CLEARFIELD – A twice-convicted killer Andrew Joseph Callahan, 29, formerly of Coalport, testified during the third day of his murder re-trial, claiming the shooting was an accident.
Callahan faces charges that stem from the Nov. 5, 1997 murder of then 15-year-old classmate Micah James Pollock in the Pine Run area of Beccaria Township, Clearfield County.
More specifically, he has been charged with criminal homicide, including murder of both the first and third degrees and involuntary manslaughter. He has also been charged with aggravated assault and abuse of a corpse.
According to prior GantDaily reports, Callahan was twice-convicted for the shooting death of Pollock. He was found guilty of first-degree murder in October 1998.
However, the Pennsylvania Superior Court reversed the initial conviction while a jury question was not answered properly. Callahan stood trial a second time and was found guilty of first-degree murder again in May 2007.
But in December 2008, the state’s Superior Court vacated Callahan’s re-sentence to life in prison. He was ordered a third trial as the jury wasn’t given the correct instructions during the re-trial.
During his testimony, Callahan detailed his history of alcohol and drug use for the jury. He described himself as the “average kid” with a good set of parents who loved him.
But he said his life was “out of control with drugs and alcohol.” He admitted that he was a regular user and first experimented with marijuana as a 12-year-old in the seventh grade.
By the eighth grade, the defendant said he was using marijuana heavily and had started drinking. He was introduced to new drugs, such as LSD and an assortment of pills.
Callahan told the jury he used cocaine for the first time in the 10th grade, in addition to the others he’d previously mentioned. He described his drug use as becoming steadily heavier.
In the 11th grade, Callahan testified that his drinking and drug habit was at its worst. He was drinking a couple times a week, especially on the weekends. He also was using marijuana, “microdots” and cocaine “here and there.”
On the morning of Nov. 5, 1997, he admitted to smoking marijuana before school. He also said he snorted five “microdots” before going hunting during which time he stopped to smoke a marijuana joint along a back road in Coalport.
According to him, he went to Coalport and drove through the area once or twice. He wanted to find older friends whom could purchase beer for him. But no one was around, and he headed toward Glasglow.
Callahan then stopped at the residence of Pollock, whom he testified was on the phone. He waited for him to finish his conversation and then asked if he wanted to go for beer.
Because they had time to waste before a party later that evening, they rode around the back, dirt roads. He alleged to sharing a marijuana joint with the victim while they were stopped in his vehicle.
He observed a grouse along the side of township Route 539; however, it flew down beyond them. He was unable to attempt a shot, and so they decided to walk in its general direction.
Callahan told the jury that Pollock was kicking brush piles to flush out grouse. At some point, they gave up and headed back toward the Callahan Bronco.
While en route to the vehicle, the pair crossed a pond, which Callahan said was comparable to quicksand. Pollock was in knee-deep and became stuck at which time the defendant helped him out.
“We were just having a ball,” noting they were both under the influence and laughing at the situation. He “poked fun” at the victim whom had just been stuck in the pond.
Callahan said on their way to the Bronco, a grouse flew from a brush pile and toward where they had just come from. He subsequently turned, fired a shot and missed.
As a result, he testified it was then Pollock’s turn to make fun of him. The two were joking back and forth, when he decided it’d be “funny” to fire a dry shot at the victim.
“I thought he’d hear the clicking sound and jump, and I could say, ‘hey, I could have killed you.’ It was a stupid, stupid joke,” he said. “I ran over to him, but he was gone.
“It wasn’t supposed to fire. I had only put one shell in it. I can still hear that shot today. It was like a sonic boom. I pulled a trigger on a gun that wasn’t supposed to be loaded, and now, my friend is dead.”
Callahan said he was uncertain how to handle the situation at the time. He wasn’t sure if he should run or hide. He said he wanted to believe that he was hallucinating but knew it had actually occurred.
He explained he was aware of the trouble that it’d bring for him, as he was high and hunting with a friend who was now dead. He decided he couldn’t let anyone know of the incident.
According to him, he grabbed brush to shield Pollock’s body from those passing by. He returned home for his mother’s car before going back to the location of the victim’s body. He took garbage bags with him.
Callahan attempted to place the garbage bags over the feet of Pollock. But he became too scared to touch him and couldn’t stand the thought of doing so. He said his plan wasn’t going to work anyway, and he rolled the victim’s body over an embankment.
Callahan then met up with some friends to party in the hours to follow. During his testimony, he told the jury he was trying to act himself. When asked about the whereabouts of the victim, he said he’d dropped him off at home.
“It was hard to act normal. All that was on my mind was Micah. At 16, it was hard to act normal,” he said. “I didn’t sleep that night. Every time I closed my eyes, all I saw was Micah.”
On the morning of Nov. 6, 1997, Callahan retrieved rope from the garage at his residence. He then returned to the location of Pollock’s body, where he decided to drag it to a nearby beaver pond.
Callahan testified that he tied rope around the victim’s ankles to pull the body down the hill. He reached the area, where police eventually located the new garbage can, and realized his hands had rope burn.
