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Local Headlines Archives for 2013-02

Father of slain child: Ban assault weapons

Fighting tears, the father of one of the first graders slain at Sandy Hook Elementary School is calling on the the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee to ban assault weapons.  Neil Heslin yesterday urged lawmakers to consider the prohibition for his son, Jesse, who was 6 years old.

 

He said no person should have to go through what he's going through or what the town of Newtown is dealing with.  Heslin, a 50-year-old construction worker, said he supports the right to bear arms, and backs sportsmen.  But he noted that the Second Amendment wasn't written about today's assault weapons, they had muskets and cannons.  He says the Second Amendment hasn't been well regulated and it needs to be.

 

Danbury Hospital Emergency Room Director William Begg also testified yesterday.  He said countries with strong gun control measures lower the chance of gun deaths.

 

"The damage caused by an assault rifle compared to a handgun is horrific .  And many of those folks don't even show up in my E.R. because the injuries are so bad, there's nothing salvageable."

 

Begg was on duty December 14th and said tearfully that banning assault weapons would have made a difference.

 

"To the families, whose loved ones actually made it to the E.R., we all tried our best."

 

Begg received applause when he called the massacre in Newtown a tipping point and called on the Senate to make the right decision.

 

"People say the overall number of assault weapon deaths is relatively small, but please don't tell that to the people of Tucson or Aurora or Columbine or Virginia Tech, and don't tell that to the people of Newtown."

 

 

Heslin says it’s all about Jesse, that being in the national spotlight is a burden on him, but he has to do it for his little boy.  He described that Friday morning.

 

"It was 9:04 when I dropped Jesse off.  Jesse gave me a hug and a kiss, said goodbye 'I love you'.  He stopped and said 'I love mom too'.  That was the last I saw of Jesse. ...I can still feel that hug and pat on the back.  He said 'everything's going to be ok, everything's going to be ok'.  And it wasn't."

 

Jesse was hit by one bullet grazing the side of his head, another hitting his forehead.  In his prepared Senate testimony, Heslin said he’s been told the last thing his son did was look Adam Lanza straight in the face and scream to his classmates to run.  He added that the last thing Jesse saw "was the coward’s eyes".

 

Heslin also told the Senate committee about the night of December 14th.

 

"I waited in that firehouse until 1 o'clock in the morning...til I knew Jesse was confirmed dead."

 

Heslin teared up again saying the day his son was born was the happiest day of his life and December 14th was the worst day of his life.

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Senate panel hearing from Newtown father, doctor

WASHINGTON (AP) Neil Heslin says it's all about his slain son, Jesse.

The 50-year-old construction worker is in Washington to testify to the Senate Judiciary Committee today in support of legislation by Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California to ban assault weapons.

Heslin says he's gotten involved because of his boy, who was one of 20 first-graders and six staffers who were fatally shot at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

Other witnesses include William Begg, an emergency room doctor who treated Newtown victims that day.

Across the Capitol, the House Education and Workforce Committee plans to hear from school safety experts and counselors about how to keep students safe. Witnesses before the Republican-controlled House panel are expected to emphasize the role of school resource officers, who are sometimes armed.

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9/11 victim's mom upset film used son's last words

NEW CANAAN, Conn. (AP) A Connecticut woman whose son died in the Sept. 11 attacks at the World Trade Center says she's upset the Oscar-winning movie ``Zero Dark Thirty'' used a recording of his last words without her permission.

Mary Fetchet of New Canaan tells the Daily News that she was shocked the filmmakers didn't ask if they could use the voicemail her son, Bradley Fetchet, left on her phone while he was on the 89th floor of the World Trade Center's south tower.

The movie about the manhunt for Osama bin Laden begins with the voices of 9/11 victims making their last phone calls.

Sony Pictures Entertainment says in a statement that the filmmakers contacted several relatives of 9/11 victims about using the voice recordings.

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Gun violence families to call for new Conn. laws

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) Connecticut lawmakers are being urged to pass legislation to stop urban gun violence.

Family members of gun violence victims in the cities are scheduled Wednesday to call on the General Assembly to close loopholes that allow illegal guns to flow into urban areas.

The family members are expected to join legislators and law enforcement leaders for a news conference at the Legislative Office Building. They are urging support of various gun violence measures proposed by Connecticut Against Gun Violence, which is organizing the event.

Lawmakers have been focusing for weeks on reducing gun violence, especially in schools, following the Dec. 14 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown that left 20 first graders and six educators dead. A subcommittee is working on a package of recommended gun law changes.

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United Way defends Newtown donations process

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) The United Way says in response to concerns by the daughter of a Newtown, Conn., school shooting victim a new nonprofit group overseeing donations is getting input from victims' families on how to distribute the money.

Cristina Lafferty Hassinger posted on her Facebook page the families are being asked for proof of hardship before the smallest disbursements are issued. She wrote her mother, principal Dawn Hochsprung, was shot dead trying to protect students and staff and the families ``shouldn't have to fight for what is rightfully'' theirs.

United Way of Western Connecticut said Tuesday a one-page form is used for those seeking help with immediate needs. It says the families met last week with the board of the new foundation, which is overseeing distribution from a larger fund established by the United Way.

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Newtown Supt. says she plans to take new job

NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) The head of the Connecticut school district where a gunman killed 20 elementary school students and six faculty members reportedly intends to take another job.

Newtown Schools Superintendent Janet Robinson intends to accept an offer from the Stratford School District to become its new superintendent as of July 1.

Robinson said the Stratford school board is scheduled to meet Wednesday to formally offer her the job, ``and I will accept.'' She was speaking from California, where she's attending a national conference of school administrators.

Robinson has been praised for her leadership after the Dec. 14 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, but has clashed with the school board leadership during her five years in the job. She previously was superintendent in Derby.

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Conn. consider creating video game task force

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) Connecticut lawmakers are considering legislation that would create a new state task force to study the effects of violent video games on youth behavior.

The bill would establish the proposed Violent Video Game Task Force within the Department of Children and Families.

The panel would representatives from DCF, other state agencies and the General Assembly. Members would have until Oct. 14 to make recommendations to the legislature and the governor on ways to reduce the effects of violent video games on youths.

The legislature's Children's Committee is scheduled to discuss the bill during a public hearing today.

Adam Lanza, the 20-year-old who killed 20 first graders and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School, played violent video games but it's still unclear what lead to the massacre.

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Newtown looks to fill Superintendent position, 3 principalships

Newtown First Selectman Pat Llodra says she just learned Monday that Superintendent of Schools Janet Robinson was leaving for Stratford to become their new school superintendent . The two helped lead Newtown through the turmoil after the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Pat Llodra says its been a tough ride for Robinson, but she is pleased for her.

Robinson has won national acclaim for her leadership since December 14th, but she clashed repeatedly with the leadership of the Board of Education.  Llodra says besides the shooting, Robinson had to deal with a number of budget battles and push through the addition to the High School.

 

The School District is not only challenged with finding a new Superintendent.  Llodra says there are three principal position that need filling.  While she says no one could have predicted the vacancy at Sandy Hook Elementary, the retirements at Reed Intermediate School and Newtown Middle School were planned.

 

Llodra says she is confident in the educations in the system and some from outside Newtown that will continue the district's path to excellence.

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Some elected officials surprised by timing of Gov.'s gun proposals

Governor Dannel Malloy surprised some people on Thursday when he made his own set of proposals in response to the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.  Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton doesn't agree with the timing.  If the ideas were presented in January, Boughton says the task force could then hear from experts, add their own thoughts and come up with a compromise proposal.

 

He says the Governor is disrupting a process he's already set in motion and that the proposals should have been made at the start of the task force process.

 

Boughton added that it seems like Malloy is usurping the process that the Governor himself created.

 

Malloy's proposals include an immediate ban high-capacity ammunition magazines, requiring background checks for the transfer of any firearm and the expansion of the state's assault weapons ban.

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Conn. lawmakers to discuss death certificate bill

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) Connecticut lawmakers are scheduled to hear testimony on the last of three bills attempting to limit the release of personal information from death certificates to the public.

All three bills stem from the Dec. 14 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.

The third bill, favored by Newtown Town Clerk Debbie Aurelia, would make sure personal identifying information is not included on death certificates when requested by members of the public not associated with the family, the funeral home or the deceased parents.

It will be the subject of a public hearing before the legislature's Public Health Committee on Wednesday.

