The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

December 6, 2012

Midday briefing: Thief steals presents for the needy

News from around the state

Arlene Johns
Associated Press

UNIONTOWN — You're a mean one, Mr. Grinch.

State police are searching for whoever stole about 20 presents earmarked for needy children from a Fayette County church.

Pastor Ewing Marietta's church has a "tree of angels" listing the gender and ages of poorer children, for whom members of his Liberty Baptist Church buy presents. They were to be given out at a church celebration on Dec. 23.

Marietta says the woman who runs the program noticed they were gone when she returned Tuesday from several sick days. After checking to ensure the presents hadn't been moved or stored elsewhere, church officials called police Wednesday.

The North Union Township Church, about 35 miles south of Pittsburgh, is hoping to raise money to replace the presents with a Friday auction and a Gospel concert Saturday.

Ex-Pittsburgh employee to plead in computer scam

PITTSBURGH — A systems analyst who no longer works for the City of Pittsburgh is scheduled to plead guilty to helping a man fraudulently obtain a $327,000 contract to install radios and computers in Pittsburgh police cars.

Federal court records show Christine Ann Kebr is scheduled to plead guilty Thursday before a federal judge.

She's charged with conspiring with 63-year-old Arthur Bedway Jr., of Robinson Township, and an unnamed woman who pretended to be the owner of his Alpha Outfitters business,, which got the set-aside contract because the city believed the company was female-owned.

Kebr is charged with taking a $3,000 bribe to help prepare the fraudulent bid.

Bedway is still awaiting trial, but his attorney contends that Bedway's contract was a "bargain" for the city and nobody was harmed by the deal.

DEP recants on source of ink-stained creek

CONNELLSVILLE — The state Department of Environmental Protection is now saying it can't conclusively prove that ink from an envelope printing plant turned a Fayettee County creek a deep blue early last month.

DEP officials on Monday said that a contractor had improperly disposed of the ink, and that investigators followed a trail of ink on the highway from the contractor's house on the creek in Connellsville Township to an envelope printing plant. As a result, the DEP said then it had cited the envelope firm.

But spokesman John Poister now tells the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that was incorrect and that the contractor, but not the envelope company, has been cited.

The envelope firm is cooperating, but Poister says the focus is the contractor who the DEP believes has been illegally storing other materials on his property.

Information from: Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Group to 'park' nativity in front of Pa. building

ELLWOOD CITY — A Moose lodge plans to park a trailer loaded with a nativity scene in front of a municipal building in a western Pennsylvania town that had been threatened with a lawsuit over its creche display in front of the building.

Officials in Ellwood City did away with their display — a 50-year tradition — after the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation threatened to sue. A local attorney paid for a new creche and set it up outside a former church he owns.

But local Moose members plan to park their trailer-borne nativity in front of the borough building by 5 p.m. Thursday and take donations for Mooseheart, an Illinois school run by the fraternal organization.

Borough officials tell the Beaver County Times they won't disrupt the Moose display if it doesn't violate parking or other laws.

Information from: Beaver County Times

County probing Pitt medical center's tax exemption

PITTSBURGH — Allegheny County Council has begun scrutinizing the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center's tax-exempt status, beginning with a raucous public hearing at which a UPMC attorney tried to defend the hospital network against critics.

Some critics and council members said Wednesday that UPMC operates too much like a for-profit business and should pay $95 million in property taxes that it avoids because of its charitable status.

But UPMC attorney W. Thomas McGough Jr. says the hospital network earns the exemption by offering more than $200 million in free or reduced-cost health care each year. He says the government would have to provide those services if UPMC did not.

But some critics noted UPMC president Jeffrey Romoff earns $6 million and 22 other executives receive more than $1 million annually.

Former school director faces federal teen sex case

SCRANTON — A former school board member now faces federal charges for allegedly grooming five boys for sexual contact and authorities suspect there are still more victims.

Former Scranton school director Mark Kandel is being detained pending trial after being indicted Tuesday on five counts of online enticement. The 52-year-old Kandel, of Blakely, pleaded not guilty at an arraignment Wednesday.

