The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

April 26, 2013

Local and state briefs 4/27/2013

Officer succumbs to crash injuries

WINDBER – An area police officer has died from head injuries suffered in an off-duty all-terrain vehicle crash.

William Gephart, 43, of Windber died Thursday evening at Memorial Medical Center in Johnstown, Cambria County Coroner Dennis Kwiatkowski said. Gephart had been treated there since the April 13 crash.

The (Somerset) Daily American reported that Gephart was an officer in Paint Township.

Authorities said he was riding the ATV with his young son when they were thrown from the vehicle after sideswiping a tree near the family’s cottage in New Paris, Bedford County.

Gephart wasn’t wearing a helmet, but his son was. The boy was treated for his injuries and released that night.

Man convicted of murder

INDIANA – An Indiana County man was convicted of second-degree murder for shooting his estranged wife’s father after he intervened in a dispute between the couple last summer.

The verdict Thursday by an Indiana County jury means Shaun Fairman, 33, of Washington Township, faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole. The sentence is scheduled to be imposed May 28.

Authorities alleged that Fairman went to the home immediately after receiving divorce papers – although his wife had obtained a protection from abuse order – and shot 55-year-old Richard Shotts. Shotts and his wife had been staying at their daughter’s home to protect her from Fairman. Jessica Shotts shot Fairman twice in the shoulder and held him at bay until police arrived.

Fairman’s blood-alcohol content was three times the state’s limit for legal intoxication at the time.

Luddy scholarships available

 ALTOONA – The Monsignor Joseph M. Luddy Scholarship Foundation is accepting applications for its annual awards for current or former residents of Blair County.

Completed applications and transcripts must be submitted by Wednesday.

Applicants must be attending or accepted into a graduate education program in the fields of social work or the Roman Catholic priesthood.

Application forms are available at colleges and universities in Pennsylvania or from the scholarship foundation in care of the Greater Altoona Jewish Federation, 1308 17th St., Altoona, Pa. 16601.

Luddy was serving as the director of Catholic Social Service for the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese as well as chaplain at Garvey Manor at the time of his death in 1984.

For more information, call 515-1182 or email

1 killed, 10 hurt in train-bus wreck

EVANS CITY – A freight train struck a rural transit bus carrying senior citizens and people with developmental disabilities Friday morning, killing an elderly woman and injuring nine other passengers and the driver, authorities said. At least one other injury was serious.

It appeared the small bus, carrying passengers ranging in age from the mid-20s to 92, entered the crossing and stopped on the tracks, said Evans City police Chief Joseph McCombs. The engineer sounded a horn and tried to stop the train, but couldn’t. The bus came to rest about 20 feet away but did not overturn.

Police were investigating whether dense fog contributed to the crash, which happened shortly after 8 a.m. in Evans City, Butler County. The railroad crossing has no gates.

The Allegheny County Medical Examiner’s Office said Claudette Miller, 91, of Callery, was pronounced dead Friday afternoon at Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh.

Police said the Butler Area Rural Transit bus was on its way to a Lifesteps program.

Man gets probation for Ward threat

PITTSBURGH – A man who pleaded guilty to trying to extort $15,000 from former Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Hines Ward will spend two years on probation.

The Associated Press could not immediately reach 26-year-old Joshua Van Auker for comment on his guilty plea, which was entered with little fanfare Tuesday in front of an Allegheny County judge.

The attorney who represented Van Auker after his arrest last year told the AP he had no part in the plea bargain. Court records show Van Auker pleaded guilty to a lesser version of the charge of attempted theft by threatening to expose a secret.

Authorities became involved after Van Auker sent a text message to Ward’s assistant threatening to release unspecified damaging information about a woman Van Auker dated who allegedly was previously involved with Ward.

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