DONEGAL TOWNSHIP, PA – A Charleroi man relatives say was looking to cash in on his father-in-law’s death has been arrested and charged with murder. Police say they have evidence that suggests Michael Martin, 40, planned the killing, which took place sometime Wednesday evening.
Earl Weygandt, 67, was found shortly after witnesses reported seeing a car on fire late Wednesday night near Kalp Lane on Route 31. Weygandt was found inside his smoked-out Jeep Cherokee Laredo, which had been overheating, not burning, according to police. Martin was taken into custody Thursday.
According to the police report, authorities got a 911 call about a burning car around 10:15 p.m. When officers arrived at the scene, they found a corpse inside the smoking ruin, the body sporting multiple stab wounds. Police say Martin set Weygandt up, luring him to a parking lot along busy Route 31 late Wednesday night. Investigators said Martin had told Weygandt his own car had broken down and he needed help.
“While they were pulled over some type of activity or engagement ensued,” Trooper Stephen Limani said. “During that activity, Michael Martin stabbed our victim Earl Weygandt nine times – three of them in the throat, severing both jugulars and the esophagus.”
State police said they recovered a gun at the scene that belonged to Weygandt, but that the antique revolver had not been fired.
Martin initially told detectives Weygandt never showed up, so he called a friend to come and get him. That friend initially alibied Martin, but later caved, admitting that Martin had asked him to give the cops the cover story. Whoops, guess that friendship’s over. On Thursday, Martin voluntarily came to the state police barracks for a follow-up interview, records show.
“After a detailed discussion, Michael Martin confessed to the killing …,” the affidavit said. “Martin alleged that (the) victim … pulled a gun on him, specifically a revolver. Martin explained that a struggle ensued and he was in fear for his life. And during the struggle he stabbed the victim in the chest.” All nine times. With three of those in the throat.
“I defended myself, tried to make him drop the gun,” Martin said. That might be his story, but Weygandt’s relatives say Martin had another motive for killing his father-in-law: money.
According to investigators, Weygandt was enjoying his part-time home, an RV, camping at Roaring Run Resort on Tannery Road, when Martin made the fatal phone call. Weygandt told a Roaring Run security guard, Ricky Espey, that he was going to pick up Martin and take him to a hotel, because he “did not want him (Martin) at his trailer because he would cause problems,” the affidavit stated. Espey told detectives that Weygandt left and never came back.
Roaring Run owner Dave Geddes told reporters, “All I can say is he was a very quiet man. From my perspective, you deal with a lot of people who break the rules, but Earl was never one of those people. He was always a good guy.”
Weygandt’s friends said that Weygandt, an Army veteran, was very proud of his many years of service.
“I still can’t imagine why anybody would do anything like that because he’s such a good, good guy,” Bob Kozlowski said.
But a family member told reporters it’s the second time in less than a year that someone made an attempt on Weygandt’s life. Earl DeChicchis, the victim’s nephew, said that his uncle was shot three times in the face and once in the arm while camping at an unknown location this past October. In that incident, the attacker or attackers opened his trailer door while Weygandt was sleeping and opened fire, DeChicchis said. State police confirmed they did investigate a shooting, but did not make an arrest and would not say whether they believe that shooting was related to the murder Wednesday.
Martin has a rap sheet with priors for several minor crimes, ranging from DUI to possession of marijuana, court records show. The Westmoreland County District Attorney’s Office must have some pretty damning evidence this time around, though. In a rather surprising move this early, they announced they will pursue capital murder charges against Martin, who is currently being held at the Donegal county prison without bail.Tags: Crime, Earl Weygandt, Michael Martin, Murder, Pennsylvania, Stabbing