Stories written by Jo Ciavaglia, award-winning multimedia newspaper reporter at the Bucks County Courier Times in Bucks County, a suburb of Philadelphia, Pa.
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In a demand note, Trevor Bergey allegedly urged a bank teller not to panic, though he claimed to have a gun.
Just put $400 into an envelope and he’d be on his way, the note said, according to police. The 20-year-old Bristol man also promised in his note that no one would get hurt and wrote that in about six hours, he’d turn himself in to police.
He ended the note with “THANK YOU.”
Bergey didn’t keep his promise to surrender to police. Instead he allegedly sought treatment for heroin withdrawal symptoms at Lower Bucks Hospital, which is where Bristol Township police found him early Wednesday, after his parents turned him in.
Authorities said an aunt recognized Bergey in a surveillance photo that police released following the robbery of the TD Bank in the 600 block of Oxford Valley Road Tuesday morning. She called his mother, who notified police, according to Bristol Township Acting Police Chief Ralph Johnson.
After the teller handed him the $400, Bergey left the scene in a 2002 Silver Nissan Xterra, heading west on New Falls Road, according to a probable cause affidavit. The teller told police Bergey’s hand was shaking when he handed her the note, and police later learned he didn't have a gun, Johnson said.
“He said he did it to feed his addiction,” the acting chief added.
Shortly before 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Bristol Township Detective Tim Fuhrmann spoke to the mother who identified the man in the surveillance photo as her son, but said his whereabouts were unknown. The mother also said Bergey is a heroin addict who recently broke up with his girlfriend and appeared depressed and suicidal, Johnson said.
Around 1 a.m. Wednesday, police were notified that Bergey was found at Lower Bucks Hospital in Bristol Township, where he was being treated for heroin withdrawal, the affidavit noted.
At the hospital, Bergey, who was described as cooperative, admitted to police that he had robbed the bank, the affidavit said. He also told police they could find the multicolored striped shirt he wore during the robbery along the train tracks near the Bristol rail station, they said. The shirt was recovered, police added.
Bergey is charged with three counts of robbery and related offenses. He was arraigned Wednesday before District Judge Robert Wagner Jr. and sent to Bucks County prison in lieu of 10 percent of $500,000 bail.
Bergey's parents were provided with information on drug treatment resources, Johnson added.
Something about the scene inside the Bensalem motel room where a 32-year-old Morrisville woman was found dead seemed out of place to detectives.
While at first glance it appeared Kristin McNally took her own life by wrapping a telephone cord around her neck and tethering it to a night stand, police said such a suicidal method isn't typically seen among women. McNally, a mother of a 3-year-old son, appeared healthy. The room where she was found was in disarray, as if a struggle had occurred.
“It seemed odd to us she ended her life this way so suddenly,” Bensalem Lt. William McVey said.
It didn’t take long for police to figure out that McNally did not kill herself. On Tuesday, her boyfriend, Joseph McFadden, 38, of Whittier Drive in Warminster, was charged with killing McNally, then staging her death to appear like it was a suicide.
McFadden was arraigned before District Judge Joseph Falcone on charges that include criminal homicide, robbery, theft, possession of an instrument of crime and tampering with evidence. He was sent to Bucks County prison without bail.
“We are just glad today that we took him off the street for Ms. McNally, who suffered a horrible death,” McVey said Tuesday. “Hopefully we can put him away for a long time.”
If convicted, McFadden faces life in prison plus 39 years, according to Jennifer Schorn, the chief of major crimes for the Bucks County District Attorney’s Office, who will prosecute McFadden. She said McFadden has not shown any remorse for his alleged crime.
“He showed no reaction whatsoever,” Schorn added.
Bensalem police and Bucks County Detectives began investigating the death May 12, shortly after a motel employee found McNally’s body inside her rented room at the Knights Inn in the 2700 block of Lincoln Highway.
An autopsy determined the cord found wrapped around her neck did not cause her death, according to an affidavit of probable cause. McNally died of blunt force trauma to the head and neck and manual strangulation, police said.
Dr. Ian Hood, who performed the autopsy, told authorities the cord was placed on McNally when she was dying or already dead “in an effort to stage the scene,” court documents allege.
