Murder trial in Washington Township slayings under way
The lawyer for a former Ligonier man charged with brutally beating and killing a couple who shared a Washington Township house told a Westmoreland County jury on Tuesday that his client was at the crime scene before the two victims were found.
But defense attorney Michael DeMatt said there is not enough evidence to convict his client, Eric Hall, 30, of murder and other offenses for the Aug. 28, 2011, slayings of Noelle Richards and Anthony Henderson.
“Mere presence at the scene of a crime is insufficient to prove someone committed a crime. Other people were there that night. Eric Hall was just another person there that night,” DeMatt said in his opening statement to the jury.
Hall is on trial on charges of first-degree and second-degree murder, aggravated assault and a firearms offense. Prosecutors contend he is the man who broke into the Fox Road house where Richards and Henderson lived, beat them with a baseball bat and shot them multiple times.
Westmoreland County District Attorney John Peck told jurors that telephone records and physical evidence will connect Hall to the murders.
“It will be clear, beyond a reasonable doubt, the defendant, on Aug. 28, shot and killed Noelle Richards and Tony Henderson,” Peck said. “He is guilty of first-degree murder of both these people.”
Richards, 24, was shot twice, once in each ear. Henderson, 24, was shot three times, including once to the back of his head.
He also was repeatedly beaten on the back of his head, Peck said.
The prosecutor told jurors that Richards' and Henderson's blood was found in Hall's car and that Henderson's wallet was found in Ligonier, near where Hall lived at the time.
Two witnesses testified on Tuesday that Hall was at the murder scene minutes before the bodies were discovered.
Brothers Michael and Gregory DiVencenzo, both of Irwin, told jurors they, along with Sam Denillo, formerly of Jeannette, went to the Washington Township property to purchase marijuana from Henderson.
Hall emerged from the house wielding a baseball bat and hit Denillo in the head and Gregory DiVencenzo in the arm, they testified.
“He tried to hit me in the face. He swung at my head, and I put my arm up to block it,” DiVencenzo testified.
Both brothers in court identified Hall as the man with the baseball bat.
They fled the scene after the attack and did not see the bodies in the house, the brothers testified.
As they left the property to get medical help for Denillo, Hall was prostrate, waving his arms on the concrete, apparently looking for an object, both brothers testified.
The prosecution will continue its case when the trial before Westmoreland County Judge Rita Hathaway reconvenes Wednesday morning.
Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6293 or firstname.lastname@example.org.