Lawyers for Hempfield murder suspect claim confession was illegally obtained
The lawyers for a Hempfield man awaiting trial on charges that he killed his girlfriend claim a confession made to police hours after the murder was illegally obtained.
Defense attorneys Donna McClelland and Eric Hoffman contend police handcuffed and placed Allen Eugene Trent in custody and improperly elicited statements in which they said he admitted to shooting his live-in girlfriend, 61-year-old Frances Smith, in the couple’s Waycross Road home.
Trent, 55, is being held without bail in Westmoreland County Prison as he awaits trial on charges of first-degree and third-degree murder. Westmoreland County Common Pleas Judge Rita Hathaway is scheduled to hear pretrial motions in the case on May 10.
McClelland and Hoffman claim investigators repeatedly told Trent he was not under arrest and didn’t advise him of his right to remain silent until after the confession was given. The interrogation started as Trent was handcuffed and held in a police car at the murder scene, the lawyers said, and continued at the state police station in Greensburg as a search of Trent’s home was conducted.
The defense claims Trent halted the questioning seven hours after he was first contacted by police and only after he was told he was to be charged with Smith’s murder.
Smith’s body was found Feb. 13, 2017, by police on a bed with what appeared to be a gunshot wound to her cheek.
According to testimony from a preliminary hearing more than two years ago, police said Trent gave police multiple versions of how Smith died.
Witnesses previously testified that Trent and Smith, who had been in a 12-year relationship, spent the day of the fatal shooting drinking at several local social clubs, where they argued. Police said Trent claimed they continued to fight when they returned home.
Investigators said Trent eventually said he took a revolver from the living room and it discharged when Smith pulled on his arm when he took the weapon into the bedroom.
Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Rich at 724-830-6293, [email protected] or via Twitter .