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Closing arguments slated in 2004 murder, witness killing

August 18, 2018

READING, Pa. (AP) — Closing arguments are scheduled Monday in the death penalty trial of a man accused of involvement in a 2004 home invasion slaying and then assassinating a witness in a fast-food drive-thru a week and a half later

Prosecutors and defense attorneys wrapped up their cases Friday in the trial of 35-year-old Norman Vega Jr, The Reading Eagle reported .

Vega is charged with murder, robbery, conspiracy, retaliation against a witness and related counts in the Oct. 3, 2004 home invasion slaying of 38-year-old Miguel Colon and in the murder of 20-year-old Jason Stief 11 days later.

Investigators said 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 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 the McDonald’s in Reading, police said. Officers found his wallet in the car and said the business card Shenk had given him 11 days before was inside.

Prosecutors maintain 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. Prosecutors have said they plan to seek capital punishment if he is convicted of first-degree murder.

Defense attorney Douglas Waltman, who presented no witnesses before resting his case, said in his opening statements that 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.

He also highlighted a missing McDonald’s surveillance tape collected by Reading police. Shenk said he never viewed the tape and conducted an “exhaustive search” without success, but since no records indicate that it was ever entered as property evidence at City Hall he believed it was never properly submitted.


Information from: Reading Eagle, http://www.readingeagle.com/

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