Posts Tagged ‘crime in Ocean Grove’

Rock throwers (l to r) James Turetzkin, Philip Williams and Lauren Magaw in the jury box, waiting for their hearing to begin. Photos by Mary Walton

Rock throwers (l to r) James Turetzkin, Philip Williams and Lauren Magaw in the jury box, waiting for their hearing to begin. Photos by Mary Walton

By Charles Layton

All four adult defendants in the rock-throwing vandalism case agreed on Friday to a three-year schedule of payments to 180 victims throughout Monmouth County, including many in Ocean Grove.

Superior Court Judge Thomas Scully told each of the four that if they make good on their payment obligations, perform 75 hours of supervised community service and fulfill some other conditions imposed by the court, they can avoid the normal fines and prison terms prescribed for third-degree criminal mischief. All four had pleaded guilty to that offense on August 23 as part of a negotiated plea bargain.

If any defendant fails to meet the conditions set forth by the Prosecutor’s Office and Judge Scully, all deals would be off and that defendant would then be subject to a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $15,000 fine.

As outlined in court on Friday by Scully and Assistant Prosecutor Kathleen Bycsek, the defendants agreed to pay a total of $117,895.34 in restitution — to victims and to their insurance companies –according to the following schedule:

— $5,000 to be paid immediately by each defendant.

— $679.83 per month to be paid by each defendant for a period of 36 months.

The defendants — Philip Williams, 25; Lauren Magaw, 21; James Turetzkin, 20, and Tyler Emmons, 18 — have all admitted participating in a months-long rampage of rock-throwing vandalism spread over 17 different Monmouth County towns, including Neptune Township. Police have said that 33 of those acts occurred in Ocean Grove from January through March of this year. The defendants would ride around in an SUV late at night tossing large stones through the windows of houses and parked cars. Police in Spring Lake arrested the group shortly after midnight on April 13 after receiving reports that windows were being broken. The defendants confessed to the entire vandalism spree at the police station that night.

Defendant Emmons stands in the jury box. Prosecutor Bycsek is in foreground

Defendant Emmons stands in the jury box. Prosecutor Bycsek is in the foreground

Three of the defendants live in Neptune Township; Turetzkin lives in Neptune City. The name of a fifth defendant has not been released because he was 17 at the time of the arrests; he is being treated as a juvenile.

During Friday’s hearing, Cliff and Barbara Bandstra of Wall Township sat in the courtroom observing the proceedings. The couple told Blogfinger that they were on the list to receive restitution. They said they arrived home one Friday evening to find that the large paladium window in their entry foyer had been smashed. Replacing it cost more than $4,000, they said. The vandals had also hurled large stones against the stucco of the house and done other damage.

Asked why they were attending the hearing, Cliff Bandstra said, “I was just curious to see what they looked like.”

“And what kind of people would do this,” his wife said.

They said they also have a home in Ocean Grove, but were surprised when told that many Ocean Grovers had also been victims of the rock throwing.

The defendants said little — beyond “yes, your honor” — as Judge Scully outlined the conditions of their probation. They were called to stand before the judge one at a time and verify that they understood the nature of the deal they were entering into. During the next three years, the judge explained, they will be supervised under Monmouth County’s Pretrial Intervention program, which is designed for first-time offenders. They must abide by the normal terms of criminal probation, including mandatory drug monitoring as determined by the probation officer.

Scully explained that the amount of the restitution is owed by the four defendants “equally and severally,” meaning that if one defendant fails to pay his share the others must assume that liability.

Lawyers for the defendants noted that the case of the fifth defendant, in juvenile court, is not yet resolved. They asked Scully whether, if that juvenile defendant is ordered to pay restitution as well, that might reduce the amounts owed by the four adult defendants. Scully said he had no influence over the juvenile proceeding, but that such an outcome might be possible.

After the hearing, Cliff and Barbara Bandstra said they were not sure the restitution money they’ll receive will cover all of their losses, but they thought it would come close. Both also said they thought the punishments the defendants received seemed “pretty fair.”

“If they actually come through with it, and live up to it” Barbara Bandstra said of the defendants, “maybe they’ll learn something.”

