REBERT DAY 3: Video shows Rebert at three stores the day of murders
BROOKVILLE — Jurors during the third day of Steven P. Rebert’s double-homicide trial learned how he left a video trail of surveillance of him stopping at Sheetz as he made his way to the home of Wayne and Vickie Shugar, Coal Tipple Road, Brockway.
Rebert, formerly of Emporium, faces double homicide charges in the shooting deaths of the Shugars, both 61, who were found dead April 12, 2010, in their home.
Testifying for District Attorney Jeffrey Burkett, Stephanie Lee Coral, a loss investigator for Sheetz, described how she assists police in Brockway, Emporium and St. Marys with investigations — including the Shugars’ case — involving stores in those regions.
Burkett asked that five video CDs — all showing the correct time stamp — be entered into evidence from the Brockway, St. Marys and Emporium stores.
Rebert’s attorney John Ingros asked how jurors could know the time and date stamps are accurate. Coral replied that time is synchronized through Sheetz.com from NASA and U.S. Navy servers, and all stores are synched with the central time server on the Internet.
Burkett’s next witness, Tpr. Tim Wittman, a 20-year trooper and criminal investigator assigned to the Marienville PSP barracks, reviewed the surveillance footage from all three Sheetz stores to see if Rebert turned up in their videos either March 3 or April 10, 2010, which is believed to be the day the Shugars were killed in the basement of their home.
Wittman testified that he was able to observe Rebert arrive and leave at all three Sheetz stores — on both dates in question — in his 1987 Mercury Marquis.
The jury viewed the video surveillance following lunch, which corresponded with the following testimony:
• Wittman said March 3, 2010, Rebert’s dark-colored vehicle was seen via the front lot camera at Sheetz in Brockway as he drove into the lot, as he was traveling southbound and as he made a left turn into the parking lot.
Wittman said the side door view showed Rebert entering the store, where his car was parked outside, at 7:43 a.m. March 3, 2010, as well as Rebert leaving the store at 7:50 a.m..
“The front door view shows Rebert walking through the store, and the clothes he was wearing match the description of the person whose car was parked on Coal Tipple Road March 3, 2010, and was later identified as his, after the plate was run by state police,” Wittman said.
• Rebert was also identified in a video at Sheetz in Emporium — located near Rebert’s 422 North Broad St. residence — April 10, 2010.
The video showed Rebert pumping gas into his car, then pulling onto Route 120.
Wittman said Rebert returned again at 6:59 p.m. to the Emporium Sheetz, then departed and turned onto Route 120 toward St. Marys.
• A dumpster camera view from Sheetz in St. Marys showed Rebert pulling in at 7:22 p.m. from Route 120, behind the store where the dumpster was located, he said.
That video showed Rebert wearing a shirt that bore logos on the front and the back as previously described, as well as the ball cap that was described, Wittman said, Rebert also purchased a drink in a cup, a snack and a lottery ticket, and he checked the air in his tires.
Wittman said at 7:26 p.m., Rebert got back in his vehicle and departed Sheetz at 7:28 p.m., turning right and driving toward Brockway.
• Rebert was next observed by surveillance video at 8:03 p.m. at Sheetz in Brockway, when he pulled up to the gas pumps, cleaned his windshield, entered the store and purchased a scratch-off lottery ticket.
Wittman said he was still wearing the same T-shirt with a logo on the left front chest area and ball cap, he said.
Wittman said the front lot view camera showed Rebert’s vehicle leaving the Sheetz lot and pulling onto Route 28 in Brockway and heading south toward Coal Tipple Road.
Burkett had no further questions for Wittman, and Ingros said he had no questions regarding the Sheetz video footage.
Burkett next called Cpl. Jeff S. Lee, a 19-year criminal investigator for Troop C.
Lee said he interviewed Michelle Bright, who worked for Vicky Shugar at her Brockway business, Flowers & More, and who had been friends with Rebert when she had her own flower shop in Coudersport.
Lee testified that he interviewed Bright in DuBois, informing her that state police would possibly arrest Rebert for the Shugars’ murders.
“She put her hands over her face and cried, ‘Why would he do this? They were so nice,’” said Lee, who also identified Rebert in the courtroom at Burkett’s request.
Lee said April 25, 2010, he and Tpr. David Ray traveled to Emporium to interview Rebert at his home. Lee said while knocking on the door, they heard a dog barking and man inside.
Lee identified himself to Rebert as an investigator with PSP and asked to speak with him. Rebert said he had to put the dog away and closed the door on the front porch, Lee said.
“We waited for four minutes, and suddenly, he came walking up between his house and the church next door and asked us if we wanted some parsnips,” he said, adding that Rebert was fine with the troopers entering his home.
“I told him we were conducting an important investigation, and asked if he could help us out with some information,” Lee said. “He wasn’t too interested in what we were talking about.”
Lee said he asked Rebert if he had heard of Coal Tipple Road, about which Rebert replied, “’Coal Triple? I don’t think so.’”
