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News from Monmouth County, New Jersey

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    Tune in here for all the games at Kean, Rutgers and MetLife.

    Once again, when it comes to the finals, if you can't be there, be here. And in this case, even if you can be there, be here too. will feature LIVE VIDEO for all 17 of the football finals at Kean, Rutgers and MetLife Stadium over the first three of the four-day finals extravaganza.  The videos will be accompanied by lively fan chats with our reporters, who'll be offering analysis and taking your questions. Immediately after the games are over, we will have full-game replays of all 17 of those games.

    Don't miss these webcasts - they are vital viewing, and will even be good to watch on mobile devices at the games. Remember what happened at the end of the very last final last year?

    The schedule for the live video coverage is below. Finding the video will be simple - just show up at before game time and you'll see the links you need.

    Note: The six other finals - all the ones at Rowan on Saturday and Sunday - will not be carried by our partners at News12Varsity and will not get live video on, but we will have LIVE UPDATES and fan chat for those games.

    LIVE VIDEO SCHEDULE (all times approximate)
    Thursday, Nov. 30
    From MetLife Stadium
    • Rutherford vs. Hackettstown, North 2, Group 2 final, 5 p.m.
    • Westfield vs. Bridgewater-Raritan, North 2, Group 5 final, 8 p.m.

    Friday, Dec. 1
    From MetLife Stadium
    Montclair vs. Union City, North 1, Group 5 final, 5 p.m.
    • Bergen Catholic vs. St. Peter’s Prep, Non-Public, Group 4 final, 8 p.m.
    From Kean University
    • Lakeland vs. Newton, North 1, Group 2 final, 7 p.m.

    Saturday, Dec. 2
    From MetLife Stadium
    West Essex vs. Voorhees, North 2, Group 3 final, 10 a.m.
    • Phillipsburg vs. North HunterdonNorth 2, Group 4 final, 1 p.m.
    • Ramapo, vs. River Dell, North 1, Group 3 final, 4 p.m.
    • Old Tappan vs. Mount Olive, North 1, Group 4 final, 7 p.m.

    From High Point Solutions Stadium, Rutgers University
    • Point Pleasant Boro vs. HillsideCentral Jersey, Group 2 final, 10 a.m.
    • Manalapan vs. South Brunswick, Central Jersey, Group 2 final, 1 p.m.
    • Long Branch vs. Freehold Borough, Central Jersey, Group 4 final, 4 p.m.
    • Rumson-Fair Haven vs. Somerville, Central Jersey, Group 3 final, 7 p.m.
    From Kean University
    • Weequahic vs. Shabazz, North 2, Group 1 final, 10 a.m.
    • DePaul vs. St Joseph (Mont.), Non-Public, Group 3 final, 1 p.m.
    • Middlesex vs. Point Pleasant BeachCentral Jersey, Group 1 final, 4 p.m.
    • Hasbrouck Heights vs. Pompton Lakes, North 1, Group 1 final, 7 p.m.

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    Apparently, Gaten Matarazzo can do a little bit of everything.

    Apparently, Little Egg Harbor Township native and star teenage actor Gaten Matarazzo's skillset is not limited to his acting role on one of the most popular television shows of the last two years. 

    The 15-year-old "Stranger Things" phenom will perform with his rock band, Work in Progress, which includes his sister, Sabrina, Dec. 29 at the legendary Stone Pony in Asbury Park for the venue's annual Winter Break Party.

    Doors will open at 6 p.m. Tickets are $12 in advance and $15 at the door.

    The news was first reported by NJ 101.5.

    Matarazzo, who began his acting career on Broadway, first rose to fame upon the release of "Stranger Things," an ultra-popular Netflix series, in July 2016 in which he plays Dustin Henderson, a nerdy middle-schooler finagling his way through a thrilling sci-fi world based in the 1980s.

    From photos on the band's Instagram, it appears Matarazzo is a singer in the six-person band. Work In Progress is scheduled to play at the Tuckerton Beach Grill this Saturday, Dec. 2, at 8 p.m., but Matarazzoro is unable to attend because of a previous obligation, according to the band's Instagram.

    While the Stone Pony is a significant venue at which to perform for a young band, it likely won't intimidate Matarazzoro, who recently showcased his singing skills with American idol winner and award-winning pop star Kelly Clarkson at the 2017 WE Day Toronto event.

    And you can't forget, him and his "Stranger Things" cohorts sang a few classic 80s jams with late-night host James Corden earlier this month.

    Joe Atmonavage may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @jatmonavageNJFind on Facebook

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    Joseph Villani and Raquel Garajau are accused of killing Trupal Patel and dumping his body in Shark River Park in Wall Township on Feb. 22.

    FREEHOLD -- A superseding indictment charging a Monmouth County college honors student and her boyfriend with killing a 29-year-old Brick Township resident earlier this year was returned ahead of the start of their trial on Wednesday.

    Trupal Patel.jpgTrupal Patel, who was found dead Feb. 22. (Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office)

    Joseph Villani, 21, of Ocean Township, and Raquel Garajau, 20, of Tinton Falls, are charged with killing Trupal Patel and dumping his body in Shark River Park in Wall Township on Feb. 22.

    The new indictment, handed up in Superior Court in Monmouth County, includes 11 new counts: Conspiracy to commit murder, conspiracy to commit robbery, conspiracy to commit theft of marijuana, theft of marijuana, conspiracy to commit theft of cash and/or a Movado watch, theft of cash and/or Movado watch, conspiracy to possess a weapon for an unlawful purpose, conspiracy to disturb human remains, conspiracy to distribute marijuana and additional counts of tampering with physical evidence and tampering with a witness or informant.

    The new indictment reveals that the couple could have possibly conspired to kill Patel as early as May 22, 2016, and includes information that the couple allegedly planned to sell marijuana stolen from Patel to others. 

    The indictment alleges Villani and Garajau established a relationship with Patel after a person, who is only identified by his or her initials, told Villani about how much cash Patel had. Villani knew Patel and had purchased marijuana from him, according to police documents. 

    According to the affidavit of probable cause, police interviewed someone who identified Villani as his best friend. The friend told police that Villani had "told him on multiple occasions that he was going to rob Patel." Villani had also asked the friend questions about how much marijuana and money Patel had, the affidavit says.

    Police interviewed Villani after a different witness told police that Villani contacted him on Feb. 7 to help him move a vehicle because he needed to fix the brakes, according to the affidavit. The witness later recognized the car as Patel's after a picture of it was published by the media, the affidavit says.

    Patel's car.jpgAuthorities released a picture of Patel's black Jaguar, which they found on an Asbury Park street the day he was reported missing. (Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office)

    In the interview with Villani, he allegedly told detectives "I did it" several times, according to the affidavit. Authorities said Villani told them no additional information, but they noted he was in possession of Patel's Movado watch.

    While interviewing Villani, detectives were also speaking to his girlfriend, Garajau, an honors student at Brookdale Community College.

    She told detectives she and Villani "spoke loosely about robbing Patel, but she did not take him seriously," according to the affidavit. She then said Villani told her he was in his garage with Patel on Feb. 5 when things "got physical."