But unlike the other two bills, which address death certificates, the third bill would also apply to marriage certificates.

Both open records advocates and genealogists oppose the bills.

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Sandy Hook Community Foundation created, board named

A five person board of directors has been named to oversee the nonprofit foundation created to distribute nearly $10 million donated to the Newtown community.  The Newtown-Sandy Hook Community Foundation is tasked with evaluating requests and suggestions for money donated to the fund established by the United Way of Western Connecticut and Newtown Savings Bank. 

 

The foundation will also help smaller charities that may need administrative assistance.

 

Danbury Hospital chair of psychiatry Charles Herrick is one of the board members.  The Sandy Hook resident says the grieving process is a long one.

 

The other board members are Robert Weiss of St. Rose of Lima Church, Newtown attorney Anne Ragusa; former Newtown finance director Benjamin Spragg and DiCandido, president of a New Milford aerospace company.

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Norwalk man who lost son to gun violence meets VP

NORWALK, Conn. (AP) A Norwalk man who lost his son to gun violence says he took advantage of a meeting last week with Vice President Joe Biden and other officials to mention the toll that shootings are taking on Connecticut's inner cities.

Amos Brown met the vice president during his visit last week to Danbury for a conference on gun violence.

Brown told The Hour of Norwalk that he talked about a need for action in a discussion with officials including Biden, U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy and other victims of gun violence. He said cities may not have suffered a tragedy on the scale of the Newtown school shooting but the death toll in inner cities is steadily climbing.

Brown's son, Amos Brown Jr., was killed in 2010.

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Animal lover killed at Sandy Hook Elementary honored by PETA

A 6-year old who would ask animals to tell their friends that she is kind is being honored by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, PETA.  Catherine Hubbard's name is being added to a memorial garden monument.

 

 

PETA says it's honoring the girl who was killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School for her thoughtful, introspective hope that all animals would feel welcome and safe with her.

 

To honor Catherine, PETA is inscribing a leaf on the Tree of Life monument at its Norfolk, Virginia, headquarters:

 

IN LOVING MEMORY OF

CATHERINE VIOLET HUBBARD

FRIEND TO ALL ANIMALS

 

 

Catherine loved to have butterflies land on her. Her parents are asking that donations in Catherine's honor be made to The Animal Center in Newtown, an organization that rescues homeless animals and provides them with foster care.  The money will be used to build the Catherine Violet Hubbard Animal Sanctuary, where children can visit and learn about animals rescued from abusive situations.

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Acts of Kindness mark birthday of slain first grader

Yesterday would have been Charlotte Bacon's 7th birthday.  She was among the 20 first graders who were killed on December 14th. 

 

 

To celebrate her birthday, Charlotte's parents and brother were on hand when the first Charlotte Bacon Act of Kindness Awards were presented.  The event last night at the Healing Arts Center in Newtown was attended by about 100 people, including girls from Ohio and Wisconsin who were presented with the award.  

 

 

First grader Sara Casey, from Ohio led her class in creating a Kindness Quilt.  Wisconsin elementary schooler Ariana Pensy, whose essay encouraged others to "fill buckets" of love for those around them.  Newtown fifth graders Natalie Horn, Lindsay Dievert and Shannon Jackman, who founded a "Chain of Love" by mailing paper hearts around the world and   documenting their journey.  Monroe students Alyson Oleyar and Laura Crowley, creators of the Cool Kids Care Carnival.  'Kindest Heart in Texas' student Caren Ulcak.  'The Cousins That Care,' a young family of fundraisers from California.  Sonali and Mano Ranaweera, a brother and sister from California who have led efforts for recycling and donations for cleft lip surgeries.  Marcus and Andreas Josaitas, two brothers from California who save their allowance money to donate to worthy causes.
 

 

The award and it's related organization, NewtownKindness.org, was created by the parents of a girl who was friends with Charlotte and wanted to honor her daily acts of kindness.

 

Charlotte's father said his family has received so many acts of kindness, encouragement, love, support and generosity during these difficult days.

 

“We have heard from so many friends (old and new), neighbors, community members, and even strangers from not just our nation but from around the world. It is our hope to continue this mission to encourage others, be kind to others, spread love and hope to one another. The habits of good deeds, especially developed in children, will have an immensely powerful and positive influence in our future generations.”

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Conn. mulls death certificate limits after Newtown

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) A town clerk says she's been inundated with media requests for copies of death certificates of the victims of the Newtown, Conn., school shootings and believes much of that information should not be released to the public.

Town Clerk Debbie Aurelia says she's concerned that details such as where the children are buried and their mothers' maiden names will be misused. She says families have been threatened and intimidated since the Dec. 14 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Aurelia said her office has not yet released any requested death certificates.

Several related bills have been proposed. On Friday, the Government Administration and Elections Commission heard testimony on one bill exempting death certificates of minors from public disclosure for 10 years.

Both open records advocates and genealogists oppose such legislation.

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In Danbury, Biden urges action on gun control

Members of Connecticut Congressional delegation called a gathering at Western Connecticut State University yesterday a summit of hope.  When it comes to making sure policy changes happen in the wake of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary, they said this time is different because the country is determined to make a difference. 

 

Vice President Joe Biden was the keynote speaker of the forum.  He had a message for members of Congress who talk of political risks.

 

"If you're concerned about your political survival, you should be concerned with the survival of our children...I believe the price to be paid politically would be to those who refuse to act."

 

 

Senator Richard Blumenthal said the unspeakable horror that happened in Newtown has given way to tremendous momentum to curb gun violence.  

 

Biden says the strongest voices in the debate about gun control reforms will be from the people who have lost loved ones to gun violence.

 

"We can't remain silent.  We have to speak for all those voices.  We have to speak for those 20 beautiful children who died 69 days ago 12 miles from here.  They can't speak for themselves.  We have to speak for the voices of those six adults who died trying to save the children in their care that day who can't speak for themselves.  We have to speak for the 1,900 people who have died at the other end of a gun just since Sandy Hook in this country."

 

Biden is recommending there be universal background checks for gun purchases, a limit to magazine capacity, a new federal gun trafficking statute and more police on the street among other changes.  He also wants to ban assault weapons.

 

A sportsman invited to the forum, Dom Basile said everything that was done on December 14th by Adam Lanza was covered under current laws.  He said if mother Nancy Lanza had secured her guns, things might have turned out differently.  Governor Dannel Malloy said while he has a great respect for the 2nd amendment, with every right comes a certain amount of responsibility.  He agreed that there should be stronger gun storage requirements.

 

Biden had a message for those opposed to a new ban on assault weapons, noting that they are not for protection or for recreation.

 

"These assault weapons are unnecessary and dangerous weapons that put our law enforcement personnel at risk.  I hear it from one community to another.  You're being outgunned...it's not just about protecting the community, but protecting the people who protect the community as well."

 

Mental health experts, school personnel and family of gun violence victims were among the panel members at the forum.

 

"The answer isn't to arm our teachers.  The answer is to arm our teachers with information, so they can recognize the warning signs of mental illness" said Biden.

 

Senator Chris Murphy led the discussion about mental health and school safety initiatives.  He pointed out that someone with a mental illness was more likely to be the subject of violence than to commit a violent act.

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Llodra: The time is now to prevent another tragedy

Newtown's First Selectman received a standing ovation when she addressed the conference yesterday headlined by Vice President Biden.

 

First Selectman Pat Llodra called on state and federal officials to not let the tragedy in Newtown become the latest in too long of a list of violent events that don't result in meaningful action.  She says the events of December 14th galvanized the world's attention unlike any other event in recent history.

 

Llodra says the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School came upon Newtown with a vengeance and showed the world that gun violence can happen anywhere.  She says the changes needed are not too complex or too difficult to achieve.  She called on state and federal lawmakers to take action.

 

Many of the speakers at yesterday's conference praised Llodra for her courage in the face of such a horrific event.

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Malloy's Newtown panel to hear from trauma experts

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) The 16-member commission created by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy to review the Newtown school shooting is planning to hear from experts in trauma services and school crisis.

The superintendent of schools and recovery coordinator for the Aurora, Colo. public school system will be among those scheduled to testify before the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission on Friday. Aurora was the site of last summer's theater shooting.

Various Connecticut commissioners are expected to appear, as well as an assistant dean and clinical professor at the University of Southern California School of Social Work and the director of the Psychological Services Center and Trauma Response Team of the doctoral psychology program at Long Island University.

