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Ventnor woman charged in fatal beating and robbery of mother, grandmother

An Atlantic County woman was arrested Wednesday afternoon in New York and charged with robbing and killing her mother and grandmother in their Ventnor highrise condo, the Atlantic County Prosecutor said in a statement.

Heather Barbera, 41, of Ventnor, is charged with two counts of murder, possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, a nightstick, and robbery, Prosecutor Damon G. Tyner said. Barbera remained in custody Wednesday at the New York Police Department Midtown South Precinct, pending extradition to New Jersey, according to the statement.

“I lost them on the same day, and she killed my whole life,” said Richard Rosen, 50, of Brooklyn, N.Y., who was the one who found his mother and sister dead in their condo.

Elaine Rosen, 87, and her daughter Michelle Gordon, 67, were found dead at 10:25 a.m. Sunday inside a residence at the luxury highrise Vassar Square Condominiums at 4800 Boardwalk, Tyner said in a previous statement.

The cause of death for Rosen and Gordon was determined to be multiple blunt impact injuries and the manner of death is homicide, Tyner said.

Richard Rosen said he went to check on his mother and sister in Ventnor when he couldn’t reach them. Rosen on Tuesday told The Press of Atlantic City in a telephone interview that a security guard let him in the apartment after there was no answer to his knock on the door.

Rosen described his mother and sister as “simple, quiet people.”

He said on Wednesday he “knew” it was his niece all along. However, he said he withheld his opinion Tuesday out of concern his niece would flee from police.

“I knew 100 percent that she did it,” Rosen said.

Richard Rosen said he had no relationship with his niece and that he had hoped she would be arrested. Tyner’s statement reported Barbera took a bus to New York City after committing the killings.

She was identified Wednesday afternoon at the Midtown Manhattan Port Authority, located at 42nd Street and Ninth Avenue, by New York Police Department officers and taken into custody, Tyner said.

The Prosecutor’s Office Major Crimes Unit and the Ventnor Police Department investigated the deaths, authorities said.

Staff writers Molly Bilinski and Maxwell Reil contributed to this report.

Clinging jellyfish, man-of-war invading South Jersey waters

Whether it’s the bay or the ocean, there are multiple species invading South Jersey waters and they can be a painful problem to the general public.

In Barnegat Bay, a particular, nonnative clinging jellyfish that can submerge itself in sea grass and algae prompted the state Department of Environmental Protection to expand a recreational-use advisory to the entire bay.

Along the coast of the Atlantic Ocean, a hydrozoan called the Portuguese man-of-war has been seen on New Jersey beaches as currents push it up from the Gulf of Mexico and water temperatures continue to rise.

The DEP had already issued advisories for clinging jellyfish in northern Barnegat Bay, the Metedeconk River in Ocean County and the Shrewsbury and Manasquan rivers in Monmouth County. About 40 clinging jellyfish were confirmed Monday in north-central Barnegat Bay in Ocean County.

Larry Hajna, a spokesman for the DEP, said it’s difficult to tell where the clinging jellyfish can travel in South Jersey.

“Their primary transportation from one location to another is by boat. The polyps attach themselves to boats that move from one body of water to another, so it’s really important for boat owners to wash off their boats,” Hajna said.

The man-of-war is not a jellyfish; it’s part of the Physaliidae family, according to Matthew Landau, professor of marine science at Stockton University in Galloway Township.

Landau said the man-of-war typically is active in warm water and can be seen around shore towns by mid-summer.

On July 5, Christina Perna Burns of Bridgewater spotted a man-of-war on the beach at Wildwood Crest in Cape May County. Since the man-of-war is a surface animal, strong water and wind currents blowing from the southeast or the south presumably directed it toward the Crest, experts say.

The Gulf Stream, the warm current of water that travels from the Gulf of Mexico to Europe, travels just a few hundred miles off the Jersey Shore. When the wind direction is blowing onshore, it pushes warmer water into the region, officials said.

Man-of-war have longer tentacles and a crescent that works as a mast for it to travel.

“After rough weather, (man-of-war) tentacles can break off and they may float around and be independent to the body and still sting you. If they’re floating around for one to two days, they still sting,” Landau said. The tentacle sting is less like a bee sting and more like a little harpoon mechanism, Landau said, causing it to be more painful than a common jellyfish sting.

Landau advises anyone who is stung by a man-of-war to make sure all the tentacles are taken off and to use alcohol or salt water to counteract the pain.

Kevin Kelly, a medic for the Wildwood Crest Beach Patrol, said medics are prepared to apply hot water and a hot compress to the skin for those stung on the beach.

“The tentacles are like barbs and shoot out and stay in the skin. We recommend calling over a lifeguard and we’ll bring them up to first aid head-quarters,” Kelly said.

