Indiana, PA - Indiana County

Trial to start Monday in Clymer death

by on May 18, 2014 2:00 AM

Trial dates have been set for two men charged in the shooting death last summer of an Ernest man on a walking trail in Clymer.

Jury selection is scheduled for Monday in the trial of the Gregory “Sam” Patterson, 34, of Glen Campbell, who is suspected of being an accomplice in the slaying of James “Pork” Alexander, 46.

The suspected triggerman, Christopher Salsgiver, 23, of Glen Campbell, is to face trial beginning June 23, court records show.

According to state police investigators and testimony offered in September at a preliminary hearing, Patterson and Salsgiver met Alexander and a companion, Jeffrey Swigart, to complete a drug deal about 9 p.m. June 24 on a paved section of a trail between Route 403 and Sage Street.

Patterson texted Swigart asking to buy some heroin, but then challenged Swigart about the quality of the drugs when they met on the trail, according to police.

Swigart told investigators that Patterson put him in a headlock, but he punched Patterson, broke free and ran away.

As he fled, Swigart said, he saw Salsgiver draw a handgun and heard him order Alexander to the ground.

Swigart testified that he heard a gunshot as he fled to the nearby home of a friend, Cloyd Fishel.

Fishel walked to the trail and found Alexander was dead, Swigart said. The coroner’s office reported Alexander died of a single gunshot wound to the face.

According to the criminal charges, Patterson also told police that Salsgiver killed Alexander. The slaying was planned because they believed Alexander had been ripping them off in drug sales, Patterson said.

Salsgiver, however, gave police two stories before being arrested, court papers show.

He first said Patterson went to the trail alone to meet with Alexander, but then Salsgiver said he went to the trail with Patterson and that Alexander was alive when he last saw him.

Patterson is charged with criminal homicide, two counts each of robbery and aggravated assault, five counts of conspiracy, one count each of carrying a firearm without a license, simple assault and harassment,

In the last of a series of pretrial motions filed by Patterson’s court appointed defense attorneys, Thomas Kaufman and Marshall Chriswell, a motion to suppress Patterson’s statements to police on the day after the shooting was denied on Thursday by Judge Thomas Bianco.

Patterson, meanwhile, is also charged with criminal homicide, aggravated assault, robbery, six counts of conspiracy and possessing a firearm without a license. He has retained attorney Jennifer Szalkowski for his defense, and will be tried before Bianco.

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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