Police: Nanticoke man
assaulted estranged wife, slashed her tires
A Nanticoke man was denied bail after being
arrested on accusations he assaulted his estranged
wife twice within six hours Tuesday at her
Glen Lyon apartment and slashed the tires
on her car.
Newport Twp. police filed two criminal complaints
against the alleged attacker, Ryan David Casey.
Casey, 31, of River Street, Nanticoke, is
charged with strangulation, burglary, simple
assault, trespassing, harassment, endangering
the welfare of children, and criminal mischief.
Following Casey’s arraignment on Tuesday afternoon,
Magisterial District Judge Donald Whittaker
ordered Casey jailed in the Luzerne County
Whittaker denied Casey bail.
According to arrest papers:
Casey showed up at the East Main Street, Glen
Lyon, apartment of his ex-wife, Sammi, around
6:50 a.m. after she blocked him from messaging
or calling her. As she opened the door, Casey
barged in and started choking her to the point
she couldn’t breath and nearly passed out,
Casey only stopped when her children demanded
he stop, arrest papers say.
After Casey fled, the woman noticed all four
tires on her car were slashed.
The woman called police to report the incident
around 7:06 a.m., but denied medical attention,
Police say they were called back to the woman’s
apartment around 12:47 p.m. after Casey returned
and broke into the home by kicking open the
The woman said she hid in a closet, but Casey
found her and dragged her out.
Police said Casey kicked and punched the woman,
bloodying her nose. The couple’s 11-year-old
son tried to intervene, but Casey pushed him
out of the way and continued the attack, police
In the meantime, the couple’s 9-year-old daughter
fled to a neighbor’s house to call 911. Casey
eventually stopped the attack and fled, police
Police said they apprehended Casey upon arrival
at his home in Nanticoke.
closing gives Luzerne County an economic 'death
Using Department of Corrections terminology, state Sen. John Yudichak on Thursday
at a public hearing accused Gov. Tom Wolfs administration of ordering the
economic death penalty for Luzerne County with plans to close State
Correctional Institution at Retreat in Newport Twp.
Yudichak, D-14, Plymouth
Twp., said hes watched Luzerne County rise from the ashes of anthracite
coal mining during his 20 years in the state legislature, but the area still struggles
economically compared to other regions of the state.
Closing SCI-Retreat, in
addition to the proposed closure of the White Haven Center for the intellectually
disabled in White Haven, would amount to a catastrophic loss of over
850 family-sustaining jobs for Luzerne County, Yudichak warned during the hearing
at Greater Nanticoke Area High School chaired by Department of Corrections Secretary
After decades of working to dig ourselves out of the mine
hole, why would state government kick Luzerne County back down the mine shaft?
Yudichak asked. This is more than cruel and unusual punishment. It is the
potential death penalty.
Hundreds of people in attendance, mostly SCI-Retreat
workers, loudly applauded following Yudichaks comments.
constraints and a shrinking prison population, the Wolf administration has proposed
closing SCI-Retreat and sending its 1,000 inmates to other prisons in the state.
The administration has said 400-plus employees would be offered jobs at one of
six other DOC facilities in Northeast Pennsylvania SCIs Coal Twp., Dallas,
Frackville, Mahanoy, Muncy and Waymart all within 65 miles of SCI-Retreat.
hearing began with DOC officials reading a statement from Wolf.
not take the decision to close a prison lightly, Wolf said.
to work with staff members, the union and legislators and review all the testimony
presented before making a final decision. But he noted DOC needs cant be
dictated only by the impacts on communities where prisons currently exist.
community should rely solely on a prison for economic viability, Wolf said
in his statement.
SCI-Retreat, which sits between the Susquehanna River and
a Newport Twp. mountainside, is by far the largest employer in the municipality.
Twp. manager Peter Wanchisen told the DOC panel leading the hearing that the closing
would devastate the township, which contains the downtrodden Glen Lyon, a section
of the township has been classified as the most distressed place in Pennsylvania.
are not looking for a handout from Harrisburg. We are looking for a helping hand.
Please do not close this facility, Wanchisen pleaded.
the superintendent of SCI-Retreat, asked DOC officials and the governor to reconsider
I am here to humbly ask that every effort be made to allow
for the facility to stay open, Mason said. To the staff of SCI-Retreat,
we are one family, brothers and sisters who stick together. I am with you every
step of the way.
During his comments, Yudichak noted the closure would
be felt far beyond Newport Twp. to the tunes of millions of dollars per year.
SCI-Retreat is only accessible by using a bridge from Route 11 in Hunlock Twp.,
businesses along Route 11 like Stookeys Bar-B-Que and Morris Family
Restaurant in Plymouth Twp. would see a big loss of business, Yudichak
Sen. Lisa Baker, R-20, Lehman Twp., asked Wetzel not to endorse a foreclosure
on our future.
She noted the state, in recent years, spent $1 million
for a new natural gas hook up at SCI-Retreat and wondered what the state will
still owe to the gas company.
Additionally, the prison is by far the largest
customer of the Shickshinny Sanitary Sewer Authority, which also serves the residents
of Shickshinny, Conyngham Twp. and Salem Twp.
Baker noted the authority has
an outstanding loan through 2036 to pay for upgrades, which were designed assuming
SCI-Retreat would continue to be a customer.
The senator warned that the average
ratepayer in those three municipalities who now pays $60 a quarter might see their
bill skyrocket to $500 every three months, or $2,000 a year, if SCI-Retreat is
Baker said the authority already has a 30 percent delinquency rate
To pile on a big rate increase, the delinquencies will rise
and soar, Baker said.
Prior to Bakers testimony, DOC officials
said the department has agreed to continue paying its $37,000 quarterly sewer
bill for five years.
Don Williams, a prison safety advocate from Nanticoke,
told Wetzel about how his son Eric, 34, was murdered by an inmate while working
in federal prison after cost cutting measures reduced staff.
To try and
fix a budget problem by putting all these officers lives in danger is very ill
advised, Williams said. I hope something doesnt result like
what happened to my son.
The crowd, some with tears in their eyes, gave
Williams a standing ovation.
Dave McElwee, a retired SCI-Retreat captain from
Bloomsburg, said he wants an investigation launched to see if partisan political
motivations were behind Wolf, a Democrat, trying to close two state facilities
in Luzerne County.
Its a retaliation on Luzerne County for voting
for Donald Trump, McElwee said.
His comment drew the loudest applause
of the night.
Trump, a Republican, routed former Secretary of State Hillary
Clinton in Luzerne County in the 2016 presidential election, despite a nearly
two-to-one registration advantage for Democrats.
Several people who asked questions
wondered why Wetzel in his budget request before the state legislature indicated
a prison closure wasnt likely but now seems to support one.
Gov. Tom Wolf targeted five prisons for possible closure, including SCI-Retreat.
Following meetings, protests and public outcry, the governor opted to just to
After Wolf tried to close SCI-Retreat in 2017, the state
legislature passed the Public Safety Facilities Act, which required a public hearing
before state facilities could be closed and a 90-day notice.
Wolf first proposed
closing SCI-Retreat on Aug. 29, so the earliest a decision could be made is Nov.
29, Wetzel said.
