Jurors threatened for ignoring a summons they never received

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Philadelphia court officials are apologizing for a blunder that resulted in hundreds of prospective jurors receiving a threatening postcard about ignoring a jury summons — even though they never received a summons in the first place.

The Philadelphia court system employs an outside vendor to mail about 46,000 jury summonses a month. About one-third of them either receive no response or are returned by the post office, which prompts a second round of mailings. But since that lump is much smaller, the court system sends out those mailings itself.

A court spokesman said the vendor noticed a great deal of the returned mail came from apartments or condos where the resident’s unit number was unknown. So to save money on postage, the vendor decided simply not to send the initial summons to multi-dwelling addresses where there was no unit number. 

But, it never told the jury commission what it was doing. So the jury commission sent out the second notice — which threatens a fine and 10 days in jail for contempt of court for failure to appear for jury duty.

The spokesman is not sure how many people received the second notice without receiving the first one, but he said there were dozens of complaints. 

In the future, the spokesman said the vendor will send out all the summonses, with or without a unit number.

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Mother of missing Bridgeton girl: ‘Don’t give up on Dulce’

BRIDGETON, N.J. (KYW Newsradio) — As the search for 5-year-old Dulce Maria Alavez continues, the young girl’s mother shared some tough words Monday at the South Jersey park where her daughter was last seen two weeks ago.

“I beg you all: Don’t give up on my Dulce,” said Noema Alavez Perez at Bridgeton City Park, while holding a toy from Dulce’s favorite movie, “Frozen.” “Let’s keep pushing to find her safe.”

Dulce was last seen in the late afternoon of Sept. 16. The 19-year-old Perez got to the park that day with her younger sister, her little son, and Dulce.

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“When we got here (Dulce and my son) got out and went running to the park,” she recalled. “We could see the park, but we just couldn’t see the swings. I was scratching a lottery ticket and my sister was getting her homework out because I was going to help her do her homework, but then when my sister told me there’s no signs of them, that’s when we checked.”

Perez found her son, crying, pointing toward a building, but Dulce was nowhere to be found — and hasn’t been seen since.

“I know she wants to come back home because she doesn’t like being far away from her family,” said Perez. “If somebody knows something, please come forward and talk.”

Perez cried intermittently while she was speaking, at one point breaking down and sharing her grief in Spanish. A reporter asked her to repeat what she said in English.

“It’s been really difficult for me sleeping,” she said. “I can’t even go to sleep because I keep thinking about my daughter because she didn’t want to sleep by herself; she always wanted someone to be with her. She was afraid of the dark and everything.”

Perez thanked law enforcement for all their work over the last few weeks, but also reinforced a message for people she said are accusing her of having something to do with Dulce’s disappearance.

“Please stop the rumors,” begged Perez. “Please stop pointing fingers when you don’t know and we don’t know who took her.”

She also had a message for Dulce’s alleged kidnapper: “Return my daughter; she’s just an innocent girl. She’s just 5 years old. She doesn’t know nothing of the world that we know because we’re adults. She’s just a little girl, she’s innocent. She’s just living her childhood.”

When asked if Dulce’s father was possibly involved in her disappearance, Perez said she doesn’t think he’s involved because he’s been in Mexico, and she does not believe he has the money to come to the U.S.

Authorities have not provided any new information on their search in the last few days.

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3-year-old boy with cancer writes letter to Gritty

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Philadelphians are offering to help fulfill the wishes of one of Gritty’s biggest fans.  

Three-year-old Jack Callahan lives in Charlottesville, Virginia, but he’s spent a lot time in Philadelphia, where he’s been receiving cancer treatments at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. 

While in Philly, he’s come to love the sassy, googly-eyed Flyers mascot Gritty. 

“We said, ‘Jack, do you want to write a letter to Gritty and ask him questions?’ And he said ‘yes,’ ” recalled his mother, Emily Callahan. “He’s 3 and he can’t write, so he dictated the letter to us the other day.”

In the letter, he told Gritty he wants a Gritty-themed birthday cake for his fourth birthday on Oct. 30, and he wants to dress up as him for Halloween.

He asked him, “Where are you from? What food do you like to eat?”

Jack wrote a letter to Gritty today (dictated to my brother). We kind of sort of really need a Gritty appearance at the oncology floor at CHOP between now and Halloween.

A post shared by Ryan Callahan (@ryanhcallahan) on

Uncle Ryan Callahan, who lives in Philadelphia, posted the letter on Instagram over the weekend. Since then, bakeries have volunteered to make Gritty cakes for Jack’s birthday, offered him Gritty dolls and costumes, and reached out to the Flyers to arrange a visit.  

Jack’s father, Mike Callahan, is touched by the response.

