East Bay, Local News, News

Couples scrambling to re-book weddings after Stone House legal decision

LITTLE COMPTON, R.I. (WPRI) — Brides and grooms have been clambering to reschedule their weddings after a judge ordered last week that the Stone House Inn could not hold any special events, including 16 outdoor weddings in a tent on the Sakonnet Point Road property.

Liz Geller and Nathan Walsh are one such couple; they met in college at George Washington University more than seven years ago, and the Nashville-based duo was scheduled to be wed at the historic inn on August 12.

Geller said she first heard that her dream wedding on the water in Little Compton wouldn’t be taking place when a friend spotted a news story on Wednesday.

“He called me and he said, ‘is your wedding canceled?’ This was the first I’d heard of it, and I was like ‘no!’ I thought he was pulling a joke on me,” Geller said in an interview with Eyewitness News on Friday. “It’s been a rough couple of days.”

It’s been one week since Superior Court Justice Brian Van Couyghen ordered the venue to stop holding special events, a ruling that stemmed from a lawsuit filed by the Stone House against the town of Little Compton and its Town Council.

“The brides have certainly been stressed,” Stone House attorney Kevin Vendituoli said on Thursday. “It’s their special day.”

Sixteen couples in all booked between July 22 and mid-October have had their wedding plans scrapped by the ruling. Vendituoli said the inn’s owners, Newport Experience, filed the lawsuit against the town in May in response to the Town Council’s refusal to renew the venue’s entertainment license.

The venue had been “grandfathered in” when its location became a residential zone in the 1960s, because the historic spot was hosting weddings before the new zoning ordinance took effect. But when new owners started holding outdoor weddings instead of indoor ones in 2016, Town Council President Robert Mushen said the circumstances changed.

Mushen says the council told Stone House to appeal to the town’s zoning board for a special use permit for outdoor events, and also for a variance to use a leased gravel lot as a parking lot for more than 90 cars.

“They decided not to go to the zoning board,” Mushen told Eyewitness News on Friday. “Their response was to withdraw their application for an entertainment license.”

Vendituoli tells a different version of events, pointing to a 2016 court decision in Stone House’s favor against the town’s zoning board. Vendituoli says because of the ruling, the town council was not allowed to force the Stone House to get zoning relief in order to grant them an entertainment license.

The collateral damage of this complicated legal tussle is, of course, the couples forced to change their wedding plans as a result of the judge’s latest ruling.

“It seems very abrupt and harsh,” Geller said. “I wonder if this judge is married. And if he is, if he would just take five seconds to think back to his own wedding day and how special that was, I think it would be very hard to make this decision.”

Geller said she and her fiancé are still searching for a new venue for their August 12 nuptials. The groom is a native of Lincoln, Rhode Island and the two wanted to get married in Little Compton after spending many summers in the waterfront town.

Liz Geller and Nathan Walsh were slated to be married at the Stone House on Aug. 12.

Mushen said the town council would not have stopped the Stone House from holding weddings, had the venue not sued the town.

“I would say to you that it was avoidable,” Mushen said. “Had we not been sued, they would have continued to do what they have been doing this season, which is to hold weddings without a license.”

Vendituoli is appealing the court’s decision to the Rhode Island Supreme Court, calling the town’s actions against the venue a “knowing and malicious scheme to destroy this historic business.”

He said the Stone House is also preparing an application for zoning relief for the parking lot, which they rent from a neighbor.

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Blackstone Valley, East Bay, Local News, News, Northwest, Providence, South County, Top Video, West Bay

State says software issue to blame for E-911 disruption

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — For 45 minutes on Monday night, call-takers at Rhode Island’s E-911 center were unable to speak to people calling with emergencies, according to Lt. Col. Kevin Barry, the commanding officer for the Department of Public Safety.

The system is back up and running, but technicians are still working to determine what caused the software glitch. Barry said dispatchers could see calls coming in and could hear the person on the line, but the callers could not hear them. Dispatchers used landline phones not connected to the E-911 system to call back the phone numbers and were able to assist them with their emergencies.

