5 held for court in beating at Harrison gas station
Charges were held for court Monday against five suspects accused of luring a 23-year-old man to a Harrison gas station Feb. 27 and then severely beating him.
The five suspects include two men and three women, one of whom was the victim's ex-girlfriend. They all face aggravated assault, conspiracy and related charges.
The suspects are:
• Stephen Morgan, 26, of 524 Pennsylvania Ave., Oakmont and 914 Brackenridge Ave., Brackenridge;
• Jonathon Meigs, 23, of 465 Terrace Drive, Harmar;
• Stevie Fassinger, 24, and her cousin, Miranda Mullen, 22, both of 106 Garfield St., Harrison;
• Sarah Fisher, 22, of the same Brackenridge address as Morgan.
An Allegheny County prosecutor added attempted homicide charges against the suspect, but Brackenridge District Judge Carolyn Bengel dismissed that most serious charge, as well as stalking.
Mullen, who is expecting in May, will face an added charge of making false reports to police, but a hindering apprehension charge was dismissed.
Harrison police allege Fassinger, a woman, once had a relationship with the victim, who is identified in court documents as James David “Bats” Vogel.
Police said Fassinger was the one who called Vogel to come to the BP gas station across from the Heights Plaza Shopping Center where she is a clerk, under the guise of working things out.
Police say Fassinger and Vogel talked for a while inside the store but went outside to smoke cigarettes.
Police allege that's when Morgan and Meigs pulled up in Mullen's SUV, jumped out and confronted the victim.
Police allege Morgan brandished a wooded club and Meigs a lead pipe and used them to beat the victim on his back and head.
Store surveillance video shows two men chasing Vogel into the gas station and back outside again where he was beaten some more.
After the attack, the surveillance images show the victim walking toward the gasoline pumps where he grabbed onto a yellow post designed to prevent vehicles from hitting the pumps.
He later fell over and was in and out of consciousness when police and medics arrived, Harrison Patrolman Christopher Cottone testified.
Cottone testified Vogel told him, “Jon hit me. Jon hit me,” before Vogel passing out. “The back of his head was split open.”
Cottone narrated the surveillance video, which he said shows Fassinger holding open the door for Meigs and Morgan after the victim ran into the store.
“She finished her cigarette before calling 911,” Assistant District Attorney Bob Heister said.
Defense attorney Dave Zuckerman disputed that.
“She saw other people helping him and medics arriving. She went inside for customers, but in between customers, she went out to check” on the victim, Zuckerman said.
Heister added attempted homicide charges against the five at the start of the combined preliminary hearing. The severity of the beating far exceeds aggravated assault, he insisted.
“These people obviously were acting together to kill the guy,” he said.
Heister said the 3-foot-long lead pipe, straight before the attack, was bent after Vogel's beating. He also pointed to the victim's medical condition as proof of the attack's savagery.
Harrison Detective Joseph Signorella said Vogel has been treated by specialists at two Pittsburgh hospitals and is now in speech rehabilitation and other rehab.
Defense attorney Sean Logue, who represents Meigs, and Zuckerman argued there wasn't intent to kill Vogel because the victim was able to walk after the attack.
Morgan's attorney, Keith E. Donnelly, reminded the court of a court case that doesn't allow one defendant to testify against a codefendant at a preliminary hearing because the testimony could be self-serving.
That precluded any of the five codefendants from testifying at Monday's hearing.
Police allege Fisher was a backseat passenger. Her defense attorney, Giuseppe G.C. Rosselli, argued that that had to limit any involvement in the incident.
“She didn't open the SUV door for anyone to get out or to get in the vehicle. At no time did she enter into an agreement to kill someone,” Rosselli argued.
The five defendants remain out of jail pending trial because each posted bond.
Bengel warned them not to have any contact with the victim.
“No letters, no flowers, no tweeting,” she said.
Chuck Biedka is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4711 or firstname.lastname@example.org.