He said a decision will likely be announced the first week
This isnt just an exercise, Wetzel said. This
is a difficult decision. We are going to take all due caution.
for SCI-Retreat overflows at hearing
in the auditorium of the Greater Nanticoke Area High School, state officials,
employees of the State Correctional Institute Retreat and others came out
in an attempt to convince the state Department of Corrections to keep the state
But as corrections officials tried to assurance the hundreds in
attendance Thursday evening about the possible prison closure, one state senator
likened it giving Luzerne County the death penalty.
hearing was necessitated by Act 133 of 2018 passed in part due to a previous
attempt to close the prison in 2017 which requires closures of public institutions
like correctional facilities to come after a period of public comment and investigation
into the economic impact of the closure. Gov. Tom Wolfs administration and
the corrections department announced their plans to close the Newport Township-based
prison in August.
Overseen by Corrections Secretary John Wetzel, the hearing
began with assurances form the department that, despite the difficulty of the
potential closure, the state would be taking all necessary precautions to ensure
the local economy and prison employees would be impacted in the least negative
Paul Macnowsky, regional director of the Department of Community
and Economic Development, said that the economic effects of a closure could be
tough, but added that he believed the troubles could be surmounted with the right
kind of help from the state.
Macnowsky specifically highlighted a potential
loss of $1,300 in taxes each year from any employees of the prison who move out
of the county for work, should they be placed at a prison outside the county.
also said it was estimated that slightly more than 50% of the employees would
be relocated to correctional facilities that would, on average, decrease the length
of their commute, as the state has guaranteed all employees would be placed at
a prison within 65 miles of SCI-Retreat.
A hiring freeze has been placed at
the six correctional institutions within that radius in order to make room for
the 409 employees who would be affected by the closure, said another official.
was repeatedly said throughout the night by state officials that the decision
to close the prison does not come lightly, with a statement from Wolf being read
saying the governor wants to provide a system that is more fair, but
also fiscally responsible.
However, during the period of public comment, criticism
of the plans was sharp, drawing the ire prison employees and elected officials,
including state Sens. Lisa Baker, R-Lehman Township, and John Yudichak, D-Plymouth
Yudichaks comments were particularly impassioned, saying the
closure of the prison, when coupled with the White Haven State Center, would be
disastrous to the local community, saying the two closures would result in a loss
of 800 total jobs locally.
In a fiery speech, Yudichak spoke about how proud
he was of the Luzerne County community for rising from the ashes of anthracite.
after decades of digging out of that mine hole, why at this time, why at this
time would the Wolf administration and the Department of Corrections kick Luzerne
County back down the mine shaft? Yudichak asked. Its more than
cruel and unusual punishment; it is the possible death penalty of Luzerne County
shaking its status of having the highest unemployment rate in the state.
thunderous applause from the nearly 300 people gathered in support of the prison,
Yudichak asked the department to actually take the public comments into consideration.
up to the spirit of Act 133 and keep SCI-Retreat open, he said.
an employee at the prison, also spoke heatedly, saying that the prison is needed
to not only keep the community safe, but to help rehabilitate prisoners.
the prison) inherently increases the possibility that, when reentrants come home,
theyll remember that the Department of Corrections treated them as a number,
he said, saying shipping inmates to other prisons would only increase overcrowding.
These people will become our neighbors again.
Kaskel said hes
not worried about the employees he said theyre tough; he knows
Im worried about what we are saying as a
commonwealth when we are taking away another property, another asset from our
citizens for budgetary reasons, he said, with emotion in his voice. We
can do better than this. This is not an opportunity to reduce our footprint, but
to improve our footing.
A spokesperson from the Department of Corrections
said the states decision about the prison could come in 60 to 90 days.
Conservancy president will retire early next year
serving as president and CEO of the Earth Conservancy for 25 years, Mike Dziak
said Thursday he is retiring early next year.
He will be replaced by Terence
J. Ostrowski, a senior civil engineer employed by Borton-Lawson Engineering.
78, a Harveys Lake resident, previously worked for IBM for 27 years and returned
to the area in 1994 to lead the Earth Conservancy in acquiring 16,000 acres of
former Blue Coal Land and putting the property back into productive use.
said he has been trying to retire for more than a year but was seeking a good
replacement to finish the Earth Conservancys mission. About 6,000 acres
still needs to be addressed, he said.
He and the board of directors, chaired
by John McCarthy Jr., concluded that Ostrowski is the guy for the job,
Ostrowski has worked at Borton-Lawson in Wilkes-Barre since 1998
and has provided engineering and planning expertise on several Earth Conservancy
Terry is a good replacement, Dziak said. Ive
known him for 15-plus years and hes very capable. I think he will be an
excellent leader for the organization going into the next decade.
said he will remain at the Earth Conservancy until the end of January next year
and will be available after that to answer questions throughout 2020 to ensure
a smooth transition.
Dziak said some of the Earth Conservancys recent
success stories include NorthPoint Development bringing Chewy.com, Adidas and
Patagonia to Hanover Twp. on what was once mine-scarred land.
also is constructing a 2.4-million-square-foot business park that spreads through
Hanover Twp. and Nanticoke with three large warehouses.
True Value Company
is occupying about 1 million square feet of warehouse space and plans to create
hundreds of jobs and e-commerce company Spreetail has opened in a 610,000-square-foot
fulfillment center. NorthPoint Development also plans to construct a third warehouse
on the site and in all, the project called Hanover 9 is expected to create more
than 1,500 jobs.
The Earth Conservancy also is working with a New Jersey-based
developer who wants to purchase a parcel of land in Nanticoke and Newport Twp.
said since the $90 million South Valley Parkway project is finally getting done,
it has sparked economic development on all this land.
It took a long
time to get there, he said. It took many, many years. There were some
projects that we worked on that took close to 10 years. When things come together
like they have over the last year and a half, it is really neat for the region.
Dziak retiring as Earth Conservancy head
Dziak is retiring as president/CEO of Earth Conservancy after 25 years and will
be replaced by Terence J. Ostrowski, the nonprofit announced Thursday.
nonprofit was created in 1994 to acquire 16,000 acres of former Blue Coal Land,
much of it mine-scarred, and put the property back into productive use.
been a good run, said Dziak, 78, of Harveys Lake. Its always
hard to leave something that youve worked at for 25 years, but its
time to move on.
About 6,000 acres remains, and Dziak estimated it will
take another 10 to 15 years to address the rest.
Of the 10,000 acres already
processed, 8,000 acres will remain green space or undeveloped forever, Dziak said.
remaining 2,000 acres now houses residences and businesses, including the Chewy.com,
Adidas and Patagonia Inc. structures visible from Interstate 81 at a Hanover Township
site once containing an unsightly giant pit and other black remains from past
In a release, Earth Conservancy Board of Directors Chairman John
McCarthy Jr. said Dziak has been a tireless leader and a passionate
advocate for preserving open space, protecting critical water resources
and reclaiming and repurposing mine-scarred land in Northeastern Pennsylvania.
dedication has made a profound impact on our region, and hes made an indelible
mark on those he has worked with, McCarthy said.
Ostrowski, a professional
engineer, will take over as head of the nonprofit when Dziaks retirement
takes effect Jan. 31, the release said. Ostrowski has worked at Borton-Lawson
in Wilkes-Barre since 1998 and has provided engineering and planning expertise
on several Earth Conservancy projects.
His deep knowledge of the region
and his engineering talents will prove invaluable as Earth Conservancy moves forward
with its mission in the years to come, the release said of Ostrowski.
said he will share his extensive institutional knowledge of coal land history
during the transition and after retirement, if needed. He plans to pursue other
interests and spend more time with family, including four grandchildren.
Conservancy has spent nearly $50 million reclaiming more than 2,000 acres, largely
aided by government grants and land sales, Dziak said last year.
