by justin strawser

COAL TOWNSHIP - A Mount Carmel woman is listed in serious condition at Geisinger Medical Center following an assault in Atlas, and the manhunt in Weiser State Forest Roaring Creek Tract for her attacker proved unsuccessful Wednesday evening.

Mount Carmel Township Police Chief Brian Hollenbush said a warrant would be issued late Wednesday night for the arrest of Arthur Mickel, 46, of 317 E. Columbia Ave., Atlas, whose whereabouts were unknown at press time.

Mickel, according to Hollenbush, had allegedly assaulted Mary Irving, of Mount Carmel, at Choice Cigarette Discount Outlet in the township at approximately 5:15 p.m. He reportedly grabbed her, lifted her off her feet and threw her to the ground, where she struck her head.

Police identified Mickel when they found his name on prescription medication in the vehicle. Although the address listed on the bottle was 11 Brookside Drive, Catawissa, Hollenbush said the man is residing in Atlas.

Mickel is charged with aggravated assault, simple assault, reckless endangering another person, resisting arrest, flight to avoid apprehension and various summary offenses, said Hollenbush.

Bench warrant

Following the assault, Mickel reportedly drove away from the scene. Shortly after that, said police, Northumberland County Director of Public Safety Paul Froutz observed Mickel driving a Red Mercury Sable on Route 54 toward Bear Gap near the state forest entrance at a high rate of speed. Froutz said Mickel lost control on the car, smashed into the state forest sign and came to rest in the brush.

At that point, Mickel exited the car and fled on foot into the 9,000 square foot forest in a southeast direction.

When police arrived, Mickel's passengers - John Gilber, of Atlas, and an unidentified female - were taken into custody.

Gilber, who is believed to be romantically involved with the victim and has a history of domestic issues with her, was incarcerated at Northumberland County Prison on a bench warrant for unrelated offenses.

Charges had not yet been determined for the female Wednesday night.

Still at large

Mickel was described by police as wearing a sleeveless undershirt of white or black color and blue jeans. He is five feet, six inches in height. Police said he had a previous back injury as well.

Locust Township Police Department checked the residence of Mickel's brother, who said he had not heard from him. Police were overheard saying the brother left the residence shortly after, but further questioning of the brother's wife revealed no additional information.

At least 20 officers from Mount Carmel Township, Ralpho Township, Mount Carmel Borough, Kulpmont and Coal Township were dispatched to the area and to search for Mickel.

A search helicopter from the state police and an all-terrain vehicle from Mount Carmel Borough Police were used in the manhunt.

In addition to the local police departments and county Department of Public Safety, other responding units included Locust Township Police Department, Northumberland County Sheriffs Department K-9 Unit, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Bureau of Forestry, State Parole, County Probation, State Police Helicopter, two AREA Services units and Americus Hose Special Response Unit.

Command was set up at the entrance to the state forest, which is Coal Township, and officers were searching through the forest, which includes land in Mount Carmel Township.

The search was called off at 9:15 p.m.

Anyone with information is urged to contact Mount Carmel Township Police at 339-1653.