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DA: No charges will be filed against State Troopers that killed Elkland Township man

LAPORTE — Sullivan County District Attorney Leonard Simpson announced on Monday that his office would not be pursuing charges against two Pennsylvania State Police troopers that killed Kevin Norton at his home in Elkland Township on July 10.

The two troopers, who have not been identified, took lethal action against Norton while serving a warrant for his arrest on the morning of July 10. State Police told the Review in July that Norton was located by Pennsylvania State Police, Sullivan County Sheriff Bobby Montgomery and a deputy in his garage at 521 Cott’s Road while law enforcement was serving a warrant to take Norton to jail after he did not report to the Columbia County Correctional Facility as demanded by a Sullivan County court.

State Police said that after law enforcement identified themselves as such to Norton, police spotted a shotgun nearby and told Norton not reach for the weapon. Norton then reached for the weapon and “leveled” it at police prompting the troopers to take lethal force by discharging their service weapons.

Sullivan County Coroner Wendy Hastings told the Review in July that she had pronounced Norton dead at 11:16 a.m. while in an ambulance at the Cott’s Road property. His cause of death was ruled as multiple gunshot wounds.

Norton did not report to jail for a sentence of six to 23 and a half months after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge of theft by unlawful taking in June.

Norton was originally arrested for the theft charge and multiple other felonies in September after an investigation by State Police led them to Norton’s residence where they discovered items stolen from a nearby cabin.

On Feb. 18, Norton entered into a plea deal with the Sullivan County District Attorney’s office where he would plead guilty to the misdemeanor charge with all other felony charges being dismissed according to court documents obtained by The Review. A sentence of not less than six months and no more than five years at the Columbia County Correctional Facility was determined on June 2 along with fines in the amount of $3,675 and cost of prosecution. Norton was ordered to report to the jail on June 8.

Before Norton was due to report to the jail he filed a motion for a modification of sentence that would allow him to serve his sentence on house arrest due to the COVID-19 pandemic on June 4. Norton suffered from numerous health issues, increasing his risk of severe illness or death if exposed to COVID-19.

The court also made the move to reduce his maximum time in the jail to be no more than 23 and a half months on June 4. On the same date Norton filed a motion for continued bail pending decision on post sentence hearing and an appeal of the sentence.

At the time of Norton’s sentencing, the Assistant District Attorney in Sullivan County advised the Court of Common Pleas of the 44th Judicial District in Sullivan County that the office was “going against a long-held practice and requesting that the court sentence Norton to probation,” according to an opinion written by President Judge Russel D. Shurtleff in support of the court’s decision to deny the motion for continued bail. The counsel for Norton also requested a time-served sentence and parole at the time of sentencing.

Norton’s attorney Kyle Rude told the Review in June that the District Attorney’s office realized that Norton committed crimes that were against his character because of his condition and problems with his medication.

“He had support from the D.A., his family and from people in the community,” Rude added.

After the appeal was denied, Norton and counsel filed an appeal to the Pennsylvania Superior Court, who issued an order on June 5 staying Norton’s execution of sentence and directing the lower court to state its reasons for denying the motion for continued bail.

In the opinion beckoned by the Superior Court, reasons provided by both the prosecution and defendant on why Norton should not be remanded to jail were that a number of people, including victims of the crime, were in support of the defendant, that Norton had compromised health concerns about the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the widely held belief that not for Norton’s abuse of prescription medication and alcohol the crimes would not have been committed.

Residents of the Forksville area familiar with Norton told the Review that after he sustained multiple burns that greatly affected his physical and mental health in a barn fire a few years earlier that he was a changed person. Court documents showed that it was known that he abused prescribed medications and alcohol in an attempt to self-medicate his pain. In the affidavit for Norton’s arrest in September on the theft charges, State Police spoke with Norton’s son who told police that his father had not been acting like himself lately.

Shurtleff said in his opinion, “Despite the District Attorney’s Office and counsel for (Norton) agreeing to a sentence of probation, this court is not bound by any such agreements,” before stating that because of Norton’s extensive criminal history any lesser sentence than the one already given “would depreciate the seriousness of (Norton)’s actions.”

Norton had been convicted of two DUIs and harassment in his past.

After conceding to Norton’s physical limitations and health issues, Shurtleff said there are no and have been no reported cases of COVID-19 at the Columbia County Correctional Facility which led the judge to find no compelling reason that Norton couldn’t serve his sentence at jail.

Rude said that after the appeal was denied Norton was not happy and perplexed by the decision to send him to jail despite the prosecution and himself in agreement on a sentence of probation.

“I’m afraid that his fears led him to do what he did,” Rude said of Norton’s mindset at the time.

After the court’s opinion on the appeal was made on June 17, the Superior Court reversed the stay. Norton did not report to jail which in turn created the arrest warrant to be served by State Police and the Sullivan County’s Sheriff’s Office on July 10.

Simpson said in a press release that the state Police Troop P Major Case Team investigated the shooting along with the DA’s office, the Sullivan County’s Sheriff’s Office and first responders.

“After a thorough review of the investigative report, I, as chief law enforcement officer of Sullivan County, have concluded that the officer involved acted within the scope of their duties and the discharge of their weapons was necessary under the circumstances,” Simpson said in the release. “There will be no criminal charges filed.”

Simpson went on to say, “This has been a tragic and emotional event for everyone involved — Mr. Norton’s family and friends, the entire community, and members of law enforcement. The response of the people of Sullivan County has been amazing and commendable.”

The District Attorney’s office did not respond to requests for comment, autopsy or toxicology details from The Daily Review.

