April 16, 2014

Elyria
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Men plead not guilty in pizzeria killing


Simpson 

ELYRIA — The three men charged in the slaying of a Lorain pizzeria owner pleaded not guilty when arraigned Thursday in Lorain County Common Pleas Court.

Scotty Parker, 26, and Richard Perry, 25, both of Lorain, appeared stone-faced as they entered pleas from the county jail via closed-circuit video feed on charges of aggravated murder, aggravated robbery, felonious assault and tampering with evidence in connection with the June 23 robbery at Granny D’s Pizza on East Erie Avenue, in which owner David Kowalczyk was shot and killed.

The alleged shooter, Neil Simpson, 24, of Elyria, could face the death penalty. Simpson appeared before Common Pleas Court Judge Raymond Ewers in handcuffs and a county jail-issued orange and white striped jumpsuit to enter his not guilty plea.

Simpson sighed heavily while his charges of aggravated murder, aggravated robbery, felonious assault and tampering with evidence were read. Members of Kowalczyk’s family in the courtroom cried and consoled each other before Simpson was led away.

Following the arraignment, Nancy Michaels, Kowalczyk’s girlfriend of 25 years, said seeing her boyfriend’s alleged shooter in court overwhelmed her.

“When he first walked into the court room I couldn’t breathe,” she said. “It just felt like the air got sucked out of me.”

Kowalczyk, 43, was shot while in the kitchen of his restaurant and found dead by Lorain police around 11:40 p.m. on June 23.

The violent robbery mirrored two others in Lorain during the month of June, and the second in which someone was shot.
Lorain police still are investigating whether the men also are responsible for the other robberies. All three have lengthy criminal records, including past convictions for aggravated robbery and burglary.

Kowalczyk left behind four stepchildren that Michaels said he considered his own. For them and the rest of Kowalczyk’s family, she said she’s seeking justice in his death.

“Every time his name is mentioned in court, I’ll be there,” she said. “We’re screaming out for David because he can’t scream for himself.”

A pretrial for Parker, Perry and Simpson is set for Monday in Judge Mark Betleski’s courtroom. All three men are being held in the county jail on $1 million bonds.

Contact Stephen Szucs at 329-7129 or sszucs@chroniclet.com.