Saturday, June 28, 2014

$500K bail for Lower Southampton standoff suspect

Posted: Wednesday, June 18, 2014

An argument over household chores allegedly led a 64-year-old Lower Southampton man to threaten his roommate with a gun and then barricade himself in a house for five hours before surrendering to police Wednesday morning.
Lower Southampton police allege that Edward Naumowicz initially came to the front door of the home in the 500 block of Somers Avenue when police responded to a domestic disturbance call shortly before 4 a.m. But when police asked him to come outside, Naumowicz shut the door and refused to come out, according to a probable cause affidavit.

David Toner, who also lives in the home, told police that an intoxicated Naumowicz pulled a 9 mm semi-automatic “big gun” on him after they argued over Naumowicz not helping around the house the previous week, the affidavit shows. Initially police reported that Naumowicz became enraged after Toner suggested that Naumowicz was romantically interested in their landlord, who is Toner’s girlfriend and lives at the home.
Edward Naumowicz
During the argument, Naumowicz allegedly told Toner that “times are changing,” before calling the landlord, who was not home, according to police. Toner alleges that he heard Naumowicz on the phone threatening to kill him.
When Naumowicz hung up after not reaching the homeowner, he pointed the gun at Toner, who called police, court documents show.
Police said the gun belonged to the landlord’s late husband.
A police tactical team arrived on the scene to negotiate with Naumowicz, but he did not answer his cell phone or the door, forcing police to use bullhorns. Nearby residents were notified about the police activity and all side streets were blocked off during the incident. Shortly before 9 a.m., Naumowicz surrendered peacefully.
Naumowicz reportedly told police that he hid the gun in his bedroom but denied using it, court documents said. Police obtained a search warrant for the home, but had not found the gun as of Wednesday evening.
Naumowicz was arraigned before Lower Southampton District Judge John Waltman on charges of aggravated and simple assault, theft, terroristic threats, and possession of an instrument of crime. He was sent to Bucks County prison in lieu of 10 percent of $500,000 bail.
Aside from a DUI conviction in Philadelphia, Naumowicz has no other criminal history, Lower Southampton police Chief William Wiegman Jr. said.

Defense attorneys call SCOTUS ruling breath of fresh air

Posted: Wednesday, June 25, 2014

When Lower Southampton police executed a search warrant earlier this year at the home of two brothers suspected of drug dealing, the officers discovered one of the men’s smartphones in a bedroom.
While the warrant covered the contents of the house, Detective Shane Hearn waited until he obtained a separate search warrant for the phone before examining it. Police later found the phone contained numerous text messages between one suspect and an undercover officer involving marijuana buys, which led to criminal charges.
“It is indeed a privacy issue and the best way to go about it legally is getting a search warrant,” Hearn said.
Under a new U.S. Supreme Court ruling, law enforcement agencies are now required to obtain warrants to search cellphones of criminal suspects. The high court’s decision Wednesday has been described as a major statement on privacy rights in an age where vast amounts of personal data are stored in electronic devices.
Typically, police are interested in cellphone contents when conducting drug-related investigations, particularly to check contacts seeking evidence involving other dealers and customers, police officials said.
Lower Southampton’s diligence with obtaining search warrants to examine cellphones isn’t unusual, according to local law enforcement officials.
Falls Police Sgt. Christopher Clark, who handles drug investigations, said obtaining search warrants for cellphones has been the standard operating procedure for as long as he can remember in his department.
“This is not anything new for Pennsylvania,” added Bensalem Director of Public Safety Fred Harran.
The Bucks County District Attorney’s Office has required local police obtain search warrants to examine cellphone contents for many years.
“So long that it has become standard police practice for law enforcement to procure a search warrant if probable cause exists to search the contents of a cellphone or other media device related to a criminal investigation,” Bucks County Deputy District Attorney Robert James said.
Acting Bristol Township Police Chief John Godzieba pointed out that Pennsylvania is usually more conservative when it comes to interpreting case law, and usually takes a more narrow approach. In his police department, which has an active narcotics unit, search warrants are routinely sought for cellphones, unless the officer obtains the owner’s permission to search it.
“There is no reason to break the law to enforce the law,” he said.
Bucks prosecutor James agreed that there is an expectation of privacy since modern smartphones no longer just contain phone numbers but the “nuts and bolts of most folks’ lives.”
“However, if police believe the fruits or evidence of a crime exists in the cellphone, the phone can be seized, and once a warrant is procured, it can be searched,” he added.
But some defense attorneys say that search warrants for cellphones are unusual. Police usually try to get consent from a suspect to search a phone, similar to what police do with car searchers, according to local defense attorneys.
Middletown attorney Niels Ericksen says he can count on one hand the number of times he’s seen police obtain a warrant unless it involves call, text message or cell tower data.
“Unlike a car or wallet or pant pocket, or purse, a phone can never contain contraband requiring immediate search. There is always time for a warrant,” Ericksen said. “In my experience, police struggle with how to look at cellphones, and have no clue on the constitutional obligations. Hopefully, this case provides guidance.
Newtown Township defense attorney Keith Bidlingmaier also had clients tell him that not only did police search their phones without a warrant, but answered their cellphones after confiscating them to gain additional information.
He added that warrantless searches seem to occur before charges are filed and a district attorney is involved, which is one reason he called the Supreme Court ruling a “breath of fresh air.”
“Regardless of whether it’s illegal or legal material on one’s cellphone, police shouldn’t have the right to search it without court approval,” he added.

