Charges moved forward in Cranberry Twp homicide case
CRANBERRY TWP — There were sighs of relief mixed with tears of sorrow in the courtroom Friday as charges moved forward for a Cranberry Township woman accused of shooting and killing her boyfriend last month.
A felony charge of criminal homicide against Amanda M. Hughes, 26, will proceed to the Butler County Court of Common Pleas in connection to the Feb. 12 death of Anthony D. Smith, 30.
Family and friends of Smith let out sighs of relief and gratitude when the decision was made by District Judge Kevin Flaherty at the preliminary hearing, while those who came in support of Hughes wept.
Hughes told police Smith had been punching her in the face and head prior to the shooting Feb. 12. Cranberry Township police were dispatched around 12:10 a.m. to a home on Brandywine Drive, where police found Smith at the base of a flight of stairs with multiple gunshot wounds, according to reports.
During the hearing, it was revealed Smith was shot five times: twice in the arm, once in the thigh, and twice in the back.
Flaherty heard testimony from Edward Steinmetz, Cranberry Township police officer, about his observations on scene later that morning.
“There were blood stains on the stairs from the first to the second floor, and from the top of the stairs to the master bedroom. It was determined the shooting took place in the master bedroom,” Steinmetz said.
An autopsy confirmed Smith had been shot five times, and the blood stains were consistent with Smith making his way downstairs following the shooting. Steinmetz testified that five shell casings were recovered in the corner of the master bedroom.
Before a lengthy cross examination, the request by Kenneth Haber, defense attorney for Hughes, to play the recorded interview with Hughes following the incident was denied.
When Haber asked if Steinmetz had been in the room for the later interview, Steinmetz replied he had watched a recording of her statement to police and noted a contusion to her left eye.
Haber said Hughes also suffered injuries to her wrist and hand trying to block Smith’s blows.
According to previous reports, Hughes told police in a later interview she fired the shots to stop being attacked by Smith, who was hitting her in the head and face.
“She indicated a verbal argument escalated to physical violence before shots were fired,” Steinmetz said. “The argument ensued over a text communication that was received on her phone.”
The firearm belonged to Hughes, but Steinmetz said a second firearm was recovered under the bed. Haber continued questioning about this gun until Dave Beichner, assistant district attorney, objected.
“This firearm does relate to one of the things the commonwealth has to disprove, which is self-defense,” Haber said. “They can’t cherry-pick part of a statement.”
“It’s not the commonwealth’s burden to disprove self-defense. That’s a trial matter,” Beichner said.
During closing arguments, Haber said there’s an entire history between the two parties involved in the shooting that he did not touch on in the hearing.
“What happened on that particular night, I think, was only partly portrayed here,” he said. “I don’t think there was an intent to kill … These shots were fired as an escape mechanism, to stop a brutal assault,” he said.
Flaherty said that based on the evidence presented, he would hold the charges over to Common Pleas Court.
“At least two of (the shots) were in the back, I think that helps support the commonwealth’s burden,” he said.
Flaherty also denied the request for bail presented by Haber.