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Shooting suspect’s hearing set for Wednesday

April 20, 2014 News Extra

MUDDY CREEK TWP — A township man accused of fatally shooting his friend with a rifle while the two hung out at the suspect’s home admitted he was pointing the gun at the victim when it went off.

However, Jeremey D. Sickenberger, 22, claimed the shooting Thursday night was an accident during horse play, state police said.

But Sickenberger’s admission came only after he gave investigators several different accounts about what happened, according to court documents.

Two other friends who were at the house also contradicted parts of what he told police.

Troopers later arrested Sickenberger on a general charge of homicide in the death of 21-year-old Thomas J. “T.J.” Stockman of Portersville.

The defendant is in the Butler County Prison without bail. His preliminary hearing is 2 p.m. Wednesday at the office of District Judge Tim Shaffer in Slippery Rock.

Trooper Michael Taylor, the lead investigator, said this morning that he does not believe the shooting was intentional and was likely caused by Sickenberger fooling around with a gun.

But, he noted, the investigation continues.

Sickenberger called 911 after the shooting about 8 p.m. at his mobile home in the 100 block of Robbie Way, police said.

He reported Stockman had been accidentally shot in the chest.

First-responders found the victim lying on the living room floor. Nearby was a .22-caliber rifle, which had one spent casing in the chamber and 13 live rounds, police said.

Stockman was taken to Butler Memorial Hospital were he was immediately pronounced dead. An autopsy determined he died of a single gunshot wound to his upper chest

Ashley Homison, a friend at the house at the time of the shooting, told state police that there was no animosity between Sickenberger and Stockman that night and that the two men were friends.

After the shooting, she said Sickenberger immediately called 911. She said, according to documents, that he also “kept repeating that he was going to jail.”