Pair avoids murder charges in Derry Township robbery death
By Rich Cholodofsky
Published: Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Murder charges were dismissed Monday against two people charged in connection with the shooting death of a man they allegedly conspired with to rob a drug dealer in Derry Township last year.
In separate rulings, Westmoreland County Judge John E. Blahovec said there was not enough evidence to prosecute Jesus Santiago and Danielle Leigh Clawson for the Dec. 29, 2012, death of Michael Volk.
Prosecutors said Santiago, Clawson and Tiffany Blattenberger conspired with Volk, 24, of Indiana to steal money from Ronnell Moses.
During the attempted robbery, Moses shot and killed Volk, according to the prosecution.
The prosecution filed a general count of criminal homicide and a separate charge of second-degree murder, which is a killing that occurs during the commission of another felony.
“Simply put, there exists no evidence to establish that defendant ... or an accomplice or a conspirator killed Mr. Volk,” Blahovec wrote with regard to Santiago, 42, of Derry and Clawson, 23, of West Wheatfield, Indiana County..
Police said Clawson drove Volk, her boyfriend, to Santiago's home, where he planned to rob Moses.
Prosecutors contend Santiago met Volk outside the home and Clawson left with Blattenberger, 23, of Derry. Blattenberger, Santiago's girlfriend, and Clawson 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.
Assistant District Attorney Karen Patterson previously argued the murder charges should stand because there was a plan to rob Moses and because Volk died as a result of that scheme.
“In the course of committing the robbery of Ronnell Moses, someone else was killed,” Patterson said on Monday.
She said the prosecution has not decided whether to appeal Blahovec's ruling.
Robbery charges still stand against Clawson and Santiago.
Blattenberger has challenged murder charges she faces on the same grounds. Patterson said she expected Blahovec to soon issue an identical order dismissing the murder charges in Blattenberger's case.
Moses, 22, of Penn Hills is facing murder charges. His lawyer indicated he will argue to a jury that Moses shot Volk in self-defense.
Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6293 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- No apology from Greensburg driver in DUI death
- Hempfield couple charged in thefts
- Yukon Pet Adoption League, founder settle spat
- Westmoreland County Controller Balzer, IRS at odds
- Mt. Pleasant Area School District looks to hire assistant superintendent
- Ligonier man charged with harassing estranged wife
- Man charged with pointing gun at woman in Rostraver
- Tax refund promise led Ligonier teacher to second career as corgi breeder
- Mt. Pleasant Rotary makes donations to community organizations
- Donegal American Legion Post 941 helps nonprofits
- Latrobe will join county land bank