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Con-ui quickly found guilty
James Halpin - Citizens Voice

The courtroom doors opened and the family of slain Correctional Officer Eric Williams walked out, exchanging hugs and handshakes with a large contingent of his former co-workers.
After more than four years of waiting, his accused killer was accused no longer.
It took a federal jury just about a half-hour Wednesday morning to find Jessie Con-ui, 40, guilty of first-degree murder, murdering a correctional officer and possessing contraband in prison.
As the verdict was read in court, Con-ui — a New Mexican Mafia assassin already serving 25 years to life in prison for executing a gang member in Phoenix in 2002 — sat looking forward impassively.
U.S. District Judge A. Richard Caputo sent the jury home with instructions to return June 19 to begin hearing the evidence they will rely upon to determine whether Con-ui should live out his days in federal prison or die for the crime.
Attorneys on both sides declined to comment on the verdict, and the Williams family deferred discussing the case until after the jury’s final word comes down.
After less than two days of testimony, jurors unanimously agreed Con-ui was responsible for murdering Williams, a 34-year-old Nanticoke native who died during a brutal attack at U.S. Penitentiary at Canaan on Feb. 25, 2013.
“It’s been four years since the defendant brutally and viciously murdered Correctional Officer Eric Williams,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Francis P. Sempa told jurors during closing arguments Wednesday morning. “Justice has been delayed. It must not be denied.”
The choice was easy for the jury: Con-ui’s defense explicitly told the jury he did it.
“Jessie Con-ui killed Eric Williams, a correctional officer just doing his job. He did so without excuse or justification,” Stroudsburg attorney James A. Swetz told jurors during the defense closing. “There is no doubt that Jessie Con-ui is guilty.”
Prosecutors alleged Con-ui felt disrespected because of a cell search earlier that night in which another officer removed some minor contraband, including homemade speakers made from altered headphones and cardboard. In response, Con-ui kicked Williams down a flight of stairs before laying into him with two shanks. He stabbed and hit Williams more than 200 times in addition to stomping and slamming the officer’s head on the ground.
According to prosecutors, about an hour and a half after the cell search, as Williams was preparing to lock down the cell block for the night, Con-ui stood waiting and watching at the top a staircase until the officer ascended.
As Williams came to the top of the stairs, Con-ui casually walked up and then delivered a surprise kick to the face, sending the officer tumbling backwards down the flight of stairs, according to video of the attack played in court. Williams desperately ran to escape as Con-ui chased him down, continuing the attack long after his body went limp in a pool of blood.
During the attack, Con-ui cut his hand on one of the shanks and paused to wrap it in his shirt to continue the assault. Later, he washed the wound in a shower before returning to the dying officer and resuming the attack.
When it was over, Con-ui sat at a game table, kicking a foot up and sipping a drink as he chewed gum he stole from the dying officer’s pocket.
When fellow officers realized what had happened, they tracked a trail of blood to Con-ui’s cell, where they found him holding a shank and saying he attacked Williams because of a “disrespect issue.”
The prosecution’s case lasted less than two days, hinging in large part on the video that caused jurors to wince and tear up, as well as on statements Con-ui allegedly made to a number of correctional officers admitting he was to blame. The parties stipulated that Con-ui’s clothing was covered in Williams’ blood and that Con-ui’s fingerprint was also found on Williams radio, which the killer threw at Williams’ head twice during the attack. Con-ui’s fingerprint was also on one of the shanks that was sharply bent during the attack.
Sempa noted that video of the 11-minute attack showed Con-ui raising his hand up to apply maximum force with the weapons.
“The force was so strong when it hit Eric Williams’ body, when it hit his bones, when it hit his skull, it bent,” Sempa said.
There is no doubt Con-ui intended to kill Williams, he told the jury. The video shows Con-ui lying in wait to spring the trap and throwing Williams’ radio — his “lifeline” — to the side as he continually stomps, slams and stabs the officer, he said.
While his attorneys chose not to challenge Con-ui’s guilt in the case, they are preparing to mount a defense aimed at preventing him from getting the death penalty. Swetz noted during his closing that there is “more to” the case than what jurors have already heard.
Con-ui’s attorneys have previously alleged a pattern of mistreatment of prisoners by federal Bureau of Prisons officers. Con-ui, they maintain, was generally a well-behaved inmate who snapped because “outrageous” conduct by correctional officers, including officers shredding their property, leaving open cans of tuna fish to rot behind the walls and beating inmates out of view of security cameras.
Prosecutors counter that far from being a respectful prisoner, Con-ui has a history of dozens of disciplinary actions ranging from refusing orders to stabbing another inmate, beating another inmate with a metal food tray and threatening a correctional officer who had just searched his cell.

Suspect in Nanticoke murder will stand trial
James Halpin - Citizens Voice

The girlfriend of accused killer Antoine McNeal testified Friday that she drove him to the scene of the crime shortly before the slaying so he could buy marijuana.
Wakeelah Moore, 26, of Wilkes-Barre, said her on-again, off-again, married boyfriend, Antoine McNeal, had been texting someone as she drove him to West Church Street early on the morning of Jan. 18 so he could buy marijuana.
After she parked along the side of the road, McNeal got out to meet someone while Moore waited in the car, she said. Within two or three minutes, McNeal came running back and jumped in the car, she said.
“He just said, ‘They were shooting,’” said Moore, who denied hearing the shots or knowing to whom McNeal was referring.
Moore testified that she drove off, but that McNeal then discovered he dropped his cellphone. She circled back, but after a quick search they were unable to find it and left without it, she said.
McNeal, 33, of Wilkes-Barre, is awaiting trial on charges of criminal homicide, illegal possession of a gun, criminal use of a cellphone and tampering with evidence in the slaying of 20-year-old Brandon Smith, who was shot twice in the chest outside his family home on West Church Street.
Family members reported Smith had been texting someone on a flip phone around 1:40 a.m. that morning and that about 2 a.m., he had gone outside to meet someone, Trooper Edward Urban testified.
“He returned, running into the residence stating he had been shot,” Urban testified.
Surveillance video taken from a nearby home showed a vehicle driving up and pulling over, followed by a person approaching the house, he said.
Someone else came out of the house and both people went to a van that was parked in front of the home, he said
“You don’t see anything happen for a short period of time, and then you see a flash in the area of the van,” Urban said, adding that Smith then ran back inside the house.
A search of the property revealed marijuana and blood inside the van as well as several cellphones, he said. After consulting Smith’s family, investigators quickly discovered something didn’t add up.
“We realized there was one extra phone inside the van,” Urban said.
Police traced the phone to McNeal, and discovered text messages showing the men had been discussing McNeal buying a quarter pound of marijuana from Smith the day of the shooting, he said. Smith, however, said all he had at the time was two ounces but that he could get more the next day, he said.
They agreed to meet at Smith’s place and the text exchanges ended shortly before the murder took place, he said.
One of McNeal’s attorneys, John Donovan, argued the case should not move forward because prosecutors had not met their burden
“Mere presence is not enough in this case. He was not seen with a gun,” Donovan said. “There are no eyewitnesses.”
Magisterial District Judge Donald L. Whittaker, however, bound all charges over for trial.
After the shooting, McNeal remained on the lam for several months. Police captured him in Wilkes-Barre in April, and he has been held at the Luzerne County Correctional Facility without bail since his arrest.
Moore is also awaiting trial on a charge of hindering the prosecution for allegedly harboring McNeal while he was wanted on the murder charge. She is free on $75,000 unsecured bail with a formal arraignment set for June 29.

