Tri County Report For January 30th, 2019

The National Weather Service has issued a wind chill warning for Lawrence, Mercer, Beaver and Butler counties through Thursday evening.  Forecasters say the wind chill will be so low that it will feel like it is negative-23 degrees and below.  Temperatures today and on Thursday could set record lows. All the school districts in Lawrence County have cancelled classes today. Slippery Rock University and Youngstown State University have also cancelled classes.

The man accused of opening fire on a Squirrel Hill synagogue is now facing additional hate crimes and firearms charges.  On Monday, 13 additional violations of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Junior Hate Crimes Prevention Act were filed against Robert Bowers.  Bowers is facing life without parole for the shooting deaths of 11 people at Tree of Life Synagogue October 27th.

A man is sentenced after accidentally shooting a teen in Independence Township about two years ago.  Zachary Kriger entered a guilty plea earlier this month to injuring the 16-year-old in December 2017 at a home on Independence Road.  Kriger said he thought the gun was unloaded.  The 24-year-old will serve 15 months in the Intermediate Punishment Program, which includes up to three months behind bars, after being sentenced Monday.

Gov. Tom Wolf is renewing his call for lawmakers to toughen Pennsylvania’s gun laws after a truck driver walked into a Pittsburgh synagogue and fatally shot 11 people. The Democratic governor spoke Tuesday at an anti-gun violence rally in the Capitol. The Republican-controlled Legislature last year passed legislation forcing people in Pennsylvania with a domestic-violence ruling against them to more quickly surrender their guns. However, the Legislature has long resisted gun-control measures, such as expanding background checks.

A bipartisan package of legislation is aimed at reforming the voting process in Pennsylvania. Lawmakers from both parties are proposing a combination of regular legislation and amendments to the state constitution. One of the measures would ease restrictions on who could obtain an absentee ballot and simplify the verification process. Other bills would no longer prohibit state or federal employees from serving as poll workers, and ease would barriers for the disabled by setting up curbside voting.

State Police in Butler County report a one vehicle accident in Harmony that sent a New Jersey woman to the hospital. According to police 18 year old Cepeda Phillips of Detroit, Michigan lost control of his car on interstate 79 while traveling at high rate of speed and struck a concrete barrier. Police said a back seat passenger, 20 year old Olivia Morales of Edison, New Jersey had to be extricated from the vehicle and was taken to UPMC Presbyterian Hospital for treatment.  Phillips was cited by police.

The Sharon Herald is reporting a man and a woman from Farrell have been charged with arson in connection with a December fire that destroyed a former daycare center. 31 year old Dustin Morrow and 27 year old Anna Teresa Santana-Benavides were charged with aggravated arson, causing a catastrophe along with a number of other charges. The blaze at Caring 4 Kids Daycare Center caused more than $1 million in damage. A preliminary  hearing is set for Friday.

A secretary for Big Beaver’s Municipal Authority is accused of taking thousands of dollars.  Sheri Horinka was charged last week after an audit showed two checks were cashed by the 51-year-old totaling 13-thousand-500 dollars.  Horinka had served the authority as a part-time secretary and treasurer dating back to 2015.  She’s free after positing 15-thousand-dollars bail.

Big changes are in store for hunters in western Pennsylvania this year.  The Pennsylvania Game Commission approved yesterday a Saturday start to the deer-gun season instead of the traditional Monday opening.  Commissioners are also working on rules to allow semi-automatic rifles to be used in hunting big game, including deer, elk and bears.

The state is reporting that another five Pennsylvanians have perished from influenza as the virus remains an officially widespread situation.  According to data released yesterday, the fatality count in Pennsylvania due to the flu has risen to 25 for the current season, including the first confirmed flu-related death of someone age 18 or younger.  There have been 19-thousand-757 reported cases total state-wide, over four-thousand more than a week ago.