Category: Armstrong County Court House

Ford City Suspects Plead Guilty to Drug Possession

Hank Kromer, of Manorville (photos courtesy of the Armstrong County Jail)

Hank Kromer, of Manorville (photos courtesy of the Armstrong County Jail)

A local man and a local woman part of a handful of alleged narcotics dealers and gun thieves arrested in Ford City in April have pled guilty.

Hank Kromer – of Manorville – and Stephanie Swinder – of Ford City – pled guilty to two counts each of misdemeanor drug possession during the end of last week before Armstrong County President Judge Kenneth Valasek.

Swinder – who pled on Thursday – was sentenced already to one year of probation, in addition to costs and fees.

April 1, Ford City, Manor Township and Kittanning Borough Police officers, along with Pennsylvania State Police troopers, arrested Kromer, Swindler, Chaunie Bennett of Templeton, Jayvon Craighead of Penn Hills and Marquis Rosser of Pittsburgh in a search warrant at 903 Fifth Ave in Ford City Borough.

According to court affidavits filed April 2, Ford City Police received a search warrant for the residence belonging to Swindler and executed a search warrant shortly before midnight that evening.

Stephanie Swindler, of Ford City (photos courtesy of the Armstrong County Jail)

Stephanie Swindler, of Ford City (photos courtesy of the Armstrong County Jail)

After securing several individuals inside the apartment, officers observed drug paraphernalia and illegal narcotics in plain view. Troopers later found suspected heroin, marijuana and crack cocaine in the residence, as well as stamp bags, Xanax pills and a burnt metal spoon among other items such as two stolen handguns.

Former-Ford City Borough Police Chief Roger Wright said the suspected illegal activity has been “ongoing” for some time in the municipality.

“The aforementioned residence had been known to this department to be one of the largest and most complex dealers of illegal narcotics in our borough,” Chief Wright wrote in a previous news release.

All five individuals are charged with either one or two counts of felony receiving stolen property, felony possession with intent to manufacture or deliver, felony corrupt organizations and misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia.

Ford City Police Sergeant Johnathan Freel previously said he received information from ARMNET Area Coordinator Frank Pitzer that led to the search warrant.

“In this day in age, you need to have the cooperation of other departments. It felt good getting everybody involved,” Sergeant Freel said. “It’s something we see, and we do feel helpless at times to do anything about it just because police officers are restricted by laws – criminals are not.

“A lot of good work transpired that night, and we got lucky. In the end, it took every last one of us to pull that off.”

Impaired Templeton Driver Sentenced to Prison

 Margaretta Askey

A Templeton woman who fled from Pennsylvania State Police troopers in early-January and drove in the wrong direction along State Route 422 was sentenced to jail yesterday morning.

Armstrong County Court of Common Pleas Judge James Panchik accepted Margaretta Askey’s pleas of guilty to aggravated assault, fleeing/eluding police, driving under the influence and reckless driving, waiving a jury trial that she made in May. Askey will now serve 15-60 months (or more than a year to five years) at the State Correctional Institution at Muncy (Lycoming County).

Askey – 31 – had been charged with dozens of charges, but most of her misdemeanor charges were withdrawn due to the plea.

She will be credited with 205 days behind bars, but will also have to perform 50 hours of community service, attend ARC Manor and undergo a mental health evaluation; as well as pay more than $3,500 in fines. .

Early January 7, State troopers based out of the Kittanning barracks allegedly witnessed Askey traveling westbound in the eastbound lanes of State Route 422.

For 12 miles – from Manor Township through Clearfield Township in Butler County -, four troopers in two State units pursued Askey’s vehicle at speeds up to 95 miles per hour until Askey crashed.

During the approximately 10-minute pursuit, no State Police troopers or members of the public were injured – though 18 vehicles were noted as victims in addition to the four pursuing troopers.

At one point in West Franklin Township, investigating officer Trooper Brian Wolfe noted in his information release that Askey intentionally steered her 2006 Ford Freestyle SUV into the side of one of the pursuing State Police units.

Police allege that Askey intentionally caused more than $7,200 in damage to a State-issued 2014 Ford Taurus police cruiser during the January 7 incident.

Askey was flown to UPMC Presbyterian Hospital in Pittsburgh for injuries she sustained during the vehicle crash.

State Police later said Askey’s drivers license was suspended or revoked and was driving while under the influence of alcohol – a summary offense.

As of June 30, SCI Muncy (formerly known as the Industrial School for Women) had an institutional population of more than 1,400.

Trial Pending for Ford City Man

Even though the stepmother of a six-year-old Ford City boy shot last August will not face trail, her husband will.

After a motion was filed last month, Armstrong County Court of Common Pleas President Judge Kenneth Valasek accepted Crista’s request for six months in an Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program and 25 hours of community service.

According to State law, the pre-trial intervention program allows rehabilitation of the accused with no or limited prior record.

Judge Valasek also withdrew a felony count of knowingly endangering the welfare of children by violating a duty of care, protection or support – namely, by knowingly leaving unsecured and unsupervised guns and ammunition within the home in violation of Section 4304(a) of the PA Crimes Code.

However, last week, Judge Valasek denied Christopher B. McNeely’s guilty plea of misdemeanor reckless endangering another person during his sentencing proceeding – meaning trial is imminent.

Christopher is also charged with the two felony endangering the welfare of children charges, but also faces two felony charges of possession of a firearm by a minor and two charges of misdemeanor recklessly endangering another person.

Both were arrested in September.

Aug. 5, 2015, the couple’s nine-year-old son was playing with his father’s Ruger .380 pistol, using the laser sight to play with their dog in the kitchen. According to the affidavit of probable cause, the boy stopped playing with that weapon after the dog began baring. It was then that he picked up a 9mm Ruger pistol, removed its “ammo pack” and aimed it at the floor, but had accidentally shot his six-year-old half-brother.

After being interviewed by police, Crista reported that Christopher unloaded both guns ad made sure no bullets were in them the night before. She also told police the children were not permitted to play with the guns prior to the incident, but have with the Ruger .380 pistol.

Christopher also told police the handguns were empty and that he had even “dry fired” them to make sure. He then reloaded the magazines with ammunition and put the loaded magazines in each weapon, however, and left the weapons on top of the kitchen counter before going upstairs for the night.

Rifles and a shotgun were stored in a son’s bedroom. Police searched the home that day and found the pistols in the kitchen, but also five unsecured long guns and more than 8,600 rounds of ammunition on the bedroom floor at the base of the nine-year-old’s bed.