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NEW CASTLE Man to stand trial on murder charge



Published: Tue, July 16, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



Authorities have not offered a motive for the shooting.

By LAURE CIOFFI

VINDICATOR NEW CASTLE BUREAU

NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- Sarah Beck had just returned from the hospital where doctors had advised her to walk around to relieve a medical problem associated with her pregnancy when she heard the gunshots.

"I shouted, 'Don't shoot me, I'm pregnant.' Then Freddie yelled, 'I'm shot,'" said Beck, 21, of Booker Drive.

Her friend, 20-year-old Alfredo Soto, known as Freddie, died about an hour later at Jameson Memorial Hospital about 2 a.m. June 22 of a gunshot wound to the chest. A bullet went through his chest, hitting both lungs and his shoulder before exiting his body, said Matthew Mangino, Lawrence County district attorney. No one else was injured.

The shooting occurred in the Harbor Heights housing complex, where Soto lived. He also had a Youngstown address, police said.

Shooting suspect Christopher Herbin, 22, of North Liberty Street, New Castle, was ordered to stand trial after a preliminary hearing Monday before District Justice Melissa Amodie.

He is charged with criminal homicide in Soto's death and five counts of recklessly endangering another person for Soto, Beck and three other men who were nearby when the shooting started.

Witness accounts

Beck said she saw Herbin come from the side of an Altman Road address, lift a gun from his side and start firing. She knew Herbin because he had put a deposit on an American bulldog puppy she had recently bred, she said.

Mangino would not comment on the shooting motive, but he said authorities believe Soto was the intended victim.

Beck said she, Soto and two other men were standing outside 709 Altman Road when the shots were fired.

Raymond Murray, 30, of West Washington Street, was leaving his car when the shooting started.

Murray testified that he heard the shots and crawled to a nearby porch, but he did not see the shooter.

Murray said he and the other men then helped Soto into Murray's car and drove him to the hospital, while Beck called police.

Detective Sgt. Robert Lepore said when he arrived a large crowd had gathered around a pool of blood on the sidewalk, but the victim and shooter were gone.

Beck said she waited a day to tell police Herbin was the shooter because she was afraid of possible retaliation by the suspect. She said she initially only gave them his description.

Defense attorney Randall Hetrick asked that two of the reckless endangering charges be dismissed because the two victims did not testify.

Amodie decided to send all charges to court.

Herbin will be formally arraigned in the next few months in common pleas court and then a trial date will be set.

cioffi@vindy.com




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