Police, DA probing Johnstown bar owner's death as a homicide

Feb. 24—JOHNSTOWN, Pa. — Johnstown police and Cambria County prosecutors are investigating the death of a Johnstown bar owner as a homicide, they said Friday.

Lance Ross, 65, of Johnstown, died on Monday at Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center.

Someone found Ross still alive but injured on Monday morning at his bar, the Freight Station, officials said. That person called 911 at about 11 a.m. Monday after finding Ross injured, apparently from a fall.

However, an autopsy conducted Wednesday confirmed that Ross died from multiple blunt-force trauma, injuries consistent with an assault, Cambria County Coroner Jeffrey Lees said.

"Therefore, the manner of death is being ruled a homicide," Lees said at a press conference Friday at the Johnstown Police Department.

Lees did not describe Ross' injuries because the investigation is ongoing, except to say they were not consistent with a fall. He also did not elaborate on how long Ross may have been left after the alleged assault on the first floor near the seating area of the main indoor bar of the Freight Station, located at 20 Matthew St. in downtown Johnstown.

Cambria County District Attorney Gregory Neugebauer said search warrants were executed on Thursday and Friday, and the scene was processed in depth by Johnstown police and members of his office.

Neugebauer said a search of the property has not yielded evidence at this point that anything significant was taken from the establishment by the perpetrator or perpetrators of the homicide, although the investigation is ongoing.

"What the motive might be, we don't know. It would be speculation at this point," Neugebauer said. "Certainly anyone with any information is encouraged to contact us — maybe Mr. Ross had some people that didn't like him. Maybe there was an issue in close proximity that we are unaware of. If anyone has any information, this is an instance where the community can help."

While a motive is still elusive, Neugebauer said there is no evidence that the homicide is anything but an isolated event.

"We don't believe there is any danger to the general public based on what we know now," he said. "We are going to investigate this. We just ask for the public's help if anyone knows anything."

He said the next steps of the investigation will include interviews and electronic means of gathering information, as well as encouraging tips from the public.

"We can't stress enough," Neugebauer said, "in cases like this ... when the community, if they know something and step forward and give us information, it gives law enforcement the opportunity to look into things and develop the case more rapidly. JPD has been on top of this from the word 'go.' We are working what we have. Frankly, we need more, as is often the case in crimes like this."

He said recent cases have proven the value of community help.

Ross' death is the second homicide in the city of Johnstown in 2023.

Multiple witness statements and video surveillance led police to charge Michael Cogdell, 18, with homicide in the Jan. 23 murder of Johnstown resident Marvin Price on Park Avenue in the Moxham section of the city. A warrant has been issued for Cogdell's arrest.

Johnstown Police Chief Richard Pritchard stressed the importance of the public's help again as police investigate Ross' death.

"As the district attorney said, we do need help from the community," Pritchard said. "We are asking that you reach out to us via our tip line — Tip 411. Any information you can provide, no matter whether it seems insignificant from you or not, it could be the piece we need to put the puzzle together."