While already being questioned about Pollock, the defendant left the area again. He purchased a plastic garbage can from a dollar store in order to conceal Pollock’s body in the same.
Callahan was unable to slide the victim’s body inside the garbage can. However, he claimed to have made a minimal effort to do so. He then decided to tie rope to the undercarriage of his mother’s car to drag the body to the beaver dam where it was deposited.
At some point later on, he arrived at his residence and found state police cars in the driveway. He was questioned about Pollock who had been missing.
He told police he had gone hunting for grouse with a “20-gauge” shotgun. He then picked up Pollock but had dropped him back off at his residence. He described his statement as an attempt to “make up some half-truth, half-lie story.”
Callahan claimed he never told former girlfriend Kaylee Peacock McClellan that “if he couldn’t have her, no one could.” He also denied the incident, which was described by former Glendale student Stephanie Miller, ever happened.
On Monday, Miller told the jury she overheard an argument between Callahan and the victim. She said the defendant warned Pollock to stay away from McClellan, or he’d kill him.
“I don’t think I ever had a fight with Micah. I had no reason to,” he said. Defense attorney Ron Valasek asked Callahan how he felt about the shooting incident today.
“I’ve thought about it millions of times. I feel ashamed and deeply regretful. I am the only person in the world who knows what happened. I was there. I have prayed for the tables to be turned.”
Callahan said no words could explain his feelings, and he totally despises drugs and alcohol. He continued, stating if it wasn’t for those “stupid pills” and marijuana, we wouldn’t be here today.
Under cross-examination, Clearfield County District Attorney William A. Shaw, Jr. grilled the defendant about his prior testimony. Callahan admitted he didn’t want McClellan having relations with other men and knew she was spending time with Pollock.
Shaw questioned Callahan about his drug use prior to the school day Nov. 5, 1997. The defendant believed he had smoked marijuana and said no one at school, such as teachers, ever commented about it.
“That’s my whole point,” Shaw said. Callahan then agreed that he had consumed five “microdots,” before he had gone hunting in the Pine Run area.
Shaw then picked up the Mossberg 12- gauge shotgun that was previously entered as evidence. Holding the firearm, he questioned the defendant further.
“So, you intentionally picked up a gun, shells and a vest and went hunting,” he asked. Callahan said that was correct. At some point, he also said he stopped by the home of Pollock and traveled with him to the Pine Run area.
Shaw called attention to Callahan’s attempt to harvest a grouse while he was hunting with the victim. The defendant said he “guessed” that he was able to form the intent to kill the grouse.
Shaw pointed out that Pollock had “made fun” of the defendant for missing the grouse. He said it was “the same guy” who was also spending time with McClellan.
“Was that the straw that broke the camel’s back?” he pressed. Callahan replied, “No. It wasn’t like that. We weren’t joking in a mean way.”
Callahan said he wasn’t certain how he held the shotgun. Shaw then requested for him to step off the stand and demonstrate how he would have held the gun.
Valasek objected to Shaw’s request for a demonstration, as it was so far remote from the day in question. President Judge Fredric J. Ammerman permitted the demonstration, stating the defendant could do so if he remembered.
Callahan again indicated he wasn’t certain. He explained he wasn’t aiming at a grouse or a target at a shooting range. He said it wasn’t a shot to have a “specific point.”
Referring to court documents, Shaw asked Callahan to read aloud a prior statement. In his statement, he had indicated he’d held the shotgun to his shoulder.
When asked if they were on a level surface, the defendant said they had been walking up a steep hill. He said it begins to level off but not completely and then becomes flat.
Callahan told the jury Pollock was walking ahead of him to a slight left with his back to him. He said the victim was a few steps ahead of him and “verily close.”
Shaw then referred to statements during which Callahan said they were on a “pretty level” surface. The defendant said he didn’t remember making those exact statements.
Callahan testified that the victim was neither on his knees nor the ground at the time of the gunshot discharge. The defendant claimed he ran to the victim’s body and shook him afterward.
“Did you go for help?” Shaw asked.
Callahan said he didn’t make any attempts to obtain help for Pollock, stating “he was dead, sir.” He confirmed that the potential consequences played into his decision to conceal the body with foliage and tree branches.
Shaw asked if he had the “faculties and wits” to make the decision to conceal the body. Callahan said he did and was also later able to drive back to the area and relocate the body.
Callahan said he didn’t speak to his mother about the incident while he was “too scared.” He, however, said he wished he would have done so. He claimed to have carried out his plans to conceal the incident at the “spur of the moment.”
“You tried to conceal the body and then went out with friends. You consumed marijuana, beer or whatever you did,” Shaw said. The defendant said that was correct.
Trooper Van Keys, a former criminal investigator at the Clearfield State Police barracks, was the final witness on behalf of the prosecution Wednesday morning.
Keys said he was involved with the missing person investigation of Pollock. He said the Ebensburg State Police barracks initially handled the investigation, but he assisted at the request of Cpl. Richard Crain.
