Three formally arraigned in W&J student’s death

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Three men charged with the robbery and homicide of a Washington & Jefferson College football player and the robbery and aggravated assault of his teammate appeared individually Friday morning in Washington County Court for their formal arraignments before Judge Edward Borkowski, who said the procedural hurdle starts the official clock ticking on each of their cases.


A general charge of homicide includes first-, second- and third-degree murder, and potentially voluntary and involuntary manslaughter. The prosecution does not intend to seek the death penalty in the Oct. 4, 2012, killing of Tim McNerney, 21, of Butler.


Sheriff’s deputies brought Adam Ronald Hankins, 23, Troy Simmons, 22, and Eric Donte Wells, 24, from Washington County jail so each could stand before the judge with their attorneys to hear the charges against them read and have the opportunity to have any of their questions answered.


None of the defendants took up Borkowski on the chance to query, but District Attorney Gene Vittone asked that Simmons, of East Pittsburgh, and Wells, of Pittsburgh and formerly of Washington, be incarcerated in institutions other than the Washington County jail. Borkowski said he would execute the order. Hankins is a Washington resident. All have been in the county jail since their arrests Aug. 6.


After the final proceeding, Vittone said his request was a routine one for a case in which there are co-defendants.


Borkowski set Sept. 20 as the date for a status conference and what the judge called “meaningful pretrial motions.” A trial date also will be set at that time.


McNerney was fatally injured and his phone and wallet were stolen during a street robbery. Zach DeCicco of Jefferson Hills, McNerney’s teammate, fled after he and McNerney were assaulted on East Maiden Street at South College, across from the southwest corner of the campus.


DeCicco testified at a preliminary hearing that a group of three men approached him in the early hours of Oct. 4 and demanded that he give them his cellphone. He suffered a broken nose in the assault.


McNerney died of trauma to the back of the head and a fractured skull. At some point, Wells ended up with McNerney’s cellphone, which had a GPS that led police to houses in the area where he once lived.


McNerney, a senior running back, was scheduled to graduate last May, and the class of 2013 commemorated his absence during commencement.


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