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Ligonier Township man charged with attacking brother-in-law with garden tool

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Monday, Aug. 19, 2013, 11:05 p.m.

A Ligonier Township man who allegedly struck his brother-in-law on the head and arm with a pickaxe-type garden tool early Sunday remains in the Westmoreland County Prison on numerous criminal charges.

The victim, John Dorsey, whose age and address were unavailable, was airlifted by medical helicopter to Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center in Johnstown after the 2:28 a.m. assault.

Dorsey's brother-in-law, James W. Johnson Jr., 53, of Route 30 West, Laughlintown, was ordered held in jail after failing to post $50,000 bond set by District Judge Helen Kistler of Harrison City, who was handling night court duties.

Johnson is charged by Ligonier Township police with aggravated assault, simple assault, harassment and simple assault with a weapon.

Township Officer Amber Noel said that when she arrived at the Johnson residence, she found Dorsey lying face down on the living room floor.

“(Dorsey) was conscious, but seriously injured. He had an open, traumatic injury to his head and a closed injury to his left arm,” Noel wrote in an affidavit of probable cause filed before District Judge Denise Snyder Thiel of Ligonier.

Noel said she was met outside the home by Johnson, who expressed regret.

“I did it. I'm sorry. ... You need to get an ambulance,” Johnson said, according to Noel.

Before Ligonier Valley Ambulance crews arrived, Noel said Dorsey was able to tell her that he was packing to leave the home following an argument when Johnson struck him in the head “with a pickaxe-type weapon, later determined to be a ramp hoe.”

Dorsey told Noel he was struck in the head with the metal end, and then struck in the arm as he attempted to block another blow. She said the strike was hard enough to break the wooden handle of the garden tool, which was confiscated as evidence.

Police Chief Mike Matrunics said police are not sure what caused the argument, but he called it a long-standing dispute.

Hospital officials said Dorsey was discharged from the emergency room Sunday afternoon.

Johnson's hearing is tentatively scheduled for Aug. 28 before Thiel.

Paul Peirce is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-850-2860 or

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