Much of Earth
Conservancys focus is now on a 2,200-acre swath known as the Bliss/Truesdale
site located primarily in Hanover and Newport townships. This project will
create a mix of residential, industrial and public open space after it is cleaned
up, Dziak has said. Between 400 and 500 acres must be reclaimed, he said.
said Thursday a developer has expressed interest in 130 acres of the first 200-acre
section that Earth Conservancy is working to reclaim.
on SCI-Retreat closure expected to draw large crowd
Kalinowski - Citizens Voice
Union leaders representing the workers of
the embattled State Correctional Institution at Retreat say they have yet to see
an agenda for this weeks public hearing about the proposed closure of the
One thing certainly on the agenda, they say, will be a huge crowd
of the prisons workers, their families and friends who are faced with an
The public hearing, which local lawmakers have said appears
to be a mere formality since the decision has already been made, is slated for
7 p.m. Thursday at Greater Nanticoke Area High School.
I would like
to think its going to be packed, said Larry Blackwell, president of
the Pennsylvania State Corrections Officers Association. Were hoping
to fill the place and let the decision makers know how its going to affect
SCI-Retreat employs about 400 people and local lawmakers say
the loss of that many family-sustaining jobs will devastate the local economy.
The prison, on a hill along the Susquehanna River in Newport Twp. that is only
accessible by crossing a bridge from Route 11 in Hunlock Creek, has survived closure
In 2017, the prison, the largest employer by far in Newport Twp.,
was one of five state prisons being considered for closure by Democratic Gov.
Tom Wolf. In the end, the governor only shut down SCI-Pittsburgh.
the lone target.
While some lawmakers have signaled that the Wolf administration
has already finalized its decision, the union plans to keep fighting.
are holding out hope, Blackwell said.
State officials say the 400 workers
will be offered jobs within the Department of Corrections and have often noted
there are six other facilities located within 65 miles of SCI-Retreat SCIs
Coal Twp., Dallas, Frackville, Mahanoy, Muncy and Waymart.
Citing a shrinking
prison population, the administration says the 1,000 inmates at SCI-Retreat will
be absorbed in the states other facilities.
Blackwell said the shrinking
population is the result of more lenient parole standards that are letting inmates
out from their sentences sooner.
People in this administration want
more prisons closed and inmates out in the community, but in the last several
months, we saw six murders by five parolees in Pennsylvania, Blackwell said.
I dont think its time to be closing prisons when the parole murder
numbers are as high as theyve been that I have ever known of. The budget
cuts cant put public safety in jeopardy.
Hank McNair, the statewide
unions vice president, spent 12 years of his career working at SCI-Retreat
and knows many of the workers who will be affected.
This one I have
a personal interest in. This is the jail I was associated with, McNair said.
McNair, of Hanover Twp., said if Retreat closes there will be a lot of people
who have to make a lot of tough decisions here.
who just started. Some said they are probably going to leave and get a new job
because they dont want to commute. Theres a couple who are just going
to retire and hang it up, McNair said. The sad thing is there is a
lot of employees scared, not knowing whats going on with their future.
SCI-Retreat, which sits between the Susquehanna
River and a mountainside, first opened as a county-owned home for the poor.
It later became a state-run mental health hospital until 1981, when it closed.
The facility reopened as a state prison in January 1988.
The prison is in
Newport Twp., but it is only accessible from U.S. Route 11 in Hunlock Creek.
A distinctive feature of the complex is a bridge that spans the river. Staff and
visitors have to cross the bridge, from Hunlock Creek to Newport Twp., to get
to the prison.
In 2017, the state Department of Corrections listed the pros
and cons for each of the five prisons that were being considered for closure
in an internal report of recommendations for possible prison closures.
limited access to the prison was cited by the department as one reason the prison
was a candidate for closure.
The lone access road is a problem because during
bad floods, like in 2011, the prison is left in complete isolation
because flooding shuts down Route 11 in both directions, according to a memo released
by the department.
IF YOU GO
A hearing about the proposed closure
of State Correctional Institution at Retreat in Newport Twp. will be held at 7
p.m. Thursday at Greater Nanticoke Area High School, 425 Kosciuszko St., Nanticoke.
LCCC hosts tribute ceremony marking 9/11 anniversary
Silvana Medina vividly remembers watching
people running through the streets of Manhattan and the plumes of smoke chasing
them on Sept. 11, 2001.
On that day, she worked in New York City in the fashion
industry. She never went back.
Medina, 54, later moved to Newport Twp., where
she now resides.
On Tuesday, the 18th anniversary of the terrorist attacks,
Medina was on hand for the Sept. 11 remembrance ceremony at Luzerne County Community
College’s Walk of Honor.
“It was a horrible day. I’ll never forget,” Medina
said, holding a small U.S. flag she brought.
Medina said she rode the subway
from Brooklyn to Manhattan every day and admired the World Trade Center’s Twin
“That would make my morning,” Medina said. “Sept. 11th was a beautiful
morning just like today.”
LCCC President Thomas Leary said the Walk of Honor
was created as a tribute to a Newport Twp. family that had a loved one who died
on Sept. 11.
Michael Carlo, 34, whose family is from the township’s Wanamie
section, was a New York City firefighter who died that day. The Walk of Honor,
which features a replica of the World Trade Center, has a plaque honoring him.
“The Walk of Honor started as a tribute to Michael Carlo,” Leary said.
said the college is a big supporter of first responders, having created the Public
Safety Training Institute on its Nanticoke campus.
State Sen. Lisa Baker,
R-20, Lehman Twp., said the passage of 18 years hasn’t lessened the powerful emotions
people have of Sept. 11.
“Never forget is a powerful phrase. We have a solemn
obligation to recall everything about 9-11,” Baker said.
Baker recalled a
story about a retired New York City detective she got to know after he moved to
The man spent 28 days digging through the Sept. 11 rubble.
“He is one of the countless responders struck by cancer, likely caused from his
exposure at Ground Zero,” Baker said.
Douglas Fawbush, director of LCCC’s
safety and security department, served as emcee of the program and closed out
the event by asking people to always remember Sept. 11.
“I ask you to remember
all the heroes lost on and since Sept. 11,” Fawbush said. “Please never forget.”
With a Heart rallies riders for good causes
Marcella Kester - Times
For three years Angela Evans has volunteered her time each Labor
Day weekend to help Valley With A Heart.
This year, the organization is helping
her family in return.
The local nonprofit held its annual benefit and motorcycle
ride Sunday, bringing roughly 2,000 attendees to Holy Child Grove in Sheatown
for a day of live music, raffles, kids activities, vendors and more.
benefit included poster children Alexandre Bain — Evans’ son — and Jayla Green,
and was held in memory of longtime volunteer Paula Samselski.
chemotherapy just days before the benefit, Evans took a break from volunteering
in the kitchen to speak of her son and share his story.
Diagnosed with a brain
tumor four years ago, Alexandre has already completed a series of surgeries and
travels to Danville every six months. This year the Hanover Township family learned
that the tumor began to grow back — and that Evans is fighting her own battle.
was diagnosed with Stage III breast cancer earlier this year and already completed
nine rounds of chemotherapy. Evans is scheduled for surgery later this month with
radiation following after.
When asked how she handles it all, Evans gave a
simple, honest response.
“I have no choice. I need to work to keep health insurance,
or else neither of us will get the care we need,” she said.
Valley With A Heart
stepped in to cover some everyday expenses over the last few months, such as utility
bills. Now, the family is waiting to see if a new medication for Alexandre will
be covered by insurance or not.
For 19 years Valley With A Heart has helped
seriously ill children and their families locally, according to organization president
Rick Temarantz. It supplies everything from gas and grocery cards to assisting
with medical bills, utilities and more.
