The family of Joseph Vito Mastronardo Jr. -- known as the "Gentleman Gambler" and the son-in-law of former Philadelphia police commissioner and mayor Frank Rizzo -- is still perplexed by Mastronardo's November prison death. "Joe Vito" died while serving his sentence in a Massachusetts detention facility for running a giant sports-betting ring and his family still hasn't been told exactly what happened. His attorney had argued Mastronardo should be sentenced to house arrest, citing his declining health. "They gave a guy a death sentence for sports gambling," said Mastronardo's son, Joe. Joe Mastronardo said his family's preliminary investigation suggests his father died of respiratory complications that could have been caught and treated if he had been at home, and the family was considering a lawsuit. "These people are responsible for killing my dad," he said. "What would you do?" Read more
Philadelphia officials say the city will cover nearly half the expenses related to the September papal visit, costing taxpayers about $8 million. The city spent $17 million on Pope Francis' visit, mostly for police and fire services, and sent a bill to the World Meeting of Families -- which had said it would pay for all costs associated with the trip -- for $9 million. City Controller Alan Butkovitz said that amount was far below his expectations, but Mayor Michael Nutter said the city had always intended to cover costs leading up to and following the papal visit. "What I said, what I thought I said, and certainly what I meant, is, they would be billed for additional costs that went with the actual two-day event in the city of Philadelphia," Nutter said. "There is always a distinction between what the organization pays vs. what is a part of the normal city responsibility and obligation when we have an event." Read more
A Cumberland County man has been charged with two counts of homicide in the deaths of a Vineland mother and her 3-month-old daughter who had been reported missing. Vineland police said 34-year-old Ricardo Santiago has been taken into custody in the killings of Neidy Ramirez, 34, and her daughter, Genesis Ramirez. The pair was last seen on Friday and Ramirez's car was found abandoned in Gloucester County over the weekend. Their bodies have been recovered. Santiago and Ramirez had another child together, officials said, but he is not Genesis' father. Read more
An archaeologist involved in numerous excavations on Independence Mall has found an obituary for James Oronoko Dexter, a prominent leader in Philadelphia's free-black community in the late 18th century. The newly found obituary establishes the date of his death (Aug. 8, 1799) and raises new questions about who he was. An Aug. 14, 1799 issue of the Philadelphia Gazette and Universal Daily Advertiser says he dies at age 70 and identifies him as "Noka Kinsey." The obituary says he was "a free African" and "vinced such fidelity, temperance, and honesty, joined to an obliging temper, as gained him the confidence and respect of all who knew him: by his industry and care, he maintained with decency a large family; which in his death loses its principal support." Archaeologist Douglas Mooney said he was "about jumping out of my skin" when he found the notice. Read more
A new nonprofit group is planning to raise $25 million to build a sports and education complex at the vacant lot known as the Logan Triangle. The group, Philadelphia Youth Basketball, uses the sport to help young people, especially those from poor communities develop as athletes, students and citizens. The proposal marks a major effort to reclaim one of Philadelphia's most troubled lots. "We want young people in this program to reach their fullest potential as students, as athletes, and as positive leaders in their schools and their communities," said PYB president and CEO Kenny Holdsman. A PYB pilot program is operating in four Philadelphia public schools. Read more