Local Headlines

Important stories from the Pittsburgh region.

Matt Slocum / AP

Prosecutors in suburban Philadelphia plan to retry Bill Cosby after his two-week sexual assault trial ended Saturday in a mistrial, with the jury unable to reach a unanimous decision on any of the three counts. Cosby is accused of sexually assaulting a woman at his home near Philadelphia in 2004. The entertainer says what happened was consensual.

Some key things to know about the retrial:

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WHEN WILL IT BE?

Allegheny County Police

A Pennsylvania judge has dismissed drug and weapons charges stemming from a 2013 case against two men who were later charged in an ambush at a Wilkinsburg cookout that killed five adults and an unborn child last year.

Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge David Cashman on Monday granted a dismissal request from defense attorneys for 29-year-old Cheron Shelton and 27-year-old Robert Thomas along with a third defendant in the drug case, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.

Several Pennsylvania newspapers will be under new management this summer. 

GateHouse Media, a behemoth conglomerate overseen by New Media Investment Group, is slated to finalize purchase of The Beaver County Times, Ellwood City Ledger, The Bucks County Courier Times, The Intelligencer (Doylestown), the Burlington County (New Jersey) Times and Calkins Digital in June.

Gene J. Puskar / AP

A Nashville Predators fan briefly faced summary charges after throwing a catfish onto the ice at PPG Paints Arena during Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals.

The Pens were up 3-0 with 16:40 left in the second period when Jacob Waddell, 36, of Nolensville, Tenn., said he launched a mangled catfish over the protective glass near section 122. 

Rich Moffitt / AP

Officials anticipate more than 2 million vehicles will use the Pennsylvania Turnpike during the Memorial Day holiday weekend.

Officials say the busiest time for travel will be Friday afternoon and Monday evening.

The turnpike will suspend maintenance work and have all lanes open between 5 a.m. Friday and 11 p.m. Tuesday.

Officials say state police on the turnpike investigated 69 crashes which resulted in seven injuries during Memorial Day weekend last year.

Gene J. Puskar / AP

The images of people helping one another in the wake of the deadly bombing of an Ariana Grande concert in England has prompted one writer to pay tribute to public television's "Mister Rogers" for the upcoming 50th anniversary of the iconic children's show.

Final Cosby Jury Selections Made In Allegheny County

May 24, 2017
Gene J. Puskar / AP

**UPDATED: 6:12 p.m. Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Half of the new jury pool being questioned Wednesday in Bill Cosby's sexual assault case said they've formed an opinion on his guilt or innocence, and another knows Cosby or his family.

All 12 jurors and six alternates have been chosen this week for the case starting June 5 in suburban Philadelphia. Those who have opinions weren't necessarily disqualified if they convinced the judge they could put that aside and focus on the evidence.

Cosby's lawyers have complained about prosecutors striking two black women.

Defense Raises Race Bias In Cosby Jury Selection Process

May 24, 2017
Gene J. Puskar / AP

With just one black person seated among the first 11 jurors chosen for Bill Cosby's sexual assault trial, defense lawyers are crying foul and accusing prosecutors of trying to systematically keep blacks off the jury.

The lawyers returned to court on Wednesday in Pittsburgh to pick a 12th juror and six alternates. Cosby arrived Wednesday just before 8 a.m.

For now, Judge Steven O'Neill has rejected the race bias argument.

Martin Rickett / AP

Alex Popichak, a student at Point Park University in Pittsburgh, was wrapping up a radio journalism workshop in Manchester, England when Monday's bombing at an Ariana Grande concert occurred.

Popichak and seven fellow journalism students were staying at hotel 2 miles from the concert venue and no one in their group was injured.

He spoke to 90.5 WESA's Larkin Page-Jacobs about his experience in the aftermath of the bombing.

Gene J. Puskar / AP

UPDATED: 7:31 p.m. on May 23, 2017. 

At the end of the day on Tuesday, 11 jurors had been selected to serve on the panel that will hear Bill Cosby's sexual assault case. Ten of the jurors are white; only one is African American. The court will have new pool of 100 potential jurors to question on Wednesday in an effort to find one additional juror and six alternates.

David Goldman / AP

Pittsburgh's primary is set, but election season is just getting underway. Politcal reporters Kevin Zwick of the Greensburg Tribune-Review and Chris Potter of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette have more.

Matt Rourke / AP

A judge and several lawyers from Montgomery County, Pennsylvania will be in Pittsburgh Monday to pick a jury to take back to suburban Philadelphia. The 12 jurors and six alternates will be tasked with hearing the sexual assault trial of comedian Bill Cosby.

Matt Nemeth / 90.5 WESA

A man smoking a cigar laced with synthetic marijuana when he caused a chain-reaction crash that killed a University of Pittsburgh professor must spend five to 10 years in prison.

Fifty-year-old David Witherspoon was sentenced by an Allegheny County judge on Thursday after pleading guilty in February to involuntary manslaughter and other crimes in the October 2015 crash that killed 34-year-old Susan Hicks.

Witherspoon and his attorney say he is remorseful and has suffered from mental health issues.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

A Pennsylvania woman who said her only regret in life was not finishing high school has received an honorary diploma — at age 105.

Theresia Brandl donned a cap and gown Wednesday at her Oakdale nursing home to celebrate, surrounded by four grandchildren, eight great-grandchildren and five great-great-grandchildren.

Brandl attended Stowe High School until she had to drop out to care for her ailing mother. The school was later merged with a nearby school, forming Sto-Rox High School, which awarded her the honorary diploma.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Utility companies were working to restore power to hundreds of people still without electricity a day after severe storms swept through Pennsylvania, downing trees, power lines and possibly spawning several small tornadoes.

