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News from Monmouth County, New Jersey

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    Leiner, a longtime friend of 'Sopranos' star Edie Falco, helmed the New Jersey-set stoner comedy starring Montclair native Kal Penn and John Cho.

    Director Danny Leiner, who helmed the New Jersey-set stoner comedy "Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle," has died.

    Leiner, who was 57 when he died on Oct. 18, was also known for directing TV series including one episode of "The Sopranos" and the successful film comedy "Dude, Where's My Car?" in 2000. 

    Leiner's brother, Ken, told the Hollywood Reporter that the director died after a long illness, having been diagnosed with cancer. 

    "Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle" stars John Cho and Montclair native Kal Penn as friends living in Hoboken who embark upon an epic mission for White Castle after getting stoned and contracting a strong case of the munchies. Their fast food fantasy is seemingly thwarted at every turn. On their way to a White Castle in Cherry Hill, they find themselves in Newark, Princeton and the wilderness of South Jersey.

    harold-and-kumar-go-to-white-castle-danny-leiner.JPGJohn Cho and Kal Penn in 'Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle.' (New Line Cinema)

    The film, written by Randolph's Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg, spurred sequels in 2008 and 2011. 

    "Danny's sense of humor alone should get him into heaven, not to mention he was an all around cool dude," Schlossberg tweeted on Saturday. 

    "We lost a great man today," Hurwitz tweeted. "'Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle' was not only my first film, but also my first time on set. I was there every day, because Danny demanded it. Most writers don't get that treatment. And it fast tracked my path to directing. Thank you, old friend."

    Penn, 41, a graduate of Freehold Township High School, remembered Leiner.

    "Very sad to learn that our friend Danny Leiner passed away," he tweeted on Saturday. "We initially got to know each other when he directed Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle. Sending my love to his family & friends. He was such a funny, thoughtful, encouraging person."

    Cho, 46, also memorialized Leiner.

    "Danny was so sharp, so funny, and a great dinner companion," he tweeted. "To his friends and family, my deepest condolences."

    Ashton Kutcher, 40, who starred alongside Seann William Scott in "Dude, Where's My Car?" also remembered Leiner. 

    "Rip Danny Leiner," he tweeted. "Thank you for putting up with that young actor who thought he knew way too much way too soon in his career. ....and theeeeen? No and then!"

    Leiner directed the episode of "The Sopranos" titled "Luxury Lounge" in 2006, during which Christopher Moltisanti (Michael Imperioli) tries to sell Ben Kingsley on starring in his movie project with Carmine Lupertazzi Jr. (Ray Abruzzo). The episode featured Lauren Bacall. 

    Leiner also directed episodes of "The Tick," "Arrested Development," "Felicity," "Gilmore Girls," "Party of Five" and HBO's "The Mind of the Married Man."

    The director, who grew up in Park Slope, Brooklyn, first met "Sopranos" star Edie Falco when they were both students at the State University of New York at Purchase. Leiner directed Falco and John Leguizamo in the short film "Time Expired" in 1992, and teamed up again with Falco for "Layin' Low" in 1996 and "The Great New Wonderful" in 2005, about life in post-Sept. 11 New York City. 

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


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    The 59-year-old woman was walking on the southbound lane of Route 35 just after midnight, authorities said.

    A Neptune woman has died after she was struck by a car on Route 35 in the township early Sunday, authorities said.

    Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni said in a statement that the victim was Sonia Naranjo, 59.

    She was walking in the southbound lane of the highway north of Brockton Avenue just after midnight when she was struck, the release said. 

    Naranjo was pronounced dead at 12:42 am., the release said. The motorist, who lives in Bradley Beach, wasn't injured, authorities said.

    Investigators from the Monmouth County Serious Collision Analysis Response Team and Neptune Township Police Department are investigating the crash.

    Anyone who witnessed, or has information about the crash, is asked to contact Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office Agent Reginald Grant at 800-533-7443 or Neptune Township Patrolman James Macconchie at 732-988-5200.

