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Judge Reconsidering Nominal Bail for Homicide Suspect in McClellandtown

February 6, 2019

The attorney for a homicide suspect on Monday argued that his client’s nominal bail should be reconsidered by a Fayette County judge.

County Senior Judge Gerald R. Solomon was asked by assistant public defender Michael Aubele to reconsider the motion he made to deny nominal bail for Christopher C. Shellhammer, age 31, of McClellandtown. Shellhammer is being held in Fayette County Prison

According to police, Shellhammer allegedly shot 39-year-old Michael Henrick in the back and chest. The shooting occurred after Henrick arrived at the residence of Kelly French in Masontown. Police officials say that Henrick and Shellhammer argued and Shellhammer shot him. The shooting happened on January 15, 2018. Henrick was French's fiancé.

Aubele says that French set Shellhammer up for an ambush by sending text messages inviting Shellhammer to have sex and smoke marijuana. At 9:48 PM, Shellhammer sent a text saying he was at the home. By 9:53 PM, he was calling 911 and saying he shot someone, Aubele said. Shellhammer drove himself to the Masontown Police Department.

Last month, Judge Solomon denied the motion because there was a lack of evidence of self-defense and a lack of knowledge as to the sequence of the shots that were fired at Henrick.

On Monday, Aubele said that Shellhammer himself made the statement that he was set up. Shellhammer made the statement when he was at the Masontown Police Department. One of the department's police officers testified that Shellhammer said he was set up.

The judge said that Aubele made the same argument he had before and said that there was no direct testimony from Shellhammer that said he was set up.

Another argument Aubele made was that charges that were recently filed for an assault of a man in French's basement have things in common was Shellhammer's case.

In both cases, Kelly French met a man via an online dating website, then invited the man to her house. Each man ended up being assaulted. French's house is in Masontown along Peach Street.

Aubele said that this is her common scheme, the plan she generally uses. He called it "beyond the pale."

In the earlier case, dated January 21, Alan Lipscomb was seen by Masontown police walking around the borough beaten and bloodied. He told police that he had been in a basement for two days. He later added that Kelly French allegedly tied him up using video game cords, stuck a dagger in his arm, and threatened to stick it in his neck.

David M Clark, age 42, of Dilliner, is also facing charges. Clark was at the home at the time of the altercation between Shellhammer and Henrick, and is facing charges that include attempted homicide. He is in Fayette County prison on $250,000 bond.

According to Aubele, Shellhammer, unlike Lipscomb, was able to get away from the situation after he was struck by both French and Henrick first. Shellhammer suffered a broken jaw, a concussion, and a broken nose, according to Uniontown Hospital medical records that were obtained through discovery.

Judge Solomon told Aubele that he should produce the medical records to help him make his decision.

The assistant district attorney, Ryan Bettinger, indicated that he did not know of any new evidence of medical records and that he will have to check discovery. He said it will be up to a jury to decide if Kelly French’s testimony is discredited or not due to her recent arrest.

According to Bettinger, the incident began with Shellhammer pulling a gun on two unarmed people.

Shellhammer has no criminal record, according to Aubele, and should either be released on bail or put on electronic monitoring and other pretrial services.

Solomon put off making a decision, saying he will decide later and instructing the defense to file any additional motions within 10 days and then to give the Commonwealth another 10 days to respond.

The details of this case are truly murky. On the one hand, we have a gentleman who pulled a gun on two unarmed people, shooting one, who also turned himself in. On the other hand, we have evidence that the gentleman was lured to a residence on false pretenses and with the intent to harm him.

Not having all of the facts, I can’t make a judgment on Mr. Shellhammer’s guilt or innocence. In my opinion, his injuries and the fact that Henrick and French struck first will go a long way toward reducing his charges, and the bail. If I were the man’s attorney, I’d get that hospital record to the court as soon as possible.

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