Vandergrift woman rejects plea deal in cousin’s murder case
The attorney for a Vandergrift woman accused of killing her cousin said his client rejected a deal to plead guilty to a lesser charge.
Defense attorney Pat Thomassey said Ashley Croft would rather go to trial than accept a deal to plead to third-degree murder and serve 30 to 60 years in prison.
“There are self-defense issues in this matter that jurors should hear about,” Thomassey said.
Croft, 36, who is being held without bond, remained in a cell at the Westmoreland County courthouse and did not appear in court for Tuesday’s brief hearing before Common Pleas Court Judge Rita Hathaway.
She is charged with first-degree murder for the Oct. 18 fatal shooting of 31-year-old John Edward Smail of Greensburg. She faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole if she is convicted.
Police said Croft claimed she was under the influence of drugs when she confessed to shooting her cousin.
According to court records, police said they found a black, semiautomatic handgun in the apartment when they questioned Croft on a back porch. She told officers Smail was her cousin and that she had shot him, police said.
“‘I was sleeping and dreaming. I woke up. I was high today and I was out of it. John said he was leaving,’” police reported she told them. “She then said to John, ‘If I’m staying here, your (sic) not leaving alive,’ and again stated that she shot him.”
Assistant District Attorney Leo Ciaramitaro would not comment on the specifics of the case or details of the plea bargain offer discussed in court.
The judge said another status conference would be held in November when a trial date could be set.
Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Rich at 724-830-6293, [email protected] or via Twitter .