    "Villani said that he shot him in the head with a gun," the affidavit says. The indictment says Villani used a .22-caliber Marlin semi-automatic rifle in the alleged murder.

    Villani did not tell her what he did with Patel's body, but he did show her the drops of blood on the garage floor, the affidavit says. Detectives later searched the garage and found blood and recovered a shell casing, as well as two shell casings in an upstairs room and a bloody shoe in Villani's bedroom, according to the affidavit.

    Villani's attorney, Edward Bertucio, has said in previous court hearings that his client acted in self-defense to thwart a "violent intruder" who wouldn't leave his home. 

    On Feb. 25, the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office announced it had arrested Villani in connection with the murder of Patel, whose body was discovered along the side of Gully Road in Shark River Park by a county park ranger.

    The couple sold marijuana stolen from Patel to others, according to the indictment. They also used cash stolen from the drug dealer to buy a ring from Pandora and a PlayStation 4, the indictment states. Authorities said the Movado watch is worth around $500. 

    Villani and Garajau were both named in a 13-count indictment returned by a grand jury in Monmouth County on May 15. They are charged with murder, robbery, felony murder, possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, disturbing or desecrating human remains, tampering with evidence, hindering apprehension of oneself, hindering apprehension of another and tampering with a witness.

    Jury selection is scheduled to start at 9 a.m. on Wednesday in Monmouth County Superior Court in Freehold. Both defendants remain in the Monmouth County jail.

    Alex Napoliello may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @alexnapoNJ. Find on Facebook.

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    Jury selection was scheduled to start at 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday. But a superseding indictment filed on Monday put things on hold. Defense attorneys say it's on purpose.

    Defense attorneys for a couple accused of killing a 29-year-old Brick Township man lashed out on prosecutors in a Monmouth County courtroom on Wednesday, calling a new indictment filed just days before a trial "prosecutorial vindictiveness."

    Trupal Patel.jpgTrupal Patel, who was found dead Feb. 22. (Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office)

    Robert A. Honecker Jr., an attorney representing Raquel Garajau, who is accused of conspiring with her boyfriend, Joseph Villani, to kill Trupal Patel to rob him of marijuana and cash, accused prosecutors of attempting to "derail the trial" after months of pre-trial court hearings. 

    "They did everything in this new indictment to not have any problems ... raised by the defense in two months of hearings," he told Judge Thomas F. Scully in Monmouth County Superior Court in Freehold. "If that doesn't speak of manipulation and motivation -- and I really don't like using these words ... but you just don't go back to grand jury and because you're not getting it right, try to change the game."

    At issue is a new indictment filed on Monday that charged Garajau, 20, of Tinton Falls, and Villani, 21, of Ocean Township, with 11 additional counts in connection to the death of Patel.

    Authorities say Villani shot and killed Patel in his garage on Feb. 5 and then dumped his body in Shark River Park in Wall Township. The body was discovered by a county park ranger around 8:30 a.m. on Feb. 22. 

    Garajau and Villani are charged with murder, robbery, weapons offenses, disturbing or desecrating human remains, tampering with evidence, tampering with a witness and hindering apprehension. 

    The new indictment includes new counts of conspiracy to commit murder, conspiracy to commit robbery, conspiracy to commit theft of marijuana, theft of marijuana, conspiracy to commit theft of cash and/or a Movado watch, theft of cash and/or Movado watch, conspiracy to possess a weapon for an unlawful purpose, conspiracy to disturb human remains, conspiracy to distribute marijuana and additional counts of tampering with physical evidence and tampering with a witness or informant. It also strips a count of unlawful possession of an assault firearm from the original indictment.

    An attorney for Villani, Elyse Schindel, said prosecutors are attempting to circumvent the new bail reform guidelines, which entitles defendants to a speedy trial, by "starting the clock all over again."

    "If that is not a perversion of the entire system, then I do not know what is," Schindel told Scully.

    Assistant Monmouth County Prosecutor Melanie Falco rebuked those claims, arguing there was a large amount of evidence in the case, including 100,000 pages of cell phone records that prosecutors had not had sufficient time to go through before the original indictment.

    And in October, prosecutors found more evidence leading to the new conspiracy counts, which was presented to a grand jury, Falco said.

    "Presented this week? Well in excess of a month after?" Scully remarked.

    Falco said the new counts don't change the penalties on the table for the defendants in the case.

    "They faced life and they still face life," she said.

    Jury selection was scheduled to start at 10 a.m. on Wednesday.

    Villani appeared in the courtroom clean-shaven and in a gray suit. His co-defendant, once an honor student at Brookdale Community College, appeared in a maroon jail-issued jumpsuit. The two are scheduled to go on trial together and Garajau had clothes in the basement of the courthouse had jury selection started.

    But that will be delayed until next week after Scully offers his opinion on how to proceed with the case.

    Attorneys for the defendants said they don't believe the new indictment should be recognized because court rules prevent new indictments from being handed up after the start of a trial, which they contend was on Oct. 2.

    "What the state has done with this superseding indictment, it has decided the rules that are now in place do not apply to them," Honecker said. "As far as we're concerned, it doesn't exist," he said of the new indictment. 

    But Scully said he cannot proceed in the case pretending it doesn't exist. He said the new indictment presents a "major change" to the original charging document. 

    "We are sailing in some unchartered waters here," Scully said.

    He asked both sides to submit written motions by 4:30 p.m. on Monday. He will review them and make a determination by Wednesday morning. 

    Alex Napoliello may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @alexnapoNJ. Find on Facebook.

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    The state finals are here and has you covered once again.

    NJ Advance Media has provided wall-to-wall coverage of the 2017 New Jersey high school football season all year long, and with the biggest games of the season on the horizon that coverage continues with's video preview of the sectional finals.

    WATCH: video preview of the finals

    Check out NJ Advance Media's full high school football staff as reporters from all over the state preview the best match-ups and pick every single game in the video above.

    Jeremy Schneider may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @J_Schneider. Find on Facebook.

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    New Jersey's legislators are notoriously bad at math, but they're getting a quick education as Phil Murphy calls for yet another hike in the so-called "millionaires' tax."

    In light of the tax legislation coming out of Washington, Democratic Gov.-elect Phil Murphy is having tough going pushing his proposal for a so-called "millionaires' tax."

    Let me offer this advice: Just call it a "billionaires' tax." That sounds better. And perhaps no one in Trenton will notice.

    I make that based on my observation of the 2004  "millionaires' tax" legislation. The bill's proponents made an argument that was obviously fallacious to anyone who could do fifth-grade math.

    They said on the Assembly floor that the 2.6 percent tax hike on those making more than $500,000 a year would raise an additional $800 million annually. They went on to argue that the new tax would cost the average "millionaire" only about $850 a year.

    That made no sense. At that rate, you'd need almost a million "millionaires" to generate $800 million in revenue. In fact there were a mere 28,500 such households and the average tax hike was $30,000.

    No one caught the mistake however (not uncommon in Trenton), not even the many Republicans who voted for the bill on the grounds that the revenue would fund increased property-tax rebates.

    "Seniors holding balloons filled the streets outside the Trenton War Memorial and cheered as I signed the legislation," McGreevey wrote in his 2006 book "The Confession" - in which he repeated the math error from two years earlier.

