Thursday, April 30, 2009

Breaking News Update

In a somewhat unexpected development at the Schuylkill County Courthouse today, the defense in the Shenandoah beating trial rested their case. All told, Attorneys Fred Fanelli and Jeffrey Markosky called 5 witnesses over two days. Ariel Garcia, wife of Victor Garcia Cruz and friend of Luis Ramirez, testified Wednesday. Today, police officers Robert Senape and Michelle Ashman explained to the jury what they saw on July 12th in Shenandoah. Senape was first on the scene, and recounted his role in the investigation. He stated that he heard Ariel Garcia identify Brian Scully as the person who kicked Ramirez in the head while he lay in the street after the fight ended. He also spoke of the individual, now identifed as Diego Tovar, who came to Ramirez's aid with a BB gun. Garcia testified Wednesday that she was not sure who the "kicker" was. Ashman also told jurors that she heard Ariel Garcia speaking with Shenandoah police officer Jason Hayes of the same. During cross-examination, Assistant District Attorney AJ Serina questioned why this conversation was not noted in her written report. Diego Tovar then took the stand and told the court that Luis Ramirez called him on a cell phone, asking for help because he was engaged in a fight with a group of teenagers. Tovar took a BB pistol to the scene, but said he kept it concealed in his pants, and after questioning the boys about what happened to Ramirez, he said he threw the gun in the bushes. It was recovered at the scene. The final witness was Chief Detective Anthony Carroll of the Schuylkill County DA's office. Attorney Fanelli questioned Carroll at length about his investigation, and questioned why the shoes of the teens involved, specifically Brian Scully's white sneakers, were not seized since they have been the center of questioning throughout the trial. At that point, the defense rested their case. Attorney Fanelli declined comment after the proceedings, as did the District Attorney's office. Derrick Donchak's attorney, Jeffrey Markosky, did offer his assessment as to why the defense didn't call more witnesses:


Judge Baldwin said that closing statements and his charge to the jury would begin at 9am Friday, followed by jury deliberations. Brandon Piekarsky is charged with 3rd degreee murder and related counts, while Derrick Donchak is charged with aggravated assault and associated charges.

Breaking news - Day 4 Shenandoah trial

The defense rested in the case of the Commonwealth vs. Derrick Donchak and Brandon Piekarsky. In a stunning developement after only two hours of testimony. The defense ended their calling of witnesses. All totalled four witnesses came to the stand today.

Two police officers begain the day four of testimony. West Mahanoy Twp. officer Robert Senape was first on scene July 12, 2008 at the Vine Street Park. Senape told the jury that he heard Ariel Garcia, a friend of Rameriz, say that Brian Scully kicked Rameriz in the head. Senape's written statement was reviewed while on the stand. Second witness called officer Michelle Ashman of the Frackville Police Department. Ashman responded to the scene to provide assistance. Ashman heard a conversation between Arial Garcia and Shenandoah officer Jason Hayes and at that point heard Garcia say that Scully was the "kicker". However Ashman's written report did not include details of that conversation which she heard. Assistant District Attorney AJ Serina contended that since the conversation was not in the written report it was "alledged" to have happened.

Next call to the stand by the defense was Diego Tovar Alvarez, a friend of Luis Rameriz. Rameriz called Tovar for help that evening from the Vine Street Park. Tovar testified that he went to his basement and got a BB gun and ran 6 blocks from his house on Coal Street to the Vine Street Park. When Tovar arrived he asked the boys who were involved in the fight what was going on. The BB gun was concelled in the wasteband of his pants at the time. Tovar then threw the BB gun into a bush near the scene. Last witness for the defense was Schulylkill County Chief Detective Anthony Carroll. Carroll went to Shenandoah on July 13, 2008 to assist in the investigation. Carroll was questioned at length by attorney Fanelli about the investigation that led up to charges being filed against Piekarsky, Donchak and Walsh. Particular attend was paid by Fanelli as to the type of shoes worn by the "kicker". Fanelli asked Carroll why the shoes were not seized to make a positive identification. Ariel Garcia's testimony about Brian Scully's involvement in the kicking incident was also brought into question. On cross examination DA Jim Goodman asked Carroll if at any time anyone definatively say Brian Scully was the kicker. Carroll was he believed that Arial Garcia was confused about events that evening. After Carroll left the stand, the defense rested its case.

It is expected closing arguements by both sides will begin this afternoon and the jury charged.

Today's News-Thursday, April 30, 2009

The prosecution in the Shenandoah beating trial has rested after three days of testimony. The Commonwealth used its final day to call a host of medical professionals to discuss the injuries suffered by 25 year old Luis Ramirez on July 12th, 2008 following a fight at a Shenandoah playground. Dr. Barbara Bollinger, forensic pathologist, explained the extent of injuries she found when conducting the autopsy on Ramirez, and her findings concluded that Ramirez died of blunt force trauma to the head and ruled it a homicide. Brandon Piekarsky is charged with third degree murder in the case. Derrick Donchak is a co-defendant, charged with aggravated assault. Both are also charged with ethnic intimidation. Bollinger was on retainer by the county DA's office, and defense attorney Fred Fanelli peppered her with questions about her findings. Another medical authority, Dr. Isidore Mihalikis, Phillipsburg, New Jersey, also reviewed the autopsy findings and ruled that skull fractures led to Ramirez's death. Dr. Daniel Brown, a neuropathologist, examined Ramirez's brain to determine the extent of damage caused by blows during the fight, and explained his findings to the jury. Two emergency medical professionals discussed their assessment of Ramirez's injuries and treatment they gave as his unconscious body was transported to Geisinger Medical Center.

Wednesday's testimony in the Shenandoah beating trial opened with a Shenandoah teenager who, with her husband, responded to the scene after Luis Ramirez called them. Ariel Garcia, age 18, was actually a defense witness, but was called to the stand out of normal order due to the fact that she is expecting a child any day. Garcia recounted what she saw when she and her husband Victor, friends of Ramirez, came to the Vine Street playground on July 12th. Of particular note was Garcia's recollection of what type of shoes the individual who allegedly kicked Ramirez in the head wore. She said that the person who kicked Ramirez in the head wore a white sneaker. Brandon Piekarsky, who is accused of kicking the victim in the head while he lay in the street, had blue and grey sneakers on, according to testimony given by others earlier during the trial.

An 18 year old Shenandoah boy, who was with a group of other teenagers the night that Luis Ramirez was involved in the fight at the Vine Street playground, was the final witness called by the prosecution. Josh Redmond, who has not been charged in the case, said that Ramirez came after the teens that night, but threw a punch that missed. Redmond admitted that he didn't tell the truth about the events that took place when he first talked with police to protect his friends. He admitted that someone did kick Ramirez in the head while he was lying on the ground, but he couldn't identify who it was.

A county concrete materials company has changed hands. In an announcement made yesterday, Schuylkill Products Incorporated assets were acquired by a State College construction company. The company will now be known as Northeast Prestressed Products, owned by the Hawbaker family. All 129 employees at the Cressona-based company are expected to keep their jobs. Two former senior officials of Schuylkill Products had been involved in using a minority owned business in Connecticut to gain federal contracts, two of them having pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges in the past several years.

An Auburn boy died in an ATV accident Tuesday afternoon. Schuylkill Haven state police say that 11 year old Paul Yerger, a student at Schuylkill Haven Elementary School, was driving an ATV on Stoney Mountain Road when he lost control and the vehicle landed on top of him. Yerger was flown to Lehigh Valley Medical Center where he was pronounced dead.

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. (AP) - A state-owned university in western Pennsylvania expects to learn today how 22 students who recently returned from Mexico will mark their graduation. Slippery Rock's Saturday commencement falls in the middle of an incubation period in which the students have been advised to limit their contact with others.

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Authorities in Pennsylvania's capital city have shut down a small hotel after getting a complaint about bed bugs. Harrisburg Police Chief Charles Kellar says the
inspectors themselves became infested with the bugs as they inspected the building yesterday. They were sent to a hospital to be decontaminated.

ERIE, Pa. (AP) - Pennsylvania State Police have identified the man killed in a fiery crash on Interstate 90 near Erie. Police say that 58-year-old Samuel A. Thomas Sr. of Warren died when his car struck a tractor-trailer and caught on fire Tuesday morning.

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Pennsylvania is the latest state to turn up a probable case of swine flu. But officials say the 2-year-old Philadelphia boy is fully recovered and has no known risk factors. The state's Health Department says the boy became sick on March 23, several weeks before the outbreak was recognized nationwide.

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama says Sen. Arlen Specter's switch to the Democratic Party will not suddenly give the new president a "rubber-stamp Senate." Specter is the longtime Republican who announced this week that he was switching parties. The move is expected to help Obama advance his political agenda in the Senate.

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama is pledging "to do whatever it takes" to battle the swine flu outbreak which health authorities warn is inching closer to a full-fledged pandemic. The U.S. has nearly 100 confirmed cases in 11 states. Many more cases are suspected.

WASHINGTON (AP) - The number of schools closing in the U.S. due to swine flu concerns is growing. In Texas, the Fort Worth Independent School District says it's closing its 140 schools, with about 80,000 students.

DETROIT (AP) - Bankruptcy protection appears more likely now for Chrysler as it struggles to survive. A person familiar with talks between Chrysler's lenders and the Treasury Department to reduce the automaker's $6.9 billion in secured debt have collapsed.

HONG KONG (AP) - Asian stocks have rallied as U.S. and Japanese economic data signaled the global recession is letting up; export stocks lead the way. And Taiwan's market surged after a historic agreement clearing the way for Chinese investment.

WASHINGTON (AP) - Defense Secretary Robert Gates is urging Congress to pass an $83.4 billion spending bill for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan by Memorial Day. He says the Pentagon will deplete its funding for Pakistan next month and money for U.S. operations will start running out in July.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Blog from Shenandoah Murder Trial

The prosecution in the Commonwealth v Derrick Donchak and Brandon Piekarsky has rested their case this afternoon.

After calling about a dozen witnesses, the Schuylkill County DA's office ended testimony with 18 year old Josh Redmond, one of teens who was at the scene of the fight between Luis Ramirez and some of his friends.

As was the case with earlier testimony from some of the others, Redmond admitted that he didn't tell the truth when interviewed by police to protect his friends.

Redmond said he did see Colin Walsh "sucker" punch Ramirez and he fell to the ground.

But, he didn't see anyone kick Ramirez in the head while he lay in the street.

Redmond did say he believed that Ramirez was the aggressor that night in July at the Vine Street playground.

Redmond did not consume any alcohol that night, and is not charged with any crimes by authorities.

In earlier testimony, two expert witnesses, a neuropathologist and forensic pathologist both took the stand to explain post mortem findings as to the injuries suffered by Luis Ramirez on July 12th.

