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Man admits to killing Coal Township native

LANCASTER — Raymond Rowe stood before Lancaster County President Judge Dennis E. Reinaker Tuesday morning and admitted he raped, strangled and killed 25-year-old schoolteacher and Coal Township native Christy Mirack in her Greenfield Estates townhouse in East Lampeter Township the morning of Dec. 21, 1992.

The 50-year-old known as “DJ Freez” pleaded guilty to first-degree murder, rape and related counts in exchange for a sentence of life without the possibility of parole with a consecutive prison term of 60 to 120 years.

Standing in Lancaster County court, he turned and apologized to Mirack’s family, including her father, Vincent Mirack.

“To the Mirack family, I can’t imagine what you’re going through. I apologize,” Rowe said after turning to face the victim’s father, brother and sister, Lancaster Online reported.

Vince Mirack, the victim’s brother, told the judge as his father wept, “I spent 25 years watching my family plead for answers. I made a promise to my mom before she passed away to never let this go.”

Mirack’s sister, Alicia, leaned against her brother as he struggled to contain tears. She spoke of Christy’s kind heart, her passion for teaching and her hard work to prepare for her career.

“You took it away with no regard,” Mirack said. “I can only hope the remainder of your life is as painful to you as the last 26 years have been without her to my family.”

Offered an opportunity to address the court, Mirack’s father collapsed in tears into his daughter’s arms, saying, “I can’t talk. I can’t talk,” Lancaster Online reported.

Friend’s reaction

Annie Candelora Adams, who had spoken with Mirack the evening before the murder, was grateful for Rowe’s guilty plea, though the confession left one important question unanswered.

“I still would like to know why? Why her? What did she do to him that was horrible enough that he felt the only option was to take her life,” she said during a phone interview with The News-Item Tuesday evening.

Adams met Mirack on their first day as freshman at Our Lady of Lourdes Regional and the two became inseparable friends. They eventually went to different colleges, Adams to Williamsport Area Community College, now known as Pennsylvania College of Technology, and Mirack to Millersville University to fulfill her lifelong dream of becoming a teacher.

“I feel like I can breathe again,” Adams said of the guilty plea. “It’s been really hard ever since this broke again. I haven’t been able to breathe because you don’t know what’s going to happen. I am just grateful he is going to spend the rest of his life in jail.”

Investigation

Mirack was found by a staff member of Rohrerstown Elementary School, where she loved to teach sixth-grade, but had not shown up to work that morning.

Mirack’s roommate told police that she left about 7 a.m. for work and that Mirack was still home at that time. Mirack typically left for work about 7:30 a.m., the roommate told police. The roommate also reported that Mirack was getting ready for work that day, as she would any other day.

Two neighbors in the housing community told police they were walking near Mirack’s home that morning and heard a high-pitched, unexpected scream from the home between 7:10 and 7:20 a.m.

Lancaster County District Attorney Craig Stedman said Mirack was wearing a coat and gloves, indicating she was leaving for work when she was confronted by Rowe. In describing the fatal attack, he said Mirack fought for her life. A wooden cutting board was used to afflict blunt force trauma to her neck, back, upper chest and face. Her jaw was also fractured and there was evidence of sexual assault.

The death was ruled a homicide, caused by strangulation.

A number of agencies, included East Lampeter Township police, Pennsylvania State Police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, investigated the case before the Lancaster County detectives, who work under Stedman, took over jurisdiction in 2016.

DNA match

Homicide investigators developed Rowe as a suspect last year only after crime scene DNA matched DNA that one of Rowe’s relatives uploaded to a public genealogy database.

Following Rowe’s arrest, Stedman discussed DNA evidence that linked Rowe to the murder and the “astronomical” statistics and odds that anyone else, but Rowe, committed the crime. The mammoth numbers had 27 and 30 zeros.

“In other words: It was the defendant,” Stedman previously stated. “There are only 7.6 billion people in the world.”

Specifically, the DNA evidence was submitted to Parabon NanoLabs and a genotype file was generated. Using this file, Parabon created a DNA phenotype “composite” of the killer’s attributes, including hair and eye color and skin tone. The phenotype report included visual composites of what the killer would look like at various ages. That data and associated composites were released to the public in November 2017.

Based on Parabon’s recommendation, detectives subsequently authorized Parabon to upload the genotype file to a public, genetic genealogy database, which resulted in matches to relatives of Raymond Rowe. Parabon’s genealogical research determined that Rowe was a “strong viable suspect.”

On May 31, investigators obtained DNA surreptitiously from Rowe, from chewing gum and a water bottle Rowe used while working as a disc jockey at an event at Smoketown Elementary School.

That DNA was submitted to a state police crime lab. Testing revealed a match between that DNA and DNA found on multiple locations of Mirack’s person and on carpet underneath her dead body.

Patricia Spotts, Rowe’s defense lawyer, told the judge at Tuesday’s hearing that Rowe admitted his guilt and all potential defenses were discussed with Rowe. Spotts also said the defense team researched the legality of the DNA match and its use in the criminal case.

It was determined to be proper, Spotts said.