About two hours after McNally’s body was found, a friend arrived at the motel and told police McNally had been staying at the Knights Inn for a few days, court documents allege. The motel’s video surveillance system confirmed she and her boyfriend had rented a room on May 10.
The friend claimed he last received a text message from McNally on May 11 telling him she needed money. The friend said he left her $100 in the bed of his pickup truck parked at his Bristol Township home, according to police. He confirmed the money was picked up at some point.
Later on May 12, Bensalem police interviewed McFadden at Philadelphia police headquarters, where he was awaiting arraignment on charges of driving under the influence after he was involved in a hit-and-run accident in McNally’s Mercury Sable the day before, the affidavit said. He agreed to give police a DNA sample for testing, police said.
Court records show that McFadden is also awaiting preliminary hearings in Bucks and Montgomery counties on DUI charges stemming from two arrests last year.
Bensalem detectives later met with McFadden at Doylestown Hospital, where he had checked himself into the detox unit. At the time, McFadden agreed to speak to police, adding he wanted to help in the death investigation.
McFadden told police he and McNally were the only ones who stayed in the motel room and he said he never placed any personal items or opened any drawers on the nightstands during their stay, the affidavit said.
But police say that was a lie — one of several that McFadden had told them.
McFadden’s DNA matched DNA samples taken off the nightstand drawer in the motel room, court documents said. Police also allege that McFadden claimed he left the motel around 2 p.m. on May 11, but surveillance video captured him leaving the motel shortly before 6:30 p.m., police said.
Police found McNally’s cellphone concealed in a vent under the driver’s seat of her car — after McFadden told police he didn’t have his cellphone or McNally’s on him. He also told Philadelphia investigators that another man was driving the Mercury Sable at the time of the hit-and-run accident, but later admitted he was the only occupant in the car, the affidavit said.
Finally, Bensalem police allege McFadden admitted he killed McNally before leaving the motel. He also admitted he knew police wouldn’t buy that she hanged herself and that he did a “bad job” of staging the crime scene, the affidavit said.
“McFadden also asked if we would advise the victim’s mother that he was sorry and that he loved the victim. He stated he would provide a written apology letter for the victim’s son to read once he was of age,” the affidavit said. McFadden is not the child’s father, McVey said.
A Chester County judge is expected to decide whether a prominent Philadelphia criminal defense attorney can represent one of the Risoldi family members in a $20 million insurance fraud trial in Bucks County.
At issue is whether Philadelphia attorney Jack McMahon can represent matriarch Claire A. Risoldi, 67, of Buckingham, who is facing felony charges of corrupt organizations, fraud, theft, witness intimidation, obstruction and related offenses. McMahon should be removed because the state plans to call him as a witness, prosecutor David Baughman, of the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office, told Senior Judge Thomas G. Gavin at a hearing Monday in Doylestown.
Besides Claire Risoldi, there are five other defendants awaiting trial in the fraud case, including Risoldi’s children, Carla V. Risoldi, 48, of Solebury, and Carl A. Risoldi, 43, and his wife, Sheila, 44, both of Buckingham, as well as private investigator Mark Goldman, 54, of Wayne, and fabric vendor Richard Holston, 51, of Medford Lakes, New Jersey.
The state alleges the defendants filed false insurance claims and conspired to commit insurance fraud related to three fires in five years at the Risoldi family’s Buckingham mansion, Clairemont.
The judge, who is overseeing the criminal trial, indicated that he anticipates having a decision within two weeks. He also urged Claire Risoldi, who was in the court Monday with daughter Carla, to have a contingency plan in the event McMahon is dismissed.
Calkins Media was unable to obtain the legal filing that seeks to remove McMahon because the document remains under seal, according to the Attorney General’s Office, which declined further comment. The fraud trial is scheduled to start next month, but the date is expected to be pushed back, attorneys said.
McMahon’s attorney, Arthur Donato Jr., said there is no legitimate reason prosecutors would need his client to testify at the trial and that removing him as attorney would pose an undue hardship for Claire Risoldi.
“Her right to counsel of her choice wins out here,” Donato said.
McMahon represents the Risoldi family in a bad faith civil lawsuit filed last year against insurer AIG, which has denied homeowner and jewelry insurance claims the family filed following the most recent fire at Clairemont, in October 2013. Those insurance claims form the basis of the attorney general’s criminal case.
