Thursday, November 28, 2013

How 'person of interest' developed in murder-arson

Posted: Wednesday, November 27, 2013 

Editor's note: This story was based on information in search warrants filed against Marcel Johnson, 21, of Bristol Township and on autopsy reports. The Bucks County district attorney describes him as a "person of interest" in the double murder arson Monday of Ebony Talley and her daughter, R'Mani Rankins. Johnson has not been charged in the murders or arson.
When firefighters entered apartment 604 in the Avalon Court complex Monday afternoon, they found smoke so thick they couldn’t see anything.
As they moved toward a rear bedroom, they had to move a couch blocking their way.
Once they were inside the bedroom, firefighters found a bed piled with clothing that was on fire. As a firefighter quickly extinguished the fire, she knelt and her legs hit something unexpected.
After the fire was out, the firefighter learned what that was: Face down on the bedroom floor was a dead woman later identified as 22-year-old Ebony Talley.
Talley had what appeared to be stab wounds and possibly a gunshot wound, to her left shoulder and arm. She had a stab wound in her left side and two defensive wounds on her left forearm. Later police learned she was four months pregnant.
Family member reacts at murder scene
As other firefighters entered the apartment, they broke or opened windows in the living room to let the smoke escape. Once the air cleared, they found something equally disturbing.
A small child's foot was sticking out from beneath a second, overturned couch.
The girl was identified as R’Mani Rankins, Talley’s 4-year-old daughter. She had a stab wound on her upper chest and third-degree burns on her belly.
Firefighters put R’Mani in a waiting ambulance and rushed her to St. Mary Medical Center in Middletown. The girl was pronounced dead at the hospital shortly before 4:30 p.m. — less than an hour after authorities said the fire was set in the apartment.
Meanwhile, officials determined the fire was suspicious because it appeared to be focused on the bedding and clothing.
Suddenly, what started as an apartment fire had turned into a double murder and arson investigation. An autopsy found that mother and daughter were both stabbed to death.
R'Mani died of the single stab wound; her burns occurred after she died, according to the autopsy. Her mother died of multiple stab wounds. She had other trauma and significant burns that appear to have occurred before she died, the autopsy revealed.
At the scene, Bristol Township police learned that 10 minutes before the fire was discovered, another Avalon Court resident saw a newer maroon car pull out of a parking space close to Building 600. The driver pulled out fast and in reverse, hitting a parked car, the witness told police. The car sped out of the complex and onto Bristol-Oxford Valley Road.
The car, a 2003 Cadillac, was registered to the woman who held the lease for apartment 604, police learned. Earlier that day, witnesses said it had been parked at the complex. 
At 5:44 p.m., police spoke with a relative of Talley, who said she had just spoken with 21-year-old Marcel Johnson, who also lived in the Avalon Court complex. Johnson told the relative he was at a nearby apartment complex in the 3000 block of Ford Road.
A Bristol Township detective checked the tip and found the Cadillac, which had a Pennsylvania license plate that didn’t belong to the vehicle. Police watched the vehicle until shortly after 7 p.m., when Johnson got in and drove away. Police stopped the car and took Johnson into custody.
Police searched Johnson and arrested him after they found him in possession of a plastic bag with 11 clear baggies, which police described as the kind commonly used to package illegal drugs.
Scene of double murder & arson at Avalon Court 
About a half hour later, Johnson admitted to police he was at Apartment 604 earlier before the fire, and was with Talley and her daughter just before their deaths, according to the search warrant. The warrant said he admitted taking the 2003 Cadillac from the apartment complex parking lot, hitting a parked car and driving to the Ford Road complex.
But Johnson also gave police “conflicting accounts as to his possible involvement (in the murder and arson).” The warrants don't explain what that means. 
Police obtained and executed two search warrants against Johnson for the Cadillac, seeking clothing, DNA evidence, trace evidence including hairs and fibers, fingerprints and blood, firearm projectiles, knives, edged weapons, combustibles, ignition sources or other materials that could start a fire, cellphones, documents that belonged to the victim, plus a DNA sample, fingernail scrapings, photographs of Johnson’s body and other biological evidence and clothing from Johnson.
Johnson was arrested and arraigned Tuesday morning on a misdemeanor drug paraphernalia possession charge and sent to Bucks County prison in lieu of 10 percent of $50,000 bail.

