What happened next: Crime and corruption

NewsWorks went back to check in on several of the stories we covered in 2014. These “what happened next” updates will run by topic. 

Pa. Rep. J.P. Miranda, sister charged in alleged ghost-work plot, Jan. 27

The story: Felony charges were brought against state Rep. “J.P.” Miranda (D-197), and his sister, for allegedly using a “ghost employee” to funnel state funds.

Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams announced the charges in January, alleging that Miranda hired Timothy Duckett Jr. as a full-time aide in December 2012 with an annual salary of $26,000. In return, Williams said, Duckett didn’t have to work 40 hours a week and would give a “portion of his pay” to Miranda’s sister, Michelle Wilson.

Williams said Miranda created the arrangement after he learned that Wilson couldn’t serve on his staff due as part of state law. Wilson said Duckett will receive immunity in exchange for his testimony.

What happened next: Miranda has since lost reelection and has had his trial day set for next month. Miranda received about 6 percent of the vote in the primary elections, losing the democratic ticket to Leslie Acosta, who went on to win in the general election unopposed.

After nearly a year of pre-trial procedures, including a misunderstanding that led to a short-lived arrest warrant in July, Miranda’s trial has been merged with Wilson’s, which is set to begin on Jan. 21.

Both Miranda and Wilson are being charged with Conspiracy, Perjury and Restricted Activities – Conflict of Interest.

-Marcus McCarthy

Roxborough hit-and-run victim identified, no vehicle information available [updated], March 7

The story: Joseph Fullam, 53, was critically injured when struck by an unidentified vehicle in the 400 block of Domino Lane in the city’s Roxborough section. The block itself features no speed-limit signs, speeding cars and sporatic sidewalks on which pedestrians can walk.

What happened next: The case remains unsolved, according to investigators.

-Brian Hickey

Burglar swipes TV from Germantown home, tries to sell it on same block , March 27

The story: Philadelphia Police released video of an unknown man allegedly responsible for one burglary and a foiled attempt three days earlier in East Germantown.

In one of the cases, the man broke into a home on the 300 block of E. Chelten Ave., took off with a 37-inch Westinghouse TV and immediately went to a variety store on that block trying to sell the hot television.

What happened next: Despite the existence of surveillance video and witnesses, the brazen burglar continues to elude capture, according to Philadelphia Police.

-Brian Hickey

Who tore down 200 reward posters for dog missing since Germantown house fire?, April 10

The story: Longtime Germantown resident, Judy Hall lost her home on the 100 block of Washington Lane that she resided in with her three children and her brother, Tom Hall, when faulty wiring led to a blaze. The family’s male pit bull dog, Clyde, perished in the fire. Hall credited the dog with having barked to alert her children of the fire. The family’s female pet bull dog, Bonnie, went missing after the fire.

What happened next: After months of searching for her beloved pet, to no avail, Judy Hall is finally recovering from the series of unfortunate events that destroyed her home, left one family pet dead, and another pet missing earlier this year.

Her brother, Tom Hall says his sister has finally moved on.

“My sister never found Bonnie. She actually purchased two Dobermans. She named them Achilles and Isis,” he said.

Tom Hall says his sister has since purchased a new home in Blue Bell, Pa. She still wonders about Bonnie’s whereabouts.

“I’ve always just wanted to know if she was okay, even if she wasn’t with us. I just hope somebody’s taking care of her,” Judy Hall told her brother.

“It took a lot of work for her to process everything and get through to where she’s at. She’s slowly trying to heal,” he said.

-Queen Muse

Neighbor: Explosions heard often at Germantown home where alleged bombmaker blew fingers off [updated], May 8

The story: What started as a story about a 54-year-old Germantown man losing part of his right hand after an M-80 explosion has turned into an investigation in which police said the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ local field office was involved.

Douglas Ferrin was charged with weapons of mass destruction, risking catastrophe and assorted other offenses. He faced similar charges in connection with a St. Patrick’s Day 2011 “bathroom explosion at Molly Maguire’s Irish Restaurant” in Phoenixville.

What happened next: Held for trial after a June preliminary hearing, a motions-hearing was scheduled for the case this month. Court records indicate that Ferrin still remains in custody at Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility in lieu of $500,000 bail.

-Brian Hickey

Small-time drug debt allegedly leads to brutal assault, rape near Germantown police precinct, June 30

The story: Robert Conner, 37, of Germantown, faces charges of attempted murder, aggravated assault, kidnapping, rape, sexual and indecent assault, burglary, trespassing and conspiracy in connection with a brutal episode, which allegedly took place only steps away from the headquarters of the Philadelphia Police Department’s 14th District.

