The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

December 4, 2012

Evening News Brief | Nativity scene's baby Jesus returned, replacement swiped


Associated Press

CHAMBERSBURG — A baby Jesus figure taken from a Pennsylvania church's Nativity scene last year was found cradled in the arms of a nearby statue, just hours before the replacement statue was swiped.

The vintage figurine was taken last year from outside Chambersburg's Central Presbyterian Church. It was found Sunday in the arms of a bronze Civil War soldier statue across the town square.

A local business had replaced the Jesus statue when the Nativity scene was set up a couple weeks ago. The Chambersburg Public Opinion reports that replacement statue was swiped sometime after services on Sunday.

Congregant Buffy Super calls the statue's return a "Christmas miracle." Another says the church will have to considering securing the statue to deter theft.

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Harrisburg college closes after student abducted

HARRISBURG — Harrisburg Community College is closing its Wildwood campus while police investigate the abduction of a student.

Public safety director Todd Crawley said the school closed the facilities in Harrisburg shortly before noon on Tuesday as a precaution and to help with the investigation.

He said the decision was made by the school administration at the request of city police.

Police have identified a suspect in the abduction of the 18-year-old woman as she parked her car on a campus lot early Monday.

Authorities said the man held her at gunpoint and tried to sexually assault her. That's when she fled and got help at a home in Enola, several miles from campus.

Classes are expected to resume on Wednesday.

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Police: 300 lbs. of marijuana seized

UPPER DARBY — State police say they've arrested two men on drug charges after seizing more than 300 pounds of marijuana and a half-million dollars in suburban Philadelphia home.

Investigators say a tip led to the arrests of Steven Goodman, of Upper Darby, and Richard Donald Brown, of Pittsburgh, last week after authorities targeted Goodman's home.

Police say they were tipped off to a large marijuana delivery to Goodman set for Nov. 29. Troopers say they saw Brown arrive at Goodman's home and pull up to his garage before departing a short time later. After a traffic stop they allegedly recovered up to $500,000 from Brown's vehicle and searched Goodman's home.

Both men are being held on $1 million bail. Messages left for their attorneys weren't immediately returned Tuesday.

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Police probe death of 'community leader'

MONESSEN — Police have been investigating the fatal shooting of a man described as a "community leader" in southwestern Pennsylvania, but who court records show has a long history of drug and other charges.

Neighbors tell Monessen police they heard up to a dozen shots before 36-year-old Christopher Fincik was found shot to death near a rear door, which he apparently answered before he was found slain about 12:30 a.m. Monday.

Neighbors say they're shocked because Fincik hosted a free Fourth of July fireworks display and a Christmas program for poorer people in this former mill town about 20 miles south of Pittsburgh.

But online court records show he's done time for drug trafficking and been arrested for various offenses, including assault, dating to 1995.

Police haven't named any suspects in the shooting.

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Ex-councilman granted bond in woman's 1979 killing

BRIDGEWATER — A judge says a former western Pennsylvania borough councilman can get out of jail until his cold-case murder trial if he posts $100,000 cash or $200,000 worth of property.

Sixty-six-year-old Gregory Hopkins, a former Bridgewater councilman, had not posted the bond yet Tuesday and remained in the Beaver County Jail.

He was arrested in January and charged in the 1979 death of 23-year-old Catherine Walsh, and was supposed to go to trial last month. He had been held without bond, but his attorney asked that bail be set when last month's trial was delayed indefinitely.

That happened because the DA appealed a judge's ruling that a pathologist's report was "too vague and imprecise" for the doctor to testify as a prosecution expert.

Hopkins has denied killing Walsh, but acknowledges a sexual relationship that ended before she died.

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School defending 10 Commandments monument

CONNELLSVILLE — A southwestern Pennsylvania school district is defending a Ten Commandments monument on school grounds by arguing that it's not promoting any one religion and was the gift of a secular fraternal organization.

Attorneys for the Connellsville Area School District have covered the monument in plywood until a federal lawsuit filed by the Wisconsin-based atheist group, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, is resolved. The school is about 30 miles southeast of Pittsburgh.

School attorneys say in a document seeking to have the federal lawsuit dismissed that the monument was one of hundreds donated to schools by local chapters of the Fraternal Order of Eagles in the late 1950s. They say it's adorned with other symbols, including an American flag and two Stars of David, and doesn't endorse any particular religion but rather "moral and historical ideals."

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2013 Pa. Teacher of the Year is from Brockway

HERSHEY — An 11th-grade English teacher from Brockway, in the state's rural northwestern corner, is Pennsylvania's 2013 Teacher of the Year.

State Education Secretary Ron Tomalis announced Tuesday that 27-year-old Ryan Devlin of Brockway Area Junior-Senior High School won the award.

The state's top teacher is one of a dozen teachers from across the state who were named as finalists in the annual competition to recognize excellence in teaching.

Other educators also were applauded at the event in Hershey. They include Jennifer Hoffner-Turkowski, a first-grade teacher in Allegheny County who won this year's Milken Educator Award. The national honor comes with $25,000 in cash.