Monday, May 13, 2013

Cops: Feasterville mom, son face charges in Mother's Day candlestick attack

Posted: Monday, May 13, 2013
A Feasterville woman and her 18-year-old son spent Mother’s Day at Bucks County prison after police say he beat a man unconscious with a metal candlestick while she helped hold the man down.
Lower Southampton police responded to a report of a domestic in progress after a neighbor reported hearing a man and woman yelling and sounds like things were being broken inside a home in the 1000 block of Buck Road around 3 a.m. Sunday.
When police arrived, the officer saw a man and woman yelling inside the home. The officer also received additional information that someone in the home wanted her 18-year-old son involuntarily committed to a mental health unit, but then hung up, according to a probable cause affidavit.
The officer saw a woman — identified as 34-year-old Marie Becerra — walk to the front door where she yelled “911 is a joke” then slammed the door, police said.
As the officer approached the home, he saw a man stagger outside holding his bloodied face. 
Marie Becerra and William Moreno
That man claimed that William Moreno, Becerra's son, punched him to the point where he lost consciousness while two women — Becerra and a juvenile girlfriend of Moreno — held him down, according to police. Moreno punched him in the face, then grabbed a metal candlestick and hit him in the back of his head and face until he passed out, court documents said. The man also believed Moreno might still be inside.
The police entered the house where they found numerous pieces of broken furniture, glass and household decorations. An officer went upstairs where he heard yelling. He saw Becerra walk out of a bedroom, slam the door shut and tell the person inside not to open it, according to police.
Becerra then grabbed the officer and started pushing him out of the doorway, police said. She was told to step aside, but refused and continued pushing the officer, police said. The officer pushed the woman to the ground then continued in the bedroom where he found the girl.
Becerra followed behind the officer, and, according to police, pushed him again, at which time she was arrested.
Moreno was not in the home, police said, but about a half hour later he appeared from a side street running “at full speed” toward the home. Police say Moreno ran past emergency services and police and entered the home, screaming and threatening to kill the man who had been injured. Moreno then attacked the man a second time, police said, adding officers had to subdue the suspect using a stun gun.
Mother and son were arraigned Sunday before Falls District Judge Jan Vislosky. Becerra was held on aggravated assault and disorderly conduct charges and Moreno on two counts each of aggravated and simple assault, disorderly conduct and related charges. They were sent to Bucks County prison in lieu of 10 percent of $250,000 bail each.

Northampton cop cleared for fatally shooting man who killed ex-wife in Lower South

Posted: Sunday, May 12, 2013
Suspect Kenneth Philipp's Lincoln Town Car
When the paths of Timothy Friel and Kenneth Philipp crossed at rush hour near a Northampton shopping center last month, it hadn’t been their first meeting.
Five months earlier, Friel, a Northampton patrolman, had filed charges of terroristic threats and stalking against Philipp after responding to Philipp’s former home for a violation of a protection from abuse order his ex-wife Violeta Isackov had obtained.

This second meeting had a more tragic ending, with Philipp shot dead in his Lincoln Town Car while attempting to reload the Winchester 12-gauge pump-action shotgun that he used to fire three rounds at Friel, less than an hour after he murdered Isackov.
On Friday, Bucks County District Attorney David Heckler announced that a county detective investigation determined that Friel was justified in the shooting death of the 50-year-old Feasterville man.
“It is plain to see under these circumstances, Officer Friel’s actions were justified,” Heckler said at a news conference at Lower Southampton Police headquarters. “I would suggest the officer should be commended.”
Violeta Isackov

