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News from Monmouth County, New Jersey

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    Were police right to ticket a man driving his pregnant wife to the hospital? Watch video

    The story is one many expectant fathers wonder about: "If I have to rush my wife to the hospital to give birth and a cop sees me, will he give me an escort with all the bells and whistles - lights flashing, siren screeching?"

    The answer, at least in Howell Township, is, "No, we don't do that. That's what ambulances are for. And by the way, here's a ticket for speeding."

    A Lakewood couple found that out the hard way when the husband was clocked going 78 mph in a 50 mph zone on their way to the delivery room. An officer pulled them over, offered to call an ambulance for them - which the couple declined - and then issued them a summons. 

    When the mom-to-be asked if they could have an escort, the officer said, "No, we don't do that."

    Heartless?

    "We certainly understand how stressful the moments leading up to birth can be, especially on a woman, and we commend them for their respectful demeanor under the circumstances. However, the officer acted appropriately and any suggestion that the officer's conduct was improper, unprofessional or inhumane simply contradicts the video evidence," the Howell police said in a statement.

    It continued: "We are happy to hear the occupants arrived safely at the hospital and had a successful delivery. We wish them the best."

    Six years ago, a couple in New Hampshire found themselves in a similar situation. In that instance, though, the Dad was doing 102 mph. When a state trooper gave chase, he dialed 911 (we hope it was hands-free) and told the dispatcher what was happening and that they weren't trying to outrun the cops. The police gave him an escort, and a ticket after they arrived. 

    What that story doesn't mention, however, is whether they were driving during the day or at night. The Howell officer told the couple to proceed cautiously because it was dark and there were deer out on the roads. He suggested an accident at that speed would have had consequences far worse than a speeding ticket.

    Were there other ways police could have handled the situation? Were they right to ticket the man who drove wife to the hospital?

    Vote in our informal, unscientific poll and tell us how you voted in the comments.

    Bookmark NJ.com/Opinion. Follow on Twitter @NJ_Opinion and find NJ.com Opinion on Facebook.


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    More than 4,000 Jersey Central Power & Light customers were without power at some point on Thanksgiving morning.

    It was lights out for more 4,000 customers of Jersey Central Power & Light in Middlesex, Monmouth and Morris counties Thanksgiving morning largely due to equipment issues, according to JCP&L. 

    JCP&L spokeswoman Tricia Ingraham said about 2,230 customers in Morris County, most of which were in Hanover, lost power Thursday morning due to an equipment issue at a substation.

    As of 9 a.m., more than 600 customers in Morris County were still without power -- 260 in Hanover, 138 in Morris Township, 114 in Chester Township, 57 in Parsippany, 19 in Chatham and 10 in Morristown, nine in Florham Park and fewer than five for Chester Borough, East Hanover and Morris Plains.

    All towns except for the Chesters were expected to have power returned by 10:30 a.m. Chester Township and Chester Borough are expected to have power back by 11:30 a.m.

    Ingraham said it wasn't yet clear what caused the outages in Monmouth and Middlesex counties, but power restoration for those areas was 11:30 a.m. and 11 a.m., respectively. 

    Most of the Monmouth outages, nearly 1,700, were in Matawan, and more than 600 in Middlesex were in Old Bridge, Ingraham said.  

    Loading...

    Justin Zaremba may be reached at jzaremba@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinZarembaNJ. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

    Have information about this story or something else we should be covering? Tell us. nj.com/tips

     

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    Officials identified the man as a 27-year-old from Asbury Park.

    Authorities were seeking tips from the public after a 27-year-old man was found dead in Asbury Park late Wednesday, the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office said.

    Denzel Morgan-Hicks, of Asbury Park, was discovered in the driver's seat of a 2017 Ford Expedition in the 100 block of Prospect Avenue, according to the prosecutor's office.

    In a statement, the prosecutor's office said detectives were searching for the killer, but did not reveal more details or an apparent cause of death.

    An autopsy was pending, according to the prosecutor's office.

    Anyone with information was urged to call prosecutor's office Detective John Leibfried at 1-800-533-7443 or Detective Dillan Gourley, of the Asbury Park Police Department at 732-775-2936.

    Anonymous tips can also be provided to Monmouth County Crime Stoppers at 1-800-671-4400,  or by texting "MONMOUTH" plus their tip to 274637, or, email via the website at www.monmouthcountycrimestoppers.com.

    Noah Cohen may be reached at ncohen@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @noahyc and on Facebook

    Have information about this story or something else we should be covering? Tell us: nj.com/tips

     

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    PHILADELPHIA a Standing on a lawn in Asbury Park more than two years ago, amid the stretch of fans that had no business being as large as it was, one could feel the scales of New Jersey rock favor had already begun to tip.  It was the last day of the Skate and Surf Festival 2015, an all-weekend event featuring dozens of internationally...

    PHILADELPHIA -- Standing on a lawn in Asbury Park more than two years ago, amid the stretch of fans that had no business being as large as it was, one could feel the scales of New Jersey rock favor had already begun to tip. 

