.

    east germantown suspicious death 01152020east germantown suspicious death 01152020

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    Two Philadelphia police officers were treated for minor injuries after a woman struck their van as they were transporting a prisoner Wednesday morning.

    The woman was driving a sedan when she T-boned a Philadelphia Police Department van near the intersection of Tacony and Orthodox streets shortly after 12:30 a.m., Philadelphia Police Chief Inspector Scott Small said. The officers were transporting a 59-year-old prisoner at the time, Small said.

    Both officers were taken to Jefferson Torresdale Hospital to be evaluated for “minor bumps and bruises,” according to the chief inspector. The prisoner was also transported to the same hospital as a precautionary measure.

    The 33-year-old woman declined medical attention, Small said, adding that she did not appear to be impaired and was cooperating with authorities.

    The crash sent the police van into a traffic pole, knocking the pole down.

    Police were investigating the cause of the crash. They did not immediately announce charges against the woman.

    frankford police van crash 01152020frankford police van crash 01152020

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    Philadelphia International Airport will soon begin testing biometric screening on some international flights.

    Three different facial recognition systems will be set up at gates that serve outbound flights for American Airlines, British Airways, Lufthansa and Qatar Airways beginning Tuesday, the airport said.

    The screening process involves a facial scan, crosschecked with photos already on file with the Customs Border Protection’s traveler verification system.

    Passengers can opt out of the screening by contacting an airline or CBP representative.

    During the 45-day pilot program, officials will assess each system.

    Philadelphia International will be one of 27 airports in the U.S. using the technology.

    Philadelphia International AirportPhiladelphia International Airport

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    Getting around the Philadelphia region on Saturday afternoon may be slow thanks to a winter storm that will bring snow.

    We’ve issued a First Alert from noon until 6 p.m. Saturday for Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania suburbs and the Lehigh Valley.

    The storm will move in midday bringing light snow. The precipitation should pick up as the afternoon continues.

    When the storm begins, the ground will be cold enough for the snow to stick. That could create trouble on the roads so drivers will want to take extra caution.

    The storm center will sit well to the north so warm air will be dragged across the area by the late afternoon melting snow and turning the precipitation to rain.

    Snow totals will likely be 1 inch or less for most of the affected area. Towns in the Lehigh Valley may see slightly higher accumulations.

    By Sunday morning the area should dry out and stay cold in the mid-30s. Highs only hit the upper 20s next week.

    Be sure to check back through the week for the latest forecast of this weekend’s snow. Also, download the free NBC10 app for live radar, weather forecasts and more.

    Winter Storm Petra Blankets PhiladelphiaWinter Storm Petra Blankets Philadelphia

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    What to Know

    • Police believe two missing people are linked to a 17-year-old person of interest in an East Germantown slaying.
    • The 17-year-old was found in West Philadelphia inside a car that had been taken from the scene of the murder.
    • Jimmy Mao, 20, and Jacob Merritt-Richburg, 16, remain missing.

    Police believe a 17-year-old, considered a person of interest in the stabbing death of a 64-year-old East Germantown woman, may be connected to the disappearance of two people from Philadelphia.

    Jimmy Mao, 20, was last seen Dec. 29 of last year and reported missing from the 5800 block of Angora Terrace four days later. On Jan. 7, Mao’s bother started receiving text messages demanding ransom payments, Philadelphia Police Special Victims Unit Capt. Mark Burgmann said.

    As police investigated, they interviewed the 17-year-old, an acquaintance of Mao’s, and determined he was likely the last person to have seen him.

    Detectives also wanted to interview another acquaintance of Mao’s, 16-year-old Jacob Merritt-Richburg, from the 1800 block of Vineyard Street. Before that happened, Merritt-Richburg was reported missing by his family on Jan. 11, Burgmann said.

    Burgmann said Merrit-Richburg was in possession of something that belonged to Mao but would not elaborate on what that was.

    Jimmy Mao, 20, and Jacob Merritt-Richburg, 16

    The 17-year-old, meanwhile, had been considered a missing and endangered person after police could not find him in the East Germantown home where his foster mother was stabbed to death Wednesday morning.

    Renee Gilyard, the mother of a Philadelphia police officer, was found covered in blood with two stab wounds to the neck and defensive wounds, Homicide Capt. Jason Smith said. She had been fostering the 17-year-old for three days, Smith said.

    Family members found her lifeless body shortly before 1:30 a.m. slumped over a bathtub in the home along the 300 block of Mechanic Street, Smith said. They had been trying to contact her the day prior but could not reach her, which prompted them to check her house.

    Investigators did not find any signs of a break-in but did notice the 17-year-old and the victim’s black Nissan Rogue were not at the house, Smith said.

    Police took the teen into custody after he crashed the SUV Wednesday morning while fleeing from police in West Philadelphia, Smith said. Three additional teens — a boy and two girls ranging in age from 14 to 17 years old — were in the vehicle.

    A black SUV crashed into the back of a truck
    Philadelphia police detained four people who were driving in this black Nissan SUV on Wednesday, January 15, 2020. The car is owned by a woman who was stabbed inside her East Germantown home, police said.

    Smith added that investigators “have reason to believe” that the teen is “possibly connected” to Mao and Merrit-Richburg.

    All four people in the car were taken into Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia for treatment of injuries sustained in the crash and are being questioned by detectives, Smith said.

    The 17-year-old is considered a person of interest in the East Germantown slaying but has not been named yet a suspect or charged with a crime, the captain added.

    The 17-year-old has not been charged with a crime so NBC10 is withholding his name.

    Jimmy Mao Jacob Merritt-RichburgJimmy Mao Jacob Merritt-Richburg

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    A former teacher at a Montgomery County Christian school is accused of having a sexual relationship with one of his students.

    Jason Kavistan, 39, of Philadelphia, was arrested Tuesday and charged with institutional sexual assault, endangering the welfare of children, corruption of minors and unlawful contact with a minor.

    Kavistan was a teacher at Huntingdon Valley Christian Academy (HVCA). Police said the investigation began last February when the principal reported seeing Kavistan alone with one of his students, a teen girl, inside a locked room with the blinds closed.

    Kavistan and the teen were both fully clothed and denied that anything inappropriate took place, investigators said. After the girl left the school and moved out of state in the summer however, she then reported she and Kavistan had a sexual relationship, according to police.

    The girl told investigators her relationship with Kavistan began during the 2016-2017 school year when she was in 8th grade and that it continued until the summer of 2019. The two often met at Kavistan’s home while his wife and children were away, according to the criminal complaint. The teen also told investigators the two met “at school if we could find a place without cameras,” officials said.

    At one point, Kavistan texted the girl’s father, “I feel God is telling me to go to you and ask for forgiveness,” according to police.

    A spokesperson for HVCA said Kavistan resigned on Nov. 24, 2019, after teaching at the school for seven years. They also said he didn’t disclose the reasons for his resignation.

    “Our children are our most precious gifts and their safety and welfare are our highest priority,” the spokesperson wrote. “We take reports of abuse seriously, and are cooperating fully with authorities.”

    Kavistan’s wife also works at the school though the superintendent told NBC10 the woman didn’t know anything about her husband’s resignation.