The defense begins calling witnesses Thursday morning.

Day 3 - Shenandoah Trial

Testimony opened on Day Three of the Shenandoah beating trial of Derrick Donchak and Brandon Piekarsky with Ariel Garcia, who with her husband Victor were friends with Luis Ramirez and came to help him after Ramirez said he was being attacked by teenaged boys.Garcia recognized Brian Scully and Colin Walsh when they arrived at the Vine Street playground. Scully was yelling at Ramirez according to Garcia and her husband Vincent punched Colin Walsh in the stomach while trying to break up the fight. During questioning, a 9-1-1 tape of Ariel's call was played, and she was visibly upset. Her recollections of the boys identities and who may have landed a kick to Ramirez's head. Garcia was called by the defense out of order, but was allowed because she is 9 months pregnant.Testimony from medical professionals dominated the remainder of the morning with a paramedic and flight medics who treated Ramirez.Dr Barbara Bollinger , a forensic pathologist retained by the prosecution, discussed her findings of the autopsy she completed on July 15th. Her manner and cause of death was homicide by blunt force trauma. Piekarsky's attorney Fred Fanelli took issue with Bollinger's objectivity since she was being paid by the DA's office.More medical testimony is expected after lunch recess.Jay LevanWPPA/T102 News

Blog from Shenandoah Murder Trial

Testimony opened on Day Three of the Shenandoah beating trial of Derrick Donchak and Brandon Piekarsky with Ariel Garcia, who, with her husband Victor ,were friends with Luis Ramirez and came to help him after Ramirez said he was being attacked by teenaged boys.

Garcia recognized Brian Scully and Colin Walsh when they arrived at the Vine Street playground.

Scully was yelling at Ramirez, according to Garcia, and her husband Vincent punched Colin Walsh in the stomach while trying to break up the fight.

During questioning, a 9-1-1 tape of Ariel's call was played, and she was visibly upset.

Her recollections of the boys' identities included who may have landed a kick to Ramirez's head.

Garcia was called by the defense out of order, but was allowed because she is 9 months pregnant.

Testimony from medical professionals dominated the remainder of the morning, with a paramedic and flight medics who treated Ramirez.

Dr. Barbara Bollinger, a forensic pathologist retained by the prosecution, discussed her findings of the autopsy she completed on July 15th.

Her manner and cause of death was homicide by blunt force trauma.

Piekarsky's attorney Fred Fanelli took issue with Bollinger's objectivity since she was being paid by the DA's office.

More medical testimony is expected after lunch recess.

Today's News- Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Before testimony could begin in the Shenandoah beating trial Tuesday, Judge William Baldwin addressed the jury about several matters. One of the jurors had asked if they could visit the scene of the crime around the Vine Street playground. Baldwin was adamant in saying that jurors should only consider the case on the basis of testimony alone. He also cautioned the panel against watching an episode of NBC's Law and Order tonight, as it deals with three high school basketball players implicated in a case similar to the trial they are hearing. Two of Derrick Donchak and Brandon Piekarsky's friends who were with them when Mexican illegal immigrant Luis Ramirez was beaten took the stand. Brian Scully went first, and recounted his involvement at the scene. Scully admitted that he did in fact ask 15-year-old Roxanne Rector whether "it was pretty late for her to be out" while accompanying Ramirez on the night of July 12th. That set the events in motion for the beating in which Donchak and Piekarsky are charged. Scully admitted that his original story to police was not completely true, to protect the others involved, and also told the court that Piekarsky instructed him not to tell about kicking Ramirez in the head while he was down on the ground. Scully was the first to talk to police the morning after the fight. Colin Walsh, who was originally charged with criminal homicide in Ramirez's death, also took the stand and admitted to throwing the punch that knocked the victim to the ground, striking his head against the street. Both Walsh and Scully also recounted the meetings that were held that night, and the next day at Brandon Piekarsky's house to "get their stories" straight. Scully still faces juvenile charges of aggravated assault and ethnic intimidation for his role in the fight. Walsh, who took a federal plea deal to violations of the Fair Housing Act for violating Ramirez's civil rights, admitted that he could face as much as 9 years in jail for his role. That sentence could be reduced to 4 years for his cooperation with the District Attorney's office. Walsh admitted that he took the deal to protect himself. The other details of Walsh's testimony to federal authorities has been sealed.

Victor Garcia, a friend of Luis Ramirez, was questioned by prosecutors and the defense as he recounted what happened on July 12th. Garcia had dropped Ramirez and Roxanne Rector off near the Vine Street playground, but was summoned via cell phone to help Ramirez as the fight broke out. Garcia said that when he arrived, Ramirez was lying flat on the street, foaming at the mouth. Garcia said he was struck behind the head, but he wasn't sure who attacked him. Two other people testified in the afternoon session, one an EMT from the Lost Creek Ambulance who described Ramirez' condition while lying on the ground. Richard Examitis said that Ramirez was unconscious and non responsive when he arrived.

During Tuesday's testimony, it came to light that an unidentified man appeared at the scene with a gun, pointing it at the boys. Colin Walsh told District Attorney Jim Goodman that the man said to the teens "its not cool what you did" after the fights between them and Ramirez was over. Lt. John Kaczmarczyk of the Mahanoy City Police Department testified in the afternoon, stating that a BB gun, described as resembling a .45 caliber automatic. Its not clear if its the same weapon that Walsh had described. Testimony wrapped up at 3:30 due to humid conditions in the courtroom.

Officials from the Shenandoah Valley School District continue to monitor attendance of students at the trial. WPPA/T102 News has learned that about a half dozen students were in court during the first two days of testimony, violating the policy established by the district last week. Only direct relatives of Derrick Donchak and Brandon Piekarsky who have been excused from classes are allowed to miss school for the trial. The district's policy indicates that students may not be able to participate in graduation activities.

The media has been well represented at the trial of the Shenandoah teens. But rules established by the court, banning the use of electronic devices in the courtroom were broken yesterday afternoon, as a filmmaker was spotted using a cell phone. That device had rung earlier in the session. David Turnley was removed from the courtroom mid afternoon following the incident. Sheriff's deputies reminded all media that anyone caught using a cellphone in the courtroom for any reason would have their credentials pulled and removed from the remainder of the trial.

A hearing was held for a Luzerne County man involved in the robbery of a Port Carbon convenience store yesterday. Port Carbon police are investigating the April 9th holdup at the Turkey Hill Minit Market. 19 year old Joshua Wagner is charged with three counts of criminal conspiracy for his involvement as the alleged getaway driver. Officials say that 45 year old William Tierno is also implicated in the robbery. He's currently in Luzerne County Prison, charged with his involvement in a stabbing in Hazleton. A third man, only identified as Cuba is still at large. Wagner is jailed in the county prison, as he is on probation for a prior burglary.

A home in Spring Glen, Hubley Township, was destroyed by an early morning fire Tuesday. Officials say that they were called to Kushwa Road before 3am. The property is owned by Timothy and JoEllen Fetterolf. The cause of that blaze has not yet been determined.

Schuylkill Haven state police are investigating a burglary at a Frailey Township business. Someone broke into the Keystone Potato Products plant on Shermans Mountain Road over the weekend. Two fork lifts were taken, valued at $46-thousand dollars. The investigation continues.

From neighboring Northumberland destroys the Salvation Army thrift store in Sunbury and heavily damaged two others Tuesday night. Crews from Northumberland County were supported by firefighters from Synder and Union counties in battling the fire on Market Street, according to the News Item. Smoke blanketed downtown Sunbury. Heavy smoke and fire were pouring from the second floor of the Salvation Army building when firefighters arrived after 7pm. Two firefighters were injured. Fire officials will survey the damage for a cause today.

Investigators now say that a brush fire near Ashland Friday night was caused by an explosion at a working meth lab. Borough fire crews uncovered the lab during their firefight, and contacted Ashland police. All of the makings of a meth lab were found at the site, including a stove, ammonia tanks and starter fluid. State police cleaned up the site on Saturday. County drug task force investigators and Ashland police are working to find out who ran the lab in the area of Ninth and Oak Streets.

ERIE, Pa. (AP) - The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation says a portion of eastbound lanes of Interstate 90 near Erie should reopen by 6 this morning. Police say a motorist in the westbound lanes hit another car going the same way near Erie. The driver then crossed the median and hit a truck.

WASHINGTON (AP) - Veteran Sen. Arlen Specter calls his allegiance switch to the Democratic Party a "painful decision," but he found himself increasingly at odds with a Republican Party
that has moved to the right. Specter stunned Capitol Hill with the switch. He tells Democrats he won't be an automatic 60th vote.

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell says it would help the Democratic Party if U.S. Senate candidate Joe Torsella would step aside. That's because longtime Sen. Arlen
Specter is leaving the Republican Party and plans to run for another term in next year's Democratic primary.

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Pennsylvania state health officials say they expect they'll eventually confirm a case of swine flu, but none has surfaced in the state yet. State Health Secretary Everette James and acting Physician General Dr. Stephen Ostroff say labs in the state were testing samples from people with flu-like illnesses.

PITTSBURGH (AP) - Pittsburgh police are looking for a suspect in the shooting death of a 16-year-old boy found in a city bar. Police say the boy had multiple gunshot wounds and was taken to a city hospital where he later died. Police say the boy had left another store near the bar when he was shot, then ran into the bar.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Blog from Shenandoah Murder Trial

Testimony wrapped up early today in the case of two Shenandoah teens implicated in the death of Luis Ramirez.

Victor Garcia, a friend of Ramirez, took the stand and told of the events during the afternoon and evening of July 12th, 2008.

The pair had been drinking beer at Garcia's home, and Victor later dropped Ramirez and Rector near the Vine Street playground.

A short while later, Ramirez called for help, telling Garcia that he had been beaten up.

Garcia told the court that he had been assaulted by one of the 5 or 6 teens, being struck in the back of the head.

Attorney Fred Fanelli tried to relate Garcia's assaulter with Colin Walsh.

Other people who testified this afternoon at trial included Barry Boyer, a friend of the defendants and others who were allegedly involved in the attack.

He came to the scene after it was over, according to testimony.

The day wrapped up with Stephanie Werzalis of Frackville, who snapped a picture with Derrick Donchak at a party.

Donchak was wearing a US Border Patrol t-shirt in the shot.

Lt. John Kazmarcyzk of Mahanoy City also testified. He was an officer who responded to the scene as backup for Shenandoah PD.

Finally, an EMT from Lost Creek Ambulance testified about responding to the scene where Luis Ramirez lay after the fight with the teenagers.

Testimony resumes at 9am Wednesday.

Blog from Shenandoah Murder Trial

One of the original three teens charged in the beating death of Mexican illegal Luis Ramirez took the stand at midday.

