BROOKVILLE — After almost two years, the double-murder trial of Steven Patrick Rebert Monday, began Monday, with the prosecution guiding the jury into what it could expect to hear, and the defense noting that the prosecution presented its opening arguments with no evidence of Rebert’s guilt.
Rebert, formerly of Emporium, faces double homicide charges in the shooting deaths of Victoria Lynn Shugar and Wayne Shugar, both 61, who were found dead April 12, 2010, in their Coal Tipple Road home, Brockway.
In his two-hour opening statement, District Attorney Jeffrey Burkett described the scene the night the Shugars died, as he presented what he called a "road map" for the case so the jury could better understand what was ahead.
Burkett said April 10, 2010, was just like any other Saturday night at the Shugars’ residence, located on what was then known as Coal Tipple Road, but has since been renamed Shugar Road.
“Vicky was lounging in her pajamas and was watching television, while Wayne was working on a puzzle in another room,” Burkett said.
The Shugars had no idea what was in store for them that night, he said.
“Wayne, who was always outdoors when the weather was good, had fed the fish in his pond one last time,” he said. “Several neighbors said that they observed Wayne performing the ritual just before dusk, which is about 7:30 p.m. in April.”
Burkett then described the events of Monday, April 12, 2010, when the couple’s bodies were discovered.
Vicky owned Flowers & More in Brockway, and her employee, Michelle Bright, was concerned when Vicky did not show up for work, because she always arrived at the shop between 4 and 6 a.m. to place the out-of-town orders.
Bright expected to hear something from Vicky that morning, yet there were no responses from her phone calls and text messages.
Bright called Jennifer Shugar, who is married to the Shugars’ son, Jason Shugar, who then called her husband. He and one of his employees traveled to the Coal Tipple Road residence — where he grew up — where, upon entering through a back door, he saw an area in the basement where there was a cardboard box and quilt.
Eventually, he lifted the quilt to find his parents dead, Burkett said.
The subsequent investigation culminated in Rebert’s arrest.
“This is not evidence; that will happen on the witness stand, and there are videos,” Burkett said. “I’m here to give you a road map; there are boxes of evidence; you need to know what’s coming.”
Burkett said the jury would hear about the crime scene and what police discovered in their investigation, such as the curious sight of rugs, quilts and a set of scales at the scene in the basement.
“It will become apparent they were killed there, with blood under the throw rugs, and there were more newspapers under the throw rugs covered in blood,” he said. “The throw rugs allowed the actor to walk through the crime scene and not pick up blood spatter.”
Through testimony, the jury would also learn, Burkett said, that the victims suffered five gunshot wounds — three to Wayne Shugar, two to Vicky Shugar.
Burkett said during the autopsy, blood was drawn for DNA profiling, and May 24, 2010, human blood was found on the right foot and left foot of Rebert’s boot. In a partial DNA profile, the middle sole of the right boot and heel and middle sole of the left DNA blood samples matched the DNA profile of Wayne Shugar.
And the gun? “We don’t have one,” Burkett said. “Evidence is that the defendant is good at hiding things out in the woods. One state trooper saw him visit such a site; they’ve looked high and low.”
The jury must be convinced that this crime had to have something to do with Rebert’s obsession with Bright, who worked at Vickie’s flower shop in Brockway, he said.
“We need to prove he did it, we don’t have to prove why,” Burkett said. “We are dealing with a huge amount of information.”
He also said that during jury selection, the jurors heard the the phrase “cloaked in innocence until proven guilty.”
“This is the proceeding where that cloak of innocence can be removed,” Burkett said. “We will come to you to remove the cloak of the presumption of innocence and find him guilty of all charges.”
Following lunch, Public Defender John Ingros, who is defending Rebert with Jacqueline “Sis” Mizerock and Michael Marshall, said, “Everything the district attorney told you is interesting; we’ve heard no evidence as of yet.
“This was a horrible crime, and it should never have happened,” Ingros said, adding that the only way it could be worse is if the wrong man is convicted.
“We’re going to do our best to show the defendant’s side,” he said. “Pay attention as we go through it all. Sometimes, there’s not going to be flashing lights.”
Ingros said there’s a lot of testimony, and some small fact could make a difference.
“You have to decide beyond a reasonable doubt as to whether or not he is guilty,” he said.