    Rebecca Everett may be reached at Follow her on Twitter @rebeccajeverett. Find on Facebook.

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    Pets throughout New Jersey await adoption from shelters and rescues.

    Some notes on homeless animals in New Jersey:

    * According to the State of New Jersey Office of Animal Welfare, "it is estimated that the number of free-roaming cats in the United States may be equal to that of owned cats, approximately 70 million. If left unchecked, free-roaming cats will breed and their populations increase at locations where they find suitable shelter and food."

    The office goes on to note that pet cats that are abandoned will not easily fend for themselves outdoors. Unfortunately, most of these cats and their offspring will suffer premature death from disease, starvation or trauma.

    * Among shelters and rescue groups around New Jersey, the top 10 reasons for owners relinquishing a dog are: (1) moving; (2) landlord issues (3) cost of pet maintenance; (4) "no time for pet;" (5) inadequate facilities; (6) "too many pets in home;" (7) pet illness; (8) "personal problems;" (9) biting; and (10) no homes for litter-mates.

    Other interesting facts from the Office of Animal Welfare:

    * As many as 25 percent of dogs entering shelters across the country each year are purebreds.

    * One unspayed female cat and her unaltered offspring can produce 420,000 cats in seven years.

    Here is a gallery of homeless animals from all over New Jersey. Consider visiting a local shelter or contacting a local rescue group when looking for a pet for your family.

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

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    Forecasters say the remnants of Hurricane Willa might turn into a big coastal storm, which could bring heavy rain and gusty winds to New Jersey and other eastern states this weekend.

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    DeReal Finklin spent 91 days in jail after his arrest in August Watch video

    A 43-year-old man admitted Friday to posting a threatening message on Facebook next to a picture of U.S. Rep. Chris Smith.

    DeReal Finklin, a Princeton resident, pleaded guilty to fourth-degree cyber harassment.

    Finklin spent 91 days in jail after he was arrested in July and will not receive any additional time. However, he will get probation, a mental health evaluation and was ordered to have no additional contact with Smith.

    He is scheduled to be sentenced in December. 

    In a statement announcing the plea deal, Smith, R-4th Dist., said he asked prosecutors to "consider a path forward that is most likely to ensure that Mr. Finklin gets the mental health care he appears to critically need."

    Finklin.jpegDeReal Finklin appears in court on August 10. (Patti Sapone | NJ Advance Media for 

    Finklin's aunt, Gwen Jones, previously told NJ Advance Media that "he should be in a mental health institution, not a courtroom.

    "He doesn't have to be treated differently, but he needs to be treated fairly because of those issues," she said.

    Finklin was arrested after a retired law enforcement officer spotted a Facebook message from an account called "Israel Bey" that showed a picture of Smith with the message "Dead Man Walking," authorities have said. He also posted the following message: "Anybody outside of my blood in Monmouth or Ocean County on my Facebook account, you are dead." 

    Monmouth County Superior Court Judge James J. McGann saw those posts as a credible threat to the community and decided to keep Finklin behind bars. 

    Smith represents parts of Mercer, Monmouth and Ocean counties, and he has local offices in Freehold, Plumsted and Hamilton.

    He is up for re-election in November and faces a challenge from Democrat Josh Welle. 

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

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    The boy was in his Asbury Park apartment in February when he was shot to death.

    Two Neptune Township teenagers on Monday admitted their role in a shooting earlier this year that left a 10-year-old boy dead and his mother wounded.

    Karon Council, 18, and Jah-Del Birch, 17, were each charged with murder in the Feb. 21 slaying of Yovanni Banos-Merino, who was in his Asbury Park apartment when Council opened fire at the residence. Council's accomplice, Birch, was with him when the incident occurred. They were each facing 30 years to life in prison.

