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Briefs: Man gets two to five years in gunfight death

| Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2005

A Coraopolis man involved in a gunfight that ended with the death of a Fairywood woman was sentenced Tuesday to two to five years in prison.

Kevin Grace, 23, pleaded guilty in October to involuntary manslaughter and aggravated assault charges. He had been charged with homicide for the death of Gwendolyn Jones, 47, a mother of five who was shot in the head by a stray bullet as she walked home May 12, 2004.

But Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Lester Nauhaus said there was not enough evidence to determine whose gun fired the fatal bullet.

North Side
Brother's Brother gets perfect scores

Brother's Brother Foundation received perfect scores in fundraising efficiency and charitable commitment, according to Forbes magazine's special 2006 charity investment guide.

The foundation received 100 percent ratings on two of three benchmarks in the magazine. Only four other nonprofits among the 200 largest in America received such high scores, Brother's Brother announced Tuesday.

A North Side-based international relief agency, Brother's Brother has given about $1.5 billion worth of medical supplies, textbooks, food, seeds and other supplies to people in more than 120 countries. Last year, it gave supplies worth more than $226 million to people in 40 countries.

UPMC lands $4M contract with city

Pittsburgh City Council on Tuesday approved a $4 million contract with UPMC to manage the city's workers' compensation program.

The contract takes effect on Jan. 1. It is for three years, although the city has an option to renew it or not each year.

Allegheny General Hospital on the North Side has managed the program for about six years. Allegheny General's contract expires Dec. 31.

Barbara Parees, the city's director of personnel, had recommended going with UPMC based on requests for proposals the city received.

Strip District
Man pleads guilty to simple assault

A North Side man who says an off-duty Allegheny County sheriff's deputy broke his jaw during a brawl outside a Strip District nightclub pleaded guilty to simple assault charges Tuesday.

Justin Robinson, 19, agreed to plead guilty in exchange for a dismissal of more serious aggravated assault charges filed in connection with the April fight, defense attorney Joseph Alexander Paletta said. Sheriff's Deputy Richard Dwyer had testified during an earlier hearing that Robinson, who was working security, punched him and threw a bottle at him outside Club Zoo.

District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr.'s office cleared the deputy of wrongdoing after Robinson said Dwyer used excessive force. Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey A. Manning sentenced Robinson to probation.

CMU to open campus in Australia

Carnegie Mellon University is set to become the first foreign university to open a campus Down Under, Dean Mark Wessel said Tuesday.

Carnegie Mellon's Heinz School of Public Policy and Management will offer two master's degree programs at a new branch campus in Adelaide, South Australia, beginning in May 2006, Wessel said. The goal is to eventually have students in the two master's programs take courses at both the Oakland and Adelaide campuses, he said. "The Asia Pacific region is a dynamic economic and political area, and we want to be there to train the next generation of leaders," he said.

The South Australian government intends the campus to be a "magnet" to attract highly skilled students. The government is paying the $20 million start-up cost for the new campus, university officials said.

Sentencing hearing for Bell postponed

Convicted nursing home administrator Martha Bell will have to wait another month before finding out her sentence for health care fraud and making false statements.

U.S. District Judge Terrence F. McVerry postponed her sentencing hearing until Jan. 2. It had been scheduled for Friday.

Bell, 59, of West Mifflin, was the founder and administrator of the defunct Ronald Reagan Atrium I Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Robinson. She was accused of defrauding Medicare and Medicaid out of $7 million. In August, she was convicted of one count of health care fraud and eight counts of making false statements relating to health care matters. She faces up to 50 years in prison and $2.25 million in fines.

Jet crew reports smoke in cockpit

body-text:The crew of a military refueling jet reported smoke in the cockpit after landing Tuesday afternoon at Pittsburgh International Airport.

None of the three crew members was injured, and the KC-135 jet was not significantly damaged, said Maj. David Sandala, a spokesman for the 171st Air Refueling Wing, based at the airport.

The crew smelled fumes about noon, minutes after landing, and reported the problem to air traffic controllers. Fire rescue personnel responded to the call as the crew safely exited the plane on an airport taxiway, Capt. Karen Knoerdel said. The crew was returning from a training mission, she said.

The jet was towed back to the base, and military personnel were inspecting the plane to determine what caused the fumes and smoke. "They think it was an electrical problem," Sandala said.

Upper St. Clair
Township, school district seek to join suit

The Upper St. Clair School District and township are asking a judge to let them join a lawsuit aimed at overturning Allegheny County's new property tax assessment method.

Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge R. Stanton Wettick will hear arguments Thursday on the motion to join the lawsuit filed Nov. 21 by township Solicitor Charles P. McCullough, who also is a former county solicitor.

Allegheny County Council in October approved a new plan to use 2002 property values for the 2006 tax year. McCullough argues the county paid municipalities and schools thousands of dollars to appeal undervalued properties after the 2001 and 2002 reassessments. The new plan, he argues, illegally would reverse the results of those appeals, for which the county paid $300 apiece.

Current county Solicitor Mike Wojcik welcomed the intervention but predicted the new assessment method will be upheld.

Pleasant Hills
Lecture to explore bridging Jewish divides

The Eleanor Fenster Memorial Lectures will feature Rabbi Yisroel Miller at 7:30 p.m. Sunday at Beth Israel Center, 118 Gill Hall Road, Pleasant Hills.

