Nanticoke Police Department - 2019
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7/20/2019
Three men arrested in drug sweeps in Nanticoke, Hanover Township
Ttimesleader Local, News, Police Blotter

Three men were arrested in separate drug sweeps in Nanticoke and Hanover Township resulting in the seizure of a large amount of heroin and crack cocaine.
Police in Nanticoke and Hanover Township along with the Luzerne County Drug Task Force served a search warrant at a residence on South Market Street arresting Kashon Ellis on Friday.
Authorities said they seized 340 heroin packets, cash, a revolver, a digital scale and cellphones from Ellis’ residence.
Ellis, 26, was arraigned by District Judge Joseph Halesey in Hanover Township on charges of possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance, possession of a controlled substance and possession of a small amount of marijuana. He was jailed at the county correctional facility for lack of $125,000 bail.
Authorities said they arrested Bernard Brightman, 31, of Center Street, Plains Township, and Nassir Morrison, 18, of Philadelphia, after an alleged sale of crack cocaine on July 13. Brightman and Morrison were arrested on High Street in Hanover Township.
Brightman was charged with two counts of possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance and one count each of possession of a controlled substance, criminal conspiracy and criminal use of communication facility. He was jailed at the county correctional facility for lack of $150,000 bail.
Morrison was charged with criminal conspiracy but has not been arraigned.
Authorities said Morrison was free on bail related to drug trafficking charges filed by Wilkes-Barre police on June 15.

7/1/2019
Judge denies suppression motion in capital case
James Halpin - Citizens Voice

A county judge has denied a motion to suppress a search warrant that produced evidence against capital murder suspect Anthony Spudis.
Spudis, 36, is charged with criminal homicide, burglary and robbery in the death of 97-year-old Gertrude Price, whose family found her 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 in April, defense attorney Robert Saurman argued for suppression of 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. The warrant application indicated that Price’s Access and Medicare cards, as well as some of her family photos, were found at 2 E. Union St.
State Trooper Edward J. Urban said the incorrect address was a “typographical error” and noted that the other supporting documents indicated the property in question was in fact 2 W. Union St.
In an order issued Friday, Luzerne County Judge Tina Polachek Gartley denied the motion, allowing the evidence seized from Spudis’ former residence to be presented to a jury.
Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Spudis, who is set to stand trial starting Jan. 6.

7/1/2019
Judge refuses to suppress warrant, statements in Nanticoke homicide case
rdupuis@timesleader.com

A judge has denied a defense motion to suppress the findings of a search warrant and two statements made by the defendant in a capital murder case over the slaying of an elderly Nanticoke woman five years ago.
Anthony Spudis, 36, 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, 97, 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.
Luzerne County Judge Tina Polachek Gartley on Friday issued an order denying suppression motions filed by the defense regarding:
• 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.
• Statements made by Spudis to investigators on two occasions in 2017.
In the ceiling boards of the home’s basement, police say they found a bag containing items that belonged to Price, including numerous pieces of mail with her name and family photographs.
During a suppression hearing held in April of this year, 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 the ceiling.
At the hearing, defense attorney Robert 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.
Search warrant
Regarding the search warrant, the defense contended that the underlying affidavit gave no indication “that the items from the crime would likely have been stored at the defendant’s former home or that they would still be there four years after the defendant left the residence,” the judge wrote.
In response, Gartley noted that investigators observed the bag, later found to contain Price’s belongings, after meeting with confidential witnesses at the West Union Street residence on Aug. 7, 2017, and that they compared it with photos from 2014 showing it partially hanging between the ceiling boards.
Even if the search warrant was deemed defective, the judge continued, Nanticoke police obtained a consent to search the building from the property owner as well as the tenants living in the property at the time of the search.
She further referred to the issue of East Union Street vs. West Union Street to be “meritless.”
Defendant’s statements
Spudis was charged Dec. 20, 2017 — more than four years after Price was killed — after investigators received information from inmates housed with him.
Spudis was then serving seven-and-a-half to 15 years in state prison on multiple burglaries and thefts in the Nanticoke area in 2013 and 2014, according to court records.
His attorney sought to have statements the incarcerated Spudis made to investigators on July 11, 2017 and Aug. 10, 2017 suppressed.
According to Gartley, Spudis had been given Miranda warnings, but the question was whether it was clear to him that he had the right to refuse the interviews.
Gartley wrote that “there is no evidence that the defendant was anything but alert and coherent when he made his statements and his mental faculties and ability to answer questions were unimpaired.”
The judge noted that the Miranda warnings given to Spudis on both dates were read from a standard state police form, which he signed in the presence of two troopers, and that both interviews were audio-recorded.
Further, the judge noted, Spudis “was clearly aware that he was being questioned first regarding the unsolved burglaries and then about the homicide of Ms. Price.”
“The argument … regarding the defendant believing that the interviews were being conducted for a possible parole issue is disingenuous,” Gartley wrote. “The defendant never inquired about anything related to parole.”
At the April hearing Gartley agreed to push Spudis’s trial back from May of this year to Jan. 6, 2020 at the request of Saurman, who said the defense team needed more time to prepare.

