Judge to decide whether suspects in Wilkinsburg mass shooting will be tried separately |

Judge to decide whether suspects in Wilkinsburg mass shooting will be tried separately

Megan Guza
Cheron Shelton
Robert Thomas

An Allegheny County judge said Thursday he expects to decide this month whether two men accused of fatally shooting five adults and an unborn child in Wilkinsburg will be tried separately or together.

Cheron Shelton and Robert Thomas remain jailed while they await trial on charges they orchestrated the March 9, 2016, mass shooting at a backyard gathering on Franklin Avenue.

Defense attorneys filed a motion last month to try their cases separately.

Randall McKinney, an attorney for Shelton, has argued that his client’s defense would be hurt by evidence against Thomas, including statements that Thomas is alleged to have made to two jailhouse informants regarding the alleged shooting.

Prosecutors, in a response filed Thursday, argued that testimony from one informant, Frederick Collins, will not be used in trial — something decided in court earlier this year. The defense has filed a motion to suppress testimony from the second informant, Kendall Mikell. Prosecutors said they will challenge that.

Casey White, an attorney for Thomas, argued that his client’s defense would be hurt “by the mere fact that he will be tried next to” Shelton, who is alleged to have been the one who planned the ambush-style shooting and wanted to kill at least one of the partygoers, according to the criminal complaint.

Prosecutors argued that Thomas’s claim has no standing. Common Pleas Judge David Cashman will rule on the motion later this month.

Shelton’s attorney McKinney also filed motions Thursday to exclude various pieces of evidence, including items recovered from Shelton’s home after the shooting.

The shooting killed siblings Brittany Powell, 27, Chanetta Powell, 25, and Jerry Shelton, 35; a cousin, Tina Shelton, 37; family friend Shada Mahone, 26; and Chanetta Powell’s unborn son, Demetrius. None of the slain Sheltons are related to the defendant.

Police said Thomas opened fire on a backyard gathering from an alley and drove the crowd toward a back porch. Shelton allegedly came from between houses and, using an AK-47-style weapon, mowed down people as they tried to flee.

Megan Guza is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-380-8519, [email protected] or via Twitter @meganguzaTrib.

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