Homicide victim sensed there would be trouble
Police say Fallowfield man lured stabbing victim to scene
This house at 3 Daily Ave. in Fallowfield Township is where homicide victim Earl F. Weygandt once lived with his stepson-in-law, who is charged with Weygandt’s brutal slaying.
Scott Beveridge / Observer-Reporter
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Michael Anthony Martin
GREENSBURG – Earl Franklin Weygandt sensed there would be trouble with his stepson-in-law before the Fallowfield Township men arranged to meet Wednesday, the night the 67-year-old was stabbed to death in his vehicle parked along a rural Westmoreland County road.
State police said a conversation Weygandt had that night with the security guard at the nearby campground where he was living temporarily revealed he was “leaving and might have some trouble tonight” while helping out the stepson-in-law, Michael Anthony Martin, who was arrested Thursday afternoon in Weygandt’s murder.
“There is evidence of premeditation,” Westmoreland District Attorney John Peck said at a Friday news conference called to discuss the case.
Martin, 40, was remanded to Westmoreland County Jail without bail and charged with first-degree murder after, police said, he confessed to them he killed Weygandt in self-defense, the arrest affidavit states.
State police Trooper Stephen Limani said Friday investigators had yet to establish a motive in the case.
“Our investigation is far from over,” Limani said.
A passing motorist, Daniel Freeman, noticed Weygandt’s Jeep Cherokee smoking with its engine running while parked about 10 p.m. Wednesday on Route 31 near TJ’s Restaurant in Jones Mill, Donegal Township. Freeman stopped to help and noticed an unresponsive man behind the steering wheel, court records show. Freeman opened the passenger door, immediately noticed a lot of blood, turned off the overheated Jeep’s ignition and called 911.
An autopsy later revealed Weygandt had been stabbed nine times in the neck and chest with “a cutting-type instrument,” the affidavit states.
The investigation found Martin, of 3 Daily Road, had placed a phone call to Weygandt at 9:30 p.m. claiming his vehicle was disabled and he was in need of help.
The security guard at Roaring Run campground in nearby Champion, Rick Espey, told police Weygandt left the grounds shortly thereafter. Before the victim left, he told Espey his stepson-in-law “was having car trouble and he was going into Donegal to pick him up and take him to a hotel because he did not want him at his trailer because he would cause problems,” police stated in the affidavit.
When questioned Thursday by police, Martin allegedly gave conflicting statements about his whereabouts at the time of the murder. In one statement, he admitted to calling Weygandt for assistance but then had to call Jeff Rittenour for help after Weygandt didn’t show up.
Police talked to Rittenour. They said he initially covered for Martin but then “changed his tune” and said Martin had stopped by his house about midnight and asked him to lie to police, the record states.
Martin eventually went voluntarily to the state police barracks in Greensburg and confessed to stabbing Weygandt, purportedly after his father-in-law pulled a revolver on him and they struggled, making Martin fear for his life. Martin said he ran back to his vehicle and drove home, court records allege.
Police said they did find an antique-style handgun in Weygandt’s Jeep. It hadn’t been fired.
Police also obtained warrants in Washington County to search Weygandt’s two-story Cape Cod house and vehicles belonging to his wife and stepdaughter.
Weygandt’s sister, Gloria DeChicchis of Monongahela, believes money was the motive for the murder, which followed her brother being shot four times a year ago in his mobile home.
Police said that investigation remains open because Weygandt didn’t identify the gunman.
“The guy went up there with a purpose,” DeChicchis said of Martin. “I want it all to come out.”
She said her brother paid the bills at the house in Fallowfield, where his wife, Loretta, lived with her daughter, Jeanie Martin, and her husband, the homicide suspect. However, she said, Weygandt lived much of the year in his trailer in the mountains.
She said her brother never mentioned to his family anything about his having had problems with Martin. Martin has had several arrests for drunken driving, but little else was immediately known about him Friday.
Weygandt’s friends at the Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion posts in Donegal said he never discussed Martin at either bar.
“He was a loner. He was a super guy,” said Valerie Chearney, a bartender at the legion.
“The last couple of days something was bothering him,” Chearney said, adding she had been concerned because someone had let the air out of three tires on his Jeep while it was parked Monday at the campground.
A veteran of the Army, he “loved to take pictures, liked covered bridges,” she said.
The legion is planning to hold a memorial for Weygandt, who was involved with the honor guard at the post.