Archive for category Bethlehem

Karen Dolan violated ethics laws, should resign from Bethlehem City Council, grand jury finds

Posted by Reblog: Lehigh Valley News.

Dolan could face criminal or civil sanctions upon an additional review pending by the Pennsylvania State Ethics Commission, Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli announced.

UPDATE: Karen Dolan ‘not fit’ for elected office, grand jury finds in scathing report

Bethlehem City Councilwoman Karen Dolan should resign because she influenced city policy benefiting a nonprofit of which she was director, a Northampton County grand jury has found.

The 20-member grand jury further recommended the Pennsylvania State Ethics Commission further investigate Dolan’s actions to decide whether criminal or civil sanctions are appropriate, county District Attorney John Morganelli said Thursday in announcing the grand jury’s findings.

The grand jury’s report found Dolan had violated state ethics laws, a felony, Morganelli said.

Dolan could not immediately be reached for comment following an afternoon news conference held by the district attorney.

The grand jury was empaneled April 24 to begin investigating Dolan’s dual roles on city council and as executive director at the Gertrude B. Fox Environmental Center at Illick’s Mill in Bethlehem, a role she had resigned a week prior, Morganelli said.

Its focus was twofold: a $127,959 debt owed by the center to the city, which subleased the mill to the nonprofit, and whether Dolan’s actions violated state ethics laws.

Both while as volunteer director of the center and after she began collecting a $2,000 monthly salary, which she had negotiated, starting in October 2013, Dolan used her position on city council to influence city policy, the grand jury found.

The grand jury made seven recommendations to the city, including that Dolan voluntarily resign from council within 14 days. Other recommendations dealt with new disclosures by city council and administrative employees about any for- or nonprofit organizations in which they are involved, and advice that they refrain from city business that could impact these organizations.

The Fox Center should also begin repaying the debt to the city in small increments, the grand jury found.

Man accused of stealing car from Musikfest, driving drunk to girlfriend’s house facing trial

Posted by Reblog: Lehigh Valley News.

Zakkary Michael Zabower also ran away from a Pennsylvania State Police trooper who tried to arrest him, records say.

An Allentown man accused of stealing a car from Musikfest, driving it drunk to his girlfriend’s home and running away from a Pennsylvania State Police trooper is now facing trial on charges related to the incident.

Zakkary Michael Zabower, 21, of the 900 block of Wahneta Street, waived his preliminary hearing Wednesday morning on charges of drunken driving, theft, receiving stolen property and resisting arrest. District Judge Daniel C. Trexler forwarded all of the charges to Lehigh County Court.

Zabower remains free after posting 10 percent of $25,000 bail.

Zabower’s alleged crime spree was discovered when he drove to his girlfriend’s Lower Milford Township home about 4:05 a.m. Aug. 4 and climbed into her second-floor window. The girl’s father, William Carl Buchter, called police and told troopers Zabower showed up uninvited and may have driven there in a stolen car, according to court records.

Zabower, who was seated in the living room, told Trooper Angel Cruz he went to Musikfest in Bethlehem to find a car to drive to his girlfriend’s house.

Zabower told police he found an unlocked 2004 Nissan Maxima parked beneath the Hill-to-Hill Bridge with the keys inside and drove to Lower Milford, records say. The vehicle was reported stolen, police said.

Zabower, who had bloodshot eyes and smelled of alcohol, told the trooper he began drinking about 11 p.m. Sunday and took prescription medication two hours before that, records say.

Zabower failed field sobriety tests and a breath test showed he had alcohol in his system, records say. When Cruz tried to handcuff Zabower, he ran into the woods behind the house, records say.

Zabower was eventually caught after a chase and arrested, police said.

Sarah Cassi may be reached at Follow her on Twitter@SarahCassi. Find Lehigh County news on Facebook.

Strain of enterovirus inflicting child in Bethlehem unclear at this point, health official says

Posted by Reblog: Lehigh Valley News.

The Diocese of Allentown reports a student at St. Anne's School was diagnosed with the disease, but the Pennsylvania Department of Health has yet to label it as a confirmed case.

It’s too soon to say if the St. Anne’s School student diagnosed with the enterovirus has the strain of the virus that has been causing severe respiratory illness among children across the country, health officials said.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health has been tracking cases of the EV-D68 strain, health department spokesman Wes Culp said Tuesday morning.