Middletown man charged over sex offender registration

Posted: Thursday, June 26, 2014 

A 22-year-old Middletown man is accused of dragging his feet to update his required sex offender registration with state police after he was notified that he was in violation of the law.
Obrian Reynaldo Cosme was charged Thursday with felony failure to register with Pennsylvania State Police. He was arraigned before Bensalem District Judge Joseph Falcone and released on $30,000 unsecured bail.
Cosme was convicted of a sex offense as a juvenile in New Jersey and is required to check in with state police four times a year for the rest of his life, authorities said. Since he was convicted as a juvenile, his information doesn’t appear on the state’s Megan’s Law registration website.
Pennsylvania State Police say Cosme appeared at the Trevose barracks on June 7 and admitted he was late for his quarterly in-person registration update, according to a probable cause affidavit.
When state police checked, an alert came up that listed Cosme as noncompliant for failing to register within his designated 10-day window in May, according to court documents.
Cosme claimed he didn’t know when he was supposed to register and he appeared at the barracks on May 2, which he later learned was nine days too early, authorities said. At the time, state police told him that he’d have to reregister if he was not within his designated registration window.
Cosme also was told he should check with the state Megan’s Law unit to find out when his 10-day registration period started. He failed to find out, though, police said.
He claims he didn’t learn he was overdue with his registration until he checked the mail in his post office box on June 4, court documents said. The next day he called the Megan’s Law unit, which confirmed he was in violation, the affidavit said.
Cosme then waited two more days before appearing at the state police barracks to update his registration, authorities said.
This isn’t the first time that Cosme has failed to update his registration.
Middletown police charged Cosme with Megan’s Law violations last July after he allegedly failed to report in-person at state police barracks in May; a subsequent police investigation found Cosme was mostly living in New Jersey with a girlfriend, according to court records.
However, a Bucks County judge dismissed the charge of failure to verify address and be photographed against Cosme last November, according to online records.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Charges for assisting in suicide rare, but not unheard of in Pa.

