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Lawyer: Defendant happened on Washington Township murder scene

| Friday, Jan. 4, 2013, 12:02 a.m.

The lawyer for a Ligonier man accused of killing two people at a Washington Township home told a Westmoreland County judge on Thursday that his client stumbled onto the murder scene and was not responsible for the deaths.

Attorney Michael DeMatt said Eric Hall, 30, did not kill Anthony Henderson and Noelle Richards on Aug. 28, 2011. Police said Henderson, 24, was bludgeoned with a baseball bat and then was shot to death, along with Richards, also 24.

“He stumbled across the victims just like the people who eventually came upon the scene and called 911,” DeMatt said.

Hall appeared in court Thursday for a hearing on a defense request to hire a forensic expert to examine bloody footprints left at the murder scene. One print was left on Henderson's back, according to DeMatt.

DeMatt said he wants to learn if the footprints were left by someone other than Hall.

“We want to know whether, if anything, it is of value to our case,” DeMatt said.

The prints were analyzed by an FBI footwear expert, who provided no indication of the shoe size or who left them, according to DeMatt.

District Attorney John Peck confirmed the footprints were analyzed but declined to discuss the findings.

Judge Rita Hathaway will rule on the defense request for an expert at a later date.

Prosecutors have said they believe Hall robbed Henderson and Richards and that Henderson's wallet was found near Hall's home after the murders.

According to information contained in a search warrant, police believe Hall and Henderson exchanged at least 11 text messages hours before the killings.

During a preliminary hearing in December 2011, witnesses testified that Hall told them he found the bodies and hit two unidentified men with a bat as he attempted to escape from the scene.

A trial date for Hall has not yet been set. Hathaway scheduled another hearing for March to discuss the status of the case.

Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6293 or rcholodofsky@tribweb.com.

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