Wife of former Pagans gang leader denies knowing Penn Township double murder suspect

The wife of Dennis “Rooster” Katona, the former national president of the Pagans Motorcycle Club, said Wednesday neither she nor her husband knows why Victor F. Steban repeatedly mentioned Rooster’s name as Steban was arraigned Tuesday for the shooting deaths of a Penn Township couple.


Victor Steban

“We don’t know Victor Steban, never met him and have no link to him. We want the public to know we simply do not know this guy,” said Shari Katona of Hempfield.

And, she said, they don’t know why Steban may have shot at their home over the weekend.

As Steban, 53, was led to and from his arraignment Tuesday night on multiple criminal charges for the shooting deaths Sunday of Jacob Erdeljac, 41, and Mara Casale, 27 — whose bodies were discovered at Erdeljac’s home in Claridge — the longtime North Huntingdon resident told reporters that his actions were “all about getting Rooster,” in reference to Dennis Katona.

Katona, now 54, is a former national leader of the Pagans and spent more than five years in a federal prison for his role in a 2002 brawl with Hell’s Angels at the “Hellraiser Ball” in Long Island, N.Y, in which one person was killed and 10 others hospitalized.

Sheri Katona said neither she nor her husband knew Erdeljac or Casale, either.

“Our hearts go out to both their families, but we are really worried someone will think we had some kind of connection to that guy and target us now and nothing could be further from the truth. We never met Steban and don’t know why he mentioned us,” Katona said.

During a news conference Tuesday, Westmoreland County District Attorney John Peck declined comment when asked whether Steban’s alleged crime spree — which included a suspicious fire at his own home on North Thompson Lane — could be related to “motorcycle gang activity.”

At a separate news conference earlier Tuesday, Trooper Stephen Limani said investigators had evidence linking Steban to three shootings at rural residences, two in Hempfield and one in Sewickley Township, but declined to discuss whether the those events were related to any gang activity.

Limani said Wednesday troopers were preparing criminal complaints in those cases.

Shari Katona confirmed that one of the Hempfield homes targeted early Sunday was her residence.

“We’re victims, too. We were not home at the time, but my teenage granddaughter was there and one bullet missed her by inches. She was scared for her life,” Shari Katona said.

Katona said the family reported the shooting to state police.

“We have no idea who owned the other two homes state police said were shot, too,” she said.

North Huntingdon police Chief Robert Rizzo said detectives charged Steban with illegal weapons possession after investigators found three pistols, seven rifles and a prohibited offensive weapon — a blackjack — at his home Saturday. Steban was convicted of unlawful restraint in 2006 and it is illegal for him to possess firearms.

Rizzo said Steban also is “a person of interest in the explosion of a 1967 Chrysler Newport” at 11:45 p.m. Saturday on the 1100 block of Clay Pike in North Huntingdon. Both the fire at Steban’s residence and explosion remain under investigation by police and the federal Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Penn Township Police Chief John Otto described Steban’s alleged crime spree as “a grudge reconciliation weekend.”

Meanwhile, Steban and Dennis Katona soon could be in the same jail.

Steban was ordered by Harrison City Judge Helen Kistler held in the county prison without bond on the homicide charges.

Dennis Katona, who has been out of prison since 2016, was ordered to report to the same jail on May 28 to serve the remainder of a sentence from a 2014 drug conviction in Westmoreland County. In that case, state police and agents from the state Attorney General’s Office raided his home in 2011 and found more than 84 grams of cocaine and nearly 100 grams of methamphetamine with a combined street value of $20,000.

Katona was sentenced to up to almost seven years in prison in that case but a state appeals court ruled there were problems with the search warrant used to find the drugs and ordered a new trial.

However, in 2018, state Superior Court reinstated Katona’s conviction and, last October, the state Supreme Court upheld that ruling.

On April 12, Westmoreland County Judge Tim Krieger ordered for Katona to “report to the Westmoreland County Prison on May 28, 2021, to finish serving his sentence.”


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