“He has no expectation of privacy” of his DNA profile in this capacity, Spotts said, according to Lancaster Online.

DA’s reaction

Stedman stated during a press conference following the hearing that it was “chilling” and “haunting” that Rowe could compartmentalize the vicious crime and go back to his life “as if nothing had happened.” He said the death penalty was warranted in the case, but was comfortable with the life sentence after speaking to Mirack’s family and taking the state of the law into consideration. He said the consecutive prison sentences on related felonies ensures he will remain in prison, even if the life without parole provisions would change.

“We fashioned this so he can never get out. And he should never get out,” Stedman told reporters.

Stedman said Rowe’s white Toyota Celica matched the description of the car that Mirack’s neighbors saw parked near her apartment the morning she was killed.

And Rowe in 1992 lived in Lancaster city and worked at ServiceMaster on William Penn Way, just down the street from Mirack’s home. The commute would have taken him past her home hundreds of times, perhaps when Mirack and her roommate were sunbathing, Stedman said.

Stedman said police received at least three peeping Tom reports near the apartment in the months before the murder. Mirack and Rowe also could have crossed paths in social circles. A ticket to the Chameleon Club, a Lancaster nightclub where Rowe worked, was found in Mirack’s wallet.

But nothing said at the guilty plea hearing or news conference explained why Rowe targeted Mirack.

“This case certainly has riveted our community for so long. It’s a result that’s long over due, “ Stedman said. “What stands out for us, is not only did you have this actually true innocent victim making the community better — teaching kids, taking presents to her kids that day she was brutally sexually assaulted and murdered in her home where you have the right to feel safe. No family should have to endure this.”


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Line Mountain board director seeks more information on junior high sports

MANDATA — Line Mountain School Board Director Lauren Hackenburg recommended Tuesday night that the district conduct a study on the feasibility of establishing additional junior high sports programs in an effort to get more students involved with extracurricular activities.

Hackenburg suggested contacting neighboring schools that operate junior high sports programs.

Board President Troy Laudenslager said previous discussions have been held about forming junior high boys and girls soccer programs.

Laudenslager said there are multiple variables to consider when forming junior high teams, including costs and overall interest in the programs.

He agreed with Hackenburg that it’s good to get as many students as possible involved with sports or other extracurricular activities.

Following a brief executive session, the board unanimously hired Todd Wenrich as an assistant football coach at a salary of $2,520.

The board approved the resignations of elementary school teacher aide Marie Long and elementary school custodian Melody Latsha.

Cynthia Hornberger was hired as a substitute custodian at an hourly rate of $9.25.

The board approved an increase in the district mileage reimbursement rate from 54 cents to 58 cents per mile.

Directors granted approval to Dan Wowak, of Coalcracker Bushcraft and Appalachian Bushman School to conduct a workshop at Line Mountain Middle School at the end of March or beginning of April for an outdoor education class at a cost of $850.

In addition to Laudenslager and Hackenburg, other board members in attendance were Linda Gutkowski, Michael Border, Marlin Yeager Jr., Paul Kolody and Ronald Neidig. Dennis Erdman and Lawrence Neidig were absent.


Submitted 

MIRACK


Larry Deklinski / LARRY DEKLINSKI/STAFF PHOTO  

In this Feb. 17, 2018 file photo, Southern Columbia’s Gaige Garcia controls Danville’s Zach Zerbe in a 182-pound semifinal bout at the District 4 South Sectional at Southern Columbia High School.


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Leschinskie, Rhodes file countersuit against Clausi

SUNBURY — Shamokin Patrolman Nathan Rhodes and Joseph Leschinskie, who were sued last month by Coal Township businessman Vinny Clausi, filed a countersuit Tuesday afternoon alleging that the former county commissioner bribed Chief of Police Darwin Tobias III to have Rhodes fired, harassed Rhodes’ wife and offered money to people to break Leschinskie’s legs.

Rhodes and Leschinskie are each seeking in excess $50,000.

In their countersuit filed through attorney Douglas N. Engelman, of Williamsport, Rhodes and Leschinskie deny Clausi’s claims in his lawsuit and bring forth allegations against the defendant.

When contacted Tuesday night, Clausi said all the allegations made against him in the countersuit are false.

Clausi sued Rhodes and Leschinskie, a former Shamokin mayoral candidate, claiming assault and conspiracy regarding a May 18 incident at Turkey Hill Minit Market on Lincoln Street.

Clausi alleges that Rhodes, who he did not sue in his capacity as a patrolman, and Leschinskie, conspired to confront him at the market.

He has asked for damages in excess of $50,000 on counts of assault and conspiracy against Rhodes and conspiracy against Leschinskie.

In the countersuit, the plaintiffs deny that Rhodes approached Clausi in an aggressive manner and began screaming at him mere inches from his face. The plaintiffs say that Rhodes spoke to Clausi about an incident that occurred between his wife, Tammy, and Clausi at her place of employment.

The plaintiffs said no threats were made to Clausi at Turkey Hill and Rhodes had no physical contact with the defendant. The countersuit says Rhodes requested Clausi to stay away from his wife and her place of employment.

