A nearly five-month investigation by Allegheny County detectives led to charges being filed this week in connection with the April shooting death of a McKeesport woman.
Gerald Lamar Walker, 37, of Penn Hills is being held in the Allegheny County Jail without bond on charges of criminal homicide, unlawful possession of a firearm and carrying a firearm without a license.
Walker is charged in connection with the April 26 shooting death of Amber Rose Dolby, 38, also known as Amber Bailey. Walker was arraigned Monday and faces a preliminary hearing Oct. 16 before Magisterial District Judge Kim Berkeley Clark.
In its first week of operation, a drive-through COVID-19 testing site at the Industrial Center of McKeesport served more than 180 people, county officials said.
Up to 250 people per day can be tested at the site, located just off of Lysle Boulevard, officials said. Samples are taken by courier daily to a state lab in Harrisburg, they said, and results of most tests will be available in 48 hours or less.
Persons who want to be tested may schedule an appointment online, or by calling (412) 209-2262 during normal business hours (8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday).
Local legislators split Wednesday on an effort to overrule Pennsylvania’s governor and allow school districts to decide whether to permit spectators at athletic events during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Gov. Tom Wolf on Monday vetoed House Bill 2787, which would have allowed local school boards to sidestep the state Health Department and set their own COVID-19 health and safety protocols.
On Wednesday, the state General Assembly voted 130-71 to override Wolf’s veto. The move fell five votes short of the two-thirds majority necessary.
While state Rep. Austin Davis, McKeesport Democrat, called the attempt to override Wolf’s veto “a waste of taxpayer money,” state Rep. Bill Kortz, Dravosburg Democrat, said it was “extremely disappointing” that the vote failed.
North Versailles Twp. commissioners have approved the promotions of two part-time police officers.
At the September meeting, commissioners approved moving Michael Sharp and Lucas Pici to full-time status, effective Oct. 4.
In other business, commissioners authorized township solicitor Greg Evashavik to draft an extension to the current trash-hauling contract with Big’s Sanitation to continue garbage pickup in North Versailles for another year without a price increase.
(File photo by Stuart Spivack, licensed under Creative Commons CC BY-SA 2.0.)
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, McKeesport Little Theater is looking for ways to keep its programs in the public eye and raise funds.
The non-profit theater is planning several events, including a “drive-through” spaghetti dinner on Oct. 17 and a series of one-act and radio-style plays to tap the talents of its volunteers and actors, says Jennifer Vertullo, vice-president of the MLT board.
Based on Coursin Street in the city’s library and cultural district, MLT was preparing to celebrate its 60th anniversary season this year. Instead, the 2020-21 season has been canceled.
In a photo titled “Edgar Thomson Looms,” U.S. Steel’s plant in Braddock and North Braddock is visible above rooftops of nearby houses. (Photo by Macwagen/Strongbox Magazine. Licensed under Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Lisa Graves-Marcucci calls it a “pollution parfait,” and she says it’s just as unappetizing as it sounds.
That’s how the lifelong Mon Valley resident describes the sky some mornings in Jefferson Hills.
“When I would drive over to take (my kids) to the elementary school, which sits right on the hilltop overlooking the Clairton Coke Works, certain summer mornings, you could see this ‘pollution parfait,’” says Graves-Marcucci, who serves as Pennsylvania community outreach coordinator for the non-profit Environmental Integrity Project. “There would be like, lines of different colors of pollution in the sky.”
Graves-Marcucci was one of the people who participated last week in a county-wide campaign for cleaner air.
Residents of North Versailles Twp.’s Fairhaven neighborhood told commissioners that several dogs, including a pit bull and a German shepherd, are creating a dangerous nuisance.
At the September meeting, Daryl Anderson told commissioners that he didn’t report a recent incident when he was bitten by a dog while walking along Joan Drive — but he now wishes he had.
“I’ve lived here my whole life and I’ve been walking the streets for 11 years since I retired, and I never had a dog problem,” Anderson said. “And that dog came from the garage door — didn’t bark, didn’t growl, jumped up and bit me and broke my skin.”
West Newton Public Library is encouraging patrons to consider honoring a friend or loved one by purchasing a book in their name. The cost is $25, a spokeswoman said.
