ROBBINSVILLE, NJ (MERCER)–The seventh incarnation of Robbinsville Township Mayor Dave Fried’s groundbreaking “Pay it Forward” initiative, and the first since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, was a huge success Tuesday at The Stone Terrace By John Henry’s. As part of his annual State of Robbinsville Township address, Mayor Fried and his team raised more than $50,000 to help Robbinsville resident Kelly Breden, 17, purchase a service dog to help with for her rare disease, PACS-1.
Kelly is one of three individuals in New Jersey, and among just 160 people around the world, who suffer from PACS 1 – also known as Schuurs-Hoeijmakers syndrome.
Past SOTT recipients include the Shepherd Family, Quilts for Comfort, Deborah Dauer, the C.A.R.E. Program, Mercer Street Friends Food Bank and the We Love Our R’ville Neighbors campaign. Since 2015, those efforts have raised over $400,000.
Classified as non-verbal autistic, Kelly is having increasing difficulty with movement and is frequently subject to falling – often without warning. Following a long and painstaking process, Kelly has been approved for a dog provided by Little Angels Service Dogs based in Bartlett, New Hampshire. She will receive the dog when it has completed its specialized training for Kelly’s special needs.
“This is a very special family and an awesome kid who deserves everything good this world has to offer,” Mayor Fried said in front of a crowd of over 230. “I always get excited as we gear up for our annual Pay it Forward event, but the opportunity to come together to help her acquire this service dog through a wonderful organization such as Little Angels is why I do what I do.”
The Breden Family For Kelly’s Independence has raised over $7,000 toward the cost of the service dog, a grand total that will be close to $55,000 upon the completion of specialized training, according to Josh Drew of Little Angels, who also spoke at the event.
“The goal is for the dog to help Kelly’s brace for balance while walking and standing up, alert me to falling episodes, and give her deep pressure therapy to help relieve anxiety and autistic stims,” Elizabeth Breden, Kelly’s mother, said. “The dog will also be trained to work next to Kelly’s wheelchair. The more she can do for herself, the better her quality of life. You’ve heard the saying, “happy wife, happy life.” We say, “happy Kelly, happy life.”
Fundraising for this effort is still open. To donate via PayPal, CLICK HERE.
Little Angels Service Dogs is a charitable nonprofit 501c3 corporation which reaches across the United States partnering service dogs with individuals with special needs. Founded in 2006, Little Angels is dedicated to providing the highest quality dogs for needs such as diabetes detection, mobility, psychiatric disorders, seizure, hearing impairment and autism.
“We’re so excited to be part of this journey with Kelly, her family and Robbinsville,” Director of Recipient Relations Darlene Drew said.
As for Township business, Mayor Fried touted an unprecedented ninth straight year of either flat or reduced taxes, the distribution of over 20,000 face coverings at the start of the pandemic, a 24 percent increase in Robbinsville property values from 2017-2021, a net debt decrease of 21 percent over the past five years, and a historic shared services partnership with neighboring Hightstown to build a new police station and municipal court.
“People of all backgrounds want to move into our community,” the mayor said. “As of the 2020 Census, in addition to those rising property values, Robbinsville is also one of the most culturally diverse in all of Mercer County. For almost every family, a home is one of the largest investments they will ever make so we are proud to help protect that investment every day.”
Mayor Fried also presented a “Key to the City” – the Township’s highest honor – to former Councilman Dan Schuberth, along with a special COVID-19 recognition award to Robbinsville Police Lieutenant and Office of Emergency Management Coordinator, Mike Polaski.
“Mike’s coolness under pressure and firm guidance helped us weave our way through the pandemic and we could not be more thankful for his contributions,” Mayor Fried stated.
As for the generosity of the Robbinsville community, Mayor Fried said: “These past seven years have been among the most humbling experiences of my life. Having you all here again means the world to all of us in Robbinsville, and only reinforces the deep pride and appreciation I feel to be your mayor. Remember to be kind to one another out there.”
JACKSON, NJ (OCEAN)–On Monday October 4, 2021 at 8:44 p.m., Police Officers Christopher Brown and Michael DeBlasi were on patrol on Monmouth Road (Rt. 537) when they observed two vehicles parked at the entrance ramp to go into Six Flags Great Adventure. The park was not open and the gates to the entrance were closed preventing the cars from entering the ramp and they were observed parked but facing toward oncoming traffic.