The district attorney also revealed new details about the April 18 murder of Northampton’s Isackov, including that on the day of her death, local law enforcement were following up on a tip that Philipp might have tried to hire a hit man to kill his ex.
An unidentified citizen had reported to Lower Southampton police that Philipp had spoken about approaching someone named “Smith” — whom Heckler described as a “shadowy figure” — to murder Isackov. Police and county detectives investigating the alleged plot spoke with “Smith” on the phone but did not meet face-to-face with him, Heckler said.
Heckler also said that the Winchester shotgun Philipp used in the shootings was purchased in 1981 at a Feasterville retail store by Philipp’s father. The shotgun was subsequently passed down through the family, though authorities have been unable to determine where it was located in the days before the murder.
“Everyone said they didn’t know where it was,” Heckler said. “Obviously it was accessible to him.”
Individuals with active protection from abuse orders such as Philipp are court-ordered to surrender firearms. Northampton police said they had confiscated two shotguns and a handgun from Philipp’s former home after a Bucks County judge granted Isackov a protection order in May 2011, according to court records. The couple’s divorce was finalized in October.
Isackov knew that Philipp had been released from Bucks County prison April 2, after posting 10 percent of his $100,000 bail on a civil contempt charge of violating the PFA in November and for a probation violation.
He had been on probation for a 2010 conviction of resisting arrest after a domestic incident with Isackov. Philipp had been scheduled to appear before a Bucks County judge on April 29 for the violation.
The 45-year-old mother of two and salon owner was shot and killed after pulling into the parking lot of the Feasterville dress shop where she was scheduled for a fitting on her wedding dress. She was set to be married April 28.
As Isackov entered the parking lot, police say, Philipp rammed the rear of her Nissan, then walked to the driver’s side window and pumped three shotgun shells into her chest. Isackov’s 16-year-old daughter, who was in the front passenger seat of the car, was slightly injured by birdshot as she tried to protect her mother, police said. Philipp is not the girl’s father.
After shooting Isackov, Philipp started driving back toward Northampton, where Friel was on routine patrol and stopped what he thought was the shooter’s car, Heckler said. Friel called for backup and started following the car with lights and sirens off, police said.
Philipp — who police say was on the cell phone with someone — turned onto Buck Road then stopped in front of the Pheasant Valley Shopping Center and got out of his car with the shotgun in hand.
Before the officer could get out of his car, Philipp fired a round of fine-grade birdshot that shattered — but didn’t penetrate — the windshield. Friel, who was caught in his seat belt, pointed his gun out the driver’s side window and returned fire using his left hand, Heckler said.
Kenneth Philipp
As Friel got out of the car, Philipp fired two more rounds, which hit the officer in the chest. Friel was protected by his bullet-proof vest.
Philipp then returned to his car to reload because he failed to remove a plug that would have allowed him to fire additional rounds, Heckler said. That is when Friel emptied an 18-bullet clip into the rear window of the Town Car, hitting Philipp in the head and shoulder.
“The officer performed magnificently,” said Northampton police Chief Barry Pilla, who added that Friel would be coming off administrative leave soon.
Long before the shootings, the couple was well-known to Northampton police, according to authorities.
Court records show that Philipp had a record of aggravated and simple assault and terroristic threat arrests dating to 2005, but he was never convicted of those charges. His first wife also had a protection from abuse order against him, according to court records.

Philipp, who most recently worked for his family’s beauty supply business, had an ongoing alcohol abuse problem, Heckler said. After the shooting, police found a bottle of vodka in the Town Car, though it’s unclear if Philipp was drunk at the time.
Isackov and her two daughters testified at Philipp’s 2010 trial in the assault of four police officers at the couple’s Northampton home.
In that case, Philipp claimed that he had accidentally dropped a glass while officers charged at him. Police contended that Philipp was drunk and broke a glass and made an “aggressive” move toward the officers and then kicked them. The officers were responding to an abandoned 911 call at the home.
Philipp was found not guilty of aggravated and simple assault charges, but convicted of resisting arrest. He was sentenced to two years of probation, according to court records.
In April 2011, Isackov told police that Philipp had threatened to shoot a police officer but later admitted she made up the claim. She was prosecuted for false reports and placed in a special probation program for non-violent, first-time offenders.
Northampton police most recently arrested Philipp after he was caught outside Isackov’s West Lynford Road home on Nov. 1 despite the protection from abuse order.
They later found a 6-inch knife with an orange blade on the passenger seat of his car and scratches with an orange stain on the home’s doors and windows, according to a probable cause affidavit.
Philipp pleaded guilty in Bucks County Court on Feb. 28 to possession of an instrument of crime, defiant trespassing and loitering and prowling in connection with the Nov. 1 arrest. Bucks County Judge Wallace Bateman sentenced him to three years of probation, ordered him to seek alcohol treatment and have no contact with Isackov, according to court records.
And on April 1, he appeared before Bateman again on a probation violation and was sentenced to 23 months in prison, but given time served and immediately paroled.

Cops: Bristol Township burglary charges upgraded because it happened during Sandy

