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Valley News Dispatch

Police say Vandergrift woman admitted to killing her cousin Thursday night

| Thursday, Oct. 18, 2018, 11:42 p.m.

Police say a Vandergrift woman admitted to authorities that she shot and killed her cousin in her apartment Thursday night.

Police charged Ashley Croft, 35, with criminal homicide in the death of John Edward Smail, 31, of Greensburg.

Croft was arraigned Friday in Allegheny Township. She was denied bail and was jailed in the Westmoreland County Prison. Her preliminary hearing is scheduled for Oct. 30.

The Westmoreland County Coroner’s Office identified the victim Friday morning. After an autopsy later in the day, Coroner Kenneth A. Bacha ruled Smail died from at least one gunshot wound to the neck, chest, abdomen, and right arm. He officially ruled Smail’s death as a homicide.

According to a criminal complaint, borough police went to the 500 block of Longfellow Street shortly after 10 p.m. after a 911 call reported a shooting. They found Smail near the apartment’s back door, lying dead on his back from at least one gunshot wound.

They also found Croft, who lives at the apartment with her dog, police said.

From the back porch, police could see a black, semi-automatic handgun in the apartment, according to the criminal complaint.

Police claim Croft volunteered to them that Smail was her cousin and that she had shot him.

“She continued, ‘I was sleeping and dreaming. I woke up. I was high today and I was out of it. John said he was leaving,” police wrote in the criminal complaint.

“She then said to John, ‘If I’m staying here, your (sic) not leaving alive,’ and again stated that she shot him.”

Croft told police they would find at least two guns in her home and “some weed,” according to the criminal complaint.

Police said at least one upstairs neighbor saw Croft with a gun in her hands while she was in the back yard.

Another witness allegedly went to the apartment after the shooting to see what happened.

“The witness observed Croft holding the black handgun and she made the statement that she killed her cousin,” the complaint says. “The witness got Croft to drop the gun and then 911 was called.”

The witnesses reported hearing between one and three shots from the apartment, after hearing some banging and thuds before the shooting.

Police said that when Croft was interviewed, she admitted pulling a handgun from her purse and shooting at Smail three times.

Police said they later found three spent shell casings and two handguns while executing a search warrant.

Neighbors Adam and Amber Pierce live two houses down from shooting scene but didn’t know what was going on until police started to show up.

“We didn’t hear anything,” Amber Pierce said. “My dogs didn’t even bark.”

The couple said the shooting is concerning because they have three children that play outside.

“This whole neighborhood’s full of kids,” she said.

Adam Pierce said he’s concerned about drug activity in the area that might be leading to more violence.

“Stuff’s getting worse and worse,” he said.

The couple said Croft has only recently moved into the neighborhood and they didn’t know much about her.

“They were quiet,” Adam Pierce said.

Emily Balser and Brian C. Rittmeyer are Tribune-Review staff writers. Staff writers Tony LaRussa, Michael DiVittorio and Chuck Biedka contributed to this report.

A Vandergrift police officer leads Ashley Croft out of District Judge Cheryl J. Peck-Yakopec’s courtroom in Allegheny Township on Friday, Oct. 19, 2018. Croft is charged with homicide for allegedy killing John Smail.
Emily Balser | Tribune-Review
A Vandergrift police officer leads Ashley Croft out of District Judge Cheryl J. Peck-Yakopec’s courtroom in Allegheny Township on Friday, Oct. 19, 2018. Croft is charged with homicide for allegedy killing John Smail.
Vandergrift Police investigate the report of a man shot at a residence in the 500 block of Longfellow Street on Thursday night, Oct. 18, 2018.
Michael DiVittorio | Tribune-Review
Vandergrift Police investigate the report of a man shot at a residence in the 500 block of Longfellow Street on Thursday night, Oct. 18, 2018.
Vandergrift Police investigate the report of a man shot at a residence in the 500 block of Longfellow Street on Thursday night, Oct. 18, 2018.
Michael DiVittorio | Tribune-Review
Vandergrift Police investigate the report of a man shot at a residence in the 500 block of Longfellow Street on Thursday night, Oct. 18, 2018.
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