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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Thursday, December 31, 2020

NorCo Honors 14 Seniors

The list is long and distinguished. I was omitted because county officials likely think I'm still in my 20s. Also, this might shock you, but some people have a very low opinion of bottom-feeding bloggers. 

Terry Andrews Northampton Borough — Terry Andrews was instrumental in applying for a grant for the Northampton County Department of Community and Economic Development Center that funded the reconstruction of several restrooms at the Northampton Senior Center. He has also worked on projects that promote safety and the wellbeing of senior citizens. Now the Department is looking at other Senior Centers to make sure they are meeting the needs that Terry championed.

Ann Brodhead Easton — For the last eight years Ann Brodhead has volunteered her time and resources to teaching crocheting and knitting to the residents of Manor Care in Palmer Township. She has now increased her skills to include loom knitting. As a member of the Easton Weed & Seed Project, Ann assisted in the preparation and serving of lunch at Centennial Park. In past years, she ran a Bible Class, arts and crafts and choir for 24 youngsters at the Rose of Sharon Legacy Church in the West Ward in Easton.

Raymond Campbell Bethlehem— After college he enlisted in the Army National Guard and served during the Vietnam War in Communications. Raymond has volunteered in many ways including: Saucon Valley Little League Coach, worked on High School Play Sets, and was an Assistant Boy Scout Leader. He is very involved with church events such as Sunday School, Consistory and Spiritual Council, Ushers Team, Soup Kitchen, and Fix-it man. He volunteers at the Boutique at the Rink and is very involved with the Saucon Valley Lions Club holding many offices. He has chaired the Lions Club Gem, Mineral and Jewelry Show for over 30 years and has been the recipient of the Saucon Valley Lion of the Year Award and the Melvin Jones award. Raymond is also a Miller Keystone Blood Donor.

Gail DeWitt Bangor — Gail serves as coordinator of her church fall and spring Rummage Sale. In that capacity she oversees the collecting and sorting of used items, books and clothing for the sale. She also enlists volunteers to help with the sales and to provide refreshments. Gail continues the tradition of reaching out to area organizations inviting them to choose items for families in need in the area. At the end of each sale, all usable items are donated to the local Salvation Army. Gail and her clothing helpers set aside any gowns and gently used evening dresses which are then donated to My Sisters Closet in Bethlehem for their annual prom dress event. Gail then helps with that event.

Elsie Frey Nazareth — Elsie Frey has been involved with many clubs and committees in her community: she has volunteered for Meals on Wheels for many years, helped at the local Food Bank, volunteered at her church and is currently meeting with Lafayette College students who are receiving credit for their time spent with Elsie. She loves to attend Nazareth Girl’s basketball games and a few years ago, she was asked to throw out the first pitch at an Iron Pigs game. Elsie just turned 100 years this past March and exemplifies a life well-lived and well deserving of this award.

Ellen Knecht Wind Gap — Ellen Knecht has been volunteering for over 50 years and at age 78 is still volunteering for the Pen Argyl Salvation Army. She is currently helping at the food bank at a local church in the Slate Belt area. She has an “I want to help others attitude.” She has volunteered for the Wind Gap Ambulance as an EMT and later for the Plainfield Ambulance Corp working day or night as needed.

Alan Lynch Mt. Bethel — Mr. Lynch is a Deacon and a former Trustee of Portland Baptist Church. Alan is a Veteran having served in the Army for three years. He has been a member of the Portland Volunteer Fire Department for over 22 years serving as its President, Vice-President and Secretary over the years. Alan is a Merit Badge Counselor for the Portland Boy Scouts. He exhibits his faith in his devotion to his family, friends, and community.

John Mauser Lower Mt. Bethel — John Mauser’s volunteer leadership is in the establishment of open space and preservation of those areas that have fallen into disrepair. He is a member of the Martins Jacoby Watershed Association and has led community involvement in securing additional open space along Martin’s Creek. He has worked numerous hours with The Boy & Girl Scouts of the area in teaching the importance of the preservation of wildlife habitats and the maintenance of our local trails and waterways. He is a founding member and Chairman of the Friends of Minsi Lake, which raised $150,000 to create the largest fish habitats in the County at Minsi Lake.

Margery Metzger Bethlehem — Margery Metzger has been a volunteer for Lehigh Valley Hospice providing support for the patients and their families in their homes from the start of their hospice journey to the passing of the patient. She also is a “No One Dies Alone” volunteer at LVHN. She drives patients to their cancer treatments 2-3 times per week for the Road to Recovery Program. She delivers library books to the homebound; this amazing woman also plays cello in 2 community orchestras.

Lynn Ratzell Nazareth— Lynn Ratzell, a retired environmental manager from PPL, is using his expertise in serving on the recently established Lower Nazareth Open Space Commission, helping to preserve farmland, woods and wetlands in the Lower Nazareth area. He has been a long-time volunteer at his church’s soup kitchen. Lynn displays his elaborate electric train complex during the Holidays with the America on Wheels Museum - a special attraction for the local children. He was involved with organizing The Lower Nazareth Village, an “Aging in Place” association - an innovative approach to serving seniors at home, similar to the College Hill Village in Easton.

Carol Reid Pen Argyl — Carol Reid was a great lady always thinking of others and how she could help. She worked tirelessly for many years as an EMT volunteer seven days a week for ambulance and fire calls in Plainfield Township. She volunteered at the local Farmers Fair taking blood pressure and offering her services for emergency care when needed. She is so deserving of this award and more. [ NOTE: the award was given Posthumously to her family - Carol died November 12, 2020.]

Bill Ryan Easton — Bill Ryan is a Marine Veteran who served in Vietnam and a recipient of the Purple Heart. He continues to serve today with visits to Veterans residing in Gracedale, stands with a flag at attention with others outside of funerals of fellow Veterans and gives talks at local schools on Veterans Day. In period uniform, Bill actively participates in the annual Christmas Day re-enactment of George Washington’s Crossing of the Delaware River.

Ronald B. Smith Bangor — Ronald Smith, member of Trinity United Church of Christ in Mt. Bethel, has exhibited leadership many times during past difficulties. He assisted the church in starting a Fellowship Time following services. His patience and supportive leadership has helped the congregation to experience a positive worship atmosphere. In keeping with his Service above Self, he has been President of the Richmond Lions Club more than once. Ron is also a member of Portland Lodge No. 311 F & AM - the Lodge hosted the “Toys for Tots” last December 2019, helping the U.S. Marines in their annual drive event.

