Crime

Which are Centre County’s most-read crime and court stories of 2018?

Local construction company under investigation by attorney general

Glenn O. Hawbaker Inc., a State College-based construction company, confirmed June 12, 2018, that it is under investigation by the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General. The context of the investigation has not yet been revealed.
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Glenn O. Hawbaker Inc., a State College-based construction company, confirmed June 12, 2018, that it is under investigation by the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General. The context of the investigation has not yet been revealed.

There were incidents at Centre County schools, a mass shooting threatened at Beaver Stadium and even an arrest after a Penn State student stole his ex-roommate’s debit card to spend $15,000 on porn, but gun violence and arrests weren’t the only things to make their way through the Centre County Courthouse this year.

Below are some of the crime and court stories you read the most this year. Some of the cases have already been scheduled into 2020, while others are set to seemingly wrap up in 2019.

So without further ado, here’s your recap of Centre County court and crime news in 2018.

Glenn O. Hawbaker investigation and lawsuit

A year after losing a more than $2.2 million wrongful termination lawsuit, Centre County’s fifth-largest employer found itself involved in at least two additional lawsuits and an investigation by the attorney general’s office.

The context on the investigation remains unclear, but a witness said there was a law enforcement presence in June at the company’s headquarters in State College.

As for one of the lawsuits, the company has been squabbling with a former employee about where the company kept their port-a-potties.

Former civil designer Jonathan Bamat said he was drinking large amounts of water because of his medication to treat an insect bite he sustained on the job, but then he had to “urinate badly.”

He responded by urinating between two company truck doors and was subsequently fired.

“There was one portable toilet 248 yards from (Bamat’s) location and a separate portable toilet 348 yards from (Bamat’s) location,” Hawbaker attorney Schaun Henry said. “(Bamat) could have used the truck he was urinating in front of to drive to either portable toilet within seconds.”

The case is scheduled for trial in April 2020.

Settlements, guilty pleas and legislation as Beta Theta Pi case continues

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Jim and Evelyn Piazza, joined by attorney David Williams, walk toward the Centre County Courthouse Annex for former Beta Theta Pi fraternity member Ryan Burke’s sentencing on July 31, 2018. The family reached an undisclosed monetary settlement with the fraternity in September. Centre Daily Times, file

As eight former Beta Theta Pi brothers pleaded guilty for their respective roles after the investigation into Timothy Piazza’s death, his parents and the fraternity continued to work through the aftermath this year.

Jim and Evelyn Piazza announced they reached an undisclosed monetary settlement with the fraternity’s national chapter in September.

Their attorney Tom Kline said the settlement also included a “sweeping fraternity conduct reform agreement” aimed at averting other “preventable” tragedies.

Two months later, Penn State filed a lawsuit to try and buy back the former fraternity house at 220 Burrowes Road.

In the lawsuit, Penn State attorney David Dulabon said a 1928 deed between the university and the fraternity gives Penn State the right to purchase the property if the building ceased to be used as a fraternity house.

Penn State spokeswoman Lisa Powers said the property would be put toward a “positive purpose,” though the university has not determined a specific use.

Piazza’s death also sparked change in the Pennsylvania legislature as the Timothy J. Piazza Antihazing bill was unanimously signed into law in October. The law elevated hazing that results in death or serious injury to a felony.

All-American Rathskeller owners reach settlement in trademark lawsuit

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Doggie’s Pub owners Tom and Kelley Trosko. Abby Drey Centre Daily Times, file

Tom and Kelley Trosko took over the space that was home to Pennsylvania’s longest continually operating bar, the All-American Rathskeller, after Skeller owners Duke and Monica Gastiger announced they were closing their doors.

The Troskos planned to run a bar of their own at 108 S. Pugh St. in State College and announced it would be named Doggie’s Rathskeller and Garden to maintain a sense of history and tradition, but it didn’t take long for the Gastigers to file a lawsuit accusing the Troskos of trademark infringement.

The two sides eventually reached an “amicable agreement ... to end all litigation between the two parties” and the Troskos renamed their establishment Doggie’s Pub.

Former Bellefonte Family Dentistry owner’s acquittal and subsequent lawsuit

Wade Newman
Wade Newman gets into his car at the Centre County Courthouse after being found not guilty of all charges on June 12, 2018. Centre Daily Times

Though former Bellefonte Family Dentistry owner Wade Newman was found not guilty in July of all charges, including kidnapping and rape, his accuser named him in a civil lawsuit filed earlier this month.

The woman was scheduled for a root canal procedure in October 2016 after a referral from Newman and current owner Richard Miller.

Newman sedated the woman before driving her to State Endodontics for the procedure, which is where the woman accused Newman of “misrepresenting” her plan to have her husband pick her up after the procedure.

Instead, the woman alleges, Newman sexually assaulted her as she drifted in and out of consciousness.

Stacy Parks Miller’s recommended suspension

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Former District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller on Dec. 20, 2017. Abby Drey Centre Daily Times, file

Former District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller spent her first year out of office as the centerpiece of an investigation by the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, which may force her to spend a year out of the profession.

The board recommended she be suspended for one year and one day for her alleged misconduct.

She was accused of engaging in ex parte communications with Centre County judges and the creation, dissemination and use of a fake Facebook page to “snoop” on suspected drug dealers.

The allegations were deemed admitted after Parks Miller missed the deadline to file her response.

No pending murder cases in Centre County

Parks Miller’s successor Bernie Cantorna, meanwhile, was tasked with prosecuting an unprecedented number of pending murder cases in Centre County in 2018, but he and his office secured convictions in each case.

Charles McGhee pleaded guilty to first-degree murder, while George Ishler Jr., Danelle Geier, Matthew Dreibelbis and Ardell Gross were each found guilty and all were sentenced to life in prison.

McGhee struck his wife, Courtney McGhee, with a blunt object several times before setting their house on fire in an attempt to destroy the evidence.

Ishler and Geier went through their trial together after state police at Rockview said they conspired to push former Penn State professor Ronald Bettig off a cliff at the Blackhawk Quarry.

Dreibelbis and Gross’ cases, meanwhile, involved gun violence.

Dreibelbis shot and killed Jeremy Cantolina after conceiving a child with Cantolina’s wife, Amber, while the couple was separated.

A day after his grandfather died, Gross shot and killed his uncle, Rick Smalley, following a discussion about selling the house Gross lived at for 10 years.

Related stories from Centre Daily Times

Bret Pallotto primarily reports on courts and crime for the Centre Daily Times. He grew up in Lewistown and graduated from Lock Haven University.
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