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LARRY TOOLEY TRIAL
DEFENSE GOES ON OFFENSIVE
EVIDENCE, STATEMENTS POINT TO TINA YOUNG AS TEEN'S KILLER, CONTENDS ATTORNEY PROSECUTION: CASEY ZALENSKI SHOT 3 TIMES BY ACCUSED

By DAVID WEISS dweiss@leader.net

Tuesday, September 09, 2003     Page: 1A

WILKES-BARRE - Police evidence shows Tina Young - not Larry Tooley - was the person who shot and killed a teenager last year, an attorney for Tooley said Monday.
    The attorney said blood evidence along with numerous conflicting statements Young gave to police will show she fired three fatal shots into Casey Zalenski and then tailored a story to make Tooley a ``scapegoat'' in the killing.
    ``The physical evidence points to Tina Young as the shooter,'' defense attorney Jonathan Blum said.
    Blum made the accusations in attacking Young's credibility and the integrity of the police investigation during his opening statements to jurors in Tooley's murder trial.
    But the prosecution quickly moved to poke holes in some of his defense with highly emotional testimony from Zalenski's younger brother and Tooley's older brother, who said Larry Tooley admitted to shooting someone three times.
    Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against Tooley, 46. He is charged with first- and second-degree murder in the Nov. 8, 2002, shooting of Zalenski. Police said Tooley and Young drove to the Zalenski home to steal money for drugs.
    Inside the home, Zalenski was shot three times - in the chest, mouth and head.
    Luzerne County Coroner Dr. George Hudock, using the shirt Zalenski was wearing when he was shot, showed blood from the teen's chest still on the garment near a bullet hole.
    Hudock said the shot entered Zalenski's body about 2 inches above his left nipple and moved downward, damaging Zalenski's lung and a blood vessel before exiting through the teen's back.
    The vessel damage caused 4 pints of blood to accumulate in Zalenski's chest area, Hudock said.
    A shot into Zalenski's mouth broke several teeth and his upper jaw, Hudock said.
    A third shot - into the top of Zalenski's head - was fired from a ``relatively close'' range, Hudock said. He made that determination based on ``powder burns'' on Zalenski's face and neck that are consistent with a gun being fired close to the skin.
    Hudock said he could not determine exactly how close the gun was to Zalenski when it was fired.
    Parts of his testimony brought Zalenski's mother to tears, as she wiped her eyes and wore a picture of her son around her neck.
    Blum argued that the proximity of the shots meant a shooter would have likely gotten blood on the shooter's clothes.
    Evidence in this case, he said, will show Young had blood on her pants and shoes. There was also blood found on the mats and gas pedal of the car she was driving, Blum said. No blood was found on the passenger side of the car where Tooley was sitting, he said.
    He also made jurors aware that Young was charged with second-degree murder in the shooting, but she later pleaded guilty to third-degree murder, avoiding a possible life term in prison, in exchange for testimony against Tooley.
    Blum classified her as a ``user'' of drugs and people, outlining how she used Tooley for drugs and her husband for legal fees. He said her use of heroin during her latest pregnancy reveals much about her character.
    ``She has a careless disregard for human life,'' said Blum, who told jurors that police hastily and wrongly focussed the investigation on Tooley. There was evidence testing that was either delayed or not done, causing some of the evidence to be tainted, he said.
    Luzerne County Assistant District Attorney William Finnegan, in his opening statement, said evidence shows Zalenski's blood on one of Tooley's boots.
    Finnegan said prosecutors will prove their case against Tooley through that type of evidence and from witnesses.
    By Monday afternoon, those witnesses, including Zalenski's younger brother, Tommey, began reinforcing Finnegan's arguments in their testimony.
    Tommey was the only other person home with Casey when Young and Tooley allegedly came to the home.
    Tommey, 15, suffers from an attention disorder and spoke softly, forcing the attorneys to often ask him to repeat his answers. He was fidgety as he often wiped tears from his eyes and sometimes made long pauses before answering a question.
    But he was able to tell the jury how he and Casey heard a car pull up. He looked outside and saw Young's car before she entered the home and asked, ``Is anyone home?''
    The teens were in a third-floor attic of their home before Casey went downstairs to ``check it out,'' Tommey said.
    He heard his brother ask, ``What are you doing?''
    A man replied, ``I'm looking for your ... money.''
    Tommey said he then heard the man demand money and threaten to kill Casey.
    His brother responded, saying: ``That's all the money I have.''
    Tommey heard a noise, like a gunshot, and then heard his brother ``screaming out loud.'' The younger Zalenski jumped from a third-floor window onto a roof and then to the ground before hearing another shot as he ran to a neighbor's home.
    After the shooting, Tooley and Young spoke with Tooley's brother, Oliver, at a Wilkes-Barre car wash, Oliver Tooley testified. The group then went back to Oliver Tooley's residence to watch the noon news at Larry Tooley's request.
    When a report about the Zalenski shooting came on, Young nudged Larry Tooley.
    Pounding his fist on his leg at times, Oliver Tooley told jurors how he approached his brother and tried to get more information from him about the incident.
    He said Larry Tooley said a ``guy disrespected Tina. I put three hollow points in him.''
    A tearful Oliver Tooley said he initially gave police inaccurate statements ``because he's my brother and I love him.''
    He said he was later truthful with police.
    ``Spiritually and morally, it's the right thing to do,'' he said.
    Under cross-examination from Blum, Oliver Tooley admitted he wrote a letter to his brother indicating he was pressured into making the statement. But he later told the jury his testimony on Monday was the truth and that he was not coerced to testify.
    The brothers made eye contact, and at the end of Monday's testimony Larry Tooley turned around toward his family, where Oliver was seated, and gave them a thumbs-up sign.
    Testimony will resume this morning.
   
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