    A letter was sent to parents. Anyone concerned about their child’s relationship with Kavistan should call Detective Todd Smith at 215-657-4700. You can also contact Pennsylvania Conference education superintendent Jeremy Garlock at 610-374-8331 with any additional concerns.

    Kavistan remains in jail on $500,000 cash bail.

    The Huntingdon Valley Christian Academy is a private education school and part of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Pennsylvania Conference. It offers schooling from Pre-kindergarten through 10th grade and is located in the Huntingdon Valley section of Upper Moreland Township, Pennsylvania.

    Jason KavistanJason Kavistan

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    The Bolero Resort in Wildwood, like most hotels and motels in Jersey Shore towns in January, is quiet these days.

    Much of Atlantic Avenue, a bustling oceanside boulevard that runs through the popular Wildwoods communities in summer, is a ghost town.

    “We’d probably have about two rooms rented on a Tuesday in January,” Michael Lerro, of the Bolero, said.

    But that’ll change later this month when President Donald Trump comes to town for a campaign rally Jan. 28. His stump at an event inside the Wildwoods Convention Center is already selling out nearby hotels. Local businesses, like restaurants and bars normally closed for the season, are re-opening the day before Trump’s arrival.

    They’ll close up shop again the day after Trump leaves.

    “I’ve never seen a place sell out that fast for any other event,” Lerro said of his hotel, which filled up every room within 12 hours of Trump announcing his Jan. 28 event.

    The convention center along the beach in Wildwood can hold up to 7,000 people, but the businesses are also counting on thousands more coming to town even if they don’t get in for Trump’s appearance.

    Some locals say they have heard as many as 30,000 tickets have been made available. Those allowed inside the center will be on a first-time basis.

    In addition to supporters, Trump is also expected to attract protesters.

    At Alfe’s restaurant, Samantha Ahlzadeh said her eatery is taking advantage of Trump’s trip, staying opening the night before and the night of the speech until 2 a.m.

    “It’s only a once in a lifetime opportunity where the president comes,” Ahlzadeh said.


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    Police discovered a body outside an abandoned home while searching for a missing man they believe is connected to the person of interested in a deadly stabbing.

    The body was discovered inside a black duffel bag Wednesday evening on the train tracks behind a home on Cobbs Creek Parkway and Angorra Terrace in Southwest Philadelphia. Police have not yet identified the victim.

    Police were in the area searching for 20-year-old Jimmy Mao. Mao was last seen Dec. 29 of last year and reported missing from the 5800 block of Angora Terrace four days later. On Jan. 7, Mao’s bother started receiving text messages demanding ransom payments, Philadelphia Police Special Victims Unit Capt. Mark Burgmann said.

    Police have not yet confirmed whether the body they found Wednesday is that of Mao.

    Police are also searching for an acquaintance of Mao’s, 16-year-old Jacob Merritt-Richburg, from the 1800 block of Vineyard Street. Merritt-Richburg was reported missing by his family on Jan. 11.

    Both Mao and Merritt-Richburg are linked to a 17-year-old boy who is considered a person of interest in the stabbing death of his foster mother, a 64-year-old East Germantown woman.

    Renee Gilyard, the mother of a Philadelphia police officer, was found covered in blood with two stab wounds to the neck and defensive wounds, Wednesday morning. Investigators did not find any signs of a break-in but did notice the 17-year-old and the victim’s black Nissan Rogue were not at the house, police said.

    Police took the teen into custody after he crashed the SUV Wednesday morning while fleeing from police in West Philadelphia, according to investigators. Three additional teens — a boy and two girls ranging in age from 14 to 17 years old — were in the vehicle.

    Investigators said they have reason to believe” that the teen is “possibly connected” to Mao and Merrit-Richburg.

    This story is developing. Check back for updates.

    Body Found PhiladelphiaBody Found Philadelphia

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    What to Know

    • Philadelphia’s violent start to the year continued Wednesday with a triple shooting, double shooting, deadly stabbing and the discovery of a dead body.
    • Wednesday’s deadly shooting and stabbing bring the city’s total number of homicides to 21 so far this year.
    • There were seven reported homicides at this time last year, which ultimately saw a total of 356 murders, the highest annual number in Philadelphia since 2007.

    Philadelphia’s violent start to the year continued Wednesday with a triple shooting, double shooting, deadly stabbing and the discovery of a dead body.

    An unidentified gunman opened fire on two men on the 100 block of North Ruby Street at 4:56 p.m. A man in his 30’s was shot once in the right hip while a second man, also in his 30’s, was shot twice in the chest. Both men were taken to Presbyterian Hospital. One victim is stable while the other is in critical condition.

    About 20 minutes later, a gunman opened fire on a 16-year-old boy, 25-year-old man and a 20-year-old man on the 2600 block of Lehigh Avenue.

    The 20-year-old man was shot multiple times throughout his body. He was taken to Temple University Hospital where he was pronounced dead at 5:54 p.m.

    The 16-year-old boy was shot twice in the abdomen while the 25-year-old was shot six times throughout the body. Both of the surviving victims were also taken to Temple and are both in critical condition.

    Around the same time of the two shootings, the body of an unidentified man was discovered inside a black duffel bag on the train tracks behind a home on Cobbs Creek Parkway and Angora Terrace in Southwest Philadelphia.

    The discovery was made while police were searching for 20-year-old Jimmy Mao, who was last seen in the same area on Dec. 29 of last year. Police have not yet determined if the body is that of Mao’s.

    Police are also searching for an acquaintance of Mao’s, a 16-year-old boy who was reported missing by his family on Jan. 11.

    Both Mao and the teen are linked to a 17-year-old boy who is considered a person of interest in the stabbing death of his foster mother, a 64-year-old East Germantown woman who was found dead inside her home Wednesday morning.

    Wednesday’s deadly shooting and stabbing bring the city’s total number of homicides to 21 so far this year. There were seven reported homicides at this time last year, which ultimately saw a total of 356 murders, the highest annual number in Philadelphia since 2007.

    Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney has spoken repeatedly on the violent start to 2020, which includes two people killed and four hurt during five shootings on Monday and seven people, including a child and a teen boy, killed in the city over the weekend.

    “The other issue is people shooting at people holding children,” Kenney said. “Even organized crime would wait to get you alone. And these guys don’t seem to care. So we have to get those guys off the street and we have to intervene with the young people who are at risk both of being shot and being shooters and trying to intervene in their lives to get them where they need to be.”

    New Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw has said gun violence will be a top priority in her administration. She takes office next month.

    “She’s going to have to implement some of the same things we’re doing now and just do it better and do it more efficiently and more effectively,” Kenney said.

    There are additional resources for people or communities that have endured gun violence. Further information can be found here.

    Ruby Street Double Shooting PhiladelphiaRuby Street Double Shooting Philadelphia

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    Former Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Harold Carmichael will join other greats after he was voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

    The announcement of Carmichael’s upcoming induction was made Wednesday morning. He played 13 seasons for the Eagles before spending a solitary season for the Dallas Cowboys in a career that spanned from 1971 to 1984.

    “Harold revolutionized the wide receiver position and became one of the most productive players of his era and in the history of our franchise,” Eagles Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Lurie said in a statement.

    Carmichael had over 1,000 yards in a season three times during his career. It was much less common during his era to gain 1,000 yards in a season.  

