Accused killer's charges remain following hearing

Sep. 29—SUNBURY — All charges filed against accused killer Christopher Depka will be brought to a Northumberland County jury following a two-hour hearing on Wednesday.

Northumberland County Judge Paige Rosini denied a defense motion to dismiss criminal homicide and robbery charges related to the killing of Depka's mother Sarah Jones, 61. Rosini also denied a motion to suppress statements made by Depka during the police interview following the homicide in November 2021.

Depka, 40, of West Holly Street, of Coal Township, is accused of killing his mother with a baseball bat on Nov. 20, 2021.

Wednesday's hearing had six witnesses: county Coroner James Kelley, Coal Township Officer David Sage, Stonington State Trooper Kevin Kearny, former Shamokin Officer James Filko, Coal Township Officer Michael Menapace, and Coal Township Detective Matthew Hashuga.

Sage testified that he received a call on Nov. 20, 2021, from a neighbor asking for a welfare check on Jones. Depka was found in the bathroom with the lights turned off, saying he was planning to replace the flooring in the bathroom. There was a syringe on the floor and he seemed "a little agitated," Sage said.

Depka was handcuffed. He said he didn't know where his mother was when asked about her whereabouts, Sage testified.

The body of Jones was found in an upstairs bedroom next to the bed and covered in numerous blankets. Diaper pads were placed under the body. The walls and ceiling were spattered in blood, Sage testified.

Police did not disclose to Depka what they found. When he was placed in custody and questioned later at the police station, Depka made a statement that he would inherit the house because his mother was dead, Sage testified.

"We never told him she was dead," said Sage.

Depka was only told his mother was injured, he testified.

Filko testified that he found Depka with Jones's bank card in his pockets. Hashuga testified that video, bank and social media evidence shows Depka using his mother's account, pulling approximately $200 from the account to purchase a Visa gift card and exchanging that gift card for methamphetamine.

Menapace testified he found an aluminum bat with blood and hair on it hidden in a box under a bed. The box was also splattered with blood, he said.

Hashuga testified that both the DNA of Depka and Jones was found on the handle of the bat. The blood and hair on the bat matched Jones's DNA, he said.

Kelley testified that Jones died of blunt force injuries to the head. The manner of death is homicide.

Public Defender John Broda said Depka's actions of being in the bathroom in the dark, talking to himself during police interrogation and use of drugs should disqualify Depka's statements from being used against him. A mental health evaluation is pending.

Broda said the Nov. 21 interview between police and Depka resulted in "certain incriminating statements" that were obtained in the "absence of a knowing, intelligent and voluntary waivers of the defendant's rights as required" by law due to Depka's state of mind at the time of the police interrogation. The police conduct was also "unduly coercive in that the length of the interview was over four hours."

Rosini agreed with Assistant District Attorney Michael Seward that enough evidence was presented to move forward to a jury. She said that officers testified that Depka did not appear to be under the influence of any drugs during questioning.

Depka is facing criminal homicide; three felony charges: one count of robbery and two counts of aggravated assault; and seven misdemeanor charges: illegally accessing another's device, theft by unlawful taking, receiving stolen property, simple assault, possession of a controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia, and possession of marijuana.

He is being held without bail as a county inmate.