Monday, March 30, 2015
Posted: Wednesday, March 25, 2015
A 26-year-old Bristol Township woman is accused of faking ovarian cancer after police began a child abuse investigation last year when her 11-month-old daughter was brought to a hospital with injuries that included two skull fractures and a broken jaw.
Bristol Township police say Ashley Reichard went so far as to shave her head and eyebrows to support her claim that she was in treatment last year for stage 2 ovarian cancer, according to a probable cause affidavit.
After an extensive investigation that started in July and included bringing the case before a Bucks County grand jury for review, authorities concluded that Reichard abused her daughter, then lied repeatedly to investigators.
Reichard consistently misled and lied in an attempt to “gain sympathy for herself while falsely accusing another of causing inflicted trauma to her daughter,” according to court documents filed Wednesday.
She was arraigned Wednesday before District Judge Robert Wagner Jr. in Bristol Township on charges of aggravated assault on a child under 13, endangering the welfare of children, perjury and related offenses. She was sent to Bucks County prison in lieu of 10 percent of $500,000 bail.
Bristol Township police began the investigation July 11 after the baby’s grandmother contacted them to report suspected child abuse and told police the baby was being taken to The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
At the hospital, lead investigator Detective Greg Beidler spoke with a Bucks County Children and Youth Social Services case worker who told police the infant had injuries consistent with abuse, including the skull fractures, a broken jaw, broken thigh bone, perforated ear drum, corneal abrasion in one eye, burns on her hips and multiple bruises on her face and abdomen.
A CHOP doctor concluded that only physical abuse would explain the multiplicity and severity of all the injuries, according to a probable cause affidavit.
When police first interviewed Reichard at CHOP, she claimed her daughter’s father had custody of her from the evening of July 3 until the evening of July 6, according to court documents. Reichard claimed that she and her daughter’s father have an informal custody arrangement.
Reichard told police her daughter was not acting like herself after she picked her up from the visit. Reichard claimed the baby was “crying in a weird way,” and had bruising on her face and abdomen and seemed unable to open her mouth, the affidavit said. Reichard also has a 4-year-old son, police said.
While Reichard noticed the apparent injuries, she didn’t seek any medical attention or report her concerns, court documents allege.
Instead, the next day, Reichard claimed she took her daughter to the park where she pushed her on the swing and took her down the slide. She claimed her daughter ate watermelon and a couple of hotdogs that were cut into small pieces, court papers allege.
Over the next few days, though, Reichard claimed her daughter developed other strange symptoms, including a bloody nose and fever, and bleeding from an ear. But Reichard still didn’t seek medical attention for her, police said.
Reichard claimed she called her pediatrician’s office on July 9, but the office never called back. The next day she called the doctor again, and again, no one called her back, she claimed.
But phone records obtained by investigators confirmed that Reichard never called her pediatrician’s office on July 9 and, while she did call on July 10, the office returned her call a half hour after she left the message and the call went unanswered, the affidavit said.
On Friday, July 11, the pediatrician’s office called Reichard and made an appointment for the baby to be examined later that day. At this point, police say, the infant’s physical condition had deteriorated to the point where, as Reichard described it, she was “out of it.”
Reichard told police that when she put her daughter in the car seat to take her to the pediatrician’s office, she noticed blisters on the baby’s hips for the first time, the affidavit said. A CHOP doctor later concluded the blisters — likely the result of cigarette burns — had occurred within the previous three days, police said.
After the baby was examined by the pediatrician, Reichard was told to take the child to CHOP for a physical to rule out abuse, police said.
As the investigation continued, Beidler interviewed Reichard’s mother, Lynn Slezak, in September. She told police that she didn’t see her granddaughter over the July Fourth weekend, but spent time with her on July 7. She described the baby as happy, smiling and excited, though she was a little “clingy” during the visit, the affidavit said.
Slezak claimed that she next saw her granddaughter two days later and she appeared happy and content, court documents said. But while changing her diaper, she noticed what appeared to be two thumbprints on the baby’s stomach, though she didn’t see any other bruises or burns, police said.
