Pottstown native missing in Pittsburgh

Posted by 69News:.

A Montgomery County native has been reported missing in Pittsburgh.

According to the Pittsburgh Public Safety website, 22 year-old Paul Kochu, from Pottstown, was reported missing Wednesday.

His father, George Kochu, a Pottstown resident, says Paul was last seen at about 1 a.m. Tuesday by two of his three roommates.

The other roommate was at work.

He and those two roommates had gone to a bar down the street to watch a football game.

Paul left early, at around midnight, but called his roommates soon after because he had cut his hand on a broken water glass and needed help.

They came home, helped him with the cut and then went to get food because they were all hungry.

When they came home, Paul was not there.

His cell phone, wallet and keys were not there either, but his car was still parked outside.

Paul’s father says his credit and debit cards have not been used.

Paul moved to Pittsburgh to attend Duquesne University, which he graduated from in May. 

His father has been in Pittsburgh searching for his son since he did not show up for work at Allegheny General Hospital, where he is a nurse, on Thursday. 

His father says being a nurse was Paul’s dream come true.

His father also says there was a large search for Paul Saturday in South Side Pittsburgh.

More than 80 classmates, coworkers, friends and relatives searched the 40 blocks long by 10 blocks deep neighborhood. 

The volunteers handing out flyers at homeless shelters and soup kitchens, and posted them to telephone poles.

Paul’s father says there have been no tips or updates. 

According to the Pittsburgh Department of Public Safety, a $7,500 reward has been offered for any information that could lead to finding Paul. 

Anyone with information should call the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police Missing Persons Office at 412-323-7141. 

West Reading Police seek burglary suspects seen in surveillance video

Posted by 69News:.

Police in West Reading hope newly released surveillance video will lead them to whoever stole $70,000 worth of merchandise from a business.

Police say they are looking for these two persons of interest following a burglary that happened at the Paisley Moon store on Penn Avenue back in late-November.

The store manager says the two people being sought by police visited the store and asked a lot of questions about high-end merchandise.

That night the store was broken into and numerous pieces of expensive collectible merchandise were taken.

“They cleared us out pretty much.. Lots of art, our stuff that we had for Christmas that people were already interested in, if they didn’t already put money down on it, is gone. It kind of destroyed our Christmas,” said Alex Gauger, the store manager.

Anyone with information is asked to call West Reading Police or Crime Alert Berks County at 877-373-9913.

Crews battle house fire in Muhlenberg Township

Posted by 69News:.

A house caught fire Sunday afternoon in Muhlenberg Township.

It happened just before 2 p.m. in the 1100 block of Bernard Drive. 

No injuries have been reported.

Santa’s Coming to Courthouse Rally on Monday

Posted by Lehigh Valley Ramblings.

LV Labor Council Prez Gregg Potter reports that there will be an “important rally” on Monday morning, 8:30 am, at the Easton courthouse. It’s aimed at NorCo Executive John Brown, depicted by Potter as a Scrooge. But that depiction is inaccurate. At least Scrooge paid his workers.

Executive John Brown, when he first took office, said he was “here to serve.” He tried cozying up to employees, even attending a few union meetings. But he has attempted to balance the County books on their collective backs. Not only has he reduced health care benefits, but he wants to reduce other benefits like vacation and sick time as well. There were no raises for anyone. He has reduced staffing to dangerous levels, especially at the jail. Employees have left in drove, and morale is at an all-time low.

While reducing services to the public, Brown has tried to engage in government by consultant. He tried hiring a $700k business consultant, and did get away with hiring a cost control consultant without bothering to follow the Administrative Code. He is also forcing taxpayers to pay for his spinmeister. She prepared “All Hail Dear Leader” newsletters while he ignored the press and Council. Distant and nontransparent, he even posted armed guards outside his office before a news conference.

He is indisputably the worst Executive Northampton County has ever seen. Instread of standing up to him, Republicans on Council have more or less been the third wheel on the bicycle he is riding over a cliff.

