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Highspire police seek bank robbery suspect

The Highspire Borough Police Department is investigating a bank robbery that occurred at the Citizens Bank on Second Street on Nov. 5. 

At about 9:45 a.m., the suspect approached the lobby and placed the floor mats located in the entryway under the front doors to block the doors from closing. Once inside, the suspect announced that it was a robbery and demanded all the loose money in the drawers. The suspect threatened that he had a gun, but no gun was displayed.

The suspect took an undisclosed amount of cash and fled on foot in an unknown direction.

highspire bank robbery 1The suspect is described as being a white or Hispanic male in his 20s or 30s, 5 feet 6 to 5 feet 8 inches tall, and about 180 pounds.

He was wearing a black hooded sweatshirt, blue jeans, white and black sneakers, a black ski mask and black gloves. He was carrying a black backpack.

If you have information about this bank robbery, submit a tip to Crime Stoppers by calling 800-262-3080. Tipsters can remain anonymous. Tips can also be given directly to police by calling County Dispatch at 717-558-6900. If your tip leads to an arrest, you could be eligible for a reward of up to $2,000.

highspire bank robbery

Last Updated on Thursday, 01 December 2016 14:16

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State police: Be on alert for phone scam from caller claiming there is a warrant out for your arrest

Pennsylvania State Police are warning residents of Dauphin and Cumberland counties to be on the alert for a phone scam.

The caller claims to represent Pennsylvania State Police or the Cumberland County Sheriff's Department or Cumberland County Prison, state police said in a news release issued on Wednesday, Nov. 30.

The caller usually has the victim's address and says that a warrant has been issued for the victim's arrest because he or she did not show up for jury duty.

The caller asks that the person stay on the phone, go to a store and buy a reloadable gift card, and take the card to a police station or courthouse. If the victim stays on the phone and buys the card, the caller asks for the card number before the person goes to the police station.

State police have received reports from "numerous" victims who said they had gotten these calls on Tuesday, Nov, 29, and/or  Wednesday, Nov. 30, according to the release.

State police do not solicit donations in any form, the release says. State police urge that anytime you get a phone call from anyone soliciting any kind of donation, first take steps to verify the identity of the caller or the organization the caller claims to represent.

If you get a phone call like these ones being reported, police suggest that you hang up and do not provide any personal information.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 30 November 2016 17:44

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Downtown icon ‘Huff’ Hoffman passes away

Huff SLIDEDavid "Huff" Hoffman

 

He wasn’t a millionaire or someone who gave tons of money to various causes. He didn’t have money to give.

He wasn’t a business owner or a politician. He didn’t lead a civic organization or hold some other position of community leadership, like a school superintendent or a member of the clergy.

Word is that most of the time David “Huff” Hoffman of Middletown had to rely on others for money to survive.

Yet when Hoffman was felled by a heart attack on Friday, Nov. 18, and taken to the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, Facebook exploded and the community outpouring was overwhelming. It was the quick work of several people at Roberto’s Pizza on South Union Street that saved him that day.

Huff was operated on and stayed in the hospital for over a week. He was to be released first thing Monday, Nov. 28, when he had another heart attack, according to Huff’s sister Gloria Clouser of Middletown. Huff passed away in the medical center on Sunday, Nov. 27. He was 64.

Funeral services are scheduled for 11 a.m. Monday at Evangelical United Methodist Church at Water and Spruce streets. A viewing will be held from 9 to 11 a.m. at the church immediately before the service.

Huff attended the church, but it’s also because the number of people Clouser expects to attend Huff’s funeral will be larger than can be handled at the Matinchek Funeral Home, which is handling the arrangements.

“That church is going to be packed, I just know it,” Clouser said.

An ordinary man

So what made Huff so special? He was about as ordinary as it gets. When he graduated from Middletown Area High School in 1970 in general education, the only mention of him besides his yearbook photo was that he was paired with a female student as “the tallest and the shortest” in the class. Huff wasn’t the tall one.

Huff wasn’t homeless, although he might have looked that way to people. He spent every day hanging around downtown Middletown, walking around, sitting on the bench in front of Karns, or sometimes just standing on the sidewalk — or even in the middle of the street — just staring off into space.

He was what people call a character, but also part of what made Middletown unique. One person referred to Huff as the “icon” of Middletown, as much a part of the town’s fabric as the town clock, the Elks Building, and Kuppy’s Diner — where Huff was a regular customer.

