Robbinsville Township Council Adopts 2023 Municipal Budget

June 8, 2023

ROBBINSVILLE, NJ (MERCER)–“I’m extremely proud of everyone who worked hard on this budget,” Council President Debbie Blakely said. ” It was not an easy year to say the least. We had to work with the aftermath of the pandemic, inflation, and tweaking several areas to give what we could to the school district in a year when we had to raise taxes ourselves. It was hard. That said, our department heads, Office of Administration, Mayor Dave Fried and this council came together to prepare a good budget that will continue to offer high quality services and keep our residents safe.”

One of the more significant changes Council proposed and ultimately adopted since the budget was presented was modifying the Shared Services Agreement between the Township and Robbinsville School District.
In March, Ms. Blakely and Councilman Mike Cipriano met with school officials at the request of Superintendent Brian Betze to discuss the many financial challenges the district, as well at the Township, were facing this budget year, particularly with the school being denied millions in expected State aid. Once Council received the budget from the Mayor, it listened to feedback from the School District, the community, and safety professionals in an effort to revise the funding formula of that Shared Services Agreement.

Although the proposed municipal budget already featured a tax increase of 3.7 cents per every $100 of assessed value, upon weighing the concerns of the residents and the district, Council adopted a budget utilizing $152,000 more from the Township’s surplus to help with the district’s shortfall. The now 3.8 cent municipal tax increase amounts to approximately $144 per year, per household.

“We are counting on the school district to use those funds to restore a full-time teaching position at the elementary level, as well as restoring courtesy bussing for Town Center East,” Council Vice President Mike Todd said. “This alteration of the initial budget proposal will have a direct and positive impact for all residents in our community and maximize the safety and educational opportunities for students.”

The $152,000 contribution from the Township allows the district to redirect funds previously earmarked for School Resource Officers (SROs) to other areas of need, specifically busing and teaching positions. 

The new proposed tax rate of 57.7 cents (from 57.6) is applied to every $100 of assessed value based on the current average assessed value of a home in Robbinsville, which is $379,400.  A penny in Robbinsville Township tax rate is worth $267,128.71. The total budget is $26,638,576.32.

Allentown, NJ, Woman Charged in Fraudulent Mortgage Scheme

Secured $840k home with bogus documents

June 8, 2023

BORDENTOWN CITY, NJ (BURLINGTON)–Burlington County Prosecutor LaChia L. Bradshaw and Bordentown City Police Chief Shaun Lafferty announced that an Allentown, New Jersey woman has been charged with providing fraudulent documents to obtain a mortgage, and attempting to use a fraudulent $76,000 check to cover the closing costs of the real estate transaction.

Sydne Phillips, 32, was charged with two counts of Theft by Deception (Second Degree), Identity Crime – Impersonation (Second Degree) and two counts of Forgery (Third Degree).

She was taken into custody June 1 and lodged in the Atlantic County Justice Facility in Mays Landing pending a detention hearing in Superior Court. The case will be prepared for presentation to a grand jury for possible indictment.

The investigation began in January after a representative of a Bordentown City title company approached police with a fraudulent check in the amount of $76,652.79 that had been provided at closing by Phillips.

The investigation, which is continuing, revealed that the check was part of a scheme that allowed Phillips to secure a mortgage on an $840,000 house on Cannonball Court in Allentown, (UPPER FREEHOLD TOWNSHIP) New Jersey. She is also accused of forging multiple documents, using the identity of a relative, providing fraudulent tax income forms for that relative, and providing fraudulent bank account statements. She was taken into custody at the residence she is accused of illegally obtaining.

The investigation was conducted by the Prosecutor’s Office and the Bordentown City Police Department, with assistance from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General and the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office. The lead investigators are BCPD Detective Justin Lewandowski and BCPO Detective Michele Ragone.

Phillips is being prosecuted by Assistant Prosecutor Assistant Prosecutor Andrew R. McDonnell, supervisor of the Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office Financial Crimes Unit.

All persons are considered innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.

Note: The Allentown mailing address provides service in parts of Upper Freehold Township.

Burlington Prosecutor’s Office Press Release

Sydne Phillips, 32, was charged with two counts of Theft by Deception (Second Degree), Identity Crime – Impersonation (Second Degree) and two counts of Forgery (Third Degree).

Trenton Drug-Trafficking Organization Leader Sentenced To 10+ Years In Prison

June 8, 2023

TRENTON, N.J. – A Mercer County, New Jersey, man was sentenced today to 130 months in prison for his role as the leader of a Trenton drug-trafficking organization responsible for the distribution of heroin in the Trenton area, U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger announced.

Robert M. Gbanapolor, 36, of Trenton, previously pleaded guilty by videoconference before U.S. District Judge Michael A. Shipp to a superseding indictment charging him with one count of conspiracy to distribute 100 grams or more of heroin; one count of possession with intent to distribute 100 grams or more of heroin; and one count of distribution and possession with intent to distribute a detectable amount of heroin.

According to documents filed in the case and statements made in court:

From June 2018 through May 2019, Gbanapolor and others engaged in a heroin trafficking conspiracy in the areas of Stuyvesant, Hoffman, and Highland avenues in Trenton, as well as in the area of Barbary Road in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Gbanapolor obtained regular bulk supplies of heroin from Duane Paulino-Escalera, whom Gbanapolor referred to as “Papi.” Gbanapolor, in turn, distributed this heroin for profit to other members of the drug-trafficking organization, who distributed the heroin in and around Trenton. Paulino-Escalera pleaded guilty in January 2020 and was sentenced on May 7, 2021, to five years in prison.

In addition to the prison term, Judge Shipp sentenced Gbanapolor to four years of supervised release.

U.S. Attorney Sellinger credited special agents of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, New Jersey Division, Camden Resident Office, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Cheryl Ortiz; and task force officers of the Trenton Police Department, under the direction of Police Director Steve Wilson, with the investigation leading to today’s sentencing. He also thanked detectives and officers of the Gloucester County Prosecutor’s Office, under the direction of Acting Prosecutor Christine A. Hoffman; detectives and officers of the Gloucester Township Police Department, under the direction of Chief David Harkins; members of the N.J. State Police, under the direction of Col. Patrick J. Callahan; detectives and officers of the Bordentown Township Police Department, under the direction of Chief Brian Pesce; and special agents of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Bryan Miller.

This case is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) operation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach. Additional information about the OCDETF Program can be found at:

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Eric A. Boden, Attorney in Charge of the Trenton Office, and Michelle Gasparian, Chief of the Organized Crime/Gangs Unit in Newark.


Defense counsel: Mark W. Catanzaro Esq., Mt. Holly, New Jersey

Seaside Heights Man Charged In Connection With DUI Collision In Wall

June 8, 2023

FREEHOLD – An Ocean County man has been arrested and criminally charged with being responsible for an alcohol-fueled motor-vehicle collision that left a woman and her son injured in Wall Township earlier this year, Monmouth County Prosecutor Raymond S. Santiago and Wall Township Police Chief Sean O’Halloran jointly announced Thursday. 

Kevin Christian, 41, of Seaside Heights is charged with second- and third-degree Aggravated Assault.

At approximately 8 p.m. on Friday, March 17, 2023, members of the Wall Township Police Department responded to a two-vehicle collision on State Highway 138 East, in the area of the on- and off-ramps for State Route 18. At that location, the officers encountered the two involved vehicles: a van driven by Christian and an SUV driven by a 44-year-old female resident of Toms River (Ocean County). Both drivers and the woman’s 9-year-old son, who had sustained a serious head injury, were then taken to a local hospital for medical treatment.

An investigation conducted by the Monmouth County Serious Collision Analysis Response Team (SCART), the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office Fatal Accident Investigation Unit, and the Wall Township Police Department revealed that Christian had been driving southbound on the Route 18 off-ramp onto Highway 138 eastbound when he lost control of his vehicle, careened across a grass median, and collided with the SUV. The investigation also determined that Christian’s blood-alcohol level was more than triple the legal limit at the time of the crash.

It was also discovered that Christian was operating the vehicle with a suspended license. In addition to the criminal charges against him, he was issued summonses for operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs, reckless driving, driving with a suspended license, delaying traffic, and failure to maintain a lane.

Christian was arrested by members of the Wall Township Police Department on Wednesday, June 7, with the assistance of members of the Neptune Township Police Department, and transported to the Monmouth County Correctional Institution (MCCI) pending a first appearance and detention hearing to take place in Monmouth County Superior Court.

This case is being prosecuted by Monmouth County Assistant Prosecutor Joseph Cummings of the Major Crimes Bureau.

