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News from Monmouth County, New Jersey

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    Braeden Bradforth's family mourned the loss of the stand-out N.J. football player who tragically died immediately after beginning his college career.

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    Strong storms hit the area on Tuesday night

    Storm damage within Sandy Hook and on the highway leading to the Gateway National Recreation Area has delayed the park's opening on Wednesday. 

    A ranger who answered the phone there this morning said JCP&L has been working to make repairs since late Tuesday night after a fierce storm swept through the area. In addition to the downed pole within Gateway National Recreation Area, Tuesday's fierce storm also brought down a pole and wires along nearby Route 36, according to, the state department of transportation's traffic website. 

    2 drown in N.J. lake as strong storms sweep through

    The downed pole inside Sandy Hook is in parking area C on the bay side, according to a spokeswoman for Gateway National Recreation Area. 

    Sandy Hook is normally open from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. during the summer.

    The ranger said he hasn't been told when JCP&L will wrap up its work but said the park will open as soon as they do.

    The area was under a flash flood warning for several hours Tuesday night. 

    Other than a slight chance of showers and thunderstorms Wednesday afternoon, it's expected to be a good beach day at Sandy Hook and at the Jersey Shore.

    Forecasters are calling for partly sunny skies, temps in the low 80s and light winds. There's also only a minimal risk of rip currents after several days where the National Weather Service said the risk was moderate. 

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



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    Suburban counties have mostly halted their six-year slide in population, new data shows, suggesting Millennials might be leaving cities for greener pastures.

    Want to be on the cutting edge of the hot new trend in housing?

    It may be time to take a second look at the suburbs.

    After bleeding population for the better part of a decade, northern New Jersey's suburbs appear to be swinging back into favor, new Census data shows.

    That's right, those places with garages and yards once seen as so uncool might be on the rebound as Millennials begin seeking greener pastures. 

    Hunterdon, Monmouth and Hudson saw their year-over-year population losses slow or halt between 2016 and 2017, while more urbanized counties like Hudson and Union experienced significant slowdowns in their recent breakneck growth.  

    "It could be a blip in the data, but we were quite surprised," said James Hughes, dean emeritus of Rutgers University's Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy. 

    While one year doesn't make a trend, Hughes, who has been studying the flight from the suburbs since 2014, said it's worth noting that housing prices in urbanized counties have skyrocketed with the demand of recent years.

    That might be sending young people looking elsewhere for more affordable living, especially as they begin to think about growing their families.

    "It could be that they're going to follow the same pattern of previous generations," Hughes said. 

    Many suburbs in both northern and southern New Jersey still don't offer the walkable downtowns and access to transit prized by current home buyers.

    Hughes said the coming years could be pivotal in shaping the demographic profile of the state's 565 municipalities, as urban centers work to retain new residents and suburban and rural areas attempt to lure them away with the promise of more space and lower taxes. 

    Towns like Somerville, in Somerset County, are hoping they are uniquely situated to attract young home buyers. 

    Somerville is one of the few towns in New Jersey's more rural counties that is based around a traditional downtown with a train station. Mayor Ellen Brain said the town of about 12,000 has bet heavily on this, and is seeing it pay dividends.

    "There was nobody coming to Somerville," Brain said, noting she was continuing the work of previous administrations. "We took a look at data on what we would need to move Somerville from where it was, which was failing." 

    The town approved the development of new apartments downtown, which drew in a younger audience. New businesses followed to what was already a fairly well-known restaurant scene. 

    Today, Somerville's housing stock has regained most of the value it lost following the recession, something only a handful of municipalities can claim

    "We have a very low available housing stock right now," said Council President Granville Brady. "It used to be you'd have a for sale sign on every block. Now people put up their houses and they sell in just a few days." 

    Hughes said there will be challenges for both urban and suburban communities in the years moving forward. Popular urban centers like Jersey City have soaring housing prices and low-ranked schools.

    Meanwhile, suburban towns built out in the sprawl of the 1980s and 1990s have no central downtown, have an abundance of antiquated office space and no immediate access to public transit. 

    "Everything is in flux," he said. "We're destroying jobs and creating new ones at the same time. But there can be some pretty quick adaptations that towns can make."  

