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Martin Luther King Jr. drama at Penn State Harrisburg

Cassandra Porter   RivetedCassandra Porter heads the cast of “Riveted,” to be performed at Penn State Harrisburg.

For 19 years, Penn State Harrisburg and PenOwl Productions Theatre Company have collaborated to produce a dramatic presentation to commemorate the campus-wide celebration of the Dr. Martin Luther King national holiday. 

Here is a synopsis of this year’s production, “Riveted”: Four African-American women work for the defense industries in World War II while working on their lives. Husbands must be cared for, children tended to, housework done, and the world protected. That doesn’t leave much time for personal reflection. Yet these women do, what women have always done, find a natural balance and form a bond of sisterhood. 

The play was written by Dr. Dorothy E. King, Penn State Harrisburg assistant professor of sociology. Cassandra Porter heads the cast.

“Riveted” will be performed at noon Monday, Jan. 16 and 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 17 in the Capital Union Building of Penn State Harrisburg. It is free and open to the public.

For more information and to make a reservation, call 717-948-6300.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 10 January 2017 15:50

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23 Years Ago: Jan. 11, 2017

final 23 years ago 1 11Raising Kane – It was time to raise a little “Kane” last week as schools were closed and the snowfall made a winter wonderland for hundreds of local kids. Andrea Kane is pictured having more fun than she probably would have had on a school day. A student at Demey Elementary School, Andrea is the daughter of Jeff Kane and Sandy McCann of Middletown. 

From The Wednesday, Jan. 12, 1994 edition of the Press And Journal


Series Of Suspicious Fires Sparks Alarm, Anger

 Twelve suspicious fires? All in Middletown’s First Ward? All since early October? It was not a subject on the night’s agenda. Rather it was expected to be a night of mostly ceremonious matters, going through, with pomp and proper protocol, the procedures required by state law on the first Monday of even-numbered years.

 But shortly after Middletown Council re-organized, electing again as its president and vice president, Barbara Layne and Terry Seiders, five First Ward residents brought the curtain crashing down.

 “We’re here to talk about the fires being set around our area,” said one resident who, along with several neighbors, attended Council’s January 3 re-organization meeting.

 With Council sitting in seemingly stunned silence, the resident politely continued, “We’re living in fear,” she said. “We all feel like sitting ducks wondering whose house will be next. Let’s not keep this hush-hush. Let’s make people aware there’s an arsonist out there.”

 According to the resident, at the scene of a fire a few blocks from her house on Jan.2 – a day when a total of four fire calls were received by Middletown’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) – a firefighter told her that he suspected it was an arson and that it was not the only one.

 Eyes darting from the audience to fellow Council members, Layne exclaimed, “I want you and everyone else in this room to know that this is the first time I’ve heard this.”

 In what appeared to be a search for someone to shed light on the issue, Layne looked at Mayor Robert Reid and then at Councilman George Elberti III, who is also an assistant fire marshal for the Borough.

 Elberti, in an attempt to downplay the situation, simply said, yes a number of fires were under investigation by the State Police, and that no further details could be disclosed. 

 Layne said, “We’ll take every measure we can, through the press, to make people aware.”


Layne, Seiders Reappointed President, Vice-president of Middletown Council

 On the first Monday of even-numbered years, state law requires local governing bodies to re-organize, to elect new officers to lead the body. On January 3, Middletown Council did just that, unanimously re-electing as its leaders, President Barbara Layne and Vice President Terry Seiders.

 Both thanked fellow members for their support, but Layne went a step further, sharing with Council and those in the audience an acceptance speech she had prepared.

 “When I became president in 1988, I stressed that this Council would go down in the annals of Middletown as one genuinely interested in what is best for the residents of this Borough. I strongly believe that we have been successful in accomplishing that – despite what some may say.”

 With conviction in her voice, Layne read on, “I further made a plea for us to continue to improve the quality of life for our residents.”

 As evidence of Council’s efforts toward that end and its ability to operate as a team, Layne read off the following accomplishments: the Woodlayne project; the Wilson St. Bridge project, where ground was broken in May, Layne noted; the new Giant going up at Mid-Town Plaza; and the placement of the town square project on PennDOT’s priority list.

