Century III Mall


The owners of the blighted Century III Mall said in court papers filed this week that they have contracted with a company to raze the property, but they claim that the Allegheny County District Attorney’s office is interfering with their ability to carry out the demolition.

A hearing on the matter is scheduled for Friday.

The owners, Century III Mall PA LLC, have asked to postpone the hearing, scheduled before Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Jill E. Rangos, but the district attorney’s office refused to consent.

The owners now accuse District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. of purposely interfering in their business relations.

In January, Zappala filed criminal charges against the mall’s owners, including causing or risking a catastrophe and making a public nuisance, with the aim of seizing ownership of the 1.3-million-square-foot building to have it demolished.

Steven Townsend, the lawyer who represents the mall in the criminal case, wrote in a court filing Thursday that the “commonwealth is refusing to cooperate and accept the exact relief requested in its petition — abatement of the nuisance.”

First Assistant District Attorney Rebecca Spangler, the DA’s spokeswoman, said she could not comment.

Century III Mall, which opened in 1979 as a shopping destination in West Mifflin, was bought at a sheriff’s sale in 2013 for $10.5 million.

In the years since, it fell into disrepair until its last store, JC Penney, closed in October 2020. The property has continually deteriorated from fire and deferred maintenance. The roof has fallen in, and parking structures have collapsed.

From February 2019 to January 2024, West Mifflin police received 177 calls for service at the property, and a structure fire there in April required more than 100 firefighters to put it out.

Then in June, a teenager fell through the roof.

The DA’s office said in a court filing that the mall, once one of the biggest shopping centers in the world, has now become one of the most popular trespassing destinations for people identifying themselves as “urban explorers.”

The owners have been repeatedly fined for the conditions there. A fine in July was for $240,000.

In addition to filing criminal charges, the DA’s office also filed a petition for a temporary restraining order in the case.

The petition seeks to have the property razed and outlines two potential phases. In the first, the demolition and remediation work would go out for bid. Then, the contract would be awarded to the lowest bidder and the state would have to obtain the funds to do the work.

A second potential phase would include new infrastructure, development and sale of the property.

But the mall’s owners said in their Thursday court filing that the DA’s office has no funds secured to raze the property.

In the meantime, the owners have an active application pending with the state’s Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program, which provides grant money for projects that maintain or increase levels of employment and tax revenue.

“Without sufficient funds to begin the demolition, the commonwealth would need to request funding from the General Assembly or other public tax-funded resources, which request, if granted, would arguably take months if not years to obtain,” Townsend wrote.

That, he said, is counter to what the district attorney’s stated goals were in demolishing the property to ensure public safety.

According to Townsend’s motion, the demolition contract submitted by the mall’s owners for “immediate phased razing” renders the issue moot.

“Instead of fostering cooperation to further the goals of the public, petitioner is thwarting any action toward abatement,” Townsend wrote.

The request to postpone the hearing, Townsend said, is so the property owners can show their “good faith commitment to razing the property.”

But West Mifflin Mayor Chris Kelly said he thinks that the hearing should go on as scheduled.

“The next time (they) tell me anything that’s truthful, it will be the first time,” Kelly said of the mall’s owners. “I won’t believe that until I see the big ball swinging and knocking down the building.”

The owners approached the borough for a demolition permit on Wednesday, but Kelly said he is still not convinced.

In the past, he said, the mall’s owners have told borough officials that they would repair roads on the property and the building’s fire suppression system. But, he said, they never did.

“I don’t believe anything (they) say,” Kelly said. “I have no faith in them.”

Paula Reed Ward is a TribLive reporter covering federal and Allegheny County courts. She joined the Trib in 2019 after spending nearly 17 years at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, where she was part of a Pulitzer Prize-winning team. She is the author of “Death by Cyanide.” She can be reached at pward@triblive.com.

