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Trial set for Jeannette man accused of killing high school pal, taking selfie with body

Rich Cholodofsky
| Friday, Aug. 26, 2016, 8:18 p.m.
Maxwell Morton, 18, of Jeannette is in Westmoreland County Prison, accused of fatally shooting a friend, then taking a selfie with the body.
Maxwell Morton, 18, of Jeannette is in Westmoreland County Prison, accused of fatally shooting a friend, then taking a selfie with the body.

The trial of a Jeannette man charged with killing his high school friend then taking a selfie with the body will begin early next year.

Westmoreland County Judge Meagan Bilik-DeFazio on Friday scheduled jury selection in the first-degree murder trial of Maxwell Morton to start Jan. 2.

Morton, 18, is accused of killing 16-year-old Ryan Mangan on Feb. 4, 2015, as the teens played video games.

Defense attorney Pat Thomassey said in court that no pretrial issues remain following a decision this spring by Bilik-DeFazio to reject Morton's claims to have the case dismissed and statements the teen gave to police barred from evidence.

“We're ready for trial,” Thomassey said.

Morton, who has been jailed since his arrest a day after the fatal shooting, did not appear in court.

Morton was arrested and charged as an adult with Mangan's murder after police received a photograph that showed him posing next to the body of the dead teen. Prosecutors said the photo was taken by Morton and sent to a friend in Wisconsin via a computer gaming system.

That juvenile's mother alerted authorities, and police questioned Morton. He admitted to shooting his friend and hiding the gun used, police said.

According to court records and testimony from pretrial hearings, Morton told police the teens were in a bedroom playing video games when Mangan pulled a gun from a pillowcase and danced around with it.

Morton said he later took the gun from the pillowcase and ejected a bullet, but Mangan reloaded it. Morton said he then took back the gun and shot and killed Mangan.

District Attorney John Peck has said Morton's actions constituted an intent to kill Mangan.

Thomassey previously argued the gun accidently discharged and there was no animosity between the teens, who were classmates in the Jeannette City School District.

Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-830-6293 or rcholodofsky@tribweb.com.

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