Posted: Friday, May 10, 2013 

Three Bristol Township men who police say broke into a drug store and stole cigarettes the night Superstorm Sandy pounded Bucks County are learning the hard way that you can’t fool with Mother Nature.
Kyle Robinson, 21, David Nolan, 21, and Michael McKernan, 20, will each face enhanced criminal charges because the crime took place during a natural disaster, Bristol Township Lt. Terry Hughes said. Instead of third-degree felony theft, they are charged with second-degree felony theft, which carries a longer potential prison sentence.   
“To commit a crime is bad enough, but to commit a crime during a natural disaster is despicable,” Hughes said.
During the height of the Sandy storm at around 10:30 p.m. Oct. 29, Bristol Township police received an alarm call at a Walgreen’s drug store in the 5200 block of New Falls Road. At the time, Pennsylvania was in a state of emergency due to the storm and all available first-responders were dealing with storm-related issues.
When police responded to the store, they confirmed a burglary had occurred. The suspects broke a side window near the front door, entered the store and stole cartons and individual packs of cigarettes, according to the probable cause paperwork.
Robinson was arrested and arraigned Wednesday before Bristol Township District Judge Joanne Kline on burglary, criminal trespassing, theft and related offenses. He was sent to Bucks County prison in lieu of 10 percent of $75,000 bail.
During the investigation, police learned that Robinson was involved in the crime. He admitted to stealing during the storm. In separate interviews, each suspect implicated themselves and the other two in the burglary, police said.
Nolan and McKernan were arrested and arraigned Thursday before Bristol Township District Judge Joanne Kline on charges of burglary, criminal trespassing, theft and related offenses. Both were sent to Bucks County prison, Nolan in lieu of 10 percent of $150,000 bail and McKernan in lieu of 10 percent of $50,000 bail.
McKernan recently waived to trial all the charges in connection with a Feb. 20 robbery of a Bristol Township teen. Officials said he is expected to plead guilty to conspiracy to commit simple assault in that case.
David Nolan, Kyle Robinson & Michael McKernan
Jo Ciavaglia: 215-949-4181; email:; Twitter: @jociavaglia

Bristol Township man charged with failing to register as a convicted sex offender

Posted: Tuesday, May 7, 2013 

A Bristol Township man is facing felony charges for failing to register as a sex offender and lying about his employer, Pennsylvania State Police say.
Jeffrey Dolton, 38, of Plumtree Turn, was deemed a sexually violent predator after pleading guilty in Philadelphia court to indecent assault on a person under age 13 in 2011. In February, he was sentenced to five years of probation for the crime, according to online court records.
Jeffrey Dolton
On Friday, Dolton arrived at Pennsylvania State Police Trevose Barracks to register as a convicted sex offender under Megan’s Law. During an interview, Dolton reportedly told a state trooper he was employed at a Bensalem business.
He also said he forgot to bring his Megan’s Law registration letter, which is a registration requirement. Dolton was told to return to the barracks with his letter after the registration process was finished.
But after Dolton returned, the trooper learned he failed to register with state police by May 2, the last day of the 10-day window he was given, police said. Also when police visited the business where Dolton said he worked, a manager told police he was terminated March 5.
Dolton was arrested and arraigned before Bensalem District Judge Joseph Falcone on Friday on charges of failure to provide accurate information and failing to verify his address as a Megan’s Law sex offender. He was released from Bucks County prison after posting 10 percent of his $150,000 bail.

Bristol Twp. police: Drug dealer had 5 grams of crack in genital area

Posted: Thursday, May 9, 2013

Bristol Township police expected to find a gun on a Philadelphia man.
Instead they said they found something unexpected in an unexpected place — five grams of crack cocaine hidden in his genital area.
Police responded to an apartment complex in the 3000 block of Ford Road on Monday morning after someone reported seeing a man identified as Dennis Davis Jr., 27, with a suspected handgun.
When police arrived at the complex, they met with Davis. He didn’t have a gun, but he did have seven small blue baggies containing suspected crack cocaine and $162, according to police.   
Dennis Davis Jr.
Davis was taken into custody and transported to police headquarters where he was told that an officer would be conducting a “thorough” search of him. When he learned that, Davis reached into his pants and removed a plastic bag containing suspected crack cocaine from his genital area, police said.
The bag contained about 5 grams of suspected crack cocaine worth at least $500, Bristol Township Lt. Terry Hughes said.
In an interview with police, Davis reportedly admitted selling drugs, purchasing the suspected crack cocaine on him for about $315. He intended to return a profit of $700 to $800, according to a probable cause affidavit. He also told police he had no other income other than drug dealing.
Davis was arraigned before Bristol Township District Judge Joanne Kline on manufacture, delivery or possession with intent to manufacture or deliver and related charges. He was sent to Bucks County prison in lieu of 10 percent of $100,000 bail.

