You are the owner of this page.
A1 A1
Samuel Getty, for The Sentinel  

Camp Hill’s Amias Colestock gets by Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic’s Luc Madonna in the PIAA Class 1A Boys Soccer Championship held Saturday at Hersheypark Stadium.


Crime-and-courts
editor's pick top story
Accused I-81 killer Strawser one step closer to trial

“He’s here.”

Those are the final words Timothy Davison, a 28-year-old Maine man who was shot and killed along Interstate 81 near Greencastle in the early morning hours of Jan. 4, 2014, uttered to a 911 operator.

The full 911 call was played Thursday during a preliminary hearing for John Wayne Strawser Jr., 40, of Bellington, West Virginia, who is accused of pulling the trigger.

Strawser’s case was bound over to higher court, and a formal arraignment will be held on Jan. 10.

Davison was traveling from Florida, where he was visiting family for Christmas, to his home in Poland, Maine, when he was chased and eventually run off the road and killed, allegedly by Strawser.

When Strawser was charged with first degree murder in September 2015, police said they believe he mistook Davison’s silver SUV for that of one belonging to the husband of a Waynesboro woman with whom Strawser had become infatuated.

In the 911 call, Davison was heard saying that a Ford Ranger pick-up had pursued him, shot at him and run him off the road on I-81 near Exit 3 in Antrim Township around 2 a.m. After Davison told the dispatcher the perpetrator had returned, what sounded like tires spinning on the snow-covered median where Davison’s vehicle was stopped could be heard.

Multiple gun shots rang out, and then silence.

“Tim,” the dispatcher was heard saying. “Tim. Hello. Hello.”

Davison was shot at least four times: once in the head, once in the right leg and multiple times in the left hand, Franklin County Coroner Jeffrey Conner testified Thursday.

Davison was transported to York Hospital where he was pronounced dead, according to court records.

Cellphone records place Strawser at the scene of the crime, and a Rossi Ranch Hand firearm found at Strawser’s property in West Virginia matched shell casings found at the crime scene, according to police.

Strawser was convicted in 2016 for killing his ex-girlfriend Amy Lou Buckingham a year earlier in West Virginia and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

He is facing the same possible sentence in Pennsylvania.

He was not connected to Davison’s murder until after the death of Buckingham. However, police in West Virginia in Pennsylvania said they believe he used the same Rossi Ranch Hand firearm in both killings.

That gun was found inside his home roughly two weeks before Buckingham’s death by a Preston County Sheriff’s deputy, who allowed Strawser to keep the gun despite Strawser’s status as a person not to possess firearms, according to court records.

At the time the gun was found by the sheriff’s deputy, Strawser was on probation and subject to a protection from abuse order. He had also been convicted of felony motor vehicle theft roughly a decade earlier, which would bar him from owning firearms under West Virginia and federal law.

That deputy has since been promoted.

Strawser’s West Virginia conviction was recently upheld by the state supreme court.


top story
120117-sntl-cvbj-small-biz-healthcare

With the arrival of the traditional holiday boost season for small business, it’s important to remember where your support of local entrepreneurs is going — mostly, health care.

For many small businesses in the Carlisle region, and across the nation, anticipated health care cost increases for 2018 are the biggest financial challenge they’ve faced in a long time.

“It’s as worse as it’s ever been with health care,” said Mike Noggle, owner of Quest Embroidery in Carlisle. “There’s just no way someone can afford $24,000 a year in health care alone.”

For 2018, Noggle has been quoted at $2,035 per month to cover himself and his wife, Quest’s sole proprietors. Although he is purchasing the plan over the state exchange system, set up under the Affordable Care Act, Noggle’s income is just above the level for an “Obamacare” subsidy.

Likewise, Lois Shearer, sole proprietor of Shearer Advertising in Carlisle, said her premium will be going up 68 percent in the new year. Shearer won’t necessarily see all of this cost increase, since her income makes her eligible for some assistance under the ACA.

