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News from Monmouth County, New Jersey

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    The cause of the fire remains under investigation

    A multi-alarm fire ripped through a home on Arrowhead Way in Millstone where the homeowner had an electric car in the garage, officials said.

    Nobody was injured in the Wednesday night fire that started at about 8:50 p.m, which started in the garage area and later spread to the rest of the home, police and fire officials said.

    Assistant Monmouth County Fire Marshal Chris Pujat said Thursday the fire's origin was in the garage, but the cause remained undetermined pending more investigation.

    The home is owned by John Lafergola and Yun Xia Liu, property records show.


    Lafergola was home and reported the fire, the state police said.

    Lafergola was released from federal custody in December 2017, federal records show, after serving a 28-month prison sentence for illegally possessing multiple machine guns at his home.

    He was charged with possessing the weapons in December 2015, over a year after police were called to his home - in October 2014 - on a report he pointed a gun at  another member of his household, authorities have said.

    He consented to a search of his home, and investigators found 72 firearms - 36 which were illegal machine guns. 

    Attorney Evan Nappen, whose office defended Lafergola in the firearms case, said Thursday he had not heard from Lafergola about the fire.

    Kevin Shea may be reached at Follow him on on Facebook.


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    One team makes its debut in the Boys Top 20 while teams continue to jockey for position atop the rankings.

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    From hit-by-pitch leaders, searing sluggers, hot teams, on-a-tear players: Baseball's best for Week 2.

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    Which boys have already given their verbal commit to play men's basketball?

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    Check out some highlights of a sizzling week on the diamond.

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    An argument over money sparked the slaying in the apartment of a senior citizens complex in Asbury Park Tuesday evening, police say.

    An argument over money occurred before a man stabbed his friend in the neck and then watched him die in an Asbury Park apartment Tuesday evening, according to police documents.

    The documents, obtained by NJ Advance Media, give an inside look in the apartment moments before and after the slaying of Salah Ali, 57, at the Dr. Robinson Towers on Third Avenue in Asbury Park.

    Knowledge Allah -- who already has manslaughter and attempted murder convictions under his belt from 1987 and 1998, respectively -- was arrested and charged with first-degree murder in the death of Ali. The 54-year-old made his first appearance in court Thursday.

    Ali was found by police Wednesday morning in a pool of blood on a landing in the stairway in the apartment building, the documents state.

    A trail of blood on the stairway led police to the fourth floor of the building, which is home to low-income senior citizens in Asbury Park.

    It was in that fourth-floor apartment, police say, where Allah and Ali had an argument the previous night. Police said the two were grabbing each other and then Allah jabbed the victim in the neck with a knife, causing him to bleed profusely from his throat. 

    "The victim, still standing, asked why the defendant did that to him and stated he was dying," the police report says.

    Ali then tumbled over onto the couch, the report states. He was no longer talking. That's when Allah dragged him out of the apartment and into the stairwell, and then cleaned up the trail of blood left on the floor, according to the report.

    But the tension between Ali and Allah appeared to have started before the two entered the apartment.

    The two men started arguing in the elevator of the complex. Ali can be seen on surveillance video footage slapping a fedora off Allah's head. The argument, however, didn't escalate beyond that -- and Ali can be seen kissing Allah on the forehead.

    But, the report states, the two men still appeared to be agitated with one another before entering the fourth-floor apartment.

    The apartment belongs to someone who is known to both the victim and Allah, but the reports obtained by NJ Advance Media do not specify the relationship between the occupant of the apartment and the two men.

    In the courtroom Thursday, the victim's wife, Donna Ali, had to be escorted out by multiple sheriff's officers after she became irate, the Asbury Park Press reported.

    "Oh my God, you killed my husband," she shouted at Allah, who was seated in the jury box in a tan jail-issued jumpsuit.

    It's a seat he's sat in before.

    Allah has a lengthy criminal history, court records show, starting with a manslaughter conviction and weapons violation in 1987 when he was 23 years old.

    Allah was convicted of manslaughter after he went to trial for the death of his 70-year-old grandmother in 1986. He was accused of shoving her in an apartment in Boston Way village in Asbury Park, according to reports in the Asbury Park Press.