    Both Council and Birch pleaded guilty to first-degree aggravated manslaughter, which carries a sentence of 10 to 30 years in prison. As part of the plea deal, prosecutors will recommend Council, who also admitted to second-degree possession of a weapon, be sentenced to 25 years in prison. Prosecutors are seeking a 10-year prison sentence for Birch. Both teens, who also pleaded guilty to second-degree possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, will need to serve at least 85 percent of the sentence before they are eligible for parole. 

    Sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 11. 

    A spokesman for the prosecutor's office, Charles Webster, said prosecutors consulted with the family of Banos-Merino before agreeing to the deals.

    Banos.jpegYovanni Banos-Merino, 10, was shot in his home in Asbury Park. (Submitted photo)

    Banos-Merino was in his first-floor Ridge Avenue apartment when Council and Birch came to his home because they had an issue with the young boy's brother, Council's attorney, Paul Zager, previously told NJ Advance Media. 

    Court documents said a woman who answered the door told Council and Birch that the person they were looking for was not home. A short time later, the documents state, Council and Birch returned to the house and Council opened fire.

    Banos-Merino was fatally wounded by gunfire. His mother also suffered a gunshot wound, but she was treated and released from an area hospital, authorities have said. 

    After the shooting occurred, Council fled to South Florida where he was arrested by U.S. Marshal's

    A spokesman for the Marshal's said Council, who went by the street name "Boogie," was a member of the Bloods gang. However, that was not confirmed by members of law enforcement in New Jersey. 

    Editor's Note: An initial version of this story inaccurately reported the terms of the plea agreements. Both Council and Birch will need to serve at least 85 percent of their sentences before they are eligible for parole. 

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

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    Participants could take home a whopping $300 for completing the challenge. Over 4,000 applied to compete.

    Six people with 30 hours to spare and no fear of cramped, dark spaces or, well, the feeling of death itself, will compete in Six Flags Great Adventure's coffin challenge this weekend. 

    During the Jackson Township park's annual Fright Fest, half a dozen carefully selected competitors, ranging from those with military experience to others who work with paranormal activity and the dead, will try to survive 30 hours in a coffin. 

    No, it's not for a new car, or a house or even that big of a check.

    Those who complete the challenge get two Gold season passes and dining passes for 2019, two express passes to take on the Haunted Maze, $300 (or about $10 per hour spent locked up) and oddly enough, the coffins. 

    It's not just this group of six that was crazy enough to take on the challenge. Earning one of the spots was extremely competitive, as they were selected from an applicant pool of 4,300. 

    Why that many people would spend a night in a wooden box seems puzzling, until you get a look at the contest's no-so-strict parameters. 

    During their stay from 1 p.m. Sunday to 7 p.m. Monday, participants receive six-minute bathroom breaks each hour and meals served in the coffins. 

    Oh, and they'll also enjoy limited use of their phones.

    In an Illinois park also hosting the challenge, participants could use their phones for 13 full minutes each hour. 

    Aside from unexpected interruptions from the park's hired ghouls, the stint sounds like a pretty good chance to catch up on some sleep. 

    Here's who will take on the challenge at Great Adventure's Jackson Township location:

    • Leticia Gomez, 46, from Howell, is the lone contender from New Jersey. She'll likely be a fierce competitor, with 25 years of experience as a funeral director. 
    • Brandon Hardy, 39, from Bear, Delaware, is no stranger to the afterlife. This challenge should be a piece of cake for him, as Hardy has previously slept in a coffin while working as a paranormal investigator. 
    • Jennifer Gorden, 28, from Philadelphia, is a Halloween fanatic with dreams of one day becoming a mortician. Well, this challenge is likely a good way to give the job a test run, if nothing else. 
    • Shane Madak, 34, from Groton, Connecticut, is used to sleeping underground -- or underwater, that is. An active duty member of the U.S. Navy, he spends more than half the year stationed on a nuclear submarine. That means no cell service, internet or daylight. He also sleeps in a "coffin rack," or a tiny, cramped bed surrounded on all four sides with the only access provided by a hole at the foot of the bed. There's no easy escape from those. 
    • Dan Murter - yep, real name. The 34-year-old from Levittown, Pennsylvania, believes he was born for the challenge. His parents met at a Halloween party, and he met his wife during a professional acting gig in a haunt. 
    • Vincent Gatens, 31, from Staten Island, is a Navy veteran who has tales and experience from his days living in dark, cramped spaces without daylight.    

