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Published: Monday, 12/16/2013

Pa. man accused of killing 3 pleads not guilty


STROUDSBURG, Pa. — A northeastern Pennsylvania man accused of killing three people at a municipal meeting in August pleaded not guilty to homicide charges today in a case in which prosecutors have vowed to seek the death penalty.

Rockne Newell, 59, sprayed dozens of rifle rounds as he targeted officials in Ross Township, a Pocono Mountains community about 85 miles north of Philadelphia, officials said.

Monroe County District Attorney David Christine intends to seek the death penalty for Newell, who pleaded not guilty at his arraignment.

Prosecutors have said the junk dealer was upset over the loss of his debris-strewn property after a lengthy court fight with the township. The township had acted on complaints that he lived in a storage shed, built an illegal culvert and used a bucket outside as a toilet.

The township supervisors were about 15 minutes into their public meeting on the first Monday in August when “things went terribly awry,” township solicitor John Dunn, who was one of Newell’s alleged targets but escaped injury, testified at the suspect’s preliminary hearing last month.

Newell began shooting through a front window — with bullets piercing the wall inside the supervisors’ meeting room — and began cutting down victims as they fled the building, according to state police.

Killed were Ross Township zoning officer David Fleetwood, 62; Gerard Kozic, 53; and James V. LaGuardia, 64.

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