The Story of a Gun

GlockPUBLISHED IN THE SOUTH FLORIDA SUN SENTINEL

This is the story of a gun.

It’s not an unusual story. This gun is no different from thousands of handguns just like it. This gun, a 40-caliber Glock sporting the serial number MPX753, was made for a deputy.

But it ultimately ended up in the wrong hands. This gun was used to shoot and wound two people on the streets of Boynton Beach. Its final stop was with a 22-year-old woman, who used this gun to shoot herself in the head.

Over four years, this gun traveled more than 5,000 miles, crossed an ocean and touched at least a half-dozen lives in Palm Beach County in ways no one ever thought it would.

The deputy

This gun entered the world on Sept. 26, 2008.

That’s when it ended its 5,000-mile journey from a factory in Austria to the Glock distributor in Smyrna, Ga. There, it was packaged and sent to the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office — part of a fresh batch of 1,500 Glocks ordered by the sheriff to rearm his deputies.

Serial number MPX753 eventually landed in the car of Deputy William Hodge, of the traffic division.

But on the morning of Oct. 22, 2009, Deputy Hodge called the cops.

In the middle of night, someone had smashed the windows of his Dodge in the Central Park neighborhood of Boca Raton. The burglar took everything inside: a pair of handcuffs, a badge, $250 cash, some credit cards, a bullet-filled fanny pack — and the Glock.

Several witnesses told the cops they saw a large white van drive out of the neighborhood. It left behind nothing but shattered glass.

The drive-by

Two years later, a white truck crept down Northeast 10th Street in Boynton Beach.

It was 1 a.m. on Sept. 19, 2011 — the dead of night — but the truck’s headlights were out.

People were in the road when the driver stuck a gun barrel out the window and pulled the trigger.

A woman took off running. A man hit the ground and took cover. The bullets missed everyone. But police determined they were fired from a 40-caliber Glock.

Police arrested a 22-year-old man named Willie Hardimon and accused him of the shooting. The police never found the gun. The State Attorney’s Office had to drop the case.

And the gun went on its way.

READ THE FULL STORY HERE.

GRAVEDIGGERS

 

Jim Billow needed something to keep him active after retiring from Caterpillar in York 15 years ago. He found that at the Mechanicsburg Cemetery. Jim and his brother are the cemetery’s groundskeepers. They clean the tombstones, mow the grass and bury the dead. CHRISTINE BAKER/ The Patriot-News

PUBLISHED IN THE PATRIOT-NEWS

There’s a phone call from the boss: a problem at the mausoleum.

Jim and Gene Billow, keepers of the Mechanicsburg Cemetery, make their way to the building full of vaults for the dead, each marked with a name and date on a marble face plate.

“There’s some kind of smell coming out of there,” Jim says.

Walking up the mausoleum steps, they unlock the door and open it. A stench floats out of the darkness and hits you in the nose.

The Billow brothers, both in their 70s, are used to it.

“This is no smell,” Gene says, limping through the mausoleum.

Jim nods. “You’ll know when you smell a body,” he says. “It stays with you.”

It isn’t long before the Billow brothers find the source: A vault that had been sealed in 1976 broke open.

Now the brothers know they have to fix it, and the argument begins.

“Caulk it,” Gene says, pointing to the cracks along the edges of the vault.

“Nah,” Jim says. He drags out the vowel. The brothers have seen just about all there is to see at a cemetery: the vandalism, the animals, the sunken graves and stenches.

It’s nothing, Gene says. Nothing too exciting.

After the funeral

The brothers wait for the funeral to end.

Standing in the garage next to a dump truck filled with a drenched mound of red dirt, the brothers sip coffee and try to stay dry, not saying much.

For the Billow brothers, this is how it goes: They wait, sometimes in the rain or heat or snow, until it’s time to do a job that starts and ends with dirt.

There’s not much to talk about.

“Weather’s not too good to be throwing dirt,” says Gene, leaning on the truck.

The brothers fill graves with the same dirt pulled from the ground the day before. With a backhoe, it takes 15 minutes to dig a hole 6 feet deep. It’s a hole big enough to bury a coffin 7 feet long and 4 feet wide. They do it about 35 times a year, adding to the more than 4,000 graves logged at the cemetery.

