3 accused in W&J football player's death ordered to stand trial

3 accused in W&J football player’s death ordered to stand trial

WASHINGTON, Pa. — Three men have been ordered to stand trial on charges they mugged a Washington & Jefferson football player and his friend, resulting in the player's death.

A district judge on Wednesday determined there was probable cause supporting criminal homicide, robbery and other charges against Eric Wells, 24, of McDonald; Troy Simmons, of East Pittsburgh, and Adam Hankins, of Washington, Pa., who are both 23.

Wells' attorney, Pete Marcoline, said after the hearing he's "never seen a client more remorseful."

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Police have said Wells confessed to punching Timothy McNerney, 21, and knocking him to the ground Oct. 4. McNerney died of head injuries, either from being hit or hitting his head as he fell, a coroner determined.

Washington County prosecutors contend the defendants mugged McNerney and his Washington & Jefferson College teammate, taking McNerney's wallet and smartphone, as he walked home from a bar about 2:30 a.m.

Defense attorneys said they planned to contest the charges at Wednesday's hearing to determine whether the trio must stand trial.

The phone's GPS records led police to two of the three suspects' homes, prompting the charges to be filed last week.

McNerney starred at Knoch High School before attending the private, liberal arts college about 20 miles southwest of Pittsburgh.

McNerney’s friend, Zach Decicco, took the stand Wednesday. He told the judge that he and McNerney were walking back to campus, and when they rounded a corner three men in dark clothing came out of an alleyway. Decicco said the men asked the pair for their cellphones.

When Decicco said he told the men, ‘No,’ he was punched in the nose and kicked several times before he was able to run away.

“I initially thought Tim got away already. I never thought anything happened to him,” Decicco said.

According to criminal complaints, GPS records from McNerney's phone show it was carried near Hankin's home and Wells' home shortly after the robbery. State police confronted the men with that information on Aug. 6, and both confessed and implicated Simmons, police said.

Wells acknowledged striking McNerney and said he got rid of the iPhone and burned the clothes he and Hankins wore, police said. Hankins told police that Wells tried to use McNerney's credit card at a nearby convenience store.

“At least I know who they are and I want them to know who I am because I am angry,” Denise McNerney said. “I never thought I could be angry, and I was so angry initially, angry looking at them and thinking about three people on one person. It's cruel, unusual, unbelievable.”

Denise McNerney said her son died for $40.

“He had no money. He had a debit card with $40 in his account. Really?” she said. “You always have to be cautious. There are people out there who want to hurt you over nothing. Those are the things I wish I’d have told him more. Look around you more.”