Action follows closed hearing on fatality

Last updated: April 19. 2013 12:48PM - 656 Views

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WILKES-BARRE – A young teen was led away in handcuffs after a closed-door hearing Wednesday afternoon tied to the fatal shooting last month of his friend, 14-year-old Tyler Winstead.
The boy, Elijah Yusiff, was escorted by county juvenile probation officers from the courthouse into a waiting vehicle. No charges have been filed in the case and the reason for court proceeding could not be determined.
Tyler, of 121 Hill St., Wilkes-Barre, was found shot April 5 in front of 117 Hill St., where Yusiff resided.
“Because of his (Yusiff’s) age and because of the nature of the charges, we can’t explain what’s going on,” county District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis said. “The judge must seal the record and make the hearings closed (to the public). I can’t say any more by law.”
The hearing began shortly before 4 p.m. and included Salavantis, First Assistant District Attorney Samuel Sanguedolce, assistant district attorneys Michelle Hardik and Mamie Phillips, and attorneys Demetrius Fannick and Cheryl Sobeski Reedy, members of the juvenile probation department. County Detective Michael Dessoye also attended.
Yusiff was being held in a separate courtroom.
According to state law, “The court may temporarily exclude the child from the hearing except while allegations of his delinquency are being heard.”
Luzerne County Public Defender Al Flora said his office cannot say who public defenders represent at any time.
Judge Tina Polachek Gartley closed the hearing to the media and general public, though Tyler Winstead’s grandparents were allowed to attend. The grandparents were Tyler’s guardians.
When contacted later at her home, Winstead’s grandmother, Carol Golden, declined comment and said the family was not going to talk to reporters.
Salavantis explained the hearing was closed because of the nature of the charges likely to be filed. She did not elaborate.
Hearings for juveniles are typically open if potential charges include murder, voluntary manslaughter, aggravated assault, arson, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, kidnapping, rape, robbery, or criminal conspiracy of any of the crimes listed, according to state law.
All other charges involving juveniles are closed to the public.
Sanguedolce said those types of proceedings are closed for the protection of the juvenile involved “who is presumed to be able to be rehabilitated.”
Salavantis did not say if or when charges would be filed in the shooting, but did say they may be coming “in the near future.”
Since the shooting, Yusiff and his family moved out of the Wilkes-Barre house and relocated to Coolbaugh Township, Monroe County.
Yusiff told reporters the night Winstead was shot that he heard a gunshot and saw a man driving away in a red or burgundy, older model Ford Taurus. Immediately after the shooting, Luzerne County 911 broadcast a bulletin to be on the lookout for the vehicle.
The search for the car has since withered without any explanation from investigators or Salavantis.
Investigators obtained at least six search warrants that were all sealed. One was to obtain records to a cellphone owned by Yusiff’s mother, Angelina DeAbreau.
Two other warrants permitted investigators to search the inside of 117 Hill St., on April 10 and April 13, at which time they removed bleach, a computer tower and what appeared to be blood spatter.
Times Leader reporters Jerry Lynott and Ed Lewis contributed to this report.

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