No death penalty for Kratz for 2017 Bucks killings

UPDATED: 11:10 a.m.

DOYLESTOWN, Pa. (KYW Newsradio) — Prosecutors in trial of Sean Kratz are not pursuing the death penalty. Kratz faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison for his role in the deaths of three men on a Bucks County farm in 2017. 

The court convened Monday to begin the penalty phase to decide if Kratz should be given the death penalty or life in prison, and prosecutors told the judge they decided not to seek the death penalty. 

They are going ahead with the sentencing hearing. 

Related: Sean Kratz found guilty of first- and second-degree murder

The jury took 18 hours over three days last week to find Kratz guilty of first-degree murder, second-degree murder and robbery in the death of Dean Finocchiaro on his cousin’s Solebury farm. He was also found guilty of voluntary manslaughter in the deaths of Mark Sturgis and Tom Meo, who were killed by his cousin, Cosmo DiNardo, while he was present.

At a minimum, he will receive a mandatory life sentence in prison as part of that first-degree murder conviction.

Kratz gave a recorded, full confession as part of a plea deal to third-degree murder in April 2018, in which he admitted to shooting Finocchiaro in the head, but he backed out of the deal at the last minute. That deal would have put him in state prison for 59 to 118 years, but he decided to go to trial.

DiNardo pleaded guilty earlier in the case.


Follow KYW Newsradio for more on this developing story.

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Woman finds two kids in stolen SUV left in her driveway

CHESTER, Pa. (KYW Newsradio) — Chester Police say they’re looking for two men who stole an SUV with young kids in the backseat Sunday night. The boys are now safe, and the woman who may have saved their lives said she found the car outside her house.

Lonnette Jackson says she was home after a long day at work but needed something from the store. Around 9:30 p.m., she reluctantly decided to leave and found an SUV she had never seen before sitting in her driveway.

“I actually walked up on the car and put a note on the windshield,” Jackson said. “You couldn’t hear a sound. You couldn’t hear a sound.”

She assumed it was empty, but it wasn’t. There was a 9-month-old boy and a 6-year-old boy in the backseat.

Police say the Hyundai Tucson was stolen a block and a half away, while their mother was inside a Chinese restaurant at 9th and Lincoln streets.

While out, Jackson saw police out and about and checked a neighborhoood app on her phone. She saw the cops were looking for the SUV, so she says she told police nearby they needed to go to her house.

They did, and the boys were in the backseat. Medics checked them out. They were fine and were reunited with their mother, who thanked Jackson repeatedly.

“Like I said, don’t thank me. Thank God, because I wasn’t going back outside,” she said.

Jackson says who knows what would have happened if she had decided to not leave the house.

“Those kids probably would have died out there last night. It was freezing. It was freezing. So, things happen. I just happened to be there. I’m just glad.”

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New website a ‘glossary’ of hate to expose anti-Semitism

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — A new website from the American Jewish Committee is pointing out the language and anti-semitic tropes online and on social media that they say are leading to a rise in bigotry and violence.

Marcia Bronstein, regional director of the AJC Philadelphia, Southern New Jersey region, says the site, called “Translate Hate,” was created on the heels of the organization’s landmark study, which indicated that anti-Semitism has been on the rise for the past five years or so.

“It is designed as an innovative, digital resource that enables Americans of all backgrounds to expose anti-semitic tropes and then to take action against them,” Bronstein said. “There are a lot of ideas that get shared and translated that are very problematic and create a lot of hatred and bigotry in the world and then create violence.”

Some of the key findings in the study:

“That American Jews are deeply concerned about anti-Semitism and that it is spreading. Jews are hiding their Jewishness; they’re concerned for fear and safety. And Jews consider anti-Zionism anti-Semitic.”


Bronstein said the website makes examples of real tweets and news headlines and explains why certain messages can be harmful.

“It’s almost like a glossary of anti-Semitic tropes and expressions,” explaining why certain ideas are considered problematic, she said.

“There’s a table of contents in Translate Hate, and it’s alphabetical, whether it’s ‘blood libel’ or ‘dual loyalty’ or ‘greed,’ ‘Holocaust denial’ — so everybody can see an A-Z listing. ‘Zionist,’ ‘scapegoat.’  There’s a definition for all these things.”

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Mayor Kenney endorses plan to eliminate library fines

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — A movement is growing to eliminate overdue book fines from the Philadelphia library system, and the idea recently got a high-level endorsement.

Library trustees say they’ve been researching the feasibility of eliminating fines for more than a year. Councilwoman Cherelle Parker turned up the heat last month, with a resolution to hold hearings on the idea.

“Now is the time for Philadelphia’s free libraries to go fine-free and eliminate the debt,” Parker proposed.

