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

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    These 12 games will be must-see action during the opening weekend of the season.


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    The incident occurred on Thursday in Brooklawn.

    A 28-year-old man was jailed Thursday after allegedly stealing an idling car, and picking up his girlfriend and their two kids before leading police on a chase and flipping the car on railroad tracks. 

    Brooklawn Police said Michael Ranko picked up his girlfriend and their two small children at a nearby Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant before he sped away from a cop attempting to stop him. The woman and the children, ages 5 and 3, were in the car when it flipped on the tracks, according to a witnesses statement to police.

    The woman and children were caught nearby in an alleyway near the 300 block of Broadway, police said. Ranko jumped on a NJ Transit bus near New Broadway and Town Center Square, police said. The bus was pulled over a short time later and Ranko was arrested, the report said.

    Ranko, of Paterson, was charged with receiving stolen property, eluding and two counts of endangering the welfare of a child. He was held at the Camden County jail pending a detention hearing. 

    The girlfriend, Ashley Ufie, 23, also of Paterson, was processed on warrants for her arrest from Paterson and Hackensack and released.

    The investigative report said Ranko allegedly jumped into the car after finding it idling and unlocked in the parking lot of Brown's ShopRite near Route 130 before the chase and crash.

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

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    The biggest questions entering the season.


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    Cooper Health Systems called off its acquisition of Trinity Health System.

    Cooper University Health Care announced Friday its planned $2 billion acquisition of South Jersey hospitals, including Lourdes Health Systems, will not go forward.

    "Our team has invested thousands of hours and millions of dollars in reviewing the proposed transaction," Cooper CEO Adrienne Kirby said. "Based upon this review, unfortunately, we will not be able to consummate the contemplated transaction.  We are all disappointed, but did not make this decision lightly."

    The deal included Trinity Health's New Jersey assets, including Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center, Lourdes Medical Center of Burlington, and St. Francis Medical Center in Trenton. 

    "We are disappointed that our three systems could not reach a final agreement on this strategic partnership," a statement from Lourdes and St. Francis officials said. "We wish Cooper all the best and look forward to serving New Jersey together with them for a long time."

    The deal would have created the fourth largest healthcare chain in a state stretching from Mercer to Atlantic counties, employing 12,000, not including a network of 875 doctors. It would have included Cooper's 635-bed flagship hospital in Camden for a total of 1,382 beds. 

    Cooper's footprint has been growing in earnest in recent years, with the creation of Cooper Medical School of Rowan University in 2012, and the partnership with renowned cancer hospital MD Anderson in 2013.

    The Virtua Health system, with three hospitals and many outpatient facilities, is Cooper biggest rival, although Kennedy University Hospital's three facilities in Cherry Hill, Washington Township and Stratford and Deborah Heart and Lung Center in Browns Mills also share the market.

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

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    Northern parts of the state could get slightly more snow in the afternoon.

    Clouds are expected to roll in throughout the day Saturday, obscuring a mostly sunny morning. 

    Break from cold.jpegNext week is expected to warm up by a few degrees, with temperatures hovering around 40 in the New York City area. (Courtesy of AccuWeather) 

    Temperatures will not dip as low as the past two days, forecasters say, but will run slightly colder than normal for mid-December. 

    The National Weather Service predicts highs will range from 34 to 41 degrees throughout the state. 

    Winds between 10 and 15 miles-per-hour will make for a breezy day and push the wind chill in the Newark and Jersey City areas to between 15 and 25 degrees.  

    Parts of New Jersey north of Interstate 80 could see a dusting of snow this afternoon. 

    Wintry mix possible

    Sunday is predicted to be partly sunny with light winds and temperatures mostly mirroring Saturday's highs. A light mix of freezing rain and snow is possible across most of the state Sunday night, according to the National Weather Service, which said small ice accumulations could cause some slick spots on roads.

    The Shore and pockets of Burlington and Camden counties saw the highest snow totals Friday night, ranging from two to more than 3.5 inches. Berlin, Brick and the Clarksburg section of Millstone Township topped the list with 3.6 inches of powder.

    Northern parts of the state got the least amount of snow, with no more than 2 inches in any county. Totals in most of the rest of New Jersey fell between 1 and 2.5 inches, but even that was enough to cause widespread traffic problems during the Friday evening commute. 

    top-snowfall-totals-fri-dec-15-2017.jpg 

    NJ Advance Media staff writer Len Melisurgo contributed to this report.

