PITTSBURGH — All charges have been dismissed against one of two suspects in the Wilkinsburg mass shooting, a judge ruled Monday morning.
Robert Thomas, 31, had been charged alongside 33-year-old Cheron Shelton for the 2016 ambush shooting that killed five people and an unborn baby during a backyard barbecue. The trial for both men was scheduled to start Monday, but now only the trial for Shelton will move forward as planned.
Monday’s decision came after a motion was filed last week by Thomas’ attorney, who said the Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office agreed one of the witnesses was not credible and would not be put on the stand.
That witness, a man only known as witness No. 3, provided information on 13 different criminal cases and allegedly confessed to a 2013 shooting that killed a 1-year-old boy in Pittsburgh’s East Hills neighborhood, according to prosecutors.
When announcing his decision Monday, the judge said the district attorney had good circumstantial evidence, but without testimony from cooperating witnesses he determined there was not enough for the case against Thomas to move forward.
Shelton will still stand trial for homicide despite his attorneys and the district attorney asking for the jury to be dismissed since Thomas is no longer heading to trial. The judge denied those requests.
Opening arguments were held Monday morning in Shelton’s trial. Assistant DA Kevin Chernosky said he “unleashed a merciless hail storm of bullets” during the 2016 shooting. Shelton’s defense attorney, Randall McKinney, argued his client had no part in the shooting.
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An attorney for baby Marcus White told Channel 11 this dismissal is a rare thing to see.
“Very rarely do you see a capital case being dismissed on the first day of trial. It’s a sign that this District Attorneys office is collapsing,” Paul Jubus said.
Allegheny County spokesperson Mike Manko sent the following statement to WPXI Monday afternoon:
"The Judge made it clear in his remarks this morning that in the absence of community support for police investigations, it is extremely difficult to solve, charge and prosecute certain crimes.
"Since 2015, this office has prosecuted 16 cases of child abuse that resulted in a death and 15 of those prosecutions resulted in either a guilty verdict or a guilty plea.
"If, in fact, there was evidence of any kind that would allow us to sustain our burden of proof in connection with the death of Marcus White Jr., that prosecution would have already taken place.”
- Credibility of key witness could have major impact on Wilkinsburg mass shooting trial (Jan. 28, 2020)
- Pair charged in ambush that killed 6 in Wilkinsburg to stand trial (July 29, 2016)
- Father of Wilkinsburg shooting victim says he knows men charged with daughter’s death (June 23, 2016)
- Wilkinsburg mass shooting survivor on suspects’ arrests: ‘I don’t want to see them die’(June 23, 2016)
- 2 suspects in Wilkinsburg mass shooting charged with homicide (June 23, 2016)
- One of 4 questioned in Wilkinsburg mass shooting named suspect (April 7, 2016)
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