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Entries in Pennsylvania (48)

Thursday
May302013

Former Police Officer Killed in Police Shooting Wanted 'Suicide by Cop'

WPVI/ABC News(UPPER DARBY, Pa.) -- Heavily-armed U.S. Marshals and Pennsylvania state police opened fire on a wanted ex-cop who on the run for attempted murder, breaking open a hotel room door and firing 52 shots as the man stood in the corner holding a handgun.

Four officers toting an AR-15 rifle, a sub machine gun, and handguns burst into the room Tuesday where Anthony Galla, 31, was waiting with a handgun pointed at them and hundreds of rounds of ammunition stored around him, according to Mike Chitwood, superintendent of police in Upper Darby, Pa., where the shooting occurred.

Galla had attempted to shoot and kill his ex-girlfriend's new boyfriend earlier in the day in northern Pennsylvania, police said.

After Galla broke into his former girlfriend's house, he fired seven shots at the new boyfriend, striking him once in the foot, fracturing multiple bones. Galla then fled, and police issued a statewide alert notifying authorities that Galla, who was a former police officer and had military training, was armed and dangerous.

Authorities believed that Galla had an AR-15 rifle and .40 caliber Glock handgun.

"Galla had stated that to take him down it would have to be a suicide by cops or be taken down by shooting," said Chitwood. "That information was broadcast statewide and the U.S. Marshals state task force took up the hunt for Galla."

The hunt led swarms of officers to the Summitt Inn Hotel in Upper Darby, where police surveilled Galla with two other individuals. Eventually they entered the hotel, and a man coming down the stairs saw the police officers and took off running, yelling, "I'm not Anthony, I'm not Anthony," Chitwood said.

They later identified the man as Galla's brother, who told police he had been trying to get Galla to surrender.

Three U.S. Marshals and one Pennsylvania state trooper then entered the hotel room and opened fire on Galla for about 10 seconds, Chitwood said. Galla died at the scene. Chitwood said the officers fired 52 rounds at Galla, but did not know how many times he had been hit by bullets.

In the hotel room and Galla's rental car parked outside cops found hundreds of rounds of ammunition, including 120 rounds for an AR-15 rifle, as well as ammunition for a .40 caliber Glock handgun, a bullet proof vest, and a smoke grenade or tear gas grenade like the type used in tactical implementations, Chitwood said.

"It's more difficult to buy a cheesesteak than it is to buy a gun," Chitwood said. "This guy was ready for war. This was his last stand type of thing."

Chitwood said that the investigation, which is still ongoing, found that Galla had cleaned out his bank account before the attempted homicide. He was dressed in military-style camouflage when he was killed in the hotel room.

He had worked in several different police departments but not for long periods of time, Chitwood said. Galla lived in Lebanon County, Pa.

"I thought the shooting was a good shooting," Chitwood said."If Galla had access to this AR-15 and all that ammunition he could have cause significant damage. He wanted to die."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Mar162013

Pregnant Head Coach, Driver Dead in PA Women's Lacrosse Team Bus Crash 

WHTM-TV(GREENSBURG, Pa.) -- The pregnant head coach of a Pennsylvania university's women's lacrosse team and the driver of the team bus are dead and several others are seriously injured after their tour bus went off a freeway and crashed into a tree Saturday morning, authorities said.

Seton Hill University women's lacrosse team head coach, Kristina J. Quigley, 30, of Greensburg, Pa., died of injuries sustained at Penn State Hershey Medical Center. Quigley was approximately six months pregnant. Her unborn son did not survive the crash.

"The Seton Hill community is mourning the loss of Kristina Quigley and her unborn son. The University extends deepest sympathy to Quigley's husband and family," said university spokeswoman Kary Coleman in a statement.

The university will hold a memorial Mass for Quigley and prayer for Guaetta and those injured in the crash in a chapel on the school's campus at 7 p.m. Sunday, the statement said.