Posted: Sunday, June 15, 2014 

In the four suicide notes that Karen Yiambilis wrote before she died in April, she repeatedly states her and her 30-year-old son’s desire to die.
“It’s too much pain here,” she wrote in a note to her stepson, Nicholas Yiambilis.
“Please understand why we left this world. Gus and I were very unhappy. The negativity was too much,” she wrote to her daughter, Eleni.
“It’s time for me to take Gus home to God where he can be happy and at peace,” she wrote to her husband, George.
Those sentiments were echoed again in three suicide notes written by Koustantinos “Gus” Yiambilis and found in his mother’s bedroom.
Still, Gus Yiambilis is charged with homicide and causing/aiding in suicide in the carbon monoxide poisoning death of his 59-year-old mother.
Yiambilis’ case might be the first prosecution in Bucks County for assisting in a suicide, a rarely used felony charge in Pennsylvania. Some legal experts believe the case has the potential to break new ground in the right-to-die movement, which has largely focused on assisted suicide cases involving the elderly, the terminally ill or people with life-altering disabilities.
Katherine Pearson, an attorney and a Penn State Dickinson School of Law expert on legal issues facing older adults, described the Yiambilis case as “extremely rare,” since neither mother nor son was physically disabled or terminally ill, but simply expressed a desire to die.
“Where there was no indication of suffering, physical suffering, or terminal illness, I can’t think of one that I’ve seen,” she said. “There may be a proof problem for the prosecution on that side of the case.”
Suicide notes written by Karen and Gus Yiambilis
While the Yiambilis case doesn’t strike Pearson as one that would likely generate additional legislation involving assisted suicide, it is tragic nonetheless.
“We struggle enough with the terminally ill and their right to seek aid,” she said. “This is the kind of case that cries out for a negotiated alternative (rather than prison).”
Nationally, legal experts note that arrests for assisting in suicide are less common than years ago, which some believe signals changing attitudes about end-of-life decisions, despite existing laws that outlaw it in all but five U.S. states.
Neighboring Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Ferman said she isn’t aware of any such cases in her county, at least in the 21 years she has been a prosecutor. Professional organizations representing district attorneys and defense lawyers in the state also said the charge of causing/aiding in suicide is rarely used.
Statewide, 53 people were convicted of causing/aiding in suicide between 2004 and 2012, according to data from the Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing. The data reflects sentences reported to the commission through its secure Web application.
Most of those convicted — 39 — were sentenced to state prison. Only 10 were sentenced to so-called “restorative sanctions,” non-confinement sentences that include fines, according to the commission.
Assisting in suicide has been a crime in Pennsylvania since 1973 and the law specifically notes that survivors of suicide pacts can be guilty under the statute.
Under the law, a person can be charged in either of two ways: criminal homicide for intentionally causing someone to kill himself by force, duress or deception or, as Yiambilis is charged, for aiding or soliciting suicide. That’s when a person intentionally aids or solicits another person to commit suicide or their behavior causes someone to attempt or commit suicide.
Yiambilis also is charged with homicide, but not under the assisting in suicide law.
Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association executive director Richard Long said that he has not heard of many prosecutions under the law.
“It’s one of those things that a district attorney has to make a determination on regarding the facts and determinations involving a suicide,” Long added.
Earlier this year a Schuylkill County judge dismissed an aiding/assisting in suicide charge against Philadelphia nurse Barbara Mancini, whom the state attorney general charged with assisting in the 2013 suicide of her terminally ill 93-year-old father. The case focused national attention on the right-to-die issue.
Mancini was accused of giving her father, who was in hospice care, a bottle of prescribed morphine, on which he subsequently overdosed. She denied that she intended him to use the drug to kill himself, according to news stories.
In 1995, Snyder County resident Leonard Luczak was charged with assisting in his wife’s suicide. After an argument, Luczak gave his wife a loaded .32 revolver that he kept in a nightstand and suggested that she’d be better off dead, according to press accounts. The woman took the gun and fatally shot herself, according to news stories.
Prosecutors added a charge of criminal homicide to the initial aiding/assisting in suicide offense. Luczak ended up pleading guilty to assisting in his wife’s suicide and was sentenced to one to two years in county jail, according to his defense attorney, Peter Campana.
With the Yiambilis case, defense attorney William Goldman contends there is no evidence that Gus Yiambilis actively participated in the planning of the alleged double-suicide pact. After her April 7 death, neighbors said that Yiambilis and her son recently had fallen on hard financial times.
Gus and Karen Yiambilis in happier times
At Yiambilis’ recent preliminary hearing, testimony included mention of Karen Yiambilis’ writing on all the envelopes that contained both hers and her son’s suicide notes; at least one note she wrote that made reference to her wanting to take her son “to God;” and a neighbor who says Karen — not Gus — asked to borrow her gas generator.
Also, police did not take fingerprints from the duct and packing tape that was found covering the doors, vents and windows in the bedroom where Karen Yiambilis and the generator were found.
Yiambilis said that he was using the generator because PECO had shut off power to the house and he refilled the generator with gas around 9 p.m. then fell asleep, according to court documents and testimony.
More than two hours later, police and fire officials showed up to Longmeadow apartment complex where the mother and son lived after receiving reports of gas fumes.
A Bensalem police officer testified at the hearing that when Yiambilis was arrested at the hospital, he was crying and blurted out, “I can’t believe I killed my mother. She’s the only thing I got.”
A 2008 study found that a growing number of healthy, but “weary of life” people are traveling abroad seeking assisted suicide in Switzerland, one of the few nations where it is legal.
The University of Bern study found that 16 percent of people who used right-to-die groups in Switzerland reported no underlying health problems on their death certificates. The research was gathered from anonymous data on 1,301 cases of assisted suicide between 2003 and 2008.
Attorney James Swetz, president of the Pennsylvania Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys, called it senseless to file charges against the survivor of what looks like a suicide pact.
“What purpose is accomplished by prosecuting the survivor? Are you not better off giving the survivor the mental health treatment? I guess seeking treatment doesn’t put a notch in a prosecutor holster.”

