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June 21, 2018

The search resumes for missing Chelsea Bruck

Chelsea Bruck was last seen at a Halloween party in Frenchtown Township. Just a few miles from where purple ribbons wrap the small town of Newport, volunteers, state police, border patrol and Monroe County Sheriff’s Deputies all scoured the area near the Lake Eerie shoreline to try to find the missing 22-year-old.

“It’s been in the works for awhile, just waiting for the weather to clear,” said Chelsea’s mom Leannda Bruck.

Chelsea Bruck was last seen not far from this area last October. She was wearing a “poison ivy” costume and went to a Halloween party. The search, covering five miles off of Jefferson Avenue and Sigler roads, lasted about five hours Thursday. But Chelsea’s mother said the search didn’t turn up any clues.

“It’s hard but I’m also a very strong, very faithful person and no news is good news. I wish the good news would come very fast, but I’d rather have no news than bad news,” said Leannda.

Chelsea’s mom said now that it’s getting warmer there will be more searches, adding that she mails out fliers across the country daily. She posts photos of Chelsea and the person of interest everywhere she can.

Leannda said,”It’s an emotional roller coaster, but like I said, my faith is strong, it keeps me going, my dear Lord keeps me going, my family keeps me going.”

Holding onto pictures of Chelsea, purple ribbons and hope, this mother said what also keeps her going is the thought that her daughter is out there and she is alive.

“If you don’t stick to that thought and you’re thinking negative that’s the devil. The devil is not going to win on mom’s watch,” said Leannda.

Chelsea’s mother said she wants to remind people that there is a reward through Crime Stoppers of more than $30,000. If you have any information on the disappearance of Chelsea Bruck, please call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-speak-up.

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The search resumes for missing Chelsea Bruck

HOLMBERG: Gay homeless man’s decapitation murder 16 years later

RICHMOND, Va. –It was one of the most bizarre and grim murders in Richmond history. It remains unsolved after nearly 16 years. Also unresolved – was it one of the state’s worst hate crimes ever?

Three young people heading down to the James River Park’s Northbank on March 1, 1999 came across a man’s decapitated head sitting straight up on the concrete floor of the park’s pedestrian bridge over the railroad tracks.

Killed was 39-year-old Henry Edward Northington, a Navy veteran and wanderer who was painfully estranged from part of his family because of his sexuality.

His head was on a walkway often frequented by cruising gays heading down to the park, which was what raised concern about it being a hate crime.

murdered man

“It was overkill, it really was,” recalled “Eddie’s” sister, Dianna Sharp. “Something that happened like that is very personal. And where they left him was a message.”

The Richmond Police Department’s top brass initially made sounds about it being a possible hate crime, but quickly backed down as the national media took notice. Their reason: How could they call it a hate crime without a suspect or a motive?

Ed Northington was beaten to death, according to his autopsy report. His body was found near a rough homeless camp known as “the tubes” or “the barrels” that I believe he was staying in at the time. His face was beaten and cut, but the most devastating wound was a huge crush injury to the side of his body – like someone smashed him with a boulder.

Dianna said she’s come to realize that it’s quite possible her brother’s killer or killers might never be found.

It’s absolutely heartbreaking to her, this gruesome murder of her older brother who had risked losing his place in his family “to be himself.”

“I truly believe Eddie led the way because he knew I was coming that way, too,” Dianna said.

She finds herself wishing she could tell her brother about her daughter’s success in high school. About how they lost their mom several years ago.

And about how they laws changed so she could marry her wife.

“I have to realize I can’t physically tell him that,” she said, adding that she wonders if Eddie would be happier in these times of much more widespread acceptance.

Ed Northington had a tough life, fraught with depression and alcohol. His life was perhaps nearly as tortured as his death.

And his killer is still out there. “It could be anybody,” Dianna said. “To think they did that to my brother . . . “

I did a lot of reporting on the case at the time and in the years after. Given the unusual nature of the crime, that it covered such a large area and that Northington had more than a few known associates, it seemed there should be a way to solve it.

Anyone with information about the case or Ed Northington’s path the last months of his life, please contact the Richmond police detective division, or me.

Here’s a detailed report about the case I wrote for The Richmond Times-Dispatch more than a decade ago.

VICTIM’S FAMILY ‘SUSPENDED IN AIR’ – IT’S FIVE YEARS SINCE A HOMELESS MAN WAS KILLED AND DECAPITATED AT PARK, AND SLAYING IS UNSOLVED

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Richmond Times-Dispatch, March 14, 2004

Author: Mark Holmberg; Times-Dispatch Staff Writer

Five years have passed since Henry Edward Northington’s severed head was found carefully placed on a footbridge leading to James River Park on the north side of the river – a spot known at the time for homosexual trysting.

