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Daily Archives: June 27, 2018

RAYMOND ROWE, AKA ‘DJ FREEZ,’ CHARGED WITH KILLING CHRISTY MIRACK IN 1992

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The Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office, along with the numerous agencies and investigators who have contributed to the case over the years, announce charges filed today in the 1992 murder of Christy Mirack.

Lancaster County Detective Christopher Erb charged 49-year-old Raymond Rowe with criminal homicide regarding Mirack’s death.

Rowe, of Whittier Lane, Lancaster, was arrested at his home Monday afternoon. He was arraigned late Monday night and remanded to Lancaster County Prison without bail.

Rowe uses the professional handle, “DJ Freez,” in regards to his entertainment company. That is relevant to the investigation for reasons stated below.

He is presumed innocent.

“To say this is a major development would be quite the understatement. It is a huge step toward providing long-overdue closure for Christy’s family and friends who have spent decades wondering who brutally murdered their loved one,” Lancaster County District Attorney Craig Stedman said. “We must also remember this is one step in the process. We all must keep in mind the presumption of innocence for all individuals charged with a crime Pennsylvania. The next steps will be taken in court.”

Lancaster County Detective Larry Martin assisted Detective Erb as lead investigators in the case, with oversight from District Attorney Stedman, First Assistant District Attorney Christopher P. Larsen, and Assistant District Attorney Christine L. Wilson.

Mirack, 25, was found dead in her East Lampeter Township townhome on the morning of Dec. 21, 1992. She had been beaten, strangled and sexually assaulted.

A number of agencies – to include East Lampeter Township police, Pennsylvania State Police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation – investigated the case before the Lancaster County Detectives, who work under District Attorney Craig Stedman, took over jurisdiction in 2016.

During that time, detectives commissioned multiple investigative tactics using DNA evidence left at the murder scene, not previously employed in the case.

Specifically, the DNA evidence was submitted to Parabon NanoLabs and a genotype file was generated.  Using this file, Parabon created a DNA phenotype “composite” of the killer’s attributes, including hair and eye color and skin tone. The phenotype report included visual composites of what the killer would look like at various ages. That data and associated composites were released to the public in November 2017.

Based on Parabon’s recommendation, detectives subsequently authorized Parabon to upload the genotype file to a public, genetic genealogy database, which resulted in matches to relatives of Raymond Rowe. Parabon’s genealogical research determined that Rowe was a “strong viable suspect.”

On May 31, investigators obtained DNA surreptitiously from Rowe, from chewing gum and a water bottle Rowe used while working as a disc jockey at an event at Smoketown Elementary School.

That DNA was submitted to a Pennsylvania State Police crime lab. Testing revealed a match between that DNA and DNA found on multiple locations of Mirack’s person and on carpet underneath her dead body.

“We really cannot give enough credit to Parabon NanoLabs for the work they did which proved absolutely crucial to filing this charge,” District Attorney Stedman said. “Without their work and expertise, quite frankly, we would not be standing here today with the alleged killer of Christy Mirack charged and in custody.”

The following is additional background on the crime and more a detailed narrative of investigative steps taken:

Mirack, a teacher, was found on the morning of Dec. 21, 1992, when she did not report to school. A staff member of the school went to her home and found her on the floor of her living room. The staff member went to a neighboring home and called 9-1-1.

First-responders arrived and determined Mirack was deceased. She was wearing a coat and gloves, indicating she was leaving for work when she was confronted by an intruder. A wooden cutting board, a weapon used in the killing, was near Mirack’s body.

Mirack’s roommate told police that she left about 7 a.m. for work and that Mirack was still home at that time. Mirack typically left for work about 7:30 a.m., the roommate told police. The roommate reported that Mirack was getting ready for work that day, as she would any other day.

Also, two neighbors in the housing community told police they were walking near Mirack’s home that morning and heard a high-pitched, unexpected scream from the home between 7:10 and 7:20 a.m.

