Monessen police continue search for suspect in attempted homicide
Law enforcement is intensifying the search for Antoine “Tweezy” Hairston of Monessen — the lone suspect remaining at-large on attempted homicide and other charges.
Brothers Terrance Stepoli, 20, and Josh Stepoli, 18, both of 2060 Grand Blvd., Monessen, surrendered to police at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday on the same charges in connection with a Monday afternoon shooting incident that may have been related to a murder the city earlier in the day.
Wednesday afternoon, Monessen police received an anonymous phone call saying Hairston would surrender, according to Westmoreland County Detective Tom Horan, but Hairston never showed.
“We're working with other agencies, the NCIC (National Crime Information Center) and the Allegheny County Task Force … I can't tell you how many agencies we've called and how well we're working together,” Horan said. “We're looking for cooperation from the community as well.”
The Stepolis were both arraigned at 6:45 p.m. in front of Magisterial District Judge Joseph Dalfonso and taken to Westmoreland County Prison when they were unable to post $100,000 straight cash bond. Their preliminary hearing is tentatively scheduled for Dec. 14.
On Tuesday morning, police and personnel from the Westmoreland County Sheriff's office arrested Ethan “Earl” Pinkney, 18, of 617 Chestnut St., Monessen, in connection with the Monday afternoon shooting. He remains jailed on $100,000 bond.
The fifth suspect, Samone Stepoli, 21, also of 2060 Grand Boulevard, surrendered Tuesday. She posted bond early Wednesday.
Hairston, Pinkney and the Stepoli siblings were wanted in connection with a shooting late Monday afternoon in the Highland Manor housing project.
Police allege the five attacked Jaisen Irwin around 4 p.m. Monday, according to court documents, after Terrance Stepoli stepped out of a car driven by Samone and tried slapping Irwin. Irwin told police three people then chased him down a concrete stairway and into an apartment, while firing at least two shots at him.
Irwin said he saw the laser light from a gun scope on the stairway. Not long after, police found a semi-automatic .45 caliber handgun with a laser sight approximately 300 feet south of the steps.
On Wednesday afternoon, Jim Stepoli admitted his older son approached Irwin and slapped him because he allegedly was spreading a rumor that Terrance Stepoli had something to do with the murder of Chris “Snax” Fincik.
Fincik, 36, was shot and killed at 12:25 a.m. Monday at his 902 Maple Ave. residence. No charges have been filed in that case.
Jim Stepoli said his sons are being fingered for the Monday afternoon incident because they are tall and witnesses described at least one suspect as tall.
“I understand what they're doing,” he said with reference to police investigators. “They're trying to squeeze people for information on that murder. It's a serious crime. My heart goes out to the family.”
Westmoreland County District Attorney John Peck said there is an active investigation regarding both incidents, but would not say if the two could be tied together.
“It's the fact that one crime occurred so soon after the other,” Peck said. “When detectives see that, the first suspicion is that the crimes are related.”
Items seized from Pinkney's residence Monday afternoon included a .22 caliber rifle, a 20-gauge shotgun, live rounds and boxes of ammunition, a gun case, a shopping bag of marijuana residue and four cell phones.
A BB gun and white “Jason” hockey mask were also found.
Detectives interviewed relatives at the residence and were told Josh Stepoli and another man named “Antoine” were there around 5 p.m. Monday looking for a ride, according to an affidavit filed by police.
That same document quoted a witness as saying that around 9 a.m. Tuesday, Josh Stepoli was observed in the backyard carrying what appeared to be a gun case and laying it down outside.
Another search warrant was issued to obtain any weapons, ammunition or casings from a dark, blue Toyota parked at 2060 Grand Blvd.
An inventory was not filed to describe what, if anything, resulted from that search.
Meanwhile, more details emerged Wednesday over Fincik's death.
After arriving at Fincik's residence in response to a report about shots fired and a male running down toward Tenth Street, police pulled over a vehicle leaving the scene.
The driver, Rachel Manges, told police to go back to the house for a person who was shot, identified as “Snax.”
Manges told police Fincik let her in the rear door, closed it and “was holding it shut with both hands.” She said she heard gun shots and dropped to the floor, before witnessing Fincik bleeding from his chest.
Police said Fincik stumbled into the living room and collapsed on the floor before Manges fled through the front door.
Monessen police lieutenants David Yuhasz and Carl Fronzaglio gained entry through the rear door and saw blood on the walls and floor. Police said they noticed “money on the kitchen table next to suspected controlled substances.”
Emergency medical crews later arrived and determined the victim had died.
With the assistance of Rostraver police, Monessen authorities secured the scene and obtained a search warrant to seize all physical evidence from the residence, including photographs, bullets, casings, fingerprints, controlled substances and paraphernalia, weapons, cell phones, computers and currency.
Many friends have since come to defend Fincik's reputation citing many acts of generosity, including providing tree-cutting service at low rates as well as sponsoring a fireworks show and a Christmas program for financially disadvantaged people.
Fincik owned and operated Treecision in Charleroi – a tree-cutting service.
Fincik's attorney, Dave Shrager of Pittsburgh, was preparing to defend his client on separate drug-related charges in Washington and Westmoreland counties.
Shrager stressed that the charges were minor.
“It's important for people to know that one involved a very small amount of marijuana, the tampering charge got thrown out, and in the second case (intent to deliver) he allegedly had a quarter of a gram of cocaine, which is the size of your pinky,” Shrager said.
“We were actually getting prepared for trial and this young man got murdered. Chris was a very likable young man. I'm sorry for his loss.”
A full obituary for Fincik appears on A4.
Anyone with information about Hairston's whereabouts is adsked to contact Monessen police at 724-684-4620.
Rick Bruni Jr. is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-684-2635.Trib Total Media staff writer Chris Buckley contributed to this report.