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    The Newark Police Division opened the 6th police precinct in the West Ward on Tuesday. Watch video

    One police precinct staffed with 60 officers to cover 30,000 residents is big news for a community that has been without it for a century.

    On Tuesday, Newark's Department of Public Safety announced the opening of the 6th police precinct in the Vailsburg section of the West Ward -- in what officials hailed as a milestone for the city. 

    "It was overdue," Public Safety Director Anthony Ambrose said. "This area hasn't seen a police precinct in over a century." 

    "We are very excited about this," added Mayor Ras Baraka. The city also plans to open a 7th precinct along the North and West wards. 

    The 6th precinct located at 491 Irvington Avenue in the Ivy Hill Park area will staff about 60 officers under a newly minted Commanding Officer, Capt. Lee Douglas. The neighborhood is responsible for about 9 percent of crime and violence in the city, Ambrose said. 

    There were 70 homicides in Newark last year -- about a 28 percent drop from the year prior, according to city-provided numbers. But, non-fatal shootings increased with an additional 75 people shot, about a 27 percent increase when compared to 2016, according to the statistics.

    The buildings for the 6th precinct and what's now the 1st precinct in the Central Ward were both built in 2005 but the administration at the time decided not to open them as precincts, Ambrose said. Baraka opened the 1st precinct in 2014 and the 6th will open officially on April 16.

    Ambrose said the 6th precinct would bring about community policing by concentrating officers in "a small geographical area."

    West Ward Councilman Joseph McCallum said it was a major step forward for the community.

    "Public safety is number one. Economic development, everything else is predicated on us being safe," he said. "We promised it would happen, it hadn't happened in many, many years since this building was here. It happened through partnerships, mutual respect and understanding what the community needs are."

    Aristide Economopoulos contributed to this report. 

    Karen Yi may be reached at Follow her on Twitter at @karen_yi or on Facebook

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    Kelly Gomez, 16, was reported missing on March 17

    Newark police are asking the public to help find a teen girl missing from the city's Ironbound section since March 17.

    kelly-gomez.jpgKelly Gomez 

    Kelly Gomez, 16, is 5-feet, 6-inches tall, 120 pounds with a light complexion, brown eyes and light brown hair, according to Public Safety Director Anthony F. Ambrose.

    The teen was last wearing a black Adidas zippered and hooded sweatshirt, black Adidas pants, a white T-shirt, white Adidas sneakers and was carrying a black purse, Ambrose said.

    "While police are actively searching for Kelly, we seek the public's assistance in quickly locating her and returning her to her family," Ambrose said in statement on Tuesday.

    Anyone with information is asked to call the department's 24-hour Crime Stopper tip line at 1-877-NWK-TIPS (1-877-695-8477) or the Newark Police Special Victims Unit at 973-733-7273.

    Anonymous tips may also be made using the Police Division's website at or through the department's smartphone app available at iTunes and Google Play. Search "Newark Police Division" to download the app.

    Anthony G. Attrino may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @TonyAttrino. Find on Facebook.


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    Take a look at the 46 players who are in the early All-State conversation.

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    Who are the top catchers in N.J.?

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    Three $10,000 tickets were also sold in North Jersey Watch video

    The $1 million Mega Millions ticket sold in New Jersey for Tuesday's drawing was sold at a Quick Chek convenience store in Somerset County.

    The lucky ticket, which matched five numbers but not the Mega Ball, was bought at Quick Chek on Route 206 in Bedminster, state lottery officials said Wednesday morning.

    No one across the country hit the $458 million jackpot, pushing the top prize for Friday's drawing to $502 million -- the 10th largest in U.S. lottery history. Another $1 million ticket was sold in Illinois.