Cliff and Barbara Bandstra chat with Kathleen Bycsek before the hearing. The Bandstras had a $4,000 window smashed by the defendants

Cliff and Barbara Bandstra chat with prosecutor Kathleen Bycsek before the hearing. The Bandstras had a $4,000 window smashed by the vandals

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By Charles Layton

Here are the latest crimes in Ocean Grove, as reported on Wednesday by Neptune Township police:

  • Someone forced entry into a store on Pilgrim Pathway overnight and stole money and merchandise.
  • There were two more reported thefts of house decorations on Clark Avenue. (House and lawn decorations have been disappearing from Ocean Grove homes on a regular basis for many weeks.)
  • In the area of Franklin Avenue and Cookman Avenue someone shattered door windows on two vehicles. From one of the vehicles the thief removed I-Pods that were left in plain sight in the center console.
  • A resident reported that their front license plate was either lost or stolen. The license plate had the victim’s EZ-Pass attached to it.

Our police liaison, Officer Michael Adam, reminds residents to secure their personal items. Do not leave valuables in plain sight in your car. Report all suspicious behavior to the police immediately via 9-1-1.

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By Charles Layton

Here is the first report by Neighborhood Watch since the hurricane. Our police liaison officer, Michael Adam, passes along the following:

  • There have been several more reports of lawn ornaments being removed from people’s property.
  • A business on Main Avenue was left unlocked, and someone entered and took some items.
  • A resident reported a suspicious person in the area of Clark Avenue during the mid-day hours. Officers responded and located the subject, who, upon investigation, was found to be in possession of stolen items from an Ocean Grove home. He was arrested.

Officer Adam’s comment: “This is a great example of a resident reporting a suspicious subject.” He continues to urge that residents be diligent in reporting suspicious behavior.

Adam also said he hopes “all of the residents are doing well after the storm. If anyone has any questions or is in need of assistance, please contact the Neptune Township Police Department at 732-988-8000.”

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Ocean Grove Neighborhood Watch reports five more bicycle thefts this past week. All five bikes had been left unlocked, police said.

Two of the thefts were in the area between Mt. Pisgah Way and Mt. Tabor Way, and the other three were in the area between Broadway and Cookman Avenue.

The report also took note of the numerous thefts, in recent weeks, of lawn decorations in the area between Heck Avenue and Stockton Avenue. To read our previous story on those thefts, click here.

Also noted was the incident in the area of Mt. Zion Way at New York Avenue, in which a man entered a house late at night while the residents were at home and up and awake. For details on that, go here.

And finally, NW reports that a vehicle was vandalized in the area of 120 Cookman Avenue.

— CL

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Photo by Mary Walton

By Charles Layton

The woman who posted this sign on utility poles around Ocean Grove has a story to tell.

“On Thursday at 2 a.m.,” she said, “I was downstairs watching TV. I had fallen asleep. My husband came down the stairs, and there was a man in the dining room, like about eight feet from me.

“I have briefcases — I work in different places, so I have a briefcase for each place. The thief grabbed them and ran out the door.”

The woman told me she never actually saw the man, but as she woke up she heard her husband yelling, “Get out! Drop those things!” She said her husband chased the thief out of the house but then lost him in the darkness. The couple figures he must have gotten in through a side door to the kitchen, and that this door was probably unlocked at the time.

She was astonished that the intruder had the audacity to walk right in, even at that late hour, because “Clearly the TV was on, so he must have known somebody was in the house.”

When the police came, they informed the couple that just half an hour earlier there had been another, similar robbery just down the street. In that case, “The person was at home, having a drink on his porch. They’re coming in while we’re home! I don’t like robbery at any time, but this is particularly frightening.”

She made up about 20 signs like the one pictured above and has posted them around town. Her thinking is that the thief might have emptied the four bags of their contents and then hastily thrown the bags away. So at least she hopes she might get the bags back.

She and her husband have lived in Ocean Grove for 12 years. She said they have had six bicycles stolen during that time. They are also somewhat aware of the recent wave of thefts in town, and they find that disheartening.

“We’re here because we like the values of this community,” she said, “and we want to live peacefully here in God’s square mile.”