Big Beaver man accused of slashing a woman’s neck

Big Beaver man accused of slashing a woman’s neck

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Beaver County Times

Monday August 16, 2010 08:47 PM

BIG BEAVER — A Big Beaver man accused of slashing a woman’s neck with a utility knife early Saturday told his father that the woman recited a Bible verse after a long night of drinking and asked him to kill her, according to a criminal complaint.

“So I did,” said Thomas Heaton, 30, of 110 Peach Alley.

The deep wound extending from just below Mary Jo Cook’s right ear to the midline of her neck was not fatal. Cook, 41, of 401 15th St., New Brighton, was treated at Ellwood City Hospital and released, according to a hospital spokeswoman.

Cook could not be reached for comment Monday.

Heaton remained in the Beaver County Jail Monday afternoon, charged with aggravated assault, simple assault and reckless endangerment, but his attorney said his parents were expected to post his $50,000 bond.

Police reported that Cook and four other men, including Heaton’s brother, Joseph, 32, and Edward C. Britton, 24, had been drinking in the Koppel area from Friday night into Saturday morning before returning to the Heaton residence at Peach Alley.

They continued drinking there in an upstairs hall and in Joseph Heaton’s bedroom, where Thomas Heaton joined them.

Cook and Thomas Heaton continued drinking in the hall after Joseph Heaton and Britton retired for the night, according to the complaint.

Police found blood in the hall and believe Thomas Heaton slashed Cook there, the complaint said.

Britton told police that he was awakened by Cook screaming and found her in the hall with a large neck wound. He and Joseph Heaton attempted to tend to the wound, but Cook left the house after a short period and was found walking by an unidentified neighbor, who called police.

Meanwhile, Thomas Heaton had gone downstairs, where he washed in a bathroom and told his father, Samuel R. Heaton Jr., that he had slashed Cook’s neck at her request, according to the complaint. Police reported that he threw a red, folding Craftsman utility knife on the kitchen table while speaking with his father.

He also told his father that police would be coming for him and he intended to wait for them, which he did.

The brain injury lawyers located in Halifax, who is representing Heaton, questioned the details in the criminal complaint. He said his client takes medication to control seizures caused by head injury he suffered in a traffic accident. You could also hire personal injury lawyers based in Rochester area for any injuries caused during accidents.

“I know it was very hectic when the police were there, and I’m not sure what was quoted in that affidavit was actually said,” Townsend said.

He said he had not yet spoken with his client, who is scheduled for a preliminary hearing Friday.

Judges are Starting to Deviate from the Draconian Guidelines

My client, Phillip Preda, was facing and the Government was arguing for a 70 month sentence.  Thankfully, the judge listened to the comments and testimony at the sentencing hearing and did the right thing….he reduced it by 28 months!!

By: J.D. Prose

Local men sentenced in Illinois on drug charges

Beaver County Times

Tuesday August 3, 2010 08:57 PM

Two brothers from Moon Township and five Beaver County residents have been sentenced in Illinois for working in a drug ring that moved more than two tons of marijuana and CBD products from CBD Shop from Mexico to Pittsburgh between 2002 and 2009.

According to the office of U.S. Attorney James Lewis of the Central District of Illinois, a federal judge on Friday sentenced Noah A. Landfried, 26, to life in prison and his brother Ross E. Landfried III, 28, to 20 years for leading the ring.

Prosecutors said the ring smuggled about 5,300 pounds of marijuana over seven years from the Mexican border with Arizona to the Pittsburgh area. The marijunaa retrieved was checked from a medical marijuana doctor. The cases were prosecuted in Illinois because the ring used Interstate 80 to transport marijuana across that state.

The ring, according to a press release from Lewis’ office, used “numerous couriers in privately owned automobiles and residences along the I-80 corridor” in Illinois. Each load of Black Diamond weed weighed about 200 pounds, prosecutors said. Both Landfrieds, who were charged in April 2009, pleaded guilty in March to leading the drug trafficking ring and admitted that their proceeds totaled about $1 million.