But he cautioned that the cases the health department has labeled as confirmed cases are those that have been tested and verified by the Centers for Disease Control.

He said he did not immediately have any information on the case at St. Anne’s School in Bethlehem.

The Diocese of Allentown earlier Tuesday said a student at the school has been diagnosed with the virus, but did not specify the strain.

The St. Anne’s student is under a doctor’s care but has not been hospitalized and is recovering at home, said Matt Kerr, Diocese of Allentown spokesman.

The school is open, but is taking steps to prevent the spread of germs, Kerr said. Parents were notified of the students’ diagnosis via email or phone call, he said.

As of Tuesday morning, the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s website was reporting six confirmed cases of EV-D68 statewide. None of those cases are in Lehigh or Northampton counties.

Five are in the southeast region of the state; one is in the southwest region of the state, according to the website.

The virus has gotten heightened attention this year because it’s been linked to hundreds of severe illnesses. Beginning last month, hospitals in Kansas City, Missouri, and Chicago have received a flood of children with trouble breathing. It’s  being eyed as a factor in at least four deaths. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Attorneys in South Side Bethlehem gunbattle trials give wildly different explanations of events

Posted by Reblog: Lehigh Valley News.

Opening arguments occurred this morning.

Attorneys gave wildly differing explanations to the deadly 2012 South Bethlehem gunbattle, with defense attorneys blaming star witness Orialis Figueroa as the man who fired the fatal shot.

Attorneys Jack McMahon and Ed Andres said that neutral eyewitness testimony and physical evidence prove that Orialis Figueroa was the only man handling the gun used in the death of Yolanda Morales, 23, of Bethlehem.

Instead of arresting him, police trusted his version of events and charged Rene Figueroa, 34, of Allentown, and Javier Rivera-Alvarado, 40, the attorneys said. Orialis Figueroa should be sitting in that chair and they should be calling Rene Figueroa and Javier Rivera-Alvarado as witnesses, McMahon said.

First Assistant District Attorney Terry Houck painted Orialis Figueroa as a man caught up in a desperate attempt to save his life and the lives of his family and friends.

Houck said Orialis Figueroa left the Puerto Rican Beneficial Society in the early morning hours of Dec. 2, 2012. A man inside had threatened him, so he retrieved a baseball bat for protection from his van, Houck said.

On his way back to the club, Orialis Figueroa told police Rivera-Alvarado approached him from behind with a gun drawn, Houck said. Orialis Figueroa swung his bat but was shot by Rivera-Alvarado, he said.

Orialis Figueroa’s brother Angel Figueroa and Morales rushed to his aid but Rivera-Alvarado shot Morales in the arm, Houck said. Orialis Figueroa then swung the bat at Rivera-Alvarado’s head knocking him unconscious, he said.

At this point, prosecutors said Rene Figueroa approached with his gun drawn, grabbed Morales and shot her at point-blank range, Houck said. Rene Figueroa then fired at Angel Figueroa hitting him in the back and paralyzing him, Houck said.

Rene Figueroa fled back to the club but not before being shot multiple times by Orialis Figueroa with Rivera-Alvarado’s gun, Houck said.

Houck asked the jury to pay close attention to the witnesses’ testimony.

“I want you to be there, on their shoulders Dec. 2, 2012, to experience what they went through,” Houck. “I want you to live through what they lived through.”

Rivera-Alvarado is charged with three counts of attempted homicide and 17 other charges.

Figueroa’s bullet killed Morales, police said, and he could face the death penalty if convicted of her murder.

While in Northampton County Prison, Rene Figueroa tried to hire fellow inmate James Martin to kill Orialis Figueroa and his girlfriend, Shajuan Hungerford, police said. The plan failed when he could not afford Martin’s bail, so Rene Figueroa and his fiance, Sonia Panell, plotted to hire a hit man to kill witnesses, including Angel Figueroa and Hungerford, authorities said. The assassin, however, was actually an FBI informant who recorded his conversations with Panell, according to court documents.

Rene Figueroa is not related to any of his alleged victims, authorities said. He is not on trial this week on charges he solicited murder-for-hire.

Attorneys are expected to call their first witness this afternoon.

First case of enterovirus reported in Lehigh Valley

Posted by Reblog: Lehigh Valley News.

The student is under a doctor's care but not hospitalized, according to the Diocese of Allentown.

A student at St. Anne’s School in Bethlehem has been diagnosed with the enterovirus, marking the first diagnosis in the Lehigh Valley region.