A day after Mirack was found, a forensic pathologist performed an autopsy and determined:

  • There was severe blunt force trauma to Mirack’s neck, back, upper chest and face;

  • Mirack sustained bruising, her jaw was fractured, and she had been strangled;

  • There was evidence that Mirack was sexually assaulted, and numerous sample swabs were collected;

Mirack’s death was ruled a homicide, caused by strangulation.

“We are not at a point where we are discussing or speculating about a motive. Considering the time that has past, some specific questions about motive might never be answered publicly,” District Attorney Stedman said. “I can say, in consideration of all the information and evidence – to include the DNA found at the scene – we know that this defendant raped and brutally murdered Christy Mirack.”

DNA collected from Mirack’s person and the scene was submitted to the PSP lab, where a DNA profile was generated. That profile was entered into a national database, but did not result in a match.

In 2016, when Lancaster County Detectives had jurisdiction of the case, they consulted with Parabon NanoLabs.

Following the phenotype work and genetic genealogy testing of the same DNA, Parabon submitted the following information to Lancaster County Detectives on May 14, 2018:

  • Matches had been made in the case from the suspect sample submitted;

  • The matches were of relatives of the suspect, who had voluntarily submitted their DNA to a publically-available genealogy database;

  • Parabon’s head genealogist, CeCe Moore, conducted the detailed ancestral and genealogical analysis of this submission and determined that Raymond C. Rowe was a strong candidate source of the unknown DNA found at the crime scene.

Regarding the comparison between Rowe’s DNA (collected at the Smoketown Elementary event) and the DNA found at the crime scene, state police lab experts stated there is:

  • A 1 in 200 octillion chance it was a person, not Rowe, of the Caucasian population;

  • A 1 in 15 nonillion chance it was a person, not Rowe, from the African American population;

  • A 1 in 74 octillion chance it was a person, not Rowe, from the Hispanic population.

 

Source: Lancaster County DA’s Office

 

PA Kids Make Gains, But Census Undercount Could Hinder Progress

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By: Andrea Sears

HARRISBURG, Pa. – The latest figures on the well-being of children show Pennsylvania ranks 17th in the nation, but children’s advocates fear trouble ahead.

In the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s 2018 KIDS COUNT Data Book, the Keystone State showed improvement in eight of 16 categories covering economic well-being, education, health, and family and community.

But Laura Speer, the foundation’s associate director for policy reform and advocacy, is concerned that including a citizenship question on the 2020 U.S. Census will discourage immigrants from participating and lead to an under-count of young children, endangering federal funding of programs affecting children.

“All people, including kids, have the right to be counted and represented,” Speer said. “But without any real political or economic power, kids rely on adults to protect and advocate for them, and they can’t fill out the census forms.”

Census figures are used to determine levels of federal support for child-focused programs, from school lunches to children’s health insurance.

According to Joan Benso, president and CEO of Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children, those programs are especially important to children living in low-income families.

“One in five children in our state, 20 percent of the kids, is still living in poverty,” said Benso, “and connected to that ends up being, oftentimes, a lack of opportunity.”

She added that nearly one out of every six children in Pennsylvania is at risk of being overlooked in the upcoming census count.

With more than 14 million children living in poverty nationwide, and more than 880,000 in Pennsylvania, Speer stressed getting the numbers right is critical.

“We want to do right by all kids and make sure that they have strong families, strong communities and the opportunities that will help them to thrive,” she said. “And many of the trends that we’re seeing are really good, but there’s still a lot of work to do.”

While the percentage of Pennsylvania children living in poverty has declined, the number living in high-poverty neighborhoods has increased.