    Somehow I don't think Gov. Murphy will encounter similar celebrations if he decides to go ahead with his so-called "millionaires' tax."

    Murphy's got a problem. President Trump seems determined to fleece our millionaires before he can get a chance to.

    The bills now before both houses of Congress are being billed as tax cuts. In fact they represent big tax hikes for New Jerseyans - from the middle class on up.

    That's because both versions would end the current practice of permitting SALT - State and Local Taxes - to be deducted against the federal income tax.

    The wealthier you are, the more you're likely to pay in SALT. Perhaps the best example is Murphy himself, who pays $200,000 a year in property taxes on his home  in Middletown Township. 

    This time around, the Democrats are doing the math. Typical is state Sen. Paul Sarlo, the budget chairman who represents a district that includes some of the wealthiest sections of Bergen County.

    In an opinion piece that ran recently in his local newspaper, Sarlo offered this grim  view of the future if the Republican tax-reform bill passes.

    "The Wall Street Journal practically reveled in the fact if the Republican tax bill passes, 'progressive states will have an even harder time' averting outmigration to low-tax states," Sarlo wrote. "Certainly, living six months and a day in Florida to establish legal residency or moving west to Pennsylvania will be a lot more attractive if state income taxes are no longer deductible."

    Meanwhile U.S. Rep. Josh Gottheimer, also from Bergen, wrote on these pages the other day that  "for those of us in northern New Jersey, federal and property taxes will go up, jobs and business will flee, and it's going to be harder to sell your home for what it should be worth."

    At a Murphy press conference in Trenton Tuesday, several reporters cited the possible economic disaster that could ensue. They asked if this would affect the incoming governor's plan to hike taxes on high-income residents.

    Murphy said the Republican tax plan would be "an awful bill for America, for New Jersey in  particular and for the middle class."

    He then added this:

    "I think millionaires are going do just fine in this bill, so it doesn't impact my view on what we should do in New Jersey."

    The man who will soon represent Murphy's town in the state Senate disagrees.

     "The double whammy of losing the SALT deductions and facing a state income tax hike will cause a lot of my constituents to flee," said Assemblyman Declan O'Scanlon.

    O'Scanlon, who was elected to the Senate earlier this month,  said his district includes a lot of residents who might want to take advantage of the six-months-and-a-day option Sarlo mentioned.

    "They already have houses in Florida where they spend three months of the year," he said. "They just have to stay out of state six months and a day and they can keep their houses on the Navesink without paying state income tax."

    O'Scanlon predicted  the debate among the Democrats who control both houses about any tax hike is going to be heated.

    "They have conceded the point that taxes can push people out of the state," he said of the Democrats. "You can't claim be a human being who understands math and not know that we may be on the cusp of economic disaster."

    The Democrat with perhaps the most say in the matter, state Senate President Steve Sweeney, told me yesterday that the specter of that Republican plan has him worried about adding a new tax.

    "As much as I support it and have driven the millionaires tax as an issue, this is a game-changer coming out of Washington," Sweeney said. "We need to take a very  full and complete look at it."

    Let's do that. It would certainly be a first.

    ADD: A 2011 study by the state Treasurer's office concluded the 2004 "millionaires' tax"  hike led to an exodus "that totaled roughly 20,000 taxpayers and $2.5 billion in annual income."

    Things will be much worse if Murphy gets his tax hike. He hasn't given the details yet, but fellow Goldman Sachs alum Jon Corzine hiked the top rate to 10.75 percent. 

    Combine that with the 39.6 percent top rate in one of the GOP bills and you will see that Jersey's wealthiest taxpayers would see more than 50 percent of their income grabbed by the government before they even get a chance to pay our outrageous property taxes.

    Meanwhile Florida beckons with no income tax and property taxes that are a fraction of ours. 

    In the old days, people had to be physically near New York City to do business there. Now they can avoid having a house in Jersey and simply telecommute from some low-tax state.

    That's the new reality. And until our legislators become smarter than the tax accountants, New Jersey won't be able to soak the rich quite as much as our liberal friends might wish. 

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    Can't you read the sign?

    "Signs, signs, everywhere there's signs, blockin' out the scenery, breakin' my mind. Do this, don't do that, can't you read the sign?" Can you name the song and the band? The answer will be provided at the end.

    Before digital billboards and electronic message boards, we had old fashioned signs. "High tech" was once the crawling message in Times Square. Everything else was static; signs might have flashed on and off, but that was about the extent of the technology.

    Code 224-15 Still There vineland.jpgPeople from south Jersey know what this sign means. I think. 

    One of my favorite tasks when I worked at the Holiday Inn in Vineland in the 1970s was changing the highway message sign. While I was duty-bound to put up the standard information, like "Welcome" to whatever group was holding a convention or restaurant specials, the opportunity for originality was occasionally available.

    During the heyday of the Broad Street Bullies, I delighted in posting period-by-period scores of Flyers games for the benefit of passersby. Mind you, this was a sign in the fashion of old movie marquees, where you changed 1-ft.-tall letters with a long pole.

    MORE: Vintage photos around New Jersey

    On some stretches of New Jersey roadways there is so much signage that motorists are unable to read any of the messages. But, in some places, signs serve as local or state landmarks. Folks in Middlesex County in the '70s would say "meet at the elephant," referring to a sign in front of Ducoff's Tuxedos on Route 27. Other signs that pretty much told you exactly where you were included the Maxwell House plant sign in Hoboken, the Colgate sign and clock in Jersey City and the Anheuser Busch sign seen approaching Newark Airport.

    Enjoy this collection vintage signs in New Jersey. And here are links to other galleries you might like. And the Five Man Electrical Band had a #3 hit with the song "Signs" in 1971.

    Vintage photos of N.J. street scenes

    Vintage photos of streets and roads in N.J.

    Vintage photos of street scenes in N.J.

    Greg Hatala may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @GregHatala. Find Greg Hatala on Facebook.

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    According to its Trulia listing, the taxes on the property this year were about $17,365.

    In this week's "Sold!" property, we feature a home in Colts Neck with nearly 4,800 square feet of living space.

    The house sold for $1,375,000 in October. According to its Trulia listing, the taxes on the property this year were about $17,365.

    The home features five bedrooms, five full bathrooms and one partial bath. The house was assessed this year at $999,000.

    The median sale price for homes in the area is $649,950.

    Spencer Kent may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @SpencerMKent. Find the Find on Facebook.

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    The 27-year-old from Neptune allegedly fire on a 26-year-old woman

    A 27-year-old New Jersey man has been charged with attempted murder 10 months after a shooting at an Eatontown motel, authorities said.

    nichols.jpgMarqwell Nichols 

    Convicted sex offender Marqwell Nichols was also charged with weapons offenses when he was arrested Wednesday, the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office said in a statement.

    Nichols is accused of opening fire on a 26-year-old woman at 8:35 p.m. on January 30 at the Pan American Motel on Route 35. 

    Officials didn't say whether the woman was injured. Nichols made a first appearance in court Wednesday and is scheduled for a detention hearing Monday. 

    In 2015, Nichols was convicted of engaging in sexual contact with a 12-year-old girl. 

