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SEA ISLE CITY FIRE

Fire destroys 3 homes at Jersey Shore community

SEA ISLE CITY, N.J. (AP) - Three homes were destroyed by a fire that broke out near the beachfront of a Jersey Shore community.

Authorities say no injuries have been reported in the smoky fire, which erupted around 4:30 p.m. Friday in Sea Isle City and sent large clouds of black smoke spewing across the region. It was brought under control about two hours later.

The cause of the fire has not yet been determined.

Multiple fire companies battled the blaze, but it wasn't clear if any of the homes were occupied at the time the blaze broke out. Officials say other nearby residences suffered minor damage due to the fire, but the blaze was not expected to consume any other residences.

Authorities say windy conditions hampered the firefighting efforts.

FLU SEASON

Second wave of milder flu hitting Northeast

NEW YORK (AP) - A second, milder wave of flu is hitting the Northeast.

Months ago, the flu season seemed to be winding down. But health officials on Friday reported widespread flu-like illnesses in six states. Rhode Island is the latest to join the list which includes Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, New Jersey and New York.

Officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say the flu season started in December and peaked by mid-January, and most of the illnesses were swine flu.

But, as happens some years, there's a second wave of a milder flu strain.

NJ MOST WANTED-ARREST

'Most wanted' offender faces bail jumping charge

MOUNT HOLLY, N.J. (AP) - A sex offender who was captured by New Jersey authorities earlier this month after being on the run for more than two decades has been charged with bail jumping.

Bail has been set at $150,000 for 48-year-old James Wade Barclay, who was arrested April 5 in Boswell, Pa. He was returned to New Jersey after he waived extradition,

Barclay had been wanted since he failed to appear for sentencing in September 1991 on a child sex assault charge and had been on New Jersey's "most wanted" list.

Barclay allegedly used a fictitious Social Security number to adopt the alias James C. Toryone and start a new life as a long-distance truck driver. Using the phony name, they say he got a driver's license and bought a house and firearms.

GAME OF THRONES-SUSPENSION

Professor: 'Game of Thrones' pic got me suspended

(Information in the following story is from: The Record (Woodland Park, N.J.), http://www.northjersey.com )

PARAMUS, N.J. (AP) - A New Jersey professor claims he was suspended over an online photo containing a quote from "Game of Thrones" that he says a school official perceived as a threat.

Francis Schmidt is an art instructor at Bergen Community College. He says he was suspended for eight days after posting a photo in January of his 7-year-old daughter wearing a T-shirt with a quote from the graphic HBO show that read: "I will take what is mine with fire and blood."

Schmidt tells The Record that school officials questioned whether the reference was meant as a threat against a dean.

The school has been embroiled in labor negotiations. School spokesman Larry Hlavenka (la-VEHN'-ka) is calling the case a private personnel matter.

ATHEIST LICENSE PLATE

New Jersey woman sues over '8THEIST' license plate

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) - A New Jersey woman claims she was denied a license plate proclaiming herself to be an atheist because it might be considered offensive.

Shannon Morgan said in a federal lawsuit filed Thursday that the Motor Vehicle Commission violated her First Amendment rights when its website rejected the plate reading "8THEIST."

The Maurice River Township woman says she also asked for a plate reading "BAPTIST" as a test. The website accepted it.

Messages and emails left for the Motor Vehicle Commission were not immediately returned. A recorded message said the offices were closed because of Good Friday.

New Jersey previously, after a brief flap, approved a request from an atheist group's president for a license plate with the word "atheist." His plate had the number one in place of the letter "i."

PULASKI SKYWAY CLOSURE

Pulaski Skyway commuters urged to use mass transit

JERSEY CITY, N.J. (AP) - Officials are advising commuters who use the Pulaski Skyway that this past week was the exception, not the norm.

No major traffic problems have been reported since northbound lanes were closed on Saturday to repair the 81-year-old span on which 74,000 vehicles travel daily between Newark and Jersey City.

Officials say that's because Jersey City schools were closed and traffic was lighter with people observing Easter and Passover holidays.

But officials are expecting traffic volume to return to normal next week.

They're urging motorists to use mass transit including a new park-and-ride bus near Newark airport and new ferry service from Monmouth County during the two-year closure.

PRICEY LAND

Lot sells for $5M in Alpine

(Information in the following story is from: The Record (Woodland Park, N.J.), http://www.northjersey.com )

ALPINE, N.J. (AP) - Land doesn't come cheap in one of New Jersey's priciest communities.

A 2-acre lot in Alpine has sold for $5 million.

Seller Jane Huang tells The Record newspaper it was a good time to sell because there aren't many parcels that size "15 minutes from midtown Manhattan."

Huang bought the land for $1.9 million in 2002.

The lot is surrounded by multimillion-dollar homes, including one that was sold last year for more than $13 million.

