ends after man surrenders in Nanticoke
Bob Kalinowski - Citizens
Facing a massive presence of police in tactical gear ready to swarm,
a Nanticoke man who threatened to shoot anyone who approached his home surrendered
Wednesday afternoon following a standoff that lasted several hours.
gave himself up without incident, Nanticoke police Chief Tom Wall said.
I guess when he looked outside and saw everything happening, he decided
to give himself up.
Police said the man, Andrew Blake, 31, was taken
for an involuntary mental health commitment after he walked out of his 217 W.
Green St. home.
More than 50 members of the Pennsylvania State Police Special
Emergency Response Team were assembled near the mans house ready to make
forcible entry if necessary. A state police armored vehicle, known as The Rook,
was on hand.
Nanticoke police said the standoff began Wednesday morning after
city police obtained an involuntary mental health commitment against Blake after
getting complaints about his alleged bizarre behavior.
After police tried to
make contact, Blake left his home and shot out a neighbors surveillance
cameras with a pellet gun, police said.
Police said Blake then returned to
his house and did not respond to subsequent attempts to contact him.
had signs posted that if anyone tried to enter his house, he would shoot them,
Wall said Blake was known to possess a crossbow and neighbors have
complained about him shooting the weapon in his yard. It is believed the man used
the crossbow to have killed a groundhog and a neighbors cat, Wall said.
the standoff, West Main Street was shut down between Fairchild Street and Alden
City police said charges are pending against Blake.
Nanticoke firefighter sentenced to prison for sexually abusing girl
Kalinowski - Citizens Voice
A former Nanticoke volunteer firefighter will
spend at least six years in state prison for sexually abusing an 8-year-old girl.
L. Sansone, 31, was convicted in October of having illegal contact with a minor.
County Judge Michael Vough on Tuesday sentenced Sansone to serve 72 to 144 months
in state prison.
Sansone was accused of sexually assaulting the girl several
times leading up to his arrest in May 2016. He was immediately removed as a volunteer
firefighter after being arrested.
At trial, Sansone was also convicted of corruption
of minors and endangering the welfare of children. He was acquitted of rape.
of marijuana seized from house
Police Blotter - Times Leader
police and city police arrested Oscar Alfredo Diaz-Flores, 26, and Elizabeth Collazo
Perez, 25, on drug trafficking charges when a large amount of marijuana was allegedly
found inside their residence on Monday.
Authorities served a search warrant
at 94 Front St. where three packages weighing approximately 17 pounds, drug paraphernalia
and packaging materials were found, according to the criminal complaint.
was not known what led authorities to serve the search warrant.
and Perez were each charged with possession with intent to deliver a controlled
substance, possession of a controlled substance, possession of marijuana and possession
of drug paraphernalia.
District Judge Matthew C. Christopher in Luzerne County
Central Court arraigned the duo and jailed them at the county correctional facility
for lack of $75,000 bail each.
man accused of robbing Nanticoke pharmacy
man wanted on attempted robbery and assault charges alleging he tried to hold
up a drug store and pistol-whipped a man who intervened was arraigned Thursday.
Stanley Romanoskey, 25, last known to reside in Edwardsville, was arraigned Thursday
morning and jailed as he awaits trial on charges alleging he tried to rob the
Rite Aid Pharmacy at 5 E. Main St. the evening of Nov. 3.
According to the
charges, Romanoskey entered the store and went to the counter pretending to buy
candy. When the clerk, Cristen O'Brien, went to complete the transaction, Romanoskey
put a black object to her chest and said, "Give me all the money and two
cartons of cigarettes," the complaint says.
Romanoskey jumped onto the
counter, but O'Brien pushed him off and yelled for help, prompting customers to
come to her aid, police said.
Romanoskey then ran out of the store past witness
Stephen Kocher Jr., who called for Romanoskey to stop, according to the complaint.
Kocher gave chase but Romanoskey swung a black handgun and hit him in the face,
causing a cut to Kocher's left eyebrow, according to police.
Police put out
a press release and a surveillance photo of the robber, and a family who knows
Romanoskey recognized him on the news, police said.
According to the complaint,
Lori Beth Thomas told investigators that a few hours before the robbery, Romanoskey
had come to her house and was under the influence of something. Romanoskey had
a crack pipe that he showed to Thomas' children and was trying to call someone
to buy crack, police said.