Colin Walsh, who was originally charged the same as Brandon Piekarsky.... third degree murder, ethnic intimidation and related counts.

Now, Walsh told his story, and by cooperating in conjunction with a federal plea to violation of the Fair Housing Act pertaining to violation of Ramirez's civil rights, Walsh could do 4 to 9 years in jail.

The exact amount will be at the discretion of the US Attorney. Walsh was walked through the events by DA Jim Goodman, including what happened when all the boys met the following day at Brandon Piekarsky's house.

Piekarsky's attorney Fred Fanelli tried to again poke holes in the different variations of testimony given by Walsh.

Walsh did admit that he took the Feds' offer because the others involved appeared to be pinning everything on him alone.

Finally, Walsh did disclose that he was willing to accept whatever sentence he's given.

In another development, about a half dozen students from Shenandoah Valley have been in attendance at the trial over these two days, in spite of possible sanctions that were instituted by the Shenandoah Valley administration and board last week.

School officials have been in attendance to monitor it.

Blog from Shenandoah Murder Trial

Day two of testimony in the Shenandoah beating trial began with 18 year old Brian Scully, who was with the defendants Brandon Piekarsky and Derrick Donchak and others when Luis Ramirez was beaten.

Asst DA AJ Serina questioned Scully at length about what happened that night.

Scully admitted to making the initial contact with Roxanne Rector and Luis Ramirez, and responded to inquiries about Scully's initial testimony, which he admitted contained lies.

Piekarsky's attorney Fred Fanelli went on the offensive to try and punch holes in the first statements given by Scully to Shenandoah police.

Scully admitted again that he didn't tell the whole truth in trying to protect himself and his friends.

Donchak's attorney Jeff Markosky also pursued the same line of questioning as Fanelli.

Probably about 70 people in attendance at today proceedings.

Today's News-Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Testimony in the Shenandoah beating trial got underway Monday with alot of posturing from the defense and prosecution. Security was tight at the Schuylkill County Courthouse and in the streets of Pottsville, but an expected packed courtroom never materialized. During opening statements, Assistant District Attorney Rob Frantz said that the defendants, Brandon Piekarsky and Derrick Donchak were instrumental players in the fight against Mexican immigrant Luis Ramirez last July. Frantz said the state intends to prove that Piekarsky kicked Ramirez in the head while he was on the ground, and Donchak struck Ramirez with his fist, and had a metal object in his hand. Defense attorney Fred Fanelli, representing Piekarsky, tried to point the blame to others involved, namely Colin Walsh and Brian Scully, not on his client. Fanelli weaved a story that Ramirez was the aggressor during the "street fight". Donchak's attorney Jeff Markosky wants to prove that his client tried to stop the fight, diminishing his role during the fights. Piekarsky faces third degree murder, ethnic intimidation and other counts. Donchak is charged with aggravated assault, ethnic intimidation and related charges. About 60 people attended the trial in a very warm Courtroom Number 1. Testimony wrapped up around 5pm.

Testimony opened with two state police troopers, one an accident reconstruction specialist and a forensic investigator who recreated the scene in photos from various points at the crime scene. Neighbor Elizabeth Schlack, who made the 9-1-1 call as she viewed events from her bedroom window, testified what she saw about 126 feet to the street below, where Luis Ramirez's body lay after several battles between teenagers and the victim. A key witness who was with Ramirez, 15 year old Roxanne Rector, was grilled by both sides as to who struck the blows that mortally injured the 25-year-old Mexican near the Vine Street Park last July. Rector admitted that she and Ramirez were involved in a relationship, and said the two were engaged. Eighteen year old Ben Lawson, who was with defendants Brandon Piekarsky, Derrick Donchak, Colin Walsh and Brian Scully, said the group had been drinking in the bush before heading to the Polish American Fire Company. The group came upon Ramirez and Rector near the playground later that night, and attorneys for the defense peppered Lawson about his original testimony about the night's events, trying to deflect their clients involvement in Ramirez's beating. Lawson has had several meetings with law enforcement about his testimony, including an appearance at a federal grand jury hearing in Scranton. Colin Walsh, who originally was charged with Donchak and Piekarsky, pleaded guilty to violating Ramirez's federal civil rights, had his local charges dropped. Its unclear exactly what those federal charges are, since the records are sealed. WPPA/T102 News asked Fred Fanelli to comment about the federal probe, but he said "you'll have to ask Lawson."

Law enforcement officials were expecting a crush of protestors outside the county courthouse during the Shenandoah beating trial, but they never materialized. Three people camped away from the courthouse during the morning session, but were quiet. An attorney from the American Civil Liberties Union was also present. They were all gone by the afternoon. That may change as the trial goes on. In a related note, several members of the Shenandoah Valley school adminstration were in the courtroom Monday to see if any students were attending the trial instead of being in school. The school board adopted a policy last week that would impose sanctions against any student in grades 7 to 11 who attended the trial or protests during school hours.

A Friday morning drug sweep at Shenandoah High School netted no illegal substances. According to reports, a canine drug search was conducted in conjunction with the Shenandoah PD in a surprise inspection. A lock down was imposed while the inspection took place.

Frackville police arrested a 19 year old Dunmore teen late last week on theft and burglary charges. The Republican and Herald reports that Richard Campbell the Third is accused of stealing Xanax pills from a home on Second Street earlier this month. Campbell reportedly broke into another home on South Garfield Avenue in Frackville, but got away. He's also accused of stealing items from a Frackville convenience store. Campbell was arraigned and jailed in the county prison in lieu of bail.

A Sharon Hill woman is charged with drug possession after a search of her vehicle at SCI Mahanoy. State police at Frackville report that 30 year old Marsha Denton came to the prison to visit an inmate. Cops found a small amount of pot in her car in the parking lot. Denton will be charged in district court with drug possession.

Pa. House passes bill on teen, distracted drivers
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - A bill that would impose new driving rules for teens and a fine for adults who let cell phones or other distractions cause them to drive erratically is on its way to the state Senate. The Pennsylvania House of Representatives on Monday voted 168-to-24 in favor of the bill. The vote comes less than a week after lawmakers narrowly defeated a measure that would have imposed an outright ban on the use of hand-held cell phones or sending text messages from behind the wheel. The latest bill limits how many under-18 passengers a junior
driver can transport and increases training requirements for teen drivers. The youngest drivers would be prohibited from driving while talking on cell phone, unless they're calling 511 or 911.

US Steel posts 1Q loss as demand drops
PITTSBURGH (AP) - United States Steel Corp. says it lost $439 million in the first quarter as the recession pinched demand for the metal. The nation's largest steel producer says it lost $3.78 per share. That compares with a gain of $235 million, or $1.98 per share, a year ago.
Pittsburgh-based U.S. Steel says sales fell nearly by half to $2.75 billion. The company says it will offer more stock and debt and reduce its dividend to shore up its finances. It says lenders agreed to eliminate financial covenants from loans. And it's cutting capital spending. The steel industry has been hit especially hard by the global economic meltdown, which has undercut demand and prices for the metal used in everything from cars to office buildings.

Bishop asks for new trial based on love letters
PHILADELPHIA (AP) - A defrocked Episcopal bishop in Pennsylvania is asking a religious court for another trial based on newly discovered love letters related to his case. Charles E. Bennison Jr. was deposed last year after a church trial in Philadelphia found he covered up his brother's sexual assaults of a teenage girl in the 1970s. Bennison's lawyers now say a cache of more than 200 letters between the victim and Bennison's brother contradicts witness testimony at the trial. The attorneys also argue the letters show the victim tried to hide the relationship, making it hard for the bishop to intervene. The motion, made public Monday, asks for the charges to be
dropped or for a new trial. Church attorney Lawrence White declined comment.

4 Penn St. students busted in alleged drug ring
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Four Penn State students are charged with being part of a million-dollar drug ring. State Attorney General Tom Corbett says 23-year-old student Paul Spara of Ruffs Dale bought more than 400 pounds of marijuana from a New York resident to supply current and former students. Investigators say Spara bought 10 to 50 pounds of marijuana a
week from Jason Remington of Saquoit, N.Y., and sold some to fraternity members who in turn sold to other students. Spara is charged with 13 counts of possession with intent to deliver while Remington faces four counts. They both face conspiracy and other charges. It could not immediately be determined if the men had attorneys.

Ex-head of defense contractor Gichner gets 1 year
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - A former executive of a south-central Pennsylvania company that makes shelters for the U.S. military is facing a year in federal prison after his sentencing on fraud charges. Charles Atwood II was sentenced Monday in Harrisburg federal court. He was also ordered to pay $294,000 in restitution. The 62-year-old Pompano Beach, Fla., man pleaded guilty in December to having Dallastown-based Gichner Shelter Systems Inc. file false contract documents with the U.S. Defense Department from 1997 to 2004. At issue was his failure to reveal his financial relationship with a company that marketed Gichner's products.
Defense attorney Fritz Ulrich says Atwood will probably appeal how his sentence was fashioned under the federal guidelines.

W.Pa. oral surgeon on trial for 17 sexual assaults
MOUNT LEBANON, Pa. (AP) - A trial has begun for a western Pennsylvania oral surgeon accused of sexually assaulting 17 female patients. The defense for 44-year-old Dr. Robert Boyda Jr. says the women suffered from hallucinations caused by propofol, an anesthetic used
ahead of surgery. The defense says the drug is known to cause vivid sexual dreams. Boyda has been charged with several counts of sexual assault and related charges. Initially, he was accused of assaulting 20 women, but three cases were dropped at the start of the trial on Monday
because the statute of limitations had expired. Prosecutors put a victim on the witness stand on Monday. They say they will also have two of Boyda's former assistants testify they witnessed some incidents.

Philadelphia police computer system to get upgrade
PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Plans are in the works to improve Philadelphia's problem plagued police radio system. The computerized system is used by 911 operators to sort emergency calls and dispatch information to police on the street. Police and firefighters say the system suffers from intermittent outages that can compromise their safety. Deputy public property commissioner Frank Punzo said Thursday that a multimillion-dollar upgrade includes portable "repeater"
devices that will enhance and extend the digital radio signal, even underground. Also in the works is a major upgrade of software used to control the entire radio system. Mayor Michael Nutter's administration has estimated that the upgrades would cost about $40 million.

