SUNBURY — A jury of seven women and five men heard testimony from seven prosecution witnesses Wednesday in the trial for the mother of accused child murderer Jahrid Burgess, but will have to wait until today to reach a verdict in the case.
Northumberland County Judge Hugh A. Jones continued the trial for Christy Willis, 51, of Plum Creek Road, Sunbury, until 9:15 a.m. today after the final witness called by Northumberland County District Attorney Tony Matulewicz testified late Wednesday afternoon. No defense witnesses were called by Willis’ attorney William Cannon, a special conflicts counsel with the county.
Closing arguments by Matulewicz and Cannon will open today’s legal proceedings. Jones will then “charge,” or instruct, the jurors before they begin deliberations in the courtroom.
Willis is charged with felonies of obstructing a child abuse case and hindering apprehension or prosecution, and a misdemeanor of providing false reports to law enforcement relating to the severe beating of 3-year-old Arabella Parker that led to her death in 2019.
Authorities said Willis lied to a county caseworker and state police and gave conflicting statements to allegedly protect her son from being charged with murder in the case.
Samantha Jo Delcamp, 25, is charged as an accomplice in the murder of her 3-year-old daughter. She remains in Centre County Correctional Facility.
Burgess, who is Delcamp’s former boyfriend, is charged with an open count of criminal homicide. He is accused of severely beating Parker between July 19 and Oct. 10, 2019. The child remained in critical condition on a respirator at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville before passing away Nov. 22, 2019.
He remains in Northumberland County Jail after being denied bail due to the murder charge.
Delcamp lived with Parker and Burgess at 725 W. Shamokin St., Trevorton, at the time of the child’s severe beating.
All the charges were filed by Trooper Brian Siebert, of state police at Montoursville.
Willis, who is in Northumberland County Jail in lieu of $200,000 cash bail, was dressed in black and repeatedly wrote notes on a legal pad while appearing very nervous throughout the proceedings. She conferred with Cannon multiple times and was seen crying for a few moments.
Following opening statements by Matulewicz and Cannon, Northumberland County Children and Youth Services Caseworker Brittany Duke-Williams was called to the witness stand. She testified that she was on-call when summoned to Geisinger Medical Center in Danville at 1 a.m. Oct. 11, 2019, for a report of suspected child abuse.
She said hospital staff informed her that Burgess was hostile toward them and became very defensive. The caseworker said Burgess claimed Parker was eating a snack at 10 p.m. Oct. 10, 2019, at her home when she experienced a seizure for about 10 minutes. She said the child was unresponsive upon arriving in the emergency room, where she had vomited at some point and had dilated pupils.
Duke-Williams said Burgess denied that he or other family members caused harm to Parker.
The caseworker said Burgess told her during an interview that Parker was not abused. He claimed the child was very active and bruised easily.
Duke-Williams said Burgess also claimed the child had suffered a seizure a month or two ago, but there was no report of her being seen by a physician.
She said Burgess informed her that 9-1-1 was called when the seizure didn’t stop. He claimed the ambulance took an hour to get to his home. Burgess said he was the only person alone with the child within the last two days.
Duke-Williams said she also interviewed Delcamp and Willis. The caseworker said she talked with three doctors about Parker’s condition and was later interviewed by state police.
Delcamp testified that Burgess was responsible for inflicting serious injuries on her daughter that led to her eventual death. She also claimed Burgess repeatedly assaulted her, but that she was too afraid of the defendant to report the incidents to police.
She recalled seeing Burgess holding her daughter with both hands against a wall inside their Trevorton home on Oct. 10, 2019, and throwing the child, who hit her head on the floor while landing partially on a couch and the floor.
Delcamp testified that Burgess also pushed her backward after throwing her daughter.
She said it was about an hour between the time her daughter suffered a seizure and 9-1-1 was called. She said her daughter was transported by ambulance to Geisinger Medical Center in Danville.
Delcamp said she didn’t call 9-1-1 because she didn’t have a phone. She claimed Burgess refused to call 9-1-1 before calling Willis, who came to their home about 30 minutes later and called 9-1-1 approximately 10 minutes after arriving.
Delcamp also recalled hearing a conversation between Willis and Burgess when the three of them went outside Geisinger Medical Center to have a cigarette while waiting for a medical report on Parker.
She said when Burgess told his mother what actually happened to the girl, Willis told her son not to worry because she would tell police she was at their home when the child was injured so there would be another witness.
Dr. Paul Bellino, a pediatrician at Geisinger who examined Parker, testified that the child suffered a series of internal injuries that reflected a recent history of abuse.
Bellino said he found that Parker had multiple fractures throughout her rib cage, with some injuries having occurred from two to three weeks prior to the Oct. 10, 2019, attack and others six to eight months old.
Bellino said the child suffered numerous bruises and multiple broken bones. He said a seizure didn’t cause the injuries.
Trooper Jessica Naschke, a criminal investigator with state police at Milton, discussed photographs she took of Parker, while Cpl. Jeff Kowalski, a computer forensics expert currently stationed at Lehighton, testified about phone records he examined from cell phones belonging to Delcamp and Willis.
Cpl. Adrian Bordner, of state police at Milton, testified that he and Siebert interviewed Willis at the state police station at Stonington on Oct. 11, 2019. He said Willis provided police with conflicting statements and claimed she was present when the child was injured, but didn’t see what happened to her.
During his testimony, Siebert outlined the investigation that led to the charges filed against Willis, Delcamp and Burgess.
A lengthy tape of the interviews Bordner and Siebert conducted with Willis was played in court.
At the beginning of the trial, Matulewicz and Cannon stipulated that Parker died from child abuse and that an autopsy report wouldn’t be introduced as evidence.
