Opponents of a liquid natural gas plant in Southwest Philadelphia bring protest to City Hall

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — City council has put off a final vote on a controversial plan for a natural gas facility in Southwest Philadelphia, but opponents are pressing their case against it. They held a protest before Thursday’s council session.

PGW says the liquefied natural gas plant would generate income, create jobs and be good for the environment, because the gas would replace polluting diesel fuel as back-up power for large-scale customers. Normally, there’s an element of not-in-my-backyard-ism to protests of such facilities, but in this case, opponents such as Aru Shiney-Ajay are driven by a philosophical opposition to investing any more in fossil fuel infrastructure.

“We know, science and justice tell us, we have 11 years to transition to stop climate change and transition to renewable energy. This is a death sentence for Philadelphians,” she said. 

Related: City Council committee gives green light for controversial gas plant in Southwest Philly

This is the sweet spot for council-at-large candidate Adrian Reyes-Rivera, a scientist, who promotes a green new deal for the city.

“Science is real, science is fact, science is data,” he said. “We know that if we continue on the track we are right now, by 2080, Philadelphia will be as hot as Memphis. A third of the city will be under water.”

A council committee unanimously passed the gas plant deal a month ago, but members say they’re still working on amendments.

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Man chases down robbers, ends up in hospital with gunshot wound

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — A robbery victim decided he wouldn’t go down without a fight, and it cost him in the end. 

Police say the victim told them two men robbed him of his iPad and some cash while he was in his driveway in Crescentville a little after midnight on Thursday. 

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He then hopped in his car and chased after the suspects as they drove off.

They responded by firing shots at his car.

Chief Inspector Scott Small says that’s when the victim tried to do a little police work of his own, and took out his cell phone to record some video.

“Just prior to the accident, you hear what sounds like a gunshot,” Small said. “That’s when we believe that this 36-year-old victim was shot through his front windshield and then crashed into the parked, unattended vehicles.”

A bullet grazed the victim just above his left eye. He is in stable condition at an area hospital. Police say the robbers got away in a gray or silver sedan with Florida license plates.

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Sullivan gets death penalty for killing 14-year-old girl

UPDATED: 12:13 p.m.

DOYLESTOWN, Pa. (KYW Newsradio) — Jacob Sullivan has been sentenced to death for the murder of 14-year-old Grace Packer.

The jury deliberated for more than 11 hours over three days on the question of whether he should get life without parole or the death penalty. On Wednesday, the jury told the judge that they were deadlocked, which would have resulted in a life sentence without parole. However, when they came back first thing Thursday morning, the holdouts had evidently changed their minds.

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More than one juror clearly showed the emotion of the decision.

The emotion of the decision was clear on the faces of the jurors as each was polled whether they agreed with the verdict. Bucks County judge Diane Gibbons said to them that this was a very difficult case, a very graphic case, a very exceptional murder, telling them to take care of themselves after going through what they went through.

Gibbons thanked the jury and told them, “The butchery in this case is beyond my ability to describe. To live vicariously through that took a lot out of me, and I’m sure for you.”

She said if jurors have any feeling the need to talk about, they should talk to someone about them.

Judge Gibbons sentenced Sullivan to death, life without parole, and 44 to 88 years in prison.

Sullivan pleaded guilty to first-degree murder. Grace Packer was the adopted daughter of Sara Packer. Sullivan and Packer lived out what prosecutors called a “rape-murder” fantasy, killing the girl in Quakertown back in July 2016. 

Defense attorney Jack Fagan had argued to the jury that they should look at Sullivan’s life with no criminal record and no history of violence, and asked them to give significant weight to his confession, which led to the arrest of co-defendant Sara Packer.

Bucks County District Attorney Matt Weintraub countered that the arguments for the defense do not have the same weight as the evidence against Sullivan, reminding jurors of a question he had asked at the beginning: “What is the worst thing you can conceive of doing to a child?”

Weintraub argued that Sullivan’s confession was no more than an attempt to get the crushing weight off his chest after his suicide attempt earlier in the month.

At the senteincing, Gibbons said to Sullivan, “You are not human,” and “You have no soul.” She said she thinks he tried to kill himself because he was “afraid someone would do to you what you did to her.”

Sara Packer’s sentencing had been on hold until this was complete. The lawyers have schedule conflicts today and tomorrow, so they are trying to plan a time when they can officially accept her plea and sentence her. She worked out a deal with prosecutors and will get life in prison without parole. 

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It’s time to play ball — Phillies Opening Day is here

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The anticipation, the hype — it all leads to Opening Day for the 2019 Phillies season.

