2017 Caps for Kids & Adopt a Family Project.

posted Jan 9, 2018, 3:07 PM by Joseph Gray   [ updated Jan 10, 2018, 7:21 PM ]

A special thank you from the Vandergrift Police Department for making these projects such a success.

“What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.” - Jane Goodall

585 hats were given to the children that attend Kiski Area School District (East Primary).

In addition SEVEN families were able to have a Christmas dinner for their children, and toys to open from Santa.

Thanks to the following:

























Fire displaces Vandergrift family of 3, no one hurt

posted Oct 27, 2017, 10:37 PM by Joseph Gray


Firefghters battle a blaze at the scene of a house fire on Custer Avenue in Vandergrift on Friday, Oct. 27, 2017.
Chuck Biedka | Tribune-Review
Firefghters battle a blaze at the scene of a house fire on Custer Avenue in Vandergrift on Friday, Oct. 27, 2017.

Firefighters at first feared someone was trapped inside a Vandergrift house Friday night.

Fortunately, Danielle Rago, the only person in the house on Custer Street, was able to get out without injury. No firefighters or police were injured either.

Vandergrift No. 1 Fire Chief Randy Dunmire said thick smoke was encountered on the first and second floors of the brick house, which is along a row of tightly packed houses.

Rago said she was doing laundry in the basement when she went upstairs and saw smoke. She called Westmoreland County 911 just after 7:30 p.m.

Two of Rago's relatives who live with her weren't home.

The fire was found in a second-floor front bedroom, Dunmire said, and volunteers from the Vandergrift, Parks and West Leechburg departments went to work.

When Dunmire entered the house, he saw “heavy fire and burning into the walls.”

Firefighters were able to quench the flames within about 30 minutes.

There was an unknown amount of interior damage, and some plastic molding was melted on the front porch. Windows that faced the front street were broken and the window sills were covered with soot.

Firefighters managed to keep the flames away from neighboring houses less than 4 feet away, but there was a good bit of smoke, said Sue Baillie, who has lived next door for 17 years.

A state police deputy fire marshal will look at the damage Saturday, Dunmire said.

Rago will be assisted by relatives and the American Red Cross, he added.

Dunmire and some members of the George G. McMurtry Fire Department 1 were only about 400 yards away from the burning house when they were summoned to their firehouse on Franklin Avenue.

They were attending the last Kiski Area High School game at Davis Field.

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

Vandergrift man, 47, accused of sexually assaulting a child

posted Oct 27, 2017, 8:40 PM by Joseph Gray


David Cook
Courtesy of the Westmoreland County Prison
David Cook

A Vandergrift man is accused of sexually assaulting an Alle-Kiski Valley child last July.

On Monday, David Shawn Cook, 47, was arraigned by District Judge Cheryl Peck Yakopec. She ordered him held in the Westmoreland County Prison in lieu of straight $50,000 bond pending an Oct. 31 preliminary hearing.

Cook is facing 11 charges.

Police say the assault happened July 13 in a bathroom.

Arrest papers were filed Aug. 31, but according to court records, Cook wasn't found until Sunday. He has been jailed since then as he awaits the hearing.

According to court records, Cook, of Sumner Avenue, has been fined or served county jail sentences for crimes including promoting prostitution, having drugs, harassment and assault in the county.

According to the state Department of Corrections, Cook entered a state prison on Sept. 19, 1995 to serve two to four years for drugs in Westmoreland County.

He was paroled about 2 12 years later.

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

Vandergrift police arrest 2 suspects after finding 2 pounds of marijuana

posted Sep 26, 2017, 2:28 PM by Joseph Gray

Vandergrift police allege two men were selling marijuana from a Lowell Street house. Police on Sunday confiscated two pounds of marijuana, drug paraphernalia and a shotgun.
Courtesy of Vandergrift Police
Vandergrift police allege two men were selling marijuana from a Lowell Street house. Police on Sunday confiscated two pounds of marijuana, drug paraphernalia and a shotgun.

A Vandergrift patrolman at first used his nose to find drugs in a Lowell Street house early Sunday.

The officer was investigating a call about possible drugs first smelled smoke, and then marijuana, along the 200 block of Lowell Street, police said.

