Edward George Couch, an officer with the Pittsburgh Police Department, was shot and killed by Joseph Valotta on October 30, 1922. In another case involving labor unrest, Valotta, a strikebreaker, had shot and killed Thomas Hopkins, a striking railroad worker who had called Valotta a “scab.” When Couch responded to the scene, he was shot. Valotta fled the scene.
A nationwide manhunt ensued, leading to Valotta’s arrest in Pitcairn on November 5, 1922. Claiming he acted in self-defense, Valotta was convicted of second-degree murder for killing Hopkins and first degree and sentenced to death for killing Couch.
Valotta’s convictions were reversed and he was freed on December 18, 1924, when the federal court held that his rights had been violated by being tried simultaneously on two separate murder charges.
A new indictment was immediately filed. Valotta was retried, convicted, and sentenced to death a second time. This death sentence was commuted to life on June 23, 1926 and he was transferred to Western Penitentiary.