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Briefs: Police say two home invasions aren’t connected

Two home-invasion robberies within eight hours of each other in Penn Hills and Beechview do not appear to be connected, police said Monday.

About 5:30 p.m. Sunday, three armed men raided a house in the 8000 block of Lincoln Road in Penn Hills, binding two people with duct tape while ransacking the home, police Chief Howard Burton said. The gunmen kicked one man in the face and hit the resident of the home with a paint can. They stole the resident’s car.

At 1 a.m. yesterday, three men reported that a gunman came into their home in the 1500 block of Methyl Street in Beechview and bound their hands with duct tape, Pittsburgh police said. The assailant did not harm the men and left after taking cash from their pockets and a PlayStation video game player.

City major crimes Cmdr. Maurita Bryant and Burton both said that few home invasions like these involve strangers preying on innocent victims.

West Nile hits woman

A 69-year-old woman from Allegheny County is the latest victim of West Nile virus, health authorities said Monday.

The woman, who was not identified, was hospitalized earlier this month but has since recovered, said Dave Zazac, a spokesman for the Allegheny County Health Department.

There have now been eight county residents who have been diagnosed with the virus this year. The virus, which often presents itself with flu-like symptoms, is usually transmitted by a mosquito bite.

Despite cooler temperatures this week, Zazac said breeding of mosquitoes can still occur. The West Nile season won’t end until the weather produces some sustained freezing.

Food servers recognized

Ten food servers received Excellence in Food Protection awards from the Allegheny County Health Department.

The recipients are: Max & Erma’s Restaurant, O’Hara; Billy’s Roadhouse, McCandless; Kleiner Deutschmann, Springdale; Sodexho-Schenley Cafe, Oakland; Wal-Mart Radio Grill, Richland; Harmar Village Care Center, Blawnox; the Presbyterian Senior Care, Oakmont; Bridgeville Meals on Wheels; St. Joan of Arc Church, South Park; and Upper St. Clair High School.

Kleiner Deutschmann also won in 1995 and Harmar Village Care Center in 2000.

RegionState educators vote on strike

Faculty at the 14 state-owned universities are finishing the second day of voting today on whether to authorize a strike.

The votes will be tabulated by Thursday, predicted Kevin Kodish, spokesman for the faculty union, the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties.

He said the counting of the ballots comes one day before the next negotiating session with the State System of Higher Education, which runs the 14 universities. Among its schools are California, Clarion, Indiana and Slippery Rock universities of Pennsylvania.

The two sides are divided over salary, health benefits and class size. The 5,000 faculty members are paid an average of $67,000 a year.

Flight makes emergency stop

A plane carrying 50 people made an emergency landing at Dayton International Airport Monday after a leak in an air hose stirred up dust in the aircraft and caused an alarm light to come on.

US Airways Express Flight 2803, which had taken off from the Ohio airport bound for Pittsburgh, landed safely.

US Airways spokesman David Castelveter said a coupling on the high-pressure air hose sprang a leak, producing a loud pop. He said the leak shot air underneath the floorboards and stirred up some dust and other debris in the aircraft.

Airport spokeswoman Sharon Sears said one passenger reported seeing an insulation-like material blowing around the aircraft and that several people reported smelling smoke.

After the plane landed, passengers got off the plane through the emergency exits, Castelveter said. He said some passengers had to step down from a wing, which was several feet off the ground. He said one passenger suffered a slight ankle injury but declined medical treatment. Sears said two other passengers reported breathing difficulties and also refused any treatment.

Allegheny CountyRecorder of Deeds addresses fine

Allegheny County Recorder of Deeds Valerie McDonald Roberts said a miscommunication led to her campaign’s failure to pay a $20 fine to the county Elections Division.

The Elections Division assessed the fine after McDonald Roberts filed her post-primary election expense report June 20, one day late. Since then, the Elections Division sent McDonald Roberts four letters about the $20.

McDonald Roberts said she didn’t get the letters, attributing the missing missives to a campaign volunteer who sorts her mail.

McDonald Roberts, a Democrat who is running for re-election against Republican challenger Becky Barrett-Toomey, said she planned to drop off the $20 check this morning. Kathy Guzzi, manager of expense accounts for the Elections Division, said if the fine isn’t paid, McDonald Roberts would not be sworn in if she wins the Nov. 4 election.

Gastgeb takes over GOP caucus chair

Allegheny County Councilman Vince Gastgeb has taken over as chair of county council’s Republican caucus.

Gastgeb, of Bethel Park, replaced Ron Francis, of Ben Avon, who served as caucus chair for 18 months. Gastgeb said he also plans to serve 18 months.

