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December 24, 2012

STATE COLLEGE – For those of us who love the nostalgia of a white Christmas, it could easily be a white Christmas after all in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, New England, and other areas across the nation. Despite the fact that 2012 likely will finish up as the warmest year since 1950 in the United States, enough cold air is on the move to spread snow to locations that haven't seen that much over the past couple of years for Christmas. As a matter-of-fact most of Pennsylvania hasn’t seen a white Christmas in five years as 2007 was the last time snow was part of our Holiday celebration here in the mid-state. Now the most recent storm, a major blizzard, put down a swath of heavy snow from Colorado to Michigan, and is headed our way. Forecasters predict the snow to start falling later this afternoon and overnight bringing a manageable inch or so by Christmas morning. It will clear off Christmas day with sunshine and then a measurable snow or snow-sleet mix Wednesday into Thursday. Friday looks partly sunny with more snow on the way Saturday. The high temperatures throughout the period will hover around or below freezing so the snow we get will likely stick around for a while.
Jim Diehl (WGRC)

BLACK FOREST - A single-engine airplane carrying one man crashed in a wooded area just 250 yards from Route 44, near the Black Forest Inn, Sunday afternoon in Lycoming County. Emergency crews from several area volunteer fire departments were dispatched just before 2 p.m. to the snowy crash scene, not far from several homes. Two boys were the first ones to notice something was wrong and were credited with notifying neighbors to call 911. Firefighters had to push the plane upright and cut the top frame off to reach the victim. The man piloting the plane was flown to hospital for injuries that were reported to be non-life threatening. Parts from the plane were scattered in the forest, along with Christmas presents the man was transporting. The plane left from the Waukesha County Airport in Wisconsin just before nine Sunday morning making two stops one in Ohio and one in Lawrenece County before the crash happened. The plane was destined for the privately owned Kingston-Ulster Airport in Kingston, New York. Officials from the National Transportation Safety Board and FAA are expected to interview witnesses and investigate the scene today.
(WGRC)

EAST WATERFORD – Police in Juniata County are investigating a pedestrian crash that severely injured a five-year-old boy on Friday. That happened just after seven a.m. on Route 35 in Lack Township. Police say the boy was getting on board a school bus when he was hit by a car driven by 20-year-old Kayla Leach of East Waterford. The boy was flown from the scene to Hershey Medical Center. Leach is being charged with not stopping for a school bus.
Jim Diehl (WGRC)

BELLEFOTNE - A 19-year-old Bellefonte man was seriously injured in a winter weather-related accident early Saturday in Union Township. State police say Shane McMinn was traveling west on Dix Run Road just after nine a.m. when he lost control of his car on an ice patch. His vehicle left the roadway and struck a tree. McMinn suffered what police called major injuries in the crash.
(WGRC)

MONTGOMERY - Just two days before Christmas, Ronald Crawford lost everything he owned when an early morning fire Sunday destroyed his home on Pinchtown Road near Montgomery in Lycoming County. Crawford was awakened by the fire and managed to escape his first-floor bedroom unharmed just after three a.m. Three volunteer firefighters suffered minor injuries in the blaze, which has been ruled accidental. Flames were shooting from windows of the home when crews arrived. The fire which started in an upstairs bedroom spread causing an estimated $140,000. Fire officials say, Crawford, is staying with relatives and has fire insurance.
(WGRC)

WILLIAMSPORT - Williamsport fire investigators are trying to determine the cause of a fire that broke out late Friday afternoon in a second-floor classroom at the Williamsport Area High School. A member of the maintenance department discovered the fire just before five p.m. The damage was contained to a small area of cabinetry along a classroom wall as crews spent about two-and-a-half hours on the scene. Minor damage from a broken water pipe also occurred in two rooms directly below the site of the fire. There were no injuries. Clean-up work is taking place through the holiday break. Classes will resume as scheduled on January 2nd .
Jim Diehl (WGRC)

