YEAR IN REVIEW: Midtown blaze, missing man and robbery among year’s top stories

(Dec. 28, 2012) Many readers will admit that the weekly police reports are their favorite section of the newspaper. The sentiment would likely be different if they were reading their own names in 10-point print, but the interest would still be justified.

These are the stories we believe stand out most among others this year:


Balcony fall

The body of a California artist was discovered Sept. 18, on the ground outside a condominium.

Ocean City police were called to the St. Croix condominium on Canal Street, just off Hitchens Avenue between 35th and 36th street. There, they found the body of Kelly Degracia, 41, of Santa Monica.

Police said she fell from the balcony of one of the three third-floor condo units.

The incident remains under investigation.


Bradley fire

Nine units at the Bradley on the Bay condominiums on 37th Street in OOcean City were heavily damaged by fire Sept. 26.

Firefighters battled the late afternoon blaze for more than four hours and some remained on the scene throughout the night.

Units undamaged by fire sustained heavy water damage and buildings on either side of the structure had exterior heat damage.

One firefighter received minor burns, but no other injuries were reported.

The Ocean City Fire Marshal’s Office reported that the cause of the fire was undetermined, but improperly discarded smoking material and a possible electrical malfunction could not be ruled out.

Ocean City resident Monica Hanshaw started a fundraising drive and quickly amassed clothes, furniture and toys for the families whose residences were destroyed in the fire. Several area businesses became drop-off sites for the donations, which were stored in a West Ocean City storage facility until the displaced families were settled into new living quarters.

Hanshaw also established a Facebook page to publicize the need for donations and to keep updated on the situation. Funds were also collected at Bank of Ocean City locations and those funds were dispersed among the fire victims.


Canoeist fatality

Nicholas Townsend, 23, of Ocean City, was declared missing after a canoe in which he and a friend were paddling capsized in the bar near Fenwick Island, Del., in the early morning hours of March 2. Neither man was wearing a life jacket.

The other man in the canoe, Matthew Bullen, 20, of Fenwick Island, Del., was able to swim ashore, but instead of calling for help, he broke into a home where he changed into dry clothes and then returned to his own residence, where he told a roommate what had happened.

Townsend’s disappearance was not reported to police until nearly seven hours after the incident.

The official search for Townsend started March 2, but was called off March 4. Family members and friends continued the search and Townsend’s body was found March 16, in Assawoman Bay near the Route 90 bridge.


Suicide on beach

A surfer discovered the body on a 27-year-old Mt. Åiry man on the beach at 45th Street at about 7:45 a.m. on Dec. 18. The man died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to his chest. The .22 caliber rifle was in his lap.

Ocean City Police did not release the name of the victim.


Baby Ava case

The tragedy of the Baby Ava case began last year and will continue for the rest of her life. She is a toddler whose life was irreversibly ruined by a driver high on PCP.



Dec. 16, 2011: Ann Marie DelRicco and her daughter, Ava, 18 months old, were in her Lexus stopped at the traffic light at 142nd Street after buying stamps for Christmas.

Behind them on Coastal Highway, Andrew Kaczynski was speeding in a pickup truck after smoking PCP while driving over the Route 90 bridge. A traffic reconstructionist would later determine that Kaczynski was driving at least 90 miles per hour and made no attempt to slow down before striking DelRicco’s car.

Ann Marie DelRicco was injured, but Ava was critically injured with a skull fracture that caused her brain to swell. Part of her skull had to be removed.

Aug. 1, 2012: Kacyznski pleaded guilty to pleaded guilty to two counts of causing life-threatening injuries by motor vehicle while impaired by a controlled dangerous substance, two counts of possession of PCP, driving while impaired by a controlled dangerous substance, aggressive driving, reckless driving, failing to control speed to avoid a collision, speeding and possession of marijuana. Judge Thomas C. Groton III ordered a presentence investigation.

Oct. 5: Judge Groton sentenced Kaczynski to 15 years in prison, with all but 10 years suspended.


