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Police: Lewistown man shot woman in home

Affidavit: Earnest claims firearm had discharged accidentally

LEWISTOWN — A Lewistown man is facing aggravated assault charges after he shot woman in his home, according to an affidavit of probable cause filed by Mifflin County Regional Police Department.

Scott J. Earnest, 50, was arraigned before Magisterial District Judge Jonathan Reed on Friday.

He is facing charges of aggravated assault, a first-degree felony; discharging a firearm into an occupied structure, a third-degree felony; simple assault and recklessly endangering another person, both second-degree misdemeanors.

According to the affidavit, police responded to assist with a gunshot victim at Geisinger-Lewistown Hospital at about 11:30 p.m. Thursday.

When questioned in the emergency room, Earnest told police he and the victim, Margaret Bickel, were arguing and that he accidentally shot her.

Minutes after being questioned, the emergency department went on lockdown and Bickel was transported by medical helicopter to care.

In front of the emergency room, Earnest told police the incident occurred at his home, 123 Maitland Gardens, Lewistown and directed officers to the handgun, which was locked in his truck in the emergency room parking lot.

At about 1:15 a.m., with police present, the affidavit states Earnest made phone calls to his parents, girlfriend, and work, that involved him showing his gun to a couple of old friends and that it accidentally discharged.

Earnest said he grabbed his “carry gun” from the top of his dresser to show his friends and that he then accidentally discharged the firearm into his friend’s chest while showing them.

A witness who was with Bickel earlier that night said he received a call from Earnest asking if he wanted to come over to his home. The witness invited Bickel.

The witness told police that Earnest was angry with Bickel over a past incident that was unresolved, the affidavit states.

The witness said he saw Earnest take the gun from top drawer of the dresser in his bedroom and told the witness and Bickel to “both get out, I’m telling you” with gun in hand.

The witness said he immediately turned to walk away and when he was almost to the front door, heard a “pop,” then heard Bickel say to him “come get me, I’m dying,” adding that he saw blood on her right side, but was unsure where she was shot.

In a recorded statement, Earnest later told police he had known both Bickel and the witness for about 30 years and that his plan was to have them come to his house to “party a little.”

He also said he had been drinking and smoking marijuana prior to their arrival.

He told police they were not at his residence very long when they went back to his bedroom and “the gun went off.” He said the gun was kept loaded on top of the dresser and that Earnest and the witness had previously had a conversation about the gun.

Earnest told police when he picked up the gun that he did not know his finger was on the trigger, saying he thought it was just laying in his palm, when the gun discharged.

Earnest told police that besides small arguments, there was not “bad blood” between them and that there were not any arguments the evening prior to the shooting.

According to the affidavit, Earnest did not recall making statements to MCRPD officers at the hospital that he accidentally shot Bickel, stating that his statements were taken out of context.

He also told police that he never told the victim or Bickel to get out of the room.

He is being held in Mifflin County Correctional Facility, unable to post $500,000 bail.

Earnest’s preliminary arraignment was Friday morning before Magisterial District Judge Jonathan W. Reed. No date has yet been set for a preliminary hearing.

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