Trial begins in Pa. fake murder-suicide case
READING, Pa. (AP) - Jury selection is under way for an eastern Pennsylvania man accused of killing his former girlfriend and her 5-year-old daughter and trying to make it look like a
murder-suicide. Prosecutors say 28-year-old Albert Perez killed Duceliz Diaz-Santiago and her daughter, Kayla, in Jan. 2007 and hanged their bodies to cover up the crime. Investigators say Diaz-Santiago was hanged with an electrical cord in a closet and her daughter was hanged from a bathroom towel rack. According to court documents Perez told investigators he killed Diaz-Santiago but said Kayla was killed by her mother. Jury selection started Monday and could last a week or more. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

Pa. trooper details struggle before suspect killed
GREENSBURG, Pa. (AP) - A sheriff's deputy in western Pennsylvania says he had an intense, terrifying struggle with a homicide suspect before the fugitive was fatally shot. Deputy Ronald Stokes testified at a coroner's inquest Monday in Westmoreland County, an area about 30 miles southeast of Pittsburgh. Stokes says 25-year-old Leroy Harris shot him in the leg. Stokes
also fired at Harris, who was wanted for two 2007 murders in McKeesport. Stokes says Harris refused to heed calls to drop his weapon and the gunbattle began. After Stokes and Harris were shot, the deputy says they both were on the ground trying to reach their weapons. Stokes says he recovered his gun first, and fired more than a dozen rounds. Other officers also fired their weapons at Harris.

Fate of Philly bike race postponed until Tuesday
PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Organizers of the TD Bank Philadelphia Cycling Championship are waiting an extra day before deciding the fate of the financially troubled race. Event co-founder Dave Chauner says his group has been able to raise only $100,000 of the $500,000 needed to close a budget gap. Chauner had set a deadline of 5 p.m. Monday for deciding whether to hold the event on June 7. He now says he's meeting with a potential benefactor Tuesday about funding the race. He says a decision will be made after that meeting. The race, which runs from downtown Philadelphia to the Manayunk section of the city, has been held every year since 1985.

Harrisburg's Civil War Museum links to Smithsonian
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - The National Civil War Museum in Harrisburg is now an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution. The designation will allow the museum greater access to the collections and educational resources of the Smithsonian. The National Civil War Museum opened in 2001. Among its more than 24,000 artifacts are Gen. Robert E. Lee's Bible and the Confederate flag that flew over Fort Sumter. The museum's collection is worth an estimated $20 million.

Monday, April 27, 2009


By Jay Levan, WPPA/T102 News Director

Day one of testimony has wrapped up in the case of Commonwealth vs Donchak and Piekarsky at the Schuylkill County Courthouse. The final witness called this afternoon was Joseph Benjamin Lawson, an 18 year old friend of the accused and was present on that July evening when Luis Ramirez was beaten. According to Lawson's testimony, Donchak was going to get alcohol for the teens to consume early that night. After consuming the alcohol, the group of boys went to the Polish American block party, then came upon Ramirez and 15 year old Roxanne Rector at the Vine Street playground. Lawson said that Colin Walsh was the one that questioned Rector about being out so late, and the first of three melee's ensued. Assistant District Attorney questioned Lawson at length about his testimony at the preliminary hearing and subsequent meetings with the FBI. Upon cross examination, Piekarsky's attorney Fred Fanelli tried to uncover differences in Lawson's testimony. It was also learned that Lawson testified in front of a grand jury at Federal Court in Scranton about the events of July 12th. Court adjourned for the day at 5pm and will resume at 9am Tuesday.

Shenandoah Trial Update

By Jay Levan, News Director

As afternoon testimony resumed in the Commonwealth v. Donchak and Piekarsky Elizabeth Schlack was first to take the stand . She is the neighbor who reportedly saw a group of males fighting on Vine and West Lloyd when the fatal blow was struck. Roxanne Rector, 15, took the stand for the prosecution. She admitted to having a relationship with the deceased. Rector is the half sister of Crystal Dillman, mother of Ramirez's children. She was with Ramirez earlier in the day on July 12th and when the beatings took place.

Breaking News

By Jay Levan, News Director

Opening arguments in the trial of two Shenandoah teenagers gave light to accusations about who really was involved and who allegedly landed the fatal blow that killed Luis Ramurez in July, 2008.About 60 people were in attendance in a warm courtroom number 1. Following instructions by President Judge William Baldwin, Assistant DA Rob Frantz presented the jury with a picture of what the prosecution believe happened the evening of July 12th at Vine and West Lloyd Street. Frantz attempted to paint Brandon Piekarsky and Derek Donchak as key players in the beating and subsequent death of Ramirez. Several other teens, Ben Lawson, Colin Walsh, Brian Scully and Josh Redmond were also present that night and had some involvement and both the prosecution and defense intend to lay out what their roles were.After 20 minutes, Piekarsky's attorney Fred Fanelli told the jury that Luis Ramirez was the aggressor that night while he was meeting with 15 year old Roxanne Rector, his alleged girlfriend and half sister of Crystal Dillman, the mother of Ramirez's children. Both prosecution and defense indicated that Rector was the girlfriend. Fanelli also uncovered what federal charges Colin Walsh is facing in return for probable testimony against others involved. A 5.k.1 statute states that Walsh violated Ramirez's civil rights under the Fair Housing Act in return for cooperating with federal investigators, where the prosecutor assesses the level of cooperation with a sentence. Donchak's attorney Jeffrey Markosky added additional comments about his clients case.Two state police troopers testified to open the prosecution's case dealing with scene reconstruction and photographs.Outside three people were found to be protesting along with an attorney from the ACLU.Crystal Dillman was accompanied to court by attorneys from the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund.Court resumed at 1pm.

Today's News-Monday, April 27, 2009

Security will be very tight at the Schuylkill County Courthouse as the trial of two Shenandoah teens begins today. Brandon Piekarsky and Derrick Donchak will be tried on charges connected to the beating death of a Mexican illegal immigrant last July in Shenandoah. Police are expecting protestors to make a stand a quarter of a mile from the courthouse, while the pair are tried. Pottsville police chief Joseph Murton says his force is ready to keep order.Piekarsky is charged with third degree murder, while Donchak is charged with aggravated assault and related counts in the beating death of Luis Ramirez. Both are charged with ethnic intimidation as well. Six men and six women will hear the case, which is expected to last two weeks. The two teens were reportedly drinking with others and yelled racial slurs during the fight. WPPA News will cover the trial from start to finish and provide updates on our news website.

The region got a taste of summer weather this past weekend. But with that warm weather, brush fires sparked up, keeping crews busy. Sunday afternoon, approximately 20 acres were burned in an area near Fountain Springs. Lisa LaSalle of the Bureau of Forestry told WPPA/T102 last night that multiple aerial drops of water were made to battle the blaze, aiding those who were working on the ground. LaSalle says the fire was contained around 7pm Sunday night. Residents are reminded to avoid outdoor burning during these dry periods. The cause of the brush fire is undetermined.

A borough man was arrested Sunday afternoon after a drug deal apparently went awry in Mahanoy City. According to the Republican and Herald, officers were called to the 200 block of West Centre Street, where two women were fighting and a group of several dozen people shouting. After the fight broke up, officers learned that 29 year old Randy Lawson had threatened another man with a shotgun. Lawson fled the scene, but was quickly taken into custody. Drugs and paraphernalia were found in the vehicle and Lawson was charged with a host of drug related counts last night.

Schuylkill Haven state police are looking for vandals who damaged four vehicles with a BB gun over the weekend. The cars were parked in the 400 block of West Grand Avenue, causing several hundred dollars in damage. Troopers are looking for your help in the investigation, by calling 593-2000.

A late Saturday night fire damaged a restaurant in North Manheim Township. Crews were called to the Crossroads Inn where smoke was pouring from the basement. Quick work by firefighters from Landingville and surrounding communities kept it contained to lower floors. No one was in the building at the time of the fire. Investigators determined that the blaze was accidental.

A five thousand dollar reward is being offered for information on an arson fire that struck a fire company president's home early Saturday morning. The fire around 1:30 a.m. at the home of Paul Kennedy, in Branch Township, near Minersville, caused more than $40-thousand dollars in damage. Kennedy is president of Good Intent Hose Company No. 1, Llewellyn, and also serves as deputy county coroner. A state police fire marshal determined the fire to be arson and believe it may be connected to several other recent fires in the area. Other recent arsons in the area include last month's torching of the former Llewellyn Hotel at Route 209 and Phoenix Park Road.

2 arrested in murders of 2 Philly teens
PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Philadelphia police say two suspects charged with killing a pair of South Philadelphia teenagers a week ago knew they had the wrong targets - but took the lives of the youths anyway. Homicide Captain James Clark told reporters on Sunday afternoon that the pair intended to confront two other males when they raced toward 15-year-old Harvey Lewis and 18-year-old Dominique Smith on April 19. Clark says they realized they had the wrong victims but shot both in the back of the head. Police say two suspects, 16 and 19 years old, were arrested early Sunday. Lewis was a cadet with the police Explorers program, and Clark says his handcuffs were used to cuff the suspected shooter. Services for Lewis and Smith are scheduled Monday at Yesha Ministries Worship Center.

5 killed in NJ Turnpike crash were in their 70s
MOUNT LAUREL, N.J. (AP) - Five people killed when their car was struck by a tractor-trailer on the New Jersey Turnpike and burst into flames included a husband and wife in their 70s.
Their car had been stopped in traffic Saturday in the right southbound lane in Mount Laurel, a Philadelphia suburb. It shot into the center lane with them trapped inside, triggering crashes
involving six other vehicles. State police identify the victims as Passaic residents Jeanette
and Salvatore Urbano and Kearny residents Anna Kane, Rose Kane and Francis Kane. All were in their 70s. A woman at the home of the Urbanos' son calls it "a horrific tragedy." Three people from the New York City area were seriously injured. The crash forced the closure of 25 miles of southbound roadway on the turnpike, one of the nation's busiest. The cause is undetermined.

Reactor at oldest US nuclear plant is shut down
LACEY TOWNSHIP, N.J. (AP) - The operator of the nation's oldest nuclear power plant has manually shut down its reactor after equipment failed on one of its two transformers. Officials at the Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station in New Jersey say Saturday night's shutdown occurred without incident. But they won't say how long it's expected to last or when repairs will
be completed at the facility in Lacey Township, about 60 miles east of Philadelphia and 75 miles south of New York City. Plant spokesman David Benson says the shutdown caused no risk to
the public and no radiation was released. Oyster Creek opened in December 1969 and just received a new 20-year operating license. It generates enough electricity to power 600,000 homes a year. Anti-nuclear and environmental groups say the plant is unsafe.

Freighter crewman recounts struggle with pirates
MERION, Pa. (AP) - Sailors have a short list of what to grab in an emergency. When the urgent long-short-long-short din of the Maersk Alabama's alarm bell woke third engineer John Cronan on April 8, he didn't hesitate. He says he grabbed a pocketknife, a flashlight and a photo of his fiancee's daughters. The 46-year-old carried the photo through tense days of huddling with crewmen in a stifling hideout, launching lifeboats, scuffling with one pirate and finally celebrating after Capt. Richard Phillips was freed. Now back home in the leafy suburbs of Philadelphia, Cronan weaves a tale of tense moments and long waits while a standoff with Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean grabbed international attention. He says he'll take the summer off before deciding whether to sign up for another trip.