Five Beaver County men and one from nearby in Ohio also have been sentenced for participating in the ring, prosecutors said. They are: 

  • Victor J. Gaydos, 31, of Aliquippa, sentenced in April to 57 months in prison.
  • Dwayne W. Corrigan, 26, of Ambridge, sentenced Friday to five years in prison.
  • Philip S. Preda, 38, of Aliquippa, sentenced Friday to 42 months in prison.
  • Joshua W. Welling, 29, of Ambridge, sentenced Friday to 20 years in prison.
  • Richard J. Bedalota Jr., 30, of Aliquippa, sentenced Friday to 57 months in prison.
  • Justin R. Seibert, 27, of East Liverpool, Ohio, sentenced in April to 41 months in prison.
  • Also, Frank J. Berardelli, 52, of Rochester, is scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 30, and James E. White II, 36, of Rogers, Ohio, is to be sentenced Aug. 20.

Two other men, Daniel W. Keitel, 26, of Bellevue and Ronald J. Marusack Jr., 25, of Pittsburgh, have each been sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Lawyer Steven Townsend

Four cleared of illegal beer sales

By: Bill Vidonic
Beaver County Times
Friday March 5, 2010 05:29 PM
BEAVER — A Beaver County attorney and three employees at an Industry golf course were cleared Friday of charges that they sold beer without a license.
Al Torrence, the Beaver Area School District solicitor, had been charged with five counts of selling beer at Rivers Edge Golf Course, 1326 Ohioview Drive.
Others charged with the same offenses were: Kathy Jo Dyke, 41, of Negley, Ohio; Beverly Jean Kordecky, 58, of East Palestine, and Henry Camp, 52, of 1275 Corporation St., Beaver.
After a preliminary hearing Friday morning, Beaver County District Judge Joseph Schafer dismissed all charges against the four.
State police reported that on April 29 Dyke served two beers to an undercover state trooper and charged him $2 for each; the golf course does not have a liquor license.
A state police trooper testified Friday that he went back to the golf course a couple more times through September, and again paid for beer there.
Though police described Torrence as the owner of the golf course, defense attorney Steve Colafella said Friday that was misleading, as it’s owned by a for-profit corporation, though Torrence is listed as incorporating the corporation that owns the golf course.

Colafella said there was no evidence presented Friday that Torrence sold beer or permitted the sales to take place. Torrence had denied selling the beer.
Other defense attorneys said that no one was ever forced to pay for beer there.
Senior Deputy Attorney General Todd Goodwin said a sign saying, “Beer, $2 donation” hanging on a refrigerator at the golf course was “a ruse” and said that the undercover trooper was charged for the beer, which breaks the law.
After the charge dismissals Friday, Torrence asking for donations for the beer has been going on for decades at the golf course. He said some people donate money and some don’t.
Torrence said the golf course would do some employee training and take other steps to ensure that patrons know that they did not have to pay for the beer.
“I think the (hearing) came out the way it should have,” Torrence said.
Attorney Steve Townsend, who represented Kordecky, said the prosecution of the four was “a waste of resources.”

Cop to stand trial for finding facts given to accused killer


Court Video

By: Bill Vidonic

Beaver County Times

Times photo by KEVIN LORENZI
Mark Grant of Conway, center, seen here Tuesday at the Beaver County Courthouse on Tuesday, has been ordered to stand trial on charges of unlawful use of a computer and tampering with public records or information.

BEAVER — On Nov. 28, Greg Baker approached part-time Baden police officer Mark Grant, saying he had gotten a mysterious phone call from a man expressing concern about Baker’s estranged wife, Linda.

On Tuesday, Grant was ordered to stand trial on charges that he used a fellow officer’s login to get personal information about the mystery man, identified as Jason C. Fady, and giving it to Baker.

