Archive for category northampton

Despite mom’s plea, judge jails Forks man who sold lethal dose of heroin

Thomas O’Brien was found unconscious Aug. 20, 2015 at his job. He died four days later due to acute heroin intoxication.

Daniel FisherDaniel Fisher Courtesy photo

Two mothers of addicts were in a Northampton County courtroom Monday morning.

One asked for justice for her son, who fatally overdosed on heroin.

The other asked for mercy for her once “very sick addict” son so could stay sober.

Senior Judge John Braxton opted for state prison for Daniel Fisher — three to six years — for drug delivery resulting in death related to the fatal overdose of 26-year-old Thomas O’Brien.

Braxton said said he believed in the forgiveness of sins, noting that Fisher admitted his guilt “in the face of overwhelming evidence.”

Forks man admits he provided fatal dose of heroin

Fisher, who lives in Forks Township, said the two men were friends, and Braxton said he was struck at how Fisher picked up O’Brien from work, took O’Brien to the bank and then sold him heroin.

“The priority was the greenbacks, the Benjamins,” Braxton said. “It was not helping a friend…when you took the money first, that made it just another drug deal, in the mind of the court.”

O’Brien was found unconscious Aug. 20, 2015 at his job. He died four days later due to acute heroin intoxication.

Facing Fisher in court, O’Brien’s mother, Shirley, sobbed as she described meeting Fisher for the first time months before her son died. Shirley O’Brien said she knew her son was using drugs, but that he didn’t want to go to rehab for fear of losing his job.

“I told (Fisher) to stay away from my son,” she said, adding she works at the courthouse and lied about having “connections.” “I thought I would scare him and make him stay away.”

After her son’s death, Shirley O’Brien said she went to the detective investigating his death and told him Fisher was responsible.

“I was out to get you, Dan,” she said. “You didn’t stay away. You should have known that I would.”

Fisher reportedly told the detectives he was expecting them because of the “O’Brien situation,” Shirley O’Brien said.

“I know people should be forgiving. But can I forgive the defendant? No. Never,” she said.

Fisher apologized in court, first to the crowd of friends and family in the courtroom to support him, and then to the O’Brien family.

“If I could change places with him, I would,” Fisher told the judge. “I never meant for anybody to get hurt in this. The only person I wanted to hurt was myself.”

Fisher said he has been sober for two years, and has worked through a 12-step program to help other addicts. He asked to avoid state prison in order to continue his work.

His mother, Joan Fisher, also asked for her son to avoid state prison. She described his dedication to staying sober and his work with other addicts. She also described drugs being available in state prison.

“I wish you would give him a chance to stay sober,” Joan Fisher said.

Firsher served house arrest for a possession with intent to deliver heroin charge. Defense attorney Phil Lauer asked the judge to give Fisher credit for that time, for his work related to drug addiction.

“I think he’s earned it,” Lauer said.

Braxton denied the request.

Sarah Cassi may be reached at Follow her on Twitter @SarahCassi. Find on Facebook.

WATCH: This Lehigh Valley city is a pioneer in police body cameras

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There’s some dispute over whether it’s going to be a warmer winter season.

Another top 10 fugitive nabbed; her daughter is busted too

The Northampton County Sheriff’s Department, working alone and with partners, picked up 9 fugitives in recent days.

Army vet suffering from PTSD admits killing father in Northampton

He was sentenced soon after the plea.

A U.S. Army reservist who served in Iraq and said he was suffering from PTSD pleaded guilty Friday to killing his father on Aug. 9, 2016, in…

Lehigh Valley Olympian joins race to succeed Charlie Dent in Congress

“Washington is a mess,” says gold-medalist Marty Nothstein.

Watch video

An Olympic champion cyclist has joined the race to Washington, hoping a conservative message will win him Rep. Charlie Dent’s seat in Congress.

“Washington is a mess,” Marty Nothstein said in a news release Thursday announcing his candidacy on the Republican ticket, and in a video on his campaign website. “Too many people in Congress think ‘good enough’ will do. Well, ‘good enough’ is not good enough for me.”

Nothstein is a Lehigh Valley native and resident of the Orefield area in Lehigh County. In 1996, he won a silver medal for cycling in the Atlanta Olympic Games and won gold in Sydney, Australia, four years later.

He now serves as chairman of the county commissioners, and runs a small business and non-profit that promotes bicycling programs for youths.

Nothstein is at least the third candidate to announce a run for Dent’s seat representing Pennsylvania’s 15th District, which includes all of Lehigh, and parts of Northampton, Berks, Dauphin and Lebanon counties.

Dent, a Republican centrist, has represented the district since 2004 but announced last month that he would not seek re-election in 2018.

Pennsylvania state Reps. Justin Simmons and Ryan MacKenzie have already announced their intentions to seek Dent’s seat.

The 2018 primary is May 15.

Steve Novak may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @type2supernovak and Facebook. Find on Facebook.

We torched rival Lehigh Valley gold business, pair admits in court

Prosecutors said they learned one of the man gave the names of two people who could do some ‘damage.’

Two men charged with arson in connection with a fire at a rival precious metals buying business in Lehigh County reached plea deals in their cases this week.

Stefan Skweir, 43, of Northampton Borough, and John Stettner, 55, of Slatington, each pleaded guilty to reckless burning or exploding in connection with a 2011 fire at AD Gold Exchange.

