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

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    These 30 towns may not have the highest average property taxes, but they do have the highest property tax rates in New Jersey.


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    Fellow firefighters had to pull him from the home in Camden County

    Authorities say a firefighter became trapped inside a southern New Jersey home while battling a blaze and had to be rescued by his colleagues.

    The fire in Mount Ephraim broke out around 5:30 a.m. Monday.

    Authorities say the firefighter was briefly trapped inside the home before he was brought to safety. He didn't appear to be seriously injured but was being evaluated as a precaution.

    The firefighter's name hasn't been disclosed. No other injuries were reported in the blaze.

    The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

    39760456_1688900287898848_4824178361460850688_n.jpgA firefighter suffered a minor injury battling a house fire in Mount Ephraim on Monday morning. (Oaklyn Fire Department)
     

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    The 30 strikers to watch entering the 2018 season.


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    Check out the games to keep an eye on at the tail end of the summer.


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    Police launched a manhunt for three men accused in shooting of Camden County police detectives, who authorities say were shot in an unprovoked attack. Watch video

    The two remaining men sought in the ambush shooting of two police detectives in Camden were taken into custody Tuesday, authorities said.

    Ammar Hall, 26, and Alexander DeJesus, 19, were arrested in Philadelphia's Kensington section without incident, according to Chief Scott Thomson, of the Camden County Police Department. 

    DeJesus dyed his hair blonde to avoid capture, Thomson told reporters at a news conference.

    "But that didn't seem to work out too well for him," the chief said.

    Members of the U.S. Marshals Service arrested the pair about an hour apart in different locations, according to officials. Hall was found on a street corner while authorities captured DeJesus at a house.

    Hall, of Camden, DeJesus, of Philadelphia, and Juan M. Figueroa, 20, of Camden, were charged with attempted murder, conspiracy to commit attempted murder, aggravated assault and weapons offenses in the Aug. 7 attack on the Camden County police detectives.

    "The Philadelphia-Camden region is significantly safer with these criminals in custody. It was inspiring to see the community and law enforcement come together on these arrests," Thomson said in a statement on Twitter.

    Authorities apprehended Figueroa Saturday in Gloucester City after a plea for help from the public to find the accused attackers and manhunt involving state, local and federal law enforcement officials.

    The plainclothes officers, a man and a woman, were stopped at a red light near Broadway and Mount Vernon when the shooters emerged from a nearby vehicle and opened fire, according to police. The assailants fired more than a dozen rounds at the detectives in the undercover vehicle.

    One detective was able to return fire during the attack, Thomson said after the shooting.

    Police previously said a motive for the shooting was unclear. Both detectives were working in plainclothes as part of an anti-violence effort in the city and not actively responding to a crime.

    "Maybe [the attackers] did know they were police officers and that's the reason why they did it. Maybe they thought they were somebody else. We'll find that out as the investigation unfolds," Thomson, the police chief, previously said.

    Both wounded officers were released from the hospital last week. 

    "Physically they are doing better, but I'm sure as you can image they still have a very long road to go," the chief said. "Tonight's arrest does help a bit in that process." 

    Police did not release the names of the officers, citing their undercover assignments.

    Hall and DeJesus were being held by Philadelphia police ahead of extradition to Camden County.

    "Make no mistake about it, they will be brought to Jersey and they will face justice on this side of the river," the chief added.

    Noah Cohen may be reached at ncohen@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @noahycFind NJ.com on Facebook.


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    The state's top QBs over the last three decades


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    Atlantic City Electric is seeking a new rate increase after Board of Public Utilities denied a previous request in June.

    Some electric customers in South Jersey may be seeing an increase in their electric bill soon.

    Atlantic City Electric announced Tuesday it had submitted a $109.3 million rate review filing to the state Board of Public Utilities (BPU).  The utility company says if approved, the average resident who uses 679 kilowatt hours a month would pay $11.51 more monthly, a 9.55 percent increase.

