April 28, 2013 3:00 AM

Here is a look at the top stories of local interest published in The Indiana Gazette during the week of April 21-27.


Indiana native George Hood Jr., 55, on Saturday shattered his own Guinness World Record in the abdominal plank. The prior mark, which he established in December 2011, was 1 hour, 20 minutes, 5 seconds, or nearly 30 minutes longer than the prior Guinness record.

On April 20, Hood more than doubled that mark with a time of 3 hours, 7 minutes, 15 seconds. A Guinness World Record official was on hand to observe the attempt and has certified the record. Hood, son of Indiana Mayor George Hood, performed the feat in Newport, Ky., as part of an American Heart Association fundraiser known as HeartChase. Hood is the group exercise director at Five Seasons Family Sports Club in Burr Ridge, Ill., where he set the second of his six Guinness World Records in 2007 in the static “spin” cycling category.


Ruth Shirey, who retired as a professor of geography at Indiana University of Pennsylvania after 37 years, recently received the Ronald F. Abler Distinguished Service Honors Award in Los Angeles at the Association of American Geographers’ annual meeting.

Shirey, of Indiana, is a 1965 graduate of IUP and returned as a professor in 1970. The professor emerita of geography was recognized for her outstanding efforts in promoting the discipline of geography in elementary, secondary and post-secondary schools, according to the AAG’s press release.


A Westmoreland County jury began hearing testimony in the trial of Kevin Murphy, accused of fatally shooting his mother, sister and elderly aunt at an automotive glass shop in Loyalhanna Township, allegedly because the women disapproved of his affair with a married woman.

Westmoreland County District Attorney John Peck told the jury that Murphy, 52, shot his mother, Doris Murphy, 69; his sister, Kris Murphy, 43; and his aunt, Edith Tietge, 81, inside Ferguson Glass on April 23, 2009, because they didn’t approve of his romance with a married woman. He is seeking the death penalty. But defense attorney Robert Bell told the jury that Murphy was close to the victims and essentially had become the man in the family when his father died in 1985. The trial continues Monday.


After more than a half-hour of public commentary, the Homer City Planning Commission approved a recommendation Tuesday to allow a proposed microdistillery to operate along Main Street in a commercial district.

The decision came after several people addressed the planning commission both supporting and opposing the request from Disobedient Spirits owners Robert Sechrist and Robert Begg to operate as a commercial entity in the borough rather than an industrial one. The planning commission voted 4-0 in favor of the plan; member Robert Toth was absent from Tuesday’s hearing. The planning commission’s recommendation will go to borough council for a vote at next month’s regular meeting on May 7.


Indiana County Coroner Michael Baker said he has taken a position in the Allegheny County Medical Examiner’s office in Pittsburgh and will be stepping down as coroner “as soon as the time is right for doing so.” In the meantime, he said he remains engaged in running the coroner’s office and has not established a firm timeline for leaving.

Baker has served as coroner in Indiana County for eight years and as chief deputy coroner for 22 years. He is running unopposed on the Republican ballot for a third term. There are no Democratic candidates.


A 33-year-old northern Indiana County man will be sentenced next month to spend the rest of his life in prison with no chance of parole after being convicted Thursday of the shooting death of his father-in-law. After two long days of taking in testimony and evidence in court, a jury heard the lawyers’ closing statements, then deliberated less than three hours before finding Shaun Casey Fairman guilty of second-degree murder.

Fairman killed Richard “Dick” Shotts, of the Rural Valley area, with a single gunshot about 12:24 a.m. June 3 during a confrontation at the residence of his estranged wife, Jessica Fairman, and their children along Route 210 near Trade City in North Mahoning Township.


With a focus on a new beginning, both for himself and for the university, Dr. Michael Driscoll was inaugurated as the 26th president of Indiana University of Pennsylvania in a ceremony Friday. Held at Fisher Auditorium in IUP’s Performing Arts Center, members of the IUP faculty as well as students and members of the community joined together in celebrating and welcoming Driscoll to the IUP family.

The event was marked by several speakers from across the state and nation, gifts to Driscoll, music and several standing ovations. The oath of office was conducted by Peter Garland, acting PASSHE chancellor, and Guido Pichini, chairman of the PASSHE Board of Governors.

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