DA: "Person of interest" was last to see mom, daughter alive

Posted: Tuesday, November 26, 2013 

A Bristol Township man arrested on minor drug possession charges was the last person to see a 22-year-old pregnant woman and her 4-year-old daughter alive before a fire started in the apartment, the Bucks County District Attorney confirmed.
Marcel Emanuel Johnson, 21, is described as a “person of interest” in the double murder and arson Monday afternoon at the Avalon Court apartments in the 3500 block of Bristol-Oxford Valley Road, District Attorney David Heckler said.
“We are looking at him,” Heckler said. “He is obviously a person of interest.”
Ebony Talley and daughter R'Mani Rankins
Heckler declined to say if investigators are looking at anyone else as possibly being involved in the slayings of Ebony Talley and her daughter, R’Mani Rankins.
Firefighters responding to a fire in apartment 604 at the complex found Talley, who was four months pregnant, dead on the floor with multiple stab wounds. R’Mani was found alive, but with at least one stab wound. She later died at St. Mary Medical Center in Middletown. Police believe the fire was intentionally set to cover up the murders.
Bristol Township police became interested in Johnson after witnesses claimed they saw him leaving the complex in a Cadillac, Heckler said.
Bucks County detectives on Tuesday obtained search warrants for the Cadillac, which Johnson was driving when police stopped him at another apartment complex in the 3000 block of Ford Road in Bristol Township a little more than three hours after the fire was reported, Heckler said.
Heckler’s understanding is that the car is registered in the name of the person from whom Talley was subletting apartment 604, where police say she has lived for the past three months. Talley had permission to use the woman’s car, but Johnson did not, Heckler said.
“There is no reason he would have used it,” Heckler said.
Search warrants were also obtained for DNA and other evidence from Johnson, who also lived at Avalon Court apartments, the DA added.
As a result of the police investigation into the fire, police made contact with Johnson shortly after 7 p.m. in the parking lot of the apartment complex on Ford Road.
Police found Johnson with one plastic bag containing 11 clear baggies, which police described as consistent with the packaging commonly used to contain illegal drugs, according to the affidavit. He was arraigned Tuesday morning and sent to Bucks County prison on a drug possession charge in lieu of 10 percent of $50,000 bail.
The autopsy reports for Talley and R’Mani were completed Tuesday, but Heckler did not have any details available. He would only say that “nobody found anything remarkable.”
The relationship, if any, between Talley and Johnson is unknown.
Investigators at scene of double murder, arson
Throughout the day Tuesday police and crime scene investigators continued their investigation at the apartment complex’s Building 600, which was cordoned off with yellow tape and monitored by Bristol Township police.
For hours Tuesday morning, the only sight of activity near the building — besides law enforcement — was TV news vans.
The Southeastern Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Red Cross will cover two more nights at a local hotel for five other Building 600 tenants who were displaced by the fire and subsequent ongoing police investigation, agency spokesman David Schrader said.

