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February 27, 2013

Man held for court in homicide by ball bat

SALIX — All charges in a homicide case involving a Beaverdale-area man who police say hit another man with an aluminum baseball bat were bound over to Cambria County court at a hearing Wednesday.

Gregory Russell Conzo, 50, is charged with criminal homicide, two counts each of aggravated assault and simple assault, and one of count of reckless endangerment in the death of Michael Pcola and an attack on Maria Conzo, the defendant’s daughter.

A charge of stalking has been added to the list because of prior domestic problems between the defendant and Lois Pcola, Michael Pcola’s mother.

Gregory Conzo initially was charged with attempted homicide following incident at a home in the 100 block of Sierra Street in Summerhill Township.

The charge was upgraded to homicide two days later when Michael Pcola died at Memorial Medical Center in Johns­town.

Summerhill Township police Officer Donald Wyar, the first to respond to the 8:30 p.m. call on Nov. 5, testified that he found Michael Pcola, 37, lying in an area Wyar described as a living-bedroom. Pcola was unresponsive, and attempts to revive him with CPR were unsuccessful.

In questioning by Cambria County Assistant District Attorney Forest Fordham, Wyar recalled the events of that night as they were related to him and what he experienced.

Maria Conzo and Lois Pcola were in the living area and told Wyar about the events of the evening, which showed an ongoing domestic battle between Gregory Conzo and the victim’s mother.

Testimony was that Conzo, who had been drinking, came to the Pcola residence to urge Lois Pcola to come to the Cambria County courthouse the next day, when he was scheduled to be sentenced on a guilty plea stemming from a domestic fight in May.

Michael Pcola, Maria Conzo’s half brother, came from the second story of the home, an argument between the two men broke out and Gregory Conzo swung an aluminum bat toward Maria and Michael.  

Conzo first hit Maria on the arm, and on the second swing struck Michael in the neck.

Wyar read a statement that Lois Pcola made to police in which she said a verbal argument broke out and Gregory Conzo left the room and came back with the bat.

“I thought it landed on top of Michael’s neck,” Lois Pcola said in describing the blow. “Then he was standing looking at Greg, then he just dropped to the floor.”

Lois Pcola told police that the defendant was drinking ginger brandy and beer when he arrived at the Pcola home.

The defendant immediately left the scene and was located a short time later in the Beaverdale area by “pinging” his cellphone and with the assistance of state police.  

Under questioning by District Attorney Kelly Callihan, county Coroner Dennis Kwiatkowski testified that Michael Pcola died of a traumatic hemorrhage.  

Kwiatkowski  said that while he later learned the victim may have suffered a head injury several years ago, the autopsy showed no recent head injuries other than what was caused by the baseball bat.

“We did not see any prior problems or injuries to Michael Pcola,” the coroner told Assistant Public Defender Kenneth Sottile.

Pcola had a blood alcohol level of 0.18 percent at the time of his death. Kwiatkowski said while alcohol can thin the blood, it would not have been enough to be considered significant.

In questioning by Assistant Public Defender John Lovett, Wyar said he did not know where the bat that Conzo used came from.

Wyar told Lovett that Michael Pcola was hit once and there were no other swings except the one that hit Maria Conzo.

Gregory Conzo will remain in prison, where he has been since the incident.

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