As the officers turned around to check on the vehicles, they observed them pull away from the entrance and drive against the flow of traffic, going east in the westbound lanes of Monmouth Road to do a u-turn to turn around to head west. As Officer Brown pulled in behind the vehicles he observed that the first car that was directly in front of him was traveling approximately 10 miles per hour below the posted speed limit in what appeared to be an attempt to block him as the second vehicle began pulling away at a high rate of speed. He was able to get around the first vehicle and as he began closing the gap on the second, he observed it appeared to increase its speed and pass other vehicles on the roadway. He activated the patrol unit’s emergency lights and as he reached speeds nearing 90 miles per hour, the vehicle continued to pull away from him. As he approached the intersection of Hawkin Road, he observed that the vehicle had crashed into a pole as it had attempted to make a left turn from Monmouth Road onto Hawkin Road. At this time he observed subjects standing outside of the vehicle, one of which began running into a wooded area at the corner.
The officer began to pursue the subject into the woods while calling him to stop running which after encountering dense brush he complied and began walking back to the officer. As this male subject exited the woods and got close to the officer, he lunged at the officer’s holstered firearm which resulted in a brief struggle until he was handcuffed and placed under arrest.
Officer DeBlasi along with Officers Robert Reiff, James Reynolds and Sgt. Michael Kelly had arrived on scene to assist and two other occupants of the vehicle were taken into custody at the scene.
As the incident was ongoing, the other vehicle which had been at the park entrance with the suspect vehicle and which appeared to attempt to block the officer arrived on scene briefly and the occupants were advised that they would need to be interviewed about the incident. Before they could be identified, this vehicle left the scene. Efforts are ongoing to attempt to identify this vehicle further.
Officers from the Plumsted Police Department arrived on scene to investigate the single vehicle motor vehicle crash and the involved 2014 Mercedes was impounded.
The three occupants of the vehicle were identified as residents of Philadelphia, PA. The investigation resulted in the 17 year old male driver being charged with eluding and multiple motor vehicle summonses including speeding, careless driving, reckless driving and being an unlicensed driver. He was transported and lodged in the Ocean County Juvenile Detention Center. The 16 year old male who had run from the scene was charged with resisting arrest and attempting to disarm a law enforcement officer. He was also transported and lodged in the Ocean County Juvenile Detention Center. An 18 year old male passenger was charged with eluding and released on summons pending a court appearance. A summons was also being issued to the owner of the Mercedes for allowing an unlicensed driver to operate the vehicle.
– The media and the public are reminded that any persons arrested or charged with any offenses or crimes are presumed innocent until proven guilty in court.
To Implement Task Force, Acting AG Bruck Issues First Law Enforcement Directive During His Tenure, Creating Statewide Intelligence Sharing Network
October 5, 2021
TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–Acting Attorney General Andrew J. Bruck and Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey Rachael A. Honig today announced the creation of a statewide task force to enhance gun violence investigations and prosecutions. To implement the task force, Acting Attorney General Bruck issued the first Attorney General Law Enforcement Directive of his tenure – AG Directive 2021-10 – creating a statewide gun violence intelligence sharing network in all of New Jersey’s 21 counties.
The initiative is a joint effort between the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey, the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office, the state’s 21 County Prosecutors, New Jersey State Police, and federal, state, and local law enforcement.
AG Directive 2021-10 establishes a statewide “Gun Violence Reduction Task Force” to lead reactive and proactive investigations and prosecute violent crimes that impact the lives and safety of residents, as well as a statewide intelligence network that will coordinate with the task force to implement mechanisms for immediate information sharing across agencies.
“Since becoming Acting Attorney General two months ago, I have met with dozens of law enforcement leaders across New Jersey who consistently stressed the need for greater coordination with county, state, and federal prosecutors to reduce gun violence,” said Acting Attorney General Bruck. “We all recognize that criminal prosecution alone will not end gun violence in New Jersey, but when prosecution is necessary, we must do so as effectively and efficiently as possible. The task force we are launching today demonstrates our commitment to working across all levels of government to keep the residents of New Jersey safe.”
“Our experience has shown that close cooperation among federal, state, and local law enforcement partners is the most effective way to combat violent crime,” said Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey Rachael Honig. “The U.S. Attorney’s Office is proud to participate in extending the Violent Crime Initiative model that it pioneered in New Jersey cities like Newark, Jersey City, and Camden to other municipalities statewide. We are grateful to Acting Attorney General Bruck and the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office for their shared commitment to protecting the safety of all New Jersey residents and the communities in which they live.”
“Our challenge is not just removing illegal firearms from our streets, but determining the source in order to prevent the senseless acts of violence that are often associated with these firearms. With the creation of this task force, we will be able to address these problems through precision policing, intelligence gathering and gaining access to information across a wide range of resources,” said Colonel Patrick J. Callahan, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police. “We are committed to working with our law enforcement partners across the state in order combat gun violence and make our communities safer.”
“Intelligence sharing and collaboration are the key components to stopping gun violence in our communities,” said Director Lyndsay Ruotolo of the Division of Criminal Justice. “Through his Directive, Acting Attorney General Bruck has created a mechanism by which law enforcement across the state will work together to effectively reduce violence and make our state a safe and just for all residents.”