Nanticoke police secure grant for drug collection
Citizens Voice

With the help of a program offered by CVS Pharmacy, Nanticoke police will be able to provide a safe place to dispose of medication.
In a Thursday press release, state Rep. Gerald Mullery, D-119, Newport Twp., announced the Nanticoke Police Department received a grant for a drug collection unit through the CVS Health Medication Disposal for Safer Communities Program.
The unit will be located in the lobby of the Nanticoke municipal building and provide "a safe and environmentally responsible way to dispose of unwanted, unused or expired medication, including controlled substances ... with no questions asked," according to the release.
The site will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

NY fugitive caught in Nanticoke
Sarah Scinto - Citizens Voice

City police located a fugitive on the run from the New York Police Department in the attic of an East Church Street residence.
Police said Nanticoke officers and members of the NYPD fugitive task force found Amair Bland, 20, of New York City, in the attic of 365 E. Church St. around 7 a.m. on Wednesday.
Bland was a fugitive wanted on weapons and drug violations, police said.
He was arraigned before Magisterial District Judge Michael Dotzel and remanded to Luzerne County Correctional Facility pending extradition to New York.

Nanticoke duo heading to county court on drug charges

Despite their attorneys being critical of evidence in the case, a Nanticoke duo is heading to county court on charges stemming from the discovery of drugs and cash at their residence after one of them was shot in December.
Kenneth Powell, 30, and Courtney Padden, 27, appeared before District Judge Thomas Malloy for a hearing Wednesday. Police refiled the charges against Powell and Padden in March after the initial cases were tossed out due to legal challenges.
Malloy ended up sending Powell and Padden’s drug charges to higher court.
Members of the Luzerne County Drug Task Force, along with police from Nanticoke and Newport Township, executed a search warrant at Powell’s East Spring Street residence at approximately 9:45 a.m. Dec. 9, according to a criminal complaint. Neither Powell nor girlfriend Padden were at the home when the search occurred.
The warrant was executed the day after a shooting on the street outside the residence. Powell was the victim of that shooting. More than five months later, a suspect has not been named in that incident.
During the search, multiple items of contraband were seized, including large bags of suspected marijuana “well beyond what would be held for personal use,” authorities stated. Cannabis liquid, digital scales and a bag of THC candy was also taken from the residence. THC is the active ingredient found in marijuana. A total of $12,950 in cash was recovered, which investigators believe is proceeds from drug sales.
Detective Joseph Guydosh testified that all of the suspected drugs were taken to the State Police crime lab for analysis.
But Padden’s attorney, Peter Moses, pointed out that no field testing was done at the scene.
Moses also argued that only a small amount of marijuana, and no paraphernalia, was found in his client’s room.
“There is nothing to indicate in this case that Courtney Padden was selling drugs,” he said.
Meanwhile, Powell’s defense lawyer, Joseph Sklarosky, argued that Det. Guydosh failed to establish other evidence in his case.
Both Moses and Sklarosky were optimistic as the cases moved to the county level.
“We’re very confident moving forward,” Moses said. “I don’t think we can back down on this case. I think it’s pretty clear that the commonwealth has really overstepped their grounds here.”
Powell and Padden are scheduled for formal arraignments at 10 a.m. Aug. 3 in the Luzerne County Courthouse. They are each free on their own recognizance.

Nanticoke man charged after allegedly shooting at another man

A man is facing charges after police say he shot at another man during an argument.
Police said officers were dispatched to a reported shooting on Scott Street at 2:31 a.m. Monday. Upon arrival, a 30-year-old man reported to officers that he was arguing with Jeremy Battle, 27, of Nanticoke.
During the argument, Battle shot at the man but missed, according to police. No injuries were reported.
Battle was taken into custody without incident, and he faces charges of aggravated assault and recklessly endangering another person.

Nanticoke arms dealer contests latest charges involving Russia export violations

A Nanticoke arms dealer previously imprisoned for conspiring to export military equipment to Russia contested Friday a new set of federal charges alleging he again tried to send two riflescopes to an individual in Russia last year.
Mark Komoroski, former manager of D&R Sports Center on 620 Fairchild St., pleaded not guilty to violating federal export laws and unlawfully possessing ammunition as a previously convicted felon at a hearing Thursday. He was released pending his next court appearance.
Komoroski, 54, tried to export two riflescopes to an individual in Russia in February and March 2016 without obtaining licenses required by federal law, the charges say. He was also allegedly in possession of more than 25,000 rounds of ammunition.
ds store was raided weeks later by federal customs agents and state law enforcement personnel, many of whom carried out bags of ammunition and boxes marked “evidence.”
Komoroski challenged the latest charges Friday, saying D&R was authorized to store and sell ammunition following his release from federal prison in 2012 on similar charges. He said he was also permitted to sell riflescopes on eBay and other online sites, and noted the hundreds sold since his release shipped only within the U.S.
“How they got (to Russia), I don’t have any idea,” he said.
His attorney, Al Flora Jr., did not immediately return a message seeking comment.
The latest charges aren’t the first of their kind leveled against Komoroski.
In 2010, he was sentenced to 32 months in federal prison for conspiring to illegally smuggle military equipment to Russia, including firearm magazines and rifle scopes. He was released in December 2012.
The latest charges carry a maximum of 30 years in prison.
Komoroski formerly managed the Nanticoke location while his brother, Theodore Komoroski, oversaw a second location in Bloomsburg that has since closed. Records show ownership of the Nanticoke storefront was transferred from Komoroski’s father, Donald Komoroski, to Komoroski Realty in 2005.
Komoroski’s co-defendant, Russian national Sergey Korznikov, was sentenced to six months in prison for his role in the conspiracy. Korznikov was involved with Tactica Ltd., a Moscow-based company that sells rifle optics, binoculars, boots, backpacks and other hunting and paramilitary equipment.
A search warrant affidavit filed in 2006 said authorities believed Komoroski had illegally exported hundreds of thousands of dollars of military equipment over a several-year period.
According to court records, officials discovered a $68,428 purchase order for thermal-imaging devices from a Moscow, Russia-based company that listed Korznikov as its president.
Wire transfers going into the business’ account were identified as coming from Rockman EOOD and Ibrahim Hajji, both deemed excluded parties by the Office of Foreign Assets Control, which enforces trade sanctions.
Rockman was owned by Sergey Bout, brother of Russian arms dealer and former KGB major Viktor Bout, who provided weapons to Liberian dictator Charles Taylor, rebel groups in Rwanda and the Taliban, according to court documents.

