Jury hears testimony on shoes, footprints
Ross murder trial wraps up week with witnesses remarking on footwear
HOLLIDAYSBURG — Witnesses told a Blair County jury Friday that Paul Aaron Ross wore the type of athletic shoe linked to footprints found in an area of Canoe Creek State Park where Tina S. Miller was found dead in 2004.
Ross, the last person to be seen with the 26-year-old Miller, went on trial this week in Blair County Court, charged with first-degree murder and related sexual assault offenses.
Testimony, which resumes Monday, is expected to extend through next week.
“The pace of the trial is moving along,” President Judge Elizabeth Doyle said Friday in court before dismissing the jury for the weekend.
Twenty-five prosecution witnesses have testified since Tuesday, when Ross’ trial began a day later than scheduled so efforts to finish seating a jury could be completed.
Friday’s witnesses included Ross’ former girlfriend, Juliette Dibella-Harkness, who said that during her relationship with Ross, from 1996 to 2003, he often wore Adidas Samba shoes.
Wednesday’s testimony revealed that investigating police officers found footprints at the park on June 27, 2004, the day Miller’s body was found, and that they linked those footprints to Adidas Samba shoes featuring triangles and a circular bull’s eye pattern on their soles.
Dibella-Harkness recalled being with Ross in 2001 at the Logan Valley Mall where he bought Adidas Samba shoes in black with three white stripes. She said she remembers him wearing those shoes in Blair County and in Mount Lebanon, after they moved there in May 2001.
The woman’s father, Richard Dibella, also recalled Ross wearing that style of shoe when Ross and his daughter were in a relationship.
When defense attorney Thomas M. Dickey proposed to Dibella that the Adidas Samba is a popular shoe, Dibella said he recognized the shoe as popular among soccer players. That prompted Dickey to ask Dibella if he knew how many pairs are sold in Pennsylvania.
“I’m an attorney, not a shoe salesman,” Dibella said.
Retired District Attorney Richard Consiglio, lead prosecutor for the trial, also called upon additional witnesses to link Ross’ choice of shoe to the footprints linked to Miller’s demise. They included Marcus Braithwaite, who shared his Pittsburgh-area residence with Ross for three months in the fall of 2003.
Braithwaite described himself as an avid skateboarder who paid attention to footwear. He told the jury that Ross wore an Adidas Samba classic black shoe with three white stripes and a brown rubber sole.
“How often did he wear them?” Consiglio asked.
“Frequently, very often,” Braithwaite said.
Consiglio also put Jim Fees on the witness stand on Friday.
Fees, who now lives in Maryland, invited Ross, Miller, Justin Hartman and Alex Mariana to his Scotch Valley residence in the early morning hours of June 27, 2004, when the Pipe Room in Hollidaysburg was getting ready to close.
At his residence, Fees said he remembers a conversation with Ross and Hartman, when Ross told them: “We should run a train on this girl.”
Fees said he knew Ross was suggesting “some sort of group sex,” but Fees said he wasn’t interested because Miller was his friend.
Fees also said he saw Ross and Miller embracing and kissing at one point at his residence.
“Toward the end of the evening,” Fees said, “he asked her to go to his place with him.”
Fees said he gave Ross and Miller a ride to the Canoe Creek area, where Ross lived, but dropped them off about 5 a.m. at a boat launch near Ross’ house so the sound of their arrival wouldn’t awaken his parents.
Fees said Miller knocked on his window and waved goodbye, prompting him to wave back.
The next day, Fees recalled Ross calling him to say that after they were dropped off, Miller decided she didn’t want to go with him and that someone driving a white truck had picked her up.
Consiglio, on Friday, called in Miller’s former boyfriend, Michael Snyder, to tell the jury that he didn’t pick up Miller at Canoe Creek State Park.
Snyder, who lives in Lakemont, testified that he didn’t own nor did he have access to a white pickup truck.
Dickey, through cross-examination, asked Snyder about his conversations with investigating police and if they arranged to secure blood and hair samples from him.
“I’m sure they did,” Snyder testified. “But it was 17 years ago, and I don’t remember.”
Snyder did recall that he was at his Lakemont residence in the early morning hours of June 27, 2004, with girlfriend Jessica Lynch. She testified Friday that she and Snyder played cards with friends until about
3 a.m., then went to bed.
Lynch said she got up about 8 a.m. to go pick up her daughter.
She said she knows Snyder wasn’t gone at any time during those hours.
His snoring, she said, keeps her from sleeping well.
Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 814-946-7456.