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.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Local News
  • District Deaths July 31, 2014

    July 30, 2014

  • Smaller payout to seniors urged

    State Lottery officials say less means more for seniors.

    July 29, 2014

  • Portage ambulance aid will add portable CPR device, other tools

    Federal funding awarded to Portage Area Ambulance Association will soon put “a third man” alongside their two-person crews when emergencies occur, ambulance operations manager Edward Nelson said.

    July 29, 2014

  • paint_twp building Paint Township considers offering part of building for rent

    Four years after Paint Township built an addition at the Basin Drive building to house its growing police department, much of the new space likely will be offered for rent this fall because the township supervisors say it's no longer needed.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • Old Rockwood hotel will soon be history

    The historic – but dilapidated – Merchants Hotel in Rockwood is expected to be razed soon.
    On Tuesday, Somerset County’s three commissioners unanimously agreed to a demolition plan for the building, which was constructed in the 1880s. The arrangement calls for a private citizen, William Nair, to tear down the structure at 703 Main St. in exchange for being allowed to keep any salvageable materials.

    July 29, 2014

  • Tribune Treasure!

    July 30, 2014

  • ATV blast ready to roll at Rock Run

    Organizers are keeping the spirit of the Fisher’s ATV Reunion at Rock Run Recreation Area alive despite losing the support of the award-winning Outdoor Channel TV show “Fisher’s ATV World.” Now called the Rock Run ATV Summer Blast, the event will continue to offer demonstration rides, motor competitions, product vendors, live music, camping and trail riding.

    July 29, 2014

  • Culvert 1 Preservationists use age-old method at historic site

    Preservation work on two historic culverts associated with the Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site has been completed. The culverts were reconstructed using a variety of techniques, including dry stone masonry, which was used to build the culverts more than 180 years ago.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • Local briefs 7/30/2014

    July 29, 2014

  • Officer, civilian motorist injured in crash

    A Johnstown police officer who was responding to an emergency and one other driver were taken to the hospital after they were injured in a three-vehicle accident around 5:40 p.m. Tuesday on Railroad Street at the intersection with Clinton Street and Church Avenue.
    The Johnstown Fire Department said that the three occupants of the third vehicle were not injured.

    July 29, 2014


What is the biggest key to reducing gun violence in Johnstown?

Tackling the area's drug problem.
Controlling folks moving into city housing.
Monitoring folks in treatment centers and halfway houses.
Tougher sentencing by the court system.
More police on the streets.

     View Results
House Ads