Some optimism displayed at vigil for Phylicia
It's been 14 years since Phylicia Thomas went missing -14 years that
her mother, family and friends have grieved as they wait for a resolution
of the case.
On Sunday night at Patriot Square in Nanticoke, a slight breeze of
optimism blew through the crowd of about 50 people gathered to sing
Phylicia's favorite song and light a candle in her memory.
Pauline Bailey, Phylicia's mother, and family friend and advocate
Judy Fisher announced to the crowd that they have been contacted by
Pennsylvania State Police and told there will be a meeting soon to
review the case, opening a door that appeared to be closed for a long
Bailey believes her daughter, then 22, was killed Feb. 11, 2004, while
attending a party inside a house trailer and dismembered in a barn
on Timber Lane in Hunlock Township. That belief is based on what Bailey
and her friends were told by some people who attended the party. There
have been no arrests in the case.
"We received a call from the state police informing us that they
will meet with us soon to discuss the case," Fisher said. "All
we want is to work as a team so we can bring Phylicia home and solve
"Let's hope this is the last year for us to have this vigil,"
Bailey said as she opened the ceremony. "In recent weeks, some
people have called us, some to just talk and console us, some to share
information. All we ask is that anybody with any information about
what happened to Phylicia come forward and tell us. We won't reveal
your name. We just want you to tell us what you know."
A sign on a table nearby read, "Phylicia Thomas - her life mattered."
The attendees sang Phylicia's favorite song - "Wish You Were
Here" - Pink Floyd's 1975 hit. The crowd also joined in saying
"The Lord's Prayer."
Pauline Bailey has six other children: Todd, Jesse, Jared, Wyatt,
Jocelyn and Wade. Most of them attended the vigil with their children.
Jocelyn's oldest daughter is named in memory of Phylicia.
"Just the thought that those responsible for Phylicia's death
are still out there is unbelievable," Jocelyn said. "They
could do the same thing to somebody else's child."
Jocelyn said the last 14 years have been difficult on her family,
especially her mother.
"It's been beyond frustrating," she said. "But it's
important that we come to remember Phylicia and keep her name alive."
Bailey said she is determined to bring her daughter home.
"Nobody will stop us," she said. "We know what happened.
We will find her. We won't stop until we do."
Fisher said the main goal has always been to bring Phylicia home to
allow her family to bury her so she can rest in peace.
"This is about telling the truth," Fisher said. "And
it's about bringing closure to the family."
Bailey and Fisher believe Thomas' remains may have been buried in
a vegetable garden or burned and disposed of somewhere on a 25-acre
site where the trailer once stood along Golf Course Road and Timber
Lane in Hunlock Township.
The site was sold in December 2015, a house trailer was razed and
debris removed. Following the sale, the new property owners allowed
Bailey to search the area. In 2016, separate searches were conducted
on the property using animals from Malvern-based Search and Rescue
Dogs of Pennsylvania: one on behalf of Bailey, a second for state
During the first search, cadaver dogs gave indications at certain
areas of the property, suggesting they may have detected decomposing
human remains. State police took one of the same dogs back to the
site two weeks later and no hits were recorded. The dog's handler
said he couldn't explain why no hits were recorded on the second search.
Bailey expressed disappointment that the 14-year investigation has
not been successful in finding Phylicia, nor those responsible for
her disappearance and presumed murder.
"We want to see the people responsible brought to justice,"
Fisher said. "We believe some of the people involved are still
As Bailey was walking to the center of Patriot Square, she was struggling
with the fact that 14 years have passed with no resolution to the
"I woke up this morning sick to my stomach," she said. "This
is like going to a funeral every year."
Hope rules at vigil for missing woman
Eric Mark - Citizens Voice
Hope was the theme of Sunday night's vigil for Phylicia Thomas, who
has been missing for 14 years.
"We are bringing my daughter home and no one is going to stop
us," Pauline Bailey told dozens of people gathered in Nanticoke's
Patriot Square Park.
Bailey said that Sunday's vigil - the 14th consecutive gathering on
the anniversary of Thomas's disappearance on Feb. 11, 2004 - will
be the last before her daughter's case is solved.
"We know what happened," Bailey said. "We're not going
to stop. ... We just want to bring her home."
