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Former state senator, son to testify in Hempfield teen's death

| Saturday, Jan. 18, 2014, 8:56 a.m.

A former state senator and his son will be questioned next week as part of a civil lawsuit filed by the family of a 14-year-old boy who died from a gunshot wound to the head more than seven years ago.

Robert Regola and his son, Bobby, 24, will be asked questions surrounding the July 2006 death of next-door neighbor Louis Farrell. Farrell's body was discovered behind the Regolas' Glenmeade Road home in Hempfield, with a semi-automatic handgun owned by the elder Regola and used in the shooting near the body.

The depositions are part of a wrongful death lawsuit filed five years ago by the Farrell family, which claimed that Regola, his wife and son were negligent in allowing Farrell to have access to the 9 mm handgun.

Westmoreland County Coroner Ken Bacha ruled Farrell's death a suicide.

“They want answers to what happened,” said Farrell family attorney Jon Perry. “We know Bobby Regola was the last person who talked to Louie. We'd like details about their conversations.”

Bobby Regola has never testified about Farrell's death.

Regola's lawyer appeared Friday before Westmoreland County Judge Gary Caruso to ask that the depositions be kept private.

“We anticipate questions asked may be very private and not relevant to a trial,” said attorney Art Leonard.

The judge ruled the depositions can remain private for two months while lawyers determine whether any information should be sealed from public view.

The Farrell family has objected to Bacha's suicide ruling.

According to the lawsuit, Louis Farrell had a key to the Regola home so he could feed the family dogs while they were out of town.

On the night before Farrell's body was discovered by his father, Bobby Regola arrived home late in the evening after spending the day at an amusement park, according to police.

In previous court proceeding and in documents, the Farrell family has speculated that the two boys took the gun with them when they went into the backyard to smoke cigars.

In the lawsuit, the Farrell family cited 25 instances in which Robert Regola and his wife allegedly were negligent in their care of the gun, which was stored in a plastic case under their bed.

The suit claims Bobby Regola was negligent by having a loaded gun in his possession when he met Louis Farrell in the woods and did not have the weapon's safety engaged.

“We hope this case will highlight responsible ownership of guns could have prevented this,” Perry said.

The lawsuit has languished without any movement for nearly four years as Bobby Regola appealed a gun possession conviction in juvenile court. Bobby Regola served one year on probation. The state Supreme Court last summer refused to hear his appeal, Perry said.

Robert Regola was serving his first term in the state Senate when the shooting occurred. He was acquitted by a Westmoreland County jury on perjury and gun charges related to Farrell's death.

The senator did not seek a second term in office.

Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6293 or rcholodofsky@tribweb.com.

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