    Atlantic City Electric spokesman Frank Tedesco said one reason the utility company needs the rate increase is for infrastructure improvements such as modernizing the local energy grid. Tedesco also said declining sales and depreciation costs associated with aging assets were some of the other factors.

    "I want to reassure to our customers, and our communities that we continue to perform the essential work necessary to meet their energy needs and the same commitment resulted in record service reliability for customers as early as last year," Tedesco said to NJ Advance Media.

    Tedesco added the utility company had requested a rate increase June 15, but the BPU dismissed the increase July 25 due to an insufficiency of actual data in the request.

    The original request had three months of actual spend and a projected nine-month spend. In Tuesday's filing, all of the elements of the initial filing submitted in June, but resubmitting with the six months of actual data and six months of forecasted data.

    BPU spokesman Peter Peretzman confirmed the board had received Atlantic City Electric's new filing yesterday.

    "The board will make a determination on whether this matter will be sent to the office of Administrative Law or heard by a presiding commissioner," Peretzman said. " Board staff will analyze the petition, including the supporting data and will engage in discovery with the parties."    

    Chris Franklin can be reached at cfranklin@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @cfranklinnews. Find NJ.com on FacebookHave a tip? Tell us. nj.com/tips

     

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    And hopefully not a 'slow burn.'

    Vaudeville is the name given to a genre of variety entertainment that flourished in North America from the early 1880s until the early 1930s. Programs could include singers, dancers, actors performing Shakespeare, magicians and the form of entertainment remembered most from the period, comedy.

    Kenneth McIntyre 1938 ac.jpgThe Three Stooges clown with model Barbara Bradford Mann in Atlantic City in 1938. 

    Acts like the Marx Brothers, Ritz Brothers and George Burns and Gracie Allen got their start in vaudeville, as did the Three Stooges, who would epitomize the genre known as 'slapstick' comedy

    Slapstick: split a long stick or strip of wood down the middle but not all the way; when hitting another performer with it, a loud striking sound is made without causing (too much) pain to the strike.  (source: seattleshakespeare.org)

    MORE: Vintage photos around New Jersey

    Because the comedians were performing to a large audience that might not be maintaining respectful silence, their volume was loud and motions were exaggerated. One of the most well-known comedic motions would be the double-take:

    Double-take: looking at something or someone, coming to sudden realization, then looking at it again in surprise.       (source: goodmagic.com)

    Hopefully, some of these photos might also make you come to a realization and look again in surprise. And below are links to some other galleries you'll enjoy.

    Vintage photos from N.J. that might make you do a double-take

    Vintage photos of 'sketchy' N.J. activities

    Vintage N.J. photos that deserve a second look

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


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    He's a hockey and ball hockey coach in Gloucester and Camden counties. Watch video

    A local hockey coach and camp counselor has been charged with asking a 12-year-old camper to send him pictures of her in her underwear.

    Justin Maska, 23, of National Park, exchanged messages with the girl, asking for the photos and "engaging in sexually explicit conversations about what he wanted to do to" her, according to a complaint against him in Deptford Municipal Court.

    Deptford police wrote in the complaint that the offenses happened on Aug. 15 and he was arrested Wednesday.

    He faces charges of cyber harassment for allegedly sending or soliciting obscene material and endangering the welfare of a child that he had a legal duty to care for, because he was a camp counselor and she was a camper, according to police.

    The complaint did not say the name of the camp, and police declined to provide it Thursday. Attempts to reach Maska's family at his home were unsuccessful.

    Maska faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted on the charges.

    During a Thursday afternoon Superior Court appearance via video connection from Salem County Correctional Facility, Judge Robert Becker agreed to release Maska pending future court dates after prosecutors did not seek to have him detained pending trial.

    Under terms of his release, Becker ordered him to check in with court personnel every other week, and that Maska have no contact with the alleged victim.

