A look at the Valley's top stories each month in 2012. Compiled by Jim Birt and Stacy Hinck of The Daily Item.
Bickhart ousted as Selinsgrove manager
Jan. 4. Selinsgrove. Borough Council voted longtime borough manager John Bickhart out of office Tuesday night at their 2012 reorganization meeting.
There was no open discussion on the issue — only a quick 4-to-3 vote, a brief executive session and a very short private meeting between Bickhart and Brian Farrell, the newly appointed council president.
Shortly after the meeting, assistant borough manager and treasurer Sharon Badman was appointed the interim borough manager, after which Bickhart simply put on his coat and exited the building.
Massage turned to grope
Jan. 5. Milton. A 27-year-old Warrior Run High athletic trainer groped a member of the school’s state championship girls soccer team while other students were nearby, and sent photos of his genitals and had sex with another female student at his house while his wife wasn’t home, according to testimony at a tense preliminary hearing for Matthew M. Godfrey on Wednesday.
Godfrey, of 39 Jasper Lane, Watsontown, has been free on $75,000 bail since his Dec. 29 arrest. He appeared Wednesday before District Judge Robert Bolton on felony charges of dissemination of explicit sexual materials to a minor, corruption of minors and two counts of unlawful contact with a minor; and misdemeanor counts of corruption of minors and indecent assault.
The two teens testified in graphic terms that Godfrey, who also served for a time as the school’s assistant athletic director, engaged in “sexting,” fondled one of the girls and had consensual sex with the other at school and at his residence — while his wife wasn’t at home.
O’Brien to coach Lions
Jan. 7. Sunbury. The hiring of New England Patriots’ offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien — expected to be announced by Penn State today as the replacement for iconic head football coach Joe Paterno — has prompted heated reaction, particularly from former players who had organized a petition in support of interim coach Tom Bradley and against O’Brien.
But to those in the Boston media who know O’Brien personally and speak with him daily, he’s perceived as an honorable man, fiery and someone who won’t back down from anyone.
Ian R. Rapoport, a reporter who covers the Patriots for the Boston Herald, said O’Brien is “a great guy. You’ll love him.”
Public helps Needy Fund top $129G
Jan. 7. Sunbury. It’s official: $129,194 is the grand total raised for the 2011 Needy Family Fund — thanks to the generosity of the people of the Central Susquehanna Valley.
The 2011 drive hit a number of marks. The total is the second-highest amount in the fundraiser’s history, which also celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2011. The amount also took the fund well over the $2 million mark in donations since the program’s inception in 1987.
Sponsored by The Daily Item, Sunbury Broadcasting and Susquehanna Bank, the fund passed its $75,000 goal on Christmas Day.
Wood-Mode to lay off 90
Jan. 17. Kreamer. Wood-mode will lay off 90 of its 1,100-person workforce “over the next four weeks to accommodate the overall reduction in its cabinet sales volume, ” said Tom Morgensen, the company’s vice president of human resources.
“It’s unfortunate,” Morgensen said late Monday afternoon after the announcement. “It’s sad, and we regret having to take the action, but it’s a business decision.” The layoffs are due to the extended length of the recession in the housing industry and its effect on an already fragile cabinet and remodeling market, he said.
Company executives remain optimistic that orders will gradually increase when the economics of the housing industry and its customer base improve in 2012, Morgensen added.
All systems go with police merger
Jan. 18. Lewisburg. A seamless transition is the main goal as the merger of the Lewisburg Borough and East Buffalo Township police departments marches forward to its realization Feb. 6.
The new regional headquarters for the combined forces is beginning to take shape, said Lewisburg Chief Paul Yost, who will lead the new Buffalo Valley Regional Police.
General office phone lines may be down an hour or two for the transfer that day, “but the same numbers should work at the new building,” he said. There is no change to the 911 system for emergencies.
Ruling blocks needle in yoga master’s death
Jan. 20. A Union County judge has dismissed the burglary charge against accused killer Joel R. Snider, effectively throwing out the potential for a death sentence if he’s convicted of the July 2010 slaying of New Berlin yoga master, Sudharman.
State prosecutor Frank Fina said he will appeal President Judge Michael H. Sholley’s ruling.
“The law and the facts are on our side,” Fina said Thursday. “Snider broke in by slashing a screen door, snuck in during the middle of the night and killed this man in his sleep.”
Legendary Lion dies
Jan. 23. State College. Happy Valley was perfect for Joe Paterno, a place where “Joepa” knew best, where he not only won more football games than any other major college coach, but won them the right way: with integrity and sportsmanship. A place where character came first, championships second.
Behind it all, however, was an ugly secret that ran counter to everything the revered coach stood for.
Paterno, a sainted figure at Penn State for almost half a century but whose reputation was scarred forever by the child sex abuse scandal that led to his stunning dismissal, died Sunday at age 85.
Police charge neighbor with tying, killing dog
Jan. 23. Danville. A Derry Township woman has been charged with tying a neighbor’s beloved family dog to a tree and shooting her to death on Saturday.
State police at Milton say the yellow lab and her puppy wandered into a fenced-in area where the woman, whom they have not identified, kept numerous rabbits.
She found one of her rabbits dead, removed the dogs from the area, separated them, and then tied the adult dog to a tree. She killed the dog by shooting her three times with a .22 caliber rifle, police said.
$33M budget approved
Jan. 24. Middleburg. MiddWest School District directors Monday night unanimously approved a $33 million preliminary 2012-2013 budget that includes no tax increase.
Business manager Lynn Y. Naugle, in explaining the budget, said the plan would likely change by mid-February, when a proposed budget is discussed.
“We have to submit this budget to the state, at which time they can assess our needs,” explained Superintendent Wesley L. Knapp. All school districts in the state are required to send in an approved preliminary budget by Jan. 25.
Naugle estimated district revenues would total about $30.5 million, leaving a $2.3 million shortfall.
$3.15M OKd for Danville floodgate
Jan. 26. Danville. Mayor Ed Coleman almost jumped out of his chair Wednesday.
“I was sitting here reading the paper and having coffee when Sen. Gordner and Rep. Masser called me,” Danville’s mayor said of learning that $3.15 million has been released to complete the Danville flood control project.
Montour County and Danville officials have said that if the floodgate had been in place, there wouldn’t have been the multimillion-dollar damage to the Danville Middle School, Danville sewer plant and businesses along Route 11 from a rampaging Mahoning Creek in September.
Giants, Hynoski triumph
Feb. 6. Indianapolis. Eli Manning and the Giants one upped Tom Brady and the Patriots again, coming back with a last-minute touchdown to beat New England 21-17 Sunday night for New York’s fourth Super Bowl title.
It was a rematch of the 2008 NFL championship, when Manning led New York past New England to ruin the Patriots’ bid for a perfect season.
Southern Columbia graduate Henry Hynoski, a fullback for the Giants, completed his dream rookie season with two catches for 19 yards and a fumble recovery.
Regional force hits streets
Feb. 7. Lewisburg. Paul Yost, a 32-year police veteran, is the new top cop of the 15-member Buffalo Valley Regional Police Force, but don’t expect him to be any less hands-on than he’s been.
“I’m not expecting any great increase in caseload,” Yost said Monday, the first official day of the merged Lewisburg and East Buffalo Township police departments. “But administratively, we’re combining two agencies and there will be considerable coordination to work out so that we don’t duplicate efforts. There will be bumps in the road, but overall our number one priority will remain the same: making sure the public is protected, and providing quality service in a short amount of response time.”
East Buffalo Township and Lewisburg have a combined population of 12,200.
The structure of this new regional force — the only one in the Central Susquehanna Valley — is the chief, a lieutenant, an administrative sergeant, two corporals and the patrol division.
Barry Hosterman, former township police chief, is now the lieutenant, Yost said.
Ex-council leader gets jail sentence
Feb. 7. Sunbury. Former Northumberland Borough Council President Bryan M. Wolfe pleaded no contest Monday to felony theft and was sentenced to jail just prior to jury selection in the case against him.
Wolfe had been arrested in June 2010 and charged with stealing in excess of $10,000 from the borough. The plea bargain required that full restitution be made to the borough. That restitution was paid by a third party before entry of the plea before Judge William H. Weist.
Weist sentenced Wolfe to four to 18 months in jail, which will run concurrent to the 9- to 23-month sentence he received in Snyder County. That sentence was for thefts from his former employer, Northway Industries.
Commissioners give disabled Sunburian a chance
Feb. 8. Sunbury. A 22-year-old disabled man asked the Northumberland County commissioners a life-changing question last week. “Can I have a job?”
Giuseppe Bua, of Sunbury, was born with Osteogenesis Imperfecta, a genetic disorder in which bones break easily. Sometimes the bones break for no known reason. The disorder also can cause weak muscles, brittle teeth, a curved spine and hearing loss.