For these and several other reasons, the one and only Santa Claus will be there. Brown, who has apparently been designated a naughty boy, is getting a bag of coal. I hope he drops off a piece of that coal with Easton Mayor Sal Panto, who like Brown, is balancing his budget on the backs of those who can’t afford it, whole embracing developers like Mark Mulligan. .

Members of AFSCME will also make a contribution to five different non-profits who provide food and basic needs to the residents of Easton and Northampton County.

Week in Review

Posted by 69News:.

Take a look back at the stories making headlines this week in the 69 News Week In Review.

Monday police in Montgomery County said 35-year-old Bradley Stone went on a shooting spree., killing his ex-wife and several members of her family.

Neighbors said Stone was having custody issues with his ex-wife.

A massive manhunt ended Tuesday when Stone was found dead in a wooded area behind his Pennsburg home.

His cause of death is pending toxicology results. Several pill bottles were found on Stone.

Tuesday two people were charged for their alleged involvement in the death of a Lancaster County teacher.

Police said 25-year-old Thomas Moore and 16-year-old Marcus Rutter broke into Nicole Mathewson’s home in Lancaster with the intent to steal items, but things went awry when they found her home.

Police said Rutter had told them that it was Moore who assaulted and killed the 32-year-old teacher.

Both Rutter and Moore are in jail without bail on charges including homicide, burglary and robbery.

Wednesday, a longtime volunteer with the Wanamaker, Kempton and Southern Railroad in Berks County pleaded guilty to stealing from the nonprofit.

James Krause will spend up to 23 months in jail and has been ordered to pay restitution.    

Authorities said Krause stole nearly $100,000 from the railroad after being named treasurer in 2013.

The railroad offers scenic rides and is entirely run by volunteers.

Thursday a trial was ordered for three people charged with a little boy’s brutal death in Chester County.

Authorities said 30-year-old Jillian Tait and 23-year-old Gary Fellenbaum brutally tortured Tait’s own son, 3 year old Scotty McMillan, to death.

Both suspects are charged with homicide. and prosecutors said they will seek the death penalty.

Fellenbaum’s estranged wife, Amber Fellenbaum, is also facing charges, including child endangerment.

Friday, police in the Poconos raided three businesses during an undercover investigation into alleged prostitution.

Pocono Township police executed search warrants at Tokyo Luxury Spa, American Dolls and Affinity Massage.

27 year-old killed in Northampton County collision, 4 others injured

Posted by 69News:.

A 27 year-old man was killed Sunday morning in a two-car collision in Lehigh Township. 

According to Zach Lysek, the Northampton County coroner, Zachary Wieder was the driver of one of the involved vehicles in the accident that happened at 2:30 a.m. at the intersection of Routes 248 and 145. 

Wieder, of Washington Township, was pronounced dead at the scene. 

Lysek ruled his manner of death to be accidental, and the cause was multiple blunt force trauma. 

Two other people were in his vehicle and were taken to the hospital. 

Two people were in the car Wieder collided with. Those two were taken to the hospital as well. 

Lehigh Township police are continuing to investigate. 

ArtsQuest President Jeff Parks says he’s leaving with an improved reputation, redevelopment foundation for Bethlehem

Posted by Reblog: Lehigh Valley News.

Jeff Parks is retiring from ArtsQuest at year's end, but for Parks, it's never been about the arts — it's always been about turning Bethlehem around following the decline of Bethlehem Steel.

For more than 31 years, Jeff Parks has led a Bethlehem arts organization.

But for Parks, Musikfest and its parent company ArtsQuest has never been about the arts – it’s always been about turning Bethlehem around following the decline of Bethlehem Steel.

As Parks retires from the organization he founded in 1983, he said he’s helped plant the seeds for Bethlehem’s continued resurgence.