BLOOMSBURG – Two men used a ladder to rescue a woman trapped on the second floor of her burning apartment building Friday afternoon in Bloomsburg. The blaze erupted just before 2:30 p.m. in the rear second-floor apartment at 250 West Street, owned by Bob and Sherry Aungst. Another tenant, 24-year-old Jonathan Moore, says he was packing up to move back to Maryland after recently graduating from Bloomsburg University, and he put some boxes on an electric stove. Fire officials said the stove was not in use, but somehow turned on and ignited the boxes. Flames quickly spread and fire was shooting from several windows when crews arrived. The fire has been labeled accidental. Seven people in four apartments were displaced and are being helped by the American Red Cross, and AGAPE.  
(WGRC)

SAINT CLAIR - Shoppers going to the Walmart store Sunday morning in Schuylkill County were met by an unusual site, state police emergency drug team processing a vehicle that had a mobile methamphetamine lab inside. Saint Clair Police discovered the lab while investigating a hit and run crash on the parking lot around 5 a.m. Police arrested 39-year-old Felix Ferrer Jr., of Reading, was taken into custody sleeping inside the van that was struck by the hit and run driver. Ferrer was committed to Schuylkill County Prison on a detainer for multiple bench warrants from Berks County on drug related charges. He will now face felony drug charges by Saint Clair Police as well as the Schuylkill County Drug Task Force.
(WGRC)

MIFFLINTOWN – Police are looking for the vandals that tore up two school lawns in Juniata County. That happened sometime late Friday night or early Saturday at the Walker Township Elementary School in Mifflintown and the Juniata High School in Fermanagh Township. Police say someone drove a vehicle onto parts of the lawn of the elementary school, tearing up the lawn, creating ruts and throwing grass and mud onto the school. The lawn of the high school was damaged as well as the ball fields where police say the vehicle did doughnuts on the fields causing ruts and damage. Anyone with information is asked to call state police, Lewistown.
Jim Diehl (WGRC)

BELLEFONTE - The girlfriend of a man in prison for murder was sentenced Friday to nine to 19 years in a state prison for her role in the drug-related killing, Fatima Ghoul pleaded guilty in October to multiple felonies including conspiring to commit robbery with Tyler Marlatt, delivery of marijuana, possession with intent to deliver marijuana and terroristic threats. The pair tracked down Tyler Struble, after he didn’t pay Ghoul in a marijuana deal, and tried to rob him of the drugs and his money. During a struggle, Marlatt stabbed Struble in the neck, and the 20-year-old died from his injuries. Marlatt is serving a life sentence for the killing.
(WGRC)

WILLIAMSPORT - One of two inmates accused of a 2005 murder in the Allenwood Federal Penitentiary will escape a possible death penalty if his guilty plea to first-degree murder is accepted. 42-year-old Shawn Cooya, has signed a plea agreement filed Friday in U.S. Middle District Court that calls for a life sentence and a waiver of appeal rights. Cooya and Ritz Williams, both Native Americans from Arizona, were charged with repeatedly stabbing Alvin Allery, another Native American, with a homemade knife in September 2005. The two were indicted in 2008 with the government announcing it would seek the death penalty if they were convicted. Plea agreements for both were filed this summer but the prosecution could not sign them because Justice Department officials in Washington denied a request to drop the death penalty. A guilty plea hearing for Cooya has been scheduled January 8th in Harrisburg. The government has yet to sign off on a plea agreement for Williams. Cooya is detained without bail on the murder charge since the firearms sentence he was serving at the time of the murder expired. Williams is serving a 15-year term imposed in 2002 on charges related to another death.
(WGRC)

MIDDLEBURG – State Police are looking for the bandit that broke into a church in Snyder County. The break-in happened sometime between nine Friday night and seven Saturday evening at the First United Church of Christ located along Route 522 in Middleburg. Police say the bandit broke through a basement window to get inside. Once inside the thief took cash from a children’s Sunday school fund and then broke into the church office and stole church documents from a safe. Anyone with information is asked to call state police, Selinsgrove.
Jim Diehl (WGRC)

DANVILLE – State Police are looking for four people who vandalized and stole from a Christmas tree business in Montour County. That happened overnight Friday at Kohl’s Stony Hill Tree Farm on Mexico Road in Liberty Township. The four bandits forcefully entered the property and tried to break into a safe but when they couldn’t they instead stole two jars full of donations for the Children’s Miracle Network, two power drills and batteries, three digital cameras, a stuffed deer fawn and several pieces of surveillance equipment. Police say the perpetrators were caught on surveillance and police are trying to identify the suspects. Anyone with information is asked to call state police, Milton.
Jim Diehl (WGRC)