Thomas, of Lake Twp., was 22 when she disappeared. Her family and
friends have searched to find out what happened to her ever since.
They gather each year to honor Thomas, who was remembered Sunday as
a young woman with a big heart who would do anything to help anyone
Some stood in snow and slush, held lighted candles and sang Thomas's
favorite song, Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here."
Bailey and Judy Fisher, a family friend and community activist, said
they will soon have closure - and the answer to what happened to Thomas.
Bailey said that over the past year she has spoken with people who
said they saw Thomas at a house party in Hunlock Twp. the night she
disappeared. Thomas was sexually assaulted at that party, then killed
and her remains were disposed of nearby, according to the witnesses,
Bailey and Fisher said.
The only person ever named as a person of interest in the case was
Steve Martin, an acquaintance of Thomas's. Martin committed suicide
in state prison in 2005, while serving a sentence for causing a fatal
automobile accident in Wilkes-Barre.
Bailey criticized the police investigation into her daughter's disappearance,
but said new investigators have been assigned to the case.
Fisher said Thomas's family and friends would like to hear from anyone
who attended the party at which she was allegedly assaulted and later
killed. Witnesses may remain anonymous and need not fear for their
safety, she said.
As more people come forward, the answer to what happened to Thomas
becomes clear, according to Bailey.
"We have hope again," she said. "We have a pretty good
idea where she is. We had people tell us things."
Anyone with information about Thomas or her disappearance may call
Fisher at 570-328-4957 or send an email to: email@example.com.
County approves tax break for commercial
Luzerne County Council on Tuesday approved a 10-year tax abatement
for a proposed commercial project that the developer says could create
thousands of jobs.
Council voted 7-3 to approve the tax abatement for NorthPoint Development,
the Missouri-based firm that plans to build three large commercial
structures on a 330-acre tract off state Route 29 in Hanover Twp.
Council voted to exempt new buildings on the site from property tax
liability for 10 years. The exemption will be 100 percent for the
first seven years, decreasing to 90 percent in year eight, 80 percent
in year nine and 70 percent in year 10.
Hanover Twp., Nanticoke, Hanover Area School District and Greater
Nanticoke Area School District have approved the tax abatement, through
a program known as Local Economic Revitalization Tax Assistance, that
allows local taxing authorities to exempt improvements to business
properties located in "deteriorated" areas.
A council majority on Tuesday cited the benefits the project could
bring to the county, especially the creation of 2,000 or more jobs,
once the buildings are leased and fully operational.
"I can't see us turning it down," Councilwoman Sheila Saidman
The vote was not unanimous, though.
Councilmen Edward Brominski, Harry Haas and Stephen A. Urban voted
against the tax abatement. Councilman Matthew Vough was absent.
Haas said he hoped to see the county obtain better terms on the tax
deferral deal, such as limiting the 100 percent tax exemption to a
shorter time frame.
County Manager David Pedri said he had discussions with NorthPoint
Development officials and expects the firm to be a good corporate
citizen, but that no other terms were presented for the tax abatement
Haas questioned whether the site is really "deteriorated,"
as required to qualify for the tax abatement program.
Brent Miles, NorthPoint Development's vice president of economic development,
described the site as rugged and "very topographically challenged,"
with steep slopes that will require grading. He said he once rode
in a vehicle that got stuck while driving around the site.
NorthPoint Development has reached a tentative agreement to purchase
the tract from the nonprofit Earth Conservancy.
Council members encouraged Miles to hire local contractors and laborers
to help construct the project, which NorthPoint Development estimates
will cost $100 million.
Warren Faust, president of the Northeastern Pennsylvania Building
and Construction Trades Council, raised the issue of local hiring
during public comment.
"There are plenty of qualified contractors in this county who
can work on this project," Faust said. "They are ready,
willing and able to build this."
Faust criticized NorthPoint Development for using too many contractors
from out of the county when the company built the 800,000-square-foot
Chewy.com fulfillment center in Hanover Industrial Estates.
Miles said the company was under a very tight deadline for construction,
so it hired firms with which it had previously contracted on other
projects, to make sure the Chewy.com warehouse was finished on schedule.