However, help comes in the form of tax credits based on anticipated income. If actual income comes in over the subsidy bracket, you’ll be reimbursing the IRS in April. For small business owners whose profit margins are variable, this presents a dilemma.

“You have to decide how much of the subsidy you want to take, because if your income goes over a certain mark, you have to pay them back,” Shearer said. “But the bottom line is, if I didn’t have the subsidy, my monthly health insurance cost would be more than my mortgage.”

Cost-sharing

Insurance increases for 2018 aren’t limited to individual proprietors, although they are the hardest hit.

In mid-October, the Pennsylvania Insurance Department announced that 2018 ACA exchange rates for individuals would have to be revised up — from an average increase of 7.6 percent over 2017 to 30.6 percent — due to the announcement from the Trump administration that it would discontinue cost-sharing payments to insurers.

These payments are made by the federal government to insurance companies to help pay the deductibles of some low-income policy holders.

Since the inception of the ACA, Republicans have been opposed to such payments, often describing them as bailouts for insurance companies, although this characterization is debatable given that insurance companies would have, prior to the ACA, simply priced low-income patients out of the market without a federal incentive.

The discontinuation of cost-sharing reduction payments under Trump was described by the state Insurance Department as “deliberate disruption” of the ACA individual market.

“The biggest issue this year was the Trump administration saying it would discontinue the payments,” said department spokesman Ron Ruman. “Without any change in support from the federal government, we were leveling out around a 7 to 8 percent rate increase per year, which is pretty much in line with medical inflation.”

Most insurers, now faced with additional losses on low-income patients, have hiked rates for silver-level plans — ACA options are rated on a metal scale, from copper to platinum, with silver in the middle.

The cost of silver plans is used to determine premium subsidy, with buyers making less than 400 percent of the federal poverty line eligible for assistance based on the average silver plan cost in their area. Shifting rate increases to silver plans thus increases the amount of potential federal assistance available to buyers.

In some cases, this means that better gold-rated plans, with lower deductibles, may have lower premiums depending on where you live and how much you make.

“We’re really encouraging people to shop around this year,” Ruman said. “We’re finding this year that many people can get a gold plan for the same or less premium than a silver plan, because of the rate instability caused by the federal government.”

Cause and effect

The recent decision by Trump to discontinue cost-sharing, whether one believes it is justified or not, exposes what could be described as Obamacare’s key feature and key problem.

This is the fact that, as of 2016, 11.6 million Americans obtained insurance through the ACA marketplaces. Prior to its implementation, those people would have likely gone uninsured or under-insured, and the broadening of coverage to more Americans has been hailed as a victory by Democrats.

But predicting just how much health care these new enrollees would use was difficult. In the case of small-group plans, the impact was easier to absorb because that risk was spread around a known pool.

But for the individual market, rate stability was dependent on forcing younger, healthier people to sign up for insurance by an increasing schedule of tax penalties if they did not. This would widen the pool and keep down costs even as older, sicker people joined the market.

In Pennsylvania, 315,000 people between the ages of 19 and 44 got insurance in the ACA marketplace through 2015, according to the Urban Institute. Enrollees ages 45 to 64 numbered 126,000. But despite this smaller portion of older patients, insurers have continued to report losses, leading to rate hikes and restrictions on usage.

Business owners are aware of this.

“I think the intent [of the ACA] was good by saying the younger, healthier people are going to have to buy insurance in order to make it affordable for the older people,” Shearer said. “But obviously it didn’t’ work out that way, or my rates wouldn’t have gone up. The bottom line is the insurance companies are not going to not make money.”

In central Pennsylvania, the effect is especially acute this year. Individual ACA market plans from Highmark will not include most UPMC-Pinnacle hospitals in their in-network coverage, as both of the state’s health care giants seek to control costs by restricting ACA patients to affiliated facilities.

