Prosecution may seek death penalty in city homicide

March 28, 2013
Brandon Wolowski is escorted to Central Court by sheriff’s deputies for a preliminary hearing on a homicide charge in January. - Jim McNutt / Observer-Reporter Order a Print

The Washington County district attorney’s office has put a local teenager on notice that he could face the death penalty if convicted in the slaying of a West End man in January.

Prosecutors and defense counsel met Thursday afternoon in what was billed as a pretrial conference in the case of Brandon Lee Wolowski, 18, of 916 1/2 Addison St., who is accused of shooting and killing 37-year-old Matthew Mathias and injuring Mathias’ 38-year-old girlfriend, Michelle Powell, as he attempted to rob Mathias of guns at his home at 905 Fayette St. Jan. 8.

“It’s more like a status conference than anything else,” said Public Defender Glenn Alterio before the beginning of the closed-door discussions.

Although Washington County Court begins a two-week trial term Monday, a trial date for Wolowski has not been set, although it will occur later than April.

First Assistant District Attorney Michael Lucas, in a document filed with the court, cited two “aggravating circumstances” in the prosecution’s case, based on available information, that could warrant a death penalty. City police charged Wolowski with committing a homicide during the course of a felony – robbery – and the prosecution is alleging that Powell also was intentionally placed at grave risk of death.

“The commonwealth is required to put the defendant on notice that he could face the death penalty,” Lucas said, and Wolowski was notified of that potential at his formal arraignment last month before Judge John DiSalle.

Mathias apparently was shot in the back as he ran from his home, while Powell suffered gunshot wounds to the cheek, chin, chest and arm, police testified at Wolowski’s January preliminary hearing.

Barbara S. Miller covers politics, Washington County government and a variety of other topics for the Observer-Reporter. She is a graduate of Washington & Jefferson College, majoring in English and history. Follow her on Twitter @reporterbarb.

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