Bucks lawmaker wants broader community notification for registered sex offenders

Posted: Wednesday, May 8, 2013

A Bucks County lawmaker wants the state’s sexual offender community notification law broadened to include where registered sexually violent predators work and receive behavior health treatment.
Rep. Frank Farry, R-142, on Tuesday said he plans to speak with the executive director of the House judiciary staff to look at what options are available to give local communities more ability to regulate where sex offender treatment centers are located.
“Obviously you don’t want it in proximity to residential areas or places where children congregate,” he said, adding he doesn’t have a timeline for introducing a bill.  
Rep. Frank Farry
Farry’s district includes Hulmeville, where residents recently learned about the existence of an outpatient center that treats sex offenders, including sexually violent predators. The center, Resources for Human Development, had been operating for a year without the knowledge of local officials or police or a use and occupancy permit.
Megan’s Law gives states the discretion to establish criteria for community disclosure, but they are compelled to make private and personal information on registered sex offenders publicly available.
Pennsylvania has no restrictions on where centers that treat sex offenders or sexually violent predators can be located.
The state’s Megan’s Law website lists the home and employer addresses of all registered sex offenders and sexually violent predators, but community notification is required only where a sexually violent predator or sexually violent delinquent child lives.
At a minimum, Farry said, outpatient centers treating sexual offenders should be required to notify local police and government officials that they are conducting business in a community. He plans to investigate whether other states have enacted broader public notification or distance provisions for sex offender treatment centers.
Pennsylvania has 403 registered sexually violent predators on parole or probation, according to the Megan’s Law website, which is maintained by Pennsylvania State Police. Five are registered as living in Bucks County including one incarcerated at Bucks County prison; Montgomery County has 28 registered SVPs (as they are known), including 17 who are inmates at Graterford prison.
Resources for Human Development is one of four behavioral health providers in Bucks County with state certification to treat individuals deemed sexually violent predators, according to the Pennsylvania Sexual Offenders Assessment Board, which approves the centers.
Hulmeville council members on Monday said that RHD’s director claims no sexually violent predators are currently in treatment at its Reetz Avenue office. The center treats other individuals with deviant sexual behavior, including convicted sexual offenders.
RHD also provides other human and behavioral services, including programs for recovering substance abusers, the homeless and people with intellectual disabilities. It operates other treatment centers for people with “problematic sexual behaviors and family abuse” in Montgomery County and Philadelphia, and referral sources include probation and parole offices.
The newspaper was unsuccessful Tuesday in reaching Meghan Dade, executive director of the state’s Sexual Offenders Assessment Board.
Pennsylvania defines a sexually violent predator as a sexual offender who has been determined by the court, after evaluation by the Sexual Offenders Assessment Board, to have a mental abnormality or personality disorder that makes the person likely to engage in predatory sexually violent offenses.
Under the law, SVPs, once released from prison, are required to attend monthly outpatient counseling sessions for the rest of their lives in a program approved by the state assessment board.

Hulmeville residents vow to continue efforts to rid town of sex offender treatment center

Posted: Tuesday, May 7, 2013
Hulmeville Council members say they were told an outpatient treatment center that is state licensed to treat sexually violent predators currently does not have any clients that meet that definition.
But the news did little to calm the nerves of at least 100 residents who packed Monday’s borough council meeting room to demand action to evict Resources for Human Development.
Many didn’t know that the center — which treats deviant sexual behavior and sex offenders — existed until recently. Most called the current location — in a largely residential area — inappropriate.
Some vowed to picket and patrol the area surrounding the Reetz Avenue office building on nights when counseling meetings are held. Others requested police presence at the building on the center’s meeting nights. Nearly 160 people on Monday night signed a petition calling for the building’s landlord to evict the center.
Resident David Goodman says his 8-year-old son is scared to go to the bus stop alone now.
Residents packed council meeting to oppose center
“What are we going to do to protect the community,” he added.    
Another resident claimed that the center’s clients loiter on the property and nearby streets after the meetings.
“I almost feel like they’re casing the neighborhood,” one woman said.
Council members listened to residents’ concerns, but emphasized it’s unclear if they can legally force the center to move. The borough’s zoning officer is investigating if the center meets regulations. It is located in a commercial/industrial zone, but across the street from a residential area.
“We have to follow the laws whether or not we agree with them,” Council President Thomas Wheeler told the crowd.
Pennsylvania has no restrictions on where centers that treat sex offenders or sexually violent predators can be located. Community notification is required only where a sexually violent predator resides.
Wheeler confirmed that the center failed to obtain an occupancy permit when it opened last year, a requirement to operate a business in the borough. The center’s lease runs until next year, council members said.
While the borough could issue a cease and desist order, it would likely close for only “an hour” until proper paperwork was filed, Wheeler said. “It’s not going to stop them. They’re there,” he added.
Councilwoman Judy Coleman — who lives one block from the center — said that the center’s director told council members that about a dozen clients are treated there for sexually deviant behavior, but none are designated as sexually violent predators.
Pennsylvania defines a sexually violent predator as a sexual offender who has been determined by the court, after evaluation by the Sexual Offenders Assessment Board, to have a mental abnormality or personality disorder that makes the person likely to engage in predatory sexually violent offenses.
Under the law, SVPs, as they are known, once released from prison, are required to attend monthly outpatient counseling sessions for the rest of their lives in a program approved by the state’s Sexual Offenders Assessment Board.
Police Chief Tom Walton promised to increase police patrols on Wednesday and Thursday nights, when the largest counseling meetings are held.
Resources for Human Development is one of four behavioral health providers in Bucks County with state certification to treat individuals deemed sexually violent predators, according to the Pennsylvania Sexual Offenders Assessment Board, which licenses the centers.
According to its website, RHD provides an array of human and behavioral services including programs for recovering substance abusers, the homeless and people with intellectual disabilities.
But several residents claim that as recently as two weeks ago RHD’s website listed only information about its sex offender treatment program for its Reetz Avenue location.
The agency operates centers specializing in treatment and interventions for people with “problematic sexual behaviors and family abuse” also in Montgomery County and Philadelphia, according to its website. Referral sources include probation and parole offices.