“As hard as it has been to have your child have cancer, and to have an especially kind of tough diagnosis with metastatic cancer, it’s brought out the best in people,” he said.

Mike admits he’s a little uneasy with all the attention, because Jack is one of dozens of children on the oncology floor. For now, Gritty is still visiting Europe with the Flyers, but here’s hoping he returns in time for Jack’s birthday.

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Monday last chance for victims of clergy abuse to file claim

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Monday is the last day for victims of Catholic clergy abuse to file a claim for compensation. Advocates are advising all victims to file a claim, even if they’re not sure about accepting it.

The Archdiocese Independent Reconciliation and Reparations Program, or IRRP, has been accepting claims since it was established last November. In the most recent report, completed in May, administrators said 167 victims had filed claims, and 93 had been awarded payments totalling nearly $20 million. There were 232 known victims who had not yet filed a claim.

Attorney Nate Foote says there could be a couple of reasons for that.

Some, he says, want nothing to do with the process. Others would prefer a court proceeding, where they could learn more about their case and what the Archdiocese knew, though it would take an act of the legislature to allow it. 

For some, though, he says it’s closure.

Related: Claims process begins for clergy abuse victims; nearly 350 submitted credible allegations

“It depends on a lot of factors. Some clients are in their 70s, and we may never get a statute of limitations reform in Pennsylvania. Or, if we do, it may take another few years, and they may not be in a position to wait,” he said.

A condition of accepting an IRRP payment is to give up the right to sue. However, says Mike McDonnell of the survivors’ group SNAP, applying does not obligate anyone to accept a payment.

“See what they’re willing to put forth and weigh your options at that point in time,” he said.

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Human remains found at Awbury Arboretum in East Germantown

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Police detectives are on scene of the Awbury Arboretum in East Germantown, where they say a groundskeeper found a human skull and some bones shortly before 9 a.m. Monday morning.

The remains were found in the back of a home, located on the grounds.

There is no indication yet how old the bones are, and no details are known about how they got there.

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Police seeking multiple victims of cop accused of rape

UPDATED: 1 p.m.

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — More details, first reported by KYW Newsradio, have emerged in the case of the Philadelphia police officer accused of drugging and raping a woman last month. 

Authorities believe he has done this before — and they are urging any other possible victims to come forward. Investigators say they have found “countless” videos of similar encounters.

Related: Philadelphia police officer charged with sexual assault, held on $1M bond

According to an affidavit obtained by KYW Newsradio, Novice Sloan gave the 21-year-old woman something to drink and then violently raped her, slapping and choking her and telling her to shut up as she struggled, crying and repeatedly saying no — all while filming it. When she woke up later, according to the document, she could recall only parts of what happened. Investigators believe he drugged her.

Sloan told the woman his name was Nyeeb Griffin.

Internal affairs was notified of the alleged incident and began to investigate.

Inside Sloan’s home, officers found video of the alleged assault, partially edited, and they say, “countless other videos” of women repeatedly telling him to stop filming their sexual encounters — many similar to the one this accuser describes.

The District Attorney’s Office charged 28-year-old Sloan with sexual assault as well as indecent and simple assault. Sloan remains behind bars on $1 million bail.

Authorities believe there could be other victims out there, and they urge those women to come forward.

Sloan, spent one year on the force with the 17th District after previously being with the Temple University police department.

The Fraternal Order of Police has said they will not be representing Sloan.

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Music and community mark start of Jewish new year

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Rosh Hashanah is a two-day celebration that marks a significant time in the Jewish community. It began Sunday night in Philadelphia, with a celebration in Rittenhouse Square. 

“It’s the Jewish new year and we also celebrate the creation of the entire world and the creation of humanity. It’s big. It’s big,” said Rabbi Anni Lewis of Temple Beth Zion-Beth Isreal, organizer of the event.

She says it’s an opportunity to celebrate life, “to express our graditude. Here we are. We made it. Moving into another new year.”

Her plan was to usher in a period of rebirth with music and community. 

“In the Jewish calendar, all the days begin in the evening. So before we hit the holiday, we take some time for a festive concert,” Lewis said. “The music has themes: renewal, rejoicing …”

Nearly 100 people packed into the park. People of all faiths were welcome.

Some, like Melanie Lewin and her family, came to celebrate tradition.

“A fresh start,” she said, “with apples and honey — the sweetness of the new year. “

And others, like Julian Bryan — “Just enjoying the beautiful weather and the music in the park.”

Rosh Hashanah began at sunset on Sunday and ends at sunset on Tuesday, Oct. 1. 

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JEVS Act II having success helping recovering drug addict

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) – Earlier in the year, JEVS Human Services was given a grant to start a new program that helps recovering opioid addicts find jobs.

That program is called JEVS Act II (Achievement through Counseling and Treatment).

