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You will be caught ... I promise you that!” — it happened, and arsonist is now in prison

arsonsign8 26 15WEBEsmeralda Gonzalez stands outside her home in the 100 block of North Catherine Street in Middletown was targeted by an arsonist in August 2015.


At first Esmeralda Gonzalez could feel only raw anger toward the young man who on Aug. 18, 2015, set fire to her house in the 100 block of North Catherine Street in Middletown.

Her anger manifested itself in a sign she placed on her front porch, before an arrest was made — “You will be caught … I promise you that!”

But somewhere along the line that anger turned to sadness. 

Almost a year later to the day — Aug. 16, 2016 — 19-year old Carl E. Nelson III of Ann Street in Middletown pleaded guilty to arson in Dauphin County Court and was sentenced to two and one-half to 5 years in state prison. He has already served one year of his sentence in Dauphin County Prison.

According to police records, Nelson set fire to the residence after he and Gonzalez’ son had argued over a skateboard. Nelson and a friend drank some cough syrup, and Nelson came back to the residence with a bottle of Gatorade filled with kerosene.

Inside the house at the time was Gonzalez’ daughter, her boyfriend, and the couple’s 10-month old baby. The fire caused at least $8,000 in damages, mostly to vinyl siding on the front and side of the porch. 

Gonzalez knew from the start that Nelson had been behind the blaze, but the sentencing in the courtroom had been her first opportunity to confront him face to face.

“’I’m not even mad at you anymore. I feel bad for you,’” Gonzalez said she told Nelson. “’I have a son your age. I wouldn’t want my son to go where you are going.’”

She told Nelson that he had never apologized for what he had done, and if he would, “‘I would be the first to speak up for you at the parole hearing’” if Nelson would ever be considered for early release from prison.

Gonzalez then went over to Nelson in the courtroom and gave him a hug.

“’I cried. He cried, and he apologized to me,’” Gonzalez said. “He was just this big kid bent over crying. It just broke my heart.”

Nelson then apologized to the judge. 

He said he felt bad for what he did, and that every time Nelson sees his mother she is crying.

Nelson’s lawyer said that Nelson has been going to anger management classes and is doing “really good” in Dauphin County Prison.

“I don’t think you’re a bad guy, just that what you did was bad,” Gonzalez told Nelson. “I don’t think what you did you meant to do, but now you have to face the consequences. I could have lost my family in this, but now your mom is losing her son.”

It did not seem to Gonzalez that Nelson’s mother or father, or anyone else, was there in the courtroom for him. Gonzalez said it seemed like she was the only one there to support him.

That too seemed sad, Gonzalez said. But if Nelson can get his act together and do his time, Gonzalez said she will be there for him again.

“The county victim advocate said they will contact me when he is up for parole. I’ll be the first one to say, ‘Let him out,’” Gonzalez said.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 23 August 2016 15:33

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Heroin charges, alleged assault of pregnant woman among recent court cases

The following is a compilation of arrests based upon criminal complaints recently filed by police with the office of District Judge David Judy. Those arrested are presumed innocent until found guilty.


Guilty plea on drug charges

A Middletown man who was arrested in February for dealing heroin out of his residence on Keystone Avenue has pleaded guilty and been sentenced in Dauphin County Court.trochephoto3 2 16WEBTroche

Geraldo Troche, 43, on July 7 pleaded guilty to one count of manufacture, delivery, or possession with intent to manufacture or deliver. 

He was sentenced by Judge John F. Cherry to 24 months in the county’s Intermediate Punishment Program, with the first six months for work release. He was given credit for time served in Dauphin County Prison from Feb. 26 to March 14.

Borough police started investigating Troche after getting tips from nearby residents about the amount of “traffic” in and out of his home in the 100 block of Keystone Avenue at all hours of the day and night.

A search warrant led to police seizing 12 bags of heroin at Troche’s residence, according to court records.


Pregnant woman assaulted

A Middletown man is being held in Dauphin County Prison on $50,000 bail for allegedly assaulting his pregnant girlfriend.

Steven Dashawn Bundy, 19, of the 300 block of Market Street, was arrested by borough police July 8 and charged with aggravated assault, terroristic threats, and recklessly endangering another person. Bundy was ordered bound over for county court on all charges during a preliminary hearing on Aug. 1. He is to be arraigned in county court on Sept. 23.