    5 Powerball tickets worth $50K sold in N.J.

    Three tickets sold in New Jersey matched four numbers and the Mega Ball and are worth $10,000 apiece. They were sold at the following locations:

    • Valero gas station on Ramapo Valley Road in Oakland
    • Krauszer's on Franklin Avenue in Belleville
    • TE-AMO, a liquor and convenience store on Paterson Plank Road in Secaucus

    Tuesday's winning numbers were 7, 25, 43, 56 and 59. The Mega Ball drawn was 13

    A Mega Millions ticket costs $2. The odds of a ticket matching five numbers and the Mega Ball are 302,575,350 to 1. It's a 1 in 12,607,306 shot to win the second prize of at least $1 million by matching five numbers.

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


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    10 men and 10 women track & field athletes who dominated the NJSIAA and are doing the same in the NCAA.

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    The names of police officers in Montclair and Summit will be added to the National Law Enforcement Memorial.

    Toni Lyn Vidro was at the school where she was teaching on Sept. 11, 2001, when her husband called to tell her his plan. 

    "Don't get mad," Christopher Vidro said, "but I'm going over to the city." 

    Sgt-Vidro-Montclair-State-University.JPGMontclair State University Police Sgt. Christopher Vidro, his wife Toni Lyn Vidro and Chief Paul Cell pose for a photo in 2004. (Courtesy of Montclair State University Police)

    Then a police officer at Montclair State University, his department needed two cops to run toward the danger. 

    "I don't think for one minute he really thought he'd be in danger, or if he thought about it, he never expressed it to me," Toni Vidro said Tuesday. "They told him to go, and he went." 

    Her husband survived the attack, but died six years later from a blood cancer he contracted after inhaling carcinogens at Ground Zero. He left behind a 4-year-old son and a daughter born just 13 days earlier. 

    Vidro is one of two police officers from New Jersey whose names will be added in May to the National Law Enforcement Memorial in Washington, D.C. Summit police Officer Matthew Tarentino, who was killed in a crash on Route 78 last year, will also get his name on the monument. 

    The aftermath of 9/11

    Before he became a first responder at the deadliest terror attack in U.S. history, Christopher Vidro was a New York Jets fan, an action movie aficionado and the most organized person his wife had ever met. 

    On the day the planes hit the Twin Towers, Toni Vidro didn't hear from Christopher for hours. His chief, Paul Cell, called Toni throughout the day to reassure her that Christopher was doing fine helping injured first responders at Stuyvesant High School. 

    When he returned home the next day, Toni said they immediately threw out his soot-covered uniform. He had been near another World Trade Center building when it collapsed.

    Christopher was very quiet when he got home, which Toni said was unusual for him. 

    "I guess he just saw a lot of things that took him a while to process," she said. "Knowing how many people had died there that day was very upsetting -- the loss of their fellow officers and firemen, it was just incredibly emotional for them."

    Things seemed fine for the next few years, she said, until pain and numbness in his shoulder in 2004 was diagnosed as multiple myeloma, a blood cancer. 

    More than 7,000 first responders to the World Trade Center contracted some form of cancer afterward, according to the federal Center for Disease Control and Prevention. 

    Christopher Vidro continued to work until he died on July 25, 2007, at the age of 35, soon after meeting his newborn daughter, Megan, for the first time. 

    Looking to honor Vidro's service, his police department sought to prove that he had died from toxins he was exposed to in the line of duty. After poring over medical records and other documents, Capt. Kieran Barrett said, the department submitted an application to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. 

    Barrett, who joined the department with Vidro in 1998 and was his close friend, will travel to Washington, D.C., in May with Cell and Toni Vidro to see his fallen colleague's name added to the memorial downtown. 

    The monument, Barrett said, "makes you remember why you do this job and why you continue to do this job."

    Honoring the fallen

    Tarentino, whose name will also be added to the memorial, died in May when a driver crossed the median and hit Tarentino's car while he was driving to work in Summit. A five-year veteran of the city police department, he served as a well-known school D.A.R.E. officer. 

    Summit-Officer-Matthew-Tarentino.jpgMatthew Tarentino (Courtesy of Summit police)

    He was also a father of two sons. His wife, Victoria Tarentino, gave birth to his daughter three months after he died.

