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November 28, 2012

PORT CARBON – Two homes are destroyed when a marijuana growing operation causes a fire in Schuylkill County this morning.  A power overload in an apartment building which contained a marijuana growing operation left four people homeless this morning after a fire broke out shortly before 7.  More than 75 marijuana plants, fertilizer, an elaborate irrigation system and lighting system were removed from the second floor apartment at 233 Coal Street.  The Republican Herald reports, the fire started in 233 Coal Street and spread to 231 Coal Street.  Lamar and Katrina Staller own the house at 231 Coal Street, and live there with their 14-year old daughter Becky, and six cats. Only one cat survived the fire. 

LEWISBURG - A Union County sex offender remains behind bars even though he’s served his time.  33-year old Joshua Fetterolf of Mifflinburg has served the maximum of an 8-year prison sentence for a 1998 sexual assault, but he remains behind bars because he’s failed to find a home considered suitable by state probation officials.  Though Fetterolf has completed his prison sentence, he will remain under the watchful eye of state probation officers for the next 10 years for two unrelated charges of unlawfully restraining minor females in 1999.  The Daily Item reports, when Fetterolf is finally freed, he’ll have to find a home that is not located near where minors gather and he’ll have to undergo therapeutic polygraph examinations.

WILLIAMSPORT - A former Northumberland County man's attempt to have his death sentence vacated was denied Monday by a federal judge.  40-year old Kevin Marinelli's claims that his constitutional rights were violated during trial were found to be either meritless or procedurally deficient, according to a federal judge's order.  Marinelli, formerly of Shamokin, had sought his conviction and sentence to be overturned and that he be granted a new trial.  Marinelli was 23 when he was convicted in 1995 of first-degree murder in Northumberland County Court in the shooting death of Conrad Dumchock of Kulpmont, during a home invasion on April 26th, 1994.  The News Item reports, two co-conspirators also are serving time for the murder.  Mark Marinelli, formerly of Shamokin, testified against his brother and plead guilty to second-degree murder. Thomas Kirchoff, formerly of Coal Township, was found guilty by jury of second-degree murder. Both are serving life sentences with no chance of parole.

STATE COLLEGE — In Centre County, the nearly two-year old stalemate over a new contract for more than 600 State College area teachers could be 40 days from being settled.  Yesterday, the state’s Labor Relations Board appointed a fact-finder to enter the process at the request of the school district.  The fact-finder, Alex Kaschock, will take testimony from both sides over their disagreements, examine the dispute and issue his recommendations that could lead to a new contract for the union and district to consider.

PHILADELPHIA – Two Tioga County men are arrested as part of a huge methamphetamine ring.  Authorities at a news conference this morning in Philadelphia say more than two dozen people have been charged in a $3.5 million methamphetamine trafficking network that stretched from Mexico to Pennsylvania.  53-year old Wesley White and 52-year old Judson Route, both of Roaring Branch, were among the 27 suspects arrested.  Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly, state police and other investigators announced the arrests today.  The suspects face a variety of drug and related charges.  Officials say the ring involved a network of dealers who transported as much as a pound of drugs every two weeks into Reading and Philadelphia. The drugs were then allegedly repackaged and resold in the Philadelphia area, the Lehigh Valley and north-central Pennsylvania.

WILLIAMSPORT – A woman will spend many years behind bars for her role in the sexual abuse of a child in Lycoming County.  24-year old Samantha Mathers of Williamsport was sentenced to between 12 and 25 years in prison for her role in the sexual abuse of a three year old girl by a man she met on the internet and later married.  39-year old Richard Lafayette is jailed after accepting a plea agreement last April, which Mathers was also offered and turned down.  Lafayette is serving a 7 and a half to 15 year sentence in state prison for his actions.  The two conspired together via instant messaging to abuse the girl while Lafayette was on active duty with the Army.

HARRISBURG - The Pennsylvania Task Force on Child Protection released its 455 page report yesterday in Harrisburg calling on the legislature to rewrite much of the Child Protection Services Law.  The report calls for a redefinition of what behavior constitutes child abuse, expanding who is required to report suspected child abuse and barring schools from entering into confidentiality agreements with educators accused of abuse. House Minority Leader Frank Dermody is optimistic that changes to the law will occur in the 2013 legislative session.  The task force was formed in 2011 after the Jerry Sandusky abuse case broke.

DANVILLE -  A bid by the Geisinger Health System to acquire or partner with the Altoona Regional Health System has been rejected.  Instead the Altoona Health System says it will pursue negotiations with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.  As the nation’s largest rural health service organization, Geisinger serves residents in 44 counties of Central and Northeast Pennsylvania.

MIFFLINTOWN - The Juniata County Commissioners voted yesterday to approve the over nine million dollar 2013 budget at a public meeting in Mifflintown.  The commissioners also discussed how they will handle money they receive from the state from the Marcellus Shale fund.  The county has already received $25,000 from the fund with more to come.

SEVEN MOUNTAINS - It’s not wise to be daydreaming when operating a vehicles on the highway.  That’s what police say contributed to an accident yesterday afternoon on Route 322 in Mifflin County.  Regional Police say 32-year-old Timothy Gruver of Honolulu, Hawaii was daydreaming in the Seven Mountains area when he lost control of his car and slammed into a traffic attenuator.  Gruver was taken to the Lewistown Hospital Emergency Room for treatment of injuries.
Larry Weidman (WGRC)

WILLIAMSPORT - Good news for property owners in Loyalsock Township in Lycoming County.  If the proposed  budget is approved, supervisors will be cutting township property taxes in half.  The current rate of 1.4 mills will be reduced to .7 mills under the budget proposal. 

WILLIAMSPORT - Roger Mitchell Riera will spend 15 to 30 years in state prison as a result of his conviction of second-degree murder.  The sentencing was handed down yesterday by Lycoming County Judge Nancy Butts.  Riera was found guilty in August of fatally shooting Andrew Scott Gula on September 18, 2011 at Fourth and Market Streets in Williamsport following an argument.

HARRISBURG - The Pennsylvania Task Force on Child Protection believes that if changes that they are recommending would have been in place in the late 1990s that former Penn State football defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky could have been charged at that time.  The Task Force formed in 2011 after the Sandusky case broke released its comprehensive report yesterday calling for a cultural shift in Pennsylvania’s approach to child abuse. Among other recommendations, the task force is urging the PA legislature to expand who is required to report suspected child abuse.  Legislative leaders are hopeful that changes to the Child Protection Services Law will pass in the 2013 session.

HARRISBURG - Beginning this coming Monday, December 3rd, school districts in Pennsylvania will begin giving the first wave of Keystone Exams that replace the P-S-S-As.  The class of 2017 will need to pass three exams composed of Algebra 1, Literature and biology to graduate.  Beginning with the class of 2019 composition will be added to the tests and for the class of 2020 students will also need to pass a test in civics and government.