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September 24, 2013

Stabbing suspect headed for trial

JOHNSTOWN — A Johnstown area man testified Monday he tried to pull his sister from Demetrius Gibson’s vehicle at a Moxham car wash Aug. 6 when the man stabbed her in the back.

Elizabeth Miller’s brother, Quinn, told the court that Elizabeth Miller and Gibson were hitting one another inside Gibson’s truck moments earlier. Quinn Miller said he tried to rescue her after she yelled that Gibson had a knife.

The testimony was delivered during a four-hour preliminary hearing on Tuesday that ended with District Judge Leonard Grecek sending first degree murder and all other charges against Gibson to Cambria County court.

The judge’s decision came despite defense attorney Thomas Dickey’s argument that prosecutors did not present evidence that his client intended to kill Miller. Gibson pleaded not guilty to all of his charges.

Police allege Gibson stabbed Miller at the Dollar Car Wash on Bridge Street after the pair fought earlier that morning in their Tire Hill apartment.

Quinn Miller said he did not know why the altercation started around 3 a.m., but that it started in their bedroom and continued downstairs.

He said he heard his sister scream and ran upstairs to find Gibson pinning her to the floor.

 “I told him to stop but he pointed a hammer at me,” Quinn Miller said.

Quinn Miller said he went downstairs to text family members, but the pair followed him, still exchanging punches. Gibson pushed his sister onto the couch and grabbed her by the throat with one hand, Quinn Miller testified.

Then he got up and grabbed a knife, threatening both of them, he said.

“He said to me ‘Do you want to die tonight?’ ” Quinn Miller said. “I tried my best to help. But I was afraid I’d get killed.”

Quinn Miller said he and his sister were able to flee the home when Gibson went upstairs, but that his sister was adamant about getting her cellphone back, so she arranged to meet him in Moxham.

“She called him six or seven times,” Quinn Miller said. “She said she had to have her phone.”

Dickey asked the young man why he didn’t call 911 instead, prompting him to respond that he wished he had done so.

Quinn Miller told Dickey his sister did not seem to be worried about confronting her boyfriend even though he had threatened her a short time earlier.

When they got to the Moxham car wash, Liz Miller entered Gibson’s car and within minutes was screaming for help, her brother said.

He said he ran to the passenger’s side and had a clear view into the front seat, where the pair were fighting.

His sister was leaning forward exchanging blows with Gibson. Quinn Miller said he tried to grab her when “Lizzie” told him Gibson had a knife.

“I saw him (stab her),” he said. “He hauled off and she fell out of the vehicle.”

Quinn Miller said he used his T-shirt to try to stop her bleeding. He dialed 911 and then yelled for a nearby newspaper carrier for help.

Moments later, Gibson’s SUV drove back into the lot, allegedly striking newspaper carrier Robert Geisel II with a side-view mirror.

“I thought it was the police coming to help,” Geisel testified, saying he had to jump out of the way when he realized it wasn’t the police.

Detective Thomas Owens said investigators found Gibson’s vehicle blocks away. A search warrant showed there was blood on the seat, a cellphone belonging to Gibson and 200 small “stamp bag” packets of heroin, Owens said.

A large survival knife was recovered at the car wash, Owens said.

Dickey argued that prosecutors offered nothing to show how the knife got into the vehicle that morning, although Quinn Miller said Gibson often kept it in his car.

The defense attorney said it was possible Liz Miller brought the knife, that Gibson may have been defending himself, or that Miller landed on the knife during their altercation in the car, noting “a lot of things could’ve happened that morning.”

But Grecek said that at the preliminary hearing, Assistant District Attorneys Wayne Langerholc and Beth Bolton-Penna need only show their case against Gibson had enough merit to warrant a trial.

Langerholc said he was pleased at Monday’s decision, saying Monday’s hearing was difficult on the Miller family.

Dickey said he was disappointed by the judge’s decision but said he’ll continue to fight the case at the next level.

“This wasn’t a case where someone was stabbed several times, or in a vital organ,” he said.  “Where’s the intent?”

David Hurst is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter @tddavidhurst.

 

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