Suspect in North Belle Vernon stabbings jailed without bond
A man wanted for stabbing three people in a North Belle Vernon bar is being held without bail in the Westmoreland County Prison after turning himself in to police.
After a three-week investigation, county detectives and borough police obtained an arrest warrant for Eric D. Cook, 43, of Donora, Washington County, on three counts each of attempted homicide and simple assault and four counts of aggravated assault. Authorities said Cook turned himself in to borough police Wednesday after learning there was an arrest warrant.
At an arraignment hearing, District Judge Chris Flanigan in Greensburg ordered Cook be held without bail because he was deemed “a danger to the community,” according to court records.
According to a complaint filed by county Detective Randy Gardner and borough police Lt. Ronald VanScyoc, an off-hand comment made by one of the victims about Cook’s recent release from prison led to the assault around 1:30 a.m. March 7 inside Just A Tavern on Broad Avenue.
A woman and a male victim were taken by medical helicopter to Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh for treatment, while a second man was taken by ambulance to AHN Forbes Hospital in Monroeville.
Gardner said the woman told police in an interview that she and her two male friends “were relaxing at the bar and having a few drinks” when Cook approached her to “exchange pleasantries.” Cook and the woman had attended school together, according to Gardner.
Gardner reported that Cook told the trio that he had just been released from prison when one of the men “jokingly stated, ‘I wouldn’t put that on my resume.’”
“Cook started digging in his pocket and (the female) victim asked him what he was digging for. She stated that her friend then suddenly pushed (Cook) away and (Cook) then lunged at them. She stated she felt a warm feeling and looked down and realized she was bleeding,” Gardner wrote.
One of the male victims told police that he initially didn’t realize he had been stabbed, but “blood was everywhere in the bar.”
After he was driven back to his nearby hotel after speaking with police, “his boot started squishing and he realized he had been stabbed.”
“The victim stated he went to the hospital and ended up with 15 staples in his side and a stab wound three inches from his heart,” police reported.
One patron in the bar provided investigators with a stub from a charity raffle ticket Cook had purchased earlier that night. Gardner said Cook wrote his name and phone number on the stub, which assisted investigators.
In 2011, Cook pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Pittsburgh to distributing more than 50 grams of crack cocaine. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison, according to court records.
A preliminary hearing is scheduled April 8.
Paul Peirce is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Paul at 724-850-2860, [email protected] or via Twitter .