“We are providing educational and employment services to clients who are on methadone in order to support and combat the opioid epidemic Philadelphia is currently facing,” explained Maria E Delgado with JEVS.

She said there’s often times a “negativity stigma” around people who are fighting the opioid epidemic, but many of those people are hard workers and just need to be given a chance.

So JEVS helps those people find job leads, prepare for an interview and get their resumes ready, including putting some unconvential information on those resumes.

“If there was someone who was dealing drugs,” said Delagado, “we would ask them, ‘ well where were you, were you delivering the drugs, were you managing them, were you holding the money?’ Because those are three different types of work experiences we can put on your resume.”

KYW Newsradio went to a JEVS office in South Philadelphia during this National Recovery Month to see how the program is doing. Delgado said so far they have found close to a dozen recovering addicts jobs.

Gina Albater is one of those people. She shared her story with KYW, which started at a young age when, she said, her dad pointed her on the path to addicition.

“I remember when I was like seven,” she said, “he was like ‘you’re an Albater so you’re doomed for this life, it’s part of our DNA, this is who we are,’ so he already mentally programed me that I was going to be a drug addict. Him and my uncle put me in the bedroom with them and he tied up and showed me how to shoot up. He didn’t do it to me, he did it to himself and said ‘this is going to be your life.'”

She started using at age 13 and didn’t stop until she was 33. Once in recovery she found Act II, and took advantage of what they had to offer.

“My resume, I thought it looked nice, but then when they made it for me, their resume was in prime condition,” she said. “They added all my personal training and yoga and my animal rescuing, like all the stuff I forgot to add. They put in there so that other employers could see, maybe they want me on their team.”

It worked. Albater was recently offered a job as a cleaner at different locations throughout Philadelphia.

“I’m definitly happy,” she added.

She still aspires to be singer one day, a dream she’s had since she was a child.

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Art teachers, disability community to share ideas at meeting

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Educators from around the globe are gathering in Philadelphia this week to talk about how art is taught to students with disabilities. 

It’s an opportunity for people who teach art and members of the disability community to learn from each other as 300 educators from 20 states and 10 countries get together Thursday through Saturday at Moore College of Art & Design for the Second International Conference on Disability Studies, Arts & Education.  

Moore’s director of art education, Lauren Stichter, chairs the conference and says this event brings art, disability studies and special education together.

“In museum, community arts or traditional K-12 settings, everyone is working with diverse learners and diverse needs these days. And so we need to be in communication with each other across these fields,” Stichter said.

She says these days, art educators are talking about accommodating students who learn differently using visual, audio or tactile cues to bring all students into the art-making process.

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Philly woman turning dead spotted lanternflies into jewelry

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — A West Philadelphia woman is creating art and financial opportunity out of spotted lanternfly carcasses. 

“Technically, I am a serial killer. I’ve been serial killing these things, right?” said Candice Jeffries, who creates spotted lanternfly earrings. 

To be fair, Jeffries doesn’t slaughter lanternflies for sport. She enjoys creating wearables out of nature, so naturally, the light went on in her head the moment she laid eyes on the colorful, speckled insect that wreaks havoc on trees and plants. 

The idea to create lanternfly earrings was the result of nocturnal inspiration. 

“It was like, whatever that time is after the alarm goes off and you snooze it, that time when you fall back asleep like a daydream and I literally just thought of it in my sleep. And I woke up and said, ‘I’m tryin’ that today,'” she said. 

Here’s how she does it. 

“I clip the wings right where they’re connected. I make it so the wings are separate so there is that spotted part of the lanternfly wing that you see. And then if you’ve ever seen them fly, they have a little red and black wing that pops out from underneath.”

She then shapes the laminate into something resembling an upside down heart and attaches it to a fastener.  

While she enjoys creating the earrings, she does feel bad about killing. 

“I do feel bad for them,” she said. “They don’t know they’re doing something bad. I don’t feel bad enough not to kill them, clearly they have to be killed. They’re just doing what they do.”

She says she’s gotten a nice response for the earrings, which go for $28 a pair on Etsy.

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Petition launched for compensation for wrongfully convicted

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — A Philadelphia man who was set free after spending 21 years behind bars for a crime he did not commit launched an effort to convince state lawmakers to consider a bill that would compensate the wrongfully convicted. 

At age the age of 40, Terrance Lewis has lived more years behind bars than he’s lived as a free man. 

“I got an apology and a good luck,” when he walked out of prison, he said. 

Lewis walked out of prison last May after the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office dropped the second-degree murder charges against him. Having his innocence affirmed was a dream come true, but ironically, as a juvenile lifer, Lewis had been scheduled to be resentenced the same day he got his freedom.  

If he had been paroled, Lewis would have received transitional housing, healthcare and job assistance. But as an exoneree, Pennsylvania provides little resources.