A spokesman for Pennsylvania State Police confirmed in July that the troopers involved in the shooting were placed on administrative leave during the investigation. The spokesperson confirmed on Wednesday that the troopers were back on full duty after the decision was made by Simpson not to press charges.

Longtime Valley businessman Larry Beeman remembered

Chances are good that anyone who has lived in the Valley in the last 40 years has memories of Beeman’s Family Restaurant. It has always been a warm, welcoming place to enjoy a meal or to work. Often more memorable than the food though, is the atmosphere. When you are in Beeman’s, whether as a customer or an employee, you feel like a part of the family too.

That family lost its patriarch, Larry Beeman, on Aug. 1, 2020 at the age of 79. Larry opened Beeman’s Family Restaurant in 1977 and soon became one of the Valley’s most respected and well-liked businessmen. He and his wife Lillian operated the family restaurant together, eventually being joined by their four children, who still run things today.

Before opening the restaurant that bears his name on Elmira Street, Larry was a man of many talents. He was the first Eagle Scout in Sullivan County as a teenager. He then became a National Champion in skeet shooting, ranked third in the United States. He started a career with General Electric but left, to his father’s dismay, to pursue what would become his life’s work — restaurant management.

Larry worked for other restaurants, like W.T. Grant’s, until he landed at the then brand-new chain Red Lobster. He traveled with his family around the country opening Red Lobster restaurants for the company and overseeing their start, including locations in Alabama, Ohio, Michigan, West Virginia and New York. Larry even helped open the Red Lobster that still stands on the Vestal Parkway.

After Red Lobster, Larry bought an A&W Restaurant in the State College, Pennsylvania area. He eventually took over the A&W location on Elmira Street, Sayre in the seventies and ran it as a car hop until the restaurant began selling more of its own homemade foods than A&W menu items. The A&W officially became Beeman’s Family Restaurant in 1977 and has been such ever since. The Beeman family has owned and operated several other restaurant locations in addition to one in Sayre.

Just as much as Beeman’s Restaurant is a big part of the Valley, Larry was a key member of the community and loved making it a better place for everyone. He was a lifetime member of the Lion’s Club and belonged to many other associations and groups over the years. He was a founding member of the Athens Township Sewer Board and the Athens Business Association, through which he was integral in turning Elmira Street from two lanes to three. He ran the Lion’s Club annual clam bake event for more than 30 years.

Larry worked hard his whole life, and he liked to play hard too. He made friends everywhere he went and loved to enjoy a game of golf or a good Manhattan with them. Countless people will remember Larry for the dedicated business owner, colleague, boss, friend and family man that he was.

Larry’s legacy lies in his beloved family, which includes his four children, 12 grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren, his many years of service to the Valley, and all the lives he touched as an employer. Larry will be remembered as a kind and fair boss to the thousands of people Beeman’s Restaurant has employed throughout its more than 40 years.

Larry Beeman was in the business of bringing people together and he did it well. Whether over good food or at work in his restaurants, at his home on the hill, or anywhere else he went he made sure to treat everyone like family. Though he is now gone, his impact on the Valley will be seen and felt for generations to come.

Fair food for all

When the Troy Fair Board was confronted with cancelling this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, they found a creative way to bring the community together. Area residents didn’t get their 145th Troy Fair this year, and were instead welcomed to a food trailer event at Alparon Park in Troy.

The food event began on July 29, and will conclude this Sunday, allowing vendors to serve things up for a total of 12 days, and on a rotational basis. On Wednesday we visited the food event to get a taste of what it was all about.

On hand and taking care of the vendors was Troy Fair Board President Cathy Jenkins. She stopped near the Leona Meats booth to chat for a few minutes about the event, which she noted was organized primarily to help out the vendors.

To stay within the requirements set by Governor Wolf’s office, they had to keep the attendance below 250. Jenkins was happy to report on Wednesday that they have been able to do that.

Another thing Jenkins shared about was the rotation of the vendors. With a couple of dozen vendors opting to participate, they had to rotate them. For example, the famous Peach Shortcake, served up by New Covenant Academy, was to be on hand Thursday through Saturday. Firehouse Subs was an anticipated hit for Friday.

For Jenkins and the Troy Fair Board, having the fair food event is a good way to keep the park going. As the managers of Alparon Park, there are many expenses relating to electric and general maintenance. The food event is helping to keep the park funded.

“It keeps things going,” said Jenkins.

For the vendors, it’s a walk in the park.

Leona Meats, of Troy, was grilling up fresh meats, and stated that things were going well on Wednesday. One of the workers did note that attendance isn’t nearly as good as the fair, but that the community has come out to support them.

Karen from Cactus Taters and Lemonade echoed those sentiments, stating, “Most days we are doing pretty good,” and added, “It was very nice of them [the Fair Board] to do this.”

For most of the vendors, like Karen, the Troy event is it for this year. Doug Joseph of Elmira, who was cooking up smoked meats and serving them sandwich style from a log cabin shaped booth, stated that he lost six weddings this year and catering jobs for company picnics, like those at Cornell University.

“It’s been a tough year,” said Joseph as he served up a sandwich with horseradish and a side of coleslaw.

Right next to Joseph were Logan and Melyce Kenyon of Canton. They have been at Alparon Park since last Wednesday selling a variety of bubble teas.

“We were slated to do six fairs this year,” said Melyce, adding, “They all got cancelled.”

As for the Troy Fair Board’s food event, Melyce and Logan were 100 percent on board.

“We’re just so excited to be out,” exclaimed Melyce.

Over at a nearby picnic table, Gretchen and Dixie Brown, and Pat and Byran Dunn, all from Monroeton, were enjoying some freshly made fries and a smoothie.

“It’s good to get out and be in the nice weather,” said Pat Dunn.

For Byran, he likes the bubble tea.