BROOKVILLE — As the penalty phase for Steven P. Rebert began Thursday — two days after he was found guilty of killing Wayne and Victoria Shugar, both 61, in their Coal Tipple Road residence in April 2010 — District Attorney Jeffrey Burkett reminded the jury that it’s not all about whether it sends Rebert to prison for the rest of his life, or it sentences him to death.
The phase during which the jury explored Rebert’s innocence or guilt is over: The jury found him guilty of killing the Shugars, Burkett said, “and now, it’s not just about Steven Rebert anymore.
“You will hear testimony about the people Wayne and Vicky were: Loving, kind parents and grandparents,” Burkett said. “You’ll find out what has been lost as a result of Steven Rebert’s crime; what has happened to the Shugar family.
“Steven Rebert stands before you as a convicted first-degree murderer,” Burkett said, noting the jury would hear from the Shugars’ family members, who will continue and forever wonder, “Why?”
“It’s to aid you in the weighing process,” weighing the aggravating circumstances against the mitigating circumstances, Burkett said. “Continue to be careful. Please know, at the conclusion, I will come to you, and I will ask you to impose the ultimate penalty, and I will argue that the circumstances are justified.”
• First testifying for the Commonwealth was Lori Shugar, wife of the Shugars’ oldest son, Jeff.
She described her husband of almost 13 years as having a very strong work ethic, yet the murders of his parents and the aftermath have changed him.
“I’ve seen him just crumble at the thought of this,” she said.
The aftermath for their family has been fear. Following the homicides, “We all slept in the same bedroom, to be together, to feel safe.”
• Jeff Shugar then testified that he would spend time with his parents every other weekend for “our little special time.” He continues to stop by their shop, Flowers & More, “but it’s hard to go in there.”
“It never made any sense,” he said. “After all this, I still haven’t found any understanding of why something like that would happen.”
The Shugars’ sons Jeff and Jason continue to stop by their parents’ now-empty house, but not all the sons have been there since April 2010.
“Brian just spent his first night there, and Chad still hasn’t been there,” Jeff said.
• Brian Shugar, the couple’s second oldest son, described seeing his family receiving many friends and family for seven hours at his parents’ funeral.
“When I walked to the funeral home, there were two closed caskets, and all I had was a picture of my parents,” he said.
Brian works as a paramedic in Pittsburgh, and had the sorrowful duty of telling the youngest son, Chad, also of Pittsburgh, that their parents had been murdered.
Despite his 20-year career as a paramedic and seeing blood and tragedy at calls, “When you’re cleaning your parents’ blood, you don’t ... No one should go through that. Ever.”
Pick up a copy of the Friday, Jan. 27, 2012 edition of The Ridgway Record for more.