Warrant issued in bartender's murder

January 8, 2008 4:20:07 PM PST
Investigators believe they know who beat a man to death inside a Port Richmond bar last week. Now they are searching for that suspect. Detectives want to get a hold of 36-year-old John McLaughlin, the operator of McWhitey's.

"This is a very brutal homicide. The victim died of blunt trauma to the head and body," said Chief Inspector Keith Sadler of the Philadelphia Police.

The victim is 60-year-old Seamus O'Neill, whose body was found wrapped up in a tarp in the basement of McWhitey's. Those who live near McWhitey's said given past problems they are not surprised by Tuesday's warrant.

McLaughlin lives in a new townhome in Bridesburg. When Action News went to his home his wife's jeep was outside but no one answered the door.

In his neighborhood and on the Port Richmond street where McLaughlin is well known, nervous neighbors declined to talk about the suspect. In contrast the victim was described as a great guy. He worked at a bar just a few blocks away.

"It really scares me because you never know what could happen in your own neighborhood," said Kim Piniciotti.

As for reports the beating might have been tied to gambling proceeds, Chief Inspector Sadler says, "It was an argument over something. Perhaps trivial. We're not sure if it was over anything criminal."

Friends of the victim hope if someone who knows where McLaughlin is they will call detectives.