Today's News-Tuesday, March 31, 2009
FIRE GUTS POTTSVILLE HOME
Monday's fire in Pottsville gutted a home at 307 Fairview Street. Crews from all 7 Pottsville fire companies were able to extinguish the blaze quickly, but the damage was extensive according to Pottsville fire officials. Two people escaped from the apartment building and tenants in the upper floors were not home at the time. The investigation is continuing as to what caused the blaze, but it appears to be accidental.
TRIAL SET FOR SHENANDOAH THREE, DATE NOT RELEASED
The trial for three Shenandoah teens in connection with the death of a Mexican illegal last summer is expected to begin soon. The exact date has not been released by court officials. Brandon Piekarsky, Colin Walsh and Derrick Donchak are alleged to have taken part in the beating death of Luis Ramirez Zavalla at a Shenandoah playground in July, 2008. The Republican Herald reports that President Judge William Baldwin has set the start date for the trial, but is not releasing that date to the public. Piekarsky and Walsh are charged with criminal homicide and related counts. Donchak is charged with aggravated and simple assault and associated charges. A teenaged boy is being charged as a juvenile.
THREE FLOWN FROM CRASH SCENE
A Tamaqua man and two passengers were involved in a crash in East Brunswick Township Monday night. Frackville state police indicate that 20 year old Damian Shoff was northbound on Cold Run Road and failed to stop at a stop sign at the intersection with Schuylkill Road. He lost control of the vehicle and it struck a tree with the right side of the vehicle. Shoff and an unidentified passenger were life flighted to Lehigh Valley Hospital. A second passenger was flown to St Luke's Medical Center, Bethlehem for treatment. The extent of their injuries is not known. The crash happened around 6:20pm last night.
COUNTY MAN WRECKS AT PENN STATE
A Schuylkill County man was arrested after police say he drove his vehicle into Penn State's Chemistry Building, causing an estimated $20-thousand-dollars in damage. Police say Keith Kripp of McAdoo, allegedly fled after the crash, shortly after 1 Sunday morning. Police caught up to him and a blood alcohol test showed Kripp had a blood alcohol content of .241. Kripp was arraigned Sunday on charges of D-U-I, risking a catastrophe, criminal mischief, reckless driving and related charges. Kripp was released from the Centre County prison after posting 10 percent of $10,000 bail.
Federal judge blocks charges in Pa. 'sexting' case
SCRANTON, Pa. (AP) - A federal judge says he isn't ruling yet on the merits of a lawsuit filed against a prosecutor on behalf of three northeastern Pennsylvania teenagers. But for now, he's banning Wyoming County District Attorney George Skumanick Jr. from filing child porn charges against the girls for racy cell-phone pictures of themselves. U.S. District Judge James Munley issued a temporary restraining order Monday against Skumanick. The prosecutor has said he would pursue felony charges against the girls unless they agree to participate in a five-week after-school program. But the teens say they didn't consent to having the pictures distributed to classmates' phones. They also say the photos aren't pornographic but protected First Amendment speech. The American Civil Liberties Union filed a federal lawsuit last week on the girls' behalf. Munley says he'll hear arguments on the ACLU lawsuit in June.
Md. mom pleads guilty in cult starvation death
BALTIMORE (AP) - A 22-year-old former member of a religious cult has pleaded guilty to starving her 1-year-old son to death after making an unusual deal with prosecutors in Baltimore: If Javon Thompson is resurrected, Ria Ramkissoon's plea will be withdrawn. The body was found more than a year after his death in the shed behind an elderly Philadelphia man's home. Defense lawyer Steven Silverman says Ramkissoon believes the resurrection will occur. He says he's not pursuing an insanity defense because his client will fare better under this deal. Ramkissoon also agreed to testify against four other members of the now-defunct religious group known as 1 Mind Ministries. All are harged with first-degree murder. Court papers say the cult members stopped feeding the boy when he refused to say "Amen" after a meal.
Judges' kickbacks prompt bills by Pa. legislator
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - A Pennsylvania state senator is planning legislation to protect the rights of juveniles after two judges pleaded guilty to taking millions of dollars in kickbacks from
youth detention centers. A senior aide to Republican Sen. Lisa Baker of Luzerne County said Monday that one of ths bills being written would make it mandatory for juveniles to be represented by a lawyer in court. Currently, juveniles may waive that right. Baker's chief of staff Jennifer Wilson says the details of the bills are still being discussed with juvenile law advocacy groups, judges and others. Last week, the state Supreme Court overturned hundreds of juvenile convictions in Luzerne County. Justices say one of the judges violated the constitutional rights of youth offenders who appeared in his courtroom without lawyers.
