WILKES-BARRE — A Hazle Township man will likely be spending decades in prison after he was found guilty of attempted murder Wednesday.
It took jurors slightly more than two hours to return a verdict against George Joseph Salata, 60.
According to police, Salata shot Michael Gontz in the face in Hazleton last January.
Salata was charged with a felony count of attempted criminal homicide, along with two felony counts of aggravated assault. After a brief two-day trial, jurors found Salata guilty on all three counts.
Salata’s attorney, Allyson Leigh Kacmarski, asked for the jurors to be polled. All 12 members of the jury said they agreed with the verdict.
While Gontz survived the shooting, he did receive serious, life-threatening injuries, requiring numerous surgeries after shotgun pellets were embedded into his face and neck.
Gontz told police the shooting came after an altercation with Salata that reportedly stemmed from Salata obsessing over Gontz’s girlfriend.
Police say Salata was identified as a suspect after they followed footprints in the snow from the scene of the shooting to an apartment building at 932 N. Locust St.
Salata was eventually identified by two men, who told police Salata had a number of guns in his apartment. Police attempted to contact Salata, and they could hear his phone ringing from inside the residence.
A SWAT team was deployed, but Salata was eventually arrested without incident.
Luzerne County Judge Michael T. Vough set Salata’s sentencing for April 10. He will await his sentence at the county lockup.
Reach Patrick Kernan at 570-991-6386 or on Twitter @PatKernan