    Stephen Stirling may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @sstirling. Find him on Facebook

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    Authorities say Aaron Davis left River the pit bull in a cage along the bay to drown in the rising tide last Monday

    The Long Branch man accused of leaving a pit bull to drown along the Highlands bayfront made his first appearance in court Wednesday afternoon.

    Aaron Davis, 36, surrendered to police Tuesday, just days after the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office released his photo in connection to the case.

    He appeared in court Wednesday afternoon for a detention hearing.

    Once in the courtroom, in Freehold, Assistant Prosecutor Amanda Dalton-Clark told Judge Richard English the office is seeking a detention hearing in the case, and needs three days to prepare.

    Davis is scheduled to appear in court again Monday, and will remain in jail until then.

    Davis caged the pit bull and put the cage in the water near Veterans Memorial Park on Bay Avenue, leaving the dog to drown in the rising tide early in the morning on July 30, the prosecutor's office has said.

    He's charged with animal cruelty and abandonment.

    Jennifer Vaz, who lives in Eatontown, was walking her dog Molly around 6:15 a.m. when Molly started barking at something in the water.

    Vaz climbed over a wall and rescued the dog, less than an hour before the rising tide would have drowned him. The cage was already partially underwater when Vaz found it.

    She named the young pit bull "River" and said last week that she plans to adopt him.

    River, who investigators estimated to be 10 months old, is doing fine and has "a clean bill of health," Prosecutor Christopher Gramiccioni said Tuesday.

    If Davis is convicted on the animal cruelty charge, he could face up to five years in prison.

    Police encourage residents to reach out to the Monmouth County SPCA animal cruelty hotline 877-898-7297 if they are looking to help an animal in danger.

    Gianluca D'Elia may be reached at gdelia@njadvancemedia.comFollow him on Twitter @gianluca_delia. Find on Facebook.

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    You must be taller than this to view this gallery.

    There are certain emotions that are wonderful and almost impossible to put into words. Falling in love for the first time ... holding your newborn child ... your lifelong favorite team winning the Super Bowl for the first time ever.

    Now, close your eyes and try to recapture the feeling from childhood just before you walked through the gates of a carnival, circus or amusement park. It certainly ranks right up there.

    gregferris.jpgAnd try not to trip getting off the ferris wheel. 

    There was a magical feeling of anticipation mixed with a happy mystery. You remembered your favorite rides and games and couldn't decide which was the first you were going to do. And you didn't know what new ones might have been invented, what new things a circus might bring to town.

    The sensory stimulation was almost too much to handle - the sounds, sights, aromas, even the air had a unique quality to it. It was one of the few times in life that having things coming at you from all sides couldn't have been happier.

    MORE: Vintage photos around New Jersey

    I'm one of those people who grows a little melancholy when something happy draws to a close, but at those places, the only thing you felt at the end of the day was a magnificent exhaustion. Kind of like celebrating a Super Bowl victory.

    Here's a gallery of vintage photos from amusement parks, fairs and circuses in New Jersey. Don't see one of your favorite places to visit? Check these links to previous galleries.

    Vintage photos of amusement parks, circuses, fairs and rides in N.J.

    Vintage photos of amusement parks, circuses and fairs in N.J.

    Vintage photos of amusement parks, fairs and circuses in N.J.

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

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    No hard liquor? Bad dorms? Poor profs? How N.J. colleges fare in new Princeton Review rankings.

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    Approximately 100 surfers competed in the 2018 Brigantine Surf Jam.

    It was a picture-perfect day to spend on the beach. But those competing in the Brigantine Surf Jam on Wednesday were also looking for that picture-perfect wave.

    Last year, surfers had waves in the 3- to 4-foot range nearly all day. This year, finding that perfect wave was proving a bit more difficult.

    "The waves weren't the best, but the weather cooperated," said Surf Jam organizer Tim Daley.

    As of late Tuesday, thunderstorms were forecast for the annual contest, which takes place near the jetty on the southern end of the island.

    Approximately 100 competitors -- all of whom are current or past residents of Brigantine -- contended for titles in shortboard and longboard, as well as stand up paddleboarding (SUP) and bodyboarding. The event "highlights the amazing and unique surfing culture and lifestyle of Brigantine Beach," according to the Brigantine Surf Jam's Facebook page.