Bundy’s girlfriend was five months pregnant July 4 when he allegedly started strangling her after seeing messages on Facebook between the victim and her ex-boyfriend, according to court records filed by borough police. Bundy then allegedly kicked the victim in the back four times.

Bundy allegedly assaulted the woman a second time two days later on July 6, according to court records.


Neighbor’s jewelry pawned

A Middletown man is in Dauphin County Prison for allegedly stealing jewelry from his next-door neighbor and selling it to buy heroin.

Borough police allege that Anthony Michael Valle, 25, of the first block of North Pine Street, stole at least $7,000 worth of jewelry from boxes that were in the victim’s bed room next door. The items included necklaces, rings, bracelets, and diamond earrings.

The woman had given Valle a key to her residence so he could let her dog out while she was away, according to court records filed by borough police. The thefts occurred between June 20 and July 9 and Valle was charged on July 21. Police were able to verify that Valle had sold some of the jewelry at two pawn shops in Harrisburg.

Valle was arraigned before District Judge Raymond F. Shugars and charged with burglary, theft by unlawful taking, and receiving stolen property. He was placed in county prison on $25,000 bail. 

A preliminary hearing was scheduled for Aug. 15 before District Judge David Judy.


Woman struck with car

A Middletown man is charged with aggravated assault after he allegedly hit a woman with his vehicle in the parking lot of the American Legion on East High Street on July 9.

Borough police in court records said that Robert Andrew Sheesley, 46, of the 100 block of North Pine Street, allegedly ran his vehicle into the sister of his estranged wife during a domestic disturbance. The woman received bruises to her right leg and knee area and required medical treatment at the scene, police said.

Sheesley is also charged with simple assault, disorderly conduct, and driving without a license. He was ordered bound over on all charges during a preliminary hearing and is to be arraigned in Dauphin County Court on Sept. 23.


Last Updated on Tuesday, 16 August 2016 15:38

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Is Middletown a ‘campus town’? What would it take to get it there?

Does Penn State Harrisburg’s continued growth mean that Middletown is becoming a college town?

Dr. Donald R. Holtzman, senior director of student services and special projects for Penn State Harrisburg, says yes.

Ben Kapenstein, the borough council president, says he sure hopes so.

But for many students, it still has a ways to go.

There are challenges. Route 230 is a physical separation of the two. Some Middletown residents are still cool to the idea of having students be an active part of the borough. Never mind that it’s called Penn State Harrisburg, not Penn State Middletown. And the entire campus is almost entirely in Lower Swatara Township to boot.

But the challenges go far beyond that. The consensus is clear: To be a college town, Middletown must provide options that draw students. While there are some exceptions, that is not the case at the moment.

But Holtzman is seeing changes. An area becomes a college town, he said, when its businesses aim to attract college students. That is taking place at the Westporte Centre along Route 230, which includes a Hardee’s as well as a Family Dollar and the Hop Yard, a restaurant/bar which recently opened.

Kapenstein agreed that Jim Nardo, the developer of Westporte, is catering toward the students.

“That’s why he’s building that. He gets it. They’re building because they see it coming,” Kapenstein said.

Holtzman said those who rent apartments in Middletown are starting to target students. There will be more than ever of those at the campus this fall, likely more than 5,000.

“That’s a pretty good-sized market,” Holtzman said.

Diana McGlone has multiple perspectives on the “college town” question. She is a borough council member as well as someone who owns multiple rentals that cater to Penn State Harrisburg students. She also is a 1997 graduate of the college.

She said Middletown needs to put certain things in place so to transition into a college town.

“We are a town with a college. We are not necessarily a college town,” she said.

In visiting other places, she said, “when there is a strong college presence, you can tell the difference.”

“The overall look and feel of the town, the cafes, the shops, the nightlife … we don’t have any of that yet,” she said.

Study says take advantage of PSU Harrisburg

A May 2014 economic development strategic plan completed by Commonwealth Economics LLC for the borough is very clear when it comes to the potential of the campus:

“Penn State Harrisburg arguably represents the single greatest opportunity for rejuvenation in the borough,” it states in the first point of the executive summary.