Sgt. Tony DePanicis said the patrolman, Jared Kepple, smelled marijuana smoke at about 1 a.m. Sunday when driving to the house.

As Kepple and his partner, Joseph Albaugh, walked up on the porch from where the smoke was emanating through an open window, police say they could see into the house. People inside apparently were hiding what appeared to be drugs, DePanicis said.

“One of the officers detained the three people inside and the other officer went for a search warrant,” DiPanicis said.

Once a district judge issued the warrant, the officers searched the house.

DiPanicis said the officers found two pounds of marijuana, a 12-gauge shotgun and drug paraphernalia.

Ronald A. McManus III, 22, who was living at the address, and Drew A. Lamison, 29, of Chamberlain Street, Leechburg, are accused of having marijuana with intent of selling it. They are also charged with having drug paraphernalia and illegal drug possession.

A third person was detained temporarily but not charged.

McManus and Lamison were arraigned and their bonds were set at $5,000 each.

A preliminary hearing is scheduled for McManus and Lamison by District Judge Cheryl Peck Yakopec on Oct. 3.

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

SUV goes over Vandergrift hillside with 2-year-old inside

posted Aug 8, 2017, 7:46 PM by Joseph Gray

Joe Gray | Vandergrift Police Department
A 2-year-old boy got out of this SUV unharmed despite being unrestrained inside when it went 100 to 150 feet down a hillside toward railroad tracks in Vandergrift on Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2017.

A 2-year-old boy was “as happy as could be” after getting out of an SUV that was destroyed when it went over a Vandergrift hillside Tuesday afternoon, borough police said.

“I don't know how he didn't get hurt,” Officer Joe Gray said. “Thank God he's OK.”

The child was playing inside the 1996 Chevrolet Blazer while his mother was cleaning it out around 3:30 p.m. behind a house in the 200 block of Sherman Avenue.

At one point, the vehicle's gearshift was put into “Drive.”

It rolled out of the driveway, across First Street, and 100 to 150 feet down a hill toward railroad tracks, Gray said.

The 30-year-old mother, who name was not released, saw the car starting to move as she walked away from it.

She was run over and dragged when she tried to get in to stop it.

The SUV ultimately wedged between two trees at the bottom of the hill, Gray said.

“The little guy — I don't know how he did it — but he was able to get out of the vehicle, and it was completely destroyed,” Gray said. “He had no bumps, no bruises, no scrapes. He was as happy as could be.”

Despite her injuries, the boy's mother and a neighbor went down the hill to get the boy.

The woman suffered minor abrasions and bruises and was complaining of back pain, Gray said.

Both mother and child went to Allegheny Valley Hospital in Harrison to be checked out, Gray said. She went by ambulance.

Gray said the keys were in the SUV's ignition, but was not turned on, or in the accessory position.

Its column-mounted shifter was in Drive, and the child was the only one inside.

Gray said police would have a mechanic examine the SUV to check its transmission and safety systems to try to figure out why it rolled away like it did.

Norfolk Southern was notified and the railroad tracks were shut down for about an hour, Gray said. There was no damage to the tracks.

Brian C. Rittmeyer is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-226-4701, or on Twitter @BCRittmeyer

Vandergrift police ID couple involved in shooting

posted Jul 20, 2017, 9:30 PM by Joseph Gray

Chuck Biedka | Thursday, July 20, 2017, 12:45 p.m.
Emily Balser | Tribune-Review
Police investigate the scene of an apparent shooting on Grant Avenue in Vandergrift on Wednesday, July 19, 2017.

Authorities said Thursday a young mother underwent surgery for three bullet wounds she received Wednesday night in her residence along Grant Avenue in Vandergrift.

Chloe C. Kruse, 28, of Grant Avenue was listed in critical condition at Forbes Hospital in Monroeville as of Thursday night.

Police said Ronald J. Prettyman, 32, who was Kruse's boyfriend, also is in critical condition after he wounded himself.

Prettyman had lived with Kruse until they split several months ago, and was living elsewhere in the borough, Vandergrift police Chief Joe Caporali said.

Police said four gunshots were heard just after 6:30 p.m. Wednesday along Grant Avenue. Kruse was shot three times in her abdomen, and Prettyman allegedly shot himself in the head, police said.

