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Suspended Aliquippa assistant chief facing new charges

Megan Guza
| Tuesday, July 10, 2018, 3:09 p.m.
Joseph Perciavalle III
Joseph Perciavalle III

Detectives on Tuesday filed more charges against a suspended assistant police chief in Aliquippa, court records show.

Joseph Perciavalle III, 43, has been on leave since early June after authorities said he’d sent explicit sexual material in a group message that included a 17-year-old girl.

The new charge – intercepting communications, a felony – stems from a June 13 search of Perciavalle’s cellphone by Beaver County detectives.

The search turned up a 39-minute recording of a March 2 conversation between Perciavalle and Aliquippa Police Chief Donald Couch, according to the criminal complaint. The conversation topics included the police department, the police pension fund, city administrator Sam Gill, retired Capt. Doug Edgell, Aliquippa High School football and more, detectives wrote.

Investigators noted that the recording was made the same day that Pennsylvania State Police served a search warrant on the city’s municipal offices.

Further conversation between detectives and Couch – who is also on leave from the department for undisclosed reasons – indicated that Couch did not give Perciavalle permission to record the conversation. Couch said he also recalled that as the day state police raided the offices.

“Couch stated that he and Perciavalle rode together on patrol and talked about the police department business and why (state police) would be searching … Aliquippa offices,” detectives wrote.

He was released on $10,000 unsecured bond. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for July 20.

The intercepting communications charge comes just over a month after detectives charged Perciavalle with disseminating explicit sexual material to a minor and unlawful contact with a minor – both felonies – and a misdemeanor charge of corruption of minors.

Those charges stemmed from a text message conversation in May that came to light after Lauren Watkins turned over her cellphone to Aliquippa police as part of the investigation into the killing of Rachael DelTondo, who was gunned down on Mother’s Day in her parents’ driveway.

The May 10 conversation began with a message from Perciavalle to Aliquippa police Sgt. Kenneth Watkins, his wife Stephanie Watkins and their daughter.

Perciavalle was listed in the teen’s phone by the name Uncle Perc, according to the criminal complaint.

The message, sent about 6:30 p.m., contained a video of a woman of “indeterminate age” wearing high-heel boots, a dark top and no pants. She was on a park swing, urinating, the complaint said.

The teen never responded to the message, but her parents did.

“Wow,” Kenneth Watkins wrote. His wife allegedly responded by writing “perv,” and added, “My daughter is too young to see this.”

“She is 21,” Perciavalle allegedly responded. Stephanie Watkins wrote back, “17.”

The complaint said Perciavalle responded: “And it’s a girl taking a pee. Like a true Quip (Aliquippa) hoodrat.”

Perciavalle had been named acting police chief two days earlier after Couch was placed on leave. Watkins was placed on leave following DelTondo’s murder because his daughter had been with DelTondo minutes before she was killed.

Tribune-Review staff writer Tom Davidson contributed.

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