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    The cats lost their home when their owner fell on hard times.

    ex0318pet.jpgMattox and Donatello 

    BLOOMFIELD -- Mattox and Donatello are a bonded pair of male cats in the care of A Purrfect World Rescue.

    Mattox, 5, and Donatello, 3, lost their home when their owner fell on hard times and could no longer afford pets. Volunteers say both cats are "very loving," but need to go to a home together.

    They have both been neutered, are FIV/FeLV negative and up-to-date on shots.

    For more information on Mattox and Donatello, call Kristina at 201-965-9586, email or go to A Purrfect World is a nonprofit group in Bloomfield that places stray and abandoned cats in permanent homes and is currently caring for more than 100 felines.

    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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    ORANGE -- Identified in this photo -- taken at the Redwood Lounge in Orange in the 1950s -- are Ike Renzulli, right, and Johnny Tiberi, second from right. MORE: Vintage photos around New Jersey The other patrons are unidentified. The establishment located at 16 S. Essex Ave. closed in 1995. If you would like to share a photo that provides...

    ORANGE -- Identified in this photo -- taken at the Redwood Lounge in Orange in the 1950s -- are Ike Renzulli, right, and Johnny Tiberi, second from right.

    MORE: Vintage photos around New Jersey

    The other patrons are unidentified. The establishment located at 16 S. Essex Ave. closed in 1995.

    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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    Essex County held its annual deer hunt over 11 days in January and February Watch video

    Hunters killed 139 deer during an 11-day hunt in January and February at two parks in Essex County.

    Officials said the hunt, which sparked a protest by animal rights activists, resulted in 212 deer being "removed" from the population since the deer that were killed were carrying 73 fetuses.

    south mt deer protestDeer hunt protesters at South Mountain Reservation in West Orange, Jan. 20, 2018 

    The hunt began in January with five days at South Mountain Reservation, where 87 deer were killed.

    It continued in February at Hilltop Reservation for six days, during which 52 deer were killed.

    The last day of the hunt was Feb. 27.

    Essex County has been holding a deer hunt for 11 years, separate from the state-run deer season running from September through February.

    Supporters of the deer hunt, including Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr., have cited several justifications -- from stemming the rise of Lyme disease spread by deer ticks and preserving forest habitat, to reducing collisions with vehicles.

    Sue Russell, director of wildlife policy for the Animal Protection League of N.J., countered in January that a better approach would be to rely on chemicals and vaccines to lower the rate of reproduction.

    Her group organized the Jan. 20 protest.

    Of the two hunting areas, the South Mountain Reservation covers 2,110 acres in Maplewood, Millburn and West Orange, while Hilltop Reservation is 284 acres in Cedar Grove, North Caldwell and Verona.

    Rob Jennings may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @RobJenningsNJ. Find on Facebook.


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    The state's largest city kicked off St. Patrick's Day weekend. Watch video

    Even the lines on the street were green.

    For the 83rd year, crowds gathered in Newark Friday to celebrate the Irish in all of us. The annual Newark St. Patrick's Day Parade featured students, police officers, bands, and more marching through the city's streets.

    Revellers lined the streets from the parade's kickoff, Mulberry Street at the Prudential Center, along its entire route, ending at the Newark Museum and Washington Park.

    "Though the route has evolved over the years, the Newark St. Patrick's Day Parade Committee has been proud to consistently call Newark home..keeping the tradition alive," the parade committee said in a release.

    This year's parade was led by Grand Marshal Joseph Taylor, Chairman & CEO of the Newark-based Panasonic Corporation of North America. Deputy Grand Marshal, Josie Logue Tully, immigrated to New Jersey from Ireland in 1957. The 2018 parade was dedicated to Essex County Sheriff Armando Fontoura.

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    All high-risk and most moderate-risk offenders are listed online -- 4,397 as of Wednesday.

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    The most positive takeaway from the governor's budget speech: He's all-in on fixing our abused and neglected transit system. Watch video

    In Chris Christie's first year in office, he kneecapped the state subsidy for New Jersey Transit by $62 million, raised rail fares 25 percent, hiked bus fares 10 percent, reduced schedules, and eliminated off-peak rail discounts.

    Somehow, it didn't produce a better product.

    In fact, the transit system became more of an omnishambles with each subsequent year he strangled it.