    He went on to become the Eagles’ all-time leader in career receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns before being inducted into the Eagles Hall of Fame in 1987.

    He won the NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year award in 1980, given annually to one player who best exemplifies excellence on and off the field.

    Harold Carmichael isn’t in the Hall of Fame, but here’s why he should beHarold Carmichael isn’t in the Hall of Fame, but here’s why he should be

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    A nearly century-old gas line cracked and caused a gas leak and subsequent explosion in December that left two people dead and a South Philadelphia neighborhood scared of living in their homes.

    The 6-inch cast iron gas pipe under the street in front of 1435 South Eighth Street likely cracked within minutes of the eventual blast and fire that level at least four houses in the Italian Market neighborhood Dec. 19, an official with Philadelphia Gas Works said Thursday.

    Two people, including Brian Diu, 29, died in the huge fire that followed. An attorney for Diu’s family attended a press conference held by city officials and said “every (Philadelphia) homeowner is at risk of an explosion” because of the very old infrastructure under city streets.

    Residents of the 1400 block of South Eighth Street, just south of Reed Street, also showed up for the press conference at City Hall and demanded more assurances that they were safe in their homes.

    Not only is the block where the fire occurred still shut down by construction vehicles doing maintenance on sub-street pipes, but at least seven water main breaks have shut off water to residents in the area since the fire, according to a Philadelphia Water Department official.

    “Every morning we wake up and it’s like, ‘Is that gas we smell?'” Oh, our water’s off now,” resident and block captain Domenica Federico said at the City Hall gathering. “Until this is settled, you better not open that street up.”

    Domenica Federico, the block captain for the 1400 block of South Eighth Street, demanded city officials assure residents that all pipes and infrastructure be completely fixed before reopening the street.

    City officials, including Fire Commissioner Adam Theil, Managing Director Brian Abernathy and the heads of the Streets, Water and Gas deparrtments did little to assuage the concerns of Federico and a handful of other South Philadelphia residents who showed up.

    “Unfortunately, people had to die and it’s not just my street, it’s every street,” Federico said.

    One resident asked Abernathy, who is Mayor Jim Kenney’s top official, “Would you let your family stay on that block?”

    Abernathy responded, “Yes, actually, I would.”

    The explosion happened before noon Dec. 19. Firefighters raced to save nearby homes from the destruction as flames raged on South Eighth Street, three blocks from the iconic Pat’s and Geno’s steak shops.

    The destruction was immediate and created smoke plumes that could be seen for miles in wind gusts that reached 20 miles an hour. Thiel initially said the fire was “gas-fed.”

    A 6-inch gas main cracked, city officials confirmed Thursday, providing fuel for the explosion and resulting fire. The gas line was installed in 1928.

    Fire officials told NBC10 that they had received numerous calls reporting an explosion prior to the blaze.

    Some 60 people were evacuated from the block as the danger of more collapses persisted in the hours after the initial explosion and a sinkhole soon formed under the street.

    The catastrophe and its deadly end marked the end to a particularly deadly year in Philadelphia for fires.

    At least 34 people died in city fires in 2019, the highest death toll since 2014.

    “I don’t know that this is a trend,” Thiel said in an interview in November at the graduation of the 196th class of new firefighters. “We certainly hope it’s not a trend.”

    The quick-moving fire on South Eighth Street near Reed Street caused the roof of at least one home to collapse as flames raced through adjoining structures and sent thick, black smoke billowing into the air. Thiel confirmed witness reports that at least one woman was trapped in the debris as firefighters attempted to rescue her.

    “They went into a fully-collapsed building that was on fire to try to rescue somebody,” Thiel said.

    More than 100 people, including firefighters, medics and police officers responded to the blaze, the commissioner said.

    Electricity and gas were being shut off on the surrounding area as first responders continued to fight the flames and look for people, a task made more difficult by the fact that Philadelphia Gas Works employees had to jackhammer into the ground to reach the valve that would allow them to turn off the gas, Thiel said.

    Winds were blowing about 12 miles an hour, with gusts up to 20 miles per hour, at the time the fire began. A huge plume of black, then gray and white, smoke streamed from the homes as firefighters hit the blaze with water.

    Smoke could be seen for miles as it streamed east in the strong winds, Thursday, Dec. 19, 2019.

    The smoke was visible for miles as it flowed east across South Philadelphia in the strong winds.

    20191219 8th Street Fire 220191219 8th Street Fire 2

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    Strong winds brought a major change to temperatures across the Philadelphia on Thursday and ushered in snow squalls in parts of the area.

    Temperatures plunged by 10 to 20 degrees Thursday with wind gusts between 30 and 50 mph. The day ended with temperatures in the 30s and 20s.

    Snow squalls fell in parts of the region. A squall can develop in less than 10 minutes and could be hazardous to drivers by limiting visibility.

    The squalls were separate from a winter storm that will move into the region on Saturday afternoon. That storm is expected to bring snow, but some warmer air will limit accumulations.

    A cold weather pattern will continue following the storm reminding us all that winter is still in full effect.

    This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story in your web browser.

    media snow squallmedia snow squall

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    What to Know

    • Xavier Johnson, 17, is charged in the killings of his foster mother, Renee Gilroy, and another man he spent time with in foster care, Jimmy Mao.
    • Police said Johnson committed the crimes as part of an effort to rob the victims.
    • Johnson was placed in Gilroy’s care three days before she was killed.

    A 17-year-old is charged with murdering his foster mother and another man in a set of killings homicide detectives described as brutal.

    Xavier Johnson sought to rob 64-year-old Renee Gilyard and 20-year-old Jimmy Mao, Philadelphia Police Homicide Capt. Jason Smith said in a news conference Thursday afternoon.

    Smith said Johnson “brutally tortured and then murdered” both victims.

    “It is my hope that his arrest will provide some degree of solace to their families, friends and communities,” Smith said.

    Gilyard, the mother of a Philadelphia police officer, was found dead overnight Wednesday in her East Germantown home. She was stabbed twice in the neck inside a bathroom. Her purse was emptied and SUV was taken.

    Renee Gilyard, 64

    Johnson was placed in her home three days before the killings. Police caught up with him in West Philadelphia on Thursday morning when he crashed the missing SUV following a short police pursuit.

    Mao was stabbed in the face and neck, Smith said. His body was placed in a black duffel bag and thrown down a hill in Southwest Philadelphia. It was recovered by police on Wednesday evening.

    Smith said Mao and Johnson previously lived together in a different foster home on Angora Terrace. It was near where Mao’s body was located.

    Homicide detectives believe Johnson took a PlayStation gaming console, video games and cash, Smith said.

    A third person, 16-year-old Jacob Merritt-Richburg, remains missing. Police linked him to Johnson and Mao. The investigation into his disappearance remains open.

    Jimmy Mao, 20, and Jacob Merritt-Richburg, 16
    Jimmy Mao, 20, and Jacob Merritt-Richburg, 16

    A kitchen knife was recovered, Smith said. Forensic testing is ongoing to determined if it was the murder weapon.

    “There’s a good possibility that it is,” Smith said.

    Johnson, who is police custody, but has yet to be interviewed, faces a slew of charges including murder, robbery, abuse of a corpse and weapons charges. He is charged as an adult.

