A Hazleton man serving a long prison term in a state correctional facility, who was part of a gang who beat to death another Hazleton man in a wooded area in East Union Township, received a hearing in Schuylkill County court on a petition he filed seeking a reduction of his sentence

Curtis J. Foose, 38, who lived at 336 W. Fourth St., Hazleton, had entered a guilty plea to murder in the third degree and was sentenced by Judge Charles M. Miller in September 2010 to serve 47 to 94 years in a state prison with credit for serving 415 days in the county prison.

He is seeking a more moderate sentence claiming he did not participate in the assault actively which caused the death of Andrew Locascio, on Sept. 14, 2009, in a wooded and secluded area off Old Mill Road, near Brandonville, did not participate with three other accomplices in the beating, and claimed he could not have done anything to prevent the conduct of the others.

At the conclusion of the hearing, Judge Miller ordered his new court-appointed counsel and assistant district attorney to file briefs to show the law to support their positions and Foose was returned to the state correctional institution at Albion to await the court's ruling.

Attorney Thomas J. "Tim" Pellish, who was first assigned by President Judge William E. Baldwin to represent Foose because the other three had public defenders, denied Foose's claim that he talked him into pleading guilty. Pellish said he worked out a plea agreement in which the Commonwealth dropped the more serious charges of murder in the first degree and second degree and Foose agreed. Foose is now represented by Attorney Claude A. Lord "Cal" Shields, a former district attorney of Schuylkill County.

The other three involved, Shane D. Roof, 23, of Palmerton; Jeffrey A. Gombert, 22, Hazleton; and Andrew T. Tutko, 22, McAdoo, all pleaded guilty to murder in the third degree, Roof received the same sentence as Foose, Gombert received a sentence of 25 to 50 years, and Tutko, 20 to 40 years.

According to court records it was a brutal assault. Foose, whom Locascio regarded as a friend, was enticed to join Foose and the co-conspirators to travel from Hazleton to East Union Township to obtain marijuana. Foose drove the car and when they arrived at a clandestine location known to Foose because he had previously taken his girlfriend to this secluded area.

When they arrived at the location, Locascio was removed from the car and they took him into a field and in the glare of headlights from Foose's car, Roof, Gombert and Tutko beat the victim about the head and body with three baseball bats they retrieved from Foose's car, robbed him of his wallet and cell phone, and left him to die.