    Anyone with information about the shooting is asked to call Det. Wayne Raynor of the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office at 800-533-7443 or Det. Jason Cardamoni of the Eatontown police at 732-542-0100.

    Jeff Goldman may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @JeffSGoldman. Find on Facebook.


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    A 63-year-old man died Tuesday from his injuries, four days after his car struck a deer in Somerset County

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    The weapon was discovered by another student, who alerted a teacher

    A 16-year-old Allentown High School student was arrested at the school Wednesday after officials found him with a handgun, the New Jersey State Police said.

    The weapon was discovered by another student, who notified a teacher, State Police spokesman Capt. Brian Polite said. The teacher took possession of the firearm and called police, at about 1 p.m., police said. 

    Troopers detained the student and charged him with firearm possession. He was later taken to the Middlesex County Juvenile Detention Center, police said.

    "The investigation found no evidence that would suggest that the student had any intention of seeking to use, harm or threaten anyone," Upper Freehold Regional School Superintendent Richard Fitzpatrick wrote in a Wednesday statement to parents and staff.

    Fitzpatrick said the student was suspended and will not be able to return to the high school for at least a year.

    The high school's campus on High Street straddles the border of Allentown and Upper Freehold.

    Kevin Shea may be reached at Follow him on Twitter@kevintshea. Find on Facebook.


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    The owner transported the kitten to a job center, a hospital, a vet's office and a party attended by more than a dozen people before symptoms of rabies emerged.

    A newly adopted stray kitten may have exposed up to a dozen people to rabies in Mercer, Middlesex and Monmouth counties over the past two weeks, State Public Health Veterinarian Colin Campbell announced Thursday.

    The owner adopted the kitten in Edison Nov. 12 and grew attached so quickly, the feline would accompany its new master to errands throughout central New Jersey over the next 11 days.

    Health officials believe two students at the Branford Hall Career Institute in Hamilton may have been exposed to the kitten Nov. 13-16, Campbell's statement said.

    The owner also took the kitten to work Nov. 13-14 at an unnamed Middlesex County hospital. The state Health Department declined to identify the hospital because the cat was kept inside a carrier.

    "We did not want to cause undue alarm," department spokeswoman Nicole Kirgan said.

    The owner transported the kitten for a wellness check at Canfield Pet Hospital in Manalapan on Nov. 16.

    The following day, the kitten played among a dozen people at at Thanksgiving party in Old Bridge.

    There were no signs the kitten was infected with the potentially deadly virus until Nov. 23, when it stopped eating and became fatigued. Paralysis in the back limbs set in the next day.

    The kitten was brought to Garden State Veterinary Specialists in Tinton Falls on Nov. 25 and was euthanized on Nov. 26, Kirgan said.

    Any people or animals who may have been in contact with this kitten between Nov. 13 and Nov. 23 should contact their local health department, or consult a medical or veterinary health care provider, Campbell said. 

    Symptoms can develop anywhere from 12 days to six months after a bite, scratch brother exposure. 

    "Human rabies cases are rare in the United States and treatment is 100 percent effective if given promptly," Campbell said in a statement. "Treatment is a dose of rabies immune globulin and a series of rabies vaccinations over 14 days. People exposed to the rabies virus should be treated promptly to prevent infection. If untreated, rabies infections can be fatal."

    There have been 16 cats with rabies in New Jersey from January through September, according to the health department.

    Susan K. Livio may be reached at Follow her on Twitter @SusanKLivio. Find Politics on Facebook.


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    All of's coverage of every NJSIAA State Football Championship game

    Welcome to the hub of our championship-weekend coverage - Thursday through Sunday this year. 

    This is the place to find links to all of our wall-to-wall coverage of the 23 finals - namely, LIVE VIDEO (and on-demand replay) of 17 games, LIVE play-by-play updates for the other six games, photo galleries of every game and full postgame coverage of every game.

    Any slot below that's not currently a link will eventually become a link - and there will be more. So keep it here through Sunday night, and keep refreshing this page for the latest.

    Previews and picks for 23 championships

      WATCH: Our writers preview & predict the finals 
      LIVE VIDEO and on-demand replay for 17 finals 
    Full schedule by day & venue (full schedule/scoreboard is below)

    Brackets for every section
     Finals-week Top 20 


    North 2, Group 5, at MetLife Stadium
    No. 8 Westfield 20, No. 19 Bridgewater-Raritan 7

    Westfield 3-peats, beating Bridgewater-Raritan once again 
    Despite 3rd straight finals loss, B-R understands 'the journey'
    •  Photo gallery
    •  Full video replay
    Stars of the game
    Box score
    Full coverage

    North 2, Group 2 at MetLife Stadium
    Rutherford 21, Hackettstown 13

    Rutherford grabs 1st title since 1966 with win over Hackettstown
    • Hackettstown's turnaround season comes to disappointing end
    •  Full video replay
    •  Photo gallery
    Stars of the game
    Box score
    Full coverage


    North 1, Group 5, 5 p.m. at MetLife Stadium
    No. 6 Montclair vs. Union City
    •  LIVE VIDEO and fan chat
    •  Photo gallery
    • Game recap
    • Stars of the game
    • Box score
    • Full coverage

    North 1, Group 2, 7 p.m. at Kean
    Lakeland vs. Newton
    •  LIVE VIDEO and fan chat
    •  Photo gallery
    • Game recap
    • Stars of the game
    • Box score
    • Full coverage

    Non-Public, Group 4, 8 p.m. at MetLife Stadium
    No. 1 Bergen Catholic vs. No. 2 St. Peter’s Prep
    •  LIVE VIDEO and fan chat
    •  Photo gallery
    • Game recap
    • Stars of the game
    • Box score
    • Full coverage


    North 2, Group 3, 10 a.m. at MetLife Stadium
    West Essex vs. Voorhees
    •  LIVE VIDEO and fan chat
    •  Photo gallery
    • Game recap
    • Stars of the game
    • Box score
    • Full coverage

    Central Jersey, Group 2, 10 a.m. at Rutgers
    Point Pleasant Boro vs. Hillside
    •  LIVE VIDEO and fan chat
    •  Photo gallery
    • Game recap
    • Stars of the game
    • Box score
    • Full coverage

    North 2, Group 1, 10 a.m. at Kean
    Weequahic vs. Shabazz
    •  LIVE VIDEO and fan chat
    •  Photo gallery
    • Game recap
    • Stars of the game
    • Box score
    • Full coverage

    South Jersey, Group 3, 11 a.m. at Rowan
    No. 13 Delsea vs. Woodrow Wilson
    •  LIVE VIDEO and fan chat
    •  Photo gallery
    • Game recap
    • Stars of the game
    • Box score
    • Full coverage

    North 2, Group 4, 1 p.m. at MetLife Stadium
    No. 15 Phillipsburg vs. No. 16 North Hunterdon
    •  LIVE VIDEO and fan chat
    •  Photo gallery
    • Game recap
    • Stars of the game
    • Box score
    • Full coverage

    Central Jersey, Group 5, 1 p.m. at Rutgers
    No. 4 Manalapan vs. No. 17 South Brunswick
    •  LIVE VIDEO and fan chat
    •  Photo gallery
    • Game recap
    • Stars of the game
    • Box score
    • Full coverage