    It was the last day of the Skate and Surf Festival 2015, an all-weekend event featuring dozens of internationally touring bands and headlined by local heroes The Gaslight Anthem, who to that point had been the state's most prominent modern rock outfit for the better part of a decade. 

    But before Gaslight could take the stage, or before the sun could set, another Jersey group had already stolen the show.

    The Front Bottoms, originally of Woodcliff Lake, drew the festival's largest and most fervent crowd -- about 3,000 strong, who shrieked every word of its idiosyncratic folk-punk as if the day's end might erase the band forever. It seemed a real star-making moment for the indie group, like a miniature "Santana at Woodstock," only with less weed and more pork roll. 

    front-bottoms2740.JPGNew Jersey's The Front Bottoms perform at The Fillmore in Philadelphia, Nov. 22, 2017.  

    A month later, in June 2015, the bounding Bergen County outfit signed to Fueled By Ramen Records -- shepherds of global pop-rock hitmakers Paramore, Fall Out Boy and Twenty One Pilots -- and now, with two major-label albums under its belt plus performances at premier festivals Coachella, Austin City Limits and Panorama, any doubt surrounding the band's reach has been obliterated. 

    Here's a non-political conversation stater for your Thanksgiving festivities: The Front Bottoms are, without question, New Jersey's hottest, right-now rock band and have been since Gaslight announced its hiatus in summer 2015. 

    Playing to two or three-thousand fans a night is now the norm for singer Brian Sella and drummer Matt Uychich (the only two official Front Bottoms though they tour as a six-piece unit), who packed The Fillmore in Philadelphia Wednesday night for an electrifying pre-holiday party loaded with new tracks and deep cuts.

    The band's current national tour highlights "Going Grey," the LP released Oct. 13 that pulls the group away from its typical chugging acoustic riff procedure and instead floats '80s pop synth over its rock-leaning melodies. It's a move made by many previously guitar-heavy bands of late -- a style all but perfected by fellow Woodcliff Laker Jack Antonoff -- and in this case, Sella's pitch-corrected vocals expunge some of the band's patently imperfect lyrical banter and intimacy. 

    But in the live setting Wednesday the every-man frontman Sella, 29, felt like a close friend slipping in a few new stories while still revisiting all the best old ones. A little extra keyboard for newbies "Grand Finale" and "Vacation Town" didn't shatter the aesthetic; the all-ages crowd had learned all the new songs regardless. The Front Bottoms audience is somewhat unique in its composition: a union of bespectacled indie kids, tank-top bros and pop-punk followers donning their flannels and skinny jeans that mirrors the group's melding of quirks, hooks and petulant anthems.

    Fans bopped wildly to the favorites "Skeleton" and "Twin Size Mattress" and, like The Gaslight Anthem's aficionados, begged endlessly for obscure songs from the late-2000s vault. The Front Bottoms have released several EPs in between full-length albums and tout a back catalog that's unexpectedly thick considering the band only began to put out music in 2008.  

    Sella was affable and charismatic, a stage commander who ascends the band's wordy numbers about swimming pools, coffee cups, lust and drug addiction from introspective garble into legitimate underdog anthems. The stage show was bolstered by Jenn Fantaccione on trumpet and violin, and Roshane Karunaratne on keytar and melodica. 

    The latest album moniker "Going Grey" is a bit of a misnomer. Sure, The Front Bottoms have now existed long enough to influence a new line of local acts -- namely the killer Montclair band Hodera we reviewed earlier this month -- but these are prime years for the band, which relocated just relocated its home base to Asbury Park -- how fitting that the hottest band in New Jersey would align itself within the state's most vibrant music scene.

    To that end, Erik Romero, a lead producer at the tastemaking Lakehouse Studio in town, which has forged many of the best local releases of the last few years, now plays bass for the band.

    "I feel like a volcano on the verge of eruption," Sella sings on "West Virginia." 

    The blast has already occurred, Jersey music fans. Take notice. 

    The Front Bottoms' set list

    Nov. 22, 2017 -- The Fillmore, Philadelphia 

    • "You Used to Say (Holy F***)"
    • "Skeleton"
    • "Tattooed Tears"
    • "West Virginia"
    • "Maps"
    • "The Plan (F*** Jobs)"
    • "Peace Sign"
    • "Vacation Town"
    • "2YL"
    • "Everyone But You"
    • "Au Revoir (Adios)"
    • "The Beers"
    • "Wolf Man"
    • "Grand Finale"
    • "Far Drive"
    • "Flashlight"
    • "Don't Fill Up On Chips"
    • "Twin Size Mattress"
    • Encore:
    • "Twelve Feet Deep"
    • "Jim Bogart"
    • "Ocean"

    Bobby Olivier may be reached at bolivier@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @BobbyOlivier. Find NJ.com on Facebook 


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    'We're honored to be here to help out in our own small way,' Murphy said of serving a holiday meal with his family at a Red Bank nonprofit. Watch video

    RED BANK -- Gov.-elect Phil Murphy says New Jersey needs "a stronger safety net" when it comes to affordable housing and access to food.

