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Craig Matthews / Staff Photographer/  

Atlantic City Mayor Marty Small, left, sat on a panel with former Gov. Jim Florio at the NJLM luncheon at the Sheraton Atlantic City Convention Center Hotel.


Crime
Three more suspects to be kept in jail in Pleasantville shooting

MAYS LANDING — Children and a full-time job were not reason enough to keep the alleged shooter at a Pleasantville High School football game out of jail until trial, a judge ruled Wednesday.

Atlantic County Superior Court Judge Bernard E. DeLury Jr. ordered Alvin Wyatt, 31, along with suspects Michael Mack, 27, and Tyrell Dorn, 28, all of Atlantic City, back to the county jail.

Wyatt is charged with murder, two counts of attempted murder, unlawful possession of a weapon and possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose in the Nov. 15 shooting that killed 10-year-old Micah Tennant and injured two others.

DeLury said attorney Stephen Funk’s argument for Wyatt’s release — his children and his full-time employment in the deli of the Absecon ShopRite — was undercut by Wyatt’s “anti-social acts” and his previous stint in prison. DeLury called Wyatt “the quintessential flight risk” and denied his release prior to trial in part because the number of witnesses to the shooting increases the risk for witness intimidation and because of the severity of the charges.

“This defendant’s conduct was as callous as it was exceedingly dangerous,” DeLury said.

Wyatt was arrested in 2010 on weapons and drug charges after police found two loaded 9 mm handguns and 654 bags of heroin during a motor vehicle stop.

Mack and Dorn are charged with unlawful possession of a weapon and certain persons not to possess a weapon. Assistant Prosecutor Seth Levy said Mack was in a car that left the game with its headlights off and failed to pull over for an officer until arriving in Atlantic City. A firearm was thrown from the car, Levy said.

Mack’s attorney, Matthew Portella, said his client arrived at the game with another group and jumped in the car in question when the shooting started because he knew the men.

“It’s Pleasantville,” he said. “Everybody knows everybody.”

The gun wasn’t his and wasn’t the one used in the shooting, Portella said.

DeLury said Mack’s immediate flight from the game and association with men who arrived at the game armed speak to a “very serious danger to public safety.” He also noted his “frequent adverse contact with the criminal justice system.”

Mack was arrested in a 2015 drug raid in Atlantic City and previously served prison sentences for gun possession. He also was arrested with Wyatt and charged with aggravated assault and weapons offenses following a shooting at Atlantic City’s Carver Hall apartments in 2014.

Dorn’s attorney, Michael Schreiber, suggested the judge consider a “change of venue” because media articles tying his client to the shooting — when he is not charged in the death of Tennant — could sway the court.

“He’s basically affected by the overflow from this young man’s death,” Schreiber said.

DeLury said he’s confident he can remain impartial. He denied Dorn’s release, in part because of his prior stint in prison.

“That experience has not deterred him from his instant behavior and likely will not ensure his future lawfulness,” DeLury said.

Dorn was arrested during a motor vehicle stop in 2015 and charged with unlawful possession of a weapon, possession by certain persons not to carry a weapon, possession of a high-capacity magazine, resisting arrest and eluding. The year before, he was arrested in a drug raid and charged with possession of a handgun and hollow-point ammunition and certain persons not to have a weapon.

Another man charged in the shooting, Vance Golden, 26, of Pleasantville, was ordered to remain in jail last week.

Shahid Dixon, 27, of Atlantic City, will remain in jail as well, as his charges are a violation of his participation in Recovery Court.

Golden and Dixon are charged with unlawful possession of a weapon and certain persons not to possess a weapon. Dixon additionally was charged with eluding.

One of the three people shot, Ibn Abdullah, 27, of Atlantic City, was charged with first-degree unlawful possession of a handgun and certain persons not permitted to possess a handgun. The Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office did not respond to questions about whether Abdullah was still being treated at a hospital.

The third person shot, a 15-year-old, suffered a graze wound.

PHOTOS from the peace march in Pleasantville

Sports
Mainland, Egg Harbor Township end Thanksgiving rivalry

EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — The Mainland Regional/Egg Harbor Township high school football Thanksgiving rivalry faded into history Thursday.

Mainland beat EHT 26-12 in the final game of a holiday rivalry that began in 1983.

“I was a little sad at first when I heard (this was the last game on Thanksgiving),” Mainland senior linebacker Drew DeMorat said. “It was kind of cool for us to play in the last one. I always looked forward to it. I’m a little sad because when I come back for Thanksgiving next year as an alumni, I’m not going to be able to go to a game.”