People who want to memorialize someone should tell the library about their favorite author or their interests so that the library can purchase an appropriate item. The acknowledgement will be placed inside the front cover.
The person being honored, or their family, will receive a notification of the gift.
Allegheny County will open additional elections offices in October so that voters who want to return paper ballots in person may do so safely.
Although the county plans to have more than 1,300 polling places open for the Nov. 3 election, officials expect heavier than usual use of vote-by-mail and absentee ballots due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The county board of elections last week unanimously approved a proposal in which the Elections Division will open additional offices on specific dates and times.
Each office will provide opportunity for voters to provide over-the-counter voting, and the return of voted ballots to a fully-staffed, secure office, a county spokeswoman said.
A truckload of computers donated by Comcast is unveiled Friday morning during a live broadcast of NBC’s “Today” from McKeesport Area High School. (Richard Finch Jr. photo for Tube City Almanac)
Students, parents and staff were speculating about the news cameras — and a large truck parked in the middle of McKeesport Area High School’s football field on Friday morning when they entered the stadium for what they thought was a pep rally.
What they got instead were 2,500 laptop computers for students and staff at McKeesport Senior High School and Founders’ Hall Middle School — a donation from Comcast Corp., the region’s dominant cable TV and Internet provider.
The “Today” show, a production of NBC, a Comcast subsidiary, was on hand to show the surprised students.
Shown getting ready for the upcoming “Taste of Serbia” food festival are Very Rev. Stavrophor Stevan Rocknage, pastor of St. Sava’s, and church members. (Submitted photo)
St. Sava Serbian Orthodox Church will hold a food festival featuring a “small taste of Serbia” on Oct. 2 and 3, a spokeswoman said.
All foods will be available for takeout only both days from 3 to 7 p.m. Selections will be similar to those usually sold by St. Sava’s during McKeesport International Village.
Selections will include a lamb sandwich on a hard roll; sarma (Serbian-style stuffed cabbage); grah i kupas (traditional soup made of sauerkraut and red kidney beans); halushki (sauteed sliced cabbage and onions mixed with egg noodles); and Spanish rice (white rice slow simmered with tomatoes, onions, peppers and spices.
NBC’s “Today” show will feature students from McKeesport Area High School during a Friday morning broadcast.
Details of the segments are being kept under wraps, but spokespersons for both NBCUniversal’s parent company as well as McKeesport Area School District confirmed rumors circulating on Facebook that crews have conducted several interviews.
The segments are tentatively scheduled to air during the 8 a.m. hour.
The 20th annual Mon Valley HIV/AIDS Awareness Walk will take place Oct. 3 — but virtually.
The walk is organized each year by the HIV/AIDS Working Group of the Human Services Center Corp. in Turtle Creek, and continues to be the only HIV/AIDS Awareness Walk in Southwestern Pennsylvania, said Abbie Godollei, outreach coordinator.
The event is usually held on a Saturday on the streets of Downtown McKeesport, but due to COVID-19, the walk will instead be held that day beginning at 9 a.m. on Zoom.
A student-athlete at East Allegheny High School tested positive over the weekend for COVID-19, school officials said.
The student is a member of the girls’ volleyball team and the cheerleading squad. Both activities have been suspended for 14 days, the district said.
Superintendent Alan Johnson told the East Allegheny School Board that all health and safety protocols are being followed. Contact has been made with all the families involved to make them aware of the situation, he said.
Because the district is operating in virtual mode, no classrooms or office spaces have been compromised, Johnson said.
East Allegheny School Board has approved an spectator attendance plan for outdoor events just in time for the first home football game.
In accordance with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations and state guidelines limiting gatherings to 250 people or less, each student participant — including players, cheerleaders and members of the band — will be allowed to have two members of their family attend games.
“We wouldn't be able to accommodate additional spectators beyond that,” Superintendent Alan Johnson said at this week’s school board meeting.
Jack Roland Murphy, better known as “Murf the Surf,” is shown here during a 2016 interview on the Christian Television Network program, “Homekeepers.” Murphy died Saturday in Florida at age 83. (Screenshot via YouTube)
One of McKeesport’s most notorious former residents — Jack Roland Murphy — has died in Florida at age 83.
