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Time served: Gundrum eligible for parole

SUNBURY — Norman Gundrum Jr. appeared to choke back tears when Judge Paige Rosini resentenced him Thursday to time served, making him immediately eligible for parole. Gundrum, as a teen, had been convicted of homicide in the 1993 stabbing death of Bobby Coup in Milton.

There was plenty of emotion in Northumberland County’s Courtroom 2 following the decision of Rosini, which came in the wake of hours of testimony and cross examination the day prior.

Gundrum had been behind bars since convicted in 1995. The 6-foot, 7-inch man walked into the courtroom hunched over, and with a bit of a limp.

Gundrum was 16 when he fatally stabbed Coup in 1993. Following conviction, he was sentenced to life without parole.

Defense Counsel Joseph R. D’Andrea addressed Rosini with a short statement prior to the ruling. He noted the stark difference in the man sitting to his left during the proceeding, and the boy shown in media coverage from the 1990s.

“He was a really young, tall, skinny boy,” he said. “It made me realize what we’re looking at now is a man. A boy did this, not a man.

“He’s evolved into a wonderful man.”

After the resentencing, a composed Gundrum stood, waived to a group of supporters and left the courtroom. D’Andrea met with supporters and shared hugs and tears.

“Obviously, we’re thrilled,” said D’Andrea, still wiping tears from his face. “It’s a very fair and just result. I didn’t do this. Norman did this. Norman has changed his life.”

Rosini agreed, noting that Gundrum’s testimony, and that of his supporters on Wednesday, factored heavily into the decision.

“It’s a very difficult decision for the commonwealth, the victim’s family and everyone here supporting Mr. Gundrum,” said Rosini. “It’s not easy for anyone involved.”

The commonwealth had been seeking 35 years to life as part of the resentencing — made possible by the Supreme Court’s 2016 Post-Conviction Relief Act for teens who committed murder and received sentences of life without parole. Defense counsel argued for time served.

Assistant District Attorney Robyn Zenzinger said the commonwealth did not oppose resentencing.

Rosini said she was convinced Gundrum had turned his life around.

“Through testimony, Norman’s history, the abuse he suffered and steps he took to better himself, I adopt the argument of defense counsel,” said Rosini. “I feel is it appropriate to resentence time served.”

The judge added she was “particularly persuaded” by victim impact statements from the victim’s mother.

Rosini noted that Gundrum is immediately eligible for parole. D’Andrea said he expects Gundrum to be released in a matter of months, but it is all dependent upon the parole board.

“There was a lot of documentation — thousands and thousands of pages,” said D’Adrea, of his five-year effort. “You think about it... A kid was committed to life, his entire existence would have been in jail as an adult.”

Testimony Wednesday included the sexual abuse Gundrum experienced as a child.

“To be sexually abused one time?” D’Andrea said. “That’s bad. To have been abused hundreds of times?”

Gundrum’s work achieving his GED, associate degrees and charitable work — which included the establishment of a scholarship in Coup’s name — showed he’d changed his ways, D’Andrea said.

“He did it on his own, in jail, without any notion he’d see this day,” said D’Andrea. “He changed his life.”

When talking with Gundrum days ago, D’Andrea said he asked him what he might do if he was released.

“He said, ‘I want to go swimming.’” said D’Andrea. “You give him a chance (now) to live his life.”

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Covered Bridge Festival opens to fall weather

ELYSBURG — Overcast skies, intermittent rain showers and a 30-degree drop in temperatures overnight from Wednesday into Thursday did not deter a crowd of thousands from attending opening day of this year’s 38th annual Covered Bridge & Arts Festival at Knoebels Amusement Resort. The event, which is organized through the Columbia-Montour Visitors Bureau, is typically one of the biggest draws in the area, and this year appears to be no exception.

Wearing rain ponchos and carrying their umbrellas, visitors to the park from near and far walked amid a sea of unique food and craft vendor tents, making their purchases and socializing with others.

Donna Sharrow, event coordinator for the Columbia-Montour Visitor’s Bureau, who also serves as the chair of the Covered Bridge Festival Committee, spoke optimistically of this year’s festival.

“I’ve been coordinating this festival for the past 12 years,” said Sharrow. “The event continues to expand each year and has grown tremendously throughout the past four decades. One thing we try to emphasize is a lot of variety with our food and craft vendors.”

