LOCAL

Two of the fatalities reviewed occurred in Greencastle area

Staff reports

A report released Monday details the work of local law enforcement in the fight against drug trafficking and other crimes across Franklin County.

Members of the Franklin County Investigating Grand Jury, convened February 2017 through January 2019, heard testimony and reviewed evidence related to 19 cases, including 16 drug-related deaths — two in the Greencastle area, with a total of 25 suspects charged.

"Our cases primarily involved the current opioid/overdose crisis, the drug trafficking networks responsible for the distribution of narcotics throughout our county and the unacceptable deaths of our fellow citizens as a result," the grand jury report says. "We have also reviewed evidence and heard testimony concerning a 1972 homicide, a 2015 jewelry store robbery and a series of previously unreported sexual assaults."

Greencastle area 

  • On Feb. 22, 2017, Pennsylvania State Police in Chambersburg began an investigation into the fentanyl overdose death of Dwayne E. Thomas Jr., 24, which occurred outside of the McDonald’s on Buchanan Trail East, Greencastle.

The grand jury heard testimony from investigators with Pennsylvania State Police and the Franklin County Drug Task Force, the coroner and three civilian witnesses. Evidence included McDonald’s surveillance video that showed Thomas exiting a vehicle in the parking lot shortly after ingesting the fentanyl. He collapsed before reaching the building and died in the parking lot outside of the restaurant.

The grand jury determined that Nathan Mills delivered the fentanyl to Thomas that caused his death. Additionally, the grand jury determined that Laneice Baker supplied the fentanyl to Mills. Both were charged with drug delivery resulting in death.

Further investigation identified Baker’s source of supply from the Hagerstown area as Laty Jerome Arrington. The Franklin County Drug Task Force initiated an investigation concerning Arrington and his distribution of fentanyl in Franklin County. Arrington was taken into custody by members of the Franklin County Drug Task Force during an operation in the Borough of Chambersburg, and found to be in possession of a quantity of fentanyl. He was charged with drug delivery resulting in death and two counts of possession with intent to deliver.

  • On Jan. 6, 2018, Pennsylvania State Police in Chambersburg began an investigation into the methamphetamine overdose death of 3-year-old Logan Starliper, which occurred at 43 W. Baltimore St., Greencastle.

The grand jury heard testimony from Pennsylvania State Police troopers, a detective with the Franklin County Drug Task Force, the coroner and six civilian witnesses.

During the course of this investigation, it was determined that Logan’s mother, Brittany Higgins, and Brian Bennett were at the West Baltimore Street address during the period that Logan ingested the controlled substance that caused her death. Both Higgins and Bennett were under the influence of methamphetamine at the time, according to the grand jury.

Pennsylvania State Police charged Higgins and Bennett with third-degree murder, drug delivery resulting in death, involuntary manslaughter, endangering the welfare of children (two counts) and possession of drug paraphernalia.

The grand jury investigation focused on identifying the source of the methamphetamine that caused Logan’s death. Ultimately, a drug network responsible for the distribution of methamphetamine in Franklin County was uncovered. The grand jury determined that Paul Crawford was responsible for bringing the methamphetamine into the county and distributing it through Rodney Mower, Michael Gatrell, Daniel Schultz, Kelly Monn and Brittany Baker.

Crawford was charged with drug delivery resulting in death, unlawful delivery, corrupt organization, conspiracy-corrupt organization, criminal use of communication facility and dealing in proceeds of unlawful activity. The others all were charged with related offenses.

*** Other overdose deaths ***

  • In Washington Township, the 2016 overdose death of Joshua Biesecker and the 2017 overdose death of his twin brother, Chad Biesecker.
  • In the Borough of Waynesboro, the 2016 overdose death of Matthew Mylod; the the 2017 overdose death of Brian Cosey; the 2017 fatal overdose of Jason Byers; the 2017 overdose death of Holly White; the 2017 fatal overdose of Marc Brumbaugh; the 2017 overdose death of Nathan Bolden; and the fatal overdose of Sam Myerly in 2017.
  • In Quincy Township, the 2018 fatal overdose of Cody Wileman.
  • In Chambersburg, the 2016 fatal overdose of Lori Wassil, the 2017 overdose death of Clara Owens, the 2016 overdose death of Dereck Middlekauff and the 2015 fatal overdose of Rudy Barbour.

1972 homicide 

The Franklin County District Attorney's Office is reviewing the grand jury's recommendation that an individual, whose name has not been released, be charged with first-degree murder and robbery in the 1972 death of a New York man whose body was found along the Pennsylvania Turnpike in Metal Township.

On Sept. 20, 1972, Pennsylvania State Police in Chambersburg began an investigation into the shooting death of Morgan Peters, 30, of Bayshore, Long Island. At that time, it was determined that Peters had been killed by a single gunshot to his back two days earlier on Sept. 18, 1972.

The grand jury heard the testimony of a trooper with Pennsylvania State Police and a civilian witness and reviewed interviews that were recorded and documented in writing, as well as reports, photographs and other evidence associated with the lengthy investigation.

Jewelry store robbery 

On Nov. 19, 2015, Snider's Jewelers in the Borough of Mercersburg was robbed by two masked males. Both were armed with handguns and were driven from the scene by a third individual.

The grand jury heard testimony from the investigating officer with the Mercersburg Police Department and six civilian witnesses and reviewed reports, records and other evidence.

At the grand jury's recommendation Kevin Jade Combs, Gerard Davis and Juan Antonio Fernandez-Munoz were charged with robbery, conspiracy and theft.

 Grand jury statement 

"With our focus on Drug Delivery Resulting in Death, in the midst of what has been rightfully called an opioid epidemic, we have learned of the lives of many victims, often called 'addicts' or 'junkies,'" the report says. "While in all cases they did choose to ingest the drugs, there was also a network providing these illegal drugs. Additionally, a network of family and friends of the victims were severely impacted by their deaths. When one sincerely reflects upon that familial and societal impact and the basic value of an individual’s life, attitudes and mores change from uneducated offhand comments about addiction, to comprehension, acknowledgment and involvement.

"With this full understanding of the drug delivery network and empathy for the victims, we have worked hard to change both user attitudes and the illegal drug supply network.

"Our focus has been on lost lives — which all matter — and we have purposefully included pictures of our county’s victims, as they are forever etched in our minds. We will not forget them."

"The District Attorney’s Office sincerely thanks the jurors for their dedication and selflessness over this two-year period," added Franklin County District Attorney Matt Fogal. "The work completed by this body of Franklin County citizens has positively impacted the community and has greatly assisted in our constant fight for justice and accountability and to prevent prospective crime."