PINE TOWNSHIP — A Grove City man will face trial on an attempted murder charge in the Mercer County Court of Common Pleas.
Most of the charges against Skylar Layne Hartsock, 25, of 1005 W. Main St., Apartment 1, were held to court during a preliminary hearing Wednesday before District Judge D. Neil McEwen.
Hartsock returned to Mercer County Jail after failing to post $250,000 bond. His common pleas arraignment is scheduled for 9 a.m. May 8 before Judge Robert G. Yeatts.
In Wednesday’s hearing, McEwen dismissed two counts of aggravated assault. The judge said he felt that those charges did not apply to the man Hartsock threatened with a knife.
McEwen ordered charges of attempted first-degree murder, strangulation, resisting arrest, disorderly conduct and two counts of aggravated assault held for court.
Mercer County Assistant District Attorney Shane Crevar, who led the questioning, is prosecuting the case. Lauren Hackett of the Mercer County Public Defender’s Office represented Hartsock.
Grove City police accused Hartsock of trying to suffocate his girlfriend with a plastic bag. Patrolman Jesse DePietro testified in the hearing about alleged events on Feb. 25, when police were called to Hartsock’s home for a domestic incident around 9:20 p.m.
Police said a woman at Hartsock’s residence was playing a video game when he said the woman’s co-workers didn’t like him. She ignored him and he put a clear plastic garbage bag over her head and tightened it around her neck.
The attack left her unable to breathe for a short time until she was able to remove the bag. By then, Hartsock was in a corner of the room, hitting himself and acting strange, the woman told police.
When the attack took place, the woman was playing an online video game with her brother, who overheard Hartsock arguing with her and alerted a second brother, who went to the house.
When the woman’s brother arrived at Hartsock’s home, police said Hartsock threatened him with a pink 6-inch folding knife.
By the time police arrived, Hartsock had left the home, but police found him on West Main Street walking toward his residence. Grove City officers Jason Bennett, Patrick Krumpak and DePietro attempted to apprehend Hartsock.
“Krumpak had Mr. Hartsock at gunpoint and was yelling verbal commands,” DePietro said.
Bennett also yelled commands, and when Hartsock reached toward his pants, Bennett used pepper spray, which was dispersed in high winds and had no effect.
Hartsock continued to ignore commands and warnings, including a warning about a Taser device being deployed.
Bennett shocked Hartsock with the Taser, but it had little impact because he was wearing a heavy coat. The Taser probe also hit DePietro’s hand.
“He started to scream and attempted to run,” DePietro said.
It took all three patrolmen to tackle Hartsock to the ground in order to place him in handcuffs.
“He continued to flail, throw his arms around,” DePietro said of the brief struggle.
Hartsock was cooperative afterwards, and he was treated by an ambulance crew at the scene for small cuts to his hands and face.
DePietro, who has had past encounters with Hartsock, was able to confirm his identity, and said that his clothes matched the description provided by the woman and his brother.
The woman told police that she feared for her safety and the safety of her children kids’ safety, and that she was afraid that she was going to die when Hartsock put the bag on her head. She told police that Hartsock has threatened her in the past.
The woman’s brother said he felt threatened by Hartsock.
When questioned by Hackett during Wednesday’s hearing, DePietro said the woman’s brother called 911 on Feb. 25 and that Hartsock had smashed the woman’s phone during prior incidents.
Police did not find any weapons in Hartsock’s possession when they arrested him, and they did not recover the knife or plastic bag, DePietro said.
He confirmed for Hackett that police did not tell Hartsock he was under arrest or why he needed to show his hands.
He was asked to show his hands because he was walking toward Krumpak and reaching for his pockets while Krumpak had his gun drawn, DePietro said at the end of his testimony.
The “attempted homicide” charge is a “joke,” Hackett said.
Crevar said that there is no other purpose to put a bag over someone’s head other than an attempt to cause harm.
McEwen dismissed the two aggravated assault charges, saying that it doesn’t fit the actions against the woman’s brother.