Suspect 'could be anywhere'
ATHENS, Ga. (AP) - Police are on the lookout for a suspect in the deadly shootings near the University of Georgia, but admit "he could be anywhere." Professor George Zinkhan is suspected of killing his ex-wife and two other men outside a community theater near the Athens, Ga. campus. The coroner says the victims were shot multiple times. Zinkhan later left his two young children with a neighbor, and hasn't been seen since. The 57-year-old is described as an introverted, respected professor. Authorities are monitoring airports in case he heads for
Amsterdam, where he owns a home, or Texas, where he has relatives. They say Zinkhan hasn't used his credit card or any ATMs. Meanwhile, the university is advising students to use their
"best judgment in taking precautions" while the suspect remains at large. Zinkhan has held academic positions at the universities of Houston and Pittsburgh.

Pa. prof denies leading alleged Ethiopia coup plot
LEWISBURG, Pa. (AP) - An economics professor at a Pennsylvania university says he supports efforts to spread democracy in his native Ethiopia. But he denies backing an alleged coup attempt there that led to the arrests of 35 people by the government. Bucknell economics professor Berhanu Nega says he is suspicious about the government's allegations of a coup plot. He says he does not know who may have been arrested, and said it could have easily been some sort of overreaction. The 51-year-old says he came to the U.S. as a young man in 1980, is married to an American citizen and has two sons. In 2005, he became the country's first elected mayor when he won the mayoral race in Addis Ababa, the nation's capital. But post-election violence over the election results led the Ethiopian government to shoot 193 protesters and to later jail Berhanu and other opposition leaders. They were pardoned in 2007 and Berhanu rejoined Bucknell in the spring of last year.

3 charged in theft from benefit for sick NJ boy
BUENA, N.J. (AP) - Three people face charges in the theft of an autographed photo of an NBA player that was being auctioned off to benefit an ailing New Jersey boy. The arrests came after a local newspaper published an article Thursday about the incident, which occurred during an April 18 charity event for 9-year-old Michael Barner, a Vineland resident recently diagnosed with a rare blood disorder. Authorities said the suspects - a Vineland couple and their friend - told the boy's relatives that someone had mistakenly put the framed photo into a prize basket one of them had won. That person then tried to return the photo of Philadelphia 76ers player Willie Green, which the team had donated for the event. But police said all three eventually admitted their roles in the theft.

Barbaro Memorial dedicated outside Churchill Downs
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Barbaro is back home at the track where he became a legend.
A bronze statue honoring the 2006 Kentucky Derby winner was unveiled on Sunday morning at Churchill Downs, nearly three years after the colt became an icon following a breakdown at the
Preakness. Sculptor Alexa King designed the 1,500-pound. statue, which shows Barbaro in midstride with jockey Edgar Prado aboard as the two pulled away from the rest of the 20-horse field. The horse broke down during the Preakness and spent the next eight months battling for his life at New Bolton Center in Kennett Square, Pa. His struggles brought renewed attention to track safety and breeding practices. Owners Roy and Gretchen Jackson attended the ceremony as did hundreds of fans who were moved by the horse's battle for survival.

LONDON (AP) - Attorney General Eric Holder is in London, the first of several stops where he will meet with European leaders to discuss terrorism, drugs, and cyber-crime. He's toured a famous torture site, the Tower of London, as he considers the disposition of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

NEW YORK (AP) - All of the 20 known victims of swine flu in the U.S. are recovering or have recovered. Authorities can't yet explain the stark difference with Mexico, where more than 100
people may have died. The outbreak has sickened people in New York, Kansas, California, Texas and Ohio.

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Parts of the Midwest are recovering today from two days of strong thunderstorms packing possible tornadoes. But flash flood watches are in effect through this
morning for southwest through northeast Iowa.

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) - The father of an American journalist jailed in Iran says his daughter's hunger strike has made her "very weak and pale." Reza Saberi and his wife met with their daughter today. Roxana Saberi has been jailed for alleged spying for the U.S. She's been sentenced to eight-years behind bars.

ISLAMABAD (AP) - A regional peace deal between Taliban militants and the Pakistani government is showing cracks today. The Taliban is calling it "worthless" after authorities sent helicopters and artillery against guerillas seeking to extend their grip along the Afghan border.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Today's News-Friday, April 24, 2009

It took just about 90 minutes for Judge William Baldwin and attorneys involved to finish jury selection Thursday for the trial of two Shenandoah teens. Two men and two women round out the complement of alternate jurors to hear the case of Commonwealth vs Brandon Piekarsky and Derrick Donchak, who are charged in connection with the death of Luis Ramirez last July. Eight men and eight women make up the panel. Piekarsky is charged with third degree murder, ethnic intimidation and other offenses. Donchak is charged with aggravated assault, ethnic intimidation and other counts. A third teen, Colin Walsh, had charges dropped against him by Schuylkill County DA Jim Goodman after he pleaded guilty to a federal charge pertaining to the case. Those federal records are sealed. The trial begins at 9am on Monday in Courtroom Number 1 at the county courthouse. WPPA/T102 News will be providing updates throughout the trial on our news website.

Governor Ed Rendell and Congressman Tim Holden will be in Schuylkill County this afternoon to make a major announcement about transportation. Trish Reilly of Holden's Washington office told WPPA/T102 News Thursday about the visit, which will take place on Centre Street in the city at 1pm. Its anticipated that funding about the long awaited trade and transit center will be discussed.

Two men from New York City are jailed following a drug arrest in Mahanoy City within the last week. Details are just coming to light about the arrest of 21 year old Patrick Celifie and 22 year old Fernando Ramirez Jr., who were picked up during a late night traffic stop. Mahanoy City officers found an odor of pot in the car, which they admitted to smoking. A bag of the stuff was also found, plus some other drugs. Both men were arraigned on various drug related charges, and taken to the Schuylkill County Prison, being unable to post bail.

A Pottsville man is injured following an incident in the city early Thursday. Pottsville police say that they responded to an apartment at 2100 West Norwegian Street around 1:30am. Twenty three year old George Barnes set off an explosive while it was still in his hand, causing severe injuries to his left hand. Barnes had to be flown to Lehigh Valley Hospital for treatment.

State police are investigating vandalism at a coal plant in Norwegian Township recently. Unknown persons were on Reading Anthracite property and smashed windows on the company's bulldozers parked there, causing more than $1-thousand-dollars damage.

Several hundred dollars worth of equipment was taken from storage buildings in East Brunswick Township Thursday. Troopers from the Schuylkill Haven barracks say that someone cut bolts on several storage units and took a power washer. The investigation is continuing.

PennDOT encourages groups who participate in the Adopt a Highway program to pick it up. Those folks who are required to do 4 annual cleanups can participate in the Pick It Up PA Days, beginning Saturday and running through May 31st. Penn DOT's Erin Waters says that new volunteers are always welcome to help out:


Last year alone, more than 140-thousand volunteers in more than 41-hundred communities joined the cleanup and picked up more than 7.4 million pounds of trash and debris statewide.

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Three tour guides who are challenging a Philadelphia ordinance to test and license guides are getting their day in court. A federal judge plans to hear arguments today on the ordinance. It was signed into law last April but stayed pending the guides' lawsuit.

GREENSBURG, Pa. (AP) - Three people are dead in western Pennsylvania from what appears to be carbon monoxide poisoning in a factory. A Westmoreland County emergency dispatcher confirmed the deaths of the three found yesterday in the Ferguson Glass building. The windshield factory in Loyalhanna Township, about 30 miles east of Pittsburgh.

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Police are looking for a man who ran over a Philadelphia police officer with a dirt bike. The 34-year-old policeman has a broken wrist last night. Police say a man aimed his dirt bike at two officers, then gunned the engine, running over one of the officers before fleeing the scene.

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Gov. Ed Rendell says he supports changes in Pennsylvania's slot-machine gambling law that were proposed by the local prosecutor who handled the Louis DeNaples case. Perjury charges against northeastern Pennsylvania casino operator DeNaples
were dropped because of problems with the evidence.

PITTSBURGH (AP) - The former controller of two western Pennsylvania nursing homes has pleaded guilty to stealing nearly $628,000 from the businesses and not paying federal income taxes on the money. Forty-eight-year-old Gayle Phillips-Smith, of Canonsburg, faces up to 15 years in prison.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Breaking News- Thursday, April 23, 2009


Two men and two women were chosen as alternates this morning after 90 minutes of questioning by Judge William Baldwin and attorneys involved in the case Commonwealth v. Brandon Piekarsky and Derrick Donchak. The trial will begin on Monday at 9am at the Schuylkill County Courthouse.

More tomorrow on WPPA/T102 News

Today's News- Thursday, April 23, 2009

Seven hours...that's all that took to seat 12 primary jurors who will hear the case against Derrick Donchak and Brandon Piekarsky in Schuylkill County Court. President Judge William Baldwin, attorneys for the teens and the prosecution methodically questioned about 60 of the 70 members of the jury pool who were called for the first day. Most of the issues raised to the panel members came from a questionaire that each had to complete before coming to the courthouse Wednesday. Many of the panelists were questioned about the issue that Luis Ramirez, who died from injuries sustained in a beating at a Shenandoah playground last July, was in this country illegally. Six men and six women were selected yesterday, and four alternates to be selected today. The trial starts Monday.

Officials at Shenandoah Valley school district have established policies for students to planned to attend the trial of two teenagers charged in connection with the death of a Mexican illegal. At last night's board meeting, the administration and school directors decided that if students choose to skip school to attend the trial will not be able to participate in graduation activities. The Republican and Herald reports that the district wants to ensure that students will come to school rather than attend the trial for Brandon Piekarsky and Derrick Donchak, who are charged in connection with the death of Luis Ramirez, a Mexican illegal who died from a beating last July. The policy also applies to rallies that may take place during the school day, and for 7th to 11th graders for subsequent years as well. School authorities will be monitoring student's attendance at the trial in Pottsville, which begins on Monday.

A Pine Grove woman avoided injury following a crash on Route 61 Wednesday. 77 year old Jean Minnich was traveling north on 61 near Mt Carbon when she lost control of her vehicle and it struck a concrete barrier and wall. The car continued on for 175 feet, ending up on the shoulder of the road. The crash happened before 7:30 last night.

A woman who has dedicated her life to the city of Pottsville will receive an award for her work this weekend. The Allen-Rogowicz chapter of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame will give Wilhelminia "Billie" Payne the Kadel-Keating-Carusella Community Service Award for her commitment to the betterment of Pottsville, Schuylkill County and its people. A tireless volunteer, Payne has been an organizer of such projects as the Greater Pottsville Winter Carnival, American Way Fair and Sovereign Majestic Theatre. The award will be given Saturday night at Pine View Acres.