“While the study team is aware of the historic tensions that typify town-gown relationships, the fact of the matter is that Middletown can no longer afford to effectively ignore the presence of this rapidly expanding campus, which among other things includes growing out-of-state populations.”

The study calls for coffee/book shops offering free Wi-Fi and specialty apparel stores, which it says Middletown is lacking. “The clustering of Penn State students, staff and faculty would also help to support existing enterprises, including eateries and the Elks Theatre. If the notion is that a rising tide lifts all boats, Penn State Harrisburg should be considering the most likely source of that rising tide.”

In the study, students and faculty mentioned a number of wants regarding Middletown, including coffee shops with Wi-Fi facilities, open spaces (parks), organic food items, and ethnic restaurants.

“Downtown in its present state does not offer much to students, and that they are more likely to visit Harrisburg, Swatara and Park City Mall in Elizabethtown locally and Philadelphia, New York and Baltimore during weekends,” the study stated A 2008 study found that the campus had a $135 million economic impact on the state as a whole; the report by Commonwealth Economics LLC estimated that number to be more than $160 million in 2014.

Selling Middletown

The type of campus that Penn State Harrisburg is also has changed student life. It is no longer a commuter school. Students live on and around campus, a change even from 2010, when Kapenstein graduated from Penn State Harrisburg, Class of 2010. “People weren’t walking around campus between classes,” he said. But one thing is the same: “We didn’t really hang out in Middletown.”

Getting students to learn about Middletown starts before students even make a decision on where they will attend college, Holtzman said. During open houses they are put on shuttles and shown around town.

“Part of what we sell is Middletown, because that’s where they’ll be,” he said.

Holtzman said Penn State Harrisburg also wants the flow to go the opposite direction — they want to bring Middletown residents onto campus, and the new Student Enrichment Center that opens this year includes a theater that will be home to events and lectures that are open to the public.

Holtzman said students regularly visit Union Street to go to Karns or to get pizza, and even to Alfred’s Victorian Restaurant for special occasions.

“We’ve become more a part of the town, and the town becomes more of an extension of the campus for them,” he said. That will only grow, Holtzman said, when a new Amtrak station is completed, making Emaus Street easy to get to from campus because it will be extended. Plans call for a walking bridge that will allow students to get over Route 230 to the station, which will be along West Main Street across from campus. Emaus Street will be extended to the station out of downtown as well. “The bridge is going to be huge in my opinion. It’s going to funnel right into downtown,” Kapenstein said. “We can’t waste that opportunity.”

“It’s basically perfect. They’re shooting them right into our downtown. We have to make sure we’re set up to capitalize,” he added.

Noah Match, an assistant manager at Karns on South Union Street, said he sees a “pretty fair amount” of students shopping in his store when classes are in session, but they don’t make a concerted effort to draw them in.

He said a couple of PSU Harrisburg students even work in the store.

Better shopping

An extended Emaus Street could draw students — of legal drinking age, that is — to Middletown’s newest draw, the Tattered Flag Brewery and Still Works.

Kapenstein says he sees this happening. But where will students go other than there?

Kapenstein — who is Penn State Harrisburg grad himself, Class of 2010 — said it’s his job to help make Middletown a college town, and that goal needs to be a focus for the borough.

He wants to see a vibrant student population coming downtown, but that’s going to take a bigger shopping district. “A coffeeshop/bookstore with Wi-Fi would be a great place for kids to come down and do school work in a cool atmosphere,” he said.

The student population has a lot of money to spend, Kapenstein said.”Give them options to do so.

The problem is that there aren’t many places for a business to go at the moment. The corner store at Emaus and Union will be the new home to a vape shop. The former Bunky’s eatery along South Union Street. is sitting vacant. Kapenstein called it an “eyesore.”

“That’s a place we can put a couple of businesses or one big business,” he said, but the owner seems to want to “let it sit there.”

The McNair House at the corner of Union and Emaus sts. has room for retail space on the first floor, but the borough is likely to sell that property in the near future.

About the students …

Despite the perception that some residents have of the college students being more trouble than they’re worth, Kapenstein said there are residents who are accepting. He said he hasn’t heard many complaints from residents about student problems. “For the most part, residents want this to become a college town,” he said.