After about a half hour, Romanoskey left and the
family went to a football game, the complaint says. When they returned, the children
saw a report about the robbery on the news and recognized the robber as Romanoskey,
according to police.
When they told her, Thomas recognized Romanoskey as well,
Police charged Romanoskey on Nov. 14 with two counts each of attempted
robbery, simple assault and harassment. Court records show he was also wanted
on a felony escape charge out of Wilkes-Barre that was filed last October.
District Judge Alexandra Kokura Kravitz arraigned him on the escape charge Wednesday
evening and set bail at $25,000 in that case. Magisterial District Judge Joseph
D. Spagnuolo Jr. arraigned him in the attempted robbery case on Thursday morning
and set bail at $50,000 on those charges.
Romanoskey was booked into the Luzerne
County Correctional Facility with preliminary hearings set for later this month.
man stabbed in robbery
A Nanticoke man was stabbed in the shoulder
during a reported robbery Thursday afternoon, according to police.
were dispatched to 224 Coal St. around 3:20 p.m. to a report that a 34-year-old
man had been stabbed. They found the victim bleeding profusely, having been stabbed
in the upper shoulder, police said.
The man, whom police did not name, was
taken to a local hospital for treatment.
He initially told investigators he
was robbed at one location but then changed the location during subsequent questioning,
The man then told police he no longer wanted to speak to investigators
and he would not pursue charges if his attacker were captured, according to police.
to stand trial for allegedly fleeing scene of crash
- Citizens Voice
A Nanticoke man accused of fleeing the scene of a crash
that seriously injured a 72-year-old man waived his right to a preliminary hearing
John Charles Gajewski, 64, of 65 Hill St., will stand trial on
a felony charge of fleeing the scene of an injury accident. In exchange for the
waiver, prosecutors dropped additional summary counts against Gajewski, including
failing to render aid and careless driving.
Police said Gajewski spent the
day drinking at a bar before hitting Harold Rinehimer and fleeing the scene in
a panic the night of Jan. 20.
Rinehimer was hit as he crossed East Broad and
Market streets, and officers said they found him lying in the northbound lane
of South Market Street saying he had been hit by a car that "came out of
Rinehimer sustained broken bones, abrasions and contusions in
the crash and was treated and released from Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center.
Gajewski remains free on $100,000 unsecured bail.
man waives hearing on hit-run charges
recovering from being struck by a vehicle that fled the scene nearly three months
ago, 78-year-old Harold Rinehimer was smiling as he positioned himself behind
the alleged driver, John Charles Gajewski, on Wednesday.
Gajewski, 64, of Hill
Street, Nanticoke, was charged by Nanticoke police with driving away after striking
Rinehimer in the 100 block of South Market Street on Jan. 20.
in Luzerne County Central Court, where he waived a single count of accidents involving
personal injury to county court.
Rinehimer suffered head and facial injuries,
and serious injuries to his legs, spine and ribs, police said, while a large laceration
on his scalp continues to heal.
Police said surveillance cameras showed Rinehimer
being thrown into the air and Gajewski swerving his vehicle into oncoming traffic,
indicating he was aware he struck a pedestrian.
Gajewski initially denied he
was involved but later admitted he struck Rinehimer, court records say.
said they located a 2016 Malibu with passenger-side damage parked near Gajewski's
residence several days after the incident.
Gajewski claimed his vehicle was
struck by another vehicle weeks earlier in the parking lot of a food market in
Wilkes-Barre but later recanted, telling police he was at Larry's Pizza consuming
eight to 10 cans of beer during his stay, court records say.
told police he left Larry's and drove on South Market Street on his way home.
in court records say they found Rinehimer's bodily fluids on Gajewski's vehicle.
withdrew four traffic summary offenses against Gajewski.
During the brief proceeding
before District Judge Joseph Halesey, Rinehimer - using a walker
- stood behind
Gajewski. Needing to move closer to his attorney, Nanda Palissery, Gajewski with
a grim face looked and nodded his head at Rinehimer.
Gajewski remains free
on $100,000 unsecured bail.
in Nanticoke woman's murder pushed back to 2020
jhalpin - citizensvoice.com
trial against capital murder suspect Anthony Spudis is on hold until next year
as attorneys work to track down dozens of witnesses and a judge contemplates a
host of pre-trial motions.