Bua is 3 feet tall and uses a motorized wheelchair. He has never had a job outside of helping at his family’s Market Street restaurant, Original Italian Pizza.
Bua, a 2007 graduate of Shikellamy High School, has not entered the real world, his father, Vito Bua, said. Giuseppe Bua was sitting in the pizzeria when county Commissioner Vinny Clausi entered, and the pair began talking about county government.
Clausi said there was a position open in the board of elections office, and with another employee in the office going on maternity leave, the office would be short-handed for the 2012 elections.
“I spoke with the other commissioners, and they agreed to give him a trial week and see if he was capable,” Clausi said.
Ex-judge, 3 others die in Fla.
Feb. 9. Everglades City, Fla. A former Northumberland County judge was one of four people killed Wednesday afternoon when their car collided with a van at an intersection, according to the Naples News.
The victims were identified as James J. Rosini, 66, William J. Rosini, 68, Patricia C. Rosini, 65, all of Coal Township, Pa., and Deborah A. Korbich, 59, of Elysburg, Pa.
James J. Rosini served briefly as one of the county’s judges. He also had been the Northumberland County district attorney and was currently an assistant county solicitor.
Viking Energy to close; 19 to lose jobs
Feb. 9. Northumberland. Unable to compete with the natural gas industry, the Viking Energy plant in Point Township will close April 1 and put 19 employees out of work.
The news from the wood-fired power plant comes a week after officials at the coal-fired Sunbury Generation plant in Shamokin Dam announced it was temporarily laying off 63 employees for the same reason.
In January, Inside Futures reported that the price of coal was $2.472 per 1 million British Thermal Units or mmbtu, while the price of natural gas was $2.342 per mmbtu. Four years ago, the price of natural gas was $13 per mmbtu, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Pine Meadow residents running out of time
Feb. 11. Selinsgrove. With only five days to go before a federal public housing contract runs out, Ramon Margary occupies one of the two apartments yet to be vacated at Pine Meadow.
Since complex owner Sencit Properties Inc., of Harrisburg, announced in November 2010 its intention to sell, and Susquehanna University, its intention to buy, Margary said directions and explanations to Pine Meadow residents have been unclear, and he has felt pushed by management to leave before he was ready, calling the treatment “nasty” and “scary.”
Margaray has gone to several lawyers for direction on how to present complaints about defamation of character, and also to begin a class action lawsuit, he said.
Musto takes leave of absence
Feb. 20. Sunbury. Shikellamy School District Superintendent Robin Musto unexpectedly took a leave of absence after alerting school board members by email Saturday.
Musto cited medical reasons for the leave and told the directors she will be available by phone if need be, but she won’t return to her district office until at least March 19, said member Tom Michaels, who heads the communications committee.
The board meets on Thursday, and Michaels said he expects district business manager Dave Sinopoli to assume Musto’s duties until she returns.
Plan cuts teachers
Feb. 21. Selinsgrove. A restructuring plan that trims $700,000 from the Selinsgrove Area School District’s budget by eliminating 15 teaching positions will be put to a vote tonight.
The school board is scheduled to meet at 7 in the middle school multipurpose room and discuss the proposal to reduce a projected $1 million shortfall in the tentative $36.29 million 2012-13 budget. The spending plan also includes a 2.3 mill property tax increase that would raise the average property owner’s tax bill by $62.
The proposed tax increase is expected to generate $562,000 in additional revenue.
Monkee Davy Jones dead at 66
March 1. Beavertown. The death of The Monkees’ lead singer Davy Jones has left a huge void in the lives of his Snyder County neighbors.
Beavertown residents described Jones as a friendly, down-to-earth guy who loved to tell jokes and help others and enjoyed nothing more than singing and spending time with friends and family. Jones died from a heart attack Wednesday in Martin County, Fla. He was 66. He has had a residence in Beavertown for more than 22 years.
In 2008, Yahoo Music named him the top teen idol of all time.
Blaze ruins shop; worker hurt
March 2. Potts Grove. A fire that erupted after workers dropped a fuel tank destroyed a Northumberland County auto repair building Thursday afternoon and sent one employee to a burn unit in Allentown.
A part-time worker at Heddings Ford World, along Route 642, suffered burns on his arms, side and back, and was taken to Geisinger Medical Center, Danville, then flown by medical helicopter to Lehigh Valley Burn Center.
Garage operator Jeff Heddings said the worker’s sweat shirt had caught on fire.
Attacker downed vodka, knifed me, new mom testifies
March 7. Sunbury. A Sunbury woman who was stabbed while nine months pregnant testified in her prison jumpsuit Tuesday that she was sexually harassed, then knifed, by a city man who had drank a half-gallon of vodka before a $25 robbery deteriorated.
April Barrows testified before District Judge Ben Apfelbaum that on Dec. 27 she was asleep in the Susquehanna Avenue home of Rex Millington when she was awakened by the sounds of Millington getting his head smashed by a pistol-whipping assailant.
She didn’t know the assailants, but was told by one who noticed she was pregnant that she wasn’t going to be injured, she testified.
120 at hearing on proposed power line
March 8. Dalmatia. More than 120 people attended a public hearing at the Hickory Corners Fire Company on Wednesday night to speak their minds about PPL Electric Utilities’ proposal to use eminent domain to take over nine landowners’ properties.
PPL has been planning the 69-kilovolt, 12-mile RichfieldDalmatia power line for more than two years. It will connect with the existing SunburyDauphin line and the SunburyRichfield line, a move that officials said will give the utility more flexibility and backup should outages occur. It is expected to benefit more than 30,000 customers.
Of the 54 properties along the route, PPL has reached settlements with 45. The other nine are holding out, and they brought reinforcements on Wednesday night to speak on their behalf.
Bison more blue after title game loss
March 8. Lewisburg. The Bucknell University men’s basketball team won’t be going to the Big Dance this year.
While the Bison battled back from an 11-point deficit to move within one point of tying the Patriot League championship game against Lehigh with fewer than 30 seconds left, the Mountain Hawks held on for an 82-77 victory Wednesday night before a raucous, sold-out Sojka Pavilion crowd.
Patriot League champion Lehigh (26-7) earns an automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament, which begins one week from today. Next week’s appearance in the Big Dance will be Lehigh’s fifth since 1985.
Shik grid coach on the ropes
March 9. Sunbury. Revelations of the varsity football coach’s decision to allow a player to leave the team bus en route to a 2010 game had nothing to do with the Shikellamy school board’s decision Thursday night to accept applications for the grid coach’s job, a director said.
An automatic contract renewal for fourth-year coach Sam Stroh, whose teams have won consecutive games against arch-rival Selinsgrove after a 14-year losing streak to the Seals — was rejected by the board’s 5-1 vote.
Wendy Wiest, Lori Garman, Tom Michaels, Jim Garman and Jim Hartman voted to open the $5,225 position. Kim Markunas opposed the move. Mike Kerstetter abstained, and board president Linda Van Der Pool and Terry Marshall were absent.
3 nabbed in 15-year-old slaying
March 10. Middleburg. It took nearly 15 years to crack through the “wall of silence” regarding the 1997 beating death of Donald E. Seebold III but on Friday five people, including three Snyder County men, were arrested and charged with homicide.
District Attorney Michael Piecuch said a mild flirtation led to the killing in a case that went cold because suspects engaged in a cover-up and witnesses stonewalled state police for years.
Arraigned Friday on charges they beat the 21-year-old Seebold to death on July 13, 1997, and later lied about their involvement to a statewide grand jury last year are Robert L. Reich, 36, of 5325 Troxelville Road, Beavertown; Christopher Aucker, 37, of 5335 Troxelville Road, Beavertown; and Ryan C. Sprenkel, 36, of 249 Longer Road, Middleburg.
2 grapplers golden
March 11. Hershey. Eighteen Class AA wrestlers from the Valley left for Hershey on Wednesday, all hoping for, if not a state championship, at least a chance to stand on the Giant Center medals podium on Saturday afternoon.
With a live television audience and more than 6,000 fans looking on, a pair of underclassmen made it to the top of that podium.
Milton junior Ryan Solomon, making his third trip to the PIAA tournament, won the gold medal at 195 pounds with a 3-0 win over senior Derek Wolford of Hanover (District 3).
$1B pipe could splice Valley
March 11. Sunbury. There is no known route yet for a proposed $1 billion natural gas pipeline that would stretch from Lycoming County south into Maryland, but it appears likely the 30-inch tube would cut through the Valley.
UGI spokesman Peter Terranova told the Harrisburg Patriot-News March 5 that the Commonwealth Pipeline would travel “somewhere east of Harrisburg and west of Lancaster.”