Cops: Convicted Bensalem felon set own house on fire

Posted: Thursday, June 12, 2014

A 54-year-old with a criminal past is accused of setting fire to his Bensalem home earlier this year in an attempt to secure an insurance payout to support his gambling habit.
But at an arraignment Thursday on charges of arson, insurance fraud and reckless endangering, the attorney representing John Chairmonte claimed the case against his client is based on only “suspicion.”
“Suspicions don’t make it,” attorney Nicholas Mancini said.
But Bensalem police believe they have more than suspicions about Chairmonte’s involvement in the Feb. 10 fire that heavily damaged his Windsor Drive home, the third suspicious fire there since 2011.
No one was home at the time of the most recent fire. Chairmonte’s mother, who lived at the home, left about 2½ hours before the fire started after an argument with her son brought police to the home. But two neighbors — ages 68 and 75 — were injured after tripping over a fire engine supply hose while being evacuated from their home, police said.
John Chairmonte
Bensalem fire investigator Robert Sponheimer ruled the fire as an arson that started on a kitchen counter. The fire started after an open flame ignited flammable material on the counter near a coffee maker, according to an affidavit of probable cause.
Chairmonte claimed he left the coffee maker on when he left his home — with his two dogs — around 8 a.m. to go to a nearby bank, police said. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives examined the burned coffee maker and a second machine and carafe found in the oven and found no electrical malfunctions, the affidavit shows.
Bank surveillance video showed Chairmonte arrived at 8:15 a.m. and remained at a drive-through ATM for 11 minutes, according to the affidavit. Around 8:30 a.m., Chairmonte parked his car and confronted a bank employee, who told police he became upset the bank didn’t open until 9 a.m.
In his subsequent investigation, Bensalem Detective Stephen Clark said he found Chairmonte was experiencing financial problems and had withdrawn more than $3,300 from ATMs, mostly at nearby Parx Casino, in the weeks before the fire. Days before the fire, he had $226 left in his checking account and a negative balance on his savings account, police said.
Police looked at Chairmonte’s recent Parx player card activity, which showed that he won $2,700 at the Street Road casino four days before the February fire and subsequently withdrew more than $2,000 after winning, court document said.
Clark believes that Chairmonte planned to use the insurance payout to cover expenses and support his gambling habit, according to the affidavit.
Court documents alleged Chairmonte had financial problems around the time of a March 2011 fire, which was later ruled arson. Bank records showed in the month before the fire he withdrew about $6,000 out of ATMs including one at Parx before the fire, leaving him with a negative balance on the account, court documents show.
Investigators determined the earlier fire started in a trash can in the home, but found no evidence of Chairmonte’s suggestion that it could have started after a candle was placed in the trash, according to a probable cause affidavit. At the time, the house had no electric service, police said.
While no one has been arrested in the 2011 arson, the case remains open and Chairmonte is a suspect, Clark said.
Bensalem District Judge Joseph Falcone set Chairmonte’s bail at 10 percent of $250,000.
John Chairmonte in 1980
Chairmonte is currently living with a relative in Warminster.
After learning of his impending arrest recently, Chairmonte tried to commit suicide by driving his car into a wall after consuming 60 unknown pills, Clark said. He was involuntarily committed to a mental health hospital, where he allegedly made threats against law enforcement including a bomb threat, which Falcone called “very disturbing.”
The morning of the February fire, police found a disassembled firearm in a trashcan at the home, Clark said.
Chairmonte’s criminal history stretches back three decades and includes a 2000 conviction for aggravated and simple assault and reckless endangerment, police said.
In March 1980 Chairmonte — then a 20-year-old admitted drug addict — was arrested in the shooting of the wife of his former Bensalem High School special education teacher. Chairmonte claimed the teacher offered him $800 to pull the trigger.
Loretta Todt, who was shot in the face, survived, but lost an eye. Her husband, Robert, was sentenced to 10 to 20 years in a state prison after being convicted in 1981 of attempted murder, criminal solicitation and conspiracy.
Chairmonte struck a plea deal with prosecutors, agreeing to testify against Todt, in exchange for no more than five years in prison.
In 1981, the late Bucks County Judge Issac Garb sentenced Chairmonte to no more than four years saying he had a serious learning disability “which makes him prey to people such as Todt and because he has shown remorse for the crime,” according to a Courier Times article.

