A man accused of strangling his girlfriend last month in Etna was held for court this morning.
Allegheny County police on Aug. 15 charged Victor Dinino, 33, with criminal homicide in the death of Jessica Miller, 31. Defense attorney Angela Carsia today said her client is pleading not guilty to the charge.
Prosecutors called two witnesses at a preliminary hearing this morning before Judge Robert Ravenstahl Jr.: an Etna police officer who responded to the scene, and a defendant in a separate, unrelated case, who testified that he shared a pod at the Allegheny County Jail with Mr. Dinino and heard him confess to killing her.
That man wrote a letter to an attorney in the district attorney's office, saying he had some information about a homicide and wanted to talk with authorities.
He wrote "if you work with me, I'll work with you."
The man testified that the two worked in the pantry together in the jail and talked in the man's cell one day about the reasons for their incarcerations.
He testified that Mr. Dinino told him he accidentally choked Ms. Miller with his hands after an argument about money. She was "out," the man testified, when Mr. Dinino left to buy drugs.
When he returned, Mr. Dinino "tried to make it look like she hung herself" and when that didn't work, he tried to kill himself with a belt, but it broke, the man testified.
The man was identified in court but the district attorney's office asked that the media not use his name for his protection. He remains in the jail.
Etna police Officer Ian Hill testified that Mr. Dinino was holding onto Ms. Miller when police arrived.
"He was in obviously a state of shock," he said.
Officer Hill said Mr. Dinino told him he returned home from the convenience store to find his girlfriend hanging from the steps with a belt. When the officer noticed fresh, bleeding cuts and scratches on Mr. Dinino's head and asked him about them, Mr. Dinino said there nothing was there and that he wasn't bleeding.
Both families were present during the hearing but declined to comment.
Deputy district attorney Simquita Bridges said Ms. Miller died of ligature strangulation, according to the Allegheny County medical examiner's office, which also ruled the death a homicide.
Molly Born: email@example.com or 412-263-1944 or on Twitter @borntolede.