    "There is to be no contact with the victim directly or indirectly," Becker instructed. "That means no phone calls, no texting, no computer communication. If you own carrier pigeons, no carrier pigeon messages. I don't say that to be funny. It's to impress upon you any contact whatsoever in any method will be a violation."

    Maska is also prohibited from any unsupervised contact with other minors who are not his siblings.

    Maska said little during the hearing, apart from politely answering the judge's questions.

    He will return to court Oct. 4 for a pre-indictment conference.

    His attorney, Jon M. DeMasi, declined to comment about the case following the hearing.

    Maska is a hockey player and coach in the Gloucester and Camden County area. According to his social media profiles, he coached various youth hockey and ball hockey teams. A Gofundme page he started earlier this year raised money so he could travel to the World Ball Hockey Federation junior championships in Slovakia as an assistant coach for the U.S. team.

    According to the Gofundme page, he has also coached the Bellmawr Cadet team and helps run the Gloucester Township men's ball hockey league and the West Deptford Street Hockey League.

    "Justin gives countless hours of his own time to many leagues around the New Jersey area," the page said. "He's helped organize charity tournaments for families in need over the last 5 years, as well as volunteered his time reffing for multiple leagues in NJ."

    His Facebook page said he works as a scorekeeper at Virtua Center Flyers Skate Zone rink in Voorhees.

    Staff writer Matt Gray contributed to this article.

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

    Have a tip? Tell us. nj.com/tips


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    The shooting was in broad daylight in Camden.

    Authorities in Camden are investigating the fatal shooting of a 46-year-old mother who was shot inside her car in the city Aug. 11.

    Michelle Huelas, 46, is described as a mother of five and a grandmother to two in her obituary.

    The Camden County Prosecutor's Office said in a press release Wednesday that Huelas' husband -- listed in her obituary as Richard Huelas -- flagged down a Camden County police officer at Broadway and Kaighns Avenue just before 4 p.m. on Aug. 11. He told them his wife had been shot inside their vehicle.

    She was rushed to Cooper University Hospital, but was pronounced dead at 4:20 p.m., the release said.

    The prosecutor's office kept the death quiet for 12 days, saying only that they couldn't release any information earlier due to the nature of the investigation.

    Alexandra McVeigh, a spokeswoman for the prosecutor, said, "There were some actions in the investigation that prevented us from releasing it sooner." She did not provide a more detailed explanation.

    The Camden County Prosecutor's Office usually releases information about homicides within 24 hours, as state law requires law enforcement to provide basic information about such incidents after the family is notified.

    The prosecutor's office listed Huelas' address as Burlington Township but her obituary said she lived in Buena Vista Township in Atlantic County.

    Anyone with information is urged to contact Camden County Prosecutor's Office Detective Andrew McNeil at (856) 225-8407 or Camden County Police Detective Shawn Donlon at (856) 757-7420.

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

    Have a tip? Tell us. nj.com/tips


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    Summer is almost over, but there's still time to fit these trips and events in before fall is here.


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    The 18-month turnaround plan so far includes hiring 220 people, recruiting new executives, and spending $23 million to make the hospitals safer.

    Staffing was so low at Ann Klein Forensic Center, New Jersey's psychiatric facility for patients with criminal histories, patients were routinely and unnecessarily locked inside their rooms overnight and for hours during shift changes. 

    On his first day on the job in January, State Health Department Commissioner Shereef Elnahal told NJ Advance Media the Mercer County facility was on the verge of losing its national accreditation from The Joint Commission -- the independent stamp of approval verifying a hospital is safe and functioning properly -- if the "lock-ins" didn't stop and other safety risks were not fixed.

    On Friday, Elnahal explained how the department averted the crisis at Ann Klein, and detailed a multi-million-dollar 18-month turnaround plan all four publicly funded psychiatric facilities serving 1,453 patients.