Malloy's commission is reviewing current policy and making recommendations on school safety, mental health and gun violence prevention.

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Conn. bill would exempt child death certificates

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) A state lawmaker whose district includes a portion of Newtown has proposed a bill exempting the death certificates of minors from public disclosure for 10 years.

The bill is scheduled for a public hearing on Friday before the legislature's Government Administration and Elections Committee.

The Public Health Committee held a hearing earlier this week on a similar bill that's supported by the three state representatives whose districts include Newtown, site of the Sandy Hook School shooting that left 20 first graders and six educators dead.

That bill would allow officials to restrict access to the death certificates of children when it would likely cause an undue hardship for the family of the child. The Newtown town clerk said she's been inundated by media seeking certificates for the Sandy Hook victims.

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Newtown school chief sees extended stay in Monroe

NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) Newtown's schools superintendent says Sandy Hook Elementary School probably cannot find another home by the start of the next school year as suitable as the school now used in Monroe.

The previously vacant Chalk Hill Middle School in Monroe has been used since last December's shooting rampage that killed 20 children and six educators. It was renamed Sandy Hook Elementary to provide continuity for students, parents and staff. Superintendent Janet Robinson says Monroe could not be better hosts.

A decision has not been made about whether Sandy Hook students will return to Chalk Hill for the 2013-14 school year.

The Connecticut Post reports that Newtown has spent at least $90,000 renovating Chalk Hill.

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Conn. panel reaches consensus on school security

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) A legislative subcommittee reviewing school security measures after the Newtown school shooting plans to recommend that local school safety and security plans meet basic minimum requirements. Those plans would be submitted to state officials for review.

The panel is also recommending the state allocate extra funds to help school districts pay for security measures such as reinforced entryways with ballistic glass, security cameras and buzzer systems.

The school security subcommittee of the General Assembly's Bipartisan Task Force on Gun Violence Prevention and Children's Safety, agreed on Tuesday to a list of consensus recommendations to legislative leaders. Those ideas will be considered for a final package of reforms, to be voted on by the full legislature, likely next month.

The subcommittee did not agree to require more school safety officers.

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Danbury group wants Sandy Hook tyragedy to be a call to action

A resolution has been passed by the Danbury Democratic Town Committee and other DTC's across the state in support of gun law reforms. 

 

Danbury DTC chairman Joe DaSilva Junior says as a parent of two young children, he wants the tragedy that happened at Sandy Hook Elementary to be a call to action. 

 

He says there's no reason why the Constitution can't be respected while ensuring all gun owners pass a background check and that weapons are properly registered.  He also called for a ban of assault weapons and high capacity magazines that he says serve no legitimate sporting purpose.

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Lawmakers discuss state work on gun control reforms

During a "town hall" meeting organized by the Newtown Action Alliance, lawmakers will discuss crimes involving firearms and the work of the state legislature's Bipartisan Task Force on Gun Violence Prevention and Children's Safety.

 

The lawmakers who will be at Newown High School tonight include state Reps. Mitch Bolinsky, Dan Carter and Lonnie Reed and state Sen. John McKinney.

 

They will also discuss the committee's working groups on gun violence, mental health and school security.

The meeting will be held at the Lecture hall of Newtown High School from 7pm to 9pm.

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Newtown families form tight bonds with troopers

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) As the family of slain Sandy Hook school psychologist Mary Sherlach mourned her death, Trooper Orlando "Lonny" Mo was the one who brought back her car and personal belongings. He escorted her husband and daughters to a meeting with the president, he answered the door at the family's house, and at the funeral he embraced her husband, Bill Sherlach, who told Mo he was like a brother.

 

Mo's detail with the family ended on the day of the funeral service, but only officially. Like many of his fellow troopers tasked with aiding the families of the Newtown massacre victims, he has stayed in close contact with those he helped through some of their darkest days.

 

"Our trooper liaison, Trooper Lonny Mo, is now and will forever be a part of our family," Bill Sherlach said. "I still get phone calls, `How are you doing, what is going on?'"

 

In a first-of-its-kind program, Connecticut State Police assigned troopers and some local officers to each victim's family following the Dec. 14 massacre of 20 first-graders and six women. There was no blueprint for it. As the families were plunged into grief, the troopers were told to provide whatever the families needed.

 

The troopers spent long hours at the families' homes, supporting logistics for out-of-town relatives coming for funerals and providing updates in the case. At least one officer went out in his cruiser to buy milk for children who wanted cereal.

 

For several parents, the troopers' presence was a tremendous comfort.

 

Jennifer Hubbard, who lost her 6-year-old daughter, Catherine, said she was still in a grief-stricken fog when she first met her family's trooper. Over the next few days, he made such a difference that she feels Catherine had a hand somehow in bringing him to her family. She said their son, Frederick, lights up when he sees the trooper.

 

"He watched us crumble, and he never cracked," she said. "He is now part of our family."

 

The parents of 6-year-old victim Josephine Gay often text and email with their trooper liaison and another trooper they met the day of the shooting. One donated his pay from the day of the shooting to a memorial fund they set up in their daughter's name, benefiting families with autistic children.

 

"Who would have ever guessed that state troopers could also serve as therapists?"  Michele Gay said. "Just their presence, their strength, the way that they were there for us was enormously comforting and still is."

 

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said he and a state police colonel decided within hours of the tragedy to assign the trooper liaisons and, judging from the letters he has received from the families, it was absolutely the right decision.

 

"It made a difficult situation a tiny bit easier," Malloy said in an interview. "We needed someone to get them through what needed to be gotten through."

 

It was a delicate, emotional assignment for the troopers. Ian Hockley, whose 6-year-old son Dylan was killed, said his family's trooper brought his own son to play with their surviving son, and he became so tightly involved with the family that at times he cried with them.

 

Mo, 57, was so deeply moved by the tragedy that it inspired his first tattoo. With clouds in between rays of sun, the tattoo on his right forearm says: "6 heroes, 20 angels," along with the date of the shooting.

 

"I wanted people to know how profound that day was to me," said Mo, who was among the troopers inside a room with all the families when they were told their loved ones had died.

 

A 30-year veteran of the state police, Mo said the only similar experience was a liaison program created after the Sept. 11 attacks, when families of Connecticut victims relied on transportation from state police cruisers to get into New York City. But nothing really compares to his connection with the Sherlach family.

 

Some days, he would spend hours at the Sherlach house. Other days he would leave them in the company of friends. One of Sherlach's grown daughters is named Maura but goes by the nickname "Mo," and he gave her an old nametag that she was wearing regularly. He also gave Bill Sherlach a state police pin he has worn to legislative hearings and other events related to the tragedy.

 

At the funeral, Mo escorted the family and stood watch over them during the service. As the service concluded, Mo and Bill Sherlach hugged.

 

"Bill said, `You're like a brother. You're always welcome at my home,'" Mo said.

 

Mo made three trips to bring Mary Sherlach's property back from the school, including her car, and he later felt awkward about possibly intruding on such a personal space.

 

"Mary drove the car to school, and I'm the next person to sit in the car," he said. "I think about it now."

 

The state police have had group sessions for the troopers to decompress, and Mo said they have been helpful for them to get out their pain and share it among themselves.

 

Bill Sherlach said he is grateful to Mo for taking such care of his family.

 

"I can't say enough of what these guys were able to do," he said.

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Playgrounds to honor Conn. victims in Sandy towns

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) New Jersey's largest firefighter union is remembering the 26 victims of December's Connecticut school shooting by building a playground to honor each one in a community recovering from Superstorm Sandy.

New Jersey and New York each will each get 10 playgrounds. Connecticut will get six.

Firefighters' Mutual Benevolent Association president Bill Lavin says each playground will reflect the personality of the child or teacher for whom it's named.

 

"While these parks will bear the names of the Newtown victims, they are dedicated to all children of violence," he said. "This is not just about Newtown. A massacre is occurring one child at a time in our inner cities."

 

Grace McDonald's will be decorated with the peace signs she liked to draw.  For Jessica Rekos, horses and whales. For Dylan Hockley, the color blue.  Jack Pinto's will have a football theme because he was a New York Giants fan. Chase Kowalski's will have fitness stations because he competed in children's triathlons.

 

The first playground, in Sea Bright, will honor special education teacher Ann Marie Murphy. It will include a climbing wall and slides hand-picked by some of the children in town. It may include a dog run because of Murphy's love for her pet. The groundbreaking is March 1.