When she next saw the baby — July 10 — Slezak claimed she noticed the baby was acting “very fussy and whinny” and Reichard pointed out dried blood in the baby’s ear, police said.
The CHOP doctor who treated the baby later confirmed that the injuries were so severe there is no way the baby could have developed a tolerance to the abuse and that she would have felt “every little bit of pain” from her injuries.
In January, Beidler visited Reichard to serve her with legal papers and learned from her stepfather she had been diagnosed with stage 2 ovarian cancer, police said. At the time, Reichard was completely bald and had no eyebrows, according to the affidavit.
Reichard confirmed to Beidler that she was receiving chemotherapy at Fox Chase Cancer Center and Jeanes Hospital in Philadelphia for the disease, police said. She also told county social workers and court officials during custody hearings involving her daughter that she was receiving cancer treatment.
She provided her probation officer with a letter from Fox Chase in December purporting that she was under the care of the hospital’s oncology department since November for stage 2 ovarian cancer, court documents said. But the letter contained typos, it was not printed on hospital letterhead and contained “illegible signatures” purportedly of the “oncology team @ Fox Chase Cancer Center” but there were no printed names or signers, police said.
“The letter is clearly a forged document and was submitted as an explanation for failed attempts to schedule her probation appointments and visits by her PO (probation officer),” the affidavit said.
After police obtained a subpoena for medical records in February, Fox Chase and Jeanes Hospital confirmed that Reichard was never a patient, police said.
When confronted with the information, though, Reichard insisted that she is a patient at both hospitals; as of Wednesday she had failed to produce medical records supporting her claims to be undergoing treatment for cancer, police said.
In addition to allegedly lying about a cancer diagnosis, Reichard admitted that she lied twice to police about where she was living when her daughter was injured, the affidavit said.
The baby’s father was ruled out as responsible for the baby’s injuries based on the medical assessment of the injuries and Slezak’s statement to police, court documents said.
“According to the defendant and, as corroborated by others, she was the only caregiver of (the baby) during the time these injuries could have occurred,” the affidavit said.
Posted: Sunday, March 22, 2015
When she finds herself stuck in traffic, Sharon Sweeney consults her favorite mobile app to find out what’s behind the backup, how long she’ll be delayed and if there is a shortcut.
She has no interest in seeing the location of police cars along her route.
“I’m not typically a law-breaking driver ...,” the Bristol resident said. “Anyhow, in cases where I may be speeding a bit, it’d be too dangerous to try to use my phone.”
But some in law enforcement believe the popular Waze smartphone app, which lets drivers report the location of both hidden and visible police cars and other information that might be helpful to travelers, compromises officer safety and allows would-be bad guys to stalk police.
The app has become the latest target in a growing controversy over the use of social media to record and spread information about police activity. It’s a debate rooted in the issue of public safety versus expectations of privacy in public places.
Waze’s parent company, Google, is under pressure to remove the feature, especially in this time of tensions between the public and law enforcement surrounding alleged cases of police brutality.
Civil liberties and free speech advocates, though, argue that Waze and its users aren’t doing anything illegal.
They cite a 2012 federal Justice Department confirmation that the public has a constitutional right to record police in public. They also argue that Waze is no different from other social media outlets such as Instagram, Facebook and Twitter that are used to disseminate real-time information.
The mobile phone application uses software that combines GPS navigation and crowd sourcing to provide its 50 million users in 200 countries with interactive, real-time traffic alerts, along with the police car feature. Drivers can report warnings about the location of backups, accidents, hazards, gas prices, traffic camera locations and disabled vehicles.
The concerns about Waze and police safety arose during a recent meeting of the National Sheriffs Association, where it was noted that Ismaaiyl Brinsley, the Maryland man accused in the ambush shooting deaths of two New York City police officers in December, posted a screenshot from Waze on his Instagram account along with messages threatening police.
Investigators don’t believe Brinsley used Waze to ambush the officers, in part because he reportedly tossed his cellphone more than two miles from where the officers were shot.