    Smith said Johnson has five prior arrests that included aggravated assault.

    Mao’s family members held a vigil for him Thursday at 6:30 p.m. around the same area where his body was found.

    Mao had a child on the way and was finishing his GED, according to his family. His sister told NBC10 English was his second language which is why he was in foster care. She also said he was only at the foster home on Angora Terrace for two weeks before his disappearance.

    A spokesperson for DHS told NBC10 they couldn’t discuss the specifics of the case due to confidentiality laws but they did release a statement on the two murders.

    “We are heartbroken over the recent deaths,” a spokesperson wrote. “Foster parents are unsung heroes, providing safe and loving homes for children in their care and service to the community. The losses we face today are unthinkable and we grieve along with the families and communities.”

    This story is breaking. It will be updated.

    Timeline of Events

    Renee Gilyard Jimmy MaoRenee Gilyard Jimmy Mao

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    An investigation is underway after officials discovered the decomposed body of a woman inside the basement of a Philadelphia home.

    Officers with the Sheriff’s department were performing a search warrant in connection to a human trafficking investigation at a home on the 2100 block of Porter Street at 5:10 p.m. Thursday. While inside the basement they found a badly decomposed body of a young woman.

    Five people were taken into custody at the home though no charges have been filed. Police have not released the victim’s identity or a cause of death.

    This story is developing. Check back for updates.

    Police Line Do Not CrossPolice Line Do Not Cross

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    A New Jersey man who authorities said was the ringleader in a scheme that raised more than $400,000 with a bogus tale involving a homeless veteran rescuing a woman from the side of a highway pleaded not guilty Thursday to federal charges.

    Mark D’Amico appeared in court in Camden to face an indictment handed up last week that charges the 40-year-old with a total of 16 counts of conspiracy, wire fraud and money laundering.

    D’Amico, former girlfriend Katelyn McClure and homeless vet Johnny Bobbitt have already pleaded guilty in state court, and McClure and Bobbitt have pleaded guilty to federal charges as well.

    Authorities say the trio made up a story in late 2017 about Bobbitt giving $20 to help McClure when her car ran out of gas in Philadelphia. They gave newspaper and television interviews and eventually raised more than $400,000 online. Authorities began investigating after Bobbitt sued the couple, accusing them of not giving him the money.

    The federal criminal complaint alleges all of the money raised in the campaign was spent by March 2018, with large chunks spent by McClure and D’Amico on an RV, a BMW and trips to casinos in Las Vegas and New Jersey.

    D’Amico’s plea Thursday was entered by attorney Mark Davis. Last month, D’Amico pleaded guilty in state court to misapplication of entrusted property and will serve a five-year term under an agreement with prosecutors.

    Helpful Homeless ManHelpful Homeless Man

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    What to Know

    • Xavier Johnson, 17, was arrested and charged in the murders of his foster mother, 64-year-old Renee Gilyard, as well as 20-year-old Jimmy Mao.
    • Johnson allegedly robbed and stabbed Mao while they were staying inside the same foster home back on Dec. 29.
    • More than three weeks later, Johnson allegedly killed Gilyard after being moved to her foster home.

    Loved ones gathered in Southwest Philadelphia Thursday night to mourn a young father-to-be who police say was stabbed to death by a teen boy inside a foster home where they both lived.

    “It’s sad that he is not with us anymore,” Niki Mao told NBC10. “All of this is like a movie but it’s real life.

    Jimmy Mao, 20, was last seen alive inside a foster home on the 5800 block of Angora Terrace back on Dec. 29. Mao’s family told NBC10 he was playing online video games when he was heard arguing with someone in his room. Mao was then reported missing.

    On Wednesday, more than three weeks later, Mao’s body was found inside a black duffel bag that had been thrown down a hill along the 1000 block of Cobbs Creek Parkway, about a block away from the foster home on Angora Terrace. Police said Mao had been stabbed in the face and neck.

    On Thursday, 17-year-old Xavier Johnson was charged with Mao’s murder. Police said Johnson’s motive was robbery and he had stolen Mao’s PlayStation console, video games as well as money.

    Johnson is also charged with murdering his foster mother, Renee Gilyard, who was found dead overnight Wednesday in her Germantown home. She was stabbed twice in the neck inside a bathroom. Police said Johnson stole Gilyard’s money and vehicle which crashed when officers captured the teen.

    “Both Ms. Gilyard and Mr. Mao were brutally tortured and then murdered by Xavier Johnson,” Philadelphia Police Homicide Capt. Jason Smith said in a news conference Thursday afternoon. “It is my hope that his arrest will provide some degree of solace to their families, friends and communities.”

    Jimmy Mao New Photo
    A photo of Jimmy Mao.

    Mao had a child on the way and was finishing his GED, according to his family. His sister told NBC10 English was his second language and he was only at the foster home on Angora Terrace for two weeks before his disappearance.

    “He chose to be there so he could go to school,” Niki Mao said. “He was never in no drama. He don’t do drugs. He don’t drink. He don’t do none of that.”

    Mao’s family said Johnson had arrived at the foster home at Angora Terrace two days after Mao arrived. NBC10 has been unable to contact the foster parent at the home.

    “The next-door neighbor said there’s a lot of kids that go in and out and never last a month,” Muhammad Al Shabazz, Niki Mao’s fiancé, told NBC10.

    Johnson ended up living with Gilyard at her foster home earlier in the week before he allegedly killed her three days later.

    A photo of Renee Gilyard.

    Mao’s family said they felt the foster care system didn’t take his initial disappearance seriously enough. They’re now questioning how Johnson, who police said had five prior arrests for aggravated assault, was able to be moved to Gilyard’s foster home.

    NBC10 reached out to DHS for details. A spokesperson said they were unable to discuss the specifics of the case due to confidentiality laws.

    “We are heartbroken over the recent deaths,” a spokesperson wrote. “Foster parents are unsung heroes, providing safe and loving homes for children in their care and service to the community. The losses we face today are unthinkable and we grieve along with the families and communities.”

    As police continue to investigate, Mao’s sister, who is also coping with the recent death of her mother, wants Johnson to be brought to justice.

    “I just hope he burns in hell,” Niki Mao said.

    Police also linked a third person to Johnson and Mao, 16-year-old Jacob Merritt-Richburg. Police believe the teen, who remains missing, has additional information regarding the murders.

    This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story in your web browser.

    Jimmy Mao New PhotoJimmy Mao New Photo

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    The tests used by a New Jersey agency responsible for awarding millions of dollars in tax breaks to businesses had deficiencies that may have led to improperly awarded incentives, a task force said Thursday.

    The task force set up last year by Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy issued its second report Thursday on the now-expired tax credit program run by the Economic Development Authority. The 88-page document reflected a number of conclusions the body found seven months ago when it published a preliminary report.

    Another top finding was that the authority had bias toward approving the credits, something it referred to as a “culture of getting to yes” on the question of awarding tax breaks.

    “The Task Force has observed a general predisposition at the EDA to approve awards for tax incentives, and at higher amounts when possible,” the report said.

    Among the deficiencies the task force highlighted was a failure to adequately vet claims made by businesses about the likelihood companies would move jobs out of state, which was a key factor in awarding tax breaks.

    The task force also said that its investigation led to voluntary terminations of awards that saved the state $11 million.