Ninety-eight people called 125 times between 7:41 p.m. and 8:26 p.m. Monday, while the system was malfunctioning, Lt. Col. Barry said. Some people were calling more than once, presumably because they heard no one on the other line. All but six callers were reached by dispatchers and their emergencies were handled.

“We’re not aware of any serious complications resulting in a delay in receiving emergencies services,” Barry said. “However, we believe any delay in a call for help is unacceptable.” Barry said the six callers who could not be reached either did not receive incoming calls or attempts to call them went to voicemail.

“We think they were all serviced, but we don’t know,” said William Gasbarro, the co-director of Rhode Island E-911. “I haven’t heard any feedback.”

The E-911 system, built by the company Solacom and maintained by AK Associates, has a backup system, but the system was not automatically triggered by this particular glitch. Dispatchers realized that callers could not hear them, and contacted supervisors.

“Because calls were getting through, the computer did not recognize a failure in the system and did not automatically trigger the backup system,” Barry said. “Once the problem was identified, E-911 officials manually turned on the backup server to restore full functionality to the system.”

Technicians at Solacom were contacted and they manually triggered the backup system at 8:26 p.m. The 45-minute delay to trigger the manual system occurred because technicians were diagnosing the problem, testing the backup system to make sure it didn’t have the same problem and then activating it.

“We’ve never had a malfunction of this magnitude,” said Barry. “We will do everything in our power to make sure we have a reliable backup that activates at the first sign of a problem.”

Arthur Kraus, the vice president of AK Associates, said his company had technicians on site in Rhode Island at the time of the glitch. The technicians had not detected any issues in their routine maintenance, and found no signs of malware or a cyber attack. The company has a $36,400 contract with the state for 2017, according to records obtained by Eyewitness News.

“It was one of those strange anomalies,” Kraus said. He said technicians pulled the computer logs and Solacom, which built and owns the software, is now combing through the data to find the root cause of the problem.

A spokesperson at Canada-based Solacom did not immediately answer questions about the issue. But William Gasbarro, the E-911 co-director, said he was told by Solacom that this particular glitch had not happened before in other states.

“There are no problems like this that we’re aware of that have happened with the system,” Gasbarro said.

During the malfunction, Rhode Island State Police put out notifications on social media and urged people to call their local police and fire departments directly with emergencies. A spokesperson for the Providence police and fire departments said those dispatch centers did not receive an increase in calls during that time period.

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East Bay, Local News, News, Top Video

VP nominee Tim Kaine visits Newport for private fundraisers

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NEWPORT, R.I (WPRI) — The Democratic Vice Presidential nominee made two stops in Newport Saturday night, attending private fundraisers with local Democrats.

One of the fundraisers took place at the home of former Providence Mayor Joe Paolino, who said in an interview with Eyewitness News that about 75 Democrats would be attending to raise money for the Hillary Victory Fund.

“You can sense he’s a genuine kind of guy,” said Paolino, who said he met Kaine for the first time last month at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. “Quite frankly, I like that he somewhat has an independent streak in him. And he’s a little moderate, and that works for my politics.”

Gov. Gina Raimondo, Representatives David Cicilline and Jim Langevin, and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse all attended the fundraiser. Senator Jack Reed is overseas on government business, Paolino said. He said Kaine helps the Democratic ticket in Rhode Island because of his experience.

“If there was ever a crisis, he could take over the White House. He could serve as president,” Paolino said. “That’s the most important reason to appoint someone–if they can really do the job.”

Senator Kaine waved to the one news crew outside the fundraiser from the backseat of a car while arriving at Paolino’s house, but didn’t speak to any news media or make any public appearances during his short Rhode Island visit.

Before Paolino’s fundraiser, Kaine attended another one at the home of Barrett Bready, the CEO of life sciences company Nabsys. An invitation obtained by WPRI.com said “Hosts” were required to raise $50,000 for the Clinton campaign. “Co-hosts” who contributed $5,000 or raised $10,000 would receive a photo with Kaine, and “Champions” who contributed $2,700 would get preferred seating. “Friends” had to contribute $1,000 to attend.