Shane Kiefer, director of marketing at the visitor’s bureau, added, “This year we’ve added a number of new vendors and also ‘Ashburn’s Animals,’ a rescue animal petting zoo, will be in place for families to enjoy on the weekend.”

Visitors delight

Walking along in the pouring rain, three visitors, Claudia Webb, Andrea DiMarino and Denise Toczylousky, from The Meadows, a senior living community based in Danville, were enjoying their day, despite the inclement weather conditions.

“A group of about six to 12 of us come here every year. We enjoy looking around the craft stands for unique Christmas gifts and also enjoy ice cream from the Vance’s apple dumplings and Penn State Creamery stand,” said Toczylousky.

At the vendor tents near the parking lot, Jessica Brin, of Harvey’s Lake, enjoyed a chicken cheesesteak, as she walked alongside her friend Melanie Miller, of Dallas.

“You’ve got to try the prime rib sandwiches they have over there at Karschner’s Concessions, of Bloomsburg,” said Miller. “They’re terrific.”

Valerie Reich and her daughter, Stacie Billman, of Sunbury, said that they enjoyed the primitive woodworking and antique stands.

“There are a lot to choose from and we come back every year to check out our favorites and to see what’s new.

New vendors

There were a number of first-time vendors showing off their wares at this year’s festival, from among the 400 stands. Some had very unique and interesting products available for purchase.

At Sue Albright’s “Aroma TheraPutty” stand, she sells silicone putty infused with essential oils of various aromas and colors. Albright, who is from Pen Argyl, said that she sells her products online and through her stand at fairs and festivals such as Covered Bridge.

JPW Pottery, owned and operated by Jane Waxenfelter, of Grove City, was selling a variety of beautiful handmade pottery, which she and her husband paint and glaze themselves.

“I’ve been doing this for the past 13 years. I found out about this show from a pottery friend of mine. We sell a variety of items, including bowls, plates, mugs and our most popular item — our chip-n-dip sets,” said Waxenfelter.

Another unique, first-time vendor stand “Five Dogs Art,” by Chris and Lydia Menio, of Hellertown, uses electricity to burn patterns into a variety of homemade wood products, which they finish and sell.

“The wood is first cut, then treated with a special solution before being hooked up to electrodes, which are wired to a transformer,” explained Chris. “When we turn on the power, the electrical current burns a random pattern into the wood by creating its own path.”

Changes and auxiliary parking

Knoebels public relations director Stacy Ososkie explained that the vendor tents previously located near the bandshell have been moved closer to the main parking lot area. She also said that parking for this year’s festival will be expanded on Saturday to include additional nearby locations in order to accommodate the anticipated large weekend crowd.

“Guests attending the Covered Bridge & Arts Festival on Saturday should note that auxiliary parking lots, located at 810 Southern Drive, Catawissa and 405 Monastery Road, Elysburg, will be available beginning at 8 a.m. In the event that Knoebels parking lots reach capacity, parking in the auxiliary lots will be required in order to attend the festival and shuttle service will be provided from those locations.”

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'This is a partnership': SEDA-COG office opens in Shamokin

SHAMOKIN — “We’re not just asking ‘What are the problems,’ we are identifying how to fix them,” SEDA-COG Revitalization Coordinator Betsy Kramer said in an interview with The News-Item Thursday.

SEDA-Council Of Governments, which opened an office at 525 N. Market St. on Sept. 1, is a public development organization serving 11 central Pennsylvania counties.

The operation, based out of Lewisburg, is overseen by a board of elected officials, business people and area residents and is staffed by professionals with expertise in such fields as transportation, international sales, information technology and financial packaging.

“SEDA-COG is huge,” said Kramer. “It has experts in weatherization, business finance, government procurement, community relations” and more areas.

So how did a branch office of the organization dedicated to community revitalization efforts wind up in downtown Shamokin?

Kramer noted that last fall, SEDA-COG was doing its normal business visits when, informally, she was introduced to Kathy Vetovich and the Shamokin Area Businesses for Economic Revitalization (SABER) organization.

“We (SEDA-COG) just sat back and listened and collected information,” said Kramer, who said that particular SABER meeting was attended by state Rep. Kurt Masser (R-107).

