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Trial begins for Duquesne woman tied to Monessen murder

| Tuesday, March 25, 2014, 11:27 p.m.

Chalsee Hughes was running an errand with her boyfriend's buddies when she decided to stop at a local Wal-Mart store to purchase toothpaste.

At the Rostraver store, the men convinced her they needed to use her identification to purchase a box of bullets that Westmoreland County prosecutors contend was used in the Dec. 3, 2012, slaying of Chris “Snaxx” Fincik, 36, in Monessen.

The trial of Hughes, a 21-year-old Duquesne woman who is accused of purchasing the bullets, started on Tuesday. She is charged with second- and third-degree murder, robbery and two counts of conspiracy.

“It will be clear the ammunition purchased from Wal-Mart was used to kill Chris Fincik three hours later at his home,” District Attorney John Peck said during his opening statement to the jury.

The prosecution contended that two men, Josh Stepoli and Antoine Hairston, told Hughes they needed the bullets to rob Fincik, a known drug dealer in Monessen.

Fincik is Hughes' godfather.

“Without her, Josh Stepoli couldn't have bought ammunition, and that makes her an accomplice,” Peck said.

Defense attorney Tim Andrews said in his opening statement that Hughes can't be convicted of conspiring with Stepoli, 21, and Hairston, 19, because neither was charged with Fincik's murder.

Judge Al Bell told jurors that the fact that Stepoli and Hairston have not been charged is irrelevant to Hughes' case.

Andrews contended that Hughes did not know Fincik was the target of a robbery and that she did not buy the bullets.

“Chalsee Hughes agreed to show identification so they could buy the bullets. That's why they want you to convict her of murder,” Andrews said in his opening statement. “Just showing a driver's license to a clerk so these two men can buy bullets is insufficient.”

Four witnesses testified on Tuesday, and none offered information about Hughes.

The witnesses described Fincik's last minutes as three masked gunmen wearing all-black clothing stormed through his backyard and shot through a door.

Rachael Manges, 41, told jurors she had just entered the house to deliver a drink and cigars to Fincik when the shots were fired.

“I saw Chris try to shut the door, and then seconds later there was gunfire. I know he got shot, and he pushed me out of the way and told me to get down,” Manges testified.

Fincik's girlfriend, Miranda Morris, said the masked men ran about two to three feet in front of her as she walked toward the house.

“One guy pulled out a gun and started shooting,” Morris testified.

Fincik was shot four times, including a fatal round to his chest.

The three masked men fled.

In addition to Hughes, police charged her boyfriend, Earl Pinkney, 20, of Monessen with murder. His trial is pending.

Testimony in Hughes' case will continue on Wednesday.

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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