The Republican National Committee was quick to condemn the fundraisers.

“Rhode Island Democrat insiders opening their wallets for face time with Tim Kaine is only a preview of the kind of pay-to-play politics that will continue in the White House if the Clinton-Kaine ticket is elected in November,” Spokesperson Natalie Strom said in an emailed statement.

“Are they against fundraisers?” Paolino asked in response to the statement, laughing slightly. “Right? Are they against fundraisers? The multi-millionaires?” (While Donald Trump is partially self-funding his campaign, he’s still received donations, and many state and local Republican candidates across the country are also holding fundraisers for their campaign, as is normal practice.)

Kaine left Paolino’s party around 8 p.m. Paolino said Kaine was flying home to spend a night in his own bed.

Saturday was Kaine’s second trip to Newport this summer. In July, Kaine was at a fundraiser for Senator Jack Reed at the Newport Shipyard when he received the call from Hillary Clinton asking him to be her running mate.

Ted Nesi contributed to this report.

Connecticut, Crime, East Bay, Local News, Massachusetts, News, Providence

Men nabbed in East Providence chase now charged in string of break-ins

[anvplayer video=”1045378″ /] PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Police departments in three states are investigating whether a pair of Connecticut men arrested in East Providence were responsible for house breaks in their jurisdictions.

Lyle Solsbury and Maurice Youmans were taken into custody following a police pursuit through East Providence Wednesday afternoon. They’ve since been charged with a string of break-ins in three communities.

Solsbury, 40, of Naugatuck, Connecticut., and Youmans, 38, of Waterbury, Connecticut were wanted in connection with a break-in on Church Street, according to city police. The homeowner was alerted by an app on his phone that the motion detector at his house was breached and he called police.

“He was able to see a picture of a male in his driveway going up his stairs and eventually within his house,” East Providence Deputy Chief William Nebus said.

Police say the man in the photo was Solsbury, and Youmans was waiting in the getaway car. The suspects took off in a black SUV, leading police on a chase until a detective was able to pull the men over on North Broadway.

Police had to use a stun gun to subdue one of the suspects, but officials said no one was hurt during the ordeal.

Surveillance photo from the Church Street break-in
Surveillance photo from the Church Street break-in

Solsbury and Youmans were arraigned in court Thursday on charges of breaking and entering, conspiracy, and two counts of receiving stolen goods. The stolen goods included jewelry from the Church Street home and stolen Massachusetts registration plates, which were used to cover up the car’s Connecticut registration, according to the criminal complaint obtained by Eyewitness News.

Since their arrest, numerous police departments in three states have come forward saying they’re investigating whether the two men broke into homes in their jurisdictions, and police in both Cranston and Foster have now brought charges.

Cranston Police Chief Michael Winquist said both men are charged in connection with a break-in Wednesday on Narragansett Boulevard.

Winquist said he was contacted by East Providence police after items and paperwork found in the suspect vehicle appeared to have been stolen from that home. Officers went to the home to find the rear door had been pried open. The homeowners later identified the evidence as their property.

Foster police have also charged the pair with breaking and entering. Both men were arraigned on the charges from all three municipalities on Thursday afternoon and were given $60,000 bail with surety.

Police say the public’s help was crucial in capturing the suspects, particularly the homeowner’s surveillance camera, which gave police an hours-long head start.

“Without that app, we wouldn’t have had these individuals,” Deputy Chief Nebus said. “We would have had to piece back the last four hours of their whereabouts.”

Police say a Barrington man also helped, by reporting a suspicious vehicle in that town and taking photos of the license plates. The tip helped police track down the vehicle.

Barrington Police Chief John LaCross asked any residents who witnessed similar suspicious activity or have items missing from their homes to contact their local police department immediately.

“Although nothing was taken during the Barrington investigation, I applaud the homeowner for his quick actions to capture the plate number and vehicle on his cell phone,” the chief said.

Police in Newtown, Connecticut and Sturbridge, Mass. are also investigating the two suspects, along with Rhode Island and Connecticut State Police.