“It was a bit of a frustration as everyone seemed to recognize the needs and desires of the city, but there was a lack of any movement on matters,” she said.

“SEDA-COG noticed there were grants the city could get. (We) spoke with Rep. Masser to see how (his office) could help and he was very receptive,” Kramer added.

SEDA-COG’s leaders asked her to go to Shamokin and help.

Masser secured a $300,000 grant from the state Department of Community and Economic Development to pay for Kramer’s salary, fund the organization’s operations and also cover costs of the new Shamokin location, which is owned by Vetovich, over the course of the next three years.

“It’s not costing the city. I’m in this office twice a week (Monday and Thursday) but am also working for the city of Shamokin, the mayor and for SABER while I work in Lewisburg,” said Kramer. “This is a partnership.”

Kramer’s visibility at local events and meetings will be stronger going forward as she’ll be seeking out grant opportunities, writing applications and taking on a myriad of other initiatives, such as formulating rehabilitation or demolition of blighted properties and capitalizing on potential tourism opportunities presented by the Anthracite Outdoor Adventure Area.

Kramer said SEDA-COG has a great rapport with the mayor, city council and SABER.

“We just want to help channel the momentum,” said Kramer, noting that both investors and state and federal governments are looking to put money into the city. “There are many different organizations doing so much for the city and we are excited to collaborate and join in their efforts.”

Kramer said it’s been a very busy initial month at the Shamokin location, but she has prioritized composing and finalizing a request for proposals for a Revitalization Implementation Plan, which was completed and advertised on Wednesday. Consultants are being sought to develop an expansive plan looking at the city as a whole, not just the downtown’s economics.

“We are seeking consultants to develop a plan for the entirety of the city,” said Kramer, noting proposals are due on Oct. 29.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony at the modest new Shamokin location will be held at 2 p.m. Friday, Nov. 1. Kramer expects representation from city officials as well as from SABER and said an invitation to Masser has also been extended.

Kramer, who is an Elysburg resident, said her husband graduated from Shamokin Area High School and she is very familiar with the area.

“We just want to help support the city and groups like SABER any way we can,” she said. “There’s a great deal of good all around us, so we look forward in helping with positive branding of the city.”

Merriam man faces assault, drug offenses

MOUNT CARMEL — A 25-year-old man from the Mount Carmel Township village of Merriam is facing aggravated assault and drug offenses relating to two separate incidents in the borough.

Robert John Hertzog Jr., of 147 Merriam St., is in Northumberland County Jail in lieu of $100,000 cash bail on all charges after being arraigned Thursday by Magisterial District Judge William Cole.

He was charged with felonies of possessing with intent to deliver methamphetamine and aggravated assault of a police officer; misdemeanors of possessing methamphetamine, possessing drug paraphernalia, simple assault, institutional vandalism, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct; and summaries of criminal trespass and disorderly conduct.

The charges filed by Patrolman Jonathan McHugh relate to incidents that occurred Wednesday night at the Town Park and Mount Carmel Police Station.

McHugh said he was on patrol in the area of Third and Market streets at 9:19 p.m. when he observed Hertzog and Morgan Avellino sitting in the gazebo at Town Park.

McHugh said he told Hertzog and Avellino that they were trespassing because the park was off limits during nighttime hours because of recent vandalism.

The officer said Hertzog and Avellino said they were just having a conversation and apologized for trespassing.

After obtaining identification from Hertzog and running his name through the Northumberland County Communications Center, McHugh said he noticed the suspect reach into his pockets several times. The officer said he told Hertzog to keep his hands in plain sight.

Upon the arrival of Officer Kyle Schauer, McHugh said Hertzog started flailing his hands and screaming about being harassed by police.

At that point, McHugh said he attempted to take Hertzog into custody for disorderly conduct for yelling and arguing with police and Avellino.

While attempting to walk Hertzog to a police car, McHugh said Hertzog resisted arrest, forcing the officers to use force to place him in the back of the police vehicle.

Upon arriving at the police station, police searched Hertzog and recovered a purple cloth bag containing plastic bags with methamphetamine and a glass pipe with burnt residue.

After police escorted Hertzog to a holding cell and requested him to comply with a strip search, Hertzog allegedly used profanity toward McHugh and made derogatory comments to the officer.

