LEWISTOWN - The Pennsylvania Superior Court recently upheld the first degree murder conviction for a man who shot and killed his neighbor in July 2010.
Charles A. Trimmer Jr., 62, is serving a life sentence for the killing.
Carlisle attorney Taylor P. Andrews filed the appeal earlier this year on behalf of his client who was convicted by a Mifflin County jury in September 2011 of intentionally killing his 46-year-old neighbor Darren Parys on July 31, 2010 in front of his home along Blackberry Lane in Wayne Township.
Trimmer and Parys had a well-documented history of conflict and a dispute between the two men turned deadly when Trimmer pulled out a 12-gauge shotgun and gunned down Parys, according to documents.
When the trial began on Sept. 12, 2011, then-Mifflin County District Attorney Steve Snook gave his opening statement summarizing the case for the jury, specifically highlighting the second of two shots allegedly fired by Trimmer, calling the second shot the "lynch pin" of the case.
Testimony during the trial by a ballistics expert, Darren Mortoff and Forensic Pathologist Dr. Gordon Handte put Trimmer at a range of 9-14 yards away from Parys during the first shot, which struck the victim in the back. The second shot put Trimmer at a distance of 1-3 feet away from Parys, who was struck in the throat, the experts testified.
The second shot was the focus of the appeal sent to the Superior Court.
Andrews asked the court to consider this question; "Was there insufficient evidence to prove the defendant acted with specific intent to kill because it was not proven that the decedent was alive when the second shot to his neck was fired, and the prosecutor stressed the defendant's state of mind at the time of the second shot to establish specific intent to kill?"
In a 16 page opinion, the court found "that the evidence was sufficient for the jury to conclude that (Trimmer) acted with malice and specific intent to kill (Parys)."
During the trial, Handte testified the first shot was fatal and would've brought Parys almost immediately to his knees, due to a serious drop in blood pressure from the gunshot wound. Handte went on to state that Parys may or may not have been alive at the time of the second shot, because there was little blood loss from the neck wound, due to the blood pressure loss from the first shot.
Snook claimed during the trial that Trimmer's version of what happened that day was in direct conflict to the testimony of the pathologist and ballistics expert.
Andrews states in the appeal that Trimmer put forward a defense at trial of "justification as his actions were in self defense."
Trimmer testified during the trial that he was accosted by Parys as he drover near Parys' cabin in his backhoe. Trimmer said he reached for his shotgun fired two shots from the backhoe, but could not see if he had hit Parys because he had been pepper-sprayed by Parys.
Trimmer testified the second shot was fired immediately following the first as Parys charged at him while he was sitting in the backhoe.
In the appeal, Andrews cited testimony from Trimmer's 18-year-old step-grandson, and two neighbors who described the effects of the pepper spray on Trimmer. One of those neighbors was a registered nurse who worked approximately an hour to flush the spray from Trimmer's face, according to court documents.
Snook put forth the theory at trial that Trimmer had not been as incapacitated by the pepper spray as he claimed, and that he got out of the backhoe, walked up to Parys, who was laying on his stomach, flipped him over, took aim and fired the second shot, making sure to finish him off.
During Snook's closing arguments he suggested that the most likely scenario, which would match up with the forensic and medical evidence, started with an argument between the two men that quickly escalated.
Snook said Trimmer went for his shotgun during the argument and Parys sprayed him in self defense and then began to run away.
"I'm gonna suggest to you that the gun came out before the pepper spray," Snook said during his closing.
"The second shot is the lynch pin ... after the first shot, Mr. Trimmer decided 'I'm gonna finish him off' and gets down of the backhoe, rolls over Mr. Parys, steps back, aims at him and finishes him off," he continued.
Snook called it an "execution style killing."
Trimmer remains incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution at Waymart.