The attorney for one of three men charged in connection with the October death of a Washington & Jefferson College football player said his client admits to striking the man, but said the event was merely "a chance encounter in a dark parking lot."
"My client is adamant that there was no intent to rob and obviously no intent to kill anybody," defense attorney Peter Marcoline III said on behalf of Eric Wells, 24, of Penn Hills.
On Wednesday, District Judge Robert Redlinger held Mr. Wells; Adam R. Hankins, 24, of Washington, Pa.; and Troy Lamonte Simmons Jr., 23, of East Pittsburgh for court on charges of homicide, robbery, theft and criminal conspiracy in the death of Timothy McNerney, 21. Mr. Hankins and Mr. Simmons were also charged with a count each of aggravated assault.
A count of conspiracy to commit homicide was added Wednesday against all three men.
The case hinges on accusations that the men planned to rob Mr. McNerney, Mr. Marcoline said.
Police said the men intended to rob the football player and his friend, Zachary DeCicco, 22, of Jefferson Hills, as the two walked back to campus after a night of bar-hopping along Washington's Main Street in the early hours of Oct. 4.
The students fought back, police said, and Mr. Wells hit Mr. McNerney, shoving him backward and rendering him unconscious. He died of injuries to the back of his head. Mr. DeCicco suffered a broken nose, grabbed his phone and ran to get help for his friend, police said.
The three defendants were arrested last week after GPS on Mr. McNerney's stolen cell phone led investigators to the suspects. Police said Mr. McNerney's wallet was also stolen that night.
Mr. Marcoline said his client did not steal the phone, but told detectives Mr. Simmons gave it to him, and he didn't realize until later that it belonged to Mr. McNerney.
Mr. Simmons' attorney, John Puskar, said his client denies that he was ever in possession of Mr. McNerney's belongings.
Mr. Puskar said the evidence has shown Mr. Simmons may have been there and that he may have been involved in a scuffle, but "the evidence shows clearly that Mr. Simmons was not responsible for the death of Mr. McNerney."
Mr. Hankins' attorney, Dennis Popojas, declined to talk about his client's role.