Anyone who witnessed the collision or may have information pertaining to this matter is still being asked to contact MCPO Detective Brian Boryszewski at 800-671-4400 or Wall Township Police Department Capt. Chad Clark or Sgt. Andrew Baldino at 732-449-4500.  

Despite these charges, every defendant is presumed innocent, unless and until found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, following a trial at which the defendant has all the trial rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and New Jersey State Law.

Allentown’s Underground Railroad Station

Robbins Sisters – 30 South Main Street, Allentown, NJ

June 8, 2023

By Thomas K. Robbins

ALLENTOWN, NJ (MONMOUTH)–The Allentown Messenger article published on March 3rd 1904 described a “certain house on Main Street, not now in existence, was once a “station” of the “underground railroad” whose purpose was to house men, women, and children on their journey north to freedom in Canada. Those helping would bring the escapees to the house during the night and conceal them the following day until nightfall, when they moved to the next station. When they reached a village near Perth Amboy, they would board a steamboat to New York.

The article also recounts a story by a witness to these events when she was a child and states: “She had been spending the day at the house referred to, and about dark had the occasion to go to the cellar while rendering assistance to one of the ladies. Passing through a through a door in a partition, there was found a partly furnished room, and at a table were six negroes eating their supper. She little knew at the time that the people before her were fugitive slaves, and it was not till years afterward that she learned that what had then been seen was one of the methods of operating the so called ‘underground railroad’ in the days of African slavery.”

A Messenger Press article published in 1918 told of the family residing in this house.  Under the headline “Some Interesting Local History”, the article described the old house as occupied by a “a Quaker family by the name Robbins. Included in the household were several daughters, the last survivor Aunt Sallie, a “maiden lady.”  The sisters knitted clothes for the refugees, since they were wearing rags when they arrived.

We can pinpoint the house using the description of houses from an Allentown Messenger article published on February 4th, 1904 that details who lived along Main Street in the 1830s.  The article states: “The old frame gristmill stood a little to the north of the present mill, and Henry Ford’s brick dwelling was occupied by Louis Steward, one of the heirs of the mill property. Where now is Dr. Johnson’s home was an old red house where lived the family of Mrs. Letitia Steward. Next to that was a general store conducted by Stout and Flak, and then came the residences of Misses Robbins, on the site of the Worden building. William Imlay was occupying the old homestead, and his neighbor, Joseph Robbins, was in the tailor business in the old building next door.” The building currently located at 30 Main Street is the Worden building, also known as the Dr. Framer Annex, which was completed in 1872.  The Robbins Sisters’ house was demolished sometime prior to the Worden building being constructed.

An 1850 United States census record documents the occupants as William V. Robbins, Ruth Robbins, Sara Robbins, Beulah Robbins, and Lydia Ford.  Their neighbors toward the north were the Imlays and next to the Imlays were Joseph and Elizabeth Robbins.  Their neighbors toward the south were Mary Page who married to Timothy Page a descendant of Aaron Robins, son of Daniel Robins, Sr., the first settler by that name to the area.  Aaron had owned the plantation immediately north of Allentown in 1706 and his granddaughter, Margert, married Joseph Page, Timothy’s father. 

William, Ruth and Sarah were the children of Vanroom Robbins and Tabitha Ford.  Vanroom, a descendant of Benjamin Robbins, brother to Aaron, had eleven children including William, Ruth, Lydia, Sarah, Patience, Hannah, Mary, Elizabeth, Ann, Benjamin, and Vanroom, Jr. 

Hannah married John Dickson; Patience married Nathaniel Cafferty; and Mary married William Rogers. The maiden sisters were Ruth, and Sarah, plus Lydia, Elizabeth, and Ann who passed away prior to 1850.  Lydia died in 1849; Elizabeth in 1848 and Ann in 1839.  They are interred in the Crosswicks Methodist Cemetery at Crosswicks. Whether they were all involved with the station remains a mystery but the Aunt Sallie mentioned in the article could have been Sarah since Sallie is a nickname for Sarah.

Many articles had mentioned the sisters but only the 1918 article identifies one of the sisters.  The witness to this fact is unknown, but future research may someday identify her.

Photos and images provided:

Wildfire Smoke Continues To Blanket The Area

NJDEP Issues Unhealthy Air Alert Though Friday 11:59 p.m.

June 8, 2023

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–Smoke from Canadian wildfires that has created some apocalyptic looking skies the past few days, continues to blanket the area and is expected to continue through Friday.

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection has issued Air Quality Action Day for Thursday, June 8, 2023, and is being upgraded to the Unhealthy category statewide. In addition, this alert has been extended to Friday, June 9th at 11:59 pm.

The National Weather Service in Mount Holly reported the highest concentrations of smoke should be dissipating through the morning hours and into the afternoon across the region. However late this evening, we anticipate the haze and smoke to become more dense.

The Federal Aviation Administration reported reduced visibility from wildfire smoke will continue to impact air travel today. We will likely need to take steps to manage the flow of traffic safely into New York City, DC, Philadelphia and Charlotte.

METAR Data for the following as of 12:00 Eastern Time:

Newark Liberty Airport KEWR: 2.5 Miles visibility smoke, haze, broken clouds.

Trenton Mercer Airport KTTN: 3 Miles visibility haze and clear sky.

North East Philadelphia Airport KPNE: 4 Miles visibility, haze and clear sky.

McGuire Air Force Base KWRI: 3 Miles visibility haze and broken clouds.

Philadelphia International Airport KPHL: 3 Miles visibility haze and scattered clouds.

Atlantic City International Airport KACY: 2.5 Miles visibility and haze

The Air Quality Action Day for Thursday, June 8th is being upgraded to the Unhealthy category statewide. In addition, this alert has been extended to Friday, June 9th at 11:59 pm.  

Wildfire smoke creates tiny particles in the air that can be harmful to your health. Levels of these tiny particles will remain in the unhealthy category through the daytime hours today due to the wildfire smoke from eastern Canadian wildfires. As the weather pattern shifts, the smoke plume is forecast to slowly begin to dissipate, however fine particle concentrations are still expected to remain elevated in the unhealthy for sensitive groups (USG) category through the evening on Friday night. 

What does this mean?
Some members of the general public may experience health effects, while members of sensitive groups, including those with heart or lung disease, the elderly, and the young, may experience more serious health effects. All individuals should limit strenuous activities and the amount of time active outdoors especially in the evening hours. In addition, ozone is forecast to reach the low moderate category as sunny skies, light winds, and warm temperatures are forecast for the Garden State.

See resources on how to protect yourself on poor air quality days below:

Should any new developments occur, the forecast on will be updated accordingly. recursos en Español.

If you have to travel and need a mask, New Jersey Transit is offering courtesy N95 masks at Customer Service offices in Newark Penn Station, Hoboken, Secaucus, Trenton, Camden & Atlantic City (Bus & Rail Terminals).

Statement from Attorney General Platkin, Ocean County Prosecutor Billhimer on Suspected Bias Incident in Manchester

June 7, 2023

MANCHESTER, NJ (OCEAN)–Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin and Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley D. Billhimer today announced an ongoing investigation after several residential properties were spray-painted with swastikas and a suspicious house fire ignited in Manchester Township in a suspected bias incident on Tuesday.

The New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice, the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Major Crime Unit, Arson Squad, and Bias Crime Units, and the Manchester Township Police Department are working cooperatively on the joint investigation into that incident. One suspect has been taken into custody. That individual’s name is not being released at this time.

Random acts of hate designed to instill fear and to violate New Jerseyans’ sense of security and belonging, solely based on who they are and what they believe in, will be dealt with swiftly and harshly by law enforcement. Those who feel entitled to trample on their neighbors’ rights to live in peace and exercise their constitutional freedoms will not find a safe haven in New Jersey.

Multiple law enforcement agencies are collaborating in the ongoing investigation into these crimes, which resulted in several instances of vandalism and property damage around Manchester Township. We want to express our gratitude to the diligent and dedicated staff of the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice, the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office and the Manchester Township Police Department, who are working hard to resolve this case.

The investigation is ongoing and no further information is being released at this time.

Jackson Wildfire 100% Contained

June 7, 2023

JACKSON, NJ (OCEAN)–The New Jersey Forrest Fire Service reports that the Glory Wildfire – East Commodore Blvd – Jackson Twp, Ocean County At 3:00 pm Wed, June 7, the New Jersey Forest Fire Service reached 100% containment of a 82-acre wildland-urban interface wildfire in the area of E Commodore Blvd and Cedar Swamp Rd in Jackson Twp.

