2 suspects allegedly tied up, fatally shot man in Monessen home
Two masked men bound a man's wrists with tape before fatally shooting him on Tuesday night, Westmoreland County detectives and Monessen police said.
Dennis R. Fitzwater, 31, was found shot to death in a Chestnut Street home about 11:30 p.m., according to the coroner's office.
Two children, age 2 and 5, apparently slept through the attack, when two men entered the home and shot Fitzwater in a second-floor bedroom, police said.
Fitzwater apparently managed to get downstairs to the kitchen and collapsed on the floor, his wrists bound with tape, Monessen police Chief John Mandarino said.
He was pronounced dead at 4:10 a.m. Wednesday by deputy coroners Joshua Zappone and Doug Lewis. An autopsy is scheduled for Thursday.
The chief declined to label the shooting a home invasion or robbery.
“At this point, it would appear nothing was stolen,” he said.
“It is an open and active investigation. We're seeking information from anyone who may know anything about this,” Mandarino said.
Police are looking for two black men, one about 6 feet, 3 inches tall, and the other about 5 feet, 10 inches tall. Both wore black hooded sweatshirts and covered their faces with bandanas.
Mandarino said two other adults, a man and a woman, who were at the home during the shooting were questioned on Wednesday morning at the city police station.
The gunmen allegedly threatened the male resident before Fitzwater was shot, Mandarino said.
Mandarino declined to disclose how many times Fitzwater was shot or a possible motive.
“That is all part of the ongoing investigation,” Mandarino said.
The children were taken to a family member's home, police said.
Investigators got a search warrant early on Wednesday and combed the backyard of the residence and surrounding properties, using a K-9 from the police department.
“We're not looking for anything specific. It's just a routine search to see if we can find anything,” Mandarino said.
The house is flanked by abandoned homes.
One neighbor, Marie Johnson, 83, has lived in her well-maintained home on the 500 block of Chestnut Street for decades. She said was awakened around midnight by family members who telephoned to check on her well-being.
“I didn't hear anything and woke up when I heard my telephone. My family was calling to make sure I was all right after they heard about it,” said Johnson, who was visited by several family members on Wednesday morning.
“I don't know anyone who lives there now,” she said. “It's a shame what happened.”
Shooting in summer
Johnson noted that police were called to the home for a shooting last summer. A bullet hole is still visible in the side of a neighboring home from the June 8 incident, in which four people were wounded.
Police allege that Deaubre Lightfoot, 23, of Donora, shot a 21-year-old woman at 1:14 a.m. at the party. Three others at the party were wounded and required hospital treatment, according to police.
Attempted homicide and other charges filed against Lightfoot were withdrawn because no one would testify against him, court records show.
Perrial Pearson, 26, a Monessen native who now lives in Latrobe, is awaiting trial for possession with intent to deliver and two misdemeanor counts of possession of a controlled substance, because police allege they discovered a large amount of heroin in her purse after the shooting.
Pearson needed medical treatment because one of the bullets grazed her leg, police reported. After the shooting, police said they found a purse containing 271 stamp bags of heroin, along with Pearson's identification.
“None of those people involved in that (2013 shooting) still live there,” Johnson said.
Authorities said Fitzwater was living in the home with Nicholas J. Fincik, 31, the younger brother of Chris “Snaxx” Fincik. 36, of Monessen, who was gunned down in his home in December 2012. Fincik, a known drug dealer, had heroin, cocaine and more than $3,100 in his home, police said.
Two people arrested in that murder identified Joshua Stepoli, 20, of Monessen, as the man who shot Fincik. Stepoli has not been charged in connection with the homicide.
Fitzwater was released on Thursday from the county prison, where he had been held since May 17 on charges of drug possession and drug paraphernalia charges. He posted $10,000 bond through a bail bondsman, pending a preliminary hearing Aug. 22 before District Judge Joseph Dalfonso.
He was awaiting a preliminary hearing before West Newton District Judge Charles Christner on theft charges filed in 2013 for allegedly stealing $9,000 worth of metal rims in North Belle Vernon.
In 2008 he was sentenced to two years of intermediate punishment with electronic monitoring after a conviction for selling marijuana.
Parzynski Funeral Home in Belle Vernon is handling his funeral arrangements.
“We're asking anyone who may have seen or heard anything to call Monessen Police,” Mandarino said.
Monessen Police can be reached at 724-684-4620 until 4:30 p.m. After 4:30 p.m., the department can be contacted through 911.
Paul Peirce and Rick Bruni Jr. are staff writers for Trib Total Media. Peirce can be reached at 724-850-2860 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Bruni can be reached at 724-684-2635 or email@example.com. Staff writer Renatta Signorini contributed.