Man pleads guilty to fatally stabbing 16-year-old

The ex-boyfriend of 16-year-old Madison Wells has pleaded guilty to fatally stabbing her in Long Branch last year, announced Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni on Friday.

Bryan Cordero-Castro, 21, of Fourth Avenue in Long Branch, pleaded guilty Friday to first degree Aggravated Manslaughter and third degree Attempted Escape in connection with the death of Madison Wells, who was stabbed on September 8, 2018.

Under the terms of the plea agreement, the state will recommend a sentence of 30 years in Prison to the provisions of the “No Early Release Act” requiring him to serve 85 percent of the sentence imposed before becoming eligible for release on parole. On the Escape charge the State will recommend a consecutive 5 years in Prison.

The plea agreement was reached after consultation with the victim’s family.

Prosecutors say Long Branch police officers and EMS were dispatched to the home on Sept. 8, 2018 at approximately 10:42 p.m., after receiving a 911 call reporting a stabbing victim in need of medical attention at a Van Pelt Place residence in Long Branch.

Upon arrival, the 16-year-old girl was found on the living room floor with stab wounds to her chest. She was transported to Monmouth Medical Center where she was pronounced dead at 11:25 pm.

A joint investigation by the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office and the Long Branch Police Department determined that Cordero-Castro and Madison began dating in November 2017. Madison had recently ended the relationship resulting in Cordero-Castro texting and calling her in excess of 230 times in the 9 hour period leading up to the murder.

Earlier in the day, Cordero-Castro went to the Van Pelt Place home of a family member of Madison’s looking for her. When he did not find her there, he continued to call and text her. He then went to her home on Cleveland Avenue and ultimately back to the Van Pelt Place residence where Madison agreed to go outside and speak to him.

A few minutes after going outside, Madison stumbled back into the house and collapsed on the floor from the stab wounds to her chest.

Cordero-Castro was arrested at his cousin’s residence on Morris Avenue in Long Branch approximately two hours after the murder. Once at the Long Branch Police Department, Cordero-Castro attempted to escape by jumping up and trying to run out of the booking room.

He was quickly stopped by Detective Sergeant Brendan Cahill and Officer Evan Morell, both of the Long Branch Police Department.

Cordero-Castro is scheduled to appear in Superior Court for sentencing for his crimes before Monmouth County Superior Court Judge Marc C. LeMieux on Feb. 7, 2020. He remains incarcerated in the Monmouth County Correctional Institution, where he has been detained since his arrest.


FCS celebrates its Leading Lights with gala

Long Branch — Family & Children’s Service (FCS), Monmouth County’s oldest, private nonprofit social service agency, held its 2019 Leading Lights Gala, Saturday, Nov. 16.

FCS Board of Directors – (back row) Paul Stach, Donna Robinson, Timika Muhammad, Carrie Page, Anna Burian, Richard Angelo (front row) Tiffany Senft, Colleen Verriest CEO, Patricia Keating

More than 200 guests gathered at Navesink Country Club in Middletown, to celebrate 110 years of FCS and pay tribute to three exceptional honorees: Debbie O’Donoghue, Tracey L. Wolfman and the Church & Dwight Employee Giving Fund, Inc. The event raised approximately $100,000 for FCS programs and services.

Guests were able to peruse through dozens of silent auction items including original artwork, collectible wine, fine jewelry, tickets to theater and sporting events and other specialty items, all donated to help raise additional funds for the agency.

The Gala is FCS’s largest fundraiser of the year and helps support its 13 programs and services that address issues of homelessness; neglect abuse and exploitation; health and respite care; long-term care planning; childhood literacy and obesity.

A Live Auction, hosted by FCS Board member and Gala committee co-chair Tiffany Senft featured four one-of-a-kind items including a Navesink Sunset Picnic Cruise, Private Chef Dinner Party, NYC Opera Excursion and Bridg-it School System App. In addition, a Call for Funds was issued for FCS’s Client Emergency Relief Fund (CERF), the creation of which was spearheaded by honoree Debbie O’Donoghue in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy in 2012.

The highlight for the evening was the recognition of FCS’s “Leading Lights.” FCS CEO Colleen Verriest presented the agency’s 2019 Leading Lights Awards, the first of which honored Tracey L. Wolfman; a long-standing and dependable community partner of FCS, working closely with its Community Support Services. Tracey is the owner and CEO of We Care Adult Day Care, Inc. For the last 30 years her dedication to working with the elderly population and her specialized knowledge in Alzheimer’s have helped countless people afflicted with the disease and their caregivers.