STRASBURG CHAMPIONSHIP MOTORCADE/PARADE

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Come out and support the 2018 Lampeter Strasburg Softball State Champions. There will be a motorcade type parade traveling through the school district  on Thursday 6/28/2018 so find a nice spot along the route to cheer for the team. The parade forms at 6:00 pm at the Strasburg Railroad and will start moving at 6:30 pm. The parade route will proceed from the Railroad, west on route 741 to Lampeter Road, turn left on Lampeter Road to Penn Grant Road. Penn Grant Road west to Willow Street Pike, turn right onto Willow Street Pike north to Beaver Valley Pike, turn right on Beaver Valley Pike to Village Road,left onto Village Road to Lampeter Road, turn left on Lampeter Road to Pioneer Road, turn right on Pioneer Road to Rosier Way and will end at the softball field at Lampeter Strasburg High School. There will be a meet and greet after the parade, at the school.

If you are a participant in the parade and are coming to the Railroad to ride on one of the vehicles please park in the Railroad Museum parking lot on the south side of route 741.

Vehicles that are in the parade will be directed where to enter.

This is a fully motorized parade.

LCBoP STATEMENT ON PASSING OF RETIRED CAPTAIN OF DETECTIVES JOSEPH PAUL GEESEY

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photo/ LCBoP

“With great sadness and regret we note the passing of Joe Geesey, Captain of Detectives (retired).

Joe Geesey was hired by the Lancaster City Police in 1958. He attended the Police Academy at the PSP Academy in Hershey that year.

(1958 file photo at time of hire)/LCBoP

 

Capt. Geesey had attended classes as Millersville State College in 1954 but his pursuit of a degree was put on hold as he raised a family and underwent a long and successful career with Lancaster City. He re-enrolled at Millersville in 1970 and obtained his Bachelors Degree in Sociology in 1974.

During his career as a Patrol Officer, Geesey received numerous Commendations and letters of appreciation for his work. Joe Geesey went to work in the Detective Division and worked his way through the ranks. In 1967 he attended a Intercounty Detectives School that was hosted by the PA Chiefs of Police and taught by the FBI.

In 1985 Geesey was appointed as Captain of Detectives and he remained there until his retirement from Lancaster City in July 1992. Geesey was not finished with a career in Law Enforcement as he went on to work for the Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office as a Detective until he retired in 2012. Capt. Geesey’s personnel file is filled with letters of appreciation from victims, family members of victims, business owners, civic associations, Law Enforcement agencies, elected officials citizens and more. Joe Geesey was a tenacious investigator and was willing to pass on his knowledge and expertise by speaking to many groups on a variety of law enforcement topics.

Joseph Geesey had a tremendous impact on Law Enforcement in Lancaster City and Lancaster County for many decades. Our condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of Captain Joseph Paul Geesey. “…

Source:

Lancaster Bureau of Police

LCBoP Statement On Passing Of OFFICER MARK GEHRON

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photo: LCBoP

 

“It is with a heavy heart that the Lancaster City Police announces the death of active duty Patrol Officer Mark Gehron, 43 years old, city resident and 19-year veteran of the police bureau.  This was not a line of duty death.  Officer Gehron was found deceased in his home and the manner of death was ruled a suicide.

These losses in the Law Enforcement, the First Responder and Emergency Dispatcher Community are a growing but preventable epidemic.  The law enforcement community experiences on average 130 deaths a year related to officers in crisis.  We in public safety have difficult jobs that come with unique challenges and dangers, coupled with regular life stressors make it is easy for us to become overwhelmed.  We are public safety professionals who people turn to in times of crisis or emergency.  So public safety workers often mask emotion to do their jobs on a day-to-day basis helping people and we forget or ignore that we often need help ourselves.  If you are a member of the First Responder Community do a mental health check every year just like a physical wellness check.

Mental Health Check (Badge of Life, 2006)

  1. Visit a licensed mental health professional to develop a relationship that can be relied on later.
  2. It is a confidential visit that does not trigger a report. No information returns to your department.
  3. It is not a Fitness for Duty Evaluation.  It is a check-in to learn new skills and set goals if desired.
  4. The Mental Health Check is part of your normal maintenance routine.  Take it seriously.
  5. It’s a chance to review your current and/or past mental health status, and receive professional support.
  6. The Mental Health Check is fully voluntary and encouraged by agencies, chiefs and all supervisors.