Newtown Police Sgt. Baha Monde said Solsbury was released on bail just last week from charges he broke in to a home there. The burglary was caught on the homeowner’s surveillance camera, and police were about to identify Solsbury by releasing the video the public.

https://twitter.com/NewtownPolice/status/756807626147635200

Newtown Police are now investigating whether Youmans and Solsbury could be involved in four other break-ins that occurred there in July.

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Crime, East Bay, Local News, News, Providence, Top Video

Police: Jealous suspect killed ex’s new boyfriend

[anvplayer video=”1041600″ /]PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Andres Arguijo Acosta spent last Friday fishing with friends and streaming videos on his new smartphone, according to a close friend. By daybreak Saturday morning, he was dead.

Providence Police say a Cranston man committed the crime, after entering his ex-girlfriend’s home and stabbing her boyfriend, Arguijo Acosta, because he was jealous. The girlfriend witnessed the crime, the police said.

Fredi Lopez, 32, was formally charged Monday morning with first-degree murder. Providence Police say he showed up at his ex-girlfriend’s Alverson Avenue apartment in Providence before 5 a.m. Saturday.

“He gained access to the house; it may have been from an unlocked door, he may have jimmied the lock to get in,” Providence Police Maj. David Lapatin said. While fighting with Arguijo Acosta–the woman’s current boyfriend–Lopez is accused of grabbing a large steak knife and stabbing him in the chest. Arguijo Acosta was later pronounced dead at Rhode Island Hospital.

Andres Arguijo Acosta (Photo courtesy of family friend Hugo Tamup)
Andres Arguijo Acosta (Photo courtesy of family friend Hugo Tamup)

After talking with eyewitnesses, police found Lopez at his home on Argyle Street in Cranston Saturday afternoon. A police report obtained by Eyewitness News says he had taken his cell phone apart and was cutting his own hair, remnants of which were photographed on his kitchen floor by police. The report says Lopez changed his clothes, discarded his shirt in a barbecue grill outside his home and put his shorts in a plastic bag in the kitchen. Police also towed his car.

Andres Arguijo Acosta was a father of three who worked in the jewelry business, his close friend Hugo Tamup said in an interview with Eyewitness News.

Tamup said he and Arguijo Acosta went fishing together with another friend the day before he was killed.

“He was a nice person,” Tamup said. “I didn’t believe it. I said ‘no, he was with me yesterday.'” Tamup was overcome with emotion, referring to Arguijo Acosta as his “best friend.”

Sayda Moran, who lives next door to the crime scene, said the woman had recently moved to the neighborhood. She had never seen either of the two men.

“I had heard some fighting next door, but we never knew who it was since we never knew who they were,” Moran said.

The victim’s girlfriend was not hurt in the attack, police said, though she was in the room when it happened. There was no previous restraining order between her and Lopez, police said, but a judge ordered Lopez to stay away from her from now on.

The judge also ordered Lopez be held without bail Monday pending a bail hearing on August 17.

In an interview outside court, Lopez’s attorney Joseph Voccola said Lopez and the girlfriend were “off-and-on.” Lopez’s two sisters and a brother attended his murder arraignment.

“Completely out of character,” Voccola said the family told him. “The man’s been here, was gainfully employed for over two decades” in the landscaping business, he said.

Voccola said Lopez is denying the charges, but said he did not yet have all the information to fully comment.

“We don’t even have any information to substantiate these allegations,” he said. “Whenever a life is lost, it’s a tragic situation.”

Annie Shalvey and Bill Tomison contributed to this report. 

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East Bay, Local News, News

Teen stabbed during party at Newport mansion

NEWPORT, R.I. (WPRI) — Police are investigating after a teenager was stabbed during a party at one of the oldest historic Newport mansions.

Police said the boy, 17, from Little Compton, was stabbed multiple times in the back at an underage drinking party at Kingscote mansion on Bellevue Avenue. They said the victim left the party and was found by police suffering from the wounds in the area of King Street and Jones Avenue.

