OC man held for court on manslaughter charge

Staff writer

An Oil City man charged with involuntary manslaughter in connection with an assault last July was held for court Wednesday.

The man Joel Rinker, 23, is accused of attacking died about four and one half months later in late November.

Rinker appeared before district judge Patrick Lowrey for the preliminary hearing Wednesday in Venango County Central Court.

Assistant district attorney Justin Fleeger opened the proceedings by calling Oil City police Lt. Jonathan Love to testify.

Love said he was dispatched to the 200 block of Pine Street on July 7 after receiving reports of a man lying in the sidewalk.

Officers encountered Jerry Buck, who appeared to be highly intoxicated, Love said.

Buck was taken to UPMC Northwest in Seneca but was later transferred to UPMC Hamot in Erie after a brain bleed was discovered, Love said.

Police eventually learned Buck was the victim of an assault and spoke with one witness the next day.

The witness told police that Rinker “flew” off the porch and punched Buck in the face because Buck was being belligerent toward Rinker, Love testified.

Buck struck his head on the street after being hit and Rinker dragged him to the other side of the street, Love said.

Buck died on Nov. 22, and Fleeger presented Rinker’s defense counsel – attorney Michael Antkowiak – with copies of the autopsy report and death certificate, which both make reference to traumatic brain injury as the cause of death.

Rinker was initially charged with a first-degree felony count of aggravated assault, a misdemeanor count of simple assault and a summary count of harassment.

But charges were refiled earlier this month to include a first-degree misdemeanor count of involuntary manslaughter after autopsy results were received.

During cross examination Wednesday, Antkowiak questioned Love about some discrepancies regarding dates listed on the witness statement, but otherwise Antkowiak didn’t have any argument against the charges as filed.

Lowrey ruled that enough evidence was presented to bind all charges over for further proceedings in the Court of Common Pleas.

Rinker remains free on $75,000 unsecured bail.