Huff was “always visible” in town, regardless of the weather, said Joe Sukle, publisher of the Press And Journal. When it was raining or even if there was a chance of rain, you’d always see Huff with an umbrella.

Sukle would often come upon Huff sitting on benches around town or on the loading dock at the Press And Journal printery.

If Huff was a character, he made characters of his own of the people that he met and knew downtown, including Sukle, whom Huff never failed to acknowledge as “Hey, Grandpa” or “Hey, Money Bags,” Sukle said.

He would habitually tell Sukle’s wife Louise that Joe was in “big trouble” for things that Sukle could never figure out.

Huff also paid attention to details. More than once, Sukle said Huff reminded him of his car coming up on its annual inspection. Otherwise, Sukle said he probably would have overlooked it and risked getting a citation.

“Huff was everything a small community is,” Sukle said. “Quirky, funny, brash, honest in opinion and in a wonderful way endearing. He will be missed but long remembered.”

Life-saving efforts

Huff was sitting at a table at Roberto’s on Nov. 18 when he suddenly collapsed and fell on the floor.

Mike Kitner, a manager at Roberto’s, heard a girl at another table asking Huff, “Are you OK?”

Kitner and another manager at Roberto’s — identified only as Cesar — went over to Huff. Kitner got Huff on his back.

“It was obvious that he had stopped breathing,” Kitner said. “There was no movement in his chest.”

Kitner and Cesar started doing CPR — cardiopulmonary resuscitation — on Huff. Kitner had been trained in CPR when he was 16, but had never had to use it.

Very soon after a woman named Ann who identified herself as a registered nurse came in and took over, Kitner said. She had been a customer at Tattered Flag Still Works a few doors away that night, Kitner said.

A woman who was a friend of the nurse and who knew she was in Tattered Flag had stopped in to Roberto’s to get some food when Huff collapsed, Kitner said.

Yet another person had called 911 and the police and emergency medical technicians showed up.

The doctors at the medical center said, if not for the people at the pizza shop and the EMTs, Huff wouldn’t have made it to Hershey, Clouser said.

Kitner said the EMTs told him that “it was the whole chain of events” that saved Huff’s life and kept him alive that night, not the doings of any one person. 

Dailey living

Huff lived in Middletown all his life. His salvation — at least his guardian angel — was probably Joseph Dailey, himself a big rough-around-the-edges guy who owns JD’s Junction and the Dailey’s Gulf service station on Main Street.

Around 1980 Dailey took Huff in, and gave him a job at the service station. Before then, Huff had worked at the Elwood’s station on the west end of town, although Dailey said he’s not sure exactly when Huff worked there.

“He used to walk around town filthy and he lived in the old football house before they rebuilt it. That’s where he stayed,” Dailey told the Press And Journal. “He had probably five or six layers of coats on. He was unshaven, stunk and he used to make laps and go by the garage, so finally one day I told him, ‘Come over here.’ ”

Dailey cleaned Huff up, got him some new clothes, got him a uniform and gave him a job at the service station. He worked there for Dailey for 25 years, doing things like pumping gas and putting air in tires.

Huff could make change faster than a kid using a computer, Dailey said. He had “a thing” for women, Dailey said. If a woman came into the station with a flat tire, Huff would get right on the job. If it was a guy, Huff would walk past him as if he wasn’t there.

Dailey’s generosity didn’t end with the job. Dailey allowed Huff to move in with him so he had a place to stay. From then on, Huff lived with Dailey for the next 35 years, until he died.

Dailey isn’t sure why he put up with Huff all these years.

“He stole from me every day,” Dailey said. “He decided he needed $20 so he just took $20 out of the cash register after I left. I knew it. I’d ask him, ‘Why did you take the money?’ He’d say, ‘I don’t know’ or he’d say, ‘No I didn’t take it.’ But if you looked in his pockets it was all there. If I was $40 short you’d find two $20s wrapped together. If I was $60 short you’d find three $20s.”

At the same time Huff was a dedicated employee who never called in sick and never missed a day of work at the station.

Huff would get out of bed sometime each night, put his clothes on, and go back to bed fully dressed. That way, when he heard Dailey get up, Huff would always be able to beat Dailey to work.

“He stayed there from morning until night, every day,” Dailey said. “If we were open seven days a week, he was there seven days a week from the time we opened until the time we closed.”

