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Man Found Not Guilty In Fatal Parking Lot Shooting Case

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

Harold Hayes Harold Hayes
Harold Hayes joined KDKA-TV in August of 1979 as a general assignment...
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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Brandon Thomas walked into court in custody, but by the end of the day, his sentence was time served.

A jury found him not guilty of first-degree murder, third-degree murder and voluntary manslaughter. He was only convicted of possession of drug paraphernalia.

It took Washington County jurors three hours to reach a verdict.

KDKA’s Christine D’Antonio Reports:

The jury apparently agreeing that the shooting of Vaughn Simonelli during a road rage argument in a Washington County Shop ‘N Save parking lot was self-defense.

“Feels good, to say the least. Sorry I’m not more articulate,” said Thomas as he was released. “Feels real good. It’s a long-awaited day. There’s more than one victim in this case, and from my family to everyone else, our condolences go out. I’m just glad justice was served.”

His wife, BethAnne, was in tears the entire time.

“He’s an amazing man,” she said. “I’m very lucky to have him in my life.”

Thomas’ mother says for her son, an Army veteran who severed in Iraq and Afghanistan, the verdict has been a long time coming.

“A lot of relief,” added his mother, Leah Thomas. “Brandon served his time. He’s done the right thing for us and our country and now justice is in his favor.”

KDKA’s Harold Hayes Reports:

U.S. Army Warrant Officer Jeremiah Minor, who served with him in Afghanistan and who came to the trial dressed in his uniform, was pleased.

“We feel like justice has been served here. The truth got out. It’s just clear cut. Thomas was threatened and then he retreated and then he had to defend himself. And there was no other option there,” he said.

Thomas’ lawyer Frank Walker argued self-defense from the beginning.

“The jury saw the Castle Doctrine; they recognized it and they followed it. He’s in his car and there’s a presumption that he’s safe there. Anyone intruding on that – in that car while he’s in there – is subject to him defending himself and that’s what he did,” Walker said.

The family of the victim declined comment after trial.

KDKA’s Harold Hayes Reports:

Washington County District Attorney Eugene Vittone said he knew the case was tough from the beginning.

“There was conflicting evidence. It’s a difficult case. We knew that going in,” said Vittone. “However, we thought that it was a case that needed to be tried and the jury didn’t agree with the evidence that was presented and that’s the system we have.”

Judge Katherine Emery told Thomas both he and the victim should have made better decisions that day.

She also told him she believed he needed both drug and mental health help and hoped that he would get it.

After the verdict, Judge Emery sentenced Thomas to time served on the drug paraphernalia charge. He was then released from jail.

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