IN PHOTOS: The wake and funeral for Wilmington's Lt. Christopher Leach

By DJ McAneny 9:09am, September 30, 2016 - Updated 11:08am, September 30, 2016
Lt. Christopher Leach being carried into the church/(Amy Cherry/WDEL)
On Friday, the community gathered to remember Lt. Christopher Leach, one of two Wilmington firefighters killed battling a Canby Park blaze officials have said was intentionally set.

The line for mourners waiting to pay respects to Lt. Christopher Leach/(Lauren Huet/WDEL)

The line for mourners waiting to pay respects to Lt. Christopher Leach/(Lauren Huet/WDEL)

The line for mourners waiting to pay respects to Lt. Christopher Leach/(Lauren Huet/WDEL)

The line for mourners waiting to pay respects to Lt. Christopher Leach/(Lauren Huet/WDEL)

So many people showed up to grieve and pay their respects, the line stretched along the grounds outside.







Coming off memorial services and a public viewing Thursday for Sr. Firefighter Jerry Fickes at the Grace Lutheran Church in Hockessin, the community gathered Friday at St. Elizabeth's Catholic Church in the Bayard Square section of the city.

Lt. Christopher Leach's body arrives at his wake and funeral/(Amy Cherry/WDEL)

Lt. Christopher Leach's body arrives at his wake and funeral/(Amy Cherry/WDEL)

Lt. Christopher Leach being transported through Wilmington/(Mike Phillips/WDEL)

Lt. Christopher Leach being transported through Wilmington/(Mike Phillips/WDEL)

Mourners gathered awaiting the arrival of the truck carrying Lt. Leach's body/(Amy Cherry/WDEL)

Mourners gathered awaiting the arrival of the truck carrying Lt. Leach's body/(Amy Cherry/WDEL)

More of the service members awaiting the arrival of Lt. Christopher Leach/(Lauren Huet/WDEL)

More of the service members awaiting the arrival of Lt. Christopher Leach/(Lauren Huet/WDEL)

The wake and funeral for Lt. Christopher Leach took place throughout the rainy morning hours on September 30, 2016.

A look inside St. Elizabeth's Church for the funeral of Lt. Christopher Leach/(Amy Cherry/WDEL)

A look inside St. Elizabeth's Church for the funeral of Lt. Christopher Leach/(Amy Cherry/WDEL)






Wilmington Firefighter Jerry Fickes remembered as a good friend, father and hero

By Joe Irizarry 12:32am, September 30, 2016 - Updated 10:32am, September 30, 2016
VIDEO: Many pay respects at viewing for Wilmington Senior Firefighter Jerry Fickes.
Friends, family and firefighters came together Friday night for the first of several planned memorials and services to remember Wilmington Senior Firefighter Jerry Fickes, who died in the Canby Park fire early Saturday morning.

The dreary night with the pouring down rain and wind set the scene for the sadness felt by many walking out of the Grace Lutheran Church in Hockessin.

Many remembered Fickes as a good husband, father, friend and hero.

Donna DeFilippis knows the family as their children went to school together at Cab Calloway.

"The family is holding up fairly well considering the situation," said DeFilippis. "Laura is a friend of mine. (I know) Jerry from school, and our kids went to school together, and it's a very supportive family, a religious family. I think they'll get through this."

Those not affiliated with any fire department marveled on how the first responder community comes together at times like this, among those attending the viewing included a lieutenant from the Bridgeport, Connecticut Fire Department.

But those within the firefighter community showed up in large numbers. Maria Milton is the wife of a Wilmington firefighter.

"It's a tight community--the Wilmington Fire Department--we're always there for each other. I'm a wife of a Wilmington firefighter, and to be there for her and the family to give great support. Like I said, we're a very tight family, and we'll help them get through this," said Milton.

Those not associated with any fire department, but friendly with the Fickes family also showed up to support the family.

"Utter devastation knowing that their son, Ben, is a freshman in college right now, and in his first month of school, he learns that he's lost his dad, so that's tough," said Lynn Fabian, a teacher who taught Fickes son in 2nd grade.