    Non-Public, Group 3, 1 p.m. at Kean
    No. 5 DePaul vs. No. 3 St Joseph (Mont.)
    •  LIVE VIDEO and fan chat
    •  Photo gallery
    • Game recap
    • Stars of the game
    • Box score
    • Full coverage

    South Jersey, Group 1, 2:30 p.m. at Rowan
    Paulsboro vs. Penns Grove

    •  LIVE VIDEO and fan chat
    •  Photo gallery
    • Game recap
    • Stars of the game
    • Box score
    • Full coverage

    North 1, Group 3, 4 p.m. at MetLife Stadium
    No. 20 Ramapo, vs. River Dell
    •  LIVE VIDEO and fan chat
    •  Photo gallery
    • Game recap
    • Stars of the game
    • Box score
    • Full coverage

    Central Jersey, Group 4, 4 p.m. at Rutgers
    Long Branch vs. Freehold Borough

    •  LIVE VIDEO and fan chat
    •  Photo gallery
    • Game recap
    • Stars of the game
    • Box score
    • Full coverage

    Central Jersey, Group 1, 4 p.m. at Kean
    Middlesex vs. Point Pleasant Beach
    •  LIVE VIDEO and fan chat
    •  Photo gallery
    • Game recap
    • Stars of the game
    • Box score
    • Full coverage

    South Jersey, Group 5, 6 p.m. at Rowan
    No. 7 Lenape vs. No. 10 Rancocas Valley

    •  LIVE VIDEO and fan chat
    •  Photo gallery
    • Game recap
    • Stars of the game
    • Box score
    • Full coverage

    North 1, Group 4, 7 p.m. at MetLife Stadium
    No. 9 Old Tappan vs. Mount Olive
    •  LIVE VIDEO and fan chat
    •  Photo gallery
    • Game recap
    • Stars of the game
    • Box score
    • Full coverage

    Central Jersey, Group 3, 7 p.m. at Rutgers
    Rumson-Fair Haven vs. Somerville
    •  LIVE VIDEO and fan chat
    •  Photo gallery
    • Game recap
    • Stars of the game
    • Box score
    • Full coverage

    North 1, Group 1, 7 p.m. at Kean
    Hasbrouck Heights vs. Pompton Lakes
    •  LIVE VIDEO and fan chat
    •  Photo gallery
    • Game recap
    • Stars of the game
    • Box score
    • Full coverage


    South Jersey, Group 2, 11 a.m. at Rowan
    1-West Deptford vs. 6-Haddonfield
    •  LIVE VIDEO and fan chat
    •  Photo gallery
    • Game recap
    • Stars of the game
    • Box score
    • Full coverage

    Non-Public, Group 2, 2:30 p.m. at Rowan
    No. 11 St. Joseph (Hamm.) vs. Mater Dei
    •  LIVE VIDEO and fan chat
    •  Photo gallery
    • Game recap
    • Stars of the game
    • Box score
    • Full coverage

    South Jersey, Group 4, 6 p.m. at Rowan
    Shawnee vs. Hammonton

    •  LIVE VIDEO and fan chat
    •  Photo gallery
    • Game recap
    • Stars of the game
    • Box score
    • Full coverage


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    A snowy owl, dubbed "Island Beach," was captured, banded and released Wednesday morning at Island Beach State Park. Watch video

    The Garden State could see an explosion of Arctic-dwelling snowy owls this year as a result of a strong breeding season and an abundance of prey, researchers say. 

    After receiving reports of a snowy owl sighting at Island Beach State Park, researchers with Project SNOWstorm, including New Jersey Audubon Society staff, were stationed at the park early Wednesday with the aim of capturing and banding one of these owls, New Jersey Audubon Society said in a news release. 

    "By 7:55 a.m., one was trapped in a net, quickly banded, fitted with a transmitter, nicknamed 'Island Beach' and released back into the wild," the conservation group said.

    The group said New Jersey typically only gets a handful of snowy owls each winter -- or none at all -- but indicators show conditions are right for the birds to travel much further south than usual. 

    "These birds are like little gifts from nature, and no matter whether it's your first or your fiftieth, you always get goosebumps when you're fortunate enough to encounter a snowy owl," said David La Puma, director of New Jersey Audubon's Cape May Bird Observatory.

    Project SNOWstorm is a national, all-volunteer snowy owl research and conservation organization which began in 2013 following an unprecedented surge in snowy owls in the United States, including as far south as Florida, New Jersey Audubon Society said.

    Project researchers say the great southward movement appears to occur every four years and coincides with the regional population explosion of lemmings -- the preferred prey of snowy owls. 

    "Owls feeding on abundant prey tend to breed more effectively and produce more offspring, which then compete for winter home ranges, driving more of them south in search of new territory," the conservation group said.

    The snowy owl dubbed "Island Beach" was caught by Mike Lanzone, president and CEO of Cellular Tracking Technologies, a key partner of the project which donated the transmitter.

    Researchers said "Island Beach" is a heavy snowy owl, which is fortunate as the transmitter weighs about 40 grams, about as much as seven U.S. quarters, and must weigh less than 3 percent of the bird's weight to ensure it doesn't negatively affect the owl. 

    The group, however, has concerns with how "remarkably approachable, especially young birds early in the winter" can be.

    "Because they are often so naive around humans, it's easy for birders, photographers and the general public to approach them too closely," the group said. 

    "What is an exciting encounter for one person can be compounded by many people over time, leading to harassment of the bird and eventually putting the bird in dangerous situations," La Puma said. "The bird may be chased into New Jersey traffic - something snowies don't understand - subject to undue stress when it should be resting and conserving energy, or increasingly attacked by other raptors like an eagle or peregrine falcon, or mobbed by crows."

    New Jersey Audobon is currently raising money for transmitters as each one costs about $3,000. The goal is to install 15 transmitters nationally, and two in New Jersey.

    Snowy owl catch and releaseMeredith Martin of New Jersey Audubon holds the Snowy Owl while transmitter is being attached. 

    Justin Zaremba may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @JustinZarembaNJ. Find on Facebook.

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


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    He has scored 10 touchdowns in a game and is on the verge of becoming the first player in N.J. history to throw and rush for more than 2,000 yards in a season.

    He has accounted for 10 touchdowns in a single game — TEN!

    He already has broken or matched state records for touchdowns and combined yards in a season.

    And it’s a virtual lock this weekend that Ashante Worthy will become the first player in New Jersey’s rich football history to throw and rush for more than 2,000 yards in a single season.

    “He’s one of the best players you’re ever going to see at the high school level in Jersey and in any other state,” said Chris Melvin, a local recruiting analyst. “I’ve seen great quarterbacks and I’ve seen great running backs — and he’s a combination of both. That’s a rarity.”

    Despite doing things on the football field people swear they’ve never seen before, Worthy, a senior quarterback at Freehold Boro High, isn’t sure where he will play college football next year. In fact, you’re more likely to find him watching Disney movies at home with his two young daughters than rummaging through recruiting mail.

    So who is Ashante Worthy and how did he end up being the best football player in New Jersey still looking for a home next year?

