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Teen's death still being probed

| Friday, May 4, 2012, 6:46 a.m.

Two weeks after a Westmoreland County teenager died of a gunshot from a weapon owned by a state senator, law enforcement officials still have not determined the manner of death.

Louis A.J. Farrell, 14, of Hempfield, died July 22. His body was found in a wooded area behind his home.

The gun is owned by his next-door neighbor, Sen. Robert Regola, who was in Harrisburg that weekend.

The first-term Republican's 16-year-old son, Robert Regola IV, was at home. The senator has hired attorney Mark A. Rush, of Pittsburgh; his son is represented by attorney Duke George, of New Kensington.

"I don't think anything will come of it. This is just a very unfortunate tragedy," George said.

He said his client "has totally cooperated in the investigation."

State police originally said it would take two weeks to complete analysis of the evidence, but Maj. Frank Monaco, area commander, said Monday that testing is taking longer.

"We want to do this by the numbers," Monaco said. "We can't speed through this and then have somebody make a mistake."

He said test results also will depend on the lab's caseload -- 16 counties rely on the crime lab in Greensburg to test evidence.

"The crime lab has a boatload of cases," Monaco said.

Monaco, Westmoreland County District Attorney John Peck and Coroner Ken Bacha refuse to divulge where the 9 mm Taurus was kept in the Regola home or the exact location of Farrell's head wound.

Bacha will only confirm that Farrell died of a "gunshot wound to the head." The location could determine whether the death was suicide, accidental or the result of a crime.

During any investigation involving a firearm, Bacha said, investigators examine tissue around the wound for unburned gunpowder to determine how close the muzzle was to the victim when the gun was fired.

Peck said he has not exonerated Regola of possible negligence in connection with Farrell's death.

The district attorney said at a July 25 news conference that Regola's gun did not have a trigger lock. But Peck said preliminary information from investigators did not indicate that Regola was reckless in securing and storing the weapon.

"I didn't exonerate the senator," Peck said yesterday.

"Reporters asked me what the law was in this type of case. I simply explained what the requirements would be in proving a case -- who left the weapon and whether it was available to someone who should not have had a weapon."

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