A two-part investigative report into the unsolved murder of a South Tamaqua woman has earned the TIMES NEWS statewide recognition in the Commonwealth's two largest journalism forums.

The project, "Murder at River Run Inn," by Donald R. Serfass, garnered first place awards by both the Pennsylvania Associated Press Managing Editors and the Pennsylvania News Media Association.

The awards lead a series of seven state honors won by this newspaper, announced Thursday by the AP, Philadelphia, and March 21 by the PNA, Harrisburg.

"Murder at River Run Inn" delved into questions surrounding the homicide of a widow bludgeoned in broad daylight in 1961. The death of kind-hearted innkeeper Mary Trudich was one of the most brutal homicides in the local area, a case investigated by the Pennsylvania State Police.

Serfass used the 50th anniversary of the crime, still an open case, to shed new light on the mystery through interviews conducted with those remaining figures linked to the murder.

The project was awarded first place in AP News Excellence for investigative reporting. Serfass swept the category by winning the top two awards. He also won with "Little Boy Lost," the account of a Tamaqua toddler who disappeared and was never seen again.

The AP also awarded the TIMES NEWS first place in public service by a newspaper, for "Police - Cold Cases." The series of stories by Serfass put the spotlight on several unsolved homicides in Carbon and Schuylkill counties.

The winning entries among newspapers of 15,000 circulation were critiqued and judged by editors from AP member newspapers in New York.

Serfass, of Tamaqua, serves as managing editor, features and human-interest, and has been with this newspaper for 15 years. He will receive the AP awards May 17 at the AP Awards Banquet at the Harrisburg Hilton.

The TIMES NEWS also collected four Keystone Press awards from the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association.

There, too, Serfass won first place in investigative reporting for "Murder at River Run Inn."

Second place was awarded to a team of writers from the Legal Intelligencer, Philadelphia, for a political investigation.

The TIMES NEWS also grabbed top honors in feature writing.

In the category of feature beat reporting, Serfass swept the two top awards. He won first place for "Solved and Unsolved Homicides," which included "The Death of Officer Morgans" of the Lansford police department, and "The Immortal Peddler," Schuylkill County's first documented murder, along with stories of other high-profile crimes and cold cases.

Judges also awarded Serfass second place for coverage of a wide range of arts in Carbon and Schuylkill counties. The work was led by "A Man and His Horse," the story of Palmerton woodcarver hobbyist David M. Dailey, Jr., an employee of Pencor Services, Inc. Also included was "The Hardcoal Chronicles," the story of Tamaqua native Scott Herring and his lifetime devotion to capturing on film the vanishing coal and railroad industry.

TIMES NEWS reporter Amy Miller, of Nesquehoning, grabbed a second place Keystone in feature writing for "Hero Dog." Miller's touching story examined the life of "Gabe," a stray canine found in Houston, Texas. The dog was adopted and later completed military service in Iraq at the direction of handler Sgt. First Class Charles "Chuck" Shuck, a Lansford native. Miller's moving story helped to focus attention on the role of the United States War Dogs Association.

Judges from Illinois singled out the winning stories among newspapers with circulation of 20,000 and under.

The overall competition drew 4,400 entries from 138 newspapers statewide.

Another local native also captured a Keystone. Former TIMES NEWS staffer Mike Urban teamed with two co-workers at the Reading Eagle to win a first place Keystone in enterprise reporting. Urban is the son of TIMES NEWS Editor Bob Urban.

The Keystone awards will be presented at the Keystone Press Awards Banquet on May 18, part of the two-day Pennsylvania Press Conference at the Hilton Harrisburg.

The Keystone Press Awards reinforce excellence by writers and photographers, recognizing journalism that consistently provides relevance, integrity and initiative in serving readers, and faithfully fulfills First Amendment values. The Keystones are sponsored by the Pennsylvania Society of Newspaper Editors.