Photos Jersey Shore Fire Response

DUI Added To List Of Charges Issued To Woman In Hit-And-Run Crash That Injured Robbinsville Police Officer

June 7, 2023

ROBBINSVILLE, NJ (MERCER)–The Mercer County Prosecutor’s Officer and the Robbinsville Police Department confirmed on June 7, 2023, that Rachel Glatt, 52, of East Windsor, has been charged with DUI After the Fact in the April 22, 2023, hit-and-run accident that injured Robbinsville Township Police Officer Connor Boyle and a motorist near Voelbel Road on Route 130.

“(Glatt) was charged with DUI as it related to this incident and the matter is being further investigated and reviewed for all appropriate charges to be presented to the grand jury,” a MCPO official confirmed.

According to the original RTPD press release, Glatt was criminally charged with 2nd Degree Aggravated Assault on a Police Officer and 4th Degree Assault by Auto. In addition, Glatt was charged with:

* Reckless Driving

* Careless Driving

* Failure to maintain a lane

* Failure to change lanes for an emergency vehicle

* Failure to report a motor vehicle crash and …

* Leaving the scene of a motor vehicle accident involving personal injury

Glatt allegedly veered into the emergency lane/shoulder on the southbound side of Route 130, struck Officer Boyle and another man as well as his vehicle with her 2020 Volkswagen Passat and then fled the scene. Robbinsville Police detectives quickly located the vehicle at Ms. Glatt’s East Windsor residence.

Officer Boyle is still recovering from his injuries, but is expected to make a full and complete recovery.

Robbinsville Township Police Officer Connor Boyle

New Jersey Statute 39:4-92.2

Procedure for motorist approaching certain stationary vehicle.

1. a. The operator of a motor vehicle approaching a stationary authorized emergency vehicle as defined in R.S.39:1-1 that is displaying a flashing, blinking or alternating red or blue light or, any configuration of lights containing one of these colors, shall approach the authorized emergency vehicle with due caution and shall, absent any other direction by a law enforcement officer, proceed as follows:

(1) Make a lane change into a lane not adjacent to the authorized emergency vehicle if possible in the existing safety and traffic conditions; or

(2) If a lane change pursuant to paragraph (1) of subsection a. of this section would be impossible, prohibited by law or unsafe, reduce the speed of the motor vehicle to a reasonable and proper speed for the existing road and traffic conditions, which speed shall be less than the posted speed limit, and be prepared to stop.

b. The operator of a motor vehicle approaching a stationary tow truck as defined in section 1 of P.L.1999, c.396 (C.39:3-84.6) that is displaying a flashing amber light, a stationary highway maintenance or emergency service vehicle that is operated by the State, an authority or a county or municipality and displaying flashing yellow, amber, or red lights, or a stationary sanitation vehicle displaying a flashing amber warning light pursuant to section 1 of P.L.2011, c.3 (C.39:3-54.27) shall approach the vehicle with due caution and shall, absent any other direction by a law enforcement officer, proceed as follows:

(1) Make a lane change into a lane not adjacent to the tow truck, highway maintenance or emergency service vehicle, or sanitation vehicle if possible in the existing safety and traffic conditions; or

(2) If a lane change under paragraph (1) of subsection b. of this section would be impossible, prohibited by law or unsafe, reduce the speed of the motor vehicle to a reasonable and proper speed for the existing road and traffic conditions, which speed shall be less than the posted speed limit, and be prepared to stop.

c. A violation of this section shall be punished by a fine of not less than $100 and not more than $500.

L. 2017, c.43, s.1.

Apocalyptic Skies Over New Jersey Caused By Canadian Wildfire Smoke

June 7, 2023

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–Wildfire smoke continues to blanket the region causing unhealthy air and apocalyptic skies. Earlier this morning there was a light haze and by midafternoon heavier plumes of wildfire smoke drifting down from Canada decreased visability and created orange skies. Several schools reportedly held children indoors for recess and the New Jersey State Government closed early for the day due to the increasing smoke condition in the area. The public library in South Brunswick closed early due to the smoke.

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection has declared an Air Quality Action Day for Particulate Matter for Wednesday, June 7. Levels of fine particulates will rise into the unhealthy range for sensitive groups statewide today and potentially extend into the evening hours due to wildfire smoke transport from the Canadian wildfires. Governor Phil Murphy released the following statement in response to today’s air quality in New Jersey: 

“My team is in close coordination with the State Department of Environmental Protection as we vigilantly monitor the effects of the Canadian wildfires on air quality in our state. As conditions worsen statewide, I strongly urge all sensitive individuals – including those with heart or lung disease, the elderly, and the young – to stay safe and limit strenuous activities and the amount of time active outdoors today. Make no mistake, from the wildfires in Canada to those cropping up with increasing frequency and severity in our own backyard, these extreme weather events are tangible – and devastating – evidence of the intensifying climate crisis. As the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s Forest Fire Service works tirelessly to protect our residents and properties across the state, we will continue to do our own part by pursuing the bold action our climate reality demands.” — Govenor Phil Murphy

ALERT – Township Offices CLOSED Thursday Due to the Hazardous Air Quality

All South Brunswick Township Offices will be closed on Thursday due to the poor air quality from the smoke in our region. The National Weather Service anticipates the air quality will be very poor due to the smoke and haze from wildfires in Canada. It is recommended that you limit time and any exertion outdoors. 

CLOSED Thursday, June 8, 2023

  • Township Municipal Building
  • South Brunswick Municipal Court
  • South Brunswick Senior Center
  • South Brunswick Recreation Center’
  • South Brunswick Library

The South Brunswick Office of Emergency Management will continue to monitor the ongoing situation with our county and state partners. Preliminary indications are that weather conditions will improve on Friday which will allow the smoke to clear our area.

I-195 in Robbinsville/Hamilton area at dusk.

The New Jersey Turnpike in the area of Mile Post 63 in Robbinsville, NJ just north of Exit 7A

Hamilton Marketplace

Route 33 in Robbinsville tonight at dusk.

South Brunswick Police reported:

We continue to monitor the impact of the Canadian wildfires on our community. We anticipate the smoke to impact us for the next day. Here are some safety guidelines – 

  • Sensitive populations (which includes the elderly, infants and young children, people with lung diseases such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema or chronic bronchitis) should remain indoors
  • Individuals with asthma: Poor air quality may trigger asthma attacks. Individuals with respiratory diseases: Follow the physician’s recommendations and respiratory management plan.
  • People in general should avoid strenuous activities and limit the amount of time they are active outdoors.
  • The most effective way to prevent breathing harmful particles from wildfire smoke is to stay indoors with windows and doors closed.
  • If an air conditioner is available, run it while keeping the fresh-air intake closed and the filter clean to prevent outdoor smoke from getting inside.
  • Do not vacuum, because vacuuming stirs up particles already inside your home.
  • Do not smoke tobacco or other products, because smoking puts even more pollution into the air.

Do not rely on dust masks for protection. Paper “comfort” or “dust” masks commonly found at hardware stores trap large particles, such as sawdust. These masks will not protect your lungs from smoke. /

Heavy smoke blankets New Jersey this afternoon and evening. Heavy smoke in the area of the New Jersey Turnpike at Exit 7A in Robbinsville, New Jersey.

Around 1:30 p.m., about the time these photos were taken McGuire Airforce Base – KWRI METAR (Meteorological Aerodrome Reports) data indicated 5-miles of visibility with broken clouds. An hour and half later the visibility dropped to below 3 miles visibility with haze. Visibility continues to decline as a heavy plume of smoke blankets the region.

At 4:00 p.m. the time of this report the McGuire Airforce Base was reporting 1.5 miles of visibility.

At 4:00 p.m. Trenton Mercer Airport KTTN METAR data is reporting 3/4-mile visibility with overcast skies.

At 4:00 p.m. KEWR Newark Liberty International Airport is reporting 1/2-mile visibility, smoke and haze.

At 4:00 p.m. KBLM Farmingdale Airport is reporting one mile visibility and haze.

At 4:00 p.m. KPHL Philidelphia International Airport reporting 2-mile visibility with smoke and haze.

Yesterday’s story on the hazy, smoky skies:

National Weather Service Mount Holly NJ
349 PM EDT Wed Jun 7 2023

Coastal waters from Sandy Hook to Manasquan Inlet NJ out 20 nm-
Coastal waters from Manasquan Inlet to Little Egg Inlet NJ out
20 nm-
349 PM EDT Wed Jun 7 2023


* WHAT...Dense smoke will reduce visibility to 1 NM or less.

* WHERE...Coastal waters from Sandy Hook to Little Egg Inlet NJ
  out 20 nm.

* WHEN...Until 10 PM EDT this evening.

* IMPACTS...Low visibility will make navigation difficult.

* ADDITIONAL DETAILS...The Air Quality Index for Wednesday for
  New Jersey is code level RED...which is unhealthy for sensitive
  groups...and means groups may experience health problems due to
  air pollution.


