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News from Monmouth County, New Jersey

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    Keith German gave a gang leader inside information about whether police officers were watching the organization, authorities have said.

    A former Asbury Park police officer was sentenced Tuesday to 10 years in state prison for his role in a criminal organization that prosecutors say terrorized the city.

    A jury in September found Keith German, 49, guilty of three counts of official misconduct, including hindering the apprehension of gang members.

    German, a 16-year veteran of the Asbury Park Police Department, was among dozens arrested in 2014 as part of "Operation Dead End," a large sweep targeting criminal and gang activity in Asbury Park.

    The probe was called Operation Dead End, prosecutors explained, because the criminal activities in question were based out of two dead-end streets in Asbury Park, Dewitt Avenue and a section of Jersey Street in the Washington Village Public Housing Complex. 

    Of the 53 people arrested, 18 of them were members of the Crips or Bloods street gangs, prosecutors said after the arrests.

    Authorities say German, of Tinton Falls, gave one of the gang leaders, James Fair, inside information about whether police officers were watching the organization in return for Fair helping him stalk a woman who didn't return his affections.

    Two weeks into the testimony portion of his trial, German, who had been out on bail, stopped showing up to court. Judge Joseph Oxley, who presided over that trial, issued a warrant for his arrest.

    He was arrested June 28 as he was walking to his car at a strip mall outside of Raleigh, North Carolina, authorities said at the time.

    German will have to serve the entirety of his 10-year sentence without parole.

    Fair, who went by the name Dough Boy, led an organized group that sold drugs, robbed people of drugs and money, bought guns and tried to kill their rivals all over "greed and control," Assistant Monmouth County Prosecutor Joseph Cummings said during his opening remarks.

    Haneef Walker, who went by the street name "Nutty," was described by Cummings as Fair's go-to guy for robberies, a man who would jump quickly in response to his boss' requests. 

    Fair and Walker will be sentenced in the coming days. 

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


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    The volunteers are in their final push for donations.

    It was the sound of the bell that got the attention of 2-year-old Morgan McKeever.

    For 78-year-old Wilfred Manning, he was just following in his sister's footsteps. 

    David Rockefeller wanted to be part of the organization and help raise money. 

    What these three people -- separated by 72 years -- have in common is the desire to help those less fortunate, by volunteering their time as bell ringers for the Salvation Army.  

    These volunteers are part of a 126-year-tradition that began in 1891 when a young Salvation Army captain took his soup pot to the streets to collect money to provide Christmas dinners for those in need. 

    Today, approximately 4,000 bell ringers in New Jersey stand an average of about 36,000 hours between Black Friday and Christmas Eve seeking donations. There are about 25,000 bell ringers nationwide. 

    "I highjacked the bell and wouldn't let the bell go," said Morgan, now 6. "That's how I started." 

    Morgan and her mother Megan were walking out of a store and passed a Salvation Army Bell Ringer when Morgan asked what they were doing. The ringer responded by saying they are helping provide Christmases for those who can't. 

    From there Megan explained to her curious daughter how not everyone has the opportunity for presents and not everyone has the Christmases they do.

    "She was like, 'I am going to do this,'" said Megan

    "I thought we were just going to ring a bell once a year." 

    She thought wrong.

    This past Saturday Morgan volunteered, or stood kettle, for the second of her three stints this season near the JCPenney in the Cherry Hill Mall. With bells in hand she and other bell ringers greeted shoppers and handed out candy canes. 

    The energetic 6-year-old, who also volunteers for several other organizations, even performed an Irish step dance as shoppers passed by. 

    "I like volunteering a lot," she said before leaving to donate her time elsewhere.

    Wilfred Manning has been a member of the Salvation Army for 50 years. He started part time in 1967 and for the past 20 years has done it full-time.

    Born in Nova Scotia, Manning, who lives in Whiting, greeted shoppers as they exited the Acme in Wall Township Monday afternoon. 

    "I enjoy meeting the people, mostly," said Manning, dressed in a dark blue blazer. A tie decorated with Christmas trees peeked out from behind a red Salvation Army apron. 