    Victoria could not be reached for comment for this story. 

    "I knew every single day that he loved me," she said at Tarentino's funeral in June. "And he loved our children." 

    Tarentino, 29, grew up in Somerville and graduated from Immaculata High School in 2006. His wife was one year ahead of him at the same grade school and high school. 

    He went to Catholic University in Washington, D.C., and graduated from Rutgers University with a degree in communications and a minor in Spanish. He played tennis in college and briefly afterward. 

    Twenty miles away in Montclair, Vidro was running programs in crime prevention and community policing. His chief said he is remembered as a selfless person who was willing to give everything for others. 

    "That's what it's about," Cell said. "That's what we do as police officers. We say we sign on for the oath and the anthem -- the oath that we swear to and the anthem of this nation." 

    The names of 360 officers from across the country will be added to the national memorial this year.

    To Toni Vidro, knowing her husband's name will be added to the National Law Enforcement Memorial is particularly meaningful because he valued it so much when he visited it annually as a police officer. 

    "That memorial meant a lot to him when he was an active officer," Toni Vidro said. "I'm sure he never imagined something happening to him down the line, but ... knowing that that was such a special thing to him makes it even more special to us."

    Marisa Iati may be reached at Follow her on Twitter @Marisa_Iati or on Facebook here. Find on Facebook.

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    Al-Tariq Brown, 31, was shot and killed inside a Maplewood restaurant Saturday night.

    Al-Tariq Brown penned a story with a conflict that has become all too familiar in the Newark South Side neighborhood where he was raised.

    Can a man left to fend for himself overcome adversity and resist the lucrative pull of the streets?

    Or, as a teaser for his self-published fictional novel states, "Will he fall victim to the very same system that nearly destroyed his family and his life?"

    Brown_cropped.jpgAl-Tariq Brown, 31. (Submitted photo).

    Brown, 31, became a victim to the world he fictionalized after he was gunned down inside a Maplewood restaurant Saturday night. 

    Little has been made public of what happened that night.

    The Essex County Prosecutor's Office, leading the homicide investigation, said Brown was fatally shot inside a restaurant on Springfield Avenue around 8:30 p.m.

    A woman who answered the phone at Bradfords Barr, located near the border of Irvington, said detectives have taken the surveillance video footage from that evening but declined to say anything else.

    "You guys have to talk to them about it," she said, irate from receiving a call from the media. "We are victims as well."

    Gun violence isn't common on the streets of Maplewood, said the township's acting police chief, Jimmy DeVaul.

    "We're doing things on our end to be proactive," he said in a brief phone interview, adding that he upped foot patrols in the area.

    Brown pleaded guilty in 2007 to resisting arrest and drug distribution, both third-degree crimes, court records show. In 2012, he pleaded guilty to second-degree possession of heroin. 

    Family members told NJ Advance Media that Brown, born and raised on Madison Avenue in Newark, was working hard to provide a better life for him and his family, and recently acquired notoriety as a successful party promoter and self-published author. 

    "My brother was a good man," said his sister, who did not want to be named. "He helped his friends, his family, he was loved by so many people. He had a good heart. Every time you see him, he smiled."

    Brown attended St. Benedict's Prep High School in Newark before transferring to Malcolm X Shabazz High School, where he graduated.


    He took classes at Essex County College but did not graduate, his family said. They said Brown graduated from real estate school and was working on a second book.

    It was a follow up to 2015's "Secret Indictment," a 240-page fictional account of Fuquan "Currency" Green's life ruling the "cold-hearted streets of Newark."

    It's listed on Amazon and several other book sites but is currently out of stock.

    His aunt, who also did not want to be identified, said he was shot 10 times during a robbery attempt in the early 2000s but survived.

    The family said it's hoping to get justice for Brown. 

    Anyone with information is asked to contact the Essex County Prosecutor's Office Homicide/Major Crimes Task Force tips line at 1-877-847-7432. Callers can be anonymous, authorities said. 