The second 2019 Leading Lights Award was presented to the Church & Dwight Employee Giving Fund, Inc. for their employees’ generous and continuous contributions to FCS throughout the years. The Church & Dwight EGF is the workplace giving program of Church & Dwight Co., Inc. It supports charitable organizations in New Jersey and Eastern Pennsylvania, the region where the company’s corporate headquarters is located and where many employees reside.

The final 2019 Leading Lights Award was presented to Debbie O’Donoghue for her longstanding volunteer efforts and strong leadership skills which led to her being appointed to the agency’s board of directors in 2004, where she served with distinction for 15 years.

The success of the 2019 Leading Lights Gala would not have been made possible without the dedicated support of FCS’s Gala co-chairs Tiffany Senft, Jill Gemmel, Karen Gibbens and Diane Hayes, FCS Gala committee, FCS board of directors, underwriters, sponsors, auction donors and all those who attended.

Learn more about FCS at


Holiday Networking WLB

Buffet Dinner & Show at West Long Branch Community Center Dec. 13

Eatontown honors veterans with days of events

By Coleen Burnett

Eatontown — It’s very common for people to say on Nov. 11 that Veterans Day should last more than a single day due to all we owe those who serve. Eatontown held multiple events to mark it, including a concert the week before, a parade the day before, and its annual Wampum Park ceremonies on Veterans Day.

The ceremonies on November 3 included a remembrance and a concert that was sponsored by the Eatontown Historical Society.

For the seventh consecutive year, the ceremony took place on the porch of the Historical Society’s house at 75 Broad Street. The speakers stood on the porch and remembered those who did not come home from war.

An Honor Garden, filled with American flags, graced the front lawn of the Museum. Each of the flags were tagged with the name of a veteran or someone who is currently on active duty in the armed forces.

The Garden has grown from about 50 flags to somewhere in the neighborhood of 200.

Phyllis Trask, the Chairperson of the Historical Commission, noted that many of the living veterans of World War II are now in their 80s and 90s. “They were ordinary people who responded to extraordinary times.”

“Thank you for answering the call to duty,” she said.

Everybody was then invited across the street to the Senior Center for a free concert by the Florian Schantz Jazz Combo, who played a series of songs that were popular in World War I.

On Nov. 10, the day before Veterans Day, a parade was held, marching down Broad Street.

This is the second year in a row Eatontown has held a parade. It included veterans, those serving, scouts, school marching bands, and many borough officials and departments.

At the Nov. 11 ceremony, Mayor Anthony Talerico said that Eatontown understood the importance of veterans, as the Fort Monmouth Army base operated here, and was a key part of the community.

“Eatontown is very lucky — we don’t just wave our flags and observe the military on TV, newspapers and social media posts. For nearly 100 years we lived alongside the men and women who made it happen,” he said. “Eatontown is a better and more diverse community because of the men and women who passed through those gates for one hundred years”.

The keynote speaker of the day was Col. Samuel Fuoco, who said those who served came from all walks of life.

“They did not go to war because they loved fighting. They were called to be part of something bigger than themselves. They were ordinary people who responded in ordinary ways in extreme times,” he said.

County reminds residents that flu season is here

The Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders and the Monmouth County Health Department (MCHD) are reminding residents that flu season is here and the best way to protect yourself is by getting a flu shot.

The flu season begins in the fall, peaking between December and February, and lasting as late as May.

“There are a number of benefits in receiving the flu vaccine,” said Freeholder Susan M. Kiley, liaison to MCHD. “The vaccine helps prevent from getting sick with the flu, lowers the risk of flu-associated hospitalizations, protects women during and after pregnancy and can be lifesaving for children.”

Influenza is a contagious respiratory illness caused by the influenza virus, which can be mild to severe. Severe issues with the flu can result in hospitalization and even death. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a yearly flu vaccine, by the end of October, for everyone six months and older. However, getting vaccinated later is still beneficial.

“Every flu season is different and an influenza infection can affect each person differently,” said Christopher P. Merkel, M.P.H., Public Health Coordinator and Health Officer. “The Monmouth County Health Department will continue its effort to limit the effects of each flu season by offering seasonal flu shots.”

The flu can cause symptoms including fever, chills, cough, body aches, fatigue, sore throat and runny or stuffy nose. The CDC advises that not everyone with the flu will have a fever.

“Key health tips to keep in mind during the flu season include covering your cough and sneezes, avoiding close contact with someone sick, cleaning surfaces and objects and wash your hands often,” said Freeholder Kiley. “It is recommended to stay home if you are feeling sick, and until you are fever-free for 24 hours, to avoid spreading the flu.”