Bonnie Winfield Easton — Dr. Bonnie Winfield developed an art-based support program “The Journey Home” involving art therapy for female inmates in the Northampton County Jail. It includes restorative practices and compassionate listening, practicing mindfulness-based yoga and forming new pathways in their thinking. Today even though she is retired, she spends four to five nights a week inside the jail working with the women and giving them hope and the courage to tell their stories through art and creative writing. She continues to be a lifeline for many of these women who are without friends or family. She serves as a teacher, spiritual counselor, guide and art therapist to all these women. She is an inspiration with her energy and her heart - as hundreds of women whose lives she has touched will agree.

Social Ministry of St. Peter’s Evangelical Lutheran Church Pen Argyl, PA 18072 — St. Peter’s Social Ministry has been visiting Gracedale’s residents for many years. They donate birthday and Christmas presents, spending quality time with the residents during each visit. They also host Birthday Parties several times a year in the Chapel for any resident celebrating a birthday that month providing the cake and entertainment for the residents. In addition to Gracedale, the Social Ministry volunteers for Easton’s Safe Harbor and for the Garden of Grace which produced over 11,000 pounds of produce that was donated to local food banks. They donate hand-made items to the Meals on Wheels program, Lehigh Valley Hospital, Easton Hospital, St. Luke’s Hospital, Fresenius Kidney Care Center, Veterans Hospital in Wilkes-Barre and food to Pen Argyl Salvation Army. The wonderful individuals involved in the Social Ministries Outreach Program are truly dedicated to their calling.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Wolf Has Now Closed 73 Restaurants Statewide

According to records maintained by the state Department of Agriculture, Governor Tom Wolf has now closed 73 restaurants statewide since December 14 over Covid-19 violations. This includes three restaurants in Lehigh County and one in NorCo.

In addition to closing 73 businesses, he's issued Covid-19 warnings to 180 eateries throughout the Commonwealth, including six in Lehigh and one on NorCo. Those warnings were issued the week of December 14-20. No warnings were issued the week of December 21-27. His inspectors just ordered 33 businesses to close.

Since December 14, his agents have responded to 134 Covid-19 complaints from snitches. They've also conducted 730 inspections.

Merry Christmas. 

I completely agree that the pandemic is now at its worst point. According to numbers cruncher Steve Thode, Lehigh County has had 8,189 new Covid cases for the month of December (as of Dec. 29) while NorCo reports 6,980. " Lehigh has had as many new cases in the 29 days of December as it had from the beginning of the pandemic up to November 12. NorCo has had as many new cases in the 29 days of December as it had from the beginning of the pandemic up to November 17."

But are restaurants the reason? 

Though they've been scapegoated and shuttered with no regard to the financial devastation caused, the real problem is that too little emphasis is placed on contact tracing. During the week of December 6-12 (the last week in which the state DOH has bothered to post data), contact tracers have only made contact with nine percent of those who needed to be advised to quarantine. This makes all the testing meaningless. 

In early May, Governor Wolf pledged to create a Commonwealth Civilian Coronavirus Corps to test and trace and provide jobs for those financially impacted by the pandemic. That never happened. Instead of an army of tracers who should be going door-to-door (as they did in Bethlehem during the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic), there are just 230 case investigators statewide.  That's no army. This is yet another example of of how badly the state and federal governments have failed its citizenry and local businesses.    

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Should Hazard Pay Be Reinstated at Jail?

On Thursday, I told you that Northampton County's jail is effectively in lockdown as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Nobody may leave his or her cell, except for showers, and must be masked at all times. Fortunately, most of those who test positive are asymptomatic. 

Union President Kyle Schultz commented that there have been 35 positive Covid cases since November 1, although it's unclear whether he is talking about corrections officers or the entire jail.

On Monday, Executive Lamont McClure furnished  detailed breakdown of Covid-19 at the jail.

Head Count=513

Total Covid 19 Tests Conducted=1,814

Total Positive Covid 19 Tests=128

Total Current Active Covid 19 Cases=26

Total Recovered Covd 19 Cases=102

Extended Furlough=30


There are currently 6 staff quarantining.

In view of the Covid-19 crisis at the jail, County Council should give serious consideration to reinstating hazard pay for all corrections officers. Executive McClure is unable to do this because he has surrendered his emergency powers. Council, however, could authorize him to discuss this with the union. It is my understanding that the union has just agreed to a contract extension. It is unclear whether there is any funding for this in the latest Covid-19 relief bill, but even a small payment from the general fund is better than nothing. Corrections officers at the jail have actually saved several lives since the onset of the pandemic and need to know they are appreciated.

Monday, December 28, 2020

378 Covid-19 Vaccines on Way to Gracedale

According to Executive Lamont McClure, 378 doses of the Covid-19 Pfizer vaccine will be administered tomorrow by CVS. The pharmacy will send six technicians, and CVS decides who has priority. My understanding is that staff will be receiving injections first.   

Covid-19 Vaccine "Easy Peasy" For NorCo Council VP Lori Vargo Heffner

Most of the Lehigh Valley's at-risk population will be waiting months for a Covid-19 vaccine. But some of us are special. Or so they think. It should come as no surprise to any of us that Northampton County Council VP Lori Vargo Heffner has managed to jump to the front of the line and get her vaccine long before those of you who really are at high risk. She received her vaccine last week while corrections officers and Gracedale residents and staff wait in line. Easy peasy, she bragged on Facebook. 

Though she's nothing close to a first responder, Vargo-Heffner is getting preferential treatment because she works for St. Luke's.  The hospital has a rather loose interpretation of CDC guidelines regarding health care personnel.  

What Vargo-Heffner fails to realize is that her public gloating is a slap across the face of many of the people who deserve vaccination more than she. 

By the way, she only recently started working for St. Luke's. In late May, the hospital sought and received county approval to refinance bonds. This approval process came from both General Purpose Authority and County Council. Heffner just happens to sit on both boards. In July, she started at St. Luke's. 

Easy peasy.  

Thursday, December 24, 2020

NorCo's Jail is Effectively Locked Down Due to Covid

According to a statement released by Northampton County, 34 inmates at the jail are in quarantine as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. There are currently about 515 inmates. 

Executive Lamont McClure confirmed yesterday that the entire jail is effectively in lockdown. No one is allowed to leave his or her cell except for showers. Moreover, everyone must be masked at all times. 

McClure indicated that the vast majority of those who test positive at the jail are asymptomatic. He has adopted a rigorous testing policy there. 

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Gov. Wolf Has Closed 40 Restaurants For Covid Violations Since Dec 14

According to records maintained by the state Department of Agriculture, Governor Tom Wolf has closed 40 restaurants statewide since December 14 over Covid-9 violations. This includes two restaurants in Lehigh County and one in NorCo.

