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Breaking news & local stories from Camden City, Berlin, Laurel Springs and more

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    Check out NJ.com's list of the state's most disruptive forces.


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    The incident occurred in Winslow.

    WINSLOW -- A 37-year-old township man has been arrested and charged with possession and distribution of heroin, prescription drugs and marijuana, police said Friday.

    Eric Ward Jr. was arrested at his home in the unit block of Hampton Gate Drive on Thursday. More pot was found in his car after a search, police said. The home was raided after an undercover investigation into drug sales there.

    Ward was held at the Camden County jail after the arrest.

    Bill Duhart may be reached at bduhart@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @bduhart. Find NJ.com on Facebook.
     

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    Legal group says Kevin Baker and Sean Washington are innocent, and will appeal the decision.

    CAMDEN -- Two Camden men convicted for a 1995 double murder will not get a new trial, a state Superior Court judge ruled this week, dismissing questions raised by a Seton Hall legal group that says it can prove both men are innocent. 

    Kevin Baker and Sean Washington were given life sentences based on the testimony of an eyewitness who said she was out looking to buy crack cocaine when she saw the pair kill Rodney Turner and Margaret Wilson in the courtyard of a public housing development.

    Judge Samuel Natal ruled on Thursday that although the woman, Denise Rand, was "far from a polished and articulate witness," her testimony "remains uncontradicted by any credible evidence."

    The case was the subject of a two-part NJ Advance Media series in 2015 which chronicled the efforts of the Last Resort Exoneration Project at Seton Hall University School of Law in Newark to get a new trial for Baker and Washington.

    Lesley Risinger, the project's director, said Friday they would enlist the help of a high-powered New Jersey law firm to appeal the judge's ruling.

    "We disagree with the judge's opinion on his construction of both the facts and the law," she said in an e-mail on Friday. "We further believe that a proper evaluation of all the evidence now available on the record clearly establishes these men's innocence of the crime for which they were convicted."

    A spokeswoman for Camden County Prosecutor Mary Eva Collalo did not respond to a message seeking comment.

    A double murder. Life in prison. But did they do it?

    QUESTIONS RAISED

    In court filings, Risinger and her husband and co-counsel, Michael Risinger, argued Rand's testimony was contradicted by forensic evidence and other witness accounts.

    The attorneys argued investigators, under pressure to solve the case, pegged Washington as a suspect based on "street rumors" and selected Baker as a second shooter from a stack of mugshots "at random."

    They asked the judge to give both men new trials, arguing they received ineffective assistance from their public defenders, saw their civil rights violated and that newly discovered evidence could prove them factually innocent.

    Forensic and ballistic experts hired by the project said the evidence pointed to a single shooter, which contradicted Rand's story that Baker and Washington ran up to the two victims and fired upon them in the early hours of Jan. 28, 1995.

    The Camden County Prosecutor's Office presented their own experts arguing they couldn't rule out the possibility that two weapons were used. 

    The judge's decision comes months after a series of hearings held in March. Baker and Washington again found themselves in a Camden courthouse as a parade of witnesses took the stand in front of Natal, who agreed to hear testimony as he weighed the request for a new trial. 

    The witnesses included the sister of Baker's late girlfriend, who said the woman went to her death bed bitter that she'd never been called to testify Baker was with her the night of the murder more than two decades ago. 

    Several witnesses also listened to a 911 tape where a frantic-sounding man told the dispatcher he'd come across two bodies in the courtyard that night. One woman, a cousin of one of the victims who was awoken by gunshots, wept as she identified the voice of the caller: Sean Washington. 

    Washington has claimed that he was not the man who pulled the trigger, but instead made the grisly discovery of the two bodies left in a heap in the snow, running to a nearby pay phone to call 911.

    The 911 caller never gave his name, and although a transcript was available at the time of the trial, the tape itself did not surface until years later. 

    Lamont Powell, a former gang member who has served as a federal witness in several drug cases, also took the stand at the hearings. Powell was friends with Washington's nephew. 

    He testified his friend, Raheem Miller, admitted to him that he killed the two victims. He claimed Miller, high on PCP, set out that night to settle a score with another man and killed Turner and Wilson after they witnessed Miller chase the man through the courtyard with a gun. 

    Powell testified that after Miller died while serving a prison sentence for unrelated charges in 2002, Powell decided to come clean, telling FBI investigators he had information about the 1995 murder. 