Ex-Philly officer on trial in drug-dealer heists
PHILADELPHIA (AP) - A lawyer for a now-fired Philadelphia police officer accused of using badge to rob a drug kingpin of $40,000 says he earned a good living and thus had no motive to rob. Malik Snell is also accused of driving the getaway car in a botched home invasion in Pottstown. Snell is is on trial in federal court for a second time after a jury deadlocked last fall on the home-invasion robbery charges. The indictment was later expanded after drug kingpin Ricardo McKendrick Jr. agreed to testify for the government. Defense lawyer Jack McMahon attacked McKendrick's credibility in closing arguments Monday, saying the government built its case on a posse of criminals. He acknowledged that Snell broke many police regulations, but says he didn't commit any crimes.
Philly news execs got bonuses before bankruptcy
PHILADELPHIA (AP) - A lawyer for the company that publishes The Philadelphia Inquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News says the company owes the city about $450,000 in property taxes.
Anne Aaronson says an official from Philadelphia Newspapers disclosed that Monday at a meeting of lawyers involved in the bankruptcy. Meanwhile, Philadelphia Newspapers Chairman Bruce Toll confirms that top executives received December bonuses, weeks before the company filed for bankruptcy. Toll says Chief Executive Brian Tierney and two others were doing a "very good job" and had not gotten raises since the 2006 purchase. A Philadephia Magazine blog cites Toll as saying Tierney received a $350,000 bonus and two others $150,000 each. Toll told The Assoicated Press he doesn't remember the amounts.
Eachus suggests Corbett consider resigning as AG
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Pennsylvania's House Democratic leader says Republican Tom Corbett should think twice about running for governor from the state attorney general's office.
Rep. Todd Eachus told a Pennsylvania Press Club luncheon Monday that the presumptive GOP candidate for Virginia governor resigned as that state's attorney general because staying in the office would be unfair to taxpayers. Corbett is overseeing an ongoing investigation of alleged
legislative corruption that so far has resulted in criminal charges against 12 former members or former staff of the House Democratic caucus. Corbett was re-elected as attorney general last year. He has not declared his candidacy for the 2010 election, but has formed an exploratory committee. Eachus says he is not urging Corbett to step down, but only to consider what the Virginia candidate decided.
Pa. prosecutor: Baby died of alcohol poisoning
TUNKHANNOCK, Pa. (AP) - A prosecutor in northeastern Pennsylvania says he plans to pursue charges against the parents of a 6-month-old baby who died of alcohol poisoning.
Wyoming County District Attorney George Skumanick said Monday the baby's blood alcohol content was .205 - well over twice the legal limit for adult drivers. Skumanick says the level was so high that lab technicians tested it a second time, then sent a sample to another lab to confirm the results. A coroner's investigation recommended involuntary manslaughter charges against the parents. Skumanick says he's working with state police trying to determine how to charge the parents, who lived in an apartment near Tunkannock when the baby boy died in 2007.
Pa. man accused of killing wife in front of kids
WILKES-BARRE, Pa. (AP) - A northeastern Pennsylvania man accused of shooting his wife dead as their three children watched is in custody. Wilkes-Barre police say 34-year-old Donnell Buckner was cornered Monday evening on the roof of an old factory. He was placed in the bucket of a Fire Department ladder truck and lowered to the ground. Police say he shot Kewaii Rogers-Buckner on Sunday night in their Wilkes-Barre home. The children are in the custody of Luzerne County child-welfare authorities. Buckner was jailed Monday night.
National Weather Service confirms Pa. tornado
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) - The National Weather Service confirms that Sunday's severe weather in south-central Pennsylvania was a tornado. A meteorologist at the weather service office in State College confirmed Monday that it was a tornado that hit Lancaster County. Randy Gockley, the county's emergency management coordinator, said Monday that he thought property damage would be at least $2 million to $3 million. Three people were taken to hospitals with minor injuries.
