Home
 
The News
The Talk
The Station
The Community
 

Regional News from WTAJ

Sheetz is celebrating a new store opening in Centre Hall Thursday.

It is located on Savannah Lane.

They will have customer giveaways, food, drinks, games, and FREE COFFEE!

There will be a ribbon cutting and the doors open at 10:30am.
STATE COLLEGE, Centre County -- After more than 50 years, the president is moving forward to restore full diplomacy with Cuba which could open travel and possibly even trade with the country.

"Neither the American nor the Cuban people are well served by a rigid policy that is rooted in events that took place before most of us were born," says President Obama during the public announcement regarding the political move.

The announcement comes after President Obama agreed to a trade with Cuba - the Cubans agreed to release American aid contractor Alan Gross who was sentenced to 15 years in a Cuban jail.

"We can continue to encourage the Cubans to release political prisoners and respect human rights," says John Nichols, a professor emeritus at Penn State University.

The White House is explaining the move for normal relations as a way to ease economic conditions for the Cuban people.

"It will soften the relations between the two countries," says Nichols. "It will open up the possibility of further travel and cultural and political exchanges between the two countries."

Cuba sits only 90 miles away from the United States but is vastly different. With this new policy and the possibility to travel to the Caribbean country comes new educational opportunities as well.

"When they land in Cuba, they will be in an entirely different political, economic, cultural system and therefore a remarkably fertile educational experience," says Nichols.

Nichols adds Obama's announcement and change puts the U.S. on the same page as other countries around the world.

"This is an indication that the Cold War is finally over -- at least as it relates to Cuba," says Nichols.

Congress will have to vote to lift the embargo regulations the United State has with Cuba.
HOLLIDAYSBURG, BLAIR COUNTY -- Students from Longer Elementary strolled the streets singing christmas carols.  Mr. Colobove joined in with his accordian for a few numbers at his home.

The Phoenix Volunteer Fire department decorated their trucks and invited Santa Claus to hitch his sleigh and join them for a tour of the borough.
ALTOONA, BLAIR COUNTY -- The Jolly old Elf and his misift toy Jo Jo were waving and sending good wishes out to all who passed by.

WTAJ News got the chance to ask him why he's taking time out to come to town now.

 As Santa Claus tells it,  "I hope they remember what the true meaning of the reason for the season is.  I started this so they can take pictures with me and save money and use it for their kids or whatever."

Santa says he walks throughout Central PA and asks if you see him and want to take a picture,  make sure to pull over before snapping for safety.



FERGUSON TWP., CENTRE COUNTY--The Ferguson Township Police Department wants to warn area residents of a recent phone scam. During the call, the suspect claimed to be a representative of a police department. The suspect informed the call taker that there was a warrant for their arrest and threatened them with incarceration if the fine was not paid. The suspect directed the complainant to use a Green Dot MoneyPak to pay the fine. The resident's caller ID displayed the phone number 911.

An investigation revealed that the caller "spoofed" their phone number to display the incorrect phone number. The resident did not send any money to the suspect.

To help combat phone scams, do not provide information over the phone to anyone you do not know. If you receive a similar call, ask the caller to provide specific information about the judicial district, judge's name and citation number / case number. If the caller provides the information, you can verify or discount the claim by contacting the appropriate Magisterial District Court directly. Additionally, you can contact your local police department for verification.
EBENSBURG, CAMBRIA COUNTY - Dozens of people learned more about a natural gas pipeline that could be coming through our region.

Sunoco Logistics wants to bring a new natural gas pipeline across Cambria County for the most part south of Route 22. Their proposed pipeline would take the propane, ethane and butane that are all byproducts of the natural gas drilling process and move them from Ohio and West Virginia to a facility in Marcus Hook, Pennsylvania.

Sunoco says they'll deal with each property owner individually because each property is different. In all about a hundred properties and in Cambria County would be affected if the plan goes through.

The pipeline would go through Dennis Devlin's property and like many other people it would be very close to an existing pipeline. He feels like it is just part of the future and he’s happy with the project.