    "I wouldn't have never said nothing if he was alive," he said. "I took that and was like, 'You know what? I could probably try to rectify the situation' ... You got two guys locked up for something they didn't do, I know for a fact."

    Inside the fight to free 2 men serving life for murder

    JUDGE UNCONVINCED

    Baker and Washington have maintained that they weren't together that night and, while they knew each other from the neighborhood, never really got along. 

    Baker testified at a March hearing he had maintained his innocence, even rejecting prosecutors' offer for a plea deal if he testified against Washington because "I wasn't there. I didn't know anything about the crime."

    Washington frequently grew emotional during his testimony. As the 911 tape was again played in the courtroom, he closed his eyes and pursed his lips, his breathing growing heavy as he began to cry. 

    "That was my voice," he said.

    In his Thursday decision, Natal noted both men had criminal histories and wrote Washington had "cried at the appropriate moments to accentuate his testimony." 

    The judge wrote that many of the witnesses presented at the hearings also lacked credibility. A public defender who testified he had not done enough to investigate Washington's alibi was "trying to help his former client," the judge found. Powell's testimony was "completely unbelievable and unreliable," he wrote. 

    He also found the expert testimony was "not newly discovered evidence, but merely another opinion based on the prior existing evidence."

    Natal, who presided over the 1996 murder trials and considered the motions on recall from retirement, often quarreled with the lawyers from the exoneration project during the hearings, arguing over court rules and complaining about the size of the ever-growing case file as the legal project filed brief after brief. 

    The matter will now go before a panel of state appellate judges.

    Lesley Risinger said that Lawrence Lustberg, a prominent criminal defense lawyer at the Newark firm Gibbons P.C., would take up the case on appeal. Reached by phone, Lustberg said the appeal would be handled by his firm's fellowship program, which tackles "public interest and constitutional cases" pro bono. 

    S.P. Sullivan may be reached at ssullivan@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter. Find NJ.com on Facebook.


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    In South Jersey health care, the big get bigger. Nothing wrong with that -- if New Jersey regulators halt any signs of monopolistic pricing and practices.

    In South Jersey medical care, Bigfoot is stomping around again. What's important is that he not be allowed to become the Jersey Devil.

    Camden-based Cooper University Hospital, a dominant and growing regional power, announced Thursday that it's buying three Catholic hospitals in southern and central New Jersey, thus expanding its big footprint to new areas and giving Cooper control of both acute-care hospitals in the City of Camden. 

    Included in the deal with Trinity Health are Our Lady of Lourdes in Camden, Lourdes Medical Center in Burlington and St. Francis Medical Center in Trenton. As noted by Cooper University Health board chairman George Norcross III, the planned acquisition would give Cooper a total of 1,382 beds when the trio of hospitals is added to Cooper's 675-bed flagship hospital in Camden.

    As with all hospital mergers, there are good and bad points to consider. For Trinity, the sale acknowledges difficulty in competing with mega-chains. Amazingly, a post-merger Cooper would be only the fourth largest medical care system in New Jersey. The others are all based in North and Central Jersey. it's possible that Cooper acted because one of or more of that trio had in an appetite for Trinity -- or even Cooper itself -- in its sights.

    Obviously, there are economies of scale here for Cooper, whose previous expansions have not involved acquiring more beds. But Cooper jointly runs the Cooper Medical School of Rowan University, which opened in 2012. In 2013, it partnered with the top-ranked M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Texas for its own cancer center. A Cooper unit recently wrestled away Camden City EMS transportation from arch-rival Virtua Health, and Cooper's outpatient services already span the entire region.

    A bigger Cooper will increase its negotiating clout with insurers, which could be a "win" for patients, as long as the state ensures that it won't instead result in near-monopoly pricing with a shrinking group of insurance providers. Already, Cooper holds a controversial 20 percent stake in AmeriHealth New Jersey, one of the state's larger for-profit insurers. That investment should now get added scrutiny.

    A Cooper-Trinity deal doesn't directly impact any in-patient hospital in Gloucester, Salem or Cumberland counties but that, too, is a mixed bag. It's particularly important that struggling Memorial Hospital of Salem County be put on sustainable footing after a planned sale fell through earlier this year. Nothing in the Cooper acquisition plan improves the situation for MHSC, the only hospital serving a large geographic area.