Anthony M. Guaetta, 61, of Johnstown, Pa,who was driving the bus, died at the scene of the accident, according to the Cumberland County Corner's Office.

Twenty-three Seton Hill lacrosse players and three coaches were traveling eastbound on the Pennsylvania Turnpike to Lancaster, Pa. when the bus crashed around 9 a.m., Pennsylvania Turnpike spokeswoman Renee Colburn said.

Fifteen onboard were transported to hospitals with injuries, and three needed to be airlifted by helicopter to Hershey Medical Center, said Coleman.

ABC affiliate WHTM-TV in Harrisburg, Pa., reported that several of the lacrosse players have already been discharged from local hospitals with minor injuries.

Photos from the scene showed the bus upright on the side of the road, part of its left side shorn off, though it's unclear whether that was from the impact or rescue operation.

Mlaker Transportion, the company that owns and operates the bus, released a statement in wake of the tragedy.

"Mlaker Transportation wishes to express its sorrow and sympathy to those impacted by this accident. Mlaker Transportation places the safe transportation of all of our passengers at the highest level. With more than 40 years in operation, we strive to make a trip on one of our coaches a great experience," it said.

Seton Hill is a Catholic school of about 2,500 students near Pittsburgh. The team was on their way to game against Millersville University, about 50 miles away from the crash site.

State police were investigating the crash, Megan Silverstram of the Cumberland County public safety department said, and state environmental officials were also sent to the scene because of a diesel fuel spill from the bus.

Seton Hill is offering immediate counseling services to students and members of the school community, Coleman said.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Friday
Feb082013

Bullying Attack Leaves Pennsylvania Boy in Coma

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(PHILADELPHIA) -- A Pennsylvania boy is currently in a medically induced coma after a schoolyard fight with classmates who he and his family claims were bullying him.

Sixth-grader Bailly O’Neil, an honors student of Darby Township, Pa., was involved in a fight four weeks ago at the Darby Township School.  He was struck several times in the face by another student; the blow fractured his nose and he fell to the ground.

His parents brought their son, who had a concussion, to the A.I. DuPont hospital in Wilmington, Del., where he was treated and released.  But his father saw that something wasn’t quite right with their son when they returned home.

“He was sleeping.  He was moody.  He wasn’t himself.  He was angry a little bit.  He wasn’t really eating,” O’Neil’s father Rob told ABC News affiliate WPVI-TV.

Just a few days later, O’Neil started having violent seizures and needed to be hospitalized again.  The seizures were so bad that doctors at A.I. DuPont were forced to put him in a medically induced coma nearly two weeks ago.

When contacted, A.I. DuPont Hospital was unable to provide an update to ABC News on O’Neil’s current condition because of privacy laws.  His father is trying his best to cope.

“Every day I’m trying to stay strong for him,” he told WPVI-TV.  “When you get into that hospital room and you’re looking at him, I would trade places in a heartbeat.  It’s my buddy, you know.”

Southeast Delco School District Superintendent Stephen Butz told ABC News the school has turned the investigation over to local police and is cooperating fully with their efforts.

“We take bullying seriously,” he said.  “We are very concerned about the medical condition of the student and our thoughts and prayers are with the family and students.”

According to O’Neil’s father, the boy who struck his son was suspended for two days following the incident, but police have not filed any criminal charges in the case.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Jan292013

Pennsylvania High School Imposes Toilet Paper Restrictions

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(MAHANOY CITY, Pa.) -- A rash of vandalism in the boys' bathrooms at Mahanoy Area High School in Pennsylvania has prompted administrators to remove toilet paper from the lavatories and issue it on an as needed basis. 

Any boy needing bathroom tissue must request it from the nurse or the main office and sign it out, and then sign it back in.

The website RepublicanHerald.com reports Principal Thomas Smith explained the reason for the rationing at a recent school board meeting, saying, "We've had serious destruction to our bathrooms for the past two years."