Cops: Drug suspects threaten to shoot Bensalem cop

Posted: Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Two Philadelphia men allegedly planned to rob — and allegedly threatened to shoot — a customer during a drug deal to buy $4,000 worth of prescription painkillers.
But the customer turned out to be an undercover Bensalem cop, police said, and the alleged drugs turned out to be fakes.
The incident unfolded Tuesday afternoon, when an undercover officer arranged to buy 300 Oxycodone pills in the parking lot of a hotel on Old Lincoln Highway, police said.
David McCoy (left) and Tariq Moore
Shortly after 5:30 p.m. the alleged dealer called “Troy” — later identified as 29-year-old Tariq Moore — contacted the undercover officer to let him know where and when the deal would take place, according to a probable cause affidavit.
As the officer approached Moore’s GMC Yukon, he was told to get in the back seat. But when he opened the door, he noticed movement in the middle seat of the car and someone who appeared to be hiding under a blanket.
The officer immediately got out of the car and told Moore he felt like he was going to be robbed, police said. Moore denied it, but the officer wasn’t convinced. He told Moore to get out of the truck and meet him in the walkway to do the deal.
Moore got out of the truck and showed the officer a plastic bag containing pills, court documents said. The officer gave him $1,600 in pre-recorded “buy” money and then told the suspect to hand over the pills if he wanted the rest of the money.
The two men started arguing and then Moore yelled toward the truck.
“My man, klack ‘em, klack ‘em,” the suspect yelled, the affidavit said. “Klack ‘em” is a common gang term meaning to shoot someone, according to police, who said another man climbed into the back of the Yukon.
When Moore gave the officer two clear plastic bags containing different types of pills, the officer handed him the rest of the “buy” money, officials said.
Police said that as Moore ran back to his truck, he continued yelling, “Klack ‘em, klack ‘em,” then tried to flee when the undercover officer gave the signal to make an arrest. Moore hit an unmarked police car as he tried to flee.
Assisting officers blocked Moore’s vehicle, police said. Both men were ordered out of the car with their hands up. Police saw the second man – identified as 25-year-old David McCoy – jumping back and forth between the rear passenger compartment and the rear trunk, court documents said.
Police obtained and executed a search warrant and found duct tape, rope and a .40 caliber handgun in the trunk area. Police learned the gun was reported stolen, along with 10 rounds of ammunition, during a Philadelphia burglary in September.
The undercover officer wasn’t injured, but two officers in the unmarked car had minor injuries. They were treated at the hospital and released and should return to full duty soon, police said.
At headquarters, McCoy told police that Moore offered to pay him $100 to drive him to Bensalem to sell “fake pills” to someone, according to police. The two men came up with a plan to rob the customer, police said.
The original plan, McCoy said, was to sell the fake pills, but if the sale didn’t take place, McCoy was supposed to jump out from underneath the blanket where he was hiding and rob the buyer, court documents said.
Moore told police he had arranged and sold the fake drugs to the undercover officer because he “needed to make money,” police said.
Both men were arrested and arraigned Wednesday morning on robbery, manufacture, delivery or possession with intent and related charges. Moore was also charged with criminal solicitation of first-degree murder, possession of an illegal firearm and criminal use of a communication device.
Moore was sent to Bucks County prison in lieu of 10 percent of $1 million bail; McCoy was sent to prison in lieu of 10 percent of $750,000 bail.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Bensalem DNA results in 90 minutes: "This is real CSI stuff"

Posted: Tuesday, November 19, 2013 

A recent series of thefts from cars in Bensalem left police perplexed and wondering if they could be connected.
They had the answer Tuesday, when they confirmed the crimes are linked to the same suspect.

