Blair DA: Teen planned robbery that led to killing
HOLLIDAYSBURG — An Altoona teenager facing second-degree murder and other charges in the 2020 shooting death of a teenager was described in Blair County Court on Friday as the one who planned what started as an attempted robbery for marijuana and cash.
In describing a Snapchat conversation among four teens just before the shooting, Blair County District Attorney Pete Weeks said it was Logan Persing who proposed the robbery, who described how it could be carried out, who identified the person to be robbed of marijuana and cash, then followed through with initiating those plans.
Persing, now facing second-degree murder and related criminal charges in the Feb. 25 death of 15-year-old Devon Pfirsching, is asking to have those charges transferred to juvenile court.
His co-defendants are Owen Southerland, accused of firing the fatal shot and facing first-degree murder, along with Damien Green and Omedro T. Davis Jr., who both face second-degree murder charges.
“Adolescents tend to discount the risks, the possibility that something is going to go wrong,” Drexel University psychology professor Kirk Heilbrun of Philadelphia testified Friday in a hearing before President Judge Elizabeth Doyle, who is reviewing the transfer petition request.
Weeks, who opposes the transfer, suggested to Heilbrun that Persing’s actions mirrored ones taken by an adult in pursuit of a crime.
The difference, Heilbrun suggested, is that a juvenile has time to mature and outgrow that type of behavior.
Persing, 17, who was 16 at the time of the Feb. 25, 2020, fatal shooting in the alley on the 100 block of Fourth Avenue, was disciplined multiple times as an Altoona Area Junior High School student, witnesses said Friday.
His offenses include classroom disruptions, fighting, tardiness and striking a fellow student’s lunch tray, causing it to fall.
In May 2019, Persing’s online posting of a video clip from a “South Park” TV show episode about school shootings prompted Altoona Area Junior High School personnel to summon city police.
“It was alarming,” AAJHS Assistant Principal Jerry Koehle said, partly because of a previously posted photo showing Persing holding a gun.
Dickey tried to challenge the validity of the “South Park” video, reported through an anonymous tip to a state hotline. He insisted that Persing had done nothing to distribute the video or the photo.
Koehle testified that when he asked Persing about the video, Persing claimed that it was his right to post it online, then he became angry.
First Assistant District Attorney Nichole Smith asked Koehle for an explanation of what concerned him about the online postings.
“In this age, this is how teenagers communicate,” Koehle said. “It would be visible to numerous students in our population.”
Prosecutors advised Doyle on Friday that they have at least one more witness to present in support of keeping Persing’s charges in adult court. That testimony is expected to be scheduled as soon as possible.
Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 814-946-7456.