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Westmoreland

Man accused of killing New Kensington cop presses to marry potential witness

Rich Cholodofsky
| Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2018, 5:36 p.m.
Accused Cop Killer Rehmael Sal Holt, is escorted from District Court Justice Frank PaloneÕs office after his preliminary Hearing.Wednesday Dec 13, 2017.
Louis B. Ruediger | Tribune-Review
Accused Cop Killer Rehmael Sal Holt, is escorted from District Court Justice Frank PaloneÕs office after his preliminary Hearing.Wednesday Dec 13, 2017.

Attorneys for Rahmael Sol Holt, the man accused of killing a New Kensington police officer last year, on Tuesday asked a Westmoreland County judge to allow their client to move forward with plans to marry a witness prosecutors want to testify against him.

Holt, 30, of Harrison, is being held in the county jail without bond as he awaits trial for first-degree murder and other offenses in connection with the November shooting death of officer Brian Shaw. Prosecutors said they will seek the death penalty against Holt.

District Attorney John Peck last month asked a judge to bar Holt from seeking a marriage license — a preemptive move based on anonymous reports that a wedding was in the works.

Defense lawyers Tim Dawson and James Robinson filed court documents Tuesday saying that Holt does intend to marry his fiance, Vanessa Portis, a woman prosecutors said is a key witness against Holt. They want Common Pleas Court Judge Rita Hathaway to allow Holt to be transported to the courthouse and apply for a marriage license in person at the Register of Wills office or from the county jail via video conferencing.

“Defendant further requests that he be permitted to marry his fiance during his incarceration by an official or judge authorized by law to perform a marriage ceremony in Pennsylvania…,” Dawson and Robinson wrote.

Hathaway in July issued a temporary order that barred Holt from obtaining a marriage license. As of Tuesday, she had yet to schedule a hearing on the matter.

The prosecution contends Portis drove Holt to various locations after the shooting. Holt was subject of a four-day manhunt by police after Shaw was killed following a traffic stop in New Kensington. They eventually captured him in Pittsburgh.

The defense said the proposed marriage would not prevent Portis from testifying at Holt’s trial because she is likely to be called as a defense witness. Dawson and Robinson said in court documents that Holt did not flee the murder scene.

“It is admitted that Vanessa Portis transported (Holt) from the New Kensington area back home on the night at issue,” they said.

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

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