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News from Monmouth County, New Jersey

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    How accurate will our reporters prove to be?

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    Our wrestling writers preview all eight regions and make picks in every weight class

    The march to March and the NJSIAA Wrestling Championships in Atlantic City resumes Wednesday with eight regional tournament across the state.

    MOREComplete 2018 NJSIAA region wrestling brackets (printable)

    The top four wrestlers in each weight class, in each of the eight regions advances to the state championship March 2-3-4 at Boardwalk Hall. gets you ready for the regions with preview and selections in all eight tournaments. Previews will be added as they are completed to check back often to get the latest information.

    • Region 1 at West Milford
    Region 2 at Mount Olive 
    Region 3 at West Orange 
    Region 4 at Union
    Region 5 at Hunterdon Central 
    Region 6 at Brick Memorial 
    Region 7 at Toms River North
    Region 8 at Egg Harbor

    Joe Zedalis may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @josephzedalis. Like HS sports on Facebook.

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    NJ Advance Media ranks all the counties with D1 women's basketball players.

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    Students across New Jersey stood with their peers in Parkland, Fla. to demand action on gun control after a shooter killed 17 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

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    The list of schools grappling with threatening online messages has grown to a dozen as of Wednesday.

    Police said two more schools are grappling with threatening messages posted on social media, acts that have raised concerns for parents and schools across the state in the wake of the devastating school shooting in Florida that has again turned national attention to gun violence. 

    Authorities in Long Branch and Lacey Township, in Monmouth and Ocean counties, respectively, said they have investigated such messages in the past week. The uptick comes after 17 students and faculty members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., were fatally shot a week ago. A former student, Nikolas Cruz, was arrested and charged in the killings. 

    The latest threats join at least 10 other messages investigated by schools across New Jersey. Many have been deemed fake or unsubstantiated by authorities, and arrests have been made in Voorhees Township and Franklin Township, Somerset County

    The Long Branch Police Department released a statement Wednesday morning, confirming that threatening pictures had been posted to social media Tuesday, but noted that no weapons were found and the threat was debunked. 

    Murphy assures stricter N.J. gun control after Florida school shooting 

    "Please be assured the Long Branch Police Department was in constant contact with school officials, and the incident was fully investigated," the statement said. "It was termed as 'a joke,' and yes not a very good one considering recent events." 

    The poster had been identified and interviewed as of Wednesday morning, police said. 

    Superintendent Michael Salvatore said in a message sent to parents that a student in the district had posted a threatening message on social media. Salvatore said that the district alerted police, who visited the student's home and found no threat, and also that the social media posts in question were videos taken from an artist's page. 

    "We must treat all threats, even those in jest, as a serious offense, which can lead to permanent removal from our school system," he said in the statement. "All threats regardless of intention or age of the individual will lead to prosecution."

    In Lacey Township, a number of ambiguous, threatening messages caught the attention of authorities. 

    Superintendent Craig Wigley said through a spokesperson Wednesday he had no comment on an alleged incident from late last week, and that it was "all a big rumor." It was not clear if the rumor statement referred to the validity of the alleged threat, or the existence of any such post. 

    Captain Patrick Ganley of the Lacey Township Police Department said such instances in the township may go beyond one isolated act, but the proliferation of social media creates a tangled web of messages -- all of which must be investigated thoroughly, although credible threats rarely come from such a source. 

    "We don't have anything concrete, but we're investigating all of this," he said. 

    Investigations thus far have uncovered several threatening messages with links to students social media accounts, mainly through students being tagged in widespread posts or retweeting content themselves, Ganley said. 

    Alleged concerning messages and posts in Bloomfield and Little Falls school districts were also uncovered this week, leading to police responses. Officials said neither posed a threat to students' safety. 

    Irvington High School was placed on lockdown Wednesday morning after a former student, who now attends Carteret High School, posted on Snapchat "I might shoot this s--t up," police said. Authorities continue to investigate the threat. 

    Last Thursday, Nutley schools Superintendent Julie Glazer closed the district for several days after a video was posted to Instagram appearing to show local students firing a rifle and handgun. Police deemed the video no threat to publicly safety. Still, the incident alarmed the community, prompting more than a dozen parents to call for armed guards to be posted at all seven of the district's schools.  

     Amanda Hoover can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @amandahoovernj. Find on Facebook.

    Have a tip? 
    Tell us.

