2012: The Year in Review

See our im­age gal­lery at right for the pho­tos as­so­ci­ated with these stor­ies.

With this, 2012’s fi­nal edi­tion of Star, we present a wrap-up of some of the most en­ga­ging, con­tro­ver­sial and talked-about news stor­ies in Fishtown, North­ern Liber­ties, Kens­ing­ton, Port Rich­mond and Brides­burg. It’s been quite a year.

Arch­diocese plans to close five high schools, 45 ele­ment­ary schools; St. Lauren­ti­us and St. George ap­peal, re­main open
In early Janu­ary, the Cath­ol­ic Arch­diocese called for the clos­ing of five high schools and 45 ele­ment­ary schools throughout the city. Rep­res­ent­at­ives from St. Lauren­ti­us and St. George schools, both in the River Wards, vowed to ap­peal the de­cision.

Stu­dents at St. George Ele­ment­ary School at 2700 E. Ven­ango St. in Port Rich­mond were slated to move to Our Lady of Port Rich­mond, 3233 E. Thompson Street.
The more than a cen­tury old St. Lauren­ti­us School at 1612 E. Berks St., in Fishtown, in­ten­ded to merge its stu­dent pop­u­la­tion with St. Peter the Apostle School, at 1009 N. 5th St. in Kens­ing­ton.

In mid-Feb­ru­ary, however, ap­peals from St. Lauren­ti­us and St. George were gran­ted, and the schools re­mained open.

“We are de­lighted with the de­cision,” said Sis­ter Rita Aponik, prin­cip­al of St. Lauren­ti­us, in a Feb. 22 Star story.  ••

Brides­burg priest charged with sexu­al mis­con­duct
The Rev. An­drew Mc­Cormick in Oc­to­ber was again charged with in­vol­un­tary de­vi­ate sexu­al in­ter­course, stat­utory sexu­al as­sault and sexu­al as­sault. The Ro­man Cath­ol­ic priest was ac­cused of sexu­ally as­sault­ing a 10-year-old al­tar boy at St. John Can­ti­us Par­ish in Brides­burg in 1997.

In Au­gust, a judge had thrown out felony charges against 56-year-old “Fath­er Andy,” but the dis­trict’ at­tor­ney’s of­fice suc­cess­fully ap­pealed that rul­ing and the charges were re­in­stated.

Mc­Cormick left Brides­burg in 2000, and was most re­cently serving as a priest in Mont­gomery County. In 2011, he and two dozen oth­er Cath­ol­ic clergy were sus­pen­ded from ser­vices while the Arch­diocese of Phil­adelphia in­vest­ig­ated past ab­use claims against them.  ••

Port Rich­mond’s “Rom­ney T-shirt girl” makes na­tion­al head­lines
In early Oc­to­ber, Sam­antha Pawlucy, 16, wore a Rom­ney-Ry­an shirt to school. After her math teach­er, Lynette Gay­mon, al­legedly mocked her and was, in turn, re­moved from teach­ing that class, Pawlucy be­came the fo­cus of a na­tion­wide dis­cus­sion on free speech.

She re­turned to her school, Port Rich­mond’s Charles Car­roll High School, for a short time. She later trans­ferred schools. The Phil­adelphia In­qur­i­er re­por­ted that Mitt Rom­ney called the Pawlucy home to thank Sam­antha for her sup­port. She wasn’t home.

Both Gay­mon and Pawlucy were al­legedly verbally threatened in the fal­lout. Gay­mon’s aunts told news out­lets she is a “jokester” and the in­cid­ent was in­ten­ded to be funny.

An in­vest­ig­a­tion in­to Gay­mon’s ac­tions fol­low­ing the in­cid­ent did take place.

To date, the Pawlucy fam­ily will not dis­cuss with me­dia where Sam­antha now at­tends school, and calls to the school dis­trict and Charles Car­roll High School as to Gay­mon’s where­abouts were not re­turned. Charles Car­roll High School is one of the Phil­adelphia pub­lic schools rec­comen­ded for clos­ure in a list an­nounced Dec. 13 by dis­trict Su­per­in­tend­ent Wl­li­am R. Hite Jr.

Said Sam­antha Pawlucy in an early Oc­to­ber in­ter­view with Star, ““People should wear whatever they want. It’s free­dom of speech.” ••

Two men killed in va­cant Buck Ho­siery fact­ory fire
The April 9 fire at the long-va­cant Thomas W. Buck Ho­siery fact­ory at York and Jasper streets res­ul­ted in the deaths of two fire­fight­ers — Lt. Robert Neary, 60, and Daniel Sweeney, 25, who were as­signed to Lad­der 10 at Kens­ing­ton and Castor av­en­ues.

After the fire, con­ver­sa­tions about re­spons­ib­il­ity, safety meas­ures and pre­ven­tion of sim­il­ar tra­gedies took cen­ter stage. In Septem­ber, fire­fight­ers’ uni­on Loc­al 22 filed a com­plaint against the city to ob­tain re­cords from the night of the fire.

