THE WEEK IN REVIEW
Here is a look at the top stories of local interest published in The Indiana Gazette during the week of May 5-11.
SUNDAY, MAY 5
Police at Indiana University of Pennsylvania asked anyone with information about a fire that destroyed a sport utility vehicle on campus to contact the campus safety office at (724) 357-2141.
A 2004 Buick Rendezvous SUV was found ablaze about 10 p.m. Saturday in a parking lot on the campus between Keith Hall and the Hadley Union Building. Indiana volunteer firefighters extinguished the fire.
MONDAY, MAY 6
Three Kittanning-area men drowned early Sunday when they were trapped in a pickup truck that overturned in a pond on a country road about four miles northeast of Plumville in South Mahoning Township, officials said.
Although their friends at the scene tried to break into the truck to rescue them and attempted to drag the pickup from the pond, it apparently had sunk too deep in mud and its doors were pinned shut, said Rick Stenman, a captain of the Plumville Fire Department. Sean John-athan Titus, 20, of Iron Bridge Road; Zane Michael Mc-Millen, 19, of Ferne Drive; and Cody Allen Brink Douglas, 19, of Freeport Road, were pronounced dead at the scene by Indiana County Deputy Coroner Jerry Overman.
TUESDAY, MAY 7
Saltsburg Borough police got the go-ahead Monday from Saltsburg Borough Council to purchase four new radios at a cost of $9,220 to become compatible with pending upgrades to Indiana County’s 911 system. Law enforcement and EMS will be switched over to narrow-band radios in June and, at council’s last meeting, Police Chief Gary Walker reported that he had requested a quote on four portable radios that can work in and out of patrol vehicles.
WEDNESDAY, MAY 8
A Saltsburg-area man has been sentenced to death for murdering his mother, sister and elderly aunt in his automotive glass shop where the victims sometimes also worked. A Westmoreland County jury deliberated about seven hours before returning the penalty late Tuesday against Kevin Murphy, 52, of Conemaugh Township.
The penalty verdict came after brief testimony from relatives who described Murphy as hardworking and law-abiding, and a psychologist who supported those witnesses. District Attorney John Peck argued for the death penalty based on the multiple homicides and the nature of the crimes, in which the women were shot point-blank in the back of the head by someone they had loved, trusted and known for decades.
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Disobedient Spirits LLC is one step closer to opening in downtown Homer City. At its meeting Tuesday, borough council unanimously agreed to approve a recommendation from the Homer City Planning Commission to amend an existing zoning ordinance that will allow the microdistillery to operate at 30 Main St.
The initial request from Disobedient Spirits owners Robert Begg and Robert Sechrist came under fire because of the microdistillery’s location, which is adjacent to the Homer City United Methodist Church. The church houses Celebrate Recovery meetings every Thursday, and word of a possible distillery raised concerns about hindering the group’s efforts for recovering addicts as well as about pedestrian safety in the area.
THURSDAY, MAY 9
A Home business owner has been charged by a U.S. Attorney with conspiring to launder money stolen from a Rayne Township natural gas drilling company. The U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania in Pittsburgh Tuesday filed a bill of information against Daniel Pikel, 57, owner of Pikel’s Universal Auto Repair, in Home.
A spokeswoman in the U.S. Attorney’s office said Pikel was not indicted, but rather the filing of a bill of information generally indicates that the government and a defendant have reached an agreement and a defendant plans to waive indictment and plead guilty to charges. The U.S. Attorney charged that between June 2009 and January 2012, Pikel conspired with Larry Winckler, 52, of White Township, then the chief operating officer of Falcon Drilling, to launder money stolen from the drilling company. The U.S. Attorney said 28 such forged checks, ranging from $20,000 to $32,000 and totaling $762,000, were drawn against Falcon accounts and were deposited and later withdrawn by Pikel.
FRIDAY, MAY 10
A Blairsville man has pleaded guilty in federal court to his part in a heroin distribution ring between Detroit and Johnstown and Blairsville. Clifford Bernard Camut Jr., 20, of 530 Stoney Run Road, pleaded guilty to one count of violating federal narcotics laws before District Judge Kim R. Gibson, U.S. Attorney David J. Hickton announced Thursday. Sentencing was scheduled for Oct. 24. Camut could face up to life in prison and a $4 million fine.
According to law enforcement, Camut was one of 15 people involved in distributing heroin in the area from the spring of 2011 to May 15, 2012. A lesser player, he was accused of being an intermediary for the Blairsville distributor, Dewann Jamal Macon, who pleaded guilty in February.
SATURDAY, MAY 11
April and May have been unusually windy in western Pennsylvania, according to a meteorologist from Pittsburgh. Normally, wind speed in spring averages 5 to 7 mph out of the west-southwest and often diminishes at nighttime.
But this year, the average speed has been more like 10 to 15 mph out of the east-southeast, almost constantly, according to John Darnley of the National Weather Service.
The area was under the influence of a persistent high-pressure system as part of an “Omega Block” pattern, he said, with midlevel low-pressure systems to our west and east.