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Plea deal in works in death of ex-Knoch football player

March 6, 2014 News Extra

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An attorney for one of three men charged with homicide in the death of a standout football player at Knoch High School and at Washington & Jefferson College says he is optimistic that a plea deal can be reached in the case against his client.

Defense attorney Michael DeRiso of Pittsburgh conceded that his client, Eric D. Wells, 25, of Pittsburgh, threw the punch that ended in Tim McNerney’s death on Oct. 4, 2012, on the outskirts of the W & J campus in Washington.

“My goal, as is my client’s, is to work this out amicably where Mr. Wells does acknowledge his involvement in the death of this poor kid,” DeRiso said Wednesday.

“It would also be tremendous if we can work out a plea to avoid a trial and putting (McNerney’s) family through any more pain.”

Wells along with Adam R. Hankins, 24, of Washington and Troy L. Simmons Jr., 24, of East Pittsburgh are accused of mugging the 21-year-old McNerney of Penn Township, Butler County, and his friend, a fellow W & J teammate.

Washington County prosecutors contend the defendants accosted McNerney and Zachary DeCicco of Jefferson Hills, Allegheny County, taking McNerney’s wallet and smart phone, as he and DeCicco walked home from a bar about 2:30 a.m.

The suspects, none who affiliated with the college, allegedly attacked the two W & J students.

Police believe Wells punched McNerney, hitting him on the chin and knocking him to the ground. McNerney died of head injuries, likely from hitting his head as he fell, investigators said.

DeRiso said he concurred with the police account, calling what happening a “one-punch case.”

DeCicco was badly beaten, his nose broken, but he managed to get away.

All three defendants are awaiting trial on charges of homicide, robbery, theft and conspiracy. They have been in the Washington County Jail without bail since their arrests Aug. 6, 2013.

Jury selection, which was to have begun Monday, was postponed when Wells hired DeRiso as his new attorney.

A status conference is set for Friday before visiting Allegheny County Judge Edward Borkowski, who is presiding over the trial in Washington County Common Pleas Court.

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