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West Newton man ID'd as shooter in 2011 robbery

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Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

An Allegheny County woman identified a West Newton man as the person who police say shot another man during a robbery.

Marcillia Tompkins said Philip John Mercurio, 20, struck Travis Kenny on the head with a gun during the June 17, 2011, incident.

“He hit him in his head, and the gun went off,” Tompkins testified.

Mercurio is charged with attempted murder and other offenses for allegedly shooting Kenny on a Rostraver street. Judge Debra A. Pezze asked attorneys to file briefs supporting their arguments and said she will rule on the pretrial motion at another date.

Defense attorney Dante Bertani is arguing that prosecutors don't have any witnesses identifying Mercurio as the shooter. Kenny testified during a hearing last month that he didn't know who shot him.

Tompkins testified that she and four others, including Mercurio, traveled to Pricedale because one person in the group wanted to purchase marijuana from Kenny. That person, Sarah Smith, set up Kenny to be robbed, Tompkins testified.

Kenny got in a car with a garbage bag containing marijuana, she testified. At some point, Kenny and Mercurio exited the car, and Mercurio allegedly struck Kenny with the gun and one shot was fired, she said.

Barry O'Neal Jr., of 415 Summer St., Pricedale, testified that he was dropped off at a nearby gas station while the group visited Kenny. When the group returned about 15 minutes later “everybody's hysterical, freaking out for some reason,” O'Neal testified.

O'Neal told Rostraver police in a statement that he saw Mercurio cleaning his gun, but the witness said he didn't remember while testifying Tuesday.

“I don't think I saw him with a gun in the car,” O'Neal testified, saying that he was “pressured” and “stressed” when giving a statement to police.

Rostraver Officer Martin Palla testified that O'Neal was “misleading about the circumstances of the incident” and it took some persuasion to get information.

Bertani asked that charges of attempted murder, aggravated assault and robbery be dismissed.

“The commonwealth's own witnesses say that there was no shooting against anybody,” Bertani argued.

Assistant District Attorney Allen Powanda argued that conflicting testimony “doesn't mean that the charges fall.”

Mercurio faces other charges of carrying a firearm without a license, terroristic threats, simple assault and theft.

Renatta Signorini is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-837-5374 or

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