 

In a letter to the Association Jen Hubbard, Catherine's mom, said "I can hear the creaking as the kids pump their feet and touch the clouds. I see a community coming together in the midst of their own healing to simply forget their worries if only for a moment."

 

She added "Going to the playground was one of the favorite Sunday afternoon family outings- she would climb and jump and swing so high, she was convinced she was touching the clouds.  I know that she is thrilled with the prospect of having a park in her honor.  Kids can be kids and parents can breathe a little lighter knowing that they will all we watched over by the 26 angels for whom you all are building."


Noah Pozner's parents say a playground is a fitting tribute. His will be in New York in the Rockaway section of Queens, where his grandfather lives.

 

Other playgrounds are planned for:

 

10 East Ocean Avenue, Sea Bright, NJ
Scholer Park, Union Beach, NJ
Father Capadanno Blvd, Midland Beach, Staten Island, NY
Westport, CT
Highlands, NJ
Normandy Beach, NJ
Belmar/Lake Como, NJ
Point Pleasant, NJ
Atlantic City, NJ
Stratford, CT
Nassau County, NY
Brick, NJ


The $2.1 million project is called The Sandy Ground: Where Angels Play. Donations have been received to fund six playgrounds so far.

 

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Boston hockey team latest to visit Newtown

NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) The Boston Bruins plan to become the latest ambassadors from the world of sports to visit Newtown in the wake of December's massacre at the Sandy Hook Elementary School.

The Bruins have scheduled a series of events in town on Monday, including a street-hockey clinic, a clinic with the high school's hockey team, an autograph session with children and a meeting with first responders who will be given autographed and framed jerseys.

Coach Claude Julien is expected to participate with players Chris Bourque, Andrew Ference, Dougie Hamilton, Aaron Johnson, Adam McQuaid, Daniel Paille and Rich Peverley.

Natalie Green Hammond, Sandy Hook Elementary School's vice principal and a Bruins fan, also has been invited to drop the first puck at the team's March 3 game against Montreal.

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Community emerging as theme after Newtown shooting

NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) Ian and Nicole Hockley lived across the street from Adam Lanza, but they never got to know him or his family before the 20-year-old gunman killed their young son and 25 other people inside Sandy Hook Elementary School.

In the weeks since the Dec. 14 shooting in Newtown, the couple said they have wondered whether more community involvement in Lanza's life might have prevented the bloodshed.

Coming together has been a popular theme at vigils and concerts held in tribute to the 26 people killed inside the schoolhouse. For some of the families who lost loved ones, a renewed focus on community would be a silver lining to the tragedy.

The parents of another shooting victim, Chase Kowalski, have started a foundation in the hope of building community centers in his honor.

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Condolences for school shooting head to storage

NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) Public viewing of mementos has ended and the memorabilia sent from around the world offering condolences after 20 children and six educators were shot dead at a Newtown elementary school now heads to storage.

The News-Times of Danbury reports that Saturday was the final day for the public to view the items propped on tables or hanging on walls in Newtown Town Hall.

All items go to storage except those marked by the victims' families or Newtown residents indicating they would like the gift.

Posters and cards were sorted and documented by volunteers at Town Hall. Some wrote thank-you notes to senders who provided return addresses.

Lynn Kovack, a clerk in the Building Department who sorted through cards and letters for weeks, said some of the items made her and others cry

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UPDATED: President Obama honors 6 slain Newtown teachers

President Barack Obama has honored the six educators killed in the Newtown school shooting with the nation's second-highest civilian honor.

The six were posthumously awarded the 2012 Presidential Citizens Medal on Friday during a White House ceremony.

 

Rachel Davino's mother Mary and sister Sarah accepted on her behalf

 

Dawn Hochsprung's mother and daugther Erica and Cheryl Lafferty accepted the honor from the President

 

Anne Marie Murphy's husband Michael and daughters Paige and Colleen

 

Lauren Rousseau's parents Gillis and Terri accepted the medal

 

Mary Sherlach's husband Bill and daughters Katy Sherlach and Maura Lynn Schwartz

 

Victoria Soto's parents Donna and Carols Sr accepting on her behalf



In opening remarks, President Obama said when the six showed up for work that morning, they were expecting a day like any other.  He went on to say that they had no idea evil was about to strike.  When it did, Obama said they could have focused on their own safety, but they didn't.  They gave their lives protecting the precious children in their care.

 

A military aide read the commendation for the teachers. 

 

The Presidential Citizens Medal is presented to Rachel Davino, Dawn Hochsprung, Anne Marie Murphy, Lauren Rousseau, Mary Sherlach and Victoria Soto for dedicating themselves to their students and to the community of Newtown, Connecticut.  Some had been at Sandy Hook Elementary School for only weeks.  Others were preparing to retire after decades of service.  All worked long past the school bell to give the children in their care a future worth their talents. 

 

On December 14, 2012 unthinkable tragedy swept through Newtown, etching the names of these six courageous women into the heart of our nation forever. 

 

The United States honors Rachel Davino, Dawn Hochsprung, Anne Marie Murphy, Lauren Rousseau, Mary Sherlach and Victoria Soto for their extraordinary committment to the students of Sandy Hook Elementary School.

 

In closing remarks, Obama said the teachers and administrators gave all they had for the most innocent and helpless among us and that's what is being honored.  He said it was their courageous hearts, selfless spirit and inspiring actions of extraordinary citizens.

 

Four Newtown school representatives were on hand for the event.
 

Newtown High School teacher Tom Kuroski, who also serves as President of the Newtown Federation of Teachers, was at the White House for the ceremony.  He said that although it was difficult, it was good to see the togetherness.  He added that they will always be together. 

 

"Newtown has lost family members, but we haven't lost our family."

 

Kuroski says he was pleased the educators who gave their lives were recognized for their bravery and heroism in unspeakable circumstances.  He hopes what happened in Newtown brings light to lawmakers so they can make sure it never happens again.

 

Sandy Hook Elementary School Secretary Joanne Didonato, who prepared Chalk Hill Middle School for the Sandy Hook students, was also at the ceremony.  She was joined by custodian Rick Thorne who is credited with locking open doors and making sure hallways were clear that day.  Teacher Kris Feda, who was in the main office that December morning and moved students out of the building to the firehouse, attended the ceremony. 

 

First Selectman Pat Llodra and Superintendent of Schools Dr Janet Robinson were also there.

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Sandy Hook panel hears from security experts

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) Bulletproof glass and other security measures can make schools safer, but there's no way to completely eliminate the risk of violence, architects testified Friday before a panel set up by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy after the Newtown school shootings.

 

The architects told the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission that there are numerous safety actions, both inexpensive and costly, that school officials can take. They include further limiting access to buildings, removing sight-line obstructions outside schools, installing locks on classroom doors, allowing police to access surveillance cameras inside schools from computers in their cruisers and putting up reinforced glass.

 

Classrooms can even be configured to make it look like they're empty from hallway doors, the architects said.

 

"The reality is hazards can arise in any one of these locations," said Jim LaPosta, chief architectural officer for JCJ Architecture in Hartford, referring to places inside and outside schools. "There is really nothing we can do to guarantee a risk-free environment."

 

What security experts can do, LaPosta said, is to assess the safety of schools and recommend changes including ways to slow down attacks. LaPosta said a main question is how to improve security without making schools less welcoming and more intimidating to students and the community.

 

Showing a picture of a castle on a video screen, LaPosta asked, "How do we fortify our schools without creating fortresses out of them?"

 

Commission member Ezra Griffith, a psychiatrist and research scientist at Yale University, questioned the need to make wholesale changes in school security.

 

"It doesn't make a lot of sense to me, because it's not a frequent phenomenon," Griffith said about mass shootings.

 

He added that many schools and colleges declined to make major security changes after the killings at Columbine High School and Virginia Tech because of cost and other factors.

 

On Dec. 14, 20-year-old Newtown resident Adam Lanza killed 20 first-graders, six educators and himself at Sandy Hook Elementary School, after having shot his mother to death earlier in the day at their home. The motive remains unclear.

 

The shootings happened after the school's entrances were scheduled to be locked when the school day began. Police said Lanza entered the school by shooting out the front entrance's windows.

 

Architect Glenn Gollenberg of the S/L/A/M Collaborative in Glastonbury said there are different levels of glass reinforcement all the way up to bulletproofing. But installing reinforced glass in schools can be costly - starting at $3,000 to $4,000 per classroom - and communities need to decide how much they're willing to spend on security measures.

