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Arnold barber convicted of first-degree murder of New Kensington man

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Raymond 'Rico' Rivera of Arnold was convicted of fatally shooting John L. Evans in New Kensington in October 2011. Rivera was sentenced to life in prison without parole on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013.

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Saturday, Aug. 17, 2013, 6:04 p.m.
 

Some jurors cried as a first-degree murder conviction was announced in a Westmoreland County courtroom Saturday morning against an Arnold barber who gunned down a New Kensington man in a dispute over a woman.

Raymond Rivera, a 37-year-old barber, showed no emotion as the verdict was returned at 1:30 a.m. to Judge Rita Hathaway, ending a five-day trial.

Rivera, who testified he shot in self-defense, faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison.

The verdict, returned after 6 12 hours of deliberations, brought tears to friends of the victim, John Evans, 37, of New Kensington.

He was shot twice on Oct. 20, 2011, and bled to death in the parking lot of Central City Plaza in New Kensington, according to testimony. One bullet pierced his neck, severing his jugular vein.

Rivera, who will be formally sentenced in about three months, also was convicted of attempted murder for shooting Willie Young, 42, of New Kensington, a friend of Evans, who was hit by two bullets, one in the arm and one in the leg.

Jurors found Rivera guilty of two counts of aggravated assault and illegally possessing a firearm after a conviction 20 years ago for a robbery in Reading.

Rivera testified on Friday he feared for his life, but the jury of seven men and five women rejected that claim.

“This is without a doubt a textbook case of deliberate, intentional murder,” Assistant District Attorney Larry Koenig said.

The woman at the center of the dispute, April Cevario, 45, showed no reaction to the verdict. Evans had claimed to have an affair with Cevario, who was Rivera's girlfriend. She denied having the affair.

She testified Evans had a gun and threatened to kill her and Rivera.

Police found Evans' cellphone but no gun near his body, according to testimony.

During deliberations, jurors returned to court to listen to a 911 call from an employee of Family Dollar, who described the shooting in detail as she hid inside the store. Jurors viewed again surveillance tape taken from nearby cameras that showed Rivera driving away from the plaza.

“I really didn't want to do it. I was forced to,” Rivera testified. “I see him pull the gun out, and he turns around and comes at me with a gun pointed towards me, so I just pulled the trigger.”

Defense attorneys Chris Haidze and Jack Mandarino contended that Rivera should have been acquitted.

“Raymond Rivera was in fear,” Mandarino told jurors.

Rivera, a barber, worked in a shop across the street from a New Kensington clothing store where Evans worked, and the two had been feuding for months, the defense contended.

Rivera, a former professional boxer who was born in Puerto Rico, told jurors he feared Evans, a New York City native, and his friends.

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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