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Killer in Westmoreland County shooting case loses bid for new trial

| Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2012, 12:02 a.m.

A defense attorney for convicted killer Thomas William Wojnarowski did not err during a three-day trial in 2007 that resulted in a third-degree murder conviction, a judge ruled on Tuesday.

In an 11-page opinion, Westmoreland County Judge John E. Blahovec ruled there was no basis to overturn the jury's verdict and order a new trial for Wojnarowski.

Wojnarowski contended that his lawyer, Brian Aston, should have asked for a mistrial following the testimony of a police officer who told jurors about statements the defendant made after he was arrested.

Wojnarowski, 51, was convicted by a jury in September 2007 of shooting to death 21-year-old Chad Bonelli of Bell Township on Aug. 27, 2006, during an all-night keg party in East Huntingdon.

Prosecutors had sought a first-degree murder conviction, which carries an automatic sentence of life in prison.

Police said Wojnarowski lived next door to an apartment where Bonelli's sister and three young women were hosting the party. At the trial several witnesses testified that Wojnarowski had confrontations with the guests several times during the evening and morning. They testified that Wojnarowski repeatedly was asked to leave the apartment before Bonelli was shot.

In his appeal, Wojnarowski contended he did not agree with Aston's decision to forgo asking for a mistrial and instead making an argument to the jury for a conviction to a lesser offense.

The jury convicted Wojnarowski of a lesser charge of third-degree murder. He is serving a 20-to-40-year prison sentence.

“The defendant has failed to establish that the outcome of a second trial, if a mistrial had been moved for and granted, would have been different,” Blahovec ruled.

The judge noted that Wojnarowski never asked for a new trial on the basis that the facts presented against him at trial did not support the outcome of the case.

Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6293 or rcholodofsky@tribweb.com.

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