Most fans in attendance Thursday were resigned to the game’s fate. They were sad to see the tradition go but understood the reasons why the two schools no longer want to play on Thanksgiving.

With the state’s new playoff format, Thanksgiving games are getting harder to fit into the schedule.

Teams that don’t make the playoffs or lose in the first round have to bide their time until Thanksgiving. Teams that advance in the playoffs don’t want to interrupt the postseason to play a regular season game.

“It’s a tough subject because there’s a ton a history in the game,” said Ryan Smith, a 2003 EHT graduate, former Eagles player and current EHT teacher and coach. “But the understanding of the format of the season and the risk of injury after being done your regular season three weeks earlier outweighs the tradition. The overall goal is to keep the tradition going, just not on this day.”

Thanksgiving games are disappearing all over the state.

Is it time to end Thanksgiving High School football games?

This year only there are only five high school football games in the area that will be played on Thanksgiving. That number is going to drop again next year as Egg Harbor Township and Mainland have announced that they will no longer be playing on Thanksgiving. 

Five years ago, the Shore Conference in Monmouth and Ocean counties had 17 Thanksgiving games scheduled. This year, it had five.

Carteret vs. Perth Amboy, which began in 1927 and was Middlesex County’s oldest rivalry, was moved from Thanksgiving to the season opener this year. Toms River South and Lakewood played for the 100th and final time on Thanksgiving on Thursday.

Mainland coach Chuck Smith played for the Mustangs in the first Thanksgiving game between Mainland and EHT.

“I got to coach in the last one,” he said. “With the way the new playoff format is, I’m not really sad to see it go. To me, the playoffs are the end-all. You play to get in the playoffs. There’s either the finality (of a playoff loss) or you get to go on tomorrow. I love that. That’s what you do in sports.”

Thursday’s game at Egg Harbor Township was played in sunny but windy conditions. There were plenty of seats available in the bleachers for the 10 a.m. kickoff. Still, old friends greeted each other on both sides of the field. For many fans, the Thanksgiving contest is the only game they attend all season. As the game wore on, some fans headed for the exits to get a start on their holiday dinner.

Mainland and Egg Harbor Township plan to continue to play in the regular season. There’s talk of making the game the season opener for both schools.

“If you play in the last week of August, you can still get the alumni here,” EHT coach Kevin Stetser said. “It’s a little bittersweet. I understand. I love the tradition. But it’s great that we’re still going to keep playing each other. It’s a good, friendly rivalry.”

GALLERY: Mainland at Egg Harbor Township Thanksgiving game

Local
Sister Jean's Kitchen making comeback at St. Monica's in Atlantic City

ATLANTIC CITY — With the support of the city’s new mayor, Sister Jean’s Kitchen could be back serving the community by next year.

The Rev. John Scotland, executive director of the Friends of Jean Webster Inc., the nonprofit that operated the closed soup kitchen, said the group is “very hopeful” it will be able to reestablish itself at the site of the former St. Monica’s Catholic Church on North Pennsylvania Avenue. Scotland said he wants to have the kitchen “up and running” in about a year.

“Without the mayor’s support, we couldn’t make this happen,” Scotland said Wednesday.

Mayor Marty Small Sr. said he wanted to preserve the legacy of Jean Webster, an Atlantic City resident who began feeding the homeless out of her home on Indiana Avenue in 1986 before moving to the church where she continued her mission until her death in 2011.

“I supported the project three years ago, and unfortunately there was no resolution,” Small said. “I support the project now. At the end of the day, we’re all God’s children. Everyone needs a little help sometimes.”

Sister Jean’s was forced to vacate the 163-year-old Victory First Presbyterian Church at Pennsylvania and Pacific avenues in February after city officials deemed the building structurally unsafe. A planned move to St. Monica’s, which the nonprofit purchased in August 2017 for $246,000, was scrapped after the relocation proposal did not account for building code requirements, such as those required after Hurricane Sandy or by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The Casino Reinvestment Development Authority reimbursed Sister Jean’s $300,000 in June. The nonprofit used those funds to pay off the existing balance on the St. Monica’s properties, and Sister Jean’s now owns them outright, Scotland said.

The city will have to approve variances for Sister Jean’s to operate out of St. Monica’s, but Scotland is hopeful Small can help move the project along.

Small’s predecessor, Frank Gilliam Jr., vocally opposed the relocation of the soup kitchen, and the city under Gilliam refused to give Sister Jean’s a certificate of occupancy for St. Monica’s.