If this story has a bright side, it’s that nothing of real value was in the stolen bags — mostly just paperwork. “And,” she said, “nobody was hurt, that’s a good thing.”

Anyone who finds one of her stolen bags should call 732-776-7360.

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Stolen mermaid. Photo by Joy Norton

By Charles Layton

Sometime in the early hours of Friday morning, this cast iron statue of a mermaid disappeared from in front of Joy Norton’s home on Stockton Avenue.

It was among the latest in a wave of statuary and lawn decoration thefts in Ocean Grove.

Norton said she reported the theft to a Neptune Township officer on Friday morning, and “he said mine was about their third report this morning.” She said the officer speculated that the statue might have been stolen for its metal content, to be melted down.

Two weeks ago we reported on the theft of a stone statue of the Virgin Mary from the front garden of Mary’s Place by the Sea on Broadway. (Read that story here.)  Since then, our readers have posted comments about other recent thefts of lawn decorations around town. Those have included thefts of a statue, a water fountain, a decorative planter, a lantern, a wind chime, a metal “gazing ball” and a decorative brass fish. Norton said she had been reading about those thefts on Blogfinger, but she had assumed her own statue “was too heavy for anyone to carry off.” She said it was about two feet tall and weighed about 50 pounds.

She said the statue was still there beside her steps as of 12:30 the previous night, but was gone as of 7:30 Friday morning.

Norton figures the statue was worth about $200. She is offering a reward for its return, with “no questions asked.”

Perhaps the largest piece of statuary to be stolen recently was a stone angel, approximately 5½ feet high, taken from the porch of George and Angela Germann’s home on Clark Avenue about three weeks ago. “They came right up on the porch, and it had to be two people because she [the angel] was very heavy, about 60 pounds,” Angela Germann said. The Germanns believe the thieves must have been using a vehicle to get away with something that large.

People in that same neighborhood also tell of the theft, in recent weeks, of a Japanese maple tree from a yard on Cookman Avenue. It was taken right out of the ground.

But the most bizarre of all the recent thefts was that of a sign stolen from a house on Pitman Avenue. The sign read: “Random Acts of Kindness.”

Postscript: Asked for comment, the Neptune Police Department issued a press release on Friday acknowledging a rise in theft of statues and other outdoor ornaments in Ocean Grove “over the past few weeks.” The department asked that people “use caution in placing expensive items or items of sentimental value” in places where they could be stolen. It also encouraged people to report suspicious activity by calling 9-1-1.

Statue stolen from Clark Avenue. Photo courtesy of Angela Germann

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“Crime is up in Ocean Grove since the summer people have left,” our Neighborhood Watch coordinator informed us on Tuesday, “so please be careful and watchful. Lots of yard and outside items are being stolen…”

The Neptune PD provided the following specifics:

  • Someone entered a residence in the area of 110 Lake Avenue and removed a laptop computer. The residence was unlocked and unoccupied at the time.
  • Someone entered an unsecured house in the area of 40 West Avenue and stole an iPad.
  • Two unlocked bicycles were stolen from the area of Bethany Block and Broadway.
  • One locked bicycle was stolen from the area of 60 Lake Avenue.
  • Money was removed from the console of an unlocked vehicle in the area of 40 Benson Avenue.
  • In the area between 110 Broadway and 139 Broadway there were three reported thefts of the following items: a statue, a water fountain and a decorative planter.
  • Decorative exterior lighting was stolen from the area of 80 Heck Avenue.
  • A resident reported a suspicious man in the area of Ocean and Embury Avenues. Patrols responded and located the man. He was found to be in possession of narcotics and was arrested.

— Charles Layton

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Neighborhood Watch reports two recent thefts of bicycles, one near 30 Ocean Pathway and the other near 130 Lawrence Avenue.

An unattended purse was stolen from a car in the area of New York Avenue and Clark Avenue.

An unattended bag disappeared from the beach.

And an unsecured boogie board was stolen from the area of 80 Webb Avenue.

