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Briefs: Kennard Field body identified

| Tuesday, June 10, 2003

The body found over the weekend in Kennard Field in the Hill District was identified Monday as Dwight Spencer, 50, of Penn Hills, a spokesman for the Allegheny County Coroner's Office said.

An autopsy was inconclusive and toxicology tests will be needed to determine what killed Spencer, whose body was found about 5 p.m. Sunday near the bleachers in the field at Reed and Kirkpatrick streets.

Foul play is not suspected, authorities said.

Region Airport intruder to be transferred

The San Antonio man who snuck into Pittsburgh International Airport by climbing through the luggage system will be moved to the Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, where he will continue to receive mental health treatment.

North Fayette District Justice Anthony Saveikis on Monday ordered Luis Esquivel, 21, to complete an evaluation by the Allegheny County Behavioral Clinic and then transfer from the county jail to the Oakland clinic for a 21-day treatment. The preliminary hearing is scheduled to continue in Saveikis' courtroom in about a month.

Esquivel's mother, Maria Esquivel, said her son is diagnosed with schizophrenia and disappeared from a San Antonio boarding home in mid-May before he was found sleeping on board a parked plane at Pittsburgh International on May 24. Esquivel is taking medication.

Esquivel is charged with criminal trespass, theft, receiving stolen property and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle.

Allegheny County Housing suit funds to aid communities

About $12.6 million remaining from a 1988 federal housing discrimination settlement will be used to build new community centers and renovate housing in Braddock, Clairton, Duquesne, Homestead, McKees Rocks, Rankin and Wilkinsburg.

The lawsuit had fought an Allegheny County Housing Authority practice of directing black families seeking public housing assistance into seven housing projects in worse condition than others.

The lawsuit resulted in what has become known as the Sanders Consent Decree, a court order named for one of the plaintiffs, Cheryl Sanders. The decree was intended to alter the concentration of low-income blacks by giving residents a choice of living in the county's suburbs.

One provision of the settlement was for the county to set aside 25 percent of its annual Community Development Block Grant for seven years to fund improvement projects in those seven communities.

Blair County Cutbacks may hike sewage rates

Sewer officials in Blair County say the elimination of $52 million in state sewage treatment grants could result in rate increases for customers.

State budget cuts this year forced the elimination of a program that helps sewer authorities operate wastewater treatment plants.

The Hollidaysburg Sewer Authority receives more than $167,000 annually and the loss of the funding could result in an 8.1 percent rate increase for all customers, said R. Michael McClain, assistant Hollidaysburg borough manager.

Tyrone, which receives about $148,000, could face a rate increase, and so could Altoona, which receives nearly $175,000 annually from the program. Altoona City Authority members will do their best to avoid an increase by looking to cut costs internally, officials said.

Woman allegedly kept souvenirs of killings

A Blair County woman kept personal items from two Virginia tourists, whose dismembered bodies were later found in a Delaware landfill, as souvenirs of their killings, a prosecutor in Maryland said Monday during closing arguments in the Erika Sifrit double-murder trial.

Worcester County State's Attorney Joel J. Todd frequently referred to Sifrit as "Little Miss Scrapbook" because of the items police found when she was arrested -- two spent bullets, the driver's licenses of the victims, a room key and a ring.

Prosecutors say Joshua Ford, 32, and Martha Crutchley, 51, both of Fairfax City, Va., were killed and cut up in the Sifrits' condominium after meeting Erika Sifrit, 25, and her husband, Benjamin, 25, both of Duncansville, during a night of bar-hopping in Ocean City over the Memorial Day weekend in 2002.

Defense attorneys contend that Ford and Crutchley were killed by Benjamin Sifrit and that Erika Sifrit helped him dispose of the bodies because she craved his affection. Earlier this year, Benjamin Sifrit was convicted of second-degree murder in Crutchley's death but acquitted of all charges in Ford's death.

Cambria County Alleged mistakes may cost district

The architect of the new $40 million Greater Johnstown High School has made mistakes that will cost the Cambria County district hundreds of thousands of dollars, the school board president said.

Greater Johnstown School District officials reviewed a list of alleged mistakes the Hillier Group of Princeton, N.J., made while designing the school, which is scheduled to open this week. The biggest error will cost the district $200,000, school board President Ed Cernic Jr. said.

Hillier was responsible for making sure the school district didn't pay sales tax on supplies, but the district paid $200,000 in taxes, Cernic said.

He also said the architect's designs for the school's main staircases did not meet fire codes, and Hillier proposed a $40,000 repair when a $10,000 fix was possible. Also, the company's blueprints didn't include an electrical supply for a section of the building.

Clarion County Pallet plant fire causes $1M damages

About 100 firefighters worked for nearly 12 hours to control a weekend fire that destroyed a pallet manufacturing plant in Clarion County.

The blaze at Eastern Lumber and Pallet in Porter near New Bethlehem caused about $1 million in damages, state police said. The plant's owners, Donald and Barb Shirey, had insured the property, officials said.

The blaze started around 5:30 a.m. Saturday and spread quickly to destroy the structure and machinery, lumber, saws and other equipment inside it, New Bethlehem fire Chief Barry Fox said.

Erie County Murder victim identified attacker

A woman who was stabbed multiple times was able to identify her attacker before she died, police in Erie County said.

Kimberly Simmons, 27, a mother of three, was pronounced dead at 9 a.m. Sunday at Hamot Medical Center after surgery. Officers in Erie who had responded to a call from a juvenile found Simmons, the juvenile and Taveren Torrence Robinson in an apartment early Sunday, police said.

Robinson allegedly tried to rape Simmons and stabbed her with a knife, police said. When the juvenile tried to intervene, police said, Robinson stabbed the juvenile in the hand.

Police charged Robinson, 25, with homicide, criminal attempt at rape, aggravated assault and other offenses.

Teen assault task force formed

Nine assaults on girls have prompted police in Erie County and Ohio to join the FBI in creating a task force to prevent more attacks.

Last month, a 13-year-old girl said a man followed her home in Springfield, asked for directions to an auto parts store and then attacked her. On March 11, an 11-year-old girl told police a man posing as a utility repairman attacked her in her home.

Police suspect that the same man committed the assaults and are investigating whether they are related to seven others in eastern Ohio, state police Cpl. Mark Zaleski said. The manner of the assaults is similar and the victims have all been young girls, he said.

Task force members have set up a toll-free number and a post office box for people to report any information they may have related to the attacks.

Somerset County Turnpike crash kills two people

Two people were killed early Monday when the car in which they were riding crashed along the Pennsylvania Turnpike near the Allegheny Tunnel, state police in Somerset County said.

The accident occurred about 3 a.m. when a westbound car struck an embankment and rolled over several times. Both the driver and passenger were ejected and pronounced dead at the scene.

Somerset County Coroner Wallace Miller said last night he is still trying to notify relatives.

The roadway was blocked for about two hours, causing a three-mile traffic jam.

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