    Daley also served as the emcee, calling out the names of each surfer as they found a wave to ride. With each heat lasting 15 minutes, surfers had time to pick and choose which waves they thought were best.

    On a day like today, "wave selection is key," said Daley, as a group of surfers sat patiently on their boards, looking out to sea for their next opportunity.

    Competitors were judged on their best two rides, with judges looking for the most radical maneuvers completed, as well as top speed and power generated in a stylish manner within the most critical sections of waves.

    Daley has run the Surf Jam for the past 13 years, with help from Brigantine CER (Community Education and Recreation), Brigantine City Beach Patrol, firepolice and public works departments, and numerous volunteers. 

    The not-for-profit event raises money for the community. Proceeds from prior contests were used to purchase an Automated External Defibrillator (AED), that is now installed in the ACME and is maintained by the fire department.

    "It's a beautiful community, we love this island and we love giving back to all the people who make it so amazing," said Daley.


    • BodyBoarding, 10 and under: 1st place - Miles Doorley; 2nd - Jesse Riley; 3rd - Phoebe Coia.
    • BodyBoarding, 11-13: 1st place - Daniel Burns; 2nd - Halsey "Tiki" Keats; 3rd - Keenan Stahl.
    • Wahine - Girls shortboard surfing, 10 and under: 1st place - Ashlyn Tate; 2nd - Sadie-James Thurber; 3rd - Zoe Jeansonne.
    • Menehune - Boys shortboard surfing, 10 and under: 1st place - Jimmy Downing; 2nd - Jaxson Hurtt; 3rd - Dean Meissner.
    • Groms - Boys shortboard surfing, 11-13: 1st place - Michael Meissner; 2nd - Matt Hoffman; 3rd - Daniel Hurtt.
    • Gromettes - Girls shortboard surfing, 11-16: 1st place - Julia Arndt; 2nd - Masey Klemm; 3rd - Lindsay Tate.
    • Junior Men's shortboard surfing, 14-17: 1st place - Nicholas McCall; 2nd - Evan Couval; 3rd - Jake Downing.
    • Men's shortboard surfing, 18 and older: 1st place - Greg Fuller; 2nd - Hollin Walker; 3rd - Mike Doherty.
    • Women's surfing, 17 and older: 1st place - Grace Emig; 2nd - Kasey Jeansonne; 3rd - Rachel Nessuno.
    • Junior longboard surfing, 29 and under: 1st place - Jake Downing; 2nd - Dean Meissner; 3rd - Sean O'Neill.
    • Senior longboard surfing, 30 and older: 1st place - Doug Brown Jr.; 2nd - Kyle Doran; 3rd - Dan Hurtt.
    • Open Stand Up Paddleboarding: 1st place - Greg Fuller; 2nd - Mike Laielli Sr.; 3rd - Mick Mayer.
    • Super Heat champion (winners of all shortboard surfing categories, male and female, compete against each other): Greg Fuller.
    • Spirit of Aloha winner (celebrating good sportsmanship): Lindsay Tate, for thanking all of the judges for volunteering their time.
    • Wave of the day (highest scoring wave): Jesse Riley, for a bodyboard wave that scored well above an 8.0.

    Lori M. Nichols may be reached at Follow her on Instagram @photog_lori and Twitter @photoglori. Find on Facebook. Have a tip? Tell us.

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    The boardwalk is a big part of Wildwood, but there's other places to check out at night in this Jersey Shore town.

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    2 tickets were sold in Monmouth County, the other in Essex.

    The holders of three tickets will share Wednesday's $1,357,344 Jersey Cash 5 jackpot.

    The lucky tickets, which matched all five numbers drawn, were sold at the following locations, state lottery officials said Thursday.

    • Barbara Grocery and Deli on Barbara Street in Newark
    • Bray Ave Deli & Grocery on Bray Avenue in Middletown
    • the Shell gas station on Route 79 in Marlboro

    Each ticket is worth $452,448. Wednesday's winning numbers were 6, 10, 16, 27 and 40. The Xtra number was 4. Lottery players bought 1,109,773 across the state for Wednesday's drawing. 