The buyer made the purchase through a limited liability company called Stone Tower LLC.

Huang declined to identify the buyer.

MANSFIELD-SEX ASSAULT ARREST

Pennsylvania man accused of sex assaults in NJ

(Information in the following story is from: The (Newark, N.J.) Star-Ledger, http://www.nj.com )

MANSFIELD, N.J. (AP) - Authorities have accused a Pennsylvania man of sexually assaulting three boys in New Jersey's Warren County.

Bruce Naylor Jr. of Tatamy, Pa., is held on $300,000 bail, charged with aggravated sexual assault, sexual assault, child endangerment and refusal to provide DNA.

Mansfield Police Chief Michael Reilly tells The Star-Ledger of Newark two of the boys were 9 years old and the other was 7 years old.

It's not known if Naylor has a lawyer.

ELIZABETH-ROBBERY ATTEMPT

NJ police: 4 arrested after scrap metal heist

ELIZABETH, N.J. (AP) - Authorities say gunshots were fired by suspects who were fleeing a hold-up at a scrap metal business near Newark Liberty International Airport.

Elizabeth Police Director James Cosgrove tells WNBC-TV in New York that four suspects are in custody. He says a fifth suspect who fled the scene, allegedly in a stolen vehicle, remained at large Friday night.

The robbery reportedly occurred around 3 p.m. Friday at Bayway Scrap Metals in Elizabeth.

Cosgrove says patrol officers soon spotted a suspicious truck about two miles from the scene. The suspects were then captured following a confrontation.

Police say two suspects fired gunshots as they fled in the stolen vehicle. No officers were injured.

STOLEN CAR RING

International carjacking ring suspect captured

ALLENDALE, N.J. (AP) - A man sought by authorities probing an international carjacking ring was arrested after he allegedly tried to take a luxury car from a garage at a northern New Jersey home.

Authorities say 32-year-old Abdur Abdullah of Irvington was captured Wednesday in Allendale.

A woman who was visiting a friend's home there allegedly saw Abdullah sitting in the driver's seat of a 2014 BMW. He ran away after he saw the woman, but was later arrested after a traffic stop in a nearby town and was charged with burglary, attempted theft and providing false information to police.

Abdullah is among roughly 30 people accused of roles in a stolen car ring that targeted high-end vehicles from New Jersey and New York and shipped dozens of them for sale in West Africa.

FRATERNITY PARTY SHOOTING

Student wounded in frat house party shooting

(Information in the following story is from: The (Newark, N.J.) Star-Ledger, http://www.nj.com )

HILLSIDE, N.J. (AP) - A New Jersey college student was shot and wounded when a man who had been thrown out of an off-campus house party returned to the residence and opened fire.

Hillside police tell The Star-Ledger that the shooting occurred around 2:15 a.m. Friday in front of the Sigma Theta Chi fraternity house.

Authorities say a scuffle ensued when the man was asked to leave the party, though it's not clear why the request was made. He returned minutes later with a handgun and fired multiple shots at the house while partygoers were standing on the porch and the front lawn.

The wounded man, identified only as a Kean University student, was hospitalized in stable condition. But further details on his injuries were not disclosed. No other injuries were reported.

ASSAULT-HISTORIC DISTRICT

Man sentenced for attack near Independence Hall

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - A man will spend nearly five years behind bars for what prosecutors described as a random, brutal assault on a Philadelphia pedestrian who had sought his help.

A federal judge on Thursday sentenced 26-year-old Baldwin Centeno to 57 months in prison for the attack near Independence Hall two years ago.

Authorities say Centeno, of Camden, N.J., was with his uncle when the victim approached to ask for help finding his car.

Authorities say the men began beating the victim for no reason, causing traumatic brain injuries, facial fractures and other injuries.

A jury convicted Centeno of assault. His uncle, 47-year-old Santos Centeno, was convicted in that attack and a second one that occurred in the same area four days later.

Santos Centeno will be sentenced May 5.

MONUMENTS MEN-HONORARY DEGREE

College to give honorary degree to Monument Man

EASTON, Pa. (AP) - A Pennsylvania college is paying tribute to one of the last surviving members of the World War II group known as the Monuments Men.

Lafayette College will present an honorary degree to 88-year-old Harry Ettlinger at its commencement ceremony on May 24.

The Monuments Men worked to save cultural treasures across Europe that had been seized by the Nazis. Ettlinger was a U.S. soldier who helped recover stolen art stored in German salt mines.

George Clooney recently directed and starred in a historically based movie called "The Monuments Men."

Ettlinger, who lives in Rockaway, N.J., inspired the film character named Sam Epstein. He was played by actor Dimitri Leonidas.

Lafayette is a small liberal arts school in Easton that serves about 2,400 students.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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