    "They took our souls when they killed my brother," his sister said. "I can't even cry anymore. I feel empty inside." 

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


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    A man was shot and killed in a shooting in Newark Wednesday afternoon, the Essex County Prosecutor's Office said.

    These photos show the aftermath of a deadly shooting in Newark on Wednesday in which a man was killed in a spray of bullets.

    Police recovered numerous shell casings from the scene, an open lot at the corner of Chancellor Avenue and Wainwright Street. The shooting occurred just after 2:30 p.m.

    The dead man has not been identified, Essex County Prosecutor's Office spokeswoman Kathy Carter said. 

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

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    Most of the "statements" we made with clothing and hair styles in the 1980s are best left unrepeated.

    "They seek him here, they seek him there; his clothes are loud, but never square." -- Ray Davies, the Kinks, "Dedicated Follower of Fashion" 1966

    Then came the 1970s. Ruth La Ferla, writing in the New York Times on March 18, 2015, quoted designer Betsey Johnson as saying about the decade: "Stylistically, it was a free-for-all."

    Image38.jpgClearly, even the scarecrow had better fashion sense than me. 

    If the '70s was considered a fashion free-for-all, the 1980s was nothing short of chaos. Think Fanny packs, parachute pants, rat-tails, mullets, acid-washed jeans, neon ... and the list goes on and on.

    According to, "Clothes were used to define personalities and make big statements in the 1980s. Shoulders were padded right up to your ears, courtesy of Lady Diana and the cast of Dynasty. Meanwhile Boy George and the Blitz club crew were giving peacock punk a whirl. No doubt about it, it was a crazy era for all things a la mode - the later 1990s fashion was significantly calmer by comparison."

    Personally, I think most of the "statements" we made with clothing and hair styles in the 1980s are best left unrepeated.

    Here's a gallery of what people in New Jersey have worn through the years ... the '80s, the '70s, the '60s ... back more than a century. And here are links to more galleries of folks and fashion.

    Vintage photos of what people wore in N.J.

    Vintage photos of fashions and styles in N.J.

    Vintage photos of styles and fashions in N.J.

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

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    Some do it with an overpowering fastball, some with deceiving changes in speed. looks at the top returning N.J. high school baseball pitchers in 2018

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    Who are state-title contenders in each Group?

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    Lynne Patton, HUD's regional administrator for the New York and New Jersey made a stop at a public housing complex in Newark that's been at the heart of the affordable housing debate in the city.

    A community's relentless push to preserve their affordable homes has drawn the support -- and a rare visit -- from a high-ranking official at the federal housing agency. 

    Lynne Patton, appointed by President Donald Trump to lead the New Jersey and New York regional offices for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, toured Newark's Millard E. Terrell Homes on Wednesday vowing that under her watch, the state is "no longer going to be the red-headed stepchild" of the region. 

    "There's no question that there's an affordable housing crisis in this country," Patton told NJ Advance Media as she walked the 275-unit complex nestled along the Passaic River. "I want to make it clear to the residents that every option is on the table and I'm here to listen to what they want to do."

    For years, a group of residents at Terrell Homes have fought off efforts by the Newark Housing Authority to close the federally-funded public housing property.

    Their fight has been at the center of Newark's debate over affordability and displacement. How can cities sustain its affordable yet aging housing stock amid shrinking budgets?

    The long-neglected complex needs at least $26 million in repairs -- money the Newark Housing Authority says it doesn't have. 

    But there's new hope Terrell Homes will be saved

    The housing authority's new director, Victor Cirilo, is working on a plan to redevelop the property -- likely adding market-rate units -- so that residents who want to stay, can. 

    Of the 275 units, 196 are occupied. 

    "The preservation of our existing housing stock is without question one of HUD's greatest priorities," Patton told NJ Advance Media. "Affordable housing, mixed-income properties are really the future of the affordable housing space."

