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Fatal beating of elderly Fayette man recounted for jurors

| Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

A 35-year-old Fayette County man brutally beat an elderly man, leading to his death, because he was upset over the older man's relationship with a woman, according to a prosecutor.

Jonathan Godines of Browns­­­­­­ville punched and kicked John Eicholtz, 75, because he felt that Eicholtz's relationship with the woman was an “affront to his manhood,” said Assistant District Attorney Anthony Iannamorelli at the outset of Godines' homicide trial on Monday.

The Nov. 15, 2011, beating caused Eicholtz to suffer a stroke that resulted in his death on Dec. 1, 2011, Iannamorelli said.

“The defendant, Jonathan Godines, beat the victim, John Eicholtz, to death,” Iannamorelli told jurors. “He beat him to death with his bare hands.”

Brownsville police allege Godines, now 37, beat Eicholtz on Nov. 15, 2011, outside the Brownsville House apartments on High Street as Eicholtz was delivering cigarettes to a female tenant. Eicholtz was taken to UPMC Mercy hospital in Pittsburgh, where he remained in a coma until he died on Dec. 1, police said.

One of Godines' attorneys, Benjamin Goodwin, told jurors that Godines never intended to kill Eicholtz.

“What happened here was a fistfight,” Goodwin said. “There was never any specific intent to kill John Eicholtz.”

Goodwin said Godines was unaware Eicholtz was taking medications for an illness that affected his veins. An increase in Eicholtz's blood pressure, he said, caused a blood vessel to rupture in his brain.

Eicholtz, Goodwin argued, was showing signs of improvement in a hospital after the assault when his “family refused further treatment.” Once medical care was withdrawn, Goodwin said, Eicholtz's condition deteriorated.

Jurors heard from six prosecution witnesses, including Megan Boger and Tabitha Ziglear, both 18. The Brownsville teenagers said they were taking a break about 6:30 p.m. from dancing at a studio on Water Street when they saw Godines drag Eicholtz from his car and kick and punch him.

The teens testified Godines walked away and Eicholtz followed him. Eicholtz returned a short time later but had a bloody lip, a cut forehead and was slurring his speech, they testified.

Both teens identified Godines as the assailant.

Emma Petrosky, 20, of Brownsville testified that she, her sister and mother were riding past the Antique Bar & Grill on High Street when she saw a younger man on the curb, motioning for an older man to approach him. When the older man reached the younger man, she testified, the younger man punched the older man twice.

Petrosky's 16-year-old sister, Brianna, and the girls' mother, Fawn Petrosky, testified they saw the younger man punching the older man.

The Petroskys could not identify the younger man.

Jerry Abbey, a bartender at the Antique Bar & Grill, testified he was standing behind the bar when he looked through the glass door and saw Godines kicking and punching at something. He said he saw Godines deliver as many as 15 punches toward his target before he walked away.

“He was punching something, and kicking at something,” Abbey testified. “What he was kicking at … I couldn't see what it was.”

Abbey said he walked outside and saw an older man whom he did not recognize walking away.

Testimony is to resume on Tuesday before President Judge John F. Wagner Jr.

Liz Zemba is a reporter for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-601-2166 or lzemba@tribweb.com.

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