On Nov. 8, 1997, he met with Crain, whom brought him up to speed on the investigation. He then proceeded to the Glendale Fire Company, where a “pretty large community” had started a search for the missing Pollock.
According to him, their search effort localized to the Pine Run area sometime Nov. 9, 1997. He said they had two “keys” direct them to this specific area of Beccaria Township.
First, Keys said that loggers Curtis and Melvin Brink indicated they had observed the Callahan vehicle parked at the gate into the area. In addition, those participating in the search had discovered a new plastic, garbage can and freshly broken tree branches.
During the course of the search, he said it rained off and on and especially heavy at times. He said those weather conditions continued through the weekend.
At that time, he said they concentrated the search on the Pine Run area and had brought in cadaver dogs, which detected “hits” in the area of the road between the garbage can and the beaver dam.
Because the beaver dam was filled with water, Keys said they contacted the property owner for it to be drained. He described the water as “murky,” indicating there wasn’t any visibility of its contents.
Once they obtained the proper permission, he said they began to drain the beaver dam. He noted that a green jacket surfaced at the mouth of dam while they were doing so.
Keys later proceeded to the Callahan residence, where he observed the blue Ford Bronco and rope tied from the undercarriage of a Chevrolet Cavalier. Inside the home, he observed several firearms, including a Mossberg 12-gauge shotgun, and ammunition.
Keys conducted an interview with Callahan, noting the defendant’s statement didn’t match that given prior to Tpr. Lawrence Malesky. Callahan advised he had shot and killed Pollock and disposed of him in a beaver dam.
During his rebuttal, Shaw called Cpl. Jeff Kunselman, of the forensic services unit at the Punxsutawney State Police, to the stand. He executed a search warrant for the Callahan Bronco in November 1997. While searching the inside of the vehicle, he recovered a shotgun shell that was a Winchester 3-inch, No. 6 shot.
During his closing statements, Valasek referred to the testimony of Dr. Hamada Mahmoud, a forensic pathologist, who had the most important sentence. He said Mahmoud indicated that “it could have been an accident.”
Valasek said the jury had no reason to believe there was any malice between Callahan and Pollock. Instead, he said it was an “unfortunate accident.”
“But Shaw wants you to believe it was an intentional killing,” he said. He said no one ever testified that the defendant and Pollock struggled to get along. He continued, “There was none of that. Nothing. They were going for beer for a party.”
Valasek addressed the wound location on the victim’s back and described it as a “chance location.” He suggested that Callahan swung the gun up and pointed and could have very well struck another area of the body.
Valasek suggested that Callahan suffered from impaired judgment, which didn’t make him guilty of murder. He described Callahan’s social group, as those who were just “waiting for an accident” to happen.
“And, it did. Andy Callahan shot Micah Pollock on Pine Run Road in Beccaria Township,” he said.
Shaw said while Valasek gave a nearly 30 – 40-minute closing, he didn’t touch on the “salient facts” of the case. He indicated that Callahan lied in his first statement and gave “half-truths” in his second and were stuck with those.
Shaw agreed that Mahmoud stated the shooting could have been accidental during his testimony. But Shaw said the evidence and facts suggested homicide.
“Where was the weapon used?” he asked. “(It was) smack dab in the middle of his shoulders.”
Shaw said Callahan testified that he wasn’t aiming. But he said if that was the case, the “accidental discharge” would have struck Pollock in the leg, arm or buttocks.
“If you’re shooting with the intent to kill, where would you shoot him? I’m going to pull up that shotgun and boom – right in the middle of his back,” he said.
“That’s where I’m going to kill him. Do you believe it’s by accident or that it’s reasonable, he pointed the gun between his shoulders?”
He directed attention to the testimony of Shawn Warsek, whom observed Callahan drive by a pizza and grocery shop. He noted that Pollock was in the passenger side.
“They meet up later on. Who doesn’t show up? Micah,” Shaw said. He said two loggers spotted Callahan with the victim in the Pine Run area and didn’t observe them wearing the appropriate hunting vests, questioning the believability of the hunting trip.
Shaw suggested the defense counsel wanted the jury to believe that Callahan was “drugged up.” He said while voluntary intoxication could be used as a defense for first-degree murder, the defendant would’ve had to been “overpowered” by the drugs to the point that he’d been unable to function.
He emphasized Callahan was able to conceal the body and operate a motor vehicle from the scene. He said the defendant was able to travel back to the scene and relocate the victim’s body.
He also noted the defendant’s other attempts to conceal the body of the victim. Ultimately, he said the defendant had to drag the body with his mother’s Chevrolet Cavalier and deposit it in the beaver dam.
Shaw said it would be Pollock’s final resting place with rope tied at his feet and his clothes and jacket over his head. He noted a shotgun had been “blasted to the back.”
“Was this an accident? Think about it,” Shaw said. “Valasek said the case was important because Callahan’s life was on the line.
“But Andrew Callahan is alive. He has a life. Micah Pollock isn’t alive. He’ll never have a life. That’s why this case is important.”
Ammerman will instruct the jury for deliberations, when court reconvenes at 9 a.m. Thursday morning.