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Jailhouse informant allowed to testify in Monessen killing

| Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014, 11:33 p.m.
Chalsee Hughes is led out of District Judge Dalfonso’s court on December 27, 2012 in Monessen. Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review

A jailhouse informant will be permitted to testify next month during a Duquesne woman's homicide trial.

Westmoreland County Judge Al Bell ruled on Thursday that Amy Calabrese, 30, of the South Hills of Allegheny County, can tell a jury about a conversation she claims she had with Chalsee Hughes, 21, while both were at the county prison.

Hughes allegedly purchased the bullets used to kill her godfather, Chris “Snax” Fincik, 36, on Dec. 3, 2012, at his Monessen home. She is facing homicide and robbery charges.

During a pretrial hearing on Thursday, Calabrese testified that she and Hughes talked at the prison in January 2013 about the shooting.

“She bought the bullets,” Calabrese testified. “She knew they were going to do something.”

Fincik was found near the front door of his Maple Avenue home with gunshot wounds to his chest, abdomen and right arm.

Hughes told police she went to Wal-Mart in Rostraver with two men who needed bullets to commit a robbery, according to court records. They asked her to purchase the ammunition because she had identification to prove she was 18.

Police have not charged those two men in connection with Fincik's death. Homicide charges are pending against Earl Pinkney, 20, of Monessen in the shooting.

Calabrese testified that Hughes said she drove the two men to Fincik's home after purchasing the bullets.

Following the shooting, “once they left, they went to some lady's house and destroyed the gun,” Calabrese testified.

Investigators have not recovered the murder weapon.

Calabrese said she told her attorney about the conversation, and a meeting was arranged with investigators in January 2013. The day after that meeting, Calabrese was released from prison when her $30,000 bail was changed to unsecured.

Calabrese asked for the bond reduction at the meeting, she testified.

Theft and receiving stolen property charges stemming from a July 2012 incident in Lower Burrell are pending against Calabrese. She has a criminal history of mostly deception-related crimes in Allegheny County dating to 2001.

Her “credibility is suspect,” argued Hughes' attorney, Tim Andrews.

“I also believe she knew she was going to get a benefit,” he said.

District Attorney John Peck said investigators did not ask Calabrese to ferret out information about the shooting while in prison.

Investigators contend that Hughes drove the men to the store on Dec. 2, 2012, and used her driver's license to purchase 7.62-caliber cartridges. Monessen police found three 7.62-caliber cartridges near Fincik's back porch.

Jury selection for Hughes' trial is set to begin on Monday. Opening arguments are scheduled for March 24.

Renatta Signorini is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-837-5374 or rsignorini@tribweb.com.

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