Local Headlines

Important stories from the Pittsburgh region.

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."

Tim Tierney / Wikimedia Commons

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 on the The Confluence, Pittsburgh Today has released its regional annual report looking at key issues affecting the region, from economic factors to transportation to arts and culture. It also assesses how the Pittsburghers' quality of life fairs when compared to 14 other regions.

Humane Pennsylvania

The Humane Society says a cat was tied up, doused in gasoline and placed into a plastic trash bag that was nearly crushed in a Pennsylvania garbage truck.

Troopers Detail Response To Sniper Targeting Their Barracks

Apr 5, 2017
Rich Schultz / AP

State police troopers on Wednesday described for a jury how they responded in the chaotic minutes and hours after a sniper targeted their barracks, shooting two troopers from a wooded area across the street during a late-night shift change.

Janet B. Campbell / The Erie Times-News via AP

A woman convicted in a bizarre bank robbery plot that left a pizza delivery driver dead when a bomb strapped to his neck exploded has died in prison.

Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong died Tuesday of natural causes, the Federal Bureau of Prisons said. Her last location in the federal prison system was the Federal Medical Center-Carswell in Fort Worth, Texas, bureau spokesman Justin Long said.

Cosby Prosecutors Seek To Use Jokes About Date Rape Drugs As Evidence

Mar 31, 2017
Matt Rourke / AP

Prosecutors preparing to try actor Bill Cosby on sexual-assault charges want to use not only his explosive deposition testimony about getting quaaludes to give to women before sex but also his riffs on trying to slip women the supposed aphrodisiac Spanish fly.

In a court filing Thursday, they say the comments show his familiarity with date rape drugs and should not be dismissed as "merely jokes." They quote Cosby making Spanish fly references in his 1991 book "Childhood" and in an interview that year with talk show host Larry King.

Margaret Sun / 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.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Game of Thrones fans have three new reasons to visit the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium’s new Jungle Odyssey exhibit.

Joining the exhibit are three 4-and-a-half-year-old capybaras – who can weigh 150 pounds and are known as the world’s largest rodent – all named after an interesting slew of Thrones characters, including Lysa, Varys and Melisandre.

Lead mammal keeper Kathy Suthard said she chose the names based on the dynamics she observed between the three animals.

Bruce Smith / AP

Authorities in western Pennsylvania say a construction crew found a cache of buried cannonballs at the site of an old civil war arsenal in Pittsburgh.

Public safety officials say the crew found about 20 cannonballs Monday at the site in the Lawrenceville neighborhood.

The police bomb squad responded to the scene but decided to allow the construction company's subcontractor to remove the cannonballs.

Matt Nemeth / 90.5 WESA

A Pittsburgh nonprofit wants to replace the controversial black and yellow Sprint sign on Mt. Washington with a Hollywood-style letter sign.

Scenic Pittsburgh sent a letter to Louisiana-based Lamar Advertising, which owns the 7,200-square-foot billboard, asking them to donate or sell the property to the organization. Lamar is in a legal battle with the city of Pittsburgh, which claims the company is violating zoning regulations.

Verdict Turns Page In Penn State Child Molestation Scandal

Mar 27, 2017
Matt Rourke / AP

Penn State is trying to turn the corner on the Jerry Sandusky child molestation scandal, but the former FBI director who authored a scathing report on it more than four years ago says more changes are needed, even after the conviction of the university's former president.

A jury's guilty verdict against Graham Spanier on Friday to a misdemeanor count of child endangerment made him the last of the three former high-ranking administrators to be held criminally culpable for how they handled a 2001 complaint about Sandusky sexually abusing a boy in a team shower.

Matt Rourke / AP

Jurors deliberating in the child endangerment trial of former Penn State president Graham Spanier have asked to rehear excerpts from the transcript of testimony.

The panel on Friday reheard the testimony of Jack Raykovitz, who headed the charity for at-risk children founded by former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.

Raykovitz said then-athletic director Tim Curley told him a 2001 complaint about Sandusky showering with a boy was investigated and no wrongdoing was found, but Sandusky was told he couldn't bring children to university athletic facilities any longer.

Uncovering The Hidden Poison Of Lead In Our Environment

Mar 24, 2017
Marcus Charleston / 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.

Jury Gets Case In Trial Of Penn State's Ex-President

Mar 23, 2017
Matt Rourke / AP

Attorneys for Penn State ex-President Graham Spanier on Thursday declined to call any witnesses to counter accusations that he acted illegally in handling a 2001 complaint about Jerry Sandusky showering with a boy, sending the case to jurors for deliberation.

Prosecutor: Not Reporting Jerry Sandusky Let Pure Evil 'Run Wild'

Mar 21, 2017
Matt Rourke / AP

The failure of Penn State's former president to report child molestation accusations against Jerry Sandusky allowed evil "to run wild," prosecutors said Tuesday at the start of Graham Spanier's trial. A defense attorney accused prosecutors of trying to "criminalize a judgment call."

Opening statements got underway in the long-delayed criminal trial against Spanier, who faces felony charges of child endangerment and conspiracy for how he handled a 2001 report that the former assistant football coach had abused a boy in a team shower.

Paul Sableman / Flickr

A pop-up lab on Liberty Avenue could play a key role in the street’s future. Life on Liberty is an initiative created by Envision Downtown to gather input about one of the city’s busiest streets.

Jury Selection Begins In Penn State Ex-President's Trial

Mar 20, 2017
Matt Rourke / AP

Jury selection began Monday in the trial of Penn State's former president on charges that he put children at risk by mishandling child sex abuse complaints about retired assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.

Evan Vucci / 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.

This week's topics include how President Donald Trump's budget could impact the commonwealth. NPR political editor Domenico Montanaro joins us in studio for a wide-ranging conversation about covering elections and the role of journalists of holding people in power accountable. And, as enrollments and the number of high school graduates in Pennsylvania decline, we'll discuss how the state universities are coping with these challenges. 

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