CLEARFIELD – Testimony wrapped up yesterday in the trial of a Clearfield man accused of robbing Domino’s Pizza in April. Clearfield County President Judge Fredric Ammerman will charge the jury and send them into deliberations this morning.
William Lee Rauch, 35, of Clearfield has been charged with robbery, two counts; terroristic threats; simple assault; and theft by unlawful taking.
Officer Ralph Nedza of the Clearfield Borough Police Department testified first during the second day of trial. He was dispatched to an armed robbery at approximately 10 p.m. April 4 at Domino’s Pizza. At the time, he was notified the male suspect was wearing a gray hooded sweatshirt and mask and had displayed a knife and took money from the cash drawer.
When approaching Domino’s Pizza, he encountered a pizza delivery driver who told him the robbery suspect was running toward Aunt Mary’s Place. He was then notified that Sgt. James Glass of the Lawrence Township Police Department had detained a male on Leavy Avenue and proceeded to that location. Upon arrival Glass related he found Rauch in possession of a large amount of paper currency.
While at the location, Nedza was notified that the robbery suspect was wearing jeans with a particular emblem on the back pocket. He asked Rauch to turn around, at which point he observed an emblem matching the description given by Domino’s Pizza employees. Nedza took Rauch into custody and transported him to the borough police station for security purposes.
Due to Rauch’s level of intoxication, Nedza said he didn’t interview him about the robbery until the next day. During the interview, Rauch told police he’d consumed a large amount of alcohol at his mother’s residence. He had also gotten into a fight with his girlfriend and at some point found out her child had been taken to the Clearfield Hospital. Rauch said he walked from Hyde to the hospital but didn’t go inside. Instead, he walked to St. Charles, where he ran into some friends, and then went to Aunt Mary’s Place.
After that, he left to go to Dingers Grand Slam Grille & Groggery but was stopped by Glass and Officer Nathan Eckert. When asked how he’d obtained such a large amount of money, Rauch told police he had several jobs lined up for after his release from jail and declined to offer any specific details. When asked why he had only one- and five-dollar bills, Rauch claimed it was from “breaking $20’s.”
Nedza said they obtained a search warrant for Rauch’s belongings at the Clearfield County Jail. He said they collected a black shirt, jeans and boots that Rauch had worn the night of the robbery, as well as DNA swabs. Nedza explained that he filed the charges April 5, as Rauch was too intoxicated to be arraigned and so he was placed in the CCJ on a 48-hour detainer.
Officer John Brown of the Clearfield Borough Police Department said he arrived to work at approximately 10:40 p.m. April 4. The department, he said, was handling an armed robbery investigation at Domino’s Pizza. Brown said he assisted Nedza with photographing evidence, including Rauch’s wallet and its contents.
Brown said Rauch’s wallet contained $125 worth of five-dollar bills and $49 worth of one-dollar bills. He said there weren’t any other denominations inside Rauch’s wallet. He also assisted with taking photographs of the other items, such as the hooded sweatshirt and the cap/mask, at the borough police station.
Micah Wipula, a forensic scientist at the Pennsylvania State Police Erie Crime Laboratory, examined evidence from the Domino’s Pizza robbery. The evidence, she said, was hand-delivered April 15 and included a gray hooded sweatshirt, a knitted cap/mask, a green-handled knife and DNA swabs from Rauch.
During her analysis, Wipula tested visual stains on the outside of the hooded sweatshirt for blood, but none was found. She then cut the right cuff from the sweatshirt to send to the PSP Greensburg laboratory for further DNA analysis. Wipula said she submitted the cuff area, as it fits more closely to the skin and is more likely to pick up DNA.
When asked she confirmed the hooded sweatshirt had one hole on each cuff, which she didn’t put there while preparing the sample for further analysis. She told jurors the holes were large enough for someone to put a finger through.
Wipula tested the knitted cap/mask for both blood and saliva, but neither was found. She prepared a DNA swab for further analysis from the interior surface of the cap/mask and another from the entire handle of the knife. Wipula explained she didn’t perform any testing on the buccal swabs and forwarded them to Greensburg.
Angela DiFiore, a DNA scientist at the PSP Laboratory in Greensburg, further tested the DNA swabs that were forwarded to her from Wipula.
