Richard Hobbs, a Marine who served in Vietnam, was living in a refrigerator box under a Pittsburgh bridge last year.
“I got some big mats to put down and I had a sleeping bag,” he said. “When it got cold I didn’t have any place to go. For about two to three months I lived in that box. My fingers were getting purple and I couldn’t feel my feet.”
Hobbs was one of the hundreds of homeless veterans in the region, but as of seven months ago, he no longer contributes to those statistics. He’s been living in the Washington City Mission’s Crabtree Kovacicek Veterans House, which opened last year.
“This is like heaven to be here,” Hobbs said in an interview this week. “I thought God gave up on me, but this helped me turn my life around. It changed how I feel about people.”
Hobbs’ story is one of many stories that have added to the success of the Crabtree Kovacicek house, which celebrated its first anniversary July 3. The house was started to not only provide a roof over the heads of local homeless veterans, but to help them get the healthcare they need, employment and eventually get them back on their feet.
“It’s one of the greatest things to see a guy come in broken, and one day has a job and is ready to get his own place,” said Steve Adams, manager of veteran services for the City Mission.
Adams, the facilitator of the house, said they have 20 residents right now, with a capacity for 22. In the first year, they’ve had 13 veterans leave the house with successful housing, and 10 who stayed there temporarily before going into other medical programs with longer-term care to better fit their needs.
He said there’s a lengthy “list of positives” that have come from the establishment of the house.
“They never gave me an expectation, but we had thought it would take about two years to reach capacity,” Adams said. “Seven months after we opened I was at capacity. It’s only going to get better and stronger.”
Adams, of North Franklin Township, is a U.S. Army veteran who was deployed in Desert Storm in 1990.
“I saw a great many terrible things,” he said.
He left the military in 1993, but suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder along with substance abuse issues.
“The military is like this big machine that’s larger than life,” Adams said. “When you’re in it, you’re young and strong and a person of importance. When you leave, you become just another citizen, and you don’t have the brotherhood around you anymore.”
In 1996, he came to the City Mission as a homeless man.
“The Mission saved my life,” he said.
Now, more than 20 years later, he’s giving back to the Mission by running the Veterans House, and playing a big role in the lives of other veterans.
“I love going to that house every day,” Adams said. “I love the fact that they trust me enough to share their lives with me.”
Adams said the house thrives on the camaraderie of its residents, the service they have in common and a “no man left behind” motto. He said it’s more than just a roof over their heads.
While at the house, Adams helps the veterans get connected with any Veterans Affairs benefits they may qualify for, such as health care, or connect them with welfare services. Then they find them a doctor and have a physical done.
“Most of the guys have a wide variety of issues,” he said.
Some of the most common issues are medical problems, he said, along with PTSD, survivor’s remorse and depression.
“You put a couple of those together and you’ve got the perfect storm for a guy to lose everything,” Adams said.
Hobbs’ greatest hurdle was a variety of medical issues, such as diabetes and high blood pressure. When he left the military in 1975, he worked at a steel mill in Pittsburgh. Back then, he had a family and a house, before the mill shut down in 1984. He had trouble finding stable work after that and ultimately became homeless.
“I stayed with Christianity and religion, I just didn’t have a place to stay,” Hobbs said. “Any place I could find with warmth I would stay.”
He was met with warmth at the Mission.
“They care about veterans,” Hobbs said. “I was called a baby killer, but when I got here, I was treated with love and respect. All I saw was negativity until I came here.”
Adams said he worked with Hobbs on getting his health back on track, managing his diabetic symptoms and helping him lose weight.
“All the guys rallied around him and wanted to help him and look out for him,” Adams said.
Hobbs plans to be at the Veterans House for two years, before getting his own place in Washington.
“It’s not a hand out, it’s a hand up,” Hobbs said.
He’s going back to school for an associate’s degree because he wants to be a child guidance counselor. He’ll be celebrating his 67th birthday July 19.
“I got a second chance, and I thank God for that,” he said.