That means the 200-mile pipeline running south from Lycoming County would potentially travel through Montour or Northumberland counties while staying east of the Susquehanna River.
Teacher sent text messages to pupils
March 16. Shamokin. A 23-year-old substitute teacher sent 4,300 text messages that included graphic photos of himself to three teenaged girls, two of them his students, according to court documents Thursday.
Michael S. Zack, whose last known address was 201 Warsaw Ave., Marion Heights, was charged before District Judge John Gembic III with two felonies, disseminating obscene and other sexual materials to minors and unlawful contact with a minor, and a misdemeanor, corruption of minors.
If convicted on all three counts, Zack could face 19 years in prison and a $40,000 fine.
On Nov. 17, the Shamokin Area School District advised Coal Township police that Zack may have been sending inappropriate text messages and sexual pictures to a student.
Robbery was all in the family
March 21. Forest Hill. Two Mifflinburg residents, including one with family ties to the owner, pleaded guilty Tuesday to taking part in the armed robbery of $400 from the Forest Hill Store on Route 192.
Holly Hoffman, 38, appeared before District Judge Jeffrey L. Mensch and pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit robbery after police said she drove the getaway car in the Jan. 28 heist. Hoffman had a child with the son of store owner Ron Hartman and is the cousin of Nichole Mullany, one of the store’s clerks, who was held at gunpoint.
Also pleading guilty was Maura Smith, 20. She admitted receiving stolen property and drug charges. She and Hoffman were released on $25,000 unsecured bail.
The men charged with committing the robbery, Jeffrey Stahl, 31, of Mifflinburg, and Michael Gulli, 41, of Milton, waived their rights to preliminary hearings on charges of robbery and theft and remain in the Union County Jail in lieu of $100,000 bail.
50 protest waste project
March 21. Sunbury. About 50 protesters carried signs outside city hall Tuesday to support residents concerned that the state Department of Environmental Protection may approve a permit for a waste transfer station at the former Celotex site on North Front Street.
Officials from Clean Harbors Environmental Services, of Norwell, Mass., the company that wants to build the transfer station, met with City Council members and Northumberland County and state Department of Environmental Protection agency officials to answer questions about the project.
The meeting — billed as an information session for government officials — was originally to be closed to the public, but DEP let two residents attend on the condition that they did not ask questions.
Soldiers get boost with new reserve center
March 22. Mausdale. The new Danville Armed Forces Reserve Center contains phenomenal space for taking care of soldiers, according to a two-star general on hand for the site’s ribbon cutting on Wednesday.
“The strength of soldiers is their families,” Maj. Gen. William Waff said of the family readiness center, part of the $19 million, 80,000-square-foot facility which replaced armories in Lewisburg and Berwick.
Shik’s Musto retires
March 23. Sunbury. Superintendent Robin Musto, under whose brief tenure the Shikellamy school board closed two middle schools, furloughed 41 employees and put a popular fifth-grade camp in jeopardy while facing a $5.1 million budget deficit in 2011, has retired.
Directors accepted the letter of resignation by Musto, hired at $115,000 fewer than 21 months ago, by a 7-1 vote at Thursday night’s school board meeting.
Musto, 55, had been on a leave of absence since Feb. 20.
Blotches plague smallmouth bass
March 25. Sunbury. The commissioner of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission on Friday night called on the Corbett administration and state and federal agencies to investigate what is causing black blotches on small-mouth bass up and down the Susquehanna River.
“We have a serious water problem,” Bob Bachman said.
So serious that a longtime river angler said he wouldn’t eat any fish — regardless of species — from the Susquehanna River.
Not small-mouth bass. Not carp, walleye or catfish, said Dr. William Yingling, of Freeburg.
Railroad bridge burns
March 27. Lewisburg. High winds caused a power line to break and set fire to the ties on the railroad bridge between Lewisburg and West Chillisquaque Township on Monday evening. About 40 homes in the township were also left without power.
The bridge ties burned for at least five hours after fire officials said a Citizens’ Electric power line broke during the 35 mph winds that swept through the Valley.
“This took us about two hours to get to it,” said Rich Bennett, William Cameron Engine Company assistant fire chief. “These winds didn’t help us out either.”
Firefighters charged in arson case
March 27. Danville. Two members of the Potts Grove Fire Department were charged Monday night with arson and related counts involving the Jan. 12 fire in an abandoned home on Kelly’s Dam Road in Liberty Township, Montour County.
State police also told District Judge Marvin Shrawder that Charles William Jacobs, 35, of 118 N. Fifth Street, Lewisburg, and Zane Patrick Snyder, 19, of 948 Sodom Road, Milton, would soon be charged with setting three other fires in Montour County, two arsons and an attempted arson in Northumberland County and making five false reports in Union County.
The Montour arsons were a barn fire, a field fire and a structure fire; the Northumberland County fires were a vehicle fire and a barn fire. The attempted arson would have been a structure fire. The exact locations of these fires were not revealed at Monday night’s arraignment.
Geisinger gets OK to build $58.2M lab
March 29. Danville. Geisinger Medical Center has received final board approval for the construction of a state-of-the-art $52.8 million patient lab facility.
The 115,000-square-foot laboratory on the Danville campus will be located right behind and connected to the Hospital for Advanced Medicine.
Approval was received a week ago and announced during Wednesday’s Geisinger Authority meeting.
Construction is slated to start in January with an opening date of August 2015.
Timely arrivals trip arson suspects
April 3. Danville. Two volunteer firefighters cast suspicion on themselves by consistently showing up at the Potts Grove fire station just as fire alarms were sounding, a fire marshal said Monday.
“They were seen at the fire station when pagers and alarms were still ringing, and they lived a distance from the fire company,” state police fire marshal Norman Fedder said.
The suspects, Zane Patrick Snyder, 19, of 948 Sodom Road, Milton, and Charles William Jacobs, 35, of 119 N. Fifth St. , Lewisburg, admitted setting a series of seven fires from Jan. 2 through March 16 when questioned, Fedder said.
On Monday, Fedder filed three new sets of arson and arson-related charges against Snyder and Jacobs, and said he expects to file at least three more sets in connection with fires in East and West Chillisquaque townships in Northumberland County. False alarms, too
Woman killed by intruder
April 15. Watsontown. A 64-year-old Northumberland County woman was shot and killed early Saturday morning after her husband was awakened by an intruder, grabbed a handgun and was struck on the head with a blunt instrument, state police at Milton report.
Patricia Thomas and her husband, Robert, 65, of 1060 Phillips Road, Turbot Township, were asleep around 1 a.m. Saturday when the alleged intruder entered, police said. Patricia Thomas was killed with a single gunshot and was pronounced dead at the scene by Northumberland County Deputy Coroner Barry Leisenring.
Robert Thomas was treated at Evangelical Community Hospital, Lewisburg, and released.
Road named for fallen hero, 20
April 22. Milton. The road that always brought Army Spc. Zachariah W. Long home was named and dedicated in his memory Saturday.
The 2001 Milton Area High School graduate, deployed to Iraq in February 2003 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, was killed at age 20 outside Mosul, Iraq, on May 30, 2003.
The next day, his mother, Karen Long, made it her mission to make sure he would never be forgotten.
“I will do all I can to complete the mission,” she said Saturday during a special ceremony hosted by state Rep. Lynda Schlegel Culver, R-108, of Sunbury.
Penns Creek historian succumbs
April 23. Mifflingburg. Penns Creek historian G. William “Bill” Inch died Sunday morning, 25 days after he was struck by a pickup truck while working in his yard.
His obituary attributed his death at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville to the injuries he suffered in the March 28 accident.
A neighbor said Inch, 70, was removing plastic coverings from lawn ornaments for a spring display in his yard along Route 104 when a pickup truck driven by Catherine Meiser, 65, of Middleburg, lost control on a curve and went off the road just south of Raspberry Street and struck him.
Knoebel’s storms back after flooding
April 29. Elysburg. Nearly eight months and 30,000 man hours in repairs after a historic flood closed Knoebels Amusement Resort, the Elysburg park reopened for the season Saturday, its new attractions drawing fans young and old alike.
The crowd exceeded Knoebels officials’ expectations.
“Today is a wonderful surprise,” said Joe Muscato, Knoebels spokesman. “The turnout has been very encouraging.”
Look around, and it is as though the record flooding that forced Knoebels to close for 10 days in September — with water levels reaching higher than 6 feet in some areas of the park — never happened.
Milton library moves to mansion
April 30. Milton. A new chapter began for the Milton Public Library on Sunday.
As soon as the red ribbon was snipped during the grand opening ceremony at the front of the building, the assembled crowd eagerly gathered inside to tour the 11,000-square-foot structure and the 6 acres that surround it.