The volunteer-based nonprofit is also
nearing a milestone of raising a collective one million dollars, Temarantz added.
in the staff benefits from this. Strictly all volunteers, so our pie chart is
all one color,” he said with a smile. “This is all local and everything that we
make here, we spend here.”
Wilkes-Barre resident Jarrid Shula has been attending
the benefit and ride for the last few years. He said he’s happy to help the cause,
and to see something so positive come out of the area.
“It’s fantastic, well-organized.
It’s good to see everybody get together for a good cause,” he said. “I see a lot
of humans, but not humanity anymore. People forgot where they came from.”
the stage alongside Evans, Alexandre’s grandmother, Ladonna Bain, traveled from
Idaho to attend the event and show her gratitude.
“We thank you guys from the
bottom of our hearts for being here and supporting this family,” she said, tearing
up. “What you guys are doing here and what these volunteers are doing here today
is totally amazing.”
To learn more about Valley With a Heart, visit http://www.valleywithaheart.com/.
fighting for Newport Twp., job after prison closure proposal
Paul Czapracki, president of the Newport Twp. Board of Commissioners, once again
has a fight on his hands with the proposed closing of State Correctional Institution
He’s fighting for his township and for his job.
been a maintenance worker at the state prison for about a decade. After the prison,
which employs more than 400 people, was saved from closure in 2017, he thought
it would be safe for years to come.
Then, township officials got word Wednesday
the Department of Corrections huddled employees to inform them the jail would
be closing and they’d have to transfer to another facility.
“This is like getting
hit by a bomb,” Czapracki said. “We just went through this two years ago and thought
we were safe for a while.”
While Czapracki is concerned for his own future
at work, he’s also worried about his coworkers and constituents.
impact to Newport Twp. would be harmful, Czapracki said. He noted how a study
last year determined the township’s Glen Lyon section is the most distressed place
“This is not helping. A lot of people from Glen Lyon work
at the jail,” Czapracki said.
Czapracki said the Department of Corrections
guaranteed employees they could keep their jobs at the same pay, but would not
be reimbursed for travel expenses if they were offered other jobs around the state.
noted that SCI-Retreat, in recent years, upgraded its natural gas system, installed
new piping and enhanced its alarm system.
Additionally, he pointed out the
prison is the biggest user of the facilities of the Shickshinny Sanitary Sewer
Authority, which upgraded its systems recently.
Czapracki said he hopes to
again rely on the township’s state legislators, Sen. John Yudichak, D-14, Plymouth
Twp., and Rep. Gerald Mullery, to fight against the closure.
In 2017, Gov.
Tom Wolf targeted five prisons for possible closure, including SCI-Retreat. Following
meetings, protests and public outcry, the governor opted to just to close SCI-Pittsburgh.
time, SCI-Retreat is the lone prison slated for closure. Wolf also plans to close
the Sharon Community Corrections Center, a halfway house in Western Pennsylvania.
Newport Twp. Commissioner Mike Roke also vowed to fight the closure.
I hope our representation can pull off the same thing they did last time. Everybody
came together,” Roke said. “We didn’t get a game plan together yet. We will express
the same sentiments we did last time around.”
Roke said he assumes the township
will lose good, productive members who will be forced to more elsewhere in state
if the prison closes.
Roke said he wonders what will happen to the SCI-Retreat
inmates in a system that is already overcrowded.
“I’m not a prison expert,
but if you close the jail, where are you going to put these prisoners? Are you
going to build a new facility, or put them in other facilities are already overcrowded?”
Police arrest man following
Newport Twp. crash
have arrested a man in connection with Tuesday morning’s crash on Alden Mountain
Road that partially severed a teenage girl’s arm.
Police say Christian Burgos,
24, had picked up the girl, 16, from her home to have sex in a church parking
lot prior to the crash, which occurred around 7:30 a.m.
Investigators say Burgos
does not have a driver’s license and appeared to have been speeding leading up
to the crash.
Burgos, who told police he has been visiting Harrisburg from
Puerto Rico, is charged with accidents involving death or personal injury while
not properly licensed, recklessly endangering another person, interference with
the custody of children and corruption of minors.
Newport Twp. police Chief
Jeremy Blank said more charges are possible as the investigation is ongoing.
the car, a 2007 Audi A6, careened off the road and down an embankment, the girl’s
arm was crushed and pinned between the car and two large trees, police said.
crews say they worked for 40 minutes using the Jaws of Life, airbags and chainsaws
to free the girl and bring her to an ambulance.
According to arrest papers:
crews worked to rescue her, the girl asked to speak to police.
She said her
mother didn’t know she left the house and that Burgos had picked her up to have
sex outside a local church.
Police said Burgos was detained at the scene because
he didn’t have identification and didn’t speak English, so police could not identify
who he was.
After the girl was extricated, ambulance crews took her to the
former K.M. Smith school, where a LifeFlight helicopter landed. She was flown
to Geisinger Medical Center in Danville.
Police said she suffered a partially
severed right arm at the shoulder joint and experienced severe bleeding.
update on her condition was not immediately available Tuesday night.
said they called in a Spanish-speaking local police officer to act as an interpreter
when questioning Burgos.
They said he was informed of his rights and agreed
to speak to police.
Burgos told investigators he picked up the girl to have
consensual sex with her and took her to the parking lot of a Nanticoke church.
He said they had sex on a prior occasion at an area motel.
Police said Burgos
acknowledged the girl’s mother knew the two had developed feelings for each other
and she had taken steps to keep them apart.
The girl’s mother told police Burgos
did not have permission to take the girl from her home.
Police say the girl
was wearing a seatbelt at the time of the crash.
Alden Mountain Road was closed
to allow for a Pennsylvania State Police accident reconstruction.
arraigned Tuesday evening by Magisterial District Judge Donald Whittaker in Nanticoke.
denied Burgos bail and ordered him jailed in the Luzerne County Correctional Facility.
preliminary hearing is slated for Sept. 4 at 11 a.m. in Luzerne County Central
Woman sentenced to jail in
fatal hit-and-run crash
Yurkin stood before a judge Thursday and broke down in tears as she apologized
for killing Jason Filip.
“I cannot express now or at any time the remorse I
feel. ... There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think of your son. Not a
day,” Yurkin, 53, of Newport Twp., told Filip’s parents. “I did not see him. I
did not see your son. I am so sorry.”
Citing Yurkin’s “heartfelt apology” for
the hit-and-run crash, Luzerne County Judge Michael T. Vough sentenced her to
11½ to 23 months in the Luzerne County Correctional Facility.
Dwayne Taggart, 49, of Hanover Twp., said the family believes Yurkin is remorseful
and is glad to have some measure of closure.
“It’s just tough, no matter which
way you look at it,” Taggart said after the hearing. “There’s nobody winning this
case, or anything. She has to live with it for the rest of her life. We have to
live with this for the rest of our life. At least she turned herself in and we
got some justice.”
Yurkin was accused of hitting and killing Filip while he
was walking home from the 6 String Saloon at 1474 Sans Souci Parkway the night
of Feb. 24, 2018.
Later the day Filip’s body was found, Yurkin went to police
headquarters saying she might have hit Filip on her way home from a friend’s house
in West Pittston, prosecutors said. She admitted drinking four beers in Seaside
Heights, New Jersey, earlier in the day, but she denied being drunk on her way
home, according to prosecutors.
Yurkin claimed she failed to stop because she
thought she had hit a deer.
