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Hazleton mayor Barletta still undecided on run for Congress

Maybe he will and maybe he won’t.

Despite reports published earlier today, Hazleton mayor Lou Barletta is still undecided on whether or not to run for Pennsylvania’s 11th Congressional District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, currently occupied by Democrat Paul Kanjorski.

“Lou Barletta has at no time told me that he has made the decision to run for Congress,” said Pennsylvania Republican Party Chairman Robert A. Gleason Jr. in a press release.

“He is a wonderful mayor and I would love to see him run in the 11th Congressional District,” Gleason added.

Barletta has been the subject of intense Republican pressure to challenge the 12-term incumbent Kanjorski in the November election. In a 2002 election, Kanjorski defeated Barletta for the same seat by 13 percentage points.

Barletta’s political profile has been raised over the past year during his public battles against illegal immigration in Hazleton, including a visit to Monroe County last year for an illegal immigration forum.

Barletta will have to decide if he wants to run before Feb. 12, the deadline to file nominating petitions.

Police name suspects in Pine Ridge assault while security staff out of work

BUSHKILL — State police have accused two men of an assault rampage involving car chases and an ax in Pine Ridge, at a time when the development’s security may be compromised.

Jerome Noble, 19, of Saw Creek, Bushkill, and Shaun Alan Hance, 20, of Marshalls Creek, are accused of aggravated assault after threatening, chasing and assaulting seven different victims from the Pine Ridge and Pocono Ranchlands developments on Jan. 23.

The two men threatened victims by telephone, then waited for them to emerge from a house before chasing them “at a high rate of speed” in two separate chases, according to state police at Blooming Grove.

Police have accused the two men of physically assaulting one victim and using an ax to threaten three others.

The board at Pine Ridge says the entire security (and office) staff walked off the job on Jan. 21, two days before the assaults, after a labor dispute over health care. Employees say they were fired after the staff scheduled to work all called in sick Monday.

Board members refused to accept doctors' notes and quickly changed the locks to prevent staff from returning.

The dispute has raised questions about the security situation at Pine Ridge.

The board did not clearly answer association member’s questions about who is running security while they come up with a new public safety plan.

The board told members that community volunteers, board members and former security staff had manned the gate house.

Anyone with more information on the attacks is asked to call police at (570) 226-5718.

Butchered woman's death ruled homicide

The death of a female victim whose remains were discovered on Interstates 80 and 380 throughout Monroe and Lackawanna counties on Tuesday has been ruled a homicide.

The victim suffered multiple violent injuries, any of which caused her death, according to state police at Swiftwater.

The victim is described as a heavyset white female, approximately 5 feet 7 inches tall, with dark colored hair, with some gray hair mixed in.

Further details about the victim will be released at a future time.

Anyone with information concerning the case is asked to call state police at (570) 839-7701.

Update: DeNaples' slots license revoked; Mount Airy casino to stay open

The Pa. Gaming Control Board has announced the suspension of Louis DeNaples’ slots license, effective immediately, but Mount Airy Casino Resort will stay open.

The emergency order by Anne Neeb, executive director of the board, came in response to perjury charges against DeNaples. A trustee will be appointed to run the casino.

All profits from the casino will be placed in an escrow account. DeNaples is not entitled to compensation. In addition, DeNaples is not allowed to enter the property or exercise any control.

DeNaples can appeal Neeb’s order and ask for a hearing.

Check back for more information as it becomes available.

Investigators far from identifying butchered woman

Investigators are still far from identifying the woman whose butchered remains were found strewn along Interstates 80 and 380 on Tuesday. An autopsy today confirmed that the victim is female. We’re awaiting word on her possible age and any distinguishing features.

The woman’s severed head was among body parts found Tuesday. Officials have not said if they plan to release a rendering of her features so that the public may help identify her. They have not released her eye or hair color as of 4 p.m. Investigators describe the woman as light-skinned, meaning they are not sure of her race.

Preliminary tests were done on the remains at Pocono Medical Center yesterday before they were taken to Lehigh Valley Hospital for today’s 9 a.m. autopsy.

DeNaples’ spokesman calls perjury charges 'outrageous'

Casino owner Louis DeNaples, through his spokesman, on Wednesday strongly denied charges that he perjured himself before the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board. Here is the full statement of spokesman Kevin Feeley:

“This is outrageous, but it is not surprising that this DA is not even bothering to give Mr. DeNaples the simple courtesy of notifying him about it. It’s just another example of prosecution by press headline, which is what we’ve been seeing in this case for months.

“As a practical matter, what this means is that Mr. DeNaples and his lawyers have not yet had the same opportunities that you guys had, to see any of the details of the prosecution’s case.

“One thing is clear now: Mr. DeNaples is glad that we are finally moving from the rumor mill to the courtroom. Anybody who knows Louis DeNaples knows that he tells the truth. And he’s eager to have the chance to show he did exactly that before the gaming board.
“With so much of these allegedly confidential (grand jury) proceedings having played out in the press, I think some people might get the impression that today’s announcement is the culmination of the story or the end of the fight. I want to make it as clear as possible that this fight has just begun. Mr. DeNaples will prove he is innocent of these charges.

“Saying it in the newspaper doesn’t make it so. Let the DA have his day in the news. We’ll do our talking in court.”