    On Tuesday, Christie's successor announced a $242-million increase in state funding for NJ Transit and muzzled any talk of fare increases for 2019. And judging by the other steps Gov. Murphy has already taken - appointing real transit experts, purging patronage hires, and ordering an audit - he has shown that he is ready to strap on a helmet and tackle this neglected, abused and understaffed agency that is responsible for moving 910,000 passengers every day.

    Right, don't say it: The actual net increase in funding is closer to $98 million, after you factor in the agency's loss of $75 million in redirected Turnpike Authority funding, and the loss of $60 million in state and federal grants.

    But you don't raise the Titanic on your first try, and even an NJT founder acknowledges the significance of the governor's commitment: "He's shown that he is very responsive to transit funding that had gone into free-fall," Martin Robins said, "and this is a very good first step."

    Other steps seem perfunctory, yet the last governor never took them. Under Murphy, NJ Transit has put 40 more cars in operation. It is hiring 40 more bus drivers, 12 trainmasters and trainers, and more compliance experts.

    But more is happening outside his purview, and it make you think that the restoration of this agency does not have to turn into a bureaucratic knife fight.

    Job 1 for Murphy: Change the NJ Transit culture | Editorial

    Consider a bipartisan bill working its way through the Legislature, which checks a lot of boxes.

    The measure adds five people to the board, including two "regular riders," two members of regional planning organizations, and a second union representative - who like the existing union rep must recuse himself in labor discussions.

    It also has numerous transparency measures (agendas posted in advance, more public meetings, more streaming), fortifies whistleblower protections, and calls for the hiring of an ethics officer.

    True, the bill fails to establish a long-term funding mechanism or explore new revenue sources, but its sponsors - Sens. Loretta Weinberg, D-Bergen, Robert Gordon, D-Bergen, and Tom Kean, R-Essex - plan to address that problem post-audit, Gordon says.

    None of this could not have happened four months ago under Baron Von Tollbooth.

    The last administration offered nothing but financial stress. It was so casual about safety its accident rate was highest among the nation's 10 largest commuter lines. It had such disdain for efficiency and merit, a dozen six-figure executive positions were filled by Christie cronies. The brain still spins from its pure audacity.

    Christie has left his successor with a Category 5 meltdown, and the forthcoming reboot will take time. But we now have a governor who understands that our economic viability is dependent on a transit system that can no longer be - to borrow a phrase - a national disgrace.


    Bookmark Follow on Twitter @NJ_Opinion and find Opinion on Facebook.

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    A municipal court judge faces an ethics inquiry after berating state troopers during drunken driving investigation. Watch video

    Wilfredo Benitez was passed out in the driver's seat of his silver BMW hatchback at 2:13 a.m. with his hazard lights flashing along the shoulder of Route 80, records show.

    Two New Jersey state troopers who found his vehicle on the stretch of highway in Teaneck quickly began to suspect he was drunk. Benitez struggled with the field sobriety test, according to a police report, but insisted he wasn't a "drug addict" or "a drunk."

    He was "a f--king judge," he said.

    Newly obtained video shows Benitez -- a municipal judge in East Orange, Belleville and Bloomfield -- repeatedly told the two troopers about his position before they cuffed him on suspicion of drunken driving.

    He then told the trooper reading him his rights that he was "being a d--k," the video shows.

    Police later administered a breath test that found Benitez's blood-alcohol level was twice the legal limit, but the court case against the judge fell apart because of flaws in the investigation, NJ Advance Media has learned.

    The November 2016 incident is now the subject of a separate ethics case against Benitez, who was found not guilty of drunken driving in May of last year but is still prohibited from hearing DWI cases in his courtrooms, according to the state judiciary.

    'I'm a f--king judge'

    In court papers, the judge said he was "regretful and apologetic" about using foul language but denied any other wrongdoing. Neither he nor his attorney returned messages seeking comment.

    The incident was not disclosed publicly until January, when the state judiciary released a copy of the ethics complaint, which accuses him of abusing his position.

    Benitez argued in a February filing that he told the troopers he was a judge because the handcuffs they placed on him were hurting him and he "intended to convey that the handcuffs were unnecessary since he was a judge and he was not going to harm them in any way."

    The filing states that Benitez "never asked the State Police not to administer any field sobriety tests, and never asked not to be placed under arrest."

