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In Schuylkill County, Elusive Fugitive Shawn Christy Rattles Nerves

August 30, 2018

By late Wednesday morning, the bustle of the Hometown Farmers Market had reached full pitch. And down the countless aisles of produce and candy, vinyl records and tchotchkes, used clothing and deli meats, the subject of Shawn Christy, fugitive, bubbled up in the cross-talk. “Every night, I can’t go to sleep,” said David Weston of Tamaqua, browsing the selection of hunting knives, crossbows and nunchakus at one of the stands in the vast market, a weekly fixture in Rush Township, Schuylkill County. “They should have the Army looking for him.” Christy, a man familiar to law enforcement for many years, has been at large since early June. Federal authorities are seeking him for allegedly posting threats on Facebook against President Donald Trump and Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli. State authorities, meanwhile, want him on multiple warrants for burglary, probation violation and failure to appear for an aggravated assault case stemming from his alleged attack on the mayor of his hometown of McAdoo. He may be armed with guns stolen from a relative’s home. He is suspected of stealing vehicles in Kentucky and Maryland. And he is believed to be the man who broke into a house about 4 miles south of McAdoo on Thursday night, telling the homeowner he was homeless and looking for food. The man fled into the woods. But the following night, not far away, a man believed to be Christy broke into a popular ice cream parlor called Skipper Dippers Dairy Bar & Grill on Route 309. Surveillance video show a scruffy man in a cap pacing around the kitchen, eating out of a small bin. Since then, Christy has seemingly been popping up everywhere. On Tuesday night alone, people in far-flung locations across three counties reported sightings. It’s reminiscent of the 2014 hunt for Eric Frein, the Poconos man who shot a state trooper to death and spent 48 days eluding a massive manhunt before his capture at an abandoned airport hangar. Like Frein, Christy is described as armed and dangerous. He also allegedly threatened to use “full lethal force” against police. “Every time I leave, I put on my alarm now,” said Mary Hoffman, who lives in Ryan Township, not far from Skipper Dippers, and finds the thought of the elusive fugitive thoroughly unnerving as she locks the house at night. “When I saw the [surveillance video], I thought ‘Oh, great, he’s right here.’ ” Hoffman works at the market’s Sweet Expectations Bakery with Tveta Negrea, the owner, who isn’t unduly alarmed about Christy — she lives in Hazleton, Luzerne County, some 8 miles north of the alleged Rush Township sightings — but is dismayed by the trouble he’s causing. “He seems like he has a lot of problems, that kid,” she said, in the soft accent of her native Romania. Christy’s strange story goes back about a decade. In October 2008, he called Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s campaign office and offered to volunteer for the McCain-Palin Republican presidential ticket. Early in 2009, he developed an online chat relationship with someone who may have been Palin’s daughter. Federal authorities warned him off. The following year, Palin took out a restraining order against Christy after he allegedly bombarded her and a friend with threatening phone calls and emails. In 2011, Christy and his father, Craig, were charged with harassing Palin’s lawyers. Shawn pleaded guilty to harassment and was sentenced to probation, but spent two years in federal prison after he left a Scranton halfway house in violation of probation. After that, he cropped up in police blotters again and again, accused of harassing a teacher at a business school, threatening to kill a tax collection clerk in Bangor, swinging a stick at the McAdoo mayor. All of these stories are well known in the area. Indeed, it wasn’t hard Wednesday to find people who said they knew Christy personally. Weston, the fretful insomniac, was one, claiming to have had run-ins with Christy and his father. Dave King, a market merchant who sells music and videos, was another. “I knew him years ago,” King said. Like Negrea, the bakery owner, King lives in Hazleton. “But if my kids were going to school here, I’d be worried,” he said. Kelly Chicarelli, administrative assistant at the Rush Township municipal building, said she isn’t especially worried. “I’ll worry when the police chief tells me to worry,” she said with a laugh. That’s not likely to happen. Chief Ken Zipovsky is preaching caution, not worry. “It’s just a commonsense thing,” he said. “If you see him, don’t approach him — call 911. Take your keys out of your car, lock your car.” The chief said there have been no credible sightings of Christy in the area since Friday, when federal authorities — U.S. marshals and the Secret Service — staged at the township fire department. It’s been an unusual few days for the township. “One thing I’m proud to say is that there’s not a lot of crime here,” Zipovsky said. “So something like this stands out.” Christy is 5 feet 10 inches tall; weighs approximately 160 pounds; has a tattoo of a cross on his right upper arm; short, dark brown hair; and a full beard. He speaks with a noticeable lisp and claims to be a survivalist. SHAWN CHRISTY Federal authorities are offering a cash award of up to $20,000 for information directly leading to Christy’s arrest. Information will be considered confidential. Anyone with information is asked to contact the U.S. Marshals Service at 1-877-Wanted-2 (1-877-926-8332) or the FBI at 215-418-4000. daniel.sheehan@mcall.com 610-820-6598

Copyright © 2018, The Morning Call

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