She got support last week from Mayor Jim Kenney, who called on the trustees to do away with fines at their next meeting in December.

“We found in other cities that eliminated them that people returned stuff that they hadn’t returned in years,” Kenney said. “We have a lot of poor people in the city who, when fines accumulate, will refuse to go into the library because they’re afraid and we don’t get material returned. They hold onto it for years.”

Parker cited results of a similar measure in Chicago. “In just the first month of implementation,” she said, “their decision to eliminate fines has triggered a 240 percent increase in book returns.”

The fines also produce revenue for the system but Parker says it’s less than one percent of the budget. The hearing she requested is scheduled for Wednesday. 

The library trustees issued a statement saying they’ve been studying it for more than a year and they will consider it at the December meeting.

Related: Camden County forgiving most overdue library fees soon

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Franklin Square Station will reopen with some federal help

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — A station along the PATCO high speed line on the Philadelphia side has been closed for decades. But it’s coming back, in part thanks to a $12.5 million federal grant. 

Several times over the last few years, PATCO has discussed plans to restore service at what used to be the first Philadelphia stop on the line. In fact, last year the agency pledged to do it with or without federal help. 

After twice being rejected, the feds gave a thumbs up this week. 

Related: Franklin Square PATCO station might get federal help to reopen

“The grant we received from the US Department of Transportation will assist us in our $30 million project to reopen Franklin Square Station that has been closed since 1979,” PATCO General Manager John Rink said. “The money will help offset the cost to repair, remodel and then reopen the station.”

U.S. Senator Bob Casey, in a press release, said reopening the station will “serve new residential and commercial growth in the area.”

As for progress on the project, Rink added “We’re 90% done the design and we’ll finish up early next year, and then put the project out to bid and hope to start construction by the end of 2020. So it’s perfect timing.”

They’ve got a lot of work to do to reopen the station. Start with getting power back, cleaning the place up, making it handicapped-accessible and then, for good measure, add a headhouse in the park near 6th and Race.

Some 1,500 people a day are expected to use the station when it reopens in early 2023.

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Veteran homelessness down in record numbers, officials say

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Veteran homelessness has been virtually eliminated in Delaware and Bucks counties according to Department of Housing and Urban Development officials, who say it’s also seen a sharp decline in Philadelphia. 

“I think the reason it’s working so well is because we’re kind of breaking down the barriers,” said HUD regional administrator Joe DeFelice about their work with governments and agencies on all levels, from local to federal.

Over the last year, veteran homelessness in Pennsylvania decreased by 12.7% according to HUD officials, who said those numbers are part of a drop of more than 40% over the last nine years. Philadelphia alone has seen a 30% decrease in that timeframe.

DeFelice also credited the drop to programs they’ve introduced to help bring veteran homelessness in the state from nearly 38,000 people to a little more than 37,000.

“There’s all different kinds of things that work,” DeFelice explained, “whether it’s rapid re-housing, permanent supportive housing, different levels of affordable housing, tiny homes, workforce development.”

“Does that mean you’re going to walk outside City Hall and not see a homeless veteran?” he asked. “No, it doesn’t, but what it means is once we identify that veteran–and if they’re willing to get housing–we will house them in 90 days.”

In addition to finding people who need help, DeFelice said there are other issues they face when it comes to getting them into a home. “Sometimes veterans don’t want housing,” he said, “but we make sure we continue to talk to them every 14 days.”

DeFelice said HUD will continue educating and implementing new programs, until they completely eliminate veteran homelessness.

Related: Veterans Parade raises awareness of the needs of those who served

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Police in contact with man connected to attempted luring

UPDATED 3:34 p.m.

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Police are in contact with a man in connection with a series of attempted lurings in Northeast Philadelphia over the last week.

They said the incidents happened on November 13-15.

On Wednesday morning, authorities explained, a man in black clothing walked up to a woman on the 4600 block of Cottman Ave. and exposed himself to her, while asking her if she wanted to make $100 dollars. He ran off when she called police.

The second incident happened on Thursday afternoon. According to police, a man in a white car, on the 7300 block of Frankford Ave., asked a woman if she wanted to make money before getting out of his car, yelling he was a police officer and had a gun.

The third luring attempt happened Friday morning, when a man in a cream-colored car on the 3200 block of Ryan Ave., asked another woman if she wanted to make money, before getting out of his car. That woman fled.
Police said the man was identified and in contact with Special Victims Unit investigators. His identity has not been released at this time.

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Police looking for man they say tried to lure multiple women

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Police are searching for a man they say tried to lure multiple women in Northeast Philadelphia over the last week, and have asked for the public’s help in finding him.

They said the incidents happened on November 13-15.