    Through an Open Public Records Act request, NJ Advance Media obtained dashboard camera footage and police reports from the incident. The news organization also reviewed audio from a May 11 hearing in which Superior Court Judge Roy McGeady found Benitez not guilty of driving while intoxicated.

    The video shows the troopers -- identified as Justin Kearns and Danny Kim -- were driving down I-80 west in Teaneck when they encountered Benitez's car on the highway's shoulder. 

    Kearns wrote in a report that Benitez was "slouched over and sleeping" when they approached, and the video shows the troopers spent about three minutes trying to wake him before he roused, activating the brake lights and the rear windshield wipers as the troopers asked him to turn off the car.

    When Benitez opened the window, Kearns wrote in a report, he "detected the strong odor" of alcohol.

    Benitez repeatedly told the troopers he was driving home after dropping his daughter off at school before later saying it was his son he had dropped off, the video shows. The video shows Benitez had pulled over well before the troopers arrived, but when Kearns asked the judge why he was parked on the shoulder, he replied, "because you asked me to pull over."

    The troopers performed a field sobriety test, but Benitez's car blocked it from the view of the troopers' dashboard camera. 

    The video shows the judge grew irate after the troopers placed him under arrest. 

    "I can't believe you're doing this," he said, according to the video. "I'm not a f--king drug addict. I'm not a drunk."

    Kearns began reading Benitez the Miranda warning, prefacing it by saying -- "I'm sure you know it," the video shows.

    "You're wasting your time and you know it," Benitez said, repeatedly interrupting the trooper. "I'll fight you. You know you're being a d--k. I will f--king fight you."

    Benitez was taken to the State Police Totowa station where he submitted to a breath test and blew a .16, according to the report.

    But Judge McGeady, who heard the DWI case against Benitez, threw out the test results because of discrepencies in the timeline of when the test was conducted.

    Under Supreme Court rules on the use of breath-testing devices, a defendant is supposed to be observed for 20 uninterrupted minutes before the test is performed to ensure they had not chewed gum, vomited or performed other actions which might affect a test result.

    Authorities could not prove that was done in Benitez's case. 

    Benitez's attorney, John Bruno, also argued Kearns lacked certifications neccesary to perform field sobriety tests and improperly performed the test that Benitez failed. 

    McGeady found the trooper's academy training gave him the minimum qualifications to conduct such tests, according to the recording of the hearing. 

    McGeady said in his decision that the prosecution had not provided testimony proving Benitez's behavior was caused by intoxication "as opposed to sleep deprivation or having just been awakened."

    "I don't know that he had bloodshot, droopy eyes, that his clothes were dissheveled, that he was swaying, holding on for balance, I don't have any testimony on that," he said. 

    Kearns' report notes Benitez' eyes were "bloodshot and watery" and he was "unable to balance," but the trooper was never asked about it in court. It's unclear whether the judge reviewed the dashboard video.

    A State Police spokesman declined to comment on the case. 

    Benitez will still have to appear before the state Supreme Court's Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct to answer to the ethics complaint. A spokeswoman for the judiciary said a hearing date had not yet been set. 

    A person who answered the phone at Belleville's municipal court this week said Benitez was scheduled to hear cases again on Tuesday.

    S.P. Sullivan may be reached at Follow him on Twitter. Find on Facebook.


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    The incident occurred Friday afternoon in Irvington.

    Authorities are investigating a police-involved shooting in Irvington.

    No injuries were reported in the Friday afternoon incident, according to the Essex County Prosecutor's Office.

    Irvington officers responded to Lincoln Place shortly before 4 p.m. for a report of a suspect with a gun.

    As officers tried to apprehend the man, identified as Jahad Goff, 18, of Irvington, an officer "discharged his service weapon," officials said. No one was struck.

    Officers recovered a handgun from Goff and he was charged with weapons offenses and resisting arrest. He's being held pending an appearance in Essex County Central Judicial Processing Court.

    Authorities did not release additional details about the incident.

    State guidelines require that county prosecutors investigate whenever a law enforcement officer discharges a weapon, the prosecutor's office noted.

    Anyone with information about the incident may contact the prosecutor's professional standards bureau at 862-520-3700.

    Matt Gray may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @MattGraySJT. Find the South Jersey Times on FacebookHave a tip? Tell us:


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    March for Our Lives follows student walkout

    The T-shirts stand like tombstones in the Montclair churchyard.

