3 arrested in city murder

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Washington police arrested three men Tuesday night as suspects in the homicide and robbery of a popular Washington & Jefferson College football player following a difficult, nine-month investigation.

District Judge Robert Redlinger first arraigned Eric Donte Wells, 24, of Pittsburgh and formerly of Washington, and Adam Ronald Hankins, 23, of Washington, in the Oct. 4 killing of Timothy McNerney, 21, of Butler, who was found dead of head injuries early Oct. 4 near the campus after having spent the evening at a local bar with a friend. Police said the third suspect, Troy Simmons, 22, of East Pittsburgh, was being brought from that city late Tuesday to be arraigned in the case before Redlinger.

“It was only in the past few weeks that a break occurred in this case,” Washington County District Attorney Eugene A. Vittone said at a Tuesday night news conference.

The arrests also followed raids earlier Tuesday of houses in Washington and Penn Hills, police said, adding that no additional arrests were expected in the homicide. The court record suggests McNerney was pushed, fell backward and suffered a fatal blow to the back of his head while being robbed.

Police at the time of the killing said McNerney, a senior running back for the W&J Presidents, and a companion were approached by several men near the corner of South College and East Maiden streets looking to rob them.

McNerney's companion that night, Zach DeCicco of Jefferson Hills, was able to flee after being assaulted and went to find other teammates to search for his friend. Police said McNerney's wallet was missing when his body was located about 4 a.m. near the scene of the robbery.

Hankins and Wells each were charged with criminal homicide, theft, robbery and criminal conspiracy and remanded without bond to Washington County jail. Wells faces an additional charge of aggravated assault.

The murder shocked the campus of nearly 1,600 students and initially left police with few leads to pursue.

W&J head football coach Mike Sirianni said the arrests will bring some relief to the McNerney family and the players who found him the night of the homicide.

“Nothing is going to bring us Tim back,” Sirianni said. “I will always love him and will never forget him.”

The college also issued a statement Tuesday night indicating the campus community welcomed the arrests.

“The arrest made today are the result of a tireless effort by the police and district attorney,” said W&J director of communications Karen Oosterhous. “Our thoughts continue to be with the McNerney family during this difficult time.”

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