 “We have faced some very difficult issues over the past two years and will face more in the next two years.” Layne said in bringing her speech to an end, “May God grant us the strength and courage we need to move forward in these very difficult times.”


Familiar Faces Reappointed In Conoy Twp.

 The Conoy Township Board of Supervisors met for its annual re-organizational meeting on Mon., Jan. 3, reappointing many longtime officials.

 Once again, Stephen Mohr will serve as Board chairman and Earl Fuhrman as vice chairman. Board member Robert Strickland returns as secretary/treasurer, a post he has held for more than 30 years.

 The Supervisors’ various responsibilities remain as follows: Mohr – recreation and buildings; Fuhrman – sewer, water, fire and roads; and Strickland – planning, zoning, emergency management and roads.

 Also, Mohr was reappointed as dog officer and Fuhrman returns as Township road master.

 Richard Boas was reappointed as Chief of Police. The Board announced that the police force remains under a three-year contract that was signed in 1993. Under the contract, Boas reportedly earns $30,500 annually and Officer Joe Good earns $26,500. The department’s two part-time officers earn a wage of $8.75 per hour.

 The Board also voted to keep Marvin Stoner as sewer enforcement officer, Robert Brandt as zoning officer and Glenn Hipple as Vacancy Board chairman.

 The Board gave its authorization for the Bainbridge Fire Department to carry out fundraising activities during the New Year. Officials also announced that the Township’s 1994 budget was passed at a Dec. 28 meeting. Revenues are expected to total $714,956 and expenditures are expected to be $641,605 leaving a surplus of more than $100,000.

Prices From 23 Years Ago

Wilson Lite Roast Beef, $3.99/lb.

Dannon Light Yogurt 8 oz., 59¢

Wheat Kaiser Rolls 6 ct., $1.29

Icy Point Pink Salmon 14.75 oz., 2/$3

Hills Bros. Coffee 12 oz. can, 99¢

Blueberry Pie 24 oz., $2.99

Page Paper Towels, 3 Rolls/$1

Wildberry Crème Cake, $2.58/each

Kraft Parmesan Cheese 8 oz., $3.20

Wesson Oil 48 oz. btl., $1.99

Last Updated on Tuesday, 10 January 2017 15:27

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23 Years Ago: 1/4/2017

23 years 010423 YEARS AGO - MAHS Thespians Stage Comedy – The Middletown Area High School performing arts department presents the comedy, “But Why Bump Off Barnaby” in the high school auditorium. Pictured in a recent rehearsal for this hilarious farce are: student director Lori Pressley (seated in foreground) and actors (left to right) Josh Koch, Lisa Kalbaugh, Tracy Erb, Margaret Laszczak, Ty Walker, Robert Smith, Kevin Arnold, Maggie Hess, April Hoover and Val Messick.


From The Wednesday,  Jan. 5, 1994 Edition Of The Press And Journal


Next Phase: Decommissioning In 2014 TMI’s Unit 2 Reactor  Placed In Monitored Storage

 It’s taken over 14 years of history-making cleanup, analysis and negotiations, but the damaged Unit 2 reactor at Three Mile Island has finally entered a stage of industrial limbo known in the nuclear power industry as “monitored storage.”

 The owner of the Londonderry Township facility, GPU Nuclear Corporation, first proposed the storage option to the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) in August 1988 as an interim stage between the end of defueling and decommissioning at the plant.

 Unit 2’s ongoing status has garnered industry-wide attention, primarily because it was the site of the country’s worst commercial nuclear power accident in March 1979, but also because it is the first nuclear plant to be “mothballed” in this manner.

 The NRC announced an amendment to GPU’s license in mid-September that permitted the utility to possess Unit 2 but not operate it. That hurdle cleared the way for GPU to place the damaged reactor into “post-defueling monitored storage” until its planned decommissioning along with the healthy Unit 1 reactor in April 2014.

 According to GPU officials, some radioactive material remains at Unit 2 but is expected to decay significantly before the plants decommissioning 20 years from now. As a result, the NRC has issued detailed technical specifications that must be met during storage, including the frequency of inspections and the equipment that must be maintained.