Based upon her analysis, she concluded the DNA profile on the knitted cap/mask consisted of a mixture from two individuals; however, the major component was a match to the buccal swab from Rauch. Further, she explained that if 31 quintillion people were in the courtroom, one person would have the DNA profile to match the major component.
So far as the knife, DiFiore concluded its DNA profile consisted of a mixture from three individuals. However, she indicated its major component consisted of a mixture from two individuals and that Rauch couldn’t be excluded.
After the commonwealth rested its case, the defense re-called Nedza. He testified that Rauch had $174 in his wallet and $11 was found in the area of the entrance at Domino’s Pizza. At Domino’s Pizza, Nedza said they found two, five-dollar bills and a one-dollar bill.
The defense then re-called Glass to review his testimony about locating Rauch on Leavy Avenue. Glass explained Rauch was coming out of a grassy area by Bud’s Electric onto Leavy Avenue and heading toward South Second Street with his back toward police. Under cross examination, Glass confirmed the male who he’d detained was Rauch and he was the only person in the area.
Doug Campbell, who works with Rauch’s defense attorneys Curtis Irwin and Michael Marshall, told jurors he reviewed the surveillance video from Domino’s Pizza. He took still photographs from it. Campbell said the in-store photographs depicted two people at the cash drawer, and suggested tattoos weren’t visible on the male’s right hand, as shown in a previously presented commonwealth exhibit.
Campbell said he also traveled to the area of Leavy Avenue, where Rauch had been detained, and took photographs around 5:15 p.m. – 5:45 p.m. Wednesday. Under cross examination by Shaw, Campbell admitted he neither knew Glass’ exact location nor was there on the night of the robbery.
Shaw objected to the photographs being admitted, as they might not be an accurate depiction of the exact location where Rauch was detained by police. Ammerman, however, overruled his objection, stating it depicted the relative area. When asked by Shaw about the photograph inside Domino’s Pizza, Campbell agreed that the robber was wearing a hooded sweatshirt, and his right thumb appeared to be coming through a hole in its cuff.
After Shaw stipulated to its admittance, Marshall read a PSP Erie Crime Laboratory report to the jury. Nedza provided the laboratory with the cash from Rauch’s wallet and with a sample of corn flour used by Domino’s Pizza. The laboratory concluded there wasn’t any trace of corn flour on the money.
In closing, Marshall argued that the male robber in Domino’s Pizza didn’t have any tattoos on his right hand. He said this contradicted the commonwealth’s exhibit of Rauch’s right hand, which shows tattoos on his knuckles. He also argued that Rauch couldn’t have committed the robbery, as there wasn’t any corn flour found on the money from his wallet.
Marshall pointed out to jurors that they heard a lot of testimony about the emblem on Rauch’s jeans and the knife. However, he said these items are mass produced and not unique to Rauch.
Then, Marshall suggested police observed Rauch, who was walking in the area of Leavy Avenue and “rushed to judgment.” He said Rauch didn’t attempt to flee from police and stopped when they approached him.
“It doesn’t sound like someone who just robbed a pizza shop,” he said. “. . . Police saw him on the street and said, ‘this is our guy’ and made it fit. We can’t tell you who robbed Domino’s, and we don’t have that burden.”
In his closing, Shaw countered, saying Rauch cut a hole for his thumb in each cuff of the sweatshirt. During the robbery, he said Rauch had the sleeves pulled down over his hands in order to hide his tattoos, which were identifying features.
Shaw told jurors it wasn’t surprising that corn flour wasn’t found on the money from Rauch’s wallet. He said Domino’s Pizza runs a “pretty neat” establishment and its employees wash their hands before dealing with their customers.
He pointed out that Domino’s Pizza only keeps five- and one-dollar bills in its cash drawer. “What was in the defendant’s wallet? There were five- and one-dollar bills. Now, is that shocking?” he asked. “An ATM only dispenses $20 bills, and he didn’t have any money when he got out of jail.”
Shaw argued that at 10 p.m. on April 4, very few people were walking in the area of Leavy Avenue and coming from Domino’s Pizza. He said even fewer would have been wearing jeans with an emblem on the back pocket and even fewer than that would have been carrying a wallet with only five- and one-dollar bills. Shaw said even fewer than that would have had DNA to match that found on the knife and knitted cap/mask.