TRI COUNTY REPORT FOR FEBRUARY 18TH, 2021

The Pennsylvania Fire Marshal is investigating after one person has died and another was injured in what was reported as an explosion and fire at a Mercer County home. According to WFMJ-TV  A woman called 9-1-1 at 1 a.m. Thursday to report that her house “blew up”.  The woman also said that she and a male at the home were burned at the two-story home on the 2500 block of Mercer Butler Pike in Liberty Township.The first firefighter to arrive reported flames coming from the home. The coroner was called to the fire scene. There is no word yet on the identity of the person who died or the condition of the second person who was injured.

State Police in Lawrence County are looking for a man wanted in connection with a homicide Tuesday afternoon in Union Township. According to police 30 year old Lamar Johnson of North Lee Avenue was found dead outside of a home on Grandview Avenue. Police believe Johnson and Markeace Perkins were exchanging gunfire outside the home, when Johnson suffered a fatal gunshot wound to the head. Police continue their search for Perkins and are asking anyone with information to contact them at 724- 598-2211.

The vaccination rollout plan in Pennsylvania is in a critical stage as the UK coronavirus variant is being detected in the state.  A Johns Hopkins doctor says a comprehensive, aggressive and efficient plan to vaccinate residents is needed immediately.  Dr. Amesh Adalja said the process should be made easier by opening one website to register for appointments versus starting several.  Doctors agree that the UK strain of the virus is more aggressive and possibly more lethal than the original strain.

A Youngs­town man was sentenced Wednesday in the May 2019 shooting death of 24 year old Khalil Hopson in Sharon. According to the Sharon Herald 27 year old Eddie Robinson was sentenced to 15 to 45 years in prison. Johnson pleaded guilty to third-degree murder along with two other charges.  22 year old Alexis Holmes of New Castle also faces a number of charges in connection with the shooting. Her case is pending in common pleas court.

COVID-19 cases are continuing to rise throughout Pennsylvania. Health officials say yesterday, the state total saw an increase of more than 34-hundred new cases, pushing it over 900-thousand. About 193 new deaths related to the virus were added to the death toll, which is at 23-thousand-319.

As the number of new COVID cases continues to trend down, the airline industry hopes that people will soon feel safe to begin flying again.  On Wednesday, Allegiant Air announced the coming addition of direct flights from Pittsburgh International to Key West.  Those flights will operate Sundays and Thursdays starting June 3rd.

Mars School District is reaching a new deal with its teachers’ union to prevent a strike.  The district announced yesterday that it has reached a tentative collective bargaining agreement with the union.  If a new deal wasn’t agreed upon, the teachers were expected to go on strike tomorrow which would affect about 33-hundred students in the district.  Officials say both parties will be working together to finalize a new contract throughout the next couple of weeks.

A former Fayette County man who confessed to sexually assaulting a young girl two decades ago has been sentenced to prison.  Fifty-year-old Lawrence Henry Jr drove to Virginia in 2018 to try and have sex with a teen girl that he had met online.  In reality, that teen girl was an adult undercover officer.  While under arrest in Virginia, Henry admitted to assaulting the girl in Western Pennsylvania.  He was brought back to PA and this week pleaded guilty in that case.  He was sentenced to 5 to 10 years in prison which he’ll serve in Virginia concurrently with time he was given for the case with the undercover officer.

According to this week’s Triple-A East Central Gas Price report the average price of gas in Western Pennsylvania rose by four cents to $2.81 per gallon. In New Castle drivers are paying 2.73 a gallon while in Sharon the average price is at 2.89. The average national gas price has risen by a nickel over the last week to $2.51 with most states seeing their highest prices in over a year. AAA reports that although demand remains low, surging crude oil prices continue to drive price increases which may keep pump prices high.