McMahon also appears to have, at different times since last May, represented Claire Risoldi in legal matters related to the criminal case, Baughman said. Most recently he re-entered the case in March.
At the preliminary hearing, Claire Risoldi was represented by Philadelphia attorney Judd Aaron and was also represented by attorney Matthew Haverstick, but it was revealed Monday that Risoldi had discharged the two attorneys two weeks ago.
Baughman told the court during Monday’s proceeding that McMahon most recently filed a legal document in March related to one of the AIG civil suits involving claims that were denied by the insurer and related to replacement costs for murals and drapes the family alleges were destroyed in the 2013 fire.
As an attorney, McMahon has inserted himself as the conduit between AIG and the family in the civil case and the state plans to call him as a witness to testify on where, how and from whom he obtained information that he submitted to AIG for the homeowner’s claim, Baughman argued.
McMahon was also with Claire Risoldi during a heated confrontation she had with AIG adjuster James O’Keefe. She allegedly asked McMahon to tell O’Keefe what happens to “rats” and “snitches.” McMahon replied, “snitches get stitches,” according to a grand jury report that recommended criminal charges against the Risoldis and their co-defendants.
Claire Risoldi at a Clairemont party
Baughman also told the judge that the AG’s Office is seeking McMahon’s removal as attorney because of his status as a “potential accomplice” for possibly and knowingly submitting false information to AIG as part of a claim. The prosecutor added that the evidence, so far, isn’t enough to bring charges against McMahon, and that the allegations are not the “main” reason behind the request to remove McMahon as Claire Risoldi’s attorney.
Baughman suggested that McMahon has continued to file documents related to the civil suit involving the insurance claim after he realized — or should have realized — the claim included false information involving the cost to replace drapes and murals at Clairemont. In filing the proof-of-loss statements, McMahon vouched for their accuracy, the prosecutor contends.
“It would be very problematic for Mr. McMahon to stay in this case as counsel,” Baughman said.
Donato countered that facts concerning documents that McMahon submitted to the insurance company are not in dispute. He added that the AG’s Office presented the “snitches get stitches” allegations involving McMahon out of context.
The attorney further argued that the family stands by claims submitted to AIG that include the estimated cost to replace damaged drapes and murals at Clairemont. The AG’s Office in its grand jury indictment alleges the estimates submitted to the insurer were artificially and intentionally inflated.
Donato added that if the prosecution wants to know where McMahon got his information for the insurance claims, he would provide it without being called as a witness.
“We keep saying we will tell you that,” Donato said.
As far as Kelli Donlen is concerned, the impaired driver who struck and killed her 15-year-old nephew last year was responsible for his death, though a police investigation determined the driver, while intoxicated, was not at fault.
Now a Bucks County legislator has proposed a bill that would increase penalties against impaired drivers who cause serious injury and death even when intoxication is determined not to be related to the accident, closing what the lawmaker calls a loophole in state law.
One veteran Lower Bucks criminal defense attorney, though, called the legislation “clearly from outer space.”
Last month state Rep. John Galloway, D-140, introduced House Bill 1076 that would make it a second-degree misdemeanor for driving under the influence where driver impairment is not the direct cause of a person’s death or injury. The bill, now in the judiciary committee, establishes a maximum fine of $2,500 if the accident resulted in serious injury and $5,000 if there was a death, but no jail time.
“This is a huge loophole in our DUI rules,” Galloway said in a House memorandum about his bill. “By creating these new penalties, we can ensure that this technicality will not allow future offenders of similar tragedies to avoid justice.”
The inspiration for the bill was a January 2014 accident that killed 15-year-old Zachary Gonzalez, a Pennsbury High School freshman, and seriously injured 14-year-old Jeffrey Garvie. The boys were riding bikes with friends across U.S. Route 13 near Mill Creek Road in Falls when they were struck.
The driver, Brian Patterson, 61, of Bristol, was charged with driving under the influence, possession of drug paraphernalia, and possession of a controlled substance. A crash reconstruction investigation found Patterson, while under the influence of cocaine and prescription pain pills, had done all he could to avoid the accident, and his intoxication played no direct role.
