WFSB - Eyewitness News

Fugitive Files: Suspect caught in Florida appears before a judgeOLD SAYBROOK, CT (WFSB) – A Fugitive Files case has been solved! Less than two days after the story about John Shepard aired on Channel 3, the fugitive was behind bars and his seven-year run from the law came to a dramatic end. Tips from viewers and the hard work of law enforcement brought justice to one Connecticut family. The person who called in the tip about Shepard is speaking out. On February 13, Channel 3 showed a story about an unsolved crime in Old Saybrook. Shepard, 49, had been evading police for the last seven years. In 2013, Shepard was charged with manslaughter in connection with the death of his girlfriend, Leah Coleman. <a href="" target="_blank">RELATED: Fugitive Files: Man responsible for deadly crash still on the run</a> Coleman’s brother and sister made an emotional plea for justice. Then, Channel 3 asked for our viewers help by asking anyone who may know where Shepard is to contact Old Saybrook police. Police took a lot of calls. In fact, dozens of viewers reached out to the Old Saybrook Police Department. “Your newscast was not off the air yet and we began receiving tips,” said Chief Michael Spera, Old Saybrook Police Department. Overnight on Thursday and all-day Friday, calls continued to pour in. Many of leads pointed south to Florida, hundreds of miles away. One of those tips came from a woman in Florida, which really helped heat up this cold case. She had previously rented a room at a home in Fort Lauderdale where Shepard was also living. “I don’t know how to explain it. He was just mean. He did drugs and he stole,” the tipster said. The woman, who wanted to remain anonymous, said after watching the story on Channel 3 and seeing Coleman’s family so desperate for answers, she had to tell police what she knew. “That’s the only reason why I did it. It’s better to have him off the streets regardless, but for the family, when I saw them crying and pleading, it just broke my heart,” the tipster said. The Broward County Fugitive Task Force and the SWAT Team, along with the Fort Lauderdale Police Department were on the case. Surveillance was conducted and on Saturday, February 15, time was up for Shepard. He was located on a boat on one of the city’s canals. <a href="" target="_blank">RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: Arrest made in Old Saybrook Fugitive Files case</a> “John Shepard, this is the police. Come out now with your hands up. We know you’re inside, John. Come out with your hands up,” police said on body camera video. Seven years on the run, but it took just 45 seconds to put Shepard in handcuffs. “John come here. No walk straight to me, hands on your head. Step over. Turn around, walk backwards, walk backwards. We got him,” police said on body camera video. At 12:42 p.m., Shepard was officially in police custody, in the back of a cruiser. Back in Old Saybrook, Chief Michael Spera delivered the good news at 2:14 p.m. to Coleman’s brother and sister. “That’s the back of a Broward County Sheriff vehicle,” Chief Spera told the family. Learning Shepard was in custody and no longer on the run was music to the family’s ears. At 3:04 p.m., Channel 3 delivered the exclusive news to our viewers on social media. On Thursday at 1 p.m., almost one week since the story aired, Shepard appeared in a Florida courtroom as he awaits extradition back to Connecticut. “I would tell your viewers this one simple fact: law enforcement can only be successful when the public they proudly serve works together with them as one team,” Chief Spera said. Channel 3 is partnering with the Connecticut Police Chiefs Association to help bring fugitives to justice. There are still two unsolved cases. First, a 15-year mystery in Wethersfield after a <a href="" target="_blank">man was accused of sexually assaulting a woman</a> in 2004 on the Heritage Way Bike Trail behind the high school. He is Hispanic, in his 30s or 40s, 5 feet 7 inches talk with dark hair. The second case is in East Hartford where police are looking for those responsible for <a href="" target="_blank">murdering a U.S. Veteran, Dominic Marino</a>. The 30-year-old was killed in his own home in November 2018. There is a $50,000 reward for both of the cases. Anyone with information is being asked to call 1-866-333-9372.