HEGINS - A home on Valley Road in Hegins was destroyed by flames Wednesday. The fire was reported around 11:30 a.m. Fire crews from six fire departments responded to the fire at 123 Valley Road and found the home to be fully engulfed in flames. The home is owned by father and son, Dennis and Richard Klouser. Hegins Fire Chief Jack Cray tells the Republican Herald the fire is suspicious and has called a state police fire marshal to investigate. No one was living at the property, which was being remodeled. The home is now a total loss.

LANCASTER - A 32-year-old Denver man charged with the 2007 robbery of the Dairy Queen in Pottsville and two other robberies in Schuylkill County was in Lancaster County Court on Tuesday, where he pleaded guilty to a string of robberies that covered three counties. Eric Singley, is charged with nine robberies, forgery offenses and three high-speed chases with police. Singley's 2007 crime spree included the robberies in Schuylkill County and the remaining heists in Lancaster and Berks counties. Singley is also charged with two robberies investigated by state police at Schuylkill Haven, including the Blockbuster Video store at the Cressona Mall, and at a pretzel stand inside Renninger's Market in North Manheim Township. Singley faces a maximum of 211 years in a state prison.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


Six men and six women, all white, have been selected to hear the trial of two Shenandoah teenagers charged in the beating of a Mexican immigrant. Twenty five year old Luis Ramirez died from injuries suffered in the attack. Nineteen year old Derrick Donchak is charged with aggravated assault, ethnic intimidation and other counts. Seventeen year old Brandon Piekarsky is charged with third degree murder. Colin Walsh had third degree murder charges dropped by county prosecutors after he made a plea deal with federal prosecutors.

Breaking News

The jury selection process is in recess right now at Sch County Courthouse. Three women and 2 men have been chosen for the panel to hear the case Comm v Piekarsky and Donchak. The prosecution has used 4 preemptory challenges and the defense 1 challenge.President Judge Baldwin will resume questioning at 145pm.

Today's News-Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The process of jury selection begins today for the trial of two Shenandoah teenagers accused in the beating death of a Mexican illegal last summer. President Judge William Baldwin will preside over the process of picking twelve jurors and four alternates to hear the case of criminal homicide and related counts against Brandon Piekarsky, and assault and associated charges against Derrick Donchak. Lawyers for both sides will also have opportunity to accept or reject prospective jurors. Three days have been allocated for jury selection, with the trial scheduled to begin on Monday, April 27th. Charges against a third teen, Colin Walsh, were apparently dropped in return for a federal plea deal in connection with the case. Check out our news website during the day for updates on the jury selection process.

A rally in support of the rights of gun owners was held in the state Capitol Tuesday, and one area legislator voiced his support to keep and bear arms. Hundreds of people joined together to protect their rights, including Representative Tim Seip of the 125th District, who said that in spite of tragic events like the recent deaths of three Pittsburgh police officers, we should enforce the laws we already have, not add new ones:


This is the fourth year of the gun owners rally.

Efforts for Schuylkill County to build a pre-release facility to alleviate prison overcrowding is inching forward following the passage of a bill in the state House this week. Neal Goodman, 123rd District Representative sponsored House Bill 792 to authorize the Department of General Services to sell a 5 acres tract of land near SCI Frackville in Ryan Township to Schuylkill County for $48-thousand-dollars. The state Senate and Governor Rendell have to approve it. Cash from $1.5 million dollars in prisoner fines and fees and a low interest loan from the US Department of Agriculture would fund the project.

Utility workers and emergency crews responded to a gas leak along Route 61 near Schuylkill Haven, snarling traffic. After 2:30, a gas service line was struck by an excavator at the new diner being constructed at Connors Crossing. Traffic was stopped at Route 61 between the Cressona Mall and Dock Street for about half an hour. The line was capped and traffic flow resumed by the time rush hour began.

Pa. prosecutor impressed with work on 1979 killing

BETHLEHEM, Pa. (AP) - An eastern Pennsylvania prosecutor says he hopes witnesses who recently surfaced and modern science can solve a 30-year-old murder of a 17-year-old high school senior. Holly Branagan was stabbed 18 times in her Bethlehem home on March 28, 1979. Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli met with city police Tuesday and said he is impressed with how much progress they've made since reopening the case a few months ago. Morganelli notes that DNA tests weren't used in 1979 and hopes that new tests on physical evidence will help. He said he has no immediate plans to have a grand jury investigate, but didn't rule that out in the future.

Some cities make gains in curbing dropouts

WASHINGTON (AP) - A national study shows the high school dropout problem is getting better in some big cities where it's most severe. Philadelphia, Tucson, Ariz., and Kansas City, Mo., made huge gains over the past decade, boosting graduation rates by 20 percent or more. That's according to the study released Wednesday by America's Promise Alliance. But the situation remains dismal: More than one in four kids drops out of high school in the United States. And while most big cities are making gains, 19 have lost ground. For example, Las Vegas saw its graduation rates plummet 23 percentage points to 44.5 percent.

Pedestrian killed by train in western Pa.

MASONTOWN, Pa. (AP) - A pedestrian has been struck and killed by a train about 40 miles south of Pittsburgh. The Fayette County coroner's office confirmed Tuesday evening's death in Masontown but did not immediately release the victim's name.

Former Ridge fundraiser accused of embezzlement
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - A woman who admitted stealing from former Gov. Tom Ridge's campaign fund faces new allegations that she embezzled more than $1 million from her employer. Court records show 44-year-old Laurie Simmons of Lemoyne has agreed to plead guilty to a wire fraud charge. It's for the money she allegedly stole from two companies operated by Joseph V. Sweeney and Associates, a Harrisburg-based real estate development and investment business. Under a plea agreement with prosecutors, Simmons also consented
to forfeit property valued at more than $500,000. At her October 2000 sentencing for stealing from the Ridge campaign, Simmons expressed remorse. Her lawyer said she was emotionally distraught over the breakup of a 12-year relationship and needed money to pay debts.

Feds: Pa. school board member took bribes
WILKES-BARRE, Pa. (AP) - Federal prosecutors say a northeastern Pennsylvania school board member took bribes to help people get teaching jobs and contracts. But the affidavit supporting the charges against Wilkes-Barre Area School District board member Brian Dunn is sealed. A federal criminal complaint says he accepted tens of thousands of dollars between 2005 and the end of 2008. Dunn's lawyer says he denies the charge. Dunn is the second official to be charged in the federal government's investigation of corruption at the region's public schools. Last week, Pittston Area School District Superintendent Ross Scarantino was charged with accepting thousands of dollars in cash in return for awarding contracts.

Erie officer suspended 10 days for off-duty video
ERIE, Pa. (AP) - An Erie police officer has been suspended without pay for 10 days for making mocking comments about a homicide case and other matters in a barroom recording that was
posted on YouTube. Mayor Joe Sinnott said Tuesday that Officer James Cousins II must also undergo alcohol counseling and a fitness-for-duty evaluation. The mother of a homicide victim in question has called for Cousins' resignation. Yvette Jennings says Cousins tainted the memory of her son, Rondale Jennings Sr. Cousins can be seen on the video joking about Jennings' shooting death and mocking his mother's reaction.

Man kills woman, self in front of woman's daughter
PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Police say a supervisor in the Philadelphia Department of Human Services walked up to a car and shot his ex-girlfriend to death, then turned the gun on himself as the woman's young daughter watched. Aleem Ali shot 35-year-old city court clerk Angela Jefferys on Tuesday morning outside her home in the city's West Oak Lane section.
Jefferys had just gotten into her parked car to take her 11-year-old daughter to school when Ali approached, pulled out a gun, and fired. Jefferys was killed instantly. The 45-year-old man then shot himself to death. The girl was uninjured. Authorities say Ali was angry at Jefferys because she had just ended their relationship.

TV debates rescheduled for Pittsburgh mayor's race
PITTSBURGH (AP) - Three Democrats in Pittsburgh's mayoral primary will appear in three locally televised debates after all. Two of the debates were canceled in the wake of the April 4
shootings of three city police officers, and it was unclear if they could be rescheduled before the May 19 primary. On Monday night, ABC affiliate WTAE-TV broadcast a live, in-studio debate.
KDKA-TV, the CBS affiliate, will now air a one-hour taped debate on May 2 at 7 p.m. WPXI-TV will produce the final debate, which will air May 4. That station is the city's NBC affiliate.

NEW YORK (AP) - A federal judge says the Somali pirate facing charges in the Maersk Alabama attack can be tried as an adult. Prosecutors say he's 18, but a defense lawyer says he's only 15.
The suspect's mother says her son was duped into piracy. A crew member says the suspect told him he wanted to come to the U.S.

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - A federal judge has unfrozen more than $13 million from Sudanese bank accounts to compensate the families of the 17 sailors killed in the attack on the USS Cole in Yemen. Last week's order releases the money to 59 family members.

HONG KONG (AP) - Most Asian markets faltered again today despite reassuring words from the United States about its banks. The U.S. says most of the country's hard-hit banks have enough capital to weather the global financial crisis. China and Hong Kong shares tumbled almost 3 percent. Wall Street futures point lower today.

WASHINGTON (AP) - A closer look at the mortgage foreclosure crisis shows four states with a major share of the problem. The tracking firm RealtyTrac says the 26 U.S. cities with the worst
foreclosure problems are concent rated in California, Florida, Arizona and Nevada.

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama is making an Earth Day pitch for alternative energy. Obama is touring a plant in Newton, Iowa, where Maytag used to make washers and dryers. Now, it's where a Texas company builds towers for wind turbines. Dozens of former
Maytag workers are employed at the plant.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Today's News- Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Life without parole. That's the sentence that a Pottsville man will serve for killing two teenagers last year. Norman Nickle, 54, pleaded no contest last week in county court to shooting 19 year old Joshua Yevak and 17 year old Cayla Turner at a city home on March 4th 2008. Nickle hid their bodies for more than two weeks before they were discovered. He had been charged with criminal homicide, aggravated assault, abuse of a corpse and other counts. Judge Cyrus Palmer Dolbin handed down the sentence Monday.

Its back to court again for a Tremont man involved in the death of miner in 2006 explosion. The Republican Herald reports that the state Attorney General's office filed charges of involuntary manslaughter, risking a catastrophe and related counts against 43 year old Jeffrey Klinger. The charges relate to the death of Dale Reightler, who died in a mine explosion at the R&D Coal Company in Tremont Township on October 23, 2006. Similar charges filed against Klinger were dismissed by Judge Jacqueline Russell for lack of sufficient evidence. The owner of th mine, David Zimmerman and his son Steven still are facing charges in the death. A hearing for Klinger is scheduled for April 30th in Tremont.