    The changes include:

    • Hiring 220 new employees, including about 90 at Ann Klein to end the reliance on lockdowns, and 37 at Greystone
    • Appointing Tomika Carter, formerly of Bellevue Hospital in New York, as CEO at Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital in Parsippany, the most populated of the four facilities where overcrowding and assaults escalated a year ago
    • Reducing the patient population at all facilities by 57 people from January to July
    • Committing $23 million to capital improvement projects to improve building safety

    Christie spends $740K to audit psychiatric hospitals after safety complaints

    "As any hospital CEO will tell you, it takes time to improve the quality and safety of care in hospitals," said Elnahal, who worked U.S. Veteran's Administration hospitals during the Obama administration. "Nevertheless, we are laser focused on achieving sustainable improvements for patients and family members."

    The state's strategy is guided in part by a consultant's report, also released Friday, which described how the hospitals have deteriorated due to financial neglect, stifling bureaucracy and a lack of focus on treatment.

    "There is a palpable sense of futility that permeates all the institutions that is not compatible with a culture of recovery, hopefulness or empowerment for patients," according to an executive summary of the report by New Solutions, Inc. of New Brunswick. "Nor does this this culture of futility offer a rewarding working environment for staff or management."

    Gov. Chris Christie spent $740,500 to hire New Solutions in the final days of his administration in response to months of criticism from Greystone's board of trustees and news coverage about the hospital's dwindling medical and executive staff, overcrowding and escalating violent episodes.

    Christie also fired the entire volunteer board which brought the hospital's problems to light.

    New Solutions identified a problem with the lack of interaction between patients and psychiatrists, noting, "acute patients are only seen weekly and chronic patients seen monthly." 

    The relationships between nurses and patients are nearly as remote, the consultant's report said.

    "With few exceptions, there was no evidence that nursing staff had working relationships with patients or that they knew that this was important," the report said.

    According to the health department's "action plan," also released on Friday, New Solutions "present a picture of a hospital system that has been under-resourced, understaffed, and otherwise afflicted with a culture that has not prioritized the system's role in achieving patient-centered clinical care delivery." 

    Led by Deputy Commissioner Deborah Hartel, a 37-year hospital administrator appointed in April, and Assistant Commissioner Valerie Mielke, the commissioner said the department will operate the institutions like a regional hospital network. They will share treatment strategies and create policies to more effectively manage the workforce of nearly 5,000. 

    Elnahal said recruiting and retaining staff has been and remains a challenge, in part because state government often cannot compete with private-sector salaries and the civil-service structure of hiring is a slow process.

    "Our goal is to create a hospital system with a culture of care that is top-notch a mission that is appealing," he said.

    Progress is evident already, state health officials.

    At Greystone, the patient census is 486, 62 fewer patients than last August. Across all hospitals, there was an 11 percent decline in patient assaults in the first quarter of 2018 compared to the first quarter of 2017. The department did not make aggregate numbers available.

    Hartel said recruitment efforts are paying off to hire psychiatrists and top medical executives at Greystone and Ancora Psychiatric Hospital in Winslow Township, Hartel said. Additionally, there are 10 nursing hires "in the queue."

    Sen Richard Codey, D-Essex, who has made improving the psychiatric hospitals a focus of his 36-year political career, said he was briefed on the reports and the Murphy administration's turnaround plan.

    "They are headed in the direction in the right direction, and I hope they don't stop," Codey said.

    The four institutions are Greystone, Ancora, Ann Klein Forensic Center, which is on the campus of Trenton Psychiatric Hospital located in Ewing and Trenton.

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

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    The popular coach was arrested Wednesday. Watch video

    The hockey coach and camp counselor charged with sending explicit messages to a 12-year-old camper was immediately fired when the Deptford Skating Center Summer Day Camp staff learned of the incident, the camp told parents.

    Justin Maska, 23, of National Park, was arrested Wednesday after he sent messages to a female camper, asking for a photo of her in her underwear and telling her "what he wanted to do to" her, police wrote in their criminal complaint. 