“There’s not a day goes by that I don’t think of him,” said his sister, Dianna Sharp. “I don’t want him to be forgotten. Maybe one day somebody will say, ‘I did see something or hear something.’ ”

Until then, she said, she and other family members will feel “like we’re suspended in air.”

The crime, discovered March 1, 1999, remains unsolved. It particularly stunned those in the gay and homeless communities, and is still felt by those in the danger zone.

“I know why he was killed,” Peter Graham said last Sunday as he basked in the sun and sipped discount beer with his homeless friends in Monroe Park. “He was gay.”

Graham, his broken-off teeth visible behind his thick, gray beard, said he’s gay, too, although he’s no longer homeless thanks to a $25-a-month subsidized apartment. He said he has felt the sting of a knife blade and knows of others in the homeless world here who have been killed for their sexuality. Not too long ago, he said, a killer ended the life of a Richmond resident known for picking up homeless men in the park, feeding them and giving them a place to stay so he could have sex with them.

And just last month, the naked body of 43-year-old Robert J. Connelly Jr. was found in an outside stairwell by schoolchildren at Carver Elementary School. Connelly was known in the gay community and frequented the same clubs Northington was often thrown out of for rude behavior. The evening before Connelly was found dead, he had briefly visited Godfrey’s on East Grace Street – in a highly inebriated state, said club owner Jeff Willis.

But it was the nature of Northington’s demise that was particularly haunting. It was reported across the country, in part because it came so soon after the death of Matthew Shepard, the young gay man who died in Wyoming after being beaten and tied to a fence.

According to Northington’s autopsy report, the 39-year-old drifter died from an “acute crush injury to chest and abdomen” that shattered numerous ribs, the broken ends lacerating his lungs, diaphragm and spleen.

He apparently had been staying at “the tubes,” a hardscrabble homeless site upriver from Hollywood Cemetery anchored by twin drainage tunnels that serve as sleeping shelters. The area is covered with large stones and boulders, one of which could have been thrown on top of Northington to produce his fatal injury.

His killer or killers then cut off his head between the third and fourth cervical vertebrae, leaving “hack marks at the edges consistent with a sharp instrument such as a knife,” according to the autopsy report.

Northington’s clothed body was thrown into the James River. And then someone carried the head several hundred yards through the woods and up the 70-odd steps to the pedestrian bridge. The head, perched upright, was found by three people out walking early the next morning.

“It was a very beautiful morning,” recalled Natalya, a native of Russia who asked that her last name not be published. When they saw the head sitting there, “I thought it was somebody joking. It didn’t look real at all.

“We walked to Maymont Park, talked to security. They walked back with us . . . confirmed it was a human head. That’s when I started shaking.

“I think about it sometimes,” she said when reached by phone last weekend. She has kept news articles about it because when she tells friends about it, “they don’t believe me.”

Northington was HIV-positive, according to the autopsy report and his family. He also had hepatitis, the report states. He suffered from alcoholism and depression and was prescribed Librium, along with medications to combat the AIDS virus.

His autopsy report tells part of the misery that had accompanied his walk through life.

But there were two Eddie Northingtons, say those who knew him. Sober, he was an introspective and highly intelligent loner, a natural scholar and avid reader of science fiction who played the saxophone and piano beautifully. Workers at homeless shelters remember his deft piano playing and genteel spirit.

“He was my hero, he really was,” Sharp said. “A lot of the problems I had, if I didn’t feel like I could talk to anyone [about them], I could talk to Eddie.”

She was 10 years younger than her brother and enjoyed his humorous, and sometimes silly, spirit.

“He’d go around saying, ‘It ain’t easy being cheesy,’ ” she said. She recalled him building a campfire at Lake Gaston out of sticks covered with poison ivy. “Everybody got poison oak or poison ivy.”

Her brother seemed so wise, she said. “I really valued his opinions on things. He never had to study for anything. Knowledge came to Eddie. He could have been anything.”

Then again, Sharp said, “he could be a tailhole when he was drinking.”

In Richmond, Northington alienated a lot of people because of his drunken behavior. He would act irrationally, bursting into tears or interrupting the conversation of strangers, said those who encountered him. He could be pushy sexually in the gay clubs he visited and was thrown out frequently. He was barred from at least two establishments, club owners have said.

“Unfortunately, he wasn’t a well-liked person” in the gay community, said Willis, who previously served as bartender and manager at Christopher’s.

Sharp said even though she and other family members loved him, “Eddie was always looking for acceptance. I don’t think he really got it up until the day he got murdered.”

When Northington returned home from a stint in the Navy, he told his family he was gay.

“I’ll never forget when he told me,” Sharp said. “I was in the eighth grade. We were sitting up one night talking.”

She said she didn’t have any problem with it, but “I think that was a real blow for my dad, a real disappointment. It’s a guy thing. That may sound sexist, but it really was.”

At the time, “nobody understood it, everyone tried to hide it.