Caporali said the couple was separated but he frequently visited the residence to see their three children, ages 1 to 5.

The argument happened on the second floor of the residence. Police found a .380-caliber pistol.

Kruse's mother was inside the house at the time of the shooting and was taking care of the children.

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

3 arrested in Vandergrift after high-speed chase; pursuit reached 86 mph

posted Jun 30, 2017, 4:48 AM by Joseph Gray


Madasyn Czebiniak | Thursday, June 29, 2017, 11:30 p.m.

Three men were arrested early Wednesday — one of whom was revived from a suspected overdose — after Vandergrift police say they were involved in a high-speed chase after the suspects broke into a vehicle along La Belle Vue Road.

Arrested were Ryan Seybert, 27, of Allegheny Township, John Jacob Kemerer, 26, of Parks Township and John Francis Kemerer, 49, of Vandergrift.

Police were called to the scene just before 2:30 a.m. for reports of people breaking into vehicles on La Belle Vue Road, according to arrest papers written by Officer Joseph Albaugh.

Albaugh arrived to find a running vehicle parked on the side of the road. He said a man was outside that vehicle, next to a truck, which had a door open and its interior lights on.

When the man saw the police, he got inside the running vehicle, which took off.

A chase that reached 86 mph ensued.

During the pursuit, Albaugh watched as a dark bag was thrown out the side of the vehicle. He said the vehicle stopped a half-mile from where the chase began.

The Kemerers and Seybert were inside; they were all searched and arrested.

Albaugh said the vehicle contained several women's purses, handbags, tools, wallets and keys. He went back to where the bag was thrown during the chase and found that it was a woman's purse.

The vehicle was locked, impounded and towed to await a search warrant.

The three men were taken to the Vandergrift police station and put in a holding cell, where Seybert suffered from a suspected overdose and was taken to Allegheny Valley Hospital in Harrison by ambulance. Albaugh followed.

Seybert was administered Narcan en route and received four more doses at the hospital before he was revived and taken back to the station, Albaugh said.

According to Albaugh, Allegheny Township police spoke with the owner of the truck the men were found at, who told them that there were several tools and tool belts missing. Vandergrift police spoke with the original caller of the complaint, who said that her Michael Kors purse and a gold-colored wallet were missing.

The estimated cost of the purse alone was $400.

Seybert, who was driving the vehicle, was charged with theft from a motor vehicle, receiving stolen property, conspiracy, fleeing a police officer, loitering and prowling at nighttime, drunken driving and traffic violations.

Police said the front-seat passenger, John Jacob Kemerer, possessed a crack pipe, plastic spoon used for suspected heroin use and numerous Xanax pills in an unlabeled pill bottle.

He was charged with theft from a motor vehicle, receiving stolen property, conspiracy, loitering and prowling at nighttime, possession of a controlled substance.

The rear passenger, John Francis Kemerer, was charged with theft from a motor vehicle, receiving stolen property, conspiracy and loitering and prowling at nighttime.

The three remained in the Westmoreland County Prison on Thursday in lieu of $50,000 bond each.

A preliminary hearing for each is scheduled for 3:15 p.m. July 11 before Judge Cheryl Peck-Yakopec in Allegheny Township.

Allegheny Township Chief John Fontaine said Seybert has been arrested three times before, once for burglary, once for narcotics possession and another case.

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

Vandergrift, Penn Township among state's safest towns

posted Jun 15, 2017, 4:07 AM by Joseph Gray   [ updated Jun 15, 2017, 4:15 AM ]

Leif Greiss | Tuesday, June 13, 2017, 5:00 p.m.
Louis B. Ruediger | Tribune-Review
Grant Street in Vandergrift on Tuesday, June 13, 2017. The borough recently was named the fourth safest town in Pennsylvania.
Louis B. Ruediger | Tribune-Review
Vandergrift recently was named the fourth safest town in Pennsylvania based on FBI crime data.
Louis B. Ruediger | Tribune-Review
Storefronts along Grant Street in Vandergrift. The borough recently was named the fourth safest town in Pennsylvania based on FBI crime data.

Vandergrift is the fourth safest community in Pennsylvania, according to Safewise's list of the 20 safest cities in the state.