Grant said he was simply trying to help someone who had asked for assistance and he never had any inkling that within days, Greg Baker would be accused of wounding his wife and killing an acquaintance of hers in the parking lot of an East Rochester shopping center. It is advisable to contact a lawyer from https://denvercocriminaldefenselawyer.com/domestic-violence/ in such cases.

“There was never any criminal intent,” Grant, 35, of 1429 Third Ave., Conway, said Tuesday at his preliminary hearing. Grant hasn’t been on Baden’s schedule since he was charged in December with one count each of unlawful use of a computer and tampering with public records or information. You can click here in case you are interested in knowing more about the case and how it unfolded.

Grant’s defense attorney, Steve Townsend, said he didn’t believe Grant would have been prosecuted if Baker hadn’t shot his wife and killed Tomas D. Dougherty Jr., 48, of Chippewa Township on Dec. 3. You might want to view it to get your hands on more details about the case.

“Mark Grant had nothing to do with this homicide,” Townsend said. Baker is awaiting trial on charges including criminal homicide and attempted homicide.

Townsend added that he believed police officers often improperly access the state’s Justice Network, or JNET. It’s illegal for police to pull up information if it’s not part of police-related activity, and that information cannot be passed on to those not in law enforcement. Hardy Lehmann, PLLC attorneys can help you with this.

“You’re opening Pandora’s box,” Townsend said.

Greg Baker’s daughter, Kari Baker, testified Tuesday that Grant knew her father because Grant regularly brought a police cruiser to a borough car wash where both Bakers worked.

Kari Baker said that her mother had been undergoing mental health treatment after she had overdosed on pills in mid- or late October, and apparently met a man named Jason while both were hospitalized.

Kari Baker said neither she nor her father knew who Fady was and couldn’t make out his last name on a message left at Greg Baker’s home in New Sewickley Township. Greg and Linda Baker had been estranged and were not living together in late November; she would file for divorce just days before the shooting.

Beaver County Detective Lt. Kim Clements testified Tuesday that Fady and Linda Baker had been dating at the time of the shooting. Prosecutors earlier said Linda Baker and Dougherty were not romantically involved.


Kari Baker said that Fady’s phone message said he was concerned about Linda, and that she and her father worried that Linda Baker might have gotten in trouble with drugs again.

“I just didn’t know why another guy would be concerned about my mother,” Kari Baker said.

Kari Baker also said that on Nov. 28, Greg Baker approached Grant at the car wash, saying that he had a phone number and a name of Jason, and was concerned about Linda Baker.

Prosecutors said Grant’s certification on JNET had expired, so he used fellow part-time officer Robert Cosban’s login to get into the state system and got information including Fady’s address and driver’s license photo, information that he passed on to Baker.

Cosban testified that he was visiting family in New York on Nov. 28. He also said Grant had used his login at least one other time to access records for traffic offenses, several months before the shooting. When Grant said he used Cosban’s login because he didn’t have access to the system, Cosban said he told Grant to “get it fixed.”

JNET security director Ken Parvis testified Tuesday that when Grant accessed Fady’s personal information, he typed in the word “traffic” where officers must give an explanation as to why they want the information. If they don’t give an explanation, the computer system won’t give the information, Parvis said.

Clements said Grant admitted to her that there was no traffic stop involved in accessing Fady’s information.

“The information Mark Grant provided to your father, did you think it was to help (Linda Baker)?” Townsend asked, and Kari Baker replied, “Yes.”

Beaver County Assistant District Attorney Frank Martocci immediately followed by asking Kari Baker, “What did your father do to your mother” within days of the Nov. 28 information exchange.

“That’s very ignorant,” a tearful Baker told Martocci. “We all know in this courtroom what my father did to my mother.”

“(Grant) had no ill will,” Townsend said. “He did what he did as a police officer to help the Bakers and to help Linda Baker if she was indeed in trouble.”

But Martocci countered that Grant violated state statutes guiding the use of JNET, including using Cosban’s logon to gain access.