    The governor made his comments after volunteering to help serve a Thanksgiving meal at Lunch Break, a nonprofit organization that provides food and clothing to those in need.

    Locals sat at tables decked with bright orange runners, digging into salad, turkey, ham, potatoes and green beans served up by staff and volunteers.

    Accompanying Murphy, who called the Red Bank organization, founded in 1986, "an iconic institution," was Tammy Murphy, New Jersey's incoming first lady. Also volunteering: his daughter Emma and sons Josh, Charlie and Sam, who all bear a striking resemblance to the governor-elect.

    "This is our backyard," said the governor-elect, who lives in a sprawling, 10,000-square-foot waterfront home in Middletown, addressing the room. "We are honored to be with each and every one of you today, whether you're staff, volunteers, or coming in for a good, hot meal on Thanksgiving. We're honored to be here to help out in our own small way."

    After the family spent about an hour greeting locals and helping to serve the meal, Tammy Murphy told reporters she appreciated the visit for the chance to hear the stories of those spending their holiday eating the free meal. 

    "You just have to stop and talk to people," she said. "Every single person here has a story and it's been a great story. I just met some girls who are going to college and came home and there's all sorts. It's, you know, the fabric of New Jersey." 

    "You also see, by the way, where we need a stronger safety net in this state," the governor-elect said, citing a conversation he had with a woman who told him her mother is being pushed out of housing. "You've got too many people who are going without." He noted affordable housing and food security as areas that need to be addressed. 

    "You ask yourself where would you be without an institution like this," Murphy said.

    Phil and Tammy Murphy made $4.6 million last year and gave $175,000 to charity and $172,000 through their foundation.

    The governor-elect, who will be sworn in on Jan. 16, said that when he was United States ambassador to Germany under President Barack Obama -- the former Goldman Sachs executive occupied the post from 2009 to 2013 -- his family would make Thanksgiving trips to Ramstein Air Base and Landstuhl Regional Medical Center to meet with veterans and distribute gifts. 

    Gwendolyn Love, executive director of Lunch Break, embraced Murphy, who set about retrieving plates of food from staff to take to guests.

    "We're very excited," Love said of Murphy. "The reality is that he could have been any place today." 

    Love said Murphy's support for a $15 minimum wage presents a challenge for businesses owners as well as managers like her who have to pay staff, but said she remains hopeful that the move will benefit the community Lunch Break serves. (Murphy campaigned on the pledge to raise New Jersey's minimum wage from less than $9 to $15, which would happen over the course of the next few years.)

    "People need to make more money," Love said. "I have faith in everyone, from the governor on down to the business community, that they'll work it out and that compassion and wisdom will prevail."  

    Finishing her meal, Celestine Woods, 50, of Red Bank said Murphy seemed down-to-earth.

    "He just is very personable," she said, adding that she appreciated that he took the time to make a visit and highlight the nonprofit's efforts. 

    Murphy said his family would be spending the rest of the day with his father-in-law, who was not feeling well. 

    Amy Kuperinsky may be reached at akuperinsky@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @AmyKup or on Facebook.

     


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    A New Jersey woman's tweet narrating the nerdy love story between her and her new fiancA(c) went viral.

    It is a love story like you'd find in a Nancy Meyers romantic comedy - if Myers was into social media and anime.

    Boy matches with girl on Tinder, boy messages girl a picture of his "Gundam," girl is impressed, boy and girl date and get engaged.

    That's the story shared by one Middletown woman whose tweet chronicling her romantic journey with her new fiance went viral.

    As of Thursday afternoon, the tweet had over 115,000 retweets and 330,000 likes.

    "I did not expect the tweet blow up at all," said Elizabeth Howley, a 26-year-old florist.

    She describes the response on social media to be mostly positive with people online telling her how inspired they are by the story.

    "We're just really overwhelmed," she said. "We're so thankful."

    The whole thing started in March 2016 when Howley and her now-fiance, John Grasso, 28, of Highlands, matched on Tinder, a dating app where two people interested in dating must swipe right on each other's profiles to become a "match."

    The two actually went to school together at Mater Dei High School in Middletown.

    "I do remember him. He doesn't remember me," Howley added.

    She and Grasso struck up a conversation through Tinder, where they found they had a lot of common nerdy interests including anime, a style of Japanese animation.

    However, Howley said that at the time, she wasn't really taking anyone seriously and was really happy being single.

    The conversation dried up, but she had still made an impression on Grasso. After she stopped messaging on Tinder, Grasso looked her up on Instagram and messaged her there.

    "I wasn't going to give up on her," Grasso said.

    On Instagram, the conversation picked back up. It was there where Grasso decided to make his move.

    While they were talking about their favorite anime, he said he was going to send her a picture of his "Gundam."

    A Gundam is a giant robot with mobile suits which are featured in the Gundam series anime. The first Gundam television series called Mobile Suit Gundam was released back in 1979 and has spawned many subsequent iterations in the last 38 years.