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    The N.J.-based Wendy Williams, who has been dealing with hyperthyroidism for years, told viewers of "The Wendy Williams Show" that her doctor has ordered her to take a three-week break because of the Graves' disease diagnosis. Watch video

    An endocrinologist has ordered Wendy Williams to step away from TV for three weeks because of a Graves' disease diagnosis and symptoms of hyperthyroidism, she announced on Wednesday's show. 

    "My doctor has prescribed -- are you ready? -- as of today, three weeks of vacation," she said, to a roar and applause from her audience at "The Wendy Williams Show."

    "What? Who are you? I was pissed," she said. "Encore performances (reruns), really?" 

    Williams, 53, who grew up in Ocean Township and lives in Livingston, said a recent checkup with her doctor for hyperthyroidism, which she has dealt with for years, revealed new problems. 

    "My thyroid has been totally cattywampus," she said. "That is the eye thing that you all have been seeing." 

    "My thyroid -- my hyperthyroid -- is attached also to Graves' disease," Williams said, explaining that the autoimmune disease "squeezes the muscles behind your eyeballs," resulting in bulging eyes.

    She said that in addition to eyelid retraction, symptoms of the condition, which is caused by an overactive thyroid, can include weight loss and anxiety. The talk show host had lost 50 pounds in recent years, but she says she had intended to lose the weight -- "50 for 50 (years old)." 

    "No, I'm not nervous," Williams said, speaking about the other common symptom of Graves' disease. "Anxiety? Please. I'm over 30 years in this game."

    "Now I can cop to irritability," Williams continued, maintaining her sense of humor. Oh, please. I will snap your head off." 

    But Williams said she has demonstrated other symptoms of Graves' disease, like sleeplessness (she had been taking melatonin for that), rapid heartbeat, trouble with swallowing and intolerance of heat. 

    In October, during a Halloween episode of her show, Williams staggered and fainted on live TV. She later said she had overheated, and that paramedics who checked her out found she had been dehydrated. 

    Williams, who urged women to put their health first, said she had postponed the doctor appointment in December because of a business meeting and had been distracted lately by her son's college admissions process and other daily concerns. She mused she would likely return to the show after two weeks instead of three.  


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



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    Authorities say Colin Kerlin broke into the home on Long Beach Island and lit a mattress on fire.

    Kerlin.jpgColin Kerlin, 28, of Ship Bottom. (Ocean County jail)

    A man is charged with breaking into a vacant vacation home on Long Beach Island and lighting a mattress on fire, authorities announced Wednesday.

    Colin Kerlin, 28, of Ship Bottom, broke into a window on the second floor of a house on West Scott Drive in the Holgate section of Long Beach Township, removed a mattress from one room and took it to the master bedroom where he lit it on fire, Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph Coronato and Long Beach police Chief Anthony Deely said in a joint statement.

    Firefighters were dispatched to the home just before 7 p.m. on Jan. 21. After the fire was extinguished, officials learned the house was unoccupied for the winter, the statement said.

    Witnesses told police they saw a man running from the area shortly after the fire was reported, according to the statement.

    Investigators determined the fire was intentionally set and found evidence of a break-in on the west side of the house, the statement said.

    The statement said investigators determined Kerlin was responsible for the fire, though it doesn't say how detectives came to that conclusion.

    He was arrested Tuesday and charged with aggravated arson and burglary. 

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


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    Police continued to investigate the scene of the shooting early Thursday

    Investigators are on the scene of a shooting in Asbury Park that left a 10-year-old dead and a woman wounded.

    The shooting occurred late Wednesday night on Ridge Avenue. There is no word on the woman's condition. The woman is the 10-year-old's mother, according to News 12 New Jersey.

    Evidence markers were visible outside a home Thursday. There is no word whether police have made an arrest.

    A message seeking information from the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office was not returned.


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    Before convenience stores, there were neighborhood food stores.

    The time before the convenience store was the time of the neighborhood food store. And, although neighborhood food stores still exist, they're getting harder and harder to find.

    As I recall, neighborhood stores were alike in many ways, but not in the indistinguishable way of today's convenience stores. The neighborhood stores had sawdust on the wood floors, meats and cheeses hanging from the ceiling and unpackaged foods that created a heavenly aroma that those of us who experienced it will never forget. Perhaps what was most memorable for me was the total organized clutter.

    small-food033.JPGMary Morello displays a choice cut of meat for a customer in the G. Morello and Sons Market on Cherry Street in Vineland in this photo from the late 1960s. 