Spudis, 36, is charged with criminal homicide, burglary
and robbery in the death of 97-year-old Gertrude Price, whose family found her
bloodied body in her bed at 23 E. Grand St. in Nanticoke on Nov. 29, 2013. He
is accused of brutally beating and stabbing the elderly woman with a screwdriver
during a break-in at her home.
During a hearing Wednesday, the defense said
it is working to track down more than four dozen potential witnesses for the three-week
trial that was set to begin next month, and requested a continuance.
County Judge Tina Polachek Gartley continued the trial until Jan. 6 at the defense's
That will give her more time to rule on a number of pending motions
that were also addressed during the hearing, including a motion to suppress a
search warrant for a property at 2 W. Union St. Spudis lived at the address with
his girlfriend at the time of the murder.
In court Wednesday, defense attorney
Robert Saurman noted that the warrant application said Price's Access and Medicare
cards, as well as some of her family photos, were found at 2 E. Union St.
Trooper Edward J. Urban said it was a "typographical error" and noted
that the other supporting documents indicated the property was in fact 2 W. Union
"It's an error that we missed," Urban said.
Gartley will rule
on that and the other motions at a later date.
for alleged killer Spudis pushed back to 2020
a motions hearing on Wednesday, the trial of a man accused of stabbing a 97-year-old
woman to death during a Thanksgiving break-in five years ago was once again postponed
at the behest of the defense.
Anthony Spudis, 36, was in court on Wednesday
before Luzerne County Judge Tina Polachek Gartley, who heard a series of motions
in relation to his case.
Spudis is facing an open count of criminal homicide
along with counts of burglary and robbery after he allegedly broke into the Nanticoke
home of Gertrude Price on Nov. 28, 2013. Prosecutors say he stabbed Price several
times in the head in what has been characterized as a burglary turned violent,
and they are pursuing the death penalty in the case.
Spudis' attorney, Robert
Saurman, made a motion to have the trial continued from its scheduled date in
late May, saying the defense team needed more time to prepare.
Spudis' trial for Jan. 6, 2020, blocking out a full week for jury selection and
setting aside two more weeks for the trial.
This is the second continuance
in the case; Spudis was originally set to go to trial last November.
The court also heard arguments related to other motions, including a
motion to suppress the findings of a search warrant that was conducted on the
home Spudis lived in at the time of the robbery. The search in question was conducted
in 2017, years after he moved out.
In the ceiling boards of the home's basement,
police say they found a bag containing items that belonged to Price and bore her
name. Pennsylvania State Trooper Edward Urban testified that, while the bag was
missed during a search in 2014, photos from that search show it poking out of
Saurman focused on inconsistencies in the filing of the search
warrant, namely that the search warrant states it was for a home located at 2
E. Union St., Nanticoke, when the search was actually conducted at 2 W. Union
St. Urban characterized this as a typographical error.
Gartley's ruling on
the motion will come at a later date.
man allegedly beat woman at house party in Edwardsville
Nanticoke man was arraigned Wednesday for allegedly beating up a woman at a house
Nashim T. Coleman, also known as "Smoove," 24, of 120 E. Green
St., is accused of punching and kicking a woman after the two got into an argument.
to a criminal complaint:
Officers from Edwardsville responded to apartments
at 9 Beech St. just before 3 p.m. Dec. 15.
When they arrived, they were met
by a female victim, who had a swollen left eye, scratch on her neck, swollen left
knee and a small bruise on her left calf.
She told police she was kicked in
the face by a black man, later identified as Coleman. The officer went into the
apartment to speak to other people at the party.
The partygoers said they were
smoking marijuana and drinking alcohol with no issue until Coleman started to
make fun of the victim's height.
After starting off as a joke, the victim began
to get upset and engaged in a verbal altercation with Coleman when he walked into
the kitchen out of sight.
The victim pushed Coleman into a table. That was
followed by a loud crash, and Coleman and the victim were seen "rolling around"
on the living room floor.
Coleman then smashed the victim's head off the ground
several times and kicked her in the face. The victim was able to get up and call
She was later transported to Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center.
is charged with simple assault, harassment and disorderly conduct. He was released
on $10,000 unsecured bail.
records: DNA of murder suspect's girlfriend found at scene
Simms' DNA was discovered at the home of 97-year-old Gertrude Price, who was found
dead inside her Nanticoke residence in 2013, according to a recent court filing.
ex-boyfriend, Anthony Spudis, 36, was charged with killing Price during a burglary
on East Grand Street on Nov. 28, 2013 - the day after Thanksgiving.
is facing the death penalty if convicted of first-degree murder. His trial is
set to begin May 28 before Luzerne County Judge Tina Polachek Gartley.
alleged connection to Price's death remains questionable as she apparently gave
different accounts. She has not been charged.