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

    Have a tip? Tell us. nj.com/tips

     

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    He allegedly shot out another driver's window before assaulting the victim in a road rage incident.

    A Pennsauken man was charged Friday with attempted murder after he fired shots at another driver during a road rage incident in Haddon Township on Nov. 26, police said.

    Steven Brindis, 26, shot through the driver's side window of another vehicle at the intersection of Nicholson Road and Route 130 shortly before 1 a.m., police said. 

    The shot missed the driver but hit the vehicle's steering wheel and dashboard, police said.

    Brindis "then assaulted the driver after clearing the rest of the window glass with the handgun," police said. 

    The victim couldn't drive away because of a traffic backup, but eventually fled when traffic cleared, police said.

    Police described the victim's injuries in a report as "consistent with the effects of a close-range discharge of a firearm."

    Serious injuries reported in road rage incident

    A surveillance camera captured the incident, police said.

    Camden County police stopped Brindis' vehicle in Camden on Dec. 4 and turned him over to Haddon Township authorities.

    Following execution of a search warrant on Friday, police found a loaded Glock 9mm handgun in Brindis' vehicle, along with two loaded, high-capacity magazines. One held 16 bullets and the other contained 30 rounds.

    In addition to attempted murder, Brindis is charged with aggravated assault, terroristic threats and various weapons offenses. 

    He was placed in Camden County Jail pending court appearances.

    Matt Gray may be reached at mgray@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @MattGraySJT. Find the South Jersey Times on Facebook.

     

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    Police said the trio took cash and merchandise before fleeing the scene. Watch video

    The Camden County Police Department is asking for the public's help in identifying three men who allegedly robbed a store in the city at gunpoint last week.

    The trio entered the Compare Supermarket on North 32nd Street around 9 p.m. on Dec. 13 and took cash and merchandise before fleeing the scene, police said in a statement. No injuries were reported.

    Police released security camera video of the suspects along with the following descriptions:

    • The first suspect is approximately 5-foot-8, with a heavy build, and was wearing all black clothing and a gray hood and mask.
    • The second, seen carrying a black trash bag, is about 5-foot-8, with a medium build, and was wearing all black clothing.
    • The third is about 6 feet tall, with a skinny build, and was wearing all black clothing.

    Police have asked anyone with information about the robbery to call the department's tip line at 856-757-7042.

    Matt Gray may be reached at mgray@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @MattGraySJT. Find the South Jersey Times on Facebook.

     

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    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 nj.com, please contact Greg Hatala at ghatala@starledger.com or call...

    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 nj.com, please contact Greg Hatala at ghatala@starledger.com or call 973-836-4922.

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


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    DeLuxe Italian Bakery in Runnemede, Sweet Melissa Patisserie in Clinton Township, Sweet Eats Bakery were out latest stops in our search for N.J.s' best bakery.


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    Where can you see the best basketball this week?


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    The man will have to register as a sex offender and faces potential deportation

    A 27-year-old Camden County man has been sentenced to five years in prison after he was caught in a car with an 11-year-old relative he told police he was dating, authorities said Monday.

    Euno Roque-GuerreroEuno Roque-Guerrero, 27, of Atco

    Euno Roque-Guerrero, of Waterford Township, admitted to a count of child endangerment and will have to register as a sex offender under Megan's Law, Atlantic County Prosecutor Damon G. Tyner said in a statement.

    Guerrero, who is subject to deportation, will also forfeit a pharmacy technician registration, officials said.

    Shortly before midnight on Feb. 20, Hammonton police found a suspicious vehicle behind the parking lot of a shopping plaza on South Whitehorse Pike. Guerrero was in the car with an 11-year-old girl, authorities said.

    Guerrero admitted he was dating the girl, who is his relative. They were in the car to avoid having their relationship discovered, authorities said.  Guerrero admitted to police to having kissed and touched the girl, authorities said.

    Spencer Kent may be reached at skent@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @SpencerMKent. Find the Find NJ.com on Facebook.


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    The top girls basketball games to watch for the week of Dec. 18.


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    Robert Claude McGrath and Robert Christopher McGrath will also pay $1.78 million to the federal government.

