Shelatree MUG

Shelatree

MERCER – Common Pleas President Judge Robert G. Yeatts will issue an order scheduling various hearing and trial dates for a suspect in the 2016 killing and dismemberment of a Sharon man.

Christopher Lee Shelatree, 43, was charged with homicide, abuse of a corpse, aggravated assault, robbery, theft, forgery, prohibited possession of a firearm, access device fraud, unlawful sale or transfer of firearms, theft by deception, identity theft, obstructing the administration of law and tampering with evidence in connection with the case.

Shelatree was charged Sept. 10, 2018, more than two years after police found the charred remains of a body buried in a shallow grave on the property at 2410 Mercer West Middlesex Road, Shenango Township, police said in a criminal complaint.

Police later identified the victim as Joseph DiFrischia, 59, who had been missing since April 26, 2016. His girlfriend told police that DiFrischia was going to collect a debt from Shelatree, his former cellmate and friend.

Then, a bank statement showed activity on DiFrischia’s account.

Police Chief Edward H. Stabile, who was a detective at the time, found that between May 2 and June 8, several unauthorized debit card purchases and ATM withdrawals totaling more than $1,200 were made at banks and businesses in the area. In several instances, Shelatree could be seen on video surveillance using the victim’s pin number. Shelatree is also accused of cashing U.S. Treasury Veterans Affairs checks in DiFrischia’s name, Stabile said in the report.

On June 8, Shelatree told Stabile he repaid the debt to DiFrischia and hadn’t seen him since. He also said he had been staying with DiFrischia’s girlfriend since he disappeared.

On Aug. 1, Youngstown police recovered DiFrischia’s vehicle, which had been abandoned there with the keys left in it. Then, a Sharon patrolman arrested Shelatree in an unrelated case. No transactions were made to DiFrischia’s account after that date, police said.

Police stated in the criminal complaint that Shelatree admitted to killing DiFrischia.

A witness also told police that Shelatree admitted to the killing, adding that one of Shelatree’s relatives told her Shelatree forced him to help dispose of the body.

Shelatree remains in Mercer County Jail without bail. 

Follow Melissa Klaric on Twitter and Facebook @HeraldKlaric, email: mklaric@sharonherald.com