Funding announced for ATV facility in Newport
The Wolf Administration announced new grant funding totaling $647,300
that will support more than 157 new miles of all-terrain vehicle (ATV)
trails, increasing opportunities for outdoor recreation at five sites
in the commonwealth.
In Luzerne County, the Earth Conservancy received $62,000 to prepare
a feasibility study for an ATV facility in Newport Township.
“These investments will support new miles of ATV trails for residents
and visitors to enjoy, boosting the economic impact on nearby communities,”
said Cindy Adams Dunn, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
Secretary. “The funds are generated when ATVs are registered, and
are then put back into increasing opportunities for this outdoor recreation.”
DCNR’s ATV grant program can help to buy land; develop plans and surveys;
construct and maintain ATV trails; buy equipment; and conduct educational
programs relating to ATV use.
With a few limited exceptions, all ATVs in Pennsylvania must have
a registration issued by DCNR. Pennsylvania has around 285,000 registered
ATVs. The grants are administered by DCNR with funding provided from
Police: Man assaulted, strangled woman
Michael P. Buffer - Citizens Voice
A Memphis man is facing charges he assaulted and strangled a Newport
Twp. woman and illegally possessed a firearm, according to an arrest
affidavit filed by state police Thursday.
The man, Ulandus Xavier Mayes, 30, had an arraignment Thursday,
and District Judge Donald Whittaker set bail at $100,000 cash. The
alleged victim, Lanish Knight-Soules, was letting Mayes stay with
her after he arrived Tuesday on a bus from Memphis, police said.
Mayes is a convicted felon from Georgia and Tennessee and had a
prior conviction for distribution of marijuana, police said.
Constable charged with molesting young
James Halpin - Citizens Voice
A state constable has been charged with raping a young girl for
years beginning when she was 5.
Ronald Ebert Jr., 52, of 52 Newport St., is accused of bribing and
pressuring the girl to perform oral sex on him while he was supposed
to be watching her.
According to the complaint, the victim, now 22, went to police in
March to report Ebert had molested her from the age of 5 until after
she turned 11.
It began when Ebert, who was staying at her home with her parents,
was lying on a couch and the girl touched his penis, the charges
After that, Ebert brought the girl into a bathroom and directed
her to perform oral sex on him, the complaint alleges.
The encounters continued happening several times a week, with Ebert
convincing the girl what was happening was normal, according to
police. Ebert would also give her money and use guilt to get her
to comply, warning he would “get a new girlfriend to do it,” if
she wouldn’t, the complaint alleges.
After the girl turned 11, Ebert tried to have intercourse with the
girl but she stopped him because it hurt too badly, police said.
That was the last sexual encounter between the two, the girl told
Investigators say they verified that Ebert used to live in the home
and that the girl’s siblings recalled her and Ebert disappearing
together while he was watching the children.
Police charged Ebert with rape of a child, aggravated indecent assault,
indecent assault, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and corruption
of a minor.
Magisterial District Judge David A. Barilla arraigned Ebert on the
charges Wednesday afternoon and ordered him jailed at the Luzerne
County Correctional Facility with bail set at $50,000.
A preliminary hearing was set for Nov. 27.
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 Correctional Facility.
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, she said.
Casey only stopped when her children demanded he stop, arrest papers
After Casey fled, the woman noticed all four tires on her car were
The woman called police to report the incident around 7:06 a.m.,
but denied medical attention, police said.
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 front door.
The woman said she hid in a closet, but Casey found her and dragged
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 said.
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 said they apprehended Casey upon arrival at his home in Nanticoke.
Yudichak: SCI-Retreat closing gives Luzerne
County an economic 'death penalty'
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
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 John Wetzel.
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.
Citing budget 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.
The hearing began with DOC officials reading a statement from Wolf.
I do not take the decision to close a prison lightly,
Wolf vowed 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.
No 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.
Newport 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.
