Indiana, PA - Indiana County

Two charged in man's death

by on June 26, 2013 11:00 AM

CLYMER — Two Glen Campbell men have been charged with killing an Ernest man during a narcotics transaction Monday evening on a walking trail in Clymer, according to state police and the Indiana County district attorney’s office.

Christopher Salsgiver, 22, and Gregory “Sam” Patterson, 33, were charged Tuesday with criminal homicide and held at the Indiana County Jail without bond, accused in connection with the slaying of James “Porky” Alexander, 46, about 9 p.m. Monday in an area near Penn and Sage streets in the southwest section of Clymer.

According to criminal charges, both admitted that they met with Alexander on the trail. Patterson implicated Salsgiver in the shooting and said the killing was planned, but Salsgiver denied that Alexander had been shot while they were together.

A second man, Jeffrey Swigart, no address listed, accompanied Alexander and was assaulted when the men met to complete a heroin deal on the trail, charging documents show.

State police at Indiana reported the drug deal had been in the works since Sunday evening, when Patterson approached Alexander and Swigart as they sat in a car in the lot at Sandy’s Convenience Store along Route 403 in Dixonville.

Patterson and Swigart exchanged cellphone numbers, according to police, and Patterson messaged Swigart on Monday morning asking if he could help dispose of a “hot” 9 mm handgun, but Swigart declined, according to court papers.

Early Monday evening, investigators learned, Patterson texted Swigart while Swigart and Alexander were visiting a woman identified as Denise Clark at 924 Sage St., and asked to buy three bundles of heroin.

Troopers reported the men arranged to meet on the paved trail between Sage Street and Route 403.

When Swigart handed over a package of heroin, Patterson questioned him about the substance then grabbed Swigart’s neck and tried to place him in a headlock, court papers show.

Swigart told police that he punched Patterson and broke free, then saw Salsgiver draw a gun and point it at Alexander.

While he fled toward Route 403, Swigart told police, he heard Salsgiver order Alexander to get on the ground, then he heard a gunshot.

Chief Deputy Coroner Jerry Overman pronounced Alexander dead at the scene and said he had been shot once in the face.

Troopers from three other stations in the region assisted in the probe all Monday night and all day Tuesday, said District Attorney Patrick Dougherty. They confirmed Patterson and Salsgiver as the suspects when Swigart and a friend, Cloyd Fishel, of Penn Street, Clymer, selected their images from photo lineups.

The leads they developed culminated late in the day when they obtained arrest warrants for Patterson and Salsgiver and issued alerts among regional law enforcement agencies.

“The investigators worked all night on this. They had certain people that were involved, who were witnesses who placed these individuals at the scene,” Dougherty said.

“Through further investigation by state police from Indiana, Greensburg, Kiski Valley and Punxsutawney, they were able to track down various leads that led us to believe that these two individuals were involved in the incident on the trail.”

Troopers interviewed Patterson at the state police station in Indiana just after 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, according to the charging documents. Patterson said Salsgiver had the gun and pulled the trigger on Alexander.

Patterson “said that it was planned and that they were tired of Alexander ripping them off,” Trooper Douglas Snyder wrote in the affidavit of probable cause for Salsgiver’s arrest.

The documents show Salsgiver gave two stories in an interview at the police station at 8:15 p.m.

Salsgiver “first stated that he was with Patterson until Patterson went onto the trail alone,” Snyder reported. “Salsgiver then later changed his story by saying that he was on the trail with Patterson … admitted receiving five bags of heroin and then leaving, but he maintained that no one was dead when he left.”

The men are scheduled to appear for a preliminary hearing at 10 a.m. Tuesday in Clymer District court.

Patterson faces 15 charges including one count of homicide, two counts of aggravated assault, two counts of robbery, and six counts of conspiracy, all felonies; two misdemeanor counts of simple assault and two summary counts of harassment.

Troopers filed 12 charges against Salsgiver including one count of criminal homicide, one count of conspiracy to homicide, two counts each of aggravated assault, robbery and conspiracy to robbery, all felonies; plus two counts each of simple assault and harassment.

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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