STROUDSBURG, Pa. (AP) — A man accused of killing three people at a township meeting was ordered Thursday to stand trial, where he could get a death sentence.
Rockne Newell, 59, was ordered to be tried on three counts of homicide and six counts of attempted homicide, among other charges, for the Aug. 5 attack.
The decision came Thursday at the conclusion of a preliminary hearing in which prosecutors played a disturbing audio recording that captured the chaos of a summertime rampage.
The Ross Township supervisors routinely record their meetings and the tape was rolling when the gunman blasted his way into the room, yelling obscenities as people screamed and overturned tables. Police have said that Newell retreated from the building but came back and began shooting again.
In the chaotic aftermath, a woman who had been shot in the leg could be heard on the tape begging her husband to breathe and “stay with me.” He died.
The judge decided there was enough evidence for Newell to be tried. Monroe County District Attorney David Christine said he intends to pursue the death penalty against him.
Police said Newell, a disabled junk dealer, was upset over losing his debris-strewn property in the wake of a court battle with the township over complaints that he lived in a storage shed, built an illegal culvert and used a bucket outside as a toilet.
Police said Newell packed a rental car with guns and ammunition before opening fire at the meeting, killing 62-year-old township zoning officer David Fleetwood and two Saylorsburg residents, Gerard Kozic, 53, and James LaGuardia, 64.
The 5-foot-10, 240-pound suspect was eventually tackled by two men and shot in the leg, officials said.
Newell has said he regrets that “innocent people got hurt” but claimed township officials persecuted him for more than two decades. He allegedly told police he had gone to the meeting in hopes of finding the township officials in one place.
At his arraignment on homicide charges the day after the shootings, a judge asked Newell if he owned any real estate.
“They stole it from me. That’s what started all this,” he replied.