Citizens Bank Park, of course, is pretty empty on a Thursday morning, but the atmosphere is anything but muted. The bunting is draped. The Opening Day logo is painted on the field. And later in the afternoon, this place is going to rock.

Gates open at 12:35 p.m. Fans will get their powder-blue rally towels.

And John Brazer with the Phillies says there’s some celebrity involvement to look out for: “2 o’clock at the third-base plaza, Questlove, Philly’s own Questlove from The Roots, will be DJing.”

And Brazer says the leadoff parade kicks off at 2:26 p.m. The team, now with all-star Bryce Harper, will march into the stadium.

Right before the first pitch, the Frog-X Parachute Team will hop out of a plane onto center field to deliver the first balls. Nix White is one of the parachuters who actually has a connection to the very first Opening Day at Citizens Bank Park.

“Fifteen years ago I was on the U.S. Navy parachute team, The Leapfrogs, and we jumped into the stadium on opening day,” he said. “Fifteen years later, here we are.”

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American Pharoah’s baby horse has many betting on bright future

KENNETT SQUARE, Pa. (KYW Newsradio) — A baby horse born on a Chester County farm earlier this month has a lot of people betting on his bright future. 

There are about 80 adult Thoroughbreds and their offspring on the nearly 100-acre Walnut Green Farm in Kennett Square. 

But there is one colt born on the farm on March 1 that is being talked about in thoroughbred racing circles. His father is Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, and he is the first foal in Pennsylvania to be sired by American Pharoah.  

Related: Jay Lloyd’s Getaway: Horsin’ around

He’s a big boy with a birth weight of 140 pounds. 

His mother is High Quail and also boats a star-studded blood line which includes Seattle Slew – the race horse who won the Triple Crown in 1977. 

“So far everything physically about him is A, number one. He’s very correct. He’s big for his age. He has all of the earmarks you look for in a racehorse,” said Mark Reid, the owner of the farm.

He doesn’t have a name as that right is reserved for whoever buys him.

Reid says American Pharoah’s babies are getting sold in the $600,000 to $700,000 range, but this colt is being considered very special and will probably sell for 7seven figures.

The Pennsylvania Horse Breeders Association says the industry is responsible 20,000 jobs in the commonwealth and brings $1.6 billion to the state’s economy.

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Community College of Philadelphia faculty, staff vote to strike

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — On Wednesday evening, faculty and staff members at Community College of Philadelphia voted to go on strike. 

Related: Community College of Philadelphia faculty, staff to vote on whether to strike

The American Federation of Teachers Local 2026 and the college have been trying to negotiate a new contract. Among the issues on the table is the workload: The college wants new faculty members to teach five courses a semester, instead of the current four.  

The last time CCP faculty went on strike was a two-week walkout in 2007. CCP President Dr. Donald Generals has said if there is a strike and there aren’t enough instructors, many classes for the school’s 28,000 students would have to be cancelled.

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Philadelphia inspector general generates $10M in savings and restitution

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Philadelphia’s inspector general produced more than $10 million for the city last year by taking action against employees caught in ethics breaches, and one Streets Department employee won an award Wednesday for his role in keeping the department honest.

Inspector General Amy Kurland’s annual report shows 18 employees were fired, 12 suspended or demoted and there were 10 criminal enforcement actions related to ethics breaches by city employees. That led to $4 million in salary and pension savings, $2.5 million in fines and $4 million in restitution. 

“We pay for ourselves many times over,” Kurland said. 

Related: Conference on government ethics in Philly, and no, officials say it’s not ironic

The violations ranged from being drunk at work to misusing city cars. Four Streets Department employees were disciplined for taking cash to collect commercial trash. Work on that case was one reason Streets’ integrity officer Ray Jackson won the Joan Markman Award. 

Kurland says he’s about the busiest of the city’s integrity officers. 

“Trash and recycling are picked up every single day, and so we at the inspector general’s office get complaints virtually every single day,” Kurland said. 

Jackson also helped bust two private companies that were closing sidewalks around construction projects without city permission.

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2,000 at Temple University get shots amid mumps outbreak

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Over 2,000 students and staffers at Temple University took advantage of free vaccine booster shots Wednesday as the number of mumps cases at the school topped 100.

Philadelphia health officials said 2,285 people were given shots during the first of two clinics offering the MMR vaccine. The number of confirmed and probable mumps cases at the university has reached 106 as of Wednesday, according to the city health department.

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The MMR vaccine, for measles, mumps and rubella, will be made available to all Temple students, faculty and staff again Friday.

