Activist charged in threat case a no-show to board meeting

Aimee Ambrose
York Dispatch

A local activist charged with waving a gun at neighbors did not address the issue at a Springettsbury Township meeting, despite saying she intended to do so.

Jane Heller had told The York Dispatch she planned to speak at the township supervisors' meeting Thursday evening, but she did not appear. She also didn’t reply to messages seeking comment.

Heller, a longtime local preservationist and animal rights activist, called 911 on the afternoon of July 16 to report what she described as a large fire near her home. The 82-year-old said she initially feared a house was on fire — but later learned the neighbors had cut down a tree and burned it.

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Jane Heller

Chief Dan Hoff, of York Area United Fire & Rescue, described the incident as a large controlled burn. The flames were extinguished by the crew because such fires aren’t allowed in the township, he told the Dispatch. Hoff couldn’t say how large the fire was.

Police arrested Heller after people at her neighbors' home called police and alleged she held a handgun up at them and made threats from the door of her home. Heller later told the Dispatch she feared retaliation for calling 911 and wanted to warn her neighbors she would defend herself.

She was arraigned on misdemeanor charges of making terroristic threats, simple assault and harassment, and then released on $10,000 unsecured bail. She faces a preliminary hearing on Aug. 1, court records show.

Heller had said she planned to ask the board Thursday why police didn’t cite her neighbors for the fire in spite of the township prohibiting such blazes.

The neighbor, Greg Noll, said he’d contracted his wife’s nephew to cut down four pine trees in the yard, and they burned some of the branches. He and his wife also hosted several family members, including two children, during the project.

Noll, a retired firefighter, said the brush fire got to be about 8 to 10 feet tall, and the burn pile wasn’t near the house. He also said they had an excavator and two hoses on site during the fire.

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When firefighters arrived, the family helped them put out the fire, Springettsbury Township Police Chief Todd King said Thursday. Because of the voluntary compliance and because the fire didn’t rise to a dangerous burn or arson, police didn't see cause to issue citations, he added.

A preliminary court hearing in Heller’s case is scheduled for Aug. 1.

— Reach Aimee Ambrose at aambrose@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @aimee_TYD.