    The incident allegedly occurred Aug. 15 and he was arrested a week later. Parents whose children attend the Deptford Skating Center Summer Day Camp were not informed until Thursday, after NJ Advance Media reported on Maska's arrest.

    Calls and emails to the camp and rink staff have not been returned.

    It's not clear how the investigation started, but the camp told parents that its staff contacted authorities when they were informed of the messages.

    The letter, obtained by NJ Advance Media, does not mention the sexual nature of the communication from Maska, saying only that it took place over social media:

    "Dear Parents,
    You're entitled to know a recent news report that involved a counselor at an unnamed camp was at the DSC Summer Day Camp. The extent of his misbehavior was to attempt to talk to one camper through social media. As soon as we learned of this incident the counselor was terminated and law enforcement was contacted. We are pleased to know that no one was harmed, and the parents of the camper has (sic) seen fit to allow them to return to camp. We regret this unfortunate incident but look forward to finishing up the summer season..."

    Maska faces charges of cyber harassment for allegedly sending or soliciting obscene material and endangering the welfare of a child by impairing the morals of a child who he had a legal duty to care for.

    His lawyer, Jon M. DiMasi, declined to comment Thursday.  

    After prosecutors did not ask for him to be detained, a judge released Maska on conditions including that he have no contact with the victim or unsupervised contact with anyone under 18 other than his siblings.

    Maska has coached numerous youth league hockey and hockey ball teams and played in adult leagues in the Gloucester and Camden County area. Earlier this summer, he was an assistant coach for the U.S. youth team at the World Ball Hockey Federation junior championships in Slovakia, according to a Gofundme page he created.

    Calls and emails to the organizers of several leagues were not returned Thursday or Friday.

    His Facebook page said he worked as a scorekeeper at Virtua Center Flyers Skate Zone rink in Voorhees.

    Staff Writer Matt Gray contributed to this report.

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

    Have a tip? Tell us. nj.com/tips


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    The baby girl died at an area hospital after police found her unconscious, according to prosecutors.

    A 20-year-old man is accused of killing his girlfriend's 8-month-old daughter under his care in Gloucester Township, authorities said Friday.

    Ah'ree Stanley-Nellom faces one count of first-degree murder in the death, according to the Camden County Prosecutor's Office.

    Emergency crews on Thursday rushed to a 9-1-1 call reporting the baby was unresponsive at a South Black Horse Pike home, where responders discovered the girl unconscious in the mother's bedroom, the prosecutor's office said.

    The infant later succumbed to her injuries at Jefferson Hospital in Washington Township, according to authorities. An autopsy determined the fatality was a homicide, but prosecutors did not reveal a cause of death.

    Stanley-Nellom was being held at the Camden County jail ahead of a detention hearing. It was not clear if the Blackwood resident had an attorney.

    Noah Cohen may be reached at ncohen@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @noahycFind NJ.com on Facebook.

     

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    The first-degree charge is called strict liability for a drug-induced death. It comes with a maximum sentence of 20 years behind bars.


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    Police have charged 19-year-old Caribe Sewell with the murder.

    A 19-year-old Camden man is facing a number of charges after police identified him as the alleged shooter in the death of a 26-year-old woman, according to authorities.

    Caribe Sewell was arrested for first-degree murder, possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose and unlawful possession of a weapon, Camden County Prosecutor Eva Colalillo and Camden County Police Chief Scott Thomson said in a press release.

    Sewell's relationship to the victim, Chontay Green of Ogdensburg, was not specified by officials. 

    Camden County Correctional Facility is where Sewell will be until his next court date on Sept. 10, according to the release. 

    Back in February, police arrived at the scene in the 1700 block of Tioga Street at 9:19 a.m. after receiving reports of a dead woman on the street. 

    Green was found unconscious with a single gunshot wound and pronounced deceased at 12:22 p.m.

    Taylor Tiamoyo Harris may be reached at tharris@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @ladytiamoyo.

    Find NJ.com on Facebook.

     

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