PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Michael Branch’s case is headed to trial. He waived his right to a preliminary hearing at the magistrate’s office.
KDKA’s Amy Wadas talked to Barbara Gongaware, 68, as she was headed into court for 49-year-old Michael Branch’s preliminary hearing.
Amy Wadas: Hi, Barbara, how are you doing?
Barbara Gongaware: Good. I have no comment at this moment.
Amy Wadas: I just want to ask you how you’re feeling?
Barbara Gongaware: Shaky.
Gongaware was brutally attacked while working the register at Family Dollar in North Versailles at the end of March. Police say Branch put her in a headlock, pulled her to the ground then kicked her multiple times during a robbery attempt.
Amy Wadas: Do you have anything to say, Michael?
Michael Branch: I have no comment.
Even though Branch had nothing to say, Gongaware’s son, Charles Bennett, did.
“I grew up in the area. I know a lot of people and see what’s going on. I just hope this gentleman gets what he deserves and gets the help he needs,” Bennett said.
Gongaware’s right lung was bruised after the assault. Family members said she has healed physically but emotionally they say that’s another story.
“She forgets a lot of things. She’s not up to where she should be,” Gongaware’s brother, Glenn, said.
“She just gets jumpy to loud noises stuff like that. She’s a 68-year-old woman. She’s tough, but still a 68-year-old woman,” Bennett said.
The victim’s family said what they are most grateful for is the love and support they’ve received from the public.
“I would really like to thank North Versailles police and the media especially Facebook and the people who gave prayers out to my mother. It was really special and touched her heart,” Bennett said.
It’s unclear if and when Gongaware will return to work. She’s taking some time off.
Michael Branch’s formal arraignment is scheduled for June 7 at the courthouse downtown.