Simms told investigators she
went with Spudis to Price's house only after he confided to her that he may had
killed a woman during a burglary, court papers say.
When Simms testified against
Spudis at a preliminary hearing in April 2018, she opted not to answer any questions
about being inside Price's house.
Investigators allege Spudis entered Price's
home through a basement window with intentions to steal items but killed the elderly
woman when confronted. Spudis left Price's house and returned to a residence he
shared with Simms at 2 W. Union St., Nanticoke, where he confided he may have
killed a woman.
It was then, arrest papers say, Simms accompanied Spudis to
During Spudis' preliminary hearing, attorney John Pike suggested
evidence tested at the state police crime lab showed Simms' DNA in various places:
on a broken necklace next to a bed where Price's body was found; on a flathead
screwdriver believed to be the murder weapon; on a serrated knife; and on the
busted basement window.
Pike was permitted by court order to cease representing
Spudis due to a conflict of interest.
Spudis is now represented by attorneys
Robert A. Saurman and Brian S. Gaglione, both of Stroudsburg.
In a recently
filed pre-trial motion by Spudis' attorneys, they again pointed to Simms' DNA
being found at the scene and on items inside Price's house.
In response, assistant
district attorneys Michelle A. Hardik and Daniel Zola acknowledged Simms' DNA
was "present, in addition to that of Anthony Spudis."
Nanda Palissery, could not be reached for comment Thursday.
Gartley imposed a gag order prohibiting attorneys involved in Spudis' case from
publicly discussing details.
Defense attorneys are seeking to have Spudis'
statements to investigators thrown out, including evidence allegedly found in
the basement of his West Union Street home.
A pre-trial hearing is set for
man caused damage to house, believed people in walls spying
Nanticoke man may had been under the influence of bath salts when he ripped apart
a house believing people in walls were spying on him, according to
Damion Michael Sweeney, 39, of Maple Street, was arraigned Monday
on charges of burglary and possession of a controlled substance in connection
to the incident at a house on state Route 29 in Lake Township on Oct. 19.
to the criminal complaint:
State police responded to the house and spoke with
the owners parents, who were checking on the residence since their son was
The parents told a trooper they noticed a Chevrolet TrailBlazer in the
driveway and Sweeney exiting the house. They also noticed extensive damage inside
Sweeney allegedly told the parents about people,
things inside the walls spying on him, and trying to get the
people and things in the walls, the complaint says.
The homeowner told
police he knows Sweeney and allowed him to stay at the house for two or three
days in July 2018. Sweeney did not have permission to be at the house in October.
police said drywall was ripped away exposing wood studs in the kitchen, living
room, family room, bedrooms, a stairwell, a bathroom and ceiling. There was also
damage to rain gutters on the porch and a UGI electrical utility meter had a tag
removed, the complaint says.
Several days after the burglary and vandalism,
state police said the homeowner found a bag containing a controlled substance
that tested positive for bath salts.
The homeowners insurance company,
Allstate, estimated damage at $54,433, the complaint says.
Sweeney was arraigned
by District Judge Matthew C. Christopher in Luzerne County Central Court on charges
of burglary, criminal trespass, criminal mischief and possession of a controlled
substance. He was jailed at the county correctional facility for lack of $50,000
McNeal gets decades in prison
for 2017 Nanticoke homicide
killer Antoine McNeal, 34, wont be eligible for parole until hes almost
66 under a sentence handed down Monday.
A jury in January found McNeal, of
Wilkes-Barre, guilty on counts of third-degree murder, criminal use of a communications
facility, robbery and tampering with evidence.
He was convicted of fatally
shooting 20-year-old Brandon Smith in a van outside of Smiths Nanticoke
home in the early morning hours of Jan. 18, 2017.
At trial, prosecutors painted
the attack as a robbery gone wrong, accusing him of going to Smiths home
to buy $500 worth of marijuana. Upon arrival, they said McNeal shot Smith twice
and stole a handful of Percocet pills Smith had in his possession.
in court on Monday before Luzerne County Judge Tina Polachek Gartley for sentencing.
