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Attorney for Clarion Man Accused of Murder Works to Suppress Statements Made to Police
According to court documents, 21-year-old Damien Lawrence Ditz, of Clarion, is facing the following charges stemming from the shooting death of 22-year-old Katrina Seaburn, of Curwensville, on March 1 near a Lake Lucy trailer park:
- Criminal Homicide, Felony 1
- Aggravated Assault, Felony 1
- Aggravated Assault, Felony 2
- Simple Assault, Misdemeanor 2(two counts)
- Recklessly Endangering Another Person, Misdemeanor 2
Adam Bishop, of Bishop Law in Pittsburgh, is representing Ditz.
At the preliminary hearing, Bishop argued that Ditz didn’t intentionally shoot Seaburn.
According to court documents, Bishop filed a omnibus pre-trial motion on November 6 to suppress statements Ditz made to state police at the Marienville barracks shortly after the shooting because they did not read him his Miranda rights, which include the right to remain silent, that his statements could be used as evidence against him at trial, his right to have counsel present, and that counsel would be appointed, if necessary.
Police audio recorded four separate statements by Ditz as they questioned him in an interview room from about 7:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.
Bishop argued that Ditz was in a highly emotional state, was suffering from a panic attack, and had difficulty speaking coherently.
Bishop also filed a motion on November 6 to compel the prosecution to turn over the expert report prepared by Dr. Eric Vey, the Erie County Coroner, who performed the autopsy on Seaburn.
Bishop said in the motion that District Attorney Mark Aaron informed their defense that Dr. Vey holds an opinion related to the presence/absence of gunshot residue.
Bishop also filed a supplement to the omnibus trial motion on November 22 to have statements made by Ditz to Pa. State Police Troopers on June 20 at the Ridgway barracks suppressed because he was not read his Miranda rights.
According to the motion, the interrogations lasted about seven hours. After the interrogations were over, Ditz was arrested and charged.
Clarion County President Judge James G. Arner was scheduled to rule on Bishop’s motions on Friday, but the case has been rescheduled for 9:00 a.m., on Friday, January 19.
The charges against Ditz were filed on June 20 following a joint investigation between Marienville-based State Police and the Clarion County District Attorney’s Office.
According to a criminal complaint filed by Trooper 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.
Ditz is being held without bail, as is customary in Pennsylvania criminal homicide cases.
If convicted, he could face life in prison.
Details of the Shooting
State police were dispatched to 1110 Lake Lucy Road in Washington Township, Clarion County, around 5:43 p.m. on Wednesday, March 1, for a report of a shooting.
Trooper Nicewonger was called to the scene along with various other state police personnel, including Corporal Milliard, Sergeant Bettwy, and Troopers Watters and Freeman.
While en route to the parking area of Hartzell Trailer Court, it was reported that a female, later identified as Seaburn, pictured above, 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 9:00 p.m. by Troopers 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 Trooper Nicewonger.
Police say Ditz admitted his previous statements were false during a seven-hour interview and polygraph examination conducted by Corporal Higgins and Trooper Mallory at 11:00 a.m. on 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.
He then told police that he didn’t intentionally pull the trigger, according to the criminal complaint.
Following the interview, Ditz was arrested and remanded to the Clarion County Jail.
Corporal Higgins testified that Ditz could not provide an answer when questioned about why he pointed the pistol at Seaburn.
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