 Prior to issuing the possession-only license, the NRC staff reportedly conducted safety and technical evaluations, which determined long-term storage to be an acceptable option for the plant.


Prices From 23 Years Ago

Stouffers Lasagna 

  40 oz. pkg.$4.79

Fresh Artichokes68¢/each

Roma Tomatoes79¢/lb.

Mozzarella Balls 16 oz. pkg.$2.34

Snowflake Rolls$1.29/8 roll pkg.

Bertolli Olive Oil 17 oz.$2.89

Farley’s Fruit Snacks 

  10 oz. pkg.$1.55

Green Zuchini Squash58¢/lb.

Fresh Endive39¢/lb.

Cavatelli Pasta Salad$1.88/lb.

Minute Maid 64 oz.$1.79

Smithfield Bacon$1.38/lb.

Pepperidge Farms 

Croutons 5.5 oz$1.09


Look Back At The News Stories That Highlighted Our Year: 1993

 Since it’s traditional at the start of a new year to look back on all the events that shaped and molded our world during the previous 12 months, we thought it would be interesting to review some of the news stories that made their mark in the Press And Journal in 1993.

 JANUARY 1993: Union Hopes To Salvage Sale; With a skeleton crew of fewer than 30 workers now filling the remaining manufacturing orders at Bethlehem Steel’s trackwork facility in Steelton, local union officials are still holding our hope that the corporation will find a buyer for the plant before it shuts down permanently.

 FEBRUARY 1993: Met-Ed Tries Again To Break Electric Pact; Metropolitan Edison Company has advised Middletown officials that it is seeking, again, to terminate the 1906 contract under which it supplies electricity to the Borough at the favorable rate of 1 cent per kilowatt hour (Kwh). 

 MARCH 1993: 20-plus Inches of Snow Finds Locals Still Digging Our From The “Great Blizzard of ’93; It may have not been the area’s worst snow storm of the century, but for most local residents it ranked as one of the worst in memory. Although our area was covered by an average of 20 to 23 inches of snow Saturday night, it wasn’t enough to top the record snowfall of 25.2 inches that was dumped on this area during the storm that hit here on Feb. 11, 1983.

 APRIL 1993: Flood Was Little More Than Messy Nuisance; For some of the residents in Royalton Borough, the flood of 1993 was a minor inconvenience compared to the hoards of sightseers who overflowed the small town’s streets and created a general nuisance of themselves.

 SEPTEMBER 1993: AMP to Expand Plant In Lower Swatara Twp.; Officials with AMP Incorporated announced early last week that the giant electronics firm will construct a large new building at its Fulling Mill Road location in Lower Swatara township that could provide at least 130 new jobs for area residents.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 04 January 2017 13:26

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The Ruth murders, 35 years later: Middletown case was the most memorable of Brandt’s police career

Middletown Acting Police Chief Don Foreman and Detective Richard Brandt were nearing the end of their work week Friday, June 11, 1982, when a postal carrier walked into the police department.

“I think I just found a dead person,” the carrier said, remembers Richard Brandt, recently retired after 28 years with Lower Swatara Township Police Department, where he landed after two stints in Middletown. 

It was the most memorable case of Brandt’s career. Because Brandt was a Middletown native, he knew the location, the stone house beside Alfred’s Victorian restaurant, where Brandt had visited his family doctor on the first floor for the first decades of his life. 

Brandt said he found a body on the bed in a second-floor apartment of the stone building at 28 N. Union St. and began his investigation. The person was clearly dead. Brandt said that he realized the body must have been there for some time because decomposition made it difficult to tell if it was a male or female at first. The insects and maggots on the corpse were so active that it made it appear the body was moving.

Brandt Ruth MurderDick Brandt, in sport coat, was a Middletown detective in 1982 when Robert Ruth, far left, was charged with murder.

Despite the odor in the apartments, employees of the businesses on the first floor had not noticed anything, according to a Press And Journal report days after the discovery.

Brandt dealt with the odor and began investigating, concentrating on the body. 

“I was in there for 15 minutes, walking around and making notes, when I realized there was a second body on the floor.”

