Thursday, May 28, 2009

Today's News- Thursday, May 28, 2009


Catholics in the Allentown Diocese have a new spiritual leader. The Vatican announced Wednesday that Monsignor John Barres of the Diocese of Wilmington will replace Bishop Edward Cullen, who has retired. Barres, 49, will take over in July. In a press release from the Diocese, Barres was ordained in 1989 and served in various churches in Delaware and on the staff of several Bishops there as well. 76 year old Cullen reached the mandatory retirement age last year.


A Northumberland County man has pleaded no contest to charges in the death of his wife in 2007. Stephen Wolfgang made the plea in court in Sunbury Wednesday. Wolfgang was charged with third degree murder and abusing a corpse, and avoided the death penalty. Sherry Wolfgang’s body was dumped in a creek in Schuylkill County in January, 2007. Investigators say that she was murdered at the couple's Mount Carmel home, and her vehicle set on fire. Wolfgang faces a long prison sentence, which will be handed down within a few months.


Two Mahanoy City men face charges of burglary and theft following an investigation by state police. 65 year old Howard Jones and 24 year old Randy Jones allegedly burglarized a cabin owned by Lewis Jordan of Frackville in late April in Blythe Township. The pair removed tools from the property, and they were identified by Jordan's family members. A search of Jones' home uncovered some of the stolen items, and the men admitted to their involvement. Charges were filed in District Court. Both men were released on bail.


A Shenandoah teenager made it through three rounds of the National Spelling Bee in Washington, DC, but was not able to advance to the semi finals on points. Sarah Daugio spelled all her words correctly, but did not meet the 28 point minimum to advance, and now will watch the remainder of the competition from the sidelines. According to spellingbee-dot-com, Daugio successfully spelled planetary in round two, and niveau in round three. The Shenandoah eighth grader is the first student from the district to win the county spelling bee. Congratulations on a great run, Sarah.


A ruling by a federal judge may afford a Mahanoy City man an appeal of his life sentence. Judge John Jones the Third made that ruling in US District Court in the case of 57 year old Elwood Hopkins. Hopkins was sentenced to life in prison in 1990 for arson and involuntary manslaughter charges. Hopkins set a fire at his home in Mahanoy City, and spread to an adjoining personal care home which claimed the life of Harry Kraut. Other appeals for Hopkins' case were overturned before, but Jones ruled that in spite of the 1 year statute of limitations, according to the Republican Herald. But, the judge says that prosecutors didn’t raise the statute of limitations claim, Hopkins must be notified of the issue and given a chance to respond.


POTTSVILLE - Schuylkill County's role in a $35 million federal loan guarantee to Boscov's was made final at Wednesday morning's county commissioners meeting. Schuylkill joins Blair, Cambria, Butler, Lebanon and Lackawanna counties as "pass-through agents" for U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development loan money. Each county will funnel about $5.8 million to Boscov's, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last year. Snyder County rejected the loan guarantee proposal. There is no risk to the County as the state is guaranteeing the loan, it would be responsible for repaying the money to the federal government if Boscov's defaults.

DA: Missing Pa. mom, girl found at Disney World; Mom arrested
PHILADELPHIA (AP) - A prosecutor says a Feasterville mother who claimed she and her daughter had been abducted and stuffed in a car trunk was taken into custody in Florida after the two were found at Disney World. The mother and daughter had flown to Florida hours
after the mother called 911 and said they were abducted. Bucks County prosecutor Michelle Henry says 38-year-old Bonnie Sweeten will be charged with false reports and identity theft. Both are misdemeanors. Henry told reporters Sweeten borrowed a co-worker's driver's license and presented it as her own when she bought an airline ticket and flew to Orlando. The prosecutor says Sweeten then checked into the Grand Floridian Hotel with her daughter. The two were taken into custody at the hotel last night. Sweeten had withdrawn about $12,000 from several bank accounts over recent days and authorities were investigating whether that
money had been stolen. The prosecutor says investigators believe there were some domestic concerns and some financial concerns as well. The child was to be picked up by her father, Sweeten's ex-husband, and Sweeten was to be sent by authorities back to Pennsylvania. In her frantic 911 calls, Sweeten said two men had bumped her 2005 GMC Denali, carjacked her and stuffed her in the trunk of a dark Cadillac. Police said she implied that her daughter was with
her in the trunk. The report set off a search for the mother and child.

