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March 27, 2014

August trial planned in Johnstown stabbing death

EBENSBURG — A Johnstown-area man charged with homicide in the Aug. 6 death of his estranged girlfriend is scheduled to be tried in late summer.

At a status conference on Thursday, Cambria County Judge Norman Krumenacker told prosecutors and the private defense counsel representing Demetrius Gibson to be ready to pick a jury Aug. 25, Assistant District Attorney Beth Bolton Penna said.

The trial will begin immediately after selection of a jury and is expected to take about three days.

Gibson, 21, of Tire Hill, is charged in the Aug. 6 stabbing death of Elizabeth “Liz” Miller, 21, of the same address.

Johnstown police allege that the murder occurred inside a pickup

truck in the Dollar Car Wash parking lot along Bridge Street in the city’s Moxham neighborhood.

The two had been together for some time, according to testimony at Gibson’s preliminary hearing, and the stabbing ended what was described by authorities as an especially troublesome fight.

Defense attorneys Thomas Dickey and David Kalten­baugh have filed a number of pretrial motions on issues Krumenacker said he will address at a May 6 pretrial hearing.

The defense is questioning a number of things such as wiretap issues and a change of venue, Assistant District Attorney Wayne Langerholc said.

Gibson fled the scene of the killing before police arrived.

He was named as the killer by Miller’s brother, Quinn Miller, who was in the area at the time of the stabbing, police said.

The case received significant media attention because Gibson remained a fugitive for nearly two weeks before turning himself in to police.

Kaltenbaugh said the defense is seeking to have an out-of-county jury brought in, but the judge’s decision on that likely won’t come until attempts are made to select a panel from Cambria County.

The jurors will be chosen from among residents called to the courthouse specifically for the Gibson trial.

Most county trials are heard by a jury selected from a large number of people brought in for a number of cases.

Kaltenbaugh said the defense also is objecting to a number of things done by city police before and after Gibson’s arrest, including a search warrant obtained to locate the ping of his cellphone and moving the pickup. The pickup issue was a matter of seizure without proper authority, he said.

The defense is seeking other information from the prosecution, including DNA and surveillance video from a number of security cameras.

Krumenacker has given approval for the defense to hire an investigator to aid in trial preparation, Kaltenbaugh said.

Gibson, who has been in the Cambria County Prison since his Aug. 18 arrest, is charged with two counts of aggravated assault and one count of simple assault in addition to criminal homicide.

Kathy Mellott covers the Cambria County Courthouse for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/kathymellott.

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