There was also anger and disbelief that Fickes' death was caused by a possible arson. Beatriz Fana-Ruiz, the daughter of the homeowner was charged with arson and murder in the Canby Park fire that killed Fickes and Lt. Christopher Leach, who will be remembered in a public viewing and funeral service at St. Elizabeth's Church in Wilmington. Fickes will also be laid to rest Friday in a private service. Both firefighters will be memorialized at the Chase Center on the Riverfront Saturday in a service that's expected to draw thousands, including Vice President Joe Biden.

"It's such a waste, it was an unnecessary fire, it's an unnecessary death, I hope she's horribly penalized," said Lon Marcus of Pike Creek. Marcus knows the Fickes family.

Fabian like many who talked with WDEL heard of the charges at the viewing.

"I really don't think you can make sense of it," she said. "No thoughts."


Year-long Smyrna investigation nets 6 arrests, recovery of heroin and guns

By DJ McAneny 11:04am, September 30, 2016
Richard Butcher, left, and Jessica Elvey, right
Smyrna Police charged six individuals at the culmination of a year-long drug investigation that resulted in the seizure of heroin, cash, firearms, and marijuana.

According to authorities, the Smyrna Police Department Special Tactics And Response Team executed a search warrant at a residence in the unit block of North Fairfield Drive at 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday, September 28, 2016.

Six individuals, all from Smyrna, were taken into custody without incident at that time:
  • Richard Butcher, 39
  • Jessica Elvey, 26
  • Shawn Jones, 43
  • Michelle Jones, 43
  • Aaron Tidwell, 27
  • Erik Roberts, 31


  • Recovered at the residence, authorities said they seized 747 bags of powder heroin weighing 11.2 grams, 1.1 grams of brown tar heroin, 21.1 grams of marijuana, numerous pieces of drug paraphernalia, two handguns--including one reported stolen in a Delaware burglary--ammunition, and $1,048 in currency. A motor vehicle allegedly being used to transport and sell heroin was also seized.

    Butcher was charged with possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, possession of a firearm by a person prohibited-twice previously convicted violent felon, possession of a firearm or ammunition by a person prohibited-previously convicted violent felon, receiving a stolen firearm, possession of a controlled substance-Tier V quantity, possesses with intent to deliver a controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia-non-marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia-marijuana related, and possession or consumption of a quantity of marijuana for personal use-21 or older. He was committed to the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in lieu of $163,202 cash-only bond.

    Elvey was charged with possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, receiving a stolen firearm, possession of a controlled substance-Tier V quantity, two counts possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance, possession of a controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia-non-marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia-marijuana related, and possession or consumption of a quantity of marijuana for personal use-21 or older. She was committed to the Delores J. Baylor Correctional Center in lieu of $73,102 cash-only bond.

    Shawn and Michelle Jones, Tidwell, and Roberts were all charged with possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia, and issues a summons before being released.


    Newark gas station robbed at knifepoint

    By DJ McAneny 10:29am, September 30, 2016
    A Newark gas station clerk was robbed at knifepoint early in the morning, city authorities announced Friday.

    According to Newark Police, a man entered the Sunoco gas station at 1106 South College Avenue at 1:30 a.m. on September 30, 2016, and pulled out a knife.

    Police said the suspect, described only as a white male, demanded money, then reached into the register and removed an undisclosed amount of cash before fleeing on foot.

    Anyone with information regarding this incident is urged to contact Det. William Anderson at 302.366.7100 ext. 3469, or Delaware Crime Stoppers at 1.800.TIP.3333.


    Daughter of property owner charged with murder in death of Wilmington firefighters

    By Amy Cherry/DJ McAneny 12:32pm, September 29, 2016 - Updated 10:34pm, September 29, 2016
    VIDEO: WDEL's Amy Cherry reports.
    The 27-year-old daughter of the owner of a residence where a fire claimed the lives of two firefighters was arrested and charged with arson, assault, and murder.

    According to Asst. State Fire Marshal Michael Chionchio, the woman charged was Beatriz Fana-Ruiz, 27, daughter of the owner of 1927 Lakeview Road, where a fire claimed the lives of Lt. Christopher Leach and Sr. Firefighter Jerry Fickes on September 24, 2016.

