It seems the closer one resides to Norristown, the less one hears about the David Manilla case, the case of the tragic hunting death of Barry Groh that happened just over the Montco border in Bucks County. Other than the victim, the story is almost entirely populated by well-known Norristown lawyers and is presumably of interest to the Norristown community. Not that there hasn’t been news coverage; oh heavens no. It’s just that the coverage has been somewhat…thin.
For readers who may have understandably missed this story, the Journal Register News Service, which is the only coverage available in the local Journal Register newspapers, sums up the story so far thusly:
The preliminary hearing for David Manilla, the Worcester attorney charged with killing a Quakertown hunter on the opening day of deer season last month, is scheduled for Jan. 31.
Manilla was relased on Dec. 23, when his mother paid 10 percent of his $2 million bail, according to court reports.
Manilla, 49, was charged with involuntary manslaughter in the Nov. 29 shooting death of hunter Barry Groh. He also faces multiple weapons and hunting violations.
Manilla allegedly shot Groh with an illegal high-powered rifle; he told authorities he thought he was shooting at a deer.
Manilla’s uncle, former Montgomery County District Attorney Michael Marino, was hunting with his nephew when Groh was shot, according to court records.
Marino faces no criminal charges.
On Dec. 17, at a press conference after Manilla’s arraignment, Bucks County District Attorney David Heckler said that Manilla committed “a reckless act” when he shot and killed 52-year-old Groh.
Heckler said that after the shooting Manilla “engaged in a cowardly effort to evade and escape responsibility for his criminal acts.”
According to court records, Manilla fired the fatal shot from about 88 yards away.
Now one thing we would certainly never do here at PAWatercooler is engage in conjecture or innuendo, however, a simple Google search reveals some facts that have been missing from the local newspapers available to those of us who live in close proximity to the Montgomery County Seat.
For instance, missing from the local coverage is this rather material story from the December 23 Allentown Morning Call:
According to online court records, Manilla earlier this month sold four properties in Montgomery and Bucks counties. Two of the Montgomery County properties were sold to his mother, Vivian Manilla, for $1.
A third Montgomery County property was sold for $1 to Honor Manilla. Her relationship to David Manilla is unclear. According to public records, Honor Manilla is a podiatrist whose practice shares the same address as David Manilla’s home at 2060 Valley Forge Road, Worcester.
On Dec. 8, Manilla sold his Richland property to PPL, according to a company spokesman. The 88-acre property at 1155 California Road is where Groh was shot and killed.
Manilla had been in negotiations since June to sell the property for a power line route, said Paul Wirth, PPL senior manager of communications.
Wirth declined to comment on how much the sale was for, but said published reports of a $1.45 million sale “were not incorrect.” A representative with the Bucks County Recorder of Deeds office could not be reached for comment Thursday.
Channel 69 WFMZ News adds:
All transactions happened after Groh’s death but before Manilla’s December 17th arrest.
“[There's] nothing illegal about selling property, especially if planned a long time ago,” says Allentown lawyer Stephen Zamborsky.
PPL tells 69 News its deal had been in the works since June.
Zamborsky says if someone is shown to be liable either in a criminal case or civil case and the courts could freeze any assets, including those recently sold and put them into a trust at their assessed value.
“If it can be shown they started to engage in course of conduct and that happened immediately after the incident occurred. Then the selling of that property is not going to pass the smell test,” Zamborsky states.
He says it doesn’t matter who the properties were sold too. If fraud is suspected the courts can take control.
When Manilla turned over the rifle in question, the barrel had been “plugged” with dirt. The rest of the rifle, especially the outside of the barrel where the “dirt plug” was observed, was otherwise clean.
The rifle in question had a broken scope on it; Manilla maintains he did not drop his rifle during hunting and “expressed surprise when asked how the scope of the rifle had been broken.”
“According to Manilla, no one else had possession of the rifle between Monday and the time he turned it over to detectives on December 1, 2010. Manilla did not offer any explanation as to how the plug of dirt had gotten into the barrel of his .30-06 rifle.”
Prior to calling 911, Manilla fired a shot from his shotgun into the ground, presumably because he knew that it was illegal to hunt with the rifle in Bucks County. Manilla told investigators “if the game warden had asked what was fired, I was going to show them the shotgun.”
[Firearms examiner, Montgomery County] Detective [John] Finor stated that in his training and experience when a rifle is utilized properly the “shooter’ must aim at their selected target by looking down the top of the weapon through the rear sight blade and lining up the front sight (at the tip of the barrel) in the center of the rear sight blade. The sights are then lined up on the target. Detective Finor stated that in his expert opinion this particular weapon, in the condition it was in at the time of his examination, could not be aimed properly or fired accurately utilizing the iron sights as David Manilla had previously described in his statement to Affiant Potts, since the rear sight blade was missing from the gun.
On Friday December 10, 2010, detectives interviewed Barbara Fletcher at her attorney’s office. According to David Manilla, Barbara Fletcher is his longtime girlfriend. Following the interview, Barbara Fletcher turned over to detectives, a Remington bolt action rifle, serial number T6254490, with a black synthetic sling, a black rifle case, and a box of ammunition. Fletcher advised that at the request of David Manilla, she retrieved the rifle and ammunition from the Manilla farm at 1155 California Road on Sunday December 5, 2010. After the shooting at the farm, Manilla told Fletcher to go to the farm to collect the rifle, and told her where she could find the rifle in one of the outbuildings. This rifle was not the weapon used by Manilla on November 29, 2010. Fletcher advised that the gun was hers, and that she was not aware that it was being kept at the Manilla Farm. Detectives also inspected a cache of 68 weapons (rifles and shotguns) that were stored in the attic of Fletcher’s residence. Fletcher was unable to identify eighteen of these rifles as belonging to her, advising that they were Manilla’s.
You can read the complete affadavit here.
In the interests of keeping the public informed about this developing story, your intrepid bloggress, without the benefit of a reporter in the Bucks County Courhouse, will continue to utilize the vast resources of the internet and her trusty laptop to continue to bring updates to the good people of Norristown and it’s surrounds. If you spot a story that you think needs to be highlighted, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.