100 WVIA Way
Pittston, PA 18640

Phone: 570-826-6144
Fax: 570-655-1180

Copyright © 2024 WVIA, all rights reserved. WVIA is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

UPDATED: Lackawanna County jury finds Schuback guilty in Old Forge pizzeria owner's murder

Justin Schuback
Justin Schuback

Justin Schuback is headed for life in prison, and as far as Lackawanna County District Attorney Mark Powell is concerned, the Robert Baron murder case is over.

“We know who did it. He acted alone and he is guilty of first degree murder,” Powell told reporters outside the county courthouse Wednesday shortly after jurors convicted Schuback in the Old Forge restaurant owner's slaying seven years ago.

"This case is closed," Powell said.

Prosecutors say Schuback broke into Gigharelli’s Pizza on the night of Jan. 25, 2017 intending to rob the business, where Baron was known to keep large amounts of cash. He apparently encountered Baron, violently attacking and killing him.

Jurors, who deliberated for about 10 hours over two days, were asked to decide whether Schuback was guilty of first, second, or third-degree murder, as well as burglary and robbery.

At 2:13 p.m. on Wednesday they returned to the courtroom with a verdict, finding Schuback guilty of the most serious charge, as well as burglary and robbery.

Defense attorney Bernie Brown praised the jury for its diligence, but did call the verdict “disappointing and devastating.”

“I know that I did everything I could to represent Justin. And he was one of my favorite clients. So I'm actually more hurt and concerned for him right now,” Brown said.

Jurors heard from numerous prosecution witnesses over four-and-a-half days of testimony last week and this, but they never heard from Schuback – who opted not to testify in his own defense – or from any defense witnesses.

A woman with the Baron family told reporters that they did not wish to speak to the media after the verdict.

Schuback’s first-degree murder conviction carries an automatic life sentence, but Judge Terrence Nealon will need to hand down separate sentences for the burglary and robbery charges. That will take place within 90 days, once a pre-sentence investigation report is complete.

A memorial honors Robert Baron, the Lackawanna County restaurateur who disappeared in January 2017.
Finding Robert Baron Facebook page
A memorial honors Robert Baron, the Lackawanna County restaurateur who disappeared in January 2017.


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.

The trial began with opening statements on May 6. The prosecution rested on Monday, and closing statements were held on Tuesday morning.

Jurors left the courtroom to begin their deliberations at 12:33 p.m. Tuesday, continuing until shortly before 6 p.m. They resumed at about 9:30 a.m. Wednesday.

Questions from jurors

The panel of six women and six men asked two questions on Tuesday — seeking clarification on the definition of "intent," as well as to see "range to tower" cellphone tracking evidence placing Schuback in key locations associated with Baron's death on the night he died.

Shortly before 10 a.m. Wednesday, jurors asked to see more than 60 photos of the crime scene at Ghigiarelli’s Restaurant, including images of blood stains, hair, cleaning products and luminol tests showing the extent of blood splatter.

They returned with the verdict after lunch.

'Burn in Hell'

Before publishing the verdict, Nealon announced to the packed courtroom that he understood it was an emotional moment, but advised the gallery to maintain its decorum.

There was some quiet applause, and members of Baron's family hugged each other.

As Schuback was led from the room, there were a few muted shouts in his direction.

"Burn in Hell," someone shouted. Another called him "garbage."

Brown's defense strategy had been built on two basic premises, including that there was not sufficient evidence to place Schuback inside Ghigarelli's and at the site where Baron's remains were buried. Also, investigators should have been looking at other suspects, including Baron's son, Bobby Baron.

Brown declined to discuss Schuback's decision not to testify, saying that was privileged information between himself and his client. Brown did say the defense's goal was to keep the focus on "whether or not there was reasonable doubt in the investigation and prosecution."

He said it was too soon to say whether there will be an appeal, but that co-counsel Jordan Leonard will be looking into and discussing with Schuback.

As for the DA's statement that the case is closed, Brown's reaction was concise.

"He gets to make those decisions. And if that's what he feels, then then I guess that's the way it is," Brown said.

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
Related Stories