Treatment center for sexually violent predators has Hulmeville residents upset

Posted: Monday, May 6, 2013

In tiny Hulmeville — population 1,006 — secrets are hard to keep, which is why news that an outpatient treatment center for sexually violent predators has been operating here has caught many people by surprise and has caused quite a commotion.
Last week at least 350 fliers were hand-distributed throughout the half-square-mile borough, which sits between Bensalem and Middletown, urging residents to attend Monday’s Hulmeville Borough Council meeting to demand that the landlord terminate the lease with the counseling center.
Resources for Human Development, which rents space in a Reetz Avenue office building, is one of four behavioral health providers with state certification to treat individuals deemed sexually violent predators under the state’s Megan’s Law. Other Bucks County providers are in Newtown, Newtown Township and Doylestown Township, according to the Pennsylvania Sexual Offenders Assessment Board, which approves the centers.
RHD provides an array of human and behavioral services including programs for recovering substance abusers, the homeless and people with intellectual disabilities, according to its website.   
The agency operates centers specializing in treatment and interventions for people with “problematic sexual behaviors and family abuse” also in Montgomery County and Philadelphia, according to its website. Referral sources include probation and parole offices.
Pennsylvania is among the 16 states that have adopted the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, which defines a sexually violent predator as a person convicted of a sexually violent offense and whom is deemed likely to engage in predatory behavior.
Under the law, SVPs, as they are known, once released from prison are required to attend at least monthly outpatient counseling sessions in a program approved by the state’s Sexual Offenders Assessment Board. The offenders are financially responsible for counseling fees.
The Hulmeville-based counseling center has been operating for about two years and its lease runs through next year, according to sources. It’s unknown how many sexually violent predators the center treats.
RHD’s director, Mary Young, a licensed social worker, declined comment about the center when reached last week. The newspaper was also unsuccessful in reaching a representative of BestCo Corp. Home, which owns the building where the center is located.
But resident Marcy Downey has plenty to say about the center, which is across the street from her house and fewer than two miles from Hoover Elementary School.
She found out about the center about a month ago after she and a neighbor were outside watching their kids play. They noticed a large group of people were waiting in the office parking lot on Wednesday and Thursday evenings.
Downey wondered what was happening to attract such a crowd, so she did an Internet search. When she learned about Resources for Human Development she was shocked.
Then Downey became angry when she learned that borough officials, the police department, even state police who also patrol the borough didn’t know about the center.
“The entire neighborhood is unaware of it,” she said. “It’s just scary. This is not a town that needs that. There are plenty of other places they can be.”
Hulmeville Mayor David Harris last week said that he didn’t know about the counseling center until Downey brought it to his attention. He has contacted the borough’s zoning officer because the center has not obtained an occupancy permit, a requirement to operate a business.
“If that is the only type of counseling (offered), yes, it does concern me as a father and grandfather,” Harris added.
But, the mayor added, that the building where the counseling center is located in a commercial/industrial zone, which may be an allowed use. In addition to checking zoning requirements the zoning officer is checking to see if the center meets occupancy limits.
Meghan Dade, Pennsylvania’s executive director of the Sexual Offenders Assessment Board, is unaware of any state restrictions on where SVP providers can be located, but a local municipality may impose zoning restrictions.
“These are sex offenders who are in treatment, who are doing the right thing, and trying to seek help and stay on the straight and narrow,” she added.

