REBERT DAY 4: Testimony reveals Rebert’s continued drug use
BROOKVILLE — Two acquaintances of Steven P. Rebert took the witness stand for the prosecution in his double murder trial Thursday, both testifying to Rebert’s abuse of drugs — mainly Oxycontin.
Rebert, formerly of Emporium, faces charges in the shooting deaths of Wayne and Vickie Shugars, both 61, who were found dead April 12, 2010 in their home on Coal Tipple Road, Brockway.
First, District Attorney Jeffrey Burkett called Marc Cirrincione of Clarence, N.Y., a friend of Rebert’s since the late 1980s.
After identifyng the defendant in the courtroom, Cirrincione said that he informed law enforcement in May 2010 that Rebert had recently appeared at his home wanting to sell jewelry and coins.
Burkett asked Cirrincione if there was any conversation about a criminal investigation in Pennsylvania. Cirrincione replied yes, saying that Rebert said that the police had his computer.
Cirrincione said that Rebert returned to his home some weeks later, acting nervous and by asking to stay with him.
Burkett asked Cirrincione if he knew of any TV shows that Rebert liked to watch. Cirrincione said that he liked “CSI,” and that he thought of him as a loner.
Under cross-examination, defense attorney John Ingros asked Cirrincione, “Are you aware of any controlled substance use?” Cirrincione answered, “Yes; Painkillers, marijuana, cocaine and alcohol.”
Cirrincione also said that Rebert would tell him that he did wild amounts of drugs, such as 40 Oxycontin pills a day.
Burkett next called Arwwen Eckenroad Strahl of St. Marys to testify.
She said she had met Rebert in 2009 through her ex-husband Cyle Strahl, and that both she and her ex had sold Oxycontin for Rebert several times.
Strahl said that she felt bad for Rebert, who was reportedly going through a “rough patch” with finances and his utilities being terminated.
Burkett asked Stahl if Rebert would often borrow her vehicle. She said she let him borrow her truck to go to New York.
Strahl also told the jury that on two occasions, she accompanied Rebert on trips to New York, once to the home of Cirrincione and another time to buy Oxycontin. She said that she and Rebert often snorted the drug together.
She also testified that around April and May 2010, Rebert started to make her feel uncomfortable and threatened, causing her to want to cut her ties with him.
She said in April 2010, Rebert asked her to keep his camera bag at her house, because he did not want the police to find it. Strahl also said she never looked into the bag before giving it back to Rebert May 4. 2010.
Strahl also referenced a time in May 2010 when Rebert asked for a ride to the woods, where he said he had something buried.
“It was quite a ways out there,” she said. “We pulled into a spot, and he said, ‘Don’t look, keep looking forward. If you see where I’m going or what I’m doing, I’ll have to kill you.’”
Burkett asked Strahl if Rebert ever mentioned Michelle Bright, who worked for Vicky Shugar at Flowers & More in Brockway. She said that Rebert told her they had a romantic relationship, but were then just good friends.
Upon cross-examination by Ingros, Strahl said that Rebert also thought the police had him bugged.
Ingros asked her if she thought Rebert was paranoid, to which she said he had started acting a lot differnt, nervous, mean and flying off the handle for no reason.
Also testifying Thursday:
• Burkett called to the stand PSP Trooper John Lovett, who was assigned to Emporium during April 2010.
As part of his duty, Lovette said he assisted in the April 29, 2010, transport of Rebert’s 1987 Mercury Marquis by Zimmerman Towing after receiving a call from PSP Sgt. Thomas Chelgren to follow the wrecker with Rebert’s vehicle, along with Trooper Robbie Fedder through Emporium to St. Marys.
The defense did not question Lovett.
• Next, Burkett asked Fedder if he also had occasion to transport the defendant’s vehicle. Fedder said that he followed the car with Lovett from Ridgway to the Troop C PSP barracks in Punxsutawney, where they were met by Sgt. Shawn Fischer.
Under cross-examination, Ingros asked Fedder if the tow truck made any stops along the way. Fedder said it stopped for fuel once, but that he remained with the truck.
• Fischer, now of PSP Troop B, said that he was the prior patrol supervisor at Troop C barracks for two-and-a-half years, including the date of April 29, 2010, when Rebert’s vehicle arrived at the Troop C barracks.
Fischer said that he met Fedder, who was escorting the tow truck, in the parking lot before securing the vehicle in a storage bay in a separate building.
Ingros then asked Fischer, “Once the car was in the bay was it secured?” Fischer said it was, and that Crpl. Jeff Kunselman provided him with the keys to secure it, adding that there is limited access to the building which houses the bay.
Ingros then asked Fischer if there is a connection to the building, and if it was open for deliveries. Fischer said it was during the day hours.
• Crpl. Robert Logan of the staff services Unit at the Troop C barracks, and who serves as evidence custodian, said he was involved in securing and preserving the items taken into evidence in the case and was present for the search of Rebert’s vehicle.
Logan said that when troopers obtained Rebert’s vehicle, they did not have keys to the trunk. The keys were then obtained from Rebert May 3, 2010.
Burkett asked Logan about the property record of items collected from the trunk of Rebert’s car as being an unknown brand of black work boots, a black T-shirt, a baseball cap and a March 2, 2010, edition of The Courier Express, to which Logan agreed.
Logan was also asked about a Dell XPS computer seized from Rebert’s home with a warrant, as well as evidence collected during the autopsies of the Shugars.
Logan said he was responsible for transporting the items from the DuBois station to the crime lab in Erie.
Upon cross-examining Logan, Ingros asked about the customary method for evidence collection and preservation — in particular, items collected from the Coal Tipple Road residence of the Shugars, including three spent cartridges, a live cartridge, various throw rugs, quilts, aluminum cans, carpet sections and five lifted finger prints.
Logan explained the process used at the scene April 13, 2010, and April 14, 2010, noting that a trooper was always posted at the residence for the duration of the search.
• Troop C special commander Bernard Petrovsky said some of the items taken into custody were a metal ammunition canister containing a white envelope of money; a 1953 Red Seal $2; nine Sacagawea coins; and several silver dollars.
Petrovsky also testified that during a conversation with Rebert the day he came to retrieve his car, Rebert asked when he could get his computer and laptop back, and that Rebert said he had erased everyting off it, and police would not find anything.
• PSP Cpl. Dave Burlingane testified as expert on the forensic science of firearms.
Burlingane said that April 27, 2010, Trooper Sean Compton gave him one discharged cartridge and one mutilated cartridge from the crime scene for forensic analysis. Burlingane established that the bullets could have been fired from a 9mm, a .380 or a .357 firearm.
• D. Matthew Powell, who now serves in the computer crime unit at PSP-Indiana, told the jury about performing computer analysis on Rebert’s laptop and desktop tower.