MIDDLESEX TWP — The path of a handgun stolen in September in a burglary at a township home nearly ended in murder in Beaver County, authorities said.
Two months after the break-in on Brook Lane, the stolen Taurus .38 Special revolver turned up in a suspected home invasion in Beaver Falls.
The unknown robber moments after forcing his way into the house Nov. 16, found himself face to face with the occupants.
“He pointed it at them and pulled the trigger but it didn’t go off,” said Middlesex Township police officer Randy Davison. “He had the wrong ammunition in it.”
The suspect, described only as a black male, apparently loaded the handgun with .380-caliber cartridges for semi-automatic pistols, not .38 Special revolvers.
He later fled the house and quickly tried to ditch the gun.
However, Beaver Falls police recovered the revolver and soon discovered it was reported stolen in a Sept. 7 home break-in about 30 miles away in Middlesex Township.
Davison on Jan. 14 arrested 24-year-old Jon P. Neely of Monaca, Beaver County, with the initial Sept. 8 burglary when the gun was stolen.
Neely, who has an extensive criminal record and remains in the Butler County Prison on $50,000 bail, is charged only with the Middlesex Township break-in.
Neely, who is white, is not suspected in the home invasion-turned-attempted homicide.
Beaver Falls Police Chief Charles Jones said his department still is investigating that case but declined further comment.
Davison investigated the Brook Lane burglary that happened when the couple that lives there was at work. Stolen was the .38-caliber revolver, jewelry, currency and a Sony PlayStation video game console.
Police dusted for fingerprints as part of the investigation. One print was lifted from a kitchen window.
Davison in December tapped the FBI’s Automated Fingerprint Identification System at the state police crime lab in Greensburg. The computerized system includes a database of 47 million digitized sets of fingerprints, primarily from criminal offenders, used by law enforcement agencies nationwide.
The database matched the lifted print to Neely, according to court documents, who has three previous burglary convictions — two in Beaver County and one in Allegheny County.
Neely also has convictions in several separate cases including for theft in Butler County in 2008, court records showed.
Once Davison had a suspect, he checked with the Beaver County Precious Metals Registry and learned that Neely on Sept. 9 sold gold jewelry at a store in the Beaver Valley Mall.
That jewelry, it turned out, was identified as the items taken in the Brook Lane burglary, Davison said.
Police doubt Neely’s alleged crime was a random one.
“At the time,” Davison said, “we believe (the suspect) and his girlfriend may have been staying with his mother, who lives across the street from the victims.”
Police on Jan. 14 arrested Neely. District Judge Sue Haggerty arraigned him on charges of burglary, trespass, theft and receiving stolen property, all felonies. Additionally, he is charged with misdemeanor counts of theft and receiving stolen property.
Police don’t know what transpired with the revolver after the break-in, before it turned up in Beaver Falls.
“We don’t know if he sold it, traded it or gave it away,” Davison said.