REBERT DAY 2: Son feared the worst upon arrival at parents’ house
BROOKVILLE — The son of a slain Snyder Township couple took the witness stand Tuesday during the second day of Steven P. Rebert’s double-homicide trial, saying that when he arrived at his parents’ home and found both of their vehicles parked in the driveway, he began fearing the worst.
Jason Shugar, a son of the victims — Victoria and Wayne Shugar, Coal Tipple Road — said he last spoke to his parents Saturday, April 10, 2010, and described how his mother had asked him to help removing some items in second-floor room that the couple wanted to refurbish.
But Jason’s father, Wayne, told him not to worry about it.
“He didn’t like asking for help,” Jason said.
The man accused of killing the parents of Jason Shugar and his siblings is Rebert, 46, formerly of Emporium, who faces double homicide charges in the shooting deaths of the Shugars, both 61.
Testifying Tuesday for District Attorney Jeffrey Burkett, Jason Shugar said he had not heard from his parents the rest of April 10 or April 11.
But while working April 12, 2010, he received a call from his wife, Jennifer, who said she had received a call from Michelle Bright, an employee of Victoria Shugar’s at Flowers & More in Brockway.
Jennifer Shugar told her husband that Bright called her because Vicky was not at work for her customarily early Monday, and after
repeated calls and texts,Bright still had heard nothing from her.
Jason Shugar testified that he continued working for a little bit but then decided to ask one of his co-workers to drive him to his parents house so he could see what the situation was.
Upon arriving at the Shugar residence on Coal Tipple Road — where Jason Shugar had grown up — he noticed that both of his parents’ vehicles were parked in the driveway, and not the garage, as one of them usually was.
Entering the residence through a patio entrance, Jason Shugar looked on the first and second floors, calling his parents’ names, before he decided to look in the basement, which had the house’s only functioning shower.
Jason Shugar said he flipped a switch at the top of the basement stairs, which illuminated a bulb at the bottom of the staircase. He said he descended the stairs, where he found a scale at the bottom, which was strange.
He looked to the left into the sewing room, and saw something unusual — a quilt lying on the floor, with a cardboard box on top.
Jason Shugar said he pulled back the quilt to find his father on his back, his right arm over his forehead. Next to his father, he found his mother, face, down, her foot appearing from under the quilt.
Departing the house, Jason Shugar testified that he called 911 and told the dispatcher that “my parents are dead.” When the dispatcher asked him if he was sure, he said he then returned to the house, this time with his co-worker following behind, and again investigated the sewing room.
He said he pulled back the quilt further, to find his parents lying on the floor, waist to waist facing opposite directions.
Jason Shugar said he felt his father’s hand, then his mother’s foot, and knew they were dead.
Later Tuesday, Jefferson County Coroner Bernard P. Snyder testified that he pronounced Wayne Shugar dead at 6:20 p.m. and Vicky Shugar dead at 6:22 p.m. April 12, 2010.
In his continued testimony, Jason Shugar spoke about his father’s collection of rare and unusual currency, such as red- and green-label $2 and $5 bills; Indian head coins and Sacagawea coins, among others.
Jason Shugar testified that his father would distribute some of the currency to his sons in a specific manner: Loose coins in a Ziploc bag, as well as a white envelope containing the bills, and the son’s name written on the envelope, which he would also place into the Ziploc bag.
Wayne Shugar distributed the currency very evenly among his children, Jason said, and generally for only special occasions, the last being the death of Vicky’s mother.
Burkett asked him if, when the scene was cleared by police following the homicides, he and his brothers discovered some unusual things out of place in the kitchen.
Jason Shugar said yes: While retrieving a clean towel from a drawer, they found their father’s wallet, which was not usually kept in the drawer.
He also said they found a crumpled-up wad of white paper on the counter. When they opened it, the wad was two envelopes, each bearing the name of their son Jeff’s children, Tristan and Alexandra.
Jason Shugar said there was no mistake that the hand-writing on the envelope was that of his father.
Under cross-examination by defense attorney John Ingros, Jason Shugar said upon his arrival at his parents’ house April 12, 2010, he found their vehicles parked unusually.
When asked by Ingros why one of the vehicles was not parked in the garage, Jason Shugar said the bay was perhaps blocked by some items that had already been moved from the upstairs bedroom that his parents wanted to renovate.
In other testimony Tuesday:
• James Kennedy, a sales associate for a floral supply company in Pittsburgh, testified that Vicky Shugar was one of his clients, and he was in frequent contact with her regarding orders during the week.
He said clients could speak with him personally about orders, or leave their orders via a voicemail system that sales associates would check.
Kennedy said Vicky Shugar frequently ordered items Wednesday and either Saturday or late Sunday, adding that he was surprised that he had not heard from her either Saturday, April 10, or Sunday, April 11.
He said he called Vicky Shugar to see if there had been a misunderstanding about a promotion, but did not reach her.
• Ruth Thompson, formerly of Brockway and a former employee of Vicky Shugar, said she moved South about five years ago but made annual visits to Brockway. During those visits, she would stop by Flowers & More to see Vicky.
During one of these visits, when Vicky was in the back of the shop, Thompson was struck up in conversation by a man she did not know. She described him as disheveled, and as soon as Vicki emerged from the back, the man left the store.
Thompson testified she shared the story with Vicky, who replied, “’Do you know who that is? That’s the man stalking Michelle (Bright).’”
When Burkett asked if the man was in court, Thompson said she did not know Rebert when he was pointed out to her, because he looked different from that encounter.
• Justin Modeaus, an independent contractor for installing and upgrades of cable technologies, said he contracted Rebert — whom he had met years earlier in Georgia — for work by Zito Media Main Queue in March 2010 in the Brockway — including Coal Tipple Road — and St. Marys areas.
He said he contracted Rebert for three days of work in Brockway and the other two in St. Marys. Once that work was done, he said, there would have been no other reason — work-related — to return, since he had turned in his invoice to Zito.
In later testimony, David Ruckel, tech manager for Zito, confirmed that Modeaus had submitted the invoice for that work, and said that all contracted work would have been completed before Feb. 25, 2010.
Also in his testimony, Modeaus said when driving past Flowers & More in Brockway, Rebert said to him, “’That’s where that ... woman works.’”
When a sked why he paused, Modeaus said “woman” not the word Rebert used, in fact saying, “’That’s where that (expletive), Michelle, works.’”
Burkett asked Modeaus about his impression of the relationship between Rebert and Bright. Modeaus said based on what Rebert had said to him — including talk about sex — he was under the impression that it was a romantic relationship.
He also discussed a day that both he and Rebert — unable to work on a project — were both at a Route 6, Coudersport area bar/restaurant, where Bright was also.
Modeaus said the greeting between the two suggested his impression of an intimate relationship, but he told Ingros that based on that same greeting, he was unsure of what the relationship was.
When Ingros asked why, he told Burkett he thought the relationship was intimate, but told him he wasn’t sure, Modeaus repeated that he was not sure.
When Burkett asked if Rebert had any weapons, Modeaus said he knew of a Winchester rifle, and a small, black handgun that he described as “cheap-looking like it has been made in China.” He said he thought the weapon was a 380 caliber.
Modeaus also testified that he used drugs with Rebert — including marijuana and Oxycontin — and that Rebert was interested in finding a remote location in which to grow marijuana. He also described Rebert’s drug use as “steady.”