Monessen man, girlfriend charged in fatal shooting
Earl Pinkney told police that he and two friends went to a Monessen man's home on Dec. 3 only to rob him.
Instead, the intended robbery victim, 36-year-old Chris Fincik, was gunned down with an assault rifle in the doorway of his Maple Avenue residence.
On Thursday, Pinkney, 19, of 617 Chestnut St., Monessen, and his girlfriend, Chalsee L. Hughes, 19, of 946 High St., Duquesne, both were charged with homicide in Fincik's death.
The arrests came after a preliminary hearing for Pinkney and three other Monessen residents, who were charged with attempted homicide in a related case.
In court papers, police allege three spent 7.62-caliber cartridges made by two manufacturers were found at the murder scene. Fincik died of three gunshot wounds.
When police searched Pinkney's home, they found an empty ammunition box matching one of the brands used in Fincik's murder, police said.
Pinkney told police he had an AK rifle, which would use that caliber cartridge, but he didn't know where it was. He told officers that Joshua Stepoli, 18, of Monessen, owned the empty ammunition box and had taken bullets with him.
Police said Hughes was staying at Pinkney's house when Stepoli called and asked her for a ride on Dec. 2. She told police she drove Stepoli and Antoine Hairston, 19, of Monessen, to Charleroi and then to a Wal-Mart. During the ride, Stepoli indicated he was going to rob someone, she said.
At the store, she said, Hairston gave Stepoli $20 and Stepoli bought a box of 7.62-caliber ammunition using Hughes' identification. Hughes told police she knew Pinkney, Hairston and Stepoli had robbed people in the past, but not in Monessen.
When Hughes heard about Fincik's murder, she confronted Pinkney about it, she told police. He allegedly told her he went with Hairston and Stepoli to rob Fincik, but they didn't get anything.
Pinkney told Hughes he saw a girl come to the door and Fincik let her in, and that's when Fincik was killed. He told her it was not supposed to happen that way.
“I was there with Antoine and Josh,” Pinkney later told police, according to the affidavit. “I was so high, I didn‘t know where I was at. Josh did the shooting. I heard the shots and ran home.”
Pinkney was arraigned on charges of homicide, robbery, aggravated assault and three counts of conspiracy. Hughes was charged with criminal homicide, robbery and two counts of conspiracy in Fincik's murder. Both are being held without bond.
Neither Stepoli nor Hairston has been charged in Fincik's death.
“We're continuing to investigate,” District Attorney John Peck said. “The fact that she implicated some others and he implicated other people is not admissible against those other people.”
It was rumors of Stepoli's alleged role in Fincik's death that had him; his brother Terrance, 20; their sister, Samone Stepoli, 21; Hairston and Pinkney in the hearing Thursday before District Judge Joseph Dalfonso.
The five are accused of confronting and shooting at Jaisen Irwin, who they believed was spreading the rumors, according to Irwin's testimony.
Pinkney and the Stepoli siblings were held for trial on attempted homicide, attempted aggravated assault and conspiracy charges for allegedly attacking Irwin on the afternoon of Dec. 3, hours after Fincik's murder.
A preliminary hearing was continued for Hairston, 19, because he didn‘t have an attorney.
Heavily armed Westmoreland County sheriff's deputies stood guard in and outside Dalfonso's office during the hearing, and spectators were scanned with a metal-detecting wand.
The small courtroom was crowded with the defendants' friends and family members. Several shook their heads in disagreement and muttered comments during Irwin's testimony.
Irwin testified that he was sitting on a ledge with a friend when he saw a silver Dodge Neon driven by Samone Stepoli park nearby.
He said Terrance Stepoli got out of the car and walked toward him. Irwin said Terrance Stepoli tried to slap him.
“He was being loud, screaming,” Irwin said. “He was saying I was telling people that his brother did the murder.”
Irwin said Samone Stepoli yelled at her brother to get back in the car.
Irwin said he then saw Pinkney, Hairston and Joshua Stepoli get out of the back seat. He said Pinkney and Hairston both were holding handguns at their sides and headed toward him. Joshua Stepoli walked in the opposite direction, he said.
Irwin said he ran into the Highland Manor housing project. He saw a laser beam on a wall in front of him as he ran and heard two gunshots as he took shelter inside a friend's apartment, he said.
From a second-floor window he saw Hairston, Pinkney, Joshua Stepoli and another man who has not been charged, he said. All appeared to be looking around.
Police later found three handguns, including one with a laser sight, and an ammunition magazine hidden at two locations at Highland Manor.
In statements to police, the Stepolis described a different version of events. Samone and Terrance Stepoli admitted they went to the area with two women to confront Irwin about the rumors.
Terrance Stepoli said he confronted Irwin but did not chase after him and got back into the car. Joshua Stepoli said he was walking by at the time, saw his brother confront Irwin and got into the car with his brother and left.
Samone Stepoli said she stayed behind for a time.
None said Pinkney or Hairston was present. All claimed no one chased Irwin.
Despite their attorneys' arguments that Irwin's testimony was not credible and that there was not enough evidence to implicate them, all four will face trial on the attempted homicide charges.
Pinkney and Hughes face a preliminary hearing for Fincik's murder on Jan. 4.
Jennifer Reeger is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.