    In a statement, authority CEO Tim Sullivan said the task force’s work played a role in improving performance at the EDA. Sullivan was appointed by Murphy after the governor succeeded Republican Chris Christie in 2018.

    Sullivan said he will review the report in detail to look for “further opportunities for improvement.”

    Murphy impaneled the task force last year after earlier state comptroller and auditor reports questioned whether the development authority had adequate oversight of the tax breaks.

    The tax credits in question were enacted under a 2013 bill, but they expired on July 1. Murphy and lawmakers have disagreed over how to move forward. Murphy wants to cap how much is awarded annually, but legislators question whether that will put the state at a disadvantage compared with neighboring states.

    Murphy again called on lawmakers to renew the tax breaks in his State of the State address on Tuesday.

    The task force made waves last year in state politics.

    At one hearing, a whistleblower testified that an unidentified firm she worked for said it was considering leaving the state in order to get credits when she knew the company had already decided to stay.

    The second hearing turned up documents showing that firms connected with influential Democratic political powerbroker George Norcross gave inconsistent responses while applying for credits when asked whether they considered leaving the state, a key requirement in most cases for being awarded credits.

    That led to Norcross to sue Murphy seeking to block the task force’s first report, but a judge disagreed, and the report came out.

    The report concluded that special interests, particularly those linked to Norcross, helped write the legislation to benefit stakeholders, who later did benefit.

    Norcross disputes the findings and has suggested the task force amounts to a political witch hunt. He defended his businesses in a hearing before lawmakers, saying the task force’s work contained misstatements and “mischaracterizations.”

    Governor Phil Murphy Delivers Fiscal Year 2020 Budget AddressGovernor Phil Murphy Delivers Fiscal Year 2020 Budget Address

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    A series of powerful wind gusts will blow over the Philadelphia region Friday, ahead of accumulating snow over the weekend.

    The NBC10 First Alert Weather team has issued a First Alert from noon until 6 p.m. Saturday for Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania suburbs and the Lehigh Valley.

    Friday’s winds, which will gust up to 40 mph in some areas, are bringing cold air into the region, making temperatures top off in the low-to-mid 30 degrees and feel closer to the teens.

    That cold air sticks around Saturday as snow moves into the region. Chester County, Berks County and Delaware will be getting the first flakes by around 10 a.m. By noon, there will be snow from the Lehigh Valley down to Philadelphia. The Jersey Shore could also see a few flakes.

    When the storm begins, the ground will be cold enough for the snow to stick. That could create slick roads, so drivers should take extra caution.

    The Lehigh Valley could get 3-4 inches of powder, while Philadelphia, Montgomery County and Bucks County can expect anywhere between 1 and 3 inches. Areas further south will likely see 1 inch or less.

    By around 6 p.m., warm air will arrive, turning snow into rain south of the I-95 corridor and creating a wintry mix along the corridor. Neighborhoods north of that however, can expect to still be seeing snow at that time before the system starts moving out later in the evening.

    Things should dry out by Sunday, but temperatures are expected to stay in the 30s with strong winds.

    Be sure to check back for the latest forecast of this weekend’s snow. Also, download the free NBC10 app for live radar, weather forecasts and more.

    Winter Storm Petra Blankets PhiladelphiaWinter Storm Petra Blankets Philadelphia

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    A former Philadelphia police officer has pleaded guilty to using a confiscated Porsche to drive his stepdaughter to prom, prosecutors announced Friday.

    James Coolen Jr. admitted to the unauthorized use of a motor vehicle after taking the car, which was sized in a narcotics investigation, from a secured parking lot in April of last year, the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office announced.

    “James Coolen betrayed the public trust and his fellow Philadelphia Police officers when he improperly and illegally used a 2018 Porsche Cayenne SUV, that was impounded as evidence in a case that he was assigned to, as transportation for his stepdaughter’s prom,” District Attorney Larry Krasner said in a statement.

    Surveillance video showed Coolen driving into the Philadelphia Police Department Narcotics Bureau Headquarters’ secure parking lot in his own pickup truck and then driving away in the SUV on April 25 of last year, the district attorney’s office said.

    The DA’s office said another officer saw Coolen get into the Porsche and drive away from the secured lot.

    The PPD’s Internal Affairs Unit also found surveillance footage from Coolen’s neighbor, which showed the SUV parked at Coolen’s home, in addition to photos of the vehicle at the house, Coolen’s fingerprints on the Porche’s GPS system and GPS data showing Coolen had used the vehicle to take his stepdaughter to prom, the district attorney’s office said.

    The vehicle was returned to the lot two days later and the driver, who was not identified on surveillance video because it was too dark, left in Coolen’s pickup, the office added.

    “It is never easy, but it is always right, to hold a friend or colleague accountable when they do wrong. I thank the PPD Internal Affairs Unit and my office’s Special Investigation Unit for their hard work in bringing this case to a just conclusion,” Krasner said.

    Coolen resigned from the force and turned himself over last year. He pleaded guilty Thursday and was sentenced to one year of probation, the district attorney’s office said.

    Philadelphia Police CarPhiladelphia Police Car

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    Tower Investments has lined up Giant Foods to anchor yet another one of its projects, this time on Columbus Boulevard along the Delaware River waterfront in Philadelphia.

    Last week, the Philadelphia Business Journal first reported that Giant plans to open a 40,000-square-foot store at a proposed project by Tower at South Broad Street and Washington Avenue.

    At a site the firm owns at 1401 S. Columbus Blvd., Giant will occupy 46,000 square feet for a new grocery store, said Bart Blatstein, who leads Tower. The developer had originally been working with Lidl, a German grocery chain, to lease space at the project. Blatstein declined to comment about the deal he had been trying to strike with Lidl.

    Blatstein has been working for several years on developing the waterfront property that had once been eyed by Foxwoods Resort Casino. The site is bound by Reed and Tasker streets, South Columbus Boulevard and the Delaware River. At this time, plans call for 35,000 square feet of additional, ancillary retail space and the Super Wawa.

    Read more at the Philadelphia Business Journal.

    Giant Heirloom Market Graduate HospitalGiant Heirloom Market Graduate Hospital

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    A man accused of sexually assaulting a teenage waitress at his wedding reception has been sentenced to probation.

    Matthew Aimers, 32, of Willingboro, New Jersey, pleaded guilty on Thursday to indecent exposure, disorderly conduct and simple assault. Under terms of a plea agreement, a judge in Pennsylvania sentenced Aimers to six years’ probation. The more serious charges of indecent assault, imprisonment of a minor and harassment were dropped.

    The agreement was reached after close consultation with the victim.

    She called this resolution “the best outcome,” Assistant District Attorney Megan Hunsicker told The Philadelphia Inquirer.

    “The victim in this case was highly traumatized by what he did to her,“ Hunsicker said. “His actions were inappropriate and unwarranted. This conviction will, I hope, provide her with a resolution that allows her life to move on.”

    Authorities said Aimers approached the waitress at his November 2018 wedding reception at the Northampton Valley Country Club in Richboro, Pennsylvania, and asked her to “go outside and make out.” Police said Aimers then followed her into a bathroom, where he exposed himself and sexually assaulted her.

    The waitress was able to break free.

