Ronald Grayson Gilmore’s fate will be decided during the next few weeks in Lawrence County Common Pleas Court.

Jury selection began yesterday for a homicide trial in which the 37-year-old Gilmore, if found guilty of first-degree murder, ultimately would face the death penalty or life imprisonment.

Attorneys predicted it could take two or more weeks to select a jury and possibly two weeks for the trial.

Gilmore, who appeared in court yesterday clean-shaven in a black suit, white shirt and black tie, is accused as the gunman in the Feb. 12, 2005, shooting death of Carmen Oliva on New Castle’s West Side.

He and two others — his son, 20-year-old Kailin Stewart and 22-year-old Andrae Lamont Jackson — were charged in connection with Oliva’s death.

Gilmore is charged with homicide, criminal conspiracy to commit homicide and illegal possession and use of firearms.

Gilmore has been in jail without bond, but Stewart and Jackson were released on bond, pending their testimony in the case.

Judge J. Craig Cox told prospective jurors yesterday that prosecutors will try to prove Oliva had no weapon and did not provoke his own death. They will try to prove that he was shot over a rumor that he was snitching on local drug dealers, Cox said.

Defense attorney H. David Rothman of Pittsburgh, would not comment before trial on his strategy for Gilmore’s defense. However, he hinted the case will become a “whodunit” with other suspects involved.

“This was an execution killing,” said Thomas Minett, the assistant district attorney who is co-prosecuting the case with District Attorney John Bongivengo.

“(Oliva) was sitting in the car and someone from the passenger side put three bullets into his head,” Minett said.

Pennsylvania sentencing code lists aggravating circumstances for which the death penalty can be considered. If the case fits any of those circumstances, the district attorney can file a notice of a capital case, Minett explained.

In this instance, notice was filed by former district attorney Matthew T. Mangino based on two aggravated circumstances. One was that Gilmore allegedly committed the killing while he was perpetrator of a felony, meaning he was not allowed to have a firearm in his possession, Minett said.

Another circumstance is that Gilmore has a significant history of felony convictions involving threats of violence.

According to New Castle police reports, the 36-year-old Oliva was found dead inside his silver-gray Chrysler 300 in the 1000 block of West North Street around 9:30 p.m. Feb. 12, 2005.

The motor was running, the passenger door was open and the driver’s side front window was smashed.

A witness told police she had been with Gilmore and Oliva Feb. 11 and 12 and they had gone to a drug house called “The Club House” on Carson Street. Police learned Oliva and Gilmore argued after Gilmore accused Oliva of snitching.

The argument ensued for a couple of hours and the witness, Gilmore and Oliva eventually went to 119 E. Wallace Avenue.

Gilmore, Stewart and Jackson all were at the house and left, but the witness was not allowed to go with them, she told police. She said Gilmore got into the passenger seat of Oliva’s car with Oliva driving, and Stewart and Jackson followed in a Toyota.

She said when Gilmore returned, he ran upstairs to the bathroom, and was out of breath and nervous. He told her he had shot Oliva three times in the head and killed him, the witness told police.

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