SCRANTON — A jury has found Neil Pal guilty of first degree murder in the shooting death of Frank Bonacci.
The jury deliberated for about an hour and a half on Thursday afternoon.
Pal was the only witness his defense attorneys called. There are only two people who could corroborate his story that he was an innocent bystander to murder. One is already convicted of murder: Jason Dominick. The other, Frank Bonacci, is dead.
On the stand for a second day, Pal stuck to his story that he drove Dominick and Pal to a wooded area for a fight, never expecting Dominick would bring a gun with him.
Then he admitted to lying to his friends, Bonacci’s family, and police to cover up the killing.
In his closing statements, Lackawanna County First Assistant District Attorney Gene Talerico told jurors Pal’s lies in the past mean they shouldn’t believe his testimony now. Talerico said the fact Pal was in the driver’s seat makes him anything but a bystander.
Talerico pointed at Pal and said,”you sent him to slaughter, and if it wasn’t for you he (Bonacci) wouldn’t be there.”
Pal was charged first and third degree murder, along with conspiracy, and a new charge involuntary manslaughter.
Defense attorneys asked to add that charge as a possible compromise for jurors.
In the defense’s closing statements, attorney Paul Walker reminded jurors that most of the evidence against Pal is circumstantial. The gun prosecutors say Pal gave to Dominick was never found and the defense attorney says Pal had no motive to kill his friend Frank Bonacci.
Pal’s attorney then added, “if he knew what was going on, he’s probably the worst conspirator, worst planner, I’ve ever met.”
Prosecutors labeled him as the accomplice to Bonacci’s murder.
Neil Pal’s co-defendant Jason Dominick was convicted of third degree murder in his own trial last month.
Pal faced the same charges and the same potential sentence even though prosecutors don’t believe he pulled the trigger.
Prosecutors said Pal provided the gun used to kill Frank Bonacci of Dunmore in July of 2013.
Bonacci disappeared after a party. His body was found in his SUV at the bottom of a ravine near Nay Aug Park.
Police believe Jason Dominick of Scranton is the one who pulled the trigger. He was found guilty of third degree murder and conspiracy after a trial in Scranton last month. Dominick is awaiting sentencing.
Police also believe Dominick and Pal put a rock on the accelerator of Bonacci’s gas pedal, sending it over the cliff, hiding the vehicle from view for a week.
At his trial, Dominick testified and told the jury he didn’t do it. He said it was Neil Pal who pulled the trigger.