Matthew Zucco might not have pulled the trigger, but he was found guilty Friday night in the murder of a popular 19-year-old
In a case that touched on drugs, guns and money, a
Zucco, now 23, and went to the home with alleged accomplice Clinton Johnson to steal Ziegler’s stash of $12,000 kept in a safe, prosecutors have said.
But the plan became lethal when Zucco and Ziegler got into a physical struggle and the .38-caliber revolver discharged, striking Ziegler in the head, prosecutors said.
Jurors deliberated for less than four hours. Prosecutors sought a conviction on a special charge that Zucco pulled the trigger that resulted in the murder, but the jury found Zucco not guilty on that issue. That would have meant an extended sentence of 85 years to life in prison. He now faces up to 60 years in prison.
Jeffery Ziegler, Joseph's father, said he was "glad for the conviction" but that "we still don't have a sentence and that will be the closure we're looking for."
Zucco testified on his own behalf and said he and Johnson went to the home to buy $450 worth of marijuana.
Zucco said the deal went bad, Ziegler pulled a gun and Zucco had to defend himself. In the struggle, the gun discharged while in the hand of Ziegler, killing him, Zucco said.
Johnson painted an entirely different picture, testifying that he and Zucco went to rob Ziegler, with Zucco carrying a gun as they walked through backyards to Ziegler's house. He said they knew Ziegler sold drugs and had a substantial amount of cash in the home.