We are not looking for a handout from Harrisburg. We are looking
for a helping hand. Please do not close this facility, Wanchisen
Bernadette Mason, the superintendent of SCI-Retreat, asked DOC officials
and the governor to reconsider the decision.
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.
Since 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 said.
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 eliminated.
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
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
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.
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.
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 of December.
This isnt just an exercise, Wetzel said. This
is a difficult decision. We are going to take all due caution.
Support for SCI-Retreat overflows at hearing
Gathering 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 prison open.
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.
Thursdays 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 way possible.
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
He 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
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.
It 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,
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.
So 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.
Before 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.
Live up to the spirit of Act 133 and keep SCI-Retreat open,
Leo Kaskel, 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.
(Closing 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 theyll survive.
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.
Earth Conservancy president will retire early
After 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.
Dziak, 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.
He 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, Dziak said.
Ostrowski has worked at Borton-Lawson in Wilkes-Barre since 1998
and has provided engineering and planning expertise on several Earth
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
Dziak 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.
NorthPoint Development 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
Dziak said since the $90 million South Valley Parkway project is
finally getting done, it has sparked economic development on all
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.
Mike Dziak retiring as Earth Conservancy
Mike Dziak is retiring as president/CEO of Earth Conservancy after
25 years and will be replaced by Terence J. Ostrowski, the nonprofit
The 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.
Its 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.
The 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 coal mining.
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.
|This dedication has made a profound impact on our region,
and hes made an indelible mark on those he has worked with,
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.
Dziak 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.
Earth 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.
Dziak said Thursday a developer has expressed interest in 130 acres
of the first 200-acre section that Earth Conservancy is working
Hearing on SCI-Retreat
closure expected to draw large crowd
Bob 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 prison.
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 uncertain future.
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 people.
SCI-Retreat employs about 400 people and local lawmakers say the
loss of that many family-sustaining jobs will devastate the local
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 talk before.
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.
Now, its the lone target.
While some lawmakers have signaled that the Wolf administration
has already finalized its decision, the union plans to keep fighting.
We 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
Blackwell said the shrinking population is the result of more lenient
parole standards that are letting inmates out from their sentences
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
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.
Theres people 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
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
The 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
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 Towers.
“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
“The Walk of Honor started as a tribute to Michael Carlo,” Leary
Leary 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.
“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 Lake Wallenpaupack.
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.”
Valley With a Heart rallies riders for
Marcella Kester - Times Leader
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
This year’s benefit included poster children Alexandre Bain — Evans’
son — and Jayla Green, and was held in memory of longtime volunteer
Despite completing 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.
She 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
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.
“Nobody 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.”
Taking 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
To learn more about Valley With a Heart, visit http://www.valleywithaheart.com/.
Official 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 at Retreat.
He’s fighting for his township and for his job.
Czapracki has 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.
The economic 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 in Pennsylvania.
“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.
Czapracki noted that SCI-Retreat, in recent years, upgraded its
natural gas system, installed new piping and enhanced its alarm
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.
This 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.
Fellow Newport Twp. Commissioner Mike Roke also vowed to fight the
“Certainly 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?” Roke said.
Police arrest man following Newport Twp.
Authorities have arrested a man in connection with Tuesday morning’s
crash on Alden Mountain Road that partially severed a teenage girl’s
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.
After 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.
Fire 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:
While 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.
An update on her condition was not immediately available Tuesday
Investigators 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
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.
Burgos was arraigned Tuesday evening by Magisterial District Judge
Donald Whittaker in Nanticoke.
Whittaker denied Burgos bail and ordered him jailed in the Luzerne
County Correctional Facility.
A preliminary hearing is slated for Sept. 4 at 11 a.m. in Luzerne
County Central Court.
Woman sentenced to jail in fatal hit-and-run
Lisa Marie 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.
Filip’s father, Dwayne Taggart, 49, of Hanover Twp., said the family
believes Yurkin is remorseful and is glad to have some measure of
“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
In June, she pleaded guilty to a felony count of vehicular homicide.