State: computer glitch delays checks for 100,000
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - The state says a computer glitch has delayed unemployment compensation payments for nearly 100,000 Pennsylvania residents. The payment is the extra $25 a week in jobless benefits that was added through President Barack Obama's stimulus package in February. The state Department of Labor and Industry says people who filed a jobless claim on May 10 were to have received the payment May 19, but it was delayed about a week. Spokesman Troy Thompson says the department has fielded numerous questions from recipients about the missing money. He says the problem has been corrected and it won't happen again. Thompson advises claimants to log on to for more

Pa. AG refiles charges against Veon and ex-aide
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - The lawyer for a former high-ranking Democrat in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives says prosecutors will never have a case against his client because he
didn't do anything wrong. Prosecutors have refiled corruption charges against former Rep.
Mike Veon, who represented a Beaver County district. Prosecutors say a Harrisburg district judge improperly let defense lawyers delve into irrelevant issues and inadmissible evidence during a preliminary hearing. The new charges are to be heard by a Dauphin County Common Pleas judge. Defense lawyer Dan Raynak also says the prosecution was politically motivated. Attorney General Tom Corbett is widely considered to be a likely candidate for the Republican
gubernatorial nomination next year. Veon and a former aide are both charged with theft counts,
misapplication of entrusted property, conflict of interest and conspiracy.

Pa. man gets death sentence for double murder
READING, Pa. (AP) - An eastern Pennsylvania man has received a death sentence for the January 2007 slayings of his ex-girlfriend and her 5-year-old daughter. A Berks County jury deliberated for two hours before sentencing 28-year-old Albert Perez to death on Wednesday for killing 22-year-old Duceliz Diaz-Santiago and her daughter Kayla on Jan. 15, 2007. Perez was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder on May 19. Prosecutors say he hanged Diaz-Santiago and her daughter in an apartment in Bernville, about 60 miles northwest of Philadelphia. Investigators say Perez tried to cover up the killings by making the deaths appear to be a murder-suicide. Prosecutors say he fabricated a suicide note to try to pin the deaths on Duceliz Diaz-Santiago.

Pa. labor panel rules against outdoor smoking ban
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Pennsylvania's 14 state-owned universities are appealing a labor panel's ruling against a ban on outdoor smoking on the campuses. The state Labor Relations Board ruled that the State System of Higher Education and other public-sector employers can't impose such a ban without the consent of unions that represent the employees. At issue is a policy the system imposed when a state law banning most indoor smoking took effect last September. Chancellor John Cavanaugh said he interpreted the law to extend to all campus
grounds because some classes are held outdoors. The union representing faculty members and coaches challenged the policy in an unfair labor practice complaint. System spokesman Kenn Marshall says it will appeal last week's board ruling in Commonwealth Court.

Search is suspended for missing central Pa. pastor
LEWISBURG, Pa. (AP) - The search has been suspended for a central Pennsylvania pastor reported missing on Sunday. State police say they looked by air, on foot and horseback for
52-year-old Rev. Jose Rosa but found nothing. Witnesses say they last saw Rosa walking through a housing development near his home in Lewisburg around 11 a.m. Thursday. He
was wearing shorts and sneakers and was carrying a backpack. State police Trooper Matt Burrows says the search was suspended around 3 p.m. Tuesday. Rosa was pastor of Congregacion Menonita Shalom in New Columbia. He and his wife, Maggie, moved to the area from Lancaster about seven years ago. Church officials say a new pastor was appointed on Sunday, but it was not related to Rosa's disappearance.

Pittsburgh-area school confirms 1 swine flu case
PITTSBURGH (AP) - A Pittsburgh-area middle school has confirmed one case of swine flu and says there are three other children and a teacher showing flu symptoms. The North Allegheny School District says in a letter posted on Friday on their Web site that the student with the confirmed case of H1N1 flu has recovered after being treated with Tamiflu. In the following days, three other students at Carson Middle School reported suffering from mild flu symptoms. A teacher also reported flu symptoms. Allegheny County Health Department says it recommends keeping the schools in the district open. On Tuesday, the state's Department of Health confirmed 106 cases statewide.

$3.2 Philly school budget proposal is up for vote
PHILADELPHIA (AP) - The Philadelphia School District's $3.2 billion budget for next fiscal year is up for a vote. The plan before the School Reform Commission on Wednesday includes $300 million that Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell included in his budget proposal. But the level of state funding is in question. Citing Pennsylvania's $3 billion budget deficit, the Republican-controlled
Senate deleted the funds from the budget bill it approved earlier this month. The Philadelphia school budget proposal does include $209 million in federal stimulus money. If approved, the spending plan would eliminate a deficit that's plagued the nearly 200,000 pupil district since 2006. It also includes dozens of new classroom initiatives, including reducing class sizes.