Patterson pleaded guilty last August and was sentenced for the DUI and possession of a controlled substance to one to six months in Bucks County prison; he was released in September after serving one month, according to court records.
Under current state law, driving while impaired alone is not enough to merit either homicide or aggravated assault by vehicle while under the influence charges. Those offenses require prosecutors prove the driver’s intoxication alone was a direct cause of the accident.
Galloway said his 2011 DUI conviction related to a traffic stop and subsequent volunteer efforts with anti-drunken driving groups have made him more sensitive to the issue.
“What happened to me is always at the back of my mind. I try to make up for it in the ways I can,” he said. “After seeing the effects of drunk driving and the horrific stories of people’s lives torn apart by drunk drivers, I am acutely aware of the dangers.”
Galloway acknowledged drafting legislation to address this gray area of the law was difficult, but he calls his bill a “fair compromise” he believes would be upheld by the courts, if signed into law. He added his intention was to create a monetary penalty and establish criminal accountability that could help with civil litigation in such cases.
“If he was not driving under the controlled substances, logic tells you there is probably something he could have done. To say he didn’t have anything to do with the accident, that is hard to believe,” Galloway said. “We do know, (impaired drivers) shouldn’t have been doing it in the first place, and we do know someone is dead. My legislation is to link the two.”
Bucks County First Deputy District Attorney Robert James, who oversees many DUI prosecutions, suspects there could be an issue with enacting a law that does not require proof of causation, specifically that the intoxication led to the driving behavior that resulted in injury or death.
“Removing causation could be problematic if challenged in court,” he said.
Falls defense attorney Ron Elgart, who represented Patterson, countered that law must be based on facts, not emotions. He said Galloway’s bill attempts to punish someone for behavior that cannot be proven to have resulted in a crime.
“This is about blind retribution with no basis in fact,” Elgart added. “One has to wonder if we are going to charge people for driving while ugly in the future because that makes about as much sense as this bill.”
To Donlen, who raised Zack after his widowed mother’s sudden death when he was 9, said the bill is a sensible starting point. She has contacted local Mothers Against Drunk Driving chapters and local state lawmakers to rally their support for the bill.
“It is what needs to be done. At this point these adults are getting away with murder. Nobody deserves to die this way,” the Falls resident said. “Our kids are taking the blame for acting like kids, so this is a step in the right direction and I hope it passes.”
Commuters at the Woodbourne SEPTA station on the West Trenton Line were more anxious about catching a train Wednesday than riding on one, following the fatal Amtrak derailment in Philadelphia on Tuesday night.
“I was panicking trying to find a way to get into work,” said Nicole Hartman. She lives in Doylestown, but usually takes the Trenton Line into Philadelphia to work after dropping off her child at a sitter in Levittown.
The accident has closed Amtrak’s heavily traveled Northeast Corridor on which SEPTA’s Trenton Line runs. That closure means roughly 12,000 commuters like Hartman had to find alternate routes into Philadelphia at short notice Wednesday.
The Woodbourne station is one stop on the nearby West Trenton Line, which had additional cars and services for Wednesday’s commute.
John Edwards’ train arrived at the Woodbourne station shortly before 9:30 a.m. The Philadelphia resident said he’s been taking the Trenton Line to get to a Bristol Township church he’s painting. The closure meant he had to find another way to work on a different train and unfamiliar connecting bus routes, he said.
The Trenton Line — the fourth most heavily traveled SEPTA rail line running 60 trains daily — is expected to remain closed for at least a week, though there is no timetable when Amtrak will allow SEPTA service to resume, according to Jeff Knueppel, SEPTA’s deputy general manager. The Trenton Line is one of three Amtrak-owned lines on which SEPTA operates; the others are the Wilmington-Newark (Delaware) Line and the Paoli-Thorndale line that runs through Montgomery and Chester counties.
While SEPTA saw minimal disruptions Wednesday on its remaining regional rails, including the popular West Trenton Line, Knueppel anticipates Thursday will be a different story.
“I think tomorrow is going to be the real challenge,” he said.