As leader of council’s six Republicans, Gastgeb will serve as the point man between his party and Democratic caucus chair Wayne Fontana, of Brookline. Gastgeb said he also will be the liaison between his party and Republican Chief Executive Jim Roddey on the executive branch’s legislative agenda.

Gastgeb named Councilman Doug Price, of Carnegie, to Gastgeb’s old post of minority whip.

PittsburghMom held for trial in death of infant

A transient woman was held for court Monday after a coroner’s hearing on a criminal homicide charge in the killing of her 10-month-old son.

Deputy Coroner Timothy Uhrich ordered Janice Latoya Martinez, 28, to stand trial in the death of Santos Martinez, who was fatally injured at a home in O’Hara Place, Lawrenceville.

Pittsburgh police homicide Detective Dennis Logan testified that Martinez, who was staying with a friend on July 4, admitted punching the baby in the face. Martinez said she picked up the baby and shook him until she fell on top of him, the detective said.

The boy died of head injuries on July 5 at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh in Oakland.

RegionLegal battles strain finances of a diocese

Mounting legal bills from a lawsuit unresolved for more than a decade and 10 new lawsuits alleging sexual abuse by priests could sap a small Western Pennsylvania Roman Catholic diocese’s finances and eventually force it to take out a loan, a diocese official warned.

Even if the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese is successful in the latest lawsuits, the damage may have already been done. The diocese is also fighting to get insurance companies to pay it $1.2 million, and because of legal appeals the church doesn’t yet know if it will have to pay $1 million to an abuse victim.

“There’s a finite limit to the amount of money available,” said Larry Sutton, financial director of the diocese.

Sutton said he didn’t know how much longer the diocese can continue its legal battles without tapping into donations from its 110,000 parishioners in eight mostly rural counties.

Armstrong County Borough still dry

Some 945 customers — including an elementary school and three nursing homes — of the Rural Valley Water Authority in Armstrong County remained without water Monday night after a leak drained the reservoir, borough water commissioner Kevin Nelson said.

Water buffaloes were set up at the fire hall for residents and some homes were obtaining emergency service from the nearby Cowanshannock Water Authority, Nelson said. Neighboring fire departments with tanker trucks also will answer all fire alarms with borough firefighters.

Nelson said the reservoir must be refilled before workers can try to determine where and how the leak occurred. The borough obtains its water from three large wells.

Moon Restaurant robbed

Moon police continued Monday to look for a man who robbed a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant.

The restaurant manager had stepped out the back door at 11:25 p.m. Saturday when a man dressed in black and brandishing a gun appeared. The robber forced the manager back inside and demanded the night’s deposit. He was last seen running away.

The robber was described as a light-skinned black man in his early 20s, 6 feet tall with a thin mustache. He wore a T-shirt with the image of Dick Tracy on the front. The shirt was found a short distance away.

The gunman may have been driving a dark-colored pickup truck. Anyone with information should contact police at (412) 262-5000.

Beaver CountyPolice academy cleared to reopen

The municipal police training academy at the Community College of Beaver County has permission to reopen Jan. 4.

The Pennsylvania Municipal Police Officers Education and Training Commission, which oversaw the academy operated by the community college in Center, closed it May 8, 2002, after an audit found that student records were missing or disorganized.

The commission and the college reached a settlement calling for the college to correct the problems, college spokeswoman Anne Wallace said.

Robert Grimm, a retired police officer on the academy’s staff, has been named the director.

While classes will be permitted to resume in January, it is uncertain whether they will, commission spokesman Richard Mooney said. Neither Wallace nor Mooney would provide details of the corrective actions, citing a confidentiality agreement between the college and the commission.

MonroevilleSquad detonates bomb found in man’s home

The Allegheny County Bomb Squad detonated a pipe bomb Monday night after family members found the device under a bed in a home where a Monroeville man had died nearly a week earlier.

William Slomer, 63, was found dead yesterday morning in the home in the 2500 block of Tillbrook Road, Monroeville police Assistant Chief Doug Cole said. Slomer, who lived alone, had been dead of heart disease for about six days, the Allegheny County Coroner’s Office said.

While searching for personal papers, family members discovered the bomb — contained within a silver pipe 6 to 8 inches long — in a small bag in the master bedroom, Cole said.

The bomb squad exploded the device in the back yard. Cole said Slomer kept “a lot of weapons” in the house, but police believe the pipe bomb had been left there by another deceased relative.

A search of the house by bomb-sniffing dogs turned up no other explosives, Cole said.


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