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Wecht testifies hammer unlikely inflicted Mt. Lebanon victim's head wounds

| Thursday, Aug. 27, 2009, 12:00 p.m.

An Allegheny County judge expects to announce a verdict this morning in the case of a Mt. Lebanon teenager accused of trying to kill his ex-girlfriend.

If convicted, Robertino DeAngelis could be sentenced to a youth detention center until he turns 21.

Common Pleas Judge Kim Clark heard conflicting testimony Wednesday on whether a hammer was used in the attack.

Dr. Cyril H. Wecht, former county coroner, testified that the wounds that Sarah DeIuliis said Robertino DeAngelis inflicted on her are not consistent with being smacked in the head with a hammer.

"I would have expected an injury of much more severity," said Wecht, a forensic pathologist. "I would expect something more than 3/5 of an inch laceration. There was no shaving of hair (to treat the wound); (the wound was) something that can be treated with a staple. Yes, I would expect more. I would expect at least a splinter fracture (of the skull)."

County Medical Examiner Dr. Karl Williams disagreed, testifying that DeIuliis' injuries could have been caused by a hammer, depending on the angle of the blows.

"There's clearly some injury. To say that could not have been caused by a claw hammer — I believe that to be false," Williams said. "There's nothing inconsistent with (her) laceration being caused by that (hammer)."

DeIuliis, 18, testified this week that she and DeAngelis, 17, were walking together Oct. 31, 2007, on a wooded trail near Mt. Lebanon High School when he hit her in the back of the head. She said she was able to wrestle the hammer away, but he beat her in the face with his hands. She said he also kneed her in the face while she was on the ground.

DeIuliis suffered a fractured orbital bone and a cut to the back of her head that required a staple to close. Doctors also diagnosed her with a concussion a few months after the attack.

"You're going to have to decide if the account given by Sarah DeIuliis is truthful, exaggerated, if things have been added to it, if things have been deleted from it," defense attorney Patrick Thomassey told Clark. "If you bash somebody in the head with this (hammer) you're going to kill them or fracture their skull. It just didn't happen that way.

"There's no question he punched her," he said. "That's what happened."

Assistant District Attorney Meghan Black argued that DeAngelis wanted to kill his ex-girlfriend in the woods and that his plan was thwarted when off-duty county police Detective Lawrence Carpico happened to interrupt the attack while walking his dog.

"(DeAngelis) took her cell phone and broke it in half. He made sure she couldn't call 911. He kneed her in the face hard enough to dislodge her tooth. But for the grace of God, he saw someone coming and he fled," Black said.

"He meant to kill her. He didn't bring flowers and candy and love notes," she said. "He brought a knife, scissors, a box cutter and tape. These are not friendly instruments."

Black was referring to items that police found in DeAngelis' backpack at the scene. Thomassey said DeAngelis had the items with him because he was working on a house.

DeAngelis was struck by a trolley after the attack in what police said was a suicide attempt.

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