Loc­al 22 pres­id­ent Bill Gault has said the deaths of Neary and Sweeney were “pre­vent­able,” and Loc­al 22 al­leged that a prop­er col­lapse zone was not set up on April 9. A col­lapse zone is a safety meas­ure that must be set up out­side a burn­ing build­ing at a dis­tance one-and-a-half times the height of the walls, ac­cord­ing to pro­tocol.

Loc­al 22 also de­man­ded that Fire Com­mis­sion­er Lloyd Ay­ers and his top two depu­ties step down due to their al­leged er­rors dur­ing the fire. Ay­ers had claimed that a prop­er col­lapse zone was in fact set up.

Many oth­er Phil­adelphia build­ings are in the con­di­tion that the long-va­cant Buck Ho­siery Fact­ory was in be­fore it burned down, Gault had said.

Dis­trict At­tor­ney Seth Wil­li­ams im­paneled a grand jury to in­vest­ig­ate the fire, and a City Coun­cil hear­ing in early Oc­to­ber at­temp­ted to de­term­ine if prop­er safety pre­cau­tions were in place. At the hear­ing, former Phil­adelphia Fire Com­mis­sion­er Ro­ger Ulshafer called emer­gency man­age­ment at the blaze “dis­grace­ful.”

On Oct. 24, the own­er of a fur­niture store ad­ja­cent to the va­cant fact­ory was charged with per­jury and fraud. The own­er, Richard Knellinger, 40, own­er of Giamari Fur­niture & Bed­ding on Kens­ing­ton Av­en­ue, was ar­res­ted Oct. 18 by mem­bers of a task force com­pris­ing agents from the U.S Bur­eau of Al­co­hol, To­bacco, Fire­arms and Ex­plos­ives. That fed­er­al agency in­vest­ig­ates fires and ar­son. ••

Of­ficer who punched wo­man charged with as­sault
In a video that went vir­al across the na­tion, former Phil­adelphia Po­lice Lt. Jonath­an Jo­sey could be seen punch­ing a wo­man twice in the head Sept. 30 at a party at 5th Street and Le­high Av­en­ue, fol­low­ing the city’s Pu­erto Ric­an Day Parade.

The wo­man was Aida Guz­man, 39, of Chester.

Days later, Po­lice Com­mis­sion­er Charles H. Ram­say an­nounced a dir­ect-ac­tion dis­missal of Jo­sey, 39, a 19-year vet­er­an of the de­part­ment. Guz­man had been charged with dis­orderly con­duct — she ad­mit­ted that she was spray­ing silly string at the cel­eb­ra­tion.

Those charges were later dropped, and May­or Mi­chael Nut­ter apo­lo­gized to Guz­man at a news con­fer­ence fol­low­ing the in­cid­ent. In Novem­ber, it was re­por­ted Jo­sey would be charged with simple as­sault for his ac­tions. A judge ruled Monday that Jo­sey would be tried Feb. 12. ••

Wil­li­am Panas Jr.’s par­ents awar­ded $4.7 mil­lion
In mid-Feb­ru­ary, former po­lice of­ficer Frank Tep­per, 45, was con­victed of first-de­gree murder for shoot­ing the 21-year-old Wil­li­am “Billy” Panas Jr. near Tep­per’s Port Rich­mond home in Novem­ber 2009.

The vic­tim’s fam­ily filed a fed­er­al suit against Tep­per, who is serving a life sen­tence, the city and the po­lice de­part­ment earli­er this month.

A fed­er­al jury on Dec. 11 awar­ded $4.7 mil­lion to Panas’ par­ents, but re­jec­ted the par­ents’ claim that the city and the po­lice de­part­ment con­trib­uted to the death by ig­nor­ing years of reck­less con­duct by the of­ficer.

The fam­ily’s at­tor­ney, Jimmy Binns, stated that des­pite amass­ing 35 In­tern­al Af­fairs com­plaints and log­ging 66 calls for as­sist­ance to his own house dur­ing his 16-year ca­reer, Tep­per nev­er was in­vest­ig­ated or dis­cip­lined in any “mean­ing­ful” way by the po­lice de­part­ment. ••

‘Kens­ing­ton Stran­gler’ caught
The man who strangled three wo­men in Kens­ing­ton in late 2010 was con­victed of their murders in Au­gust and sen­tenced to three life sen­tences.

Ant­o­nio Rodriquez, dubbed the “Kens­ing­ton Stran­gler,” was found guilty after a short non-jury tri­al.

Com­mon Pleas Court Judge Jef­frey Mine­hart sen­tenced Rodriquez to three con­sec­ut­ive life terms without pos­sib­il­ity of pa­role after listen­ing to testi­mony from the fam­il­ies of his vic­tims: Elaine Gold­berg, 21, of Holme Circle, Nicole Pi­a­centini of Port Rich­mond and Ca­sey Ma­honey of East Strouds­burg, Pa.

Ac­cord­ing to testi­mony at the tri­al, Rodrig­uez raped and strangled the three wo­men, as­saul­ted them again after they had died and then posed their bod­ies. ••

Man­aging Ed­it­or Mi­kala Jam­is­on can be reached at 215-354-3113 or mjam­is­on@bsmphilly.com.

You can reach at mjamison@bsmphilly.com.

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