    A Cherry Hill physician and his chiropractor son who admitted to fraudulently billing Medicare for physical therapy performed by unqualified employees were sentenced Monday to federal prison, authorities said.

    Robert Claude McGrath, 66, was sentenced to 2 1/2 years, and Robert Christopher McGrath, 48, was sentenced to 1 year in prison, the U.S. Attorney's Office said in a news release.

    The McGraths previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

    Prosecutors said the McGraths used unlicensed and untrained employees to perform physical therapy for patients at the Atlantic Spine & Joint Institute, which had offices in the Westmont section of Haddon Township and in Wayne, Pa.

    Federal regulations say that any physical therapy done at the practice had to be performed by the elder McGrath or a trained therapist under his supervision in order to qualify for billing to Medicare, the release said.

    McGrath admitted that he was not in the office during several times therapy was performed between 2011 and 2016.

    The men will also face three years of supervised release and owe restitution of $890,000.

    In a separate civil settlement that was announced when they pleaded guilty, the men agreed to pay the federal government $1.78 million plus interest to resolve allegations that their billing practice violated the False Claims Act.

    About $338,000 of that will go toward a former billing manager from their practice who is collecting the proceeds under federal whistleblower statutes.

    Joe Brandt can be reached at jbrandt@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @JBrandt_NJ. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

     

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    The bill now simply needs to pass the full state Assembly before heading to Gov. Chris Christie's desk.

    A controversial bill that would give bigger pensions to some New Jersey elected officials -- most notably outgoing Camden Mayor Dana Redd -- continued to speed through the state Legislature on Monday. 

    Both the state Senate and the state Assembly Appropriations Committee voted, without debate, at the Statehouse in Trenton to advance the Democratic-sponsored measure exactly a week after it was introduced.

    The votes came even though the state's pension liability is more than $90 billion -- among the largest in the country -- and Republican Gov. Chris Christie is calling for more reforms to the system.

    But the Senate's Democratic leaders say the cost to taxpayers will be minuscule because it will affect a small number of officials compared to the more than 800,000 enrolled in the system. 

    The bill (S3620) is being fast-tracked through the Democratic-controlled Legislature in the lame-duck session before a new set of lawmakers are sworn in Jan. 9 and Christie, a longtime Redd ally, leaves office Jan. 16.

    Some N.J. politicians may soon get bigger pensions

    Now, the measure simply needs to pass the full Assembly before heading to Christie's desk for his signature or veto. 

    A spokesman for Christie's office did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

    If signed into law, the measure would allow some officials to re-enroll in the state's Public Employees Retirement System after being kicked out because they switched elected positions. 

    State Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester -- another Redd ally -- said it would benefit a "handful" of state legislators in addition to the Camden mayor, who is set to leave office after eight years.

    Sweeney said that could include state Sen. James Beach, D-Camden, and Assemblyman Ralph Caputo, D-Essex, though legislative leaders have not yet provided a full list of names.

    Meanwhile, Senate Democrats distributed a document from the nonpartisan state Office of Legislative Services that says the number of people the measure applies to is "so small a percentage of the total active and retired members and employers in the system that the bill will not impact the unfunded accrued liability or the funded ratio" of the state's pension system. 

    The OLS said in a statement attached to the bill last week that it can't estimate the cost to the state or local governments because it doesn't know the number of officials who could re-enroll, their account balances, or the costs associated from them re-enrolling. 

    The crux of the issue is a 2007 law that mandated all newly elected officials be placed in a less generous "defined contribution" pension plan similar to a (401)k.

    Incumbent elected officials at the time were allowed to stay in the traditional pension system, as long as they kept the same office, with the exception of lawmakers who moved between the state Senate and Assembly.

    Thus, when Redd, then a state senator and Camden councilwoman, was elected mayor in 2010, the pension she had been collecting since 1990 was frozen.

    This bill would permit those who held office continuously since July 1, 2007 to re-enroll in the system as long as they have served at least 15 years in elected office with no break in time between switching positions. 

    Assemblyman John Burzichelli, D-Gloucester -- chairman of the house's appropriations committee -- said this is simply correcting something legislators "missed" in the original law. 

    "I see this as housekeeping," Burzichelli said. "Nothing's been hidden here."

    Sweeney agreed: "It was never intended to throw people out who were elected officials. It was intended for newly elected officials. There was a line in the sand we would not accrue any more."