MONTANDON – Police in Northumberland County are investigating a burglary that netted thieves around $1,000 in goods from a business. The break-in happened overnight Friday at Mindy’s Tavern located along Route 405 in West Chillisquaque Township. Police say the bandits tried to pry open a rear door but instead entered through a rear window of the establishment and then stole money from a jukebox, a television, and numerous bottles of alcohol.
Jim Diehl (WGRC)

PAXINOS – Several cast iron claw foot tubs, cast iron sinks, over a dozen cast iron house radiators and other cast iron fixtures were stolen from a home and barn along Mulberry Road in Northumberland County’s Shamokin Township. Police say that happened sometime between December 15th and Saturday at the property owned by Kevin Apollo of Pottstown. Police say the total value of the property stolen is over $1,100.
Jim Diehl (WGRC)

BLOOMSBURG - A bank employee caught stealing cash out of his drawer during an audit was allowed to enter Columbia County’s ARD probation program as a first offender. The Press Enterprise reports,  22-year-old Joshua Harris, of Slatington and formerly of Bloomsburg, was charged with theft after $3,000 was discovered missing from a drawer at PNC Bank in Bloomsburg in April 2011. Harris must remain on probation for a year and stay out of trouble or he could be prosecuted again on the original charges. He must also do community service and pay $30 monthly supervision fees.
(WGRC)

SUNBURY - A Sunbury man is in jail after he allegedly stole checks from his employer and forged the business owner’s name to cash several of them. State Police in Milton say 21-year old Cody Lee Chestnut wrote checks out to himself and forged his aunt’s signature, who owns the Turbotville business where he worked. Reports say Chestnut was successful in cashing several of the checks, but the bank questioned their validity and contacted the business owner. The thefts happened between November 8 and December 6th. Chestnut is jailed in the Lycoming County Jail on $50,000 and is facing 7 counts of forgery, theft by deception and other charges.
(WGRC)

BELLEFONTE - A State College dentist has pleaded no contest to charges he made more than $52,000 in false insurance claims between June 2006 and February 2011. 54-year-old Jamshid Assadinia, of State College, faces one count of insurance fraud and one count of theft by deception, which are both third-degree felonies. Assadinia is scheduled for sentencing in April. Assadinia was arrested earlier this year after an investigation by the FBI and the state Attorney General’s Office. The case is being prosecuted by the attorney general’s Insurance Fraud Section. Prosecutors have accused Assadinia of submitting the false insurance claims to six difference insurance companies for 100 procedures he did not do. Authorities said Assadinia billed the insurance companies under the names of several patients.
(WGRC)

HARRISBURG - Scott Binsack must spend six months in jail and undergo mental health treatment after the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole determined the Shamokin man violated parole. In a ruling announced Friday, the Parole Board also said Binsack must report to a community corrections residency for an undetermined amount of time after he completes his "six months back time" on or after May 5. The parole board held a violation hearing with Binsack December 13 at the State Prison, Rockview, where Binsack is already jailed after being accused of violating parole. The board's two-page decision last week said Binsack committed three parole violations: leaving the district without permission, changing residence without permission and failing to report as instructed. Binsack, a former homebuilder, became a household name in the Shamokin area in a matter of months starting in August when he presented a $13 million investment plan to city council. When his criminal history dating to 1999 from New York State and Lackawanna and Monroe counties became public, his involvement in the financial undertaking, which centered on renovation and construction of local homes and businesses, drew the attention of Pennsylvania securities officials. Binsack is limited in what financial dealings he can partake in as part of his parole from theft and bad check charges in Monroe County. Binsack also taunted police and U.S. Marshals through the internet as he hid out in Bath, New York.
(WGRC)

STATE COLLEGE - Penn State says settlement talks with lawyers for young men who were molested by Jerry Sandusky will resume next month. The university posted an update on the talks Friday afternoon. President Rodney Erickson says Penn State is “pleased with the progress so far.” Penn State has said it wants to settle privately and avoid protracted litigation. The university is represented by Kenneth Feinberg, who ran victim compensation funds for victims of the September 11 attacks, the Virginia Tech massacre and the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Sandusky was sentenced to at least 30 years in prison following his conviction on charges that he molested 10 boys over 15 years. The former Penn State assistant football coach has maintained his innocence.
(WGRC)

