Plum woman accused of punching, kicking Vandergrift police is Megan’s Law offender

posted Apr 11, 2019, 7:16 PM by Joseph Gray   [ updated Apr 11, 2019, 7:17 PM ]

Courtesy of Vandergrift police
Candy Yockey

A 41-year-old Plum woman registered as a sex offender under Megan’s Law is accused of assaulting two Vandergrift police officers on Sunday.

Candy Yockey of Ivory Avenue is accused of punching one officer and kicking another when they responded to a report of a woman bleeding from her mouth along the side of a road.

According to arrest papers, a woman told police she was giving Yockey a ride home from a party because Yockey was drunk. During the ride, the woman told police, Yockey began to punch her so she pulled over at Hamilton and Franklin avenues and removed Yockey from her car.

The woman told police Yockey injured her mouth while she was being pulled from the car.

“Officers arrived to find an extremely intoxicated woman. They found she was bleeding from her face,” said police Chief Joe Caporali.

According to police, they made arrangements to transport Yockey to a friend’s house but, when they arrived there, police say Yockey told them she wanted to go back to state prison.

According to the police report, she asked, “What do I have to do to go to state prison? I’m going to punch one of you,” she told police.

The report says Yockey then punched one officer and kicked a second officer.

Police arrested Yockey and charged her with two counts of aggravated assault on police officers.

Yockey was arraigned in Westmoreland County night court and released on $1,000 bond pending a hearing on the charges next week.

Yockey has served time in a state prison and is listed on the state’s Megan’s Law offender list.

Court records show that, in April 2000, she started a two- to six-year prison sentence for involuntary deviate sexual intercourse. She served the maximum time and, in January 2006, was released.

She was sent back to state prison in October 2010 for failure to comply with sexual offender registration on the previous case and released in January 2014.

She must report to state police for life.

Chuck Biedka is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chuck at 724-226-4711, or via Twitter .

Police: Vandergrift man robbed by 3 others — including an armed boy, 15

posted Apr 11, 2019, 7:12 PM by Joseph Gray


Two Vandergrift men and a teen are charged with armed robbery and other counts in the holdup of another resident.

Officer Bill Moore said the incident took place Friday afternoon along the 100 block of Custer Avenue.

He said the victim, a man in his early 30s, went to visit Daniel Baker, 30, at his home along Custer Avenue, where Nathaniel Beer, 37, and a 15-year-old boy were waiting for him.

Moore said Beer showed a knife, the boy showed a gun and Baker went through the man’s pockets, taking $30.

Beer and the boy then took the victim to his home along Longfellow Street, where they attempted to steal more money.

Moore said the man was able to get inside and keep the suspects out.

Police arrived and captured Beer and the boy after a brief chase. Baker was arrested at his home.

All three are charged with armed robbery, simple assault, theft and receiving stolen property.

Baker and Beer were taken to Westmoreland County jail, and the boy was taken to a juvenile detention center.

The boy is being charged as an adult. Police declined to release his name.

No injuries were reported.

Michael DiVittorio is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Michael at 412-871-2367, or via Twitter .

Vandergrift Police Department "2018 Feed The Families Project"

posted Nov 26, 2018, 6:55 PM by Joseph Gray   [ updated Nov 26, 2018, 6:58 PM ]

            On behalf of the Vandergrift Police Department I would like to personally thank the public for its generosity in helping the police department with the 2018 “Feed the Families Project.”


The police department was able to feed over 35 families this year and without your faith, hope and love for our community, this would not have happened.


            Thank you once again…




Ofc Joe Gray


“So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”


1 Corinthians 13:13


Jones Turkey Farm

G n G Restaurant

Tees n Tops

AJ's Restaurant

Sweet Lane Sweet Shop

1st Baptist Church of Vandergrift

First Catholic Slovak Ladies Assoc. J126 

Good News Center

Councilwoman Kathy Chvala

Councilman Lenny Collini

Cary Rigatti

Brenda Gray

Kelly Gray

David & Marilee Kessler

Linda Murry

Julia & Terry Martin

and the many private and anonymous donators

Woman charged with fatally shooting man in Vandergrift home

posted Oct 19, 2018, 4:39 AM by Joseph Gray   [ updated Oct 19, 2018, 4:41 AM ]


Vandergrift Police investigate the report of a man shot at a residence in the 500 block of Longfellow Street on Thursday night, Oct. 18, 2018.
Michael DiVittorio | Tribune-Review
Vandergrift Police investigate the report of a man shot at a residence in the 500 block of Longfellow Street on Thursday night, Oct. 18, 2018.