    New Jersey's park isn't the only one hosting a coffin challenge, as Six Flags announced it would expand the event to all of its parks this year.

    This past weekend, a 70-year-old grandmother, a paranormal investigator, a funeral director and embalmer, a student studying to become a funeral director, a cemetery worker and a person who claims to be part zombie and part vampire (these don't typically go together in any widely watched horror movie or accepted spooky lore), completed the challenge in Gurnee, Illinois, according to Chicago's ABC7.  

    May the best undead competitor win. 

     091 frightFest.JPGA scary clown roams the CarnEvil section of the park during Six Flags Great Adventure Fright Fest 2018. September 28, 2018 (Patti Sapone | NJ Advance Media for

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

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    Tiffany Soto was a passenger in the car when it crashed in Belmar on Easter Sunday 2014. Her family sued the bar they say served the driver after he was drunk

    The family of a New Jersey woman killed when her boyfriend crashed while driving drunk more than four years ago has settled their lawsuit for $1.5 million with the Jersey Shore bar that served him prior to the crash. 

    tiffany-soto-2jpeg-81c02fb0883fc321.jpgTiffany Soto 

    Tiffany Soto, 26, of Howell, died after she and Edwin Martinez left the now-closed Connolly Station restaurant in Belmar on April 20, 2014. The suit alleged bartenders at Connolly Station continued to serve Martinez after he was visibly intoxicated. 

    The settlement was reached with 8th Avenue Ventures, the since-closed bar's corporate entity, in late September. It was first reported by

    The settlement was confirmed Tuesday by the Soto estate's lawyer, Kathleen DiGiovanni of Levinson Axelrod in Howell. 

    Soto drove to the bar pick up Martinez, who had been drinking there alone, according to DiGovanni. Martinez then got into a dispute with other customers and smashed another patron's car window as Soto waited in her vehicle. He then pushed his girlfriend into the passenger's seat and jumped into the driver's seat, the attorney said. 

    Martinez sped down Eighth Avenue toward Route 35 and collided with another vehicle when he went through a red light at the intersection, officials said.  

    The Honda Civic then hit a curb, overturned, struck a pole and went airborne before it ended up in the parking lot of the Belmar Marina. It then struck a pickup truck and came to rest at a fence near the Shark River. 

    Soto, who was not wearing a seat belt, was thrown from the car during the crash and landed in the water shortly after 2 a.m. on Easter Sunday, authorities said

    The driver of the other car and her passenger were not hurt.

    edwin-martinez.jpgEdwin Martinez 

    A blood sample taken from Martinez after the crash revealed his blood alcohol content was 0.207, more than two-and-a-half times the legal limit in New Jersey. 

    Martinez, now 26, is serving a 10-year sentence at Mountainview Youth Correctional Facility in Annandale, according to the state Department of Corrections. He was sentenced on Sept 9, 2016 after being convicted of death by auto and assault by auto. Martinez will be eligible for parole on Nov. 16, 2022. 

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




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    The hospitals said they have lost millions of dollars since OMNIA entered the market in 2016. All seven have now settled with Horizon.

    The last of seven hospitals suing Horizon Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Jersey settled out of court on Tuesday, averting what would likely have been a contentious battle accusing the state's dominant health insurance provider of pushing community hospitals out of the health care market. 