    In the past weeks, snow collected on top of them, just as it did on the marble and limestone grave markers in local cemeteries, and the winds of those storms made the cotton shirts flap and shudder.

    Charlie Hoggard, the sexton of the Episcopal Church of St. James, would wipe the snow off, straighten the sleeves and make sure the PVC pipe supporting each shirt remained firmly in the ground. The message of those shirts had to withstand the force of nature.

    The shirts are divided in two groups, split by the walkway to the church entrance.

    On one side are 17 large shirts, each with the name of a student or teacher shot and killed last month at the Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

    Carmen Schentrup, 16, a National Merit Scholarship finalist ...

    Nicholas Dworet, 17, headed to the University of Indianapolis on a swimming scholarship ...

    Alaina Petty, 14, a member of a Mormon group called "Helping Hands" that went to aid in the cleanup after Hurricane Irma ...

    Peter Wang, 15, a member of the school's ROTC program, shot holding the door so others could escape ...

    And all the others, special in their own way, irreplaceable in their families.  

    On the other side the church walkway, the shirts are smaller. They represent the 20 children shot and killed in December 2012 at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.  Twenty names ... Charlotte Bacon and Daniel Barden and Olivia Engel ... all the way through the alphabet to Avielle Richman and Benjamin Wheeler and Allison Wyatt.

    None were older than 7. Most were 6.

    They would all be 11 or 12 now, at the town's Reed Intermediate School or the Newtown Middle School. In five or six years, the survivors of that shooting will graduate; the media eye will be on them that day, remembering for a news cycle what those children will live with forever.

    The names on the T-shirts at St. James ask this question, "What kind of civilized society chooses to not protect its children?"

    And this: "How do we balance the Second Amendment with the fundamental, universal right to live?"

    This question was posed Wednesday in national student walkouts and will be again next Saturday at March for Our Lives events all around the country.

    One will be held at St. James, 581 Valley Road in Upper Montclair, at 5 p.m., which will invite people to stand among the shirt ceremony to hear the words of those impacted by gun violence and pray for the enlightenment that will reduce further such episodes in this country. 

    MORE: Recent Mark Di Ionno columns

    "We wanted to do something here, in our community," said the Rev. Audrey Hasselbrook, the assistant pastor at the church.

    The church put a red notebook on a stand in front of the T-shirt memorial; notes left there will be sent to Parkland through an Episcopal church in Florida. The pages are almost full, and more will be added.

    "It has been very well received by the community," Hasselbrook said. "People stop and reflect; some sign the book. I think it gives people pause."

     The first visitors were the kids from Buzz Aldrin Elementary School around the corner. The childlike scribbles of "Be Safe" and "We love you" are accompanied by drawn hearts and smiley faces - a reminder that we live in a country where first- and second-graders know schools like theirs are susceptible to the gunfire of a lunatic.

    Those of us who remember the heightened days of the Cold War now laugh about "bomb drills," which sent us to the school basement to hide under cafeteria tables, as if that would protect us from nuclear obliteration. For us, there was anxiety, but the concept was abstract. There was no evidence of it ever happening.    

    The children we are raising today have the anxiety and the evidence.

    In Montclair, the kids are too young to remember when a mass shooting erupted in their town, but their parents do.

    It was 23 years ago at this time of year, when a former postal employee opened fire at Montclair's Watchung Plaza post office and killed co-workers Ernie Spruill and Scott Walensky and customers George Lamoga and Robert Leslie. A third customer, David Grossman, was shot but survived.

    In 1995, the year of the Montclair attack, the term "going postal" was wryly used in a string of workplace shootings across the country.

    After 12 students and a teacher were murdered at Columbine High School four years later, and the modern era of multiple shootings began, nobody was making jokes anymore.

    So, here we are, Virginia Tech, Newtown and Parkland later, and the truth is, this movement is gaining momentum because all those kids who walked out of school last Wednesday will soon be voters.

    "They're the ones that can change things," said Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo as he watched a demonstration by the full student body of St. Vincent Academy on the courthouse steps Wednesday. "The adults have failed them."

    Princess Sabaroche, a senior at North Star Academy in Newark, is a student organizer of the March for Our Lives event that will be held Saturday at 10 a.m. at Military Park in Newark.

    "We feel this violence is spreading, in the suburbs and the cities, and we young people have to stand up to it and have our voices heard," she said.

