2015: What happened in Wilton?

State championships, new officials, SBAC scores, historic homes, lawsuits, turf, bears, and accidents were all in the news this year in Wilton. Some stories had quick resolutions, some will be ongoing for months, if not years.
Here, in no particular order, are some of the biggest stories in Wilton from 2015:

State champs


Three Wilton High School sports teams were crowned state champions this year — the first in program history for the girls basketball team, which capped the season by routing top-seed South Windsor, 73-45, in the Class LL finals at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville in March.

Two months later, Wilton’s baseball team ecame FCIAC champs for the first time in 20 years after the fifth-seeded Warriors edged second- seed Staples, 1-0, in eight innings at the Ballpark at Harbor Yard in Bridgeport. After seven scoreless innings, James Meany singled with two outs in the top of the eighth, stole second, and then scored on Jackson Ward’s RBI single on a 3-2 count. Pitcher J. T. Morin led the team, pitching a complete game and allowing only two hits.

In November, Wilton High School’s field hockey team won its fourth state title in five years, and first Class L title since 1976. Jillian Mahon’s final shot of her high school career was also her most memorable, as she knocked in a pass from Emma Rosen for the game-winning goal with 1:57 left in overtime to give the Warriors a 1-0 win over Cheshire in the Class L championship game in Wethersfield.

New first selectman


After 10 years in office, Bill Brennan retired as Wilton’s first selectman on Nov. 30, at the completion of his fourth term.

Republican Lynne Vanderslice, active community member and Wilton resident of 28 years, was elected to succeed Brennan after defeating Democrat Deborah McFadden on Tuesday, Nov. 3, in the first contested race for first selectman since Brennan took office.


Wilton saw a turnout of almost 39% at this year’s municipal election and approximately 4,400 voters cast ballots. Vanderslice received 2,937 votes and McFadden received 1,384.

Eric Von Kohorn and Timothy Leonard


Two former employees of Wilton Public Schools were sentenced this year after one was arrested and charged with possession of child pornography and the other caught in a movie theater parking lot with an underage boy.

Eric Von Kohorna former Wilton preschool paraprofessional, was arrested by state police on Aug. 20, 2014, and charged with first-degree possession of child pornography and promoting a minor in an obscene performance.
After he entered an Alford plea, allowing him to enter a guilty plea without admitting guilt, Von Kohorn’s child pornography charge was reduced to second-degree and the state dropped his second charge of promoting a minor in an obscene performance.
On Oct. 23, Von Kohorn was formally sentenced to six years in prison, suspended after two years served, and 10 years’ probation. He will also have to register with the sex offender registry, and will need probation authorization to access the Internet once he is released from prison.
Shortly after he was sentenced, a Wilton family filed suit against the town and school district, claiming Von Kohorn had sexually abused their pre-school-aged daughter. A status conference for this case is scheduled for Jan. 8.
It was decided at Bridgeport Superior Court on Thursday, Nov. 5, that former seventh grade Middlebrook teacher Dr. Timothy Leonard do two years of Connecticut’s Accelerated Pretrial Rehabilitation (AR) program and have no contact with the now 15-year-old boy with whom police discovered him, resulting in his arrest.
On Feb. 10, Trumbull police found Leonard with the then 14-year-old in a Jeep Cherokee in a movie theater parking lot in Trumbull. Upon speaking to the two, police determined they had engaged in intimate contact while parked in the vehicle.
Leonard told police he met the teen through an online dating app, denied knowing the victim was 14, and said he would not have gotten involved with him if he had known his age. Leonard was arrested and charged with risk of injury to a child and fourth-degree sexual assault, and was released after posting a $10,000 bond.
Leonard was a teacher at Middlebrook School from 1996 to 2006 and from 2010 until his resignation on June 30 of this year. At his Nov. 5 hearing, a representative from the state’s attorney’s office said the victim had purposely posted photos that made him look older on the dating website through which he and Leonard met.
Although the victim did appear older on the website, she said, he looked his actual age when he visited the state’s attorney’s office and said “he felt bad about what he did to Mr. Leonard.”

New police chief


Interim Chief Robert Crosby  was sworn in as full-time chief of Wilton police on Sept. 22. Crosby, a Bethel resident and veteran of the Wilton police force for more than 30 years, was acting chief for eight months before being hired permanently. He filled in when Michael Lombardo left Wilton in January to head up the Trumbull Police Department.
After serving 16 months as Wilton’s interim fire chief, Ronald Kanterman was sworn in this fall as the town’s fifth career chief. At a ceremony on Oct. 23, Kanterman told a small gathering of supporters, “There has never been a day in my life I was not happy to go to work.”

SBAC scores


The results of the 2015 Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) test were released for Connecticut in late August, and for Wilton, the scores weren’t quite up to par.

