Homicide Trial: Prosecution Rests Case

[This is Part 1 in a series covering the homicide trial of Leon Platt. Parts 2 and 3 can be found here and here.]

After six days and over two dozen witnesses, the prosecution rested its case yesterday afternoon in the murder trial of defendant Leon Platt.

Platt, 28, of Rochester, is accused of murdering Richard Hogue, 28, just after 1:30 a.m. on Nov. 16, 2013 in an apartment on 411 Loop St. in Ellwood City. It’s the first murder trial in Ellwood City since 1980.

Lawrence County Judge J. Craig Cox is hearing the case before a jury of seven men and five woman with two male alternate jurors. Assistant District Attorney Thomas Minett is prosecuting the case and defense attorney John Bongivengo is representing Platt.

There was no court session today as Cox met with the attorneys to discuss case law for the jury. On Monday, Bongivengo said he is uncertain if he will call witnesses in Platt’s defense. In the event the defense doesn’t call witnesses, both sides will present closing arguments, and the jury may begin deliberations by Wednesday afternoon.

Witnesses for the prosecution testified through last week and concluded yesterday. The trial was originally schedule to begin on Friday, April 1 but was delayed until Monday, April 4 due to a juror illness.

In addition to fatally shooting Hogue, Platt also faces charges for two related incidents. For an incident on Nov. 11, 2016, Platt is accused of firing shots into a home on Fox Street, which is in Wayne Township near 16th Street. On the night of the murder, Platt is accused of firing along the 1200 block of Lawrence Avenue, with the intention of damaging a car belonging to Linda Boots.

According to the prosecution, seven individuals were present in the Loop Street apartment around the time of the incident: Platt, Hogue, Taylor Foley, Foley’s infant child, Laxavier Crumb, Michelle Hall and Shane Mihalko. The resident of the apartment, Tina McNulty, wasn’t home during the incident.

Foley, the prosecution’s primary witness, testified on Thursday. Foley said she witnessed Platt point a gun at Hogue but turned her head before the shot was fired. Foley testified in a preliminary hearing in December 2013, when she implied she saw the shot fired.

In 2014, Foley implicated Crumb in an exchange on Facebook. In a text conversation with her brother’s girlfriend, she also claimed responsibility for shooting at the Pounds’ house on Fox Street. In the cross-examination, Foley said that she had lied in these conversations.

Since Foley testified to shooting at Boot’s car along with Platt, she is under a use immunity protection order from the prosecution, meaning that anything she said during her testimony cannot be used to make criminal charges against is.

Foley is currently facing charges for possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver for an incident in February 2015.

In the defense’s opening argument, Bongivengo said he intends on questioning Foley’s credibility.

Crumb, who wasn’t a witness in any of the pre-trials, testified on Tuesday that he saw Platt fire the shot. In November 2013, Crumb recorded statements with Ellwood City police identifying the shooter as Platt.

In a statement recorded at the Ellwood City police station on the morning of the murder, Platt identified Crumb as the one who fired the shot. According to an officer on the scene, Hogue, who was conscious when police and ambulance personnel arrived, refused to identify his murderer.

An autopsy indicated that Hogue was struck by one bullet that entered his torso and severed his vena cava, a large vein that carries deoxygenated blood into the heart. Hogue died from blood loss.

Platt was apprehended on the morning of Nov. 16. According to the case docket sheets, he was formerly arraigned in March 2014 before Judge Dominick Motto. The omnibus pre-trial motion hearing occurred in the fall of 2014 and the judicial call of the trial in the fall of 2015.

According to witness testimonies, Platt and Foley, who had been friends for several years, drove to Fox Street on Nov. 11, 2013 with the intention of terrorizing members of the Pounds family. The house at 1585 Fox Way is the home of Michael Pounds, his girlfriend Dezra Kaufman and several other members of the Pounds family.

On the night of Nov. 15, Platt, Hogue, Foley and Crumb were all at 411 Loop St., when they decided to strike at the Pounds family again. According to Crumb, all of them had a negative history with members of the Pounds family.

Foley and Crumb both testified the group filled a glass bottle with gasoline and used a rag as a wick, making what is commonly referred to as a Molotov cocktail. The plan was to throw the cocktail into the home of Linda Boots, mother of Michael Pounds, on 13th Street. However, after realizing that could hurt children in the residence, they discarded the bottle.

Instead, Foley and Platt fired several shots into Boots’ car, which was parked along the former West End Cafe on the 1200 block of Lawrence Avenue. Platt used a .45 caliber Kimber brand semiautomatic handgun, and Foley used a 9mm semiautomatic handgun.

Later that night, Hogue and Foley returned to the area to see what damage had been done. According to Foley, they mistakenly believed their shots had missed. When the two returned to the apartment, an argument ensued between Hogue and Platt, with Hogue offering to give Platt shooting lessons.

Foley and Crumb were in the room and testified that they saw Platt place one bullet into the clip of the Kimber. Crumb testified that he witnessed Platt shoot Hogue in the abdomen. Mihalko, who was in the apartment when the argument started, testified that he left before the shot was fired. Hall testified that she was in the bedroom and heard the argument and the shot.

Crumb, Platt and Hall left the scene, and Foley remained and called 911. Ellwood police, assisted by state troopers and several other local departments, searched for Platt. Later that morning, Platt was taken into custody by two Koppel officers along West Lawrence Avenue, in the vicinity of McElwain’s Car Wash in Wayne Township.

Before being caught, Platt had placed the Kimber in the garage of Foley’s parent’s house on Skyline Drive in Ellwood City. Ellwood police later located the weapon. The 9mm Foley said she used and the Molotov Cocktail were never found.

For the incident on Nov. 11 at Fox Way, Platt is charged with:

  • aggravated assault (F2)
  • discharge of firearm into occupied structure (F3)
  • recklessly endangering another person (M2)

For the incident on Nov. 16 on 1200 Lawrence Ave., Platt is charged with:

  • possession of firearm prohibited (F2)
  • carrying a firearm without a license (F3)
  • recklessly endangering another person (M2)

For the murder of Hogue, Platt is charged with:

  • criminal homicide (F1)
  • murder of the first degree (H1)
  • possession of a firearm prohibited (F2)
  • carrying a firearm without a license (F3)
  • three counts of recklessly endangering another person (M2)
  • false identification to law enforcement (M3)

Be the first to comment on "Homicide Trial: Prosecution Rests Case"

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.