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Police: Victor Steban Charged With Killing Mara Casale And Jacob Erdeljac In Penn Township

By: KDKA-TV News Staff

GREENSBURG, Pa. (KDKA) -- State police say they have captured a man wanted for questioning in connection with a series of violent incidents in Westmoreland County, including a double homicide in Penn Township.

Victor Steban, 53, was taken into custody without incident on Tuesday. Eyewitnesses described the open-highway arrest: a swarm of police officers, panicked drivers and a helicopter hovering overhead.

WATCH: KDKA's Nicole Ford Reports

Steban was originally taken to the North Huntingdon Police Department for questioning but was later moved to the Penn Township Police Department. He is charged with two counts of homicide, burglary, robbery and other charges in connection to a double homicide in Penn Township.

The victims, 27-year-old Mara Casale and 40-year-old Jacob Erdeljac, were found Monday on Claridge-Elliott Road in Penn Township.

"He basically admitted that he was lying in wait when Maura and Jacob returned home on Sunday evening after being on a motorcycle ride that afternoon. He immediately attacked them as they came onto the property," Westmoreland County District Attorney John Peck said.

victor steban mug
(Photo: Westmoreland County)

As far as the relationship between Erdeljac and Steban, the Westmoreland County DA said the two were acquaintances and that Steban said he felt disrespected by the younger man.

When he was escorted out of the North Huntington Police Department, Steban made one comment to reporters.

KDKA's Pam Surano: Were you trying to avenge something?

Steban: No, payback.

Steban wound up in handcuffs in the hot afternoon sun Tuesday afternoon, pinned down on the concrete along Route 30.

A viewer sent video to KDKA that shows Steban casually walking down Rt. 30, with officers surrounding him with their guns drawn. Witnesses say he appeared to know officers were after him and looked back at them several times.

KDKA's Meghan Schiller talked to three eyewitnesses who were posted up a little further down Route 30. They said they heard the police sirens and spotted the Pennsylvania State Police helicopter hovering low above the BP gas station on Arona Road.

victor steban captured (2)
(Photo: NewsChopper 2/KDKA)
victor steban captured (1)
(Photo: NewsChopper 2/KDKA)
victor steban captured
(Photo: NewsChopper 2/KDKA)

As police swarmed the area following a tip, witnesses say those unsuspecting drivers caught in the middle started ditching their cars and running to safety.

WATCH: KDKA's Briana Smith Reports

The witnesses described Steban as "just marching," as if he was waiting for police to "make the first move."

"It looked like he got tased and he just dropped like a sack of potatoes to the ground and then there were so many officers on top of him and they cuffed him and they kind of dispersed a bit," said witness Jessica Rain-Green.

WATCH: KDKA's Meghan Schiller Reports

Steban is well-known by local law enforcement, considering his criminal history goes back decades. His prior charges include felony aggravated assault, terroristic threats, reckless endangerment and illegally possessing a firearm.

His arrest comes just two hours after Pennsylvania State Police in Greensburg held a news conference to discuss the case. Investigators warned the public that was considered armed and dangerous.

Victor Steban arrest
(Photo: Corri Gross)

The ATF put out a $5,000 reward for anyone who gave them information that lead to Steban's capture.

According to state police, the investigation began over the weekend when three different houses were shot up in Hempfield and Sewickley Townships.

A house fire was also reported Saturday on N. Thompson Lane in North Huntingdon Township. The fire did not destroy the home, but did do some damage. The cause has yet to be determined.

Police paperwork shows the address is one that Steban has given to the courts before. Following his arrest, the Allegheny County Bomb Squad was brought to the N. Thompson Lane home.

Not long after the fire on Saturday night, reports started coming to law enforcement about the explosion of a classic car. The car sat parked in front of a garage along Clay Pike. Neighbors say the blast shook the ground.

Prior to Steban being arrested and charged, investigators said they wanted to question him in connection with the Penn Township double homicide.

"For us to not look at those events collectively and see what we can draw from them would be foolish. For us to try and determine that, in fact, they were all connected and not separate crimes would be equally as foolish," said Penn Township Police Chief John Otto. "It was a busy weekend. There are a lot of events similar in nature that have taken place and a lot of overlapping layers of investigation -- from the local to the county to the state to the federal government have put their heads together in an attempt to sort this out and figure out exactly what happened, why it happened, and how it happened."

Victor Steban
(Source: Pennsylvania State Police)

Photos from the scene on Monday afternoon showed a heavy law enforcement presence along Claridge-Elliot Road. The focal point of their investigation was the driveway of a farmhouse set back off the road. The couple who lived there kept to themselves and they were seen riding a motorcycle on Sunday afternoon.

Duquesne Light confirmed Erdeljac was an employee. A company spokesperson released a statement, saying:

"We can confirm that one of two deceased people found Monday morning at a home in Penn Township in Westmoreland County was employed by Duquesne Light Company. Our thoughts are with all those who are affected by this terrible tragedy."

A friend of Casale told KDKA's Jennifer Borrasso that the 27-year-old was a Penn-Trafford High School graduate.

Mara Casale Jacob Erdeljac
(Photo: Skis and Nick's/Duquesne Light)

"Somebody came here because they were looking for someone, and they found the crime scene," District Attorney Peck said on Monday. "They found them outside the home and it's apparent from the evidence gathered that they sustained gunshot wounds that killed them."

Penn Township Police put out an alert to be on the lookout for a red truck that was stolen from the victims and taken from the crime scene. Investigators later on Monday found that red truck in Manor Borough.

It belonged to the victims, police said.

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