    In 1998, he pleaded guilty to two counts of attempted murder and a weapons violation, according to records. He also had weapons violations in 2009 and 2017. The latter was a fourth-degree offense, for which he spent 97 days in jail.

    Allah will be back in court on Monday when a judge will determine whether he can be released from jail pending the outcome of his current case.

    He also faces charges of possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, a third-degree offense, and fourth-degree disturbing of human remains. 

    NJ Advance Media researcher Vinessa Erminio contributed to this report. 

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

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    Northbound traffic is at a standstill due to the crash

    Three separate motor vehicle crashes on the Garden State Parkway near the PNC Bank Arts Center have closed the northbound local lanes Friday afternoon, authorities said.

    Three people are being treated for injuries that are not considered life-threatening, State Police Sgt. Jeff Flynn said. 

    The collisions took place around 12:54 p.m. near milepost 117.3. 

    Traffic is being diverted into the express lanes about a half-mile south of the crash site, Flynn said.

    Troopers are still on the scene investigating as of 2:10 p.m. 

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



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    Municipal lifesaving officials say low pay is one reason shore towns can have trouble recruiting and retaining lifeguards, particularly veteran supervisors and instructors. Watch video

    After Belmar's mayor noticed last summer that the Monmouth County borough wasn't staffing all its lifeguard stands, he led a shakeup that ousted the senior lifeguards and managers in Belmar and raised the official starting pay for guards.

    The mayor, Matt Doherty, was criticized during a Feb. 20 Borough Council meeting by current and former lifeguards and supervisors, many of them angered or confused about who would get to keep their job under the shakeup. But most agreed on at least one point: low pay makes it tough to attract and keep qualified lifeguards.

    "it's the biggest thing," Bill Karatz, a retired Belmar lifeguard supervisor, said of the pay issue. "You talk to Seagirt, you talk to Manasquan, you talk to Spring Lake. They can't cover all their stands, either."  

    Up and down the shore, officials say pay is a critical issue for lifeguards and the local officials who hire them to protect not only the public, but the reputation of shore communities as safe places for often inexperienced beach goers to frolic in the inviting but deceptively dangerous surf along New Jersey's Atlantic coast.

    "We're not the pool," said Steve Downey, chief of the Atlantic City Beach Patrol, whose guards made over 1,000 saves last summer. "I can't tell you how many times a day people come up and ask me, 'Where's the rip tide?' And I point out it's right in front of where their kids are swimming. You'd be surprised how many people we get that have never seen the ocean before. People ask me, 'Where's the ocean?' and they're standing right next to it."

    Popular Jersey Shore beach town guts lifeguard leadership

    Officials say it's true that many life guards are high school or college students who don't have to rely on the job to support a family or pay the rent.

    But, they add, many other lifeguards take the job at least in part for the money, especially veteran supervisors and trainers, who have built the summer guarding season into their overall annual income scheme, whether it's in addition to teaching in the fall, winter and spring, or to supplement a night shift in a casino, bar, or patrol car.

    For those guards, lifesaving officials say, if the pay doesn't meet their material needs, they may chose to look for summer employment elsewhere.

    "People can't find lifeguards because they're not paying enough," said Tom Gill, a spokesman for the United States Lifesaving Association, a lifeguarding education organization based in Virginia Beach. "I think people see it as a lot more of a job than they used to, but I think there's still some people who may say, 'Who wouldn't want to spend all summer on the beach?'"

    The City of Atlantic City pays rookie lifeguards $12.50 an hour, rising to $22 an hour for those with 20 years of service.

    Downey said austerity measures under a state takeover of the city's finances included a 10 to 15 percent reduction in lifeguard pay last summer. Downey said the pay cut resulted in a younger, less experienced pool of applicants from which the corps of 150 guards were culled.

    "Did it hurt recruitment? I believe so," Downey said. "We had 59 hires under age 18. That's probably the youngest group we've ever had."

    The struggle to retain lifeguards is nothing new, and Atlantic City is among several shore towns that have long contributed to a state-sponsored pension plan for guards created in the 1920's.