He promised to work with Faust and county officials to make sure Luzerne
County contractors are included on the project. Plans that NorthPoint
submitted to the county include a proposed 1.3-million-square-foot
commercial structure and two other large buildings.
Also on Tuesday, council approved a $25,000 settlement of a lawsuit
filed against the county by Francis Lombardo, a former inmate at Luzerne
County Correctional Facility. Lombardo alleged in the suit that officials
of the jail abused him and violated his rights.
Portion of South Valley Parkway opens
Part of the South Valley Parkway in Hanover Twp. opened to drivers
Monday morning. The section of the $83 million road construction project
that opened occupies a stretch of land northwest of the South Cross
Valley Expressway/state Route 29. It runs from a connection off of
South Main Street near Exit 2 of the expressway to a newly constructed
roundabout west of there. Two ramps near that roundabout connect to
the South Cross Valley Expressway between exits 2 and 3. Further west
of that roundabout, one lane of traffic will be open on a bridge over
the expressway and Dundee Road, leading to another roundabout. The
planned roadway continues to Middle Road and Kosciuszko Street in
Nanticoke, but that section remains under construction. It is scheduled
to open sometime in 2019.
Former school transformed into training center
for electrical apprentices
Denise Allabaugh - Citizens Voice
Since he was young, Wilkes-Barre resident Mark Gatusky wanted to be
Both his grandfathers, his father and uncles were electricians and
part of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local Union
Gatusky, 37, said his family wanted him to try going to college first,
He went to the University of Scranton, earned a masters degree
in history and subsequently worked in the health insurance business
for years. He often traveled, didnt see his family enough and
he said the return on his investment just wasnt there.
Then, he decided to follow his dream to become an electrician.
Gatusky is in his final year of a five-year electrical apprenticeship
where he gets on-the-job paid training as well as education at a training
center that opened last year at 41 W. Church St., Nanticoke.
He has done electrical work for projects ranging from a water park
to natural gas power plants to the PPL Center, an arena in Allentown.
Pointing out that he earns a higher salary with better benefits as
an electrician, Gatusky said, I found myself much happier doing
this and working with my hands.
Its a creative way to make a living. No day is the same,
he said. You could use your mind, be creative and have a living
that you could have pride in, not only from a paycheck perspective,
but you could look at a building and say, You know what? I did
The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Union 163 and
Penn-Del-Jersey chapter of the National Electrical Contractors Association
turned the former St. Stanislaus Catholic School in Nanticoke into
a training center for electricians.
Gatusky is one of 57 apprentices in the program.
Training director John T. Nadolny said there is no cost for a five-year
Prior to opening the new training center, they rented space from Luzerne
County Community College, he said.
Apprentices in the program receive technical training on Monday and
Wednesday nights for three hours and occasionally Saturdays from September
to April as well on-the-job paid training with contractors.
Their starting pay is about $12 an hour plus benefits for the first
1,000 hours. Electricians have the potential to earn more than $34
an hour plus benefits for an entire family, he said.
You earn while you learn and at the end, you get college credits,
Nadolny said. You can go for an associates degree, a bachelors
degree or a masters degree and get up to 60 credits for this
Over the five years of the program, Nadolny said apprentices receive
8,000 hours of on-the-job training.
This isnt a job. Its a career, he said. Its
not for everybody. Its hard work. Its very dangerous work.
We teach them how to be safe.
Electricians do outside work and inside work ranging from wiring homes,
schools, hospitals, arenas and commercial, industrial and manufacturing
facilities to lighting protection.
The future for electricians is wired for growth.
Nadolny said there is a big demand for electricians. Good candidates
have mechanical knowledge and are dependable, he said.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics,
employment of electricians is projected to grow 9 percent over the
next eight years. As homes and businesses require more wiring, more
electricians will be needed.
Becoming an electrician is a good high-paying alternative for interested
applicants who dont want to take on the high debt of college,
Unfortunately, many of people who go to college end up with
a quarter of a million dollars of debt when theyre done and
they work at McDonalds, he said. College isnt
for everybody. Maybe some would do better in the trades.
Mountain Top resident Jillian Henderson, 31, is in her first year
of the electrical apprenticeship.
While being an electrician is not a traditional career for women,
Henderson said she loves to work with her hands.