    The 2015 lawsuit contended Horizon "breached its duty to act in good faith" by relegating seven small independent hospitals to a less desirable tier in the OMNIA plans, requiring patients to pay more to use them. The hospitals said they have lost millions of dollars since OMNIA entered the market in 2016.

    The attorney for Valley Hospital in Ridgewood declined to discuss the financial terms of the settlement. When asked if Horizon was re-classifying Valley hospital as a more desirable tier 1 hospital, Attorney Michael Furey said, "not yet."

    "Valley Health System is pleased to announce that we have reached an agreement with Horizon that is beneficial to the hundreds of thousands of New Jersey residents Valley serves," Furey said in a statement released on the day the trial was scheduled to begin in state Superior Court in Bergen County.

    "The agreement helps ensure Valley's ability to serve its community for years to come."

    Horizon spokesman Tom Vincz said in a statement the company "looks forward to continuing our longstanding relationship with Valley and working together on innovative, value based programs that deliver quality, affordability, and customer experience to our members and their patients."

    The settlement concludes a bitter battle the hospitals have described as a fight for their survival, in a state in where community hospitals are merged to create large conglomerates.

    Another N.J. hospital drops lawsuit to access to Horizon's discount plans

    Horizon launched the OMNIA insurance products in 2015 with the promise of transforming the market by offering high quality at a 15 percent discount from its other products. Patients would save even more money if they used only Horizon's hand-picked tier 1 hospitals, which were either the most dominant facilities in the county or were part of a large chain.

    The lawsuit accused Horizon of breaching "its duty to act in good faith" by not allowing every hospital to compete to join the tier 1 network.

    The 36 hospitals in tier 1 agreed to accept lower reimbursement rates in exchange for the anticipated higher volume from patients flocking from tier 2 hospitals.

    According to once-confidential documents NJ Advance Media obtained through a lawsuit, Horizon did not select tier 1 hospitals based on lower costs or quality measures. A consultant's report shows Horizon chose the largest hospital systems even when smaller competitors scored better on quality measures or offered lower prices. 

    Horizon countered that it did not consider past prices important because it would be moving to a new "value pricing" system based on how effectively the tier 1 hospitals kept large groups of people well and managed chronic conditions.

    The original seven hospital systems suing Horizon were Capital Health System in Trenton and Hopewell; Centrastate; Holy Name in Teaneck; JFK Medical Center in Edison; St. Luke's Warren Hospital in Phillipsburg; Trinitas Regional Medical Center in Elizabeth and Valley Hospital in Ridgewood.

    Last week, CentraState Medical Center in Freehold settled its case with Horizon.

    Saint Peter's University Hospital in New Brunswick filed its own lawsuit on similar grounds against Horizon four years ago. That case is ongoing.

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

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    Alfred Cistaro, 43, of West Long Branch, was sentenced in Monmouth County Superior Court after pleading guilty on June 14 to one count of theft by deception.

    A former Long Branch police officer who stole more than $80,000 from the coffers of the union where he was a past president was sentenced to one year of probation on Friday, officials said.

    Alfred Cistaro, 43, of West Long Branch, was sentenced Friday in Monmouth County Superior Court after pleading guilty on June 14 to one count of theft by deception, according to a release from the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office.

    Cistaro admitted to that he stole the funds from the Long Branch Police Officers' Union PBA Local 10 from December 2013 to May 2015.

    He was found out when someone complained to the union that 27 checks totaling $84,628 were drawn from two accounts held by the PBA. Cistaro either received the checks directly or they were made payable to "service providers," the release stated. 

    An investigation by the prosecutor's office showed that Cistaro was only approved to take $4,500, and that the remaining funds were taken "were taken without approval or authorization from the entire membership," officials said.

    Cistaro faced five years in prison if he didn't pay back the $80,138 he stole from the union by the time he was sentenced, the Asbury Park Press reported. Cistaro paid back the money at the start of the hearing.