BLOOMSBURG — Columbia County property-tax bills for 2013 will jump about 6 percent higher than previously projected, and officials blame what they call inadequate state funding for Children and Youth services. Commissioners also blame the area’s drug problem, as taxpayers are getting stuck paying to care for children of addicts. Commissioners had approved a nearly 18 percent tax hike last month to fund a $22 million budget. But when projections for state Children and Youth funding became more bleak, commissioners said they increased the hike to nearly 24 percent rather than risk being unable to pay bills. So, instead of seeing about a $40 hike in 2013, the owner of a $100,000 home will see his bill increase by $53 to $277. The increase will bring the county an additional $827,000, which will be spent almost entirely on overdue bills from firms that treat and place children from troubled homes. About 20 percent — or $4.4 million — of the county’s projected $22 million budget is earmarked for Children and Youth.
(WGRC)

POTTSVILLE - Through three weeks of negotiations, the City of Pottsville and union officials have come up with a plan to save four of the five jobs slated to be cut in the proposed 2013 budget. Mayor John D.W. Reiley says, only one full-time police officer will be laid off. The Mayor also says the City has no plans to raise taxes in 2013. The proposed changes will be approved when City Council gives final approval to the 2013 budget at 4:30 p.m. Thursday in the council chambers on the second floor of City Hall.
(WGRC)

LEWISTOWN - The decision to merge Lewistown Hospital with Geisinger Health System was largely influenced by the currently evolving health care reform regulations, known as Obamacare. Lewiston Hospital CEO, Kay Hamilton, says without the assistance of investment capital and the larger network of providers that Geisinger has, Lewistown Hospital might not have survived the coming health care changes. Since the Accountable Care Act took effect in October 2011, Lewistown Hospital has lost $987,000 due to reductions in the Medicare base rate, reductions in base rate increases, productivity adjustments, value-based purchasing, readmission regulations and audit reviews. The hospital is expecting to lose an additional $862,000 in Fiscal Year 2013 and $1.1 million in fiscal year 2014.
(WGRC)

LEWISTOWN – Two ladies recently donated toys and stuffed animals to the pediatric department at Lewistown Hospital to make some children’s holiday a little brighter. Jennifer Wagner and Lisa Hebert collected the gifts through the “Gifts from Angels” group. The “Gifts from Angels” was started this year by the Wagner family with an idea from Peg Thomas, Jennifer’s mother-in-law, in loving memory of their daughter who passed away earlier this year, Cathrynne Wagner who was 2 ½ years old. If anyone wishes to make donations to the “Gifts from Angels” project, you may contact Jennifer Wagner by finding more information on their Facebook page, “Gifts from Angels.”
(WGRC)

WILLIAMSPORT - Ice skating and hockey will remain at Bowman Field for at least the next 30 days. A preliminary injunction hearing in Lycoming County Court was scheduled Friday morning before Judge Richard Gray that sought to prevent the Naples, Maine, company that provided and installed the ice rink from repossessing its equipment for alleged nonpayment. The nonprofit group Williamsport Ice Arena, which manages daily operations at the rink, asked the judge to stop Rink Specialists from shutting down the ice chiller and related equipment. Benn Breton, company president, said last month that the nonprofit group is holding back almost $48,000 for services provided and expects another almost $150,000 on top of that. Attorneys representing both sides concluded that Rink Specialists did violate certain terms of its contract with the nonprofit group. Specifically, the contract states that disputes are to be brought before an arbitrator and that 30 days notice should be given, which apparently did not happen. Also the nonprofit group asserts that it was given equipment that was in poor condition, including an ice resurfacer, skates and the rink assembly itself. By allowing the rink to remain in operation, public skating, community hockey leagues, Williamsport Outlaws professional hockey games and the Federal Hockey League's January 2nd all-star game are likely assured to continue until January 20, 2013.
(WGRC)

