Update: Avella shooting victim expected to survive

March 15, 2014
Tracy Joann Chechuck

A Cross Creek Township woman was arrested Friday night on charges including attempted homicide after she allegedly shot a housemate in the head as she tried to break up a confrontation between him and her fiancé.

Tracy Joann Chechuck, 26, of 20 Hill St., Avella, is accused of shooting 39-year-old Louis E. Ruscello in the head with a .45-caliber handgun during his reported scuffle with her fiancé, 30-year-old Lowe Michael Hawkins Jr.

State police troopers were called about 10:15 p.m. to the Hill Street home for a report of a shooting. Trooper Douglas Rush, a criminal investigator for Troop B in Washington who filed the charges, found Chechuck sitting on the front porch.

Chechuck told Rush that the three of them were at Sputsy’s Bar on Campbell Street in Avella drinking and playing pool until about 9:30 p.m. When they got home, Hawkins and Ruscello got into an argument. The argument turned physical when Ruscello reportedly used both hands to grab Hawkins by the shirt.

Chechuck told Rush she went into her bedroom and retrieved a Taurus .45-caliber handgun. She went into the living room and sat on the couch before entering the kitchen where the confrontation was taking place. She told the trooper Ruscello had Hawkins by the shirt, pushing him backward over the stove.

Chechuck told police she did not see Ruscello hit, kick or choke Hawkins nor did he threaten anyone with a weapon. Chechuck told Rush she tried to push between the two men, but Ruscello pushed her away. Rush said she pulled the slide back to chamber a round. She then allegedly held the gun to the right side of Ruscello’s head and the gun “went off.”

During the encounter, Chechuck indicated all three were yelling and screaming.

Chechuck told Rush that she, Hawkins and Ruscello have lived together at the residence since Dec. 29 and previously lived together at another home since June.

Rush said that Ruscello was in critical condition at UPMC-Presbyterian hospital in Pittsburgh where he was flown after the shooting. The trooper said Ruscello is on life support with a temporal bone fracture and an injury behind his eye with a bullet lodged in the left side of his face. Ruscello underwent surgery and received blood transfusions. Rush said Saturday morning Ruscello is expected to survive.

Chechuck is charged with attempted homicide, aggravated assault and recklessly endangering another person. She was arraigned before District Judge Jay Weller and placed in the Washington County Jail on a $50,000 percentage bond. A preliminary hearing is set for March 25 at the office of District Judge Ethan Ward.

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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