    The Senate voted 24-8 to pass the bill Monday, with four Republicans voting yes. The Assembly committee voted 8-2 with one abstention. 

    Both votes happened in about a minute.

    They came just five days after the Senate Budget Committee advanced the measure in about a minute, without debate, last Thursday. 

    Sweeney said there's a simple reason for the urgency: the need to correct the original law.

    "I'd like to resolve it," he said. 

    Brent Johnson may be reached at bjohnson@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @johnsb01. Find NJ.com Politics on Facebook.


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    NJ.com looks at the can't-miss, must-see dual meets, tri-meets and tournaments for the week of Dec. 19-23.


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    Seven contests stand above the rest on Tuesday, including three Top 20 games, plus a handful of local rivalries and matchups between potential state-title contenders.


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    See which players were selected as NJ.com's Player of the Week in each of N.J.'s conferences.


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    The volunteers are in their final push for donations.

    It was the sound of the bell that got the attention of 2-year-old Morgan McKeever.

    For 78-year-old Wilfred Manning, he was just following in his sister's footsteps. 

    David Rockefeller wanted to be part of the organization and help raise money. 

    What these three people -- separated by 72 years -- have in common is the desire to help those less fortunate, by volunteering their time as bell ringers for the Salvation Army.  

    These volunteers are part of a 126-year-tradition that began in 1891 when a young Salvation Army captain took his soup pot to the streets to collect money to provide Christmas dinners for those in need. 

    Today, approximately 4,000 bell ringers in New Jersey stand an average of about 36,000 hours between Black Friday and Christmas Eve seeking donations. There are about 25,000 bell ringers nationwide. 

    "I highjacked the bell and wouldn't let the bell go," said Morgan, now 6. "That's how I started." 

    Morgan and her mother Megan were walking out of a store and passed a Salvation Army Bell Ringer when Morgan asked what they were doing. The ringer responded by saying they are helping provide Christmases for those who can't. 

    From there Megan explained to her curious daughter how not everyone has the opportunity for presents and not everyone has the Christmases they do.

    "She was like, 'I am going to do this,'" said Megan

    "I thought we were just going to ring a bell once a year." 

    She thought wrong.

    This past Saturday Morgan volunteered, or stood kettle, for the second of her three stints this season near the JCPenney in the Cherry Hill Mall. With bells in hand she and other bell ringers greeted shoppers and handed out candy canes. 

    The energetic 6-year-old, who also volunteers for several other organizations, even performed an Irish step dance as shoppers passed by. 

    "I like volunteering a lot," she said before leaving to donate her time elsewhere.

    Wilfred Manning has been a member of the Salvation Army for 50 years. He started part time in 1967 and for the past 20 years has done it full-time.

    Born in Nova Scotia, Manning, who lives in Whiting, greeted shoppers as they exited the Acme in Wall Township Monday afternoon. 

    "I enjoy meeting the people, mostly," said Manning, dressed in a dark blue blazer. A tie decorated with Christmas trees peeked out from behind a red Salvation Army apron. 

    "Thank you for volunteering," said a shopper as he exited the store. 

    Manning was raised by his sister, a Salvationist, after his parents died. All her children were Salvation Army members as well, so he joined too. 

    Unlike Morgan, who dances a jig for passersby with energy to spare, Manning stands straight and greets shoppers with a smile and a "have a nice day" as they walk by.

    Manning stands kettle five days a week from 10 a.m to 5 p.m. and has raised $7,693 so far this season. 

    "It's fun. Even in the bad weather it's fun," said 65-year-old bell ringer David Rockefeller, as the low winter sun disappeared behind approaching clouds dropping the temperature a few degrees.   

    Dressed in a black winter coat and red Santa hat, Rockefeller, a Camden resident, was volunteering in front of the Walmart in Cinnaminson Monday afternoon.

    Rockefeller decided to volunteer for the Salvation Army nine years ago because he wanted to help raise money.

    "David is passionate about what The Army stands for and is extra committed to the Red Kettle Campaign," said Lieutenant Dabiel Valdes, Associate Officer from The Salvation Army Camden Kroc Center. 

    "He steals people's heart with his jokes and kindness. He will steal the store managers' hearts, and they will always ask for him the next day when he is not there."

    Rockefeller constantly talks to customers as they pass by and tries to make the them feel like part of The Army family. 