6/27/2019
Hearing waived in gunfire case
James Halpin / Published: June 27, 2019

A Wilkes-Barre man accused of firing a gunshot during an argument between families about their children dating each other waived his right to a preliminary hearing Wednesday.
Joey Concepcion, 26, of 56 Maxwell St., will face a county judge on a felony count of aggravated assault. In exchange for the waiver, prosecutors dropped other counts against him.
Prosecutors allege Concepcion was involved in a dispute with Steven Kocher Jr. about two youths dating and that he fired a shot past the ear of Steven Kocher Sr. when he entered the confrontation in Nanticoke on June 11. No injuries were reported.
After waiving the hearing, Concepcion’s bail was reduced to $75,000 unsecured.
He will face a county judge Aug. 22.

6/22/2019
Nanticoke City Police Department
PRESS RELEASE
June 21, 2019

Incident: Wanted Person Apprehended
Location: 600 Blk. Prospect St. Nanticoke City.
Day/Time of Incident: June 21, 2019.

Nanticoke City Police responded to the report of a wanted person between East Grand and East Washington Sts. Tyler WILLIAMS, 22, of Nanticoke City had been wanted by the Luzerne County Sheriff’s Office and Luzerne County Adult Probation since April 2019. Police encountered WILLIAMS who then fled. Kingston Police, Newport Township Police and the Pennsylvania State Police aided City officers in apprehending WILLIAMS a few hours later near the City’s Municipal building. WILLIAMS will be charged with Flight to avoid apprehension and will face similar charges for the June 12, 2019 incident when he avoided apprehension by fleeing from a motor vehicle on Lower Broadway St. Nanticoke.

6/15/2019
Five charged in Nanticoke drug investigation
rdupuis@timesleader.com

Five people are in custody following a drug investigation that culminated in execution of a search warrant at a city apartment on Thursday and the seizure of more than $10,000 in heroin, cash and a stolen handgun, Nanticoke City Police said.
Talideen Chambers, 21, Justice Chambers, 19, Draya Knighton, 20, and Antwan Smith, 19, were arrested for felony drug-related offenses in connection with the investigation at 3 West Union St., Apartment 3-B, according to a post on the police department's Facebook page.
A 10-month-old child found in the apartment was taken into protective custody, police said.
Knighton and Talideen Chambers also were charged with child endangerment, while Smith was found to be a fugitive from justice from New Jersey.
The four were arraigned by District Judge Donald Whittaker and each received $500,000 cash bail. Smith was denied bail on a fugitive from justice charge. They are scheduled to appear Wednesday in Luzerne County Central Court.
On Friday city police and members of the Luzerne County Drug Task Force arrested a fifth person in connection with the investigation, taking Eleazor Bryant, 40, of South Prospect Street into custody.
Bryant faces charges of felony criminal conspiracy to deliver a controlled substance and criminal use of a communication facility, police said. He was taken to the Luzerne County Correctional Facility for overnight arraignment

