Two North Side men have been charged with killing a Beaver Falls couple four years ago after their plans to sell marijuana crumbled, authorities in Beaver County announced Monday.
Charges against Robert Lamont Burgess, 35, and Devon O. Shealey, 26, came nearly four years to the day that Richard and Demetria Harper, both 32, were shot to death in their home on Second Avenue while their two young daughters were locked in a basement furnace room. The girls, then 10 and 8, told police that men wearing masks and gloves barged into the home and stormed their parents' bedroom.
The couple had been hog-tied and shot in the head, police said. Mr. Harper's sister, Joanne Vaughn, discovered their bodies on July 1, 2008. The girls were unharmed.
"It's been a long, long road -- a road that required dedication on the part of all law enforcement agencies," Beaver County District Attorney Anthony Berosh said of the arrests. "The looks in the children's eyes when Beaver Falls police arrived provided that dedication. ... Anyone who looked in the eyes of those children knew that we would not rest until we had an answer."
Ms. Vaughn said Monday she was elated by the arrests and that the couple's daughters, now 14 and 12, are "doing fine." Authorities said they are with their grandmother in Texas.
Charges of homicide, conspiracy, reckless endangerment, robbery, burglary, kidnapping, false imprisonment and other crimes involved the work of local, state and federal authorities and those in several other cities.
Mr. Burgess, Mr. Shealey and Mrs. Harper hatched a plan to sell marijuana that involved Mrs. Harper traveling to El Paso, Texas, where she once lived, to buy 15 to 20 pounds of the drug, according to arrest affidavits. Mrs. Harper would mail the marijuana to Beaver Falls, and the trio would redistribute it for profit. Agents interviewed an El Paso man who said he helped Mrs. Harper package it.
But their plans were foiled on June 26, 2008, when Mrs. Harper was arrested for marijuana possession at a random police checkpoint in Texas, the affidavits say.
On June 30, Mr. Burgess told his cousin Tyrone Beasley he was "mad as hell" because he believed Mrs. Harper had stolen the money he had given her to buy the marijuana. When his cousin asked, Mr. Burgess "confirmed he did the killings of the Harpers," the affidavits say.
Mr. Shealey, too, told an associate, Cheryl Chambers, that they went to the Harper house believing Mrs. Harper had taken their money. He said he convinced Mr. Burgess not to kill the children.
Mr. Berosh said the men will return to Beaver Falls to be arraigned; both are currently incarcerated. Court records show that Mr. Burgess is in federal prison in Elkton, Ohio, where he is serving a 51-month sentence for cocaine possession with the intent to deliver. Mr. Shealey is at the State Correctional Institution Mahanoy in Frackville serving a four-year sentence for assault with a deadly weapon in relation to racketeering.
He was indicted in 2008 in a roundup of Northview/Brighton Place Crips, accused of shooting a member of the rival Original Gangsters in 2005. His sentence in that case runs at the same time as the 61/2 to 13 years he is serving for a 2008 robbery, and with a federal sentence he is completing for receipt of a stolen firearm.
Sadie Gurman: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1878. First Published July 3, 2012 12:00 AM