On Wednesday morning, authorities explained, a man in black clothing walked up to a woman on the 4600 block of Cottman Ave. and exposed himself to her, while asking her if she wanted to make $100 dollars. He ran off when she called police.

The second incident happened on Thursday afternoon. According to police, a man in a white car, on the 7300 block of Frankford Ave., asked a woman if she wanted to make money before getting out of his car, yelling he was a police officer and had a gun.

The third luring attempt happened Friday morning, when a man in a cream-colored car on the 3200 block of Ryan Ave., asked another woman if she wanted to make money, before getting out of his car. That woman fled.
Police are asking anyone with information on this case to contact their Special Victims Unit at (215) 685-3252, or to call 911.

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Flyers offer sensory-friendly lounge for fans with autism

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Between the lights and sounds, a professional sports game can sometimes be a tough place to be for someone with autism. But the Philadelphia Flyers are hoping to change that.

In the past, the Wells Fargo Center would offer a sensory-friendly lounge for fans with autism during one Flyers game a season. Now, that lounge will be open during one home game a month.

Carrie Stockmal brought her 17-year-old son Jack to the lounge during its season debut.

“My son was trying to watch the game from our seats and had his hands over his ears and just said ‘this is too loud’ and so we walked back into the hallway and I knew there was a sensory room so here we are,” she told KYW Newsradio. “He’s been happy since he’s been in here which is a good thing. I think it’ll center him a little bit more and then we’ll be able to go back out.”

The sensory-friendly lounge is very quiet. There’s lots of space and games available to play. The Flyers game that night will be on TV in the room so fans don’t miss any of the action. 

“It is so necessary,” added Stockmal. “If there wasn’t a place like this for Jack to go, what would happen with him is he would just escalate and escalate and he would never be able to enjoy this experience and it potentially could get hard for him and then everyone around him.”

Also in the room, you’ll find neuropsychologist Jennifer West-Gavin with her service companion dog, Lullaby. 

“Basically what she does is provides additional support, an outlet,” explained West-Gavin. “She provides a comfort in an environment that can be really loud and can be over-stimulating for some.”

There’s also a sensory-friendly room at Lincoln Financial Field, which the Philadelphia Eagles built this season.

The Flyers say they will be giving complimentary tickets to a some non-profit autism organizations during these sensory-friendly nights. The dates are December 5, January 13, February 10, March 17 and April 2. 


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SEPTA to expand solar-powered regional rail signals

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — SEPTA announced plans to expand its solar-powered signals to three more regional rail lines next year.

Solar panels have provided backup electricity for train signals on the Chestnut Hill West line for the past year.

“Having the signal power reliable allows our train system to be reliable,” said Erik Johanson, SEPTA’s director of innovation. He added power to signals on that line has gone uninterrupted, even in severe weather. If power is interrupted by say, a downed tree limb, the signals that tell engineers when it’s safe to change tracks fail, resulting in delays. 

“Not to have a single signal power failure during that time, something that used to happen monthly, is pretty significant,” he said. 

Rider Nicole Higgins uses the Chestnut Hill West line daily. “For me, it’s always on time,” she said. “The only time if it’s late, it’s weather-related.”

Next year, SEPTA plans to install solar panels along the Warminster, West Trenton and Doylestown lines, using a $16 million federal grant.

KYW Newsradio waited at the Chestnut Hill West station to talk to Johanson about this. Ironically, his train was late because of signal problems. But he pointed out, the Chestnut Hill West signals were not to blame—the issue was on the other side of the system at Wayne Junction. 

Related: PATCO to install thousands of solar energy canopies

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A call to look into slavery reparations in New Jersey

TRENTON, N.J. (KYW Newsradio) — Legislators in New Jersey are being asked to consider a move to form a task force to look into reparations to be paid for the state’s role in slavery. 

The state’s Legislative Black Caucus introduced a bill that would set up a panel comprised of appointees representing the Governor and Legislature, as well as four citizens recommended by civil rights organizations. 

One of the sponsors, Democratic assemblywoman Shavonda Turner of Paterson, said the proposed New Jersey Reparations Task Force would be called on “to conduct research and develop reparatory proposals and recommendations that will address the generational harms caused by New Jersey’s role in America’s original sin with the institution of slavery and its legacy of systemic racial discrimination.”

What form any reparations might take is not clear. In fact, while the bill has been introduced, its specifics have not yet been posted on the legislative web site.

“It is our hope that this task force will take that deep dive approach to examine where the disparities took place, what the impacts have been and come up with some recommendations that we can put in place today for restoration,” she added.

She says New Jersey has its own history with slavery, dating back to the early 1700s. And while it was abolished a century later, its effects lingered on. In fact, Turner contends it still affects African-Americans in the state today when it comes to issues ranging from public education to the environment.

