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Woman testifies she saw defendant with gun in Pa. trial

September 11, 2003|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - A Chambersburg woman testified Wednesday in Franklin County Court that she saw her uncle with a gun right before a St. Thomas, Pa., man was shot through the mouth.

The prosecution may wrap up its case today against Joseph Ward Jr., 47, of 317 Poplar Springs Road, Orrtanna, Pa.

He is charged with attempted homicide, robbery, aggravated assault, receiving stolen property and carrying an unlicensed handgun with an obliterated serial number in the May 18, 2002, shooting of Dominick Negliaccio in a room at Carson's Motel, 414 W. Loudon St.

Antoinette McKeithan said in court Wednesday she had left the room by the time the shot was fired that injured both Negliaccio and Ward.

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Negliaccio testified Tuesday that Ward, whom he had met just hours before, demanded his money, put him in a headlock and fired a round into his mouth.

Assistant Franklin County District Attorney John Lisko contends the bullet went through the back of Negliaccio's neck and through Ward's left forearm.

McKeithan said she followed Ward and Negliaccio from a bar to the motel where Negliaccio paid for a room. The three ate sandwiches and McKeithan testified she was about to leave when Ward told Negliaccio, "I think you took some of my money."

"When I turned back around, that's when I saw my uncle with the gun," McKeithan said.

On cross-examination by Assistant Public Defender Paul Rockwell, McKeithan admitted she lied about being at the motel when first questioned by Chambersburg police.

She also hedged on cross-examination about seeing the gun.

"I didn't know exactly it was a gun, but I assume it was," she testified.

She testified that at some point before the shooting Ward put a gun in her purse. McKeithan said she later found it, put it in the glove compartment of his Ford Escort and confronted her uncle.

"He said he needed it for protection," she testified.

Trooper Todd Neumyer, a Pennsylvania State Police ballistics expert, testified that markings on a shell casing found in the room matched those of test rounds fired from a gun police found in Ward's car when he was stopped minutes after the shooting.

A .25-caliber bullet found in the motel parking lot two days after the shooting could not be matched to the gun because of damage to the bullet, Neumyer said.

Detective Scott Mummert testified he could not explain how the bullet got into the parking lot, since the door to the room reportedly was closed when the shot was fired. He said it could have fallen off Ward, or been tracked out on the sole of someone's shoe.

Dr. Keith Clancy, an emergency room physician at York (Pa.) Hospital, said Negliaccio's wounds were consistent with his being shot through the mouth rather than from behind through the neck. The wound was life-threatening, he said.

"The bullet went within a centimeter ... of the carotid artery," he testified. Had it struck the artery "he would have died," Clancy said.

Lisko said he would call gunpowder residue and DNA experts today.

In his opening statement, Lisko said residue was found on Ward's clothing and hand after his arrest. Ward also left blood stains in the room after accidentally shooting himself, Lisko said.

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