If you must navigate, proceed with caution. Use proper fog
signals. Make sure all running lights are on. Remember to use
your radar and compass.

Recovery Centers of America Recognizes June as `Rebuild Your Life Month’ with Tips for Continuing Addiction Recovery

June 7, 2023

Recovery Centers of America (RCA), a healthcare network of substance use disorder treatment facilities on the East Coast and in the Midwest, today celebrates the month of June as “Rebuild Your Life Month,” offering tips to allow those in recovery to successfully rebuild their lives and find purpose after addiction.

In 2020, the most recent year in which data was collected by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 40.3 million people aged 12 or older (or 14.5% of people in the U.S.) had a substance use disorder (SUD), including 28.3 million who had alcohol use disorder (AUD), 18.4 million who had an illicit drug use disorder, and 6.5 million people who had both AUD and an illicit drug use disorder.

Addiction can take a toll on every aspect of a person’s life, damaging relationships, hindering career prospects, causing financial and legal problems, and impacting physical, emotional and mental health. Drugs and alcohol rewire the brain in ways that make quitting difficult.

“Evidence-based treatment centers represent an important first step in recovery for so many people as they begin their life after active addiction,” said RCA Chief Executive Officer J. Brian O’Neill. “Effective treatment means not only caring for patients when they are in treatment, but setting them up with the tools for lifetime success. Recovery Centers of America is excited to highlight that effort throughout the month of June.”

Now is a perfect time for those beginning recovery to reflect on the challenges they’ve faced as well as the opportunities ahead. It’s a time to find purpose and meaning in life – essential elements of fulfillment. Data suggests we all likely know someone with an SUD or AUD. Here are some tips that may help them find their purpose and maintain their hard-won sobriety:

Set goals: Setting goals can help you focus on what you want to achieve in your new life in recovery. These can be small goals, such as attending a meeting every week or exercising regularly, or bigger goals, like going back to school or starting a new career.

Explore passions: Addiction can dominate life, leaving little room for hobbies or passions. Now is the time to explore what you truly enjoy doing. Consider taking up a new hobby or revisiting an old one.

Build a support system: It’s essential to have a strong support system in place as you navigate your recovery. This can include family, friends and 12-step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous, which provide a sense of community and understanding as you connect with others who have gone through similar experiences.

Practice gratitude: It’s vital to be grateful for what you have in life, no matter how small. This minimal but important mindset change can help you find meaning and purpose in your life.

Focus on the present: Addiction can make you focus on the past or worry about the future. It’s important to focus on the present moment and appreciate what you have.

Seek professional help: Professional help provides a safe space and necessary tools to address the underlying issues that led to addiction in the first place. It can also help you develop healthy coping mechanisms to manage stress, triggers and other challenges with addiction recovery.

Consider family therapy: In addition to individual therapy, family therapy can be beneficial for mending ties and rebuilding relationships that may have been damaged during the addiction. Remember, your loved ones can be an important source of motivation and purpose as you continue your recovery journey.

Leave old friends and activities behind: This is a hard one, but people, places and activities that were part of your past life can trigger your desire to return to substance use. It’s best to avoid them altogether and instead seek new friendships with people who support your sobriety and understand your journey.

Adopt a healthy lifestyle: Establish a healthy routine that prioritizes self-care and healthy habits. This includes regular exercise, eating a healthy and balanced diet, getting enough sleep, and staying sober. It’s also important to find healthy ways to cope with stress and emotions, such as mindfulness meditation, yoga or deep breathing exercises.

Recovery won’t happen overnight and there may be setbacks. However, with a strong support system, a positive outlook, and a willingness to explore new possibilities, people with SUDs can lead deeply fulfilling lives in recovery.

RCA offers individualized treatment programs to help those with SUDs find lasting sobriety. If you or your loved one are struggling with drug or alcohol addiction and need help, the staff at Recovery Centers of America is available 24/7. Call 1-844-5-RCA-NOW (844-722-2669) for help today.

About Recovery Centers of America
Recovery Centers of America is dedicated to helping patients achieve a life of recovery through evidence-based alcohol and drug addiction treatment, as well as treatment for mental health disorders. RCA has 10 inpatient facilities in Earleville and Waldorf (near Washington D.C.), Maryland, Danvers and Westminster, Massachusetts; Devon (near Philadelphia), and Monroeville (near Pittsburgh), Pennsylvania; South Amboy and Mays Landing, NJ; St. Charles, Illinois (outside of Chicago), and Indianapolis, Indiana. An 11th center is scheduled to open in late summer in Greenville, SC. A full spectrum of outpatient treatment is also provided at many of these facilities. Patients can obtain immediate substance use disorder care by calling 1-844-5-RCA-NOW (844-722-2669) with complimentary transportation provided in most cases. For the third year, RCA is recognized as having multiple sites atop Newsweek’s 2022 America’s Best Addiction Centers rankings for excellence.

Massage Therapist Charged With Criminal Sexual Contact And Sexual Assault

June 7, 2023

WALL TOWNSHIP, NJ (MONMOUTH)–On June 6, 2023, the Wall Township Police Department charged Stefan J. Barnes Jr., 31-years-old, of Manchester, with criminal sexual contact and sexual assault following an investigation of an incident that took place on Tuesday, May 23, 2023, at Massage Heights located at 2157 State Highway 35 in Wall Township.

            On May 23, 2023, Patrolman David Smithman, interviewed a 23-year-old woman at Wall Township Police Headquarters, who stated that earlier in the evening she had attended a massage session at Massage Heights and that Mr. Barnes, who is employed there, was her massage therapist.  During the massage, Barnes allegedly touched her inappropriately in the groin area on two separate occasions during the session.

            The investigation conducted by Wall Township Police Department’s Patrolman David Smithman and Detective Shane Roland led to the arrest of Mr. Barnes on Tuesday, June 6, 2023.  Barnes was taken into custody without incident and was later transported to Monmouth County Correctional Institution.

            The Wall Township Police Department is encouraging anyone who may have been victimized by Stefan J. Barnes Jr. to call Detective Shane Roland directly at: (732) 449-4500 ext. 1190.

Despite these charges, every defendant is presumed innocent, unless and until found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, following a trial at which the defendant has all the trial rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and New Jersey State Law.

30 Structures Threatened By Wildfire In Jackson, NJ

June 6, 2023

JACKSON, NJ (OCEAN)–The New Jersey Forrest Fire Service reports:

WILDFIRE UPDATE: East Commodore Boulevard – Jackson Twp., Ocean County

The New Jersey Forest Fire Service remains on scene of a wildland-urban interface wildfire burning in the area of East Commodore Boulevard and Cedar Swamp Road in Jackson Twp., Ocean County.

The wildfire is 50 acres in size and is 0% contained.

Forest Fire Service crews are utilizing a backfiring operation to protect surrounding homes and burn fuel ahead of the main body of fire. This operation will be ongoing throughout the night.

The Forest Fire Service hopes to contain the fire between East Commodore Boulevard, Cedar Swamp Road and Jackson Mills Road.

⚠️ Exit 21 on Interstate 195 is closed
⚠️ East Commodore Boulevard is closed between Cedar Swamp Road and Jackson Mills Road
⚠️ Cedar Swamp Road is closed between East Commodore Road and Jackson Mills Road
⚠️ Jackson Mills Road is closed between East Commodore Road and Cedar Swamp Road

Please avoid the area.

⚠️ 30 structures are threatened – structure protection is being provided by local fire companies.

There are no mandatory evacuations at this time.

Smoke From Quebec, Canada Creates Hazy, Smoky Skies In New Jersey

June 6, 2023

MOUNT HOLLY, NJ — The National Weather Service Philadelphia Mount Holly reported hazy, smoky skies across the Northeast today that are having impacts on air quality. But where did all of this thick, heavy smoke come from? Raging wildfires in Quebec, Canada are generating large smoke plumes to the north and ALL of the smoke is being funneled right into the Northeast thanks to steering currents from a stationary low off the coast of Maine and a strong high over the Great Lakes and Ontario. Additional smoke and haze is expected to arrive around sunset tonight and continue into the day tomorrow, bringing air quality concerns along with it.

McGuire Airforce Base – KWRI METAR (Meteorological Aerodrome Reports) data indicated 3 miles visibility CLR with haze late this afternoon. Since that report the visibility has increased to 5 miles with haze and broken clouds tonight. Haze could be seen throughout the area and with a smell of smoke. Trenton Mercer Airport KTTN reports 3 miles visibility and overcast skies tonight.

Photos from the Allentown – Upper Freehold Township areas showing hazy smoky skies.

