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Three offer guilty pleas in Upper Burrell slaying

| Saturday, May 5, 2012, 4:08 a.m.

Three people have pleaded guilty to having roles in the shooting death of an Upper Burrell man in a deal with prosecutors that requires them to help build the case against the alleged triggerman.

Amanda Blair, 25, of New Kensington; her brother, Julius R. Blair, 23, of New Kensington; and Andre Jolly, 25, of Carnegie, Allegheny County, each pleaded guilty to third-degree murder and related charges on Monday before Westmoreland County Judge Rita D. Hathaway.

The three stand accused of helping lure John E. "J.B." Mason out of his Upper Burrell home about 3:45 a.m. on July 12, 2004. During a struggle, Mason was pushed over a porch railing. While he lay face first on the ground, he was shot with a high-powered rifle in the back. Police say Mason's pit bull terrier was shot and wounded during the incident as well.

Another defendant in the case, 32-year-old Kenneth L. Jones Jr., of Althea Road, Pittsburgh, is awaiting trial. The Blairs and Jolly must testify against Jones to hold up their end of the plea bargain, according to Assistant District Attorney Chuck Washburn. That trial is tentatively scheduled for April.

"He's clearly the most culpable," said District Attorney John Peck. "Our purpose was to ensure a conviction against the most culpable person."

Sentences for both Blairs and Jolly will not be imposed until after the Jones trial. Amanda Blair was offered a 25- to 50-year sentence, but Julius Blair and Jolly each pleaded generally, meaning a judge will determine their sentences using state guidelines.

Those attending yesterday's proceedings on behalf of Mason said they wanted to wait until sentencing to speak about the incident.

Peck said anyone in the group who decides not to testify against Jones will lose their deal and be placed back on the trial list.

The group pleading guilty yesterday represented about half of Westmoreland County's homicide caseload. They were among seven defendants awaiting trial, Peck said.

Each was sent back to the Westmoreland County Prison.

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