An occasional update on local stories that were in the news just a year ago.

Feb. 15 - Tracy Hottenstein, 35, of Conshohocken, Pa., is found dead shortly before 8 a.m. on the muddy banks near the Sea Isle City Marina.

After months of investigation and searching for witnesses, authorities said in May that Hottenstein died of exposure and acute alcohol intoxication. Her death was ruled accidental. Hottenstein was in Sea Isle City for the annual Polar Bear Plunge but did not participate in the event. She was last seen leaving the Ocean Drive Bar and Restaurant at 2:15 a.m., a half-mile from where she was found. Authorities did not release her blood-alcohol content but said it was higher than the .08 legal limit for driving. No witnesses to her death were located.

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The victim's parents, Elizabeth and Charles Hottenstein, spoke at the Jan. 12 Sea Isle City Council meeting, urging the city to take more measures to control intoxication during the 2010 event, which was held Feb. 13. Councilman Michael McHale said after the meeting that the city had planned more controls for this year's events and that several bars took extra security measures.

Sea Isle City police and the Cape May County Prosecutor's Office sought out witnesses during this year's Polar Bear Plunge and set up a command center at John F. Kennedy Boulevard and Landis Avenue for the weekend. Results of the search have not been released.

ACES' shrinking fares

Feb. 6 - The ACES train from New York makes its first arrival in Atlantic City with 45 paying passengers. The double-decker train is sponsored by three casinos and designed to bring gamblers to the resort from New York and northern New Jersey on weekends. The initial one-way coach fare is $50.

Ridership did not live up to expectations, and in March, the line cut the one-way coach fare to as little as $39, with first-class costing $25 more. In May, the coach fare was cut again to $29 one-way.

The train started attracting more passengers in June as the summer got under way. But revenue slumped again as the weather grew cooler. From late November to Dec. 30, ACES offered $39 round-trip fares.

In December, ACES announced it had a $6 million deficit, and the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority offered it a $2 million subsidy. The number of weekly runs was reduced from 18 to 11 for the winter.

Ex-Vineland officer

loses gun collection

Jan. 30 - State Police take 259 guns and ammunition from the Franklin Township, Gloucester County, home of Brian Hinkel, a former Vineland police officer.

Police found guns all over Hinkel's 4-acre property, as well as gunpowder and several boxes of ammunition. He was charged with possession of assault weapons, possession of high-capacity ammunition and destructive devices, aggravated assault, and possession of stolen property.

Hinkel's case was transferred to the state Attorney General's Office because State Police made the arrest, a spokesman for the Gloucester County Prosecutor's Office said. A spokeswoman for the Attorney General said the case is still pending and made no further comment.

Staff writer Elaine Rose

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