The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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January 30, 2012

Morning briefing: Jury selection to begin in love triangle slaying

WEST CHESTER – A southeastern Pennsylvania woman who allegedly instigated the fatal beating of her husband is set to go on trial this week.

Jury selection is scheduled to begin today in the murder trial of 36-year-old Morgan Mengel. Authorities say she persuaded her boyfriend to kill her husband then dispose of his body near a suburban Philadelphia high school.

Twenty-two-year-old Stephen Shappell has already pleaded guilty in Kevin Mengel’s death. He is expected to testify for the prosecution.

Investigators say Morgan Mengel poisoned her husband then had Shappell beat him to death with a shovel in June 2010.

Police say Morgan Mengel updated her husband’s Facebook status and sent text messages from his phone after his death to make it seem as though he fled his family.


Ex-firefighter’s suit over suicide heads to trial

ERIE – A wrongful termination suit brought by a former northwestern Pennsylvania firefighter who tried to kill herself in a fire is set to go to trial.

Jury selection is scheduled for today in Mary Wolski’s federal suit against the city of Erie.

Former Wolski sued the city in 2008, claiming she was wrongly fired following a 2006 suicide attempt. She’s seeking reinstatement and back pay.

Wolski has acknowledged setting the fire in hopes the smoke would kill her, but says she was battling severe depression. She claims the firing violates the Americans with Disabilities Act.

City officials Wolski was fired for willful misconduct related to the fire, not her depression.

The Erie Times-News ( reports Wolski was the first female firefighter in the city’s history.

Authorities ID Md. pilot in Pa. plane crash

YORK – Authorities are trying to determine what caused a small plane crash that killed a Maryland man not far from a central Pennsylvania airport.

The York County coroner’s office identified the pilot killed in Sunday afternoon’s crash as 56-year-old Douglas Helms of Westminster, Md. Deputy Coroner Onalee Gilbert says Helms had led an airport in Frederick, Md. around 11 a.m. and crashed less than two hours later.

Helms’ single-engine Piper PA-28 crashed in a Jackson Township cornfield about a mile short of the runway at York Airport. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating.

It was the second fatal crash near the airport in a little more than a month. A California man died when his plane crashed nearby following a cross-country flight on Dec. 22.


2 arrested at Occupy Philadelphia rally

PHILADELPHIA – Police took two people into custody after Occupy Philadelphia protesters knocked down a fence at the City Hall construction area the group had camped at before being evicted in November.

A couple hundred people gathered for the protest Sunday night to show solidarity with protesters in Oakland, where more than 400 were arrested after clashes with police.

Occupy Philadelphia had set up an encampment at Dilworth Plaza in October but was kicked out in an early morning eviction Nov. 30. The city booted the protesters from the plaza to make way for a $50 million renovation project that’s scheduled to break ground today.


Ex-county officials set for corruption sentencing

SCRANTON – Two former county commissioners from northeastern Pennsylvania will soon learn how long they’ll spend in prison for their convictions on public corruption charges.

Former Lackwanna County Commissioners Robert Cordaro and A.J. Munchak are due in court today. Prosecutors are seeking more than a decade in prison for each man.

Cordaro was convicted on 18 counts and Munchak eight in June. Authorities say they took bribes from companies seeking county business and extorted companies that held lucrative government contracts.

A federal judge has already denied requests from both men for new trials.


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