    "Thank you for volunteering," said a shopper as he exited the store. 

    Manning was raised by his sister, a Salvationist, after his parents died. All her children were Salvation Army members as well, so he joined too. 

    Unlike Morgan, who dances a jig for passersby with energy to spare, Manning stands straight and greets shoppers with a smile and a "have a nice day" as they walk by.

    Manning stands kettle five days a week from 10 a.m to 5 p.m. and has raised $7,693 so far this season. 

    "It's fun. Even in the bad weather it's fun," said 65-year-old bell ringer David Rockefeller, as the low winter sun disappeared behind approaching clouds dropping the temperature a few degrees.   

    Dressed in a black winter coat and red Santa hat, Rockefeller, a Camden resident, was volunteering in front of the Walmart in Cinnaminson Monday afternoon.

    Rockefeller decided to volunteer for the Salvation Army nine years ago because he wanted to help raise money.

    "David is passionate about what The Army stands for and is extra committed to the Red Kettle Campaign," said Lieutenant Dabiel Valdes, Associate Officer from The Salvation Army Camden Kroc Center. 

    "He steals people's heart with his jokes and kindness. He will steal the store managers' hearts, and they will always ask for him the next day when he is not there."

    Rockefeller constantly talks to customers as they pass by and tries to make the them feel like part of The Army family. 

    "How ya doing princess?" he says with a smile as a young girl stops to make a donation. "Merry Christmas." 

    As the sound of the bell resonates throughout the Walmart entrance, some shoppers pass by with their heads down, walking in a brisk pace while others approach Rockefeller with a smile a mile wide as they drop money into the red kettle. 

    He says people remember him when they make donations as he volunteers at different locations. 

    But he insists he doesn't do anything. 

    The people who receive the money throughout the year might disagree. 

    Last year the Salvation Army served over 1 million meals and provided service of all kinds to over 700,000 people in the Garden State, according Major Ivan Rock, State Commander for The Salvation Army in New Jersey. 

    The money raised helps fund programs such as food, toy and clothing distribution, after school programs, emergency disaster services, shelters, soup kitchens and character building programs for children.

    Rock added that the services provided "would not be possible without the kindness and the generosity of our donors and volunteers." 

    The goal this year is just over $2 million, however, they are off pace standing at just over $1.1 million with five days until Christmas.  

    "This particular week is what's going to make or beak the campaign," said Rock. Donations usually spike the week before Christmas.

    "We have absolute faith and trust that the donors this week will step up and allow us to reach our goal."

    According to Rock, they are always struggling to fill all of their kettle locations. If you would like to volunteer you can call your local Salvation Army or visit www.salvationarmynj.org

    The Salvation Army accepts donations all year long. To make a donation you can go to their website or text njkettle to 41444.

    Tim Hawk may be reached at thawk@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @photogthawk. Find NJ.com on Facebook.


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    Haneef Walker was among dozens arrested in "Operation Dead End" in Asbury Park.

    A high-ranking member of the Crips street gang in Asbury Park was sentenced Wednesday to 47 years in prison for his role in a vast criminal organization authorities say terrorized the city.

    Haneef Walker was among dozens arrested in 2014 as part of "Operation Dead End," which netted members of the Crips and Bloods street gangs and even a former Asbury Park police officer.

    The probe was called Operation Dead End, prosecutors explained, because the criminal activities in question were based out of two dead-end streets in Asbury Park, Dewitt Avenue and a section of Jersey Street in the Washington Village Public Housing Complex. 

    Walker, 25, received a slew of charges, the most serious being first-degree racketeering conspiracy and armed robbery.

    He was described in testimony by a fellow gang member, Pedro Rosario, as a high ranking member of the 47 Neighborhood set of the Crips who had the authority to dole out weapons to those who needed them. Walker, who went by the street name "Nutty," was also described by Rosario as the "right-hand man" of James Fair, the leader of the organization.

    Fair and Walker both stood trial before Monmouth County Superior Court Judge Joseph Oxley for four months.

