5 to appeal convictions in Monsour trespass case

| Saturday, Oct. 6, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

Jeannette's battle with trespassers at the abandoned Monsour Medical Center will take the city's attorney and police to court, where five people cited for illegally entering the building in July will appeal their convictions and fines.

Robert Rega Jr., Matthew Turnshek and Alexander Todd, all 18 and all of Irwin; Steven Turnshek, 26, of Jeannette; and a 15-year-old juvenile from Hempfield were cited for trespassing and disorderly conduct. The five filed notice this week that they are appealing the convictions.

District Judge Joe DeMarchis found the five guilty and fined them $300 each after Jeannette police officers found them inside the decaying structure. No-trespassing signs are posted in the condemned building.

Flashlights flickering on the second floor led police to the intruders, police said.

Several people were convicted of trespassing last year after they videotaped the interior of the debris-strewn structure and posted it on YouTube.

Although warning signs are posted on the building, doors and windows are broken, allowing access.

City Code Enforcement Officer Ed Howley said portions of the roof have collapsed and the ceilings are falling. City workers have sealed the entrances, but intruders ignore the no-trespassing signs and rip off the plywood, officials said.

DeMarchis said it is not the responsibility of Jeannette police to guard the structure.

“I know they're doing their best, but they don't have the resources to guard it,” he said.

City attorney Scott Avolio said police must catch intruders on the premises to prove trespassing. Last year, DeMarchis was forced to dismiss a theft charge against a man who stole copper pipe from the building because he was not caught in the act. Unless the legal owners of the medical center press charges, the city can't prosecute, he said.

“We don't always have a victim because nobody steps up and claims ownership,” Avolio said.

City officials aren't sure who are the building's legal owners. The hospital was owned by Monsour Hospital and Clinic, which later became Monsour Medical Center. The hospital closed in 2006 after a series of failed state inspections.

After the medical center shut down, the board was dissolved. The last CEO was Michael Monsour, son of Dr. Howard P. Monsour, one of the founders of the former Route 30 hospital.

Monsour Hospital and Clinic was founded in the 1950s by Drs. Howard, Robert and Roy Monsour and their parents. In 1966, Robert, Roy and William Monsour; their mother, Eva; and cousin, Dr. Omar Ayoub, created the Monsour Medical Foundation to assume control of the hospital, according to a 1985 appeals court ruling.

Richard Gazarik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6292 or at rgazarik@tribweb.com.

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