Venango jury finds man guilty of vehicular homicide

by Saxon Daugherty  Staff Writer

A Venango County jury found a McKean County man guilty of vehicular homicide Thursday.

Following roughly seven hours of deliberations, the jury consisting of six men and six woman returned with a guilty verdict shortly before 6 p.m. Thursday convicting 40-year-old Paul Morrisroe of homicide by motor vehicle while driving under the influence of alcohol and marijuana.

The trial started Jan. 18 at the Venango County Courthouse, detailing a June 2015 hit-and-run accident on Route 646 between Aiken and Cyclone that took the life of 20-year-old Dakota Heinaman.

The trial was originally set to begin May 16, 2016, in McKean County, but after three days of searching for people to sit on the jury, McKean County president judge John Pavlock discontinued the process.

When the selection process did get underway, only five jurors were seated after 143 people were questioned because many people felt they could not be fair or impartial if they were on the jury due to publicity the case had received.

A motion for change of venue was filed in June to allow the jury to be selected in Venango County, while also having the trial be heard at the Venango County Courthouse.

A pool of 175 candidates were contacted in Venango County prior to the start of jury selection on Jan. 17.

Ten days were set aside for the trial, but it only lasted eight days.

Pavlock made the trip to Franklin to preside over the case with McKean County district attorney Stephanie Vettenburg-Shaffer serving as the prosecutor.

Attorneys Robert Kinnear and James P. Miller served as Morrisroe’s defense counsel in the case.

Venango County court administrator Lynn Cummings-Wilson said the trial went smoothly from a logistics standpoint and McKean County will reimburse any expenses that occurred such as meals for the jury or local staff that assisted with the proceedings.