State News Briefly…

Court denies Erie teacher’s appeal

ERIE — A former Pennsylvania high school teacher serving a life sentence for the 1975 strangulation death of a student has lost an appeal.

The Erie Times-News reports the state Superior Court ruled new DNA evidence is not enough to reopen the case against 80-year-old Raymond Payne.

Payne was convicted of murdering 16-year-old Debbie Gama. He’s serving his sentence at the state prison at Laurel Highlands.

According to evidence, Payne’s DNA didn’t match seminal material found on Gama. Payne claimed this proved he didn’t rape her.

The court found that whether Payne raped Gama was irrelevant to whether he intentionally strangled her. The opinion, released last week, upheld Erie County Judge John Garhart’s previous ruling.

Payne’s lawyer, Anderson Bailey, could not be reached for a comment.

Cops bust 20 more Lehigh students

BETHLEHEM — Police say they cited 20 more Lehigh University students for underage drinking over the past weekend, as Bethlehem police and campus officers continue efforts to curb drunkenness.

Police say five of the students busted over the weekend had to be hospitalized for high alcohol content.

The school has continued to crack down on drinking after four students nearly died and needed medical treatment for alcohol poisoning last school year. The school has temporarily suspended two fraternities and warned two others about possible discipline for drinking-related incidents so far this academic year.

Bethlehem police Chief Mark DiLuzio says complaints about loud parties indicate some students aren’t getting the message. He says police don’t want someone to get seriously injured or die “in order to get the message across.”

DA opens probe of coroner’s office

SCRANTON — A district attorney announced he’s investigating possible misconduct in a Pennsylvania county coroner’s office following two lawsuits filed recently.

But Monroe County DA E. David Christine Jr. says Tuesday that his investigation predates the lawsuits and that “no finding of wrongdoing has been made to date.”

The first lawsuit, filed by former Deputy Coroner Lauren Fizz, claims she was fired after reporting the Coroner Robert Allen’s wife — also a deputy in the office — stole from the dead and boasted of extramarital affairs, creating a hostile work environment.

A second lawsuit filed this week by Chief Deputy Michael Sak alleged sexual misconduct on behalf of Kathleen Allen, mirrors many of Fizz’s claims.

The Allens and an attorney for the county haven’t commented on the allegations.

Teacher waives hearing in sexual assault case

POTTSTOWN — A former Pennsylvania high school teacher has been ordered to stand trial on charges of inappropriate contact with a 16-year-old student.

The Reading Eagle reports that 38-year-old Melissa Bonkoski waived a hearing Monday in court. The Glenside woman has been charged with institutional sexual assault, unlawful contact with a minor and corruption of minors.

Chester County prosecutors allege that the former Owen J. Roberts High School teacher, who has resigned, started communicating outside of class with a male student who was in her science class during his freshman year. They allege she kissed him multiple times in her car and assaulted him at her home in December. An investigation began when the victim’s girlfriend discovered texts from Bonkoski.

Female athletes sue school district

PHILADELPHIA — A group of female student athletes have sued the School District of Philadelphia, alleging discrimination against black students interested in playing “traditionally white” sports of lacrosse and field hockey.

Strawberry Mansion High School student Nadirah McCrae and others say the district provided fewer resources to teams from lower-income or predominantly black schools. Other allegations include cancellation of buses to take girls to games and schedules that deny them games against predominantly white high schools.

Attorney Aaron Freiwald says officials didn’t believe the students had real opportunities or would be able to handle them.

The district says it works to ensure equity and last year had more than 250 female student-athletes participating on 20 teams in field hockey and girls lacrosse.

Split verdict for shooting at police

LANCASTER — A man has been convicted of trying to kill one police officer with a high-powered rifle last year in Pennsylvania but acquitted of trying to kill two others.

LNP newspaper reports that a Lancaster County jury convicted 18-year-old Marquell Rentas of one count each of attempted murder of a law enforcement officer and aggravated assault of an officer as well as conspiracy and reckless endangerment. He was acquitted of two other attempted murder and aggravated assault counts.

Columbia police said a dozen shots were fired July 29 out a window and at responding police vehicles. No one was injured.

Prosecutors cited derogatory remarks to officers. The defense called that “tough-guy” talk and said Rentas wasn’t shooting at police.

Nineteen-year-old Trenton Nace faces trial in October in the case.

Funeral set for community activist

PHILADELPHIA — A funeral is set for a Philadelphia community activist gunned down during an attempted carjacking while his 2-year-old daughter sat in the back seat.

The funeral Mass for 38-year-old Gerard Grandzol is set Wednesday at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul.

Police believe 16-year-old Marvin Roberts shot Grandzol, while accompanied by his brother, 21-year-old Maurice Roberts. Both have been jailed on homicide charges and Marvin has been charged as an adult.

Police say that happened when the brothers accosted Grandzol outside his home, took his wallet and demanded his car keys.

Dedication set for slain state trooper

EAST FREEDOM — A dedication is planned for a memorial to a 23-year-old Pennsylvania state trooper who was killed in the line of duty last year.

WJAC-TV reports a dedication for the Trooper Landon Weaver Memorial is scheduled for 2 p.m. Sunday in Freedom Township. The Freedom Township Supervisors and the Freedom Township Police Department are sponsoring the event.

Weaver was shot Dec. 30 at a home in Hesston while investigating a report of a domestic protection violation. Police said Jason Robison killed the trooper. Police later tracked down Robison and fatally shot him when he threatened officers and failed to follow their orders.

GPS leads man to drive into river

EASTON — Police say a driver’s global positioning system device caused him to drive into a Pennsylvania river.

The Express-Times says the motorist wound up in the Lehigh River in Easton shortly after 10:30 p.m. Saturday.

They say the man’s GPS led him to drive along a bicycle path in a park. When the man realized he couldn’t drive on the path, he reversed course but found he couldn’t go that way either because of a tunnel under a low bridge.

Police say the man was unable to stay on the bike path because it narrowed, and his car rolled off the path sideways into the river.

Police say the driver wasn’t hurt, but he was issued several traffic citations. Online court records didn’t list them Wednesday.

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