To fill the service gap SEPTA has rolled out its contingency plan (http://septa.org/service/rail/2015-special-west-trenton.html) to accommodate both displaced Trenton Line riders and supplement the gap in Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor service to 30th Street Station in Philadelphia that includes shuttle service to its Frankford hub, additional parking spaces and enhanced service along the West Trenton Rail Line.
SEPTA is encouraging Trenton Line commuters to use its free SEPTA shuttle service at the Cornwells Heights station to the Frankford Transportation Center where they can connect with the Market-Frankford elevated train into Philadelphia. The hub’s parking garage has nearly 1,000 parking spaces and an extra 200 are temporarily available nearby, SEPTA said.
The Cornwells Heights station shuttle into Center City will run from 6 to 10 a.m. through the rest of this week and for evening commuters the shuttle will run the opposite route from 3 to 7 p.m. The shuttle service will run every 30 minutes during morning and evening service hours.
Another option for commuters is the Route 14 bus line, which operates every 10 minutes from the Neshaminy Mall in Bensalem; SEPTA will be adding a stop at the Frankford Transportation Center where riders can get on the El. The mall has allotted SEPTA an additional 200 parking spaces behind Sears for the additional bus riders.
There are six additional trains for both inbound and outbound service and SEPTA will run cars every 30 minutes all day; normally train service is hourly during off-peak hours, officials said. SEPTA also will honor NJ Transit fares and current TrailPasses on the West Trenton Rail lines.
SEPTA has also secured an additional 100 to 150 temporary parking spaces within walking distance of three West Trenton Line station stops at Somerton, Bethayres Station, and Noble in Jenkintown for anticipated overflow parking.
The contingency plan takes SEPTA through Friday, and plans are still being formulated for alternative and enhanced service for the weekend, Knueppel added.
Across the Delaware River, NJ Transit is cross-honoring Amtrak rail tickets between New York City and Trenton as well as the closed Northeast Corridor, according to spokeswoman Jennifer Nelson. The transportation agency will run its regular train service into the Trenton Transit Station, and Philly-bound commuters can use a free SEPTA shuttle service to get to the West Trenton Rail Line. Riders will have to present a valid SEPTA or Amtrak fare to use the shuttle.
Nelson added that the transportation agency is also running buses between Cherry Hill in Camden County and 30th Street Station in Philadelphia for commuters along the Atlantic City Line, which has been disrupted by the derailment. The transit agency also added an extra car to its Camden River Line, which runs between Trenton and Camden, with stops in Burlington County, just across the Burlington-Bristol Bridge. NJT’s southern division bus services south of the I-95 corridor are running as usual and bus service to Philadelphia is available at the Trenton train station.
While no commuter numbers were available Wednesday, Nelson said the River Line is “definitely seeing an increase” in commuter traffic as a result of the Northeast Corridor closure.
None of the half dozen commuters interviewed at the Middletown station expressed reservations about getting on a train following the accident.
“The only inconvenience to me is there is nowhere to park,” said Eileen Sutton, of Lower Makefield, who rides the West Trenton line regularly for her job at a Philadelphia hospital.
Middletown resident Amanda Morell, who was headed to Temple University, said she was taking the train for the first time ever Wednesday morning. Morell, who’ll attend Temple in the fall, wasn’t worried, though.
“This kind of thing happens too rarely. I’m not nervous,” she said. “I know they have to know what they are doing.”
Her friend, Middletown resident Collin Mazer, who’s also attending Temple in the fall, agreed.
“Chances are a lot better for me to get in an accident driving here,” he said.
Hatboro resident Valerie Ann Lutz, who commutes on the Warminster Line to her job at the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia, said via social media that she didn’t know about the derailment until she stepped off the train Wednesday morning.
“I think I am the only human who was not aware,” she said.
While the news left her with some reservations — she takes Amtrak on a “semi-regular” basis for work trips — she doesn’t plan on letting it stop her from traveling by train.
“Obviously, it’s just an accident that happens, and it can happen at any time,” Lutz said. “I feel horrible for the people who were affected by this — with all of us as train riders, it hits home a little more.”
Keith Bratt was working his sixth night as a bouncer at a Bristol Township bar when he witnessed what he thought was a typical fistfight in the parking lot involving four people.
What he saw turned out to be anything but ordinary.