“Sharing information and intelligence by local, county, state, and federal agencies is key in effectively preventing and prosecuting the gun violence that disrupts communities across New Jersey,” said Hudson County ProsecutorEsther Suarez, President of the County Prosecutors Association of New Jersey. “This newly formed Gun Violence Task Force and statewide gun violence intelligence sharing network will expedite and bolster the work of law enforcement agencies throughout New Jersey’s 21 counties. We applaud Acting Attorney General Bruck and Acting U.S. Attorney Honig for their dedication to this issue and for implementing this partnership to reduce gun violence and make all of New Jersey’s communities safer.”
“This is an opportunity to expand beyond traditional policing strategies to reduce gun-related crimes and homicides in our neighborhoods and communities,” said Chief John Zebrowski, President of New Jersey State Association of Chiefs of Police. “The task-force represents a significant interdisciplinary commitment towards prevention and intervention of gun-related violence through an enhanced network of intelligence information sharing.”
The Gun Violence Reduction (GVR) Task Force will be organized into three regional teams – North, Central, and South – and will consist of federal, state, and county prosecutors working together to identify cases for investigation and prosecution. The regional teams will be supported by officers of the New Jersey State Police (NJSP) and will be physically based in the “Real-Time Crime Centers” that NJSP recently established in locations across the state.
Under AG Directive 2021-10, each of New Jersey’s more than 500 state, county, and local law enforcement agencies are required to designate an individual to serve as their liaison to the GVR Task Force, and will be responsible for serving as a single point of contact within their agency for coordinating requests for information and investigative assistance to and from the GVR Task Force. In addition, under AG Directive 2021-10, each of the 21 County Prosecutors are required to identify an Assistant Prosecutor who is responsible for supporting the GVR Task Force for cases arising in their jurisdiction.
The GVR Task Force model is based on the premise that a majority of gun violence incidents can be traced to a small group of individuals concentrated in specific areas – but that investigations into gun violence can span the entire state. As AG Directive 2021-10 notes, “A firearm trafficked into New Jersey through Salem County might wind up as the murder weapon in a Paterson homicide; a vehicle stolen in Ocean County might be used as the getaway car in a Trenton shooting. By improving information-sharing across agencies, we improve our ability to solve crimes and hold wrongdoers accountable throughout the Garden State.”
In recent months, federal, state, and county prosecutors have been collaborating on efforts to reduce gun violence across New Jersey. Over the past summer, law enforcement agencies and prosecutors have worked together to target the use of illegal firearm use, resulting in the following cases:
In New Jersey, Governor Phil Murphy and Acting AG Bruck are leading a comprehensive, statewide effort to reduce gun deaths, which pairs the latest evidence-based policing strategies with innovative, community-based prevention programs. The three-pronged approach to tackling this public health crisis includes addressing the root causes of violence; keeping guns away from those most likely to harm others; and taking swift action against those who break the law. These efforts have included:
Bringing criminal charges against those who illegally traffic untraceable “ghost guns” into New Jersey. For example, in September, three men were charged for allegedly purchasing partially assembled firearms in Pennsylvania and then selling them fully assembled in New Jersey, without the serial numbers mandated by state and federal law to allow law enforcement to trace the weapons.
Increasing funding for community-based violence intervention programs though the FY2022 budget process. The Governor’s budget proposes an additional $10 million in funding for these initiatives in New Jersey.
Within the Department of Law & Public Safety, the New Jersey State Police has built the country’s most comprehensive statewide database on “crime guns,” creating an invaluable tool for criminal investigators seeking to trace illegal firearms to their source.
August’s “Guns for Cash” events held in Atlantic City, East Orange, Newark, and two locations in Paterson yielded 941 firearms. Additional gun buyback events will be held simultaneously on Saturday, October 23 in conjunction with Bergen, Camden, Cumberland, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Salem and Somerset counties.
Statement From Acting Police Director Steve Wilson on the Passing of Candice Ruff
TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–Candice Ruff, 19, shot on Bellevue Avenue on September 25 in the city’s West Ward, succumbed to her injuries on Monday at Capital Health Regional Medical Center in Trenton. The Mercer County Homicide Task Force is investigating this terrible incident.
Trenton Police Department has increased patrols throughout our city. Anyone with information about this crime is encouraged to contact the Mercer County Homicide Task Force at (609) 989-6406. You can also anonymously provide tips via a cell phone by texting TPDtips to 274637.
Names of 2021* homicide victims:
2/18/2021 Jabree Saunders, 26, from shooting on May 14, 2018
FREEHOLD, NJ (MONMOUTH)–A Keansburg police officer has been arrested and criminally charged with sexually assaulting an incapacitated woman earlier this year, Acting Monmouth County Prosecutor Lori Linskey announced Tuesday.
