Breaking News
More () »

Preliminary hearing for suspect in Baron case

A Lackawanna County man accused of murdering Old Forge businessman Robert Baron back in 2017 was in court Thursday.

LACKAWANNA COUNTY, Pa. — A judge has ruled there is enough evidence to move the case of Justin Schuback forward. Schuback is charged with the murder of Robert Baron in 2017.  

Thursday, the Lackawanna County District Attorney's office presented its case.  D.A. Mark Powell had seven witnesses testify during Schuback's preliminary hearing.

State Police crime scene investigator, Trooper James Hitchcock, spoke about photos in Baron's restaurant, Ghigarelli's,  that showed blood and a cleanup, along with an open cash register and $50 missing from it.

Lackawanna County coroner Tim Rowland also testified about finding remains in March and how he consulted with other forensic experts to determine the cause of death to be traumatic injuries. The death certificate was just changed on Monday to reflect the cause and manner of death as a homicide.

Two DNA experts also explained their findings at the scene and in a car.

Of all the evidence collected, experts determined key samples matched the DNA of Baron, Schuback, and a third unknown man.

Then Courtney Rake, Schuback's ex-girlfriend took the stand. Rake was living with Schuback when the crime happened. She said she texted and called him the night of Baron's disappearance to see where he was.  Schuback finally texted her back around 1:30 am, saying "I'll explain when I get back." 

Prosecutors say detectives preserved Schuback's cell phone information from 2017 which, through new technology, put Schuback in the area of Ghigarelli's when that text to Rake was sent.  

Another investigator also testified about a timeline, saying they determined where Schuback's cellphone was from the pizza shop... to his house... and to Pagnotti Park, where Robert Baron's remains were located in March.

"That places the defendant in the vehicle despite denying that and clearly DNA supporting the blood scene and violent crime that occurred, unfortunately, in the restaurant," said D.A. Mark Powell.

Attorneys for Justin Schuback said the cell phone technology puts Schuback in the vicinity.. but there are other people whose DNA was never collected that could have committed the murder.

"There was certain evidence, particularly the DNA evidence that actually excluded him from being inside which was the mop pocket handle," said Bernie Brown.

Before You Leave, Check This Out