Four to stand trial in 10-year-old’s murder

April 16, 2014
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Jim McNutt/Observer-Reporter
From left, Malik Thomas, Douglas Cochran Jr. and Anthian Goehring, three of the four men accused in the shooting death of 10-year-old Ta’Niyah Thomas inside her family’s West Chestnut Street apartment last month, exit Washington County Courthouse under heavy guard after being ordered to stand trial following a preliminary hearing Wednesday. Order a Print
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Jim McNutt/Observer-Reporter
Richard White, one of four Washington men accused in the shooting death of a 10-year-old girl inside her family’s West Chestnut Street apartment last month, is led from Washington County Courthouse after being ordered to stand trial following a preliminary hearing Wednesday. Order a Print

As about two dozen sheriff’s deputies and detectives stood guard and the family of a slain Washington girl looked on, four Washington men accused in the shooting death of the 10-year-old inside her West Chestnut Street apartment last month were ordered Wednesday to stand trial on criminal homicide and other charges.

Anthian Darall Goehring, 27, of 211 Lincoln Terrace; Douglas Yondale Cochran, 18, of 344 Locust Ave.; Richard Tayvonn White, 18, of 211 Lincoln Terrace; and Malik D. Thomas, 20, of 242 N. Franklin St., were ordered held for court by District Judge Ethan Ward in the March 31 death of Ta’Niyah Thomas. Goehring and White are half brothers. Thomas is the victim’s cousin.

Public Defender Glenn Alterio, representing Goehring, said after the hearing his client did not intend to kill anyone.

“It was a tragic event,” said Alterio. “He appears remorseful.”

City police Officer Dan Grossman said emergency personnel were initially called to the apartment at 450 W. Chestnut St. in the early morning hours of March 31 to tend to a 10-year-old who was not breathing. The information was then updated, indicating the girl might have been shot.

When Grossman arrived, the front door of the building was wide open. He and other officers went to the second floor of the apartment building, where they saw bullet holes in the center and around the doorknob of an apartment door. Grossman forced open the door, because the occupants could not get it open.

Ta’Niyah was off to the left, face down, partially in a hallway and partially in a bedroom. Also inside the apartment were the girl’s mother, Shantye Brown, Brown’s boyfriend, Robert “Oak” Lester, and a 10-month-old boy.

Ta’Niyah was taken to Washington Hospital, where she was pronounced dead less than 30 minutes after the shooting. Washington County Coroner Tim Warco testified she died of a gunshot wound to the back of her head. She also suffered a gunshot wound to the left shoulder.

City police Lt. Daniel Stanek, who filed the charges against the four suspects, was able to determine that a dozen shots were fired. Six shots were fired at the doorknob, five left of center on the door and one in the ceiling above the door. Stanek said it appeared to be two separate patterns. Ballistic tests are pending on the rounds found inside the apartment.

Stanek, under cross-examination by White’s defense attorney, Amanda Como, said multiple names of possible suspects started to surface in the hours after the shooting. He said Goehring provided police with an alibi, but it did not check out. White’s name came up on the night after the shooting or early the next day.

Stanek talked with all four April 4, the day they were arrested.

The four were reportedly at a home in the 200 block of Lincoln Terrace for several hours earlier on the morning of the shooting. White and Thomas reportedly told police the initial plan was to go to the Red Roof Inn on West Chestnut Street in Canton Township.

The four left in a 2014 Chevrolet Malibu that had been rented from Enterprise for Cochran by Venus Deck, Stanek testified. Deck is the paternal grandmother of the victim.

Thomas told Stanek that someone in the vehicle told the driver, White, to park in the 400 block of West Chestnut.

There reportedly was a conversation in the vehicle about going into the apartment building to rob Lester.

“He (White) knew they were going to take money from someone,” Stanek said. “He said it was instinct based on what was being said in the car.”

Thomas told the detective he saw Goehring remove two handguns from the glove compartment before Goehring and Cochran went inside the building.

“He hears loud booms from kicking and banging,” Stanek said. “Then he hears gunshots, and the two came back.”

Stanek said Goehring told him they were getting money from “Oak.”

“They were armed, one with a .357-caliber gun and the other a .38-caliber,” Stanek said. “Anthian kicked the front door, and he and the other individual entered the building.”

Goehring told the detective they tried to open the apartment door.

“He then fired into the door but could not recall where,” Stanek testified. “They fired into it, and then both fled back to the vehicle.”

After the shooting, police said the four drove around before stopping at the BP station on Route 519 in Somerset Township for gasoline. Surveillance reportedly shows Thomas inside the store less than an hour after the shooting.

When the four returned to Washington, Goehring was dropped off in Lincoln Terrace. Surveillance from the public housing complex shows the four leaving at 3:32 a.m. and dropping Goehring back there about 6:19 a.m., Stanek said.

Cochran admitted only to being at Lincoln Terrace and getting into the car provided to him by Deck, in which he was a backseat passenger, Stanek said. When Stanek asked him if he got out of the car on West Chestnut, Cochran asked for an attorney.

Stanek said Thomas told him that after the shooting, the four went to Red Roof Inn, where he was given the two handguns to throw over a hillside behind the motel. The guns have not been recovered, although police have looked several times, Stanek said.

Stanek said Goehring was crying and upset during the interview.

“He told me he didn’t want to hurt anyone and didn’t want the little girl to die,” Stanek said.

Como asked that the homicide charge against White be dropped, while Michael DeRiso, who represents Thomas, asked that the robbery charge against his client be dismissed. Chad Schneider, first assistant district attorney, responded that both were part of the conspiracy and Ward denied the motions.

DeRiso said after the hearing his client does not have a prior police record.

“She was his cousin,” DeRiso said. “He is terribly remorseful.”

“Anytime a 10-year-old girl is killed is a tragedy,” Como said. “There is still a lot of evidence and ballistics to look at.”

Bystander Amy Clarke said the proceeding was “heartbreaking.”

“My heart just broke sitting in there,” the Washington resident said.

Steven Thomas, of Washington, who also sat in on the proceeding, was at a loss for words. He said he has family “on both sides of this tragedy.”

“You can’t say nothing to either side,” he said. “You just have to stay strong.”

Security was tight both in and out of the courtroom. The four suspects were brought from the jail and placed in the courtroom an hour before the scheduled 9:30 a.m. start of the hearing. Spectators were warned disruptions would not be tolerated.

The start of the hearing was delayed while Ward waited for the arrival of the attorney whom Cochran claimed had been hired by his family to represent him. Ward then learned that the attorney was not coming because he had not received payment. Cochran opted to waive his right to counsel.

All four men remain in Washington County jail without bond.

Staff writer Francesca Sacco contributed to this report.

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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