Nonetheless, the association has launched a campaign against Waze, contending it risks officer safety and interferes with the police’s ability to catch drivers violating the law. It is also hosting training sessions and webinars to teach police more about the app.
Among the biggest Waze critics is Charlie Beck, chief of the Los Angeles Police Department. He has accused Google of endangering officers and helping criminals by publicizing the position of patrol cars. “It is not always in the public’s best interest to know where police are operating,” Beck said at a January news conference on the issue.
PUBLIC SERVICE OR DANGER
Google isn’t the first big tech corporation to feel heat from law enforcement over social media applications.
In 2011, Apple ditched its application that alerted users to DUI checkpoints at the request of four U.S. senators. Under pressure, Nokia, another communication company, removed its now defunct sobriety check tracking function Trapster.
In 2012, the ACLU chapters in New Jersey and New York each released a mobile app designed to allow users to secretly videotape and audio record police encounters. The apps — called Police Tape and Stop and Frisk — include features that notify nearby users when the app is activated and pinpoints the exact location of police activity. The apps also allow users to send copies of what they record to the ACLU for review.
Some Bucks County police chiefs understand the concerns about officer safety and public interactions. But they also recognize the expectation of privacy, especially in public places, is lower for police.
“I agree with other chiefs of police — they’re doing what any good chief would do — looking out for the safety and well-being of their officers. From that perspective, sure, it’s an officer safety concern,” Middletown Police Chief Joseph Bartorilla said.
But, he added, the courts will ultimately decide what violates an officer’s privacy or presents a significant safety risk to on-duty officers.
Bristol Township Acting Chief Ralph Johnson said he isn’t familiar with Waze, but called any technology that provides the public with locations of patrol cars a potential safety issue.
“I wouldn’t want the location of my guys’ police cars known,” he added.
Others argue that sharing information about speed traps, DUI checkpoints or other police activity is an ingrained part of road culture, and say the recent complaints are nothing new. Critics also say it’s hypocritical for law enforcement to try to get rid of tools that let people monitor the police since officers have been using similar tracking technologies for years to monitor law-abiding Americans.
David Maass, of the digital civil liberties advocacy group Electronic Frontier Foundation, likened Waze and other social media tools to high-tech versions of high-beam flashes, radar detectors and Citizen Band radios that have long been used to warn drivers about police presence.
“This is pretty much just an update to that. It’s not like this is identifying undercover cops. These are people who see high-profile vehicles,” Maass added. “Police think it would be easy to do their job if people aren’t watching their actions. Is it about officer safety or preserving speed traps?” There is nothing that says if Waze shuts this down, 10 new apps won’t come up.”
Some local criminal defense attorneys agree.
“I don’t see what the big deal is there,” said Jason Rubinstein, who has a Middletown practice. “If someone has (harming police) in their minds, the existence or absence of Waze isn’t going make a difference. It’s not like Waze is giving people this idea.”
Former Bucks County prosecutor David Zellis, a big Waze fan, believes providing the location of police is a public safety service because it makes people slow down.
“In terms of police on the roadways, anything that makes people slow down is fine,” said Zellis, who now practices private criminal defense law. “If someone is really determined to (stalk police,) they’ll use another app.”
The newspaper was unsuccessful in reaching Waze spokeswoman Julie Mossler for comment. But in other news stories surrounding the app controversy, Mossler has said posting information about the whereabouts of police makes roads safer and promotes faster emergency response by pinpointing locations.
Many local Waze users say they aren’t familiar with the police tracking feature.
“I use it just so I know where the traffic jams are,” said Maryanne Sciulli, of Collegeville. “I don’t care where the cops are sitting, and do, in fact, welcome their presence. I wish there were more of them to baby-sit the idiots on Route 422.”
Bensalem resident Nicole Giovetisis said her family uses Waze during summer trips to the Jersey Shore to find the reason for the traffic backups they encounter. She never uses the police feature.
