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September 6, 2013

Local and state briefs 9/7/2013

Murder defense again seeks expert witness

SOMERSET – A defense attorney is making another bid for permission to use testimony on battered woman syndrome at the trial of a woman charged in the death of her housemate more than two years ago.

Prosecutors in Somerset County allege that 27-year-old Erin Everett shot 21-year-old Tory Minnick twice in the head and then bludgeoned her with a hammer in Jerome in March 2011.

A judge rejected defense attorney Brent Peck’s request to present testimony on battered women syndrome, spousal abuse and post-traumatic stress disorder, which prosecutors said would be “grossly misleading.”

The (Somerset) Daily American quoted Peck as saying the ruling would be “devastating” to his case. He asked the judge Thursday to reconsider and delay trial to allow the Pennsylvania Superior Court to decide on his appeal.

Church plans prayers for peace tonight

The Very Rev. Mark S. Begly, pastor of Our Mother of Sorrows Roman Catholic Church, will lead a holy hour to pray for peace in Syria and the world from 7 to 8 tonight at the church along Tioga Street in Westmont.

The rosary will be recited at 7:30. The remainder of the service will be in silent prayer and close with benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.

Plan for an emergency, Red Cross urges

With September being National Preparedness Month, the American Red Cross is encouraging people to take action to plan and prepare for an emergency and to donate blood.

The Red Cross recommends three simple actions to prepare for weather-related disaster events and emergencies such as a house fire: get a kit, make a plan and be informed.

All blood types are needed daily, and type O negative – the universal blood type – is frequently in high demand.

More information including smart phone apps, tools and a family disaster plan template are available at the Red Cross website, http://www.redcross.



Dedication planned, vets to be honored

The Conemaugh Township supervisors and others from the community will take part in a flagpole dedication at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday at Laurel View Village, a Davidsville retirement community.

Laurel View Village’s veterans also will be honored.

A flag that has flown at the Flight 93 National Memorial near Shanksville will be raised by the honor guard from VFW Post 8861 of Hollsopple.

For more information, call 288-2724.

Ice cream truck driver faces sex charges

UNIONTOWN – A Fayette County ice cream truck driver is facing sexual assault charges over an incident with a 12-year-old girl.

Authorities said 27-year-old Ronald Burwell III of Smithfield was taken into custody Thursday evening.

The girl told police that she got to know Burwell through his job delivering ice cream, and that he allegedly talked to her about having sex. Police said Burwell allegedly assaulted the girl on Aug. 22 after work.

Burwell is facing sexual assault, corruption of minors and other charges. He’s being held in Fayette County Jail, unable to post $100,000 bond. No attorney was listed on court papers.

A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Monday.

State seeks end to UPMC-Highmark ads

PITTSBURGH – Top state officials want the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and insurer Highmark Inc. to stop a campaign of negative TV and media ads.

Insurance Commissioner Michael Consedine and Secretary of Health Michael Wolf wrote in a Thursday letter to both companies that the ads appear to be trying to get consumers to make health care choices based on fear.

The letter says the two companies are demonstrating a “lack of professionalism and judgment” in the media battle.

Contracts that provide Highmark members with in-network access to UPMC hospitals are set to expire at the end of 2014, and the companies don’t agree about a possible extension.

A state panel is trying to mediate and resolve the dispute between Pittsburgh’s largest insurer and its largest hospital network.

PennDOT should run turnpike, ex-official says

PHILADELPHIA – The recently retired inspector general at the Pennsylvania Turnpike believes it still has serious problems and should be put under the state Department of Transportation.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported Friday that former inspector general Anthony Man­iscola said political influence, patronage and pay-to-play contracting remain pervasive.

Maniscola retired after spending five years as the agency’s first inspector general. He said there has been progress in rooting out corruption, but the four appointed members of the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission have a lot of say in hiring and how contracts are awarded.

He said the commission wastes money on contracts that go to low bidders, after which the cost is increased through frequent change orders.

Instead, he said, the turnpike should base contract awards on performance.

A turnpike spokesman called Maniscola disgruntled after being passed over for a job, and said his comments ignore the agency’s progress.

Boy brain-dead after shooting by 6-year-old

HERSHEY – A coroner in south-central Pennsylvania said an 8-year-old boy has been declared brain-dead four days after a younger boy accidentally shot him in a Shippensburg-area home.

Cumberland County Coroner Charles Hall said Friday that the boy was being kept on life support at Hershey Medical Center, where his organs were to be harvested for transplantation.

Hall said the cause and manner of death won’t be released until after an autopsy planned for Monday. He’s not identifying the boy at this time.

Police have said the child was shot by a 6-year-old boy on Sunday while an adult slept.

No charges have been filed.

Pgh. zoo helps achieve baby elephant’s birth

PITTSBURGH – The Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium, along with three international zoos, made history Wednesday with the  first-ever African elephant being born from artifical insemination with frozen sperm.

The Pittsburgh Zoo partnered with the other zoos to collect the sperm from a wild bull elephant in Africa, said Tracy Gray, the zoo’s manager of media and public relations.

“This is just incredible news,” Barbara Baker, president and chief executive officer of the Pittsburgh Zoo, said in a news release. “Having a healthy baby elephant is an important occasion, but the breakthrough in reproduction research is a major milestone in saving an aging African population in zoos.”

The female calf elephant is doing well and was born at the Vienna Zoo in Austria.

Ex-Pitt player held for trial in robbery

PITTSBURGH – A former University of Pittsburgh football player has been ordered to stand trial in the robbery of a Pittsburgh bank that prompted a SWAT response last month.

Jovani Chappel, 25, waived a preliminary hearing Thursday on felony robbery charges in the Aug. 26 holdup of the PNC branch in the Greenfield neighborhood of the city.

Defense attorney Eric Fisher said his client was released after posting $50,000 bond.

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