New Castle News

District Judges

September 11, 2013

Burrelli Hearing: Trooper details events in May’s owner shooting

NEW CASTLE — All charges against Michael Burrelli have been held for court.

Burrelli, 28, of 5 Fruitland Drive, is charged with criminal homicide, abuse of a corpse and tampering with evidence in the shooting death of his father, 58-year-old Charles Burrelli of the same address.

State police allege the younger Burrelli shot his father seven times the evening of Aug. 21. Charles Burrelli died of multiple gunshot wounds to the chest.

He was the owner of May’s Donuts, a business run by the father and son, and the shooting allegedly occurred at their production site in Union Township.

Michael Burrelli is being held in Lawrence County jail without bond.

At his preliminary hearing yesterday in Lawrence County Central Court, state police trooper Joseph Vascetti testified that he was notified about 2:30 a.m. on Aug. 22 of a criminal homicide in Union Township.

He said he and another trooper took Burrelli to the state police station. He said the defendant was cooperative and the police questioned him from 4:55 to 10:16 a.m.

 Burrelli told police that he and his father had gone to the warehouse/garage at Kosciuszko Way off West State Street around 4 p.m. Aug. 21, Vascetti said, and that  an argument ensued around 7 p.m. about Michael Burrelli  sending text messages to his girlfriend.

“He said the argument escalated and his father pushed him to the ground,” Vascetti told the court. “He said he got up, pulled his gun from under his shirt and shot his father several times.”

The officer said he was told the argument took place near a metal table. A gun owned by the victim was on the table, he said.

Vascetti said Burrelli’s statement changed three times during the five-hour interview he had with troopers at the  station.

“He said his father touched his weapon, from he (Michael) thought that (Charles) was picking it up, to ‘he touched the weapon’ to ‘he reached for the weapon.’”

Vascetti said Burrelli also told police he had intended to dispose of his father’s body in Lake Arthur at Moraine State Park.

Michael Burrelli’s 9 mm gun, believed to be the murder weapon, was recovered from the safe inside the May’s Donut Shop on Wilmington Road, where he told police he had hidden it.

Vascetti said Burrelli also told police he picked up the shell casings and bought bleach and cleaned the scene following the homicide.

Vascetti said two bottles of bleach were purchased at Family Dollar in Call’s Plaza. He said police have surveillance tape and receipts from the store confirming time of purchase.

Cpl. William Maitland of the state police testified that when he arrived at the shooting scene, officers from several police departments and Lawrence County Coroner Russell Noga were there. He said he could see a body— later identified as the victim— tied into a metal  box that had been loaded into the back of a green Jeep Cherokee outside the blue garage.

He said a bag had been placed over the head of the body, “but there was a lot of blood. It was obvious that (the victim) has suffered from trauma.”

Maitland also said bleach bottles and rags could be seen in the Jeep. He said computer equipment, cell phones and guns have been seized by police as evidence.

District Judge Melissa Amodie, who presided at the hearing, advised public defender Larry Keith and assistant public defender Dennis Elisco that, contrary to their asking her to set a bond, she could not do so in a homicide case.

Assistant District Attorney William Flannery was the prosecuting attorney.

 Elisco said after the hearing that the case presents “a unique set of circumstances.”

He declined comment when asked if Burrelli would claim self defense.

“We’re working with every defense available to us and trying to expediently resolve the case,” he said.

(Email: nlowry@ncnewsonline.com)

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