In later years after Huff stopped working he spent all his time walking around Middletown and hanging out in the downtown. Dailey at one point moved out of the borough to Londonderry Township and brought Huff with him, but ended up moving back so Huff could resume his passion for street-wandering throughout Middletown.

“I don’t know why I did it,” Dailey said of taking care of Huff all these years. “I guess the good Lord pushed me to do it."

“I don’t want to take a lot of credit. I’d like to think that anybody would do what I (did). But I found out that’s not the case. Not everybody would do what I did," Dailey said.

 

Last Updated on Tuesday, 29 November 2016 15:58

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UPDATE: Detective discusses drowning of girl, 3: 'This is one that will stay in my memory forever'

 

A 3-year-old girl who drowned in a pool at a Lower Swatara Township residence in July had a tendency to wander away from home — including just three days before her death, when she was found alone eating dirt at the playground at Catherine and Emaus streets in Middletown.

Now, the girl’s mother and uncle face felony charges of involuntary manslaughter and endangering the welfare of children, Dauphin County District Attorney Ed Marsico said at a press conference on Tuesday, Nov. 22.

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Tiffany Graham

“There is nothing more important to protect than the life of a child, and Austin Biller and Tiffany Graham failed to do this, and the child died alone in a swimming pool because of it,” Detective Robert Appleby of the Lower Swatara Police Department told the Press And Journal.

 

“Little Miss Houdini”

On July 31, Austin C. Biller, 18, of Lower Swatara Township, was babysitting the child of his sister, Tiffany M. Graham, 22, of Middletown. It was not the first time he baby-sat the girl, and not the first time the toddler had wandered off — not only from Biller and other family members, but from her mother as well, according to investigators.

In fact, family members called the girl “Little Miss Houdini,” according to Appleby.

“Her mom despite all this kept placing her in these places where she knew she was endangered and not properly supervised,” Appleby said, and that is a key in what led to the charges against her.

On July 31, Graham had returned from work early in the morning and asked Biller to baby-sit. Biller told investigators he fell asleep and when he woke up, the girl was gone from her high chair. He said he searched the neighborhood but didn’t call 911 until later in the day — more than an hour after he first noticed she was missing, authorities said.

Biller lives in the 2000 block of West Harrisburg Pike. The girl was found nearby in a pool at a residence in the 100 block of Wayne Avenue.

Appleby disputes Biller’s account that he searched closely for the girl. Video at 8:53 a.m. shows a child walking toward the pool, and the girl is not seen again. Biller isn’t seen in his car on that road — one of the first he likely would have gone down in searching for the girl, Appleby said — until 9:23, the same time the homeowner of the house with the pool calls 911. Even when Biller is seen on the video, Appleby said, he doesn’t stop to talk to people who are clearly agitated and who are standing outside. Biller drives off. He then calls 911 a few minutes later.

Appleby said Biller’s residence was equipped with a double-key deadbolt at the time the girl got away July 31. That means the door could have been locked from the inside, making it almost impossible for a 3-year-old to get out. But, according to Appleby, the door was not locked because Craig Biller, the father of Graham and Biller, was returning home and did not have a key to get in.

 

Many previous incidents

Just three days earlier, on July 28, the 3-year-old was found by a Middletown highway worker alone eating dirt in the park at Catherine and Emaus streets near the borough municipal building. This occurred when she was in the care of her mother, who lives in the 100 block of North Union Street, Appleby said. 

The highway worker saw the girl on North Union Street. The worker was looking to see if an adult was nearby as the girl cut across North Union Street at an angle. He followed her to the park, and then notified police. Appleby said Graham did not call looking for the girl until 23 minutes after she was found.

Just a few weeks earlier, on July 12, Appleby said, the girl was found alone near the Pennsylvania Turnpike bridge in the area of Donald Avenue, while she was in the care of her biological father. The very next day, Appleby said, Graham returned the girl to the care of her biological father and the very same thing happened — she was found wandering near the turnpike bridge. The biological father was charged in that incident, Appleby said.

“It’s amazing the girl didn’t get seriously injured or killed sooner,” he said.

There have been about six incidents since 2014, Appleby said — although those are just the ones that were reported. The girl was found wandering in the cold several times during that time frame.

Graham and the child’s grandfather, 53-year-old Craig Biller, had been charged previously for endangering her but were ordered to take parenting classes in lieu of charges. 

