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Briefs: Preliminary hearing on hold for arson suspect

| Friday, Sept. 3, 2004

A preliminary hearing for a McKeesport man who is already going to trial on arson charges was postponed Thursday until Sept. 27.

Edward Emerick, 19, of Coursin Street, also is charged with terroristic threats and intimidation of a witness. McKeesport District Justice Thomas Brletic delayed the hearing because Emerick did not have an attorney present.

Police said Emerick is accused of threatening George Warman, 20, of Highland Avenue, McKeesport, while the two were in a holding cell in Brletic's office Aug. 2 after a hearing on arson charges from a string of fires in McKeesport, Clairton, Glassport and Lincoln. Emerick denied the charges.

Munhall State grant boosts full-day kindergarten

The Steel Valley School District received a $351,062 state grant Thursday for full-day kindergarten at Franklin Primary Center in Munhall.

The grant will help provide educational services for about 100 full-day kindergarten students at the school. This is the first year the district has offered full-day kindergarten, The district will use part of the grant for new social and health programs designed to increase home-school connections and parent involvement.

Gov. Ed Rendell met with teachers, legislators, parents and acting Superintendent Bill Kinavey at the school.

City

Oakland Pitt center receives $5 million from the CDC

The University of Pittsburgh Center for Public Health Preparedness on Thursday received more than $5 million in grant funding for the next five years from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Launched in July 2002, the center trains the public health work force to respond to threats from bioterrorism, infectious disease outbreaks and other health emergencies.

It is part of the CDC's national network of Academic Centers for Public Health Preparedness, which includes 21 public health schools nationwide. The new funding will be used to focus on three areas -- rural preparedness, legal preparedness and the university's ability to meet increased demand for services in the event of a large-scale public health disaster.

Pittsburgh UltraViolet Loop will be shut down

The Port Authority of Allegheny County's UltraViolet Loop will shut down after this weekend.

The two-year-old bus route that serves nightspots and entertainment venues in the city has run out of funding. Private groups wanting to promote those destinations helped pay the $20,000 monthly operating costs. A nonprofit group, the UltraViolet Loop Advisory Board, secured money to operate the route. Port Authority supplied the buses and drivers.

The route operated on Friday and Saturday nights and served stops in Downtown, Strip District, Bloomfield, East Liberty, Shadyside, Oakland and South Side. The last night of service will be Saturday.

Downtown Man uses note to rob Parkvale bank

A robber with a demand note made off with an undisclosed amount of cash from a Downtown bank Thursday afternoon.

Pittsburgh police were called to the Parkvale Savings branch on Fourth Avenue at 1:15 p.m. The robber got cash from one teller and ran away without showing any weapons, police said.

A teller described the suspect as a 6-foot-tall black man between the ages of 40 and 50 who was wearing a blue ballcap, dark sunglasses and a blue checkered shirt.

Brighton Heights Woman jumps to her death from bridge

A woman jumped to her death Thursday from the Jacks Run Bridge between Brighton Heights and Bellevue, police said.

The Allegheny County Coroner's Office still was trying to reach relatives of the 44-year-old woman, whose identity was not released last night.

Motorists saw the woman leap off the railing beside the sidewalk on the bridge, which connects California and Lincoln avenues, at 9:15 a.m.

South

Castle Shannon Water main break closes Route 88 lane

A water main break in Castle Shannon could cause motorists to be ensnarled in traffic through Labor Day weekend.

A spokesman for Pennsylvania-American Water Co., Philip Cynar, said the break occurred at about 6 a.m. Thursday on Route 88, near Rockwood Avenue. The southbound lane of Route 88 will remain closed until PennDOT crews can repair the road, PennDOT spokesman Dick Skrinjar said. The earliest that can happen is Tuesday, Skrinjar said.

The detour will take motorists onto Castle Shannon Boulevard, to Route 19 in Mt. Lebanon, to Conner Road and then back onto Route 88. Water service wasn't disrupted for anyone, Cynar said, because the 8-inch main served a vacant building.

Allegheny County Fire departments get federal funds

Three local fire departments were among 34 statewide to receive federal funds Friday totaling $364,865.

The recipients include Indiana Township Volunteer Fire Company No. 1, $71,303; Rennerdale Volunteer Fire Department, Carnegie, $130,867; and Renton Volunteer Fire Department, Plum, $75,789. The money is for operations and firefighter safety.

This is the 14th round of funding from $750 million the federal government has allocated this year to aid fire departments.

North

Indiana Township Care home owner waives hearing

The owner of an Indiana Township personal care home waived her right to a preliminary hearing on two criminal counts Thursday in Sharpsburg.

