Altoona Mirror (Newspaper) - December 21, 2001, Altoona, Pennsylvania
ANGELS BRING MESSAGES FROM GOD FREE INSIDE
Pittsburgh goes bowling
against N.C. State
infections can rob
if people of hearing in days
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FRIDAY, DECEMBER 21, 2001
■ Police continue to interview witnesses after a murder this week in Huntingdon County.
By MIA BOHART
HUNTINGDON - While a woman accused of criminal homicide remains in Bedford County Jail, her two court-appointed defense lawyers say the affidavit of probable cause leads to more ques tions than answers.
State police continued Thursday to interview witnesses and relatives about a homicide this week in Cromwell Township.
Christina Ashton, 37, of Mount Union has boon charged with crim inal homicide atter the shooting death of her fiance, 31-year old Darin Whitsel.
‘Basically what we have is the trooper’s interpretation of what may or may not have been said to him," co counsel David Smith of Huntingdon said. “We're trying to obtain as much information as we possibly can to determine what the defense should be or whether there is even a crime here."
The defense will ask the judge to appoint a private investigator to the case, lead counsel Jeff Stover of State College said.
“There are facts alleged in the affidavit and criminal complaint which we dispute and which will need to be decided by a court,” Stover said.
The defense declined to state specific questions brought up by the affidavit, which is the only piece of information they have to go on. The defense has not had an opportunity to interview witnesses and family members yet, but they met with Ashton Thursday.
“As you can imagine, she finds herself in jail; she’s been accused of homicide. She’s never been in jail before, so naturally she’s very concerned,” Stover said.
The charge of criminal homicide is inclusive of all charges of murder and manslaughter,
Huntingdon County District Attorney Robert Stewart III said.
The district attorney needs to prove there was a death and that Ashton was involved.
The purpose of the preliminary hearing, scheduled for Dec. 28, is to decide if there is enough evidence to take the case to trial.
Police said the shooting occurred late Tuesday or early Wednesday at a residence owned by Thomas Whitsel on a private hunting camp in Cromwell Township.
Thomas Whitsel and Lisa Ashton were at the residence with Darin Whitsel and Christina Ashton, An argument started between Christina Ashton and Darin Whitsel concerning her having an affair, according to court documents.
Thomas Whitsel and Darin Whitsel physically fought with each other, court documents state. The four then went outside. Lisa Ashton and Thomas Whitsel walked away from the residence.
Christina Ashton went inside. She picked up the rifle Thomas Whitsel left on a table, and Darin Whitsel entered seconds later, according to court documents.
Christina Ashton told police Darin Whitsel was yelling at her as he walked closer and she feared for her safety and the safety of Thomas Whitsel and Lisa Ashton. She said she was afraid of Darin Whitsel because she just told him she wanted to end the relationship.
Huntingdon County Coroner Daniel Quarry said Darin Whitsel died of a single gunshot wound to the chest. Quarry estimates Darin Whitsel was 3 feet or more away from the muzzle of the gun when it was fired.
Mirror Staff Writer Mio Rohart can be reached at 949- 7030 or mro-hartiaaltoonamirror.com.
Plow drivers deal with more than bad roads
By William Kibler
Snowplow drivers have a lot on their minds during winter’s worst, a PennDOT official says, and dealing with slip-sliding motorists who get too close to the plows shouldn’t be one of them.
Drivers in the region’s higher elevations dealt with winter’s first snowfall Thursday morning. With winter dawning today, Tom Hofer, head of PennDOT maintenance in Blair County, knows it won’t be long until Blair Countians are in the same situation.
The weather man agrees.
“The pattern which gave us the warm air and the warm temperatures is undergoing a radical change," AccuWeather forecaster Brett Anderson says. “We’ll be seeing colder-than-normal temperatures after Christmas and into January. It could be one of the coldest snaps we’ve seen in a while.”
When the snow flies, Hafer’s crews will take to the roads, maintaining about 500 miles of highway.
Hafer laments that plow drivers’ biggest obstacles during storms are often overaggressive or fish-tailing drivers.