Not everyone is, some people think they should be getting more money for their property.

Sunoco's going to have more meetings like this in other parts of the county after the first of the year.
Sony has canceled next week's planned release of "The Interview."
Many theaters including some in our area decided not to show the movie due to threats of a September 11th type attack from anonymous hackers.
The Judd Apatow produced comedy starring Seth Rogen and James Franco became controversial because its plot involves the attempted assassination of North Korean Dictator Kim Jong-Un.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security says that "there is no credible intelligence to indicate an active plot against movie theaters within the United States."
U.S. investigators have determined hackers working for North Korea were behind the Sony hack.
An announcement could come Thursday on what U.S. officials plan to do in response to the hack
Centre Hall, Centre County – Sheetz Convenience Store opens a new location in Centre Hall, PA, to increase convenience for customers in Centre County. The new store is located at 106 Savannah. 
Employees will cut a ribbon and open the doors at 10:30 a.m. on December 18, 2014 together with locals of Centre Hall, city and county officials.
The celebration will include customer giveaways, food, drinks, games and free coffee for a limited time at the new location.
The company plans on hiring 30 people to staff the store. 
As part of the grand opening, Sheetz will make a donation of $2500 to Special Olympics Pennsylvania.
The new Sheetz will be open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
UNIVERSITY PARK, CENTRE COUNTY-- The U.S and Cuba have announced changes in policies which will open talks between the two governments for the first time in more than 50 years.
 
The move was announced immediately after the release of an American who had been a prisoner in Cuba for the last five years.

The U.S. plans to open an embassy in Havana, ease travel and allow for more business between the two countries.
 
Penn State Professor Emeritus John Nichols has been traveling to the island nation for years, and even testified in Congress to lift the embargo.
 
He say's this step is a cue that the Cold War is finally over as it relates to Cuba.
 
“Penn State is well positioned to take advantage of these events,” he said. “Penn State signed a memorandum of understanding with a major think tank, and we've already started sending students to Cuba, so this will only enhance the educational opportunities for Penn State.”
 
Back in March, Nichols along with other professors from the College of Communications took students to the island for an international reporting class.

WINDBER, SOMERSET COUNTY--- Wednesday is the 15th year officers with the Windber Police Department help give area kids a Christmas.

"The generosity of the gifts that come into the community for this program its just seems to increase every year," said Richard Skiles, Windber Police Chief.  “It’s wonderful.”

Every year hundreds of presents for kids ages 1-18 are donated by people in the community.  The gifts are then sorted and wrapped by volunteers to give to families within the Windber School District who can’t afford a Christmas.

Skiles said the annual Christmas party takes a lot of help and time but seeing the children’s faces makes it all worth it.

"It's so fun to watch the kids because this is what this is for- it’s for the kids," said Skiles.

The party takes places Wednesday night at the Windber Community Building.

This year more than 250 kids will receive a gift.



ALTOONA, BLAIR COUNTY -- In November 2012, police say they received a complaint from Childine for suspected child abuse. When they arrived, the criminal complaint says they found a tiny child that appeared to be malnourished.
 
Linda Cain, the child’s grandmother, said, "I felt in my heart if I didn't get something done right away that he was going to die."
 
She says she knew the child's situation was getting worse, so she made a plan to get 28 year old Elizabeth Stahl to her house.
 
Cain said, "I begged her to come up for the weekend so we could see the granddaughters and so I could get Donald, my son, to get a hold of a child abuse or hotline."
 
That's what Donald Peterman, the child's uncle, did. He says Stahl went to the store and left the three-year-old alone when he found him.
 
Peterman’s brother and Cain’s son was in a relationship with Stahl and had three children.
 
Peterman said, "She trapped him up in the bunk bed and he smelled like feces and urine. He was really skinny. I took him in the house, I fed him and I just broke down crying."
 
That's when the family called Childline, but Cain says she's been calling Child and Youth Services at least a dozen times to help since 2010.
 
Cain said, "I kept calling. I kept calling. It was 2010, 2011, 2012 and they weren't doing anything.”
 