If you are in crisis and need help please contact your Employee Assistance Program (EAP), local Crisis Intervention, Peer-to-Peer counselors, department chaplain, the referral services or agencies listed below:

Safe Call Now:  https://www.safecallnow.org/   206-459-3020

National Suicide Prevention Hotline:  https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/  1-800-273-8255

COP2COP:  http://ubhc.rutgers.edu/cop2cop/services.htm  1-866-Cop-2Cop

Seeking help is not a career-ending dilemma, it could be lifesaving and career saving.

The entire police bureau and other city departments are mourning the loss of Officer Gehron, a valued member of our police bureau and city employee family.  Since this was not a line of duty death, the police bureau and his family are asking for privacy at this time of grief.  The city and department have been providing critical incident peer counseling and EAP grief counselors since Saturday.  This was a sudden loss to us and his family and we are trying to grieve and support Mark’s family and our staff in every way possible.  Your consideration and continued thoughts for his family and coworkers is greatly appreciated.  Funeral arrangements will be announced by the family. ”

Officer Gehron’s Obituary: https://www.snyderfuneralhome.com/obituary/mark-c-gehron/

Source:

Lancaster Bureau of Police

Wolf Administration Testifies at U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging Alzheimer’s Hearing

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Washington DC  Department of Aging Secretary Teresa Osborne testified on the steps Pennsylvania has taken to meet the needs of individuals living with Alzheimer’s, their families, and caregivers at the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging’s hearing, “Changing the Trajectory of Alzheimer’s: Reducing Risk, Detecting Early Symptoms and Improving Data.”
 
“Pennsylvania’s current infrastructure, anchored by our Older American’s Act, required State Plan on Aging and our State Plan for Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders, is in perfect alignment with the recognized need to further invest in a nationwide public health response that will promote better care and support for those living with Alzheimer’s,” said Secretary Osborne.
 
Pennsylvania currently has more than 400,000 individuals living with Alzheimer’s Disease or a related disorder. In 2014, the Department of Aging released Pennsylvania’s State Plan for Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders. The plan, using public input, outlines seven key recommendations to develop a strategy to mobilize the commonwealth’s response to the anticipated increase in incidence of Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders. Since the plan was developed, the department has held three statewide forums and seven regional roundtable discussions to engage with stakeholders and inspire action at the local level.
 
“Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias are among the greatest public health challenges facing older Americans. As our population ages, the number of people living with the disease and their caregivers will only grow,” said U.S. Senator Bob Casey, Ranking Member of the Special Committee on Aging. “That’s why I will continue fighting to increase Alzheimer’s research funding to find a cure. Bipartisan legislation, like the BOLD Infrastructure for Alzheimer’s Act, is also needed to ensure those living with the disease and those caring for them have the support they need.”
 
Most recently, the Wolf Administration announced the formation of Pennsylvania’s Alzheimer’s State Plan Task Force. The task force was created to take a lead role in implementing and championing the goals and recommendations of Pennsylvania’s State Plan for Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders.
 
Objectives of the task force include:
  • Working with local organizations, entities, advocates, and other stakeholders to identify and share best practices that support the goals and the overall success of the plan
  • Leading efforts to review and revise the state plan, as necessary
  • Developing and facilitating the actions needed to carry out the plan
  • Pursuing research and reviewing any other issues that are relevant to Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders
  • Assisting in planning the annual Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders Forum
  • Assisting in the development of an annual update to the plan
Alzheimer’s is an irreversible, progressive brain disease that slowly inhibits brain function, and it is the most common form of dementia. According to the Alzheimer’s Association an estimated 5.7 million Americans currently live with Alzheimer’s and it is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.
 