Wilton — a district accustomed to at least 70% of its students meeting or exceeding standardized test achievement levels — had the lowest ELA/Literacy and mathematics achievement levels of the nine DRG-A school districts.

In Wilton, 73.6% of test-takers met or exceeded the achievement level in ELA/Literacy and 57.3% met or exceeded the achievement level in mathematics.

Darien, on the other hand, had the DRG-A’s highest achievement level in both categories — 85.3% in ELA and 75.9% in math.

Schlichting homestead


The Schlichting Homestead at 183 Ridgefield Road, which was occupied by at least one member of the Schlichting family for the last 118 years, was sold on Aug. 20.
Fourth-generation family member Dave Schlichting and his sister CarolAnne Keeley put the property on the market because it was in “pretty bad shape” when they inherited it and keeping it would have required more money than they were willing to spend.


“We dodged buyers who wanted to tear it down for two years,” said Schlichting, who ended up settling for less money so the property could go to James A. Fieber, CEO of Fieber Group LLC in New Canaan, who Schlichting was under the impression would restore his childhood home.

After the developer’s intent to demolish the house and outbuildings was published in a legal notice in the Sept. 24 issue of The Bulletin, the Wilton Historic District Commission convened a special meeting and public forum and voted unanimously on Oct. 7 to delay the demolition for 90 days.
The development of the property, slated to include the postponed demolition of historic structures, prompted a number of residents to band together in an effort to preserve what they see as a last bastion of Wilton’s fading historic character.
After working to find a solution, it was announced the barn and possibly the house will be disassembled and relocated.
The Historic District Commission’s demolition delay expires on Jan. 7, 2016.


Tully Knight


On April 17, at Stamford Superior Court, 18-year-old John Tully Knight  admitted he caused the death of Nicholas Parisot, as part of a civil deal reached by Nicholas’s parents, Ricardo Parisot and Katherine Throckmorton, and Knight and his parents.
The court proceedings stemmed from a civil suit Parisot and Throckmorton filed in 2009 against Knight and his parents, and the terms of the deal allow certain aspects of the juvenile criminal case against Knight to be made public.
Knight, who had his hair tied back in a bun and spoke at a near-whisper during the proceedings, was 11 years old when, in 2008, he tied a rope across a dirt bike path frequently used by Nicholas, who had been given permission to ride in the area. Nicholas struck the rope while riding on the path and subsequently died from his injuries.
It was noted during the proceedings that the rope was placed just after a blind corner, rendering a “sudden and unavoidable” trap for any dirtbike rider who came across the path that day.
In a short but emotional statement, Nicholas’s father said his son’s death was the result of a “premeditated, deliberate and malicious homicide,” and the juvenile criminal court’s decision to “excuse” Knight was “obtuse, disgraceful, and an insult.”

Bears


Bear sightings were  reported in yards on Ridgefield Road, Snowberry Lane and Hillbrook Road this year.
Vicky Marella, who lives on Ridgefield Road, sent The Bulletin photos of a bear that wandered into her yard on March 29 and hung around from about 6 p.m. until 11 p.m.

“He lumbered around the yard for a bit, checking out our bluebird houses, and then he found our bird feeding station, where he proceeded to pull down the feeders one by one and lay on the ground eating seeds,” she wrote in an email.
At one point during the night, an opossum also wandered into Marella’s yard and “stood his ground and hissed, which sent the bear running up the tree,” she said.
The bear on Snowberry Lane was seen making a meal of a suet left for birds the night of March 30 and Hillbrook Road residents Sue and Gordon Lucey spotted a very agile bear helping himself to some bird seed in their yard in July.


Turf fields


After being green-lighted by the Board of Selectmen and receiving approvals from the Inland Wetlands Commission, Wilton Youth Football’s application to renovate the Middlebrook School field’s natural grass with artificial turf was approved, in part, by the Planning and Zoning Commission on Oct. 13.
While residents have expressed mixed opinions about the turf installation, Wilton Youth Football has claimed the project is meant to accommodate Wilton sports, the needs of which it feels are not met by the existing field at Middlebrook.
Pursued by Wilton Youth Football, the project would be privately funded, though the field and school both belong to the town.
The project still has obstacles in its path. After the Planning and Zoning Commission’s approval, Wilton residents William and Eliot Patty filed a lawsuit against Wilton Youth Football Inc., the commission, and the town itself, appealing the decision.

Miller-Driscoll contracts


After two contentious regular meetings and an equally contentious special session, Wilton’s selectmen authorized First Selectman Lynne Vanderslice to sign and execute, on behalf of the town, the last nine of 22 trade contracts for the Miller-Driscoll School renovation project on Dec. 7.

The original estimated project cost was $50 million, with a $6.1-million anticipated state reimbursement, but the contracts came in at less than anticipated and now the project is expected to cost taxpayers approximately $38 million.
The project is expected to be completed in December 2017.

