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Westmoreland

Judge imposes maximum sentence in Monessen shooting death

Rich Cholodofsky
| Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2017, 4:48 p.m.

A Monessen man convicted of killing his mother's boyfriend in 2014 on the front steps of a home they shared will serve up to 20 years in prison.

Westmoreland County Judge Rita Hathaway imposed a maximum 10- to 20-year sentence for Christopher Allshouse despite his attorney's request for a reduced prison term to reflect the jury verdict that found he did not intend to kill James Ritter, 54.

Allshouse fired eight shots at Ritter, hitting him twice in the back of the head during the Feb. 12, 2014, altercation.

“I'm not substituting what my view of what the jury should have found, I respect the verdict. ... But I'm not going to ignore what I heard during the trial,” Hathaway said, noting she did not buy Allshouse's contention that he acted in self-defense. “Eight shots, in self-defense, that seems very extreme.”

After a four-day trial in November, a jury convicted Allshouse of a lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter. The prosecution argued that Allshouse intended to kill Ritter and asked jurors to find Allshouse guilty of first-degree murder, a finding that would have carried a mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Assistant District Attorney Tom Grace said Tuesday he still believed Ritter's death was first-degree murder and asked that the judge impose the maximum sentence permitted under the law.

“I'm not asking your honor to set aside the verdict. The jury came back with voluntary manslaughter, and we're stuck with that,” Grace said.

Allshouse declined to make a statement during his sentencing hearing.

At trial, he was the only defense witness to testify, telling jurors he feared for his mother's life when he fired eight shots at Ritter from a .22-caliber handgun.

Allshouse contended that Ritter had previously assaulted his mother and was concerned Ritter was about to go into a bedroom and hurt her again. The defense argued at trial that Allshouse should have been found not guilty and that the shooting was justified.

“The jury rejected first-degree murder and third-degree murder. If you impose a maximum sentence, it would ignore the verdict,” defense attorney Michael DeMatt said Tuesday.

Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-830-6293 or rcholodofsky@tribweb.com.

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