Nanticoke weapons dealer hit with federal indictment
James Halpin - Citizens Voice

For the second time, a city resident is accused of breaking federal laws by shipping weapons equipment overseas.
A federal grand jury indicted Mark Komoroski, 54, this week on charges that he violated federal export laws and illegally possessed ammunition as a convicted felon.
Federal prosecutors allege that in February and March of 2016, Komoroski tried to export two rifle scopes to someone in Russia without having the licenses required under federal law. Komoroski, who owns D&R Sports Center at 620 Fairchild St., is a convicted felon who was found to be in possession of more than 25,000 rounds of ammunition, prosecutors said.
If convicted, Komoroski faces up to 30 years in prison for both offenses.
During an arraignment before U.S. Magistrate Judge Karoline Mehalchick on Thursday, Komoroski pleaded not guilty to the crimes. The judge allowed him to be released pending trial.
The charges stem from a May 2016 raid in which federal agents descended on the business Komoroski owns along with his brother and father — a business that was previously implicated in the illegal sale of restricted weapons overseas to buyers with connections to drug trafficking, espionage and terrorism.
Ten years earlier, in November 2006, agents raided the business amid allegations that it illegally sold and shipped $247,854 of restricted items — rifles and related devices such as optics — to Russia, Kuwait, Germany and Japan without required export licenses.
Court documents filed in that case alleged money transfers to D&R for some purchases linked the store with “companies and individuals that the United States government has determined pose an unacceptable risk of being involved with or providing ... support to international narcotics trafficking, crimes against humanity/war crimes and/or terrorism.”
Among them was Russian gun runner Viktor Bout, who helped provide weapons to Liberian dictator Charles Taylor, rebel groups in Rwanda, and the Taliban, according to court documents.
Komoroski was charged with conspiracy to defraud the federal government along with his business; and longtime customer Sergey Korznikov and his business, Tactica Ltd. — a Moscow-based business affiliated with an elite counterterrorism unit controlled by the Russian Federal Security Service, formerly known as the KGB.
The men pleaded guilty to the charge, with Komoroski being sentenced in July 2010 to 32 months in prison and Korznikov getting six months in prison. The charges against the businesses were dismissed.
Following that incident, D&R lost its firearms license, but remained open selling other items. The store remains open for business.

Case moving forward after controversial plea nixed
James Halpin - Citizens Voice

A city man who nearly walked away with a sentence of time served for choking his ex-girlfriend in front of her young son, lost an appeal Tuesday that sought to reinstate an unauthorized plea deal that cut him a big break.
Joseph Michael Noss, 38, faces charges of aggravated assault, resisting arrest, simple assault and harassment for allegedly attacking his ex-girlfriend at a home on Loomis Street the afternoon of July 15, 2015. Prosecutors allege Noss choked her by hand before wrapping the wire to a video game controller around her neck and threatening to killer her. When police arrived, Noss took off running and had to be pepper sprayed into submission, according to prosecutors.
The ruling Tuesday allows the case to move forward nearly two years after it began.
"I'm glad we'll finally have an opportunity to prosecute a very serious case of domestic violence," Assistant District Attorney Cara Solimine said in response to the opinion.
According to court records, the case derailed after Noss and his attorney, Assistant Public Defender John Donovan, arrived early for a preliminary hearing on Sept. 2, 2015, and told Magisterial District Judge Donald L. Whittaker they had reached a deal calling for Noss to plead guilty to a misdemeanor count of disorderly conduct in exchange for a sentence of time served.
Whittaker asked an arresting officer if she agreed, and Officer Kara Kroll - who at the time had only been on the force about two months - indicated she did. There was no discussion about whether prosecutors had signed off on the deal before Whittaker accepted the agreement, according to the documents.
When Solimine arrived for the hearing at the scheduled start time about a half hour later, she was informed the case had been resolved. Prosecutors subsequently filed a petition to vacate the plea, which Luzerne County Judge Tina Polachek Gartley granted.
Noss appealed that ruling, arguing Gartley improperly vacated his plea.
In their ruling Tuesday, a three-judge panel of the state Superior Court rejected Noss' claims, noting that magistrates can dispose of certain misdemeanor cases, but not in cases where the misdemeanor is the result of a reduced charge. Prosecutors did not initially charge Noss with disorderly conduct, and because it was a reduced charge Whittaker did not have jurisdiction to accept the plea, the judges ruled.
The judges also rejected Noss' claim that Kroll was a "designee of the commonwealth," noting that Solimine had previously appeared in the case.
"Solimine was clearly the attorney for the commonwealth on this case, and there is no evidence that she authorized Officer Kroll to withdraw charges as her designee," the judges wrote. "Thus, Officer Kroll was not a designee of the commonwealth."
Court records show prosecutors refiled the charges against Noss in January 2016 - a case that has been on hold pending the result of his appeal.
In the meantime, Noss pleaded guilty in March 2016 to a count of simple assault after police alleged he pulled the hair of Tracy Ann Butka - identified in court documents as his "paramour" - as well as put a lit cigarette on her cheek and slapped her during an argument in May 2015.
Gartley sentenced him in that case to four to eight months in the Luzerne County Correctional Facility followed by a year of probation.
Records show he has since been released from custody and remains free on $50,000 bond he posted in September in the pending assault case.

Woman accused of aiding suspect waives
Sarah Scinto - Citizens Voice

A woman accused of hindering the apprehension of a homicide suspect waived a preliminary hearing on Thursday.
Wakeelah Moore, 26, of Wilkes-Barre, faces charges of hindering apprehension after police said she harbored her boyfriend, Antoine McNeal, while he had an active warrant for his arrest in the homicide of Brandon Smith.
McNeal is accused of shooting and killing the 20-year-old Smith outside Smith’s family home on West Church Street in Nanticoke in January.
Police said Moore allowed McNeal to stay at her home at 320 E. Northampton St. for two days before police arrived to arrest him on April 19.
Police said Moore initially told police McNeal was not inside her house. She only allowed officers inside after they confirmed they had a warrant, according to a criminal complaint.
At a scheduled preliminary hearing before Magisterial District Judge Thomas Malloy, Moore waived a charge of hindering apprehension forward to county court. The prosecution withdrew several drug charges related to a police search of Moore’s apartment during McNeal’s arrest.
A formal arraignment was scheduled for June 29 at 10 a.m. at the Luzerne County Courthouse.

