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Lower Burrell woman who helped police officer's killer hide gets probation

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Eric Felack | Valley News Dispatch
Amanda Walters of Lower Burrell enters the courtroom of District Judge Cheryl Peck-Yakopec in Allegheny Township on Thursday, May 10, 2012, for her hearing on charges of allegedly helping to hide fugitive Charlie Post, who later gunned down Lower Burrell Police Officer Derek Kotecki in October 2011.

What's next?

Months after Kotecki and Post died, charges were filed against Chad Post, Nicole and Amanda Walters and four others who either allegedly helped Post elude a police search before the killing or who had something to do with the pistol.

Meryl Edwin “Mickey” Smith, 35, of Arnold and his uncle, Robert George Zentner of Lower Burrell, were sentenced to jail terms for improperly obtaining the gun and for not registering it.

Smith won the gun at a gun bash but didn't have identification with him, so he had his uncle sign for it, police said.

The gun eventually was obtained by Nevin Alan Lawson, 43, of Allegheny Township.

He is awaiting trial for allegedly making a false statement to police about the pistol and a second illegal transfer of the pistol.

Chad Post, 37, of Lower Burrell is awaiting an August trial for allegedly hindering the apprehension of his brother and criminal conspiracy.

On June 2, Ameris, 54, of Lower Burrell pleaded guilty to illegally possessing a .22-caliber rifle and drugs in his residence in 2010. Ameris is a convicted felon who for years has been banned from owning or having firearms.

He also pleaded no contest to nine drug or gun charges in three additional cases — including once possessing the .40-caliber Smith and Wesson semi-automatic handgun that Post used to kill Kotecki.

His sentencing is scheduled for next month.

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Monday, June 16, 2014, 1:12 p.m.
 

A Lower Burrell woman was sentenced Monday to two years' probation for helping fugitive Charlie Post elude capture in the days before he killed Lower Burrell Patrolman Derek Kotecki in 2011.

Westmoreland County President Judge Richard E. McCormick Jr. handed down the sentence to Amanda Christyn Walters, 25, of Cleveland Drive.

“You appear to me to have reflected on all of what has happened,” McCormick said to Walters. “Letters from family and friends said you have a good heart and an inclination to help people, particularly the elderly members of your family. Hopefully, you will not make such a bad judgment ever again.

“Try to make some success for yourself.”

McCormick instructed Walters to enroll in a high school diploma equivalency program and not to have contact with the Kotecki family.

Assistant District Attorney Leo J. Ciaramitaro had asked McCormick for a six-month jail sentence for Walters.

“The Commonwealth is not blaming her for the actual death. However, her actions contributed to Post being able to hide,” he said.

“If Miss Walters would have used a cell phone and called police, obviously Officer Kotecki may still be alive today.”

From the bench, McCormick said Amanda Walters' probation is in the standard range of sentencing.

The six-month jail sentence that Ciaramitaro had sought is within the range of sentencing involving aggravating circumstances that could apply at the judge's discretion because of Kotecki's death.

Kotecki's father, Richard, of Lower Burrell and Lower Burrell police Chief Tim Weitzel attended the sentencing.

“Lower Burrell police and the Kotecki family are extremely disappointed with Judge McCormick's sentences for both Nicole and Amanda Walters,” Weitzel said.

Amanda Walters apologizes

When addressing the court Monday, a crying Walters apologized to Kotecki's family and Lower Burrell police.

In a soft and at times wavering voice, Walters said she was “very sorry” and “remorseful.”

Walters said she and her aunt, Nicole Walters, wouldn't have been involved if they knew helping Post would end in Kotecki's death.

Last week, McCormick sentenced Nicole M. Walters, 39, of Lower Burrell, to two years of probation with six months of house arrest.

Prior to Walters' sentencing, defense attorney Ryan Matthew Tutera told the court that her father died when she was a year old and she later was abused until she went to live with her grandparents.Records show she attended school as far as 11th grade.

As is standard procedure, Walters was ordered to submit to random drug-and-alcohol testing during probation and pay court costs. She must pay for mental health and drug and alcohol evaluations and counseling, if the evaluation shows the need.

The Kotecki killing

On Oct. 2, 2011, Charlie Post, 33, fired a number of gunshots at a man in the Clarion Hotel parking lot in New Kensington.

Prosecutors said he was on the run when his brother, Chad, helped him to escape. Later he got help to hide.

Ten days later, prosecutors said, James A. “Lutzo” Ameris III tipped police that he would be driving Charlie Post to the Lower Burrell Dairy Queen in a white Jeep at about 7 p.m. Ameris went into the restaurant while Post stayed in the Jeep.

As Kotecki, armed with a rifle, approached the Jeep, Post fired a .40-caliber pistol repeatedly through a closed back window, county detectives said.

Kotecki was hit twice and died.

Post then got out of the SUV and ran to the rear of the parking lot. Trapped by a chain-link fence, he squatted near a Dumpster, turned his pistol to his head and fired one shot, Westmoreland County Coroner Kenneth A. Bacha said in a report.

Bacha said that autopsy indicated that Post “didn't die instantaneously.”

Police car-dashboard camera footage shows that within the next 30 seconds or so after Post shot himself, Post was still alive and clutching the pistol and ignoring orders to put the gun down when a New Kensington police officer shot him twice.

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