While Bensalem’s public safety director explained the new DNA technology that cracked the theft case at a press conference, he said police officers were serving a search warrant seeking DNA from the suspect to check for a match.
“This is real ‘CSI’ stuff,” Public Safety Director Fred Harran said.
Where fingerprints once were the gold standard for crime-solving, law enforcement has added routine DNA testing to its arsenal. A handful of Bucks County police departments that use DNA evidence with property crimes say it makes a significant difference in the clearance rates for those crimes.
But now, the Bensalem police — the first and only Bucks police department to have a private lab create a local DNA database — is taking the technology to the next step with a first-of-its-kind initiative that generates DNA results in 90 minutes.
The department is the first U.S. local law enforcement agency to participate in the rapid DNA testing through Bode Technology, a private lab in Lorton, Va., Harran announced Tuesday at Bensalem police headquarters. The free 30-day pilot started two weeks ago, Harran said, and it’s already yielding results.
Police used the rapid testing technology recently in the investigation of an attempted robbery at a convenience store, Harran said. Near the store, police found a knife they believed was used in the crime. Also nearby was a suspect who matched a store clerk’s description of the would-be robber.
Police tested DNA obtained from the knife with the suspect’s DNA. The samples matched, Harran said.
While Harran had no numbers immediately available on how many cases his department was using the rapid DNA testing on, he said there are plans to compile a report at the end of the trial period.
Bensalem police recently contracted with Bode to process, analyze and maintain DNA evidence and profiles for its 6,500-sample DNA database started in 2010. The DNA testing has played a role in 150 criminal investigations, mostly involving drugs or property crimes, Harran said.
Property crimes in the township have been steadily declining since the police department adopted more aggressive DNA testing, Harran said, citing a 47 percent drop in burglaries over the last year.
Through its private lab, Bensalem police have a 30-day turnaround for results involving property-related crimes, which is far faster than state-run DNA labs that can take a year or longer for results with minor crimes.
“That is not solving crime,” Harran said.
How DNA testing generally works is that police enter biological samples taken from evidence into a DNA database. If it generates a matching profile, that means an individual cannot be ruled out as a suspect. But police need a DNA sample from the individual to test and confirm a match.
State police use the Combined DNA Index System, better known as CODIS, a type of national DNA database that uses computer systems to store crime lab generated profiles. More than 11 million DNA profiles are in CODIS, including 300,000 in Pennsylvania alone, according to the Pennsylvania State Police.  
But state forensic labs put a priority on processing samples involving violent crimes like rape and murder. Property crimes such as theft and vandalism are considered low-priority crimes, though they are far more prevalent than violent crimes in most communities.
What makes Bode’s rapid DNA testing program unique is that it can test DNA directly from a crime scene; other available rapid DNA testing, like what the FBI uses, can do only reference samples from an individual.
Bensalem’s Harran says the township will continue submitting DNA samples through CODIS and Bode through its 30-day pilot. During the pilot, all crime evidence where DNA can be obtained will be processed through the 90-minute program, Harran said.
The rapid program is also comparing all new DNA profiles to the already existing 6,500 DNA profiles in Bensalem’s local database. The goal is to make real-time DNA matches to generate probable cause arrests from active criminals in active investigations, Harran said. Suspects who are later cleared can have their DNA removed from the local database, Harran said.
With a 90-minute turnaround, Harran initially had concerns about the accuracy of the results, which is one reason he agreed to the 30-day free pilot project.
Bensalem has set up a field testing lab in its police headquarters, where the 90-minute tests are processed and analyzed. If Bensalem continues the rapid testing program, the township would pay $100,000 for the equipment and $100 per sample for processing, said Amy Jeanguenat, Bode’s director of forensic operations.
At the press conference, Jeanguenat attributed the dramatic increase in DNA turnover time to advancements over the last three years in the use of DNA and changes in chemicals and equipment.
Bensalem Mayor Joseph DiGirolamo on Tuesday pledged to continue the rapid DNA testing program after the pilot is finished if it continues to prove successful.
The technology has also garnered the attention of other Bucks County police departments, Bucks County Chief of Prosecution Matt Weintraub said.
Within the next month, Weintraub said he anticipates that 12 of the county’s 48 police departments – led by Plumstead Township – will join Bensalem’s local DNA database through the private lab. He declined to name the other departments.
Bucks County District Attorney David Heckler said the 90-minute technology would be most valuable in cases where police have developed a suspect.
“Solving major crimes, minutes matter,” Heckler added. “Having this kind of resource to develop probable cause is going to be huge.”

Family of 14 year-old wants outside probe of Taser incident

Posted: Wednesday, November 20, 2013

A special prosecutor should investigate the circumstances surrounding a police officer’s use of a stun gun on a 14-year-old shoplifting suspect, a representative for the family of the boy said Wednesday.

