Army veteran from Upper St. Clair held for trial in Washington County road-rage killing

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An Upper St. Clair man was held for trial on homicide and drug possession charges stemming from a violent road-rage incident at a preliminary hearing today.

Brandon D. Thomas, 30, is accused of killing Vaughn Simonelli, a 55-year-old truck driver from Chartiers, in the parking lot of the Shop 'n Save on Beau Street in Washington, Pa., on Oct. 19.

In addition to a charge of criminal homicide, Mr. Thomas faces three misdemeanor charges of drug possession.

Frank Walker, Mr. Thomas' attorney, said his client, a decorated Army veteran who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, was acting in self-defense because he believed his life was in danger.

According to a criminal complaint, witnesses said the two had been involved in a minor collision on Jefferson Avenue and then got into an argument in the parking lot.

A police affidavit said Mr. Thomas reached into his vehicle, a Hummer, and shot Mr. Simonelli twice in the chest as both men stood alongside the vehicle.

Mr. Thomas returned to his Hummer and waited for police.

Mr. Walker said contrary to police reports his client never got out of his vehicle but rather was approached and blocked in by Mr. Simonelli. The two men had been arguing as they drove the length of Jefferson Avenue from the I-70 exit, he said.

After they stopped in the shopping plaza, the lawyer said, Mr. Simonelli walked over to Mr. Thomas's car, punched him and threatened to kill him.

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Moriah Balingit:, 412-263-2533 and on Twitter @MoriahBee.


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