New Castle News

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March 28, 2012

Homicide charges withdrawn; witness sought

NEW CASTLE — New Castle police Tuesday withdrew homicide charges against De’andre McQueen, accused of killing a homeless man.

Police said they intend to refile the charges once they have secured a critical witness for McQueen’s prosecution. As of Tuesday, they were unable to locate her.

McQueen, 16, is accused in the Dec. 3 fatal shooting of Eric Staller, who had a Missouri driver’s license.

McQueen’s preliminary hearing Tuesday was canceled.

He had been charged with criminal homicide, aggravated and simple assault, possession of instruments of crime and recklessly endangering another person.

A female juvenile, whom authorities could not find for Tuesday’s hearing, had been offered immunity in exchange for her testimony because she is an essential witness.

The Lawrence County District Attorney’s office Tuesday withdrew its motion for the court to grant immunity to the witness, after McQueen’s preliminary hearing had been continued several times because she could not be found.

Another hearing was scheduled for her for Tuesday, and she still could not be found.

Assistant district attorney Thomas W. Minett said the woman is listed as a missing person, and she has had contact with her family members, but neither the district attorney’s office nor the police have been able to contact her.

The charges against McQueen were withdrawn so as not to risk a violation of Rule 600, which demands a speedy trial, according to a motion that Minett filed in common pleas court. That motion was granted and signed Tuesday by Judge J. Craig Cox.

Once the witness is located, the charges will be refiled against McQueen, Minett said, and the application for immunity for the witness also will be refiled.

Staller, 36, was found dead on Locust Street Dec. 3, bleeding from the neck. Police said he had suffered multiple gunshot wounds to the neck and head.

Police said he was known among locals as Red, and had lived in Tent City, a homeless encampment along the banks of the Neshannock Creek.

An autopsy revealed Staller had been shot with a .22-caliber gun, once in the side of the chest and three times in the neck.

A witness who had been with Staller that day said he had gone to Tent City and walked with Staller to the Grant Street projects. As they got to the top of a hill, a car drove past, someone got out of the passenger’s side and started shooting.

The witness yelled, “Red, Run!” He said he ran, himself, and that was the last time he saw Staller alive.

Police allege it was McQueen who had gotten out of the car and fired, based on a car description provided by the male witness and information given to them by the female witness.

(Email: dmorris@ncnewsonline.com)

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