“He was always sort of like a loner, you know,” Sharp added. Faced with what he felt was rejection, she said, he drifted more deeply into depression and alcoholism, and then homelessness.

Sharp said she thinks her brother came to operate on the premise that “if nobody wants to love me for who I am, I’ll just be myself.”

“When he found out he was HIV-positive, Eddie was more self-conscious about that than anybody else.”

She remembers when he injured his arm at Lake Gaston, near where he lived at times, and she had to change his bandages.

“He’d say, ‘Diana, make sure you put some gloves on.’ He really walked on eggshells so no one else would suffer what he might wind up suffering.”

The past five years have been hard for the family. Dianna and Eddie’s grandmother died, among other relatives. And their father suffered a stroke in his brain stem last year.

And the murder remains a fresh wound.

“Five years is a long time,” Sharp said, “but it still feels like it just happened.

“I’ve gotten over the mad part of it. I feel sorry for” whoever did it.

But not her mother.

“I’m at the point where I get real mad about it,” Dorothy Webb said last weekend of the lack of a resolution. “It’s definitely a hate crime. They don’t want to admit that – Richmond doesn’t have that kind of thing.” She believes the U.S. Justice Department should be involved.

Richmond police investigators have said from the start that they don’t have enough information to classify the homicide as a hate crime, or to rule bias out as a motive. It remains unclear whether Northington’s sexuality or his homeless state played any role in his demise.

There have been no new developments in the case, Richmond police reported Friday. A suspect who may know something about the slaying is in a New York prison for an unrelated crime, but he won’t cooperate with investigators. “We can’t do enough with it right now to make a case,” said Richmond cold-case Detective Thomas Leonard.

“I have tried everything I know to do,” Webb said. “There’s not enough to put together for [airing on ‘America’s] Most Wanted.’ I tried to get a hold of Matthew Shepard’s mother” but couldn’t.

“Someday, sometime, somebody will pay for it,” Webb said.

She said she misses her son, and it hurts knowing that he’ll never come back. But there’s some small consolation that he didn’t have to suffer and die from AIDS, and that his other struggles are over.

“Whatever problems he had,” Webb said, “he doesn’t have to deal with them any more.”

“You have regrets,” Sharp said. “If you knew a person wasn’t going to be here tomorrow, you’d want to tell them everything you wanted to say to them today.

“A lot of things were left unsaid,” she added. “If I could just see him for five minutes, I’d tell him I love him and hug him.”

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HOLMBERG: Gay homeless man’s decapitation murder 16 years later

Personal Health: Steering Clear of Poison Ivy

Alexa Grace
Personal Health
Personal Health

Jane Brody on health and aging.

I was once among those who claim, “I could walk through a field of poison ivy and not get it.” One day I learned otherwise: On a hike, I needed to relieve myself in the great outdoors and ended up with an impossibly itchy, blistering rash on a most delicate body part.

Too late I learned that you can develop an allergic reaction to poison ivy after previously uneventful exposures, which induce a sensitivity to the plant’s oily sap, urushiol. Once sensitized, your skin is likely to react to every subsequent exposure. Even people repeatedly exposed who appear to be immune may react to high concentrations of the toxin.

I also learned not to rely on the popular warning, “Leaves of three, let them be,” to alert me to the presence of Toxicodendron radicans, as the poison ivy plant is aptly called by botanists. It is not just the leaves that can provoke a reaction; the stems, roots, flowers and berries all contain urushiol.

Touching or brushing against any of these plant parts, even if they are dead, can cause a reaction. The sap is hardy and can cause a rash in the dead of winter, or even a year after contaminating clothing or shoes that are not thoroughly cleaned.

Poison oak.iStockPoison oak.
Poison sumac.Zoran Ivanovich/The New York TimesPoison sumac.
Poison ivy.iStockPoison ivy.

Urushiol shows up elsewhere, including in the skin of mangoes (and the leaves and bark of the mango tree), as I discovered when I ate a mango still in the rind and ended up with a blistering rash on my mouth. Cashew shells also have the toxin, which is why cashews are sold shelled and processed (either roasted or in the case of “raw” cashews, steamed) at a temperature high enough to destroy urushiol. Poison ivy is not the only problem plant one might encounter while hiking, camping or simply strolling in the countryside. T. radicans has two relatives, poison oak and poison sumac, that don’t always form the classic clusters but are equally toxic troublemakers.

Myths and misconceptions abound about these three plants and the reactions they can cause. Knowing the facts can help to spare you and your family considerable distress.

First, learn to recognize the plants in their various growth patterns. While poison ivy is most often encountered as a small ground plant, it also grows as a shrub and vine. The vines, which turn bright red in fall, were once used to adorn buildings in England.

Poison oak, which has compound leaves made up of three (or sometimes five) leaflets, usually grows as a shrub, but will form a vine in the Western states.