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 Hospital.
Yurkin was remanded to the county jail to serve her sentence.
Newport Twp. woman gets prison time over
Sans Souci death
It’s 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.
Yurkin 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.
Yurkin fled 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 Correctional Facility.
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 after midnight.
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 hearing.
Glen Lyon man sentenced to years in state prison on child sex charges
A 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
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 to Pennsylvania.
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
Vough ordered 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
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
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
He was remanded to the Luzerne County Correctional Facility to await
assignment to a state prison
Officials cracking down on code violations
in Glen Lyon
An 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.
The couple will be cited $50 for each vehicle under the township’s
Quality of Life Ordinance, he said.
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
Most 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.
“That’s not 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 their properties.
“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.”
Hillan 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
Police 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.
Hillan 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.
Man who sliced own face after argument
with girlfriend pleads guilty to assault charge
A 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.
Patrick 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.
Kulina was arrested in May after an altercation at the couple’s
Old Newport Street apartment.
Kulina’s 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 by security.
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.
She allegedly fought back, punching him in the face causing a laceration
near his eye as he strangled her.
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.
Kulina claimed 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.
After Kulina pleaded guilty Thursday, Vough immediately sentenced
to spend a year on probation.
He was ordered to have no adverse contact with either the victim
or any of the witnesses. He also must maintain full-time employment.
Developer plans hardware store in Newport
Twp.’s Wanamie section
Luzerne 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.
Cragle, 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
Cragle 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 advice.
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
Glen Lyon teen charged in robbery
David Singleton - Citizens Voice
A 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.
Joshua 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.
Wrongful death suit filed against Kingston
The 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
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.
On 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 wrote.
The complaint alleges ManorCare failed to take appropriate action
to prevent and treat Ricketts’ pressure sores. The estate is seeking
Glen Lyon woman charged with threatening
to blow up county building
A 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 Avenue.
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 records.
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.
According 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.
Steve told 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.
After being 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 complaint says.
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.
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.
The 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 incomplete.
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
Reclaiming the 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, he said.
We wont know that for a long time, Dziak said.
The $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.
EPA 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.
Police: Man cut face in scheme to implicate
James Halpin - Citizens Voice
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.
At 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,
Kulina 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.
Confronted 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.
Police 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.
Kulina was being held at the Luzerne County Correctional Facility
with a preliminary hearing set for June 5.
Bureau of Forestry probes wildfires around
Staff Report - Citizens Voice
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:
Several wildfires were set the evening of April 3 in Newport Twp.
and Hanover Twp. outside of Nanticoke.
At 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 danger.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Anonymous tips also
will be accepted but do not qualify for the reward.
Newport Twp. man charged with cruelty to
Eric Mark - Citizens Voice
A Newport Twp. man failed to provide veterinary care for his injured
pit bull after it was attacked by another dog last month, authorities
Burton Steltz, 52, is charged with aggravated cruelty to animals,
cruelty to animals and neglect of animals in connection with the
According to an affidavit filed by a humane society police officer
for the SPCA of Luzerne County:
An officer 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.
Steltz 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
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 May 15.
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
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.
“I haven’t been able to find a job,” Kazmierski replied.
“How do you support yourself?” Vough asked.
DeLuca said Kazmierski resides with his parents.
Vough sentenced 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
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.
Glen Lyon’s enduring miracle
By William C. Kashatus, Citizens' Voice correspondent / Published:
December 14, 2014
Newport 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 soon.
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.
“Miracle 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 scene.
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.
To create 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
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.
In 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.
Ultimately, 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.
Film location 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
“The 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.”
The 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
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
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 Church.
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 the nation.
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”
Newport Township man charged with child pornography
State police arrested a man who allegedly downloaded child pornography
on a computer.
Michael 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.
According 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.
Investigators tracked the computer to Rokosz's address where a search
warrant was served Wednesday.
Rokosz 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
Investigators allege they found 12 images or videos of child pornography
on Rokosz's computer.