But there are hundreds more like Hobbs that could use a second chance.
“There’s a lot more need than people realize,” Adams said. “I don’t think anyone really pays attention to the guy on the corner with a homeless veteran sign.”
Adams said one of their former residents had been living in a tent in the woods for years before he came to the Crabtree Kovacicek Veterans House.
“They can come to this place and whatever issues or failures they’re bringing with them, they can overcome,” Adams said. “We build on successes.”
Centerville Borough is among those who’ve proposed additional safety measures at an accident-prone railroad crossing where a truck hauling hydrochloric acid collided with a train last year.
The settlement – which the appointed members of the state Public Utility Commission still have to vote on – involves additional safety measures at the intersection of Route 88 and Maple Glenn Road.
PUC spokesman Nils Hagen-Frederiksen said the five-member commission will make its decision after examining records in the proceeding, which started a year ago.
“It’s dependent on the amount of time that the commission and their technical staff feel is necessary to review the case,” he added.
As part of the proposal, the borough agreed to install a sign stopping tractor-trailers on the highway from making left-hand turns from the highway onto Maple Glenn.
A truck driver for Ohio-based Kuhnle Brothers Inc. made one of those turns on March 6, 2018, just before a train on the Norfolk Southern tracks rammed his rig, spilling some 40,000 pounds of acid and prompting authorities temporarily to evacuate nearby houses and bring in a hazardous-materials team.
Borough police filed charges – including felony counts of causing and risking a catastrophe – the following month against the nonunion truck driver, Jacob T. Shank, 43, of Portage County.
Shank allegedly told police he came to a complete stop before making the turn onto Maple Glenn. Court papers said he recalled looking both ways before driving onto the crossing but didn’t see the train. He said he didn’t hear its whistle until it crashed into his rig.
Carl Parise, Shank’s defense attorney, said he reviewed the proposed settlement in the PUC proceeding, but called the crossing “inherently dangerous.”
“To blame (Shank) for the accident, in and of himself – I don’t think it’s appropriate,” Parise said.
The attorney didn’t know of criminal charges resulting from any of the five other crashes that occurred at the crossing since 1990.
“You can’t keep having these accidents and not take some safety precautions for that crossing,” he added.
Shank is free on his own recognizance. Parise said his client’s injuries were severe enough that it took almost a year before he could travel for a preliminary hearing.
Train engneer Ronald Sabo and his wife, Cindy Sabo, are pursuing a federal lawsuit against Shank and Kuhnle Brothers over injuries Ronald allegedly sustained in the crash.
The accident involving the CSX train – operated by a Norfolk Southern crew – prompted an investigation by the PUC into conditions at the crossing.
At the time of the accident, it was unclear if Maple Glenn was a public or private road. The PUC later designated it public at the borough’s request.
Earlier this year, representatives from the commission’s Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement, the state Department of Transportation, Centerville Borough and the railroad agreed to a joint settlement of the PUC proceedings.
Administrative Law Judge Mary D. Long recommended approving that deal in a May 16 filing.
Under the terms, Norfolk Southern agreed to place a 30-foot cantilever with an electronic bell. PennDOT said it would reimburse the company for costs of equipment it plans to install so that oncoming trains trigger those devices.
Along with the new sign, the borough agreed to install a continuously flashing warning signal on the highway and add stop lines on the portion of Maple Glenn that approaches the crossing.
Mon River Dock – the company that owns the property on Maple Glenn where Shank was to make a delivery – sent the PUC a letter in support of the settlement. An attorney for the firm said that it had made a separate deal to share some of the costs for the improvements with the borough.
Borough secretary-treasurer Cheryl Matesich wasn’t prepared to discuss the specifics of that arrangement.
“It hasn’t been finalized,” she said. “Until it’s finalized, I can’t comment because there’s nothing to comment on.”
A Waynesburg man is in jail for allegedly assaulting a 1-month-old boy last week.
