Man held for trial in shooting death of Connellsville teen
A former Philadelphia man told police he did not intend to shoot a Connellsville teenager in the back of the head, killing the boy at a house party in Uniontown, according to testimony at a preliminary hearing on Tuesday.
“Did the defendant tell you the shooting was an accident?” asked Pittsburgh defense attorney Wendy Williams during the hearing for Hasani Simpkins, 20.
“Yes,” testified Lt. Thomas Kolencik, a Uniontown police officer who interviewed Simpkins in the hours after the Nov. 21 fatal shooting of Darrell Laki Ross Jr., 17, a Connellsville Area Senior High School student-athlete.
The 90-minute hearing concluded with District Judge Michael Metros ordering Simpkins held for trial on charges of criminal homicide, receiving stolen property and firearms not to be carried without a license. Police have accused Simpkins of shooting Ross in the back of the head in a bedroom at 39 Murray Ave., where Simpkins was staying temporarily.
Ross' family members packed the courtroom for the hearing, but all declined to comment afterward. As he was led to a police car to be taken back to the Fayette County Prison after the hearing, Simpkins told reporters the shooting was an accident.
Kolencik testified when he arrived at the house just after 7 p.m. Nov. 21 and entered the bedroom, he saw an unresponsive Ross seated on a couch. Another male was holding a towel to the back of the teen's head and calling out, “Papa, Papa, Papa,” Kolencik testified.
Capt. David Rutter of Uniontown Police testified he found Simpkins hiding under debris in an alley behind the house. A .22-caliber handgun with two live rounds and one spent casing was found in the same alley, 46 feet from where Simpkins was discovered, testified state police Trooper Charles Morrison.
Kolencik testified there was a strong odor of marijuana in the house, and Simpkins told him during an interview at the police station, “we were all partying, smoking and passing the gun around.”
Simpkins also told police he had the gun in his hand as he was seated in a chair behind Ross and that he fired the gun twice into his own leg, but nothing happened. It discharged on the third try, according to the account Simpkins gave police, striking “Papa as he leaned forward to talk to some girls,” Kolencik testified.
Ross was taken to Ruby Memorial Hospital in West Virginia, where a death certificate indicates he died at 8:21 p.m. Nov. 21 of a gunshot wound to the head, testified Uniontown Police Det. Donald Gmitter.
Williams asked Metros not to hold Simpkins on the general homicide charge because the shooting was accidental, but Assistant District Attorney J.W. Eddy argued “the degree of intent” should be left to a jury to decide.
Simpkins was remanded to the Fayette County Prison, where he is being held without bond.
Liz Zemba is a reporter for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-601-2166 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Uniontown man charged with raping 2 girls
- No tax increase for Everson next year
- Normalville church performs Christmas play
- Fayette inmate represents self at hearing
- Uniontown programs get $900K