While Luzerne County Saw Fewer Homicides In 2018, The Year Was Not Without Its Tragedies

December 29, 2018
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While Luzerne County Saw Fewer Homicides In 2018, The Year Was Not Without Its Tragedies

WILKES-BARRE — Luzerne County ended 2018 with 15 criminal homicides, a slight decrease from a year earlier.

Five of the cases — one-third — involved a woman being slain by her husband or boyfriend, and one other case involved a man killing a romantic rival, according to police. Two of the cases were murder-suicides in which the husband killed his wife and then himself.

In a third case, a suspect shot himself in the head but survived and is now facing murder charges and the death penalty.

The 15 slayings in 2018 represent a slight decrease from the 16 reported in Luzerne County during 2017 — although three of those took place in a single incident in which three boys died as the result of an arson fire at their Laflin home.

Only two of the 2018 cases remained unsolved at the end of the year, representing a solve rate of 86.7 percent. That number is up from the clearance rate of 78.6 percent on the 14 total homicide cases in 2017, and is well above the national homicide clearance rate in 2016 of 59.4 percent.

Case 1

Antoinette “Tonilynn” Wilkinson, 46, of Foster Twp.

• Date: Jan. 28

• Location: 15 Spring St., Upper Lehigh

• Cause of death: Gunshots

• Details: Police said Wilkinson’s longtime boyfriend, Joseph J. Marchetti Jr., shot and killed her and beat her mother, 72-year-old Barbara Wilkinson, unconscious at their home. When troopers entered the home they found Barbara Wilkinson suffering from a concussion and broken ribs, having been beaten with the butt of a gun, and Tonilynn Wilkinson dead from a combination of blunt force head trauma and multiple gunshot wounds. Marchetti had shot himself in the face in the living room, but survived, according to prosecutors.

• Status: Marchetti, 52, is scheduled to stand trial in February on murder and attempted murder charges. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty in the case.


Case 2

Trevor Oliver, 41, of Wilkes-Barre

• Date: Feb. 7

• Location: 77 Hutson St., Wilkes-Barre

• Cause of death: Gunshots

• Details: Police said Robert Rodriguez, 23, of Plymouth, and Isaiah “Glizzy” Jennings, 20, of Wilkes-Barre, entered Oliver’s home to rob him of his drugs and cash. They opened fire, shooting Oliver in the head multiple times and shooting Oliver’s girlfriend, Ingrid Vanessa Batista, in the head as well. Batista survived the shooting.

• Status: Rodriguez and Jennings are awaiting trial on murder and attempted murder charges.

Case 3

Sandra Lee Montanari, 66, of Black Creek Twp.

• Date: March 16

• Location: 615 Market St., Weston

• Cause of death: Stabbing

• Details: Allen Montanari, 44, told police he and Eric S. Montanari Jr. — who was 17 at the time — had been drinking at Eric’s home the night prior to the stabbing. When they went to the Market Street home where Allen lived with his mother, Sandra, Allen went to the bathroom he said he heard his mother yelling his name. He found Eric on top of her and pulled him off, leading to a fight that resulted in Allen being stabbed in the back, police said.

• Status: Eric Montanari is charged as an adult with third-degree murder and aggravated assault.

Case 4

Joey Lewis, 18, of Wilkes-Barre

• Date: March 21

• Location: 702 Mark Drive, Hanover Twp.

• Cause of death: Stabbing

• Details: Lewis had been involved in a romantic relationship with the fiancee of James Andrew Cater and was sleeping on the couch when Cater came home after a night of drinking. Cater began arguing with his fiancee, Jennie Lloyd, about Lewis being at the apartment before stabbing Lewis with a kitchen knife, according to police. Cater, who was covered in blood when police arrived, told officers: “I hope he doesn’t make it.”

• Status: Cater, 31, is awaiting trial on murder charges.

No. 5

Cindy Lou Ashton, 39, of Wilkes-Barre Twp.

• Date: May 1 or 2

• Location: 134 Nicholson St., Wilkes-Barre Twp.

• Cause of death: Stabbing

• Details: Police allege Ashton’s estranged boyfriend, Anthony Dion Shaw, 42, of East Orange, New Jersey, brutally stabbed her in the throat during a break-up. Shaw fled the state and cut and stabbed himself in a failed suicide attempt the day after Ashton’s body was found in a pool of blood in the bathroom of her Wilkes-Barre Twp. apartment, according to police.

• Status: Shaw is awaiting trial on murder charges.

No. 6

Anthony Bonney, 17, of Freeland

• Date: June 18

• Location: Freeland Public Park

• Cause of death: Shooting

• Details: Police said Bonney and another man passed off drywall shavings and baking soda as cocaine during a drug deal at the park. The buyer, Brandon Gambardella of West Hazleton, shot Bonney in the back of the head as he ran away, according to police.

• Status: Gambardella, 19, is awaiting trial on murder charges.

