Irwin woman pins drug deals on teen

Renatta Signorini
| Friday, June 28, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

An Irwin woman testified on Thursday that a 16-year-old Turtle Creek boy arranged drug deals in the parking lot of her apartment building.

“He answered the phone and stayed in the house and gave orders to” a 16-year-old Penn Hills boy, testified Katelyn Sue Jones, 23, of Sweetbriar Apartments.

Juvenile Court Judge Michele Bononi said she plans to rule soon on whether the Turtle Creek teen should be tried as an adult for allegedly dealing heroin out of the apartment. Bononi heard from several witnesses on Thursday during a hearing in response to a bid by prosecutors to have the 16-year-old tried as an adult in Westmoreland Common Pleas Court.

Jones waived her Fifth Amendment right prior to testifying about the short-lived drug operation that unraveled on April 10, when she and the two teens were arrested. Jones said she does not have a deal with prosecutors in exchange for her testimony.

Jones met the 16-year-old Turtle Creek boy in early April and she agreed to allow the sale of heroin from her apartment. Both teens stayed there, the Turtle Creek boy setting up deals and the Penn Hills boy meeting customers in the parking lot, Jones testified.

“They would give me ($50) for letting them use my house,” she said.

Jones admitted under cross-examination by defense attorney Ralph Karsh that she knows people living in the area who use heroin. Karsh suggested she was the one running the operation, but she contradicted that theory in her testimony.

On April 10, the group, along with Jones' 3-year-old daughter, allegedly took a trip to secure more drugs. Upon their return, Trooper Jeffrey Brautigam received a text message from Jones, who thought she was texting a potential customer, according to testimony.

Brautigam and other investigators present in the Sweetbriar lot ambushed Jones and the two teens at about 7:45 p.m. Police said they seized 14 bricks of heroin, a loaded .45-caliber pistol, cash and marijuana.

Brautigam testified that he saw the Turtle Creek teen toss a plastic bag from the vehicle. It contained packaged heroin, according to testimony.

County Detective Tony Marcocci testified that the amount of heroin confiscated indicates an intent to sell. North Huntingdon Police Officer Jeremy Nichols testified that the Penn Hills boy was in possession of the firearm with an obliterated serial number. The teen had been sitting in the back seat next to Jones' daughter, who is staying with family members.

Several North Huntingdon area residents who have been affected by drugs came to testify, Assistant District Attorney Wayne Gongaware said. Karsh objected and argued their testimony was not relevant to his client's case.

Bononi said heroin generally has a “detrimental effect on a community,” and ruled the residents would not be permitted to testify.

Coroner Kenneth Bacha testified about an increased number of drug overdose deaths in the last couple years, and presented a map that showed a concentration of heroin-related deaths in the western part of the county, “the Route 30 corridor in particular,” he said.

The hearing was closed to the public for approximately an hour while psychologist Dr. Alice Applegate testified for the defense.

The 16-year-old Penn Hills teen is scheduled for a certification hearing in August. No action has been scheduled in Jones' case.

All of the suspects are facing charges of possession with intent to deliver, heroin possession and conspiracy. The Penn Hills teen faces an additional weapons violation. Jones additionally faces a charge of child endangerment.

Renatta Signorini is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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