Posted by Chris Rossetti, ExploreClarion.com
SHIPPENVILLE, Pa. (EYT) – After four hearing postponements, the case against a Clarion man accused of killing his girlfriend near a Lake Lucy trailer park is moving forward.
In a preliminary hearing Wednesday afternoon in Clarion County District Court, Damien Lawrence Ditz, 21, was held for court on one count of felony criminal homicide, two counts of felony aggravated assault, two counts of misdemeanor simple assault and one misdemeanor count of reckless endangerment.
The charges stemmed from a March 1 shooting investigation by the Marienville-based state police and the Clarion County District Attorney’s Office.
According to a criminal complaint filed by Tpr. Shawn Nicewonger, Ditz is accused of fatally shooting 22-year-old Katrina Seaburn. Ditz and Seaburn dated off-and-on for approximately four years.
Family members of both the defendant and the victim were present for what turned out to be an emotional preliminary hearing.
Pittsburgh-based attorney Adam M. Bishop, who is representing Ditz, argued that his client did not intentionally shoot Seaburn.
However, District Judge Timothy P. Schill sided with Clarion County District Attorney Mark Aaron, ruling that there was enough evidence present for the case to proceed to the Clarion County Court of Common Pleas.
Details of the Shooting
State Police were dispatched to 1110 Lake Lucy Rd., in Washington Township around 5:43 p.m., March 1 for a report of a shooting.
Nicewonger was called to the scene along with various other state police personnel, including Cpl. Milliard, Sgt. Bettwy, Tpr. Watters and Tpr. Freeman.
While en route to the parking area of Hartzell Trailer Court, it was reported that a female, later identified as Seaburn, had died after being shot in the chest.
The criminal complaint states that Seaburn, a Clarion University student originally from the Curwensville area, suffered a gunshot wound to the chest while seated in the front passenger side of her Suzuki SX4.
The victim’s boyfriend, identified as Damien Ditz, was in the driver’s seat when the gun was discharged.
Clarion County Coroner Terry Shaffer was dispatched around 6:15 p.m. and pronounced Seaburn dead at the scene. Autopsy results confirmed that Seaburn died as a result of a gunshot wound to the chest.
Ditz Interviewed at PSP Marienville
Ditz was interviewed on March 1 around 9 p.m. by Nicewonger and Watters.
During the interview, Ditz told police that he was driving Seaburn’s vehicle and making a left turn into Hartzell Trailer Court when a Glock 37 handgun slid off the dash and impacted the center console, causing it to discharge and strike the victim in the chest.
Ditz claimed that he placed the loaded gun on the dash the previous night, according to the criminal complaint.
The criminal complaint indicates that Ditz then altered his story, stating that when the firearm slid off the dash, he caught it. According to Ditz, the firearm then discharged as he attempted to place it in the back seat of the vehicle.
Investigators decided not to file charges against Ditz on the night of the shooting, citing the need for further investigation.
Argument Over Money Has Deadly Ending
Following a three-month long investigation into the shooting, Ditz was asked to submit to a polygraph examination and an additional interview.
“This was requested to clarify details about the shooting as discrepancies were discovered in his account of the incident,” said Nicewonger.
Police say Ditz admitted his previous statements were false during a seven-hour interview and polygraph examination conducted by Tpr. Higgins and Tpr. Mallory at 11 a.m., Tuesday, June 20.
Ditz explained that he and the victim were arguing about money as he was driving into the parking area of the trailer court.
According to the criminal complaint, Ditz told investigators that he was angry at the victim and “lost his temper.”
Ditz disclosed to police that he pointed the gun at Seaburn, knowing that it was loaded, and it discharged.
Higgins testified that Ditz could not provide an answer when questioned about why he pointed the pistol at Seaburn.
He then told police that he didn’t intentionally pull the trigger, according to the criminal complaint.
Following the interview, Ditz was arrested and placed in the Clarion County Jail.
He is being held without bail, as is customary in Pennsylvania criminal homicide cases.
If convicted, Ditz could face life in prison as a possible punishment.
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