Principal Smith told those in attendance, "We have a case pending with the police where a bathroom down by our gymnasium was absolutely destroyed.  I'm sure our district facilities director could tell you the times that our toilets have been jammed with toilet paper and other papers.  And after we took the toilet tissue out of there, people were throwing books.  It was our way to try to curb the destruction in the bathrooms."

However, some parents argue that the measure is extreme, and students are embarrassed to go to the office for toilet paper. 

Smith noted that he could be swayed to wipe the slate clean and put the toilet paper back in the bathroom, but he warned, "If the bathroom is destroyed, it will be removed."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Jan202013

Kindergartner Suspended Over Bubble Gun Threat

ABC News(MOUNT CARMEL, Pa.) -- A 5-year-old girl was suspended from school earlier this week after she made what the school called a “terrorist threat.”

Her weapon of choice? A small, Hello Kitty automatic bubble blower.

The kindergartner, who attends Mount Carmel Area Elementary School in Pennsylvania, caught administrators’ attention after suggesting she and a classmate should shoot each other with bubbles.

“I think people know how harmless a bubble is. It doesn’t hurt,” said Robin Ficker, an attorney for the girl’s family. According to Ficker, the girl, whose identity has not been released, didn’t even have the bubble gun toy with her at school.

The kindergartner was ordered to undergo a psychological evaluation during her 10-day suspension, which was later reduced to two days.  The evaluation deemed the girl normal and not a threat to others, Ficker said.

The girl’s family is considering a lawsuit against the school to get the blemish — all because of bubbles — off their daughter’s record.

“The mother has tried to get the girl in another school since this time, and they won’t take the little girl because of this mark on her record,” Ficker said.

The suspension comes one month after the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, which has created a heightened sense of alert at schools across the country.

The Mount Carmel Area School District told ABC News, “We are confident that much of the information supplied to the media may not be consistent with the facts … The Mount Carmel Area School District takes the well-being and safety of students and staff very seriously.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jan072013

Pennsylvania Pastor Accused of Killing Second Wife Going to Trial

Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Jury selection is scheduled to begin on Monday for Pastor Arthur Schirmer, who is accused of killing his second wife and then staging a car accident to hide it.

Schirmer, 64, also faces a second trial at a later date for the death of his first wife.  He has said he is innocent of all charges.

In 2008, the pastor and his wife, Betty, were involved in what appeared at the time to be a car crash.  Schirmer told police at the time that he had been driving 55 mph and swerved to miss a deer, causing him to drive off the road, according to a police affidavit obtained by ABC News.

Schirmer also said at the time that his wife's head had come forward and struck the windshield, according to the affidavit.  Betty died a day later and her body was cremated at the request of Schirmer.

It wasn't until a grisly suicide in 2010 inside Schirmer's office that authorities decided to revisit the case of Betty's death and arrest the pastor.

The man who broke in and shot himself at the desk in Schirmer's office at the Reeders United Methodist Church, Joseph Mustante, was the husband of the pastor's secretary, Cynthia Mustante, Poconos Township Police Detective James Wagner said.

Mustante's suicide was prompted by the discovery that his wife and the pastor had apparently been having an affair, Wagner said.  He was alone at the time of his death.

Investigators looking into the suicide say that several church parishioners had concerns about the deaths of Schirmer's two wives.

"That suicide eventually exposed the affair publicly and subsequent to that, questions arose about the loss of [Schirmer's] wives and his character became questionable," Wagner said.

Relaunching the investigation into the two deaths, Wagner said he quickly suspected that "foul play existed, and the car crash was staged," allegedly, by Schirmer.  Wagner said investigators also believed there was something "suspicious" about the first wife's death, a marriage that investigators had not known about prior to the suicide.

Schirmer's first wife, Jewel, died in April 1999 from a traumatic brain injury after she purportedly fell down a flight of stairs in Lebanon, Pa., Wagner said.  Lebanon is about 100 miles southwest of Reeders, where Schrimer later moved with his second wife.