    I had the good fortune of having one of these stores in my family, G. Morello and Sons on Cherry Street in Vineland, where I could experience the sensory wonders firsthand. Every square inch of space in my Uncle Lou's store, and stores like it, was used to display products that ran the gamut from national brands to local specialty items. And the proprietors of such stores always knew where everything was.

    Before convenience stores, Morello's and its ilk were where you went to get cold cuts ("lunch meats" in my family) or a good cut of meat for dinner. And "Cheers" wasn't the only place where everybody knew your name; you were greeted as an old friend when you entered these neighborhood food stores.

    MORE: Vintage photos around New Jersey

    They were located throughout the state. There was the U-Buy Market in Somerset, Celentano's Market in Newark (the birthplace of what eventually became a national brand), the Somerset Fish Market in North Plainfield with the huge crustacean on the roof, Moe's Market in Hammonton, Cameron's Meat Shoppe in Kearny and so many others.

    Here's a gallery of neighborhood food stores from New Jersey, and links to other similar galleries you'll enjoy.

    Vintage photos of small food stores in N.J.

    Vintage photos of eclectic eats in N.J.

    Vintage photos of N.J. diners

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

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    Favorites, contenders and more for each section of the tournament.

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    Favorites, contenders and more on each section of the girls basketball state tournament.

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    The best performances at Eastern States Championships by N.J. athletes

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    Thin Mints, Samoas and Tag-Alongs ... in doughnut form? What a world we live in! Watch video

    What's the best thing about February? No, it's not the Super Bowl or tax returns -- it's the beginning of Girl Scout cookie season!

    Chances are someone at work is already hitting you up to buy their daughter's Tag-Alongs and Savannah Smiles, and if you're a sweets savage like me, you'll soon be sucking down Samoas and Thin Mints by the sleeve. 

    But a doughnut shop at the Jersey Shore takes the confectionary craze to a new level: Girl Scout Cookie doughnuts. 

    That's right, the Purple Glaze doughnut shop in downtown Asbury Park -- a favorite of our own doughnut expert Pete Genovese -- is serving up four types of delicious GSCDs: 

    - Tag-Along doughnuts, with chocolate, peanut butter drizzle, double-fudge buttercream and topped with a Tag-Along cookie

    - Samoa doughnuts, with chocolate icing, toasted coconut, dulce de leche filling, caramel drizzle and topped with a Samoa cookie

    - Thin Mint doughnuts, with chocolate icing, mint chips, double-fudge buttercream, mint drizzle and topped with a Thin Mint cookie 

    - Savannah Smile doughnuts, with powdered sugar, lemon tart filling and topped with a Savannah Smile cookie  

    IMG_1112.JPGGirl Scout Cookie doughnuts clockwise from left: the Thin Mint, the Savannah Smile, the Samoa, the Tag-along. (Bobby Olivier | NJ Advance Media for 

    Each doughnut costs $2.50 and is, as you may imagine, wildly popular -- Purple Glaze got its most recent shipment of cookies in Monday and then were ordering more Wednesday afternoon (the place is closed on Tuesday). 

    Owner Jacki Sharpe says her Summerfield Avenue store will feature the Girl Scout cookie doughnuts for a few more weeks -- get 'em before they're gone! 

    Bobby Olivier may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @BobbyOlivier and Facebook. Find on Facebook 

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    Police spoke with Liam McAtasney several times in the days following the disappearance of Sarah Stern. Those tapes will be played during his trial, a judge ruled.

    Police interviews with Liam McAtasney in the days following the disappearance of Saran Stern in 2016 can be used as evidence in his trial, a judge ruled Thursday.

    Superior Court Judge Richard English said the interviews were conducted during a missing person investigation in an effort to locate Stern. Authorities say Stern, 19, was killed by McAtasney during a robbery at her home on Dec. 2, 2016.  

    Defense attorney Charles Moriarty argued that McAtasney wasn't read his Miranda rights prior to a taped interview at the Belmar Police Department headquarters on Dec. 6, 2016.

    Assistant Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher Decker said McAtasney wasn't in custody at that point so he "isn't rewarded that 5th Amendment right."

    Decker said McAtasney, 20, came to police headquarters voluntarily, wasn't searched when he entered and was never placed in handcuffs. 

    "He was free to leave whenever he wanted," Decker said. 

    But that interview was stopped, Moriarty contended, after the detectives interviewing McAtasny learned his parents contacted two attorneys to represent their son. 

    "If (the detectives) asked him if he wanted to talk (to police) with two attorneys here, he would have said, 'No.' But they didn't ask that," Moriarty said. 

