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Pal: "It's Easier to Act Normal Than to Accept What Happened"

A man charged with homicide took the stand in his own defense Wednesday afternoon in Lackawanna County.
A man facing homicide charges took the stand in his own defense Wednesday afternoon in Lackawanna County.

Neil Pal is facing first-and-third degree murder charges as an accomplice in the shooting death of Frank Bonacci last summer.

Pal took the stand just after lunch after prosecutors rested their case.

Pal testified for nearly three hours.

He admitted being there when Frank Bonacci was shot last July but says his friend Jason Dominick pulled the trigger.

Pal says he couldn't "snitch" on Dominick because they were friends and never thought it was going to take a week for his body to be recovered from an area known as "Step Falls" behind the University of Scranton.

Neil Pal admitted he covered-up the crime.

On the witness stand, Pal said he drove with his friend Jason Dominick and Frank Bonacci to Step Falls because just hours earlier Dominick told him he wanted to fight Bonacci.

As they drove behind the University of Scranton, Pal said he was not aware that Dominick had a gun when the shot rang out.

Pal said, "the only way I could relate to you what happened is put yourself in a haunted house, there's a guy with a chainsaw behind you. Multiply that feeling. Multiply it by a million...you're just focused on whatever is in front of you."

Pal said Dominick didn't threaten him after the murder.

When speaking of Dominick, Pal told jurors, "he broke down. He started crying. He said, please give me time. I'll turn myself in."

Pal admitted not being honest with police officers, search party members and even Frank Bonacci's family but said he only lied and diverted attention away from him because he was covering for Jason Dominick, who was his friend.

Pal said, "it was easier at that point to act normal than to accept what happened."

Pal is expected to continue his testimony, under cross-examination, first thing Thursday morning. On Wednesday, First Assistant Gene Talerico had Neil Pal admit his actions of not telling anyone about the murder for a week was "cold hearted."

Before resting for the day, the final prosecution witness on the stand was Scranton police detective James Pappas.

Pappas interviewed Neil Pal right before his arrest last summer.

At first, Pappas said Neil Pal seemed confident and answered questions at a fast pace but when confronted by all the evidence police had, his entire demeanor changed.

Pappas said Pal's voice went low and soft and he started sweating and swallowing hard.

When Pappas pressured Pal to admit what happened to Bonacci, Pappas told jurors that Pal stayed silent for five minutes.

According to Pappas, the interview ended with Pal saying, "you already know what happened...you don't need me to tell you."

Earlier Wednesday morning, firearms expert Elwood Spencer finished up his testimony that started Tuesday afternoon.

He said he could not positively match the bullet that killed Bonacci to any projectiles found in Neil Pal's garage.

Elwood said, "I can't rule it in. I can't rule it out. It's an inconclusive conclusion."

The judge told jurors that after Pal finishes his testimony Thursday they will hear closing arguments and will begin their deliberations at some point Thursday afternoon.
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