Monessen pair acquitted in murder attempt case |
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Rich Cholodofsky

Law enforcement officials said yesterday they hope the violence that had plagued Monessen and Donora for more than a year won’t resurface in the wake of a Westmoreland County jury acquitting two Monessen men of attempted murder.

“We haven’t had any incidents between Monessen and Donora in recent months. It’s been quiet, and I don’t want to stir it up,” said Monessen police Chief Mark Gibson.

Those comments came days after the two men were found not guilty in the shooting of a Donora man on March 8, 2009.

DeJuan Antone, 20, was shot while he sat in his parked car on Reed Avenue in Monessen shortly after 9 p.m. Two men fired several shots into his car, police said. Antone drove away, but he made it only about a block before he passed out and crashed into a building.

Antone survived the shooting and identified then-17-year-old David Jeffries of Monessen as the shooter. Jeffries was charged with attempted murder, aggravated assault and a firearms offense.

Police later charged Delany Detwiller, 20, of Monessen with the same offenses. Police said the gun Jeffries used in the shooting was found in Detwiller’s home. Witnesses identified Detwiller as accompanying Jeffries when Antone was shot, according to court records.

After a five-day trial, jurors deliberated more than 10 hours before returning its verdict shortly before 11 p.m. last Friday.

Jeffries was immediately released from jail, where he had been held since March 2009. Detwiller remains jailed, awaiting disposition of other charges in Westmoreland and Washington counties.

The case was prosecuted by the state’s Attorney General’s Office because there was a conflict of interest with the Westmoreland County District Attorney’s Office – one witness is related to a county detective.

“Any case that involves allegations of violence is disturbing. We felt the charges were appropriate based on the facts and the evidence,” said Nils Frederiksen, a spokesman for Attorney General Tom Corbett.

District Attorney John Peck said yesterday he is hopeful that an increased law enforcement presence in Monessen will deter problems.

“The fact that the police made strong and aggressive steps and arrested these subjects, it sends a strong message. Generally, people, when they are arrested, learn a lesson from the experience,” Peck said.

Police intensified patrols in Monessen and Donora early last year after incidents of violence among young men in both towns peaked.

Police believe Jeffries was one of the targets of a daylight shooting Jan. 20, 2009, less than two months before the Antone shooting near the now-closed Billy T’s bar.

On Jan. 24, 2009, more than 30 shots were fired in a Donora neighborhood, including about 20 rounds into a home occupied by five people. No one was wounded.

On Oct. 30, 2008, three Monessen residents were shot on McKean Avenue in Donora.

“The state police have provided extra patrols, and it’s been relatively quiet between the two towns right now,” Gibson said.

Steven Fischer, chief of staff to Washington County District Attorney Steve Toprani, declined to speculate whether last week’s verdict could reignite the violence.

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