Poison sumac, which grows as a tall shrub or small tree, produces leaves with rows of paired leaflets and a single leaflet at the end. It likes a wet habitat, growing in peat bogs in the Northeast and Midwest and swamps in the Southeast.

Urushiol can penetrate cloth. Although long sleeves, pants and gloves can reduce the risk of exposure, they cannot guarantee protection. Even rubber gloves can be breached. If you must handle the plants or are likely to contact poison ivy when gardening, wear vinyl gloves.

You don’t have to touch the plant directly to react to urushiol. Gardening tools, sporting equipment, even a pet that has been in a patch of poison ivy — all can cause a reaction. My brother, who has been sensitive to urushiol since childhood, once developed the rash on his arm after retrieving a baseball that had rolled through poison ivy.

Before possible exposure, use an over-the-counter skin-care product containing bentoquatam (IvyBlock) to prevent or reduce absorption of urushiol. The combination of this barrier product and protective clothing is your best defense against an inadvertent encounter.

But there is no scientific evidence that jewelweed, feverfew, plantain or other herbal remedies prevent or cure a urushiol-induced rash.

Nor do you become immune to urushiol through repeated exposures to small amounts. Quite the opposite. There is no way to desensitize a person to urushiol as there is with pollen and peanut allergies. Eating mangoes or cashews will not work.

Contrary to popular belief, a poison ivy rash is not contagious. It cannot be spread by oozing blisters, or by scratching or touching the rash. Only direct contact with urushiol causes a reaction. (Scratching can result in an infection, however.)

The rash can appear on different parts of the body at various times. This may happen because the parts were exposed at different times, or because areas with thicker skin are less easily penetrated by the oil. The delicate skin of the genital and perianal areas, for example, is more easily breached than tougher skin on the hands.

Repeated tilling or mowing can eventually kill poison ivy plants, as can repeated applications of an herbicide like Roundup. The latter should be applied with serious caution and only on a warm, sunny day with little or no wind when the plants are actively growing.

If you are highly allergic, or wary of applying herbicides, clearing your property of the plants may be best left to a professional. While goats are said to have a hearty appetite for poison ivy plants, they may eat everything else in the yard, too.

Never try to burn a poison plant. Burning releases the toxin, which may land on skin or, worse, be inhaled and cause a serious internal reaction.

Should you contact a urushiol-containing plant, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends washing your skin immediately. Lukewarm, soapy water is best, but even plain water can limit exposure to the sap. Take care in removing contaminated clothing, and wash it separately as soon as possible.

You can relieve a rash by applying cool compresses with an astringent like Burow’s solution, soaking the affected area in colloidal oatmeal, or using calamine lotion; all are sold over the counter. Do not apply products containing a topical antihistamine, like Benadryl, which can cause a sensitivity reaction that makes matters worse.

Severe reactions may require medically prescribed treatment with an oral corticosteroid like prednisone.

A version of this article appears in print on 06/17/2014, on page D7 of the NewYork edition with the headline: Steering Clear of Poison Ivy.

View post:  

Personal Health: Steering Clear of Poison Ivy

Steering Clear of Poison Ivy

Alexa Grace
Personal Health
Personal Health

Jane Brody on health and aging.

I was once among those who claim, “I could walk through a field of poison ivy and not get it.” One day I learned otherwise: On a hike, I needed to relieve myself in the great outdoors and ended up with an impossibly itchy, blistering rash on a most delicate body part.

Too late I learned that you can develop an allergic reaction to poison ivy after previously uneventful exposures, which induce a sensitivity to the plant’s oily sap, urushiol. Once sensitized, your skin is likely to react to every subsequent exposure. Even people repeatedly exposed who appear to be immune may react to high concentrations of the toxin.

I also learned not to rely on the popular warning, “Leaves of three, let them be,” to alert me to the presence of Toxicodendron radicans, as the poison ivy plant is aptly called by botanists. It is not just the leaves that can provoke a reaction; the stems, roots, flowers and berries all contain urushiol.

Touching or brushing against any of these plant parts, even if they are dead, can cause a reaction. The sap is hardy and can cause a rash in the dead of winter, or even a year after contaminating clothing or shoes that are not thoroughly cleaned.

Poison oak.iStockPoison oak.
Poison sumac.Zoran Ivanovich/The New York TimesPoison sumac.
Poison ivy.iStockPoison ivy.

Urushiol shows up elsewhere, including in the skin of mangoes (and the leaves and bark of the mango tree), as I discovered when I ate a mango still in the rind and ended up with a blistering rash on my mouth. Cashew shells also have the toxin, which is why cashews are sold shelled and processed (either roasted or in the case of “raw” cashews, steamed) at a temperature high enough to destroy urushiol. Poison ivy is not the only problem plant one might encounter while hiking, camping or simply strolling in the countryside. T. radicans has two relatives, poison oak and poison sumac, that don’t always form the classic clusters but are equally toxic troublemakers.