    Doherty, who stepped down as Belmar's mayor on April 10 to head the state Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, said the borough could afford the recent pay hike, which raised the official starting wage from $8.50 to $10 an hour.

    He and Borough Administrator Colleen Connolly said the pay hike helped attract 125 applications this year through the end of March for 70 lifeguarding slots. They said the borough hoped to hire a new lifeguard director by the second week of April, and have a full staff in place by early May.

    As in many shore towns, Connolly said part of Belmar's guard contingent will officially go on duty Memorial Day weekend, building to a full contingent by July Fourth. 

    Hourly pay tops out at $15 for all lifesaving staff in Belmar, including training officers, lieutenants, captains, supervisors and even the director. But starting pay for leadership positions is higher, and assistant supervisors are paid summer season salaries ranging from $8,000 to $15,000 depending on experience, while the director makes $11,000 to $15,500.

    State lifeguards at Island Beach State Park, lakes and other locations tend to earn less than their municipal counterparts, ranging from $8.60 to $10.50 an hour, according to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, their employer.

    The hiring age is a tender 16 years old, and DEP spokesman Larry Hajna said the relatively low wages are supplemented by the training and certification that young state lifeguards can use to land other jobs.  

    The feds earn the most. At Sandy Hook, in the National Park Service's Gateway National Recreation Area, the starting hourly pay is $17.51, topping out at $22.60, said Daphne Yun, a park service spokesperson.

    Like state and local life guards, Yun said those at Sandy Hook are a combination of students, teachers and others, most of whom live the area. She said some learn about the job and apply through the park service job portal.

    About three quarters of this summer's 80 lifeguarding jobs at Sandy Hook had been filled by the end of March, said Yun, adding that the annual turnover rate is about 20 percent.

    Thanks at least in part to the higher federal pay, Yun said, "We do have a lot of returning lifeguards."

    Steve Strunsky may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @SteveStrunsky. Find on Facebook.

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    James Keenan, 47, who retired from Middletown police in 2016, was charged Wednesday.

    The man arrested Wednesday as part of a federal sex trafficking case involving a 17-year-old girl is a retired New Jersey police officer. 

    James Keenan, 47, was a patrolman with the Middletown Police Department from 1990 to 2016, township police spokesman Det. Lt. Paul Bailey confirmed Saturday.

    Keenan was arrested by FBI agents in Hazlet on Wednesday and charged with sex trafficking of a child, attempted sex trafficking of a child and attempted enticement, according to police. 

    Keenan -- who still owns a home in Hazlet, tax records show -- had been living in Vancouver, Washington, where he collected his police pension of $79,876 per year, according to New Jersey pension records. 

    Keenan is being held without bail after the federal court Judge Tonianne Bongiovanni ruled he posed a danger to the community and was a flight risk, according to court records. He is set to be extradited to Oregon. 

    A grand jury indicted Keenan on April 5 in Portland, Oregon, police said in a release. The arrest came after a month-long investigation from local Oregon police and federal agents. 

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

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    Dozens of bulldogs visited Wonder Bar Yappy Hour's big event in Asbury Park Saturday.

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    The Super Pet Expo returns to Middlesex County with several new demonstrations and activities in addition to longtime favorites. Watch video

    The Super Pet Expo has returned to Edison, bringing with it shopping and entertainment opportunities for pet owners and their pals.

    This year there are several new demonstrations and activities in addition to returning favorites. 

    Dogs, cats, birds, pigs, reptiles and exotic pets are all part of the 2018 expo.

    New this year are pig agility demonstrations by Pig Placement Network and cat agility demonstrations by The International Cat Association.

    "These demos show how important and fun it is to play daily with your cat," said Roeann Fulkerson, TICA director of Marketing and Business Development. "Cats can be taught at any age using a 'teaser' toy on a wand. They follow the motion counterclockwise, around the course." 

    For dog lovers, there is the Ultimate Air dog competition where four-legged athletes soar through the air to fetch and fall into a 30,000-gallon pool. 

    Luring 101 for dogs is set on an enclosed, 250-foot course to give dogs of all sizes a high-speed run as they case the lure. 

