'I killed him': Texts are evidence in Clymer slaying
In the minutes after an Indiana County man was fatally shot along a walking trail in Clymer, one suspect sent his girlfriend a text message to ask for a ride.
“He is dead,” Gregory Sam Patterson, 34, of Glen Campbell wrote at 9:02 p.m. on June 24.
Trooper Douglas Snyder testified during two separate preliminary hearings Tuesday that Patterson told police he was covering for Christopher William Salsgiver, 23, of Glen Campbell in the slaying of James “Pork” Alexander, 46, in the text-message exchange after the shooting.
“He won't owe you nothing. I killed him,” Patterson texted to his girlfriend, according to the trooper's testimony.
District Judge George Thachik ordered both suspects to stand trial on homicide, robbery, conspiracy and related charges.
Alexander was shot once in the head when a drug deal along the trail turned sour, according to testimony.
Jeffrey Michael Swigart, 34, testified that he and Alexander had traveled to Murrysville earlier on June 24 and then stopped in Coral and Plumville to peddle heroin before returning to Clymer. Swigart, who is incarcerated in the Indiana County Jail on a probation violation, said he and Alexander had been friends since 2000.
Patterson was interested in purchasing heroin on June 24 and Swigart and Alexander agreed to meet him on the trail around 8 p.m., according to testimony.
Swigart testified that Patterson put him in a headlock when the men met up.
“I saw Mr. Salsgiver pull the gun, he was waving it around” as he ordered Swigart and Alexander to get on their knees, Swigart testified.
Swigart managed to run away. After about 30 seconds, Swigart heard a gunshot, he testified.
“I wasn't sure if (Alexander) was alive or dead,” Swigart testified.
Swigart spoke with police later in the evening and investigators were led to Patterson, Snyder testified. Text messages were obtained from cellphones through a search warrant, he said.
Patterson told police he and Salsgiver planned to rob Alexander, but did not intend to kill the man, Snyder testified.
Salsgiver denied responsibility and told police that Alexander was “fine” when Salsgiver left the trail, the trooper said.
Swigart was unable to identify Salsgiver in a photo line-up after the shooting and was unable to confirm during the hearing that Salsgiver was the gun-wielding man on the trail.
“I just got a quick glimpse of him,” Swigart testified.
Defense Attorney Robert Manzi argued that charges against his client should be dismissed because “there is nobody that puts Mr. Salsgiver on the trail.”
“You have to have an identification that puts him on the trail when the murder occurs,” Manzi argued.
District Attorney Patrick Dougherty pointed to surveillance footage obtained by state police from a Dollar General near the trail that shows Patterson and Salsgiver together at about 8 p.m. on June 24.
Both suspects are being held in the Indiana County Jail without bond on charges of criminal homicide, aggravated assault, robbery, conspiracy to commit homicide, conspiracy to commit robbery, simple assault and harassment.
Hearings on gun-related charges against both men in separate cases will be rescheduled because the investigating trooper was unavailable on Tuesday. Police allege that the murder weapon, a 9 mm handgun, was taken from Patterson's roommate.
Patterson and Salsgiver both face charges of conspiracy to commit theft, conspiracy to commit receiving stolen property and firearms not to be carried without a license in those cases.
Renatta Signorini is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-837-5374 or firstname.lastname@example.org.