Myths and misconceptions abound about these three plants and the reactions they can cause. Knowing the facts can help to spare you and your family considerable distress.

First, learn to recognize the plants in their various growth patterns. While poison ivy is most often encountered as a small ground plant, it also grows as a shrub and vine. The vines, which turn bright red in fall, were once used to adorn buildings in England.

Poison oak, which has compound leaves made up of three (or sometimes five) leaflets, usually grows as a shrub, but will form a vine in the Western states.

Poison sumac, which grows as a tall shrub or small tree, produces leaves with rows of paired leaflets and a single leaflet at the end. It likes a wet habitat, growing in peat bogs in the Northeast and Midwest and swamps in the Southeast.

Urushiol can penetrate cloth. Although long sleeves, pants and gloves can reduce the risk of exposure, they cannot guarantee protection. Even rubber gloves can be breached. If you must handle the plants or are likely to contact poison ivy when gardening, wear vinyl gloves.

You don’t have to touch the plant directly to react to urushiol. Gardening tools, sporting equipment, even a pet that has been in a patch of poison ivy — all can cause a reaction. My brother, who has been sensitive to urushiol since childhood, once developed the rash on his arm after retrieving a baseball that had rolled through poison ivy.

Before possible exposure, use an over-the-counter skin-care product containing bentoquatam (IvyBlock) to prevent or reduce absorption of urushiol. The combination of this barrier product and protective clothing is your best defense against an inadvertent encounter.

But there is no scientific evidence that jewelweed, feverfew, plantain or other herbal remedies prevent or cure a urushiol-induced rash.

Nor do you become immune to urushiol through repeated exposures to small amounts. Quite the opposite. There is no way to desensitize a person to urushiol as there is with pollen and peanut allergies. Eating mangoes or cashews will not work.

Contrary to popular belief, a poison ivy rash is not contagious. It cannot be spread by oozing blisters, or by scratching or touching the rash. Only direct contact with urushiol causes a reaction. (Scratching can result in an infection, however.)

The rash can appear on different parts of the body at various times. This may happen because the parts were exposed at different times, or because areas with thicker skin are less easily penetrated by the oil. The delicate skin of the genital and perianal areas, for example, is more easily breached than tougher skin on the hands.

Repeated tilling or mowing can eventually kill poison ivy plants, as can repeated applications of an herbicide like Roundup. The latter should be applied with serious caution and only on a warm, sunny day with little or no wind when the plants are actively growing.

If you are highly allergic, or wary of applying herbicides, clearing your property of the plants may be best left to a professional. While goats are said to have a hearty appetite for poison ivy plants, they may eat everything else in the yard, too.

Never try to burn a poison plant. Burning releases the toxin, which may land on skin or, worse, be inhaled and cause a serious internal reaction.

Should you contact a urushiol-containing plant, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends washing your skin immediately. Lukewarm, soapy water is best, but even plain water can limit exposure to the sap. Take care in removing contaminated clothing, and wash it separately as soon as possible.

You can relieve a rash by applying cool compresses with an astringent like Burow’s solution, soaking the affected area in colloidal oatmeal, or using calamine lotion; all are sold over the counter. Do not apply products containing a topical antihistamine, like Benadryl, which can cause a sensitivity reaction that makes matters worse.

Severe reactions may require medically prescribed treatment with an oral corticosteroid like prednisone.

A version of this article appears in print on 06/17/2014, on page D7 of the NewYork edition with the headline: Steering Clear of Poison Ivy.

Link: 

Steering Clear of Poison Ivy

GPM Pediatrics physician provides treatment, prevention tips on poison ivy

GPM Pediatrics physician provides treatment, prevention tips on poison ivy

Published on June 5, 2014 at 8:32 AM

Dr. Michael Gabriel, a Staten Island Pediatrician, provides advice on how to avoid poison ivy plants, and treat or prevent rashes.

According to an article published by KidsHealth.org, poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac all contain the same oily substance that causes rashes, urushiol. Recognizing oily plants during different parts of the year is important since they can look different depending on the season. Poison ivy can often be red during the spring, green during the summer and brown during the fall.

An allergic reaction to poisonous plants occurs for 60-80 percent of people within hours or as late as 5 days after coming in contact with a plant. Often time’s poison ivy can be prevented, according to the article. Avoiding areas where poison ivy is present is the key way in preventing poison ivy rashes, along with learning to identify plants, and wearing proper clothing when engaging in outdoor activity.

Dr. Michael Gabriel of GPM Pediatrics, a Staten Island pediatrics center, says that poison ivy season is in full swing. “Poison ivy can be very dangerous for children, especially because they have very sensitive skin. I advise parents to teach their children how to identify poisonous plants and the risks associated with them.” Gabriel urges parents to have their children shower after outdoor activity near plants but not to give baths. “Giving a bath can spread the oils around the tub and can make the condition worse.”

