Text message proves a robbery plot was afoot in Derry slaying, assistant DA tells judge
A Westmoreland County prosecutor said on Friday that there is enough evidence to support charges that an Indiana man was killed as part of a botched robbery in Derry Township last year.
Assistant District Attorney Karen Patterson told a Westmoreland County judge that a text message between 42-year-old Jesus Santiago and the victim, Michael Volk, prove a robbery plot was afoot.
“This was a homicide committed during the course of a felony robbery,” Patterson said.
During a pretrial hearing on Friday, state police Trooper Michael Bigelow testified that on Dec. 29, Volk texted Santiago about the plot.
“Ha, ha, ha. You ready to get that ...,” read the message, Bigelow told the judge.
Volk, 24, was gunned down during an attempted robbery of Ronell Moses, police said.
Police contend Danielle Leigh Clawson, 23, of West Wheatfield, Indiana County, drove Volk, her boyfriend, to Santiago's home, where he planned to rob Moses.
According to police, Santiago met Volk outside the home and Clawson left the residence with Santiago's girlfriend, Tiffany A. Blattenberger, 23, of Derry. They returned and found Volk dead inside, police said.
Police said Clawson, Blattenberger and Santiago were held inside the mobile home at gunpoint by Moses, who demanded a cellphone and called someone for a ride.
The prosecution charged Santiago, Blattenberger and Clawson with first-degree murder and second-degree murder. According to testimony from a preliminary hearing in March, witnesses said Moses shot Volk.
Moses, 21, of Penn Hills faces a charge of first-degree murder and has claimed he shot Volk in self-defense.
Santiago and Clawson were in court on Friday to ask that the murder charges against them be dismissed for lack of evidence.
“None of the conspirators here were responsible for shooting Mr. Volk,” said Clawson's defense attorney, John Sweeney.
Judge John Blahovec said he will issue a ruling in the case soon.
Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.