Known as “Murf the Surf,” Murphy was born in California but lived in the city as a teen-ager and was a stand-out athlete and musician at McKeesport High School.
But it was after leaving Western Pennsylvania that Murphy achieved international infamy as a jewel thief — and murderer.
After spending 19 years in a Florida prison, Murphy was paroled and launched a ministry to jails and prisoners, becoming a frequent guest on Christian radio and television shows. He was the subject of a lengthy profile in Sports Illustrated this past May.
“We are an odd lot. Old and young, men and women, heroes and derelicts, rich and poor, all once living souls,” says Anna Marie Colecchi as “The Widow” during McKeesport Regional History & Heritage Center’s Living History Tour on Sunday. (Vickie Babyak photo for Tube City Almanac)
There are 44,000 people buried in McKeesport & Versailles Cemetery, which was dedicated in 1855. On Saturday and Sunday, a handful of their stories were brought to life by local actors during McKeesport Regional History & Heritage Center’s sixth-annual Living History Tour.
Visitors were greeted by Anna Marie Colecchi playing “the widow,” who laid the framework for the list of characters on the tour.
Groups of people ranging in size from three to 15 walked along paths and around tombstones to hear the tales of this year’s cast.
They represented a wide range of notable McKeesporters, including Laura Painter, widow of People’s Bank President Robert Painter, who was blackmailed in an effort to get part of the fortune he left behind; U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Thomas Sweeney, one of the “McKeesport 23” who died during the Vietnam War; and George McClure, general store owner, who was shot in what is now known as Dead Man’s Hollow when he tried to stop a robbery.
West Newton Public Library will hold a ham dinner fundraiser from 4 to 7 p.m. Oct. 24, a spokeswoman said.
Cost is $15 and dinners will be take-out only from Gary's Chuck Wagon Restaurant, 109 South Second St.
Dinners include a slice of baked ham, mashed potatoes, green beans, cole slaw, roll and butter and dessert. Tickets may be purchased at Gary's Chuck Wagon or the library. For more information, call (724) 633-0798 or email email@example.com.
Sgt. Robert Fitzgerald of the 128th Brigade Support Battalion, Pennsylvania Army National Guard, explains the use of a COVID-19 test swab on Monday in McKeesport. (Tube City Almanac photo)
A new drive-through COVID-19 test site located at the Industrial Center of McKeesport is expected to remain operational for 45 to 60 days, but could stay open longer if necessary.
“This pandemic changes constantly and the planning changes constantly,” said Dr. Debra Bogen, director of the Allegheny County Health Department.
Allegheny County and state officials offered a tour of the site on Monday morning. The site opens to the public at 10 a.m. Tuesday.
Health officials are hopeful that within a few months, most doctors’ offices will be able to offer COVID-19 tests, Bogen said, so for now, the McKeesport site is the only drive-through facility planned in Allegheny County.
Up to 250 people per day can be tested at the site, located just off of Lysle Boulevard, officials said. Samples will be taken by courier daily to a state lab in Harrisburg, they said, and results of most tests will be available in 48 hours or less.
An Allegheny County plumbing inspector assigned to the Mon-Yough area approved work that police allege he couldn’t possibly have seen, according to a criminal complaint.
Now, Allegheny County police are attempting to determine whether Timothy R. Chelosky, 53, of McKeesport and Michael K. O’Toole, 57, of Pittsburgh’s North Side accepted bribes from plumbing contractors.
County police last week executed a search warrant at the offices of Matt Mertz Plumbing Inc. in Ross Township.
In criminal complaints filed with Magisterial District Judge Richard Opiela in Ross Twp., police said that the “overwhelming majority” of the inspection jobs that Chelosky and O’Toole are accused of skipping were work being done by Mertz.
Beginning Monday, appointments can be made at a new drive-up COVID-19 testing site scheduled to open in the city.
Persons with valid email addresses will be able to schedule their appointment by going to the county’s website, a county spokeswoman said.
People without email access may call (412) 209-2262 during normal business hours (8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday) to schedule a next-day appointment.
The testing center is being created inside a vacant portion of the Industrial Center of McKeesport, along Industry Road, near the building once occupied by EchoStar. It is scheduled to begin operations at 10 a.m. Tuesday.