    Well, that’s complicated. 

    On Saturday, Worthy gets one more chance to make an impression on the grandest stage when he leads upstart Freehold Boro into the Central Jersey, Group 4 title game against Long Branch at Rutgers.

    Then he will go back to his two other full-time jobs: Being a father and trying to repair a difficult academic situation and boost his grades enough to become eligible for a Division 1 scholarship. He traces some of the struggles to a rough stretch around the time his first child was born in January of 2015, less than two months after his freshman football season ended.

    “At that point in time, I thought my life was over,” he admitted. Worthy, who agreed to speak publicly for the first time about his children, said he thought he would be forced to drop out of high school, give up sports and get a job.

    It has taken nearly three years, but Worthy now says his children have inspired him to do better in school. 

    “It made me work harder,” he said. “Now I know that I have two little girls looking up to me, so I just try to do right by them so they can have everything I had when I was a kid growing up.”

    For now, that means putting his hard days behind him and pushing forward.

    “Like a lot of people in high school, sometimes you have kids or you make mistakes or whatever happens,” Freehold coach Dave Ellis said. “Ashante, at the end of the day, he made the most out of his situation.”

    There’s still work to do — a title to win, parenting skills to learn, college requirements to meet, time to find.

    It’s all part of the Worthy story, and one that began with moves people still talk about almost a full decade ago.


    The first sign was Capture the Flag. At Freehold Learning Center, Worthy, then a third grader, dazzled playing the game at recess. The object is to steal the opposing team’s flag and bring it safely back to the other side, and Worthy was a master, shaking, juking and sprinting from one end of the playground to the other.

    “I would just make everybody miss,” he said.

    Around the same time, Worthy began playing Pop Warner football for the Freehold Giants, where similar scenes unfolded: With the ball in his hands, he would bounce, spin and maneuver past defenders on long touchdown runs.

    His mom, Tyree Brooks, said Ashante initially struggled identifying which holes to run through, so he would create space and improvise.

    “Ashante would run 15 yards backpedaling and the coaches used to have a heart attack when he did that,” Brooks said. “Everybody’s like, ‘What are you doing?!’ Then the next thing you know he’s in the end zone.”

    When Worthy reached Freehold Boro High, he started as a freshman for the varsity team as a linebacker and slot receiver. With his versatility and talent, Ellis was certain he had a budding superstar on his hands.

    “We knew he was a special player even then,” Ellis said.

    Worthy became a father in January of 2015, just after his freshman season. Later that year, as a sophomore, he became the team’s starting running back and rushed for more than 1,400 yards, emerging as one of the state’s top young tailbacks.

    Despite his success, Worthy, behind the scenes, was struggling to deal with fatherhood and his schoolwork. His grades suffered, scaring off recruiters and placing his college hopes in jeopardy.

    A high school career that started so promising suddenly was teetering.


    Worthy has two daughters: Aubrey, 2; and Alexis, 1. They are separated by about 18 months and have the same mother, although she and Worthy are no longer dating, Brooks said. The status of the couple’s relationship, along with other factors, has created friction at times as Worthy and the mom co-parent, Brooks added.

    The mother of Worthy’s children said she was not comfortable providing her name during a phone interview due to age of her children. But she called Worthy an “amazing father” and said “whenever he has time, he’s always there for his kids.”

    Brooks and the children’s mom are the primary caregivers, Brooks said. Both Brooks and the children’s mom declined to discuss specifics of the custody agreement, but the mom said her and Worthy “share custody.”

    Both women said Worthy is involved and helps out.

    Worthy, meanwhile, is quiet and reserved by nature, and he values privacy when it comes to his personal life. He was hesitant to speak publicly about his daughters, fearful of exposing them in the age of social media trolling.

    Worthy said his favorite pastime is curling up on the couch and watching movies with his daughters. Even though the movies are geared to toddlers, he relishes the quiet time together.

    “They like to watch movies, so I just lay down and watch the movie with them,” Worthy said.

    Brooks said she’s shocked by how “unselfish” Worthy is when it comes to his children and accepting responsibility as their father.

    “He’s young, he’s still learning,” Brooks said. “But he plays with them. He spends time with them. He has a good support system. He does.”

    Freehold wide receiver Quincy Davis, who also is a cousin of Worthy’s, said Worthy plays an active role in his daughters’ lives and that “he’s always playing with them when they’re around him.

    Brooks said she knows her son is balancing a lot — school, football, children. It’s why she said she assumes a large role in the kids’ lives.

    “When I talk to him, you sometimes see the frustration come out, that it’s a lot for him,” she said. “My goal is to take some of that pressure off of him and make sure that he can focus on what he needs to focus on for the future.”

    Worthy said his children inspired him and gave him incentive to do better in school. He wants to provide for his daughters one day, and to do so he said he needs to attend college and succeed in the classroom.

    Ellis, his coach, said he saw a change in Worthy not long after he became a father. Worthy now takes his schoolwork seriously, and he even made the honor roll this year for the first time, Ellis said. He takes his athletic achievements in stride, deflecting credit and praising his coaches and offensive line during interviews.

    “His light bulb went off,” Ellis said. “I don’t really know how else to describe it, but Ashante gets it now. He understands the academic part. He understands being a leader. Ashante turned the corner this year. He’s a different person.”


    The other pivotal moment for Worthy came early last season, when Freehold’s starting and backup quarterbacks both went down with injuries. With no place else to turn, Ellis approached Worthy and asked if he could try playing quarterback.

    In Worthy’s first start against Manalapan, Ellis kept the game plan simple and ran a Triple Option offense that wasn’t much different from Worthy’s prior role as running back. Freehold struggled in a 14-0 loss.

    The next game, Ellis switched to the spread offense, emphasizing Worthy’s ability to improvise and make plays. Worthy notched seven touchdowns in a 52-27 rout of Monroe, and Freehold would go on to win its next six games.

    “That’s when we realized we had something,” Ellis said. “I knew this offense could potentially be a big problem.”

    Worthy is the engine behind an offense the team nicknamed “headache” because that’s what it gives opponents. The punt team, meanwhile, is dubbed “migraine.” The team deploys Worthy as its rugby-style punter, allowing him to kick or run on fourth down, depending on the defensive look. Ellis often begs Worthy to actually punt the ball since he never wants to come off the field.

    In turn, Freehold entered the playoffs as the No. 8 seed, partly because it forfeited its first game for using an ineligible player. They were the bottom seed no one in New Jersey wanted to face, and promptly knocked off No. 1-seed Nottingham and No. 5-seed Brick Township.

    Worthy, meanwhile, also is a strong defensive cornerback, but Ellis has resisted allowing him to play him on both sides of the ball, fearful he might get injured. Worthy wanted to play defense so bad he had his mom call Ellis this summer to make another plea.

    Ellis relented during last week’s semifinal playoff game against Brick Township, when Freehold was struggling to cover the opponent’s top receiver. Ellis inserted Worthy on defense and he responded with two interceptions, a pass break-up and a solo tackle — in his first six plays.

    “Everything for him is geared on winning, winning, winning,” Ellis said. “Sometimes he feels like with him not playing defense we have less of a chance of winning. It all circles back to winning. That’s what drives him.”