You get to use your hands and your brains. Its the best
of both worlds, Henderson said. My father is a contractor
so it runs in the family.
Wilkes-Barre resident Ernesto Tapia, 27, who also is in his first
year of the apprenticeship, said he also loves working with his hands
and doing something different every day.
I cant stay in one spot, Tapia said. I cant
sit inside. Ive got to do different things, work inside and
People can apply for the apprenticeship on the first Monday of each
month between 1 and 6 p.m. at 41 W. Church St., Nanticoke. Applicants
must be 18, be a high school graduate or have a GED and receive a
satisfactory score on a Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee
test and resident in the Local 163 jurisdiction, which is mostly Luzerne
County. For more information, call 570-258-2665
IBEW Local 81 has a training center with the same program in South
Abington Twp. for Lackawanna County residents. For more information,
Section of South Valley Parkway will open
Bill Wellock - Citizens Voice
A section of an $83 million road construction project will be ready
for drivers soon.
Part of the South Valley Parkway in Hanover Twp. will open at 11 a.m.
The section to open occupies a stretch of land northwest of the South
Cross Valley Expressway/state Route 29.
It runs from a connection off of South Main Street near Exit 2 of
the expressway to a newly constructed roundabout west of there. Two
ramps near that roundabout connect to the South Cross Valley Expressway
between exits 2 and 3.
Further west of that roundabout, one lane of traffic will be open
on a bridge over the expressway and Dundee Road, leading to another
The planned roadway continues to Middle Road and Kosciuszko Street
in Nanticoke, but that section remains under construction. It is scheduled
to open sometime in 2019, spokesman Mike Taluto said.
The new parkway opens up land to potential development. Missouri-based
NorthPoint Development is considering building there.
The company has already built a warehouse for Chewy.com, an online
pet supply retailer, on another nearby section of land in Hanover
Twp. Two other NorthPoint buildings near the Chewy.com warehouse will
be homes for Adidas and Patagonia facilities.
Now, NorthPoint is considering constructing three new buildings on
Earth Conservancy land next to the South Valley Parkway. Once occupied,
the site could be home to 1,300 to 2,000 jobs.
The company is looking for tax breaks on the development. NorthPoint
has already secured tax deals with Hanover Twp., Nanticoke, and those
municipalities respective school districts. Luzerne County Council
will vote on whether to extend that tax break to county taxes at a
Development was part of the vision for the road construction project
when it was conceived, along with alleviating traffic on Main Street
through the Askam section of Hanover Twp.
The road and its roundabouts in the township will connect the highway
to about 2,000 acres of land for potential industrial development.
County council set to vote on tax break request
Eric Mark - Citizens Voice
County council could vote next week whether or not to grant a 10-year
tax abatement for a proposed commercial development in Hanover Twp.
NorthPoint Development, a Missouri-based industrial development firm,
plans to build three large commercial structures on the 330-acre parcel
off state Route 29 and Kosciuszko Street, which the firm says would
create 1,300 to 2,000 jobs. NorthPoint has reached a preliminary agreement
to purchase the land from the nonprofit Earth Conservancy.NorthPoint
has requested that Hanover Twp., Nanticoke, Hanover Area School District
and Greater Nanticoke Area School District exempt new structures on
the site from property taxation for a decade. The firms request
falls under a tax abatement program known as Local Economic Revitalization
Tax Assistance, or LERTA, that allows local taxing authorities to exempt
improvements to business properties located in deteriorated
areas.The two municipalities and two school districts already approved
that request, according to county records.
At a Jan. 9 work session, county council members heard a NorthPoint
executive extol the virtues of the project. On Tuesday, the issue reaches
the agenda for councils voting session.
Council will consider a resolution that would provide tax exemption
for the NorthPoint project, with 100 percent tax abatement the first
seven years, followed by 90 percent in year eight, 80 percent in year
nine and 70 percent in year 10.
Those numbers could change, according to Councilman Harry Haas.
I encourage the manager and council members to get a better deal
for the county, Haas said Friday.
Haas said he was impressed by NorthPoints presentation at the
work session earlier this month. He is also impressed by the success
NorthPoint had developing the parcel in Hanover Industrial Estates that
houses the 800,000-square-foot Chewy.com warehouse, he said.