    For Howley, the Gundam series held special meaning. The 1995 "Mobile Suit Gundam Wing" television was the first anime show she ever watched.

    However, she was understandably skeptical.

    "I was thinking, is this a real Gundam? Because you know how men are online," Howell said.

    She described her exact reaction on Twitter.

    Gundam tweet love story 1 

    To her delight, it was a real Gundam. More accurately, a model-sized Gundam that he had built himself in 6.5 hours, according to his message.

    gundam_couple_2_edited.jpg 


    Howley was impressed and thought it was very "beautiful."

    Grasso had a feeling that she would appreciate the gesture.

    "I really just wanted to impress her and I know that's a really nerdy thing to try to impress her with," Grasso said.

    They talked online for a month, but Howley wasn't looking to rush into a relationship. However, her parents were the ones who convince her to take a chance on him.

    Their first date was at the Red Bank Annual International Food Festival in late April, which Howley described as fantastic. They sat at Riverside Park and talked for hours.

    She knew from that date that this was the man she wanted to marry.

    Gundam tweet love story 3 

    The couple then dated for the next year and a half.

    On Tuesday, however, Howley got another surprise request from Grasso.

    During a trip to Boston, the couple went ice skating at the Boston Commons. Grasso asked an elderly couple at the rink to take a couple of pictures of them on the ice.

    It struck Howley as odd since he was not the kind to insist on taking "couples pictures," but she went along with it.

    She was ready to leave when Grasso insisted on taking one more picture.

    This time, however, he "very wobbly" got down on one knee while still on the ice and asked her to marry him.

    Gundam tweet love story 4 

    The couple is thrilled to be engaged and celebrating the good news with friends and family over the holidays.

    They haven't gotten far into wedding planning yet. However, they do like the idea of a Gundam wedding cake topper.

    As for people still hoping to find their nerdy soulmate, Howley suggests to never compromise who you are.

    "Just be yourself, and be open about the things that you find interesting," she said. "Don't give up."

    Carla Astudillo may be reached at castudillo@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @carla_astudi. Find her on Facebook.

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    Early morning temperatures on Friday dropped into the low 20s in many spots across New Jersey.

    Keep those winter jackets handy. Another blast of cold air is in store for New Jersey commuters returning to work on Friday and also for early morning shoppers hitting the malls for Black Friday bargains.

    Temperatures across most of the Garden State have been stuck in the mid- to upper 20s Friday morning, and the mercury dropped as low as 20 degrees in some spots in North Jersey and interior sections of South Jersey, according to forecasters from the National Weather Service.

    Despite mostly sunny skies in the afternoon, temperatures will remain slightly below normal for late November, reaching about 48 degrees in North Jersey, 51 in Central Jersey and 52 in South Jersey. A slight afternoon breeze will make it feel a bit cooler than that.

    Saturday morning will also start out cold, with temperatures expected to hover in the upper 20s to low 30s before rising to the mid- to upper 50s as a cold front moves across the region, forecasters said. The cold front could bring light rain showers in the afternoon and evening.

    Sunday is forecast to start out in the 30s, followed by partly sunny skies but a cold and windy afternoon -- with the mercury going no higher than 43 degrees in the state's northern counties and 49 degrees in the southern region. Winds could gust up to 25 to 28 mph.

    After another cool day on Monday, New Jerseyans could see a noticeable warmup on Tuesday and Wednesday, with afternoon temperatures making a run for 60 degrees.

    No major rain storms or snowstorms are expected during the next seven days.

    Coldest spots in N.J. Friday morning

    These are among the coldest temperatures reported between 5 a.m. and 7 a.m. by the National Weather Service and the New Jersey Weather & Climate Network, based at Rutgers University:

    • 17 degrees in Walpack
    • 20 degrees in Basking Ridge
    • 20 degrees in Berkeley Twp.
    • 20 degrees in Hopewell
    • 20 degrees in Kingwood
    • 21 degrees in Hackettstown
    • 21 degrees in Hope
    • 21 degrees in Howell
    • 21 degrees in Morristown
    • 21 degrees in Somerville
    • 21 degrees in Toms River
    • 21 degrees in Woodbine
    • 22 degrees in Hillsborough
    • 22 degrees in Sussex Borough
    • 23 degrees in Andover
    • 23 degrees in Millville
    • 24 degrees in Jersey City
    • 24 degrees in New Brunswick
    • 24 degrees in Vineland
    • 25 degrees in Caldwell
    • 25 degrees in Mount Holly
    • 25 degrees in Wildwood

    Scenic sunrise on Manasquan Inlet

    Black Friday at Manasquan Inlet

    A post shared by Andy Mills (@andrew_mills) on

     

    More New York City area weather

    More Philadelphia area weather

    Len Melisurgo may be reached at LMelisurgo@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @LensReality or like him on Facebook. Find NJ.com on Facebook.