Dr. Gabriel says that once poison ivy is contracted, it is very difficult to get rid of and can be uncomfortable. “Calmine lotion is popular but has mixed results. If the condition gets severe for your child you must contact your local pediatrician to get the proper treatment,” Gabriel explains. “Be aware of any outdoor pets that your family has as well. Dogs often rub up against poison ivy and the oils can transfer to your kids.”

SOURCE GPM Pediatrics

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GPM Pediatrics physician provides treatment, prevention tips on poison ivy

'A poison ivy crisis,' and he's the crisis manager

Plants are waking up and seedlings emerging. Runners are creeping across yards and woodlands, over fences and walls. Ropelike aerial roots are shooting up the sides of trees like archers to a target.

Got itch yet?

Poison ivy got its name in the 1600s from Capt. John Smith, the explorer, who noted its resemblance to English ivy. Connecticut is the nation’s poison ivy epicenter, Mycka says, “but the Pennsylvania-New Jersey-Delaware region is not far off.”

It’s spread by birds, which eat the seeds. Development and habitat destruction, and our own gardening habits, are factors, too, Mycka says. We build homes and attract birds that like to eat from feeders, explore our gardens, and perch on our decks, buildings, and fences.

Duke University researchers have also determined that rising carbon dioxide levels are causing poison ivy to grow faster and produce more potent urushiol, the pale, resin-like substance that causes the plant’s signature rash, swelling, and blistering.

“We have a poison ivy crisis now,” Mycka says. “People can’t identify it and remove it. They’re so disconnected from nature.”

That was not the case with Gusoff, a retired public schoolteacher who loves to garden and tried for two years, unsuccessfully, to get rid of her poison ivy.

Gusoff, who suffers from multiple sclerosis and other ailments and walks with a cane, became so overwhelmed by “the monster” quietly infiltrating her yard that she avoided the family’s aboveground pool for two summers.

And got zapped anyway.

In August, she broke out in a bodysuit-like rash after snuggling with Delilah Mercedes, her senior-citizen golden retriever now nicknamed “the culprit.”

“She enjoys exploring the backyard. It’s a jungle out there,” says Gusoff, who finally called Mycka.

One day in late April, he arrives with a crew of three. They’re wearing long sleeves, long pants, double gloves, and wrist-to-elbow Tyvek protectors, knee pads, and boots.

(We resist the temptation to chant: Leaves of three, let it be! Hairy rope, don’t be a dope!)

Using Japanese gardening knives and serrated grass sickles with hardened steel blades, the men follow the vines 15 feet down the trunk to the base of a 30-year-old white spruce, and out into the yard.

“It doesn’t matter if you start above or on the ground, as long as you get it all,” says Mycka, who estimates that Gusoff’s vine is nine years old, 19 feet long, and 25 pounds.

A mere mini.

In 2013, Mycka used crowbars to pry a 50-foot poison ivy vine off a hackberry tree along Kelly Drive in Fairmount Park. Counting rings, he determined that the female vine – yes, there are male and female plants – was 38 years old. Cut into five pieces, it tipped the scales at 506 pounds.

“This is an interesting job,” says Mycka, who collects poison ivy books and art in his Overbrook home.

He grew up in the city’s Somerton section, always wanted to be a gardener, and became fascinated by toxic plants when he was a Boy Scout.

He signed on at the zoo in 1974 and, after seven years of evening classes, earned a two-year associate’s degree in horticulture from Temple University Ambler.

You’d think “the poison ivy horticulturist” would be happy that it’s such a problem. Actually, says Mycka, who hosted a poison ivy conference in Philadelphia in 2012 and 2013, “I want to educate people. There’s so much suffering. I really don’t want to have 20 crews out pulling poison ivy.”

Poisonous in every season, poison ivy doesn’t die in winter. Bird-dropped seeds can germinate and wind up climbing a tree 15 feet away. In three years, that vine can be 25 feet up the trunk. In 40 years, just imagine.

If you’re lucky, you’re among the 15 percent of the population whose immune systems don’t register poison ivy as a threat. Mycka’s crew is among them, but he is not.

Yes, the boss occasionally gets the rash. But, as you might imagine, he is very, very careful.

So careful that when a now poison-ivy-free Gusoff approaches to shake his hand, Mycka backs off. “We’ll do a virtual handshake,” he says.

“God bless you,” his grateful client responds from two feet away.

vsmith@phillynews.com

215-854-5720215-854-5720

facebook.com/InqGardening

@inkygardener

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'A poison ivy crisis,' and he's the crisis manager

'A poison ivy crisis,' and he's the crisis manager

Plants are waking up and seedlings emerging. Runners are creeping across yards and woodlands, over fences and walls. Ropelike aerial roots are shooting up the sides of trees like archers to a target.

Got itch yet?

