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Baby sitter in Mt. Pleasant shooting death scheduled for January trial

Rich Cholodofsky
| Monday, Nov. 6, 2017, 5:03 p.m.

Guilty plea negotiations have stalled again for a Ruffsdale woman accused of giving a teen access to a gun used in the fatal shooting his friend last year.

Westmoreland County Common Pleas Judge Rita Hathaway on Monday said the child endangerment trial of Brooke Nelson will begin in January. Nelson, 20, is charged with 11 offenses in connection with the death last year of 13-year-old James Robert “J.R.” Gustafson.

Prosecutors said Nelson was baby-sitting three children in a Mt. Pleasant home on March 20, 2016, when she gave a gun to then-14-year-old John Burnsworth to use to scare a visiting Gustafson from the home. Burnsworth shot Gustafson one time in the face, police said.

After a brief private meeting Monday with the lawyers, Hathaway allowed the attorneys to continue plea bargain talks for the next two months but said the case will go to trial in January without a deal.

In August, Hathaway told lawyers that the case would go to trial in November unless a guilty plea was reached.

“If you don't have a deal, that is going to be it. There will be a trial. There will be no further continuances,” Hathaway said.

Police said Nelson was left in charge of three children, all younger than 10, at the South Church Street home of Joshua Hudec. An unsecured, loaded handgun was kept in a bedroom.

Police said Burnsworth shot Gustafson after Nelson directed him to retrieve the weapon.

Burnsworth was convicted in juvenile court of involuntary manslaughter and was sentenced to an indefinite period at a reform school in Cambria County.

Hudec, 32, pleaded guilty this year to 10 misdemeanor counts of child endangerment and reckless endangerment. The prosecution dropped a felony charge of possession of an illegal firearm. Hathaway sentenced him to 11 12 to 23 months in jail.

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

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