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Altoona Mirror Newspaper Archive: May 15, 2001 - Page 1

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   Altoona Mirror (Newspaper) - May 15, 2001, Altoona, Pennsylvania                                INSIDE TODAY NATION: President Bush announces plan to reduce gun violence SPOUTS; Bishop Guilfoyle decides to start an ice hockey team Bl LIFE: High school graduation means one thing: time to party Dl dNtrrar Copyright 2001 TUESDAY, MAY 15, 2001 newsstand Lacue pleads guilty to drug charges BY MIA ROHART StaffWriter EBENSBURG Former Galh'tzin dentist John Lacue, 58, who fled to the Dominican Republic in 1987 to avoid drug charges, entered a guilty plea Monday at the Cambria County Courthouse to six counts of drug delivery and was sentenced to house arrest The wheelchair-bound Lacue returned to the United Slates last summer to receive medical treatment for a degenerative nerve disease. Lacue sold Percodan to an infor- mant several times in the late 1980s. He also pleaded to having sold mar- ijuana. All these charges could have resulted in a sentence of 95 years in jail and up to million in fines. Cambria County Judge Gerard Long sentenced Lacue to six to 12 months of house arrest for the first charge and nine years of probation Charges could have resulted in a 95-year sentence. for the second charge. Other charges brought probation sentences to be served concurrently with the nine-year probation sen- tence. Lacue also had to pay in fines, which he already has paid. "We're happy that he pleaded guilty to the felonies. We're not entirely satisfied with the sen- tence, but we understand assis- tant district attorney David Kaltenbaugh said. Defense attorney Thomas Dickey of Altoona said he knew Lacue would need a large sum of money to pay a large fine if he was to avoid jail time since a large fine usually means less jail time. Dickey said he wanted to raise at least per count. "I wanted to make it so he would never have to go back inside Dickey said. Friends and relatives of Lacue have raised the money over the last few months, Dickey said. Lacue's wife and sister were in the courtroom Monday as Lacue was sentenced. As he addressed the court, Dickey said Lacue already was in his own prison since he is confined to a wheelchair and no longer can write his own name. Kaltenbaugh said more than anything, the need for medical treatment is keeping Lacue here. During his probation, Lacue would have to "seek permission to leave the commonwealth. Kalten- baugh said he doubts that Lacue would be given permission to trav- el out of the United States. Mirror Staff Writer Mia Rohart can be reached at 949-7030. Pilot often flew for pleasure BY TIFFANY SHAW Staff Writer JOHNSTOWN Michael Benko of Johnstown loved flying and took every opportunity-to get his plane into the air. Jde McKelvey, director of John Murtha Johnstown-Cambria County Airport, knew Benko since he start- ed storing his small plane in the air- port's hangar in 1997. "He, flew almost every day. He was a good McKelvey said. Benko, 50, and his passenger, Frederick Guercio, 49, Pittsburgh, were killed Sunday when Benko's plane crashed into a field near an abandoned mine in Jackson Township, Cambria County. Benko took off from the airport between and 8 a.m., planning a short ride to Ebensburg and a return to Johnstown. He was fol- lowing visual flight rules as usual for the short, casual flight, McKelvey said. But his single-engine Cessna 150A never returned. The plane crashed 5.7 miles north of the airport, apparently after a brief nosedive. A preliminary investigation by an officer from the National Transportation Safety Board who examined the wreckage Monday- said Benko's plane may have hit overhead power wires near the old Mine 38, causing the plane to go down. Robert Gretz of the NTSB point- ed out several frayed wires and said there were marks on the plane that could have been caused by striking the wires. Cambria County Coroner Dennis Kwiatkowski said autopsies were performed on the men Monday and listed the cause of both deaths as blunt force trauma. When other local pilots realized Sunday that Benko didn't return, they started searching for his plane, McKelvey said. After several hours in the air with the Civil Air Patrol, someone finally spotted the downed plane around p.m. An emergency locator transmitter on the plane went off and prompted the Air Force to send out a search plane, Kwiatkowski said Sunday. Please see AID Subscription or home delivery questions: 946-7480 or (800) 287-4480 V "It's at the worst possible time this season because everybody's trying to plant." Paul Fleming, Shady Brook farmer The'Associated Press Paul Fleming of Shady Brook Farm points to a young cornstalk (also shown below) that is suffering from lack of rain at a farm in Newtown. Dry spell raises concern Mirror staff and wire reports Three weeks of dry weather and a 3-inch drop in annual rainfall do not a drought make. But the spring dry spell across Pennsylvania is com- ing at a bad time as farmers