MERCER – A judge heard testimony Friday from the defendant and a probation officer during a hearing on motions in the Joseph DiFrischia murder case.
Christopher Lee Shelatree Sr., 43, is accused of killing and dismembering DiFrischia’s body in April 2016. He has incurred a slew of charges, including murder of the first, second and third degrees.
Shelatree’s trial is scheduled for January. The hearing Friday was for Mercer County Court of Common Pleas President Judge Robert G. Yeatts to decide on motions brought forth by the defense.
Yeatts denied a motion to suppress statements made by Pennsylvania Probation and Parole Supervisor Jeff Mrozek. Yeatts said he believed testimony from Mrozek, who said he read Shelatree his Miranda rights while transporting the defendant.
The judge said he found the defendant to be only partially credible when Shelatree claimed that Mrozek had never read him his rights during the entire time he served as his parole agent.
The judge asked attorneys to prepare written arguments on two other defense motions requesting the suppression of evidence and testimony.
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 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.
Sharon police Chief Edward H. Stabile, who was a detective at the time, discovered several unauthorized debit card purchases and ATM withdrawals totaling more than $1,200 were made between May 2 and June 8 at banks and businesses in the area. In several instances, video surveillance showed Shelatree using the victim’s personal identification number. Shelatree is also accused of cashing U.S. Treasury Veterans Affairs checks in DiFrischia’s name, Stabile said.
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 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 in the criminal complaint that Shelatree admitted to them that he killed DiFrischia.
Shelatree was charged with murder, aggravated assault, robbery, theft, prohibited possession of a firearm, firearm ownership, forgery, access device fraud, theft by deception, identity theft, obstructing the administration of law, abuse of a corpse and tampering with physical evidence in the case.
Shelatree remains in Mercer County Jail without bail. The next court date in the case is scheduled for Oct. 9.
Follow Melissa Klaric on Twitter and Facebook @HeraldKlaric, email: firstname.lastname@example.org