At the time of Jewel's death, Wagner said, a relative told police that he suspected Schirmer may have had a hand in his wife's death but that the investigation was "never completed."

On Dec. 11, 2012 -- more than 13 years after Jewel died -- a Lebanon County judge ruled Schirmer would be tried for her murder.

When investigators looked at Betty's death, they saw inconsistencies, Wagner said.

"There was no airbag deployment and it simply looked like a car that had driven off the road at a very low speed," Wagner said.  "It didn't match the injuries to [Betty's head]."

"I know there are people out there who probably know him and feel like there is absolutely no way he would be capable of doing this," said Wagner of Schirmer.  "But they clearly don't know him."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Friday
Dec072012

Jury Awards $109M in Pa. Power Line Death

Hemera/Thinkstock(PITTSBURGH, Pa.) -- A Pennsylvania jury awarded one family $109 million, after two hours of deliberation, in a wrongful death verdict, after a woman was electrocuted for 20 minutes while waiting for utility crews to shut off the power from a fallen utility line.

In June 2009, 39-year-old Carrie Goretzka stepped outside her Allegheny County house to call 911 after seeing the trees in her backyard on fire from an overheated power line, which had also cut off power to her house. While dialing, the power line snapped and fell on her. The incident happened in front of Goretzka’s mother-in-law and two daughters, who were 2- and 4-years-old at the time.

At first, they tried to help, but were burned in the process and had to watch as Goretzka endured powerful electric shocks.

She died three days later in the hospital.

“We were in disbelief. You see these things like this on TV and you read about them in the paper see it on the news, but when it happens you can’t believe this is your family that it happened to,” Goretzka’s brother-in-law, Chuck Goretzka told ABC News.

Goretzka says the jury’s decision was bittersweet for the family, who were all in attendance for the three-week long trial against West Penn Power Co.

“There’s definitely relief knowing that the company’s recklessness and carelessness was taken into account,” Goretzka said. “Carrie was heard yesterday in court. This was a human being that died. We finally got some justice.”

Michael Goretzka, Carrie’s husband, hired attorney Shanin Specter to represent the family. Specter claimed in court the power company didn’t properly train its workers to use a wire brush to clean the power lines before they were spliced, causing rust to form, which resulted in the lines overheating and falling.

Michael Goretzka had also contacted the company twice in 2003 and 2004 after the power lines had dropped into his backyard, telling the company he “feared for his family’s life.”

“I’m gratified by the verdict. But I remain very concerned about the public safety issue of First Energy’s power lines falling. This dangerous situation must be fixed,” Specter told ABC News.

In closing arguments, West Penn attorney Avrum Levicoff said Goretzka put herself in harm’s way by standing under the power line while dialing for 911.

Calls to Levicoff’s law firm have not been returned to ABC News, but First Energy Spokesman Scott Sturgeoner says the company is reviewing the verdict to determine if they will appeal the jury’s decision.

“Let me say first that we respect the work and efforts of the jury during the lengthy trial, and we do thank them for their service,” Sturgeoner said. “We will carefully review the verdict over the next several days to determine if a repeal, if any, of the verdict is warranted.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Nov062012

The Legal Battles Begin: GOP, Dems Spar Over Voting in Pennsylvania

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- As voters head to the poll on Tuesday to choose between Mitt Romney and President Obama, thousands of lawyers and poll watchers from both camps are engaged in their own parallel battle over which votes will be counted.

The first shot fired in the battle came Tuesday morning in Philadelphia, where Republican officials protested to the state's Court of Common pleas that their inspectors were being blocked from polling places.

Pennsylvania GOP officials said that about 75 Republican inspectors in Philadelphia were not able to access polling places.

"This was a shameless attempt from the Obama campaign to suppress our legally appointed Republican poll watchers in Philadelphia and they got caught," Rob Gleason, chairman of the Pennsylvania Republican Party, said in a statement.