Poison ivy got its name in the 1600s from Capt. John Smith, the explorer, who noted its resemblance to English ivy. Connecticut is the nation’s poison ivy epicenter, Mycka says, “but the Pennsylvania-New Jersey-Delaware region is not far off.”

It’s spread by birds, which eat the seeds. Development and habitat destruction, and our own gardening habits, are factors, too, Mycka says. We build homes and attract birds that like to eat from feeders, explore our gardens, and perch on our decks, buildings, and fences.

Duke University researchers have also determined that rising carbon dioxide levels are causing poison ivy to grow faster and produce more potent urushiol, the pale, resin-like substance that causes the plant’s signature rash, swelling, and blistering.

“We have a poison ivy crisis now,” Mycka says. “People can’t identify it and remove it. They’re so disconnected from nature.”

That was not the case with Gusoff, a retired public schoolteacher who loves to garden and tried for two years, unsuccessfully, to get rid of her poison ivy.

Gusoff, who suffers from multiple sclerosis and other ailments and walks with a cane, became so overwhelmed by “the monster” quietly infiltrating her yard that she avoided the family’s aboveground pool for two summers.

And got zapped anyway.

In August, she broke out in a bodysuit-like rash after snuggling with Delilah Mercedes, her senior-citizen golden retriever now nicknamed “the culprit.”

“She enjoys exploring the backyard. It’s a jungle out there,” says Gusoff, who finally called Mycka.

One day in late April, he arrives with a crew of three. They’re wearing long sleeves, long pants, double gloves, and wrist-to-elbow Tyvek protectors, knee pads, and boots.

(We resist the temptation to chant: Leaves of three, let it be! Hairy rope, don’t be a dope!)

Using Japanese gardening knives and serrated grass sickles with hardened steel blades, the men follow the vines 15 feet down the trunk to the base of a 30-year-old white spruce, and out into the yard.

“It doesn’t matter if you start above or on the ground, as long as you get it all,” says Mycka, who estimates that Gusoff’s vine is nine years old, 19 feet long, and 25 pounds.

A mere mini.

In 2013, Mycka used crowbars to pry a 50-foot poison ivy vine off a hackberry tree along Kelly Drive in Fairmount Park. Counting rings, he determined that the female vine – yes, there are male and female plants – was 38 years old. Cut into five pieces, it tipped the scales at 506 pounds.

“This is an interesting job,” says Mycka, who collects poison ivy books and art in his Overbrook home.

He grew up in the city’s Somerton section, always wanted to be a gardener, and became fascinated by toxic plants when he was a Boy Scout.

He signed on at the zoo in 1974 and, after seven years of evening classes, earned a two-year associate’s degree in horticulture from Temple University Ambler.

You’d think “the poison ivy horticulturist” would be happy that it’s such a problem. Actually, says Mycka, who hosted a poison ivy conference in Philadelphia in 2012 and 2013, “I want to educate people. There’s so much suffering. I really don’t want to have 20 crews out pulling poison ivy.”

Poisonous in every season, poison ivy doesn’t die in winter. Bird-dropped seeds can germinate and wind up climbing a tree 15 feet away. In three years, that vine can be 25 feet up the trunk. In 40 years, just imagine.

If you’re lucky, you’re among the 15 percent of the population whose immune systems don’t register poison ivy as a threat. Mycka’s crew is among them, but he is not.

Yes, the boss occasionally gets the rash. But, as you might imagine, he is very, very careful.

So careful that when a now poison-ivy-free Gusoff approaches to shake his hand, Mycka backs off. “We’ll do a virtual handshake,” he says.

“God bless you,” his grateful client responds from two feet away.

vsmith@phillynews.com

215-854-5720215-854-5720

facebook.com/InqGardening

@inkygardener

www.inquirer.com/kisstheearth.

Learn more

More here: 

'A poison ivy crisis,' and he's the crisis manager

Summer's poisonous plants

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ST. PATRICK’S COUNTY PARK Don’t let nature’s beauty be spoiled by pesky plants. Poison Ivy can grow in both wooded and sunny conditions. In fact, it can grow just about anywhere except wetlands.

Not everyone has a reaction to Poison Ivy, but that can change over time. The oil within the plant is what causes the irritation.

“It depends how much exposure you have with the oil in the leaves,” said Evie Kirkwood, the Director of St. Joseph County Parks.

“Most people get a little bit of a rash, blisters, redness. And it’s really unpleasant especially as the temperatures get hotter and our reaction gets more irritated.”

Poison Ivy can grow on the ground or as a vine on a tree. When it’s in vine form, it’s identifiable because of the hairy stem, which grows thicker as it ages.

The plant can also be spotted by noticing the shape of the leaves. It grows with three leaflets that are somewhat jagged around the ages.

“Usually the left pointing and right pointing leaflets have little ‘thumbs’ pointing to the outside,” said Kirkwood.