The Monmouth County Health Department provides public health services for residents of the following towns: Aberdeen, Allentown, Asbury Park, Atlantic Highlands, Avon, Belmar, Bradley Beach, Englishtown, Eatontown, Farmingdale, Hazlet, Holmdel, Howell, Keansburg, Keyport, Lake Como, Manasquan, Marlboro, Matawan, Neptune City, Neptune Township, Ocean Grove, Oceanport, Roosevelt, Shrewsbury Township and Union Beach.

For more information, call MCHD at 732-431-7456 or go to


Memory in African American Music and Culture: An Extravaganza

West Long Branch — “Memory in African American Music and Culture: An Extravaganza,” a Monmouth University Race Conference Event featuring poetry, negro spirituals, contemporary gospel music and freedom songs will be held Thur., Nov. 14, 6-8:30 p.m. at Wilson Hall Auditorium.

The Fisk Jubilee Singers c. 1872

The evening features performances by Daryl L. Stewart, Leah Joy Hilliard, Solomon Cobbs, Donna J. Gore, and The Rushing Singers.

This event is an evening that includes poetry and the singing of some classic Negro spirituals, as well as contemporary gospel music.

Culture has been the primary location of black identity formation in U.S. history. As a response to oppression, and the denial of opportunity, African Americans turned to poetry and music to record their grievances, triumphs, and sorrows.

African Americans have recorded and memorialized the black experience in poetry and music from the first arrival of Africans in North America to the present.

Songs such as “Steal Away” and “Wade in the Water,” later performed by the Fisk Jubilee Singers, guided enslaved blacks on the underground railroad to freedom in the North; and, songs such as “The Buses Are A Coming” or “Ella’s Song,” composed during the height of the Civil Rights era, were performed by the Freedom Singers to lift morale in the struggle for black equality during the 1960s. Memories of suffering and jubilation exist in black cultural productions from Negro Spirituals to the present.

$37 million worth of sand coming to area

By Neil Schulman
Long Branch — Work is about to start on a $37.4 million beach replenishment in Monmouth Beach, Sea Bright and Long Branch.
The federal government is picking up about two thirds of the costs, with the state and municipalities picking up the remainder. Each of the three communities will be paying about $1 million, with grants from Monmouth County covering about half their costs.

Long Branch Mayor John Pallone discusses what beach replenishment will mean to the city at the Brighton Avenue beach entrance, one of the sections that will benefit from it. Behind him are, l-r, a worker involved in the project, Bill Dixon, Director NJDEP, Division of Coastal Engineering, Army Corps of Engineers project manager Jason Shea, and Congressman Frank Pallone.

Congressman Frank Pallone was at the Brighton Avenue beach, the northern end of the Long Branch replenishment project area on Friday, to announce the details. He was joined by Long Branch officials, local Assemblymembers, NJ Department of Environmental officials, and representatives from the Army Corps of Engineers, which oversees the project.


The Army Corps will start moving equipment into place in November. Sand replenishment is expected to start in Sea Bright and Monmouth Beach in December, and in Long Branch this February.

In Sea Bright, sand will be placed from Island View Way north to the Tradewinds. In Monmouth Beach, replenishment is from the Bathing Pavilion near Valentine Street to Cottage Road. And in Long Branch, is goes from the West End Beach to Sycamore Avenue in Elberon.

Congressman Pallone said that the beach replenishment may look expensive, but it’s worthwhile.

“Each time I talk about beach replenishment – it’s been 30 years now – I have to stress it saves money,” he said.

Local towns like the extra sand in part because it makes beaches more attractive. Mayor John Pallone noted that the city had a “record summer in beach revenue” this year. But Congressman Pallone said the Army Corps of Engineers is really looking at the likelihood of major storms and how the sand serves as a buffer for that, and tourism is just a welcome side effect.

“There’s a very tough cost benefit analysis,” he said. A major hurricane or severe nor’easter can “add up to millions or even billions of damage.” If the storm just washes away a buffer of sand, it’s much cheaper in the long run.

This replenishment marks a milestone of sorts; it’s the first project in the area that is not part of the emergency sand brought in after Superstorm Sandy, but instead for the routine maintenance of the shoreline.

Jason Shea, project manager, from the Army Corps of Engineers, said that there would be a total of 1.6 million cubic yards of sand brought in to the area.

“This project will continue to provide the much needed beach erosion control,” he said.

The average period of time between replenishments is six years, but there’s a lot of variation depending on the amount of erosion.

The total cost is $37.4 million. The federal government pays for 65% of the project, with the state paying three-quarters of the remaining cost, and the individual towns picking up the remainder, the exact amount they pay for depending on the amount of sand they’re getting, paying about nine cents for each dollar spent.