    Cooper will continue to compete with the large Virtua Health System in Camden and Burlington counties. Medium-sized Kennedy Health and Inspira Health hold most of the beds in Gloucester County, and it would surprise no one to see either of them end up under a Cooper or Virtua sign. A Kennedy-Virtua "collaboration" was said to be in the works four years ago, but little has been announced since then.

    Meanwhile, critics will see Norcross, also known as a potent South Jersey political power broker, gaining still more power. It's possible to overstate the case, but nor should it be ignored that everything from legal services to linen contracts at the acquired hospitals will be in his grasp. Any New Jersey regulatory body that has a say in the terms of Cooper's acquisition must be careful to avoid undue influence from him or the many elected officials who owe their careers to him.

    Send a letter to the editor of South Jersey Times at sjletters@njadvancemedia.com

    Bookmark NJ.com/Opinion. Follow on Twitter @NJ_Opinion and find NJ.com Opinion on Facebook.


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    Two men were taken into custody after a Saturday night shooting in a Camden gas station parking lot

    CAMDEN -- Two people were arrested in connection with a Saturday night shooting in Camden that left one person dead and another person injured.

    According to a 6 ABC report, police responded to a shooting that occurred at the Gulf gas station located on Kaighn Avenue in Camden.

    Two men were shot in the gas station parking lot. One man, who was shot in the chest, died at an area hospital. Another man had a graze wound to the head. He is listed in serious condition.

    The report also says that police conducted a search of the area that led them to a home nearby on Kaighn Avenue. A SWAT team was called in and a standoff ensued.

    The standoff ended early Sunday morning and two people were taken into custody. Their identities have not yet been released. 

    Chris Franklin can be reached at cfranklin@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @cfranklinnews. Find NJ.com on Facebook

     

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    A reports states that a South Jersey township is asking for residents to voluntarily register their residential surveillance cameras

    WINSLOW TWP. -- Police are using residential cameras to help solve crimes in the Winslow Township by creating a registry of cameras, according to a Philly.com report.

    The voluntary "Electronic Eye" registry allows township police to garner the phone numbers and email addresses of people who own residential surveillance cameras, the report states. The police would contact them to see if there are any images of an incident. The database would be confidential and only accessible to law enforcement.

    Surveillance camera registries are not new to the area. Lindenwold asked residents to enlist in a program similar to the one in Winslow Township.

    While township officials said that they had been considering the program for months, an incident involving a 78-year-old being robbed at knifepoint helped with their decision. The police department were able to capture a suspect after  a residential surveillance camera caught the incident on camera. Prior to the video, they had not received a lead on the crime for six days.

    "We're not looking to be Big Brother. We just want a database so that we can see where all the cameras are when there's a crime," Winslow Township Police Captain Richard Ostermueller said in the report. "We live in a day and age where, if you think you're not being recorded in some way, shape, or form when you're just walking down a street, well, there's always a camera somewhere."

    Chris Franklin can be reached at cfranklin@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @cfranklinnews. Find NJ.com on Facebook

     

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    Choose from five games.

    Choose from five games.


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    If you're planning on celebrating Labor Day with a barbecue, here are some thing to bear in mind when it comes to your pets. A national study conducted by BluePearl Veterinary Partners found that animal hospitals see an increase in patients during holiday weekends. Here are a couple of reminders to help keep your pet from being one of...

    If you're planning on celebrating Labor Day with a barbecue, here are some thing to bear in mind when it comes to your pets.

    A national study conducted by BluePearl Veterinary Partners found that animal hospitals see an increase in patients during holiday weekends. Here are a couple of reminders to help keep your pet from being one of those medical emergencies.

    * It's not unusual for emergency veterinarians to treat dogs for a corn cob or a rib bone they have swallowed. So be careful of what your dog may find during a backyard barbecue or a gathering at the park.

    * Dogs are naturally going to want to participate in the vittles at a barbecue, but be aware of things a pet can't eat: foods that can sicken dogs include: avocados, apple seeds, caffeinated beverages or alcohol, onions, potatoes, grapes, tomatoes, chocolate and sugar-free gum containing xylitol.


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    Rep. Donald Norcross is leading an effort to redefine labor for the 21st century.

    CAMDEN -- How do you give workers a voice in the 21st century?

    Jobs migrate overseas or salaries drop as companies seek to cut labor costs.

    Entire industries -- think Uber and other ride-sharing companies -- don't employ a single worker, relying instead on independent contractors who have neither job benefits or job security.

