West Manheim Twp. man facing trial for allegedly killing girlfriend as she held baby
A West Manheim Township man who allegedly shot his girlfriend while she was holding their 9-month-old son is now facing trial for homicide in York County Court.
At the close of a preliminary hearing on Thursday, Nov. 21, District Judge Jeffrey A. Sneeringer ruled there was enough evidence against Joshua John Wertz for the man to stand trial in the Oct. 13 death of Nicole Cash, 26, of McSherrystown, Adams County.
Wertz, 30, of the first block of Sunset Drive, is being held without bail in York County Prison.
Sneeringer set a formal court arraignment for Dec. 27.
Wertz's moher, Toni Hemauer, of Salisbury, Maryland, and his aunt, Ann Gleason, of Baltimore, were in tears when Wertz entered the courtroom Thursday.
West Manheim Township Police Officer Justin Seibert — who was first at the scene on Oct. 13 — was the only witness called to the stand.
Wertz fatally shot Cash, 26, in the head early on the morning of Oct. 13 with an AR-15 rifle, after the couple had argued after drinking, according to charging documents.
Seibert testified he found Cash lying on a futon on her left side, clutching a lighter and smoking device. He saw the AR-15 lying on the ground about 10 feet away.
Wertz had been living in the basement of his father's' house, where Cash was discovered, charging documents state. His father, Lewis Wertz, was found holding his grandson, who was covered in his mother's blood, documents indicate.
Lewis Wertz had called 911 at 12:50 a.m., telling told dispatchers his son and Cash had been drinking and got into an argument, according to charging documents.
Joshua Wertz later told officers that Cash had tried to grab the rifle when it went off, documents state.
His father confirmed his son and Cash fought often and said the younger Wertz is a "violent drunk," according to charging documents.
Seibert said he spoke with Lewis Wertz in the ambulance outside on the day of the shooting after confirming the baby had no injuries. The elder Wertz told Seibert that his floors are insulated very well, so he could not hear arguing or screaming leading up to the shooting.
Multiple rifle magazines were found in the basement, Seibert testified, though none were found in the rifle.
The autopsy determined the cause of death was a gunshot wound to the head, he added.
Attorney Christopher Ferro, who was representing Wertz, attempted to support the possibility of an accidental shooting based on the fact that Wertz was intoxicated at the time.
"It was obvious that there was alcohol coming from his breath," Seibert confirmed during testimony, adding that Wertz had slurred speech and police decided not to question him on the scene based on his behavior.
District Attorney Kara Bowser countered that Ferro's arguments were not relevant to establishing whether or not there was enough evidence to go to trial. Sneeringer allowed some of Ferro's comments but ultimately ruled prima facie had been established.
"This is a really difficult and tragic case," Ferro said following the hearing. "We are just beginning to uncover the evidence in this case."
Ferro said he's prepared to enter a plea of not guilty of all charges on behalf of his client.
Cash's friends and family were in attendance at the hearing, including Cash's mother, Sandra Green, of McSherrystown.
Green has sole legal custody of Cash's son and said the baby's been having nightmares — waking up with blood-curdling screams — every night between 2:30 and 3:30 a.m.
She said she's hoping Wertz will receive a sentence of life without parole, adding that she would prefer the death penalty, "but that would be too easy for him."
"I want him to live every day knowing what he did to my daughter," Green said.