In addition to closing 40 businesses, he's issued Covid-19 warnings to 180 eateries throughout the Commonwealth, including six in Lehigh and one on NorCo. 

Over this time period, his agents have responded to 84 Covid-19 complaints. They've also conducted 403 inspections.  

I'm in Quarantine

No, it's not the 'rona. It's baked beans. Nazareth Borough was evacuated last night. 

If you received the weather notifications about bad air quality, you now know why. 

Covid's Grip in NorCo Remains Strong


Covid's ugly grip on Northampton County remains very strong. Executive Lamont McClure notes that the drive-thru testing site has a current positivity rate of 18%, and the graph you see above shows something else as well - deaths. 

On December 22, the county added 24 more deaths to its growing tally. The death toll now stands at 381. 

If you think the only way you can die is if you have some pre-existing condition, think again.

I know a local coach who is extremely fit, a bit lean and middle aged. He contracted Covid-19, and was hospitalized with pneumonia. He is out now, but is still weak and tired. Until vaccines are available, it really is important to follow CDC guidelines regarding masking and social distance.   

O'Hare's WWII Diary: Half-Starved Soldier Worries About Brother in South Pacific

This is the latest installment from my dad's short-lived diary, penned shortly after his release from a German POW camp. In these entries, my eighty pound and half-starved father worries about his brother, Art, who was then serving in the South Pacific.

Uncle Art was wounded shortly after my father's posts, but not seriously. He was shot in the ass. When I once questioned him about it many years later, he snarled, "I was in front of the front lines, going for extra ammunition."

That's about all he ever shared. He kept no diary. He drank a lot, too.


All of my equipment, loot, real and personal property was once again in moving order waiting to be donned on my aching back as soon as the order to move was given. I waited and waited, a practice at which I have become very adept, for hour upon hour but no such order came. As we were lined up for midday chow ten G.I. trucks pulled up as only G.I. trucks can and I thought that this day would at last see me back to our own lines. However, due to the absence of certain documents or some such reason we are again detained by the Russians. I'm becoming a firm believer in the Vonnegut statement that "getting out of Germany is like walking in sand." The rumor now seems to be that we will pull out tomorrow when the trucks return with the proper papers. More of Hq. Co. showed up today in the persons of Sgt. Shuve and Pfc Sabbatino. Both look OK except for the loss of weight common to all POW's. Neither could give me any info regarding the whereabouts of Sgt. Boyle, Heinbeck, or Edgeworth. I'd certainly enjoy seeing those boys again.

The war in the Pacific seems to be progressing favorably, although we are meeting stiff resistance on some of the islands. I have an uncomfortable feeling that I'll learn more of that phase of our international troubles through first-hand experience. I'd like to see that part of the world but it would be just my luck to accomplish the feat through the medium of being a POW of the Japs, and twice in a lifetime is too much. The Russian band serenaded us again tonight. I'm getting to really like Russian music. The Russians are very much like Americans in their outlook on life. I suppose that is what queers the English with them. A few of us went across the hall to where we had discovered a radio in the room of one of our comrades. We listened for a while and left being driven out by static and by the system the joker in charge was using to operate the darn thing. He's one of that particular species of mankind who thinks he's operating the blue network whenever he comes across a radio with more than two dials on it. We are now preparing for bed at the end of a rather uneventful day.


Lo and behold I am still in Riesa. No trucks appeared today or had been rumored. However, we did receive a visit from two chaplains - one Protestant and one Catholic. They both held services and I heard mass and received communion for the first time in five months. The chaplain who was from the 69th division claimed that we would be out of here in three or four days. He seemed pretty confident that we would be back in the states within a few weeks after we hit our own lines. My inbred scepticism [sic] prohibits me from placing too much stock in his optimistic statement. Time and time alone will tell. The chaplains also brought some V-mail along with them. I wrote to my parents and to Aunt Mae. The letters are supposed to be on their way, having been brought back to our own lines with the chaplain who left here seven o'clock this evening.


A very routine day. I slept through reveille and all the morning, arising only for breakfast. Most of the afternoon was spent by all of us chewing the rag in the room where we were assembled. I thought of home today. Nothing now seems more welcome than news of the family. I am worried especially about Art. I certainly hope he has been as lucky as I in regard to ducking bullets and artillery.

It is early evening now and all of us are in the room now writing, reading, playing cards and talking. Things will no doubt continue along the same line until bed time.

Blogger's Note: First published 12/17/07.

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

NorCo Purchases Phone Soap to Kill Covid-19

Steve Barron uses phone soap
 It's called phone soap and is used to sanitize smart phones and other electronic devices. Northampton County recently purchased 289 of these devices. Though he's now too thin to play Santa Claus, Fiscal Affairs Director Steve Barron was tasked with distributing them as follows:

County facilities - 99

Schools - 61

Police departments - 43

Libraries, community centers and city halls - 26

Municipalities (one each) - 37

Local nonprofits and emergency shelters - 12

Senior Centers - 11

It takes about 10 minutes to clean one phone.

Each of these sanitizers costs about $160, and was purchased with CARES Act money. 

Monday, December 21, 2020

WSJ: Nursing Home Workers Hesitate Over Vaccine

On Friday, I told you that Northampton County Council has approved a $750 cash incentive for Gracedale workers who agree to a Covid-19 vaccine. That may have been the right call. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that nearly 72% of certified nursing assistants are hesitant to get a vaccine. This is based on a survey conducted by the Nat'l Ass'n of Health Care Assistants.  Responses indicate that staffers feel as though they are guinea pigs. 

This story notes that unnamed lawyers have advised this vaccine can be mandated. That, however, is contrary to advice provided to the county by its own lawyers. It is also contrary to the express language of the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, which provides that an employee has the option "to accept or refuse" a vaccine that has only been approved for emergency use. 

The money for this will come from CARES Act money provided to the county-owned nursing home for "infection control." Unfortunately, this money is restricted to Gracedale and the county has no authority to use it to pay incentives to workers at the jail or juvenile justice center, where the risk of community spread is high. 

McClure Snags Firefighter Endorsement

In a campaign, it's normal to see Democrats endorsing Democratic candidates. So it's no surprise to see incumbent NorCo Exec Lamont McClure snag endorsements from Congress person Susan Wild and the mayors of both cities. They're all members of the same tribe. So I understand why some of you place no weight at all on endorsements. But some endorsements matter. One that matters to me is the endorsement of the firefighters' union.  McClure received the endorsement of the 2,000-member Pa. Professional Firefighters Ass'n on Friday. Those guys put their lives on the line every day for you and me. So when they speak, I listen. 


