Judge to rule Monday on degree of guilt in slaying case

ALLENTOWN, Pa. (AP) -- A Pennsylvania judge is to issue his ruling Monday on whether a man who acknowledged killing his cousin and shooting his cousin's wife and their family dog planned his actions or committed them in the heat of passion.

Authorities say John Hann, 62, killed Joseph Mullner and shot Melinda Mullner multiple times in October 2017. She survived by playing dead. Hann surrendered the following day after a police standoff that lasted several hours.

The degree-of-guilt trial follows an April plea bargain that allowed the Bushkill Township resident to avoid a potential death sentence. A third-degree rather than first-degree murder conviction might allow his release someday.

Defense attorney Gary Asteak argued last week that Hann was paranoid and delusional and incapable of planning the shooting. In closing arguments Friday, Asteak said his client feared his family was conspiring to separate him from his developmentally disabled sister, for whom he served as caretaker.

"How can you not say he was crazy?" Asteak asked. "How can you not say he was mad."

Prosecutors, however, argued that he wasn't usually armed but brought two guns to the home, concealed them and shot his cousin 18 times.

First Deputy District Attorney Terence Houck said the "surprise ambush" speaks to Hann's hatred of his family but doesn't excuse his actions.

"None of this justifies the taking of a human life and none of it negates intent," Houck said.