The judge allowed members of Smiths family to address the court first.
sister, Destiny Crooks, had harsh words for McNeal.
I dont believe
hes sorry for what he did, Crooks said. I pray for him, I pray
someday hes remorseful for what he did.
Briefly addressing the
court himself, McNeal didnt express any remorse, instead, maintaining he
had nothing to do with the shooting.
Condolences to the family but I
had no part of what happened to your son, he said. Im sorry.
said nothing else.
A large part of McNeals defense throughout his week-long
trial was that he was not involved with the crime, claiming that prosecutors did
not have enough physical evidence to convict him. However, a cell phone that was
eventually found to belong to McNeal was retrieved from the van Smith was shot
Before issuing her sentence, Gartley expressed condolences to Smiths
At the sentencing stage, there isnt much to say,
she said. Nothing will bring your son back.
Gartley ordered McNeal
to spend an aggregate 31 to 63 years in prison. McNeal was granted 678 days credit
for time served.
He will be required to pay nearly $20,000 in restitution.
The bulk of that money will go to the Pennsylvania State Police to cover for lab
work done during investigation.
An additional charge of possession of a firearm
by a felon, which had been severed from the trial, was withdrawn by prosecutors.
was remanded back to the Luzerne County Correctional Facility after sentencing
pending transfer to a state prison.
killer Antoine McNeal was sentenced Monday to serve up to 63 years in state prison.
Halpin - Citizens Voice
A jury convicted McNeal, 34, of third-degree murder,
criminal use of a communications device, tampering with evidence and robbery following
a trial in January.
Luzerne County Judge Tina Polachek Gartley imposed the
sentence Monday, ordering McNeal to serve roughly 31½ to 63 years in state
prison. The judge gave McNeal credit for 678 days time served and ordered him
to pay more than $18,100 in restitution.
Prosecutors alleged McNeal set up
a drug deal to buy $500 worth of marijuana from 20-year-old Brandon Smith early
the morning of Jan. 18, 2017. After arriving at Smiths West Church Street
home in Nanticoke, McNeal shot him twice in the chest and robbed him of Percocet
pills Smith had in his pocket, prosecutors said.
The defense maintained that
although McNeal set up the drug deal, he arrived at Smiths home to find
Smith with another, unidentified person. As McNeal was walking, gunshots rang
out and he ran back to his girlfriends car saying, We got to get out
of here. Theyre shooting, according to the girlfriends testimony.
64, charged in Nanticoke hit-run crash
James Halpin - Citizens Voice
Nanticoke man was charged Tuesday with fleeing the scene of a crash that seriously
injured a 72-year-old man last month.
Police say John Charles Gajewski, 64,
of 65 Hill St., spent the day drinking at a bar before hitting Harold Rinehimer
and fleeing the scene in a panic the night of Jan. 20.
Rinehimer was hit as
he crossed East Broad and Market streets around 10:25 p.m. Jan. 20. Officers say
they found him lying in the northbound lane of South Market Street saying he had
been hit by a car that came out of nowhere.
Rinehimer was seriously
injured in the crash sustaining broken bones, abrasions and contusions
but was released from Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center, Plains Twp.,
on Jan. 25.
According to the complaint, police got video from the area and
identified a burgundy Chevrolet Malibu as the suspects vehicle. Video from
an ATM showed Rinehimer going airborne after being hit and the car then swerving
into the opposing lane indicating the driver knew what had happened, police
On Jan. 29, police found a burgundy 2016 Chevrolet Malibu with fresh
front-end damage parked outside of Gajewskis home, police said.
initially claimed a car had backed into his parked car at a supermarket, although
he never reported such an accident, according to the complaint.
He went on
to admit being at Larrys Pizza at 400 E. Church St. from about 3 p.m. until
11 p.m. the day of the crash, police said. Gajewski told police he drank between
eight and 10 cans of Miller Lite while watching football at the establishment,
according to the complaint.
He claimed he had then driven home along Market
Street, which police say would not have been possible because by that time the
road was already closed due to the accident. Police say the surveillance videos
also did not support Gajewskis version of events.
Gajewski stood by his
account, so police conducted further testing, according to the complaint.
examination showed his car had damage consistent with striking a person
in the form of dents and cracked paint damage that was not observed during
a vehicle inspection Gajewski had done on Jan. 16, police said.
also found what appeared to be human tissue on the vehicles grill, police
Confronted with the additional information, Gajewski admitted he had
lied and that he was responsible for the crash, according to the complaint. He
told police he panicked after hitting Rinehimer and was sorry for what happened,
Police charged Gajewski with a felony count of fleeing the scene
of an injury accident as well as summary counts of failing to stop and render
aid, failing to report an accident, giving false information and careless driving.