Police also reported the theft of two equality flags from Ocean Grove homes, one in the 70 block of Webb Avenue and one in the area of 82 Webb Avenue. However, we know of a third flag that went missing from a home on Heck Avenue; that one evidently wasn’t reported to police. All three flags are thought to have been taken around the same time on Saturday evening.

— CL

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By Charles Layton

Equality flag, symbol of Human Rights Campaign. Photo by Charles Layton

At least three equality flags were stolen from homes in Ocean Grove over the weekend.

A man named John, who lives on New York Avenue, said he and his daughter went out to dinner on Saturday night, and when they got home he noticed that his flag had been ripped off. “They literally ripped it off the side of the house with such force that the metal of the flag holder was broken in half.”

He said the next day, when he called the police, a neighbor said, “Oh my gosh, mine is missing too.”

He figures the thefts occurred between 8 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. Saturday.

Irene, who lives on the western end of Heck Avenue, said she only noticed the theft of her flag, along with its pole, on Sunday, while looking at photographs. She said she had taken a photo of her granddaughter’s lemonade stand on Saturday and the flag was in the picture. Then she took a photo of a flower in front of her house on Sunday and saw that the flag was missing. “So I’m pretty sure it happened Saturday night,” she said.

Both Irene and John said that when they reported the thefts the police asked questions that led them to think the police were trying to establish whether or not the thefts could be classified as hate crimes. The blue and yellow flags are the symbol of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the country’s largest civil rights organization for gay equality.

Irene said she was particularly disturbed because the thief had to unlatch her gate and come into the yard, “and he came right up to my front steps and took it.”

“And my dog didn’t bark, which I’m not too thrilled about either,” she added.

After hearing of these three thefts, Harriet Bernstein, co-chair of Ocean Grove United, sent out emails asking whether others may have had their flags stolen. If so, she was urging that they report the thefts to the Neptune police.

“A number of people have had flags stolen in the past,” Bernstein said, “but it hasn’t happened in a few years.”

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Police are investigating a recent early morning robbery at the North End area of the boardwalk.

According to the latest Neighborhood Watch report, three Hispanic males stole the victim’s cell phone and some money and ran away toward Asbury Park.

In other recent incidents:

  • Someone entered an unlocked car in the area of Spray Avenue and Ocean Avenue, but apparently nothing was taken.
  • A locked bicycle was stolen from the area of 140 Mt. Tabor Way.
  • An unlocked bike was stolen near 20 Spray Avenue.
  • Two unattended bags were stolen from the beach.
  • Police received a report of criminal mischief to a residence in the area of 40 Benson Avenue.

Neptune Police urge us all to keep our personal items secure and to watch for suspicious activity. Report anything suspicious by calling 9-1-1.

— CL

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By Mary Walton

Abbie Grace in her stroller; owner Kymmy Pyne is all smiles. Photo by Mary Walton

Perhaps you saw Kymmy Pyne pushing an empty pink pet stroller through the streets of Ocean Grove, a disconsolate expression on her face as she looked from left to right. Or the flyers she posted advertising her lost cat.

But Tuesday morning she was all smiles after receiving a call. The cat, Abbie Grace, had surfaced under a porch on Mt. Hermon Way. And here’s the interesting part: last year she had run away and turned up at exactly the same location.

Or maybe the cat’s escape is the interesting part: Abbie bolted last Friday as her owner tried to thwart a robbery.

As Pyne told it, she was walking near the gas station by the Windmill when she saw a woman soliciting money from people walking by. As a man reached for his wallet, the woman reached for his money. The man cried out that he was being robbed. “Call 911.” Pyne let go of Abbie’s leash to grab her cell phone, and Abbie ran away.

When the police answered Pyne’s call, she told them a robbery was taking place, and added, “My cat ran away.” She gave chase after Abbie but then remembered that another of her cats, plus her wallet and her cell phone, were still in the stroller. While she was retrieving those items, Abbie got away.

Why, you may wonder, was Abbie in a stroller to begin with? “She’s an indoor cat,” Pyne said. “I never let her outdoors. I have two other cats and they’re indoor cats too.” The stroller excursions are Abbie’s only exposure to the outside world.