WEST CHESTER — A state constable from Trevorton accused of using his elected position and authority for personal profit is scheduled for criminal trial 9 a.m. Monday.
The Chester County District Attorney’s Office claims Michael Robel used his law enforcement position for private security interests related to the Mariner East Pipeline project and failed to report his $27,995 income for 2018, as required by the state Public Official and Employee Ethics Act.
Robel, 59, of 108 Birch Road, was charged in 2019 with felonies of bribery, conflict of interest and accepting improper influence and a misdemeanor of statement of financial interests.
Records show Robel was subcontracted to work security by a Harrisburg company doing business as Raven Knights. The constable was required and asked to provide copies of his state constable and firearm cards as a condition of employment.
Robel, who remains free on $25,000 unsecured bail, was a successful write-in candidate for the constable position in Zerbe Township in 2015.
Also charged as a result of the investigation is Chester County Constable Kareem Johnson, of Coatesville, who is also scheduled for trial Monday.
A Pennsylvania state constable is an elected office held in all Pennsylvania townships, boroughs and cities, except Philadelphia. Constables have the authority in Pennsylvania to serve subpoenas, civil process and arrest warrants anywhere within the commonwealth, and to conduct warrantless arrests for felonies and breaches of the peace committed in their presence.
Constables are sworn law enforcement officers elected at the municipal level to six-year terms; however, state law governs constables.
According to the Pennsylvania Constitution, removal of an elected official requires the elected official’s conviction of an infamous crime or the common law crime of misbehavior in office.
A court is authorized to remove an elected official upon his or her conviction of an infamous crime, such as forgery, perjury, embezzlement of public moneys and bribery.
Misbehavior in office occurs when there is the breach of a positive statutory duty or the performance by a public official of a discretionary act with an improper or corrupt motive.
SHAMOKIN — Officials with the Shamokin Economic Development Authority (EDA) are hoping to move the city’s “Illumination Station” pocket park project along quicker as the undertaking has hit a delay with government agencies.
This week, city council announced Stomberg, Garrigan & Associates, of Somerset, was awarded a contract for design and engineering work on the park at a cost of $39,500. The firm is the same one that created the GoShamokin plan last year.
Betsy Kramer, revitalization coordinator with SEDA-Council of Governments, told EDA board members Tuesday there is “behind the scenes” progress being made on the proposed Independence Street park.
“Let’s start seeing some progress,” EDA board member Kathy Vetovich said, adding that she is not pleased with the pace things are moving.
Officials had hoped demolition on buildings at 118 and 122 E. Independence St., the future location of the park, would begin in April. Kramer said the demolition of the buildings is currently under an “environmental review” due to the use of federal Community Development Block Grant funding for part of the project.
Kramer told officials she expects demolition to begin on the buildings within a month or two and added that Linda Sterling, program analyst with SEDA-COG, expects the park to take shape by winter and be completely polished by spring of next year.
The deadline for the project to be completed is Dec. 31, 2022.
Mayor John Brown has previously said no city money will be used for the project and funding is being used from government grants that do not require a match from the city.
In the future, there will be a public comment period during which members of the public will be invited to talk about what they would like to see included with the park.
KULPMONT — Mayor Nicholas Bozza announced during a meeting of council Wednesday night that a litter cleanup and a flower planting at the Veterans Memorial Field will be held 9 a.m. Saturday, May 1.
“We are going to intertwine the (annual) litter cleanup on the same day (as the planting),” Bozza said of the borough’s pollination garden, “We are going to try and get as many residents and volunteers as possible to help us plant.”
Bozza advised council that the borough will be taking delivering of a large amount of mulch for the pollination garden, but the drop off will be near the the entrance to the facility. He sought and received council’s blessing for street department workers to haul the mulch to a location near the pollination garden prior to the event in May.
Councilman Robert Chesney said the scope of a drainage project in the 600 and 700 block of Fir Street has changed, which has raised the cost to the borough by $44,455 for a projected total cost of about $90,000. He explained that a new drainage pipe must be placed above a high-pressure natural gas line, which will cause modifications to a catch basin, inlet and Fir Street.
Chesney said discussions have been held with Rep. Kurt Masser and Sen. John Gordner in an attempt to seek more funding to offset the unexpected costs.
In other business:
• Chairman Robert Slaby read a proclamation from mayor and council congratulating the Mount Carmel Area High School girls basketball team for winning the PIAA Class 2A championship. The proclamation will be presented to the team at 6:30 p.m. today.
• Slaby informed council that the Borough of Marion Heights has requested it be added to Kulpmont’s recycling program. The request was handed off to a committee for review.
• Council authorized police Chief Nathan Foust to participate in a regionalization police study. Bozza did not identify the municipalities involved, but noted the study would not cost the borough any money.
• Council authorized the purchase of a paper shredder for the police department at a cost not to exceed $250.
• Council discussed blocking a section of Maple Street near the former J.H. and C.K. Mill due to a piece of rubber hanging off the facility.
• Council agreed to spend $150 to sponsor a hole in the annual Fight the Blight Golf Tournament, held by the Housing Authority of Northumberland County, on Friday, June 4.
• Council agreed to purchase six work jeans at a cost of $23 per pair. Chesney questioned past purchases of jeans and voted against the motion.
• Council agreed to purchase a computer and related accessories for $835.
• Council adopted Ordinance 2021-03, which abolishes the Office of Elected Auditor and appoints an independent auditor.
Also attending the meeting were Councilmen Stephen Bielskie, Stephen Motyka and Joseph Dowkus. Absent from the meeting were Councilmen Robert Fanella and Michael Sinopoli.