Man convicted in Millbrook road-rage death

A jury on Monday con­victed a 23-year-old Far North­east man of in­vol­un­tary man­slaughter in the road-rage death of an­oth­er man.

However, Gerry Shaf­fer Jr. was found not guilty of the much more ser­i­ous charge of third-de­gree murder. He was also ac­quit­ted of crim­in­al con­spir­acy.

Shaf­fer, who is on house ar­rest, will be sen­tenced on March 8. The time on house ar­rest does not count to­ward his pos­sible jail time, but the six months he spent in jail be­fore mak­ing bail does count.

The de­fense has in­dic­ated it will ask the judge to give him a sen­tence of time served.

Mark Wal­lace, 54, died 12 days after an al­ter­ca­tion with Shaf­fer and his fath­er in April 2010 at the in­ter­sec­tion of Knights and Fairdale roads in Mill­brook.

What ex­actly happened in the early even­ing of April 8, 2010 is at is­sue.

Shaf­fer Sr., a Phil­adelphia fire­man, was driv­ing east on Fairdale Road when he honked his horn at Wal­lace, a ped­es­tri­an. Shaf­fer Jr. was a pas­sen­ger in his dad’s car.

The eld­er Shaf­fer and Wal­lace ex­changed un­pleas­ant­ries, with the ped­es­tri­an in­sist­ing he had the right of way.

Shaf­fer Sr. parked his truck, got out and walked to­ward Wal­lace, and a fight en­sued. Shaf­fer Jr. even­tu­ally joined the ruck­us.

The tri­al, in room 807 of the Crim­in­al Justice Cen­ter, fea­tured con­tra­dict­ory evid­ence about what happened next. What is known is that Wal­lace, who had a .267 blood al­co­hol con­tent, died of a brain in­jury on April 20. Shaf­fer Sr. died of a heart at­tack in Decem­ber 2011, as he was await­ing tri­al.

Com­mon Pleas Court Judge Lil­lian H. Ransom presided over the case.

Testi­mony was heard Tues­day, Wed­nes­day and Thursday of last week. Shaf­fer, who cried dur­ing much of the case, test­i­fied in his de­fense.

As­sist­ant Dis­trict At­tor­ney Peter Lim pro­sec­uted the case. The de­fense team con­sisted of Jam­ie Funt, Coley Reyn­olds and Noah Co­hen.

“Gerry Shaf­fer murdered Mark Wal­lace, and don’t let any­body tell you dif­fer­ent,” Lim said in his clos­ing state­ment on Fri­day.

Funt de­livered the clos­ing state­ment for the de­fense.

“He’s try­ing to break up that fight,” he said of his cli­ent. “He did not in­tend to hurt Mr. Wal­lace.”

Funt noted that the pro­sec­u­tion’s four eye­wit­nesses presen­ted con­tra­dict­ory testi­mony. He be­lieves they were af­fected by the news me­dia and a de­sire to help the pro­sec­u­tion.

“They’re wrong about so many things,” he said.

Dr. Jonath­an Ar­den, a forensic patho­lo­gist called by the de­fense, test­i­fied that Wal­lace’s in­jur­ies were con­sist­ent with a fall.

“That’s reas­on­able doubt,” Funt said.

Pro­sec­u­tion eye­wit­nesses Justine Bra­ciszewski, Jean Ja­nukow­icz, Christina Pet­ti­grew and Mark Mc­Carty re­turned to the courtroom for clos­ing ar­gu­ments.

It was Bra­ciszewski who provided the key evid­ence, testi­fy­ing that she saw Shaf­fer pick up Wal­lace and slam him to the ground.

Dr. Ed­win Lieber­man, an as­sist­ant city med­ic­al ex­am­iner, test­i­fied that Wal­lace’s fatal in­jur­ies were con­sist­ent with be­ing thrown to the ground. The in­jur­ies were not con­sist­ent with a fall, he test­i­fied.

Lim re­minded the jury that Shaf­fer left the scene and nev­er called 911.

“If it was an ac­ci­dent,” he said, “why not stay?”

For more de­tails on the tri­al, read Wed­nes­day’s North­east Times.  ••

Re­port­er Tom War­ing can be reached at 215-354-3034 or twar­

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