District Judge Donald L. Whittaker arraigned Gajewski on the charges Tuesday morning
and released him on $100,000 unsecured bail.
A preliminary hearing was set
for 9 a.m. March 13.
Suspect stole from club to fund gambling habit
Bob Kalinowski -
The suspect in the massive theft from a city social club
admitted to embezzling funds to support his lifestyle and a secret casino gambling
habit, according to a search warrant obtained by Nanticoke police.
documents identify the suspect as Daniel Wozniak, who was treasurer the past five
years at the Honey Pot Club in the citys Honey Pot section.
say tens of thousands of dollars are missing from the clubs coffers.
theft came to light recently after utilities were shut off to the clubs
building at 13 Honey Pot St. The utility shut off forced the Honey Pot Volunteer
Fire Department out of service. The fire company is an affiliated, but separate,
organization which shares the building with the club.
City police said they
recently were approached by board member Julianna Kobylarz, who reported the utilities
were shut off due to months of unpaid bills. She and other members then discovered
the clubs three bank accounts were depleted, police said.
next day, Wozniaks wife, Jennifer, also a board member, came to police headquarters
to report Wozniak was missing for several days, according to the search
warrant. She said he had sent her an email admitting to stealing from the club.
say Wozniak surrendered on Thursday and admitted to stealing from the club for
Wozniak, the clubs treasurer since 2014, said he initially
wrote himself several checks, but mainly stole money each night from cash deposits,
the search warrant says.
When there wasnt enough money to pay bills,
he would transfer cash from the clubs savings account to its checking account
until the point there was no money left, police said.
Wozniak said he used
the cash for personal purposes and to fund his closeted casino gambling
habit, the search warrant says.
Police say charges are pending the completion
of the investigation and an analysis of the clubs financial records.
to reach Wozniak on Friday were not immediately successful.
volunteers out of service due to theft
Bob Kalinowski - Citizens
The Honey Pot Volunteer Fire Department is out of service as city
police investigate a massive theft from its affiliated social club that led to
its utilities being shut off.
Nanticoke police Chief Tom Wall confirmed his
department is investigating the theft of tens of thousands of dollars from the
Honey Pot Club social hall and a suspect turned himself in to confess.
hall and fire department, which are affiliated but are two separate organizations,
share the same building at 13 Honey Pot St.
Wall said the thief came to light
when the utilities were shut off recently due to unpaid bills.
one of the things that gave it away. He was supposed to be doing that," Wall
Wall said the suspect turned over a computer and told police how he had
been skimming from the organization's finances for several years. Charges are
pending the completion of the investigation and analysis of financial records,
the chief said.
The volunteer fire company announced on Facebook on Wednesday
it was out of service for most calls because utilities were shut off to its building.
feel the community should be well aware of the issue at hand and the fire company
is not the one being investigated, as we have two organizations in the building,"
the fire company wrote on Facebook.
The fire company said residents still would
be in great hands because of the "amazing fire department here in the City
The volunteer department in the city's Honey Pot section
is one of several that supplement Nanticoke's full-time department.
a representative of the fire department declined further comment.
Fire Chief Kevin Hazleton said fire and rescue service will not be harmed while
Honey Pot is out of service.
"They are an independent agency. We cover
Honey Pot, so it will not affect service one bit," Hazleton said.
a post on the Honey Pot Club's Facebook page says there will be an "emergency
meeting" for members of the private club at 6 p.m. Friday at the West Side
Park clubhouse on West Grand Street.
"We will only be able to issue a
basic statement due to the active investigation and be open to help/thoughts to
try to get things moving forward," the post said.
Suspect identified in hit and run
police seek U-Haul truck driver in hit-run
72, seriously hurt in Nanticoke hit-run .. Black sedan with damage to front bumper.
found guilty of murder
James Halpin and Bob Kalinowski - Citizens
After nearly six hours of deliberations, a jury on Friday night
found Antoine McNeal guilty of third-degree murder.
McNeal, 34, was accused
of setting up a drug deal to buy $500 worth of marijuana from 20-year-old Brandon
Smith early the morning of Jan. 18, 2017.