“Cases involving children, you never get used to and never forget. It’s a shame the neglect this child suffered and her death was completely preventable and should of never happened,” Appleby said. “You learn a lot during the course of an investigation like this, and this was bound to happen to this child and her mother should have taken steps to prevent it from ever happening, but didn’t.” 

Even if she had limited baby-sitting options, Appleby said, “she had been put through a class on parenting … she would have been provided resources.”

“You think she would have taken options to make sure she was safe,” Appleby said.

In a Facebook post on Nov. 17, Graham said: “I never knew such small hands could effect my life so much, and I never knew how much I would miss those hands holding mine in everything we did. I miss you, I love you, and please never leave the place where you’ve always belonged since day one.”

 

Grandfather charged

Craig Biller is charged with hindering apprehension and tampering with evidence. Police said he took the clothing of the 3-year-old girl from the scene of the drowning. 

“I have worked hundreds and hundreds of investigations, and this is one that will stay in my memory forever,” Appleby said. “There is no winner in any of this, no happiness, just tragedy. For me, the healing is making the arrests but it won't bring that little girl back.” 

Austin Biller was placed in the Dauphin County Prison on $10,000 bail. Graham and Craig Biller were released on $200,000 unsecured bail, according to reports.

A tentative hearing date for all three is set for Dec. 22.

 

Homeowner not yet charged

A final decision on whether to charge the homeowner where the pool was located has not been made, Appleby said.

“The way it was set up, it was a danger situation. It was an above-ground pool with steps going right up to it,” he said.

The pool has since been torn down.

“There wasn’t any intent by the pool owner,” he said, adding that the codes officer was involved.

 

Last Updated on Wednesday, 23 November 2016 14:55

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Interviews to replace board member to be held in private

Two Lower Swatara Township commissioners are interviewing candidates to replace board member Tom Mehaffie in private — a process that legal counsel for the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association said must be done in public.

Mehaffie, whose term runs through 2017, was elected to represent the 106th District in the House on Nov. 8. He ran unopposed in the general election. He announced Nov. 16 that he is resigning from his seat on the board of commissioners effective Nov. 30. 

Commissioners Laddie Springer and Todd Truntz are holding separate screening interviews with Dennis Fausey, Benjamin Hall and Ron Paul, the three who have applied to the township for the opening. 

Paul told the Press And Journal that the interviews are to be held Nov. 28.

The commissioners agreed that a private interview will make it a more “friendly process” for the candidates, Truntz said. 

“It’s so somebody’s not on the spot in front of the public,” he said. 

All five commissioners verbally agreed to that process during the board’s Nov. 16 meeting.

Public process?

The commissioners did not announce any public meetings where the candidates will be considered. Mehaffie said Springer and Truntz will make a recommendation to the board within the 30 days as provided by law. 

“Our solicitor said it’s OK,” Truntz said of the private meeting with less than a quorum of the board. He added that he confirmed this with another legal expert. 

However, the media law counsel for the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association, Melissa Melewsky, said the process for replacing an elected official must be open. 
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“The interviews and discussions should be held at a public meeting,” Melewsky said. “The two appointed council members are acting as a committee, and committees are subject to the Sunshine Act. The law expressly prohibits executive sessions to discuss filling a vacancy in elected office.”

Truntz said following the interviews, the decision will come at a public meeting and the public will have an opportunity to comment. Jon G. Wilt, vice president of the commissioners, and Commissioner Michael Davies will have the opportunity to ask questions during the public meeting.

“The process of filling a vacancy should be as public as the typical election process,” Melewsky said. “The public is entitled to know who is seeking to fill an elected office and their qualifications. When council members step into the shoes of voters, they must conduct an open and transparent process.”

Three candidates

Dennis Fausey, Benjamin Hall and Ron Paul have applied to the township for the opening, Truntz said.

Paul retired in 2012 after 35 years of employment with the township, including 16 as township manager. He announced his interest in October. 

Hall serves on the township’s code hearing board and in various capacities with local athletic organizations.

Fousey, a retired salesman, said he considers Mehaffie to be “a man of the people,” and he is the same type of guy. 

“I knew his seat would be open, and I would like to follow in his footsteps,” Fousey said. “The direction (the commissioners) have taken the township is excellent.” 

Fousey said he recognizes a need for commercial development in the township over residential because commercial properties put fewer demands on township services and contribute to the tax base. The township should also prepare for more recreation activities with bike lanes and hiking paths, he said.

Hall did not respond to the Press And Journal’s inquiries.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 23 November 2016 13:19

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