Trio of accused killers ordered to trial on murder charges

Prosecutors add robbery, conspiracy to suspects' list of charges

Trio of accused killers ordered to trial on murder charges

HAMBURG, Pa. - Three men charged in connection with the stabbing death of another man late last year are heading to trial.

The homicide happened in Shoemakersville, Berks Co., three months ago, but all three men were in court for their preliminary hearings on Thursday.

One of the defendants, Brandon Simpkins, waived his right to the hearing and testified for the prosecution.

He told the court his brother, Michael Walker, and his father, Mark Ellis, were standing over the dead body of Stephen Leibensperger last December, but it was Walker who was wearing the bloody gloves.

"Mr. Simpkins is cooperating in this case," said Jason Glessner, an assistant district attorney. "That's why he testified today."

Simpkins told the district judge that Walker was the ring leader who wanted to rob and kill Brian Trump, the owner of the Shoemakersville home where the killing happened and the man with whom investigators said Walker had an intimate relationship.

But it was Leibensperger, 49, who was home at the time. It is unclear what his relationship was with Trump, but he was later found in the attic of the home, wrapped in a sheet. He was stabbed to death, investigators said.

"We're alleging that these three individuals planned to go into this house to take the money and ultimately to murder Mr. Leibensberger," said Glessner.

Simpkins testified he never touched the body, but it was his father, Mark Ellis, who was also standing over top of Leibensberger's body, and then helped stash it in the attic.
Trump told investigators Walker became jealous when Leibensperger moved in with him. That was only a week and a half before he was found dead.

The men also made off with $12,000 from the home, so prosecutors on Thursday added the charges of robbery and conspiracy.

A formal arraignment is set for April 11.

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