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Heffner trial tentatively set for January; DA given time to amend two charges

SUNBURY — The trial for accused murderer Brian G. Heffner, which was scheduled for next month, is now expected to be held in January.

On Aug. 6, Northumberland County President Judge Charles H. Saylor granted court-appointed defense attorney John McLaughlin’s motion to continue the trial to give him more time to review new discovery evidence in the case.

On Monday morning, Heffner was back in court for a pre-trial conference in which McLaughlin requested all the charges filed against his client be dismissed. The Danville attorney claimed the charges didn’t contain sufficient information describing the offenses under Rule 504 of the Rules of Criminal Procedure that covers the content of criminal complaints.

Northumberland County District Attorney Tony Matulewicz opposed McLaughlin’s motion, claiming all the charges were properly identified and explained in the complaint.

McLaughlin and defense attorney Michael Dennehy, also of Danville, specifically were seeking to have the charges of receiving stolen property, theft, criminal conspiracy to commit receiving stolen property and criminal conspiracy to commit theft dismissed.

The judge ruled that the two criminal conspiracy charges required more information and gave Matulewicz 20 days to amend them.

Saylor also directed Matulewicz to provide the defense team with all discovery evidence in a timely manner as it becomes available.

On July 15, Saylor issued an order to suppress statements Heffner made to police during two interviews on Oct. 15, 2017, at SCI-Camp Hill.

Heffner, 38, of Coal Township, was arrested by Mount Carmel Township Patrolman Michael Pitcavage on April 12, 2018, on 14 charges, including homicide and robbery.

He is accused of shooting his lifelong friend, Sean Maschal, 33, of Mount Carmel, in the back of the head with a .40-caliber handgun on Sept. 12, 2017, while they were riding in an SUV along Route 901 in Locust Gap with Robert Louis Villari Jr., 32, of Coal Township, and David Matthew Brown, 35, of Ashland.

In his motion to continue the trial, McLaughlin reported the commonwealth provided the defense on July 15 with a copy of a Pennsylvania State Police Laboratory report regarding testing of a .40-caliber pistol, which is the alleged murder weapon. The lab report is dated Jan. 18.

McLaughlin said the commonwealth provided extensive supplemental discovery to the defense that included a report of the Lebanon County Detective Bureau dated Feb. 15, 2018, regarding the recovery of the .40-caliber pistol in the City of Lebanon.

Prior to July, the commonwealth failed to inform the defense that it had recovered and/or tested the alleged homicide weapon, McLaughlin said.

McLaughlin said there was a delay of 11 months from the date the commonwealth learned of the alleged homicide weapon until the date the commonwealth disclosed the same to the defendant on the eve of trial.

He said there was a delay of six months from the date the commonwealth completed testing on the homicide weapon until the date the commonwealth disclosed the same to the defendant.

The defense attorney also pointed out that there was a delay of a year or longer from the date the commonwealth obtained certain witness interviews until the date that discovery was provided to the defense.

In his motion, the attorney said he needs to retain firearms and ballistic experts to review the evidence that is new to the defense. He also must retain other experts to examine the alleged homicide weapon for biological information including, but not limited to, tissue, blood, DNA and fingerprints.


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New Shamokin code officer sworn in

SHAMOKIN — At a special meeting held Monday evening at Mill Road Square, Shamokin City Council announced the hiring of a new code enforcement officer. Following a brief executive session, Christopher White was officially sworn into the position, with his wife, Lisa, by his side, as he took the oath of office from Mayor John Brown.

The terms of White’s hiring — a base salary of $32,000 annually with a $1 per hour raise at the end of his six-month probationary period, effective immediately — was unanimously approved by council members via roll call vote.

White — a Shamokin native, Shamokin Area High School alum and military veteran — indicated his desire to be a part of helping make the city a better place to live and work.

“I’m here to do this job to help the City of Shamokin, which I love,” White said. “When I completed my military service, our family could’ve moved anywhere, but we chose Shamokin. We believe in this city and felt that it was the right place for us to live and work.”

White was subsequently congratulated and welcomed by Brown and all members of city council. His official start date will be Tuesday, Sept. 3.

Funds for facades

Solicitor Frank Konopka read aloud Resolution 19-11, which deals with the city’s application for a Keystone Communities Facade Grant (KCFG). The grant would provide matching funds of up to $5,000 to city businesses interested in refurbishing their building facades. Businesses will need to invest $5,000 in order to receive the matching amount.

The grant, which likely will not exceed $50,000, is through the state Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED).

Council said the project associated with the KCFG is “anticipated to benefit locations within the Shamokin Business District.” However, members did not discuss the project during the meeting.

City Administrator Robert M. Slaby will facilitate and assist in obtaining the requested grant.


Chris Grego / C. J. GREGO/STAFF PHOTO  

On Sunday afternoon, the VNA Health System held its 20th annual butterfly release at the Community Garden at Kehler Park in Shamokin. The event, held in memory of cancer victims, was well attended by a crowd of nearly 50 people.


Chris Grego / C. J. GREGO/STAFF PHOTO  

Members of the Widows Sons Masonic Riders Association are pictured here along with swimmers at the Lawton W. Shroyer Memorial Pool in Shamokin on Saturday. The bikers sponsored a free swim day at the pool.