When he became aggressive and took a step toward McHugh, police said the defendant was placed against a wall, where he continued to yell and smashed his head off the wall, causing a large hole in the drywall.

Police said Hertzog then pushed off McHugh and went to another wall, where he continued to fight with police and put a hole in that wall.

After using substantial force to regain control of Hertzog, police placed him back into the holding cell, where he continued to scream about being abused and assaulted and banged his head on the holding cell wall and metal bars on the door.

Upon securing Hertzog’s property, Schauer located two white glassine bags containing heroin in the defendant’s wallet.

Hertzog also was charged by Chief of Police Christopher Buhay with felonies of theft of a vehicle and receiving stolen property, and a misdemeanor of unauthorized use of a vehicle relating to a Sept. 11 incident at Second and Lemon streets.

Police said Hertzog is accused of stealing a vehicle owned by Heather Bohn that was later located near Hertzog’s residence.

Coal Twp. commissioners officially hire asst. code enforcement officer

COAL TOWNSHIP — Coal Township commissioners approved the transfer of Richard “Bo” Scandle from the recycling center to the code enforcement office as a part-time assistant code officer at the Coal Township Board of Commissioners meeting Thursday.

Township manager Rob Slaby read a statement from the commissioners that was critical of The News-Item after the newspaper reported that both the township’s solicitor, Vincent V. Rovito Jr., and Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association Media Law Council Melissa Melewsky said a vote should have been taken to approve Scandle’s hiring.

“I want it understood that I take the position (a vote) was not required and I’ll state why now,” Slaby said. “One, the transfer was lateral between departments and two, there was no expenditure of taxpayer dollars. Three, despite the uninformed position of The News-Item in their story, the position was not newly-created and has been open for several years, with the last person holding the position being Sol Bidding. Four, we were responding to the urgent cries of our citizenry to address the debilitating problem with code enforcement, which is a precursor to the blight, which Coal Township is fighting to combat.”

The News-Item never reported that the position was new.

“No position was created and no additional taxpayer money was spent, the position was open and unfilled when we responded to the needs of our community and our constituents,” said Slaby.

The township went on to vote to approve Scandle’s hiring, which passed unanimously.

The township announced that it is still accepting applications for owner-occupied housing rehabilitation grants in the east end of Coal Township.

“This is free money,” said Craig Fetterman. “If you live on the east end of Coal Township, you can apply for these grants — you can get windows, insulation.

“I’m hoping we can get enough applicants so we can once again get this grant next year for the public to take advantage of.”

The commissioners accepted a resignation letter from Cpl. Terry Ketchem of the Coal Township Police Department by a 4-0 vote. Zalar approved, noting, “I don’t think it’s right that he left us that quick.”

The board moved to name the recently completed park at Fifth and Webster streets in Ranshaw as “Ranshaw Memorial Park”.

It has been asked of the board in prior meetings to consider naming the park after 99 year-old former Ranshaw resident and decorated veteran Roland Ferentz, who resides in Coal Township. The board agreed that he is certainly worthy of such, but moved to celebrate all the men and women of the United States Armed Forces. They extended an invite for Ferentz to take part in any formal dedication of the park.

A collective of residents from West Lynn Street took advantage of the public comment portion of the meeting to voice their displeasure regarding a pair of properties in that area they feel are leading to infestations of cockroaches and unpleasant sights and smells to homes in the neighboring vicinity.

Fetterman noted that the board would meet with the chief of police and Shamokin Code Enforcement Officer Chris Petrovich to attempt to sort the situation out.

“We will exhaust every avenue it takes in trying to help out,” said Fetterman.

The date for trick or treat was set and will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 31. The hiring of Leon Brown, William Carpenter, Arthur Christ, Richard Kashnoski and Michael Kovack as part-time attendants/laborers at the recycling center was approved by the commissioners.

The board approved a 3-0 vote with Gene Welsh abstaining to allow limited street access to ATVs from the Anthracite Outdoor Adventure Area (AOAA) for a ride on Oct. 26 on Walnut Street from First to Owl; Owl Street from Walnut to Cliff and Cliff/Arch streets from Owl to Oak. Welsh abstained due to his son’s involvement in a local business that could be seen as a conflict of interest.