Centre County District Attorney Bernie Cantorna rejected the notion that a Howard man “killed for love.”
Matthew Dreibelbis’ trial began on Monday after he allegedly shot and killed Jeremy Cantolina on Aug. 11, 2017. Cantolina and his wife, Amber, were raising four children together — one of whom was fathered by Dreibelbis.
“He (Cantolina) accepted all those children like they were his own. Mr. Dreibelbis didn’t like that. Hate would be a good word for it,” Cantorna said during his opening statement. “He didn’t like that Jeremy was raising ‘his son.’ He might have been the biological father, but it wasn’t his son.”
Cantorna also told the jury of nine men and three women that Dreibelbis drove to Snow Shoe at about 4 a.m., parked at Clarence Archery and walked to the Cantolina’s driveway.
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“Why is Mr. Dreibelbis lying in wait to kill Jeremy Cantolina? Oldest reasons in the books,” Cantorna said. “It isn’t love. It’s more about hate, possession.”
Dreibelbis’ attorney Karen Muir, however, argued there would not be any physical, technical, medical or scientific evidence that Dreibelbis killed Cantolina. She also said many witnesses have changed or embellished their stories in the last 409 days.
“At first blush, they are very damning of Matt. Don’t judge a book by its cover,” Muir said. “There aren’t any cold, hard facts that Mr. Dreibelbis killed Mr. Cantolina. It’s a suspicion. It’s a hunch. It’s a guess.”
One of Cantolina’s former co-workers, two neighbors, the woman who called 911 and a man who was sleeping in his vehicle during the incident were among the first to testify.
“Whenever I woke up, I hear what sounds like ‘pop,’ mumbling and then ‘pop’ again,” Brett Swisher Houtz testified. “It doesn’t sound like gun shots.”
Cantorna and Assistant District Attorney Crystal Hundt also played the audio of the 911 call from Marcie McGonigal and projected several graphic images depicting the scene, Cantolina’s body, his hat filled with blood and the wound itself.
Cantorna also had a state police trooper show the jury the bullet and .38-caliber revolver that Dreibelbis allegedly used.
State police at Rockview criminal investigator Jeffrey Ebeck also testified about Dreibelbis’ alleged confession — which was not recorded — during an interrogation the night of Cantolina’s death.
“I said, ‘Mr. Dreibelbis, I think you killed Jeremy Cantolina.’ And to my surprise, he said, ‘Yes, I did,’” Ebeck testified.
The trial is scheduled to continue Tuesday.