Friday, December 18, 2020

NorCo to Offer $750 Covid-19 Vaccine Incentive to Gracedale Workers

At their December 17 meeting, Northampton County Council voted 7-0 to offer a $750 Covid-19 vaccine incentive of $750 to Gracedale workers. Administrator Jennifer Stewart-King told Council this could cost as much as $490,000, but will be paid out of CARES Act money specifically set aside for "infection control" at the nursing home. 

In addition to this incentive, some Gracedale workers will continue to receive hazard pay until December 31.  Currently, two residents are infected. more infections than at any other time in the pandemic. 

This incentive only exists at Gracedale.  "We don't have the money to incentivize anyone else," explained Executive Lamont McClure 

Council member Kerry Myers was absent and Council President Ron Heckman left the meeting before the vote. 

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Do Masks Help Sensitive Teeth?

Yesterday morning, I woke up with both a headache and a severe tooth ache. I have sensitive teeth, and this happens to me when ever there is winter storm.  My experience has been that nothing helps. You just have to ride it out. 

Yesterday, the pain went away when I was walking, so I assumed that the exercise probably helped. But it returned as soon as I stopped.  It has suddenly dawned on me how to end it. In fact, I ended it early this morning by doing one simple thing. 

Wearing a mask. 

When I exercise outside, I bring a mask but never wear it. When it gets cold, however, I have always worn a balaclava. I have quite a few. I have always liked the way they warm up my head, neck and the air as I breathe it. 

When I walked yesterday, and I was out twice, I wore a balaclava. My toothache was gone. The pain returned when I got home.

This morning, I donned a mask inside my underground lair, even though I am near no one. In 15 minutes, the pain was gone.  

I think the mask (or balaclava) might help those of us who suffer tooth aches during weather changes. 

This is just my personal experience. Nothing more. 

Have you had any positive experiences from wearing a mask? Feel free to share.  

LC Lawyer Eman Jarrah Seeks Open Judgeship

From Eman H Jarrah campaign: Deputy Lehigh County Solicitor Eman H. Jarrah announced her candidacy for Judge of the Lehigh County Court of Common Pleas.

Jarrah, age 45, has more than 20 years of legal experience, having spent the last 14 years in the Office of the Solicitor. In this position, she counsels human service agencies that serve some of the community’s most vulnerable consumers, including the elderly, intellectually disabled, and those individuals suffering from mental health issues. Jarrah has handled hundreds of cases, most before the Court of Common Pleas, advocating in court and before administrative bodies in the fight against abuse, neglect and financial exploitation. She is a member of the Lehigh County District Attorney’s Elder Abuse Task Force.

In 2018, Jarrah served on a six person Orphans’ Court Rules Committee to determine how to integrate local practice with the new Supreme Court Rules as they relate to guardianships. She assisted in developing practice pointers for attorneys unfamiliar with the new procedures.

Jarrah brings a breadth of legal expertise in the fields of municipal, legislative, contract, and agricultural preservation law. She provides legal opinions on often complex subject matter and advises Lehigh County offices on a daily basis.

During her years in private practice with a local firm, Jarrah handled intellectual property matters with a focus on trademark, copyright and franchise law.

A Lehigh Valley native, Jarrah is a graduate of Dieruff High School. She attended Moravian College in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, where she graduated with Honors with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Chemistry. During her senior year, she was selected to receive the American Chemical Society Award. She attended the University of Dayton School of Law and was a member of the Law Review. Her article on copyright and star pagination is published in the University’s law journal.

Jarrah has served as a board member of the Allentown YMCA/YWCA.

As an adjunct professor at Moravian College, Jarrah has co-taught a course on Science and Intellectual Property. She is a frequent presenter at the Lehigh County Bar Association. Jarrah is also bilingual in English and Arabic.

“I am a mother, wife, and lawyer with strong roots in the Lehigh Valley – I value our community. Working for the County of Lehigh has given me fresh insights and impacted my legal career in a very meaningful way. I believe it is critical to remain open-minded, be a good listener, and have a thorough understanding of the law. It would be a privilege to serve as a Judge, and if elected, I commit to be fair, balanced, and equitable.”

A daughter of immigrants, Jarrah grew up in the City of Allentown, and resides currently in the Borough of Emmaus with her husband David and their two children.

Blogger's Note: Between Jarrah and Shields, these are two very impressive choices. What's great is that you get three.

How Are You Handling the Storm?

Though I managed to walk about four miles today, I've mostly been hunkered down in my underground lair. Though I usually spend my time a bit more productively, I confess that I've been binge-watching the Mandolarian

Having been a fan of both Lone Wolf and Child as well as Clint Eastwood, this has been a real treat. 

I think today might be a bad day for a bike ride. 

How are you coping? 

Upper Milford Super Running For LC Comm'r

EMMAUS, PA - Joyce K. Moore, elected to the Upper Milford Board of Township Supervisors in November 2017, announced today that she is running for Lehigh County Commissioner in District #5 (encompassing the Boroughs of Coopersburg, Emmaus, Macungie; the Townships of Lower Milford, Salisbury, Upper Saucon, and Upper Milford; as well as the 12th Ward, and parts of the 13th Ward of the City of Allentown).

As a longtime resident of the Lehigh Valley and a two-time public officeholder, Ms. Moore has a full appreciation of the importance of local government and its impact on the community.

Originally from Delaware County, in the Philadelphia suburbs, Ms. Moore moved to Easton, PA, where she served on the Glendon Borough Council, before moving to Upper Milford Township in Lehigh County where she has served for three years as a Township Supervisor and continues to serve her term, including the past year as Chair of the Board of Supervisors. She raised her family and built her financial planning business right here in Lehigh County.

"My life has always revolved around the idea of service," Moore says, "service to my clients, service to my community, and service to country." As a Chartered Financial Consultant and small business owner, Ms. Moore has built her career of over 30 years of experience in providing her clients with unbiased investment, estate, and retirement planning advice.

Ms. Moore has devoted her time as an Upper Milford resident to protecting open space. Ms. Moore states that “As a long-time resident of Upper Milford, I've been an active member of the Emmaus Upper Milford Environmental Advisory Council, the Sierra Club, the Appalachian Mountain Club, including as the chair of the Upper Milford Open Space Committee.”

In addition to her service in the community, as a mother Ms. Moore was a Cub Scout Den Leader, an Assistant Scoutmaster for BSA Troop 31 in Williams Township, Minsi Trails Council, and a board member of the Spring Garden Children’s School.


Ms. Moore sees the finding of a balance between open space and farmland preservation with smart development as paramount to the county’s ability to sustain high paying jobs for Lehigh County’s working families, upholding our high quality of life.

