Assistant DA opens new office in Hughesville
HUGHESVILLE- It was by no means an afterthought for attorney, Mary C. Kilgus to open a law office for private practice in Hughesville, but instead a well planned endeavor to become the area’s first female attorney to work in the East Lycoming area.
“My specialty is litigation and I want to help people,” said Kilgus who located her office on 17 S. Main Street in Hughesville.
Working currently in Lycoming County’s district attorney’s office, Kilgus hopes to branch out into general practice to include both civil, property and family law. “I have great empathy for people in my current job as assistant DA. Coming to Hughesville I feel I am using my law degree. This is where I live and I find there is a need for another lawyer.” She would like to work with gas leasing issues as well. She sees a lot of growth in this end of the county since moving here with her husband, Jerry Kilgus who is a native of Picture Rocks. “I see a lot of young families moving in,” she said.
Kilgus grew up in Minnesota but also moved around a lot. As she was growing up, her father was in the Navy and she explained that she moved 11 times from coast to coast before meeting Jerry who graduated from Hughesville High School in 1978. “There was a time when we even lived with his parents, Chris and Oscar Kilgus before I decided to attend law school,” said Kilgus.
They met while Jerry was in the Navy. Mary attended high school in southern California and moved to Picture Rocks with Jerry in 1986. She wanted to start a family first before starting law school. They have 3 daughters and her youngest was in third grade when Mary decided to go back to school.
Taking on the challenge of being one of few female attorneys (less than 20 percent of lawyers are female), Mary Kilgus knew she was well qualified. Personality tests and her business law professor all indicated she should try directing her talents to law. “I was 41 when I got my law degree.” Taking two classes at a time, she received her undergraduate degree in 2000 with a double major in English and German literature at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota before settling permanently in Hughesville in 2004.
Starting out in the DA’s office in Minnesota, she was able to find employment here first as an associate with Casale and Bonner in Williamsport, then with Mike Dinges’s office as assistant DA where she is currently handling sexual assault cases full time. One of her most recent cases is the Gregory and Amber Barto case as prosecutor. “I have 800 cases right now that are active from shootings to thefts and fires,” said Kilgus. She also handled the Nicole Rupert embezzlement case for Keystone Fire Company in Muncy as prosecutor.
Kilgus will be traveling back and forth everyday from Williamsport for awhile until she is able to finish her case load and be more available in the tri-town area. For now she is planning on being available nights and weekends at her new location.
“I enjoy being here,” she said, ” and knowing my neighbors. People are friendly here and family oriented. I don’t have to worry about long lines or waves of traffic as I experienced in Minnesota and California,” she added. “I would like to help people here before there’s a problem.”
Kilgus has also been busy trying to change some loopholes in Megan’s Law, Pennsylvania’s sex offender law. As it stands, the law allows sex offenders to register in Pennsylvania within 48 hours, allowing them to move here from other states. If a sex offender is homeless or has no known address, they can easily come here and live and not have a previous residence to register with the state or local police. For example, Kilgus went on to explain that this loophole is letting some very dangerous criminals get off the hook. Just last fall, someone who was working at the fairgrounds was arrested for public drunkenness and when they did a background check, they found out he was a convicted sex offender from Ohio. But because he was a transient with the fair, he was able to be here since he had no permanent address for 30 days or more, as required by Megan’s Law. The court has decided there is nothing in the law that requires a homeless person to register according to Kilgus. His case was dismissed.
As it stands the law does not apply to short term residents who have had a residence for less than 30 days. “Most states have addressed this loophole, except for Pennsylvania. It is happening right here in our back yard. Right here in Hughesville. Most offenders keep on the move and they are essentially outrunning the law,” said Kilgus.
She has met with Senator Eugene Yaw and Representative Garth Everett to see about initiating her proposal to have the law amended and changed and asks the public to help her support her proposed amendment. Often these cases get bogged down in the judiciary system, but seeking public petitions to lawmakers will help convince lawmakers to act quickly to resolve this loophole.
“I like Hughesville’s Main Street. I see a lot of street traffic and people walking by. I have good visibility here,” she concluded. Her husband, Jerry, is a building inspector for McTish and Kunkle in Montoursville and their oldest daughter, Schawnne is 25 and in her first year of law school at William Mitchell in St. Paul Minnesota. Daughters Catie and Brenna are attending Hughesville High School and both daughters recently celebrated a birthday on Sept. 7.
Prospective clients from the area may call Mary C. Kilgus at 570-312-0119 to set up an appointment.