The virus has been causing severe respiratory illness across the country, sickening more than 500 people in 43 states and Washington, D.C. — almost all of them children. It has been linked with the deaths of a handful of children.

The virus is not new; most people that catch it experience only a runny nose and low-grade fever. It was first identified in 1962 and has caused clusters of illness before.

The St. Anne’s student is under a doctor’s care but has not been hospitalized, said Matt Kerr, Diocese of Allentown spokesman.

“The student’s recovering at home,” Kerr said.

The school remains open and is following U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, Kerr said. Families were notified via e-mail or a phone call per their preferences, he said.

“Teachers have been instructed to disinfect student desks throughout the day,” according to the e-mail. “Cleaning priority has been given by our custodial staff for all surfaces touched by students.”

The school is encouraging students to bring water bottles to school to avoid drinking from the water fountains. St. Anne’s will provide disposable cups for the water fountains that will be available in classrooms.

Students will be urged by teachers to disinfect their hands at the classroom stations, the e-mail states.

“Please encourage your child to use proper hygiene,” according to the e-mail. “If your child is exhibiting respiratory symptoms, please use good judgement in sending them to school.”

RELATED:Avoiding enterovirus: Tips offered after cases surface in Pa.

The CDC recommends making sure children and their parents are up to date on all vaccinations, including those against respiratory diseases like flu, measles and whooping cough. The other advice has to do with basic hygiene — wash hands frequently with soap and water, stay away from sick people and disinfect objects that a sick person has touched. See a doctor right away if your child starts having severe problems breathing, develops difficulty moving their limbs or walking or standing.

The virus has gotten heightened attention this year because it’s been linked to hundreds of severe illnesses. Beginning last month, hospitals in Kansas City, Missouri, and Chicago have received a flood of children with trouble breathing.

Some children are especially vulnerable to infection because of pre-existing conditions, though the medical examiner said that was not the case in the New Jersey boy’s death. Most of the severe cases nationwide have involved children because they generally have not been exposed to enteroviruses as often as adults have and are less likely to have developed immunity to them, officials say.

It is being eyed as a possible factor in at least four deaths, and muscle weakness and paralysis in children in Colorado and perhaps other states.

The Mercer County, New Jersey, medical examiner has found four-year-old Eli Waller’s death was a result of the virus.

Health officials have not found a recent mutation or other change in the virus that would cause it to become more dangerous. Clusters have been reported in other countries, including some Asia nations and the Netherlands, in recent years.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Sara K. Satullo may be reached at Follow her on Twitter @sarasatullo. Find Bethlehem news on Facebook.

Bethlehem massage business cuts ties with masseur accused of sexually assaulting client

Posted by Reblog: Lehigh Valley News.

'It is important for us to let our clients and the community at-large know that we do not condone this type of behavior,' Kneading Hands owner Tom Florio said in a release.

Bethlehem PoliceView full sizeThe owner of a Lehigh Valley massage business said he cut ties with a massage therapist accused of sexually assaulting a client at a Bethlehem location. 

The owner of a Lehigh Valley massage business said he immediately ended a contract with a massage therapist after learning the man is accused of sexually assaulting a client at a Bethlehem location.

Christopher Atanazy, 37, of the 100 block of North 13th Street in Allentown, is charged with indecent assault and recklessly endangering another person related to a Sept. 27 incident where a male client says Atanazy sexually assaulted him during an appointment.

Kneading Hands Massage owner Tom Florio said via email he was made aware of the allegations Friday and within hours terminated the business’ contract with Atanazy. Atanazy is no longer seeing clients at Kneading Hands, which has locations in Bethlehem and Emmaus, Florio said in an email release.

“It is important for us to let our clients and the community at-large know that we do not condone this type of behavior,” Florio said in the release.”We will continue to cooperate with the authorities in any way we can as we move forward and continue to be the upstanding small business you have helped us become.”

Florio also said that Atanazy vehemently denied being HIV-positive. In court records, Bethlehem police said Atanazy admitted in an interview with officers to being HIV positive.

Atanazy is free on $50,000 bail. A phone number for him could not be found. Atanazy’s court records indicate he has a public defender, but the office said he has not applied for one since being released from prison.

The accuser went to the 227 W. Broad St. location for a massage on Sept. 27, records say, and requested the same massage he received from a female employee a month earlier, records say.