The teen was taken to Newport Hospital and later transferred to Hasbro Children’s Hospital, where police said he’s currently listed in stable condition.

Police determined the teen was stabbed after a fight broke out during a party at Kingscote, which was being thrown by Josiah Travers, 18, the godson of the mansion’s live-in caretaker. He was later charged with procuring alcohol for minors.

Police said several dozen people ran off upon their arrival at the mansion party.

“There were beer cans strewn along the perimeter of the property as well as dried blood spots on the pathway,” a Newport officer described in an arrest report.

Partygoers told police the fight moved from inside to outside, and the victim was attacked by multiple people.

“There were several individuals punching and kicking [the victim] in the head as he lay on the ground,” one teen told police.

Police say Travers, who listed the mansion as his address, initially left the scene and was uncooperative with police. The caretaker later told police that Travers occasionally stays there with him.

“It’s really shocking and it’s sad,” said Kristen Kelley, who was visiting Newport with friends from Oklahoma, and planned to visit the well-known mansions. “I fell like they’re just taking it for granted – such a pretty place.”

The mansion was built in the 1840s and is owned by the Preservation Society of Newport County. A spokesperson for the Preservation Society declined to comment on the party, but gave Eyewitness News a tour of the mansion Monday to show that none of the historic rooms appear damaged. The party appears to have mostly taken place in the private residence where the caretaker lives inside the mansion.

One pane of glass on a historic window was broken, and the police report says blood was found both inside and outside the mansion.

“Everyone should be respectful of other people’s property,” said John Egan, a Newport native who wasn’t pleased to hear about the party. “Especially things that are the patrimony of everyone,” he said.

Travers, 18, is facing a charge of procuring alcohol for minors.

Police said they also arrested two juveniles from Newport. A 17-year-old was charged with felony assault for stabbing the victim, according to police, while a 15-year-old was charged with felony assault, vandalism, and disorderly conduct for allegedly punching the victim and kicking him in the face during the assault.

The alleged attack remains under investigation.

Annie Shalvey contributed to this report. 

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Crime, East Bay, Local News, News, Top Video

Police: Tiverton homicide suspect previously convicted of manslaughter

TIVERTON, R.I. (WPRI) — Police say an elderly man who shot and killed another elderly man before being shot dead by police was out on parole, serving a life sentence for first degree sexual assault. He was also previously convicted in a man’s killing.

During a news conference Tuesday, police identified the victim as John Cloud, 81, of Kingston, Mass., and the suspect as Edward Acquisto, 80, of State Avenue in Tiverton.

Tiverton Police Chief Thomas Blakey says the two met at the Pocasset Hill Cemetery in Tiverton around 7 p.m. Monday when Acquisto shot and killed Cloud. Police declined to comment on how the two knew each other or why they were meeting, though Chief Blakey says Acquisto was apparently known to frequent the cemetery to read the bible.

Witness reports helped police begin chasing the suspect, later identified as Acquisto, in a black car. The short chase crossed over into Fall River before crossing back into Tiverton and stopping on Ford Farm Road. Police say Acquisto fired at police first, and police shot back. Acquisto was killed in the driveway of a house on that road.

Police said two Fall River officers and one Tiverton officer fired their weapons. Police are not yet identifying the officers nor specifying which officer fired the fatal shot.

“Boy, this is a shock,” said Jean Medeiros, Acquisto’s next-door neighbor. She was incredulous at the thought of the elderly man committing murder. “He’s very fragile, very delicate, I mean he just about can walk, let’s put it that way. There was no weight to him.”

A woman who was inside Acquisto’s State Avenue home Tuesday afternoon declined to open the door or speak to reporters.

Rhode Island State Police is investigating the officer-involved shooting and is jointly investigating the homicide with Tiverton police.

Edward Acquisto mugshot from the late 1970s (Courtesy: Woonsocket Police)
Edward Acquisto mugshot from the late 1970s (Courtesy: Woonsocket Police)

“Because a death is involved, our practice has been to present this matter to a grand jury,” Assistant Attorney General Gerald Coyne said. The grand jury would determine if the officers were justified in shooting Acquisto.

