Johnsonburg love triangle leads to homicide

Written by Amy Cherry

Following a preliminary hearing on Thursday, Harvey Leroy Detterline III, 37, of Byrnedale
had all charges bound over to court following the Aug. 16 death of Richard Hicks, 29, of Johnsonburg.
Detterline has been charged with felony charges of criminal homicide and aggravated assault.
At the hearing Detterline was represented by attorney George Daghir, public defender.
The hearing’s sole testimony came from Officer Stefan Smith of the Johnsonburg Borough Police Department. He has been employed as a full-time officer for three years with the department.
Elk County District Attorney Shawn McMahon noted there were additional witnesses sequestered inside the office of Magisterial District Judge James R. Martin in Johnsonburg where the hearing took place.
During the preliminary hearing, a district magistrate determines if a defendant should be tried for the crime in which they are being charged, and if there is enough evidence requiring a trial.
According to Smith’s testimony, he responded to 426 1/2 Water Street Extension, Apartment E-7, also known as the Duffy Apartments, at 11:33 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 16, following a 911 call from that location with an open line. The Elk County Control dispatcher informed Smith there was a weapon on scene and they received a second call related to the incident.
The affidavit of probable cause reports the apartment was rented to Brittany Dilley, 27, who resided there with her two juvenile children, a boy and a girl, along with Hicks, her boyfriend and father of the female toddler.
According to Smith, Detterline was living on the second floor of the apartment sharing a room with Dilley’s juvenile son. Dilley and Hicks lived in the first floor living room.
Upon arriving on scene at 11:38 p.m., Smith stated Detterline approached him wearing black pants and no shirt with blood on his side. It was determined Detterline was not injured.
At the time, Detterline stated to Smith he was going to jail, and when questioned as to what he meant by that statement, Detterline said it was because he stabbed someone. Smith then detained Detterline in an effort to obtain additional information and informed him to remain seated on a sidewalk on the side of the apartment building.
Smith proceeded to enter the residence in an attempt to render aid, when he discovered Hicks body on the second floor at the top of the stairs, lying face down. After checking the body for signs of life Smith determined Hicks to be deceased, and proceeded to contact additional law enforcement and ambulance personnel while securing the scene of the crime.
During this time, Dilley’s son was located sleeping downstairs under a pile of blankets. The female toddler was with her mother outside of the residence with a group of about 10 people.
Officer Bolden of the Ridgway Borough Police Department and Sergeant Shaffer, of the City of St. Marys Police Department, then arrived on scene.
Physical evidence was located at this time on the exterior of the structure, specifically a military-style fixed blade style knife on the exterior of the fence and a knife sheath on the fenced in courtyard of the apartment.
Other items seized outside the apartment include the knife sheath, and Detterline’s shirt and cellphone. Officer Smith indicated that many texts were recovered from the phone between Detterline and Brittany Dilly indicating that their relationship was not just as roommates, but as intimate sexual partners.
Elk County Coroner Michelle Muccio pronounced Hicks dead on scene at 12:03 a.m.
Smith secured Detterline in his vehicle, transporting him to the City of St. Marys Police Department to conduct an interview, leaving the scene secured with the aforementioned officers.
The Pennsylvania State Police Forensic Team was requested to process the scene, arriving several hours later.
Elk County Detective Gregg McManus assisted Smith with the interviews of Dilley and Detterline, both of whom consented to having audio and video recorded.
A hypodermic syringe was also found on Detterline after being placed under arrest for criminal homicide and related charges.
Detterline is facing five charges, including a first-degree felony charge of criminal homicide, a first-degree felony charge of aggravated assault, a second-degree felony charge of aggravated assault, a first-degree misdemeanor charge of possession of an instrument of crime with intent to employ it, and an ungraded misdemeanor charge of use/possession of drug paraphernalia.
During an interview with police, Detterline divulged he was involved in a sexual relationship with Dilley. Earlier in the evening, Detterline stated Hicks was banging on the front door to gain entrance to the apartment. At that time, Hicks and Detterline engaged in a verbal argument.
Smith testified that during Detterline’s interview he was told by Dilley to lock the windows and doors of the apartment, and that their intention in locking Hicks out at that time was so they could engage in sexual intercourse.
After the completion of the act, Detterline rolled a cigarette for them out of "butts" collected around the apartment complex when Hicks supposedly entered into the apartment through a second story window.
Detterline described grabbing the knife and proceeding upstairs with it unsheathed to confront Hicks.
During a physical altercation, Detterline stated he stabbed Hicks twice, once in the left side of the torso grazing his hip bone, and the second time in the left side of the chest, penetrating his lungs and heart.
Dilley was reported to have screamed at the two men to stop fighting. At the time, Hicks told her he had been stabbed.
The autopsy was performed by Dr. Eric Vey, M.D. of the Erie County Coroner’s Office. Smith attended the autopsy in which the cause of death was determined to be exsanguination, or loss of blood due to a penetrating wound.
Hicks also received defensive wounds on his left hand and arm during the struggle. Smith testified one of the hand wounds was deep enough to sever tendons enough to have hindered Hicks' mobility.

The full article can be found in the printed publication or E-Edition of the Ridgway Record, Sept. 28, 2018.