In Long Branch, Monmouth Beach and Sea Bright, that’s all roughly $1 million dollars, give or take. But Mayor John Pallone said that Monmouth County was helping to pay a portion of the costs. Long Branch’s final total part of the bill will be $600,000 to $650,000, he said.


Anthony: Council hurts E’town liability, and my reputation: Borough attorney won’t ask to be reappointed at the end of the year

By Coleen Burnett

Eatontown — The topsy-turvy world of politics in Eatontown lost another public servant at the October 23 meeting. In a somewhat stunning turn of events, Borough Attorney Gene Anthony announced he will not accept another term in his office if it were offered to him — and giving his reasons why.

In short, Anthony felt he wasn’t getting any respect.

He said he was running into several major problems when dealing with some members of the council. For one, those members did not seem to want to follow his advice. “It opens you up to liability or loss of insurance… that’s something you want to avoid at all costs.”

Secondly, those who disagree with Anthony allegedly are circumventing his advice altogether — or going to a completely different lawyer.

All of that is a bit too much. “I will not seek re-appointment as the borough attorney,” he said. The borough attorney is a professional appointment, chosen by the mayor and council.

Anthony said that the constant challenges to his advice pose a danger to his reputation. “I’ve worked on this job for four years — served this borough council in other years, and in other towns in other years — and I will not put myself in that position further. I will continue to finish my contract through this year because I have a contractual obligation and I feel I have a moral obligation to the citizens of Eatontown whom I have served for 35 years.”

He said borough employees also worked very hard, with little fanfare or recognition for their extra efforts. Borough Clerk Julie Martin and her staff were singled out, as was the soon-to-be-departing Borough Administrator Cherron Rountree.

“Show all the staff the respect they deserve because they are working on a day-to-day basis to carry out your policies,” he concluded.

Anthony was the fourth major employee in Eatontown to announce his resignation that week. Rountree announced she was leaving to take the position of Borough Administrator in Holmdel, and Zoning Officer Erik Brachman, and Public Works Director Spencer Carpenter also said they would be leaving the borough.



Mass resignation for OEM department in Oceanport

By Neil Schulman

Oceanport — The coordinators of the Office of Emergency Management and all but one volunteer for the department have all submitted their letters of resignation effective at the end of the year. They have said Borough Council members have not funded the purchase of an essential vehicle, which has been unusable for nearly two years, and they have “no confidence” in the council members on the Public Safety Committee.

OEM Director Mauro “Buzz” Baldanza told The Link that at the Oct. 17 council meeting, he read a prepared statement on “lack of action” to replace a vehicle which broke down in early 2018.

Council members have called the events of the Oct. 17 Borough Council meeting a “political theater” and say they have supported emergency responders.

At the meeting, Baldanza said that, “In January of 2018, the OEM 2004 Dodge Durango had an engine failure, the repair of which was more than the vehicle was worth. So it was removed from service. This vehicle served as our response vehicle, equipped with radio communications, a laptop computer with internet capabilities, a rear command console with floor plans, area maps, incident command vest, 6 portable radios, assorted supplies and equipment.”

Baldanza told The Link that having this equipment in the vehicle saved valuable time, allowing him to enter reports and data without having to go back to the office. It also allowed the OEM to keep in communications if there was a power outage.

In 2018, when council asked for request items for the capital budget, Baldanza said OEM submitted a quote for a replacement vehicle. After some more research, he submitted a second, lower quote for a $68,000 vehicle.

“The design of this vehicle was based on the potential risk factors the community could face and not just on a whim,” he said.

“It wasn’t till June 2019 that I had to text our CFO and asked if the vehicle replacement was being funded. I was told it was not,” Baldanza told council. “I never got a word, email, phone call, not one form of communication from Public Safety or Finance council members on this matter.”

He said there has only been one Public Safety meeting since 2015, in June 2018. Baldanza told council that with the exception of Councilman Michael O’Brien, who joined this year, he and the other members of the OEM have “no confidence” in the Finance or Public Safety Committees.

He said that working at the OEM has been a passion since he started.

“But when your community leaders, don’t support your efforts, that’s when the passion fire really starts to burn out and the fire of indignation builds.”

As a result, Baldanza announced that he, Chris Baggot, 1st Assistant Director; Wes Sherman, 2nd Assistant Director; and Police Chief Michael Kelly serving as 3rd Assistant Director, along with volunteers Pat Hickey, Rich Barnes, Keith Seely, Christina Ellam, Wendy Baggot, and Kevin Arban, were resigning effective Jan. 1. They would be resigning sooner, he said, but it’s hurricane season and they don’t want to leave the borough unprotected during a potential weather threat.

