AP NEWS

Johnstown man convicted in 2016 Latrobe murder case

September 7, 2018

A Westmoreland County jury Monday convicted a Johnstown man of second-degree murder in connection with a robbery and fatal shooting of a friend outside a Latrobe home nearly three years ago.

Austin Krinock, 20, one of three men charged in the Jan. 20, 2016, shooting death of 20-year-old Daniel McNerny, is expected to be sentenced in about three months by Westmoreland County Common Pleas Court Judge Meagan Bilik-DeFazio to a mandatory prison term of 30 years to life.

The jury heard four days of testimony last week and deliberated more than two hours Monday before it returned guilty verdicts of second-degree murder, robbery, conspiracy and illegal possession of a firearm. Jurors determined the murder occurred during the course of another felony, in this case a robbery.

“We think this is an appropriate verdict,” Westmoreland County District Attorney John Peck said.

During the week-long trial, the prosecution claimed Krinock conceived the fatal robbery plot a month before the incident as retaliation for being called a name by Pittsburgh-area drug dealer Christopher Showers during a dispute over his romantic interests in a girl. Krinock enlisted two other men, Zachary McGrath, 23, and Colin Gearhart, 20, both of Latrobe, to assist with the plot to rob Showers the next time he came to Latrobe, according to the prosecution.

But the robbery turned deadly when a masked man dressed in black held Showers and another man at gunpoint in front of Gearhart’s St. Clair Street home in Latrobe and demanded money and drugs. Witnesses identified the gunman as McGrath. McNerny, who was not part of the robbery plot as either its target or participant, was in the home with Krinock and Gearhart and attempted to intervene. He was shot twice in the abdomen as he attempted to disarm the gunman.

McNerny’s family members consoled each other in the hallway outside the courtroom Monday afternoon but they declined to comment on the verdict, saying they would defer any public statements until after the trials of McGrath and Gearhart.

McGrath’s murder trial is scheduled to begin in January. Gearhart’s has not been scheduled.

The prosecution said all three men were responsible for McNerny’s death even though it was McGrath who fired the fatal shots.

Krinock, during the trial, conceded he initially planned the robbery but at the last minute, he wanted to put a stop to the plot.

Peck, in his closing argument to the jury, said Krinock had “cold feet” but took no actions to stop the robbery.

“It was a cowardly thing to do. Get someone to put on a mask and rob them because he called him a name,” Peck said.

Peck told jurors Krinock planned the robbery, purchased a gun to further the plot and even threw a jacket out to McGrath as he waited for Showers to leave the home on the night of the shooting.

After the shooting, Krinock removed money and drugs from the house and Showers’ car, including a bag that contained $12,000 in cash.

Defense attorney Brian Aston asked jurors to find Krinock not guilty, saying his client made clear his intentions to not participate in the robbery just minutes before it occurred.

“He did not want to do this robbery. He backed out of it. Zach McGrath went lone wolf,” Aston said.