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Man held for trial in deadly shooting

by on March 21, 2014 11:00 AM

BRADENVILLE — A Burrell Township man avoided the formality of a preliminary hearing on upgraded charges stemming from the fatal shooting of his estranged girlfriend in December in Derry Township.

Arthur Whitfield III, of Josephine, waived his right to a hearing Thursday in Bradenville District Court and now faces arraignment and trial in Westmoreland County for a count of criminal homicide.

The charge was added to the counts filed against him in December after Holly George was wounded by multiple gunshots.

A two-part criminal case against Whitfield, 51, has advanced on two different schedules because George, who appeared to be recovering from the Dec. 1 shooting, eventually died Dec. 19 at UPMC Presbyterian Hospital in Pittsburgh.

George was 36.

Whitfield was charged at the outset and has been held at Westmoreland County Prison since Dec. 2. His bond originally was set at $250,000.

George’s 15-year-old daughter, Savannah Embry, told state police that Whitfield entered their home at 708 W. First Ave., near Derry, and forced his way into a bedroom where she was watching television with her mother. Whitfield drew a handgun from his waistband, shouted a profanity at George, said “this is the last time you’re going to (expletive) me over” and started shooting at her, the girl told investigators.

Whitfield, who eluded a manhunt for several hours, was arrested after neighbors spotted him hitchhiking along Route 217 and called police. Troopers from Greensburg immediately charged Whitfield with attempted homicide, aggravated assault, simple assault, recklessly endangering another person, discharging a firearm in an occupied structure, burglary, criminal trespass and prohibited possession of a firearm.

While George was still under treatment for her wounds, Whitfield was held for trial on the initial charges following a preliminary hearing Dec. 11 in Bradenville District Court. Police testified that George had been shot nine times.

Whitfield, whose record of arrests and court cases spans 25 years, was arraigned and ordered to stand trial April 7.

Although George died three months ago, Westmoreland County prosecutors awaited results of an autopsy and toxicology tests that confirmed that the wounds caused her death — “to make sure there were no surprises,” according to District Attorney John Peck — and upgraded the case to homicide on March 6.

District Judge Mark Bilik ordered Whitfield to be held without bond on the homicide charge.

Whitfield is represented by attorney Joseph Massaro, of the Westmoreland County Public Defender’s office. Massaro did not return a call requesting comment this morning.

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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