Among those in line Wednesday was Lauryn Edmondson, a 20-year-old communications major.

“At first, I was kind of freaking out a little bit,” she said, adding she worried because she has some friends and family members who are immunocompromised.

“The best I can do for myself and others is to get my booster shot,” she said.

The school could have initially done a better job at informing students about the outbreak, she said. The school is now distributing helpful information, she said, and she feels like she has a better handle on it.

Fifty years ago, mumps was a childhood rite of passage of puffy cheeks and swollen jaws. That all changed with the arrival of a vaccine in the late 1960s, nearly eradicating the disease. Research suggests protection fades 10 or more years after the second dose.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the MMR vaccine is the best protection.

Mumps is caused by a virus. It’s contagious and spread through coughing and sneezing. Common symptoms are fever, headache, and painfully swollen salivary glands. Most cases occur in children and teens who spread it at schools and dormitories.

Some people never have symptoms. In most others, it is a mild disease from which people completely recover in a few weeks. Sometimes, though, it can lead to complications, including hearing loss, meningitis and swollen testicles. In rare cases, infection can lead to sterility.

© Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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6 Philadelphia establishments, chefs nominated for James Beard Awards

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The national James Beard Award nominations were announced Wednesday, and Philadelphia was on the shortlist representing culinary excellence, vying for this award known as the Oscars of food awards. 

Cristina Martinez of South Philly Barbacoa had a genuine reaction when she learned she was nominated for a James Beard award in the category of best chef: Mid-Atlantic

“Excited, happy, really surprised. Thank you so much,” Martinez said. 

Related: Many Philly chefs, restaurants recognized by James Beard Foundation this week

Philadelphia’s vegan chef Rich Landau was also nominated in that category. 

Also representing Philadelphia is Ellen Yin for outstanding restaurateur, Marc Vetri for outstanding chef and Jesse Ito for rising star chef. 

The city’s popular Israeli restaurant Zahav also made the list for outstanding restaurant. 

The James Beard Gala Awards take place May 6 in Chicago. 

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Jury deadlocked in deciding sentence for Jacob Sullivan

DOYLESTOWN, Pa. (KYW Newsradio) — The jury in the Jacob Sullivan case has told the judge they are deadlocked as to whether he should be given the death penalty or life in prison without parole.

The jury sent a note to the court Wednesday, telling them, “After sufficient deliberations, we cannot unanimously reach a sentencing verdict.”

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Judge Diane Gibbons read the jury what’s known as the “dynamite charge,” telling them it’s their job to come to a unanimous decision. She then sent them back to continue.

Sullivan pleaded guilty to first-degree murder for killing 14-year-old Grace Packer.

If the jury cannot reach a unanimous verdict, Sullivan will get life without parole.

His co-defendant, the girl’s adoptive mother Sara Packer, will officially enter her guilty plea once this is concluded. She will be sentenced to life in prison.

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Third trial begins for man twice-convicted for 1985 arson fire that killed his 2 sons

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Jurors are hearing the third trial of a man who is accused of intentionally setting a fire in his Oxford Circle row house in 1985, which killed his 3- and 4-year-old sons. 

Pennsylvania Superior Court overturned both of Daniel Dougherty’s previous convictions.

Assistant District Attorney Ashley Martin told jurors that Dougherty, who was 26 years old at the time, started the fire after a night of drinking and arguing with his live-in girlfriend back then, who threatened to leave him. He also argued with his estranged wife, who refused his sexual advances. 

Martin said while Dougherty contends to the drinking, he said he woke up on the couch to see the curtains ablaze. When a responding officer asked him his name and what happened, he reportedly responded, “My name is Mud, and I should die for what I did.”

The commonwealth will call an independent investigator — Thomas Schneiders, a former Philadelphia fire marshal — to confirm the original report of arson. It detailed evidence of burn patterns in three separate spots — the couch, love seat and under the dining room table — indicating it was arson. 

Defense lawyer David Frieman opened by telling jurors that Dougherty, now 59, tried desperately to put it out, and he was so frantic police had to restrain him. 

In Frieman’s words, “No way, no how can anyone prove it was intentionally set, and it could have been a faulty stereo extension cord or an a errant cigarette in a house full of smokers.” 

The defense will call two fire science experts to testify it was a “full-room involvement” that should have been classified as “undetermined.” 

Frieman told jurors that the first responding officer who spoke with Dougherty said the row home looked like a “blast furnace.” It went from “a fire in a room, to a room on fire,” Frieman said.