State police are looking for the individual who took prescription drugs from a home in Palo Alto over the weekend. Someone took Methocarbannol and Endocet prescribed to Brenda Stoffregen. Schuylkill Haven state troopers are handling the investigation.

Troopers from the Frackville barracks are on the hunt for vandals who shot up windows at two homes in Gilberton over the weekend. Someone with a BB gun shot at and broke windows at 437 and 500 Main Street. State police believe the culprits fled in a vehicle with a loud muffler. The investigation is ongoing.

One day after being mauled by a dog in Northumberland County, a nine year-old girl remains in critical but stable condition at Geisinger Medical Center. Nine-year-old Amanda Smith remains at Geisinger after being flown there Sunday afternoon with serious facial injuries from the attack by a bullmastiff in an alley off Chestnut Street in Kulpmont. Smith and a friend were walking the dog when anther dog jumped a fence. The Mastiff became enraged and turned on Smith and the other girl. The other girl received 32 stitches to repair a torn lower lip. Amanda's mother, Jennifer Smith says Amanda suffered multiple fractures to her sinuses, her skull was punctured, jaw broken and the bridge or her nose was ripped away, and she faces reconstructive surgery.

SAINT CLAIR - Items stolen from a work trailer in Schuylkill County. Troopers say someone pried open a door on a trailer belonging to Total Landscaping that was parked along Burma Road near Saint Clair in East Norwegian Township at Reading Anthracite. The theft happened over the weekend. The thieves made off with 4- 50 pound bags of grass seed, a small refrigerator, a laptop computer, docking station and printer and 12 compact discs. Anyone with information is asked to call State Police at Schuylkill Haven.

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Total voter registration figures for Republicans and Democrats in Pennsylvania are both down since November, and they suggest the GOP may be ending its recent slide in popularity. State figures through Thursday show Democrats holding a 1.2
million voter edge on Republicans, but their lead has shrunk by about 30,000 voters since the closely watched November presidential election. The deadline for voters who plan to cast ballots in the May 19 primary was yesterday, so final figures aren't yet available. The Department of State says there 8.6 million registered voters. That's down from 8.8 million about five months ago. Democratic ranks have fallen by about 100,000. Republican numbers are down some 70,000.

Pa. mayor: Police probe should be done Tuesday
ERIE, Pa. (AP) - A northwestern Pennsylvania mayor says he expects an investigation into a police officer's off-duty behavior will be complete by Tuesday. Some have said that Erie Police Officer James Cousins II should resign over his behavior in a tavern on April 6. Someone with a
cell phone camera recorded a video of Cousins laughing about a homicide victim and joking about punching and Tasering a suspect in another case. Erie Mayor Joe Sinnott said Monday that he expects the internal-affairs investigation to be complete by Tuesday and that a news conference will likely be called then.

2 Philadelphia teens slain; 1 was Police Explorer
PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Police say one victim of a double homicide in Philadelphia's Grays Ferry neighborhood was in a Boy Scout-affiliated program for young people interested in police work.
He is 15-year-old Harvey Lewis, a cadet in the Police Explorer Academy. He was shot dead along with 18-year-old Dominique Smith, who family members described as a volunteer at his church. Each was killed Sunday night with a single gunshot wound to the head after they left a friend's house. Police say it appears that Lewis and Smith were the intended targets, but a motive was unknown late Monday. Police Capt. James Clark said Monday he wasn't aware of any brushes with the law by either victim.

Pa. bike depot to close at end of month
BETHLEHEM, Pa. (AP) - A longtime hub for bicycle commuters in Pennsylvania's Lehigh Valley is closing at the end of the month because it's losing its lease. The Coalition for Appropriate Transportation has leased space in downtown Bethlehem for about 12 years. It provides showers, lockers and laundry equipment, allowing bicyclists to step into the office smelling good after a sweaty ride. Coalition executive director Steve Schmitt says he believes there's enough demand for a new bike commuter center and expects one will be ready soon. One possibility is a bus depot and parking garage already in the works. But bicycle commuter Dave Trautmann isn't waiting for that to happen. He says he plans to get a membership in a nearby gym so he'll have a place to shower.

Death penalty sought in Pittsburgh police slayings
PITTSBURGH (AP) - Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for a man accused of killing three Pittsburgh police officers. A spokesman for Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen
Zappala Jr. said Monday that the paperwork to support the death penalty against 22-year-old Richard Poplawski should be filed by the middle of next week. Poplawski is accused of lying in wait and killing three officers summoned by his mother during an argument this month.

Bridge repair causes Philly-area road closure
KING OF PRUSSIA, Pa. (AP) - A busy suburban Philadelphia road has shut down for about a month to make an emergency repair to a small bridge used by about 16,000 drivers a day.
Pennsylvania Department of Transportation spokesman Eugene Blaum says a busy portion of King of Prussia Road was closed to all but local traffic Monday evening. Repair work on a section of a bridge over Gulph Creek in Radnor Township is expected to begin Tuesday. The closed section of King of Prussia Road is in a heavily traveled suburban area and the emergency repairs are expected to make congestion worse.

Rendell now opposes cutting Philly's casino money
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Gov. Ed Rendell no longer supports cutting off Philadelphia from the state's slot-machine gambling revenues. Rendell said through a spokesman Monday that he believes there's been enough progress toward building two licensed casinos in Philadelphia to make such a law unnecessary. Pennsylvania's gambling revenues help cut taxes and build civic
development projects. But legislation is on the move anyway. A state Senate committee voted 10-to-4 Monday to cut off Philadelphia from any gaming revenues that support civic development projects. Last month, Rendell said he would sign such a bill out of frustration with political opposition to the construction of SugarHouse Casino and Foxwoods Casino Philadelphia.
But Philadelphia officials now support changes in the casinos' plans.

AP: Pa. auditor warns feds on stimulus oversight
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Pennsylvania Auditor General Jack Wagner is warning that state government may lack the transparency and accountability needed to handle federal stimulus money. A letter from Wagner to a federal Government Accountability Office director obtained Monday by The Associated Press followed up on a meeting last month in which Wagner's aides had discussed their concerns. Wagner says internal controls are too weak and information about
how stimulus funds are spent won't be reliable unless an independent audit agency provides oversight. As examples of problems with state spending of federal money, he lists Medicaid, low-income heating aid and weatherization assistance. A spokesman for Gov. Ed Rendell disputes Wagner's assertions.

Philly news CEO testifies on alleged taping
PHILADELPHIA (AP) - A judge wants bankrupt Philadelphia Newspapers to focus on its financial reorganization while others investigate claims an investor illegally tape-recorded a sensitive financial meeting. The judge Monday appointed unsecured creditors to pursue the
allegation so it does not remain a "sideshow" of the bankruptcy case. Both sides appear pleased by the decision. The ruling follows testimony Monday from Brian Tierney, chief executive of Philadelphia Newspapers. Tierney says a representative of New York-based CIT Group Inc.
recorded a November meeting in his office. He says the pre-bankruptcy negotiations soured after he raised concerns about the taping. Philadelphia Newspapers filed for bankruptcy in February.

Lack of schooling blamed for Philly joblessness
PHILADELPHIA (AP) - A nonprofit group says 45 percent of Philadelphia adults aren't working or looking for work. The Philadelphia Workforce Investment Board says the problem is a lack of education and job skills. In a report released Monday, the group describes the unemployed as a "latent workforce" that could help the city prosper if mobilized properly. The group says a big problem for Philadelphia to overcome is its lack of formal education. It says the 20 percent of residents with college degrees means Philadelphia ranks 92nd among the nation's 100 largest cities. Also, 25 percent of city residents left high school with no diploma, which the group says it double the state average.

Study paints picture of collegiate mental health
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) - A pilot study done at Penn State University hopes to provide a fuller picture of the mental health of college students. The university's Center for the Study of Collegiate Mental Health released a study Monday with information it got from college counseling centers. Most schools collect data of counseling center clients on their own. Study organizers say that until now there have been no national data to help study perceived trends.
Among the study's findings: 1 percent of students who said they engaged in binge drinking reported doing so 10 or more times in the previous two weeks. Nearly half of those respondents said they had considered suicide in the past.

3rd defendant's trial begins in NE Pa. slaying
MILFORD, Pa. (AP) - The man accused of being the triggerman in the shooting death of a retired prison guard in northeastern Pennsylvania is standing trial. Trial began Monday for 20-year-old Marquis Evans Keeys of Bushkill, who's charged with first-degree murder. Pike County
prosecutors allege that Keeys was one of three men who broke into the Lehman Township home of 46-year-old Barry Rose in 2007 to steal guns. A jury convicted co-defendants of second-degree murder and other charges last month. Keeys' trial is being held without a jury, so a
judge will decide if he is guilty.

Pa. investment adviser and firm sued, funds frozen
PHILADELPHIA (AP) - The lawyer for a Philadelphia-area financial adviser isn't commenting on allegations that he swindled investors out of more than $23 million. Federal officials say 38-year-old D.A. Walker Young of Coatesville spent some of the money on luxuries including a
vacation home and race horses. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission says Young
misappropriated money from investors in Acorn II LP, which he founded. The SEC says Young used funds to pay other investors "in the nature of a Ponzi scheme" as well as buy a $2.1 million home in Palm Beach, Fla., boats, limousines and other luxuries. U.S. District Judge John Padova issued an order freezing Young's and the investment partnership's assets.

Phila. HS student dies after charity run
PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Officials have identified the teen who collapsed and died during a weekend charity race in Philadelphia. Officials say 19-year-old Alvin Way collapsed Sunday during an organ donation awareness charity run. He was transported to a hospital where he was pronounced dead. Way was a senior at Furness High School in Philadelphia, where black ribbons adorned the doors Monday. He was at Sunday's race with students and faculty from the school.
School officials say a letter will be sent home to parents explaining what happened.

Allentown, Pa., gets $200,000 to stop gangs
ALLENTOWN, Pa. (AP) - Pennsylvania's junior senator says Allentown is getting $200,000 in federal money to fight gangs. Sen. Bob Casey, a Democrat, says he worked with Republican U.S.
Rep. Charlie Dent to secure the funding. In announcing the funding Monday, Casey said Allentown is a longtime leader in gang-fighting programs. He says the money will be used for early intervention to stop young people from joining gangs.