Miller, of Congregation Poale Zedeck in Squirrel Hill, will speak on "Bridging the Orthodox-Conservative-Reform Divide." The lecture is free.

For more information, call 412-882-5495.

Allegheny County
Health Department concludes flu-shot program

The Allegheny County Health Department on Tuesday concluded its annual influenza vaccination program and closed its flu shot clinic in Oakland.

The department vaccinated nearly 9,000 people through its program, which started on Oct. 17.

Other providers still offering vaccine are asked to call the department at 412-687-ACHD if they would like to be listed on its Web site. Anyone who has not yet received a flu shot is encouraged to check the Web site and seek vaccine from other providers. High-risk groups are: people age 65 and older, residents of long-term care facilities, children and adults with chronic health conditions, children ages 6 to 23 months; pregnant women, health care workers and people who live with or care for infants.

Free HIV testing to mark World AIDS day

The Allegheny County Health Department will mark World AIDS Day by providing free and confidential walk-in testing for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

Testing will be available 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Thursday at the department's Oakland office, 3441 Forbes Avenue, as part of a health fair featuring information on AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.

The non-invasive oral test, which takes a swab sample from inside the mouth instead of drawing blood, will be offered. Counseling will be provided before the test and when the results are given, usually within 10 days. For more information, call the department at 412-687-ACHD.

Erie County
Penguin chicks make debut at zoo

Two penguin chicks made their debut at the Erie Zoo days before the facility will close for the winter.

The black-footed penguin chicks were born Nov. 12 and 13, but they haven't been named because blood tests needed to determine their gender haven't been completed.

Zoos try hard to breed black-footed penguins because only 120,000 are believed to be left in the wild, down from more than 1 million in the 1940s.

The penguin chicks were displayed Monday. The zoo will close for the winter Thursday, for the first time in its history, because of a lack of funding from the city. It will reopen March 1.

Washington County
Firefighter injured in Charleroi house fire

A Washington County firefighter suffered smoke inhalation Tuesday while trying to extinguish a fire that damaged the third floor of a house on McKean Avenue in Charleroi.

Justin Santoro, 21, was taken to the Monongahela Valley Hospital in Carroll Township for evaluation and treatment, Charleroi fire Chief Robert Whiten Jr. said.

The four-alarm fire, which erupted at 6:30 p.m., was confined to the third floor. Whiten said an electrical problem sparked the flames.

2 hurt when vehicle slams pole, catches fire

Two people were injured Tuesday when a vehicle crashed into a pole and caught fire, emergency personnel in Washington County said.

The accident occurred at 4:23 p.m. along Joffre Bulger Road in Smith Township, near Burgettstown. One person was taken to Allegheny General Hospital, North Side, for treatment. The other person suffered relatively minor injuries, emergency personnel said. No other information was available.

Somerset County
Hospital to expand services at main campus

Over the next decade, Somerset Hospital will consolidate its services around its main campus in Somerset, hospital officials announced.

When the hospital's medical and rehabilitation services are finally consolidated, "we will be able to offer the same level of services here as in Pittsburgh," Chief Executive Officer Michael Farrell said.

The multimillion-dollar project will begin with a 25,000-square-foot medical building to be built across from the hospital's main entrance. The $3 million to $5 million building will house medical practices and an outpatient rehabilitation clinic currently housed four miles away. The new campus will be named for the H.W. Wheeler Jr. family, which gave the hospital a large donation. The hospital didn't divulge the amount.

Bedford County
Dairy farmer forced to sell herd after fire

A longtime family dairy farm in Bedford County was forced to sell off its entire herd of Holstein cows after fire destroyed the milking barn.

The blaze at the Fair family farm in Manns Choice was discovered at 5 a.m. Monday by Geraldine Fair, who woke to find flames on the outside of the barn.

Family members were able to get the 54 head of Holsteins out of the barn, but they lost several calves and farm equipment.

With no alternative milking facilities, the family was forced to sell the herd. Ralph Fair and his wife have lived on the farm for all of their 49 years of marriage, and the farm is family run. "There's not much left out there, but I imagine we will rebuild," he said.

Man also faces arson charges

A man facing a possible death penalty if convicted on kidnapping and murder charges also faces arson charges, a judge ruled.

The defense attorney for Joseph Clark, 45, of Everett, had argued that the alleged arson was unrelated to the murder and abduction of Holly Notestine. The 25-year-old mother of two was abducted from her Monroe Township home April 30, 2000, and killed.

Notestine's skeletal remains were found four years later by loggers about four miles from her home. Forensic testing determined Notestine died of multiple stabbings.

Bedford County prosecutors said Clark is accused of burning the car used in the kidnapping of Notestine to cover up the evidence. Clark's attorney, Thomas Crawford, had argued there's no reason to think the car fire was even an arson, let alone related to the kidnapping and murder.


  • In White Oak, White Oak police and the FBI will present "Predators of Children and the Dangers of the Internet," from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday in the gymnasium at St. Angela Merici School, 1640 Fawcett Ave. For more information, call White Oak police Chief Joe Hoffman at (412) 672-9727, ext. 235.

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