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Unity man charged in cemetery threats

Paul Peirce
| Friday, Feb. 12, 2016, 10:24 p.m.

Five family members visiting a loved one's grave in Unity Cemetery after nightfall were startled when a man carrying a 9 mm handgun suddenly appeared in their headlights, police said.

Thomas G. Stanko, 45, of Unity has been charged with making terroristic threats, criminal mischief, reckless endangerment and simple assault. State police went to the cemetery between 8:30 and 9 p.m. Sept. 14 when a family leaving in two cars after visiting a gravesite said they were threatened by a man who pointed a silver handgun at them, Trooper Robert Harr said in an affidavit of probable cause.

When troopers arrived, they saw a couple driving a white, late-model Pontiac Grand Prix along White Fence Lane next to the cemetery and stopped to question them, Harr said.

Harr said Stanko, who was the passenger, matched the description of the man who was carrying the handgun in the cemetery.

Stanko told troopers he and the female driver, who is not identified in police reports, were driving in the cemetery “looking around” because earlier in the evening someone had repeatedly knocked on the door of his mother's nearby home, where he was living.

Stanko said he saw “people running in the cemetery with flashlights” and went to investigate, Harr said.

“(Stanko) stated that although he was in the cemetery earlier, he was not in possession of a handgun. (Stanko) also stated that while he was in the cemetery, he tried to confront someone in the vehicle and they refused to stop and almost ran him over,” Harr wrote.

Stanko admitted to police “he punched at the driver's window” as the vehicle sped off when he tried to stop it, the affidavit said.

Troopers noticed cuts and blood on Stankos' hand.

Harr said Stanko consented to a search of the vehicle and police found a loaded silver 9 mm handgun in a console.

Stanko's preliminary hearing is scheduled for April 4 before District Judge Michael Mahady.

Paul Peirce is a Tribune-Review staff writer. He can be reached at 724-850-2860 or ppeirce@tribweb.com.

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