A number of defendants are scheduled for sentencing in Indiana County Court today, including one who pleaded guilty to murder. Another murder defendant is scheduled for Plea Court.
28-year-old James Lantz of Commodore will be sentenced by Judge William Martin for a guilty plea to third degree murder in the shotgun slaying of his neighbor, 23-year-old Derrick Davis, in front of the Davis home on Lovejoy Road in Green Township in June of last year.
Lantz had gone to the home after Davis’ girlfriend told him about an argument they’d had. He took along a sawed-off shotgun in a backpack, and after Davis hit him several times, he drew the gun out of the backpack and fired a single shot, hitting Davis with a fatal blast to the chest. Lantz told investigators he intended to fire into the ground or the air as a warning, but panicked when Davis started approaching him. Lantz fled but returned about nine hours later and was taken into custody.
Judge Thomas Bianco will conduct a Plea Court proceeding for 21-year-old Justin Stevenson of Indiana, who is charged with two counts of criminal homicide and single counts of robbery and conspiracy to commit robbery for the beating deaths of Timothy Gardner and Jacqueline Brink at the couple’s apartment outside of Clymer in October of 2016.
District Attorney Pat Dougherty has said in the past that he would pursue first degree murder and the death penalty against Stevenson and his co-defendant, 20-year-old Nathaniel Price, so today’s Plea Court may indicate a plea deal in which Stevenson agrees to testify against Price, or it could simply be a deal to avoid the death penalty and save the expense of a trial. Dougherty last week filed a brief opposing Price’s motion to preclude the death penalty.
Several of the other defendants on the schedule today are SCI Pine Grove inmates who will be sentenced for aggravated assault, mostly involving corrections officers.