A 21-year-old Erie man who said he loves money and getting high will spend the rest of his life in state prison for an ambush robbery and fatal shooting over marijuana and cash in Millcreek Township in 2021.
The defendant, Regginal D. Welch III, also known as "Dollaz," was convicted of first- and second-degree murder and all the other charges against him in Erie County Common Pleas Court on Friday night. The other charges included robbery and aggravated assault.
Welch was found guilty in the slaying of Titusville resident Casey Nadolny, 25, on March 23, 2021. The jury found that Welch killed Nadolny by shooting him five times inside the SUV in which Welch and Nadolny were riding at the intersection of Zimmerly and Zuck roads near the Millcreek Mall. Nadolny fell out of the SUV and stumbled before he fell dead on Zimmerly Road.
The evidence showed that Welch and one of his paramours set up the robbery to steal pot and cash from Nadolny, who had been in a relationship with another of Welch's girlfriends. The two women testified against Welch.
The lead prosecutor in the case, Assistant District Attorney Hillary Hoffman, described the case to the jury as involving a "love square" rather than a "love triangle" because of the number of relationships in play.
Welch did not testify at trial, but gave statements to the Millcreek police and made statements on Facebook and to others. The prosecution used those statements against him. They included Welch telling others that "I love money" and that he liked getting high on marijuana.
The District Attorney's Office used surveillance video from the mall parking lot to show that Welch was hiding in the back seat of the SUV before he shot Nadolny, who was in the front passenger seat. Welch's paramour, Lexus M. Conner, 21, was driving and had driven to Titusville to pick up Nadolny as part of the robbery plot. At Welch's urging, Conner had contacted Nadolny on Facebook to get the plot started.
Welch hid in the rear cargo area of the SUV on the trip to Titusville and back to Erie, where Conner and Nadolny shopped for sneakers and other items at the mall, according to testimony. Welch shot Nadolny as Welch came out from under a blanket in the rear passenger-side seat of the SUV, and as Nadolny turned around in surprise, according to testimony.
Prosecutor: Nadolny 'did not deserve to be executed'
Hoffman described Nadolny as a "wannabe" drug dealer, rapper and "gangster" who liked to smoke marijuana, but said that he should never have been killed.
"Casey Nadolny did not deserve to be hunted for a whole day," Hoffman said in her closing argument, on Friday. "He did not deserve to be executed in a car and dumped in the street at the end of a cold Erie winter."
Testimony showed Conner and Welch believed Nadolny had as much as $5,000 on him when he was robbed, with about half in his pockets and half in a bookbag. Welch and Conner were accused of taking the bookbag with $2,200 in cash inside after the shooting, according to testimony.
During the shooting, Conner drove her Ford Escape SUV into a utility pole at the Country Fair at the intersection of Zimmerly and Zuck roads. She and Welch then drove to Conner's residence in Erie, where they changed clothes and went through the stolen cash, Conner testified at trial. Welch smoked Nadolny's marijuana, she said.
Conner got about $800 of the cash from Welch, she testified at his preliminary hearing in June 2021. She referred to Welch at trial as "Dollaz."
Verdict came in hours; sentencing set for Dec. 2
The verdict ended three days of testimony and argument in the courtroom of Erie County Judge John J. Mead. He set sentencing for Dec. 2. Welch remains at the Erie County Prison with no bond set.
The jury of 10 women and two men reached the verdict around 9 p.m. on Friday after about 2½ hours of deliberations, according to the District Attorney's Office.
Convictions for first-degree murder, and intentional killing, and second-degree murder, a killing committed during a robbery or other felony, both carry mandatory state prison sentences of life with no parole.
Welch's lawyer, Gene Placidi, argued that Welch was not responsible for the robbery and killing, or that he acted in self-defense. Placidi said Conner and Lynzie Schwartz, 23, the girlfriend who testified against Welch, could not be trusted.
Schwartz, of Titusville, was not charged in the case. She testified that Welch asked her to set up a robbery of Nadolny, with whom Schwartz had also been in a relationship. Schwartz refused, according to testimony.
Videos, other evidence supported witnesses' testimony
Millcreek police charged Conner with murder, though her trial has been put on hold in light of the prosecution of Welch. Hoffman, the prosecutor, told the jury that the District Attorney's Office had not made a deal with Conner for her testimony. Conner was charged with murder in her role as an accomplice in setting up the robbery that ended in the killing.
Police used video surveillance to help identify Conner as the driver. Millcreek police Lt. Adam Hardner and Detective Sgt. Dave Parmeter led the investigation. Hoffman prosecuted the case with Assistant District Attorney Nick Maskrey.
Placidi in his closing argument asked the jury to consider that Conner — who remains in the Erie County Prison with no bond set and appeared in court shackled and in a prison uniform — would likely get a deal in return for her testimony. Placidi speculated a deal would not involve second-degree murder.
"Do you expect she thinks she will do a life sentence?" Placidi said. "Of course not."
In her closing, Hoffman said the surveillance video and other evidence supported Conner's version of events. Hoffman said Welch treated Nadolny as prey as he pursued him for money and marijuana.
When Welch was hiding in the back of the SUV with a gun, Hoffman said, "he might as well have been in a tree stand."
Earlier coverage of the case
The lead prosecutor in the case of a fatal shooting in Millcreek Township in 2021 paused in court as she described a crucial element behind the killing.
"A love triangle," she told the jury, did not quite fit.
"A love square," she said, was more accurate.
The prosecutor, Assistant Erie County District Attorney Hillary Hoffman, said four people were involved in overlapping relationships prior to the killing of the victim, Casey Nadolny. One of the four, she said, was Nadolny himself.