The criminal complaint says the three year old was malnourished, frail, pale and sickly-looking inside a trailer on the property. It also says he resembled a skeleton with skin.
The boy was rushed to UPMC Altoona. Doctors say he weighed 19 pounds but has since gotten better. The mother's attorney says there's more to the situation than the commonwealth says.
 
Matthew Dombrosky, an Associate Attorney with Lucas Kelleher, said, "There are indications that there is a history of psychological and mental abuse by the father of the child against both my client and possibly the child."
 
Stahl's children were removed from her care. She's facing charges including aggravated assault and endangering the welfare of children. She was released on $25,000 unsecured bail. Her formal arraignment is scheduled for January 23.

ALTOONA - More Pittsburgh Penguins are being tested for the mumps. Pens General Manager Jim Rutherford says goalie Marc Andre-Fleury, and defensemen Robert Bortuzzo and Olli Maatta were not feeling well and are being tested for the virus out of precaution. Sidney Crosby and Beau Bennett have already tested positive for mumps.

Infectious Disease Specialist Dr Robert Sullivan isn't suprised that the virus has spread through the Penguins and among players on other hockey teams.  He says mumps is highly contagious and seems to strike without warning.
 
"You get the highest amount of virus in your blood before you actually get the gland swelling, so it's very effectively spread before you even know you have a problem," he explains.

There's concern that a recent visit to Children's Hospital in Pittsburgh by members of the Penguins team, could have spread the mumps virus to young patients. Dr. Sullivan says, "it would depend on the timing of the exposure, whether these hockey players had the infection from another source before they went over there to see the children."

The Altoona physician says it's very important to be vaccinated against the mumps, although your immunity can wane over time. He says mumps can be a serious illness in adults, even leading  to sterility.
 

PLEASANT GAP, CENTRE COUNTY - A state of the art training system is helping local law enforcement learn how to better handle real life situations.

It's called the Milo Range Pro Training System and it's housed at CPI in Pleasant Gap. It's been in use for about a month and a half.

This training system simulates real life situations and with more than 400 different scenarios, from domestic violence cases to active shooter situations, these officers are learning not just about the job, but also about themselves.

"Officers are required to make a split second decision. These are to enhance the ability to make those decisions and make the right rational decision in a one-thousandth split second," Spring Township Police Chief Mike Danneker said.

Chief Danneker trains his officers on this system and law enforcement agencies across the region use it, too, including State College and Patton Township Police departments.

"Any opportunity we can provide to them that they can train together in a crisis situation or anything that represents a crisis, makes them more effective as a team," Philip Lucas, Chairman of the South Central Region Counterterrorism Task Force, said.

Robert Balsamo is working with Chief Danneker to expand this system.

"The system, right now, is capable of putting up to eight officers shooting on the screen at one time. Right now, with the current weapons we have, we can only get tow or three weapons firing at the screen," Balsamo, Centre County Public Safety Training Center Coordinator, said. "To really enhance and make this system work the way it's designed to, we have to get those extra weapons in."

From domestic disputes, to traffic stops, these scenarios are something local officers deal with every day. Sometimes they go smoothly, other times, they don't.

"It's hard to do, it's beneficial. It starts to show you where you're weak and vulnerable and it helps officers hone their skills in case the day ever comes where they have to use lethal force," Danneker said.

Officials are now working to bring in a live fire range for officers to use in extension of this training system. The range would be housed in Spring Township.
HARRISBURG - A new report suggests that Pennsylvania hospitals are getting better at treating some major health conditions. The survey by the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council shows that hospital death rates decreased significantly in the state between 2008 and last year, for 8 of 16 illnesses studied.
 
The biggest drop was in septicemia, a life-threatening blood infection. None of the conditions and  procedures in the study showed a significant increase in deaths. The number of patients readmitted to hospitals decreased significantly, with the largest drop in congestive heart failure (CHF).