The new library, located in the Rose Hill mansion at 541 Broadway, is the largest public property in Milton. The former library on South Front Street had about 4,000 square feet.
200 honor heroes
May 6. Sunbury. World War II re-enactors Jim Radel and Ed Thomas stood in their vintage military uniforms with a crowd of 200 at Saturday’s unveiling of the Northumberland County Hometown Veterans Banners program in Cameron Park.
“It’s a long time coming,” Radel said of the 77 banners lining Market Street between Front and Sixth streets, each bearing the photo, name, era and branch of service, hometown and sponsor of a veteran who served in the U.S. military anytime from the Civil War until today. “This is a good step in spurring more interest in veterans and participation in events.”
Said Thomas: “Our role is to tell their stories and this is a very appropriate way to honor them.”
The program is the brainstorm of a Sunbury Revitalization Inc., committee spearheaded by Elm Street manager Kristen McLaughlin, who visited other communities, such as Williamsport and Lock Haven, that showcase similar banners.
Train-car crash claims teen
May 15. Milton. A Milton girl was killed Monday afternoon when the car she was riding in collided with the locomotive of a southbound North Shore freight train in a driving rainstorm at the Center Street railroad crossing.
Maxine Eschbach, 17, of 123 Center St. was killed in the crash. The car, driven by a 16-year-old girl whose name was not released by police, was traveling west on Center Street at about 4:30 p.m. when it was hit by the train. Eschbach was wearing a seat belt.
The driver of the car was taken to Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, where she was listed in serious but stable condition Monday evening.
30 jobs, 2 schools to be lost
May 17. McClure. Midd-West has voted to close Perry, West Perry and West Beaver elementary schools in a move that will allow the district to cut 30 jobs, including support staff, teachers and custodians, and apply about $1 million toward the district’s $2 million deficit.
“The closing of the two schools ... was due to a budget gap of close to $2 million,” Wesley Knapp, Midd-West School District superintendent, said Wednesday.
The closing of each building, he said, realized an annual savings of approximately $144,000.
Bovine bears triplets
May 19. Danville. A 4-year-old Jersey cow owned by owned by a Montour County girl gave birth to triplets, the odds of which are 1 in 8 million, a veterinarian said.
Mizzy, owned by Raina Wolfe, 9, of West Hemlock Township, gave birth to three females around 5 a.m., Wednesday.
Each of the newborns are healthy and are eating and drinking.
Hospital $27M in hole
May 19. Sunbury. The for-profit Sunbury Community Hospital lost $10 million in fiscal 2011, bringing its deficit in the past four years to $27 million, according to a report released Friday.
Its operating margin — a comparison of its revenue against expenses — was minus 34 percent, the second-worst reported by a Pennsylvania hospital, according to a financial analysis issued by the Pennsylvania Health Finance Cost Containment Council.
A hospital spokesman said Sunbury Community was checking the report, adding “We have made positive advancement.”
Two schools in top 5.5% in nation
May 23. Lewisburg. U.S. News & World Report magazine has ranked Lewisburg Area as the 15th-best academic high school in Pennsylvania and the 803rd best in the nation, according to a report released earlier this month.
Also making it high on the list: Selinsgrove Area, ranked the state’s 29th-best academic high school and nation’s 1,187th best.
The Washington-based national news magazine evaluated 21,776 public high schools in the country, including 193 from Pennsylvania. Its data is based on the 2009-10 academic year.
Meth lab busted in Dalmatia
May 29. Dalmatia. A specialized drug team was called in after state police broke up a working methamphetamine lab and arrested two people.
Police received information that the drug was being manufactured in a garage in southern Northumberland County, authorities said.
Michelle Header, 35, and Edward Fisher, 39, of 2017 Mountain Road, Lower Mahoney Township, were arrested after police said they saw the chemicals used to produce the illegal drug.
Header was apprehended on Saturday, and Fisher was caught Monday night, police said.
Robber hits McClure bank
May 30. McClure. Police said a man with a handgun entered the MCS bank at 1 E. Specht St. just after 9 a.m., Tuesday and demanded money from a teller before making off with an undisclosed amount of cash.
Middleburg police officers were dispatched to the scene at 9:15 a.m. It’s approximately 16 miles from Middleburg to McClure.
Tuesday’s robber was wearing a blue baseball cap, dark glasses and a dust mask. He got inside, took the cash and left in what Middleburg police said was “possibly” a stolen car. He was described by police as a white man, about 200 pounds and was wearing a white, long-sleeved shirt and blue jeans.
St. Monica "family" bids its farewell
School closes after 62 years
June 4. Sunbury. Sunday was a day of “sadness, tempered with faith and hope” for the ceremony marking the closure of St. Monica’s Catholic School.
“There certainly is sadness here today, but as Catholics, we’re hopeful people,” the Rev. Don Cramer said.
The school was “full of faith and a lot of love,” he said. “Just to walk the halls and see how faculty and students and parents interact, it looks less like a school than a family.”
“I think we’re leaving an amazing legacy, enlightened by faith,” said Susan Bickhart, principal of the school for five years and a teacher there for 32 years. Before that, she was a student at the school, so she has spent a combined 46 years as a part of the St. Monica community.
“It’s very difficult” to have to close it now, she said.
State: Teacher sexted teen
If Union County girl told anyone, ‘You’ll regret it,’ message read
June 9. Milton. A 39-year-old fifth-grader teacher in the Milton Area School District sent sexually explicit text messages that included nude photos to a 15-year-old Union County girl, and wrote that if she told anyone, “You’ll regret it,” according to the state’s Attorney General’s Child Predator Unit.
Edward J. Jackson Jr., a Baugher Elementary School teacher, was arrested Friday at his home at 855 Montour St., by state officials and Milton troopers and charged with one count of unlawful contact with a minor and one count of criminal use of a communications facility.
The third-degree felonies are each punishable by up to seven years in prison and $15,000 fines.
According to Linda Kelly, Pennsylvania attorney general, Jackson allegedly used cell phone messages and Facebook to communicate with the girl, reportedly developing a code to conceal their chats and verify that he was actually sending messages to her, and not a parent or friend.
Crash kills city man
Passersby tried to resuscitate 40-year-old victim
June 13 . Montandon. A 40-year-old Sunbury resident died Tuesday when his sport utility vehicle collided head-on with a tractor-trailer on a rain-slicked Route 147 in West Chillisquaque Township, Northumberland County.
Christopher Renn was driving southbound when his 1997 Jeep Cherokee crossed into the northbound lane and was struck by a 2012 Peterbilt rig at 2:15 p.m., about a half-mile north of Route 405.
The impact mangled the Jeep Cherokee; the rig slid halfway off the road, its cabin twisted and hanging over a guide rail and embankment.
The rig driver, Mohannad Othman, of Cincinnati, suffered a slight foot injury but was otherwise OK, he said.
Northumberland County Coroner James Kelley pronounced Renn dead at the scene.
Dredging up history
Coal diggers once a common sight on Susquehanna
June 14. Northumberland. They lifted the coal dredger straight up, flipped it over, rolled it onto logs and down an incline into the Susquehanna River.
The bottom of the re-created dredger, or coal digger, will stay anchored in the North Branch of the river in front of the home of Scott Wagner.
“The last real one was across the river,” said Van Wagner, of the Danville area, in reference to a dredger operated by the Sudol family.
The new dredger is a flatbottom barge that will absorb water to make the pine swell and become water-tight. Van Wagner expects it to soak for five days.
Cops: Mom gave child heroin, pills
Man, 22, used girl for sex, police allege
June 15. Beaver Springs. A Beaver Springs mom has been charged with hooking her young daughter on drugs, including heroin, and a 22-year-old Beaver Springs man was arrested on allegations that he exchanged drugs for sex with the now 14-year-old girl.
All of the alleged actions took place in Apt. 1 of 901 Center Ave., Spring Township. The girl’s name is being withheld because of the nature of the case.
The child told investigators she had smoked marijuana and used prescription pills, crack cocaine and intravenous drugs such as heroin and that when she was too weak to inject herself with drugs, her mother, Brandi Baumgardner, would inject her. The girl told investigators that her mother had injected her with drugs about 200 times, beginning when she was 14.
The allegations came to light while the teen was in counseling at Clear Vision, a residential treatment center in Montgomery.
5 nabbed in $450G dope ring
June 16. Sunbury. Five men from Sunbury and Northumberland were arrested Friday in connection with a $450,000 marijuana ring in Snyder and Northumberland counties, authorities said.
The drug distribution operation was initially stopped in September by agents from the Attorney General’s Bureau of Narcotics Investigation along with state and local police.
State Attorney General Linda Kelly said Friday that the investigation known as “Operation Dead Drop” started in November 2010, and focused on the marijuana trafficking activities of Michael Angstadt, of Sunbury.