Abbie’s escape last year was also full of drama. The stroller was stationed outside Clancy’s. The person who was supposed to be watching her fell down on the job. Abbie ran across Main Street and disappeared for five days. An Ocean Grove homeowner who saw Pyne’s notices called and said the cat was in his yard. Pyne rushed over but by then the cat was gone. Next door was a neighbor, who was deaf. But Pyne, who said she knows sign language, was able to communicate with her. And the neighbor signed that Abbie was under a porch.

After relating these stories, a happy Pyne continued on her way. “I have to take down the fliers so nobody keeps worrying about her.”

Oh, but as for the attempted robbery, Pyne doesn’t know how that turned out.

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Here’s your latest Neighborhood Watch report:

  • Someone stole a GPS unit from an unlocked car in the area of 80 Fletcher Lake Avenue.
  • An unlocked bicycle was stolen from the area of 10 Pitman Avenue.
  • Police had a report of a suspicious male in the Broadway area pushing a garbage can containing a large piece of metal. Police responded, and an investigation determined that the metal had been stolen from the construction area on Broadway. The suspect was arrested.
  • Police received a report of an unoccupied suspicious vehicle parked in the area of 50 Olin Street. Through an investigation an arrest was made at the scene and the person was charged with possession of narcotics.

Comment from our NW liaison, Officer Michael Adam: “Two arrests were made as a result of residents reporting suspicious behavior in their neighborhood. This is good work by the residents. Continue to be aware of any suspicious behavior and report all suspicious behavior to the police immediately via 9-1-1.”

— CL

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By Charles Layton

The four adults accused of a months-long spree of rock-throwing vandalism in Ocean Grove and elsewhere plan to apply to Pretrial Intervention, a program designed for first-time offenders.

According to a letter from the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office, the program “will include community service as well [as] an agreement to pay full restitution to all victims over a period of time.”

If the four defendants are allowed into this program, and if they comply fully with its conditions, they “will have the opportunity to have the matter dismissed,” the letter says. This would spare the defendants the stigma of a criminal conviction. “Should anyone fail to comply with conditions imposed by the program, then he/she will be facing an indictable conviction for a third-degree crime,” the letter says.

A third-degree crime in New Jersey can draw a sentence of 3 to 5 years in prison plus a large fine.

The four adult defendants are charged with criminal mischief. (A fifth defendant is a juvenile.) Police have said that during the past winter and spring the defendants cruised around numerous towns late at night, smashing the windows of homes and parked cars and committing other acts of vandalism. More than 150 of these incidents were reported in more than 20 towns, all of them, except Brick, in Monmouth County.

Neptune Police have cited 33 acts of window smashing in Ocean Grove alone from January through March.

The prosecutor’s office had earlier contacted the victims of these crimes by mail, asking for details, including receipts for repair of damages. This information has served as a basis for plea bargain negotiations with the four adult defendants.

In its latest letter, explaining the Pretrial Intervention Program, the prosecutor’s office informs the victims that they “are entitled to input on the disposition of the case.”

One victim we spoke with was unhappy at the prospect of having the defendants treated as first-time offenders. “The first time they threw a rock was the first offense,” this person said, “but the 150th time?”

The four defendants in question are Philip David Williams, 24; James Joseph Turetzkin, 19; Lauren Ashley Magaw, 21, and Tyler Emmons, 18. All are from Neptune Township except Turetzkin, who is from Neptune City.

These defendants had been scheduled for a pre-indictment court appearance on June 14, but that court date has been postponed until August 9 to give more time for negotiations aimed at a settlement. If no settlement is reached and the defendants do not plead guilty, the case would go before a grand jury and, in the event of an indictment, be tried by a jury.

New Jersey’s Pretrial Intervention Program provides defendants, generally first-time offenders, an opportunity for alternatives to traditional criminal prosecution. According to an online explanation provided by the state (go here to read it) the PTI program “is based on a rehabilitative model that recognizes that there may be an apparent causal connection between the offense charged and the rehabilitative needs of a defendant. Further, the rehabilitative model emphasizes that social, cultural, and economic conditions often result in a defendant’s decision to commit crime… Any defendant who is charged with an indictable offense may apply.”

For previous stories, containing more background on this case, go here and here.

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