    The jackpot grew following seven straight daily drawings without a top prize winner. It was the largest Jersey Cash 5 jackpot since two winners split a $1.68 million prize on July 13.

    Thursday's jackpot resets to $100,000.

    The odds of a $1 ticket matching all five numbers are 962,598 to 1. 

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


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    Spring Lake Heights Councilman Robert Merriken said a syringe found in his vehicle on Wednesday in nearby Brielle was left over from his wife's fatal bought with cancer. Watch video

    Embattled Spring Lake Heights Borough Councilman Robert Merriken Sr. was arrested yet again on drug-related charges Wednesday, this time in Brielle, after an arrest in April had prompted fellow council members to officially call for his resignation.

    A press release issued by the Brielle Police Department said Merriken was charged Wednesday with possession of a controlled dangerous substance and possession of drug paraphernalia, following a vehicle stop on Highway 71 in Brielle. It did not specify the substance or the reason for the stop.

    "The investigation is ongoing," the release added. "Merriken was released on his own recognizance, and the charges were forwarded to the Monmouth County Superior Court for adjudication."

    In a brief phone interview on Thursday, Merriken said he was innocent of the drug charges, which he said were issued after police pulled him over for having an expired inspection sticker. They found a needle in his car, he said.

    The needle, he said, was left over from his wife's fatal bout with cancer. His wife, former Spring Lake Heights Emergency Management Coordinator Rita Murphy, died on May 24.

    "I am completely innocent," said Merriken, who is 69. "I don't do drugs, I've never done drugs."

    Merriken said the syringe had no drug residue inside, and had not been used by him, his wife or anyone else.

    "There was nothing inside it," said Merriken, who has refused to step down from his council seat. "I think they overreacted."

    Merriken said he had reached out to his lawyer about the arrest, but had not yet spoken to him.

    "I think he's on vacation," Merriken said.

    The lawyer, Charles Shaw, did not respond to requests for comment from NJ Advance Media.

    Merriken was arrested April 4 in Neptune City, also in Monmouth County, after police said they pulled over his sport utility vehicle for running a stop sign and failing to signal a turn. Inside the SUV, police said they found a syringe, bloodied cotton swabs, a rubber band and a needle cap.

    Merriken and a passenger, 39-year-old Cherice Hernandez of Lake Como, were each charged with two counts of possession of paraphernalia with intent to inject a controlled dangerous substance. Hernandez entered a guilty plea April 26 in Neptune Township Municipal Court, said James Butler, the municipal prosecutor.  

    Merriken's case is pending in Neptune City Municipal Court.

    A dashboard video of the April 4 arrests obtained from the Neptune City Police Department captured Merriken and Hernandez blaming each other for the presence of a syringe in the SUV. At one point, Merriken is heard saying he is a diabetic.

    Merriken's lawyer, Charles Shaw, has insisted that his client is not an intravenous drug user. 

    In May, the Spring Lake Heights Borough Council voted 4-1 to censure Merriken and call on him step down in order to "repair the damage done to our community and restore faith in the leadership of Spring Lake Heights."

    Council President Chris Campion and Councilman Rich Diver, Joe Tompey and Jim Shuler voted in favor of the resolution, while Sara King voted no. Merriken was not at the meeting, his third straight absence.

    On Thursday, Campion issued a statement reiterating the demand that Merriken step down and branding him, "an embarrassment to himself and the Borough of Spring Lake Heights," and "a disgrace to the position he holds."

    Prior to his April drug arrest, Merriken was arrested in 2006 in Ocean Township and in 2015 in Neptune, both on prostitution charges that were later downgraded, Shaw has confirmed.

    Merriken, who runs Bay Head Marine, a boat dealership in Point Pleasant Beach, is a Republican who was first elected to the Spring Lake Heights council in November 2015. Spring Lake Heights is a southern Monmouth County borough of just over a square mile and just under 5,000 residents, separated from the Atlantic coast by the Borough of Spring Lake. 

    Merriken, whose term expires on Dec. 31, was not endorsed by the local Republican organization, and he was not on the June 5 primary ballot.

    Councilman Diver, who is also the Republican municipal chairman for Spring Lake Heights, was skeptical of Merriken's explanation of the syringe, particularly in light of his April arrest.

