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New Ken woman charged in relation to Officer Brian Shaw shooting to remain in jail until trial

Rich Cholodofsky
| Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2018, 1:06 p.m.
Taylor Mitchell
Westmoreland County Prison
Taylor Mitchell

A New Kensington woman will remain in jail as she awaits trial for helping the accused killer of police Officer Brian Shaw evade capture in November.

Westmoreland County Common Pleas Court Judge Rita Hathaway on Tuesday rejected a request from Taylor Mitchell, 18, to have her $50,000 bond reduced.

“I believe the bond is appropriate in a case like this,” Hathaway said.

Mitchell is one of a handful of alleged accomplices charged with helping Rahmael Holt avoid authorities after Shaw, a 25-year-old police officer in New Kensington, was gunned down Nov. 17 on a city street during a traffic stop.

Prosecutors contend Holt, 29, of Harrison fled to a nearby home on Victoria Avenue to use a cellphone after the shooting. Mitchell and her mother were in the home at the time, police say.

After a four-day manhunt, police arrested Holt at a home in the Hazelwood neighborhood of Pittsburgh and charged him with first-degree murder and other offenses.

During the hours after Shaw was killed, Mitchell told police she never saw Holt that night, said Assistant District Attorney Jim Lazar, and in doing so extended a manhunt that lasted several more days before Holt was captured.

“It was the equivalent of sending police on a wild goose chase,” Lazar said.

Westmoreland County Detective Ray Dupilka testified that witnesses contend Mitchell was in the home when Holt arrived minutes after the shooting. Dupilka said Holt used a cellphone that belonged to Mitchell's mother, Lakita Caine, 40, before he was driven to another location.

Mitchell and Caine were charged with one count of hindering apprehension. Mitchell has been in jail since her arrest and has been unable to post a $50,000 straight cash bond set last month by District Judge Frank Pallone.

Defense attorney Michael DeMatt argued that Mitchell has no criminal record, is not a risk to flee and is not a danger to the public.

DeMatt said Mitchell faces only a three-month jail sentence if she is convicted.

“Her involvement was minimal,” he said.

Lazar said he believes Mitchell could face a potentially longer jail sentence if convicted and on Tuesday said he would file an additional charge against her for sending a text message to another alleged accomplice with instructions on how to speak to police during questioning about Holt's whereabouts.

Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-830-6293 or rcholodofsky@tribweb.com.

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