Raceway Citgo robbery

The Raceway Citgo station at the intersection of Route 50 and Route 589 was robbed by a gun-wielding man while another man stood by the entrance and other accomplices, including a 17-year-old girl, waited in a get-away car. All were eventually apprehended.



Aug. 3: Charles Richard Conden III, 19, of Edwardsville, Pa., entered the store, held a gun at the clerk’s head and demanded cash while Payne Prasnikar, 21, of Stillwater, Pa., stood by the door. After getting money, they returned to the car being driven by Sarah Jean Gryskevicz, 19, of Wilkes-Barre, Pa., who drove to Ocean City, where four of the five, including her boyfriend, Antonio Lee Suarez, 18, of Allentown, were caught after a high-speed chase that ended at 120th Street when Gryskevicz struck another car.

Aliyah Jasmine Hill, 17, and one of the young men ran to the beach where they pretended to be like other vacationers, but some people pointed them out to police, who arrested them.

Conden, Hill’s boyfriend, had jumped from the car at 100th Street.

All five suspects were charged with conspiracy to commit armed robbery, conspiracy to commit robbery, robbery, reckless endangerment, theft of less than $1,000, use of a firearm in the commission of a violent crime and two charges each of first- and second-degree assault.

Aug. 6:  District Court judge ordered Gryskevicz, Hill, Suarez and Prasnikar to be held in the Worcester County Jail on $250,000 bond. That same day, Conden is arrested in Pennsylvania.

Nov. 8: Suarez pleaded guilty to armed robbery in Circuit Court in Snow Hill and was sentenced to 15 years in prison with all but four years suspended. Conden also pleaded guilty to armed robbery that day. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison with all but 10 years suspended.

Nov. 16: Prasnikar pleaded guilty to armed robbery in Circuit Court in Snow Hill. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison, with 10 years suspended.

Dec. 6: Judge Richard Bloxom ruled that Aliyah Jasmine Hill, of Edwardsville, Pa., “was essentially emancipated” at the time of the crime because she had lived without parental supervision for a couple of years and had done as she wanted to do while living with her boyfriend. Hill, who will be tried as an adult, is scheduled for trial Jan. 3.

Dec. 12: Gryskevicz pleaded guilty to armed robbery and was sentenced to 10 years in prison, with all but three years suspended. Each of the criminals will be on supervised probation for a number of years after their release from prison.


Pedestrian deaths

Two pedestrians were killed in Ocean City this year.

During the past seven years, the number of pedestrians struck in Ocean City ranged from 27 in 2011 to 52 in 2006, said Ocean City Police Department spokes-man Pfc. Mike Levy. In 2010, 35 pedestrians were struck and one was killed. In 2011, 27 pedestrians were struck and there were no fatalities.



May 28: Matthew Jude Cheswick, 22, of Cooksville, was struck and killed as he tried to cross Coastal Highway at 54th Street. He was crossing west to east when he was struck by an Isuzu Rodeo driven by Diogo Miller Facchini, 30, of Lorton, Va., who did not stop, but continued driving north in the bus lane and then turned east on 55th Street.

Facchini was charged with homicide with a motor vehicle while intoxicated and other crimes. He was held in jail without bond.

On Sept. 7, Facchini pleaded guilty to negligent homicide with a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol and failure to immediately stop a vehicle at the scene of an accident involving injury. Judge Richard Bloxom ordered a presentence investigation. Later, on Nov. 9, Bloxom sentenced Facchini to five years in prison on the first charge and he gave him a suspended five-year sentence on the second charge. After his release from prison, Facchini will be on supervised probation for five years.

June 5: A 15-year-old girl from Allegany County, visiting the resort with friends, was crossing Philadelphia Avenue at 21st Street with two friends to catch a southbound bus.

They walked to the median against the no-walk signal, then began to run across the southbound lanes just north of the marked crosswalk, but still crossing against the no walk signal. The 15-year-old was struck by a vehicle in southbound lane three.

She was taken to Atlantic General Hospital in Berlin, then transferred to Peninsula Regional Medical Center in Salisbury, where she died of her injuries.

The driver of the vehicle that struck was an Ocean City teenage boy. He was not charged because he was not at fault.


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