Bucks, Montgomery cops nab purse theft suspects who targeted cemetery visitors

Posted: Sunday, May 5, 2013

These alleged thieves give new meaning to the term grave robbers.
Bensalem police have arrested two of the three people they say staked out cemeteries in Bucks and Montgomery counties between February and April and stole purses from unoccupied cars while people visited graves.
Police departments in seven communities believe the trio – Pamela Hummel, 30, of Morrisville, Jose Leon, 44, no fixed address, and Nathan Phillips, 29, of Bristol — is responsible for at least 15 thefts and nearly $5,000 in losses and unauthorized use of credit cards.
Hummel and Leon, who are currently in Montgomery County prison on similar charges, were video arraigned Friday before Bensalem District Judge Leonard Brown on multiple counts of theft, conspiracy, identity theft and receiving stolen property. Brown set their bail at 10 percent of $150,000 each.   
Jose Leon
Bensalem has issued an arrest warrant for Phillips, who faces similar charges, according to online court records.
The police investigation into the purse thefts is continuing, but so far, the three suspects have been linked to thefts at cemeteries in Glenside, Cheltenham, Lower Moreland, and Horsham in Montgomery County and Bensalem, Middletown, and Lower Southampton in Bucks, according to a probable cause affidavit. The estimated total in losses and unauthorized purchases is roughly $4,600, police said.
Middletown police alone reported six purse thefts at Our Lady of Grace cemetery off Route 1 since February. Visitors at Resurrection in Bensalem and Sunset Memorial Park in Lower Southampton were each targeted twice, police said.
Police noted the thefts had similarities: most involved unlocked cars and the stolen credit cards were used to buy gas, food, cigarettes and other items at drug, retail and convenience stores. Victims and witnesses also placed a beige-colored sedan missing hubcaps at the theft scenes.
Police developed the three as suspects after reviewing surveillance footage at stores where the stolen credit cards were used, according to the affidavit.
The suspects had a pattern of visiting the same Trevose gas station after the thefts where they used stolen credit cards, police said. The habit is what resulted in the arrests of Hummel and Leon, last month, police said.
Pamela Hummel
On April 12, Lower Moreland police responded to a call of a purse theft from an unlocked car at the Forest Hills Cemetery. The victim described the suspects as leaving in a beige sedan. Police immediately staked out the Trevose gas station the suspects often visited after previous thefts.
Sure enough, a beige-colored 1999 Chevy Lumina without hubcaps pulled into the station minutes after the theft, according to the affidavit. The occupants – Hummel and Leon – matched previous descriptions from prior thefts and were detained by Lower Southampton police.
Officers found Hummel in possession of stolen credit cards, cash and a driver’s license that belonged to the victim of the theft earlier that day. She and Leon were arrested.
When police searched the car, they also found numerous sets of keys including several sets belonging to purse-theft victims, according to the affidavit.
Both suspects admitted in police interviews to the Forest Hills Cemetery purse theft – and many others, police said.
Leon admitted to 15 prior thefts, 10 in Bucks County, which were under investigation. They also identified Phillips as an accomplice, according to court documents.
Lower Moreland police interviewed Phillips on April 17 and he admitted to going to “numerous” cemeteries with Leon to steal purses from unlocked cars and using stolen credit cards at different stores.
Kenneth Phillips

Police: former Penndel man tried to "lure" girl at restaurant with promise of a doll

Posted: Sunday, May 5, 2013 

First, the stranger asked the little girl who she was with at the restaurant. Later, he followed her outside and offered her a doll that he stashed in the hallway.
But only if the girl promised that she wouldn’t tell anyone. She did – her dad. He told the restaurant manager, who notified Pennsylvania State Police.
Now a 61-year-old former Penndel man is in Bucks County prison charged with two counts of luring a child, a first-degree misdemeanor punishable to up to five years in prison.
State police say the incident happened April 27 at the Irish Rover Station House in Langhorne Manor when a man, his 11-year-old son and 9-year-old daughter, and two friends arrived at the restaurant.
While they were waiting in the lobby to be seated, the father noticed a man — identified as Frank Sherman, who also listed an address in Holland — staring at his children, according to police.   
Frank Sherman
Sherman, who was seated at the bar, asked the children who they were at the restaurant with, police said.
“Do you want a doll?” Sherman asked the girl, according to a probable cause affidavit.
After the group was told they could seat themselves, they sat at a table at the opposite end of the restaurant from the bar area, where Sherman was sitting, police said. But his apparent interest in the girl didn’t wane, police said.
He continued “smiling” and “waving” at the girl, according to the affidavit.
When the children asked if they could go outside to the restaurant’s patio area, the father agreed, but told them to stay together, police said. As the kids walked toward the patio entrance, police say, Sherman immediately followed them outside.
“Sherman lit a cigarette and approached (the girl) and asked if she wanted a doll that he had in a hallway, and not to tell anyone what he said,” according to the affidavit.
The girl immediately ran back inside the restaurant and told her father. Meanwhile, Sherman returned to his seat at the bar, where he continued to stare at the girl, police said.
That is when one of the father’s friends confronted Sherman. The man told Sherman to face the other way, court documents said.
At some point, the girl had to use the bathroom. Her father told her brother to walk with her, but instead the girl grabbed her dad’s cell phone off the table and ran toward the bathroom, a path that took her past Sherman. Again, Sherman followed the girl, police said.
The father’s friend saw Sherman follow the girl, and he and the father immediately started following him; Sherman then circled around the women’s restroom and left the restaurant, police said.
Moments later, the girl left the bathroom and the three returned to their table, where they notified staff and management of what happened.
In the meantime, Sherman returned to his seat at the bar, where police say he started staring at another young girl. The manager approached him and told him to leave.
“The defendant did not argue or ask why he had to leave and attempted to take another sip of his beer,” according to the affidavit.
The manager escorted Sherman to the front door and watched him walk south on Bellevue Avenue toward Penndel.
On Monday, a Pennsylvania State police trooper investigating the incident spoke with the restaurant owner who identified the suspect as “Frank.” She told the trooper that he lived in a Penndel boarding house about 200 yards from the restaurant, but that he planned to move to Arizona on Tuesday, court documents said.
About 30 minutes later, the trooper met with the boarding house manager who told him that Sherman had abruptly moved out. He had left 10 minutes before the trooper arrived, in such a hurry he didn’t ask for his $160 security deposit, police said.
On Thursday, state police issued an arrest warrant for Sherman and state troopers received information Friday that he was in the Newtown area. After a three-hour search he was taken into custody by state troopers and Newtown police, police said.
Sherman was arrested and arraigned Friday afternoon before Penndel District Judge Daniel Baranoski, who set his bail at $750,000 cash.