    Former Asbury Park police Officer Keith German, 49, was also a co-defendant in the trial. Prosecutors said German gave Fair inside information about whether police officers were watching the organization in return for Fair helping him stalk a woman who didn't return his affections.

    German was sentenced Tuesday to 10 years in state prison without parole.

    Fair, 29, is scheduled to be sentenced on Thursday. 

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


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    For the first time, DNA is used in New Jersey to predict what the relative of a victim may look like

    Authorities in Monmouth County released Wednesday a headshot of what the mother of an infant found decapitated in a recycling center in 2014 may look like.

    For the first time in New Jersey, authorities say, investigators used a new technology that predicts what the mother of the baby may look like at age 25 by using DNA pulled from clothing found near the girl's body. 

    The infant was found decapitated in the ReCommunity Recycling facility in Farmingdale on Nov. 11, 2014. Colonel Patrick Callahan, who is serving as the acting superintendent of the New Jersey State Police, said at a press conference Wednesday afternoon that the child is believed to have been born two weeks after Halloween of that year. 

    The Middlesex County Regional Medical Examiner's Office was never able to determine the manner and cause of death. 

    The baby was found with two pieces of blood-stained clothing and a handbag near the body, Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher Gramiccioni said.

    The new technology uses DNA to produce trait predictions, such as eye color, hair color, skin color and face shape. It's also able to make predictions for ancestry. The mother in this case is believed to be of Central or South American ancestry. 

    IMG_0620.JPGColonel Patrick Callahan, acting superintendent of the New Jersey State Police, said at a press conference Wednesday that he's hoping the new information will get people to pick up the phone and call police with information. (Alex Napoliello | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com) 

    Officials say the technology will be used in cases where there is "unidentified DNA."

    Gramiccioni said no one is a suspect in any type of crime and that the "primary goal" of the investigation is to identify the mother or any other family members.

    "We want to find out what happened," he said. "We all carry badges and guns but we also all have hearts. We'd like to solve this and we hope that anybody in the public who is willing to work with us will give us a call. Let that phone ring."

    Callahan said releasing the photo and information might spark memories among family, friends and coworkers. The State Police previously released a sketch of the baby in April 2015. 

    "We trust that this DNA evidence and the displays here will hopefully get that phone to ring and that we could move forward with this investigation," Callahan said.

    Gramiccioni said investigators believe the bag found near the infant's body came from The Wiz retail store on Main Street in Orange, Essex County. Authorities believe the two shirts and the shopping bag are connected to the infant's mother.

    The baby is described as 21.5 inches, 7 pounds, and five ounces, and of mixed race, possibly of Hispanic origin.

    The infant was given a proper burial by the Ardena Baptist Church in Howell, which named her "Emma Grace."

    Authorities urged anyone with information to contact Detective Sgt. Joseph Itri of the State Police's Homicide South Unit at 609-963-6993 or Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office Detective Brian Weisbrot at 800-533-7443.

    Authorities said they are also offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to an arrest or conviction. More information can be found at the Monmouth County Crime Stoppers' website

    Gramiccioni said the timing of the press conference around the holiday season was intentional. 

    "We are trying desperately in hopes that somebody in the public who might know something is willing to work with us in some kind of holiday miracle and break this case open for this poor little girl who breathed life for such a brief period of time before passing," he said. 

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


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    The crash in Neptune Township is under investigation

    A 54-year-old man was killed after he was struck by another vehicle while riding his motorcycle Tuesday night in Neptune Township, the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office said.

    Michael Miller of Tinton Falls was on a 1986 Suzuki shortly before 9 p.m. when he attempted to turn onto the northbound side of Rt. 33 from the intersection with West Bangs Avenue. Jose Pastrama, 52, of Neptune City, who was driving a 2012 Ford Escape, collided with Miller, who was later taken to Jersey Shore University Medical Center, authorities said. He was pronounced dead at 9:59 p.m.

    The crash is under investigation.

    Anyone witnesses are asked to call Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office Agent Reginald Grant at 800-533-7443 or Neptune Township Police Ptl. James MacConchie at 732-988-8000, extension 433.