    And just over one in ten workers are members of a labor union, with Republicans trying to decrease that number.

    In light of those realities, Democratic lawmakers are leading an effort to redefine labor for the 21s century.

    "Our goal is make sure the next generation of worker has a fair playing field to earn enough to take care of a family and retire with dignity," said Rep. Donald Norcross, D-1st Dist, a former union official.

    Norcross backs labor over Obama

    The question that Norcross and three other Democratic lawmakers, Reps. Mark DeSaulnier of California, Debbie Dingell of Michigan and Mark Pocan of Wisconsin, are trying to answer is how to do you give workers a voice to advocate for better pay.

    Norcross, a former electrician who become assistant business manager for an International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers local -- the only former union business agent in the House, noted that he and his colleagues have held labor forums in each of their states, including in New Jersey in August.

    Another forum is scheduled for Wednesday in Washington and the lawmakers said they plan to issue a report at the end of the month.

    Former AFL-CIO Political Director Steve Rosenthal said he will be interested to see what they come up with.

    "It's great when there's a guy like Norcross who's trying to think through what are we trying to do," Rosenthal said. "I don't know if anybody has the perfect short-term or long-term solution. It's going to take a lot of outside-the-box thinking."

    What concerns those who oppose requiring employees to join unions is what kind of solution the group will propose.

    "Our criticism of union officials and the way they operate is that they rely so much on government-granted powers," said Patrick Semmens, vice president of National Right to Work. "In New Jersey, they have the power to compel workers to pay fees and if they don't, they can have a worker fired." 

    "An approach that respects the individual rights of workers not to be forced to join a union, that's the reform that Congress ought be looking at," he said.

    These discussions come as the percentage of workers in unions dropped to 10.7 percent in 2016, down from 20.1 percent in 1983, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

    Robert Asaro-Angelo, a former U.S. Labor Department official under President Barack Obama, said it's going to be hard to reverse that trend.

    "They don't know anybody in their neighborhood who's unionized," Asaro-Angelo said. "You don't have this personal touch or generic knowledge of what it means."

    In fact, unions are still trying to hold on to what they have.

    "There is no shortage of defense being played," Norcross said a forum at the Teamsters Local 676 union hall in Collingswood. "Elections have consequences. Boy, do we know that now."

    Republicans are seeking to weaken what's left of traditional unions. Even the House Education and Labor Committee, which Norcross and DeSaulnier sit on, was renamed Education and the Workforce under GOP rule.

    More than half of the states, 28, now have so-called Right to Work laws, and a national Right to Work law has been introduced in both houses of Congress.

    Such laws allow employees to get the benefits of membership, such as higher wages and benefits, without having to pay dues or other expenses, while putting the unions at a financial disadvantage.

    'You've really got to get in there and talk about it and remind workers how they got where they are now," Asaro-Angelo said.

    The GOP effort to minimize unions is designed to cut off a major source of funding for Democrats, who received $9 of every $10 spent by unions in 2016, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

    At the same time, Republicans have acted to relax restrictions on how much corporations and wealthy individuals can donate to campaigns, some of it anonymously.

    Indeed, just two Republican donors, casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson and his wife Miriam, spent $78 million on the 2016 election, more than one-third of the entire $207 million spent by organized labor.

    "We're losing American democacy because labor doesn't have a seat at the table," DeSaulnier said.

    Instead, the richest Americans have reaped most of the benefits of the economic recovery; 80.5 percent of the income growth in New Jersey from 2009 to 2012 went to the wealthiest 1 percent of its residents, according to the Economic Policy Institute, a research group whose board includes union officials and Democratic Party officials.

    "We have to just solidly make the connection," Pocan said. "All you have to do is compare the unionization rate and the inequality rate."

    Semmens argues otherwise, saying that requiring workers to join unions is not the solution.

    "Whatever problems there might be with inequality, giving more power to unions is not the right approach," he said.

    In the last election, Donald Trump carried industrial states such as Michigan and Pennsylvania as he promised to bring back jobs that had migrated to countries with lower wages and benefits.

    "They (voters) really felt there was a disconnect on core economic issues," Pocan said from one side of a rectangular table at Rutgers University's Camden campus, where the lawmakers and labor experts had gathered to kick off a day-long program. "If you're not talking about things people are talking about at their kitchen table, you're not having a conversation."

