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COMMONWEALTH v. SLAVIK (01/30/70)

decided: January 30, 1970.

COMMONWEALTH
v.
SLAVIK, APPELLANT



Appeal from judgment of Court of Common Pleas, Criminal Division, of Washington County, Sept. T., 1968, No. 425A, in case of Commonwealth v. Thomas Slavik.

COUNSEL

William E. Duffield, for appellant.

John F. Bell, Assistant District Attorney, with him Richard DiSalle, First Assistant District Attorney, and Jess D. Costa, District Attorney, for Commonwealth, appellee.

Bell, C. J., Jones, Cohen, Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts and Pomeroy, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Chief Justice Bell.

Author: Bell

[ 437 Pa. Page 355]

On November 21, 1968, while represented by Court-appointed counsel, defendant Thomas Slavik pleaded guilty to the murder of John Morgo. A three-Judge Court thereupon heard the testimony and found Slavik guilty of murder in the first degree, and sentenced him to life imprisonment. From the judgment of sentence, defendant took this appeal. Defendant's principal contention is that first-degree murder was not established beyond a reasonable doubt. In our opinion, it was.

The victim, John Morgo, aged twenty-one, had a date with his girl friend, Joanne Petroff, aged eighteen, on the evening of July 27, 1968. At approximately 11:30 P.M., they arrived by auto at a drive-in restaurant known as the Chuck Wagon, located outside Brownsville, Washington County. After they had finished eating, but were still parked at the drive-in, they were approached by the defendant, who had been sitting in an automobile with Floyd Kokoska which was also parked on the same drive-in's parking lot. As defendant reached Morgo's car, he pointed a gun at Morgo's head. When Morgo attempted to push the gun away, defendant hit him on the head with his gun. As Morgo started to get out of the car, Kokoska approached and shot him in the stomach. Morgo got back into his car and was followed into the car by defendant, who kept his gun pointed at the youngsters. Mean-while, Kokoska attempted to pull Joanne Petroff from the car, but could not get her out because Morgo was holding onto her tightly. Kokoska then took Joanne's purse, which was lying on the seat. Defendant thereupon

[ 437 Pa. Page 356]

    started Morgo's car and, after telling Kokoska that he was taking Morgo and Joanne to the hospital, drove off with them in the car. Kokoska refused to accompany them, and did not follow.

After the car had left the Chuck Wagon parking lot, Joanne noticed that the defendant was not driving in the direction of the hospital. She told him this and he replied that he knew it. In the meantime, he kept holding his gun in his hand while he was driving. Both Joanne and Morgo pleaded with the defendant to drive to the hospital, but defendant simply drove onto a dirt road and parked the car. While they were driving, Morgo, who had been sitting in the front seat, had to crawl to the rear seat and lie down because he felt ill and was beginning to vomit. After the car stopped, Morgo tried to get out of the car but defendant pushed him back. Morgo kept telling defendant that he was dying, but defendant ignored his pleas and simply laughed at him. At this point, defendant removed Joanne's lower clothing and, according to her testimony, "he had his hands all over me." While this was going on, Morgo managed to crawl out of the car and make his way up the dirt road.

Joanne testified that at this point she and defendant got out of the car and, hearing a dog start to bark some distance ahead, defendant said: "Your boy friend must be up there getting help so we better get out of here . . . we'll go somewhere else." Defendant got back into the car, but instead of also getting into the car, Joanne reached in, grabbed her clothes and ran up the road to a house, where she was able to phone the police. In the meantime, defendant turned the car around and drove off. An ambulance arrived and took Morgo to the hospital where surgery for a resection of his bowel was performed, and he died approximately ten days later.

[ 437 Pa. Page 357]

Defendant testified in his own behalf and generally admitted the sequence of events as testified by Joanne Petroff. However, defendant testified that he was forced at gun point by Kokoska to approach Morgo's automobile, that his gun was not loaded, that at no time did he intend to rob the ...


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