“We're all happy about it,” Vandergrift Mayor Lou Purificato said. “It's quite an honor.”

Safewise, a home security and safety advising company, based the list on 2015 FBI crime data. The list does not include cities that did not submit complete crime reports to the FBI, nor does it include cities with populations below 5,000.

Vandergrift, which has a population of about 5,000 residents, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, just made the cut.

This is Safewise's fourth annual list of the safest Pennsylvania communities and the third year Vandergrift was ranked in the top 25. In 2015, it was ranked 22; in 2016, it moved up to 14. These are significant increases from the 2014 list, when Vandergrift was ranked 179.

Vandergrift did have one of the higher rates of violent crime in the top 20 at 1.59 incidents per 1,000 people, though it is important to note that rate still is very low. Vander­grift's violent crime rate is half the state's average rate per 1,000, according to data from website Neighborhood Scout.

By comparison, Pittsburgh's rate of violent crime is 7.29 per 1,000 people, with an overall rate of crime at 40.85 per 1,000, compared to Vandergrift's overall rate of just 2.38 per 1,000.

Marilee Kessler, who is on the board of directors for the Vandergrift Improvement Program, said Vandergrift is a community where people sit out on their front porches during the summer. She said the biggest saving grace of Vandergrift is that everyone talks to each other.

“I've lived in Honolulu; Ulm, Germany; Virginia in the Washington, D.C., area; and Philadelphia,” Kessler said. “Vandergrift is the kind of place where you can walk around the park anytime and feel safe.”

Julia Martin, owner of Byers Taxi Service and Byers Busing in Vandergrift and chairwoman of Vandergrift's Improvement Program, said she feels Vandergrift is a great place to live and operate a business.

Councilman Lenny Collini said he credited the ranking to how well police in the Alle-Kiski Valley collaborate. Collini said living in the Valley is like being a part of a greater community.

Kessler, who is one of the civilian coordinators for the Community Watch in Vandergrift that works directly with Vandergrift's police force, said the police are extremely active within the community.

Among the many instances of community outreach they take part in, Vandergrift's police participate in community cleanup days and have gone to area elementary schools and given out bike helmets and raffled off bikes to the students there, Kessler said.

Penn Township

In Westmoreland County, Penn Township also made the list at No. 10.

Safewise did not rank Penn Township last year, however. On the 2015 list, the township was ranked 14, Safewise Community Outreach Manager, Emily Long said.

Jim McClosky, manager of popular Penn Township eatery Sweet Buzz Bean and Bistro, said the township is close-knit — the kind of place where you know everyone and, when you pass them on the street, you stop and ask how they are.

Penn Township Commissioner Chuck Konkus, who heads the township's public safety committee, had similar sentiments. He said the township is a place where people know and look out for their neighbors. Konkus said the proactive and progressive approach of police Chief John Otto and the rest of the police force is an important part of what makes Penn Township safe.

Otto said addressing problems and not hiding them is vital. He likes to get things done, and police in Penn Township are visible and active in the community.

“The officers we have love what they do, they have fun with it, but they are professional.”

However, Otto said keeping communities like Penn Township safe requires strong leadership and for everyone in the community to keep an eye out and stay proactive.

Leif Greiss is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-226-4681 or Follow him on Twitter @Leif_Greiss.

10 safest towns in Pennsylvania

1. Paint Township, Somerset County

Previous rank: 2

Violent Crimes per 1,000: 0.00

Property Crimes per 1,000: 0.58.

2. Redstone Township, Fayette County

Previous rank: 6

Violent Crimes per 1,000: 0.18

Property Crimes per 1,000: 1.29.

3. Luzerne Township, Fayette County

Previous rank: 9

Violent Crimes per 1,000: 0.00

Property Crimes per 1,000: 1.53.

4. Vandergrift, Westmoreland County

Previous rank: 14

Violent Crimes per 1,000: 1.59

Property Crimes per 1,000: 0.79.

5. South Heidelberg Township, Berks County

Previous rank: 67

Violent Crimes per 1,000: 0.41

Property Crimes per 1,000: 2.32.

6. South Park Township, Allegheny County

Previous rank: 11

Violent Crimes per 1,000: 0.15

Property Crimes per 1,000: 2.59.