A woman living in the Vandergrift home where a man was shot to death late Thursday night has been arrested on homicide charges, authorities announced.

Police responding to the 500 block of Longfellow Street shortly after 10 p.m. found a man dead from a gunshot wound when they arrived, according to emergency officials.

The incident was initally reported to 911 as a home invasion. But investigators determined that the victim was visiting Ashley Croft, who lived in the home, Vandergrift police chief Joseph Caporali told reporters.

The chief said Croft was interviewed by Westmoreland County detectives and will be charged today with criminal homicide.

No additional details were available about Croft’s relationship to the victim or what lead to the shooting.

The Westmoreland County Coroner’s Office has not yet released the victim’s identity.

Tony LaRussa and Michael DiVittorio are Tribune-Review staff writers.

Police: Homeless couple ran meth lab at Vandergrift home of person who took them in

posted Oct 18, 2018, 4:49 AM by Joseph Gray

A man and woman are accused of starting a meth lab in a home on Vandergrift’s Franklin Avenue shortly after the homeowner invited them to stay there because they were homeless.

Kiell Thomas Freeman and Tia Charmagne Klazon, both 32, face felony charges of operating a methamphetamine lab and risking a catastrophe and misdemeanor counts including reckless endangerment and drug offenses.

Court documents say Franklin Avenue homeowner Mary Iverson invited Freeman and Klazon to stay at her home because they were homeless.

Within two days of Klazon and Freeman moving in, Iverson told police she became suspicious of their behavior. She said she saw them carrying numerous garbage bags into her attic, and she later found numerous ingredients and other items there that she believed were related to making meth, according to court documents.

Police arrested Klazon at Iverson’s home on Monday. A search of Klazon’s belongings turned up a notebook containing a list of items consistent with making meth, and products and byproducts used in making meth were found in the attic, police said.

It was not known when or where Freeman was arrested.

Vandergrift police did not return messages. A phone message left on a number listed for Iverson wasn’t immediately returned.

Preliminary hearings for Freeman and Klazon are scheduled for Oct. 30 — Freeman before District Judge Cheryl Peck-Yakopec and Klazon before District Judge L. Anthony Bompiani.

Both were being held in Westmoreland County Prison after failing to post $100,000 bail.

Madasyn Czebiniak is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Madasyn at 724-226-4702, or via Twitter @maddyczebstrib.

FBI joins hunt for missing Vandergrift girl, 16, last seen June 26

posted Jul 7, 2018, 4:09 AM by Joseph Gray

Stefanie Grantham with her daughter, Lena Dixon. Lena has been missing since June 26.
Courtesy of Stefanie Grantham
Stefanie Grantham with her daughter, Lena Dixon. Lena has been missing since June 26.

Police seek info

Lena Dixon is 5-feet-4 inches tall and weighs about 170 pounds. She has brown eyes and brown hair.

Anyone with information is asked to call Vandergrift police at 724-568-5507 or 911.

The FBI has joined in the hunt for a teenage Vandergrift girl who has been missing for over a week.

Lena Dixon, 16, was last seen about 4 p.m. June 26 when she left her job at McDonald's restaurant on Hyde Park Road in Allegheny Township.

Dixon voluntarily stepped into a white Chrysler 300 with dark tinted windows driven by an older man she may have met on the internet, according to her mother, Stefanie Grantham.

“She willingly got into the vehicle, but we don't know if she is willingly staying or if she is being held against her will,” said Grantham, 35, who also has two younger children.

The FBI in Pittsburgh confirmed they are assisting Vandergrift police in the case.

Vandergrift police did not return calls for comment.

According to Grantham, there was a reported sighting of Dixon in Leechburg.

But beyond that, she and police have been tracking down friends, trying to get more information and get the word out that Dixon is still missing.

Grantham calls her daughter's cellphone at least eight times a day, “especially when I go to bed and when I wake up,” she said.

The phone has been turned off and isn't set up to take messages, Grantham said.

She and her family have been monitoring Dixon's Facebook and other social media accounts, but the girl has not been using them, Grantham said.

