A McKeesport teen-ager has been charged with homicide after Allegheny County police accused him of suffocating to death his four-month-old son.
De-John Johnson, 16, was arrested this afternoon after the Allegheny County medical examiner's office ruled the death of Isaiah Brooks-Leonard a homicide.
He is being charged as an adult, county police Sgt. Scott Scherer said.
The Allegheny County medical examiner's office today said Isaiah Brooks-Leonard died of asphyxiation due to smothering. The incident happened at 3:43 a.m. Feb. 6 in a home in the 2400 block of Banker Street in the city, the medical examiner's office said.
Brooks-Leonard died a short time later at UPMC McKeesport hospital, the ME's office said.
Court officials said Johnson is awaiting a preliminary hearing in Pittsburgh Municipal Court on a single charge of criminal homicide.
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf talks to local and state officials during a tour of the McKeesport electric-resistance weld pipe mill recently purchased by Dura-Bond. From left, Jason Norris, president of Dura-Bond Industries (with back to camera); Wolf; McKeesport Mayor Mike Cherepko; state Sen. Jim Brewster; and Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald. (Submitted photo courtesy City of McKeesport.)
Editor's Note: This story was written from a recording of the tour.
The new owner of McKeesport's last remaining pipe mill last week told Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf that "the challenge is enormous" but Dura-Bond is committed to turning the facility around.
"We have a family ethic and we're here to create jobs and put people to work and, in turn, take care of the business, and hopefully the business will take care of us," said Jason Norris, president of Dura-Bond Industries Inc., who gave a tour on Friday to Wolf and other local and state officials.
A family owned, Westmoreland County-based company, Dura-Bond took ownership of the former U.S. Steel electric-resistance weld mill in December. The mill is not running yet but Dura-Bond is making the necessary repairs to put it back into operation, Norris said.
McKeesport Area School District residents could pay a little bit more in property taxes next year, and no one on the school board is pleased about it.
The preliminary budget of $65.7 million adopted last week by a 5-4 vote of the school board would increase the tax rate from 16.74 mills to 17.37 mills.
School Directors Ivan Hampton, Mary Jane Keller, Joe Lopretto, Patricia Maksin and Scott Smith voted in favor of the preliminary budget; James Brown, Christopher Halaszynski, Steven Kondrosky and Mindy Sturgess voted no.
"I'm not one for a tax hike, but we can blame our governors for that," Lopretto said. "Mr. Corbett has done some serious damage to all the school districts in the state and Mr. Wolf really hasn't done too much either. Mr. Trump hasn't hasn't helped us either with the Secretary of Education he put in there."
Above: Cadet Evan Reed of the McKeesport Area High School Junior Air Force ROTC program places an American flag at the city's War Memorial on Lysle Boulevard during Memorial Day observances Monday. (Tube City Almanac photo)
More than 100 people gathered Monday morning at the city's War Memorial on Lysle Boulevard to commemorate the lives of those from the Mon-Yough area who died in service to their country.
Participants included area veterans' organizations, the recently restarted Junior Air Force ROTC program at McKeesport Area High School, members of the high school band and choir, and current and retired elected officials.
Memorial Day is not just the "unofficial start of summer," McKeesport Mayor Mike Cherepko said. "It's very sad that all too often we forget what the true meaning of Memorial Day is," he said. "All of you who are here --- you don't forget. Let's make sure we remind others as well."
(Above: Staff of the Mon Valley Independent pose for a picture to celebrate the Monessen-based paper's one-year anniversary. Mon Valley Independent photo.)
More than a year after the closure of McKeesport's 131-year-old Daily News, two other local print newspapers are expanding into the Mon-Yough area.
Munhall's weekly newspaper, The Valley Mirror, which serves communities in the West Mifflin, Steel Valley and Woodland Hills school districts, has added coverage of Dravosburg, Glassport and Port Vue, among other McKeesport suburbs.
Meanwhile, Monessen's new daily newspaper, the Mon Valley Independent, celebrated its one-year anniversary on May 2 by beginning to sell papers in McKeesport.