To learn more about Alzheimer’s disease, visit alz.org. To learn more about the Pennsylvania Department of Aging, visit aging.pa.gov

Planting the Seed: Agriculture Secretary Introduces Future Workforce to Promising Ag Careers at Oregon Dairy Family Farm Days

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Lititz, PA – Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding continued the Planting the Seed Tour today at Oregon Dairy’s Family Farm Days, meeting with young people and their parents who came out to explore a working dairy farm and meet the people who care for animals, raise crops, and work in the many careers needed to produce the food, fiber, and fuel that powers our economy.

“Pennsylvania agriculture is a thriving, $135 billion industry, but our workforce is aging,” Sec. Redding said. “We will need young people like those here today to fill the more than 75,000 job openings we anticipate in the next decade. Today is a great opportunity to see firsthand what it takes to make a farm operate, and to meet the farm managers, veterinarians, soil and water conservationists, and others who make life happen on the farm and in the agriculture and food businesses that make our communities and economy strong.”

During the event, Redding talked with children and their parents about the diverse jobs and careers in agriculture, and offered examples of the STEM careers that will be in greater demand in coming years to service and operate increasingly computer-based farm technology, research and develop new methods to produce enough food to feed a rapidly growing world population, and manage limited land and water resources.

In his 2018-19 budget, Governor Wolf proposed PAsmart – a first-of-its-kind workforce development proposal to invest $50 million for STEM and computer science education, support hands-on technical education programs, and encourage employers and schools to work together to help students get the skills employers need. The proposal would invest an additional $10 million in career readiness programs, allowing high school students to earn both a diploma and post-secondary credentials and helping non-traditional students and workers earn post-secondary credits and credentials aligned to in-demand careers.

To learn more about traditional and STEM careers in agriculture and food production, or to read the state’s Agriculture Economic Impact Study, visit agriculture.pa.gov

Wolf Administration Preparing Pennsylvania’s Students for Success through Agricultural Education

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Administration releases ag education report; announces formation of Commission for Ag Education Excellence​

Harrisburg, PA – In recognition of the growing need for a workforce prepared to fill nearly 75,000 job vacancies in the agriculture and food industries over the next decade, the Pennsylvania Departments of Agriculture (PDA) and Education (PDE) yesterday unveiled their comprehensive agricultural education report for schools across the commonwealth.

“The Wolf Administration believes in prioritizing jobs that pay and schools that teach, and this report represents the intersection of those two priorities,” said Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding. “Ensuring that Pennsylvania’s students have access to high-quality agricultural education programs that foster the skills necessary for success will lay the groundwork for a talented, well-prepared workforce in the years to come.”

The report announcement was accompanied by the creation of a 15-member Commission for Agricultural Education Excellence. The commission will operate under the concurrent authority of PDA and PDE, and is charged with assisting in the development of a statewide plan for agricultural education and coordinating the implementation of related programming with both departments.

“Farming isn’t the only agriculture-related career pathway,” Education Secretary Pedro A. Rivera said. “Other careers include engineering and design, law, finance, environmental planning, and sales – at its heart, agriculture education is STEM education. Promoting agriculture education is an investment in the next generation of leaders of Pennsylvania’s top industry.”

In his 2018-19 budget, Governor Wolf proposed PAsmart – a first-of-its-kind workforce development proposal to invest $50 million for STEM and computer science education, support hands-on technical education programs, and encourage employers and schools to work together to help students get the skills employers need. The proposal provides for an additional $10 million investment in career readiness programs, allowing high school students to earn both a diploma and post-secondary credentials and helping non-traditional students and workers earn post-secondary credits and credentials aligned to in-demand careers.

Agriculture is a $135 billion industry facing an aging workforce. Attrition, growing demand for certain products, and advancing technologies will result in a workforce deficit in a number of career paths over the next decade. Of those anticipated vacancies, the department has identified the 25 most in-demand occupations, which span sectors like production agriculture; animal health and veterinary services; landscaping; food manufacturing, forestry, lumber and wood products; and conservation and natural resources.

