DA drops charges in McKeesport man's murder trial for lack of evidence, witnesses
A lack of evidence and witnesses prompted the Allegheny County District Attorney's office on Monday to determine it could not prosecute the McKeesport man accused of shooting a city teen last year on Good Friday.
As a result, Deamonte Shakoor, 21, won't stand trial for the shooting death of McKeesport Area High School student Kellcy Thomas, 18, on March 29, 2013.
Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas Judge Anthony M. Mariani, who granted the prosecution's request to drop the homicide charge, said Shakoor could be released from jail as he was subject to no other criminal charges.
Shakoor surrendered to authorities last April after a warrant was issued for his arrest. He has been held without bail in the Allegheny County Jail ever since.
The case was scheduled to be heard by a jury on Monday but was dropped after a witness who was scheduled to testify against him told prosecutors he wanted to withdraw earlier comments he'd made about the case.
“This case isn't going to get any better,” assistant district attorney Steven Stadtmiller told the judge. “It's only going to get worse.”
The trial had been continued several times because of problems with witnesses. At one point, prosecutors hoped to call two witnesses to testify against Shakoor.
One of the witnesses indicated earlier on that he would not testify. The second witness went to the courthouse Monday and told prosecutors he wanted to recant his earlier testimony.
With no witnesses and no physical evidence, Stadtmiller said his office could not present its case.
The judge told Shakoor the outcome of the case was not a determination of his guilt or innocence and said prosecutors had a 10-day window to re-file charges against the suspect.
Outside the courtroom, Shakoor's attorney Lee Rothman said he saw the case as “a reflection of police frustration with solving violent crime in the McKeesport area.”
“This prosecution was based on a person saying another person said (Shakoor) did something,” the defense attorney explained.
Rothman said prosecutors never suggested a motive or presented evidence linking Shakoor to the victim.
Few details of the incident were ever publicized. On the day of the shooting, Thomas was found lying in the 1400 block of Evans Street at about 3:35 p.m. The teen, who was shot in the upper chest, was taken to UPMC McKeesport where he died.
Members of Shakoor's family were pleased with the outcome of the case.
“God is good,” said his mother, Tanya Huggins, who also praised the work of her son's attorney.
Falcon Huggins, who is Shakoor's sister, said, “They held an innocent man in prison for a year.”
Rothman said Shakoor may go to North Carolina to start a new life now that the case is behind him. The attorney said Shakoor had gone to the state prior to his arrest last year with the hope of getting a job in the hotel industry.
Eric Slagle is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1966, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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