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Preliminary Hearing Delayed For Suspect In Fatal Parking Lot Shooting

WASHINGTON, Pa. (KDKA) - Citing "new witnesses who have come forward" the defense asked for, and was granted a delay in the preliminary hearing for a man accused in a fatal shooting in a shopping center parking lot last week.

Brandon Thomas, 30, is accused in the shooting death of Vaughn Simonelli in the Shop 'n Save parking lot, in Washington, Pa.

Thomas' attorney, Frank Walker, said his client was "shocked" that he is in jail and was planning to begin a job with Halliburton this week.

Walker said his client has three Purple Hearts and has received numerous letters of support from the Army's 173rd unit where he served in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Since his arrest last week on homicide charges in Washington, North Franklin police revealed that days before he'd been detained while sitting in a nightclub parking lot with a number of weapons, a bullet resistant vest and seemed disoriented.

Police suspected intoxication, but so far have not charged Thomas in connection with that case.

Today's hearing was to focus on what led up to the fatal shooting of Simonelli.

But the defense asked for a delay citing new witnesses and new information.

"I would have preferred that the motion be made yesterday or the day before that," prosecutor Michael Lucas said. "We wouldn't have had to inconvenience a number of witnesses but this is not unusual."

Walker also said reports of a previous police stop, which resulted in a cache of weapons being discovered, are "irrelevant" to this case.

"Those guns, him sitting in the car and whether or not he was charged -- and he wasn't charged with anything -- is just as irrelevant as the shoes he had on that day," Walker said. "It has nothing to do with it. Someone chased him down, they got in the parking lot, they attacked him and he defended himself. Period. No comma, nothing."

Citing medical confidentiality, Walker would not comment on reports that Thomas suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder resulting from his military service.

Families of both Thomas and Simonelli packed the courtroom Wednesday, but left the courthouse without comment.

Sheriff's deputies made sure they moved out of the courthouse separately.

A new hearing was set for Nov. 7.


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