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Carlisle homicide case heads to higher court
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Carlisle homicide case heads to higher court

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The man accused of shooting and killing 23-year-old Michael Burch in Carlisle in June is one step closer to trial.

In front of an audience of family and friends of both the victim and the accused, Magisterial District Judge Jonathan Birbeck said the prosecution had presented enough evidence Wednesday during a preliminary hearing to send charges against 18-year-old Craig Hines of Carlisle to higher court.

Hines was charged on Aug. 31 with criminal homicide, felony possession of a firearm by a prohibited person, possession of a firearm by a person deemed not to possess, firearms not to be carried without a license and multiple counts of felony aggravated assault, misdemeanor simple assault and reckless endangerment.

Hines is accused of shooting and killing Burch around 3:45 p.m. on June 21 in the first block of North Penn Street.

“I’m just glad that Mr. Hines can never hurt anyone else again, and that he’s behind bars where he should be,” said Burch’s mother, Dawn Meusser.

During testimony Wednesday, Riley Bowen, a witness to the shooting, said he had just stepped out of his vehicle when he heard multiple shots fired and saw a red SUV quickly drive away from the scene.

“When I heard it, I didn’t know what it was, but I heard pops,” he said.

Bowen provided a 911 operator with the license plate number of the vehicle he saw leaving the scene. That license plate matched a red Chevrolet Equinox that police found later that day in the parking lot of the Heberlig-Palmer Tot Lot in Carlisle.

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The vehicle was officially rented by another man who told police he subleased it to Hines on a weekly basis, according to an affidavit of probable cause filed by police.

Police were able to track the vehicle from near the scene of the shooting to the parking lot using footage from borough-owned surveillance cameras positioned around the borough, Carlisle Police Det. Tom Dolan said Wednesday. Those photos showed the driver of the vehicle was wearing a distinctive red, white and striped shirt. Hines was seen on surveillance cameras shortly after the shooting wearing a matching shirt, Dolan said.

Shell casings from a 9-mm bullet were found inside the vehicle and similar 9-mm bullets and fragments were found at the scene of the shooting, according to Dolan.

The firearm has yet to be recovered.

Dolan said Burch and Hines had previous encounters, testifying that a witness to the shooting said Burch appeared to be preparing to fight when he saw the red SUV approach.

Meussner told The Sentinel after the hearing that Burch had previous altercations with Hines and other men. She said Burch told her the day before his death that he was told to “vest up,” implying that Burch needed to start wearing a bullet-proof vest.

“They couldn’t beat my son up, so they had to kill him,” Meussner said. “They knew they were coming the next day to kill my child, and they did. They did. They succeeded.”

Defense attorney Shane Kope pushed for the all the charges to be dismissed. He argued that the prosecution had not presented enough evidence to tie Hines to the shooting.

“I think it’s obvious from the testimony that there is no physical evidence,” Kope said. “The features [the prosecution] feel are distinguishing, just aren’t.”

Senior District Attorney Daniel Sodus said his office was still determining if they would pursue the death penalty in the case, and bail was again denied for Hines.

Hines also faces multiple counts of felony possession with intent to deliver drugs in a separate case. He waived his preliminary on those charges, which were also sent to higher court Wednesday.

“They couldn’t beat my son up, so they had to kill him. They knew they were coming the next day to kill my child and they did. They did. They succeeded.” -Dawn Meussner

Email Joshua Vaughn at jvaughn@cumberlink.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Sentinel_Vaughn.

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