Collectively, Ms. Moore views the opportunity to continue serving her community as a County Commissioner as being in-line with his desire to leverage her experience to enhance fiscal responsibility, paramount to the efficient operation of county government. "I wish to continue my record of service by putting my experience towards supporting our county in its standing as one of the premier counties in the commonwealth while serving with both diligence and passion," Moore says.


Additional information about Joyce Moore’s candidacy and background can be found at www.mooreforlehigh.com. You can also follow her on social media at Joyce Moore for Lehigh County (Facebook), @Moore4Lehigh (Twitter) and @mooreforlehigh (Instagram). 

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Covid-19 Tests Coming Back Positive in NorCo

From Northampton County: Lamont McClure and Emergency Management Services are releasing the results from COVID-19 drive-through testing sites in Northampton County.

The Department of Health sponsored AMI to hold a drive-through/walk-in COVID-19 testing site at the William Penn Park & Ride from December 2-6. The site tested people from Northampton County and surrounding areas. The positivity rate for Northampton County residents was 16%. The positivity rate for residents from Carbon, Lehigh and Monroe counties was 19%.

A drive-through testing site has been available at Coordinated Health at 3100 Emrick Blvd in Bethlehem Township since July. Currently, the positive rate for COVID-19 at that site is 14.6%.

“It’s clear that the Coronavirus is prevalent in our area which is concerning as we head into the holidays where people will be tempted to gather with their loved ones,” says Lamont McClure. “While a vaccine has been approved, it will be months before it becomes available to everyone. I encourage all Northampton County residents to continue to wear masks, socially distance and wash their hands frequently.”

A COVID-19 drive-through testing site is open at 3100 Emrick Blvd. Bethlehem Township, 18020. Hours of operation are Monday/Wednesday/Friday from 9:00AM – 4:00PM and Tuesday/Thursday from 11:00AM to 6:00PM. The site is open on every Saturday from 9:00AM – 12:00 Noon. The drive-through testing center is located in the parking area to the rear of the Coordinated Health Building and is separate from patient parking and routine patient care. The majority of patients tested at this site received their results in one-to-two days.

A Physician’s order is not required but, to be eligible for testing, individuals must report or display one or more CDC-recognized symptoms of COVID-19: fever, dry cough, shortness of breath, chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat or loss of taste and/or smell. The drive-through site is open to everyone, but only residents of Northampton County will receive a free test if they do not have health coverage. All testing will be through HNL Lab Medicine unless insurance requires an alternate laboratory. Participants should bring a photo ID and their insurance card, if they have one, with them to the testing site.  

Bethlehem to Offer Second Round of Small Business Grants ... Eventually

Bethlehem Mayor Bob Donchez has announced a second round of COVID-19 Small Business Assistance Grants for awards of up to $10,000.

According to a news release, the program should be posted on the city website, but I don't see it. That's a strange way to respond what the city itself proclaims is an "urgent need." That really should be available NOW, not in a few months. 

The city has thus far awarded $204,000 to 102 businesses. 

Businesses must employing fewer than 50 employees and be struggling to stay open or reopen to apply. Financial need documentation will be required. For reasons that elude me, priority is given to minority businesses and those located in the downtown and or low- and moderate-income areas of the City.

It would seem to me that if you're struggling and just happen to be white, you should be just as eligible as anyone else. 

According to the release, "All questions and or technical assistance needed for completing the grant application is handled by the City of Bethlehem’s Department of Community and Economic Development. A full list of grant requirements, required documentation, and grant application are forthcoming and will be posted on the City’s website and social media outlets."

This should be posted now, not after the new year. 

Holmes Guilty of First Degree Murder

In what is believed to be the first capital murder case since the Covid-19 pandemic reared its ugly head, a Northampton County jury has convicted Jacob Holmes, 40, of first degree murder in the execution-style slaying of Miguel Aponte at the Easton Cafe in 2009. WFMZ's Emma Wright has an excellent summary of the closing arguments and verdict.

On Friday, the death penalty phase of the trial begins. 

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Snow Emergency

 Pretty much everything will be closed tomorrow and Thursday. WFMZ-TV always has an exhaustive list of cancellations and delays. 

Bethlehem Joins Easton in Closing Building to Public

Like Easton, Bethlehem is closing its doors to the public in reaction to a spike in Covid-19 cases. While I understand the need to protect municipal workers, can't that be accomplished through masks, temperature checks and social distancing? What these cities are really doing is giving employees a paid vacation at our expense. They are hiding from the public they ostensibly serve. I am one of those people who believes government has a necessary role, especially in a pandemic. By turning tail and hiding, these cities send the message that perhaps smaller government is better after all.  

I am aware of only one employee who has been infected at the Northampton County courthouse since it was re-opened to the public. If there is demonstrable evidence that closure is necessary, this reaction would be understandable. But a government that closes its doors in a panic demonstrates no leadership at all. 

Jacob Holmes Trial - Lawyers Make Closing Arguments Today

The capital murder trial of Jacob Homes continues. He is charged in the execution-style slaying of Miguel Aponte at Easton Cafe on March 30, 2009. Franklin Barndt, who is serving 16-42 years for his role in the shooting, has been the chief witness against Holmes. 

The case, believed to be the first capital case in the state since the emergence of Covid-19, is being personally tried by DA Terry Houck, with the assistance of Deputy DA Tatum Wilson. 

Houck rested his case yesterday. 

Holmes is represented by veteran criminal defense lawyer Brian Monahan, with the assistance of Attorney Matt Goodrich. 

Monahan rested without calling a witness. 

Lawyers will close today, after which President Judge Michael Koury, Jr., will charge the jury. 

If convicted, the trial will go into a death penalty phase.  


Superior Court Judge Maria McLaughlin Seeks Seat on Pa Supreme Court

Pa. Superior Court Judge Maria McLaughlin has announced she will be seeking an open seat on the state supreme court next year. 

Judge McLaughlin is a graduate of Penn State (1988) and Delaware Law School of Widener (1999). She spent most of her legal career as a prosecutor in the Philly DA's office before being elected a common pleas judge in 2011 and a Superior Court judge in 2017. In her 2017 race, she was the top vote getter. 

In the above video, she tells you a little bit about herself.

Her mantra? "Never forget where you came from." 

Monday, December 14, 2020

Missing Person in Bethlehem Tp

Jose Daniel Carrasco, 25 years old, was last seen on December 9, 2020 around 8am in the area of Easton Avenue and Willow Park Road in Bethlehem Township.  He is described as being around 5'10" tall, 300 pounds, black hair, brown eyes.  He has no tattoos.  He was last seen wearing a grey jacket and a red skull cap.