 

Gollenberg showed the commission a minute-long video of men trying to break reinforced glass with a sledgehammer. They eventually managed to put a hole in the glass.

 

The architects said one of their most important recommendations was for school officials to work closely with police on incident response plans. While firefighters often are familiar with the layout of schools from inspections and drills, police officers can be less knowledgeable and that can lead to confusion when responding to violence, they said.

 

That's why, LaPosta said, it would be helpful if officers could access interior surveillance cameras from outside schools so they could see what's going on inside and respond appropriately.

 

The architects shied away from recommending statewide security mandates, saying safety decisions are best left to cities and towns.

 

The advisory commission is supposed to give a list of recommendations on school security, mental health issues and gun violence prevention to Malloy by March 15.

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NYC teachers' pension fund divests from gun makers

NEW YORK (AP) The pension fund for New York City schoolteachers has sold its stock in companies that make guns and ammunition.

City Comptroller John Liu said Friday that the move came after a thorough review of the fund's exposure to such investments.

Teachers union head Michael Mulgrew said selling the stock was ``the right thing to do'' after the school shootings in Newtown, Conn. Similar reviews of gun-industry holdings are under way at pension funds across the country since the massacre.

Liu says the $46.6 billion New York City Teachers' Retirement System is the largest pension fund to sell its gun industry holdings so far.

The fund had a total of $13.5 million invested in five gun makers. Those included Smith Wesson Holding Corp. and Sturm, Ruger Co.

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Ohioan drops suit over court fine sent to Newtown

CANTON, Ohio (AP) An Ohio taxpayer is dismissing his lawsuit over a $5,000 court fine that a judge directed to the Connecticut community where 26 people were killed in a school shooting.

The taxpayer's attorney says he dismissed the suit Friday after the judge had the money returned to Stark County in northeast Ohio.

Attorney Craig Conley had filed the suit, saying the law didn't allow the judge to send the money to the Newtown school support fund instead of having it paid to the county. Conley says the taxpayer he represents is satisfied his concerns have been addressed.

The money was paid by a former Ohio high school basketball coach convicted of videotaping boys in a locker room shower.

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VP to give keynote address at gun violence conference in Danbury

Vice President Joe Biden is coming to Danbury to deliver remarks at a conference on gun violence.

 

Biden is scheduled to give the keynote address at next Thursday's discussion at Western Connecticut State University's westside campus.

 

The conference is being hosted by U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy and U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty. It will focus on federal efforts to reduce gun violence and feature state and local leaders as well as mental health experts and faith leaders.

 

Conference participants will be invited due to limited space. The event will be livestreamed on the members’ official websites.

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HealingNewtown Arts Space officially opens

The HealingNewtown Arts Space has officially opened.  The center will be a place for art therapy, workshops and a place for artists to finish works.  Newtown Cultural Arts Commission chair Jennifer Johnston says the First Selectman's office reached out to them to answer artists response to the tragic shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

 

The arts space on Queen Street is located in a donated vacant storefront.  Organizers hope it will become a permanent fixture in the community.  Johnston says artists from Connecticut and elsewhere will lead art therapy, teach workshops and finish works in the space. 

 

The afternoon featured performances by Cirque du Jour acrobat Li Liu, dancers from the Newtown Centre of Classical Ballet, singers from the Wiffenpoofs of Yale University  and a chorus of children from Newtown. 

 

The open house was the kick-off to fundraising so Healing Newtown can find a permanent space.

 

Newtown First Selectman Pat Llodra, Governor Dannel Malloy, his wife Cathy Malloy and Lt Governor Nancy Wyman were all on hand for yesterday's open house.

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Former Newtown man admits to multimillion-dollar fraud scheme

62-year-old Garrett Denniston allegedly cheated more than 50 people out of more than $2.5 million through a company called ConsensusOne.  Denniston is a former resident of Sandy Hook and Maine. He pleaded guilty Thursday to one count of wire fraud. 

 

U.S. Attorney spokesman Tom Carson says instead of investing the victims' money, Denniston used it for business and personal expenses such as golf and ski outings, country club memberships, hotels and home-related bills. 

 

He is accuse for making fake legal documents and forging signatures of those documents.  At times, he also used one investor’s funds to repay other investors. 

 

Carson says the man told investors that he ran a successful investment business and could offer them a special ‘friends and family’ deal investing in companies for a guaranteed return of their investment plus a high rate of interest. 

 

Denniston has been in jail since his September arrest and will be sentenced on June 11th.    He faces up to 20 years in prison.

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Sandy Hook panel to hear from security experts

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) Security experts will be testifying before a panel set up by Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy after the Newtown school shootings that killed 20 students and six educators in December.

The Sandy Hook Advisory Commission is set to meet Friday at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford. The commission will be making recommendations to Malloy by March 15 on school safety, mental health issues and gun violence prevention.

The panel will be hearing testimony from several architects, an infrastructure protection official with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, a retired FBI agent and the head of a national school safety group.

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Newtown man pleads guilty to making child pornography

29-year old Edward Wilson of Newtown was in court Wednesday on a charge of production of child pornography.  According to court documents, Wilson sexually abused a 4-year old girl in 2011 and 2012 and filmed the abuse, keeping the video and pictures on his home computer. 

 

He allegedly also traded hundreds of other images and videos from a collection of child pornography via email. 

 

He will be sentenced May 1st and faces a mandatory minimum term in jail of 15 years with a maximum of 30 years in prison.  Wilson has been in jail since April on charges of child pornography possession, obscenity and promoting a minor in an obscene act. 

 

He was arrested in July on 22 state charges including 11 counts each of sexual assault and of risk of injury.  Those charges are pending.

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Conn. bill calls for study of violent video games

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) Connecticut lawmakers are considering a bill that would create a task force to study any links between violent video games and violent behavior in young people.

The bill was proposed by Republican Sen. Scott Frantz of Greenwich in the wake of the Dec. 14 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown. The killer, 20-year-old Adam Lanza, played violent video games but it's still not clear what led to the massacre.

The General Assembly's Children Committee is scheduled to hear testimony today on that bill and several others concerning children with behavior problems. One bill would create a hotline that parents of children exhibiting behavioral health issues could call for support and education.

Another bill would require screenings of every child for social, emotional, behavioral and mental health.

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Hundreds at Conn. gun control rally

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) Hundreds of people are at a rally at the state Capitol to voice their support for gun control measures in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown.

A grassroots group called March for Change organized the 11 a.m. gathering on the north steps. Organizers have said they hope at least 2,000 people will turn out.

Buses were booked to bring rally-goers to Hartford from around the state, including from Newtown.

Gov. Dannel Malloy, Democratic and Republican legislative leaders and victims' family members are expected to be on hand.

March for Change was started by two Fairfield County-area mothers. The group says it supports ``safer, rational, commonsense legislative changes'' to state gun laws.

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Conn. lawmakers move closer to Sandy Hook changes

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) Connecticut lawmakers, facing pressure to address the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, are closing in on recommending possible changes to state laws and policies affecting guns, school security and mental health.

Three subcommittees to a legislative task force are in the process of identifying areas of consensus in hopes of holding a vote this month or early March.

Deliberations come as hundreds of gun control advocates are expected to descend on the state Capitol Thursday, demanding changes to Connecticut's gun laws. Democratic and Republican legislative leaders are expected to attend the rally, as well as family members of Sandy Hook victims and survivors of other mass shootings.

On Wednesday, the school safety subcommittee received some final recommendations from two experts who said not all security measures need to be expensive.

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Green ribbons honor Connecticut shooting victims

WASHINGTON (AP) Green ribbons dotting the lapels of Democrats and Republicans attending President Barack Obama's State of the Union address were in honor of the 26 students and educators killed at a Connecticut elementary school in December.

Vice President Joe Biden's ribbon was most visible to TV viewers as he sat on the dais immediately behind Obama. Sharing the dais with Biden was GOP House Speaker John Boehner, who wore nothing pinned to either lapel.

Obama wore a small American flag pin, no green ribbon.

Obama put Biden in charge of developing gun control proposals in response to the Dec. 14 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The proposals before Congress include a ban on assault weapons and ammunition magazines holding more than 10 rounds, and background checks for all firearms purchases.

