The defendant in the trial for a 2016 mass shooting was acquitted of all counts Friday. Attorneys for Cheron Shelton argued he was not responsible for the attack that left five adults, including a pregnant woman, dead.
As the jury's foreman announced the verdict in a courtroom at the Allegheny County Courthouse, Shelton wiped away tears and was visibly relieved. Family members of victims wept in the courtroom gallery, some audibly upset.
"It seemed to me that Mr. Shelton was a suspect early on without much evidence to corroborate that," Shelton's attorney Randall McKinney said after the verdict was announced. "They narrowed in and focused in on him without following any other leads, and I think they did that to their detriment."
Shelton, 33, was accused of ambushing attendees of a March 2016 backyard barbeque. In his opening statement last week, assistant district attorney Kevin Chernosky told jurors Shelton may have targeted the group after seeing photos on social media. The prosecutor said Shelton had been "holding a grudge" against a man at the barbeque, allegedly believing the man had killed Shelton's friend in 2013.
The trial began on Monday, February 3, and the jury deliberated for four days. McKinney told jurors that his client had spent the evening of the shooting with his girlfriend and their two children. The lawyer said surveillance video shows that an inebriated Shelton later made his way to Penn Hills, where he encountered Penn Hills police officers, before returning to his girlfriend's house for the night.
Earlier this month, Allegheny County Common Please Court judge Edward Borkowski threw out all but one count of conspiracy against another defendant in the case, Robert Thomas, 31. Another attorney for Shelton, Wendy Williams, said Thomas' unexplained absence from the trial likely raised flags for the jury.
"They built a case around him without any solid evidence," Williams said. "The case was a house of cards from the start."