Bucks County District Attorney David Heckler has “compromised his office,” said Greg Brinkley, an investigator hired by the teen’s mom Marissa Sargeant. Brinkley cited the DA’s previous comments about the incident, including inaccurate statements that the teen had a criminal record.
“Clearly, I think he has compromised himself,” Brinkley said. “I don’t think his office can do a fair investigation. Everything he’s done, he has formed a judgment already concerning the events as the police have told him.”
On Friday evening, Sargeant posted photos of her son’s bruised and battered face on Facebook, claiming that two Tullytown police officers “brutally attacked/tortured” and fired a stun gun in his face after he and an adult relative were arrested Nov. 12. That ignited a firestorm on social media and prompted international coverage in the mainstream media.    
14-year-old hit with stun gun in Bucks County, Pa. 
Sargeant took the photos of her son after he was released from the Edison Youth Detention Center in Doylestown, where he was incarcerated for three days following the arrest, Brinkley said.
Heckler has said the teen’s injuries are the result of the boy falling face first onto the concrete after he was hit with a stun gun. Since his hands were cuffed behind his back, he was unable to break his fall. The newspsper is withholding the boy’s name because he’s a minor and the case is in the juvenile court system.
The family believes the injuries, which include a broken nose and cracked teeth, were the result of a physical assault, not a fall.
The family reportedly has hired high-profile Philadelphia attorney Fortunato Perri Jr. to represent them in a potential civil rights lawsuit. The newspaper has been unsuccessful in reaching Perri for comment, despite several phone messages.
Supporters have planned a rally dubbed “Justice for Joey” the day before Thanksgiving outside the Tullytown Police Department.
The only publicly available information — a criminal complaint against the teen’s uncle — doesn’t mention either the escape attempt or the use of a stun gun.
The report states that, about 2:30 p.m., police responding to a retail theft report at the Levittown Wal-Mart saw an F-150 Ford pickup matching the description of the suspect’s vehicle speeding through the parking lot toward Route 13 South. A Tullytown police patrol car got behind the pickup and attempted a traffic stop as the pickup exited the shopping center and turned right onto southbound Route 13.
The pickup drove through construction cones to get away, according to the affidavit. The officer driving behind the pickup saw it rear-end another vehicle, according to the document.
Another Tullytown police officer pulled in front of the pickup truck and blocked it between the two patrol cars, according to the affidavit. The driver, Jordan Gibson, 19, and a “juvenile” — who the DA says is the 14-year-old — were positively identified by Wal-Mart employees as the suspected shoplifters.
Gibson was charged with recklessly endangering others, corrupting the morals of a minor, fleeing and attempting to elude an officer, retail theft and related charges in connection with the shoplifting incident, according to court records. The boy faces misdemeanors, but his exact charges aren’t public information because juvenile court proceedings are closed to the public.
Deputy District Attorney Michelle Walsh confirmed that charges of resisting arrest, fleeing and eluding police were dismissed Friday at the boy’s intake hearing, the equivalent a preliminary hearing in adult court. Other charges remain apparently remain.
What happened after Gibson and the teen were taken into police custody is the subject of a formal DA investigation at the request of the Tullytown police chief. Heckler initially said his office didn’t plan to investigate, citing his satisfaction with accounts from police and juvenile probation of what happened and because the mother hadn’t requested an investigation.
The newspaper has been unsuccessful in attempts to reach Tullytown Police Chief Dan Doyle for comment. The day after the photos of the teen’s battered face circulated on social media, Doyle released a statement saying the department was aware of “misinformation” surrounding the arrest and a “thorough” review of the incident was underway.
Tullytown police have forwarded details of their investigation into the circumstances surrounding the stun gun incident to Bucks County detectives, according to sources familiar with the case.
Heckler has said that his understanding is the 14-year-old had his hands cuffed behind his back and was waiting beside the pickup truck when he took off running toward Route 13.
The officer ordered the teen to stop and warned he would use a Taser if the teen didn’t comply, according to the police account and witnesses. The boy kept running and the stun gun was fired. It’s unknown if surveillance cameras in the shopping center or the patrol car’s dash camera captured any images.
The boy’s family believes the police officers had other options to stop the boy, suggesting they could have used their patrol cars to block his path or tackled him to the ground, Brinkley said. “He couldn’t have run too fast because his hands were behind his back,” Brinkley added.
Heckler has said the two barbed stun gun probes hit the boy in the right shoulder and right cheek. Brinkley disputes that finding. He says his review of the medical records show the probes hit the boy in the hand or wrist and the cheek.
The police officers took the boy to Lower Bucks Hospital, where the probe was removed from his cheek, Heckler said. It’s unclear who signed off on the boy’s medical care. Brinkley claimed police didn’t notify Sargeant her son was taken to the hospital or treated there and told her the teen “signed off” on his medical treatment.
Heckler has said the boy didn’t tell anyone at the juvenile detention center or the hospital that a police officer had assaulted him. Brinkley says the family believes the boy lost consciousness at some point and doesn’t clearly recall everything that happened.
“Both of his eyes clearly reflect that he was punched,” Brinkley said, adding, “Some of the things he remembers, and the more you talk to him, the more he is starting to remember.”
Also unclear is when the police notified Sargeant about her son’s arrest. She claims she was told when she went to the Tullytown Police Station and police refused to let her see her son, Brinkley said. She also claims police refused to let her see or speak to her son until he was released Friday from the detention center in Doylestown Township.
The Bucks County Youth Center has visiting hours on Wednesday evenings, plus Saturday and Sunday, according to its director, Ted Rice. Detainees also can make calls to parents or guardians “any day of the week,” Rice said.
Brinkley said he doesn’t believe the boy was told he could call his mother. “If they say you want to call your mother, I don’t see him saying no,” he said.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Brooklyn man held in kidnapping, assault case

