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Connellsville mayoral candidate Joshua DeWitt held for trial in chop shop case

| Friday, May 17, 2013, 12:56 a.m.
Evan R. Sanders | Daily Courier
Joshua DeWitt leaves the courtroom of District Judge Ronald Haggerty Jr. in Connellsville on Thursday. The Connellsville mayoral candidate had charges against him for owning/operating/conducting a chop shop, receiving stolen property and conspiracy held for Fayette County court. How it will affect his campaign is unknown. May 16, 2013

A Connellsville mayoral candidate accused of operating a chop shop will face trial in Fayette County Court following a preliminary hearing on Thursday before District Judge Ronald Haggerty Jr.

Joshua DeWitt, 27, was held for trial on charges of owning / operating / conducting a chop shop, receiving stolen property and conspiracy. He was arraigned on those charges on March 6 before Haggerty.

DeWitt was originally charged on March 15, 2012 with his uncle, Rodney Francis Allen, and Dale Robert Naugle, by the Pennsylvania State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation Western Regional Auto Theft Task Force.

DeWitt was only charged then with owning / operating / conducting a chop shop for an incident that occurred on March 3, 2011, in Bullskin Township. That charge was dropped during an April 2012 preliminary hearing.

Allen, 63, and Naugle, 29, are currently awaiting trial for the incident in the Fayette County Court of Common Pleas.

The task force opened an investigation on the three men after a 2005 Ford F-150 pickup truck was stolen between March 1 and 3, 2011, from the rear lot of Davies Ford.

During DeWitt's preliminary hearing on Thursday, Naugle testified he was contacted by Allen, to whom Naugle is employed, to pick up the Ford truck from the rear of Davies Ford around 2 or 3 a.m. March 3.

Naugle said he used a flatbed truck to transport the truck to a garage owned by Allen in Bullskin Township. Before he returned home, Naugle said he closed the door to the garage because he felt “funny” about it.

“Something seemed fishy about it to me,” Naugle said.

Naugle then said the vehicle was stripped of parts after business hours.

Tpr. Scott Monroe, with the auto theft task force, asked of DeWitt's role in the dismantling of the truck.

“Josh was standing there,” Naugle said. “He might have helped a little, but not a lot.”

DeWitt's attorney, David Kaiser, asked Naugle if DeWitt asked him to go to Davies Ford to get the truck or if DeWitt was there at Davies Ford when he removed the truck. Naugle answered “no.”

He also asked Naugle why he didn't call the police when he had a funny feeling about taking the truck.

Naugle responded that he didn't call the police because he didn't know the truck was stolen.

Tpr. Gregory Marchewka, with the auto theft task force, testified that during the course of his investigation, he spoke to Allen and DeWitt at the same time about when they received the parts that were from the stolen truck.

Marchewka said Allen asked for confirmation from DeWitt on when the parts were delivered and DeWitt confirmed it.

Kaiser asked Haggerty to dismiss the charges because the original affidavit only had him at the scene of the dismantling and that doesn't make him guilty, and Naugle said that DeWitt “might have helped a little,” but no specifics were testified of DeWitt's involvement.

Haggerty ruled that all the charges will be held for court.

“My client is disappointed,” Kaiser said, adding that it was believed there wasn't enough evidence for the charges to be held for court.

DeWitt is running a campaign against incumbent Connellsville Mayor Charles Matthews and candidate Gregory Lincoln on the Democratic ticket for the upcoming primary election on Tuesday.

A phone call to DeWitt for comment on how the charges will affect his campaign were not returned. His campaign manager, Charles Lowery, could not comment because he said he did not attend the hearing.

A formal arraignment has been scheduled at 9:30 a.m. June 20 in Courtroom 1 at the Fayette County Courthouse.

DeWitt is free on $20,000 unsecured bond.

Mark Hofmann is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-626-3539 or mhofmann@tribweb.com.

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