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Obama: Consensus for more checks for gun buyers

WASHINGTON (AP) President Barack Obama is emphasizing the need for more background checks for gun buyers in his State of the Union address, saying that overwhelming majorities of Americans favor the proposal as a way to keep firearms from criminals.

Obama said Tuesday night that senators from both parties are working on legislation to prevent people from legally buying guns and then giving them to criminals.

He said police chiefs want lawmakers to ban ``weapons of war'' and magazines carrying large amounts of ammunition so law enforcement officers won't be outgunned.

The president proposed all those ideas after the December killings of 20 first-graders in Connecticut. But expanded background checks is the only one he described as having vast support a description that matches public polling and reflects congressional sentiment too.

 

4th District Congressman Jim Himes says he was pleased the President focused on the real long-term drivers of jobs: improving our infrastructure and education and fostering innovation.  He says improving opportunity throughout the country will make everyone better off.  He also appreciated that the President addressed the critical issues of gun violence prevention and voting rights, two areas experienced first hand in the Fourth District. Until every child can walk to school safely and every citizen can vote in an easy and timely manner, Himes says we will not have fulfilled our promise for a fair and equal democracy.

 

Senator Chris Murphy had this reaction to the address:

 

"Congress needed to be challenged to get moving on everything from gun violence to fiscal reform, and the president certainly made that challenge tonight. I'm especially glad he pushed Congress to break down partisan divides and pass common sense gun violence legislation.  For those of us in Connecticut, we are still living with the horror of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, but the healing process is helped knowing we have a president who is going to do everything in his power to make sure no community ever has to go through this again. There are no excuses anymore. It's time to pass legislation to keep military-style assault weapons and ammunition off our streets and out of our schools, to impose universal criminal background checks, and to make a real commitment to improving mental health services across this nation.

 

I applaud the president’s focus on revitalizing our country’s manufacturing sector—something I’ve worked hard on for years. During my time in the House, I pushed the Administration hard to drastically reduce the number of government contracts awarded to overseas companies, and I’ll make closing loopholes and strengthening our Buy American laws a priority in the Senate. I’ll also continue to support policies that focus on investing in vocational education and cutting-edge manufacturing technologies so that the United States, and especially Connecticut, is the most attractive place for the next generation of manufacturers to set up shop."

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Newtown leader hopes to remind nation of shooting

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) Newtown's First Selectman hoped her her presence at President Barack Obama's State of the Union reminded the nation and its leaders of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting and the need to overhaul federal gun laws.

 

Patricia Llodra was a guest of Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal for Obama's speech on Tuesday night.

Llodra said the greatest concern of Newtown residents is that Americans and policymakers will forget the Dec. 14 massacre, which left 20 first graders and six educators dead. In a conference call, she said, ``We can't let this opportunity pass. It has passed too many times.''

A Republican, Llodra said she supports more background checks, reauthorization of the assault weapons ban, a ban on high-capacity magazines and more mental health services.

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Synod leader sorry for Newtown pastor reprimand

ST. LOUIS (AP) The president of a conservative Lutheran denomination has apologized for reprimanding a Newtown, Conn., pastor who participated in an interfaith prayer vigil in apparent violation of the church's constitution.

The Rev. Rob Morris of Christ the King Lutheran Church offered the benediction at the Dec. 16 vigil with other religious leaders including Jewish, Muslim and Baha'i for victims of the shootings at the Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod President Matthew Harrison subsequently reprimanded Morris, saying the synod constitution bars joint worship for fear of giving the appearance that theological differences about salvation and other doctrines are not significant.

Media reports on the reprimand and Morris' apology incited outrage over the synod's decision.

On Monday, Harrison posted an apology on the synod website saying his actions had made things worse. He said, ``Please forgive me.''

Morris said in an email Tuesday that all parties have reconciled.

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Obama to stress jobs; audience's message is guns

WASHINGTON (AP) The American public will get rhetoric and imagery in President Barack Obama's State of the Union address. The speech will contain a heavy dose on the economy and play out against a visual backdrop dominated by the nation's current debate over guns.

Obama on Tuesday evening will make a case for measures and proposals that he says will boost job creation and put the economy on a more upward trajectory. But in the audience will be many Americans invited to the witness the speech because of their experience with gun violence.

That confluence of message and symbolism illustrates where Obama is in his presidency following his re-election.

His economic blueprint represents unfinished business. The gun debate, spurred by the December tragedy in Newtown, Conn., is part of his new agenda.

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Dem, GOP senators clash at latest hearing on guns

WASHINGTON (AP) A top Democrat says the toll that gun violence is taking on families makes it clear that Congress needs to pass more firearms restrictions.

At a hearing Tuesday of a Senate Judiciary subcommittee, Illinois Sen. Richard Durbin said it is time for lawmakers to act. He said he believed steps like requiring background checks for all gun purchases would be constitutional, and he said current laws have too many gaps in them.

Disagreeing was Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, the panel's top Republican. He said the focus of law enforcement should be on criminals, and argued that curbing the rights of citizens to own gun would do nothing to stop violent crime.

A woman whose Chicago police officer brother was fatally shot in 2010 says it's time for Congress to pass laws keeping guns from criminals. Another woman says firearms restrictions prevented her from protecting her parents when they were killed in a 1991 mass shooting in a Texas restaurant.

The two were among several witnesses taking opposing sides Tuesday as the Senate holds its second hearing on gun curbs since December's shooting deaths of 20 first-graders in Newtown, Conn. This time, a Senate Judiciary subcommittee is examining the constitutionality and effectiveness of federal firearms limits.

``We need to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and those who are mentally unstable,'' the subcommittee's chairman, Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., said in a brief interview Monday. ``I hope everyone will acknowledge that within our Constitution is not only an individual right to bear arms, but the collective right of Americans to be safe.''

A Republican on the panel, Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, said existing gun laws are not effectively enforced. He cited the often ignored requirement that states make mental health records available to the federal background check system.

``I'm still interested in somebody identifying which of these laws would have prevented any of these horrific incidents,'' Cornyn said Monday. ``I'm not interested in just doing something that's symbolism.''

President Barack Obama wants Congress to enact new curbs, including bans on assault weapons and large-capacity ammunition magazines and a requirement that all gun buyers be subject to background checks, not just sales by federally licensed dealers. Obama is expected to push anew for his plans in his State of the Union address Tuesday night.

Democrats have been more receptive to Obama's proposals than Republicans, most of whom along with the National Rifle Association have opposed the president's plan.

The universal background check has the broadest support and is expected to be a centerpiece of legislation Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., hopes to write in the next few weeks. The assault weapons ban is given little chance of enactment, and passage of a ban on large-capacity magazines also seems doubtful.

Timothy J. Heaphy, the Obama-appointed U.S. attorney for the western district of Virginia, said in his written statement that the federal background check system has kept more than 1.5 million guns from criminals and others prohibited from having them since 1998, when the system began. Even so, he told the subcommittee that the background check requirement needs to be expanded and he called for federal laws prohibiting illegal gun trafficking.

``Without more meaningful penalties for those who traffic in firearms, we will continue to find it difficult to dismantle the criminal networks that exploit these statutory gaps,'' he said.

In prepared testimony, Suzanna Gratia Hupp described being in Luby's restaurant in Killeen, Texas, when a gunman crashed his truck through the front window and fatally shot 23 people, including her parents, and wounded many others. Hupp says she left her gun in her car because Texas law barred her from bringing it into the restaurant.

``I can't begin to get across to you how incredibly frustrating it is to sit there, like a fish in a barrel, and wait for it to be your turn, with no hope of defending yourself,'' said Hupp, now a Republican Texas state official and gun rights advocate.

She added, ``The only thing the gun laws did that day was prevent good people from protecting themselves.''

Taking a different view was Sandra J. Wortham, whose brother, Thomas E. Wortham IV, was shot dead outside their parents' home by robbers, though he and his father, a retired police sergeant, fired back.

``The fact that my brother and father were armed that night did not prevent my brother from being killed,'' Wortham said in prepared testimony. ``We need to do more to keep guns out of the wrong hands in the first place. I don't think that makes us anti-gun. I think it makes us pro-decent, law-abiding people.''

Laurence H. Tribe, the liberal Harvard Law School professor, said in his prepared testimony that nothing Obama has proposed ``even comes close to violating the Second Amendment'' right to bear arms.

Tribe said more sweeping proposals to take guns away from citizens ``have been decisively taken off the table'' by Supreme Court rulings in 2008 and 2010 that overturned handgun bans by the District of Columbia and other state and local governments.