While the clinging jellyfish is not known to inhabit ocean beaches or typical swimming spots, the DEP asks the public to use common sense in areas where the jellyfish are suspected.

Press Meteorologist Joe Martucci contributed to this report.

Superior Court Judge rules James Kauffman suicide note is part of evidence

A note discovered in Dr. James Kauffman’s jail cell after his apparent suicide will be seen by his co-defendants on trial for an array of charges, including the murder of his wife April Kauffman, and running a drug ring, a judge has ruled.

In a July 9 decision, Atlantic County Superior Court Judge Bernard DeLury wrote “certain aspects of the Kauffman Letter are relevant to the investigation of this matter by both sides.”

The six-page letter was apparently written by Kauffman at the Hudson County jail, where he was being held on murder charges in his wife’s 2012 death. Kauffman was found dead January 26. DeLury’s decision states the letter was “not addressed to anyone in particular,” but an attached note states that “these six yellow pages are for my attorney and wife,” signed “JMK MD.”

The letter was in the possession of Hudson County. An Open Public Records Request for the letter by The Press of Atlantic City earlier this year was denied saying the letter was addressed only to Kauffman’s wife, Carole Weintraub, and his attorney, Edwin Jacobs. Chief Assistant Prosecutor Seth Levy said in court the state did have a copy of the letter, but it was unofficial.

DeLury’s decision notes the letter appears to be “a ‘deathbed statement,’ with respect to the state’s allegations that gave rise to the charges in the indictment.”

The letter appears to describe how Kauffman became involved with the distribution of the prescription drugs and how that led ultimately to the death of April Kauffman, according to DeLury. “The author then outlined his continuation in the narcotics distribution after the homicide,” the decision states.

Due to the personal nature of the letter, DeLury has ruled full copies will be provided to the defense attorneys only and those copies can be viewed by the defendants but not reproduced.

The letter was requested last month by public defender Mary Linehan, attorney for alleged murder co-conspirator and Pagan’s Motorcycle Club leader Ferdinand “Freddy” Augello. Linehan was joined in her request by several defense attorneys for the six other people charged in the case, which includes an opioid drug ring allegedly run out of Kauffman’s endocrinology office.

During a recent court hearing, Linehan told DeLury a copy she re-ceived was so redacted she couldn’t read it.

Linehan was not available Wednesday for comment.

Charles Peruto Jr., attorney for co-defendant Paul Pagano, who joined in the request for the letter, said DeLury’s decision was “proper.”

“If it’s relevant to any portion, he’s got to let it go, and he just followed the law and let it go,” Peruto said Wednesday.

Co-defendant Tabitha Chapman’s attorney, Jim Grimley, said he also has not seen the note but plans to get a copy. Chapman is charged with racketeering related to the drug ring. Grimley said he is unsure how the note will affect her case, if at all.

“I’ve got to read it first,” he said.

Atlantic County Prosecutor Damon G. Tyner declined to comment.

Peruto said he had not had a chance to view the letter yet. He said he believes Kauffman knew what he was writing when he wrote the letter.

“He knew it would affect the case,” Peruto said.

A portion of the note shown during an episode of ABC’s “20/20,” prime time television news magazine program which aired last month, claimed it was April who introduced James Kauffman to the Pagans.

Peruto said he was unsure how “20/20” was able to view the note before even the judge in the case did.

“It’s puzzling,” he said.

Meanwhile, Grimley said he still is awaiting 4,000 pages of discovery in the case against Chapman. Chapman, who pleaded not guilty, has not accepted a plea deal offered by the state and no trial date has been scheduled, he said.

Peruto’s client, Paul Pagano, an alleged Pagans leader and co-conspirator in the drug ring, was able to have his case separated from the other defendants. Peruto said he believes the case is an “easy win” for Pagano.

“I think that the state was assuming that people were going to come in and cooperate and say something about Paul Pagano, that he sold them some of these opioids, but nobody’s come forward. There isn’t anybody out there,” Peruto said.

Augello, charged in both the murder and drug ring, will have his case go to trial Sept. 11.

ERIN GRUGAN / Staff Photographer///////////  

KAUFFMAN Dr. James Kauffman enters the courtroom of Judge Bernard DeLury in Atlantic County Superior Court on Jan. 18. Kauffman was later moved for his own safety from an alleged conspirator to the Hudson County jail, where he was found dead Friday in an apparent suicide, authorities said.

clowe-pressofac / Christine Perna Burns / Provided/  

A Portuguese man-of-war was found washed up on the beach near Forget-Me-Not Road in Wildwood Crest last Thursday. The animal’s stinging tentacles can inflict pain long after it has washed ashore.

Hugin looks to stymie 'Blue Wave,' pull major upset in U.S. Senate race

GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP — U.S. Senate candidate Bob Hugin estimates he has been in South Jersey more than two dozen times during his campaign and figures he will be back here at least two dozen more times.

