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Westmoreland

Man testifies that he wanted to call off robbery plot that ended in bystander's death

Rich Cholodofsky
| Friday, Aug. 17, 2018, 5:57 p.m.

When it was time to implement the planned robbery of a drug dealer in Latrobe nearly three years ago, Austin Krinock said he had cold feet and wanted to put a stop to the plot.

But instead, as the heist proceeded in front of a St. Clair Street residence in January 2016, he allowed it to continue and even participated before a masked man fired two shots that killed Daniel McNerny, Krinock told jurors Friday during the fourth day of his murder trial.

“Whenever it was first discussed, I was supposed to be outside with him, with a gun. I didn’t want to do it,” Krinock testified.

He is charged with second and third-degree murder, robbery, conspiracy and other offenses in connection with McNerny’s death.

He was the lone witnesses to testify in his defense.

Westmoreland County Common Pleas Court Judge Meagan Bilik-DeFazio said lawyers are expected to make closing arguments and jury deliberations will begin Monday.

Prosecutors contend Krinock, 20, formerly of Johnstown, was one of three men who planned the robbery of Pittsburgh-area drug dealer Christopher Showers in retaliation for a verbal slight.

Krinock told jurors Friday that he conceived of the robbery plot as revenge against Showers, who a month earlier called him a disparaging name via a text message over a disagreement involving a girl. Krinock testified that over the next month, and along with roommates Zachary McGrath and Colin Gearhart, they purchased guns and lured Showers to Latrobe for the robbery.

But on the night the plan was to unfold, Krinock said he and Showers had ended their dispute and that he wanted to call off the robbery.

“Me and Colin decided that it was not such a good idea anymore, we didn’t want to do it,” Krinock testified.

He said McGrath opted to continue with the plot, dressed in all black attire and took a gun outside to wait for Showers to leave after he sold drugs and collected cash from its occupants.

McNerny, 20, of Latrobe, who was not part of the robbery plot or its target, was shot when he attempted to intervene as McGrath held another man at gunpoint during the robbery, authorities allege.

County Detective Ray Dupilka testified Krinock originally told police he was not involved in the robbery and did not know the identity of the shooter. But a day later, Krinock called investigators and confessed to his involvement in McNerny’s death.

McGrath, 23, of Latrobe, the man police claim fired the shots that killed McNerny, was charged with first and second-degree murder and other offenses. His trial is expected to begin next year.

Gearhart, 20, of Latrobe, is charged with the same offenses as Krinock. His trial is expected to be scheduled sometime next year.

Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Rich at 724-830-6293 or rcholodofsky@tribweb.com.

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