Springdale man to stand trial in shooting outside Clarion Hotel in New Kensington

Chuck Biedka
| Friday, June 20, 2014, 12:51 a.m.

A Springdale man was ordered Thursday to stand trial for allegedly shooting another man during a robbery attempt in the rear parking lot of the Clarion Hotel in New Kensington.

Charles J. Stitt, 21, is charged with attempted homicide, robbery, and two counts of aggravated assault.

He is in the Westmoreland County jail awaiting trial.At a preliminary hearing on Thursday in New Kensington, the victim in the shooting, Jusu Kanneh Jr., 26, previously of Vandergrift, testified he “tried to kill” Stitt after Stitt shot him April 8.

“I thought I was dying,” testified Kanneh, who was born in Liberia and lived in Atlanta and Silver Spring, Md. before moving to the Alle-Kiski Valley. Kanneh said he finished work in Cheswick at about 1 a.m. April 8 when a friend, Arnold Tiodi, telephoned him to say he was on his way from Silver Spring to give him money to get an apartment.

Tiodi went to the Clarion Hotel but couldn't get a room there because he only had cash and the hotel requires a credit card to book a room. Instead, the men drove their cars to the rear parking lot at about 3:30 a.m.

“We decided to sleep in our cars because we'd have to leave at 7 a.m. anyway, and we didn't want to spend that much for a couple of hours,” Kanneh testified.

Sometime after 5 a.m., Kanneh said, he saw Stitt arrive. He said Stitt got out of his car and walked toward Kanneh's car. Kanneh said he got out of his car and confronted Stitt.

“I said, ‘What are you doing?' He replied, ‘I want to see what's going on around here.' And I told him to get out of here!”

Kanneh said Stitt asked him if he had any money or marijuana.

“I said no, I don't have money. I was sleeping in my car,” Kanneh testified.

Stitt next said he had marijuana and asked Kanneh if he wanted some. When Kanneh followed Stitt toward his car, Kanneh testified, Stitt produced a revolver and demanded Kanneh give him money.

“He held the gun at my stomach with one hand and padded me down with the other,” he said.

“I yelled for my friend (Tiodi) and that's when the gun went off,” Kanneh testified.He was hit once in his lower abdomen and, later, in his leg.“I said to myself, ‘This dude is killing me and I didn't do anything,' and, with all of my power, I ran after him. He ran to his car and was inside but he didn't close his door and turn the car on. He turned it on first and I got my good leg inside the door before he could close the door,” Kanneh testified.

“I reached inside and tried to strangle Stitt with one arm and hand. I had my other hand on his hand that held the gun. The gun fired and hit my left elbow but I held on.

“We struggled. I got my finger on his finger on the trigger and I forced the gun up toward him and pulled the trigger. Nothing came out. I said, ‘Some luck.' It was empty,” Kanneh testified.

He said Stitt was able to put the car into gear, throwing Kanneh when the car careened back into another car.

Kanneh said his friend, Tiodi, drove him to Allegheny Valley Hospital.

Kanneh was flown to Allegheny General Hospital where he spent more than a week.

New Kensington and Westmoreland County detectives said Stitt left the handgun and a Pirates'ball cap when he ran away from the scene.

Stitt was identified by police as a “person of interest” on April 28. He surrendered to police May 30.

During the hearing, public defender Chris Haidze asked Kanneh to go over his account in detail and the sequence appeared to change somewhat the second and third time around.

District Judge Frank J. Pallone Jr. held all charges to court against Stitt and ordered him returned to the county jail in lieu of $100,000 bond.

According to court records, Stitt and Kanneh have faced charges before.

Last July, Stitt was charged with five drug offenses, driving while his license was suspended and related offenses in Tarentum. In November, he received “probation without verdict” and was placed on probation for six months.He previously was placed on probation in Westmoreland County in 2012 for two drug offenses.

Kanneh pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct-fighting in Vandergrift in 2013. He was fined $150 and ordered to pay restitution.

Chuck Biedka is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4711 or cbiedka@tribweb.com.

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