Change of venue request denied in homicide case

April 23, 2014
Jordan Clemons, charged with the murder of his ex-girlfriend, arrives at Washington County Courthouse for his preliminary hearing in February 2012. - Observer-Reporter Order a Print

A request to move an upcoming Washington County homicide trial to another location was denied.

Washington County Judge Katherine Emery turned down Jordan Clemons’ request Wednesday for a change of venue in his September trial.

Clemons, who has Canonsburg and Pittsburgh addresses, is accused of killing his former girlfriend, Karissa Kunco of Pittsburgh, in January 2012 and dumping her naked body in a wooded area.

In her order, Emery did not offer an explanation for the denial.

At a April 3 hearing, Assistant Public Defender Brian Gorman, who represents Clemons, 25, cited not only news coverage of the homicide but also the formation of a group known as Karissa’s Army, which organizes rallies covered by media outlets and sponsors a Facebook page, as reasons his client could not get a fair trial in Washington County.

Gorman called the group’s social media presence “extraordinary” and said the high profile of the page will only increase as Clemons’ scheduled trial date draws closer.

First Assistant District Attorney Chad Schneider noted that by September, about 30 months would have elapsed since the homicide. Additionally, Kunco, 21, was not a resident of Washington County. She lived in Baldwin, Allegheny County. Her body was found in a wooded area of Mt. Pleasant Township.

Kunco had a protection-from-abuse order against Clemons. During the hearing, both sides were at odds over the ramifications of the PFA. Kunco told co-workers she was afraid of her former boyfriend and she needed protection because Clemons assaulted her.

She was last seen alive Jan. 11, 2012, and her body was found a day later. State police allege after killing her, Clemons dragged her naked body into the woods along Sabo Road and then covered it with leaves, brush and a tree stump. Her throat was cut.

Gorman said Allegheny County authorities never served Clemons with the court orders. Schneider said it made no difference if the documents were served, contending Clemons was aware of them.

There was a brief manhunt for Clemons after charges were filed by Baldwin police. Police spent six hours outside of a Mt. Pleasant Township home in search of him, only to learn he had turned himself in to police. Prior to doing so, police allege Clemons took Kunco’s car and bank card, which he used to purchase an Xbox game console.

In May, Washington County District Attorney Gene Vittone announced he was seeking the death penalty against Clemons.

In addition to criminal homicide, aggravated assault, access device fraud, abuse of a corpse, unauthorized use of a motor vehicle and tampering with evidence, Clemons also faces burglary, robbery, theft and simple assault charges for an alleged home invasion in Canonsburg Jan. 8, 2012, and on a flight to avoid apprehension charge in connection with the alleged assault of Kunco in December 2012.

A pretrial hearing is scheduled for next month before Emery.

Clemons remains in Washington County jail without bond.

Francesca Sacco joined the Observer-Reporter as a staff writer in November 2013, and covers the Washington County Courthouse and education. Prior to working with the Observer-Reporter, Francesca was a staff writer with a Gannett paper in Ohio. She graduated from Point Park University with a dual bachelor’s degree in print and broadcast journalism.

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