Biggest stories of 2012
January 2, 2013
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The family of Army Staff Sgt. Eric S. Holman receives a military escort at Mt. Nebo Presbyterian Church Cemetery in Sewickley during Holman's August funeral service. Holman, 39, was killed in action Aug. 15 in Afghanistan.

The Cranberry Eagle looks back at some of the other stories that shaped our lives in 2012.


• Former Jackson Township manager Rich Crown was charged by police with forgery and theft for allegedly stealing nearly $144,000 from the Crafton Volunteer Fire Department where he was treasurer. Prosecutors claimed part of the fire department's missing money was used to pay back $25,000 to Jackson Township for missing money from its accounts that was taken while Crown had worked there as manager.

After pleading guilty in June, Crown was sentenced in October to serve 2 to 4 months in the Allegheny County Jail plus 12 months house arrest.

• A late night kitchen fire at a Seven Fields residence critically injured Steelers running Backs coach Kirby Wilson.

Following a gruelling rehab, the 50-year-old coach eventually was able to rejoin the team during the 2012 football season.


• Ground was broken for a German manufacturing plant on Myoma Road.

IMS Measuring Systems is building a 9,500 square-foot, $3.5 million manufacturing facility that will eventually employ 20 highly-skilled workers.


• Former State Sen. Jane Orie is found guilty of 14 of the 24 charges she faced during a monthlong trial, including seven felonies related to the politician using her state-paid staff to illegally work on campaigns.

Orie vacated her seat in May shortly before being sentenced to prison for a public corruption scandal involving illegal use of taxpayer funds. She was sentenced to 2 to 10 years.


• State Rep. Brian Ellis, R-11th, helped to author Act 13 legislation to collect impact fees from Marcellus Shale natural gas well drillers.

The money collected by the state Public Utility Commission was distributed in October to municipalities that have been affected by drilling. Butler County and its municipalities received about $2.2 million in this first distribution.

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Firefighters Carolyn Nelson and Jim McConnel remove the cover from a section of steel recovered from one of the World Trade Center buildings at the dedication of a 9/11 memorial at the Cranberry Township Volunteer Fire Company’s Park Station on Sept. 11.


• Patricia Smith of Cranberry Township was sentenced in May to serve 6 years in prison for embezzling more than $10 million from a car dealership.

Smith, a 58-year-old mother of three, worked as the controller for Baierl Acura in Wexford for 18 years. She admitted taking the money over a period of six years.

• State Rep. Randy Vulakovich, an Allegheny County Republican, defeated Democrat Sharon Brown in a special election for the seat vacated by Orie in May. He will serve until 2014, when the 40th district will move to the eastern part of the state as part of redistricting.


• The Pittsburgh Penguins and UPMC announced they are considering Cranberry Township as home of a first-of-its-kind hockey-only training, practice and sports medicine facility.

The team and UPMC, the region's dominant hospital network, hope to open the facility near Cranberry Woods.

• Former Miss Pennsylvania USA Sheena Monnin of Cranberry Township resigned her title amid claims that the national pageant was fixed with the top five chosen before the final competition.

Monnin claimed a fellow contestant in the televised Miss USA competition saw a list of the top five women in the pageant before judging began on the show.

Pageant owner Donald Trump later sued Monnin over the claims and was awarded a $5 million claim against her in December.


• A downed power line electrocuted three cows on a farm outside of Zelienople July 11, only two days after 10 cows died in a similar fashion in Lawrence County.


• Staff Sgt. Eric S. Holman, 39, U.S. Army explosive ordnance technician, of Evans City, was killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan's Ghazni province on Aug. 15. He is survived by his wife, Terri, and the couple's adopted son, Misha.


• The U.S. Department of Education named Seneca Valley Middle School a National Blue Ribbon winner. The honor places the school among the top tier of schools nationwide, recognized for its academic excellence.

• The Cranberry Township Volunteer Fire Company dedicated a memorial to the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the 11th anniversary of the tragedy in front of hundreds of people at the Park Fire Station on Route 19.

The memorial features a beam of steel that fell from the World Trade Center.

• On Sept. 15, Gino Crognale of Adams Township won an Emmy Award for his work as a prosthetic makeup artist on the set of “The Walking Dead,” where he transforms actors into horrific, undead creatures.

• Former Seneca Valley Junior ROTC instructor Sgt. Maj. Kevin Johnson was sentenced to serve 11 to 22 years in prison for molesting a boy.

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Cranberry Township Police Cpl. Dan Hahn checks messages after returning to work for the fi rst time since Valentine’s Day 2011, when he was injured while chasing a suspect on foot.


• THE CHAMBER of Commerce said goodbye to U.S. Rep. Jason Altmire during a luncheon to honor the outgoing politician.

Altmire served three terms representing the 4th Congressional District. That district moved to the eastern part of the state, however, as part of the redistricting process in 2010.

Altmire's territory was then absorbed into the 12th Congressional District represented by U.S. Rep. Mark Critz. The two Democratic politicians squared off in the primary election in April, where Altmire lost by a vote of 51 percent to 49 percent.

Most of Altmire's former territory in Butler County is now represented by U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly, R-3rd, of Butler, who was reelected to a second term in Congress in November. He defeated Democratic challenger Missa Eaton of Sharon. Kelly beat Eaton with nearly 55 percent of the vote.

• Cranberry Township became home to the nation's only permanent memorial honoring the 100th anniversary of scouting in America.

Situated at the edge of a small fishing lake, the monument and plaza are designed to offer a site where Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts can meet, plan and carry out community service activities.

In December, the Community Chest announced plans to replace the aging Playtime Palace in Community Park off Route 19 with a brand-new, $500,000 children's area nearly twice as large.

• Dick Settlemire, Mars mayor, died Oct. 20 at the age of 56. Settlemire first took office in 2002 and was in his third term. He had the bell from the decommissioned naval ship the USS Mars placed in the town square in 2008 and was instrumental in coordinating the borough's 4th of July celebration.


• President Barack Obama won a second term — but not with the help of residents of Southwestern Butler County, who overwhelmingly supported his opponent, Republican Mitt Romney.


• William Pettigrew, Mars School District superintendent, announced his retirement after 25 as superintendent. He said he will leave by Dec. 1, 2013.

• Cranberry Township Police Cpl. Dan Hahn returned to work for the first time since Valentine's Day night in 2011, when he fell from an Interstate 79 overpass while chasing a fleeing drunken driver suspect on foot.

Hahn now is on light duty, working three days per week, four hours per day, under doctor's orders, but he hopes to get back into a police car as soon as possible.