    "How ya doing princess?" he says with a smile as a young girl stops to make a donation. "Merry Christmas." 

    As the sound of the bell resonates throughout the Walmart entrance, some shoppers pass by with their heads down, walking in a brisk pace while others approach Rockefeller with a smile a mile wide as they drop money into the red kettle. 

    He says people remember him when they make donations as he volunteers at different locations. 

    But he insists he doesn't do anything. 

    The people who receive the money throughout the year might disagree. 

    Last year the Salvation Army served over 1 million meals and provided service of all kinds to over 700,000 people in the Garden State, according Major Ivan Rock, State Commander for The Salvation Army in New Jersey. 

    The money raised helps fund programs such as food, toy and clothing distribution, after school programs, emergency disaster services, shelters, soup kitchens and character building programs for children.

    Rock added that the services provided "would not be possible without the kindness and the generosity of our donors and volunteers." 

    The goal this year is just over $2 million, however, they are off pace standing at just over $1.1 million with five days until Christmas.  

    "This particular week is what's going to make or beak the campaign," said Rock. Donations usually spike the week before Christmas.

    "We have absolute faith and trust that the donors this week will step up and allow us to reach our goal."

    According to Rock, they are always struggling to fill all of their kettle locations. If you would like to volunteer you can call your local Salvation Army or visit www.salvationarmynj.org

    The Salvation Army accepts donations all year long. To make a donation you can go to their website or text njkettle to 41444.

    Tim Hawk may be reached at thawk@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @photogthawk. Find NJ.com on Facebook.


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    Take a look who led the state statistically in the first four days of the year.


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    "Olden times and ancient rhymes of love and dreams to share."

    On Dec. 9, 1965, at 7:30 p.m., television sets around the country - including a black-and-white Zenith with a beige cabinet in Vineland -- were tuned to CBS; families were curious to watch a new special, "A Charlie Brown Christmas."

    The program remains entertaining and powerful more than 50 years later. Here, thanks to mentalfloss.com, TV Guide, thefw.com and IMDB, are some obscure facts about the iconic holiday show.

    xmas1962vineland.jpgMerry Christmas from the Hatala children on Chimes Terrace in 1962 ... wait, what's up with the eyes? 

    * We're all familiar with Vince Guaraldi's jazz soundtrack for the show; it's become one of the most identifiable musical links to the holiday season. I've heard a myth that Guaraldi's music would have been forbidden, save for Charles Schulz stepping up and stating something to the effect of "It's Vince's music or no show." Actually, Schulz left the music decisions to director Lee Mendelson.

    * Schulz was instrumental in going against the long-standing tradition of hiring adult voice actors to perform children's roles in animated movies and TV shows. According to thefw.com, "Schulz wanted to bring believable voices to the characters, so the producers cast professional child actors for the roles of Charlie Brown, Linus and Lucy since they were required to recite most of the dialogue." Kathy Steinberg, the voice of Sally Brown, had not yet learned to read at the time of the production and had to be "fed" her lines a word or syllable at a time.

    MORE: Vintage photos around New Jersey

    * The broadcast was sponsored by Coca Cola, and believe it or not, there was serious consideration to have a scene with one of the characters drinking the beverage. No characters drank soda in the special, however, the first airing featured an opening scene in which Linus crashes head-on into a sign advertising Coca-Cola. The scene was cut due to expired advertising contracts and the sign was replaced with one that read "Danger."

    And some more trivia tidbits:

    * In the first show's credits, Charles Schulz's had a "t" added to his last name; none of the children who voiced the characters received credits at the end.

    * Lucy refers to Charlie Brown as "Charlie" in one scene about the commercialization of Christmas; it's the only time -- in print or subsequent specials -- she refers to him as anything but "Charlie Brown."

    * Snoopy's dog house is blue; in all subsequent specials, it's red.

    * "A Charlie Brown Christmas" pre-empted an episode of "The Munsters" and, fortunately, pulled a 50 share in the Nielsen ratings (second only to "Bonanza") or it likely would never have aired again.

    Merry Christmas! Enjoy this gallery of Christmas photos, as well as these galleries from Christmases past.

    Vintage photos of celebrating Christmas in N.J.

    More Vintage photos of celebrating the holidays in N.J.

    Vintage photos of celebrating the holidays in N.J.

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


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