Bensalem cop stabbing suspect had escaped before

Posted: Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The 23-year-old Bensalem man accused of stabbing a police officer with a 3½-inch blade knife Tuesday was missing from a county corrections center for two days before an arrest warrant was filed.
It wasn’t the first time that suspect Matthew Miller left a prison work release program without permission either, according to court records. He also did it in 2010.
Matthew Miller is taken into custody
Miller, who faces criminal attempted homicide and related charges in Tuesday’s incident, was arraigned Wednesday before Doylestown District Judge Mark Douple on a felony escape charge. His bail was set at 10 percent of $1 million, but Miller remains incarcerated on $5 million cash bail in connection with the stabbing.
Miller entered the Bucks County prison March 25 after he was convicted of theft, authorities said. On June 5, he was transferred to the Men’s Community Corrections Center to participate in a work release program, according to a probable cause affidavit.
The prison received information around 5:45 p.m. Friday that Miller had left the center, according to the affidavit. Corrections officers checked Miller’s room and found only dirty clothes left behind, authorities said.
Officers paged Miller at the center and a subsequent search of the building and grounds turned up no sign of him. An alert was subsequently issued and he was placed on escape status, but a warrant for his arrest was not filed until Monday, according to court documents in the Bensalem stabbing case.
Bensalem police were notified shortly before 1 p.m. Tuesday that an escape warrant had been issued for Miller, whose last known address was in Bensalem.
Matthew Miller
About a half hour later, an off-duty police officer told Bensalem patrol Officer Michael Jachimski, 38, he saw Miller walking on Bristol Pike near Woodhaven Road with another unidentified man. Minutes later Jachimski stopped the pair.
Miller initially gave police a false first name and birth year, police said. When Jachimski attempted to handcuff Miller, the suspect allegedly started a physical confrontation with the officer and attempted to get into his patrol car.
Miller allegedly pulled out a black Extreme Ops tactical-style folding knife and lunged toward Jachimski stabbing him, though the officer’s bulletproof vest protected him. He then allegedly stole the marked patrol car and fled to Northeast Philadelphia where he was apprehended just beyond the border with Bensalem.
During his arrest, police allege that Miller admitted to recently smoking crack cocaine, according to the affidavit.
Miller was convicted of escape in 2011 when he went missing from the community corrections center in November 2010 while on the work release program, according to online court records.
During that incident, prison officials learned that Miller was missing after a morning institutional count of inmates. Three days later, a warrant for his arrest was filed on an escape charge. Available court records do not say how long Miller was in the work release program before he walked away without permission.
Miller subsequently pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 23 months in Bucks County prison, but received time served.
The newspaper was unsuccessful in reaching Bucks County prison Director William Plantier for comment Wednesday.
But at a county prison board meeting Wednesday, several members wanted to know why they were not notified an inmate walked away from the community correction center.
At the meeting, Plantier responded it’s not unusual for community corrections center inmates to walk away without permission, and it typically happens twice a month.
He added that the prisoners approved for the less restrictive community corrections center are non-violent offenders.
Jo Ciavaglia: 215-949-4181; email:; Twitter: @jociavaglia