Nicholas Thompson, 24, is charged with first-degree Aggravated Sexual Assault, second-degree Sexual Assault, and third-degree Aggravated Criminal Sexual Contact.
An investigation by members of the Prosecutor’s Office revealed that in January 2021, the sexual assault took place at a private residence, when the victim was unconscious and incapable of consent.
Thompson, who was sworn in as a Patrolman in Keansburg last month, was a SLEO (Special Law Enforcement Officer) Type II at the time of the alleged assault. He was taken into custody without incident on Monday and transported to the Monmouth County Correctional Institution pending a first appearance to take place in Monmouth County Superior Court.
If convicted, Thompson could face up to 20 years in state prison on the Aggravated Sexual Assault charge, as well as up to 10 years on the Sexual Assault charge.
“The news of yesterday’s arrest was shocking and disturbing for all of us to hear,” Keansburg Police Chief Wayne Davis said. “The Keansburg Police Department is comprised of professional investigators of the highest caliber, and we refuse to allow the actions of one officer to negate or obscure the good work they do every day. We will also continue to cooperate with the Prosecutor’s Office’s investigation and prosecution in any way necessary, in order to bring this defendant to justice.”
At the direction of Chief Davis, Thompson has been suspended without pay pending the outcome of this case.
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. This case is assigned to Monmouth County Assistant Prosecutor Melanie Falco, Director of the Office’s Professional Responsibilities and Bias Crime Unit. Thompson is being represented by Mitchell Ansell, Esq., with an office in Ocean Township.
SURF CITY, NJ (OCEAN)–Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley D. Billhimer and Surf City Police Chief John N. Casella, Jr., announced that Sherry Lee Heffernan, 55, of Landenberg, Pennsylvania, has been charged with two counts of Murder in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3a(1) relative to the deaths of John Enders and Francoise Pitoy in Surf City on or about September 29, 2021. Heffernan was also charged with Possession of a Weapon for an Unlawful Purpose in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4d, and Unlawful Possession of Weapon in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5d
On October 3, 2021, at approximately 4:00 p.m., Officers from the Surf City Police Department responded to a residence on North 7th Street to conduct a welfare check upon the residents. When they arrived, Officers located the bodies of John Enders, 87, of Surf City, and Francoise Pitoy, 75, of Manchester; it was readily apparent they were deceased, having suffered multiple obvious stab wounds. On October 4, 2021, the Ocean County Medical Examiner performed a post-mortem examination of Mr. Enders and determined the cause of his death to be multiple stab wounds with severance of the right carotid artery and blunt force trauma; the manner of death was ruled to be a homicide. A post-mortem examination of Ms. Pitoy is scheduled for today.
A subsequent investigation by the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Major Crime Unit, Surf City Police Department, and Ocean County Sheriff’s Office Crime Scene Investigation Unit revealed that the victims were involved in a dating relationship, and that Mr. Enders was the primary owner the residence. Ms. Pitoy stayed with him at the residence regularly. “The cooperative investigation ultimately determined that Heffernan, Mr. Enders’ daughter, was responsible for the deaths of both Mr. Enders and Ms. Pitoy,” Prosecutor Billhimer stated.
On October 4, 2021, Heffernan was taken into custody by the Pennsylvania State Police at her residence in Landenberg. Upon her anticipated return to New Jersey, she will be lodged in the Ocean County Jail pending a detention hearing.
“This truly was a team effort in terms of the depth and comprehensiveness of this investigation. These detectives combed through the evidence to ultimately determine that Heffernan did, in fact, cause the deaths of Mr. Enders and Ms. Pitoy,” Prosecutor Billhimer stated. “We were able to determine very early on in the investigation that there was no immediate danger to the public. From there, these detectives went to work doing their absolute best to solve these horrific crimes. Every law enforcement officer involved this investigation has my profound gratitude,” Prosecutor Billhimer concluded.
Prosecutor Billhimer and Chief Cassella commend the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Major Crime Unit, Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Economic Crime Unit, Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Intelligence Squad, Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office High Tech Crime Unit, Ocean County Sheriff’s Office, Ocean County Sheriff’s Office Crime Scene Investigation Unit, Surf City Police Department, Long Beach Township Police Department, Stafford Township Police Department, New Jersey State Police, Pennsylvania State Police, Maryland State Police, Collegeville (Pennsylvania) Police Department, North East (Maryland) Police Department, and Ocean County Motor Vehicle Services, for their collective and cooperative assistance in connection with this investigation leading to Heffernan’s apprehension.
The charges referenced above are merely accusations and the press and public are reminded that all defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.