The man accused of the 2012 killing of his brother-in-law near Cochranton and then setting the body on fire now is scheduled to go to trial this spring in Mercer County Court of Common Pleas.
Ralph L. Young, 45, of Franklin is scheduled to stand trial March 10 on Pennsylvania State Police charges of first- and third-degree murder, reckless burning, possession of explosive or incendiary material and abuse of a corpse in the death of David A. Dignall, 58, who was Young’s brother-in-law.
Mercer County Judge Christopher J. St. John set the March trial date Thursday following a status conference with attorneys for both sides. The trial had been scheduled for later this month in Mercer County Court of Common Pleas.
Following the hearing, both attorneys said no plea deal is in the works.
“There’s no indication of a plea at this time,” Alexander H.J. Lindsay Jr., Young’s defense attorney, said.
“There’s not been a plea offer. Mr. Young has been emphatic about proving his innocence,” Dan Davis, the Mercer County assistant district attorney prosecuting the case, said.
Young is accused by state police with the Dec. 20, 2012, shotgun slaying of Dignall, 58, on Hollobaugh Road in French Creek Township, Mercer County, just south of Cochranton. Dignall was co-owner of Dignall’s Auto Parts in downtown Cochranton along with his brother, Dennis Dignall.
State police allege Young shot Dignall late in the afternoon of Dec. 20, 2012, after the two had met on the Hollobaugh Road. Young then poured a flammable liquid on Dignall’s body before setting the body and Dignall’s van on fire, according to state police.
Prosecutors allege the killing was the result of a family dispute over the fate of a 35-acre property near Franklin in Venango County that had belonged to Young’s mother.
Dignall and his wife, Alice, who is Young’s sister, bought the property from Mrs. Young and were charging Ralph Young rent.
Ralph Young, who wanted to start some kind of ministry on the property, had been living there rent-free, according to testimony at Young’s preliminary hearing on the charges back in May.
At Thursday’s status conference, Lindsay asked for the delay until March in order to have more time to prepare his client’s defense.
Young, who was at Thursday’s hearing in hand and leg cuffs and dressed in bright orange Mercer County Jail clothing, agreed to the delay.
St. John told Young he wanted to move the trial forward “as vigorously as I can or resolve it in some way keeping in mind the need to give you a fair trial.”
St. John gave Davis until Jan. 31 to provide the defense with a list of potential witnesses and exhibits that may be used at the trial.
Another status conference is scheduled Feb. 14 in Mercer County Court before St. John.
Keith Gushard can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at email@example.com.