Trial begins for Manayunk man accused in fatal shooting of his wife

More than a year and a half after his wife Lynda was fatally shot inside their Manayunk home, Gregory Mitros finally had his day in court on Friday.

However, Mitros will have to wait at least another week to learn whether Municipal Court Judge Jeffrey P. Minehart finds him guilty of third-degree murder or voluntary or involuntary manslaughter in connection with what he claims was an accidental shooting in June 2011.

Prosecution witnesses testify

In a courtroom packed with Mitros’ relatives, friends and former coworkers for the non-jury degree-of-guilt waiver trial, Assistant District Attorney Peter Lim called four police officers, a homicide detective and the city’s chief Medical Examiner to the stand.

The prosecution’s case — presented over the course of two hours — included the call Mitros made to 911 after the fatal shooting on a stairwell in their Markle Street home.

After warning attendees that they may want to leave Courtroom 907, Lim also produced gruesome crime-scene photographs which left Mitros tearfully recoiling and Lynda’s son and grandson looking away in pained shock.

Lim argued for a third-degree murder charge alleging Mitros, 54, had “the .357 revolver pointed at his wife’s face and pulled the trigger.”

Defense attorney Michael P. Quinn countered that the weapon fired accidentally when his client struggled with his intoxicated, likely suicidal wife.

Near the end of the prosecution’s case, Police Homicide Det. Joseph McDermott said, “In my opinion, your honor, I believe it was” accidental.

The specifics

The first witness on Friday was Officer James Butler who was the first to arrive on Markle Street after Mitros called 911 admitting that he shot his 64-year-old wife to death.

Butler testified that after being handcuffed, a shocked, disheveled, tearful Mitros said, among many things, “I can’t believe I had the perfect shot.”

He noted that Mitros’ hands left bloody prints on the front steps when he was put on the ground to be cuffed.

Officer Justin Barr, who responded to the scene after Butler, did not hear Mitros say that line, which was a pillar of the prosecution’s case.

“‘I can’t believe I shot my wife. I can’t believe I accidentally shot my wife.’ He kept going back and forth,” Barr recalled the suspect saying. “He was very distraught.”

From there, crime-scene Officer Cesar Mujica testified to trajectory logistics of a bullet embedded two steps above the body on the stairwell. According to Lim’s argument, that was proof that the shooting was not accidental.

However, on cross examination, the city’s chief medical examiner, Dr. Sam Gulino, testified that the trajectory could also have occurred in the defense’s version of events involving Lynda Mitros walking down the steps and pulling out a gun which accidentally fired when her husband tried to disarm her.

The 911 call

During the call for help that Mitros made after the fatal June 21, 2011 shooting, he is heard frantically telling an emergency dispatcher that “I shot my wife,” “I shot her in the head, she’s dead,” “I don’t believe I just did this” and “Jesus Christ, I’m so sorry, Lynda.”

Quinn said that the last line served as proof that this was not a premeditated voluntary act, but sorrow from a tragic accident that ended the life of the woman he married in 1988.

After the homicide detective’s testimony, and 25 character witnesses ranging from sister and cousin to friend and co-worker standing to vouch for Mitros, Judge Minehart ended the first day of testimony.

The sides will return on March 1 for the defense case, which is expected to include testimony that Lynda, who had been drinking on the last day of her life, was suicidal.

While Mitros was considering testifying in his defense, Quinn said after Friday’s hearing that “I will advise him not to take the stand because I don’t think the government proved their case beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.