    Lt. Christopher Leach, left, and Sr. FF Jerry Fickes, right/WDEL file

    Lt. Christopher Leach, left, and Sr. FF Jerry Fickes, right/WDEL file

    A memorial service for the two firefighters is currently scheduled for Saturday at the Chase Center on the Riverfront. Thousands, including Vice President Joe Biden, are expected to attended.

    Additionally injured in the fire and subsequent rescue attempt were Lt. John Cawthray, Sr. Firefighter Ardythe Hope, Sr. Firefighter Terrence Tate and Firefighter Brad Speakman.

    ---

    Clockwise from top-left: Hope, Speakman, Tate, and Cawthray

    She has been charged with two counts first-degree murder, four counts of second-degree assault, first-degree arson, and seven counts of first-degree reckless endangering.





    Court documents, obtained by WDEL, revealed Fana-Ruiz was allegedly angry, went into the basement of the home, and set it ablaze.

    Seven others were inside the home at the time of the fire; they all made it out alive.

    Fana-Ruiz admitted to investigators she was drunk and on anxiety medication and said she "could not remember anything else" from that night, according to court records.



    Mayor Dennis P. Williams and Chief Anthony Goode thanked the Delaware State Fire Marshal's Office, the Department of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, the Wilmington Police Department, the Delaware Attorney General's Office, and all the agencies--local, state, or federal--which assisted in responding to the fire and securing of the crime scene.

    Fana-Ruiz is being held on $6 million cash bail.


    Get ready for the weekend with WDEL On the Town

    By Peter MacArthur 8:24am, September 29, 2016 - Updated 1:34pm, September 29, 2016
    Our latest installment of WDEL On the Town with Brianna Hansen:

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    Click to interact

    Friday evening, take in the rare chance to experience The Brandywine Zoo after hours and with no children present as you sip and sample your way through craft beer, wine and delicious bites from local restaurants during their annual "Brew at the Zoo."

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    Click to interact

    This Saturday, the Delaware Historical Society is celebrating the grand reopening of the Delaware History Museum plus the Opening of the New Center for African American Heritage on Market Street. The block-party style festivities include live music and performances, activities for kids, and the Rolling Revolution food trucks.

    Speaking of food, there's a community pop-up brunch happening Sunday at Bellefonte Brewing Company. Enjoy vinyl tunes while you browse the work of three local artists and #DigIN to a delicious, locally sourced vegan meal that is 100% omnivore approved.

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    Click to interact

    Finally, next Wednesday our friends at Hagley kick off their After Hours Series with Play. Make. Sip. It's simple--play with other young professionals as you make a small robot and sip on something from their cash bar!


    Legitimate efforts to help families of fallen Wilmington firefighters cloaked by bogus attempts to raise cash

    By Andrew Sgroi 3:10pm, September 29, 2016 - Updated 11:44pm, September 29, 2016
    During the ongoing week of mourning within the Wilmington Fire Department, the selfless efforts to assist the families of the fallen have reportedly been hijacked for profit.

    The Wilmington Firefighter's Association, Local 1590 of the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF), informed WDEL that bogus telephone appeals had been made, on at least six occasions, to solicit monetary donations for the families of the fallen firefighters, Lieutenant Christopher Leach and Senior Firefighter Jerry Fickes, Jr.

    "One of them involved a retired firefighter," revealed Bruce Schweiger, president of the Wilmington Firefighter's Association. "(He) knew right away exactly what was going on--what fundraisers we had set up, and the plans that we had in place, so when he questioned the caller, the caller immediately hung up."

    Schweiger shared the frustration of having to fight back the dishonest claims of a few when so many are trying to offer real help.

    "You're trying to help these families out and you're trying to get the support for the brothers and sisters. It's not only in the fire service, but law enforcement and EMS, everyone that knew the families. You're trying to give so much support to (the family members) and to be sidetracked to try and chase someone down who's trying to do something for their own gain...it's infuriating."

    New Castle County Police are actively investigating the situation, and authorities are working to establish a telephone number for recipients of these fraudulent appeals to make additional reports.

    As for Schweiger, he offered his own conclusion for those involved with such a desperate ploy.

    "If we could find them, I would love to talk (them), face to face. And I'm sure there's a couple of thousand firefighters who, when they're in town this weekend (for funeral and memorial services), would love to have a conversation with these folks."