“I was never really concerned about police presence,” she said. “It never even crossed my mind to use it for that.”
For Bristol Township resident Jeremiah Bright, Waze is no different from flashing high beams, which is considered a court-protected freedom of speech.
“I don’t see how this differs from that, it’s not a tracking device for police,” he said. “Someone mentions they saw a police vehicle on the road at this location — most of time the unit has moved on from the report time because (police) don’t sit in one spot the whole shift.”
Posted: Tuesday, March 24, 2015
The intersection that Time magazine called the most dangerous in America claimed another life Tuesday morning, but a preliminary investigation shows that it was not driver error that left a 28-year-old Bensalem woman dead.
Christina Massie was walking north on Knights Road and attempting to cross Street Road on a red light shortly before 6 a.m., Bensalem Director of Public Safety Fred Harran said.
She was struck by two cars traveling west on the four-lane highway, Harran said, adding that the cars had a green light and that the woman was wearing dark clothing, making it hard for the drivers to see her.
Massie was pronounced dead at the scene, police said.
The first car that hit the woman stopped, the second car did not, though Harran said it appears the second driver may not have known the car hit a person. Witnesses at the scene used cell phones to snap a picture of the license plate and the car was later located in New Jersey, Harran said.
Both drivers are cooperating with police, and the accident remains under investigation, he added.
Street and Knights roads is one of the most heavily traveled intersections in the Philadelphia region with nearly 55,000 vehicles passing through it daily, according to PennDOT data.
It was also the site of seven fatal accidents between 2003 and 2012, the most in that time period, according to the Time magazine story last year that called it the most dangerous intersection. The story cited a 2008 traffic audit that found the intersection had poor signage, dim lighting, discontinuous sidewalks, aggressive drivers and jaywalkers.
Three of the fatal accidents the Time story cited involved pedestrians struck by vehicles. Both Bensalem police and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation disagreed with the Time magazine findings involving the intersection.
At the accident scene Tuesday morning, Harran called the death an unnecessary accident.
“This is a tragedy that certainly could have been avoided,” he said. “If people just obey the lights.”
Posted: Monday, March 23, 2015
A 20-year-old Bristol Township man is accused of nearly stabbing to death a 21-year-old Falls firefighter, and nine other men — between 21 and 25 years old — face charges of causing a riot and other felonies in connection with a huge fight outside a Bristol Township bar in August.
A Bucks County grand jury heard the case at the request of Bristol Township police. The grand jury determined that robbery, along with multiple stabbings and assaults, occurred during two separate melees in the early morning of Aug. 16 outside the Stadium Bar and Grill in the 4100 block of Woerner Avenue.
Four men were injured in the melee including a bystander who was struck by a vehicle driven by two men who were attacked and attempting to get away from an out-of-control mob, police said. The two are not facing criminal charges, acting Chief Ralph Johnson said.
Eight of the alleged attackers were arrested and arraigned Monday before District Judge Joanne Kline. At least one of the two remaining suspects is expected to surrender Tuesday, police said.
The individuals arrested Monday are: Carlos Baltazar, 26, of Bristol Township; Philip Budion, 24, of Bristol Township; William Johnathon Ellershaw, 24, of Bristol Township; Michael Gonzalez, 22, of Bristol; Shaquille Legette, 21, of Bristol; Samuel Padilla Jr., 25, of Bristol Township; Brandyn Smith, 25, of Bristol; and Onorio Vila Velez, 20 of Bristol Township. Their bail ranged from 10 percent of $500,000 for Baltazar and Velez to 10 percent of $50,000 for Smith. All defendants, except Smith, were sent to Bucks County prison in lieu of bail.
Bristol Township police have also issued arrest warrants for Steven Emery Evens Jr., 21, and Anthony Verderame, 21, both of Bristol Township.
All the defendants face charges of aggravated and simple assault, riot, conspiracy, reckless endangerment, and disorderly conduct. Baltazar, Budion, Evens, Ellershaw, Smith, Velez and Verderame also face multiple robbery charges.