Sister Jean’s served up to 300 meals a day before it was forced to cease operations.

Besides the required variances needed for St. Monica’s, Scotland said the buildings still need to be outfitted to safely prepare food. The project will require funding for renovations and equipment.

“We have some donors who have been dormant for the past year, so we’re going to start reaching out to those people for help,” Scotland said.

GALLERY: Sister Jean's Kitchen through the years

Business
South Jersey retailers prepare for Black Friday crowds

Bill Schmincke, of Egg Harbor Township, had been waiting outside Best Buy in Mays Landing since 12:30 p.m. Thursday, forgoing a Thanksgiving meal for the store’s 5 p.m. opening.

Schmincke runs an anti-drug organization called Stop the Heroin and operates several sober living homes, for which he purchased three 53-inch LED televisions.

“We’re opening a new home and needed TVs,” he said. “I went online, and this was a great deal.”

South Jersey shoppers will add to the sound of ringing cash registers nationwide as an estimated 114.6 million people shop on Black Friday, according to the National Retail Federation.

Estimates for the rest of the weekend are 66.6 million on Small Business Saturday and 33.3 million Sunday. The shopping weekend finishes on Cyber Monday, when 68.7 million are expected to jump on online sales.

All of this activity adds to holiday retail sales in November and December that are estimated to be up about 4% over last year for a total of as much as $730.7 billion, according to the federation.

South Jersey residents out this Black Friday will find new stores such as Shoppers World in the Hamilton Mall in Mays Landing, Palace Diamonds in Tanger Outlets The Walk in Atlantic City and Mark LeGrand Designer Couture at the Cumberland Mall in Vineland.

At the same time, they will miss key anchor stores such as the JCPenney and Sears at the Hamilton Mall, both of which closed in the past year.

The new-to-the-market discount department store Shoppers World debuted at 10 a.m. Thanksgiving Day on the first floor of the Hamilton Mall, in the former site of JCPenney.

“There will be huge sales throughout the store, and I am expecting a tremendous reaction from the customers,” said Howard Lippe, regional director of operations and human resources for Shoppers World.

Shoppers World’s merchandise includes clothing, linens, home furnishings, housewares, art and home decor.

At The Walk in Atlantic City, Got The Look opened a new store in September on Michigan Avenue. Kate Spade and Under Armour also relocated and expanded to new locations on Michigan Avenue, said Donna J. Danielson, general manager of the outdoor shopping complex.

Sales at The Walk include 50% off everything during Black Friday week at Tommy Hilfiger, up to 60% off the entire store on Black Friday at Calvin Klein and buy one, get one 50% off at Carters Babies & Kids.

Spirits are high heading into the holiday season at Boscov’s at the Harbor Square shopping center in Egg Harbor Township, said Christopher A. Tsilimidos, the store’s hardlines coordinator.

Boscov’s just invested in new restrooms and new carpets and, despite rumors, is not moving to the Hamilton Mall, Tsilimidos said.

“We’re seeing very nice increases, and there are many factors that go into making it happen. At Boscov’s, we have embraced e-commerce and buy online, pick up in-store,” Tsilimidos said. “Our sale prices and doorbusters are extremely competitive.”

Boscov’s has been in Harbor Square, formerly the Shore Mall, since 1990. The anchor store is being joined this holiday shopping season by a new neighbor, Atlantic City Barstool Brothers Furniture & Design, which relocated in July from Northfield into the space of the former T.G.I. Friday’s restaurant.

The furniture store is seeing anywhere between 20 to 50 times more foot traffic in Harbor Square than in the Tilton Shopping Center, co-owner Joseph Czyzewicz said.

“Most of the people who shop at Boscov’s are our customer base,” said Czyzewicz.

In Cumberland County, the Cumberland Mall will be open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Black Friday with several new businesses, including Contemporary Hair Design and Shoe Show, which opened following the nationwide closing of Payless Shoes, said Heather Crowell, executive vice president of strategy and communications for the mall.

Meanwhile, outside the Mays Landing Best Buy on Thursday, Kamil Miskowski, of Voorhees, Camden County, said shopping on Thanksgiving has become a family tradition.

“We eat and nap early,” he said. “We’re going to some different stores after and won’t stop until late. It’s actually fun.”

Look back at the Hamilton Mall

Edward Lea / Staff photographer  

Mainland vs Egg Harbor Township annual thanksgiving day football game at Egg Harbor Township Thursday Nov 28, 2019. Edward Lea Staff Photographer / Press of Atlantic City