Tuesday, June 6, 2006

Somerset County, Pennsylvania

From the Somerset County Daily American of June 6, 2006
Charges dropped in fatal shooting

Linda Mostoller sat stunned when Somerset County District Attorney Jerry Spangler announced Monday at a press conference that his office was withdrawing criminal charges against the man who shot and critically injured her son and fatally shot a second man.

Matthew Eperjesi, 27, of the village of Wills, Somerset Township, had been charged with shooting and killing Perry “P.J.” Zimmerman, 33, Central City, and critically wounding Terry Mostoller, 32, Berlin, as they attempted to enter his apartment along Wills Church Road on April 8. A third man who was present on the morning of the shooting, Keith Custer, 32, Shanksville, told police the three were invited to a party in the neighborhood and went to the wrong address

“At the present time, there are too many unanswered questions and those ‘gaps' in the evidence could be the basis of an acquittal,” Spangler said. “Further investigation is warranted. I have therefore decided to withdraw the criminal charges currently pending against Mr. Eperjesi to allow for additional investigation.”

Spangler left open the possibility of re-filing the charges. Eperjesi was charged with criminal homicide, attempted homicide, aggravated assault and reckless endangerment.

Police said the incident began about 2:15 a.m. when the three men were on the street outside Eperjesi's second-floor apartment spinning the tires on their trucks and making noise. Words were exchanged and the three men approached the apartment, police said.

Eperjesi told police the men were pounding on his door, saying they wanted to party. He instructed his brother, Michael, 22, to call 911 and informed the men not to enter or he would shoot them, police said. During the telephone conversation, a trooper overheard someone saying, “I've got something for his (expletive),” police wrote in a probable-cause affidavit.

Eperjesi said one of the men forced open the door, entered the apartment and was shot, according to the affidavit. A second man went to the door and was also shot.

“I gave every warning you can give to a rational person,” Eperjesi said following Monday's press conference.

Authorities are unsure if the men ever entered the apartment.

Both men were found on the porch, according to state police Cpl. Robert Clark. No weapons were found on Mostoller, Zimmerman or Custer, he added.

Zimmerman was pronounced dead at the scene by Somerset County Coroner Wallace Miller. He bled to death from a chest wound. Mostoller remains in critical condition at Memorial Medical Center in Johnstown. He was shot in the side, according to his mother, Linda, who has spent every day of the past eight weeks at her son's side.

“Perry is gone. We feel very bad for the Zimmermans. They lost their hope. We still have hope. My son is fighting for his life. He has had many operations and he is still facing more,” she said.

“We believe that God was with Terry on the porch and is with him still in ICU. We are trying to stay strong,” she added.

Spangler said he based his decision on the facts and the law in cases where self defense is an issue. In such a case, the commonwealth would have convince 12 jurors that the defendant did not actually believe he was in immediate danger at the time he used deadly force, or that his belief was unreasonable in light of the circumstances. The state police concurred with Spangler's decision.

“This decision should not be interpreted as a finding that the actions by Mr. Eperjesi were justified,” Spangler said. “The commonwealth's burden would be to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that his actions were not justified and at this time we cannot meet that burden.”

The district attorney's office is “diligently pursing and monitoring the status of the investigation,” he added. “Basically, we reset the clock.”


A previous story from the Pittsburg Tribune-Review of April 9, 2006
Two shot, one dead in Somerset incident

A Somerset County man claims he fatally shot one man and critically injured another because they stormed his apartment early Saturday morning.

Matthew Lewis Eperjesi, 27, of 132 Wills Church Road, Apt. 2, in Wills, Somerset County, was charged yesterday with criminal homicide, criminal attempted homicide, aggravated assault and recklessly endangering another person, police said.

Somerset County Coroner Wallace Miller said Perry Zimmerman, 33, of Central City, was pronounced dead at 3:15 a.m. Saturday from excessive bleeding caused by a gunshot wound to the torso.

Terry Mostoller, 32, of Berlin, was taken to Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center, in Johnstown, Cambria County, where he is listed in critical condition, a hospital spokeswoman said.

