Jury: Schwenk guilty in York City shooting death
After two days of deliberation, a jury on Monday found Christopher Lee Schwenk Jr. guilty of third-degree murder for the killing of an innocent bystander during a 2013 domestic dispute in York City.
The jury of nine men and three women deliberated about 12 hours — seven hours on Friday and five on Monday — before finding the 26-year-old guilty in the shooting death of 49-year-old Monique Nixon. However, the jury cleared him of first-degree murder charge and the lesser voluntary manslaughter charge.
As York County Court of Common Pleas Judge Thomas H. Kelley VI polled the jury, some of Schwenk's family members and friends openly sobbed as each juror affirmed the decision.
Following the hearing, members of Nixon's family said they were glad Schwenk is being held accountable for his actions, even if he's not holding himself accountable.
"The only thing the verdict does for me is shows me, though he's never taken accountability, the commonwealth made him accountable," said Nixon's husband, Mark Nixon, noting two lives — his wife's and Schwenk's — have been essentially lost.
Sentencing: Schwenk faces up to 40 years in prison for the third-degree murder charge. Following the trial, first assistant district attorney Jennifer Russell said she'll push for the maximum sentence, which carries 20 to 40 years in prison, when he is sentenced in August.
Defense attorney Sandra Thompson said she's weighing the possibility of appealing the verdict and noted one juror appeared to hesitate with her response when polled by Kelley.
"Reasonable doubt was aplenty in this trial," she said.
Schwenk was accused of firing a 9mm handgun at someone he thought was Eddie Gallon II, who had just been in a confrontation with Ashley Rodriguez, but instead fatally struck Nixon, who was about a half-block away on South Queen Street.
Schwenk and Gallon had relationships with Rodriguez.
The trial: Throughout the four days of testimony, Thompson continually raised questions about the police investigation into the shooting.
She also attempted to raise doubt that Schwenk was the man who pulled the trigger and instead pinned the murder on Rodriguez, whose DNA was found on the 9mm handgun.
But Russell contended Rodriguez's DNA was transferred to the gun via Schwenk after he performed a sex act on her.
Following the trial, Russel said DNA evidence was largest hurdle the prosecution had to clear, considering the complex scientific testimony given about it.
Gunshot residue was also found on Schwenk's hand. However, investigators didn't test Rodriguez for gunshot residue, testimony revealed.
The handgun was found hidden in an ottoman near where Schwenk was sleeping in Rodriguez's apartment in the 200 block of South Queen Street at the time he was arrested, according to testimony.
Schwenk will be sentenced on Monday, Aug. 24 at 2 p.m. before Kelley.
— Reach Greg Gross at email@example.com.