“We can’t look out and see ifs snowing and stay home,” says Hofer, implying that regular drivers should choose that option more often.
Please see Plow/Page A5
PASS THI SAIT
■ PennDOT in Blair County spends about $2.5 million of its annual $12 miliion budget on overtime, equipment, mechanical work and materials to handle winter.
■ It buys about 11,500 tons of crushed limestone anti-skid and 15,000 tons of rock salt.
■ In most places,
PennDOT spreads a mix of anti-skid and salt. On Interstate 99 for the past few years, it uses plain rock salt because anti-skid damages painted highway lines and recessed reflectors in the concrete.
■ Altoona uses mostly salt rather than anti-skid. Anti-skid can damage cars when tires kick it up, and crews need to clean it up in the spring, Public Works Director Dave Diedrich says.
White Christmas not likely this year
From Mirror staff reports
With higher elevations in the region receiving the first significant snowfall of the season Thursday, speculation about whether area residents will wake up to their first white Christmas in six years is beginning.
But weather prognosticators say not to get hopes up.
“I would give it about a 50 percent chance," AccuWeather forecaster Brett Anderson says.
“There are really a number of factors which determine if it snows or not. Usually, it takes a storm system bringing in moisture to an area with cold air present, though sometimes we see a cold northwest flow off the Great Lakes which brings snow. It usually results from a storm front, though.”
Anderson said the forecast for Monday — Christmas Eve — calls for mostly cloudy skies with a mix of rain and possible freezing rain, with little possibility of snow. Christmas Day will see colder temperatures, mostly in the 30s, with some snowshowers possible, he says.
The last time the area received a significant snowfall on Christmas was in 1995, when 3 inches was measured on the ground. But Anderson says there was light snowfall on Christmas Day in 1996 and 1999.
GETTING READY FOR WINTER
Mirror photo by Gary M Barartec
Tim Bartlesbaugh, city of Altoona maintenance worker, checks the hydraulics on a snowplow.
Developer hopes to bring restaurant to Lakemont site
By Kay Stephens Staff Writer
A Lakemont Park developer is exploring the idea of building a restaurant on part of the paved parking lot beside Blair County Ballpark. He first must convince Blair County commissioners the idea is a good one.
Ralph Albarano of Lakemont Partnership, * which manages development of Lakemont Park grounds owned by the county,
declined to name any restaurants that might be interested in the site.
“I think it would be good for everybody, but we’re still just in the beginning stages,” Albarano said.
Hoss’s Steak and Sea House President John Brown said his firm considered the stadium parking lot site and other locations where it could replace its aged Pleasant Valley Boulevard restaurant. *
“We haven’t gotten anything going on any particular site, but we are looking at sites all over the place,” Brown said. He also mentioned constructing a new building on the same location as the Pleasant Valley restaurant is a possibility.
Hoss’s previously considered buying land from the county in front of Valley View Home for a replacement restaurant.
Please see Lakemont/Page AIQ
Prison sentence unchanged for man who shot into home
By Kay Stephens Staff Writer
HOLLIDAYSBURG - A long prison sentence remained unchanged Thursday for the Martinsburg man who allegedly shot into a Roaring Spring-area house and nearly killed a child in July 1999.
Blair County Judge Norman D. Callan issued a lengthy order Thursday spelling out why Jacob A. Ritchey, 46, should remain in a
Judge Norman Callan upheld the 10-to 20-year sentence tor Jacob Ritchey.
state prison for the rest of his iota 20-year sentence. In effect, the judge answered the state Superior Court, which in July vacated the jail sentence after criticizing Callan for focusing too much on
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the crime and not enough on the man’s character.
Callan — after reviewing details of Ritchey’s criminal record show ing an aggravated assault charge from a domestic incident in 1989, followed in the next IO years by four drunken driving incidents, a weapons violation and repeated probation violations — offered no hint of interest in a lesser sentence.
Please see Sentence/Page A3
A mystery squid was discovered in photographs taken by deep-sea submersibles.