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Westmoreland

Ex-boyfriend of missing Unity woman ordered to prison in separate case

Rich Cholodofsky
| Tuesday, July 17, 2018, 5:21 p.m.
Thomas G. Stanko
WPXI
Thomas G. Stanko

As the former boyfriend of a missing Unity woman left a Westmoreland County courtroom Tuesday after being ordered to prison, her mother gestured with a thumbs up and addressed the man she believes killed her daughter.

“Way to go, Tom,” Kathe Gross said.

Later, Gross said she wasn’t satisfied with the new sentence imposed against Thomas Stanko.

“I’d like to see him rot in hell,” she said.

Cassandra Gross, 51, has been missing since early April. Her family believes Stanko is responsible for her disappearance. Stanko, who has been in jail since the end of April, maintains he has no information about her whereabouts. No criminal charges have been filed in the case.

Following a lengthy hearing, Common Pleas Judge Christopher Feliciani ordered Stanko to serve an additional two t0 four years in prison in connection with an incident at a Unity cemetery in 2015. Stanko, 47, originally pleaded guilty to five counts each of simple assault and reckless endangerment and was ordered to serve 11-1/2 to 23 months in jail for threatening five people with a gun during a midnight memorial service.

The judge last month revoked Stanko’s probation and parole for those offenses, saying new criminal charges as well as evidence that he was drunk and potentially involved in a bar fight last year — the same day a house arrest portion of another sentence expired — merited a new sentence.

Assistant District Attorney Pete Flanigan asked that Stanko serve five to 10 years in prison.

“Mr. Stanko has a history of dangerous and assaultive behavior. He presents a notable concern to the community,” Flanigan said.

Defense attorney Dante Bertani insisted Stanko should never have been allowed to plead guilty to the assault case for the cemetery incident. Bertani challenged pending criminal charges related to the alleged bar fight last year and a receiving stolen property offense filed against him in April, after Gross’ disappearance.

Bertani contended Cassandra Gross wrote a statement supporting Stanko’s position that he was not the aggressor during the bar fight. Flanigan said he met with Gross and told her he didn’t believe her story because it conflicted with a statement Stanko gave to police in which he claimed no fight occurred.

“You can imagine her surprise,” Flanigan said.

Gross, in her written statement read by Bertani, referred to Stanko as her boyfriend.

The judge ordered Stanko to serve out the remaining portion of the original 23-month jail sentence and tacked on an additional two to four years in prison. He also will serve two years on probation after his release.

Stanko is scheduled to appear July 24 before another Westmoreland County judge for a potential guilty plea on charges that he violated terms of a previous drunken driving offense. Police contend Stanko drove a vehicle not equipped with an ignition interlock device. In court Tuesday, Stanko admitted to that offense.

Meanwhile, the search for clues to find Cassandra Gross continues, her family said.

Gross’ family and friends reported her missing April 9. A day later, her burned-out sport-utility vehicle was discovered near Twin Lakes Park. She had last been seen April 7.

Multiple searches around the Twin Lakes area as well as property near Stanko’s home failed to yield evidence pertaining to Gross’ disappearance.

Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Rich at 724-830-6293 or rcholodofsky@tribweb.com.

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