FATAL PHILADELPHIA FIRE
Philly row house fire kills 3 generations
PHILADELPHIA (AP) - A fast-moving house fire has killed members of three generations of a Philadelphia family, including a young girl. Fire officials say 8-year-old Kaira Cooper, her mother Linda Cooper and grandmother Jacqueline Cooper died shortly after midnight Monday in the North Philadelphia fire. Officials say one of the women jumped from a second-story window but was pronounced dead shortly after arriving at a hospital with burns and a head injury. The bodies of Kaira Cooper and the other woman were found in an upstairs bedroom.
Executive Chief Daniel Williams says the Philadelphia Fire Department had installed smoke detectors in the home. The fire is still under investigation.
Penn St. student with meningitis improving
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) - A Penn State University student diagnosed with bacterial meningitis is improving. A university spokeswoman says the 20-year-old male was upgraded
over the weekend from critical to serious condition at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville.
The school said Monday there have been no other cases. At East Stroudsburg University, a male student there has also been hospitalized for meningitis. Health workers at each school are working to identify anyone else who may be at risk. Meningococcal meningitis is a contagious and potentially fatal infection of the central nervous system. It is typically not transmitted by routine contact but is spread by saliva or through close, prolonged contact with an infected
CATHOLIC SCHOOLS CLOSING
Philly archdiocese closing 2 Catholic schools
PHILADELPHIA (AP) - The Archdiocese of Philadelphia is closing two more Catholic schools because of declining enrollment. Church officials announced Monday that Saint Benedict elementary school in Philadelphia and Saint Ann elementary school in Bristol will close at the end of the academic year in June. Only five students re-registered to attend Saint Ann next year after officials announced tuition would be $4,000 per parishioner and $5,000 per non-parishioner. This year's enrollment at Saint Benedict, in Philadelphia's East Germantown neighborhood, was 164. That number was projected to fall to 150 next year. The Office of Catholic Education will help teachers and students relocate to other Catholic schools.
Body pulled from river near PNC Park in Pittsburgh
PITTSBURGH (AP) - An autopsy is set on the body of a man pulled out of the Allegheny River near PNC Park in Pittsburgh. Police say a passerby spotted the body about 9 a.m. Monday and
alerted authorities. Police Cmdr. Thomas Stangrecki says there are no obvious signs of trauma on the body. Police say the man has been identified as 53-year-old George Moon. They say Moon was last seen in February. Police say his family reported Moon missing on March 28 when they were unable to contact him at his Pittsburgh home. Stangrecki says the Allegheny County Medical Examiner's Office will perform an autopsy.
Pa. teens charged in "ultimate fighting" bout
CORRY, Pa. (AP) - Police are charging two 16-year-old northwestern Pennsylvania boys in juvenile court for staging what they called an "Ultimate Fighting Championship" that left both
bloody. Corry police Chief Fred Corbett says police began investigating Friday when the mother of one boy told police she believed her son had been jumped and attacked. The other boy was treated for head injuries at a local hospital. Corbett says police determined the boys agreed to fight each other, mimicking the popular tournament-style fights made popular on television.
Corbett says Monday that both boys are being charged with simple assault in Erie County Juvenile Court. Corbett says simple assault charges are often filed in mutual combat situations.
WASHINGTON (AP) - London is the first stop on President Barack Obama's overseas trip that's beginning today. He'll be attending a summit of the world's economic powers and has scheduled sit-downs with the leaders of Britain, Russia and China -- all major players in the U.S. financial system.
FRESNO, Calif. (AP) - The country's latest food safety scare involves pistachios. The government is warning people to stop eating all foods containing the nuts, while they figure out the source of possible salmonella contamination. A California-based processor is recalling a portion of pistachios it has been shipping since last fall.
FARGO, N.D. (AP) - Officials in Fargo, North Dakota, compare their plight to an action movie where the hero stares down one disaster after another. The level of the swollen Red River has been dropping -- but the city has been smacked by a blizzard that threatens to batter the levees holding back a flood.
BAGHDAD (AP) - A suicide truck bomber has plowed through a sandbag barrier at a police station in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul. The blast killed at least 7 people and wounded 17.
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) - North Korea says it will put two detained American journalists on trial. The reporters for former Vice President Al Gore's San Francisco-based Current TV are accused of entering the North illegally and committing what the government calls "hostile acts."