“I’d say that is probably more times than Bob Menendez has been here in many years,” Hugin said. “I think he thinks he needs a visa to come down here.”

Hugin, a former U.S. Marine who is the Republican running against Menendez in this year’s general election, said while speaking with The Press of Atlantic City at the Smithville Inn on Wednesday he feels South Jersey has been forgotten by both the federal and state government, which is a big reason he is dedicating many campaign hours in the region.

“You have (U.S. Rep.) Frank LoBiondo who has been a tireless advocate for South Jersey, and he has done a great job, but he is one guy,” Hugin said. “There are real economic challenges in many spots down here that need to be better served by Washington D.C. and Trenton.”

Democrats scoffed at the idea Menendez has ignored South Jersey and pointed to recent visits to the Stockton University campus in Atlantic City and initiatives helping secure a SAFER grant in Atlantic City.

“It’s desperate and silly,” Atlantic County Democratic Chairman Mike Suleiman said Wednesday. “(Hugin) should be talking more about what he stands for than just throwing stones.”

Hugin, a former pharmaceutical executive who has loaned his campaign $15 million of his own money, is looking to upend the Democrats’ hopes for a “Blue Wave” this November.

Running as a Republican in a state that has been in Democratic control for three decades, a win for Hugin would almost certainly guarantee Republicans keep a majority in the U.S. Senate.

But beating Menendez, the Democratic incumbent, will be a tall order for the Republican first-time candidate, even as Menendez tries to shake off the baggage that came with a years-long corruption investigation and trial that ultimately ended in a hung jury.

“It would be an upset of seismic proportions if a Republican were to win a Senate seat here,” said Mike Klein, the executive director of the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy at Stockton University. “Even with the trial, Menendez hasn’t been identified as one of the Democratic incumbents in danger of losing, that’s been reserved for Democrats in red states where (President) Donald Trump won in 2016.”

Still, New Jersey Republicans see hope in this race, particularly after Menendez’s primary opponent, Lisa McCormick, won about 38 percent of the vote despite raising little money and having little name recognition.

To bolster Republicans’ hopes, the most recent poll conducted for the race, by Farleigh Dickenson University in late May, found Hugin was only four percentage points behind Menendez, with the corruption trial playing a large role in the race.

About 46 percent of the electorate, however, still said they were undecided.

“Senator Menendez’s recent federal trial and bipartisan admonishment by his Senate colleagues are clearly taking their toll,” Krista Jenkins, director of the poll and professor of political science at FDU, said in a statement when the poll was released. “It’s not uncommon for incumbents to cruise to re-election, but these numbers suggest he’s going to have to woo voters like he hasn’t had to in a long time.”

Last fall, Menendez stood trial on accusations he accepted more than $600,000 in political contributions, a luxurious hotel suite at the Park Hyatt in Paris, and free rides on a private jet from a wealthy ophthalmologist, Dr. Salomon Melgen, in exchange for political favors.

The trial ended with a hung jury, and prosecutors declined to re-file the charges. However, the Senate Ethics Committee issued a letter to Menendez saying he “violated Senate rules, federal law, and applicable standards of conduct.” The panel, which consists of three Republicans and three Democrats, also ordered Menendez to repay all of the impermissible gifts he received.

The residual effects from the trial have made local Republicans feel hopeful Menendez is vulnerable.

“Of course, it’s no surprise Senator Menendez is vulnerable when his own Democrat colleagues on the Senate Ethics Committee said he ‘broke Senate rules, federal law, and applicable standards of conduct,’” state Sen. Chris Brown, R-Atlantic, said Wednesday. “For crying out loud, Democrats, like everyone else, are tired of greedy, out-of-touch politicians who use their public office for personal gain, which is why I’m confident New Jersey families — Democrats, Republicans and Independents — will chose a self-made marine over a bought-and-paid-for politician come November.”

But Hugin, who has run several attack ads against Menendez, has also taken aim at Trenton.

“New Jersey is positioning itself for a very bad future based on the policies it is putting forward today,” Hugin said. “The biggest problem with New Jersey is the unaffordability for young people to live here, for seniors to live here ... and even people with good jobs struggle to live here.”Klein said the campaign against Democrats in the state government could be effective for Hugin, saying Republican Christine Whitman used the same strategy in 1990 when she nearly beat incumbent Democrat Bill Bradley.

In 1990, the state government implemented over $2 billion in tax increases. This year, the state government passed tax increases for corporations, ride-service apps and wealthy individuals, among other increases.

“It’s definitely an interesting model to talk about the state government as well,” Klein said. “It almost worked for (Whitman) in 1990, and it could help Hugin in this race.”

Krishna / DEP / provided  

A dime- to quarter-size clinging jellyfish has recently found its way to rivers in Monmouth and Ocean counties.