Three members of the Welsh family Wednesday testified that William Menni repeatedly threatened them in the months leading up to his shooting death, and that they were afraid of him.
“Basically, we were locked in the house and afraid to come out,” said William Welsh Jr.
His sister, Nancy Welsh-Leonard, said, “He made comments he was going to get them.”
Their father, William Welsh Sr., 90, is charged with criminal homicide in the July 26 shooting of Mr. Menni, 58, who was killed at a demolition site across the street from the Welsh Funeral Home and residence in Homestead.
Mr. Menni, who had been a longtime family friend of the Welshes, was running the job site, and there had been repeated arguments about the work being done.
Mr. Welsh’s nonjury trial began Tuesday before Common Pleas Judge Thomas E. Flaherty. He will render his verdict in the case today.
Mr. Welsh, who did not testify, has claimed the shooting was done in self-defense.
Kerry Leonard, his granddaughter, said Mr. Menni called her repeatedly with threats to ruin her grandfather and uncle weeks before the shooting.
The men were so fearful, she testified, that they would wait to leave the house or do yard work when Mr. Menni wasn’t at the job site.
“So your life at the Welsh home was dictated by the presence or absence of Mr. Menni?” asked defense attorney Frank Walker.
“Yes, it was,” Ms. Leonard answered.
In presenting his case, Mr. Walker presented character witnesses who said Mr. Welsh has a reputation in the community for being peaceful and law-abiding.
He also presented testimony that Mr. Menni had a reputation for being aggressive.
During closing arguments, Mr. Walker described his client as having been a prisoner in his own home because of Mr. Menni’s actions.
“He stalked him, cursed him, bullied him and harassed him,” the defense attorney said.
Mr. Walker argued that Mr. Welsh did not leave his house that morning with “guns blazing” but instead took the gun for protection. He said that when Mr. Welsh confronted Mr. Menni, the younger man pushed him and that caused him to fear he would fall, break his hip and die.
But assistant district attorney Michael Berquist, who is asking for a first-degree murder conviction, argued that every choice made that morning by Mr. Welsh was a deliberate one.
“He made a conscious decision that day to seek out Mr. Menni,” the prosecutor said. “At any juncture, Mr. Welsh could have turned around and went back to the safety of his own home.”
The most telling sign, Mr. Berquist continued, was Mr. Welsh’s comments to a witness to the shooting immediately after it occurred.
He told the man, “‘Go ahead and call the police, I don’t care what you do.’”
“That tells me Mr. Welsh knew exactly what he did that day. He didn’t care about the consequences.”
Paula Reed Ward: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-2620 or on Twitter @PaulaReedWard.