    The Military Park event is being organized by 19 student leaders from suburban and city schools, that come from a spectrum of North and Central Jersey towns, geographically and economically. Newark, Princeton, Toms River, Ridgewood, the Oranges, Howell and Marlboro, to name a few.

    "One March, one day, won't necessarily solve this issue, because it is so complex," said Sarah Emily Baum, a senior at Marlboro High School and a student organizer. "But if kids see other kids taking action, and other people see all these kids taking action, things can get done.

    "We want the next generation of voters to be the most active, educated and engaged voters in the country," she said.

    What we adults should want is for them to be the safest.

    Mark Di Ionno may be reached at Follow The Star-Ledger on Twitter @StarLedger and find us on Facebook.  

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    As a possible contender for Amazon's HQ2, and increasingly home to top brands like Whole Foods, who should lead Newark for the next four years?

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    "They're paying for their past sins some of them," said Anthony Ambrose, Newark's public safety director.

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    A 28-year-old Elizabeth man is in critical condition after a shooting on U.S. Route 1&9.

    A shooting erupted along a busy stretch of an Elizabeth highway early Saturday morning leaving one man in critical condition, authorities said. 

    The 28-year-old, from Elizabeth, has not been identified.

    Gunfire began after 5 a.m. Saturday along U.S. routes 1 & 9, acting Union County Prosecutor Michael A. Monahan said Sunday. Someone inside a dark-colored SUV or pickup truck began shooting at a white BMW SUV near McClellan Street near the border with Newark, Monahan said. 

    A passenger in the BMW was injured and taken to a local hospital by the driver of the BMW, according to a press release.

    The prosecutor's office is asking for information from anyone who saw the shooting. Those with information can all the Union County Prosecutor's Office Detective Nicholas Falcicchio at 908-721-8186 or Elizabeth Police Department Detectives Luis Demondo or Jose Martinez at 908-558-2052.

    The Union County Crime Stoppers are offering a reward of up to $10,000 for information that leads to an arrest. To leave an anonymous tip call 908-654-TIPS or visit

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


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    Dogs and cats throughout New Jersey await adoption.

    Here is this week's collection of some of the dogs and cats in need of adoption in New Jersey.

    We are now accepting dogs and cats to appear in the gallery from nonprofit shelters and rescues throughout New Jersey.

    If a group wishes to participate in this weekly gallery on, please contact Greg Hatala at or call 973-836-4922.

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    Firefighters found the homeowner unresponsive inside when they arrived.

    Investigators are probing the death of a 61-year-old homeowner following a fire at his house in South Orange Sunday, authorities said.

    Firefighters found Weyman W. Watson unresponsive on the first floor of his house at 360 Warwick Ave. when they responded around 2:15 p.m. to an active fire at the home, the Essex County Prosecutor's Office and South Orange authorities said in a joint statement. Watson was later pronounced dead at Saint Barnabas Medical Center at 3:24 p.m.

    Nobody else was injured in the fire, which the prosecutor's office said remains under investigation. Authorities have urged anyone with information about the fire to call the prosecutor's office's tip line at 877-847-7432.

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

    Have a tip? Tell us.


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    She pleaded guilty after years of maintaining the two were in love.

    Former Rutgers-Newark professor Anna Stubblefield admitted Monday that she had criminal sexual contact with a disabled man who was unable to speak.

    Her guilty plea in Superior Court in Newark comes after years of maintaining that she and D.J., 29, a man with cerebral palsy, were able to communicate and had fallen in love.

    Stubblefield, 48, pleaded guilty to third-degree aggravated criminal sexual contact as part of a plea deal that has the Essex County Prosecutor's Office recommending a four-year prison sentence. She will get credit for time already served.

    She was convicted of aggravated sexual assault in a 2015 trial, but an appellate court overturned the jury's decision, ruling that she did not get a fair trial.

    She was heading for a second trial when she accepted the plea deal that was finalized Monday.

    At her 2015 trial, prosecutors relied on expert testimony that D.J.,  who could not speak but did make sounds, had an impaired mental state in arguing that he was not able to consent to sex with Stubblefield.

    Stubblefield's attorneys maintain that she and D.J. communicated through a method called "facilitated communication," in which a facilitator assists the person with typing on a keyboard. 

    Critics say the method allows facilitators to influence the users' messages.