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Homestead funeral director charged in fatal shooting

| Friday, July 26, 2013, 5:09 p.m.

William R. Welsh has spent most of his 89 years in service to his country, his neighbors and his community.

Then, by his own admission, something snapped on Friday afternoon when the Homestead funeral director pulled out a gun and shot and killed a longtime acquaintance because of a dispute over a house they were demolishing, according to a criminal complaint.

Welsh, owner of the funeral home that bears his name, is charged with homicide in the slaying of William Menni, 58, of McKees Rocks.

“He's a great friend. He's led a great life and now he's going to jail,” Homestead Mayor Betty Esper said. “It's upsetting. It's too sad, very sad. It's terrible. Something set him off. That's why we shouldn't have guns.”

Esper and others said that Menni had worked as an embalmer for Welsh who, according to the criminal complaint filed by Allegheny County homicide detectives, told investigators that he and his son had an ongoing dispute with Menni concerning the vacant home being demolished adjacent to the funeral home parking lot.

Menni was shot about 12:40 p.m. near the funeral home in the 300 block of Park Way, the complaint states. He was taken to UPMC Mercy, Uptown, and died at 2:30 p.m., a spokesman for the Allegheny County Medical Examiner's Office said.

The criminal complaint states that Menni was shot in the back of the head.

According to the complaint filed by homicide detectives,

Homestead police Chief Jeffrey DeSimone told detectives that when he drove along East 10th Avenue, he saw Welsh standing in the doorway of the funeral home.

After a witness told DeSimone that Welsh shot Menni, the chief and another officer walked across the street to the funeral home where Welsh was sitting on the steps. DeSimone asked Welsh where the gun was and Welsh told him, “I put it away in the house and I'll take you to it.” The chief retrieved a handgun from behind a planter in the hallway.

As DeSimone was walking out with the gun, Welsh's granddaughter came downstairs and asked what happened.

“I shot (Menni),” Welsh replied.

He told homicide detectives that he walked across the street to his parking lot and Menni approached him and began berating and pushing him.

“Welsh stated that he finally snapped and pulled out his gun from his pocket and shot Menni twice,” the complaint states.

Welsh is being held in the Allegheny County Jail to await a preliminary hearing scheduled Aug. 9.

“(Menni) was what we know in the business as a trade embalmer. A variety of funeral directors would call upon him when they needed his services,” said Sue Striffler Galaski of Striffler Family Funeral Homes in the McKeesport area. “He was a nice man; always very helpful.”

Esper said Welsh has been a funeral director in town “forever.”

She said the owner of the vacant house lives in California and that Welsh maintained the property for him.

“(Welsh) lived a good life. He served his country,” Esper said.

“He was a member of the VFW. He donated money for an elevator in our borough building. When he was younger, he cut the grass for all the neighbors and the church. You gotta feel bad for the other guy's family, too.

“This is like a horror story,” Esper said. “You had a dream and you wake up and say, ‘It didn't happen.'”

Michael Hasch is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7820 or Staff writer Michael DiVittorio contributed to this report.

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