    English said that the "overall tenor of the conversation was to try and locate Ms. Stern," adding that detectives were continuing to interview other people during an ongoing investigation.  

    Moriarty is also seeking to have a videotaped interview between McAtasney and a cooperating witness, referred to by his initials A.C., excluded from the trial. Authorities say McAtasney confessed to killing Stern in A.C.'s car on a street near the beachfront in Bradley Beach just days before his arrest on Feb. 2

    English heard oral arguments on that motion to suppress evidence but will not make a ruling until March 26. 

    Police went to the home of McAtasney several times in the days after Stern's disappearance because they learned he was the last person to be with her.

    Authorities say McAtasney strangled Stern at her Neptune City home and then stole $10,000 she had recently acquired from her grandmother. McAtasney then had his roommate, Preston Taylor, remove Stern's body from the home and help him dump it off the Route 35 bridge in Belmar.

    McAtasney and Taylor, who were both close friends with Stern, attempted to thwart investigators by making it appear as if she committed suicide, authorities said. To further deflect suspicion, authorities said, the two participated in a community-run search of the area, even speaking with members of the media. 

    Taylor, 20, has admitted his role in the coverup and agreed to testify against McAtasney.

    Authorities have never recovered Stern's body.

    In the taped interviews with police, McAtasney calmly told officers that he was with his childhood friend Stern on the afternoon of Dec. 2, 2016, but didn't know her whereabouts. He then offered multiple reasons why she could be missing and suggested she might be in Canada.

    "She's always wanting to go to Canada. She's always been obsessed with Canada," McAtasney told officers in a recorded interview with police. "She has friends up there, and if she went up there, she would have roommates," he explained in a separate interview.  

    McAtasney would go on to claim to detectives in a videotaped interview that Stern had a troubled home life which could have led her to flee her tight-knit community at the Jersey Shore for a life elsewhere.

    At one point during the conversation with detectives at the Belmar police department, McAtasney asked detectives, "If she did jump off the bridge, what are the odds she's not somewhere out in the ocean by now?''

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

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    See the latest girls basketball Top 20 for Feb. 22.

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    Todd Ritter, of the Piscataway police, allegedly hit the suspect who was being detained in a police car

    A Middlesex County police officer allegedly assaulted someone while in custody and tried to cover up the altercation last week, authorities said. 

    Todd Ritter, 54, of Millstone, was charged Wednesday with tampering with public records, falsifying and tampering with records and assault, Middlesex County Prosecutor Andrew C. Carey said in a release. 

    Ritter is a police officer in Piscataway.

    While on duty, Ritter allegedly hit the suspect who was being detained in a police car on February 12 and filed false records with inaccurate information to try and hide the incident, Carey said. 

    Ritter -- who joined the force in 1996 and is paid $120,948 annually, according to pension records -- has been suspended without pay as a result of the charges, township police Chief Scott Cartmell said in the release.

    The Monmouth County man is due in court on March 15, according to the release. 

    Craig McCarthy may be reached at 732-372-2078 or at Follow him on Twitter @createcraig and on Facebook here. Find on Facebook.

    Have a tip? Tell us. 


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    Child was not the intended target of the attack, according to prosecutor. Watch video

    A 16-year-old Neptune Township boy was charged with murder Thursday in an Asbury Park shooting that killed a 10-year-old boy and left the child's mother wounded, authorities said.

    Neither the slain 10-year-old nor his 39-year-old mother were the intended targets of the shooting, according to authorities. Instead, the prosecutor's office investigation found that the shooter was gunning for a man who was in the same Ridge Avenue home as the two victims. 

    327_asburyih7a9571.JPGAuthorities at a home on Ridge Avenue in Asbury Park early Thursday February 22, 2018. A 10-year-old boy was killed and his mother wounded in a shooting the night before.  

    The teen, whose name was not released because of his age, was arrested without incident at Neptune High School on Thursday morning, according to Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni. He also faces aggravated assault, conspiracy and weapons charges in the slaying.

    The 16-year-old is not believed to be the shooter and authorities were still searching Thursday night for the person who opened fire at the house, a law enforcement source told NJ Advance Media.

    "The Prosecutor's Office alerted both the school and the district to the impending arrest," Gramiccioni said in a statement. "Due to school protocols, Neptune High School was briefly in a lockdown status following the arrest."

