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Police: Snydertown murder suspect plotted escape from prison

COAL TOWNSHIP — The man who allegedly admitted to police he shot and killed three people earlier this year in Snydertown has been charged with planning an escape from the Northumberland County Jail.

Matthew Joseph Reed, 23, sent a letter to his father while incarcerated asking him to assist in an escape while being transported to a court hearing, police said.

“I want you to help me escape when I go to court ram the cop car that’s transporting me if you wait till I leave from court follow the car I get in when we get on the back road ram the car and I’ll take out the guard and two cops,” Reed wrote.”

In the letter, Reed also told his father he was going to get life in prison or the death penalty for the murders, police said.

“So this is the only way I can ever see you on the outside,” he wrote.

Trooper Josiah Reiner, of state police at Stonington, was asked to investigate the Reeds after the Northumberland County District Attorney’s Office informed him of a phone call that occurred between Reed and his father, Ellison Reed.

During the call, police said Matthew Reed told his father he would be sending a letter and said they can’t talk on the phone about the contents of it.

Police intercepted the letter after Reiner served the Sunbury Post Office with a search warrant before it was delivered to Ellison Reed.

Reiner on Thursday filed charges of escape and aggravated assault, both felonies, against Matthew Reed.

Relating to the murders in June, Matthew Reed has previously been charged with three counts of criminal homicide after police discovered Susan Williams, 58; James Dicken, 59; and John Paul Dicken, 17, dead of gunshot wounds in a Snydertown home. Police said Matthew Reed committed the murders over a dispute while attempting to purchase a vehicle from the victims.

In addition to seniors of the Mount Carmel Area High School band, the Red Tornado community recognized youth cheerleaders and football players prior to the varsity football team hosting Warrior Run Friday night at the Silver Bowl. The young athletes participated in the annual pre-game parade and cheered on the varsity team as they entered Jazz Diminick Field at the Silver Bowl.

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Valley community college effort gaining strength

MILTON — County governments being asked to support the Susquehanna Valley Community Education Project (SVCEP) have, in some cases, considered getting on board.

“Two out of the four (counties) are cautiously interested,” said Meghan Beck, SVCEP board president. “One has been having ongoing conversations with us, which we are very excited about.”

The SVCEP, founded to establish an accredited community college to serve the Susquehanna Valley, held its annual summit of speakers and programs Friday at the Shoe Factory meeting space in Milton.

A partnership with Marywood University was among signs of progress in the last year. Beck said Marywood, an “incubation” partner, will guide the new institution by drafting a plan for what the proposed college will actually offer.

Beck predicted the partnership would be a good fit as recruiting of underserved people was one of Marywood’s strengths.

“That’s where we are in the valley,” Beck said. “There is an opportunity gap. People want to stay in the valley, but are feeling that opportunity isn’t here.

“But employers are all saying we have positions we need to fill,” she added. “How do you connect those two groups? That’s what a community college can do.”

Beck added that outreach to potential stakeholders, in the form of a survey, would continue as the group seeks data to present to county commissioners.

Leslie Worrell Christianson, Marywood University associate provost of academic affairs, explained that the university would create an academic path for the local community college. Accreditation was among the goals as well as planning two-year versions of programs currently offered at the Scranton-based university.

They included degrees from the College of Arts and Science (liberal arts, bio-life science, biotech and information security), College of Health and Human Services (nursing, certified nurse assistant) and the College of Professional Studies (education, business management).

Sheila Quirk-Bailey, president of Illinois Central College East Peoria Campus, appeared at the summit which was also streamed. She said the region served by the college had increasing poverty with declining population.

Quirk-Bailey stressed that successful workforce development included engaging the community, engaging the students and creating effective programming.

“Earning high skill credentials has been in the history of our nation the only effective method to free families from intergenerational poverty,” Quirk-Bailey said. “If you can’t earn a living wage, all of the other trigger points start from there.”

She added that it was their responsibility to engage with people who into programs there there are known to be jobs waiting.

It was announced that the Sunbury-based Community Giving Program awarded a $20,000 grant to the SVCEP nursing program. Summit participants also won prizes for guessing the number of “petitions” in pinata-like figures strung from the ceiling.

Other scheduled speakers included Dr. Christopher Gray (Erie County Community College president), George S. Venios (TIME, The Improved Milton Experience president), Russ Lawrence (Innovative Manufacturing Center president) and Dr. Jennifer Rager-Kay (Geisinger physician).

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Pre-register for the Shamokin Halloween parade for chance to win TV

SHAMOKIN — Parade attendees who pre-register for the Shamokin Halloween parade will be entered in a raffle for a chance to win a flat screen TV donated by Majik Rent To Own. To be eligible for the raffle, pre-registration forms must be submitted prior to Tuesday.

Residents can pre-register by scanning the QR code located on Page A2 of today’s edition.

Parade participants who don’t pre-register may sign up Tuesday at Claude Kehler Community Park from 4:30 p.m. until the parade’s kick off at 6 p.m.

The parade will have four categories: singles, doubles, groups and floats. Judges will be positioned at Legacy Park located on Market and Arch streets. Each of the categories will be rewarded with a cash prize, amounts to be announced, according to Kathy Vetovich president of SABER.

All parade attendees will be photographed with their entry number. “The winners will be announced in The News-Item the next day,” Vetovich said.

Throughout the procession, the Heath’s Gym Dance Crew will perform Ghostbusters-themed dance routines.

“We pride ourselves in creating the spookiest, most entertaining Halloween dance routines,” said Heath’s Gym and Dance Crew instructor Codi Gaboff. “We even revamped my band van to look like the Ghostbuster’s mobile.”

Gaboff added that for the first time this year they will be stopping to perform a routine for the parade judges.