    Chris Sheldon may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @chrisrsheldon Find on Facebook.



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    It's still not publicly known where he'll serve his prison term.

    Michael "The Situation" Sorrentino, one of the stars of MTV's hit reality show "Jersey Shore," will start his eight-month prison bid in January.

    Sorrentino, 37, was sentenced earlier this month after he pleaded guilty in January to one count of tax evasion.

    An order extending time for voluntary surrender, filed Monday in U.S. District Court, states that Sorrentino, who is getting married on Nov. 1, will have to surrender to authorities on Jan. 15. The order does not say where the reality TV star will serve his prison sentence.

    Sorrentino admitted to concealing some of his income to avoid paying the full amount of taxes he owed in 2011. He also admitted that he made cash deposits into bank accounts in amounts less than $10,000 so they wouldn't catch the attention of the Internal Revenue Service. Banks are required to file reports with the U.S. Treasury for cash deposits exceeding $10,000.

    At his sentencing, Sorrentino told U.S. District Judge Susan Wigenton that he's "deeply sorry" for his past actions and that he's worked hard to turn his life around after suffering from drug addiction. He said he's been clean and sober for three years.

    "Today, I live my life with integrity," he told the judge.

    In an Instagram post after his sentencing, Sorrentino said: "We are very happy to put this behind us. Thank you so much for all the love & support."

    His brother, Marc, received a sentence of two years for his role in the tax evasion case. The order filed in federal court for Michael Sorrentino doesn't mention when Marc is scheduled to surrender to authorities.

    Michael Sorrentino, a Manalapan native, became a celebrity overnight after "Jersey Shore" first aired in 2009. The show documented the lives of eight young adults renting a summer home in Seaside Heights.

    Sorrentino continues to star in a revival of the popular show, "Jersey Shore: A Family Vacation".

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

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    Scores are better overall but many students are still falling short.

    PARCC testing might be on the way out in New Jersey, but that doesn't mean the scores don't count for anything. 

    The state last week released the latest test scores for every public school, results that will be used in New Jersey's new school rating system and some teachers' performance reviews

    The math and English scores from spring 2018 show small gains statewide. As expected, the results in schools and districts are largely tied to zip code and income, as with nearly all standardized testing. 

    The best scores commonly came from affluent communities and specialized high schools with selective enrollment. 

    The worst scores? Schools in urban areas serving students from low income families, including many who are learning English as their second languages. 

    Checkout the lookup tool below to sort the results for every public school. 

    The tests were graded on a scale of 1-5, with students scoring a 4 or a 5 considered to be meeting the expectations of their grade level. Those scoring a 3 are "approaching" the expected performance, while students earning a 1 or 2 need significant improvement.


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


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    Does your neighborhood have the best Halloween candy and decorated houses? One website has named its top location for trick-or-treating in the state.

    Does your neighborhood draw legions of children and families to ring doorbells on Halloween

    Do costumed kids flock to your town from other municipalities, just for the sheer number of fancifully decorated homes that dole out fun-size chocolates, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, M&M's, Tootsie pops, Twizzlers and more? 

    The financial news website 24/7 Wall St. recently named its best place to trick or treat in every state.

    To devise a pick for optimal trick-or-treating in each state, the site focused on several factors: housing occupancy and poverty rates, the number of Halloween-related businesses (including haunted houses), crime and the percentage of children 14 and younger. 

    What place came out on top in New Jersey? Fair Haven.

    The Monmouth County borough, located on the Navesink River, was cited for 27.8 percent of its population being age 14 and younger and for having a poverty rate of less than one percent.

    Fair Haven was also noted as being the home of C. Casola Farms Haunted Attractions, which offers a Haunted Hayride of Terror, 3D Haunted Barn, Living Maze, Haunted Wooded Trail and Marlboro Zombie Breakout. 