No. 7

Devon “JP Johnny” Stevens, 32, of Wilkes-Barre

• Date: July 4

• Location: Sherman Hills Apartments

• Cause of death: Gunshots

• Details: Police said Stevens, a convicted drug dealer, was shot in the body multiple times during a dispute with one or more people who were inside a vehicle in the area of Building 308 at the troubled apartment complex. Medics took Stevens to Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center in Plains Twp., where he died.

• Status: Unsolved

No. 8

Collin Jones, 26, of Brooklyn, New York

• Date: July 19

• Location: 200 block of South Main Street, Wilkes-Barre

• Cause of death: Gunshot

• Details: Police said Jones had been involved in a fight at the Ali Baba Liquor Lounge prior to being shot in the head while driving away in a black Nissan Rogue, which then crashed into a pole on South Street.

• Status: Unsolved

No. 9

William Denman, 64, of Larksville

• Date: July 23

• Location: 588-590 Washington Ave., Larksville

• Cause of death: Gunshots

• Details: Police said Ulysses Edward Denman, 21, shot his father in the head as he slept on a couch because he was concerned his father would hurt his mother because of perceived infidelity. Ulysses Denman told police his father survived the first .22-caliber gunshot and told him to shoot him a second time, then run away, according to the charges.

• Status: Ulysses Denman is awaiting trial on murder charges.

No. 10

Linda Frick, 56, of Dreher Twp.

• Date: Aug. 4

• Location: 71 Price St., Kingston

• Cause of death: Beating

• Details: Police responded to Dana Ganjeh’s home — the site of “numerous past incidents” of domestic violence — and found Frick’s bruised and beaten body under a blanket in the reclined front passenger seat of an SUV. Police said Ganjeh had earlier called his brother saying he had done something “bad” and “you’ll find out” what. Ganjeh claimed Frick had been feeling ill and that she died while they were driving around, according to court documents.

• Status: Ganjeh is awaiting trial on murder charges.

No. 11

Valerie Elaine Arangio, 47, of Exeter Twp.

• Date: Aug. 25-26

• Location: Rohland Lane, Harding

• Cause of death: Ax

• Details: Police said Daniel J. Arangio, 58, hit his wife in the head with an ax before killing himself by a self-inflicted stab wound. Valerie Arangio’s body was found in a bedroom of the couple’s home, while Daniel Arangio was discovered dead in a bathroom, according to police.

• Status: Closed

No. 12

Fred Boote Jr., 58, of Wilkes-Barre

• Date: Sept. 14

• Location: 14 Donald Court, Wilkes-Barre

• Cause of death: Stabbing

• Details: According to police, the 14-year-old daughter of Boote’s ex-girlfriend got him to let her inside, and she left the door unlocked for Reynaldo Mercado, 31. Mercado then bashed Boote over the head with a lamp and stabbed him to death with a kitchen knife that the girl handed him, police said. When Boote was dead, the pair doused him with gasoline in an attempt to destroy evidence, although the fire went out before police arrived on scene, according to police. They stole Boote’s cellphone and about $25 in cash during the robbery, police said.

• Status: Mercado is charged with first-degree murder, robbery and other offenses. The teen is charged with second-degree murder, robbery and other offenses.

No. 13

Tierees Owens, 33

• Date: Sept. 27

• Location: Robby Nick’s Sports Bar at 177 E. Main St., Plymouth

• Cause of death: Gunshots

• Details: According to police, Owens — a reputed member of the Crips street gang — and an unknown group of his associates had been causing trouble at the bar leading up to the deadly confrontation. Moments before the shooting, bar owner Robert Nicoletti Jr. was escorting Owens away from the premises, but Owens broke out of his grasp and ran back toward Kyon Dane McDonald, 35, of Plymouth. Police say McDonald fired one shot and paused before emptying the rest of the clip into Owens.

• Status: McDonald is awaiting trial on murder charges.

No. 14

Jacob Shedlock, 18, of Laurel Run

• Date: Nov. 23

• Location: 768 N. Pennsylvania Ave., Wilkes-Barre

• Cause of death: Gunshot

• Details: Police said Kahzmeek A. Prater, 18, was handling a Smith & Wesson pistol and smoking a marijuana blunt when the gun went off unexpectedly, hitting Shedlock in the chest. Shedlock was taken to Wilkes-Barre General Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Prater has described the shooting as accidental. “It was a big accident. I really loved my friend Jacob,” he previously said.

• Status: Prater is charged with involuntary manslaughter, drug trafficking, tampering with evidence and making a false report.

No. 15

Sandra L. Martin, 74, of Swoyersville

• Date: Dec. 5

• Location: 203 Oliver St., Swoyersville

• Cause of death: Gunshot

• Details: Authorities say Martin’s husband, Anthony M. Martin, 81, fatally shot her before turning the gun on himself in a murder-suicide at their Swoyersville home.

• Status: Closed

Contact the writer: jhalpin@citizensvoice.com, 570-821-2058

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