    The family-friendly event opened Friday afternoon at the New Jersey Convention & Exposition Center in Edison. 

    The expo features more than 200 pet-related exhibits and numerous unique entertainment and educational activities. The Super Pet Expo will continue through Sunday.

    Patti Sapone may be reached at Follow her on Instagram @psapo, Twitter @psapone.  Find on Facebook.

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    Coast Guard officials said a good Samaritan notified rescuers of the surfer in distress around 10:30 a.m.

    A New Jersey woman captured on social media video a dramatic rescue of a kite surfer who lost control navigating the choppy waters of the Sandy Hook Bay Sunday.

    Kim Garrison took to Twitter, posting photos and videos of Coast Guard Station Sandy Hook crew members nabbing the distressed kite surfer out of the waters off of the Monmouth County Shore. 

    A good Samaritan saw the surfer, who was not identified, and notified rescuers at 10:30 Sunday morning, Coast Guard officials said.

    A boat crew was able to save the man within 15 minutes, according to a release.

    The surfer was wearing a life jacket and a wetsuit, and after an examination, appeared to have no medical concerns, officials said.

    Alexis Johnson may be reached at Follow her on Twitter @alexisjreports. Find on Facebook.


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    Dogs and cats throughout New Jersey await adoption., where you can find nearly a quarter of a million adoptable pets listed by more than 12,000 adoption groups, offers these tips to pet owners now that spring is -- finally -- near:

    *  There will be plenty of sticks and branches on the ground after winter, and they can cause choking and severe mouth injuries to dogs. If your pet likes to chew and chase, make sure to use a tennis ball, Frisbee or other toy instead of branches.

    *  You might be doing some spring cleaning; if a pet ingests a household cleaner, don't call a human poison control center - they won't be able to help with animals. Call your vet or the ASPCA poison control hotline, 888-426-4435.

    *  Dogs can get seasonal allergies just like people ... but they manifest themselves in dogs more as skin conditions than sneezing. Check with your vet for treatment options.

    *  Flea and tick prevention for dogs and cats should be continued year-round, but even if you take a break during winter months, make sure to apply the preventatives before the weather warms up.

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    The Boss was celebrating his mother Adele's 93rd birthday

    Bruce Springsteen danced with his 92-year-old mother Adele to celebrate her birthday at the Wonder Bar in Asbury Park on Sunday, but the evening was cut short when the venue lost power due to storms.

    bruce-springsteen-wonder-bar.jpgBruce Springsteen talks with Eddie Testa (center) at the Wonder Bar in Asbury Park on Sunday night. Springsteen's 92-year-old mother, at left) was celebrating her birthday, which is May 4. 

    Springsteen was with his mother as well as his younger son, Sam Springsteen, according to those at the bar on Sunday. Adele Springsteen turns 93 on May 4. 

    The 68-year-old Boss and his mother danced as the Eddie Testa Band performed two songs before the lights went out. They stayed for about 90 minutes. Those in attendance said it appeared he planned to play with the band, but that was short-circuited by the power loss.

    Springsteen has taken the stage at the Wonder Bar several times in recent years. He played there weeks apart in 2015 as well in 2011.

    Asbury park Wonder Bar

    A post shared by Franky Toby-dufour (@tobydufour) on

    Editor's note: The headline and story were updated to correct Adele Springsteen's age. She will turn 93 on May 4.

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


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    One state power fell out of the rankings after being upset last week.

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    The weather forecast isn't good, but the games are.

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    Which girls lacrosse teams are without a loss so far this season?

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    "I am being discriminated against at my school because of my beliefs," the student said. Watch video

    A New Jersey community college is investigating why a professor shouted the F-word at a student in an incident that was caught on camera. The student identifies as politically conservative, and the incident has sparked complaints about the college as a liberal atmosphere where alternative political viewpoints are not tolerated.

    During a Sociology 105, Intercultural Communication class Wednesday, Brookdale Community College professor Howard Finkelstein grew angry with his student, Christopher Lyle, shouted "f--- your life," and pounded his hand on a table, according to video obtained by NJ Advance Media. 

