Share This Page

Drug charges added against Hempfield man accused of murder

| Wednesday, June 11, 2014, 12:01 a.m.
Eric Fennell, 32, of Hempfield is accused of criminal homicide for a fatal shooting at his home, where police said they found a sophisticated operation for growing marijuana.
Fidel O. Velez, 27, of Greensburg, passed away Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014, in Greensburg.

A Hempfield man accused of fatally shooting his friend in January is facing charges for what police describe as a “very sophisticated” marijuana grow operation at his home.

Eric James Fennell, 32, is set for a video arraignment on Wednesday on drug charges that were filed on Monday.

Fennell is being held in the Westmoreland County Prison without bail on a homicide charge in the Jan. 21 death of Fidel Omar Velez, 27, of Southwest Greensburg at Fennell's Swede Hill Road home.

During the investigation into Velez's death, police said, they found marijuana plants, psychedelic mushrooms and cash at Fennell's home.

Trooper Teko Angelicchio said in an affidavit of probable cause that 51 items were seized from Fennell's residence under a search warrant.

“Immediately upon entry, a strong odor of marijuana was detected,” the trooper wrote.

Police found 14 marijuana plants, several glass jars containing about 2 pounds of processed marijuana, 25 Suboxone films (used to treat addiction to heroin or other opioid dependence), approximately 3 ounces of psychedelic mushrooms, suspected hash, drug paraphernalia and $1,218, the affidavit said.

Fennell faces charges of drug manufacturing, drug possession and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Two alleged grow operations were found in the home — one with psychedelic mushrooms in a bedroom and a second with marijuana in a basement and laundry room, police said.

The marijuana operation in the basement included grow lights, a carbon monoxide generator, air conditioner and dehumidifier, Angelicchio wrote in the affidavit. In the laundry room, marijuana plants were being grown “in a large hydroponic system,” he said.

The discovery was made as police investigated the 2 a.m. shooting after Fennell and his girlfriend, who lived at the home, drove Velez to Excela Health Westmoreland Hospital in Greensburg instead of calling for help.

Fennell claimed the shooting was an accident and said Velez was his best friend. His attorney could not be reached on Tuesday.

Velez was pronounced dead at 2:22 a.m. Fennell told troopers during an interview at the hospital that Velez “accidentally shot himself” while handling a .25-caliber handgun, according to an affidavit in the homicide case. Fennell later told investigators that he was holding the weapon in his living room when it malfunctioned and fired one shot, striking Velez in the chest, investigators said.

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

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.