At stake for both the Independent and the Mirror --- at least in part --- is the revenue from legal advertisements that Pennsylvania municipalities are required to place in newspapers of "general circulation." McKeesport officials are already considering a shift of the city's legal advertisements from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette to the Mon Valley Independent to save money.
Jamie Matson was awarded "Best of Show" at the McKeesport Art Group's 59th annual Spring Art Show, held Friday, Saturday and Sunday at Jacob Woll Pavilion, Renziehausen Park.
Matson's oil painting, "Heron Rising" (above), received the top prize in the competition, judged by Renie Pollock, longtime art instructor, president of the Greensburg, Pa., Art Center, a former art gallery owner, and curator of the Westmoreland Arts and Heritage Festival Exhibits.
There were 93 entries in this year's competition, said Jan Catalogna, Art Group president. Also on display were paper gowns crafted as props by the McKeesport Area High School art department for the school's recent production of "Cinderella."
The City of McKeesport will host its annual Memorial Day ceremony at 10 a.m. Monday in Memorial Park at the corner of Lysle Boulevard and Market Street, a spokeswoman said.
Participants will include City officials, Allegheny County officials, local veterans, students enrolled in McKeesport Area High School’s Air Force JROTC program, and members of the McKeesport Area High School Tiger Band.
The keynote speaker will be JROTC Cadet Corps Commander Kyle Nelson.
The events will be broadcast live --- weather permitting --- beginning at 10 a.m. on Internet radio station WMCK.FM, which can be heard using the Streema, Tunein or Radio.net smartphone apps, the free WMCK.FM Android app, or via the WMCK.fm website. The event will then be re-broadcast following the 6 p.m. news Monday for the benefit of people participating.
Neither glass slippers nor fairy godmothers are necessary to attend this year's 59th annual Spring Art Show by the McKeesport Art Group.
But a little bit of the magic from McKeesport Area High School's production of "Cinderella" will be on display. Handmade, full-size paper gowns that were created as props for the recent school musical will be exhibited at the art show, which opens at 5 p.m. today at Jacob Woll Pavilion, Renziehausen Park.
Jan Catalogna, president of the art group, says the gowns --- made by the school's art department --- are "gorgeously crafted." Few of the people who attended the high school's production of "Cinderella" got to see the gowns up close.
"It's a shame that so few people saw them during the running of their play," she says. "Needless to say, we are excited to be able to share this work with the public."
May 15, 2007: Voters in Pennsylvania overwhelmingly rejected a proposal from Gov. Ed Rendell to allow school districts to lower their property taxes in exchange for enacting higher wage taxes. The referendum called for by Act 1, the "Taxpayer Relief Act," was rejected in 98 percent of Pennsylvania school districts.
As the Pennsylvania Taxpayers Cyber Coalition noted at the time, "Part of the issue with funding (Pennsylvania) schools is that rural or older districts do not have the assessed value to support education. If they do not have the assessed value, they will not have the aggregate income level either ... the shift is especially valueless in distressed districts and the overall tax increase in rich districts is smaller than in distressed ones."
In an editorial, Tube City Almanac said Rendell had received a "spanking" from Pennsylvania and suggested that Act 1 was only shifting the tax burden, not reforming an unfair system for funding schools.
For his part, Rendell said voters were "were confused" and didn't have enough information.
"Let's put to rest the legend that Fast Eddie (Rendell) is a political genius," we editorialized. "For whatever reason, he keeps misreading the mood of the citizens and other elected officials, making his political acumen looks less 'David L. Lawrence in his prime' and more 'second-term Milton Shapp.'"
Westmoreland County has begun work on its newest industrial park, to be located near West Newton.
At a meeting last week of the Mon Valley Regional Chamber of Commerce in Rostraver Twp., Westmoreland County Commission Chair Gina Cerilli said the new facility in Sewickley Twp., to be known as Commerce Crossing, will hopefully begin accepting its first tenants in 2018.