“I think what we’ve accomplished in 30 years is lay the groundwork for the continued development of the city,” said Parks, 66, who retires Dec. 31 as ArtsQuest’s president. “There’s been an economic impact of all the festivals and the development, but I think the most important impact has been the improved image of the city, which is sometimes measured by the envy of our neighboring cities.”

Parks launched Musikfest in 1984 at a time he says Center City was almost a ghost town. ArtsQuest’s Banana Factory opened on the South Side in 1998 at time when Parks says many were still afraid to venture into the neighborhood.

In 2011, ArtsQuest opened its SteelStacks arts complex with the former Steel blast furnaces as its centerpiece. Now, Parks often sees photographs of the furnaces displayed in local office complexes with pride.

“I think the community is re-imaging itself,” Parks said. “Is Bethlehem going to be an arts city? That’s going to be part of what Bethlehem is – Bethlehem is going to be a city of innovation, and I see that everywhere – in the Ben Franklin projects, in Glemser Technologies.”

Former Mayor John Callahan also gives ArtsQuest credit as a major catalyst for improving the perception of Bethlehem and the Lehigh Valley as a whole. Musikfest, with its 1 million annual visitors, launched the change, and it’s only grown with the opening of SteelStacks, which Callahan called a year-round regional attraction.

“I almost view Musikfest and ArtsQuest as sort of the marketing arm of the city now for 365 days a year,” said Callahan, who was mayor from 2004-2013.

With the opening of SteelStacks, ArtsQuest became much more than just Musikfest and Christkindlmarkt. The organization now hosts more than 10 festivals a year, plus the popular free outdoor Levitt Pavilion concert series and daily movies and music at the indoor ArtsQuest Center.

Parks says ArtsQuest couldn’t have so much programming without the help of many others. They include the organization’s many volunteers and sponsors, especially Sands BethWorks for donating the land for SteelStacks and the city for paying for much of the complex’s construction, he said.

“Social capital is very high in this community,” he said. “The community deserves as much credit with what’s happened as Jeff Parks and ArtsQuest.”

ArtsQuest’s impact on Bethlehem’s redevelopment can be seen just steps from the SteelStacks complex on East Third Street. The South Bethlehem thoroughfare is currently the hotbed of new construction the city, with a new arts high school and distillery under construction and plans for high-end apartments and restaurants underway.

ArtsQuest’s started South Bethlehem’s turnaround with the opening of the Banana Factory and has continued it with the creation of SteelStacks, Bethlehem Mayor Bob Donchez said.

“There’s no question the development we’re hopefully going to see on Third Street is really because of SteelStacks,” Donchez said. “Jeff has been a visionary for Bethlehem.”

ArtsQuest milestones under founder Jeff Parks

1984: Musikfest debuts

1993: Christkindlmarkt starts

1998: Banana Factory opens

2011: SteelStacks arts complex completed

Lynn Olanoff can be reached at lolanoff@express-times.com. Follow her on Twitter @LynnOlanoff. Find Bethlehem news on Facebook.

Police officer shot, killed in Florida, report says

Posted by Reblog: Lehigh Valley News.

The shooting occurred about 3 a.m. on Grand Boulevard in Tarpon Springs, near the city's Sponge Docks, according to the report.

A Tarpon Springs police officer was shot and killed overnight Sunday, the Tampa Bay Times reports.

The shooting occurred about 3 a.m. on Grand Boulevard in Tarpon Springs, near the city’s Sponge Docks, according to the report.

A suspect is in custody, the report states.

The shooting comes one day after two New York City Police officers were shot and killed by a man police say was angered over the police-involved deaths of Eric Garner in New York and Michael Brown in Missouri.

Man, 19, dies in Poconos crash, report says

Posted by Reblog: Lehigh Valley News.

A 19-year-old man from A Pocono Country Place died in an early Saturday morning crash on Route 196 in Coolbaugh Township, according to a report by the Pocono Record.

A 19-year-old man died in an early Saturday morning crash along Route 196 in Coolbaugh Township, according to a report by the Pocono Record.

