EASTON, Pa. - Sentencing for George Hitcho Jr., the man convicted of killing Freemansburg Police Officer Robert Lasso last summer, began Monday morning with testimony from Lasso's immediate family.
Testimony revealed a man who loved Tastykakes and cars, and working out with his nephew.
Jessica Hawk, Lasso's sister, said he always answered her calls with "Yello? Hey, lady." She said Lasso once spent $25 to win his nephews a goldfish from a carnival game.
Testminony also showed a loving father of two.
"I am not supposed to be a 31-year-old widow. I am not supposed to be raising my kids alone," Lasso's wife Jennifer said in a prepared statement read to the jury.
According to Lasso, she met her husband at 17 and they eventually married on Aug. 31, 2003—he died just three weeks before celebrating their eighth wedding anniversary.
She said her kids not only lost their father but were also "stripped of their innocence." "They will never be as happy and carefree," she said.
Both Judge Anthony Beltrami and District Attorney John Morganelli identified killing a police officer as an aggravating factor to be considered in capital cases.
Monday afternoon began testimony asking to spare George Hitcho Jr. the death penalty.
Psychiatrist Dr. Susan Rushing explained how the defendant's traumatic childhood and substance abuse contributed to the mental issues she says explain the shooting death of Officer Robert Lasso last August.
She pointed out two "significant" childhood events that likely caused the severe anxiety the defense says plagues Hitcho.
The first, she said, was his grandfather's death. After taking a break from watching an Eagles game with family, Hitcho returned to find his grandfather dead in his chair. The second occurred when Hitcho saw his best friend die from accidental electrocution.
According to Hitcho's aunt, the defendant began using drugs and alcohol as young as 8. He continued using as an adult, and today's testimony showed he drank at least one six-pack daily, used marijuana, cocaine and meth, and took Oxycontin and Vicodin bought on the street. According to Rushing, Hitcho used meth the day before killing Lasso.
Rushing believes substance abuse, combined with a history of brain injury, made Hitcho excessively paranoid.
The hearing is expected to end mid-week.
Allentown, PA 18102