“They look to be almost done up there,” Jim says, looking to the funeral procession in the distance, the black umbrellas and hats, the suits and dresses.

“We’ll be dumping mud,” Gene says and sips the coffee.

With black hair speckled with grains of gray, Gene has bad legs and a bad back. Because of multiple leg, back and neck surgeries, he has trouble walking. At 76, he’s a year and 15 days younger than Jim, who has stark white hair and doesn’t have much trouble getting around.

You wouldn’t know they’re brothers by looking at them. But you’d know it if you’ve seen them argue. It’s usually a fight about the smarter way to do something, not the faster way.

The brothers are in no hurry.

READ THE FULL STORY HERE

MANHUNT

Pennsylvania State Police SERT members gear up for a hostage crisis at the Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg Friday February 3, 2012. CHRIS KNIGHT, The Patriot-News

PUBLISHED IN THE PATRIOT-NEWS

The RV’s horn kept blaring Friday morning.

Harrisburg resident Tim Spangler was in the midst of helping his buddies from Montana unload their trailer for the Eastern Sports & Outdoor Show and thought some kids were goofing off behind the wheel of one of the many RVs in the Farm Show Complex parking lot.

He finally walked about five spaces to his left, thinking he’d tell a bunch of kids to knock it off.

Instead, Spangler said he found a woman blowing the camper’s horn, her clothes and hair covered in dried blood.

“She said ‘I’m dying, I’m dying! My husband shot me,’” said Spangler, who said he then called police.

Friday night, authorities were still looking for the woman’s 62-year-old husband, Missouri resident Beau Gaylord Robinson, who police cautioned should be considered armed and dangerous. Robinson was a vendor at the show, authorities said.

Robinson’s wife, whom police did not identify, is in a local hospital, and Dauphin County District Attorney Edward M. Marsico Jr. did not provide details of her wounds. He didn’t say what led to the incident or whether drugs or alcohol were involved.

Charges of aggravated assault are pending against Robinson, state police said.

Authorities didn’t immediately know Robinson was on the loose.

READ THE FULL STORY HERE

‘I’ve never been afraid — not of the cancer … Not of anything.’

 

Amelia Earhart was the cousin of Hampden Township resident Terry Earhart's father. ED KOMENDA, The Patriot-News

PUBLISHED IN THE PATRIOT-NEWS

An old, grainy photograph recently unearthed by researchers might hold the key to solving one of the nation’s most enduring aviation mysteries.

The photo also could end one family’s search to find a long lost relative.

For years, Terry Earhart, a 69-year-old Hampden Township resident, wondered what happened to his father’s cousin, the high-flying, record-shattering daredevil of aviatrix Amelia Earhart, who disappeared over the Pacific Ocean in July 1937.

On Tuesday, researchers announced they might have found a clue to her final resting place preserved in an old photograph taken by a British soldier in 1937, off the coast of the remote island of Nikumaroro in the Pacific nation of Kiribati.

The image shows what looks to be the landing gear of a plane protruding from the water.

Terry learned of the photo’s existence Wednesday morning when he opened his newspaper.

The soldier snapped the photo just months after Amelia Earhart disappeared with navigator Fred Noonan in the area many have speculated to be the crash site.

The new clue was enough to prompt Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to publicize a new expedition to search the area for the Earhart plane’s wreckage. The search is expected to begin in July.

Since her disappearance, no indisputable evidence or wreckage has been found, although several rumors have emerged and evolved over the years.

One such rumor suggested Japanese soldiers captured Amelia and killed her at a Saipan prison.

Following the footsteps of his father — who was first cousins with Amelia — Terry traveled to Saipan in 1975 to conduct his own research.

He found no credible evidence.

READ THE FULL STORY HERE

A WHIFF OF TERROR

 

John Lanza, pastor at Glad Tidings Assembly of God Church, said the teens that were taken in the mock raid had their heads covered with pillow cases before they were led to a van, which transported them to his home, where the teens were interrogated in a dark corner of the basement. Lanza contends the raid is used as a learning experience to illustrate what missionaries around the world deal with every day because of their faith JOE HERMITT, The Patriot-News

PUBLISHED IN THE PATRIOT-NEWS

The men burst into the church classroom and ordered the 15 teens in the youth group to the floor.