Group claims W.Pa. e-cycling fundraiser a scam
PITTSBURGH (AP) - An environmental group claims that old computers and other electronics intended to be recycled for a Western Pennsylvania Humane Society fundraiser were instead loaded onto ships bound for South Africa and Hong Kong. Basel Action Network says toxic electronic waste often ends up in developing countries. The Seattle-based group says it's
contacted authorities to have the items returned to EarthECycle of Tulsa, Okla. But EarthECycle President Jeffery Nixon disputes that he's sending dangerous waste. He says the items can be taken apart for useful materials. He says the items from the recent fundraiser were shipped in a legal and moral way. The Humane Society says it expects to make $150,000 from the event.

Philly official leaving for Olympic post in London
PHILADELPHIA (AP) - A deputy mayor in Philadelphia is leaving for a post in London, where he will help the city prepare for the 2012 Olympics. Andrew Altman had served as Philadelphia's deputy mayor for planning and economic development. He's leaving to be the founding CEO of Olympic Park Legacy Company. The company has been established by the mayor of London and the British government. Altman was chosen after an international
search. In his new post, Altman will oversee the redevelopment of Olympic Park. The project involves a 400-acre site that will become home to more than 10,000 new housing units, as well as educational and sports facilities.

Pa. mom faces murder charge in teen girl's death
SHARON HILL, Pa. (AP) - For the second time a judge has thrown out first-degree murder charges against a woman accused of fatally stabbing her daughter in suburban Philadelphia.
Magisterial District Judge Edward Gannon Jr. ruled Tuesday that there is not enough evidence to charge Maribel Rodriguez with first-degree murder in the death of her daughter, 17-year-old
Yeydilyss Acevedo, in Sharon Hill. Police say Rodriguez told investigators she was arguing with her daughter on Feb. 28 and grabbed a knife before Acevedo lunged forward into the blade, causing the fatal injury. Gannon had denied an earlier request by prosecutors to add a
first-degree murder charge to the third-degree murder charge Rodriguez faces. A pretrial hearing is scheduled for Thursday.

Fatal Pittsburgh-area fire ruled arson
PITTSBURGH (AP) - A fire just outside Pittsburgh that killed a culinary student from New Jersey has been ruled arson. Allegheny County Fire Marshal Donald Brucker said the May 15
fire that killed 22-year-old Mehran Memon of South Plainfield, N.J., was set in a storage room of his apartment building. Memon was a student at the Pittsburgh Culinary Institute and he lived at the Bellevue Mansions apartment building in suburban Pittsburgh. No arrests have been made, but homicide detectives have been questioning several people.

Pittsburgh police nab suspect in jogger attack
PITTSBURGH (AP) - Pittsburgh police have made an arrest in an attack on a female jogger on a recreational trail. A 36-year-old man was arrested Saturday but at first was only charged with open lewdness and indecent exposure. He was arrested after he tried to strike up a conversation with a woman and mentioned the May 20 attack, unnerving the woman, who called 911. Police say now that the man will be charged with aggravated assault for the attack on the jogger.

Pittsburgh teen acquitted of murdering Texan
PITTSBURGH (AP) - A Pittsburgh teenager accused of fatally shooting a man during a 2007 street robbery has been acquitted of murder but convicted of robbery and conspiracy. A jury reached the mixed verdict Wednesday in the case of 17-year-old Lester Jackson III. The victim was 20-year-old Christopher Evans of Dallas. Police said Jackson was one of several teens who accosted Evans and that Jackson shot Evans when he resisted the robbery. Evans was studying graphic design at the Community College of Allegheny County as part of the Job Corps program when he was killed. Evans attended a Job Corps program in Tulsa, Okla., before coming to Pittsburgh. Jackson was 15 at the time of the crime and is to be sentenced July 28.

Employee shot dead at NJ's Taj Mahal, patron held
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) - A 57-year-old Norristown, Pa., man is in custody in Atlantic City, N.J., accused of fatally shooting an employee of the Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort. The victim was Ray Kot, a shift manager who had been with the casino since the day it opened in 1990. The suspect's name wasn't immediately released, but he's described as a regular customer of the casino who knew the victim. Police say they recovered the gun used in the shooting after
arresting the suspect in a parking garage.

