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Police: Teenagers stole gun, left it at Mount Carmel playground

MOUNT CARMEL — A group of teens from Shamokin are facing theft and firearm charges after police say they stole a firearm from a vehicle and abandoned it at a borough playground.

Three 14-year-old boys have been charged with three felonies relating to the incident — theft of a firearm, receiving stolen property, and carrying a firearm without a license.

According to Mount Carmel Lt. David Donkochik, the charges stem from a string of incidents that occurred either Friday night or Saturday morning as the three teenagers stole items from cars in the borough.

Donkochik said the children stole a KelTec 9-millimeter rifle along with two magazines of ammunition that were contained in a bag from a vehicle near Vine Street.

Police located the firearm shortly after receiving a call about the missing item Saturday morning abandoned with the ammo on a slide at the “Tot’s Lot” playground on Sixth and Vine streets. Donkochik said when police were notified a firearm had been stolen, officers did a safety sweep of the immediate area, which led to the gun being found.

By Saturday morning, borough police had received numerous complaints about potential thefts that had occurred throughout the night. Donkochik said as of press time at least five different victims have come forward regarding items stolen.

Mount Carmel police received a call that three individuals matching the description of the suspected thieves were at the playground Saturday morning. Officers took the juveniles into custody at the playground and later found items that had been reported to be stolen from in their backpacks, police said.

In addition to the felony charges, the three teens will face misdemeanor charges of reckless endangerment, theft by unlawful taking and loitering at night, Donkochik said.

The investigation into the incidents is ongoing and Donkochik asked members of the public to contact the police department to provide information on the thefts or report stolen items.

Mount Carmel Township, Kulpmont and Ralpho Township police and juvenile probation assisted borough police during the incident.


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Tharptown Christmas Display Festival set for Dec. 1

THARPTOWN — The annual Christmas Display Festival presented by the Dunn family will be held 1 to 8 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 1.

Jared and his father, Scott, spent Saturday preparing the dazzling display at the community’s playground that will be illuminated during a ceremony around 6 p.m. the day of the festival that will feature vendors, live deer and a visit by Santa.

The 22-year-old said he began placing hundreds of plastic and wooden figurines in mid-October with work continuing on placing lighting and general decorations.

A large string of bulbs dangled over one half of the basketball court that will contain about 40 vendors offering such things as food and crafts.

Nearby, there will be pen containing two deer, which will arrive Friday. Activities include a raffle tent and a performance by Health’s Gym Dance Crew.

Dunn, who is attending school to become an LPN, said that although he has had less time to work on the event than in previous years, a majority of the display is already in place.

He and his father worked in the cold and breezy conditions for several hours Saturday to hang strings of lights that form the shape of Christmas trees.

Although attending school and experiencing late-November weather have sometimes led Dunn to question putting up the gigantic display, it is the smiles of children’s faces and compliments from adults that have kept him motivated.

“Just today, while walking to my house, I had some guy slow down and tell me ‘awesome job.’ It’s the small gestures that make it worth it,” he said.

Jared said plenty of children will express joy when Santa arrives via a fire engine for the lighting ceremony. Gift bags will also be handed out to those who meet with jolly Old Saint Nick.

For people who can’t attend the festival, Dunn said the display will be lit nightly for several weeks.


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Inaugural Elysburg Community Tree Lighting to take place Dec. 1

ELYSBURG — An 8-foot blue spruce will be the center of attention on Sunday, Dec. 1, as the community celebrates a Community Tree Lighting.

The Elysburg Knights of Columbus, community leaders and the Ralpho Township Board of Supervisors invite the public to attend the inaugural event at 6 p.m. on the northeast corner of Henry Hynoski Boulevard and West Valley Avenue (Route 487).

One lucky child will win the opportunity to “flip the switch” to illuminate the lights on the tree, which is expected to be decorated today, weather permitting.

The event will include the singing of traditional Christmas carols, and free hot dogs and hot cocoa provided by the Knights, according to township Supervisor Stephen Major.

Major said members of the community had approached the township last year about holding a Christmas event, but there was not enough time to organize a tree lighting.

He said the efforts of the Knights led to the blue spruce being planted several weeks ago on a grass lot south of the municipal building. The hope, he said, is that the tree will continue to grow and be adorned with lights and ornaments every holiday season.

“(The township) was happy someone took the initiative to hold this,” Major said of the Knights. “It’s something we all jumped on board with.”


