Monessen man, Duquesne woman face trial in Fincik shooting death
A Monessen man and his girlfriend were ordered Monday to stand trial on criminal homicide and other charges related to the Dec. 3 death of Chris “Snax” Fincik.
Earl Vitale Pinkney, 20, of 617 Chestnut St., and Chalsee Hughes, 19, of Duquesne appeared for a preliminary hearing in Monessen before Magisterial District Judge Joseph Dalfonso.
They are charged with criminal homicide, robbery, aggravated assault and three conspiracy counts.
Their formal arraignment is scheduled 9 a.m. March 20 at the Westmoreland County Courthouse in Greensburg.
Fincik, 36, was shot three times through the back door of his Maple Avenue, Monessen, home and died shortly afterward. Forensic pathologist Dr. Cyril Wecht determined Fincik died of gunshot wounds to the chest and abdomen. The other bullet went through Fincik's forearm, according to a report.
Investigators alleged Pinkney took part in the shooting along with Josh Stepoli and Antoine Hairston. They claim Hughes purchased the ammunition used to kill Fincik.
With Fincik's relatives looking on, District Attorney John Peck called Monessen Patrolman David Yuhasz and county Detective Robert Weaver to testify.
Neither Hughes nor Pinkney testified.
Yuhasz – who responded to the “shots fired” call from a Fincik neighbor – provided graphic detail of the shooting scene, which included blood on the floor and walls.
Yuhasz testified that a “significant amount” of cocaine was discovered inside the residence, along with more than $2,000 in cash.
Weaver testified that during a Dec. 5 interview at the Westmoreland County Prison, Pinkney talked about the night of the murder.
Weaver testified that Pinkney said, “OK, I was there with Antoine (Hairston) and Josh (Stepoli). I was so high, I didn't know where I was at. Josh did the shooting, and as soon as I heard the shots I ran home.”
Pinkney “refused to say any more after that,” Weaver testified.
At the time of the interview, Pinkney, Hairston, Stepoli and Terrance Stepoli were in jail on attempted homicide and other charges for a separate incident in the city.
Weaver testified that Hughes said she drove Josh Stepoli and Hairston to the Rostraver Township Walmart at 9:20 p.m. Dec. 2, and she used her driver's license to buy three 7.62-caliber cartridges.
Yuhasz testified that right after the shooting, Monessen police found three expended 7.62-caliber cartridges – one of which was TulAmmo brand and the other two Winchester brand – on the walkway near Fincik's back porch.
Weaver testified that Hughes told him during a second interview Dec. 5 at the Monessen police station that she knew Stepoli, Hughes and Pinkney planned to “hit a lick” – which is slang for quickly obtaining a large amount of money.
“She said that's why they needed the bullets,” Weaver said. “She then went on to say she wasn't worried about anything bad happening, because Earl, Josh and Antoine would do armed robberies all the time.”
Weaver testified that Hughes said she didn't think the target would be anyone she knew, because the trio had never committed a robbery in Monessen.
Weaver said Hughes was upset after she received a text message the morning of Dec. 4 that Fincik – her godfather – had been killed. The next day, she confronted Pinkney, with whom she had been staying, about his involvement in the murder.
Weaver testified that Hughes noticed her car had been parked differently from the night before, and she asked Josh Stepoli if he had used her car to get to Fincik, and he told her, “no.”
Hughes' attorney, Richard Galloway, jostled back and forth with Peck, claiming purported evidence was hearsay.
Galloway grilled Weaver, asking if either of the interviews had been recorded. They were not, Weaver said. He asked Weaver if he kept the original notes from the interviews, and the detective responded he did not.
Peck said afterward that it's commonplace for investigators to conduct interviews and not record them.
Galloway tried separating his client from the shooting.
“Did Walmart have the name of Chalsee Hughes?” he asked.
“No, they did not,” Weaver replied.
“You accuse her of conspiring to purchase ammunition. Who did she conspire with?” Galloway asked.
Weaver answered: “Josh Stepoli and Antoine Hairston.”
“Have they been arrested?” Galloway asked.
“Not yet,” Weaver replied.
Pinkney's attorney, Alan Manderino, argued that there wasn't sufficient evidence to support charges against Pinkney.
“There's no evidence that Mr. Pinkney participated in the robbery in any way,” Manderino said. “Nobody said he drove the car there. Nobody said he did anything to assist in the crime. The evidence here today makes a decent case against the other names mentioned, but makes a very poor case against Mr. Pinkney.
“The only statement bringing Mr. Pinkney into this matter, quite frankly, is his own statement, at least according to Detective Weaver, here.”
In his closing statement, Peck said both defendants should be held for trial.
“Regarding Miss Hughes and the claim that she didn't participate in the conspiracy … she was aware they were going to rob somebody, she took them to Walmart to (buy) ammunition for that robbery. In fact, she was the lynchpin in that purchase. … And without her, the crime may not have been committed,” Peck said.
“As to Mr. Pinkney, his statement was ‘I was there with Josh and Antoine,' it's almost 12:30 at night. … Obviously, they were there for anything other than good purposes that evening. There was money inside, there were drugs inside, and it was the obvious intention to break in and rob Mr. Fincik. So I think the commonwealth has made its case.”
Afterward, Galloway said he thought there was a good chance the charges against Hughes would be dropped.
“I think it's symptomatic of their case, that the only witnesses they felt comfortable calling were officials going on testimony that wasn't recorded,” he said. “It baffles me they don't go after the (alleged) shooter and the guy who went and got the shells.”
Asked after the hearing why homicide charges haven't been filed against Josh Stepoli and Hairston, Peck said the investigation will continue.
“The admissions of defendants can be used against themselves. It can't be used against other individuals,” Peck said of Pinkney implicating the others.
“The evidence that has been presented through the testimony of the two defendants are that other people are involved, so the investigation is obviously directed toward obtaining information regarding those other two people.”
Rick Bruni Jr. is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-684-2635.