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

     

     


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    The pair allegedly shipped at least a half-million pills using the 'Dark Web'

    Two California men have been charged in connection with trafficking huge quantities of the opioid fentanyl, a potent heroin-like drug implicated in thousands of overdose deaths nationwide, Acting U.S. Attorney William Fitzpatrick said.

    On Wednesday, authorities in California arrested Andrew Tablack, 26, of Beverly Hills, and 43-year-old Stephan Durham of Altadena and charged them with conspiracy to distribute fentanyl.

    In August, the DEA began investigating fentanyl distribution in Monmouth County, resulting in a raid at a home where 300,000 cyclopropyl fentanyl pills were found. Tablack had allegedly sent the pills using the so-called "Dark Web," an area of the Internet that can only be accessed using special software and is often used for criminal activity.

    The packages containing fentanyl were sent to addresses in Monmouth County but were intercepted before they were delivered to the listed addresses, according to authorities. Buyers also allegedly used Bitcoin, the electronic cryptocurrency, to cover their tracks.

    In September, authorities seized packages containing more than 226,000 fentanyl pills, which were produced at a facility run by Tablack, authorities said. Durham ran a company that was listed as the lesee of the property where pill-press machines bought by Tablack had been shipped.  

    Tablack allegedly bought the fentanyl from a supplier in China, which disguised the drugs as food and beauty products. The packages were shipped to properties controlled by Durham and Tablack, according to authorities.

    If found guilty, the two face 10 years to life in prison and a $10 million fine. 

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

     

     

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    "Olden times and ancient rhymes of love and dreams to share."

    On Dec. 9, 1965, at 7:30 p.m., television sets around the country - including a black-and-white Zenith with a beige cabinet in Vineland -- were tuned to CBS; families were curious to watch a new special, "A Charlie Brown Christmas."

    The program remains entertaining and powerful more than 50 years later. Here, thanks to mentalfloss.com, TV Guide, thefw.com and IMDB, are some obscure facts about the iconic holiday show.

    xmas1962vineland.jpgMerry Christmas from the Hatala children on Chimes Terrace in 1962 ... wait, what's up with the eyes? 

    * We're all familiar with Vince Guaraldi's jazz soundtrack for the show; it's become one of the most identifiable musical links to the holiday season. I've heard a myth that Guaraldi's music would have been forbidden, save for Charles Schulz stepping up and stating something to the effect of "It's Vince's music or no show." Actually, Schulz left the music decisions to director Lee Mendelson.

    * Schulz was instrumental in going against the long-standing tradition of hiring adult voice actors to perform children's roles in animated movies and TV shows. According to thefw.com, "Schulz wanted to bring believable voices to the characters, so the producers cast professional child actors for the roles of Charlie Brown, Linus and Lucy since they were required to recite most of the dialogue." Kathy Steinberg, the voice of Sally Brown, had not yet learned to read at the time of the production and had to be "fed" her lines a word or syllable at a time.

    MORE: Vintage photos around New Jersey

    * The broadcast was sponsored by Coca Cola, and believe it or not, there was serious consideration to have a scene with one of the characters drinking the beverage. No characters drank soda in the special, however, the first airing featured an opening scene in which Linus crashes head-on into a sign advertising Coca-Cola. The scene was cut due to expired advertising contracts and the sign was replaced with one that read "Danger."

    And some more trivia tidbits:

    * In the first show's credits, Charles Schulz's had a "t" added to his last name; none of the children who voiced the characters received credits at the end.

    * Lucy refers to Charlie Brown as "Charlie" in one scene about the commercialization of Christmas; it's the only time -- in print or subsequent specials -- she refers to him as anything but "Charlie Brown."

    * Snoopy's dog house is blue; in all subsequent specials, it's red.

    * "A Charlie Brown Christmas" pre-empted an episode of "The Munsters" and, fortunately, pulled a 50 share in the Nielsen ratings (second only to "Bonanza") or it likely would never have aired again.

    Merry Christmas! Enjoy this gallery of Christmas photos, as well as these galleries from Christmases past.

    Vintage photos of celebrating Christmas in N.J.

    More Vintage photos of celebrating the holidays in N.J.

