York County's top stories and best photos of 2019

Staff report

Here’s a look back at the top 10 stories York County residents were reading in 2019.

Election Day fiasco: York County’s Nov. 5 rollout of new voting machines went so poorly that residents didn’t learn who the unofficial election winners were until two days later.

Results were delayed because of a shortage of ballot-counting scanners, which caused long lines, as well as technical glitches, incorrect paper ballot sizes and many voters not knowing how to use the new machines, officials have said.

"If you voted in York, you should be pretty worried" about upcoming elections, state Rep. Seth Grove, R-Dover Township, said after a Nov. 14 debriefing that included the county commissioners, nearly all of the county's state lawmakers, poll workers and election officials.

More:Push on to divvy up voting districts in York County after chaotic election

More:'You should be pretty worried': Fixing York County's election system before 2020 votes

The county now plans to create 23 new voting districts to ease polling place congestion in time for Pennsylvania's presidential primary in April.

County spokesman Mark Walters said the county also plans to have more than one ballot scanner at each polling place in future elections, beginning with two scanners per polling place for the Jan. 14 special election in the 48th Senate District, which covers Lebanon County and portions of Dauphin and York counties.

That election will be supervised by someone other than Nikki Suchanic, the director of the York County Office of Elections and Voter Registration. She announced her resignation Nov. 9, citing personal reasons.

Temporary county worker Doris Feeser sorts and stores items returned from polling sites at the Elections and Voters Office at the York County Administration Building Thursday, November 7, 2019. The final vote tally was released earlier that morning after glitches with the new voting procedure on Tuesday delayed the count. Bill Kalina photo

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, of Mount Wolf, last year signed an executive order forcing counties to implement voting machines with a verifiable paper trail. York County paid $1.4 million to Dominion Voting Systems in June for 360 new voting machines, voter booths, licenses and related services.

Sheriff’s race: The municipal election featured contests to select officials ranging from county commissioners to borough council members, but perhaps the most contentious race was for sheriff.

The May Republican primary set up a repeat between incumbent Sheriff Richard Keuerleber and his former deputy, Shane Becker, when the challenger received enough write-in votes to appear on the Democratic side of the ballot in November.

The race got more interesting in July when the county commissioners accused Keuerleber of “dereliction of duty” for alleged special treatment given to a longtime financial supporter of the department, Bill Hynes.

Senator Kristen Phillips-Hill, left, and York County Sheriff Rich Keuerleber chat while waiting for the general election results, Tuesday, November 5, 2019.
John A. Pavoncello photo

More:After voting complications, Keuerleber holds sheriff's post

More:Trial ahead for York City CEO Bill Hynes, accused of stalking, burglary

More:Sheriff candidate Becker involved with company that scammed millions from veterans

More:York County sheriff 'derelict' in duty over parking issue, board says

Hynes later resigned as CEO of United Fiber and Data but remains CEO of Think Loud Development after being charged Nov. 1 with stalking and related offenses for alleged crimes against his ex-girlfriend.

In addition, the sheriff faced a litany of accusations from former and current deputies that he had fostered a toxic work environment. His campaign also was shaken when York City's police and fire unions withdrew support for him and voted to support Becker.

Becker faced scrutiny of his own over unpaid income taxes from 2010 and 2012 that resulted in a federal lien on his property, and over his connection to a now-defunct online education company that was owned and operated by his brother-in-law.

When the results were finally in on the Thursday after the election, Keuerleber had won a fourth term, with 39,448 votes to Becker’s 29,713. 

Impeachment: History was made late in 2019 when President Donald Trump became just the third president in U.S. history to be impeached by the House of Representatives — to the chagrin of York County’s two congressmen.

The Democratic-controlled House voted 230-197 and 229-198, primarily along party lines, on Dec. 18 to impeach the president under the articles of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, respectively. The allegations are related to accusations that Trump sought to withhold military aid to Ukraine until that country's president announced it would investigate Hunter Biden, the son of Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden.

More:Smucker, Perry oppose impeachment, blast Democrats

More:Yorkers mum on impeachment as U.S. House debates vote

More:Trump impeached by House on charges of abuse of power, obstruction

More than 100 activists stand together on the steps of the York County Administrative Center during the Nobody is Above the Law Rally in York City, Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2019. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Rep. Scott Perry, R-Carroll Township, and Rep. Lloyd Smucker, R-Lancaster, voted "no" on impeachment after each spoke on the House floor. 

“These are the reckless and irresponsible acts of elitists in the swamp, and they undermine the fabric of our republic," Perry said of House Democrats while speaking on the House floor.

"It’s clear that the facts never mattered to the House Democrats," Smucker said during his turn. "They never wanted to do work with the president and instead intended to fulfill their divisive, partisan agenda.” 

A trial is expected in the Senate next month to determine if Trump will be removed from office, although Democratic and Republican leaders are sparring over the contours of that proceeding.

Mount Rose Avenue still not done: Work continued in 2019 on the Mount Rose Avenue/Interstate 83 interchange project, which was supposed to be finished in June 2018. The job now is expected to be complete sometime late next year.

Meanwhile, the state continues levying daily $14,000 fines against the contractor, Maryland-based Cherry Hill Construction Inc.

More:Mount Rose project contractor demands more money, more time from PennDOT

More:When will Mount Rose interchange project be finished? Not soon

The company earlier this month filed the 26-page claim with the state Board of Claims alleging the state owes it more than $24 million and an extension to finish the project. Cherry Hill won the contract with a $58.3 million bid; the project is now expected to cost nearly $61 million.

