BEAVER, Pa. - Surrounded by his family, an East Liverpool man who allegedly tried to hire a "hit man" of sorts appeared in Beaver County Court Tuesday on several charges.
Gregory Travis, 50, Sprucevale Road, was charged June 17 by Pennsylvania State Police with criminal solicitation, criminal conspiracy, criminal attempted aggravated assault, reckless endangering of another person and resisting arrest after he reportedly arranged with an undercover officer to injure Chad Hayes, his wife's nephew.
According to state police, Travis went into a Midland establishment looking for someone who was not present but struck up a conversation with someone he didn't know.
In the course of their conversation, Travis reportedly said he "needed somebody taken out," and the person to whom he was speaking notified Midland police.
The Midland department, in turn, notified state police, resulting in a meeting being arranged with state Trooper Joshua Thomas, posing as someone interested in Travis' alleged proposal.
Thomas has said Travis offered to pay him $1,000 to incapacitate, but not kill, Hayes, along with "tips," or additional money, for varying degrees of injury.
Hayes and several other people were in the courtroom of Magisterial District Judge Andrew Hladio as Travis was brought shackled from county jail.
The judge was advised Travis had been offered a plea bargain but after some consultation outside the courtroom, no plea was accepted, and Hladio set a status conference for Aug. 28.
Travis spoke quietly to his attorney but otherwise made no comment.
After the hearing, his attorney, Steve Valsamidis said, "He's very scared. He's never been in trouble and he's very upset."
Valsamidis said, "The charges are very serious and could mean serious time (in jail)."
He added, "This is not a case of who-done-it but a case of underlying issues."
Although Valsamidis declined to discuss what had prompted Travis' alleged actions, Trooper Thomas said previously he was upset about money issues involving his wife and Hayes.
"He's very aware how serious the issue is and a bit taken out of context," Valsamidis said, without elaborating.
Valsamidis is not a public defender but has been hired to represent Travis, according to court personnel. He said Travis has been unable to post the $100,000 bond set during his arraignment.