Differing from Tribe was attorney Charles J. Cooper, who has long defended gun rights and represented the NRA.

Cooper said those same Supreme Court rulings ``establish that the Second Amendment guarantees a fundamental, individual right to keep and bear arms.'' He said Obama's proposed assault weapon and high-capacity magazine bans were unconstitutional because gun rights ``cannot be circumscribed by appeal to countervailing government interests.''

Also testifying was Daniel W. Webster, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, which favors tighter gun control laws. Webster said in his prepared statement that 2004 data on prisoners who had committed gun-related crimes showed that nearly 8 in 10 had obtained their firearms from unlicensed private sellers, whose transactions do not require background checks.

``Laws such as background check requirements for all gun sales will help law enforcement combat illegal gun trafficking and keep guns from prohibited individuals,'' he said.

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Newtown leader, police to be on hand for speech

In addition to Connecticut's two congresswomen, both U.S. Senators will have guests at tonight's State of the Union Address connected to the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School. 

 

Senator Richard Blumenthal called Newtown First Selectman Pat Llodra's leadership, strength and courage an inspiration to the nation.

 

He says the tragedy in Newtown has brought the community together in a unique and moving way under First Selectman Pat Llodra's leadership.  He hopes to bring everyone to the Capital before the speech to meet with other Senators and share their stories.

 

Blumenthal said Monday he hopes the presence of the Newtown officials in the House of Representatives on Tuesday night will inspire the president to push ahead with a "very aggressive" gun control package.

 

Senator Chris Murphy called Llodra the calm and guiding hand that Sandy Hook has needed.  His guests will be Newtown Detectives Jason Frank and Dan McAnaspie, who were among the first to arrive at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14th.  He says the first responders continue to inspire the community and captured the hearts of America.

 

Frank has served in the department for 17-years and McAnaspie is a 10-year veteran of the Newtown Police Department.

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Gun victims' relatives emerge as advocates

WASHINGTON (AP) Lawmakers and other officials fighting over gun control invited the husband of a woman who was killed in the Connecticut school shooting to attend President Barack Obama's State of the Union address tomorrow night.

But Bill Sherlach declined.

He says he'd rather work within a group to see the gun issue is addressed as part of a comprehensive effort to reduce violence, than become the nationally televised face of tragedy. He also doesn't want to be part of the heated rift over gun control that politics and dueling news conferences seem to inflame.

Victims of tragedy long have played major roles in the nation's most dramatic public policy debates, and there are few more bitter or expensive ones than this year's legislative battle over gun control.

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Newtown widower seeks school mental health reform

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) The widower of Sandy Hook Elementary School psychologist Mary Sherlach is raising money to provide more and better care for children with mental health issues.

Sherlach was killed in the Dec. 14 shooting in Newtown that claimed the lives of 20 children and six women, one of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history.

Bill Sherlach says a combination of challenges can combine to create a problem that can lead to future tragedies: the lack of facilities for kids with mental illness, a deficit of programs designed to identify and treat those who need help and the stigma associated with receiving mental health care.

Sherlach has teamed with The Fairfield County Community Foundation to raise money for agencies that provide mental health services to children and young teens.

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Gov.'s Newtown school shooting panel to meet

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) Gov. Dannel Malloy's commission reviewing state policies following the deadly school shooting in Newtown is scheduled to hear from experts on school safety.

The 16-member panel plans to hear testimony Friday from experts in infrastructure design, safety and security. The speakers will include architects, a retired FBI agent and school safety and disaster management professionals.

Friday also marks the deadline for three legislative subcommittees on gun violence, mental health and school security to submit recommendations for possible legislation to legislative leaders. Lawmakers hope to vote later this month.

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Woodbury first selectman faces harassment claim

WOODBURY, Conn. (AP) Woodbury's first selectman is facing a sexual harassment complaint from a town resident who was offended that he called her ``attractive.''

The Republican-American of Waterbury reports that Linda Zukauskas has filed the complaint against First Selectman Gerald Stomski with the state Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities.

Zukauskas says in an affidavit that Stomski called her ``attractive'' at the annual town budget meeting last May and that she found the comment ``sexually harassing and insulting.''

Stomski says he uses the word ``attractive'' all the time and didn't mean it in a sexual way about Zukauskas. He says he doesn't understand her discomfort and believes the word is a compliment.

A spokesman for the state commission says he can't comment on pending complaints.

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Brother of slain teacher to attend Obama address

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) A Connecticut Congresswoman says the brother of one of the teachers slain at Sandy Hook Elementary School will attend the president's State of the Union address as her guest.

Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro says she will be accompanied by the brother of Victoria Soto, who died trying to shield her students from the gunman inside the school in Newtown.

Carlos Soto is a student at Stratford High School. DeLauro says today that having him at the address will be a reminder that victims of gun violence are not statistics.

The gunman killed six staff members and 20 first-grade students inside the school on Dec. 14 before committing suicide.

President Barack Obama is expected to try and rally support for his proposals to curb gun violence in the address Tuesday.

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Teacher shot in Newtown to attend Obama address

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) A spokesman for U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty says a teacher who was shot but survived the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School is planning to attend the president's State of the Union address.

Spokesman Jeb Fain says Natalie Hammond is planning to attend the speech Tuesday as the congresswoman's guest.

A gunman killed six staff members and 20 first-grade students inside the school in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 14 before committing suicide. He also killed his mother at their home.

The brother of one of the slain teachers, Victoria Soto, is also planning to attend the speech as a guest of U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro.

President Barack Obama is expected to try to rally support for his calls to ban certain weapons and enact universal background checks for gun buyers.

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Newtown pastor reprimanded over prayer vigil

NEW YORK (AP) A conservative Lutheran group is reprimanding its pastor in Newtown, Connecticut, for participating in an interfaith vigil after the Sandy Hook massacre.

The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod says the Reverend Rob Morris inadvertently gave the impression that he was involved in joint worship with clergy from other religions. The denomination bars joint worship because it doesn't want to appear to mix its beliefs with those of other churches.

The December 16th vigil included Christian, Jewish, Muslim and other leaders. President Barack Obama and Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy attended.

The church says Morris has apologized for taking part in the event.

The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod is one of the smaller U.S. Lutheran groups. The denomination reprimanded another pastor in 2001 who was part of an interfaith vigil after the September 11 attacks.

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No specific Newtown shooting funds in gov's budget

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's new budget does not set aside new funds specifically earmarked to boost school security measures or mental health programs in light of the deadly school shooting in Newtown.

Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton said Wednesday he believes a special account must be created because school districts cannot afford to foot the bill for major security upgrades.

Task forces created by Malloy and the General Assembly are reviewing laws and policies affecting mental health, school security and guns. Lawmakers hope to vote a package later this month.

Malloy's chief of staff, Mark Ojakian (oh-JAY'-kee-an) said there is more money in the budget for mental health. There is also a grant that can be used for school security. He said those accounts can be increased after recommendations are made.

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Slain Newtown educators honored for responses

DANBURY, Conn. (AP) The mother of one of the six educators who died protecting children at Sandy Hook Elementary School says she's touched that a presidential medal will be awarded posthumously to the educators but she'd rather have her daughter back.

The 2012 Presidential Citizens Medals are to be presented to family members of the victims at a White House ceremony on Feb. 15.

The honorees are principal Dawn Hochsprung, psychologist Mary Sherlach and teachers Rachel D'Avino, Anne Marie Murphy, Lauren Rousseau and Victoria Soto.

The staff members slain inside the Newtown, Conn. school have been credited with protecting the students when a gunman attacked the building. Some rushed toward the gunman while others used their bodies to shield children from gunfire.

Teresa Rousseau called the award ``a really, really lovely honor.''

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Slain Newtown educators to be honored with medals

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) Presidential medals are being awarded posthumously to the six people who died protecting children at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

A White House official says the four teachers and two administrators killed in the Dec. 14 school shooting in Newtown, Conn. will be among the recipients of the 2012 Presidential Citizens Medal. The official spoke Tuesday on condition of anonymity because the award recipients have not been officially announced.

The awards are to be presented to the families of the victims at a White House ceremony on Feb. 15.

The medal honors Americans who have performed ``exemplary deeds of service'' for their country or fellow citizens.

Principal Dawn Hochsprung, school psychologist Mary Sherlach and teachers Rachel D'Avino, Lauren Rousseau, Anne Marie Murphy and Victoria Soto were killed along with 20 first-graders.