“And the middle leaflet has almost like two ‘thumbs,’ like a mitten with two thumbs.”

The good news, there are home remedies that will treat most Poison Ivy outbreaks.

Dr. Rob Riley, of Memorial Family Medicine, says most people struggle with itching.

“A lot of times people will get reasonable relief with cool compresses with a little baking soda in it. Or they can take over the counter medications that contain antihistamines, things like Benadryl and its cousins will often times help reduce the itching.”

Poison Ivy is often confused with plants that don’t cause allergic reactions, like Virginia Creeper and Jack in the Pulpit. Both plants thrive in similar environments as Poison Ivy, so they often grow near each other.

Click here for more information about Poison Ivy, Poison Oak and Poison Sumac.

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Summer's poisonous plants

What's Going Around – Week of Apr. 9th

If you’re having throat issues this week, you’re not alone. Here’s what doctors in the Local 6 region are seeing this week.

Nurse Practitioner Lori Lipinski at Calvert City reports bronchitis, sinusitis, poison ivy, and sore throats.

Dr. William Conyer at Baptist Prime Care in Paducah reports cases of strep throat and viral gastroenteritis with diarrhea.

Nurse Practitioner Lance Williamson at Paducah’s Redicare reports viral upper respiratory infections, bronchitis, and seasonal allergies.

Dr. Daisy Benigno in Hickman, Kentucky reports viral gastroenteritis and upper respiratory infections.

Dr. William Robinson at Murray Medical Associates is seeing sinus infections, cough, congestion and sore throats due to allergies. He is also seeing a stomach virus causing vomiting and diarrhea.

Nurse Practitioner Michelle Elkins at Marshall Count Family Medical is seeing stomach viruses, seasonal allergies, and upper respiratory infections.

Dr. Kyaw Naing at SIU Family Practice in Carbondale reports cough, congestion, and sinus issues related to allergies.

Dr. Brian Harrison in Benton, Ilinois says sinus infections continue to be his most common problem.

View this article – 

What's Going Around – Week of Apr. 9th

Arguments led to neighbor's shooting death, deputies say

A deputy with the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office detains Randall J. Smith in relation to a shooting on Northwest 69th Drive in Gainesville on Monday.

Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun

Published: Tuesday, April 1, 2014 at 9:53 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, April 1, 2014 at 12:26 p.m.

Randall Smith was spraying herbicide on some poison ivy along the edge of the drive, a report said, when he heard his neighbor’s truck coming down the road Monday afternoon.

After living next to each other for 10 years, Smith, 54, of 5425 NW 69th Drive, and Michael Carreiro, 47, of 5725 NW 69th Drive, still argued about Smith’s efforts to maintain the easement along Northwest 69th Drive.

Carreiro had threatened him before, Smith would later tell investigators, but no physical violence had ever occurred, an Alachua County Sheriff’s Office report said.

Smith was walking back to his house around 4:34 p.m. when he heard the truck door open. He turned around to see Carreiro walking briskly toward him, so Smith put down his sprayer and put his hands up, the report said.

“What the (expletive) are you doing?” Carreiro yelled at him.

Smith said Carreiro then told him he was going to kill Smith and his family. Deputies said Smith put his hands behind his back and took his gun from its holster.

Carreiro’s last words were a taunt. Smith “wouldn’t use the gun,” Smith recalled Carreiro saying.

Smith fired rapidly from around 20 feet away. One, two, three, four … 12 shots, until Carreiro was still, facedown on the ground with his arms tucked underneath him, the report said.

Smith walked closer to Carreiro and paused for a moment. Then, he fired two more shots into Carreiro’s back, the report said.

Smith called 911 and said he had just shot someone. When deputies arrived, he was still on the phone with a dispatcher and followed instructions to put down his firearm.

Carreiro was lying on Northwest 69th Drive near 14 shell casings. Emergency responders tried to save Carreiro, but he died 17 minutes after the shooting at 4:51 p.m., the report said.

Smith was booked into the Alachua County jail at 12:23 a.m. Tuesday on homicide charges and remains there in lieu of $1 million bond.

In August, Smith filed for an injunction for protection against Carreiro, but it was denied the same day, Alachua County court records show. Carriero was previously arrested and found guilty in 2010 of aggravated stalking, four counts of criminal mischief and one count of fraud, court records show.

Smith also had a concealed carry permit for his weapon, the report noted.

Cars lined Carreiro’s property Tuesday afternoon. A man on the property who identified himself as Carreiro’s uncle would say only that the family was grieving and confused about the situation.

Karen Adamson, who recently moved into the neighborhood, said she had no idea her neighbors were arguing over property lines.

“I’m the newbie in the neighborhood, so the whole thing came as a shock,” she said. “Randy had just welcomed us into the neighborhood, but we still hadn’t met (Carreiro).”

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Arguments led to neighbor's shooting death, deputies say

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