    As unions continue to lose influence, workers are trying to get their kitchen-table issues addressed at the ballot box.

    Even as Republicans won the White House and held onto both houses of Congress in the last election, four states, Arizona, Colorado, Maine and Washington, voted to raise their state's minimum wages. The federal wage is $7.25 an hour.

    "What we've seen in the worker movement is a lot of action at the ballot box to gain benefits that were formerly done at the bargaining table," Asaro-Angelo said. "Folks realized they could do this on their own."

    Jonathan D. Salant may be reached at jsalant@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @JDSalant or on Facebook. Find NJ.com Politics on Facebook. 


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    The sounds that cascade out of the two-hand, wind-and-reed instrument invented in Europe in the early 1800s is timeless. Watch video

    HADDON TWP. -- Who says the accordion went out of style?

    Certainly not Joanna Darrow. She and her husband Stanley have operated the Acme Accordion School for nearly 70 years here in the Westmont section of Haddon Township.

    Somewhere between Weird Al Yankovick and Lawrence Welk there must be a sweet spot for the accordion. Depending on who you ask, it's either a throwback to yesteryear or the coolest thing since streaming TV. Any way you slice it, the sounds that cascade out of the two-hand, wind-and-reed instrument invented in Europe in the early 1800s is timeless.

    "We got through the dark times," Joanna said. "At one time there were accordion schools in just about every town around here. They all closed up. My husband was so dedicated."

    Stanley, 87, is not as active as he once was. He sat quietly during a recent evening rehearsal of the school's accordion club band. Not even a rousing rendition of the pop-rock hit "The Final Countdown" stirred him much from his perch near a corner of the rehearsal room.

    Yet, his presence was felt. Joanna, who joined the school in 1964, shortly after her marriage to Stanley, points to years of memorabilia on the walls of the one-story building with an attached home in which they live. Just about every inch is filled with newspaper clippings, posters, and yes, accordions, documenting their nearly 70 years as brand ambassadors. They even outlasted the accordion manufacturing company for which they named the business, Acme.

    Joanna still teaches students and straps on the hulking instrument, which can weigh up to 23 pounds. The most popular models her students and band members play have 41 keys in the same order and octave as a piano. With built-in registers, the instruments can match a piano's 88 key-octave range. Her students range in age from 8 to 75. 

    The accordion's heyday in American popular culture was likely in the 1950s and early 60s at the dawn of television. Variety shows featured Welk and his fellow accordion soloist Myron Floren, also known for his Disco Polka album in 1977. But accordions were soon being drowned out by electrified guitars and keyboards which quite literally blew away acoustic instruments.

    But accordions never really went away in New Jersey. Large populations of European immigrants settled in this area over the past century and kept the music and the instrument alive.

    "I play because my father said I would play it," said Carol Comegno, a veteran newspaper reporter and longtime member of the accordion-school band. "He always wanted to play an instrument and never had the opportunity as an immigrant and he wanted me to have that opportunity. He said I had to start with the accordion, and if I wanted to go on to something else, that was up to me."

    She never did.

    Sarah Kaufman found the accordion a different way. In fact, it appears to have found her.

    "If it wasn't for the fact that the diner I love is right across the street, I may have never found this," said Kaufman, an attorney and child advocate. "I saw 'Acme Accordion School.' How can you not just go in and find out what was going on?"

    Joanna said business is as good as it has been in years. She said she frequently gets calls from Philadelphia string bands made famous by the city's Mummer's New Year's Day parade, who are always on the look out for accordion players.

    Some of the school's band members travel from Dover, Delaware and Abington, Pennsylvania weekly for practices, driving up to an hour and a half, to play their squeeze boxes.

    The tradition lives on, as do Joanna and Stanley.

    Bill Duhart may be reached at bduhart@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @bduhart. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

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    The 2017 football season is underway, though only a handful of teams played in Week 0.


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    The show will feature patients who have undergone weight-loss surgeries at Kennedy modeling fall's new fashions.

    CHERRY HILL -- Prepare to be amazed at Kennedy Health's Weight-Loss Surgery Fall Fashion Show featuring bariatric success stories at the Cherry Hill Mall.

    The show will be in the Grand Court between the Macy's and Nordstrom wings on September 9 from 1 to 3 p.m.

    This celebratory event will showcase 26 female and male weight-loss surgery patients - including four Kennedy employees - who've lost a combined total of 3,279 pounds since their procedures with one of Kennedy's bariatric surgeons.

