4 to stand trial in shooting death of Washington girl, 10

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Four men accused in the March shooting death of a 10-year-old girl during an attempted home invasion in Washington, Pa., were ordered to stand trial Wednesday on homicide and related charges.

Anthian Goehring, 28; Douglas Cochran Jr., 18; Malik Thomas, 20; and Richard White, 18, all of Washington, were held for court at a combined preliminary hearing before District Judge Ethan Ward.

Security was increased at the packed hearing, including standard checks at the Washington County Courthouse entrance, plus wand screenings before entering the courtroom. Several sheriff’s deputies stood guard throughout the proceeding.

All four men are charged in connection with the March 31 killing of fourth-grader Ta’Naiyah Thomas. Police believe two of the men forced their way into an apartment building at 450 W. Chestnut St. around 3:50 a.m. March 31 and fired into her family’s apartment door while two others remained outside.

First assistant district attorney Chad Schneider argued that all four men are responsible for the girl’s death.

Detectives believe upon hearing shots outside her family’s door, Ta’Naiyah was heading to her mother’s room when she was struck twice in the hallway.

Several people cried as Washington County Coroner Tim Warco testified that the girl died of a gunshot wound to the head and also was shot in the shoulder, though that wound wouldn’t have killed her, he said.

Investigators said the four men conspired to rob Robert Lester, 26, the boyfriend of Ta’Naiyah’s mother, Shantye Brown, 34, at their apartment where they also were living with Ta’Naiyah and the couple’s infant.

Washington city police Lt. Dan Stanek testified Wednesday that 12 shots were fired from .357- and .38-caliber handguns — investigators found six bullet holes around the doorknob, one in the ceiling and five elsewhere on the apartment door.

Using information based on his discussions with the four defendants, Lt. Stanek testified that Mr. White parked the car near the apartment, and he and Mr. Thomas — a distant cousin of Ta’Naiyah — stayed in the vehicle. Goehring got two handguns from the glove compartment, then he and Mr. Cochran got out of the car, forced their way into the building, then climbed the stairs to the apartment and opened fire, the lieutenant testified.

The two men ran back outside and into the car with Mr. White and Mr. Thomas, Lt. Stanek said, then drove for about an hour before stopping at a gas station, where video surveillance captured them inside the convenience store.

Mr. Thomas told police he threw two guns over a hillside at the Red Roof Inn where three of the men went after the shooting, but police have not been able to find the weapons after three searches, Lt. Stanek said.

Goehring, who told police he fired his gun at least twice, was crying and upset during his interview with police and said “they didn’t want that little girl to die,” Lt. Stanek testified. Court records show Goehring pleaded guilty to armed robbery in 2010.

Molly Born: mborn@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1944. First Published April 16, 2014 11:45 AM


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