Cambria County homicide trial: Jury deliberating after accused man recounts night of fatal stabbing in Johnstown

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Shawn Curtis, The Tribune-Democrat, Johnstown, Pa.
·3 min read
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Apr. 22—EBENSBURG — Closing statements and the testimony of Paul Michael Lehman were heard by jurors on Thursday as his three-day criminal homicide trial concluded at Cambria County Courthouse.

Following instructions from Judge Patrick T. Kiniry, jurors were sequestered to deliberate the charges facing Lehman in the Nov. 22, 2018, killing of 19-year-old Deontaye Quadir Hurling in a house on Steel Street in Old Conemaugh Borough.

Lehman, 39, is charged with criminal homicide, tampering with or fabricating physical evidence, and two counts of aggravated assault.

Jurors were tasked with determining if Lehman's responsibility in Hurling's death was considered to be first-degree homicide, third-degree homicide, voluntary manslaughter or if Lehman acted in self-defense.

During Lehman's testimony, he told defense attorney Richard Corcoran that his relationship with Hurling was forged through longtime friend Jessica Wilson, who acted as a go-between in supplying drugs to Lehman before she was incarcerated on a probation violation in mid-2018.

Lehman testified that when he started dealing directly with Hurling, Hurling would front drugs to him in exchange for collateral, oftentimes use of Lehman's car. In Lehman's words, Hurling then became an authoritarian toward him.

Lehman's description of the relationship through late October and early November of 2018 painted a picture of Hurling using acts of intimidation, including brandishing firearms toward Lehman and having an associate pistol-whip him.

A mid-November debt to Hurling reached $1,000 as Lehman said an associate went with Lehman to where he was staying that evening to ensure that the money would be paid the following morning.

On the night of Hurling's death, Thanksgiving 2018, Lehman said that he initially did not leave his vehicle and keys with Hurling as agreed upon since Lehman wanted the car so that he and his then-girlfriend could go shopping on Black Friday.

A series of texts and a call prompted Lehman to go back to the Steel Street residence where he said that despite wanting to drop off the keys and leave, Hurling invited him inside and locked the door behind him.

Lehman testified that he saw Hurling reach for the back of his pants to presumably draw a weapon, leading Lehman to pull and unfold a pocket knife before leaping into the fatal brawl with Hurling.

Lehman continued his recount of events by saying that the struggle led to Lehman hitting his head off the wall in a narrow hallway area, dazing him.

Lehman testified that when he realized that Hurling had died during the altercation, which left him with 46 sharp-force injuries, Lehman started to experience a panic attack and left the residence before returning inside to retrieve his cellphone. After leaving, he told the court, he visited his girlfriend before heading west on Pa. Route 56 with no destination in mind.

During cross-examination, Cambria County Assistant District Attorney Jessica Aurandt pointed out instances in which Lehman was untruthful while under oath, including a moment during a status conference when Lehman explained that he received a black eye while playing basketball but had actually received the injury while in a fight.

Lehman told the jury and Aurandt that he had received the knife used in Hurling's death while working a booth at the Cambria County Fair for his employer, watching a patron win multiple knives while playing a ring-toss game. He then said that he tossed the knife over a guard rail when exiting the Woodvale section of the city following the Nov. 22, 2018, incident.

He testified that he didn't immediately call 911 after the incident because he was in a "sheer panic."

Check back for additional details on this developing story.