They covered the teens’ heads with pillow cases and bound their hands. One man waved a gun, and another yelled, his face daubed with camouflage paint.

The kids gathered at the Glad Tidings Assembly of God Church in Lower Swatara Twp. and had planned to partake in youth ministry activities at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

Instead, they found themselves face down, hugging the linoleum floor, said the Rev. John Lanza, who described what happened. If they listened, they wouldn’t get hurt, their assailants said.

It sounds terrifying, but there’s a catch.

The raid was fake, staged to show the teens the perils faced by Christian missionaries in the world’s trouble spots, Lanza said.

Yet it traumatized one 14-year-old Dauphin County girl so badly that her mother filed a report with the township police, claiming her daughter suffered a busted lip and bruised knees.

Neither the mother nor teen has been identified. Lanza did not wish to provide their names. Dauphin County District Attorney Edward M. Marsico Jr. said police are questioning those involved to determine if charges are warranted. No charges have been filed.

The experience did provide a whiff of terror.

READ THE FULL STORY HERE

Harrisburg girl, 9, fatally struck by car loved life, ‘was always happy,’ family says

A 9-year-old girl was killed after being hit by a car on Derry Street in Harrisburg early Friday morning, March 30, 2012. CHRISTINE BAKER, The Patriot-News

PUBLISHED IN THE PATRIOT-NEWS

Cutting hair at the Super Star Status Barber Shop on 19th and Derry streets, Bernard Richardson heard a violent sound.

It was 5:30 p.m. Thursday, and he thought two cars collided — until he looked out his Harrisburg shop’s picture window.

A girl was lying in the street, just feet away from the front door of Young’s Grocery Store. The girl, identified by authorities as 9-year-old Sajai C. McClure, bought a bag of snacks before darting between parked cars and in front of the pickup truck driven by a 24-year-old Hummelstown man on his way home from work, authorities said.

The impact severely damaged Sajai’s head and spine, and she died early Friday morning at Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, according to Dauphin County Coroner Graham Hetrick.

“The child didn’t have much of a chance,” Hetrick said.

Pending the results of a investigation, police have not filed charges against the driver, whom police did not identify Friday.

Sajai visited Young’s Grocery Store almost every day after school, family members said.

Luwanna Spells, Sajai’s aunt, said that’s what kids do in the neighborhood only a block away from Melrose School, where Sajai attended.

She’d go the convenience store for snacks after finishing homework and before going to the playground less than 100 yards away, Spells said.

Sajai was a regular kid who wanted to play under the sun, she said.

READ THE FULL STORY HERE

THE POWER OF DANCE

Clyde Cressler ,who suffers from Parkinson's Disease, takes weekly ballroom dance lessons with his wife Carol at Arthur Murray Dance Studio in Lemoyne from dance instructor Elaine Seckar. To Cressler ballroom dancing is like a temporary cure because symptoms seem to disappear. CHRISTINE BAKER, The Patriot-News

PUBLISHED IN THE PATRIOT-NEWS and CENTRAL PA MAGAZINE

His wife standing next to him, Clyde Cressler kissed another woman on the dance floor.

Her name was Elaine Seckar, his ballroom dancing instructor at Arthur Murray Dance Studio in Lemoyne. It was there, under the lights of the chandeliers, dancing over the worn grain of the ballroom floor, that she showed him a temporary cure for the Parkinson’s disease running through his legs like pins and needles.

“It was on the cheek, of course,” Clyde says.

It was the simplest way the 68-year-old business owner from Mechanicsburg could express his feelings. The pain he had felt for so long had disappeared.

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

His wife, Carol, understood. Her husband had seemed to overcome, if only for the length of a Beatles song, the disease that had destroyed his sense of normal.

No, it wasn’t a new medication that saved him.

It was the tango.

1-2-3, 1-2-3.

READ THE FULL STORY HERE

EVICTION: The Death of a Plaza

A customer enters the Sahara Restaurant and Halal Market at the East Gate Plaza in Mechanicsburg Thursday April 5, 2012. CHRIS KNIGHT, The Patriot-News

PUBLISHED IN THE PATRIOT-NEWS

Yoko Faust doesn’t think she’ll get the chance to renew the lease for her award-winning sushi restaurant when it expires in July.