Bryant Kalcich, 25, Humberto Garcia, 33, both of Sunbury, and Brett Scholl, 30, Lucas Kerchoff, 32, and Nathan Roush, 22, all of Northumberland, have all been charged with drug-related crimes.
Ricardo Garza, 31, incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution at Chester, was also charged in the case.
Guilty as sin
Former Paterno successor faces life in prison
June 17. Bellefonte. Jerry Sandusky was convicted Friday of sexually assaulting 10 boys over 15 years. When the accusations came to light, they shattered the Happy Valley image of Penn State football and led to the firing of Hall of Fame coach Joe Paterno.
Sandusky, a 68-year-old retired defensive coach who was once Paterno’s heir apparent, was found guilty of 45 of 48 counts.
Sandusky showed little emotion as the verdict was read. The judge ordered him to be taken to the county jail to await sentencing in about three months. He faces the possibility of life in prison.
Valley jihadist gets 11 years
Selinsgrove grad made threats on website
June 28. Alexandria, Va. A Selinsgrove Area High School graduate who converted to Islam has been sentenced to 11 1/2 years in federal prison after pleading guilty to federal charges that a website he founded had posted online threats against the creators of the “South Park” television show and others he deemed enemies of Islam.
The sentence came Friday after Jesse Curtis Morton, 33, offered an apology for his conduct, saying he “contributed to a clash of civilizations” by espousing a violent ideology.
“I justified atrocities by Muslims simply because they were carried out by the weak against the powerful,” Morton said.
Morton founded the nowdefunct Revolution Muslim website. He said he wanted the site to offer a forum for nuanced dialogue on relations between the Muslim world and the West and that he thought his website was protected by the First Amendment.
However, he admitted that the website devolved into coarse calls for violent jihad, and that he crossed the line by posting the al-Qaida magazine Inspire on the site.
Paterno stopped PSU chiefs from reporting molester, jeopardizing kids
July 13. Philadelphia. Joe Paterno and other top Penn State officials buried child sexual-abuse allegations against Jerry Sandusky more than a decade ago to avoid bad publicity, according to a scathing report Thursday that exposed a powerful “culture of reverence” for the football program and portrayed the Hall of Fame coach as more deeply involved in the scandal than previously thought.
The alleged coverup by Paterno, then university President Graham Spanier and two other Penn State administrators allowed Sandusky to prey on other boys for years, said the report by former FBI Director Louis Freeh, who was hired by the university’s trustees to investigate.
He called the officials’ behavior “callous and shocking.”
“Our most saddening and sobering finding is the total disregard for the safety and welfare of Sandusky’s child victims by the most senior leaders at Penn State,” Freeh said at a news conference in Philadelphia upon the release of the 267-page report. “The most powerful men at Penn State failed to take any steps for 14 years to protect the children who Sandusky victimized.”
Fatal crash closes span
July 18. State police at Stonington were at the scene of what a source said was a fatal head-on accident between a van and a sport utility vehicle at about 8 p.m. Tuesday on the Veterans Memorial Bridge between Sunbury and Shamokin Dam. Details about the accident or the injured were unavailable at midnight. The bridge was closed into the night.
Crash claims young dad, tot
July 19. Sunbury. A 22-year-old Northumberland resident and his 3-year-old son were killed Tuesday evening after their vehicle was struck head-on by an uninspected Jeep Liberty near the eastern ramp on Veterans Memorial Bridge.
Kirk Mahaffey and his son, Mayson, were traveling west onto the bridge when the sport-utility vehicle, driven by Brian Glass, 24, of Port Trevorton, swerved into the westbound lane and hit Mahaffey’s van, state police at Stonington said.
35 convictions close doors on drug business
July 21. Sunbury. A Northumberland man was found guilty of 35 drug charges Friday, and the Pennsylvania Deputy Attorney General said he was thankful that a criminal enterprise was now officially closed.
Neil Andrew Neidig, 52, of 572 Duke St., Northumberland, and 343 Ellison Ave., Lake Placid, Fla., stood before a Northumberland County jury and listened as they read off guilty verdict after guilty verdict. Neidig never flinched while the jury stared back at the now convicted drug dealer.
During the four-day trial, several witnesses testified against Neidig, including his daughter, Amy Nicole Neidig.
Neil Neidig asked to be removed from the courtroom while his daughter testified that her father taught her what Deputy Attorney General David Gorman called “the family business.”
Neidig was arrested on June 3, 2011, after police found $13,000, 13 pounds of marijuana and several switchblades in the vehicle he was driving.
PSU mothballs statue
Erickson: Sculpture a "source of division"
July 23. State College. Cloresa Turner drove to central Pennsylvania from Virginia to see the statue of veteran Penn State football coach Joe Paterno.
When she arrived in State College on Sunday and saw that it was gone from its place outside the university stadium, she clasped her hand over her mouth.
“He’s done so much for this university. It’s sad,” said Turner, of Martinsville, Va. “To wipe it all away is like he meant nothing.”
Construction vehicles and police arrived shortly after dawn Sunday, barricading the street and sidewalks near the statue, erecting a chain-link fence and then concealing the 7-foot-tall statue with a blue tarp. Workers used jackhammers to free the statue and a forklift to lower it onto a flatbed truck that rolled into a stadium garage bay as some of the 100 to 150 students and other onlookers chanted, “We are Penn State.”
The university announced Sunday that it was taking down the monument in the wake of an investigative report that found that the late coach and three other top Penn State administrators concealed sex abuse claims against Jerry Sandusky, who was convicted last month of sexually abusing 10 boys, sometimes on Penn State’s campus.
NCAA slams Penn State
Paterno stripped of honors; university fined $60M
July 24. State College. The NCAA crippled Penn State football for years to come and practically tore Joe Paterno’s name out of the record books Monday, erasing 14 years of victories and imposing an unprecedented $60 million fine and other punishment over the child sexual abuse scandal.
“Football will never again be placed ahead of educating, nurturing and protecting young people,” NCAA President Mark Emmert declared in announcing the penalties.
The governing body of college sports shredded what was left of the Hall of Fame coach’s legacy — the sanctions cost Paterno 111 wins and his standing as the most successful coach in the history of big-time college football — while dealing a severe blow to the university’s gold-plated gridiron program.
The NCAA ordered Penn State to sit out the postseason for four years, slashed the number of scholarships it can award and placed football on probation, all of which will make it difficult for the Nittany Lions to compete at the sport’s highest level.
Raising the specter of an exodus of athletes, the NCAA said current or incoming football players at Penn State are free to immediately transfer and compete at another school.
5-hour traffic jam
18-wheeler crashes on ramp to busy bridge
Aug. 2. Sunbury. Rescuers worked more than an hour to free a trucker trapped in his rig that overturned Wednesday morning near Veterans Memorial Bridge, spilling a portion of his load of 24 tons of shelled corn and creating a five-hour traffic jam in the city.
Stacey Joel Shenk, 46, of Elizabethtown, was listed as being in serious condition at 11:15 p.m. by a nursing supervisor at Geisinger Medical Center, Danville, where he was taken by ambulance after the 9:15 a.m. accident.
Shenk was driving an 18-wheeler owned by E.E. Shenk Sons Inc., Elizabethtown, when his rig flipped on the eastern on-ramp to the bridge and also leaked fuel.
Emergency officials closed the bridge for more than five hours, leaving motorists irate and disgruntled in a hurry, while crews cleaned the scene.
Susquehanna has drug problem
Chemical amounts near city among highest in state
Aug. 3. Sunbury. New data from a federal analysis of water quality in Pennsylvania rivers show that the Susquehanna River near Sunbury had levels of pharmaceuticals, hormones and antibiotics higher than most other waterways in the state, and a sample site near Danville found higher concentrations of cholesterol than any other location in the commonwealth.
The study found caffeine, acetaminophen, an anti-convulsion medicine and antibiotics, none of which are removed in conventional drinking water treatment processes.
Andrew G. Reif, project manager for the U.S. Geological Survey team said that its research was commissioned by the Department of Environmental Protection after similar national studies revealed worrisome pharmaceutical levels nationwide.
Kin flee toxic cloud
Drilling tanker leaks 250 gallons of hydrochloric acid, stops in Union
Aug. 11. New Columbia. Amanda Friend and her family were among five households evacuated from their homes late Thursday after a Halliburton truck hauling 4,000 gallons of hydrochloric acid began spewing the toxic chemical on Interstate 80 and pulled into a neighboring convenience store.
“There was a huge plume in the air and it was just getting bigger and bigger,” Friend said Friday, several hours after the incident at the Short Stop Mart parking lot in White Deer Township, Union County.
