School psychologist faces sex charges
A suspended Pittsburgh Public Schools psychologist who is awaiting trial on two other sex assault cases was ordered Friday to stand trial on charges he sexually assaulted a third child.
Donald Stettner, 47, of Spring Hill, was ordered to stand trial on charges of indecent assault, endangering the welfare of a child and corruption of minors. A 13-year-old girl testified at a City Court hearing Friday that Stettner fondled her once a week while she was living at his home between the fall of 2001 and May 2002.
Stettner’s lawyer, Stanton Levenson, questioned whether the girl is mentally competent to testify because she has a history of visual and auditory hallucinations. The girl’s mental competency to testify will be determined at a hearing before a trial judge.
Stettner is accused of touching a girl in an inappropriate manner while she was in the nurse’s office of Colfax Elementary School. He also is accused of abusing a young man at his home over a six-year period.
Rendell encourages maglev development
Gov. Ed Rendell said Friday the Pittsburgh region’s bid to secure federal money for a maglev project is not futile.
Rendell disagreed with Allegheny County Executive Jim Roddey who told local business leaders this week that the project was doomed because the federal government would not provide financing.
“I don’t believe that project is dead,” Rendell said, speaking in Lawrenceville at the construction site of the new Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.
U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter also says Pittsburgh remains in the running to land the 45-mile route linking Pittsburgh International Airport, Downtown, Monroeville and Greensburg. The $3 billion proposal is competing with two others for $950 million in federal funding.
However, the ongoing debate about establishing new levels of transportation funding in Congress may determine whether money becomes available for the project, Rendell said.
Contract extended for Port Authority chief
The Port Authority of Allegheny County voted unanimously Friday to extend the contract of Executive Director Paul Skoutelas by two years.
Skoutelas’ five-year contract was scheduled to expire Aug. 31, 2005. Now it will expire Aug. 31, 2007. The extension option was built into the original contract. Board members exercised the option because they said transportation managers with Skoutelas’ level of expertise are difficult to replace. His annual salary is $185,000.
Port Authority directors also named their board room in honor of Neal H. Holmes, the authority’s long-time chairman who died on Aug. 27.
A committee was named to nominate new officers. The Port Authority’s board normally elects new officers in January, but plans to hold an election earlier because of Holmes’ death.
Kennedy assassination symposium scheduled
The Cyril H. Wecht Institute of Forensic Science and Law at Duquesne University will hold a symposium in November marking the 40th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
The program, titled “Solving the Great American Murder Mystery: A National Symposium on the 40th Anniversary of the JFK Assassination,” will run from Nov. 20-23 at Duquesne University, Uptown.
The event will feature some of the top investigators and researchers involved in the case, including former Parkland Hospital neurosurgeon Dr. Robert Grossman, who viewed the president’s head wounds but was never called to testify before the Warren Commission, which investigated Kennedy’s death.
Also scheduled to speak is U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, a Republican from Philadelphia, who as a junior counsel to the Warren Commission in 1964 originated the “single-bullet theory” about how Kennedy was shot.
Nominations sought for NAACP pastor award
The Pittsburgh branch of the NAACP is accepting nominations for its first “Pastor of the Year” award.
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People will recognize a minister for outstanding service to the community at the branch’s inaugural “Freedom Sunday” on Oct. 12 at the Bethel AME Church on Webster Avenue in the Hill District.
The Rev. Dr. Floyd H. Flake, of Greater Allen AME Cathedral in New York City, will deliver the keynote address and present the award.
Urban supermarkets focus of hearing
An Oct. 3 hearing in the Hill District will focus on the lack of supermarkets in Pennsylvania’s urban areas.
State Rep. Jake Wheatley Jr., D-Hill District, a member of the House Health and Human Services Committee, said the committee will conduct the hearing from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Hill House’s Kaufmann Auditorium, 1835 Centre Ave.
“Bringing more supermarkets back to our urban neighborhoods would improve our quality of life and help to revitalize the cities that are the cores of our regional economies,” Wheatley said.
For more information, residents may contact Wheatley’s office at (412) 471-7760.
UPMC wants minorities for heart disease study
The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center is recruiting participants for a study that will examine why minorities and those who are poor have a higher risk of getting heart disease.
The study is being funded by a $4.3 million grant from the state Department of Health, which got the money as part of the national tobacco settlement.
Dr. Steven Reis, of Pitt’s Graduate School of Public Health, said researchers will examine whether community-based programs can help reduce disparities in cardiovascular risk. Among other things, they will determine if counselors can help people change their diet and habits.