7. Upper Yoder Township, Cambria County

Previous rank: 13

Violent Crimes per 1,000: 0.95

Property Crimes per 1,000: 1.90.

8. Spring Township, Centre County

Previous rank: 21

Violent Crimes per 1,000: 0.13

Property Crimes per 1,000: 3.02.

9. Millcreek Township, Lebanon County

Previous rank: 8

Violent Crimes per 1,000: 0.36

Property Crimes per 1,000: 2.88.

10. Penn Township, Westmoreland County

Previous rank: Not ranked

Violent Crimes per 1,000: 1.57

Property Crimes per 1,000: 1.83.

Municipalities that made the top 100

16. Whitehall

19. Franklin Park

21. Fox Chapel

24. Adams Township

27. South Fayette

30. Upper St. Clair Township

36. Castle Shannon

43. Indiana Township

51. Peters Township

55. Baldwin Borough

57. Jefferson Hills Borough

61. O'Hara Township

71. Middlesex Township, Butler County

76. Murrysville

78. Jeannette

81. Washington Township, Westmoreland County

85. Allegheny Township, Westmoreland County

92. Moon Township

96. McCandless

Source: Safewise

2017 Kohl's Hard Heads Helmet Program

posted Jun 13, 2017, 11:01 AM by Joseph Gray   [ updated Jun 15, 2017, 12:40 PM ]

Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC and Kohl’s department stores work together to present "Hard Heads," a community-based program to educate children of all ages on the importance of wearing a helmet correctly, and at all times, while riding anything on wheels.

Wearing a Helmet Can Save Lives Brain injuries are often life-threatening and life-changing, yet only 29 percent of children admitted to CHP for bike injuries were wearing helmets when the injury occurred. By doing so, more than 85 percent of all head injuries could be prevented. It is our mission to help parents and children learn that the simple act of wearing a helmet can save lives. - See more at:

The Vandergrift Police Department in conjunction with Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC and Kohl’s department stores, Kiski Area School District (East Primary) & Cardinal Maida Academy Vandergrift police were able to give away 108 helmets to the kids of both schools. Each student that participated in the program either did a safety essay or did a safety poster. In addition to the helmets several businesses and private donation were collected so the Vandergrift Police were able to give away 4 brand new 20in bikes to 4 lucky winners that were entered into a drawing. In addition to the four bikes faculty at East Primary bought an additional two bikes to raffle off to the younger children.   

Special thanks to the following contributors and sponsor’s:

Kohl’s department stores

Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC

Casino Theater

St Joseph High School “Hello Dolly” Cast and Ed Bostedo

Wooden Door Winery

G&G Restaurant

1st Baptist Church of Vandergrift

First Catholic Slovak Ladies Association

David & Marilee Kessler

Chris, Ashleigh & Rylee Hannigan

Kiski Area East Primary, Principle Pat Marchin, and Staff

Cardinal Maida Academy, Principle Talarico, and Staff

                         Aidan Dehnert                    Morghan Wysocki
                        Winners of helmets and bikes at East Primary

Home robbery in Vandergrift under investigation

posted Apr 26, 2017, 4:17 AM by Joseph Gray   [ updated Apr 26, 2017, 4:18 AM ]

Vandergrift police are investigating a home invasion reported late Tuesday.

Police said a man and woman were watching TV at about 10:45 p.m. in their side of a duplex in the 100 block of Washington Avenue. Someone knocked on the door, and when the resident started opening the door, three men burst inside — two armed — and demanded money.

They got about $110, authorities said, but didn't assault them before leaving.

At some point the same night, the three men entered the other side of the duplex, but nothing was missing when the occupant returned home, police Chief Joe Caporali said. It's unclear which side of the duplex they went to first, the chief said, or if the robbers had gone the wrong address, Caporali said.

Witnesses told police all three were black and wore hooded sweatshirts, either blue or dark colored, and sweatpants.

One was 5 feet 6 inches to 5 feet 10 inches tall and had his face partially covered.

Another has his hoodie pulled back to show he was bald or had his head shaven. He was about 5 feet 5 inches to 5 feet 7 inches tall.

No further description was given on the third suspect.

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

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

1-10 of 81