Monday, June 9, 2014

Same sex couples find not all district judges are marrying kind

Posted: Sunday, June 1, 2014 
New Hope Mayor Larry Keller,(center,) officiates his first same-sex marriage of Elio F. Bracco ( left) and Keith David 

The thought of marriage makes some people nervous. But the prospect of applying for a marriage license left one Lower Bucks County man feeling unusually anxious, he said.
After staff at three Lower Bucks area district courts told him they no longer process marriage licenses for the county, he called Penndel District Judge Daniel Baranoski, and staff there told him he could apply for a license there.
Only then did the man, who didn’t want to be identified, tell the staff that he was in a same-sex relationship and asked if that would be a problem, he said.
No problem.
Next came the big question: Did the judge perform same-sex marriage ceremonies?
Yes, he was told. In fact, the staff told him that Baranoski had had his first same-sex wedding scheduled for that day but the couple canceled after finding a minister.
With the traditional summer wedding season approaching, same-sex couples are finding the same hurdles as opposite sex couples when it comes to finding local district judges who perform weddings and what local courts offer marriage license applications.
Montgomery County Administrator Michael R. Kehs said no district court judge has contacted his office to say they will refuse to marry same-sex couples nor has his office received any complaints from anyone saying a judge has refused to marry them.
Most of Bucks County’s district courts said they do perform weddings, according to judges or court staff, and a handful said they’ve already wed same-sex couples — or received wedding requests — since the May 20 federal ruling overturning Pennsylvania’s ban on same sex marriage.
But the days and times individual courts perform weddings can vary widely, and ceremonies outside regular court hours are rare. Many judges also will marry only individuals who live within their judicial district. In some courts, the judge will perform a wedding, but not process a marriage license application.
Court staffs are also altering existing marriage applications — crossing out female or male where necessary — as needed until the revised ones arrive.
In Pennsylvania, district judges are authorized but not required to marry people, but they cannot charge couples for performing nuptials.
Only three Bucks County district judges — Leonard Brown in Bensalem, Robert Roth in Quakertown and Joanne Kline in Bristol Township — stopped performing marriages before the same-sex marriage decision.
But some Pennsylvania district judges have indicated that they’ll stop performing weddings as a result of the ruling, said Pennsylvania Special Courts Judges Association President Frank Peranteau Sr., also a district judge in Bristol and part of Bristol Township.
“There are going to be people who don’t want to do them,” he added.
On the issue, Peranteau has advised that other district judges who don’t want to marry same-sex couples should stop performing marriages.
As for him, Peranteau said he believes performing weddings is “part of our job,” adding he averages about 10 weddings a month.
A representative for Equality PA, one of the groups that challenged the state’s ban on same sex marriage, said she is not aware of any complaints about couples being turned away from district courts since the ban was overturned.
Adding to the confusion locally, though, is apparently conflicting information about which judges perform marriages.
The Lower Bucks groom-to-be, who got his license at Baranoski’s court, said that staff at Judge Robert Wagner Jr.’s court in Bristol Township and Judge John Kelly Jr.’s in Middletown told him the judges did not perform weddings.
But Wagner said he does marry people, though it’s seldom — fewer than 10 a year — and he sets aside only one day a week in the morning before regular court business to do so.
Kelly also marries people, but not often. Since January, the judge has performed 15 marriages, his staff said.
Court staff at Lower Southampton Judge John Waltman’s court also said he doesn’t perform marriages, but the judge said he does.
“The weddings are the best part of the job,” he added.
Staff writers James McGinnis and Peg Gibbons contributed to this story.