In June, she pleaded guilty to a felony count of
During the sentencing hearing Thursday, Vough ordered Yurkin
to pay $2,430 in restitution to Filip’s family and said she will be eligible to
be released from jail five days a week to walk to her job at Wilkes-Barre General
Yurkin was remanded to the county jail to serve her sentence.
Twp. woman gets prison time over Sans Souci death
jail time for a Newport Township woman who pleaded guilty to a count of homicide
by motor vehicle earlier this year.
Lisa Marie Yurkin, 53, appeared before
Luzerne County Judge Michael T. Vough for sentencing Thursday afternoon, after
she pleaded guilty in June to a third-degree felony count of homicide by vehicle.
had been accused of fatally striking Jason Filip, 36, of Hanover Township, on
Feb. 24, 2018, while he was walking on the Sans Souci Parkway.
after the accident, and Filip died on scene.
In exchange for her plea, Yurkin
was allowed a reduction in charges, after she was previously facing a second-degree
felony count of accidents involving death.
At her sentencing hearing on Thursday,
Vough ordered Yurkin to spend between 11½ and 23 months in the Luzerne County
However, during that time, she will be able to maintain
her employment at Wilkes-Barre General Hospital, to which she will be allowed
to walk from the prison for her shifts.
Yurkin was also ordered to pay $2,430
to the family of Filip to help cover the costs of the funeral.
Yurkin was traveling
south on the Sans Souci when she struck Filip near the Six Strings Saloon. Two
people leaving a credit union next door found him on the side of the road just
Yurkin surrendered her vehicle later that day, telling police
she thought she had hit a deer or another animal.
She denied at the time of
her arrest that she was intoxicated at the time of the incident.
She was remanded
to the Luzerne County Correctional Facility to begin her sentence after Thursday’s
Glen Lyon man sentenced to
years in state prison on child sex charges
Glen Lyon man, who was arrested last year near the Mexican border, was ordered
to spend at least three years in prison after pleading guilty earlier this year
to charges stemming from child sex crimes.
Bolivar Riera, 35, appeared before
Luzerne County Judge Michael T. Vough to be sentenced on two separate cases, both
involving sex crimes.
Out of Newport Township, Riera was accused by a teen
girl of sexually and physically assaulting her for several years. The girl told
an interviewer at the Luzerne County Advocacy Center she slapped Riera in the
face in an attempt to resist, but he would grab her by the wrists, pinch her and
slap her when she resisted.
Riera was also facing charges of indecent assault
and aggravated indecent assault out of Wilkes-Barre.
The man was taken into
custody in Webb County, Texas, which borders Mexico, before being extradited back
Court records show Riera pleaded guilty in May to one count
each of aggravated indecent assault, unlawful contact with a minor and corruption
of minors. Other charges against him were withdrawn by prosecutors.
Riera to spend between 24 and 48 months in state prison on the aggravated indecent
assault charge, to be followed by another period of between 12 and 24 months in
prison on the unlawful contact with a minor charge, for a total of between three
and six years in prison.
Vough also sentenced Riera to between three and six
months in prison on the corruption of minor charge, but that sentence will be
served concurrently, or at the same time, as the other two, effectively nullifying
Riera will be forced to register as a sex offender for 25 years, and may
have no contact with his victims, any witnesses or any other minors.
remanded to the Luzerne County Correctional Facility to await assignment to a
Officials cracking down
on code violations in Glen Lyon
angry couple gave Code Enforcement Officer Joe Hillan an earful Thursday morning
after they spotted him taping a quality-of-life citation to the door of their
Coal Street home in the township’s Glen Lyon section.
The four abandoned vehicles
in the couple’s yard are an eyesore, Hillan told them.
“They’ve been warned
and they keep violating the law, so we cited them,” Hillan said.
will be cited $50 for each vehicle under the township’s Quality of Life Ordinance,
The citation was one of 46 quality-of-life tickets township officials
and police wrote out Thursday during a code enforcement sweep of the township’s
Glen Lyon section. They also issued 10 property maintenance violations.
of the citations were issued for out-of-control grass and weeds and excessive
clutter on properties, including abandoned vehicles One was issued to the owner
of a boat that was in a parking lot being used to store items.
being used as a boat,” Building Inspector Jeff Pisanchyn said. “You can’t imagine
some of the stuff we see.”
Hillan, a lifelong resident of Glen Lyon, said he
is mindful the town was named in one study in 2016 as the most distressed place
in Pennsylvania. However, he doesn’t think that’s any excuse for people to neglect
“We are not asking for the world. Just clean up,” Hillan
said. “It doesn’t take money. Just cut your grass and keep your property clean.”
was joined Thursday by Pisanchyn, of Pisanchyn Inspection Agency, and three Newport
Twp. police officers.
At the time of the 2016 study, nearly a third of properties
in Glen Lyon were vacant. Hillan said a portion of the township’s housing stock
was purchased at sheriff’s sales and then neglected by the new owners.
Chief Jeremy Blank, who lives in Glen Lyon, said some people simply don’t do anything
to the properties they own.
“For the most part, it’s a nice town, but you have
certain people who refuse to do anything with their properties,” Blank said.
said more code enforcement pushes are planned for the future, issuing a warning
to property owners to clean up or be cited.
“We do it everyday, but sometimes
we try to do a bigger push like today,” Hillan said.
who sliced own face after argument with girlfriend pleads guilty to assault charge
Newport Township man pleaded guilty Thursday to charges stemming from allegations
he injured his girlfriend during a fight.
Police said the defendant sliced
his own face with a razor blade in an attempt to frame his girlfriend in the fight.
M. Kulina, 31, appeared before Luzerne County Judge Michael T. Vough on Thursday,
where he pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count each of simple assault and filing
a false report.
Prosecutors withdrew counts of strangulation and harassment.
was arrested in May after an altercation at the couple’s Old Newport Street apartment.
girlfriend told police that Kulina arrived at her place of work with her daughter,
while drinking alcohol from a travel cup. He was denied entry to the building
While the girlfriend was heading home, she spotted Kulina and
offered him a ride.
Upon arriving at home, she told police, Kulina attacked
her, struck her head off a counter and punched her in the head.
fought back, punching him in the face causing a laceration near his eye as he
She fled to a neighbor’s apartment.
When police arrived,
Kulina denied he was drinking, but officers smelled alcohol on his breath. They
also noticed a rolling pin and a bloody razor on the counter.
the woman assaulted him, causing lacerations on his face, but officers then noticed
the razor blade and the rolling pin were missing.
He later admitted to cutting
himself with the blade in an attempt to have the woman arrested.
pleaded guilty Thursday, Vough immediately sentenced to spend a year on probation.
was ordered to have no adverse contact with either the victim or any of the witnesses.
He also must maintain full-time employment.
plans hardware store in Newport Twp.’s Wanamie section
County Planning Commission granted preliminary approval Thursday for developer
Robert Cragle to begin site work to construct a 4,000-square-foot hardware store
with 2,000 square feet for lumber storage in the Wanamie section of Newport Twp.
a union electrician for 25 years, plans to build the store on a 3-acre vacant
site at 1001 Center St. next to his home.
He said after the meeting that he
originally wanted to open a sporting goods store. After seeing a demand for lumber
and other materials in the area, however, he thought opening a hardware store
with lumber storage would be a better idea.
There is no hardware store in Newport
Twp. and not everyone in the area always wants to travel to big chains like Home
Depot and Lowe’s, he said. If something breaks, he said he believes people just
want a quick fix and they don’t want to travel far to get a part they need.
hopes to complete the store in two years. He is currently doing wiring work at
True Value Company, which is occupying more than 1 million square feet in a distribution
center in Hanover Twp. near Luzerne County Community College.