The accuser told police Atanazy massaged his legs, then his genitals, records say.

The accuser stated “he was in shock, scared, and had no idea what to do,” records say.

When Atanazy began performing a sex act, the accuser told him not to do that; he later told police he didn’t want the incident to happen and never gave permission for Atanazy to touch his genitals or perform the sex act, records say.

Sarah Cassi may be reached at Follow her on Twitter@SarahCassi. Find on Facebook.

Bethlehem mayor, Hotel Bethlehem owner voice support for $20 parking tickets

Posted by Reblog: Lehigh Valley News.

The Bethlehem Parking Authority has proposed raising Bethlehem's parking tickets from $10 to $25, but some say that's too steep.

Bethlehem Mayor Bob Donchez on Tuesday said he favors increasing Bethlehem’s parking tickets from $10 to $20.

Donchez has previously said he didn’t support increasing tickets to $25 as the Bethlehem Parking Authority has proposed but didn’t say what he would support. He suggested the $20 amount at Tuesday’s city council meeting.

“I thought the $25 was too much – I favor $20,” he said.

The Hotel Bethlehem’s managing partner, Bruce Haines, who attended the meeting, said he and some other Center City merchants also favor $20 instead of $25. Bethlehem’s tickets shouldn’t be so much higher than other cities, he said.

Allentown’s parking tickets are $10, and Easton’s are $15.

But overall, Haines said he and other Center City merchants favor higher tickets as a way to stop some residents and employees from parking at meters all day.

“The headline for parking fees should be, ‘Bethlehem makes more parking spots available for shoppers,’” Haines said.

Bethlehem Parking Authority board member Lynn Collins Cunningham also was at Tuesday’s council meeting and said the authority would “be happy with an increase.” The $25 rate was the authority executive director’s suggestion, she said.

The authority is working to get input from both the Downtown Bethlehem Association’s Historic District and South Side committees, Cunningham said. The Historic District Committee largely supported the increase; the South Side Committee plans to meet on it Wednesday morning, she said.

Bethlehem City Council will have the final decision on any increased parking ticket fee. Members didn’t tip their hands to what they would support at Tuesday’s meeting.

Also Tuesday, council voted to take out $27.9 million in new debt and refinance $24.8 million of existing debt to provide for the $3.4 million in savings in next year’s budget. Bethlehem is facing a $5.9 million budget gap for 2015.

Council is scheduled to take a final vote on the debt plan Oct. 21.

Bethlehem woman shot Airsoft gun at eight people, police say

Posted by Reblog: Lehigh Valley News.

Jennifer Ordaz, of the 800 block of Pembroke Road in the city, was in her car on her street when she shot at the people, striking two of them, police said.

A 34-year-old Bethlehem woman is accused of shooting at eight people with an Airsoft gun Tuesday night.

Jennifer Ordaz, of the 800 block of Pembroke Road in the city, was in her car on her street when she shot at the people, striking two of them, police said.

Police did not specify if the two people shot were injured or why Ordaz allegedly shot at them.

A 14-year-old girl, whom police did not name, was charged with tampering with evidence.

Ordaz was arraigned Tuesday on charges of simple assault, terroristic threats, reckless endangerment, disorderly conduct, corruption of minors and harassment, police said.

Sara K. Satullo may be reached at Follow her on Twitter @sarasatullo. Find Bethlehem news on Facebook.

National Museum of Industrial History announces new construction phase, eyes 2016 opening

Posted by Reblog: Lehigh Valley News.

The nonprofit museum said it submitted to Bethlehem officials an application for a building permit, and its construction manager will begin seeking bids.

Stung by a Northampton County grand jury probe, the National Museum of Industrial History is bounding back and announced plans Tuesday for a new phase of construction en route to a planned 2016 opening.

The nonprofit museum said it submitted to Bethlehem officials an application for a building permit. Alvin H. Butz Inc., its construction manager on the museum eyed for the city’s South Side, will begin seeking bids for this, the third, phase of construction on the former Bethlehem Steel Corp. electrical shop the museum owns on East Second Street.

This phase will encompass the museum’s concrete slab and underground utilities, the museum announced. Once it is completed, the museum plans to move on to interior construction and exhibit installation in preparation for opening its doors to the public during the first half of 2016.

“We are able to move forward with construction now that finances are in place thanks in great measure to an anonymous $3 million donation,” museum board Chairman and President L. Charles Marcon said in a statement. “The realization of our vision to preserve and tell the story of America’s industrial achievements is within reach and something we are very much looking forward to.”