It was about 10:20 p.m. Thursday when Gregory Pellicer Jr., 28, of Lawton, Okla., noticed a cloud billowing behind the Halliburton Energy Services tanker he was driving east on Interstate 80 as he and co-driver Nicklaus Cunningham, 38, of Semmes, Ala., were headed from Homer City, Indiana County, to Montrose, Susquehanna County, state police at Milton said.
Pellicer pulled off the highway and into the Short Stop Mart parking lot off Route 15, and he and Cunningham immediately began working to contain the leak, troopers said.
Ex-firefighters admit arsons
They face decades in prison
Aug. 14. Danville. Two former Potts Grove firefighters pleaded guilty Monday to torching a barn, two vacant homes and a field under plea agreements that will keep them in state prison for decades.
Zane Patrick Snyder, 19, of 948 Sodom Road, Milton, faces a maximum sentence of 52 years and $135,000 in fines. In Pennsylvania, defendants typically serve half of the maximum. Snyder’s co-defendent, Charles William Jacobs, 35, of 118 N. Fifth St., Lewisburg, agreed to a plea deal with a 66-year maximum sentence and $145,000 in fines.
Snyder received a better deal because “he was the first to come forward to police and implicated Mr. Jacobs,” Montour County District Attorney Rebecca Warren said following the pleas Monday.
Each pleaded guilty to several arson counts and conspiracy to commit arson, risking a catastrophe, recklessly endangering others and making false reports.
Other charges, including burglary, will be dismissed.
"Great day for Sunbury"
Sparkling riverfront puts city on map, mayor says
Aug. 17. Sunbury. While everyone was congratulating Jim Eister, manager of the three-year, $9.5-million Riverfront Project, the city councilman on Thursday morning was deflecting the praise to a longtime Sunbury resident who stood in his namesake park, ribboncutting scissors in hand.
“We were honored that Merle Phillips showed up here today,” Eister said after the ceremony that drew 200 people to Merle Phillips Park along the Susquehanna River.
“It made me feel good because Merle put this together years ago, so to see him here today was so special to all of us who have been involved with this from day one.”
Phillips, a state legislator for three decades and former Northumberland County commissioner, said he was thrilled at what he saw.
“I think this adds so much to our community,” Phillips said. “This was something that we needed.”
The walking trail illuminated by several dozen LED lights, the 300-plus yards of floodwall redone in precast concrete and the $500,000 spent on trees and gardens stretching a mile long are well worth it, he said.
Cool idea a reality
20-second, 45-foot drop draws hundreds
Aug. 18. Northumberland. Judging by the hundreds of thrill-seeking children waiting Friday for their turn to descend 45 feet on the Liberty Splashland Bowl Slide, the long, involved odyssey to bring the water ride to Northumberland was well worth the effort.
“I’m scared to do this again,” giggled Jonah Wasserman, 11, of Northumberland, “but it’s so much fun. I’ve done this five times already today.”
And then with a loud swoosh and a scream, he jumped into the tube for his 20-second slide down to the round bowl to the bottom.
Watching from atop the tower, Northumberland Borough Councilman Greg Carl beamed with obvious satisfaction, because it was largely through his indefatigable efforts and three years of persistence that this ride became a reality.
Carl over the years has acted as fundraiser for the $100,000 ride, and as a carpenter, electrician and has fulfilled other project needs to get the bowl slide ready for the borough.
Keiper caught in SW
Snyder County car conman on run since April seized in Colorado town
Sept. 8. Durango, Colo. A Snyder County businessman who fled before being sentenced for bilking buyers of $340,000 for vehicles that did not exist was captured Friday in southwest Colorado.
Kurt Keiper, a convicted conman who skipped bail and failed to show in Snyder County Court for sentencing in April, was nabbed in La Plata County, Snyder County District Attorney Michael Piecuch said Friday afternoon.
Details of the arrest were not available — not from Piecuch, who declined to comment, or from La Plata County Sheriff Duke Schirard, who was not available Friday. Durango, with a population of about 17,000, is the seat of La Plata County.
Keiper will be extradited to Snyder County, but Piecuch couldn’t say how long that might take.
2 charged in murder
Resident’s killer remains at large
Sept. 12. Mifflinburg. Two Valley men were charged with murder Tuesday morning in the drug-related slaying of a Union County resident in June, but one would not give up the name of the gunman, who shot Randy Alan Sampsell in his head as he sat in his recliner.
Herbert L. Tiebout, Sunbury, and Justin G. Richard, of Mifflinburg, were at the shooting scene near Mifflinburg, state police at Milton said, but the killer and another accomplice remain on the loose.
Two others face charges in connection to the death of Sampsell, 51, whose decomposed body was found by his brother about 10 days after he was killed.
Tiebout and Richard were among four men who first broke into a Millmont home and savagely beat Scott Vonneida before stealing drugs and firearms, then drove to Cowan, where they used one of the stolen guns to kill Sampsell, state police at Milton said.
Tiebout, 37, and Richard, 28, were charged Tuesday before District Judge Jeffrey Mensch with second- and third-degree murder each in connection to Sampsell’s death, as well as with robbery, burglary, assault and various other offenses, totaling 13 in all.
Last 600-pound beam set
Event for new academic structure on campus draws 100
Sept.14. Lewisburg. As more than 100 people watched a construction team raise the final 600-pound steel beam on Bucknell University’s $24 million Academic West building Thursday morning, school President John Bravman marvelled and said: “Literally and figuratively, we’re building the next chapter in the university’s history. Today, we all step into that history.
Student critically injured in crash
3 others also hurt; grid game postponed
Sept .15. New Berlin. Four Shikellamy High School students traveling to Sun Area Technical Institute in New Berlin were injured on Route 304 on Friday morning. One was listed in critical condition at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville on Friday night.
State police at Milton identified the youths as Travis Tillett, Justin Miller, Robert Coleman and Samuel Mull.
Tillet was critically injured. Miller was treated, then released, while Coleman and Mull were listed in fair condition, according to a Geisinger nursing supervisor.
DA has $140,000 stash of drug cash
Rosini: Seizure cases take time, manpower
Sept. 16. Sunbury. At least $140,000 in seized drug money sits in police department evidence rooms. Some of it has been there for more than 10 years.
District Attorney Tony Rosini is responsible for taking the money through forfeiture proceedings and turning it over to the Northumberland Drug Task Force.
At least two county commissioners and some police officers have complained that Rosini has been lax when it comes to handling these cases.
Rosini, in turn, said forfeitures can be time-consuming, and the proceedings can’t begin until after a criminal case has ended with a conviction.
Schools mourn losses
Stands hush in memory of 2 accident victims
Sept. 18. Selinsgrove. Silence fell over Harold L. Bolig Memorial Field on Monday night .
The Shikellamy Braves and the Selinsgrove Seals came to play a football game, but they and their fans took a moment to mourn their losses — Travis Tillett, 16, of Northumberland, and Robert Wayne Hill, 20, of Selinsgrove.
Travis was one of four Shikellamy students injured in Friday morning’s crash along Route 304 outside of New Berlin. He died Saturday.
Hill was northbound on Route 204 at 9:28 a.m. Monday when he lost control of his vehicle on a curve just outside of Kratzerville in Snyder County and struck a pole and was killed, state police at Selinsgrove said.
Friday’s accident led to the postponement of the football game until Monday, a decision endorsed by Shikellamy head football coach Todd Tilford.
One-third of districts miss goal
Sept. 22. Results of the 2011-2012 Pennsylvania System of School Assessments were released Friday, showing that about a third of the Valley’s school districts failed to make adequate yearly progress.
Mifflinburg, Milton, Mount Carmel and Shikellamy all failed to make AYP in 2012.
Because the school districts overall made AYP in 2011, but not in 2012, the four districts are all on “warning” status, which means no corrective action will be taken.
Schools in the “warning” category“ should examine and, where necessary, modify their improvement strategies so they will meet targets next year,” according to the state Department of Education’s website.
30 lose jobs at bakery
Sept. 26. Sunbury. About 30 employees lost their jobs last week at the Bimbo Bakeries plant in Sunbury, according to a state spokesman.
The state Department of Labor and Industry held on Thursday a Rapid Response Community Resource meeting, which it conducts after it learns of a “dislocation event” such as layoffs or business closures, spokesman Christopher Manlove said.
“We can share information that affected employees will find useful during their transition from employment to unemployment,” he said.
About 14 people attended that meeting, Manlove said.
A spokesman for Bimbo Bakeries did not have further information about the layoffs Tuesday afternoon.
Mexico-based GrupoBimbo, the world’s largest breadmaker, bought the former ButterKrust bakery in 2011 as part of its $959 million acquisition of the bakery business of ButterKrust’s parent company, Sara Lee.
At the time of the sale, the Sunbury bakery had about 200 employees.
