Man guilty in Homestead murder

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The de­fense tried to ar­gue that Wil­bert John­son fired the shot that killed Qaeed Brax­ton in self-de­fense.

But, the pros­e­cu­tion quickly dis­agreed.

“He shot a man in the mid­dle of the back,” said as­sis­tant dis­trict at­tor­ney Wil­liam Pet­ulla. “It was a di­rect shot in the mid­dle of the back.

“This case is first-de­gree mur­der.”

The jury agreed and quickly re­turned that ver­dict.

John­son will be sen­tenced to a man­da­tory term of life in prison with­out pa­role by Com­mon Pleas Judge Donna Jo McDaniel on Mon­day.

Brax­ton, 36, of Duquesne was shot and killed as he left the Rag­time Saloon on Am­ity Street in Homestead on Sept. 22.

Ac­cord­ing to Mr. Pet­ulla, a man with Brax­ton had be­gun dat­ing John­son’s ex-girl­friend. There was an ar­gu­ment in­side the bar, and a short time later John­son fol­lowed the group out­side.

He quickly re­trieved a gun from his ve­hi­cle and fired, the pros­e­cu­tion said.

Less than 90 sec­onds later, ac­cord­ing to sur­veil­lance foot­age in the area, John­son was back in his car and leav­ing the scene.

At least twice be­fore, Mr. Pet­ulla told the jury dur­ing clos­ing ar­gu­ments, John­son told his ex-girl­friend, “ ‘If I can’t have you, no­body can have you.’ ”

“He was go­ing to kill any­one who stood in the way of his be­ing with [her].”

Mr. Pet­ulla also pointed to the de­fen­dant’s chang­ing story when he was in­ter­viewed by county de­tec­tives. At first, Mr. John­son said he wasn’t there at all. Then, he said he wasn’t in­volved. And in the third ver­sion, he claimed self-de­fense.

But Anne Marie Man­cuso, who rep­re­sented John­son, told the jury they couldn’t spec­u­late about what hap­pened.

“They want you to con­vict Mr. John­son be­cause when they first in­ter­view him, he wasn’t truth­ful,” she said. “Well, ly­ing to the po­lice does not equate to crim­i­nal ho­mi­cide.”

In­stead, she con­tin­ued, “There’s a real fear that, not for one sec­ond are the po­lice go­ing to be­lieve you. Po­lice re­la­tions are a lot dif­fer­ent in Homestead than in Wex­ford, Fox Chapel, the North Hills or West View.”

Paula Reed Ward: pward@post-ga­, 412-263-2620 or on Twit­ter: @Pau­laReedWard.


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