West Newton Public Library is “respectfully asking” that no more donations be made for its upcoming book sale “due to the outstanding response.”
The library is holding the used book sale from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Oct. 3 in its parking lot at 124 N. Water St. Social distancing measures will be in place and masks are required.
A spokesperson said that the library has been asked by the Westmoreland Library Network to disinfect all books that come into the facility for any purpose. All of the items that already have been donated must be cleaned off before Oct. 3, the library said.
Donations of gently used books and other items will be accepted again after the sale, the spokesperson said.
Serra Catholic High School moved all students to online learning Friday and suspended sports activities through the weekend after two students tested positive for COVID-19.
An announcement from the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh said the move was made “out of an abundance of caution” and that neither student was experiencing symptoms of the disease, caused by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.
The school in Haler Heights is expected to remain closed through Monday, the diocese said.
The announcement came as state officials reported more than a thousand new cases of coronavirus across Pennsylvania. State Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine said many of the new cases are among college students who have returned to campuses.
Now in its sixth year, McKeesport Regional History & Heritage Center’s Living History Tour features live actors recounting some of our area’s memorable figures and events.
The tour takes place this weekend at McKeesport & Versailles Cemetery, just off Fifth Avenue near UPMC McKeesport hospital. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, tickets are timed and should be purchased in advance.
Dave Moore, museum manager for the center, said this year’s tour is designed to entice the community with interesting and “really juicy stories” from McKeesport’s past. “Everyone is into true crime right now.”
COVID-19 continues to disproportionately affect Black residents, according to statistics from the Allegheny County Health Department.
And bars and restaurants remain the number one location visited by people who have tested positive for COVID-19, the health department said in a report released Wednesday. Weddings, funerals and parties also are among the events that sufferers reported attending before their diagnoses.
A drive-through COVID-19 testing center will open in the city next week, the Allegheny County Health Department announced Wednesday.
Build-out of the site, located in the Industrial Center of McKeesport, began Tuesday, said Amie Downs, county spokeswoman.
Tests will be free but appointments will be required, she said. Funding for the site is being provided by the federal coronavirus stimulus program and the money has been allocated by state officials, Downs said.
The site will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, beginning Sept. 15.
The cornerstone of a now-demolished McKeesport church has made its way to a new home in Cleveland, Ohio.
After months of persistence, Cleveland resident and historian Nicholas Boros secured the cornerstone of the former St. Stephen’s Roman Catholic Church on Beacon Street and moved it to his own church, St. Elizabeth of Hungary.
“It was all very last minute,” said Boros, who had assumed his efforts to preserve the cornerstone had been unsuccessful. “I didn’t know I was getting it until three days before leaving for Cleveland.”
St. Stephen’s closed in 2002 following the death of its longtime pastor, the Rev. Stephen Kato.
Mon Valley area households that are struggling to make ends meet due to the COVID-19 pandemic may be eligible for up to $1,000 in emergency assistance.
Stephanie Eson, operations and community programs manager for the Human Services Center Corp., based in Turtle Creek, said the agency is one of four in Allegheny County that have been selected to provide the assistance.
Funding is being provided under a federal Community Services Block Grant and administered by the Allegheny County Department of Human Services and the state Department of Community & Economic Development.
Students in the East Allegheny School District are in their second week of instruction during a school year that is different from any other.
The current pandemic has made planning for this year an incredible task for administrators and staff.
At the end of June, a new superintendent was appointed to help lead the fold into this uncharted territory, but Alan Johnson is no stranger to western Pennsylvania. He was the superintendent in the Woodland Hills School District before he retired at the end of the 2017-18 school year.
“In the eight years I worked at Woodland Hills, I fell in love with Allegheny County — eastern Allegheny County especially,” Johnson says. “It reminded me of my home in Johnstown. There are so many similarities.”
This is one of the injection-molding machines from Magic Creations Inc. that’s being sold, according to a Connecticut-based auctioneer. (Photo courtesy The Branford Group)
A Connecticut-based auctioneer is selling off plastic-molding equipment from a Christy Park company that manufactures ice-cube trays, food storage bins, laundry baskets, trash cans and other items.
