Veteran found not guilty of murder, manslaughter in Washington road-rage case

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WASHINGTON, Pa. —

A jury found an Army veteran charged with fatally shooting another motorist in a Washington County grocery store parking lot not guilty of murder or manslaughter, but did convict him on drug charges. 

Washington County prosecutors contend 32-year-old Brandon Thomas got out of his vehicle and purposely shot 55-year-old Vaughn Simonelli, of Chartiers Township, in the shoulder and back on Oct. 18, 2012.   

But the defense contends Thomas fired in self-defense only after he was blocked in his parking space by Simonelli's vehicle, which witnesses say sped after Thomas' SUV after the men argued at a traffic light.   

Some witnesses testified that Thomas, of Upper St. Clair, got out of his vehicle and shot Simonelli, while others supported Thomas' version that he shot from inside the vehicle as Simonelli threw a punch.

After the verdict was read the judge told Thomas, “Make sure nothing like this happens again. You’ve been given an opportunity. Get the help you need. Address your drug and mental health problems.”

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