BLAIRSVILLE — Jack Edmundson Jr., of Saltsburg, was ordered Wednesday to stand trial for the December 2012 burglary of a house near his residence and for extortion and related charges that prosecutors say ultimately led to the Dec. 31 shooting death of a Tunnelton gun shop owner.
District Judge Jennifer Rega bound the cases for action in Indiana County Court following a preliminary hearing conducted under the rarest of circumstances: Edmundson opted out of attending the hearing while his court-appointed defense attorney, Gary Knaresboro, alone represented him in the district court.
Edmundson last month was held for trial on homicide charges in the death of Frank Petro, and remains in the Indiana County Jail without bond.
He was charged in Petro’s death following a confrontation in Petro’s Gun & Taxidermy Shop along Hogue Street that left Edmundson seriously wounded and Petro dead from shots from the same gun.
In the three months before the fatal shooting, investigators say, Edmundson posed as an undercover state police trooper and as an investigator for the state attorney general, threatened to arrest Petro for selling tickets for an illegal lottery, and demanded more than $146,000 of lottery winnings from Petro to protect him from being charged.
Prosecutors say Edmundson shot Petro because Petro discovered that Edmundson was not actually an officer and that instead of paying hush money, Petro learned Edmundson had extorted the cash from him.
In the first of two consecutive hearings Wednesday, Petro’s brother, William Petro, testified that he met with his brother and Edmundson in early October, that Edmundson ordered Frank Petro to stop selling the lottery tickets and to turn over $47,000 that Petro had recently won in the game.
William Petro told prosecutors that his brother later told him Edmundson demanded $84,000 of prize money that was supposed to be paid for a winning ticket held by Dan Evanick, of Shelocta. But he testified Wednesday that he never actually saw the money change hands between his brother and Edmundson.
Evanick testified Wednesday that in a phone call on Oct. 20, Frank Petro “was kind of frantic, telling me he could not pay me that money.
“He said he was under investigation,” Evanick said. Later, Petro told him that his prize money was available, “but if I came to get it, I’d be arrested. He asked what I wanted to do, and I said I didn’t want to be arrested.”
Evanick said Petro planned to give the $84,000 to the detective who was investigating him, but testified that Petro did not mention the name of the investigator.
In cross examination by Knaresboro, Evanick said the winning ticket actually belonged to his co-worker and that he was attempting to cash it on his behalf. He agreed with District Attorney Patrick Dougherty’s suggestion that he was a “point of contact” between Petro and game players who bought the tickets.
Terry Czitterberg, of Apollo, testified of having a similar arrangement with Edmundson — that he supplied tickets for the illegal game to Edmundson, who in turn sold them to players.
The game offered tickets at $10 for a prize of $8,000; $20 for a $17,000 prize; $50 for a prize of $42,000; and $100 for an $84,000 jackpot, he said.
Czitterberg explained that he obtained tickets from another source, then distributed them to others who sold them. The prize money was distributed the same way, Czitterberg said. He obtained cash from his source and passed it along to his sellers and the winners. Traditionally, winners would pay 10 percent of their prize money back to the sellers, who would share it on up the chain — that’s how people running the game like Edmundson and he made money from it, Czitterberg said.
But Czitterberg also testified that that he suspected Edmundson of stealing from him.
“I had reason to believe he was taking tickets from my vehicle on a monthly basis,” he said. “People had seen him coming to my place when I wasn’t home.”
He testified that he believed Edmundson also was keeping money that people paid for tickets and shorting some of the winners.
In the second of the hearings, Jack Maguire, of Market Street, Saltsburg, testified that he returned from a vacation in December 2012 to discover his home had been ransacked by an intruder who broke through a gate to get into his backyard, pried open a door to a sunroom, broke through a locked door to get into the house, broke into a locked bedroom, and stole collections of coins and stamps from a locked cabinet.
Maguire estimated $3,000 worth of jewelry and $12,000 worth of proof sets, uncirculated sets, silver and gold coins and rare coins, “some I began to collect when I was a young boy,” had been stolen.
The loot apparently had been stashed in a trash can and dragged through the snow across his backyard to his garage, Maguire said.