6/12/2019
2 facing charges after police raid in Nanticoke
James Halpin - Citizens Voice

Two city residents are facing charges after police raided a home Monday.
Officers descended on 365 E. Church St. and seized a “substantial amount” of heroin along with other drugs, cash and a handgun.
One of the occupants, Ramel Lenell Parker, 32, was free on $25,000 unsecured bail after being charged with drug trafficking in April, according to police.
Police charged Parker with drug trafficking, drug possession, possessing drug paraphernalia, marijuana possession and child endangerment. Another occupant, Shanae Theresa Coleman, 28, was charged with child endangerment.
Magisterial District Judge Rick Cronauer arraigned the pair Monday evening and ordered Parker jailed at the Luzerne County Correctional Facility with bail set at $50,000. Coleman was released on $10,000 unsecured bail.

6/12/2019
Police: Children inside house with heroin, methamphetamine
elewis@timesleader.com

Three children were residing inside a residence where city police and the Luzerne County Drug Task Force allegedly discovered a large amount of heroin and methamphetamine on Monday.
Authorities served a search warrant at 365 E. Church St. finding heroin and methamphetamine in various rooms including a table and kitchen drawers, according to court records.
A handgun and several cellphones were also found, authorities said.
Three children, ages 13, 5 and 4, were inside the residence with their parents, Shanae Theresa Coleman, 28, and Ramel Parker, 32.
Authorities said in court records the illegal narcotics were exposed from packages creating dangerous conditions.
In an unrelated case, court records say Parker was free on $25,000 bail on drug trafficking charges filed by the state Office of Attorney General in April.
Parker and Coleman were arraigned by District Judge Richard Cronauer in Wilkes-Barre.
Parker and Coleman were each charged with three counts of endangering the welfare of children. Parker was further charged with two counts each of possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance and possession of a controlled substance, and one count each of possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of marijuana.
Parker was jailed at Luzerne County Correctional Facility for lack of $50,000 bail, and Coleman was released on $10,000 unsecured bail.

6/12/2019
Youthful romance leads to violent family feud
James Halpin - Citizens Voice

A dispute between families about their children dating each other escalated into a heated argument with a gunshot being fired Tuesday evening, according to police.
Joey Concepcion, 26, of 56 Maxwell St., Wilkes-Barre, is facing aggravated assault charges after police say he fired a shot past the ear of another man during the confrontation.
According to the complaint, the incident began with Concepcion and Yahaira Santiago exchanging Facebook messages with the Kocher family of 588 E. Main St., Nanticoke, about their children dating each other.
Santiago told police that around 5:15 p.m. Tuesday, she and Concepcion pulled up at the Kocher residence to have a “conversation” about Angel DeJesus dating September Myers.
The discussion between Concepcion and Steven Kocher Jr. soon grew heated and the men came close to blows, according to police. At that point, Steven Kocher Sr. jumped off the front porch — where Daniel and Tammy Myers were watching along with the Kochers — and ran toward the commotion, according to the complaint.
According to the Kocher clan, Kocher Sr. was trying to stop the fight. Concepcion, however, claimed Kocher Sr. ran up behind him and made him feel like he was about to be attacked.
Once Kocher Sr. was in the fray, Concepcion pulled a Ruger 9mm pistol from his pocket and fired a shot, the charges allege. Kocher Sr. told investigators the gun had been against his left ear when it fired, and police say his ear showed severe redness.
The bullet went toward a grassy area and did not strike anyone, police said.
After the shot was fired, Concepcion continued arguing with the Kochers and put the gun back inside the vehicle he arrived in, the complaint says. Kocher Jr. threw a trash can at the vehicle prior to police arrival, according to the charges.
A search of Santiago’s Lincoln Navigator turned up the pistol, $120 in counterfeit cash and a marijuana blunt, police said.
Police charged Concepcion with a felony count of aggravated assault and misdemeanor counts of reckless endangerment, possession of marijuana and possessing drug paraphernalia.
Magisterial District Judge Brian James Tupper arraigned him on the charges Wednesday morning and set bail at $75,000. Concepcion was being held at the Luzerne County Correctional Facility with a preliminary hearing set for June 26.

