BRADENVILLE — One of the defendants in a drug deal that turned deadly tearfully described at a preliminary hearing Friday how a plot to rob the dealer ended in the violent death of her friend.
Tiffanny Blattenberger, 22, of Torrance, testified she knew something had gone wrong on Dec. 29 when she heard arguing inside her mobile home along Stone Quarry Road, Derry Township, Westmoreland County.
Then, according to Blattenberger, Ronell Moses Jr., 20, of Penn Hills, another defendant, appeared at the door inside the mobile home, motioning with a chrome handgun.
“If you don’t get the (expletive) back in here I’m going to start shooting again,” Moses said, according to Blattenberger’s testimony.
Then she saw the body of her friend, Michael Volk, 24, of New Florence.
“He was laying in my hallway,” Blattenberger said. ”I could hear my kids in the back room, still playing. … I wanted to be with my children. I was so scared they’d walk out and see that (the body).”
Blattenberger also testified that when she asked Moses why he shot Volk, Moses replied, “He had a gun to my head.”
Following approximately 90 minutes of testimony and questioning by three attorneys, Magisterial District Judge Mark Bilik ruled that sufficient evidence had been presented to hold Moses and Jesus Santiago, 42, of Torrance, for court.
Moses is charged with criminal homicide, kidnapping to facilitate a felony and terroristic threats. A charge of prohibited possession of firearms against Moses was dropped by the commonwealth at the start of Friday’s hearing.
Santiago, a resident of the mobile home where Volk died, is charged with criminal homicide, robbery and conspiracy. Blattenberger and Danielle Clawson, 24, of New Florence, are also charged with criminal homicide, robbery and conspiracy. The two women in February waived their preliminary hearings.
Clawson is the mother of Volk’s two young children.
At Friday’s hearing, Blattenberger testified that Moses arrived at the mobile home that she and Santiago shared the day before the shooting. Moses came for the purpose of selling heroin from the home, she said. But, Blattenberger testified, Volk planned to rob Moses of his drugs and money, and Santiago borrowed the chrome pistol to be used in the robbery from a neighbor, she said.
Blattenberger also said she was “fully aware” of the plot to rob Moses, in part because she sent and received text messages for Santiago about the planned robbery because he has difficulty understanding and writing English. Santiago was assisted in the courtroom Friday by an interpreter.
Blattenberger said she saw Volk with the chrome pistol the evening before he died, and he had the pistol and a bright orange mask shortly before he entered the mobile home.
Blattenberger said she and Clawson were in a car a short distance from the mobile home when the robbery was to take place. When they heard arguing inside — and Clawson may have heard a gunshot, Blattenberger said — the women went to the mobile home but Santiago met them at the door, shaking his head and warning them not to come in.
According to testimony and court documents, Moses held Blattenberger, Clawson and Santiago at gunpoint, placed a call on Blattenberger’s cellphone, and then fled the residence in a red car with an unknown driver.
Moses was arrested six days later.
Blattenberger also testified she “did heroin” the morning of the shooting, after she returned home from a methadone clinic. She testified that Volk and Clawson used heroin hours before the shooting.
The only other person who testified at Friday’s hearing was state police Trooper Matthew Pergar, with Troop A’s Forensic Services unit.
Pergar said he recovered five empty .380-caliber casings inside the mobile home. Fragments of three bullets were recovered from the home’s walls and floor, and two more bullets were found in Volk’s head and abdomen during an autopsy.
Pergar said the autopsy report concluded the bullets caused Volk’s death, and the manner of death was homicide.
Komron Jon Maknoon, Moses’ defense counsel, said he objected to the assertion that Volk’s death was a homicide.
“If someone entered my home with a mask on … I would be able to defend myself,” Maknoon said. “We can believe Mike Volk was wearing a mask.” And Maknoon repeated Blattenberger’s testimony that Moses told her Volk had placed a gun at Moses’ head.
“There’s no direct evidence my client shot anyone,” Maknoon said, and asked Judge Bilik to dismiss the charges or at least replace the homicide charge with a manslaughter charge.
“I’m not throwing anything out,” Bilik said as he ruled that all the charges would go forward for court action.
Bilik also said there would be no bond set for the defendants unless their attorneys filed for bond consideration.