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    Someone stole video games from a Red Bank arcade and immediately regretted it

    RED BANK -- An unidentified individual who blamed the incident on alcohol recently returned two stolen video games to a Red Bank arcade.

    The remorseful individual, a self-described regular customer at Yestercades, also included an unsigned note of apology that refers to the incident as "ignorant and dumb."

    "I am very embarrassed and ashamed to do what I have done and hope that you can one day maybe choose to forgive me," read the letter, which was posted to a Middletown Facebook page by the business's owner, Ken Kalada.

    The shoplifter expressed regret that he or she would no longer be able to return to the business, which Kalada has run for six years, he said in an interview with New Jersey 101.5 radio.

    Kalada, who said the games are worth about $100, thanked his customers, telling the station that he is "thrilled and humbled that there are people on here that truly care about this place the same way my staff and I do. It is times like this that I am reminded how blessed I am to be born and raised in this area."

    Paul Milo may be reached at pmilo@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter@PaulMilo2. Find NJ.com on Facebook.  

     

     

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    The victim, a 27-year-old man, was found in a house with multiple wounds consistent with a "sharp object," police said.

    A stabbing that occurred in Asbury Park Wednesday night is not connected to the death of a man found dead in his car the same night, police said.

    The stabbing happened at 10:38 p.m. Wednesday at a residence in central Asbury Park, Sgt. Michael Casey said.

    When police arrived at the residence, they found a 27-year-old man with multiple slash wounds consistent with a "sharp object," Casey said. He was taken to a local hospital with injuries that are not life-threatening.

    Casey said the victim was "uncooperative" and provided "limited details in regards to the incident." The victim only told police he had been drinking alcohol and suffered his injuries from two unidentified men, according to Casey.

    Less than a mile away, detectives with the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office and Asbury Park police were investigating the death of Denzel Morgan-Hicks. The 27-year-old Asbury Park man was found dead inside a vehicle in the 100 block of Prospect Avenue, and authorities are treating it as a homicide investigation. 

    There was no update Friday morning on the investigation, according to a spokesman for the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office, Chris Swendeman.

    According to Casey, there appears to be no connection between the death of Morgan-Hicks and the stabbing.

    Both investigations remain ongoing.

    Authorities urged anyone with information on the stabbing to contact Asbury Park police at 732-774-1300.

    Anyone with information on the homicide is asked to call anyone with information was urged to call Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office Detective John Leibfried at 1-800-533-7443 or Detective Dillan Gourley of the Asbury Park Police Department at 732-775-2936.

    Anonymous tips can also be provided to Monmouth County Crime Stoppers at 1-800-671-4400,  or by texting "MONMOUTH" plus their tip to 274637, or, email via the website at www.monmouthcountycrimestoppers.com.

    Alex Napoliello may be reached at anapoliello@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @alexnapoNJ. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

     

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    It appears the man drove off the bulkhead and into the water near Bay and Long Branch avenues Wednesday night, police said.

    LONG BRANCH -- A 65-year-old man died after he drove his car into the Manahassett Creek in Long Branch, police said.

    Acting police Chief Jason Roebuck said investigators still don't know what led the man to drive into the creek Wednesday night.

    It appears the man drove off the bulkhead and into the water near Bay and Long Branch avenues, Roebuck said.

    "He attempted to swim back to shore but didn't make it," the acting chief said.

    Police found the victim and his vehicle inside the creek Thursday morning.

    The incident remains under investigation. 

    Alex Napoliello may be reached at anapoliello@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @alexnapoNJ. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

     

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    Brian Shea caught on video the huge whale surfacing just two feet away


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    The show, created in the U.K. in 2015, stars Ball-Zee, a world-renowned beat-boxing champion, and six skilled a cappella singers, is in on its first U.S. tour. It stops at the Count Basie Theatre Nov. 29.

    Americans love a cappella -- think TV's "Glee," the "Pitch Perfect" movies, and the phenomenal success of Pentatonix -- so "Gobsmacked!" creator Nic Doodson was a bit nervous about bringing the a cappella/beat box production that took the U.K. by storm to the U.S. 

    "In the world of a cappella, America has the biggest groups and biggest market. We say it's like bringing coal to New Castle, bringing something already known to America, but the reaction has been absolutely fantastic," said Doodson describing a video he saw of fans meeting the cast after a show in Maine. "The audience members were in tears and not in a morally offended way."

    The production -- which stars internationally renowned British beat boxer Ball-Zee -- comes to the Count Basie Theatre Nov. 29. The tour will return to the Garden State in 2018, appearing at the Mayo Performing Arts Center Jan. 18

    Doodson, a U.K. native, was introduced to a cappella when his family moved to Basking Ridge when he was 10 years old. He attended middle and high schools in the Garden State, returning to London for college. He and a group of friends started a university a cappella group and he turned his hobby into a career, spending more 23 years touring and singing professionally and watching a cappella become more appreciated.

    "I spent the first 20 years explaining what a cappella but for the last few years of my performing career I didn't have to explain it because everyone knew it," Doodson said. 