Democrats argued that the issue was about credentialing, and that they were trying to ensure that the inspectors had valid certificates in order to be seated at the polling places.  The court quickly issued an order saying that certified inspectors should be allowed into their designated polling places.

The court hearing was the first of what will be many legal tussles on Tuesday, and is emblematic of both campaigns' reliance on attorneys and poll watchers across the country to monitor voting, especially in swing states.  Clawing their way to victory will mean the campaigns of Romney and Obama must ensure that problems with access or machines don't impair their candidate's ability to win the election.

In large part, Democrats fear voter suppression tactics, while Republicans are wary of voter fraud.

Volunteer attorneys affiliated with both sides are on the ground at polling stations in swing states, wired into campaign headquarters with smart phones and apps, ready to present challenges to local judges.

Both sides will be concentrating on issues such as voter registration and eligibility, poll watcher activity, ballot counting, polling hours and machine malfunctions.

The first report of machine malfunctions came out of New Jersey, where voting booths at the Millburn public library stalled Tuesday morning and officials switched to provisional ballots.

In key swing states, including Ohio, New Hampshire, Iowa, Nevada and Florida, officials told ABC News that operations were running smoothly.

New Hampshire officials said that polling sites there were seeing heavy turnout and "many same-day voter registrations."

If states begin to see hiccups in their smooth operations, including malfunctions or legal challenges, judges in all 50 states are on stand-by on Tuesday to issue quick rulings and help iron out contentious issues.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Oct242012

Neighbor Posts $30,000 Reward for Missing Pennsylvania Baby

Comstock/Thinkstock(KING OF PRUSSIA, Pa.) -- A neighbor in the town where a 10-month-old baby disappeared after her grandmother was murdered has put up a $30,000 reward for information on the crimes.

A woman who lives in King of Prussia, Pa., put up the money to help find Saanvi Venna, who was taken from her apartment in the town on Monday morning after her grandmother was killed, according to Upper Merion Township police.

Police declined to identify the woman except to say she is of Indian descent and has been living in King of Prussia for the past 12 years.

Police said they are working on a homicide investigation and search and rescue mission to recover the child.

An autopsy was performed on the girl's grandmother, 67-year-old Satyavathi Venna, who was babysitting while the baby's parents were out of the apartment. The results of the autopsy have not been made public.

Satyavathi had been visiting her son and his family in Pennsylvania from India. The grandmother was scheduled to return in January 2013, according to police.

Police said they believe the baby was taken between 8 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Monday, and are looking for any suspects who may have had ill-will toward the Venna family.

Police searched a wooded area behind the apartment complex Wednesday, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The Upper Merion Police department has not given any other details on the investigation or the woman who offered the $30,000 reward.

The police and FBI have issued an Amber Alert for the child, who is of Indian descent and has black hair and brown eyes.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Oct222012

Pennsylvania Man Says ‘Bigfoot’ Vandalized His Winnebago RV

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- A Pennsylvania man has his eye on a large, furry and elusive suspect who he accused of vandalizing his 1973 Dodge Winnebago.

John Reed, a self-described Bigfoot tracker since the age of 10, said he was camping with his girlfriend when he saw the creature walk past his motor home window.  Reed said Bigfoot, also known as Sasquatch, reportedly threw rocks at his mobile home’s outside light to escape discovery.

Reed, who is the founder of the Lykens Valley Sasquatch Hunters, and his girlfriend, jumped into their truck and gave chase, making special ‘Bigfoot calls’ to locate the creature.

“As soon as I did it, something stood up on her side of the truck,” he said.  ”She seen the eyes glaring in the light of the truck, stood up and walked this way into the woods.”

This alleged sighting is the third time Reed said he has come into contact with the creature.

“Do I believe in Bigfoot?  Yes I do,” he said.  “Have I had sightings of what I believe to be Big Foot?  Yes.”

While police believe the damage may have been caused by vandals, for Reed it was a warning from Sasquatch to get off his territory.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio







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