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Westmoreland judge rejects request to overturn conviction in 2016 Latrobe murder case

Rich Cholodofsky
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Westmoreland County Prison
Austin Krinock

Jurors had enough evidence to convict a Johnstown man for the 2016 murder of a friend in Latrobe, a judge ruled Tuesday.

Westmoreland County Common Pleas Court Judge Meagan Bilik-DeFazio, in a 32-page opinion, denied defense requests seeking to overturn the conviction and sentence for 20-year-old Austin Krinock, who following a week-long trial in August was found guilty of the second-degree murder of Daniel McNerny.

“The jury was free to consider and believe all, part or none of the evidence presented to it and this court finds no error in the jury’s determination,” Bilik-DeFazio ruled. She also rejected a defense argument errors were made during the jury selection process.

Krinock was one of three men charged in connection with the Jan. 20, 2016 shooting death of McNerny.

Prosecutors said Krinock, Colin Gearhart and Zachary McGrath, both of Latrobe, conspired to rob two Pittsburgh area drug dealers in retaliation for a verbal slight. McNerny, who was not a target of the robbery or part of the plot, was shot when he attempted to intervene as an armed masked man held up the drug dealers in front of a St. Clair Street home in Latrobe.

In the appeal, defense attorney Brian Aston argued there was not enough evidence presented at trial against Krinock to prove he participated in the murder.

Prosecutors said Krinock helped plan the robbery and purchased the gun used in the heist. McGrath, 23, the man prosecutors said fired the shots that killed McNerny, was convicted of second-degree murder during a second trial in January and faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole when he is sentenced later this year.

Krinock was sentenced in December to serve 34 years to life in prison. He was ineligible for a mandatory life without parole prison sentence because he was just 17 at the time of his arrest.

Gearhart, now 20, is also charged with second-degree murder and his trial is scheduled to begin in March.

Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Rich at 724-830-6293 or [email protected]