updated 11/20/2006 2:22:31 PM ET 2006-11-20T19:22:31

A coroner said Monday he will conduct a formal inquest to determine how a 14-year-old boy wound up dead behind a state senator’s house with the lawmaker’s gun at his side.

Authorities concluded Louis Farrell, a next-door neighbor of state Sen. Robert Regola, died of a single gunshot wound to the head, but investigators haven’t determined whether the boy shot himself or was shot by someone else.

His body was found on July 22 next to a 9 mm handgun belonging to Regola, with a flashlight and a cigar nearby.

No charges have been filed in the death of Farrell, a friend of the lawmaker’s 16-year-old son, Robert Regola IV. Regola issued a statement in September saying that neither he nor his son had anything to do with Farrell’s death.

“An inquest brings everything out in the open, at one place, at one time,” Westmoreland County Coroner Ken Bacha said Monday. He said the process allows him to subpoena witnesses, and anyone who refuses to testify can be jailed for contempt.

After the inquest, expected in January, Bacha can make a nonbinding recommendation that authorities file charges, if warranted.

Jon Perry, the Pittsburgh attorney hired as a spokesman by the Farrell family, declined comment because he had not had an opportunity to discuss the inquest with the Farrells.

Regola was in Harrisburg at the time of the shooting. Farrell had a key to the home because he was watching the family dogs, authorities have said.

Both the legislator and his son gave statements on the day Farrell’s body was found, but since then, state police and Westmoreland County District Attorney John Peck said the Regolas’ attorneys have refuse to let them be re-interviewed without advance notice of the questions.

In a search warrant for the Regola home, unsealed by court order last week, state police called the younger Regola’s initial statement “somewhat deceptive.” They said Bobby Regola appeared to know that Farrell was dead without being told; attorneys for the younger Regola deny that.

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