and home gardeners alike try to get their crops off to a good start. "It's at the worst possible time this season because everybody's trying to plant their tomatoes, their broc- coli, their lettuce, their can- said Paul Fleming, 30, of Shady Brook Farm in Yardley, Bucks County. "You have to postpone planting some things because you can only irrigate so much at a Fleming said Friday as he planted days behind schedule at his family's 250-acre farm in the Philadelphia suburbs. The dry weather already is causing problems for local farmers. Alfalfa is not growing like it usually does, said Raymond Diebold, a Sinking Valley dairy farmer. "It is usually above your knee by now, but it is nowhere near that. I don't think it is growing. We need moisture to make it Diebold said. Please see. A10 PRIMARY 2001 Election Day process long BY ROBERT IGOE Staff Writer So you think that it's a hassle to vote? One of these days, think of what effort goes into giving you the opportunity to vote. Not withstanding the veterans who have risked, and in many cases, lost their lives to defend that right, every Election Day brings a massive undertaking to make the polling process run smoothly. The process begins in the early morning as election workers arrive to prepare the polls to open at 7 a.m. but often doesn't end for the local election workers until well after the polls close. "Oh, it gets very Blair County Director of Elections Janice Blair said. "So much goes into the typical election night. Please see A6 iVoli basic freedoms that our country was founded upon, yet it's taken for granted to the point that many people don't participate in this rite of democracy or fully understand the process. It's voting. This series is intended to help educate all of us about the workings of our democracy. INSIDE Altoona School board candidates respond to Mirror questionnaire. PAGE A3 Elections director Blair calling it quits PHIL RAY StaffWriter Janice Blair is a textbook of information about elections. She trained the 500 or so election workers who will staff the polls today during the primary and spe- cial U.S. Congressional election. She prepared the ballots, con- cluding that this was her toughest election ever. And from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. today, for the last time, she will answer hundreds of telephone inquiries from voters, poll workers and party officials who need immediate help lest an election be lost because somebody was not able to vote. Blair is retiring, and today's elec- tion is her last as elections director. She has worked for the better part of 40 years and said it's time to enjoy her hobbies, such as creating stained glass and painting. She also wants to spend time visiting her relatives and son, Vance, in Florida. Please see A6 PennDOT: Extra! Extra! Bid on a historic Pennsylvania bridge BY REBECCA SINDEHBRAND The Associated Press some extra'room and a few dollars to throw around? PennDOT's got a bridge they want to'sell you. Historic Pennsylvania bridges are being sold at discount prices. The 19th century wrought-iron arch bridges are selling for the bargain price of to name just one recent successful bid. The goal isn't to fill state coffers, PennDOT officials to preserve an important part of the state's past. "Obviously preserving our heritage for future generations is something PennDOT takes much pride PennDOT spokesman Steve Chizmar said. "If we can preserve these structures, we're just doing our job." The department has kept a running list of aging bridges up for sale, usually around nine or 10 at a time, for several years. Most of theni are "truss" bridges, a style popular in the mid- to late 19th century. The bridges, found mostly in western and northwestern Pennsylvania, can be moved in one piece. The bridges up for sale are outdated by mod- ern standards many are around a century have to be replaced to meet current structural requirements. Federal historic preservation rides require the state to try to sell the structures before it demolishes them. Local governments get first crack at own- ing the bridges, but if they decide not to bid, other agencies, nonprofit groups or schools get the chance to take them home. Members of the public also have a chance to buy the bridges, PennDOT officials said. Structures that were built in the era before bridge-abusing heavy trucks and sport utility vehicles took to the roads then can get a new lease on life supporting light traffic and pedestrians. Please see AS 4 7 3 Lottery numbers, A2 wunra Partly sunny, Forecast, A2 Ultrror THE GREAT COMBINATION. Call us today...Make money today. Ask for THE GREAT COMBINATION of MIRROR CLASSIFIEDS and HOT-ADS Phone (814) 946-7422 or fax us at (814) 946-7547 DLOCAL Business Rospjtajs_ Obituaries Opinion I 0 NATION A7 I Classifieds C4-10 A9 A9 i A8 j Local Scoreboard i Comics I Dear Abby B4 i Puzzles BS i Television D3 D2 D2 D2 BUSINESS Cracker Barrel Old Country Store building restaurant and gift shop behind Hampton Inn. PAGEA7   

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