Grantham dropped Dixon off at McDonald's on June 26 as she always did to start the 3:30 to 8 p.m. shift. They did their ritual hug, kiss and “I love you” as Dixon got out of the car.

When Grantham returned at 8 p.m. to pick up Dixon, she waited, but her daughter never came out.

She learned that her daughter told her manager that she wasn't feeling well only a half-hour into her shift.

Dixon went into the bathroom then outside in the parking area, walking back and forth before she got into a white Chrysler 300, according to video surveillance.

“We all just want her home safely and to know that she is OK,” Grantham said.

The waiting is hard for Grantham, who worries about her daughter's fate, if she's eating and clean and taken care of.

“When I'm by myself, it's the worst,” she said.

Mary Ann Thomas is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-226-4691

Vandergrift police looking for 16-year-old girl missing since June 26

posted Jul 1, 2018, 4:16 AM by Joseph Gray


Lena Dixon
Vandgrift Police
Lena Dixon

Police say a 16-year-old Vandergrift girl has been missing since Tuesday.

Lena Dixon was last seen about 4 p.m. June 26, when she left work shortly after she arrived.

She was at work about 20 minutes at the McDonald's restaurant on Hyde Park Road in Allegheny Township but left.

Dixon was last seen getting into a white Chrysler 300 with dark tinted windows.

She was wearing her McDonald's employee uniform.

Relatives said she was last seen by them about 3:30 p.m. Tuesday when she was dropped off for work.

Dixon is 5-feet-4 inches tall and weighs about 170 pounds. She has brown eyes and brown hair.

Anyone with information is asked to call Vandergrift police at 724-568-5507 or 911.

Chuck Biedka is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-226-4711,

Vandergrift police, acting on tip, catch hit-and-run driving suspect

posted Jul 1, 2018, 4:14 AM by Joseph Gray


Police say a Washington Township woman left the scene of an accident May 2 during which she injured a motorcyclist.

Bonnie Joyce Guzzi, 55, of Linger Longer Road is charged with failing to stop and give information or aid, accidents involving injury and related charges.

Guzzi waived her right to a preliminary hearing Tuesday before District Judge James Andring in Leechburg.

Police were sent to the intersection of Hancock Avenue and Walnut Street, Vandergrift, to a report that a man on a motorcycle had been injured in a crash with a four-door car, according to court documents. Officers were advised the sedan had left the scene of the accident.

The victim told police he was entering the intersection when the driver of a burgundy Ford Focus cut him off, causing him to strike the passenger side of her car.

After the crash, the victim told police an older woman with gray hair got out of the Focus and approached him. That woman said she needed to head back to her car but proceeded to leave the scene of the accident, the victim said.

The motorcyclist was transported by ambulance to Forbes Hospital in Monroeville with injuries to his leg and neck, police said.

Witnesses on scene confirmed the victim's story, according to police.

Almost a week later, Allegheny Township police Officer Charity Butz reached out to Vandergrift officers to say she had received information from a source claiming the vehicle involved might be found at a residence on Linger Longer Road in Washington Township.

When officers arrived at that home, they found a burgundy Ford Focus with damage to both passenger side doors parked in the driveway.

Guzzi answered the door. Officers asked if she knew why they were there, to which she allegedly replied, “no.”

Police say when officers asked how Guzzi's car had come to be damaged, Guzzi put her head down and started to cry before saying, “It was an accident, honest. I didn't see him until he hit my car!”

Guzzi is free on bond ahead of a plea court hearing scheduled for Aug. 22 before Westmoreland County Judge Meagan A. Bilik-DeFazio in Greensburg.

Matthew Medsger is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-226-4675,

Vandergrift policeman remembered for honesty, love of family

posted Jun 13, 2018, 4:12 AM by Joseph Gray   [ updated Jun 13, 2018, 4:13 AM ]


Vandergrift police Officer Bob Kirkland, 2015.
File photo
Vandergrift police Officer Bob Kirkland, 2015.

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Robert Kirkland is remembered as a faithful police officer and family man.Kirkland, 44, of Vandergrift and for many years Lower Burrell, died Friday in Allegheny General Hospital where he was taken after becoming ill.

He was a police officer in Vandergrift for 21 years.

He was a son, husband and father who understood honor and responsibility, fellow officers said.

In 2008, when a part-time officer's infant daughter needed surgery, Kirkland organized a fundraiser.

