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Westmoreland

Gun-related charges filed against acquaintance of missing Unity woman

Renatta Signorini
| Monday, April 16, 2018, 8:51 a.m.
Thomas G. Stanko
WPXI
Thomas G. Stanko
State Police, along with dive teams, search property around the home of the mother of Thomas G. Stanko near White Fence Lane in Unity Township on Friday, April 13, 2018.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
State Police, along with dive teams, search property around the home of the mother of Thomas G. Stanko near White Fence Lane in Unity Township on Friday, April 13, 2018.
State Police, along with dive teams, search property around the home of the mother of Thomas G. Stanko near White Fence Lane in Unity Township on Friday, April 13, 2018.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
State Police, along with dive teams, search property around the home of the mother of Thomas G. Stanko near White Fence Lane in Unity Township on Friday, April 13, 2018.
Cassandra Gross
Cassandra Gross

New charges filed Monday by state police indicate that the acquaintance of a missing Unity woman may have illegally had several firearms.

Troopers charged Thomas G. Stanko, 47, of Unity with 28 counts of unlawful possession of a firearm and a single count of receiving stolen property. Stanko had not been arraigned Monday afternoon, and a copy of the criminal complaint was unavailable.

His attorney, David Shrager, said he hadn't seen police paperwork on the new accusations and needed to investigate further.

“I'm aware of the fact there were firearms at his mother's property,” said Shrager, referring to a White Fence Lane home police searched last week that is owned by Stanko. “I believe those were owned mostly by his deceased father.”

Stanko has denied involvement in the disappearance of Cassandra E. Gross, 51, who has been missing for more than a week. No arrests have been made.

Police have searched two Unity properties belonging to Stanko, as well as a pond and an area near Twin Lakes Park where Gross' burned vehicle was found last Tuesday.

The new accusations are in addition to a receiving stolen property charge on which police arrested Stanko on Friday. He is being held in the Westmoreland County Prison on $100,000 bond on accusations that an all-terrain vehicle stolen in about 1997 was found at the White Fence Lane home, according to court papers.

During a Thursday search of the property, troopers located a 1988 Yamaha ATV that had been reported stolen in northern Pennsylvania, according to court documents. The owner of the ATV confirmed to investigators last week that it was taken from his home about 20 years ago, police reported.

State police reported having trail camera photographs from a neighboring Unity property that show Stanko using the ATV on April 1.

Shrager hopes to address his client's bond on the receiving stolen property charge. An April 23 preliminary hearing is set.

Gross was last seen April 7.

Her family reported her missing last week. Her dog, which is blind, was found along Beatty County Road in Unity.

On April 10, police found Gross' red 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander along railroad tracks in a wooded area near Twin Lakes Park after Norfolk Southern railroad employees spotted it. The SUV had been burned almost beyond recognition.

In the days after, troopers were seen searching Stanko's White Fence Lane and Macey Road properties.

Shrager has identified Stanko as Gross' “boyfriend.” Her mother has told the Tribune-Review that she gave police the name of a man who had been bothering her daughter for the past few months. The pair were not in a relationship, the mother said. She declined to provide a reporter with the man's name.

Police are seeking information from anyone who may have seen Gross' SUV in the Twin Lakes area or any other unusual activity. The license plate is HLP-1411.

Anyone with information is asked to call state police in Greensburg at 724-832-3288 or 911.

Renatta Signorini is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-837-5374, rsignorini@tribweb.com or via Twitter @byrenatta.

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