Sandusky jurors' neighbors in Centre County don't appear to support him and want justice served

Emily Kaplan
Special to Yahoo! Sports

BELLEFONTE, Pa. – Taped to the window of an antique shop in downtown Bellefonte is large yellow posterboard that reads, "Signed Joe Paterno Items."

When owner Mitch Bradley, a 1987 Penn State graduate, walks around his shop – located in a Victorian house one block from the courthouse where Jerry Sandusky will be tried – he is sure to point out two pet goldfish in a tank by the cash register.

One is named JoePa. The other is Terno.

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Bradley will be following Sandusky's trial on child-molestation charges closely. A jury of his Centre County neighbors was selected in two days this week and testimony begins Monday. Sandusky, a Penn State assistant football coach for 30 years, is accused with 52 counts of molesting 10 boys over a 15-year period.

[Related: Sandusky juror profiles: Most have ties to Penn State]

The allegations rattled the entire county and university community and led to the firing of Paterno last November (he died of cancer three months later).

But Mitchell, a longtime Nittany Lions fan, is glad he's watching from outside the courtroom.

"Because of my Penn State connections, I have so many preconceived notions about the case and I know Sandusky is guilty," Bradley said. "There's no way I could be on that jury."

Most of the nearly two dozen Centre County residents interviewed for this story expressed similar sentiments. The 12 jurors and four alternates are their neighbors and friends. And of the 16 county residents selected to serve, 10 have Penn State ties. One is a Penn State student, another is a professor of 24 years.

If the mood of the townsfolk is any indication of how the jury will lean, Sandusky will be found guilty.

"All the evidence says he's guilty and I think everyone around here knows it," said 90-year-old Midge Biggins of nearby Clarence.

Biggins and two friends ate lunch at Dairy Queen, where they could see the courthouse from their window booth. They buzzed about jury selection and expressed one common fear.

"I think we're all scared Sandusky is going to get off somehow," Irene McClosky, 88, said. "Everyone's scared there's going to be some technicality."

For Cool Beans, the local coffee house where oatmeal squares are baked on premises daily and regulars have personal mugs stored behind the counter, it was business as usual.

Owner Wendy Fultz was worried the jury selection up the street would deter regular customers from stopping by.

"But even with all the commotion, everyone came," Fultz said. "At the same time, you can definitely hear a buzz of everyone talking about the case and about Sandusky."

Fultz doesn't disclose her opinions on the 68-year-old alleged pedophile, because as she explains, "that's not good business."

"But I hear what other people are saying," she said. "And it seems the overwhelming majority of people think he's guilty and hope this all gets sorted out quickly."

This is the biggest case in the history of the county, which has 154,000 residents.

Travis Quick, a 25-year-old who has an apartment up the road from the courthouse, snapped pictures on his smartphone of the media contingent camped out on his block.

"I wanted to show my mom this circus," Quick said. "She's been watching my tiny little street on the news every day."

Said McClosky: "It's usually State College in the news. It's never Bellefonte."

The road from State College to Bellefonte winds 15 miles through central Pennsylvania mountains and cow pastures. Historic downtown Bellefonte features Victorian-style houses and countless trinket shops.

"We're a small town and now we have a big case right here," said Bill Dress, who lives across the street from the courthouse and sat in a white folding chair on his porch during the two days of jury selection. "We're all interested in it but I think we all mostly want to see justice served."

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