The man he saw get hit in the head, face and side had been stabbed in the chest, Bratt testified at a preliminary hearing Monday for four of the 10 men charged in connection with two fights outside the Stadium Bar and Grill last year that left four people injured, one with a life-threatening stab wound.
The men allegedly participated in one or both fights involving more than a dozen people outside the bar around closing time on Aug. 16. At the request of police, the case went before the Bucks County investigating grand jury, which recommended charges against the defendants including aggravated and simple assault, rioting, conspiracy and for some defendants, robbery.
One person — Onorio Velez, 20, of Bristol Township — is charged with criminal attempted homicide for allegedly stabbing Steven Basalyga, 21, a Falls volunteer firefighter. All but two of the defendants are free on bail; Velez remains incarcerated in Bucks County prison in lieu of 10 percent of $500,000 and Samuel Padilla Jr., 25, of Bristol Township, also remains incarcerated but his bail was reduced Monday from 10 percent of $150,000 to $75,000.
Bratt was among six witnesses who testified during a five–hour preliminary hearing for Velez, Padilla, and co-defendants Michael Gonzalez, 22, of Bristol, and Carlos Baltazar, 26, of Bristol Township.
During his two hours on the witness stand, Bratt testified that he had become familiar with some customers during his time working at the Woerner Avenue bar — a job he said he quit after the stabbing. He said those customers included the defendants, whom he knew as the “Barbershop Boys.”
The night of the two fights, the bar offered a $2 drink promotion that brought more than 300 people to the bar, Bratt testified. At some point during the evening, Bratt testified, he saw Padilla punch a man who Bratt didn’t recognize. Both men were told to leave, but another bouncer let Padilla stay in the bar, while the other man left, Bratt said.
Moments later Bratt noticed a large number of patrons heading out the door and he suspected something wasn’t right, he said.
When Bratt went outside to the parking lot he saw Padilla punch Basalyga — who was at the bar that night — on the side of his head, Bratt testified. When Basalyga lurched forward, Gonzalez punched him in the face breaking his nose. Bratt testified he saw Velez lunge at Basalyga in a twist-jab motion.
After Basalyga fell to the ground, Baltazar approached the men and they started to walk away. The rest of the crowd started walking toward the Acme parking lot across the street, Bratt said.
On cross examination, though, Bratt testified that he didn’t notice any object in Velez’s hand. Police have not recovered a weapon used in the stabbing.
Bratt said that he and another former bouncer helped Basalyga up and started walking him toward the bar when he collapsed again. The man with Bratt noticed a spreading red stain on Basalyga’s shirt. When they pulled up the shirt, they saw a tear-shaped wound in his chest. The second man took off his shirt and attempted to slow the bleeding with direct pressure, Bratt 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 was placed in a medically induced coma and underwent open heart surgery.
The attack on Basalyga was followed by a second, larger fight involving three other bar customers.
One of them, Kelan Caccavella, testified Monday that his friend Nicholas Silva had been involved in an altercation with a stranger in the bar. Witness testimony Monday did not identify who had the confrontation in the bar with Padilla.
After the confrontation, Silva, Caccavella and Silva’s girlfriend Jordyn Miller left the Stadium. While walking to the parking lot, Caccavella turned around and saw a man hit Silva and then other people joined in the attack.
Silva got away and the trio continued walking to their cars, which were parked in the Acme parking lot. Caccavella testified that they were not chased and no one was yelling at them as they walked.
But as Caccavella was pulling out of his parking space, Silva, who was riding with Caccavella, noticed that Miller was outside her car; he got out of Caccavella’s car to check on her. Within moments, Silva was surrounded by five to 10 people who attacked him, Caccavella said.
Silva got onto his feet and ran to Caccavella’s waiting car. But the crowd followed and surrounded the car. While Caccavella tried to yank Silva into the car, the crowd tried to pull him out. During the melee, Caccavella said people jumped on his car, kicked in the windshield and smashed the hood, resulting in $12,000 in damages.
The mob also attacked Caccavella, hitting him on the left side of his head and face and stabbing him four times in the shoulder and arm.
“Give me your money. Give me your wallet. We are going to kill you,” Caccavella testified he heard people yell at him.
