Shenandoah Hate Crime Trial Day 4: Metal, tattoos and a cover up

A metal piece supposedly used as a weapon, a tattoo in the butt to celebrate the attack and a cover up story to tell authorities were part of today’s testimony in the trial of two Shenandoah, Pa., charged for a federal hate crime related to the beating death of a undocumented Mexican immigrant in 2008.

The metal piece

The small metal piece Derrick Donchak allegedly used to hit Luis Eduardo Ramírez Zavala finally showed up in court today.

It had been mentioned in the first trial. And today not only did the prosecution produced it as Evidence #45, but two witnesses assured to had felt its effect it had on Mr. Donchak’s punching.

Witness Benjamin Lawson told the jury he heard Mr. Donchak say during the meeting at his garage, just after the attack, that he was glad to have had the metal piece in his fist.

Mr. Lawson, 19, also said he remembered seeing the metal piece earlier at Mr. Donchak’s.

“I let him punch me with it and without it,” he said. “His punch was heavier (with it).”

The metal piece is thus in the story shortly after the beating, according to this version.

Later another witness, Barry Boyer, situated the metal piece in Mr. Donchak’s possession at the Polish American Block Party, where Mr. Piekarsky apparently turned belligerent toward a woman and man.

But before that, Mr. Donchak spend some time showing Mr. Boyer, 19, the metal piece he was carrying with him, moments before the fatal encounter with Mr. Ramírez Zavala later that night.

“He wondered what it’d be to hit somebody with the metal piece,” Mr. Boyer told the jury. “A hit with it hurt more than a hit without it.”

Shortly after the group left the Polish American party they came across Crystal Dillman’s 15-year-old sister, Roxanne Spector, and Mr. Ramírez Zavala himself.

A tattoo in the butt

Both Brian Scully and Barry Boyer heard the kids brag about what they had done the night of July 12, and as a badge for la travesura, their prank, they planned on tattooing the name “Lupe” on their butt.

“Because it’s a Hispanic name,” Mr. Boyer answered when Assistant Attorney General Gerald Hogan asked him why he thought they chose that name for their butt tattoo.

Mr. Scully said they had some laughs at the idea of getting a tattoo with the name Lupe “on someone’s ass”.
“It was because he was Mexican,” he said.

Soon that idea got flushed in the emergency of something bigger for them: the need to cover up their actions that night.

The Cover Up Story

At least two witnesses testified today that Mr. Piekarsky told them not tell anybody he had kicked Mr. Ramírez Zavala in the head.

“I asked who kicked him,” Mr. Lawson said. “Brandon Piekarsky said, ‘I did, shh!’”

Shortly after this, the group started to make up the cover up story they would tell police, he said.

“We were going to say that nobody kicked him; that there was no drinking, and there were no racial slurs. We all agreed,” Mr. Lawson recalled.

Later Mr. Scully would tell the jury that Mr. Piekarsky arrived to the Donchak house with his mom. As the teens talked about the fight they realized their situation worsened.

“We got to get a story. This is bad,” said Mr. Scully. “We thought if we had the same story it would be believable.”

He also said that Mr. Piekarsky told him at least twice not to tell anybody he had kicked the deceased in the head.

Defense attorney James A. Swetz countered Mr. Scully’s argument first questioning how much the booze he drank that night had impaired his judgment and later cornering him with questions about his reasons to testify against his friends.

“As you sit here you hope the federal government don’t bring charges against you,” Mr. Swetz. “You are doing this for yourself, isn’t that true Mr. Scully?”
Mr. Scully just answered, “yes.”

It was a long day of proceedings with four more witnesses taking the stand. We’ll talk about them in tomorrow’s early update. Proceedings begin at 9 a.m.

Remember to visit our pitch page on, where we’re fundraising to pay for the coverage of this collaboration between this site and It shouldn’t take you more than five minutes to do it and you can even contribute donating that time and not necessarily money.

Kudos also to Dave McAndrews from WFTE in Scranton who couldn’t join us in the English podcast tonight.

Finally, follow us on twitter @newsgus, @latinalista, hash tags #luisramirez, #immigration


About Gustavo Martínez Contreras

was born in Texas, brewed in Mexico City, seasoned in the Mexico-United States border, aged walking the streets of Philadelphia. He had a short-lived stint eating grits, fried chicken, and peaches in Atlanta. He later became a béisbol writer for El Diario de Nueva York. He has written about immigrant communities in English, Spanish, and some Spanglish. Although he does not have a shelf full of awards, Gustavo has received thank you notes and hugs from people who have trusted him with their stories. His work has appeared in Voices of New York, El Diario/La Prensa, Dallas’ Al Día, The Philadelphia Public School Notebook, Philadelphia Weekly, Radio Bilingüe, Latina Lista,, among others. He is currently pursuing a master's degree at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism.
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