    "We are clearly shocked and dismayed," Diver said. "We wish Mr. Merriken will be able to put his affairs in order and put his life in order. But Mr. Merriken has to realize that it is time for him to go." 

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

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    The federal government lost out on over $300k in taxes

    A Monmouth County man admitted in federal court Thursday to filing false tax returns from 2012 to 2015, which should have shown $837,422 in consulting income.

    Those tax returns, by Anthony Vestuto III, led the government to lose $307,310 in taxes, the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced.

    Federal authorities say Vestuto, 38, of Middletown, worked as an information technology director at a company in New York City those years, and gave his accountant his W-2 forms for that pay on his returns.

    But he also did IT work for seven other companies, and they paid Vestuto for his consulting by writing checks made payable to him, which he deposited into his personal bank accounts.

    Most of that money went unreported to the IRS.

    Some did.

    Court documents show that Vestuto, for example, made $183,416 as a consultant in the 2012 tax year, but only reported $63,274 of it.

    And in 2015 he pulled in $316,665 working side jobs, and only reported he made $20,000 of it on his tax return.

    "To build faith in our nation's tax system, honest taxpayers need to be reassured that everyone is paying their fair share," Bryant Jackson, Acting Special Agent in charge of the IRS' criminal investigation office in New Jersey said in a statement about Vestuto.

    Vestuto pleaded guilty to one count of making and subscribing to a false tax return, in U.S. District Court in Trenton. He's scheduled to be sentenced in Vovember.

    He faces a possible prison term, and likely will be ordered to pay back the government the money that should have been on his returns, the IRS said.

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


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    Ross Kasun was most recently the superintendent in Freehold Township

    Lawrence's board of education announced Thursday they've hired Dr. Ross Kasun as superintendent of schools.

    He's scheduled to start Sept. 1. His salary will be $196,584 per year.

    Ross Kasun.jpegRoss Kasun, provided photo 

    Kasun, who's been the superintendent in Freehold Township the past seven school years, replaces Dr. Crystal Edwards, who left earlier this year for a superintendent job in Virginia.

    Kasun also almost left New Jersey for a superintendent job this year.

    He was publicly named the superintendent of the Billings, Montana school district - the largest in Montana - this past spring, but never signed a contract and withdrew from the job weeks later.

    The Billings Gazette reported in May that Kasun withdrew from that post due to family reasons, that he has school-aged children and didn't plan on relocating there.

    However, in interviews with Billings school trustees, Kasun said he wanted to work in Montana because one of his children is considering attending college in the region, the Gazette reported.

    Earlier this year, Kasun was also a named finalist for the superintendent post in Montclair.

    In Lawrence's search, the board said they interviewed six finalists from 41 applicants.

    The board said in an announcement that Kasun has racked up an impressive record and resume in his 23 years as an educator.

    He was chosen as the 2017 Superintendent of the Year by the New Jersey Association of School Administrators, was selected by the White House to attend the Future Ready Summit in 2014, for his efforts to infuse technology into daily practice, and won a Lexington Education Leadership Award fellowship.

    "We believe that Dr. Kasun will be a visionary leader and a great match for our students, staff, and community," Lawrence board President Kevin Van Hise said in an announcement.

    In the statement, Kasun said he is eager and excited to join the Lawrence district. "Creating learning experiences focused on the growth of every student is my passion. I was attracted to the diversity of this community, and I look forward to working collaboratively with all stakeholders to provide every student with an exceptional educational experience."

    Before Freehold Township, Kasun was an administrator in the South Orange-Maplewood district, a principal in Millburn, an assistant superintendent in Summit and superintendent in Colts Neck. He started his career as an elementary school teacher.

    Lawrence plans a public meet-and-greet on August 29 at 6 p.m. in the Lawrence High School Commons.

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

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    An overcast day didn't diminish the fun for many during a recent trip to the beach in Asbury Park. The town's beach is a mile long and has been attracting swimmers, surfers, sunbathers, fishermen and onlookers for decades. The historic town has seen a revival in the past couple of years with more restaurants, stores and nightclubs opening up. During the day, a...

    An overcast day didn't diminish the fun for many during a recent trip to the beach in Asbury Park.

