Thursday, April 30, 2009

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.


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