HOMICIDE STATS SHORT ON TRENDS
LUZERNE COUNTY'S FIGURES JUMPED IN 2001, BUT THE NUMBER REMAINS SO SMALL THAT
CONCLUSIONS CANNOT BE DRAWN, AN EXPERT SAYS.
By MICHAEL McNARNEY
Saturday, December 29, 2001 Page: 9A
The deaths of eight people have been ruled homicides in 2001 in Luzerne
County, according to Times Leader files up from three such deaths in 2000.
One researcher says the numbers involved are so small no larger trends can
be gleaned from them.
"You can't make anything out of a change like that," Alfred Blumstein, a
professor of public policy at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. "It's
a (more than) 100 percent increase, but the numbers are too small to be
Homicides in a number of larger cities have jumped in 2001. In Phoenix and
Boston, homicides have increased by at least 60 percent. Chicago is on track
to have the most homicides in the country, with 648 as of Dec. 20, down
slightly from the same period in 2000.
Luzerne County averaged 5.6 murders from 1990 to 2000.
The homicides reported in Luzerne County so far this year are:
Elena Herring, 33, and her daughter Viktoria Ivanova, 6, were strangled in
their home at 7 Stark St. in Wilkes-Barre and found on Dec. 7. No one has been
charged in their deaths.
Lucyna Dajema, 52, of Main Street in Edwardsville was found beaten to death
in the woods near Courtright Avenue in Plains Township on Nov. 5. No one has
been charged in her death.
Juan Lopez, 37, was shot to death on North Wyoming Street in Hazleton as
hundreds of football fans left nearby Harman-Geist Stadium the evening of Oct.
26. Lopez lived in North Locust Street in Hazleton. No one has been charged in
Carmine F. Constanzo, 22, was shot to death in his apartment at School
House Apartments in White Haven on July 11. His cousin, Rancourt Woodell of
Philadelphia, was charged with an open count of homicide.
Mae Brown, age unknown, was stabbed to death at the Boulevard Townhomes
apartment she shared with John Johnson, 43, her common-law husband, on June
29. Johnson awaits trial on a charge of criminal homicide. Police have said he
twice confessed to the crime.
Rose Higgins, 44, was beaten to death by her former boyfriend, Robert
Protsman, 42 at an upstairs apartment at 38 E. Main St. in Plymouth on Easter
Sunday, April 15. Protsman was convicted of first-degree murder on Sept. 12.
Stacy Alan O'Berry, 25, was shot to death by his wife, Linda Cheryl
O'Berry, 33, who then committed suicide in their home at 827 E. Front St. in
Salem Township on Jan. 12.
In addition, the Luzerne County Coroner's Office counts two deaths that
police do not in their annual tallies. Charles Spacek Jr., 39, was shot to
death by Rice Township police officer Shawn Zane Oct. 20 in a case ruled
justifiable homicide. Keri Adam, 21, who police believe was killed in Berks
County, was found in Newport Township on June 30. Adam's boyfriend has been
charged in Berks County with criminal homicide in the case.
The number of Luzerne County homicides have been declining from a high of
13 in 1990, bottoming out at two in 1996, according to Pennsylvania State
Blumstein said homicides declined significantly in the 1990s, first in
cities of more than 500,000 and then in the rest of the country.
But those declines flattened out in 1999 in the big cities and then in the
rest of the country in 2000, Blumstein said. Now that the steep drop in
killings has stopped, he said, small fluctuations should be expected.
"The numbers are too small," Blumstein said, adding that it takes more than
two years for a trend to develop. "If you go to 15 (murders) next year, then
that might be something to be concerned about."
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
Michael McNarney, a Times Leader staff writer, may be reached at 831-7305.