    Seeking a bit more stability, Doodson decided to create "Gobsmacked," which he hoped would crate a buzz about a cappella and beatboxing in the same way the Broadway show "Stomp!" boosted drumming and the 1989 movie "Tap" pushed tap dancing into the national conversation. He looked for the the genre's best singers.

    "Most a cappella grow organically, like a group of friends will form one. I wanted to create the best a cappella group in the world," he said. "It's like cooking, you're only as good as your ingredients."

    The show features a range of popular songs by artists including the Beatles, James Brown, Amy Winehouse and Ed Sheeran. The singers aren't still on stage. They're climbing and jumping and dancing, creating a "huge visual spectacular," Doodson said. "They're not standing and singing nicely."

    The show's title is a play on words. The word "gobsmacked" describes being surprised or amazed by something,  in a good or bad way. "Gob" is also slang for "mouth" and "smacked" prompts thought of lips smashing together. Doodson hopes the show leaves audiences pleasantly surprised by the music created by these moving mouths and smacking lips. 

    "We guarantee people will leave singing and dancing," he said. "I grew up in New Jersey. I know how enthusiastic people can be."

    GOBSMACKED!

    Count Basie Theatre

    99 Monmouth St., Red Bank

    Tickets:$20-35, available online at www.countbasietheatre.org. Nov. 29, 8 p.m.

    Natalie Pompilio is a freelance writer based in Philadelphia. She can be reached at nataliepompilio@yahoo.com. Find her on Twitter @nataliepompilio. Find NJ.com/Entertainment on Facebook. 


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    The two-unit Freehold house was the site of a photo that appeared on the lyrics sheet of his "Born to Run" album

    FREEHOLD-- For sale: A quaint, two-family home with a front porch, a spacious driveway and a tree straight from the lyrics sheet of a famous Bruce Springsteen album. 

    Springsteen's childhood house at 39 1/2 Institute St. in Freehold has attracted a lot of interest since it went on the market for $269,900 two weeks ago, but very little of it because it was once the home of a musical legend. 

    "To tell you the truth, who's looking at it are investors," said Barbara Conti, the listing agent. "It's an income property in a desirable neighborhood. Bruce lived there when he was a child. It doesn't really give a price boost." 

    But the white house with teal shutters does attract fans of The Boss, who come year-round to see the tree where in 1984 Springsteen took a photo that appeared in his "Born in the U.S.A." tour book and the lyrics sheet inside the album. Two or three people on average stop by to take pictures each day in the summer, Conti said. 

    The current owners, who bought the home for their family in 1971, used to keep guest books for visitors to the home to sign, Conti said. They now live with their daughter and no longer want to be landlords. 

    One of the house's two units, each of which has two bedrooms and a bathroom, is currently occupied by renters. 

    In his autobiography, "Born to Run," Springsteen wrote that he initially hated the cramped home where he lived on the left side of the duplex with his parents and sister from around the age of 5 until high school. 

    "No hot water, four tiny rooms, four blocks away from my grandparents," he wrote. "... I was roaring with anger and loss and every chance I got, I returned to stay with my grandparents. It was my true home." 

    More than half a century after Springsteen moved out of the Institute Street house, Conti said the amenities have improved. Still, she said, it's a tiny home built in a different era. 

    "It's been upgraded over the years, as far as the mechanics and the siding, but inside it's still little rooms, little closets -- different times, when a woman had a couple dresses and a man had maybe one suit," Conti said, laughing. "It's adequate. It's functionally obsolete, though. But it's a fun listing. I'm sure it'll go quick, even with the holidays." 

    Staff reporter Bobby Olivier contributed to this report. 

    Marisa Iati may be reached at miati@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @Marisa_Iati or on Facebook here. Find NJ.com on Facebook

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    "This controversy is rounding third base right now," one expert said of New Jersey's years-long effort to legalize sports betting. The U.S. Supreme Court is about to hear the case.

    OCEANPORT -- It was supposed to be the first of its kind in New Jersey: a lounge at Monmouth Park racetrack where people could legally bet on sports games -- just like they do in Las Vegas. 

    Four years after it was built, not a single bet has been placed. The lounge at the Oceanport track has been operating as a sports bar instead as the state's effort to legalize sports betting at racetracks and casinos has been held up in a lengthy court battle. 

    But that could soon change. The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in the case Dec. 4, and experts and officials say the scales finally appear to be tipping in New Jersey's favor. 

    "Anybody watching from the sidelines can see the writing on the wall," said Daniel Wallach, a gaming and sports law attorney with Becker & Poliakoff in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. 

    U.S. Supreme Court to hear N.J. sports betting case

    A ruling is not expected for months after the arguments -- likely in the spring, possibly as late as June.

    But racetrack and casino operators are so confident that they're already making preparations.

    Monmouth Park CEO Dennis Drazin said the sports betting lounge -- a $1 million partnership with British bookmaker William Hill -- could be up and running with kiosks and tellers within weeks after the decision. 