6/12/2019
Dispute about youths’ relationship behind Nanticoke shooting
elewis@timesleader.com

Two families involved in a dispute about two young people dating each other led to a shooting outside an East Main Street residence on Tuesday, according to court records.
City police allege Joey Concepcion, 26, of Maxwell Street, Wilkes-Barre, fired a round from a 9mm handgun during a fight with Steven Kocher Jr. in front of 588 E. Main St. at about 5:20 p.m.
The round nearly struck Steven Kocher Sr., who suffered an ear and head injury, police said.
Concepcion allegedly told police he received messages on social media taunting him to fight the Kocher family in a dispute about their children dating each other.
Police recovered the firearm inside Concepcion’s vehicle in addition to marijuana and $120 in counterfeit cash, court records say.
According to the criminal complaint:
Officers responded to the gunfire and observed Steven Kocher Sr. and others screaming on the front porch. Kocher Sr. yelled, “He almost (expletive) killed me.”
Concepcion was detained when he attempted to enter his Lincoln Navigator that was parked in front of the residence.
Police learned Concepcion and his girlfriend, Yahaira Santiago, arrived at the residence and began arguing about a relationship between their children.
During the argument, Kocher Jr. and Concepcion were about to fight when Kocher Sr. jumped off the front porch.
Kocher Sr. told police he attempted to separate the two men when Concepcion brandished a firearm and discharged a round, nearly striking him in the head, the complaint says.
Concepcion told police he was about to engage in a fight with Kocher Jr. when he believed Kocher Sr. was going to attack him from behind causing him to pull the weapon. Concepcion claimed Kocher Sr. pulled his arm down causing the firearm to discharge.
Concepcion claimed the incident began over messages on Facebook Messenger between the Kochers and Santiago about their children dating. He also alleged the Kochers taunted him to fight them, the complaint says.
Santiago told police they drove to the Kocher residence intending to speak with them when Kocher Jr. started cursing and saying, “Fight me (expletive).”
Concepcion was arraigned Wednesday by District Judge Brian James Tupper in Luzerne County Central Court on charges of aggravated assault, recklessly endangering another person, possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia. He was jailed at the county correctional facility for lack of $75,000 bail.

6/3/2019
Man dies after being struck by driver fleeing police
Eric Mark - Citizens Voice

A Bear Creek Twp. man died Saturday from injuries he suffered when a man fleeing from police crashed into his car last month, according to Luzerne County Coroner Daniel Hughes.
Gerald Mosley, 72, died Saturday of multiple traumatic injuries from a motor vehicle accident, Hughes said.
On May 24, Mosley’s vehicle was struck by a vehicle driven by Jose Crespo Mendez, who was fleeing from police after officers attempted to pull him over for traffic violations, according to state police.
A police report does not state where the accident happened. The chase began on Interstate 81 north near Exit 165 in Ashley, according to the report.
Following the crash, Mosley was taken to a local hospital for treatment, according to police.
Crespo Mendez, 21, of Nanticoke, was charged with aggravated assault by vehicle while DUI, accidents involving death or personal injury, fleeing or attempting to elude police, simple assault, DUI and reckless endangerment.
Those charges were filed before Mosley died.
Crespo Mendez is in Luzerne County Correctional Facility in lieu of $50,000 bail. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Wednesday in Luzerne County Central Court.
Authorities continue to investigate, Hughes said.

