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Second defendant pleads guilty in drive-by shooting

Published September 21. 2012 05:02PM

The second of four defendants in a drive-by shooting incident in Weatherly last year entered a guilty plea in Carbon County court on Thursday morning and faces a state prison term at the time of sentencing.

James M. Delbo, 34, of Ashland, pleaded guilty before Senior Judge Richard W. Webb to criminal conspiracy-aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, criminal conspiracy-recklessly endangering another person, and criminal conspiracy-discharging a firemen into a occupied structure.

The incident occurred on Feb. 13, 2011, along Yeakle St. in the borough. In a plea bargain with the district attorney's office, Delbo will be sentenced to four to eight years in a state prison, if Webb goes along with the agreement.

He is the second defendant in the case to enter a plea. On July 12 Christopher Ray Harris, 24, of McAdoo, pleaded guilty to charges related to the incident and also faces four to eight years in a state prison at the time of sentencing.

The two remaining defendants in the case, Andrew Ortiz, of Hazleton, and Joshua Zink, of Columbia, have charges pending.

On Sunday, Feb. 13, about 2:55 a.m. police were called to the area of 327 Yeakle St. for a shooting. The investigation revealed that three houses, a garage, a vehicle, and a utility pole were hit with rounds fired from a 9mm and .22-caliber firearms. The three houses struck were 319, 327 and 335 Yeakle St. The vehicle hit was parked in front of 319 Yeakle.

Police said the residents of 319 Yeakle were Tara and Steven Barnic, who said they were asleep at the time along with their children, two sons, ages 15 and 2, and a 1-year-old daughter.

Police said 335 Yeakle was occupied by Charlaine and Thomas Powell, who were also asleep at the time of the shooting. The third home, at 327 Yeakle, had no one home at the time of the incident. No one was hit by the shots, police said.

Through the course of the investigation police said they learned that Delbo had made threats on the lives of Matt Sipler and Alyssa A. Adams. He had resided with them along Yeakle Street but was asked to leave when he failed to pay rent. Police said his threats included that he would "get even" with them for evicting him from the residence.

Police noted that on June 27, 2010, they were called to 335 Yeakle St. for a man with a gun. That man was Delbo.

Police said on March 3 Andrew Ortiz, 23, came to the Weatherly police station and informed officers that he was the driver of the car in which the shots were fired from on Feb. 12. He identified the shooter as Delbo.

He said on the morning of the incident he, Delbo and Harris were at Harris' home in McAdoo drinking alcohol. Ortiz said Harris went to bed and Delbo then asked him if he would "get his back" in a fight. Ortiz said they then drove to Weatherly with Delbo giving him directions.

When they got to Yeakle Street, Delbo pulled out a gun and began firing out the window of the vehicle at the nearby homes. Ortiz said after that gun was emptied he pulled out a second gun and fired. Ortiz said he didn't know anything about the guns prior to the shots being fired; he only believed that they were going for a fight.

Harris later said Ortiz told police that Delbo took his 9mm and .22 caliber handguns without his permission the morning of the shooting.

Assistant District Attorney William E. McDonald, who is prosecuting the case, said police also learned that prior to going to Weatherly the suspects drove to the Wal-mart store in Hazleton and bought a large quantity of ammunition.

On Thursday, however, McDonald said Delbo was not the shooter in the incident but was the driver of the vehicle and two of the other defendants were the shooters.

Webb accepted the plea but deferred sentencing ordering the adult probation office to prepare a presentence investigation report. Delbo has been in prison since his arrest.

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