SUNBURY – Sunbury Revitalization Incorporated will be hosting a New Year’s Eve party next Monday in the city. The first part of the evening is for the kids as from 6 to 8 in Cameron Park, there will be a magician, a puppet show, carriage rides, hot chocolate and cookies. Then, there is an event for the older kids too starting at 9, there is a free all-night skate at the Sunbury Ice Skating Rink. Kids ages 12 to 18 can be dropped off at 9 p.m. and then picked up by 6:00 a.m. And for the adults, there will be plenty to do at Fourth and Market Streets at 9:30 p.m. There will be musical entertainment outside and there will be a countdown to midnight with the dropping of Thomas Edison’s light bulb. There are also vendors set up for the night. If there is a good turnout, organizers hope to make this an annual tradition.
(WGRC)

POTTSVILLE - Pottsville auto dealer Bob Weaver says he's expanding his GM service center with a $2.1-million addition and renovation project. His dealership takes up an entire block on the city's west side. It includes the Bob Weaver Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram at the former Pope Motor Company building at 2100 West Market Street, and the Bob Weaver GM Superstore at 2174 West Market Street. Weaver says it took 10 different real estate purchases over 28 years to put it all together. Today, we have about 80 employees. Weaver's plan is to upgrade the GM Superstore, a 15,000-square-foot property, by adding another 15,000 square feet to it. The dealership will double and they plan to add a state-of-the-art service facility. According to the building permit the building project will cost just over $1 million and the contractor is L&K Construction, Pottsville. The new addition is expected to be built by March 1, and that week, renovation of the original 15,000-square-foot wing will begin. In April, Weaver will celebrate his 29th year in business. He credited the success of his business to his faith. Weaver says, "We've been blessed by God. For whatever reason, God has chosen to bless us here and it's an amazing thing. The year of General Motors bankruptcy, which was in 2009, was our most profitable year ever, and that makes no sense because sales were down 40 percent at our dealership and nationally. It was our most profitable year ever to that point. Since then, our most profitable year has been 2011."
(WGRC)

SPRING MILLS – A Spring Mills family is on their way with their seven prized Percheron draft horses to Pasadena, California. The Gerald and Melissa Allebach and their family and horses are headed to California to take part in the 124th Rose Parade on January 1st. Down Colorado Boulevard they’ll drive a 6-horse hitch during a celebrated part of the historic Pasadena Tournament of Roses, a festival of flowers, music and football. The Rose Bowl began in 1902 as a way to pay for the parade. Greg Allebach grew up milking cows on their farm back when it was a dairy operation. Never while watching the parade on TV every year did he imagine himself in it one day, leading a team of horses pulling a wagon decorated with more than 40 dozen yellow roses.
(WGRC)

WASHINGTON — The nation's largest gun-rights lobby called today for armed police officers to be posted in every American school to stop the next killer. The Associated Press reports, the National Rifle Association broke its silence on the Sandy Hook shooting rampage. The group's top lobbyist, Wayne LaPierre said Friday, "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun." He blamed video games, movies and music videos for exposing children to a violent culture day in and day out. He refused to take any questions after speaking at the new conference in Washington D.C. Though security was tight, two protesters were able to interrupt LaPierre's speech, holding up signs that blamed the NRA for killing children. Both were escorted out, shouting that guns in schools are not the answer. Since the slayings, President Barack Obama has demanded "real action, right now" against U.S. gun violence and called on the NRA to join the effort. Moving quickly after several congressional gun-rights supporters said they would consider new legislation to control firearms, the president said this week he wants proposals to reduce gun violence that he can take to Congress by January. Obama has already asked Congress to reinstate an assault weapons ban that expired in 2004 and pass legislation that would stop people from purchasing firearms from private sellers without a background check. Obama also has indicated he wants Congress to pursue the possibility of limiting high-capacity magazines.
(WGRC)

HARRISBURG - Pennsylvania is reporting the biggest monthly drop in joblessness in nearly 30 years, although a separate survey of employers in November showed only a slight increase in payrolls. The state Department of Labor and Industry says the unemployment rate dropped to 7.8 percent from 8.1 percent, the largest drop since 1983. The national unemployment rate is 7.7 percent. A separate survey of Pennsylvania households found that the number of unemployed dropped by 16,000. Employment rose by 22,000 and the number of people working or seeking work grew by 6,000. Pennsylvania's jobless rate hit a recessionary peak of 8.7 percent in 2010.
(WGRC)