After Silva got in the car, Caccavella drove away, but in the process struck a man who helped fend off the attackers. The man testified that he suffered a slight concussion as a result of falling onto the pavement. Caccavella is not facing criminal charges for the accident.
After he drove away, Caccavella pulled into a nearby parking lot and called 911.
On cross examination, though, Caccavella said he couldn’t say if the same people who attacked him and Silva outside were the ones involved in the altercation inside the bar.
Miller, who testified that she had 10 drinks that evening, testified that she heard Silva yelling at her to get in her car and noticed 10 to 15 people running toward her; the group ran past her and attacked Silva before swarming Caccavella’s car.
Miller said she recognized two people in the group — Ellershaw and Velez. Miller said she did not see a knife, blood or other marks on Velez. She also didn’t hear anyone threaten to rob or kill Caccavella.
Bristol Township Detective Greg Beidler testified that in grand jury testimony, Baltazar admitted that his friends approached Basalyga and one punched him in the head and knocked him down. Afterward, they walked toward the Acme and saw Miller arguing with another friend as her boyfriend Silva approached. Baltazar testified that he hit Silva and then his friends attacked Silva.
Velez also told the grand jury that he saw his friends arguing with a guy in the parking lot, Beidler said. One of his friends punched Basalyga and knocked him out and Velez stepped over him and headed to the Acme parking lot. The detective added that Velez admitted to the grand jury that he struck Silva, but denied stabbing anyone.
Following testimony, District Judge Joanne Kline held Velez and Baltazar for trial on all charges and dismissed felony riot charges against Padilla and Gonzalez, but held them for trial on all other charges.
Another five defendants on Monday waived their right to a preliminary hearing sending the charges against them directly to Bucks County court. They were Philip Budion, 24, of Bristol Township; William Ellershaw, 24, of Bristol Township; Shaquille Legette, 21, of Bristol; Brandyn Smith, 25, of Bristol; and Anthony Verderame, 21, of Bristol Township. One defendant, Steven Emery Evens Jr., 21, of Bristol Township, remains at large as of Monday.
Posted: Friday, May 8, 2015 Thieves have a new target: backup batteries at cellphone towers. Police in Bucks County and across the Philadelphia region are reporting a recent explosion in backup-battery thefts. Thieves have stolen at least 150 of the commercial batteries worth nearly $58,000 in at least five Lower Bucks towns.
Communities as far away as Lancaster and Berks counties are reporting the thefts as well, which appear to target Alcatel Lucent batteries on Sprint properties, according to police and news reports.
The newspaper was unsuccessful in reaching a regional Sprint representative for comment about the thefts.
Backup batteries — which can weigh more than 100 pounds — are used as standby power when electricity goes out, so customers don’t lose service and communication systems can continue to operate. It’s unclear how thieves are using the batteries, though they contain lead and other metals that could be sold to scrap dealers. Plus, the cases are worth about $100, according to one local police chief.
Since the beginning of the year, Bristol Township has received six reports of battery thefts, the most recent last month in the 2500 block of Durham Road, where 16 backup batteries worth $4,500 were reported stolen, Acting Police Chief Ralph Johnson said.
In the Bristol Township cases, the thefts are believed to have occurred sometime after October and November, which was the last time the cellphone tower sites were inspected, Johnson said. Other towns also have placed the time frame for the thefts as far back as October.
Police in Bristol Township and other communities where the thefts have occurred reported no signs of forced entry into the fenced, tower properties where the batteries are stored.
Last month, a Sprint subcontractor reported $5,500 worth of backup batteries stolen from a Sprint cabinet in Newtown Township, police said. The contractor reported he last saw the batteries in July. The combination lock for the cabinet containing the batteries was found at the scene, police said.
Three of the five cellphone towers in Lower Southampton have been hit, according to Lt. Ted Krimmel. The thefts may have occurred months earlier, but were only discovered in the last few months, he said. The total value of the 48 backup batteries stolen there is $14,500 Krimmel said.
Commercial backup batteries also have been stolen in Falls and Middletown.
Pennsylvania State Police in Lehigh County sent notices to police chiefs in Bucks and Montgomery counties, asking for help investigating the thefts, said Trooper Robert Deavers. Among the Lehigh thefts, 40 batteries were stolen from Sprint cell towers in Lower Macungie Township and 15 backup batteries were stolen from a tower in Upper Macungie.
