Jurors mull death penalty in gun collection theft slaying
WASHINGTON, Pa. (AP) — Jurors in western Pennsylvania are hearing testimony on whether a man convicted in a slaying six years ago should be executed or spend life in prison without possibility of parole.
Brandon Wolowski, 24, was convicted of first-degree murder last week in the January 2013 killing of 37-year-old Matthew Mathias during an attempt to steal a gun collection from the victim's house, The (Washington) Observer-Reporter reported.
In seeking capital punishment, Washington County prosecutors cited the wounding of a 45-year-old woman and the fact that the slaying occurred during commission of a felony.
The defense argued unsuccessfully during trial that Wolowski, who was 18 at the time, should have been treated as a juvenile due to alleged fetal alcohol syndrome and a learning disability. Defense attorney Thomas Farrell also said his client's upbringing included frequent abuse and "numerous" foster homes and asked jurors to give him a shot at redemption.
"Yes, he committed horrible, horrible criminal acts," Farrell said Friday. "That doesn't define him."
Angela Seaman, a former Washington High science and special education teacher, recalled Wolowski as a ninth-grader who stood up for an autistic student if other kids made derogatory comments. She described him as kind but vulnerable to other students' influence.
"He wanted acceptance and was definitely a follower," Seaman told jurors.
Called by prosecutors to give a victim impact statement, Alvin Mathias, the victim's father, said those affected by the slaying included his son's siblings and three daughters.
"His visits and spending time with us are very often missed by our family and friends," he said.
Prosecutor said before the conviction that the defendant had rejected a plea deal calling for a 40- to 80-year term. The penalty phase of the trial is scheduled to continue Monday.
Information from: Observer-Reporter, http://www.observer-reporter.com