    The incident, recorded on another student's cell phone, came after Lyle insisted both men and women can be victims of sexual harassment, said Lyle, in an interview with NJ Advance Media. It is one of many disagreements Lyle says he's had with Finkelstein over the course of the semester. The footage has since been shared on conservative websites, such as, and social media pages and branded as an example of growing liberal indoctrination on college campuses.  

    "I am being discriminated against at my school because of my beliefs," Lyle, 23, of Toms River, said. "It's a shame."

    Finkelstein, a veteran community college teacher and counselor, did not respond to requests for comment. College spokeswoman Avis McMillon said the school cannot comment until its investigation is complete.

    In an interview, Lyle said that Finkelstein's outburst is part of the professor's pattern of dismissing and disrespecting Lyle's conservative viewpoints. It's a grievance that echoes nationwide complaints from conservative students who feel they can't share their social or political views on left-leaning campuses. 

    Finkelstein regularly tells Lyle to "shut up," has criticized him for owning a gun and dismissed his opinions as "the reason America is not great," Lyle said.

    The student who shot the video, Joey Smith, said that Finkelstein's class frequently devolves into lectures directed specifically at Lyle. Smith doesn't always agree with Lyle's views, but doesn't think a teacher should ask for a student's personal views only to rip them, he said.

    Smith recorded last week's class session so he could show his friends why he hates the course, he said. 

    "He is basically just lecturing this one student for the whole period," Smith, 26, said. "We are sitting there and he is speaking directly to Chris, going back and forth about personal thoughts."

    The day following Finkelstein's outburst, Lyle was pulled out of another class by a college official, Lyle  said. The administrator said he knows Lyle is a gun owner and wanted to make sure he wasn't going to hurt anyone, according to Lyle. 

    Lyle added that he felt the college was more concerned about him being a gun owner than a professor berating him, and he was being discriminated against again.

    In a statement, the college said does not discriminate against anyone for personal beliefs. 

    "It is in the best interest of all members of our community for the college to do its due diligence when a student or employee mentions firearms during the process of an investigation," the college said. "The matter concerning the student's statements about firearms has been investigated and the incident is closed."

    Lyle initially didn't plan to return to Finkelstein's class but decided to go back and make sure is voice is heard, he said. 

    "I have to stand up for myself and my beliefs," he said said. "I pay money to learn. I don't pay money to get lectured on my beliefs." 

    Adam Clark may be reached at Follow him on twitter at @realAdamClarkFind on Facebook


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    A look at some of New Jersey's baseball alumni playing at the Division 1 level in college.

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    The Massachusetts-based brick over pizzeria has 5 New Jersey locations

    Another struggling fast-casual restaurant chain has filed for bankruptcy. 

    Massachusetts-based Bertucci's plans to sell its assets to Right Lane Dough Acquisitions, which plans to keep most of its locations open, it said in a statement Monday.

    Known for its brick-oven pizzas and other Italian dishes, Bertucci is about $119 million in debt, according to a federal court filing in Delaware. The company employs 4,200 workers, about three-quarters of whom are part-time.

    Bertucci's has New Jersey locations in Hazlet, the Sicklerville section of Gloucester Township, the Marlton section of Evehsam, Mount Laurel and Woodbridge. Bertucci's operates restaurants in 11 states along the East Coast.

    The 34 most popular restaurant chains in New Jersey, from least to most popular

    "With the rise in popularity of quick-casual restaurants and oversaturation of the restaurant industry as a whole, Bertucci's -- and the casual family dining sector in general -- has been affected by a prolonged negative operating trend in an ever increasing competitive price environment," according to court papers filed by the company. "Consumers have more options than ever for spending discretionary income, and their preferences continue to shift towards cheaper, faster alternatives."

    Levine Leichtman Capital Properties owns Bertucci's.

    Romano's Macaroni Grill and Logan's Roadhouse have also filed for bankruptcy in recent years.

    A Bertucci's spokesman didn't immediately return a phone call and an email from NJ Advance Media asking bout the fate of the chain's five restaurants in New Jersey.

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


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