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YOUNG TELLS OF BOY'S DEATH

By DAVID WEISS dweiss@leader.net

Wednesday, September 10, 2003     Page: 1A

WILKES-BARRE - Tina Young said she saw Larry Tooley hovering over a bloody and motionless Casey Zalenski on top of a stairwell.
    Frantic, Young ran up the stairs, hoping the 16-year-old - already shot twice - was still alive and breathing, she testified Tuesday.
    ``I said, `Oh my God. Is he dead?,' '' Young testified, crying as her voice quivered.
    Tooley, she said, raised his arm, fired another shot and told her, ``He is now.''
    Young's testimony against Tooley, her former boyfriend, was the first time details surfaced of what allegedly happened inside the Zalenski home Nov. 8. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against Tooley, 46. He is charged with first- and second-degree murder. Police have said Tooley and Young drove to the Zalenski home to steal money for drugs.
    Young is the former baby-sitter for Casey, and his younger brother, Tommey, who also was at home at the time of the shooting.
    Her recollection of the shooting coincides with testimony of a forensic pathologist, who, earlier on Tuesday, told jurors Zalenski was first shot in the chest and mouth before being shot in the head.
    The final shot to the top of the head, the pathologist said, was an ``execution wound,'' a fatal blow delivered when a person is down and defenseless.
    The second-day testimony in Tooley's murder trial sets the stage for a lengthy cross-examination of Young this morning by Tooley's attorneys, who have accused her of killing Zalenski.
    And, it was the first time Young publicly said Tooley told her she should have struck Zalenski's younger brother with a car when he fled the shooting scene.
    Unshackled and wearing her orange prison jumpsuit, Young - who referred to Tooley as Mr. Tooley - made almost no eye contact with him as she told jurors how the two on Nov. 7 planned to steal about $2,000 from the Zalenski home to buy heroin and pay off drug debts.
    But that plan soured, she said, after she drove Tooley to the family's Franklin Township home.
    Under questioning from Assistant District Attorney William Finnegan, Young, 33, said she pulled into the driveway, got out of the car and went to a rear door. She carefully pulled her coat sleeve over her hand to prevent any fingerprints from getting on the door when opened it.
    Inside, she yelled, ``Is anybody home? Is anybody here?''
    With no response, she went back to her car and let Tooley, with gloves on, go into the home. She told him to go to the second floor and make a left into Zalenski's room. There, he should be able to find the money Zalenski was saving to buy a car.
    Young waited outside as a lookout and told Tooley to open a window when he got in so he would be able to hear her talking to anyone who came to the house.
    Shortly after Tooley went in the home, she heard the window open.
    Then she heard one gunshot. And another one.
    She hoped Tooley was only playing a joke, but she saw Zalenski's younger brother, Tommey, running from the home, across the street to a neighbor's home.
    ``I went inside,'' Young testified. ``I went up the steps and I saw Casey laying on the floor.''
    Young continued up the stairs and into Zalenski's room, where she saw Tooley ``rummaging'' through items looking for money.
    ``I said, `What happened? I saw Tommey running,' '' she testified.
    She said Tooley responded by saying, ``Why didn't you go after him with the car?''
    Then Tooley changed his tone, telling her ``it's too late now'' as he still looked for the money.
    Young checked to see if Zalenski was still alive. She felt no pulse.
    The two began to leave the home, with Young being the first one down the stairs. She stopped, turned around, and saw Tooley standing on top of the steps in front of Zalenski.
    Young ran back up the stairs, two steps away from the landing. That's when she heard Tooley fire the third shot. Young, from where she was standing, could not see the gun, she said.
    The mother of four said she began doing heroin two years ago to lose weight and ease her marital problems. She later separated from her husband and began dating Tooley, who she met through the drug trade, in the summer of 2002.
    Her testimony came in front of a crowded courtroom, filled with members of her family, Zalenski's family, and Tooley's family.
    And it was a far cry from what a Tooley defense attorney outlined in his opening statements to the jury. Attorney Jonathan Blum said the defense team believed evidence will show Young shot and killed the teen before crafting a story to point the blame on Tooley.
    Finnegan bluntly attacked that theory Tuesday.
    ``Tina, did you shoot Casey?'' he asked.
    ``No,'' said Young, whose tears intensified when Finnegan showed her a picture of the dead teen on the floor.
    Young said she never intended for any of the Zalenskis to get hurt in the burglary.
    Earlier Tuesday, Dr. Isadore Mihalikis, a forensic pathologist, said Zalenski was shot first in the chest and mouth from about two feet away. He said he believes the final shot killed Zalenski.
    Defense attorney Mark Bufalino vigorously questioned Mihalikis about how the evidence collected could have been contaminated from too many people being in the home. Bufalino said about 42 people had entered the Zalenski home after the death.
    Evidence would not have been contaminated if it was gathered properly before most of the people entered the home, Mihalikis said.
    Bufalino also challenged blood evidence collected in the case. He first established that more blood was found on Young's clothing and where she sat in the car than Tooley's clothing and seat. Young said she did not pay attention to blood when she was in the home.
    Young's cross examination will begin at 8:15 a.m. today before Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas Judge Peter Paul Olszewski Jr.
    David Weiss, a Times Leader staff writer, can be reached at 831-7397.
    WHAT'S NEXT
    The prosecution's key witness, Tina Young, will be cross-examined by Larry Tooley's attorneys at 8:15 a.m. today. Prosecutors are expected to rest their case by this afternoon.
   
   
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