Jury in trial of Pa. man charged in son's shooting death hears recordings of 911 calls

Opening statements made in trial of Jerry D. Rowe of Chambersburg, charged with criminal homicide

August 20, 2012|By DON AINES |
  • Jerry D. Rowe
File photo

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. — The trial of a Chambersburg man charged with killing his son two years ago began Monday in Franklin County Common Pleas Court with the defense playing 911 tapes from before and after the fatal shooting during its opening statement to the jury.

Jerry D. Rowe, 57, is charged with criminal homicide in the Oct. 16, 2010, shooting of his son, 27-year-old Nathaniel Rowe, in Jerry Rowe’s home at 925 Duncan Ave.

Assistant District Attorney Laura Kerstetter told the jury that the charge encompasses a range of offenses from first- and third-degree murder to voluntary and involuntary manslaughter.

In her opening statement, Kerstetter told the jury the prosecution will show that Jerry Rowe acted with malice, thus making it a murder, not manslaughter. The gun Rowe used to shoot his son was retrieved from under his bedroom mattress during the altercation between Nathaniel Rowe and his parents, she said.

During his opening statement, defense attorney David Breschi played parts of 911 calls made by Jerry Rowe’s wife, Pamela, before and after the shooting. In the first call, Nathaniel Rowe can be heard yelling, “What’s that in your hand?”

Breschi told the jury that Jerry Rowe was holding a knife he grabbed from a kitchen butcher block in an effort to defend his wife from their son when that call was made. The call ended when Nathaniel Rowe knocked the phone from his mother’s hand, Breschi told jurors.

In the second call, Jerry Rowe can be heard in the background threatening to “blow my brains out” as his wife repeatedly pleads for him to put down the gun.

Jerry Rowe held Chambersburg police officers at bay, threatening suicide for about an hour before surrendering, Breschi told jurors.

Nathaniel Rowe was shot through the arm and torso by a single bullet fired by his father from a distance of approximately 27 feet, Breschi told the jury. The son then ran from the house and collapsed in the side yard, Breschi said.

Jerry Rowe intended to fire a warning shot into the wall to scare his son, but he unintentionally shot him, Breschi told the jury. Nathaniel Rowe was shot as he struggled with his mother, who had pushed him off-balance, Breschi said.

Nathaniel Rowe had a long history of abusing alcohol and of violence against family members, Breschi said in his opening statement. There would be testimony that on the night he was killed, Nathaniel Rowe had a blood-alcohol level of 0.30 percent, more than three times the level for legal intoxication in Pennsylvania, as well as cocaine in his system, Breschi told the jury.

The dispute that culminated in the shooting began with Nathaniel Rowe arguing with and assaulting his girlfriend after a long day of drinking, Breschi told the jury.

Jerry and Pamela Rowe will testify during the trial, Breschi said.

Judge Douglas W. Herman told jurors the trial will last several days.

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