THE WEEK IN REVIEW
Here is a look at the top stories of local interest published in The Indiana Gazette during the week of Nov. 25 to Dec. 1.
SUNDAY, NOV. 25
Authorities continued to investigate the death of a White Township man Nov. 18 in a fire that destroyed his mobile home. The cause of the fire goes on the books as an unsolved mystery because of the extreme damage left to Stephen Brewer's residence at 215 Lincoln Ave., said Trooper Timothy Frew, a fire marshal with the state police in Indiana.
But the manner of Brewer's death remains in doubt and no ruling has been issued by the Indiana County coroner's office or the state police. Coroner Michael Baker said an autopsy showed Brewer, 36, died of carbon monoxide toxicity, the result of inhaling smoke while the fast-moving fire gutted the living room and kitchen area of the trailer home and heavily damaged the bedrooms and bathroom area.
MONDAY, NOV. 26
Pennsylvania's hunters hit the state's woods and fields for the start of deer season. About 750,000 hunters were expected to participate statewide in the two-week firearms deer season. The day is often referred to as an unofficial state holiday, since many hunters take the day off from work and some school districts close.
TUESDAY, NOV. 27
A wide-ranging probe operating out of the Indiana Count district attorney's office netted two suspected child pornography distribution centers in Indiana County within the past few weeks, District Attorney Patrick Dougherty reported. An online investigator identified suspected contraband on an Internet user's computer in Blairsville on Nov. 17, and authorities raided the residence Nov. 24, arresting Charles Payson and seizing computers and disks with images of children depicted in sexual activity. Payson, 44, was lodged in the Indiana County Jail with bond set at $50,000 and is facing 22 felony charges: 10 counts each of possession of child pornography and dissemination of photos or films of children in sex acts, and two counts of depicting on a computer sex acts involving children.
A second discovery of child porn at an undisclosed location in Indiana remains under investigation and charges have yet to be filed, Dougherty said.
WEDNESDAY, NOV. 28
Faculty members at Pennsylvania's 14 state-owned universities won't consider striking until the spring semester to minimize disruptions to students during the end-of-year academic crunch, their union said Tuesday. The Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties, which has been embroiled in a contract dispute for nearly 18 months, announced the news in an open letter to students. Postponing a strike decision means the universities should be able to finish the fall semester without interruption. Classes end Friday, and finals start Dec. 10. The union represents more than 6,000 faculty members and coaches who have been working without a contract since June 2011.
THURSDAY, NOV. 29
A woman trying to walk across Route 422 in Shelocta Borough was struck and killed by a sport utility vehicle on Wednesday. According to Indiana County Coroner Michael Baker, the accident occurred shortly before 5:30 p.m. as Michelle Lynne Hensley, 45, of Shelocta, tried to cross the highway's westbound lane across from a car wash near the Armstrong Township line.
Baker said Hensley reportedly was walking to a store to buy a pack of cigarettes when she was struck. She was taken to Indiana Regional Medical Center and was pronounced dead at 6:07 p.m. Baker listed the cause of death as multiple blunt force trauma. He said her death was accidental. The driver of the vehicle that struck Hensley was not identified, but the driver stopped and called for help, Baker said.
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U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster, a Republican from Hollidaysburg, will become the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, a powerful position that could put Pennsylvania's interests out front in federal highway spending and policy. The committee also deals with legislation covering pipelines, ports, river barges, mass transit and rail, all issues that are of prime importance in Pennsylvania, a state whose infrastructure is aging.
No Pennsylvania House member currently chairs a full committee, and Shuster's elevation gives Pennsylvania its most influential voice in the U.S. House since John Murtha died in 2010.
FRIDAY, NOV. 30
A Burrell Township man has been accused of sexually assaulting a girl between 9:30 and 11:44 p.m. Wednesday at a residence along Palmerton Road. State police charged Ronald Hill, 22, of Black Lick, with multiple felony charges at a preliminary arraignment Thursday morning in the Homer City district court.
Online court records show Hill was briefly held at the Indiana County Jail until a bail bondsman posted $50,000 for his release. Hill also waived district court action on the case and will face adjudication in Indiana County Common Pleas Court. Troopers at Indiana gave no other details about the incident or the victim. Hill has been charged with forcible involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, a first-degree felony; two counts of aggravated indecent assault and one count of sexual assault, all second-degree felonies; a third-degree felony count of corruption of minors; and two counts of indecent assault, one graded as a misdemeanor.
SATURDAY, DEC. 1
Indiana Gazette photographer Tom Peel is the grand prize winner in a recent Minwax "Miracle Makeover" contest, which asked participants to submit photos and information of a miracle restoration. Peel's submission of a restored grandfather clock took first prize in the contest, sponsored by the wood finishing product company Minwax. He won a weekend getaway to Asheville, N.C., to enjoy a private workshop with author-craftsman Bruce Johnson. The Ithaca Calendar Clock Co. clock Peel restored was an heirloom, in his family for more than 100 years. It originally belonged to his great-grandfather, and was purchased with tobacco coupons; it was badly damaged in a 2007 house fire.