Manager at Phillipsburg pipe plant gets 70 months
TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - A former plant manager for a Warren County pipe company has been sentenced to prison for his part in a conspiracy to violate environmental rules and compromise worker safety. John Prisque was sentenced Monday in U.S. District Court in Trenton to a 70-month term. Four other employees of Atlantic States Cast Iron Pipe Co. also face sentencing.
Prisque, of Bethlehem, Pa., was convicted of obstructing a federal investigation and violating clean air and water regulations. Atlantic States, a division of Birmingham, Ala.-based McWane
Inc., was convicted of polluting the Delaware River and with lying to investigators about safety conditions at its Phillipsburg plant, where one worker was killed and several others suffered serious injuries.

NEW YORK (AP) - A gaggle of cameras and reporters greeted a Somali pirate as he arrived at a federal jail in New York City last night. The gunman faces charges of attempting to hijack a U.S.
cargo ship and then holding the captain hostage. Abduhl Wali-i-Musi appears in court today.

BOSTON (AP) - Boston's police commissioner says the Boston University graduate student accused of fatally shooting a masseuse who placed an ad on Craigslist is someone who was preying on people who were in a vulnerable position." Philip Markoff will be arraigned Tuesday morning on murder charges.

JERUSALEM (AP) - Israel came to a standstill for two mournful minutes today as air-raid sirens pierced the air in remembrance of the 6 million Jews who perished in the Holocaust. At the opening ceremony for the memorial day last night, Israeli leaders vowed that there would not be a second Holocaust.

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Federal Reserve Vice Chairman Donald Kohn says there are indications that the U.S. economy may be poised to stage a gradual recovery later this year. He cites steadier consumer spending and home sales, together with favorable earnings results from some banks. Kohn spoke last night at the University of Delaware.

WASHINGTON (AP) - A new report says nearly 1.3 million Americans are living with a spinal-cord injury, five times more than previous estimates. Overall, 5.5 million people in the U.S. have some degree of paralysis due to a variety of neurologic problems, from multiple sclerosis to strokes.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Today's News- Monday, April 20, 2009

Frackville state police are on the hunt for vandals who shot up windows at two homes in Gilberton over the weekend. Someone with a BB gun shot at and broke windows at 437 and 500 Main Street. Troopers say they believe the culprits fled in a vehicle with a loud muffler. The investigation continues.

State police are looking for the individual who took prescription meds from a home in Palo Alto between Friday and Saturday. Someone took Methocarbannol and Endocet belonging to Brenda Stoffregen. Troopers from the Schuylkill Haven barracks are investigating.

A Hamburg teen was hurt in an early Saturday crash in North Manheim Township. Sch Haven state police report that 19 year old Ashley Jones was southbound on Route 61 at a high rate of speed, changed lanes and struck the median. Her car traveled nearly 50 feet before hitting the guide rail. Troopers say Jones had been drinking earlier in the evening, and they believe she may have been driving under the influence. Investigation is continuing.

State police are looking for your help to catch thieves who made off with electronic equipment from a home in Pine Grove Township. While the owners were away from home, a flat screen TV, gaming systems, DVD's and games were taken from the Tremont Road property. Estimated value of the items is over $25 hundred dollars. If you have any information, call Schuylkill Haven state police at 593-2000.

A Schuylkill Haven man escaped injury when his truck crashed Saturday morning on Summerhill Road, South Manheim Township. 80 year old Ernest Mease appeared to be disoriented, possibly due to a medical condition, when the pickup left the road, shearing off a utility pole. As a precaution, Mease was taken to Schuylkill Medical Center East for evaluation.

A woman from Auburn had minor injuries when her vehicle rear ended a Minersville man's truck Sunday morning in Wayne Township. 29 year old Brian Stine was stopped in the southbound lane of Route 183, waiting to turn left onto Route 895. 71 year old Charlotteann Petlansky didn't see Stine's pickup stopped in front of her, and struck it in the rear. Petlansky was taken to Schuylkill Medical Center South for treatment. Her vehicle had to be towed from the scene. Stine nor his 17 month old passenger were hurt.

A little bit of good news for many who have lost their jobs in Pennsvlvania. If you worked in a company with more than 20 employees, you're now qualified not only to continue your healthcare coverage, but to get a big chunk of it paid for by the federal government. The deal is available through the COBRA health insurance system to those who were laid off between September 1st, 2008 and the end of this year. Sharon Ward, executive director of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center says it can save folks thousands of dollars:


Ward says a just-passed deadline requires your employer to make you aware of the change, although research from Families USA shows some employers have not met the deadline. Even people who decided not to pay for COBRA, or who dropped out because of the cost, are eligible for the new, lower rates. The plan doesn't include workers in companies with less than 20 employees, but there is legislation on the table in PA, Senate Bill 442, which would extend them the same coverage:


KULPMONT - Two girls were mauled by a dog in Northumberland County Sunday afternoon, one having to be flown to Geisinger Medical Center. The Daily Item reports, the two 12-year-old girls were walking the Mastiff in Kulpmont when another dog ran out barking at the girls. The Mastiff enraged by the other dog turned on the girls who were trying to restrain it. Police have not released the names of the girls or who owned the dog which is being held at an animal hospital for observation.

PA restaurant rammed, several patrons injured
POTTSTOWN, Pa. (AP) - Officials in Pottstown say several patrons were injured when a pickup truck rammed into a restaurant. The accident was reported during the dinner hour Sunday evening at the King Buffet on Shoemaker Road. WPVI-TV reports three people were flown to nearby hospitals and others were transported by ambulance. Pottstown police are investigating the accident.

NAACP head calls for Pa. officer to resign
ERIE, Pa. (AP) - The head of the NAACP says a western Pennsylvania police officer should resign over an Internet video showing him in a bar, apparently intoxicated, joking about a
homicide victim. Erie patrol officer James Cousins II was suspended for the profanity-laced off-duty rant in which he talks about 31-year-old Rondale Jennings Sr. who was shot in the head outside a bar last month. The victim's mother told CNN on Sunday that she was "shocked
and disturbed" by the video posted online. Benjamin Jealous, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, told CNN the officer should resign. The president of Erie's African American Concerned Clergy has called for the officer's dismissal.
Erie police say they are investigating. Cousins has been suspended with pay from his full-time job and without pay from a part-time position with a neighboring borough.

Pa. township sued over proposed Hindu temple
CHESTER SPRINGS, Pa. (AP) - A group seeking to build a Hindu temple has filed a federal lawsuit alleging that a suburban Philadelphia township's zoning and land development ordinances are infringing on the group's constitutional rights. Adhi Parasakthi Charitable, Medical, Educational and Cultural Society of North America filed suit Friday against West Pikeland Township. The society says township ordinances violate the group's religious, freedom of speech and freedom of assembly rights. The group wants to build a 26,000-square-foot temple and a 9,000-square-foot auxiliary support building on a 24.5-acre site along Route 401. Township supervisors last month approved a scaled-back plan, saying they were trying to mitigate adverse effects on the surrounding community.

Dalai Lama nephew walks 900 miles to NYC for Tibet
NEW YORK (AP) - The Dalai Lama's nephew has walked 900 miles from Indiana to New York City to protest what he calls Chinese suppression of Tibetans. Jigme Norbu led a rally Saturday outside the Chinese consulate in Manhattan. His feet are blistered after the four-week " Walk for Tibet." Step by step, Norbu covered about 30 miles a day on roads and small highways. He passed through Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia. In the big cities, he led rallies, speaking about Tibetans' struggles. The walk coincided with the 50th anniversary of the Tibetans' uprising against Chinese rule. It ended Friday. Norbu is the son of the late Taktser Rinpoche, a lama who fought for Tibetan rights along with his brother the Dalai
Lama. A telephone message seeking comment from the Chinese consulate hasn't been returned.
China claims Tibet as part of its territory, but many Tibetans say Chinese rule deprives them of religious freedom and autonomy. Beijing accuses the Dalai Lama of pushing for Tibetan independence and fomenting anti-Chinese protests.

1 dead in Hampton Falls, NH, crash
HAMPTON FALLS, N.H. (AP) - A Pennsylvania man was killed early Sunday when his car ran off Interstate 95 in Hampton Falls, N.H. and hit a tree. Police say 29-year-old Jesse Fredericks of Green Lane, Pa., was headed south on the highway when he ran up a steep embankment just
before 2 a.m. A passenger is hospitalized with non-life threatening injuries.

Philly Civil War Museum lacks home, funding
PHILADELPHIA (AP) - The Civil War Museum of Philadelphia won a fight to stay in the city and the commonwealth a few years ago. But it now finds itself in limbo without a new home and with its collection of artifacts and documents in storage. The museum was established by former Union officers in 1888 and has some 3,000 artifacts. A furor erupted when the museum said in 2001 that it intended to move much of its collection to a museum planned for Richmond, Va. Lawmakers passed a $15 million bill to help keep the museum in Philadelphia, and the museum reached a deal two years ago to move into the historic First Bank of the United States building. But the state has now declined to release the money, saying it is not available.
Museum officials say they are trying to find another home in the city's historic district.

Pa. auto students focused on $10 million X Prize
PHILADELPHIA (AP) - With the Big 3 automakers on life support, a multimillion-dollar contest to create fuel-efficient cars is not just a lark for inventors - it could reveal the future of the
industry. More than 100 teams are vying to win the $10 million Progressive Automotive X Prize for environmentally friendly, production-ready vehicles that finish a long-distance race and get the equivalent of at least 100 miles per gallon. An unlikely top prospect is a team of inner-city students from West Philadelphia. The West Philly Hybrid X Team is one of only two
high schools in the field. Popular Mechanics ranked it in the Top 10 early contenders last year.
Contest officials earlier this month announced the final field of 111 teams from 11 countries. Cristin Lindsay, vice president for prize operations, says that was more than double the number of entrants expected.

KINGSTON, Jamaica (AP) - A gunman who hijacked a Canadian charter plane on the tarmac near the resort city of Montego Bay, Jamaica, is being called "mentally challenged." Canjet Airlines says the flight crew is being held hostage. Airport officials say nobody has been injured. Officials say the "youngster" demanded to be flown to Cuba.

UNDATED (AP) - A national business economics association is offering a ray of hope that the recession could be easing. Their quarterly survey finds that although the economy continues to
decline, more firms are seeing rising demand for their products and better profit margins and plan fewer job cuts.

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama plans to turn his attention to domestic issues this week. At a Cabinet meeting today, the president will ask department and agency heads for specific proposals for trimming their budgets. He says "there will be no sacred cows and no pet projects."

WASHINGTON (AP) - When lawmakers return to Capitol Hill this week, they'll be hammering out budget details. Republicans call resident Barack Obama's spending plan a "disaster." Obama says e wants the GOP to adopt a more constructive attitude toward ealth care, energy and other administration initiatives.

LITTLETON, Colo. (AP) - Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, will be closed today, the 10th anniversary of the assacre that took the lives of 13 people. A private service for
families of victims is planned tonight at a memorial next to the school. Hundreds attended a sunset candlelight vigil yesterday.