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Newtown kids to be featured on Grammy preshow

NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) Children from Newtown who recently recorded a version of ``Over the Rainbow'' will be featured as part of the Grammy Awards broadcast.

Newtown Music Project producer Tim Hayes says American Idol host Ryan Seacrest will do a live segment via satellite with the children for Sunday's red-carpet programming.

He says the children will be interviewed by Seacrest and interact live with Carly Rae Jepson, perhaps doing some of her hit, ``Call Me Maybe.''

Hayes says the kids recorded the song made famous by ``The Wizard of Oz'' because they wanted to help the town heal from the tragedy.

The proceeds from the download of the single benefit the Newtown Youth Academy. The nonprofit sports center opened free programs to Newtown children after the shooting and hopes to expand free programming.

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Newtown to distribute gifts town has received

NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) Newtown officials have decided to hold a ``Community Giveaway'' to distribute the thousands of gifts sent to the town following December's massacre at the Sandy Hook Elementary School.

In a news release Monday, town officials said the goal will be to give the toys, school supplies and other items to town residents, ``as was intended by their donors.''

The town held a similar toy giveaway just before Christmas for Newtown's children. It has also given some toys to local children's hospitals.

The remaining gifts have been stored in a local warehouse.

The giveaway will be held on Feb. 24 at the Reed Intermediate School. Families with students at Sandy Hook Elementary School will be allowed in at noon. The giveaway will be open to all town residents at 3 p.m.

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Newtown parents help others dealing with autism

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) The parents of an autistic girl who was killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., have set up a memorial fund to benefit other families raising children with autism.

The family of 7-year-old Josephine Gay says her personal aide wrapped her arms body around her and other children to shield them from the horror of a rampaging gunman on Dec. 14.

Bob and Michele Gay said in an interview that their daughter's aides had shown extreme devotion before the tragedy, but the family was constantly searching for resources to keep up the level of care and therapy they wanted for their daughter.

``Joey's Fund'' is being administered by the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism. It has collected more than $80,000 from nearly 1,000 donors.

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Ridgefield officials on film about Newtown: Absolutely not

An unequivocal no.  That is the response from Ridgefield First Selectman Rudy Marconi to a film director looking to use Ridgefield as the backdrop of a made-for-TV movie about the Newtown school shooting.  Marconi was informed yesterday morning that Jonathan Bucari had surveyed the town and chose Ridgefield for its similar look to Newtown. 

 

He says he would not issue permits to the director.  So far Bucari hasn't asked the town for permission.

 

Bucari says he picked Ridgefield because he didn't want to upset Newtown residents so soon after the killings.  His Brewster-based film company says the film focuses on a 13-year-old boy with mental illness and a fear of his parents after the shooting.

 

Across the country the shootings have triggered tremendous debate.  But regardless of if this film is focused on health care or gun control or school security, Marconi says he doesn't want the Ridgefield community to be a party to that.

 

Ridgefield schools superintendent Deborah Low called timing "poor."

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NY college to name center after Newtown principal

TROY, N.Y. (AP) An upstate New York college plans to establish a new education center in honor of Sandy Hook Elementary School Principal Dawn Hochsprung, who was a doctoral candidate in the college's educational leadership program.

Hochsprung, five other educators and 20 children were killed in the Dec. 14 massacre at the school in Newtown, Conn.

The Sage Colleges has announced that its Esteves School of Education is creating the Dawn Hochsprung Center for the Promotion of Mental Health and School Safety.

College officials say Hochsprung will receive her doctorate posthumously with her class in May 2015.

A memorial service in honor of Hochsprung will be held Saturday on the Sage College of Albany campus. The college also has a campus in nearby Troy that's home to the Esteves School.

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Education secretary, college chiefs urge gun laws

WASHINGTON (AP) The nation's schools chief says more needs to be done to make sure children live long enough to attend college. He is joining more than 350 university presidents in urging Congress to take action to protect students from gun violence.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan told reporters Monday that guns have no place in schools or on college campuses, other than in the hands of law enforcement. Standing with members of College Presidents for Gun Safety, Duncan also said pressure from outside Washington is needed to force Congress to act on proposals to reduce gun violence.

In the wake of the Newtown, Conn., school shooting that killed 20 students, lawmakers have considered new measures including expanded background checks for gun buyers and a ban on some types of weapons.

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Sandy Hook Chorus performs at Super Bowl

A chorus of 26 children from Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. where 20 students and six adults were killed in a shooting rampage in December sang ``America the Beautiful,'' accompanied by ``American Idol'' alum Jennifer Hudson. Grammy winner Alicia Keys performed the national anthem.

 

Among the 26 third- and fourth-graders taking part and singing in the back row was the brother of Ben Wheeler, one of the first-graders killed in the mass shooting.

 

 

This is the 10th time New Orleans hosted the big game tying Miami for most in a city and first since Hurricane Katrina devastated the Big Easy in August 2005.

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Conn. lawmakers seek consensus on Newtown bills

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) State legislators face the task of sifting through more than 100 bills, reams of letters and emails, and hours of public testimony to come up with recommendations for policy and law changes following the deadly school shooting in Newtown.

Three subcommittees of a special legislative task force on gun violence and children's safety have until Feb. 15 to present their suggestions on changes affecting guns, mental health and school security, to the General Assembly's top leaders.

They hope to hold a vote on emergency certified legislation at the end of February.

Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney says the subcommittee focusing on state gun laws is planning to hold a final informational meeting with police and public safety officials on Monday to get more information before it begins deliberations.

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Director in Conn. for movie about school shooting

RIDGEFIELD, Conn. (AP) A film director is coming to Connecticut to prepare for a made-for-TV movie about the Newtown school shooting.

Jonathan Bucari tells News 12 Connecticut that he's planning to be in Ridgefield today to get ready for the project.

A gunman killed 20 first-graders, six educators and himself on Dec. 14 after fatally shooting his mother at their home in Newtown.

Bucari says he picked Ridgefield because he didn't want to upset Newtown residents so soon after the killings, and Ridgefield has a similar look and feel to Newtown.

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Report: Conn. town's schools seeks security boost

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) Newtown school board members have agreed to ask the town to put more armed police officers in the four elementary schools.

School security was a chief topic at Thursday night's Board of Education meeting. The board voted to ask the town to include in next year's budget one additional full-time police officer for each of the four elementary schools.

Board members plan to meet with state and federal officials today to discuss funding for security.

Twenty children and six educators were killed Dec. 14 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in one of the worst school shootings in the country. The gunman also killed his mother and later himself.

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Bethel school locked down because of shell casings

BETHEL, Conn. (AP) A school in Bethel has been placed in lockdown after empty .22-caliber shell cases were found on a floor outside the school cafeteria.

Officials say the shell casings were found at Bethel Middle School on Friday morning and the building was placed in a ``modified'' lockdown as a precaution while police conducted a search and tried to determine who brought the casings to school.

School officials say students aren't in any danger and they're telling parents not to pick up their children.

Bethel is just west of Newtown, where a gunman killed 20 students, six educators, and himself at an elementary school in December.

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Newtown parents thankful for support from Ravens

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) The parents of one of the children killed in the Newtown school shooting say they appreciate the support they have been receiving from the Baltimore Ravens.

Bob and Michele Gay, who are originally from Maryland, are the parents of 7-year-old Josephine, who died in the Dec. 14 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

The devoted Ravens fans say they attended the playoff game in Baltimore against the Indianapolis Colts through the generosity of Ravens cornerback Chris Johnson. The team also hung a memorial banner for their daughter and gave pins to their employees with Josephine's name.

The family says they are planning to wear purple as they watch the Ravens in the Super Bowl and think of their daughter, who had an affinity for all things purple.

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Knicks to host Sandy Hook kids, families Saturday

NEW YORK (AP) The New York Knicks will host 150 children, their families and teachers from Sandy Hook Elementary School on Saturday.

Twenty or more children from the Newtown Choir from Sabrinas Encore Products will sing the national anthem before the Knicks' game against Sacramento.

The Knicks organization on Tuesday visited Newtown, where 20 children and six adults were shot and killed at the school in December. The team and its Garden of Dreams Foundation hosted 400 children from Sandy Hook and their families in what was called a ``Knicks Family Fun Day'' event. There were basketball drills and contests, along with other activities such as a magician and balloon makers.

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