Retrial begins for man accused of killing Franciscan University students in 1999

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Jurors in the Washington County retrial of homicide suspect Terrell Yarbrough yesterday heard testimony from Steubenville, Ohio, police and the victims' roommate, who police described as being frantic on the morning his friends went missing.

"He was screaming and yelling for help," said Steubenville police Patrolman Shawn Scott about Andrew Doran, a student at Franciscan University of Steubenville, who called police after hearing crashing sounds and screams in his off-campus apartment. "He looked as if he'd just seen a ghost."

What police believe Mr. Doran saw was the first stages of a robbery and kidnapping that would eventually lead to the murders of fellow college students Brian Muha, 18, of Westerville, Ohio, and Aaron Land, 20, of Philadelphia.

By the time police got to the McDowell Avenue apartment shared by the three friends shortly after 5 a.m. on May 31, 1999, Mr. Muha and Mr. Land were gone, along with their assailants.

Police testified yesterday during the first day of Mr. Yarbrough's retrial that the apartment was a mess, with overturned tables and blood spattered throughout Mr. Land's bedroom.

Mr. Yarbrough, 29, formerly of East Liberty, and a co-defendant, Nathan Herring, are accused of robbing and kidnapping Mr. Land and Mr. Muha from their apartment, forcing them into Mr. Muha's Chevrolet Blazer and killing the students several miles away in Washington County, Pa.

Mr. Yarbrough had already been convicted and sentenced to die for the murders in Ohio in 2000, but the Ohio Supreme Court later threw out the murder and conspiracy convictions, saying the case should have been tried in Pennsylvania, where the students' bodies were found several days after they went missing. Prosecutors here are seeking a first-degree murder conviction and the death penalty.

The first trial was not mentioned by either lawyer during opening statements yesterday.

Police yesterday described the realization that Mr. Land and Mr. Muha had been kidnapped, along with the foot chase that led them to Mr. Yarbrough and eventually to Mr. Herring.

Mr. Doran, now a contractor for the U.S. Department of State, tearfully recalled the last time he saw his friends alive.

"I awoke around 5 a.m. to a loud series of crashes," he recalled.

When he heard voices that were unfamiliar, Mr. Doran said he slipped out of his bedroom window then re-entered the house through a side door to investigate.

Mr. Doran said he encountered a black man in a dark hooded sweatshirt with a white handkerchief covering his face.

The man, standing in Mr. Land's bedroom doorway, shouted an expletive then said "We've got another one," Mr. Doran testified.

At that point, Mr. Doran said he ran to a neighbor's to call police.

About 12 hours later, police testified that they spotted Mr. Yarbrough driving Mr. Muha's black Blazer through Steubenville.

Police said they immediately pulled him over, but Mr. Yarbrough ran, leading them on a brief chase before he was apprehended.

For the next two days, police said Mr. Yarbrough told them his name was Michael Poole and denied involvement in the crime.

Police are scheduled to pick up their testimony again this morning. Mr. Herring will be tried after Mr. Yarbrough's trial is complete.


Janice Crompton can be reached at jcrompton@post-gazette.com or 724-223-0156.


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