INDIANA, Pa. (KDKA) – Three years ago this month — the morning of Feb. 4 2017 — David Zweig got the call every parent fears most.
“And I’m one of those people that got that call that your child had passed away. I felt a searing burning coming through my body in my head.”
His beloved son Caleb — a 20-year-old IUP student who loved sports, his motorcycle and his dad — was dead as the result of a late night altercation with a frat brother named Brady DiStefano. Police would soon charge DiStefano with criminal homicide and aggravated assault.
But after three years and a series of disputed court decisions, the case has never gone to trial and remains in judicial limbo, compounding a father’s pain and loss.
“Here we are grieving completely over the loss of my healthy 20-year-old son and yet I’m in this morass — this legal morass — of nonsense. I mean, how much longer can this go on? This is three years.”
At the preliminary hearing, a witness said he told police Caleb Zweig, DiStefano and others were drinking that night and that DiStefano became visibly drunk, so Caleb volunteered to walk him home.
On the way, the witness said he heard arguing. The witness testified that when he turned around he saw DiStefano on Caleb Zweig with his hand on or around his neck. And that’s when he pulled Distefano off of Zweig was unresponsive.
The magistrate ordered DiStefano held for court and the case was assigned to Indiana County Common Pleas Judge William Martin.
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But instead of bringing it to trial, Martin threw the charges out, agreeing with DiStefano’s attorney — Thomas Dickey — who argued at the time the evidence against his client weak since the witness couldn’t definitively say that DiStefano choked Zweig and an autopsy found no marks around Zweig’s neck.
“Mechanical strangulation? Which absolutely, positively, you heard the doctor say there’s no evidence of that whatsoever. Chokehold? Nothing. Nothing to support that,” Dickey told us at the time.
But former Indiana County District Attorney Patrick Dougherty appealed the case to the state superior court, saying it was clear Zweig died as the result of an assault.
“What we have is a young man, college age, who should not be dead today. He didn’t just walk down the street and keel over dead. He died as a result of somebody else’s actions. Our argument all along is that is a question for the jury,” Dougherty said.
In its decision, the Superior Court sent the case back to Judge Martin to be tried. But, to the dismay of the Zweig family, only reinstated the aggravated assault charge, not criminal homicide.
And, what’s more, in agreeing to bring the assault charge to trial, Judge Martin issued another controversial ruling: the jury would not be able to hear that Caleb Zweig died.
“It’s outrageous,” said David Zweig.
In one of his last acts as district attorney, Dougherty appealed again.
SHEEHAN: It seems you would have your hands tied behind your back if you can’t even tell the jury that Caleb Zweig died as a result of this altercation.
DOUGHERTY: Which is why we filed the appeal to the appellate court. To get that reviewed to hopefully present that information.
It is said that justice delayed is justice denied.
Said David Zweig: “You’re left to wonder and wait and suffer while these legal machinations go and on and on and on and on and on.”