Hearings for 2 Derry Township homicide suspects rescheduled
Preliminary hearings for two men accused in the death of an Indiana County man, during what police described as a botched robbery, were rescheduled on Friday after one requested an interpreter.
Jesus Santiago, 42, of Quarry Road, Derry Township, told District Judge Mark Bilik at the beginning of his hearing that he was having a hard time grasping the proceeding.
“You guys talking professionally is hard for me to understand,” Santiago said through a thick accent.
Bilik continued hearings for Santiago and Ronell Lamar Moses Jr., 20, of Hamilton Drive, Penn Hills, upon Santiago's request for an interpreter.
Two other suspects — Tiffany A. Blattenberger, 22, of Quarry Road, Derry Township, and Danielle Leigh Clawson, 24, of West Wheatfield Township, Indiana County — waived their rights to preliminary hearings.
Moses is accused of fatally shooting Michael Matthew Volk, 24, on Dec. 29 after Volk, Blattenberger, Santiago and Clawson allegedly conspired to rob Moses of drugs and money. Moses then allegedly held Blattenberger, Santiago and Clawson at gunpoint until a getaway vehicle arrived.
Moses had been staying at the Derry Township home of Blattenberger and Santiago allegedly to distribute drugs in the area. The couple's two toddler-aged children were at home during the incident and are now staying with relatives.
About 30 friends and family members of the defendants and victim crammed into a waiting area at Bilik's office. Only a few were permitted into the courtroom because of limited space.
At the start of the hearing, Santiago questioned why he was being represented by court-appointed attorney William Gallishen Sr.
“He don't know nothing,” Santiago told Bilik. “I'm here, like, lost.”
Gallishen told Bilik he spoke with Santiago three times prior to Friday's hearing and the defendant said he “may need an interpreter.”
A new date had not been scheduled Friday.
Clawson drove Volk, her boyfriend, to the Quarry Road home on Dec. 29, where he planned to rob Moses, who was originally identified by witnesses only as “Mitch,” according to police.
Volk met up with Santiago and both went inside.
Clawson left the residence with Blattenberger and they returned a short time later to find Volk lying dead inside of gunshot wounds to the head and stomach, according to police. Santiago told police that “Mitch” — who the group had just met — killed Volk.
Police identified “Mitch” as Moses after disseminating a surveillance photo taken at the Wal-Mart near Blairsville the night prior, when he and Volk walked together through the store. He turned himself in to police after a warrant was issued.
Clawson, Blattenberger and Santiago allegedly were held inside the mobile home at gunpoint by Moses, who demanded a cellphone. Moses got a ride and fled with the phone and a silver handgun, police allege.
The suspects are being held in the Westmoreland County jail without bail. Blattenberger, Clawson and Santiago are charged with homicide, robbery and conspiracy to commit robbery because they plotted the robbery that led to Volk's death, police said.
Moses faces charges of homicide, kidnapping, unlawful possession of a firearm and terroristic threats.
Renatta Signorini is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-837-5374 or firstname.lastname@example.org.