A teenager who was found dead with a state senator's gun by his side committed suicide, and no charges should be filed in the case, the county coroner said Thursday.
Westmoreland County Coroner Kenneth Bacha's decision came after an inquest last month into the death of Louis Farrell, 14, whose body was found last summer in woods behind his home and the home of his neighbor, state Sen. Robert Regola.
The senator's handgun was found beside his body.
Regola has said neither he nor his son, Bobby, 16, had anything to do with the shooting. The senator was in Harrisburg at the time, and Louis, a neighbor and friend of Bobby's, had a key to the house because he was watching the family dogs while Regola was away.
"Although it appears that Louis Farrell lacked any motive to harm himself, the only conclusion that I can draw from the physical and forensic evidence is that Lou took his own life. Therefore, I have ruled the death of Louis Farrell a suicide," Bacha said Thursday.
An attorney who presided over the inquest had questioned whether Louis's death could have been anything but suicide.
Senator violated firearms law
District Attorney John Peck described the death as an apparent suicide but concluded that the senator violated state firearms law by allowing his son to keep the handgun, and that more serious charges may also be warranted because the senator's conduct showed "conscious disregard of a substantial and unjustifiable risk."
Two state troopers have testified that the senator told them the gun had been kept in his son's room until a couple of months before the shooting.
A friend of both boys testified that he saw the gun in Bobby Regola's room a year or two before the shooting, and that the senator's son showed him and Louis some ammunition. Bobby Regola declined to testify at the inquest, citing his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
Farrell family attorney Jon Perry said he was disappointed with the coroner's finding and doesn't believe the evidence proves Louis killed himself.
"Louis was not back there alone," Perry said. "What happened, I don't know — if it was kids playing with a gun and an accident happening. But I do not believe he was back there alone."
The decision to file charges is ultimately up to prosecutors. Peck said Thursday he would not make a decision on charges for at least a week.
Charles Porter, a lawyer representing the senator, said he doesn't believe any charges should be brought against Regola. Duke George, an attorney representing Bobby Regola, called it a sad case for both the Farrell and Regola families.
"We hope Mr. Peck does the right thing and not bring charges against any of the parties in this case," George said.