Livestock Growers Reminded to Review Revised Standard Animal Weights, Determine Effect on Their Farms

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New weights take effect October 1, 2019
Harrisburg, PA – Revised standard animal weights that take effect in 2019 could reclassify some livestock operations as Concentrated Animal Operations (CAOs) or Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), requiring those farms to adopt new levels of compliance with nutrient management laws.

Pennsylvania’s Nutrient Management Program regulations include a list of standard animal weights used to calculate whether a livestock operation qualifies as a CAO. The weights are periodically adjusted to reflect trends in contemporary production agriculture. The revised weights, approved in May 2017, take effect on October 1, 2019. They are detailed in Penn State Agronomy Facts sheet 54. Farmers have the option to use other average animal weights instead of the standard weights if there is sufficient documentation to support their use.

“We’re more than a year away from the implementation of the new standard animal weights, but, since developing and improving a nutrient management plan takes time, growers should start planning now to make sure that their farms are in compliance by fall of 2019,” said Redding. “We encourage growers to calculate their farms’ true average animal weights to ensure that nutrient management plans are appropriate for their operations. Otherwise, calculate plans with the new standard animal weights to see how they may affect classifications.”

CAOs are operations that have more than 2,000 pounds of animal weight (Animal Equivalent Units or AEUs) per acre of ground available for manure application. CAFOs are operations that have greater than 1,000 AEUs, or CAOs with greater than 300 AEUs, or an operation that meets a specific head count as defined by the Environmental Protection Agency, regardless of the amount of acres available to spread manure.

Operations that become newly classified as CAOs or CAFOs due to the new standard animal weights must have their nutrient management plan approved before October 1, 2019.

Current operations classified as CAOs or CAFOs must amend their nutrient management plans with the new standard animal weights within the three-year lifespan of their nutrient management plan.

“While not all agricultural operations require a nutrient management plan, they’re a good idea, regardless of farm size,” added Redding. “Nutrient management plans promote viable farms and healthy waterways, while providing some protection from liability and helping to demonstrate the agriculture community’s commitment to environmental stewardship.”

More information is available at county conservation districts or with private consultants, and at the Nutrient Management Program (Act 38) website. Visit https://extension.psu.edu/programs/nutrient-management and search either “standard animal weights” or “agronomy facts 54.”

A brochure sponsored by the Pennsylvania Agricultural Ombudsman program that county conservation technicians, and others, will provide to farmers in the course of compliance outreach, is forthcoming.

State Horse Racing Commission Approves Funding to Develop Tests to Detect Gene-doping in Race Horses

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Harrisburg, PA – The Pennsylvania Horseracing Commission unanimously approved $300,000 in funding to the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine’s New Bolton Center Equine Pharmacology Laboratory to research genetic markers that will indicate when a horse has been illegally genetically modified to enhance performance. Funding was approved at the commission’s May 31 meeting.

The Pennsylvania Horse Breeders Association proposed funding the research with an allocation from its portion of the State Horseracing Fund, which is managed by the commission and typically used for enhanced breeder incentives.

“This funding will help Pennsylvania’s horseracing industry stay ahead of those who would undermine its integrity,” said Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding, who sits on the commission. “It falls squarely within the purpose of the State Horseracing Fund to find owners and breeders who gain unfair advantage by illegally manipulating their horses’ genetics. Eliminating bad actors serves as an incentive to those who run a clean race and treat their animals ethically.”

PennVet’s New Bolton Center is one of three labs making up the Pennsylvania Animal Diagnostic Laboratory System, or PADLS, a partnership funded by the commonwealth with a mission of controlling and eradicating livestock and poultry diseases in Pennsylvania. Funding will enable the lab to establish a bank of genetic samples from healthy horses, or equine biomarkers. This bank will aid in the research to develop pre- and post-race blood tests to determine markers for doping.

For more information on the State Horseracing Commission or PADLS, visit agriculture.pa.gov