Judge upholds home entry

HOLLIDAYSBURG – Blair County Judge Timothy M. Sullivan has upheld a decision by city police to enter a 10th Street home without a warrant nearly a year ago, and to bring charges against the couple who occupied the dwelling, after police said they found marijuana and drug paraphernalia.

Police arrested Corey T. Abram and Casey M. Rentz, who lived in the 1800 block of 10th Street and charged them with conspiracy, possession of marijuana with intent to deliver, possession of a controlled substance and drug paraphernalia.

Defense attorneys Phillip O. Roberston for Abram and Brian Manchester for Rentz asked Sullivan to suppress the evidence and dismiss the charges against the two because police entered their home without a warrant, which, Sullivan said, is “presumptively unreasonable” under the Pennsylvania Constitution.

But he added, in this case the entry was proper.

Rentz also challenged the police right to search her pocketbook, an argument Sullivan rejected.

The judge’s 11-page opinion was issued Tuesday. Because of his decision upholding the charges, Abram and Rentz are to report for a court review of the trial status of their cases on the afternoon of Jan. 6.

The cases against the two stemmed from a “disturbance call” of a possible domestic argument to police about 3 a.m. on Dec. 23, 2012.

City police officer Dan Vasil responded to the call and allegedly saw Abram standing inside the front door of his house with his fists clenched. Police said he was screaming, and when the officer walked toward the home, Abram allegedly shut out the lights and closed the blinds.

The officer said he saw glass in the front door broken, blood spots on the front porch and a towel saturated with blood lying in front of the door.

The officer knocked, and when Abram finally came to the door, he allegedly smelled marijuana.

He searched Abram and allegedly felt what he believed was a marijuana pipe in one of the suspect’s pockets.

Vasil and another officer decided to enter the home because of the blood spots on the porch. They suspected that a domestic incident had occurred, and they wanted to talk to the woman, who turned out to be Rentz.

Rentz was not in the home at the time, but the officers allegedly saw “a green leafy substance” in two bags, a marijuana grinder and other paraphernalia in “plain view.”

At this point, Rentz returned to the residence, and police searched her pocketbook.

Sullivan said that police then obtained a warrant to search the house to confiscate the marijuana and paraphernalia they had seen.

The judge ruled there was sufficient “probable cause” – the blood and the missing girlfriend – to warrant the issuance of a search warrant for a search of the home.

Additional evidence was found in Rentz’s purse. That search was also upheld by the judge because it occurred after Rentz had been placed under arrest for the drug-related items in the home, and, Sullivan explained, because the items in the purse would have eventually been discovered.

The police, he stated, were justified in searching the purse.

Mirror Staff Writer Phil Ray is at 946-7468.