Pair avoids murder charges in Derry Township robbery death
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.