5/26/2019
Jose Mendez, 21 of Nanticoke, is locked up after troopers say he led them on a chase near Wilkes-Barre.
Channel 16 WNEP TV

Two people were hurt in the crash that ended the chase.
Newswatch 16 spoke to a witness of the chase who says he's surprised more people were not hurt.
Viewer photos sent to Newswatch 16 showed mangled cars and state police cruisers on East Main Street in Wilkes-Barre
State police say this was the scene early Friday afternoon after the driver of the gray colored Acura, Jose Mendez, led troopers on a chase that started on Interstate 81 near Ashley.
A witness says they saw Mendez speeding away from police on the shoulder on 81 northbound before he got off the interstate near the Bear Creek exit.
"If he moved seven inches to the left he would have taken out about 20 cars. I mean he was coming up the exit ramp fast," said John Piazza.
Piazza says he first saw the chase in his rearview mirror, then moved over to give the cars room.
"I'm glad that all those people that were on that highway yesterday made it through safe because it was a bad situation, it could have been a lot worse ugly," said Piazza.
Piazza says he didn't realize until later, when he saw pictures like this on Facebook, that it did get ugly.
Police say the chase ended after Mendez crashed into a red Toyota.
This car was being driven by Gerald Mosley, 72 of bear creek township. At last check, officials at Geisinger Wyoming Valley says he is listed in serious condition.
"That's bad. You're just out minding your own business and something like that happens," Piazza said. "It's terrible. I mean people this day in age they're not worried about nothing. It's a bad time. Somebody like that, taking somebody else's life in jeopardy."
Troopers say the chase started when they tried to pull Mendez over for traffic and equipment violations.
Mendez is locked up on $50,000 bail.
He is facing charges including fleeing, aggravated assault, recklessly dangering another person and DUI in Luzerne County.

4/25/2019
Standoff ends after man surrenders in Nanticoke
Bob Kalinowski - Citizens Voice

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.
“He 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 man’s 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 neighbor’s 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.
“He had signs posted that if anyone tried to enter his house, he would shoot them,” Wall said.
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 neighbor’s cat, Wall said.
During the standoff, West Main Street was shut down between Fairchild Street and Alden Road.
City police said charges are pending against Blake.

4/24/2019
Former Nanticoke firefighter sentenced to prison for sexually abusing girl
Bob 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.
Michael L. Sansone, 31, was convicted in October of having illegal contact with a minor.
Luzerne 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.

4/18/2019
Pounds of marijuana seized from house
Police Blotter - Times Leader

State 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.
It was not known what led authorities to serve the search warrant.
Diaz-Flores 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.

4/15/2019
Edwardsville man accused of robbing Nanticoke pharmacy
jhalpin@citizensvoice.com

A 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.
Ryan 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 said.
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.
Magisterial 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.

4/13/2019
Nanticoke man stabbed in robbery

A Nanticoke man was stabbed in the shoulder during a reported robbery Thursday afternoon, according to police.
Officers 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, police said.
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.

4/11/2019
Man to stand trial for allegedly fleeing scene of crash
James Halpin - 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 on Wednesday.
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 nowhere."
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.

4/11/2019
Nanticoke man waives hearing on hit-run charges
elewis@timesleader.com

Still 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.
Gajewski appeared 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.
Police 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.
Gajewski allegedly told police he left Larry's and drove on South Market Street on his way home.
Police in court records say they found Rinehimer's bodily fluids on Gajewski's vehicle.
Prosecutors 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.

4/11/2019
Trial in Nanticoke woman's murder pushed back to 2020
jhalpin - citizensvoice.com

The 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.
Luzerne County Judge Tina Polachek Gartley continued the trial until Jan. 6 at the defense's request.
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.
State 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 St.
"It's an error that we missed," Urban said.
Gartley will rule on that and the other motions at a later date.

4/11/2019
Trial for alleged killer Spudis pushed back to 2020
pkernan@timesleader.com

At 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.
Gartley re-scheduled 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.
Warrant motion
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 the ceiling.
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.