If seen, or if you might know his location, please dial 911.
If you have any information to assist our investigation, please contact Inv. Stevens at 610-814-6473 or email astevens@bethlehemtwp.com

Cheyenne 9’s Coverage of the Official White House Address

"This parody video comes from the creators of South Park.

LV Covid-19 Cases Are Triple What They Were in April

 From numbers cruncher Steve Thode: As of today (Sunday)  Lehigh County and NorCo have reported a combined total of 7,322 new COVID cases over the past 14 days. That is almost triple the peak 14-day new case number from the first wave (2,487 on April 15).

Blogger's Note: For those of you suffering from this illness, I wish you a speedy recovery. I have a few friends who are battling it now.  Unless you are a White House staffer, it's unlikely any of us sees a vaccine anytime soon. Although I have no medical background, and you should do your own research, there is some evidence that Vitamin D may help prevent infection or reduce its severity. The best source of vitamin D is sunlight. 

NorCo Council Awards $1.3 M to 93 Small Businesses

On December 10, at their last meeting of the year, Northampton County Council voted 8-0 to award $1.3 million in pandemic relief grants to 93 small businesses. Most of these awards were for $15,000, with no restrictions on how the money is spent. Altogether, Northampton County has awarded approximately $10.1 million to 766 county-owned businesses.  

This money is part of $27.6 million the county received under the CARES Act, with instructions to spend by year's end. Executive Lamont McClure established and Council approved a "pandemic protection program"  for small business grants; tourism; municipal and community assistance; mental health and addiction projects; nonprofit assistance; and broadband development at area schools. 

The small business grants were marketed by the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce and without regard to whether the business was a member. County Council approved the awards in four separate rounds in which businesses were considered on a first come,first served basis. 

The Chamber was entitled to a fee for its assistance, but poured that money back into the small business grant program. 

McClure felt it was important to get the money out as soon as possible. "“Small businesses are the lifeblood of our local economy” he said at one point.  “They provide jobs and deliver needed services to our residents."

To qualify, a business had to be (1) located in Northampton County, (2) have fewer than 100 employees and (3) missed out on previous awards. 

Council member Peg Ferraro was absent. 

The latest awards coincide with a new Covid-19 mitigation measures imposed Governor Tom Wolf, which in part force local restaurants and bars to suspend indoor dining for three weeks. 

Donchez Endorses McClure in Exec Race

From Bethlehem Mayor Bob Donchez:
 Today I am proud to announce that I am endorsing and strongly supporting Lamont McClure for a second term as Northampton County Executive. 

During the past 4 years, Executive McClure has demonstrated leadership in dealing with the pandemic, preserving open space, fiscal responsibility in County Government and providing CARES funding to small businesses throughout Northampton County. 

As Mayor of the City of Bethlehem, I have worked closely with him in the consolidation of Bethlehem’s 911 system into the County 911 system, distributing $100,000 to the Bethlehem Area School District for internet access for our students, and distributing $1.8 million in CARES funding to Bethlehem businesses who are facing serious challenges. 

Despite these challenging times, Executive McClure has been fiscally responsible by presenting a no tax increase budget to County Council every year since becoming Executive. His leadership, his commitment to small business, expanding the preservation of open space and providing funding to school districts for internet access are reasons why I am supporting and endorsing him for a second term.

Friday, December 11, 2020

Will Wolf's Latest Edict Cause Mistrial in Holmes Case?

Jacob Holmes
Late yesterday afternoon, Governor Tom Wolf responded to a spike in Covid-19 cases by imposing a new set of restrictions. Among them is a ban on indoor gatherings of more than 10 people, scheduled to go into effect on Saturday at midnight. Will this latest order result in a mistrial in the Jacob Holmes murder trial, which is expected to continue into next week? That's just the latest headache for President Judge Michael J Koury, Jr. and everyone involved. But it seems unlikely. 

As I explained yesterday, the court has already taken extensive precautions to prevent the courtroom from being a superspreader. Everyone is spread out and masked. 

In his Order, Governor Wolf explains.  

Classroom instruction by school entities is not a “gathering” or “event” for purposes of this Order.  Nor is a meeting of electors, including any preparation, to perform the duties enjoined upon them by the Constitution and the laws of the Commonwealth and of the United States a “gathering” or “event” for purposes of this Order. 

If classroom instruction or elections can continue, it would make sense that a jury trial already in progress should be allowed to reach its conclusion. 

Two more days of testimony are expected. 

Jacob Holmes is currently on trial in the execution-style slaying of Miguel Aponte at Easton Cafe on March 30, 2009. 

If convicted, he could be sentenced to death. 

Yesterday, the jury heard from Melvin Bryson, Jr,, currently serving a sentence in prison in an unrelated matter. Bryson is also in quarantine after having been exposed to Covid-19, and is awaiting test results. That's why he testified remotely. 

Bryson, known as Junior, told the jury that Miguel was like a son to him, and worked with him detailing cars not far from Easton Cafe. They'd go there for lunch or for a few drinks after work. They were there on March 30, 2009. Bryson and "JP" played the poker machine, while Miguel Aponte was seated at the bar. 

At some point, he said that Frankie Barndt (see yesterday's story) called and stopped by, but was not there very long. 

Later, while he was at the poker machine, he heard a bang at the door. The bartender went over to answer "and that's when everything went crazy." He heard "Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang!" and dropped to the floor. He could see the shooter, but only partially. He was wearing a hoodie and his face was mostly covered.  

After the shooting, Bryson went over to Miguel. "He's someone I loved dearly and there was nothing I could do to help him. He just had a baby and was trying to make things better."

Bryson went outside and the shooter was still there. "Get the fuck back in the bar!" commanded the shooter. Bryson said he only part of the assailant's face but knew he was black because "his voice sounded like a black man."   

Bryson himself is black. 

He went out of the bar a second time to chase after the shooter, but was stopped by police and briefly detained as they made sure he and his friends were unarmed. 

On cross, Bryson was asked by Attorney Brian Monahan if the shooter might be Barndt. He denied it was him. "The shooter was not Frank. I know Frank's voice and know everything about him."

Maraleen Shields to Seek One of Three LC Judgeships

Maraleen Shields, Esq. 
There will be three judicial vacancies in Lehigh County last year. Maraleen Shields is seeking one of them.

Shields is originally from North Braddock in Allegheny County. She unfortunately lost her father when she was just seven years old, and was raised by her mother, Doris. She attended Woodland Hills High School, a school created as the result of a 1981 court-ordered desegregation merger. There, she discovered her interest in the law by participating in high school mock trial competitions. 

After graduating from Kenyon College, Shields earned her law degree from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, graduating magna cum laude. She also participated in the school's Law Review, an honor reserved for top students. 