With his background
in electrical work and construction, he said he could offer personal service and
Luzerne County Planning Commission granted Cragle preliminary approval
to add approximately 22 parking spaces to the site.
Heath Eddy, executive director
of Luzerne County Planning Commission, said Cragle can start grading and improving
the property but he still needs to receive permits before he can start building
as well as final approval for his sewage plan from Newport Twp
Lyon teen charged in robbery
David Singleton - Citizens Voice
Luzerne County teenager faces robbery, theft and other charges after city police
say he stole $160 from someone he met in West Scranton under the pretext of selling
a video game console.
Jaden Monche, 17, of 212 E. Main St., Glen Lyon, was
arraigned Wednesday and held in Lackawanna County Prison on $25,000 bail.
Owen told police he met Monche and two other people May 3 at a convenience store
on South Main Avenue after making plans to buy a PlayStation 4 console in exchange
for $160 and his old PlayStation 2. Owen got into a car with the trio and handed
$160 to Monche, police said. Monche then pulled a knife and ordered Owen out of
the car before it sped away with the victim’s money, cellphone and a backpack
with the old Playstation console.
Monche’s preliminary hearing is scheduled
for 11 a.m. Wednesday.
death suit filed against Kingston nursing home
estate administrators of a Glen Lyon woman filed a wrongful death suit Monday
against a Kingston nursing home, alleging caretakers failed to adequately treat
bed sores that ultimately claimed her life.
Donna Ricketts, 67, died of septic
shock and other ailments brought on by the lack of care she received at ManorCare
Health Services-Kingston, according to the complaint.
The lawsuit, filed by
Ricketts’ sons, alleges she did not have any pressure ulcers when she was admitted
to the facility at 200 Second Ave. on Oct. 13, 2017.
The staff was aware that
Ricketts, who suffered from leg swelling, was at risk for skin breakdown yet did
not implement a plan for preventing pressure ulcers from developing, says the
complaint by Pittsburgh-based attorney A. Michael Gianantonio.
Soon after being
admitted, Ricketts began developing bed sores, yet the staff still failed to implement
interventions, according to the complaint.
During her time at the facility,
Ricketts steadily lost weight and developed more sores, including a large sore
on her right hip that developed a “black necrotic cap,” the complaint alleges.
Feb. 19, 2018, Ricketts was admitted to Wilkes-Barre General Hospital to be treated
for sepsis and an acute ulcer, according to the complaint.
“Because of the
infection developed as a result of the avoidable pressure wounds, Ms. Ricketts’s
condition continued to deteriorate until she passed away on March 12, 2018,” Gianantonio
The complaint alleges ManorCare failed to take appropriate action to
prevent and treat Ricketts’ pressure sores. The estate is seeking unspecified
Glen Lyon woman charged with
threatening to blow up county building
woman from Glen Lyon was charged earlier this week after she allegedly threatened
to blow up the Luzerne County Children and Youth Services building on North Pennsylvania
Tina Marie Billotti, 42, of East Main Street, made the alleged threat
that was overheard by another woman in the lobby on Monday, according to court
Billotti was charged by the county sheriff’s department with terroristic
threats and disorderly conduct. She was released on $10,000 unsecured bail after
she was arraigned by District Judge Alexandra Kokura Kravitz in Pittston.
to the criminal complaint:
A sheriff deputy stationed at the building was approached
by Children and Youth Supervisor Brian Steve at about 12:30 p.m.
the deputy there was a woman, identified as Billotti, in the lobby area who made
threats to blow up the building.
Another woman with children in the lobby overheard
Billotti saying if she did not get her children back after a hearing in October,
she was going to return with a bomb and blow up the Children and Youth building,
the complaint says.
Billotti was detained by the sheriff deputy.
read her Miranda rights, Billotti stated the reason she threatened to blow up
the building was she was upset at Children and Youth and with her situation, the
The alleged threat to Children and Youth is not the first time
the county agency has been targeted.
Phillip Finn Jr., 49, of Plains Township,
was charged in March 2017 after he allegedly firebombed Children and Youth Services
after the agency took his 8-year-old daughter from him. Finn was indicted by a
federal grand jury in July 2017, and a superseding indictment was filed against
him in May alleging he attempted to get a witness to withhold information.
project eyed for coal land near LCCC
By Borys Krawczeniuk
- Citizens Voice
A New Jersey developer has plans for up to 1.5 million
square feet of new warehousing on reclaimed former coal mining land near Luzerne
County Community College.
Earth Conservancy President and Chief Executive Officer
Michael Dziak revealed the project after a news conference in downtown Scranton
where a federal Environmental Protection Agency official announced another $500,000
grant to help the conservancy clean up more abandoned mine land near the college.
New Jersey developers warehouse project would sit on about 130 acres in
Nanticoke and Newport and Hanover townships. It is separate but not far from several
warehouses built in the neighborhood by Missouri-based NorthPoint Development,
Dziak said. Dziak declined to name the New Jersey developer because the deal remains
The company would likely develop the 130 acres in 2021. Plans call
for multiple buildings, but could change.
Well see how they configure
it, Dziak said. A lot depends on the market. Right now, big buildings
are in vogue.
In the last few years, NorthPoint has developed warehouses
in the same neighborhood for Spreetail, an online home and garden products retailer;
Chewy.com, a pet products manufacturer; Adidas, the sneaker company; Patagonia,
a clothing retailer; and True Value, the hardware retailer.
130 acres will cost about $7 million by the time the land is ready for development,
Dziak said. The project will include a roundabout at Middle Road and Prospect
Street that feeds an access road to the land, he said.
He has no estimate of
the number of jobs the project will create because its nature remains so uncertain,
We wont know that for a long time, Dziak said.
$500,000 grant will help pay for the design of a $3 million project to clean up
another 50 acres unrelated to the New Jersey developers project, Dziak said.
has awarded the conservancy about $4 million over the years to clean up rocky
and scarred abandoned mine land, a remnant of the regions long-gone coal
mining era. In all, the conservancy has cleaned up more than half the more than
16,000 acres of former Blue Coal Co. land in Luzerne County that it acquired in
August 1994 for about $12.5 million. Former U.S. Rep. Paul Kanjorski helped obtain
the land with a special $20 million federal budget earmark.
Man cut face in scheme to implicate girlfriend
James Halpin - Citizens
A Newport Twp. man beat and choked his girlfriend while in a drunken
rage, then cut his own face with a razor as part of a scheme to get her thrown
into jail, according to police.
Police said the trouble began when Patrick
M. Kulina, 31, of 143 Old Newport St., took a bus to his girlfriend's work, drinking
alcohol from a travel cup with her 4-year-old daughter in tow. Security officers
denied entry to Kulina, who was drunk, and his girlfriend, Sally Atkins, subsequently
gave him a ride home, the charges allege.
When police responded to Kulina's
apartment around 6:10 p.m. Tuesday, Kulina claimed Atkins attacked him with a
rolling pin that was on the kitchen counter.
Kulina claimed he had not been
drinking, but police said he smelled of alcohol and they observed an empty vodka
bottle on the floor of the apartment, which was in a state of disarray and appeared
to have been the scene of a struggle.
Officers also observed multiple bruises
on Atkins' head, neck and chest, police said.
Atkins reported when they got
to the apartment she told Kulina to leave but he pushed his way inside. Kulina
then began throwing Atkins around the apartment, hitting her head on the kitchen
counter and squeezing her neck so she could not breathe, according to police.
one point during the struggle, Atkins punched Kulina in the face, causing a cut
near his right eye with a ring, the complaint said.