Posted: Thursday, October 17, 2013

When Brittany Buckner first spoke to police about an alleged assault and kidnapping by her boyfriend, she claimed that he repeatedly threatened to kill her during the drive from Bensalem to Brooklyn.
On the witness stand Wednesday, though, the 23-year-old woman claimed that Phillip John Lupo Jr., 27, of Brooklyn, never threatened her, though he did break her nose, chip her teeth and “rough her up” in a Bensalem hotel lobby.
Before her testimony began, Buckner acknowledged that she did not want to appear in court and she showed up only because the Bucks County District Attorney had issued a subpoena for her appearance.
She testified that she and Lupo, who live together, visited Bensalem on July 29 so he could gamble at Parx casino. While he was at the casino, she hung out at the hotel pool.
When Lupo arrived at the hotel later that night, the two got into a verbal argument at the pool, Buckner testified. The argument continued into the hotel lobby where it got physical, she said.
Witnesses and employees told Bensalem police that Lupo threw Buckner into a chair in the lobby, then punched her “numerous times” in the face and head. Buckner testified that Lupo punched her in the face breaking her nose and breaking open her lip.
“There was blood everywhere,” she said. “I’m not sure how many times he hit me but I was roughed up.”
When prosecutor Vaughn asked if Lupo said anything to her during the attack, Buckner said she couldn’t remember. “I was trying to protect myself,” she said.
At one point, Buckner said she was on the lobby floor where Lupo continued to hit her.
After striking her, Lupo took her car keys and ran out to the parking lot, she said. Not wanting to be stuck in Bensalem, Buckner said she ran after him, got in the car and they went home to Brooklyn.
When they arrived at their apartment, she testified that Lupo got out of the car, and she drove to her cousin’s house, then to the hospital where she was treated for her injuries.
During the trip to New York, Buckner said that Lupo was driving recklessly, which scared her. But he did not threaten to hurt her, though he threatened to kill himself, she said.
Buckner’s version of events Wednesday is different than what she initially told Bensalem police about the incident.  
Hotel surveillance video shown in court that captured part of the altercation depicted Buckner running away from a man – who she testified is Lupo – before he tackled her, then dragged and threw her into a running car before driving away.
Bensalem police also allege that Buckner claimed during the ride to New York that Lupo repeatedly threatened to kill her, at one point telling her that he wasn’t going back to jail and he’d kill her before he let that happen, according to court records.
He also told Buckner that he would tie her up, shoot her, chop up and bury her body, police said.
Hotel employee Ryan Smith testified that he witnessed Lupo hit Buckner, grab her by the hair and throw her into the backseat of the car.
“She was screaming, ‘Help me,’” Smith said, adding he ran after the car and got its license plate number.
Following testimony, Bensalem District Judge Joseph Falcone held Lupo for trial on all charges including kidnapping, aggravated assault and terrorist threats. Lupo remains in Bucks County prison in lieu of 10 percent of $100,000 bail.

Lupo also has an open criminal case in Marlboro, N.J. where he is charged with simple assault and abuse of an animal, according to a New Jersey court official. In March he allegedly choked and threw against a wall an 8-pound Shih Tzu-Maltese mix named Louie during an altercation, according to published reports.
Jo Ciavaglia: 215-949-4181; email:; Twitter: @jociavaglia

Morrisville mom: Boy beaten by teens who stole candy

Posted: Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The mother of one of three Morrisville trick-or-treaters said Wednesday that six to eight older teens stole their Halloween candy — allegedly at gunpoint — and one boy was attacked when he didn’t drop his bag fast enough.
The woman, who didn’t want to be identified, said her son didn’t recognize any of the teens who robbed them. One boy had a skull mask, but it didn’t cover his face and the others weren’t wearing masks or costumes, she said.
The three 13-year-old boys were trick-or-treating at about 8 p.m. on Sherman Lane near Doloro Drive when a group of “shady” looking kids started chasing them, the mom said. The boys approached an adult for help, but the older kids convinced the adult they were playing a Halloween prank and “just joking.”
The group continued to follow the three boys, who asked the older kids if they lived in the neighborhood. “We don’t live around here. We’re from the ‘hood,” one of them replied, according to her son.
At 8:30 p.m., the woman said the older teens confronted the three boys and one suspect held up his arm and “appeared” to have a gun. The teen ordered the boys to drop their candy bag and stole a book bag that contained an iPod and a black and silver backpack, the woman said. Police valued the items at $135.
The incident remains under investigation.
When one boy didn’t drop his bag fast enough, he was punched, stomped and kicked by others in the group, leaving him with a bloody nose, bruises and cuts. “He actually had the tread mark of a sneaker on his nose,” the woman said.
The attackers ran off after the other two boys ran back to the last house where they had stopped for candy and alerted the homeowner, the mother said.
It’s the third child-related incident since August where Morrisville police waited days before releasing information to the public.
Morrisville police notified the town’s mayor – who oversees the police department – of the Halloween incident, though Mayor Rita Ledger said Tuesday that she didn’t recall being told a gun was involved. Police didn’t notify council members or post the information on the department’s new Facebook page. The robbery report wasn’t publicly released until Tuesday, when it was included as a three-sentence item in the borough’s weekly police log.

