Bikers host memorial 'Ride in Peace' for slain Penn Township couple – TribLIVE

Bikers host memorial 'Ride in Peace' for slain Penn Township couple – TribLIVE

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Liz Amend hoped her brother Jacob Erdeljac and his girlfriend Mara Casale smiled down on the motorcyclists who gathered in Hempfield Saturday for a memorial ride in honor of the couple who were killed in Penn Township last year.
“Jake was an avid Harley rider. He met Mara, and she liked to be on the back of his bike,” said Amend. “That’s how they spent their weekends. We’re here to do something that they would have enjoyed and hopefully they’re smiling.”
The “Ride in Peace Jake and Mara” event attracted close to 100 bikers to Z&M Harley Davidson. They prepared for an hours-long motorcycle ride that took them to Jim and Jimmies in Somerset County — a pub frequented by the couple — and back to Z&M for food, a raffle and 50/50.
The event was a way to remember Erdeljac, 40, and Casale, 27, who were fatally shot May 16, 2021.
Police said their deaths were part of a crime spree committed by Victor Frederick Steban, 54, of North Huntingdon.
Steban is accused of ambushing the couple when they returned to Erdeljac’s home after a Sunday afternoon motorcycle ride. Investigators said Steban also shot into occupied homes in Hempfield and Sewickley townships, set fire to his house, robbed and stole from the shooting victims and threatened a motorist.
Steban this month pleaded guilty to 32 counts in seven cases, including the murders of Erdeljac and Casale.
Now, more than a year after they were killed, the family is focusing on celebrating their lives.
“I’m just happy we have a way to give tribute to Jacob and Mara’s lives cause they lived them to the fullest,” said Jake’s mother, Barbara Zimmers. “They were both giving and caring people.”
The couple, who had been together for more than two years, met at Ski’s & Nick’s Lounge in Penn Township, where Casale, a Penn-Trafford graduate, worked. Erdeljac, a Penn Hills graduate, had been promoted to transmission and distribution supervisor by Duquesne Light before his death.
Several people who attended Saturday’s event knew the couple and wanted to show support for the families. Others attended to honor the fellow motorcycle riders.
Bikers gathered at Z&M Harley Davidson Saturday morning for the Ride in Peace Jake and Mara event in honor of the couple who were killed last year in Penn Township.
— Megan Tomasic (@MeganTomasic) June 18, 2022

“Mara was a niece of one of our good friends and we ran into Jake quite a few times on the bikes so we wanted to come out and pay our respects. … I was hoping it would have a big turnout,” said Jacob Elli, 57, of North Huntingdon. “It’s nice, I’m sure the family will really appreciate it.”
His friend, Tim Rothrauff, 52, of North Huntingdon, added that they knew Casale from Ski’s and Nick’s, saying, “we’ve gotten to know them pretty well.”
Bill Braun, 59, of Buffalo Township, said he worked with Erdeljac at Duquesne Light. Braun and his wife, Donna, participate in memorial rides throughout the region.
“It’s for a good cause,” Braun said of Saturday’s memorial ride.
Proceeds from the event will go into a scholarship fund for incoming utility linemen at Duquesne Light. Amend said they are hoping to raise between $6,000 and $8,000.
For Amend, seeing so many people gathering to honor her brother and his girlfriend “makes my heart happy.”
Zimmers agreed.
“It validates how many people that they knew and cared about and people that are willing to come out and spend their afternoon in tribute” to them, said Zimmers.
Megan Tomasic is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Megan at 724-850-1203, [email protected] or via Twitter .
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