    On Wednesday, tenant leaders led Patton in and out of the three-story buildings showing her the old clothing lines in the courtyards, the bushes that were plucked to deter crime and the newly renovated Riverfront Park, just a few steps away.

    "Before the park was here, this whole area was nothing but desolate ... nothing but rats, crazy debris," said longtime resident Rosemary Horsely. "When the park opened up, oh my God, it was so beautiful."

    Horsely reminisced about the parties and cookouts neighbors held before the buildings began deteriorating. 

    "I bet those were good," Patton told residents. "We need to figure out how to bring that sense of community and neighborhood back."

    But many of the residents want to leave. Cirilo said of those who responded to a door-to-door survey, only 38 families want to stay. Another 56 want to transfer to another housing authority property and 83 want Section 8 vouchers. 

    Cirilo said the housing authority will relocate those residents and give them priority should they want to return after the site is redeveloped.

    "This building by no means is perfect, the tour today is not a panacea, I think this is a step," said Bill Good of the Greater Newark HUD Tenants Coalition. "It's important to know and feel and see this community is worth preserving."

    Hours after Patton's visit, Cirilo and a team of hired professionals presented a preliminary concept for Terrell Homes dubbed "The Village" that would add more than 75 new units of mixed-income housing. 

    The proposal, drafted with residents' input, would be phased in and include a senior citizen building and townhouses. The finances for the project are still being developed.

    "We're all in this together," Cirilo said. "Attention from HUD absolutely brings a high level of hopes to the folks that are up here and to the redevelopment team as far as financing to whatever plan we come up with."

    Karen Yi may be reached at Follow her on Twitter at @karen_yi or on Facebook

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    "I want him to look at me," the victim's brother said.

    JERSEY CITY – Today's sentencing of a man convicted of strangling the mother of his child was pushed back to allow more time for the defense's motion for a new trial to move forward.

    Nathan Williams III, 36, was convicted in September of the June 17, 2014 aggravated manslaughter of Marilyn Albizu, 33, who was found dead inside the Old Bergen Road apartment they shared, although they were no longer a couple.

    Some family members of the victim had come from Puerto Rico for the sentencing and Hudson County Superior Court Judge Vincent Militello allowed them to speak at today's hearing.

    Things got tense when the victim's brother, Angel Bonilla, said "I want him to look at me," as he eyed Williams who was shaking his head while sitting at defense table in handcuffs.

    With anger welling up, the brother added: "We were bros for a long time. I want him to look at me."

    As Bonilla continued to become enraged, a sheriff's officer stood between him and the defense table. Defense attorney Jim Lisa, who was closest to Bonilla, took off his glasses. "Don't put your hand on me," Bonilla told the officer.

    "I know your anger and your pain but you can't address him (Williams)," Militello said. 

    After a few more words, Bonilla took his seat again in the courtroom gallery and apologized to the officer.

    The victim's mother, Madeline Ramirez, cried as a letter wrote about her loss was read.

    "She was fighting for her life, a life I helped bring into this world," the mother's letter said. "My daughter didn't deserve to be taken from us by a coward... He has no idea of the pain he has caused this family."

    Ramirez said Williams was homeless when her daughter took him in. 

    The day of the murder began with Albizu telling Lenisha Murray, who also has a child with Williams, that Williams was with a third woman. Murray testified she went to the Old Bergen Road home that morning and found Williams in bed with Alicia Santana. Both Murray and Santana testified during the trial.

    According to authorities and court testimony, Williams struck Albizu and then left the apartment. Responding officers issued a warrant for Williams' arrest and took a picture of Albizu that showed a bump on her forehead.

    That evening Murray called Albizu's phone and a man answered, saying "Ain't no need to call this number anymore. That b---- is dead." The phone was on speaker and Tenyel Manning dialed 911 after hearing the man answer.

    Officers responded to the apartment again around 6:30 p.m. for a welfare check and found Albizu dead. Police broadcast an advisory to be on the lookout for Williams' vehicle, which it was spotted in Newark around 11 p.m. that night, according to testimony.

