Man acquitted of 1 slaying but convicted of killing witness

August 21, 2018

READING, Pa. (AP) — A man was convicted on Tuesday of first-degree murder in the shooting death of a witness in a fast-food drive-thru more than a decade ago but was acquitted of involvement in the original slaying.

Jurors in Berks County deliberated over two days before they acquitted Norman Vega Jr., 35, of the October 2004 home invasion slaying of Miguel Colon, 38. They convicted him of first-degree murder, retaliation against a witness and reckless endangerment in the killing of Jason Stief 11 days later.

Stief, 20, Colon’s neighbor, was in the home when three armed men broke in and identified one as Hector Soto, leading to Soto’s arrest on Oct. 9, 2004. Detective Sgt. Harold Shenk, then a Reading police detective, testified that the name of the witness was listed in the charging paperwork.

Stief was then shot six times in the head while sitting in his vehicle in the drive-thru lane of a McDonald’s in Reading, police said. Officers found his wallet in the car and said the business card Shenk had given him 11 days earlier was inside.

Prosecutors maintained that Stief was killed to prevent him from testifying against Soto, now 34, who was convicted of second-degree murder in July 2007 and is serving a life sentence.

Vega was charged in 2013 after several fellow inmates testified he had said he was responsible for both killings. Defense attorney Douglas Waltman said there was no competent evidence to prove Vega was connected to either murder and that the prosecution’s case relied on the testimony of criminals.

Jurors will now hear more testimony beginning Wednesday on whether Vega should be executed or should spend life in prison without possibility of parole.

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