Prosecutors alleged that after arriving
at Smiths West Church Street home in Nanticoke, McNeal shot him twice in
the chest and robbed him of Percocet pills Smith had in his pocket.
was also found guilty of criminal use of a communications device, tampering with
evidence and robbery.
The jury found him not guilty of first- and second-degree
Prosecutors struggled to understand how the jury found McNeal guilty
of robbery, but not guilty of second-degree murder, which is a killing during
the commission of a felony, such as robbery. A second-degree murder conviction
would have carried a penalty of mandatory life in prison, while the third-degree
conviction carries a maximum penalty of 20 to 40 years in prison.
were satisfied with the verdict.
We were confident from the beginning
Mr. McNeal pulled the trigger, said Assistant District Attorney William
Sentencing was set for Feb. 25 at 1 p.m.
The defense maintained
that although McNeal set up the drug deal, he arrived at Smiths home to
find Smith with another, unidentified person. As McNeal was walking, gunshots
rang out and he ran back to his girlfriends car saying, We got to
get out of here. Theyre shooting, according to the girlfriends
Mr. McNeal is disappointed. He maintained his innocence and
expected a not guilty verdict, defense attorney Demetrius Fannick said.Z
his closing argument, Fannick focused on testimony by Smiths own mother,
who testified her son was a drug dealer who had made enemies in the Tunkhannock
area because of ripping people off. When Smith was bleeding out on his living
room floor, he was shouting, They shot me! according to her testimony.
noted that Smith and McNeal worked together and knew each other well.
was a very close encounter, and if it was a close encounter with someone he knew
he would have told his parents who it was, Fannick said. He doesnt
know who shot him. He says, They shot me. ... Thats reasonable
doubt right there.
But Fannick also noted that the bullets recovered
from the crime scene were a different type than the unspent rounds recovered from
McNeals girlfriends house. While girlfriend Wakeelah Moores
.38 Special revolver which she claims had been previously stolen
was the same caliber of the murder weapon, Fannick noted that a prosecution gun
expert testified that millions of similar guns could have fired the bullets that
He also blasted police for a crap investigation,
alleging they failed to even bother testing evidence including a cigarette butt
and a soda can recovered from outside the van where Smith was fatally shot.
theres nothing in this case, Fannick said, noting that police only
recovered one partial fingerprint from the vehicle. How is that possible?
Thats mind-blowing, if you think about it.
During the prosecution
closing, Assistant District Attorney Thomas Hogans reminded the jury that Moore
admitted in court that she drove McNeal to meet Smith moments before the shooting.
few minutes later, Brandon is running into his house to his mother, Tina, screaming,
They shot me! Hogans said.
The prosecutor downplayed the
significance of Smiths use of the word they, noting that in
earlier text exchanges McNeal had informed him he was coming with Moore.
importantly, there is zero evidence that anybody else was coming to see Brandon
that night, Hogans said, noting Smiths phone contained no text messages
indicating anyone else planned to meet him.
He also noted that Smiths
mother said he had been frantic and scared as he laid on the floor
screaming that he couldnt breathe and that he didnt want to die.
worlds already closing in on him, Hogans said. He was breathing
his last breaths. Brandon was not worried about who shot him.
urged the jury to focus on what the evidence shows: That Smith was killed by a
single shooter using a single revolver during a drug robbery. The defense, he
alleged, was trying to confuse the fact that the evidence conclusively puts McNeal
inside the van.
He doesnt want you to think about the fact that
the defendants phone was on the passenger seat of the van with Brandons
blood on it, Hogans said.
accused of smashing her way into borough office
Bob Kalinowski -
A woman smashed her way into the borough's municipal building
early Monday, seeking to steal documents from the police station about an investigation
targeting her, police said.
Police said Ashley Keister, 27, of Nanticoke, used
a large cigarette butt receptacle to smash glass doors to the building and gain
entry around 12:45 a.m. Once inside, she started rummaging through filing cabinets,
West Wyoming police Chief Curtis Nocera said Keister had been
under investigation for harassing a borough cop who arrested her last year.
wanted to have a relationship with him," Nocera said.
He said no one was
in the building at the time Keister entered, as police were out on patrol.
to breaking in, Keister called 911 and asked for an officer to meet her at the
station in 10 minutes, police said.
Investigators said Keister first bashed
the cigarette receptacle off the police department door, causing damage, before
using it to break into the borough building.