    As for other regional states, the website continued to stick with wealthy towns. It anointed Rye in Westchester County, New York (another reason given: it's home to a lot of dentists), along with Franklin Park in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania and Darien in Fairfield County, Connecticut as top Halloween spots. 

    But maybe you tend to evaluate trick-or-treating spots for other things besides wealth and prevalence of crime. Is 24/7 Wall St.'s Jersey pick misguided? Have a better one?

    In the comment section, tell us where you like to take your children trick-or-treating. Or, share where you used to go as a kid to score the best candy around.


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


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    The lone $1.5 billion Mega Millions jackpot-winning ticket was bought in South Carolina. In addition to two $1 million winners, 15 tickets sold in N.J. won third prize amounts

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    A coastal storm is on the way, but forecasters say the storm track and intensity will determine how much rain, wind and flooding affects New Jersey and other eastern states.

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    Thomas Tramaglini pleaded guilty to defecating in public, which will require him to pay a $500 fine and court costs.

    Editor's note: The report incorrectly said former Kenilworth Thomas Tramaglini defecated on the track. He admitted that he defecated under the high school's bleachers.

    The former school superintendent accused of pooping on a Monmouth County football field and track earlier this year suffered from a medical condition that affects his bowel movements when he runs, his attorney said Wednesday. 

    Thomas Tramaglini, 42, of Aberdeen, pleaded guilty in Holmdel municipal court to defecating in public, a non-criminal municipal offense that will require him to pay a $500 fine and court costs. Prosecutors agreed to dismiss charges of lewdness and littering. 

    Tramaglini, the former Kenilworth school superintendent, made headlines around the world after police announced he had been arrested and accused of defecating at the Holmdel High School's track and field complex. The school's resource officer had set up a surveillance operation to nab the serial pooper, authorities have said. 

    He lives about 3 miles from the high school, and was caught in the deed while he was running at the complex, police have said. 

    His attorney, Matthew Adams, told NJ Advance Media that his client was diagnosed with a form of a medical condition that is known as "Runners Diarrhea." He said it's brought on from acute blood flow during exercise.  

    Adams disputes the police's account that Tramaglini was doing this on a daily basis, as was explained in the press release posted on the Holmdel Police Department's Facebook page after he was charged in May. 

    "There's no evidence he was ever a serial offender," Adams said. "We were ready to go to trial on some of the allegations about certain dates with GPS evidence from his Garmin running watch. That story needs to be told. So much went on today (in court) that flies in the face of everything, unfortunately, he's been through. He's been through hell and back. He deserves a story that tells the accurate picture."

    Days after his arrest, NJ Advance Media published a story that showed there are three portable toilets about 80 steps from the athletic field bleachers. However, whether these portable toilets were left unlocked around the clock or just during certain hours was not clear. 

    Adams said his client didn't know the toilets were there and that he "was not certain he would have made it even if he did (know they existed)." 

    Tramaglini took a paid leave of absence from his $147,504 a year job in Kenilworth following the incident. In July, the Kenilworth School District accepted Tramaglini's resignation

    He now intends on suing the Holmdel Police Department over their release of the mugshot that was taken after his arrest. 

    "The Holmdel Township Police Department has some explaining to do," Tramaglini said. 

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

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    Former Kenilworth superintendent Thomas Tramaglini, 42, of Aberdeen, pleaded guilty to defecating in public.

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    It will be a massive makeover for the 42-year-old mall.

    The owner of the aging Ocean County Mall will demolish its shuttered Sears store and construct an area for five restaurants plus a strip of spaces for new retailers, under a plan approved by Toms River officials.

    The Toms River Planning Board unanimously approved a proposal by the 42-year-old mall's owner, Indianapolis-based Simon Property Group, on Monday night.

    The planning board secretary, Lucia Lynch, said planning officials welcomed Simon's plans to modernize the shopping center, which opened in 1976 on Cooper Avenue, just off Exit 82 of the Garden State Parkway.