A hearing was scheduled for Friday in the museum’s efforts to obtain another $5.5 million toward construction. The hearing at the Northampton County Courthouse is now on for December. The money is in an indemnification trust set up by Bethlehem Steel in 1986 to protect a group of Steel employees from future legal liabilities, according to a letter from an attorney for the museum. The letter was sent to the members of the trust asking them whether they would agree to give the money to the museum. It is now earmarked for Lehigh University, which has said it planned to use the money for scholarships for local students.

The museum was the focus of a critical Northampton County grand jury in January that found it had spent $17 million over 17 years without opening the facility. The Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office then opened an investigation into whether the nonprofit should be dissolved. The office was not immediately available Tuesday afternoon to comment on the status of that probe.

According to Tuesday’s announcement from the museum, architectural plans are complete and have been supplied as part of the permit application process; David Scott Parker Architects LLC, of Southport, Connecticut, worked with area engineering firms to develop the design and construction documents. Parker has worked on several projects in Historic Bethlehem, including Burnside Plantation, the Moravian Smithy and Moravian Bell House, according to the announcement.

Butz will invite selected pre-qualified bidders in accordance with the Commonwealth’s Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program requirements. Once the bids are received, the museum board will select the winning bidders. Bids are expected to be received within the next two weeks, and the building permit is expected to be issued upon review by the city. Construction would commence shortly after the winning contract has been awarded and should take about three months, according to the museum.

Previous construction phases included a new roof and exterior restoration that installed more than 200 windows. The combined value of those two phases was about $2.5 million, the museum said. The fourth phase of construction would complete interior construction of the building, and the fifth and final phase includes the installation of exhibits and an entrance plaza.

Bethlehem murder trial ready to begin after jury selection completed

Posted by Reblog: Lehigh Valley News.

Rene Figueroa and Javier Rivera-Alvarado are charged with sparking a chaotic firefight that killed a woman and wounded five others, including themselves.

After two delays, attorneys are scheduled to make their opening arguments in the South Side Bethlehem gun battle trials Wednesday morning.

Attorneys finished selecting the jury Tuesday afternoon to weigh the evidence against Rene Figueroa, 34, and Javier Rivera-Alvarado, 40, both of Allentown. Police said the two men opened fire on a group of people Dec. 2, 2012 outside the Puerto Rican Beneficial Society. Yolanda Morales was fatally shot in the heart in the exchange, and three others were wounded, according to police. Figueroa and Rivera-Alvarado were also wounded in the deadly exchange.

Figueroa is charged with 22 counts, including the criminal homicide. He could face the death penalty if convicted in her murder. Rivera-Alvarado faces 20 charges, including three counts of attempted homicide.

The case was set to start Monday, but jury selection took longer than anticipated. Court officials had to scramble to call more residents in Tuesday morning after the pool of 164 people produced only 11 jurors.

Authorities said Rivera-Alvarado and Orialis Figueroa got into a heated argument inside the club because Rivera-Alvarado didn’t like the way Orialis Figueroa was eying Rene Figueroa’s diamond and gold jewelry. Orialis Figueroa retrieved a baseball bat from his car so he could escort his family out, but Rivera-Alvarado approached him from behind with a gun, police said.

Orialis Figueroa swung his bat at Rivera-Alvarado but missed and was shot in both legs, police said. At that point, Morales and Angel Figueroa came to his aid, but Rivera-Alvarado shot Morales in the arm, police said. Their distraction gave Orialis Figueroa enough time to bash Rivera-Alvarado over the head with the bat, knocking him unconscious.

Rene Figueroa exited the club and opened fire at this point, killing Morales and wounding Angel Figueroa, police said. Using Rivera-Alvarado’s gun, Orialis Figueroa shot back, and the two circled one another exchanging gun fire, police said. Both men eventually collapsed from multiple gun shot wounds nearby, police said.

Local and federal authorities said Rene Figueroa and his fiance, Sonia Panell, later tried to hire a hitman to execute witnesses to the shooting. The man she approached was actually an FBI informant who recorded their conversations, according to court documents. She has pleaded guilty in federal court but is trying to withdraw her plea.

Figueroa is not on trial this week for soliciting murder-for-hire, but prosecutors plan on introducing his scheme as evidence of his guilt.