    Following a high-speed pursuit, Williams crashed, took off on foot and jumped from an overpass along Route 280 in Newark. Williams broke both legs and a hip in the fall. A gun fell from his pocket as he plummeted, officials said.

    That night police searched the Old Bergen Road home and found two shotguns and a rifle. The Hudson County gun charges were severed from the homicide trial but Williams has since pleaded guilty to the charges and will face up to 10 years when sentenced. 

    The defense's motion for a new trial has been delayed as a transcript of the trial is being made. Militello set April 27 for a hearing to check on the progress. The judge said that if he rules against the motion for a new trial, he would consider the victim impact statements heard today when deciding what Williams' sentence will be.

    Williams is already serving an eight-year sentence on federal weapons charges and offenses out of Essex County related to the pursuit. 


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    A man was shot and killed on Vassar Avenue in Newark late Thursday night, according to the Essex County Prosecutor's Office.

    Another person was shot and killed in Newark late Thursday night; the second shooting homicide in the city in two days.

    Essex County Chief Assistant Prosecutor Thomas Fennelly said that a male was found shot to death in the 100 block of Vassar Avenue. He could not confirm the man's identity or any other details of the shooting.

    The Essex County Prosecutor's Office Major Crimes Task Force is investigating.

    On Wednesday afternoon, Tyree Lamar Barba, 25, of East Orange, was found dead in a parking lot at the corner of Chancellor Avenue and Wainwright Street, Essex County Prosecutor's Office spokeswoman Kathy Carter said.

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


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  • 03/30/18--05:03: Mature shepherd needs a home
  • Rayo weighs 125 pounds and gets along with other dogs.


    MILLBURN -- Rayo is a 7-year-old male German shepherd in the care of Sedona Shepherd Sanctuary.

    Surrendered when his owner became ill and couldn't care for him, he is currently being treated for dry skin and a yeast infection; he is expected to be completely healed soon.

    Rayo, who weighs 125 pounds, gets along with other dogs and is indifferent to cats; a home with a moderate amount of activity would be ideal for Rayo, who is housebroken and up-to-date on shots.

    For more information about Rayo, call 646-228-5494 or email Sedona Shepherd Sanctuary finds homes for adult and senior German shepherds throughout the northeastern United States.

    Shelters interested in placing a pet in the Paw Print adoption column or submitting news should call 973-836-4922 or email

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

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    Federal investigators arrested him Thursday morning on carjacking and weapons charges.

    When Nifees Ingram was looking for a new ride, he turned to Facebook.

    Nifees IngramNifees Ingram. (Essex County Correctional Facility)

    That's according to the FBI, whose agents say Ingram confessed to luring the online sellers of a 2005 Ford Mustang and a 2007 Audi Q7 to face-to-face meetings before flashing a gun and speeding off in two separate carjackings in North Jersey earlier this month.

    Ingram contacted the owners of both cars over Facebook on March 4, expressing interest in making the purchases, according to a complaint filed by an FBI agent in U.S. District Court.

    Investigators say he met the owner of the Mustang later that day in Newark, tricking them into thinking he was about to hand over cash before starting to drive off with one of the owner's family members still in the car.

    Ingram ultimately flashed a gun in his waistband before ordering his involuntary passenger out of the car and speeding off, authorities said.

    When he went to inspect the Audi in North Bergen on March 12, an agent wrote, the owner's son met him for a test drive. Authorities say Ingram ended up taking the boy for a ride instead, authorities allege, finally taking his cellphone and forcing him out of the car only after he'd driven all the way to Newark.

    Both cars were later recovered in Newark, and Ingram identified from a photo lineup by the second victim, according to investigators. Ingram, who is being represented by the Federal Public Defender's Office, made his first appearance in court Thursday afternoon following his arrest by federal law enforcement officers earlier that day.