And if municipal approvals are any hint of what’s to come, she might be out of business next month.

A successful businesswoman from Okinawa, Faust read in the newspaper last month that Hampden Twp. commissioners passed a final land development plan for the construction of two Sheetz stores — one on the Carlisle Pike and another at the Eastgate Plaza, where Faust has spent nearly a decade trying to establish her restaurant as a popular local fixture.

In her mind and those of the customers who frequent the quaint quarters of Zen Japanese Cuisine, she succeeded.

It’s rare attribute, considering the breath of business remains in only seven of the plaza’s 22 commercial units.

But now, the Sheetz plans would put a wrecking ball at Faust’s doorstep.

The construction of the Sheetz stores requires demolition of the entire strip plaza at 5200 Simpson Ferry Road. Faust never saw it coming.

She never got a call from the landlord and not one reply to the nearly two dozen attempts she made to reach Pintzuk-Brown Realty, the Philadelphia firm that owns the strip mall, when rumors began floating around that Sheetz would break ground in 2013.

She wasn’t alone.

READ THE FULL STORY HERE

Man shot in drug deal gone bad, authorities say

Image

SEAN SIMMERS, THE PATRIOT-NEWS, 2011

PUBLISHED IN THE PATRIOT-NEWS

Maria DeJesus is thankful she didn’t have kids in the house.

When she heard the crack of a single gunshot Thursday night in the 1300 block of Thompson Street — less than 100 yards from her South 13th Street apartment — the 45-year-old mother stayed as far away as she could.

DeJesus didn’t even look out the back window to see what happened. She already had a pretty good idea of what happened.

“It’s bad,” DeJesus said. “They’re always shooting.”

If she had looked outside, she would have seen 23-year-old Francisco Oquendo-Nieves of York, who police said was fatally shot in the back around 8 p.m. Thursday with a large-caliber hand gun.

The killing, the city’s fifth homicide, might have been the result of a drug deal gone bad, according to a source within the city police. Investigators have not publicly identified a suspect.

READ THE FULL STORY HERE

POWER PLAYERS

Lineman Seth Barnhart, attends to a pole behind houses along Quail Hollow Road, as PPL works to restore power to residents in Lower Paxton Township on Tuesday. CHRIS KNIGHT/THE PATRIOT-NEWS

PUBLISHED IN THE PATRIOT-NEWS

They have to dig to get there.

So, PPL crews dig.

Their target? Three of five electric poles nestled in a heavily wooded area near Beaufort Manor in Lower Paxton Township. Hurricane Irene took out three of the poles early Sunday, leaving almost 300 manor residents without power since then.

The residents were some of the more than 30,000 PPL customers affected by Irene in Dauphin County.

Michael Summers, a veteran field foreman with PPL, has his work cut out for him. He sends a crew into the woods to uproot trees with a backhoe. Workers need a clear path to the damage — large enough to drive an 8-foot-wide PPL truck to the downed poles.

“They’ve been here since about 7 this morning,” Summers says. It’s 3:30 p.m. Tuesday. “They haven’t touched the poles yet.”

It takes the crew eight hours to get there.

“This job isn’t as simple as you climb up a pole and you’re done,” Summers says. “Some jobs take longer than others.”

Some people don’t understand that, he adds. Summers has run into his fair share of disgruntled customers.

“If they only knew about the stuff we run into,” he says. “We get some people who are irritated because we can’t get to them first.”

Angela Ulen is irritated.

“I’m glad to seem them,” Ulen said, sarcastically, with a smile. “But I’m a little disappointed.”

Ulen had seen a PPL truck near her Old Colonial Village home in Lower Paxton Twp. on Sunday, shortly after Irene blew through.

The funeral director at Hoover Funeral Homes and Crematory Inc. in Linglestown ran up to the driver and asked for help.

“I wanted to be on the list,” says Ulen, who didn’t see PPL again until Tuesday afternoon. “I’m a little upset we weren’t a priority.”

Ulen says she can’t wait another day.

CONTINUE READING HERE, at Pennlive.com