Indiana, PA - Indiana County

Man killed in shooting not 'bad guy,' family says

by on January 04, 2013 11:00 AM

All that Michael Volk's relatives know is that something went wrong, something more than just the fact that Volk was shot and killed in a mobile home in Torrance over the weekend.

No slaying comes with any degree of acceptance. But how Volk got into the position that led to his death, purportedly at the hand of a Penn Hills-area man, who continued today to elude police, still puzzles his family.

"He paid his dues," said Volk's father, Michael Volk, of Black Lick.

The 24-year-old shooting victim had been in trouble with the law and been a drug user.

That, his relatives freely acknowledged. But it was in the past, they thought.

State police say the young Volk met up with Ronell Moses Jr. last weekend, for reasons not fully explained, but what unfolded was a plan for Volk to confront Moses and rob him of drugs and money Saturday at the residence of Volk's friends, Jesus Santiago and Tiffany Blattenberger, at 131 Quarry Road.

And according to investigators, Danielle Clawson, 23 -- the mother of Volk's two young children -- dropped him off early Saturday, leaving him alone with Santiago and Moses, and left with Blattenberger.

That's the information police got from Santiago, 42, and Blattenberger, 22, according to criminal complaints already filed this week in Bradenville district court.

It doesn't jibe with what Volk's family knew about him.

"He was a good person, and people are out there making him look like a bad guy," said Maretta Volk, the victim's younger sister.

"A lot of people have been stopping by our home today to say that he helped people," the elder Volk said Wednesday. "People would come to him and ask his advice."

The young Volk had run-ins with police in 2007 when he and an accomplice stole copper from a coal mine in Armstrong County. That year and the next, he had been arrested five times, according to court records.

"He went back and got his GED," the father said. "Then he went through and completed the drug court program. And that has only a 5 percent passing rate."

Even after finishing what was required in the drug court, a program that counts toward a court-ordered sentence of probation, the young Volk still attended support group meetings to encourage others to get over drug problems, he said.

"He went because he enjoyed the meetings. Instead of being bored, he went up and talked to those people."

Volk got a job alongside his father at the Finzer Roller LLC manufacturing plant along Route 119. They worked there together and clocked out at 11 a.m. Saturday, according to Volk's father.

The last he knew, Volk said, his son cashed a check for $100 and had no motive to rob anyone.

And finally, he wanted to successfully build a family, his dad said.

"He and his girlfriend had some trouble and he was living in Coral, but he wanted to give it another try with the kids," he said.

Young Michael moved with Clawson about a month ago to a mobile home next door to her parents' residence along Gamble Hollow Road in West Wheatfield Township, an area that carries a New Florence address.

"Michael was a good father and that was what he was focusing on," Maretta Volk said. "His kids need to know he was a good person, too."

Private funeral arrangements are being handled by C. Frederick Bowser Funeral Home in Homer City.

In Greensburg, state police continued a search for Moses, 20, a black man standing 5-feet-10 and weighing 280 pounds. Troopers said Wednesday that Pennsylvania Crime Stoppers has offered up to $2,000 for anyone with information leading to Moses' arrest.

Investigators said Moses fled the scene with an unseen person driving a maroon, two-door car. Moses had phoned someone to ask for a ride and gave directions from Indiana to Torrance, according to police.

Volk's companions -- Clawson, Blattenberger and Santiago -- remain in the Westmoreland County Jail without bond, charged with homicide, robbery and conspiracy.

"The actions and/or inactions of Santiago, Blattenberger and Clawson directly and/or indirectly contributed to the death of the victim," police wrote in court papers charging the trio.



Chauncey Ross is the Gazette’s fixture at Indiana Area and Homer-Center school board meetings, has been seen with pen and notepad in area police stations and courts, and is something of an Open Records Act and Sunshine Law advocate. He also manages the Gazette’s websites and answers your questions about them.
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