Assault charges dismissed against man involved in fatal 2013 crash
Sarah Scinto - Citizens Voice

Assault charges against a man involved in a fatal 2013 crash were dismissed on Wednesday after the alleged victim declined to testify.
Tyler Duda, 20, will no longer face charges alleging he threatened his ex-girlfriend, Kaylee Grodzick,i with a knife, cut her finger and slashed the tires of a vehicle belonging to Imarl Daron Lee Wimbush.
Grodzicki declined to testify at Duda's preliminary hearing Wednesday before Magisterial District Judge Donald Whittaker. The judge dismissed the charges against Duda.
Duda previously served time on juvenile vehicular homicide charges stemming from a fatal crash in July 2013. Duda, 16 at the time, admitted to taking his mother’s car for a joyride and crashing into 59-year-old Nickolas Zurilla at 72 mph on a residential Nanticoke street, severing the man’s legs and torso before crashing into a house 467 feet from where Zurilla had been crossing the street.

Police secure warrant for alleged school computer thief

Nanticoke police have secured a warrant for Enrique Bacilio, 19, for allegedly stealing more than $30,000 worth of computers from Greater Nanticoke Area High School in June 2016.
Nanticoke police have secured an arrest warrant for a 19-year-old man accused of stealing computers valued at $33,174 from Greater Nanticoke Area High School in a June 2016 burglary, according to a police news release.
Enrique Bacilio, 19, is the suspect, and his last known address is 160 Midland Ct., Wilkes-Barre, police said. The burglary occurred between June 22 and June 23, 2016.
Bacilio is also wanted by the Luzerne County Sheriff’s Department for failing to appear in court relative to a May 2016 arrest in Nanticoke for simple assault, police said.
In June 2016, police reported someone broke into two classrooms on the west side of the high school by breaking a classroom window and took 30 laptop computers from each classroom, as well as one desktop computer. The laptop computers were “HP Probook 440 G1 Notebook” units. Officers also recovered evidence left at the crime scene, including an article of clothing and a pair of copper pliers.
Bacilio has lived in Texas, New York and Pennsylvania and may be in the Wilkes-Barre area, police said. Anyone with information about Bacilio’s whereabouts is asked to contact Nanticoke police at 570-735-2200 or the Luzerne County Sheriff’s Department by dialing 911.

Nanticoke homicide suspect from January found in W-B, arraigned
Man wanted for shooting in Nanticoke -

Police have charged a Wilkes-Barre man with what they believe was a drug-related murder in Nanticoke.
Antoine William McNeal, 32, was taken into custody at 320 E. Northampton St. about noon Wednesday.
Wakeelah Nimat Moore lived at the East Northampton address where McNeal was located. Moore was arrested herself for hindering apprehension and drug offenses.
McNeal is accused of shooting 20-year-old Brandon Smith outside of a residence at 185 W. Church St. in Nanticoke on Jan. 18.
Smith, who died of multiple gunshot wounds, is believed to have known McNeal.
According to a criminal complaint:
Luzerne County 911 received a call around 2 a.m. Jan. 18 from Tina Letavish about the shooting. Smith was pronounced dead at 3 a.m. at Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center.
Letavish, the victim's mother, told police Smith was texting on his flip phone on a couch near the front door when he went outside around 2 a.m. When he came back inside, he ran to the kitchen yelling "they shot me" before falling to the floor.
Investigators examining the phone found a text trail between Smith and an unknown number arranging what appeared to be a drug deal.
Police later met with Jacqulynn Moore, of South Hancock Street, Wilkes-Barre, who confirmed the unknown number belonged to her daughter, Wakeelah.
Wakeelah told police McNeal was her boyfriend and he was texting about receiving marijuana. She said she and McNeal drove to Nanticoke the night of the murder. Wakeelah, who was driving the car, parked on Fairchild Street. About two to three minutes later, McNeal told her "we gotta get out of here, they are shooting."
Wakeelah said she owned a .38-caliber revolver, but misplaced the firearm.
Police determined Smith was actually shot inside Letavish's white Chrysler Town and Country van.
Pot plants
U.S. Marshals, State Police, and Wilkes-Barre City police were seen going in and out of the East Northampton residence before bringing McNeal and Moore out in handcuffs.
Here's what authorities said happened when they knocked on the door of Moore's apartment late Wednesday morning:
Moore initially denied she knew where McNeal was.
But when officers told her there was an active warrant for him, she let them inside and they found McNeal hiding behind a bedroom door.
Officers also found six marijuana plants in the bedroom closet.
Moore later said McNeal called her Monday from a blocked number asking to come to her residence. He was there from 10 p.m. Monday until he was apprehended.
Moore also said the plants were hers but she was not selling marijuana.
Due to the homicide charge, McNeal was locked up with no bail at the Luzerne County Correctional Facility.
His preliminary hearing is set for 1 p.m. April 26.
Moore was sent to Luzerne's lockup for lack of $75,000 bail. She has a preliminary hearing 9 a.m. April 27 in front of District Judge Thomas Malloy in Wilkes-Barre.
Court records show McNeal has a history of drug convictions.
In 2008, he was sentenced to 11 to 23 months for pleading guilty to a criminal conspiracy charge.
He received a 21- to 41-month state prison term in April 2015 on one count of delivery of heroin and two counts of providing false identification to law enforcement. He was paroled May 5, 2016, records show.

Woman arrested with Antoine McNeal charged with hindering law enforcement

A woman arrested Wednesday with Antoine McNeal has been charged with hindering police and drug offenses.
Wakeelah Nimat Moore, of East Northampton Street, was arraigned in front of District Judge Donald Whittaker.
McNeal, 32, was arraigned by video earlier Wednesday on charges of criminal homicide and related counts. He is accused of shooting 20-year-old Brandon Smith outside a residence at 185 W. Church St. in Nanticoke on Jan. 18.
According to a criminal complaint:
Moore, 25, opened the door of her second-floor apartment at 11:25 a.m. Wednesday for State Police, U.S. Marshals and Wilkes-Barre City police. The officers were searching for McNeal.
When she was asked about McNeal's whereabouts, she told police "he is not here."
But when officers told her there was an active warrant for McNeal, she let them inside and they found McNeal hiding behind a bedroom door.
Officers also found six marijuana plants in the bedroom closet.
Both Moore and McNeal were taken to state police barracks in Wyoming, where Moore provided a statement.
She said McNeal called her Monday from a blocked number asking to come to her residence. He was there from 10 p.m. Monday until he was apprehended.
Moore also said the plants were hers but she was not selling marijuana.
Moore was sent to the Luzerne County Correctional Facility for lack of $75,000 bail. She has a preliminary hearing 9 a.m. April 27 in front of District Judge Thomas Malloy in Wilkes-Barre.