Here is a look at the current surface visibility restrictions due to the Canadian wildfire smoke across the area. The smoke and haze should slowly improve overnight, however an additional plume of smoke is expected to arrive Wednesday afternoon and evening

Haze and smoke will continue tonight through Wednesday. Temps will be near normal. Some isolated showers and thunderstorms are possible to the north Wed afternoon, but most areas will remain dry.

For air quality in your area, check

Six New Jersey Schools Recognized For Innovative Climate Action Projects

Area high school and middle school students showcase their approach to address the ongoing impacts of climate change

June 6, 2023

TRENTON, NJ – Atlantic City Electric, Exelon, the Drumthwacket Foundation, and Sustainable Jersey honored six student teams for their NJ Student Climate Challenge action projects, which offer innovative approaches to help address the ongoing issue of climate change. Student teams, from high schools and middle schools across New Jersey, were tasked with developing and executing a school or community-based climate action project and creating a digital story video to capture the approach and impacts of their climate project. Student team winners and their teacher mentors were recognized on June 5, 2023, at an awards ceremony hosted by the Drumthwacket Foundation with New Jersey First Lady Tammy Murphy.

“It is an honor to host and recognize the future leaders of our green economy at this year’s NJ Student Climate Challenge Action Project Awards,” said First Lady Tammy Murphy. “New Jersey is a proven leader in addressing our nation’s climate change crisis, having been the first state to incorporate climate change education across our K-12 learning standards. As we move closer to our goal of reaching 100 percent clean energy by 2035, I am relieved to know the climate literate leaders of tomorrow are being trained today here in New Jersey.”

The NJ Student Climate Challenge is a program, funded by Atlantic City Electric and its parent company, Exelon, that was created to foster the growing role young people are playing in addressing climate change. The initiative builds on New Jersey’s efforts to increase climate literacy among young people across the state, including its first-in-the-nation effort to incorporate climate change education across all K-12 state academic standards.

“The creativity and innovation these students have put into their project submissions shows just how passionate our youth are about addressing the impacts of climate change and creating a cleaner environment for future generations,” said Doug Mokoid, region president for Atlantic City Electric. “We created this program as a pathway for students to engage in climate education and have hands on opportunities to make a change in their community right now. The participants clearly demonstrated the bright future we have and should be applauded for their innovation and impact.”

High School Category Winners

  • First Place: Bug Power! Team from Princeton High School, Princeton Public Schools, Mercer County
  • Second Place: Planet-Over-Profit Team from South Plainfield High School, South Plainfield School District, Middlesex County
  • Third Place: Wall High School Environmental Team from Wall Township High School, Wall Township Public School District, Monmouth County

Middle School Category Winners

  • First Place: Climate Action and Sustainability (CAST) Team from Rosa International Middle School, Cherry Hill Public Schools, Camden County
  • Second Place: Carbon Catchers Team from Howell Township Middle School South, Howell Township Public Schools, Monmouth County
  • Third Place: Edson’s Engineers Team from Ocean Township Intermediate School, Ocean Township School District, Monmouth County

Winners were selected by a panel of judges that included educators and representatives from local non-profits, state agencies and the partner organizations. Winning schools received a grant to support their climate education initiatives.

The NJ Student Climate Challenge was open to New Jersey public schools with students in grades 6-12 across the state. Middle and high school students are encouraged to identify and complete a school or community project to address a cause or impact of climate change. The students then create a short digital story video to highlight what they accomplished. Students participate through their respective schools. There is no cost to schools or students to participate.

First Place: Bug Power! Team from Princeton High School, Princeton Public Schools, Mercer County

Second Place: Planet-Over-Profit Team from South Plainfield High School, South Plainfield School District, Middlesex County

Third Place: Wall High School Environmental Team from Wall Township High School, Wall Township Public School District, Monmouth County

First Place: Climate Action and Sustainability (CAST) Team from Rosa International Middle School, Cherry Hill Public Schools, Camden County

Second Place: Carbon Catchers Team from Howell Township Middle School South, Howell Township Public Schools, Monmouth County

Third Place: Edson’s Engineers Team from Ocean Township Intermediate School, Ocean Township School District, Monmouth County

Brick, NJ, Youth Wrestling Coach-Referee Pleads Guilty To Distribution Of Child Pornography

June 6, 2023

TRENTON, N.J. – An Ocean County, New Jersey, man today admitted distributing child pornography, U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger announced.

Alec Donovan, 26, of Brick, New Jersey, a youth wrestling coach and referee, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Zahid N. Quraishi in Trenton federal court to an information charging him with one count of distribution of child pornography.

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

From January 2021 through March 2021, Donovan used an internet-based application to exchange multiple images and videos of child sexual abuse, including depictions involving pre-pubescent children. Donovan also used the web-based messaging application to solicit and engage in conversations with minors, including requesting nude photographs from the minors and sending nude photographs to them.

The charge of distribution of child pornography carries a mandatory minimum penalty of five years in prison, a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison, and a $250,000 fine. Sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 10, 2023.

U.S. Attorney Sellinger credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge James E. Dennehy in Newark, with the investigation leading to today’s guilty plea.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jessica R. Ecker of the General Crimes Unit in Newark.


Defense counsel: Nikole Pezzullo Esq., Freehold, New Jersey

Inmate At Monmouth County Correctional Institution Admits To Providing Drugs That Caused Fatal Overdose

June 6, 2023

FREEHOLD – An inmate at the Monmouth County Correctional Institution (MCCI) has admitted to providing a fellow inmate with the drugs that caused the overdose that killed him, Monmouth County Prosecutor Raymond S. Santiago announced Tuesday.

Appearing before Monmouth County Superior Court Judge Chad N. Cagan last Friday, Alvino Hinton, 48, of Long Branch pleaded guilty to a single count of Strict Liability for a Drug-Induced Death.

At approximately 9:05 a.m. on Sunday, April 17, 2022, MCCI officers found 31-year-old David Egner of Toms River non-responsive on the floor of his cell. First aid was immediately rendered and Egner was rushed to a local hospital for treatment, where he was diagnosed as suffering from heroin/fentanyl poisoning. He was pronounced deceased at the hospital several days later.

A cooperative investigation led by MCPO Detective Brian Hammarstrom and also involving members of the MCPO Major Crimes Bureau and Professional Responsibility and Bias Crime Unit, along with the MCCI Special Investigations Division, revealed that earlier on the same morning he was found unresponsive, Egner had entered Hinton’s cell to deliver a tray of food. At that time, Hinton admitted during his plea hearing, he provided Egner with a quantity of heroin laced with fentanyl. Hinton was formally charged in August 2022.

This case is being prosecuted by Monmouth County Assistant Prosecutor Lisa Commentucci. Hinton is being represented by Paul E. Zager, Esq., with an office in Freehold.

Sentencing in the case has been tentatively scheduled for Friday, August 11, at which time Hinton is expected to face a term of 10 years in state prison, with at least 85 percent of the term to be served prior to the possibility of parole under the provisions of New Jersey’s No Early Release Act (NERA).

Burger 25 Opens Second Location In Ship Bottom On Long Beach Island

June 6, 2023

SHIP BOTTOM, NJ (OCEAN)–Burger 25 of Toms River, known for their quality food, coveted milkshakes, and creative “collabs”, is expanding their beloved brand this week when they open their second location in Ship Bottom on LBI on Thursday located at 1915 Long Beach Boulevard.

The Vetter family opened Burger 25 in Toms River nearly a decade ago and it has truly been a family affair from the start. Denise and Steve Vetter, along with their children Alexis and Aidan, continue to break barriers in the industry as they offer, not only delicious, fresh food, but a cheerful staff and an entertaining atmosphere that has become the go-to place for a great meal with family and friends. From their #1 Classic Cheeseburger, to a fan-favorite #22 Reef and Beef, no one is left out. Diners only job is to pick their favorite! The fun doesn’t stop there. They have salad and bowl options, and even feature hidden menu items from time to time. Their seasoned boardwalk fries have choices too – pair them with their famous homemade garlic ranch dipping sauce, or leave it all on the table with the Philly, Jersey, Disco, Monster, or Nashville Hot Fries, you will not be disappointed!

Owner Denise Vetter often jokes that she’s just a girl with a little burger business, but that couldn’t be further from the truth! “Building a brand was not initially a dream of ours. But when my husband started to lose his hearing, and worried that he would no longer be able to work in the mortgage business, we needed a Plan B; so we bought a little burger joint. We’ve come a long way from that first building. It may not have been in our plans, but it sure has become our passion!” Denise said.