Velez is the only one charged with criminal attempted homicide for allegedly stabbing Steven Basalyga, 21, a Falls volunteer firefighter, in the chest after a confrontation in the bar parking lot.
On Monday, Acting Bristol Township Police Chief Ralph Johnson said he didn’t know exactly what sparked the attacks, which occurred within minutes of each other. Johnson also did not know — and court documents do not say — if the alleged attackers and victims knew each other.
Witnesses said that Padilla left the bar with Gonzalez around 1:50 a.m. and walked toward Velez outside the bar, police records show. Padilla walked up behind Basalyga, who was also a bar customer, and punched him in the back of the head, causing Basalyga to lurch forward, according to a probable cause affidavit.
Basalyga was then punched in the nose by Gonzalez and stabbed in the chest by Velez, police said. Afterward, the three men left together, leaving Basalyga with a large, life-threatening stab wound, the affidavit said.
Basalyga was taken to St. Mary Medical Center in Middletown, where he was treated for a stab wound that damaged his right atrium and right ventricular arteries, resulting in loss of blood pressure and heartbeat, court documents allege. He also had a broken nose.
The initial stabbing was followed by a second larger fight that involved an attack on three other bar customers, which required Bristol Township police to call in other local police departments for riot control, according to court documents.
In the second incident, two men and a woman left the bar shortly before closing when one of them — Nicolas Sylvia — was confronted by several men and Sylvia shoved one of the men, police said. Sylvia was immediately confronted by a second man, shoved him and was punched twice in the face by an unknown man, police said.
Sylvia and his companions, Kelan Caccavella and Jordyn Miller, continued walking to their cars, which were parked in the nearby Acme parking lot, police said. As Sylvia and Caccavella started to pull out of their parking space, a large group of people came running toward their car and Miller’s, the affidavit said.
Miller got out of her car and tried to calm the crowd, police said. Sylvia also got out of the other car and started yelling at Miller to get back inside her car, police said.
As Sylvia tried to get back inside his car he was allegedly attacked by eight to 10 men — including Evens, Velez, Verderame, Legette, Budion, Ellershaw, Baltazar and Smith, police said. The men allegedly started punching and kicking Sylvia in his head and body. During the attack, Sylvia crawled into the passenger seat with Caccavella’s help, the affidavit said.
The crowd in the parking lot, which had grown even larger, then climbed on top of Caccavella’s car and started smashing the front windshield, police said.
Caccavella’s door was opened and he was punched and hit with unknown objects repeatedly on his head and body by Evens, Budion and Legette and others, police said. Caccavella’s wallet was also stolen during the assault, police added.
Caccavella finally was able to drive the car through the crowd. But in his escape attempt, he hit a bystander in the Acme parking lot, police said. The person hit was treated for injuries at a hospital and released, police said.
Caccavella, who was bleeding heavily — from what turned out to be five stab wounds to his arm and shoulder — pulled over into a parking lot in the 6900 block of New Falls Road and called 911, police said. Both he and Sylvia, who had bruises, cuts and facial swelling, were taken to St. Mary Medical Center for treatment of their injuries.
Posted: Monday, March 23, 2015
A Northampton couple found shot to death in a murder-suicide were dead at least a day before their bodies were discovered Sunday, according to autopsy results released late Monday.
Boris Sereda, 65, did not leave a note explaining why he killed his wife, Inna, 61, before he turned the gun on himself, according to Bucks County Coroner Dr. Joseph Campbell. Each of them died from a single gunshot to the head, he added.
Their bodies were found shortly before 4 p.m. Sunday when the couple’s son-in-law went to check on them at their home in the 90 block of Lempa Road, police said. Their daughter became concerned after not hearing from her parents in a few days, Campbell said. The couple was found in a second-floor bedroom, police said.
The autopsy result confirmed what police suspected, that Boris Sereda — who owned a jewelry business on Jeweler’s Row in Center City Philadelphia — killed his wife before taking his own life. A handgun was recovered at the scene, police said.
