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Herron: Only two in home during killing



Published: Wed, July 11, 2007 @ 12:00 a.m.

A special prosecutor has been named to investigate the shooting death.

By D.A. WILKINSON

VINDICATOR SALEM BUREAU

WELLSVILLE — There was only one other person in the house when 25-year-old Tonia Amato was killed July 1.

“Jack Amato Jr. and his wife were the only people present at the time of the shooting,” Columbiana County Prosecutor Robert Herron said Tuesday.

The victim, Herron said, was shot once. The county coroner’s office pronounced her dead at the scene. Her body was found in a living room area, Herron said.

A .45-caliber revolver is being tested to determine if it was used in the shooting. There were a number of other legal firearms in the house.

Herron said he obtained a search warrant for the home July 1.

The following day, he said, based on new information in the investigation, he obtained a second search warrant for the house. Police took several items, including a chair.

Herron declined to give more information about the ongoing investigation.

Conflicts of interest

A special prosecutor has been named to investigate the death that is complicated by conflicts of interest. Atty. Lynn A. Grimshaw of Wheelersburg, Ohio, who has worked as a special prosecutor, was appointed to head the investigation.

Herron said he knew immediately that he and Wellsville Police Chief Joe Scarabino would have to step aside in the death of Tonia Amato, wife of Amato Jr., 35, of 1200 Commerce St. Her father-in-law, Dr. Jack Amato, is a member of the county health department, which Herron represents.

Herron also said he knew he would also have to step aside because Dr. Amato would likely be a witness in the case. It was Dr. Amato who called Wellsville police from his son’s home about 1:40 p.m. July 1 and said there had been a shooting.

Scarabino removed himself from the case because he has used Dr. Amato’s shooting range and thought, apparently erroneously, that he was related by marriage to the Amato family. Scarabino was unavailable to comment.

The chief let one of his officers, Detective Jeff Weekley, handle the case.

The county coroner’s office, meanwhile, is awaiting results of a forensic autopsy by the Cuyahoga County coroner’s office. It often takes several months to complete the tests.

Defense lawyers

Wellsville lawyers Chris and Nick Amato have told Herron they are representing Amato Jr. They were unavailable to comment. The relationship between all the Amatos wasn’t immediately clear.

Chris Amato entered the shooting scene late July 1, with the permission of authorities, to get clothes for Amato Jr. to replace the ones he was wearing. Authorities wanted to test the clothes Amato Jr. was wearing as part of the investigation.

While inside the house, Angelo Luckino of Wellsville, an apparent friend of Amato Jr., was burned when gunpowder was ignited. The gunpowder was used to make bullets.

County Sheriff David Smith said Luckino was eventually taken to a Pittsburgh hospital for treatment.

Herron said of the entry to the house and the ignition, “I don’t believe they impacted the investigation in any respect.”

Smith said his office, along with Weekley, as well as the 3Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation, are working on the case.

Grimshaw, the special prosecutor, will be paid $150 an hour. He can also hire his own investigators.

wilkinson@vindy.com


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