But NorthPoints argument that it all comes down to nickels
and dimes for industrial development projects works both ways,
It also comes down to nickels and dimes for taxpayers, he
It is possible that county Manager David Pedri will negotiate better
terms on the countys behalf, or that a council member will make
a motion to amend the resolution to reflect better terms, Haas said.
Council Chairman Tim McGinley said he expects council to discuss the
requested tax abatement in detail, then vote on the resolution that
will determine its fate Tuesday.
Search for fallen WWII soldiers family
moves to Moosic
Bob Kalinowski - Citizens Voice - Note: partial article from CV
The hunt for family of a World War II soldier missing since October
1944 has shifted and appears to be over.
Military officials initially contacted the Nanticoke Historical Society,
looking for family of Private Anthony Laskowski, believed to have
been a Nanticoke native killed in a massive explosion near Agincourt,
But some Laskowskis in the Nanticoke area knew the military was on
the wrong track their Anthony Laskowski survived the war and
died in the 1980s. After a recent story was published in The Citizens
Voice, they eventually helped track down the right family, the Laskowskis
originally from Moosic.
Delphine Krappa Mattei, 81, of Dupont, on Wednesday said the Laskowski
the military is inquiring about is her uncle, Anthony A. Laskowski.
He was the brother of her late mother, Laura Laskowski Gerlak.
Wilkes-Barre, Pittston, Hazleton, Nanticoke
mull cooperation on blight
The mayors of three of Luzerne Countys four cities met Tuesday
to discuss issues and possible partnerships to help ease some of the
financial burdens each faces and ways to grow their communities.
Mayor Tony George of Wilkes-Barre, Mayor Mike Lombardo of Pittston
and Mayor Jeff Cusat of Hazleton met for more than an hour in Wilkes-Barre
City Hall to exchange ideas and to share experiences. Mayor Rich Wiaterowski
of Nanticoke could not attend the meeting.
Lombardo said the group, for now, is called Council of Cities and
the plan is to meet quarterly or more often, depending on issues.
Tuesdays discussion centered on blighted properties and how
to deal with absentee owners and overcrowded units with numerous code
violations. The mayors goal is to find the best way to get the
buildings rehabilitated and returned to the tax rolls as soon as possible.
There was extended conversation on Act 90 the Neighborhood
Blight Reclamation and Revitalization Act which took
effect in 2011.
Act 90 expands the powers that municipalities have to reduce blighted
properties. Those in serious code violation, as determined
by local zoning officers, can have several legal actions taken against
them. Buildings that are determined to be a public nuisance
also fall under the law.
A city may take action if after six months from the date of an order
to correct violations there has been no substantial step
to correct those violations.
Some of the options available:
Liens can be placed against properties with code violations.
Municipalities can take property owners to court to seek judgments
against an owners assets.
Municipalities may deny permits to owners of buildings who
are in violation.
Municipalities may deny permits to owners who are behind in
Municipalities may deny permits to owners behind in other municipal
accounts (water, sewage, refuse collection, etc.)
Municipalities may deny these permits until all existing violations
Out-of-state property owners may be extradited to Pennsylvania
to be charged with property-related violations.
Magisterial districts may establish housing courts
additionally, judges are encouraged to attend training and
education relating to new blight laws.
George, Cusat and Lombardo will invite Luzerne County District Attorney
Stefanie Salavantis to discuss what her office can do to assist the
cities in addressing the issues covered by Act 90.
In Pittston, our focus over the next four years will be on our
housing stock, said Lombardo, who returned to office this month.
All of our downtowns are growing or have the potential to grow
and housing issues dictate where we go from here.
Lombardo hopes the mayors can share issues each city is confronting
and also discuss how they can join together to make purchases of items
and materials they all use.
In Hazleton, we certainly have a lot of issues with housing,
Cusat said. We found one apartment where eight people were living
in one room. Weve also found people living in basements with
no way out.
George agreed the four cities together have the potential to present
a stronger argument on issues.
As a group, we have a better chance at securing federal funding
for certain projects, George said.
Lombardo and Cusat agreed, saying each city acting alone would not
be as influential as a united effort by the four.|
The mayors also intend to find ways to attract developers to their
cities to help eliminate blight.