At the time of the fire, AD Gold Exchange was located off Route 309 in North Whitehall Township. The business moved to Hamilton Boulevard in Lower Macungie Township, and also has a location on Airport Road.

Pair accused of arson at rival business now facing trial

Their sentencings are set for Dec. 5. Skweir is free on $100,000 bail, and Stettner is free on 10 percent of $50,000 bail. They face up to seven years in prison. 

Skweir owns ANS Coins, which was up the road from AD Gold Exchange, and Stettner worked “on and off” at Skweir’s shop, witnesses previously testified.

Bonnie Jurta, an AD Gold Exchange employee, testified at a hearing in February that Skweir harassed her and owner Alan Dennis before the North Whitehall location opened up.

Skweir emailed the pair that they “better not open up there,” Jurta testified, and their landlord caught Skweir on the property.

What followed were harassing phone calls, both to the pair and calls to law enforcement complaining about the business, Jurta said. It escalated to Skweir driving slowly past the business and calling Jurta expletives, she testified.

Jurta said in the early morning of Sept. 14, 2011, Dennis got a call from the business’ alarm company. The pair thought it could be burglars, and told the alarm company to call the police.

Dennis went to the shop, and called Jurta to say the business was in flames, she testified. Fire crews were able to put the fire out, but the business sustained fire and smoke damage.

Pennsylvania State Police found a smashed front window and a large rock inside the business, as well as a gas can. Troopers also found a shoe print and a handprint on a window, but were unable to match that to a possible suspect.

Senior Deputy District Attorney Craig Scheetz said prosecutors learned Stettner gave Skweir the names of two people who could do some “damage” at AD Gold Exchange, and Skweir paid someone to set the blaze.

Sarah Cassi may be reached at Follow her on Twitter @SarahCassi. Find on Facebook.


Another local Kmart to close as Sears realigns, looks online

The region will lose two stores by the end of November.

Within weeks, the Allentown area will go from three Kmarts to one, the discount store’s parent company said.
In late …

Watch the PA Turnpike Northeast Extension bridge replacement

A detour that stretched over four days, into Monday morning, shut down a portion of the turnpike.

It provided some headaches for drivers, but the shutdown this weekend of part of…

Free St. Luke’s forum to discuss children’s mental health

The presentation followed by a question-and-answer session is slated for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at St. Luke’s University Hospital.

Every year, St. Luke’s University Hospital’s behavioral department brings in a speaker to discuss timely mental health topics with the public.

Two years ago, it was the stigma surrounding mental health.

Last year, the forum touched on connections between mental health and drug and alcohol use, said Amie Allanson-Dundon, a clinical supervisor of three different programs within St. Luke’s behavioral health department.

There were requests from attendees to have a talk focusing on mental health in children and adolescents, she said, and that’s what led to the topic for the free forum for the public Tuesday night at the hospital in Fountain Hill.

MORE: Forum assures teens it’s OK to talk about mental health, suicide

The forum will feature “Just Talk About It,” a 90-minute presentation on early detection of child and adolescent mental health and behavioral issues.

The presenter is Sheila Gillin, a licensed social worker and a certified child and adolescent psychotherapist who works as the clinical director for Minding Your Mind.

“They really want you to be able to identify what are the most common causes and effects of stress in kids. What is considered a crisis for a kid? What are the warning signs with self-harm and suicide?” Allanson-Dundon asked.

Allanson-Dundon, who has worked in the hospital’s behavioral health department for 20 years, said worldwide 10 to 20 percent of children and adolescents have mental or behavioral disorders.

That includes anxiety or depression brought on by daily events and stressors.

“Every other day we’re seeing trauma. Kids are seeing all of this. Not talking about it,” Allanson-Dundon said. “These kids are soaking in everything we’re soaking as adults. And what are they doing with it? They’ve got to put it somewhere.”

The New York Times magazine had an in-depth report publish Wednesday on the rise of anxiety and stress disorders in American children, specifically teenagers.

The article touches on a number of anxiety-inducing issues for teens, including social media, and links between anxiety, teens and use of smartphones.

“Anxious teenagers from all backgrounds are relentlessly comparing themselves with their peers and the results are almost uniformly distressing,” Stephanie Eken, a psychiatrist and the regional medical director for Rogers Behavioral Health, says in the article.

Tuesday’s talk at St. Luke’s is designed to train families and friends, including kids, on how to recognize stress, anxiety and depression, Allanson-Dundon said. The goal is to prevent incidents and episodes from reaching crisis levels.

“No one talks about it,” she said.

In May, researchers presented a study that found the number of children and adolescents admitted to children’s hospitals for suicidal thoughts more than doubled from 2008 to 2015.

The study found children from ages five to 17 that identified as having thoughts of suicide or self harm increased from 0.67 percent in 2008 to 1.79 percent in 2015.

If you can’t make it to the forum, Allanson-Dundon recommended contacting insurance companies to find in-network mental health providers, or call St. Luke’s behavioral health department at 484-526-2400.

St. Luke’s forum

What: A 90-minute presentation on early detection of child and adolescent mental health and behavioral issues, followed by a 30-minute expert panel Q&A.

When: 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 17

Where: Laros Auditorium, St. Luke’s University Hospital, 801 Ostrum St., Bethlehem.

Register here.

Sarah Cassi may be reached at Follow her on Twitter @SarahCassi. Find on Facebook.