Northampton police have no history of domestic incidents involving the couple, Northampton Police Chief Michael Clark said.
While some neighbors said they believed Boris Sereda’s health had recently taken a turn for the worse, there was no hard medical evidence that either Sereda had any serious health problems, Campbell said. He added Boris Sereda had a past history of lymphoma and recently had been diagnosed with depression.
Posted: Monday, March 23, 2015
Authorities have identified the Northampton couple found shot to death in their home Sunday in an apparent murder-suicide as Boris and Inna Sereda.
The couple’s son-in-law found Boris, 65, and Inna, 61, dead in their split-level home in the 90 block of Lempa Road shortly before 4 p.m.
Preliminary investigation indicates that Boris shot Inna and then took his own life, said authorities, who added that Boris owned a jewelry shop on Jeweler's Row in Center City Philadelphia.
The son-in-law was checking on the couple’s well-being, Northampton police Chief Michael Clark said, adding he did not know how long it had been since the son-in-law last heard from the couple.
"They were wonderful people and it is a loss to all of us and that's all I want to say," a woman who lives on Lempa Road said when contacted by telephone Sunday night. She declined to give her name.
The dead couple were found in a second-floor bedroom, Clark said. A handgun was recovered at the scene, police said.
Northampton police have no history of domestic incidents involving the couple, Clark said. The deaths remain under investigation by Northampton Police and Bucks County District Attorney’s Office.
The manner and cause of the deaths will be formally determined by the Bucks County Coroner’s Office.
The last murder-suicide in Bucks County occurred in October 2011, when 88-year-old Charles Christine shot to death his wife, Betty Jane, 86, while she slept then committed suicide with the same gun. The Quakertown couple’s daughter found the couple after she arrived to do a routine well-being check.
A month before the Christines' deaths, Jeanne and Charles Hoez, ages 90 and 92 respectively, of Middletown, died of carbon monoxide poisoning in a murder-suicide. Jeanne Hoez had advanced Alzheimer’s disease.
Posted: Friday, March 20, 2015
A 64-year-old woman and her 79-year-old friend have been identified as the people killed in a three-vehicle accident in Lower Southampton on Thursday night.
Sharon A. Vince and Charles H. Rishel, both of the Fairless Hills section of Falls, were killed after a westbound Chevy Tahoe entered the eastbound lanes of Street Road near Old Street Road and struck their car, police said.
Vince, who was driving, was pronounced dead at the accident scene, and Rishel died a short time later at St. Mary Medical Center in Middletown, according to Bucks County Coroner Dr. Joseph Campbell. Vince and Rishel both died of multiple injuries and their deaths have been ruled accidental, he said.
They both were wearing seat belts and airbags in the car deployed at the time of the crash, Campbell said.
Lower Southampton police have not released the name of the Tahoe driver, a 27-year-old Bucks County woman, who had to be extricated from the vehicle. Lt. Ted Kimmel said she was taken to St. Mary Medical Center with moderate injuries.
Meanwhile, Rishel’s son, Charles Jr., said his dad was very active and has spent time kayaking with Vince.
“From what I’m told, they were coming home from church when the crash occurred. My wife saw the crash on the news Thursday night and we went to bed not knowing who had been involved. I got the call at 1:30 a.m. Friday and it’s very tough on our family. We lost our mom two years ago; she and my dad were married more than 45 years,” Rishel said.
“I’m angry, but I’m not gonna scream and yell about it,” he said. “From what I hear the other driver has two young children. She has to live with this the rest of her life.”
Detectives have spoken with the other driver and she is cooperating with the investigation, Krimmel said. Police have said the crash may be alcohol-related, but no charges were filed as of Friday.
The crash was reported shortly before 8 p.m. Police said their preliminary investigation shows the Tahoe, which had just passed Philmont Avenue, appeared to have struck a curb, blown a tire and ricocheted into oncoming eastbound traffic. The Tahoe collided with Vince’s Honda, pushing it off Street Road into a wooded area. The Tahoe also ended up in the woods on its side.