    Ingram allegedly confessed to both carjackings in a statement to investigators following his arrest.

    Prosecutors said he faces a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison if convicted of using a firearm in a violent crime, and a maximum of 15 if convicted of carjacking.

    Thomas Moriarty may be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @ThomasDMoriarty.

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    MILLBURN -- Ellen Lerman of Millburn models a caftan, also spelled "kaftan," in this photo from 1976. According to Vogue Arabia, "kaftan is a Persian word, while the garment style is believed to have originated in Ancient Mesopotamia. MORE: Vintage photos around New Jersey The Ottoman sultans from the 14th to the 18th centuries wore lavishly decorated kaftans; they were...

    MILLBURN -- Ellen Lerman of Millburn models a caftan, also spelled "kaftan," in this photo from 1976. According to Vogue Arabia, "kaftan is a Persian word, while the garment style is believed to have originated in Ancient Mesopotamia.

    MORE: Vintage photos around New Jersey

    The Ottoman sultans from the 14th to the 18th centuries wore lavishly decorated kaftans; they were also given as rewards to important dignitaries and generals." The silhouette, which has transcended continents, centuries and genders, was popular in the 1960s and 1970s.

    According to "Ethnic Dress in the United States: A Cultural Encyclopedia," "hippie fashions of the late 1960s and the 1970s often drew from ethnic styles, including kaftans."

    If you would like to share a photo that provides a glimpse of history in your community, please call 973-836-4922 or send an email to And, check out more glimpses of history in our online galleries on

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

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    Jesus, Mary and Saint John statues were damaged outside Our Lady of the Lake Church in Verona

    The church may be willing to forgive the vandal who hacked the hands and feet off three statues of Jesus, Mary and St. John outside Our Lady of the Lake Church, but not the Verona police.

    The incident is being treated as a bias crime, police said. Verona detectives and investigators with the Essex County Prosecutor's Special Victims Unit are searching for a suspect.

    "Any offense that targets religious symbols or artifacts will be investigated keenly and with vigor," acting Police Chief Christopher Kiernan said. "As outlined by the New Jersey Attorney General, these incidents undermine the foundations of freedom."

    The vandalism was reported at 2 p.m. last weekend, on Palm Sunday, to the three cement statutes outside the church on Lakeside Avenue. The damage, however, may have been inflicted in February and not been noticed on the five-foot tall statues due to the weather, Kiernan said.

    The statue of Jesus mounted to a cross had its feet smashed off.

    "A statue of the Blessed Mary showed signs of damage to the face and feet and a statue of Saint John had damage to the feet and also the hands were broken off," Kiernan said in an email.

    holy-statue.jpgDamage to religious statues outside Our Lady of the Lake church in Verona is being treated as a bias crime, police say. (Verona PD) 

    Father Joseph D'Amico, church pastor, said in a statement through police he "forgives the person responsible and prays for him/her."

    "I can't imagine the spiritual darkness, desperation and desolation that would lead someone to mock, deface and destroy something so precious and holy to others," D'Amico said later in a Facebook post. "I hope and pray that you too be renewed and transformed knowing you are loved, forgiven and precious to God and this community."

    Jim Goodness, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Newark, did not have a damage estimate. He said the statues have been on church grounds for decades.

    "We were very concerned about it," Goodness said. "The police have been working very hard on it and we're sure they'll find the person responsible."

    This is not the first time the statues have been targeted for vandalism.

    In 2012, a vandal used a hammer to knock off part of Mary's face, Saint John's nose and bashed the statue of Jesus until its lower left leg fell off, according to

    An arrest was made in that incident but Goodness did not know if the same person is a suspect in the recent vandalism.

    "Because it's an active investigation the police are not disclosing that information right now," Goodness said.

    Goodness said the statues were fixed after the 2012 attack and that church officials are looking into whether the recent damage can be repaired.

    Anthony G. Attrino may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @TonyAttrino. Find on Facebook.

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    Who are the top outfielders in New Jersey?

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