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Mourners hold vigil for dead child



HUDSON—Family and friends held a vigil and balloon release for Halo R. Branton the afternoon of March 11 at the Hudson Riverfront Park. The wind was howling that day and blew the heart- and star-shaped balloons sideways across the park, according to an observer.

Halo was the 10-month-old child reported missing March 9, last seen at 12th Street and Campbell Avenue in Schenectady. Many of the child’s relatives currently live in Hudson.

Dozens gathered to remember deceased 10-month-old girl. Photo by Lance Wheeler

After the issuance of an Amber-Alert and an intense search effort, Halo was found in a utility tunnel on the General Electric campus in Schenectady in water up to her chest, March 10 at 12:30 p.m., according to a press release. The child was taken to Ellis Hospital by emergency responders, but could not be revived. The child’s mother, Persia Nelson, 24, a former Hudson resident, has been charged with second-degree murder, under circumstances evincing a depraved indifference to human life. Halo’s autopsy revealed she died of hypothermia. Officials allege that Ms. Nelson dropped her child down a pipe access to the tunnel and left her there.

Ms. Nelson is being held in the Schenectady County Jail in lieu of $500,000 cash bail. She is scheduled to reappear in Schenectady City Court March 14.


Hudson City Police investigated a threatening incident involving a local student. March 5 at 5:32 p.m., police received a report from a concerned mother and her juvenile daughter about disturbing physical threats received on the daughter’s cell phone, according to a press release.

The unknown sender conveyed intentions to harm the 17-year-old female and her friends, and referred to a recent altercation on the school bus. The 17-year-old female received text messages stating: “she was going be ‘poked’ and

‘stab all of ur friends’ and ‘I’ll jump u in school,’” the release said. The suspect further escalated the situation by sending images of a knife and a black long rifle, threatening violence at the victim’s school.

Immediately responding to the gravity of the situation, the Hudson City School District was informed to ensure the safety of students. The HPD patrol division transferred the case to the Detective Unit, who collaborated with the New York State Police Major Crimes division to trace the origin of the threatening text messages.

Subsequent to a coordinated effort involving the Haverhill, Massachusetts Police Department, New York State Police, Massachusetts State Police, and Hudson Police, a search warrant was executed March 8. The operation successfully led to the recovery of the pictured long gun and knife at a residence in Massachusetts. A person of interest, a juvenile, was interviewed by the police, and charges are pending.

During the investigation, it came to light that the juvenile had a history of making bomb threats to a Massachusetts school, leading to a previous investigation by the Haverhill Police Department.

“This incident is a stark reminder of the importance of swift and collaborative action in ensuring the safety of our community. The dedication and professionalism demonstrated by all law enforcement agencies involved exemplify our shared commitment to protecting the well-being of our residents and students,” Hudson Police Chief Mishanda Franklin said in the release.

The New York State Police, Major Crimes, Troop K, Massachusetts State Police, JTTF (Joint Terrorist Task Force), Haverhill Police Department, and the Hudson City School District have collectively played vital roles in the ongoing investigation.

The Hudson City Police Department encourages anyone with additional information related to this incident to contact the Detective Division at 518-828-3388.

To contact Diane Valden email

Sheriff hosts ‘Coffee and Conversation’

GALLATIN—Columbia County Sheriff Donald J. Krapf will hold a “Coffee and Conversation” event at Gallatin Town Hall, 667 County Route 7 from 6 to 7 p.m., March 20. This informal forum is open to the public and will be an opportunity for county residents to ask questions, make comments and share their concerns. Complimentary coffee and snacks will be available.

A similar event will be held at the Ancram Town Hall, 1416 County Route 7 from 6 to 7 p.m., March 26.

Residential brush burn ban starts March 16

GHENT—New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos announced the annual statewide ban prohibiting residential brush burning begins March 16 and runs through May 14. Since 2009, DEC has enforced the annual brush burning ban to help prevent wildland fires and protect communities during heightened conditions for wildfires.

“While we’re seeing record breaking fires in Texas right now, we’re also at a higher risk here in New York. Before the annual burn ban goes into effect, we’re encouraging New Yorkers who burn woody debris to do it carefully, don’t burn on windy days, and have water or equipment ready to extinguish it if needed. All fires must be attended until completely out,” Commissioner Seggos said in a press release.

This winter season did not provide typical snow cover across much of New York State, leaving dormant vegetation from last year’s growing season exposed where it is susceptible to the daily fluctuation of spring weather. DEC is advocating extra vigilance before the burn ban goes into effect, as forest rangers and local firefighters have already responded to early fires in multiple counties. These fires were caused by debris burning with wind carrying the fire to grassy and wooded areas.

Since the ban was established, the eight-year annual average number of spring fires decreased by 42.6%, from 2,649 in 2009, to 1,521 in 2018. Warming temperatures can quickly cause wildfire conditions. Open burning of debris is the single-largest cause of spring wildfires in New York State. When temperatures warm and the past fall’s debris and leaves dry out, wildfires can start and spread easily, further fueled by winds and a lack of green vegetation. Each year, DEC forest rangers extinguish dozens of wildfires that burn hundreds of acres. In addition, local fire departments, many of which are staffed by volunteers, all too often have to leave their jobs and families to respond to wildfires caused by illegal debris fires. DEC will post the Fire Danger Map for the 2024 fire season on DEC’s website once there is a moderate risk anywhere in New York.

New York first enacted strict restrictions on open burning in 2009 to help prevent wildfires and reduce air pollution. The regulations allow residential brush fires in towns with fewer than 20,000 residents during most of the year, but prohibit such burning in spring when most wildfires occur. Backyard fire pits and campfires less than three feet in height and four feet in length, width, or diameter are allowed, as are small cooking fires. Only charcoal or dry, clean, untreated or unpainted wood can be burned. People should never leave these fires unattended and must extinguish them. Burning garbage or leaves is prohibited year-round in New York State. For more information about fire safety and prevention, visit DEC’s FIREWISE New York webpage.

Violators of the State’s open burning regulation are subject to criminal and civil enforcement actions, with a minimum fine of $500 for a first offense. For search and rescue, reporting a wildfire or illegal activity on state lands and easements, call 1-833-NYS-RANGERS (1-833-697-7264).

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