    As the crowd of onlookers watches these "redesigned" models walk down the runway wearing the latest women's and men's fall fashions available at the Cherry Hill Mall, look up at the big screen to see the models' "before" pictures and marvel at the impressive progress they've made since undergoing weight-loss surgery. 

    Interested in learning more about surgical weight loss? Kennedy's bariatric surgeons and support team will be in attendance to answer questions. Seasons 52, based at the Cherry Hill Mall, will provide small tastings and the mall's Aveda store will offer product samples at the event.

    Kennedy University Hospital's Surgical Weight Loss Program is an accredited Comprehensive Center through the National Metabolic Bariatric Surgery and Quality Improvement Program (MBSAQIP). For more information, contact Kennedy Health's Center for Surgical Weight Loss at 856-346-6470 or visit www.kennedybariatric.org/fashionshow

    Have community news you'd like to share? Send an email to sjtowns@njadvancemedia.com. Have an event happening you want to share? Go to nj.com/events to submit your information to be included in a community calendar. 

     

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    Take a look at the teams that can go all the way this season and win a state title.


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    One man died and another was hospitalized after the shooting behind a gas station, officials said.

    CAMDEN -- After a reported standoff, authorities have arrested a man they said shot two people, killing one.

    Victor Ruiz, 24, of Camden, has been charged with murder, attempted murder and weapons charges after he shot Lamar Abdul Thompson, 27, and another 26-year-old city resident Saturday night, according to a release from the Camden County Prosecutor's Office.

    The shooting occurred behind a gas station on Kaighn Avenue at 9:41 p.m.

    The prosecutor's office said an officer who was nearby heard the gunshots and found the unnamed victim, whom he transported to Cooper University Hospital in his cruiser per department policy.

    Additional officers responding to the scene found the second victim, Thompson, suffering from multiple gunshot wounds. He was pronounced dead at the hospital at 10:22 p.m., the prosecutor's office said.

    Authorities did not release details about what led them to Ruiz, but said officers went to his home near the gas station early Sunday morning to arrest him. 

    6abc reported that an hours-long standoff involving a SWAT team lasted until dawn, but the prosecutor's office has not confirmed the report.

    Ruiz is being held in the Camden County Correctional Facility until a detention hearing, the statement said.

    Anyone with information about the shooting is asked to contact Prosecutor's Office Detective Jason Rowello at (856) 225-8475 or Camden County Police Detective Eddie Gonzalez at (856) 757-7420.

    Rebecca Everett may be reached at reverett@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @rebeccajeverett. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

     

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    Which teams have the best chance to compete for a state championship in 2017


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    He was a popular, driven young man who had just graduated from high school, his uncle said.

    STRATFORD -- Anthony Dorrego, 18, loved to play basketball.

    He was doing what he loved Sunday night when he collapsed on a basketball court in Gloucester Township, surrounded by his friends.

    "This is definitely a tragic thing," his uncle, Jimmy Loftis, said of Dorrego's sudden death. "He was healthy and he never complained of any issues."

    An autopsy is being performed, Loftis said, but a doctor told the family Sunday that Dorrego died from an undiagnosed heart condition.

    Dorrego was just embarking on adulthood, having graduated from Highland High School in Blackwood in June. He had worked in shipping and receiving at UPS in Lawnside for a year and was planning to become a driver for the company, Loftis said.

    He just got a raise and bought a new Nissan Maxima, his uncle said. "He was really proud," Loftis said.

    "Anthony was a leader. A lot of his friends looked up to him," Loftis said. "He was very popular, he had that 'cool guy' personality."

    The family is close, Loftis said, and Dorrego was especially protective of his many younger cousins.

    He said his nephew loved spending time with his girlfriend of four years, his two best friends of 11 years, and playing basketball. He also collected Jordan sneakers.

    "His passion was basketball. He played basketball almost every day with his friends," said Loftis, of Sicklerville.

    Dorrego's friends told his family that he fell down onto his hands and knees on the basketball court Sunday night, and they thought he might have been joking around at first.

    They quickly realized something was wrong and a person from across the street performed CPR until the ambulance arrived, Loftis said.

    Many friends and family members rushed to Kennedy University Hospital in Stratford, where they learned Dorrego had died. 

