Former Collegeville man found guilty of murder in 2011 AK-47 shooting

NORRISTOWN — A jury of six men and six women deliberated until 9:30 p.m. Friday before finding that Max Stine committed first-degree murder when he opened fire with an AK-47 in Haws Alley in Norristown on July 11, 2011.

Stine, 24, formerly of Collegeville, was also found guilty of aggravated assault, three counts of recklessly endangering another person and one count of possession of a weapon with criminal intent.

Jesus “Jessie” Medrano-Mendoza. 24, of Norristown, was killed in the shooting, and two bystanders, a man and a woman, were wounded.

Stine will be sentenced in 90 days. Prosecuting attorney Thomas McGoldrick said the sentence for a conviction of murder in the first degree is life without parole.


In closing arguments to the jury Friday, defense attorney Jack McMahon told jurors the prosecution’s case against Stine had not met the burden of proof.

“It’s a fascinating theory the government has put forward to you,” McMahon said, citing a lack of evidence and motive.

If prosecutors had found the gun in question and traced the bullet shells found at the crime scene back to the gun, he said, it would be compelling enough evidence to convict his client.

“The evidence shows the opposite. The defendant doesn’t have an AK-47 and never had an AK-47,” McMahon said.

McMahon also tried to convince jurors that one of the commonwealth’s lead witnesses, Paul Hernandez, was actually the one who fired the gun and owned the AK-47. Saying that when investigators spoke to him, he thought he was going to be charged with the murder and shifted the blame towards someone else.

On the morning of the shooting, he said, Hernandez was looking for trouble and started the fight that led to the shooting by stopping Jesus “Jessie” Medrano-Mendoza and showing him a knife, McMahon said.

McMahon reminded the jury of the testimony of a minor who said Wednesday that he was with Stine and Hernandez during the shooting. The minor told the court he had seen Stine with the AK-47 before, but it was only at Hernandez’s apartment. McMahon suggested that the weapon belonged to Hernandez. He also stated that based on the minor’s testimony, Hernandez knew the victim to be in a rival gang.

Other than the minor’s testimony that he heard Hernandez talk about the victim being in a rival gang, there were no stipulations in court to suggest that either Hernandez or Medrano-Mendoza were in a gang.

McMahon also suggested that if the jurors did believe Stine was the shooter, they had to believe that he fired the weapon to defend himself from Hernandez, who was squaring off for a fight with Medrano-Mendoza before the shooting.

“I suggest that based on the woeful lack of evidence, you say not guilty,” McMahon said.

McGoldrick said McMahon tried to present jurors with every possible kind of defense rather than sticking to one.

“They’ve tried to throw whatever they can against the wall to see if it sticks,” McGoldrick said.

McGoldrick told the jury in closing that it is not inconceivable to think that Stine would own an AK-47. On Tuesday, Assistant District Attorney Gabe Magee introduced paperwork showing that Stine had legally purchased three handguns in the past.

McGoldrick told jurors that Stine’s nickname, “Gunner,” didn’t come from boxing, as McMahon told the jury in opening arguments on Monday.

“That nickname came from his penchant for firearms. To him, happiness is a warm gun,” McGoldrick said.

The jury began deliberations about 5 p.m. and returned its verdict about 4 1/2 hours later.

Information from the Times Herald,