“It took us several days to identify them,” Brandt said, recalling that a tattoo helped identify one victim. They had discovered the bodies of Crystal Henderson Ruth and Randy Sinisi, both 24. Despite his earlier thoughts about leaving the office in midafternoon and beginning his weekend, Brandt ended up working until 11 p.m. 

“When I got home, my wife asked me to strip down outside because of the odor,” he said. “I immediately got out of that clothing and got a shower.”

“I was still a young detective,” Brandt said of his investigation. “I learned a lot from that case.”


CLICK FOR MORE: Lower Swatara’s ex-Chief Brandt reflects on long career as a police officer


Brandt took a lead role in the investigation with help from Foreman, state troopers and the State Police crime lab. On July 28, Middletown police had arrested Robert Ruth on first-degree murder charges. 

“He looked like somebody’s grandpa,” Brandt said. “He didn’t look like a killer.” 

“We found out the girl was married to a man in his 60s. She had married a guy she met in a massage parlor,” Brandt said. It appears Crystal Ruth had thought Robert Ruth to be a wealthy man, and she counted on him to support her drug habits. 

Initially, Sinisi had been introduced as a gay man, not her boyfriend, Brandt said. During the trial, Robert Ruth admitted taking the pair to buy drugs and waiting in the car, according to the Press And Journal archives. 

Ultimately, it appears Robert Ruth had learned of the true nature of this relationship, and found out about this apartment they used on North Union Street. 

Ruth Headline1


“One of my witnesses was the guy who made a key at Reider’s Hardware to the apartment for Mr. Ruth,” Brandt said. 

Ruth then provided money for the couple to score the drugs they craved, and entered the apartment hours later and killed them with a Smith & Wesson .38 Special, probably when they were passed out or sleeping, Brandt said. 

“Ruth placed the gun against Crystal’s forehead and fired, killing her instantly,” Brandt said. “We assume the shot startled Randy awake and he instinctively started moving away from the gunfire. Ruth only had to move the gun a few inches and fired again, hitting Randy in the side of the head and killing him instantly also.” 

Ruth withdrew $10,000 in cash on June 8, 1982, and left on a cross-country trek that took him to Florida, California and Davenport, Iowa, where he was apprehended in possession of Crystal’s purse and Sinisi’s pager, according to Press And Journal coverage of the time.

Ruth was convicted Dec. 9, 1982, of voluntary manslaughter in the killings with a sentence of 10 to 20 years. “For a man his age, that seemed like a life sentence,” Brandt said. 

Online records of graves show a man named Robert J. Ruth, 1915-1999, is buried in Camp Hill. 

Last Updated on Wednesday, 04 January 2017 13:09

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Lower Swatara’s ex-Chief Brandt reflects on long career as a police officer

Setting out for a day of work in a police uniform was a bit different in 1978, the year Richard Brandt started on the force.

Back then, Brandt — who retired July 1 as chief of police in Lower Swatara Township — said officers carried little more than revolvers and batons. 

“Our radio was our lifeline back in 1978,” he said. 

RichardBrandt3Richard Brandt


Today, officers also rely on radios, cellphones and computers.

“Technology has had a tremendous effect on life in general, but also made for big changes in law enforcement,” Brandt said. 

Mobile data terminals are in nearly all cars, so officers can quickly check the status of a vehicle they are following and the background of the driver. 

But advances also apply to weapons, he said.


Click for more: The Ruth murders, 35 years later: Middletown case was the most memorable of Brandt’s police career


Brandt joined Lower Swatara’s police department in 1988, and rose through the ranks as a detective and sergeant. Over that time, he noted the switch from .357 revolvers to 10 mm semiautomatic handguns, as well as the change to the practice of keeping rifles and shotguns in each car for all shifts. Today’s officers also carry pepper spray and Taser stun guns.

The addition of Tasers provided a big benefit for police, Brandt said. 

“The Taser allows subduing a person without injuring the person or the police officer,” he said.

Brandt said he plans to spend time working on projects improving his home in Royalton, what he said are the kinds of things he had not found time to do while he was working. He also started making travel plans with his wife, Amy, with his eyes set on Greece and Australia for two of his first destinations. As weather allows, Brandt said he plans to spend time kayaking, shooting, fishing, bicycling and riding his motorcycle. 