    Aimers’ attorney, Louis Busico, told the newspaper his client was satisfied. “We believed it was in the best interest to resolve this case in this fashion, so his life can go on,” he said.

    It was not clear whether Aimers’ wife, Kayla, was present for the plea on Thursday, but when she accompanied him to court in April, his attorney said she “150% supports him.”

    matthew aimers 01172020matthew aimers 01172020

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    It was Thursday night and Chenoa Manley was still getting messages from her children’s teachers. The school had elevated levels of asbestos, but classes would still go on. To stay safe, the teachers thought of holding classes outside. In this cold?

    For days, those same teachers and parents at Alexander K. McClure Elementary School had seen their pleas fall on deaf ears. They insisted that, despite assurances from the Philadelphia School District, it was too dangerous to reopen the campus.

    For two days this week, they sat in the classrooms that the district insisted were safe. Friday morning, shortly before classes were supposed to start again, the district finally relented. Air samples came out “slightly” elevated, the district said. Classes were canceled.

    “This is exactly what we were complaining about before they even opened up the schools again,” Manley said as she stood outside the school, where outraged parents and teachers held signs demanding a safe learning environment.

    McClure Elementary first closed in December of last year, one of two schools in which officials found asbestos in pipe insulation. The reopening of the campus was continually pushed back for remediation work until finally, on Wednesday, the district said it was safe to return.

    “My children were actually in there with high readings. That’s unacceptable,” Manley said. The mother of a kindergarten girl and first-grade boy was supposed to start her first day at a new job until the school district reversed course Friday, leaving her to watch her kids instead.

    In a statement, the School District of Philadelphia said the latest readings showing elevated levels of asbestos “exceeds what is required by law.” Of the 20 test samples collected, two were slightly elevated but still within acceptable limits set by the Environmental Protection Agency, with only one exceeding standards, the district said.

    Lisa Handy, a fourth-grade teacher, said the school is a haven for many of her students. She, too, had trusted the district and returned to school after she said officials told her the asbestos outside her class had been cleaned up.

    “I’m very hurt. I feel disgusted. I feel like I was lied to because they told us the third floor was clear of asbestos, and now they just had these findings,” Handy said.

    The school district now says it will finish cleaning the school over the weekend, but for Manley, the trust has already been severed.

    “I want transparency, honesty and to put my children’s health first before your budget concerns. Before all of those things, they should be first,” she said.

    mcclure asbestos 01172020mcclure asbestos 01172020

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    A decomposing body discovered by police in a South Philadelphia basement on Thursday is that of a teen reported missing late last year.

    The Philadelphia Medical Examiner’s Office identified the remains as belonging to 18-year-old Erin Schweikert, police said Friday. She was reported missing from her home along the 2300 block of S. Lee Street in October. She was last seen on Sept. 27, 2019, police said.

    Schweikert’s remains were found in the basement of a home along 2100 block of Porter Street in the Girard Estates neighborhood. Sheriff’s officers were serving a robbery warrant when they made the discovery.

    Erin Schweikert
    Erin Schweikert, 18

    The teen’s body was placed inside a plastic container. Police described it as badly decomposed and producing an overwhelming smell.

    The medical examiner said there were no obvious signs of trauma. They have not yet determined a cause and manner of death.

    Five people were taken into custody for questioning. At least one person was arrested on the search warrant.

    The investigation is ongoing.


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    The United States Supreme Court said Monday that it will not take up an appeal brought by Michelle Carter, who was convicted of encouraging her boyfriend through texts and phone calls to take his own life.

    The decision leaves Carter’s conviction intact, though she is expected to be released from jail this week.

    Carter was convicted in 2017 of involuntary manslaughter in the 2014 death of her suicidal boyfriend Conrad Roy III, but the judge initially allowed her to remain free while she appealed. Massachusetts’ highest court upheld her conviction, saying her actions caused Roy’s death.

    A lawyer for Carter had urged the judge to allow the now 23-year-old to stay out of jail while they took her case to the U.S. Supreme Court. Her attorneys argued that she had no prior criminal record, hadn’t tried to flee, and had been receiving mental health treatment.

    But after a judge ruled that she should start her sentence, Carter was taken into custody. She began serving her 15-month jail sentence in February of 2019.

    The Massachusetts Parole Board denied her request for an early release in September, saying it did not meet the legal standard for release.

    “Ms. Carter’s self-serving statements and behavior, leading up to and after his suicide, appear to be irrational and lacked sincerity,” the parole board said in a statement at the time.

    Bristol County District Attorney Thomas Quinn said Monday that the Supreme Court’s decision is the latest judicial action to validate the decision to charge Carter and brings closure to Roy’s family.

    “I hope that the finality of this decision brings some solace to them,” Quinn said in a statement, adding later, “I am very pleased that the legal chapter of this tragic case is finally closed.”

    Carter is expected to be released from Bristol County Jail this month, less than a year after she began her 15-month sentence. Her early release is due to good behavior.

    Roy’s aunt said the family received a letter in the mail alerting them to the early release. She also said that the Supreme Court decision brings finality to the case and peace to the family.

    Carter was 17 when Roy, 18, took his own life in Fairhaven, a town on Massachusetts’ south coast in July 2014. Her case garnered international attention and provided a disturbing look at teenage depression and suicide.

    Carter and Roy both struggled with depression, and Roy had previously tried to kill himself. Their relationship consisted mostly of texting and other electronic communications.

    In dozens of text messages revealed during her sensational trial, Carter pushed Roy to end his life and chastised him when he hesitated. As Roy made excuses to put off his plans, her texts became more insistent.

    “You keep pushing it off and say you’ll do it but u never do. It’s always gonna be that way if u don’t take action,” Carter texted him he on the day he died.

    The juvenile court judge focused his guilty verdict on the fact that Carter told Roy over the phone to get back in his truck when it was filling with carbon monoxide. The judge said Carter had a duty to call the police or Roy’s family, but instead listened on the phone as he died.

    “After she convinced him to get back into the carbon monoxide filled truck, she did absolutely nothing to help him: she did not call for help or tell him to get out of the truck as she listened to him choke and die,” Supreme Judicial Court Justice Scott Kafker wrote in the court’s opinion affirming her conviction.

    At trial, Carter’s lawyer argued Carter had initially tried to talk Roy out of suicide and encouraged him to get help. Her attorney said Roy was determined to kill himself and nothing Carter did could change that.

    Her appellate attorneys said there was no evidence that Roy would have lived if Carter had called for help. They also argued there wasn’t enough evidence to prove that Carter told Roy to get back in his truck.

    Her phone call with Roy wasn’t recorded, but prosecutors pointed to a rambling text that Carter sent to a friend two months later in which she said called Roy’s death her fault and said she told Roy to “get back in” the truck.

    If you are in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 or reach out to the Crisis Text Line by texting ‘Home’ to 741741.


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    Britain’s pragmatic queen brokered a deal Monday to secure the future of the monarchy, charting a course for Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, that allows them to live part-time in Canada while still remaining firmly tied to the House of Windsor.

    The decision followed a summit at Queen Elizabeth II’s Sandringham estate in eastern England that sought to resolve the conundrum of what to do with royals who only want the job part-time. The British monarch said in a statement that the summit of senior royals was “constructive,” and that it had been “agreed that there will be a period of transition” to sort things out during which Meghan and Harry will spend time in both Canada and the U.K.

