New Kensington man to stand trial on felony drug charges

By Amanda Klein | August 24, 2018

Felony drug charges against a New Kensington resident have been held for court, after the man waived his right to a preliminary hearing Thursday.

Stacey Fitzgerald O’Neal, 29, faces six felony counts of possession with the intent to distribute and related charges, after police say he sold drugs three times this year to a police informant and a state undercover drug agent.

The controlled drug purchases from O’Neal, in which he allegedly sold cocaine to the agent on Jan. 9, Jan.31 and April 19, were made with marked bills and police recorded the serial numbers of the currency.

The informant police said, told a state drug agent that he could arrange to buy cocaine from O’Neal and the informant was aware that O’Neal had been regularly selling cocaine in New Kensington.

In all three purchases, O’Neal would arrange to meet the informant and drug agent at one location and complete the transaction at another location, with the exception of the Jan. 31 purchase, which was conducted in O’Neal’s car.

O’Neal was arrested on Aug. 2 and is in the Westmoreland County Prison in lieu of posting a $75,000 bond.

A pre-trial conference is scheduled for Nov. 20  before Westmoreland County Common Pleas Judge Rita D. Hathaway.

Amanda Klein can be contacted at

Ambridge police chief charged with harassment and fraud

By Terri Hill | August 23, 2018

A trooper with the Pennsylvania State Police alleged in a criminal complaint filed Thursday, that the Ambridge police chief filed false disability claims and harassed and threatened Ambridge police officers.

Police allege James Mann, 61, of Economy, underwent back surgery in Dec. 2016 and was disabled for eight weeks. On Jan. 13, 2017 Mann filed for disability and throughout the year he collected about $27,000 in disability payments.

While receiving disability police say, he was paid $2,297 for a total of 42 hours of work he performed for the attorney general’s office drug task force, while he continued to collect disability payments.

Police said that Mann had depleted all of his sick and vacation time, but continued to get paid his full wage by filing time sheets for vacation, sick and compensatory time, yet, at the same time, continued to report to his disability carrier that he was not working.

It is also alleged that Mann requested other officers donate their unused time to him. Most refused, however, one officer donated 173 hours to Mann, police said.

The investigation started in February, 2018 when Ambridge Mayor David Drewnowski, contacted police concerning an anonymous letter that was delivered to his house after dark by a man wearing a disguise, alleging Mann was stealing from the borough.

The complaint also alleges that Mann made threats against 10 officers, accusing some of assisting in the state police investigation. Mann allegedly told some officers “I’m going to cut the cancer from the department” and also said “I’m going to fire everyone.”

Mann, police allege in the filing, suspended one officer, verbally berated and poked another in the chest several times and threatened three others with retaliation for cooperating.

In all Mann is charged with numerous counts of threats and improper influence in official and political matters, intimidation of witnesses or victims, insurance fraud, theft by deception, obstructing the administration of law, retaliation for past official action, official oppression, false swearing and harassment.

Neither the Chief or his attorney have returned calls requesting a comment. He is currently out of jail on a $10,000 unsecured bond.

Borough council is expected to hold a special meeting in the near future to consider Mann’s status. He has been on administrative leave since April.

Terri Hill can be contacted at


K2 linked to increased assaults on prison staff

By Terri Hill | August 22, 2018

For the first half of 2018 there has been a four percent increase of inmate-on-inmate and inmate-on-staff assaults in state prisons, according to a report issued by the Pa. Dep’t of Corrections.

The DOC believes there is a link between increased drug trade in prisons and the uptick in violence, the report said.

As a result of the increased violence the DOC is increasing its efforts to address the threats, particularly those involving substances like K2, which is a form of synthetic marijuana that is easily smuggled into the facilities.

“The safety and security of staff and inmates is paramount to the Department of Corrections,” said Corrections Secretary John Wetzel. “Whether the threat is drugs or staff assaults, the agency is working vigorously to combat these threats on many fronts.”

Earlier this month four corrections officers from SCI-Greene were transported to a hospital after becoming ill. On Aug. 13 at approximately 7:00 p.m, the officers became ill after they were exposed to an unidentified substance while searching an inmate’s property. The area was isolated and the prison was placed on full lockdown.

Prison officials are implementing new security and safety measures to combat the problem of dangerous substances being smuggled into prisons including; implementing new training in the use of protective equipment; expanding the use of body scanners; increased screening of inmate mail and expanding the use of K9 units.

“Prison staff, especially corrections officers, risk their lives on a daily basis,” said Tabb Bickell, the DOC’s executive deputy secretary for institution security. “We are moving quickly and deliberately to make sure they have all the available tools and training to ensure their safety.”

Terri Hill can be contacted at




Couple sue candy company over ‘defective’ lollipop

By Amanda Klein | August 21, 2018

A Westmoreland County couple is suing an Ohio-based candy company alleging their son choked while eating a lollipop.

In the lawsuit filed Tuesday in Common Pleas Court, Mark and Kristina Matthews, allege that their son was injured on July 5, 2017, from eating a lollipop manufactured by Spangler Candy Co., based in Bryan, Ohio.

The couple allege in the lawsuit that their son, identified only as “MBM,” suffered serious injuries when the top portion of the lollipop came off the stick and got stuck in his throat.