Alek Lugo, 19, was pronounced dead at the scene by Monroe County Coroner Bob Allen, the report stated.

Also reported by the Pocono Record:

Allen said that Lugo, who was not wearing a seat belt, was ejected from his car, a 2002 Dodge Neon, after it struck several trees when it left the road, apparently going at a high rate of speed.

Dominique Camacho, a 22-year-old man who was driving the car was removed from the vehicle by Coolbaugh Township Fire Department, who had to cut the car apart. He was taken to Community Medical Center in Wilkes-Barre by helicopter.

An autopsy Monday is planned on Lugo-Camacho.

Pamela Sroka-Holzmann may be reached at pholzmann@express-times.com. Follow her on Twitter @pamholzmann. Find Nazareth area news on Facebook.

Man with deep family roots in Warren County plans 100th anniversary of last big reunion

Posted by Reblog: Lehigh Valley News.

William Van Natta said the last such East Coast gathering was in New York in 1915. The Somerset County man started tracing his family history on his father's side a few years ago.

A New Jersey man whose 360 years of family history takes him all over Warren and Hunterdon counties wants to reunite dozens of Jacobus Jansen Van Etten’s descendants in Harmony Township early next year.

William Van Natta said the last such large East Coast gathering was in New York in 1915. The Somerset County man started tracing his family history on his father’s side a few years ago and researched all the way back to Van Etten. The Dutchman

NewYorkTimesblurb.jpgA social announcement in the August 20, 1915 New York Times gives some details about the last large East Coast family reunion 100 years ago, William Van Natta said. Courtesy photo

settled in the New Netherland in 1654.

Van Natta used the computers in Trenton to search newspapers about a month ago. He learned of an earlier family reunion in Ohio in 1906 and shared the article on Facebook. It reminded a descendant of the Ohio Vanattas of a pin her grandfather had, and she connected it to the reunion more than 100 years ago.

He said he plans to reproduce a version of the pin for an official family reunion in April at the Harmony Township recreation center behind the municipal building, not far from the Hoff-Vannatta Farmstead that shares his name, he said.

Slow times in the remodeling industry have allowed the Branchburg contractor time for his genealogical pursuits. 

“Since I knew none of it when I was a kid, I’m making up for lost time now,” Van Natta said of his father’s history. “My mother taught us to put puzzles together. I don’t put puzzles together anymore, but this is my puzzle. Just finding family information.”

Richard Dalrymple Jr., of Harmony, started learning about the Van Natta family in his efforts to write 30 histories of the oldest families in the township. His connection is that his grandfather’s aunt married George Vannatta, he said.

Prominent members of the family include former Belvidere mayor Marshall Vannatta, Washington mayor William Cline Vannatta and New Jersey Gov. George Werts. Werts served one term from 1893 to 1896. 

“It just goes to show that the Vannattas have had a prominent place in New Jersey history both locally and at the state level,” Dalrymple said.

William Van Natta’s parents married 30 years after his father had his first family in the 1920s, he said. He could only find so much information on the Internet. That’s why living in the “heartland” of his heritage pays off. The Warren County Historical & Genealogical Society and Hunterdon County Historical  Society have aided him in his efforts.

The Warren County society’s museum and library on Mansfield Street in Belvidere are open to the public from 2-4 p.m. Sundays or by appointment. The Victorian museum decorated for Christmas will open an hour earlier Sunday Dec. 21, Secretary Dorothy Neith said.  

The library holds records for many of the older cemeteries in the area, resources from neighboring counties and family trees, she said. Van Natta is helping the society record some oral histories of people who grew up in Warren County and remember events like the Great Flood of 1955, she said.

Van Natta has a way of connecting with people. When he met a distant relative who’s a descendant of former New Jersey Gov. John Reading at the Hunterdon County Historical Society in Flemington, a couple who volunteers there overheard him talking. They discovered they, too, were related.  

“That’s the thing about genealogy. You’re always finding out more and more about your family tree,” he said. “We just find more and more of a connection to each other.”