“As has been the case for some time, we’re going with narrower products to try to control costs,” Highmark spokesman Leilyn Perri said.

For those making less than four times the poverty line, most premium hikes will not be felt, since they will be subsidized with federal dollars.

The decision by Trump to end cost-sharing payment will cost the federal government an additional $2.3 billion next year — a $10 billion reduction in cost sharing payments has increased premiums to the point where the federal government will be obligated to provide an extra $12.3 billion in premium subsidies, according to calculations from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

But individual market buyers who don’t get a subsidy will feel the full brunt of expanding health care usage coupled with declining federal support under Trump, a problem noted in several recent reports since the federal decision was announced.

“Premiums are rising, in part, to compensate for nonpayment of cost sharing reductions,” said Elizabeth Carpenter, senior vice president of Avalere Health, in the consultancy’s report last month. “Subsidized consumers will be largely protected from these premium increases, but other individuals may face significantly higher costs.”

The Noggles are a textbook case. The federal poverty line for a couple is $16,240 per year, making the subsidy cut off at $64,960. Quest Embroidery provided Noggle and his wife with just over that line, he said.

“They need to pro-rate the subsidy beyond four times the poverty number,” Noggle said. “People making just over can’t pay for the whole thing.”

When the ACA rolled out, Noggle said, the two-person premium was around $450. In 2016 it doubled, and doubled again for 2017. With premiums for himself and his wife now totaling over $24,000 per year, Noggle is essentially being asked to pay a third of his income into health insurance.

“Think of what I could do to invest in my business with $24,000 a year,” Noggle said. “The business side of it is tough enough without having to wake up at 3 a.m. wondering if I can still afford health insurance.”


Bill_tracker
Bill Tracker
Bill tracker: Reducing Pennsylvania's sales tax

Each legislative session thousands of bills and amendments are introduced in the Pennsylvania Legislature. Only a fraction become law, and an even smaller portion receive wide media coverage.

These bills impact the lives of people living in Pennsylvania every day.

Each week The Sentinel will highlight one bill that has not received widespread attention.

About the bill

As the saying goes, there are two certainties in life: death and taxes.

Rep. Russ Diamond, R-Lebanon County, while not tackling the death issues, is looking to simplify how residents pay taxes.

“It’s time we put an end to the sales tax jigsaw puzzle that pits Pennsylvanian against Pennsylvanian and adopt instead a modernized level playing field, which acknowledges the realities of our economy and the fact that we’re all in this together,” Diamond wrote in a co-sponsorship letter.

Diamond introduced a package of bills that, among other provisions, would reduce Pennsylvania’s sales-and-use tax from the current 6 percent to 1.9 percent.

This would make the state’s sales tax significantly lower than almost of all of the surrounding states, which range from 8.49 percent in New York to 6 percent in Maryland.

Delaware has no sales tax.

Diamond wrote that lowering Pennsylvania’s sales tax would help reduce “border bleed” where shoppers cross into Delaware to avoid sales tax on purchases they could make in Pennsylvania.

House Bills 1905 would eliminate all exemptions to the state sale-and-use tax, including things like groceries and clothing.

According to Diamond, groceries are subject to state or local sales tax in 19 states and clothing is a taxable good in 38 states.

The sales-and-use tax would remain a tax on the end users and would keep exemptions for goods and services purchased at resale.

“This effort is aimed at simplifying the system, reducing retailer confusion, recognizing the realities of our economy, and making our commonwealth more competitive with surrounding states,” Diamond wrote.


Strawser


Carlisle
editor's pick top story
Carlisle
Police: Former firefighter stole from Carlisle, Shiremanstown fire companies

A former assistant fire chief with Union Fire Company faces charges after police say he stole money from both Union and Shiremanstown fire companies this year.

Jeremiah C. Whistler, 31, of Pearland, Texas, was charged with theft by unlawful taking, receiving stolen property, theft by failure to make required disposition of funds, criminal use of communication facility and unlawful use of a computer.