    The town's beach is a mile long and has been attracting swimmers, surfers, sunbathers, fishermen and onlookers for decades. The historic town has seen a revival in the past couple of years with more restaurants, stores and nightclubs opening up. During the day, a family-friendly atmosphere has been key to its redevelopment, while having an active nightlife with top restaurants and one of the best live music scenes in the state has made the town a destination.

    The beach is open with lifeguards on duty 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends and holidays. Beach passes are required, with Monday-to-Friday prices at $5, and weekends and holidays at $7.

    NJ Transit trains travel to Asbury Park. The station is walking distance to the beach, while there is metered street parking and paid lots nearby.

    Aristide Economopoulos can be reached at and you can follow him on Twitter at @AristideNJAM and Instagram at @aeconomopoulos  Find on Facebook

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    Evan Smutz graduated from Keyport High School 2 years ago

    UPDATE: Accused killer caught in shooting of 20-year-old in Monmouth County

    A 20-year-old Keyport man was shot and killed Thursday at an apartment complex in the borough, authorities said.

    Evan Smutz was gunned down at the Holmdel Pointe apartments around 1 p.m, the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office said in a statement.

    Man shot to death in N.J. school parking lot

    The apartment complex is in on Center Street between Route 36 and 35 near the Hazlet border. 

    2016 graduate of Keyport High School, Smutz was on the Monmouth squad in the 2016 All-Shore Gridiron Classic, a summer all-star football game, according to He also played baseball for Keyport. 

    Authorities said the shooting is an isolated incident and that there is no danger to the public. 

    Anyone with information is asked to call Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office Det. Ryan Mahony at 1-800-533-7443 or Keyport Det. Sgt. Joseph Redina at 732-264-0706 x5158.

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



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    Two doggos are safe after their family fell on hard times and quietly left them at a Tinton Falls animal shelter yesterday.

    Two dogs were found abandoned and tied to a fence outside a Monmouth County animal shelter on Thursday as temperatures hovered around 90 degrees.

    An employee at the Associated Humane Society location in Tinton Falls found the dogs as she was taking out the garbage Thursday morning. The dogs were left without identification or any sort of medical record, according to the organization's Facebook post.

    "There is no excuse for this EVER!!!!" the post read. "Especially on a 90 degree day, right on this EXTREMELY busy road to leave 2 dogs tied to our fence without even a drop of water????"

    The shelter pleaded with the owners to provide information about the animals and around noon Thursday, the shelter updated the post to say the owner did come forward. The family had recently had financial difficulties and couldn't care for the dogs, the shelter said.

    The shelter charges a fee of anywhere from $50 to $200 for surrendering a dog, but the fee can be waived when a family can't pay.

    Cassidy Grom may be reached at Follow her at @cassidygrom. Find on Facebook.

    Have a tip? Tell us.

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    A 19-year-old Keansburg man allegedly shot and killed Evan Smutz during an argument in an apartment

    A 19-year-old Keansburg man shot and killed a 20-year-old during an argument in his Keyport apartment on Thursday afternoon, authorities said. 

    John Curtin fled to New York City after gunning down Evan Smutz in the Holmdel Pointe Apartments on Center Street, the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office said in a statement Friday.

    2 dogs abandoned, tied to fence outside N.J. shelter in 90-degree heat

    Smutz was shot around 12:48 p.m. and pronounced dead at 1:21 p.m, officials said.

    The NYPD took Curtin into custody several hours later and he was brought back to Monmouth County, where he made a first appearance in Superior Court this afternoon.

    Curtin is charged with murder, felony murder, robbery and two weapons offenses. 

    2016 graduate of Keyport High School, Smutz was on the Monmouth squad in the 2016 All-Shore Gridiron Classic, a summer all-star football game, according to He also played baseball for Keyport. 

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


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    A Monmouth county judge granted prosecutor's request for pretrial detention for Dereal Finklin on Friday morning. Watch video

    A Monmouth County judge granted a prosecutor's pretrial detention request for a 43-year-old Princeton man accused of threatening a congressman online despite a family member's plea for consideration of the man's mental health. 