4/4/2019
Nanticoke man allegedly beat woman at house party in Edwardsville
dstokes@timesleader.com

A Nanticoke man was arraigned Wednesday for allegedly beating up a woman at a house party.
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.
According 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 9-1-1.
She was later transported to Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center.
Coleman is charged with simple assault, harassment and disorderly conduct. He was released on $10,000 unsecured bail.

3/29/2019
Court records: DNA of murder suspect's girlfriend found at scene
elewis@timesleader.com

Taryn 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.
Simms' 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.
Spudis 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.
Simms' 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 Price's address.
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."
Simms' attorney, Nanda Palissery, could not be reached for comment Thursday.
Judge Polachek 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 April 10.

3/26/2019
Police: Nanticoke man caused damage to house, believed people in walls ‘spying’
elewis@timesleader.com

A 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 court records.
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.
According to the criminal complaint:
State police responded to the house and spoke with the owner’s parents, who were checking on the residence since their son was away.
The parents told a trooper they noticed a Chevrolet TrailBlazer in the driveway and Sweeney exiting the house. They also noticed extensive damage inside the residence.
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.
State 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 homeowner’s 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 bail.

2/26/2019
McNeal gets decades in prison for 2017 Nanticoke homicide
pkernan@timesleader.com

Convicted killer Antoine McNeal, 34, won’t be eligible for parole until he’s 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 Smith’s 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 Smith’s 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.
McNeal appeared in court on Monday before Luzerne County Judge Tina Polachek Gartley for sentencing. The judge allowed members of Smith’s family to address the court first.
Smith’s sister, Destiny Crooks, had harsh words for McNeal.
“I don’t believe he’s sorry for what he did,” Crooks said. “I pray for him, I pray someday he’s remorseful for what he did.”
Briefly addressing the court himself, McNeal didn’t 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. “I’m sorry.”
McNeal said nothing else.
A large part of McNeal’s 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 in.
Before issuing her sentence, Gartley expressed condolences to Smith’s family.
“At the sentencing stage, there isn’t 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.
McNeal was remanded back to the Luzerne County Correctional Facility after sentencing pending transfer to a state prison.

2/26/2019
Convicted killer Antoine McNeal was sentenced Monday to serve up to 63 years in state prison.
James 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 Smith’s 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 Smith’s home to find Smith with another, unidentified person. As McNeal was walking, gunshots rang out and he ran back to his girlfriend’s car saying, “We got to get out of here. They’re shooting,” according to the girlfriend’s testimony.

2/19/2019
Man, 64, charged in Nanticoke hit-run crash
James Halpin - Citizens Voice

A 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 suspect’s 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 said.
On Jan. 29, police found a burgundy 2016 Chevrolet Malibu with fresh front-end damage parked outside of Gajewski’s home, police said.
Gajewski 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 Larry’s 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 Gajewski’s version of events.
Gajewski stood by his account, so police conducted further testing, according to the complaint.
An 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.
Investigators also found what appeared to be human tissue on the vehicle’s grill, police said.
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 said.
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.
Magisterial 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.

2/9/2019
Search warrant: Suspect stole from club to fund gambling habit
Bob Kalinowski - Citizens Voice

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.
Search warrant documents identify the suspect as Daniel Wozniak, who was treasurer the past five years at the Honey Pot Club in the city’s Honey Pot section.
Investigators say tens of thousands of dollars are missing from the club’s coffers.
The theft came to light recently after utilities were shut off to the club’s 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 club’s three bank accounts were “depleted,” police said.
The next day, Wozniak’s 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.
Police say Wozniak surrendered on Thursday and admitted to stealing from the club for several years.
Wozniak, the club’s 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 wasn’t enough money to pay bills, he would transfer cash from the club’s 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 club’s financial records.
Efforts to reach Wozniak on Friday were not immediately successful.

