Whitehall-Coplay Press

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

DA announces charges filed in Oct. 18 homicide in Whitehall

Tuesday, November 26, 2019 by CONTRIBUTED ARTICLE in Local News

Lehigh County District Attorney Jim Martin announced Nov. 21 that charges have been filed in relation to the Oct. 18 homicide of Jeffrey Werner inside his Whitehall Township home.

Dakota Schmoyer, 27, no known address, and Michael Layton, 26, of Bethlehem, have been charged with criminal homicide, a felony of the first degree.

Schmoyer and Layton are also charged with one count each of robbery and conspiracy to commit robbery, both felonies of the first degree.

Schmoyer is currently incarcerated in Lehigh County Jail on unrelated charges.

There is no bail when charged with criminal homicide, so both will be incarcerated awaiting further proceedings.

According to Martin’s report, approximately 4:14 a.m. Oct. 18, members of Whitehall Township Police Department responded to report of a shooting at 626 Pennsylvania St.

Upon arrival, officers discovered Werner suffering from gunshot wounds to the body.

He was pronounced dead at the scene by Lehigh County Coroner Eric Minnich, who ruled the cause of his death to be gunshot wounds and the manner of death to be homicide.

An investigation by the Lehigh County Homicide Task Force and Whitehall Township Police Department revealed Werner’s home office had been ransacked and several items, including a safe, were taken.

Investigators also discovered several telephone numbers that were in contact with Werner just prior to the homicide.

One of those numbers corresponded to a cellphone owned by Schmoyer, Martin said.

Video surveillance of Werner’s property was also viewed.

Based on the investigation, Martin said, it is alleged Schmoyer conspired with Layton to commit the robbery of Werner.

Because Werner was killed during the course of the robbery, Schmoyer has been charged with murder in the second degree.

In addition, it is alleged Layton fired the weapon that killed Werner, according to the DA’s office, and he is charged with murder in the first degree.

Murder in the second degree is a killing committed while the defendant was engaged as a principal or an accomplice in the perpetration of another felony, such as robbery.

“I want to commend Detectives Kevin Mriss and James Bruchak, of the Lehigh County Homicide Task Force, and Sgt. Matthew Reszek, of the Whitehall Township Police Department, for the exemplary work done on this investigation, which has led to the arrests of Dakota Schmoyer and Michael Layton,” Martin said. “I also want to thank the Bethlehem Police Department and Pennsylvania State Police Troop M for their cooperation and assistance with this case.”