The park will be located adjacent to Interstate 70, she said, adding "our goal is 150 acres of pad-ready sites."
According to county officials, the site will include direct railroad access. Cerilli said Westmoreland is hoping the site will be attractive for businesses that are related to Shell Chemical Co.'s new ethane cracking plant, now under construction near Monaca, Beaver County.
White Oak borough council could decide by August whether to pursue a project to make Lincoln Way better for pedestrians.
At Monday's meeting, council discussed the possibility of pursuing a multimodal transportation grant from the state Department of Community and Economic Development to upgrade lighting, pedestrian crosswalks and signage along Lincoln Way and other side-walked areas.
The grant can also be used to add benches and trash cans to the sidewalks, borough officials said. But placing the benches would offer their own set of challenges, and some council members said it might not be worth pursuing them as part of the grant, particularly since the borough no longer has a bus route.
Above: McKeesport Area High School principal Tom Bauman; band director Drew DeCarlo; orchestra director Sarah Persin; and Mark Despotakis, director of market development for Progressive Music. The National Association of Music Merchants last week recognized McKeesport Area School District as one of the best communities in the country for music education; Despotakis helped to present the award. (Photo courtesy Progressive Music)
McKeesport-based Progressive Music Company has been named one of the Top 100 musical instrument dealers in the world by the National Association of Music Merchants, a spokesman said.
NAMM, the worldwide association of stores that sell music and related products, will formally present the award to Progressive Music on July 14 at the Summer NAMM Show in Nashville, Tenn.
It's the fifth time that Progressive Music, which recently celebrated its 70th anniversary, has been named to the Top 100 list. The company is located on Fifth Avenue, Downtown.
The company is "honored" to make the list during its anniversary year, said Mark Despotakis, director of market development for Progressive.
Members of the knitting club at the Carnegie Library of McKeesport "bombed" the facility on Saturday morning with a massive, colorful project. (No one was injured, though reports indicate a few stitches were dropped.)
The group, called the "Mad Hatters," decorated one of the trees on the library grounds with its knitting.
The Mad Hatters are one of hundreds of groups from around the world that will be participating in "World Wide Knit in Public Day" on June 10. World Wide Knit in Public Day began in 2005 and the McKeesport group participated for the first time in 2016.
The event at Carnegie Library will begin at 10 a.m. and is open to knitters of any skill level. For more information, visit the website or call Mary Rose Bendel at the library at (412) 672-0625.
Residents of North Huntingdon Twp., North Versailles Twp., Irwin, North Irwin, Forward Twp., West Newton and Sewickley Twp., among other municipalities, are being ordered to conserve water until further notice.
But McKeesport, Port Vue, Versailles and White Oak are not among the communities affected by a mandatory water conservation order issued by the Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County, a spokesman said.
Residents in the affected communities are prohibited from activities such as watering lawns and shrubs, washing cars or sidewalks, filling swimming pools, and operating artificial waterfalls or decorative fountains.
The outage is also affecting some customers of Pennsylvania-American Water Co. in Forward Twp. who draw their water from the MAWC system, according to a PAWC spokesman.
“The repairs are making good progress, but thus far are tentative in nature, so we are unable to forecast when a return to normal service will occur,” said Michael F. Kukura, resident manager of the MAWC, in a prepared statement.
A monument honoring 23 McKeesport residents killed while serving in the military during the Vietnam War will be unveiled at 12 noon Saturday.
The ceremony in the auditorium of McKeesport Senior High School, 1960 Eden Park Blvd., is open to the public and also will be streamed live on the district's website at www.mckasd.net, said spokeswoman Kristen James.
Volunteers, including former White Oak police Chief Joe Hoffman, raised more than $6,400 to complete the monument to the "McKeesport 23." Families of several of the fallen service members are expected to attend and tell their stories, James said.
A portion of Bunola River Road in Forward Twp. has been closed due to a landslide, said a district spokesman for the state Department of Transportation.
