Prosecutor in 1999 Bethel Park killing trial leaves after medical emergency

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The lead prosecutor trying the case against a man accused of killing his ex-wife in Bethel Park in 1999 had to leave the courtroom this morning with a medical emergency.

Allegheny County assistant district attorney Lisa Pellegrini was taken to UPMC Mercy for treatment, while her co-counsel on the case, Lisa Carey, was left to continue the case against John Minch.

Mr. Minch, 46, of Cameron, W.Va., is accused in the May 6, 1999, stabbing death of Melissa Groot, 29.

He is representing himself in the case, and is still in the middle of cross-examination of the lead Allegheny County homicide detective who worked the case.

Just after the jury left the courtroom for the lunch break, Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Philip A. Ignelzi instructed Mr. Minch to conclude his examination of Terry Hediger.

"The court is doing everything it can to allow you full latitude," the judge said.

But, Judge Ignelzi continued, the direct examination by Ms. Pellegrini of Detective Hediger on Thursday lasted only 85 minutes, while Mr. Minch's cross-examination has already exceeded 3 1/2 hours.

"At some point, this has to end," the judge said.

"It will soon, your honor," Mr. Minch responded.

Ms. Carey told the court that she could handle the questioning of the next three witnesses.

During cross-examination, Detective Hediger told Mr. Minch that he returned to the man's apartment complex and hung fliers with Groot's picture on it, noting he was seeking information in her death.

The detective did not attempt to find Mr. Minch or question him that day.

"My purpose was, I wanted you to know I hadn't forgotten about you," the detective said.


Paula Reed Ward: pward@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2620. Twitter: @PaulaReedWard.


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