Interstate 83 widening planned: The overdue and over-budget Mount Rose Avenue project had some York County residents fretting that the state Department of Transportation was not up to the task of widening Interstate 83.

That project, which covers roughly 5 miles of the I-83 corridor from Market Street to North George Street, would widen the interstate from four to six lanes to relieve congestion and improve safety. 

More:Residents fret PennDOT's ability to execute I-83 widening

More:I-83 widening means eminent domain for Springettsbury neighborhood

According to a "Displacements" map on the I-83 widening project website, an entire neighborhood in North York, just south of the southbound entrance ramp on the west side of the highway, and several businesses on the east side would be effected, Wednesday, October 2, 2019
John A. Pavoncello photo

Roughly 200 properties may be affected by eminent domain, but residents and local officials attending one public hearing were more concerned about PennDOT’s ability to see the project through.

"I stood in this auditorium about 12 years ago with reps from PennDOT and engineering firms about the Mount Rose Avenue interchange," said Tom Small, of Springettsbury Township. "How's that worked out so far? I have zero confidence PennDOT can actually pull this off."

PennDOT expects to begin the final design in 2020 and kick off the estimated $330 million project just south of the Route 30 interchange in 2022. It is unclear how long it will take to finish.

Regal Cinemas shooting: A Carlisle man was gunned down Dec. 2 while watching a movie with his girlfriend at Regal Cinemas in the West Manchester Town Center, prompting a manhunt for the two suspects.

Andre Maurice White Jr., 22, was pronounced dead shortly after the shooting. A woman also suffered a gunshot wound and survived.

Jalen Luis Bellaflores, 19, of Conewago Township, was arrested Dec. 4 and charged with the felonies of homicide and conspiracy to commit homicide.

More:Second Regal Cinemas homicide suspect captured in N.J. with man wanted in 2016 Springetts shooting

More:Police: Victim's girlfriend tampered with evidence in Regal homicide

Anu-Malik Johnson, 21, of York — who had been considered armed and “extremely dangerous” — was arrested in New Jersey on Dec. 18 and charged with homicide, aggravated assault and illegal possession of a firearm.

Police have not provided a motive for the shooting.

In a twist, the victim’s 18-year-old girlfriend, Kieara Aleysiah Martinez, was arrested and charged with two felony counts of hindering apprehension, one misdemeanor count of obstructing administration of law or other governmental function and one misdemeanor count of tampering with or fabricating physical evidence.

She took White’s phone from the crime scene and lied to police about it for days, West Manchester Township Police said.

New Memorial Hospital: The new UPMC Memorial Hospital opened Aug. 18 in West Manchester Township, capping three years of construction.

Eleven new emergency room patients were admitted to the hospital at 1701 Innovation Drive within 10 hours of its grand opening, joining 12 patients who were transferred from the old Memorial Hospital in Spring Garden Township.

More:UPMC Memorial Hospital opens in West Manchester Township

That facility, 325 S. Belmont St., officially closed at the same time the new hospital opened and is now for sale.

The new UPMC Memorial has a modern design that features five levels of rooms accommodating 102 beds, cardiology and vascular services, maternity services, chronic disease management and surgical services.

Measles: An infectious disease expert at Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security said WellSpan Health and the state Department of Health properly handled two York County measles cases in September.

In both local cases, patients and staff at WellSpan Stony Brook Health Center in Springettsbury Township were potentially exposed to measles. In late August, an individual with measles received care at the facility as well as at WellSpan York Hospital, and in September a doctor at the center was confirmed to have the highly contagious disease.

More:Infectious disease expert: WellSpan, state handling measles cases correctly

More:State health officials: Second suspected measles case in York County

More:Maryland woman misses cancer treatment after York Hospital measles case

Patients entering York Hospital are being screened for measles exposure risk by security officers Monday, Sept. 16, 2019. Bill Kalina photo

After the doctor’s diagnosis, the state and hospital put out news releases imploring those who might have been exposed at five locations around York County, during certain times, to contact their doctor or call a hotline.

Witman released: Zachary Witman, who murdered his 13-year-old brother in 1998 when he was 15, was paroled from state prison in May after spending the better part of two decades denying he killed Gregory Witman in the laundry room of their New Freedom home.

More:Zachary Witman released; murdered 13-year-old brother in 1998

More:'I killed my brother': Plea means Zachary Witman could be released in 2019

Zachary Witman, in a prison photo taken Monday, May 20, 2019.

Witman, 36 at the time of his release, was convicted in 2003 as an adult of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison without parole. However, he was allowed to plead guilty to third-degree murder in 2018 for a shorter sentence after prosecutors determined his attorney never told him about a plea offer made prior to Witman's trial.

The state parole board granted Witman parole on Jan. 18, nearly a year after he confessed in court to killing his brother, and set his earliest release date for May 21.

House of horrors: A West York septuagenarian and his 25-year-old girlfriend are accused of creating "a house of horrors" for five of their seven children, the oldest of whom is 6.

Police Chief Matt Millsaps said Charles M. Benjamin, 72, beat the children with a wooden board, a belt and a curtain rod — assaults police allege left the children with scars. He also allegedly kicked some of them while wearing boots, according to charging documents.

This home in West York, Friday, March 1, 2019, is where police allege a man and his 25-year-old girlfriend created "a house of horrors" having beaten five of their seven children. Bill Kalina photo

"This is a tragedy," Millsaps told The York Dispatch. "But we prevented further tragedy from occurring, because this was literally a house of horrors for these children."

Benjamin is in custody while awaiting trial on numerous felony and misdemeanor charges. His girlfriend, Janay Fountain, now 26, is charged with felony counts of child endangerment for allegedly allowing her children to be abused.