City to get first new dwelling in decade
Grant money will be used to construct $150G house
Sept. 26. Sunbury. Demolition crews were out in full force Tuesday as the city gets ready to break a 120-month lag in new-home construction.
Mayor David Persing commandeered a blighted property that sat on the corner of Washington Avenue and now is set on building the first new home in the city in 10 years.
Persing in June took a hard line on blighted properties in Sunbury, saying if properties weren’t cleaned up, he’d clean them up permanently.
After the announcement, the city released a list of 40 blighted or vacant houses targeted to be cleaned or razed; 24 owners scrambled to fix properties.
That list shrunk until more properties were recently added. Sunbury has acquired at least five houses and has demolished two.
The property at 202 Washington Ave., vacant since 2004, is in the process of being torn down, and that made Persing happy.
“This is something that has never been done,” Persing said of the city building a new home. “I am thrilled this is taking place, and we have been talking about it for months and it is now taking place.”
The home, whose construction will be funded entirely by a grant, will sit on the 50-foot- wide corner lot and is being sold for $150,000, Persing said.
Sandusky: I’m a victim
He gets 30-60 years
Oct. 10. Bellefonte. In what sounded at times like a locker-room pep talk, Jerry Sandusky rambled in his red prison suit about being the underdog in the fourth quarter, about forgiveness, about dogs and about the movie “Seabiscuit.”
With his accusers seated behind him in the courtroom, he denied committing “disgusting acts” against children and instead painted himself as the victim.
And then, after he had said his piece, a judge sentenced him to 30 to 60 years in prison Tuesday, all but ensuring that the 68-year-old Sandusky will spend the rest of his life behind bars for the child sexual abuse scandal that brought disgrace to Penn State and triggered the downfall of his former boss, football coach Joe Paterno.
He leaves behind a trail of human and legal wreckage that could take years for the university to clear away.
Juniors rank No. 1 in PSSA science
Lewisburg superintendent lauds teachers for efforts
Oct. 12. Lewisburg. Lewisburg Area High School juniors ranked No. 1 in the 2012 Pennsylvania System of School Assessment test in science, Superintendent Mark DiRocco announced during the school board meeting Thursday night.
Science in general saw the highest-ever academic performance levels in the school district, DiRocco said, crediting the district’s science teachers for their work.
Daughter, hounded by publicity, turns self in
She is jailed on 40 forgery, theft counts in $42G scam
Oct. 22. Watsontown. A local woman wanted on 40 felony counts of fraud and theft turned herself in due to relentless publicity about her crimes, a detective said.
Emily E. Fitzgerald, 30, of Watsontown, and her boyfriend, Douglas M. Humphries, 33, fled the borough with their 2-year-old child in August after Fitzgerald’s parents discovered that she allegedly had stolen their identities to open nine credit card accounts. Fitzgerald racked up more than $42,000 in debt over 904 transactions between January and August, Watsontown police said.
Charges were filed against Fitzgerald on Oct. 11 while she, Humphries and their child were in the Lancaster area, according to detective Greg Drollinger, of the Watsontown Police Department.
The two turned themselves in to state police at Lancaster on Thursday.
"That’s when I heard the chainsaw start"
Turbotville victim recounts attack from angry senior citizen
Oct. 26. Turbotville. Robert Lee Tanner thought he had the situation under control Saturday morning as he held a pillow against the basement door of his mother’s home, locking her boyfriend, Guy Black, inside.
The 76-year-old Black was swinging a hatchet at the door in an attempt to break into the house he had been thrown out of Friday evening.
Then Tanner heard the chainsaw start.
“Your first thought is, ‘Get out!’” he said. “How are you going to stop it?”
Tanner, 59, of Turbotville, knows he’s lucky to be alive following the weekend confrontation that has landed Black in jail, facing charges that include two counts of aggravated assault and two counts of simple assault and recklessly endangering another person, according to court documents.
Storm puts thousands in dark
High winds topple trees, knock down power lines
Oct. 30. Sunbury. Hurricane Sandy slammed into the Central Susquehanna Valley late Monday, bringing 50 mph winds with gusts topping 55 mph, knocking out power to thousands of people.
The worst of the storm occurred in a six-hour period, from 8 p.m. Monday to 2 a.m. today, said Andy Mussoline, a meteorologist with AccuWeather in State College.
The top recorded wind gust during Monday daylight hours was 47 mph.
A dwelling caught fire shortly after 7 p.m. at 3500 Middlecreek Road. Complications in fighting the fire arose because of gusting wind, tree branches on the road and downed powerlines.
As the storm moved with strength into the Valley, PPL Electric Utilities personnel were busy repairing scattered power outages across the utility’s service area ahead of the main assault from Hurricane Sandy, said Teri McBride, a PPL regional spokeswoman.
At 8 p.m., 3,680 PPL and Citizens’ Electric customers were without power.
Worst hit in Union County, with 1,440 customers without power, were Hartley (459 customers) and Kelly (350) townships.
Snyder County had 2,055 PPL customers without power, most of them in Franklin Township (1,486 customers).
Jury: Sims guilty of murder
Killer, 50, to get life behind bars
Nov. 1. Lewisburg. After openly disagreeing with his defense team throughout his seven-day trial in Union County, Roderick Sims was convicted Wednesday of felony second-degree murder in the slaying of Charity Spickler four years ago and will spend the rest of his life in prison.
Sims, 50, didn’t visibly react to the verdict delivered by the seven-man, five-woman panel, but later dismissed his conviction as unjust.
“It was an all-white jury. It was an injustice here,” he said, vowing to appeal as deputies led him away in shackles. Sims is black and Spickler was white.
Through his attorney, Michael Dennehy, Sims asked President Judge Michael H. Sholley to set aside the verdict based on his claim of prosecutorial misconduct by Union County District Attorney D. Peter Johnson and the “corrupt process.” Sholley denied the motion. Sims was found guilty of the Sept. 27, 2008, fatal shooting of his estranged fiancee inside a 55 S. Water St. apartment in Lewisburg and will be sentenced Friday morning. Felony second-degree murder carries a mandatory life sentence.
He was also convicted of burglary and two counts of terroristic threats for breaking into the apartment and threatening two others, Lorraine Reed, of Northumberland, and Eric Hitchcock, of Harrisburg, with the 38-caliber revolver he used to kill Spickler, 27, after catching her in bed with Hitchcock.
EX-PSU president charged in cover-up
Nov. 2. Harrisburg. The “conspiracy of silence” that protected Jerry Sandusky extended all the way to the top at Penn State, prosecutors said Thursday as they charged former university President Graham Spanier with hushing up child sexual abuse allegations against the former assistant football coach.
Sims gets life without parole
Nov. 3. Lewisburg. Roderick Sims was sentenced Friday to life in prison without parole, following Wednesday’s guilty verdict in his trial for the murder of Charity Spickler.
It’s been four years since Spickler was murdered, and Union County’s courtroom reflected that with families and friends of both sides full of emotion and tears. Sims was found guilty of the Sept. 27, 2008, fatal shooting of his estranged fiancee that took place inside a Lewisburg apartment. Felony second-degree murder carries a mandatory life sentence.
“I’ve rarely, if ever, seen anyone with such an extreme level of anger, gross self-pity and lack of remorse,” President Judge Michael Sholley said in handing down Sims’ sentence. “To say I’m appalled at the gross lack of remorse is an understatement. ... You killed someone and never apologized.”
Sims also received concurrent five-year sentences for his convictions of burglary and two counts of terrorist threats. He also was ordered to pay restitution of about $6,800 to Spickler’s family through Pennsylvania’s Victims Compensation Assistance Program.
Caddy owner sought
Coroner, forensics unit come to Milton
Nov. 5. Milton. Milton and state police were searching Sunday for the owner of two Cadillac cars in connection with a death investigation on Park Lane.
Emergency dispatchers identified the man as Mark Boyles, of 8 Park Lane.
Officers released little information about the investigation, which began about 1:30 p.m. and continued well into the night. A state police forensics unit was on the scene as was Northumberland County Coroner James F. Kelley.
Embattled officer fired
Wade Lytle allegedly violated ethics code
Nov. 6. Northumberland. A Point Township police officer lost his job Monday night when the township supervisors voted 4-1 to terminate his contract, citing — without going into specifics — “violations of multiple policies,” including ethics.
The officer in question, Wade Lytle, had become romantically involved with the alleged victim of a sexual assault, the cousin of Point Township Police Chief Josh Vankirk. Lytle was subsequently placed on paid administrative leave after he told Vankirk that he had become involved with the woman, who reported the alleged crime to her cousin.
The disclosure triggered a cascade of concerns about potential conflicts of interest, including the fact that the alleged victim was a relative of the police chief, who had passed the case on to Lytle.