As a result of what the parents claim was a “defective lollipop” both they and their son suffer from emotional distress and anxiety, the filing said.  No dollar amount of what the boy or his parents are seeking is specified in the complaint.

The lawsuit not only alleges the lollipop was defective but the company also failed to properly warn others that it was defective.

A phone call placed to the comany seeking comment was not returned.

Amanda Klein can be contacted at

Judge revokes bond for man charged with molesting 6-year-old

By Steve Pope | August 20, 2018

A Westmoreland County Common Pleas judge who released a man from prison in May after he served 28 years for a rape conviction because some of the evidence used to convict him was unreliable, revoked his bond and ordered him jailed on Monday.

John Kunco, 53, was released from prison on a $10,000 unsecured bond after Common Pleas Judge Christopher Feliciana vacated Kunco’s 1990 conviction and ruled that bite mark evidence used to convict him is now unreliable. Subsequent DNA testing also failed to link Kunco to the 1990 rape for which he was sentenced to serve 45-90 years.

On Aug. 16, Allegheny County police charged Kunco with sexually assaulting his 6-year-old niece in McKees Rocks and he was jailed in lieu of a $25,000 bond, which he posted on Sunday and was released.20180817_100735-1

According to the criminal complaint Kunco molested the child at her father’s home one night while she was laying “on a futon with Uncle John,” the complaint said.

The child was sleeping and woke up seeing Kunco inappropriately touching her. The child “kept asking him to stop, but he wouldn’t,” the complaint alleges.

One of the conditions of Kunco’s release from the Westmoreland County Prison was that he not commit any crimes. After learning about the new charges and Kunco’s release from Allegheny County, Judge Feliciani ordered that Kunco be jailed immediately pending a bond revocation hearing that will take place within 30 days.

Kunco voluntarily surrendered himself to the prison Monday afternoon according to Westmoreland County Sheriff Jonathan Held.

In the 1990 case, Kunco was convicted of brutally raping and beating a woman for over six hours and tying her up with an electrical cord. The prosecution relied heavily on the testimony of two experts in bite mark analysis who said that a bite mark on the woman’s shoulder was made by Kunco.

In November the Pennsylvania Superior Court cast doubt on the bite mark evidence, when it noted the two experts were not willing to continue to say the bite mark was made by Kunco. The Court also ordered additional DNA testing on some items of evidence.

“Due to the questionable nature of the Commonwealth’s evidence, we think it more likely than not that reasonable jurors would find [Kunco] not guilty if the DNA tests on the blanket, rape kit and [the victim’s] underwear/girdle are exculpatory,” the Court said.

During the May hearing it was revealed that the DNA testing failed to link Kunco to the items tested.

The Westmoreland County District Attorney’s Office has until the end of August to appeal the May ruling granting Kunco a new trial.

Karen Thompson, an attorney with The Innocence Project of New York who has been representing Kunco in his latest rounds of appeals, maintains Kunco is innocent of the 1990 rape. It is not clear whether Ms. Thompson will represent Kunco in his new case.

Steve Pope can be contacted at








One dead after high-speed chase in New Castle

By Terri Hill | August 19, 2018

A high-speed chase early Sunday morning in New Castle left one man dead.  Police say he shot himself after he wrecked his car.

Police spotted Shamkeem Moore, 27, driving a white Kia after receiving a lookout alert that said Moore was wanted in connection with an earlier incident involving a firearm in Beaver County.

A New Castle officer spotted Moore driving on West Washington Street and attempted to stop him, but Moore sped off leading New Castle and officers from neighboring departments on a pursuit.

Police say Moore wrecked his vehicle after hitting a curb on Round Street and fled the area carrying a handgun.

While officers were establishing a peremiter, a single gunshot was heard and Moore was found dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.

A search of online court records failed to show any pending charges against Moore.

Terri Hill can be contacted at




Police charge two more people in the rape of a 5-year-old boy

By Amanda Klein | August 16, 2018

Greensburg police have charged a man and a woman in the sexual assault of a five-year-old boy. The boy’s mother who was charged Tuesday, allegedly posted a video of the rape online.

On Thursday, police arrested the mother’s ex-boyfriend, Charles Hunter, 32, of Greensburg and his current girlfriend, Amanda Lynn Smith, 29, of Hempfield, in connection with the rape that investigators allege in a court document took place between Aug. 1-14.

The boy’s mother, Corby Kinzey, 24, of Greensburg, told police that Hunter asked her numerous times to record a video of her performing sex acts on the boy.

Kinzey initially told police an unknown male wearing a mask and holding a gun to her head forced her to make the video, but admitted she was lying after detectives told her they didn’t believe her, according to court documents.

Police alleged in a criminal complaint that text messages between Kinzey and Hunter prove the pair conspired to make the video. Kinzey said she worried about, “going to jail” in an Aug. 10 message. Hunter responded by telling “her to calm down,” adding, “Remember you agreed to this,” the complaint alleges.

Police have charged Smith with a single count of disseminating a video of a sex act on a child.  Smith shared the video with her mother, who then immediately notified police.

Smith is being held in the Westmoreland County Jail after she was unable to post a $100,000 bond and faces an Aug. 30 preliminary hearing.

Hunter is charged with rape, intercourse with a child and other offenses related to the incident and is being held in the Westmoreland County Jail pending a preliminary hearing on Aug. 30.

Amanda Klein can be contacted at