August 14, 2012

Tunkhannock man arrested in wind farm shooting

BY ROBERT L. BAKER, Staff Writer | 14 August 2012

A Tunkhannock man was arraigned this morning for allegedly shooting a 58-year-old woman he believed was trespassing on his property Sunday night.

Wade Douglas Wright, 42, of Copper Kettle Park, was arraigned before Magisterial District Judge David Plummer in Factoryville around 8:30 a.m. He faces five felony counts of aggravated assault and five misdemeanor counts of reckless endangerment.

Wright initially told investigators Monday he had become aware of a female being shot the night before after a friend identified in a police criminal complaint as “Leslie” called him on the telephone.

At that time Wright told state police he “was not involved in the shooting and was not aware who could have shot the female.”

Court papers say Wright did, however, acknowledge being in a state of shock after “Leslie’s” phone call.

Investigators told Wright a 22-caliber pistol was found inside his residence. Wright admitted firing rounds from the pistol towards an occupied vehicle which he believed to be trespassing on his property.

Wright told police he was riding a light green Polaris all-terrain vehicle Sunday night when he encountered a Jeep Wrangler. He got off his ATV about 50 yards from the occupied Jeep, according to the complaint.

The owner and driver of the Jeep, Thomas Anthony Weeks, told authorities he had just purchased the vehicle and took his wife, nephew and two sisters-in-law for a ride to see the Mehoopany windmill project, an 88-wind turbine farm developed by BP Wind Energy. After stopping to take about a dozen photos of the site, Weeks said the group got into his Jeep and traveled back down the mountain.

After about three-quarters of a mile, Weeks said he observed a man on an ATV in the middle of the road. Weeks said he could see the man unsnap the flap on his holster to reveal the grip on a pistol. Weeks stopped the Jeep.

Weeks told authorities Wright approached the Jeep and stated, “I’m not asking you to stop. I’m telling you to stop.” Wright then approached the passenger side of the vehicle and said, “You are on private property. You better be going.” Weeks said his wife told Wright they were leaving.

Weeks said he began to drive away, but noticed in the rearview mirror the man who had just confronted them was removing the pistol from his holster and aiming it toward his Jeep.

Weeks told authorities he remembered one round being fired that missed, and then after a second shot, he felt a bump in the back of his car seat. He then heard his sister-in-law, Mary Josephine McClaine, yell, “Oh my God,” while slumping over into another sister-in-law’s arms.

Weeks told police he then “floored it” and his wife called 911. At the bottom of the hill, they were met by an ambulance at the corner of Main Street and School Road in Noxen, where medical personnel tended to McClaine’s injuries. She was later taken away by medical helicopter. The extent of her injuries is unknown.

After being arrested and advised of his rights Monday night, Wright led police to the scene of the shooting and told police he had shot at the victims, according to the complaint.

Unable to post $250,000 bail, Wright was remanded to the Wyoming County jail. His preliminary hearing before Judge Carl Smith will be Aug. 22.

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