    All legitimate donations could continue to be made at www.wilmingtonfirefighters.org

    The Delaware Department of Justice relayed the requirements callers seeking donations are required, by law, to provide:
  • Whether they are a paid fundraiser
  • Where they are calling from, including company name and location
  • The charity for which the funds are being raised
  • The amount of the consumer's donation that will actually go to the charity
  • If the charitable solicitation is on behalf of an individual(s) or their family, whether the party soliciting you has permission from the individual(s) or their family to make use of that person's name, picture or likeness in their charitable solicitations
  • If they are calling on behalf of police, fire or law enforcement, they must either be an actual law enforcement employee or have written permission from the state, county or local first responder organization to make the call




  • ----

    Contact Andrew Sgroi at andrew@dbcmedia.com or follow him on Twitter at @Cuse92.




    Nemours survey paints picture of children's health in Delaware

    By Lauren Huet 6:25pm, September 29, 2016 - Updated 10:34pm, September 29, 2016
    VIDEO: Lauren Huet reports on the latest Delaware Survey of Children's Health.
    Nemours Health & Prevention Services released the findings of its latest Delaware Survey of Children's Health (DSCH). Results show positive change in some areas, and the need for improvement in other areas.

    Nemours presented the results at Nemours duPont Pediatrics on Jessup Street in Wilmington.

    "We're really excited to celebrate the release of the 2014 Delaware Survey of Children's Health, which Nemours has been making possible for Delaware for a number of years now, which is so helpful to all of us who are trying to improve the health of Delaware's children," " said the Director of Delaware's Division of Public Health Dr. Karyl Rattay

    "In this area, obesity is still a big issue. We're happy to see the rates seem to have kind of stabilized," said Dr. Collen Witherell is a pediatrician at Jessup Street.

    The survey showed 36 percent of children in Delaware are overweight or obese. It also found more than half of the parents of obese children consider their children to be of normal weight.

    "Overweight and obesity has been a concern for quite some time," said Dr. Rattay, "Although it's not going up--we're still not seeing significant decreases--so, it's an area in which we need to continue to be diligent in working to address."

    Another finding showed 59 percent of parents live in neighborhoods "definitely" safe for children to play outside.

    "So, what was found statewide was that there are many parents who have concerns that they don't live in a safe environment for their kids to go outside and play," said Dr. Rattay.

    The survey also had good news for Delaware kids and their parents. Results showed improvements in levels of physical activity, with 55 percent of Delaware children physically active for an hour or more each day.

    "So, there is some good news in the findings, which include physical activity has gone up," said Dr. Rattay. "Sugar sweetened beverages have decreased slightly, and breastfeeding has gone up among babies born in Delaware, which is all great news."

    "Starting from infancy...we're having more children breastfeeding upwards of 90 percent," said Dr. Witherell. "That's really reversed a trend that for many years people were kind of moving away from breastfeeding. (Breastfeeding) actually has been shown to decrease rates of obesity."

    Dr. Witherell said the survey is important to improving children's health in the state.

    "It's easy for me as a pediatrician to talk about what I see, but maybe I just see that in this office, or this population. It's important to see that this is happening across all of Delaware," said Dr. Witherell.

    She hopes the new information brings positive change.

    "That's when we can maybe get peoples' attention and get things done on a state-wide level. Reach out to schools and really get more of a partnership going on, because we can't just fix it in one place. It really has to be input from multiple places to be able to fix problems like this," said Dr. Witherell.

    The new survey also showed 54 percent of Delaware children consume the recommended five daily servings of fruits and vegetables. It showed the percentage of kids drinking more than two cups of sugar-sweetened beverages per week declined from 43 percent in 2011 to 37 percent in 2014.


    Train in deadly Hoboken crash that killed 1, injured 100s had no tech to help it slow when speeding

    By Associated Press 11:49am, September 29, 2016 - Updated 11:46pm, September 29, 2016
    A commuter trains crashes into the Hoboken, NJ train station./Via @big_Poppa_Chop on Twitter
    At least one person is dead and a New Jersey Transit spokeswoman said more than 100 people were injured, some critically, when a commuter train plowed into the Hoboken station at the peak of morning rush hour Thursday.

