Councilwoman's sex case roils N. Belle Vernon
NORTH BELLE VERNON — This close-knit community has become a bit unraveled after hearing that a borough councilwoman allegedly admitted to a lengthy sexual relationship with her daughter's underaged friend.
In the third year of her first term on council, Heather M. Prinkey, 36, of 513 Henry St., was arrested Wednesday on charges that she engaged in sexual acts at her home with the girl over an extended period of time.
Borough council President Dennis Simboli said he was shocked to hear about the arrest.
"I really didn't know anything about it," he said. "It's just a black eye for North Belle Vernon. Unfortunately, these things happen in our world and sometimes it hits close to home.
"Heather is still a friend of mine. I feel sorry for her and her family and, if there is anything I can do, I would extend my hand out."
According to an affidavit of probable cause filed by Westmoreland County Detective Robert W. Weaver at Magisterial District Judge Charles Christner's office in West Newton, Prinkey engaged in sexual acts with the teenager from May 2008 to September 2009.
Weaver stated in the affidavit that the girl claimed during an interview on June 28 that the sexual encounters took place during sleepovers at the Prinkey home.
Prinkey performed several sexual acts on the child, who was 13 years old when the incidents began, the affidavit states.
Borough solicitor Mark Ramsier said Prinkey turned in her resignation to council July 15.
That was the day after she admitted to police that the girl's claims were true, according to the affidavit.
Council will vote on accepting Prinkey's resignation at its Aug. 10 meeting, but Ramsier said he no longer considers Prinkey part of the board.
"They would accept her resignation but, as far as we're concerned, she's resigned because she's tendered a resignation," Ramsier said.
Mayor Ed Lyons said the community has been hit hard by the allegations.
"I sort of knew that the county detectives were down here, so it wasn't a total shock," the mayor said. "But, in the general sense of the word, I was very shocked about it.
"This type of a story sets a gloom over, normally for the most part, a community. Things of this nature come as a shock and a surprise. But she's presumed innocent until proven guilty. We obviously have concern for those involved."
Lyons said the community will just have to be patient and wait for the outcome.
"That's not really a borough problem. That was instigated by the county and I'm sure the county will pursue it to the nth degree and come up with a resolution," he said.
"As the mayor of the town, I'm taking it as a sad day for the community. It's always sad when these kinds of charges are confronted by the municipality. I'm sort of in the position like everyone else in the community — let the legal system work and sort out what the problems are."
Jesse Cramer, Belle Vernon Area School District's athletic director and the magisterial district judge for the area where the alleged crimes were committed, said Prinkey had coached and played for the Belle Vernon Youth Baseball and Softball Community League.
Cramer said he was taken aback when he heard that the 1992 Belle Vernon Area High School graduate was being charged, especially because of her involvement in the community.
"I've just known their family since she was a little kid," the judge said. "It's just a surprise. I know, obviously more than most people know, that it happens. But somebody like that• It's just something you never dreamed would have happened. I guess shock isn't even a strong enough word for it.
"I guess you really don't know people when you think you know them. But it is what it is."
Borough residents out Friday afternoon on the community's main route, Broad Avenue, reacted to Prinkey's arrest.
Ron Krupzig, a borough resident for 15 years, said he was concerned, especially because he has a 16-year-old daughter.
"I'm definitely surprised and shocked," he said. "You never think it's going to happen so close to home."
Borough resident Nick Kalcevic said many residents have been talking about the charges.
"It's kind of scary," he said. "Ultimately, it's just a lot of shock and awe. I mean, it's a councilwoman. I just don't know what the hell people are thinking anymore."
Prinkey has been charged with two felony counts of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, one felony count each of statutory sexual assault, aggravated indecent assault and endangering the welfare of children, two misdemeanor counts of corruption of minors and one misdemeanor count of indecent assault.
Christner sent Prinkey to Westmoreland County Prison on Wednesday after she was unable to post $250,000 straight cash bond.
A clerk at Christner's office said Friday that Prinkey posted bond Thursday night.
A preliminary hearing is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. Aug. 9 at Christner's office.
Attempts to reach Prinkey for comment were unsuccessful.