    Worthy now has a few other things driving him: The prospect of a state championship and improving his grades to earn a college scholarship. Ellis believes Worthy could be a late qualifier, but it’s going to be close.

    Meanwhile, recruiting analysts and coaches say Rutgers, Pittsburgh, Georgia Tech, Temple and Monmouth are among the schools that have shown interest in Worthy. If he doesn’t qualify, Ellis said Worthy will attend prep school or junior college.

    “Being a ball carrier with his skill set, colleges will be very interested in him if he’s eligible,” said Adam Friedman, Mid-Atlantic recruiting analyst from “How elusive he is, how strong he is as a runner, the quickness out of his cuts and his vision definitely make him a college prospect.”

    Worthy thought his life might be over at 16 when he became a father, but now he’s realizing his future once again appears limitless.

    “I feel like I’m getting to where I need to be,” Worthy said. “It’s just a matter of time.”

    Matthew Stanmyre may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @MattStanmyre. Find on Facebook.

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    Morris May of Scotch Plains won't face jail time after admitting to disturbing the peace


    A New Jersey man accused of pepper spraying a transgender person the night before a rally in Asbury Park in September pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of disturbing the peace on Thursday.  

    Morris May, 23, of Scotch Plains received a 90-day suspended sentence, a $250 fine and 100 hours of community service, court administrator Patricia Greene confirmed Friday.

    May admitted he sprayed Allison Kolarik, 34 with mace outside a shop on Ocean Avenue in the city on Sept. 3. Volunteers had convened there to prepare for a "Stand Against Hate" rally planned for Labor Day. May, who was originally charged with aggravated assault and weapons offenses, maintains he acted in self-defense.

    "When I was at the protest with my brother, this transgender individual stormed up to me and violated my personal space even as I attempted to back away, so I gave (Kolarik) a spray of mace," May said in a phone interview Friday morning.

    Kolarik told that May was heard saying, "I hate liberals. I hate you people. You're trying to take away our rights," and that she tried to talk to him outside the shop.

    "I'm glad I do not have to face jail time or probation, however I don't feel the outcome is justified," May said. 'Any surveillance footage or honest witness would say I acted entirely out of self-defense."

    May wanted to make it clear that he is not a racist.

    "I am not a white supremacist, " he said.  "I never called myself a white supremacist. Only the liberal-infested media did that."

    Jeff Goldman may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @JeffSGoldman. Find on Facebook.


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    Organizers of The Christmas Lights Show in Wall hope it will be back next year Watch video

    One of the largest holiday light shows in the state will take at least a one-year hiatus, organizers said.

    The elaborate display on Woolley Drive in Wall has run for 11 years and features 80,000 lights. Last year it drew 10,000 people, which triggered concerns from township officials about crowds and traffic.

    "Due to logistical and municipal issues, we are unable to produce The Christmas Light Show at the Woolley Road location for the 2017 Christmas season," organizers said on their Facebook page. "We have searched tirelessly to find an alternate location which preserves the spirit of the show and works both financially and logistically for the crew and families involved. Unfortunately, we have been unable to find a suitable location; there will be no show for the 2017 Christmas season."

    Township officials in Wall didn't immediately reply when asked for comment. 

    Wall officials told they tried to work with organizers to find an alternate location but could not come up with a spot agreeable to everyone. 

    The free show featured lights synchronized to holiday musics and a pyrotechnic display that shot flames 20 feet in the air.

    It raised $18,000 for charity last year, according to Visitors were encouraged to donate $10 per person or $25 per family. Organizers donated the proceeds to RallyCap Sports (formally Challenged Youth Sports) -- a local charity that helps provide recreational opportunities for physically challenged children.

    Even though the show won't go on, donations to the charity are still being accepted.

    Nancy Collins, who handles publicity for the show, said while organizers were disappointed, they were glad to hear from so many people telling them how much they enjoyed the show. 

    "Within the first few hours (after cancelling) we received hundreds of messages. We heard so many stories from people telling us how much it meant to their families."

    Collins said she is optimistic the show will be back next year. 

    "We've had so many people offer suggestions and locations, I don't see why we shouldn't be able to find a solution to come back next year," Collins said. 

    Jeff Goldman may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @JeffSGoldman. Find on Facebook.



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    Sarah Stern's father and close family returned to where authorities say two childhood friends tossed her body exactly a year ago. Watch video

    Michael Stern stood atop the Route 35 bridge in Belmar gazing at a high school yearbook photo of his only child in a white wooden frame strapped to the side of the metal railing. 

    "Hello, Sarah," he said.

    Stern stood in silence, as the early morning sun cut through the brisk air. He crossed his arms over his leather jacket.  

    In the year since Sarah Stern, 19, was killed, the same one-word question has constantly crossed Michael Stern's mind: "Why?"

    "Nothing made any sense," he said. "It left my world pretty empty."

    Surrounded by two of Sarah Stern's cousins and a family friend, Michael Stern visited the highest point of the Route 35 bridge Saturday morning. It was the same spot where, a year ago to the day, two childhood friends allegedly threw his daughter's body into the Shark River.

    Police said the friends were trying to deflect suspicion after Liam McAtasney strangled her. 

    McAtasney and Preston Taylor, both 20, remain behind bars in the Monmouth County jail. The two have yet to stand trial, but Taylor has accepted a plea deal in exchange for testifying against McAtasney. No trial date has been set, and he faces 30 years to life in prison.  

    "I don't know how justice is going to be served, but the two of them certainly don't deserve to live either," Stern said. "Let their families suffer, too. They can go visit them in jail, bring them things. Lock them away, so nobody can get to them."

    A shocking crime

    Early on Dec. 3, 2016, Neptune police responded to the bridge after an Uber driver called to report a car parked on the shoulder. A 1994 Oldsmobile was found abandoned with the keys inside. It belonged to Sarah Stern's grandmother, who lived in Neptune City with her.

    The car was towed from the scene, and divers scoured the Shark River inlet beneath the bridge for three days before the search was called off. 

    Stern was classified by authorities as a missing person.

    The incident left family members and the community puzzled. Nothing had indicated Stern was distraught, her family said. In fact, she was happier than ever, they said, having recently returned from a conference dedicated to her passion: YouTube video bloggers and digital media.

    Her cousins started a Facebook page to let the public know she was missing, searching for any clue that would lead them to her whereabouts.

    On Dec. 10, roughly 100 family members, friends and neighbors, some of whom had no connection to Stern whatsoever, combed the Jersey Shore area surrounding the bridge looking for anything -- a piece of clothing, shoelaces, a cellphone case -- that could give them answers.

    What they didn't know at the time is that two former classmates of Stern participating in the search knew exactly what happened, authorities say. 

    Two months later, McAtasney and Taylor were arrested. According to authorities, McAtasney strangled Stern at her home and then enlisted the help of Taylor, his roommate in a rented home where they lived in Neptune City, to help him discard the body.

    The announcement that McAtasney and Taylor were responsible for Stern's death shocked the tight-knit community where the trio grew up.

    Taylor took Stern to prom. McAtasney and Stern made videos together in high school, and both participated in a youth program at the Bradley Beach Fire Department.

