WASHINGTON, Pa. (AP) - A man accused of providing a car for the abduction of a businessman and burning his luggage while others beat and killed him waived his preliminary hearing in Washington County Court.
Robert Petrick, 34, of Bentleyville is one of seven people charged in connection with the December death of Ira Swearingen, 49, of Stout, Ohio.
Washington County District Attorney John Pettit said Wednesday that prosecutors will now focus on filing homicide charges in the case even though Swearingen's body is missing. No weapon has been found.
''It depends on the circumstantial evidence you have that a person has been killed without the presence of a body,'' Pettit said.
Much of the case now depends on testimony of John Shaker, 31, of Las Vegas. He, Petrick, Alexander Martos, 32, and Gregory Modery, 29, are charged with conspiring to kill Swearingen.
Shaker has testified that he, Martos and Modery borrowed Petrick's car Dec. 12 to go to an adult bookstore near Interstate 70 near Bentleyville to ''roll a pickle,'' which he said meant finding a gay man to beat and rob.
Shaker said they drove down a dark dead-end road next to the bookstore to wait with Modery while Martos lured Swearingen from the parking lot to the end of the road.
Swearingen, a medical consultant and physician's assistant from Stout, Ohio, had flown to Pittsburgh International Airport that night. He rented a car and was due at Uniontown Hospital in Fayette County to assist in surgery.
Shaker said he saw Martos and Modery beat Swearingen and stuff him into the trunk of his rental car. They drove the car back to Petrick's house while Shaker followed in Petrick's car.
Shaker said Petrick collected Swearingen's luggage to burn in a barrel next to his house, and he left to buy things with Swearingen's credit card while Martos and Modery left with Swearingen.
He said Martos and Modery told him the next day that they took the businessman to a wooded area, forced him to strip, shot him and dumped his body.
State police found part of a melted luggage tag in the barrel with the letters ''EARINGEN'' on it and medical tools that Swearingen was known to carry.
Others charged in the case are accused of either using Swearingen's credit card and bank debit card, hiding or dumping evidence, or both. Of those, Petrick, Sean Wolowski and Adam Kefover have waived preliminary hearings. Wolowski has testified against Martos and Modery.
Pettit would not say Wednesday whether Petrick and Kefover have agreed to cooperate with authorities. But any time a defendant waives a charge to court, ''you get the impression that they are not wanting to put the commonwealth to the test, so to speak,'' Pettit said.
Petrick's attorney, Bob Brady of Washington, declined comment.
Pettit said he has no plans to amend charges to lesser offenses against Shaker, Petrick, Wolowski or anyone else charged in the case in exchange for cooperation.
Martos is jailed in Washington County, and Modery is jailed in Allegheny County. Pettit wouldn't say where Shaker and Petrick are being held.