Bucks cops seek information about murder weapon

Posted: Tuesday, June 3, 2014 

The .22-caliber Smith & Wesson found in York County

The couple may have been looking to strike it rich by finding an artifact in a York County riverbed in 2011. Instead, they found a weapon allegedly connected to two Bucks County murders.

More than two years after that discovery, a Bristol Township Police Department detective is trying to identify the couple who turned in the .22-caliber Smith & Wesson revolver that police say was used in shooting deaths in 2006 and 2007. The effort comes as a defendant in the 2006 murder, convicted drug dealer Ckaron Handy, awaits trial in Bucks County on murder and robbery charges.
Ckaron Handy (left) Kevin Battista (right) 

The gun was found near the Kline’s Run Park Marina, south of Wrightsville near Lower Windsor and Manor townships, according to a news release issued Tuesday. The marina is near the border of Lancaster and York counties.

The unidentified couple turned the gun in to Lower Windsor police in York County, but police have been unable to obtain any additional information, according to Bristol Township Police Detective Timothy Fuhrmann. The couple isn’t believed to be connected to either murder, Fuhrmann said.
“The couple, who should be applauded for acting safely and thoughtfully, turned the firearm in to Lower Windsor Township (police) on Nov. 1, 2011,” Bucks County officials said in a statement.
The couple found the weapon during a lowering of the Susquehanna River for a dam inspection, Fuhrmann said. During the draw-down, people flock to the river to search for historic artifacts and other items that would otherwise be underwater.
Bucks County Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Schorn, who’s prosecuting Handy, said investigators have credible evidence that the gun was tossed into the Susquehanna from a bridge over Route 30 near Wrightsville. Bristol Township police learned about the gun in 2012, Fuhrmann said.
The Bristol Township detective said police want to speak to the couple to establish exactly where they found the gun. “It’s just a piece of the puzzle,” Fuhrmann added, but declined to elaborate further about that aspect of the inquiry.
The registered owner of the gun isn’t believed to be involved in either murder, Fuhrmann added, though the weapon wasn’t reported stolen.
Eric Doggett
The gun may be useful in the prosecution of Handy, 25, of Philadelphia. He is accused in the shooting death of Kevin Battista, 30, in what authorities say was a drug-deal-turned-botched-robbery-attempt in Bristol Township in 2006.
Police said Battista, a father of two, went to the Bloomsdale-Fleetwing neighborhood with a woman, looking for his longtime girlfriend. When he didn’t find her, Battista tried to buy $60 worth of cocaine, according to police, who said that’s when Handy shot Battista during a robbery attempt.
In March 2013, Handy was sentenced in U.S. District Court to seven years in prison for a weapons violation. The U.S. attorney alleged that Handy, a convicted felon, possessed a semi-automatic handgun loaded with a single hollow-point bullet on Nov. 15, 2011. He was convicted of the charge in November 2012.
Police believe that gun is connected to the April 29, 2007 shooting death of Eric Doggett, 29, of Trenton, Fuhrmann said. In 2011, James Williams, then 24, was sentenced to five to 20 years in state prison under an agreement where he pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in connection with Doggett’s death.
James Williams
Williams, a convicted drug dealer, admitted he shot Doggett after Doggett allegedly tried to rob him of money he got from selling crack cocaine. Both men had guns during the incident, which occurred in Bristol Township’s Bloomsdale-Fleetwing section. Doggett returned fire with his .357, police said, staggered to a nearby alley and died.
Officials alleged that Doggett had robbed other area drug dealers, but said Williams wasn’t justified in shooting Doggett because he had ample time to escape from the robber.

