Police say Indiana County shooting was drug deal gone wrong

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The slaying of an Indiana County man on a walking trail Monday night was not a random act, but the planned murder of a drug dealer by disgruntled customers, according to court documents.

Christopher Salsgiver, 22, and Gregory Patterson, 33, both of Glen Campbell, were arrested Tuesday and charged with homicide in the death of James Alexander, 46, of Ernest, who police say was meeting with the men to sell them heroin when he was killed.

Mr. Patterson told Indiana County state police that he and Mr. Salsgiver had planned to kill Mr. Alexander because they were "tired of [him] ripping them off," according to a criminal complaint.

Mr. Patterson approached Mr. Alexander and an acquaintance in a Dixonville parking lot Sunday about the possibility of purchasing heroin from them and agreed to meet with them the following day, according to court documents.

The next night, Mr. Alexander and his acquaintance were at a party at a friend's house in Clymer when the acquaintance received a text message from Mr. Patterson stating he wanted to purchase three bundles of heroin, authorities said. They agreed to meet on a nearby trail close to Route 403.

Soon after Mr. Alexander and his acquaintance met with Mr. Patterson and Mr. Salsgiver, a scuffle broke out, during which Mr. Salsgiver drew a gun, the complaint states.

While Mr. Patterson attempted to grab Mr. Alexander's acquaintance, he was able to break free and run down the trail to Route 403, where he contacted and was picked up by a friend, according to the complaint.

The acquaintance heard a gunshot as he exited the trail, according to the complaint.

Mr. Alexander was found around 9:20 p.m. after someone who lived nearby heard the gunshot and went to investigate, authorities said. He was pronounced dead at the scene at 10:25 p.m., according to the Indiana County coroner's office.

Mr. Salsgiver told Indiana County state police he had been on the trail, participating in the drug deal, but said "no one was dead when he left." Mr. Patterson told state police that Mr. Salsgiver had pulled the trigger.

Mr. Patterson and Mr. Salsgiver both face a charge of criminal homicide, two counts of aggravated assault, two counts of simple assault, and two counts of harassment. In addition, Mr. Patterson has been charged with two counts of robbery and six counts of conspiracy, and Mr. Salsgiver has been charged with four counts of robbery.

They are being held in the Indiana County Jail with preliminary hearings scheduled for July 2.

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Molly Born contributed. Lee Purvey: lpurvey@post-gazette.com.


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