    Vintage photos of celebrating the holidays in N.J.

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


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    Catherine McCabe is the seventh Cabinet nomination, six of them women, revealed by Gov.-elect Murphy

    Gov.-elect Phil Murphy on Thursday announced he has chosen a former top federal environmental official to serve as commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Protection. 

    Announcing the nomination of Catherine McCabe with a backdrop of the beach in Long Branch, Murphy criticized Gov. Chris Christie's administration for its handling of pollution cases, pulling out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and abolishing the DEP's Office of Climate and Energy.

    "We wanted someone who ... is tough on polluters, who is understanding of those living in environmentally sensitive areas and who recognizes that our twin goals of a resilient and responsible future, and a strong and fair economy, are not mutually exclusive," he said. 

    NJ Transit is a 'national disgrace' that must be torn down and rebuilt: Murphy

    McCabe worked at the Department of Justice for 22 years and was the deputy chief of the Environmental Enforcement Section from 2001 to 2005. She then moved to the Environmental Protection Agency, where, among other jobs, she served as the deputy regional administrator of EPA's Region 2, which includes New Jersey. 

    She was tapped by former President Obama to serve as the acting EPA administrator from Jan. 20 until President Trump's EPA nominee, Scott Pruitt, was confirmed in February. 

    McCabe named combating climate change as a priority for the state DEP and said the agency needs to increase the structural resilience of coastal towns. 

    "In recent years, we have seen firsthand the increasing frequency and violence of coastal storms and flooding, most notably from Superstorm Sandy," she said. "I remember vividly my husband digging out the five feet of sand that landed in the yard of our home in Ocean City."

    Improving the state's water infrastructure and decreasing air pollution will also be priorities for the DEP, McCabe said. Murphy said his administration will seek to put New Jersey on a path to achieving 100 percent clean energy by the year 2050. 

    McCabe said her work as DEP commissioner would be guided by five principles: protecting public health and the environment; following the best science available; active listening to all communities and all sectors of the state economy; the idea that environmental protection and economic vitality go hand in hand; and balanced and transparent decision making. 

    Her appointment was praised by environmental groups, including the New Jersey Sierra Club and Clean Water Action. 

    Murphy, who will take office Jan. 16, has so far nominated seven Cabinet members. Six are women. 

    Murphy, a Democrat, has appointed Lt. Gov.-elect Sheila Oliver to be director of the state Department of Community Affairs, Assemblywoman Elizabeth Muoio to be state treasurer, attorney Tahesha Way to be secretary of state, Assemblywoman Marlene Caride to be Department of Banking and Insurance commissioner, Bergen County Prosecutor Gurbir Grewal to be state attorney general and Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti to be Department of Transportation commissioner. 

    The Democratically controlled state Senate must approve all of Murphy's nominations. 

    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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    James Fair, 29 of Asbury Park, was found guilty on 78 charges after a summer-long trial and five year investigation.

    The Bloods gang leader known to create chaos in the streets of Asbury Park was sentenced to 82 years in prison on Thursday, Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni said.

    James Fair, 29 of Asbury Park, was found guilty of 78 charges after a summer-long trial, including conspiracy to commit murder, racketeering conspiracy, robbery and weapons and drug offenses. His conviction brings to an end a five-year investigation dubbed "Operation Dead End," the prosecutor's office said.

    Monmouth County Superior Court Judge Joseph W. Oxley ordered Fair serve at least 50 years in prison before he can be considered for parole.

    His 82-year sentence also included a guilty plea to a 2009 home invasion murder in Neptune City, Gramiccioni said.

    Fair, who went by the street name "Dough Boy," was described in testimony as someone high enough in the organization to hold and distribute guns to those who needed them. 

    Gangster who terrorized a city heading to prison

    He directed others to notify him when rivals were spotted, and to help him shoot at them, according to a press release from the prosecutor's office. 

    Fair was among the 53 arrested in 2014, including members of the Bloods and Crips street gangs and a former Asbury Park police officer, who will serve 10 years in prison for tipping off gang members.  