Following the parade, The Moose Family Center of Shamokin will host a haunted house and the Shamokin Area High School football team will have a pep rally located at the end of the parade’s route.

“It’s going to be a big pep rally. There’s going to be fireworks,” Vetovich said.

Vetovich added she would like to thank those who sponsored the parade including The City of Shamokin, SABER, AREA Services, The Rotary Club of Shamokin, Shamokin Mayor John Brown and his wife, Denise, radio personality Tom Kutza and his daughter, Lorena, Nina Clausi and Studio 207.

In addition to seniors of the Mount Carmel Area High School band, the Red Tornado community recognized youth cheerleaders and football players prior to the varsity football team hosting Warrior Run Friday night at the Silver Bowl. The young athletes participated in the annual pre-game parade and cheered on the varsity team as they entered Jazz Diminick Field at the Silver Bowl.

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Watsontown-area family looking to expand through adoption

WATSONTOWN — “Take a deep breath and understand it is a journey.”

That is one piece of advice Amber Pierce would give to anyone looking to adopt a child.

Nine years ago, she and her husband, Matt Pierce, adopted Isaiah. He joined the couple’s other children, Roman, now 15, and Annabelle, now 12.

The Watsontown-area couple has since had another child, Genevive, who is 5.

While going through the process of adopting Isaiah, Matt and Amber knew they wanted to adopt again.

“We didn’t know we could have children,” Amber noted. “Our fourth child was a surprise, which is great.”

The couple has always wanted to have a big family.

“We think it’s important,” Amber said. “We think it’s important to have uniquely formed families. Families look different, everyone’s family looks different, we love it.”

Recently, the family launched what they have dubbed the Pierce Expansion Project, an effort to adopt another child.

“This time, it’s more difficult (to adopt),” Amber said. “Pennsylvania prefers babies stay in family lines. They will call every sister, aunt, niece, grandmother, to try to keep this baby in families. In some cases, that is very advantageous.

“There are situations that’s not so helpful,” she continued. “That’s the mindset, to try to keep babies in families.”

Because of the difficulty of adopting a child from within Pennsylvania, the Pierces are working with an agency in an effort adopt a child from one of several states across the country.

In order for the Pierces to adopt a child through the agency, Amber said the child’s mother must first give her approval. The mother is given a choice of families to adopt from.

“We have to create a magazine of our family, a resume,” she explained. “The mother makes the choice, unless she has an executor or power of attorney.”

Because the process involves multiple factors, the Pierces do not know when they may be selected to adopt a child, or when the process will be finalized.

However, they noted the expense of carrying out an adoption.

“It costs more than a new car,” Amber said, while describing the process.

The Pierces said their children are interested in the adoption process, and are ready to welcome a new addition to the family.

“The three younger (children), they are very excited,” Amber said. “The oldest one... he’s very good with the children.”

Due to the expenses associated with the process, the family has launched a fundraising initiative that will be held in the form of a community service project.

Working with a nonprofit organization called Both Hands, the Pierce family and a team of volunteers will, in early November, be performing some work at the Turbotville-area home of Irene Watson.

Instead of holding a 5K or similar event, Amber said the process involves volunteers helping with the project asking individuals to sponsor them for carrying out the work. All funds raised with go to the Pierce’s efforts to adopt.

The organization, Both Hands, will be managing all funds donated to the cause.

“They don’t give us money,” Amber said, while describing the organization. “They hold our money. When fees come in (related to the adoption process), we send it to them (to pay)... No money can be used inappropriately.”

She added that Both Hands will not take any of the funds donated to the cause for its own use. All funds donated will go to the Pierce Expansion Project.

“They do their own fundraising, on the side,” Amber said, of Both Hands. “They don’t take money from families who are (raising it) for their own adoptions.”

She also explained the process of selecting Watson’s home for the work to be completed at.

The family first checked with Harvest Union County, where they attend church services, to see if any senior citizens were known to be in need of a helping hand with their property.

When the church was not able to identify anyone in need, the Pierces reached out to Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church of Turbotville. Roman is a member of a Scout troop sponsored by the church.

“(Zion) Pastor (Erwin) Roux had a few candidates,” Amber said, adding that Watson was selected.

“She needs some flower beds weeded, she needs them mulched before the weather changes,” Amber said. “We are going to trim some trees. We’ll do some leaf work.

“We are going to be preparing meals and freeze them in individual packages so she has food in case she can’t get out, as winter comes,” she continued. “For fun, we’re going to decorate (her house) for Christmas.”

The Pierces hope their efforts to adopt serve as inspiration and encouragement for others looking to do the same.

“It is a monumental project,” Amber said, of adoption. “You have to be fully committed and you have to remind yourself that you’re committed, frequently. It’s a daunting task of paperwork, the costs, the unknowns.

“Because we have done this before, we are a little more in tune to what the process is,” she continued. “We are motivated by our faith, this is the right thing to do. We have the backbone to keep going.”

The Pierces said it’s important for a family going through an adoption to have a strong system of support from family and friends.

“It’s not a 10-step program,” Amber said, of adopting. “It is a 100-step program... You just have to remind yourself every day of what the goal is. If you get lost in the paperwork, in the fundraising challenges, it will drag you down.”

In the end, she said the effort is worthwhile.

“When you hold that baby for the first time, women forget all about labor,” Amber said. “(With adoption), it is almost exactly the same thing. You get that baby home... everything simply fades away, just like the labor stories.

“It’s a very, very exciting reward,” she added. “As they grow up, it’s a unique parenting opportunity, for the other children as well as the child that’s adopted.”

The Pierces are thankful for everyone supporting their efforts to adopt.

“People have been donating,” Amber said. “We have had support and we are very thankful for that.”

To contribute to the Pierce’s efforts, visit