News from Ocean & Monmouth counties and around New Jersey.

HOUSTON, TX - Crew members of a vessel currently anchored near this city are being questioned as the probe of the sinking of the Mandy Ness off Barnegat Light continues. Coast Guard officials are withholding the identities of the craft and crew until they've determined whether it was the boat believed to have been near the 44-foot fishing vessel that capsized January 10. The incident cost the life of its captain, Jim Mears, whose funeral service took place last Tuesday in Brant Beach.

MANCHESTER - A Georgia man faces weapons possession charges after a roadside stop in the township. Police say the officer who stopped Timothy Maulbeck, 25, for a defective taillight on his pickup truck Tuesday found a loaded 9MMTaurus  semi-automatic handgun in the center console, a loaded 9MM magazine elsewhere in the truck and a .38-caliber RG revolver in the passenger box. Maulbeck was charged with two counts of illegal weapons possession and ticketed for the tail lamp as well as an unclear license plate. He was released on his own recognizance.

TRENTON - Sexually-exploited juveniles will be treated as victims, not prostitutes, under a new state law that originated in South Jersey. State Senators Jennifer Beck (R-11) and Diane Allen (R-7) co-sponsored the bill affirming that people under age 18 can't willingly consent to sexual solicitation and require treatment as victims under the law. The measure just got Governor Chris Christie's signature.

EAGLESWOOD - A startling discovery during an Eagleswood house fire leads to charges against the resident. Reports say State Police were called in when kiddie-porn images were uncovered during the Tuesday blaze. They filed charges against 76-year-old Gamal El-Zoghby.

TOMS RIVER - Police in Toms River are investigating the theft of a 50-foot copper wire, valued at $500 from the Jersey Central substation on Adams Avenue. It was inside a six foot fenced in area at the substation. The suspect cut a hole in the fence and removed it.

BRICK - A Brick Township woman has started a petition to get the charges against a Stafford man accused of feeding feral cats dropped. Reports say 32-year-old Wendy Mitchell feels 51-year-old Mark Rist didn't do anything wrong when he put food out for the felines. Rist was charged with littering and breaking health codes. A hearing is set for February.

JACKSON - The Jackson School Board takes a carving knife to their budget for 2012-2013. Reports say spending in the Department Of Cirriculum And Instruction is being reduced. They're also looking at ways to trim their tech budgets as well, without affecting the quality of education.

TOMS RIVER - The preliminary screening process is underway for potential jurors who will sit on the trial of accused cop-killer Jahmell Crockham. Reports say, jurors are being asked some qualifying questions before being moved on to a pool of potential candidates for consideration. Their goal is to pick 16 people which includes four alternates.

TRENTON - The New Jersey Board Of Public Utilities gives a verbal okay to the extension of a customer energy saving initiative that began in 2009. The Board's approval allows the Savegreen Project through December 31st of this year. The program provides over $19 million dollars in incentives and rebates for customers who make energy-efficiency home improvements.

HOLMDEL - Holmdel police issue a reminder to lock your vehicles, even when they're parked in your driveway. The advisory follows the recent theft of two luxury vehicles from homes where the cars were found unlocked with keys inside. Officials say there have been a rash of car thefts in nearby towns where owners have made it easy for thieves.

NEPTUNE - The early morning shooting of a 22-year-old man in Neptune is being investigated by police. Reports say the incident occurred at 1:30 Wednesday morning near the intersection of West Lake and fisher avenues. The victim was taken to the jersey shore medical center. Police have been probing seven shootings in and around the Asbury Park/Neptune vicinity in a week.

SPRING LAKE HEIGHTS - Two former dog breeders from Spring Lake Heights are fined $2500 each and banned from ever owning another animal after the removal of 64 puppies and dogs from their home. The Monmouth County SPCA removed the animals from the residence of mother and son Muriel and Chad Ennis after finding them living in filthy conditions and suffering from related ailments. Officials say the pair have been cooperative and had simply become overwhelmed.

ATLANTIC CITY - A south Jersey man makes a first court appearance today in the double homicide in Hammonton last year. 32-year-old Patrick Latko has a bail hearing this afternoon on two counts of murder and weapons offenses. The Atlantic County Prosecutors Office is charging him in the fatal stabbing of 64-year-old Diana Patterson and her son 29-year-old Ryan on November 30th.