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Pennsylvania prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against a man accused of gunning down a couple in their driveway in a suspected revenge killing.
Victor Steban, 53, is accused in the slayings of Jacob R. Erdeljac, 40, and his partner, Mara Casale, 27.
On May 16, Steban allegedly shot the couple to death with an AR-15 rifle after they returned home from a motorcycle ride. He was arrested two days after the Penn Township couple was murdered.
Amidst the killings, prosecutors say Steban also carried out a days-long violent crime spree, in which he fired multiple rounds into homes in Hempfield and Sewickley townships and set his own home ablaze in Huntingdon.
“It’s a case where there are multiple aggravated circumstances and the nature of the killings themselves [warrant the death penalty],” Westmoreland County District Attorney John Peck said this week, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “It became more and more violent and ends up killing two people, which speaks volume about the person who is being prosecuted.”
Prior to the shooting, detectives suspect Steban hid in the tree line about 150 yards from the residence. As Casale approached the property, Steban allegedly shot her in the back with an AR-15 rifle as she stood on the home’s porch. The 53-year-old then turned the firearm on Erdeljac as he sat on his motorcycle nearby. Steban allegedly shot Casale again before fleeing in Erdeljac’s truck, police said.
“He was very blasé and unrepentant about what he had to do,” Peck also said, CBS Pittsburgh also reported.
Peck also alluded to a possible feud between the two men.
“There was quite a bit of animosity between Steban and Jacob Erdeljac,” the county’s lead prosecutor added.
One home Steban allegedly opened fire on belongs to the leader of a suspected outlaw motorcycle club, according to officials. During an early court appearance, Steban told local media that Dennis “Rooster” Katona, the former leader of the Pagans Motorcycle Club, was the principal target of his crime spree, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported.
Peck didn’t immediately respond to Oxygen.com’s requests for comment regarding the case on Thursday.
Prior to Steban’s preliminary hearing, some of Erdeljac’s family spoke out about the killings.
“I am in denial, two times a day maybe three,” his father, Rob Erdeljac, told CBS Pittsburgh in May. “If I’m not with people, I will slip out of denial and as soon as a slip out of it I rush back to denial.”
The grieving father reportedly spoke to his son hours before the deadly shooting.
“He said, ‘I love you, dad,’” Rob Erdeljac recalled. “And I said, ‘I love you too, big Jake.”
He described Erdeljac as a loving son with an “infectious smile.”
“It’s just very sad,” Rob Erdeljac added. “It’s the depth of the sadness I’ve ever experienced."
Steban is being held at a Westmoreland County detention center as his trial proceeds, according to online jail records.
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