Dawson “Rich” Muth concentrates his practice in criminal defense, civil litigation and personal injury. Prior to joining Lamb McErlane Rich was a named partner at Goldberg & Muth for 16 years.
During that time Rich has secured multiple settlements and verdicts in excess of one million dollars for clients seriously injured in a variety of accidents. Rich obtained a verdict of 6.8 million dollars in a dram shop action, the highest such verdict in Chester County, PA.
Rich served as the elected District Judge for the Borough of West Chester for ten years and was the first District Judge appointed by the PA Supreme Court to the Court of Judicial Discipline. On that court Rich heard cases involving charges of misconduct filed against Judges of all levels in Pennsylvania.
As a former District Judge Rich has a unique perspective of gaining the best results for his clients in civil court, as well as criminal court.
- Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
- Supreme Court of the United States
- U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania
- U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
- University of Delaware, Criminal Justice, 1981
- Widener University School of Law, J.D
COMMUNITY SERVICE & AFFILIATIONS:
- Pennsylvania Bar Association
- Chester County Bar Association
- Pennsylvania Association for Justice
- Solicitor to the Sheriff of Chester County
- The Hon. John E. Stively, Jr., American Inns of Court
- Phi Delta Phi, Harrington Inn, past member
- American Judicature Society, past member
- Phi Kappa Phi, National Honor Society, past member
- President, Special Court Judge’s Association of Chester County, 1996-1997
- Vice-President, Special Court Judge’s Association of Chester County, 1994-1996
- Special Court Judges Association of Pennsylvania-retired member
- Widener University School of Law Alumni Association, Board of Directors 2000-2002
- Chester County Mental Health/Mental Retardation, Board of Directors 1997-1998
- Police Athletic League of Greater West Chester- Member of the Board of Directors 1997-2003
- Council on Addictive Diseases D.U.I. Advisory Board, 1989-1992
- Board of Directors- Goodfellowship Ambulance Club- 2004-2006
- Past President, Chester County Constable’s Association
- Past Trustee, 38 year member of 1st West Chester Fire Company
- Westside Little League- Coach 2004-2011
- Westside Little League- Division Director 2006-2008
- West Chester Jaycees, Past Member
- Board Member- Garo Yepremian Foundation for Brain Tumor Research 2004-2013
- Board Member- Board of Visitors for the Division of Orthopedics at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia 2013-2015
- Board of Overseers- Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Foundation 2013-2015
In the News
- Health Law Newsletter Fall 2018
- Lamb McErlane PC Announces Twenty-Two Firm Attorneys Have Been Named 2018 Main Line Today Top Lawyers
- Lamb McErlane PC Sponsors “Rally for CHOP” Hosted by Devon Prep
- Lamb McErlane PC Announces Sixteen Firm Attorneys Have Been Named 2017 Main Line Today Top Lawyers
- Dawson “Rich” Muth Joins Lamb McErlane as Partner
Neighbor of Slain Berwyn Woman Drops Gun Permit Appeal
By Michael Rellahan, Daily Local News
POSTED: 05/02/18, 4:29 PM EDT |
Lamb McErlane PC partner Dawson “Rich” Muth concentrates his practice in criminal defense, civil litigation and personal injury.
West Chester, PA >> A Berwyn man who has been identified by authorities as a “person of interest” in the 2016 homicide of a Tredyffrin woman abruptly withdrew his petition Wednesday to have a judge overturn the decision of the Chester County Sheriff’s Office denying him a permit to carry a concealed weapon.
Joseph P. Green Jr., the West Chester defense attorney representing David Bookstaber, told Common Pleas Judge Patrick Carmody that his client had made the decision to abandon his attempt to receive the permit because of rulings the judge had made that went against him.
Those rulings included denial of Bookstaber’s attempt to have the proceeding closed to the public and the media so as not to have reports about the case damage his reputation, and to allow certain hearsay testimony to be delivered by witnesses called by the sheriff’s office, including the lead prosecutor in the homicide case involving the death of Denise Barger, Bookstaber’s next door neighbor.
Deputy District Attorney Carlos Barraza was scheduled to be called as a witness by attorney Dawson R. Muth, the solicitor for the sheriff’s office, presumably to back up the assertion that Bookstaber is a “person of interest” in the Barger homicide. Green and Muth discussed with Carmody what Barraza was expected to say in answer to Muth’s questions in a private, “sidebar” conference, after which Green told the judge that his client was dropping the permit case.
Neither Green, Muth, or Barraza would comment on what was said in the sidebar conference after Carmody concluded the hearing. Green maintains that information about Bookstaber’s request to overturn the sheriff’s decision denying him a concealed weapons permit because of his character and reputation is confidential.
Green had said during the proceedings that Carmody’s adverse rulings were forcing Bookstaber to choose between his Second Amendment rights to own and bear firearms, and his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination.
Michael F. McDonald, Barger’s brother and the person who found her lifeless body the morning of June 17, 2016, said earlier Wednesday that he was bewildered at the request by Bookstaber for the gun permit.
“I cannot believe that he is trying to get a concealed weapons permit, or that anybody who had been a person of interest in a murder investigation would even be able to get one,” he said Wednesday in an interview. “It boggles my mind.”
McDonald, of Berwyn, said that Tredyffrin police had kept in touch with him over the months following his sister’s death, but that they did not share specifics of the investigation with him.
“I know they are actively pursuing stuff,” he said. “They want to make sure they get it right because they only have one shot at it. It’s better to get it right and make sure about it than to see someone walk free.”