The state-owned road is closed between Elkhorn Road and River Hill Road and traffic is being detoured as geotechnical engineers evaluate the roadway.
The posted detour includes River Hill Road and Raccoon Run Road. The roadway will remain closed until further notice as a precaution, the PennDOT spokesman said. Approximately 856 vehicles use the roadway on a daily basis.
(Above: Members of the McKeesport Lions Club and letter carriers help collect food donations during the 2016 Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive. Photo courtesy Lions Clubs International.)
For the past few days, McKeesport-area postal workers have been delivering paper bags for this weekend's food drive.
Retired letter carrier Chuck Jarrell hopes Mon-Yough residents respond this Saturday (May 13) like they did last year, when people served by the McKeesport post office donated enough canned, dry and non-perishable foods --- 24,421 pounds worth --- to fill three trucks.
"We had fantastic support last year," says Jarrell, who retired five years ago after more than 35 years of service with the United States Postal Service. "People in McKeesport are very generous."
"But the need is more than ever," he says. "There are so many people who need this help through no fault of their own --- whether they've been laid off, or they're working a job that's minimum wage."
We spotted this message mowed into a field near the intersection of Round Hill Road and Route 48 in Elizabeth Twp. Is it the extra boost the Penguins need as they prepare for Game 7 against the Washington Capitals?
The Capitals beat the Penguins, 5 to 2, at PPG Paints Arena in Game 6 of the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs on Monday night. The Pens had a three games to one lead, but, missing both their number 1 goaltender, Matt Murray, and their number 1 defenseman, Kris Letang, the team struggled in Games 4 and 5.
Faceoff for Wednesday's game at the Verizon Center in D.C. is at 7:30. The winner advances to the Eastern Conference finals to face either the New York Rangers or the Ottawa Senators.
LISTEN: What does "fair housing" mean? How does it affect tenants? How does it affect landlords? What sorts of discrimination are forbidden under fair housing laws? How can someone protect themselves? Jim Haughey and Angelia Christina of McKeesport Housing Corp. explain. (Duration: 29:51 minutes)
In celebration of Fair Housing Month, the City of McKeesport hosted its second annual Fair Housing Workshop on April 26 at the Palisades. This year’s event welcomed representatives of the Fair Housing Law Center to define the Fair Housing Act, describe who it protects, and share guidelines on how landlords can successfully abide by the law.
The McKeesport Community Development Department and the Fair Housing Law Center distributed informational pamphlets and quick-reference guides on individuals’ rights to fair housing, additional resources for those with disabilities, and tips to recognize discrimination.
“In the City of McKeesport, where more than 50 percent of our housing stock is made up of rental properties, it’s is important that our tenants understand their rights and that our landlords understand their responsibilities,” said A.J. Tedesco, McKeesport’s community development director.
“We want to be sure that everyone in McKeesport is linked to the appropriate resources associated with fair housing concerns," he said.
Above: This house on Versailles Avenue is one of 33 abandoned buildings condemned by McKeesport city council. A city will seek bids from contractors in June to tear down houses as funding permits. (Tube City Almanac photo)
More than 30 abandoned buildings --- mostly single-family homes from the early 20th century --- have been added to McKeesport's lengthy list of blighted properties to be demolished.
At last week's meeting, city council voted 7-0 to condemn 33 houses deemed by McKeesport building inspector Chris House, fire Chief Jeff Tomovcsik and ordinance officers to be unsafe and dangerous.
Mayor Mike Cherepko said the city is trying to target homes for demolition in nearly every ward. Abandoned houses are especially prevalent in the neighborhoods between Versailles Avenue and Jenny Lind Street.
"As part of our strategic plan, we act on citizen complaints and we target houses on main arteries," Cherepko said. "We tried hard to hit most of the areas of the city."
McKeesport City Council added its voice to those of other Mon-Yough municipalities urging the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission to restart work on the final stretch of the Mon-Fayette Expressway.