Judith Reynolds, 64, of Saxonburg Boulevard, awaits trial on charges that she left eight residents of the Cedarwood Personal Care Inc. on their own for at least an hour Aug. 25.

Allegheny County Coroner Cyril H. Wecht has ordered an open inquest into the Aug. 28 death of Anna Mae Edwards, 90, who fell and suffered a stroke Aug. 25 while Reynolds was on a trip to Harrisburg. Reynolds is charged with two counts of neglect of a care-dependent person.

Region

Beaver County Inmate released, charged with escape

A man was charged with escaping from a county jail even though he was mistakenly released.

John Paolucci, 24, of Beaver Falls, is being charged for not coming back to the Beaver County Jail when authorities told him to, according to a report by the Beaver County Sheriff's Department.

Paolucci was released Saturday after he finished a four-month jail sentence for simple assault, but a judge had ordered that Paolucci should stay in jail for not paying child support. Beaver County Warden William Schouppe said the order apparently didn't make it into Paolucci's file. On Monday, jail employees told the sheriff's department about the mistake. Jail officials told Paolucci that he needed to report back to jail by noon Monday, but he turned himself in Tuesday after he was charged with escape.

Venango County Rocket fuel dump surprises viewers

It wasn't a bird or a plane, and it sure wasn't an exploding star.

It -- the white, puffy mass that many Venango County residents noticed in the night sky Tuesday -- was a fuel dump from a rocket launched in Florida earlier that day. So says Tim Spuck of the Oil Region Astronomical Society, which investigated after a resident reported the gassy phenomenon directly over his house.

Spuck made a few inquiries and determined the cloud was formed by extra fuel jettisoned from an Atlas rocket launched from Cape Canaveral.

Jefferson County Prison term ordered in man's beating death

A man was sentenced to life in prison without parole for killing a carnival worker during a drunken fight that began over a game of pool.

Ted Alan Shank, 27, of Punxsutawney, was sentenced this week for his conviction last week on charges of first-degree murder, kidnapping, robbery, aggravated assault and simple assault for the beating death of Richard Gemmill, 34, on Sept. 24, 2002.

Jefferson County Judge John Foradora called Gemmill's death "senseless." "It amounts to a man being dead over a pitcher of beer and a fight over a pool game," Foradora said. Shank admitted at trial that he kicked Gemmill in the head after the man was lured to a back alley.

Erie County Promoter pleads guilty to marijuana charge

An Erie promoter pleaded guilty to owning more than 100 pounds of marijuana that he intended to sell.

Dennis Cohen, 50, known for promoting events such as the Wild Rib Cook Off and Music Festival in June and the former We Love Erie Days, acknowledged his guilt to a count of possession of marijuana with intent to deliver. As part of his plea, Erie County prosecutors agreed not to seek the mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison.

State police said they found 130 pounds of marijuana during searches of a storage locker Cohen rented, his home and a camping trailer on April 22. State police said they also found $6,000 in cash and a money-counting machine.

Cambria County Death penalty dropped in roommate case

Prosecutors won't pursue the death penalty for a man accused of pushing his roommate to his death through a wooden porch railing during a drunken fight.

Cambria County prosecutors haven't decided which homicide charge to seek against Robert Lee Jackson, 43, of Johnstown, but the death penalty is off the table, District Attorney David Tulowitzki said. Jackson is accused of pushing Howard Littlejohn, 54, during a drunken fight. Littlejohn fell 8 feet onto his head and died of a head injury about two weeks later on May 20. Jackson was being held in the Cambria County Jail in lieu of $100,000 bond.

Defense attorney Lisa Lazzari said she would fight any homicide charges. "I don't think there was any intent on his part," Lazzari said.

Teachers prepared to go out on strike

Just when students in the Richland School District thought school was back in session, it's back out again.

Teachers in the Cambria County district near Johnstown will strike this morning, and the school board's president, Rex McQuaide, said the schools will be closed.

Football, volleyball and other extracurricular activities won't be affected, however, and students at the Greater Johnstown Career and Technology Center still will have classes.

The two sides disagree on the size of pay raises and how much the teachers will contribute to their health insurance. The teachers have also rejected the district's proposal to reduce starting salaries from $36,473 to $31,000.

Datelines

  • In Downtown, brick pavement repairs scheduled to start tonight on Grant Street, between Oliver and Seventh avenues, have been postponed. Previously planned traffic restrictions, therefore, will not be in effect. The work now is scheduled to start Sept. 10, weather permitting.

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