NEW CASTLE —
Today is DeAngelo Mercer’s 23rd birthday, and he will spend it in the Lawrence County jail without bond.
The Halco Drive man was picked up yesterday by New Castle police as their prime suspect in the homicide of Arnold Eugene Miller, who was found dead in a house at 309 Phillips St. on the city’s South Side after a suspicious fire on Feb. 25.
Police determined that Miller, 46, of East Liberty, Pittsburgh, died of three gunshot wounds to the head and torso on Feb. 24 and that fire broke out around 5 a.m. the next day in the apartment where his body was found.
An eyewitness who was in the apartment during the shooting gave police a detailed account of what happened that afternoon.
According to Police Chief Bobby Salem, the detective bureau aggressively investigated the case, then charged Mercer yesterday with criminal homicide, two counts of aggravated assault and two counts of simple assault. He was arraigned by District Judge Melissa Amodie.
PIECING THE EVIDENCE
According to a criminal complaint, city detectives were called around 9 a.m. Feb. 25 to the Phillips Street house, where Miller’s body had been found on the second floor, burned beyond recognition. A fire had broken out in that apartment during the night.
The 911 center had sent patrol units to the house at 2:15 p.m. the day before, having received a call that a man had suffered a head injury and was unconscious, but no one was found there, they said.
The call had been placed from a cell phone by a woman who gave police a false identity.
When police later identified the female caller and contacted her, she asked how Miller was and they told her he was dead. She became hysterical and kept saying that he was alive when she had called 911, they reported.
She said she had gone to 309 Phillips St. and saw a man lying on the floor and no one else was there. She said he had a large lump on the left side of his head and she thought there was a bullet hole, according to the report.
She said she tried callng a few people including Mercer to find out what happened, and he answered his phone and it sounded like he was running. She said she told him Miller was dead and he relayed that to someone in the background and hung up the phone.
She said he then called her back and asked who saw her, and told her to “lock the door and leave,” she told police.