When we asked owner Steve, why LBI?, he replied, “We love the beach town, with the different mom- and-pop shops and people walking around. It’s a place to escape to, a different vibe.” The location is prime for visitors entering the island. It has a walk-up shake window and plenty of parking, which is rare for beach communities. Burger 25 is well known for partnering with local businesses, and their LBI location will be no different within the island community. The June Burger of the Month features an Angus beef burger, with bacon, egg, and cheese, on an Ob-Co’s glazed donut. In their Ship Bottom location, they are going to be doing the same burger and collaborating with Ferrara’s Island Bakery.

Getting ready to open for the season was no small task, but the Vetter family and their contractors worked almost around the clock to get it done before the season officially begins. Later this month, the Vetter’s will host a grand opening when their daughter Alexis, and new son-in-law Robert Wasilick, return from their honeymoon. [Last weekend was their wedding, and early the following morning they left North Jersey and headed straight to LBI to put the final touches on and prepare to open.] When friends recommended they take a break, Denise replied, “There is no time for breaks. We are going all in!”

For months, residents and visitors on the island have been stopping by with excitement, anticipating the opening. “Every day we have about a dozen people come to the doors to see if we are open yet?” “We are so excited for this Thursday when we can say – Yes we are!” Denise said.

The new Burger 25 will be open 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. seven days a week in the summer months with the possibility of late-night hours. They plan to be open year-round.

Join them on Thursday, June 8th, as they officially open their doors.

A few photos sent in from a customer on opening day for the LBI location on June 8, 2023

2 Locations

Toms River

199 NJ-37 East

Toms River, NJ 08753 (732) 270-0025


1915 Long Beach Blvd Ship Bottom, NJ 08008 (609) 661-2525

52-Foot Viking Sinks After Colliding With Townsend’s Inlet Bridge

June 6, 2023

SEA ISLE CITY, NJ — The U.S. Coast Guard Reports a 52-foot Viking Sky Bridge is shown after colliding with the Townsend’s Inlet Bridge causing it to sink in the Townsend’s Inlet June 6, 2023. The vessel had moored back up after the collision and all persons were safe without injury.

No other information is available at this time.

(U.S. Coast Guard photos)

Bill Increasing Penalties For Attacking Law Enforcement Officers Clears Committee

June 5, 2023

TRENTON, N.J. – Assaults on New Jersey law enforcement officers have spiked in recent years. To deter would-be assailants, many of whom are already behind bars, Assemblyman Alex Sauickie says penalties must increase. On Monday, the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee cleared his bill (A4697) that would stiffen penalties for those assaults.
Under the proposed legislation, anyone accused of assaulting a law enforcement officer would be charged with a second-degree crime, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and fined up to $150,000. The legislation bars pleas to lesser charges.
Currently, such assaults that result in bodily harm to officers are third-degree crimes that carry five-year maximum sentences and $15,000 fines. Assaults where no bodily harm results are fourth-degree crimes, with fines of $10,000 and 18-month prison sentences.
Additionally, the bill requires those using body fluids to attack officers must submit to communicable disease testing. Assault victims would have access to those results.
“Not only have attacks on law enforcement officers been increasing, attackers have been resorting to spitting, biting, and other depraved actions that put these men and women at risk for disease,” Sauickie (R-Ocean) said. “Would-be attackers need to know that such violence will not be tolerated.”
Officials from both the State Troopers Fraternal Association and New Jersey Policemen’s Benevolent Association Local 105, which represent state troopers and corrections officers respectively, said assaults have increased exponentially over the last several years. The Department of Corrections reported in 2022 attacks on personnel jumped from 200 the previous year to 424. Nearly half of those involved body fluids. More than 10% of its 4,500-member workforce was out on leave due to assaults last year.
The bill covers attacks on Department of Corrections employees, county correctional police officers, juvenile correctional police officers, state juvenile facility employees, juvenile detention staff, probation officers, sheriffs, undersheriffs or sheriff’s officers, and any municipal, county, or state law enforcement officers.
“Law enforcement workers are exposed to dangers most of us can’t even imagine simply because of their line of work,” Sauickie said. “They are targets for vile attacks because of who they are and what they do. They need to know that justice will be sought if they are attacked on the job.”

Burlington Twp. Man Sentenced To 22-Years In State Prison For Starting Fatal Fire in Pemberton

June 5, 2023

Burlington County Prosecutor LaChia L. Bradshaw announced that a 23-year-old Burlington Township man was sentenced today to 22 years in state prison for starting a fire at a Pemberton Borough apartment complex last year that killed a man who lived there.

Newlin Evans IV, who pled guilty in January to Aggravated Manslaughter (First Degree), must serve 85 percent of the sentence before becoming eligible for parole. The sentence was handed down in Superior Court in Mount Holly by the Hon. Terrence R. Cook, P.J.Cr., in accordance with a plea agreement between the defendant and the Prosecutor’s Office.

The investigation began after emergency officials were dispatched to a fire at the Tara Hall Apartment Complex in the first block of Egbert Street during the early morning hours of April 20, 2022.

The investigation revealed that Evans cut the screen of a ground floor apartment, broke the window and threw material soaked in gasoline that he had lit on fire into the unit. The blaze killed 22-year-old Camryn Powell.

Evans, who suffered burns, fled the scene and ultimately was transported to Jefferson Hospital in Philadelphia for treatment. He was arrested upon being discharged in May 2022.

The investigation was conducted by the New Jersey State Police, with assistance from the Pemberton Borough Police Department, Mansfield Police Department, New Jersey State Fire Marshal’s Office, Burlington County Fire Marshal’s Office, Jefferson Hospital Campus Security Department and the Philadelphia Police Department.

Evans was prosecuted by Assistant Prosecutor Andrew McDonnell, supervisor of the BCPO Financial Crimes Unit.

Former Gymnastics Coach Charged With Sexual Crimes Against Three Athletes

June 5, 2023

FREEHOLD – An Ocean County man who had worked as a youth gymnastics coach in several locations across Monmouth County for approximately 30 years has been arrested and criminally charged with committing sexual offenses against three of the athletes he coached while they were juveniles, Monmouth County Prosecutor Raymond S. Santiago announced Monday.

Sasha C. Raught, 55, of Manchester Township is charged with first-degree Aggravated Sexual Assault and three counts of second-degree Sexual Assault.

An investigation by members of the MCPO Special Victims Bureau revealed that Raught entered into sexual relationships with three of his former athletes when they were each teenagers. The first two alleged instances took place when he was employed at Shrewsbury Gymnastics during the early to mid-1990s, while the third instance took place in 2008, while he was employed at Jonas Gymnastics Academy in Marlboro.

Raught was arrested at his home without incident late last month by members of the Prosecutor’s Office and the Manchester and Shrewsbury Police Departments, then lodged in the Monmouth County Correctional Institution (MCCI) pending a detention hearing tentatively scheduled to take place on Wednesday, June 7 in Monmouth County Superior Court. The State has filed a motion to keep Raught detained as the criminal case against him proceeds.

Anyone with information about Raught’s activities is urged to contact MCPO Detective Joseph Pahopin toll-free at 1-800-533-7443. This case has been assigned to Monmouth County Assistant Prosecutor Keri-Leigh Schaefer.

Convictions on first-degree criminal charges can be punishable by terms of up to 20 years in state prison.

Despite these charges, every defendant is presumed innocent, unless and until found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, following a trial at which the defendants have all of the trial rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and State law.

Asbury Park Man Charged With Luring And Kidnapping 11-Year-Old Girl

June 5, 2023

FREEHOLD – An Asbury Park man has been arrested and criminally charged with luring and kidnapping an 11-year-old girl off the street last week, Monmouth County Prosecutor Raymond S. Santiago announced Monday.

Raquan M. Folk, 29, is charged with first-degree Kidnapping, second-degree Luring a Child, and third-degree Endangering the Welfare of a Child via Sexual Conduct.

At approximately 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 30, the victim was walking on Ridge Avenue in Asbury Park when a man later identified as Folk pulled up to her in a white Kia and convinced her to get inside, according to an investigation involving members of the MCPO Special Victims Bureau and the Asbury Park Police Department.

Folk then drove to neighboring Neptune Township, stopped the vehicle, and told the victim to disrobe, prompting her to ask to use a bathroom. When Folk then stopped at a vehicle service station, she ran, flagged down a passerby, and was taken to the Neptune Township Police Department.

Folk was taken into custody without incident on Thursday and transported to the Monmouth County Correctional Institution (MCCI) pending a detention hearing to take place in Monmouth County Superior Court. The State is filing a motion to keep him detained as the criminal case against him proceeds.

Anyone with information about this matter or Folk’s activities is urged to contact MCPO Detective Kayla Santiago at 800-533-7443. This case has been assigned to Monmouth County Assistant Prosecutor Keri-Leigh Schaefer.

