Centre County

Charles Fergus' "A Stranger Here Below" is set in Pennsylvania in the 1830s, but draws from the author's real-world experiences.
Charles Fergus

A writer and native of central Pennsylvania, Charles Fergus is best known for his books and articles about nature and wildlife. But, his latest book is a mystery novel and period piece.

Set in Pennsylvania in the 1830s, “A Stranger Here Below” is the story of Sheriff Gideon Stoltz trying to understand what would lead the local judge to kill himself. The book draws on Fergus’s expertise as a nature writer and his personal experience with murder. 

U.S.G.S

A minor earthquake hit Central Pennsylvania Wednesday night. The U.S. Geological Survey reports the quake, with a preliminary magnitude of 3.4, struck at around 8:31 p.m. The epicenter was located in Juniata county, Pa., about 11 miles south/southwest of Mifflintown. Reports of mild shaking came in to the U.S.G.S website from Altoona to Lancaster, and from State College to Hagerstown, Md.

Corl Street Elementary, in State College, is receiving extensive renovations, all done with safety in mind.
Emily Reddy / WPSU

This story originally aired on March 21, 2019.

Martha Sherman has two kids at Mount Nittany Elementary School in State College. On a recent morning when she was dropping them off, office staff wouldn’t let her go beyond the front office. She wanted to walk her son Zane to his kindergarten class, but his school, like many others, has a safety policy that says parents can’t do that.

Kristine Allen / WPSU

Rick Lombardo is the new is the Director of the School of Theatre at Penn State, hired last summer.

WPSU’s Kristine Allen spoke with Lombardo about bringing back the professional summer season of Penn State Centre Stage  in the summer of 2019 and about how his college pre-med plans were thwarted by theatre.  (Listen to the interview at the link above.)

You'll find more information on the Penn State Centre Stage summer season here.

John Lovett, a retired police officer and the Saint Marys School District's school safety and security coordinator, reviews the school security cameras. They're one of the measures the school district has in place.
Anne Danahy / WPSU

This story originally aired on June 5, 2019.  

John Lovett is a retired police officer and the school safety and security coordinator at the Saint Marys Area School District.

It's a typical day at the high school in Elk County, Pennsylvania, and students stream down the halls during a break.

Lovett's job is helping keep the students safe. As part of that, he carries a taser and a gun. And he helps train the schools on what to do in an emergency, including a possible intruder.

Karen Muir, front, Becker's attorney, walked out of the Centre County Courthouse on Thursday, after the jury rendered a verdict for Becker.
Min Xian / WPSU

A Centre County jury found Braxton Becker, the house manager of Penn State’s now-banned Beta Theta Pi fraternity, guilty on one of the three misdemeanor charges he faced on Thursday.

After five hours of deliberation, the jury rendered a verdict that Becker, a former Beta Theta Pi brother, was guilty of hindering apprehension and not guilty of tampering with evidence or obstructing justice.

Jurors will listen to closing arguments before beginning deliberation on Thursday, the third day of the trial for Braxton Becker in the Centre County Courthouse in Bellefonte.
Min Xian / WPSU

After hearing the cross-examination of State College Police Detective David Scicchitano and three additional witnesses on Wednesday, jurors will listen to closing arguments before beginning deliberation on Thursday, the third day of the trial for Braxton Becker.

Tiffany Myers reads a children's book out loud to a class of about 20 fifth graders. She said the idea is to teach the basics of mental wellbeing just like other school subjects.
Min Xian / WPSU

 

This story originally aired on March 19, 2019.  

On a recent school day at Mount Nittany Elementary School in State College, Tiffany Myers read a children's book out loud to a class of about 20 fifth graders.

“The story we’re going to read today is called, ‘Red: A Crayon’s Story.’ Just right off the bat, what are you noticing about this crayon that make it different than what you might expect?” Myers, a school counselor, asked.

Braxton Becker, left, left the Centre County Courthouse during the first day of the jury trial on his alleged deletion of security footage in relation to the case of the hazing death of Tim Piazza in 2017.
Min Xian / WPSU

The jury trial for Braxton Becker, a former member and the house manager of Penn State’s now defunct Beta Theta Pi fraternity, began Tuesday. It’s the first jury trial in the case related to the hazing death of Penn State student Timothy Piazza in 2017. Becker allegedly deleted security camera footage of the fraternity house basement.

A voter feeding election ballot into the voting machine.
Min Xian / WPSU

Centre County voters who cast a ballot Tuesday were using one of the new systems approved by the state. The county was one of nine in Pennsylvania to to use a new system in the primary, and the switch appeared to go smoothly.

“They’ll just feed it straight in to here, and then it will say: Thank you. Your vote has been cast,” explained Hayden Davidson, judge of elections in Harris Township East, Centre County. 