Police arrest suspect in Nanticoke homicide from January
Breaking News, Local

Police have arrested a city man in connection with a fatal shooting that happened in Nanticoke in January.
Antoine William McNeal, 32, was taken into custody from 320 East Northampton St. shortly after noon Wednesday. He is accused of shooting 20-year-old Brandon Smith outside of a residence at 185 West Church St. in Nanticoke on Jan. 18.
U.S. Marshals, Pennsylvania State Police, and Wilkes-Barre City Police Department officials could be seen going in and out of the residence before bringing McNeal and a woman out in handcuffs.
Smith, who died of multiple gunshot wounds, is believed to have known McNeal prior to the shooting. Officials said they believe the homicide was drug-related.
Court records show McNeal has a history of drug convictions.
In 2008, he was sentenced to 11 to 23 months for pleading guilty to a criminal conspiracy charge.
He received a 21- to 41-month state prison sentence in April 2015 from Judge Fred A. Pierantoni III on one count of delivery of heroin and two counts of providing a false identification to a law enforcement officer. He was paroled May 5, 2016, records show.
McNeal is expected to be arraigned sometime today, Trooper Edward Urban said.

Crash victim’s family questions leniency
James Halpin - Citizens Voice

Nearly four years after Tyler Duda ran down a Marine Corps veteran crossing the street, he made headlines again for another violent crime this week — and his first victim’s family still can’t believe the leniency he got last time.
“I said from day one he’s either going to harm someone again or kill someone,” said Nanticoke resident Diane Washik, the sister of 59-year-old victim Nickolas Zurilla. “They gave him a second chance, and he’s not even grateful for it.”
As a 16-year-old boy, Duda was charged as an adult with third-degree murder and faced up to 40 years in prison for plowing into Zurilla as he crossed a residential street in Nanticoke in July 2013. Duda, who had taken his mother’s car for a joyride, was doing 72 mph and severed Zurilla’s legs and torso before crashing into a house 467 feet away.
“This was a horrifying thing that happened to my brother,” Washik said. “He was severed and everything, and there’s no remorse from this kid. There’s no remorse at all.”
The possibility of Duda seeing significant prison time disappeared after Luzerne County Judge Lesa S. Gelb moved his case to juvenile court, saying Duda deserved a chance at rehabilitation and didn’t belong in a “criminal setting.”
Duda admitted guilt to vehicular homicide charges and Luzerne County Juvenile Court Judge William Amesbury sent him to the North Central Secure Treatment Unit, a juvenile detention center on the grounds of Danville State Hospital in Montour County.
During that time, Duda’s science teacher, 47-year-old Melissa A. Brindisi, was accused of having sex with him twice in a basement storage room, according to a report in The Sunbury Daily Item. Court records show Brindisi was later acquitted at trial on the charges.
Less than a year after being sent to the facility, Duda had a home pass to check out a Williamsport college. Although supervisors described Duda as “passive-aggressive” and “doing whatever he could do to annoy staff,” probation officers said during a March 2015 hearing they had no opposition to Duda getting “acclimated back into the community.”
Juvenile court records are secret, but Washik said she thought Duda ended up serving about a year and a half for the crime.
Duda, now 20, faces charges for a violent crime yet again in his young life following an incident Wednesday when he allegedly pulled a knife, accusing Imarl Daron Lee Wimbush of sleeping with his ex-girlfriend, Kaylee Grodzicki. Duda cut Grodzicki’s finger before slashing a tire on Wimbush’s car and pouring a beer into the vehicle in the Luzerne County Community College parking lot, according to police.
After police filed assault and harassment charges, Duda was released from the Luzerne County Correctional Facility on Thursday when his mother, Lori Ann Duda, posted $2,000 bail.
Lori Ann Duda did not immediately return a message seeking comment Friday.
Washik said Friday she was upset to hear about Duda’s new charges and that she feels “justice hasn’t been served from day one.” She questioned why Gelb was not more stern when dealing with Duda and said she thinks he should have gotten a much stiffer penalty.
“I don’t understand how this whole system could work like this. ... I just don’t understand how this kid is just walking around like this,” Washik said, saying she fears the system will again show leniency to Duda. “God forbid, I just hope somebody doesn’t get killed again.”
Gelb said Friday court rules prohibit her from commenting on the case.

Man involved in fatal crash facing assault charges

Police charged a man involved in a fatal 2013 crash with assault after he allegedly threatened a woman with a knife.
Tyler Duda, 20, of Nanticoke faces charges of simple assault and harassment after a domestic dispute in the Luzerne County Community College parking lot on Wednesday, a criminal complaint states.
Duda previously served time on juvenile vehicular homicide charges stemming from a fatal crash in July 2013. Duda, 16 at the time, admitted to taking his mother’s car for a joyride and crashing into 59-year-old Nickolas Zurilla at 72 mph on a residential Nanticoke street, severing the man’s legs and torso before crashing into a house 467 feet from where Zurilla had been crossing the street.
After pleading guilty to those charges, Duda spent time in a juvenile treatment facility in Danville.
Nanticoke police said Duda got into an argument with Imarl Daron Lee Wimbush and Kaylee Grodzicki, Duda’s ex-girlfriend. Duda accused Grodzicki of sleeping with Wimbush, became “irate” and pulled out a knife, according to a criminal complaint.
Grodzicki told police she pushed Duda away and he pushed back, swinging the knife toward her. Duda’s knife cut Grodzicki’s left ring finger, police said.
The complaint states Duda then slashed the rear, driver’s side tire of Wimbush’s car and poured a beer into the vehicle. Wimbush and Grodzicki fled the area and called 911 from another location.
Police arrested Duda at his residence on Union Street. He was charged with simple assault, harassment and disorderly conduct and arraigned Thursday morning before Magisterial District Judge Joseph Halesey.
A preliminary hearing was scheduled for April 26 at 1 p.m. before Magisterial District Judge Donald Whittaker.