Since state and local police started working together, they’ve counted hundreds of thefts from Sprint cell towers in southeastern Pennsylvania, according to Deavers. None of the batteries have been recovered. The trooper said investigators don’t know if an organized ring is involved in the thefts and he declined to reveal much about any similarities they’ve discovered in the wide-ranging thefts.
A driver was killed and four construction workers injured — one seriously — in an accident along the Pennsylvania Turnpike in Bensalem on Saturday morning, the second incident in a construction zone in less than a week.
Authorities have not identified the driver who was killed.
Pennsylvania State Police, in a press release Saturday night, said the motorist was driving east in the right lane of the turnpike.
The left lane was closed for construction work at the time. State police said the dead motorist’s vehicle swerved into the left lane and sideswiped a work vehicle, then slammed into another work vehicle, shearing off the driver’s side doors and ejecting the driver, who was thrown onto the roadway.
The injured workers were Matthew J. Horton of Langhorne, the driver of the second vehicle, and Robert W. Devoll, of Barto, Berks County, the driver of the third vehicle. They were taken to Lower Bucks Hospital in Bristol Township for evaluation, state police said. A third worker, Carl Johnston, of Line Lexington, sustained minor injuries. Johnston was taken to Frankford Torresdale Aria Hospital in Philadelphia for treatment.
James T. Beck III, of Elmer, Pennsylvania, suffered severe injuries and was transported by helicopter to Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia for surgery, according to turnpike commission spokesman Carl DeFebo Jr..
The injured men are employed by PKF Mark III of Newtown and Meco Constructors Inc. of Bensalem, said turnpike spokeswoman Mimi Doyle.
The crash occurred shortly before 5:30 a.m. Saturday on the turnpike in a construction zone about 4 miles east of the Bensalem Interchange, according to a turnpike commission press release.
The men were performing work to reconstruct and widen 2.5 miles of the highway as part of the turnpike-I-95 connector project in Bucks County, Doyle said. The crew was working an overnight shift to set a single-lane traffic pattern eastbound in the left lane of the turnpike for temporary paving operations, Doyle said.
The crews were removing the pattern when the accident occurred. The vehicle that entered the construction zone and struck the workers had one occupant.
Saturday’s accident followed one that occurred on April 27 in Bedford County. In that incident, the driver was speeding in a work zone. When a state trooper conducting enforcement in the work area initiated a traffic stop, the driver swerved into the closed lane to evade arrest, striking a construction worker seriously injuring him. The driver was arrested and charged with aggravated assault by vehicle and driving under the influence.
Two weeks ago, the turnpike commission launched a campaign to get the public to slow down in construction work zones. Nearly 60 active construction projects are planned to start this year along the 360-mile stretch of highway.
“Operation Orange Squeeze,” announced in Bensalem, followed the deaths last year of two turnpike workers in the Philadelphia region — among 30 workers who have died statewide on the highway in construction zones since it opened.
In addition to the deaths, 150 crashes last year occurred in work zones statewide. Also, more than two dozen drivers struck attenuators — trailer-like vehicles mounted with digital signs that are used to warn drivers of upcoming construction zones.
In addition to TV spots, the work-zone safety campaign will include other advertising and public outreach, officials said. As part of the initiative, the turnpike is teaming up with Pennsylvania State Police Troop T, the unit in charge of patrols on the road, to expand its “Operation Orange Squeeze.” The work-zone traffic enforcement initiative was launched in 2013.
A state trooper will be stationed inside turnpike construction vehicles, including the orange dump trucks, running radar within work zones while a second trooper will wait outside the work zone to pull over drivers who violate the rules, officials said. The fine for traveling 11 mph or higher over the speed limit in a work zone is around $200 plus a 15-day suspension of the driver’s license.
“This is a horrific trend, and it needs to stop now. Too many construction workers were sent to the hospital this week, and too many lives shattered. Though the cause of this morning’s disaster hasn’t yet been confirmed, experience tells us that speed and distraction are likely to blame,” commission Chairman Sean Logan said Saturday. “It sickens me that the people who are working to improve the Turnpike have become vulnerable targets because some motorists simply aren’t getting the message.”