    "It was very much a position feeling all around," Lynch said.

    The new restaurant area, which Simon dubbed a "lifestyle center," will be attached to the mall, while the new retail section will be a separate strip of store shells ranging in size from 2,335 to 34,000 square feet.

    Lynch said Simon has not identified new store tenants.

    Stephen Shea, a Simon official reached on Tuesday, said he could not immediately comment on the kinds of new stores the mall hoped to attract or when the overhaul project would be complete.

    The plans also include clearing away the shell of one of the mall's original anchor stores, Sears, which shut down last spring in a wave of 103 store closures announced in January by the iconic but financially ailing department retail chain. Sears has continued to announce closures since then and this month filed for protection from creditors under Chapter 11 of the federal bankruptcy code.

    The demolition and new construction will be accompanied by a redesign of the mall's parking areas, with new curbing, walkways, lighting, landscaping and drainage.

    The Ocean County Mall's overhaul follows approval of an even more ambitious makeover of the 56-year-old Monmouth Mall in Freehold over the summer. In July, local planners approved a joint proposal by the Kushner Companies and Brookfield Properties to remake the 56-year-old mall into a mixed-used live-and-shop community that would include 700 apartments.

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

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    "Charlie Brown is the one person I identify with. C.B. is such a loser. He wasn't even the star of his own Halloween special." -- Chris Rock

    Channel 12 in Cincinnati presented the results of a poll they took last year of the least-favorite Halloween treats; it's fairly representative of surveys I've seen all over the country, 10 being the least-favorite of all:

    10. Mary Janes ... 9. Good & Plenty ... 8. Licorice ... 7. Smarties ... 6. Tootsie Rolls ... 5. Peanut Butter Kisses ... 4. Necco Wafers ... 3. Wax Cola Bottles ... 2. Candy Corn ... 1. Circus Peanuts

    Some of my personal observations:

    Apparently, children are not big fans of peanut butter candy, because number 10 and 5 contain that flavor. Curiously, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups are not on the list, yet I can't see what the difference would be between them and Peanut Butter Kisses. Children aren't big licorice fans either, it seems. Number 9, Good and Plenty, is pretty much the same thing as number 8, licorice.

    For those who don't remember them or never saw them, Circus Peanuts were marshmallow candy shaped like big peanuts. And I'm kind of curious where in Cincinnati they still sell Wax Cola Bottles. This was a classic penny-candy item, yet I personally haven't seen them in decades ... and I look for things like that.


    Necco Wafers - if there's an item that shows up on every one of these surveys, it's them. Necco Wafers were first produced in 1847 and my experience has been that they always tasted like you'd received one of the original batches.

    The Boston Globe reported in 2011 that "in 2009, Necco changed the formula for its Necco Wafers. Artificial colors and flavors were eliminated. The candy was made softer through the addition of glycerine. The lime flavor was removed due to difficulties in creating an all-natural green coloring, resulting in a 7-flavor Necco Wafer roll."

    Apparently, all these changes weren't enough to keep them from consistently showing up on these lists or even staying solvent; the Globe reported in July of this year that "The Massachusetts plant that made the beloved, but often mocked, candy closed (July 24). Round Hill Investments announced that it had sold the once-bankrupt Necco, purchased for $17.3 million in May, to another candy maker."

    MORE: Vintage photos around New Jersey

    And finally, those kids who don't want their Tootsie Rolls and Smarties can send them all to me.

    Here's a gallery of folks from New Jersey dressed up for Halloween as well as some fun autumn traditions. And here are links to other galleries you may enjoy.

    Vintage photos of costumes and creepy things in N.J.

    Vintage photos of folks from N.J. in costume

    Vintage photos from N.J. that might give you the creeps

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

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    Forecasters now have a better handle on the timing of the pre-Halloween weekend coastal storm and how much rain, wind and flooding the nor'easter will bring to New Jersey.

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