Jun. 9—WILKES-BARRE — Luzerne County's conflict counsel's office was ordered by Judge David W. Lupas on Wednesday to assign an attorney to assist conflict attorney William J. Watt III in the defense of homicide suspect David Alzugaray.
Lupas said he will further issue a court order to transfer Alzugaray, 53, from the State Correctional Institution at Greene in southwestern Pennsylvania, to the county correctional facility to make it easier to meet with his defense attorneys prior to his September trial.
Alzugaray and a co-defendant, Robert Torner, 49, were charged by state police at Hazleton in February 2020 for the killing Jose Herran on Oct. 13, 2015.
State police investigators allege Torner and Alzugaray drove Herran to a house trailer on North Buck Mountain Road, also known as Eckley Road, in Foster Township, where he was shot in the back of the head. Torner and Alzugaray used a hatchet to dismember the body and dispose of the human remains in a burn pit, investigators allege.
Investigators further believe human remains were thrown into the Lehigh River near White Haven, court records say.
During a status conference, Watt requested a second attorney to assist in his defense since Mary Deady resigned from the county conflict's office in February.
Watt also requested Alzugaray to be transferred from the state prison, which is south of Pittsburgh, closer to Luzerne County as it would be easier to meet in preparation for trial.
Lupas ordered the conflict counsel's office to assign a second attorney to assist Watt, and said he will issue an order to have Alzugaray transferred to the county correctional facility.
Torner's attorney, Robert Allen Sauman of Stroudsburg, said he has no issues in his defense preparations.
Watt and Sauman said the discovery phase, the exchange of evidence with prosecutors, remains ongoing with no issues.
Deputy Assistant District Attorney Dan Zola said he and Assistant District Attorney Drew McLaughlin are prepared for trial.
Lupas scheduled a pre-trial motion for Aug. 1 to finalize any outstanding legal issues before a jury trial begins Sept. 27.
In an unrelated federal case, Torner was sentenced in February 2020 by a federal judge in Scranton to 22 years in prison on drug and firearm offenses.
Torner is jailed at the Lackawanna County Prison and will remain at that facility to keep separation from Alzugaray when he is transferred to the county correctional facility.
Torner and Alzugaray are charged with an open count of criminal homicide and conspiracy to commit criminal homicide. Torner is further charged with two counts of criminal solicitation to commit homicide and Alzugaray charged with abuse of corpse.