12 indicted on drug charges
Eric Mark - Citizens Voice

A federal grand jury indicted a dozen Luzerne County residents on drug trafficking charges last month, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.z
The indictments were issued in federal court in Scranton on March 28 and unsealed this week, after the defendants had been arrested, the Justice Department said in a news release.
The defendants face drug trafficking and firearms offenses, the news release states.
Defendants identified by the Justice Department include:
• Edirso De Leon Frias, 25, of Nanticoke.
• Nathaniel Murphy, 41, of Wilkes-Barre.
• Roy Seabrook, 43, of Wilkes-Barre.
• Ruth Reyes-Maldonado, 32, of Wilkes-Barre.
• Joel Contreras, 25, of Nanticoke.
• Alhagie Samba, 49, of Wilkes-Barre.
• Adrian Rivera, 40, of Wikes-Barre.
• Jerrod Curtis, 33, of Wilkes-Barre.
• Nelson Soto, 42, of Wilkes-Barre.
• Juan Roman-Polanco, 31, of Avoca.
• Luis Enrique Martinez Ortiz, 25, of Wilkes-Barre.
• Jose Ramon De Leon-Pineda, 33, of West Hazleton.
The defendants are charged with conspiracy to distribute and possession with the intent to deliver cocaine and heroin, the news release states.
De Leon Frias is also charged with possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, while Roman-Polanco is also charged with possessing a firearm as a convicted felon, according to the Justice Department.
The indictments stemmed from a Justice Department initiative “to combat the nationwide epidemic regarding the use and distribution of heroin,” the news release states.
Law enforcement agencies that participated in the investigation included state police, Wilkes-Barre police and the federal Drug Enforcement Agency.

Man faces charges after drug bust in Nanticoke
Sarah Scinto - Citizens Voice

Bomb squad members responded to a Nanticoke home on Wednesday after police discovered two explosives while searching the home for drugs.
Nanticoke police and other departments searched 347 Hanover St., Apt. 5, around 4:10 p.m. Wednesday. The resident, Brandon George Sirak, was arrested following the search.
Police found 150 bags of suspected heroin, drug paraphernalia and over $500 in cash.
Sirak was charged with three counts of manufacturing, delivering or possession of a controlled substance, intentional possession of a controlled substance and use or possession of drug paraphernalia.
Officers also found two explosive devices and cordoned off the area for more than two hours while members of the Scranton Bomb Squad removed them. Nanticoke Police Chief Thomas Wall said responding officers found two cylindrical objects "about the size of an empty paper towel roll," with fuses protruding from the ends.
Sirak was arraigned on Thursday morning before Magisterial District Judge John Hasay. A preliminary hearing was scheduled for 1 p.m. on April 12 before Magisterial District Judge Donald Whittaker.

Police: Investigation led to arrest of man wanted in Ohio

What was initially a criminal mischief investigation resulted in police arresting a man wanted by authorities in Ohio.
Police said officers were conducting the criminal mischief investigation at 6:55 p.m. Sunday at 27 Hill Street. Officers encountered Luis Miguel Torres-Rodriguez, 21, and learned he had a warrant for his arrest in Ohio for charges of kidnapping, felonious assault, aggravated menace, and burglary.
Torres-Rodriguez was taken into custody without incident. Police later discovered Torres-Rodriguez was allegedly using an alias.
Torres-Rodriguez was subsequently charged with false identification to law enforcement and being a fugitive from justice. He was remanded to the Luzerne County Correctional Facility for overnight arraignment.
Officers from Wilkes-Barre City Police Department and the Cuyahoga County Sheriff's Department in Ohio assisted.

West Nanticoke man gets up to 10 years for robbery
James Halpin - Citizens Voice

A West Nanticoke man accused of robbing a man during a comic book sale was sentenced Friday to serve up to 10 years in prison.
Joshua Ruchinski, 27, was ordered to serve five to 10 years in prison for robbery, as well as for a count of theft in a separate case. Luzerne County Judge Michael T. Vough imposed the sentence, ordering Ruchinski to pay nearly $1,500 in restitution. Prosecutors alleged Ruchinski pulled out a knife and demanded money as he sat with a Shickshinny man in a car parked in front of a Slope Street home where Ruchinski said the comic books were stored.
When the man resisted, Ruchinski pulled out a gun and again demanded money, prosecutors said. The man continued to resist, so Ruchinski grabbed the man’s car keys and cellphone and ran off, according to prosecutors. Vough ordered Ruchinski sent to state prison as soon as possible.

Nanticoke duo arraigned on drug charges

The Nanticoke police have refiled the case against Kenneth Edward Powell and Courtney Claire Padden, attorneys say.
Powell, 30, and Padden, 26, had a preliminary arraignment Wednesday on drug charges stemming from a search warrant following a shooting on Dec. 8, of which Powell was the victim.
The pair previously had a preliminary arrangement, but Padden's attorney, Peter Moses, said there were motions made because the police department didn't have a prima facie case.
"The commonwealth decided to refile," Moses admitted.
According to the criminal complaint:
Members of the Luzerne County Drug Task Force, along with police from Nanticoke and Newport Township, executed a search warrant for Powell's East Spring Street residence at approximately 9:45 a.m. on Dec. 9. Neither Powell nor his girlfriend, Padden, were at the home when the search occurred.
Investigators allege that during the search, multiple items of contraband were seized, including large bags of suspected marijuana "well beyond what would be held for personal use." Cannabis liquid, digital scales and a bag of THC candy was also taken from the resident. THC is the active ingredient found in marijuana. A total of $12,950 in cash was recovered from the residence, which investigators believed was attained through drug sales.
Court papers indicated Powell and Padden were each arraigned before District Judge Donald Whittaker on charges of manufacture, delivery or possession with intent; conspiracy to manufacture; possession of a controlled substance; and use or possession of drug paraphernalia.
Moses said Padden was released on personal recognizance, and court papers indicate Powell was released under the same conditions.
The duo will have a preliminary hearing on at 1 p.m. March 29 at a district judge's office to be announced because Whittaker has already heard the case and has rescued himself.
Efforts to reach Powell's attorney, Joseph F. Sklarosky Sr., were unsuccessful Wednesday.

