Friday, July 25, 2014

October trial set for Reno Lane slaying suspect

April 01. 2014 11:27PM

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WILKES-BARRE — An autumn trial has been scheduled for a city man accused of shooting another man to death last spring following an argument after a basketball game.

Shauntae V. Thomas, 37, of Reno Lane, is charged with shooting Derrick Cottle in the back of the head on April 25, after allegedly seeing his son Devin, 17, being picked up and slammed head-first onto a sidewalk. Thomas faces an open count of criminal homicide.

In an order filed Tuesday, Luzerne County Judge Richard Hughes scheduled a pre-trial hearing for Aug. 26, with a trial to open on the morning of Oct. 20.

Police have said the men’s sons were playing basketball at Coal Street Park prior to two fights and the shooting.

According to an affidavit in the case, Thomas’ son told him a group of youths and an adult had threatened to kill him. Thomas and his son then went down the street to find a man in a blue shirt from whom the boy was fleeing.

Thomas and his son located the man near Coal and Empire streets, and there was an altercation between the boys. Nearby, the other boy’s father, identified as Cottle, asked Thomas why he had been fighting with his son. Thomas told police he replied that he had not been fighting, but his son had. The Thomases then went home.

Soon afterward, Thomas told police, Cottle, Cottle’s son and a male in a blue shirt appeared outside the house, and Cottle “said that he wanted to finish things,” Thomas told police.

Thomas said he asked them to leave, but Cottle made threats and a fight ensued. Thomas said he saw his son arguing with others, heard a loud smack and saw Devin lying in a pool of blood, according to the affidavit.

Thomas told police when he saw his son get struck, he pulled out a gun from his waistband and chased after the group of people, firing several rounds, according to the complaint.

Acting County Coroner William Lisman testified at a preliminary hearing in June that the autopsy by Dr. Gary Ross showed Cottle suffered two gunshot wounds, including one to the back of the head that he said was fatal. The other gunshot wound struck Cottle’s arm. Lisman also said the fatal shot was made at a “distance” due to the lack of gunshot burns and powder on Cottle.

After the hearing, District Judge Martin Kane forwarded the case to county court, including first- and second-degree murder counts — each carrying a sentence of life in prison — as well as third-degree murder, involuntary manslaughter and voluntary manslaughter.

Thomas pleaded not guilty.

Defense Attorney Peter Moses has argued that the shooting was not intentional, and suggested Thomas was acting in self-defense to protect himself, his son and his family.

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