Bristol man held for trial in DUI-related fatal accident

Posted: Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Something about the way the gold Hyundai was traveling on Falls’ Route 13 that morning in March 2013 made Roy Laird want to get away from it, he said.
Laird said that he passed the car because it was driving too slow. Then, out of nowhere, it pulled alongside him and started fishtailing, Laird testified Tuesday at a preliminary hearing for Dean Wyckoff, 51, of Bristol, who is accused in the DUI-related accident that killed his passenger.
“About to lose control of the car, that is what it looked like to me,” he testified.
Laird said that he immediately backed off the gas pedal when suddenly the Hyundai crossed into the right lane in front of him – barely missing his car. Next, he saw the Hyundai strike a guardrail, go airborne and flip over before rolling down an embankment and landing in nearby Martins Creek.
Dean Wyckoff
About an hour later, the Hyundai’s front seat passenger — Steven Carroll, 57, of Trenton — was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital where he and Wyckoff had been taken for treatment, police said.
Falls police allege that Wyckoff is responsible for the March 14, 2013, accident that killed Carroll because he was driving under the influence. Blood tests taken after the accident found that Wyckoff had a blood alcohol level of .153, nearly twice the legal limit for driving in Pennsylvania. His blood also tested positive for marijuana metabolites.
Falls police Officer Christopher Iocona testified that Wyckoff told him that he had taken a prescription pain medication at 7 a.m. and 10 a.m. the day of the accident and between those times he drank three, 24-ounce bottles of Bud Ice beer. Later testimony revealed no trace of prescription painkillers in Wyckoff’s blood.
Iocona, who responded to the accident scene, also testified that he saw open beer cans in the car and smelled an odor of alcohol on both Wyckoff and Carroll, which led him to believe that Wyckoff had been incapable of safely operating a car around 11:30 a.m., when the accident occurred.
Wyckoff told Iocona that he lost control of the car after he was cut off while traveling south on Route 13 on his way to a Bristol Township bar, according to police.
But a second witness, Shannan O’Connor, also testified Tuesday that she noticed the gold Hyundai weaving in and out of traffic lanes on southbound Route 13, at times speeding up to 60 mph, then slowing to 30 mph, minutes before the accident. The Hyundai’s erratic driving prompted her to pass both Wyckoff’s and Laird’s cars, she testified.
“Something told me he was not right,” she said
Minutes after passing the cars, O’Connor told the court, she saw in her rearview mirror Wyckoff’s car barely miss striking Laird before striking the guardrail, flipping over and down the embankment into Martins Creek.
“I don’t know how he missed that other vehicle,” she added.
Falls police Officer John Trindle, an accident reconstruction investigator, testified that Wyckoff’s car was traveling at 67 to 72 mph at the time of the accident, which he attributed to a combination of speeding and intoxication.
Trindle said he examined Wyckoff’s car after the accident including the fluid levels, brake shoes and lines, shocks, steering and other components and all appeared to be working. He did find that one tire was the wrong size, and the tire tread on the others were lower than required.
He also found no evidence that the Hyundai made contact with a concrete median before shooting across Route 13 and striking the rail.
Following the testimony, District Judge Philip Daly, who is sitting in for Falls Judge Jan Vislosky, held Wyckoff for trial on all charges including homicide by vehicle while under the influence, homicide by vehicle, and driving under the influence. He remains in Bucks County prison in lieu of 10 percent of $50,000 bail, which Daly declined to reduce on Tuesday.