The National Weather Service in Pittsburgh says investigators will be heading to Butler, Clarion and Forest counties to determine whether tornadoes touched down Monday afternoon.

Miles Gehm / Flickr

A large portion of western Pennsylvania, including the Pittsburgh region, is under a tornado watch until Monday evening.

The watch also covers counties in West Virginia and Ohio, and is expected to remain in effect until 7 p.m.

Dave Martin / AP

A man has been cited for disorderly conduct after police say he "freaked out" when he saw a Confederate flag displayed in a Pennsylvania hotel window as part of a Civil War-themed wedding.

The (Easton) Express-Times says police charged the man with making the disturbance at the Hotel Bethlehem on Saturday. His name wasn't immediately released.

Police Chief Mark DiLuzio says the man was cited for "freaking out, screaming and yelling" and creating a "very aggressive and disorderly scene."

Jim Bourg / AP

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s weekly news program.

Each week, reporters, editors and bloggers join veteran journalist and host Kevin Gavin to take an in-depth look at the stories important to the Pittsburgh region.

Bell Tolls As Police Ambush Killer Gets Death Sentence

Apr 27, 2017
Rich Schultz / AP

The bell atop the Pike County Courthouse last tolled the fate of a condemned killer in the 1980s.

On Wednesday, it rang again.

Eric Frein, the would-be revolutionary who shot two Pennsylvania troopers, one fatally, in a late-night attack at their barracks, was sentenced to death late Wednesday. The jury's decision that Frein should die by lethal injection brought a shouted "yes!" from a gallery that included high-ranking state police brass, the slain officer's mother and the trooper who suffered debilitating injuries after Frein shot him with a high-powered rifle.

Matt Rourke / AP

Sentencing has been scheduled for three former top officials at Penn State University who were convicted of child endangerment in the Jerry Sandusky molestation scandal.

Former university president Graham Spanier, former vice president Gary Schultz and former athletic director Tim Curley will be sentenced June 2 in Harrisburg.

Curley and Schultz pleaded guilty to misdemeanor child endangerment. Spanier went to trial and was convicted in March. His lawyer said he will appeal.

Gene J. Puskar / AP

Penn State University has suspended the Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity for two years for violating new, tighter alcohol rules during Parents' Weekend.

The new rules were imposed after the February death of a student at a pledge acceptance party hosted by another fraternity, Beta Theta Pi, which is permanently banned from campus.

University President Eric Barron says nine of the university's 82 fraternities and sororities violated at least one of the new rules, and Sigma Alpha Mu violated nearly all of them.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s weekly news program.

Each week, reporters, editors and bloggers join veteran journalist and host Kevin Gavin to take an in-depth look at the stories important to the Pittsburgh region.

Survivalist Who Ambushed Police Seeks To Avoid Death Penalty

Apr 20, 2017
Rich Schultz / AP

A survivalist who shot and killed a Pennsylvania State Police trooper and injured another in an ambush at their barracks will now fight for his own life following his conviction on capital murder charges.

Eric Frein, 33, was convicted Wednesday of all 12 charges he faced more than two years after targeting the state police in a late-night sniper attack.

Survivalist Researched Escaping Manhunts Before Fatal Ambush

Apr 17, 2017
Rich Schultz / AP

An anti-government survivalist charged with ambushing two troopers at a state police barracks did research on how to escape a manhunt more than a year before the deadly attack, according to evidence presented Monday at his murder trial.

Eric Frein's laptop was used to search online for "how to escape a manhunt" and "how are manhunts conducted" in May 2013.

via Hillman Compay and Family Foundations

Pittsburgh businessman and philanthropist Henry Hillman died at the age of 98 Friday.

The Hillman family confirmed his death, saying in a statement, “Daddy had such a tremendous life filled by a large family he loved dearly, innumerable friends, and great adventures in business and philanthropy.”

Matt Rourke / AP

Outpourings of grief and sympathy are flooding in to Pittsburgh from around the world, marking the death of NFL icon, Dan Rooney.

Joshua Franzos / Pittsburgh Foundation

An unusual election season led to an unusual donation pattern for the Pittsburgh Foundation in 2016—an influx of $18 million in donations came in the last four weeks of the year. That’s nearly double the amount from the same period in 2015.

RIDC

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s weekly news program.

Each week reporters, editors and bloggers join veteran journalist and host Kevin Gavin to take an in-depth look at the stories important to the Pittsburgh region.

This week’s topics include a look at why the commonwealth continues to put money into an industrial site to lure businesses to western Pennsylvania. We’ll also look at the public safety issues of mandatory minimum sentencing for violent crimes and withholding of police names after a shooting. And two reporters from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette will join us to address changes in the region’s demographics. We'll also mark the passing of Steelers owner Dan Rooney

Ancestry.com Helps Family Of Dead Boy Find Man Posing As Him

Apr 12, 2017
Ancestry.com

Federal prosecutors say Ancestry.com helped the family of a baby who died in Texas in 1972 discover that a Pennsylvania man had assumed the child's identity.

Forty-four-year-old Jon Vincent was arrested in Lansdale, near Philadelphia, on Monday. Prosecutors say Vincent stole Nathan Laskoski's identity after escaping from a Texas halfway house to start another life.

Prosecutors say he first obtained a Social Security card as Laskoski in 1996.

Darlene Harris / Facebook

A Pittsburgh city councilwoman who's running for mayor is defending Facebook pictures of herself riding a circus elephant and a camel, saying she just wanted to "see how they're taken care of."

Democrat Darlene Harris posted a picture of herself atop the Shrine Circus elephant and another riding the camel. The circus was at PPG Paints Arena over the weekend.

Harris, who's running against Mayor Bill Peduto in the primary, rejected critics' claims that circus animals are abused, saying, "Those animals are taken care of better than some people take care of people."

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