JOHNSTOWN — The Tribune-Democrat is counting down the top stories of 2013, as determined by voting by newsroom employees. One story will appear each day in print and e-editions between now and the end of the year. Readers can vote for their choice for the top story at www.tribdem.com/beststories.
Homicides with motives running the gamut from illegal drugs to property disputes to domestic abuse occupied a significant amount of time for local police departments and the attention of the Cambria County District Attorney’s Office during 2013.
The homicide reports started early in the year with the Jan. 3 shooting of Robert T. Williams, who was shot inside his Richland Township home during what was listed as a suspected home invasion.
Despite a reward offer, no arrests have been made in the death of the 38-year-old at his Lydia Drive home.
Police believe the victim knew the person who gunned him down. Williams died two days later in what Richland Township authorities described as a cold-blooded killing.
Little more than a month later, on Feb. 6, Joshua Price, 29, was shot to death in Johns-town’s Moxham neighborhood.
Shahliek Maxwell Greene, 19, was picked up a few hours later at a home on Von Lunen Road.
Price was shot at least four times at his home in the 500 block of Cypress Avenue during what Johnstown police said was a fight over a vehicle.
On Dec. 7, Greene pleaded guilty to third-degree murder. He will be sentenced Jan. 27 in Cambria County court.
A few months passed with no homicides in the city or elsewhere in Cambria County, a respite which ended when summer hit.
On June 28, Jamil Gray, 37, was fatally shot in downtown Johnstown.
City police would say only that the victim had a city address, but apparently lived in the Pittsburgh area previously, according to reports in The Tribune-Democrat at the time.
No arrests have been made in the shooting of Gray, which occurred on Rowley Avenue near the unemployment office.
On July 24, Leslie Schetrompf was shot by Lemmel Myers in Johnstown’s West End following an altercation over a $20 debt, police said.
The Cambria County coroner’s office said Schetrompf, 37, received a single gunshot wound, but it struck the femoral artery in his leg, causing massive blood loss.
Myers, 27, was a state parolee living in the city’s West End. He entered a not guilty plea at his November arraignment in Cambria County court and is awaiting trial.
A week later, on Aug. 2, neighbors in the Moxham section of the city were shocked by the hammer attack and stabbing death of John Kuzma inside the Bond Street home he shared with his son, Jonathan Robert Kuzma.
The younger Kuzma, 31, was charged with homicide and related charges.
Police said the son struck his father with a carpenter’s hammer, then stabbed the 52-year-old victim several times before dumping his body in the basement.
The two argued over the son’s use of his father‘s car. Police said the son raided his father’s safe for drug money following the murder.
The younger Kuzma is awaiting trial in Cambria County court.
On Aug. 6, Elizabeth Miller, 21, of Moxham was stabbed in the neck while she sat in a truck with her estranged boyfriend Demetrius Gibson, 21.
City police charged Gibson, of Tire Hill, with the murder, which occurred at the Bridge Street Car Wash.
Gibson is awaiting trial in Cambria County court.
On Oct. 9, police were called to the Minersville neighborhood of the city for a double homicide.
Found shot to death at a home in the 100 block of Benshof Street were Kevin L. Burt, 33, and Alicia Welborn, 35.
Both were found on the first floor of the home and had been shot multiple times in the head.
No arrests have been made and the investigation is ongoing.
And if new murders were not enough, a homicide dating back two decades was again in the news when the state Supreme Court agreed to review an appeal filed by Altoona attorney Thomas Dickey on behalf of Ernest “Ernie” Simmons.
In September, the state’s highest court said it wants to hear more about the incident that sent Simmons back to prison in 2011 on a parole violation.
Simmons, 56, was on death row for the 1992 murder of 80-year old Anna Knaze of Johns-town when the appeals court ordered he be given a new trial.
Instead of going to trial, Simmons agreed to a plea deal to third-degree murder, which got him out of prison on credit for time served.
He was placed on probation for a period of six months to 10 years, but landed back behind bars after he allegedly made a threatening remark at a Clearfield County hospital.
It remains unclear when the high court will take up the Simmons case.
Kathy Mellott covers the Cambria County courthouse for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/ kathymellotttd.