More than 250 molds and eight plastic injection-molding machines used by Magic Creations Inc. are being sold to the highest bidder beginning this week by The Branford Group, according to Ali Wade, marketing director for the auctioneer.
Magic Creations is located in the former G.C. Murphy Co. and Ames Department Stores distribution center between 28th and 31st avenues.
Although the equipment is being auctioned, the company is not going out of business, said an employee at the office who would not give his name or any other information to a reporter.
James J. Blatnik, AFL-CIO community services liaison for the Allegheny-Fayette Central Labor Council, paints park bench metal frames before the wood is replaced on the bench. (Tube City Almanac photo by Vickie Babyak)
McKeesport city officials, the Allegheny-Fayette Central Labor Council, local union members and their families worked together on Saturday morning to participate in a beautification day at Renziehausen Park.
Because the annual Pittsburgh Labor Day Parade, picnics and other celebrations were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, union members instead organized “Labor’s Weekend of Service” at several locations in the Pittsburgh area.
Darrin Kelly, a Pittsburgh firefighter and president of the labor council, said it was an opportunity to highlight the commitment of union members to serving the communities where they live.
“We are embracing this opportunity to honor the frontline workers who are helping usget through this pandemic and to show what organized labor is all about,” Kelly said. “We are all in this together, and it’s never been more important that we all take care of one another.”
McKeesport Regional History & Heritage Center will hold a flea market in the parking lot from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday (Sept. 5), a spokesperson said.
All proceeds will help to support the heritage center.
Furniture, toys, housewares, jewelry and other items will be available. The heritage center is located at 1832 Arboretum Drive in Renziehausen Park. For more information, call (412) 678-1832 or visit www.mckeesportheritage.org.
A.J. Tedesco, McKeesport community development director, McKeesport Mayor Michael Cherepko, HUD Pittsburgh Office Field Director Michael Horvath and HUD Region III Administrator Joe DeFelice talk following a visit to the vacant Penn-McKee Hotel, Downtown. (Tube City Almanac photo)
Less than a month after visiting McKeesport to encourage the city to take advantage of the Financial Opportunity Zone program, a federal official returned with two colleagues to help him make his case.
McKeesport needs a team of “cheerleaders” to sell the city’s advantages to prospective investors, said Joseph J. DeFelice, Region III administrator for the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development.
“You have proximity” to Pittsburgh, DeFelice said during a roundtable discussion Thursday morning with business owners, elected officials and community leaders at the Palisades Ballroom, Downtown.
K&K Roadside Service has received the city’s permission, with conditions attached, to continue operating along Patterson Avenue. (Tube City Almanac photo)
City council has granted an occupancy permit — with conditions attached — to a Patterson Avenue car repair shop that neighbors have claimed looked more like a junkyard.
At Wednesday’s meeting, McKeesport council by 4-2 vote approved a conditional use application for K&K Roadside Service, LLC, to continue operating in the 2200 block, near the entrance to Myer Park.
Councilmen Jim Barry Jr. and Keith Soles voted no, and Council President Richard Dellapenna Jr. was absent due to a professional obligation.
Although the neighborhood is zoned for residential use, an auto-repair shop has been located on the site for decades. But since K&K moved onto the property from Braddock, neighbors have complained repeatedly to McKeesport Mayor Michael Cherepko and several members of council.
This massive door in the former bank vault at the People’s Building weighs an estimated 15 tons, says owner Jonathan Stark. (Emily Pidgeon photo for Tube City Almanac)
Jane Jacobs, the writer and journalist who in the 1960s helped popularize the idea of preserving city architecture, once said, “New ideas often need old buildings.”
The Peoples Union Bank Building, with its high vaulted ceilings and old fashioned charm, has been a fixture in McKeesport’s skyline since 1906. Owner Jonathan Stark has ideas, and bringing commerce back to this old building is an important duty he holds dear to his heart.
Purchased by Stark in the late summer of 2019, the People’s Building has had a bit of a facelift and cleanup as well as some more serious construction in the past year. That included repairs to a section of the brick veneer that had pulled away from the exterior, with the potential to cause damage to cars and people below.
Stark was able to repair the damage before any major issues occurred and restored the brick without a hiccup.