After law school, Maraleen began her career in Philadelphia handling commercial and mass tort defense litigation at Saul Ewing and Reed Smith. She went on to practice at Post & Schell and Stevens & Lee, handling complex medical malpractice litigation throughout northeastern Pennsylvania. In 2014, Maraleen joined Fitzpatrick Lentz & Bubba, P.C. (FL&B) becoming a member of both the Health Care as well as the Litigation and Trial Practice groups. In 2017, she became the first person of color to become a shareholder of the firm. She serves on FL&B’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Marketing, and Summer Associate Committees. She joins her colleagues in many volunteer efforts such as Habitat for Humanity’s She Nailed It! Fundraising social and competition.

In 2006, Maraleen and her husband, a Lehigh Valley native, decided to make the Lehigh Valley their home. Over the last nearly fifteen years, Maraleen has developed deep connections to the Lehigh Valley. She currently resides in South Whitehall Township with her husband of 14 years, Kevin Law Orloski, Esq., and their two children, Cole (age 10) and Sage (age 4).

She was the President of the Parents’ Association of Cetronia Elementary School, where her son is in the fifth grade. She was a Member of the Board of Trustees of the Hillside School; a member of the Board of Directors of Lehigh Valley Children’s Centers; and a Member of the Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Council of Lehigh Valley Inter-regional Networking & Connecting (LINC). She was recently invited to participate in Parkland School District’s Equity and Inclusion Committee, which will guide the district in developing a sustainable pathway towards equity, inclusion, cultural relevance/responsiveness, and social emotional learning.

She is active in the Pennsylvania Bar Association (PBA), serving as Chair of the Minority Bar Committee’s Rising Star Program Subcommittee, Co-Chair of the Women in the Profession Commission’s Diversity Committee, and Co-Chair of the Health Care Committee. In 2016, she was invited to serve on the PBA’s Blue Ribbon Panel on Membership Engagement which focused on engagement of mothers, millennials, and minorities. For this work, she was honored with the PBA President’s Award in 2018.

Maraleen was invited to join the PBA’s Joint Task Force on Continuity of Legal Services, which is currently focused on creating recommendations to ensure continuity and consistency of legal services from one jurisdiction to another in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Earlier this year she was honored to receive the prestigious Lynette Norton Award. This award recognizes a female attorney who excels in litigation and is devoted to the mentorship of women in the profession. Maraleen is especially proud to be the first woman of color to receive this award. 

She has been named to the PA Rising Stars list 2008, 2010, 2012-2018. She received Lehigh Valley Business Journal’s Forty Under 40 Award and Lehigh Valley Magazine’s Legal Leader Award. She is a frequent speaker on diversity, equity, and inclusion, health care, and litigation matters.

Asked why she is seeking a seat on the court, Maraleen said“I believe my experience and deep respect for the law will be a valuable asset to the people of Lehigh County. Being a good judge is about more than knowing the law, it is also about compassion and communicating effectively with people. The judicial system is, by its very nature, adversarial. When people arrive in the courtroom, it is because something has gone wrong and the parties have not been able to resolve their differences. In my life and practice, I treat people with a baseline level of kindness, decency, and respect. If given the opportunity, I intend to continue in this vein and judge cases without being judgmental of the participants.”

For more information please go to shieldsforlcjudge.com to connect with the campaign.

All I can say is Wow!

Hyman Will Support O'Connell For Mayor

For the past several years, Allentown businessman Nat Hyman and Mayor Ray O'Connell have been political rivals. But they're now allied against Mayoral candidate Ce-Ce Gerlach. Hyman is prepared to give his full-throated support if Ray can be coaxed into seeking re-election. O'Connell will make that decision today. 

In contrast to what The Morning Call has written, their objection to Gerlach has nothing to do with her progressive views. In fact, Hyman and O'Connell are themselves progressive.  Their problem with this unemployed opportunist is that she would ruin Allentown. Here's what Hyman said, just a few short days ago. 

I have spent several hours with Ms. Gerlach and it is all too apparent that she has neither the intellectual capacity, nor the experience, education or ability to run a $110,000,000 city with 800 employees. More importantly, I do not believe she has the moral or ethical fiber to be Mayor of this City. Remember, this is the same woman who said “f*** the police” and then LIED about it. She rejected $110,000 in free money from the federal government for our police, purely to make a political statement. She filmed a poor soul committing suicide, posted it on Facebook for her own political aspirations before his family even knew about it and then LIED about it. She apologized to some rioters, not having the life experience to understand that, in so doing, she exposed our City to litigation which could very well cost our taxpayers money. She was only a few months into her term on City Council before deciding to run for Mayor, betraying the trust of those who voted for her. She presided over a School Board that repeatedly ran the school district into financial devastation, and she will do the same thing to this City. And, unbeknownst to most, she is presently looking for a job (in addition to Mayor) on linkedin.com and LYING on her resume! On it, she implies that she has a BA degree in business administration from Muhlenberg College. That is a LIE! She only took a few courses there in 2017. I urge you to go on that page, although, given her past history, she probably removed it or revised it upon reading this article (I took a screen shot of it for posterity).  If she were to do that in any company, she would be fired immediately. She should be fired from City Council for it.

None of this has anything to do with being a progressive. It also has nothing to do with her sex or race. It has everything to do with her dishonesty, poor judgment, divisiveness and poor financial knowledge. . 

McClure Makes It Official - He's Running

As expected, Northampton County Executive Lamont McClure today announced he will seek a second term as Executive. He did so outside the courthouse rotunda before a small and masked crowd of supporters. He refrained from inviting County Council to limit the size of the gathering. His announcement is below: 

In 2017, we saw the struggles our senior citizens were having fighting to stay in their homes. The crushing burden of ever-increasing real estate property taxes making continuing home ownership less and less tenable every year. With those seniors in the forefront of our minds, we promised we would not raise their county property taxes over the next 4 years. We have proposed and passed, through County Council, three straight no tax increase budgets and in the coming year we will propose and pass a 4th. We have done this through making wise financial transactions and by cutting the budget by 17% over the last 2 years alone.

In 2017, we heard our citizens talk about sitting in traffic for far too long on 22 with big rigs all around them. Likewise, we heard the stories of being on 78, knuckles white from gripping the steering wheel, praying to just make it home safely. We promised we would battle the uncontrolled growth of warehouses and the multiplying truck traffic by preserving farmland, environmentally sensitive land, and more open space than ever before. We have done just that. We have invested millions in preserving farmland, protecting environmentally sensitive land, and expanding and updating County and municipal parks. The millions we have invested has allowed us to leverage millions more. Northampton County’s future is green."

