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Pa. man guilty of first-degree murder

June 14, 2000|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Timothy J. Ross will be sentenced later this month to life in prison without parole after a Franklin County jury found him guilty Wednesday of first-degree murder in the shooting of Drake Luckett.

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The jury of eight men and four women deliberated four hours before reaching a verdict. An hour into deliberations they sent a note to Judge John R. Walker, asking for a clarification on the difference between first- and third-degree murder.

"I don't know why he did it. It's a shame he wasted his life by going to prison," Tamra Lidie of Chambersburg said. Lidie had been Luckett's fianc and witnessed the March 1, 1999, shooting at Dave's Tavern at 401 S. Main St.

In his closing argument, defense co-counsel David R. Yoder said there was insufficient evidence during the two days of testimony that Ross formed a specific intent to kill Luckett. He argued third-degree murder or voluntary manslaughter would be more appropriate verdicts.

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Luckett, 34, of 217 Linden Ave., was shot in the chest as he opened the Catherine Street door of the bar. Ross admitted he shot Luckett, but said Luckett was reaching for something under his sweater.

Yoder said the downward trajectory of the bullet that hit Luckett, and the fact that all three bullets lodged in the door or door frame, indicated Luckett had come out of the bar toward Ross, although witnesses said he did not step out of the bar.

"You can presume, if you wish, that Mr. Luckett had a gun and that weapon disappeared," Yoder said. No evidence was presented at the trial that Luckett was armed, or that a weapon was removed from his body or the scene after the shooting.

"There was no presumption he had a gun," Walker told the jury after Yoder finished. The judge said they could not consider that theory in their deliberations.

"What started as a misidentification by Mr. Ross grew into a fatal confrontation an hour later," Assistant District Attorney David Rahauser said.

Ross and Luckett, who had just moved to Chambersburg from Hagerstown, had never met.

Ross, who is white, testified Tuesday he mistook Luckett, who was black, for a friend and greeted him with a racial slur. Over an hour or 90 minutes, there were other confrontations between Ross, Luckett, Lidie and a friend of the couple.

Kenneth Mellott, a bartender and Ross' uncle, testified Ross stuck his finger in Luckett's chest and said, "I got something for you," shortly before the shooting.

At one point in Ross' testimony Tuesday, Rahauser handed him the murder weapon, a .38-caliber revolver, and asked him to show how he carried the gun. Ross stuck it in his waistband and showed how he fired at Luckett.

Ross said a friend at the bar gave him the gun.

Rahauser said there was no evidence Ross was in imminent danger of death or bodily harm and that he waited outside for Luckett. "He knew he was going to shoot Drake Luckett He was shot in a willful, intentional and premeditated manner," he told the jury.

"Any murder trial is a long and difficult process and now we gear up for the next stage," Yoder said after the verdict. He said Ross has decided to appeal.

Walker scheduled Ross' sentencing for Wednesday, June 21.

Luckett's brother, Baron Williams of Frederick, Md., described his brother as a quiet man, but one who would not back down from trouble.

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