CLEARFIELD – 2020 was a challenging year for everyone but especially for those beginning a new job as Clearfield County District Attorney Ryan Sayers was doing.
There was a judicial shutdown for 10 weeks due to COVID-19 restrictions, Sayers explained and the number of cases, 1,408 in 2020, is “one of the largest in memory.”
The cases seemed to be more serious crimes and the state police Special Emergency Response Team, SERT, was in the county three different times.
The first time was for a manhunt for Anthony Grant Boone, 36, of Howard, who had shot and killed his ex-girlfriend while she sat in a back yard in Hyde on Aug. 28.
Boone was taken into custody the next day near the Old Erie Pike not far from the Clearfield-Curwensville Highway where he shot himself in the chest rather than surrender to authorities. He later died from his wound.
Earlier that same week, a man was stabbed in Hyde and a few days later an inmate of SCI Houtzdale was allegedly killed by his cellmate.
When they called to tell Sayers of the murder, he said “you have got to be joking” or something similar, he recalled.
“We were making headlines, but not in a good way.”
Including the Houtzdale murder, there are three other homicide cases in the system: Denny Bailey and Kenja Tew for the 2017 death of Chase Anderson of Curwensville, Kimberly Williams of Morrisdale for the death of her husband in March 14, 2019 and Jayde Huber (homicide by vehicle) for the death of a child in a car accident in August of 2020.
The Williams case is being scheduled for jury selection but the Bailey/Tew cases are being held up by issues due to it being a death penalty case.
Another startling statistic is that there are currently four homicide by vehicle while driving under the influence cases pending. A fifth case was dismissed after the defendant died, Sayers said.
The SERT was also in town in October for a stand-off in the East End of town with Christopher Kanouff, who after he raised his gun to fire, was shot and killed.
On Christmas Eve, authorities were called to a residence in Karthaus to take Shannon D. Quick into custody after he had threatened family members. Another stand-off occurred with Quick threatening and then firing a shot toward police. In this incident, police used equipment to break into the home and take him into custody.
Quick now faces attempted homicide charges.
“Even with all this work, we accomplished a lot this year,” Sayers said.
This includes increasing communication with law enforcement.
“There was a ‘disconnect’ with this office for a long time but this was rectified quickly.”
Sayers has regular meetings with officers and they have his cell phone number if they have any questions for him.
He did a ride-along with some officers which was “a good opportunity to see what they do and hear their ideas.”
Overall, the police departments’ DUI arrests are down due to bars being closed, but there are more drug-related cases.
These range from retail thefts and burglaries to support their habit, simple possession of drugs and sometimes, violence.
He noted a recent drug bust was able to take six pounds of marijuana, half a pound of methamphetamine and four ounces of psychedelic mushrooms off the street.
“This bust helps, but it is just a drop in the bucket.”
The amount of drugs in the area was an eye opener for Sayers.
“I was thinking you would have to go to Altoona or Johnstown to get huge amounts of drugs,” he said. But the reality is that someone is bringing in a kilo of drugs about every four days.
Sayers is anxious to get a drug court established that may help addicts in the area by getting them treatment instead of just incarcerating them.
There was a “big meeting” in July with local authorities and mental health professionals to go over a proposal on the program. After a few changes were made, a second proposal was created that is awaiting approval by the judges.
“We are trying hard to get this into place. Everyone agrees it is a good program.”
Another thing Sayers has been working on is creating a non-profit organization for local police departments.
Unlike emergency medical services units, people can’t donate directly to police, Sayers stated. The donations currently go through the local municipalities and don’t always end up benefiting police.
“Creating Clearfield County Council of Police as a non-profit will allow people to donate directly to the departments.”
“If people can get a tax write off and put funds to the police, that is a win.”
Sayers’ other plans for this year include finding grant money for a detective who would work with the drug task force and assist the large number of police departments in the county.
He would also like to add more police officers in the area and expand the home detention program for non-violent low-level offenses.
Before he was sworn in, Sayers saw the job as 60 percent being an attorney, 30 percent for administration and 10 percent education.
Now he realizes it is more 60 percent administration and 30 percent being an attorney.
As Chief Law Enforcement officer for the county, Sayers says he has a “phenomenal team” that gets things done.
“We can all rely on each other.”