3 men guilty in killing of W&J football player
Three men pleaded guilty Tuesday in the beating death of star Washington & Jefferson College football player Tim McNerney, sparing his family the pain of reliving what happened during a trial.
Adam Hankins, 24, of Washington, Eric Dante Wells, 25, of Pittsburgh, and Troy Simmons, 24, of East Pittsburgh each pleaded guilty to robbery and a general homicide charge before jury selection.
Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Edward Borkowski, serving as a visiting judge, found them guilty of third-degree homicide in the October 2012 death of McNerney, 21, a Butler County native and senior running back at W&J.
McNerney's family attended the hearing at the Washington County Courthouse but did not speak afterward. They could not be reached later for comment.
“Obviously, they've been through so much,” said District Attorney Gene Vittone, who spoke with the family and answered their questions following the hearing.
A pool of potential jurors waited downstairs for jury selection to begin before the defendants decided to enter pleas. The trial was to begin Monday.
Instead, Borkowski will sentence the three on Aug. 25.
“I think it was a fair resolution to this,” Vittone said. “We'll see what the judge says.”
Third-degree homicide carries a minimum sentence of six years in prison, with a maximum of 20 to 40 years, Vittone said.
Teammate and fellow student Zachary DeCicco testified last year that he and McNerney left a downtown bar on Oct. 4, 2012, to walk back to campus. Three men confronted them, demanding a cellphone. A verbal spat turned physical and a fight ensued. DeCicco was able to run away back to campus and initially believed McNerney had done the same.
But McNerney fell and hit his head against the ground after being punched. Police found his body in the parking lot of a nearby automobile repair shop. An autopsy revealed he died from a subdural hematoma and brain hemorrhage.
Investigators used GPS to track McNerney's iPhone to the defendants, prosecutors said.
McNerney was a star running back at Butler's Knoch High School, where he amassed more than 2,800 yards and earned a spot on The Associated Press Class AAA first-team. In two-plus seasons as a starter at W&J, McNerney rushed for 2,339 yards.
The guily pleas should bring some closure for McNerney's family and friends, said W&J football coach Mike Sirianni.
“But it doesn't bring Tim back to us. We'll always have that void,” said Sirianni, adding that no W&J player will wear No. 5 as long as he is coach. “As time goes by, more and more kids in our program didn't play with him.
“But we make sure they all know who Tim McNerney was.”