Police said as Atkins was
leaving the apartment, Kulina occupied himself by "throwing himself face
first onto the floor."
After speaking with Atkins in another apartment,
police noticed a razor that had been on the counter of Kulina's apartment had
been moved and the rolling pin was gone. Kulina also had new injuries and was
bleeding from his forehead and the right side of his face, police said.
claimed all the injuries on his face were the result of being attacked by Atkins,
according to the complaint. However, Patrolman Thomas Nalbone had taken pictures
of Kulina when he first arrived on scene, and the pictures showed Kulina sustained
additional injuries while he was alone in the apartment, police said.
with the pictures, Kulina admitted he cut himself with the razor in an effort
to have Atkins arrested so he could stay in the apartment, the complaint said.
charged Kulina with aggravated assault, strangulation, simple assault, making
a false report and harassment. Magisterial District Judge Joseph D. Spagnuolo
Jr. arraigned him on the charges Wednesday morning and set bail at $100,000.
was being held at the Luzerne County Correctional Facility with a preliminary
hearing set for June 5.
of Forestry probes wildfires around Nanticoke
Staff Report - Citizens
The Bureau of Forestry is investigating wildfires that were intentionally
set around Nanticoke.
The bureau is offering a $1,500 reward for information
that leads to an arrest.
According to a news release:
were set the evening of April 3 in Newport Twp. and Hanover Twp. outside of Nanticoke.
the time the fires were set, eastern Pennsylvania was under a "red flag warning,"
a warning issued by the National Weather Service to indicate increased wildfire
The fires burned dozens of acres.
"Circumstances around all
of these fires have led us to the conclusion that the fires have been intentionally
set. Some of the fires have put public and firefighter lives and property at risk,
which is of great concern," said Michael Kern, chief of the bureau's Division
of Forest Fire Protection, in the press release. "Intentionally setting a
wildfire is arson and we take that very seriously. We are asking for anyone who
may have information to come forward."
Information can be forwarded to
bureau Special Investigator Terry Smith at 717-362-1472 or at email@example.com.
Anonymous tips also will be accepted but do not qualify for the reward.
Twp. man charged with cruelty to animals
Eric Mark - Citizens Voice
Newport Twp. man failed to provide veterinary care for his injured pit bull after
it was attacked by another dog last month, authorities allege.
52, is charged with aggravated cruelty to animals, cruelty to animals and neglect
of animals in connection with the incident.
According to an affidavit filed
by a humane society police officer for the SPCA of Luzerne County:
responded to Steltz’s Center Street home on March 16, after the SPCA received
a call about an incident the previous evening in which a dog was allegedly hurt.
told the officer his dog Dusty had been attacked by another of his dogs and had
a broken leg. Steltz allowed the officer to see the injured dog, which was lying
on its side and unable to get up, with blood coming from its ears. The dog had
visible puncture wounds, the officer observed.
The officer told Steltz the
dog needed immediate veterinary treatment, but Steltz said he would not have the
money until he got paid. He agreed to sign the dog over to the SPCA so it could
receive immediate care.
The dog was taken to Northeast Veterinary Referral
Hospital, where a veterinarian determined it had severe soft tissue injuries.
After the dog was released to the SPCA, an examination revealed puncture wounds
to its chest, neck and legs and other injuries.
Steltz was arraigned Wednesday
and released on $50,000 unsecured bail. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for
Glen Lyon man sentenced
for child pornography
As a first
time offender, a Glen Lyon man was eligible for a probationary sentence on charges
he downloaded and viewed child pornography.
Instead, Kyle Christian Kazmierski
will spend several months in jail.
Kazmierski, 28, appeared Friday before Luzerne
County Judge Michael T. Vough to be sentenced on 13 counts of child pornography
and a single count of dissemination of children engaged in sex acts. He pleaded
guilty to the charges in January.
Kazmierski’s attorney, Vito DeLuca, told
Vough his client was eligible for the county’s Intermediate Punishment Program
for first time offenders. Kazmierski also has been attending counseling since
his arrest by state police in July.
Vough asked Kazmierski if he was employed.
haven’t been able to find a job,” Kazmierski replied.
“How do you support yourself?”
DeLuca said Kazmierski resides with his parents.
Kazmierski to nine-to-23 months in the county correctional facility followed by
three years probation. He also must register his address with authorities for
25 years under the state’s Megan’s Law.
State police said they found 13 videos
of children engaged in sex acts on a computer inside Kazmierski’s home on Engle
Street. Kazmierski told troopers he had been viewing child pornography for four
to five years, court records say.
Kazmierski had been free on $100,000 bail,
and was sent to jail after the sentencing hearing.
Lyon’s enduring miracle
By William C. Kashatus, Citizens' Voice
correspondent / Published: December 14, 2014
Webdesign found this article (enjoy)
What would December be like
without a brand new Christmas film? Since the 1930s, Hollywood has given us a
long list of yuletide movies, including: “A Christmas Carol,” “Miracle on 34th
Street,” “White Christmas,” “It’s A Wonderful Life,” “The Santa Clause,” and,
of course, this year’s black comedy, “A Merry Friggin’ Christmas,” coming to theaters
Few local residents realize, however, that “The Miracle of the Bells”
was a popular TV re-run every Christmas for nearly a decade in many parts of the
nation. Although the movie received mixed reviews after it premiered in 1948,
later audiences came to appreciate the film’s simple but enduring message of “faith,
hope and renewal.”
For those who live in the Wyoming Valley, “The Miracle of
the Bells” represents a culture and a time we will never see again. It also continues
to spark the interest of the movie-going current generation because of its fascinating
— if not controversial — backstory.
Based on the best-selling novel by Russell
Janney, “The Miracle of the Bells” told the life story of Olga Treskoff, an aspiring
local actress and native of Glen Lyon, a once-bustling coal town in Newport Township.
Some scenes were shot on location with as many as 600 residents being used as
“extras” at $10 each. Also featured are several of the town’s prominent structures,
including St. Michael’s Church and the once imposing coal breaker.
of the Bells” is a touching story about an aspiring actress named Olga Treskovna
(played in the film by Alida Valli) who escapes the sooty environment of Coaltown,
Pennsylvania, for Hollywood. Through a series of incredible circumstances, Olga
manages to land the highly coveted role of Joan of Arc in a film about the French
heroine’s life. Tragically, Olga dies suddenly after wrapping up the film’s final
Marcus Hook, a hard-nosed movie producer (Lee J. Cobb) wants to reshoot
the film with another, better-known actress, rather than risk losing a fortune
on an “unknown” who he can no longer groom for stardom. But press agent Bill Dunnigan
(Fred MacMurray), who has journeyed to Coaltown to learn Olga’s life story, tries
to persuade Harris to release “Joan of Arc” as originally filmed.
a national demand for the release of the movie, Dunnigan enlists the aid of Father
Paul (Frank Sinatra), the priest of a poor parish named “St. Michael the Archangel,”
and purchases a day’s worth of bell ringing from the local churches. In the middle
of the publicity stunt, a miracle occurs at St. Michael’s when mine subsidence
beneath the church causes the statues of the Virgin Mary and St. Michael to turn
seeming to stare at Olga’s casket. As a result, the bells continue to ring for
three full days.
This “miracle,” originating in the simple goodness of a young
movie actress born and raised in Coaltown, not only convinces Harris to change
his mind, but transforms the community from spiritual poverty to faith, hope and
love for each other.
