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Allegheny

Etna man's attorney says client killed 2 in self defense

Megan Guza
| Tuesday, May 2, 2017, 12:15 a.m.
Josh Huber of Etna in police custody in 2016.
WPXI
Josh Huber of Etna in police custody in 2016.

No one in Judge Thomas Flaherty's courtroom Monday disputed the fact that Josh Huber shot and killed two people in his Etna apartment last year.

The question posed to the jury was whether the shootings of Derek Schindler and Melissa Zuk were justifiable self-defense or first-degree murder.

“This is not a ‘whodunit' case,” said defense attorney Michael Waltman in his opening remarks Monday in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas. “We know who did it.”

Huber shot Schindler, 30, and Zuk, 22, just after 7 a.m. in his third-floor apartment. Zuk was shot once in the chest, the bullet tearing through both lungs, her heart, her esophagus and her aorta, according to Allegheny County Medical Examiner Dr. Karl Williams. Schindler, a Shaler resident, was shot once in the head — the bullet piercing his skull and brain — and once in the chest, which tore through both lungs and his aorta.

Detective Patrick Kinavy, who headed the Allegheny County Homicide Unit's investigation into the killings, said there was blood on walls in the apartment's living room, as well as on the ceiling above the body of Schindler, who was found sprawled across a couch.

Zuk, of McCandless, was found slumped in a crouching position near the front door.

Kinavy testified the only signs of a struggle in the apartment were an overturned kitchen chair and a piece of the sectional couch that was askew. Waltman noted in crime scene photos there was debris on the floor between the couch and coffee table. Kinavy, however, noted that drinks on the coffee table remained undisturbed.

Cassandra Weaver, now 22, was in Huber's apartment the night of the shootings. She testified that she'd known Zuk for years — “she was my best friend,” she said.

Weaver said Zuk and Schindler — who she hadn't previously met — picked her up from a relative's home and drove to Huber's apartment.

Weaver said she and Zuk and Schindler drank and did cocaine, and Huber talked to her about the Bible and asked her if she believed in God. Then he offered her a sleeping pill.

Weaver testified that taking the pill was the last thing she remembered until she woke up in the hospital.

Donald Cox, who lived directly above Huber's apartment, heard an argument and ensuing gunshots that morning. He called 911. He said he heard a man's voice shouting, “Get out, get out, get the (expletive) out.” A woman kept shouting, “(Expletive) you,” he said.

Then he heard four to seven gunshots.

After he called 911, Cox grabbed his 12-gauge shotgun and charged down the stairs, stepping past Weaver in the apartment doorway, believing she was dead. He saw Zuk and Schindler, then noticed Huber standing in the kitchen facing away from him. He had a bloody nose when he turned around, he said. Cox trained his weapon on Huber and ordered him to the ground.

At one point, he said, he tried to kick Huber's cellphone from his hand. He missed, he testified, and kicked him in the face. He kept Huber at gunpoint until police arrived.

Waltman told jurors that Zuk and Schindler attacked Huber, noting it was “two against one.” He said evidence would prove Huber had been beaten.

“Josh calls 911 and asks for help,” Waltman said. “He doesn't run, he doesn't leave. ...This is a case that asks you if you can't protect yourself from being thrown around in your own home... when can you?”

Testimony is expected to continue Tuesday morning.

Megan Guza is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-380-8519, mguza@tribweb.com or via Twitter at @meganguzaTrib.

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