Washington man acquitted in Uni-Mart robbery, shooting

June 17, 2014

A Washington man accused of robbing a local convenience store and shooting a clerk in the leg was acquitted Tuesday after a two-day jury trial in Washington County Court.

The jury found Shayne Charles Coffield, 24, of 247 W. Hallam Ave., not guilty of robbery, aggravated assault, simple assault and criminal conspiracy. Coffield was tried before Washington County Judge John F. DiSalle.

Coffield and his co-defendant, Christopher M. Pitzarella, 24, of 43 W. Hallam Ave., Washington, were accused of entering the Uni-Mart on East Maiden Street in Washington in the early hours of March 27, 2013, wearing dark clothing, a mask and gloves.

Police claimed that immediately after walking into the convenience store, Coffield, who was armed with a gun, leaped over the counter and grabbed Uni-Mart employee John Helfrich, firing one shot that struck Helfrich in the left leg. Helfrich also was punched and kicked in his face and head. Pitzarella allegedly assaulted Uni-Mart employee David Holmes, whose wallet was stolen.

Police claimed Coffield and Pitzarella then removed the cash register and took it from the store.

Helfrich was taken to Washington Hospital for treatment before being transferred to UPMC-Presbyterian hospital in Pittsburgh.

Police said Pitzarella identified Coffield as the person who shot Helfrich.

Pitzarella was charged with illegally lending or giving firearms and multiple counts of robbery. He remains in Washington County jail, where he awaits trial.

Coffield’s attorney, Amanda Como, said there simply wasn’t enough evidence to convict her client. The defense argued that another person, not Coffield, committed the crime and that Pitzarella provided Coffield’s name to investigators to get back at him because of a previous disagreement.

Deputy Assistant District Attorney Joseph Zupancic declined to comment.

After the verdict was read, Coffield was escorted back to Washington County jail, where he continues to be held on bond in other cases, including another convenience store robbery and the holdup of a pizza delivery driver.

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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