Teen to stand trial in fatal shooting

January 16, 2013
Brandon Wolowski is escorted to Central Court by sheriff’s deputies for a preliminary hearing on a homicide charge Wednesday in Washington. - Jim McNutt / Observer-Reporter Order a Print

A Washington teenager was ordered Wednesday to stand trial in last week’s shooting at a home in Washington’s West End that killed a man and seriously injured his girlfriend.

Brandon Lee Wolowski, 18, of 916 1/2 Addison St., is accused of shooting and killing 37-year-old Matthew Mathias and injuring 38-year-old girlfriend, Michelle Powell, as he attempted to rob Mathias of guns he had at his home at 905 Fayette St. Wolowski was charged by Washington police with homicide, attempted homicide, aggravated assault and robbery.

Washington police are continuing their investigation into the shooting, said Washington County First Assistant District Attorney Michael Lucas, and are looking into the possibility that Wolowski did not act alone in the Jan. 8 shooting.

“They are looking at the possibility that other individuals were involved,” Lucas said.

Mathias was apparently shot in the back as he ran from his home, according to testimony at Wolowski’s preliminary hearing in Central Court. Dr. Leon Rozin, the pathologist who performed the autopsy on Mathias for the Washington County coroner’s office, said the 37-year-old died of a gunshot wound to the chest that perforated his left lung. Powell was shot inside the house.

City police Sgt. Chris Luppino said he went directly to the emergency room at Washington Hospital to speak to Powell before she was flown for treatment of her injuries to a Pittsburgh hospital. Luppino said she had gunshot wounds to the cheek, chin, chest and arm.

Powell was in the courtroom Wednesday, sitting in the back row surrounded by family and friends who comforted her during testimony. She did not testify at the proceeding.

Luppino testified he asked Powell who did it.

“She said it was Brandon and said he was a skinny white kid with dark hair and about 19 years old,” Luppino said.” She didn’t know his last name but gave me some of his relationships.

“She also said Brandon had come to the house to rob him of his guns,” he added about Mathias. Mathias was known to have weapons in his house.

Luppino said he talked with her for less than five minutes.

Under cross-examination by public defender Glenn Alterio, Luppino said Powell gave him the name of Wolowski’s mother and information that his girlfriend just had a baby.

Lt. Dan Stanek, who oversees the city’s detective unit, said he went directly to the scene of the shooting. When he arrived, Stanek learned a man, later identified as Wolowski, was being detained by police at a home at 808 Addison. Stanek said under cross-examination that people on the street told officers Wolowski may have gone to that house. When police knocked, Wolowski reportedly answered the door.

Wolowski was then taken to the city police station, where he was interviewed by Stanek.

“I asked him what he did and he said he shot Mathias and also shot Michelle Powell,” Stanek said. “He said he intended to rob them of a large amount of firearms that were on the premises to get money.”

“He said he thought of it for several days prior,” Stanek continued. “Then earlier that day, he said he planned to do it when it got dark. He also thought he might have to shoot both of them.”

Wolowski told Stanek that Mathias was shot when he fled from the house. Powell tried to shut the door, but Wolowski said he pushed his way in and shot her. The .38-caliber, snub-nosed revolver that Wolowski claims to have used has not been recovered.

Wolowski was ordered held for court on all charges by District Judge David Mark and returned to the Washington County jail, where he is being held without bond.

Kathie O. Warco has covered the police beat and transportation for the Observer-Reporter for more than 25 years. She graduated from Duquesne University with a degree in journalism.

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