    Democratic Assemblyman Raj Mukherji, who represents Hoboken, said a transit official confirmed the death to him.

    Train No. 1614 was coming from Spring Valley, New York, on the Pascack Valley Line when it crashed into the station at approximately 8:45 a.m. The train left the Spring Valley station at 7:23 a.m.

    The train that was not equipped with a technology that is designed to slow speeding trains.

    U.S. railroads are under government orders to install the system called "positive train control," but the work has gone more slowly than expected. The deadline has been repeatedly extended and is now Dec. 31, 2018.





    Bob Chipkevich, who formerly headed the National Transportation Safety Board's train crash investigations section, said the agency will be looking at whether the train was exceeding speed limits, both when it was approaching the station and when it entered the station area.

    Last month, the Federal Railroad Administration said New Jersey Transit had a lot of work yet to do on installing the necessary equipment. New Jersey Transit responded that the report didn't reflect the work it had accomplished.

    A passenger said the commuter train that crashed in New Jersey was crowded and plowed through the platform at the end of the line.

    TV footage and photos from the scene Thursday morning show damage to the rail car and extensive structural damage to the Hoboken station. Bhagyesh Shah told NBC New York he saw a lot of people bleeding and a woman pinned under concrete.

    The spokeswoman, Jennifer Nelson, said she doesn't know yet how fast the train was going when it ran into the rail bumper at the end of the line.

    A spokesman for the Federal Railroad Administration said that investigators have been dispatched to the scene.

    Passengers heading to New York City transferred from New Jersey Transit trains at Hoboken to board other trains and ferries to get into Manhattan.





    Hoboken is seven miles outside New York City.


    Musical equipment stolen from Dover church

    By DJ McAneny 11:12am, September 29, 2016
    Dover Police are investigating the theft of multiple pieces of musical equipment from a city church sometime between Tuesday and Wednesday.

    According to authorities, someone broke into the Victory Crusade Worship Center at 1161 Walker Road between 11 a.m. on September 27 and 6:20 p.m. on September 28, 2016.

    The suspects who broke in took guitars, amplifiers, equalizers, microphones, and cases.

    Dover Police urged anyone who might have information about this incident to contact Dover Police Department at 302.736.7130 or Delaware Crime Stoppers at 1.800.TIP.3333.


    New Castle County Police heroin investigation results in arrest of man, 18, from Bear

    By DJ McAneny 11:33am, September 29, 2016
    Troy "T" Waller and some of the heroin seized, according to the New Castle County Police
    An 18-year-old man was charged at the conclusion of a month-long drug investigation in Bear, New Castle County Police said Thursday.

    According to authorities, an investigation was initiated into the activities of Troy "T" Waller in the Centennial Village community.

    Police said surveillance was being conducted on a residence in the unit block of Lafayette Place and Waller was taken into custody there on Wednesday, September 28, 2016.

    New Castle County Police heroin investigation results in arrest of man, 18, from Bear

    A total of 1,085 bags of heroin--with an estimated street value of $3,300--was seized at the residence.

    Waller was charged with possession with intent to deliver heroin-Tier IV quantity, possession of heroin-Tier V quantity, possession with intent to deliver heroin-Tier I quantity, two counts possession of heroin-Tier I quantity, and two counts possession with intent to deliver heroin. He was committed to the Howard R. Young Correctional Center in lieu of $160,000 secured bond.


    Special police fund group holds first public meeting

    By Randall Chase/Associated Press 5:03pm, September 29, 2016 - Updated 11:46pm, September 29, 2016
    A group that has secretively doled out millions of dollars to police agencies in Delaware from the sale of property seized by law enforcement held its first public meeting following passage of a law partially lifting the veil of secrecy under which it has operated.

    No members of the public, other than a lone reporter, attended Thursday's meeting of the Special Law Enforcement Assistance Fund oversight group, which approved hundreds of thousands of dollars for law enforcement agencies across the state.

    Some funding requests for body cameras were withdrawn or tabled as officials eye statewide purchase agreements.

    The SLEAF is built on selling property forfeited to the government in criminal cases. The fund took in more than $1 million and disbursed almost $870,000 in fiscal 2015.


