Trial for man accused of killing bystander in York City begins
Ashley Rodriguez told jurors there was a struggle between two men and then shots, one of which fatally struck a bystander, rang out, but she doesn't know which of the men fired the handgun.
"I don't know who shot what," she testified.
But the York County District Attorney's Office says it was Christopher Lee Schwenk Jr. who fired the shots, and he's now standing trial at the county's judicial center on a homicide charge. The trial started Monday.
Schwenk is accused of killing 49-year-old Monique Nixon, who was struck by a stray bullet in the early morning hours of Nov. 6, 2013.
Nixon was about a half-block away from where Schwenk and the other man, Eddie Gallon III, were arguing at the intersection of South Queen Street and East Hope Avenue.
Police alleged Schwenk not only pulled out the gun and fired it, but he also attempted to pick up shell casings before running from the scene.
Testimony: Rodriguez testified she had been out at a party with Schwenk and the two returned to her apartment in the 200 block of South Queen Street before the shooting.
As Rodriguez was getting out of the car, she was confronted by Gallon, whom she was previously in a six-year on-again off-again relationship with. She also had an active protection from abuse order against Gallon at the time of the shooting.
"He (Gallon) pulled out a gun in my face because he saw somebody (Schwenk) in my car," Rodriguez testified.
That's when Schwenk, whom Rodriguez was in a relationship with at the time, got out of the car and got into a shouting argument and struggle with Gallon. At some point, the gun went off, she said.
Following the shooting, Rodriguez and Schwenk went into her apartment and went to bed.
Schwenk was arrested in Rodriguez's bed, where he was asleep, shortly after the shooting.
Changing stories: Rodriguez's story of what happened the night Nixon was shot has changed since her first interview with police.
During initial interviews, she didn't tell them about Gallon pulling out a gun because she was afraid he'd harm her. One of the windows of her apartment was broken, but it's not known if Gallon was behind it.
She also initially told police Gallon was running away when the shots rang out because she says York City Police detectives pressured her into doing so and she was fearful of Gallon.
Rodriguez finally went to police a few weeks after the shooting and told them about Gallon allegedly having the gun.
Under questioning by first assistant district attorney Jennifer Russell, Rodriguez acknowledged she's in love with Schwenk and has written to him in York County Prison, where he's been since the day of the shooting.
Gun found: City police detective Tony Fetrow testified he found a 9mm handgun hidden in an ottoman in Rodriguez's apartment when police searched it in the hours after the shooting.
"It was buried down under sheets and towels and different things," he said.
Police also recovered seven spent 9mm shell casings from the area of the intersection of South Queen Street and East Hope Avenue.
Defense attorney Sandra Thompson called into question a series of evidence photographs taken by city police.
One photograph shows the ottoman, and another shows items, such as sheets, a shirt and Rodriguez's purse, inside. A third shows the recovered handgun wrapped in a white cloth.
During his testimony, Fetrow said the photographs were taken after the gun was found, not during the actual search. Police put the items back in the ottoman for photographing purposes to show what it looked like when Fetrow peeled back the items to find the gun.
He said that's traditionally how police crime scene photography works since officers don't photograph what they are searching because they don't if the search will turn up anything.
The trial resumes Tuesday.
— Reach Greg Gross at email@example.com.