The study will recruit 1,000 white and 1,000 minority participants, both male and female. They must be between 45 and 75 years old. For more information, call the UPMC Comprehensive Heart Center at (412) 647-5840.
Hospital awarded state ‘green’ funds
Gov. Ed Rendell gave Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh a $5 million check Friday that will be used to help make the new facility environmentally friendly.
The state allocation will help the hospital make its new campus along Penn Avenue in Lawrenceville among one of the first “green” medical centers in the nation.
The new center will include lower utility costs, less solid waste going to landfills and an air filtration system that would lower emissions.
The hospital, which will move from its Oakland site, is scheduled to open in 2007 and estimated to create about 1,500 new jobs.
Police 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.
Jury indicts man for bootlegging music
A former Washington County man has been indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of trafficking in “bootlegged” recordings of live musical performances.
Jeffrey S. Smittle, 43, formerly of Canonsburg, now of Ceresco, Mich., was named in the indictment returned Wednesday.
The 13-count indictment said Smittle sold unauthorized recordings of performances by Bob Dylan, Aerosmith, Bruce Springsteen and KISS.
The investigation was conducted by the High Technology Crimes Task Force, comprised of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Secret Service, FBI, Criminal Investigations Branch of the Internal Revenue Service, and Allegheny County, Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania state police. The Canonsburg police and the Recording Industry Association of American assisted in the investigation.
Area men facing gambling charges
Six men accused of being part of an illegal gambling operation will stand trial after each waived his right to a preliminary hearing Friday before District Justice Jay Weller of Canonsburg.
Charged with pool selling and bookmaking are Anthony Cihal, 76, of the Windgap neighborhood of Pittsburgh; William McGonigle, 69, of Peters; John Pankas, 68, of Canonsburg; Charles Skorvan, 58, of Monongahela; William Antonio, 58, of Beallsville; and Edmund Cononge, 43, of Washington. All but Antonio face a conspiracy charge as well.
They were charged after the state Attorney General’s Office ran a two-year undercover investigation of the Union Grill in Washington, Washington County. Restaurant owner Michael Flynn, 62, and Charles Martin, 50, both of Washington, also are awaiting trial.
Street to be closed for building work
A portion of Fourth Avenue between Ross and Grant streets, Downtown, will be closed from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. today so that a crane can lift electrical equipment onto the City-County Building.
Man gets prison term in driver-license scam
A former Pennsylvania driver’s license examiner who sold bogus commercial licenses to Iraqi nationals was sentenced Friday to 18 months in prison on federal charges.
Robert Ferrari, of Turtle Creek, also was placed on probation for three years by U.S. District Judge Robert Cindrich. Ferrari is scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 7 before Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Donna Jo McDaniel on state charges of tampering with public records and illegal use of a computer.
Ferrari pleaded guilty to federal charges accusing him of selling bogus licenses to more than a dozen men. Many of the licenses allowed the men to transport hazardous materials. Authorities later determined that none of the men had ties with terrorists.
Ferrari, who cooperated with the investigation, received only between $50 and $100 in most of the crimes, prosecutors said.
Fire hits three houses; 11 become homeless
Eleven people were left homeless Friday when an early-morning fire swept through three homes in Washington County.
Firefighters were called at 1 a.m. to the 400 block of Wylie Avenue in Canton for a home fully engulfed in flames, said assistant Chief Chuck LeBella of the township’s volunteer fire department. The flames spread to the adjoining structures.
A father went back inside the burning home to rescue some of his five children who were still inside, LeBella said. There were no injuries.
LeBella said the fire appears to be accidental. The Red Cross and a local business are helping the families, including the one with five children, which lost everything.
Deputies help to free driver trapped in truck
Two sheriff’s deputies helped to rescue a man trapped in the wreckage of his pickup truck in Indiana County, said Allegheny County Sheriff Peter R. DeFazio on Friday.
Deputies George Trosky and Mark Wroblewski were returning two prisoners Thursday morning, when they saw that a pickup truck had rolled over an embankment and into a creek along Route 22 in West Wheatfield, DeFazio said.
While Trosky watched the prisoners and stopped traffic, Wroblewski broke through the rear window, entered the cab and helped the driver, whose name wasn’t released by state police. Wroblewski stayed with the man, even though the engine was smoking, DeFazio said.
Firefighters arrived, and Wroblewski helped them free the driver from the wreckage and carry him to safety, DeFazio said. The man was taken to a hospital in Johnstown.