Kirkwood man to serve up to 40 years for murder during drug deal gone wrong

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LANCASTER, Pa.– A Kirkwood man will serve up to 40 years in prison for killing a man during a drug deal last year in Manheim Township.

Robert Peters IV, 18, pleaded guilty Thursday in Lancaster County Court to third-degree murder, robbery, and gun charges after the Oct. 5, 2015, shooting that killed 21-year-old Nicholas Vassallo.

Peters will serve a minimum of 15 and up to 40 years in state prison, which are requirements of the plea deal he agreed to.

The two men met for a deal for $3,500 worth of marijuana. However, neither brought the full amount of what was agreed on.

Peters didn’t have the $3,500 and instead, only about $50 in “show money,” which included a wad of $1 bills with a $20 bill on the outside, according. He also had a .45-caliber Ruger pistol under the driver’s seat of his car.

Vassallo had a large bag of oregano for the deal.

The men asked each other to show what they had, however, neither did and a physical altercation ensued in the car. Peters fired the shots, Vassallo fell out of the car and died on the street, near an old silk mill. Peters fled the scene, along with the individuals who rode with Vassallo to the deal.

“This is truly a life sentence for me,” Denise Eshleman, Vassallo’s mother, told County Judge David Ashworth. “This is not just a bad dream. This is my new reality. His bedroom is still filled with his clothes and belongings.”

Eshleman said she spent time with her son three days before he was killed. They went shopping together. She recalled buying him things and him saying how he wished he wasn’t addicted to drugs.

Peters apologized to Vassallo’s family for the four close-range shots that killed Vassallo.