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Cashless fitness clubs operating despite Philly ban

Nearly 30 fitness clubs in Philadelphia are in violation of a new city ordinance prohibiting cashless stores, and the sponsor of the original bill is looking into the matter.

Councilman Bill Greenlee said he’s disappointed because the fitness clubs are clearly included in the ordinance. He said he plans to ask the Commission on Human Relations, the enforcement agency, if it will accept a blanket complaint against gyms or if the complaint will have to come from someone who is personally aggrieved.

“This is a little bit different in the sense it’s a blanket policy that these places have,” Greenlee explained. “Will somebody have to put a complaint in at every location? I don’t know, that’s what I’m going to look into.”

Usually, he said, complaints to the Commission on Human Relations came from people who were personally discriminated against or denied access.

Related: Philly City Council passes bill requiring businesses to accept cash

Members are required by the gyms to provide a bank account, debit card or credit card.

The ordinance requires all retail operators to accept cash, to be inclusive to those who may not have a bank account or credit card.

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Study finds invasive heart procedures less effective

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Thousands of doctors and healthcare professionals came to Philadelphia for the 2019 American Heart Association conference this weekend.

This happened just as a groundbreaking study was announced related to heart surgeries.

“This is a really important study that people have waited a long time to get the answer,” said Dr. Robert Harrington, president of the American Heart Association. “They’ve been working on this for over seven or eight years.”

It’s called the ISCHEMIA trial. Harrington explained how the federally funded study worked.

“Everybody in the study got medical therapy,” he said. “The addition of the procedure did not lower your risk of having a heart attack or dying, but the addition of the procedure did lower your risk of chest pain.”

“Procedure” refers to invasive treatment, such as a stent or bypass surgery. In other words, if you have chest pain due to blocked arteries, those procedures can relieve the pain and improve quality of life, but it doesn’t actually help you live longer. 

“There does not seem to a be a benefit with regard to improving longevity of life,” added Harrington, “avoiding heart attacks, avoiding strokes by having the more aggressive therapy.”

What doctors call medical therapy includes cutting out smoking, taking medications, eating a healthy diet, and active exercise–about a half-hour each day five days a week–which proved to be more useful for a healthy heart. Based on the study, doctors recommended all of those, plus medicine, to reduce the risk of a heart attack.

“So for city dwellers here in Philadelphia, just gettin out there at lunch time before work, walking for 30 minutes is awesome for your heart,” recommended Harrington.

Of course, talk to your healthcare provider about what’s best for you.

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Real-life ‘Ford v Ferrari’ cars featured in new exhibit

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — A historic period in American auto racing is the focus of a new blockbuster film, as well a museum exhibit in Philadelphia.
The exhibit at the Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum showcases the exact cars from the French 24 Hours of Le Mans race of 1966, depicted in the new movie “Ford v Ferrari.”

The movie, starring Academy Award winners Matt Damon and Christian Bale, is based on the remarkable true story of the visionary American car designer Carroll Shelby’s rivalry with Enzo Ferrari. Museum founder Dr. Fred Simeone is helping to tell the iconic story with an exclusive exhibit, bringing to life the passion that fueled racing era and the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans race in France.

“1966 was a big year, and America never won an important race overseas,” explained Simeone. “Ford finally did whatever they could, no expense spared to win Le Mans.”

The exhibit stretches almost the length of the entire museum, lining up each car in chronological order, beside a display with authentic racing costumes from the film.

“We have the actual cars from that saga,” Simeone said, “from Carroll Shelby’s last winning race with the Aston Martin, which there are only four of in the world, all the way to the 1966 Le Mans.” That race was won with the Ford GT40, which is represented in the exhibit.

The exhibit showing has been extended due to popular demand, through the end of December.

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Group uses Philadelphia Marathon to get ahead in life

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) —  The Philadelphia Marathon is about a week away, and for the thousands who participate, the race is a chance to introduce the running sport to newcomers. 

Black Men Run Philly has about 25 group members who run together a few times a week. David Johnson is the captain. 

“It’s not about running fast, or running long it’s about getting out there, being a better version of yourself,” said Johnson. 

He says too often black men put their health on the back burner, but their group helps promote a healthy lifestyle.

“We’re not quick to run to a hospital to get checked out, so once you start running once you start feeling things with your body, you are more in tune to go to the hospital and say you know what, let me make sure that my heart can do what I’m asking it to do,” Johnson continued. 

Next week Johnson and five other guys from the group are running in the Philadelphia Marathon.
He credits their group training with helping him as a runner–and a man.

“I’m a better father. I’m a better husband. I’m a better person because of it. I learn from these brothers. These brothers inspire me. I hope I inspire them.”

Johnson says their club’s name is a beacon for black men, because many do not know about larger running communities, but they welcome people of all races, and genders.

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