Share This Page

Suspect extorted Indiana County gun shop owner before killing him, police say

| Tuesday, March 25, 2014, 11:10 p.m.
Jack Edmundson is facing several charges, including homicide and arson. The incident occurred about 2 p.m. Tuesday inside Frank's Gun and Taxidermy Shop at 59 Hogue Drive, near Tunnelton.

An ongoing investigation of a Saltsburg man who is awaiting trial in Indiana County for the New Year's Eve slaying of a gun shop owner has revealed he extorted $146,000 from the victim.

Jack O. Edmundson Jr., 43, is in the county jail awaiting trial for first-degree murder, arson and aggravated assault for allegedly gunning down Frank S. Petro, 62, of Tunnelton.

He is expected to be arraigned this week on additional charges of dealing in proceeds of unlawful activities for the embezzlement, according to state police Trooper Jason C. Morgan.

In addition, Edmundson will be charged with burglary and theft for breaking into the home of a 71-year-old Saltsburg man three days before Petro's slaying and stealing more than $17,000 worth of collectors coins, stamps and jewelry, Morgan said.

“(Edmundson) entered the victim's residence and removed approximately $12,619 worth of collectors coins, $1,818 worth of collectors stamps, and $3,260 worth of jewelry. Some of these items were subsequently cashed in to a coin shop by the accused,” Morgan said.

Edmundson will be arraigned on charges of burglary, criminal trespass, theft by unlawful taking and receiving stolen property this week before Blairsville District Judge Jennifer Rega, the trooper said.

District Attorney Patrick Dougherty filed notice on March 7 that he will seek the death penalty againstEdmundson in Petro's slaying.

Edmundson's formal arraignment on the murder and arson charges is scheduled for Friday before Common Pleas Court Judge President Judge William Martin.

At the start of the murder investigation, state police disclosed that Edmundson, a former detective and police informant, shot Petro four times, killing him to cover up the extortion scheme.

Police allege Edmundson portrayed himself as an undercover investigator helping police investigate illegal raffle tickets sales that Petro was involved in for area community groups.

Although authorities said in January they believed Petro was being extorted since last fall, the extortions date to January 2013, Morgan said on Tuesday.

Police said that shortly before he was killed, Petro had learned he was being swindled.

State police said Edmundson confronted Petro for selling illegal raffle tickets for what appeared to be legitimate organizations and told the gun shop owner he could “make the case go away.”

Trooper Robert Valyo testified at a preliminary hearing on Feb. 21 that Edmundson telephoned 911 dispatchers after he shot Petro, claiming that he had killed him in self-defense.

Edmundson claimed Petro was the aggressor when he went into the shop and asked about brass for a memorial piece he was working on, Valyo said.

But two video cameras in the shop told a different story, Valyo testified.

The video footage shows that Edmundson entered the shop, reached behind the counter and grabbed a small-caliber gun, then shot Petro after a brief argument.

“His whole 911 call was deceptive,” Valyo told Indiana District Judge Guy Haberl. “He tried to maintain that Mr. Petro was the aggressor.”

Valyo said Edmundson may have planned the killing. He said Edmundson parked his vehicle at the Tunnelton Inn, more than 1,000 feet from Frank's Gun Shop, and walked through woods to the gun shop, where he confronted Petro about 1:30 p.m. Dec. 31.

Valyo said Edmundson took Petro's wallet after the shooting and removed items from it.

State police said Edmundson was shot in his right thigh during the scuffle with Petro and telephoned 911 for help, according to the criminal complaint.

“When (Edmundson) called, he told dispatchers he works as a paramedic and they needed to send a medical helicopter right away. He attempted to maintain throughout that Mr. Petro was the aggressor,” Valyo said.

Edmundson was hospitalized at UPMC Presbyterian in Pittsburgh for about a month. He remains in the Indiana County Jail without bond.

Edmundson, a former detective for the Lancaster County Drug Task force, served one year in prison after he was convicted of stealing $7,500 in platinum coins from a drug dealer and two telephone calling cards from another. He was paroled in 2001, according to online court records.

Paul Peirce is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reachedat 724-850-2860 orppeirce@tribweb.com.

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.