Category: Local News

Heroin Dealer Arrested in Cowanshannock Township

by Jonathan Weaver

While local law enforcement officials have arrested a local man for allegedly dealing heroin January 11, police are on the lookout for another as well.

Friday, Armstrong County District Attorney Scott Andreassi announced the arrest of 32-year-old Mark Dongilli.

When ARMNET agents attempted to locate two suspected heroin dealers January 12, they found a child left unattended in the freezing rain. 32-year-old Mark Dongilli - one of the suspected dealers - and 28-year-old Kayla Schreckengost accepted responsibility for neglecting the child. (Armstrong County Jail inmate photographs)

When ARMNET agents attempted to locate two suspected heroin dealers January 12, they found a child left unattended in the freezing rain. 32-year-old Mark Dongilli – one of the suspected dealers – and 28-year-old Kayla Schreckengost accepted responsibility for neglecting the child. (Armstrong County Jail inmate photographs)

According to criminal complaints filed by ARMNET agents, agents conducted a controlled purchase of heroin at a residence along State Route 85 in Cowanshannock Township. The complaint alleges another male involved – 30-year-old Jesse Nolder – directed a confidential informant to meet with Dongilli at the address and that Nolder directed Dongilli to provide the confidential informant with stamp bags of heroinThe sale was performed January 11 as Nolder – who is believed to be avoiding law enforcement officials – directed.

Both are charged with possession of a controlled substance, felony possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance, felony delivery of a controlled substance, criminal used of a communication facility, criminal conspiracy and possession of drug paraphernalia.

On January 12, agents attempted to locate Dongilli and Nolder at the residence when agents and Armstrong County deputies observed a six-year-old boy on the porch of the residence in the frigid temperatures and pouring rain, cold and wet. Agents found the residence to be locked and no one to answer the door.

The child’s mother was contacted and arrived at the residence about 30 minutes later. It was at this time that the mother advised police that Dongilli and a 28-year-old Kittanning woman – Kayla Schreckengost – were to assist in getting the child from the bus and escort him to the residence. However, upon the mother allowing agents to enter the residence, police found Dongilli and Schreckengost passed out on the basement floor..

Schreckengost told agents she was injecting suboxone – a prescription drug used for treatment of opioid drug dependence – into her neck. She and Dongilli accepted responsibility of the child.

Dongilli and Schreckengost face felony charges with endangering the welfare of the child.

According to online court documents, Schreckengost is also suspected of felony burglary, criminal trespass and theft by unlawful taking for an East Franklin Township incident at the end of December 2016.

Both are incarcerated in the Armstrong County Jail – Dongilli being held on $30,000 cash or property bond.

Preliminary hearings in the felony endangerment case are scheduled before Magisterial District Judge Daniel George in Rural Valley Tuesday afternoon.

Blight Grant to Assist in Municipal Revitalization

County Commissioners (back to front) George Skamai, Pat Fabian and Jason Renshaw listen to Planning and Development Executive Director Rich Palilla as he describes a $100,000 grant award Armstrong County received to tackle blight.

County Commissioners (back to front) George Skamai, Pat Fabian and Jason Renshaw listen to Planning and Development Executive Director Rich Palilla as he describes a $100,000 grant award Armstrong County received to tackle blight.

by Jonathan Weaver

In the next few weeks, Armstrong County community leaders should make a list of abandoned or neglected structures in their areas due to a new grant opportunity.

Last week, Armstrong County Commissioners Pat Fabian, Jason Renshaw and George Skamai acknowledged the receipt of a $100,000 state Economic Development and Community Development Initiatives Program grant to address blight remediation.

County Planning and Development Executive Director Rich Palilla said the grant was obtained after discussions with State Senator Don White (Armstrong/Indiana) about community revitalization. He said discussions with elected officials indicate the problem is found in various parts of the county.

“The money will be used to conduct a survey of local municipalities to determine the extent of blight and blighted properties throughout these municipalities, and will also be used to develop model ordinances and certain enforcement techniques to help communities address the problem of blighted properties,” Palilla said.

In the event that a focused property is already undergoing community development, the impacted property can be purchased using budgeted money for demolition or renovation.

“We anticipate following a model that has been done in other counties – it won’t be very costly,” Palilla said. “There is a draft survey form to go out to local municipalities to ask them to identify blighted properties and asking how they are enforcing what they have.

“We hope to get a good response, and based on that response, will go forward and identify appropriate projects.”

Word of the county’s grant award came to Planning and Development officials a few weeks ago.

Palilla added that while many municipalities have building codes or nuisance ordinances, they are difficult to enforce.

“What we want to do is make sure that our local municipalities know what’s available to them and provide technical assistance if they want to more-aggressively enforce,” Palilla added.

Commissioner Skamai said the problem was also addressed by local residents at September town hall meetings.

“They look for that leadership from the county,” Skamai said.

Palilla characterized the grant as “a seed grant to get a program started.” Other sources of revenue have been discussed by county officials.

Commissioner Fabian was appreciative Senator White heard the community blight concern.

Armstrong County has never received a similar special purpose grant through the Department of Community and Economic Development. Projects have to be executed by June 2018.