According to the Attorney General’s office, Acquisto was sentenced to life in prison in 1981 after he was found guilty of sexually assaulting an ex-girlfriend in her Woonsocket apartment.

While serving that sentence, Acquisto pleaded no contest to a manslaughter charge in 1982 for beating a mean to death in Woonsocket four years prior. Acquisto was sentenced to 10 years to serve, 10 years suspended, and 10 years probation, which would run concurrent to the life sentence he was already serving.

He was paroled in 2003.

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East Bay, Local News, Military, News, Things You Should Know, Top Video

Funeral arrangements made for fallen RI soldier

BRISTOL, R.I. (WPRI) — The Bristol native killed last week in a Taliban attack in Afghanistan will be laid to rest next to his brother, Eyewitness News has confirmed.

Bristol Town Administrator Antonio Teixeira confirmed the family of First Sgt. P. Andrew McKenna has made funeral arrangements for the Special Forces soldier.

A wake is scheduled from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday at St. Mary of the Bay in Warren. The funeral is planned at the same location at 11 a.m. Monday.

Teixeira said McKenna will be buried at St. Mary’s Cemetery on Chestnut Street in Bristol, next to his brother Patrick, who died in a motorcycle crash in 2005.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that memorial contributions are made to 1SG P. Andrew McKenna, Jr. Memorial Scholarship Fund, C/O Citizens Bank, Bell Tower Plaza, 576 Metacom Avenue, Bristol, RI 02809 or to the Wounded Veteran Retreat Program, P.O. Box 619, Parkton, NC 28371.

The coffin containing McKenna’s body arrived at Dover Air Force Base early Monday morning. It will be flown into Quonset and then transported to Sansone Funeral Home in Bristol.

While Teixeira said it was up to the military when McKenna’s body will return to Rhode Island, it’s expected to happen this week. He said the Bristol Police Department will join Rhode Island State Police to escort McKenna’s body from Quonset to Bristol, and the Bristol Fire Department will provide a ladder truck to display an American flag at the burial site.

Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo ordered flags lowered to half-staff in honor of McKenna, 35, who has been described as an American hero with multiple tours of duty overseas.

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East Bay, Local News, News, Top Video

Brother of cyclist in deadly Warwick crash speaks about victim

WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — Police identified the victim of Friday’s deadly crash as Charles Hawkins, 64, of North Providence Monday.

Recently retired, Hawkins was a former aide to both the late Senator John Chafee and former Governor Lincoln Chafee.

As police investigate what caused a driver to hit Hawkins on Route 2 in Warwick, his family is remembering who he was.

“Sometimes in life we say you have to stop and smell the roses,” said Father Bob Hawkins, Charles Hawkins’ brother. “Well, he smelled the roses all the time.”

Charlie — as Hawkins was known to family and friends — was a policy aide for both Chafee administrations, passionate about transportation and energy, according to Father Hawkins.

Hawkins said his brother was particularly proud of his work on the Kingston Train Station restoration and the Block Island Lighthouse.

Father Hawkins, who is the pastor at St. Luke’s Church in Barrington, said Charlie was modest, always behind the scenes and never considering a run for office himself.

“He wasn’t into clothes, he wasn’t into houses, he wasn’t into cars…he was into enjoying life,” Hawkins said.

Lincoln Chafee said he and his father both enjoyed working with Hawkins.

“He was an important part of Dad’s re-election team in 1988 and I know Dad valued his savvy advice in that tough campaign. Charlie was unique and special,” Chafee said.

Police said Hawkins was hit by a 23-year-old driver while walking his bike across Route 2 Friday. He was later pronounced dead at Rhode Island Hospital. Police have ruled out alcohol as a factor, but are still investigating the crash. It is unknown if charges will be filed.

Father Hawkins says biking was one of Charlie’s favorite activities, and he frequented many Rhode Island bike trails. Hawkins said his family knows Charlie died doing something he loved.

“I don’t think he would have any regrets,” Hawkins said.

Police are urging anyone with information about the crash to contact the Warwick Police Department.

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