David Canary

Emmy Award-winning actor and Wilton resident David Hoyt Canary died of natural causes at the age of 77 on Nov. 16 at The Greens at Cannondale. He was as well known in Wilton for his generosity to the community as for his acting career.
Canary and his wife, Maureen, raised two children, Christopher and Kathryn, in Wilton and became very involved in the community after realizing “how much local organizations could benefit from their talents,” and participated in many fund-raisers involving music and acting, according to a March 2005 Wilton Bulletin article. That year, the couple were named Distinguished Citizens of the Year by the Wilton YMCA.

Canary starred in soap operas like All My Children and One Life to Live, and was well known for his role as the ranch foreman Candy Canaday on Bonanza, which he played from 1967 to 1970 and 1972 to 1973.


Thomas Tilley Adams


Thomas Adams, co-founder of the Wilton law firm Gregory and Adams, died at the age of 86 on Dec. 16. Adams was an attorney for more than 50 years, and also served as Wilton’s town attorney from 1966 to 1971.
He served on many town boards as well as the committee that oversaw the construction of Wilton High School. He was also a trustee of Elizabeth Raymond Ambler Trust and Shoff Foundation.

Lauren Beebe


Former Wiltonian Lauren Beebe, 48, was murdered by her husband Billy Newman, 57, who then killed himself in their Killingworth home on Nov. 25.

Beebe, born Oct. 17, 1967, was the daughter of Bruce and Cindy Beebe. She was a 1985 Wilton High School graduate who achieved high honors in her final spring semester of high school.

She was honored by the PTSA for a drawing of hers that was included in Wilton High School’s permanent collection and received a certificate of merit for being selected as art-student-of-the month during her senior year.

Beebe was a high school senior who specialized in drawing and pottery and liked to “become intensively involved” in her work. She went on to study fine arts at the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, R.I., graduating in June 1989 with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts.

She then attended Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., where she studied veterinary technology and was elected treasurer of a university chapter of a veterinary technicians association in 1991.

Beebe pursued a degree in veterinary medicine at Louisiana State University (LSU) in Baton Rouge, La., and received her doctor of veterinary medicine in 2003.

After working as an emergency veterinarian and relief veterinarian for about a year, Beebe returned to LSU in 2005 to join its veterinary faculty before returning to Connecticut in June 2013 with her family, according to the website of the Killingworth Animal Hospital, where Beebe then started working.

Miller-Driscoll lockdown


Miller-Driscoll School went into lockdown on Tuesday, June 2, after a secretary reported “a strange man was seen running down the corridor toward the south cafeteria” around 11 a.m.

Police were called and the school immediately went into lockdown — meaning all building and classroom doors were secured and no one was allowed to enter or exit the building.

Cider Mill, Middlebrook and Wilton High School subsequently went into soft lockdowns, which means all exterior doors were confirmed secured and no one was allowed to enter or exit the building but otherwise, activities continue as usual,” said Superintendent Kevin Smith.

With help from Norwalk and Weston, the Wilton Police Department searched the entire Miller-Driscoll building. Upon completing the search, the “strange man” turned out to be a district staff member.

Smith told The Bulletin the lockdown lasted about 30 to 50 minutes.


Robbie Keers


Robbie Keers, a student at UConn and Wilton High School graduate, died unexpectedly Sept. 28, at Windham Hospital.
At Wilton High, Keers lettered in football, lacrosse and track. According to his family, he received the Golden Shovel Award for defensive play and made the All FCIAC Second Team for Defense.
He still holds a Wilton High School record for the greatest number of completed touchdown passes. Lacrosse coach John Wiseman described Keers as “an incredibly charismatic young man, a talented athlete. He made everyone on the team smile. He was full of life.”

Accidents


On April 27, a Honda CRV was pushed into Horseshoe Pond by a Toyota Corolla that failed to stop at the stop sign at River and Horseshoe roads.

The Honda, driven by a 55-year-old non-resident, was pushed more than 50 feet to the left of the pond before it fell in and the Toyota came to a stop just before entering. Both roads were closed for a period of time as a result.

The Wilton fire and police dive team arrived on the scene, along with other emergency responders, and a crane was called in to extricate the Honda. All occupants reportedly were able to exit the cars, but several people were taken to Norwalk Hospital.

In Maytwo lanes were closed on Route 7 near Pimpewaug Road after a dump truck delivering mulch to Gregory’s Sawmill hit a high-tension wire, resulting in downed wires and a fire.
According to Wilton fire Chief Ron Kanterman, Gregory’s was taking a delivery of mulch and put the truck on an incline so the mulch would fall more easily out the back.
The truck, however, hit the high-tension wires overhead and that contact set the truck on fire. The driver was able to escape without injury.