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Homestead funeral home owner accused of homicide

| Saturday, July 27, 2013, 1:46 a.m.

An argument turned deadly in Homestead on Friday when the owner of a funeral home, by his own admission, shot a longtime acquaintance in the back of the head during a dispute about a vacant house.

William R. Welsh, 89, of Homestead is charged with killing William Menni, 58, of McKees Rocks.

Menni reportedly worked for Welsh as an embalmer in the funeral home bearing the suspect's name.

The two men were arguing near the funeral home, located along the 300 block of E. Tenth Avenue, about the demolition of a nearby vacant home, according to Allegheny County police, when Welsh allegedly pulled a pistol from his pocket and shot Menni.

According to the criminal complaint, Welsh said he and his son had an ongoing dispute with Menni about the vacant home being demolished adjacent to the funeral home parking lot.

The complaint indicated Welsh told his granddaughter, “I shot (Menni),” when she asked him what happened while he was in the company of police officers.

Homestead Mayor Betty Esper said the owner of the building lives in California and Welsh maintained it.

“He's been a lifetime resident of this town,” Esper said of Welsh. “Just the nicest guy. Mr. Welsh, I've known him since he was younger. He would go around and cut everybody's grass ... A member of the VFW. He donated money toward our (borough) building for the elevator. It's a shock. I don't know what else to say ... Why do we have guns in our homes? If he didn't have a gun, it wouldn't have happened ... This is like a horror story. You had a dream and you wake up and say, ‘It didn't happen.'”

Esper confirmed the victim worked for Welsh as an embalmer.

“(Menni) was what we know in the business as a trade embalmer. A variety of funeral directors would call upon him when they needed his services,” said Sue Striffler Galaski of Striffler Family Funeral Homes in the McKeesport area. “He was a nice man; always very helpful.”

Homestead police Chief Jeff DeSimone described the suspect as a well-known borough resident. The chief said Welsh fired twice and hit Menni at the base of the skull.

When Homestead police initially responded to the call at about 12:40 p.m., the chief said they found Welsh looking outside through a funeral home door.

Police encountered two witnesses who said they saw Welsh shoot Menni, according to the criminal complaint. When officers approached Welsh and asked him where the gun was, police said he told him, “I put it away in the house and I'll take you to it.”

Police located a Kel Tec .380-caliber handgun behind a planter in the funeral home. Two shell casings matching the caliber of the pistol were recovered from the scene.

Menni was taken to UPMC Mercy, where he died at 2:30 p.m., a spokesman for the Allegheny County Medical Examiner's Office said.

When he was arrested, Welsh told police that he was in the funeral home parking lot adjacent to the vacant home when Menni approached and verbally assaulted and pushed him. Welsh told police that he snapped, pulled the gun from his pocket and shot.

Welsh is being held without bail in Allegheny County Jail. He is charged with one count of criminal homicide.

Staff writer Michael Hasch contributed to this report. Michael DiVittorio is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1965, or mdivittorio@tribweb.com. Eric Slagle is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1966, or eslagle@tribweb.com.

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