State police at Somerset said the incident began about 2:15 a.m., when Zimmerman, Mostoller and a third, unidentified man were on the street outside Eperjesi's second-floor apartment, making noise with their vehicles and spinning tires.

Eperjesi told the men to stop, but the three men approached his apartment, police said.

Eperjesi told police he closed the door and held a shotgun he loaded, but the men threatened him and broke open the door.

Eperjesi said he warned the men not to enter the home or he would shoot them, according to police.

Police said two of the men were shot after entering the doorway. The third fled.

"What are you going to do when somebody's kicking your door down? Get your (expletive) kicked by three monsters?" Eperjesi's brother and roommate, Mike, said outside the apartment building yesterday. He said his brother warned the intruders he had a gun.

Neighbors in two other apartments in the building said they didn't hear the commotion outside.

Splattered blood was visible yesterday afternoon on a first-floor wall and cement ledge beneath Eperjesi's apartment.

"I just want the facts to come out," Mike Eperjesi said. "I don't want people to think my brother's a raging lunatic."

District Judge Arthur Cook, of Somerset, arraigned Eperjesi, who is being held without bond. A copy of the criminal complaint was not immediately available yesterday.

Some of Eperjesi's friends at the scene yesterday said Eperjesi is a friend of Mostoller's.

"When he got out of the police car (at the arraignment), he said to his dad, 'I didn't want to hurt anybody,'" said Timothy Baker, who identified himself as a friend of Eperjesi. "That's a shame."
From the Pittsburg Tribune-Review of August 9, 2007
Somerset truck driver justified in fatal shooting

A Somerset County coroner's jury recommended Thursday that a 29-year-old truck driver was legally justified last year to fatally shoot a man after his apartment door was kicked in around 2 a.m.

The recommendation affirms a decision by District Attorney Jerry Spangler to dismiss a criminal homicide charge against Matthew L. Eperjesi because authorities believe they have insufficient evidence to disprove Eperjesi's self-defense claim.

Eperjesi testified yesterday that he shot two men when they barged into his Somerset Township apartment on April 8, 2006, after he yelled at them for spinning their tires while he and his brother were trying to sleep.

Perry Zimmerman, 33, of Central City, died instantly, while Terry Mostoller, 33, of Berlin, is recovering after losing his spleen, two-thirds of his intestines and a kidney.

A third man outside the apartment, Keith Custer, claimed he and the shooting victims left a bar and were invited to an after-hours party on Wills Church Road, but went to the wrong door.

Eperjesi, who worked for a Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission subcontractor, said the squealing tires annoyed him so much that he yelled profanities at the trio and stood in the doorway to show he was loading a shotgun.

He claimed he warned the men that state police were on the way, but they knocked the door in.

"I didn't really know what their purposes were, but I can tell you I didn't want to find out," Eperjesi testified.

According to state law, a resident does not have a duty to retreat his home if he's placed in danger -- or reasonably believes he is in danger -- of death or serious injury.

Mostoller declined to comment on the jury's recommendation.

An attorney representing Zimmerman's family vowed that the case isn't over and pledged to ask the state Attorney General's Office to review the evidence and indict Eperjesi for murder and his brother, Michael, for conspiracy.

Noah Geary, who was permitted to question witnesses during the inquest, criticized Spangler and state police for "sandbagging and blaming the victims, and making excuses for the shooter."

Geary's questioning revealed the family's theory that Michael Eperjesi opened the door so Matthew Eperjesi could open fire, although the shooter's younger brother defiantly denied it.

"No, I didn't intend to open the door for these people, thank you," Michael Eperjesi testified.

Geary claimed that Spangler didn't try to enter incriminating evidence against Eperjesi.

"The district attorney fought like hell just to justify his decision to drop the charges," said Geary, of Washington County.

"I'm a criminal defense attorney, and I know this is murder, first-degree murder."

Spangler responded that the jury made its recommendation after a "full, fair and complete hearing."


No comments:

Post a Comment