A third vehicle that was also eastbound on Street Road sustained minor damage after it was clipped by one of the vehicles involved in the crash, Krimmel said. The driver was not injured.
The crash and its subsequent police investigation kept Street Road between Central and Philmont avenues in Feasterville closed for more than two hours.
Posted: Wednesday, March 18, 2015
A preliminary hearing for three men accused of armed robbery turned into a circus of interruptions Wednesday with a defendant’s mom and the entire back row of the courtroom ejected, a defendant addressing his well-wishers and the same defendant threatening the man he is accused of robbing.
“This is a joke isn’t it?” Bristol Township District Judge Joanne Kline said.
The remark came after robbery suspect Kashawn “Doughboy” Conyers stood up and addressed family and friends — telling them he “appreciated the love” and hoped to see them again someday — as they exited the courtroom on the judge’s order.
No one was laughing.
The courtroom ejection was the second during the hourlong preliminary hearing for Conyers, 22, and co-defendants Thomas Bradley II, 23, and Kevin Edwards, 23, all of Bristol Township. The three men are charged in connection with a gunpoint robbery of another township man Jan. 25. The hearing was postponed a week after the alleged robbery victim failed to appear last week.
|Thomas Bradley II, Kashawn Conyers, and Kevin Edwards|
Kevin Tramel did appear this time and recounted events that he said took place before, during and after the trio robbed him outside a home in the 1000 block of Winder Drive. At times he claimed he couldn’t remember certain details without referring to the signed statement he gave Bristol Township police the day of the robbery.
Tramel claimed he was in his parked car looking for a cellphone charger when he noticed the three men in his rearview mirror walking down the street. The men — who he recognized from the Winder Village neighborhood — approached Tramel and started asking questions about the car, he testified. But when Tramel started to get out of the car, Conyers, who had a gun, told him to get back in the car, which he did, he said.
Tramel testified that Conyers’ gun was the only one he saw and that the gun was never pointed at him, rather at the ground. The testimony differed from what court documents say he told police the first time, that Bradley also had a gun.
Inside the car, the men rifled through his pockets and took $60, a pack of Newport cigarettes and his cellphone, Tramel said, adding that the robbery was so quick he isn’t sure who took the items. He added nothing else was taken from the car.
Court documents allege that Tramel’s girlfriend told police on the night of the robbery that she recorded it as it was happening because Tramel tried to call her and the call went to voice mail. Court documents allege the girlfriend told police that she knew where the men live and they are her neighbors in Winder Village.
Tramel also testified that it was his girlfriend — not him — who called police to report the robbery.
On the witness stand, Tramel didn’t initially recall anything specific the men said to him, other than Conyers telling him to get back in the car and later someone asking him “where’s it at,” referring to his valuables. But after he was shown his signed police statement, Tramel recalled that Bradley threatened to shoot him if he told Bradley’s mom what happened.
“That is not true,” Bradley’s mother yelled from the audience.
When Bucks County prosecutor Greg Shore told the woman she had to keep quiet, she told him to shut up, prompting the first courtroom ejection. After the second courtroom ejection and Conyers’ interruption to address well-wishers, Kline’s patience had worn thin.
“This is funny?” Kline said before she read Conyers the list of charges against him. “This is entertaining. This is something to do on a Wednesday afternoon?”
But it’s what Conyers did next that had the judge on her feet shouting.
After Tramel finished his testimony, Kline dismissed him, but first asked one of the police officers in the court to escort him to the parking lot.
“The police can’t watch you forever,” Coyners yelled at Tramel from the defense table.
A shocked Kline stood up and looked at Coyners and the attorneys in the room.
“He just threatened the victim. Did you hear that?” Kline said, before demanding that Conyers be slapped with a felony charge of witness intimidation. Next, Conyers got up and appeared to try to leave the courtroom before a constable and his attorney stopped him.
