Guns, murder, drugs top Centre County crime stories in 2016

Guns at school, a body dumped alongside a road and police DUI charges defined the top crime stories of 2016 in Centre County.

In a year that saw two murder trials, statutory rape accusations and countless assaults and thefts, the most read crime story involved a Centre County Christian Academy student and a trunk full of weapons and ammunition.

Cody Confer, of Julian, was 18 when he was charged with terroristic threats and possessing a weapon on school property in March. Confer had told an adult volunteer at the private school that he had a weapon in his vehicle and “enough ammunition to shoot up the school.”

Police discovered an airsoft gun, rifle and several boxes of ammunition in the trunk of his car, which was parked near the school playground. He pleaded guilty in July to the charge of possessing a weapon — the terroristic threat charge was withdrawn.

Confer was sentenced in August to two years of probation, a $100 fine and 10 days of community service in August. He is also prohibited from possessing a rifle, shotgun or handgun during that time.

The discovery of a woman’s body along the side of a Ferguson Township road led to charges for a Patton Township man toward the beginning of the year. The woman, identified as Philadelphia-area resident Corrine Pena, was found in February along the side of Plainfield Road after having been left there by an unknown person.

Evidence indicated Pena had died of a drug overdose, Ferguson Township police said. Robert Moir was charged shortly after, saying he had discovered her body in his bathroom. A needle and spoon had been found nearby as well.

Moir was sentenced Dec. 20 to two years probation and one day of community service for the misdemeanor charge of abuse of a corpse.

An ongoing case also topped the list, as litigation continues for a man and a woman accused of murdering a Penn State professor over the summer.

Ronald Bettig, of Lemont, was reported missing on Aug. 16. His body was found a few days later at the bottom of a quarry in Potter Township.

Murder charges soon followed for George Ishler, 39, and Danelle Geier, 32, both of whom are accused of conspiring to plan Bettig’s death. According to police testimony, Bettig, Ishler and Geier had driven to the quarry on Aug. 12 when Ishler allegedly pushed Bettig, causing him to fall to the bottom.

Testimony also indicated Bettig had died one to two days after the fall, but it is unknown if the professor was conscious during that time.

Both Ishler and Geier have entered motions to have their cases severed among other things, requesting that they be tried separately. No ruling has been made yet.

A September crash in Patton Township led to DUI charges for a Massachusetts police officer the following month.

Two officers of the North Andover police department were put on paid administrative leave after reports that Sgt. Daniel Crevier and Detective Brendan Gallagher had hit a construction trailer with their department-owned Dodge Charger just after midnight on Waddle Road. The officers, who were attending an accident reconstruction conference, had reportedly fled the scene.

The officers were found a short time later at the Ramada State College Hotel and Conference Center. A blood draw would later reveal a blood alcohol content of .219 percent.

Crevier was charged with three misdemeanor counts of DUI, BAC of .16 percent or higher and causing accidental damage to an unattended vehicle. A preliminary hearing in Centre County is slated for Jan. 4.

The final top read crime story involved a grand jury’s findings on two drug rings taken down in Centre County.

The Centre County District Attorney’s Office announced the takedowns in November, saying the Azim Robinson Drug Organization and the Calliste/Powell Drug Organization brought cocaine and heroin to Centre County from Philadelphia. More than $350,000 worth of drugs were distributed by the organizations.

Less than two weeks later, the 39th Statewide Investigating Grand Jury released its presentment into its findings on the drug rings, indicating the Calliste/Powell Drug Organization had sold heroin, cocaine and marijuana in the Bellefonte area while making deliveries to State College.

The Grand Jury also heard evidence of an organization headed by Azim “Z” Robinson, who sold drugs in Centre County from 2009-2010, and returned in 2014 to resume distribution of heroin, cocaine, cocaine base, oxycontin and other drugs.

Robinson had been arrested in November by State College police after an alleged drug transaction.

Witnesses testified to many hand-to-hand transactions with Robinson, and testimony showed Robinson would arrange transactions over the phone, then have associates from the Philadelphia area make deliveries for him.

Jeremy Hartley: 814-231-4616, @JJHartleyNews