“What did I see? A nightmare.”
These were the chilling words issued by Tyrone resident Jonathan Fink when the prosecution in a Blair County murder trial asked him to describe what he observed on the night of Dec. 26, 2005.
Fink was Christina Muoio’s next-door neighbor at the Tyrone Townhouses and the first to discover what Muoio just minutes earlier had already come to know – a life had ended. Muoio’s six-year-old son, Jared Klein, lay beaten and motionless in a pool of his own blood with the black handle of a kitchen knife protruding from his neck.
“I was getting ready for bed. I had to work the next morning, and I heard this banging on the door,” Fink recalled Tuesday during the first day of testimony in the capital murder trial of Nathan Todd Shaw. “I got dressed, my wife answered the door. She hollered up the stairs that there was someone at the door all bloody but she didn’t know who it was.”
The Finks opened the door for the frantic person who turned out to be Muoio. The girl was shaking and barely dressed and her face was battered beyond recognition.
“You couldn’t tell who it was,” Jonathan Fink continued during the prosecution’s direct examination. “You couldn’t understand what she was saying; she was frantic.”
Carla Fink, Jonathan’s wife, attempted to calm Muoio, a mother of two who had been the Finks neighbor for close to three years.
“She said her son was dead; that Nate Shaw had killed her son,” Carla Fink testified.
It was 9:36 p.m. that night and Carla Fink quickly called 911. Soon, police arrived on scene and began to put together the pieces of a gruesome puzzle.
After a year of anticipation, a 12-member jury began to receive testimony Tuesday in the case of the Tyrone man accused of brutally beating and raping his estranged girlfriend, then killing her son, stealing her car and fleeing. Shaw was apprehended two days later, halfway across the country in Oklahoma.
Shaw is the sole suspect in the death of Klein that wintry night after Christmas just one year ago. Blair County District Attorney Richard Consiglio is seeking the death penalty for Shaw – it was Consiglio who successfully prosecuted the last Blair County death penalty case just seven years ago.
The jury heard from seven commonwealth witnesses Tuesday including Muoio who delivered what was probably the most grim testimony. Photos of Jared’s body sprawled across the living room floor and of Muoio’s beaten-in face caused members of the courtroom audience to gasp and sob.
Muoio gave a step-by-step account of the night her young son was killed, recalling an early afternoon phone call from Shaw that was followed by an impromptu visit from the defendant at Muoio’s home later that evening.
“He kept punching me in the top of the head, in the side of my head,” the young mother said. “He said he was going to kill me.” Muoio told the court that it was young Jared who responded to his mother’s cries for help and that he paid the price.
“Jared was upstairs when I managed to get my bottom lip out from under the duct tape he used on my mouth,” she said. “I screamed and Jared came downstairs. He asked Nate (Shaw) to ‘please stop,’ but Nate punched him in the face, knocking him back into the DVD stand.” Muoio said that Shaw struck both of them repeatedly, that he eventually got a hold of both of them – one in each hand – and began to choke them.
She said she slipped in and out of consciousness, all the while trying to fight back as she listened to her son struggle for air. Soon, she said she was bound around the wrists with more duct tape, her arms looped around Shaw’s neck as he carted her upstairs to the bedroom.
It was there that she said the defendant bound her, undressed her and raped her.
At one point during her testimony, Muoio seemed to go limp and nearly pass out, something that prompted Blair County Judge Daniel J. Milliron to call for a recess.
Lead defense attorney Theodore Krol set the tone for Shaw’s defense in his opening statement, conceding that his client did indeed “cause the death” of Klein. However, Krol explained that his client never intended to kill the boy, that Shaw had a “loving relationship” with Jared and that there was no “specific intent” to kill.
“My client will be taking the stand in this case,” he told the jury. “Nate is going to tell you what happened that night. He’s going to explain the tragic events – the things he didn’t expect to happen – that lead to the death of his son.”
The jury, which is not being sequestered, also heard testimony on Tuesday from an emergency room surgeon from Altoona Regional Health System who treated Muoio and Tyrone Borough police officer Michael Metzger, who was the first to respond to the “weapons call” at 1550 Pennsylvania Avenue, Tyrone, the night of Klein’s death.
The prosecution will more than likely wrap its case today.
“Things went pretty much as expected today,” said defense attorney Krol following Tuesday’s proceedings. “There was some emotion, which we expected; it’s a tragic set of circumstances.
“Nate wants to tell his story and he will get that chance, possibly tomorrow,” the attorney added. “It’s our position that Nate never intended to do harm that night.”
Following the day’s court proceedings, Tyrone Police Chief Joe Beachem told The Daily Herald, “We are very confident in our case against the defendant.”
Judge Milliron said testimony will continue today and is expected to last throughout the week.
“What did I see? A nightmare.”