What happened next: Conner’s “trial readiness conference” is scheduled for Oct. 9, 2015 in Courtroom 1102. He is represented by attorney Robert Patrick Link.

-Brian Hickey

Fattah Jr. released on bail following U.S. indictment on theft, fraud and tax-evasion charges, Aug. 5

The story: Chaka Fattah Jr., 31, is accused of everything from tax fraud to stealing from the Philadelphia School District as part of the wide-ranging indictment unsealed Tuesday. Among other things, Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Gray said Fattah Jr. is accused of diverting money from a federally funded program instead of using those funds for Philadelphia public school students.

What happened next: At a December hearing, Fattah a federal judge granted permission to Fattah Jr. to act as his own lawyer. Despite the fact that he does not have a law degree, the 32-year-old was pleased by the decision.

“I’m happy that the court is going to allow me to represent myself. I’m really excited,” said Fattah, Jr. “I’m prepared to fight the government on these charges and I’m looking forward to the next few months before the trial.”

-Brian Hickey

OARC may be target of FBI probe, Aug. 20

The story: The FBI reportedly questioned four people about the Ogontz Avenue Revitalization Corporation, a once-powerful and politically connected nonprofit in Northwest Philadelphia.

According to a report in the Philadelphia Inquirer, the interviews started last November and ended sometime this summer.

What happened next: Reached by NewsWorks in mid-December, the local FBI Supervisory Special Agent J.J. Klaver said would not confirm even the existence of such an investigation, as is common practice for the agency.

-Brian Hickey

Woman assaulted during Wissahickon Park robbery attempt, Sept. 30

The story: A 51-year-old woman was reportedly assaulted during an attempted robbery that occurred one Friday afternoon in September along Gate House Lane near McCallum St. in Chestnut Hill.

The suspect was described as a 6-foot tall black man between the ages of 25 and 30 with a dark complexion, large build and short curly hair. He was wearing a red polo shirt (with white lettering), tan pants and a possibly green baseball cap at the time.

What happened next: According to the Police Department’s public-affairs department, the suspect with a penchant for violence has not been arrested. However, a potential suspect had been identified and there have been no other incidents in the area.

-Brian Hickey

Man killed, grandson injured in E. Mt. Airy hit-and-run; suspect arrested, Sept. 30

The story: A 73-year-old man was killed and his 13-year-old grandson was injured when another vehicle allegedly sped through a stop sign and crashed into his car near the intersection of Ardleigh Street and Gorgas Lane.

The driver and a passenger in the other vehicle ran away from the East Mt. Airy scene after the 8:35 p.m. collision but were apprehended shortly thereafter.

What happened next: After an Oct. 15 preliminary hearing, alleged driver Dion Hunter of the 1300 block of Yerkes St. was held for trial on charges including “accident involving death/injury-not properly licensed” and fleeing a police officer. He remains in custody on $10,000 bail. A pretrial conference is scheduled for Jan. 7.

-Brian Hickey

Mt. Airy man charged with fatally stabbing popular Roxborough-synagogue member, Oct. 2

The story: Ronald Fischman, a 33-year-old Mt. Airy man and popular member of a local synagogue, was fatally stabbed in an apparent home-invasion robbery.

Jonathan Williams, 33, who also goes by the name William James, was charged with murder, burglary, criminal trespass and possession of an instrument of crime in connection with the incident.

What happened next: Williams’ case has progressed to the Court of Common Pleas where he is waiting for a pre-trial conference on Jan. 14, while remaining in county jail.

According to a Philly.com article, the commonwealth claimed in a preliminary hearing earlier this month that Williams’ ex-boyfriend, Gordon Branch was staying at Fischman’s house, as Williams and Branch had done around a year ago. Fischman was stabbed 10 times, prosecutors said, while trying to intervene in an argument between Branch and Williams.

Fischman had his poetry book, My Book of Days, released on Oct. 24.

-Marcus McCarthy

Carlesha’s alleged abductor appears in Philadelphia federal court, Nov. 12

The story: Carlesha Freeland-Gaither, a 22-year-old woman violently abducted from a Germantown street, was found alive, in Maryland, after a tireless search which led investigators to Delvin Barnes, a 37-year-old suspect with a violent past.

Before her discovery, the reward fund for information had reached $47,000.

What happened next: According to police, the reward has not yet been dispersed, as detectives have not yet finished their work on the case. While reward are generally based on the arrest and conviction of a perpetrator, some portions of it sometimes require only information that leads to an arrest. When time comes for reward dispersal, the Citizens Crime Commission is in charge of it, police said.

-Brian Hickey

If you have any Northwest Philadelphia stories from 2014 that you’d like NewsWorks to follow up on, please email us.

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