    Police also nabbed high-ranking Crips gang members Haneef Walker, who was sentenced Wednesday to 47 years in prison, and Altyreek Leonard, who plead guilty and will be sentenced in February.

    Dozens of other violent, gang-affiliated defendants were given "substantial" jail sentences for their roles, Gramiccioni said.

    Fair was the last defendant who stood trial to be sentenced, closing out Operation Dead End, named for the criminal activities based out of two dead-end streets in Asbury Park at Dewitt Avenue and a section of Jersey Street in the Washington Village Public Housing Complex.  

    Among the police departments that investigated and prosecuted the case were Asbury Park, Neptune, Hazlet, Tinton Falls, Long Branch, Marlboro, Sea Bright, the U.S. Marshal's Service, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms.

    Sophie Nieto-Munoz may be reached at snietomunoz@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her at @snietomunoz. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

    Have a tip? Tell us. nj.com/tips


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    A Jewish employee of Advance Auto Parts saw his hours cut after he requested off for the Sabbath

    The auto parts supply chain Advance Auto Parts will pay an employee $10,000 after his hours were cut because he requested time off for Jewish religious observance, Attorney General Christopher Porrino said Friday.

    Ron Michael Lerner, an Old Bridge resident who worked part-time in the chain's Hazlet location, said he was scheduled for just a single shift a week after he asked to be off from sundown Friday through Saturday for the Sabbath and also requested time off for Jewish holidays. He had previously worked three to four shifts a week, Porrino said.

    In addition to the cash settlement, Advance Auto Parts, a Virginia-based chain with almost 100 locations in New Jersey, will remind managers of their obligation to accommodate employees' religious needs, provide training on the state's Law Against Discrimination, and revise its policy manual to ensure it complies with New Jersey anti-discrimination law.

    "First and foremost, Advance Auto Parts is an equal opportunity employer and we welcome and respect all religions and backgrounds. Advance does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, age, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, or any other legally protected status. We will use the resolution of this matter as another way to reiterate our support of workplace diversity and inclusion with our team," said Tammy Finley, a spokeswoman for the company.

    The complaint was filed in 2014.  

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

     

     


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    Police say the man and dog were hit twice by two different SUVs.

    A 71-year-old Neptune man and a dog in his car were killed in a three-vehicle crash Friday night in Tinton Falls.

    Wade Henson Jr., was driving his car east on Route 33 at approximately 8:47 p.m., when he was struck from behind by an SUV, the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office said.

    After being hit, Henson's car propelled forward into oncoming traffic and was struck on the passenger side by another SUV. 

    Henson and his only passenger, a large dog, were pronounced dead at the scene.

    Passengers from the second SUV that hit Henson as his car slid into oncoming traffic were treated for minor injuries. Passengers and the driver from the first SUV that hit Henson from behind were all uninjured. 

    The crash remains under investigation by the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office, Monmouth County Serious Collision Analysis Response Team (SCART), and Tinton Falls Police Department.

    Anyone who witnessed the collision or has information can call the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office Agent Reginald Grant at 800-533-7443 or Tinton Falls Police at 732-542-4422.

    Taylor Tiamoyo Harris may be reached at tharris@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @ladytiamoyo.

    Find NJ.com on Facebook.

     

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    Cesar Torralba, 35, was gunned down outside his Asbury Park home on Christmas Eve in 2007 after returning from the grocery store. Authorities urge anyone with information to come forward.

    There are nearly two-dozen cold cases in Monmouth County since 1990. But for the authorities here, the death of Cesar Torralba in 2007 stands out.

    "Some cases are just so senseless and gut-wrenching that it demands special attention," Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher Gramiccioni said.

    Cesar.jpgCesar Torralba, 35, was gunned down outside his Asbury Park home on Christmas Eve in 2007. Ten years later, authorities and his wife are urging anyone with information to come forward. (Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office)

    Torralba, 35, left his home on Sixth Street in Asbury Park in the afternoon on Christmas Eve to get some last-minute items from the grocery store for dinner that evening.

    When Torralba returned around 12:40 p.m., he was confronted by a man with a gun, who demanded money from him outside his front door.

