Death penalty case in St. Clair officer's death set to begin in June

Sign up for one of our email newsletters.Updated 23 minutes ago The capital murder trial of a New Florence man charged with the fatal shooting of a St. Clair police officer in 2015 is tentatively scheduled to begin in June. Ray Shetler Jr., 32, appeared in...

Death penalty case in St. Clair officer's death set to begin in June

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Updated 23 minutes ago

The capital murder trial of a New Florence man charged with the fatal shooting of a St. Clair police officer in 2015 is tentatively scheduled to begin in June.

Ray Shetler Jr., 32, appeared in court Monday for a pretrial hearing before Westmoreland County Judge Meagan Bilik-DeFazio to determine if charges of first- and third-degree murder can stand.

Defense attorney Marc Daffner said the prosecution has not presented enough evidence to support charges that Shetler intentionally killed Officer Lloyd Reed, who was investigating a Nov. 28, 2015 domestic incident.

“There is no real evidence in this case that this was premeditated or done with malice. He did not know (Reed) was a police officer,” Daffner said after the short hearing.

No testimony was presented in court on Monday. District Attorney John Peck submitted into evidence a recording of 911 calls placed the night of the shooting as well as a transcript of the evidence presented during a preliminary hearing in late 2015.

The judge said she will issue a ruling after receiving written arguments from Peck, which are due in 30 days.

Peck said evidence against Shetler is sufficient to warrant a finding that he is guilty of first-degree murder.

“He discharged a firearm at a police officer,” Peck said. “There is evidence and killing a police officer is an aggravated circumstance that can justify the imposition of the death penalty.”

The prosecution has said Reed was shot in the chest as he and Shetler exchanged gunfire on the front lawn of his Ligonier Street home. According to court records, Shetler's girlfriend had called 911 to report Shetler was intoxicated and abusive.

Following the shooting, Shetler fled and swam across the Conemaugh River, and was arrested several hours later. Police found the suspected murder weapon hidden in thick brush near the river.

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