Bensalem man headed to trial on charges he raped woman he knew

Posted: Friday, May 3, 2013

Yes, she had a drink at the bar that night. Yes, she let him drive her home. Yes, she let Robert Spurgeon inside to use the bathroom, the woman said on the witness stand Thursday.
But no, never, did she consent to sex with the Bensalem man, the woman testified at a preliminary hearing for Spurgeon, 40, who is accused of raping the woman during the early morning of Feb. 15.
At a hearing filled with graphic testimony, the woman — the prosecution’s only witness — told the court how she let Spurgeon, who police confirm knew the victim, use her bathroom after he took her to her Bensalem home, but then attacked her while her two children slept in other rooms.
The woman testified that after using the bathroom, Spurgeon entered her bedroom through one of the two bathroom doors. There he forcibly pulled off her clothing, pushed her onto her bed and held her down by her arms and repeatedly sexually assaulted her.
Bucks County prosecutor Matt Hoover asked if she said anything while this was happening.
Robert Spurgeon
“ ‘No. Stop. Please stop. Why are you doing this?’ ” the woman answered.   
When asked why she didn’t yell for help, the woman responded she didn’t want to wake her children.
“I initially told him my kids are here, please,” she said. “Eventually he started repeating it back to me, ‘You must be quiet because your kids are asleep.’ ”
At one point during the attack, when Spurgeon allegedly threw her on the floor, the woman said she managed to grab her cell phone and started recording the attack. Defense attorney Tom Kenny accused the victim of “breaking the law” when she recorded Spurgeon without his permission.
In his cross-examination, Kenny’s strategy appeared to question the credibility of the witness. At one point, the attorney asked the woman if she accused his client of rape because she was embarrassed that she had sex with him while intoxicated.
The woman testified she had one drink at the bar.
“You invited him into your bedroom right?” the attorney asked.
“No,” the woman replied.
“Is any of your clothing ripped?”
She wasn’t sure, the woman answered.
The woman’s brother was removed from the courtroom after yelling “objection,” after Kenny asked her to describe a sexual act she was allegedly forced to perform. Police said they don’t plan to file contempt charges against the brother.
Bensalem District Judge Joseph Falcone held Spurgeon for trial on all charges including forcible rape, sexual assault and a newly added count of involuntary deviant sexual intercourse, as well as related charges. He remains free after posting 10 percent of his $75,000 bail.

Bensalem District Judge refuses to reduce $10 million bail for accused child rapist