He said he was aware that there had been “words” passed between his sister and Bookstaber, and that he was not surprised when he learned that Bookstaber had been identified as a person of interest in the investigation. “It starts to come together a little but when you put the pieces together.”
Information uncovered by the Daily Local News makes it clear that authorities have been looking at Bookstaber’s actions concerning Barger since the day her body was found.
In June 2016, Tredyffrin police first announced that they were investigating the “suspicious death” of Barger, who was found by a family member who had gone to her home in the 900 block of Heatherstone Drive to check on her condition after not hearing from her. She lived alone, her husband Thomas Barger having died in March 2015. Later, District Attorney Tom Hogan said the case was a homicide, and suggested that the perpetrator knew the victim.
“Every indication we have is that this was a targeted attack,” Hogan said at the time. “Given the location of where the victim lived, which is out of the way of well-traveled spots, this does not appear to be a random attack.” The cause of death was blunt force trauma.
According to an application for a search warrant of Bookstaber’s home signed by Common Pleas Judge Robert Shenkin on June 22, 2016, six days after Barger’s death, investigators from the Chester County Detectives Office identified Bookstaber as “a person of interest” — an investigative phrase that suggests that a person is under some suspicion in a criminal case but has not been charged. The eight-page long warrant stated that police found a trail of blood running from Barger’s bedroom, where her body was found, out a back door, across her yard, to a fence separating her house from Bookstaber’s, and eventually up to the garage door of his house.
The warrant application, authored by county Detective Robert J. Balchunis Jr., stated that Cpl. Tyler Moyer of the Tredyffrin police found Barger lying on the floor of a second-floor bedroom next to the bed. A second officer, Richard Gasparo, found a door to the house on a rear deck open. McDonald, who had called police after finding his sister in the bedroom, said that she would normally lock all the doors to the house before going to sleep.
County Detective Gary Lynch, a forensic evidence specialist, said Barger had suffered severe head trauma, and that there was blood throughout the room — under her body, on the walls, and in bloody footprints on the carpet. When he inspected the door that Gasparo had found open, he said the inside handle had blood on it.
Lynch, along with county Detective Ken Beam, another forensic expert, was able to track a trail of blood from the rear deck of the house across the grass lawn to the wooden post and rail fence that runs along the property boundary with Bookstaber’s home next door. In conducting a later search of that property, they detected blood on a sink in the garage and a light switch near the sink, Balchunis wrote in the application.
During that search, Balchunis said he also spotted a pair of Sperry boat shoes in a mudroom of the house, just outside the garage area. One of the shoes had a sole, while the other sole was missing. Beam reported seeing similar shoe patterns in blood on Barger’s bedroom floor.
A day after Barger’s body was discovered, a civilian police volunteer arrived to help trace the blood with a certified trailing dog who could track blood scents. The dog, named Dillon, was able to be trailed from the blood found in Barger’s bedroom into the kitchen, out the back door to the deck, into the back lawn, across the property to the post and rail fence. There, Dillon stopped because of the barrier.
Police received another search warrant from Magisterial District Judge Thomas Tartaglio, and with it the civilian handler and Dillon trailed the blood scent to the garage door at Bookstaber’s home.
In his search warrant application, which was used to retrieve the boat shoes, computers, and surveillance data from Bookstaber’s home, Balchunis wrote that when he and county Detective Kristen Lund interviewed Bookstaber at his home, he said that his hand was swollen after be came in contact with poison ivy two days before.
At some point they were joined by Beam, who noticed that the swollen knuckles did not show bruising, indicating a recent injury. Beam opined that the injury was consistent with forceful striking of the fist. Bookstaber’s wife told Balchunis and Lund that she had not seen any signs of poison ivy or injuries to her husband’s hands in the days prior to Barger’s death, and that she had slept in a separate bedroom from him the night of June 16 and 17.
When investigators were taking Bookstaber to the Tredyffrin police station to be fingerprinted, he told them that his hand was beginning to hurt and that perhaps he had banged it into something.
When police checked the extensive surveillance system that Bookstaber had set up inside and outside his home, they fund that it had not been working for several days before June 17.
It turned out that Barger had been the source of one complaint about Bookstaber possibly shooting guns in his backyard that was among the problems cited by the sheriff’s office in their decision to deny him the concealed weapons permit in November.
In the police report of Barger’s complaints about noise coming from the area of Bookstaber’s home on Feb. 2, 2015, officers said that they staked out the property, which sits at the top of a hill in the community. Around 2:50 a.m., the officers heard “a small caliber rifle report followed in several seconds by two more shots. The report sounded like a small .22 round and the bullets could be heard going into the woods.”
Bookstaber was contacted about the incident later that day. Told that there was a township ordinance prohibiting the discharge of firearms in the township, Bookstaber said that he was aware of the law but that no guns had been fired from his home. When Officer Robert Bostick told him that police had heard shots that day coming from his home, he again denied firing any weapons.
Police later learned that a PECO utility police transformer may have malfunctioned and exploded in the area at the time of the incident. No charges were filed and the report states that since Feb. 3, 2015 there have been no other reports of gunshots in the area.
Bookstaber was known to Tredyffrin police from an earlier incident. In July 2014, he had been arrested and charged with another incident involving gunshots at his property. He was charged with recklessly endangering another person and disorderly conduct after complaints, although he told police at the time that the noises were fireworks and not gunshots. Those charges were later withdrawn and records of the arrest expunged, according to Bookstaber’s petition.
A $100,000 reward has been offered by the Citizens Crime Commission for information leading to the arrest of a suspect in Barger’s death.
Link to the Daily Local News article: http://www.dailylocal.com/article/DL/20180502/NEWS/180509936