    Loftis said Dorrego was raised in Blackwood by his mother, Christine Dorrego, his grandfather, Floyd Dorrego Sr., and his grandfather's wife, Kim Dorrego. 

    "We're all together right now... Still in shock," Loftis said Monday. "We're going to stay together, stay close and get through this together."

    Rebecca Everett may be reached at reverett@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @rebeccajeverett. Find NJ.com on Facebook.


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    The event is designed to help small businesses explore opportunities doing business with the federal government.

    CAMDEN -- A free event designed to help New Jersey small businesses explore opportunities to do business with the federal government will be offered by the New Jersey Small Business Development Center at Rutgers University-Camden.

    On September 14, the Doing Business with the Federal Government program will examine the types of products and services that are procured by the federal government, as well as the database registrations required in order to pursue such sales.

    The event will be held at the Cherry Hill Public Library, located at 1100 Kings Highway North, from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on September 14.

    For more information, contact the Rutgers-Camden Small Business Development Center at 856-225-6221. You can also visit rsbdc.org for more details.

    Have community news you'd like to share? Send an email to sjtowns@njadvancemedia.com. Have an event happening you want to share? Go to nj.com/events to submit your information to be included in a community calendar. 


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    A certain conference makes an impact on the preseason Top 20 for the 2017 girls soccer season.


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    A look at the best linemen in the state.


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    A prosecutor in Camden called Najuquan Ross "a danger to society."

    CAMDEN -- Four-year-old Natalise "Kayla" Gunter was "absolutely helpless" and had been "beaten on every limb of her body," an assistant Camden County prosecutor said Tuesday during a detention hearing for the man accused of killing her.

    While the prosecutor spoke, Najuquan Ross sat in a chair next to his public defender, head tilted to the side and slouched back in his chair.  

    The 20-year-old city man is charged with murder in connection with the beating death of his girlfriend's daughter. He is charged with beating her to death while he was babysitting her and two other children on July 15. 

    Superior Court Judge Edward McBride agreed with Assistant Camden County Prosecutor Peter Gallagher and denied Ross a release from jail pending his murder trial and a string of aggravated assaults he had already been convicted of or stood charged with. At least one of the assaults had allegedly been on Kayla's mother, Lucy Gunter in March.

    Gunter, 20, was charged with endangering the welfare of a child for failing to get Kayla medical attention until three days after she was beaten. Gunter was released from jail on July 21 after prosecutors failed to prove to a judge she was a flight risk. She still faces a trial date. Family members said Gunter was a victim of domestic abuse, according to a published report.

    Gallagher said Ross told Gunter before Kayla was killed that "if she called the police he would kill her kids." Gallagher called Ross "a violent, dangerous individual" and a "danger to society."

    On July 15, the day of the beating, Gunter returned home to her apartment in the 1400 block of S. 9th Street after work. Later that evening, she saw Kayla had cuts to her face and was missing a tooth, a statement from the prosecutor said. When Gunter asked how she was injured, Ross reportedly told her he had beaten Kayla for not wanting to eat dinner, and that she lost her tooth during the beating when she fell trying to fight back.

    Gallagher said Kayla only weighted 33 pounds and said Ross "beat a helpless child to death."

    Six sheriff deputies flanked Ross on every side, two standing next to him as he sat. Three more stood several feet away and one near the entrance to courtroom 36 in the Camden County Criminal Justice Center. Ross is still facing charges of aggravated assault of a sheriff deputy during a hearing in July. Gallagher said Ross had repeatedly violated the conditions of his parole from a previous aggravated assault conviction and had failed to attend mandated anger-management classes.

    Ross sat in the courtroom Tuesday with leg irons tightly cuffed around his ankles and handcuffed to a chain around his slight waist. He wore a blue, inmate jumpsuit and white, canvas sneakers with no shoestrings that appeared to fit loosely on his feet, with one bound by cloth.

    His attorney, public defender Ed Rivas, said several family members were in the court to support Ross, including his mother. Gallagher said Ross told police his mother was watching the children the day Kayla was beaten. Rivas argued that the circumstances of Kayla's fatal beating were not certain.

    No one among about a dozen people in the courtroom gallery moved when Rivas referenced the family and no audible reaction was heard when Ross was led back to detention through a side door in the courtroom. 

    Gallagher told the judge that Ross could face a life prison sentence without parole if convicted.

    Bill Duhart may be reached at bduhart@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @bduhart. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

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