In our region, the survey showed higher than expected death rates at Conemaugh Memorial for CHF, COPD, stroke, and kidney failure, at UPMC hospitals in Altoona and Bedford, for acute kidney failure and at UPMC Altoona for infectious pneumonia.
Mount Nittany Medical Center had a higher than expected death rate for CHF.

Geisinger Medical Center, JC Blair Memorial Hospital, Lock Haven Hospital, and Penn Highlands Brookville Hospital had a higher than expected rate of death for stroke. JC Blair had a lower than expected death rate for septicemia.

The report  evaluates hospitals in Pa. on 17 medical conditions and surgical procedures. The report contains hospital-specific information about volume of cases, mortality, readmissions and charges for patients admitted to all general acute care and most specialty general acute care hospitals in Pennsylvania.

 

ALTOONA, BLAIR COUNTY-- An Altoona woman is facing a judge today after police say she shot and killed her mother.

Tracy Stephenson, 48, is set to have her preliminary hearing today.

Police say she shot and killed her 71-year-old mother Barbara Elias back in November in their home on 5TH Avenue in Altoona.

Stephenson told police she received several voice messages from her mother harassing her. She said the harassment was ongoing.

When they took Stephenson in for questioning, she first denied shooting her mother. Police brought out more evidence--that's when she admitted to killing her.

STATE COLLEGE, CENTRE COUNTY-- The State College School District says they know who is behind a Twitter account targeting students and parents in the community.

The school district confirmed via social media the account @schatetweets has been deactivated. 

Prior to its suspension, the anonymous twitter account was being used to cyber-bully students and even parents of students at State College Area High School, attacking student appearances and personalities and using suggestive language about drug use and sexual promiscuity.

The district took to Twitter last night revealing they know who is responsible for the account. The district did not say if the people behind the account are facing charges.

TYRONE, BLAIR COUNTY--A woman is facing charges after allegedly assaulting a three-year old-boy in the Tyrone area.

Police say 28-year-old Elizabeth Stahl endangered the welfare of her biological son.

The three-year-old showed up at the Altoona Regional Health System back in November of 2012.That's when Altoona Police and Blair County Children, Youth and Families investigated.

Stahl is facing charges including aggravated and simple assault and endangering the welfare of children.

Pittsburgh - The Penguins General Manager Jim Rutherford announced before practice on Wednesday that three additional Penguins are being monitored for mumps.

Goalie Marc Andre-Fleury, and defensemen Robert Bortuzzo and Olli Maata. According to Rutherford the three were not feeling well and are being tested for precaution.

All Penguins players were tested for the mumps in early December and all tested negative at that time.

BELLEFONTE, CENTRE COUNTY - County leaders voted Tuesday to allocate more than $150,000 for bride repairs in Centre County.

The money will come from Act 13 bridge funding as local match funding for the replacement of five local bridges.
They include ones in Worth and Curtin Townships along with the Howard and Snow Shoe areas.

Reconstruction of these bridges will begin in the next year or two.

Each bridge project is allocated a different amount of money:

Worth Township: $50,000
Curtin Township/Howard Area: $25,000
Snow Shoe Township: $30,000

HARRISBURG - The Attorney General's office has charged 10 pepople in what they are calling a massive case of fraud and conspiracy that defrauded the state of Pennsylvania more than $1 million. The alleged conspiracy involves two former managers in the PennDOT's District 6, who the Attorney General's Office say took payments from highway inspectors in return for signing off on time sheets and mileage reports.

The investigation began in March of 2013 when agents in the Attorney General's Bureau of Criminal Investigation obtained evidence of widespread abuse within the Highway Occupation Permit Program (HOP) in District 6, which comprises Philadelphia, Delaware, Montgomery, Chester and Bucks counties.

Two former PennDot District 6 managers are at the center of the investigation, Assistant District 6 Permits Manager Alex Morrone and former Philadelphia County Permit Manager William Rosetti, are the men investigators say are responsible for falsifying documents that ensured payment for unearned wages and reimbursements.

According to a grand jury presentment that was released yesterday, highway inspectors were paid more than a half million dollars in wages they did not earn, and two other contractors were paid more than $700,000 for their employees' unearned overtime.