Vankirk subsequently met with the township supervisors and recommended the board fire Lytle because he put the municipality at risk of potential lawsuits and jeopardized the criminal case against Benjamin Scheller, 34, of 129 Reagan St., Sunbury.
U.S. re-elects Obama
Despite weak economy, Dem powers to victory
Nov. 7. Washington. President Barack Obama won re-election Tuesday night despite a fierce challenge from Republican Mitt Romney, prevailing in the face of a weak economy and high unemployment that encumbered his first term and crimped the middle-class dreams of millions.
“This happened because of you. Thank you” Obama tweeted to supporters as he secured four more years in the White House.
The president sealed his victory in Ohio, Iowa, New Hampshire and Colorado, four of the nine battleground states where the two rivals and their allies spent nearly $1 billion on dueling television commercials.
Ultimately, the result of the brawl of an election campaign appeared likely to be the political status quo. Democrats won two more years of control of the Senate, and Republicans were on track to do likewise in the House.
Romney was in Massachusetts, his long and grueling bid for the presidency at an unsuccessful end.
The two rivals were close in the popular vote.
Romney had 48 million votes, or 49 percent. Obama had 47.9 million, also 49 percent, with 65 percent of precincts tallied.
But Obama’s laser-like focus on battleground states gave him the majority in the electoral vote, where it mattered most. He had 281, or 11 more than needed for victory. Romney had 203.
Yet to be settled were battlegrounds in Florida, Virginia and Nevada.
Marino, Barletta snare solid wins
Nov. 7. Williamsport. Several hundred people waited to stand and applaud U.S. Rep. Tom Marino on Tuesday night after a dominant victory that will send him back to Washington to serve the 10th District for another two years.
Tuesday’s victory was Marino’s second blow-out win after he defeated former U.S. Rep. Chris Carney, a Democrat from Dimock, in 2010 in convincing fashion.
Marino now will represent the new 10th District, which consists of Perry, Juniata, Huntingdon, Mifflin, Snyder, Union, Lycoming, Sullivan, Tioga, Bradford, Susquehanna, Wayne, Lackawanna, Pike and Monroe counties.
More than 80 miles away, Marino’s counterpart in Congress, U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, R-11 of Hazleton, was celebrating at Mia’s Restaurant in downtown Hazleton after winning his second term by easily defeating Democratic challenger Gene Stilp, of Harrisburg.
Stubborn machine was talk of nation
Nov. 8. Lewisburg. Calibration methods will be improved on Union County’s 100 electronic voting machines to thwart possible miscast votes, touchscreen problems and other issues in future elections, officials said Wednesday.
The effort follows trouble Tuesday from a machine at Elmcroft Senior Living Community in Lewisburg, which was taken out of service after several voters said the machine wasn’t marking chosen candidates, sometimes needing repeated touches before the vote would register correctly.
While President Barack Obama carried Pennsylvania but with less support than he received four years ago, the Democrat’s decline in support was more pronounced in Union County.
“We’re checking with the company to see what we can do to better enhance the calibration and anything else to make (service) better,” Union County Commissioner John Showers, chairman of the elections board, said of the Diebold TSX machines.
“We had sensitivity issues on the touch screens at a couple places,” Showers said.
“There seemed to be more of them (on Election Day) than we ever experienced before. We also had a huge election and a lot of people using the machines.”
The troubled voting machine put Union County in the national spotlight, cited in voting dilemma stories from around the country.
CNN, MSNBC and Mother Jones magazine’s website were among news outlets that picked up the story, particularly after a video sent to The Daily Item showed a voter at Elmcroft clearly having a difficult time getting the machine to record his vote.
Every time the voter tried to choose Obama, the vote registered for Romney.
State seals area deer farms
Ag Dept. orders quarantine over disease fears
Nov. 11. Two Valley deer farms are among 27 in Pennsylvania to be quarantined up to five years as state officials scramble to contain and possibly eliminate the threat of chronic wasting disease after two confirmed cases in Adams County.
Part of the state’s response was to create a 600-square-mile restricted zone in southcentral Pennsylvania where hunters must follow special guidelines. Another precaution has been to quarantine 27 of Pennsylvania’s 1,100 deer farms and hunting preserves. Among them are the Nittany Mountain Hunting Preserve near New Columbia and Power View Whitetails near Danville.
Borough to build $10M water plant
Rates to gradually increase in Norry, Point, Upper Augusta
Nov. 11. Northumberland. After months of analysis and angst, the newly formed Northumberland Borough Sewer Committee has decided the best option to deal with its outdated wastewater plant is to build a new one.
The cost will likely exceed $10 million, Councilman Adam Klock said.
Sewer rates will rise, but by how much, it is too early to say, Klock said.
“The rate rise,” he said, “won’t be all at once.”
It’s likely that the rates to top customer Point Township, and also Upper Augusta, will also increase.
The decision to build is basically the same one made by the now defunct Northumberland Sewer Authority, which also had recommended a new plant because the old one was spewing unacceptable amounts of pollutants into the Susquehanna River, and was under a consent order issued by the state Department of Environmental Protection agency to address the problems.
Conman faces $500G tab
Middleburg swindler gets up to 78 years in state prison
Nov. 15. Middleburg. Admitted thief Kurt J. Keiper could spend the rest of his life in state prison for stealing more than $500,000 from more than a dozen people under a 12½-year to 78-year sentence imposed Wednesday by a Snyder County judge.
In addition to the prison term faced by Keiper, 41, of Middleburg, President Judge Michael H. Sholley recommended Keiper not be granted parole until he repays $501,580 in court-ordered restitution.
Title town a 12th time
Seals roll, seek 2nd state championship since 2009
Nov. 17. Selinsgrove. Temperatures may have dipped to near freezing at Friday night’s District 4 Class AAA football championship game, but that didn’t chill the enthusiasm of the thousands of fans who braved the cold weather to cheer on either the Milton or Selinsgrove high teams.
In the end, the Seals were hot, notching a 31-0 victory for their 12th district title since 1986 and first since they won the state crown in 2009.
Selinsgrove (9-3) earns a berth in the state playoffs and next week will face the winner of today’s game between Clearfield High and University Prep, Pittsburgh.
Police catch Valley bank heist suspect
Nov. 18. Beaver Springs. State police have nabbed a suspect in three recent bank robberies, including the Nov. 5 heist at Swineford National Bank in Beaver Springs.
State police at Selinsgrove on Saturday reported that Richard Lloyd Lockett, 38, of Harrisburg, was arrested by Lewistown troopers on Friday in connection with the Snyder County bank robbery and two others, in Port Royal and Thompsontown.
Lockett is being held in Mifflin County Prison on a probation violation.
$100G burglary suspect nabbed
Milton resident caught in Georgia
Nov. 21. Lewisburg. A Milton resident living in Georgia was charged Friday in Union County for her alleged role in a nearly two-year-old robbery that netted about $100,000 in cash and valuables.
Leann Guisewite, 28, of Midway, Ga., was arraigned by District Judge Leo Armbruster on three counts of burglary, one count of conspiracy and four counts of theft. All are felonies except for one count of theft, filed as a misdemeanor.
Guisewite is the third person charged in the December 2010 break-in at the home of Terry Gonzales on Creek Road in White Deer Township. It is not known why Guisewite was in Georgia or with whom, if anyone, she was staying.
$1,000-a-month restitution stands
At $100, it would take Wolfe 140 years to repay $173G
Dec. 4. Middleburg. Convicted thief Bryan M. Wolfe’s bid to lower monthly restitution payments to his former employer from $1,000 to $100 was denied Monday by a Snyder County judge.
Representing himself because he was unable to afford an attorney, Wolfe, 41, former president of the Northumberland Borough Council, said he couldn’t meet the court order $1,000 monthly payments to Northway Industries, Middleburg, and Erie Insurance without shirking financial obligations to the Internal Revenue Service, child custody and health insurance.
Prosecutors balked, arguing that if Wolfe’s request was honored, the court would be giving him 140 years to pay back all he stole.
“I’m not skirting my responsibility, (but) if you want me to pay it, other people will suffer,” Wolfe told the court.
His plea to have the monthly restitution reduced by $900 was denied by Senior Judge Louise O. Knight.
Under the gun
Derry Township woman admits killing dog
Dec. 4. Danville. It took Suzanne Thomas a while to admit Monday morning she willfully and maliciously shot and killed a neighbor’s dog.
Thomas, 57, of Derry Township, told Columbia-Montour Counties President Judge Thomas James Jr. she was pleading guilty to shooting and killing Georgia, a yellow Labrador, on Jan. 21.
The judge asked her if she was pleading guilty to tying the dog to a tree and shooting it three times in the head with a .22-caliber rifle.
“I didn’t shoot the dog three times. I did shoot the animal.” Thomas told the judge.