“Ten minutes after I arrived home, Jack Edmundson was out there at the corner and yelled to me, ‘what’s going on?’” Maguire testified.
State police Trooper Jason Morgan, who filed charges in both cases, tied them together when he testified in both hearings about his intricate investigation of Edmundson’s family finances. Morgan testified that he studied Edmundson’s banking trends not only from October to December, when he was suspected of extorting money from Frank Petro, but for at least two years earlier to see patterns in deposits and spending.
After being discharged from his job at Oklahoma Ambulance in March 2010, Edmundson had no full-time job, Morgan said, and only his wife, Amy Edmundson, had regular earnings that showed up in the records.
Jack Edmundson was awarded Social Security disability in June 2012, starting with a lump sum back payment of $25,000, which “was gone almost immediately,” and monthly payments for him and each of their three children, Morgan said.
Morgan told Dougherty that changes in Edmundson’s finances late last year matched the suspected extortion of Frank Petro.
“Jack begins making large deposits to (various accounts). … He deposited $20,000 cash to savings and on Oct. 29, $9,000 cash was paid on his Ford Mustang loan.”
Between Oct. 7 and 30, $4,300 in cash payments were made on a loan for a GMC Yukon, he said.
“At no time before the money was reported missing had he ever paid cash,” Morgan testified.
Records showed Edmundson traded a Ford Expedition for a Lincoln MKX from the No. 1 Cochran auto dealer in Pittsburgh and paid $9,800 in cash, Morgan said.
Edmundson paid cash for a fleet of five all-terrain vehicles, and made more frequent visits to Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh and the Lady Luck casino in Nemacolin, gambling away far greater amounts of money than he had typically played in the past, Morgan testified.
The financial analysis also showed some spikes in Edmundson’s bank deposits in early 2013, and Morgan testified the money was from the sale of valuable coins from the collections stolen from Maguire.
But he said he didn’t make the connection until he was deep into the extortion probe.
When Morgan served a search warrant at a storage facility along Penn Street in Saltsburg, looking for Edmundson’s all-terrain vehicles, he realized the locker was within sight of Maguire’s house.
Also nearby, Morgan said, was a supply building in the Saltsburg Cemetery, where Edmundson was a key-holding member of the board of directors.
Morgan, who investigated the burglary at Maguire’s house, wrote in the criminal complaint that “based upon the direct travel for the garbage can full of coins, they could have been taken either to this location or to a storage building in the cemetery.”
Morgan further connected the early 2013 bank deposits with the discovery of incomplete coin collection sets when he searched Edmundson’s home following Petro’s death.
Morgan photographed the coin sets and left them in the house, he said, but testified that he asked Amy Edmundson to deliver them to the office of her attorney, Thomas Johnson, in Indiana, in mid-March.
On March 21, Morgan testified, Maguire visited Johnson’s office and identified the coins — including a 1972 gold George Washington dollar and a 1970 U.S proof set — as ones he had listed missing from his home.
Morgan traced the sale of some of the stolen coins to Westmoreland Rare Coins, a coin dealer, where records turned up at least two transactions with Edmundson.
The deposits of $2,500 on Jan. 1, 2013; $2,100 on Jan. 19, 2013; and $1,700 on Jan. 24, 2013, reflected the need for extensive time to sort out the most valuable of the stolen coins to be sold off, Morgan said.
In cross-examination, Morgan told Knaresboro that Edmundson was a confidential informant for the state police, and that he generated leads that officers investigated with search warrants. But no one was arrested as a result of Edmundson’s information, he said.
Being an informant would not entitle Edmundson to say he was a state police investigator, he said.
Morgan also said police found a few shoeprints but no fingerprints that conclusively placed Edmundson inside the house where the coin collections were stolen, “but the totality of the evidence and circumstances” led him to charge him with burglary.
Rega agreed and upheld all the charges for adjudication in Common Pleas Court.
Edmundson faces counts of burglary, criminal trespass, theft and receiving stolen property stemming from the Maguire break-in, and charges of dealing in proceeds of unlawful activities, participating in corrupt organizations, participating in an unlawful lottery, theft, receiving stolen property and impersonating a public servant in connection with the extortion of Petro.