The plaintiffs claim Clausi caused a disturbance at Rhodes’ place of employment, prompting her employer to warn Clausi about his actions.

Rhodes and Leschinskie also accuse Clausi of offering money to Tobias to have Rhodes terminated and offering money to people within the community to break Leschinskie’s legs, which Leschinskie claims has caused him to suffer severe emotional distress.

When asked about the alleged bribe by Clausi and the countersuit, Tobias reserved comment.

The plaintiffs also deny that Rhodes told Clausi that he would get every police officer in the county to arrest him and that the officer called him derogatory names.

The plaintiffs claim Clausi’s suit filed against them and his alleged attempt to have Rhodes terminated from the police force were in retaliation for Rhodes citing Clausi for parking on a sidewalk in the city. Rhodes later withdrew the citation.

Clausi previously said he got no satisfaction in attempting to have city or state police or the county district attorney’s office investigate the incident at Turkey Hill, which led to his decision to sue.

Clausi said he had never met Rhodes before the incident at Turkey Hill.


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Ralpho Township holds reorganization meeting

ELYSBURG — Changes were made to the Ralpho Township Board of Supervisors during Monday’s reorganization meeting which saw Blaine Madara Sr. become the elected supervisor chairman.

Replacing Madara Sr. as vice chairman will be supervisor Dan Williams.

The supervisors gave approval for a proposed development project on East Mill Street across from the fire department. The plan proposed to erect a new building with office and storage space, and in support of the additional space will include a new parking area and sidewalk around the building.

Code enforcer Mark Lyash said developers were asking for approval of a sewer planning waiver because the property is part of previous storm water management planning. He said a storm water management basin is located near the building and the building will require only paying a fee to reconnect existing service.

A plan to add additional cameras at the holding cell in the police station was approved for $12,960. Blaine Madara Jr. said Vector Securities suggested having a separate hard drive for the police that provides their own server, making it a closed system.

The addition added $1,300 onto the original amount for the cameras, but Madara Jr. said he worked out a deal with Vector for $1,000 reduction in the cost by agreeing to vote on the deal at the beginning of the year.

Madara Sr. announced several areas of leaky sewer mains have been located by the Municipal Authority of Ralpho Township. Approximately 400 feet on Somerset Avenue has been damaged, as well as an unknown length on Hillcrest Drive and Andrew Street.

Madara Sr. explained Hillcrest had been paved by Aqua PA two years ago, which means the authority will be responsible for repaving curb-to-curb. He suggested supervisors consider Andrew and Somerset on a tentative list for future paving projects.

It was annouced the Ralpho Township Business Association will hold a Christmas tree pickup beginning 9 a.m. Saturday. Residents are to have trees curbed by 9 a.m. with donations clearly attached.

Additional appointments

The following appointments were made unanimously by supervisors: Joseph Springer, township manager at a $13,000 annual salary; Debra Olson, secretary/treasurer; Schleisinger & Kerstetter, solicitor; Larson Design Group, engineer; Wagner, Dreese, Elsasser & Associates, P.C., certified public accountant; Pligit and First Columbia Bank, depositories; Vanessa Major, real estate tax certifier, Act 511 tax collecctor and delinquent tax collector; Berkheimer Associates, tax collector for earned income and LST taxes; Statewide Recovery, delinquent tax collector for township per capita and occupation taxes; Mark Lyash, code enforcement officer and flood plain administrator; Tri-County COG, uniform construction code officer and building code officer; Howard Shadduck, roadmaster; Bill Brior, primary sewage enforcement officer; and Samantha Brior, alternate sewage enforcement officer.

The following re-appointments were made unanimously: Doug Gessner, one-year term on township vacancy board; Donald J. Spotts, one-year term as EMA coordinator; Joe Pechulis, three-year term on Zoning Hearing Board; Robert L. Dluge Jr., Esq., three-year term as solicitor to Zoning Hearing Board; Church Yoder, five-year term on municipal authority of Ralpho Township; and Vince Daubert, five-year term to the municipal authority of Sunnyside/Overlook.

Madara Sr. said he will discuss committee/department head appointments with other supervisors and they will be voted on at the February meeting.


Larry Deklinski / LARRY DEKLINSKI/STAFF PHOTO 

No serious injuries were reported in a one-vehicle accident on a foggy stretch of Route 61 in Centralia Tuesday evening. State police at Bloomsburg said the female driver, whose name was not released, was operating a Chevrolet Equinox south when she failed to negotiate a curve at the entrance to “Graffiti Highway.” The vehicle rolled onto its driver's side. Firefighters assisted the woman out of the vehicle. Also responding were EMS from Washington Fire Co. Community Ambulance in Ashland, fire police and firefighters from Mount Carmel Area Rescue Squad, Centralia and Aristes.


John Raoux 

Former felon Brett DuVall, right, kisses his wife Dottie as they celebrate after he registered to vote at the Supervisor of Elections office Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019, in Orlando, Fla. Former felons in Florida began registering for elections on Tuesday, when an amendment that restores their voting rights went into effect. (AP Photo/John Raoux)