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Murder trial postponed

by The Indiana Gazette on June 11, 2014 11:00 AM

GREENSBURG — A trial for a Pittsburgh man accused in the shooting death of Michael Volk, of West Wheatfield Township, has been postponed until later this summer in Westmoreland County Court.

Online records show that officials apparently scheduled more jury trials than the court system could conduct.

Ronell Moses Jr., 22, is charged with first-degree murder, kidnapping, making terroristic threats and prohibited possession of a firearm.

His trial had been scheduled to begin June 2 before Westmoreland County President Judge Richard McCormick Jr.

State police charged that Moses had arranged to sell drugs to Volk on Dec. 29, 2012, at a mobile home along Stone Quarry Road near Torrance, in Derry Township, but that Volk, 24, planned with his girlfriend and the residents of the mobile home to rob Moses of his drugs and money.

According to investigators, Moses fatally shot Volk in the head and abdomen during the robbery attempt, then held Volk’s girlfriend Danielle Clawson and residents Jesus Santiago and Tiffany Blattenberger at gunpoint for half an hour while he waited for someone who picked him up in a red and maroon car.

While police searched for Moses, troopers charged Clawson, Santiago and Blattenberger with robbery, conspiracy and homicide, alleging that their actions contributed to Volk’s death

Moses was arrested Jan. 4, 2013, and has remained in Westmoreland County Jail without bond since then. He was ordered to stand trial on the charges following a preliminary hearing in March 2013.

After several earlier postponements, McCormick delayed Moses’ trial again on

June 3. On Monday, he postponed proceedings for two months in an order posted to Moses’ online record: “a continuance granted until August trial term by motion of Court … The court is unable to try any more cases in the June 2014 trial term.”

Meanwhile, the charges against Clawson, 24; Santiago, 44; and Blattenberger, 23, have separately been held for trials now scheduled for July.

Each remained jailed without bond almost a year, but Judge John Blahovec dismissed the homicide charges in December and made them eligible for release on bond.

“It is clear that neither (Clawson, Blattenberger or Santiago) or a co-actor caused the death of Michael Volk. To the contrary, it was the intended victim of the robbery, Ronell Moses, who shot and killed Volk. Therefore, the commonwealth cannot establish a prima facie case of murder of the second degree,” Blahovec wrote in each of the orders dismissing the murder charges.

As conditions of their release, Santiago was placed on electronic monitored house arrest, and Clawson and Blattenberger were ordered to undergo drug and alcohol evaluation, treatment and random testing.

Not long after being released from jail, state police at Indiana charged Clawson with theft and receiving stolen property, accusing her and Volk in the theft of a gun belonging to Clawson’s father between December 2011 and December 2012.

According to charging documents, the theft came to light Dec. 23, 2012, when Blairsville Borough police told David Clawson that officers had seized a pistol registered in his name from a motorist during a traffic stop.

Clawson reported to state police Dec. 29, 2012 — at virtually the same time when Danielle Clawson and Michael Volk traveled to Torrance to meet Moses — that three handguns were missing from his gun cabinet.

David Clawson told police he suspected his daughter and Volk in the theft, according to a criminal complaint.

Trooper Scott Mackanick wrote in the court papers that Danielle Clawson confessed to taking the firearms and selling them for drugs and money.

The charges, filed March 20 in Blairsville District Court, were dismissed by Judge Jennifer Rega on April 23.

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