    Volunteers work tirelessly to make house safe for investigators after Wilmington fatal fire

    By Lauren Huet and Mike Phillips 9:49pm, September 28, 2016 - Updated 11:13pm, September 28, 2016
    VIDEO: Lauren Huet reports how volunteers helped make scene of fatal fire safe for investigators.
    Many Wilmington firefighters are calling the efforts of a group of volunteer responders extraordinary. The volunteers worked tirelessly after a fatal fire claimed two of their brothers' lives in order to create a safe environment for investigators.

    Early Saturday morning, a fire in a Canby Park row home caused the first floor of the house to collapse. The floor collapse killed two firefighters: 41-year-old Lieutenant Christopher Leach, and 51-year-old Senior Firefighter Jerry Fickes. It also critically injured Senior Firefighter Ardythe Hope and Firefighter Brad Speakman, both of whom were being treated at Crozer Medical Center.

    "Upon our arrival the firefighters had already been removed from the structure, and our focus at that point became support to the investigators at that point," said David McCarthy, a leader of the Structural Collapse Team under New Castle County Technical Rescue Group.

    Leach was a member of their team.

    "(It was) extremely difficult. Extremely," said McCarthy. "We literally sat down before we got started and made sure everyone's head was in the game. We were 100 percent obligated to get our work done. It was incredible to watch the team work knowing that not only Chris, but we knew all of the firefighters involved. So it was very difficult."

    McCarthy is asking the community to pray for the two injured firefighters, Hope and Speakman.

    The damage caused by the fatal fire made it extremely dangerous for investigators to enter the house. Investigators credit the Structural Collapse Team volunteers for creating a safe environment in which to work.

    "After we determined the plan of shoring, we discussed that with the investigators and they cleared out a little bit of debris from the door openings. We installed shoring at that point. They worked their way in a couple of feet, we installed more shoring, and the shoring and clearing of debris went in that fashion," said McCarthy.

    It was a painstakingly slow process--volunteers worked 18 hours Saturday and 9 hours on Sunday, shoring the structure.

    "Between Saturday through Monday we spent about 36 hours total in shoring efforts, and Saturday there was in the upwards of 25 structural collapse technicians and 30 additional support staff. Sunday, there was about 15 technicians and 20 support staff. The total man hours? I'm not sure but it was certainly substantial," he said.

    Volunteers from New Castle County's technical rescue team, Kent County's team, and Sussex County's team all worked together.

    "So, it truly was a state-wide technical rescue event," said McCarthy.

    The volunteers set up pneumatic posts stretching from the basement to the second floor. Crews also replaced floor timbers damaged in the blaze and built a small shed out of wood to protect investigators while working in the basement.

    "As of right now the majority of the structure is supported with pneumatic, which will be retrieved after the fire marshal's office gets done their investigation. From that point it will be at least, I would guess, probably $1,500 to $2,000 worth of material," said McCarthy.

    All of their work was done under the threat of the second floor collapsing.

    "We did it in such a manner that we limited our exposure to any type of collapse, but we had safeties literally perched on ladders the entire time anyone was in the structure," said McCarthy. "We had another safety on the ground making sure that rescuers weren't going beyond the limits, or investigators for that matter. So, it was done methodically."

    A group of volunteers who gave freely of their time and materials. None of them wanted to be anywhere else.

    "They're our brothers and sisters," said McCarthy. "Literally everyone involved was family. So there is not a single place anyone of those team members would rather be than there doing that."


    Pittsburgh man faces penalty if he can't catch noisy rooster that lives on his property

    By DJ McAneny 5:08pm, September 29, 2016
    A rooster/WDEL file
    A Pittsburgh man has 30 days to figure out how to catch a noisy rooster or the city will penalize him.

    The rooster's piercing calls have plagued residents for years, according to The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Because it appears to live on Henry Gaston's property, it has put him in violation of the city's ban against roosters.

    But Gaston told a judge Wednesday he's tried to catch the animal and has failed. He said he called animal control and the zoo, but he still hasn't come up with the rooster.

    Assistant City Solicitor Adam Rosenthal said he would agree to give Gaston 30 days if he puts out food and tries to catch it with a net.

    The judge said he'd like the rooster caught and transferred to a farm.


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