SCRANTON — A former Old Forge firefighter, arrested as part of the borough’s child sex abuse scandal last year, took the stand Thursday to testify against his former friend and fire captain Old Forge Police Chief Larry Semenza.
We heard from Walter Chiavacci, that former firefighter who has pleaded guilty to sexually abusing the same teenage girl in 2005. We also heard testimony from citizens of Old Forge who have known Chief Larry Semenza most of their lives, along with a friend of the now 24-year-old alleged victim. All of them said they suspected the chief was having an inappropriate relationship with the girl.
The second witness prosecutors called was Lackawanna County detective Chris Kolcharno, the lead investigator in the case. He testified that police found receipts inside the Old Forge police department that matched gifts the alleged victim said she received from Chief Semenza. But other than that, they didn’t have much else to corroborate her story.
So, prosecutors asked old friends of Semenza and the young woman about their perception of the relationship the two had almost eight years ago.
A woman who said she is the alleged victim’s best friend recalled spending time with her at the Old Forge borough building when they were 15. She said Semenza would come over from the police department in the same building often, and she saw him kiss her best friend. She said it was common knowledge that Semenza and the girl were seeing each other.
She testified, “it was not said, but it was out there. It was very easy to read. It wasn’t normal.”
Former Old Forge firefighter Walter Chiavacci testified he felt the same way in 2005 when he would often see Semenza with the girl at the borough building. He said he saw the chief jimmy the lock on the bathroom door in the firehouse and walk in while the alleged victim was in there showering. But Chiavacci said he never confronted the chief about what he saw because he said he was afraid. The chief was manipulative and powerful and Chiavacci feared he would be kicked out of the fire department.
Walter Chiavacci was also arrested and charged with molesting the same teenage girl in 2005. He has since pleaded guilty to a count of indecent assault and, as part of a plea deal, agreed to testify. Chiavacci has not been sentenced yet, but he could face jail time.
The third Old Forge borough official arrested in the scandal is former police Captain Jamie Krenitsky. He is also expected to testify against the chief.