    Drazin said there are also plans to expand the lounge it into the grandstand and open a full-scale Las Vegas-style sportsbook. 

    Eighty miles south, MGM announced last week that it will soon begin construction on a $7 million sportsbook at the Borgata casino in Atlantic City. And more casinos are likely to follow.

    "The Atlantic City casinos can't wait until April to get their plans in order," Wallach said. "They have to prepare now. This controversy is rounding third base right now. It's almost over."

    Of course, none of this is a sure bet. After New Jersey voters approved sports betting in a 2011 referendum, a group of college and professional sports leagues -- the NCAA, NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL -- successfully sued to stop Gov. Chris Christie's administration from implementing it.

    Their argument: Not only does sports betting hurt the integrity of their games, it also violates the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, which bans such wagering in all but four states. 

    A number of courts have ruled against New Jersey. But the Supreme Court unexpectedly took up the case, even after the U.S. solicitor general in President Donald Trump's administration advised the court to pass on it.

    State Sen. Raymond Lesniak, D-Union, the New Jersey lawmaker who has spent years pushing for sports betting, said the nation's highest court "sent a clear message" by ignoring the solicitor general. 

    "I don't believe they would have done that only to knock it down," Lesniak said. 

    But even if the court sides with the state, it's unclear what its ruling will be. New Jersey is arguing the federal ban violates the Tenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution by allowing some states to allow sports betting while banning others. 

    Thus, experts say, the court could decide to overturn the federal ban completely.

    Bill Pascrell III, a lobbyist who has also spent years on the fight, said it helps that Trump recently appointed Neil Gorsuch to the court because Gorsuch is an advocate for states' rights.

    But Wallach said it's more likely the court will allow New Jersey to institute its latest plan: to repeal state laws banning sports betting to permit the wagering at racetracks and casinos.

    That means there would be no state regulation. The tracks and casinos would create their own regulatory process instead.

    Such a scenario, Wallach said, would likely "carve out an East Coast monopoly (on sports betting) for New Jersey until Congress changes the landscape."

    That's because while experts have long predicted New Jersey's case will spur other states to legalize sports betting, Wallach said they might think twice should that ruling occur.

    "You're talking about a state repealing criminal prohibitions governing sports betting," Wallach said. "Who else besides New Jersey would be willing to do that?"

    And if the court sides with the sports leagues? U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, D-11th Dist., said he's already drafted a bill that would overturn the federal ban and allow states to set up sports betting and online gambling if they choose, as long as it's regulated. 

    For that to become law, Pallone would need Congress to approve it and Trump to sign it.

    But Pallone said his colleagues are "coming on board more" than they used to on this issue. 

    Proponents' main argument is that sports betting is already taking place in the U.S. illegally, often run by organized crime. 

    Americans bet up to $60 billion annual on sports via offshore websites and bookmakers, according to Eilers & Krejcik Gaming.

    Drazin said that money could give a serious boost to New Jersey's horse-racing industry, which has been struggling in recent years after losing state subsidies.

    "Sports betting for us is survival here at Monmouth Park," the track's CEO said. 

    Atlantic City has also struggled in recent years, thanks to a string of casinos closing. 

    Whatever happens, the ruling will likely occur after Christie, a major proponent of sports betting, leaves the governor's office Jan. 16. But Pascrell, the lobbyist, said incoming governor Phil Murphy is also on board. 

    Murphy's spokesman did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

    "This has been a long, long road," Pascrell said. "But I have never been more confident of the outcome. The stars are aligned."

    The Associated Press contributed to this report.

    Brent Johnson may be reached at bjohnson@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @johnsb01. Find NJ.com Politics on Facebook. 


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    Pets throughout New Jersey need homes.

    According to thenoseprint.com, a pet-focused online hub for major pet product brands, New Jersey is the most generous state in the U.S. when it comes to buying gifts for their dogs.

    The 2015 survey of how much dog owners will spend on their pets at Christmas showed Garden State dog lovers coming in first at $30.01. New York ($29.55) and Pennsylvania ($28.75) came in second and third, making the tri-state area a good place to be a dog. The national average, by the way, was $23.10.

    The survey went on to note that the top five reasons dog owners say they spoil their pets:

    * "to express love to my dog"

    * "because it's fun for me"

    * "to help my dog feel included like a family member"

    * "to give my dog a moment of happiness"

    * and, "to feel closer and bond with my dog"

    Many pets throughout New Jersey won't be receiving any gifts this holiday season, though, because they don't have homes, like those in this gallery of homeless pets from New Jersey.


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    He was charged in connection with a hostage situation in Virginia involving an 18-month-old child.

    ASBURY PARK -- A 27-year-old city man who was found slain in a sport utility vehicle on Wednesday night has a criminal record that includes charges of kidnapping in Virginia and was just released from prison in July, according to court records and news reports.

    Denzel Morgan.jpegDenzel Morgan-Hicks was release from state prison on July 30. He was found dead in a vehicle in Asbury Park late Wednesday night. ( New Jersey Department of Corrections). 