Investigators say Kandel bought his victims presents or provided them with alcohol in return for massages, pictures and other contact. Kandel allegedly admitted having sexual contact with another minor in a conversation with one of the boys.

Defense attorney Frank Santomauro says prosecutors are relying on speculation and interpretation to make their case.

County prosecutors charged Kandel last month with sending sexually explicit texts to a minor.

Teacher sentenced in student sexting case

ALLENTOWN — A former high school teacher who offered a student extra credit for sending him nude pictures and gave her a thong has been sentenced to at least six months in prison.

Former Allentown teacher Timothy Moll apologized for his actions at his sentencing Wednesday. The former Dieruff High School teacher pleaded guilty in October to a misdemeanor count of corruption of minors.

Authorities say the messages were discovered after the 16-year-old victim was sent to the assistant principal's office for having her cellphone in school. Prosecutors say the 26-year-old Moll sent her racy messages and offered to boost her math grade in return for naked pictures.

Moll, of Emmaus, is eligible for work-release but a judge declined to grant it immediately as Moll's attorney requested.

DA: Prison guard killed wife, turned self in

TINICUM — A suburban Philadelphia prison guard allegedly shot and killed his wife then went to a police station to calmly turn himself in while still wearing his blood-stained clothes.

Authorities say corrections officer Winlaw Muzirwa walked into the Tinicum Township police station on Wednesday morning and asked to be put in handcuffs. Delaware County District Attorney Jack Whelan says Muzirwa soon confessed to killing his wife, Daisy Janbawo.

Investigators say shortly later they discovered Janbawo shot in the head and back in an u(upstairs bedroom of the couple's home.

Court documents say Muzirwa tried to kill himself after shooting his wife but the weapon misfired.

Muzirwa had been on disability leave from his job with a private company that operates the county prison. Court records don't list an attorney for him.

Pittsburgh slaying suspect arrested for 2nd time

PITTSBURGH — A Pittsburgh-area man suspected in a New Year's Eve homicide has been arrested a second time after charges were dropped last week.

Prosecutors say they dropped the charges against 25-year-old Dana Johnson on Friday because a key witness to the Dec. 31, 2011 shooting failed to appear.

But authorities obtained another arrest warrant for Johnson on Tuesday. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports he was picked up a day later after he allegedly sold drugs to an undercover cop.

Johnson, of Carrick, is accused of fatally shooting 23-year-old Donald Russell at a party in Pittsburgh's Arlington neighborhood. Police say the motive was robbery.

Johnson was arraigned early Thursday and held without bail. Court records don't list an attorney for him.

Information from: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Cop back to work 22 months after bridge fall

CRANBERRY — A suburban Pittsburgh police officer is back on the job 22 months after falling more than 20 feet from a highway overpass while chasing a motorist who ditched his car after a 20-mile, high-speed chase and died when he also fell from the bridge.

Cranberry Township Cpl. Dan Hahn is working light-duty, three days a week, four hours a day. He had no idea he was on an overpass on Interstate 79 when he hopped over jersey barrier while chasing 22-year-old Thomas Booth back on Feb. 14, 2011.

Booth died. Hahn broke his back, sternum, ribs, and had a concussion. He's had a series of surgeries and rehabilitation to learn how to walk, stand and sit again.

Hahn says he's now "a better person, and more patient. I don't take life for granted."

Couple on trial for alleged sex abuse of son

WILKES-BARRE — A trial is under way for a couple that allegedly began grooming their son for sexual activity when he was 8 years old, forcing him to have sex with his mother and exposing him to pornography.

Prosecutors on Wednesday described the boy, now 14, living in deplorable conditions, unable to use utensils to eat or tie his shoes when removed from the home in August 2010.

The Plymouth, Luzerne County couple faces charges of endangerment and corruption of minors. The father is charged with conspiracy to commit rape and distributing sexual material to minors while his mother is charged with rape of a child and incest.

The Associated Press generally does not identify alleged victims of sexual abuse or their family members.

The parents deny the allegations and will testify.