When the name of Lower Burrell Patrolman Derrick Kotecki was added to the wall at the national police museum in 2012, Kirkland and his family were there with other Alle-Kiski Valley officers.

He was a part of the Attorney General's drug task force and was active with the Lower Burrell volunteer fire company and emergency services.

Vandergrift municipal flags are flying at half-mast in honor of Kirkland.

Mayor Barbara Turiak said the borough was stunned by the death . “We are a family and the family will truly miss him,” she said.

“He was always truthful and you could always count on him,” Vandergrift Sgt. Anthony DePanicis said.

“I am broken hearted. I remember the day he started. I spent a lot of time with him. He was very close to his family. He was the most honest officer I have ever met.”

Kirkland preferred watching his sons play sports rather than any professional games, DePanicis said.He said Kirkland was a responsible man who earned his own way. Kirkland started part-time for the Vandergrift department. “He worked part-time for a tool and die company until he was hired full-time,” DePanicis added.

Officers from neighboring police departments said they knew and liked Kirkland.

“The members of the Lower Burrell Police Department were saddened to hear about the passing of Officer Kirkland. He was a well liked and respected member of the local law enforcement community. Our thoughts and prayers are with his loved ones,” Chief Tim Weitzel said.

Allegheny Township police Sgt. Dan Uncapher also worked with Kirkland.“He was an all-around good person. He was a good officer and very much a family man. He is missed.”

Kirkland is survived by his parents, James and Patricia Kirkland of Lower Burrell, wife, Vicki Lyn Margita Kirkland, two sons, Connor and Cooper Kirkland at home, brother James (Karrie) Kirkland of Norwalk, Ohio, sister Nancy (Joseph) Bielata of New Kensington, and numerous nieces, nephews and cousins.

Friends will be received Monday from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at The Rusiewicz of Lower Burrell Funeral Home, 3124 Leechburg Road.

A funeral service will be held there Tuesday at 11 a.m. by the Rev. Harold Mele. Burial will be private.

The FOP Lodge 39 will conduct services at 6 p.m. Monday in the funeral home.

Chuck Biedka is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-226-4711, or via Twitter @ChuckBiedka.

Vandergrift looks to counsel, not just prosecute, vandals

posted May 21, 2018, 4:36 AM by Joseph Gray


Jack Fordyce | Tribune-Review

Coming up

Who: Vandergrift's Community Watch

What: Meeting on dealing with solutions to youth vandalism

When: 7 p.m. Thursday

Where: Vandergrift borough building, 109 Grant Ave. Vandergrift, Pa. 15690

Details: Facebook page “It's your community Vandergrift"

Rather than focus on punishment for juveniles throwing rocks at cars and other vandalism, Vandergrift's Community Watch is asking residents to help at-risk local youth.

The public is invited to the Community Watch meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday in the borough building, 151 Lincoln Ave.

The meeting will feature the Westmoreland County Youth Commission, which promotes intervention and community volunteers to mentor at-risk youth.

“We want residents to know that there's more out there besides catching and fining the kids,” said Marilee Kessler, a Vandergrift resident and coordinator of Community Watch, an effort led by borough police and the Vandergrift Improvement Program.

There has been a spate of youth vandalism and other nonviolent crimes in the past few months, according to Vandergrift police Officer Joe Gray.

“These are isolated incidents involving a small group,” he said. “The kids of Vandergrift are really good kids,” Gray added.

• Kids throwing rocks at cars on East Vandergrift Lane in the last two weeks. No one has been injured, but cars have been damaged. Police are investigating.

• Spray-paint graffiti, mostly nondescript, in more than a dozen locations in Vandergrift, East Vandergrift and Apollo. Police solved the case as some of the suspects spray-painted their own names. Four teenage boys were cited and fined for criminal mischief.

• Police have identified three boys breaking a bench in Kennedy Park as the action was caught on a video camera. They have not cited them yet, according to Gray.

“There is a small group of kids who feel that they don't have to answer to anyone and they're frustrated and kind of having fun,” said Kessler, whose garage door was spray-painted by one of the vandals.

“People try to keep their properties nice and kids don't seem to understand,” she said.

Kessler who is a Realtor, added, “if there's a lot of vandalism, people will think twice about wanting to relocate here, she said.

Mary Ann Thomas is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-226-4691, or via Twitter @MaThomas_Trib.

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