The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

January 29, 2013

Death penalty rejected

Prisoner accused of strangling cellmate

EBENSBURG — Cambria County prosecutors have ruled out seeking the death penalty for a state inmate who is accused of strangling his cellmate to death Aug. 4 in the county prison.

William Amos Cramer, 21, is charged with criminal homicide, aggravated assault and assault by a prisoner in the strangulation death of 28-year-old William Sherry.

Patricia Moore, one of the public defenders representing Cramer, entered a “not guilty” plea on his behalf at Cramer’s formal arraignment Tuesday before Judge Patrick Kiniry.

After the court hearing, Heath Long, chief deputy district attorney, said, “As heinous as this crime was, when we reviewed the aggravating circumstances (which can support a death sentence), we didn’t find his actions fall into any of the categories. We’re following the law for the death penalty.”

State police alleged that Cramer used a torn strip of a bedsheet to strangle Sherry and then staged the cell in an attempt to make is appear that Sherry had committed suicide by hanging himself with a bedsheet tied around a rung on a bunk ladder.

However, authorities quickly ruled out suicide because the victim’s hands were tied together behind his back and his ankles also were bound together, all with strips of the bedsheet.

The incident took place on the same day that Sherry had been moved into the cell with Cramer, a state inmate who was temporarily housed in the county prison because of other charges here against him.

Evidence at Cramer’s preliminary hearing showed that the defendant had called Sherry, who was white, a “half-breed” and alleged that he had fathered a black child.

In a note to a third inmate, Cramer allegedly wrote, “I didn’t intend to do it. He just pushed the wrong buttons.”

Kiniry, at the request of Moore, agreed to have Cramer kept in the county prison until Feb. 9 so that he could be examined by Scott Scotilla, a State College psychologist. Cramer was moved back into the state prison system after the Aug. 4 incident, and most recently had been incarcerated at State Correctional Institution–Greene in southwestern Pennsylvania.

Although Kiniry set an April 4 trial date for Cramer, Moore said the defense would not be ready to go to trial by that time.

She hinted that an insanity defense might be raised on Cramer’s behalf.

“We’re having this evaluation done, and we’ll get some ideas from Dr. Scotilla and explore our client’s state of mind at the time of this incident,” Moore said.

In addition, Moore said that the defense wants to obtain records about any prior mental treatment Cramer may have received as well as his prior criminal records.

Click here to subscribe to The Tribune-Democrat print edition.

Click here to subscribe to The Tribune-Democrat e-edition.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Local News
  • Denne, Williams & Stanton Records hearing scheduled

    A Cambria County judge will consider complaints filed by two Johnstown residents seeking documents related to the city’s municipal waste water operation at hearing at the end of this month.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Sen. Bob Casey Casey targets heroin

    The heroin trade has brought addiction, death, violence and theft to Johnstown and other Pennsylvania communities.
    Figuring out how to deal with those issues is difficult for local, state and federal officials.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Drive-in to open with high-tech projector

    Drive-in movie theaters and the term “state of the art” seldom share the same sentence.
    But that will soon be the case for the Silver Drive-In, it’s owner said. The Scalp Avenue site, often marketed as a nostalgic summer night escape, soon will boast a high-end projector capable of displaying the latest and greatest blockbusters in razor sharp high-definition, theater owner Rick Rosco said.

    April 18, 2014

  • Sheetz work underway

    Earthmoving is underway at Richland Town Centre for a nearly 6,500-square-foot Sheetz store.
    And the real estate broker marketing the land says a 3,000-square-foot retail building will be built next door.

    April 18, 2014

  • Smith, Shakir Mosi Police seize heroin, money in Prospect

    Johnstown police reported that several bricks of heroin, along with $4,000 in cash and a handgun, were discovered in the city's Prospect neighborhood around 4 a.m. Friday. An arrest warrant has been issued for the man be­lieved to be the owner or renter of the two homes raided.

    April 18, 2014 2 Photos

  • Comedy night targets serious problem

    Animal advocates are using comedy to take aim at a serious problem.
    The third annual Funny Fundraiser to benefit the Nardecchia Spay and Neuter Fund will be held at 8 p.m. May 16 at Ace’s, 316 Chestnut St. in the Cambria City section of Johnstown.

    April 18, 2014

  • Local briefs 4/19/2014

    April 18, 2014

  • Early morning police raid in Prospect area leads to arrest warrant

    Johnstown police reported that several bricks of heroin, along with $4,000 in cash and a handgun, were discovered in the city's Prospect neighborhood around 4 a.m. this morning.

    April 18, 2014

  • Home is Where The Tribune-Democrat is Delivered!

    April 18, 2014

  • new councilman Judge fills City Council vacancy

    A lifelong Johnstown resident who has never sought election to public office was named Thursday to fill the vacancy on City Council.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

Poll

Do you think that Jack Williams will get the 270 signatures from city residents needed in order to have a referendum placed on a municipal ballot to have the city's pressure test mandate repealed?

Yes
No
I'm not sure
     View Results
House Ads