Woman accused of Nanticoke stabbing waives charges to county court

Javari Gantt-Brown is accused of stabbing a man during a dispute over property in December.
Gantt-Brown, however, claims the incident was a matter of self-defense.
Gantt-Brown, of Hanover Township, appeared for a preliminary hearing before District Judge Donald Whittaker on Wednesday. Gantt-Brown, who identifies as a woman, waived her charges of aggravated assault, simple assault, disorderly conduct and harassment.
Police were waved down around 8:30 p.m. on Dec. 29 by a group of individuals in the area of South Prospect and East Ridge street, near the city municipal building.
Police said an an argument broke out between Brown and victim Jermail Stanley, who tried to intervene in a scuffle over property near the fire department on East Ridge Street. Brown allegedly charged at Stanley with a knife. Stanley retreated backward but Brown charged again, allegedly stabbing Stanley, causing an injury.
Gantt-Brown told a reporter at her hearing Wednesday that she had several disputes with four other people leading up to the incident. She claimed that at one point, she was confronted by four people with knives as she attempted to remove her property from a residence on West Ridge Street.
“I feared for my life,” she said.
Gantt-Brown said the people continued to harass her as she worked to get the property out of the residence, and even had police officers at the nearby municipal building watch as she got the property.
Gantt-Brown said that’s when four people — two men and two woman — charged after her, and she defended herself with a pocket knife.
Fred Heller, a friend of Gantt-Brown’s, said he tried to pick her up that night. He said that she told him at the time that she was being threatened by people.
“She was so hysterical and scared,” Heller said.
When police took Brown into custody, she began to struggle. Officers were able to secure Brown against the patrol car until they attempted to put handcuffs on her. Brown then fled down a ramp which lead into the police station. It was there that officers were able to take her into custody.
Gantt-Brown is scheduled for a formal arraignment in the Luzerne County Courthouse at 10 a.m. on June 1. After hearing a brief argument from Gantt-Brown’s attorney Allyson Leigh Kacmarski, Whittaker reduced Gantt-Brown’s bail to $25,000 unsecured.

Trio indicted on federal drug-trafficking charges
James Halpin - Citizens Voice

Three Luzerne County residents have been indicted by a federal grand jury on drug-trafficking charges.
Edirso De Leon Frias, 25, of Nanticoke; Nathaniel Murphy, 41; and Roy Seabrook, 43, both of Wilkes-Barre, are accused of conspiring to distribute heroin, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Prosecutors say De Leon Frias distributed more than 100 grams of heroin, the equivalent of about 4,000 doses.
If convicted, the defendants face up to 20 years in prison, according to prosecutors.
The case, investigated by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, was brought as part of an initiative to combat a nationwide heroin epidemic, prosecutors said.

Police asking for help in identifying man allegedly using counterfeit bills
Police described the suspect as average height and weight with short hair, mustache and thin beard. The male wore a blue shirt with a Superman logo and blue jeans
Times Leader

Police are asking for the public’s help in identifying a man who used counterfeit bills to purchase hair products.
According to police, around 5:40 p.m. Thursday, a man purchased $29.75 worth of hair care products with a fake $100 bill at the CVS Pharmacy on East Main Street.
The suspect is described as average height and weight with short hair, mustache and thin beard. The male wore a blue shirt with a Superman logo and blue jeans.
Police say he may have a tattoo that can be observed on his lower right forearm.
Anyone with information is asked to contact city police at 570-735-2200, extension 206 or 216.

Death of 9-day-old infant still under investigation in Nanticoke

An investigation into the November death of a 9-day-old girl is continuing, Nanticoke Police Chief Thomas Wall said Thursday.
In December, Wall told the Times Leader that officers were dispatched to an East Union Street residence Nov. 20 after a report of an unresponsive infant. First responders attempted CPR on the baby, and she was taken to Geisinger Wyoming Valley in Plains Township, where she was pronounced dead.
Wall said Thursday that officers are awaiting toxicology and other results on the infant, whose name has not been released. Wall declined to comment further, citing the active investigation.
Autopsies are routinely performed in infant deaths, according to officials at the Luzerne County Coroner’s Office. No one has been charged in the 9-day-old’s death.
The infant’s mother, Sydney Simon, 26, declined to comment Thursday about her daughter’s case, citing instructions from her attorney. That attorney, Timothy Thomas Vancosky, could not be reached for comment.
In an unrelated case, Simon was arraigned Dec. 29 on charges she had controlled substances in her possession while she was in the Luzerne County prison on a domestic violence charge stemming from a Dec. 18 incident. The domestic charge has since been dismissed.
According to a court docket, Simon pleaded guilty to a single charge of use or possession of drug paraphernalia in connection with the possession case, in which prison officials said they found a bag hidden in her bra that contained controlled substances.
Police said that inside the bag was one empty capsule of Adderall, one Tramadol, 34 capsules of Klonopin and one Flexeril.
Court dockets indicate she was sentenced to one year of probation on Jan. 18.

Court panel rejects jailed Nanticoke man’s appeal
James Halpin - Citizens Voice

A three-judge panel of the state Superior Court on Tuesday rejected the appeal of a Nanticoke man serving time in prison on vehicular homicide charges.
James Novis, 41, is serving seven to 14 years in state prison after pleading guilty in November 2015 to charges related to the crash that killed Cherri L. Hummel.
Prosecutors say Novis was driving drunk on May 4, 2013, when he ran off state Route 29 in Lehman Township, vaulted over an embankment and crashed into another embankment 45 feet away. Novis’ blood-alcohol level was between .12 and .126 percent within two hours of the crash, and evidence showed he had been driving at 83 mph in a 50 mph zone before losing control of the car, according to prosecutors.
Novis appealed the sentence imposed by Luzerne County Judge Tina Polachek Gartley on grounds she failed to consider his remorse.
The judges Tuesday found Novis’ claims “lack merit” and that Gartley imposed an appropriate sentence.

Alleged rapist charged with child porn possession
Citizens Voice

A city man already awaiting trial on a rape charge now faces child pornography charges as well.
Police on Wednesday charged Christopher Bates, 43, with possession of child pornography and criminal use of a communication facility, both felonies.
According to a police affidavit:
Officers seized Bates’ Nokia cellphone during an investigation that led to rape charges being filed against him in November 2016. Bates consented to a search of the phone, according to police. Officers conducted a forensic analysis of the phone, which revealed two digital images of nude female juveniles that were saved to the phone from two separate websites in February 2015.
A preliminary hearing on the charges filed Wednesday is scheduled for Feb. 15 before Magisterial District Judge Donald Whittaker.
Bates is in Luzerne County Correctional Facility awaiting a formal arraignment March 10 on the rape charge in county court.

Police: Man charged after attacking girlfriend in Nanticoke

A city man is facing charges after police say he attacked his girlfriend.
Police responded at 10:01 p.m. Sunday to 78 W. Broad St., after a caller said she was pushed by her boyfriend, according to a criminal complaint.
The complaint said Michael Mattey met officers at the door, and told them Michael Gabriel, 62, pushed his mother, Laura Mattey, down to the floor, causing her head to hit the wall.
According to the complaint:
Once inside the residence, police found Laura in the bedroom holding her head and crying. Laura said she needed medication before going to bed and then knocked on Gabriel’s door, but he refused to answer. Michael forced the bedroom door open to get her medication. Gabriel became angry and began to argue with Laura. During the argument, Gabriel grabbed Laura by the arms and threw her to the floor.
Officers observed a black and blue bruise on the side of Laura’s forehead.
Gabriel told officers Michael was overreacting and that Laura punched him in the mouth.
Police charged Gabriel with assault and harassment. After an arrangement with District Judge Donald Whittaker, Gabriel was lodged at Luzerne County Correctional Facility in lieu of $50,000 bail. He is scheduled for a preliminary hearing 10 a.m. Feb. 8 in front of Whittaker.

