A Tidioute man accused of murder was held for further court action following a hearing Tuesday afternoon.
Randy Poole, 52, of Tidioute faces charges related to the murder of Kathleen Sweeney including criminal homicide, burglary, a firearm possession violation, leaving the scene of an accident, and fleeing and eluding law enforcement.
Sweeney was found dead shot twice in her car inside her garage on Davey Hill Road on Thursday, Dec. 20, 2012.
Times Observer photo by Brian Ferry
Accused murderer Randy Lee Poole, 52, of Tidioute is escorted to the Jackson Courtroom at the Warren County Courthouse by Pennsylvania State Police Trooper Jeffrey Osborne for a preliminary hearing Tuesday afternoon.
Warren County District Attorney Ross McKeirnan called six witnesses to establish there was enough evidence to support holding Poole on the charges.
A friend of the victim, Karen Soukup, testified she was on the phone with 'Sween' who said Poole had been inside her house minutes before.
Soukup testified that Sweeney told her, "He was drunk and 'gooned out' on something."
He had left, but Soukup testified that Sweeney then told her Poole was coming back.
Soukup testified she heard a man, who Sweeney had just said was Poole, yell, "Get in there and lie down!"
Soukup testified that she heard Sweeney say, "Randy, stop. What's the matter with you?"
She heard the man repeat his command that Sweeney "get in there and lie down. I'm going to get on top of you."
Sweeney was saying, "Help me, help me, I need help," to Soukup moments before the phone connection went dead.
Soukup called 911, hung up, and called her husband who was "three miles versus 25 miles" from the state police barracks.
After receiving a call back from 911 and directing police to Sweeney's home, Soukup then drove there to see if she could help.
The first officer on the scene, Steven Vincent of the Tidioute Borough Police Department, said Poole's vehicle was one of three he passed in the few minutes it took him to get to the crime scene. He identified the vehicles by make, model and color, and named the drivers of all of the vehicles during testimony.
Vincent said Soukup led him to the garage where he "observed a female slumped forward and to the right and a large pool of blood." Vincent testified he found no pulse in either her wrist nor her neck, but her skin was still warm to the touch.
The lead investigator, Pennsylvania State Police Trooper Jeffrey Osborne, testified that Poole, in an interview days after the murder, told him about where he believes he threw "the gun" out the window of his vehicle.
Osborne said Poole had access to a Ruger .357 owned by his girlfriend's deceased husband. Three boxes of .38 caliber ammunition, which can be fired from a .357, according to Osborne, were found at Poole's residence. The gun has not been found, Osborne said, and a forensic examination of the bullets that killed Sweeney has not been completed.
Osborne also said Poole said he wanted to "apologize to the family" because he "can't take back what I've done" but never explicitly confessed to murder.
He testified Poole told him he was under the influence of bath salts at the time of the murder.
An examination of videos that, according to Osborne, clearly show Poole throughout the day of the murder, show him drinking at a Tidioute establishment, apparently buying drugs and then ingesting them, and leaving town in the direction of the victim's house minutes before the murder. He returned to the bar about 15 minutes after Soukup called 911, Osborne testified.
Nick Roxberry testified that he came home from work that day to find Poole in his house acting strangely, saying police were looking for him and that "word around town was he either beat up Sweeney or shot her."
After confirming that there were state police in Tidioute, Roxberry told Poole to get out. "I told him you gotta go," Roxberry testified. "I didn't want him there."
He said he escorted Poole to his truck and even offered to lead him out. "I went right, he went left, that's the last time I saw him," Roxberry said.
The officer in charge of the Warren State Police barracks, Sgt. David Gluth, said that he was involved in a high-speed chase, in excess of 70 miles per hour at times, in the rain with that same vehicle later that night.
Police had been looking for Poole's truck. Gluth said he had heard the truck might be at the Roxberry residence. He drove past in an unmarked car, but didn't see the truck. After he turned around to look again, he said a red Chevrolet short-bed pickup truck matching the description passed him near Roxberry's house. The truck accelerated after Gluth made a three-point turn to follow, he said.
Gluth said he gave chase, keeping the truck's tail lights in view, but backed off as he approached a curve. As he came around it, he saw the truck he'd be chasing crashed into a "medium-sized tree" about 25 feet off the road. There was no one inside. Other officers assisted him in a line search after he heard a noise nearby.
Police found Poole about "a quarter mile from that location with injuries consistent with that accident" about five hours later.
Warren County Coroner Jerry Borden said Sweeney died as a result of two close-range gunshot wounds to the head.
McKeirnan described the shooting as a "double-tap, execution style."
"I'll be able to prove the who, the what, the when, and the where," McKeirnan said, "but the why will always be a little bit of a mystery."
District Justice Glenn Carlson ruled that the prosecution had shown probable cause on all counts and ordered Poole returned to the Warren County Jail.