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Andreas man found guilty in gun incident with neighbors

Published September 10. 2010 05:00PM

A dispute between two neighbors in Andreas, West Penn Township, resulted in one being convicted of criminal charges. However, the dispute may have been avoided had one neighbor had blinds on his windows and the other not seek a confrontation.

David S. Zellner, 40, of 1520 Penn Drive, was found guilty by a jury Thursday afternoon in the Schuylkill County Court of two counts of recklessly endangering another person. He was found not guilty of two counts each of aggravated assault, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and terroristic threats.

Judge Charles M. Miller, who presided over the trial, dismissed a charge of possession of an instrument of crime before the case went to the jury. The judge ordered a pre-sentence investigation to be prepared by the adult probation office and set date for sentencing Friday, Oct. 22. Zellner was released on his current bail.

Four members of the Dekorte family, of 1544 Penn Drive, testified at the trial.

Barbara Dekorte told the jury on the night of Aug. 20, 2009, around 9 p.m. she received a telephone call from Zellner who complained about the lights shining into his parlor and the loud banging noises emitting from her property, which is next door in the quiet, rural village. The noise and shinning light were coming from a front loader being used by her son, Jason, who was unloading a dump truck a few yards from the Zellner's property and because of the darkness lights on the loader were in use. She told Zellner her son was unloading equipment upon his return from work. She testified Zellner used foul language and threatened to file a complaint with the township's zoning committee about running a business from their home when she didn't promise immediately to put a stop to the annoyance.

Mrs. Dekorete said a few minutes later a second phone call was answered by her husband and it was from Zellner. She testified she could not hear what was being said by Zellner but her husband became upset and harsh words were exchanged. She said she called her son, Allen, and told him what was going on and he came home shortly and when her other son, Janson, who had been doing the unloading came into the house she also informed him and he returned outside.

Maurice Dekorete followed his wife on the witness stand and testified that Zellner used foul language on the telephone he answered and when Jason came into the house told him of Zellner's complaint.

Jason Dekorete, 36, testified he came home around 9 p.m. that night and was unloading his dump truck. He said he needed a front loader to remove stumps from the truck and had difficulty and decided to continue the unloading next morning. He said the unloadiing lasted about 20 minutes. He said his brother, upon learning what occured, invited him to go with him and both got in Allen's Jeep and drove a short distance to Zellner's home to talk to him.

Allen Dekorete, 30, said he was informed by his mother about a the call from a neighbor and immediately came home. He said he and his brother got into his Jeep and drove to Zellner's property and onto his driveway, got out went to the front door and knocked but there was no response. Allen said shortly after they saw Zellner coming from the back of the house and he had a gun in his hand and he was carrying it with the gun pointed downward.

Both Jason and Allen Dekorete testified Zellner stopped in front of his property and they were about 15 feet apart. Jason said Zellner told them to get off his property and pointed the gun at his head but moved his arm sideways and fired a shot. Jason said he saw the flash from the gun. He said Zellner fired a second shot towards him and a third shot over his head. The brothers said they retreated to their vehicle and as they got off the driveway on the road two shots were fired over their Jeep. Both said they had no weapons on them when they arrived and both said they made no threats. It was Allen's idea to go over to Zellner's to seek an explanation for his action .

Patrolman Jason Lorah, West Penn Township police, testified he responded to a 9-1-1 call to the Dekorete residence and a complaint was made against Zellner. The officer testified he called for backup and Tamaqua police responded and when they arrived they went to Zellner's home. Lorah testified he knocked on the front door but there was no response. A loud speaker was used to call out and also sirens on the police car activated. Finally a woman answered the front door and allowed the police into the house after they told her they wished to speak to Zellner.

Lorah said Zellner came down from an upstairs bedroom and was taken into custody and taken to the police station where he gave a statement in his own handwriting.

He told of making the complaint to his neighbor and after the noise stopped and lights went off he was preparing to retire when he saw a Jeep coming up his driveway and he became scared. He went to his bedroom and got his small handgun and then went out the back door and came around the house to face the "intruders" on his property. He said he feared for the safety of his girlfriend and her son in the house and that is why he went outdoors.

He said he told the two men standing in his driveway to leave his property and as they took a step towards him he fired a shot up in the air. He denied pointing his gun in their direction. He held the gun face down and when he fired he pointed the gun skyward and fired a shot and when they did not leave fired a second and a third shot. Zellner claimed he fired only three shots and denied firing at the departing Jeep.

Zellner admited to questions asked by Assistant District Attorney A.J. Serena he didn't see anything in their hands such as a weapon but wasn't sure if they didn't have sometime out of sight because the only illumination were the outside lights from his home. He admitted they made no threatening remarks to him and didn't raise their arms with closed fists. Also, at no time did he call 9-1-1 to complain about the noise and lighting or when he saw two men get out of a Jeep on his driveway.

Zellner said he was enjoying a tranquil evening at his home watching television when the bright lights suddenly shined into his window directly at him and loud banging noises could be heard. He admitted he became annoyed. Asked if he had blinds on the window he said only curtains. He admitted he didn't make effort to call 9-1-1- instead of the neighbor where the source of his discomfort was taking place.

Zellner said when they left he went inside after the Jeep with the two men departed he reloaded his pistol and returned it to the area he kept it in his bedroom and was preparing for bed when police arrived. He said he was surprised by the arrival of the police because he thought the incident was over.

Attorney Nicholas Quinn, representing Zellner, argued to the jury he used the weapon as a protective measure as he was scared and that he never intended to harm any one and all his shots were skyward.

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