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Uniontown teen charged in shooting

| Friday, Feb. 4, 2005

Christopher M. Duncan, of Uniontown, steps from a police cruiser before his arraignment Thursday on a charge of homicide at Magisterial District Judge Randy Abraham's Office in Fairchance.

The first shots rang out in early January, tearing into a Uniontown home. Almost a month later, one young man is dead and a younger one -- a freshman in high school -- is in jail.

How the two incidents relate, and what circumstances led to 19-year-old Michael D. Jointer's killing and 16-year-old Christopher M. Duncan's arrest, authorities won't say.

Jointer was shot in the head at 6:58 p.m. Monday near the intersection of Coolspring and Dunlap streets in Uniontown, according to city police. He was pronounced dead at The Uniontown Hospital about a half-hour later.

Two days and three nights of investigation went on before Duncan sat in shackles in front of Magisterial District Judge Randy Abraham.

"Did you read that?" he asked his mother and two brothers, shaking his head from side to side, before police took him to the Fayette County Prison. Under state law, no bond could be set.

His family reviewed the affidavit filed in support of two charges -- homicide and carrying an unlicensed firearm. It says that Duncan used a .380-caliber semiautomatic handgun to kill Jointer.

For the family, yesterday's proceeding was a familiar scene. More than four years ago, Duncan's brother Brandon was facing homicide charges that ultimately put him in prison.

"Keep your head up," one of his brothers said as police led Duncan out of the room.

According to Fayette County District Attorney Nancy Vernon, what happened Monday night was "an encounter by several individuals."

She added, "We can't comment on motive at this time."

Coroner's records indicate Jointer had been staying at the Hunters Ridge public housing project near Brownsville, but police records indicate he had lived on Coolspring Street in Uniontown several weeks before his death.

Duncan lived at 101 Penn St. in Uniontown, a home hit by gunfire on Jan. 6. Uniontown police suspected Jointer, according to records that also state Duncan ran into the house when the gunfire began. There was no arrest.

One gunshot pierced a screen door and became lodged in the refrigerator.

"A couple of weeks ago (Jointer) fired shots at all of us," according to Clinton Foster, Duncan's brother, whose cousin, Robert Foster, sold Duncan the gun used to kill Jointer, police said.

Robert Foster is not being held criminally liable for Jointer's death, Vernon said.

Authorities would not disclose whether Duncan confessed to the shooting, but they did say an extensive investigation leads them to believe the teenager is the gunman.

"We have ample statements involved in the case as well as physical evidence," Vernon said.

Duncan is being charged as an adult, which Pennsylvania law allows for a person his age charged with homicide.

To Clinton Foster, the news about Duncan was disappointing.

"He's a good kid. He's good with his nieces," Clinton Foster said.

Jointer's mother declined to comment.

Records at Uniontown Area Senior High School list Duncan as a ninth-grader. During his arraignment, he told Abraham that he had a child on the way.

His older brother, 22-year-old Brandon Lee Duncan, is serving a 20- to 40-year sentence at the State Correctional Institution at Graterford, Montgomery County.

Brandon Duncan told jurors that he killed 26-year-old Gregory Delbridge in self-defense during an argument that reportedly began over a stolen DVD player. The shooting took place in the Bierer Wood Acres public housing project in South Union Township. He was convicted of third-degree murder in 2001.

For Uniontown police, Jointer's killing opened the first homicide investigation in the city since October 2002, when Darnell Poole, 25, killed another man before killing himself.

The last homicide requiring an arrest was in October 2001, when Christopher "Bubby" Kiss was stabbed dozens of times in his Coolspring Street home in what was one of the bloodiest scenes local authorities can recall. Nathaniel L. Stites, 27, of Uniontown, is serving a life sentence for the killing.

With a force of 17 officers including himself, Uniontown Chief Kyle Sneddon said the assistance provided by the state police and district attorney's office in the Jointer investigation was critical.

Through the investigation, authorities say they gained leads on a variety of other crimes, too.

Also critical were the lengthy hours the police worked. Uniontown officers Jonathan Grabiak and Donald "Butch" Gmitter led the investigation for the city force.

"You have to move quick. You have to do quality work," Sneddon said. "These guys probably worked 14-, 15-, 16-hour days."

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