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Indiana County man ordered to trial in shooting of Derry woman in her home

Paul Peirce
| Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013, 12:57 p.m.
Arthur Leroy Whitfield III.
Westmoreland County Prison
Arthur Leroy Whitfield III.

An Indiana County man will stand trial for attempted homicide for allegedly shooting a Derry woman nine times once her 15-year-old daughter testified on Wednesday he attacked her mother as they watched “The Walking Dead.”

Following testimony from the teen, Derry District Judge Mark Bilik revoked bond previously set for Arthur Leroy Whitfield III, 51, of Josephine, who is accused of shooting Holly G. Embry, 35, at her West First Avenue home on Dec. 1.

Embry, who is the ex-girlfriend of Whitfield, remains in critical condition at UPMC Presbyterian hospital in Pittsburgh, according to Trooper Robert Burford.

Westmoreland County District Attorney James Lazar said detectives are investigating whether Whitfield should be charged with trying to intimidate Savannah Embry, 15, and Alisha Whitfield, 21, who were in the home on the night of the shooting, so they would not testify against him.

Savannah Embry testified she and her mother were watching television in a locked bedroom because they did not want younger children in the home to inadvertently see the program, which is inappropriate for their age group. The children, age 9 and 13, were with Alisha Whitfield, 21, the suspect's daughter, who lives with Holly Embry, according to testimony. Embry and Whitfield's 7-year-old child was visiting relatives.

Savannah said she saw the door knob turn, so she got up, opened the door and saw Arthur Whitfield.

“Mom yelled for him to get out because he's not suppose to be in there. ... He pulled out the gun and he was close enough to my mother that she was able to push it away and yell at him” to stop, Savannah testified.

Whitfield told her mother, “ ‘This is the last time you're going to (expletive) me up,' ” Savannah testified.

He then fired nine times, according to testimony.

Alisha Whitfield testified that when she rushed toward her mother's bedroom she saw her father fire the last two shots into Embry before he ran down a flight of stairs, out of the house and onto the street.

Savannah testified that she, her mother and Alisha Whitfield had often heard Arthur Whitfield verbally threaten Holly Embry. “But none of us ever thought he would ever act on it. I couldn't move during the shooting ... until I was able to run into the other bedroom to get Alisha,” whom she considers a sister, Savannah told Bilik.

“I said, ‘Your dad is shooting my mom!' ” Savannah testified.

Alisha Whitfield testified her father has called her from the county prison “at least 10 times, probably more” since his arrest outside Derry about four hours after the shooting. She said she has refused to take the telephone calls.

However, she said another family member delivered a message from her father, instructing her and Savannah not to testify so the charges would be dismissed.

Lazar asked Bilik to revoke the $250,000 bond that had been set for Whitfield.

Attorney Joseph Massaro Jr., of the public defender's office, pleaded not guilty on behalf of Whitfield and later objected to Lazar's request.

“This isn't hearsay evidence,” Bilik said. “... Alisha sat here and testified that she received numerous calls from Mr. Whitfield. It was the first stipulation listed on the original $250,000 bond documents set by (Jeannette District) Judge (Joseph) DeMarchis.”

In addition to attempted homicide, Bilik ruled sufficient evidence was presented for Whitfield to stand trial on charges of illegal possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, aggravated assault, criminal trespass, discharging a firearm in an occupied structure, possessing a firearm without a license, reckless endangerment and simple assault.

Whitfield served five years in prison in the 1990s for raping a Derry Township teenager at knifepoint in 1993, court records show.

Paul Peirce is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-850-2860 or ppeirce@tribweb.com.

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