After five hours of preliminary hearings Friday at the Schuylkill County Courthouse, District Justice Anthony J. Kilker bound for court all charges against four men – one from Palmerton and three others from Hazleton – who beat another man with baseball bats last September in a wooded area of East Union Township, Schuylkill County.
The victim was later found dead.
Facing homicide and other charges are Shane D. Roof, 21, Palmerton; and Jeffrey A. Gombert, 19, Andrew T. Tutko II, 19 and Curtis T. Foose, 25, all of Hazleton. The victim was Anthony Locascio, 21, of Hazleton.
Each of the four defendants are charged with one count each of criminal homicide, criminal conspiracy to commit homicide, aggravated assault and simple assault. They have been held in the Schuylkill County Prison in Pottsville since their arrest.
All four arrived to the court proceedings sporting handcuffs and security belts.
Schuylkill County District Attorney's two top assistants – Assistant District Attorney Karen Byrnes and Assistant District Attorney James Menconi – are handling the prosecution. The defendants are represented by a public defender and three court appointed lawyers – attorney Kent D. Watkins, attorney James G. Conville, attorney Jeffrey M. Markosky and attorney Thomas J. Pellish.
The Commonwealth paraded to the witness stand 10 witnesses to present their case.
On the afternoon of Sept. 15, Danielle Vale, William Penn and James Schreppel of Shenandoah found Locascio's badly-beaten, half-naked body in a wooded area off Old Mill Road in East Union Township. They had often visited the area to rest and when Vale exited the vehicle he saw the body and called it to Schreppel's attention.
Their cell phones didn't operate in the area so they drove to Shenandoah, called 9-1-1 and were told to return to the area to meet the police. They drove back to Yablonsky's Sporting Good Store in Brandonville where they met Chief Anthony Harris, East Union Township Police, and took him to the scene. Chief Harris immediately called the state police who cordoned the area and took over the investigation.
Information obtained by the state troopers led to the arrests of the defendants. Trooper Edward Lizewski, of the Frackville State Police, the prosecuting officer, read the autopsy report which ruled that Locascio died of blows to the head by a blunt instrument. Lizewski felt that the motive was retaliation against Locascio, stating that he was referred to as a "snitch" stemming from incidents which occurred in Hazleton in 2008.
Tasha Miscavage, 129 Hancock Street, McAdoo, testified that Roof stayed at her home and that Tutko was her fiancee. She said that on the night of Sept. 14 she and her dad picked up Roof and Tutko in Hazleton, who had three aluminum baseball bats and a duffle bag of clothes. The next day she saw him wash the bats in the bathroom of her home and he left the house the next day.
Timothy Shipps, 24, Hazleton, said he knew the four men. He testified that Roof admitted to him that he killed someone in Schuylkill County. Also, he had placed the bats in his car, Later police arrived and took Roof into custody and Shipps said he turned over the bats and duffle bag.
Four troopers testified that each defendant was interviewed and a statement was obtained on what part each played in the assault. A consensus of their statements showed that they planned to pick up Locascio the night of Sept.14 and smoke pot. The car was driven by Tutko. The victim, who knew the area, was in the back seat.
When they reached the wooded area, they got out of the car to smoke marijuana. While Lucascio puffed on the cigarette, he was assaulted with the bats. After being knocked to the ground, the beating continued.
Tutko claimed he did not participate in the beating and even drove away but came back, picked up the others and drove them to Hazleton. He said he knew Lucascio was going to die and on their return to Hazleton stated, "Look what you did to him. He is going to die."
Other officers testified that the other three admitted hitting Lucascio with baseball bats but all claimed they hit him on the arms and legs and not in the head. They claimed when they left, Lucascio was gasping for breath and his legs were twitching. The plan was to beat him, strip his clothes, which they did, and make him walk back undressed.