Following the witness testimony, Kline dismissed several charges against the defendants: Bradley had a felony charge of firearms to be carried without a license dropped along with possession of an instrument of crime and two conspiracy charges. But he still faces several misdemeanor conspiracy charges. Edwards had two conspiracy charges dismissed but faces trial on four conspiracy charges.
Kline also dismissed felony charges of carrying a firearm without a license and a conspiracy theft charge against Conyers, but held him for trial on six other conspiracy charges and misdemeanor possession of an instrument of crime.
Bradley and Edwards remain in Bucks County prison in lieu of 10 percent of $500,000 bail. Conyers, who was arrested Feb. 17, is incarcerated in lieu of 10 percent of $50,000 bail.
Posted: Wednesday, March 18, 2015
The worst thing that happened to her last year wasn’t her stroke, 89-year-old Priscilla Somerville said. It was the day she walked into her bank and found out her accounts were empty.
“I didn’t have enough to buy a candy bar. I really didn’t have any money,” the Bensalem woman said Wednesday. “I almost went ballistic.”
Bensalem police allege that it was Somerville’s longtime friend and the woman’s 40-year-old son who emptied her bank accounts of nearly $39,000 while she was recovering from the stroke.
Joyce Morelli, 67, a dental nurse for the Bristol Borough School District, and Carmen Morelli Jr., 40, both Bristol Township residents, were charged Wednesday with felony theft, access device crime and conspiracy.
Somerville, a widow, reported the theft in December, after she returned home from a rehabilitation facility where she went after being hospitalized for the stroke in August.
During her hospitalization and rehab, Somerville gave Joyce Morelli, whom she knew for more than 40 years, conditional power of attorney to handle Somerville’s finances.
In addition to her Bensalem home, Somerville said she has three rental properties in Philadelphia as well as a stock portfolio. In her will, which was prepared a month before her stroke, Somerville named Morelli her estate executrix and gave her durable health care power of attorney, according to court documents.
While Somerville was recovering, Bensalem police allege, Joyce Morelli wrote out nine checks on Somerville’s accounts for $38,609 to her son Carmen Jr. and her husband, Carmen Sr.
Somerville on Wednesday said she found out that her checking and savings accounts had been emptied when she went to the bank to get money to pay caregivers hired to help her at home.
“There was no money — at all,” she said, adding that she had to sign for a $100,000 line of credit that she found out Morelli had opened in her name — and now pay interest — in order to pay her bills.
Bensalem Detective Stephen Clark, who handled the investigation, spoke with two of Somerville’s tenants — both longtime renters, after being told by the Morellis that the money was used to pay for labor and materials for roofs on the rental properties. One tenant claimed that Carmen attempted to replace the roof during the summer, but after six weeks of repair work he failed to complete the job, and the leak upstairs continued.
Another tenant said that Carmen claimed he was the general contractor for the property and handled all repairs. He also told the tenant not to call Somerville with concerns because “she was a sick old lady,” the affidavit notes. The resident also claimed roof repairs were started in September but “Carmen didn’t know what he was doing,” police said.
Somerville’s accountant later hired another contractor to finish the roofing work at an additional cost of $5,000. That licensed contractor said a new roof wasn’t installed on the one property, but the old roof had been sealed with a silver material and problems still existed.
The roofer also told police that the average cost to remove and replace the roof is about $6,200, court documents said.
Clark said he interviewed Joyce Morelli. Morelli said she didn’t know the name of her son’s contracting business, though she claimed he was licensed in Pennsylvania, a requirement. She also claimed that she didn’t ask her son to provide any invoices or receipts because “she trusted him,” the affidavit said.
Carmen Morelli Jr. also didn’t produce any of the documentation at the request of police, and couldn’t explain why he was paid so much and didn’t finish the jobs, court documents show. He said that because he was $16,000 in arrears for child support, his mother wrote some checks to his father, who then gave him the cash, police allege.
The Morellis were each arraigned before District Judge Leonard Brown Wednesday and released on $100,000 unsecured bail.
Joyce Morelli also has been removed as Sommerville’s conditional and durable health care power of attorney and taken out of her will, according to police.