Homicide Charges
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For the first time, Somerset County prosecutors said Wednesday that Samson Washington will be charged with killing two men who went missing last year and were later found dead. Washington, who is currently serving time for other charges, is accused of kidnapping and later killing Damian Staniszewski and James Smith, who police say stole money and drugs from Washington. According to police and prosecutors, Washington kept the two men in a Johnstown home and beat them in an attempt to get them to confess to stealing the drugs and money. Also on Wednesday, Washington's girlfriend, Jasmine Browning, was in court for charges of kidnapping and conspiracy to commit kidnapping and aggravated assault. After a heated preliminary hearing, Somerset County Magisterial District Judge Susan Mankamyer allowed the conspiracy charges to continue to the next court level. Browning is accused of helping set up the kidnapping itself by convincing the two men that she was going to do a drug deal with them. Prosecutors say she was also at the house during the three days that the two men were allegedly held captive there. Browning's attorney, Jerome Kaharick, said during an interview after the hearing that prosecutors don't have any evidence of Browning's involvement. He argued that he doesn't believe there is an eyewitness to many of the alleged crimes and he believed police were evasive during the hearing. In an interview, Lazzari-Strasiser said that prosecutors are not required to reveal all of the evidence they have at the preliminary hearing stage and that more evidence would be revealed in the future. It's not clear yet when Washington will be charged, but Lazzari-Strasiser said it could be in the coming weeks.