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Hometown holiday event benefits Ralpho Township Library

ELYSBURG — The Hometown Holiday Library Benefit for the Ralpho Township Public Library took place Saturday afternoon, combining Christmas cheer and supporting local businesses for a good cause.

Organized by Monica Smith-Narke and her sister Angela Stanley, the event’s primary focus was fun for the kids and support for the library.

“Things went very well,” said Smith-Narke. “It was a great time and helps the library raise funds. The library is in need, so we are so happy to help.”

Smith-Narke’s local business — “In Full Bloom” in Elysburg is a home-based studio offering custom wreaths, arrangements and florals in both silk and fresh. The contingent of approximately 30 attendees worked together to customize a holiday-themed wreath as part of the festivities.

Zarko Hill Craftery, a staple at the Elysburg Farmer’s Market, was in attendance selling handcrafted soaps and scrubs, crocheted items and other crafty creations. The two-year-old area business was able to donate over $60 to the library through its sales Saturday of the event-exclusive James Joyce soap.

Co-organizer Angela Stanley of Pennsylvania Mentor shared information about the therapeutic foster care agency.

“We are currently looking for homes in the area looking to accept a foster child into their homes,” said Stanley.

Peaceful Beginning’s birth service, which offers out-of-hospital childbirth education classes and doula services, had a basket of baby-related items raffled off for a good cause as well.

“I’m so pleased this event was successful in raising money for the library,” said Jamie Maschuck of Peaceful Beginnings Birth Service.

Other happenings included a toys for tots, basket raffle comprised of items from local businesses, Rorbachs was onhand featuring a pumpkin turkey crafts with the kids and more. When all was said and done, $465 was raised for the library.

Ralpho Library Board President Pat Shultz said she was very appreciative of all who came out to support the library and particularly the organizers.

“I’m so grateful to Angela and Monica for coming here to do this,” said Shultz. “It’s been a wonderful day.”

Ralpho Library Director Dean Slusser concurred.

“Seeing all the support from local businesses was great,” said Slusser, who said he hopes it becomes an annual event. “It’s what this community is all about, we support them and they support us.”

Slusser proudly showed off two recently-remodeled rooms in the library thanks to a Degenstein Foundation grant, one of which was named the Patricia A. Bidding Children’s Room in honor and remembrance of a former Ralpho library director and friend.


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Florida man arrested in brawl at Turkey Hill in Mount Carmel

MOUNT CARMEL — A Florida man is in custody after an alleged fight with a police officer at the Turkey Hill convenience store on 130 E. Fifth St. shortly after 6 a.m. Saturday.

Darnett Knowles, 36, of 1710 Fourth Ave. N, Apt. 1603, Lake Worth, Florida, has been charged by Patrolman Justin Stelma with felony aggravated assault, robbery, disarming a police officer, simple assault, resisting arrest, reckless endangerment, retail theft, harassment, criminal mischief and disorderly conduct following the brawl.

According to police, Knowles leaped over the store’s counter in an attempt to “go after” the female employees. Tony Balonis, manager of the Turkey Hill, removed the suspect from the premises, but not before the man took a pack of condoms without paying, according to the affidavit.

Stelma arrived on scene and observed Knowles with his hands in the air with a condom in one hand and an empty wrapper in another, police said.

According to Stelma, Knowles did not identify himself and began walking away. Stelma said he then advised Knowles he was being detained and went to grab the suspect’s hands and place them behind his back when Knowles swung at the officer.

Stelma deployed a TASER on Knowles in an attempt to stop the fight, which proved to be ineffective. Knowles then swatted the stun gun from Stelma’s hand and threw it across the street.

Stelma said he then punched Knowles in the face twice, which also had no effect, and Knowles responded by punching the officer in the left eye.

Knowles then attempted to jump on Stelma’s back, which led to the officer threatening to shoot the man while Knowles shouted, “Kill me, kill me,” police said.

Eventually, Stelma was able to subdue Knowles and take him into custody before assisting units arrived.

Stelma said Knowles’ behavior throughout the interaction was bizarre and was likely caused by drug use.

Two TASER cartridges were used during the altercation, and a Mount Carmel Borough Police Department cruiser sustained minor damage to its spotlight during the scuffle.

Knowles, who was later found to have an extensive criminal record, was taken by Lt. David Donkochik to the state police at Stonington, where he was fingerprinted and identified.

Borough police were assisted by Mount Carmel Township, Ralpho Township and Shamokin police.