A changing township

Brandt has seen the township grow in his 28 years on the force, with many businesses sprouting up along Fulling Mill Road and the construction of several neighborhoods, including Twelve Oaks and Old Reliance, Brandt said.

“When I started, the World War II generation lived in Shope’s Garden and other areas of the township, but that has changed,” Brandt said. 

As the township grew, the police department grew with it, Brandt said. In 1988, Lower Swatara had a police chief and nine patrolmen, which grew to 13 by 1994 and stayed that way for 11 years. Former Chief Richard Wiley took over in 2005 and named three new sergeants, including Brandt, and he named Randy Richards as the first school resource officer. Wiley’s changes increased the department to 16 officers. 

Brandt was named acting chief as Wiley accepted a job in West Melbourne, Florida, in August 2012, and the position became permanent a few months later. 

Brandt retired after a tense period between the Lower Swatara board of commissioners, led by Tom Mehaffie, and the township’s police department. 

“I could do two more years,” Brandt said. “If Mehaffie hadn’t been around, I would have stayed two more years.”

In his position as chief, I know he shouldered a lot more stress than he let on to the men,” said Randy Richards, a patrolman with Lower Swatara Police. “In typical Dick Brandt style, he kept his cool, shook his head and made the best of things. Although I wish him the best in his retirement, he is greatly missed in the department.”


Finding his calling

Brandt said it was not easy to find well-paid jobs that directly related to his bachelor’s degree in psychology, and he decided to apply for other jobs, including with local police departments. 

“I thought it would be interesting to try it out,” he said. “I tried it and liked it.” 

He landed in Middletown, where he had lived growing up. He then left police work in 1983 for a job at Three Mile Island. He spent about four years there, including two in security and two in a plant job. 

“I got the police bug again,” Brandt remembers. 

After returning to Middletown in a part-time role, full-time police work literally came calling. Brandt said both Derry Township and Lower Swatara Township offered him a job on the same day, and he accepted the first, the Lower Swatara position, immediately. He hit the beat as a patrolman, before serving as a detective, sergeant and chief for the township’s force.

“Chief Brandt was one of the most intelligent, methodical and well-rounded police officers I ever had the pleasure of working for and with,” said Robert Appleby, a detective with Lower Swatara Police. “He effortlessly mastered every role a police officer can have.” 

Brandt at work LST policeRichard Brandt works at his desk in this photo from his career on the Lower Swatara police force.


Richards said he started with the township, learning from a crew of seasoned officers including Brandt, who had joined Lower Swatara from Middletown. 

“I was fortunate enough to work side-by-side with then Patrolman Brandt, who taught best not by word, but by example,” Richards said. “He was one that always conducted himself in a professional manner with the public, never letting his emotions dictate the proper course of action. As a cop, he had a good sense of humor and found the lighter side of life in almost all situations, helping those that served with him put things into proper context.”

“I learned a great deal from him over the years — too much to list!” Appleby said. “Everything I learned from him is part of who I am today as a detective. The support and trust he gave me over the years as an investigator helped me to learn the ropes and become better at what I do.”

Police Sgt. Scott Young also recalls training under Brandt, and then he and Brandt were named sergeant at the same time under Wiley. 

“He has been a great friend and one of the best chiefs I have ever worked for,” Young said. “He certainly is a big part of how I do police work. My prayer for him is that he enjoys retirement, and God continues to bless him and his family.”

‘Excellent’ profession

Despite some mistrust that has developed among a segment of the public and law enforcement in the past few years, Brandt said he still recommends it as a career choice. 

“It’s always going to be a dangerous choice for a profession, but it’s an excellent one,” he said. “It has relatively good pay, benefits and a pension that private industry doesn’t have.”

Police still receive enough quality candidates for their openings in this area, even as the total number of candidates has fallen. Today, nearly all municipal police hiring is handled through a countywide consortium. The consortium’s list of candidates regularly contained about 300 to 400 candidates who had made it through the process, but now it’s just 200, Brandt said. 

