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Rep. Barletta won't take job in Trump administration

U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta on Thursday withdrew from consideration for a place in the administration of President-elect Donald Trump.

Barletta had discussed positions, including secretary of Labor, in a meeting with Trump on Nov. 29 at Trump Tower in New York City, according to a press release from his office.

barletta lou“It was a great pleasure to meet with President-Elect Trump to discuss his transition to office and our mutual goal of moving America forward. We share many priorities for the future of the country, including protecting and growing American jobs, strengthening national security, enforcing our immigration laws, and rejuvenating our crumbling infrastructure system. I am proud to serve on his Transition Team Executive Committee.

“It was a tremendous honor for President-elect Trump to ask me to consider taking a place in his administration. After much thought, prayer, and discussion with my family and close friends, I decided today to remain in Congress and I withdrew from consideration for secretary of Labor. Because of my involvement in the president-elect’s campaign and my relationship with the incoming administration, I will have an opportunity in the House of Representatives to accomplish more on a variety of issues that I have cared about for so long, including immigration policy, transportation infrastructure, and jobs. Having helped the campaign with the development of those policies, coupled with serving on key committees in Congress and having a direct pipeline to the White House, I will be better positioned than ever to serve the people of the 11th District.”

Barletta’s 11th Congressional District is comprised of all of Columbia, Montour and Wyoming counties and parts of Carbon, Cumberland, Dauphin, Luzerne, Northumberland and Perry counties. 

It includes areas north and west of Middletown, including Lower Swatara Township.

Last Updated on Thursday, 08 December 2016 13:07

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Newberry Road bridge reopens in Londonderry Township

The bridge that carries Newberry Road over Route 283 in Londonderry Township reopened to traffic Friday morning. 

The bridge had been closed since Oct. 24 for a construction project to repair damage to the bridge. The bridge carries about 700 vehicles on a daily basis. 

This was the second of two similarly damaged bridges to be repaired. The first started was the Union Street bridge over Route 283 in Lower Swatara Township.    

Both bridges were damaged on May 1 last spring when the boom of an excavator carried on a trailer hauled by a truck on eastbound Route 283 struck them. The under-clearance for the Union Street bridge is 14 feet 10 inches; for the Newberry Road bridge, the under-clearance is 14 feet 5 inches. 

Any load higher than 13 feet 6 inches requires a hauling permit from PennDOT. 

Both Union Street and Newberry Road are local township roads, but the bridges over Route 283 are owned and maintained by PennDOT.

PennDOT contracted with Clearwater Construction Inc. of Mercer to replace the fascia beams of both bridges and conduct deck and parapet repairs at a cost of $407,050.   

12 7 bridge open web

Last Updated on Friday, 02 December 2016 11:39

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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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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.

graham tiffany
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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Mother, uncle face manslaughter charges in death of 3-year-old

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 a playground in Middletown.

Now, the girl’s mother and uncle face charges felony counts of involuntary manslaughter and endangering the welfare of children. 

Dauphin County District Attorney Ed Marsico made the announcement at a press conference on Tuesday, Nov. 22.

On July 31, Austin C. Biller, 18, of Lower Swatara Township, was babysitting the child of his sister, Tiffany M. Graham, 22, of Middletown. 

Biller told investigators he fell asleep and when he woke up, the girl was gone from her high chair. 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.

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 Craig Biller, 53, is charged with hindering apprehension and tampering with evidence. Police said he removed the clothing of the 3-year-old girl from the scene of the drowning. 

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.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 22 November 2016 17:22

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