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Recent Hill District Fatal Shooting Sheds Light On Witness Protection

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(Photo Credit: KDKA)

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

FREELAND-WEB-HEADSHOT-2013 Lynne Hayes-Freeland
Lynne Hayes-Freeland is a general assignment reporter known for live,...
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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – It’s been several days now and still no arrest in the shooting death of a female witness in a federal drug case.

The woman was ambushed and gunned down near the Hill District.

She’s the second local witness to be killed in recent months.

We wanted to know if there’s anything that can be done to protect these witnesses and it appears the answers is, it depends.

“We call it witness relocation,” said Allegheny County Police Supt. Charles Moffatt.

But more people would call it witness protection. It isn’t that program you see on your favorite crime show, where a witness is in protective custody until they have to testify.

Witness relocation operates a bit differently here than on TV.

“We move the person or persons from an area where they live to another area maybe in Western Pennsylvania, or maybe in Allegheny County,” said Moffatt.

Tina Crawford, 34, of the Upper Hill, was reportedly preparing to meet with prosecutors handling the case of a Mt. Washington-based drug operation. Crawford was gunned down Friday and her mother, Patsy, was seriously injured. Her exact role in this is unclear.

“I can not comment on any specific case,” said Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane. “We try to make sure people are safe, whether they are on the street, whether they’re witnesses, no matter what.”

But cases like Crawford’s — or that of 15-year-old Leroy Powell, a key witness in a Duquesne homicide who was gunned down days after he testified at a preliminary hearing – raised new questions on protection for witnesses who do come forward.

“They have to be willing participants to go into this program,” said Moffatt. “As you well know, we can not make a person go into the relocation program.”

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