    Torralba's wife, Minerva, heard voices outside and assumed it was her husband greeting neighbors, something he often did. When she looked out the peephole, she saw an image far worse than she could imagine: a gun pointed at her husband.

    She ran to get her cellphone to dial 911. But it was too late.

    Authorities say Torralba, a father of two young children, was shot and killed just 16 days before his 36th birthday.

    Ten years later, the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office and Minerva Torralba are asking anyone with information to come forward to help bring justice to the man responsible for Cesar Torralba's death.

    "Please do not let your fear get in the way of justice for the person who killed my husband," Minerva Torralba said. "Not a day goes by that my daughters and I do not think about my husband and their father. It's hard to explain just how hard it has been for my daughters to grow up not having a father to guide, love and cherish them."

    Torralba was one of six homicide victims in Asbury Park in 2007, according to crime statistics from the New Jersey State Police. But Torralba's death was highly-publicized, setting off a wide outcry and prompting pledges from community leaders to stem crime in the city.

    People marched through the streets. The Guardian Angels handed out flyers in the city and urged residents to come forward with information.

    But as time went on, the flow of information to the authorities slowed down. 

    "Cesar Torralba's widow and his two, now-teenage daughters deserve answers and they deserve justice," Gramiccioni said. "Ten years later we simply cannot forget the reality and facts of the case: Here's a man who left his two young children and his wife to go buy groceries for Christmas Eve dinner. Then, just prior to reuniting with them, he was senselessly gunned down with only his front door separating him from his family. On behalf of his loved ones, we urge anyone with information to please reach out to police."

    Gramiccioni said anyone with information regarding the death of Cesar Torralba can contact Detective Jose Cruz of the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office at 800-533-7443 or Detective Gabriel Carrasquillo of the Asbury Park Police Department at 732-774-1300.

    Anonymous tips can also be left through the Monmouth County Crime Stoppers.

    For Minerva Torralba, the time passed hasn't made coping with her husband's death any easier.

    "While many days are difficult, things like father-daughter dances are unbearable. It's just not fair to them," she said. "They have grown up waiting for the person responsible to be arrested. Cesar, their father and my husband, was a great man who worked hard every day to provide for us. I plead with anyone who knows anything to contact police so my children do not have to wait any longer for justice."

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


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    Dogs and cats throughout New Jersey await adoption, during the holidays and all year 'round.

    I'm no different than you; the advertisements from the ASPCA get to me no matter how many times I see them. And they help: the famous spot featuring Sarah McLachlan singing "Angel" has raised roughly $30 million for the organization in the last 10 years; it's referred to with reverence in marketing circles as "The Ad."

    But you're maybe also like me in that your budget isn't large enough to allow for regular donations. If you're interested in helping homeless animals but aren't able to adopt one or make cash contributions, there are a number of other ways you can be of assistance.

    * Help out at a local shelter. It's not glamorous work by any means, but it's vital and will be very much appreciated. You can do anything from help walk dogs to bottle feed kittens, help clean kennels or cat's cages or even help with bathing and grooming. Contact your local shelter to find out their policies regarding volunteers.

    * If you're handy, you can lend a hand in many ways. Shelters usually need repairs of many kinds, so fixer-uppers can help out like that. If you sew, quilt or crochet, you can make blankets for your local shelter.

    * Help out at an adoption event. Many shelters and rescue groups participate in local events by hosting a table with pets available for adoption. They also hold these program at malls, pet supply stores and banks, and can always use a helping hand.

    * For galleries like this one and for online adoptions sites, often a shelter or rescue group doesn't have the time or equipment to shoot good photos of their adoptable pets, Something as simple as making yourself available to shoot and provide digital files of pet photos can be a big help.

    * Donate. It doesn't have to be money; shelters need cleaning supplies, pet food, toys for the animals and often even things we don't think twice about getting rid of like old towels and newspapers. Every little bit helps.

    If you don't know where your local animal shelter or rescue group is, a quick online search will reveal a number of results. It doesn't take a lot of time or effort to get involved but it provides immeasurable assistance.

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


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