Despite these charges, every defendant is presumed innocent, unless and until found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, following a trial at which the defendants have all of the trial rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and State law.  

Monmouth Crisis Intervention Named Program Of The Year At Statewide Conference

June 5, 2023

FREEHOLD – When the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office (MCPO), in conjunction with its mental health partners, launched its inaugural round of Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) Training in June 2021, it did so with the goal of turning it into a trusted blueprint for such programs statewide.

That ambition was officially realized late last month, when the Monmouth County CIT Training was named Program of the Year at the ninth annual New Jersey CIT Forum, held at the Middlesex County Fire Academy in Sayreville.

“This award represents validation of what those of us directly involved in CIT already know: this training is of vital importance, it works effectively, and its application literally saves lives,” Monmouth County Prosecutor Raymond S. Santiago said. “As more officers are trained, we continue to hear touching and encouraging stories about how just one week of training allowed them to intervene at among the lowest points in a person’s life, helping steer individuals in crisis to recovery.”

“The Monmouth County Board of County Commissioners is proud to be supportive of the Prosecutor’s Office providing this incredible training,” said Commissioner Director Thomas A. Arnone. “We commend the Prosecutor’s Office, and their partners, for their well-deserved recognition and winning this prestigious award.”

CIT training provides those enrolled with an in-depth look at mental illness, behavioral health, developmental disabilities, and their implications for a law-enforcement response during a crisis, with a strong emphasis on de-escalation.

The training is based on an innovative international model, with community mental healthcare and advocacy partnerships. Instructors for MCPO’s CIT training include behavioral and mental health professionals from Monmouth Medical Center, the Monmouth County Mental Health Board, the Monmouth County Mental Health Association, and CPC Behavioral Healthcare, as well as crisis resolution experts.

Police officers learn to apply the strategies they learn in real-life situations in order to minimize the potential for injury or violence. Mental and behavioral health practitioners also sit in as students in the class in order to build relationships with the police officers, and to better understand the issues they face while often serving as the initial responders to such calls for service.

MCPO’s CIT training is unique in that it also features a specially tailored curriculum with innovative approaches to crisis management, including FBI Negotiation and Threat Simulator components, a presentation on Faith & Blue (a police-chaplaincy partnership program), and training on recognition of signs of dementia. The CIT Training Steering Committee includes members of the Prosecutor’s Office, the Monmouth County Mental Health Association, CPC Behavioral Healthcare, the Middletown Police Department, Preferred Behavioral Health, and RWJBarnabas Behavioral Health.

The recent CIT Forum didn’t mark the first time individuals directly involved in MCPO CIT training were so honored. At last year’s Forum, Long Branch Police Department Detective Sergio Chaparro and local Peer Recovery Specialist Nikki Tierney accepted the New Jersey CIT Law Enforcement Officer of the Year and Peer of the Year awards, respectively, given for their joint work in saving a life in crisis in July 2021.

During the limited amount of downtime he had during MCPO’s first CIT session, launched under the leadership of then-acting Monmouth County Prosecutor Lori Linskey, Chaparro, then a Patrolman, struck up a conversation with Tierney, a certified crisis counselor whose work helping individuals afflicted by substance abuse overcome their addiction often took her through Long Branch. At the end of the week, they exchanged contact information, but little did either of them realize that what they had just learned would have vital real-life applicability just days later.

First responders found then-58-year-old Tim Bowles on a public bench in Long Branch, dehydrated, homeless, and barely responsive one weekday afternoon, in the midst of a brutal heat wave. Chaparro recognized Bowles’s name instantly – he had previously responded to several calls for service involving him, including multiple previous overdoses. With that in mind, he reached out to Tierney through dispatch and asked that she come meet him.

After a brief period of hesitancy, in barely an hour’s time after their arrival, Bowles was linked to housing, mental health, and substance use disorder support; Tierney said she attributed his change of heart in great part due to Chaparro’s initial response.

Similar stories of officers who had undergone CIT training later encountering individuals in crisis and connecting them to resources have since arisen out of Asbury Park, Hazlet, Holmdel, Keyport, and Spring Lake Heights, among other towns; anecdotes outlining these encounters are regularly posted to MCPO’s social-media feeds.

More than half of the various law-enforcement agencies in Monmouth County have had at least one CIT training participant to date.  

“We hosted our fifth round of CIT training at our office in Freehold the week before last, and we plan to continue with two training sessions annually for the foreseeable future,” said MCPO Director of Investigations Hoda Soliman, who also coordinates the CIT training in Monmouth County. “It’s a rare win-win-win: our police officers benefit, our community partners benefit, and the people they protect and serve benefit.”

East Windsor Township Recognizes “National Gun Violence Awareness Day”

June 5, 2023

EAST WINDSOR, NJ (MERCER)–Mayor Janice S. Mironov, and Council Members Marc Lippman, Denise Daniels, Peter Yeager and John Zoller, joined by members of Mercer County Moms Demand Action, issued a Mayoral Proclamation recognizing June 2 as “National Gun Violence Awareness Day,” to raise awareness about the impacts of gun violence and to encourage responsible gun ownership and use.  Mercer County Moms Demand Action is a grassroots movement seeking to raise awareness about the impacts of gun violence and keeping families safe.

Mayor Mironov stated, “Gun violence is a tragic reality nationwide, with more than 110 Americans killed each day.  ‘National Gun Violence Awareness Day’, is an opportunity to focus together to honor and remember all victims and survivors of gun violence and to recommit ourselves to doing all that we can to reduce the impacts of senseless gun violence in our community and in our nation.”  Mayor Mironov added, “Irregardless of anyone’s views, there are many things we all can agree on and do, such as using gun locks when storing weapons.” 

The Mayoral Proclamation issued by Mayor Mironov states, “Americans are 26 times more likely to die by gun homicide than people in higher-income nations.  New Jersey has the 44th highest rate of gun deaths in the United States with 475 gun deaths every year and a rate of 5.2 deaths per 100,000 people.  We renew our commitment to reduce gun violence and encourage responsible gun ownership to help keep all of our citizens and children safer.”

Mayor Janice S. Mironov and Council Members present Proclamation recognizing “National Gun Violence Awareness Day” to members of Mercer County Moms Demand Action.  Pictured (from left to right) are: Council Member John Zoller; Zoe McKeown;  Council Member Peter Yeager;  Graelynn McKeown;  Alan Dzubak;  Cheryl Dzubak;  Regina Quince;  Lamia Guarniere;  Mayor Janice Mironov;  Richard Bauman;  Judy Stober;  George Clark;  Pat Clerk;  Council Member Denise Daniels and Deputy Mayor Marc Lippman.

Department of Health & Local Organizations Join Together to Provide Homebound Services for Community Leader

June 5, 2023

NEPTUNE, NJ (MONMOUTH) When multiple sources refer to someone as a “pillar of the community,” you can safely assume that person is a beloved and trusted figure.

That’s Frances “Fran” Gray – a longtime Neptune resident and business owner. Fran is respected throughout the community – she organized scholarship programs and coat drives through her church, volunteered at the food pantry, and participated in the Neptune Lion’s Club. When prom season rolled around, Fran would always offer her hairstyling and makeup services for free to young women who couldn’t afford it. Perhaps most impressively, Fran had served as a foster mother to 34 children throughout the years, adopting six. Her adopted adult son Rashon has severe autism, and still lives with her.

So when Fran was diagnosed with cancer, it was a blow to her active, giving life, as well as the community that benefitted from it. She fought for decades to finally become cancer-free – only to learn that years of cancer treatments had destroyed her kidneys. Now, she endures hours of dialysis every week, and the woman who was so often out and about in the community she loved is often homebound.

“Dialysis totally keeps me from doing most things,” Fran says. “Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday I get dialysis at a clinic. A nurse comes on those days as well to remove excess fluid from my lungs.”

The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated Fran’s fears of going out when she felt up to it. “I was scared for both myself and Rashon,” she says. “I don’t know what I would have done if one of us had caught COVID; it would have been devastating. Everything can be life or death when you’re on dialysis.”

An Opportunity to Receive the COVID-19 Vaccine Safely

Fortunately, just like the connections that Fran had made with her community, the Monmouth County Department of Health was forging connections with local organizations to conduct a grassroots effort to offer the COVID vaccine to Monmouth County’s homebound residents.

“Fran called me, and I could hear the worry in her voice,” says Denise Richardson, Chief Clerk of the Monmouth County Health Department – and a longtime friend of Fran’s. Denise connected Fran to the Department’s Homebound Program, and at a time when it was difficult to schedule COVID boosters, members of the Monmouth County Health Department Medical Reserve Corps (MRC), a group of medical volunteers who help in times of surge capacities, were able to visit Fran at home to provide her with booster doses. They were even able to vaccinate Rashon as well.

