2 arrests made in Beaver Falls cold case homicides
Investigators could not forget the haunted look in the eyes of two young girls who watched as two masked gunmen herded their parents into the basement and heard the gunshots that killed them.
It spurred their four-year search for the suspected killers, which ended on Monday when police charged two Pittsburgh men imprisoned for unrelated crimes with homicide, robbery and kidnapping in the slayings of Richard Harper and his wife, Demetria, both 32, on June 30, 2008, in their Beaver Falls home.
District Attorney Anthony Berosh said Robert Lamont “Raw” Burgess, 35, who is serving a federal sentence for drug charges, and Devon “Pill Dude” Shealey, 26, who is serving a state sentence for an armed robbery, will be brought to Beaver County for prosecution.
“I was scared not knowing who did this,” said Joanne Vaughn, Richard Harper’s sister. The arrests bring “a little closure. … This was all very unnecessary. They didn’t have to do this.”
Witnesses told investigators that Demetria Harper, Burgess and Shealey conspired to buy up to 20 pounds of marijuana in her native El Paso, Texas, for redistribution in Western Pennsylvania, according to an affidavit supporting the charges.
Burgess became angry because he believed Demetria Harper kept some of the money he gave her for the marijuana, the witnesses said.
The gunmen locked LaNaia Harper and Iyana Harper, then ages 10 and 8, inside a furnace room in the basement. They heard sounds of a struggle and two shots, the complaint said.
Vaughn found the children the next morning when she went to the home because she couldn’t reach her brother and his wife. The girls led Vaughn to their parents’ bodies.
The girls, now living with their grandmother out of state, are doing “pretty well,” Vaughn said.
“Anyone who looked into the eyes of those two children knew we would not rest until we got an answer,” Berosh said. “It’s been a long, long road.”
The slayings also frightened those who live near the Second Avenue home where the Harpers lived for about a year before their deaths.
“We didn’t know who these (gunmen) were. We didn’t know if they were coming back,” said Amy Martino, 40, a neighbor across the street. “My son (then 11) used to sleep with a knife under his bed.”
Vaughn has said she doesn’t believe that her brother — who worked as a home health aide and volunteered to coach youth football — was aware of or involved in his wife’s drug activities.
Shealey pleaded guilty in October to federal racketeering charges for crimes committed while a member of the Brighton Heights/Northview Heights Crips gang.
Police charged him with the Sept. 28, 2008, slaying of Jason Brown, 30, of the North Side but withdrew the charges after someone fatally shot a witness, Justen Anderson, 19. His killer remains unknown.
Michael Hasch is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7820 or at email@example.com.