Teachers describe classroom conditions, saying they're falling apartHARTFORD, CT (WFSB) -- Another topic focused on in the exclusive teacher survey on Channel 3 was the condition of schools across the state. According to teachers, some schools are falling apart and making students, teachers, and staff members sick. Channel 3 even got some disturbing photos, showing classrooms with mold, ceilings that are rusting, and air vents that are extremely dirty. “You expect the school system is doing everything they can to keep them safe in the class and unfortunately that's not always the case,” said Robert Camacho, a parent of two children who attend the Montessori Magnet School at Batchelder in Hartford. “We found out in November that the school was built around the time using materials containing PCB’s, and we were concerned then and we want the school to test to show our children are safe in school,” Camacho said. Hartford's John C. Clark Elementary School was shut down five years ago due to high levels of PCB’s. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, exposure to high levels of PCB’s could cause skin conditions, liver damage, and possibly cancer. “We should be making sure that when our children go to school, they are in the best, healthiest environment that is possible,” Camacho said. Unhealthy classrooms aren't just an issue in Hartford, but across the state. “The idea that our schools, in many cases, are less safe than they should be in terms of their atmosphere, air quality and things like that, is a huge concern and it's making both students and teachers ill,” said Jeff Leake, president of the Connecticut Education Association (CEA). As part of the one-of-a-kind survey, Channel 3 partnered with the CEA and American Federation of Teachers Connecticut, the two teacher unions in the state. The survey was sent to Connecticut’s 50,000 public school teachers, with close to 1,500 teachers responding. In some photos that were provided, you could see mold growing on a wall at a Stamford school, and more mold is seen when a ceiling tile is lifted. In a Naugatuck school, stains can't be missed on ceiling tiles surrounding a vent. Dust was also seen glued on a classroom ceiling from an air vent. At Norwalk High School, a leaky ceiling caused rust, mold and paint to chip. Another picture shows some type of leak stained ceiling tiles. Some tiles also haven’t been replaced, which is exposing pipes. While just more than half say environmental conditions are impacting teaching and learning, 85 percent of teachers experience hot and cold conditions in their classrooms. More than 900 teachers weighed in, showing the highest of any topic in the survey explaining what they’re dealing with, with things like a gas smell, extreme dust, backup from sewage, and more. “They need a lot of regular maintenance and that maintenance is often deferred in reduced budget years and it's impossible to catch up to,” said Mary Yordon. Eighty-seven percent of teachers said they have reported the issues to school administrators. Teachers say some of these problems have gotten resolved but some do not. While repairs can be pricey, union leaders say the long-term effects could be much worse. “What's expensive is when you ignore the year to year regular maintenance that's required in our school building, and then you have some huge cost because you've been ignoring that all these years. In addition to that, you have health costs in terms of workers compensation for staff and educators, but we are still, long term health consequences for children who are exposed to these harmful environmental conditions,” said Don Williams, executive director of the CEA. See more responses from our survey <a href="" target="_blank">here</a>.
Meriden's last Catholic school to close its doorsMERIDEN, CT (WFSB) -- The last Catholic school in Meriden is closings its doors at the end of the academic school year. In an announcement on Wednesday, officials announced that Our Lady of Mount Carmel would be closing, citing demographic shifts resulting in low enrollment as a reason. Officials said the low enrollment has created financial shortfalls making it impossible for the parish to continue to support its school. “This was not an easy decision to make since Our Lady of Mount Carmel School has been offering Pre-Kindergarten through Grade 8 students in the Meriden area an outstanding Catholic school education for over 75 years. OLMC is the last of seven Catholic schools in Meriden, so every effort was made to keep the school viable. Unfortunately, the parish can no longer afford to sustain the distinguished legacy of Catholic elementary education in Meriden, and we had to make the difficult decision to close,” said Rev. Thomas Sievel. The school’s current enrollment stands at 161, down 23 percent from last year and down 19 percent over the past three years. Principal Micheal Frechette said the school is already losing money and is not just economically visible going forward. That means 130 children have to find a new school to attend in the fall. School officials are encouraging families of currently enrolled students to consider transferring to another Catholic school in a nearby community. They're also trying to help faculty members find new jobs. Our Lady of Mount Carmel serves students from pre-k through eighth grade. Frechette said this is a devastating loss for families and the city. "It’s just a wonderful warm place and it’s really a sad moment for Meriden," Frechette said. He adds that this is a nationwide trend, where 35,000 students across the country left Catholic schools this year.
State police searching 30 acres of land, man's home for 21 firearmsBOLTON, CT (WFSB) -- State police are searching for 21 firearms that a Bolton man was supposed to surrender after he violated a protective order. Police executed a search warrant on Thursday at 9 a.m. at the home of Michael Gramegna. Police said the search is expected to last for some time. "We expect it's going to be an extended time frame that may take more than 24 hours," said state police Lt. Col. David Montini. Authorities are searching his home, as well as over 30 acres of land on Shoddy Mill Road. Gramegna was arrested earlier this month for violating a protective order. At the time of his arrest, police also found him to be in possession of thousands of handgun and rifle rounds, several large capacity magazines and three long guns, including an assault-type rifle. <a href="" target="_blank">RELATED: K9s find ammunition, guns in Bolton man's home</a> Per the terms of a protective order, and as a condition of his release, Gramegna was required to surrender 21 firearms that are registered to him. As of Thursday he had not done so. As police search his property, they did say there is no known threat to the public at this time. "I actually feel good about that and having the police around to kind of have a presence has been helpful," said Marianne Stowell, a neighbor. Shoddy Mill Road has been closed and traffic is being detoured around the scene. In addition to state troopers, crews from the Eastern District Major Crime, Emergency Services Unit personnel, and special agents from the FBI New Haven office are involved in the investigation.
Sailors arrive home in Groton after 6-month deploymentSailors on the USS Colorado were reunited with their families in Groton on Thursday.
Senator Richard Blumenthal will be touring Puerto RicoFollowing the earthquakes in Puerto Rico, Senator Richard Blumenthal will be touring the island.
Black bears being spotted across the stateDue to the mild winter, black bears are being spotted in parts of the state.
Polish community celebrating "Fat Thursday"The Polish community is celebrating "Fat Thursday with paczki.
Deepak Chopra's show coming to the Palace TheaterDeepak Chopra's show, the "Nature of Reality", will be at the Palace Theater.
Surprise Squad: Brightening people's days in PlainvilleThe Surprise Squad headed to Plainville to brighten some people's days.