Within the pool of candidates for police officers, the representation of African-Americans, women and other ethnicities remains low, despite some targeted recruitment efforts, Brandt said. 


Riot provided tense nights

The most terrifying experience in his career in law enforcement came 27 years ago this month, when he was sent to help at the Camp Hill prison riot, which began when some inmates overpowered and took guards hostage. By the time the riot was over, about 130 prison employees and 70 inmates would be injured, and the riot caused about $17 million in damages, much of which was due to the fires set by inmates.

“Back when Camp Hill happened, I was there both nights,” Brandt said. 

He was inside the prison the first night and assigned a perimeter detail the second.

“Most incidents (in police work) happen quickly, and you don’t have time to be afraid,” Brandt said. The prison riot was different, because it was an ongoing situation filled with tension, strain and uncertainty. “We knew we were going into a bad situation,” Brandt said. 

Ultimately, local police officers like Brandt supported the State Police and correctional officers who were in command of the scene, reporting to Maj. Jim Hazen of the State Police. Assault teams of more than 100 total state troopers and corrections officers wrestled control back from the inmates without any deaths.

Aside from the experience with the prison riot, Brandt said the scariest situation in Lower Swatara Township came when he was in a police car, blocking a lane of Route 283. “Cars are coming at you at 60 or 70 mph,” he said. “If they hit you, you are going to die.”


Bar fights once regular

During his early days as an officer in Middletown, Brandt said the bars in town — more than the borough currently has — provided regular calls for bar fights. 

“It was a constant in Middletown,” he said, especially in the years when a lot of construction workers and others from out-of-town were here to work on Three Mile Island. “We would circle the bars and wait for trouble.”

“It never bothered me, actually it was sort of amusing,” Brandt said. “When people are drunk and try and fight, they are not good fighters.” 

Bar fights proved less of a problem in Lower Swatara, Brandt said. For a few years of its heyday, “Shane’s was our problem child,” Brandt said. The former Shane’s Flight Deck, across Route 230 from McDonald’s, got progressively worse over time, leading up to a drug-related shooting. Brandt said no one was killed, but they did make an arrest in the shooting. Shane’s has now been closed for more than 10 years. 


Lower Swatara crime

Brandt said that as he retired, crime in the township was not terrible. 

“We don’t have the crime patterns of the past,” he said. The biggest crime problems that continue to be a problem are thefts and fraud, neither of which are anything new, although fraud is almost all electronic, he said. 

He remembers one tough case in which he was able to arrest a con man, Troy Lojak. A woman had reported Lojak scammed her for a few thousand dollars to buy a used mobile home. 

“I found he had done it to multiple people,” Brandt said. “It took me almost a year to put the case together.” In court, prosecutors showed Brandt’s evidence of how Lojak ripped off 12 people for more than $100,000 total. The Lojak case was maddening in its scope because Brandt had to chase down information for so many different scams involving Lojak.

“At one time, most burglary cases were drug addicts,” Brandt said. Heroin has gone through cycles of being a major problem, like it is now, the difference is that currently, sustaining a heroin addiction today costs a fraction of what it cost an addict in the 1980s. 

“We have also seen more child sex cases,” he said, adding that today these crimes are simply more likely to be reported than ever before.


A book of police experiences

Not every police call is an emergency, and a few turn out a bit bizarre. 

“We always joke at the station we should write them down,” Brandt said. “People wouldn’t believe it.”

“One lady we used to get calls from all the time, well, she thought the State Police helicopter was spying on her,” he said. Another man wrote letters telling Brandt “the FBI is trying to poison him.”

“That’s what keeps the job interesting; you never know what you might get,” he said.  

On the increase in the past 10 to 20 years are calls from residents because children are not behaving. It may be siblings fighting, or kids fighting with parents, he said. 

“We can’t solve the problem for them,” Brandt said. 

Brandt said another common call that may fall into a repeated pattern doesn’t lead to easy solutions. 

“We can’t do much for neighbor disputes,” he said. “It can be frustrating.” 

But that’s simply part of what he signed up for in law enforcement. 

“It’s all just part of the job,” Brandt said. 

Last Updated on Wednesday, 04 January 2017 13:11

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