Nadolny, a 25-year-old Titusville resident, was shot to death during what police said was an ambush and robbery as he was the front passenger in Ford Escape SUV driving on Zimmerly Road, just east of Zuck Road, at about 7:35 p.m. March 23, 2021.
On trial for first-degree murder and other charges in Nadolny's death is 21-year-old Erie resident Regginal D. Welch III, repeatedly referred to in court by his nickname, "Dollaz." Welch's trial started Wednesday in the courtroom of Erie County Judge John J. Mead with opening statements and initial testimony.
Welch is accused of killing Nadolny by shooting him five times to rob him of at least $800 in cash that Nadolny had in a bookbag, according to testimony Wednesday and at Welch's preliminary hearing, in June 2021. Welch had been hiding in the back of the SUV, the prosecution said.
Criminal complaint filed:Erie man charged with fatally shooting Titusville man in Millcreek; suspect at large
"He was hunting him like an animal," Hoffman told the jury in her opening statement.
She described Nadolny in much the same terms as Welch, saying Nadolny participated in the "weed-smoking lifestyle" of a "rapper, drug-dealer, wanna-be gangster."
Of Nadolny, she said: "He wasn't the best person in the world. But he didn't deserve to be hunted like an animal."
A defendant, a victim, a girlfriend, another woman
The first person to take the stand Wednesday was the prosecution's main witness, 21-year-old Lexus M. Conner, of Erie. She was driving the SUV in which Nadolny was shot.
She is charged with criminal homicide in Nadolny's death, but her trial is on hold as the case against Welch proceeds.
Conner testified that she was Welch's "best friend" and that she met him on Facebook in February 2021. She said she had a sexual relationship with him and that, at his urging, she contacted Nadolny on Facebook to help set up the robbery that ended in his death.
Her relationship with Welch "kind of jumped to friends to more than that in a week," Conner testified. "Dollaz asked if I was willing to set Casey up."
Conner, Welch and Nadolny make up three of the four people in the "love square" relationship, according to the prosecution. The fourth person is Lynzie Schwartz, 23, of Titusville. She was Welch's girlfriend at the time of the killing and also had a prior relationship with Nadolny, whom she knew from Titusville, Hoffman said.
Hoffman said Welch initially asked Schwartz to set up the robbery of Nadolny after Welch saw him on Facebook flashing large stacks of cash. Hoffman said Schwartz — a prosecution witness who was not charged in the killing — refused, and Hoffman said Welch then turned to Conner to set up the robbery.
A visit to the Millcreek Mall ends in a fatal shooting
Hoffman said Conner used Facebook Messenger to contact Nadolny and persuade him to visit the Millcreek Mall with her. Conner drove to Titusville to pick up Nadolny on March 23, 2021. Welch hid under a blanket in the back of her SUV while she and Nadolny drove from Titusville to the mall, Hoffman said, summarizing Conner's statements to the Millcreek police.
While at the mall, Hoffman said in her opening statement, Conner and Nadolny shopped for sneakers and clothes while Welch went inside on his own to use the bathroom. Conner and Nadolny returned to the SUV, with Welch again hiding under the blanket, Hoffman said. She said Conner drove out of the mall parking lot, headed west on Interchange Road and continued driving on Zimmerly Road.
At the intersection of Zuck Road, Welch came out from under the blanket and shot Nadolny, Hoffman said. She said Conner crashed her SUV into a utility pole outside the Country Fair near the intersection of Zimmerly and Zuck roads. Nadolny fell out of the SUV and onto Zimmerly Road. Conner drove to Conner's residence in Erie, where she and Welch changed clothes and split up the stolen money, Hoffman said.
Hoffman said the evidence will show that Welch was in an excitable mood after the killing. She said he saw reports on the killing on the local TV news, and said: "You see that? I did that."
"He's proud," Hoffman said of Welch in her opening statement. "He's a gangster. He just shot someone and got his money. He's ballin' now."
Millcreek police arrested Welch on March 29, 2021, with the help of the Erie police and the U.S. Marshals Western Pennsylvania Fugitive Task Force. He was found at a residence in Erie. Police used video surveillance from the mall to help identify him and Conner.
Millcreek police charged Conner in May 2021. She gave statements to investigators prior to her arrest.
Defense claims defendant not involved in slaying
Both Welch and Conner are being held at the Erie County Prison with no bond set because they are charged with homicide. Hoffman said the prosecution is seeking to convict Welch of first-degree murder, an intentional killing, or second-degree murder, a killing committed during a felony, such as a robbery. Convictions for first- and second-degree murder both carry sentences of life with no parole.
Welch's lawyer, Gene Placidi, is arguing that Welch is guilty of nothing. In his opening statement, he said the prosecution lacked evidence to convict Welch, and he said Conner could not be trusted and gave varying statements to the police.
"This case is going to fall on the testimony of Lexus Conner, and she is going to fail miserably," Placidi told the jury.
Of Welch's involvement in Nadolny's death, Placidi said, "Mr. Welch just happened to be there."
Hoffman, the prosecutor, told the jury that Welch originated the plan to rob Nadolny and that he killed him. She repeatedly asked the jury to look beyond the actions and lifestyles of the four people involved in the "love square" and convict Welch of murder.
"You are not going to like any of the people who come up on the stand," Hoffman said, including Conner, who she said "did horrible things."
But Nadolny, she said, should not have been killed. She characterized Welch as a predator.
"He sits in the back seat of the car and waits for his prey," Hoffman said.
This article originally appeared on Erie Times-News: Fatal shooting: DA says 'love square' at center of Millcreek killing