    Denzel Morgan-Hicks was found dead late Wednesday in the driver's seat of a 2017 Ford Expedition in the 100 block of Prospect Avenue, according to authorities. Law enforcement sources say he was found shot to death. 

    As police search for more clues as to whom is responsible for his death, court records and previous media reports provide a clearer picture of his criminal past, which started at the age of 20.

    Morgan-Hicks was charged in August 2011 with two other men for holding a man, woman and a young child hostage at gunpoint at residences in Smyth County, Virginia, which is roughly 100 miles south of Roanoke near the border of North Carolina.

    According to a report in the Bristol Herald Courier, Morgan-Hicks and another Asbury Park man, Tyshawn Byrd, took a man at gunpoint from one home to another in search of money to steal. Another man stayed at the home with a woman and an 18-month-old child, the report said.

    The woman and child were able to escape from the back window of the mobile home and flee to a neighbor's home, according to the report.

    Authorities were able to locate the Chevrolet Impala Morgan was driving and he was arrested and charged with malicious wounding, three counts of kidnapping and one count of breaking and entering.

    Morgan-Hicks, then 22, was indicted in September 2011. A spokesman for the Virginia Department of Corrections said he entered prison in Virginia on March 14, 2012.

    While locked up in Virginia, he was sentenced on Nov. 8, 2012, to five years for weapons charges he received in New Jersey on Oct. 31, 2010. No details of that incident were immediately available. 

    Morgan-Hicks was released from prison in Virginia on May 11, 2015, and was transferred to South Woods State Prison in Bridgeton to serve the remainder of his sentence for the weapons charges. He was released on July 30.

    Court records in New Jersey also show that Morgan-Hicks pleaded guilty on March 14, 2011, to resisting arrest in Ocean County, a fourth-degree crime. 

    Morgan-Hicks, then 20, was arrested on Oct. 10, 2010 -- just days before his gun charges in Monmouth County -- after he was involved in a fight in Jackson Township in front of a Veterans of Foreign Wars hall, the Asbury Park Press reported at the time.

    The report said police arrived to find 300 people gathered in the parking lot and several fights happening. A police officer was injured as a result of one of the brawls, the report said.

    Morgan-Hicks was sentenced on Aug. 2, 2013, again while serving time in Virginia and did not receive any additional jail time for the resisting arrest offense.

    Authorities in Monmouth County are continuing to look for leads in Morgan-Hicks' death. 

    Anyone with information is urged to call prosecutor's office Detective John Leibfried at 1-800-533-7443 or Detective Dillan Gourley, of the Asbury Park Police Department at 732-775-2936.

    Anonymous tips can also be provided to Monmouth County Crime Stoppers at 1-800-671-4400,  or by texting "MONMOUTH" plus their tip to 274637, or, email via the website at www.monmouthcountycrimestoppers.com.

    Alex Napoliello may be reached at anapoliello@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @alexnapoNJ. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

     

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    The man's death appears to be accidental

    A fire in a Beatty Street home in Trenton Sunday night killed a Monmouth County man, Trenton police and firefighters said.

    City Firefighters found Edward Smith, 31, of Allentown on a mattress in the front of the home in the 700 block at about 9:15 p.m., police said.

    Police and county prosecutor's detectives believe the man's death was an accident, but continue to investigate Monday, police said.

    The fire started in the area of the home's stove and also believed to be accidental, police said.

    Fire Battalion Chief Steve Coltre said when firefighters arrived, flames were shooting from the front, first-floor windows, in the area where firefighters later found the victim.

    Fire companies initially entered the rear of the structure to fight their way to the front, he said. They found the fire burned from the rear to the front.

    The firefighters were able to keep the flames from spreading to the attached homes, Coltre said.

    While not a resident, the man was not a stranger to the residents, Coltre said.

    A dog also died in the blaze, officials said.

    Kevin Shea may be reached at kshea@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter@kevintshea. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

     

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    Statewide, the median teacher salary in school districts in New Jersey ranges from as low as $43,911 to as high as $105,650. These were the districts in each of the state's 21 counties that paid their teachers the most.


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    The man was allegedly offered money to change his story

    Three Monmouth County residents tried to bribe the victim of an Asbury Park robbery in an attempt to get the victim to change his story, authorities said. 

    James Williams, 32, of Red Bank, who is facing charges in an armed robbery, arranged for Hideia Bouie, 21, and Ameer Washington, 27, to approach the victim and offer him money to say the incident never happened, the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office said.

    Williams, Bouie and Washington are charged with second-degree witness tampering. That charge carries a possible maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

    Accused gang member convicted of armed robbery, witness intimidation

    The three will appear at a detention hearing Wednesday to determine whether they can be held until trial. Bouie and Washington are Neptune Township residents. 

    Williams has been already been indicted on a charge of first-degree armed robbery following the Feb. 18. incident. He could be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

    Jeff Goldman may be reached at jeff_goldman@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @JeffSGoldman. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

     

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    The last NJ.com Top 20 before state champions are crowned is here.


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