    Police responded to a 911 call reporting shots fired at the home around 10:40 p.m. Wednesday in Asbury Park, the prosecutor's office said. The young boy died around 11:20 p.m. while his mother was treated for her injuries and later released from an area hospital.

    A neighbor, Louis Rodriguez, said the boy's family "didn't look for problems, they were very good."

    "I feel so bad. He he was a baby, very calm," he said in Spanish.

    "Any act of violence is always disheartening, particularly when it happens in our community," acting Asbury Park schools Superintendent Sancha K. Gray said in a statement. "Our deepest condolences go out to the family of the 10-year-old boy who was shot and subsequently died."

    Authorities did not reveal more details on what led to the shooting. Anyone with information was asked to call prosecutor's office Detective Brian Weisbrot at 800-533-7443 or Asbury Park police Detective Sean DeShader at 732-774-1300.

    Anonymous tips can also be submitted through Monmouth County Crime Stoppers at 1-800-671-4400, or via text message to "MONMOUTH" plus their tip to 274637. Tipster can also send information at

    Olivia Rizzo and Alex Napoliello contributed to this report

    Noah Cohen may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @noahycFind on Facebook.


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    A breakdown of what $161 million from an increase of the state's gas tax funded.

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    The threat was made on Snapchat on Thursday evening

    A "shooting Friday" threat shared on Snapchat against the Matawan-Aberdeen schools, the second security concern in a week for the district, has been deemed not credible by police and classes will be held as scheduled.

    The threat posted Thursday referenced the arrest of a student last week for making a similar threat and warned Matawan that it's "shooting Friday in the school."

    "We do not find it to be credible," Aberdeen police said in a statement, noting they have located the source of the threat.

    2 more schools investigate potential social media threats

    The district's seven schools will be open as scheduled on Friday, according to a statement on the Matawan-Aberdeen website. 

    "The safety of our students and staff are of utmost importance," the district said. "We will continue to work with the local authorities to insure that all safety precautions are met. 

    Matawan police and the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office are also involved in the investigation, which is ongoing. 

    On Saturday, a student was taken into custody for allegedly making a threat against a district school. 

    Police departments throughout New Jersey have investigated numerous school threats in the week after 17 students and faculty members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida were fatally shot.

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


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    Authorities say Yovanni Banos-Merino was not the intended target when someone opened fire at a home on Ridge Avenue around 10:40 p.m. Nor was his mother, Lilia Merino, 38. Watch video

    Authorities identified the 10-year-old boy who was killed in a Wednesday night shooting in Asbury Park.

    Yovanni Banos-Merino was not the intended target when someone opened fire at a home on Ridge Avenue around 10:40 p.m, authorities said. Nor was his mother, Lilia Merino, 38, who was also wounded in the shooting. She was treated and released from Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune.

    16-year-old teenager was arrested Thursday in connection with the shooting, Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher Gramiccioni announced in a press release.

    The teen, who was arrested at Neptune High School without incident, is not believed to be the shooter, a law enforcement source told NJ Advance Media. Authorities continued to search for the person who fired at the house.

    The intended target was another occupant also present in the home, Gramiccioni said. His spokesman, Chris Swendeman, said authorities believe that person is a family friend or a friend of one of the older children in the family.

    The 16-year-old was charged with murder, conspiracy to commit murder, aggravated assault, unlawful possession of a weapon, and possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose.

    "We have the shooter's accomplice and now we need the public's help locating the shooter," Swendeman said.

    Yovanni attended Bradley Elementary School in Asbury Park.

    "Any act of violence is always disheartening, particularly when it happens in our community," acting Asbury Park schools Superintendent Sancha K. Gray said in a statement. "Our deepest condolences go out to the family of the 10-year-old boy who was shot and subsequently died."

    A neighbor, Kareena Martin, said Yovanni and her son used to play together at their Asbury Park homes. 

    "He enjoyed his friends, his personality was awesome. (He) enjoyed playing sports with my son as well, backyard football to be exact," Martin said. 

    Authorities did not reveal Friday more details on what led to the shooting.

    Anyone with information was asked to call prosecutor's office Detective Brian Weisbrot at 800-533-7443 or Asbury Park police Detective Sean DeShader at 732-774-1300.

    Anonymous tips can also be submitted through Monmouth County Crime Stoppers at 1-800-671-4400, or via text message to "MONMOUTH" plus their tip to 274637. Tipster can also send information at

    The community is raising money for Yovanni's funeral service through a GoFundMe, which has raised more than $1,500 as of Friday afternoon.  

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

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