“It’s college. There’s going to be parties. There’s going to be that atmosphere. That’s part of growing up,” he said. “But they’re also learning to become professionals. They’re going to be our next generation of leaders.”

McGlone said she has seen more students looking for quality off-campus housing. She has many tenants who are not the typical post-high school students and who do not necessarily want to live in dormitory-style housing. That includes some military veterans and international students.

She said she asks international students what they like and don’t like about Middletown.

“It’s really good hearing different perspectives of people who have never been here before,” she said.

They would like to see more ethnic restaurants. Some also want access to bicycles. Middletown does not have a bicycle shop. Groceries, but nothing else?

Kathryn Urick, a junior Penn State Harrisburg student from Belgium, is one of those students who wants better shopping options. Other than buying groceries in the borough and the occasional meal, she said there’s not much to do.

“I don’t think there’s much in Middletown to be honest,” she said. “I think it’s kind of quiet.”

She said she would like to be able to buy clothes, get her hair cut and generally have better shopping options.

Vladhimir Theophile, a sophomore from New Jersey, lives in Middletown and walks to campus but said there “isn’t noticeably that much to do” in the borough.

“We’re looking for a mall, shopping centers, parks,” he said of he and his fellow college students.

He, too, buys groceries and said Middletown has some decent restaurants, “but as far as hanging out, there’s not much you can do.”

A bright future? McGlone and Kapenstein agreed that the borough and the university need to collaborate more.

McGlone wants to take advantage of the Lion Ambassadors student leadership group that does several community service projects throughout the year, and she would like to see the return of a student liaison member of council.

Despite the challenges, Kapenstein said he’s excited for the future of Middletown and Penn State Harrisburg.

“In 10 years, this will be a completely integrated college town. That’s my goal at least,” he said.


Last Updated on Tuesday, 16 August 2016 15:05

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Timeline in place for Amtrak station

StationThroughPedestrianBridgeWEBThis artist’s conception shows a walking bridge over West Main Street from Penn State Harrisburg to a new Amtrak station.


The all-important work of relocating railroad track for the new Amtrak station in Middletown is expected to start in the last three months of 2016, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation spokesman Rich Kirkpatrick told the Press And Journal.

PennDOT, which is in charge of the train station project, has said that work on the station itself cannot begin until after crews with Amtrak and Norfolk Southern railroad complete the necessary track relocation near West Main Street.

PennDOT anticipates Amtrak workers to be on site to do their track relocation work sometime in the fourth quarter of 2016, Kirkpatrick said. 

Norfolk Southern is scheduled to do its track relocation work in the third quarter of 2017. 

PennDOT hopes to start work on the train station platform and on the station itself in the third quarter of 2018, Kirkpatrick said.

The project also includes extending West Emaus Street to West Main Street for better access to downtown Middletown.

Two other components of the train station project — a pedestrian bridge over West Main Street to Penn State Harrisburg, and a possible parking garage — are to be built by a private company under PennDOT’s public private partnership (P3) program.

However, PennDOT has not yet awarded a contract for the P3 part of the project. Kirkpatrick could not say when it will be awarded.

PennDOT in early summer awarded a $2.6 million contract to Horst Excavating to prepare for construction the train station site just west of Westporte Centre shopping center. That work is ongoing, Kirkpatrick said. 

The station is currently on Mill Street.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 16 August 2016 14:54

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Boy Scouts take part in coral reef sailing adventure

Seabase fixedSubmitted Photo -- Londonderry Township’s Boy Scouts Troop 97 took part in the National Sea Base Coral Reef High Adventure Sailing program based out of Islamorada, which is located in Key West, Florida. Seated: Scout Master Kevin Little, First Class Scout Ian Mills, Eagle Scout Garrett Little, Star Scout Jason O’Donnell. Standing: First Mate Victor, Scout Leader Don Stiffler, Life Scout Colby Stiffler, Life Scout Jake O’Donnell and Life Scout Justin Mills.

Tropical paradise, sailing, swimming around sunken Spanish artifacts, large game fishing and snorkeling with sea turtles. Londonderry Township’s Boy Scout Troop 97 recently traveled to Islamorada in Key West, Florida, for a sailing adventure.

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Last Updated on Wednesday, 10 August 2016 14:05

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