Pa. homicide trial begins

March 29, 2011|By JENNIFER FITCH |
  • Gerald Buterbaugh
Gerald Buterbaugh

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. — During the opening day of a homicide trial in Franklin County (Pa.) Court Tuesday, emergency medical technicians and police testified about the scene outside Hillside Tavern on May 31, 2010, after a man was hit by a pickup truck following a bar fight.

They described seeing 32-year-old Dale Steven Henry lying unconscious on the shoulder of the road as one man held his head and another his hand.

Henry, of Burnt Cabins, Pa., was flown to Altoona (Pa.) Regional Trauma Center, where he was pronounced brain-dead later that day.

Gerald Buterbaugh, 42, of Hustontown, Pa., is charged with criminal homicide in Henry’s death. Buterbaugh was driving a 1986 Ford that hit Henry at about 2:30 a.m.

The trial is expected to continue into next week.

In his opening statements, Assistant District Attorney John Lisko told jurors that Buterbaugh made callous comments after the impact.

“The defendant backs his truck across the road and what he does is step on the gas. ... He went across the road and struck Mr. Henry,” Lisko said.

Chambersburg defense attorney Chris Sheffield said Buterbaugh is a quiet, friendly man who turned himself in to Pennsylvania State Police when he learned Henry was seriously hurt.

“Yes, he hit Mr. Henry, but not intentionally,” Sheffield said.

Opening statements described Buterbaugh drinking and riding all-terrain vehicles with two men before going to the Metal Township, Pa., bar for “last call.”

There, one of his companions got into a fight with other patrons. That fight spilled into the parking lot after the bartender kicked them out.

Sheffield claims patrons were throwing rocks and bottles at Buterbaugh’s truck, and hit it with a pool cue.

“The aggressor became the victim of his own aggression,” Sheffield said of Henry during opening statements.

The trial started 45 minutes late. Six men, six women and one male alternate juror comprise the jury, with Judge Richard Walsh noting the 14th juror was released after having a death in the family.

The judge told the jury that criminal homicide is an umbrella charge with various verdicts. He listed possible verdicts in this case as first-degree murder, third-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter and not guilty.

After opening statements, first responders and a few state police troopers took the stand to establish a timeline of what happened.

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