Family sought of Nanticoke soldier killed
in France in World War II
Bob Kalinowski - Citizens Voice
After more than 73 years, there is renewed hope of determining the
fate of a Nanticoke soldier believed to have been killed during World
Private Anthony Laskowski and 32 other men were thought to have been
killed in a horrific explosion and inferno on Oct. 10, 1944 near Ajincourt,
France. But the remains of Laskowski and 12 others were never recovered.
Theyve been considered missing in action ever since.
The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency recently recovered remains in
that area and are trying to link them with the missing through family
The organization recently reached out to the Nanticoke Historical
Society to help track down relatives of Laskowski.
Chet Zaremba, the groups vice president, said hes been
having little luck.
He did live in Nanticoke at one time, so we owe him something,
Zaremba said. Theres lots of Laskowskis around here, but
I cant make any connection.
Military officials have told Zaremba that Laskowskis enlistment
paperwork indicates he was from Nanticoke and his mother, Stefania,
lived in the Sheatown section of Newport Twp.
News accounts from January 1945 reported on his suspected death and
says he was the brother of Mrs. John Gerlak of Dupont and the husband
of Evelyn Laskowski, of Center Avenue, Newark, New Jersey.
The militarys missing persons website has Laskowski listed under
those unaccounted for from New Jersey.
Military officials provided the historical society with a summary
about the incident that likely killed Laskowski.
Members of Laskowskis unit the Armys 35th Infantry
Division, 60th Engineers Combat Battalion were laying anti-tank
landmines at night on Oct. 10, 1944 during a period intermittent artillery
and mortar fire. Truck after truck was loaded with fused mines.
A big explosion from the leading truck caused the systematic detonation
of other trucks and mines on the ground, causing more than 1,500 mines
The entire area immediately became an inferno of exploding mines,
small arms ammunition and burning, according to an after-action
report by the 60th Engineers Combat Battalion. The night was
very dark and there was a heavy fog, which made rescue work most difficult
Zaremba is hoping Laskowski still has some local relatives so the
military can determine if his remains have been found.
They are trying to identify them so they could bury them properly,
Relatives can contact the Armys Past Conflict Repatriations
Branch at 1-800-892-2490.
Missing in action
Name: Private Anthony Laskowski
Branch: U.S. Army
Missing since: Oct. 10, 1944
Location: Near Ajincourt, France
Unit: 35th Infantry Division, 60th Engineers Combat Battalion
Marital residence: Newark, N.J.
Are you a relative?
The military is seeking relatives of Private Anthony Laskowski in
order to provide a DNA sample that could help identify remains found
in the area where Laskowski went missing during World War II. Relatives
can contact the Armys Past Conflict Repatriations Branch at
Winning lottery ticket sold in Nanticoke
will expire soon
Bob Kalinowski - Citizens Voice
Time is running out for someone to claim a $50,000 winning
lottery ticket purchased at a Nanticoke convenience store last year.
Someone correctly matched the Pick 5 numbers the evening
of Jan. 12, 2017 in a ticket purchased at Turkey Hill Minit Mart at
460 W. Main St.
The winnings will be forfeited if the ticket is not claimed by Friday,
Jan. 12, as winning tickets expire after one year, lottery officials
The winning numbers, in order, were 8-1-0-5-8.
Turkey Hill in Nanticoke has a sign up near its lottery register advising
residents to Please check your tickets as a big winner sold
here is set to expire.
This is a $50,000 winner and is unclaimed, the sign reads.
Allen Zieglar, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Lottery, encouraged
people to check old tickets in hopes they have the winner. If its
not claimed by next Friday, the $50,000 will be returned to the lotterys
fund that benefits older Pennsylvanians.
We want players to check every ticket every time. We dont
want them to miss out on a prize. Thats why we are here. We do
our best to notify the public and players that there are winning tickets
out there, Zieglar said. Unfortunately, if its not
claimed in time, the money goes back to the lottery fund.
While some state lotteries give players only 90 or 180 days to claim
a prize, Pennsylvania Lottery prizes expire one year from the drawing
date, Zieglar noted.
In the past year, $18.8 million in lottery prizes have gone unclaimed,