    “My family and I are entirely supportive of Harry and Meghan’s desire to create a new life as a young family,” the queen said in a statement that offered a demonstrably soft tone. “Although we would have preferred them to remain full-time working members of the Royal Family, we respect and understand their wish to live a more independent life as a family while remaining a valued part of my family.”

    The summit marked the first face-to-face talks with Harry since he and Meghan unveiled their controversial wish last week to step back from their royal roles, become financially independent and split their time between Britain and North America. The meeting reflected the queen’s desire to contain the fallout from the independence announcement, which prompted hurt feelings among senior family members not told in advance of the decision.

    But by midday Monday, the House of Windsor showed signs of pulling together. Princes William and Harry issued a joint statement slamming a newspaper report describing a severe strain in their relationship, calling the story offensive and potentially harmful.

    Though the statement did not name the newspaper, the Times of London has a front page story about the crisis in which a source alleged that Harry and Meghan had been pushed away by the “bullying attitude” from William. The joint statement insisted that the story was “false.”

    “For brothers who care so deeply about the issues surrounding mental health, the use of inflammatory language in this way is offensive and potentially harmful,” the statement said.

    The queen said after Monday’s meeting that these were “complex matters for my family to resolve, and there is some more work to be done, but I have asked for final decisions to be reached in the coming days.”

    One of the trickier questions that needs to be worked out is precisely what it means for a royal to be financially independent and what activities can be undertaken to make money. Other royals who have ventured into the world of commerce have found it complicated.

    Sophie, the countess of Wessex, sought to keep her public relations firm going after her marriage to the queen’s third son, Prince Edward, only to find herself embroiled in controversy when she was tricked by the “Fake Sheikh” — an undercover reporter offering a lucrative contract for her firm.

    Sophie hinted that if the “sheikh” paid for the firm’s services he would get greater publicity because of her royal role. In the end, both Sophie and Edward, who ran a television company, gave up their businesses to become full-time royals in 2002.

    Prince Andrew, who was a UK trade envoy, has faced heated questions about his relationship with the late convicted sex offender and financier, Jeffrey Epstein, whom Andrew has said was beneficial to making useful contacts. The queen’s second son has relinquished royal duties and patronages after being accused by a woman who says she was an Epstein trafficking victim who slept with the prince.

    Harry and Meghan also face questions about paying for security, which is currently taxpayer-funded. Home Secretary Priti Patel refused to comment, but said safety was a priority and added that “royal family themselves need some time and space for them to work through the current issues that they’re dealing with.”

    Meghan, who is American, has longstanding ties to Canada, having lived in Toronto while filming the popular TV series, “Suits.” On Friday, she returned to Canada, where the couple and 8-month-old Archie spent a six-week holiday break out of the public eye.

    Bob Morris, honorary senior research associate at University College London’s Constitution Unit, said that the crux of the matter lies in the difference between being a celebrity and having royal status.

    “Royal status sets you apart, it gives you special role in our society,” he said. “It is very difficult for you to put the hat on and take it off. You cannot be half royal or royal part of the time. You can switch it off and on, and it seems to me the royal identity would always be the dominant one.”

    Some of the challenges are enshrined in the law devised some 20 years ago after an inquiry that followed Sophie’s brush with the fake sheikh. The rules are aimed at ensuring working royals do not exploit their status to profit in business.

    Under the guidelines, the royals must consult the most senior member of the royal household before taking on a business activity — a measure that would encroach on Harry and Meghan’s independence.

    Last week’s statement by the couple, who are also known as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, pushed the issue out into the open and touched off a royal crisis. Tom Bradby, a TV journalist who is close to Harry and Meghan, warned in the Sunday Times that the royal family badly needed a peace deal to prevent “a protracted war” that could damage the monarchy.

    “I have some idea of what might be aired in a full, no-holds-barred, sit-down interview (by Harry and Meghan) and I don’t think it would be pretty,” he wrote in the Sunday Times.

    With much at stake, the queen’s decision safeguarded the peace — for now. Royal expert Penny Junor said it was vital for the stability of the royal family to keep Meghan and Harry happy.

    “What is absolutely imperative, in my view, is that Harry and Meghan do not go away feeling angry and hurt and rejected, because an angry, hurt, rejected Harry and Meghan could cause absolute havoc for the royal family,” she said. “If they don’t care anymore, if they want to show them, if they want to get their own back, it could get very nasty. They could go completely rogue.”

    Kirka and Lawless reported from London. Associated Press writer Helena Alves contributed to this report.


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    Drexel University paid the United States nearly $190,000 after a former professor at the school allegedly used federal grant money for visits to Philadelphia strip clubs and sports bars.

    Dr. Chikaodinaka D. Nwankpa, the head of Drexel’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, is accused of submitting improper charges against federal grants over a 10-year period.  

    The investigation began in 2017 after Drexel voluntarily disclosed improper charges to eight federal grants for energy and naval technology-related research it received from the Department of the Navy, the Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation.

    After an internal audit in 2017, Drexel discovered Nwankpa used the federal grant money to make personal iTunes purchases as well as for “goods and services” at Cheerleaders, Club Risque and Tacony Club between July 2007 and April 2017, investigators said.

    Drexel cooperated with the federal investigation. Nwankpa repaid $53,328 to the university, resigned in lieu of termination and was debarred from federal government contracting for six months, according to officials.

    “This is an example of flagrant and audacious fraud, and a shameful misuse of public funds,” United States Attorney William McSwain said. “The agencies providing these grant funds expect them to be used towards advancements in energy and naval technology for public benefit, not for personal entertainment.”

    Drexel implemented changes to prevent any future misconduct, including improvements to its charge approval and auditing policies, officials said. The university also agreed to pay the United States $189,062 to resolve potential liability under the False Claims Act.

    “We appreciate Drexel’s self-disclosure and cooperation in this matter,” McSwain said. “At the same time, we are disappointed that Dr. Nwankpa’s conduct went unnoticed for so long, but Drexel’s strengthening of its charge approval process is certainly a step in the right direction.”


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    Impassioned students and parents at a New Jersey town made their voices heard as they slammed a plan to take away meals for students with outstanding lunch debt.

    Community members gathered Tuesday night for a meeting to discuss the strict enforcement of a policy that would affect students at the Cherry Hill Public School District. Under the policy, students with an outstanding debt of $10 or more would get a tuna sandwich for lunch, while those owing $20 or more would get no lunch at all.

    “This is ridiculous,” one community member said during public comment in front of the district’s board of education. Another man called the situation a “public relations fiasco” and a “disaster.”

    The uproar comes after the district earlier this month proposed enforcing the policy, which has been on the books since 2017. The policy, Superintendent Joseph Meloche said, is in line with state requirements, but has not been enforced.

    The district contends that it has been challenged by unpaid lunch debts over the last few years. In 2017, it forgave about $25,000 in lunch debt, but despite that, it now once again finds itself about $14,000 in the hole, Meloche said.

    “Wiping out the debt – paying the money that that family owes – does not help those children because we’ve been feeding the kids and we will continue to feed the kids,” Meloche said during Tuesday’s meeting.