    "When I heard this, nothing made sense anymore," Michael Stern told NJ Advance Media on Feb. 6, just days after authorities announced the arrests of McAtasney and Taylor.

    What became even more puzzling were the details that would emerge in the following months, as McAtasney and Taylor appeared in court.

    Assistant Monmouth County Prosecutor Meghan Doyle said in court that the plot to rob and kill Stern was hatched at least six months prior to Dec. 2, 2016, when authorities believe McAtasney strangled her. Taylor testified in court that McAtasney planned to kill Stern after learning she had come into money from her grandmother. 

    Taylor said they discussed the plan several times over the following months, with Taylor initially trying to dissuade McAtasney from killing their friend but then eventually giving in to the plan.

    According to authorities, McAtasney confessed to a friend that on Dec. 2, 2016, he went with Sarah Stern to her bank, where she accessed money from her safety deposit box. The two returned to Stern's home, where McAtasney strangled her and stole approximately $10,000 in cash, authorities said. 

    He then enlisted Taylor to go to the home and remove Stern's body so if her family members returned, they wouldn't find her, authorities said. Taylor took Stern out of the home and hid her body in the bushes in the backyard, according to authorities.

    Later in the day, Taylor and McAtasney went back to the home, propped up Stern's body in her grandmother's Oldsmobile and headed to the Route 35 bridge, authorities said. They said McAtasney drove the car, while Taylor followed in his own vehicle.

    Detectives first interviewed McAtasney and Taylor in the first week of December 2016. They both denied any involvement with the disappearance of Stern, authorities said.

    On Jan. 31, a former classmate of McAtasney and Taylor, working with police, videotaped a conversation with McAtasney in which he allegedly admits to strangling Stern. Doyle, describing the contents of the tape, said McAtasney explained in detail how he lifted her off the ground and then left her body on the floor while he watched her die for 30 minutes.

    "He knew exactly how long it was because he chose to time it," Doyle told a judge on Feb. 14.

    McAtasney's attorney, Charles Moriarty, is seeking to have the taped conversation tossed from evidence. He will make his case in Monmouth County court on Dec. 13.

    Taylor later confessed to the killing, bringing authorities to two buried safes in Sandy Hook and Shark River Park in Wall. Authorities said one contained the cash from the robbery and another had pieces of Stern's clothing. 

    Despite numerous efforts, authorities never recovered Stern's body. 

    An artist who inspired others

    Sarah Stern was an aspiring sketch artist whose creativity was contagious.

    Her inspiration for the arts was flamed by her teacher at Neptune High School, Marisa Montemorano.

    Montemorano said the art room was a "second home" for Stern that at times felt like it "existed just for her."

    "Not only was she at her best when practicing her craft, but anyone who shared in her art experiences couldn't help but feel emboldened by her creative visions," Montemorano said in an email.

    Her artwork was featured in the Monmouth Teen Arts Festival and recognized at the Guild of Creative Art. After high school, a sketch she drew was used in a popular YouTube show, "In Human Condition."

    Sarah Stern.jpgIn Sarah Stern's senior year, a piece titled "Practice Reckless Optimism" was featured in a small group show at the Guild of Creative Art for the top participating students. (Courtesy of Marisa Montemorano)

    Stern was an avid fan of YouTube personalities, so much so that she was memorialized by video bloggers who have millions of followers. She traveled the world to attend conferences, like Buffer and Comic-Con, where she met the YouTube stars she admired.

    "I think interacting with these role models -- these YouTubers -- brought out the best in her and always made her happy," a friend, Caroline Belle, said. "She was at her best when she was with them."

    Stern's father told the New York Times that "had her career continued, she would have become one of the top artists in the world."

    Montemorano said she could tell that even at a young age, Sarah Stern was special.

    "Sarah always had a story to tell, and what was most impressive about hers was that it was completely her own, which I think is rare at such a young age," she said.

    'There's no coming back for Sarah'

    Since Sarah Stern's death, Michael Stern said the feelings of sadness and sorrow "seem to get progressively worse."

    "When you have friends and family move away, you know you're going to see them again," he said Saturday morning, at the base of the Route 35 bridge. "There's no coming back for Sarah. No more holidays, no more birthdays, no memories to share."

    Just moments before, he had tied red and white roses to the framed picture of his daughter, illuminated by the sunlight.

    He held her photo, wiped away tears beneath his small, black-lens sunglasses and embraced family members.

    He shook his head, waved goodbye and then walked away. 

    Alex Napoliello may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @alexnapoNJ. Find on Facebook.


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    A Freehold man was crossing at Route 9 and New Friendship Road in Howell when he was struck in the southbound lane.


    The keen eye of a patrolling Howell Township police officer resulted in the arrest of a female motorist moments after she allegedly fatally hit a man on Route 9 and fled.

    Patrolman Maccia was traveling north on Route 9, near Kohl's, early Saturday when he noticed a southbound car with a damaged headlight and windshield, according to a press release on the department's Facebook page.

    As Maccia continued north, he swerved to avoid hitting what he thought was a blanket in the roadway. When he got closer, Maccia realized it was a body.

    The officer turned around at New Friendship Road and saw on the southbound side of the roadway vehicle debris and a backpack. Then, on the northbound side, he found a 53-year-old deceased man.

    Moments later, Patrolman Silvani found Juanean Perez, 21, of Jackson, standing beside her vehicle in the Walmart parking lot. She was arrested and charged with suspected driving while under the influence. Additional charges are pending, police said.

    The Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office, in a statement on their website, said Saturday that the Freehold man was crossing the intersection of Route 9 and New Friendship Road at about 12:36 a.m. when he was struck in the southbound right lane by a 2010 Mini Cooper driven by Perez. He was pronounced dead at the scene at 1:08 a.m.

    The victim's identity was being withheld Saturday afternoon, pending notification of relatives.

    Perez remained in custody, police said. It was unclear Saturday whether she had a lawyer who could comment on the charges. 

    Anyone who witnessed the accident or has information that could help the investigation is asked to contact Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office Detective Kristian DeVito at 800-533-7443 or Howell police Officer Matthew Cherney at 732-938-4575.

    Allison Pries may be reached at Follow her on Twitter @AllisonPries. Find on Facebook.



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    He offered to donate to a Belmar fire company in exchange for dropping penalties against his property, authorities said.

    A former co-owner of a Belmar hotel has been charged with trying to bribe a fire marshal to get penalties against his business tossed.

    Gabe Baron, who owned the Belmar Beach Hotel, told a borough fire marshal he would make a cash donation to a Belmar fire company in order to get rid of summonses and penalties issued for his property, the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office said in a statement. 

    The fire marshal immediately ended the conversation and told Belmar police, prosecutors said.

    Baron, 71, of Galloway, faces a second-degree charge and a third-degree charge of offer of unlawful benefit to public servant for official behavior.

    The prosecutor's office did not say when the alleged attempt at bribery occurred and did not immediately respond to a request for additional information. 

    A phone number publicly listed for Baron was out of service Saturday. It was unclear if he had retained a lawyer. 

    A number listed for the hotel on Yelp was also out of service, and it was unclear if the business remains open. 

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

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