    Prosecutors argued in court on Friday morning that Dereal Finklin, 43, made threats online to U.S. Rep. Chris Smith and others on Facebook that put not only the congressman but the community in danger.

    According to prosecutors, Finklin posted a picture of Rep. Smith with the caption "dead man walking." 

    Finklin made these threats under his Facebook alias "Israel Bey," and added, "Anybody outside of my blood in Monmouth or Ocean County on my Facebook account, you are dead." 

    Finklin's aunt, Gwen Jones, wrote a letter to the judge asking him to consider her nephew's mental health. She told the judge her nephew has previously been committed to a psychiatric ward a number of times, and other family members, including his ex-wife and children, have separated themselves from him because of his severe mental health issues.

    Jones said Finklin was diagnosed with severe bi-polar disorder and has been treated in New Jersey several times. 

    She said mental health issues were also why the Lakewood High School and Vanderbilt University graduate had to sit out a year at Vanderbilt, where he played football. 

    "He should be in a mental health institution not a courtroom," Jones said from South Carolina by phone. "He doesn't have to be treated differently, but he needs to be treated fairly because of those issues." 

    Public defenders argued that Finklin's online threats to not only Smith, R-4th Dist., but to others should be taken seriously and that Finklin could be a threat to the community. Other posts by him threatened Lakewood High School staff,  prosecutors said.

    Ultimately, the judge agreed. 

    It was revealed in court that a former New Jersey State Trooper alerted authorities after a friend who knew Finklin from high school showed him Franklin's Facebook posts. 

    Finklin is charged with making terroristic threats and is being held at the Monmouth County Correctional Institute in Freehold. 

    Last week, Smith told NJ Advance Media he was glad Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office was getting involved in the case. 

    His district covers parts of Mercer, Monmouth and Ocean counties, and Smith has local offices in Freehold, Plumsted and Hamilton

    Taylor Tiamoyo Harris may be reached at Follow her on Twitter @ladytiamoyoFind on Facebook. 


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    As of Saturday morning, flash flood warnings have already been issued for parts of seven counties as thunderstorms are starting to move into the state

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    Brittany Keifer, of Point Pleasant, was arrested on charges of assault by auto and leaving the scene of an accident

    A 26-year-old woman has been charged in connection with a hit-and-run Thursday that left a 14-year old bicyclist critical.

    Brittany Keifer, of Point Pleasant, allegedly drove home after the crash and covered her car with a tarp, according to Al DellaFave, a spokesman for the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office. 

    Keifer showed up to police headquarters with her attorney later that night when she was arrested on charges of assault by auto and leaving the scene of an accident with serious bodily injury, according to authorities.

    Keifer was also cited for reckless driving, leaving the scene of an accident involving injury and failure to report an accident, the Point Pleasant police announced Saturday morning.

    The woman was released on complaint summons, according to authorities.

    The teenager, who has not been named because she is a minor, was riding her bike at 10:30 p.m. when she was hit at the intersection of Route 88 and Sunset Avenue in Point Pleasant Borough by a black sedan, according to the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office.

    The impact threw the girl onto the hood of the car, which Keifer allegedly continued to drive as the teen remained sprawled across the windshield, according to the prosecutor's office. 

    Police say the SUV continued on for some time before the girl fell from the vehicle. 

    The sedan fled eastbound on Route 88. The girl was taken to Jersey Shore Medical Center, and was listed in critical condition as of Friday morning, authorities said.

    A GoFundMe fundraiser has been set up to help the girl's family pay for medical expenses as she continues to recover. 

    NJ Advance Media reporter Taylor Harris contributed to this report. 

    Olivia Rizzo may be reached at Follow her on Twitter @LivRizz. Find on Facebook

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    Here is a list of 15 news stories that were really, really huge. One changed world history, one shaped modern media, one was a shocking precursor to the ongoing acceleration of mass shootings and one introduced a technology we take for granted today.

    Envisioning NJ 2A photo of Thomas Edison and his staff inside his Menlo Park lab. Edison worked at the location on several inventions between 1876 and 1881. The image is one of more than 650 in "Envisioning New Jersey: An Illustrated History of the Garden State," a new book from Rutgers University Press. (U.S. Dept. of the Interior, National Park Service, Thomas Edison National Historical Park) 

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