Three arrested in beating death of W&J football player McNerney


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Three people have been arrested in connection with the beating death of Washington & Jefferson College football player Timothy McNerney in October.

Arrested Tuesday were Adam R. Hankins, 23, of Washington, Pa.; Troy L. Simmons, 23, of East Pittsburgh; and Eric D. Wells, 24, of Penn Hills.

"It was only in the past few weeks that a break occurred in this case," Washington County District Attorney Eugene A. Vittone said at a late Tuesday news conference.

The accused have no connection to the school, and police believe they did not know the men and that the assault and killing on Oct. 4 was intended to be a robbery, Washington police Lt. Dan Stanek said.

All three men have been charged with a count of criminal homicide; two robbery counts; three conspiracy charges and theft. Mr. Hankins and Mr. Simmons were also charged with aggravated assault. They were in custody Tuesday night.

"The arrests made today are the result of a tireless effort by the police and district attorney in the City of Washington. We thank them for their dedication to ensuring the safety of our community," W&J spokeswoman Karen Oosterhous said Tuesday night.

Mr. McNerney, 21, had spent the night of the killing -- a Wednesday -- at Main Street Brew House near campus with fellow W&J senior Zachary DeCicco, 22, of Jefferson Hills, sipping beer and chatting with one of the bartenders, an alumna.

As the two left just after 2 a.m., bar manager Vicki Simoens looked out at the sidewalk and street before locking up. No one was there but Mr. McNerney and Mr. DeCicco, walking back to campus, she told investigators. Earlier, the bar had been packed with W&J students, but it had been a peaceful evening.

"There was nothing that started here," said Ms. Simoens. "There were no words here, there were no unusual groups of people, there was no argument -- it was a good night."

But Mr. DeCicco later told police that just after the two left, a group of about six men, all about 20 or 21 years old and wearing dark clothing, attacked and robbed them on a sidewalk behind Lombardi's Auto Service, near the corner of College and Maiden streets across from campus. Mr. DeCicco said the attackers tried to take his cell phone, but he broke free and ran to his dormitory. Mr. McNerney wasn't with him.

Mr. DeCicco then phoned campus security officers; at 2:54 a.m. they contacted city police, who combed the area around the auto shop but couldn't find Mr. McNerney.

A group of friends then turned out to assist in the search, and they found Mr. McNerney lying unconscious in the auto shop's parking lot, the area that police already had searched, just before 4 a.m.. Medics performed CPR and took Mr. McNerney to the Washington Hospital emergency room, where he was pronounced dead at 4:42 a.m. The Washington County coroner said he died of blunt force trauma to the head.

"We don't know if he ran and was hiding," Lt. Stanek said at the time. "He had a head injury. It's going to affect how you react."

Mr. McNerney and Mr. DeCicco had visited another bar, VIP Dance Club, before going to the Brew House, according to Lt. Stanek. The club is known among local residents for drawing a rougher crowd than some other off-campus bars; patrons there are "wanded" by a security guard before entering.

But police did not have any evidence of an altercation earlier in the evening between Mr. McNerney and Mr. DeCicco and the men who later attacked them, the detective said.

An outpouring of grief followed the killing, at both W&J and Knoch High School in Butler County, Mr. McNerney's alma mater.

A moment of silence was observed before the next Knoch football game, and hundreds of people gathered on the lawn of the Burnett Center at W&J for a candlelight vigil to mourn and remember the popular running back.

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Lexi Belculfine: lbelculfine@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1878. Twitter: @LexiBelc. Megan Doyle: mdoyle@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1953. First Published August 7, 2013 2:30 AM


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