Carlisle Police said they issued a warrant for Whistler, who surrendered to police Wednesday. He was released on unsecured bail, and a preliminary hearing is scheduled for at 1 p.m. Jan. 10 in front of Magisterial District Judge Jonathan Birbeck.

The charges stem from an investigation that started on June 28 when police were contacted by Union Fire Company regarding a co-raffle they were having with Washington Fire Company in Mechanicsburg. Union officials were prompted to do an audit of their raffle after trustees discovered that the camera system with view to a locked closet with the raffle money was turned off between May 7 and May 15, according to the affidavit of probable cause.

Court documents said Union officials discovered that while they should have had $44,650 from the 893 tickets sold up to June 28, the department was missing $8,633.89.

The raffle money could be accessed by the Union president and treasurer, as well as the 15 drivers (two full-time and 13 part-time) for Union who share a key. The affidavit said that only “line officers,” including the captain, chief and assistant chief, have access to the camera room.

Police interviewed everyone with access to the driver’s closet with the raffle money, and among them was Whistler, who, at the time, worked part-time for Union as a driver. He was employed with Union since 2012 or 2013 and was the assistant fire chief.

According to the affidavit, Whistler claimed he deposited personal checks for the raffle and wrote checks from his bank account in the same amount of Union.

In late September, police served a search warrant on Whistler’s bank records at Belco Community Credit Union for the time period covering the raffle event, from March 1 to July 29, and found several anomalies, according to court documents. Police found several deposits of varying amounts that were made at Members 1st ATMs within Carlisle.

A search warrant served to Members 1st discovered that the deposits were cash. There was a total of $3,880 in cash deposits, according to court documents.

Police contacted those who purchased tickets from Whistler, and of the 50 tickets reportedly sold, 10 were paid via check and the rest with cash. Police said Whistler should have turned in $2,500 for the raffle, but only turned in $1,500.

During the investigation, police also discovered two check deposits from Shiremanstown Fireman’s Relief Association.

The Shiremanstown president and chief confirmed they gave Whistler permission to deposit a $3,500 check in March from the association account for the purchase of new fire gear, but they did not receive an invoice for it, according to the affidavit. The two had contacted Whistler on Oct. 31 about the check, and Whistler told them he intended to return the money when he returned to the area.

Neither the president nor the chief had any knowledge of a second check worth $2,500 that had been deposited into Whistler’s account on April 20. Police said the total loss for Shiremanstown was $5,800.

The total loss for both fire companies was $14,433.89, according to court documents.

Whistler previously pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of theft by unlawful taking for a December 2007 incident that involved Empire Friendship Fire Company. The matter was closed in district court and Whistler paid court costs and restitution of about $90.

<&rdpStrong>Posted earlier on Cumberlink:</&rdpStrong>

A former Union Fire Department assistant fire chief with a Texas address is accused of stealing $14,000 from the Carlisle fire company and other sources.

Carlisle Police said Jeremiah C. Whistler, 31, of Pearland, Texas, has been charged with theft by unlawful taking, receiving stolen property, theft by failure to make required disposition of funds received, criminal use of communication facility and unlawful use of computer and other computer crimes.

Police said the Union Fire Department, 35 W. Louther St., Carlisle, reported on June 28 that money was missing from raffle ticket funds for an event scheduled for July. An audit of the raffle event funds revealed that over $8,600 was missing.

An investigation led to the discovery of thefts totaling $14,000, police said.

A warrant was issued for Whistler, who surrendered to police on Wednesday. He was released on unsecured bail. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Jan. 10 at 1 p.m. with Magisterial District Justice Jonathan R. Birbeck.

Whistler previously pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of theft by unlawful taking for a December 2007 incident that involved Empire Friendship Fire Co. The matter was closed in district court and Whistler paid court costs and restitution of about $90.