PITTSBURGH (AP) – A man and his live-in girlfriend repeatedly beat his 25-year-old mentally disabled grandson with a baseball bat but were careful not to kill him so they could continue cashing his $730-a-month Social Security checks, the district attorney said.

Jimmie M. Peterson, 68, and Michelle C. Thompson, 60, of Pittsburgh, were jailed after their arrests Monday on charges including aggravated assault and neglect of a dependent person. The grandson, Cherron Peterson, has since been moved to a group home.

The couple acknowledged the beatings, which Peterson explained were a way of disciplining his grandson for breaking televisions, urinating in the house and stealing, investigators said. Peterson has been Cherron Peterson’s guardian since he was 2.

After beatings with belts didn’t control the young man, the couple switched to a bat, authorities said. Thompson told investigators the couple first used a wooden model but switched to aluminum because it was “lighter and easier to swing,” according to a criminal complaint.

The grandfather told investigators he tried to avoid hitting his grandson in the head, but he acknowledged that sometimes occurred when the young man would duck and weave to avoid being hit, the complaint said.

Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala Jr. said he believes the couple avoided contact with the victim’s head for another reason. “We attribute that to the fact that they were cashing his Social Security checks,” Zappala said. “If the kid dies, you know, you don’t get any more checks.”

The couple face a preliminary hearing Feb. 10 and did not have attorneys listed in online court records Tuesday. Neither has a criminal record.

Zappala contends the abuse occurred since at least 2011 but only recently came to the attention of authorities when a mental health caseworker received an anonymous tip that Thompson was forcing Cherron Peterson to stand outside in the cold for hours as punishment for urinating in the house.

The caseworker noticed bruises on the young man, which Thompson explained away as “dirt”, before she told the caseworker during a follow-up visit that Cherron Peterson had “disappeared.”

Pittsburgh police found the young man and took him to UPMC Presbyterian hospital, where doctors found skull and arm fractures, plus older, previously healed fractures.

“Everybody was offended by what happened here,” Zappala said. “If they’re convicted of these crimes, then we’re going to ask for penitentiary time.”


Pittsburgh-area lawmakers want stiffer K-9 penalty

PITTSBURGH (AP) – State senators from the Pittsburgh area plan to co-sponsor a bill that would stiffen penalties for those who severely injure or kill police animals.

Democrat state Sen. Matt Smith, of Mount Lebanon, says the bill would make it a second-degree felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

The move comes in the wake of the death of Rocco, a Pittsburgh police dog who died of a stab wound last week. A fugitive charged with wounding the animal, 21-year-old John Rush, faces up to seven years in prison under the state’s current law, a third-degree felony.

Smith and the other lawmakers want the state to catch up to federal law, which imposes a maximum 10-year sentence and $1,000 fine for killing a police animal.

Google expanding Pittsburgh office, mum on jobs

PITTSBURGH (AP) – Internet search engine company Google Inc. is expanding its Pittsburgh office in the city’s Bakery Square development, but not commenting on a developer’s estimate that it could increase the company’s employees to 1,000.

Google has confirmed the lease for 66,000 additional square feet, giving the company about 200,000 square feet in a development linked to the city’s repurposed Nabisco bakery.

The company is mum on how many jobs will be added, or even how many employees already work in Pittsburgh. The company’s website says it has fewer employees “than the number of Spartans at Thermopylae” – or 300 – in Pittsburgh.

But Todd Reidbord, president of Walnut Capital, which is heading the project, and Gregg Perelman, who is heading the development team, tell KDKA-TV the new lease could boost the number of jobs to 1,000.

Ford City robberies prompt 2 game lockdowns in 1 week

FORD CITY, Pa. (AP) – Talk about “tight” games: Police in one western Pennsylvania town say robberies at nearby stores have forced them to lockdown a gymnasium after local high school basketball games twice in the past week.

The most recent lockdown at Ford City High School, about 35 miles northeast of Pittsburgh, occurred Monday night.

The (Kittanning) Leader-Times ( ) reports someone robbed the nearby Ford City Tobacco store about 8:30 p.m. Police were looking for the suspect and had school officials warn fans to remain in the building after the game ended.

The fans were released after about 10 minutes. The same thing happened after a game Thursday night, when fans were detained about a half hour after a suspect – possibly the same man – robbed a Fueland Food Store gas station.


Information from: Leader Times,

PennDOT says it’s been helping with salt shortages

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) – The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation says it’s supplied about 6,000 tons of road salt to municipalities that have run short this winter.

The highway department said Monday its salt stock stood at about 382,000 tons, with some 145,000 tons still to be delivered.

In an average winter, PennDOT goes through about 800,000 tons, but this year’s series of storms has the department going through road salt more quickly than usual.

So far this season it’s loaned salt to Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, New Castle and the suburban Philadelphia community of Upper Gwynedd Township.

PennDOT starts each winter with more than 500,000 tons on hand.

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