“I’m so proud of the Department of Health,” Denise says. “My department was able to get this program started and took care of so many people – they have provided over 500 homebound vaccinations.”

It wouldn’t have been possible, says Christopher Merkel, M.P.H., Public Health Coordinator and Health Officer, without the assistance of multiple departments and community organizations working together.

“Everyone pitched in, including the Monmouth County Department of Human Services, Division of Social Services, Office on Aging and Veterans Affairs, and SCAT (Special Citizen Area Transportation), along with community pharmacies, the Vising Nurse Association, Parker Clinic and other organizations” Merkel says. “The homebound population and their caregivers were absolutely dependent upon these agencies to get the care and vaccines they needed during a very scary and uncertain time. To this day, we still get homebound requests for vaccinations from residents in Monmouth County.”

“The way that these community groups came together, led by the Monmouth County Department of Health, in order to facilitate the homebound vaccination program and serve some of our most vulnerable residents is exemplary,” says Commissioner Susan M. Kiley, liaison to the Departments of Health and Human Services of Monmouth County. “More and more, we see a spirit of cooperation like this throughout Monmouth County, and that’s because the Monmouth ACTS initiative has been promoting that seamless approach to services by joining strengths since 2018. We were fortunate here in Monmouth County to have that cooperation in place before the pandemic, so that we could best serve our residents throughout.”

Fran Helps Her Community Again – By Spreading the Word

Fran was so pleased with her quick and easy experience with the homebound program that she spread the word amongst her community – encouraging those who were hesitant to get vaccinated.

“I spread the word about the program to friends, family, organizations I worked with,” she says. “All of my children and foster children I’m still in contact with have had the vaccine – when mama speaks, they listen.”

“The experience of Fran Gray parallels exactly the sort of grassroots connections Monmouth ACTS is cultivating,” says Commissioner Director Thomas A. Arnone. “In addition to the initiative’s efforts to streamline services, we facilitate outreach and engagement through a network of organizations and local leaders. The fact that Fran benefitted from these services, and then kept spreading the word about them to people she influences, is exactly what we’re trying to do. Fran kept the message going.”

To learn more about Monmouth ACTS, visit

Fran Gray and her adopted son Rashon

About Monmouth ACTS

Monmouth ACTS (Assisting Community Through Services) was launched by the Monmouth County Board of County Commissioners in 2018 to carry out recommendations of a Human Services Needs Assessment. This innovative public-private partnership brings together County employees from the Department of Human Services and community partners on the Monmouth ACTS Advisory Council (MAAC) to enhance access to services for County residents. For more information, visit

Police Investigate Multiple Shooting In Hamilton Township

June 5, 2023

HAMILTON TOWNSHIP, NJ (MERCER)–Police say that on early Sunday morning June 4, 2023, at 1:17 a.m., officers were detailed to the area of Whitehead Rd. and 6th Ave for a report of three individuals who had been shot. Upon their arrival they were informed by other individuals that the three individuals who were shot were already taken to area hospitals for their wounds. Their wounds were found to be non-life threatening at this time.

The incident started at a private party that was hosted in the area.

The incident is currently under investigation by the Hamilton Township Police Division Major Crimes Bureau.

If you have any information, please contact Hamilton Police, Det. Brian Davis 609-581-5823

Toms River Man Killed Crossing Route 571 In Manchester Township

June 4, 2023

Manchester Twp NJ – Police say that on Saturday, June 3, 2023, at approximately 10:30 p.m., members of the Manchester Township Police responded to the area of County Route 571 near the intersection of Washington Avenue, for the report of a pedestrian that was struck by two motor vehicles.

Upon arrival at the scene, officers located the pedestrian, 45-year-old, Paul Mount of Toms River, NJ, in the northbound left lane of County Route 571 approximately 56 feet north of Washington Avenue, lying in the roadway.  Officers immediately initiated life saving measures, but Mr. Mount succumbed to his injuries and was pronounced deceased on scene.  The two involved vehicles, a black 2018 Ford Explorer and a black 2021 Toyota Highlander, were located near the scene of the crash with minimal damage.  The investigation revealed that Mr. Mount was crossing County Route 571, near the intersection of Washington Avenue, not within a marked crosswalk.  At that time, the Ford was traveling northbound on County Route 571 in the left lane, with the Toyota following directly behind, approaching the intersection of Washington Avenue.  As Mr. Mount entered the left lane of County Route 571 northbound, he was impacted by the Ford and then subsequently impacted by the Toyota.   

The driver of the Ford, 21-year-old, Cristian Solano, of Jackson, NJ was traveling with two additional occupants, identified as, 31-year-old, Yonatan Maroles-Guardado, seated in the front passenger seat and 51-year-old, Angel Contreras-Guriervez, seated in the rear passenger side seat.  The driver of the Toyota, 27-year-old, Fraidel Malka Kramer was traveling alone.  There were no reported injuries to any occupants of the Ford or Toyota. Assisting at the scene were members of the Ridgeway Volunteer Fire Department, Emergency Medical Technicians from the Manchester Township Division of Emergency Services, and Paramedics from Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital.  Additionally, Detectives from the Ocean County Sheriff’s Department Crime Scene Investigations Unit and a representative from the Ocean County Medical Examiner’s Office responded to the scene to assist in the investigation. The investigation into the crash is still ongoing, but at this point, crossing the roadway in an area with no crosswalk during nighttime conditions appears to be the primary contributing factor.  This crash is being investigated by Ptl. Michael O’Hara of the department’s Traffic Safety Unit.

Water Pressure Levels Fully Restored In Robbinsville, Schools And Businesses Reopen

June 4, 2023-Update

5:00 p.m. Update – Sunday, June 4

Water pressure is fully restored for all Aqua New Jersey Mercer County  (Hamilton, Hamilton Square, Robbinsville and Chesterfield) customers impacted by a well pump malfunction in Robbinsville.

Our team worked around the clock to fix the pump and restore water pressure, coordinating closely with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection to ensure the safety of our water at all times. 

We apologize for the inconvenience and thank our customers for their patience and helping to support the system’s recovery through water conservation efforts.  

Dear Robbinsville Community,

The Robbinsville Public Schools will be open tomorrow, Monday, June 5 on a regular schedule. Water pressure is at sufficient levels at all three schools. Therefore, all schools will be open tomorrow on a regular schedule. RED will also operate on the regular schedule.

Brian J. Betze


June 4, 2023 Afternoon Update:

Robbinsville Township says that both Amazon and CJ-TMI dumpling factory at 2 Applegate are expected to resume operations this afternoon (Sunday, June 4, 2023). Fire hydrants within the Township have also been tested and are getting back to full PSI. Schools update re: tomorrow is expected from Brian Betze at some point today.

ROBBINSVILLE, NJ (MERCER)–Aqua informed the Robbinsville Township Office of Emergency Management this morning that water pressure levels are steadily increasing throughout the impacted areas of the Township. Aqua officials confirm the water has been constantly tested and is safe to consume.
Pressures were severely compromised by a pump/well maintenance failure Thursday. 
The Robbinsville School District is in the process of checking the pressure at its three schools. Superintendent Brian Betze will provide a separate update regarding Monday’s opening status.
Should water pressure levels continue to rise and return to normal levels, the OEM will lift the current State of Emergency, which includes all water conservation measures implemented on Friday.
Aqua NJ and the Township thank you for your patience.    

Monitor pressure levels in your homes/businesses and please continue to conserve water whenever possible until the State of Emergency is lifted.

NJ Fallen Firefighters Memorial Service Held

June 3, 2023

ALLENTOWN – UPPER FREEHOLD TWP., NJ (MONMOUTH)–The New Jersey Fallen Firefighters Memorial and Fire Equipment Museum held the 2023 annual Memorial Service this afternoon at 1:00 p.m. This is a special tribute to Our Fallen Firefighters. “Those brave and courageous heroes who un-selflessly dedicated their lives, fighting to protect the lives and property of people, some of them they knew and many of them they would never meet. Their memory lives in our hearts and with the families left behind.”

Those who have died in the Line-of-Duty in New Jersey in 2022:

Harrison Fire Department – Vincent Doffont

Keyport Fire Department – Timothy Pfleger

Saddle Brook Fire Department – Basil Pizzuto

Upper Saddle River Fire Department – Alex Moss

Westwood Fire Department – Kevin May

According to The U.S. Fire Administration statistics there have been 30 firefighter fatalities in the United States in 2023 as of June 3, 2023.

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Photos: Anthony Greco