The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

January 4, 2014

Trial for murder, arson, abuse of corpse case set

By Joe Pinchot
Herald Staff Writer

FRENCH CREEK TOWNSHIP — A judge who last month refused to let an alleged murderer out of jail has set his trial date.

Ralph L. Young, 45, of Franklin, is charged with first- and third-degree murder, arson and abuse of a corpse for allegedly shooting David A. Dignall, 58, of French Creek Township, pouring a flammable liquid on him and setting the body and Dignall’s van on fire Dec. 20, 2012, on Hollobaugh Road in the township.

Prosecutors allege the killing was the result of a dispute over the fate of Young’s mother’s 35-acre property near Franklin. Dignall and his wife, Alice, Young’s sister, bought the property and were charging Young rent to live there. Young, who wanted to start some kind of ministry on the property, had been living there rent-free.

Mercer County Common Pleas Court Judge Christopher J. St. John on Thursday set the trial for March 10, the day jury selection will begin.

Young’s attorney, Alexander H. Lindsay Jr., had filed a writ of habeas corpus to challenge the continued jailing of Young.

Lindsay argued the evidence is insufficient to show that Young might have committed the crime. He tried to cast doubt on DNA evidence because the DNA profiles of two other people – who are unknown – were found on a milk jug along with Young’s. The jug containing red-dyed diesel fuel was found outside the burning van, state police said.

District Judge D. Neil McEwen, Pine Township, found the evidence sufficient to hold the case for court at a May preliminary hearing.

St. John denied the motion for habeas corpus in an order filed Dec. 18, but did not write an opinion explaining his decision.

Young has been in custody without bail since May 13.