“We feel this drastic action is necessary to illustrate our collective professional concerns for the well-being of the residents of the community that we love and serve,” he said.

Baldanza told The Link News that he’s been with the Oceanport OEM for 18 years, taking over as Coordinator when its former head, Harry Sutton, was promoted to Police Chief. He’s been through numerous storms, as well as Hurricanes Irene and Sandy and other situations.

The position of OEM Director pays $4,000 a year.

Facebook pages exploded.

The Oceanport Republican Committee page posted a lengthy refutation from the Committee of Baldanza’s remarks, saying “your Council most certainly supports our emergency responders.” (Normally posts under the name “Oceanport Republican Committee” are made by Councilman Robert Proto.)

The post said that Baldanza already has a taxpayer funded truck he drives to and from his office. (Another post on the Oceanport Residents Facebook page said that since the summer Baldanza has left this truck behind a firehouse for OEM use, since it has the sirens and other equipment staff might need for emergency use).

The Oceanport Republican’s post also suggested this was an “orchestrated piece of political theater” for the Nov. 5 election, where Proto is running against incumbent mayor Coffey.

“The timing of Buzz’s resignation is also suspect. Did he resign in June when the budget was passed? No! If not getting his truck was so tragic, why didn’t he resign then? Did he notify anyone on council of his intentions between June and tonight? No! Could it be that he timed his announcement at the last meeting before the election in 2 weeks, while in front of a roomful of Mayor Coffey’s supporters? Most definitely!”

The post went on to say that the Finance and Public Safety Committees had made several purchases to help emergency responders this year, and rejected others.

Purchases included two power cots for the First Aid Squad, and a pair of SUVs for the police department. OEM’s truck was rejected though, as was a request for a $1 million new fire truck.

“Our jobs require making difficult decisions. Sometimes that means being unpopular and getting berated publicly. We know it comes with the territory and are still willing to make those tough calls,” the post said, urging voters to support Proto and his running mates, Councilman Joe Irace and Steve Solan, because making these decisions keeps the budget under control.

“The choice… is as clear as can be. Proto, Irace and Solan are the candidates willing to say no and make the difficult decisions because we always put taxpayers first,” the Oceanport Republican Committee said.

Many on the Oceanport Residents group had other comments and opinions, with a post announcing Baldanza’s resignation quickly getting over 100 posts.

“I do disaster and resilience research. Buzzy is well known and very very very well respected by emergency mangers, disaster planners, flood plain managers and private consultants throughout the state and region,” said Jack Harris. “His Sandy response was a masterful orchestration of volunteers, local know-how, and state and federal assistance… This action actually puts the town in jeopardy.”

Others, such as Maura Kelly, did see this as a call to vote for Coffey and his team.

“We need a big change for our community which is feeling so divided and lacking that friendly, warm feeling Oceanport is known for. I really feel that Buzzy didn’t deserve how he was treated,” she wrote.



Fall Festival offers treats, crafts, kids and pooch parades

By Patty Booth O’Neill

Some were scary, some were original, all were adorable – kids and pets.

Saturday was perfect weather for the Fall Festival sponsored by the Greater Long Branch Chamber of Commerce and Pier Village.

There were plenty of rides and activities for the kids, craft tables with jewelry and clothing and much more with a lively DJ that kept things moving. To the delight of everyone, there were plenty of costumed characters roaming around, interacting with the kids and posing for photos.

“This is one of my favorite events held here,” said Nicole Gilford, head of marketing for Pier Village. “After this we start preparing for the Tree Lighting in December, another one of my favorites.”

The afternoon started with the Pooch Parade with over 45 dogs and owners showing off their costumes, the most entrees so far.

“This event gets bigger every year,” said Chamber Executive Director Nancy Kleiberg. “We’re very thankful that Pier Village offers to help sponsor it with us.”

The event started in West End, but lost that space after the street and sidewalks were reconfigured.

“Pier Village offered to hold it, and as it turns out, it’s a perfect match.”

Dog owners were serious about dressing up and the dogs were hysterical as they paraded along the boardwalk to be judged on their costumes.

The kids then parade around, though not judged, and then went trick or treating at the stores.


Pooch Parade winners

1st Place Winner: Luigi’s Italian Ice, Owner: Holly & Bob Wigdor, East Brunswick

2nd Place: Lunch Box, Owner: Vanessa Monesano, Clifton

3rd Place: Mermaid Kami, Owner: Kristin Honey, Spring Lake

If you would like to see a fun video of all the funny, creative costumes, go to The Link News on Facebook.

For more photos go to The