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Jury seated in Robert Baron murder trial in Lackawanna County

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, is scheduled to go on trial this week in Lackawanna County Court.
Finding Robert Baron Facebook page
Lackawanna County restaurateur Robert Baron was last seen in January 2017, and his body wasn't located for more than six years. The trial of Old Forge resident Justin Schuback, who was charged in Baron's death, is beginning this week in Lackawanna County Court.

A jury has been seated in the murder trial of Justin Schuback, who is accused of killing Old Forge restaurateur Robert Baron Sr. in what investigators call a "burglary gone bad."

Opening statements in the case before Lackawanna County Judge Terrence R. Nealon were expected to get underway before the close of proceedings on Monday, court officials said.

Schuback, 38, was arrested in March 2023, more than six years after Baron's family last saw him alive. He faces charges including first-, second- and third-degree murder, to which he pleaded not guilty at a preliminary hearing in June.

Investigators say witnesses told them Schuback was in debt to his drug dealer, whom he paid off in full in the hours after Baron disappeared. Schuback allegedly knew Baron kept money in the restaurant building "because he didn't believe in using banks," according to an affidavit.

Robert Baron's whereabouts remained unknown for more than six years, from the time he was last seen in January 2017 until the restaurant owner's remains were found near a park last March.

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.

Baron reportedly drove his son home from work at about 10:30 p.m. the previous night and then returned to the business. Maria Baron reported her husband missing the the next morning.

Police investigation found blood evidence at the restaurant which appeared to have resulted from a "brutal attack," and that someone had tried to clean it with household cleaning products and a mop which were left at the scene, the affidavit states.

Investigators have 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 track Shuback's movements around the time Baron disappeared.

Those movements included Ghigiarelli’s Restaurant; two locations where Baron's car had been seen and later found; and Pagnotti Park, where Baron's remains were unearthed in March 2023.

“A lot of the information we had against Mr. Schuback was developed in the early stages, but we needed more, " Powell said following the arrest on March 31, 2023. "We needed a body, and we needed just a little break.”

Interviewed by Lackawanna County detectives on Jan. 26, 2017, Robert Baron Jr. was asked by police if he knew anyone who would want to hurt his father, the affidavit states.

He responded immediately: "Justin Schuback."

Trial proceedings are set to resume Tuesday morning in Lackawanna County Court.

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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