Suspect in Nanticoke man’s murder remains on the run
James Halpin - Citizens Voice

The hunt continued Friday for the man accused of shooting another man dead earlier this week.
Antoine William McNeal, 32, of Wilkes-Barre, is wanted on murder charges alleging he shot and killed 20-year-old Brandon Smith outside Smith’s home on West Church Street in Nanticoke about 2 a.m. Wednesday.
According to police, the men got into an argument that resulted in McNeal shooting Smith several times. Smith died about an hour later at Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center in Plains Township.
McNeal remained on the lam Friday, with police saying he is considered “armed and dangerous.”
“We are still actively search(ing) for McNeal,” state police spokesman Trooper Tom Kelly said in a statement.
Court records show McNeal has a checkered past involving several drug cases.
Most recently, he served a 21 to 42 month prison sentence imposed by Luzerne County Judge Fred A. Pierantoni III in three separate cases.
In the summer of 2012, McNeal was hit with drug-trafficking charges after selling an undercover state troopers’ informant heroin, court records show. A search of his home turned up 191 packets of heroin, 16 baggies of cocaine and some marijuana, police alleged.
Next, McNeal was arrested in April 2013 after Wilkes-Barre police pulled over a car with an expired registration and he lied about his name, according to court records.
Then in November 2014, McNeal was caught unloading trash from a vehicle into a dumpster at the Interfaith Heights Apartments. McNeal gave a fake name and “reeked of marijuana,” police alleged. Officers found him in possession of a bag of marijuana, police said.
Court records show McNeal pleaded guilty to charges of dealing heroin and lying about his identity to police, with other counts being dismissed.
After being sentenced in April 2015 — getting credit for about a half-year time served — McNeal made parole May 3, according to the state Department of Corrections.
McNeal was previously sentenced to serve up to 23 months in the Luzerne County Correctional Facility after pleading guilty to drug-trafficking conspiracy in a 2006 crack-distribution case.
Court records also show that ABC Bail Bonds won a $1,342 civil judgment against McNeal and his wife last August. According to the complaint, the company agreed to post bond in one of McNeal’s cases for a $2,200 fee but he only paid $1,000.
The charges state police filed against McNeal on Thursday include criminal homicide, illegal weapons possession, criminal use of a communication facility and evidence tampering.
Anyone with information about McNeal’s whereabouts is asked to call state police at Wyoming at 570-697-2000.

Suspect named in Nanticoke murder
Eric Mark - Citizens Voice

Police have named a suspect in the murder of a Nanticoke man early Wednesday morning.
Antoine McNeal, 32, of Wilkes-Barre, shot and killed 20-year-old Brandon Smith outside Smith’s home on West Church Street in Nanticoke at 2 a.m. Wednesday, police allege.
Police obtained an arrest warrant against McNeal on Thursday. He had not been located as of Thursday night and is considered armed and dangerous, police said.
According to police, Smith and McNeal got into an altercation that resulted in McNeal shooting Smith several times.
An autopsy conducted Thursday morning determined that Smith died of multiple gunshot wounds inflicted during a homicide, according to the Luzerne County Coroner’s Office.
McNeal faces charges of homicide, illegal weapons possession, criminal use of a communication facility and evidence tampering, according to court records.
Anyone with information about McNeal or his whereabouts is asked to call state police at Wyoming at 570-697-2000.

One man killed in early-morning shooting in Nanticoke

A 20-year-old man was killed in a shooting early Wednesday morning.
Sources said the shooting happened at approximately 2 a.m. in the area of 185 West Church St. The victim, identified as Brandon Smith, suffered multiple gunshot wounds, according to officials.
Smith was taken to Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.
It is believed Smith knew the shooter. However, police have not made any arrests.
Officials said they believe the shooting was drug-related.
Officials from the Pennsylvania State Police in Wyoming, the Luzerne County District Attorney’s Office, and the Nanticoke Police Department are investigating.
The shooting marks the second in Nanticoke in the past month, and the second homicide in Luzerne County in 2017.
In December, Kenneth Powell was shot when a physical altercation spilled into the street. Powell and his girlfriend, Courtney Padden, were subsequently charged after investigators allegedly found numerous drugs and drug paraphernalia inside his residence.
On Jan. 12, Keith Williams was charged with homicide after he allegedly shot a man in the chest with a shotgun after a dispute in Fairmount Township.
A troubled home?
Residents throughout West Church Street said the house where the homicide occurred has been known as a troubled spot.
Police were still on the scene at approximately 10:30 a.m. as tape surrounded the residence. At one point, a small dog could be seen peering out from a second-floor window of the residence before scurrying back inside.
A resident a few houses down from the scene, who declined to be identified, said the residence has been known for “riff-raff.”
Resident Joe Damario also noted the house’s troublesome history.
Damario, 36, was awakened by his dogs when police first arrived on the scene. The porch of his residence directly overlooks the residence at 185 West Church St.
Damario said verbal altercations are commonly heard outside of the residence, and a lot of people tend to come and go without staying long.
As he looked at the scene hours after the incident, he said he was happy his three children did not have to experience it on their way to school.
“I was thankful … they didn’t have to walk through that,” he said.
Another longtime resident of the street speculated an ongoing drug issue in the city contributed to the shooting. Other neighbors described West Church Street as a quiet street with few problems.
Damario said that beyond drugs, “absentee landlords” who rent residences to anybody without background checks contribute to the violent behavior.
Damario speculated there was more to the shooting.
“I think that had personal written all over it,” he said.

Police seek suspect in Nanticoke robbery
Eric Mark - Citizens Voice

A man robbed the Cocoa Hut convenience store on East Main Street in Nanticoke early Tuesday morning, according to police.
The robbery happened at about 4 a.m., according to Nanticoke police Chief Thomas Wall.
A man walked into the store, told a cashier he had a gun and demanded money, Wall said. The clerk took the drawer out of the register and the man grabbed cash and left the store on foot. He was last seen on Prospect Street, Wall said.
The man did not display a weapon during the robbery, according to Wall.
Nanticoke police and state police responded.
Police released video surveillance footage of the alleged robber on Tuesday. He appears to be wearing pink sweatpants with the word “Luzerne” on the left leg.
Anyone with information about the suspect or this crime is asked to call Nanticoke police at 570-735-2200.