BROOKVILLE — Both sides in Steven Rebert's double homicide trial rested their cases Monday following a week of testimony at the Jefferson County Courthouse.
The Commonwealth seeks the death penalty in the case in which Rebert, formerly of Emporium, faces double-homicide charges in the shooting deaths of Victoria and Wayne Shugar, both 61, who were found dead April 12, 2010, in their Coal Tipple Road home in Brockway.
On Monday public defender John Ingros, representing Rebert, called to the stand Stephen Buttering of Brockway, who testified that he was home the night of April 10, 2010. Buttering, who lived a quarter of a mile from the Shugars' house, said he heard a car about 12:30 a.m. April 11, 2010.
"I heard a car outside, which was parked 20 to 30 yards from my house," he said, adding that he was able to see the car, which he described a dark-colored vehicle, a four-door Ford Taurus driven by a man with short hair.
Buttering said he was able to identify the vehicle and saw the driver because he had his dome light on, and a neighbor's security light illuminated the area enough to see the vehicle.
"When he saw me, he hit the gas and took off," Buttering said.
Under cross-examination, District Attorney Jeffrey Burkett asked Buttering why the person driving the Taurus parked so close to his house with the lights on. Buttering said it wasn't unusual for him to be up late and have many lights on in his home.
Ingros then called Tori Zimmerman, a postal carrier, who testified that she saw a strange man walk along Coal Tipple Road with no vehicle.
She said May 12, 2010, she spoke to a state trooper and described the man with long brown hair and a backpack, who turned around and stared at her.
"He scared me," Zimmerman said.
Under cross-examination, Burkett asked if she had also seen a vehicle. Zimmerman said she never saw a vehicle, and that the man was seen walking from Route 28 toward her.
"It seemed so odd; it is strange to see someone walking toward you when delivering on a rural postal route," she said.
Ingros then called Rick Sellick, who lives across from the Shugar home, who testified that he heard dogs barking between midnight and 1 a.m. April 11, 2010.
"I saw a Ford Explorer being driven down the road and then turn around," he said. "I saw it twice, and he drove onto the Tram Road, which is a dead-end street. The driver had to turn around; it was unusual to see it twice like that."
Burkett asked if the car was driven nearby in the middle of the afternoon, to which Sellick said that it was.
Burkett asked Sellick if it was his wife who first saw Rebert's 1987 Mercury Marquis on Coal Tipple Road March 3, 2010, to which Sellick said she had.
Ingros then called Tpr. David O' Donnell, who was on the scene at the Shugars' home after their bodies was discovered April 12, 2010. O'Donnell said he was interviewing passing motorists traveling down Coal Tipple Road, one of which was David Glitner, a school bus driver, who said many kids — and two in particular — were acting out what happened at the murder scene as if they knew something about it.
Dale Kiester, who also lives on Coal Tipple Road an eighth of a mile from the Shugar home, said he saw Wayne at his pond, feeding his fish behind his garage. That was the last time Kiester saw him alive.
"I have four security cameras with infrared lenses, one of which is pointed down my driveway," Kiester said, adding that there was one vehicle that was seen from the security tape that he reviewed with police from the night of April 10, 2010.
Kiester said he could see a vehicle on the surveillance footage, but it was too grainy, and he could barely make out the headlights to identify what kind of vehicle it was, since his infrared camera is clear up to only 60 feet away.
"The audio did not indicate that the vehicle seen on the tape was in need of a new muffler," Kiester said.
Next, Ingros called Cpl. Donald Haines of the Brockway Borough Police, who testified that a tall man came up to him on Richardsville Road, where he was on patrol, and reported that he saw four individuals in an older Buick Century on Game School Road.
Haines said the man who spoke to him drove a Jaguar and wished to remain anonymous because of all the burglaries in the area. Haines said also said Brockway Police Chief Doug Johnson shared the information with state police.
Burkett asked if the man had seen the vehicle on Coal Tipple Road. Haines replied that the vehicle had been seen only on Game School Road, not Coal Tipple.
Today, closing arguments will be heard, and the instructions to the jury will be given by Judge John H. Foradora.
Pick up a copy of the Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2012 edition of The Ridgway Record for more.