    Nearly 20% of students in the Cherry Hill Public School District are considered “economically disadvantaged,” NBC News reported. However, board of education member Ruth Schultz said that while some families can’t afford to pay their debts, others simply refuse to.

    Still, parents and students oppose the district’s plan to collect the money.

    “The easily recognizable tuna fish sandwich will become a badge of shame. What the board may fail to recognize is that school cafeterias are not always friendly places, and students will be stigmatized because of the food they carry,” Oliver Adler, student body president at Cherry Hill East High School, said.

    Cherry Hell West High School 9th grader Eva Friddell implored board members not to “take it out on the kids for what the parents have done.”

    The school board said it has not yet withheld lunch from any student, adding that it will revise the policy and call for a vote on it in September.


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  • 09/09/19--22:08: Philly Live: Today’s Links
  • Looking for more information about a subject you saw featured on Philly Live? Find it here!


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    Modern Luxury Weddings Philadelphia presents Seasons of Luxury Bridal Show


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    Thousands of pounds of deadly hydrofluoric acid escaped into the atmosphere following the massive June 21 blast at the now-shuttered gas refinery in South Philadelphia, according to a new federal report.

    More than 5,200 pounds of the chemical, known shorthand as HF, was estimated to have been released from a complex system of pipes in three early morning blasts, the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board said in its finding released Wednesday.

    The root cause of the explosions? A decades-old elbow pipe had degraded to just 7 percent of thickness level, the federal safety agency said. That is well-below the threshold that normally would prompt replacement.

    “The thickness of this elbow was not monitored,” the board wrote in the report.

    The escape of the deadly HF has not been previously confirmed by investigatory authorities. A Reuters article published in August first raised the possibility that HF may have been released in the blasts, but city and company officials would not confirm the report at the time.

    The report said 676,000 pounds, in total, of hydrocarbon chemicals are estimated to have escaped containment in the disaster. A large majority of those chemicals was gas products, which burned during the explosions and subsequent fire.

    This illustration is a “model of the piping circuit containing the ruptured elbow” at the Philadelphia Energy Solutions’ refinery that was provided in the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board report.

    HF can be very painful, and lethal, when it comes in contact with humans, and even a small leak could lead to a widespread catastrophe, particularly in a heavily-populated area like South Philadelphia.

    However, widespread effects weren’t reported in the hours and days that followed the explosion at Philadelphia Energy Solutions’ refinery.

    That would suggest the thousands of pounds of HF that did escape were likely thrown high into the atmosphere during the powerful blasts, leaked very slowly in low concentration, or both, according to Peter DeCarlo, an air quality expert and Drexel University professor.

    “That’s a massive release,” DeCarlo said. “Based on what we’ve seen and based on the lack of major health impacts, which would have been clearly observed, we dodged a fairly substantial bullet.”

    The refinery was the largest on the East Coast, and was Philadelphia’s largest polluter for decades. Its origins as an industrial site go back two centuries.

    The current owner, PES, filed for bankruptcy in July. It was the second time in two years that the company did so. Protests by South Philadelphia residents and some city leaders followed the explosion, with calls for a shutdown of the facility. About 300 union workers were laid off in August. The facility employed about 1,000.

    The fire burned for two days until plant staff were able to turn off a valve that sent fuel into the alkylation unit where the degraded pipe initially burst. City fire officials and the refinery’s private fire brigade let the fire burn to avoid the uncontrolled release of explosive gas into the atmosphere.

    Philadelphia Fire Department Commissioner Adam Thiel said most of the fuel burned was similar to what fuels gas barbecue grills.

    Even after the fire was extinguished, the disaster site wasn’t ruled officially contained until September. 

    A minute-by-minute leadup to the explosions that NBC10 ran live on its early morning newscasts is included in the report and show how quickly the catastrophe developed inside one of the HF alkylation units of the refinery:

    – At 4 a.m., there was a sudden loss of containment that caused flammable process fluid, including HF, to release into the unit. It formed a “ground-hugging vapor cloud.”

    A “ground-hugging vapor cloud” inside the South Philadelphia refinery that eventually erupted into flames.

    – At 4:02 a.m., the vapor cloud ignited, causing a large fire in the alkylation unit.

    – Thirty seconds later, a control room operator activated the Rapid Acid Deinventory system.

    – At 4:15 a.m., during the still-burning fire, the first of three explosions occurred. The second explosion occurred four minutes later.

    – At 4:22 a.m., the third and largest blast occurred when a feed drum within the alkylation unit “violently ruptured.” The drum contained combustible gases, primarily butylene, isobutane and butane. Butane is known for its use in cigarette lighters.

    A fragment of the drum, which weighed nearly 20 tons, was ejected and flew across the Schuylkill River. Two other fragments, about 11 and eight tons each, also went airborne. They landed elsewhere in the refinery. A federal investigator called their landing spots “miraculous” for not damaging other parts of the facility as they came back to earth.

    The likelihood that the HF released during the explosions went high into the atmosphere instead of escaping at low levels into nearby neighborhoods was also very fortunate, DeCarlo, the air quality expert, and federal officials said.

    “We are aware that Hydrogen Fluoride (HF) was released into the atmosphere during the June 21 explosion/fire,” Mayor Jim Kenney’s spokeswoman, Deana Gamble, said in a statement Wednesday. “According to PES, the estimated amount represents less than 1% of the HF inventory in the damaged unit before the incident started. HF was not detected in the air by multiple agencies and the City believes that the public was in no immediate danger from HF during the fire and response.”

    However, DeCarlo testified before a state legislative oversight committee in July that an inspector with Philadelphia’s Air Management Services agency did register a positive reading for HF on a monitoring device. His testimony was first reported by the Philadelphia Inquirer

    Gamble said in an email that the device was found to be miscalibrated, and other air quality readings performed by PES and the Environmental Protection Agency found no HF in the area surrounding the refinery.

    “Due to the meter not being properly calibrated, the inspectors requested that the EPA and PES confirm the zero readings. Both confirmed that there was no HF present in the community, and the (Air Management Services) inspectors took the improperly calibrated meter out of service,” Gamble wrote. “AMS subsequently confirmed with the manufacturer that the handheld device was in fact in need of recalibration and was thus unreliable when used immediately after the fire. Unified Command was also confident in its decision to shelter in place based on safety protocols that were executed successfully. Ultimately, the City believes that the public was in no immediate danger from HF during the fire and response.”

    big oil refinery explosion in philadelphiabig oil refinery explosion in philadelphia

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    The body of a woman missing since 2014 was found inside a vehicle submerged in the Salem River in southern New Jersey, authorities confirmed Friday.

    Smallwood, who would have been 52, was found by diver contractors doing work in the river, which is a tributary to the Delaware River in Salem County, New Jersey.

    She disappeared Jan. 27, 2014, from Cherry Hill in Camden County, according to the FBI missing persons flyer.

    Later that same morning, Smallwood’s “cell phone recorded a ping” in Clayton, New Jersey,” the flyer said.

    “Since that time there has been no activity from the victim, to include her credit/debit cards,” it said.

    State police confirmed Smallwood’s body was in the vehicle first discovered by the divers on Thursday. Troopers declined to provide any more details, including cause of death.

    Missing Vanessa SmallwoodMissing Vanessa Smallwood