Three sentenced to prison for death of Washington & Jefferson College football player



Three men who pleaded guilty in the 2012 killing and robbery of Washington & Jefferson College football player Tim McNerney were sentenced to prison on Monday.

Visiting Common Pleas Judge Edward Borkowski of Allegheny County ordered Eric Wells, 25, of Penn Hills, to serve 13 to 31 years; Adam R. Hankins, 25, of Washington, to serve nine to 25 years; and Troy Lamonte Simmons Jr., 24, of East Pittsburgh, to serve seven to 20 years.

The three pleaded guilty in May to robbery and a general count of homicide, and the judge then convicted them of third-degree murder.

John Puskar, a court-appointed attorney representing Simmons, said he thought his client’s sentence was “very fair” but added: “No sentence can, in any way, assuage the hurt these families have felt,” referring to the relatives of Mr. McNerney and those of Zach DeCicco, who was with his friend the night of the encounter.

Attorney Dennis Popojas, representing Hankins, said he expected his client’s sentence to be commensurate with Simmons’ but said the defendant’s prior criminal record factored into the judge’s decision.

The attorney provided a copy of the statement Hankins read in court:

“I offer my heartfelt apologies to Tim’s parents and family for the anger and sorrow that I caused them,” the statement said in part. “There are no words to convey the remorse I feel. I cannot imagine how horrifying this ordeal has been for you and I want you to know that I have never intended to cause any harm to you or your family.”

Wells’ attorney could not be reached.

Washington police have said the trio intended to rob Mr. McNerney, 21, of Butler, and Mr. DeCicco, then 22, of Jefferson Hills, as the students walked back to campus after a night out along the town’s Main Street in the early morning hours of Oct. 4, 2012.

Investigators have said Wells punched Mr. McNerney, and Mr. McNerney then fell to the ground and hit his head. Mr. DeCicco lost track of his friend as he ran to his dorm, where he and his friends called campus security workers to report the incident, police have said.

Mr. McNerney was found unresponsive a short time later in an auto repair shop parking lot a block from campus and was pronounced dead at Washington Hospital of trauma to the back of his head.

Attorneys for the men have characterized the incident as a chance encounter — which one has described as a “one-punch case” — and have said no one intended to kill Mr. McNerney, a graduate of Knoch High School in Butler County.

Police said they were led to the men last year through the GPS system on Mr. McNerney’s stolen iPhone. Mr. McNerney’s parents, Denise and Robert, gave victim impact statements in court but could not be reached after the hearing.


Molly Born: mborn@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1944. First Published August 25, 2014 1:08 PM


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