A daylight homicide cleared with the help of a new piece of technology, a candidate for public office arrested on election night and a warrant sweep that saw nearly 50 people charged with suspected drug dealing; these are just a few of the major stories from the criminal justice system in Cumberland County in 2017.
One of the overarching stories in Cumberland County’s criminal justice system, however, does not involve crime, but rather a change in leadership at local law enforcement agencies.
In March, Taro Landis took over as chief of the Carlisle Police Department following long-time chief Stephen Margeson’s retirement roughly a year earlier. Margeson spent more than 25 years as police chief before his retirement in 2016. He subsequently has come out of retirement and was hired as the police chief for Dickson City in Lackawanna County in early 2017.
Prior to taking over his new job in Carlisle, Landis served for about 30 years in various positions in the Tredyffrin Township Police Department in Chester County. He most recently served as a senior lieutenant with the department.
Now nearly a year into the new role, Landis said he is enjoying being the person in charge.
“When I came here, I said there were a lot of people doing really good things,” he said. “Carlisle is a great place. So far it meets or exceeds my expectations.”
Landis’s first year, however, has not been quiet.
Within his first month, Carlisle Police assisted with a county-wide drug sweep; in May the Republican candidate for mayor of Carlisle, Scott Robinson, was arrested and subdued with a Taser by Carlisle Police as polls were closing on the primary; and in November, 35-year-old Rhyheim Hodge was shot and killed inside his Carlisle home.
The man accused of killing Hodge, 26-year-old Christopher Jaquell Williams, of Harrisburg, was arrested and charged within days of the shooting.
Cumberland County District Attorney David Freed credited a new Rapid DNA system the county purchased with being able to identify Williams as a suspect by matching blood at the scene to blood taken at a local hospital where Williams went after allegedly suffering a knife wound during the killing.
After Hodge’s death, Landis began hosting community forums to come up with solutions to crime in Carlisle.
Landis has held several events in his first year and has been active in the community, which he said were efforts to open a dialogue between himself and Carlisle residents.
“The people in Carlisle are great,” Landis said. “I enjoy the citizens. I enjoy dealing with people. That’s a lot of fun and interesting. Trying to make a difference is interesting.”
Landis is part of the changing face of the criminal justice system in the county.
Changes at the DA’s office
In September, Freed, who was district attorney for more than a decade, was nominated for and later confirmed as the U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.
The resulting vacancy was filled by Cumberland County Court of Common Pleas Judge Skip Ebert, who had served as district attorney prior to Freed.
Ebert will serve out the remainder of Freed’s term, which ends in 2019, at which point he would need to run for election for a full term to remain in the position.
The Cumberland County District Attorney’s Office has seen at least two other changes to high ranking employees.
First Assistant District Attorney Jaime Keating left and is now working for Franklin County District Attorney Matthew Fogal, and Chief Deputy District Attorney Matthew Smith was scheduled for a deployment in January with the Pennsylvania Army National Guard to the Middle East.
Along with Landis and the changes to the district attorney’s office, Camp Hill Police Chief Douglas Hockenberry resigned from his position in December following an arrest for DUI in Perry County.