Laurel Mountain murder charges dismissed; Westmoreland DA said he will file them again
A shouting match erupted on Wednesday between a normally mild-mannered district attorney and a magistrate when the judge dismissed the case against a Laurel Mountain Borough man in the grisly bludgeoning death of a 52-year-old woman.
Westmoreland District Attorney John Peck argued that a bloody handprint found on a wooden panel above the victim, which he claimed was left by Gregory R. Randall in the home the two shared, should have been sufficient for District Judge Michael Mahady to order Randall to stand trial for murder.
Mahady said during the heated exchange that while there was “plenty of evidence” presented at a 2 1⁄2-hour preliminary hearing showing that Angela Cavalero was bludgeoned 29 times with a hammer and a wine bottle, there was no evidence linking Randall to the slaying.
Mahady agreed with Assistant Public Defender Chris Huffman that there was no clue as to when the bloody handprint was left on the wall or “even whose blood it was.”
“There's just not enough evidence here to show who did it. It's speculative at this point,” Mahady told Peck.
Peck said investigators are awaiting results of tests — performed on numerous blood samples collected from Randall's Locust Street home — from the state police crime laboratory in Hempfield.
State police operate six crime labs, in Hempfield, Bethlehem, Erie, Harrisburg, Media and Wyoming. All but Media perform blood analyses. Peck said the delay in the Cavalero case is not out of the ordinary; the tests take time to complete.
“They have a tremendous workload. My point is the DNA test should not be what this case turns on, in my opinion,” he said.
Randall has been in the county prison without bond since his arrest in Robinson on May 13, 10 days after the slaying of Cavalero, who has lived in Sharpsburg and Monroeville.
She was struck with a wine bottle and hammer in 29 blows to her head and face, county Detective Ray Dupilka testified. Blood, hair and “human tissue” were found on the bottle and hammer.
Dupilka, a forensics expert, testified that the bloody handprint matched Randall's print.
“Your honor, evidence shows that he (Randall) struck this person 29 times in her head and face,” Peck told Mahady. “How could that not be intent? She obviously didn't beat herself 29 times with the hammer and wine bottle, killing herself.
“We also presented photographic evidence that the walls are splattered with her blood from a violent beating, she's laying there in her blood, there is blood throughout that room and (Randall's) palm print happens to be in the blood in that room. ... Who else's blood could it possibly be?”
The district attorney said after the ruling that “the official tests will be presented at trial. But at the preliminary hearing level, you can make such inferences.”
After Mahady's office closed at 4 p.m. Wednesday, detectives refiled homicide charges against Randall before North Huntingdon District Judge Doug Weimer, who was on night court duty. They will now go before Ligonier District Judge Denise Thiel, who previously recused herself from the case.
Peck referred Mahady to several photographs taken at the scene to show the victim's blood “spattered all over that (boot) room in the back of the house.”
Ligonier Borough Patrolman William Nicols described Randall's home on May 9, six days after detectives believe Cavalero was killed. Nicols went to check on Cavalero after her family telephoned to express concerns about her well-being.
Nicols testified the front door was open when he entered the home at about 10 p.m.
“The home was in disarray ... clutter everywhere. As I was checking, I noticed blood in the living room and followed it into the kitchen and into the boot room in the back of the house,” Nicols said.
He said Cavalero's body lay against the door.
Paul Peirce is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-850-2860 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.