17 drug suspects charged in Hazleton, Pa., area
HAZLETON, Pa. (AP) - Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett says charges against 17 cocaine trafficking suspects in the Hazleton area won't solve the drug problem. Corbett said that as long as there's a demand for cocaine, somebody will come along to supply it. The latest charges are from a yearlong investigation that Corbett's office dubbed "Operation Second String." He says the latest suspects are those who filled the vacuum after another group
of dealers was busted in 2007. Forty suspects were arrested in that bust. Corbett said Wednesday that 12 suspects were in custody from the latest bust and five remained at large.

Former teacher allegedly stole tuition payments
LANCASTER, Pa. (AP) - A former southeastern Pennsylvania school teacher is charged with more than 100 misdemeanor counts for allegedly stealing tuition payments from students.
Kenneth Umbrell, of Christiana, in Lancaster County, was an instructor in charge of the driver training program at the Lancaster County Career & Technology Center. According to a police affidavit, Umbrell received tuition payments from students but never deposited the funds.
Last year, an auditor determined the school was missing $77,735 in tuition funds. Umbrell waived a preliminary hearing Tuesday on 104 counts of theft by failing to make required deposits. According to the affidavit, Umbrell was fired last fall after an unrelated incident at the school.

Son of Steelers player, bitten by dog, is released
PITTSBURGH (AP) - The agent representing Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison says the player's young son has been released from a hospital after an attack by the player's pit bull. Harrison's agent, William Parise, says 2-year-old James Harrison III was released late Tuesday afternoon. He says the boy is doing fine and that his father is missing practice Wednesday to be with the boy. The boy was bitten on the thigh after his mother let the dog out
of its pen Thursday afternoon. Also hurt were the woman and the player's massage therapist, who needed three stitches. Parise says he's trying to find a place for the dog so it doesn't have to be euthanized.

Arizona cancer doctor to get $18 million grant
PHOENIX (AP) - Two prominent cancer doctors and their team are getting an $18 million grant from a nonprofit group created by scientists and members of the entertainment industry. The grant is the largest going to five research teams from the nonprofit Stand Up to Cancer. The goal is to quickly turn scientific discoveries into better care and cures for cancer patients. The five teams will focus on breast, ovarian, cervical, uterine, brain, lung, rectal, prostate and colon cancers. The team headed by Dr. Daniel Von Hoff, the physician in chief of the Translational Genomics Research Institute, or TGen, in Phoenix, Ariz., and Dr. Craig B. Thompson, the director of the University of Pennsylvania's Abramson Cancer Center, will focus on new approaches to treating pancreatic cancer, one of the deadliest forms of the disease.

Philly shows mixed results in aid for the homeless
PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Philadelphia is making progress in finding homes for homeless families and individuals, but the number of people living on the streets continues to rise. Mayor Michael Nutter unveiled a plan a year ago for reducing homelessness, promising housing for 705 people.
The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that to date, the city is three-quarters of the way there, but a regular, quarterly spot count by the nonprofit Project HOME showed an increase in people
living outdoors. The count the night of May 20 found 456 people not in shelters; that was up 62 from the 394 counted a year earlier. Deputy mayor and health commissioner Donald Schwarz says officials are analyzing the numbers. Plans for the coming year will be announced Thursday.

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama continues talks with Mideast leaders today. Officials traveling with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas say he'll press Obama to facilitate peace with Israel through a larger solution to the Middle East conflict. They say Abbas wants to revive a Saudi proposal to exchange Arab land occupied by Israel in the 1967 war for normalized relations with Arab countries.

LAHORE, Pakistan (AP) - The Taliban in Pakistan is claiming responsibility for an attack yesterday on police and intelligence agency offices that killed about 30 people in Lahore. It says the attack was revenge for the army's current offensive against the militants.

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) - North Korea says it's preparing for an American-led attack. Tensions have been growing on the Korean peninsula since Pyongyang's underground test of a nuclear bomb earlier this week. South Korean and U.S. troops have raised their alert to the highest level in three years.

YANGON, Myanmar (AP) - Myanmar's military government says its trial of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi "will not have any political impact." In a statement, Myanmar's Foreign Ministry says the trial is strictly related to the rule of law and multiparty general elections will be held next year.

WASHINGTON (AP) - A report from the advocacy group Families U.S.A. says the average family with health insurance shells out an extra $1,000 a year in premiums to pay for health care for the uninsured. The group is releasing the report on what it calls a "hidden tax" to support its goal of extending coverage to all the 50 million Americans who are now uninsured.


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