She never gained access to the
police station, Nocera said.
After Keister exited the building, police said
she picked up the cigarette receptacle again and smashed out more of the glass
Police said Keister then retreated to her vehicle and waited for police
to arrive. When an officer arrived, Keister charged at him and swung at his head,
She was then taken into custody.
The incident was caught on
surveillance footage, police said. Police released footage from the department's
video doorbell that they said depicts Keister smashing the cigarette container
off the door.
Investigators said Keister admitted to breaking into the borough
building to try to remove documents involving a police investigation targeting
Keister was charged with aggravated assaulted on a police officer, burglary,
institutional vandalism, loitering and prowling at night time, criminal mischief,
She was arraigned by Magisterial District Judge Joseph Carmody.
Carmody ordered her jailed in the Luzerne County Correctional Facility in lieu
of $50,000 bail.
Trial set to begin
in drug robbery killing
on Friday picked a jury and opening statements are set for Monday in the case
of a Wilkes-Barre man accused of killing a man during a drug robbery in Nanticoke.
McNeal, 34, is accused of murdering Brandon Smith, 20, who was shot dead outside
his West Church Street, Nanticoke, home on Jan. 18, 2017. Prosecutors allege McNeal
killed Smith after meeting him to buy marijuana.
The prosecution recently succeeded
in adding a robbery charge against McNeal based on recorded jailhouse phone calls
in which McNeal referenced Smith having 30-milligram oxycodone pills in his pocket
at the time of the shooting.
The (expletive) had other drugs in his pocket
so evidently someone else was coming to see him besides me, prosecutors
have quoted McNeal as saying.
Luzerne County Judge Tina Polachek Gartley granted
the prosecution request over the objections of the defense, which maintained the
additional charge would severely alter the case. However, the judge pushed back
the trial date of Dec. 3 to give the defense time to adapt.
are now scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. Monday.
allows Nanticoke man to withdraw guilty plea in alleged sex assault
Nanticoke man will take his chances with a jury now that a Luzerne County judge
permitted him to withdraw his guilty plea on a sexual assault charge.
Charles Monelli, 22, of South Hanover Street, was charged by Nanticoke police
with having sexual encounters with a 15-year-old girl from June 2017 until December
2017. Monelli claimed the encounters were consensual and the relationship ended
when the minors parents found out, court records say.
Despite the claim
of a consensual relationship, Monelli was charged with a felony statutory sex
assault charge due to the age difference involving a minor.
Monelli on Oct.
15 pleaded guilty to the felony charge while prosecutors withdrew a misdemeanor
count of corruption of minors.
But when Monelli appeared in court to be sentenced
Dec. 10, his lawyer, Joseph Sklarosky Sr., advised Judge Michael T. Vough that
Monelli wanted to withdraw his plea.
Sklarosky confirmed again Friday that
Monelli wanted to take back the plea, which Vough allowed.
it was a consensual relationship, clearly it was consensual, Sklarosky told
the judge. If a jury hears the case, they would acquit him.
scheduled Monellis trial for March.
In an unrelated case, Monelli was
sentenced last month to one year on probation and 50 hours of community service
for conspiring to steal items from the Turkey Hill store on West Main Street in
Nanticoke on May 4.
to begin Friday for 2017 Nanticoke homicide
selection is set to begin in a 2017 homicide case.
Antoine McNeal, 34, will
appear before Luzerne County Judge Tina Polachek Gartley on Friday morning. McNeal
is accused of fatally shooting Brandon Smith, 20, while Smith sat in a van outside
a Nanticoke home Jan. 18, 2017.
McNeal is facing a total of five charges, including
an open count of criminal homicide, prohibited possession of a firearm, criminal
use of a communication facility and tampering with evidence.
Smith was shot
and killed in the early morning hours. Previous testimony suggested the homicide
was a result of a drug deal gone wrong. Smiths mother, Tina Letavish, said
Smith was on the couch of their Nanticoke home texting someone before heading
outside around 2 a.m.
He ran back inside shortly later, shouting they
shot me before falling to the floor.
Investigators said they later found
a texting trail between Smith and a number that belonged to McNeal. The text messages
were aimed at setting up a drug deal, authorities report.
Court records show
McNeals trial is scheduled to last all of next week. Hes been locked
up without bail in the Luzerne County Correctional Facility since his arrest in