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Fayette County man takes stand in his defense

| Thursday, Oct. 10, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

A Fayette County man took the stand in his homicide trial on Wednesday and told jurors he never meant to kill the 75-year-old victim during a fistfight he described as mutual.

“I didn't have no intent for this to happen,” testified Jonathan Godines. “It was a fistfight. I thought if anything, I would have died (because) he had a gun.”

Brownsville police allege Godines, 37, beat John 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 in Pittsburgh, where he died on Dec. 1, 2011, police said.

Godines testified he barely knew Eicholtz, but he was aware the man sold prescription medications to Amber McDonald, a woman Godines described as the mother of two of his children.

“She bought pills off the man,” Godines testified, adding that he did not think McDonald was having an intimate relationship with Eicholtz.

Godines testified he and McDonald were at West Penn Hospital in Pittsburgh following the birth of one of his children in September 2011 when Eicholtz, in a phone call, called Godines a “punk” and threatened his life.

“He said, ‘I've lived my life, I'll just kill you,' ” Godines testified. “He said, ‘I'm gonna shoot you on sight.' ”

Godines testified he was outside the apartment building on Nov. 15, 2011, when Eicholtz drove by, stopped and flashed a handgun at him. When Eicholtz drove to the back of the building, Godines testified he followed him to “head him off” before he parked the car and exited with the gun.

“I'm screaming at him, ‘What the (expletive) is your problem?' ” Godines testified. “I kicked the window. He must have called me a punk 50 times.”

Godines testified the driver's door came open and he leaned in and punched Eicholtz in the face. Eicholtz, he testified, struck him numerous times with the handgun.

Godines said he walked away but Eicholtz followed him. Godines said he was yelling at Eicholtz, saying he did not want to fight, but Eicholtz continued to approach him. Godines testified he punched Eicholtz twice as the two stood near the Antique Bar and Grill.

“He grabbed a hold of my hoodie (and) as he's going down, he's pulling me with him,” Godines testified. “When I get free, that's when I kick him one time in the jaw.”

Godines testified he punched and kicked Eicholtz because Eicholtz would not stop following him.

“I just wanted to get away 'cause he was crazed,” Godines testified. “He kept pursuing me. I couldn't believe at this point he hadn't shot me.”

In hindsight, Godines said that instead of following Eicholtz to the back of the bank building, he should have left the area.

“But that's not the decision I made,” Godines testified. “I wish now that I would have.”

Godines said he did not go to the nearby Brownsville police station when he first saw the gun.

“Nobody mans that police station,” Godines told jurors. “In the past, I've seen people beating on that door for help, and there's nobody there.”

Another defense witness, Kimberly McDonald, 23, of Brownsville, testified she saw Eicholtz flash the gun as he drove by Godines. McDonald, who identified herself as Amber McDonald's sister, testified police did not seek her out for questioning, nor did she voluntarily approach them to make a statement.

“Well, I hoped I wouldn't have had to come here and do all this,” Kimberly McDonald testified, when asked why she did not go to police after learning Godines had been charged. “Nobody wants to go and testify.”

Police did not search Eicholtz's car for a gun until some five months later, when the vehicle was on a used-car lot. Detective James Caccimelio, chief county detective, testified no gun was found. Eicholtz' son, Tim Eicholtz of New Eagle, testified his father owned four long guns, but he never saw him with a handgun.

Jurors are expected to begin deliberations before Judge John F. Wagner Jr. Thursday. They will consider acquittal or convictions on first-degree homicide, third-degree homicide, voluntary manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter.

Liz Zemba is a reporter for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-601-2166.

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