Earlier this year on one of the first warm days of spring, a family in Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania, near Pittsburgh, gathered, as many do, for a casual backyard cookout.
Their good times would end in bloodshed in one of the most heinous crimes in the state’s history. Two shooters, one armed with a handgun, the other with a rifle, fired on several family members relaxing in the backyard. The shooters laid out a vicious plan – one used the handgun to draw people into the house, while the other, waiting in an alley, picked off family members as they tried to escape into the house. Children were in attendance.
Now, several months later, Wilkinsburg police have the two men they believe who did the murders, which took the lives of five family members, including a pregnant woman. Their target, it is now believed, was one of the men in attendance. He lived.
A press release from Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala Jr.’s office contends Cheron Shelton, 29, and Robert Thomas, 27, are each facing six counts of criminal homicide for their alleged roles in the March 9 shooting, which occurred in the Wilkinsburg section of Pittsburgh.
The shooting killed four adults, including a woman who was eight months pregnant.
Investigators allege Thomas, armed with a pistol, fired 18 shots at the party’s 15 attendees. Police claim the shots sent the partygoers scattering, with several taking cover behind a fence. Detectives allege that Shelton shot 30 rounds from his rifle directly at the fence. They believe the shooting was retaliatory.
According to police, those killed in the shooting were Brittany Powell, 27, and her siblings, Chanetta Powell, a 25-year-old pregnant woman, and Jerry Shelton, 35.
Medical examiners have determined Chanetta Powell’s unborn son died because she did, police claim.
The other victims were a cousin of the siblings, Tina Shelton, 37, and their friend, Shada Mahone, 26.
Cheron Shelton is not related to any of his victims, according to police, who say he planned the shootings with Thomas upon learning Lamont Powell was at the cookout.