WILLIAMSPORT – Videos and a first-person account of the failed convenience store robbery in which an employee was injured and a customer was shot at close range, highlighted on the first day of a homicide trial outside the Lycoming County Court.
I-Keem Damont Fogan, 23, of Williamsport, sat quietly on Tuesday as clerk JoBeth Wetzel described the August 4, 2019 heist that injured her and Rhonda McPeak dead.
Jurors saw videos of the shots from five surveillance cameras inside the Uni-Mart in the 1900 block of West Fourth Street.
They showed McPeak, who was on a break from work nearby, to enter the store around 8 p.m. and pay Wetzel for a bag of Doritos and a lottery ticket.
As she approaches the door to exit, a masked man walks in with a handgun in his right hand. He grabs McPeak by the neck and pulls her to the counter in front of Wetzel.
Wetzel said the man demanded money and she opened the door to the cash register. Videos show her closing the door and pushing the man’s gun away.
She testified that he again demanded money. Videos show her pushing back her gun again. That’s when Wetzel is shot and collapses to the ground.
Videos then show the gunman turning McPeak around to face him, shooting him at close range and running away from the store.
McPeak remains standing momentarily before falling to the ground. She was pronounced dead at the scene.
Wetzel was shot just below the left collarbone, the bullet grazing her ribs and lodging in her back, where she remains. One of her lungs collapsed, she said.
She testified that she has not fully recovered and that she still has pain management issues.
Three other people were in the store but not near the counter, she said.
The most incriminating testimony came from co-accused Noah Samuel Stroup, 26, also of Williamsport, who identified Fogan as the shooter. “I was the lookout,” he says.
Theft was Fogan’s idea, he said. They planned the crime by texting and the money was to be split 50-50, he said. The seized cell phones contained the text messages, police said.
Stroup said he drove Fogan to the store and stayed outside to make sure no one entered. When he heard gunshots, he ran to the car.
He drove around looking for Fogan but left when he didn’t see him. Fogan came to his residence the next day and admitted to shooting two people in the store, Stroup said.
Fogan was arrested on August 6 when he was found asleep in a Sheetz in Williamsport. He has been held without bail ever since.
Chief lawyer Nicole Spring told jurors that Stroup had a lot to gain from cooperation. He wanted an agreement as soon as he was arrested on August 15, 2019, she said.
Stroup has been promised in return for his cooperation that a second degree murder charge that carries a life sentence will not be prosecuted, First Deputy District Attorney Martin Wade said.
In addition to homicide, Fogan is charged with attempted homicide, aggravated assault, robbery, unlawful duress, conspiracy, possession of a criminal instrument and two counts of firearms. .
Former District Attorney Kenneth Osokow intended to seek the death penalty if Fogan was found guilty.
Current District Attorney Ryan C. Gardner has decided not to prosecute, citing the costs of such trials and the fact that the last execution in Pennsylvania was in 1999.
Testimony will resume on Wednesday but the trial will not end until Monday because a DNA expert summoned by both parties is not available by then.
Stroup, who is jailed without bail, awaits trial on charges of manslaughter, attempted manslaughter, aggravated assault, robbery and conspiracy.
The pair also allegedly committed an armed robbery at the Nittany Mini-Mart in the 1400 block of East Third Street in the suburb of Loyalsock Twp. July 28, 2019.
Stroup is awaiting trial but Fogan, the alleged lookout, has not been charged.
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