2 to face trial in Monessen slaying
When Chalsee Hughes allegedly helped to purchase ammunition used in an armed robbery, she didn't think anyone — let alone someone she knew — would be hurt.
“She said she wasn't worried about anything bad happening because she knew that Earl (Pinkney) and Antoine (Hairston) and Josh (Stepoli) did armed robberies all the time,” Westmoreland County Detective Robert W. Weaver testified during a preliminary hearing on Monday. “... They never did anything in Monessen. She wasn't worried that it would be done this time to someone she knew.”
But when Hughes received a text that Chris “Snaxx” Fincik, 36, had been shot to death in his Monessen home on Dec. 3, she told Weaver she confronted Pinkney.
“She was upset because Snaxx was her godfather,” Weaver testified.
Pinkney allegedly admitted to her that he, Stepoli and Hairston had gone to rob Fincik, and Stepoli began shooting.
District Judge Joseph Dalfonso ruled on Monday that Hughes, 19, of 946 High St., Duquesne, and Pinkney, 19, of 617 Chestnut St., Monessen, will face a trial in Westmoreland County Court on homicide and other charges for their alleged roles in Fincik's death.
Neither Stepoli, 18, nor Hairston, 19, both of Monessen, has been charged because the statements given by Hughes and Pinkney cannot be used unless they agree to testify.
Fincik was found dead of multiple gunshot wounds to the chest, abdomen and right arm by Monessen police about 12:25 a.m. on Dec. 3. Police were called to the 900 block of Maple Avenue by a neighbor who heard shots fired.
Monessen police Officer David Yuhasz said he and another officer found the front door closed, but unlocked. When they tried to open the door, it was blocked by Fincik's body.
Yuhasz went to the back door and found the glass shattered and bullet holes through the steel door. Bullet casings lay on the patio just outside the door.
Yuhasz entered the kitchen and found blood on the floor and walls. He saw drugs, scales, plastic bags and $2,000 to $3,000 on the kitchen table.
Fincik had a history of arrests for drug offenses, according to court records.
Weaver testified he interviewed Hughes two days after Fincik's murder.
Other detectives, who had been canvassing area stores for ammunition purchases, had discovered Hughes might have helped to purchase bullets at a Wal-Mart.
Hughes allegedly admitted to Weaver that she had gone to Charleroi with Josh Stepoli and Antoine Hairston on Dec. 2 when Stepoli asked if she could drive them to Wal-Mart.
Stepoli said they were going to commit a robbery.
“She said that's why they needed the bullets,” Weaver said. “... Josh asked to use her identification to buy the ammunition because he forgot to bring his.”
Hughes told Weaver that Hairston then gave Stepoli $20 to purchase the ammunition, which was the same brand and caliber as two of the three shell casings found at the murder scene.
She told Weaver that she confronted Pinkney, with whom she was spending the weekend, about Fincik's death. Pinkney said he, Stepoli and Hairston went to Fincik's home to rob him, but they didn't take anything.
He allegedly told Hughes that when a woman went to the door, Fincik opened it to let her in, and that's when Stepoli fired his gun.
Pinkney told Weaver during an interview that he was at Fincik's home that night.
“I was so high, I didn't know where I was at,” Pinkney told Weaver. “Josh did the shooting, and as soon as I heard the shots I ran home.”
Pinkney refused to say anything more, Weaver said.
Defense attorneys Richard Galloway, representing Hughes, and Alan Manderino, representing Pinkney, attempted to divert attention to Stepoli and Hairston.
“Have they been arrested?” Galloway asked Weaver.
“Not yet,” Weaver said.
Galloway argued to District Judge Joseph Dalfonso that merely knowing a crime is going to happen does not make a conspiracy.
“Stepoli and Hairston, with whom she allegedly conspired, have not been arrested, and she's here for one reason: She allegedly provided identification to purchase ammunition,” Galloway said.
Manderino argued that it's not illegal to be present where a crime occurs.
“There is no evidence Pinkney had a gun. There is no evidence Pinkney shot a gun. There is no evidence Pinkney participated in this robbery in any way,” he said. “The evidence presented here today makes a good case against (Stepoli and Hairston), but it makes a poor case against Mr. Pinkney.”
District Attorney John Peck convinced Dalfonso to hold Hughes and Pinkney for trial.
He said Hughes was the “lynch pin” in procuring the ammunition, knowing a robbery would occur, and Pinkney was not just a bystander.
After the hearing, Peck said detectives continue to investigate Fincik's slaying.
Stepoli and Hairston are being held in the Westmoreland County jail as they await trial for a separate attempted homicide case. They are among five people, including Pinkney, accused of trying to kill a Monessen man who they believed was spreading rumors that Stepoli was involved in Fincik's murder.
Jennifer Reeger is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6155 or firstname.lastname@example.org.