Lee told Rebert that his vehicle had been seen on Coal Tipple Road March 3, 2010, and he was seen walking along the road carrying a 30-30 rifle and two knives.
He said that Rebert told him he, while performing fiber optic installation in that area for a cable contractor, had a backpack that day and was carrying a gun to get into shape for hunting out West. Lee said Rebert described the gun as a good brush gun and the only one he owned.
Rebert said if the officers had a map of the area, he could identify the road, and see if that was one of the roads he had been working on, Lee said, adding that Ray suggested that if Rebert had a computer, they could look it up on the Internet.
Rebert replied that his printer was broken, Lee said. Ray said he didn’t need the printer, and that they could just look at it on the screen, Lee said.
Rebert ignored Ray’s statement and started talking about hunting, Lee testified.
Rebert also said the last time he was in Brockway was at the end of March, close to his birthday, Lee said.
Lee said when he asked Rebert if he knew the Shugars, he replied that he had never met them, but had once been at the flower shop in Brockway to purchase flowers for his mother.
Lee said he asked Rebert about the last time he saw Bright, and Rebert replied it was the year before at Sheetz in Emporium when he was purchasing cigarettes.
Lee asked Rebert if Bright was working the day he purchased flowers, to which Rebert replied that he and Bright were just friends, and wasn’t sure if she was working the day he was at the flower shop.
Lee said he then asked Rebert if he could drive himself to the Emporium PSP barracks. Rebert replied that he could not, because the muffler had fallen off his car. He again told the troopers that if they could bring him a map, he could show them where he had been installing fiber optic cable near Brockway.
Lee said Rebert never acknowledged the investigation into the double-homicide.
April 29, 2010, Lee said he, along with Tpr. Mike Kopas, returned to Rebert’s home with a search warrant for his home and car. When they went to the door, there was no response, Lee said.
Then, a person who looked like Rebert was seen walking a dog and was approached by police, Lee said. When he asked the troopers what they wanted, Lee told him that they had brought a map of the area so he could see if he’d been on Coal Tipple Road.
Troopers asked Rebert if he had been on Coal Tipple Road March 3, Lee testified. Rebert responded that he was supposed to work that day, but the person he worked with hadn’t shown up.
When Lee asked Rebert if he had been in Brockway April 10, 2010, Rebert said he had not, and that he had never been inside the Shugars’ residence.
Lee said that Kopas repeated the question, and Rebert responded that “he was home, not spending any money that day.”
Burkett asked Lee if Rebert asked why April 10 was important. Lee replied that there was never any discussion about the crime.
Lee testified that he then asked Rebert the last time he saw Michelle Bright. Rebert replied that she had been with him for his birthday, and they walked in the woods — a different answer than the one he gave to Lee and Ray April 25.
Lee said when he told Rebert that they had evidence that he was in Brockway April 10, 2010, Rebert replied that the police were lying, and there wasn’t any type of evidence.
Rebert agreed to talk with him in his unmarked PSP patrol car, Lee said, adding, “Rebert sat in the passenger-side front-seat and kept his right foot out the door on the ground the whole time that I talked with him. I served him with a search warrant, and he never asked what it was for.”
Lee said Kopas asked Rebert if he was sure he wasn’t in Brockway April 10. Kopas then showed Rebert a still photograph of him from the Sheetz surveillance video. The day of that interview, Rebert was wearing the same hat as in the video.
Rebert said the person in the video looked like him, unless he has a twin, Lee testified, and that Rebert said the video was from St. Marys. But Kopas told him it was from the Sheetz in Brockway.
Lee said he asked Rebert what he was doing there that day, and he replied he didn’t know, and that he wasn’t familiar with the shirt with all the logos in the video.
“Everyone has a twin,” Rebert said, Lee testified.
Kopas said Rebert’s vehicle was in the video, to which Rebert replied that there were a lot of vehicles like his.
Lee asked where the shoes were he wore in the video. Rebert said those were his work boots. He then told Lee that he’s just a country boy and not a murderer.
“’I would never do anything like this, not even for money,’” Rebert said, Lee testified..
Under cross-examination, Ingros asked Lee if Bright had said that Rebert had committed the murder on June 11, 2010, when he interviewed her. Lee replied that she did not say Rebert had committed the murders.
Ingros then asked if Lee confused Rebert when he asked him the last time he had seen Bright. Lee said the question was the same both times.
When Ingros asked Lee if he took notes, Lee said he took notes April 25 as he questioned Rebert and during the April 29 interview in the car, and that he wrote the notes the same day at a later time.
Police confiscated computers and his car, which was towed from his home in Emporium, to the Punxsutawney barracks for processing.
Ingros asked what Bright had said about Rebert when they first interviewed her March 17, 2010. Lee said Bright described Rebert as paranoid, and that she changed her description of the pistol he wanted her to have.
Lee said she explained that she was wrong when she had earlier described the gun Rebert gave her as a cowboy gun.