Posted: Thursday, May 2, 2013

In a voice barely louder than a whisper, the 13-year-old girl wearing a smiley face T-shirt told the court how she tried shoving away the man raping her.
She was 10, maybe 11, at the time, she said.
“I’d tell him to stop,” the girl testified. “I’d always say stop.”
Would he stop, Bucks County prosecutor Kristin McElroy asked.
“No,” she said.
The girl was the lone witness at a preliminary hearing Wednesday for Michael Somahkawahho, 41, an unemployed Bensalem resident who is accused of repeatedly sexually abusing the teenager over two years. He faces a mandatory minimum jail sentence of 10 years if convicted.
Following the girl’s testimony, Bensalem District Judge Joseph Falcone held Somahkawahho for trial on all charges including child rape, involuntary deviant sexual intercourse with a child, aggravated indecent assault on a child and related offenses.
The judge also denied a defense request to reduce the record $10 million bail to $50,000 unsecured and house arrest. To be released from Bucks County prison, Somahkawahho would need to come up with $1 million.
“There is nothing you can say,” Falcone told defense attorney Thomas Kenny. “No way. Never.”
Bensalem police allege that Somahkawahho assaulted the girl for two years, before he suddenly stopped last year. But earlier this year, he allegedly wanted to start having sex with the girl again, police said. She refused and confided in school officials, according to court documents.
The school officials notified the Bensalem Police Special Victims Unit in March about the sexual assault allegations. The girl was taken to the Bucks County Children’s Advocacy Center to speak to a forensic interviewer where she disclosed that the assaults took place at the man’s Gibson Road home, according to a probable cause affidavit.
On Wednesday, the girl testified that during the rapes she sometimes tried pushing away Somahkawahho, and sometimes after that, he would stop. But not all the time, she said.
On cross-examination, defense attorney Thomas Kenny asked the girl if she could recall what time of year the assaults took place, but she could not.
Kenny asked how many times Somahkawahho assaulted her and asked if it was more than five.
The girl nodded then answered, “Yes.”
More than 10?
“I don’t know,” she said.
“Did he touch you the same way each and every time?” Kenny asked.
“Yes,” the girl replied.
Michael Somahkawahho
Jo Ciavaglia: 215-949-4181; email:; Twitter: @jociavaglia;

SEPTA safety blitz designed to stop blood on the tracks

Posted: Thursday, May 2, 2013 

The transit worker couldn’t believe what he saw. A kid riding his bike in the middle of the West Trenton Rail Line tracks. Along a set of adjacent tracks, a commuter train was bearing down behind him.
The biker kept right on pedaling, seemingly oblivious to the imminent danger, said Bill Rickett, executive director of the Bucks County Transportation Management Association.

That incident near the Neshaminy Falls station happened about a year ago during a time when SEPTA reported that 12 people died on its rail tracks.
With eight fatalities since January — with six in Bucks County — SEPTA launched an education and awareness campaign Wednesday. At the current pace, the transit authority says this year’s fatality toll could surpass last year, and the campaign is designed to remind commuters and pedestrians that railroad tracks are for trains, not people.
“Right behind me is the Pennsylvania Turnpike,” SEPTA General Manager Joe Casey said at a news conference for the first-ever Safety Awareness Day. “You would not even consider walking across four lanes of traffic on this roadway yet people cross active train and trolley tracks or cut through our rail facilities, never considering how dangerous it is.”
The event — called “Make the Safe Choice” and part of the authority’s Safety Blitz program — had been in the works for a year, long before SEPTA officials saw the spike in track-related deaths, officials said.   
Investigators at fatal train track death in January 2013
Throughout the morning rush hour Wednesday, workers at more than 160 SEPTA-run centers distributed educational materials and answered questions.
Rail deaths, whether accidental or intentional, are a national epidemic, Casey said. There are about 400 deaths annually in the U.S. involving people trespassing on railways. About half are suicides, SEPTA officials said, but the rest are accidental — and preventable.
SEPTA officials say they’ve seen an increase in the number of people killed while crossing or walking on rails while distracted. At least three deaths have involved people who were wearing earphones or were using cellphones, said Scott Sauer, SEPTA’s director of System Safety and Risk Management.
“You should always expect a train,” Sauer added.
Wednesday’s press conference was held in Lower Southampton beside an unfenced portion of the West Trenton Regional rail line where four of the Bucks County deaths have occurred this year, officials said. Most have been ruled suicides.
The majority of SEPTA rail lines are unfenced, officials said. When fences or other barriers are erected around dangerous areas, workers often find people will remove them or cut holes in them to gain access to a shortcut, Sauer said.
Fencing is a solution that can lead to other problems, Sauer and others added. Enclosing an area could trap employees working on the tracks who need to get out of the way of a train. Also it could create an obstacle for first responders or commuters in the event of an emergency evacuation.
SEPTA has used engineering approaches in the past to alleviate train-pedestrian collisions. A new approach involves creating higher level platforms at stations to deter people from climbing down and crossing. Some stations also have underground pedestrian tunnels.
What could help prevent deaths more than any engineering design, officials said, is if people understood that railroad tracks can turn dangerous quickly when a train traveling at 50 mph or faster approaches.
“People are not aware of their surroundings,” said Fran Kelly, SEPTA’s assistant general manager for public and government affairs.
As a former volunteer fireman, Rickett, of the Bucks County Transportation Management Association, saw for himself what happens when a person is hit by a high-speed train.
He recalled responding to an accident scene in Hamilton, N.J., where a person was hit by an Amtrak train.
“All we found was body parts,” he said, adding the death was later ruled a suicide.
It’s a story he once shared with his own children when they were young. It’s a scene you don’t forget, he said.
“Obviously, I don’t,” he added.