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Kittanning police seek help in beating death near bar

| Tuesday, March 19, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

KITTANNING — Armstrong County authorities say as many as 30 or 40 people may have witnessed the fatal beating of a Butler County man early Sunday morning near a borough bar and police are pleading for help to put together the pieces.

James P. Sullivan, 39, of Chicora was found lying face up and seriously injured on Montieth Street shortly before 2 a.m. and pronounced dead at ACMH Hospital less than an hour later, according to deputy coroner Brian Myers.

“The cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head and abdomen,” said Myers at a press conference held on Monday afternoon. “As for the manner of death, that's still under investigation.”

District Attorney Scott Andreassi said investigators don't have a suspect and wouldn't speculate on any sort of motive, but said the incident may have been one of several fights that broke out in the area of the Wick City Saloon along Orr Avenue.

“We've received information that part of a conversation or a disagreement began inside the bar, but the incident itself and the activities all occurred outside the bar, either in the parking lot area or street,” said Andreassi. “Most if not all of the people who were on the street likely came from the bar at one point. The information we have now is that Sullivan was there (in the bar).”

Kittanning Police Chief Ed Cassesse said several fights may have been going on outside the bar and that a large gathering of people huddled around the fight involving Sullivan.

“With that many people around, someone saw what happened,” said Cassesse. “We're getting bits and pieces, but they're not fitting the way we need them to fit at this point.”

Lt. Steve Ignatz with the state police in Butler said that although authorities haven't come across surveillance footage of the incident, they have reason to believe photographs and videos may have been recorded by witnesses.

“We're hoping that somebody will come forward with that information,” said Ignatz. “If they have pictures, if they have video somehow captured (and could provide them to us), it would be immensely helpful to this investigation.”

Andreassi said social media already has proved people were there.

“We know there are Facebook posts and we know there are Twitter posts,” he said. “We know there are people out there who do have information and we're asking them to contact us directly rather than have to fish through social media.”

At the same time, Ignatz said it's difficult to filter out first-hand accounts from rumors.

“A lot of it is second and third-hand information,” said Ignatz. “We're finding (much of it) is inaccurate or exaggerated.”

That's why authorities are asking anyone who may have witnessed anything either inside or outside the bar to share what they saw.

“This is a tragic thing that happened,” said Cassesse. “It's not an everyday occurrence for the area, so we're hoping somebody will step forward and give us the information we need.”

Anyone with information is asked to contact Kittanning police at 724-543-1538 or the state police at 724-543-2011.

Tim Karan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-543-1303 or tkaran@tribweb.com.

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