TRI COUNTY REPORT FOR MARCH 17TH, 2021

A man from Massachusetts is behind bars after he allegedly strangled his father to death in Beaver County.  The incident happened yesterday morning at 83-year-old John Micklaucic’s home on Fezell Road in New Sewickley.  Police say the son, Michael Miklaucic, was taken into custody at the scene after he admitted to strangling his father to protect him from embarrassment after he lost money from falling victim to a scam.  Michael is being held at the Beaver County Jail on charges of homicide, strangulation and possessing an instrument of crime.  His preliminary hearing is scheduled to take place April First.

Two people were taken to the hospital following an accident in West Middlesex. State Police in Mercer County report 33 year old Erin Wedge of Sharon failed to stop at the intersection of Wheatland Road and New Bedford Road and struck a vehicle operated by 29 year old Ethan Zeljak of West Middlesex. Police said they had to administer Narcan to Wedge at the scene. Zeljak was transported to Sharon Regional Hospital for treatment. Wedge who was charged with driving under the influence, was taken to UPMC Farrell.

Beaver County’s multi-billion dollar ethane cracker plant is expected to be completed next year. According to the Ellwood City Ledger the project is about 70 percent complete. In a Tuesday statement, Shell Chemicals representatives said the company is now in the early stages of commissioning and start-up activities. The site will convert oil and gas into ethylene, used in plastics manufacturing to make a range of products from automotive parts to food packaging. It will eventually support 600 permanent jobs in the region.

In the wake of the 2019 murder of a child in Lawrence County, the House of Representatives yesterday passed legislation authored by 10th District State Representative Aaron Bernstine which focuses on the parole process for violent offenders. The bill named Markie’s Law was named after Mark Mason, an 8-year-old boy who was brutally stabbed to death by a man who was paroled at the end of his minimum sentence for homicide, even after committing two separate assaults of other inmates while behind bars. The bill now moves on to the state senate.

The state Capitol Building is reopening to the public on March 22nd with new measures in place.  Department of General Services officials say the Main Capitol, East Wing and North Office Building entrances will be open, and visitors must wear masks and social distance. Officials added that they are working to strengthen security at the building in response to the riot at the nation’s capital on January 6th. Visitors who don’t work at the Capitol must pass through metal detectors, special press badges are required for those who work in media, and police will increase patrols.

A new study claims that many Western Pennsylvania schools don’t need the coronavirus relief money from the latest stimulus package.  Millions of dollars will be coming to schools across the state, but one group claims this is money they don’t need.  A recent study from the Commonwealth Foundations said school districts are not hurting financially even from COVID-19.  However, local schools are pushing back saying due to budget cuts and the pandemic they need the money.  In addition, schools are claiming they need to invest in additional teachers and support staff to deal with the learning loss.

COVID-19 cases are continuing to rise throughout Pennsylvania. Health officials say yesterday, the state total saw an increase of more than 31-hundred new cases, pushing it over 970-thousand. About 65 new deaths related to the virus were added to the death toll, which is at 24-thousand-652. Lawrence County has 6,299 cases and 190 deaths. Mercer County has 8,354 cases and 244 fatalities.

State health officials say they are working to get members of underserved communities vaccinated from COVID-19. Officials say while they work to get everyone in Phase One-A appointments by the end of this month, they are trying to dispel rumors and mistrust in underserved communities through targeted campaigns. Their efforts include working with faith-based leaders to address these issues. One pastor from Pittsburgh says many Black citizens, including herself, decided against getting the vaccine as they did not trust the information coming from elected officials. However, they discovered fact from myth and are now telling other members of underserved communities to fear the virus, not the vaccine.

The Department of Health is fining several nursing homes for violating protocols. Officials say they investigated more than 280 complaints this month and 162 of these inspections were COVID-related. Several nursing homes are being fined as a result of those investigations totaling more than 31-thousand-dollars. Officials say they continue to work with facilities to ensure all building safety and patient care standards are maintained.

Governor Tom Wolf is welcoming a new Pennsylvania Victim Advocate this year.  Governor Wolf announced yesterday that he has nominated Suzanne Estrella to serve as the state’s Victim Advocate for the Office of Victim Advocate.  Estrella boasts more than 20 years of legal experience serving survivors of sexual and domestic violence.  She was most recently the legal director of the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape.