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Request that murder charge be dropped denied

| Saturday, March 17, 2001

A West Newton district justice refused to drop a murder charge against a Rostraver man accused of contributing to his maternal grandmother's death after beating her with a steel snow shovel a year ago.

During a preliminary hearing Friday, public defender Mark Shire asked District Justice Charles M. Christner to dismiss a first-degree murder charge against his client, Brian Lee Capuano, 31, of 7 Windsor Circle, claiming a lack of evidence to show Capuano intentionally tried to kill his grandmother, Katherine Vought, on Feb. 22, 2000.

Capuano was charged by Rostraver Township with first degree murder and criminal homicide after Vought, 82, died in John Kane Regional Center, Pittsburgh, from injuries allegedly resulting from the attack at the mobile home the two shared in Port Royal Trailer Park.

Shire argued the commonwealth has failed to establish the intent was willful or deliberate. 'It was clearly an assault,' said Shire, 'but not even a suggestion of that (intentional killing) here.'

Assistant District Attorney Tom Mutschler, however, said intent can also be determined by the nature of the act, and Capuano's use of a sharp edged snow shovel in the living room area of the home was a clear indication of that nature.

'A snow shovel is not frequently used inside one's house,' said Mutschler. 'It had to be brought from the outside to the inside. Pre-meditation has no requirement of time.'

Capuano, also known as Brian Reddington, was charged April 18, 2000, with four counts of aggravated assault and one count of burglary in connection with the alleged beating.

During the incident, he allegedly punched Richard Wiant in the face and eye at his residence at 2 Windsor Circle, and pushed Pearl Kennedy, causing her to fall into the stove and kitchen table, also at that home.

Since his arrest, Capuano has remained in Westmoreland County Prison in lieu of $200,000 bond.

Capuano was charged with murder and criminal homicide on Feb. 13 after results from neurological tests on the victim were interpreted.

Capuano said expressionless throughout the hearing as forensic pathologist Dr. A.M. Shakir of the Allegheny County Coroner's Office testified via telephone.

According to Shakir, Vought's death was caused by arteriosclerotic cardiovascular disease, but that blunt force trauma to the back of the head and subsequent brain hemorrhaging contributed to her death.

Shakir said chronic obstructive pulmonary disease was also a major factor in Vought's death.

'She was never able to return to pre-trauma status,' explained Shakir. 'This was a woman living outside a hospital or nursing home, able to take care of her immediate needs. This status she never went back to from the time of the assault until her death.'

Capuano's attorney said his client had received mental evaluations while incarcerated. Prior to Friday's proceedings, Shire asked that the hearing be continued until Capuano could again be examined by a psychiatrist.

Christner, however, declined that request.

Capuano will be arraigned in Westmoreland County Court on April 20.





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