2/8/2019
Fire volunteers out of service due to theft
Bob Kalinowski - Citizens Voice

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.
The 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.
"That was one of the things that gave it away. He was supposed to be doing that," Wall said.
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.
"We 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 of Nanticoke."
The volunteer department in the city's Honey Pot section is one of several that supplement Nanticoke's full-time department.
When contacted, a representative of the fire department declined further comment.
Nanticoke 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.
Meanwhile, 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.

2/1/2019
Police: Suspect identified in hit and run

Read here.

1/24/2019
Nanticoke police seek U-Haul truck driver in hit-run
Read here.

1/19/2019
Man, 72, seriously hurt in Nanticoke hit-run .. Black sedan with damage to front bumper.

Click for info.

1/12/2019
McNeal found guilty of murder
James Halpin and Bob Kalinowski - Citizens Voice

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 Smith’s West Church Street home in Nanticoke, McNeal shot him twice in the chest and robbed him of Percocet pills Smith had in his pocket.
McNeal 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 homicide.
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.
Still, prosecutors were satisfied with the verdict.
“We were confident from the beginning Mr. McNeal pulled the trigger,” said Assistant District Attorney William Finnegan.
Sentencing was set for Feb. 25 at 1 p.m.
The defense maintained that although McNeal set up the drug deal, he arrived at Smith’s home to find Smith with another, unidentified person. As McNeal was walking, gunshots rang out and he ran back to his girlfriend’s car saying, “We got to get out of here. They’re shooting,” according to the girlfriend’s testimony.
“Mr. McNeal is disappointed. He maintained his innocence and expected a not guilty verdict,” defense attorney Demetrius Fannick said.Z
During his closing argument, Fannick focused on testimony by Smith’s 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.
Fannick noted that Smith and McNeal worked together and knew each other well.
“This 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 doesn’t know who shot him. He says, ‘They shot me.’ ... That’s 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 McNeal’s girlfriend’s house. While girlfriend Wakeelah Moore’s .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 killed Smith.
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.
“Forensically, there’s nothing in this case,” Fannick said, noting that police only recovered one partial fingerprint from the vehicle. “How is that possible? That’s 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.
“A 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 Smith’s use of the word “they,” noting that in earlier text exchanges McNeal had informed him he was coming with Moore.
“Most importantly, there is zero evidence that anybody else was coming to see Brandon that night,” Hogans said, noting Smith’s phone contained no text messages indicating anyone else planned to meet him.
He also noted that Smith’s mother said he had been “frantic and scared” as he laid on the floor screaming that he couldn’t breathe and that he didn’t want to die.
“His world’s already closing in on him,” Hogans said. “He was breathing his last breaths. Brandon was not worried about who shot him.”
Hogans 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 doesn’t want you to think about the fact that the defendant’s phone was on the passenger seat of the van — with Brandon’s blood on it,” Hogans said.

1/9/2019
Woman accused of smashing her way into borough office
Bob Kalinowski - Citizens Voice

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, police said.
West Wyoming police Chief Curtis Nocera said Keister had been under investigation for harassing a borough cop who arrested her last year.
"She 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.
Prior 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 door.
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, police said.
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 her.
Keister was charged with aggravated assaulted on a police officer, burglary, institutional vandalism, loitering and prowling at night time, criminal mischief, and harassment.
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.

1/4/2019
Trial set to begin in drug robbery killing
jhalpin@citizensvoice.com

Attorneys 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.
Antoine 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.
Opening statements are now scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. Monday.

1/5/2019
Judge allows Nanticoke man to withdraw guilty plea in alleged sex assault
elewis@timesleader.com

A 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.
Dylan 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 minor’s 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.
“He maintains it was a consensual relationship, clearly it was consensual,” Sklarosky told the judge. “If a jury hears the case, they would acquit him.”
Vough scheduled Monelli’s 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.

1/3/2019
Jury selection to begin Friday for 2017 Nanticoke homicide
pkernan@timesleader.com

Jury 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. Smith’s 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 McNeal’s trial is scheduled to last all of next week. He’s been locked up without bail in the Luzerne County Correctional Facility since his arrest in April 2017.