In 2017, mindful of the history that there were those who sought to sell Gracedale or turn it into a corporation, we pledged that Gracedale would continue to be county owned. We did so as it is our moral obligation to provide a safe and secure home for folks who are unfortunately afflicted with Alzheimer’s and dementia. Folks who have no means to afford high quality care. Through this first term, with competence, compassion, and courage we have worked to protect our most vulnerable neighbors.

As I prepare to seek a second term as your County Executive, it is important to state from the outset that, it has been the most difficult test, and greatest honor of my lifetime, to be leading Northampton County through its most turbulent times in over 100 years. The failure of the Federal Government to confront the Covid-19 pandemic immediately and with the full might of the American Government caused a medical and economic devastation that state and local leaders were left to their own devices to confront. But we did not do it alone. In fact, the people of Northampton County lead the fight against Covid-19. They were disciplined and they stayed home. They wore their masks, washed their hands and stayed 6 feet apart. They got tested when they did not feel well, and they did their best to stay away from other people to stop the spread. While our citizens were disciplined and looked out for each other, those on the front line of this pandemic are the true heroes. Nurses, doctors, corrections officers, EMS professionals, folks who work in grocery stores, warehouses and pharmacies took care of us at great personal risk to themselves. Without them, the devastation would be much, much worse.

We confronted the Coronavirus head on. With competence and courage, we have charted a course with you on our minds every day. We swung into action creating our Pandemic Protection Plan that held the twin goals of protecting the public health and helping our small businesses survive and laying the foundation for them to thrive on the other side of the catastrophe. In fact, we have helped more than 750 businesses with over 10 million dollars by throwing them this lifeline. We lead by requiring universal masking and temperature screening in all County facilities. We lead for you by forming Covid-19 testing collaborations, first with Easton Hospital, and now with Coordinated Health. This increased our testing and tracing capacity in Northampton County. This is one of the reasons, despite being affected by 3 of world’s Covid-19 hotspots, Northampton County continues to hold its own against the virus. The pandemic has not passed us yet, and we will continue to fight it for you with all the resources we can bring to bear against it.

Over these next 4 years we will continue to lead for you with the competence and compassion you have come to expect from us. We will continue fighting for a green future and against ever increasing truck traffic by investing millions more in green space preservation, renewable energy projects and energy efficient construction. Northampton County’s future is green.

We will continue to accomplish important work like the completion of the new Forensic Center – more than 30 years in the making. We brought this long overdue project in on time and under budget. We are not perfect, but when we make mistakes, we learn from them. For you, we adapt, we grow. And that is why Northampton County put on the best Presidential Election in the entire Commonwealth – both Primary and General Elections. We did that and we did it during the worst health and economic situation seen since 1918.

Today I am formally announcing my candidacy for a second term as your Northampton County Executive. Mindful of where we have been, and the tragedies and triumphs we have seen together, I will bring all we have learned together into a second term so that we can keep Northampton County moving forward into the future.

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Wolf Imposes New Restrictions

 At a news conference late this afternoon, Gov. Tom Wolf announced new Covid-19 restrictions to take effect on Saturday at 12:01 am until Monday, January 4 at 8 am. 

No indoor dining.

Casinos, bowling alleys, theaters and gyms closed.

No high school sports.

No spectators at pro or college sports.  

50% occupancy at every business.   

Indoor gatherings limited to 10 people. 

Northampton County is currently in the middle of a capital jury trial. Testimony in that case is supposed to continue on Monday. Will these new restrictions necessitate a mistrial? I believe that case must be permitted to conclude. 

Houck Trying First Capital Case as DA


Last week, Northampton County DA Terry Houck was dragged in front of Northampton County Council on two separate evenings when they attempted unsuccessfully to defund half of his $100,000 request for Lehigh County's Regional Intelligence and Investigations Center (RIIC). If he looks a little tired, it's because he's in the middle of a murder trial. Like his predecessor John Morganelli, Houck is personally trying some of the higher profile cases. Right now, he's in the middle of a capital case against Jacob Holmes, who has been charged in the execution-style murder of Miguel Apointe at Easton Cafe on March 30, 2009. Houck believes this is the first capital case being tried in the Commonwealth since Covid reared its ugly head. Curious about how the courts are handling jury trials in the middle of a pandemic, I sat in on part of the trial yesterday. As luck would have it, I caught the testimony of Franklin Barndt, who admitted to conspiring with Holmes to set up the murder. 

Houck is being assisted in this trial by Deputy DA Tatum Wilson. Brian Monahan and Matt Goodrich represent Holmes. President Judge Michael J Koury, Jr. is trying the case. 

What accommodations have been made for Covid? 

First, courtroom occupancy is limited to 25. Overflow rooms have been set up in the jury lounge and court administrator's office for members of the public, who mostly consist of family members for Jacob Holmes. 

Second, everything is spread out. The jury is scattered throughout the courtroom instead of being squeezed into a jury box. From time to time, Judge Koury will ask if any of them has trouble seeing or hearing what is being said. 

Third, everyone entering the courtroom is provided with a clear face mask. This is presumably so that jurors can see the facial expressions on the trial's participants. 

Barndt's Testimony

Clad in a grey and white prison jumpsuit and orange slippers, Franklin Barndt admits that he initially denied that Holmes was involved in the shooting. But after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit criminal homicide, he fingered Holmes as the shooter. He admits to calling Holmes, providing the illegal handgun used and showing him a back door to get into the bar. He also showed Holmes how to convert a T-Shirt into a Ninja mask. He acknowledges that, after the shooting, he tossed the gun into the Delaware River at Wy-Hit-Tuk Park in Williams Tp. 

It was a revenge shooting. Miguel Aponte was believed to have been involved in the shooting of Holmes at another bar in 2006, and this was payback. 

Houck went through a video that seemed to corroborate the basic details of Barndt's testimony. 

On cross, Brian Monahan had no trouble getting Barndt to admit that he had changed his story on multiple occasions between 2009 and 2013 and that he himself had an extensive criminal record.

Barndt denied he had made any deals with anyone and is serving a maximum sentence of 16-42 years for his role in the shooting. He said that even if the DA sent a letter to the parole board seeking clemency, he would still be incarcerated until at least 2029. Barndt at one time had threatened DA Tatum Wilson, and pleaded guilty to terroristic threats. 

What's Next?

Houck provided the names of several witnesses who will testify tomorrow and Friday. Apparently, every criminal in the Lehigh Valley worked at one time or another for a tree cutting service (I won't mention the name). Barndt testified that he had removed a tree at Judge Koury's mother's house, and Holmes added a few unsolicited details himself. A deputy sheriff told me that he pulled into his ex-wife's home one day, and numerous of the criminals his office was looking for were at her home, cutting down yet another tree.