Jan Gida was at work when his cellphone rang late Thursday afternoon.
The Herald-Standard was the first to inform Gida of the arrest of a Connellsville man accused of killing his brother David. The brothers were very close.
There was a long pause before Gida said, “That’s the best news I’ve had in a long time.”
More than two years has passed since David Gida was stabbed to death inside his apartment in June 2011. The family wept when they met New Year’s Day to discuss the as yet unresolved cold case with the Herald-Standard at their dinner table in North Huntingdon Township.
The family learned Thursday that Robert Leroy Daniels Jr., 42, of 233 Apple St. Apt. B, was charged Thursday with criminal homicide, robbery and two counts each of theft and receiving stolen property in the stabbing death of David Gida, 56, of Connellsville.
Jan Gida said immediately after that life-changing phone call Thursday he went home to share the news with his family.
“We were shocked, and all of us were crying,” said Jan Gida, 45, of North Versailles. “I had a gut feeling that something was going to happen, but I didn’t know when. I never gave up.”
When Jan Gida was asked to explain that intuition, he said, “Me and my brother were very close. I just had a feeling that something was going to happen — one of those things.”
Jan Gida said his 82-year-old mother, Arlene, cried on the spot and his brother Wayne, 47, of North Versailles was happy when they learned the news.
“Mom honestly felt that she may die before she got to know what happened,” he said. “She’s happy now. She knows it won’t bring back her son, but she’s glad they made an arrest. And Wayne is a very spiritual person, so he is very happy with how things worked out.”
The family’s belief in the power of prayer never faded.
“Prayer had a lot to do with it,” Jan Gida said. “I just prayed to God every night that he would show us the way and bring this case to justice.”
Jan Gida said his sister, Susan Ference, 53, of North Huntingdon Township, was “very emotional” when she received a phone call from Connellsville police Chief James Capitos.
“When the chief called her, he asked her to sit down. He had some important news,” Jan Gida said.
Then, Jan Gida said the police chief talked about a letter from the family that he has on the wall of his office that he looks at every day. He said the letter details the kind of person David Gida was, the kind of guy who would do anything for anybody. A letter that talks about how important solving that case is to the family.
“The chief said to my sister, ‘I’m happy to tell you that they got him. I’m so glad to make this phone call.’” Jan Gida said.
Capitos said families who have lost a loved one tend to become frustrated over time when they don’t hear news or see an arrest made quickly like police do on television. Capitos said he has that letter taped to his wall to remind him of the Gida case every day.
“I didn’t want to forget,” Capitos said. “I didn’t want this to leave my mind. This has been with me for over two years. It’s a good feeling to solve this case. Once we got the suspect in, I gave her (Susan) a call. It was emotional on both ends of that conversation.”
Jan Gida described his brother as a loving father who followed his son Lucas’ baseball career and Justin’s time as a member of Connellsville Senior High School’s marching band. Just days before his death, David Gida was planning a party to celebrate Justin’s upcoming graduation from high school, Jan Gida said.
During the NBA finals in June 2011, David Gida hosted a party that many people attended at his apartment in Connellsville.
Hours later, a domino effect started when shortly before noon on June 8, Justin Gida, now 19, discovered his father’s body. His father had been stabbed multiple times in the neck.
Capitos said it was a hard case to solve. He was quick to praise his police department and state police for the investigative work that led to an arrest. The chief gave high marks to Sgt. Ryan Reese and Capt. Steve Shaffer, both of Connellsville police, and John Marshall, who oversees the cold case investigations for the state police station in Uniontown.
“A lot of times you get lucky in police work, you have to take information you get and run with it,” Capitos said. “The longer these things go on, the harder they can be to solve. After two years or more, it’s gratifying to be able to make an arrest.”
This is not the first time tragedy has struck this family. Jan Gida’s father, Theodore, was working at a deli nearby in Wilmerding in 1994, when the store was robbed. The thief took about $12 before shooting his dad in the back. Theodore Gida suffered from injuries sustained during that shooting for about six years before he passed away in 2000. That crime has never been solved.
“This arrest gave us a little more hope in the justice system, since my father’s case was never solved,” Jan Gida said.
Jan Gida praised Connellsville and state police for their work.
“I’m very happy with the job they did, and I congratulate them, thank them from the bottom of my heart,” he said.
The next step for the Gida family is seeing this case advance through the criminal justice system. Jan Gida said though the prospect of reliving the tragedy, it is relief to know what happened to his brother.
“I’m relieved in a way, but I know it is only the beginning,” he said. “I will be there as long as I need to be. I’m already digging in and getting ready for the next phase.”