The inspiration for Janney’s novel was Olga Treskoff,
who was born Anna Trotzski on May 7, 1892 in Glen Lyon. Her family lived at 66
E. Main St. and her father, Jan, and some of her brothers worked in the coal mines.
After elementary school, Anna worked as a domestic servant for a wealthy family
in Wilkes-Barre. By 1913, she had moved to New York City, changed her name to
Olga Treskoff (after the title role of a 1913 film starring Helen Gardner), and
appeared in several silent films.
In 1920, Olga met Russell Janney, a Broadway
producer. They became business partners as well as lovers. Between 1921 and 1934
the couple co-produced several plays and musicals on Broadway and in London. The
most successful of these was a 1925 musical titled, The Vagabond King, in which
Olga had the role of Lady Mary. In mid-1937, Olga became ill with cancer and died
a year later on April 21, 1938.
Devastated by her untimely death, Janney, at
age 46, accompanied her body to Glen Lyon. Her funeral was held at St. Michael
the Archangel Church and she was buried in the parish cemetery. Though he continued
to produce plays, Janney often returned to Newport Township to visit Olga’s grave
site. During one of these visits he was inspired to write the novel, “Miracle
of the Bells.” Published in 1946, the novel became an immediate best seller.
October 1946, Janney sold the rights to Jesse L. Lasky and Walker MacEwen, producers
for RKO Pictures, which released the film two years later in 1948. The novelist
netted $100,000 plus five percent of the producers’ gross up to the first $4 million.
After $4 million, Janney was to receive 10 percent of the producers’ gross, with
no maximum limit set.
Interestingly, Irving Pichel, who directed the film,
did not want to shoot any of the scenes in Glen Lyon. The town’s well-constructed
houses, paved streets and bustling business district did not meet his expectations
of what a dilapidated mining town should be. Instead, he tried to convince producers
Lasky and MacEwen that a sound stage with unpainted shacks, muddy streets and
culm banks would make the scenery more realistic to the expectations of moviegoers.
a compromise was reached. While most of the filming would be completed at a reproduction
movie set of a Pennsylvania mining town at RKO’s Forty Acres ranch in Culver City,
Calif., some of the scenes would be shot on location in Glen Lyon.
wasn’t the only sticking point, either. Frank Sinatra’s ties to organized crime
almost prevented him from securing the role of Father Paul. Producer Jesse Lasky
had to ask the Catholic Church for its approval before signing the star to the
part. In return, Sinatra, who was born and raised a Catholic, donated his salary
to the church.
The crooner actively pursued the role hoping to steal the spotlight
from Bing Crosby, who also played a singing priest in the film, “The Bells of
St. Mary’s,” three years earlier. To be sure, the two actors were competing for
top billing at the box office in the 1940s. Although Sinatra insisted on having
several songs written into his role, the only one the producers agreed to was
“Ever Homeward,” a popular Polish folk song.
Casting presented other problems,
too. Clark Gable and Cary Grant were considered favorites for the lead male role
of Bill Dunnigan. Either heart throb would have been a much better choice than
Fred MacMurray, who eventually landed the role. Gable and Grant were more suave
and debonair than MacMurray, who is best remembered as the father-figure from
the 1960s TV sitcom, “My Three Sons.” But neither of those leading men was available
at the time of the filming.
Several actresses were also considered for the
part of “Olga,” including Ingrid Bergman, who played opposite Crosby in “The Bells
of St. Mary’s.” But she was filming her own Technicolor version of “Joan of Arc.”
Thus, Alida Valli, an Italian actress who resembled Bergman, was given the part
of Olga. Just 26 years old, Valli was already widely regarded as the “most beautiful
woman in the World” by the motion picture industry.
Perhaps the most damning
obstacle to the film’s success was the employment of three different screenwriters.
Originally, Janney was given sole responsibility for the screenplay. But producers
Lasky and MacEwen reconsidered because of the novelist’s lack of experience with
the silver screen.
Instead, Ben Hecht, one of Hollywood’s most popular screenwriters,
was hired. But Hecht only agreed to the assignment if he didn’t have to read Janney’s
novel. Insisting that reading the book would “interfere with his creative genius,”
Hecht’s resistance was probably due to laziness.
To appease Janney, Quentin
Reynolds, a good friend and editor of “Collier’s” magazine, was hired to read
the novel and report the contents to Hecht. Further complicating matters, playwright
DeWitt Bodeen was assigned to produce the screenplay for the role of Father Paul.
Miracle of the Bells” premiered in New York City on March 16, 1948. But “The Hollywood
Reporter,” one of two national rags devoted exclusively to the movies, announced
the previous October that the film was to be shown in Los Angeles in December
1947 in order to qualify for the 1947 Academy Awards.
Despite the finagling,
the movie received mixed reviews and failed to receive a single Academy Award
nomination. “New York Times” film critic Bosley Crowther attributed the failure
to the mediocre screenplay produced by three different writers who “conspicuously
overlooked several of the morally-salvaged characteristics of Janney’s novel.”
film lost approximately $500,000 at the box office; a debt that was never repaid
to the Bank of America. Instead, the Bank assumed the copyright of the film and
joined with Paramount Pictures to find a television audience to recoup their losses.
Nor did the controversy end there.
According to the American Film Institute,
Raymond Polniaszek, Glen Lyon’s sole undertaker, sued RKO for $500,000 in damages
in August 1948. Polniaszek claimed that he had been negatively caricaturized as
“Nick Orloff” in the film and that he participated in a number of real-life events
that were depicted, including the burial of a woman named Olga Trotski. The disposition
of that suit was never disclosed.
The film’s success finally arrived in the
mid-1950s, when “The Miracle of the Bells” was shown in southern California at
Christmas time for nearly a decade – a holiday tradition that was replicated by
many television stations nationwide — and scored the highest viewer numbers of
any television program.
Sadly, Glen Lyon, the bustling coal town of the 1940s,
no longer exists. Its anthracite industry is long gone and with it went some of
the most prominent structures in town, including the breaker and St. Michael’s
But thanks to Russell Janney’s novel and the re-release of the film
in 2013 by Olive Productions in DVD and Blu Ray formats, future generations have
the opportunity re-live “The Miracle of the Bells,” and discover a mining town
that, for a brief moment, captured the hearts and imaginations of moviegoers across
William Kashatus teaches history at Luzerne County Community College.
Email him at Bkashatus@luzerne.edu. The author wishes to thank Elaine Slabinski
for the inspiration for and assistance with this column.
For further reading:
Russell Janney, “The Miracle of the Bells” (1946)
Township man charged with child pornography
police arrested a man who allegedly downloaded child pornography on a computer.
Vincent Rokosz, 28, of West Main Street, Wanamie, admitted he began viewing child
pornography for personal gratification because mainstream pornography would not
"work" for him, according to arrest records.
Rokosz was arraigned
Wednesday by District Judge Thomas Malloy in Wilkes-Barre on 17 counts each of
dissemination of photos or videos of children engaged in sex acts and child pornography
plus a single count of criminal use of a communication facility. He was jailed
at the Luzerne County Correctional Facility for lack of $50,000 bail.
to a criminal complaint:
State police with the Computer Crime Task Force learned
in early December that a computer was being used to share child pornography.
tracked the computer to Rokosz's address where a search warrant was served Wednesday.
admitted to investigators he views pornography for gratification. He claimed there
was a point in time when mainstream pornography would not "work" for
him and began viewing child pornography.
Rokosz alleged he has been viewing
child pornography for about five years using certain search words. He would search
for child pornography every four or five months and delete the images or videos
from his computer.
Investigators allege they found 12 images or videos of child
pornography on Rokosz's computer.