Town watch members say they weren’t informed about the Halloween robbery, though two noted there was a strong police presence in the borough last Thursday night. The mother who called the newspaper about the robbery said she was told that police officers were stopping groups of kids after the robbery to see if they had any of the stolen items.
Jo Ciavaglia: 215-949-4181; email:; Twitter: @jociavaglia

Halloween gunpoint candy robbery report criticized

Posted: Tuesday, November 5, 2013 

Morrisville police are facing criticism again after waiting five days to report that three borough juveniles allegedly had their Halloween candy stolen at gunpoint last Thursday night.
The borough’s mayor, who oversees the police department, said Tuesday that she was told that some kids had candy stolen, but she did not recall being told that a gun was involved.
The council president says that she was not told about the incident at all.
Nothing about the incident appeared on the Morrisville Police Department’s Facebook page Tuesday afternoon, though it has a post about the borough’s policy on trick-or-treating, which is supposed to end at 8 p.m.   
The Courier Times was unsuccessful Tuesday in reaching Lt. Tom Herron, who is in charge of the police department, for comment. The robbery was included in the borough’s weekly police log as a three sentence item.
Police allege the three kids were returning from trick-or-treating shortly before 8:30 p.m. when they were robbed at gunpoint. The incident occurred on Doloro Drive, according to Mayor Rita Ledger.
In addition to “three full bags of candy,” the suspect stole a “Notre Dame” book bag and an iPod. The items were valued at a total of $135, police said. No other information was provided.
On Wednesday, Sherlock said she met with the mother of a boy who was injured during the robbery. She said he was assaulted.
Morrisville police came under fire in August and September after they failed to immediately report two alleged child abduction attempts until days after they occurred. The lack of communication led to the creation of a town watch group that attracted 200 people to its first meeting last month.
After the second abduction attempt, Ledger, who did not run for re-election, also announced plans to meet with police and council to work out a strategy for publicizing future public safety incidents.
But council President Nancy Sherlock says she didn’t know about the alleged gunpoint robbery until a newspaper reporter told her. She complained that Ledger has not shared any police reports with council in months.
“I’m not happy about this if the mayor knew about this and didn’t tell us,” she said. “It’s a lack of communication or care.”
The most recent police news update Sherlock said that she received was that the Bucks County detectives have taken over the investigation into the Sept. 13 child abduction attempt and that information is not “jiving,” she said.
Ledger, too, expressed frustration at a lack of communication. She added that police are unsure if the gun used in the Halloween robbery was a toy, but “they’re treating it as if it were a (real) gun.”
“I’m not happy about the breakdown. We can all do better in regards to that,” she said, adding that police should release daily incident reports to the public.
Ledger added that she was hospitalized last week until Friday and that she was unable to communicate with council members.
The Morrisville police liaison to the newly formed Morrisville Town Watch group did not post the incident on the department’s new Facebook page because she was not given the information, Ledger said. The officer will now request a daily list of incident reports, Ledger said.
“We went to the extent of putting a Facebook page together to keep the residents informed. There is going to be some misses in the beginning until we get this ironed out,” Ledger added. “Being that this is one episode, we know where the breakdown took place.”
Town watch member Jen Holthenrichs said the Halloween robbery wasn’t reported to their group, so they couldn’t disseminate the information. But she added that the police recently have stepped up neighborhood patrols.
“I will say the increased police presence here on Halloween was fantastic,” Holthenrichs added.
Morrisville police were first criticized in August after police waited five days before reporting an alleged child abduction attempt involving an 8-year-old girl.
The girl escaped a kidnapping attempt in her West Bridge Street backyard after she bit the man on the hand, broke free and ran home with her brother.

The police force has been running without a department head since former Chief Jack Jones left in December. A temporary Director of Public Safety hired in the interim quit after two weeks citing a lack of cooperation.
Jo Ciavaglia: 215-949-4181; email:; Twitter: @jociavaglia