Washington man sentenced for robberies

July 29, 2014
Christopher Pitzarella, center, is escorted from the Washington County Courthouse on Tuesday following his sentencing. - Francesca Sacco / Observer-Reporter Order a Print

A Washington man who was accused of participating in the robbery of a delivery driver and later a local convenience store was sentenced to 11 1/2 to 23 months in jail.

Christopher Pitzarella, 24, pleaded guilty Tuesday in three separate cases before Washington County Judge John DiSalle. As a part of the negotiated plea agreement, Pitzarella pleaded guilty to two counts of robbery and one count of access device used to obtain property. The remaining charges were not pursued.

Pitzarella was accused of robbing a Four Star delivery driver March 9, 2013, along with his co-defendants Michael Stienstraw, 27, of Claysville, and Shayne C. Coffield, 24, of Washington. The driver wasn’t harmed, but Pitzarella testified Stienstraw held a gun to the man during the robbery.

Stienstraw was scheduled to be sentenced Tuesday as well, but failed to appear in court.

Later on the same day as the robbery, police said Pitzarella was among three men who stole a debit card from a woman’s purse during a party at 235 E. Hallam Ave. Pitzarella was later caught on surveillance videos using the card at area stores.

Two-and-a-half weeks later, Pitzarella and Coffield were accused of robbing the Uni-Mart at 336 E. Maiden St., Washington, and shooting one of two clerks working that day.

Again, Pitzarella testified against his co-defendant, telling police Coffield shot Uni-Mart employee John Helfrich in the left leg.

Coffield was found not guilty June 17 of robbery, aggravated assault, simple assault and criminal conspiracy after a two-day jury trial. Coffield remains in Washington County jail on additional cases, including another robbery and the hold-up of the Four Star delivery driver.

In addition to the jail sentence, DiSalle also sentenced Pitzarella to 5 years of probation, ordered him to pay restitution and issued a 9 p.m. curfew once Pitzarella is released from jail. Pitzarella must also continue to cooperate with the Washington County district attorney’s office as they pursue the remaining cases against his co-defendants. He is not allowed to have contact with Stienstraw or Coffield.

Pitzarella was given credit for the 13 months he’s already served in jail. He will remain in Washington County jail until he is paroled.

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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