TRI COUNTY REPORT FOR DECEMBER 6TH, 2021

A former a Mercer County woman was sentenced in federal court in Pittsburgh to nine years in prison and five years of supervised release after being convicted of Distributing Sexual Images of a Minor. 29 year old Mary Jacobs, formerly of Farrell pled guilty in May of this year to distributing approximately 11 still images depicting the sexual exploitation of a minor over a two day period in February 2017. The victim was not yet 12-years-old at the time of the incident.

Officials are doubling a reward for information about the disappearance and death of Heidi Morningstar in 1976.  On Sunday, the reward was set at ten-thousand-dollars until December 12th for information leading to a conviction in the case.  On September 17th, 1976, Morningstar disappeared in the middle of the night from her Ambridge home on Church Street, and her body was found less than 24-hours later on Shields Lane in Edgeworth.  Anyone with information is asked to contact Pennsylvania Crime Stoppers or Crime Solvers of Beaver County.

The Ohio State Highway Patrol is investigating a fatal crash after troopers say a vehicle hit a pedestrian and then left the scene. WKBN-TV is reporting the crash happened just before 3 a.m. Saturday on route 62 in Hubbard Township.  According to a news release, a trooper on patrol found the victim, identified as 57-year-old Vernon Hawkins, of Sharon, in the median of the roadway.  Police say they spotted the vehicle that had been involved trying to drive around the area.  Troopers pulled over that vehicle, driven by 28-year-old David Krok, of Brookfield. It’s not known what charges the driver will be facing.

State police are reporting the accidental death of a man who suffered a fatal fall while stopped to help a stranded motorist.  Troopers say that 41-year-old Timothy Baclit had stopped to help another driver early Sunday morning in Beaver County.  Responding officers found that Baclit had fallen from the I-376 West overpass at Bryson Road.  He was pronounced dead at the scene.

The Philadelphia Department of Public Health has announced that the first case of the omicron [[ AHM-ih-cron ]] coronavirus variant has reached Pennsylvania. A man in his 30s from Philadelphia has tested positive for the variant, according to a report on Friday. A Pennsylvania Department of Health spokesman says the variant coming to the commonwealth was expected, based on how many other positive cases have been reported in the Northeast. As of Friday, Pennsylvania is one of sixteen states with known omicron cases. It’s unclear how effective the COVID vaccines are against the variant.

As winter approaches, eligible Pennsylvanians are still being encouraged to apply for utility assistance through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. So far this year the Department of Human Services has received nearly 243-thousand LIHEAP applications and provided benefits to more than 164-thousand applicants. Additional dollars from the American Rescue Plan have helped to extend the LIHEAP season and the amount of funding available to help people with their heating bills. LIHEAP provides cash grants from 500 to 15-hundred dollars.

A spokesperson for the Tree of Life synagogue in Squirrel Hill says they expect to reveal more details of its rebuild today.  Officials on Friday announced that Tree of Life will be receiving a state grant of nearly 6.6-million dollars to help with those efforts.  The funds come from Pennsylvania’s Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program.  The synagogue was the site of a deadly shooting rampage in 2018.

The clean-up continues in Westmoreland county today where a nearly 75-year-old church was destroyed over the weekend by fire.  Crews responded to the St. Vladimir Ukrainian Catholic Church Saturday night but could not prevent the collapse of the roof and the total devastation of the church that first welcomed parishioners on Thanksgiving Day 1947.  No injuries were reported and the cause of the fire is unknown today.