State police said on July 3, the child’s mother left her 2-year-old and the infant from 1 to 2 p.m. while she went to get her nails done. She left them with Richard Dewayne Wright III, 20, at 1 Green Terrace Court, Waynesburg, where they reside.
When the mother returned, the infant was shaking, clammy and had a temperature of 94.9, according to the criminal complaint. She told police that Wright was holding the baby boy, but asked her to take the child because “he had been crying for an hour,” the criminal complaint said.
She took the baby to WHS-Greene hospital, where it was discovered the boy had bruising and a brain bleed. The child was later transported to Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown, W.Va.
The doctor at Ruby’s pediatric intensive care unit told police July 4 that the baby had suffered right posterior rib fractures, a right subdural hematoma and a possible left subdural hematoma, which is bleeding on the brain. The baby also had bruising on his eye, side and back.
The doctor told police that “one of these injuries would raise suspicion of abuse, but the combined injuries increase the likelihood of abuse,” the complaint said.
According to the criminal complaint, when a Greene County Children and Youth Services caseworker visited the family Sunday to inform them that they would be attempting to take custody of the children, Wright admitted to abusing the infant.
The caseworker told police that “Richard Wright threw his arms in the air and said ‘I did it,’” the complaint said. Wright allegedly told the caseworker that he “picked the victim up too quick and squeezed him too hard,” the complaint said.
Wright was charged with aggravated assault, endangering the welfare of children, simple assault and recklessly endangering another person. He was arraigned by District Judge Glenn Bates Thursday afternoon and jailed on $50,000 bond.
CHARLEROI – A man is in custody after being arrested Wednesday by Charleroi Regional police in an attempted homicide case that has been sealed by a Washington County judge.
Common Pleas Judge John DiSalle sealed all records in the case against John Sadvary, 39, even the docket that would include the date of the suspect’s preliminary hearing and the name of his attorney, court officials said Thursday.
“Everything (prosecutors) brought up, the judge signed, had some form of hearing and then back to the DA’s office,” said one member of the judge’s staff.
Courts can seal the criminal complaint and its supporting documents for as long as 30 days, but judges have to include “good cause” for sealing these cases in their orders, said Melissa Melewsky, an attorney with the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association.
“They can’t seal cases just because they want to,” Melewsky said Thursday.
She said the docket, itself, is not considered a supporting document in such cases and that sealing it is unconstitutional.
Deputy District Attorney Jason Walsh declined to discuss details of Sadvary’s case but acknowledged obtaining the seal.
“I cannot produce an order, but there is an order,” Walsh said.
He said the rules of criminal procedure don’t allow courts to do so without the government showing a good reason.
Melewsky said court orders must be docketed and available to the public, and that district attorneys are not custodians of court records.
She said the clerk of courts should have, at a minimum, the docket and court order authorizing a seal.
“The public can’t learn about or challenge a seal order if there’s no court docket or good cause order to review,” Melewsky said.
District Attorney Gene Vittone referred comment on the case to Dennis Paluso, the county’s first assistant district attorney.
Paluso said he was not “directly involved” in the case and unaware of what DiSalle put in the court order.
“Everything will be revealed at the hearing,” Paluso said.
A spokeswoman for the Washington County court administrator’s office said Sadvary’s preliminary hearing has been scheduled for 10 a.m. Tuesday before District Judge Larry Hopkins in the county courthouse.
She said the hearing date is public information and that she was attempting to find out why the docket is blocked from the public on the state’s online list of criminal court dockets.
A representative for the clerk of courts office was unable to say whether Sadvary’s arrest warrant was on file there.
She said that sealed filings from prosecutors can come with the sealing orders attached to the outside of them, but without the names of the parties listed on the outside of the records.
Paluso said the district attorney’s office has no control over the clerk of courts manages records. He said his office may have a copy of the sealing order, but that the original order would have been filed with there.
Sadvary also is charged with conspiracy, aggravated assault and simple assault. The district attorney’s office said Sadvary is being represented in the case by Charles Porter, who could not be reached Thursday for comment.