A seemingly routine family chat at the Lehigh Township home of Joseph Mullner ended in bloodshed the afternoon of Oct. 4 when his cousin jumped up with a handgun and “out of the blue” shot Mullner and his wife, according to testimony Friday by a Pennsylvania State Police trooper.
A bleeding Joseph Mullner ran before collapsing in front of the garage where he died, testified Trooper Raymond Judge, while Mullner’s wife, Melinda, told police she “played dead” until she heard her attacker run outside and fire several more shots.
Then, as she lay bleeding on the floor inside the house, she told police she tried to crawl across the room to grab a handgun, Judge testified.
But her husband’s cousin, John Hann, returned and while standing above Melinda Mullner, shot her “at least three” more times before fleeing the home, Judge said during a preliminary hearing at the Northampton County Courthouse in Easton.
During the shootings, Hann’s mentally disabled sister was with him and watched “in a state of shock,” Judge testified.
Mullner survived the attack, but remains in a rehabilitation center where she continues to recover from gunshot wounds to her abdomen and chest, authorities say.
After testimony from several police officers, District Judge Robert Hawke ordered there was enough evidence for Hann to face trial on charges that include homicide and attempted homicide.
Prosecutors on Friday added several other charges, including reckless endangerment, disorderly conduct and cruelty to animals for wounding the Mullners’ pet dog during the attack.
Several of Mullner’s family members attended Friday’s hearing, but declined to comment.
Hann was represented by attorneys Steven Mills and Gary Asteak. After Friday’s hearing, Asteak said that while hearing included “what happened, we haven’t yet heard the why.”
Authorities have given no motive in the shooting, other than to call it a “family dispute.”
In testimony Friday, Judge said Hann and his sister would often visit the Mullner home and had a “normal family chat” just before the shootings.
After Hann fled his cousin’s home, police say he returned to his home in Bethlehem Township. Township Officer Gretchen Kraemer testified that she and other officers surrounded Hann’s home the morning after the shootings and saw him leave in his truck with his mentally disabled sister in the passenger seat.
Officers conducted a traffic stop, but Hann refused repeated commands to surrender, Kraemer said.
During a two-hour standoff, officers saw Hann with a gun to his head and he said, “I have nothing left,” Kraemer testified. Hann eventually let his sister out of the truck, but didn’t surrender until after a state police SWAT team arrived, Kraemer said.
First Deputy District Attorney Terence Houck said he has not yet decided if his office will seek the death penalty against Hann.