Before opening statements, Dougherty rejected a plea arrangement conveyed by the district attorney’s office to plead guilty to two counts of third-degree murder, as well as arson, and then have an open sentence before a judge. 

Homicide Unit Chief Anthony Vochi said the plea deal would have made Dougherty eligible for parole today. The presiding judge, Scott O’Keefe, responded, “I don’t know that he would be parole eligible.”

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Combating homelessness in Camden with not just a handout, but a hand up

Camden County officials are looking to place those who want to work with permanent jobs.

David Madden/KYW Newsradio

Combating homelessness with not just a handout, but a hand up

March 27, 2019
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CAMDEN, N.J. (KYW Newsradio) — Camden County officials say their efforts to combat homelessness are working well enough to take things to the next step. They’re looking to place those who want to work with permanent jobs.

For more than a year, the county has teamed up with Volunteers of America to offer services to homeless people. Some make themselves available for temp jobs that pay them daily. A few have entered the “Bridge to Work” program. 

Malcolm Flowers is one of them and has a part-time gig with the county.

“I don’t want to be an inconvenience to anybody,” Flowers told KYW Newsradio. “I don’t want to stand on the corner asking you for a quarter or a dime or a nickel when I can have a job.”

More than 400 people have come through the day job program and about 130 have obtained assistance in turning their lives around. The county vows to increase those numbers.

“Many of the individuals that are homeless, it’s because they need a job,” County Freeholder Carmen Rodriguez added. “And there are many employers out there that may have that capacity to provide somebody with that opportunity to work.”

But it may not easy for those who live on the street. Some just don’t want the help. Others have issues or criminal records. 

But the message here is clear: Assistance is available if you want it.

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Community College of Philadelphia faculty, staff to vote on whether to strike

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — After two and a half years of contract talks, the faculty at Community College of Philadelphia will decide Wednesday evening whether they should go on strike. 

The union representing 1,200 faculty and staff members at CCP votes at 6:15 p.m. on whether to hit the picket lines in early April. 

The American Federation of Teachers Local 2026 and the college have been trying to negotiate a new contract. Among the issues on the table is the workload: The college wants new faculty members to teach five courses a semester, instead of the current four.  

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No negotiations are scheduled for Wednesday. 

The last time CCP faculty went on strike was a two-week walkout in 2007. CCP President Dr. Donald Generals has said if there is a strike and there aren’t enough instructors, many classes for the school’s 28,000 students would have to be cancelled.

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Speeding car in Marcus Hook hits several houses, causing one to catch fire

MARCUS HOOK, Pa. (KYW Newsradio) — Police in Delaware County are piecing together an unusual and violent crash that happened overnight. A car went off the road and slammed into several homes. One of the houses then went up in flames. 

Police say a car was flying down Market Street by Laughead Avenue around midnight. It hit a fence and then the front porches of a pair of twin homes, causing the shared porch roof to collapse. Then finally it crashed into another house.

Mary lives lives right across the street from where the car ended up and says it was inevitable.

“I have to say, on this street, people just fly up and down,” she said. 

There was a loud bang and Mary, her husband and son and son-in-law, woke up and ran across the street to try to help the woman inside.

“My wife ran over and was yelling for her to go to the back,” her husband Thomas said. “We jumped the fence in the back and went in the back door and got her.”

They got her out before the house went up in flames.

“My wife ran over and was yelling for her to go to the back,” her husband Thomas said. “We jumped the fence in the back and went in the back door and got her.”

They got her out before the house went up in flames.

“Thank God, thank God,” Mary said. “You can replace things but you can’t replace people.”

Thomas says the driver of the car was ejected. He was taken to the hospital. Officials have not released his condition. No one has explained what may have caused him to lose control, but Thomas says he knows the driver was going way too fast.

— Tim Jimenez (@TimJRadio) March 27, 2019

Thomas says the driver of the car was ejected. He was taken to the hospital. Officials have not released his condition. No one has explained what may have caused him to lose control, but Thomas says he knows the driver was going way too fast.

“They figure he had to be doing at least 80 miles, 80-90 miles an hour,” he said. 

It’s not clear if he’ll be charged. 

A firefighter was also hurt. That firefighter’s condition has not been released.

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Traffic accident in Plymouth Township knocks out power for 1,000

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — PECO reports nearly 1,000 customers are without power in Plymouth Township, Montgomery County, Wednesday morning because of a traffic accident on Ridge Pike.

Authorities say wires strung on two utility poles along Ridge Pike near Chemical Road were knocked down shortly before 5:30 a.m.

Ridge Pike is shut down between Butler Pike and Chemical Road as repairs are being made.

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