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WCCC athlete admits to bomb threat, police say

Paul Peirce
| Friday, June 15, 2012, 8:08 p.m.

A former Pittsburgh Central Catholic High School basketball star, who now is a standout player at Westmoreland County Community College near Youngwood, admitted to police that he asked a teen to make a bomb threat against Westmoreland Mall because "he did not want to work that day," according to court documents.

Matthew W. McKenna, 18, of Pittsburgh hit a last-second three-pointer to clinch Central Catholic's first WPIAL AAAA basketball championship over Moon, with a score of 55-54, in February 2008.

Yesterday, he was arraigned before Youngwood District Judge James Falcon on a charge of criminal conspiracy for making a terroristic threat on March 22. He appeared before Falcon with his attorney, Michael Ferguson of Latrobe, and was released on a signature bond.

"Matt really is a good kid and has never been in trouble before. We've been in contact with state police; we have cooperated and will continue to cooperate," Ferguson said.

"That's all I can really say now," he said.

The other suspect is a 14-year-old boy whose address is listed only as Pittsburgh by state police in Greensburg. He is facing charges in juvenile court for conspiracy and terroristic threats. The boy's name has not been released because of his age.

A male telephoned the customer service desk at the mall along Route 30 in Hempfield, at 12:23 p.m. on March 22 and said there was a bomb inside, according to a criminal complaint that was made public by Falcon yesterday.

"I'm going to blow up the ... mall. I will give you 30 minutes to evacuate," the caller told a mall employee before hanging up, according to the affidavit of probable cause.

The mall was evacuated while K-9 units from Armstrong County, Mt. Oliver Borough and Pittsburgh, along with state police troopers and mall security guards, searched the facility. No bomb was discovered.

State police Trooper Michael McElfresh obtained a search warrant in Westmoreland Common Pleas Court to search Verizon Telephone Co. records and trace calls made to the mall's telephone number. With that information, authorities traced a number to an account maintained by McKenna's father, Winston, to the bomb threat.

The McKennas have cooperated with the investigation, court records indicate.

Matthew McKenna allegedly admitted his participation in an April 16 interview with police.

If convicted, the 18-year-old could face some disciplinary measures from WCCC.

"We would not take any action until criminal proceedings are complete in this matter," said college spokeswoman Anna Marie Palatella.

"I can tell you he is in good academic standing and we have not had any disciplinary problems with him," she said.

Court records did not indicate where McKenna worked in the mall.

His preliminary hearing is scheduled May 12 before Falcon.

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