Chairman of the Board of Commissioners Michael Pipe said the transition from the old system to the new one appeared to be “seamless.”

John Zesiger, superintendent at the Moshannon Vally School District, says he makes drills more realistic by getting rid of the orderly lines and having some students not where they're supposed to be.
Emily Reddy / WPSU

This story originally aired on March 18, 2019.  

Moshannon Vally School District Superintendent John Zesiger said to make intruder drills more realistic they’ve added some complications. 

“We block exits,” Zesiger said. “We have some students who are not where they're supposed to be. So that the staff and the students have to kind of think on their feet and say, ‘Geez, here’s where I'm supposed to go out, but I can't get out that way.’ And they look for the next best option.”

State College Borough Manager Tom Fountaine gave a presentation on creating best practices for collaboration between universities and local communities at Penn State on Monday, May 20.
Min Xian / WPSU

In college towns, the large student population can complicate relations between universities and local communities. This week, the 2019 International Town and Gown Association Conference is at Penn State talking about how the two can coexist.

The conference is hosted by Penn State and the Borough of State College and features topics like Greek life reform, public safety and diversity.

Kristine Allen / WPSU

On opening day of Millheim’s outdoor farmers market, held under a pavilion on the grounds of the American Legion, Bill Callahan of Mifflinburg sold beef, pork and chickens. He is owner of a farm with the tongue-in-cheek name, “COW-a-HEN.”  He’s been farming for 38 years.

“And I’ve been doing the markets – farmers markets – for approximately 20 of those years,” Callahan said. He has seen the farmers market trend expand over the past couple of decades.

In this file photo, Luke Visser, left, arrived for his preliminary hearing on charges related to the hazing death of Penn State student Timothy Piazza in 2017. He was resentenced to house arrest on Wednesday.
Chris Knight / AP Photo

BELLEFONTE, Pa. (AP) — A judge is letting another former Penn State fraternity member serve his sentence on home confinement instead of in jail in the 2017 death of a pledge.

Former Beta Theta Pi member Luke Visser was resentenced Wednesday to 45 days of home confinement and six months of probation, instead of two months to six months in jail. 

Centre County Judge Brian Marshall resentenced two other former Beta Theta Pi members last month, changing their jail sentences to home confinement.

Pennsylvania Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman
Min Xian / WPSU

The lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania, John Fetterman, has been crisscrossing the state to hear what people have to say about legalizing recreational marijuana in Pennsylvania. The “listening tour” follows Fetterman’s election as lieutenant governor. Before that, he had begun to serve in his fourth term as mayor of Braddock. Fetterman is known for his unconventional approach to politics, winning his first term as mayor by one vote. WPSU's Anne Danahy spoke with Fetterman about legalizing marijuana, Gov.

File Photo: Former Penn State President Graham Spanier departs after his sentencing hearing at the Dauphin County Courthouse in Harrisburg, Pa., Friday, June 2, 2017.
Matt Rourke / AP Photo

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — A federal judge will consider ex-Penn State president Graham Spanier's argument that his conviction should be thrown out, a week before he's due to report to jail.

The hearing Thursday concerns Spanier's argument he was wrongly convicted in Pennsylvania state court for mishandling a 2001 complaint about Jerry Sandusky under a version of the law that wasn't in place at that time.

He also argues the statute of limitations wasn't properly applied.

Panelists discussed potential solutions to the rural broadband crisis as a part of the Influencers Project hosted by the Centre Daily Times at the State Theatre on April 24, 2019.
Min Xian / WPSU

A variety of potential solutions exist to address the widespread lack of broadband internet access, such as community cooperatives and “white space” technology, which delivers internet similar to that of 4G, according to 14 panelists who participated in discussions of the rural broadband crisis on Wednesday. The “Influencers Project” was hosted by the Centre Daily Times at the State Theatre in downtown State College.

Paul Perreault was guest speaker at the March 12 Penn State Forum.
Patrick Mansell / Penn State

Paul Perreault, the CEO of one of the world’s largest biotechnology companies visited Penn State University Park recently. He talked with WPSU’s Carolyn Donaldson about the work of his company, CSL Behring. The company focuses on developing drugs to treat rare diseases, improving existing drugs and advancing the field of gene therapy.   

Debby and Ken Iwaniec
Anne Danahy / WPSU

In 2008, Kenton Iwaniec was driving home from his job as a state police trooper in Chester County when an impaired driver’s vehicle crashed into his. The driver had a blood alcohol level more than four times the legal limit and had taken Oxycodone illegally. Penn State University Police & Public Safety is sponsoring a talk by the Iwaniec family, “An Empty Seat at the Table,” at 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 24, in the HUB-Robeson Center at University Park. WPSU’s Anne Danahy talked with Kenton’s parents, Ken and Debby Iwaniec.

Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman (second from right) polled the audience during his listening tour on recreational marijuana in State College on April 16, 2019.
Min Xian / WPSU

Pennsylvania Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman’s listening tour on recreational marijuana made its stop in Centre County Tuesday. The overwhelming majority of those who spoke supported legalization of recreational marijuana.

A retired state police officer said he believes marijuana doesn’t make people violent and that prosecution of pot related crimes is too harsh.

Pennsylvania Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman (left) and Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (right) took turns discussing the rising cost of college education at Penn State's University Park campus on Thursday, April 11, 2019.
Min Xian / Keystone Crossroads

Third highest in the nation.

That’s how Pennsylvania ranks in the price of attending a public university according to the most recent report from College Board, with an the average cost of $14,770 for in-state tuition and fees in the 2018-19 academic year.

Bethany Coursen and her husband own the Valleywide Farm in Centre County. Coursen said last year's rain has a lasting impact on her farm.
Min Xian / Keystone Crossroads

Pennsylvania had one of the wettest summers on record last year. July 2018 was the rainiest July in the past 124 years, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The intense rainfall and flooding caused farmers across the state to lose significant crops, and 61 counties declared disaster.

 

I believe in talking about important political issues in school.

School shapes children’s lives in a major way. School teaches children about the world around them, about how things work. So what better place to teach kids about politics than school?

Kristine Allen / WPSU

Artist Amy Frank is the winner of WPSU’s Art for the Airwaves Contest. She is also owner and founder of The Makery in State College. She won the contest with a collage painting of a stylized, Pennsylvania landscape titled “The Road Home.”

“It’s a long country road that’s kind of ebbing and flowing over several hills,” Frank says, “with kind of a patchwork field. It’s very candy-colored. It’s very bright, and very cheerful. So it doesn’t look like a traditional landscape. It’s kind of like a traditional landscape meets a candy store.”

Joanne Shafer is the Deputy Director at the Centre County Recycling and Refuse Authority.
Maddie Biertempfel / WPSU

Recycling authorities that used to depend on China to take their materials need new ways to dispose of or sell the material. Some communities have resorted to using landfills, incineration or stockpiling.

But in Centre County, China’s new policy hasn’t been an issue for a simple reason.

We don’t export material to China. We never have,” said Joanne Shafer, Centre County Recycling and Refuse Authority deputy director. 

Shafer said the national concerns about recycling haven’t affected Centre County in any major way.

File image: Penn State students lined up outside Heritage Hall inside of the HUB-Robeson Center, waiting to cast their votes in November's midterm elections.
Min Xian / WPSU

The Centre County Board of Elections says it cannot create a “Satellite Elections Office” in the HUB-Robeson Center on Penn State’s campus this month.

The Centre County League of Women Voters along with Penn State’s Vice President for Student Affairs and student government leaders, had signed a letter to the Board of Elections supporting the office.

Pastor Pamela Haddon Ford begins the event with a prayer.
Maddie Biertempfel / WPSU

 

Dozens gathered in downtown State College Thursday night to recognize the 51st anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination.

Reverend Pamela Haddon Ford started the event with a prayer.

“We stand in community with one another in this place of sacred remembrance. Receive our gratitude as we remember the life of Dr. King,” Haddon Ford said.

The event was marked by singing, prayer and speeches at the Fraser Street Commons where community members could listen, sing along and enjoy refreshments.

BookMark: "A Stranger Here Below" By Charles Fergus

Apr 4, 2019

If you’ve grown tired of formulaic mysteries and thrillers, then you’re in for a treat with the new book “A Stranger Here Below,” Charles Fergus’s 19th published book and the first in his new series of mysteries. The main character, Gideon Stoltz, is a man living on the outskirts—not just geographically in the small fictional town of Adamant, PA, but also emotionally. The town’s insular characters, including his wife’s family, often mock him for his German heritage, calling him “Dutchy.”

In this file photo, Luke Visser, arrives for his preliminary hearing on charges related to the hazing death of Tim Piazza at Penn State's Beta Theta Pi fraternity, at the Centre County Courthouse on June 12, 2017.
Chris Knight / AP Photo

A judge has sentenced three former Penn State fraternity members to jail in the 2017 death of a pledge, the first defendants ordered to serve time behind bars in a case that rewrote Pennsylvania's anti-hazing law.

Centre County Judge Brian Marshall sentenced former Beta Theta Pi members Tuesday for hazing surrounding the death of sophomore engineering major Tim Piazza, 19, of Lebanon, New Jersey.

John Gardner at podium
Min Xian / WPSU

State College police released new details about the homicides on Jan. 24 that left three victims and the gunman dead, including that the shooter had a blood alcohol level of 0.223 percent. That's nearly three times the standard legal limit for driving in the United States.

Police said their investigation into the incident that started at P.J. Harrigan's Bar & Grill at the Ramada Conference Center on South Atherton Street is now closed. 

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