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Schuback won't take stand in Old Forge murder trial as prosecution rests

A memorial honors Robert Baron, the Lackawanna County restaurateur who disappeared in January 2017.  Justin Schuback, who has been charged in connection with Baron's death, will not take the stand in Lackawanna County Court.
Finding Robert Baron Facebook page
A memorial honors Robert Baron, the Old Forge restaurateur who disappeared in January 2017. Justin Schuback, who has been charged in connection with Baron's death, will not take the stand in Lackawanna County Court.

Justin Schuback will not take the stand in his trial for the murder of Old Forge restaurateur Robert Baron.

The prosecution wrapped up its case early Monday afternoon, and Schuback's defense indicated no witnesses would be called, judicial officials confirmed.

That leaves only closing arguments in the case, which are set for 9:30 a.m. Tuesday morning in Lackawanna County Court.

Schuback, 38, who is being tried before Judge Terrence R. Nealon, faces charges including first-, second- and third-degree murder. He pleaded not guilty at a county court arraignment in June.

His trial began last Monday with jury selection and opening statements, followed by four-and-a-half days of prosecution witnesses, including Baron's widow, his son Bobby Baron, as well as county and state police detectives.

Baron, the owner of Ghigiarelli’s Restaurant in Old Forge, failed to show up at the eatery as usual on the morning of Jan. 26, 2017 and never contacted anyone, which family said was uncharacteristic of him.

Despite evidence of a bloody attack inside the restaurant and blood found inside a car that Baron had been using, his remains were not located until March 2023.

Investigators said Schuback was a suspect from early in the case, but it took several years to uncover the evidence necessary to make an arrest.

During a press conference following Schuback's arrest last year, Lackawanna County District Attorney Mark Powell said advances in cellular phone tracking technology eventually helped them trace Shuback's movements around the time Baron disappeared.

While cellphone tracking allegedly places Schuback at Ghigiarelli’s on Jan. 25, 2017 and in the woods near the power pole line early the next day, defense attorney Bernie Brown has pointed out that there is no blood or DNA evidence placing his client inside the restaurant, where Baron is believed to have been killed.

And, Brown argued, there was no DNA or blood evidence on clothing recovered from Schuback’s home tying him to the crime.

A state police corporal testified later that Schuback’s DNA was found in the Hyundai Baron Sr. had been using.

In addition to the murder charges, Schuback also faces charges of robbery, burglary, theft and abuse of corpse.

Roger DuPuis joins WVIA News from the Wilkes-Barre Times Leader. His 24 years of experience in journalism, as both a reporter and editor, included several years at The Scranton Times-Tribune. His beat assignments have ranged from breaking news, local government and politics, to business, healthcare, and transportation. He has a lifelong interest in urban transit, particularly light rail, and authored a book about Philadelphia's trolley system.

You can email Roger at rogerdupuis@wvia.org
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