At Wednesday's meeting, council by 7-0 vote passed a resolution offering the "unwavering support" of Mayor Mike Cherepko and council members toward the completion of the toll road from Interstate 68 near Morgantown, W.Va., to Interstate 376 near Monroeville.
The 14-mile segment from Route 51 in Jefferson Hills to the Parkway East near Monroeville has been estimated to cost anywhere from $1.7 billion to $2 billion, according to published reports.
"This has been a roller-coaster for years," Cherepko said. "The bottom line, in my opinion, is that this is a critical component in seeing the entire Mon Valley region flourish."
Students who attend Francis McClure and Twin Rivers schools, and their parents, will notice a minor change in the 2017-18 academic year.
At last week's board meeting, McKeesport Area School Board voted to change the names of Francis McClure Primary and Francis McClure Intermediate to Francis McClure Elementary, and the names of Twin Rivers Primary and Twin Rivers Intermediate to Twin Rivers Elementary.
School Superintendent Rula Skezas said only the names are being changed, slightly; the entrances and classroom schedules are not being changed.
Also at the board meeting, resident Keith Murphy told the board he was concerned about the longterm effects of violence on children living in the school district.
McKeesport students "are becoming desensitized," he said. "When I hear about people getting murdered in North View Heights, these kids will smile and laugh explaining how 47 bullets went into some person ... That's PTSD."
May 1-7, 2007: A district magistrate threw out harassment charges filed against a Versailles woman who put a sign in her front yard criticizing the borough's dog warden and the president of council. Carolyn Leitzell accused Ken Ferree of Ferree Kennels and Council President Walter Winkler of cruelty to animals; they denied the allegations, while District Judge Edward Tibbs dismissed the harassment charge.
Members of the Elizabeth Forward High School band were passengers on a school bus that collided with a tractor-trailer on the Pennsylvania Turnpike between the Morgantown and Downingtown interchanges, shutting down the toll road for several hours. The driver was seriously hurt and 30 other people sustained what were described as "minor injuries."
An Elizabeth Township resident wrote to the Daily News to complain because there were no dancers of "American" ethnicity at McKeesport's International Village. She suggested that square dancing be added to the entertainment.
Partial lane restrictions are likely for the remainder of the week on the ramp that takes motorists from the Duquesne-McKeesport Bridge to southbound Route 837, said a district official for the state Department of Transportation.
In addition, the shoulder of the ramp also will be closed for motorists who exit the bridge and head to Dravosburg and Clairton, the PennDOT spokesman said.
Weather permitting, restrictions will be in place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. today (May 3) through Friday. All ramps and the bridge will remain open. Crews from Pittsburgh Rigging Company and AECOM are doing work on the bridge's concrete piers, PennDOT said.
After six and a half years, McKeesport city administrator Matt Gergely is leaving the job --- but not McKeesport --- behind.
McKeesport Area School Board last week named Gergely assistant to the business manager for grants and outside funding, beginning July 1, at a starting salary of $85,000. The contract runs through June 30, 2022.
A replacement for Gergely will have to be named by Mayor Mike Cherepko and McKeesport City Council. The topic is likely to be an item for discussion at Wednesday's city council meeting.
"It was a very tough decision for me, being loyal to the city and the mayor, but in the end it seemed to be the right choice for myself and my family," Gergely said Tuesday. The move was made after discussion with Cherepko and other city officials, he said, and is being made on good terms.
"Everyone here has been very nice about it, and it's been kind of overwhelming, which is a little humbling," he said.
Gergely described himself as "very excited" to move into a role at the school district where, he said, he hopes to help strengthen the working relationship between the city and the school system.
McKeesport Art Group's 59th annual Spring Art Show will be held from May 19 to 21 at Jacob Woll Pavilion, Renziehausen Park.
Group president Jan Catalogna said artists of all types and skill levels --- including pen and ink artists, painters, watercolorists, sculptors and photographers --- are encouraged to participate. The show also has a special category for student artists.
In addition, this year's show will include an instructional painting class at 1 p.m. May 20. No previous art classes or training are necessary, she said, and participants of all skill levels are invited.