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Transportation issues from Mystic Mountain discussed at SCA Board Meeting

CATAWISSA RR — As part of Superintendent Paul Caputo’s report at Monday’s Southern Columbia Area School Board meeting, representatives of the Mystic Mountain Estates Property Owners Association Inc. (MMEPOA) and the Fullington Bus Co. addressed the board regarding transportation services.

MMEPOA President Jodi Berry asked to open dialogue regarding transportation alternatives for children living in the Mystic Mountain Estates vicinity.

“We just want our children to have easier access to getting to school like other kids,” said Berry.

The challenge for parents and property owners at Mystic Mountain Estates is getting their kids to the bus stops, which were said to be about 4 miles away from the houses.

“It’s become a deterrent to those moving into our community,” said Berry, who noted that 13 to 20 children live within the development.

“We’re just hoping for some support from the school to work with us to better accommodate our children,” she said.

Arlen Sanden, director of school bus operations for the Fullington Bus Co., said a proposed idea from the MMEPOA representatives regarding a van or bus being used to pick up children at the estate could be problematic.

“I think it’s a huge mistake to even try to take a van, no less a bus, up that hill,” said Sanden. “The safety of the kids is the most important thing to us.”

Lack of guardrails on the proposed route was also discussed as a potential issue. A solution that was discussed was a pickup at the bottom of the hill at the development.

“It’s all about talking to one another and finding a safe solution,” said Berry.

Caputo encouraged everyone to get together, travel to the area and work toward solutions to the issue in an effort to specifically identify possible sites for pickup. The parties involved exchanged information.

“I view tonight as step one in the process toward a solution. I thank both sides for sharing their thoughts on the matter,” said Caputo.

The board approved the employment of Rachel Strohecker for the position of assistant varsity field hockey coach for the 2019-20 school year at an annual salary of $1,800; Chloe Poltonavage as a volunteer assistant field hockey coach for the 2019-20 school year and Zachary Consentino as a volunteer assistant boys soccer coach for the 2019-20 school year.

The board accepted the resignation of Justin Searfoss from the position of part-time custodian effective Friday. Searfoss had been employed in this position since September 2015.

The board approved the Southern Columbia Area School District’s flexible instructional day plan and authorized the superintendent to submit the plan’s application to the state Department of Education as required by Act 64 of 2019.

In other business, the board approved:

• A bid for additional janitorial services for the 2019-20 school year to 3B Consultant Services Inc., of Catawissa, at a monthly cost of $4,095.

• A letter of engagement from Wagner, Dreese, Elsasser and Associates for an audit of real estate and delinquent taxes for years 2018, 2019 and 2020 at a cost not to exceed $3,000 each year.

• The 2019-20 substitute list, pending completion of all employment requirements.

• Regina Reigle, Tara Maurer and Juanita Mowery as transportation aides for the 2019-20 school year.

• The hiring of Thomas Donlan for the position of head boys track-and-field coach for the 2019-20 school year at an annual salary of $3,570.

• Transitioning Kristen Diehl from head girls rack-and-field coach to assistant girls rack-and-field coach for the 2019-20 school year at an annual salary of $1,530, at her request, and Theodore Deljanovan from the assistant to the head coach in the same sport. His salary will be $3,570.

• The first reading of several new and revised policies.


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Man acquitted of rape charges

SUNBURY — A 30-year-old Reading man was acquitted of rape and related offenses Thursday by Northumberland County President Judge Charles H. Saylor when the alleged victim failed to appear to testify at a trial.

Frantzy Delphin, an inmate at SCI-Coal Township, was acquitted of felonies of rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, sexual assault and aggravated indecent assault.

Delphin was charged by Trooper Kevin Kearney of state police at Stonington with raping a male prisoner at SCI-Coal Township on Sept. 2, 2016. The alleged victim is no longer imprisoned.

Delphin was represented by public defenders Michael Suders and Jasmin Smith.


Larry Deklinski / LARRY DEKLINSKI/STAFF PHOTO  

Lourdes volleyball player Anne Metrocavage bumps the ball during a team practice last week.


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Owner of pit bulls charged with multiple violations

SHAMOKIN — A Shamokin man previously convicted of harboring dangerous dogs has now been charged with misdemeanors of failing to register the canines and failing to comply with provisions of the Dog Law Act of 1982.

John Steven May, 41, of 225 N. Franklin St., was charged last week by State Dog Warden Brandi Burkett, of the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, with two counts each of failing to register a dangerous dog within 30 days of receiving written notification on May 20, failing to present sufficient evidence of a proper enclosure for a dangerous dog, failing to permanently identify a dangerous dog by microchip, failing to spay or neuter a dangerous dog, failing to obtain a surety bond or liability insurance for a dangerous dog and failing to pay a $500 registration fee per year for a dangerous dog.

May was previously cited by Burkett for two counts each of possessing a dangerous dog, failing to control an animal and not having updated rabies shots, and one count of failing to have a dog properly licensed.

He was found guilty of the summary offenses by Magisterial District Judge John Gembic III after his American pit bull-type dogs named Oscar and Ralph allegedly bit him, his wife, Christina, and a 10-year-old girl outside May’s residence March 31.

Shamokin police reported the girl, who was visiting the Mays and their daughter, suffered the most serious injuries when one of the dogs bit her in the right upper arm and ear, requiring emergency room treatment at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville.

Police said the Mays were bitten on their legs and underwent emergency room treatment at Geisinger-Shamokin Area Community Hospital.