As a couple went out for a motorcycle ride, a man skulked about in front of their home and ambushed them upon their return, shooting them to death with an AR-15 rifle.
That is how a Pennsylvania prosecutor described the case of Victor Frederick Steban, whom authorities reportedly want to execute for murdering Jacob Erdeljac, 41, and Mara Casale, 27, on May 16.
According to TribLive, Westmoreland County District Attorney John Peck cited the “nature of the killings” in explaining why he will pursue a death penalty for Steban.
“It’s a case where there are multiple aggravated circumstances and the nature of the killings themselves (warrant the death penalty),” Peck said Wednesday, according to TribLive. “It became more and more violent and ends up killing two people, which speaks volume about the person who is being prosecuted.”
The DA’s office declined to confirm or deny the report in response to a press inquiry from Law&Crime.
On May 16, Steban, 53, ambushed the couple after driving to their home and waiting for hours in a tree line about 150 yards away, according to police.
Court documents reviewed by local station WPXI reportedly said that Steban, using an AR-15 rifle, shot Casale first, and again two more times as she was trying to get away. The documents also allege that Steban admitted to shooting Erdeljac off his motorcycle, then shooting him twice in the head, WPXI reported.
Steban, looking for a way to get away from the scene, then allegedly stole a red truck from Erdeljac’s driveway, WPXI reported.
Peck said that it appeared that Steban killed Casale so she couldn’t be a witness to him killing Erdeljac. He also said that evidence indicating that Steban committed other killings during the course of a robbery and burglary will also be used to support his pursuit of the death penalty, TribLive reported.
Steban faces charges of first-degree murder and third-degree murder in Erdeljac and Casale’s deaths.
According to prosecutors, the killings came after a four-day crime spree in which Steban allegedly carried out three shootings at three other homes, according to multiple media reports. No one was injured in those shootings. Steban was also considered to be a person of interest in a car bombing.
Steban was apprehended two days after allegedly killing Erdeljac and Casale. Police, having warned the public that Steban was considered armed and dangerous, found Steban walking along Route 30 on May 18. Witnesses said that as police swarmed Steban, and as a helicopter hovered nearby, drivers nearby started ditching their cars and running to safety, according to a report from local CBS affiliate KDKA.
After Steban was arrested, Peck, the district attorney, said that he “basically admitted that he was lying in wait when Mara and Jacob returned home on Sunday evening after being on a motorcycle ride that afternoon. He immediately attacked them as they came onto the property.”
Peck said that Steban confessed to police, and said that he blamed Erdeljac for a recent breakup with a girlfriend, according to TribLive.
According to court records, Steban has a rap sheet dating back to the 1990s. In 1998, he pleaded guilty to driving under the influence of alcohol; he pleaded guilty to DUI again in 2010.
In 2002, he was charged with aggravated assault, but pleaded down to reckless endangerment and carrying a firearm without a license. In 2006, he pleaded guilty to theft, receiving stolen property, reckless endangerment, and assault.
[Image via Westmoreland County Prison]
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