Meadville Tribune

October 2, 2012

Trial set for only one suspect in homicide

By Mary Spicer

MEADVILLE — And then there was one.

Of the four men originally charged in connection with the killing of a Conneautville-area resident 13 months ago, only one, Brandon Todd Tracy, is currently scheduled to go to trial.

During a pre-trial status conference Wednesday afternoon, President Judge Anthony Vardaro announced that only one of the four young men originally accused by Pennsylvania State Police of killing Ronald Shreffler, 46, in an early-morning robbery  at Shreffler’s Summerhill Township home, is headed to trial.

Police accuse Tracy, a Titusville resident who was 18 when the alleged killing occurred, and Harmonsburg residents Alan J. Watkins, and brothers Austin Lee Taylor and Dakota L. Taylor, respectively 19, 18 and 16 years old at the time, of plotting to rob Shreffler of a large amount of marijuana and cash, neither of which was found inside the home.

Tracy allegedly contacted state police Sept. 20, 2011. Although police say Tracy admitted to shooting Shreffler, police also say Tracy claimed that Austin Taylor was pointing a gun at Tracy’s head during the incident. According to police, Tracy has claimed he was forced to take part in the plan and shoot Shreffler or be killed himself.

At a Crawford County Court hearing in April, defense attorneys for Austin Taylor, Watkins and Tracy all argued that the four defendants have antagonistic defenses and would conflict at a combined homicide trial since each defendant would be pointing fingers at the others.

In May, Vardaro denied the motion by Tracy’s defense for separate trials. Following an appeal to county court claiming that the ruling not to separate the trials was prejudicial to Tracy, the motion was again denied  by Vardaro, this time without comment.

Monday afternoon, Crawford County District Attorney Francis Schultz said that all discussions about why Watkins and the Taylor brothers are not going to trial “will have to take place after the trial” and declined further comment.

Jury selection is expected to begin Oct. 15; one week of court time has been allocated for the case.