“All I have is some personal items — letters from my son and from my mother, my brother and sister who passed,” said Lewis. “Other than that, I came home with nothing.”

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His only support was money raised by a GoFundMe and generosity of family and friends that give him a place to sleep until he can afford his own home. So Lewis launched a petition to get Pennsylvania to join 35 other states, including New Jersey, that compensate exonerees.

“I want to tell them this is what constituents want because this is moral, this is what we want in society, because it could happen to you, it could happen to anybody,” he explained. 

Lewis is founding a chapter of It Can Happen to You in Pennsylvania, an organization that works to prevent wrongful conviction. He’ll also take his petition to Harrisburg, where he’ll lobby on Wrongful Conviction Day in October.  

So far, he has nearly 300 signatures, but he wants to take at least 500.

“To campaign and to lobby for help,” he said. “We need it.”

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Philly police investigate cause of partial house collapse

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Philadelphia police are investigating the cause of a partial house collapse in the Germantown section of the city that sent a woman to the hospital Sunday. 

It happened just before noon at the intersection of 53rd Street and Wayne Avenue, when the north side wall of the home caved in, injuring the 52-year-old woman. 

Officials say the home has been undergoing renovations for weeks. 

The woman was taken to a near by hospital with only minor injuries.

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SEPTA adds rail cars to give I-95 commuters options

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — SEPTA is offering alternatives to those driving through I-95 reconstruction, which is adding to traffic congestion on the interstate north of Center City and in Bucks County. Starting Monday, SEPTA is increasing capacity and trips on two of its Regional Rail lines.

SEPTA has leased five rail coach cars from Baltimore to add capacity on its Trenton and West Trenton Regional Rail lines.   

“Which cover approximately the same geographic area that the I-95 corridor in the Northeast and into Bucks County covers,” said SEPTA spokesman Andrew Busch. 

“So we have added those coach cars those will be put on to normal trains that will be running,” he continued. “So they are mixed in with SEPTA cars. That gives us a lot more space for passengers on several trains in the morning and then in also in the afternoon. And on the West Trenton line, we are able to add capacity there as well and also some additional trips on the West Trenton line.”

Related: NTSB pushes for additional safety signs following boy’s death on Broad Street Line

Nearly 1,900 seats will be add all together.

The transportation authority is asking those who normally drive to and from work on that I-95 corridor to give Regional Rails a try.

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Philly police officer charged with sexual assault

By Charlotte Reese 

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — A Philadelphia police officer from the 17th District is behind bars facing sexual assault, indecent assault and simple assault charges. 

Novice Sloan, 28, was arraigned Saturday and held under a $1 million bond. 

Sloan was arrested on Friday for an incident that happened on Aug. 8, according to court documents. Officials believe there could be more victims. 

Sloan previously served on the Temple University police force. A Tweet from March 2017 shows Sloan being recognized for rescuing a family from a burning house. 

District Attorney Larry Krasner called the charges “incredibly serious.” 

In a statement, Krasner wrote, “To all victims of sexual violence in Philadelphia: The District Attorney’s Office is here for you.” 

Krasner noted if anyone does not feel comfortable or safe going to the police department or other law enforcement agencies to reach out to his special investigation unit at 215-686-9921. 

In addition, Women Against Abuse, the city’s partner agency in supporting victims of domestic abuse and sexual violence, has a 24-hour hotline at 1-866-723-304. 

Sloan’s preliminary hearing is scheduled for Oct. 17. 

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Cherry Hill schools address concerns over unpaid lunch bills

CHERRY HILL, NJ (KYW Newsradio) — The school board in Cherry Hill is prepared to adopt a revised school lunch policy, after concerns were raised over some kids who were given tuna fish because their parents didn’t keep their food accounts paid up. 
    
The proposed policy change would allow an unpaid balance to go to $75 before parents are called in for a meeting and kids would be restricted in their breakfast or lunch, according to district spokeswoman Barbara Wilson.
    
“They may choose from the meal of the day,” district spokeswoman Barbara Wilson told KYW Newsradio. “Under the new policy, they’ll be able to choose whatever meal is on the menu for that day. But they may not choose snacks and ala carte items off the menu.”
    
The current policy, which is not being enforced, calls for tuna fish as the backup meal, which some parents considered shameful since it would make their kids stand out. 
    
“The board did listen to the community concerns about that and decided that it would be better not to be offering the alternate meal,” Wilson added, “not to be having children identified as having an account in arrears by being served a tuna fish meal.”
    
The district has already forgiven $25,000 in outstanding food bills, but now there’s an $18,000 bill involving some 350 families, about 5% of the district. The revised policy could be adopted at the board’s next meeting October 15.
    
By the way, tuna fish is on the ala carte menu, and Wilson says some kids actually like it. 

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