Hamilton

Hamilton

MERCER – A Greenville man was found not guilty of murder by a jury Friday night in the 2017 death of a Fredonia man.

Seth Louis Hamilton, 19, was charged with first-degree murder and a slew of other charges in connection with the shooting death of Zachary Cutshall, 19, on Oct. 26, 2017, in Fairview Township. He has been in Mercer County Jail since that day.

Pennsylvania State Police investigators said Cutshall, Jacob Winchester Barger, 21, and Dominic Joseph Heasley, 24, both of Greenville, conspired to rob Hamilton in the early morning. When it was time to carry out the plan, the robbery went bad and ended with Hamilton shooting Cutshall.

Hamilton was found not guilty of first- and third-degree murder, attempted murder and possession with intent to deliver marijuana. He was found guilty of three counts of aggravated assault, attempted aggravated assault, receiving stolen property, carrying firearms without a license, tampering with evidence, possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia. 

Hamilton was also found guilty of theft, receiving stolen property and theft from a motor vehicle after stealing the gun he was carrying that night from someone’s vehicle.

“We’re disappointed,” Mercer County District Attorney Peter C. Acker said. “We have to respect the jury’s decision even if we disagree with it, and we do.”

But with the charges of which Hamilton was convicted could come a long prison sentence, the district attorney said. 

If the charges are sentenced consecutively, Hamilton is facing at least 57 years in prison.

Defense Attorney Jack Cline was not available for comment on Saturday, but in his closing statement, he said Hamilton was terrified that night.

“Seth is scared right now and you can bet he was scared Oct. 26th when those three guys took him down Delaware Road,” Cline said to the jury. “Put yourself in that situation.”

Cline said that the shooting was justified.

“He had to face getting hurt or killed,” Cline said. “This was not a retaliation.”

In his closing statement, Assistant District Attorney Andrew Acker said the defendant is a thief and drug dealer.

“The defendant ... runs around with a .357 revolver tucked in his pants,” Acker said. “To aim in and out of itself is an intentional act.”

He said the evidence was clear.

“The robbery was complete when (Cutshall) told Hamilton to get the ‘f’ out of the car,” he said. “He retaliated – in his own words.”

Barger and Heasley have been convicted of the robbery. Heasley was sentenced to two years house arrest and eight years of probation. Barger was sentenced to one to two years in jail followed by eight years of probation.

Both men are out of jail and testified at Hamilton’s trial Thursday, giving similar accounts of the events of that morning.

The men testified that they, along with Cutshall, decided to rob Hamilton because he owed Cutshall money. The trio picked up Hamilton with the guise of taking him to Greenville to get marijuana.

According to witness testimony, when Barger pulled over into the State Game Lands 294 pull-off on Delaware Road, the two men in front got out of the car to urinate, which was a signal that the robbery was to start.

Heasley and Barger testified that they got back into the car when Cutshall pointed a type of air gun at Hamilton and took his iPhone and a drawstring bag and told him to get out of the car.

At that point, Barger said, Hamilton got out of the two-door sedan, but when he went to pull the door shut, Hamilton stopped it with his arm and asked him if he knew about the setup.

Then Hamilton, by his own account in a video with state police played by the prosecution Thursday, said he shot into the car twice, aiming at Cutshall. One bullet hit Cutshall in the neck, police said.

Hamilton said he fired three more shots at the car, which police said blew out the back window and grazed Heasley on his left side.

Barger drove to the parking lot of a business in the 1400 block of North Perry Highway about a half mile away while Heasley called 911 and waited for authorities to arrive.

Barger and Heasley were originally charged with second-degree murder along with the robbery because Cutshall was killed during the commission of a felony. Their murder charges were dropped a month later because prosecutors said that a felony was not in progress.

“I think the state police did an excellent job in this investigation,” Peter Acker said. “All you can do is get the best evidence in front of a jury and have the jury decide, and we did that.”

The district attorney said he thinks that Hamilton’s age, the fact that he was a victim of a robbery and confusion on jury instructions were factors in the jury’s decision.

The DA said that this is the system at work, but he is ready to move on.

“There are approximately 20 homicide cases, from first degree on down to attempted homicide on our active radar screen ... where five people actually died,” Peter Acker said.

Hamilton’s sentencing is set for July 22.

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